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Mystical Place Rishikesh

Travelling, as you might have by now realized, reading my earlier blog posts, is one of my raw nerves. I require a well-deserved break to refresh. This travelogue made me understand why many bloggers travel so extensively. Traveling to different destinations, seen and unseen, both, gives you new insight, new experiences of people and places. This travel of mine which lasted for around 10 days in the northern part of our country brought in mixed feelings. I had visited some places quite a number of times while two places were new for me and I had longed to visit one of these places.

The first leg of my travel was to Agra, Mathura & Vrindavan.  I had written about my experience in Vrindavan especially, some 8 years back when I went there for the first time. (Click here to read the post).  I thought, that the scene I encountered then might have changed for better. It did change, but whether, it was for better or worse one can surmise by his or her own experience. I for one can say that an organized loot is carried out in the name of faith in Vrindavan, systematic brainwashing of hapless devout travelers took place when I first visited the place in 2011. It has become, even more sophisticated, I can say.

After completing official work, I happened to visit Rishikesh & Haridwar.  I had waited, pretty long, for this day, I would say.  I wanted to see the Ganga River. It had eluded me many a time before. It had been a classic tale of so near, yet so far, in the past. So I was very curious to visit the place. I have seen many rivers like Yamuna, Narmada, Godavari, Ravi, Tapi, Cauvery, Tapti, Beas, Jhelum, Sindhu etc. But Ganga eluded me. Let us leave behind the current debate surrounding Ganga, its purity etc. Yes, Ganga river requires to be cleaned, for it is not just another river for Indians. It carries a Godlike halo around it. no other river of this land is so mythical or commands such awe, respect, and devotion than Ganga. An entire Indian subcontinent owes its existence to this river, whose name is etched up in our consciousness and whose reference one can trace in folklores dating back to centuries and thousands of years more.

Another place which I wanted to visit was Rishikesh. I have read quite a number of spiritual works by renowned spiritual leaders and have never missed the reference to Rishikesh.  I have read books of Spiritual Masters like Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, who is also credited for spreading Yoga and Hinduism to the west, Journey with a Himalayan Master written by Swami Rama, The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami by Radhanath Swami, If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir by Om Swami and other such books. All these books delve into the spiritual prowess of the place called Rishikesh. And they were not wrong.

As we crossed Haridwar and our bus started its journey on the curved roads, somehow, I could feel the difference. Maybe, because, I was expecting too much about the place, some skeptics might say. Maybe they are true. But, yes, as I reached Rishikesh, I could feel the vibrations, the energy of this place. Afterall this place has been the abode for many spiritual masters like Mahesh Yogi who was called a Flying Yogi in the west,  Swami Shivananda, Neem Karauli Baba of the famed Beatles etc.  We crossed the Ganga River by boat and bathed in the river. At 12 in the noon the water was chilling cold, the flow was very fast. It was my first experience with Ganga River and I was mesmerized. We spend around one hour in the river. Anyways, we had lost the time count by then. We did not visit many temples, just an Ashram. But, still, the place exuded such a vibrant energy.  We sighted many foreigners from western countries. They were there to learn Yoga. Rishikesh is called as the Yoga Capital of the World. 

On the way, we found a man in his early sixties, he was wearing just a white loincloth and an orange headgear. He was dark complexioned, his cheeks had retreated, but his face glowed, he was simply sitting on the banks of the river. His face exuded pure joy and happiness, which we yearn for. On inquiry, we understood that he was from Tamil Nadu, he was a highly qualified rich man from that state. He just left everything behind and came to Rishikesh. He had taken ‘Sanyas”.  The inquirer in me arose. I had read many a thing about Rishikesh and it was now time to check some of those. I inquired him about the mystical experiences which he had, about the upper reaches of Rishikesh and the Sadhus and Sanyasis staying there. Finally, I asked him what did he achieve here. He said, I found the real joy, the eternal bliss, that we all long for.  I am sure the man was not lying, for he had no objective gain in lying. He did not accept money from us either.

There are numerous such people staying in Rishikesh, they are in search of that eternal bliss, which is called as “sat chitta ananda”. Yes, some of them may be totally fraudsters, but one can find few ones who are genuine seekers. 

Rishikesh is also becoming a commercial place, activities other than spirituality, like fast water rafting, adventure sports etc is promoted. However, one who is in search of something higher will ignore these things.

I shall certainly strive to make another visit to this mystical place, as early as possible, and probably yet another one and another one.

Gn.

Bangalore Bull Temple

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/4HTxxdS3jhg?rel=0

Trekk to Bhimashankar

We are planning a Trekk to Bhimashankar on one of the weekends of August (Sat-Sunday). The plan would be as under :

Assembly at Kalyan Station at around 11.45 pm

Reaching Karjat by around 02.00 am.

Reaching Khandas by 04.30 am. Rest.

Starting Trekk to Bhimashankar by Ganesh Ghat.

Reaching Top & Visiting Bhimashankar Temple

Backwards journey by any mode of transport.

Please note that this would be a hectic affair, expect no luxury!! There is scarce mode of transport atop Bhimashankar, and one has to travel by any mode of transport to reach either Ghodegaon, Bankar Phata, Manchar, Chakan etc to reach Mumbai.

The trip would be on no profit no loss and on actual basis.  Tentative costing per head would be around Rs.500 +

Those interested may contact vijaynjoshi@gmail.com

 

 

Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh

Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You go to Leh (Ladakh) almost only once in life. Afterall you go to heaven only once,  is’nt it ??

After hectic rounds of planning, and after many last minutes hiccups we went for a 15 days sojourn, the trip was broken into three legs. The short route & trip details are as under :

1) 08-07-2012  : Reached New Delhi by Rajdhani, rested till night

2) Caught Jammu Tawi Rajdhani and reached Rajdhani on 09-07-2012

3) 09-07-2012 Went to Katra, Visited Ma Vaishnodevi 🙂 (I was third time lucky in four years)

4) 10-07-2012  Set for Srinagar, Reached Pehelgam, rested for the night at Pehelgam, visited Patnitop briefly.

5) 11-07-2012, local sight seeing at Pehelgam (beautiful place indeed) and reached Srinagar

6) 12-07-2012, set off for Leh (Reached Kargil in the evening, visited Vijay Smarak) and halted at Kargil

7) 13-07-2012, reached Leh in the evening, rested to acclimatize

8) 14-07-2012, did local sight seeing, Leh City, Monastries, Palaces etc

9) 15-07-2012, visited Pangong Lake

10) 16-07-2012, visited Nubra Valley (Phew Khardungla Pass is awesome)

11) 17-07-2012, Returned  to Kargil

12) 18-07-2012 Reached Srinagar

13) 19-07-2012 : Srinagar Local Sight Seeing (Visited Gulmarg, Sonmarg etc)

14) 20-07-2012 : Local Sight Seeing (Shankaracharya Temple, Dal Lake, Shopping etc)

15) 21-07-2012 Flew back to Mumbai

One must visit Leh atleast once, the route from Srinagar to Kargil and from Kargil to Leh is enthralling to say the least. One witnesses literally all the climates during the journey, from hot barren deserts, icy mountains, rain just everything. The route to Leh is accessible from Srinagar via Zozilla Pass, while one can also visit Leh from Manali, the road condition is not so good and one has to pass through Rohtang Pass. One has to acclamatize to be fully fit as the Oxyegen level due to higher altitude is only 75%  and one feels dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, vomiting etc. This is called as Altitude related sickness. If you feel symptoms, do get your dose of fresh oxygen at military camps where they have put up oxygen cylinders. Many Bikers & Cyclists traverse through these routes for sheer adventure.

The best season to visit Leh is June to September. For more detailed information do read websites like http://www.indiamike.com

Pics @ https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151093919585549.483324.661540548&type=1&l=a2394bd1c4

Naneghat Trekk

This monsoon we trekked the Naneghat mountain range. A wonderful experience given the rough climate we faced and torrential rains made the trekk a tad difficult. But the whole experience was a notable one.

 

 

 

One of the very best of trips i have ever been to. Fun filled trip for three days. The icing on the cake was that the climate suited best and there was no hiccup of any kind. The trip where we enjoyed to the core.

https://picasaweb.google.com/116126800246785995733/PachganiMahabaleshwarPratapgadTrip1517Apr2011

This is one trip that i will remember for all wrong reasons, as the events before, during and after the trip were all far from pleasing. But one should face such incidents once in a while to spice up things. Moreover, it acts as a good lesson for you to learn for your future.

So here we were, a group of 10-11 friends, on that friday Night at Dadar TT, waiting for our bus, for our  trip to Panchavati & Shirdi, a pilgrim centre around 230 kms from Mumbai. We had planned a weekend trip, so that no one would have needed to bunk the office.  In a bid to decentralize my load, i entrusted one of my friends, the responsibility of reserving a railway ticket for return journey in the evening on Saturday. The responsibility he gleefully accepted.

The bus reached late by good measure, but since we were a closely knit group, we did not realize the loss of time, as we were spending our time chatting and joking.  The bus finally showed up at around quarter to twelve and we all boarded the bus. The journey was non nondescript as within an hour’s time we all went fast asleep, as tired we all were by the chores of the day in the office. The bus screeched to halt at around 5.30 in the morning and we all reached Shirdi, a buzzing little town which came to limelight due to the noble deeds of Saibaba, a godly figure now.  We booked a hotel for keeping our luggage and for bathing, resting  etc.

At around 10 o’clock in the morning we had taken our darshan and we were out of the temple, fully contented. Our next destination was the pilgrim centre Nashik, the Panchavati, the Kalaram Mandir and all had occupied my space for quite a long time, i’d been there, but never got a chance to visit those places. So i was thrilled for sure. We reached at around 1.00 clock in the afternoon, and perhaps from then on the difficult phase of our trip began.

We visited a relative of one of our friends, kept our baggages over there,  and then proceeded. We visited Panchavati and other places and reached a temple, Kalaram Mandir, the temple itself is built well with good architecture dating back to 11th century. I took the first click there from my camera. And suddenly, out of nowhere, a cop came and snatched my camera and proceeded back to the police chowki, somebody uttered that photography was not allowed. We could not see any board mentioning the same however. We went into the chowki and pleaded the cop to return the camera. He yelled like a madman, as if we had committed big crime, he told us amusing stories of how terrorists take pictures of such places and then plant bombs. Did he thought, we were terrorists. He however, mellowed a his tune bit, when i told him that i worked for a Central Government Department. But, the cop that he was, he did not relent till we had bribed him a 100 rupee note. He then returned back the camera and we made our way backwards. I felt, quite angry on myself that day, for having bribed someone, so blatantly, and in the premise of the temple. I had noted down the buckle number of the cop, with the resolve that i would make a written complaint. But back in the hustle bustle of city life, the resolve melted somehow.

At around 5.30 pm we reached Nashik Station, the train was scheduled to arrive at 06.00 pm. I inquired with my friend, who had booked the ticket, he had placed the tickets firmly in his upper pocket, he checked the tickets in his pocket and told that dont worry he had the tickets. So we all went to Nashik Station at platform no. 3, to await the train. That day, the security arrangement and the ticket checking drive was on over zeal, i suppose, as everywhere, we saw the ticket checkers in black coats. We had no reason to worry as we had proper tickets was my guess.

The train was scheduled to arrive within next five minutes as it was around 5.55 pm and i got jittery, as there was no indicator showing the train, or any kind of announcement being made about its possible arrival. My friend accompanied me to the board where the status of all the trains were shown. There was no mention of this train number. So finally, i asked my friend for the tickets to verify what the issue was. He handed out to me the ticket quite confidently, that was the last time i saw him as confident, that evening. On close scrutiny, i, to my utter shock noticed that the friend had booked a wrong ticket. He booked the ticket of a train that was leaving from Nashik to Mumbai in the morning, and our train had left for the day twelve hours before we. I was shocked and worried. Not for myself but for female folks who had their parents waiting for them.

Panicking wsa the last option that evening i had. The first challenge was to get out of the station complex, unnoticed and unquestioned. I told everybody, that there was minor problem and we needed to go out of the station. Everybody gave me stares that made me worry a bit more. But they complied. Thankfully, the ticket checkers did not bother to question us or ask for tickets and we came out of the station. I called another friend of my, Nilesh, who was bit more responsible a guy, than the one who had booked the tickets. I told him the scene and informed him that the next train was at 09.30 pm and we had no tickets for it and the train was packed. The train would have served no purpose as it would have reached Mumbai in the dead of the night.  The next best alternative to reach mumbai by roadways. So we inquired with the Autorickshaws around how to reach Mumbai. It was around 06.30 pm in the evening, the sun had started sinking that evening, a bit too faster i noted.. We were told that if we reached “doodh naka” before 7 pm we may get some vehicles that routinely ply between the upper ghats of Nashik to the lower plains of Kasara, which however, still was good 100 kms from Mumbai. But atleast we could have caught local trains plying from there to our homes.

We informed everybody the hard fact, that we had missed the train. We could not face the eyes of the rest of the members. Anyways, we reached Doodh Naka within next fifteen minutes and fortunately got one MUV which noting our plight, spared no efforts to fleece us, money however was secondary aspect that day, time was the main issue.

The journey in that MUV was not especially a notable one, as we all cramped in somehow, and the driver gave us some more nightmares by his acrobatic sytle of driving on that dreadful accident prone road.

Dot at 09.00 pm we reached Kasara and we were happy to see the train waiting to depart at 09.15 pm. We took the necessary tickets and boarded that train. All of us reached home by 1200 midnight. Around two hours late.

After all that happened, i guess, two hour’s delay could have been excused, and everybody did excuse, for as it is said all’s well that ends well.

But, if i ever learn’t a lesson after that was never to hand over work to others, work which you can do yourself.

We few colleagues and their families organised a trip to Punjab, Vaishnodevi, Delhi, Agra. It was a good outing for 15 days.  A trip worth gaining.