This was the making of it in reverse order!
Sabudana papad (made all by myself!!) and a pinch of turmeric powder for rang! That regular n umm yum omlette for breakfast (lucky me to have Amit). That was our holi before he left for work.. That was also how we made up after yet another war(this was a mine one though) last night :p, about he being sleepy and me being busy with the net and the light disturbing him etc... why do so many blogs get updated just when u just want to hit the bed???
Last holi at this time, we had already climbed the Vaishno Devi Shrine and what a holy trip it was! We had prior bus bookings from Delhi to Katra but when we reached the bus stop there was some goofup between main bus operator and the agent doing the bookings. We were made to wait and compelled to grumble to get the seats we had booked in the sleeper bus, for an overnite journey which anyways can get tiresome. We reached there at around noon, checked into a simple lodge basically to keep our stuff n freshen up. Had planned that we will take the resigtration slip for darshan, have lunch, relax and start climbing in the evening. It was good only till we saw the miles long queue and a 3 hours waiting at the 'Yatra registration counter' and we were supposed to start our trek within 6 hours else the resistration would be rendered invalid. That left us with no time to relax (which is much recommended before a 13 km trek for darshan, having already done a 12 hrs bus ride on the hills); food wasnt good either, maybe coz we had the lunch at 5pm. With 'Jor se bolo - Jai mata di' enthusiasm we started walking, getting equipped with our walking sticks on the way. I tell you, the trek upill was filled with so much of energy & zest.
Its advisable to keep ur belongings in cloak rooms behind and take only minimal stuff with you uphill. We were adviced by a friend to carry new pair of clothes and take bath before doing the darshan in those new clothes. So we did that.. From what I remember, at 1 km from katra is 'Banganga', where the goddess is believed to hv stopped to drink water, she actually shot an arrow into the ground and water gushed out in form of a spring from where she quenched her thirst; then there is 'charan paduka' at another 1.5 km where matarani rested before going ahead. 4 and a half km further is 'Ardhkuwari' where she meditated for 9 months inside a cave. This is halfway point in the yatra. & you find another long queue to get a group no. and then a long wait to be called to go inside the cave when your group's turn comes. Its a narrow cave so only one person can pass thru at a time n hence all this arrangement. We were told that our group will hv to wait for some 3-4 hours so we thought of covering the bhawan in the meantime. Who knew that the onward journey will be tougher owing to aching legs, another long queue and wait to enter the main shrine or 'bhawan' as it is called.
This is the point where our patience gave up. There was chaos, flood of people wandering almost aimlessly, no information boards, no place to stand or sit, utter madness with people pushing, jumping the queue and even cheating to get in without queue or appearing in the middle from nowhere into the queue. Sumit and Amit tried to control the crowd at one point but for how long could the army of 2 people take this battle and some unheard curses on? I cant believe that all these people actually come here for peace of mind and solace. Rab to yaar ghar mein rakhi bhagwan ki murti mein bhi basta hai. We stood in the queue in turns thus getting some time away from all this. Anyone going there for the first time without prior booking or VIP tag or 'jaan pehchaan' would feel totally lost I promise you. It was getting difficult to keep up our holy spirits. The chilling cold winds only drained us some more. Now just as we were to see a ray of hope, reaching the entry gate, they declared that the gates will be closed for pilgrims for next two hours. Being the aarti time. & later I heard from the same friend of ours that they were escorted in, for darshan in the proper aarti time(?!!?!!). This is what I mean by VIP TAG or 'jaan pehchaan'.. Cruel.. but then it exists at all religeous places is what she tells me. Disgusting..
Some more of madenning rush n push! Guess, it must have come as a shocking surprise for many like it did to us. & whynot? Try n imagine holi leading to a long weekend, in north India and a crowd of thousands of shraddhalus and equal no of trekkers coming here as a wkend getaway from nearby places. So the in-flow of ppl continues 24X7 and there is no adequate arrangement at bhawan or any other point for such huge number. The thoughts of a slide or some mass mishap started haunting me and it was suffocating to see people all around.
We tried to sit near one of rare booth meant for assistance at a point just near the main shrine and what we heard were stories of ppl missing. Its bound to happen when you go in groups and members have different speeds or the elder ones take a pony or palki and reach here before the rest. So the help this booth was providing is by doing announcements about lost and found kids/young/elderly.. I also got into consoling an old lady who had this strange worry that her son and DIL must have planned the trip to get rid of her here and she asked us money and means to go back to her village somewhere in bihar. Her cries and the cold made me feel sick and irritated Amit enough to call it quits. We said our prayers and apologies to mata rani peacefully and somehow made our way out of that flood of ppl sitting all over & waiting for the gates to reopen for darshan. There is 'Bhairo temple', which is to be visited after completing the darshan here. Not sure of whether this qualifies as our darshan, we still booked our ponies to go back via Bhairo temple. There was long queue there again..sigh! But with sunrise, there was warmth in air and with visibility on the top of that hill I felt less choked. We spent some time there and headed straight back to Katra. Downhill ride on the backs of these ponies who are trained to run like in marathons, was painfull and we crashed as soon as we entered our room at Katra. Not a single bone was intact, all screaming aloud for what we did to them. I think we managed to take hot water bath before crashing there as I remember that had helped. That was 'holi' day, our very first holi as a couple and I dont even remember if we had lunch that day or not.
My dreams of playing a full fledged holi with Amit is still a dream only..
The buzzing alarm woke us up in the evening. We gathered ouselves somehow, collected our stuff and checked out. Did some shopping on our way to the bus stop and took one to reach the railway station. Now that is where we had a nice dinner and a walk in spite of the aching bodies before we bid good bye to this beautifull hill station.
Its a BIG NO-NO going there during the holiday, wkend and summer seasons. With little bit of prior planning it could have been better but having said that, I was completely disappointed. Most of my friends have been there and had good experiences but they all had gone with someone having influence over there or with prior bookings.
We have told Mata Vaishno Devi to invite us again OR next time we gonna come & see you in off season!!
This is the scene when we had come back from the yatra, look at the crows still coming in and seeking registration slips when the officials have already closed the counter for the no of pilgrims had exceeded the manageable limits. If we call our darshan incomplete what would they call theirs??
I was going down this way on the pony back :-(, when i saw this monkey that seem to be enjoying his drink...