It a break from the routine after a long time.
It is the Dev Bhoomi (The land of Gods) this time. The relatively young state of Uttarkhand. Young on records but as ancient as anything given it's culture and history.
We are in Kumaon region in Uttarakhand, known for its sleepy hill stations and magnificent vistas of the majestic Himalayan ranges. However, what catches your eye is the godliness in the air. Steeped in traditions, this is a society that seems content with the blessings the gods have bestowed.
We are headed to the Jageswar Dham, a group of temples dating back to the 9th and 10 centuries. It is sunny, and the heat is dry but definitely bearable. Our car sways it's way up the roads as they snake up the hills. It is never steep, but a steady climb, with patches of flat runs.
An hour into the drive, you reach Jageswar Dham. It's busy but not crowded. It's a small walled area, but it packs in a lot. It has almost 40 structures, all in typical architecture with curving spire-like construction and a capstone on top. All are cramped together, some are very small and some a bit bigger. The biggest one is a Shiva temple, the others are of various other deities.
The backdrop is provided by proudly erect pine trees, soothing green and majestic.
There are few priests conducting pujas for people at the Shiva temple, while some are managing the smaller structures. No hustling , no one urging you on, they all wait, ready to help if you need. It is all just between you and your gods.
There are monkeys , strolling around the small space. One is perched on the wall. An old wizened man in saffron robes is speaking to one of the monkeys. They are in their own world, unhurried, peaceful, and seem to be in complete agreement on whatever they are discussing. The monkey gracefully accepts a banana from the priest even as they continue talking. Then, after a brief pause as if to say, baaki Kal....he nods and jumps away. It is a carefree world this...in the lap of divinity.
This tranquil Himalayan region is Lord Shiva's territory...... Everything living and otherwise is Bholenath's.
As we drive back, we find another cluster of similar temples. This one is deserted, with just one priest, sitting in absolute peace on a stone just outside the shrine. A small brook flows along the structures. Sitting beside the steps that lead up to the shrines is a dog, a local breed endowed with a bit of extra fur by nature to handle the weather.
My son is watching it with interest. He says that even the dog seems to have attained Nirvana here. The dog he explained yawns in slow motion, and while lazily watching you , even his eyes open and close in a long unhurried blink.
On the way back we decide to stop for lunch at a small restaurant, perched on a wide patch of land that stretches out as the road takes a wide sweep.
A kumaon meal is served by an elderly owner. A small red tilak on his forehead, a few wisps of silvery hair, and soft deep eyes tell of a life of peace.
The food on the plate is simple but heavenly. A Dal called bhat ki Daal, perfectly spiced, with a lemony linger and a boiled gobi dish with onion and tomato garnish. The day is made. I walked up to the owner and thanked him for the delightful meal.
With a smile and almost in reverence he said...
Sab bhole ki Kripa hai saab.....
Yes as I said..., this is Devbhoomi....and Bhole is all...the maker, the giver and the taker too....
Har har Mahadev..