resurrection at dodital

"In-Roads", Life Positive Magazine, Sept 2003

This once when the hills beckoned, the trek began up the 21 km steep climb to Dodi Tal, a scenic freshwater lake in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand, India, situated at a height of 3,024 metres. This is the spot where according to Hindu Mythology, Ganesha was guarding the private pond of his mother Parvati while she was bathing in her private pond. When the boy refused entry even to her consort, Shiva chopped off the boy's head in anger and uncontrolled rage, which was later resurrected by an elephant head.

Armed with a team of porters, guides and cooks, we started our trek at 8 am after a light breakfast of tea, sandwiches and boiled potatoes. Refusing a trekking pole, I climbed with the dexterity of a mountain goat through lush meadows and sleepy villages, remembering Thich Nath Hanh's line "Each step is life." Aren’t all supports ultimately impediments? Halting for tea breaks along gurgling streams and friendly villagers, hours whisked by. Finally, we reached Bebura Village for the night halt. Next morning after a light breakfast prepared by our head chef Dinesh, we continued our journey. Brackets of alternating shade and light, soft slaps of cool breeze alternating with Sun’s smoldering caress, wild butterflies sitting atop wild flowers, high-pitched chirping of birds mingling with the gushing notes of the playful Ganges kept me good company.

The remaining 8 miles were covered with ease. The quiet of the lake reaches one almost 2 miles before it is actually sighted, as though through an invisible atmospheric ripple. This coincides with a solitary Bhairava temple at the height of 3055 meters. Just before the final bend towards the lake, the porter (a weirdo right from the get-go who kept practicing his broken English on me) plunged at me and demanded an English translation of (guess who) Indira Gandhi’s last words prior to her assassination. "I do not care whether I live or not, but till my last breath I will continue to serve…" my sentence faded away into the spectacular breathless beauty of the misty mountains ahead of me. Minutes later, I spotted Dodi Tal, pretty enough to be called the proud pond of a goddess. The Himalayan range encircling the lake carefully guards it from intruders. Two stout hills stood right behind, closely and conspicuously, as graceful protectors. Trees stood like watchful village elders wearing snow shawls, reflecting in the lake’s timeless waters.

By the time tents got pitched, and hot ginger tea slipped down our throats, it was night. Ink was spreading. I moved near the waters that were pregnant with meaning, but which my tired eyes refused to interpret. After a delicious dinner of Dal Chawal, Aloo Gobhi and Kheer, I decided to step onto a cloud of sleep and reach the land of gods, goddesses and elephant heads. Before the first movement stirred the sleepy lake, I was up and close to witness sun’s first wake-up kiss, and the lake blush. By 10.00 am, reflections took possession of the waters. The lake became everybody’s business! The hills, trees, Himalayan birds and leisurely clouds—all strolled in for a dip. Dodi Tal became a playground of intermingling overlapping images, resembling a replica of creation, a duplicate universe. Only more dreamy than the real one!

It was 3.30 pm when ripples crawled in from nowhere, got fierce by the hour and took over the lake. The ripple waves combed away the frivolous play of the reflections that receded to the rim, like youth dawning of a sudden and putting an end to childhood pranks. The lake gave in quietly to this new current, as quietly as it had complied to morning’s playfulness. By the hour, ripples too got fewer, and soon joined the ring of dried leaves waiting at the rim. I sensed the descent of a force taking charge. Waters were beginning to acquire a strange stillness that only deepened by an occasional echo of the temple bell. Golden trout leaping to the surface plucked an odd ripple. Something checked my temptation to drop the net—the thought that my sport would cost the little fish life. I remembered I do not yet possess the power of resurrection as Shiva.

By 6.00 pm. sunlight too withdrew its presence, and within the next hour the last glint of light bid the lake adieu and sat atop the farthest end of the highest cliff. The lake is completely still now, glistening with profundity. As night grew thicker, so did the mystery. A snake wriggled past. A hill crow bent low. The sky was cut in a perfect round atop the lake by tree-tops and resembled a perfect lake up in the sky! A star kept vigil. Curiosity mounted. I heard magical conversations happening, crucial notes getting exchanged amidst the sky and the deep. It felt as though a soul was to be delivered and it needed complete privacy. I was being asked to leave, but I had an idea. Like a spoon breaking from the stem and sinking into the gravy, I sank into the mystery.

Dodital is a freshwater lake in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand, India, situated at a height of 3,024 metres. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ganesha as per Hindu Mythology, the spot where Ganesha acquired the head of an elephant.