Being woken up at 4:00 in the morning and dragged out of a warm and cosy hotel room to experience a bone-chilling, teeth-chattering, fire-in-the-lungs winter morning was not exactly what I had imagined to be the beginning of my long-planned vacation. But, given a chance to go back, I don’t wish to change any of it. It was my first experience watching the sunrise in the Himalayas and I want to keep it that way. Another cherished memory in the hamper of my Little Escapes!
Tiger Hills, Darjeeling is one of the well-known tourist spots in North East India. At a distance of 11 km from the town of Darjeeling, this summit of the Ghoom is known as much for its sunrise as for the panoramic view it provides of the Mt. Everest and Kanchenjunga, two of the highest mountain peaks in the world. This distance from Darjeeling to Tiger hills can be covered either by jeep or by foot through Chowrasta. Since we had chosen to visit this place in January when the temperature at this hour in the morning is well below zero, we decided to take the jeep. It took us about half an hour to reach the viewpoint. When we did, it was still pretty dark, with no sign of sunrise in any direction.
Something that caught my attention en-route the hills is the concern the localities had for the safety of their tourists. Every morning, the hill-dwellers wake up early and pour buckets of warm water on the tracks leading to the peak. This they do, to avoid potential accidents caused by vehicles skidding on the tracks covered with overnight snow deposition.
These are among the few in this country who are upholding the spirit of Athithi Devo Bhava.
It was a quarter past five when the first rays of sunlight tore through the darkness, making way. For a minute everyone seemed to stand still mesmerised, engulfed by silence as they respectfully watched the immortal appear from behind the clouds. Behind us, the tips of Mt. Everest and Kanchenjunga blushed in bright pink as the rays kissed their pale cheeks. Although there was no literal rise in temperature, just watching the rays emerge from the clouds, seemed to bring a sense of warmth to the viewers.
Little boys, dressed in fur coats and leather boots, supplied piping hot tea in cups as we stood watching the picturesque view that was slowly moving from beautiful to glorious every minute. When the sun was halfway above the horizon, the crowd broke into applause, welcoming the magnificent and fierce God. It was here that I first heard and understood the meaning of the word “Hiranyagarbha” – the supreme womb of all creation.
About forty-five minutes later, the sun was completely up and its light had engulfed every ounce of darkness around. A new dawn, a new beginning.
This was three years ago, but the imprint of this experience was so dense that as I put these words down, I can feel the chill move up my spine and excitement rush through my veins. To me, it is one of the very few experiences, whose reminiscence does not entail a photograph.