Glossary is at the end of Blog for non- English words.
As we start the New Year, I thought of looking back at all the wonderful blessings that happened to my family and me in the year 2015. 2015 was a Pilgrim year and we visited several places in India, which I never thought was possible to visit in this life time and met wonderful friends throughout our journey.
As many say, Himalayas is abode of God where Lord Shiva resides and Uttarakand is Dev Bhoomi or land of mysticism. My husband and I landed in Delhi on June 18th to attend the Ati Rudra Maha Yagnam which was held in Badrinath. You may ask what is Ati Rudra Maha Yagnam? It is considered the highest form of worship to Lord Shiva. Another question might be asked as to why in Badrinath? Well, year 2015 was considered the 90th year of our Guru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He visited Badrinath in the year of 1964, and all the devotees wanted to do something special in Badrinath for the 90th year. This was the reason behind organizing an Ati Rudram in Badrinath. To get to Badrinath, we had to travel via Rishikesh. I was very fascinated at Rishikesh because I went to several places which enhanced my spiritual quest.
In Rishikesh, we went to the cave of Vashita, he was one of the Sapta Rishies. He and hiswife Arundhati meditated in this cave for many years. It was a remarkable experience as we entered the cave. It was warm and soothing to be inside as if a new born wrapped around mothers’ bosom. We witnessed a Shivalingam inside the cave and did bhajans. Nearby the cave, we visited a river and I picked a stone from the river bed to worship. Along the way we met a Swamiji from Kerala, who lives near the cave and got his blessings and had a wonderful satsung with him.
The following day we visited the Shivananda Ashram and was indeed happy to meet the Swamiji in the ashram. My husband and I were fascinated with his talk of how our Guru visited the ashram back in 1964. He stated that he was a young lad when our Guru visited. After the satsung with him, he asked us to meditate inside the ashram before departing. He also inquired about the Ati Rudra Maha Yagnam. He stated that, during the yagnam one should dedicate and focus his/her entire body mind and soul.
We met our entire group at Sathya Sai School in Rishikesh. The school was built exactly like the ones in Puttaparthi. Before departing for Badrinath, we all did morning subrabatham and left in 8 vehicles. More details of Vashita cave is written in another blog, please click on the sidebar to read about the Vashita cave experience.
The journey to Badrinath is tedious however it rejuvenates and fulfills your spiritual quest. The roads are very narrow and big vehicles cannot go on the narrow road. I was really mesmerized as to how my Guru, might have travelled back in 1964. It is 3,300 m (10,800 ft) in elevation and as you drive up the mountain the scenic beauty is breath taking. However, people who travelled with us got sick and I was also very sick due to high elevation. We reached Badrinath on June 23rd, 2015 and it was raining up in the mountains. I was really happy to see the venue where the Ati Rudram was taking place. The entire place was decorated with garlands and pictures of our dear guru near the place where the yagnam was to take place. The first day of Ati-Rudram, I was unable to attend the yagnam due to being sick. My husband went ahead and participated in the yagnam. Only on third day of Ati-Rudram I was able to participate. I guess my past karma did not allow me to participate for all 11 days, however the overall experience was spiritual and fascinating.
Everyday devotees gathered near the temple and chanted Vishnu Sahasranamam (1008 names of Lord Vishnu). Some devotees were blessed to participate in bhajan singing outside the temple premise. This journey to Badrinath was unplanned and it only happened due to Almighty’s grace. I met several Swami Ji’s during the 11 days in Badrinath and I am always grateful to my Guru for allowing me to meet them. Most of the Sadhu’s were doing meditation and tapas in the Badri mountain.
Shirdi & Parthi:
Ever since I was a child my parents were devotees of Sathya Sai Baba. I was fortunate to know Sathya Sai Baba since young age. It was through him that my father knew Shirdi Sai Baba. My father read the Shirdi Sai Satcharitra and wanted to visit Shirdi, the time was not right for him. It took him many years for him to yearn and pray and 2015 was the year he visited with my mother. However, Swami was kind to our family to call all of us to Puttaparthi and give us his darshan. Likewise, I was yearning to visit Shirdi, and my time also was not right till 2015.
I had to attend the 10th World Conference in Puttaparthi during November. As mentioned above, this was the 90th year of my Guru. Celebrations were taking place November 23rd and my husband and I wanted to attend the conference in Puttaparthi. When we left California, we made plans to go to Shirdi after the conference if Swami called. Time in Prashanthi Nilayam was spiritually elevating because it was where my Guru lived and preached. 10 days at Prashanthi Nilayam was a rejuvenating experience to body, mind and soul. After the conference and birthday celebrations were over, my husband booked tickets to go to Shirdi via Pune.
We boarded our plane from Bangalore and landed around 5:30 PM in Pune. Hotel taxi picked us up and it took 5 hours to reach Shirdi. As we slowly neared Shirdi, my whole body started to vibrate. I have experienced such feeling when I participated in some spiritual gatherings however felt the same energy when nearing Shirdi. By the time we got to shirdi it was quite late, we decided to go to morning darshan.
In the morning, we all left to have darshan of Shirdi Sai Nath. It was very different from Puttaparthi. There was a gate for VIP’s and local people. We purchased garland and went to the nearest gate to be in line. After getting there we came to know that elderly people can accompany one family member. Therefore, I decided to go with my husband’s aunt and my husband stayed outside. It was a wonderful darshan though crowed was pushing. I had tears in my eyes as I neared the Samadhi of my dearest Shirdi Nath. It was the same feeling when I visited Swami’s Samadhi in Puttaparthi. After we came out from Samadhi darshan we went to see all the places around Shirdi, where Swami walked while being in his physical body. It was an experience visiting the Samadhi of his dearest devotees, Lendi garden where he walked and planted many flowers and museum where all his used things were kept. It was an experience of a kind and spiritually I was fulfilled by going to Shirdi.
Overall, 2015 was a year that I will not forget in my life time. My soul’s quest was fulfilled. My mind and body was rejuvenated and opened many doors to my spiritual sadhana.
Uttarakand– A state in Northern India.
Ati Rudra Maha Yagnam– Highest form of worship to Lord Shiva.
Badrinath- A worship place in India.
Yagnam– Offering to the fire.
Rishikesh– A worship place in India.