Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Collection of True Stories - Part III

When I was led by an Unknown Beam of Light – a true story
By Vijay Khosla (Part –III of the Story)

We reached the Bhawan in the late after-noon. As the custom would have it, we also prepared ourselves to take a bath to cleanse ourselves, since most of the pilgrims prefer to take a bath before proceeding to Sanctum-Sanctorum of Maa Vaishno Devi for Darshans. In 1973, the pilgrims used to take a bath at the Bathing Ghat, with the water that flows from underneath the feet of Maa Vaishno. With the passage of time, new Bathing Ghats and other amenities have been provided. Attempts have been made to channelise the water from the Holy Cave to all these new Bathing areas. The traditional Bathing Ghats have also been enlarged as many pilgrims still like to take a bath at the original ghats.

After our bath, Aunt Nirmala took the command to lead me to the holy cave for Maa Vaishno’s blessings. While on the way to the Sanctum Sanctorum, one crosses a small patio type of structure on the right hand side of which is a Cave opening. It is said that the big boulder lying at the entrance of Cave opening is the body of Bhairo Nath. This is the original Cave leading to the Holy Pindies. In the olden days, the pilgrims used to reach the Sanctum Sanctorum through this cave only.

The Holy Cave - Courtesy:
 We crawled inside the cave through that narrow opening. The cave is like a tunnel and said to be 98 feet long. The symbols of a large number of Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon can be seen in the holy cave. The pilgrims have to wade through water after entering the cave. Aunt Nirmala was ahead of me and I was following her like an obedient son. The path leading to Holy Pindies was almost dark. Yet, a continuous chant of ‘Jai Mata Di’ mantra was giving courage to keep me moving. Since there was no rush of devotees at that time of the year in 1973, myself and Aunt Nirmala were the only pilgrims inside that holy cave. At last we reached the blessed place!

A single earthen oil lamp (Deepak) was burning and spreading its glow on the Holy Pindies. A high priest was seated there to accept the offering of devotees. It was very peaceful. No noise to name it, as if you are all alone with the Mother Nature! I approached the small flat surface in complete silence and extended my arms towards the priest with my offerings. While doing so, suddenly I wished to sit there to feel the calm and peace of that pious atmosphere, as if I wanted to merge my entity in the pervading serene air….I wanted to drink that pure pious air like a thirsty boy. I bent with eyes closed and folded hands. I bowed my head and prayed for Maa Vaishno’s blessings earnestly. I never wanted to get up. In the same state of mind, I extended my hands and touched the Holy Pindies out of devotion and reverence. A child was reaching out to seek the blessings of his mother!

My actions annoyed the priest and he came to his feet angrily. He patted me on the back and almost tried to bring me to my feet and ordered sternly to leave the cave. 

At this that old woman, the Aunt Nirmala roared on the priest like a lioness and said: O foolish priest! How dare you touch this boy? Don’t you know how far has he traveled to come to this abode? Leave him alone and let him offer his prayers!

There was something in that commanding voice of Aunt Nirmala !

The priest just looked once at that old grand lady and folded his hands in deference. He stepped back and bowed his head in silence. Aunt Nirmala patted my shoulder affectionately and smiled, as if assuring me to go ahead with my prayers. 

I too was impressed by the Aunt Nirmala and realizing the quietness of the priest, I sat once more near the Holy Pindies and tried to visualize Maa Vaishno in my mind, but couldn’t concentrate. I must have sat there perhaps for a minute or two with my eyes shut and folded hands, when I felt a soft hand on my shoulder as if asking me to get up. I opened my eyes. There was complete calm inside the cave. No other sound was perceptible excepting a soft sound of water gushing forth through some hidden channel. I was completely at peace. Therefore, out of respect and my regards, I touched the feet of priest and Aunt Nirmala to seek their blessings.

And we came out of the cave.

There is a tradition that every devotee of Maa Vaishno sleeps for a night at the Temple site. Presently, there are very good arrangements of boarding and lodging with free blankets to keep you warm. But, on that February evening of 1973, I was not prepared to stay for the night at the temple premises. I wanted to get back. Though, Aunt Nirmala tried very hard to persuade me to stay back, but all arguments to hold me fell on deaf ears. I declared adamantly to Aunt Nirmala that I am going down the hill and if she wishes to stay back for the night, she may do so!  

                                                                                                                  To be continued to Part- IV… 

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