The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Living with Mr Subzero - III

Ki Monastery Spiti
Spiti was the seat of Buddhism in the historical past and it exists as such even to this day. The second diffusion of Buddhism that was spearheaded by the king Yeshe Od (947-1024) and his trusted scholar friend Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) has left innumerable historical artifacts for the present generation to see and wow. A visit to Kaza and around would not be complete without visiting a few monasteries. There were two of them in my itinerary: a short three-day visit would not accommodate more than that. The first one was Ki monastery.

Buddhist Manuscript
‘Look, where is it situated!’ I wondered at the first glance of Ki monastery. The hillock looked as if wrapped by a printed scarf of houses—nay, it looked from a distance as if little houses were crawling their way to the top. Ha-ha! It was as if a giant samosa placed on the craggy landscape.

Buddhist Painting
The monastery is a historical spot where the monks-in-making study their school curriculum in the morning as fixed by the government and the Buddhist philosophy in the afternoon as prescribed by its tradition. There are quite a few such monks belonging to different hierarchies of Buddhist education and spiritual attainment. We were greeted by the monk in charge of reception and given yummy cups of herbal tea. The kitchen with its low roof and very many items of utensil looked like a museum in the dimly lit ambience. Our teas finished, we went round the monastery and its various halls that specialized in Buddhist worship paraphernalia, following a conducted tour. The monk was trying his best to explain drawing parallel with the idols and gods of Hinduism yet I felt it would entail a serious study to know and retain what those philosophical tenets and their associated objects stood for. Among the idols one was Kuber. There were pictures of three Buddhas, the first one of smaller height which was pre-Buddha Buddha and the second was Buddha himself and the third was the picture of the Buddha of future named Maitreyi. And Maitreyi will be a tall and well-built personality. So, it adheres to the evolutionary pattern, say like Dashavatar of Hinduism: fish, tortoise, pig, lion-faced human, the dwarf…. There was a hall full of shelves with the scriptures translated into Bhuti language by Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055). I was told it would take nearly forty years for the monks-in-making to be proficient in Buddhist philosophy and there was some kind of certification system administered from the monastery of Hubli in Karnataka. To be successful in the philosophy test one should enter into debate with other monks and influence the jury that looks on, by one’s erudition.

River Spiti
The other monastery I visited on my way back in the afternoon was Tabo monastery. It is a historical heritage; the Archeological Survey of India has taken the charge of its preservation. There are paintings, quite invaluable in their historical contents. They are of Indian styles and there are paintings of Tibetan styles too. The pictures depict the life and teachings of Buddha, vibrant in colour at some places and faded at others. There are pictures of various mandalas the monks of the day are trying to relive for the prescribed Buddhist attainments and there are the portraits of various kings responsible for donations over a thousand years of its history. There are quite a few stupas in the campus of the monastery. And the whole architecture paraphernalia consists of mud and timber. I was reminded: there is no rain in the area and it may be one of the reasons why we still have them intact after so many years even if they are kuchcha in make.

Buddhist Stupa: Tabo Monastery
Recently the monastery completed its one thousand years of existence and a postage stamp was issued in its commemoration. The hall we went for taking tea after the visit was full of photographs of great personalities that visited the monastery. I found Mrs Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India had visited the spot. And there was a visitor book, too, that had so many nice comments about the place. When it was turn for me to record something, I just pondered for a minute. The spiritual leadership of India was the theme that struck me and I recorded my remarks saying how proud I felt realizing it. Even if it was for a moment only, I imbibed the ethos of the place. I believe India has the ability to do that again, its present decadence notwithstanding.

And then it was time to return.

The condition of road deserves a special mention. Going to Kaza and not mentioning the dread and beauty of the road, well, the picture would not be complete. We had to cross hills but our course mostly followed the river Spiti up to a place called Khab where Spiti merged with the Satluj. Then it was along the river bank of the Satluj. Somehow I felt, the River Spiti had more water to drain to the Satluj than the latter brought there from China to the confluence. And I felt the name of the river thereafter should have been determined on the basis of the contribution they make in shaping the river. In other words it should have been known as the Spiti, not the Satluj. Should I say it a historical naming blunder?

Miss Spiti
Oh yes, coming back to the road, it is flanked by the river on the one side and the hill on the other. Could there be hills without a rock in them? Yes, there were many that I came across. Some are in the process of making, yet shedding the extra soil around them. As though the hills were the weight conscious entities, seriously taking their gym routine from the time immemorial, and they would not stop until they manage to get a slim figure! Some have taken artistic shape: an imaginary lama or something. Some hills were only rubble heaps barely protected by the retaining walls from their being dumped onto the road. There is a spot named Marling Nala. Oh the dreadful spot. ‘Be aware of the shooting stones’ the roadside notice warned us. And it was enough to send shudders down the spine. But nothing happened. Rather it started snowing as the vehicle was crossing the stream.

The Angry Young Man
While crossing those crucial spots with amazement and trepidation, I was thinking of two eventualities, one humorous and the other apocalyptic. Let me talk about the humorous stuff first. The hills have so much of soil and chipped stones going waste. If the state of Kerala somehow gets one such hills, it could reclaim quite a bit of space out of the Arabian Sea. Isn’t Kerala the densest place today? There is no gap between villages: one passing through Kerala would not know when one village has ended and the other had started! And now let me tell the Apocalyptic thought. Every year so much soil is getting drained into the Satluj and going to Bhakra. How long will it take to fill its reservoir? Not for nothing the environmentalists clamour these days.
[Concluded]
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By
A. N. Nanda
Shimla
13-11-2013
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