A walk to Remember: Journey to Listhikot VDC (Chang Ching Village)

                     Travel is one of best way to learn things and explore beyond comfort zone. The less travelled road, after major Earthquake Nepal 2015, left Araniko Highway connecting Kodari to Kathmandu sees fewer commuters. After postponing my trip to Listhikot VDC for several times due to roadblock, it was finally decided to pack bag and hit the highway. After 5 hours of bus ride from Old bus park of Kathmandu we reached Barabise around 5:30pm in evening. As heavy and daily rainfall had brought several landslides blocking road access to Listhikot. So we decided to pursue journey following day hoping roadblock will be clear next day.

                  Ironically there was heavy downpour last night, which completely ruined our plan to travel by bus. We planned to go via any vehicle to Nayapool and then hitchhike uphill to Chang Ching (a village among several village of Listhikot VDC). It was early morning so there was less chance of getting any vehicle, as vehicle plying had reduced significantly after closure of Lasha border. We asked lift for every passing vehicle finally our luck turned out, we got lift from a truck-carrying quarry for ongoing hydropower project at Chaku. (Middle Bhotekoshi Hydropower Project) After an hour journey we reached at Nayapool at 7:00 am. We passed through Nayapool, a spot for bungee jumping and other various adventurous activities hosted by The Last Resort.

                       The uphill journey through fallen houses, temporary shelter of people and terrible sheds for animal brought chill on us. It felt like no presence of any authority or government in vicinity. The uphill walk made us so exhausted we had to make several stops and we ran out of water, which made journey more arduous. The steep hill, heat of sun and lack of water made walk difficult. After 3 hours of walk we reached first house of uphill village. We asked for water, owner of house very generously provided clean water (filtered water) for drinking. He expressed his grievances after earthquake, the losses and tragedies he had to go through.

                 Personally I found him quite traumatic and his odd behavior expressed those fear and anxiety. He said still he couldn’t sleep inside his house at night so generally he prefers sleeping in open space at smooth surface in uphill area. There have been repeated landslides, fracturing of land mass and majority of water sprouts around village area have been dried up. We could witness his saying when we roamed around village.

                     After few minutes walk from his house we reached our final destination Chang Ching village. The main aim was to inspect community kitchen made in Buddhist Gumba for approval of budget from government as fellow traveller was appointed as Civil Engineer in charge for re construction and rehabilitation in Listhi VDC. The journey provided very insightful things, difficulties at grass root level and presence of resentment about state. It came to light people are affected more as there is no income as Lasha border is closed as working as seller or vendor and purchasing daily goods for livelihood. Now they do not have proper shelter to live in, jobs to work and are purchasing Indian goods at higher rate.

                   This journey made me realized ground reality of many Nepalese life from ground zero up.

Swarga Dwari: The place where Spirituality Meets Technology

                      Nepal, country of mountains and holy places, boast on natural beauty and wilderness. The holy shrine of Swarga Dwari lies in western Nepal of Pyuthan district. It is one of popular destination for hindu devotees as one can feel in temple premises. Hindu devotees flung as far as from India to get blessing from shrine.

                 The holiness of temple traces back to discovery of ancient hawan area and related puja materials. The young shepherd traveling from far western part happens to be resting on bajh(a 100 year old tree located nearby) saw a vision that place is blessed by gods and once was place for worship of god. He asked fellow herders to dig around premises to discover ancient leftovers of hawans, vessels and other holy materials. It is believed he had supernatural power of healing, spent most of time in meditation, started school for teaching holy scripts, procured land for cultivation so temple attendees and follower will never be in scarcity for food. He is regarded as very holy person, you can see his statue inside temple.

                         The other story is: this was last place visited by Pandavas from Mahabharat before moving to heaven. The Pandavas were thirsty and Arjuna took a bow, aimed in ground to withdraw sprout of water to quench thirst. Still the sprout known as Kunda is visible downhill from temple. As Pandavas spend one night here before departing to Heaven (Swarga), often devotees spend one night here.

                          The Swarga Dwari Trust arranges food and residence for devotees in various Dharmashala in periphery of temple. The per bed cost is Rs. 30 and per plate food is Rs.100. The residence hall are primitive Nepalese mud house but decent one with mattress, blankets. It is wise to carry your own bedsheets. The food is normal vegetarian which includes rice, lentil and vegetables popularly know as “gods food”.

Major Attraction

Hawan Area with Eternal Lamp

              There is 24 hours, 365 days continuous hawan. The nearby was eternal lamp, I could not see lamp but was given through instruction how it was brought by pathak (priest are called so here). It is scared place where you give ghee, rice, oil and charu (mix of various grains especially made for hawan). No photos allowed here.

Main Temple

                This is place where you worship lord Shiva which is built upon grave of guru, founder of temple. The initial worship on this temple follows with multiple temple presence on the premises.

Bajh Tree

              The tree is supposed to be more than 100 years old. The importance, holiness trace back to resting place of guru who discovered this area so holds greater significance as you can see vermillion smeared all around.

Cowshed

              There are more than 250 cows reared in cowshed. The cows are supposed to be very holy and devotees throng to feed them flours (especially Satu) and salt. The excessive feeding of salt caused death of many cow so its forbidden to give salts these day. You can just deposit it in near by specified place.

Cave (Gufa)

            The cave is place where guru use to mediate. Supposedly it was place where Pandavas took shelter before going to heaven. It is naturally built place around 20 mintues walk around the hill.

School (Pathsala for holy teachings)

             The pathsala teaches student holy scriptures for continuity of tradition. The young boys keep chanting mantras, sloks, hyms, vajans from early morning. Usually they teach 3-4 years for student with compulsory 1 year practice as priest in temple.

Water Sprouts (Kunda)

          The Kunda lies 15minutes downhill walk. The water (jal) is brought from kunda for offering to god by pathak on barefeet without being touched by anyone. The water sprouts is believed to come into existence by piercing of arrow via bow by Arjuna from Mahabharat.

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Bhairavi Temple

          The 10 minutes uphill walk will lead to Bhairavi temple. From here you can have great view of surrounding area.

Technology

         The temple houses large solar power station providing and supplementing electricity for temple premises. The solar street lamp provides durable light throughout night. The solar lightening has been helping to keep life in night as main stream supply is so infrequent. The night life felt so lively with flashing white light around premises.

             There is large bio-gas plant which provides cooking fuel for people’s kitchen. The cow poop is used for making bio-gas which is very helpful for conservation of local forest and keeping far from LPGs. The bio-gas is enough sometime supplemented by firewoods for cooking.

            The temple is located in top of hill. It is quite challenging to fetch water for people. Although pumping is done by electric motor from downhill. We can still see rain water harvesting done around top of official building of temple.

        This is great gesture of adaption of technology for facilitating devotees. Thus Swarga Dwari is holy place with blend of spirituality with technology. This can be benchmark for other holy shrines to replicate in them.

MYTH’s

  1. It is believed once temple ran out of ghee for hawan. The guru asked his follower to go to ganga (Madi River) and burrow few tin cans of ghee. The follower being surprised went to river, drew few tin can of water and came to temple. The guru asked them to pour them hawan. The follower despite being reluctant to pour, poured on gurus command, to surprise it turned to be ghee. Again after couple of months when temple had surplus ghee, guru asked them to pay back ghee to ganga. When followers poured back ghee in ganga to their surprise it turned to be water.

  2. The guru was having discussion with his follower. The very eccentric bird yellow in color came from Northern side, guru spoke in birds language with birds. The bird flew back, curiously follower asked what he had spoken with bird. The guru said that his time on earth has come to end, the bird came to notify him. After few days guru became sick, called his follower gave them all responsibilities. There was some bright yellow spark glowing out of guru which rose high above temple, and rushed into northern himalayas. The guru was found to be dead by then.

  3. There was hunter who injured deer. The deer entered temple for sanctuary. The hunter asked guru to return back deer to him. The guru said “ I cannot offer you deer as it came for sanctuary in my asharm, ask anything other I will give you”. The hunter being adamant on his claim of deer and misbehaving, manhandling guru. The furious guru gave curse(srap) for hunter that he has to die of some disease. As matter of fact that happened.

About Guru

                       The couple in some far western Nepal did not have any son or daughter. They worshipped god and were believed to be blessed by god. That they will have son who will be actual incarnation of God. The mother gave birth to son, who was glowing with light since childhood. On 6th day when mother ate meat, son refused to suck milk from mother. Since child guru was supposed to be holy. Even it is believed that we could see universe inside the mouth of Guru.

Tour de Pokhara: A journey of Pioneering

                             The holiday tours and travel Pvt. Ltd. Had four passenger who were on mission trip to Pokhara. Slowly parting from chaos, hustle & bustle, pollution of overly populated Kathmandu valley, bumping through pot holes of Prthivi Highway. Finally landed on serene, vibrant city of western Nepal, Pokhara (the city of lakes, temples with smiling mountains on outskirts). We had limited and tight schedule to follow up.

                         We, were staying at Damside near Tourist bus park. The plan was to re-unite with rest of team members who were already on the town. The main factor which brought here was TGG Mentorship program under mentorship of Social Entrepreneur Anil Chitrakar as part of it we were innovatively implementing and generating values out of waste (paper, plastic, water and food). The idea was to conduct orientation program about how can we use each waste into values by creative way like using waste paper for making pencil, rain water harvesting, waste food utilization in piggery business, waste plastic into ropes. And to provide hands on experience for old tire gardening to students, so they can replicate it further.

                          Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyala, already a vibrant school with large surrounding area would be ideal place for old tire gardening. The school authority along with army personnel really welcomed our purposal, a bit of hard works for getting them understand actually what we wanna build up. The gardeners and care taker actively joined hand with us. Along some army volunteered for carrying tires around school premises.

                     The old tires were initially washed with detergent powder and rubbed with clothes, so stains and mud would be washed off revealing clean surface. The washed tires are dried up on sun. Once tire dries up they are painted with several colors giving artistic and aesthetic values. As generally we make minions at gate, the concept is spreading and going viral as “ The Minion Effect”.

                             Personally, I had never encountered such curious and overwhelming students, so do team. Every passerby from junior students to senior students, teachers and army personnel were asking what we really were doing. Like teachers who were skeptical earlier day, even complained how ugly their compound would look after placing shabby tires. But they were amazed when they saw such appealing old painted tires. Many thought how cool, innovative idea it was. They were shocked to hear price of old tires, which is relative cheap then traditional flower vases based on mud and concrete. They thought of doing similar gardening at their homes, gossip like this was audible despite we were continuously working in creating values. Those smiles on face reflected their sense of satisfaction as entirely built section of old tire garden was ready welcome plants.

                             The orientation cum workshop incorporated various aspected of waste management as discussed above. The sixty enthusiastic student, environment science teachers, principal, vice-principal, other staffs actively participated in orientation. Our team leader made so loud and clear presentation of our activities. The program ended with question and answer session which was more effective and articulated as student and teachers pin pointed their curiously which was efficiently addressed. The paper pencil, paper bags were distributed among students. The paper pencil really proved to logical way to re-use waste paper. The school principal was positive about starting to make such pencil as they have lots of newspaper and exam papers. We thought this was really impressive and our action is really bringing change.

                          Finally plantation was carried out with participation of men-tees, teachers, army major, students and staff’s in all tire vases. The school administration were so glad to have us even they purposed to furnish whole compound with tire gardening. As we had limited time and budget for expenses we could not stay for longer duration. The two day ended with lots of travel, hard work, interaction with new and intelligent people, and we felt like really we did something to cheer up. The late evening cycling around lake side, Devis fall provided a sense of relief and satisfaction after hard work completed successfully.

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The TEAM

Word of Thanks

                         There are lots of people behind scene without whose help this was not possible to make happen. Sincere thanks for Senha Father for arranging residence and travel for first day. Thank you Col. Umesh Karki for arranging second day of travel with army jeeps and bus. Thank you hostel dai for cooking us so delicious food and showing around maps and direction. Thank you Sunwi Maskey who was able to make such hectic and continuous travel, despite exams, we really are glad to have you in team. Thank you Meghana who solely made travel on her own expenses to be with us. Last but not least we evolved as good team, respecting, laughing and working together, whose combine efforts made this event really “the grand Success”.

Cheers Mates.