Monday, October 21, 2013

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Dip in Spirituality - Govardhan Parikrama*



One fine lazy weekend we were planning on ways to spend an upcoming extended Dusshera weekend (October 13-14-15, 2013) and it was when mom remembered that we were supposed to complete a Govardhan Parikrama – a 14 mile circumambulation tour of a the deity owing to spiritual beliefs. I knew this upcoming weekend would have very long extension to it not only literally but otherwise too! We started the planning for the trip and decided to start on Sunday afternoon and plan to return by Monday night.

Out of my inquisitiveness of knowing the significance of the parikrama and curiosity to find ways to circumvent the pain that walk was going to bring on me, I started on researching. A couple of Google search later I was an enlightened and disappointed being. Enlightened by the knowledge of the significance and disappointed by the realization that a 21 km walk was the easiest of the ways around the parvat. Let us begin with the bright side first.

As the beliefs go, the region around the Govardhan town was witnessing acute drought and inhabitants were longing for rains. Lord Krishna urged them to pray to Govardhan or Shri Girirajji instead of Indra, the god of rains. People followed Krishna’s cues and prayed “Govardhan Baba” by circling the god along with bhajans – hymns - and so came the rains. But what they wished for turned into threat when the rains wreaked havoc in the region. To protect the devotees from the wrath of rains, Krishna picked up Govardhan Mountain and placed it on his hands to act as a huge umbrella! The act saved the poor villagers from heavy rains and thus started the belief in power of Govardhan. Devotees believe that praying to Govardhan Baba would bring to truth all their wishes and they vow to complete the parikrama if their wish gets fulfilled.

Now, the second realization – ways to complete the parikrama. Primarily there are three ways to do the parikrama – one is on foot, another is “dandawat parikrama” where devotees lay horizontal at each step and the third is on foot with a pot of milk (“doodh dhara”) which has a hole to have the milk dripping over the path. There are three routes that can be followed – shortest is 5 kos, a bit longer is of 7 kos and longest one being 84 kos. However, the on foot 7 kos (around 21 kms) long route is most popular among devotees because of an optimum balance of practicality and devotion. The broad route starts at the Manasi-Ganga Kund (lake) covers important tanks, shilas and shrines such as Mukharavinda (Jatipura), Rinamochana Kunda, Kusuma Sarovara, Punchari, Radha Kunda, Syama Kunda and Dan Ghati before finally ending at Mansi Ganga Kund again.

As per plan we embarked on our journey by Jabalpur Express leaving New Delhi at around 1400 hours in afternoon. As the train moved out of the stations we delved into the spirituality of the endeavor. After around 2 hours of the ride, trained pulled into Mathura Railway station which was going to be our base station. As we moved out of the station premises we recognized that on one hand Mathura was a typical prototype for a tier B Indian town with cycle rickshaws and usual chaos welcoming everyone. However, on the other hand, it was unique in itself offering the glimpse into the renowned Brij Bhumi, and an unusual serene environment. We reached the guesthouse for freshening up and left for Govardhan, 26 kms from Mathura, to begin the parikrama.

After darshan of Govardhan Baba at the renowned temple we began Operation Parikrama! We were amazed by the devotion of people visiting the place and both rich and poor were there walking on the road bare foot. On the way we met a few saints who were onto the parikrama for more than a couple of years and were undertaking the parikrama in its most severe form. Armed with smart phone apps to track the distance we cover and the calories we burnJ. The shops on the way were open to serve hot chai for refreshing us up and there were encouraging boards and chants written all over the walls. Once we reached at 10 km mark, we had just crossed Jatipura, we decided that it was time to call it a day for the moment and we returned to our guest house.

Next morning we woke up early, or so we thought, and left to continue the remaining part of the parikrama. On the way we saw a large number of devotees were already on foot to complete their worship. It wasn’t as early as we had thought! Over the next couple of hours we covered the remaining 11 kms going past numerous temples, each with its own significance and multiple kunds – water reservoirs –bathing in which is considered sacred,

At the end we prayed at the Mansi Ganga temple and 100 meters out of the temple we could see the information board we were all looking forwards to - “Parikrama Samapt” or “circumambulation ends”. We returned back to the guest house for a day long rest in peace of our rooms and returned by Shatabdi in the night. Thus ended one religious tour which if nothing else was an exciting track. Besides all spiritual significance, happiness on face of mom of having completed one of her wish was simply priceless!!

* PS - This blog in no way attempts to provide spiritual or religious details and no way aims to hurt any feelings/ sentiments. It is just an account of my travel experience any I apologize in advance for any hurt feelings.

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