As we ascend into the mountains, the terrain gets tougher revealing the undulating landscape as we scale mountain sides as well as touch down towards the shores of the river Mandakini. There is prosperity to be found every where. The hills are green with life, oozing with clear water springs that just wash the roads as they flow down to the river. The river is crystal clear racing through bed rock that are eroded and white while the gigantic hills tower around us on both sides making us appear like dots in this panoramic landscape.
With the wind against us as the car swerved along the precipice, we got sudden glimpses of the Chaukhamba peaks, one of the most extra ordinary, in the mountain range that rose majestically in front of us. At first, Chaukhamba can really make anyone's heart stop a beat, skip a breath and leave us gaping at it as if we had the glimpse of Lord Shiva himself! And then the desire to want to keep looking at this peak covers the soul so strong that the eyes hungrily search the landscape to have another glimpse as the car turns into a bend in the mountains.
Chaukhamba, characterized by its majestic presence is an incredible piece of art that nature has presented to us in this beautiful landscape, its a picturesque treat to the eye. Its not just a snow capped peak, for it drives more emotion and adrenaline in my mind than the peak of Kedar which is not far behind in its beauty. Chaukhamba, in its form and its aura echos the presence of Lord Shiva in itself. One aspect of this peak is that its the only peak that towers over the center of all the Himalayan foot hills that converge in front of it paving the way for Mandakini to flow through. The other aspect is its sheer size and presence, which makes it so beautiful and serious that it cannot really be ignored in the landscape as just another peak. This peak is permanently snow capped, always bearing the halo of a cloud that ambitiously tries to scale it and so awe inspiring that it challenges anyone to try climbing its formidable rocky slopes.
And yet there is something more about this peak that makes me want to bow to it in all humility because it is not just all this, it is really Lord Shiva himself. Chaukhamba appears like a trishul at first glimpse. The staggering imagery of the trishul rises, making its slopes feel sharp and dangerously steep. It is overwhelming to feel like a dot in this picturesque landscape where the Lord's presence is felt by the glow of the sunlight on the over powering snow capped peak that echoes the form of the symbolic trishul on itself. At this point, the mind doesnt ask questions, the heart simply melts thanking the Lord for revealing his secretive form somewhere and somehow in this blessed land.
And then it gets clearer. The Lord himself appears in the mind's eye as I close my eyes and meditate on this range. Chaukhamba, as the name suggests is the four headed peak. It echoes an uncanny resemblance with Chatura Mukha linga form of Lord Shiva. In this extra ordinary landscape, every foothill leads the way to this great shrine, this natural shrine that is larger than life, larger than any temple constructed by man, larger that anything imagined yet. This is the overpowering presence of Lord Shiva, in his aniconic form always present, always alive, always shining and waiting to be recognized. How wonderful and fulfilling this experience is, how completely fruitful, to wish and see the presence of the Lord, not just in man made temples, but everywhere, in everything, in every piece of natural art that this earth has presented us.
I bow to this great mountain
That makes my heart beat faster
That makes me want to imbibe it
That makes me prostrate in all humility
That makes me break down into tears
That blesses me and this landscape
With its magnificent beauty
Proclaiming the silent presence
The symbol of Lord Shiva himself
So silently embedded in its being.
Photo courtesy: Picasa > Agasthya