Since time immemorial, Uttarkashi in the higher Himalayas, has been known as the home of celestial beings. This is what has drawn sages and spiritual aspirants who have continued to live here in the many Ashrams (spiritual hermitages) down the ages. Located on the banks of Bhagirathi river, a tributary of Ganga, Uttarkashi is considered an abode of Shiva, like the city of Varanasi (Kashi) in the Gangetic plains. And just like Varanasi, the Kashi Vishwanath temple here is the main attraction for visitors.
An interesting feature of the massive Shivlinga being worshipped here is that it leans towards one side. Recounting the genesis of the temple, the priest here said that the stone Shivlinga was not sculpted by man, it had emerged from the ground on its own. I had visited Varanasi earlier this year and had gone to Kashi Vishwanath temple there. The striking difference between both places was very apparent.
The complex also houses the famous Shakti Temple. A few months ago I had seen in a television serial, a revered saint Baba Loknath’s journey to Uttarkashi more than 200 years ago, which showed a gigantic trident that many people were trying to move but were unable to do so. I was truly intrigued, did such a trident really exist, even today ?
Never in my wildest imagination I would have thought that just about four months after that I would stand almost transfixed before the same massive trident, called Shakti Stambh in the Shakti Temple. For my readers outside India, I would like to clarify that the word Shakti means “power”, and is another name of Goddess Durga (the Mother Goddess).
Goddess Durga, the warrior goddess, and the supreme primordial feminine energy, is worshipped here as the trident. It is believed that after defeating the demon Mahishasur, in the epic battle between demons and gods, she threw her trident at this very spot.
There are of course many diverse and fascinating stories about the origin of the metallic trident, which is almost 20 feet high. Some believe the metallic composition of the trident is not of this earth, while others claim that it is more than 1500 years old. The mystery of its origin is yet to be solved. It is said that you will not be able to move the massive trident after applying all your strength, however if you touch it with a finger it will start vibrating.
As soon as I stepped inside the Shakti Temple, I could feel a very strong energy. Being an empath, I have always been highly sensitive to energy, but was a bit surprised that how overpowering it was. The temple was almost empty, apart from two people from the Praxis Holidays tour group. My fellow travellers were meditating.
I stood there staring at the trident wrapped in red and gold cloth, which is generally offered to Goddess Durga. Suddenly, I could hear a voice say loud and clear “Sit”. It was authoritative and distinctive. Was it a communication or did it come from somewhere inside me, honestly I do not know. And I heard it again, “Sit”.
I sat down on the floor and the moment I closed my eyes, I got into a deep state of meditation. I have been meditating almost everyday since more than 20 years, but such deep meditation, almost instantly, has been rare.
After I opened my eyes I could not see anyone from my group, so I thought maybe it was time for me to go, even though I didn’t want to leave the temple. When I went outside, our tour manager Rupesh told me that there was still some time for our departure. Happily I entered the Shakti Temple again and sat down, to meditate and soak in the environment.
After some time as I was about to step out of the sanctum santorum, an old woman came to me and stretched out her hand. She had come from inside the temple though I had not noticed her earlier. I was a bit taken aback, the woman did not look like a beggar to me. Standing on a holy ground, right before the trident, I could not say no, I quietly took out a Rs 20 note from my purse and gave it to her. Silently, she took the money and gave me a berry. I was a bit hesitant to accept it, but again could not refuse.
I washed the berry at the water tap outside and had it like a prasad. It was an unusual exchange of which I think about often, even after a month of returning back to my busy Mumbai life. I believe, there is a message in it for me to understand about giving and receiving – I have always thought that I give a lot more than I receive, this incident has somehow made me realise that there is always receiving, even though I am not aware of it. The exchange happens simultaneously.
Every time I think about the Shakti Temple and my experience there, I am filled with a wonderful feeling of joy and excitement, as if I was connecting with a secret and sacred space within the inner recesses of my being. I know now why for thousands of years spiritual aspirants have travelled thousands of kilometres to come here – for the next big step in their journey within.
How to reach: Uttarkashi is at a distance of 160 kms from Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport. A cab is the best option, there are also buses plying regularly.
Accommodation: There are many budget hotels in Uttarkashi, mostly on the Gangotri road.
Best time to visit: Whole year round, except for the monsoon months (July – August).