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Pundit calls time on India pilgrimages

Published: 
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Devotees worship a statue of the Hindu god Lord Hanuman at Rishikesh, India.

Pundit Ramesh Tiwari’s 18th pilgrimage to India in July, was his last. The 71-year-old head of the Edinburgh Hindu Temple in Chaguanas said he wants to spend his twilight years focusing on the development of the temple and doing even more devotional work in the community. 

Tiwari said pilgrimages over the years have brought many devotees closer to their religion but he believes this year’s was the best as the group was able to visit sacred sites as far north as Kashmir and Chennai in the deep south. 

The pundit first visited India in 1991 to order murtis (religious marble images) in Jaipur where he spent three weeks looking after all the arrangements for shipping. He started taking the pilgrimages in 1995 because devotees has thia burning desire to see religious places in scriptures. Tiwari believed that as the leader of the Temple, he should take the lead in fulfilling the expectations of the devotees.

The hectic three-week tour that culminated on July 27, saw devotees visit India’s holiest rivers—the Ganges and Yumana. The participants did devotions and participated in afternoon prayers in the holy towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh, both located on the banks of the Ganges. 

In south India, the group visited shrines in Trichi and Madhurai. They also visited the famous Dal Lake and travelled by train to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, near the border between India and Pakistan. 

Tiwari has seen most of the religious sites highlighted in the Hindu scriptures. He pointed to the Akshardham Temple of the Gujaratis in Delhi and said it is one of the “most awesome sights” in the world.

“Bathing in the holy Ganga and witnessing the evening Aarti is a must for every Hindu visiting India,” Tiwari said. 

“Mathura and Brindaban are also notable places where Hindus revere the Avatar of Lord Krishna, as well the Holy Rameshwaram where Shri Rama held a thanksgiving pooja to Lord Shiva for his guidance in the battle against Ravana. It is also said this is the spot where the Setu Bridge referred to in the holy Ramayan, is built by Shri Hanuman, Nal and Neel that connects Rameshwaram to Sri Lanka.”

The pilgrims also visited the flower gardens of Kashmir, slept in the Houseboats on the Dal Lake, rode in the Gondolas and took the 10,000 feet high cable car ride near the mountainous Sri Nagar. 

Amritsar’s Golden Temple is always an attraction for pilgrims who are always eager to see the changing of the guard where both Indian and Pakistan show off their military talents and exceptional drumming skills. Some of the Trinis couldn’t resist the drumming and took the chance to do some chutney dancing. 

Tiwari said, “The tallest Shiva Lingam in the world provided the Shakti or spiritual lift to the pilgrims as we visited Thanjore as well as the 30-foot sleeping Vishnu in Trichy—the only one of its kind in the world.

“These were some of the amazing undated religious artefacts of the Hindu religion that bring tourists, historians and pilgrims of every race to India,” Tiwari said. 

The journey was worth the effort for seasoned traveller Boodram Ramoutar, 69, who has been to India 14 times. He feels, however, that too many of the religious places of interest in India have become too commercialised. 

“In this day and age everyone is looking to make money,” he said. 

It was the first visit to India for photographer Vindra Gopaul-Boodan who felt it was a good experience for her to visit the land of her forefathers. 

“Apart from the pesky hotel staff demanding tips for everything and the unsightly unmentionable experiences on the trains, it was good to see India from a perspective of being a child with Indian and European ancestry. 

“I am really glad to see India progress, but even more delighted that the indentured immigrants took the bold leap and decided to come to T&T to work in the sugar plantations, we in T&T are so much different from the relatives we have in India. In T&T we have so much more opportunities than a lot of people in India, especially educational opportunities for women to advance. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos at many of the places where we stopped, all we remain with are memories.”

She added, “Some people have said at times that there is poverty in India, but I did not see poverty, I saw a country where everyone works, the work ethic is so much different than that of T&T so we cannot adopt an ethnocentric view. Life is a daily hustle, for the Indians, if you are a beggar you have to get up early to catch the worm in a country that seems at times to be filled of magical madness especially in a sea of traffic.

“For me the journey was worth it and it is sad that this is the last pilgrimage hosted by Pundit Tiwari because he was very versed in explaining the cultural and religious aspects of some of the shrines we visited.”