I started blogging just over an year ago on the back of my first solo travel. And one of the major reasons for travelling solo was – I was tired of visiting the divine destinations !! One of the things that pissed me off was the rampant monetization of beliefs and emotions at these divine destinations. Although I am NOT a staunch believer, follower or a devotee, I completely respect the choice of my family to follow what they believe in. It took a while for me, to first understand my emotions myself and then to convey-&-convince my family. It definitely wasn’t easy but today I am completely at peace – with myself and with my family !!
Having said that, there are two divine destinations I do look forward to visiting every year. One is about 300 kms. and the other is about 70 kms. away from my home.
As a family, we’ve been visiting these two places – every year – for over 30 years now.
Obviously there are innumerable memories attached to these annual pilgrimages.
It was during one of the two pilgrimages , recently, that I had this amazing revelation of the “divine connection” !! On 1st of January 2020 – the New Year’s day – we decided to visit Bhor (the closer one, which is 70 kms. from my home). Back in the 90’s, we would visit Bhor in December, on a specific day, when the annual yatra would take place. It used to be an amazing one-day family picnic that nobody wanted to miss. However off-late, as a clear indication of the rising overall population, the place started getting extremely crowded on the yatra-day. And with that came all the side-effects of the over-crowding. That’s when I pressed for the need to change the timing of our visit. Obviously I didn’t have the guts to ask for the change just for the crowd . So I used my office and the (lack of) leaves as a cover to push my agenda through. It was accepted, albeit reluctantly!!
This is a tiny village on the banks of the river Neera in the Bhor taluka. It’s about 30 kms. off the national highway that connects Mumbai and Bengaluru. There would have been no reason for us to visit this village had it not been for the annual pilgrimage. Although its just about 70 kms. away from a big city like Pune, every time I visit, I feel the much needed disconnect from the cacophony of the urban life !!
Now that we visit after the crowd is gone, we get to experience this village in its purest form – quiet, laid-back, serene and peaceful !! As ironical as it may sound, the biggest achievement of this village has been, it has remained largely unchanged.
That’s how the main temple looked – from the outside – back in 2011 :
And this is how it looks today – in 2020 :
Nothing has changed from the inside as well, except for some minor changes.
And today – 2020:
But the real beauty of this place lies outside this temple, in its surroundings which have stood still while the years passed by !! In spite of the fact that I have visited this place every year for the past 30 years, it still seems refreshingly fresh !! I really don’t know how or what makes it so and to be very honest, neither do I wish to find out!! In today’s times, when everybody is stretching their limits to bring the elusive novelty into their lives, I must say I am more than fortunate to visit this place that feels so new every-single-time……!!
Here’s an attempt to present a time-lapse of this beautiful place !!
Fast forward to 2017-18:
And the next year – 2018-19:
The water level of these back-waters has been our parameter of how good or bad the rainy season has been for that particular year. And although we, staying 70 kms. away, are not dependent on this water, seeing the levels go down breaks our heart always…!!! That’s the kind of bond we’ve developed with this place over the years.
And yet, in one of its weaker moments, this place continues to soothe…
2019-20 – The latest visit
So when the rain-gods shower their blessings in abundance, there’s joy all around…
Even the greens and browns mix with the blues to offer some of the most amazingly soothing views…
And of course, the dusk has its own beauty..
This brings me back to the revelation of the divine connection. I’ve always felt a strange and strong disconnect visiting temples on the most auspicious occasions. Being a part of the crowd and chaos, I just couldn’t find purpose in being there at that point of time. On the contrary, I’ve felt the strongest connection with temples – on the most inauspicious days – when they were completely empty!! I could feel it but could not decipher and convey – until we started visiting this village after the yatra – after the crowds were gone!!
I don’t know of any other place that seems so serene, pure and true to itself. A place that does not need any artificial extensions and decorations or loud overtones to prove its worth. A place that neither allows nor asks for intoxication to fill any voids. A place that stands tall and firm only for what it’s meant to be – nothing more, nothing less. A place that has accepted us and our offerings – unfiltered and unrestricted.
And that is precisely how I wish to connect with the divine !!