When Dharmaputra decided to leave the earthly pleasure and embrace ‘Vanaprastha’ (handing over responsibilities to the next generation and gradually withdrawing from the world), he called Yayuthsu and gave him the rights of his kingdom. Pareekshit was coronated as the king of Hastinapur and Vajra was crowned as the king of Indraprastha. Later, Dharmaputra performed all the necessary rituals for the deceased and called his countrymen to proclaim his decision. He refused all the requests to reconsider the decision of taking vanaprastha and removed all his royal clothes and ornaments. He wore the clothes of a saint and started his journey along with his brothers and wife Krishna. They also took the dog that accompanied them in the journey. The seven-member team walked towards the west and visited the submerged city Dwaraka. They travelled through the vast deserts, visited Mahameru and moved on. Then Draupadi fell down.

One after the other, all the four Pandava brothers fell down. They all had the same fate of Draupadi. What is destined has to be suffered or accepted by the person, was the thoughts of Dharmaputra and he walked ahead along with the dog. At this juncture, Lord Indra appeared before him in a diamond studded chariot to take Dharmaputra to heaven. But Dharmaputra refused to accept heaven saying that he is not interested in the paradise where his wife and brothers are not there. Lord Indra told him that his wife and brothers have already reached heaven after leaving their bodies on earth. He also told Dharmaputra that only he can reach heaven with earthly body. After long arguments and trials, the victorious Pandava King accepted heaven and left for his heavenly abode along with his earthly body from Swargarohini. {(Mahabharatha: Mahaprasthanika Parva (The Book of the Great Journey)}

The holy land of Swargarohini is located 30 km away from Badrikashram in the southwest of Uttarakhand. The seven-member team got the inspiration and energy for our journey to Swargarohini peak and Satopanth lake from M.K Ramachandran’s Himalayan travalogues, Swami Tapovan’s Himagiri Vihar and many other ancient books on Mahabharatha and also from the writings of great Kalidasa.  My fellow traveller and photographer in my last two Kailash trips Mr Biji Lal and Ramesh, Ramdas, Srikanth, Harindran, another person who is also named Ramesh and myself started our great journey during an Onam season. Our travel coordinator Mr Rahul Metha has arranged a guide and five sherpas for us.

Swargarohini

We started our journey at 11’o clock in the morning. We moved via Badarinath temple parallel to Alkananda towards west. On our north, it was village Mana and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp.

We travelled through the vegetable fields. The main cultivation in that area was potato, wheat, radish and mustard. We could see that the families were completely involved in cultivation and also saw people working on fields and having food on the side of the fields. We reached Matamoorti temple by 12 noon after trekking three kilometers. Festival was going on in that temple. We participated in that festival had prasad and offered our prayers to Naranarayana and Neelakanda peaks. We also offered our prayers to Matamoorthi, Ganesha, Vyasa and Badarisha and continued our journey by 1 o’ clock.

Swargarohini

We continued or journey through the fields and the narrow paths in between the sky touching Himalayas. The flowing sound of River Alakananda was echoing in our ears. Though it was windy it was not that cold. But we had realized though our previous experiences that the climate in Himalayan region cannot be predicted and change any time. We walked through the broken rocks and bushy grass.  These grass fields were filled with multi coloured flowers. No sooner we could see the Vasundhara waterfalls.

The Vasundara Waterfall is located five kilometres away from Badarinath. It can be described as a beautiful anklet moving in the wind and falling down from the mountains. This waterfall falls from around 100 metres high. This year because of low rains the beauty and strength of the water flow was not that much heavy as usual. We could see glaciers from here. The chillness too started to rise. It was a tough journey. We walked through steep roads less than one feet width without proper markings. The journey ahead was dangerous. A little carelessness will make you fall down to River Alakananda and freeze.

Swargarohini

The arrangements of our stay were done at Laxmi van (forest). Once upon a time this forest was filled with birch trees. The landslides had done enough damage to this place. Now you can only see some vegetation here and there. It is said that Goddess Laxmi has done her meditation for years in this place. It is also said that Jnanaseni has left for heavenly abode after her painful earthly life being abandoned by her five husbands. Our tent for that night was made in a green meadow between the high peaks in the southwest direction.

After resting for some time we started preparations for our dinner. As per previous experiences of the trip we preferred to make ‘kanji’ instead of the hard rotis made by the porters who were with us. There were also shepherd tents and butia breed dogs near our tent. Though we all expected to sleep fast due to the long exhausting journey none of us were blessed with sound sleep. The moon was bright and we could see the reflection of the moon in the snow-clad mountains. Those mountains looked like saints deeply involved in meditation and guarding us. We tried to sleep but in vain. We got up early in the morning finished our daily ablutions and after having breakfast of ‘kanji’ started our journey by around 8 a.m. Satopanth was located approximately around 20 kms away from Laxmi Van. As we proceeded we understood that it could be wrong as the actual distance may differ due to landslides. We had planned to reach Satopanth today. But the journey ahead was not that easy. After taking enough precautions we continued our journey through steep rocks and small springs.

Swargarohini

As we moved ahead we could see huge rocks which looked like the remains of a big blast and the way was filled with stones and small slippery waterbodies. The thought that there were glaciers in between was fearful. We prayed to all Gods we know and carried on with our journey. It was a fearful sight to see the cracks in huge mountains after continuous flow of water. These mountains looked like as if they were waiting for some heavenly orders to fall. We dragged ourselves through this area and reached Sahasradara waterfalls by afternoon. These waterfalls originated from the western Himalayan mountains.

The place where this water fell looked like a lake. We could see snowballs flowing through this lake. The sight was blissful and energizing. These waterbodies helped us to keep our thirst and tiredness away. After a few kilometers of trekking we could see peak Neelakantha. We continued our trek through never-ending mountain range. By around 3 p.m we reached Chakratirtha. As the next leg of journey was a bit difficult and dangerous. So we planned to take our break there.

Swargarohini

As usual we tried to sleep after having our dinner. But we could not sleep due body ache after the difficult trek and deficiency of oxygen in the atmosphere caused head ache and breathlessness.

From Chakratirtha, we had to overcome the huge mountain to continue with our journey. The sight is that enourmous mountain was enough to drop the confidence of anybody. We could see Satopanth lake only after conquering three mountains like this. We started our journey the next day by around 8 a.m. though we were doubtful about reaching our destination. Our journey was very slow and had to take help from others at difficult areas. We took breaks to breathe and give some rest to our lungs. We were scared at the sights of glaciers breaking and falling down with thunderous noise. By 12 noon we climbed up the mountain. From there the view was fabulous. As we looked down we could see Satopanth lake clear. It was here the great Trimurtis (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh), of creation, preservation and destruction meditated. It was here Lord Mahavishnu had his bath on ‘Ekadasi’ day. It was here at this ‘Swargarohini’ Pandava King accepted heaven and left for his heavenly abode along with his earthly body.

Swargarohini

Swargarohini

What more luck do we want. That view was worth our pains. It was breathtaking. We drank the ‘tirtha’ as much as we wanted and prayed and took bath in that holy river. We also filled the bottles we carried with this holy water. This place is located between Mount Chaukhamba, Balakun peak and Mount Satopanth. Towards the West Mount Swargarohini stands with her head held high. Though great Pandava King Yudhistira could take his journey to Himalayas easily for people like us it is undoubtfully a  very tough one. After enjoying the sight of the snow-clad mountains and offering prayers to Swargarohini,  we meditated for a while. We were mesmerized by the beauty of the might Himalayas. Our eyes got wet while coming back.  The magic of this journey is beyond expressions. While coming back with a heavy heart the thrill for our next Himalayan trip remains.

Translated by Deepa Menon