April 30, 2016

Simhastha Kumbh, Hangover that refuses to end...

Yes this is one hangover we will never try to get rid of, in fact will treasure in a corner of our beings, forever. We are talking about our adventure/pilgrimage/ educational tour to Ujjain during Simhasth Kumbh Mela, whatever one would like to call it. Yes the grand carnival or Mahaparv (Grand Festival), celebrated by largest human gathering on Earth in every 12 years, this time from 22nd April – 21st May 2016. Excitement and nostalgia of being the blessed one for getting a chance to take dip in the holy waters and experience the Day 1 Shahi Snan was overwhelming and uncontrollable.
Day 1: Shahi Snan at Ujjain Kumbh
We five ladies having introduced to the sanctity of the dip in the river during the Kumbh set out to have our own trip to Ujjain. The plans begun, tickets booked, all happened as though someone was over looking us and we landed in Indore on our way to Omkareshwar.

The drive to Omkareshwar from Indore was comfortable and we were welcomed by the hottest blow of air as we got down visiting the temple at Omkareshwar. After the darshan at Omkareshwar and a relaxed visit to the temple, we settled down to a comfortable stay at the MP tourism hotel. Next morning we set out for a dip in Narmada, and we were pleasantly surprised by the group of Bengali ladies who joined us. All were much older than us, but their pure joy as they took the dip unabashed was inspiring. Some hung on to our arms as they wished to swing for a while in the water, as we city bred cautious ladies, were looking at the rocks with moss on them cautiously.  Narmada with her quite, magnanimous way had lessons to teach us, in that little while. Mother after all, she is. We were wondering which other culture in the world has so much reverence to the life giving rivers: Calling them rivers, bowing to them, energizing oneself with a dip in them, praying and lighting the lovely lamps that shine as the stars which came down to earth for a walk.

Very soon we left for Ujjain and a brief stopover for a hearty lunch in Indore. The ride was smooth and we reached the hotel after an eventful journey in the last leg resulting from security and logistics issues set out by the MP govt. Those of us who visited Ujjain during the last year could not help but notice how elaborate the arrangements were and the efforts that have gone in to make the visitors comfortable.
The presence of the police and local administration at every corner overlooking each detail is wonderful. Even the hot summers were thought of and sprinklers in the temple made our visit to the temple comfortable and memorable. Water in the river is cleaned regularly, boats with personnel on watch make your dip worry free. Did we ladies go there for a dip in the river Shipra, yes we did, for a darshan of Mahakaal yes we did, for an experience of the ancient holy city of Ujjain which has the liquor drowning Kaal Bhairav, Lord Krishna's school Sandeepani ashram with a beautifully sculptured well in its compound  which would put any swimming pool of the modern schools to shame and the ancient caves (giving us the glimpses of the conditions people set themselves out for to find the limits of human possibilities, etc, etc.) and other places to visit in Ujjain. But we were also asking for more as we wanted to visit the “Akhaadaas”.
What are these akhaadaas? Knowing not much more than that these are places where Aghoras, Naga Babas might be present, we were keen to have a glimpse of them after reading and sharing a few books on them not too long ago. We set out to visit the Akhaadaas finally, the ones where the Naga-Babas will be there. The walk through these lanes was nothing that can be remotely termed as serene, spiritual or calming. Each of these tents were as bright and loud as any exhibition a middle class Indian visited at any time in his life. Each of them were open and inviting. We chose to sit with one and found him smoking continuously, we were informed he has an ashram in Gujarat which is frequented by many and his complexion is so spotless and clear would give any fancy facial and makeover a run, that, in spite of smoking uninterruptedly.





To our wonderment, some yogis and sadhus were walking or simply sitting in Digambar Avastha.......a clothless state. The Nagas…! For some, smoking seemed their only interest. Even when they smoked it was not casual, careless. It looked like there was some purpose behind their smoking. Some looked fierce, some were compassionate. They had given up families, worldly life even the clothing...Actually, after a while when we saw many who were smoking and smoking various stuff, were thinking that these babas are actually poster boys for tobacco industry. They all looked fit, energetic and that in spite of chain smoking. What are these people doing that we are missing, our experience from the urban world is - you go to any specialist and if you ask him to cure you, he tells you to stop smoking, and we know how much that is possible.
Another experience worth mentioning is from a baba we named the “Joyful One”. In all my life of five decades and more, I have not met any who is so joyful for so long for no reason. Watching him is being a life lesson; he stands on one leg, and takes support on a swing that has been put up temporarily. Was he told he got 99.9% in SSC today, did his child get into IIT today or did he win a lottery today, none of these or any of the many things which most of us are slogging away all the time for this reason, but HE IS JUST PLAIN JOYFUL ALL THE TIME...!
We were amazed and anxious that how can someone consistently be so joyful for sooo long? We were with him for over 45minutes. He made us chant Om Namah Shivaaya and was open to questions, answering joyfully whatever one throws at him. When asked how he remains so joyful he said what is the reason not to be, all have the same soul, we come and go why not to be joyful. Even I know those answers but WHY AM I NOT SO JOYFUL? When he heard I am from Andhra he quickly dialled a number and wished I talk to the lady on the other end. Even as my group was leaving I could not say no and waited to talk expecting a bigwig from the other end looking at his enthusiasm. After a couple of minutes I heard a lady who was on her way to gulf for a petty job and encountered this Swami in Srisailam. Did someone say “Do not judge people by what they do but how they are?” 
After a couple of hours of this round we were feeling tired so decided to relax on the beautiful ghat, bank of river Shipra under the full moon. It was a beautiful sight and ambience par excellence.

We found a baba with nothing on him but a sack wrapped around his waist. We had been warned before that these people do not like us dwindling into our purses so we ladies took out some money and kept some handy as our budget for the day. Having come to the tail end of both our energies and our budget for the day our last tens were all we were left with. We went down and gave that to him and he graciously accepted without a thought and started talking to us. In no time we knew he was educated and very well travelled. When he found where we each came from he listed out all the holy places around and encouraged each of us to show them to the others in our group. Srisailam to Dwaraka to Girnar nothing he missed. All throughout during the conversation he was with quick wit and understanding and surprised us totally. When we look back today we feel sorry for ourselves and the assumptions we had as we set out on our encounter with him. In our culture, we hear that we should be grateful to those who accept anything from us; this experience indeed taught us that to core.
Also there were Naga Babas around, with ash on their bodies and in all different ways possible, long hired ones, high hired ones, etc, etc. how can one human being with nothing on their body, terrorize everyone around. No one can stand in the way of Naga Babas. We could not but help thinking of them as “Emperors with No Clothes”.
Having more than possible assumptions and expectations cultivated from the urban world getting destroyed in one evening, we could not but wonder which university in the world could have taught us more in one evening. These are people who stretch the physical limits to teach us what is possible with ourselves physically. Having achieved the heights of so called success and material well being, when the junta is lost for happiness and look grim, they show us how to be absolutely joyful with nothing much round you. They are in our world hidden, quietly stretching the human possibilities. Where around us we calculate the value of gifts and return gifts they offer us an opportunity to offer them unconditionally.

Next time you visit Kumbh, just do not go for Snan (Dip in the waters) it has much more to offer.
My Guru said Mahakaal dissolves you – How True.
By Lata Francis, Feruzan Khambatta, Mona Patel, Pooja Mehta and Usha Boppana – Isha Meditators.
Thanks to the blessed ones who got this sacred opportunity to experience this sacred conclave of humanity and one of the greatest festival for the mankind…Waiting for my turn to be at Kumbh, may be this one or the next one... 

To reach Ujjain:
By Train: Ujjian is well connected by railway with most of the major cities in India
By Road: Well connected with major cities
Nearest Airport : Indore approx. 60 km., regular flights ply from all the major cities.
Accommodation: Dharamshalas near Mahakal temple, MP tourism guest house and hotels in Ujjain to suit every budget





Reactions:

5 comments:

  1. Unique Religious and cultural experience

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not just an experience, but an education for a lifetime which is not in any of the books...

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  2. very well written :) Now I feel I should come with you mom (usha boppana) :) Next time for sure...

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    Replies
    1. It has been a virtual experience for us with this article. Next time, I am also sure to visit this grand experience of Kumbh...

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  3. Hi,
    How nice this post is!! Really great and osum!! I read your web details and undestood that,
    Simhastha or Kumbh Mela will celebrate at Ujjain in the year 2016 spreading over from 22nd of April to 21st of May. The custom of Shahi Snan will direct on 22 April 2016, a day of full moon (Purnima) according to lunar timetable. Almost ten million fans the nation over graced the celebration with their nearness on this favorable day. Ujjain facilitated the Ardha Kumbha in the year 2010 where various Hindus saw the event. In the year 2016, Simhastha Kumbh Mela will be honored in Ujjain . Try not to miss the open door and grasp your spirit and material body with the sacrosanct nectar presented by God.
    so I'm trusting my experience will be a positive one
    usefull for us.

    Thanks,
    Frank

    ReplyDelete

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