Friday, July 03, 2009

Devprayag: Where Skies Meet the Earth

Devprayag is the place where Bhagirathi and Alaknanda converge to form the Ganga. I have had the good fortune of making several road trips in India, and even abroad. The trip from Rishikesh to Devprayag and back was without doubt the best I have ever had. The union of the Shivalik ranges with the forest, sky and the river cannot be described in words. The sight of two streams of different colours fusing into each other at Devprayag was also unparallel. The time spent at the point of confluence, watching the two rivers push into each other from close proximity, encapsulated in it one of the best moments of my life.

Rishikesh: The Realm of Serenity

Ever since the Beatles set foot in Rishikesh some 40 odd years ago, the place has acquired a lot of significance among spiritual seekers from across the globe. All the hype notwithstanding, there is something about this place that keeps one in very high spirits all through out. Sitting by the Ganges this evening, watching it voraciously ripple over those gigantic rocks, I was just too happy to be able to relate to the following lines from an Eddie Vedder song:

Wind in my hair, I feel part of everywhere,
Underneath my being is a road that disappeared;
Late at night I hear the trees,
They're singing with the dead,

Leave it to me as I find a way to be,
Consider me a satellite forever orbiting;
I knew all the rules but the rules did not know me,

Needless to say, I missed my guitar.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Haridwar: A Celebration of Faith

Though I am Hindu, and a Brahmin at that, I haven’t really practiced the religion in textbook terms. My knowledge about the details of Hinduism is also abysmally poor. I had not come to Haridwar for a pilgrimage. I was visiting Haridwar because I liked the description of the place in a ‘Lonely Planet’ travel book on India. Nevertheless, after reaching Haridwar earlier today, and having seen nothing interesting, I was cursing ‘Lonely Planet’ for having written good things about the place. This perception was however, destined to change. For, as the evening set in and I positioned myself at the Har-Ki-Pauri ghat to witness the aarti of the Holy Ganges, I could sense that something grand was in the offing. By the time I set my camera up, the place was bustling with pilgrims from all parts of the country. Most of them had diyas in their hand. An elderly couple sitting next to me informed me that as the aarti proceeds, the diyas would be let into the river in small baskets of leaves. I also saw vendors selling milk to the pilgrims, which was also to be offered to the river. Such was the size of the gathering that it required the temple officials to supervise the actions of the crowd. Soon, the constant murmur gave way to a hymn. And what followed was a hair-raising experience. Suddenly, an assembly of priests descended to the ghat. I could now hear loud chiming of bells. The priests carried huge torches with them, which erupted fire. The next half hour was spent in taking in this mesmerizing confluence of fire and water. As the aarti drew to a close and the chiming stopped, I kept staring at the river, astounded by the power of my own religion.