Rewalsar, revisited

September 14, 2008 - Rewalsar (tso Pema), India

A bit more about Rewalsar, then. I have arrived here on September 4th, after having been here before on my previous travels, four years ago. An enchanting place, to say the least, and I think I may well return again and again, provided the opportunity.

As some may know, Rewalsar is a sacred place to both Tibetan Buddhists, Hindu's and Sikhs alike. All have their temples around the little lake of Tso Pema and every evening pilgrims can be seen circumambulating the lake.

The story - in short - from the Tibetan perspective is that in the 8th century A.D. Padmasambhava (Tib. Guru Rinpoche) meditated in one of the caves in the mountain above the lake, by miracle converting the King and the Kingdom at that time to Buddhism, after which he left for Tibet and spread Buddhism there. The Tibetans therefore sometimes refer to Guru Rinpoche as the "second Buddha".

One major change since four years ago is that now a huge statue of Padmasambhava has occurred just above the lake, as the result of an initative by Lama Wangdor, who is also taking care of the actual cave in the mountain where Padmasambhava supposedly meditated, inside which also a large statue of the Guru has been constructed earlier.

There is a path of rough steps and rocks leading from the lake and village up to the mountain top and Padmasambhava cave. A visit to Rewalsar can not be considered complete without a climb up this path, a visit to the cave and a subsequent descent back to the village. It is possible to travel by road (bus, taxi), but that would be cheating..

So I decide to once more undertake this venture. Just before I leave the village I run into tibetan monk Rigzin Dorje, whom I donated some money the previous day, as a little support in his medical needs. His greatfulness is on this occasion kndly expressed by offering me a kata, which he hangs around my neck. I promise in return to offer it to the Guru Rinpoche statue, when I reach the cave. So by now a man with a mission, I walk through the village decorated with this kata and it must be as if I suddenly appear as a highly devoted religious seeker, for it seems people are all at once being extra polite and seem to be encouraging me on my queste.. the shopkeeper where I buy a bottle of water (an absolute necessity on the way up) greets and thanks me politely and in Tibetan: "Tashi Delek, Thuk je che" - and when I take the first steps up, the children of the local prmary school are singing a song - it is as if their song wants to carry me up the mountain. Later, sweating my way up, I ask a local farmers wife if I am going the right path, greeting "namaskar" and she replies "namaskar-ji", which sounds like a title of honour to me..

Somewhere halfway I miss a turn and go down the wrong path. Only when a herd of goats is right in front of me suddenly turning onto some steep steps up, it occurs to me that that is actually the direction I should take. And it is indeed at this point, however I am now taking a very steep and rough shortcut to make up for my previous mistake. Once I get back to the original path I am exhausted, drowning in sweat, my heart pounding and I need to sit down in a piece of shadow and rest. I briefly consider whether I am getting to old to do something like this, but I discard that thought as I was able to do this only four years ago I see no reason why I could not do it again. If it is so hard, that only means I should do things like this more often..

Eventually I make it to the top - after an hour and a half, by now my shirt is literally soaked and my head feels as if it is steaming. The local chai-shop seats me in the shadow and offers me chai, which I gratefully accept. After having cooled down a little bit I take the last track up to the cave and the mountain top. A Lama is sitting at the beginning of this last section of the path, ready to bless any items brought to offer as well as yourself. The moment I receive his blessing a warm glow seems to flow through my body - at that precise moment a cloud that had occurred blocking the sun, moves away.

A bit later I offer my prayer flags to the trees, the winds and the universe before I enter the cave of Padmasambhava. At that moment there is a power outage and the cave is as dark as it must have been in the 8th century. I make my way in with the help of my torch and then I sit quiet in the dimmed glow comming through a whole in the cave just above the gold plated statue.

After some meditation, a chai kindly offered by the nuns guarding the cave and some rice and dal at the chai shop, I decide to refuse the opportunity of taking the bus down that just happens to stop by and walk back down in stead, to make things complete.

I am now ready to leave Rewalsar and move on to the next destination.


Rigzin Dorje Spiti is suffering from leukemia. In case you would like to make a contribution to his medical needs, please take a look here.

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1 Comment

September 15, 2008
It's wonderful to read you travel, it feels like being there a little bit ....

Wishing you a trascending next destination full of light and knowledge.

Fuzzy Travel