Saraswati Yatra - Nov 2007
Based on the migratory experiences that came down generations by Shruti and later in written scrolls, we Bhanaps always believed that we are the decendents of the Saraswat Brahmins who lived on the banks of the sacred river Saraswati that once flowed in northern India.
30th October - 02nd November 2007
Based on the migratory experiences that came down generations by Shruti and later in written scrolls, we Bhanaps always believed that we are the decendents of the Saraswat Brahmins who lived on the banks of the sacred river Saraswati that once flowed in northern India. Today, though the Saraswati is not a mighty flowing river of glacial waters, whose spate cut across mountains into deep gorges as she made her way down to the plains and into the sea, she is no longer a myth or a flight of imagination. The disappearance of river Saraswati is not a mystery any more. Research done by educationists and historians with the support of ASI & ISRO has revealed evidence beyond doubt that a part of river Saraswati is extant in Haryana.
The Guru Sankalpa:
It was the Guru Sankalpa that initiated this Saraswati yatra. It was providential that we Saraswats set out on a yatra to find our roots just before the start of the tercentenary commemoration in 2008. Our Adi Guru Shrimat Parijnanashram Swamiji gave us darshan 300 years ago at Gokarn and saved us from being outcast. On 1st Nov 2007, we received the darshan of our "mother", the river Saraswati, at the Udgam-Sthala in Adi Badri, near Yamuna Nagar in Haryana. Now, at last, with the grace of our Guru Shakti, we have found our roots.
The binding force:
The memorable yatra to the Udgam-Sthala of the river Saraswati was led by our Guru, Parama Poojya Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji, who is our binding force. In the absence of the river Saraswati, it was our Gurus who held the community together, nurtured it and gave it stability.
Crossing the threshold:
P.P. Swamiji has always referred to Delhi as the 'Dehali' or the 'threshold' for Saraswats to approach all Tirtha Sthanas in the north. As soon as P.P. Swamiji graciously accepted the invitation for Saraswati yatra from the Delhi Sabha in April'07, fervent planning began. No stone was left unturned to make the Saraswati yatra an unforgettable experience. The Delhi Sabha was honoured that the Tercentenary Committee accepted the proposal of the Saraswati yatra as prelude to, as well as, a part of the tercentenary programme.
The Yatra begins:
The Saraswati yatra began on 30th October 2007. Around 250 Yatris arrived in Delhi by train, flight & road to join this pilgrimage from as far as Australia, USA, UAE, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mangalore, Gokarn, Dharwad, Goa, Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. All the Yatris assembled at the Nizammudin railway station where eight buses were ready and waiting. They were given a warm welcome by the Delhi volunteers.
Despite having travelled long distances, the Yatris were very cooperative and did not mind waiting in the hot sun for all Yatris to get together at Nizamuddin railway station. After registration formalities and distribution of identification badges, the volunteers guided the Yatris to their respective buses. The bus managers, mainly outstation volunteers, distributed the packed breakfast and bottled water and ensured everyone was comfortable.
The enthusiasm of the Yatris had no bounds. During the long 5 hour journey to Kurukshetra, including a stopover for lunch on the way, they were bubbling with eagerness and anticipation. Some sang Bhajans, some exchanged jokes, while others played Antakshari, and some even did mimicry. Each one revealed their hidden talents, just like the animated dancing peacock that shows off the vibrant colours of his feathers - one of the Vahanas of Saraswati Devi, the presiding goddess of wisdom, knowledge, arts and culture.
On reaching Kurukshetra, P.P. Swamiji gave an introductory address after Deepnamaskar and Samuhik Dhoolbhet. P.P. Swamiji encouraged the yatris to make the most of the opportunity to soak in the grace that was being showered on each one by the Higher Force. The room allocation was carefully planned. H.H. and retinue along with 150 senior Yatris were accommodated in the Neelkanthi Yatri Niwas and the 100 younger Yatris in the Jat Dharmashala, just 5 minutes away. A yatra folder containing a 'Potli' of mica-sand from the recently discovered Saraswati river bed site near Kurukshetra along with an article written by Shrikant Talgerimam and the book 'Footprints of Saraswats', written by Gajananmam Heranjal was distributed to all the Yatris.
Shri Gajananmam Heranjal was a true Sadhaka of Saraswati Devi, the Goddess of Knowledge. P.P. Swamiji explained; knowledge is in two categories - the worldly knowledge that includes arts, music, dance, literature, etc. and wisdom or knowledge of the Self. Saraswati Devi has two Vahanas, the proud peacock with his vibrant feathers denotes worldly knowledge while the sedate and calm swan Hansa denotes knowledge of the Self. In his life time, Gajananmam excelled in the former and was a true aspirant for higher Vidya. He had such a versatile and Sarva-Guna-Sampanna personality, yet was very modest and humble. Adept in all forms of art like drama, music and culture, he authored several books and directed and acted in several plays. Music was close to his heart. At the same time he maintained his Ekagrata or one-pointedness towards his goal of life. He lived his life in the service of his revered Guru and the Math. He will always remain in our minds as an ideal Saraswat.
Abhigyan Upakrama: On 31st October morning was the Abhigyan Upakrama. Abhi means towards or for, Gyan is knowledge and Upakrama is activity. The two and half hour long audiovisual presentation by Shri D. K. Hari on river Saraswati was an eye-opener. It was arranged in an auditorium at the Science Museum, walking distance from Yatri Nivas. The key highlights of the presentation were:
- River Saraswati was a full fledged mighty river between 6000 & 4000 BCE.
- She emerged from the peaks of the massive Banderpooch range at Har Ki Dhun in the Himalayas to the Rann of Kutch and into the Arabian sea.
- The force with which the Saraswati flowed made deep gorges in the Shivaliks.
- It is at Adi Badri, in the foothills of the Shivalik ranges that river Saraswati first entered the plains.
- This mighty perennial Vedic Saraswati river nurtured a vast civilization.
- The Vedas were written on the banks of the Saraswati river.
- Between 2000 & 1000 BCE the Saraswati river migrated a number of times and later was desiccated due to Aeolian (Aandhi) activity and tectonic changes in the Himalayas.
- The catastrophic events deprived river Saraswati of the perennial supply of Himalayan glacial waters.
- The two major tributaries, Sutlej turned west to join the Indus, and the Yamuna 'pirated' the waters of Saraswati and turned east to join Ganga - which is why Allahabad is called the Triveni Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
Nearly 2000 excavated sites around the Indus-Saraswati civilization have been found on either side of the banks of the river Saraswati. In comparison, the Harrappan civilization on the Indus river, hailed as the greatest ancient civilization in Asia, has only 800 excavated sites. In addition, the government land records agency has actually mapped the entire course of river Saraswati.
Satellite images by Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO] show underground water channels called 'palaeochannels'. The pictures also show thousands of lakes in Thar desert and the unfinished delta of Rann of Kutch.
The water from artisan wells erupted at Bhuj and Karachi during earthquake in 2001 and 2006. This subterranean water was found to be sweet, with a temperature higher than that of the surrounding surface water, which when tested was confirmed to be around 3500 years old.
The ISRO pictures correlate with the literary description of the course of the ancient river Saraswati given in the Vedas. Saraswati has been adored in the Rig-Veda as 'Ambi Tame, Nadi Tame, DeviTtame'. She gets her name from 'Saras' or lakes, as formation of lakes occurred during the many changes in her course over centuries.
This proves that Saraswati was the mightiest of all rivers in its time. Even today, there is no other river, not even the Ganga or Indus that can be compared to Saraswati's glory.
The river bed site:
The same afternoon, Yatris visited an archaeological site at Bhore Saidan, 13 kms from Kurukshetra. This is one of the latest discoveries of Shri R. Purohit, the curator of Shri Krishna Museum, and his team along with ASI. As recent as November 2006, at Bhore Saidan in Kurukshetra, the actual river bed of the Saraswati had been identified, where Himalayan minerals and an abundant quantity of mica have been unearthed. The pottery and the terracotta artifacts found at this site were tested by carbon dating method by ASI, which confirmed its age to be over 3000 years. The deposition of different layers of alluvial soil, clay, mica-sand, etc, can be clearly seen with the naked eye. The same mica-sand has been packed in small pouches as memorabilia and placed in the folders handed out to all the Yatris.
On the way back, the Yatris stopped for a 'sound and light show' at Jyotisar. There, under an ancient banyan tree, which is an offshoot of the very tree that is believed to have witnessed the Mahabharata war and Lord Shri Krishna's Geetopadesh to Arjuna, the Yatris recited chapter 12 and 15 of the Bhagavad Gita.
Several other sites:
In the evening, in the benign presence of P.P. Swamiji, Shri Purohit gave an elaborate presentation on the number of archaeological sites and the artifacts excavated in the Brahmavarta region that lies between Saraswati and Drishadvati rivers. He reiterated that the Indo-Saraswati civilization was much greater and older than the Indus valley civilization. He quoted several references to river Saraswati from the Vedas and the Mahabharata and convincingly correlated them with his findings. He gave a beautiful interpretation that the subterranean Saraswati in her Gupt form symbolizes the Shushumna Nadi while the Yamuna and the Ganga represent the Ida Nadi and the Pingla Nadi. The Yatris soaked up the information that Shri Purohit so passionately delivered. The presentation was followed by a question and answer session with Shri R Purohit and Shri D K Hari.
The momentous day:
Early morning, on 01st Nov, Yatris climbed into the buses and left for Adi Badri via Yamuna Nagar and Jagadri, about 90 km from Kurukshetra. It was a reverent experience to walk on the same soil, the hallowed ground of Adi Badri, where our ancestors once lived. The sight of Yatris in blue & white attire wearing the sandy-yellow/brown tercentenary caps seemed as though the river Saraswati had surfaced and was flowing along side the sandy banks.
Shivaliks to Shrivalli :
Against the backdrop of the Shivaliks at Adi Badri is the Udgam-Sthala of River Saraswati. The Srota of the Saraswati River is in the lower Shivaliks from where the waters trickle down through the ridges to join the Som River in the valley. One of the reasons for going there was to collect the Saraswati water in Kalashas and take it to Shrivali to be poured into the Shivaganga, in a way, bringing our 'mother' Saraswati to Shrivali and symbolising migration of the Saraswats as well.
The Srota of river Sarawati had to be directed and channelled to be able to fill Kalashas and the idea of installing a Gaumukh that would bring Poornata to the Jalagrahan ceremony came up. A marble Gomukh, inset in a marble plaque, was installed in an attractive stone wall. The inscription on the plaque is simply divine: Inspired by the Divine Grace of Shri Parijnanashram Guru, this devout offering has been placed at the Holy Feet of Bharat Varsha, on the sacrosanct slopes of the mighty Himalaya, by Saraswats to commemorate the tercentenary of Shree Chitrapur Math.
P.P. Swamiji entered the newly created Kund and performed Pooja of the Gomukh. Three Kalashas were filled by P.P.Swamij; two to be taken to Shirali and one for Delhi Sabha. The Kalashas were carried by Vaidiks, followed by all the Yatris, in a procession down to the Saraswati Sarovar half a kilometer down the hill. Throughout this ceremony the whole valley reverberated with sounds of Vedic Mantras and Saraswati Sukta.
The Delhi Sabha Kalasha was dressed up as a beautiful Prateek of Saraswati Devi. The Prateek- a smiling Mukha with long flowing hair topped with a golden Kireet, adorned with Abhushana, draped in a lovely white and gold silk sari and holding the Veena in her hands, was specially made by Roopali Heblekar for the occasion.
On the bank of Saraswti Sarovar under a massive banyan tree, P.P. Swamiji conducted the Saraswati Poojan. During the Saraswati Ashtottara 108 silver lotuses were offered to Sarawati Devi. What a divine coincidence that the Saraswati Pujan was performed in Yamuna Nagar, sanctified with the Ganga water! Ganga denotes 'Purity', Yamuna signifies 'Bhakti' and Saraswati is for 'Knowledge'; and during the Pujan there was the presence of all three intrinsic virtues in a perfect blend.
The Tercentenary Signature Tune :
After the Pujan, P.P. Swamiji released the CD of Tercentenary Signature Tune, specially composed for this auspicious occasion by Shailaja Ganguly. Yatris led by Meera Balsavar pachi soulfully sang the tune.
Badri and Kedar:
From the 'Pujan Sthal', where the mighty Saraswati at some point of time had flowed, the temples of Kedar and Badri Narayan could be seen. It was almost as if the Shankar Narayan Geet was conceived on this spot. Atop the edge of the cliff overhanging the valley is the temple of Mantra Devi, who was the only Sakshi to Saraswati's original grandeur.
The palki utsav:
After the Pujan, the Devi Prateek was placed in a decorated palki. The palki procession led by P.P. Swamiji went around the Saraswati Sarovar with joyous singing of bhajans. When the 'Vidya De Ma, Budhi De Ma, Sada Sanmati De De Ma', was being sung, the echo of the song reverberated in the surrounding Shivaliks. The sound of the echoes seemed as if, not just 250 yatris, but the entire 25,000 strong Saraswat community was present and participating in the celebrations.
P.P. Swamiji planted two mango saplings in the landscaped garden around the Saraswati Sarovar. Vriksharopan signified the paying of homage to the Udgam Sthala. The trees will grow and become a legacy for future generations who visit the Sthala. As P.P. Swamiji was planting the saplings, a profound thought surfaced that as we reap the fruits of the labour of our elders, we in turn by doing their Anusaran, should do the righteous Karmas for the benefit of the generations to come.
Museum and return:
After a sumptuous lunch, some Yatris walked half a km to the Saraswati Museum, some others went ahead to the Badri and Kedar temples. At dusk it was time to get back into the buses and head towards Kurukshetra.
At the resort, after a brief round up of the day's events by P.P. Swamiji, a display of fireworks was arranged, symbolising the success and culmination of the Saraswati yatra, as well as the ecstasy of the yatris who had rediscovered roots. It seemed as though the fireworks were spreading the joy to the whole world.
At dawn, on 2nd Nov, the parikrama of the Brahmasarovar was most refreshing. After breakfast P.P. Swamiji gave a concluding address. Subsequently, the yatris visited the Mahabharata Panaroma in the Science Museum and the Krishna Museum. At noon, the yatris headed back to Delhi and thus ended a most memorable yatra.
(Based on P.P. Swamiji's pravachans and observations of yatris - article compiled by Delhi Sabha)