Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kolkata - the City with Intensity

Continuing on our Varanasi Trip series, let me talk about one of the oldest cities of India - Calcutta or Kolkata. This place was the capital city of British India before New Delhi. This is the place where our Master spent a long period meditating on the banks of Ganga. This is the place where He is used to connect with Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Sharada Devi at Dakshineswar. This is the place where He was first initiated.

Now, Calcutta is certainly one of the dirtiest places on this planet :) The very first day when we landed at the huge Howrah Railway station, it took us two hours to travel a 15-minute walk by bus from the station to our hotels. That place is so very crowded with both people and traffic. If it rains, like it did the day we landed, you can imagine. We see hoards of people moving everywhere busily. The red colored buses, yellow colored taxis, the old-British ages sub-way system, everything is filled with people. Not one house in the downtown area looks whitewashed. Everything looks age old. The streets still remind one of British age, with pavements made by Britishers still rocking. The traffic is so mad that it takes a good couple of hours to go from the city center to the outskirts.

The very first day the Master jovially said, "How many of you are irritated with crowd and traffic of this city? ... Even if you are irritated, nothing can be done. You can't do anything about the traffic and the crowd. There are only two things you can do - complain, complain, and keep on complaining or just flow with it and be happy."

All this said and done, we still found this place very beautiful. There was some charm to this city.
The Master then said immediately,

"This is an intense and a beautiful city. I spent a large part of my parivrajaka (wandering days) in this city. This is one city where I lived and which I love."

That is very true. Though there was so much of chaos, so much of hustle-bustle, there was still a layer of beauty and serenity to this city. From outside, this city may look dirty but it carries with it intensity of life. Just imagine, with millions of people living in those narrow streets, walking those crowded roads, there is not one person complaining about anything. They are happily carrying on with their work and daily life accepting whatever it is. That acceptance is genuine and not with a frown. Everyone is intensely leading their life in the midst of that chaos.

This city produced many enlightened Masters and highly elevated souls. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Sharada Devi, Ramakrishna's monastic disciples, Rabindranath Tagore etc. are just few names I can think of. For a long time, this city has been the seat of Indian art, poetry, theater and literature. Many schools of drama and theater can still be seen and people are more inclined towards them, which have an artistic touch and reality rather than going for fantasy filled movies.

In such city, people live like kings. They could have complained for what the city looks from outside but they are blissfully leading their lives. That is the intensity that we are talking about. Whatever happens outside, the core is still strong and standing blissfully. That is the beauty of this place and its people.

We stayed the maximum number of days (4 out of 12 days) in Kolkata visiting various places of enlightened Masters. We visited Ramakrishna and Sharada Devi's birth places, Dakshineswar where Ramakrishna did His sadhana, Vivekananda's birth place and Belur Math (samadhis of Ramakrishna, Sharada Devi and Vivekananda). More about these in the following posts ...

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