Let us become nobler

Sanskrit word 'Arya' or 'Aryam' stands for nobility. Let us implore everyone to become noble, the Arya or Aryam. Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Jews, communists or capitalists, rich or poor, clever or dumb, weak, meek or bully. Uncomfortable perhaps are they with other, threatening peace. Ray of hope for the world is ‘include-all’ ideas of ancient Indian wisdom popularly known as Hinduism. Only they knew how to celebrate individuality of each person. Aryas respect ideas of others, respect way of worship of others, help others and become a noble citizen of this wide and varied world. Idea behind this blog is to bring out those ideas and help each of us become better than what we are. 'N' in the 'Aryan', by the way, was a mistake made by colonial 'experts' who wanted to underplay and undermine the culture and religion of those who they clandestinely enslaved.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

22- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A story of Shiva and me.

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 22.  Gorakh-Pur (Go-Raksh-Pur)

Gorakh-Pur is an old city and a witness to many historical events- Roamed by Bhagavan Buddha and His disciples, treaded on by Yogi-Saint Goraksh-Nath in the ancient times; in the medieval times sacked by Muslim invaders; in the colonial times as centre for uprising against British and in modern times, frequented by Nepal bound tourists, traders and pilgrims.


Gorakh-Pur is part of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and is a major railway junction connecting east to west. The winds of change are late in coming here and therefore old dusty city charms still prevail. Surely all that would change once modernity, slowly but certainly, creeps in. We reached the city in the afternoon and looked for a place to spend the night. There were several hotels to choose from, however we decided in favor of rooms managed by railways, on the railway station for the transiting passengers. Generally this option is hardly taken by most tourists. Their amenities are very basic-basic. They offer just a bare room. No TV, no coffee machine, no room service and not even lock for the room (you need to buy or bring your own) But rooms are bigger in size and if one is travelling by train, they are convenient especially if the train timings are odd, in the middle of the night, like what we had. For us it was ideal. Anyone who has lived in Tibet for fifteen days, even ‘basic-basic’ amenities of Gorakh-Pur was like a luxury. Hence no big deal. In order to take this room one must hold train tickets to prove that you are bonafide passengers. We made reservation for a train to Varanasi for the next day (night) and happily hired a room upstairs above the first platform of the Gorakh-Pur station. Now everything being set, we were free to explore Gorakh-Pur city.


Monsoon of 2009 was not impressive in South Asia. Many districts of India and Nepal had received less than normal rainfall. It was already mid August and yet it had not rained in many parts. Rain was late in arriving and when it did rain, in the end, it was still scanty. Mr. Pranab Mukerjee, India’s Finance Minister indicated on 11th August 2009 that nearly 30% districts of India, (161 districts from a total of 612 districts in India) had received less rainfall and were under draught-like situation. The trees, though, were yet green and so were fields due to ground water and the water flowing in the rivers coming from Himalayas. It was feared that situation would worsen after a couple of months when ground water becomes scarce and the rivers dry up. However on the streets one found usual hustle and bustle of people; the landscape too was not that of a typically parched land. For now everything seemed fine except heat of the oppressive sun. Unperturbed, Mayawati (Chief Minister of Uttar-Pradesh at the time of our visit) was busy unveiling her own statues and that of her mentors in the public parks. Uttar Pradesh is known in Short as ‘UP’ and is biggest province of Indian.


Visit to Gorakh-Pur is not complete if the temple dedicated to Gorakh-Nath is not visited or the temple-like headquarters of The-Gita-Press is not scheduled in the day’s itinerary. Both are landmarks of this city. Hardly can one find any Hindu who has not heard of these two entities. The-Gita-Press (More info at www.gitapress.org), is dedicated to printing of authentic Hindu Scriptures. However Gorakh-Pur is not just these two. Munshi Premchand, the tallest Hindi novelist, and the saintly poet, Kabir, both lived and worked here. Jain Bhagavan Mahavir as well as Bhagavan Gautam Buddha toiled here. Just a short distance away, at Kushi Nagar, Bhagavan Buddha breathed his last. Yogananda of the Kriya Yoga fame (writer of well known book: “Autobiography of a Yogi”) was born here. However those who use Gorakh-Pur merely as a transit point, consider the town as an ‘unavoidable waste of time’. We spoke to several people before, during and after our Kailash-Manasarovar trip and somehow received an unmistakable unequivocal message that Gorakh-Pur is a no-go zone as it has ‘nothing of importance’. Everyone we talked to, tried to dissuade us from visiting Gorakh-Pur. A web site openly says, and I quote: “Gorakh-Pur is 230 km north of Varanasi. It is a totally uninteresting city and most people will want to leave it as soon as they arrive”. However, to me, no place in India can ever be uninteresting or unimportant and we decided against everyone’s advice and made it to that city named after Mystic-Tantrik, Baba Goraksh-Nath who lived there hundreds of years ago. We were certainly not disappointed.


 Pur’ is an Indian word that means ‘city’ and is applied very frequently as Jaipur, Udaipur, Nagpur, Kanpur, Palanpur, Bharatpur etc. But what is ‘Gorakh’? And how does it connect to ‘Goraksh’?


In modern Sanskrit language, ‘go’ signifies ‘cow’ and in the ancient Vedic Sanskrit, the same word also signifies ‘sense organs’ or ‘tongue’. ‘Nath’ in Sanskrit is ‘protector’ or ‘controller’. Thus Goraksh-Nath is ‘a person who protects cows’ or ‘a person who controls or restrains his sense organs at will’ or a person who regulates his taste-buds and speech’. Being an accomplished master of masters in Tantra, the latter two meanings fit him better. Currently applied word ‘Gorakh’ is a corrupted version of original ‘Goraksh’. Nepalese Gorkhas too derive their name from this ancient mystic. In Nepal even as of now, tantrik style shakt-worship (Worship of Shakti deities such as Goddess Kali, Goddess Durga, Goddess Amba and their other forms that inspire acquiring strength and physical power for saving the oppressed innocents) is most common. ‘Gorakh-Pur’, hence signifies a city where cows are protected or where, its inhabitants are leading a self-controlled life. It is indeed a different matter that Gorakh-Pur today does not provide any demonstration of what it once stood for. Corruption that has crept into its pronunciation of its name has also corrupted its soul. To me, it seemed vindication; once you begin mis-spelling Sanskrit, you journey towards decay begins.


Word ‘Sanskrit’ signifies name of the language prevalent in India since ancient times, however, it is interesting to see what it means. It means: “Perfected” language or “Perfectly created” language. Even in European languages too it can be shown to mean the same.


On Page 977 of Chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary, Fifth Impression 1971, it is explained thus: “Sanskrit, or (old fashioned) Sanscrit, sans’krit, n. the ancient Indo-Germanic literary language of India.- Also adj. [Sans. Samskrita, put together, perfected-sam, together, krita, done, perfected, from kri, cognate with Latin creare, to create}”. English word ‘Create’ comes from Sanskrit ‘Krit’ and it has the same meaning.


Sanskrit is a refined language and mouths of the Sanskrit speakers are trained to deliver more pronunciations. Untrained, folks found ‘kha’ easier to utter than tongue twisting ‘ksha’. Several words bearing ‘ksha’ stand corrupted in local dialects; Lakshman has become Lakhan and city named after him became Luckhnow (English rendering of this word has further corrupted it as ‘Lucknow’), Raksha, the wrist-band has come to be known today as ‘Rakhee’, ‘Pakshi’ (Bird) is ‘Pankhi’ and ‘Laksh’ (Hundred-Thousand, number 100,000), has become ‘Lakh’ (English rendering ‘Lac’). Those who have not adequately exercised their vocal chords and the connected speaking faculty consisting of tongue, teeth, lips and mouth-cavity would be found wanting in their ability to pronounce alphabets and words; miserably helpless when it comes to pronouncing less common among the syllables. In the Indian context, not only ‘Ksha’ gets simplified to ‘Kha’ as seen above, there are several other alphabets of Indian Languages that get ‘simplified’ among the folks who do not connect themselves to root language Sanskrit. For example, ‘V’ becomes ‘B’ (Vihar-Bihar, Vruddha-Budhdha, Veena-Beena, Varanasi-Baranasi, Varsha-Barish, Vasant-Basant), ‘Y’ becomes ‘J’ (Yuvan-Javan, Yogi-Jogi, Yatra-Jatra, Yamuna-Jamuna, Yashoda-Jashoda, Yug-Jug). Especially the compound-letters such as Krishna, Dharma, Chandra, Kripa and Ayodhya becomes Kishan, Dharam, Chanda, Kirapa and Awadh in folklores. But in case of Europeans, who are far behind in vocal training than their Indian counter-parts, they simplify words to a much larger extent. For them, Thakur is Tagore, Kashta Mandap is Kathmandu, Kolkata is Calcutta, Merath is Merrut, Aligadh is Aligarh, Varanasi is Benaras, Mumbai is Bombay, Khambhat is Cambay…. We need to practice, refining our abilities and taking them up notch by notch, our body and mind, both having come fitted with zip-files of divine powers that allows progressive development. Don’t we see Yoga-exercise practitioner stretching and bending much more than what an uninitiated could do with his body? This is just the thing that we should be thinking now, confronting Goraksh-Nath temple because that is what was the essence of his teachings-Willful control of body and mind.


Mystic Guru Goraksh-Nath was a noble Hatha-Yogi, a Tantrik, a Shaivaite, who was a disciple of great master Guru Matsyendra-Nath. Under him, Goraksh-Nath had mastered the technique of drawing out those great powers that are found within one’s own body using breath control, and constantly pushing the boundaries of human ability alongside practicing extreme self-restraint in use of sense gratification. Abilities generated by a Yogi, appears to an average human, supernatural, but according to ancient Hindu texts, they are achievable by any human on this earth who cares to diligently follow the Tantra. Long-life, ever-youthfulness, freedom from disease, control over their situations, intuitive knowledge etc are commonly seen among the practitioners of Tantra. More advanced tantriks have ability to be at more than one-place at a time, ability to assume shapes of animals, hearing thoughts of others, instant communication with anyone anywhere (including animals) etc.  Some people believe that Jesus Christ had undertaken Tantrik studies when he was in a monastery in the Himalayas of Kashmir and at an Indian University of Nalanda during his youth. (Refer to Wikipedia: “The lost years of Jesus”, www.tombofjesus.com and several books and researchers like Elmer R. Gruber, a psychologist, Holger Kersten, a specialist in religious history and Barnett Hillman Streeter, the scholar of New Testament at Oxford). Thus explaining, his absence of two decades (between his age of 12 and 30) from Jerusalem, his forgiving nature, his endurance of physical pains inflicted upon him, his possible breathlessness and pulse-less-ness on the cross, his resurrection, disappearance of his body and the influence of Hindu-Buddhist Philosophies visible in early Christian literature and present day Bible.


Next day morning, we hired a Cycle-Rikshaw and our first destination was the famous ‘Gita-press’.

Gita-Press Gorakh-Pur – Humble Slap on Charity-Mongering!


‘Gita-press’, is an organization that is dedicated to disseminating ancient wisdom of India. They have printed about 460 million books from its miniscule beginnings in 1923 till date (Till March 2009). They have grossed Rupees 320 Million selling these books and have used 4,500 Tons of paper. I made a quick, very rough average price calculation; without getting into inflation over the time, size of book, quality of paper and number of pictures on the art papers. I simply and unscientifically divided gross income with the number of books—it came to mere 70 Paise or 1.5 US Cent!


We met their senior managers, who made a remarkably nice presentation of their activity with humbleness that we rarely see. Even the ‘junior’ staff appeared to possess high seniority over us in practicing self-effacing, ego-less humble life.


All books published by them are generally priced below cost. It is their policy to make available the knowledge at as low a cost as possible to those who want the knowledge.  We therefore naturally took them to be perfect candidate for our philanthropy. However, what a pleasant disappointment it was! Gita-press does not seek donations and actually refused our offer. It is rare to find such a self-respecting charitable organization that refuses to succumb to becoming beggar. ‘Beggar’ is a harsh word for ‘donation seekers’, but that is what they essentially boil down to in the ultimate analysis. The beggar on the street begs for himself and his or her family, the well dressed and well fed men and women beg from their offices more often than not financed by the donations which donors have actually meant for the needy-helpless people. They cleverly hide their begging-bowls. If we were to examine more closely, the ‘Charitable’ word applied to organizations is a misrepresentation of facts. They only act as channels for transporting other people’s charity. At best they are vehicles or couriers or post-men who would deliver our charity to those who are assumed to be in need of charity after deducting their ‘expenses’. In other words, these organizations themselves live off the charity of donors. Donors neither have a way of knowing how much of their charity would be used up in administration and publicity ‘stunts’ of the charitable organization, nor the truth whether the ultimate beneficiary was a deserving candidate or not. Also some charities have their own agenda of establishing supremacy of certain faith or philosophy. They are the worst of the lot because, in the process they destroy lot of cultures, philosophies from the face of the earth, ridicule followers of other faiths or philosophies and try to establish monolithic block of faceless people, bottles of cokes, all identical.


As for Gita-press, instead of looking for charity, they offset the cost of subsidizing books by selling other ‘useful’ items such as textiles and Ayurvedic medicines (Indian Medicines from the ancient times. The word ‘Ayurveda’ means, the knowledge of managing age-the healthy life. (Ayu is Age and Veda is knowledge) at a small profit.  We then visited their two large shops. Both were noticeably clean, clutter-free, well lighted and manned by helpful salesmen. First shop had books and magazines published by Gita-press and also a large section handling Ayurvedic herbs and medicines, packed in neat bottles and boxes. Second shop had textiles of well-known brands. All the products were sold at prices printed on them by the manufacturers.


Mr. Jayadayal Goendka (1885-1965), a man, born with mission, the founder of this press had made a modest beginning by printing whatever he could, using a small, manually operated printing machine (this machine too was available as an exhibit at the Picture-Gallery). Now they do possess reasonably modern printing and binding machinery. Gita-press have publicly declared aim to be an organization “dedicated to Truth and Peace in service to the mankind”. We had gone to them, self-appointed, only to say thank-you on everyone’s behalf for the great work of publishing books on Gita, Ramayan, Purans and Upanishads. We were glad that we did. We came back a much-illumined couple. And, the thanks, yes, they certainly deserve from all of us, the society, much more than what Poonam and I could express.

Goraksh-Nath (Gorakh-Nath) Temple


In Gorakh-Pur, our next stop was the temple dedicated to memory of Guru Goraksh-Nath. Current temple is said to be the third shrine. The original shrine was converted into a mosque by Ala-Ud-Din Khiljee. Thereafter devotees constructed a new shrine nearby. Mogul ruler Aurangzeb converted the new temple too into a mosque. Third and current Temple is made from white marble and looked gorgeous. Its interior too was clean and appeared to have been well looked after by priests and other staff. Behind the main temple, there is a large building that is acting as Museum cum meditation hall and that houses statues of many divine beings including holy saints from all the religions and sects, including Islam and Christianity. We even found a young Muslim couple in this hall (and one more entering the main temple, when we were going out). This complex struck us as a spiritual center with patriotic fervor. We prayed and went around both places. In the end we sat down for a while in contemplation of Goraksh Nath. When we emerged from the temple, sun had become harsher, heating up the floor of the exposed courtyard. We were bare feet and the floor was no less than a frying pan. Leave alone walking, we could not even run on that floor; alas, we had to, at least up till the shoe-depository. The feet had to pay the price. Blisters.


The sprawling campus, in which the temple is situated, has now been made into a tourist center with tens of gift-shops, teashops and dhabas (roadside restaurants). Of late, due to security threat from Islamist terrorists, entry to the area is restricted by police. Except one main gate, all the rest entry and exit points are kept closed. We tried to reach the main road from a gate that was nearest to us after emerging from the temple. Having suffered blistered feet, we were happy with the discovery of the short cut and went to that tall wrought iron structure, but had to retreat sadly, as it was securely locked. An auto-Rikshaw (3-Wheeler Taxi. Auto-Rikshaw has a mini-size engine that works either on petrol or on CNG. A Cycle-Rikshaw is a 3-wheeled Taxi, without engine but pedal-powered by man was available but his price had suddenly trebled looking at our predicament and hence we decided not to allow him the pleasure of exploiting us, skipped him and instead braved the torture of sun overhead and feet inside Nike, protected, but hardly, by jockey-caps, we walked up to the gate from which we had originally entered, beyond which there was no dearth of Rikshaws, Cycle or Auto.


Poonam cannot bear to see toiling man pulling the 3-wheel-Cycle-Rikshaw, on the other hand, I am the champion of Cycle-Rikshaws. For me Cycle-Rikshaw puller is a poor cousin of Auto-Rikshaw driver and hence, prioritized claimant than Auto-Rikshaw driver over my wallet. Also, for me he represents least-polluting, silent and earth-friendly mode of mechanized-transport. Every time we take a Cycle-Rikshaw, the first sentence I must always patiently suffer from Poonam is her expressions of pity that she feels towards the puller. Why is it that she always repeats her sentiments of pity? I suspect the real reason to be that she wants to travel more comfortably and faster in an Auto-Rikshaw and that she considers my preference for Cycle-Rikshaw to be one more pointer towards my miserliness. However she suffers my tightfistedness without voicing her suspicion. As for me, despite her objection, why do I always stick to Cycle-Rikshaw? Perhaps I love to travel cheaply and try to make it out as a virtue…. but why not? As long as it is reasonably comfortable and so long as I do not have time constraint, I think it is the best mode of travel. Its slow pace gives me unhurried opportunities of enjoying the fleeting landscape and a kind of a sense of ‘Royalty’ at commoner’s budget. Also it is, in my opinion, a vestigial communist mindset that we (presumably ‘rich’) are torturing the poor man. I, on the other hand would like to think that I am supporting an honestly working man and his family.


As soon as I sit in a Rikshaw, the puller becomes my friend. In Gorakh-Pur, one puller told us a very interesting personal story. At the end of the story we had more insight into merits of Cycle-Rikshaw as a business proposition instead of it being a ‘last resort business of a poor helpless man’. This puller who was not that poor and had actually chosen driving Cycle-Rikshaw as his preferred occupation. In brief, his father had migrated to Goa (Goa is a famous Indian beach-resort city on Arabian Sea, near Mumbai) as a laborer to earn and support his family that was left in Gorakh-Pur. His father had two children, a son (Our hero of the story) and a daughter. After son graduated from school, he too was brought to Goa by his dad and being better educated than father, landed a good job. He got married too. As he was driving our Cycle-Rikshaw, it was puzzling for me as to why should he do such a hard job when he had a comfortable job in Goa, an Indian equivalent of California or Florida. He was honest; he said that pulling Cycle-Rikshaw is that profession in which one can enter immediately; there is no waiting; no applications or interviews; it needs no special skill or learning; it needs a very little capital and more than anything provides freedom to start or stop the work at will. And as he needed to stay in Gorakhpur for only a few months, there was no better option other than this one. We were curious as to why he wanted to be in Gorakhpur when he had a family in Goa. He continued with his story; government of Uttar Pradesh was to allot a house or an equivalent sum of money as per some scheme that was instituted to help girl children. He had come to receive this bounty as a ‘guardian’ of his sister. He also had mission to find a good groom and get her sister married before happily returning to Goa. All these things would take some time but how much time that would take cannot be guaranteed. Hence, this profession suited him best. So, in other words, I realized, this can be a profession of choice for some people, and hopefully Poonam would not complain next time we ride it.


In Gorakh-Pur, if sight of Cycle-Rikshaw pullers depressed Poonam, the mounds of Guava fruits piled up on roadside and on pushcarts lifted her spirit. The very first fruit she got cut by the roadside vendor happened to be a prized kind with pink flesh inside green skin. There are two types of Guavas in India, the ones with white flesh and the other with pink. Although both taste alike, pink being less common, it has rarity value. Thrilling! She ate a ton of them with salt and chili powder, without even waiting to wash them. O, high priests of cleanliness, look, nothing happened to her during the trip and even afterwards.


Our train was at midnight, hence after leisurely dinner in Rajasthani-style restaurant in the vicinity of the railway station, we proceeded back to our room rested, packed and waited for the train to arrive on the platform just below our room. Few minutes before the arrival time of the train to Varanasi, we checked out of the room and came down to the platform. Gorakh-Pur railway station is among biggest in India and is complete with almost all the facilities that Indian Railways has to offer. Waiting rooms for all classes (our ticket of 2-Tier AC Class provided us with the best waiting room with bathroom, toilet, air conditioned resting area, TV, power for charging cameras, mobiles and laptops), cloakroom, restaurants, rooms for overnight staying at a reasonable rate, dormitories for bachelors, etc.


Train was on time. The ride to Varanasi was a short 4-hour on this express train. We need not have taken sleeper seat reservation; however it came in handy as we needed rest after over-exposure to sun that day.


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