Today on World Environment Day, I needed an escape from all that is gruesome about our planet, and a few questions I am asking myself for which I don’t have any answers at the moment. Today is a “hartal” day in Dhaka and streets had emptied but my escape was away from all this too, to a virtual haunt of a forest against the backdrop of snow capped Himalayan mountains. The forest was Gokarna, the forest that Shiva, the most popular god in Nepal escaped to – for my part I was lucky enough to have visited it last year.
Gokarna Forest Reserve, Nepal, January 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva
In the depths of forests like these Buddha would have roamed and practiced penance seeking Nirvana
The Gokarna Forest was the hunting grounds for Nepali Royals. Photograph©Chulie De Silva
Legend has it that God Shiva disguised himself as a one-horned golden deer, and went into hiding in Pashupatinath forest. While he spent his days “frolicking”, the world suffered.
Vishnu the preserver, Brahma the creator, and Indra the king of gods, started a search for the absconding God. It’s usually women who give secrets away, and so was it in this instance. Apparently it was a goddess who revealed Shiva’s disguise and when they finally caught the deer by the horn, it burst into fragments and there was Shiva in all his splendor. He asked the three Gods to establish his horn in their three worlds.
Vishnu installed his section in his celestial abode in Vaikuntha, Indra in his realm in heaven, and Brahma enshrined it at the sacred site of Gokarneshwor.
A little shrine in the midst of the Gokarna Forest. Photograph©Chulie De Silva
The forest was the private Royal hunting grounds of the Kings of Nepal and was known as Rajnikunj. I can’t help but wonder whether the hunting got the Royalty into the bad books of the gods – specially if they were shooting deer.
Workers at the edge of the Golf Course and the entrance to the Gokarna Forest reserve. Photograph©Chulie De Silva
Little of the meeting I attended is on my mind now, but the setting sun streaking colour across the sky will be with me for a long time.
Twilight over the Gokarna Forest Reserve, Nepal, January 2010. Photograph©Chulie De Silva