My First Visit to Ganeshpuri & Pune

The tour to certain parts of Maharastra were planned to be during these days of December because this is the only time of the year when work is less for us. Me and KP (Krishnaprasad) finally implemented the plan that was carved out long back. Time was less and we had four days. KP left 2 days earlier as he wanted to attend a seminar in Mumbai by Shri. Goenkaji. Kozy (Kushal), KP’s nephew also wished to join us and left with KP.
The morning of December 23rd, 2008, I reached Borivali at 7:30 instead of the scheduled time of 5:30 that I had given KP. I beleive he was waiting since then for my call and finally he called me to know that I was reaching shortly. I got down and took an auto to KP’s sister’s home after she gave me a briefing of the location of her home on phone. KP came to the corner where I got down and we walked home. The photograph on the left is the window view of Borivali from their flat. After a bath and a delicious breakfast prepared by di, I carefully examined her wonderful paintings and am awed by her talent on the canvas. I feel priviliged when she asked me to name all her abstract paintings and I used the freedom of the “third eye” communication as my mind read through each abstract painting and I noted three names of each painting on paper. They were happy with the names and furthermore she asked me to write an “About the Painter” profile. I quickly penned it down. We then bid goodbye and left at 11 am and took an auto to Borivali station. KP brought 3 first class local tickets to Vasai and we boarded the local train. We got place to sit at ease and we din’t regret buying first class tickets. I remember last time I travelled from Andheri to Elphinstone in a general class and not a foot could be moved here or there! I came back from the flashback and smiled at ease and comfort of sitting with the small “crowd”. Five stations later we got down at Vasai Road and went to the bus stand. Someone told us there that the bus was at 12:30 and we waited.. and waited.. and waited…. Meanwhile two north-Indian auto drivers buzzed around us trying to bargain to reach us to Ganeshpuri via auto for Rs. 250/- which is around 35 kms from that stand. We waited.. and waited.. and waited… KP and me looked at the overloaded Maharastra red buses and thought we should perhaps take the auto. By this time, the bargain competition among the two auto drivers had brought down the rate to Rs.200/-. After a little more wait, we finally decided it was enough waiting and KP took the plunge to bargain further down and finally the rate was fixed at Rs.175/- It was quite obvious that these auto drivers had not had any earning since morning and the worldwide recession seemed to hit hard far interiorly on them too. On the journey the auto guy, who was a nice guy, told us how foreigners used to flock in Ganeshpuri at all times but now very few people came here. Me and Kozy kept clicking photographs of everything around. Occasionally, the auto guy slowed down his auto or stopped at places which he felt could add better view to our photographing. He even pointed out to certain mountains and temples far away and asked us to click those. On the way, I asked him about Nityanandji and Muktanandji and he told us that he was plying on those roads for the past 25 years and that he has never seen any of the gurus personally but mentioned few happenings in and around Ganeshpuri. Then he dropped us in front of Nityanand temple. We looked into Hotel Amantran and found the place not to be maintained well. So we went to check in the rooms maintained by the temple authorities. The authority there didn’t seem happy and said it was meant for only family members. Another person in authority asked him to give us the room as we had come from far but he didn’t want to. KP waitied a long while with him trying to get the room but we soon decided to leave when he started asking proof of identity of somebody in Maharastra, which was hilarious. We walked down the street and found hotel Ramesh and had lunch there. It was 3 pm by the time we checked in Sunny Guest House. We took rest there till evening. At around 5:30 pm we freshened up and walked down to the temple. First, we went into the place of Nityanandji’s home. Photographs were not allowed. As we walked through all the room, I was observing carefully all the places he used to once sit, walk or. He used to be seen most of the time taking brief walks, sitting, or lying being completely merged with the divine. He spoke very little and used to be in deep meditation most of the time. It is said that he used to hardly open his eyes and used to remain in one position for hours and sometimes days. I touched all the places he used as it gave me a sense of touch of babaji. As I moved through this home, a calmness took over my mind. As we clicked some snaps of his photographs adorned on the walls, a volunteer requested gently not to click photographs and we stopped clicking. We moved through the corridors and verandah where he used to sit or lie down. Finally, we reach a place where he used to sit regularly and give darshan to people. Babaji never used to like people searching and coming to him to find God. As soon as a seeker came to him, Baba would say, “Why are you wandering? All is within. Go and sit at home. What is there outside?” 

Babaji emphasized that everything – all information could be found within and there was no need for hunting or digging for information. I sat down in front of the same chair seen in the photographs below in black and white. Within seconds I got immersed in a strange but pleasant peace. 

I was being very comfortable of his presence. This place has very strong vibrations of Babaji’s presence. I felt these few minutes had served the purpose of my trip. I felt like sitting there for hours but very huge mosquitoes had started feasting on us. I wished I had come there before the sun was down so that the mosquitoes wouldn’t trouble. Looking at my pitiful state an ashram volunteer asked me to go to “Bangalorewala Building”. 

I took leave of Babaji and thanked him for his presence. I took all instructions from him and left. We three then went into the Bangalorewala building and it was quite serene and quite. I am not sure if photographs were allowed here or not, but I did want to take back the memories of this hall where Nityanandji himself had passed away. The image on the left and below is the place he attained Samadhi. It appears that there were many signs of his impending passing but his devotees were mostly unaware of them. One woman devotee properly interpreted some of the signs and was distraught to learn of his plans to depart. He said to her, “Why are you crying? Don’t cry. More is possible on the subtle than on the gross.”

Late in the evening of August 7, 1961 Nityananda was alone with one devotee and he told him that he would be leaving the body the next day. The devotee was in tears and asked him to change his mind or at least postpone the Mahasamadhi. He replied: “It is possible only if a few devotees come forward and make a request; not any devotees but those imbued with desireless devotion, bhava (feeling) and prema (love)…. 

Even one such is enough and the samadhi will be canceled. When such a devotee is present, even God cannot take leave without his permission, or be able to disengage himself from the bond of his pure love.”However though there were dozens of close devotees and hundreds and even thousands who came to him, there were none advanced enough to be able to say they were completely without desire.

The next day towards noon he took a few deep breaths and then one very deep breath so that his chest was fully expanded. He straightened his legs, put his hands over the abdomen, and then was not seen to move anymore. The image above shows a board stating the day and time of his nirvana “Tuesday 8-8-1961 at 10:42 am”. After touching his seat and taking his blessings, I left the hall along with Kozy and KP. We then walked into Dayanand Shaligram Swami samadhi place. 

Sri Shaligram Swami lived in Ganeshpuri for many years and was one of the chief disciples of Nityananda Baba. He attained Samadhi at this place only a few months before Gurudev Nityananda. His Samadhi shrine is just a few feet away from Gurudev’s shrine. Here, a priest was kind enough to answers our questions and told us about Swamiji’s samadhi and how Nityanandaji had assisted this disciple in his samadhi. We brought two books from here that was told would be a donation to this shrine. I was surprised to find Mahavtar Babaji’s book here. 

After buying the books, me and Kozy leave this shrine. Then holding on to these memories in my mind, we head towards the temple which also has the hot water springs. Throughout the year there is hot water here. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs of this place. The spring is in the same temple in the image on the left. After a visit here, we moved into the temple which I must say was the next most serene place after Babaji’s home.

We three sat here in meditation. I had a wonderful session of peace and happiness. The memories of those moments still live in me as I write this. Then, after about half hour we came out and meet two little puppies . Kozy and me had some time with them as KP clicked a few snaps. Then we walked towards the stalls and made some purchases. The “khawa” here is just pure and yummy, made out of pure milk. A vendor told us that it takes 6 litres of milk for half kg of this khawa. From here, we straight headed to our rooms and get freshened up. Then, we took a walk down the streets of Ganeshpuri and walked into Hotel Ramesh for our supper. After a light supper we then got out on the street and decided to take a walk down the hill. It was very dark and the narrow roads through the trees down Ganeshpuri looked risky. We asked a cop whether it was safe and he said it was absolutely safe and to go ahead. It was a pleasant walk down and we stopped at a small shop to buy few things. The guy there invited us to come to his shop for tea the next morning Kozy promised to do so. We then walked back to our room. We then talked for some time and then read for a while before dozing off. Next morning, at 6:30 am I got up and freshened up. Soon KP and Kozy got up and we all got ready. Water was a major problem here and Kozy and KP had to give several reminders to the caretaker to start the motor to pump up water. We then decided to go for a long walk on the same roads we had been last night. We captured nature in its divine ways in our cameras. Due to lack of space, I could not put it up here. But you could have a look at all our snaps by clicking a link at the end of this blog. We then walked towards the shop for tea and had a good time there with less of human and more of divinity. Divinity showed up also in other forms of life – dogs. Plenty of them in Ganeshpuri. I spoke to a nice woman from US who said she has been living in Ganeshpuri for the past 6 years. 

She also went ahead and introduced us the three dogs who she had lovingly named. i spoke to the lady for a while and then casually asked her, “What is it that brought you here?” Pat came the reply from here, “The same thing that brought you here.” i was startled and smiled. After that, we started walking back and we happened to see a small hot water spring along the road. Soon, we spotted a way that lead up the hill to a temple. We walked through the trees seen behind me and Kozy in the photograph above. There was such a serenity here that I cant express it in words.

 As we moved I thought about the saints who preferred such locations for meditation and now knew why they settled down in forests. The energy here was pure and we could hear the chant of “Om” from a temple far atop the hill. We stopped in a few places to click some snaps, especially at this place which had a shed and a bench in it. The photograph of the same place is on the left here with me and Kozy sitting on the bench; KP took this snap. Then as we reached the top, someone told us that the area was prohibited for visit and we began walking down. Then, we headed to the hotel and had our breakfast comprising of masala dosa, idli vadas and shira. Then we returned to our room and we started to quickly pack our bags as we had to checkout by 9:30. By 10 a.m. we left our room and walked with our baggage to the auto stand. From there, we took an auto down the hill to visit Muktanandaji’s ashram. 

But when we reached the ashram, we were disappointed to know that the ashram was not accessible to outsiders except residents and that we needed permission for the same. We were only allowed to visit the temple there but the drawback was that we could not see the samadhi shrine in that temple as it was opened only every Saturday and Sunday and remained closed for the rest of the days. Photography anywhere around here was strictly prohibited and our cameras were in the custody of the security guards there. 

We moved in and I was again struck by the strange peace that lingered around. I looked around and chose a place just below Muktanandaji’s big potrait. This portrait hung next to the wall of his samadhi shrine that remained closed. I closed my eyes and immediately got absorbed into the beautiful vibrations in there. This is the third place I sensed strong vibrations. I soon was in deep meditation. I had gone into such a state after months. I had strange sensations and the feeling of my hands getting intertwined. I sat there absorbing everything I could sense and receive. After I slowly opened my eyes, I felt a wonderful blissful state and I staggered out of the room in that state. But soon, that state faded away as I stepped into the maya world. From there, we three went to the bookstore, which also was calm and peaceful. We purchased a few things like audios, photos, incense sticks, yoga belt, etc. 

We then reclaimed our baggage and cameras that we had left with the security and took an auto to exit Ganeshpuri. We had to reach Pune as soon as possible. KP had plans to visit his sister’s place in Pune. The auto driver left us on the highway at Akoli from where Bhiwandi was the closest bus stand from where we could take a bus to Pune. We waited and watched full-packed buses go by. One bus didn’t even bother to let a group of girl students board the bus completely as it left hurriedly, mercilessly leaving half of the struggling students behind. KP soon talked to a 6-seater auto guy and soon we three were sitting squeezed in it. The 20-minute ride kept me and Kozy talking about wordly and spiritual things. Kozy suddenly observed something beautiful. He pointed out his attention to an old couple sitting opposite us in the auto. He told me to look at the old man who sat with his old wife with his right arm around confidently as though assuring her of security and the old woman looked so comfortable and safe with him. I appreciate Kozy for this beautiful observation. Kozy kept his communication throughout the entire journey of Maharastra trying to learn a lot of things. His curiosity seemed to be deep though still active in the mundane activities of wordly life. He was learning with his questions and in the meanwhile I was learning from the guru that I saw in him. I was learning humility and innocence. There were visible sparks of curiosity in him that consistently kept him wondering and quizzing about lot of things of life. What differentiates other learners from Kozy is his keenness to learn and that made me share a lot more to him than I would do to the inquisitiveness of other “casual learners”.
We reached Bhiwandi and KP guided us into a hotel for lunch. The lunch wasn’t “risky” as it looked with a lot of masala and oil and we soon had our plates emptied. Soon, Kozy claimed that he had an overloaded tummy and gulped down two glasses of lime soda. We walked down the hot streets under the scorching sun of 2 pm. After reaching the bus stand and making a few enquires, it was that there was a direct express bus to Pune at 2:30. As we waited, we spotted another friend – a cute little pup. Someone had pulled up a “tika” on its forehead that looked cute but the pup conveyed a look of its unfamilarity with the uncertainties of life. KP and Kozy spend some time with it. Soon the Pune bus arrived and we were comfortably seated. Then, as expected, me and my co-photographer Kozy got at work at the windows of the bus throughout the whole journey, clicking every bit of interesting stuff outside. We shot close to 300 snaps till we reached Pune!! The express highway ensured a very smooth journey coupled with a breath-taking views of the western ghats and nature in all forms. It was a very wonderful to see the sun setting beyond the mountains and flashing its golden-orange brilliance of light across the sky. The city far down the mountain road started to shimmer with tiny lights spreading across the homes. The breeze was refreshingly cool. I remember that I sat in that bus for 5 hours and not a single sign of tiredness showed in me. The freshness and great energy additionally credited to the great energies of Ganeshpuri that still lingered very strongly in me. The knowing of being present within the mountain ranges itself was enchanting. Hours passed like minutes. All the enjoyment was doubled with great music in my ears that kept tap the rhythm of the music into my feelings with nature. Soon the bus halted at Expressway Foodmall just before Khandala/Lonavala. We got out and refreshed ourselves. I had a quick wash and settled for a refreshing masala tea. The place outside was thrilling.

This Expressway Foodmall is built amidst the mountain ranges and gives a very beautiful views to passengers. Many buses halted here for refreshments. The place had all type of foods, especially fast foods and a variety of chocolates and sweets. We then got into our bus and continued our journey to Pune. I slowly changed my iPod mode from audio to FM and tuned into Radio Mirchi. We were on the outskirts of Pune but we never thought it would take us another 2 hours to reach Swargate, due to the peak traffic hours.

We reached Swargate at 8:15 pm and KP called his sister who was waiting at Swargate. We then stayed overnight at their home. Soon, I called my Yoga Guru, Abhay Sir and he told us that he had cancelled his visit to Pune. He gave me instructions to meet Iyengarji and that it would be only possible to meet him after 2 pm, to which KP said that it would be late for them as they had to leave for Miraj early next day. I had no concrete plans throughout the trip and decided that I leave it that very moment for things to unfold on its own. The next day we got up and had our bath and quickly packed our bags. KP and Kozy decided to leave to Miraj and I decided to leave early to Swargate to book a room and arrange to meet Iyengarji. KPs’ bro-in-law offered to drop me on his bike closer to Swargate as he went to his business. It was not very difficult to find the institute. As I walked into his residence-cum-institute, I was directed to go in by a gardener and I walked down until I stood in front of their residential door. Smt. Geeta Iyengar, daughter of Iyengarji saw me and enquired. I expressed my intention and told her that I am from Shrikant Yoga Center, Belgaum. She asked me to take off my shoes and go in the institute and talk to Mr. Pandurang. I thanked her and did so. I was glad to have seen her in person. I talked with Mr. Pandurang who asked me to come at 4 pm, which he said was the time that Iyengarji would be available in the library. I then went into the library and purchased some books of Iyengarji. I left the books there stating that I would collect them in the evening. When I came back to the reception, I was surprised as Mr. Pandurang asked me to follow him and that I could see the class where Iyengarji takes classes. I followed him up a few stairs from there and soon I was in the corner of a huge hall where there were only foreigners practising yoga. I thought to myself they must be representatives from different countries who came to be trained by Iyengarji and go back and teach BKS Iyengar Yoga in their respective countries. BKS Iyengar Yoga is present in around 60 countries and diversified further into many branches within each country that can be totalled to around 180 centers worldwide. In 1991, B.K.S. Iyengarji was awarded Padma Shri and in 2002, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. He was also named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. Iyengarji’s practice and teachings were well appreciated by India’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and Pope Paul VI, among other eminent personalities from different countries.

I stood there looking at each of them practising dedicatedly and looking at an elevated platform wondered how Iyengarji would be demonstrating in that place. Just then Mr. Pandurang came by me and I asked him what time does guruji (Iyengarji) come here. To my surprise Mr. Pandurang said, “He is here. Did you not see him? Look there. He is lying down and demonstrating an asana.” My eyes widened as I looked at him. I had not noticed him in the crowd. He was lying there in a posture as his students observed him. Iyengarji had recently turned 91 and is a living legend who practices yoga actively even today, which is the active proof of his longevity. He has written more than 15 books on his yoga. I stood there staring at him for about 15 minutes. Then, I walked down the stairs back to the reception. Just as I was thanking Mr. Pandurang back at the reception, Smt. Geetaji entered and asked him sternly to offer me to sit and talk, to which he immediately told her that I was attended to and was now leaving. She looked satisfied to that and left. I then left from there and booked a room close to this place. I rested and at about 3:30 pm I got up and went out and had lunch, a late one. Then, I took an auto straight to Shivaji Nagar to Iyengar Institute. When I reached I saw that Mr. Pandurang was not at the reception, so I waited. There were lot of foreigners in there. One of them knocked at one of the door with a lot of respect and I gently turned my chair towards the door inquisitive to know who stayed in there. The door was opened by Shri. Prashant Iyenger, brother of BKS Iyengar and the director of Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI). He is an authority on Yoga and his knowledge about the scriptures and the ancient texts added flavor to yoga. He is also an accomplished violinist. I was pleased to have a glimpse of this person whom I had only heard of. He spoke to his disciples, blessed them who were falling at his feet one by one, and then he went in. I do know how things syncronize if they have to. The timing was perfect for me to meet all three in the family of Iyengar. Well, I hoped to meet the third and most important person for whom I was here in Pune the whole day of Christmas. I was now very excited to meet Iyengarji and I also knew in the back of my mind that anything could happen. He could be busy or not willing to see anyone. He was known to be unpredictable and that is why Mr. Pandurang also hadn’t assured me of anything. I was well aware of all these things. Just then, Mr. Pandurang came and asked me to follow him. I wanted to ask him where but when I saw him heading downstairs to the library I immediately knew we were going to meet Iyengarji. As I moved down, my breath was little narrow. A few steps down and I found myself right in front of him! He sat elegantly with a rich shawl around him with a book in front of his table. Before him there was a narrow but long room which had a long table in the center with many foreigners sitting on either side of the table and all were reading. Mr. Pandurang was quick to introduce me as disciple of Abhay Sir. Guruji looked at me and I immediately folded my hands to offer greetings to him. As he looked at me, I fell down at his feet and prostrated and touched his feet for his blessings. As I got up, he asked me, “Which language do you speak? Kannada, Marathi, Hindi?” I answered in Kannada, “I know all these languages guruji”. Iyengarji was basically from Mysore and so he was very fluent and happy to talk in Kannada. He just replied, “Yoga maadthiya? Maadu Maddu.” meaning “Do you practice yoga? Practice.. practice..” I said yes and told him that I came to Pune only to meet him and it was great to see him. He nodded. I mentioned, “You have given me your darshan (glimpse) and that is more than enough for me. Your words are more than enough for  me.” Saying this I folded my hands and asked his permission to leave. He raised his hand and nodded. Then I turned to Mr. Pandurang with folded hands and thanked him too. I walked up the stairs back to the reception hall. With joy in my heart I left the hall and as I wore my shoes and was about to leave the librarian who was entering stopped and , “Have you taken your books?” I had forgotten about them and I thanked him and went back to get the books. This time I bought yoga belts also along with the books. I walked for a very long distance thinking and recollecting my experiences being surprised how divinity makes an opportunity if everything is allowed to happen on its own. I had no plans and no idea of how this experience would be. From the time I began my journey from , I had no idea how the tour and experiences would unfold. All I knew in the bottom of my heart was that all will be taken care of if I allow things to happen on its own without trying to control anything. And lo! My colleagues from our yoga institute had told me before coming here that I should not go with high hopes and that I might not be able to meet guruji but surprisingly I had the opportunity to meet not only BKS Iyengarji but also his daughter Smt. Geeta Iyengar and Shri. Prashant Iyengar, who came out of his room at the “timely” knocking of a student on his door. More to all, I had the opportunity of seeing Guruji’s classes live! Thanking for this wonderful Christmas day, I took an auto back to my room. I dumped all my purchases there and headed out towards M.G. Road and Camp.
A wonderful and successful tour it was. This page is all about the 4-day tour in just one single page. My purpose of meeting gurus was successful. My interaction with all of them were successful. My interactions with three main gurus Nityanandaji, Muktanandaji and Iyengarji are going to be nostalgic. I was also very glad to unexpectedly meet Dayanand Shaligram Swami’s samadhi. Apart from these great people, I had the opportunity of meeting many other gurus throughout the journey who kept teaching me some or the other thing. These gurus were in the form of friends, people, animals, co-passengers, etc. I thank KP and Kozy too for their company. Thank you, the reader, for being with me throughout one of the most precious journeys of my life.
~ 25 Dec 2008 
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