Saturagiri – An unforgettable journey.

It starts from a message being floated in the holistic group saying “the first ever outstation trip being arranged for our parents community’’. Prior to this I had never heard about Saturagiri at all. But the messages said that it a very holistic place and lot of healing and blessings one receives with the visit. Don’t know what triggered me, I cancelled the flight tickets booked (for the same time frame as that of this trip) for my Mom’s place to and fro, both for myself and my daughter. The airlines told me that I won’t be getting back any money if I cancel these, but still I went ahead with it and booked tickets for train to and fro for Virudhunagar. They say, one can visit Saturagiri only when there’s a calling and now i can vouch for it.

I remember those preparation messages floating on the group asking the parents community to walk some distance everyday barefoot, one to increase our stamina and second to get used to walking barefoot. Neither myself nor Hubbiji was able to, due to our workload. Nevertheless, all three of us myself, Hubbiji and daughterji were very excited about the trip and the trekking. Since the day the train tickets were booked we were waiting for this trip to start. Fortunately our journey’s start day was falling on the same date as the last day of my daughter’s school.

After a restless wait of close to a month came the D day. Majority of the parents travelling from Bangalore to Saturagiri had booked train tickets, a couple of them were coming by car and few came from Chennai. The train tickets were from Majestic to Virudhunagar and return via the same route. The former train was at 5:15 p.m. from Majestic and the later at 10:42 p.m. somehow, it was in my mind that the former train was at 10:00 p.m, I got confused with the return train J. Morning we all three went ahead with our routine of going to our respective offices and daughterji going to the last day of the school in party wear :). She was all exited for the double bonus, school ending and trip starting :).

Hubbiji said we will come back from office at around 1:00 p.m. and we will get ready accordingly, since the train is at 10:00 p.m. or so (at times he does not bother to re-check and takes my word and it puts us in soup). As usual hubbiji got busy with his meetings and we managed to start from office only at 2:00 p.m. Hurriedly we picked-up daughterji from her daycare. When were about to reach home I checked the train tickets and was surprised to find the train is at 5:15 p.m. !!! The first thing that came to my mind was to board the train from Hosur instead of Majestic and it will give an additional one hour 15 minutes time, but Hubbiji was of the point of view of that let us not take the risk as we have not boarded any train from Hosur station till date. He also said that the cabs will not take us to Hosur as they mostly won’t have the interstate permit. So the plan was to reach Majestic.

The cook was supposed to come at 5:00 (that day being a Friday we were supposed to have dinner at home as we cannot eat anything outside due to Santoshi Mata pooja at home), immediately called-up the cook and asked him to come right away, fortunately he was at his home and not cooking at some other house so he came down. Started cooking and we started packing. The plan was to put things in the bag only on Friday once we were back from office. Also rather than packing the food we thought we will quickly gulp it down, it will save time we thought. So finished with that. But daughterji is a person who will not eat under pressure. Kids observe all that goes around in the house, she understood the complete scenario and was concentrating only on the fact that we should make it for the station. For her this break was all the more required. By the time we finished all this it was already 3:45 p.m.

The cab arrived at 3:50 p.m. types and we rushed for Majestic station. While in the cab, I posted messages on the messenger about the current state of affairs, parents on the group started praying for us so that we should make it to the station and also suggestion started coming-in, one of them was to board the train from Hosur instead. Till that time we were of the firm belief that we would board the train from Majestic station itself. One of the reason was we had checked with the cab driver, he said he will not be able to go to Hosur. We were also hoping that the train might get delayed by few minutes which will give us a cushion of making it to Majestic. But thanks to the Bangalore traffic we managed to reach Kormangala’s Forum junction only by 4:40 p.m.types. In the meantime, messages starting flooding the communicator’s inbox with other parents saying we have reached majestic, we are about to reach, we have boarded the train etc. Now that people had boarded the train and train was on platform (it starts from Majestic) we were sure that the train is on time. That was the time when we asked the driver to take a U-turn and drop us at the Hosur toll gate, we thought let us take a chance. Fortunately the moment we got down at Hosur toll gate we saw one ST bus waiting on the toll gate, since we were not sure about the destination of the bus, I rushed to the bus and checked with the Conductor if it will go to Hosur. The moment the Conductor said yes, we hopped on it. Fortunately, in the bus met one person who was also going to Hosur to board the same train J. We got down a little prior to bus stop, took an auto and nicely managed to reach station at 5:50 p.m. itself, safely having a buffer of 20 minutes. After reaching the platform we waited there for one and a half hour J, as the train got delayed in between Majestic and Hosur.

By the time we boarded the train we were so tired with all those stunts that we had performed some time back and daughterji was also too bored with the wait time. We boarded the train, fed a bit to my daughter and within few minutes we three went to sleep. Had set an alarm for morning 3:15, the designated arrival time of the train was 3:30 a.m. As soon as the alarm rang I jumped off the berth and called-out hubbiji to get down the berth. While I was calling him another person jumped from the upper berth and walked with me to the door to check if the station had come. But the train was running late and we were still around 45 kms away from Virudhunagar, thanks to GPS and mobile data for giving us such accurate information and being available in between stations respectively. When we walked back to our berths, that time only we came to know that we were going for the same trek J. A round of introduction went for some time and then we sat back again on our seats waiting for the train to reach its destination.

And in some time we could see Virudhunagar the long waited station. As soon as we reached the platform mapped the faces with all the messenger names, especially the ones which were virtually part of our Hosur stunt. As soon as we came out of the platform we were welcomed by the volunteer group. We were briefed about the further plan of ladies being dropped at the Kalyan mantapam for getting ready and gents to be taken to Mango farm for the same. In close to an hour we reached the Kalyan Mantapam, a neat and tidy place for us to get ready. We all, with a mix of ladies, one aunt and two kids quickly got ready. By the time we got ready, the bus also came back. The bus had gone to drop those few gents (who were also seated in that bus) to the Mango farm. We boarded the bus and it took us to the Mango farm. Mango farm was too good to describe in words, huge mango trees laden with mangoes, some of the mangoes were at the reach of a six year old kid. The sizes of the mangoes were truly in proportion to the size of the trees. We walked over the mud road of the mango farm to reach the middle of the farm where breakfast was arranged for us. Once we reached the place we found the Indian style chulas were lit and big big vessels sitting atop busy in cooking stuff for us. Within no time we were served with healthy, organic and delicious spread of breakfast. The taste was just yum. There were few local people who were cooking, serving and arranging for the breakfast along with the volunteers. No doubt Volunteers were serving with all their grace and humility, not less were the local people. They were truly enjoying the serving part of it. Each one of us had a lofty share and was still relishing the lingering taste of the food, suddenly came our team volunteers asking us to get ready for a shoot with the drone camera J. In a little time, we were able to see the drone camera flying on our head capturing each and every movement of ours. Some of us, who were very eager to see the other side of the technology, went and peeped into the tab which was displaying the video being captured by the drone. The clarity was very good.

With that note we embarked on our trek, we were dropped by a bus to the starting point of the trek. So we were a mix of men, women, one aunt and two kids each 2 years girl and 6 years girl. It was a little hot by the time we started; the earlier plan was to start before 7.00 a.m. but got delayed due to Chennai train being delayed. It was around 10:30 a.m. when we started. At the gate we saw one old man selling some drink kinda, our group members explained us that it was palm juice and very good for keeping the body hydrated. It was being served in the palm leaf. Myself and hubbiji had one each and it was very sweet. As soon as we entered the check-in point all of us started with a very good speed. But within 1.5 kms few of us got tired J. Then only we realized how lethargic lifestyle we are living L. But this tiredness continued, the more we went ahead the more it was a problem. The couple with 2 year old girl were forced to pick the baby after 3 kms or so, but kudos to the Mom she managed to climb-up the hill carrying the baby. Moms are really great, she carries the baby for complete 9 months in her womb and if need be she can carry a two year baby to such a trek also. Our kid is 6 years and managed to climb all by herself. In between she was getting tired and a little irritated but after listening to some of the stories she would again start with the same enthusiasm J. Babies at this age are really very innocent you can fool them around for all these things. Though at the age of 6, it was not something impossible for her but given the life-style they lead with all the comfort and luxury around, it was really something to be praised about.

On the way our group people tried supporting us, by offering our daughter to accompany them so that we can relax a bit, they tried things like chocolates etc. J but all in vain. Baby preferred to stick to us, needless to say she eat all the chocolates offered to her without agreeing to the later part of the deal. The trek was amazing with a mix of big rocks, small rocks, uneven road, cemented stairs, sandy path etc. There were small stalls around at a distance of 500 meters, offering cold drinks, lemon juice with some herbs, tea, munching stuff like peanuts, chips etc. At places they were making hot pakoda, ragi-puri kinda. During our in-between breaks we enjoyed a lot of these things along with Glocondine (some local made glucon-D). But that was a life-saver in that burning sun. For parents like us who do not promote all these soft drinks, this was the best way to keep ourselves hydrated. We kept on walking with in-between stops for drinking, eating, resting, clicking photos and asking how far are we from the destination. Best part is, each time we asked someone on his way back to the foothill, we used to get a different answer. Someone would say it is 2 hours, someone would say it is 3 hours from here someone would say it is 4 kms and someone would say it is 5 kms. None of them revealed the exact distance just to make sure we are not discouraged by the distance. Somewhere around half way the volunteers arranged for lunch, we had a nice curd-rice for lunch. The place that we chose for lunch had a lot of monkeys around. So we had lunch in groups, one group of say 5-6 members use to have lunch and the other 2-3 members would shoo away the monkeys. The monkeys though were very smart, they were climbing the small branches on top of our head and were trying to lean from there. Still we managed to somehow finish the lunch.

At around 4:00 p.m. types we reached the first temple of Lord Siva named Sundara Mahalingam. As soon as we reached we had a nice lunch with rice, sambar, rasam, buttermilk and payasam, it was being served as AnnaDhanam (i.e. free food). The best part I noticed there was, each person was supposed to wash their own plate that too with water alone. No soap was being used for washing; only a big vessel filled with water was kept there. We were supposed to pre-rinse the plate with hand and then rinse it in that vessel and the plates were shining crystal clean. What a blessing for the environment – no soap and very minimal water usage. While we were seated outside the temple we noticed one bull coming towards us, the mandir-sevaks asked us to give way to the bull. It seems the bull prefers that particular route, though full of stairs it has been taking that route for its commute and prefers that route itself. Temple was very crowded thus we were not able to take Darshan. So we bowed our heads from outside and started walking for the second temple (its name was Santhana Mahalingam), which was like 164 steps ahead.

By the time we reached the Santhana Mahalingam Temple it was kinda getting dark. Herbal tea – called sukhu was being served (again for free), people who drink tea had it. I tasted it, it was good – aromatic and piping hot and very soothing. By the time we had tea the volunteers made arrangements for us to have a look at the room where we were supposed to sleep at night. One room was arranged for ladies and one for gents. It was not a very hi-fi room but a decent one to give us shelter at night. Then we went to take the Darshan of the Santhana Mahalingam temple, some 15-20 steps from the place where our room was located. It was so calming, people were nicely taking Darshan, no pushing, no shouting, and no rush – nicely took Darshan with calm mind. By the time we came back from the Temple dinner was ready, our group quickly took the dinner as we were instructed to start at 5:30 a.m. next day morning. Each one of us had only one goal in our mind, that was, to go to bed as quickly as possible, sooner we go to bed more time we get for sleep. We entered the room, chit-chat went for some time and then all of us were fast asleep. Morning we woke-up at around 5:00 a.m., there was a group photograph session, though some of us preferred to start walking to save time. We climbed down those 164 stairs to reach Sundar Mahalingam, Abhishek was going on in the Temple, and we nicely took Darshan. People were generous enough to give us way so that we can get a glance of the holy shrine. With a satisfied mind we started our journey back to foothill.

Again with the same zeal we started walking back, since our feet and body got used to that walk previous day, the down run was not that difficult. On the way back we took a stopover at the half way through Siva temple. We did not go inside the Siva temple, but there was a small water pond with thousands of tiny fishes, something that attracted my daughter’s attention. She was very excited to see those many fishes. People were actually enjoying fish spa. Myself and my daughter also put our feet inside the pond and kept it for some time without a slight movement. If done so, the fishes will come to eat the dead-skin of your feet. But the moment they touch your feet you get a tickling sensation and we both were moving our feet with that sensation. And zoom they run away, again we need to wait for like seven-eight minutes for them to come back near your feet.

By the time we reached the foot hill it was close to 11:30 a.m., we reached and relished a glass of chilled sugarcane juice, it was such bliss. By the time we could have finished our juice Aunt also followed us. We took an auto arranged by the volunteers and reached our Mango farm. When we reached the mango farm Aunt received a round of standing ovation for completing the trek without the help of a Doli at this age. There we went directly to freshen-up. In some time the session that was arranged with Dr. Selva Shanmugam started. At the very beginning we all introduced ourselves and my daughter got a big round of applause for making it to and fro all by herself. Though my daughter is six years and the trek was not a very big deal for a six year kid, given our lifestyle and the level of comfort that we throw to our kids, it was really a big achievement. Myself and hubbiji were on the eight cloud on our daughter’s achievement. There were couple of our friends who did the trek bare foot, they also got a big round of applause. And then started the sessions by the knowledgeable Doctor, we all were engrossed in the kind of knowledge and revealing facts those were being shared by the doctor. The session continued for close to 4.5 hours with a gap of 45 minutes for lunch. We got a lot of doubts clarified during the session.

As soon as we were done with the workshop, there was a round of ‘bye’ and ‘see you’ for people who were not boarding the return train to B’lore. It was such a superb experience to have so many like-minded (people believing in our ancient holistic way of leading life) people around. We all boarded the bus which took us to the Virudhunagar station. While in the bus few of our friends were still very enthu and were cracking a lot of jokes and revising the workshop stuff, but we three were very tired to even speak a single word and preferred to take a nap. Once we reached station we parked ourselves in the waiting room till the time of the train. Boarded the train around 11:15 p.m. Next day morning we reached Bangalore at around 9:00 a.m. Wow what a relaxing, stress-buster, rejuvenating, refreshing and blissful trip it was.

Author: Amita Pasari

She is a Senior Technical Manager with a reputed IT company and a mother of very cute six year daughter.

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