Yatra: July–August 1994
Preparations for Yatra
My first introduction to the name “Manas Sarovar” was through the lame duckling of Abanindranath Thakur’s “Buro Angla" sometime in 1955-56.
In 1977-78, my geologist friend from my college wanted me to find out about the possibility of opening of the route to Manas Sarovar.
Through Uma Prasad Mukhopahyay’s book on Kailash Manas Sarovar and Swami Pranabananda’s book, I started having the dream of visiting the abode of Lord Shiva.
Finally, it was my uncle, whose completion of the pilgrimage (at the age of 67+) through the trip organized by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Government of India, inspired me to apply for the pilgrimage.
Advertisements are released by MEA in the month of February every year for the groups to be sent during June to September. Members of each group are selected first through draw of names by lottery. Final selection is done only after a strict adherence to the guidelines on medical fitness. My uncle’s friend was not allowed to go.
After two futile attempts made during the previous years, in June, 1994, I received the telegram from the MEA informing me that my name was included in the seventh batch of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra that was scheduled to leave on 17th July. I was directed to report at the MEA office at South Block on 13/7/1994 with my medical reports.
I obtained country leave permission from my office and withdrew Rs 35,000/- from the bank to meet the expenditure. My mother booked her ticket for Delhi to send me off. She brought her special pilgrimage saree for me. My sister got two homeopathic medicines for me – Carbo veg and Ipecac as advised by Dr Kalyan Banerjee.
From San Jose, my brother mailed me a packet containing 21 film rolls and four small perfume bottles for using during the trip.
I got my medical tests done at Escorts Medical Center, Okhla, New Delhi. On 13/7/1994, preliminary briefing was conducted by Sh. Saurav Kumar, then Under Secretary. After collecting Visa processing fee of Rs 300/- from each person at the MEA office, we were taken to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) hospital at Mehrauli. I handed over the medical reports to Dr Mahapatra. ITBP hospital accepted our medical reports. No further medical examination was conducted at ITBP Hospital for us. To me, this was a blessing in disguise as on my request and observing my keenness to go, the doctor of Escorts Medical Centre, Okhla, did not highlight the deficiency observed in my TMT report. One young boy got his medical tests done at the ITBP hospital and was rejected. During the Yatra, I observed that our group included one person from Shillong, Sh. Swadhin Banerjee, who had severe arthritis and another person, Sh. Aggarwal from Allahabad had the history of bypass surgery. Both of them did complete their pilgrimage.
The format of the indemnity bond was handed over to each one of us. Among other conditions for undertaking the pilgrimage, most important was that we are traveling at our own risk and we shall bear the cost of additional expenditure, if any, incurred on our evacuation on medical ground.
We spent 14/7/94 in completing the indemnity bond preparation at Parliament Street police station and its subsequent notarization.
Next visit to the MEA on 15/7/1994 was for submission of the indemnity bond, the bank draft of Rs 6500/- favoring Kumaun Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) towards the services extended in the Indian side and Rs 500/- to meet the expenditure towards food, gift and utensils to be used in the Chinese side. Food Committee and Luggage Committee were constituted.
Our 7th batch was comprised of thirty persons in the age group ranging from 25 years to 71 years. Four couples joined the group .Three of them had the same surname “Modi”. Oldest member was from Rajasthan. Incidentally he took the pilgrimage entirely on foot and was the first one to reach the next camp.
Each one of us was allowed to carry the foreign exchange of 700 US dollars of which US$ 500 was to be remitted to the Chinese authorities.
16/7/1994 was spent in getting our foreign exchange. Our Liaison officer, Madam Sujata, IAS, was deputed to help us in getting the foreign exchange from the Parliament Street branch of the State Bank of India. All of us were provided with the booklet giving essential instructions.
Yatra started on 17/7/1994
Route map of our pilgrimage was as under.
Day 1: 17/7/1994: Route map: Delhi - Gajraula – Bhawali - Bhimtal – Kausani (284+145 = 429 km)
On 17/7/1994, we assembled at 3.15 am in front of the Chandralok building at Janpath. One Swamiji, who had an ashram near Palam Vihar of Gurgaon, came to see us off. He gave one Gita to each one of us. The bus started at 3.45 am. The first stop was at KMVN rest house at Gajraula where we had our breakfast.
Our liaison officer was sharing her experiences at Kenduli mela of West Bengal.
Day 1 (17/7/1994) KMVN Rest house at Gaujraula
Lunch break was given at Bhawali. The bus took us to Kaushani via Bhimtal and Naukuchiatal.
Day 1 (17/7/1994) Way to Kaushani
Around 4.00 P.M, we reached at Kaushani. Snow peak range, for which Kausani is famous for, was not visible due to cloud. In 1994, Kausani was quite crowded. I had visited Kausani in 1979, when I stayed at Anashakti Ashram during Holi and had a full view of the snow range on that full moon night.
Day 1 (17/7/1994) View from Kausani Rest house
Our guide joined us at Kausani.
We had our comfortable first night stay at KMVN rest house.