197 dead in temple stampede in Jodhpur


Being a witness to how pushy-shovey Hindu pilgrims can be, both in the North and South of India, I am however surprised at the extent to which this can occur, leading to massive loss of lives at such a holy place. Some news sources are citing bomb threat as the cause for stampede, while this news source is saying some of the devotees started slipping off the hill causing others to fall on top of each other causing the stampede. Sounds pretty far fetched but from my experiences so far this seems like a more plausible explanation.

They seem to push and press up to the person in front of them because queue cutting seems to be the norm and leaving a gap between you and the person in front invites a queue cutter to exploit the opportunity.

Squeezing yourself into available gaps in order to bypass is also the norm, as is overtaking in queues. Many times a person would tap you on the shoulder and try to push you aside (if you're not aware of what happens) so he can squeeze past you as if you're not in the queue!

They also push and shove because they want to get to point B faster and think that pushing against the person in front will get them there faster.

And of course the insanely dense and out-of-control overpopulation in India does not help.

The really scary times happen when during a massive bottleneck of humanity, another passage or opportunity opens up and then there is a massive push and stampede towards the new opening.

Put it all together and its a stampede waiting for even the most inane excuse to happen.

When even a simple thing as queueing for a temple darshan becomes life threatening, there is something wrong with the whole setup here.

On the TV a reporter lists down a long history of similar stampedes that have occured in other temples in India.

Doing the Touristy Thing in Agra


Of course no Indian trip is complete without splurging for a 750 rupees admission ticket to the Taj Mahal! Its a popular place with grandparents as the average age of tourists here seems to be in the 60s range.



It looks like staying longer in Bodhgaya was not meant to be as train tickets onward were fully booked on all the other days except yesterday night, so here I am in Allahabad 8(.



Soon as I arrived in this Buddhist pilgrimage town I tried visiting the Vipassana Meditation Center in the hopes of changing the venue of my previously registered Vipassana course from Igatpuri to here, with no luck 8(. This means I will need to make it quickly back down to Mumbai by the 8th of October for my 10 day meditation course.

It is a bit saddening as I would have appreciated more time here in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and also here in Bodhgaya, the place where Buddha gained enlightenment. But everything happens for a reason.

Visiting the Mahabodhi Temple this evening and the sacred Bodhi Tree where it all happened i could feel a palpable spiritual energy, even as the throngs of Hindu (yes Hindu) devotees push and shove their noisy way through their pilgrimage here. Despite the deadline of getting to Mumbai in time, I will spend as much time as I can in this beautiful place.

Warming Up to Varanasi

Mulgandha Kuti Vihar

It was coming back from an uneventful day trip to the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Sarnath that a beautiful thing happened. I cram into a shared Vikrams to get back to Varanasi and get unceremoniously dumped somewhere in the suburbs. Hopelessly lost I grab a cycle rickshaw hoping it will take me the rest of the way back to my guest house at Manikarnika Ghats. The rickshaw stops me at the choked up Godaulia Junction and goes no further, the puller points at a police blockade and says he can not pass.

Grumbling I look around and decide that in order for me not to get hopelessly lost I had better make it to the river bank and follow it north to my ghat.

I make it to Dasawamedh Ghat as it gets dark, and get a pleasant surprise! I was blessed with being led very unexpectedly to the nightly Ganga Aarti ceremony at the ghat. It was a beautiful Aarti, the crowds hemmed in on the priests on all sides. The river itself was choked up with so many boatfuls of tourists one could not tell where the ghat ended and the river started.

Ganga Aarti @ Varanasi

Yes I am warming up to Varanasi now. The streets do not look as hostile or filthy as before, and I take less wrong turns to get to my destinations now in the old part of town (XD).

This morning I awoke early enough to bring my puja set to Schindia Ghat. A puja to my beloved Master at such a holy location would surely honor him. There were many stares, of course, and a large portion came from Brahmins, whom I knew would listen in on my Sanskrit chanting with hyper-critical ears. But my devotion to Master won over my shyness this day.

"Master sometimes I feel that there is only you and I, and that nobody else exists," a devotee once said to my Master. "That is Truth," Paramahamsa Nithyananda replied, "But keep seeking for the even greater truth that ONLY you exist."

I kept that in my mind as I began my puja. When the all familiar stirrings of my Ananda Gandha began, the people around me receded. When I finished the puja, a boatman that was sitting near me actually offered me his boat to do puja in for free, the next time I feel like doing one!

Guru Puja @ Varanasi

Yes I am definitely warming up to this holy city.


Well it had to happen sooner or later, and my expectations of it happening probably aided its manifestation - I lose my wallet on the train to Varanasi, but no harm done except for a few hundred lost rupees and a bruised ego.


Am staying in a guest house close to the burning ghats of Manikarnika, where they cremate dead bodies 24/7. It was suggested by my Master I spend as much time there as possible, watching the dead until we can overcome my own fear of dying. The fear of death being the root cause of all fears, accept your own death and you conquer all fear. But frankly I am not too sure I will stay long in Varanasi as it is proving too overwhelming for me, even with 4 months of travelling experience in India under my belt.

The narrow streets in the old part of the city next to the ghats are convoluted and narrow.. too narrow for traffic, so its walking only. And many hundreds of meters of confusion and disorientation await the walking tourist here 8(. On top of that the cows here produce dung overtime, and the filth does not seem to get washed away. Many times I was literally wading in it.

Schindia Ghat

And it is probably these prejudices that I am failing to overcoming that is stopping from my feeling the spirituality of the place. A friend of Masha's once reported that he had actually fell into the bliss state (you know, when you feel like you're high on marijuana) just by walking along the ghats. Pretty similar to what I felt in Master's presence, or during my 2nd trip to Tiruvannamalai, except without the meditation!

Paramasukadam, that's probably the best description of the emotion - "Happiness without cause".


This morning's boat trip along the Ganges was beautiful though.

A Bath in the Ganges


Before I left for Varanasi I took a bath in Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar. The Ganges seemed clean enough there, none of the "septic quality water" reports coming from Varanasi. Of course I would have liked to have taken it in Gangotri or Gaumukh 8(.

India Floods


Even as I sigh at my predicament here in Rishikesh about my failed Char Dham Pilgrimage, news come of floods in eastern Orissa killing many Indians, as well as persistant rainfall in northern India. The guides here in Rishikesh tell me the rains are coming way after the monsoon period - an unnatural weather pattern. I am grateful to be safe and dry here and at the same time extend my condolences to the families of the people lost in the rains and the floods.

My Doomed Char Dham Pilgrimage


I left Rishikesh 3 days ago to visit the holy places of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. But here I am back in Rishikesh 8(.

My first destination would have been Yamunotri. It was 2 days of bus hopping that got me all the way to Hanuman Chatti, just kilometers from the start point of the trek to Yamunotri. Travelling via the buses in the northern parts of Uttarakhand proved to be a challenge and a hassle.. none of the conductors or anyone for that matter seem to know a word of English, the buses run extremely infrequently - I had been stuck in Dharasu overnight because I missed the only bus running to Barkot, which ran at 6 in the morning. On top of that everyone seemed to have a different opinion of when the buses leave, or if there are buses available for that matter.

It had rained cats and dogs ever since the bus reached the mountains and it did not let up for all the days of my travels.

At Hanuman Chatti I received the news of landslides closing the road down to Jenki Chatti. An overnight stay later and the situation did not improve. Finally I meet a man who spoke enough English to tell me he had come from Kedarnath, Badrinath and Gangotri, and that the situation is just as bleak in those places too.

I also met a kind old man who travelled with me from Hanuman Chatti all the way back to Dharasu and to a place called Chamba. He insisted I stick with him and he was a Godsend with his knowledge of Hindi. We did not have quite the vocabulary to talk to each other, but somehow we managed an understanding. I felt a great deal of love for the man.

Through asking the various conductors in the buses we had hopped on and off of, he had gathered that Badrinath would still be a possibility.

But at Chamba I found out I had to stay the night because I missed the only bus to Srinagar for the day, which ran at (sigh) 6 in the morning.

Which was about the time I threw in the towel, licked my wounds and headed back to Rishikesh.

Am more than a little sad at the turn of events because this pilgrimage would have been the high point of my travels in India, but I am accepting of this turn of events. I can always do this pilgrimage in my next trip to India, better still I could join the next Himalayan Yatra with my Master!

Dreaming of Kriya

Shiva in Meditation

Whats in a dream? When I think about the really good dreams I've had in my life, the ones that make you want to go back to sleep despite all your worldly responsibilities waiting for you outside your bedroom, are the ones where I can do fantastic things like pick up and move things with my mind, and fly, especially flying!

Always I would wake up feeling something awesome had happened.. during those dreams I would do something special with my breath and my will and intent to make the things happen. The dreams I've had may have varied but the special "technique" was always the same. Yet when I would try hard to imitate what I did in those dreams to reproduce those fantastic abilities in real life I would always fail.

The strongest dream I had during the time I awoke to this great spritual adventure of mine.. india, Nithyananda, et al, was that I could burst into flame at will and if I burnt intensely enough I could fly.. yes like the human torch in fantastic five.. I can't get this dream out of my head because of the immense feeling of freedom and release I felt when I flew.

Yesterday after the unguided kriya session it came as a delayed revelation to me what the Kriya Swamiji said on Day 1 at the initiation, and that I had been dreaming of this experience all this while..

"Breath is fire" Swamiji had said during initiation, "Do you understand?". I had nodded and this is now ironic to me, as the link between those words and my dream only came to me yesterday, almost a week after he said it!

And with that realization came the memories of all the other dreams I've had and my trying so hard to bring the dream technique of breathing out to the real world. Guess what? The technique that I had been using in my dreams was EXACTLY the "Kriya Breath" taught to me here in Rishikesh!

And the realisation of this is now guiding my real life kriya meditations.. I am using the memory of what I experienced in all those dreams (and especially the fire dream) to further perfect my breathing technique.

Haridwar: Sri Sri Anandamayi Ma's Samadhi, Chanda/ Mansa Devi Temples, Har-Ki-Pauri Ghat

The first time I had seen a picture of Ma was when I was still in Singapore poring over Google searches on things to see in my India trip. I had not known a great deal about her life, just that her picture itself seemed to draw me closer.

In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahamsa Yogananda wrote about his visit with her, and in his book is a photo where she hides playfully behind him and stares naughtily at the camera. It had given me a strange jolt when I saw that photo.

Today as I entered her ashram and paid my respects at her samadhi, I could not hold back my tears as I saw a whole tableful of her photos on sale at the ashram bookshop. I felt so much love for her and I still don't know anything about her except what was written in Autobiography of a Yogi.

I had a wonderful time meditating at her samadhi till I got booted out at lunchtime when it closed for a 2 hour break.

Mansa Devi Cable Car

Had a wonderful time in the cablecars leading to the Mansa Devi and Chanda Devi Temples. Inside the temples was business as usual though.. "Cello Cello" the priest said impatiently as I handed him my pooja plate, and I get pushed past the deity.. fast food religion..


Am endeavoring to revisit Har-ki-pauri during evening Aarti. I could not do so today because I had to get back to Rishikesh to attend evening Pooja at the Kriya Ashram and my nightly guided Kriya session.

Kriya Yoga Initiation


It had been one of the most beautiful ceremonies I had attended. In the huge circular meditation hall of the Kriya Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh (which has a resemblance to the Isha Temple in Coimbatore), 5 eager people received their initiation from Swami Shankarananda Giri, spiritual heir of the Kriya Yoga movement stretching all the way from Lahiri Mahasaya, who had received the teachings from Mahavatar Babaji himself.

It is also a secretive ceremony, the details of which, and the techniques of Kriya Yoga itself, I will not disclose. Kriya is only taught upon initiation by a Master.


Do I feel this conflicting with my devotion to my master? Not at all. It was my Master who said in many of his talks: "Spirituality is like a garden of flowers. Pick whichever you like and make a beautiful bouquet for yourself". Also, Mahavatar Babaji was the same enlightened being who gave my Master the name "Paramahamsa Nithyananda"!

That I was meant to learn Kriya Yoga I have no doubts now. The coincidences and events leading me to this initiation are pretty obvious signposts in retrospect.. from my Master recommending Paramahamsa Yogananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi", to meeting and getting to know Masha who is an avid Sudarshan Kriyaban (from Art of Living), to meeting Divyanand Swamiji on the desolate hill at Gokarna Beach (who had a slightly perplexed look in his face when we declined to be taught Kriya at the time), to finding a copy of "Autobiography of a Yogi" and being engrossed and fascinated by the reading, to finding no suitable accomodation in Haridwar and deciding to stay in Rishikesh, finally having the amazing looking ashram pop up at Tapovan in Laxman Jhula as I ride past in the Vikrams.

Only today after the initiation do I find the plot thickening. The archarya in charge of teaching the technique proper told me that Swami Shankarananda Giri had only decided to conduct the initiation yesterday, and that he is very unpredictable in conducting these initiations. And that once it was decided, the 5 of us turned up to be initiated "like magic".

If you've read "Autobiography of a Yogi" you wouldn't be surprised by this apparently miraculous meeting of coincidences.

Myself I am extremely thankful, had I turned up one day early or later in the ashram, I would have missed the opportunity! The archarya said it could be weeks to months before Swamiji would concede to another initiation.

In his initiation speech Swamiji used the phrase "going home" so often, as if he dug into my inner space for the vocabulary to use.

"Going home" has a special meaning for me, almost like a mantra, because of a childhood dream I have never forgotton, of wandering through a house with many stairwells and doors and finally coming to a warm lighted room with very familiar young faces all welcoming me, and one particular girl saying "Welcome home". The memory of that dream as well as the phrase itself is able to bring me to tears with a strange homesickness.

As the first person to be initiated I sat in front of him as he worked on my body. In my amazement he poked at my heart chakra almost the same way my master did. "Here" he said cryptically, before continuing the process. Coincidence? Is there such a thing anymore?

I will spend a few more days in Rishikesh meditating in this beautiful ashram and perfecting my Kriya techniques!

Rishikesh: Kriya Yoga Ashram


After a morning in Haridwar checking out 2 ashrams to stay (and finding them either overpriced or unintelligible to the foreigner) I decide to move to Rishikesh for accomodation.

As soon as my packed Vikrams reaches the Laxman Dhula I gasp as what do I see but the Kriya Yoga Ashram. It's beautiful white dome framed by trees beckons me to the point of my choosing accomodation on the unpopular side of the river, away from the tourists and closer to the ashram.

I had written to the ashram earlier about taking deeksha but the problem was whether Swami Shankarananda Giri would be around to give it - Kriya is only passed on from enlightened master to disciple. Today after settling down in my guest house I rush over to the ashram to find that I will be able to be initiated tomorrow morning!

Have spent the day shopping for the items needed: 5 flowers and 5 fruits.. finding 5 different varieties of flowers has proven to be a challenge here in the Rishikesh "flower market" (more like a handful of stores).

Leaving Ladakh

Has it been a week? It felt like a long time!

My master has pointed out the difference between loneliness and aloneness in many of his talks. Here as I leave Deniz, the last of the Fantastic Five, the group that made my Ladakh stay such a memorable week, I find Lonliness inexoriably set in. I had always been comfortable travelling by myself, now it just seems empty without the ol bunch of friends at dinnertime, or sharing the sights together.

While Kevin and Stephanie head for Nepal, Max will stay in Leh for a Vipassana course and Deniz is headed for Daramshala while I go to Haridwar.

Bye guys, you are sorely missed 8(.

Pangong Tso, Chemray, Shey, Tiksay

Pangong Tso was cold! We were told to prepare for snow even, but were blessed with only occasional cloudy skies.

We tried unsuccessfully to cross the border to Tibet by walking up to it! But the lake is huge and I don't think we even remotely reached there. Haha

The next day was spent exploring the monasteries at Chemray and Tiksay and the Palace at Shey.

In Ladakh!

I made it! Am currently in cold frozen bliss in the streets of Leh. The 16 hour minibus ride to Leh turned out to be an overnighter after the bus (surprise surprise) broke down hours from Leh.


The positive side of this story is that I have 4 other traveling companions for the time that I'll be in Leh - Deniz from Turkey, Maximillian from Argentina, Kevin and Stephanie from France. They are all spiritually inclined in their own way, and blessed, many thanks to existance for bringing us together. I will be exploring the lake of Pangong Tso with these beautiful people where we will spend the night near the border of Tibet.


In the meantime, I am staying in an amazing single room in the Juley Guesthouse. Its clean with rich carpets and is next to a bubbling stream who's noise is like a mantra which makes meditation and pooja in the room such a blissful experience.


I can't believe I am in Ladakh. Its the northernmost destination in my itinerary. There is so much peace and beauty in the people and the place. It reminds me so much of my visit to Tibet. I have no words.

The Long Haul to Ladakh

To cover the amazing distance between Mumbai and Ladakh, and to do it ASAP before Ladakh's roads close for the season, had me envisioning an epic struggle and journey of an almost biblical magnitude - this notion was fed by an Israeli girl's account of the horrors of her 2 day bus trip to Ladakh, which she had recounted with sick relish while we moonlighted as extras on the Bollywood set in Mumbai. Fortunately, existance decided instead not to allow me to wallow in such drama.

First was the 28 hour train ride from Mumbai to Delhi. That was much more comfortable than it sounded! The sleeper class on the trains have a nice firm, straight backrest that's perfect for meditation, and I was in meditation pretty often throughout the journey.

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Next was the 12 hour bus trip to Manali. This was cake as well after I found the counter in Delhi's bus terminal to get the ticket. And the departure time on the bus gave me the opportunity to shop for warm clothes in Delhi.. I got a taste of Delhi's awesome metro subway, its almost like Singapore's! Oh and the McDonald's in India has McVeggie Burger which I wish Singapore's McDonalds had as well 8(.

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The bus-ride to Manali was comfortable as bus-rides go. I occured to me during the trip, early at dawn while the bus was still a ways from Manali, that I have been the happiest during the times where I've been travelling from destination to destination, more so that when I am doing the touristy thing in the destination itself.

"Getting there is half the fun"? Sure seems like it to me.

When I was a kid I used to be fetched around by my parents, fetched to school, fetched back home. This carried on even when my peers were old enough to be taking the public transport themselves. It was much to my consternation as I would be the butt of their teasing, that I had to be babied back and forth that way.

I remember that when I finally did get the chance to take the public transport, it had been such a catharsis that for many years one of my favorite pastimes would be to take the bus for no reason at all except for the purpose of riding that bus from terminal to terminal.

Even in my University days when I was embroiled in the architecture course, and needing a few hours of sleep between classes, instead of sleeping in the perfectly comnfortable bed of my dormitary, I would instead head for the terminal and hop on a bus, and fall asleep at the back seat. Only to be awaken with a jolt when the bus reached the other end-terminal, crossing the characteristic hump that all terminals seemed to have. Depending on my sleep requirements, I'd either take the bus back to the original terminal and resume my slumber, or take it back to classes.

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Travelling on buses, trains and even planes must be a strong vasana in me. Its the landscape whizzing by and the wind in your face, if you manage to get the window open. When the eyes relax the scenes fall into a comfortable, hypnotic blurr that I can relax into. Its the regular motions, the rocking, the bumping. The people that hop on and off. The cramp in your legs, the rude/ friendly/ non-chalant conductor, the amazing places that buses take you for pit-stops...

Something in me just wants to go and go and go, and this something really appreciates the distances involved between my Indian destinations.

And when the sun rose this morning, we had reached the Kullu Valley. And as the amazing landscape of impossibly steep hills and icy clear streams on round pebbly boulders became illuminated I remembered a meditation exercise mentioned by Osho...

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Don't allow any words to come into your inner space the next time you see something amazing.. don't think "It's beautiful" or "It's awesome" don't verbalise. Try to stop the flow of words and just be in the experience.

So I stopped the flow best I could. But in its place my tears flowed instead. It was such an intense experience, to be in that valley at that moment in time, that moment never happening again, never being able to be reproduced in memory or words. I don't know what I felt except that it felt very positive and overflowing. I have nothing but gratitude to have gone through that experience.

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Here in Manali I have another day's wait for the next bus that will be the last leg of my journey to Leh. I expected hell but existance decided something altogether different. In the beauty of this place it is very easy to always be in awareness of my blessings.