The Shirdi Retreat
India – A land of great saints and acharyas. A land which is the birthplace of many religions. A land wherereligion and spiritual practices bind people together. Saints born in this land are innumerable. Every part ofthe country has saints to boast of. They have poured their vibrations into this soil making this a spiritual destination to millions across the world.
The saints of the previous yugas gave us the rich teachings of the Vedas and Vedanta – Valimik, Vyasa bagavan, patanjali, agastya, bharadwaja, vasista, vishwamitra, parashurama etc etc the list is endless. In this kali yuga itself, we have seen many saints making their presence felt. They have strived for human welfare and have always been a torchbearer of reforms. Adi Shankara, Ramanujacharya, madhwacharya, raghavendra, gyaneshwara, mukta bai, meera bai, namadev, eknath, tukaram, the alwars and nayanmars of the south – oh..This is another endless list. Among the recent years, we have Vivekananda, Ramakrishna paramanhamsa, Shirdi baba.
We were looking forward for this trip for a long time and it happened today. It had to be a long journey in the lokamanya Tilak express from Cantonment to Daund and another 3 hour travel from Daund Jn to Kopergaun, our final destination. Shiridi is around 20Kms from Kopergaon. Since we went during the monsoon season, the land was fertile and green.
After checking into the hotel room, and refreshing ourselves, we left for the dhoop arathi that we had booked online. He sure is a crowd puller. People for different parts of the country were there to have a glimpse of their sad guru. The arathi takes around 25 minutes with soulful arthi songs being rendered by the priest there. After having darshan of sai, we went to visit the museum, dwarakamai, chavadi, the dhuni and the neem tree. All these places have always been with sai. He is one of those souls who never travelled outside shirdi. He drew large crowd from where he was. His teachings spread far and wide and so do his blessings, When we see the utensils used by him, the cot he slept, the robes he wore, the place he made prasadam for all, it gives us a feeling of belongingness. Were we also a part of this in some birth of ours? Wouldn’t it have been nice if we were one of those simple, innocent and devoted people during his times?
The shirdi temple
Out the dwarakamai
The next day was supposed to be super exciting as we were going to panchavati in Nashik where we would be seeing few places which are important to Rama and Ramayanam. We began with a quick visit to the Birla temple (Ram kund) which houses all the GODs and important places like the 12 jyotir lingams, the Himalaya dharshan, the vaikunta dharshan.
The next stop was at the Godavari ghat which was flowing with full happiness. Though it looks serene, it was a bit polluted given the fact that it was flowing in the heart of the city. The triveni sangam i.e. the confluence of godavari, aruna and varuna takes places here. The Kumbh mela (held at Ujjain, nashik, Allahabad and dwaraka once a year) takes place once a year at this place and lakhs of people come here to take a holy dip. It was here when Ram performed the last rites for his father when in exile.
We then went to kapalesshwara temple. North India has a different way of worship in that devotees can enter the garbha gudi and perform abhishek for Lord Shiva unlike south India where we are not supposed to enter the sanctum Santorum.
We then proceeded to Sita Gupha. When surpanaka’s nose was cut off by lakshmana, she complained to her bothers khara and dhushan. The brothers along with 14000 rakshasas came to fight Rama. Rama then made a cave for Sita and kept her here in hiding. This entire region was the dankaranya forest mentioned in the Ramayana where Rama stayed for the last 2.5 years of his exile. The name Nashik is evolved from nasikah meaning nose. Since surpanaka's nose was cut off here, this place came to be known as Nasik. The cave initially is a very narrow one but then as we proceed down, it opens up to three beautiful idols of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita along with Hanuman. Children had fun time going into the cave a couple of times while I read the sankshepa Ramayana at this place.
We then went to Goraram temple and the Kalaram temple. The ram idol installed in the kalaram temle is a swayambu. Here Ram holds his right hand on his chest and his left hand downwards. If we surrender to his feat, he promises us full protection and happiness. The temple is very beautiful and is well maintained.
The Kalaram temple
When then proceeded to the tryambakeshwar to see one of the jyotir lingams. The crowd was huge with heavy rain too. We thought that we may have to come back without the darshan of the lord but a priest helped us at an extra cost. We were taken into the temple without any hassle and had a good darshan. The linga is quite unusual here that the mound is not seen outside but is dipped inside like a grinding stone. It was humbling to see that inspite of heavy rain, people didn’t lose hope or walked away, they were all patiently waiting to have a glimpse of the lord. The brahma giri hils at the backdrop with Godavari taking birth as small streams is a pleasant sight to the eyes. The entire belt between shirdi and nashik is green and green. We could see many sugarcane fields which seem to be the main produce here. All along the way, we could see small shops which have put adhoc swings for children to lay and have a nice natural cane juice. No maxhines are used to make the juice. Cows are used to trun a gear box which crushes the sugarcane to make juicy juice. It was a very nice experience to have a fresh breath of village life.
The next day was the visit to shani shignapur. This temple was not very crowded. Here Lord Shani is in the form of a huge stone. None of the shops have doors and the claim is that even houses don’t have doors. People believe that everything is taken care by Lord shani. Amazing!!!!
The next day was our return trip to Bangalore. Children thoroughly enjoyed this trip and want to come back to shirdi. What we want is a dream but what happens to us reality. I have always wanted to be under the guidance of a guru. I have heard people telling that having a guru is absolute bliss. You need not worry for anything. Everything is taken care of. But I still haven’t had the benevolence of a guru. How is my guru, how do I choose my guru? How do I know that I need to trust this person as my guru? Well, we are not elated souls to choose our guru. It is the guru instead who chooses us. I am still waiting for that moment when my guru will spot me and give me that absolute blissful experience.