The next morning began early since there was a long homa at Thiruvaiyar temple. It was interesting to see the contrast in our group – the ladies dressed in colorful sarees and the men dressed in white veshtis and angavastras. This temple also had a very ancient vibe to it. The entrance was again very ornate with various figures sculpted on it while the inner sanctum just had a single flame. There were mirrors around this flame which produced a circular pattern by reflection. Apart from the visual appeal of the arrangement, what was striking was how they had depicted the message of Vedanta – One becomes many.
Gurudev was welcomed by a traditional orchestra playing trumpets and the chief Swamiji Dharmapuram Aadeenam Thambiraan Swamigal who had a huge turban on his head, made entirely of his own hair. Guruji later told us that it was 21 feet long. What’s more, his Guruji’s hair was 40 feet long. We had a long Ati Rudra homa which also featured some music and Bharat Natyam performances.
After having lunch, we proceeded to the resort, where we were going to spend the night. On the way, we saw river Cauvery and could not resist getting off the bus to make a few splashes and dip our feet. We reached Sterling Resorts by early evening. The owners had very carefully maintained the whole look and feel of the place from a hundred years ago. We could see working telephones with separate ear and mouth pieces, fans that were hand-driven, a printing press from the nineteenth century etc. The reception even had the newspaper cutting from the day India got Independence. However, it also had some modern elements and one that immediately caught my attention and was used extensively was the trampoline outside my room.
We all got ready and finished our dinner by the time Gurudev arrived in the evening. Later in the night, we sat with Gurudev under the almost full moon light as we reported what we had been upto. Somebody remarked, “Gurudev, it feels like we’re living in a museum”, and everybody burst into laughter.
The following morning began with temple visits, first to Swami Malai and then Kumbeshwar, where we had Devi Pooja with Gurudev. These were temples that Gurudev was very fond of visiting as a child. Next stop was Papanasam, Gurudev’s own hometown. He took us to the house where he was born, which has now been reconstructed exactly the same way as it was at the time. We also visited the nearby temples where he and Bhanu Didi used to play.
We departed post lunch and after a few hours, stopped by the banks of Cauvery again, this time with Gurudev. Soon, there was a huge crowd of locals and he gave them all prasad. There was an evening satsang at Salem with more ten thousand people. Swami Gnantej and the Tamil Nadu team need to be appreciated for organizing this whole tour so well at just a week’s notice. Gurudev also lauded their efforts later.
We had been travelling non-stop over the last three days. Though we had a great time, some had fallen ill from the exertion and since it was late in the night, everybody would’ve just been happy to be back at the ashram and. However, the final leg of our journey also began with a surprise as Gurudev again entered our bus. The journey had to have been more demanding for him – you would know if you had to battle through a crowd grabbing and pulling at you, which he had to at every stop. Yet, among all the chaos and madness around him, he manages to keep a track of what others’ needs are. Some people in our group had not got a chance to sit with him while some others had. Just to make sure everybody finished the trip with a full heart, he came to our bus and said, “All those who did not get to sit with me can have their turn now.” He was in a very casual and candid mood belying the long day he had had. It really becomes apparent while travelling with him how extraordinary he is. There is passion in him and there is charm too, determination and also softness, there is a depth about him and there is laughter around him.
The roller coaster trip ended but only for us. Gurudev was off to a 3 day tour of Karnataka a day later. We see Gurudev work long hours when he’s at the ashram and we got a taste of how tiring a tour is, but even after so many years there is one thing about him that nobody knows: How does he keep going on and on?