A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
holy books, the Pur anas, for it is really the chief feeder of the Ganges,
Its name is associated with that of King Bhagirath, a royal Saint.
The temple of Badri Narayan in a glacier valley is sacred even to the
Buddhists, no less than the Hindus, and even now some Tibetan
monasteries send it tribute.
When the pilgrim reaches these shrines he believes he is in the
presence of deities who inhabit the place. To Kedarnath Badrinath,
and even Gangotri and Jumnotri the pilgrims plod patiently on foot
along the narrow winding paths, living on simple rice and lentils,
ecstatically singing sacred hymns and constantly repeating prayers.
They struggle up steep slopes and down slippery trails, these tired
slight figures, enduring various hardships in the six to eight weeks of
their return journey, and risking accident and disease. And when at
last, almost exhausted, they reach the temples which have been
erected ages ago at sacred points among these mountains, their faces
light up with smiles, for they receive—or imagine they receive—the
blessing of these gods.
I believe they are right.
Whether temples are useless collections of mere stones, or
whether the gods are figments of primitive man's imagination, to
live in the Himalayas for a while is itself a memorable blessing!
Overhead, the stars in their high vault have fully emerged from
their coffins of daylight and glance hither and thither with their
twinkling beams. Hydra, named after the monstrous serpent slain
by Hercules, stretches its long straggling shape below the ecliptic.
Orion, another of the southern constellations, appears on the
equator. The Giant Hunter is the most striking figure among the
starry forms. His belted dagger contains the nebula which is one of
the sky's beautiful sights. To the south-east of Orion sparkles Sirius,
famed star of first magnitude. My last look is at the shining con-
stellation of Leo, fifth of the Zodiacal groups, which commands the
zenith, and then I retire for the night.
I have enjoyed rny silent communion with the distant array of
* * *
A curious experience has come over me today. Whilst I sit cross-
legged upon the cliff, with right foot resting upon the left thigh, with
gaze fixed upon the far side of the gorges with breath restrained by
degrees into semi-inactivity, the gentle absorption into which I fall
is suddenly broken by a violent surge of power.
No effort of mine brings it on, for I rest on the ground as effort-
less as a stone. Yet an electrifying impulse rushes unexpectedly into
my body and sets the spine as taut as a bow-string. Dynamic power