To tell you the truth dear readers, my main purpose of visiting Puri was to visit the Jagannath Temple and Konark Sun temple. I was anxious and eager on 21st Feb to start off for Konark the very next day early morning to catch the first rays of the Sun on the black Pagoda. That temple’s real beauty is when the first slight shimmering golden rays of the morning Sun fall on top of the black pagoda like temple. They say it looks out of this world! But the locals were asserting that I must not at all skip seeing Chilika Lake before I leave Puri. Well, I knew it was worth visiting but in winter season I thought when I could see many, many exotic birds from as far as Caspian, Balkan and Mediterranean Seas besides from the upper heights of the Himalayas.

And after observing on 22nd Feb morning that the mornings are misty in Puri these days, I changed my plan and decided to go to Chilika Lake just after seeing the Sunrise at the beach on that day. I should admit that I  have no regrets for changing my schedule at all because though I saw a few birds but then I was able to see the Irrawaddy Dolphins closely in the far off part of that lake. This lake is about fifty kms from Puri and takes one and a half to two hours time one way by car. Best time to visit early morning.

Now Chilka is a brackish water lagoon, the largest in India and second largest in the world. Brackish means that the lake has more salinity than fresh water but not as much as sea water because the fresh water that the lake gets from some river tributaries at one point mixes with the sea water of Bay of Bengal near an island. I visited this point where the lagoon unites with the ocean. Such places automatically change your state of consciousness, one feels so expanded and limitless, just like our indomitable Spirits.  And please let me know how you feel after what I said about our Spirits feeling so free and limitless in places where there is so much open space, unlimited sky and limitless water……Try to get a feel of what I am saying after you see those photos . One must experience this sometimes to recognize oneself….

Chilika is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian subcontinent and is likewise a home for a number of threatened species of animals and birds. The endangered Irrawaddy dolphins are also found here and are protected species in this region. I have uploaded some pictures of them to share with you, but believe me taking their photos was a great challenge as an untrained eye cannot locate the dolphins because their colour, which is dark slate blends extremely well with the lake water and moreover they are too fast to emerge and dive back in the water at a hurried speed. To focus and shoot such fast moving objects was never so challenging for me. But I am glad I endured the harsh weather on that day and I have come home with such enriching experiences. Who would have thought that one day I would be so clever enough to shoot dolphins in their natural habitat?

There are four islands around this lake and the Rajhansa island is where you can find these dolphins after travelling about twenty or so kilometre in the sprawling lake by motor boats. Nevertheless, the effort and time spent on this exclusive trip was worth every moment and I would love to re-visit this lagoon in future if I get a chance but in December, to watch the spectacular wild life and migratory birds from all over the world.

On one of the islands is a dilapidated Shiva temple which I did see in the end though briefly because although we tried to make it fast, yet the whole sightseeing trip took me four hours excluding travel time from Puri. And for next time I shall remember that I must set out at six in the morning to see every little thing on this gold mine of nature’s mindboggling water body’s treasure….

Chilika Lake, a place of peace and tranquility

The starting point to get in the motor boat

The jetty

 The boat

Water everywhere

Red Crabs

Me on boat, a bit pensive. So much prana, creative energy, so much life energy all around me. Sensing that…..

Birds resting on bamboo sticks

My view on the right side

 On left side

View in front

Looking for dolphins very intently…

 First sight of dolphins at last!

Multitude of white birds nearby

 Folks and their lives moving on boats…

Wasn’t getting to see any more dolphins in much time as they are reclusive and human onlookers are restless. We were leaving the protected area and I was wondering that I hardly saw anything. After that wave of disappointment, this bird proved to be a good omen for me

 It’s presence gave me happiness and the moment it took its flight, it gave me a sense of joy and freedom. I gave up glumness and started taking pictures again…

 Later it struck me like a lightning that this bird was a harbinger of serenity and joy because while I was taking its pictures quickly, I was turning my torso towards right side of the lake following it where a happy twosome dolphins were swimming ecstatically and our boatman changed the direction of our boat to let me see the grey dolphins a bit unmistakeably this time. Wow! Can you see the white lucky bird near the dancing dolphins as if sent by Providence to show me the spot   where to look for them!

Don’t miss that white speck in the far background. It is the same white bird which brought hopefulness and happiness back in me. These are two dolphins swimming happily and one can see their fins and tail.

Our boatman finds his dinner!

On our way to the island where the lagoon meets the ocean

A hut of the fisherman I guess…

The meeting point of the sea and the lagoon, but before that an island

Resting in the shade for a while to rehydrate myself on the island near the gulf….

Fresh Seafood for sale

Pearls too

Returning to the shore

Secluded Shiva temple in a crumbling state on another island, our last stop…….

Coming up next…….Konark temple

Dear friends,

I have just arrived from an extensive travel- trip- pilgrimage cum personal journey to Orissa.  I had informed you about this in the last article and those of you who have just come in on this page may refer the last post- Listen to the voice of your soul-II.  And so we shall pick up from there and continue our journey ahead with this new entry titled –Another enthralling journey to ancient India’s heritage sites- first with pictures then with words.

I have spent some good five days there trying to cover as much as possible. On the first day I visited Lord Jagannath’s temple in Puri. I had my camera and cell phones with me and as per the rules one cannot take them inside. Hence I dropped the idea of going in because the arrangements to keep fragile and breakable items were missing and I decided to come again the following day. As photography was strictly prohibited, I cannot show you any. There was a sea of people visiting the abode of Lord Krishna with his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra. It is the only temple in India where Lord Krishna is worshipped along with her dear sister Subhadra and his other sibling Balaram. The yearly rathyatra  is synonymous with this temple. It is believed that Lord Jagannath himself comes out of the temple to give darshan to all the people liberally on this day.

The temple was very beautiful and spread out and looked quite old and graceful. There was a touch of antiquity all around it. Except for lack of good management in the premises, everything was perfect. Some holy places of India are for the brave and devoted ones. One should visit the holy place with the eyes, mind and attention completely fixed on the set purpose ignoring what is happening around oneself. I did the same and tried to absorb the aura and hidden divinity present in the temple. My long held back desire to make a visit to this holy place, one of the four char dhams of India was at last fulfilled on 22nd Feb’12 evening. I sat there in the temple at sunset thinking to myself how does God deal with the multitude problems of humanity and how come so many people have such great faith and reverence in this place and how does God respond to so many people’s inner feelings, hopes and needs. Only God knows!

The next day I left my room at 5.20am to see the famous sunrise of Puri beach. When I went at that time there was hardly anyone except for one lady, me and the security guard who was deputed for me by the manager of the hotel.   The fishermen were waiting for the sun to break with their nets and boats. It was pretty dark and quiet and I enjoyed every bit of the mystic feeling permeating in the air with sound of the sea waves in the background,  rising and falling in darkness. Slowly the activities picked up with more fishermen jumping in the sea and one by one people of all ages coming on the shore to watch the Sun coming up from the horizon in the Bay of Bengal. After waiting for quite some, the mist and haze did not relent but the fishermen kept on plunging in the sea with their companions and fishing tools. Because of unexpected mild fog, the Sun was seen only after it was quite high in the sky and sadly I  missed the opportunity of appreciating the actual Sunrise of Puri beach.

Friends, as this month has 29 days only and the stipulated date of another post is on 30th of every month, I will make a short presentation of the events of this trip to heritage sites of ancient India by putting up a short picture gallery every day of the various places and events starting from Puri to Konark to Bhubaneshwar. As there are many things to share and see, I will post one photo gallery each day . So there will be a short post everyday with lots of pictures to explain and to cover this splendid journey to the East. And after that there will be  one or two articles comprising of  my spiritual insights once the viewing of the photos is over. Some readers are keen that I share my photos with them therefore I begin the first day with the pictures of Puri beach.

The places that I visited apart from the beach were the Chilika Lake, Konark Sun Temple, Dhauligiri and many temples in Bhubaneshwar- Lingaraj Temple, Mukteshwar, Raja Rani and  a few others. So here I begin…..

At the sea beach of Puri to watch the Sunrise early morning.

From darkness to Light…literally

When returning  to my hotel, I came across very colourful homes with a lot of beautiful paintings at the entrance. Apart from flowers and creepers, there were images of Lord Jagannath also.

Sacred feet of Goddesss Lakshmi at the threshold to bring home prosperity.

Lord Ganesha to bring good luck on the right side.  Found the lord of the Universe- Jagannath in every nook and corner of Puri- truly omnipresent and universal in essence and form….

As the prevailing hindrances and hitches are wearing off, I am much more relaxed and rejuvenated and therefore I could meditate once again on a Sunday evening leisurely.

The joy of meditation is unknown to people. Just a few moments of being one with the existing illuminating Spirit is all that is required to refine my inner sensibilities and find overflowing stream of Ananda or blissful happiness. The ecstasy of God-given Joy is my true wealth. The limitless knowledge that is unfolded in divine moments is the most valuable thing I possess today……

Thinking of all this I was dipping and slipping further more in the infinite celestial world without any inkling that all along there was a silent spectator who was listening to my extremely feeble thoughts floating in the upper cerebral space. Some moments of extreme silence was experienced which made me understand the importance of shunya or void that is so significant in Pranayam. I am talking of the empty space or void that one gets to observe between one inhalation and one exhalation. It is a moment of silence, peace; a moment of thoughtlessness, a moment of egolessness. It is a moment of graciousness. It is a state of Brahma, a state of nivrati or nirvana. It is during complete silence of one’s mind that God is reached I recognize today. And out of such silence came this unfaltering and unswerving golden voice of God with a ray like streak of glowing white light entering the right side of my upper head.

“First of all bow down reverentially to all your divine Gurus and touch their feet in abstract form in obeisance and gratefulness. They have done for you what nobody ever does for any other human. You were completely devastated and ruined once. They have revived, up surged and levitated you to dazzling spiritual heights. In spite of recurring mental and physical obstacles, you made speedy developments because the Gurus were empowering you silently to overcome all the hurdles on your path. The more you wanted to rise, the more power they supplied you. Gurus help only those who have total faith and endless trust in them. In the entire course of spiritual journey, there are many phases of ebbs and flows because of one’s karmic story, but the Guru is strong and resilient enough to sail you through all along until the day when you arrive safely at the shore. Those who doubt and do not feel or know the hidden godly powers of the Sadguru will not be able to traverse far. So hold on to the mast of the sailing boat even during the rough weather and feel the power of God inherent in the Divine Gurus.

There are two contradictory forces around us. One is the Light of God residing inside and the other is its conflicting force which we can name as Mayic or Asuric force in the form of fear, self-doubt, worry, panic and other low feelings and thoughts coming from the energy-field created outside by the masses. These two forces are in contradiction to each other and opposite in direction thus there is always a conflict between them. This force weakens your Spirit. It also diminishes your concentration and attention span and should be eliminated. Not a vestige of such depleting force should remain anywhere inside you.

Those of you who wish to increase your spiritual powers must understand its importance and during your meditation times, you must submit all the weaknesses to the deputed Gurus. Your power lies in your Spirit and those of you who wish to walk up to end point must expel all the unwanted thoughts in order to make the mind extra ordinarily strong. A strong and robust mind shall sustain and put up with all the worldly and spiritual pursuits. The power to overcome diseases-mental and physical both, to overcome life’s obstacles and self-created mental blockades depends on the quality of the mind one possesses. A strong and bright mind shall withstand all the initial tests taken by the Guru to help you to qualify and deserve Self realizations and Atma Bodh- realization of one’s own real identity.

Therefore, remove all the mental barriers and surrender to God in the form of Guru and enter the kingdom of serene Divine world.”

 Conclusion

  • You are what you think.
  • You will become what you will think.
  • Remove all the depleting thoughts buried deeply inside your mind and trust in God and his entrusted dispensed Gurus.

Insights of twilight meditation of 19/2/2012  before embarking on yet another round of holy pilgrimage to Jagannath Puri and Mukteshwar temple in Bhubaneshwar, Orrisa.

God is righteousness. Learn to listen to the voice of God present in your soul. There is a veil over our mind or manas which either distorts or stops us from listening to the voice of our soul. When we associate and socialize a lot with the worldly and unspiritual people, the ability to penetrate inside our soul diminishes because all of them, barring just a few are bahirmukhi or extroverted people and they are not pure. Therefore, be prudent in choosing the quality of people and the time spent with them.

Those people who learn the art of concentration and meditation on God will be able to focus their attention inwards with regular practice.

The attention span to listen attentively begins with concentration. Concentration is built and increased by meditation.

One reason for lack of attention and concentration is lack of vision. If one attempts to achieve higher goals and purpose of spiritual aspirations, he/she must have a vision, a much larger vision and their  minds will be focussed and concentrated in spite of whatever external conditions are- favourable or adverse. That is to say that if one has a great  vision in life, the mind will constantly be focussed irrespective of external conditions.

People find it difficult to listen to the voice of their soul because of various reasons. If one aspires to create a vision; if someone is desirous of having a great vision, that individual has to undergo various life experiences and then learn from them. The ability to learn from life experiences is an art and ingenuity.

While we undergo various life experiences, there is a voice inside us that speaks to us. Sit down calmly a few times in a day as well as before retiring at night; focus and watch your breath coming in and going out; concentrate; meditate; chant and then sit still as long as you can in peace and silence …..

All this will  enable and empower yourself to listen to this faint voice that speaks to you. It guides you; it enlightens you; it leads you to the right act and the right path; it tells you the most suitable answer and most of all it gives you tranquillity amidst unrest and confusion.

Listening with concentration is a talent and skill that serious seekers must cultivate in order to smoothen and heighten their spiritual path and to connect directly with God present inside quickly.

God is very beautiful. God is pious, sacred and taintless. So when God speaks to us in moments of absolute inner silence the guidance is impeccable. It is perfect! God’s voice is small and feeble yet very powerful and comprehensive. God can read and tell one’s innermost intentions and the degree of seriousness of one’s intentions.

God’s voice inside our heart is the never ending flame of Divine Light. So why don’t you sit down calmly many times a day to listen and heed to that pious voice that is shaashwat, eternal; that which never dies? A voice that will never falter, abate or vacillate.

In moments of distress or trials, this voice never forsakes you. It is you who becomes more stormy, confused, angry or dejected. It is during such times that you must not forsake or forget to pray to God by distancing yourself from the external world and then sit in quietude and wait till you listen what God has to say to you!

God loves all equally but everyone does not love God. The more you learn to listen and connect with God, the better the quality of your life will be. God is pakshpaat rahit  -unbiased. If you love God and pay heed to what is suggested, the gates of his spiritual kingdom shall be opened for you as a Grace.

Devotees who have God’s kind Grace and mercy shall fear nothing and nothing is impossible for them. So whenever you experience turmoil, disconnection with your inner self, silence your mind by sitting down quietly to meditate, to listen to the voice of God within you!

Learning  and insight from meditation of 12.02.12 Sunday morning.

Dear readers,

This time of the year is for travelling and touring India’s pilgrimage centres. I am just back from one of the twelve Jyotirlingas or centres of Shiva’s Light called Mallikarjun temple on mountain Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh near Hyderabad very close to river Krishna.

As photography was prohibited inside the temple premises, I could only take a few at the gate of the temple. Although most of South India temples look alike in architecture outwardly, the inside of the temple has a variety of styles of wonderful temple architecture to offer. And Mallikarjun temple was no different. It was one of the most beautiful temples I have ever seen in South India!!

A  highly charged ground made all the more difference to the place and added so much more power to the premises . There were many small temples dedicated to various deities but this temple is mainly dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Ma Parvati.

I shall give you more information on this later as I will need some  time to settle down and compose a new blog entry regarding my insights. Until then, take a look at these pictures of the recent journey that I made to Sri Sailam.

As usual, I was attracted to this blooming tree full of mauve flowers at the Mumbai airport.  As I alighted, I grabbed the opportunity to take some shots of these beautiful flowers. What a lovely way to start the journey ahead!

Saw these blooming trees in abundance at Hyderabad airport too.

We began our journey on 6th Feb from Hyderabad. It takes about five hours by car and seven or eight by bus.

The setting of the golden Sun…

The special moon on the journey with us.  At dusk, the moon became more splendid by showing its face in between the branches and with shades of pink and lavender sky as the backdrop!!

Just about half an hour away from Sri Sailam, in the mountains and forests  flows river Krishna. Took a spontaneous stop to capture this mystic image- Krishna at night!!

Next day morning, at the feet of Lord Shiva…

The main gate of the temple with five golden kalash.

So many people’s faith and devotion embedded in these….Nandi bull and Shivalingas made of cement sold in the road side shops…..

It is an exclusive opportunity to catch a glimpse of beautiful birds in my city. As birds are quick to take a flight, this picture of Bulbul was taken delightfully near the dam on river Krishna while we were having a small cup of tea!

We visited a few significant places in the mountains. One was called Shikharam, the highest place in the area where a small Shiva Temple was built on a hill top and we can see the whole region with a clear view. On top of this temple is a small Nandi bull.

We have to see through the horns of the Nandi bull by resting the thumb and the index finger on its horns and sort of making a circumference out of it all. If we are able to see the far off golden kalash of the Mallikarjun temple through it in that position, one is sure to get Moksha in this life time!

Or so they said! Everyone tried their faith and luck and I don’t know if this is true but I enjoyed the whole experience and took some very interesting pictures also!!

Close to the complex of the temple is a place called Paaldhara, the stream of milk and Panchdhara, five streams. It is this special place laden of tranquility where Adi Shankaracharya meditated and composed two important compositions- Shivananda Lahiri and Saundarya Lahiri

A small temple dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya.

Streams flowing next to the temple which have healing properties.

The place had thick foliage and large trees ..Some huge Banyan Trees were acting like an umbrella protecting the sacred place.

Paid my respects to the pious soul Shri Adi Shankaracharya at this holy place and felt gratified.

The next day morning as we were returning to our base, we stopped at one more important place called Paataal Ganga. It was the holy river Krishna where I paid my respect and fond remembrance to my father and other relatives who are no more with us. I did a small ‘tarpan’ without any formal ceremonies.

‘Tarpan‘ is an offering of holy waters done at river sites in India where we offer our memories or respects to the departed souls. It is also done for spiritual redemption. During the shraddha month of Hindu calendar, ‘tarpan’ or water is given to all the forefathers and other relatives who are no more.

This journey was very special for many more reasons which I may write about in my forthcoming articles . It will always be recalled with sweet memories in future for years to come. It felt like there was a paradise in the Sri Sailam precincts, such was the wellness feeling all around the place. No wonder it is called the Kailash of the South. The thoughts lingered with me when I took this picture from the flight which I have titled where……

Heaven meets Earth!!!

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