Harsil: where Divinity inspires itself

Photo Courtesy: Akshaya Kumar

Harsil is a town at a distance of 20 kms from Gangotri, the source of the river Ganga. Ganga is considered by some religious sects falling under the ambiguous eponym Hinduism to cleanse people, to rid them of the sinful reactions of their habits and actions. Where some may believe that the idea of cleansing by a river is primarily an esoteric one, some take it further and actually go ahead with skinny-dipping in the river. In a place like India, the “some” can number up to millions. However, this is about Harsil, where my friend Akshaya, the tireless observer, found himself on New Year’s Eve, watching the newborn river turn golden and silver under the sun and the moon. And this is about how the images sent by him have affected me. Between the formation of the images on my retina and the wild thumping in the four chambers of my heart lies a succulent experience which has made me restless. I will be unleashing myself into the river of language in what is about to follow; perhaps, it will rid me of the restlessness. Before I begin, I must express my sincere gratitude to Akshaya for the photographs. Thanks.

The Road – Where the clouds speak and the sky protects; where energy is not condemned to unkind forms of habit; where the earth is not arrogant like mountains but humble like silt; where anguish needs no mourning and ecstasy no exalted silence; where the air is generous and uncrowded; where everything knows itself as inseparable from everything else; where means are equal to ends; where the fire of life is free; there, O transcendental river, let the elements of my heart awake.

Distilled Beauty – From the fatuous nothingness of sky, where there are no roads, the abstract evanescence of mist condenses into mighty mountains, and despite verbose and garrulous efforts, the ineffable becomes obvious. How?

Ascension – The toiling of will in the hopeless heart reflects in the aspirations of the many hands, like leafless stems, rising towards an indifferent sky– in lust and greed, or in praise and service– in response to its nature, constantly arising towards light but shaped by its absence, engrossed in the effort against suffering, seeking to acknowledge and reaffirm its cause. Wouldn’t this be what is called the joy of man’s desiring?

The Hidden Fire – What can capture the immensity of an all pervading mystery, and what may have the privilege of being able to carry the sunlight in its being– but the most delicate of suggestions, an exercise in the charming talents of words, the foam and passionate formlessness of freewheeling clouds lit by a yawning sun behind a blasé mountain.

The Cloud Messenger – At one of the mystery, I stand; at the other end, the unknown. I stand in agony and ignorance on the top of an arrogant mountain, punished pre-emptively for an unknown fate. My head is in clouds; my feet are in chains. The reward for my suffering lies in waiting, beyond the mystery. I glance repeatedly at the horizon for a message from beyond; I never learn to die. I fill the valley of darkness with the sea of my tears. Ah! Beloved mystery, I send my message on the back of clouds, written with the dust that falls from the burnt wings of angels. So heavy a burden, so light a song. O clouds, carry the wailing of my heart to one who beckons its calling. Imprison my anxious glances towards darkness and the weight of my tears in the ethereal curls of your pristine white knowledge.

The Epic – My song is painted on the face of this world. The sky is its canvas and the clouds are its words– dithyrambs arranged in iambic meters, and epics in free verse. When I suffer from painful bouts of lucidity, the words of the song lull my doubts to sleep. Each act is a day and each interlude a night. My song celebrates loneliness. Does it betray my preference for solitude? The song begins with impassioned notes, and I am not certain how it ends. My memory is but a fragile skyscape.  It takes a single breeze to alter my meaning and change my song. How feminine, the mysterious song of separation! How ironical, the history of the clouds! For whom and why?

The Hero – I stand alone, upright and leafless, tilting neither here nor there, but towards my own inner light. I am the pole around which darkness arranges itself into patterns. Colors are the limits of my form, words are my flesh, and light is my blood. I am the speaking book. I am the living song. I am clothed by my nature and yet I am naked as truth. Sacrifice is the only way I know to love. How foolish, then, it is to lead when one can only be led to sacrifice, unless one wishes to be led to such wisdom? This is my tragedy that I must continue to be myself, not out of habit or vanity, but out of duty. Unforgiven and not in need of forgiveness, I am corrupted with my own self and yet sinless. The mountains are dwarfed by my glory and the profoundly indifferent sky makes for my resting place. I am the hope for many but I myself keep no hope. Many are driven out of despair by me, but I myself never despair. Darkness makes me human, light makes me divine.

The River – The message has come to the river. All that are left are residues of verbiage, like pebbles along the banks of a stream of consciousness. Far away, the clouds continues their journey, raining somewhere and changing the words, but the river returns faithfully to its mouth. It must continue to flow, it must continue to be itself out of its sense of duty. Flowing is its duty, not an act of virtue. Should the river pass the message of the separated lover to the beloved, it may complement itself for being useful. The river, the beneficent and compassionate river, longs to be loved; it desires to carry a memory of the message. It is flowing to meet its retinue of baptists on its way who will give it shape and name, and to meet its many companions who will sing the song along with the river. And the river continues to flow, changing its shape and name along, in imitation of the song of the cloud messenger. The river has learned the form of the song. It shall negotiate intractable logic with skill and meander around ineffable mystic mountains with grace and beauty. In its clear streams, it will reflect the memory of its companions– the trees, the mountains, the sky and the clouds. And it must continue to flow.

Sermons to Stones – Thou shalt flow, or else thou shalt freeze: thus spake the river. The river spreads its message over the bed of stones and the parliament of rocks which listen to it with hope. The river assures them that after singing the song for a long time, the stones shall be lovers. The river, boastful in its youth, forgets the envious stones which imprison the singing river in their jaws, and the river freezes. Does it remember the song in the cage? Does it begin to empathize with the maker of the song?

Memory – Look at the countless tears of the night, they become the stars. And the countless tears of the lover become his song. And the river begins to understands with ice cold indifference towards itself. It becomes crystal clear to it. And even the ice takes the form of the clouds, remembering the song, each word, and it is only a while till the warmth and light of the sun spreads and the ice melts away, changing the words and tunes of the song in harmony with its new-found influence of forgiveness. The melting of snow, which clothes the vain mountain, is like sweating. The melting of ice, which has formed as punishment, is like crying. The river has learned to differentiate between different forms while remembering the similarity in their separation. The memory of the river has acquired the noble skill of self-criticism, which can only chisel the diamond further, and help the river to control its flow.

The Refrain – The message will be delivered soon. The end is near. The song has finally reached its climax after going through many changes in shape, form and meanings. But it still bears an unmistakable hallmark of a msytical lover separated from his mysterious beloved. What awaits beyond the last blue mountain? Not darkness, but a dream…

A Winsome Dream – The light impregnating the cloud cannot wait to unveil itself. It dawns on a peaceful village. All the houses look the same, but different energies reside in them. They all equally receive the sunlight and warmth. The song rejuvenates everyone. They all sing and celebrate, like one big happy family. The warm heart-tugging innocence of the river constantly reminds them of the song and its lessons. All the different houses seem united in singing the song of separation. They all belong in each other, each inseparable from the other, each knowing the other. They are all filled with a sense of deep respect towards the maker of the song, disregarding the fact that the song is quite nonsensical to them. You see, they are no longer separated from each other. The separation is only for the beloved and the lover– the last secret to be revealed, but to be understood only after the unveiling.

The Revelation – There is no river. There is no mountain. There are no pebbles and no trees. There are no stones and no clouds. There is no sky. There is no light and no darkness. There is no separation and no song. Such is it when everything knows everything else, and the lover is never separated from the beloved. The limited whole is what is mystical and yet capable of being known, the key to infinity. One can pour an ocean of wine into a glass and still the glass can contain only a glass-full and not the whole ocean. How beautiful the glass, and how impersonal the ocean of wine. Isn’t this how one sees the universe in a grain of sand, and rests in all knowledge in a ray of light?


~ by Bombadil on January 5, 2010.

2 Responses to “Harsil: where Divinity inspires itself”

  1. WOW………….

  2. good stuff mate…

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