I promise. This will be the last of my Punjab posts, unless I visit again! That said, I write today about devotion, the pursuit of God and the experience of peace within a shrine. What you consider your devotion and your shrine is a very personal thing.
Personally, religious tourism has never excited me. And so, when locals mentioned that the Naina Devi temple is a must visit while returning from the Bhakra Dam, I wasn’t quite sure if expressing negative sentiments would ruffle feathers. I was curious about the cable car ride up to the temple though. And that turned out to be quite an experience. The rickety, locally fabricated cars painted in garish colors inspired no confidence at all. And when we saw a guy pour fuel into the motor using a severed bottle of Bisleri as a funnel, we really did not know whether to laugh or cry as we climbed in to the cars for the ride up. Fortunately for us, the fantastic views of the simply enormous and breathtaking Gobind Sagar Lake distracted us from being nervous; after all, all’s well that ends well and I am here to tell the tale!
The shrine was nothing spectacular, but there weren’t too many people and the visit was pleasant enough. I found a bunch of raggedy kids playing with cons outside the temple. Or rather, they found me. As I put my shoes back on, they pestered me for money. We ended up cracking jokes and I got a few good shots of them in the process!
This vacation turned out to be quite a pilgrimage, for the next on our itinerary was the Keshgarh Gurudwara at Anandpur Sahib. It’s pristine whiteness, pleasing proportions and sense of queit discipline, a submission to higher powers so to speak, made this a spiritual experience, even for someone like me who confesses to not having much of a spirit! Three aspects set gurudwaras apart for me, making them my favorite places of worship. The first is the divine sounds of the raagis singing the gurbaani, in perfect tune, with voices that sear through me and bring tears of joy to my eyes. Really. The second is the truly equal treatment of everyone, rich or poor, man or woman, adult or child, whoever. The third, of course , is the Karah prasad! We caught a spectacular sunset that made this visit extra memorable.
Our trip was nearly over. We had seen the sights and lived the holiday. I brought back with me the sound of our singing the classic old Hindi film melodies as the breeze blew our hair, the astonishing variety of green we saw outside the window, the rippling flow of zillion little streams and brooks that flow down from the Shivaliks, the simple wholesome food and open-hearted people of Punjab- a memorable three days indeed.