Tim’s Himalayan Ananda Pilgrimage
Last Fall I had the privilege to go on the Himalayan Pilgrimage put on by Ananda Assisi. Led by “the Bavarian Brothers” Jayadev and Shantidev the pilgrimage began in Delhi. Delhi is not known for being a beautiful city. Combine the 12-hour time difference from California with a huge dose of jet lag and Delhi can appear to be… ghastly, or even worse. With time, however, it does begin to grow on you. We visited Dhyanna for meditation and satsang at the Ananda center in Gurgaon.
The next day we took a train north out of Delhi and things began to improve considerably. Small rural towns and agricultural vistas slipped by. There were always a few sadhus at station stops. Once we were at the edge of the Himalaya we got on a small bus and drove up to Naintal , the Himalayan Lake district. From here we visited a few swamis at their ashrams and the Neem Karoli Baba ashram. The high point here was meeting Swami Paramananda (Supreme Bliss) who was 127 years old. He had been blessed by Lahiri Mahasaya when he was about 7 or 8. He knew Sri Yukteswar and Yogananda and from what I understand has been visited by Babaji as well. Truly a joyful and God-conscious soul. I hope I am able to visit him again.
Also traveling along with us was Mahavir who grew up in the area. Some of you may have heard about him from David and Asha, or Vidura and Durga. Mahavir has accompanied many Ananda pilgrimages and several years ago was telling them of a swami whom he had met who had told him many things about his life and who had longish copper colored hair. You guessed it. Mahavir had been visited by Babaji! As well Babaji had promised Mahavir he would visit him yet again.
After Nainatal we headed for Ranikhet and an afternoon meditating at Babaji’s cave.
The next day was a long drive over to the Alakananda River and up to the holy temple village of Badrinath. The Himalayas are a young mountain range and are composed of rather soft shale from an ancient ocean floor. As such the water courses erode unusually deep and steep-walled gorges. The roads are dug into the cliff faces and are a wee bit harrowing. To say the least. At times we could look out the bus window literally straight down to the river.
Badrinath at 10,000 ft. is considered to be the holiest pilgrimage site in the Himalaya. The temple grounds are very crowded with a great kirtan group which plays in the evening. I could have listened to them for hours; actually I think I did! There are many holy sites around Badrinath and some spectacular dayhikes. A military road climbs from Badrinath to the18,000 ft. Mana Pass and the Indo-Tibetan border. Sadly, this was not on our itinerary.
After Badrinath, we once again loaded into our buses and headed down the Alakananda to its confluence with the Bhagirathi River. This confluence forms the beginning of the Ganges River. From there we kept going until we reached Rishikesh. We arrived here on Gandhi’s birthday, a holiday like the 4th of July here, and unusually crowded. Even so, we were able to visit many saints including Vanamali, and Shankarananda Giri of the Kriya Yoga Center., and bathe in the Ganges.
From Rishikesh the group headed back to Delhi for their return flights. Feeling an almost visceral repulsion at the thought of returning to Delhi I took off on my own back up the Ganges and Alakananda rivers to do a trek I had planned in the vicinity of Badrinath on the Kuari Pass trail. Reputed as having the finest views in the Indian Himalaya I was not disappointed. If you saw the recent movie “Awake” you saw views from that trail. And I’ve included a few of the nicer shots here from the trek.
The gifts one takes from a pilgrimage such as this are many. Meeting devotees from all over the world; in this case Germany Italy, India, Brazil, Barbados, and the US. Deep meditations in caves and other powerful energetic locations. Walking in the footsteps of Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya and seeing where the stories from the Autobiography of a Yogi took place brought a new immediacy to me of those same stories. I hope to return on a similar pilgrimage to further attune myself in this way. Hopefully some of you will join me. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.