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Pilgrimage IV: Ayodhya and Naimisaranyam

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (Dileepan_at_utc.edu)
Date: Tue Sep 30 1997 - 10:50:48 PDT

Pilgrimage IV: Ayodhya and Naimisaranyam
----------------------------------------

After Mukthinath I felt the rest of the North Indian trip was going to be a
breeze.=20

We originally wanted to fly into Varanasi from Kathmandu.  But there was no
flight from Kathmandu to Varanasi on that day.  Therefore we had planned to
skip Varanasi.  This was not disappointing for me as our main objective was
to cover AzhvAr pAdal peRRa sthalams.

After crossing into India by road we reached Ghorakpur, the nearest town
from the border.  We had planned to go straight to Ayodya and stay at
Gujarath Bhavan for the night.  It seems Gujarath Bhavan is very convenient
for washing clothes.  But due to car problem it was already quite late when
we reached Ghorakpur.  Therefore, we decided to spend the night there.

After a rough night at Ghorakpur we hired a taxi and left for Lucknow via
Ayodhya.  The rate was Rs. 4.00 per KM.  But we had to pay for the taxi's
return trip to Ghorakpur.  Thus the effective cost for us was Rs. 8 per KM.
for the roughly 250 KM trip to Lucknow from Ghorakpur.  It was an extremely
hot day.  On the way we bought some Cucumber and melons from road side
shops and had them for breakfast.  We reached Ayodhya at about 10:00 a.m.
Ram Janmabhoomi was already closed.  It was going to open only at about
2:00 p.m.  We visited several buildings around town claimed to be Sitha's
andhappuram or Dasaratha's court, or something like that.  It was not very
convincing.  We also visited is a nice Anjaneya temple up on a small hill.

The main attraction at Ayodhya for me was "Ammaji" temple.  This is a South
Indian temple constructed by a devout Sri Vaishnava more than 100 years
ago.  The temple is located in one of the side streets and we almost could
not find it.  The Bhattar graciously agreed to prepare prasadams to offer
to Lord Rama.  Lord Rama is most majestic here.  There is a small sannithi
for Lord Ranganatha and another sannithi for Acharyas including Sri
Ramanuja and Sri Manavalamaanunigal.  The worship at this temple is like
any temple in the South.  They have their annual uthsavam that includes
"veedhi puRappAdu."  After a great dharsan we had prasadam and rested for a
little bit.

We reached the assembling area for the Ram Janmabhoomi dharsan well ahead
of the opening time.  Crowd was already forming.  Several soldiers wielding
automatic rifles were lazily chatting with each other in the shade.  Right
when the clock struck we were allowed to proceed to the first check point.
We had to leave all our belongings except offerings that can be hand
carried.  No bags or such were allowed.  We walked through winding railings
and through few more check points.  Then, we could see the rubble that once
was a mosque.  Finally, there He was, at a distance.  It was difficult to
get a good dharsan of the Lord.  The closest the line gets to the shrine is
about 30 feet away.  The priest was seated on a bench close to the line.
Pilgrims handed over their offerings to him.  Chatting with the guard
standing nearby, the priest handed back some prasadam.  A few seconds later
we were walking out.  In all, it took about 15 minutes for us to walk
through the line, have dharsan and exit.  I was told that it sometime takes
hours to have dharsan.  As we exited our belongings were waiting there to
be picked up.  On to the right was an army barrack with tidy roads and
tents of varying sizes.

As we came out of the barricades loudspeaker was blasting away some Hindi
song.  With my extremely limited Hindi knowledge I could make out that the
song was about going to Ayodhya and visiting Ram Janmabhoomi.  There were
make-shift shops selling all kinds of wares.  In all there was a carnival
atmosphere.

We then left for Lucknow.  In Lucknow we found a small hotel room near the
railway station.  The room was barely adequate.  My uncle could not bring
himself to spending a little more money on ourselves.  By this time our
bags were full of dirty clothes.  Major washing session started.  My uncle
who had taken more than just a few such trips had a plastic string handy
for a clothes line.  With wet clothes hanging all over the room, and the
air-cooler and fan rumbling away, we went to bed.

The next day we hired a taxi to Naimisaranyam, about 120 KM away.  The cost
was about Rs. 3.50 per KM.  By about 10:30 a.m. we reached Naimisaranyam.
Our obvious South Indian looks attracted some guides.  They offered to take
us to the 44th Jeeyar.  The guide was of course mistaken.  It is not the
44th Jeeyar, but the 43rd Jeeyar; and the Jeeyar was not there, only HH's
brindavan is loacted at the Mutt.  We declined their offer and proceeded to
Chakragund just a few steps away.  This is a circular, ring-shaped pond
created by the Lord's Chakram when He threw it down to clear the forest and
make way for Vyasa and other sages to do thapas.  There were several
pilgrims taking a holy bath in the water of Chakrakund rich with green
suspended matter.  My father and uncle slowly managed to get into the
water.  I was only able to sprinkle a few drops of the Chakrakund water on
my head.

We had kept some of our things on a bench near the pond.  A man walked up
to us and demanded money for using his bench.  We paid up and started
towards Gomathi river about a kilometer away.  I expected dense forest with
tall trees on the way.  But the place was like any other village.  We got
lost a little bit.  However, we managed to reach the banks of Gomathi.  The
crystal clear water flowing at a respectable pace was a contrast to the
Chakragund water.  We readily went into the water and had a wonderful
snanam.  Then we proceeded to Sri Ahobila Mutt complex.  The North Indian
priests taking care of the complex were extremely kind.  They prepared Roti
and Subji for Lord Nrisimha and Devanarvilagam Azhagiya Singar (the
43rdJeeyar).  After Aradhanai and neyvEdhyam we had our prasadham.  Then,
we left for Lucknow.

It seems Lucknow is famous for a special kind of embroidered clothing for
men and women called Chikon-work.  The taxi driver took us to a shop and we
bought a few pieces for my family.  That night we left for Haridwar by
train.  My uncle had made reservation by II Class a/c.  I was amazed that
up to this point our plans had held up and we were able to catch the train.
 I felt the Lord was guiding us and we have nothing to worry about travel
plans getting messed up.

The journey was pleasant.  We reached Haridwar at about 7:00 a.m.  I lost
my eye glasses in this leg of the journey and had to rely just on my
contact lenses from then on.  In the next three days we had dhrasan of the
Lords of Devaprayagai, Joshimutt, and Badri.


=97 adiyEn