26 May 2014

North India Pilgrimage with Swami Vishwananda, Days 1, 2 & 3

Thursday morning at around 8 o clock we arrived in Dehli, India. After un-checking and re-checking our bags we had plenty of time to wait for our connecting flight to Jammu. As we were then boarding the plane, it seemed there was a problem with the engine. But thanks to Kalpit who duck taped some tubes, the plane could take off with some delay. When we landed in Jammu Airport, it was about 40°C hot!


In the evening after dinner, Swami gave a satsang on Vaishnavi Devi (or Vaishno Devi). During the satsang Pramod read the story of Vaishno Devi and Swami elaborated on it. Originally She (who is an incarnation of Lakshmi, Kali & Saraswati) incarnated as “Trikuta” in order to destroy several demons on earth. While growing up, Trikuta felt the urge to devote herself to Lord Vishnu. Already as a young girl, her beauty, lustre and holiness attracted many people. Even Lord Rama, who was on passage (on the way to Lanka to save Sita) paid her a visit. She recognised him as being Lord Vishnu and asked him to marry her. However, the righteous person he was, he said “no”, since he was already married to Sita. But he said, that if she recognised him on his way back he would marry her. Unfortunately she did not recognise him in the form of a sadhu. When he did reveal himself he promised her to come back and marry her in his incarnation as Kalki Avatar. While Pramod read that part, Swami jokingly said, that he should have promised to marry her as Krishna Avatar, since in that incarnation he was less strict than Rama. Anyway, Vishnu blessed her with immortality in her body and she is since then living in North India (here in Katra), where Rama instructed her to live.

Some 700 years ago, She visited a righteous and holy pandit with name Shri Dhar. She came to him in the form of a young girl (Adi Kumari) and instructed him to invite everyone around for a Bhandara (a feast in the name of God). Since she seemed very special, Shri Dhar believed that all would go well, despite his worries that he would not have the space, nor the food for such a festival. He invited everyone, including a group of Naths (yogis). Their leader was the famous saint Gorak Nath. In this group was also Bhairo Nath (or Bharaiv Nath) who was a very powerful yogi. 

During the feeding, the strange young girl dished everyone their most favorite food. They realised that this girl was no ordinary girl and Bhairav Nath, wanting to know the secret of her power (since he himself was interested in her powers), grabbed her arm. In that moment she disappeared. In his meditation, Bhairav Nath could see that she was going into the mountains. After receiving the consent of his Guru, Bhairav Nath followed the girl into the hills. She disappeared in a cave and when Bhairav Nath got there, he was able to defeat Vaishno Devis Guard (a monkey), who was guarding the entrance.

And even the warning of a sage, who told him that this girl was no other than Adi Kumari (the Divine Mother in the form of a child) and that he should not pursue her with lower motives, could not stop him. When he finally was face to face with her, the young girl changed into Maha Kali and chopped off Bhairons head which flew to the next mountain peak. In his spiritual form, realising his mistake, he begged Ma for forgiveness and felt sorry that now everyone would remember him as a sinner. She answered his request by granting him liberation and by blessing him, saying, that the place where his head fell would become a temple, and that any pilgrimage to her would not be complete, unless his temple had been visited after hers.

We got instructed that breakfast is at 7am and we would begin our journey at 8am. At 8:15 our group left the hotel. We had to obtain a “yatra pass” in order to be able to make our pilgrimage. Firstly the way lead us through noisy and stuffy food and other shopping stalls. But the higher we climbed, the less food stalls there were and the more pleasant the air was. However, the higher we climbed, the more tiring it all became. We constantly had to drink water in order not to dry out as we were sweating our way up the mountain, next to hundreds of mules, palanquins and other devotees on foot. Some who got exhausted after a while, happily accepted the repeated offers of the mule owners and overtook us happy on the back of their mule while taking pictures with their mobile phones of those who were walking their way up. After a while we rested, only to find out, that we did not even walk 1/7 of the way. We were told it was 14kms steep climbing. At some point, we thought being very clever, and we took the stairs that were “shortcuts” to the normal path. But that proved to be just too tiring, so we stuck to the regular route again.

Bit by bit we got closer to Ma Vaishno Devi and, after 4,5 hours climbing, reached Her abode in the mountains. 
Once we arrived, we had to put all our cameras and other items in a locker since they would not be allowed for the Darshan of Ma. Once almost all of our group had arrived, we set out for Darshan. There was literally no Darshan queue and we walked straight to Vaishno Devi who is situated inside the mountain in a cave. 

She is present there in the form of three “pindis” (rock formations, looking similar like lingams), representing Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali (from left to right). The pandit explained them to us very kindly. After the Darshan we sat outside on a platform for some time in mediation, surrounded by mountains. It was a very, very, peaceful and serene atmosphere which we all enjoyed.

One person who is on our tour with us is Gurpreet an Indian devotee. Yesterday, when we got back, he told us, that he actually wanted to organise VIP passes for Swami and 5 other people in order not having to queue. He said to Swami, that he has been to Vaishno devi three times already, and each time there had been a queue of about 3-4 hours for Darshan. With the VIP pass he used to be able to get there faster, however the Darshan was at maximum 10-15 seconds before being pushed out again. But Swami told him, that he did not want these VIP passes, that we would go there all together as a group. Amazingly enough for him, we did not have to wait even 1 minute in a queue, and we had Darshan of at least 2 minutes, with the Pandits being very patient and explaining us everything! Swami was even able to go back in a second time in order to offer the Sari to Ma, which we did not have the first time. Gurpreet said that he never experienced something like this. Also our guide, Gurdeep, said that in the 10 times he has been there, he has never experienced this.
After our meditation, walking downwards again towards the lockers, there was an announcement saying “This is an announcement for BHAKTI MARGA GROUP, one of your group got lost, please contact the police station…”. Gurpreet and I went there, only to find the “lost sheep” Christina sitting in the police station drinking tea. Immediatly we also got offered tea by the police. She told us, that the police had been so kind as to “escort” her to the cave where she had Darshan of Ma, then taken her back and brewing her tea before making the announcement. 
Also Anupriya, who at some point took a different turn than the rest of the group, arrived short after and had Her Darshan.

Swami said in the evening, how amazingly nice Ma took care of each and everyone, how she covered the sun with clouds while we were climbing up, how there was always a gentle breeze in the air, how easily She let us have Her darshan, etc… He also said that once in the cave, the mind stops working, one cannot think, one can only feel and enjoy Her motherly Love.

After we all had lunch together, some began their walk down, and some of us decided to complete the pilgrimage by climbing up further to visit the temple of Bhairon (where his head  fell). It was another 40 minutes “staircase” until we reached there. Inside the temple was Bhairons head, a murthi of Hanuman and one of Parvati. When I put my finger in the “cup” to get the vibhuti, I burned it as the ash was still on fire underneath. But funny enough the burning sensation lasted only a few seconds, afterwards I felt nothing. Others had similar experiences.
Then we began again our downward journey, some on foot, some on the back of donkeys.

Meanwhile, Gurpreet was able to arrange some helicopter tickets (despite them being sold out) and Swami and 4 others were able to make their downward journey through the air. However, before boarding the helicopter, Swami expressed his sadness for not paying respects to Bhairon. Gurpreet contacted the valley station and asked them if it was possible for the helicopter to fly near to the Bhairon temple. He was denied since the temple of Bhairon was on another peak and the pilot would have to stick to the route lest he would get into trouble. The helicopter arrived, and the pilot happened to be an old friend of Gurpreet! Gurpreet introduced his Guru to his friend and told him about his Gurus wish. Without hesitation, Gurpreets friend took off with Guruji in the helicopter, turned left instead of right (to everyone’s amazement at the helipad) and flew up to Bhairon temple hovering in front of it, giving Swami the chance to pay his respects to Bhairon and thus completing his pilgrimage.

Us who went by foot, after 11 hours and 34 kilometers, we finally reached again our hotel, had dinner, then Swami gave a short satsang, and then we all fell into our beds, exhausted, but happy!

(This report was written by Paartha who is on this Pilgrimage together with Swami Vishwananda. Thank you Paartha)