"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

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dwadashajyotirlinga yatra : Day 9 - Dwarka, and travel to Kolkata

Early morning, we had a frightfully heavy breakfast buffet. Instead of gathiya, jalebi and fafda deep in the state of Gujarat, we had idlis and parathas. We had to rush to get the 7am darshan - viewing at the temple. This was a stretch, because we needed to drive to the airport in Jamnagar, 90 miles away, which could take up upto 3 hours. Despite the tight schedule, the Swamijis have decided to go to the temple of Dwarka. I am beyond joy, I would get to see Dwarkadhisha - the lord of Dwarka, after more than 30 years.   

Slightly more than five thousand years ago, the young Krishna killed the usurper of the throne of Mathura, his maternal uncle Kamsa, and re-instated the rightful king, Ugrasena, Krishna's maternal grandfather and Kamsa's father. Kamsa's father-in-law Jarasandha attacked Mathura seventeen times, and was warded off each time by Krishna and his elder brother Balarama. Krishna realized that Jarasandha would likely not stop exacting revenge as long as he lived. Krishna decided to move the people to Dwarka, an island with the Arabian Sea as its moat, thereby earning the title of Ranchhod - one who flees battle.

The city of Dwarka was a planned city, with considerable land reclaimed from the sea. The superior military powers and the leadership of Krishna and his elder brother Balarama brought the Vrishnis unparalleled wealth in gold and gems and cattle and horses. After Krishna left his mortal body, the island city of Dwarka was submerged in the sea, witnessed by his cousin Arjuna who came to Dwarka to take the women and children to safety, as described in Book XVI - Mausala Parva of the Mahabharata. Arjuna's elder brother Yudhishthira, the king of Hastinapur (currently in Delhi), made Vajranabha, Krishna's grandson, the king of Indraprastha (currently in Delhi). King Vajranabha had originally built the temple of Dwarka, dedicated to Krishna.

Recent advances in technology and geological and archaelogical finds provide scientific evidence to the stories from the scriptures. Gurudev has said - Faith is to believe what you do not see, the reward of which is that you see what you believe.

The current temple at Dwarka that we were about to visit, has five storeys, and was built in the sixteenth century with limestone and sand during the reign of the Mughal emperor, Akbar. The earlier shrine is believed to have been destroyed by Mahmud Begda, a Muslim invader in the fifteenth century.

Dwarka (or Dvaravati) is cited as one of the seven most holy spots for the followers of Sanatana Dharma to attain salvation, in the Garuda Purana, the others being Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanchi, Ujjain and Puri.
ayodhya mathura maya kashi kanchi avantika | puri dvaravati chaiva saptaita moshadayikah ||
Packing to leave
It was a short drive to the Jagatmandir temple, where the deity is Dwarkadhisha - the lord of Dwarka, Krishna. I was eight years old when I came to Dwarka last time, and I clearly remember the little green picture frame with a passport-sized photograph of the deity that I had purchased for two rupees. It was among the first purchases of my life, and the memory of looking around at the store and settling for the little photoframe is always fresh in my mind. Ten years later, when a friend took me to Nathdwara in Rajasthan, I had bought an idol of Bal Gopal - the baby Krishna, and the paraphernalia to take care of the baby. And, I could clearly remember the morning years later, before my wedding, I accepted brahmasambandha - acceptance of Vaishnavism. Pushti Marg - the path of Grace, is a sect of Hinduism started in the sixteenth century by Vallabhacharya, a stalwart of the Bhakti Marg - the devotional path. For the ceremony, I had to wear new, unwashed, pure silk clothes and after a sprinkling of holy water and reciting a chant, I was given a tulasi mala - a chain with basil seeds to wear. 

For many years, I struggled with accepting Krishna as divine.I studied what he said by reading the Bhagwad Geeta, and Gurudev, Swami Chinmayanandaji's interpretation of the Bhagwad Geeta since my college days. I accepted Krishna as the Jagadguru - universal guru, the master of Yoga. But I stopped short at accepting his divinity. And with my intellectual pursuits of Vedantic concepts, I abandoned ritualistic practices for many years. It is my humble opinion that the daily worship of Bal Gopal - the child Krishna, the wearing of the tulasi mala, and other ritualistic practices only work to feed the ego, the I-ness, unless they are accompanied by true devotion that I just could not find within myself. It was only last year when Swami Shivayoganandaji had described how Krishna had visited Shiva's home, the higher Kailash during the Mahabharata, that the flickering memory of my Krishna worship from a decade ago, was revived.

Swami Sarveshanandaji's patience and guidance has gone a long way in my own spiritual search, and I have read texts and commentaries, and commentaries on commentaries, and gone to him with questions and doubts. Last year, I realized that I wanted to read devotional texts for which I had had no patience earlier. I started reading the Bhagwatam - the story of Krishna's life on earth, and a commentary on the Bhagwatam published by the Gita press, and somewhere along the way, I surrendered to Krishna. The ritualistic worship of Bal Gopal - the child Krishna, and wearing the tulasi mala came of its own accord. What Anantanandaji said to me on this trip on my internal struggle regarding Krishna, has stuck to me. My limited body-mind-intellect equipment can not comprehend Krishna's divine glory. So I should not try to understand Krishna from my perspective, I should surrender and look forward to experiencing his divinity.

The yellow silk sari that I had worn seventeen years ago to accept the Pushti Marg - the path of Grace, I wore again today to return to him. When I finally had a tulasi mala around my neck, and Krishna in my heart, I got the opportunity to visit the home of Krishna after more than thirty years.

Dwarka, at the westernmost point of the Indian mainland in the state of Gujarat, is known as one of the four dham - homes of Vishnu, the other three being Rameshwaram on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula in the state of Tamil Nadu, Puri in the east in the state of Orissa, and Badrinath in the north in the lower Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand. Dwarka is also one of the four math - centers, the other three being Jyotirmath in the northern state of Uttarakhand, Shringeri in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, and Puri in the eastern state of Orissa, set up by Adi Shankaracharya who revived Sanatana Dharma from the depths of meaningless social and ritualistic practices to which it had fallen two thousand years ago.

Adi Shankaracharya traveled the whole country on foot at a very tender age, and revived hundreds of ancient temples, established worship rituals, and participated in academic debates with many scholars to make Advaita - non-dualism, as the dominant school of thought, and wrote scores of commentaries on texts and devotional hymns. In his short lifespan of thirty-two years, he re-established Sanatana Dharma as the mainstream faith in India. The guru parampara - guru tradition, of the Chinmaya Mission goes up to Adi Shankaracharya. Every temple I visit, every scripture or commentary I read, I am aware that I humbly follow in the footsteps of greatness.

We had to walk a quarter mile to the temple from the parking lot, barefoot. Fortunately, it was early in the morning, and the cold concrete now served to soothe my blistered swollen feet. There were gender-based lines in the temple, and very soon Ashverya and I found out that though the women from the villages may not be exposed to the complexities of urban life, they are tough cookies with devious ways of cutting in line.

Darshan - viewing, is challenging enough in a Shiva temple with the long lines, but in a Krishna temple, the temple schedule makes the timing crucial. Unlike Shiva, who once awakened, stays awake the whole day, Krishna wakes up, then gets ready, then takes a meal, then ... till he finally sleeps at the end of the day.  Between these many activities, the temple priests pull the drapes and decorate the deity and the sanctum sanctorum. The deity in a Krishna temple can only be seen at scheduled times, and the crowds keep milling and surging to see the newly decorated altar each time.

The pushing and pulling, and the arguments about who was where in the line may take away from the sanctity in a Shiva temple. In a Krishna temple, it sets the vibrant mood to match that of the presiding deity - I am quite sure he is extremely amused at the play around his temple. All the deities are different aspects of the one Almighty, with different personality traits attributed to each deity. And the charming Krishna of the twinkling eyes, likes to enjoy every moment. The deity at Dwarka is decorated luxuriously - in silk and with diamond-studded gold jewelry.

Once outside, I wanted to get some good pictures of the temple. Easier said than done, our car was nowhere to be seen. I walked a mile and asked the other drivers for our group, till I finally found our car, but our driver was missing. Half an hour later, our driver was still nowhere to be seen. Clearly, no pictures of the temple. Another time, another trip, Krishna's will...

As we waited for the driver to show up, a cow from a nearby group of idling cows, came and nuzzled Anantanandaji, who just stood there, exuding warmth. Then the cow turned to me. I held Sarveshanandaji's hand as the cow kept nuzzling me. This show of affection was amazing but scary at the same time - the cow did not have horns, but I was sure a nudge would be enough to throw me off-balance. I was precariously balanced on extremely swollen feet. The only other creature to shower me with so much love is my dog-child Snowy who is amazingly affectionate and can spend hours nuzzling and licking me and getting her stomach tickled. The cow started licking my hands, and I remember telling Sarveshanandaji - oh my god, she is licking me. He just nodded and kept smiling, while I held his hand tight. Just then our driver arrived, and we started getting into the car. At first the cow thought I was going to be in the front seat and tried to follow me there. As I climbed towards the back, she followed me there, and would have entered the car behind me. Suddenly, I was talking with the cow like I talk with Snowy: nahin, beta, vaapas jaao - No, child, you need to turn back. I said it a couple of times, and finally, like Snowy, she accepted. I had no idea cows licked people like dogs. Sarveshanandaji said cows used to lick Krishna's feet. I live and learn.

As we drove away, I got an unexpected good shot of the temple from afar. I would like to spend a few days here. Another trip, another time, Krishna's will...

The cars rushed off to the Jamnagar airport now, and arrived in good time. As usual, the Swamijis were in a great mood.

Apparently there is only one flight to Mumbai in the morning, and one return flight in the evening. We had to wait a while till the airport employees showed up and started checking in our bags.

The Swamijis were preparing to pelt Vinayakji when he entered the airport. I would have got the perfect picture but the security personnel suddenly saw my camera and told me photography was not allowed in the airport.

We flew from Jamnagar to Mumbai, where Dheeraj had arranged for packed lunches. Since we were forty-two people, we had to wait till the entire group was through with each step. We waited till everyone checked in, and found a seating area so most of us could sit down. Then started the process of opening three cartons of packed lunches and handing out to each person. Again, the organizational skills of the Swamijis is the only reason such trips materialize as planned.

Jyotiji's friends had given her a bouquet of flowers that entertained us for the time we spent eating lunch.

After the flight from Mumbai to Kolkata, the short bus journey in Kolkata from the airport to the bus was spent sleeping. When we arrived at the hotel, there was a lot of music like a grand celebration was about to happen. What it was, I will never find out because the moment a room was assigned, we trooped upstairs to quickly freshen up and come downstairs for dinner. We had travelled from Jamnagar to Kolkata, a land distance of just slightly more than 1100 miles. As we sat for dinner, it had been sixteen hours since we woke up in Dwarka, much of which we had spent in travel by car, plane and bus.

The dinner spread was fantastic as usual. The last thought as I set my tired body down to sleep was that on this date last year, we had been blessed with a view of the northern face of Kailash, and when I had gone to sleep, my last thought had been that the next day was the most difficult day of the Kailash trek.

Tomorrow, we have a long drive to Dhanbad - my first visit to Bihar and Jharkhand.  

Aum Namaha Shivaaya!!

No comments:

Post a Comment