Art & Culture, History, Mountains, Nature

tridents and their high abodes…

tridents … the ubiquitous symbol of Lord Shiva… the most intriguing yet the most approachable of the Hindu trinity… one that holds much more sway over human imagination than the other two… from a simple reference to auspiciousness in early Vedic scriptures to assuming the role of a brooding personality with destructive tendencies to keep the universe on an even keel in later texts… ‘tis but an evolution of human thought from beliefs rooted in animism to those contemplating existence on the larger canvas of the cosmos…

while Shiva is revered throughout the land, the mountains – Himalaya and its adjoining ranges in particular – is unarguably where the spiritual ethos of the deity resides, among its own pantheon of myriad deities that mountain cultures possess, from gods lurking in forests to those residing on icy tops, the undercurrent of Shiva flows perennially…

from tridents as trinkets to the domed massif of Kailash… a standard set of themes are ascribed to Shiva, choosing his domicile in the mountains, an obvious choice given the conducive conditions for peaceful meditations, for nothing is so lifeless yet so inspiring to life than mountain tops, not even the bottom of the ocean…

the gods keep evolving too with their disciples, as their omniscience is broken down into palatable doses of Marx’s opium… the fragmentation is even more stark in the modern world, a layer of which is connected by their faith in technology, and the rest who are unable to resort to these devices pinning their hopes on a faith beyond technology…

coming back to tridents though, the ones in the mountains to be precise, there are these silos one can put them into, each connected to the other by feeble threads of time but otherwise evolving (or regressing) completely of their own accord…

getting the elephant out of the room first, there are these abodes of degeneration, where every ounce of spiritualism is wrung out by the forces that have transformed from pious to gluttonous over the course of a few decades… as if in the folds of these sparsely populations mountains, a cloudburst of economic activity brought this deluge of people to wash away the last dregs of enlightenment… one finds it rather ironic that ‘twas solitude that brought Shiva to the mountains in the first place…

at the opposite end, there are tridents steeped in cultural lore… of a time when carrying capacity was not really a concept to be ascribed to pilgrimages, and to this day, in their context, is not… relics and artifacts unfolding into tales of eras bygone, vernacular art forms and architecture sit humbly, in benevolence to the mountains surrounding them…

then there are some natural formations, those that communities revere as a sign from above, notched inside forests, perched upon mountaintops or tucked within valleys… and they quickly dress it up, taking care not to be too extravagant lest the natural forces take offence, just enough to mark their presence in the annals of religion, and time…

but tridents really belong to the outdoors, where they can meditate, ruminate, cogitate… they are as much a caution to the elements as a construct of them… often, they are placed at junctures from where the going is bound to get tougher, either the tantrums of the terrain or turns of weather… one often wonders what do we pray for to these makeshift temples mounted atop boulders or snuck in their notches… a reprieve from the elements or the strength to bear their wrath… there are, of course, many other local deities to pray to, but the trident always seems to be added as a backup…

‘tis more a way of life, a discourse on austerity, this god, they say, from where one could chart their own individual paths to enlightenment, a oneness with the universe, quite similar to the doctrines of Buddhism, one could say… it is just a delegation it seems at times though, while the other two of the trinity are busy carving and chiselling the universe, maintaining accounts and handling operations, the trident works on human resource and public relations…

dug into the ground or mounted atop cairns… tridents in high places are both a relief and a scare… the former since there is some protection from the elements one is playing, to an extent, recklessly with… the latter from the feeling one gets of having infringed upon a sacred space… it largely depends on the weather one encounters in most cases though in a practical sense…

sitting atop mountains or surrounded by them, tridents emphasize on the fact that devotion might a be communal exercise, but peace remains a personal, individual endeavour… mountain tops are not the ends but only a means, pedestals on which one can strive to separate the grain from the chaff, solitude from loneliness

Badrinath Dham, Uttarakhand, India
Pandemonium of the pious that the Dhams have become… Badrinath, Uttarakhand

 

Tridents, Mamleshwar Mahadev Temple, Himachal Pradesh, India
Mamleshawar Mahadev temple, Karsog, Himachal Pradesh

 

Baijnath Temple, Himachal Pradesh, India
Baijnath Temple, Himachal Pradesh

 

Kumaun Region, Uttarakhand, India
A temple near Jainoli, Kumaun, Uttarakhand

 

Tridents, near Nohradhar village, Himachal Pradesh, India
The trail from Nohradhar to Churdhar, Himachal Pradesh

 

Tridents, a natural Shiv linga in the making, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
A natural Shivlinga in the making, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

 

Tridents, Tungnath temple, Uttarakhand, India
Tungnath temple, Uttarakhand

 

Tridents, Mritunjaya group of temples, Dwarahat, Uttarakhand, India
Mritunjaya group of temples, Dwarahat, Uttarakhand

 

Tridents, a shrine between Parkachi Thatch and Raktisar, Sainj Valley, Himachal Pradesh
A shrine between Parkachi Thatch and Raktisar, Sainj Valley, Himachal Pradesh

 

Tridents, Thamsar Pass, Dhauladhars, Himachal Pradesh, India
Thamsar Pass, Dhauladhars, Himachal Pradesh

 

Tridents, Udg, Dhauladhars, Himachal Pradesh, India
Pastoral shrine at Udg, Dhauladhars, Himachal Pradesh

 

Phangchi Galu pass, Jiva Nal valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
Phangchi Galu pass, Jiva Nal valley, Himachal Pradesh

 

Tridents, Manikaran, Himachal Pradesh, India
Manikaran, Himachal Pradesh

 

Tridents, Telandi meadows, Uttarakhand, India
Telandi meadows, Uttarakhand

musings on Shiva in Himalayan contexts…

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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