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Ganga Daughter of the Himalayas

Where Ambition is Forged by Penance

What does it mean to be in flow? To glide, in steady rhythm, through the crests and troughs of life, to embody the character of a quiet, yet unstoppable force?

Philosophers – and mindfulness app developers – have searched far and wide for answers. It is a question that fuels Stoicism lectures and Ashram brochures. Yet, the fact remains that the answer has to be felt rather than understood. Or in the case of rising mountaineer Devyani Semwal, experienced in all its natural glory.

Devyani is a child of the Himalayas, a daughter of Mukhba – a charming village cradled by the river Ganga, a spiritual force so powerful that she presides over birth, death and the business of life with equal aplomb, her winding course birthing civilizations, her mere touch offering the promise of salvation.

Growing up in her spiritual shadow, Devyani took inspiration not just from the placid flow of the pilgrim’s Ganga, but also the furious Himalayan torrent that reduces formidable rock to rubble, scaling mountains, sculpting valleys and gushing untamed over steep precipices, her primordial roar echoing in the wilderness.

Like their mother Goddess, the women of Mukhba have always had mountains to climb. Some of these are the subject of great expeditions, courted by adventurers all over the world. Most are sites of quiet struggle, of the seemingly endless quest for social equality, for self-determination and autonomy.

For Devyani, one thing leads into another. The great peaks of the world are calling her name. Every continent has a new challenge to offer. She has already conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro and has her eyes on the seven great summits: Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Elbrus, Vinson, Puncak Jaya, Mont Blanc and Kosciuszko. But before she can throw herself to the heady currents of her ambitions, she must heed the siren call of her spirit. She must find her inner power. Her flow.

To do so, she must turn to another daughter of Mukhba – the river Goddess who has watched over her family for generations. She must bow to the sacred, primal entity that has taught her both grace and endurance, to the spirit that permeates every pore of her life and longings.

Devyani must seek the Ganga.

Following the boisterous, gurgling trail of the young Bhagirathi, Devyani reaches Tapovan (lit. the forest of penance), a lush, sprawling meadow 14,640 ft above the sea – home to itinerant hermits and a basecamp for the Tapasya that she must now prepare for: her ascent of Mt. Shivling – its crown piercing the sky at 21,467 ft .

As she places one foot over another on the ridge, rising to the spiritual challenge of her calling, the mountain appears to descend to meet her. With every step, the message is clear: she is no longer alone. The mountain, the river, the rustling meadows and whispering clouds have embraced her as their own.

At the summit, heralded by billowing clouds and biting windchill, Devyani stands tall, her aspirations now ready to touch the sky.


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