Pachamarhi is the location of the Siva – Bhasmasura incident.
Jata Shankar :
There are some caves in Pachmarhi called the Jatashankar caves. While young boys and girls were rock climbing in style, I walked the 1 km to the cave entrance and step-climbed, god knows how many steps to the bottom of the one of the most beautiful and perfect places I have seen in my life. There is a business of jada-bhuti, nepali rudraksh, videos, eats and soft drinks all the way to the caves. I also had a darshan of a Shah Rukh Khan photograph, he is supposed to have come here with Kareena for the Asoka Shooting! Actors really have it all!
As I descended through the rocks, one hand on knee and the other on the railing, the scenery just got more and more beautiful, with narmada trickling between the rocks, new birds flying about, squirrels scurrying and ferns peeping out of the crevices. I bought some flowers for Siva and clambered down slowly, considerate of my asthmatic lungs and my recently recovered heart.
To reach the bottom of the steps and then to see a myriad of natural SivaLingams amid the pebbles of the flowing narmada streamlets, to offer ones’s flowers by one’s hands, to collect narmada water in one’s palms for Siva Abhishekam and then to simply sit and look at the huge rocks and streams and caves.. for me this was life, this was living. There was no other place that I wanted to be and no other thing I wanted to do. This was Siva as I was seeking him, and I was extremely “one” body,mind and soul. This is what some folks define as yoga!
Rudraksha the eye of Rudra :
After sitting there for a while, I slowly and happily clambered up again and chatted for a while with the Nepali who said that he was selling real rudraksh of the tree and that they were costly cause he could only smuggle a few into the country. For the first time in my life I saw the black rudraksh with the fruit/seed coat. He soaked them in water and showed how to take the coat off and discover whether the rudraksham was one, 2, 5 or multifaced. The eka mukhi rudraksh is said to be Siva himself and costs a lot of money since it is rare. The others are cheaper and used for good health. He told me that any cheap rudhraksh I may have bought was probably made of wood
After the upward climb, I legged it down the main road and met a “madras-bangalore” couple with their mom. The chap could not stop shaking my hand. This was not just regional affinity, for I later met another decent northerner, who looked like he would carry me away given half a chance. After all the matajis, mummyjis and auntyjis that I have been subjected to in recent years, this was a major surprise and a great joy! It is nice to feel young! I later read in my Patanjali Yoga Sutras book, that anyone who attains a state of yoga becomes very beautiful and attractive. Since I had attained the the yogic state of oneness of body, mind and soul at Jatashankar, I guess I had turned beautiful. My mother also said that I looked far better on my return than when I had set out on my journey. My guru said that I had become more peaceful and my vyakthitva (individuality/character/personality) had also changed in some way, though she could not exactly say what.
Gupt Mahadev :
The next morning I organised a taxi to take me to Gupta Mahadev and Mahadev for Rs 500/- These places are 10 km away from Pachmarhi but there is no hour/km meter here. The taxi guy asks and you give or you dont get to see the place. Those with their own transport are truly blessed.
At Gupt Mahadev there is a Hanuman statue outside and a single person-at-a-time-sideways-only, entry to a cave in which there is a Siva Lingam. You need a torchlight between your teeth to see anything there. After a Panchanga Pranamam to Gupt Mahadev, I roamed a bit in the Narmada stream and played wit the pebbles and explored some easy caves.
Irrespective of how much you pay them, taxi guys have no patience and will hurry you from place to place, so it is better to negotiate, time, places and rates before you get in. Since there is no metre, km policy.
This was another experience of a life time.
Here the Siva is in a long cave, easy entrance, a pool in front, the only light is from an electric bulb and drops of Narmada keep falling on your head, dripping from the rocks above. While I managed to recall and chant some slokas and mantras and sing some songs, it was increasingly becoming clear to me that Siva is best worshipped with drums of my heartbeats, the tears in my eyes and the enthralled feeling in my mind. It is hard to recall or make any sounds in his presence. It was again highly impossible to tear myself away from this place. Then I went and saw Devi Mata in her cave as well as the Siva of the Adivasis called Kaal. There was a little boy there who had collected all the coconuts offered to Mahadev and was breaking them up and eating them happily.
Having got down the wrong flight of stairs misdirected by this young boy — I ran up the stairs all over again, surprising myself. No hands on knees, heart or back. Just running like a gazelle or mountain goat. In this place are miracles just waiting to happen.
Of course, I have read that all these religious experiences release dopamine, a neuro-transmitter, that makes you feel powerful as well as happy and like God itself. (God Gene). So magic or science, it does not matter, the experience is really one worth having! And the best part is that it will work only for those who can feel the magic and be understood only by those who cannot feel it. Unless of course you have my special gift of suspended judgment.
ya devi, sarva bhuteshu, shakti rupena, samsthithaa, namastasyai, namastasyai, namastasyai, namo namah. Hara Hara Mahdeva!
Getting To Pachmarhi :
Having followed the Narmada River from Amarkantak, northwards to Jabalpur, I travelled South to meet her again at Pachmarhi. Everyone inMaharashtra and Madhya Pradesh knows about Pachmarhi and go there fore their vacations. All my co-travellers nodded approvingly when I told them of this next destination of mine. I took an AC CC from Jabalpur to Pachmarhi locally called pachmadi.
One important thing when travelling in MP, is that many locals (including ticket collectors) have no clue about the exact time of arrival at any station. Any time they give you is at least 30 min off either way and the train stops only 2 min at any minor station.
The less information they have the more emphatic advice the local chappies will give you. They don’t like answering questions and sharing information. They like gathering info about you, taking a decision with their own minds and enforcing it on you. I found this both annoying and disastrous because the answers led to exactly what I did NOT want.
So where possible get all your info BEFORE you leave home. Best if you have one of those blackberry things with you and use it whenever you manage to get a signal. Lonely Planet works better for white back-packers and not much for Indians. MustSeeIndia was pretty decent.
All places look very different in the tourist brochures and many have different local names. Hindi reigns and English is rare. Interestingly though now people there know “karnatak” and “bangalore” and think it is very cool place where people speak english all the time and surprsingly enough no one speaks Hindi!
Having got off at Pipariya (PPI), I took a shared taxi (Rs 50) to Hotel Highlands, Pachmarhi, MP tourism. The hotel was nice and the guy at the desk rather considerate and willing to answer questions. Of course there were scary moments of no current, no generator and aggressive red faced monkeys, and big bugs but some nice kids in the other rooms, helped me organise a candle and made sure I was not alone and scared. Just merely scared.. BTW, one of the single white girls I met later, remarked that in India, people very quickly adopt you into their families and help you and you never feel that you have to deal with everything on your own. This is very true and very valuable.
Then of course, taxi to Pipariya where I caught the train to Ujjain, 2nd class!.
Authorship and Copyright Notice : Satya Sarada Kandula : All Rights Reserved