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Have you ever undertaken a journey to God’s own land? We have many in India and as devout Indians, we do visit as many as possible in our lifetime. Pilgrimage, therefore, is a part and parcel of every Hindu’s life, Muslim’s life, Jain, Budhist, Christian’s and who not! My parents had already taken me for a journey to ‘Char Dham’. And now it was time to go on a pilgrimage of ‘Dwadash Jyotirlinga’. I was excited, in fact, very excited to take that journey.

Reaching there I was filled with that pious feeling that connected every person who had come there. The place resonated with chants of worshipping Lord Shiva. The land itself beamed of the presence of God Himself. I am clueless why I felt like that but this feeling was almost engulfing me with a strange but well-known pleasant ache within my heart! I felt the presence of GOD amongst all of us who were present there. 

I think everybody has their own way of looking at their lives as some kind of pilgrimage. Some people will see their role as a pilgrim in the terms of setting up a fine family or establishing a business inheritance. Everyone’s got their own definition. Mine, I suppose, is to know myself.

Yes, I really felt united with my self. I had tears when I came near the jyotirlinga. I was thankful to God for letting me step on that land where Gods resided once or so it is believed. This thankfulness, this gratitude was flowing in the form of tears. And I saw many more like me wiping their tears and feeling grateful. 

Our this unison was suddenly disrupted by policemen on duty of maintaining discipline near the shrine. I respect their sense of duty, but people who travel long distance suffering all odds, deserve at least 2 minutes with their God. Anyway, we were pushed aside even before we could save that image in our memory. And we were done with it. I came out of the temple and saw the long serpentine queue of devotees waiting for Darshan. Many of them were old, disabled, children and pregnant women who were hungry too. They were looking at me as if I had almost attained the much-coveted salvation already!  

The thing that hurt me most during the visit to these places of worship was the lack of cleanliness. People coming to worship also make dirty their surroundings. They spit pan here and there, being well aware of the fact that other worshippers are walking barefoot. Sitting in one of the very beautiful temples ‘Prem Mandir’ of Holy Land Mathura, I asked one elderly person “why do you spit here in your own temple?”
He was surprised and asked me back “Have they made any place to spit, no, then we are bound to spit here.”

I had no answer, I was irritated to the core. This is the respect for shrines that they visit out of reverence. They fast for these Gods and dirty the land of same God. 

People sitting there gossip, take wrong ways to have early Darshan. Tell lies and fight with fellow worshippers for petty issues, is it for this they undertake this tough journey???

Asceticism doesn’t lie in mere words; He is an ascetic who treats everyone alike. Asceticism doesn’t lie in visiting burial places; it lies not in wandering about nor in bathing at places of pilgrimage. Asceticism is to remain pure amidst impurities.

I understand and I genuinely do understand the feelings of people but I will appreciate if they also could understand the value of keeping their place of worship clean. This way also they can show their reverence to God. We do the same to our little place of worship in our home then why not extend the same here too. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness ” we have been hearing this for ages now, then why not practice the same. Let’s understand the value of religion and faith. Just visiting a shrine or taking bath in Holy water is not going to wash away sins, taking an initiative to respect these places and keeping them clean is going to please God.

Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.

by Nidhi Sharma

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