Enchanted at the Hot Water Springs

Ganeshpuri Travel Blog

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Flanking Vinod at Ganeshpuri temple, built on the exact spot where Nithyananda passed away by choice through meditation.

After a night in Bombay, Glenda and I headed to the outer edges of Bombay and as the urban structures around grew smaller and smaller, the grass grew taller and taller.  In a rickshaw (known as a tuk tuk in Thailand) we chatted with the friendly local driver as we saw a temple sitting precariously on the cliff’s edge of a mountain nearby, shortly after leaving Virar station. 

I had spoken to a spiritual friend of mine Puneeta, whom I had met in the interesting enough Customer Relations department of British Airways from over 10 years back when I was working in Bombay.  Whilst I had moved southwards for pastures greener (metaphorically and literally) in New Zealand; Puneeta had moved northwards in a totally different sense to be engulfed in the solaces of the spiritual world at Ganeshpuri, Rishikesh and the like.

My spiritual friend Puneeta.
  Due to the urban chaos that is Bombay and the lifestyle associated with it; against our unanimous plans, Puneeta was unable to make it but conveyed that 2 naïve tourists would be visiting, to her “brothers” Vinod and Ahmed. 

In India there is a Hindu and Jain festival that celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters, called Raksha Bandhan.  The central ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred thread) by a sister on her brother's wrist. This symbolizes the sister's love and prayers for her brother's well-being and the brother's lifelong vow to protect her.  However this practice is not strictly confined to blood brothers and sisters but could also be extended to any male friend outside the family as is the case between Puneeta and her non-blood brothers Vinod and Ahmed.

Warli museum paintings.
 

We reached Ganeshpuri and after some initial confusion, we met up with Vinod who kindly let us relax by the side of the road while he scouted around for a suitable budget priced hotel.  We later attempted to take a rickshaw to Vajreshwari but the rickshaw drivers seemed to inflate the price on seeing tourist $$$ as I am an Indian with a foreign accent and Indians have a knack of smelling $$$s on foreigners and Indians from abroad.  Consequently we settled for the old State Transport buses despite the not-so-bad state they were in and as a result paid INR 7 per ticket, the equivalent of US$ 0.14 / AU$0.13.  We visited the temple at Vajreshwari before returning to Ganeshpuri by late afternoon.  We then took a look at the Warli museum with its share of unique paintings.

River that runs behind the temple.
    

Our hotel was in very close proximity to the Hindu Nithyananda Temple which was erected at the place where Bhagawan Nithyananda performed Samadhi.  I shall explain what Samadhi is a little later in this blog entry.  According to his disciples, Nityananda was found as an abandoned infant in Tuneri village in Kozhikode, India.  Settled in southern India, Nityananda gained a reputation for creating miracles and wonderful cures. He had started building an ashram near Kanhangad in Kerala.  The beautiful hill temple and Ashram in Kanhangad are now pilgrim centres.

Wading in the hot water springs with the local lads.
 The Guru Van, a forest in the hills nearby where Bhagawan sat on penance, is now a pilgrim retreat.  By 1923, Nityananda had wandered to the Tansa Valley in Maharashtra state.  This reputation as a miracle worker attracted people from as far away as Bombay though he never took credit for any miracles.  Nityananda gave a great deal of help to the local adivasis who were despised by the population at large.  Nityananda provided food and clothing for them apart from setting up a school. 

Some believe that Nityananda had the power to transmit spiritual energy (shaktipat) to people through non-verbal means.  In 1936, he went to the Shiva temple here in Ganeshpuri village and asked if he could stay there.  The family that looked after the temple agreed and built a hut for him.

During sunset at the river, I felt blessed in this enchanting & divine hindu countryside.
 As his visitors and followers increased, the hut expanded and became an ashram.  To the people around him, he was an avadhuta: one who was absorbed in the transcendental state.

Nityananda died on August 8, 1961.  His Samadhi is located in Ganeshpuri at the Samadhi Mandir (Nithyananda Temple) which is now a pilgrim site.  Samadhi has been described as a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object and in which the mind becomes still, one-pointed or concentrated while the person remains conscious.  Samadhi can also refer to videha mukti or the complete absorption of the individual consciousness in the self at the time of death.

Hindu fire procession at night.
After clarifying this obscure definition with my spiritual mate Puneeta, I understood Samadhi is entering a state of meditation where one is conscious of one’s being but cannot think as the mind is still.  In this state which can last a very long time, some people including Nithyananda have passed away by their own choice.  In this way they overcome death - this is not considered suicide at all but merely leaving the physical body.  The exact spot where this happened for Nithyananda is where the Nithyananda temple now stands. 

Near the temple and even as far the next township Vajreshwari are a few hot springs.  The temple itself has a few hot spring tanks where people wade in the water.  The river that runs behind the temple has a point called Agnikund.

Sporting the hindu tikka.
  In the evening we went for a walk by the river before getting to Agnikund which is one of the hotter hot water springs.  Here I joined locals in the natural hot water pools.  The water was comfortably hot and some of the locals took the mickey out of me and advised me to get closer to one end of the natural pool.  While I did so, they chuckled as I contorted my face as the heat began to get absolutely unbearable.  It was great wading in the water with the locals where some took a bath.  I felt one with the benign locals and one with nature.  The hot water springs seemed enchanting and I felt blessed in this rural but divine hindu countryside especially with the spectacular sunset that bathed us all with a golden glow.... 

My girlfriend was by now getting used to vegetarian food especially in a hindu place like this where non-vegetarian food can sometimes be frowned upon.

Demosthene's wedding.
  In any case there were no non-vegetarian restaurants around.  Nevertheless in common with almost every visitor to India, she discovered how delicious vegetarian food can be and varied at that.  Medu wada, puri bhajee, masala dosa are just a few of the 1000's of delicious Indian vegetarian dishes on offer.  I suppose because a good number of hindus are pure vegetarian, they've mastered the art of cooking delicious vegetarian food.  Unfortunately in certain other parts of this world, vegetarian meals are confined to salads and steamed vegetables compelling people to think that healthy food is boring and not delicious. 

After dinner we attended Aarti at the Nithyananda temple.  It is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor act as lamps that are offered to any of the Gods, dieties, etc.

Haji Ali Mosque in the sea.
   In typical hindu fashion, I held my hands over the fire and applied it to my face and head after which I dipped my finger in a sort of red powder and then pressed my smeared finger onto my forehead creating a ‘tikka’, a sign of Hinduism.  There were also a few western tourists including an Australian woman who seemed keen on inviting us for more ceremonies at the temple and perhaps eventually converting us to Hinduism as possibly at some point she was converted too.  We later witnessed a procession on the streets before hitting the sack. 

The next day we returned home to our suburb 7 Bungalows in Bombay.   In the old days there was nothing but 7 Bungalows here which is why the British named our suburb 7 Bungalows.

Reportedly the world's most expensive home owned by Indian business tycoon Mr. Ambani.
  In time many of these 7 Bungalows including ours were razed and replaced by residential buildings in which we as inheritors from our mother’s side got an apartment flat.  Since my grandfather’s name on mum’s side is Laurence and my grandmother’s name is Rosemary.  They combined ‘La’ from Laurence and ‘Rose’ from Rosemary to make it ‘La Rose’ which is French for ‘The Rose’.  Till date 'La Rose' is the name of the residential building.  A few years back we sold our apartment flat at 'La Rose' and now at 7 Bungalows, we have justone apartment flat in which my parents live. 

That night we attended my former neighbour and childhood friend Demosthene’s wedding reception.

The Queen's necklace at night and Marine Drive by day!
  My parents attended the nuptials and by prior arrangement with the hosts, I took my girlfriend for the wedding so she could experience an Indian catholic wedding.  For details of the merrymaking antics and quirky rituals that plague Indian Catholic weddings, feel free to read my previous blog entry titled ‘The Fellowship of the Rings’:  http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/93200/Fellowship-Rings-32

On the night of 31st December, like many other catholic youth, we met up with some mates and attended a formal dance at the Catholic gymkhana.  On 2nd January, I took Glenda on a tour of my home city Bombay.  We started with the Haji Ali mosque which is located in the sea but connected to land by a concrete walkway.

Taj Mahal hotel, target of a 3 day seige by terrorists over Bombay city!
 

Thereafter we both saw Antilia which is the name of a twenty-seven floor personal home belonging to Indian business tycoon Mukesh Ambani, the billionaire Chairman of Reliance Industries.  There are about 600 full-time staff to maintain the residence which is reportedly the most expensive home in the world.  It has been described as the "Taj Mahal of 21st century India".  The home houses Mr. Ambani, his wife Nita,  their three children and Mr. Ambani's mother.  The structure was designed by architects using principles of Vaastu Shastra to maximize "positive energy".  No two floor plans are alike and the materials used in each level vary widely.  The home includes 400,000 square feet of living space, parking space for 168 cars, a one-floor vehicle maintenance facility, nine elevators in the lobby, a health spa, a yoga studio, a small theatre with a seating capacity for 50 on the eighth floor, a swimming pool, an ice room infused with man-made snow flurries, three floors of hanging gardens, a ballroom, three helipads and an air traffic control facility.

The Gateway of India.
  All that in a home belonging to one family!!

We then visited the Central Business District’s Marine Drive which is a long circular main road by the coast.  An aerial view at night of the lights on Marine Drive is what prompted the pseudo name ‘Queen’s necklace’ for this stretch of road.  We later went to Colaba and saw the Gateway of India and took a ride in one of the horse carriages.  Here stands the majestic & opulent Taj Mahal hotel which was the main target in the recent terrorists attacks in Bombay where terrorists bombed / open fire at various locations in Bombay city.  The siege lasted 3 days and many people lost their lives at the Taj Mahal hotel and other venues in Bombay. 

We then visited Victoria Terminus aka CST station, one of the biggest railways stations in India through which Indian Railways operate.

Horse Carriage ride through the streets of colaba.
 Indian Railways has 114,500 kilometres of total track over a route of 65,000 kilometres and 7,500 stations.  It has the world's fourth largest railway network after those of United States of America, Russia and China.  The railways carry over 30 million passengers and 2.8 million tons of freight daily.  It is the world's 2nd largest commercial or utility employer by number of employees with more than 1.36 million employees. 

We finally stopped at Cross Maidan off Fashion Street.  Here stands a very miraculous cross where scores of catholics and non-catholics pray.  This is the cross where all those years back, I used to pray at.  One of the wishes I asked for at this cross was for me to immigrate to a new and greener land & bang!  Jesus planted me in the lush green lands of New Zealand!!

….

Victoria Terminus aka CST. Indian Railways is the 2nd largest commercial and utility employer in the world.
And with that, the next day Glenda & Hefner took off for their adoptive land, Australia!  It’s interesting we (Michelle and myself accompanied Hefner and Glenda to the airport) took off from the same house in the same taxi.  Glenda and Hefner were both destined for Adelaide, both with approximately the same transit times in Singapore and yet on different flights from Bombay to Adelaide!!  

Africancrab says:
Great blog, managed to get to the end of it phew!
Posted on: Jan 21, 2012
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Flanking Vinod at Ganeshpuri templ…
Flanking Vinod at Ganeshpuri temp…
My spiritual friend Puneeta.
My spiritual friend Puneeta.
Warli museum paintings.
Warli museum paintings.
River that runs behind the temple.
River that runs behind the temple.
Wading in the hot water springs wi…
Wading in the hot water springs w…
During sunset at the river, I felt…
During sunset at the river, I fel…
Hindu fire procession at night.
Hindu fire procession at night.
Sporting the hindu tikka.
Sporting the hindu tikka.
Demosthenes wedding.
Demosthene's wedding.
Haji Ali Mosque in the sea.
Haji Ali Mosque in the sea.
Reportedly the worlds most expens…
Reportedly the world's most expen…
The Queens necklace at night and …
The Queen's necklace at night and…
Taj Mahal hotel, target of a 3 day…
Taj Mahal hotel, target of a 3 da…
The Gateway of India.
The Gateway of India.
Horse Carriage ride through the st…
Horse Carriage ride through the s…
Victoria Terminus aka CST.  Indian…
Victoria Terminus aka CST. India…
Ganeshpuri
photo by: Kynsley