One Dark Night When we almost met our end
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One dark night – when we almost met our end

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I got married in Nov 2008 and as a family ritual, we left for Vaishno Devi Shrine after 3 days from Delhi. Clad in a salwar kameez with vermilion (sindoor) on my head and hands filled with ivory bangles (chooda), I looked like a newlywed bride. It was the same week of the Mumbai terror attacks 26/11, so there was a lot of check posts and security once we entered Jammu. We had already booked a cab through one of our relatives and the driver was familiar to him. He greeted us at the Jammu railway station and drove us to our hotel in Katra. Little did we know then, one dark night awaited us.

KATRA

We freshened up, rested for a while, had a wholesome breakfast, packed our bag with a pair of clothes, a few eatables and water and started hiking towards the temple. It was quite cold but the sun was merciful. After taking many halts on the way, we reached the temple at midnight. We had dinner, rested for a while then took a bath, and again headed toward Ardhkuwari temple which is halfway to Vaishno Devi Shrine.

 

ARDHKUWARI

It resembles an elephant’s head hence also known as Hathimatha. This is the cave when the Goddess meditated for 9 long months when Bhairava was chasing her. When the demon finally entered the cave, the Goddess made a new opening with her trident and escaped from there. Ardh Kuwari cave is a symbol of the womb and has another name, “Garbha Joon”.

There was a long queue of devotees and after waiting for an hour, we finally arrived. It was an amazing experience inside the 15ft long cave. We had to almost lie down to go inside as it was quite narrow. People have to crawl to reach the temple as at many places the cave is as narrow as 2ft. It is believed that no matter how stout a person is, he/she will pass through the narrow path.

We worshipped the Goddess, took Her blessings for the new life and started for Charan Paduka which is around 4 km from there. From there we headed towards the main cave temple (gufa).

 

THE MAIN CAVE TEMPLE

Again, after one hour of staying in the queue, we reached the temple and had divine darshan of the Goddess Vaishno Devi. There was so much positivity in the environment that despite being so tired, we felt refreshed. We kept chanting “Jai Mata Di” along with the other devotees and soon after the darshan, headed towards the Bhairav temple.

 

BHAIRAV TEMPLE

Bhairav was an arrogant Tantrik (demon) who considered himself to be very powerful and went after Vaishno Devi. It was then the Goddess Vaishno Devi turned into Kali and beheaded him. In his last moments, he pleaded for forgiveness and as The Goddess knew his motive was to attain salvation, she granted him liberation. Also, she blessed him that every devotee will have to visit his temple too in order to ensure completion of Vaishno Devi pilgrimage.

We knew about this story hence decided to visit the temple. It was almost 4:30 am when we reached there. It was less crowded, so we had darshan in no time and started back to our hotel. We were awake for almost 24 hours by then and were totally drained out. It was still dark but we decided to reach our hotel first and take rest there only. We continued walking taking short breaks in between.

The route was mesmerizing. The first rays of the sun kissed us and we enjoyed the orange hues. The cool breeze touched our hair and soothed us. Everything around was so pure, fresh and beautiful.

We had our train to Lucknow from Jammu the next day. By noon, we reached our hotel in Katra. Had lunch, set an alarm and dozed off. In the evening, we stepped out of the hotel to the nearby market to buy some prasad and souvenirs for our families. After dinner, we packed our bags for the Jammu railway station. Our train at 11:30 pm. We booked the same cab and driver again but this time, that driver didn’t come and sent us a new driver. As we had no option, we trusted him and boarded the taxi towards Jammu.

We had enough time in hand so we were relaxed and were discussing how busy yet enjoyable were the last few days, sitting at the back seat of the taxi. It was dark outside and we were on a remote route. There was a dense forest around which was home to the wild animals. We ensured our windows and doors were locked and we slept on each other’s shoulder again.

AND THEN HAPPENED THE UNEXPECTED

Soon, our driver broke the news that the headlights of the car stopped working and he was driving without any light on the hills. There were risky hilly turns and we were driving “Bhagwan Bharose”. We were scared to death as we survived many narrow escapes when the driver had to apply the sudden brakes and stop the car. We could see our end very close to us. Getting down was dangerous as any wild animal could have attacked us and traveling in that sans light taxi was equally unsafe.

The station was quite far off and we had no option. After almost 40 minutes of crazy driving, we came across a petrol station but there was no one there. Our driver went out to seek help but no good. It was just two of us left in the taxi and were continuously praying for our safety. There were no signals on the phone too so we could not call or inform anyone for help.

After half an hour, our driver returned and told us that we have to continue in that car. We were highly agitated and frustrated by then. And when we lost all the hopes, we saw a bus coming. Our driver halted it and instructed the bus driver about us and asked us to board it. We thanked God and quickly entered the bus with high hopes.

Aasmaan Se Gire, Khajoor Mein Atke

We understood the meaning of this Hindi idiom after boarding the bus. It was full of local villagers who were badly drunk. A few of them had a gun too. Their heads and faces were covered with the blanket. There was not even a single lady except me. We knew we may not survive further, and meet our end soon. So, we held each other’s hands and kept playing silently. We told the driver that we need to catch a train and he clearly told us that we were late. Everyone including the driver was laughing loudly at our situation and we looked like helpless creatures.

We were just praying to reach the station and catch our train, we needed rest, sleep and our family at that moment. That dark night was quite long and we just wished that to end. The entire journey, people kept talking about us in a hush sound. We could make out that we were being discussed but ignored. We looked like newlyweds, though I took off all my jewelry before traveling still had a few. Newlyweds are more prone to be looted, we had heard many such stories still we tried to be cool and ignorant.

After almost 2 hours, the bus driver asked us to deboard the bus and take an auto to the railway station. In no time, we rushed out and got into an auto without even asking for the money and all. We just wanted to go away from that bus immediately. It was already 11:15 pm and still, we were en route the railway station. Both of us were absolutely quiet. Didn’t speak anything, just kept holding hands and looked at each other with teary eyes. Finally, we reached the railway station. Phew!!!

In micro milliseconds, we paid the driver, checked the platform number and ran towards it. It was when we heard an announcement that our train was late for 2 hours. We took a deep breath. We looked like zombies. Needed sleep but all the waiting rooms were already packed. We took out a shawl from the bag, spread it on the platform floor and literally slept there. We had to and we did. First time ever in our lives and hopefully the last time too. We were lying on the station platform. Tired, hungry, soiled, scared, but together. It was one dark night which we don’t want to remember again but can never forget either.

The next morning, we got up with the warm voice of my parents on the train, “Welcome to Lucknow”. We looked at each other silently and smiled. That smile was as the assurance of my safety throughout my life.

 

 

 

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Varsh
April 16, 2019 7:17 pm

I’ve visited Vaishno devi but your adventure makes me wonder if we visited the same place. πŸ™‚
The bus ride must’ve been a scary experience. Thank God that in the end you were safe, thanks to Ma Vaishno Devi’s blessings.

Dipika
April 16, 2019 8:29 pm

That was indeed a thrilling experience , such travels and experiences leave us heavy with memories. I had been to Vaishno Devi during school time, and we did not take Bhairo nath’s darshan. Someone told us in Katra that the darshan was a must as our visit will not be called complete. Pheww… Dad didn’t go with that saying and we returned home but somehow I still miss on not visiting that part of journey.

Sudeept
Sudeept
April 16, 2019 9:45 pm

Gosh! That’d have been scary as hell! I can only imagine what must be going through your heads, specially in that bus.. 😯 As I see it, human beings, in certain situations, can be far more dangerous than wild animals..

Sure glad you guys made it back safely. Scary as they might be, but such experiences so early in the marriage can really strengthen the bond like nothing else can.

Anyway.. All’s well that ends well, as they say. Jai Mata Di!

Ujjwal mishra
April 17, 2019 12:25 am

This was really terrifying. First cab without light in mountain and then bus full of local armed drunk people. I must say God was with you that day, to make you reach safely. Wow… You have written it so well.

Sonia Chatterjee
April 17, 2019 2:33 am

My goodness, this ws so scary. This phase should have had the best moments of your life. Instead, it turned out to be a nightmare for the both of you. Glad that you could make it safe but this will definitely be an incident to send down shivers down the spine for life

vidhya
April 17, 2019 5:00 am

You portrayed it beautifully! we have also faced an accident while going there!

Mann
April 17, 2019 6:14 am

Man! I too have Vaishno Devi story. Travelling with unknown hidden faces in dark does sound sCary. You overcame it…togethet.😊

Deepa
Deepa
April 17, 2019 6:14 am

Oh God! Just reading it gave me goosebumps. Must have been very scary for you guys. Alls well that ends well and glad you are back safely. Maata rani takes care of her bhakts.

kushal
April 17, 2019 10:10 am

I have some very fond memories of visiting the Vaishno Devi temple.. Being a north Indian, every vacation meant a visit to the temple in childhood. Scarry Account of your journey but…

Abhijit
April 17, 2019 10:10 am

Driving without headlight on a hill road can be dangerous. Good that your reached your destination safely. My general experience says bus passengers are usually innocuous. They may not be familiar with norms that city people follow. But generally they do not go out of the way to harm others.

Shubhra Rastogi
April 17, 2019 12:46 pm

My! this seems to be some experience.

Rashi Roy
April 17, 2019 1:23 pm

My goodness! You have written it so beautifully that I read really fast to read the end that you were safe πŸ˜…

Noor Anand Chawla
Noor Anand Chawla
April 17, 2019 2:31 pm

Vartika, it was a dark hour for you but it strengthened your belief and your bond. Sometimes life throws difficult situations at us to test our strength, and you proved very strong πŸ™‚

Priyanka Nair
Priyanka Nair
April 17, 2019 4:29 pm

I will be very honest, I literally had goosebumps towards the end, especially when you guys boarded the bus and the way you narrated the whole event, Oh my god, it must have been the darkest and the longest night ever for you. I am glad you both came out fine from it. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Sanjota Purohit
April 17, 2019 5:18 pm

Haven’t been to any of these places. Your post describes them beautifully.

Preeti Chauhan
April 17, 2019 5:19 pm

I think you were blessed by some hidden positive forces to weave your way through the treacherous darkness and come out unharmed !

Roma
April 17, 2019 5:58 pm

Ohh my God, I had goosebumps as I read the latter part my dear. I can only say maa Vaishno Devi saved you dear. I have been there twice dear and have both the times experienced a divine power.

Harjeet Kaur
April 17, 2019 6:28 pm

Does it make you wonder? It makes me wonder why all these temples are in such hilly places and accidents keep happening but it doesn’t deter people from going there. Socho socho πŸ™‚

Aditi Kapur
April 17, 2019 7:21 pm

Vaishno Mata visit was amazing but the dark night was scary. But life is like that only:)

Mahati ramya adivishnu
April 17, 2019 7:59 pm

That might have been a crazy trip that you cannot forget. But all is well that ends well πŸ˜ƒ

anupriya
April 17, 2019 8:07 pm

Your story reminded me of a similar instance in my own life. Though it wasnt the hills then, but I was all alone travelling in a locat bus through the interiors of Madhya Pradesh, being oggled by the locales for my outfit which was actually a very decent jeans and shirt.

Manas Mukul
April 17, 2019 8:18 pm

A thrilling experience made out of a spiritual trip. I could see the humor there as well. Nice one.

Shilpa Garg
April 17, 2019 9:33 pm

God! What an experience. While it makes for an interesting adventure now, but I am imagining the stress, panic, fear and anxiety at that moment. Glad that it all worked out well finally!

Jhilmil
April 18, 2019 2:11 am

That was scary Vartika, beautiful darshan had a safe end but without lights on mountain roads and then in the bus full of drunk locals with guns, it made me freaking. Could imagine why you both simply looked at each other and didnt spoke a word in taxi.

Jaishvats
April 18, 2019 2:46 am

Scary …. but All s well that ends well I suppose

Jaishvats
April 18, 2019 2:47 am

Btw …i guess u were praying silently …typo there …playing silently …. πŸ˜€

Alpana Deo
April 18, 2019 4:28 am

I have never visited Vaishav Devi but heard so much about it. You definitely had a lifetime experience that you will remember forever. I can see that from your write up. Even after 10 years, you remember everything so clearly..

Surbhi Prapanna
April 18, 2019 10:48 am

OMg it was scray and I could imagine how you had deal with it. we had visited Vaishno devi years ago, and I had so beautiful memories of this awesome place. planning to go again this year in May. hoping everything goes well.

Mayuri Nidigallu
April 19, 2019 2:09 pm

This must have been so scary, more so as you both were two young, newly weds. I guess Vaishno Ma saw to your safety and gave you’ll memories that would ensure that you’ll would always remmeber her.

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