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New Delhi, India
13 May 2004

 Pilgrimage to Shalagram (Gandaki and Muktinath) 
Part One
 Hare Krsna! All glories to Srila Prabhupada! 

I'm back in Delhi from Nepal. It is not an exaggeration to say "I just made it." A major political crisis brewed up in the country during our final days there. The Prime Minister resigned and a nationwide strike was called. Had we not been able to exit the country on the day we did (10 May), we might still be in Nepal now, unable to secure transportation for the ride to the border. 

Anyway, the pilgrimage to Shalagram was ecstatic. There are so many pix on file to choose from, I shall have to publish a series of photo reports here at In2-MeC over several days. I'm quite exhausted due to the overnight journey from Gorakhpur, so the text of today's photoreport shall be minimal. 

This is B.K. Rama Tamu, a vegetarian non-smoking Nepali caste brahmana, who drove us in his car from the Indian border to Pokhara on 4 May.
The ride to Pokhara is a dangerous one. Three days before we made the trip, this bus skidded off the road and crashed down the mountainside. Forty-two persons lost their lives.
The Machapuchare Peak of the Annapurna range, seen from Pokhara. The Machapuchare {"Fishtail"} peak is 6696 meters high and has never been climbed. The government forbids mountaineers from tackling it because Nepalis consider it holy. Though one of the most magnificent of Himalayan mountains, Machapuchare is a baby compared to Mt. Everest (Sagarmata), which is also in Nepal.
We stayed the night of 4 May in a hotel in the Pokhara "lakeside" district, next to the Phewa Lake. Unfortunately the view of that beautiful body of water is mostly hidden behind the sprawling business area. Pokhara has changed for the worse since my visit in 1987.
Samples of Nepali tourism trade.
This barber is a nice devotee! See the paintings he displays in his shop. He is vegetarian and worships salagram-sila every morning.
At Pokhara airport on the morning of 5 May. We are boarding the flight to Jomsom. Along with myself, Rocana and Martanda (who snapped this photo), we were graced with the company of Mataji Rasalila dd. Her excellent skills in the Hindi language were very valuable to us.
The plane flies between the Himalayas, not over them! The flight takes only 15 minutes but seems a lot longer. The little Dornier aircraft, only big enough for 15 passengers, skims craggy ridgetops and is often buffeted by mountain winds. Inspiration for serious japa.
At last we've landed at the Jomsom airport! It's a sight smaller than LAX, but then this is Lower Mustang, not lower California. Mustang is an Anglicization of the Tibetan Lo Manthang, which is an autonomous region in north-central Nepal that borders on Tibet. The destination of our trek today is the village of Kagbeni ("Crow Confluence" in Nepali). The rocky highland stretching from Jomsom to Kagbeni--through which the Gandaki flows--is called Lower Mustang. Upper Mustang is where Damodar Kund is located, a lake that is the root source of all salagram silas. We are not going into Upper Mustang as expensive permits are required from the Nepali authorities.
After deplaning, we walk through Jomsom, pausing before the Hotel Marco Polo, where I stayed in 1987. Since then the facade was renovated but inside it's the same place.
We take an opportunity to spoof this hotel in north Jomsom that claims Jimi Hendrix roomed here in the 1960s. It's a Nepali myth we ran into more than once. Hendrix never visited Nepal at all. The myth is probably good for business, though.
After passing through the northern outskirts of Jomsom we arrive at the bank of the sacred Kali Gandaki. This is the river form of Goddess Vrndadevi. Rasalila dd offers her respects. I walk ahead, looking for a special salagram sila. Several days previous to this photo I told Rasa and Rocana that my dream was to find a red Sudarsana Cakra sila.
Martanda at last smiles for the camera instead of clicking it.

After walking next to the Gandaki for only a few minutes I find the sila I prayed for! It is red, its sides are round, and it has a tiny hole through its center that is visible at both ends. It is covered with mysterious markings. Sri Sudarsana Cakra ki jaya!
Part Two will follow! 

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