Professor Rana-ji Singh leads our group's re-tracing of the Panchakroshi Yatra
We've returned, missing being soaked by hail stones and torrential downpour by about 30 seconds, from the Panchakroshi Yatra! This yatra is a Hindu pilgrimage to important sites around the Banaras area. Many pilgrims travel this route on Shivaratri (Shiva's Night) during the middle of February or every three years during the extra month added to the Hindu calendar. The 84 km route encircles the surrounding villages and is usually walked in five or six days stopping to perform ceremony at the important points along the way. We did just this, utilizing the modern marvels of fossil fuel.
Rana-ji Singh, professor of cultural geography at Banaras Hindu University, was our guide on the journey and we enjoyed his passion and giggling at his stories of Shiv and Parvati, Balarama and Krishna as they came alive to us through his candid storytelling.
We started from the program house at 8 am and as we approached the final site of the yatra, thick dark storm clouds billowed overhead. We saw the original Shiva linga (representation of male and female energy that is honored by adorning with milk, honey, flowers, incense and money) and a special dancing Ganesha (the elephant-headed god) before the power went out. We raced back to the cars to beat the rain, and made it just in time. Rain (much less hail) this time of year is unheard of in Banaras, or so the locals say.
Embarking upon pilgrimage such as this is a special privilege and one that many Hindus do not have the opportunity to complete in their lifetime. Each time I hear Rana-ji explain about these important sites, I am more inspired to dig deeper about my own belief systems. I'm certainly grateful to have shared this day with the eight of us and am looking forward to the new adventures in the coming weeks as we wrap up our time here in the City of Light.
We'll hear a speaker about Islam tomorrow, and one on the Indian political system before the week is out. We'll wrap up our ISPs and share what we've learned with each other, say heartfelt goodbyes to our homestay families and catch a train to Amritsar. There, we will take in the Golden Temple, the most famous Sikh pilgrimage place, on our way to Dharamsala.
I hope everyone is enjoying early daylight savings... not quite sure I understand the reasoning on that one. Anyone want to fill me in?
Jullay for now,