National Geographic : 1956 Oct
535 t. Sata Kopan, Pix Bearded Holy Man Passes Out Sweets to Worshipers Entering the Cave Some 100 priests, known as pandas, supervise the annual pilgrimage. Their reward is a share of all gifts. cave, and inside it was a sadhu who had lived there steadily, as a hermit, for the past 14 months, according to several of the pilgrims. For much of this time he had been utterly snowbound, but he had kept going by burning charcoal and eating flour made from water chestnuts, having laid in a big stock of both in the preceding summer. There was a pile of charcoal bags outside his cave now. Pil grims were struggling up into the cave's en trance to have a look at him, for he was thought to be exceptionally holy. Friendly Farewells Mark Homeward Trip Finally we started back. At the foot of the steep descent Dick, Mary, and I bought a cup of tea, then continued down along the stream, passing a number of bathers. A thick file of pilgrims was still approaching, and apparently the peak of the flood had not yet arrived. We who were homeward bound left the trail itself for these latecomers-they filled it completely and often had to stand still-and made our own way separately over the rocks and snow. When we reached the end of the cave's own valley, we rounded the brow of a hill and started down the long switchbacks. These, too, were lined solidly with cave-bound pilgrims. Police were holding them in single file to per mit two-way traffic; shortcuts were not per mitted on that slope, for the footing was loose. We walked slowly, and on the way I met a number of people whose company I had en joyed on the outward trip. I was able to say a few words of farewell to them before the homeward stream bore me past. The farewells were made in the greatest friendliness, for a sort of Christmas spirit prevailed here near the journey's goal. All the pilgrims were happy and glad that the others were happy, and friendships made on the trip ended in a glow that one could re member warmly.