I have always lived in Delhi. I’ve crossed a lot of hurdles here; finished my schooling, got into a prestigious college, learned how to drive a car. I also survived another significant hurdle here.
I experienced death. I’m talking about my grandfather here.
Times were tough, and we struggled with grief. But some people have a certainty that helps them cope with this grief. They are confident to see their loved ones again; in heaven.
For some, of course, it’s not that simple. In fact, it’s the greatest question we ask ourselves.
The Jhandewalan temple in the city attracts pilgrims throughout the year. But the influx is more on festivals like Diwali, Navratri and the famous Dussehra fair. Being an atheist (though technically Hindu Brahmin) I visited the temple only in the capacity of a tourist. I was curious to know, what is it about this famous shrine that so many people are drawn to it!
To feel the vibe of the place, I walked down the bazaar which leads to the temple. It is what is expected outside a Hindu religious place. The shops sell flowers and ‘chunni’ for the offer, bangles, clothes, scents, incense sticks; CD sellers pushed Temple themed VCDs; religious songs playing in high pitched voices set to the tunes of Bollywood numbers.
Once inside, I was mesmerized by the ambiance. Men dressed in traditional kurtas and women donning sarees with their heads covered flocked the temple premises; people reading holy texts, fragrances of incense sticks filling the air. Devotees tied holy threads on a huge Banyan tree, lit candles on every empty floor space they could get hold of. You could see some crying, some lying on the floor, others who folded their hands and bowed their heads in reverence.
People and pigeons jostled for space in the charmingly populated temple premises. Some offered money and other mundane things in the big Daan Patr (donation box). What couldn’t escape my attention were humans and their dreams; aspirations, despair, grief, happiness. It was not difficult to read all these emotions on people’s faces.
Rishi, Sanyasi, Pandit, Saadhu. Maybe, like me, you know they’re all holy people, but you’re not sure what the distinctions are. Regardless of your naivety, Delhi is, however, sure to give you a glimpse of them all.
India is a land of various sects and religions where these all are masters of the Sanskrit Vedas.
Moses saw God in a bush. Buddha found enlightenment under a tree. Muhammad experienced Allah on a mountain. Is there some universal concept of God that all religions share?
Or is God fundamentally different to people of different faiths?
Who is God? How do I reach Him?
Pandit ji told me that the easy way to reach God’s feet is through total surrender- he called this Saranagati.
There are five prerequisites for Saranagati–
- Do that which pleases the Lord.
- Avoid that which displeases Him.
- Believe above all that He will save us.
- Seek His help.
- And finally, acknowledge your own helplessness.
Pandit ji is a believer and preaches that these angas are easy to follow if one sets his mind to it. And that moksha (emancipation) will definitely be granted to the one who surrenders.
Once inside the temple, I noticed a different idol on every corner. While they all looked the same to me, except for a few, Pandit ji familiarized me to them all. The Hindu dharam has Gods for all reasons and for all seasons- for the 7 days of the week, for all the nine planets.
Millions of Gods in our religion. But I could not figure out how to choose one. How do I connect to Him?
The Hindu dharam, in all its forms, takes various routes to reach its ultimate destination. While the paths may be different, they all end up at the same place. The only, holy power.
The atheist in me didn’t stand in the long queue of devotees that began right from the temple entrance and continued way beyond the main road. I did not light any candle or tie any thread on the tree. But what my mind could not ignore were the bhajans.
The sounds amplified drawing me closer and closer. After briefly observing how the others were behaving, I sat there with my closed eyes in complete surrender, listening to the soulful bhajans peacefully.
I found my God in that moment!
I had offered no chunni, no prayer didn’t even ask for anything, but still felt at peace hearing those words. An old man with eyes red from the tears that didn’t seem to stop; a foreigner engrossed in the music even though the words were beyond her understanding; an elderly couple crippled with age but with unwavering devotion. I don’t know who found their God, but in that moment, we all seemed equal, we all seemed happy.
We all seemed ‘one’.
Isn’t that exactly how God is supposed to make you feel?
I might not have met Him, but my thoughts were more composed now. Not wanting to leave even after spending more than half of my day here, I left with a smile and the tune of the bhajans on my lips.