National Geographic : 1956 Oct
532 one aft. The porters seemed to treat the children tenderly; in fact the latter slept a good deal of the time. The Kashmiri Government also provided a mobile post office and mobile first-aid station. A few professional teashops and food shops traveled with us too. They would set up at good halting places before the main body of the caravan got there, and sell tea, cakes, curry, rice, and the like to us when we arrived. The price of wayside tea went up, understandably enough, as we progressed, from two annas to three and even four (an anna being worth a little more than an Ameri can cent). Most pilgrims, however, seemed not to patronize these shops but to live on simple fare they carried with them. Many of them were very poor, I gathered, and had saved up for the pilgrimage over a long period. Mattan Pandas Manage Pilgrimages The religious side of the pilgrimage was managed by a special body of men called pandas, all of them hailing from Mattan, a town not far from Pahalgam on the highway. Their job is hereditary, and they are part of the Brahman caste (usually called the high est class of the Hindus). I walked for some time with a youth who was the grandson of a Mattan panda-he was entitled to be a panda himself by birth, but had decided not to become one, being inclined toward the scientific outlook. Holy Men Share in Gifts to Siva There were about a hundred Mattan pandas traveling with the pilgrimage, he said, and this was their big job of the summer season. In the winter, the young man told me, they often go down to the Indian plains and recruit pilgrims for the following year. Aside from the pilgrimage, they have charge of the Amar nath Cave the year round (though they can't get to it in the winter), and a share of all gifts offered there is set aside for them. On the trail I also learned a bit more about sadhus from a middle-aged Kashmiri Brah man. This man's wife was along. She was tired, so I lent her my pony for a few miles, while her husband walked with me. He was especially a worshiper of Siva, he said, as were many of the sadhus on the pilgrimage. You could tell the followers of Siva from the other sadhus because they adorned them selves with special symbols: leopard skins, snakes, ropes of hair, and tridents, or three pronged spears.