Maharashtra - here we come! :)

Saylana

What we decided afterwards was to finally start going downwards, towards the South. Our next destination point on the map was: Banswar, simply because it lies on a way to Ajanta caves which we were going to visit next. But, as it happens quite often,it turned out to be a fairly big city, not much people spoke English there though. Yet if they did, it was not very useful, the prices they were wishing for a room for one night were not corresponding much to what we expected, hence.. we just passed Banswar and carried on going hoping to find something reasonably cheap on the way. And as it usually happens once we started losing hope, a 'little' town came along. So since we had already stumbled in we decided to be consistent and look for a place to stay defintely this time, as the sun was already setting down. Despite the worrying problems in communication, again, after quite a long while, we found a boy (or he found us, is better to say) who brought us (on his scooter) to the only guest house in the town, apparently. If not him, we would have probably (surely..) passed by it because it had no sign of being this kind of facility at all, or at least – not in a comprehensible to us language ;) Luckily, the price was not too bad, the conditions either – so we stayed. After the dinner, we had an evening walk, which brought us some gifts from the street-salers, curious stares, photos offerings and the great impression of the town itself (beautifully painted houses bringing past times to one's mind, as if we had shifted back into the past century!, opened doors overlooking streets and overwhelming athmosphere around, vibrating with chants).

our saviour!

In the morning, the next day, I started to feel a bit awkward, but even though we went to the palace complex with a big, cactus garden (the oldest one in India, they say..), just next door. Impresive, enormous cactuses everywhere, as well as squirrels, monkeys and peacocks. Beautiful palace we could just see from the outside, hence we didn't find out about it much.








Suddenly I felt worse and came back to the room promptly, spending the whole day in the horizontal position with a pretty bad sensation in the stomach... I may say it was me this time who caught a „delhi-belly” bug (yet it wasn't exactly that, cause it made me feel strenghtless, acing all over and throwing up a couple of times, if we must get into details.. Anyway, even during such a horrible day in between sleeping and resting, I took a break and some pics (through our window ; yes,we had a window that time!) of what was going outside: peacocks and cheerfulyl playing monkeys surrounding our bulding!

our window view :)




J. had a tough nut to crack, because everytime he was going out in Saylana it became a great challenge to find anything, starting from a coke (I wanted to unclog my intestines with it somehow), which at the end someone brought him (firstly riding a motorbike after it) and then just endowed it to him.., through toilet paper (which seemed to be an unknown thing there, so we assumed nobody uses it) to buying some remedy for my, let's say, pains and inconveniences. But successfully he brought me some magic pills, which brought me back to living again a day after:


During his escapades, he was offered some snacks in a shop which belonged to the guy who ate dinner in the same restaurant – altruistic gifts again ;) and was invited for breakfast before leaving the town. So we did, the next morning I felt better (but still dizzy) enough to take up our trip again and carry on going, so we popped in to the aforementioned guy's house. He seemed a nice guy altough we had an impression that he was more happy to have us there and show off before his friends (who he spoke to all the time on his smartphone) rather than getting to know us even a little. There was a language barrier too, but as the life shows it's not always the biggest deal. Anyway, after getting aquaintd with the whole family, having a light breakfast (I ate hardly nothing because of the conditions I found myself in recently) and then, with a quite big difficulty (because he wanted us to stay at least one day...) left his house setting off on the route.

hindi basics
our host, his mommy and sis;)

Holy Omkareshwar - „little Varanasi”.

Finger over the map we got to Omkareshwar, which in our guide book was flamboyantly described as: Little Varanasi. That sounded tempting enough, especially that to real Varanasi we will try to reach only at the very end of our journey (if so).Once we dfound it feasible, during this hectic period of time (Christmas-NYE) we seized a chance and booked a room in a cheap guest house over there. Low standard, but decent enough for its price. So we stayed. The town (village) seemed to us very charming, and definitely holy – concerning the number of ghats (by the river Narmada) where people come to have a purifing bath, as a religious ritual/ceremony. Thriving with life, surrounded with sounds of ringing bels, chanting and singing everywhere around, which were following us all the time back again. By the river – colourful boats, plenty of equal stalls with holy atributes/gifts for gods and other, more or less, useful stuff (mainly „made in China” label).


Narmada - holy river

ghats and temple


goats taking a break.. ;)


Shiva's temple






Strolls on the island:

sneaky, cunning monkeys...always seize rustling
 things from people's hands!


beautiful spots on the Narmada's bank 
'Our' Ashram
tortuous paths



Trip to Maheshrwar, a nearby lying village:

a great palace from the 17th century



in the weavers workshop - adjacent NGO:  Rehwa society,
great old method handicraft

probably pilgrims heading towards Omkareshwar

To our surprise, on The New Years Eve day we were waken up with a rain, which brought to my mind a monsoon time.. even if I never experienced one;) Rained cats ang dogs!

J. - slightly baffled, hehe

The same day we went to look for the Ashram we found out about thanks to Mahadave, our acquaintance from US. We popped in for an afternoon tea, as it happened, and after a nice, inspiring chat and brief introduction to „what this Asham is about” we got an invitation for the evening New Years Eve celebration. Thing that we were quite excited about, but unfortunately in the guest house, we learned that because of the previous accidents on the island (where the Ashram is based on) with other foreigners, not a pleasant ones, there is a police patrol, especially on a day like this one. 
Not getting into details we decided not to provoke a hassle and spend NYE without fireworks and any special 'rituals', still hesitating though. Yet, the nature resolved the problem bringing me, again, stomach pain and nausea, so the problem seemed to be a forgotten one since then. First time, actually, we spent it very calmly, trying to spot out any fireworks (after every bursting sound) from the roof. Although a nearest town where the celebration took place, was to our misery beyond the island, so..we didn't see any;) But the nature again rushed with a solution, instead of fireworks and crackers a thunderstorm was aproaching giving us a warm breeze and a show of remote lightnings.
The rain didn't stop the day after, unfortunatelly, cause dependent to the weather conditions we couldn't set off back again, heading less rainy and warmer part of India eventually. In the late afternoon, while we're having our postponed lunch, on the 'doorstep' to our guest house's restaurant appeared the man we got to know the day before in Ashram. While having a walk nearby, he recalled us and decided to invite us for the morning yoga and fire-ceremony they repeat everyday. What a surprise! The weather forecast predicted a pretty bad day again, so we cheerfully went to join them there on the island. What happened next was far beyond our expectations: we had there a breakfast and after a while we've been told that, if we wanted, there was a place for us to stay. So...we moved in ;) Principally for 2-3 days, which obviously got prolonged to the whole week. The atmosphere was brilliant, full of tranquility and spirituality in the air. The Ashram's got a pertaining school to it, with 10 classes, founded by donators, a cow's barn, mud huts (all in its upper part) and a few holy chapels and a stairs descending to the Narmada river. There, in the bottom part, is where the rooms of visitors are, so as the terraces with place for yoga, meditation, fire-ceremony spot and the kitchen facility are based. On a daily basis about 25 boys stay there, go to school and attend all the holy ceremonies taking place here regularly, starting up at about 4:30 until 9, when there's a breakfast time. Later until 12:30-1pm it's time for resting, meditation or school (boys), a lunch, the same scheme there's after. Usually about 4pm is a tea time, and at about 6:30-7pm – dinner, after which again singing and paying tribute to the deities is carried on. 8:45-9pm is the silence time (meditation). Thereafter – bed time.


kids apparently loved our helmets ;)
(there was a queue to try them on)

OM
holy water 
Aghori tantric lady-practioner

swastika = "bringing the happiness"
Sadhu - "baba"

It is an uforgettable experience while joining boys during their evening, habitual joyful singing and prayers (even if we just struggle to uderstand a single word from it ;)) or taking part in morning fire-ceremony which is meant to be a prayer for the peace in the world (getting through the whole panteon of their deities). Normally non-hindu people cannot participate, but here they can, which creates this particular atmosphere unknown to most of the newcomers and India visitors. Is enough to say that every day brings something new, something that surely will stay with us for long.

I learned a new asana: bakasana, 


bakasana - "crow asana"
and made  improvement with some other ones (and got some props from the Guru for the general asana's skills ;))

J. full of indescribable joy ;)
camel pose

 the new one I'm proud of!
 (somewhat weird cause of the trousers though..)
On Friday, there were hectic preparations for the huge feast taking place on Saturday, the 10thWe were painting red the steps on their vertical (perpendicular) side and kids were spreading a holy cow dung (the part you step on). We did some peeling as well, as there was a pile of green peas to sort out, chatting meanwhile :) Girls, except the cow's poo placing, were making beautiful shapes and patterns with colourful powders they use here (for several purposes I guess). This is how it all was happening; a pic-review:


patterns with colorful powders


asana painting (Guru insisted on me again ;))






Then the feast day came; there were a few days preparations made and a lot of people were expected to come over. The reason of the whole event was to us pretty much unknown, the only thing we learned is that one of the “saints” to fulfill his commitment and do another step ahead in his enlightened, must organise it once a year (if I'm not wrong). So he did, and it was a real feast indeed! The same day all the holy statues were put in the shrines within Ashram, so it was assumed to be a special day for this reason too. A lot of important hindu-people came,



there were even 3 aghoris too – representatives of the tantric hinduism, that I started to be very interested about (you could recognise them, in the crowd of orange-dressed people, by their black cloths).





I was taken to one of the teachers' huts and she lended me one of her dresses I was supposed to have on until the event finishes :) That flowerly I haven't probably been ever in my life, hehe..



The man who organised the whole things spent about 1000$ on it, except from the food, with every apple he gave away personally, was handing over 10 rupees too. For the saint to have money and keep it is not allowed apparently, one has to give to the ones who may need it more; that's what the feast was about I believe. J. helped with serving the food, but people (mostly kids) were just gazing at him than being fancy to have some;)

Saturday in pictures:



food served on eco-plates
(both plates and bowls made from banana leaves!) 
Milky sweets - indian speciality







my favourite one!
- Deepak, with his enormously long lashes :)

Sunday morning we started with our last fire ceremony, and after collecting all our stuff (and living some we don't longer need for the boys) and the breakfast we were ready to leave the Ashram. We were farewelled with a special ritual leaded by the Guru – looking at each person sending her/him a good energy (shakti!). Then goodbyes with everyone.. I hate it! And always get really touched and emotional about it. So many nice people, genuine and best-wishing words..all so beautiful! I mostly appreciated and will remember for long what our “host” (H. who manages accommodating ppl there and who invited us to stay) said to us: “We believe that people here are not here randomly, the fate brought you to this Ashram no without reason and you were supposed to get here somehow; everyone think you fitted in here very well”. There were hugs, there were tears, exchanging last emails and recommendations for the future reference. Full of joy, beautiful people and surroundings of Anandamayi Ashram will stay with us for long. This unique and extraordinary experience, first of this kind, which loaded us fully with a new energy and positive attitude not only to India, but to broader perception and general outlook as well. 


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