Saturday, March 09, 2013

Wanderers, Mendicants and Sadhus

The time we spent in Varanasi, we saw people of all kinds. There were pilgrims who had come there with a clear purpose. Visiting a few temples (and a few more temples), performing a few rituals, getting the best bargain possible and going back. They require the dedication of commandos to wake up at unearthly hours, take a dip in ice cold water, stand a queue for hours and yet they do it. In pilgrim center after pilgrim center, it is the faith that sustains them. They are willing to undertake any hardship to have a 'darshan' of their god - indeed, they see all the inconvenience as a test of god - which is a reason why our pilgrim centers can do with the current levels of infrastructure and facilities - while in reality they could be so much better.

Then there are the sadhus, bhikshus and mendicants - wandering around seeking enlightenment. These are people with very few possessions or pretensions, though there are different degrees of sadhus as well. They stay at a place, then go to an ashram or another place and wander around seeking god. To think that they are following a rich history of a few thousand years is amazing. Today, we are skeptical of such seekers, when they come, not for alms, but for a meal or a rupee or two, but this is a part of Indian culture and tradition. I was particularly moved a one sight. An old mendicant- came outside a sweet shop (seems to be a regular) and chanted in a low tone - Jai Ram, Siya Ram - and waited patiently for a good half an hour. Until finally, the shopowner gave him a glass of milk - which he was content to take away - no questions asked. Perhaps that was his meal or his only meal of the day, but it was gratifying to see that he was not shooeed away - not by the owner or by his customers - and that they thought that a  little benevolence on their part would go a long way for him. This is a great part of our tradition - giving away - even a little bit each day to the deserving. True, there are beggars and lazy chaps who do nothing and yet spread their palms for money - indeed the whole nation is looking for doles, but there are seekers and mendicants who ask for very little. This sight was very moving.

Then there are the next class of wanderers - who I call rich wanderers. These were mostly foreigners who have taken a break to wander around in India. Either with backpacks or backpack and a camera, they roam around the country at places like these. I saw many of them meditating, doing yoga, wandering about, soaking the sights of India. The aspect of wandering seems to be quite a prized thing for them.

Why I say this, is that we found almost nobody 'like us' - Indians from the cities who were wandering around for a few days. As a nation, as a culture, we have been great wanderers and have planted roots in many parts of the world and our own country, but the aspect of aimless wandering for even a few days seems to have been lost among us (yes, Kishor, you are an exception). Perhaps we are caught up in earning a living at one level or at another level, we prefer to wander in exotic places (read foreign), but having done this for the second time, we resolved to do more of this. To see more of our country by wandering about..

One has to lose himself to find himself...

1 comment:

Kishor said...

I am glad, I am no more alone now ;-).. hopefully next time we can go off together.. Bhutan, Uttarkhand lots pf places to go