Temple visits these days are far too complicated. When I tell people how incredibly simple it was to just go to Tirupathi or Siddhivinayak or Mahalaxmi only 30 years ago, they just can’t believe it – especially when you see lines three people deep snaking round and round the temple complex. Plus you have to make sure that you don’t go on a day dedicated to that God. Plus you have to make sure that the God is not sleeping when you go to visit. And more than anything else, you cannot visit the temple unless you are called by Him.
Strange as this sounds, it is true. A friend of mine who had a strong desire to visit Balaji just casually mentioned this to her husband one day. Now the Thirupati Devasthanam is one of the most complicated temple visits these days – you not only need to book a place in the queue but have to make elaborate arrangements to drive/fly down there, make hotel reservations and eventually organise everything to fit in with your programme. But no sooner had S mentioned it to her husband, than he actually came home from work the next day, grabbed an overnight case, bundled her into the car and drove all the way to Mumbai’s airport. Shocked as she was by his impulsiveness, she just went along with the flow wondering how he was going to manage the last minute tickets, the hotel stay etc etc. At the airport they managed to get the last seats on the plane and went off to Chennai. In Chennai they stayed with an old family friend who happened to have some relatives staying at the same time. In the course of conversation, when the other friend heard of their intention to visit the temple mentioned that he was the holder of a special Darshan Pass which he was happy to offer to the two of them. And they had the best darshan ever.
On the other hand, my friend Vee and her husband were going through a tough time. She thought that going to Tirpuathi would help. Not only would she seek the blessing of the Lord but also get a break from the situation at home. After pestering her husband for several months, he finally managed to find some time off from his hectic schedule. They had planned their journey down to the T – the airline tickets, the road trip up the hill, the accommodation and even the passes for the Darshan. Everything went like clock work and Vee went to bed that night happy that finally she would be able to get the early morning Darshan of the Lord. But when she woke up the next day, she found that started her period a whole week early and she couldn’t go to the temple that day!
Our Yoga teacher’s wife was one of those frail, malnourished women who failed the medical fitness test to go to Kailash Mansarovar. Undeterred by this fact, she told the tour organisers that she was willing to go at her own risk. On the other hand, there was a hale and hearty doctor who had accompanied his wife on the trip merely to enjoy the experience and support his wife’s spiritual quest. The trip went as planned but on the day of the Parikrama, the doctor found himself unable to accompany the pilgrims as he had an unexplained bad stomach. So , he had to make do with staying by himself enjoying the scenery ,while the rest of the group went on the Parikrama.
For a long long time now, my desire to walk to Pandharpur remains just a desire. I have not even managed to visit the Vithal temple in Mumbai all this time. In fact I found out where it was just around 5 years ago – one near Worli, one near Bandra and one somewhere near Sewri/ Wadala???
Similarly, I have been wanting to visit the 8 Ganpatis in Maharashtra and have made two attempts to plan a trip. Will I be lucky a third time?