Home' Nova National : Nova December 2015 Contents human size murtis or statues of this fierce
but beautiful goddess. While you feel the
ancient power of her, there is so much
love that her faces literally shine.
Since it is Navratri, the nightly
ceremonies and festivities supplement
our own program. A highlight is a
ritual circular dance that starts slowly
with a simple skip and glide eight-step
movement. As it proceeds, it draws
literally hundreds of people of all ages
into a serpentine circle that moves in
unison and takes up the whole of the
Our crew progressively join in, to
the delight of the locals and we become
famous for our dancing! The sense of
a community in common rhythmic
movement is entrancing and a joy to
experience. Eventually, the pace builds
to the point where it becomes a free-
for-all Bollywood-style expression
session around midnight. Great fun and
a welcome balance to our intense and
powerful inner practices of the day.
By day eight, we had visited the
MahaLaxmi temple at Varai, the Parvati
Temple at Santoshi, and a very potent
hilltop temple to Lalita, the goddess of
sacred sexuality at Jivdani, where they
have the spiritual version of a mosh pit
for going safely into trance and catharsis!
When I first came to India in 1982, I
was taken to an obscure mountain temple
of a version of Durga, an unforgettable
experience that had me vowing to return.
On day nine, we make it to Saptashrungi,
whose history makes this goddess,
who was an actual emanation in the
sheer rock wall of the last peak of the
mountain, the intersecting point of four
major stories in Hindu mythology. And
she radiates her Shakti over the entire
region, something we clearly feel as we
approach her mountain.
So we rise at 4:30am to climb the
last 500 steps to the Devi’s actual
temple to meditate and watch the dawn
awaken over the plains below. We take
part in the morning arati, a sweet yet
boisterous ceremony linking our own
hearts to the heart of the goddess. She
is awesome, a mixture of Durga and
Kali, three metres high with 18 arms
and the round face of a child.
Having stayed overnight to get
maximum exposure to the Devi’s energy,
we then move down the mountain to
meet with her consort, in the form of
the ancient Shiva Temple in the town of
Trimbakeshwara. This is a famous Jyoti
Lingam whose central sanctum is not a
statue but a column of light said to drive
into the earth’s core while piercing into
Shiva is said to be the highest
expression of refined masculine power
part yogi, part cosmic dancer, a
Tantric God and untameable wild man,
whose consorts are three faces of the
same goddess, Kali/Durga, Parvati, the
goddess of the sacred marriage, and
Lalita, the goddess of sacred sexuality.
Again, we get up early to beat daily
December 2015 NOVA Magazine
‘India is unique in so many ways;
importantly, most of its inhabitants
actually live their spiritual culture
on a day-to-day basis.’
crowds that wait up to four hours to
spend a brief moment in the inner
sanctum. Even at 5am the atmosphere
inside the temple is dense and noisy with
multiple Brahmins plying their trade with
mantras and pujas.
Nevertheless, the energy that
resonates with the central core of our
own chakra system is obviously present
as we cram into a corner to meditate.
This combination of intense Shiva energy
overlaid by Brahmanic business proves
too much for the women in our group
who progressively leave, leaving the three
of us men to dive deeply into this stream
of Shiva consciousness.
This swing towards the sacred
masculine is then incredibly sweetened
as, after the obligatory chai to ease out of
the Shiva “stoned” experience, we make
our way up a nearby hill to a very old
temple site. While it is currently being
rebuilt, its essence is that of Lalita and
Parvati, two goddesses of the sacred
union with Shiva. Their softer energy
draws us even deeper into heart spaces,
a lusciousness that is erotic and yet
something beyond it as well.
Working with these great powers is
simultaneously opening and intensely
healing. Our experience ranges from
ecstasy and gratitude to sorrow and
rage, as any journey towards the sacred
marriage must do to clear the way.
Of all the myths, that of Sita and
Rama stirs our group the most, with its
story of the betrayal of the feminine by
the orthodoxy of masculine dharma.
This brings the shadow of India into
stark focus; the treatment of women,
especially widows, the sexual violence,
pollution, poverty, the domination of the
temples by Brahmin priests. Kali rears
her enraged head in our group and we
work with her demand for expression
By this stage we are pretty much
cooked and happy to be heading
home to Ganeshpuri for two days
of rest before our final completion
ceremony to honour the Shiva/Shakti
relationship. In this stage, the men and
women separate overnight and go off to
do their separate business.
We men rise early, walk into the
village for the morning arati, and bathe
in the hot springs before putting on our
white kirtas and meditating in the Shiva
temple. We then move to our host’s
family farm where we create circle for
the final ceremony, just finishing as the
women, resplendent in their saris, emerge
single file and chanting out of the forest.
And we honour the goddess in them and
they the god in us, before we bring the
symbols of the inner sacred marriage
together for each individual.
This could easily be seen as
pantomime but it invokes depth and
texture, heart fullness and release.
The last 14 days have been beautiful,
challenging and gracious with pockets of
great joy and gratitude and now we are
completely, happily saturated with the
energy of the goddess.
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