“Countless folks have come for once to this world,
but none has ever looked back, once he is gone.
The breeze is blowing about my dust from door to door,
O my tearful eye, what obstructs your flow?
None but the self-oblivious really know this world,
He alone is here awake, who keeps his eyes closed…”
-From a Ghazal by Khwaja Mir Dard
Just found that to be interesting – from a book of Urdu Ghazal I picked up in Delhi. Been doing more and more walking, and discovered a few interesting places. Foremost among them, this ancient temple at the base of one of the many waterfalls outside Vashisht. It is regarded as a very holy place, though it’s not nearly as frequented as the small Manu temple here in Vashisht. I haven’t been able to get the whole story out of anyone yet, but the closest comes from Tito, who says that it was a place once visited by Rama. His stories get a little more impenetrable the later in the afternoon I go to see him, but he evidently holds the place in highest esteem. It gives the impression of an Andean city – something like a dock in the clouds. The plain of grass and the giant Walnut tree surrounding the little stone building must have been arranged by men, but nobody knows how long ago.
Bara and I walked up there yesterday to check out the waterfall, and I was thinking the whole time about a story Jigme told me about the Benjakree (probably misspelled…) It’s a forest sprite of some sort who lives near the water. He’s exceptionally small, but extremely powerful, and carries a huge wrap of dreadlocks on his head. When one is walking in a secluded spot, he announces himself with a dull pounding sound – something like a drum – and if the person is sufficiently clean of spirit, the Benjakree will take him for six months and teach him how to heal people and kill witches and other useful stuff like that. The only problem with this arrangement is the Benjakree’s wife. She’s as huge as he is tiny, and enjoys nothing more than to eat his young initiate alive. If the wife finds the unlucky initiate, he must run downhill to avoid getting captured by her. Evidently, she has gigantic breasts which don’t allow her to run downhill, but if the kid runs uphill, she simply tosses them over her shoulders and quickly catches him. And interesting bedtime story, for sure. It’s told from Darjeeling, all along the ridge of the Himalaya up to Ladakh.
The local houses used to be built with split timbers and slate roofs. This tradition, sadly, has been entirely replaced with “western” style buildings – concrete cubes with satellite dishes on top, basically. I was speaking with John, an older German/New Zealandic guy who was here over 20 years ago, and he remembered the whole village as little more than 20 or so of these old homes. The ones which still exist are slowly being demolished or falling into disrepair, but here’s one example of a nicely preserved one.
We booked the bus to Leh for the morning of the 27th, and not sure what the internet access will be like up there, so this might be it for awhile.