Saturday, June 9, 2007

Triveni Sangam

If you are frightened of
The turbid waters of the triveni sangam,
Extortions by boatmen, pandas, diya boys,
The crocodiles, and the dead bodies,

Then you will miss
Brahma’s most relaxing presence,
The mesmeric collapsing of time,
The play with the cycle of birth and death,

A discourse on the Bhagvad Gita,
The once-in-a-lifetime darshan of a guru,
The chant ‘Ganga maiya ki jai’
At Bharatvarsha’s only teerath sthan.

The Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata,
The Puranas all see it as a part
Of a greater cosmology—the samudra manthan—
Where devas and asuras fought

To posses the amrit in the pot,
And during this fight
A tiny drop fell at Prayag,
Giving it a super sanctity.

It is here Harshavardan gave away
All his earthly possessions,
It is here the Siddhartha meditated
On the Middle Path,

It is here that itinerant
Chinese, Greek and Indian scholars—
Megasthenes, Huien Tsang and Shankaracharya—
Came to experience the efficacy of Ganga water.

It is here, close to the confluence,
By the banks of the Yamuna,
Akbar built the Allahabad fort
That includes Mogul and Hindu icons—

The Saraswati well, the Patalpuri Temple, and
The immortal Akshaya vat,
Or the banyan tree
And the Ashoka pillar from Kausambi

Now as evening expands from the
Remote horizon to the shore,
And spreads upon the waters
Against the backdrop of the cable bridge,

A few men in white dhoti and kurta
Are busy carrying pots of Ganga water
Back to their village that
They will place on their family alter.

Whatever you might say in the West,
Whatever the Far East might do
To purify the Ganga water
With modern technology

Here is the source
Of immortality,
A function of the higher consciousness,
Purity has nothing to do with hygiene.

Here in midstream,
Where triveni sangam happens
You can stand in waist-deep water
And see the spin

Of muddy yellow Ganga
Against a turquoise blue Yamuna
And imagine a subterranean Saraswati
Rising from deep below the kund.

You are now surrounded by pandas
Who stand with their holy threads,
And tilak on their foreheads
On small wooden platforms

In the middle of the rivers
Reciting Sanskrit slokas,
Helping pilgrims
With ablutions for a fee.

In the evening oil-wick diyas
Go at great speed over the water
What a splendid way to say goodbye
To all your negative karma

If you are brave enough
You can meet your childhood in youth
And see your old age
In a splash of water;

You can understand
Your entire future
In the intricate play
Of light and shade.

They are all here for something big:
A belief, a quest, a realization,
Or a divine intervention.

On a few Kumbh days once in 12 years—
On Makar Sankranti, Basant Panchmi or Maha Shivratri—
You could see all kinds of folks,
Sadhus, ordinary people, and tourists.

You could see Naga babas
Moving around naked
With ash smeared bodies
In a defiant swagger.

You could hear the Parivajakas
Who have owed not to speak
As they make a way through a crowd
By ringing small bells.

You could see the Kalpvasis
Bathing in the Ganga thrice
Drinking its water,
And protesting at the rising water pollution.

You could see the Shirshasins
Who stand on their heads to
Meditate, rest, sleep and
See the world upside down;

Or the Urdhwavahurs who,
In doing severe austerity,
Find solace and peace
In mid and body.

They are here
Waiting at triveni sangam
When Jupiter enters Aquarius
And sun enters Aires.

They are waiting for
The water of the Ganga
To turn to amrit
And then to taste one drop;

To realize this phenomenon
Called moksha.
Some feel it’s a foregone conclusion.
Some feel there’s no harm trying.

Here is civilization at its best
That can take you
Not only into a remembered past
But beyond into an unmediated time,

To the roots of your origin
This is what an old civilization
Like ours
Can do.

There has to be something in it
When so many people
Have thought about it
For so long.

August 2005, Allahabad

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