Porters carry Hindu pilgrims to the Amarnath Shrine, a mountain cave that is considered a shrine to Lord Shiva. The route is a treacherous Himalayan mountainside – rocky, snowbound and insurgent infested.
Inside that cave is a hump of ice, a natural phenomenon caused by water dripping on the cave floor and instantly freezing.
To Hindus, that hump is sacred and every summer thousands brave a harsh terrain, narrow slippery mountain paths, avalanches and mud slides to visit the cave and heap garlands and sweet meats on that hump. Lucky hump.
Overheard, Lord Shiva, muttering under His hashish laden holy breath….
“That’s just a stupid fucking stalagmite in a stupid fucking mountain cave in the middle of stupid fucking nowhere that you are risking your lives to see, you stupid morons. Am I not supposed to be everywhere, omnipresent? Then, why the eff do you have to do this?”
Honestly, why? Its like that American student who wanted to visit North Korea and came back a vegetable. Why did he have to go to a place where everybody looks alike and behaves weirdly? Maybe Amarnath Yatra is a desire to behave weirdly for a change.
In the south of India too there are hordes of absolutely insane folks who take a punishing 35km long trek through dense foliage and mountainous terrain, enduring bug bites, leeches and venomous snakes, to a joint called Sabarimalai for their ‘Lord Ayappa’.
It must be the kick, the adrenalin, the satisfaction that comes from deliberately bearing pain, spurred on by some weird sense of guilt, the feeling of unworthiness and the overpowering need to be cleansed.
But no, even in that there is deceit. Instead of trying to make it on their own steam, (which is actually the original objective of any pilgrimage) they engage porters to haul their sorry asses up the mountain.
In this photo, the only ones deserving of salvation in my opinion are the predominantly Muslim, desperately poor young men, who haul well-heeled pilgrims up the treacherous mountainsides. If Lord Shiva is really smart, he will shine his blessings on these young men instead. They might be Muslims, but they are the true pilgrims in this picture.
Yesterday’s terrorist attack on Hindu pilgrims at the Amarnath Yatra is sad but then maybe it is God’s way of teaching us a lesson – to cut the crap and look for salvation within ourselves.