"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dwadashajyotirlinga yatra : Day 5 - 1 - Trayambakeshwar

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning, and woke up the sleeping god at 3. I needed to shower, she had showered three hours ago and needed to pack. Our group left the hotel by 4:30 in the morning and reached Trayambakeshwara at 5. Waking up before dawn sounds hectic, but there was always so much excitement to take the next step that sleeping very few hours in any of these luxurious hotels, was not a bother at all. 

Ready to leave Nashik

Ready to leave Nashik
Swamiji had announced the previous day that men had to wear traditional clothes - be barechested and only wear dhoti - a wrap-around lower garment, and decidedly no underwear. The dhoti was to be the one single garment. As women were not allowed in the sanctum sanctorum, there was no dress code for them. I could only imagine what a dress code for women would have entailed, coming from the fertile imagination of minds who had come up with the unusual dress code for men. Twenty years ago or maybe even ten, I would not have set foot in a temple that had gender-based rules. Now, it did not matter. I also noticed with relief that my daughter does not take umbrage as easily as I did till I was considerably older than she is. I gave the Shrichakra to Swamiji so he could touch it to the shivalinga.

Trayambakeshwar (Jyotirlinga #4)

The shrine of Trayambakeshwar seen on the TV monitor
The temple of Trayambakeshwar at the base of the Brahmagiri mountain, about 20 miles from Nashik, was built by Peshwa Nanasaheb. The diamond that adorned the deity was taken away by the British and has gone through many owners. The temple has a decent-sized hall where we could all sit and receive the sacred water and tika - mark on the forehead, from the priests, after the men had worshipped there. We were also able to sit and watch the worship ceremony being performed by the male members in the group. The main deity here has three faces that are believed to be Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra, - the Creator, Caretaker and Destroyer aspects of the Almighty. The lingam is kept covered by a silver crown, or a golden crown on major events. It sits in a depression, and the water of the Ganga Godavari constantly flows on it, and has eroded it over time. 

The story goes that the sage Gautama killed a cow while trying to drive it away from grazing in a paddy field. To atone for his sin, he prayed on the peak of the Brahmagiri mountain and invoked the Ganga to appear. Shiva himself appeared, willing the Ganga to flow there, and Gautama was absolved of his sins. But not so easily - at first the Ganga refused to come, and when she did come with Shiva, she flowed with great gusto and energy so that the sage could not bathe in her. He then threw kusha - dry blades of grass, around her to contain the flow. The water collected in what is now known as Kushavarta Kund. The sources of the Godavari are in the Brahmagiri mountain, and the river is known as the Ganga Godavari to the locals. We had worshipped at the Ganga Godavari temple in Panchavati last night.

Trayambakeshwar temple

Trayambakeshwar temple

The most hilarious thing at Trayambakeshwar was the guards manually checking the men entering the sanctum sanctorum to ensure there was no underwear inside the dhoti. I still do not understand why women are not allowed in the temple. Such stupid rules can only originate from the minds of little men. Why is this temple in the hands of little men? The way I see it, it is a loss for the temple and for the priests who live on the offerings of devotees. Some day, when better sense prevails, I would like to come back and worship at the sanctum sanctorum. Another time, another trip, Shiva's will...

After the worship at the temple, we visited Kushavarta kund - pond. 

Exquisitely carved temples on the banks of the Kushavarta Kund

Love the cows

As we moved through the small temple town, we came across a rare sight among the brown, black and white cows - a splotched black and white cow - much thinner than we are used to, but nevertheless a cow as we see in America. 

Kushavarta kund, Vinayakji pointing out the peak of Brahmagiri, I think

Wide-eyed after dipping feet in the Kushavarta kund

We were fortunate that the temple was not as crowded when we came in, as when we left. And we were fortunate that it was not raining when we came in as it was when we left. It was drizzling all the while as we stood at Kushavarta Kund. Many people were dipping in the waters, but the green color and the slippery steps would deter the less ritualistic like me. The Swamijis told us to sprinkle the water on ourselves. Ashverya and I went a couple of steps into the water to dip our feet, and sprinkled some water on our already rain-drenched heads, and we were done with receiving the sacred Godavari Ganga water.

Two sweeties at a Shiva temple on the banks of Kushavarta Kund
The priest caught up with the group at this point, and offered us chai and coffee and a place to change. We were a little drenched, but we had no change of clothes. The male members of the group in dhotis only, were certainly carrying a set of clothes to change into. A very grateful group followed the priest through the narrow streets to a building with many rooms, where tea and coffee was available.
After visiting Trayambakeshwar and Kushavarta Kund

After visiting Trayambakeshwar and Kushavarta Kund
Finally, the caffeine entered my blood and the brain in my cold, drenched body started functioning - I noticed some people had beautiful detailed tilak - marks, on their foreheads. And I realized the old man by Kushavarta Kund who had put a tilak on my forehead had done this fantastic job. When I had paid him, I did not have anything less than a hundred rupees which seemed a lot for a couple of tilaks, but that is all I had. I was aware of the thought that I was paying him more than I wanted to. Now, I realized that he had deserved that and more, and there was a reason I had not been able to give him any less. 

We left the priest's guesthouse, much refreshed. It had started raining hard. We were walking through narrow streets in pouring rain under umbrellas and in ponchos that did not keep us dry. Halfway down the street, we realized that seven or eight of us were on our own, and did not know which way to turn. Fortunately, Vinayakji was with us. The Swamijis take on the role of being overall guides, not just spiritual masters on the yatra - piligrimages. We looked up to them for everything, including finding the way to the bus. He could not see the bus either, but he led us to stand under the awning of a shop. After standing there for a while, I saw that the outer walls of the shop were almost completely covered by flies, so much so that the entire white-washed wall looked black. They were sitting there too, to protect themselves from the rain. There are so many ways in which it comes home to us that in the end, we are all different life-forms that share the universe.   

A few more people from the group joined us, and then one person was sent out as a scout in the pouring rain to see where the bus was. Ultimately, another person had to be sent out as a scout to find the first scout and the bus. A while later, they came back to tell us that we needed to start walking towards the bus. The rain had now subsided somewhat, the tea and coffee from half an hour ago was a distant memory already. Cold and wet, we trooped into the bus and I don't know about the others, but Ashverya and I drifted into sleep.

We were awakened by the slowing down of the bus and the general talking of people - somebody was asking Dheeraj to stop for lunch. Air-dried in the air-conditioning of the bus and now having taken a nap, we were really hungry when the bus stopped. Dheeraj told the restaurant person the order for the group, and within 20 minutes, food was served. Of the twenty minutes of wait time, we spent 10 minutes in exercise to get the blood flowing again. I don't think blood shall flow again ever in my lower limbs, but no harm in trying. 

Trying to get the blood flowing, lunch stop on way to Bhimashankar

Trying to get the blood flowing, lunch stop on way to Bhimashankar
We spent time in exploring the surroundings before coming back to the restaurant. There was a pleasant breeze, it was a beautiful countryside with some mountains in the distance, and there were not many people around - a very comforting feel to sit away from the noise of urban chaos, waiting for warm food. 

Lunch stop on way to Bhimashankar

Lunch stop on way to Bhimashankar

Unbelievably beautiful road to Bhimashankar
Dog eating essentially the same food we are eating on tables
I am glad we stopped to eat at the restaurant. It was not just us and the restaurant workers, but the local life had something to eat because of us as well, all children of the same God.

The food was excellent, prepared fresh and served hot. It warms the heart to see the honest, hard-working people in the Indian heartland. It is this work culture that sustains the core of the country. In less than half an hour, they had prepared rotis, two vegetable curries, dal and rice, served with salad, yogurt and ice-cream.

The next destination this afternoon was the jyotirlinga at Bhimashankar.

Aum Namaha Shivaaya!!

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