Rainbow Gathering at Kheerganga ,You, Me And Magic Hat: The Truth
If you survive your self-doubts as you walk up the craggy mountains to reach Kheerganga, you will allow yourself the experience of nature’s unravelling like a ball of wool; one sensation at a time until the final climactic explosion occurs when you reach your destination, the Rainbow gathering.
Rainbow gatherings first occurred in the States, in the decades of extreme social, political and environmental counterculture of 60s and 70s. Simply put, it is the coming together of people from different walks of life with a shared set of beliefs in the deleterious effects of city life, consumerist culture, information explosion and manipulation by mass media. These gatherings then gradually spread to other countries with the same political consciousness. Had Wordsworth been alive, he would have been occasionally found reciting his ‘Tintern Abbey’ before these Bob Marley singing, nature loving musical souls.
If one morning, you precipitously decide to undertake this journey from Delhi, you must not get overwhelmed by the kind of preparation it will require. Keep extra layers of warm clothing and blankets, sleeping mats and bags, torches, slippers etc as the temperature drops very low at the height especially during night time.
Delhi to Bhuntar
Buses from Delhi to Bhuntar in Himachal are available at Kashmiri Gate (nearest metro station is Kashmiri Gate), Himachal Pradesh transport service from Himachal Bhavan, Mandi House (nearest metro is Mandi house), and Majnu Ka tilla bus stand (nearest metro station is Vishwavidyalaya). The journey will last for approximately 14 hours to Bhuntar; the buses usually stop at a common point for lunch/dinner, depending on the time of boarding. Reaching Bhuntar, you will already begin to see hints of steep green and rocky mountains, clearer sky line, fresher air and anticipate the fullness of what lies beyond the sparsely located buildings and bus depots at Bhuntar. This place is 2 hours from Manali, 10 kilometres from Kullu and 20 kilometres from Kasol, an emerging town locality with shops mushrooming at every turn, fancy cafes, Italian restaurants, hotels, inns, psychedelic music and nightly jamming sessions, whiff of burning plants with tobacco entering your nostrils, and no care in the world!
Bhuntar to Barshaini
Lots of cab and bus services are available at varying prices, from Bhuntar to reach Kasol, Manikaran, or even further to Barshaini, from where the real trek to Kheerganga begins; cabs charge more than buses but will reach you well in time. Often, you will get a junkie local to drive your cab at light’s speed through narrow and rough roads with psychedelic playing on his near-dead stereo to keep your heart from popping out of your mouth. It is better to not take this journey in night time. If your bus drops you later in the evening after sunset, you can accommodate yourself in a room nearby and take the cab service next morning.
Barshaini to Kheerganga Trek
In close to 3 hours, you should reach Barshaini, winding through hills alternating between centripetal and centrifugal motions, and the sound of Parvati valley ecstatically rushing beneath you. To reach Kheerganga, one can either undertake a 15 kms trek from Barshaini, or a less convenient but more visually exhilarating and pleasing trek from Kalga. While you will be furnished with road signs and directions at every 100 kms on your way to Kheerganga, looking back at the same sight as lies ahead of you after hours of walking can be a little dampening on your spirits. But within two hours you should reach Rudrang, where the milky frothy fresh splash of waterfall will rejuvenate you.
Rudrang to Kheerganga trek Uphill
From Rudrang, the real task begins. A 4.5 kms of uphill trek to Kheerganga will test your spirits to the last bit. After you reach Kheerganga, you will find yourself surrounded by a string of cafes where you can treat yourself to what is available. Hot water spring is located above a bunch of steps from where one can see the cafes sprouted here and therIn close to 3 hours, you should reach Barshaini, winding through hills alternating between centripetal and centrifugal motions, and the sound of Parvati valley ecstatically rushing beneath you. To reach Kheerganga, one can either undertake a 15 kms trek from Barshaini, or a less convenient but more visually exhilarating and pleasing trek from Kalga. While you will be furnished with road signs and directions at every 100 kms on your way to Kheerganga, looking back at the same sight as lies ahead of you after hours of walking can be a little dampening on your spirits. But within two hours you should reach Rudrang, where the milky frothy fresh splash of waterfall will rejuvenate you.
The Sound of Music Rainbow Gathering At Kheerganga - Just be You
The Rainbow gathering is a couple of kms of away from the place. As you walk further through the rocks and cliffs, braving the daunting heights, sounds of silence interspersed with music will fall into your ears. If so, you would have reached The Rainbow Gathering. People around are very helpful with directions, so you will not feel out of touch without your mobile network and internet connection.
Rainbow gatherings do not happen at the same location consecutively. The details of its venue remain undisclosed until the last moment. The gathered group live as a need-based community producing, contributing, consuming as per one’s needs. The anti-monetary ethos of the group has led to the ‘magic hat’ custom where people put money into the hat as per their ability and desire, and the money is then used to buy meals and other necessities from the cafés at Kheerganga.
People do the kind of work they wish to do, like collecting wood, arranging for meals etc. Music is playing constantly all day long as almost everyone has a musical instrument with them, like guitar, flute, bongos etc. These gatherings in India are often dominated by Israeli communities, with Indians constituting not more than 10% of the group (of which the majority are the hippies). To not allow violation of privacy, photography is not allowed. Living without clothes is permissible, though people do not dare this because, patriarchy and the cold weather! Utopia? Much so
Cheshta Rajora is a final year post graduate student of English Literature at the University of Delhi. She believes Stephen Fry when he said "we are not nouns,we are verbs". She writes poetry and short stories, without calling herself a writer,and is found wandering on the shores of language.