My Sudden Unknown Journey to Ma Vaishno Devi via Chandigarh, Amritsar

Making of a Ghumakkad
HI; There are two types of people who roam around to explore the world : one, who planned their trip, choose a good package from lot of travel agents around and visit the places, and then come the another, who always pack their bags ready, go to explore any chosen place at random with some basic preparation. In my opinion first group is known as “Travelers” and second one as “Ghumakkars” (may be english version will be “Wanderers”).

HI;So, from where I got the inspiration of ghumakkadi? Obviously from the “Athato Ghumakkad Gigyasa” , an essay of The Great Ghumakkad Rahul Sanskrityayan. There is a line in this essay that “Kamar bandh lo bhavi ghumakkado! Sansar tumhare swagat ke liye bekrar hai”

(Be ready future wanderers, world is eagerly waiting to welcome you) [Please excuse my poor English. I am not well-verse in this language, particularly in the use of tenses.]

When I first read this line in my text-book, it didn’t strike me suddenly. I was a school child at that time under the full control of my parents. At that time, I got several opportunities of travelling (not ghumakkadi) in form of school tour (Only once to Chitrakoot, Agra, Mathura, Ayodhya), School level competitions ( attended in Gorakhpur, Sultanpur) and my own effort ( when I ran away from my home to Allahabad, just for two days). In that age nobody can think about ghumakkadi, but these tours showed that how is the world look like beyond my small home-town. Again, I was quite good in History and Geography. You can say that at that time maps attracted me like a beautiful girl. (Yes, you can say it. My knowledge of world and India map was too good, but again I didn’t aware about all the fact, like Sukhna Lake is near to Chandigarh and Jammu is not covered with snow-mountains).

Then come the real inspiration of Rahul Sanskrityayan. In 2001, I got an opportunity to pursue my engineering degree in Ghaziabad, away from my parents without any interference. I wanted to prepare for civil services with Geography as an optional, so I bought two atlases, one from Oxford and another from Dreamland’s. Whenever I looked at those atlases, the insects of ghumakkadi started biting me. Interestingly one of my room-mate father was working in Indian Railway, so he has a journey pass. When he showed me that pass, I made-up my mind to explore nearby places because Ghaziabad was nearby to Delhi and from Delhi I could head-up at anywhere by rail.

I looked-up at the map of India, thoughts about the places and then zeroed on Shimla because in my views it was a place of snow-covered mountains. So, I told my room-mate that “give me your railway pass, I want to go Shimla”. That pass is valid for AC II class in Indian railway of Jammu Tawi-Delhi-Jhansi-Mumbai section. So, I decided to go to Ambala, after that from there to Shimla, as per my knowledge of Indian map.

My Journey Starts Now
I started my journey on Saturday night. I took my atlas, a pair of clothes and around Rs.350/-. I was not having any camera and cell-phones were quite rare in that time. I thought it would take only 2-3 days, so I would come back without losing so many classes. I went to Ghaziabad junction, took an EMU to New Delhi Junction. From New Delhi, I chose a random express train heading to Ambala (don’t remember the name). Luckily I got a vacant berth in the sleeper class (I always used that pass in sleeper class, as I thought that Ticket Checker might be asked some questions in AC Class). It reached Ambala around 3 A.M. Then from Ambala, I caught another train heading to Kalka. It was early in the morning. I was easily able to saw the rising sun behind the Shivalik hills from the train. I didn’t have any camera to shoot that picture, but I can still experience the thrill of my first encounter of rising sun behind the hills. En-route Kalka, I decided to visit Chandigarh also, so I left that train at Chandigarh. I took a bus to Chandigarh bus-stand. I knew that famous places in Chandigarh are Rose Garden and Rock Garden, but I didn’t know that Sukhna Lake is also nearby.

It was around six in the morning, I got a rickshaw to Rose Garden. It is a beautiful garden with varieties of roses. People were walking to feel the fresh air of morning. I wrote down the name of lot of species of roses, although don’t remember any now. During my recent days in Ludhiana, I came to know that every year, there is a weekly festival held in rose garden in the month of February, known as “Rose Festival”.

After Rose Garden, I decided to go to Rock Garden. I didn’t remember exactly I went there by bus or on foot. But I walked through a long distance, so I think I might walk on foot from Rose Garden to Rock Garden. The roads in Chandigarh are very clean and surrounded by greenery. The road dividers are also beautifully maintained with varieties of flowers. It was my first encounter with such a clean and beautiful city (better than Delhi, I thought).

Rock Garden is really a beautiful place to visit in Chandigarh; especially the waterfall and a room with different type of mirrors are really nice. This garden is developed by Mr.Neckchand with the help of waste things mainly bangles, broken glasses and chinaware. You can see lot of shapes made by these items inside rock garden. Then there is a room in which lot of mirrors are fixed in the wall, where you can see different type of images of yours, like long, dwarf, different type of your face, something like a scene during mela in the movie “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”. Then there is a beautiful fall is also inside the garden. If you would have never seen a fall like me, you would really have a feeling of waterfall.

After Rock Garden, I took a bus and come to the bus stand. From there I went to the railway station by another bus as my ultimate destination was Shimla. It was around 9-10 am, when I reached the station. Shatabadi to Kalka was standing on the platform. I enquired about next express or local train to Kalka, but to my disappointment, it was around 3 pm only. I didn’t want to travel by bus. I thought it would be expensive, as I have around Rs.350/- only. So I took an express train (I remember that was Paschim Express, but now a days  it is going to Amritsar, may be that was any link train) and come back to Ambala with that Jammu-Delhi-Mumbai railway pass.

So, plan of Shimla was cancelled. But I didn’t want to go back to Delhi as it was only Sunday morning. So what’s next? I looked-up the atlas. Then made-up my mind to visit Amritsar. Again, took a random crowded train to Amritsar. Got a single seat in train. I reached Amritsar around 8 pm. From Ambala to Amritsar, I remembered the name of only two staions: Sirhind and Khanna. I came outside the station and this was the first time when anybody enquired about my ticket. I showed the pass to the ticket checker. He just saw it, no questions, so I walked out. There was a bus going to Golden Temple outside the station. I boarded the bus and surprisingly it didn’t charge any fare for the journey (later I came to know that the bus is being run by Temple Management on free of cost basis).

I  went inside the beautiful, magnificent Golden Temple. Before entering you have to remove your shoes and keep your bags in the locker room on free of cost basis. Don’t forget to cover your head with a piece of cloth or hanky; I forgot so one person reminded me. There is a basket full of small pieces of clothes you can choose to cover your head. I also covered my head.

There is a beautiful lake around the Golden Temple, known as “Amrit Sarovar”. If you want to take a bath, you can. After standing in a long queue to the temple, I offered my prayer to “Shri Guru Granth Sahib”. Then, I went to the Langar for free foods. It is not only the free foods, but also believed as the “Prasad” from the temple. The Golden Temple is one of the most visiting pilgrimage centers in India.

During that visit, I was unaware of the fact that Jalian Wala Bagh, is just nearby the Golden Temple. Since, it was night also, I didn’t enquire about that. I took an auto and came back to the Amritsar Junction. Then, I started thinking about the next place to visit near Amritsar.

 I decided to go to Jammu Tawi to see the snow-covered mountains of Jammu & Kashmir. I took a train to Jammu and reached there by Monday morning. I was surprised to see that there is no snow-covered mountain all the way to Jammu. Jammu is also situated in the plains. My knowledge about the Indian Geography made me fool at that time. Then I thought maybe there is any place near to Jammu, where I could see the snowy mountains. I didn’t take any confirmation from the people around me. I went to the Jammu bus stand by a matador. It took Rs. 4/- from Jammu Station to Bus Stand. I saw the fare-list of various places from Jammu and decided to go to Katra for which fare (Rs.20/-) was lowest at that list.

I took a ticket from the counter and boarded a bus to Katra. After leaving Jammu city, the bus was passing through the Shivalik ranges and there were lot of scenic views and curvy roads that made me to feel special of being first time in the lap of mighty Himalayas. En-route to Katra, I saw lot of advertisements of hotels and motels and also related to Ma Vaishno Devi, but till then I didn’t know that I was going to Vaishno Devi.(There were lots of advertisements on rocks too, which were later removed by Supreme Court order). When the bus stopped on a check-post for routine checking en-route to Katra, I noticed people were talking about Ma Vaishno Devi. At that time, I asked an old lady if I was heading towars Ma. She then told me the fact where I was heading. I have already heard from people that without the blessings of Ma, nobody can reach there. I was heading there unknowingly. My heart completely filled with devotion.

I reached Katra and a hotel agent told me about the Yatra-Slip. I took the slip from counter and started moving to the Darbar of Ma on foot without any delay. I also enjoyed the food at the langar of Late Gulsan Kumar. Then took a bath in Banganga. After spending three hours wait at Adhkuwari, I was able to pass through that holy cave. Again I wait about 3-4 hours at Bhawan to get the Darshan of Ma. Finally, I went to Bhairon Baba Temple. Thus I completed my first ever ghumakkadi alone in darbar of Ma Vaishno Devi.

After that first sudden journey in 2001, I visited the Darbar so many times (approx.12 times) till now. Witnessed a lot of changes and development there.  But except last 2-3 visits, I never planned my visits. It always happened suddenly. Except my earliest visit in Dec, 2008, I never went there alone after 2001, thanks to my college friends. They were always ready to co-operate with my sudden made plans of Ma Vaishno Devi and this help me to be there in each semester during my engineering and once in a year after engineering.



Returned from the first visit

When I reached back to the hostel (merely spending Rs. 250/- during whole journey), guys started questioning me that where u had been? How was Shimla? Then I told them that I reached to Ma Vaishno Devi and I gave Prasad to them. They amazed to heard this and told “Yaar, pehle batana chahiye tha na”. Someone told,” ab is semester me tumhara beda to paar ho gaya”.

And after one week in the final examination I did very well. Might be it was my hard work, might me the blessings of Ma…………

That was my first ghumakkadi story in search of snow-covered Himalaya Ranges and I am still in the search of that snow, though I have visited Sri Nagar, Gulmarg, Shimla, Dharmashla, Mussoorrie, but still unable to walk on the snow. After that I have a series of stories using general coaches of trains, spending nights at the platforms, eating foods on roadside dhabas, spending money as less as I can. I always have my bag pack with an atlas, a railway time table, a camera phone. By next month, I am trying to buy a good digital camera also.  Although now I have money to stay in hotels, can travel by buses and no longer in the need of the railway pass of my dear friend Manish, but thirst of ghumakkadi still remain the same.

—————–JAI MATA DI———————-


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