The Many Aakaars of Dev Bhoomi- In Light of Contemporary Poems

“The crevices are often so deep,
  And the edges so very luscious.
                           
  Her hills are missed by me,
     And the cool dark peaks too.” 
                                                                                                            -Atul Kaushal, about beauty
                                                                                                              of Uttarakhand
While on one end we see Uttarakhand as a marionette who got a makeover personally by Aphrodite herself, on the other end, especially in the light of recent tragic events, one can’t help but think that this glam doll might just deliver you to straight to Hades himself (all tied up with an unusually strong pink satin ribbon, in a hand basket). Nestled in the peaks of the Himalayan mountains of India, Uttarakhand is more than just ‘sugar and spice and everything is nice.’ She’s a goddess, the very homeland of the spirit realm, the abode of the silent frosty sentinels, the emblematic Dev Bhoomi.
Askot
In the cradle of nature.
My mother used to once have a rather garrulous yoga instructor who would only converse with you in English so broken, that you could only make sense out of his words if you were well versed in Hindi. He was a Garhwali. One look at his stout frame and anybody could tell that there were more mountains in his heart than there probably were in Garhwal. The stories he told us were somewhat the desi versions of the fables you read in English bedtime storybooks as a four year old- utterly obscure, yet fanciful enough to leave a permanent imprint on your mind. It was these stories that etched the image of Uttarakhand in my impressionable mind.
The thread of the Ganga mellifluously weaves together the  ever living facets of the Land of Gods, it’s beauty, it’s glory, it’s wrath, it’s splendour- the colourful patchworks on the quilt that makes up the mountains. These separate ‘aakaars’ homogeniously blend together in God’s own heavenly mixer grinder to bring to you the grandeur that is Dev Bhoomi.
Apart from being the headquarters of Devi Maa herself, Uttarakhand is also famed for being the lush, coniferous, evergreen emerald that sits in the middle of the crown of mountains atop India. Many a blithe poet looked outside his hilltop cabin on a dewy early morning to see the sky untimely playing holi with the sun, a riot of hues at its disposal. The verde pines, the snow capped mountains, the sheer altitude of the rocky terrain have been vividly depicted and personalised in many contemporary poems, much like in the verse ‘A Call to Uttarakhand.’
So beautiful you are,
So is thy height,
All day it holds my soul,
Doesn’t desert me even in the night,
But there is a lump thou hide,
Behind this green & white,
Still you can’t win on me,
I’ve seen it through my sight,
I know you’re adored,
I believed it though,
As the deities wander,
In thou land here & there,
But even the insanity,
I found lurked in thee,
Slaying thy divinity,
Oh! The blood,
I watched it clearly.

                                  – Neha Sen

(Read more through the link: http://blog.lokrang.org/a-call-to-uttarakhand/)

The ‘aanchal’ of the north is the playground of Ganga Maiyya. Those who bathe in the hallowed river are believed to have all their sins washed away and they who breathe their last on her lapping waters get a one way ticket to everyone’s favourite  afterlife destination- heaven. Perhaps you have been to Haridwar, the place where thousands of devout Hindu religious families go about thrice a year to pay homage to the personified goddess. Here mouldable nine year old minds may experience some permanent trauma by the resident monkeys who may snatch ice creams out of their hands (a situation NOT akin to mine). Innumerable poems have been written about the splendour of the mighty Ganges as it flows through Haridwar. My grandmother had an unfulfilled dream- to cleanse the skin of her hands and her soul in the waters of Haridwar. The simply written poem ‘Haridwar’ reflects this sentiment.

When I was innocent
of the scheme of life
(if at all life then had a scheme)
it used to puzzle me
to see you sobbing, mother
your long face and eyes
full of unnamed sadnesses.

For didn’t you yourself say
that life was good
and there was much
to be grateful for?
So I never understood
your vehemently voiced
longing, every yet again
for Haridwar.

Haridwar.
As I grew up
it became our private joke:
You said you’d leave for Haridwar
after I left home for hostel.
You said you’d live in Haridwar
after I got a job.
And surely when I got married
in Haridwar you would dwell.
But you never went.

Haridwar
was the first real confession
my mother-in-law made to me
when I stepped into her home,
one woman to another.
She said, soon, she would go
to Haridwar.
It seemed then like déjà vu,
a joke gone sour.
After her daughters
were settled, perhaps.
After the grandchildren
had grown, perhaps.
After this year,
maybe after the next
she would certainly head
for Haridwar.

But she never went.

                         -Manjul Bajaj

(Read the entire poem through the link: http://creative.sulekha.com/haridwar_79254_blog)

More often than not, the Ganga can be found in her tranquil state of mind, but when the tempers begin to run high, she’ll flood and slay everything in her path. The 2013 floods in the very home of the goddess left indelible scratches which are visible till date on the mountain’s rocky crown. Like the myth I gave a verbatim of earlier, they say that death in the arms of Ganga Ma will take you to heaven. On the ironic, perhaps brighter side of things, the tumultuous river waves sent 5200 people there that cataclysmic day.

or_546_flood
PC – blogs.reuters.com

The poignant, iconic verse, ‘Beh Gaye‘ written by Amitabh Bachchan (God of Bollywood himself. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a Big B Jabra fan) and Prasoon Joshi in the aftermath of the flash flood became closely associated with the disaster. Given here is the English translation of this heart rending composition.

That house was swept away,
The pictures kept in the house were swept too,
The faces, smiling in the pictures, were swept away,
families flowed away, hundreds, thousands..

That prayer was swept away,
the heads bowed down in reverence were swept away,
It was heard, that when a mother’s child flowed,
she jumped into the river, seeing her..

lullabies were swept,
squeals of childrens were swept..
fathers were swept away, hundreds, thousands..

Millions of India’s tears flowed away
The tears are in millions,
but we are in millions too..
Come, let’s care for them..

Be a friend, a child to someone..
Be a mother, a father,
Be famile to someone..
Let’s rise a sun, rise a hope..
Come, let’s make a morning for someone..

(Follow the link to read the original Hindi version of ‘Beh Gaye’: http://www.bollymeaning.com/2013/08/beh-gaye-poem-for-uttarakhand-relief.html

Follow this link to watch the video of ‘Beh Gaye’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7GFace_5Gk)

uttarakhand-tourism-destinations1
PC – uttarakhandtouristplaces.wordpress.com

Despite all the fireballs Hades threw, Uttarakhand emerged blooming and bright as ever. Aphrodite still hails her mountains; Devi Ma presides there, unruffled; pilgrims troupe to the temple over roads that had once been engulfed for breakfast by the river waters. The stitches in the patchwork of the land of mountains may have loosened but the tailor, time, strengthened  them. The mortal man is craven in the head of nature. After all, “What are men to rocks and mountains?”; and in the case of Dev Bhoomi, the Gods!

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