KASHI TRIP - Part I
Ganga Kavery express which connects Chennai & Varanasi is a biweekly Express. We planned the trip to Allahabad, Varanasi & Gaya 100 days before the actual date of departure viz.20.10.08. As our trip was coinciding with Diwali(Thanga Annapoorni, Thanga Visalakshi, Annakodda & Laddu Ther) we anticipated rush and purchased 90 days in advance, both onward and return tickets:
We wrote to Swamimalai V.Ramasesha Sastrigal(his brother's name is Mr.V.Krishnamurthy Ganapadigal) B-5/311. Hanuman Ghatt, Varanasi-221001(Phone 0542-2310134). The former's son is Mr.R.shiv Kumar. He is computer savvy. A MCA but in Purhoitam. His cell No. is 093353333137/09415336064. His email id is <[email protected]> He assured to provide us accommodation, food and also arrange transport and perform pithru karyams. He also gave contact name in Allahabad. Shri. N.Vasudeva shastrigal. Shivmath daraganj, Allahabad. 0532-2500799
Then we(each family) started doing purchases: For Khasi Shrraddham Dhoti for brahmana and Vadhyar:9x5 Three Nos, Gaya Shrraddham Dhoti for Gayawalis 9x5 five number(if mother is alive four nos only; Gaya Vadyar Dhoti 9x5 one no. Dhambathi Pooja: Two sets of following: Dhoti 9x5 ; 9 yard saree with blouse piece, Mangalyam, metti, mookuthi -(one each for Allahabad and Kashi).
Extra blouse pieces with kannadi seepu manjal kungumam valayal about 25 sets.
For Dheepa Dhanam: 31 Brass agals with oil & thiri; for payasa Dhanam Tumblers: 12 nos For Dhasa Dhanam: Gold coin, silver coin, silver kinnam, 9x5 veshti, Shawl/porvai, Kudai, Padarakshai, Pithalai Theertha sombu, Eversilver Milk Pathiram, Eayam poosiya Curd Pathiram, Visiri, Sandhana Kattaiu, Bell, Pusthagam(courtesy: Kunjan),
The purpose of a Kashi Yatra is to perform Vedic rites for our ancestors. The Purohits were extremely helpful to explain various nuances of rituals. We performed the rites that are traditionally performed during a Kashi Yatra. I share this with all of you in the hope that it may be of reference material for future. I have provided contact numbers of some people there who will be able to arrange everything for anyone who desires to perform these rituals.
We got down at Allahabad at 4.30 Am after a train journey of 35 hours. Mr.Vasudevan sent his errand boy Mr.Venkatesh to Allahabad Rly Stn to pick us up. The Vedic rituals began at Allahabad. The rituals (even the more extensive ones) take about half a day (early morning to lunch).
Day of Arrival - Allahabad (Triveni Sangam) (Day 1)(22.10.2008)
Allahabad is the city where the three greatest rivers of India meet, and continue their journey further. The Ganga weaves her way down from the Himalayas from Gangotri, passing places made sacred by her arrival, like Rishikesh and Haridwar, and passing through the industrial city of Kanpur, before arriving at Allahabad to join her sisters as she makes her way to Kashi. Yamuna also begins her journey in the Himalayas, at Yamunotri, and passes through Mathura and Brindavan, made more sacred by the association of Krishna, and finally arrives at Allahabad where she joins the Ganga to merge her identity with her. Saraswati arrives at Allahabad from god alone knows where, for she is an underground river, who remains unseen to mankind, making her presence felt at certain, extremely special places. She renders the holy Ganga and Yamuna even more pure, more sacred by her association with them at Allahabad. The place where these 3 rivers merge is the Triveni Sangam, a place where thousands and thousands congregate to pay their respects to the rivers and pray for their well being and forgiveness for their sins.
The three rivers maintain their identity and are visibly different as they merge. While the Yamuna is deep but calm and greenish in colour, the Ganga is shallow, but forceful and clear. The Saraswati remains hidden, but the faithful believe that she makes her presence felt underwater. During the monsoon, when the rivers are in full flow, the confluence of the rivers is seen clearly due to the force of the water, but the same force makes having a dip at the confluence difficult. I was told that during the monsoon, most devotees bathe at the riverbank for safety, while the more ardent ones who are willing to pay for the risk involved go to the confluence in a boat, where a shallow area is created by the presence of a number of boats with a kind of net suspended in between, and bathe there. We went to the confluence of the rivers by a boat. A sort of platform had been constructed there, from which we climbed down into waist deep water. We had a wonderful time bathing in the river. We could have stayed in the water for ages, if it hadn’t been for the rites and rituals we had to perform back at the mutt where we were staying. It was a wonderful experience.
A number of rituals are traditionally performed at Allahabad, mainly for appeasing our ancestors. There are a number of Mutts there who perform the rites. As at Kashi, there is no standard charge, but varies according to the rites one wants to perform and the budget.
An interesting ritual performed at the Sangam is that of Veni Daanam. This is a practice followed by married women for the long life of their husbands. The husband is supposed to comb and plait the wife’s hair and after decorating it with flowers, the end of the plait is cut off and offered to the rivers. Some men even shave off their hair/beard and offer it also to the rivers. This procedure is performed while travelling by boat to the Sangam and the hair is offered along with flowers, etc at the confluence. There is nothing interesting in itself about this. What is interesting is that hair, being light normally floats on water, but at this place, the hair sinks straight to the bottom. Though hundreds of people offer their hair everyday, there is not a single strand of hair seen floating on the river. Of course, there could and will be a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but whatever it is, it gives us proof that nature is a wonderful thing….. Call it God or simply nature, it is indeed inspiring!
The temple of Veni Madhava (one of the trio along with Sethu Madhava and Bindu Madhava) is a little way inside the city. It is a small temple, with a small idol of Vishnu representing Veni Madhava. According to the legend painted on the walls of the temple, there was once a rakshasa who troubled all the Devas. Narada sought an audience with him to find out his weakness, and found that he suffered from a skin infliction. He told the Asura to bathe in the Triveni Sangam at Allahabad, which the Asura proceeded to do. Amazed at finding himself cured, he wanted to possess the 3 great rivers who had cured him, and began drinking them up! When the rivers pleaded with Vishnu, he arrived in the form of Veni Madhava and killed him, restoring the rivers to their rightful place.
The Shayana Anjaneya temple is an important one right on the banks of the river. Here, the idol of Hanuman is larger than life, carrying Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders. Only, the idol is lying down. There are many stories about this temple. According to one, hanuman stepped over the rivers without their permission, angering them. They rose up and threw him to the ground, and crushed his ego. According to the locals, every year, the river rises and covers the whole idol before going back, which they consider absolute proof of this story. Another legend mentions that this is where hanuman emerged with Rama and Lakshmana after defeating the king of Patala, the netherworld, Ahi Ravana. Whatever the story, the temple is a simple and nice one.
The Adi Shankara Vimana Mandapam, a temple built by the Kanchi Mutt is right next to this temple. This is a 3 storeyed temple with idols and sculptures of various Gods and Goddesses. It is worth a visit.
The other paces of interest in Allahabad are-
The Allahabad fort, on the banks of the Yamuna, where we take a boat to go to the Sangam.
The Bharadvaj Ashram, where Sage Bharadvaj lived
Anand Bhavan- the birthplace of our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
1. Anugnai (Sankalpam)
2. Vighneshwara Puja (Prayers to Ganesha)
3. Prayschitta Sankalpam (atonement for sins committed, knowingly or unknowingly)
4. Veni Daanam (Women offer a part of their hair to the river praying for the long life of their husbands. The husband plaits the wife’s hair, decorates it with flowers and cuts off the tip of the plait and offers it to the river. It is an interesting fact that while hair normally floats on water, at the Sangam; it immediately sinks to the river bed. Though almost all married women offer their hair here, there is not a single strand found floating on the river!!!!) I did it for Mohana! first time in life.
5. Manal brought from Rameswaram is dissolved in Thiriveni
6. Triveni Sangam Snanam (husband and wife bathe together at the confluence of the 3 rivers, holding hands. One has to go to the confluence in a boat. A sort of platform has been erected at the point for the convenience of pilgrims)
7. Hiranya Shrraddham *
8. Pinda Pradaanam, Kshetra Pindam, Tarpanam **
10. Venimadhavar Dharisanam
11. Vada Vrutcha Dharisanam
12. To collect Pure Ganges water from Thriveni Sangamam for carrying back to home.
13. Aram Ghat Hanumar Dharisanam
14. Kanchi Kamakodi Temple visit
15. we performed Dampati Pooja at Allahabad. We reached Varanasi at 10 Pm. Mr.Krishnamurthy Ganapadigal has sent us Idly for night tiffin. We were accommodated in his newly purchased house which is a two storeyed building with a muttram for drying clothes. The house had 3 rooms, one big hall of around 700 sq.ft with one bath, one w.c and one Indian toilet. The house had pillows, jamukkalam & mats and 4 cots.
The rituals at Kashi take place over three days – the first day for the Maha sangalpam, the second day for Manikarnika Parvarupa (by doing homam) Shrraddham and the third day for the Pancha Teertha Shrraddham. Then, one goes to Gaya and performs the rituals there, and returns to Kashi for the Ganga Puja, Dampati Puja and only then visits the temples at Kashi.
To be continued in Part 2
Elder brother of RK Patham Iyer
Permission taken to publish this travelogue