Journey of a Pilgrim To OM Parvat
Standing on the huge debris of the landslide at Malpa village that wiped out the entire Malpa village killing 380 people on a fateful night of August 1998, I was thinking of Pratima Bedi — the famous Indian-Odissi danseuse. She was on a pilgrimage to Kailsh-Manas Sarovar and was resting on that night at Malpa and was also killed. Her dead body could not be traced and she will never dance again.
Five years later we have also taken shelter for the night at Malpa in a chati – a road-side hut cum hotel, erected on the debris of that land-slide. We were on our pilgrimage to “OM” Parvat – a mountain near the Tibet border on top of which is etched the most sacred word of Hindu religion– “OM”.
I assured my companions with an expert (!) observation, ‘normally, massive landslide did not go off twice exactly on the same spot’!
Starting from Dharchula, a sub-divisional town where we spent two days to obtain ‘Inner Line Permit’, we reached the road head at mid noon and started to trek.
It was the middle of June and by the time we reached Malpa, the midday blazing sun left us exhausted. The trail was difficult and risky at some places. So, instead of proceeding to Bundi – 9 kms away, we decided to call it a day.
Manoj– the youngest of our three member team, wanted to go back. He is not comfortable of trekking for 7/8 days on such a treacherous path where a little slip and one would be washed away by the torrential current of Kali River, not to speak of land slides and rock falls. The oldest member of our team-Bhabani Da (Da is a honourific suffix for elders); a youth of 63 years with a recent bypass surgery to boot, was game. We convinced Manoj to go on for another day and then to decide on whether to continue.
Next day, about a kilometer of the trail through a place called ‘Nirpani’ turned out to be really dangerous.
The trail was hardly a foot wide rocky path cut-out from a sheer rock face and thousand feet below, on a sheer drop, roars the Kali, almost beckoning the trekkers. While negotiating this part, Manoj turned deathly pale. Fortunately, we reached Bundi (2740 mts) 9 kms away by late afternoon without any untoward incident and took shelter in the PWD bungalow.
But, after seeing the sheer ascent of Chhiyalekh top from the courtyard of the bungalow that we have to negotiate tomorrow to go ahead, Manoj refused to move an inch further. Next morning, we had to send him back with a porter and had to recruit anther one from Bundi, on a much higher rate.
So far, the trail was a bit claustrophobic as it passes through the narrow gorge of Kali River, but as we reached Chhiyalekh top (3350 mts) the path opened up. It was a moderately tough ascent from Bundi, 610 mts in just 3 kms. A sign board on top announces, “nirash mat hoiye, aage anupam sondarjya hai” (Don’t be frustrated, unmatched beauty lies ahead).
Well, that’s some consolation!
But Chhiyalekh top, indeed, is a beautiful Bugiyal (alpine meadow) — a green grassy mountain table-top, bounded by blackish-green pine and deodars, full of colourful alpine flowers – Iris, Primula, Genetian. Amidst this colour-riot few black boulders were strewn here & there to break the monotony of the green. This Bugiyal indeed is “anupam” (unmatched).
By noon we reached Garbiyang (10320feet) 4 kms away — once a prosperous village and trade centre, now deserted with dilapidate buildings since trade with Tibet was banned.
Legend has it that Byas, the writer of Mahabharata, had meditated here. So the entire valley is called Byas Valley.
Taking a frugal lunch here we proceeded towards Gunji village, 10 kms away and our next stop.
The trail through alpine forest became pleasant. On the far right, snow peaks of Api mountain range keep company. Just 2 kms ahead of Gunji, Kuti River meets Kali and together flows down. A small blooming plant, (Stellera Chamaejasme) about one & half feet high with white bordered red flowers on all its’ branches beckoning the sky, welcomed us.
Gunji(3200 mts) is a prosperous village of stone houses with slate-stone roof. We took shelter in the permanent ITBP camp. The camp in-charge, Kundan Sing, was only too happy to receive us and promptly offered us glasses full of whisky but none of us drink. He was mighty shocked and left us never to return. But we were looked after well.
Our next parao (night stay) Kalapani is only 9 kms away and the trail on the bank of Kali River, through Deodar and Pine was pleasant. We were on the true right bank of Kali at more than 11000 feet and the tree line ended; on the left bank is Nepal. Kali defines the border of the two countries.
Suddenly, a big ITBP guard materialized from nowhere blocking my path and salutes me with “Om Nama Siva” (praise lord Siva). I was walking alone so his eerie materialization has me stunned momentarily. He offered a glass of water and then a cup of hot tea. It transpired, Kundan Sing has informed the Kalapani ITBP-post of my coming and they sent a guard to welcome me.
We took a bath in a hot spring in Kalapani and spend the day just lazing around, with an extended dinner with Balbanta Sing, the in-charge of ITBP Kalapani, Mr. Baludi the deputy commandant of ITBP who was on an inspection and Major Tiwari who was conducting a military exercise there.
Next day, I was the D-day. I would be seeing one of wonder of the nature, the OM Paravt. The trek was difficult. Steep ascent and rarified air made the going tough. Navidang(4200 mts), our destination, was only 7 kms away but it took me almost 4 hours to reach it.
We were trekking for some time and were well acclimatized; normally, it should not have taken more than three hours but then the trail was tough.
Premchand, the ITBP in-charge showed us to an aluminum tent but I rushed out to see OM Parvat. The sky was full of cloud and frustrated I slept and slept like a log.
OM Parvat was first ascended on October 8, 2006 by Tim Woodward, Jason Hubert, Paul Zuchowski, Martin Welch, Diarmid Hearns, Jack Pearse, Amanda George and Andy Perkins.
I woke up suddenly and in a flash, I was out. The cloud is gone and there stood the OM Parvat (6191 mts) with a perfect OM etched on the top – the biggest OM of the world. White snow has fallen on its top black ridges in such a way that it forms the word “OM” — the most sacred word of the Hindu religion, which is a combination of A U M; A stands for Bramha – The Creator, U for Bishnu – The Preserver, M for Siva – The Destroyer and the nasal sound “ΰ” denotes Maheswari (the mother goddess).
The power of the holy trinity of Hindu religion along with that of the mother goddess united in a single word – The Primordial Word.