My beloved Gurudev

I have always wondered how people can get inspired from somebody without actually having seen that person! I guess the wonder will always remain as it is for me when I think about Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji.

I have never met him in person. In fact, majority of the active youth today in Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK) would say the same thing in their case. When I see the dedication of the senior members towards Chinmaya Mission, I’m not much surprised because many of them have met Gurudev in person and drawn inspiration directly from him. But when I see the CHYKs, who have not met him in person, working tirelessly for the Mission, I see nothing other than the Master’s will flowing through them. He is the one who has inspired the CHYKs to take up gigantic projects that nobody could ever imagine. Whenever any project (be it a Theatrical performance in front of thousands of people by totally amateur and inexperienced artists, or organizing a family quiz in Chennai on Family Values and reaching out to 70000 families, or organizing an All India Quiz contest like ‘Awakening Indians to India’, or publishing books on varied topics like spirituality, management, psychology, history and so on) is undertaken, any stranger to Chinmaya Mission might feel that it’s even foolish to think, or rather, dream of such a project. These impossible projects can never be completed by a group of enthusiastic youngsters if they wouldn’t have done it for a cause, for an ideal. When we surrender to such an ideal like Swami Chinmayananda, whose mere glance has transformed lakhs, (if not millions) then miracles happen. And it is his wish that gets manifested through many instruments.

The glory of people like Gurudev cannot be expressed in words nor be understood completely by people who have not known Him. But for those who have been touched by Him, in person or by sheer grace, only they can understand what it means to have been blessed by such a Master, who was the perfect example of a complete man, whose electrifying words, compassionate looks, roaring speeches and graceful gestures have moved millions of lives. For his disciples and followers, his presence is felt everywhere at every point of time even today.

Many a times when I see his photograph, I feel he’s talking to me. Whenever I’m distressed and surrender to him, he whispers the answers into my heart. When I came into Chinmaya Mission, all I wanted was to bring some sense to my totally confused life. It is after I started in this movement, the Chinmaya Movement, that I found a purpose to my life. I don’t know where I would have been or what would have I been, if it weren’t for Chinmaya Mission.

I have heard numerous stories about Gurudev from many devotees and when they talk of his compassion, it has made me cry. One such story was told by Swami Swaroopanandaji when he was a CHYK in his earlier years. There was a set of youngsters gathered around Gurudev in Sidhabari for a camp. Gurudev was explaining about Self-Realisation and Masters who have attained it, when suddenly a youngster (who was new to Chinmaya Mission) sprang up with his question, “Where are you (in the stage of Realisation)?” Swaroopanandaji said, “I was so irritated with the question. I mean, it was so absurd. Only a Realized Master can identify another Realized Master. And to a person like Gurudev, how can anybody ask such a stupid question?” But Gurudev was quiet and was not the least annoyed. He took a pause and looking at the eyes of the youngster, he said, “I’m at the door. But I won’t go in without having taken each and every one of you in.”

How can we ever express our gratitude to such a Master who has come down to our level , made us stand on our foot, turned many lambs to lions, given us the courage to face any situation in life and taste the real essence of life? Prostrations unto his Holy feet who taught us to Live.

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My experiences of Gujarat Yatra Jan-Feb 2011—Somnath (Part 1)

29th January 2011

After leaving Dwarka around 8:40 am, our first stop was at Harsiddhimata Mandir. There were enough crowds in that temple but once again, no ambience to pray. People come there to get their wishes granted and once it is done, they visit another temple which is near this one but on a hill. We didn’t go uphill because my immediate wish was to get to a good restaurant, which I was sure that it was not uphill. Even though we had breakfast (bread & butter) before we left Dwarka, my stomach had started making noises. The small snacks bars near the temple were not neat so we chose to move ahead.

I enjoyed the scenery on the way to Porbandar. On both sides of the roads were either fields or barren lands. Most of the crops on the fields could be seen feasted by migratory birds (that looked like big cranes, the ones that we saw from the train). They were so graceful in their movements. All of them moved uniformly. If their leader flapped its wings while flying, the entire flock would flap. If the leader was gliding, the same action would be repeated by the ones flying behind. I could see them flying in curved lines and in different patterns.

By 11 am we reached Porbandar. Most of the structures in this city were built of white stone. Gandhiji’s home is a great place of significance and one of the most popular tourist spot. GTDC buses passing in Dwarka-Somnath route stop here for some time. It was an old structure but well-maintained. Next to the house, there was a library where many photographs, books and things used by Gandhiji was preserved. The house was bought by Gandhiji’s grandfather from a lady somewhere in the 1700s. In the years coming by, as the members of the joint family grew, two additional floors were built up one after the other. The construction, needless to say, was excellent. To get to the floor above, there was a steep staircase from the inside of the house. Most of the rooms were well ventilated by big wooden windows (as big as doors in a few cases). I was wondering what must be the quality of the wood used, that it has lasted centuries.

At this place, we met the Tamilian aunties whom Shreeram had befriended in the boat at Bet Dwarka. In fact, we met them the earlier day also at Dwarka temple for evening Darshan. We left Gandhiji’s home around noon towards Sudamapuri which is a very close by place. Lord Krishna had built the house of gold at this place for his friend Sudama. We took darshan and proceeded towards two famous restaurants of Porbandar – Swagat and Swati. These two restaurants are next to each other. We went to Swagat and had delicious Punjabi food. After a yummy tummy-full meal, we left for Somnath.

The next town we crossed was Mangrol. I had dozed off for a few minutes before I woke up to see this wonderful sight. We were moving along the coast of Arabian Sea. The highway (NH-8B I guess) was running parallel to the sea. I enjoyed the drive very much, but Shreeram was fast asleep to see this sight. Even though it was sea shore, humidity was nowhere to be felt. The sun’s dry heat took away whatever water content was present in our bodies. I was continuously drinking water to moisten by parched lips. Mangrol had a lot of huge coconut farms. People cultivated coconuts and sold to the nearby states. Hence tender coconut here is as cheap as Rs.5 – Rs.10. The scenery looked almost like Kerala.

After Mangrol was Chorvad. Here also we could see coconut farms. Our driver told us that it was the village where Dhirubhai Ambani was born. Here we again saw the Chakra-Rickshaws (Bike Rickshaws) as the common means of transportation.

Our driver told us that these bikes are usually Enfield (Bullet) diesel motor bikes converted into an auto. There are companies in Gujarat that assemble them. A brand new vehicle costs somewhere between Rs. 1.3 – 1.4 lakhs. They are the most common means of transport in rural areas of Gujarat where Auto rickshaws are very few. These bike rickshaws are used for transporting anything – from people to coconuts or even up to 50 gas cylinders at a time. If they had elephants in Gujarat, they might have used it for transporting that even. If one has to realize the power of Enfield engine, then he has to see these rickshaws operating in Gujarat. The sound, or rather noise, of the vehicle can be heard from a long distance. If one travels in it, it will surely powder his ear wax in no time. There are no shock absorbers in it and hence only people who are used to travel in it can commute. Behind the bike, on the carrier, there are two seats on either side which can carry six passengers in total. But at least eight passengers sit on it, few stand in the leg space, three sit on the back side (facing the back…like sitting in a dicky) and if there are men, they hang on to the vehicle from the outside keeping their foot somewhere on the vehicle. It usually carries ten-fifteen people and travels at an average speed of 20-30 km/hr.

Finally we reached Somnath by 4pm, one of the places I was eagerly waiting to go since quite some time. Rajubhai greeted us at Lilavati Bhavan, where we were going to stay. We settled down in our room, had a hot bath and came out for tea. There was an unusual smell in our room. I asked Rajubhai what was it but he couldn’t smell it. It was later that I found out that it was the smell of the air near the coastal areas. The smell is usually there in rooms or cars that are kept closed for few hours. Since we were new to the smell, we could identify it but Rajubhai was probably used to it.

After a quick tea and a dosa, we went to the New Somnath temple. There is an Old Somnath temple next to it where there are two Shiva Lingas. The new one was built under the initiative of Sardar Patel – The Iron Man of India. In the new temple, there was tight security inside and outside the temple. We had to deposit our bags, mobile & camera at the counter, and yes even belts. There was a shoe counter just next to it where we kept our shoes before we walked towards the temple. The temple was 150 feet tall, with the Kalash on top of it weighing 10 tons and the Dhwajdand was 27 feet tall and 1 foot in circumference. After the security checks by the police, as we neared the temple, we could see the beautiful work done on the pillars. We entered through the main entrance into the temple. There was one line of pillars on either side once we are inside the temple. As we moved five feet ahead, an extra line of pillars started on the outside of these pillars. After every five feet ahead, two extra lines of pillars were added on either side until there were eight pillars on either side of the walking area towards the inner sanctum of the temple. Here there were counters where Pooja offerings had to be paid. I didn’t feel like moving ahead fast when I was lost in the beauty of the marvelous sculptures carved on the pillars. Then we entered the main sanctum which was divided into two sides – right side for men and left for women. There were two exits here, one on either side. I saw two lines ahead of me – one for Darshan and one for Aarti. People who wished to have Darshan and move ahead stood in the first line and those who wished to stand ahead to see the Aarti clearly could start standing in the Aarti line. Shreeram and Rushali went in the ladies queue and I went in the Darshan queue. Evening Aarti was going to begin. I stood in the line for Darshan and walked towards the inner sanctum. The main priest was bathing the Shivalinga. What a sight it was! It was the first time I was seeing something so beautiful and that too from such a close distance. The Shivalinga was very big, almost 3 feet tall. Darshan line moved fast. So I thought of standing in the Darshan line once again so that I can get another glimpse how the priest is bathing Shiva and decorating the linga. As I neared in my second round, the Pandit placed a twig with three leaves that looked somewhat like a Trishul. The place where he placed it made it look like Shiva’s two eyes and the third one in between. Now, what looked like a stone a few moments back looked alive with the eyes. I went in for one more round in the line. He then placed wet petals of flowers beautifully on the linga in the shape of OM. In no time, he had decorated the Shivalinga beautifully with flower petals and the sanctum was full of people since it was time for the evening Aarti of 7pm. Usually, I don’t enjoy crowded temples. But here, one gets a feeling as if he (and all these people) has come to Shiva’s home. As I looked up, I saw a lot of carvings inside the dome of the temple. The sculptures seemed to be stooping over to have a Darshan for the Aarti. Soon the music started. First I thought it’s a pre-recorded music for Aarti but it is later I found out that the music was a live one. There was one small Shehnayi, one drum and two temple bells used in creating the music. These were the only instruments. But the way they played it was totally amazing. The music took the whole crowd into a different realm. One could see those men playing the instruments in total devotion. They were literally playing it for God. The crowd was swinging hands, some chanting while some just closing the eyes and meditating. When I saw them, I thought, maybe I should stop looking around in fascination and just ‘Be’ in the present moment. I closed my eyes and stood still listening to the music and imagining Shiva’s picture in my mind. For 20 minutes I’m sure I was not in Somnath temple, I was somewhere else. Shreeram also enjoyed the music. He never enjoys loud music and this one was very loud since they used microphones & speakers inside the dome structure. But he was continuously dancing while the Aarti was going on. I guess, that’s the difference between music and noise. Most of the loud music that we hear is more of noise than of music. Music is ever enchanting however loud it may be.

The Aarti ended at 7:20pm. But the effect lasted for a longer time. I was lost in a different mood until Rushali came up and reminded me about the light & sound show that happens every evening at 7:45 at the Somnath temple. I quickly got 2 tickets started looking for the auditorium where they show it. To my surprise, it was an open air auditorium. It was just behind the temple that a seating arrangement was made in the form of steps ascending backwards to form an arc shape. We chose the seats at the back. And behind us was the Arabian Sea. Above us was the dark sky lit up with stars. Oh Gosh! How can I ever describe that scene? The screen was none other than the temple structure. The show started sharp at 7:45pm. It was one of the most informative vast lessons of history that I learnt in the next one hour. It was shown as if the Sea (voice over by one of the best actors of Bollywood – Amrish Puri) was saying the story of Somnath. I bet, only one actor could have said it in the same effect as Amrish Puri’s voice was having. And that is none other than Amitabh Bachan. There is no other actor, whom I can think of, having such a deep voice and excellent way of dialogue delivery. Incidentally, that was the first time I was listening to Amrish Puri without actually seeing him on the screen. When we see movies on screen, much of the dialogue delivery is covered up by the visual stuff – acting. Here too, one could get a reel of cinema running through their minds on the history of Cinema because there was only ‘Light & Sound’, no characters or pictures. And I’m sure; the effect of the show would have been very less if there were characters played in it because that would take away the most beautiful part of the show – Our Imagination.

According to Swami Shri Gajananand Saraswatiji, Chairman of Shrimad Aadhya Jagadguru Shankaracharya Vedic Shodh Sansthan, Varanasi, the said first temple was built 79,925,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skand Puran. The research based on ancient Indian classical texts show that first Somnath Jyotirling Pran-Pratistha was done on the auspicious third day of brighter half of Shravan month during the tenth Treta yug of Vaivswat Manvantar. The story goes like this…Moon God (Chandrama) had married 27 stars who were the daughters of Daksh Prajapati. But Chandrama was always with Rohini Nakshatra (star) which made the other stars sad and jealous. When they complained about this to their father who then cursed Chandrama to become a leper. Diseased Chandrama could not complete his rotations around the earth on time. All the living beings started facing a lot of problems due to this and hence some sages requested Daksh Prajapati to withdraw his curse. Feeling pity on the earthlings, he told Chandrama that if he does penance and austerities meditating on Lord Shiva, his disease will be cured for some time and he shall regain his real form once in a month. Chandrama performed this penance with utmost sincerity and prayed to Lord Shiva to forgive his mistake of being partial to just one wife. Being pleased with his devotion, Shiva took his form and asked him to make a temple in this place which was named after Chandrama (Soma, another name of Chandrama) & Shiva – Somnath.

Since then Prabhas Teertha, as this place was called, had been a very famous pilgrimage centre. During the days of Shree Krishna, the temple was very beautifully decorated with precious stones and pearls. But it didn’t stand in the same way through out. History says that the temple was destroyed at least seven times by Mughal invaders. But after every destruction, the devoted people of Gujarat have brought it up from the state of ruins. In the 11th Century, Mahmud of Ghazni invaded Prabhas Teertha and looted Somnath temple. During that time, the Shiva linga was adorned with precious gems & stones. There were over a thousand priests to serve the temple. Hundreds of dancers and singers played before the temple. Somnath temple was famous for its treasures and this is what attracted Ghazni. Mahmud ordered his men to loot the temple and to destroy the sacred idol of Shiva. Thousands of Rajput soldiers laid their lives to protect the temple but could not stand the huge army of Mahmud.

There was nothing left except for ruins in the place where Somnath stood. Raja Kumar Pal rebuilt the temple in the year 1174. Raja Bheem Dev built a dome in the courtyard of the temple. As Somnath slowly started regaining its glory, Allaudin Khilji’s army plundered the temple and destroyed the Linga. Once again thousands of men fought to protect the temple from the cruel invaders but ended up in giving up their lives. The people of Saurashtra (Gujarat) didn’t give up and rebuilt the temple once again. But fate was meant to be bitter for Somnath temple when Ghiasuddin Tughlak’s son Mahmood raided Somnath temple. The temple was looted & destroyed many times by Jaffer Khan, a governor of Gujarat in 14th Century. Every time he would attack, destroy and return, the people would start rebuilding the temple once again. In the Eighteenth Century, Maharani of Indore, Ahilyabai Holkar installed the Shivaling once again.

In 1893, a Hindu-Muslim riot broke out and many temples were vandalized. In 1947, the Nawab of Junagadh decided opt for Pakistan which was opposed by the people of Gujarat. It is here that the then Deputy Prime Minister of India, Sardar Patel, emerged as a hero and announced the reconstruction of the Somnath temple. When Sardar Patel visited Somnath temple along with many Indian leaders of that time, he was shattered to see the dilapidated condition of the temple. When consulted with Gandhiji, he said that people of Gujarat should build the temple without using the Govt. funds. Both rich & poor, contributed as much as they could to reconstruct the temple. But alas, Sardar Patel did not live to the day the temple was reconstructed. In his memory, a statue of Sardar Patel is kept at the entrance of the temple. The Somnath temple we have today would not have existed if it were not for Sardar Patel.

When I heard all these stories, I asked myself, “Did I miss my history classes in school or were these chapters left out to be printed? When I learnt about Akbar ‘The Great’ and Alexander ‘The Great’, our freedom fighters were not given the title of being great.” There were a few schools that had brought their children here. I feel schools should bring students to such places for study tours which would make them feel proud of their country, countrymen and culture.

Gujarat Yatra Jan-Feb 2011 — Dwarka

26th Jan 2011

We boarded the train, Saurashtra Mail, from Dadar station at 8:30 pm. It was my son Shreeram’s first longest train journey. He was pretty much excited about it and expressed his excitement as soon as we got into the train. Our trip (Dwarka-Somnath-Gir-Junagadh-Ahmedabad) was planned for 9 days and we had enough luggage. I had booked our tickets in 3-tier AC. We put our bags under the seat and took out our packets of home cooked food. Somehow we managed to eat (and make this guy eat) the food. He was being naughty in every way. I love him when he’s naughty, but didn’t enjoy much since we were traveling. As we finished dinner, his demanded to open the window. He wasn’t ready to accept that the window can’t be opened because he had seen windows of all trains opened. To divert his attention, I asked him if he wants to get on to the Side Upper Berth. He smiled and happily nodded his head. I thought making him sit on the top will keep him sit quietly. But he had decided to prove me wrong on every assumption. As soon as I put him on top, he started jumping and shouting loudly in all joy. He couldn’t even balance himself as the train was moving but he seemed to have got a feeling of getting into a roller coaster ride. He got the fellow passengers’ attention by imitating whatever they said. Finally, I & Shreeram slept on the upper berth and my wife, Rushali, took the lower berth as we went to sleep.

27th Jan 2011

Managing Shreeram right from morning was another task. With all God gifted patience, me & Rushali made him sit inside a compartment throughout our journey. We shifted to a Sleeper compartment from Rajkot. It is then we got a glimpse of Gujarat through the windows. As we neared Dwarka, I could see plain land on one side with shrub here and there, and Arabian Sea on the one side. The sea water came into the land during high tide which was collected and used by Salt Manufacturing companies to make salt. One could see a lot of migratory birds (some species of Cranes, I think) flocking together and gliding over the water bodies. We could also see a lot of Wind Mills lined up besides the sea shore. Sometimes, there was just land…miles and miles of it…which ended in mountains. It is then I felt earth might be flat or else there was no way I could see so much flat land.

Dwarka and nearby places were typical villages. There seemed to be an unusual sense of quietude in those places. Everything was still…the trees, water and even people. Finally we reached Krishna’s abode by 3:45 pm. Rickshaw drivers flocked towards us as we got out of the Railway Station. I was seeing the Bike-Rickshaw for the first time. I’ll mention about bike-rickshaws at a later stage.

We got into an auto and went to Gayatri Shakti Peeth, the ashram (now providing hotel accommodation) accommodation that was arranged by our Travel Consultant based out of Somnath – Raju Kakkad. On our way to the ashram, we got a good judgment of the village. Dwarka was not at all like any other pilgrimage center. There were hardly any people to be seen on the roads. Most of the shops were closed and we didn’t see any hotels or restaurants on our way. The people could be seen wearing their traditional dresses – men in their kurta, pyjama, big turbans and ear rings. Women in their Saris with typical Gujarati work of sequences and mirror chips. To me, their dressings looked similar to Rajasthani traditional wear. We could see only old structures throughout the village.

Our place of stay was around 4 kms from the Railway Station and 0.5 kms from the temple. As Rajubhai had described, the place was indeed awesome. It was just next to Arabian Sea. The beach started from the compound wall of Gayatri Shakti Peeth. In Dwarka, there are many ashrams that offer rooms to stay at very cheap rates. Our Ashram offered us rooms at just Rs.250 per night! The rooms were okay. It was neat but not luxurious. But we were quiet happy with it. The view that we got from our room was fabulous. The only problem was that hot water was available only from 6 – 8 am when they started their water boiler.
We freshened up ourselves and had shrikhand puri, courtesy – my dear wife who had carried food for two day. While we were packing our stuff at home, I wasn’t quite happy when my wife was preparing a lot of food to be taken. But when I landed in Dwarka and came to know that there are only 3 good restaurants in the place – Hotel Dwarkesh, Hotel Purushottam and some other hotel. I appreciated Rushali for her wise decision. There are food stalls offering snacks and fried items in the nearby places of the Dwarka temple. But most of them are not neat & hygienic.

After our snacks, we left for the great place – Dwarkadheesh temple. I really don’t know how to express the feeling I had when I saw the temple. I just stood there looking at it for few minutes before we got in. Any words used to describe the beauty of the place would not do complete justice in portraying the actual magnificence of the temple. The temple was filled with serenity that couldn’t be felt in most of the temples. Even though it was crowded, one can experience aloneness inside the temple. This was something totally unique about this place. Usually, I don’t enjoy going to crowded temples since I find it hard to close my eyes and pray amidst all the sound around. However, call it the magic of Krishna, this place was one of its kinds. The temple looked around 90 – 100 feet tall. There were many temples of different Gods and Goddesses inside the premises apart from the main temple of Krishna. After doing a pradakshina, we sat down outside the main temple. There were so many beautiful carvings both outside and inside the temple that one would go lost in his own world when he is admiring the beauty of it. Time flew as we sat there.

After some time, we went to the Shankaracharya Math inside the temple premises. Actually, we were planning to stay there but when we came to know that hot water was not available there, we changed our plan. We didn’t want to take many challenges in the terrible cold in Gujarat. We also got the privilege of having a satsang with one of the Swamis, who was a disciple of the main Shankaracharya Swamiji of Dwarka. We left the temple by 7:30pm in search of some place to eat. That day we didn’t know about the shortage of good restaurants and so we searched a bit and settled for Dosas by a street vendor before we went back to our hotel. We didn’t skip star gazing by sitting outside our hotel facing the vast Arabian Sea and the black sky. Shreeram also enjoyed playing in beach sand.

We woke up early morning after a good sleep only to find out that there is no hot water in the tap. It was very cold and the room was freezing with the cold winds from the sea during early morning hours. Our window was stuck for some reason and hence there was a gap of 1 cm from where the winds gushed in. I managed to take bath in the cold water. Rushali and Shreeram did some dry cleaning to their bodies. We ate bread and butter as fast as possible and got ready for the day tour in Dwarka. The car (Indica) that was arranged by our Travel Consultant (Raju Kakkad) arrived at 8 am but we managed to leave the hotel only by 8:30 am, thanks to the tantrums of Shreeram. There are buses in Dwarka that leave by 8am to show 3-4 nearby places which charge around Rs.80-100 per person. But we knew our Shreeram very well and chose to go by car so that we can stop whenever and wherever we wish. The half day tour was done in Rs.1000/-.

We went to Nageshwar temple first which is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. There was a big Statue of Shiva outside the temple. Inside the temple, I don’t know if they were priests or shopkeepers selling coconuts, flowers, lockets, idols, etc because everyone looked like a priest. As we got out, I was not happy with the Darshan and the ambience for the reason that devotion was nowhere to be seen inside the temple, it was just business. Gopi Talav was the second place of visit. Again, one of the significant places but not maintained properly.

Bet Dwarka was the final place of visit for the day tour. Bet Dwarka is on an island 5 kms off-coast Okha. It can be reached by boat. There are many boats who ferry passengers to & fro. People going in groups of around 80 people usually hire a boat and go, where they charge around Rs.15/- per person. Otherwise, they pack in around 100 passengers in a small boat and charge Rs.10/- and every passenger gets place only to stand or sit on a wooden seat that goes along the inside edge of the boat. When I saw the boat flooded with passengers, I felt like Shah Rukh sitting in a boat in the movie ‘Swades’.

Shreeram was very scared to get in a boat (like is father). But I managed to pump in some confidence in him (and in me) and we got into a boat. Our boat sailed off slowly and sailed at a slow pace. While I was wondering to whom I show pay for the tickets, I saw a man walking on the edge of the boat that was hardly one foot wide, with no support to hold on. He encircled the boat in the same fashion and sold tickets to all the passengers on-board. I was zapped as I saw this live circus.

Another beautiful sight was the Sea Gulls flying over the boats. As the passengers threw corn into the air, these birds opened their beaks and caught every single corn. After eating a few corns they flew back and started swimming on the water by paddling their small legs in the water. The water was so clean that we could see their legs paddling under the water. I caught a few snaps of the birds on my mobile.

We reached the other side, at Bet Dwarka, in 15 minutes. The voyage wasn’t as scary as I thought. The temple in Bet Dwarka was good. There was construction work going on inside the temple. Carvings were being done on pillars and walls. One could see different carvings (in a series) from the story of Bhagawatam, on the walls inside the temple. We had Darshan and returned back to our car via the same ferry. Shreeram got many Tamilian aunties as friends on the boat. He was once again successful in grabbing attention by giving his innocent looks. We bid them good-bye and got into our car to leave Okha. Beyond Okha, it’s Arabian Sea. It is almost the western-most tip of India and I was happy to have touched this place. We had been to Gulmarg, the northern-most district of India and now we were at the western-most point. How I wish if I could visit our motherland’s easternmost point too!

Our driver took us to a good restaurant (Hotel Dwarkesh) near our hotel in Dwarka where they served only Gujarati Thali & Marwadi Thali. After a lip-smacking meal, we got a good sleep. In the evening, we went to the sunset point which is around 1.5 kms away from the Dwarkadheesh temple. We also had Darshan in the main temple once again. We sat for some time in the temple compound enjoying the beauty and serenity of the place. As we came back to our hotel after having dinner at Dwarkesh Hotel and a little bit of shopping, I told our hotel manager about the hot water issue we faced in the morning. He assured me that he would ensure that his staff would start the boiler on time and we would get hot water for next day morning.

The manager kept his word and we got a nice hot water bath. Once again, bread & butter was what we could have for breakfast before we checked out of the hotel. Raju Kakkad had arranged for a car (Indica) for our road trip to Somnath (231 kms). We left in the car at 8:40 am to Somnath.

Dwarkadheesh Darshan was one of my experiences that I can never forget. While leaving Dwarka, I felt we should have stayed for a day more at least. But we had to head towards the call from Shiva and say good bye to Krishna. But I didn’t know that Natwar was waiting for me at Somnath along with Natraj!

January 2011 – Kerala tour

29th Dec 2010 – 1st Jan 2011 – Arrival at CIF

Every journey is different. This journey I took in January 2011 was no exception to it. I left Mumbai for Kerala on Dec 29th 2010 with a sad feeling for having lost a big project from my hands. Somehow I had summed up my spirits to head towards Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF) for a demo session to Global Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK) campers and also to do a few demo sessions in some schools as a part of campaigning for the upcoming two Vedic Maths camps (one for students and one for teachers) at CIF in April 2011. These camps were two events that I was keenly looking forward to. Through these camps, we were aiming to build a band of teachers who could take this beautiful subject ahead and sow the seeds of love towards Mathematics in young hearts.

2nd – 6th Jan 2011 – Days at CIF

The demo for Global CHYK on 2nd Jan 2011 went well. The next couple of days were spent in planning for the April camp. I also spent time with the campers touring the city of Ernakulam. This visit of mine to Kerala was supposed to be for demo sessions in different educational institutions.

6th – 9th Jan 2011 – Calicut

On 7th we visited five institutions in Calicut and explained to them about the camp. The next two days, I was in a totally different world of Music, Art and Dance. It was the Kerala State Convention of Spicmacay at Chinmaya Vidyalaya Calicut. Each performance of the Event took the whole audience to a different realm in Musical World.

9th – 11th Jan 2011 – Kannur

I left for Kannur on 9th evening from Calicut and reached there late at night. I had decided to stay at Rajanbhai’s (my father’s colleague and good friend) home. I was welcomed by his wife with the incomparable hospitality of Kannur. During the two days I got four demo sessions in colleges – courtesy Vineeshji. My hosts also took me to a nearby temple fair which had a cultural dance called Theyyam. It was the first time I was seeing this dance form. As always, I took many photographs of the Theyyam. Since I was moving around with my Nikon D 3000 clicking every possible picture, the village folk looked at me as if I’m from some other planet. I asked a man who was designing the costume of the Theyyam dancer about the dance form. I had heard that these dancers jump on red hot coal without any protection on their body. I was told by him that these dancers undergo Vratam (disciplined life following certain austerities very strictly) for a certain number of days. And it is only then they can do this task. Before this dance, wood is burnt since the earlier night. Next day, when the coal is red hot, the dancer dances around the heap of coal and throws himself on it. He wears a lower garment but no upper garment. There are ropes tied on to him that is pulled by couple of other men to take him out of the pile of coal. But after a few seconds, he jumps again. On every jump, his body is on the hot coal and his hands going into the mound of coal. He does this for about 50 – 60 times during the dance. The wonder of wonders is that he does not get burnt. They say it’s his ‘faith’ that protects him. I wonder what a strong unshakeable faith that might be!

11th – 13th Jan 2011 – Trissur, the land where people talk in tunes

On 11th afternoon I left Kannur to reach Trissur at night. I’ve always loved listening to the accent of the people from this place. I was received at the railway station by Sandeep. Within half an hour of my arrival, a meeting was fixed with the Centre Manager of TIME Institute (a Competitive Exams’ coaching centre). The meeting resulted in a demo session on the following day for the banking exams students on that Institute. I halted at Sandeep’s place and enjoyed the company of his folks that night and the following morning. That night, Sandeep and I were talking on the various activities and events of Chinmaya Mission that took place in Trissur in the past. Another CHYK Shrinath joined me in the afternoon. He was a bright boy with an ardent desire to learn and to do something for the society. That evening, Sandeep was to leave for Chennai for YEP reunion. Shrinath asked me if I could stay at his home that night. I happily replied, “Yes”. I met his mother and grandmother. His grandmother was very energetic and enthusiastic. I was surprised when I came to know that she was over eighty. She didn’t look more than sixty-five. That night, I and Shrinath were chatting till late night just as how I spent with Sandeep the earlier night. It seemed so strange. I was meeting Sandeep and Shrinath for the first time but none of us felt so. We all were talking as though we knew each other since years. Was it some connection of earlier births or was it the wonderful thread of Chinmaya Mission that connected all of us, I don’t know.

The next day, we had three demo sessions in three different schools. Shrinath left his work aside for me and took me on his bike to all the places. All the three demos were different. The energy levels of children of different schools were different. I could see a change in personality of the children of each school. Demo sessions are indeed good learning experiences. Shrinath gave me feedbacks about my session that was very helpful for my self-improvement areas.

14th Jan 2011 – Calicut

After taking my luggage, we left the Ashram by 10:30 pm to his home. I was supposed to stay at his home since my next day’s train to Kasargod was at 4:40 am. Since getting an auto in such wee hours was a next to impossible task, I had decided to stay at Sudev’s *(a CHYK from Calicut) house.

The bike ride to Sudev’s place was itself an adventure. I had a suitcase, a plastic cover, my laptop and Sudev’s bag pack – all on my lap. The road was good till it was 2 kms away from his home. He advised me to stay steady and be prepared for bumpy roads. Every time we crossed a bumpy road, he said, “The worst is yet to come”. I thought, maybe he is saying this because he has not been through the worst roads of Suburban Mumbai. By this time, my lap & back had started to ache. And then the joy ride started. We were travelling on roads that were in the shape of Wall Street graphs. In fact, there was no road at all. It was a hill on which we could go for trekking. The bike jumped when it went over some stones. I feared that I would be thrown off the bike; such was the condition of the road. And the speed couldn’t be reduced because if we did so, the bike couldn’t cross the mini boulders at a slow speed. Accidently I gazed up into the sky and I felt as if I was at some Astronomical Centre. I had never seen so many stars at night on a clear sky. Being a person from Mumbai, the sky I had seen comprised of a moon and a few hundred stars. But here, I could see thousands of them. And they all looked so happy. As I was enjoying the bliss of the dark silent night, I was brought back to this world when our bike went in and came out of a crater on the road. On my right side, I saw rocks. It reminded me of the bike rallies in AXN channel where the stunt men took the bikes over the rocky mountains. But the only difference was, they were geared to their safety suits and we weren’t. With the punya karma of my ancestors, I reached Sudev’s place safely. It was inside a remote village. We retired to bed at 1 am. Sudev asked me if we could stay awake instead of sleeping for just two hours. But I didn’t choose that option since I had two demo sessions the next day morning at Kasargod. As Sudev switched off the light, it was totally dark. I had never seen or imagined ‘total darkness’ like this before. In cities, even if we switch off the lights, still there will be a little light due to which we can atleast see shadows or our own body. But here, I couldn’t even see my own hand that I was moving in front of my eyes. I got the right meaning of ‘pitch black’ with a practical example. Usually, I have the habit of capturing moments on my camera. And how I wished if I could capture this darkness on my camera!
Next day, or rather the same day, we left for Calicut station at 3:45 am with cool winds hitting our face like needles pricking our skin. The rattling of my teeth was louder than the bike’s sound. We reached the railway station on time. I thanked Sudev and more than him, I thanked God for sending him to me. If it wouldn’t have been for him, we couldn’t have met so many people in Calicut. They say we are mere instruments in HIS hands. HE chooses the instruments and works through them. I was convinced by this with all my experiences till now. I had no idea how many demo sessions could I do or who is going to help me with leads for demos. And with the least effort, I got assistance from all sides – right from food, shelter, travelling, fixing up meetings, etc. Hadn’t my mission been HIS mission, I guess, none of this would have worked. I got a feel that I’m moving in the right direction.

16th – 17th Jan 2011 – Ottappalam

I left Kasargod to Ottappalam (a place between Palakkad and Shornur) on 16th Jan 2011. I was to stay at Indiraji & Dasanji’s home. Both of them are dedicated Sevaks of Chinmaya Mission. Dasanji had arranged sessions for me in three nearby colleges for Grads and Post-Grads. It was 16th evening that I reached there. Late afternoon, I had a walk around their house inside the compound enjoying the beauty of the trees and silence of the village. Evening was spent in the Annual Day function of a nearby school. I enjoyed the classical dances but felt sad when I saw small children dancing to Indi-pop songs with seductive looks and moves. The dance movements were the actual imitations of the movie stars who perform on the big screen. But it was so sad to see such innocent children giving those looks and the audience applauding for such kind of a dance and youngsters whistling. I was trying to figure out what might be the reason that is making the parents of these children proud? Who trained these small children? Teachers?? Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to guide the children and show them what’s good and what’s not? What are we doing to the young generation? On one hand, we hear cases of eve-teasing, molestation and rape cases among youngsters and start cursing the youth for all the problems of the world. And on the other hand, we give a big applause to young children and teenagers when they sing or dance to such tunes. Now, what are these young ones supposed to understand from this? Are they wrong if they assume (after our encouragement) that “Womanizing is Okay”? Which generation is indeed to be blamed – the young generation or the older one?

18th – 20th Jan 2011 – Ernakulam and CIF

On 18th early morning, I left Ottappalam to Ernakulam to come back to CIF from where I started. We did sessions in three more schools in the next two days. Two of the three schools were keen on doing workshops exclusively for their teachers. It was a great pleasure to see that people have started valuing such great branches of knowledge discovered by Indian Rishis.

At the end of the tour, I was left with a lot of good memories & learning experiences to cherish. My heart was content with the feeling of having worked in a missionary style for the last 12 working days by covering 6 cities and 24 Educational Institutions and addressing almost 3000 children. It was indeed such a wonderful way to start a New Year by spreading the knowledge of Vedic Maths to so many. Last but not the least, the great Rishis & Gurus choose different people to do different works and I feel a sense of gratitude for having been one of the Chosen Ones!