After my darshan of Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain on the second Karthika Somavaram and missing the direct bus to Omakarshwar, I was put into an Indor bus by automan Karan. I got a place next to a young financial wizard, the son of a journalist. He told me that nagda was actually naag dah, the place of Janamejaya’s sarpa yagam. I told him about Janamejaya’s Dana Sasana Patram. Then he told me that Amjer near Indore was on the route of that Krishna took Rukmini on the way from Amravati to Dwaraka (Click for google maps route). What a thrill! But I hadn’t planned sufficient time to hunt this place down and visit it. (Any way I have to make another trip to visit all the places hallowed by the touch of Sri Krishna’s feet.) I told him about the map of Sri Rama‘s journey drawn by my father. (Ancient India Map (3) Rama’s Journey). He was pretty thrilled and took the address of this web-site. At Indore he dropped me at the bus-stop for Omkareshwar. I had lots of interesting co-passengers in the place next to me. But the most interesting was a handsome middle aged farmer, who was very thrilled to hear the story of Gokarna, Ravana and Vinayaka from me. And when he asked me about my husband, I let him think that he was waiting for me at Omkareshwar. I asked him about Narmada dam and hes said he was very grateful for it. He said it is the “folks from Gujarat” who fret about it. Poor Medha Katkar.. perhaps there is not much sympathy for her among Madhya Pradesh farmers? I had to take an auto from Motak bus-stop to Omkareshwar proper and flew off the handle at the auto driver who completed errands of his boss on my time after insisting that I pay for the “whole” auto.
The MP tourism hotel Narmada Resort is rather nice and room 201 has a lovely view of the Narmada river and Omkareshwar temple. There is a beautiful balcony in which you can sit and stare at the beautiful Narmada in the evening lights in peace and quiet. The peace that emanates from Omkareshwar has to be felt to be believed. Of course when I went, the Karthik Mela had started and I had Amitabh Bacchan jovially crooning the benefits of Banarasi Paan over the loudspeakers. (Having accepted the movie icons are the devataas of our time, and being something of a fan I did not mind at all.)
Though I was dead tired I set off immediately for a Darshan of Omkareshwar, I had travelled so long and so far to this final destination where I had planned a 3 night halt. The temple is rather small for some one used to Chola Style constructions, and the Siva Lingam was so unassuming that I passed it by the first time not knowing that this was Omakareshwar. Of course then I had to go back in again for a “proper” darshan. The priests told me that the ShivaLingam outside was the one that Mandhata of the Iksvakus, the ancestors of Karikala Chola and Sri Rama, personally worshipped. ( See : Karikala (Kalikala) Chola and the Ikshvakus: Tiruvalangadu Copper-Plates of Rajendra-Chola I)
Brahmans and Me :
I am a brahmin by birth with the blood of the Saptarishis running through my veins (and arteries too). I have great sympathy for the brahmin cause and a great respect for the Vedas. And yet I was terrified and upset by the incident that happened next.
I asked the priest what he would charge for a Vedokta Puja. All through my trip I had heard people chanting only purana slokas and in Siddhavat some brahmins were conducting shraddha ceremony wearing stiched clothes “pants-shirts-kurtas”. The most I heard of Veda Mantras anywhere was the Purusha Suktha. This young priest told me that half the priests did not know any Veda Mantras. (In the Bhoginandeeshwara temple, Nandi Hills, Bangalore too, I saw two boy priests who went to St. John’s college and had no Vedic education whatsover, performing the puja to Kamateshwar.)
This boy agreed to perform a Vedokta Puja for me with a chanting of the Rudram. In Mahakaleshwar, the list price for this is Rs 151/-, and this boy insisted that he had no price in mind and the fee was yathasakthi, as per your affordability. So with a 100 or 200 amount in mind and after his repeated assurances, I commenced the puja. It was something of a Sree Kalahasti (elephant and spider) affair with some one else performing a different puja to the same siva lingam at the same time and each party removing the offerings of the other party. And I could only catch a few phrases of what my priest was saying.
At the end of the puja the boy started, you can pay me as per your affordability 1100, 2100 and so on. I had only 800 with me and was hoping to get a few books too. I paid him 500 and he asked for another 100 and then another 500. I told him that this was the exact reason, why I wanted to fix a price at the beginning. The one thing I hate saying is that I don’t have money, what I hate even more is saying that to a brahman in the presence of Rudra himself. I told him I respected him and that I could not put a price on his knowledge or effort on my behalf and that I had only planned for 200 and I was already at 3 times the amount I had set aside. Some decency in this young person and he let it go at 600, and then I was surrounded by a horde of brahmins asking for money so that they could all eat. It was neither begging nor extortion but it was distressing and painful and I resented the suggestion that I should go to the ATM and get more money. Then some young girls started a “feed the kanyas” slogan in my ears.. and I had to run away from the spot. One of the priests chased me now with a visiting card asking me to contact him for any later contact. I refused and then my priest came back and offered me the card with his apologies for any distress caused to me. Even as he was apologising, the leader of the brahmin horde was back demanding money to “feed-the-brahmins”. My priest shooed him off. I told him, that all he needed to do was to state his 1000, 2000 expectation in the beginning and I would have left quietly with just a darshan and no puja. It is not fair to ask a lot in the end. I think he understood and left, but then another priest approached me this time for a puja in Mamaleshwar at Rs 250/- I turned him down.
I finished the rest of my temple tour, tears streaming down my face, with a realisation, that there was NOTHING I could do to help these brahmins. While western education leads to wealth and comfort and dignity, Vedic education is so much more difficult and leads from appeals to charity to direct begging to exploitation. And many priests neither learn all the Vedas nor their meanings. They learn the karmakanda, sukla yajurveda in the north and krishna yajur veda in the south. And some don’t learn even that. I understood the Ujjain priest in Sandeepani Ashram, who would happily leave that divine place for human Bangalore of he could earn a regular salary and not have to ask anyone for anyone.
Why did I cry? I could not stand the social circumstances that forced to brahmins to resort to such undignified behaviour. I could not stand my present helplessness. When I was an NRI software business manager and I visited Thirupathi and Kalahasthi, I had plenty of 500Re notes to dispense to taxi drivers and priests alike to their complete satisfaction and joy. It was my western education and earnings that helped them. Now having given all that up and taken up Vedic education and indology, I can only insist om high standards from them, see their errors and help them nothing.
I then thought that once I return to Bangalore, I would stop/pause my Vedic Learning, Bhagavad Gita teaching and Ancient Indians Research and Writing. I would re-skill myself in western ways and knowledge and re-enter mainstream life. This write-up on Omkareshwar was to be my last. After this I may still take a class, tell a story or even write a piece if I feel like, but not as I have been doing, not as a passion and not as a goal. My life is now up for a redesign and I have tremendous amount of introspection to do. I have in fact paused my Vedic learning and my Gita Classes. I may still write now and again when I feel like and do some consolidation on this site when I can, but this is no longer going to be my 24 hour waking and sleeping activity, at least till my introspection is done.
Mamaleshwar is the actual jyotirlingam, whose pratishtha was done (by Mandhata, I think). Omkareshwar is the swayambhu lingam. In mamaleshwar I first offered the priest Rs 10/- and then asked for a little narmada water to do an abhishek of the shivalingam.
gyaarasi, panchakoshi, ekadasi :
This was gyaarasi or the 11th day, ekadasi (Nov 16th) to us. It is a very big day for the madhya pradeshis and tens of thousands of people had arrived there for panchakoshi, a five day Narmada parikrama involving a few neighbouring local places. The first day was at Omkareshwar and by pournami, the 5th day, all these people would be back. It was nice seeing all the hustle and buzz and for the first time in my life I saw how the belts and bells for cows are made. I bought some books on suklayajurveda and karmakanda in sanskrit. When you ask for sanskrit books, the book sellers say.. oh brahman books! Only brahmins going to school in the gurukula, read sanskrit books. “Normal” people read Hindi books! I also bought a couple of small Hindi books for 2 girls who liked the books but could not afford to pay for them.
For generosity, you must have an a excess of something that the other people lack and then you dont mind sharing a bit of your stuff with them. What you have very not enough of, it is hard to part with for the sake of another person. Whether it is energy, money, time, love..
Sometimes people think you have an excess of something and ask for it… then you resent them, if you are not in a position to fulfil their demands. The priests at Omkareshwar assumed I was rich, they did not mean to distress me. It is not their fault. I have always felt and looked rich even when at times when I had neither income nor bank balance. That is the Shakthi in me that I feel and others see.
Narmada Parikrama : One of the hotel boys took a leave day so that he could show me around the tiny 3-4 hour narmada parikrama before breakfast time. I determined his expectations first by asking him what the other guests tipped him when he did them this service and he said 100. Deciding that was affordable and seeing that he was less than half my age, I engaged him on this task.
In my discussion with the Omkareshwar priests, when he said yathasakthi, I should have asked what others paid him to get an idea of his expectations. I could have also said, my intention for yathasakthi is 200, what seva am I eligible for..?
This hotel boy whose name was Krishna, said he was an Adivasi. He was wearing jeans and goggles and was keeping an ekadasi fast to boot! He ran miles ahead, wait till I caught up and ran ahead again.
If the older guides talk too much, ask too many questions and get on my nerves, the younger ones run too fast kya? hai na?
Kaveri Sangam : Krishna walked me to the Kaveri Sangam the point where Narmada and the Madhya Pradesh Kaveri (not our Cauvery) meet. It so lovely to see it early in the morning. He had a stick to keep the monkeys and dogs away. The way is lined with quotations from the Bhagavad Gita.
Here I saw some not-brahmin-exorcist-priests, hit themselves and hit the “ghost-possessed” chaps with chains of aluminium or some white metal.
You can either believe in Bhagavad Gita or in ghosts. They are mutually incompatible. It is the Purusha in all of us and when we kick these mortal coils off, it is just the Paramatma Purusha left. What ghost? I told this to a Bihari Army Jawan in the train who thought his wife was possessed and I told it to the hotel waiter who told me what the chains were about. I told them that anything manasik, was related to senses and not to the Atman or Purusha. They were rather surprised to hear me and the Bihari said he would certainly read the Gita for himself!
After washing my feet at the sangam and sprinkling her waters on my head, I followed Krishna on the rest of the parikrama.
Barah Dwar : At the top of the hill are 12 dwaras (doorways), built in memory of the Pandavas. At the very top is a beautiful Siva Linga, so pristine, quite and calm. the priest had completed his worship and left and the pushing hordes of devotees were curiously absent. I sat there for a while feeling the same exact sense of peace and inner quietness that I had felt when I first entered my balcony in Omkareshwar. I felt that it was this shivalingam whose pratishta had been done by the Pandavas that was source of all the peace that emanates from the town of Omkareshwar. Here I was completely peaceful and happy again.
Omkareshwar Dam : In the afternoon, I took off to see Omkareshwar dam, which is a Very Long walk (2 hours one way) from the hotel. I clambered (lumbered?) to the top of the hill and saw how the two rivers merged before the and and separated after it to go around Omkareshwar and joined again at the Kaveri Sangam. It is a wonderful sight. (If you want to go on the actual dam.. get your permission in advance, from some govt. body.)
Also since every holy person who ever lived had done a pratishtha of Siva Lingam, in some peaceful and lonely slot, I too picked up a pebble, put it on a stone, declared it a pratishtha and bowed to Siva there, before I slowly wound my way back into town.
Shatkthi in Me : As I sat that evening in my balcony and looked out at Omkareshwar temple, I found that my arm hand slowly lifted and hand assumed an abhaya hasta directed towards the temple. It was as if I was blessing the temple and giving it Shakthi, as I had in me plenty of Shakthi to give and that too to the Omkareshwar temple. I did not stop my hand or force it down, but just watched to see what I was doing and how I felt.
This piligrimage has transformed me in multiple ways and at multiple levels. I can only wonder what happens to those who under take a 3 year plus parikrama of the Narmada River on foot. Maybe they reach levels of divinity that are hard to express. Like that mauni baba in mai ka bagiya.
Next morning, I caught a bus to Indore and this time was parked next to a young Czech lady, not quite 30 , who has a Guru in North India, and keeps coming back to visit the spiritual places in India. She says there are no spiritual places in America, there are a few in Europe and India is full of spiritual places. We talked for a long time and she took my web-addresses and phone number to contact me if she decided to come to Bangalore.
We talked of human and divine. She thinks that both Jesus and Krishna are divine and that all the miracles about them are true. She is not for thinking of them as human. After I came back home, I saw Da Vinci Code again, and this dialogue by Tom Hanks stuck with me.
“Why does it have to be human or divine? Maybe human is divine!”
With this thought dear friends, I, divine-human Satya, take leave of you my human-divine friends and end this story of my travels. You may hear from me right away or a very long time later. Till then, So Long and Lots of Love!
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