Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mountain Abu Splendorous Ambaji


I had the good fortune to see and travel to Mount Abu where I could spend a week of my time. I traveled from New Delhi taking an overnight train to the base station at abu. Mt. Abu is one of the few hill stations present in the desert state of Rajasthan. The place is quite a hub for young crowd from mumbai and other places to visit throughout the year.
I arrived early morning twilight; got off from the train to take a cab to start the ascent upwards towards abu. The mountain or rather hillock has a very gentle slope and it takes close to hour and half without hassles to reach the top. The air was fresh indeed, though the hill station is not on a great height. The city was just coming to life with the first light of morning sun hitting this quaint hillock.

The hotel which I was to stay was pretty decently ranked; yet I found it not too hospitable. One thing to remember while going to abu is the water. The water is in short supply and the drinking water is extremely contaminated. I myself fell sick the very second day over there, and suffered a bad bout of diarrhea and had to heal myself using anti-biotics. The bad water is well known and even the locals would not encourage you to consume non-filtered water.
Mt. Abu is a thriving tourist and religious hub for the many lakhs of people who come to visit and rejuvenate themselves throughout the year. There is an approximate city center, which is thriving with local touristy and religious gifts.
There is a main lake which is atop this hillock; its called ‘Nakki Lake’ and its a huge formation. I found myself every evening by the banks of this beautiful lake formation... most people sit at the enterance of this lake; but there is a path which goes around the whole lake, and I took advantage of this, abu also attracts many sadhus; and there are various little hamlets and natural formation inside which you can find scantily clad and at times naga sadhus.
Unfortunately my camera (it was a reel camera), gave up on me for some reason and I was unable to take full advantage of the scenic beauty present in and around abu. But the impressions remain clear and consistently beautiful in my mind till this day.
The nakki lake is overlooked by the Kings palace of the regions known as Achalgarh fort. I was able to see the fort for a brief period of time only as I had quite a number of places to see under my itinerary with limited time as always.

One of the places I decided to check out was the famous Brahamakumari headquarters located here itself. The place they have invested in is a huge sprawling land atop Abu, which has loads of places for people to stay; big seminar and conference halls and of course a massive ‘Divine Egg’ which is their symbol.
I do not know much about this con, but like most other cons I know enough; during my undergraduate days, I have spent time in brahamakumari meditations and more often than not had great fun and laughter posing malicious spiritual questions to their so called master. But as always the most interesting and therapeutically funny part of their operations is their symbol. A chickens egg symbolizing the divine cosmos or some shit similar.

I also took time to go to couple of nearby temples. There is a shaktipith (so called-cause now many temples are simply called that to attract attention), I do not remember what the goddess is called as here, but this is where her lips fall, there is a 20 minute climb by steps and one reaches the top where a beautiful serene view waits for them. The goddess is svayambhu here coming out from inside a natural cave structure. One has to bend down and go inside to see the goddess a part of the wall. The entire temple was extremely serene and emanated a certain peace. Even the pandits were not resembling anywhat like vultures and they left me alone to explore.
There is also the awe-inspired divine Dilwara temples closeby, and I will mention them seperately in a later post.

I also traveled from abu to the rajasthan-gujrat border; where I saw another famous shakti-pith, this time it is supposedly where the goddess’ heart fell. The place is called ambaji; and I landed on a friday and had to face a lot of local crowd comprising of women. Being the heart center, it is extremely crowded; and people asking in turn for matters of heart always visit this area. The entire temple is in marble and the white everywhere gives some hope for such purity to arise in the heart as well. I collected a suveniour from one of the local temple shops (I always like to see these shops whenever I visit a religious center, mainly cause they have some funky representation of the god/goddess in manner of photos or paintings which I like to collect more often than not!)
Ambaji was not exactly specatcular; maybe the crowd and people turned it off for me, or maybe i could not witness and source of power or divinity but overall I enjoyed crossing over the border and seeing how cultures completely change. Rajasthanis and gujrati dressing food and religious beliefs vary widely and how!
I spent a day in Abu visiting the famous Guru Shikhar. This is the highest point in Abu and many religious visitors throng this place for it is supposedly where avadhoota/natha Dattatreya stayed and meditated. There is a steep climb to reach the top (it is easy to climb for steps are plenty but elderly people might find it a bit more difficult) and from there an enduring and perfect scenery ensues. There is no question why dattatreya might have chosen this point to perfect his meditation, in his place today; there is a shiva linga installed and a small temple carved inside a vertical cave structure which is present at the top of the hill (It gets very difficult to navigate inside if the crowd sizes become massive).
There is also an Indian astronomy institute present right next to this location and its quite breadthtaking to see the big radar equipment which is installed nearby. Though I was not able to gain some peace and quiet here, cause of the number of tourists yet I was very very enthralled by the weird and alien landscape that deserts create. While climbing down in my cab from guru shikar; I took a lot of off time; where I stopped the cab and trekked hills closeby, there was a a particular place where an oasis surrounded by hillocks and flanked by a temple were present. It was thoroughly desolate and I spent some time just checking out the rocks and water body. The wind which in the first place has been responsible for these weird rock cut outs to be formed was as strong as ever and it helped me become one with the region and its entitites. (such places are surely not desolate by night, I talked to one of the locals and even he affirmed that this place was holy and required one to visit only by daytime, by night it was quite powerful and required tremendous will to sustain... there are also wild animals which roam this area at night- and hence most locals will not be here)

I also took the cab to some 50 kms away from abu, by now I do not remember the name of the place correctly; but it was below the hill. Situated in a valley and I went there to see an ancient shiva temple. The temple is located in one corner of a Little town which has developed only because of the temple. The shiva-linga is almost non-existent, because there is a small estuary/spring which comes from where the shiva linga is present, it actually inundates the temple coming from the shiva linga. The water of course without mention is considered to have curative properties and the temple boasts of being extremely old (I found very very ancient rock cut outs of gods, shiva lingas half or completely broken and figures which do not conform to the stereotypical Hindu mythology there). I spent some time of mine meditating and enjoying the peaceful village scenery before returning back to abu.

The entire region of Mt. Abu glows in some form of weird energy. The water is toxic, the place is harsh and the temperatures soar or dip to extremes. The elements have played here for time immemorial and at the same time many enlightened folks have come here and set shop (other than the brahmakumaris I mean to say!). It is now a low end budget holiday location for many Indian families and hence even more frustrating for a traveler or seeker to see in peace. Yet I encourage everybody to go there and indulge themselves in the lakes and hillocks, the weird wind and water as well as the age old wisdom they are trying so hard to impart.

Happy Traveling.

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