We had a unique experience in the first week of June, 2006 . My son, an additional professor at PGIMER, Chandigarh was, along with several of his colleagues, invited to participate in a free Medical camp organized at Guptakashi, a place some 43 kms lower to Shree Kedarnath Dham in the lap of the Himalayas. Senior Doctors from AIIMS, Jammu Medical College and some other institutes were also invited to offer their services. A special feature was that their family members were also invited to participate in the venture in ancillary roles. The idea was that the family members would be taking care of the supplementary aspects of the doctor’s job. The camp was organized to help poor people in the mountains who were expected to come from far flung areas. The camp was to function for five days. There were three aspects to the camp:
Medical consultation in different specialties complete with all modern pathological tests, surgery and Homeopathy too.
- The patients were to be provided with free medicines besides all other services.
- The patients along with their attendants were to be provided with free lunch at the camp site itself.
The camp was organized under the auspices of Dudhadhari Barfani Ashram, Haridwar by its Maharajjee. Such ashrams serve as interface of diverse social formations. The Maharajjee is a legendary and seemingly mythical person. We learnt that he did his M.B.B.S. from Calcutta University, but then was attracted towards homeopathy and picked up a very successful practice. But then all the success and fame proved incapable to bind him to normal worldly existence. He moved to Haridwar and took to sanyas.
He does not don the trademark sanyasin saffron clothes, but only white dhoti and chadar all the year round. We were told that he stays in the snow covered Badrinath region during winters for meditation, whereas here we could see in him a very amiable, efficient and smart manager of men and their problems. It was learnt that such exercises are a regular feature of the Ashram.
The uniqueness of the whole exercise was that none were hired. All the workers, in all the sectors had volunteered themselves, be it in the kitchen, catering, management or medical services. Those in the non-medical sector were mostly affluent, successful and healthy disciples of Maharajjee who had gathered there from far flung places with their families to serve in the camp. Doctors were all renowned and much sought-after consultants of their respective specialties devoted to the advancement of their disciplines. All the other persons assembled there did carry out all sorts of sundry duties with devotion and enthusiasm very smoothly and without any supervision, prompting or goading.
We started in the afternoon of Saturday the 5th. June and reached Ashram premises in the evening. We had the introduction to the Bhandara culture of the ashram way of life. Each one cleaned his wares without any assistance. We spent that night in the ashram and started for our destination in the morning after taking breakfast and lunch-packet. It was remarkable that the food named ‘’prasad’’ was very well cooked and good to taste.
After a breathtaking journey of nearly 6/7 hours through the magnificent Himalayas along the course of Ganga we reached Guptakashi, our destination. Places en route such as Rishikesh, Devaprayag, Agastyamuni, Rudraprayag and Guptakashi among others unfolded the development of embryonic Bharat in our consciousness. The river descents from the magnificent heights of the Himalayas in a tortuous and circuitous path making way through the mountains, hills and valleys, never straying away, never resting, not dented by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We were, inadvertently, witness to the descent and development and coming into being of the river, that is the soul of our being, history, geography, religion, civilization and culture; coming across several Prayags and Kashis. At Devaprayag, Bhagirathi-- traveling down from Gangotri has confluence with Alakananda, which has already made confluence with Mandakini at Rudraprayag. The journey of Mandakini and Alakananda starts in the environs of Kedarnath Dham and Badrinath Dham respectively At Rishikesh, the river, now christened Ganga, prepares to leave the mountains and enter the plains at Haridwar.
You get reflective:
- Does the river flow out of its own intrinsic momentum?
- Is it esponding to the irresistible call of the ocean?
- Has someone charged it with the responsibility to establish civilization among human populations?
- Is Maharajji prompted by the river?
Geographically Ganga originated from the Gangotri glacier of mid-Himalayas. The stream of ALAKNANDA has come from the east of this glacier and the Bhagirathi from the west. The two take on the name of GANGA after confluence at DEOPRAAYAG.
BHAGIRATHI emerges as a molten ice-stream from the mouth of the cave of GOMUKH. Originating in Tibet JARAGANGA or JAHNAWI unites with BHAGIRATHI at about twenty kilometers in south-west from GOMUKH. This joint stream, after emerging from within the caves of BANDARPUNJ and SHREEKHAND, unites with MANDAKINI that flows from KEDAR. Their confluence site is RUDRAPRAYAG.
BHAGIRATH, KHADAG, and SATOPAANTH glaciers extend from GANGOTRI to BADRINATH. Extending in the north-west the glacier BHAGIRATH is presently moving away from GOMUKH. Formerly it extended up to GANGOTRI
There is a rock near GOMUKH, it is named BHAGIRATH rock. BHAGIRATH had penance on this rock for bringing down Ganga from the heavens. He had tempted Ganga with assurance that she would be washed of defilement if any.
There is another glacier near Gangotri. It is called RAKTKAVARNA.. Raktavarna merges with Gangotri glacier. At the ends of Gongotri are MANTHANI, SWACHCHHANDA, GAHAN and KIRNAT glaciers. Thereafter coming from north-east CHATURANGI joins near NANDANAVAN.
The complex band of these mountain tops and glaciers look like the matted hair of some vast person. Ganga, emerging in thousands streams through these reticules and mingling with thousands of rivers, keeps proceeding towards ocean.
Ganga has built history. Ganga has engulfed history. It devastates, it builds; it drowns. So much tear is filled its body, so many mournful stories! Asharh has come and gone, now it is sawan. Both the sides are full to the brim. What type of appearance would it take? How would it look?
Whatever may be the form Ganga is mother to human consciousness. Mother thrashes her child, disciplines him, punishes him - but that does not deter the child to sleep holding to his mother’s neck. Tear spots may be prominent on his cheek; but on his lips a calmness of security remains stuck. She is Ganga, the eternal mother of a vast infant!
The campus of an Intermediate college was selected to be the camp-site while all the participants and organizers stayed in the campus of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya some seven kms away up in the mountains. Activity started at the camp-site sharply at 8 A.M. and continued till late afternoon. More than seven thousand persons were treated for their ailments during the five days of the camp. Surgical operations were carried out and various tests performed. Medicines were dispensed to all the patients. Simultaneously in the same campus all the patients and their attendants were very politely requested to partake prasad (lunch) and then served very humbly without any ado. There was no confusion no noise, no commotion. Not a single murmur or discordant note was discerned. Maharajjee was seen just moving among people and talking pleasantly and gracefully providing assurance and solace to the people.
As mentioned earlier, the participants and organizers stayed in the premises of Navodaya Vidyalaya, seven kms. away up in the mountains. They were served the morning tea and breakfast, evening tea and dinner there and lunch at the camp-site together with the patients and their attendants. The food, though simple required no prodding and was always relished by elders and children alike There was no leftover. The kitchen shuttled between the two sites. Participants often enjoyed reaching the camp-site from the Navodaya School and back by trekking, young children and the adults all included.
Another remarkable feature of this event was the effortless ease with which even self-centered, and very private persons could adapt to the community life of sharing and humility, even if for a very short duration.
Was the whole experience a real one? Incredulous persons are never short of questions. Was this an example of spiritual energy mobilized to serve humanity? What is the source of the enormous material resources? What may be the motivating force for the participants? There seems something incomprehensible. Why would worldly wise people pamper activities that are not directed to their own vested interests?
Often one not so consciously looks for opportunities to pay back to the society for what he/she has received from it particularly if he/she is a conscientious person. There may be others who indulge in charitable activities out of spiritual disposition. There may be still some other considerations.
It provided an opportunity to my wife to execute her long cherished craving to pay obeisance to Baba Kedarnath; Baba Badrinath could not be reached for want of time; maybe we are destined to be participants in the next camp. Who will tell?
On the whole it has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience.