Panoramic view from one of the hills near the Gupt Ling shrine, Shinganapur
Abandoned Siva temple near Shikhar, Satara
Brooks abound in this rain-starved area - Shinganapur
A portion of the abandoned Siva temple, Shinganapur
The land in this region is nothing but magical! Far, far away from the crowded habitations, the padayatris stayed on top of an isolated hill. Here, the yatris surprisingly outnumbered local residents; there were perhaps three families residing in the area.
In a radius of ten kilometers, there was nothing but vast stretches of land. The barren hill ranges surrounded the green valleys and the prevailing quietness was filled only by the wail and whispers of the wind. There were no large water bodies but a trickle here and there that made small rivulets, created by the recent gentle rains, in the valleys. It’s only where the water gathers in large volumes that there is much life; yet, the air was not dry. In the early morning and late at night, there was dampness and coolness in the air. The winds blowing at twenty miles an hour made it impossible for anything or anyone to move without paying attention to it. The trees too bent along the direction of the wind to respect its flow.
A few villages nestled in the distant hills. Life here is hard and one has to work much for little. It is another matter that a little is more than enough to live in a place like this. The blessings of this land are incomparable. The sky was so clear that one could see for hundreds of miles in all directions. The sun had no say in the face of constantly blowing wind that brought down the temperatures considerably.
The night sky was arresting, just one look up at the sky and one was struck with awe and wonder. There was no distortion induced by artificial lights at night and the sky was alive, dotted with millions and millions of stars. There were clouds but were drifting. The sunset and the sun rise were of incomparable beauty, as shafts of light forced their way out of the clouds as the sun set, one could make out their thin golden outlines against the gray overcast sky.The city dwellers have to practice much to attain quietness of mind but those residing here do not have to do gymnastics, they attain quiet naturally; nature stuns them into quietness. It is not hard to imagine that God would choose a place like this as his abode.
Ordinary life here is harsh and hardy.There are trees, there are animals, but they have adapted to the conditions here; the goats know how to jump from rock to rock, the cows know which plants to avoid because of thorns and poisonous berries. People themselves are hardy. The child walks or cycles many kilometers a day to go to a school, the mother might be thin but she carries heavier loads than the father. The father works in the fields, growing things where nothing seems to grow. Nothing is at hand, the hospital, the school, the shop - everything is at a distance. There is a constant fight for survival in a place such as this.
There is a struggle in living here but this struggle is rooted in the land and not far away from its natural cycles; it is not abstracted from the earth. The farmer knows seasons and he lives in harmony with nature. Is this life more rewarding than what in modern times is showcased as a developed, advanced life? What is it that is modern, developed or advanced? The food is all natural and organic, the air is without pollution, there is greenery around and the physical struggle here makes people strong. Hospitals and schools are far away, that is something that may need to be worked upon. But does ‘education’ teach lessons on happiness? There is much to be learnt living close to and with nature. People in cities too are heavily dependent on nature, everything around finally has to find it’s way only out of Mother Nature but they are far removed from its reality. Everything is ‘packaged’ and ‘wrapped’ in layers of comfort and convenience, at a cost!
As for the Padayatris, some of them just relaxed through the day, some went to the temple and meditated, some visited the Shingnapur Shikhar temple once again, while others trekked into the wilderness. There were those who had to catch up with routine work like washing clothes - as they have to on days of rest, or catch up on work. However, one thing that everybody did was to rest. After being in a constant state of tension like tightly strung wire, the padayatris have learnt the art of relaxation. If nothing else, they would take back home this supreme art of relaxation.
At night there was a little scare: a little, rusty brown, poisonous scorpion crawled into the hall where the men were sleeping. Its sting is not fatal but if stung, one could be subjected to excruciating pain for hours. Someone, thankfully, spotted the scorpion and alarmed others, excitement ensued, people woke up and many pictures were taken.The scorpion did not like the attention and raised its sting in defense. Taking the ten centimeter critter out of the hall was a carefully orchestrated operation, undertaken by ten grown up men, witha bucket, a mug and a piece of a two-day old newspaper!