Narmada Parikrama: Pilgrimage Of Generosity
Posted by Trupti Pandya on May 7, 2018
As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a great sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow- A. C. Benson
Word of mouth caused a snowball effect where 36 people ranging from the age of 7 to 70 years decided to say yes to a half a day walking pilgrimage on the banks of Narmada river. What all of us experienced was the generosity of Mother Nature and local people staying along the banks of Narmada river who served complete strangers wholeheartedly. I realized that the more you trust and surrender, the more generosity you experience.
River Narmada which along its course of 1740 km originating from Amarkantak flows westwards into the Arabian Sea. The belt that we walked is the only place, where it flows ‘Northwards’ and so it is called as ‘Uttarvahi Narmada'. 'Chaitra' month in the Hindu calendar is considered to be auspicious for doing this walk and is considered to be equivalent to the complete parikrama of the River Narmada. An elder from the community shared that this walk is also known as Panch-koshi (five elements) Parikrama. He shared, "our body is made of the same five elements as that of nature but due to our current lifestyles there seems a lot of imbalance as we are disconnected from nature. When we walk, we are directly exposed to earth, water, air, space and fire giving us an opportunity to balance and purify ourselves. "
At 3.30 am on a full moon night Kanubhai drove us to Mangrol a village on the banks of Narmada from where we started walking. We had just started our walk and in less than 20 steps we were served freshly made “poha” and tea by local people. It was 6.30 in the morning, I wondered how early they would have woken up to do all the preparation so that they could serve hundreds of people like us. With our hearts and stomachs full we were walking and in another half kilometre, we were served freshly cut fruits and lemon water. It was so difficult to say no to them and I thought to myself if we will be served with such warmth we might not finish the walk today.
Looking at young children serve us I was reminded of a quote by Rumi which says,“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Some greeted us with “Narmade har” while some with a glass of water. What amazed me the most was looking at few kids who were continuously repairing the steps on the mud walkways so that it becomes easy for people to walk on the steep and soggy slopes.
Few of us fondly remembered Gopal dada and started collecting trash from the path with the intention to serve people who will be walking after us. Few others joined the oldies to be their walking buddies I could hear a few claps of appreciation as people started entering the bus one after another. I heard few thank you's from the oldies to the younger ones for being their walking buddies which really helped them finish the walk.
By lunchtime, all of us had finished the parikrama. While the logistic team was figuring out a place to eat, a woman who was standing there pointed towards the nearby building where food was being served. It was a sadavrat, a place where people serve food selflessly 365 days. My uncle, who was sitting next to me during lunch softly asked, “How is it possible for these monks to serve all 36 of us without any prior notice at lunchtime?” I was thinking of the same and of all those times when I had got a guest during lunch or dinner without notice. Since morning they had already served hundreds of people and when we went it was their time to rest but they welcomed us and offered all that they had included freshly cut mangoes, jaggery and milk from their farm. How do they know how many people are going to walk in asked someone? Each day they cooked two meals and its mother Narmada who takes care of the rest said one of the monks. The day there is food left we give it to the peacocks. Each grain is destined in a way. It is her grace with which everything is taken care added another monk who was serving all us with so much love.
As people experienced generosity in the most unexpected ways from total strangers, the whole matrix started shifting from consumption to contribution. Each one started serving the other with a gift that they felt abundant with be it listening to other person’s story, carrying each other’s bags, washing plates, cleaning the place, offering their seat, sharing food, sharing blessings and prayers. Everyone returned home with radiant smiles, with a little confusion of who really served who, with hearts full of gratitude for the invisible spirits who very gently and generously shared the love in the most invisible and subtle ways.
As an observer, I saw that the intention holders never said no. Their intention manifested like this huge banyan tree that covered us under the shade of its generosity and kindness in various ways.
They planned very little and allowed the higher power to fill in the gaps which manifest in the most beautiful and natural way that served all and not one.
While dipping into the cool water a friend shared when we try to swim against the flow we all failed. The reminder was to just stay with the flow and be in sync with nature to swim in its abundance. Narmade Har!!!