When the mountains call, you got to go
By Manju Latha Kalanidhi | Express News Service | Published: 06th December 2017 10:32 PM |
HYDERABAD: Gururaj Sharma is your regular priest in Hyderabad, until you get to know that he has visited Manasarovar 11 times in the last seven years. This sacred place in Tibet is unique because most devotees who have visited the Lake Manasarovar say that it takes them several attempts, and sometimes several decades, to be able to make it to the divine destination. Gururaj says he has a long story on how it was the divine ordinance that took him to this place considered to be the Centre of Universe.
The sacred town is for two kinds of people. First, the intrepid adventure seeker who loves to push his comfort zones to be able to experience nature at its fiercest. Second, the devout who believe that the desire to visit is nothing but the call of Mahadeva.
The latter, of course, form the majority of tourists to Manasarovar, also known as the lake born out of Lord Shiva’s heart – manas. It is considered to be among the world’s highest freshwater lakes fed by glaciers from Mount Kailash. More importantly, it is revered as it has emanated from Lord Shiva himself – Daivansh.
Gururaj, however, says humbly that it is a miracle of sorts that he managed to visit the place 11 times so far and that it was a prophecy that came true. The simple-looking 30-plus Kannada priest who lives in Ameerpet, Hyderabad, gives an account of a chilling experience he had during the Navratris of 2010. “Like any other Hindu, I craved to visit Varanasi.
It was a long overdue trip and I decided it was time to seek a darshan of Vishwanath and I set out from Hyderabad to Varanasi in October 2010. I am a devotee of Rama and I was chanting Ramanama as I have been since my childhood. But when I was at the Vishwanath temple where the presiding deity is Shiva, I started chanting Hara Hara Mahadeva.
I had never chanted this and within a few seconds, I experienced a blackout. I collapsed on the ground and I vividly remember a middle-aged, dhoti-clad man – he seemed to have a divine glow and a halo around him – advising me to stop being a turncoat and chant Ramanama instead. He said all Gods are the same and that I experienced the blackout because I suddenly abandoned my favourite God. The same man said it was okay to chant whatever is dear to me. Soon he disappeared and I spotted a flame which, to my surprise, could speak.
It said that I will soon be visiting the divine Shiva abode of Manasarovar, not once but 11 consecutive times. I had heard of the Akashavani, the voice from the heavens. The voice from the flame seemed like that. Soon enough devotees around me poured some Ganga water (as the river flows right across the temple, everyone who visits the temple carries water from the river in bottles or glasses) on my face and I woke up with a start. I felt like I had just come out of a movie or a TV show, with a divine twist of course.”
When Gururaj woke up, he recalled the name Manasarovar, but he felt that he had never heard of that place. He called home and not many in his family heard about it either. He felt clueless about this divine prophecy. “You will go there 11 times in a row,” Gururaj recalls the words. Gururaj did not take it seriously, but moved on thinking maybe he just got carried away into another realm because of the pious surroundings and the chants around him.
The same day on his way back to Hyderabad by the train, he got chatting with his fellow passengers. He met Srinivas Swami, a tour operator from Hyderabad. “We exchanged pleasantries and after some time, when I asked him if he knew about a place called Manasarovar, he burst out laughing saying that not only does he know, he has visited it several times and is a tour operator who regularly organises tours to the place.”
But what followed was even more magical because Srinivas asked Gururaj if he knew of any priest who could accompany them to the next Manasorvar Yatra as the one who was supposed to come fell sick. As the mountains can be treacherous and even the healthy ones find it difficult in the high altitude areas, Srinivas asked Gururaj if he could join them. “It was a shocker as I felt the prophecy was coming true. Yes, I was a priest and I knew all the Poojas such as Abhisheka, Rudra homa, Mahamrutyunjaya homa and Rudram chanting - that devotees do in such places. He was in such a hurry that in the next few days he helped me get my passport and visa and before I knew, by I flew out of Hyderabad and landed in the ice-capped town.”
On an average, a two-week trip to Manasarovar costs around `2 to 3 lakh per person. So it was impossible for Gururaj to even contemplate a trip in the immediate future. But to his good fortune, he was the chosen one for the next 11 consecutive trips. He did his 11th trip, the last one, on August 24, 2017, on his birthday. “I felt that such coincidences happen only with divine intervention. I have met people on the trip who told me how they had been wanting to come for the last 20 years and after many hurdles, they managed to come. They found it incredible that I could make it 11 times, that too without my own merit, but by His grace,” says Gururaj.
Trips to Mount Kailash are conducted twice a year in batches of 30 to 50 between May to September. Gururaj says that the mountains taught him to be grateful for the life he has been given. “I feel supremely alive in the mountains and want to make everyone feel great and grateful for their lives. I use my spirit of good life to counsel people who are on the verge of suicide or those who feel they live in a miserable world. I visit schools and colleges and also share my number in WhatsApp groups asking them to put me across to people who need some motivation in life,” he says.
Gururaj confesses that he has gotten a bit greedy now and that he wants to visit Char Dham (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri & Yamunotri) 11 times. “I have visited Char Dham twice already and the divine calls me again. I want to push my boundaries and I am sure my willpower will support me,” he says.