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Indian City Travelogue - Mayavati, Uttarakhand Visiting Mayavati Ashram, Mount Abbot

By Mr. Sukhendu Contributing Traveller

A long awaited place Mayavati was in my mind for quite some. Finally on 12th of June, 2006 we could make it and boarded the Ranikhet express from Delhi Station reaching Kathgodam station at 6.15 in the morning next day. Our programme was to go to Lohaghat about 165 km. from Kathgodam. I estimated the cost of hiring a car would be around Rs. 1600/- but we found they were claiming Rs. 3500/-, Rs. 2,500/- etc. I had to politely decline such offers. We went out of the station and looked for a cheaper one and finally found a car at Rs. 2000/-. Although it was little above our budget estimate, we finally gave in as alternative by bus would take about 8 to 9 hours journey and we would reach Lohaghat around 3 p.m. The road to Lohaghat was through Bhimtal, Padampuri, Dhanchuli, Sahar Phatak, Devidhura and it had sharp turn at every minute. It was really an exhaustive drive. Lohaghat is at a height of 1700m above sea level and an important point near Mayavati Ashram (1940m) and Abbot Mount (2001m).

Our guest house at Lohaghat had a good view of the thickly tall trees all around. We reached just before 12.00 O'clock and were allotted a room with a view. The room was quite big with attached bath. I could do my daily exercises inside the room, it was that big. The discordant note was that maintenance was poor. As we were very tired we ordered for a hot cup of tea for all. The weather was just right. We refreshed ourselves through hot water bath. By 2 p.m. we had our lunch and sat in the sun for some time. There was another family staying at the guest house who hailed from Allahabad. It was a joint family and the grand parents were very loving and caring. After rest in the afternoon we had a cup of tea and went out for a walk. Shivani, our daughter, was not keeping very well so we had to satisfy ourselves with the local landscape. The night sky was a bit cloudy so we could not see as many stars as we expected to. For the next day programme to Mount Abbhot and Mayavati we confirmed a jeep for Rs. 900/-. The rate was quite high.

Early in the morning of 14th June, I got up at 3.30 a.m. instead of 4.30 a.m. I saw the watch and it was 4.30 a.m.! It was due to my mistake to see the hour hand at 4.30 when it was really 3.30 a.m. After my wash I could do some exercises as there was plenty of time before our scheduled programme at 5.30 a.m. The Jeep came at 5.40 a.m. by the time we all were ready to go. The early morning breeze was so nice but a bit cold. We headed for Mount Abbhot. The road to the Abbot Mount is a spiral and steep one with lovely scene all around. Suddenly you reach a plateau where one can play football or cricket. The view from the top, I suppose, on clear days should be exhilarating having full circle view. The sun rise and the Icy Himalayan view could have been visible if things were really clear. I would like to suggest visitors to visit this point only during Oct-Nov and again March-April when the sky remains clear. It was quite cold there early in the morning.

From this place we went back to our guest house to have breakfast. Shivani and her mother had bath and were ready for breakfast. In the meantime, I basked in the early morning sun and enjoyed listening to the chirruping of the birds.

After breakfast our next destination was Mayavati Ashram. This is about 11 k.m. from our guest house. This is the only Ashram of Sri Ramakrishna Brotherhood where no formal worshipping takes place and there are no idol to worship either unlike other centres of this brotherhood. For a long time I had a longing to visit this place. The location is wonderful amid thick forest commanding a grand view of the Himalayas (unfortunately the summer time- May/June remains cloudy). It is situated at a height of 1940m. This place had a special attraction for me because Swamiji stayed at this Ashram for 14 days from 3rd January to 17th January, 1901 when it was mostly raining, or snowing. Only for 2 or 3 days the weather was little better and he could take a walk along the lake (now a volleyball court).

One day, walking by the lake with Mrs. Saviour and others, he said to her,"In the latter part of my life, I shall give up all public work and pass my days in writing books and whistling merry tunes by this lake, free as a child!" What a wonderful personality he had, I could imagine standing by the side of this apparent lake. The Library room where Swamiji stayed during his sojourn at Mayavati has been converted into a Meditation Hall. I was thrilled to enter the room as if he were present there. The fire place which warmed him once remained a mute witness to his presence. If only the books, the fireplace could narrate to us the tale of his dynamic presence! What a difference could it make to the visitors of this wonderful place!

We sat in the room quietly for sometime. I was thinking how fortunate these books in the library are. These could see the history in the making. Although physically a very little change has been effected and maintained to present a view of the room as it looked during Swamiji?s visit, in reality more than a century flew by. If I knew the art of freezing time, we could have met him here, in this room. What a miracle it would have been! After paying my obescience to this great spiritual leader, I stepped out of the room remembering his message of fearlessness. The blooming flowers in the well laid out garden was another illustration of love for the nature of the inmates. I took a walk in the garden and marveled at the glory of that Supreme that helped create this beautiful nature. There I happened to meet one visitor who frequents this place to enjoy the serene and sombre atmosphere of the Ashram. He took me to the lake where Swamiji used to take a walk by it. I also visited the place where Swami Swarupananda used to meditate. Mrs. Saviour got him a netted structure to keep leopards or such animals at bay so that Swami Swarupananda, the first president of Mayavati, could meditate without any disturbance.

As photography inside the Math premises was prohibited, I went to the book stall and found a copy of the awakened India January 1999 issue. This issue was dedicated to the story and history of Mayavati with a special coverage given on the visit of Swamiji. This issue is indeed a marvelous collection of writings and gives you in details the evolution of Mayavati Ashram through the century and how the baton was passed on to one. We had to leave Mayavati Ashram reluctantly as the closing time was knocking at the door. We thought of spending substantial time at Mayavati but the administrative limitation did not permit us to do so. However, what we experienced there would remain with us for ever and ever.

About Contributing Traveller : Sukhendu sukhendu@divinepersons.com

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