The 30km pilgrimage up Parasnath Hill, where 20 of the 24 tirthankaras (Jain spiritual teachers of righteous path) attained salvation, begins at 2am in Madhuban village in Jharkhand province in Northern India. My enthusiasm after an unsatisfying night’s sleep was raised to ‘vaguely curious’ after a freshly cooked samosa. Aside from small groups huddled round open fires heating up their pots of tea, it was an eery atmosphere in the village, only amplified by the dull orange glow of the street lights.
After four hours hiking in the dark, we broke through the tree line to reveal a clear sky jam packed full of glistening stars. My cold hands were shaking trying to take photos, but eventually the stars began to melt away as the sun came up, and the faint orange glow slowly stretched across the sky to reveal a stunning set of steep hill tops, each dotted with temples.
A layer of mist covered the ground hundreds of metres below, giving a sense of being on top of the world. This short period of sunrise was truly magical, and right on cue, we found a cosy tea hut to rest our weary legs and clasp our hands round a warm cup of tea, etching this vision in our minds forever.