By: Roli S
I belong to the land where resides the spirits of sages and rishis who were the original wanderers and explorers the humanity has ever recorded. They told us that we are all prisoners in a ‘misery yard’ which has such high walls that we believe, mistakenly, that the yard is the world! These sages had seen beyond the walls, they had found there a world of utter bliss and through their experiences they had given to the rest of the humanity a rough roadmap to that world beyond walls in the form of ‘sacred texts’.
Basically, the message that I got from these sages is that we must not cease exploration, dreaming and wondering. Then I came across a quote by Franz Kafka, “You need not even listen, just wait…the world will offer itself freely to you, unmasking itself.” I don’t know if the world will unmask itself for me or not, but this pandemic has surely and definitely masked all the humanity. Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe, believing this is true, I dared to wander a bit (fully masked) these last few weeks, despite the pandemic. The pandemic has made it very clear to us humans that discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
As someone who believes that the important thing is not to stop questioning because curiosity has its own reason for existing, these days I am visiting cities and places around me with new urgency and mindset. After all our sages have taught us ‘never to cease seeking’ isn’t it? I do not want to travel now just to lose myself, but I want to find myself. If we travel, simply to indulge ourselves we are missing some of the greatest lessons life has to offer. We must travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow time down and get taken in, and to fall in love once more.
Keeping the same spirit alive in me I found myself in Nashik, located in the north-west of Maharashtra. Just about hundred and fifty kilometers away from Thane, where I live. It is one of the fastest growing cities of Maharashtra. It has witnessed significant economic growth in the last decades. I had visited this city in the past a couple of times as a tourist but this time, you can call it pandemic effect and my newfound interest in exploring deeply mysteries of human existence, I wanted to look at the Wine Capital of India, famous for its table grapes for a very long time, with new eyes. But when one comes to Nashik one does not ignore the famous Vineyards of Nashik, Sula, Soma and York. Though the pandemic has dampened the ‘spirits’, literally, of these vineyards and they seem to be limping back to life, the familiar landscape and ambience made me daydream again.
Nashik is known for its surrounding hills and lakes. It has its own mythological, historical, social, and cultural importance. One of the holiest places of Hindus because of the Kumbh Mela gathering on River Godavari Ghat , Nashik has dozens of temples ; Shree Kalaram Mandir, Shree Someshwar temple, Ganga-Godavari Temple , Shri Ved Temple, to name a few.
This time I set my heart and mind visiting ‘Tapovan’. The lush green land near ‘Panchvati’ (named such because of the five banyan trees found in the area and where Lord Rama spent most of his time when he was in exile. As the belief is). About eight kilometers from central bus stand this place is said to be where saints and sages meditated and did penance in the lap of mother nature. Amidst the boulders along the riverbed lies a cavernous fissure called Brahma Yoni, and the Kapil Tirth lies nearby. There are also eleven caverns beside the Godavari where sages once retreated to.
It is believed that lord Rama’s brother Lakshmana cut Soorpnakha’s nose over here. River Godavari quietly flows over here and there are temples of Lakshmana and Hanuman here. Though I was there for a very short while, but the place transported me literally to the time when probably Lord Rama meditated here and chose this very place to be his home when he was in fourteen years ‘Vanvaas’.
Just being there I got goosebumps. So, this was the very place, where the whole conflict between the good and evil actually started! This was the very place where Lord Rama had the most life changing experience of his entire life! In my heart of heart, I thanked the universe for this out of this world experience, where I was finding myself literally living amidst The Lord Rama, The Devi Sita, The Lakshmana, The Hanuman. I looked towards the serene Godavari flowing across the road, this is where probably they sat in the evening meditating, chatting, or perhaps trying to solve the puzzle called human existence! I used to be very skeptical in the past about these stories but these days I find myself lost in these experiences, searching for meaning and craving to know more about humanity and existence! This kind of ethereal experiences make one modest and make one think, what a tiny place we occupy in this vast cosmos!
And I say to myself, trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry and ignorant like me come to feed on other worldly experiences. I want to Just keep my mind open and suck in the experience that is very private, very intimate and if it unsettles, you know what? It’s probably worth it.
That is when I am reminded by my travel companions, “Time to go pick up few wine bottles for friends, from the Sula Vineyard.” Oh yes, time to go, I thought, rather time to come back to present Nashik, with its Vineyards, Fine-dine experiences, and Luxury Resorts. With its Leisurely Farm Stays. With its Mahindra and Jindal Manufacturing Plants etc.
As I travelled away from the ‘Tapovan’, I felt so appreciative for a city like Nashik, that has given me such fulfilling experiences. I experienced the beauty and richness of the belief and the lore and enjoyed the fun and frolic of contemporary progress. I understood that any travel, even if it is few miles away from your place of stay, is more than just seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
Roli S, Educator, Teacher Trainer,
Author, School Reviewer based in Thane