Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rajahmundry Musings

River Godavari at Rajahmundry is wide, five kilometers at places. The other end of the railway bridge over the river cannot be seen. Beneath the bridge, a little towards the east, is the famous Pushkar ghats. Where, in twelve years, the Pushkar festival is celebrated. There are many temples on the banks, one to Mother Godavari which is believed to be the Holy Ganges, and ascetics take rest here and there. Few Brahmin priests, amusingly young and dynamic men, sit under the banyan tree and look for devotees to guide them do the rituals. It is believed auspicious to do that here. The summers are hot in the Deccan, those selling sugar cane juice, fruit juices, butter milk are all busy. Hawkers sell odd items to those sitting in the shades. Come Pushkar, tells a local friend, the place gets filled with saints from across India, mostly from the Himalayas. Those not seen for most of the year come out, it is the mystique of India.

The bathers at the ghats are in bliss, the passengers from a train above looks down and waves, children wave back. This bridge is the second longest in Asia said some one, there are three here and the first one was built by the British. The British daring is indeed amazing, where the Indians were hesitant they dashed in, made dams, bridges, roads, plantations, railways. But perhaps the Indians seldom wanted the rivers and the nature's processes disturbed.
The region of Rajahmundry was with the Muslim rulers when the British arrived, everyone had their contribution to what is modern Rajahmundry. The mosaic of Indian culture gets richer drawing from all. It was once Rajah Mahendri tells some scholars. The place saw a major uprising against the British forest taxes and statues of Alluri Sita Rama Raju who lead the rebellion are all around. Rajahmundry is also having a coveted place in the history of Telugu literature and is home to Adikavi Nannaya.It is home to many great saints and pilgrim centres.

The highways are deserted once noon sets in, the peak summers see only stray people.
The palm leaf roofed toddy sellers are ubiquitous. They help cool the body and give a boost, it is a grace of the Telugu land that they are allowed to function freely. It is a healthy drink, natural. These tiny shops are open from early mornings and customers come and get their fill. It is another Telugu delicacy it seems to drink butter milk with hot rice soup, Kanjivellam in common parlance, the water from boiled
rice. There are umpteen other dishes native to the Andhra region though the term Andhra is now loaded. With Telengana, another region in present Andhra Pradesh, on war path demanding a separate state. But these are issues that sprout and then subside, either way. Divisions can be created in any society and within any system, only need is to high light smaller issues.

It is an irony of history that it was an Andhra man who triggered the movement for linguistic states in India, Potti Sreeramulu. Modern inter state, intra-state disputes in India have their own chemistry and it is not easy to figure out who is right and who wrong. But the fact remains that the calls for development are not always logical in the long term, what is least developed may end up winners, given the evil effects of development as today, but who cares. Not damming the Godavari upstream may be a blessing, perhaps, not an injustice. But such theory may not have any takers. For those who want to escape the choking metros of India, anarchic and maddening, the rural interiors are a solace but those in villages are jealous of the city folks. Amusing that.

For interior Rajahmundry the ambiance of native harmony is visible. Wild palms, mangoes, cashew plantations, large farms, the views are enchanting. Mango season sees the fruit all over, ingenious devices to carry it are invented. The rural houses are still a majority with palm leaf roof, which keep the space cool. No rush to go concrete and fancy mansions are least found, what has become a tragedy elsewhere in south India where the resources like sand, wood and granite are now almost exhausted. Nature mauled up. Good if they learn lessons from those who went ahead. In tune with the spirit of Andhra Pradesh was an Ashram, near Madhurapudi off the airport road. With its self supporting farm and simple life style one is suddenly taken aback. Indeed the spirit of Sanathan Dharma lives on, with no effort to build huge buildings, craving for big fame, these are Saints of another making, as here. It is Sundaran Swamy who runs this Ashram, with no airs whatsoever. From morning to evening people flock to the Swami, with diseases, life crisis, also they drop in just to bow down, and the deserted road is always with a fleet of cars.

At the Ashram one gets to see software professionals cleaning cow sheds, big businessmen sweeping floors, and no wonder the Swamy in simple loin cloth himself does all that. The children who study staying there, from all communities as no barriers are there, have to do all these as well. Honor for work, any work, goes a long way in life as the Swamy seems to believe. It is mainly healing that the Swamy and small band of youth mainly do, that based on Sidha principles. It seems curing cases given up everywhere are normal here. The Swamy learned it all from great mystics, Sidhas. Some of them living in the Western Ghats, is also widely traveled in the Himalayas. Sidha traditions are common heritage of the south, though alive mainly in Tamilnadu and partly Kerala. Historical changes altered the scene. These are oasis in an otherwise bleak healing scenario in India. Healing in Sidha tradition is indeed not just medicines as a patient said, obviously Sidhas mean much more than a physician. For the patients from far and wide it is treatment at nominal costs, even free. Big names of politics, business, film stars all flock here, but once in they are commoners, else no place here, simple. They celebrate occasions like the birth day of the Swami when love and devotion over flow.

This town with many temples, some of them unique, it is idyllic living with no fuss. The simple auto rickshaws designed to carry three accommodate fifteen here and that is a mind set. And for those in and around Rajahmundry it is a God send, this ascetic. It is a refuge they can run to when in crisis, no matter what. Perhaps these are divine plans, for this simple man in his seventies is originally from Kodungalloor, Kerala. The holy town, once capital of the imperial Cheras. The Swami tells that his ancestors were court physicians and Gurus of Travancore royalty. Who moved north at some time, but he has not much praise for the modern trends in Kerala as he often comes with disciples to Sabarimala. The deeper, profound wisdom of Hindu faith remains unrealized and worse is at times getting distorted, misused, he tells. Times shall change he tells, once a government comes to power which honors the true spiritual paradigm.