Around The World Tour
Pravin Vaghani(Photo by Unusha Vaghani)
Our World Tour
14 June 2006 to 30 September 2006
USA, Uk, Germany, India, Singapore
Pravin & Manjula Vaghani
(This is a 32 part travel-diary, originaly written in Gujarati)
(English translation by: Dr Kishor P. Dabke
Hon. Research Associate, Dept of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering, Monash University CLAYTON, Melbourne Australia)
What’s a world tour? Going around the earth. Starting from a place, travelling round the world continuously in one direction and returning to the same place completes a world tour. Hinduism places great importance on circumambulation or travelling around. Circumambulation of temples, mountains and holy places are ways to accumulate great merit(Punya), for higher recognition in Heaven. Circumambulation of the earth is, of course, the best because it includes simultaneously going around divine places, mountains, rivers, places of pilgrimage and also the Sadhus, Mahatmas and Saints.
When this was written in the Puranas (holy books of Hinduism) there were neither the roads nor the means of travel that we have today. Travel was difficult. The greater the difficulty of the travel, the greater the suffering, the steeper the slopes, the greater was the accumulated merit. It was perhaps not known how big the earth was nor whether it was round. What lay beyond seven mountains, seven jungles, seven great rivers and seven seas was also unknown.
Circumambulation of Shiv Temple
To prove a rule, there must be an exception. Thus, there is a god whose temple does not allow one to go around completely. In the temple of Shiv(Shankar), Shiv is represented by a Phallic. To keep this Phallic cool, water drips continuously over it from a pot hanging overhead. This water is collected in a basin just behind the temple. This is called Jaladhari meaning ‘Collector of Holy Water’. One is not allowed to step over this basin. When one comes to the basin, one must stop, bow to the basin, collect water and sprinkle it over one’s head; then one must turn back and go around to come to the basin from the other side. That’s one circumambulation of Shiv Temple.
Whole Country on Pilgrimage
In India, after Diwali, in the month of Kartik, the weather is cool and comfortable and greenery all around. People of all faiths embark upon pilgrimage small and large. Several group tours to places of pilgrimage are also organized, some by chartered bus, some by reserved railway carraiges and some even by a whole train chartered. Every holy place of any size and any where is busy with inrush of faithfuls. Street vendors have a bonanza of business.
In Junagadh(Gujarat), a walk around Mount Girnar is arranged. This starts and ends at the Bhavnath Shiva temple at the foot of the mountain. Thousands of faithfuls from many walks of life, not only from India but also from abroad as well participate in this. This is a group tour which brings together women, men and children, young and old, able and disabled, poor and rich, educated and uneducated, ascetics, sadhus, devotees and people speaking many languages into one great throng. Some run out of food, some have theirs stolen, some are injured, fall sick and even die. But people’s belief in this tour is so strong that there is an increasing number taking part every year. The idea of circumambulation and the associated accumulation of merit is a big attraction.
Worship of Parents is the Highest of All
When the two sons of Shankar (Shiva) – Ganesh and Kartikeya – had an argument about who was the better, their mother Parvati suggested a resolution: they should both gshould perform the circumambulation of the earth seven times; one who finished first would be great and honourable. This was a patently deadly and unjust competition. Kartikeya was slight and rode a feathered and fast-as-wind peacock while the rotund Ganesh rode a little mouse! The winner was obvious even before the race started. Before Ganesh could get the mouse out of its hole, Kartikeya was onto his peacock and had disappeared over the horizon with a breezy ‘see you soon’. But Ganesh is renowned to be possessing great wisdom, thinking power and a philosopher. He is very clever, thoughtful and knowledgeable. He asked his parents – Shankar and Parvati – to sit together, paid them homage and went around them leisurely seven times. He then declared: ‘Circumambulation around your parents is as meritorious as going around the earth’.
This was accepted so that when Kartikeya, riding his peacock and out of breath, returned after his seven rounds around the earth, he saw that the race had already been awarded to Ganesh.
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