God, demigods and mini gods – A trip

In our culture we give equal importance to all three – God, demigods and mini-gods. We worship all. Hindu religious practices are loaded with symbolism and if one doesn’t understand the essence behind the symbols, one is likely to misinterpret the practices as paganism or polytheism.
Anyway, let me narrate our recent travel experience without being judgmental.
Last week, we made a 2-day trip to Shirdi, Shani Singanapore and Malshej Ghat. We reached Shirdi by 6pm and headed straight to the temple, finished our darshan and relaxed for the night in a lodge operated by Maharashtra Tourism. Shirdi Saibaba shrine is popular all over India as a sacred place of worship.
The following day we had to decide between Nashik,famous for Rama temple, and Shani Shinganapore. We decided to go to Shinganapore purely to satisfy our curiosity about this unique shrine. We left Shirdi at 9am and reached the shrine by 11am.The village is unique in several respects. This is perhaps the only temple completely dedicated to Shaneshwar, our mini-god associated with the planet Saturn. This is also perhaps the only place where the deity,in the form of a black stone, has no roof. It is completely open to the sky. Devotees worship by pouring Til oil on the deity. See picture below:

shani shinganapore

This place has a strange belief that Shani will punish those who commit crimes. Therefore none of the houses are provided with doors. I was told that there was not a single case of theft reported untill 2010. However, a number of thefts have been reported in the past 5 years completely shattering their belief. I’m also told that a branch of UCO bank was opened two years back without providing locks to its doors! How stupid! There has to be a limit to what one can do in the name of beliefs!

On our way back to Bombay, we stopped over for fresh sugar cane juice from a way-side vendor. Here we saw an interesting live demo of sugar juice being extracted using an ox to drive a mechanical device. See below the spectacle of an ox religiously moving round and round to do the job!

sugar cane juice extractor

It would automatically start circling the moment the owner sits inside the circle and would stop instantly the moment he signals making a hissing sound. While one could admire the innovative use of an animal as a substitute for electricity, look at it from the ox’s point of view. It is doomed to work like this mechanically throughout its life. It doesn’t know of any world outside its routine as it’s completely immersed in whatever it has to do for a living. Indeed it has no way of knowing that there is life beyond this mundane activity even as it toils hard day in and day out to satisfy its owner.
Well, if this description bears any resemblance to the lives of the common folks like us, it’s not surprising.

After the juice break, we kept driving towards Bombay on Kalyan route. We kept driving for over 2 to 3 hours without finding a single road-side dhaba for our lunch break. It was well past our lunch time and everyone was getting restless and critical of the driver’s choice of this route. In desperation we stopped at a point and inquired about a decent restaurant to eat. Lucky for us, we were directed to a nearby place and the food turned out to be much better than our expectations. Our lunch break turned out to be a lucky break too as we discovered a few more surprises on the way back. We were re-energized and were indeed lucky to reach the famous Malshej ghats at the right moment. It rained heavily before we reached the ghats. Thanks to heavy rains, dozens of water falls got activated. We stopped at a point where it was just drizzling and got out of our vehicle. It was an out-of-the-world experience! There were several water falls – big & small – everywhere! The fog and the mist added to the mystical experience. Excited, we roamed around the place like children and clicked several pictures to carry the experience back home!

malshej1

malshej2

malshej4

malshej6

malshej7

malshej8

Reluctantly, we got into our vehicle and started driving. The rain became heavy again and we could see some stones lying on the road giving us scary thoughts of a land slide. Soon the euphoria yielded place to a frightful feeling as our vehicle drove under a forceful water fall. For those ten seconds we did not know what was happening as plenty of water gushed into the vehicle completely wetting us. We were overwhelmed by thoughts of a possible landslide combined with water flooding our vehicle. Well, after those nail-biting 10 seconds, our driver skillfully manoeuvred the vehicle out of the water fall much to everyone’s relief. The rest of the journey to Bombay was uneventful.

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Published in: on August 9, 2015 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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