Narrative about my walk of 3,118 km along the river Narmada in India.
Countless times during the past 108 days I visualized the day I will walk into Amarkantak, which would mark the final day of my Narmada Parikrama by walk. I visualized the familiar main street of Amarkantak, my favorite teashop on the way and my final steps into the Mandir. I visualized it so many times in minutest details and wondered each time how I will feel. If I will cry, jump in joy, have media chase me again or lie flat down in pranams infront of the source of Narmada.
In 108 days I walked 3,118km to complete the Narmada Parikrama on foot. That means I walked an average of around 30km to 35km each day in order to complete the circumambulation of the river Narmada, an ancient Parikrama route in India. Narmada is one of the five holy rivers of India. It is the only one, which has the tradition of being circumambulated from source to sea and back. Narmada flows in central India through the states of primarily Madhya Pradesh, then Maharashtra and Gujarat. It creates a natural border between South and North India.
There are various rituals that shall be followed by the Parikramawasi, the person who does the Parikrama; I followed the following commitments:
- Travel without money and entirely surrender each day to Mother Nature to take care of my daily needs
- Carry my own backpack
- Walk the entire Parikrama on foot without taking any vehicle
- Never cross the river and reach from South to North bank only once the river dissolves into the ocean
- Follow Brahmacharya and behave with humility, gentleness and truthfulness to all
- Not ask for anything and accept whatever is being offered
- Walk on the banks or in close proximity to Narmada
- Not pollute Narmada and refrain from putting shampoo, soap or any other waste into the river
- Not make prior commitments or appointments and accept each day and situation as it comes
And today is the day – in the far distance I finally see it: the main street of Amarkantak. This is the very moment, the last steps of my Parikrama, which I imagined so many countless times.
I smile. I cannot stop smiling and feel my eyes watering up with tears. The emotions shoot up into my throat. Emotions of joy, relief, pain all together at the same time. I walked 3,118 km in 108 days during which I never knew if, when, how I will get food and shelter. During which I walked through jungles, climbed mountains in Shoolpani, slept on floors in kutirs, ashrams, temples, schools, construction sites, homes or in the open. During which I may or may not get a chance to wash myself, may have a toilet or find bushes in nature instead. During which I curled up into the tiniest ball due to incredible cold winter nights in the open or during which I see my skin first getting burned, then adjusted and finally getting darker with each passing week due to the Indian summer heat. During which my veins start pulsating out of my skin due to the loss of body weight and fluid or see my foot nail half fall off. But most of all during which I see purity, divinity and love in some form of exchange each day.
People, who see me, a total stranger, walk by their homes, shops, ashrams shout across the road “Betho betho!” [Sit sit!]. They insist I shall rest, eat and offer me biscuits, tea, meals, shelter, clothes. Encounters that happen unasked and every single day. I seemingly have nothing and yet I live like a true MataRani, a Queen. The only words I can find and literally mean: I feel like my heart bursts each day. It melts. Overwhelms. Each encounter deeply touches my heart. And from there, from my heart, it expands into each cell of my being. It is something beyond that form, beyond the person that stands infront of me, serves and shares wisdom in the highest form. There is a force, a presence that I feel, that is in, out and between that person and me. I am not sure how to call it either. Love, God, Consciousness, Narmada, Existence. And whenever I feel that loving, gentle, undeniable presence inside and outside of me, I feel to cry. But instead I fold my hands, slightly bow down and say the customary greeting “Narmade Har Bhagavan”.
My introductory words do not aim for self-celebration but for an honest presentation of what I felt and endured on this journey. This sharing of my journey is not about me. It is about the countless divine souls that call the Narmada Valley their home. This sharing is about their wisdom, service, devotion and surrender to Narmada. This sharing is about goodness, divinity, wisdom, seva of saints, sadhus, villagers, farmers, tea sellers alike. This sharing is about an ancient civilization and sacred tradition that I have not experienced in any other part of the World. This sharing is about something undeniable divine flowing through each moment and each being. This sharing is about Narmada Ji!….[to be continued in Part 2]