India - Holy places in Maharashtra: Shirdi, Nashik, Trimbakeshwar
After 4 nights in Aurangabad Nina had recovered. She still felt a bit weak, but we decided to move on. Our next destination was Shirdi. We wanted to visit the world famous Sai Baba Temple.
From the shabby and chaotic bus terminal in Aurangabad we tried to get a local bus to Shirdi. First we had to wait for 1 hour to final find a bus. Nothing is written in english and people only speak Marathi, the local language. It was quite a challenge to get on the right bus - especially as when the bus arrived, people were really fighting like animals to get on the bus. With our 2 backpacks we also started pushing and we finally got on the bus. Nina was just relaxed when she finally could share 2 seats with some children - half of a seat was better than standing. After one hour we found more space and could finally sit both more or less comfortably. In the meantime, poor Markus was feeling terrible. He had a cold and fever was rising. Luck was still not on our side. There was another break after 2 hours into our trip. At the bus station a passenger felt sick and did not make it out off the bus. So he was vommiting on the stairs of the bus - just in front of us. But this time we were lucky. It was awful, but we were save and also our backpacks were save. The smell was all that "stuck" to us. The driver quickly "cleaned" it with a little bit of water. Needless to say that we were really happy, when the bus started moving again and we got some fresh air. In total, after 4 hours we reached Shirdi. The only thing we had on our mind was getting to our hotel.
The Sujal Palace, our Hotel, was ok. The room was clean, it was affordable. But the service was mediocre and the staff was not friendly at all. We had a soup and relaxed a little bit. When we felt fit enough we went for a quick walk around Shirdi. This town is only build up for tourists, or better: pilgrims. There is one hotel complex next to another, there are travel shops everywhere. In the middle of the small town there is the famous Shri Sai Baba Samadhi Mandir and some other temples. We jsut looked around and went back to the hotel as Markus was really feeling terrible with fever and a cold. So we had another early night. The next day, Markus was feeling better. As in the hotel, they did not offer breakfast (although there was a restaurant), we had a nice breakfast at a hotel next door. After we dressed nicely for the temple and visited some temple. For the evening aarti we finally made our way inside the samadhi mandir. It was very nice and we could feel a very strong and peaceful atmosphere the closer we came to the Sai Baba Murthi in the front. But again, the many indian pilgrims and tourists were taking out everything from us. They were constantly pushing us. On elady hit Nina and wanted to push her to the side with the argument "I want to go to the aarti". Sorry lady, when you are in the queue for the aarti there person in front of you "may" want the same....... Actually the atmosphere was quite aggressive something we had never experienced in a temple before. It is always busy and people are always pushing each other. But this was really intense here. After the aarti we tried to figure out how we could go to the morning aarti and the darshan without queuing with all those people as we saw that there are special tickets. But to get these tickets one again has to wait for 1 hour. We got different information, but they did not sell the tickets. We would need to come back at 4 am for the tickets. But at that time an aarti takes place and those in the aarti cannot get a ticket. Other pilgrims told us to wait from midnight on to get a ticket otherwise there is no chance to get one.
In the end this was only getting on our nerves. We finally decided to go back to the samadhi mandir on our own without an official darshan or an official aarti. At any time of the day you can enter in the very back. From here you also see Sai Baba, you can have your private darshan - and this is what we did. Quietly without anyone pushing us. We came here to feel the energy of Sai Baba. And we did not come to have an event with lots of tourists. So, in the end, we were happy and thankful with what we received. We had a nice dinner and the next morning, made our way to Nashik.
This time, after all we had gone through during the last days, we had hired a private driver for a drop in Nashik. By the time we wanted to leave, the driver was not there. We had to go to his office and remind him. But then, everything went smoot and 2 comfortable hours later we arrived in Nashik. We had booked in a decent hotel near the Kalika Mandir. First we walked around the newer part of Nashik and were surprised to find an ultranew huge shopping mall. The city was much bigger than we expected but we liked it instantly. We visited the Kalika Mandir, which is a really beautiful Kali Temple and had a nice dinner at our hotel, the Rama Heritage Hotel . The food was nice and we were happy again both feeling much better in the meantime. The following day was packed with exploring Nashik. We went to the Ramkund where part of the Kumbh Mela 2015 took place. We did not take a bath but at least washed our hands and feet in the holy Godavari River. We visted a lot of smaller temples. One highlight was a small Sai Baba Temple. Someone invited us to stay a bit longer as 5 minutes later a puja was starting including an aarti. We stayed and enjoyed it very much.
It was another wonderful blessing from Sai Baba. Later we walked around the Panchavati area, the old part of Nashik. We visited the Kala Rama Temple and finally went to the Sita Gumph. These are the caves where Sita hid while being assailed by the evil Ravana. It was great to climb down the narrow steps into the caves. Furtheron we went over the Victoria Bridge to the Sundar Narayan Temple and than to the MG Road area with lot of shops and stall everywhere. This was a busy area but we loved it. Here one can buy everything! And prices are fair - it is no tourist rip off. Finally, after some suffering, we were back in a place we really loved. The fun of travelling in India was slowly coming back. The perfect days was finished with an invitation to join a puja at a little roadside temple in front of the hotel. It was a privately owned temple. there was a puja, we were singing some bhajans and got a lot of prasad in the end. And of course, the owners kept taking pictures of us and asking us questions. It was great fun and really nice.
Next day we got up early and took a bus to Trimbakeshwar. This village is about 33 km west of Nashik. It is home to one of India's most sacred temples, the Trimbakeshwar Temple containing a yjoti lingam and one of the 12 most important shrines to Shiva. The Lonely Planet says tha tonly Hindus are allowed inside. As the queues again were huge we decided to try and buy a special ticket. We were just about to buy our ticket when an indian appeared behind us and told us, he wanted to invite us into the temple. He gave us the ticket, showed us the way into the temple and then went to his family and followed us into the temple. How kind is that? We were left speechless! This is India - sometimes people are so very welcoming and friendlywithout any expectations. WOW! So finally, we were inside the temple. We got a darshan and were even allowed to sit in a quiet place to meditate as long as we wanted. Right in the middle of one of the most sacred temples in India. Well, we enjoyed it and really meditated for a while. It was amazing and we were so blessed.
Then it was time to walk up the Brahmaghiri Hill to the source of the Godavari River (which is a holy river in India). We took a riskshaw to the starting point close to the village. There we rented a stick (to protect us against the monkeys) and started walking. After a few meters we met 2 saddhus. They started talking to us - not knwoing english. But with hands and feet and our hearts we could communicate somehow. We told them about our spiritual master, Sri Swami Vishwananda. One of the saddhus knew the name. We told them the mantra and like this we ended up singing our mantra while climbing up the Brahmaghiri Hill. How amazing was that! No other indians were asking us for pictures or molesting us with other questions because they were really irriteted what the 2 white persons were doing with the saddhus and while we were singing and laughing together. Hilarious. When we arrived at the source of the Godavari River, one of the saddhus made an abishekam and gave us some drops of the water! What a gift! We got water from the source of a holy river! The other saddhu then took us to a Krishna Temple and made a puja and even gave us prasad. We were so blessed. We thanked them thousand times, gave them some water. We had nothing to eat with us which we could share and they did not want any money. So all we could was to say thank you.
We climbed down and took the bus back to Nashik. It was another amazing day in our trip, if not the most amazing day on this trip. Days like this remind us why we travel through India. We had an amazing time in Nashik, a plce, we are sure to come back one day.
The following day however it was time to leave....