Thu, April 2, 2015…
Siva and I started from a very hot Delhi-Gurgaon at around 4 : 45 PM for Brindavan.
We took the Mathura Road (the old road to Mathura, that goes beyond Faridabad), a road which is rather like a poor, neglected second cousin of no one knows who. It plays and important role but has little recognition. There aren’t many milestones and the roadside amenities are ‘kya bataoon’.
We were expecting to reach the Brindavan turn by around 7 15 PM. Many phone calls from Brindavan to check out where we were etc, and we finally hit the turn around 7 45 PM.
And soon we ran into ‘as heavy a traffic as heavy can be’. Just to move less than 500 metres took us the best part of an hour. Looks like everyone in Delhi and everyone’s uncle has taken a car and come over to Brindavan for the long weekend. There was no way we were going to get out of this one and find our way to our Asram – the most sacred Ananda Vrindavan Asram, the abidance of Maharajshree (Swami Akhandananda Saraswati). By the infinite compassion of Swami G, a young man was sent to guide us. He found our car in the melee, jumped in, and then systematically guided us through some lanes known only to native Brindavanians and we arrived in the Asrama by 9 45 pm. Happy to say that we were not agitated at all because of all this. After all we had come here to log out of time.
A nice room had been allotted to us.
Lovely pictures of Udiya Baba and Maharajshree blessed us from the stately wall.
Asram had kept dinner for us. Happy after Roto-Sabzi we retired for the night… Siva was busy with his iPad, and I put on Maharajshree’s discourse on my laptop and listened…
Electric power was playing “now I am here, now I ain’t” the whole night. The sky tore apart with some terrific sequences of long thunders. And it rained….
We were up by 4 am, to get ready for the Yatra of the day.
I do the morning ritual of sending whatsapp greetings from Brindavan to my near and dear whatsappians. I browse the net for a suitable picture, and settle on this one, because it brings to mind the magic of ‘Brindavan’ to anyone’s mind. The rain of the night was not in my mind.
Just before 5 30 am, there was a knock on our door, and we were overjoyed to have suprabhaat darshan of Swami G, as he walked in smiling. We did traditional saashtaang namaskara to him. He had come to fetch us… Time to leave…
I then ran with Brahmachari R to have darshan of Nritya Gopala, the main deity in the Asrama. This idol of Krishna was sculpted in accordance with the direction of Maharajshree many years ago, based on a vision of Krishna that he had had.
Here is a picture of my darshan of Nritya Gopala.
We then went to the other shrine, of Lord Siva – Bhava Bhaveshwar Siva.
We then went to our car – a Toyota Innova, seven seater.
And all seven seats were manned. Front was the Praveen, the driver, and Siva.
Middle were two Sanyasi Swami-s, Swami G and Swami M, both very senior monks of Maharajshree order.
Last row, were Brahmachari R (Brahm R), myself, and Bobby. Bobby was a local person who ran a tourist car agency. He knew the roads of UP.
We moved at 5 40 AM or so. The plan was to visit Hari Baba Baandh in interior UP, by the banks of Ganga. But right now, we were negotiating the inner lanes of Brindavan, and soon were driving past a bridge on the river Yamuna
With Swami G’s permission one chanted Purusha Suktam and Narayana Suktam and had the joy of an appreciative nod from Brahma R. As soon as that was over, Swami G pulled out a CD for being played in the car stereo. And soon we were listening to an audio discourse from 1960. This was a discourse by Karpatri Maharaj, a very great scholar-sage of Kashi.
A couple of photographs of Karpatri Maharaj, young and old.
Swami Karpatri Maharaj was a sage of great vairagya. Born sometime in early 1900s, he took to serious spiritual life and study at an early age, spent time in solitary spiritual practice, living in the regions of Ganga and Himalaya, and was recognized as a Paramahamsa even before he was initiated into the monastic order at the age of 24. He was a great scholar and has written over 40 books and hundreds of articles. He was an Advaitin who rooted in Sanatana Dharma and was very much in the Shankara order of sincere Saguna Upasana in daily life. He was instrumental in convincing his Guru. Swami Brahmananda, to accept the position of Shankaracharya and revive the Northern Shankaracharya Peetha of Jyotirmath, the seat of which had lied vacant for over a century and a half. The present Shankaracharya of Dwaraka and Jyotirmath, Swami Swaroopananda Saraswati, was a student of Karpatri Maharaj.
Along with his severe ascetic life and spiritual practice, he was also a social activist. He even founded a political party, the Ram-Rajya Parishad in 1948, and his party fought elections. He was in the forefront of the movement for abolition of cow-slaughter, and was jailed for many months on two occasions. One may have differences with Karpatri Maharaj’s orthodox positions on issues, but no one would doubt his spiritual stature, courage, selflessness, and resolve.
Sharing a youtube video that one came across on Karpatri Maharaj.
Coming back to our drive from Brindavan….
We were listening to a series by Swami Karpatriji, titled “Gopigeet’ – the songs of Gopi-s….. Appropriate theme for a journey from Brindavan….
Now, in interior UP, you are best advised to go with a local guide, and for us, the guide was Bobby. There is nothing permanent about the state of roads or rivers, in the sense that what was fordable last month may not be navigable this month. And so you have to be alert and figure out the best alternate route of the day. With these and such in mind, Bobby took us via Hathras, and then on to Aligarh… Aligarh seemed to be a place frozen in time, like Old Lutyens Delhi. Old British style buildings, bungalows, the college campus, government offices – all speaking a silent language of long gone Sahebs…
Going past we reached Dibai… The roads were quite all right… The weather was nice and the scenery beautiful. Fields of wheat, orchards of mangoes… Nature’s call answered in the natural way, parked by the fields, spmewhere near a handy hand-pump… Life is good. Siva had picked up some nice Bananas from Aligarh, and that was our breakfast for the day. It must be said that it was Siva and I who seemed more keen on appeasing our hunger. The two Swami-s, Brahma B, Bobby and Praveen seemed quite unconcerned. Power of simple living…
Meanwhile, a few phone calls, and folks at Hari Baba Asram were informed of the two Swami-s and group’s being on the way to the Baandh.
There was a question as to whether we should have Ganga snaan first and then visit the Baandh, or visit the Baandh and then go for Ganga snaan. The question was put to the senior Swami, Swami M, who did not immediately respond, leading one to wonder whether he had heard the query. He evidently had heard, for after being lost in silence for a minute or so, perhaps looking within for guidance. he spoke… He said that it would be better if we had Ganga snaan first, and then go to Hari Baba baandh. For Ganga snaan, there were a few options. After some discussion, Swami M decided that it was best that we go a few kms further on, to Narora. For in Narora, there was a pucca ghat, facilitating ease of bathing…
Time was around 9: 30 am, when we reached Narora.
Narora, in District Bulandshehr, has always been well known in hinterland India as a place of pilgrimage to Ganga. In recent times, it has been in the news for the Atomic Power Plant built here in 1991-92. [ One shudders as one remembers the two accidents in the plant, one in 1993 and the other in 1999 (For a brief on that, click here )… One feels good that the plant has since won some awards for environment preservation… ]
Narora is also famous for Sri Sangaved Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya , a great centre for traditional learning. Among other great scholars, Swami Karpatri Maharaj graduated from here….
Coming back to our Ganga anubhava…
Even as we grihast (house-holders) were scrambling around to unload our bags and bathing gear, the two Swamis and Brahmachari R had vanished. Before we could say “Har Har Gange” they were already in the river…
Ganga at Narora is magnificent. Here is a very short video clip…
We must have been in the waters for about half an hour or so… Sometime after 10 AM, we walked back to the car. Swami M had some Prasad for us… Puffed rice and sweets… He asked me to cup both my hands together and poured a generous helping, which could only be eaten by taking the cupped-hands directly to my mouth, and lapping the eats, animal like… Back to one’s elements!
Large cans of Ganga filled, we got back on to the car and the road.
Destination Hari Baba Baandh…
<To be continued>