The Royal Mendicant: III

Khajuraho 18-20 November 1988

Khajuraho, a tribute paid to Lord Shiva by the Chandela dynasty, was a haunting experience of the rites and rituals that were an inseparable part of the Jives of our ancestors, the rishis and munis, who not only gave birth to our civilisation, but also dedicated their lives to the exploration of energy and consciousness behind matter. The sublime depiction of that dramatic cosmic process of creation revealed lift as a 'prayer'. Warriors, musicians, devas, apsaras, gaudharvas, men, women and beasts came alive and spoke in unison of a time when not just eroticism, as has been overly emphasised in all depictions of the temple, but every aspect of life was considered as a means to reach God.

Chitrakoot 21 November

It was on this very spot 'at the ghat of Chitrakoot when all the saints gathered to watch Sant Tulsidas grinding chandan paste to anoint a tilak on his ishta devata, Sri Ram, that the Lord revealed himself in person'. Here amidst the sylvan selling of Kamdgiri, I delved into the time when Sri Ramji eternally sanctified this soil by taking refuge there. During a few reflective moments as I rested at the foot of the mountain where thousands do parikrama, the murmuring streams, dancing trees and flowing rivers sang to me of the glorious year when Sri Ramji with Sita and Lakshman played his leela at Chitrakoot.

Maihar 22 November

The long and steep climb up to the shrine of Sharada Devi, as I rested at intervals due to a footsore from my trek to Kedarnath, was reminiscent of the ascent of kundalini to sahasrara, resting and reposing at each chakra. Sharada Devi, the Goddess of vidya, to whom noted musicians and artists pay tribute, my salutations flow to you for awakening the creative energy.

Amarkantak 3-7 December

Amarkantak, 'the forest of the immortals', vibrant with the energy of great tapasvis, rishis and munis who have practised sadhana there from time immemorial, breathed an air of tranquillity, harmony and balance. During my dip at the Narmada udgam, I felt as if my body was being caressed by the breath of Shiva from whose body she has emanated.

A bath at Kapil Dhara where the icy cold Narmada falls freely, a sip of water at the source of the Sone, a walk through the deep forest to Bhrigu Kamandal and resting at Mai ki Bagiya, I felt oneness with nature.

Every night as my physical body rested at the ashram of the Udaseen Sampradaya, my astral self was out in the open, 'majestically walking with Shiva', body smeared with bhasma, snake coiled around the neck, trident and damaru in hand, stalking the wild forest.

Mahakaleshwar, Ujjain 11-14 December

The eternally sanctified city of Ujjain, which was conquered with pride by Shiva, where I performed bhasma abhisbek on Mahakaleshwar, the swayambhu jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva. The ceremony lasted one and a half hours and only a few select people were present.

The rest of the day was spent in fasting and in chanting mantras before Mahakaleshwarji. The three-foot black linga encircled by Nag Raj and set with flawless perfection on a silver yoni, thronged by hundreds of devotees, silently projecting shakti from within itself, defied all understanding and brought alive the timeless tradition of shraddha and bhakti.

Kala Bhairava, Ujjain 14 December

You have been consuming the madira offered to you by your ardent devotees. Now, I offer you the intoxication which has led me through several incarnations, for this is all I have. And with this humble offering I seek your protection while I tread throughout the wilderness of life.

Omkareshwar 15-16 December

This sacred Om-shaped island on the banks of Narmada Devi, where Adi Shankaracharya received sannyasa diksha from Guru Govinda Pada, and later performed the miracle of absorbing Narmada in his kamandal, transformed faith into a living experience. There in the cave where Shankaracharya lived, as I stood with folded bands, I heard a voice within say, 'What do you seek? Ask and it shall be yours.' That brought to my mind the utterances of Maitreyi and Nachiketas, and in an outburst of Sanskrit, I said, 'Digvijay - no; Immortality - not possible; Prosperity - had plenty; Moksha - it is in me, I have come here merely to fulfil my promise which I made to you thirty years ago, to return when my work is over.'

A secret passage from Shankaracharya's cave led me to the garba griha where the jyotir linga of Omkareshwar stood in meditative silence amidst the chanting of mantras. Bells were chiming, conches were being blown and amidst all of this tumult as I laid my head at the feet of Omkareshwarji, I vividly experienced that this jyotirlinga was eternally luminescent in sahasrara.

Datia 18-19 December

The Pitambari Peeth of Shakti at whose feet saints and sages have realised the supreme - I was returning here after thirty years to find that Sri Swamiji of Pitambari Peeth had left his physical body. He was my third tantric guru with whom I lived for four days during my parivrajak life, after I had served Swami Sivananda at Rishikesh. His dedication to the propagation of tantric sadhana will forever remain enshrined in my life.

With this, I have completed the third part of my mendicancy.