Narrative about my walk of 3,118 km along the river Narmada in India.
Upon leaving my apartment in the Himalayas and returning the key to the landlord, he asked in puzzlement “Why are you walking? Why spend many months of your life on this?” I had no answer. For the past few years I lived next to Ganga in the Himalayas. Being there, being with Ganga Ji, left no more craving in me. I felt complete and needed no new pilgrimage or homage to sacred places in this World. So then “Why?” I silently thought to myself. To be in Narmada’s presence. A wish out of love, unknowingly so.
“Why are you doing the Narmada Parikrama?” is the second most asked question to me during this journey. The first question is “Where are you from?” People get highly excited to see a white female Parikramawasi. And for the next few months I have plenty of time to ask myself “Why am I walking 3,000 plus kilometers around a seeming river? Who is Narmada?”
I hear different stories from different Babas. They say Ganga gives Mukti and Narmada gives Siddhis. Ganga is forceful and Narmada gentle. Both, Ganga and Narmada, are considered as Maa or Maiya, which means Mother in Hindi. Both embody the sacred Feminine. It is said “Narmada is the embodiment of Goddess Narmada, who like Ganga removes the sins of those who bath in her waters. So holy is Narmada that, to remove all sins of all lifetimes, one must bathe three years in the Saraswati, seven days in the Yamuna, one day in the Ganges, or merely glance at the Narmada.” The ancient scriptures speak of Her and Rishi Markandeya, who was the first person to walk the Narmada Parikrama. However, I don’t feel qualified to write about the ancient history of Narmada. It would simply be a copy paste of information I heard; I would not know which one is authentic. I can only share my experiences.
Initially when asked why I am doing this journey, I would give intellectual answers. My favorite line would be that I have heard of this pilgrimage from Sadhus, who completed their Parikrama. It is here at and with Narmada where Yogis, Saints and Sages pursue their Sadhana since time immemorial. At the banks of Narmada great Adi Shankaracharya met his Guru. I believe in the sacredness of this journey and know it will reveal a lot. It will allow me to dive deeper into Self and Existence. But upon reflection it did not seem the true reason why I have embarked on this Parikrama. So why am I here? There are no Sankalpas, Siddhis or Mukti that I aspire to achieve through this walk from Maa Narmada. There is nothing I search for anymore either. Even the search, the seeking of Liberation, Self, God, Truth is an illusion. That too is gone. There is nothing to search. I can not search what I am. There is only to experience. And there is no one who is experiencing! But we have a drama to play…
The daily question by strangers and my attempt to answer truthfully, invoked deep introspection. I observed layer by layer. Each day and with each step. But I could not find a ‘me’ nor a ‘decision’. I feel to say it just happened. But I do not just happen to walk 3,118 tedious kilometers around a seeming river in India. What or who really brought me here? With each step on each passing day and with each experience on the banks of Narmada, it felt that She, Maa Narmada called and I came. And with further honest reflection I cannot really say I came happily or knowingly of who and what Narmada really stands for. It was a tense inner start because I knew how much adjustment I have to endure on the path ahead. I cannot pretend I was in excitement about the thought of walking thousands of kilometers with a 10kg plus backpack on my shoulders and of sleeping on dirty hard floors for the next few months ahead. I knew a bucket shower, timely meals and a toilet will be a great luxury. I knew it is going to be painful. And yet still somehow I started. So next time a Baba asked, I said “Ma Narmada took me by my ears and brought me here!” We both laughed. I finally felt I gave a truthful answer.
Does that mean I see Her with four hands sitting on a lotus and crocodile? I don’t see. I experience. What we experience is very personal. It is irrelevant for others. Call it miracle or hallucination. It is everyone’s own business. It is said that even the Gods envy us for our human birth. If desired and vigorously invocated by our human mind, we have the capacity to manifest anything. It will be supernatural. It will be real to that person. And it will give us conviction. But conviction for what? It all depends on what the end goal of our spiritual journey is. We certainly get what we seek. But as a wise person once said to me “Eventually, we have to drop our experience too!”.…[to be continued in Part 3: Narmade Har Bhagavan – Part 3]