A Memory Narrative of My Socio- Cultural –Spiritual Voyage in Summer 2012
by Dr. Bani Dayal Dhir
Who in this world does not admire the cultural diversity of India, its historical monuments, fascinating sanctuaries, elegant temples, scenic splendour, majestic temples of learning! Who does not marvel and wonder at the variation of topography and climate! Who is not filled with awe to see the spiritual fervour and its rich cultural heritage ! Though there are books rich with their enchanting descriptions, as psychology says “seeing is believing”, I realize that the pleasure of being amidst the wondrous, beauteous forms is matchless, singular and an enriching experience.
Summer 2012 was intellectually and spiritually so rejuvenating that I desire to relive those moments again and again. I feel no hesitation in putting on record that during the Summer Satsang Tour 2012, I also felt much like Robert Frost, the celebrated American poet, of treading on the less travelled road:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both ,
And be one traveller…
Two roads diverged in a wood,
And I: I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
It was 20th May early summer morning! A day fraught with new enthusiasm and zeal , fluttering curiosity and excitement ! We paid obeisance before Supreme Lord at Dayalbagh – “Garden of the Merciful”, headquarters of Radhasoami Faith located at Agra city of Uttar Pradesh, India, which I call “Utopia”. We embarked on our journey which was not simply ‘a journey, but an ‘Intellectual-Spiritual-Socio-Cultural Voyage.’ We set out for the tour under the Divine Captainship of my Grandfather Rev. Prof. P.S. Satsangi , the present spiritual leader of Radhasoami Faith, my beloved and respected grandmother Mrs.Satya Satsangi, my parents, siblings , my husband and other members of the tour party. The weather was hot and dry, yet holiness and tranquility all around us was inspiring our spirits .The lines of Dickinson lingered in my mind:
Angels in the early morning may be seen the dews among,
Stopping, plucking, smiling, flying.
The most significant destination of the first day was our visit to the Holy Shrine of Saint Tulsi Sahab. On reaching Hathras, city in north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh , I came to know that Hathras was famous for Holi colour and Gulal (red colour used on Holi festival ), carpets, artificial munga-moti, aesofoetida etc. I was also told that when one enters Hathras one feels the aroma of desi ghee(melted butter) in the air , the city is famous for its sweets made from desi ghee. The most popular event of the city is the historical Dauji Fair held in the vicinity of the 19th century ruined fort which has the famous Dauji tample at its stop. My Grand Father also narrated a very interesting anecdote from the life of Saint Tulsi Sahab which left all of us quite amused and at the same time made us realize how strong was his proclivity towards spirituality since His childhood, not visible in ordinary human beings !
Sant Tulsi Sahab was the spiritual Guru (Adept) of the parents of Param Purush Puran Dhani Huzur Soamiji Maharaj, the August founder of Radhasoami Faith. He was inclined towards spirituality since his childhood. Tulsi Sahab’s father who was highly religious minded wanted to hand over the responsibility of ruling the state to Tulsi Sahab but however Tulsi Sahab expressed his unwillingness of ruling the state as he felt that necessity of realizing God is more important. The more persistent Tulsi Sahab became in his unwillingness, the more eager his father grew to execute his plan of enthroning him. When only a day was left before the appointed date, the hero of the drama, in the company of some cavalry men who had been engaged as his body guards, went to the garden to meet his father and, on the pretext of taking some fresh air, escaped from there riding a speedy Turkish horse, When he was near the boundary of the city a severe dust storm arose and it became pitch dark all around, under whose cover, he crossed the city boundary and made good his escape. His father got this news after the dust storm had blown away. He sent his cavalry soldiers far and wide in search of his son. But no news of his whereabouts came from any place, he became disappointed and put his second son, prince Baji Rao on the throne.
I had the opportunity to see a copy of Ghat Ramayan written by Sant Tulsi Sahab and I can only say tnat it is inexplicable, incredible and admirable the way it has been preserved for more than two centuries .Contented and blessed we came back to Dayalbagh,Agra with memories of the memorable day, never to fade! Never to efface!
The three day stay at Allahabad was overwhelming and awesome! It will always remain special to me. We were all excited and anxious to meet my uncle and aunt, who stayed there. Allahabad is a metropolitan city in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in India. It was a time when Allahabad simmered at above normal temperature due to scorching summer sun and hot winds. Mercury was hovering in the range of 41 and 47 degree Celsius. Though Agra was hot, I felt Allahabad was hotter. But we were unaffected by the blowing hot winds and intense sun. It was 4.30 pm and we were in Allahabad.
Allahabad: City of Confluence of Rivers
Our short sojourn at Allahabad was again intellectually and spiritually rejuvenating. I visited the renowned Centre of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, University of Allahabad.I was elated on entering the Centre of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences as consciousness and literature is one of my primary areas of research .I can never forget 1st October 2011 , a red letter day, as Centre for Consciousness Studies, first of its kind in India was established in our institute Dayalbagh Educational Institute (Deemed University) Agra.
University of Allahabad
The University Grants Commission (UGC), India selected University of Allahabad under the scheme of identifying universities with potential for excellence, for developing an island of excellence in Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences in 2002. The centre was formally inaugurated by honourable Minister of Human Resource Development in 2003. It is the only centre in India which offers Master’s Programme in cognitive science. The head of the centre Prof. N Srinivasan along with other faculty members presented the ongoing work at CBCS, Allahabad. A report of the ongoing research at Centre for Consciousness Studies, Dayalbagh Educational Institute (Deemed University) was also presented by our team. We also visited various labs of the centre which included the cognitive neuroscience lab, neuroinformatics and intelligent computing lab, visual cognition lab, psycho linguistics lab, virtual reality lab and neuropsychology lab.
It is difficult to describe Allahabad without talking about Allahabad Museum which is one of the best-kept museums in India and that is what makes it a must visit destination in Allahabad. The specialty of this museum lies in the fact that it has separate galleries devoted to archeological findings, natural history exhibits, art gallery and artifacts donated by Jawaharlal Nehru.
23rd of May 2012 is seated in my mind in much more fascinating way as I still remember the romance of journey in a saloon specially arranged by my uncle, who is at present IG Railway Protection Force. It was an amazing experience to have breakfast in the lavishly decorated drawing room of the saloon with my grandparents and family members. The saloon is generally provided to an officer of a higher rank in the railway department. He was kind enough to show us the inspection room with an elaborate explanation of the inspection procedure.
Grand Chunar Fort
Our next visit was to Chunar fort, which has profound historical significance. Chunar Fort was established by Maharaja Vikramaditya, the king of Ujjain to commemorate the stay of his brother Raja Bhrithari. It is believed that Raja Bhrithari left his body and took Maha Samadh at this fort. The fort is constructed at the height of 80 to 175 meters from the land level of Chunar. Historically it has greater relevance, due to the stay of the founder of Mughal dynasty Babar in 1525 AD. Later on Shershah Suri obtained its possession. But in 1574 AD, Akbar captured the fort and since then it was in Mughal regime up 1772 AD. Later in 1772 AD the fort was captured by East India Company. Here I can candidly admit that the fort of Chunar instilled in me a love for history , to capture the spirit of history ,in such a manner that I wanted to unroll some more pages of history on coming back.
Tanda Water Falls in Mirzapur
The visit to Mirzapur , a city in Uttar Pradesh state of India ,was an amalgamation of aesthetic and intellectual experiences because it was also shrouded in the scenic beauty of places like Sirsi Dam, Tanda Waterfalls and Windom falls. Tanda waterfall is located at about 14 kms. South of Mirzapur city. Nature lovers throng here in large numbers to enjoy the natural beauty of the waterfall, it is worth admiring, especially during rainy season and immediately after rains. The memory of refreshing tea at Sirsi Dam after an exhausting day is still alive in my mind. While coming back from Mirzapur, I again had a unique experience of attending satsang in running train which reminded me of the saying of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan that “whatever you do, secular or sacred, should be done in the backdrop of eternity!”
On 24th of May morning we started for Gorakhpur ,which is located in the Eastern part of Uttar Pradesh and has cultural and historical significance. It is considered a religious centre with many historic temples and sites. The city , rich in history of the two major religions Hinduism and Budhhism, is named after the ascetic guru Gorakshnath, a Saint who popularized the “Hath Yoga”.A form of yoga that concentrates on mastering natural power. On our way to Gorakhpur I had the opportunity to stop at Kushinagar. This is the place where Lord Buddha’s ashes were buried and a stupa was built in his memory where more than 6 meters long statue of reclining Buddha is placed. The image was unearthed during the excavations of 1876.
Statue of Lord Buddha : Representing Dying Buddha
It is carved from Chunar sand stone, the statue represents the dying Buddha in the Bhoomi Sparsha Mudra. Lord Buddha delivered his last sermon here only . Evening Satsang was held at Gorakhpur where all Satsangies participated in Satsang from nearby branches.
Morning for me on 25th May began at 3 o’ clock. Today’s journey was set for Lucknow. On our way we had to stop to see the famous mythological tree- Parijaat. My excitement knew no bounds as I have been till now only hearing several mythological stories related to the hallowed tree. How apt was St. Augustine when he said “this world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page”.
Mystic Parijaat Tree
The Parijaat tree is a sacred Baobab tree in the village of Kintoor near Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. Kintoor is about 38 kms. East of the distrct head quarters, Barabanki, was named after Kunti, mother of the Pandavas. There are a number of ancient temples and their remains around this place. Near to a temple established by Kunti, is a special tree called Parijaat which is said to grow from Kunti’s ashes. In botanical terms, Parijaat is known as Adansonia digitata and has been kept in a special category, because it does not produce either its fruit or its seeds, neither can its branch cuttings can be planted to reproduce a second Parijaat tree. This is a unisex male tree and there is no such tree anywhere else to be found. The perimeter of the trunk of this tree is around 50 feet and height of around 45 feet. The leaves of this tree in the lower portion have five tips like the fingers of a hand while at the upper reaches it has seven. Its flower is very beautiful and white in colour, on drying out it takes on golden tinge. This flower has five petals. The age of this tree is said to be 1000 to 5000 years. There are a number of legends related to this tree. One of the well known and famous legends is about Lord Krisna and his wives. According to this myth, the Parijaat tree was planted in Indralok (the abode of Lord Indra) and was a celestial plant, not available on earth. To sow seeds of discord, Narada, brought some flowers from Indralok and gave them to Lord Krisna, and waited to see as to which wife he gave the flowers to. Krishna gave the flowers to Rukmini. On seeing this, Narada went to Satyabhama; Krisna’s other wife and told her about it. When Satyabhama’s jealousy was aroused well enough, Narada went on to give a solution to her. He suggested that she should insist on Krisna getting the plant itself from Indralok and plant it at her home, instead of a few flowers. She showed her anger and disappointment on the whole incident and insisted that he get the plant from Indralok. True to his nature, Narada, in the meanwhile went and warned Indra that some earthlings were out to steal the celestial plant from his Indralok! When Krisna was about to leave after taking a branch of the celestial Parijaat tree, He was accosted by Indra and a battle took place, leading to Indra losing the battle. But Indra would not let it go so easily, and cursed that the plant would never bear fruits, though it might bear flowers, and thus since then the Parijaat tree does not bear any fruit. Krisna planted the tree in such a manner, that though the tree was planted at Satyabhama’s house, when it bore flowers, they would fall in Rukmini’s home! Satyabhama had asked for the tree and she got it, and Rukmini wanted the flowers, and she had it too. This tree is believed to belong to the age of Mahabharata. It was an ancient, historical and a religious tree. It is one of its kind.
Mesmerizing Nainital: A Glimpse of Indian Hill Station
26th of May was a day of transition from ‘Heat to Hills’ as it was a trip to Nainital. It is a hill station located in the northern Indian state of Uttaranchal. Really words fall short for the description of its exquisitely beautiful scenic surroundings, climate, the beautiful lake and several picturesque places. It is said that mesmerized by the beauty of Nainital, the British administrators made this place, once discovered by a Britisher named P. Barron in 1839 ,‘summer capital of the United Provinces’.
What a poetic experience it was, when I took a long walk along the lake covering Mallital and Tallital ! I am calling it a poetic experience as Divine Will manifested in such a manner that my joy doubled when I was taken to Kausani, the birth place of celebrated Indian Hindi poet Sumitranandan Pant. It is difficult for me to put on record the experience of a poet’s heart for a poet’s place. Kausani is a small hill station from where we can have a glimpse of ‘Heaven upon Earth- The Himalaya.
Anasakti Ashram in Kausani
We also visited the Gandhi Ashram known as ‘Anasakti Ashram’ where Mahatma Gandhi ji stayed for fourteen days during the year 1929.
Then arrived 28th of May! I suddenly realized that the first part of the Satsang Tour was concluding. Tears of joy, contentment and gratitude welled up in my eyes. Now I am becoming nostalgic when I go down the memory lane and remember those glorious moments. The unforgettable refreshing ‘tea stops’ during journey, the sumptuous sweets prepared by my grandmother, snacks and chocolates, moments of love and laughter, discussions related to intellectual and spiritual topics followed by enlightening remarks of my Grand Father Rev Prof Satsangi will remain the most precious possessions for me in my life forever!