The title might sound like I am about to write some witchcraft story. But no. The following travel experience is not going to be religious or witchcraft but you can get to see a little bit of spiritual side.
Some people might judge this. But, I can understand it. As many of us tend to look at things either black or white, cause looking at shades and colours seems to be complicated because of what society taught us. You can either be religious or atheist, no in-between, that’s how many says. “I am neither a religious person nor an atheist, but highly spiritual”. Many of the adults disapprove of me when I make this statement. Thankfully, my family didn’t. Though they are very religious, they saw the transition I had over the years and let me be how I see the world. Sometimes they get intimidated and they often get goosebumps by looking at the way I feel towards nature and the universe.
When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.Marcus Aurelius
I always admire the way people belonging to every religion travel by foot to their holy destination to show their unfathomable love for their god, all around the world. Whether it is in Spain i.e. “Way of St James”, where the pilgrims end their walk at Santiago de Compostela or people who take a spiritual journey for Sabari Mala or they way people who have Haji as their destination of a lifetime. Travelling with a group of people or should I say a group of strangers with similar thoughts or with a similar destination. What a beautiful thing it is?! As I was thinking about it I remembered Tiruvannamalai. A place where thousands and thousands of people take a 4hr walk around the hill, under the light of the full moon.
My father has been travelling for years to Tiruvannamalai every full moon day. We call those times Pournami, where people from all the cities, towns and villages gather to walk around that hill(Girivalam). I have been there not as often as my father. But 3 important moments of my life. The first is when I was a kid who knows nothing about religion or spirituality. The second time is when I was trying to figure out the difference between religion and spirituality. The last time I went there, I knew what it is to be spiritual.
The last time I went there was in April 2019. The journey usually starts with a bus stop it’s either from Perungalathur or CMBT bus stop. My first time is from Perungalathur, there wasn’t much brawl while getting on the bus. During the second time, it’s the day before my 12th result(2014) we went in a car with my dad’s friends.
Last time, it was my dad, brother and me. We went to the metro, got down on the CMBT bus stand and waited for the bus. It was such a pain. People ran like they were in the Olympics, pushed each other like they were playing Rugby and it was almost like a war. For what? To get on the bus. And it was Chitra Pournami (That’s one special type of Pournami).
I really hate to get into a fight. But sadly, I did. We were beaten to a pulp, every one of us when we were trying to get on the bus. I got a huge blow in my stomach while squirming through the crowd. There is nothing to be relieved about it even after sitting.
To make things worse, the bus driver and conductor wasn’t back for an hour. There was a huge cuss. People were blabbering and cursing whenever the bus which came after ours left before ours. It was unfair. I was silently cursing too. But once the bus started, it didn’t stop anywhere so we reached there earlier than we thought. It takes 3hr 30min approx from CMBT.
I really love travelling to Tiruvannamalai by Bus. We buy lots of snacks before leaving. Milkshakes, oranges, grapes, nuts and chips. We munch along the way. Whether we travel in car or bus, my dad and bro doze off until we reach. Whereas I, sit comfortably at the window seat, stare at the people, places and houses. Sometimes listen to all the conversations people have around me. Not deliberately… but, you know.
The road to Tiruvannamalai takes you along places with beautiful greenery, scenery and villages. There is this one village I can’t forget, with houses all so similar. The designs… you immediately knew that village has only one architect who manages the construction of all the houses. In one village there will be houses painted in only blue or pink. Whereas in another village there are houses filled with all indigenous flowers in the front yard. That makes the tiny hut type houses look so grandeur. I enjoyed those views as I was finishing all the milkshakes quietly.
During the first time we went there, I didn’t get a chance to observe these. As I had a company to talk to. I was made to sit with a lady since I have nowhere else to sit. I was a little kid, still, she talked with me about many things. I still remember that she said she was working in SRM college, as a girls’ hostel warden. This is one of the most important things I like about travelling, you won’t get judged most often and also it’s so comfortable to talk with strangers. Even though I am quiet and shy, I like to talk with people I meet while travelling and I like to visit crowded places too, once in a while, to watch people and observe them. FYI, I won’t stalk or pickpocket people. I just stop with the observing part.
From the bus stop, we had a walk for a few minutes and went to a small South Indian restaurant. I had some tea and some delicious Parotta and Kurma. I used to be quite picky in the past, for what reason only my subconscious mind knows. These days I do hesitate to eat, but only hesitate when it comes to unhealthy stuff. Since I have some health conditions I think twice before eating anything, especially junk foods.
The reason I bring in about food during a talk about a walk is that the best thing about this walk is food too.
As the moon starts to rise, the walk begins. It feels like only a few are walking at the beginning… it turn out to be thousands of people as time goes on. Along the side of the streets, you get to eat delicious fruits with a sprinkle of salt and pepper powder. Oh! that variety of refreshing sodas, so refreshing. I got hold of its charms during my second time there.
I still cannot get over it, Lime Goli soda is my favourite. God bless them. Thanks to those people who sell them at various points during the 14 km walk. There were steamed corns and herbal teas and much more savoury that tasted like heaven. Usually, I end the walk with ice cream. I love this part of the journey.
Let’s get to the next side of this travel chapter. When thousands of individuals and families walked around the hill praising their lord, singing songs and chanting praises, I felt humbled by the presence of the hills.
Even little kids have fun and are more energetic.
I take frequent breaks sometimes. But, I have improved thousand times compared to the first walk I had there. Even if you feel like your battery is down, people around you spread sufficient energy and also the incense aroma lift your mood up. There was a variety of people over there. Happy families, religious families, group of fitness freaks, couples, newly married, old people and uncle club vs aunty club. You can see a lot of people from abroad. So many other state people will be there with their families too.
If human minds give power to something, I can sense the powerful embodiment in the centre of our walk- mother nature in the form of a hill. Especially as she glistens through the moonlight, as the breeze that passes through the gap of the hills let the sweats disappear once in a while. You can feel the energy of people and nature entering into your mind, body and soul.
When I was a kid, reaching the end of the 14Km was a struggle. I regretted it a little during my first time as my weak legs become unmovable and started to have blisters and the pain was immense. I made chaos by the end, my dad got fed up with me. I have grown up a lot looking back on those days.
Just when I realize now, after Covid-19, events like these will take a while to happen. We can’t even predict. The people filled streets and many journeys and festivities around the world which are halted and with no near chances to reopen. I wonder how those local people who survive by putting stalls at the corner of the streets are managing these times. And how the people who spent happy times with their families once in a full moon are spending their time.
I admire how all the sides of religions finally converges on one point- spirituality. Apart from everything, nature is one thing that gave comfort and became my sole priority, a typical pantheist I am. I won’t say I am an atheist, but I had that phase too, where I denied everything, I had a very bad existential crisis at that point. Later I had a turning phase where even though doctors and tablets and treatments saved me… I wouldn’t have survived because of all the prayers, because of all the strong beliefs that people had over their god. I am a person who has a strong belief in the humans who prays for others and the belief & love people has over their god. Whereas I developed these senses over nature and the universe while I was rejuvenating. My healing process was so painful but I owe nature for backing me up. Those were unexplainable moments.
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”~ Albert Einstein
What favourite events or festivals which you often travel to but you miss this year because of Covid-19?
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