Archive for the ‘temple visits’ Category

Kotwal of the Capital – 6

April 15, 2016

Happy Ramanavami to all!

Shri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama!

Let us commence our journey with kotwal of the Capital.

April 1986…

The sculpted idol of Hanuman is ready in Karkala, Karnataka. Brahmachari ji and a group of devotees are now all set to travel with the idol and take it to New Delhi. Shreepaad Baba is also there with them now. Baba is conversant in many languages – and so is a great help for Brahmachari ji.

The truck-trailer for carrying the idol has arrived.

Brahmachariji and group go to Udupi Krishna temple and have darshan of the Lord. One of the desires of Maharajshree is that the Delhi Hanuman temple should have a chariot like the one at Udupi Krishna temple, so that a ceremonial idol of Hanuman can be taken in procession along some major roads of Delhi….

On First of May 1989, the trailer commenced its journey. After a short distance, the trailer broke down under the load of the massive Hanuman, and the journey came to a halt. To reach the main road, one had to traverse a few kms of kacchaa (unpaved) road… And the trailer had got stuck in that kacchaa road itself. A new axle had to be transported from Bombay and an additional trailer arranged. This would take time. Local well wishers would tell Brahmachariji that he should visit this or that local temple and pray for relief from obstacles. He faithfully visited every temple…. Axle and trailer arrived by 15th May. Once again the journey commenced on 16th of May – and once again, the tyres burst. This was the story that repeated for the next few days.. Fix the tyres, move a few kms, then tyres burst… And wherever the trailer stopped, local people would make a beeline and there would be a festive atmosphere as they collected for Darshan of this huge Hanuman on the trailer.

Somehow or the other, by and by, they made it to the highway – and by end of the month they had reached a village named suratkalaam where the axle broke once more.

Their primary destination was the railway yard at Mangalore. To reach that they had to cross a road bridge. And for crossing that they needed ‘permission’ from the state road authorities. And as Hanuman would have it, the authorities firmly denied permission, stating that the bridge would not be able to bear the load of the humungous Hanuman. So they were stuck in Suratkalaam, with no permission to go further. Meanwhile, the press started carrying reports that Hanuman himself, perhaps, did not want to proceed from there!

While the team knocked on all doors, none opened. The driver of the truck-trailer and the team of workers decided that it was fruitless to wait and so they simply left the trailer and returned to Bombay. Meanwhile, Shreepad Baba had left for Bangalore to meet with the State Highway authorities and get their permission for moving the trailer. Brahmachariji was distraught, and he did Satyagraha… As such he lived on a meager diet of vegetables and Ganga water – and now he declared that he was giving up even that – until Hanuman moved to Delhi.

And the monsoon broke out in June. During that period the road traffic in that route is severely affected. So, everything was going wrong…. The whole of June, the trailer was grounded in Suratkalaam.

Meanwhile, Brahmachariji was feeding Hanuman every day with a diet of Sankeertan – of Rama Nama – for that is the food of Hanuman…. As for himself, he stopped taking even Ganga water by the middle of June. He was on a total fast. After much pleading, he took some juice on 23rd.

On 23rd, a Sri Jagdeesh Chandra Batra, a barrister devotee of Brahmachariji arrived. And Shreepad Baba returned from Bangalore on 25th, successful in getting some sort of permit.

Mr Batra meanwhile talked to local authorities in Mangalore and came up with a brilliant alternative. The idol could be transported to Perambur station – which is attached to the Mangalore port, then they would not need to cross the road bridge at all. Moreover, the Port authorities were willing to extend all help (of cranes etc) to help transport the idol. So suddenly the Sun shone.

However the eclipse was never far away. The Government authorities sent a notice saying that the trailer should not be moved even a bit without written permission from the authorities. So more obstacles had to be crossed. Finally, permission was obtained, and the trailer reached the Mangalore port railway yard on 6th of July – full three months after being ready to move from Karkala. Around 11th of July – the train left for Delhi. It was a slow coach transportation, and there were several halts and breaks of journey. Finally, the special wagon carrying the idol reached Tughlakabad station of Delhi only on 2nd of August. As in all places of halt in between, huge number of devotees gathered for receiving and worshipping Hanuman…

Now was the next great task of moving the massive Hanuman from Tuglakabad to the Ashram at Basant Gaon. They could start only on 12th August, but the trailer broke down on the way – as before. After a halt of 24 hours, the trailer moved again, and they could finally reach Basant Gaon on 13th August around 11 pm. There, the trailer again broke down under Peepal tree that was in the vicinity of the Ashram. And there he remained unmovable for the next few weeks….

The folks working on moving the idol were at their wits end. They tried to use all engineering power, with multiple engines on the job – but the idol could not be moved. Finally, giving up, they came to Brahmachariji and put up their hands. Brahmachariji smiled and asked them to give some Laddoo as Bhog to Hanuman. Quickly thy went and got two packets of Laddoo. Brahmachariji laughed and said that this is too little for this huge Hanuman. And then 40 Kgs of Laddoo was organized, which Brahmachariji personally offered as Bhog to Hanuman, speaking to him all the while. And then, on his ‘go’ signal, they tried again, and this time, with no difficulty, with just a single engine, the idol was moved and placed in the courtyard of the Ashram… It was 1/Sep/1989.

The task remaining on hand was lift the huge idol and install it on the ‘Peetha’ that was designed for its base. For this, the contractors were demanding huge sums – excess of 30 or 50 Lakhs of rupees. At end, one of Brahmachariji’s ardent devotees, Shree Jaya Prakash Gaud, a leading industrialist, took this task upon himself – and set about working on this heart and soul.

Meanwhile, Brahmachariji was still on his discipline of eating next to nothing. He was resolved not to break this until Hanuman was made to stand on his designed position.

As work progressed, soon it was month of Magh – and the annual Magha festival in Sangam was on hand. Brahmachariji never missed a single day of bathing in Sangam during that period. And so he left for his Ashram at Jhusi, Prayag.

Meanwhile, work went on and Hanuman was finally standing – almost in the final position – in the designed base. The date  was 24th of January, 1990. Cries of Jay Hanuman filled the air of Basant Gaon…. On hearing this news, Bramachariji came from Prayag, and with tears streaming, he feasted his eyes on Hanuman. Work was still in progress… And Hanuman was made to finally stand in the proper position by midnight of 24th Jan. But Brahmachariji was not there to see that as he had to return to Prayag earlier in the night – he would not break his niyama of bathing every single day in Sangam during magha mela in Prayag.

After the Magh mela, Brahmachariji came away to Sunrakha village, near Brindavan, where he had renovated the Ashrama of Saubhari Rishi, in whose lineage he had been born. A Mela had been organized there, and Brahmachariji, in failing health, attended that.

After that, he came away to his Ashram in Brindavam, and his health was fast deteriorating. Second week of March, 1990. Devraha Baba would send someone to enquire about Brahmachariji’s health every hour or even several times an hour – so critical was Brahmachariji’s condition… Baba would send Aushadhi (medicines), but Brahmachariji was not taking any. He had but one strong desire left. To go to his Hanuman in Delhi. Bowing to his will, his devotees brought him to Delhi. He arrived at Basant Gaon Ashram in the evening.

Seated in front of Hanuman, he gazed at the Lord, his eyes streaming non-stop. Then he asked to be taken on a parikrama (circling) of the idol, even as he sat on his chair and entered Samadhi state. The next morning, at dawn, he merged into the Infinite Light. The date was 11th March 1990.

His last project done, he merged in His Hanuman – the Kotwal of the Capital.

Jai Siya Ram!

Signing off this series with a photo of great Guardian … Taken in Jan 2016 – twenty six years since the great installation…

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Basant Gaon Hanuman

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** Concluded. Sri Rama Jayam **

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…

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… – 2

April 12, 2015

We start now from the Ganga at Narora, to the hermitage of Hari Baba, the “Baandh” (dyke) that he built on the Ganga, near the village of Gavaan-badaayoon…

Hari Baba (1884 – 1970) was one of the great sages of twentieth century India. He was a Jeevanmukta, one who has attained liberation while still alive. He was the humblest of humble servants of God. He attained self-knowledge at an early age, and thereafter was immersed in the path of devotion to God. He advocated the path of Bhakti, with special emphasis to Samkeertana, singing of God’s name. It was he who mobilized communities of villagers to build a dyke in the land of Ganga, to save hundreds of villages which used to be submerged in floods year after year. And this was done without any Government funding or help… It was done by common people from villages all around, singing the name of God, as appropriate to their path and religion.

When singing God’s name, he would always be seen with the “ghantaa” – a gong bell struck with a mallet… At all times, his eyes would be downcast, towards the heart….

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Hari Baba

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How is one like us to even comprehend the glory of this sage…

Let us see what Maharajshree (Swami Akhandananda Saraswati of Ananda Vrindavana Asrama) had to say about Hari Baba…

“Among all the sages that I have had Darshan of in my life, Sri Hari Baba Maharaj, was a distinctive Mahapurusha, completely non-worldly.

People knew of him as “Baandh waale Baba” (The sage who built the Dyke on Ganga), or as a sage who preached the way of Keerthana (singing the name of God). However, I have seen him as a personification of complete non-attachment. In his life, he had no attachment whatsoever with anyone. He may offer worship, do Saashtaang-dandavat prostrations (full length on the ground, like a stick, with eight parts of the body touching the ground), and then he may well quietly walk away. He may make someone sit on the Simhasana (altar of God), and look upon him as God Himself, and then again, he may thereafter stop meeting or speaking to that person. He could well detach himself in a moment from his greatest of devotees, and just walk away.

His faith and devotion to Guru remained firm and steady – he would wave the fan-whisk of worship to someone, but contemplation would be on his Guru. Dedication to Vedanta became second-nature to him even from the time of his youth. In his conduct, he was the mirror-image of Lord Sri Ramachandra. When he was immersed in Samkeertana, there would be the manifestation of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. While his speech, smile, glance would be dripping with affection, absolute samyama (self-restraint, a self-fettering, eyes-closed approach to the world) was also patently seen in him. Such was he, that on coming to his vicinity and protecting presence, even pretenders would become true devotees. The service that has been rendered by him to poor people, farmers, and villagers is indeed matchless.

I have seen in His life, the ideal life that a satpurusha should lead. As a Jeevanmukta (self-realized sage) adopting appropriate role-play with one and all in his dealings in the world, in the same manner was the persona/role-play of Hari Baba in all his activities. He filled his time with the God’s-name, Satsangha (the company of sages and good people), and with the lore of sport of God.

By his remembrance, one’s heart becomes cleansed.

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It was to his Baandh that we were proceeding to.

As it happened, the initial idea was to visit the Baandh on Saturday, the 4th of April. That was a full-moon day (Poornima) and also Hanuman Jayanti. A very auspicious day. The plan was to reach Brindavan on 3rd evening, stay overnight, proceed to Hari Baba Baandh on 4th, and keep the return plan open. Perhaps return on 4th or 5th.

As one came closer to the date, I was coordinating with Brahmachari R on the logistics, and called him when I was in the car, returning from work… He told me that there was an issue. A monk from Udiya Baba asrama had mentioned that 4th was the day of Grahana. He wanted to know if that was indeed so. I said ‘yes’, 4th was indeed the day of lunar-eclipse. He wanted to know the exact time of eclipse. Thanks to technology, I browsed the Net and called him back, confirming that it was sometime in the evening, between 6-40 and 7-15 PM. Further conversations, back and forth, and it was decided that it would not be wise to travel on the day of eclipse. The Shastra-s do not advise that. On a grahana day, all temples would be closed too, till the eclipse was over. So it is that we preponed the trip by a day. Siva and I reached Brindavan on 2nd (Thursday) and left for Baandh along with Swami G and M, Brahma R, and Bobby the guide, on 3rd of April, which was ‘Good Friday’.

As we drove from Brindavan on 3rd morning, we talked about the day. It was the festival of “Panguni Uttiram” (Uttara Phalguni), indeed a very auspicious day. It was the day of Sita-Rama wedding, as per Valmiki Ramayana. It is the day that Rama decided as auspicious to start off on the march to Lanka. It was the day Arjuna was born. It is the birth day of Lord Ayyappa, the son of Hari and Hara. It is a day sacred to Lord Subrahmanya, the son of Siva, who was born in the bed of reeds in the banks of Ganga. And we were going to Ganga… We were going to the bandh on Ganga which had been built with the name of Rama and the chanting of Mahamantra. A dyke that was known as “Baandh Bhagavan” – God himself. It was Bhageeratha, Lord Rama’s ancestor, who had brought Ganga down from heaven to the earth…. From Krishna Yamuna, we were proceeding to the Rama Ganga…

Signing off this post with a youtube share of Soota’s narration from Ramayana… An audio recording about the ‘Birth of Rama’….

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Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama!

<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!

Thirukkakara – the place of the Holy Foot

September 28, 2014

Today is a Saturday in the Tamil month of Purattaashi. A day sacred to Lord Narayana…

Let us then visit a Vishnu temple, shall we?

It was last Sunday, 21st Sep, when this blogger was in Kochi. His place of stay, a service apartment, was in a suburb of Kochi, in a place called Kakkanad. He had returned from a trip to munaar, and was set to return to Chennai that evening. There was a gap of a couple of hours after lunch when he could make time to get a feel of Kakkanad…. And as luck would have it, two old friends, Joseph and Unni , natives of Kochi, gave him a taste of Kerala by taking him on a visit to a temple.

Have you come across a temple of Lord Vamana? Vamana avatara was when Vishnu came as a dwarf Brahmana, to ask for three steps of real estate from King Mahabali. And on being granted his wish, he assumed cosmic form and measured the earth and sky with two steps, and the third he placed on the King’s head on his request. The King was consigned to Patala, and the Lord in turn, in gratitude, agreed to stand as his door guard forever. The King in turn requested that he be allowed to return to earth once a year. And it is this occasion that is celebrated as Onam, when all of Kerala welcomes King Mahabali on his annual visit.

And here we are, at the temple of Vamana, at Thirukkakara, in Kochi-Ernakulam…

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Thirukkakkara is derived from Thiru-kal-karai, meaning – where the Holy foot of the Lord was placed. It is this place where Mahabali offered his head to Lord Vamana for putting his third step. Thus it is that Lord Vamana is known in Kerala as Thirukkakkara appan. Indeed, when Onam is celebrated, an idol of Lord Vamana is installed at home, and this Lord is referred to as Thirukkakkara appan….

So here I am, at Kakkanad – the country of the Holy foot – setting off to visit the temple of Kakkara appan.

We went there sometime around 2 pm… And the temple sanctums was closed. But the temple gate was open…

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The whole atmosphere was serene, like a sleepy afternoon scene from RK Narayan’s Malgudi… Stepping inside, we were greeted by the darshan of the temple flagstaff in front of the main temple…

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On the top of the temple outer wall, there one could see the representation of Vamana avatara.

Here is a close up.

20140921_141541When we went in, there was a large group of devotees who were seated in the courtyard, in shade. And they were singing bhajans.

At the temple front, there was a shining peetham ..

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And a beautiful hanging lamp…

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The temple has main shrines for Vishnu as well as Siva. The Siva shrine houses a Siva Linga which is said to have been worshipped by Mahabali himself. And as such, all devotees visit bot the main shrines. Needless to say, there are several other shrines as well. For Bhagavati, Mahalkakshmi, Ganapathi, Subrahmanya etc,

The main temple being closed, we decided to offer pradaskhina – walk around the main temple.

It was hot…. We were barefoot… Walking around the temple, one noticed the thousands of oil lamps all along the walls… On a festival day evening or night, when all these lamps would be lit, it would be a sight for the Gods. Kerala – God’s own country all right…

On the west of the main temple (assuming temple is North), there was the temple shthala vriksha – the temple tree – a peepal.

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Walking further, we came across a shrine for Naga-s – Serpent deities. Under a tree.

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And it looked as if worship had been offered recently. “Ayilyam” said Unni – indicating the star of the previous day, which is sacred to Naga devata.

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Walking around, on the North-east end, we saw the temple tank… Known as Kapila teertha. One of the legends associated with the temple is that Kapila maharshi performed penance here…

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On the South east side, one noticed a shrine dedicated to Brahma-Rakshasa. This is for a Brahmana who became a ghost. On enquiry, a story emerged. Apparently, once upon a time, a yogi was in this temple was suspected of stealing some golden bananas that were meant for the Lord. The matter was reported to the King. The Yogi, unable to bear the accusation, gave up his life and issued a curse that the Kingdom would come to ruin, which apparently it did. The Yogi became a Brahma Rakshasa. To appease him, a shrine was built specially for him, and all offerings to the main temple are also offered to the idol here.

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The temple of Vamana is ancient. There are stone inscriptions here, which date from 10th century AD.

It is one of the 108 Divya Deshams – sacred temples of Mahavishnu.

And the Lord here has been praised in song by the first of Azhwars – Nammalwar.

Shall we enjoy one of these verses? ‘

வாரிக்கொண் டுன்னை விழுங்குவன் காணில்’என்று
ஆர்வுற்ற என்னை யழியவென னில்முன்னம்
பாரித்து, தானென்னை முற்றப் பருகினான்,
காரொக்கும் காட்கரை யப்பன் கடியனே.

vArik koNDu unnai vizhu’nguvan kANil enRu
ArvuRRa ennai ozhiya ennil munnam
pArittu, tAn ennai muRRap paruginAn
kAr okkum kATkarai appan kaDiyanE.       (tiruvAi. 9.7.9)

The sage sings:

Eager as I was, to gather you completely in my arms
And eat you up, no sooner I set my eyes on you!
But you, O Lord, were quicker.

Spotting me even before I could spot him,
In one gulp, he swallowed me complete –
He, the kAtkarai Lord of the hue of dark clouds,
the deft one who leaves no task unfinished.

What a beautiful verse!

The very same sentiment is expressed by Ramana Maharshi in one of the verses of Aksharamanamalai…

He says

சாப்பா டுன்னைச் சார்ந்துண வாயான்
சாந்தமாய்ப் போவ னருணாசலா!

I came to have you for food, but you ate me up for good,
Now I have attained peace, Arunachala!

Indeed the verse represents the highest teaching of Vedanta.

As Sri Ramana Maharshi says in uLLatu nARpatu

காணலெவ னூணாதல் காண் ( kANalevan UNAthal kAN )

Which means :

How is one to see (God, the Supreme Reality)?
Becoming food (unto the Lord), See!

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But are we fit for becoming the Lord’s food? No…. And so, in his infinite compassion, He feeds us. Yes, one of the highlights of Thirukkakara temple Onam festival, is the Onasadya, where thousands of devotees enjoy a delicious feast, as Lord Vamana’s prasadam…

Om Trivikramaya Vamanaya namah…

All Glory to Thiru Kakkara Appan!

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!

 *

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!

 *

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

*

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 **

 

 

 

 

 

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 41

July 7, 2014

We get back to our hotel in Kathmandu to be warmly welcomed by our co-yatri-s who have arrived earlier. That includes Siva the Australian, and his better half. We, the new arrivals, look like tramps – unshaven, wild eyed, ragged… We would sink into the luxury of hotel facilities and eventually look presentable to the God of mirrors. But those wild-eyes would stay with us for a long time.. As would the floating feeling, the lightness of life, the joy of having been accepted as apprentices to the  select group of wild denizens of Siva – the siva gaNA-s…

We have a couple of days in Kathmandu before we head back to Delhi.

The first day is thanksgiving. We go to Pashupathinath temple… It feels so good coming back to the Lord here… We had been here some ten days ago, praying for successful Yatra to his abode in Kailasa. And He has fulfilled our prayer. And how… And now, we are back in his presence, in absolute awe of Him, his power. his compassion….. And Pashupathinath, in his infinite kindness, blesses us by allowing us to chant Sri Rudram once more in his Holy Sanctum. Once again, we are there till the noon time aarati takes place. Our hearts filled with happiness, we go around the temple – ever so slowly… Taking in every sight… Gazing at the fast flowing Bagmati… The shrine of Adi Shankara, where the attendant priests bless every pilgrim with a bead of Rudraksha – the eye of Siva… The shrine of Vasuki… The open shrine with the maze like walkway having hundreds of Siva Linga-s. A Nepali priest who had been in the main Sanctum when we had come the previous time, and had chanted the Rudram with us, is met somewhere during our wandering in the temple. He recognizes us. And we chat. Om Nama Sivaya! Collecting Prasada, we return to the hotel.

Evening sees us go to the Nag Pokhri…. The lake of the snake, the shrine of Santoshi Mata…. We heart-convey our immense gratitude to her. We chant some more… The litany of names of Uma  – the consort of Siva….

The next day sees us hire a cab to go to Bhaktapur…. One thing that strikes you in Kathmandu is the level of air pollution. It is unbelievable. So many vehicles, so many of them belching unacceptable levels of fumes… A recent article in The Guardian ( Click here to read  ) says that “during surges in Kathmandu traffic congestion, the level of small particulate matter can measure over 500 micrograms per cubic metre, or 20 times the World Health Organisation’s safe upper limit.”  …  Now, what can one say…. A nose mask is a useful armor, however fragile…

Rationing our breath, we make our way out  of the city and onto Bhaktapur.

And what a beautiful place this is. One day would hardly suffice to experience this place. Also, these are “living cultures” and so one should experience such places during festive occasions that are celebrated so wonderfully here. But then even a short visit is rewarding in itself, and so a visit to Bhaktapur is heartily recommended.

Let’s start with a picture from there…

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Welcome to Bhaktapur…

Bhaktapur ( literally, the city of devotees of God ) was the capital of Nepal until the mid 15th Century. This was the theater of royalty of the great Malla Kings of Nepal.

Now, some quotes from the Wikipedia entry on Bhaktapur…

Bhaktapur has the best preserved Palace courtyards and old city center in Nepal, and is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artworks….It is the home of traditional art and architecture, historical monuments and craft works, magnificent windows, pottery and weaving industries, excellent temples, beautiful ponds, rich local customs, culture, religion, festivals, musical mystic and so on. Bhaktapur is still an untouched as well as preserved ancient city that is itself a world to explore for tourists….. From time immemorial it lay on the trade route between Tibet and India. This position on the main caravan route made the town rich and prosperous…

So, Bhaktapur has seen many a yatri traveling between India and Tibet for hundreds of years… For the Kailasa Yatri, this town has been a pilgrimage halt en-route….

Let’s take in a few key sites shall we… Wiki quotes followed by pictures…

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is a conglomeration of pagoda and shikhara-style temples grouped around a 55-window palace of brick and wood. The square is one of the most charming architectural showpieces of the valley as it highlights the ancient arts of Nepal. The golden effigies of the kings perched on the top of stone monoliths, the guardian deities looking out from their sanctuaries, the wood carvings in every place — struts, lintels, uprights, tympanums, gateways and windows — all seem to form a well-orchestrated symphony.

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The Lion Gate: Dating as far back as 1696 AD, this gate is guarded on either side by two huge statues of lions. Alongside there are two stone images of Bhairab (the dreadful aspect of Shiva) and ugrachandi (the consort of Shiva in her fearful manifestation).

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Lu Dhowka (The Golden Gate) is said to be the most beautiful and richly moulded specimen of its kind in the entire world. The door is surmounted by a figure of the goddess Kali and Garuda (mythical griffin) and attended by two heavenly nymphs. It is embellished with monsters and other mythical creatures of marvellous intricacy. In the words of Percy Brown, an eminent English art critic and historian, the Golden Gate is “the most lovely piece of art in the whole Kingdom; it is placed like a jewel, flashing innumerable facets in the handsome setting of its surroundings.” The gate was erected by King Ranjit Malla and is the entrance to the main courtyard of the palace of fifty-five windows

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Here’s a zoom-in to the top of the gate… A closeup of Kali Devi, with Garuda above.

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Here’s a freeze in stone of the Great God Narasimha, the ManLion …

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Nyatapola temple:

This five-storeyed pagoda was built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1702 AD. It stands on five terraces, on each of which squat a pair of figures: two famous wrestlers, two elephants, two lions, two griffins, and Baghini and Singhini — the tiger and the lion goddesses. Each pair of figures is considered ten times stronger than the ones immediately below, while the lowest pair, the two strong men Jaya Malla and Phatta Malla, were reputedly ten times stronger than any other men. This is one of the tallest pagoda-style temples in Kathmandu Valley and is famous for its massive structure and subtle workmanship.

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And here’s a side view of the wrestlers, the elephants, the lions etc on successively higher steps

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Ok… How about a quick picture cruise…

Here’s a gallery.. Click and browse… Catch a hurried yatri’s glimpse of the Glory that is Bhaktapur.

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Signing off this post with a couple of pictures…

First one… A side view of the Serpent and the Siva Linga, near the serpent lake in Bhaktapur.. Lovely isn’t it…

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And a picture of an elderly Nepali lady… Taken by my co-yatri, the healer, Sanjeev…. You can spot the same lady in the gallery above in the last picture…. With a hand powered weaving machine..

Here she is… With her spinning wheel… Now isn’t that one of the most beautiful smiles you have seen…Contentment, happiness.. that money can’t buy….

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… And we now come towards the end of this special Yatra series….

Om Nama Sivaya! Om Mani Padme Hum!

*** To be continued ***