We left Ayodhya at about 1.00pm with excitement as we would be entering Nepal by evening and getting closer to our destination. We crossed several towns like Lucknow and several villages of UP with typical bazaars selling vegetables, fruits and there were many roadside eateries. There was plenty greenery and water-bodies, temples and mosques and hoardings. Mayavathi, Ambedkar and elephant pictures were visible. While crossing Gorakhpur the famous Gita-Press came to mind. They are the world’s largest publisher of Hindu religious texts. Their publications are very affordable and the print is good. They have done and are still doing a great service in the spiritual realm. The Gorakhnath temple was very visible and we guessed the city derives its name from this temple.
Our bus stopped enroute for tea at a tea-stall which also had a makeshift bathroom .Water was available and this was the saving grace. We were served rava-upma by the organizers and we ordered tea from the shop. After this the bus took about 3 hours to reach Sanauli. Our organizers got down and completed the formalities on the Indian side of the border.
After crossing the border our organizers stopped at the Nepali Immigration office. Then the bus stopped at Joshi Mansarovar Hotel very close by. Our mobiles showed N-cell. At this juncture our daughter called and we proudly announced that we just crossed the border. Only later on we realized that the three minute incoming call cost Rs 300. After this we switched off our cell-phones and checked into our room. We were four in a room which was not too great but was not too bad either. All we wanted was a good night’s sleep after the 7 hour journey. We had arisi upma for dinner and went to sleep. Our scheduled departure the following day(16.09.2013) was 9.00am.
On 16.09.2013, after bath and frenzied packing we were served hot pongal and gothsu for breakfast and we gathered downstairs to load our luggage. Two other groups were downstairs having breakfast-one group was from Vijayavada and had travelled with us by Raptisagar, the other group was from Kanchipuram. We compared notes with the little Telugu we knew and waited to board the bus. We crossed the road which was full of trucks and cycle-rickshaws and had tea at the opposite stall. We also exchanged some Indian money for Nepalese currency. Our Re1= Re1.60 Nepali money at the NavaLakshmi(we have Ashta Lakshmi, they have nava) Money Exchange counter. Nepali money has the yak or Mustang deer or seated Mahalakshmi on it. When it was ruled by the king his picture used to be there on the currency. Each tea cost Rs 25 Indian money. We also purchased some curds, biscuits etc.
We were told that there was a bandh that day and that all shops would be closed. When we returned to the hotel to get into the bus Sri Kannan told us that after consulting his brother in Chennai it was decided to leave Sanauli after the bandh was over. The other two buses went to Lumbini gardens the spot where Gautama Buddha was born. We went to our rooms and rested. Lunch-Kariveppili rice, Vadams, curd–rice and pickle was served at about 1.30 pm.and we rested till 4.00pm.
About Nepal, it is located on The Himalayas and is bordered on the south, east and west by India. A monarchy through ages, it is now the Democratic Republic of Nepal. It is the only country in the world where Hinduism is practised by the majority:81.3% Nepalese are Hindus. The Nepali Flag is unique. It is the world’s only non quadrilateral flag. It is a combination of two pennons and is red in colour with a blue border with the emblems of the sun and the moon.
We all know the gurkhas who are watchmen at most places. They are all from Nepal. There are thousands of Bahadurs working in India and they are hard-working trusty lot and bahadur means” brave” Because of the Hindu-connection, Indians are respected in Nepal and Indian money is sought after. At the stroke of 4.00pm we boarded our bus after evening coffee .At 5.30pm Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam was chanted by the men, followed by Swami Desikan’s stotrams. Midway the bus stopped at a place called Mukling for tea and it was here that we met a group of pilgrims returning from Mukthinath. We gathered the following information from them:
1) The weather was not too cold in Mukthinath.
2) One swami advised that though Mukthi Narayan perumal could be touched, our sampradhaya does not allow the Moolavar and utsavar murthis to be touched so we could pray from close quarters without touching.
3) Two of the flights from Pokhara to Jomsom were under repair and the third was reserved for the Prime minister so flights to Jomsom were unavailable.
At that point of time all we cared for was to reach Pokhara and get some sleep. By the light of the moon we could see mountain ranges and river Gandaki flowing. We reached Pokhara past midnight and after the luggage was unloaded we were given curd rice for dinner and after washing some clothes and putting them to dry in the room itself we went to sleep. The room (2 persons per room) we got was 310 and was on the 2nd floor facing the airport. The weather was comfortable and Sri Kannan asked us to be ready by 7.00 am.the next morning. We were asked to pack clothes for Mukthinath and the remaining luggage would be left behind in Pokhara Holiday Inn.
Some of the photos of Ayodhya to Sanauli and Sanauli to Pokhra
Courtesy: Vyjayanthi and Sundararajan
To be continued in next part….