While I think of America as my father, India will always be my mother. That is why I have traveled in India whenever I can to refill my spiritual cups. Like any other Bengali, Puja time rekindles the travel spirit and some years ago I decided to visit Gangotri in the Himalayas after spending the Puja days with my biological mother in Delhi. FYI, Gangotri is a conjugation of two Hindi words “Ganga” and “Utri” meaning where Ganga descends from the heavens. It really does with a thunderous sound – more of that later.
My journey started at New Delhi railway station on a cool October early morning. Accompanying me was my usual photography sathi Mr. S.P. Basu from Calcutta widely known as Banshi Da, an accomplished photographer and avid India traveler. The Dehradun Shatabdi left noisily right on time at 6:45 AM and after brief stops at too many stations dropped us at Haridwar around 11 AM.
After brief negotiation we engaged a local taxi and were on our way. Although it is possible to get a taxi all the way from Delhi, it is better to get one in Haridwar because the drivers there are more experienced in driving in the Himalayas. First stop was at Rishikesh where after a great vegetarian lunch we did some shopping for the road. The whole area is strictly vegetarian and animal-based food other than milk was strictly forbidden, except boiled eggs that could be bought as Safed Aloos.
Our first stop was at Government rest house at Chamba where we reached around 5 PM. After early dinner of Chapati, Daal, and Patta Gobi (cabbage curry) it was off to bed in the crisp mountain air while looking at the flickering lights of Surkhanda Devi temple at 10,000 feet near the guest house.
The morning chai in the guest house lawn was blessed by a panoramic view of the great Indian Himalaya peaks – Trishul, Bandr-Punch, and Chau Khamba. We had a light breakfast on our way to Uttarkashi – our next stop – that is as holy spot as Varanasi for Shiva worship. After a quick visit to the temple and lunch we were on our way to Harsil at 9000 feet elevation, a beautiful Himalayan Meadow for afternoon tea.
From Harsil to Gangotri was a brief drive where we checked into the Government Guest house. We were assured rooms with electricity but unfortunately the generator gave up. Fortunately, I had one of the best dinners in my life with freshly made chapatis and Jeera Alu cooked inside a tent over a wood fire while it rained heavily as the ferocious Himalayan thunder storm raged outside. With the roar of young Ganges descending 200 feet in the background – it was indeed a Pink Floyd moment!
Shyamal’s photography can be experienced at http://www.shyamalroy.com