Varanasi Again – 47: The story of the shifting temple

‘You know’, I started, ‘long ago there were two very sacred shrines to Shiva or Shankara in Kashi, the city of light.’ Vandita, and Vatsala listened in rapt attention. ‘Actually,’ I corrected myself, ‘there were many throughout the city. But the most sacred, the most revered were the two shrines of Shiva where he was…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 47: The story of the shifting temple

Varanasi Again – 44: Of temples and mosques

The Gyanvapi kupa, and the statue of the Nandi bull escaped demolition and desecration by the hordes of Emperor Aurangzeb when they destroyed the original Vishveshwara temple in the year 1669 CE. This was the last time the temple would be destroyed; but this was not the first time. What? The question naturally crops up…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 44: Of temples and mosques

Varanasi Again – 43: A well, a bull and a tree

Historical picture of the Nandi Bull at Kashi Vishwanath Shrine There on the northern side of the quadrangular enclosure around the temple was a tree – a Ficus tree!! Is it……?? My thoughts trailed off……my eyes scanning the area for the other two objects. Yes, there they were – the bull and the small octagonal…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 43: A well, a bull and a tree

Varanasi Again – 42: Inside the shrine

The Kashi Vishwanath corridor that we walked along was seventy five meters wide, and at least several hundred meters long. Flanked by shops, museums, tourist amenities and walkways, the corridor was also decorated by several interesting statues including those of Adi Shankaracharya, the proponent of Advaita Vedanta and the architect of modern Hinduism as we…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 42: Inside the shrine

Varanasi Again – 27: Towards Kashi Vishwanath

Ghats of Varanasi

The boat chugged cheerfully in the waters, carrying its load of chattering, smiling, laughing, gesticulating people onboard. It headed for the mid-stream of the river, and then turned and headed north, the direction where our destination, the Kashi Vishwanath temple lay. The Kashi Vishwanath, is one of the twelve jyotirlingams in India. A jyotirlingam is…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 27: Towards Kashi Vishwanath

Varanasi Again – 22: Assi ghat

Ghats of Varanasi

The Assi ghat that we stepped on to was cleaner than the ghat that I remembered from my days in Varanasi. A parking space for private vehicles had been built at the end of the road, right where one steps off the road and on to the stone steps of the ghat. The space was…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 22: Assi ghat

Varanasi Again – 9: Waking up…

Ghats of Varanasi

I woke up, cold and drenched in sweat, my breathing heavy. It was the middle of the night. Besides me I could see the sleeping forms of Vaishali and the girls, the sheets covering them rising and falling rhythmically as they breathed, silently, peacefully. I looked out of the window and saw the morning star…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 9: Waking up…

Varanasi Again – 8: The well of light

Ghats of Varanasi

I got up and I followed him, the Yogi with the matted locks, and blue throat. I followed him wordlessly, for words were not needed now, had ceased to exist, have any meaning. The Yogi had awakened my third eye, the aagya chakra which makes sight without eyes, and hearing without ears possible. My forehead…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 8: The well of light

Varanasi Again – 7: The Adi Yogi

Ghats of Varanasi

I looked at him wide-eyed, mouth open in wonder, unable to comprehend what he wanted me to do. There came a pause, a hiatus in time as I remained frozen, kneeling on the steps of the ghat, staring at the tall ascetic with the blue throat, and the Adi Yogi, the one with three eyes…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 7: The Adi Yogi

Varanasi Again – 6: Shivoham

Ghats of Varanasi

It IS Rudra….the Adi Yogi, a small voice whispered to me, but I did not believe it, not even when I saw his iridescent blue neck, and the fire of destruction glowing in his third eye. Suryashashankavahninayanam……. the voice inside my head intonated one of the many names of Shiva. Still I did not believe…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 6: Shivoham

Varanasi Again – 5: The blue throat

Ghats of Varanasi

Clang, came the sound as the trident hit the stone steps of the ghat. Clang! Issued the report, shattering the deathly silence of the night, reverberating across the ghat, and echoing over the dark waters of the Ganga. Clang, clang, clang, clang…..on and on, the sound of heavy metal against the aged stones of the…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 5: The blue throat

Varanasi Again – 4: The ascetic with the trident

Ghats of Varanasi

I stood still in the gathering dark, rooted to the spot, frozen immobile with anticipation, not batting an eyelid, and hardly breathing. I stood still, alone on the banks of the Ganga, at the Lalita ghat, watching the dark figure materialise from nowhere. It emerged from the shimmering waters of the river which flowed slowly,…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 4: The ascetic with the trident

Varanasi Again – 3: The axis mundi

Ghats of Varanasi

Varanasi – the piece of land between the rivers Varuna, and Assi, is the land chosen by the Mahadeva, the primordial ascetic Shankara, to be his abode. He resides here as Avimukteshvara, on the request of Martanda, the Sun God. It is through his inspiration that generations of pious travellers, pilgrims, scholars, kings, courtiers, sages,…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 3: The axis mundi

Varanasi Again – 2: On the ghat

Ghats of Varanasi

It is dark, and deathly silent on the ghats where I stand. I can hear the gentle lapping of the waters of the ageless river that flows on the eastern bank of the immortal city. Her waters shimmer with the cold light of the celestial disc that lights up the sky, hiding the dark innards…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 2: On the ghat

The Legend of Shankara – 15: The six streams

As the sun rose from behind the snowcapped peaks in the distance, shining its golden light on the little hamlet of Dev Prayag, Shankara sat on the banks of the Ganga along with his disciples, contemplating his next move and answering the queries of his followers. The number of his followers had swelled, and now included sanyasins, and scholars, and…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 15: The six streams

The Legend of Shankara – 14: Shankara leaves Kashi

Shankara was unhappy leaving Kashi, the city of light. The city had practically become his home for the last several months that he had stayed, and studied, and taught, and debated there. He had gained a huge following of students and admirers. The adherents to his Advaitic philosophy had grown, people had begun to see the light; the light of…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 14: Shankara leaves Kashi

The Legend of Shankara – 13: Shiva summons Shankara

Ever since his ‘chance’ encounter with the chandala in Kashi, Shankara had become increasingly restless. He knew not what ailed him, but his peace of mind had been disturbed. No more could he enjoy the tranquil placidity of the atman, or the peace of the deep meditative states whereby he used to unravel the mysteries of the Vedanta. A sense of urgency…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 13: Shiva summons Shankara

The Legend of Shankara – 9: Shankara tames the Narmada

The time of the evening sandhya was approaching, and Shankara accompanied his guru Govindapadatowards the cave for his evening meditation. Shankara was now a disciple of Govindapada and had endeared himself to his guru by his diligence, his loyalty, and his steadfastness. His service, and his devotion towards his guru was absolute.  Pleased with his service, Govindapada had lovingly taught the tenets of Advaita to Shankara, had guided him, encouraged him to read esoteric…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 9: Shankara tames the Narmada

The Legend of Shankara – 8: Shankara the disciple

Listening to the Atma Shatakam, Sri Govindapada was pleased. He extended one of his feet outside the cave in a symbolic gesture. The young Shankara understood the symbolism, and bent down and touched the feet of his master; thus he was accepted into the tutelage of Sri Govindapada, son of the illustrious Gaudapada. Shankara would spend the next two to three years learning the tenets…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 8: Shankara the disciple