Archive for the ‘Pilgrimage’ Category

Kotwal of the Capital – 1

November 10, 2015

Tucked away in the heart of New Delhi, in the upmarket Vasant Vihar area, in a locality known as Vasant Gaon, is this temple of Hanuman. A massive Hanuman idol stands tall here. Sculpted out of a single granite rock, it is forty feet tall, and weights a hundred and fifty tons. It is installed on a twenty five feet foundation.

And this was my first visit to this temple. To me it was amazing that I had never been here before. Having spent many years in Delhi, surely I should have known of this temple. How can you miss a 45 foot Hanuman? Well, at least I have moved out of Delhi for some time now, but my friend Ravi, who came along with me now to this temple, has been in this very area all his life. And he too had never visited the temple, although he had heard of its existence. It was one of those things… It was right there, and yet wasn’t visible until you cared to see!

Hanuman - Basant Gaon

What a sight! A tall Hanuman could be seen, right at the back of a long flight of steps that led up to an open-to-the-sky temple courtyard. The sounds of a katha greeted us from the courtyard. Many young Brahmachari students were sitting and listening. They would have been students of the Sanskrit School being run here. Some elders, including priests, were also in the audience. It was informal (Oh the informality of open skies!), one felt like a bird in lazy flight. We were all chakora birds, Hanuman was the full bright moon. In the presence of this massive Hanuman, one felt as secure as a baby in his parent’s care.

I had come looking for this temple, having recently read about the amazing sage who founded it.

His name was Swami Prabhudutt Brahmachari.

The Wikipedia entry about him is rather bare-bones. Here is what it says:

Sant Prabhuduttji Brahmachari was an Indian guru and freedom fighter who ran a Sanskrit school in Basant gaon, New Delhi. He founded his ashram at Jhusi to organize Kumbh Mela. He became close to Golwalker in nearly 1950 and then Rajendra Singh and Golwalker persuaded him to stand against Nehru on the cow protection platform and against the Hindu Code Bill. In 1951, he openly challenged Jawaharlal Nehru’s election to the 1st Lok Sabha from the Allahabad constituency, challenging Nehru’s stance on the ideology of Hinduism in independent India.

This all-too-brief description hardly does justice to the persona that he was.

Prabhudutt Brahmachari was born in 1885, in a village in District Aligarh, in a poor Brahmana family. Early in his life, he took deep interest in Sanskrit studies, and also took a vow of lifelong celibacy. Leaving home, he went off to study in Gurukula, in different places, leading up to Varanasi. Swami Karpatri Maharaj was one of his co-students.

He was also drawn by the fire of freedom struggle and became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Becoming an activist, he jumped into the fight for independence, and was interred in jail by the British, undergoing rigorous imprisonment. One of his prison-mates was Jawaharlal Nehru. The irony is that he would later stand against Jawaharlal Nehru, in the first elections held in independent India.

Swami Prabhudutt Ji was deeply spiritual, and undertook tremendous tapasya, right from his early years. He became a wanderer, and met many sages, including the great sages Udiya Baba and Hari Baba. He was deeply inspired by these two saints, and took every opportunity to take their guidance. Fired with dispassion, he decided to go away to Himalaya, and not return until he attained the Supreme State of Spiritual Jnana. Udiya Babaji, sensing this fire in him, encouraged him by showing him a picture he had, of Buddha. In that picture, Buddha was seen in almost skeletal state – his body completely wasted by the intensity of Tapasya. Showing him that picture, Baba told him a related shloka

इहासने शुष्यतु मे शरीरं त्वगस्थिमांसं विलयं तु यान्तु |
अप्राप्य बोधं   बहुकालदुर्लभं इहासनान्नैव समुच्चलिष्ये ||

In this seat, (where I do tapasya), well may my body dry up, my flesh and bones decay; But without attaining Self-Knowledge, which is extremely difficult to obtain even after eons, I shall not stir from this seat, whatever it takes.

Perhaps the picture was one like this

Buddha

Taking this upadesha, Prabhudutt ji left for the Himalaya. But after serious Tapasya, he became very ill, and could no longer continue. Breaking his resolve, he returned to the plains, and going to Udiya Baba, he conveyed his state. Baba was a Jnani, who could gaze into the heart, and see such things as eyes of flesh do not see. He was kindness itself, and said – “No problem. In failures, seeds of success lie hidden. You have a pravrtti (predilection) for reading and writing. Go write books”.

And so began the writing life of Prabhudutt Ji. And what a library he has written. Starting with the life story about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he went on to write on a whole range of subjects. His magnum opus is Bhagavati Katha. This is a series of 118 parts, each of 200 to 250 pages. The first 68 parts are a rendering of Srimad Bhagavatam in traditional Hindi (Vraja bhasha), including translations and commentaries on key verses of Bhagavatam. Parts 69-74 of the series contain a commentary on Bhagavad Gita. Parts 74 to 106 contains commentaries on 191 upanishads. Imagine this… 191 Upanishads!! This is incredible! Perhaps no one else in history has done commentaries on as many Upanishads.  Parts 107 to 118 contain explanations of different schools of Indian philosophy and a commentary on Brahma Sutra.

For writing this magnum opus, he opted for complete solitude. Delegating all his secular work to others, he acquired a houseboat which he anchored in the middle of Ganga river. And there he worked undisturbed, focused fully on his writing work. What a tapasya!

The Bhagavati Katha is respected as a great spiritual classic. The Vraja language verses are sung with devotion even today… And we had been privileged to hear some of them during this first visit of ours, to this temple of Hanuman in Vasant Gaon, New Delhi…. Bhagavati Katha was being narrated now…

Swami Prabhudutt Brahmanchari’s main Asram is in Jhusi, near Allahabad, where he is said to have done terrific tapasya of Gayatri Mantra, standing in a state of Samadhi in the waters of Ganga …. In this Asrama, he held vibrant festivals of Nama Samkeertan, which were attended by some of the greatest sages of North India of those times.

Swamiji felt that Hanuman was the “Kotwal”, the Guardian, of the capital of India. And so he had this temple built in Basant Gaon, which then, was in the outskirts of Delhi, on the way to the Palam Airport. The temple was completed and inaugurated in 1990.

Swamiji lived to see the “Kotwal of the Capital’ installed. And he passed away the same year, at the ripe age of 105.

More about the temple and the sage, in the next post…

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Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 7

May 23, 2015

3 Arp 2015, Friday, Uttara Phalguni day

Around 2 PM, or so we start from Hari Baba baandh… To return to Brindavan…

Bobby, our Guide, has updated his mind’s road encyclopedia with the vagaries of the day, and has suggested a slightly different route for the return trip… And we are on our way….

Sometime around 4 pm or so, Bobby gets a call on his cell. He  speaks excitedly, and after the call is done, he tells us that there is a terrific hailstorm in progress in Brindavan…. He says the whole courtyard of the Asram is under ice… It’s a white carpet, he says….

Where we are, there is no rain….We drive on, unconcerned.

About half an hour later, Bobby gets one more call. Its is Shyamji from Brindavan, asking whether we are all ok. He is concerned about the Swami-s… He says he hail has been severe, and he asks if we are stranded, do we need any help, should he send any vehicle to fetch us etc etc… Well, we were perfectly fine…. No problems at all…. We were maybe 20 or 30 kms from Brindavan.. And we had experienced no rain… What were these people talking about….

And then, around 5 30 pm. when we entered Brindavan… The deluge… Water, water everywhere… Rains has stopped… But we could see hailstones all over the place… We stopped the car, got down, to check out.. Huge hailstones, the size and weight of golf balls… And it was at least half an hour since rain had stopped.. Yet, the place was a lattice of white hailstones… As we made our way to the Ananda Vrindavana Asrama, we noticed the damage. Cars with windshields broken. Houses with windows damaged…

See for yourself…. (The damaged car was parked in Ananda Vrindavana Asrama… The other pics were shared by my good friend Sanjay, who got it from his Brindavan brotherhood).

Click on any picture, and browse… Have a look….

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When we entered the Asrama, we found most people to be appearing shell shocked. They had never seen anything like this… Everyone had a war story to tell… It was as if the God’s had singled out Brindavan for this aerial bombardment…

A news article in a local Vrindavan news site reported  “It was around 3.30 p.m on Friday, the sky became dark then the hailstorm began with thunder. The base ball sized hail pounded on the roof, roads and fields of Vrindavan for two hours. The glasses of many vehicles were broken. The plastic water tanks out on the roofs were not spared either. It made holes in the water tanks….”

“The hailstorm was so severe that it killed four persons including a woman, while 150 others were injured. Hundreds of pigeons and other birds were also killed, which also included three peacocks….”

“The majority of crops were destroyed in the hailstorm. The actual loss of the farmers couldn’t be ascertained….”

Vrindavan Experience, a Facebook page, mentioned “Heavily beaten monkeys, dead birds, shattered windows and car wind shields, a cover of green leaves that got all shaved off of the trees and shredded, all in just 5 minutes. Wires ripped apart, no electricity at some parts, internet cables torn apart. And no, things like this doesn’t happen regularly…

Here is a video clip of the hailstorm shared in Facebook page of Vrindavan Experience.

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No, thing like this don’t happen even remotely rarely….

When we were in the shelter of the main building in Ananda Vrindavana Ashram, an elderly devotee came to pay his respects to Swami G. His car had been damaged severely by the hail. He looked a bit shaken, but was was floating with the lightness of being that comes to one when one has seen  an ‘act of God’, which demonstrates how powerless one really is… And talking to Swami G, he mentioned that they had escaped lightly. He wondered, how it would have been, few thousands of years ago, when Indra had unleashed his fury on Brindavana by a dam-burst from the sky…. And how, by an act of supreme mercy, Krishna, the boy, had lifted Govardhana hill and held it up like an umbrella, under which the all creatures could take shelter…. Swami G blessed him profusely for reminding us of this divine incident….He praised the Bhakti of this devotee, that he had remembered something that had occurred to none of us… Overcome with emotion, in extreme humility, the devotee just fell on Swami G’s feet and wet it with his tears….

Around 7 pm or so, we left Brindavan, to return to Delhi…. We decided to take the  Yamuna Express Highway route for our return trip…. Inching our way out through the heavy traffic (many cars with broken glasses, bonnets with crater depressions), we made our way to the highway, after which it was a smooth drive….

An hour or so later, when we stopped at one of the highway toll-booths…

“Radhey, Radhey” said the boy in the toll booth… “Heavy damage in Brindavan, huh?” he asked… Ah yes, the word had traveled….

After reaching Delhi, I spent a few days there. When I showed some friends the pictures, they could not believe what they saw…. No newspaper, TV, had mentioned anything about this hailstorm. Who cares about what happens in a small town in UP, especially one that is an ancient center of Hindu reverence.

We had started off the morning (refer the first blog post of this series) by whatsapping a picture of Krishna holding up the Govardhana Giri… Krishna Leela it is, that we ended the day, with a small experience of what it might have been on that day of storms….

Signing off this post, and series, with the same picture…. Govardhana Giri Govinda!

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Krishna.

Bolo Brindavan Dhaam ki……    Jai!
Krishna Kanhaiyaa Laal ki… Jai!
Bankey Bihaari Bhagavan ki… Jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhey!

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 6

May 17, 2015

From Ganga snaan at Narora, we were now proceeding to Hari Baba Baandh at Gavaan-Badaayoon.

We backtracked to Dibai, and turned towards Gavaan. Soon we were in the town of Anupshahr. The town seemed to be one long market road, which just went on and on. There were shops on both sides, and the road was narrow. One was wondering what would happen if any vehicle came from the opposite direction. As it happened, there was just enough space for two cars to pass, so there…

Anupshahr is another ancient place. Originally known as Bala Bhadra nagar, the place has been known since times of Mahabharata. Bala Bhadra Nagar was named so because Balarama, Krishna’s brother, is supposed to have done teertha yatra here and done tapasya. Later, during Mughal times, King Jehangir had given this place to Gujar King Anup Rai, whose valor had greatly impressed Jehangir. The name of the town was changed to Anupshahr.

Anupshahr is famous for its Karthik Poornima festival. Around 10 Lakh pilgrims come here for the festival every year, to have Ganga snaan here. A vibrant mela is held, and it is a feast for the heart and senses. Now, who in urban India or in mainstream media, is aware of this? India carries on despite the “educated elite” who usually know little (or do not care) about the culture that they belong to….

Be that as it may…

Coming back to our group.. We are seven in the Toyota Innova… The driver Praveen and Siva in front. Swami G and Swami M in the middle row. Soota, Brahmachari R, and Bobby. Bobby was our local guide. He ran a cab himself, and knew this area well…. But for him, we would not have known how to get to the Baandh… Such are the best kept secrets of spiritual India…

For those readers who have not kept up with this blog thread, a brief explantion… Hari Baba Baandh is a baandh (dyke) of around 34 kms length, built by Sage Hari Baba. He motivated the local communities to volunteer and build this. The entire work was carried out in just six months (in 1923), and entirely done by people chanting the name of God. Every bit of mud and stone here is soaked in God’s name, and the whole feat is a repeat of the Rama Setu built by the vanara sena during the times of Ramayana. The building of this baandh saved hundreds of villages that would be regularly submerged by floods in Ganga. The entire region prospered after this baandh was built. The baandh itself became a great centre of pilgrimage. The list of God-Realized Sages who used to visit this baandh is too long to mention. Akhanda keertana has been going on here till date. The name of the Lord, sung non-stop, on the banks of Ganga… You don’t get more holy than that…

We see a large tract of Khaadar ( Khaadar or Khadir are plains that are low-lying next to a river. Khadir areas are prone to flooding and sometimes include portions of former river-beds), and then we see baandh, low and long… We drive on to a road that is on the baandh itself…

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Baandh

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And crossing the baandh perimeter, we drive a bit and enter the rear gate of the holy Ashram at Hari Baba Baandh.

Word has reached that the Swami G and Swami M are coming here… The managing people at the Ashrama are waiting for our group with a rousing welcome. All I can say is that nothing in the world prepared me for the kind of welcome that was given that day…. The chanting of Lord’s name (Hari Bol) greeted and swallowed us…

See for yourself…. The wonder that is India…

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You can see in the video above, our being welcomed and led to the Bhajan hall…. Akhand Keertan is going on here… Non-stop…. At least eleven people sing Bhajan all the time…. Each day a different village has the turn for doing this keertan…

You can see in the hall, the altar with a banner on top… The first line on the banner reads:

हरेर्नाम हरेर्नाम हरेर्नामैव केवलम , कलौ नास्त्येव नास्त्येव नास्त्येव गतिरन्यथा।

(Hari’s name, Hari’s name, Hari’s name alone! In Kali Yuga, there is no other, no other, no other, way or goal)

And the next line has the Mahamantra –

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare      hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

From the bhajan hall, we come out and enter the inner complex…

We find a cluster of temples. Brahmachari boys from the veda pathashaala here are standing in front of a shrine.

That shrine is the Samadhi of Hari Baba… You can see a statue of Hari Baba installed here… The Samadhi is an enclosure….

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As the Swamiji-s are with us, the Ashram authorities open the enclosure and allow all of us to go inside to pay homage to statue and the Samadhi…

Here is Hari Baba…

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After we come out of the Samadhi, the Swamiji-s are once again given a welcome – a Vedic welcome… Veda Pathashala boys chant Swasti Vacana from Veda, north Indian style…

Here is a video clip…

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After the swasti swaagatam, we are taken on a tour of the Ashrama. I am walking barefoot… Someone notices and asks me about it. I tell him that I had noticed Brahamachari R leaving his footwear in the car and I decided to do likewise… Brahmachari R smiles and says – “Tapobhoomi!” ,and we all nod….

Have a glimpse of Ashrama… Click on any picture in the gallery below, and browse….

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At one place we find a board that lists all the villages that have given Anna Daan here in 2014. It is a list of over 200 villages….

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Around noon, we are given prasad Lunch…

One of our hosts tells us that he has been serving the Ashrama since his childhood. He is a landlord in this region… He tells us about his peculiar diet… He only takes milk as food. No rice, wheat, sabzee etc. He has milk many times a day. Other than milk he does take Prasad of sweets or dry fruits. That’s it. And he had been on this diet always… He is well over 70 and looks stronger than most of us…

The food served to us is simple, wholesome and delicious.

After food they give all of us some gift. What can one say…

How does one describe the ambiance of the baandh… There is expanse… There is peace… There is the Ganga in the horizon… There are simple villagers sitting in the shade, here and there… Young boys in the veda patashaala, now playing cricket…. Peacocks walking around… And the constant sound of bell of Hari Baba going clang-clang-clang, as the akhand keertan goes on…. One is tempted to borrow that statement about Kashmir, and proclaim – “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto” (If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here).”

Around 2 PM or so, after a feast for the palate and the heart, we are now ready to take leave of Baandh Bhagavan…

A large group of people come to see us off….

Before we leave, we go into the Bhajan hall once again, to get one more taste of the keertan

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Ready to go… Next stop, Brindavan… And we do not know that God has some interesting plans for us there….

** To be continued **

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 5

May 4, 2015

From Wardha, the young monk Svatah Prakash went to Amarkantak, the source of the sacred Narmada river. A serene place, it captivated his heart.  There he came across a leper who was in great distress. He decided to stay there and serve this man. With great love he would clean his wounds, apply herbal medicines, seek Bhiksha and feed him etc. He had said later that he has never found so much peace as what he found in serving this man…

From Amarkantak. he found his way back to the region of Ganga… The book on Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had opened up for him the infinite heartspace of devotion. His Hari bhakti was in flood. Returning to the region of Anupshahr, he set anchor…. There, devotees found their way to him, and he spread the way of Bhakti… He would be so consumed by bhava of Krishna bhakti, that he would behave as a man possessed. In the great meadow region in the vicinity, he would wander around, jump into waterbodies, with the bhava that he was jumping into Yamuna of Krishna. He would ask strangers whether they had seen Krishna anywhere… He would weep… Seeing a villager tilling the soil, he would go upto him and request him to ‘please chant the name of Hari’, and in return he would take over the plough from the man and do his job.  He would be seen jumping from tree to tree, perhaps in the bhava of Hanuman…. Krishna Leela and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Leela also started happening. It was evident that the great Mahaprabhu had awakened in his heart. The transformation was complete. Swami Svatah Prakash became Hari Baba…

Once, the region was suffering from severe lack of rains.  Praying for relief, the people there gathered around Hari Baba. Hari Baba said that the samkeertana of Hari would surely answer their prayers. He told them – “When Naama Bhagavan is with you, why do you have any anxiety! What is impossible for the Naama Bhagavan to accomplish? Chant the name and be free from fear!” He organized the people into a Samkeertana group. The group, led by Hari Baba, started walking around the village, singing the name of Hari. They had only milk for food. At appropriate times, they halted and had Hari Katha sessions. The plan was to do this for seven days. On the eighth day, they would gather in the Nava-vrindavan meadow nearby and the whole village would gather for a community bhajan and feast. On the eighth day, rain clouds filled the sky, and it poured.

Word spread. People started flocking to Hari Baba. People of all communities… Around 1917 or so, during one of the Leela sessions, one person was possessed by bhava of Siva, and he told Baba that he should do the Leela of Setubandhan (the building of bridge across the sea to Lanka by Rama and the monkeys). Hari Baba smiled and said that he would do so….

Rameshwar was a young teenager, son of one of his devotees, Lala Kundan Lal. He suffered from epilepsy and was so severely affected that he could not move from his bed. His father, Lala Kundan Lal, has spent thousands of rupees in medical treatment, but nothing worked. As a final resort, he put the case to Hari Baba. At that time, Krishnananda Avadhoot, a monk in the lineage of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, was present. Hari Baba consulted him, and decided to start a Naama Samkeertan, praying for Rameshwar’s cure. The day the keertan started, Rameshwar had severe fits. Baba put his hands on him, and the fits ceased. The Keertan carried on, day after day. After three months, many devotees left. Baba continued. Five months elapsed. One afternoon, during the Samkeertan, Baba was in full swing. All the devotees there were possessed by the bhava. One of them, Khoobiram of Nizampur, went across to Rameshwar, who was lying down prone on an easy chair. Khoobiram went to him and said – “Our Bhagavan (Hari baba) is dancing in the keertan. And you are lying down here on an easy chair? Indeed you are a rich man’s son!” Saying so, he pulled Rameshwar by his hand and dragged him to the floor of Samkeertan. Rameshwar had not set food on the earth for the last nineteen months. Khoobiram dragged him and slapped him hard. Rameshwar stood up. His legs were unsteady. Music was in full flow. At that time, Hari Baba fixed his eyes on Rameshwar. Something electric passed from his eyes to Rameshwar, and Rameshwar started dancing.  He, who had not walked for such a long time, started hopping around like a deer. A miracle had happened. All the devotees were mad with joy. Hari Baba was cool as always. His reserved countenance did not change a bit. He continued his keertan, as if nothing was different this day, and at end, he just went off to his hut without another glance at Rameshwar.

The next day, Rameshwar came and fell at his feet. Baba told him – “Brother! God has given you a new birth! Never forget his compassion! And listen! Always be alert, attentive (to the divine), for Maya of God is incredibly powerful”.

From that day, Rameshwar dedicated his life to Baba.

After this event, came the time for the birth of a new Leela.

The region of Ganga in Anupshahr / Badaun was a stage of periodic disaster. There were miles and miles of lowlands, and every year Ganga, during times of flood, would overrun the lands. Some five or six years before the episode of Rameshwar, a part of the  Ganga  had cut across and mingled with Mahava river in Badaun. As a result some 700 or more villages had been submerged in the river. Every year, during floods, hundreds of villages were affected, and the villagers has to be at the mercy of elements, sitting on trees and raised-platforms, waiting for the river to subside, living on what providence may provide. Baba was moved by the plight of the land and the people.

You may recall the Bhava episode, where a person who had been possessed by bhava of Siva had asked Baba to perform Setubandh leela. The time for that had come….

Sometime in the month of Paush (December) 1922, Baba called for a meeting with local devotees. And announced his plan to build a Baandh (dyke, dam) in that area. This was a herculean aim, for not even the Government has been able to do anything like this. The place had no rail connection. Without railway connections, getting construction materials etc here, would be impossible. It was also impossible for railways to set up lines here, as the lands were undulating, and there was not enough time between floods for complete construction to happen. These and such were the problems voiced by his devotees. Baba was not deterred by this. One of his devotees, Pandit Lalitaprasad, used to get the bhava of Hanuman. Baba told him that he would be crucial for this project. That he would need to invoke Hanuman in his consciousness and get on with the task. Baba quickly put the plan into motion and inaugurated the project. He put some key devotees as organizers. He said that he would take care of collecting funds. The devotees would have to gather others and get into the job of building the baandh. He himself went from village to village to galvanize the community. The method was through Samkeertan. In Hindu villages he would sing the name of Rama. In Muslim villages, he sand “tera zaat paak hoon”. A retired engineer from public works department was also inducted. Survey was done and the project area marked out. One and all got into the project. The rule was that the baandh had to be built by singing the name of God. One and all had to chant God’s name and bring mud and apply on the baandh. Baba had told the community that they should know that the Baandh was God’s own form. That they would have to offer service with a sincere heart. He said that the Baandh Bhagavan would give boons, and their prayers for worldly and spiritual gains would all be answered, provided they applied themselves in all sincerity…. Within weeks, more than a thousand villagers were on the job.

Baba announced his vow, that the mud-work would have to be completed by Rama Navami, which was but a few months away. What this meant was that 34 Kms of baandh mud-work would have to be built, along with six cross bandhs. Some parts of the baandh has to be much higher and broader…. Baba announced that if the work was not completed, he would give up his life.

The name of God filled the air. The community was in motion. One is reminded of the bridge built from Rameshwaram to Lanka during the Ramayana time.

The night before Rama Navami came. Baba got up and went to a specific area of the baandh. And he found that the work there was far from complete. He has announced earlier that he would give up his body if work was not completed by Rama Navami. In keeping with this resolve, he himself started working and announced that he would give up his life doing that work, if the work was not completed that night. Word of this spread like wildfire in the villages around. Villagers rushed to the baandh and joined the work… In some hours, a mountain of mud was ready and before nightfall the work was completed.

Night before Rama Navami (which fell on 26th March 1923), the Baandh mud-work was complete.

Baba started the stone-work the same date. Mounds of stones started getting accumulated at the site. By the dussehra of Jyestha month, most of the stone work was complete.

By sheer dint of the divine name, by the force of community participation, a 34 KMs long baandh has been constructed along the route of Ganga. An incredible achievement…

On Vijayadashami day of the month of Ashvin (Oct 1923) the first festival was held on the baandh. Since that day, countless festivals have been held here. Holi was celebrated with great festivity. This is the day of Jayanti of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The day preceding Holi was the Jayanti of Hari Baba. Guru Purnima and other festivals were all celebrated in a grand scale at the Baandh. Akhand naama samkeertan, pravachan-s by sages and scholars, Raasleela, Krishnaleela, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Leela etc were regularly enacted. Hari Baba would be completely immersed in the bhava of the Leela. He would be fanning the idol or the person acting the role of Krishna etc, for hours on end. During the keetans, he would be dancing and striking his heavy gong bell (ghantaa) – swinging round and round, and the whole orchestra of drummers, instrumentalists and singers would keep beat with him…. Each day was a celebration of God….

The greatest of sages of North India have graced the Baandh with their presence during these festivals. Udiya Baba would come . Without him, Hari Baba would not conduct any festival. After 1946, Anandamayi Ma also came regularly to the Baandh. Hari Baba became deeply devoted to Ma, who he saw as Jagadamba. Among other great spiritual personages who came to the baandh were Krishnanand Avadhoot, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, Brahmachari Prabhudutt ji. Paramahamsa Baba Avadhavihari sharan, Baba Gauraangdas, Shri Bhole babaji, Swami Shastranandaji, Swami Shukadevananda ji, Maharajshree Swami Akhandananda Saraswati and many others.

Baba laid great emphasis on regular maintenance of the baandh. Villagers would regularly work on applying mud, reinforcing stones etc. He also laid great emphasis on Cleanliness. He involved every single devotee in the task of keeping the whole length of baandh clean. The band of Hari Baba devotees became renowned for ‘cleaning’. Wherever they went, Baba would ask them to pick up brooms and clean the place before participating in any festival!

Sharing a clip form youtube, which shows Hari Baba at the Baandh during the later years.. People are seen doing shram-daan (offering of work), working on Baandh maintenance. Anandamayi Ma is also seen, visiting the baandh.

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During the baandh festivals, many divine happenings were seen. Episodes of people hearing anklet sounds, sudden fragrances filling the air, devotees seeing their Ishta Daiva etc. Any number of people had their prayers answered by coming here, participating in Baandh cleaning and maintenance, and joining the samkeertan… Baba laid terrific emphasis on sincerity and devotion. At times, when he could not tolerate the vices of some of the people in the area, he just walked away. Once, in 1937, he simply set off to Rishikesh and walked non-stop and reached there in five days, covering a distance of 150 miles on foot. He ate nothing on the way. From Rishikesh he set off up the mountain… And his devotees finally found him in Uttarkashi, and begged and pleaded with him to come back. He finally relented and agreed to return later, and proceeded with some of them to Gangotri. After sending his devotees back, he stayed in Gangotri for a month. Taking bhiksha once a day, taking bath in ice old Ganga by dipping again and again, wearing no wool, using no angheeti (coal heater) – he stayed there. He had promised to return back to Karnavas to the presence of Udiya Baba by Guru Purnina, which he did. But the Baandh was his home. All in all, Baandh Bhagavan, as it became known, truly was the Divine in the form of a baandh.

It is to this Baandh that we are headed in this blog journey….

Sree Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama!

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 4

April 26, 2015

It was most probably in the month of Karthik, Vikram samvat 1965 (corresponding to Oct-Nov 1908 AD).

The young Sanyasi, Swami Svatah Prakash came by train and got down at Rajghat station near the bank of Ganga, not far from Narora in District Bulandshehr. Then he walked along the Ganga, northwards, and arrived at the village of Bheriya, which is some three miles south of Anupshehr. And as destiny would have it, the great Brahmanishtta sage Udiya Baba ji (Swami Poornananda Teertha) came walking to this place from the East, at the same time. This was a momentous meeting in spiritual timelessness.

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udiya baba

Udiya Baba, like Ramana Maharshi, was a spiritual colossus. Ever established in Non-dual Brahman, he was like the Sun of Jnana. And Swami Svatah Prakash, when he became Hari Baba, was the full-moon of Bhakti. It was a meeting of Ganga and Yamuna. There struck a relationship between these two sages, which was to last all their lives. Such was the love they had for each other, that Hari Baba has said of Udiya Baba that “No one in the world has loved anyone so much, ever, as much as Udiya Baba loved me.” And Udiya Baba on his  part, had the greatest respect for Hari Baba. No festival of Hari Baba was complete without the presence of Udiya Baba. It is incredible to read that in all the decades of their acquaintance, Hari Baba never once spoke directly to Udiya Baba. He would have his face down, and speak through a second person. So great was his respect for Udiya Baba… To give an example of how much respect Udiya Baba had for Hari baba, consider this… Udiya Baba, like Jagadguru Kanchi Paramacharya, had taken a vow to only walk. He would never ride on any vehicle – car, bus, train etc.  He walked hundreds of miles, month after month, all his life. While he stayed largely in the banks of Ganga, towards the end of his life he settled in Brindavan. In 1947, when Hari Baba was planning to celebrate the Sivaratri festival in the Baandh, he found that Udiya Baba would not be able to come, as he was very ill. But Hari Baba could not dream of having any utsav without Udiya Baba being present. So he and Anandamayi Ma came to Brindavan. Hari Baba tried to convince Udiya Baba to come with him in his car. But Udiya Baba has his vow, and he was in no condition to walk the distance from Brindavan to the Baandh (around 150 kms). So while Hari Baba went on pleading, Udiya Baba kept Mauna (silence), and it became midnight. Seeing how disappointed Hari Baba was feeling, Ma told him – “Pitaji! Now you may please take rest. Whatever is to happen tomorrow, shall happen by itself.” On this advise, Hari Baba retired for the night.

In the morning, when Hari Baba awoke to find that Udiya Baba had already left during the night. Ma laughed and told him – “See Pitaaji! I told you that whatever is to happen will happen by itself!”

What had happened was that Udiya Baba could not bear seeing the disappointment of Hari Baba. So, at 2 O’clock in the night, he started off in another devotee’s car, and left for the Baandh. He broke his lifelong vow of never riding a vehicle, just to keep Baba’s heart. Who can understand this love! Needless to say, that Sivaratri festival in the Baandh was observed with all joyousness, and this was followed by the festival of Holi, which too was attended by Udiya Baba.

Coming back to Bheriya, the first meeting place of Ganga (Udiya Baba) and Yamuna (Hari Baba)…

This meeting in Bheriya was at the place where a venerable sadhu from Bengal had his hermitage. Known as Bengali Baba, his sanyasi name was Sri Ramananda Giri. He was an aged monk, who was held in great reverence by all Sadhu-s in the region. The young Hari Baba came to his hermitage and sat down under a tree, absorbed in inner contemplation. Bengali baba recognized the spiritual fire in young Hari Baba, and asked one of his sanyasi disciples to discreetly care for this young Baba.

Bengali Baba was a great ascetic, who laid great store by Madhukari Bhiksha. He would say:

भिक्षाहारो फलाहारो भिख्सा नैव परिग्रहः |
सदन्नं वा कदन्नं वा सोमपानं दिने दिने ||

Bhikshaa (food got as alms), is equivalent to a meal of fruits. It is never an acquisition (bondage). Whether the Bhikshaa food is pure/good or impure/stale, eating that is like having a quaff of the nectar of Gods, day after day!

Bengali Baba’s asrama was a confluence where many Sadhu-s would gather. One of them was Swami Achyuta Muni. He used to stay in a boat anchored near Deeppur Ghat, a few miles from Gavaan (where the Hari Baba baandh is now). Swami Achyuta Muni was a highly respected sage, well known in the Ganga region. His blissful countenance, deep scholarship, and childlike simplicity attracted many a devotee to him, scholar and lay. The Muni was holding classes on Vedanta treatises like Brahma Sutra, Panchadashi, Vritti Prabhakara etc. Young Hari Baba, who would go to Ganga for his morning bath, joined these classes.

After some time, Achyuta Muni was to leave this place and go to Wardha. He extended an invitation to Hari Baba to come there, and continue his Vedanta tutelage. Hari Baba agreed, and came away to Wardha.

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Achyuta Muni

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Achyuta Muni was a man of discipline. His rule was that his Vedanta class would commence exactly at Sunrise. Interested students would have to be there punctually. Hari Baba was as sincere as anyone could ever be. He would be up at 2 AM, walk six miles to the river to have his bath etc, do his morning exercises, meditate and be ready for the class at dawn.  After the class, he would contemplate on the subject being studied. After lunch, he would take some rest, do some svadhyaya and then again attend Achyuta Muni’s class from 3 to 5 PM.  After that, in the evenings, he had no fixed program. He came to know that in a place called Hanumangadi, which was nearby,  there was a Satsangha where akhand (non-stop) chanting of “Shree Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama” mantra was going on, for last few hundred years. This place had been associated with Satguru Samarth Ramdas (saint of 16th-17th century, Guru of Chatrapati Shivaji).

Hari Baba went for this Satsangh, and his life changed.

Feeling great joy after his first Satsangha, he started going there regulary. He was being helplessly drawn into Hari Bhakti. His Guru (Swami Sacchidananda Giri) too is supposed to have had a vision of Radha-Krishna in Brindavan, but his outward leaning had been towards Jnana. Hari Baba too had, therefore, been devoted to the path of Knowledge. But now, in Hanumangadi, he was being turned over completely.  He started experiencing Bhava Samadhi during the sankeertan (music and chanting). He lost control over himself. At one stage, he started exhibiting all eight Sattvik Bhava-s of pure Bhakti together. These are Ashru (tears), Pulaka (horripilation), stabdhataa (stunned stiffness), svedha (excessive sweating), kampa (trembling of body), svarabhanga (choking of voice), vaivarnya (discoloration) and, finally, moorccha (fainting).

Sri Paranjape, who was in-charge of the Satsangha there, was amazed at this sight. He, along with other devotees there, lifted him and made him lie down on a mat there. Soon, Hari Baba started making Humkaar thunder-like sounds, got up, and went and sat on the altar of the Lord. He became possessed by the Lord. Sitting there, he ordered the devotees to offer Bhog, and then asked them to seek whatever boon they desired. The assembled devotees were all immersed in waves of devotion seeing this unique happening. The singing was charged now. Soon Hari Baba got up and started dancing. The crowd was in bliss. Some fell at his feet, some were laughing or crying uncontrollably – all were lost in the mood. This went on the whole night, and when the Sun rose next morning, Hari Baba fell unconscious.

Upon regaining consciousness, he felt extremely embarrassed.  But Paranjape ji consoled him.

Thereafter, he started attending this satsangha every evening. Soon, these happenings reached the ears of Achyuta Muni. When Hari Baba went for his Vedanta class, the Muni asked him about it, whether it was true that he had been going to a Mutt and engaging himself in singing and dancing. Hari Baba remained silent. Taking his silence as affirmation, the Muni asked him to express his view. Hari Baba then conveyed, in all humility, his views. Paraphrasing what he conveyed, Hari Baba’s view was that there is no distinction between Nirguna and Saguna. In sum – ‘The One reality, is worshipped with many names. He said that if we examine the views of all our ancient Acharya-s, there too we will find that there is no distinction between Jnana and Bhakti. There can be no Jnana without Bhakti, and no Bhakti without Jnana. It is only when Brahmanishtta becomes ripe, does one find the right way to contemplate Saguna Brahman. “ In his own case, he conveyed that the bliss he had experienced in Bhakta Mandali was beyond expression. And that experience had only strengthened his Ahamgraha upaasana, Brahmanishtta.

Achyuta Muni ji conveyed that he had no complaints against that path, and that he too had done Japa of Lord’s name one lakh times every day. By that practice, even now the Japa of the name was going on automatically. But the path of practice of pure Vedanta was divergent from the path chosen by Hari Baba, and so he was free to pursue his path. Hari Baba, then took his permission to leave, and went back to Hanumangadi.

There, Paranjape ji gave him a book about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It was a book titled “Lord Gauranga”, written by Sri Shishir Kumar Ghose….

** To be continued **

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 3

April 19, 2015

भर्जनं भवबीजानामर्जनं सुखसम्पदाम्
तर्जनं यमदूतानां राम रामेति गर्जनम्

Destruction of the seed of transmigratory life-death cycle,
Acquisition of wealth and happiness,
Frightening away the messengers of death,
(Such are the effects of ) “Rama! Rama!” roar!

As we continue on our blog journey to the Baandh of Hari Baba, let us begin this post with a darshan of three Jeevanmukta saints… This is a short clip from a video on Sri Anandamayi Ma (1896 – 1982). This clip is from the most holy occasion of her 60th birthday, observed in May 1956. We have the joy of seeing Ma, Hari Baba, and Maharajshree Swami Akhandananda Saraswati…

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आत्मारामश्च मुनयो निर्ग्रन्था अप्युरुक्रमे।
कुर्वन्त्यहैतुकीं भक्तिमित्थम्भूतगुणो हरिः॥

(Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1, Ch 7, Verse 10)

The Muni-s (the silent sages), delighting in the ‘Self’
Unfettered from all book-knowledge (of any “other”)
Even they, without any reason, perform bhakti
To Hari, of wide strides,
Such are the wondrous virtues of the Lord (Hari)….

The above verse fits to a “T”, the great sage Hari Baba – a Jeevanmukta, one who delighted in the abidance as ‘Self’, who nonetheless, walked and preached the path of Hari Bhakti…

Hari Baba was born in Shukla Paksha Chaturdashi of the month of Phalguna in Vikram Samvat १९४१  (this would correspond to February 28, 1885 AD), in a village in the District of Hoshiarpur in Punjab. He was born in a Sikh family, of Ahluwalia lineage.  His great grandfather Sardar Budh Singh served in an important position in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s  army. Budh Singh had been born as a blessing of an  Avadhuta ascetic. His father Baba Pahlu had been childless and one day this Avadhuta walked into his village, seeking Madhukari Bhiksha food. Even as Pahlu Baba prepared some Roti, the Avadhuta walked away. Baba Pahlu went after him, and when the Avadhuta stopped somewhere,  Baba Pahlu caught up with him and offered him bhiksha. The Avadhuta laughed and asked him what he sought. Baba asked him to bless him with progeny. The Avadhuta told him that Baba Pahlu was destined not to have any child for another few births as well, but he would bless him with a child, and that he himself would be born in his family, as his great-great grandson, and traverse the path of God. He also gave him a bow, a flute, and a scripture-book for safekeeping in the family. This was handed down the family line. It is said that Hari Baba’s mother, before he was born, heard a deep voice which said that ‘I had given your forefather a bow, flute and a scripture. I shall now be born as your child’…

It is said that when Hari Baba was born, an idol of Lord Rama fell into the courtyard of the house from the sky.  It is also said that his parents had divine vision of Rama in their dreams, when he was in the womb.

On his birth, he was named Diwan Singh (pronounced Deevaan Singh).

As a child, Diwan was the youngest of five sons in a family of five sons and three daughters. Diwan was different from other children and was often found sitting in silent contemplation. When he was four years old, he had the first darshan of his Guru, Brahmanishtta Swami Sacchidananda Giri. Seeing the innate goodness of the child, his Guru lifted him with love and blessed him.

Diwan did his schooling in Hoshiarpur, and went on to join King Edward Medical College in Lahore for his professional education.  He would return often to Hoshiarpur and visit his Guru. His mother tried to fix a marital alliance for him, but he sternly refused to be drawn into married life, and that was that. He left his medical education in the final year, gave up material pursuit, and came away to his Guru. He stayed with his Guru and served him in every way. So deep was his Guru Bhakti, that it is said his Guru gave him oneness with his own state.

Upon his request to grant Sanyasa, his Guru declined, saying that he did not give Sanyasa to anyone. And that when the right time comes, Diwan would become a sanyasi by himself.

With permission from his Guru, Diwan left for Kashi. He joined a college course in B.Sc and also started offering tuition to make a living. But the fire of dispassion was burning so furiously in him that he could not pursue a worldly life anymore. Giving away all his material things, he adopted Vidwat Sanyaasa himself. Living on alms, he chose a temple, the Shoolakanteshwar shrine of Siva, as his place of stay.  When he stayed there, a Bengali Sadhu of name Shankaranand, gave him a kamandulu and invited him to his Ashram in Prayag (Allahabad) Draupadi ghat. Sadhu Diwan went to Prayag and chose a cave near Shankaranand’s Asram for his stay. There, he performed intense spiritual practice, living a life of terrific austerity. He would take Madhukari bhiksha once a week. From the Roti-s collected, he would bury what was left over. Each day he would take out one Roti, wet it in water, and eat. That was his food for the day. A snake was his co-resident in the cave, and was even seen sitting on his head when he was immersed in Samadhi in meditation. After staying in Prayag for three years, he started his parivrajaka life again and returned to his Guru’s Ashrama in Hoshiarpur. While immersed in bliss in his heart, he was in some trepidation as he came to his Guru. Afraid of what his Guru would say on seeing him as a Sanyaasi, he came to him in the night and fell at his feet weeping. His Guru, however, was overjoyed, and told him – “Son! You have attained the aim of human birth. And by this act, you have brought fruition for me too! You have been a Sadhu even since birth. And now, since you have taken Sanyaasa yourself, you shall be called ‘Svatah Prakash’ (Self Radiant)!”

After staying for some time with his Guru, he started on his ‘wandering’ again. He went to Anandpur Saheb and served in a Gurudvara there, and continued his austerities. He would narrate the stories of Sikh Guru-s to pilgrims coming there.  He took on the service of cleaning the huge vessel used for Langhar. In the icy cold of Punjab winter, he would bathe in the Gurudvara pond at 3 AM, and then sit for meditation.

After Anandpur Saheb, he went to many other places, and came to Vraja in the region of Brindavan. There he decided to be of service to an ailing, elderly Bengali Sanyasi, a monk of the Gaudiya order. In his dwelling, he was intensely drawn by a picture of a saint. The Sadhu told him that the picture was of Swami Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  Hari Baba immediately recalled reading in the press in his Lahore college days, a statement of Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda had said that the Bhava-samadhi of his Guru, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, was like that of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

After Vraja, Swami Svatah Prakash (Hari Baba), now a monk in his early twenties, went to the region of Ganga. Going past Aligarh, he came to the region of  Anupshehr, and then on to a village  named Bheriya. This is near the current location of Hari Baba Baandh (where our blog journey is headed)…

More on that in the next post…

Signing off this post with a picture of Hari Baba as a young Sanyasi – Swami Svatah Prakash… He is seen with his head tilted slightly to the right, eyes down, gazing within, a pose that was characteristic of him throughout his life…. Which you would have seen in the video clip above as well…

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1-Hari Baba young sanyasi

… To be continued …

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 1

April 5, 2015

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.

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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.

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Krishna`

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Ganga at Narora is magnificent. Here is a very short video clip…

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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>

Arunachala in December – A picture post

December 28, 2014

Namaste.

The year 2014 comes to an end, and we go for a short visit to Arunachala…. To Sri Ramanasramam (Asram).

26 December… Start off on Giripradakshinam, the holy walk around Arunachala

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Half an hour or so into the walk, we come across a shrine that’s closed… Draupadi amman temple… A Soota moment…

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An hour and a half into the ‘valam’, we come to the Adi Annamalai temple, the old temple of Arunachaleshwara, 180 degress on the other side of the mountain from the main Arunachaleshwara temple…

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A large group of Europeans are having a ceremony of sorts inside the temple, opposite the Goddess Apitakuchamba shrine. A European lady is sitting right next to the sanctum and is absorbed in meditation… This is the ‘Idea of India’ that Soota understands… Soota and friend walk around the outer ‘praakaaram’ chanting Rudram, seeing the mountain and the temple… This is heaven…

Setting off again…. A nice view of Arunachala…

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We return to the room at around 9 pm… Nidra time…

27 December…

We are up at 4 am… For the plan is to visit the big temple of Arunachaleshwara. This being the month of Margazhi, the temple opens at 3 am. We are in the temple at 5 am.

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Entering the inner courtyard, we are greeted by the sight of hundreds of pilgrims lining up in a queue…. We are late… No hope of having darshan for another hour, at the very least…

We amble around the temple, taking in the sights…

Here is a picture of devotees, in the morning darkness, lighting ghee lamps near the shrine of Navagraha… Today is Saturday, and folks light lamps for Shaneeshvara…

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We return to the Asram.. See the morning Puja… Have breakfast… Stroll around…

Some sights..

A peacock strikes a philosopher’s pose on top of a thatch roof of one of the dwellings in the Asram. Today is Shashti… the day of the month sacred for worship of Lord Subrahmanya… Who is identified with Ramana as well…

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A view of the Asram Gosala…

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After some silent time at the Asram halls, we come back to the Arunachaleshvara temple at around 10 am. This time, we somehow manage to have Darshan… Wonderful… Especially the darshan of Goddess Apitakuchamba, the consort of Lord Arunachaleshwara… Darshan of Her feet, from up close…

A few pictures from this visit to the temple.. Click and browse.

Around 12 Noon we return to Asram for Lunch. Delicious prasadam… Blessings of Bhagavan..

Picture time..

One, of a Caucasian child posing on the Iluppai tree in the front yard of the Asram…

Me Tarzan… You Jane… Lovely…

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Signing off for the year with a little video clip… Of Deeparadhana… Puja offered at Ramana Sivalinga…

Sacred sound and light….

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Wishing all a very happy 2015!

Om!

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 43 – Mangalam

July 21, 2014

Did I mention that the water-cans bought at Darchen did not last? Many co-yatris who had filled their darchen-cans with Manasarovar water found that their cans had cracked, and the waters gone… More titiskha… Fellow Yatri-s pitched in and gave some from their cans, and all’s well that ends well.

On the 9th of July, 2013, Soota left Kathmandu for New Delhi. After a days there, he returned home, to Chennai… A tremendous sense of peace enveloped him. Walking past the shrine of Buddha in the Theosophical society, Chennai, he felt beautifully insignificant. A month later, on Ekadashi tithi, he and Shankar came to Tiruvannamalai and did Giriprakshanam (circumambulation of Arunachala) as thanksgiving. It was on another Ekadashi day, two fortnights ago, that they had done the second day of Kora, and crossed the Dolma La.

Soota also made a trip to Kanchipuram, to Kailasanatha temple, and offered some Maanas water for abhisheka to Lord Kailasanatha. Also to Devi Kamakshi at Kanchipuram and Mundagakkanni Amman at Chennai… And then this year, on Sivaratri night, Soota, Shankar, Shiva – three co-yatris of Kailasa – along with Narayana Iyer, another friend who had done Kailasa Yatra a few years earlier – did Arunachala Kora together…. Om Nama Sivaya!

In Chennai, immediately after his return from Kailasa Yatra, Soota shared his Yatra experience in ‘story-telling’ sessions with a small group of enthusiasts. He commenced writing this blog series as well, little realizing what he was getting into. A series that has taken a whole year to complete. Many of you have been with this whole Yatra – and heartfelt thanks to you all. Many have decided to make the Yatra themselves… More power to them… We have now entered the Tibetan year of the horse – a kumbh-mela year of pilgrimage of Kailasa… Comes once in twelve years… Om Nama Sivaya!

Yes, it has been a fascinating experience – being in the ‘zone’ for a whole year. Many nuggets of information came one’s way. Here’s one tidbit – In 1943 and 44, Sree Kailasa Sarana, a lingayat from Karnataka, did 100 rounds of Kailasa and 12 of Maanasa… (Info courtesy Swami Pranavananda). Another nugget: Did you know that the Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi, has done Kailash Manasarovar Yatra by foot?

Here’s a picture from the Net.. A young Modi, at Kailasa ( Click here for source  )

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And one reads now, that just a few days ago, Indian Premier Narendra Modi met with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and discussed opening of an alternative route for Kailash Yatra. A news report in the Hindu (Click here ) states – “The two leaders met at Fortaleza in Brazil, ahead of the BRICS summit where Mr. Modi raised the possibility of additional route for the Mansarovar Yatra since the present one from Uttarakhand is complicated… The Chinese President gave an assurance to consider the request for an alternative route. .. The alternate way to Mansarovar goes from Kinnaur in Himachal and is much easier, shorter and safer. From the last Indian village of Shipkila in Kinnaur the holy lake of Mansarovar is just 91 km away and can be covered by road with a little trekking. “

How wonderful…

As Soota draws curtains on this blog series on Maanas-Kailasa Yatra, a verse from ‘Avadhuta Gita’ comes to his mind…

त्वद्यात्रया व्यापकता हता ते
ध्यानेन चेतःपरता हता ते ।
स्तुत्या मया वाक्परता हता ते
क्षमस्व नित्यं त्रिविधापराधान् ।।

 Lord! By making a pilgrimage (to holy places), your all-pervasiveness has been negated, destroyed . By meditating on you, your transcendence of mind has been negated, destroyed. By my praising you, your being beyond the reach of words has been negated, destroyed. Lord, ever forgive me for these triple sins.

This was the proclamation of Avadhuta, Dattatreya. He in the Bliss of complete non-duality, steps down from it to offer this prayer… Yes, this proclamation of the Avadhuta (the all renouncing mendicant sanyasi) is a prayer too! To the same all-pervading, supreme, transcendence that is Siva.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said – “I don’t want to become sugar; I want to eat it. I never feel like saving, ‘I am Brahman.’ I say, ‘Thou art my Lord and I am Thy servant.’..”

Let us then sing Mangalam to Siva… Auspiciousness to auspiciousness.

First the words of Goswami Tulasidas, who says in Ramacharitamanas….

परम रम्य गिरिवर कैलासू, सदा जहाँ शिव उमा निवासू।।
रचि महेस निज मानस राखा। पाइ सुसमउ सिवा सन भाषा।।

Supremely enchanting is the best of Mountains, Kailasa! Eternally, where, reside Siva and Uma!
Siva composed (Ramacharita-maanasa) and kept in his Maanasa;
And when the auspicious time came, he conveyed it to his consort, Sivaa (Parvati)!

Yes, the Manasarovar is the pure consciousness that is the carita of Rama…

Next, in the words of that great father of saints, Appar, Tirunavukkarasar – the King of Holy Words… A verse from his Tiru-Kailaya-tirutthaandakam

ஆட்சி உலகை உடையாய், போற்றி! அடியார்க்கு
அமுது எலாம் ஈவாய், போற்றி!
சூட்சி சிறிதும் இலாதாய், போற்றி! சூழ்ந்த
கடல் நஞ்சம் உண்டாய், போற்றி!
மாட்சி பெரிதும் உடையாய், போற்றி! மன்னி
என் சிந்தை மகிழ்ந்தாய், போற்றி!
காட்சி பெரிதும் அரியாய், போற்றி! கயிலை
மலையானே, போற்றி போற்றி!.

Praise the Lord, ruler of the world!
Praise Him who gives all happiness!
Praise Him who has not the least trace of deceit ;
Praise Him who gulped the sea venom!
Praise Him who has great virtues !
Praise Him who abides happily in my consciousness!
Praise Him whose vision cannot be had without great difficulty!
Praise that One who abides in Kailasa mountain! Praise! Praise!

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And another from Siva who walked on earth as Jagadguru Shankara Bhagavatpada …. Adi Shankara, sings in his great work, Sivanandalahari –

कदा वा कैलासे कनकमणिसौधे सहगणै-
र्वसन् शंभोरग्रे स्फुटघटितमूर्धाञ्जलिपुटः |
विभो साम्ब स्वामिन् परमशिव पाहीति निगदन्
विधातॄणां कल्पान् क्षणमिव विनेष्यामि सुखतः ||

 

 When, indeed, will I be in Kailasa
In the gold-and-jewels mansion of yours,
In the company of your gaNA-s (attendant denizens)
When, indeed will I be in front of you,
O Shambhu, doer of all good,
With my hands raised, folded in prayer!
Oh all pervading Lord, One with Goddess Mother, Master,
Supreme Siva,
(When indeed will I be thus) praying aloud – “Save me! Save me!”
(Indeed, when will it be)
When I expend eternities of creator’s time, in happiness,
As if it were but a brief moment!

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So fellow Yatris in this blog journey of Maanas-Kailasa, praise be to the force that is Siva…. Lama Govinda, avers in his book “The Way of the White Clouds” –

There are many religious Orders in this world, Orders with rules and regulations, with dogmas and rituals, with vows and initiations. But the brotherhood of those who have performed the pilgrimage to Kailas, who have gone through the trials of dangers and hardships, and were rewarded with the glorious vision of the sacred land, has received an initiation of the most profound nature. The invisible bond which unites them needs no vows, no dogmas, and no rituals. It consists in their common experience, the lasting effect of which is stronger than any manmade rules and distinctions”.

Ramana Maharshi, the sage of Arunachala, has said – “To go to Kailasa and return is just a new birth. For there the body idea drops off.”

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தென்னாடுடைய சிவனே போற்றி
என் நாட்டவர்க்கும் இறைவா போற்றி
மானக் கயிலை மலையாய் போற்றி

Salutations to Siva, the Lord of the Southern Land,
Salutations to Him, who is the Lord of the those of every country,
Salutations to Him, who resides in Kailasa Mountain!

Today is Adi Krithigai, sacred day of Lord Karthikeya, the son of Siva! Haro Hara!

As this post goes to Net, Ekadashi thithi has just come in…

Om Mani Padme Hum! Om Nama Sivaya! Maanasa-Kailasa Yatra Sampoornam!

Thank you, one and all…

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदम् पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते |
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ||

** Om Tat Sat **

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 42

July 13, 2014

There is no finer ring on earth than that which bears the names of Manasarowar, Kailas, and Gurla Mandatta ; it is a turquoise set between two diamonds.“ – Sven Hedin (Swedish Explorer who came to Manasarovar in 1907)

In this blog yatra, we have seen the the upper diamond (Kailasa) and the turquoise ( Maanasa). And now, let us turn to the other diamond in the ring – the great mountain of Gurla Mandhata…. marked GM in the satellite picture below…

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Standing at 25,240 feet, Gurla Mandhata is 34th highest peak in the world. Situated roughly 100 kms south of Mt Kailasa, the mountain is a part of the mystic quartet of Kailasa, Maanasa, Raakshasa, and Mandhata. To the Sahasrara chakra of Kailasa, and the ida-pingala of Rakshasa-Maanasa, Gurla Mandhata is perhaps Manipura – the chakra that has Agni as the element corresponding to it.

As far as mountains go, the Gurla Mandhata has its uniqueness. In his book ‘The Way of the White Clouds’, Lama Govinda writes – “Very different from the rugged peaks of the Himalaya in the south, the Mandhata Range forms one plastically moulded massif which if it could be seen from the air would appear in the form of an immense swastika .”

He calls it the Svastika mountain. Agni (celestial power that is fire) is svastika of seven arms. Giving below, side by side, a picture of 7 armed svastika from the Net (an interesting optical illusion picture) and a Google earth top view of Gurla Mandhata. Notice the spokes (svastika arms) coming out of the core of the mountain…

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Incidentally, the Agni Sahasranama that Shankar has been chanting throughout the Kailasa Yatra, gives  a thousands names of Agni from across the Veda-s, and Mandhata is one of them…

Let’s come to the mountain…

Pilgrims from India, coming via the Lipu Lekh pass into Tibet, would come to Takklakot, and then go up and across a pass in the Gurla Mandhata mountain, and then come suddenly upon the spectacular view of heaven spreading before their eyes…. The twin lakes, Manasarovar and Rakshas Tal down below, and the great Mt Kailasa, the abode of Siva, in the far horizon…

Ready for a darshan?

I first tried to experience what this view might be like, by simulating it in Google Earth. And here’s what I saw.

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And then when I was surfing the Net, I came across an actual photograph…

Beautiful beyond words… The Rakshas Tal on the left, Maanas on the right, and Mt Kailasa peak seen in the far distance, at approx 11 O Clock position… Click on the picture to enlarge….

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“M” in his book  ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master – A Yogi’s Autobiography’ speaks of a vision that he had when he came to Manasarovar. He had visions of his own past life, as a loin-cloth clad yogi meditating in a cave in Gurla Mandhata mountain, overlooking the Maanas…

So how did the mountain get the name ‘Mandhata’?

Swami Tapovan Maharaj, the great hermit of the Himalaya, took the route via Gurla Mandhata when he walked to Maanas-Kailas in 1925. About this mountain, he writes – “King Mandhata, who was a jewel of Krita Yuga had done tapas in the caves of this mountain for a long time. It is because of this that this mountain came to be known as Mandhatru mountain“.

Let us come back to the great King in a moment… First let us return the complement of the picture above, by seeing a reverse. That of the Mandhata mountain, as seen from the eastern valley of Mt Kailasa.. The snow clad Mandhata rising behind the Rakshas Tal…

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Who was King Mandhata, and how is it that his name has not just endured for all these years, but has stamped itself in the most holy region of Maanas-Kailas!

Swami Tapovan Maharaj has described King Mandhata as a jewel of Krita yuga… He is described prominently in the oldest epic of India, the Ramayana of Valmiki, as also in the Mahabharata. Needless to say, he features in other Purana-s as well.

Mandhata was one of the early rulers in the lineage of Ikshvaku Kings, and was one of the forefathers of Lord Rama. King Ikshvaku, after whom the lineage of Rama is named, was the son of Manu. The lineage from Manu to Mandhata is thus… Manu -> Ikshvaku -> Kukshi -> Vikukshi -> Baana -> Anaranya -> Prithu -> Trishanku -> Dundumara -> Yuvanashava -> Mandhata… And twenty fifth generation from Mandhata was born Sri Rama. Is it the great penance of Mandhata that has made Maanasa synonymous with the katha of Rama?

Let us have a glimpse of the great King, as described in the epics. King Yuvanashva, was a great ruler. He ruled for many years, but fortune did not favor him with a child. He finally gave his Kingdom in trust to a council of ministers and went off to the forest to perform Tapasya. When he was there, unknown to him, Rshi Chyavana of Bhrigu lineage, was performing an Ishti Yagya, for the King to beget a son. He had invoked the Veda Mantra shakti and had imbued a vessel of water with the power of seeding an offspring for the King. Now the King was not aware of this. As it happened, that night when the Ishti Yagya had been done, King Yuvanashva was in the vicinity in the forest, and was suffering from acute thirst. Seeking water, he entered this ashrama and tried to wake up the people to get water. As destiny would have it, no one heeded his call. Then he happened to spot this vessel of water, and he drank it off. When Rshi Chyavana woke up, he saw that the vessel was empty. On enquiry, the King confessed that it was he who had drunk the water. Now, the Rshi had kept the water for the Queens of Yuvanashva to drink, so that they may become pregnant. Now, the King had drunk off the water. Destiny cannot be averted. He became pregnant. Rshi Chyavana however blessed him that he would have a fine son, and he would also not have the pains of labor and delivery.. Now, when the time came for delivery, Ashvini twins, the Doctors of the Gods, came and did a surgery on Yuvanashva and a son was born. Now , the question arose as to who would nurse the baby with milk? Indra, the Lord of Celestials, announced “maam dhaasyati” – “The child will drink milk from me”. He then produced Amruta milk from his finger, which the baby suckled. Because of this, the child got the name Maam-dhaataa or Mandhata. By the power of Indra, the child grew up double quick, and all knowledge of Veda, Shastra, and Weaponry revealed themselves to him. He became the greatest of Kings and conquered all seven continents of the earth. Such was his power that one when there was continuous drought for twelve years, he brought rains to the earth by the power of his own penance, without the intercession of Indra. After establishing Dharma in all corners of the earth, he left for the mountains for penance, and after many years of supreme penance, the day came for him to leave his mortal form and ascend to heaven and an aerial car from heaven came to take him there. As he was flying, attended to by celestials, the great Ravana happened to notice. Ravana, the ten headed Rakshasa, was fresh from his assault on Kailasa, where he had defeated Kubera. He had subsequently gone around challenging all other celestials … And then he had even battled Yama… And now, he saw a King going in all grandeur to heaven. He enquired and came to know that it was the great King Mandhata. He challenged Mandhata for a fight. Then ensued a terrific battle, and at end, Mandhata picked up the great Brahmastra which he had got from Siva. Seeing the Brahmastra about to be used, the great Rshi Pulastya, who was Ravana’s grandfather, interceded and requested Mandhata to desist from using the weapon. Mandhata withdrew the weapon, and Ravana went his way after agreeing to a friendly truce. Thus it was that Mandhata was so great, that not even Ravana could defeat him. This, in brief is the story of Mandhata as seen in the epics.

Now, a picture break….

Here’s a photo of Gurla Mandhata mountain, taken from the banks of Manasarovar…

Beautiful.. Do click on the picture and gaze…..

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Now, we saw that Mandhata had pleased Siva with his penance and had got the Brahmastra from him. Mandhata’s name is inextricably linked with Lord Siva. And for some reason, he is also associated with hills and mountains. There is another Mandhata mountain region in Madhya Pradesh (the region of Vindhyas),the region of river Narmada, where the stones of the river are collected and revered as sacred BaaNa-linga-s, the holy stones of Siva. The holy Siva kshetra of Omkareshwar is situated here. This is the abidance of Siva as Omkareshwar/Amaleshwar. This place is known as Omkar Mandhata, and is associated with King Mandhata. Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya, writes in his ‘dvAdasha jyotirlinga stotram’ :

कावेरिकानर्मदयोः पवित्रे समागमे सज्जनतारणाय |
सदैवमान्धातृपुरे वसन्तमोङ्कारमीशं शिवमेकमीडे ||

In the holy confluence of Kaveri and Narmada, in the puri (city) of Mandhata, Siva resides eternally, for the sake of salvation of all good people. To that Lord Omkara, the One, Siva, I offer worship.

Now… All these stories are Soota territory….

But where is the katha that connects Mandhata with Kailasa? This was a mystery.

It was a mystery to this Soota, until by the Grace of Siva, an unexpected mail popped up in his in-box, from a blog reader in Canada,

The mail went like this:

Namaste Kamesh

You are not going to believe this. I was reading your last post a few days ago…

Then I had this powerful experience this morning after meditation that  Dolma la Devi is my kulam devata  —- along with Puthur Shiva.

Dolma la came to Kerala and is residing as  Thirumandham Kunnu Bhagavati Temple in Angadipuram.  Read the story on their website if it is there. Otherwise, the temple manager gave me a booklet that has it. I can share with you…

etc

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So I googled and went to the website of this temple ( Click here for the link )

And guess what I found? The Mandhata Kailasa connection!

The story, in brief, goes like this. King Mandhata performed terrific penance in Kailasa. Pleased with his penance, Lord Siva offered him any boon that he may desire. Mandhata asked for a Siva Lingam that he may worship. Siva gave him the a most holy Siva Linga, which was in fact used by his consort Parvati, for her personal worship. As reader may guess, he did this in Parvati’s absence. Mandhata took this idol and carrying it reverentially on his head, he headed South. Coming to the southern part of the country, to the region now known as Kerala. There, he reached a certain hill. When he came there, he felt the siva linga too heavy to carry and had to place it down. And the Siva Linga got established there.

Meanwhile, in Kailasa, Parvati returned to find her idol of Siva missing. Coming to know from Lord Siva that the idol had been given to King Mandhata, she dispatched her own Shakthi, of Bhadrakali, to go get the idol back. Kali, along with Siva bhoota gana-s, rushed to where the hill where Mandhata had placed the Siva Linga. There they tried to get the idol by force but were unsuccessful. The Siva Linga was so dazzling that the attacking Kali could not go near it. She tried to attack from a distance, but was thwarted by defense put by ascetics who were with King Mandhata. Then Kali took a fierce form. So fierce was she that the ascetics were frozen in fright. She then marched into the temple. King Mandhata, completely helpless, sought protection, by holding on to the Linga in a tight embrace. Kali tried to snatch the Linga by force. So fierce was the force and so tight was his embrace that the Linga split into two. And from that manifested Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and Parvati, along with baby Ganesha. Parvati was pleased with the devotion of Mandhata, and granted his prayer that the Linga remain there. She herself merged with Siva in the idol. By her command, due honor was given to Bhadrakali who had come there before her. So, we have here this great temple now, with a split Siva Linga in the moola sthana, and a separate shrine for Bhagavati Bhadrakali, who graces the world here, in the form a six foot idol made of Daru wood. She is revered by the popular name of Thirumandhamkunnilamma – the mother (who abides) in the Holy hill of Maandhaa.

The temple is known as Tiru-Maandaam-kunnu, or the Holy Hill of Maandhaa. This ancient and holy kshetra houses the great Atma Linga that King Mandhata brought from Kailasa. Bhadrakali is synonymous with Dolma Devi – the Goddess after whom the mountain and the pass on the eastern side of Kailasa is named, and to whom Kora pilgrims offer worship…

The blog reader who led me to this information has written a  more detailed description of the kshetra and the connection to Kailasa. (Click here to read that post.)

Is it not wonderful that the land of Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Tapovanam has the holy Siva Linga that Mandhata brought from Kailasa!

The temple history in the website states that the King did penance here for many years. For continued worship, he prepared a grantham treatise that contained details of procedures to be followed, and handed the temple over to two Brahmana-s. whose descendents serve as tantri of the temple to this day. The King himself retired to a forest nearby known as Kukshipparakkad (any connection with Kukshi, the son of Ikshvaku?), where he gave up his body by means of Yoga. In 1959, a devaprashnam (a divine oracle) directed the temple authorities to install an idol of King Mandhata as well. That was done and worship is being offered.

The ancient heritage of Bharatavarsha has seen many great Kings who are remembered to this day… These include Bharata, Dileepa, Yayati, Mandhata, Shibi, Sagara, Bhageeratha and others. Even among them, Mandhata stands tall as a mountain.

A  mountain that bears his name and stands south of Maanasa, as a counter pole to Kailasa. Another hill that is the abidance of the Jyotirlinga of Omkareshwara/Amaleshwara in the banks of Narmada, whose every stone is worshiped as Siva. And a third hill, in the holy kshetra of Thirumandhamkunnu, which houses the most holy Atma Linga of Kailasa,

Glory to Mandhata!

Signing off this post with a photograph of Gurla Mandhata mountain, taken from Manasarovar… The evening sky was surreal blue. Young Dash was the ace photographer who caught this magic on camera.

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नमो नीलग्रीवाय च शितिकण्ठाय च ।

Salutations to He of Blue Throat, and He of White throat!

Om Nama Siva!

** To be concluded **