Thursday, July 11, 2013

Travel and Self-discovery

Travel has been always part of my life. How it refreshes me, washes the mental dirt off along with resurrecting the mundane monotonous existence is something which I discovered only few years back. And the sooner I realized, took to it like an amphibian wanting the existence in both the worlds for living at ease.
Travel and it's effects on the human psyche can never be put on paper, it is truly beyond words and expressions.
And I believe in Mark Twain's following quote:

T"ravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." - Mark Twain

How much more truer than factual existence it is as a proverb! Ok, coming back to the normal perspective of travel; it is not as much in the travel destination, but the sheer bliss and learning of the journey which is like catching the sail against splendid waves and becoming one with the entire paraphernalia associated. It is a stage where the formal cognition and meta-cognition stops. What a liberation?! :)

That's why I love traveling and exploring. And it reminds me of one famous quote by Robert louis Stevenson

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

I am going to mention the favorite of my travels or the places which take me beyond the normal "travel". These are around Bangalore and some in North part of India specifically in the state of Uttaranchal which is also called Dev Bhoomi (maybe that is why I find a transcendental touch there every time I go). Sad that it was stuck by natural calamity and lot of people lost their lives.

There are quite a number of places in my kitty, but am going to mention only those that are special 'although' none are insignificant. :)

I traveled as a novice first to ShivanaSamudram and Talakad which is off Bangalore by 130-150 kms. Shivanasamudram has couple of waterfalls called Gaganachukki & Barachukki, one of which has Asia's first hydel power plant Engineered by the Great Sir. M. Vishweshwaraiah. The first fall Gaganachukki is magnanimous in its look and movement and has been featured few times in Outlook Traveler.
The second one is in a secluded area. Enroute you can find some very old temples which are centuries old and I presume there was a flourishing Kingdom nearby.
Finishing these two falls, we stayed overnight near a Dargah which is a bustling local place behind the Gaganachukki falls. You get fresh water sumptuous fried fish and parattas over here, which kept us occupied in the evening. After that we got a small 1 room stay for four of us for 70 bucks (damn cheap eh?!:), which was somebody's house I guess or some shed.
Coming up from there on the inter-junction of the main road there is a Banyan tree which looks and feels mystical in the evenings.
In the morning we checked out came to the Banyan tree, sat there for a while and proceeded towards the excavated temple town of Talakad which is on the bank of the river Cauvery.
The ride/drive is through corn fields and is one to cherish with so many paddy fields on the way. The place itself is near the river but is a sand dune haven with trees forming a forest cover. In between these sand dunes is from where they've unearthed/excavated ancient temples. One among that is a supposedly cursed temple, which even though ingenious in architecture - has to be excavated frequently, owing to it getting submerged in sandy ground every few months. The view from here of the trees around and the call of some exotic birds is a refresher like no other. (the topography of the place is a total contrast to logic, and the sand dunes as per legend is because of the cursed land-please refer wiki for the info)
Once when I was at this particular submerging temple, an archaeologist decoded an old inscription which said - "A royal dancer lady will be dancing everyday 5.30 am here for a certain period as per the deal sanctioned by the Royal care taker, and she was given a small pouch of Gold coins in return."
After this you proceed through the sand dunes to the other excavated temples and then to the back of the river for some tea and snack. You can get an interesting coracle ride as well here, and it is safe as the waters are shallow.
The ride/drive back if in the night times is more interesting, as you can stop at tea shops, eateries and fill your forgotten stomachs. And if you have cloudless night, then like we saw you could see a starlit serene sky all the way along.

This wonderful trip initiated my Travel Odyssey and the love for architecturally beautiful and sculptural places in natural surroundings. :)

After this I have had the privilege to cover a number of places in Karnatka itself, which I think is a Traveler/Explorer's delight.
Some of the Prominent places are the following of which I'll be writing one at a time shortly:

- Hampi
- Belur & Halebeedu
- Badami, Pattadakal & Aihole
- Siddarabetta
- Madhugiri fort near Tumkur
- Maidanahalli Black Buck Sanctuary
- Lepakshi
- Turahalli
- Bheemeshwari
- Sakleshpur Railway track trek
- Chikmagalur from a detailed perspective (many offbeat places of interest)
- Melukote
- Shravanabelagola
- Kunti Betta (famed place where Pandavas lived for some time during exile)
- Pandavapura and Tonnur Kere
- Western Ghats attractions
- Tippu's fort in Sakleshpur
- Nandi hills
- Antargange caves
- Caves and a hidden fort in Anegundi (Hampi)

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Shloka from Bhagavad Gita - The Song of the Lord!

It has been clearly established by Lord Krishna that those who perform Vedic rituals with self interest motives are unable to extricate themselves from samsara or the endless cycle of birth and death. Whereas the devotees of the Lord Krishna being completely free from self interest and ulterior motives accomplish the four goals of human existence artha or wealth, kama or pleasure, dharma or righteousness and moksa or liberation by the grace of the God Himself. The word ananyas meaning exclusive denotes that such devotees have no other goal than the Supreme Lord, thinking only of service to Him day and night with full heart and soul.

ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate
tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham

We are not saints or jnani. We are having many duties to the family, to office etc.,This sloka, the verse of Bhagavat Gita did not tell to sit all the 24 hours thinking of god.we should not take this as a blanket assurance to all, to abandon their duties and expect Lord to take care of him/ herself by just spending time in spiritual activity. 

Here the wonderful words- "Yogakshemam Vahamyaham" tells that God will take care of those who constantly contemplate on Him. Sri Krishna explains this in Geetha as follows.
" Those who desire My eternal association precluding all else meditate on Me with exclusive devotion; Those persons, I insure the uniting of their individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness perpetually."

Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, “I shall ensure the safety and well-being of my devotees!” And He keeps his word, without fail. Krishna did not tell to put pending all the works or not suggesting to stay away from all the works, or he is not saying to attend fully only on him. He says not to forget god. He says not to think other unwanted matters. 

Krishna says to remember Him sincerely and selflessly while performing his own duties.The meaning is not to forget God and says to remember him wherever you are and whatever you are attending.

Who is a Devotee ? - By Lord Vishnu

There is an interesting folktale that explains god’s judgement of devotion. Sage Narada used to always be proud of the fact that he always chants ‘narayana’(lord Vishnu’s name) and is Lord Vishnu’s greatest devotee. One day sage Narada asked Lord Vishnu whom he considered his biggest devotee, in the expectation that it would be himself. But, lord Vishnu told that there is a particular farmer who is his greatest devotee. Sage narada was stunned to know that Lord Vishnu didn’t consider him as his best devotee. He was even more shocked to know that the greatest devotee was not a saint or a great king but just a normal farmer. Sage narada enquired what made the farmer special. Lord Vishnu took sage Narada to meet the farmer from the sky. Lord Vishnu told narada to observe the farmer for a whole day and then return to Heaven. 

After completing the observation and returning, Lord Vishnu asked Narada what he saw. Narada said that the famrmer didn’t perform any rituals or pooja. The farmer only chanted the lord’s name thrice a day and not more. Sage narada continued and then asked, how is this famrer a greater devotee than himself who always chants god’s name.

To this lord Vishnu smiled and gave Sage narada a little pot full of water. Lord Vishnu told sage Narada to walk 25 steps with this pot on his head but on the condition that a single drop of water should not drop out. Sage narada completed the task as he was told. 

Now, Lord Vishnu asked sage Narada how many times he remembered god during this task. Sage narada was embarrassed and confessed that he hadn’t thought of god even once since he was busy making sure the water doesn’t spill. Lord Vishnu smiled and said “the greatness of the farmer is that he sincerely and selflessly remembered god while performing his own duties. This pleases me the most and such a devotee is of utmost greatness for me”.Sage Narada lost all his ego and praised the greatness of lord Vishnu.

What characteristics are essential for a devotee according to you? Please do share your views in the comments.