Thursday, July 29, 2004

FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE GANGA

 
A Passage to Uttaranchal (June20-21 & June 27-29, 2004)

Although I stayed in Haryana for about 6 weeks for official purposes, I really spent my most valuable and unforgettable time in the divine state of Uttaranchal.This state, endowed with richness of the nature’s true wealth, was without doubt once the land of the demi-gods. The mighty peaks and holy waters of this land have taught my mind to think high and pure. I had spent about five days here, in two separate trips.
During my first visit, I had been to meet Aamma who along with other relatives was on a trip to these holy lands. I met her at the Haridwar, perhaps the most ideal place to begin the uncommon quest for the other side of the universe. Mother Ganga (River Ganges), dancing in her many streams, flows with kind of strange wilderness. They say, once you take a dip in the holy Ganga, all your past karma will be neutralized enabling you to be free from the endless cycle. I wondered if the aggressive behavior of the Ganga is the force behind this mysterious phenomenon. Science may have its reasons but my experience with the river has awakened in me a sense of personal upliftment and self-confidence. My feeling of being content since a couple of years has reached new heights and my hope to achieve the goals I have put for myself became more ardent. I was so filled with positive energy that I thought for a moment that I have conquered all my enemies and am not far from the ultimate victory I have been seeking.
At first we (myself and a friend from IIT Delhi who accompanied me) went to seven-storeyed Bharathmata Temple where, the deities Shiva, Vishnu, Shakthi occupy the top three storeys. The fourth floor is dedicated to the great Saints of India, third to Mothers & Pativratas and the second to the freedom fighters & great leaders. The first floor is arranged with oil paintings depicting the customs and traditions of all the states of India. Here, we can have a feel of how diverse India is in respect to religions, tribes, cultures etc. In the ground-floor, clad in a lustrous-purple, embroidered Benares Silk is a beautiful and intelligent woman: a statue so elegantly representing the personification of a nation of great honor and pride. There is a clay model of the country’s geographic shape with lights arranged at locations of religious prominence. At each floor, we can have a panoramic view of the beauty of Ganges flowing in multiple-streams.
Our next visit was to a temple so arranged that it appears like entering into a cave. At some spots it looks like Kailasa, at some other like Vaikunta. Most impressive were the animated clay statues which depicted some scenes from the  Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bhagavatha.
We then, went straight to Har Ki Pauri as it was about time that the Ganges will be offered ‘Aarthi’. Reaching at the Har Ki Pauri, in the maddening crowd, we took our ‘dip’ into the Holy Waters. My heart at once was filled with boundless joy, for I had become free from karma, according to the belief that is still strongly held. Now I have the wait for that call which will set me free at once and take me away by all -body, mind and soul. Anyway, then we headed to the spot where the Aarthi was to take place. There were Ganga Temples, Praachin Hanuman Temples and other temples spread all over the place. The Aarthi will be held simultaneously at all these spots with over thousand burning threads. The spectacular event took place for about half hour and later ‘theertha’ was offered. After a fantastic retreat at the Har Ki Pauri, we came straight back to where Aamma and others were staying. We luckily were in time to hear the ‘Hari Kadha’. Right after that we had our dinner and the day closed.
Waking up early next morning, we began our day by taking ablutions in the Holy Ganges yet again. After a tryst with the secrets of the ultimate river, we went straight to the Mansa Devi temple situated near the Har Ki Pauri on a hill. We went by the ‘Udan Khatola’, the rope way, savouring the fantabulous views from differing altitudes. Followed by the darshan, we came back on the rope way and took a rickshaw ride to the Bus Adda. A sardar was shouting ‘Patiala-Ambala’. We got into it and straight to Ambala. At Ambala we caught a bus to Kurukshethra, Haryana.
Getting down at the Pipli Bus Stand, we took a local bus till Jyotisar. This place is the original location where the Lord in His avatara as Krishna, taught Arjuna the most sacred lesson of Bhagavad Gita. An old Banyan Tree stands there. A board says: “Immortal Banyan Tree: The Only Witness of the Holy Song of Gita”. I figured out, it must be atleast 6000 years old to be credited with such a glory. There are marble statues and statues of plaster of Paris portraying the eternal scene between Krishna and Arjuna. An ancient Shiva mandir is situated in close proximity to the site. A modest lake with wild vegetation (including Lotus plants), welcoming a multitude of avian visitors from far-off lands, decors the surroundings. Marble stones, with significant verses from the Holy Text printed on them, adorn the walls around the place. Temples of Gita Mandir, Goddess Saraswathi, Vyasa, Hanuman, Durga are added attractions.
We next halted at the Baan-Ganga (Narkathari Village), where Bhishma supposedly fell on the bed of arrows skillfully manufactured by the ace-archer Arjuna. A tall Hanuman statue (perhaps about 300 feet or much above) blessing us with the right arm and holding the mighty club in the left stands magnificently. An ancient temple is situated by the side. At the centre is a pond, where we saw local children competing in swimming and dipping exercises. We then went straight to the Krishna Museum, but unfortunately it was Monday, a holiday. So, a little disappointed we went to the Brahmasarovar, a vast lake where people come in huge numbers to take bath during Solar Eclipse. It is said that, Sri Rama with Sita, used to come to Kurukshetra to take bath in one of the many lakes that garner this holy place during solar eclipses. Even Muslim rulers like Shah Jahan, Jahan Gir came to this place during solar eclipse to take a dip. A Shiva temple lies at the banks of the lake. With all this spiritual exercises, my first trip concluded.
My second trip was to IIT Roorky where my friend Venu was doing his PG. We, along with a couple of other friends, went to Rishikesh the same day I arrived at Roorky. Rishikesh was a rare combination of spirituality, adventure and sport. Situated at the foot of the hills which nest the NeelKanth Swamy Temple, it is characterized with beauty all over. Things of interest here were: Hanuman Temple, Laxman Jhula, Ram Jhula and four ancient temples including one of the great emperor Bharatha after whom this country got its name Bhaarath. Adventures and sports here include: Rafting and Kayaking on the speeding Ganges. Life becomes more meaningful when spiritual exercises are realized along with adventure and sport to recreate the ever-stressed mind. Coming back to Roorky, we rested that evening.
Next morning we started off to Dehradun. It was past noon when we reached the city, 605 meters above sea-level. Understanding it was difficult to go Shimla from here, within the stipulated time we had in our hands, we decided to waste away at Mussorie instead. Located at 2005 meters ASL, Mussorie proved to be a great hang-out. The journey along the topsy-turvy crooked curves of the road gave us a superb feeling, more exciting than a roller-coaster ride. We spent the night in Hotel Saraswathi, as we no longer were in a position to stroll around after the grueling journey. Next morning we kicked out our warm rugs and moved ahead to the Kempty Falls, about 12 km from the Hill City Mussorie. The water falls kept their promise fulfilled as we came to know. Spending over an hour at the highest point reachable at the falls, we came back to Mussorie. Again, from Mussorie to Dehradun and from there to Roorky. Next morning I came back to Karnal (Haryana) after a wondrous time at the Ghats and Waters.
Many times during these encounters with Ganga and the Shivalik Mountain Ranges, and when I thought of seeing Himalayas but couldn’t, I recited to myself from the following lines from Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening’:
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.

 
P.Siddartha
(July 6, 2004)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

My Hero

 
A gentleman, never been called so,
Who, in his own style, tried to show
The world the way it has to know
That individualism must stay and grow.

A philosopher of unusual tempo
Whose ideas he himself drove
To endless heights without slow
From existing standards disdainfully low.

A saunterer from the holy-lands of snow                  

Without pointing his finger or raising his brow       
At the downward speed of mankind’s flow
Remained aloof, having attained divine glow.

A gentleman, never been called so,
A philosopher of unusual tempo
A saunterer from the holy-lands of snow
My hero, Henry David Thoreau
.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Sonnet to River Ganga

 
Holy water so cold and pure
Rending our hearts infinite cure
Flow ever in the land of Gods
Make rich us, prosper our abodes;
With you bring us the Divine Light
With you take us to highest height
Where white-caps of snow lay pristine
Where great winds pious and benign
Touch us with ardor of Fathers
Sitting in couches of lathers
Device the plans for human life
Of bliss, sorrow; Of wealth and strife;
Gift us with minds of intellect

Bless us to become more perfect