Saturday, April 18, 2009

Weekend getaway to Sangama and Om Shanti Dhama

On a heavy Wednesday Scrum @ office, Kiran calls me in the middle of the daily standup and I pick up his phone and conversation starts. All I could catch with one ear on the phone and the other glued to the official meeting was 3 little words 'Outing - day long - in our cars - long weekend'. Well that was 4 words. I don't even remember what I spoke over the call, but faintly remember to having given a thumbs up and not sure if Kiran could see me doing that!

And today, while I write this blog, I feel overly impressed considering that I managed to say yes to one of the most beautiful weekend getaways I have had in a long while.

So the moment the plan got fixated, the first thing as usual was to get my car to the service station and get everything set for the next days trip.

Over a few calls with Kiran, it got decided that we were going to 'Sangama' and a visit to the 'Om Shanti Dhama' just 4 kms somewhere close by. 'Sangama' is a location about 83+ kms from Bangalore, which is the confluence of rivers Arkavathi and Cauvery. It is also the point where folks can trek to Mekedatu. There are several blogs which talks about what to do there and how to get there and so I am not going to elaborate on that.

11th of April, 2009, Anna, Amma, Souji, Pooja and myself shrunk ourselves into the cozy Maruthi 800 DX and met Jyothi Aunty, Gopinath Uncle, Kiran, Anu, Kruthi, Kiran (Kruthi's hubby) and little Anusha on their Santro. We left Konanakunte cross by about 8 AM and drove an hour where we got into a stone throw distance away from Kanakapura. We stopped by a road side restaurant whose name board had a larger than life 'Veg Hotel' hoarding than compared to the size of the hotel itself. Bakasuraras that we were, we gluttoned whatever was on the menu making sure that the server had completely lost count of what each of us had. We left the hotel guy by making him richer for sure. The next time you folks go that side, if you happen to pass by a 5-Star hotel, 4 kms from Kanakapura on your right side, believe me, we laid the foundation to it.

Burp!, Now that breakfast was over, the thoughts of what we would be having for lunch just began. We reached Kanakapura in the next 5 mins and Anna could not resist the temptation of the watermelon sitting on top of each other in a huge lorry load of mound. The green demon fixed into the boot of our spacious luxury car without any issues.

We drove for another hour crossing Kanakapura through the winding and picturesque mini-ghat section and reached Sangama. We then decided that we will first checkout Om Shanti Dhama and then get into the waters at Sangama. So we drove another 3~4 kms through a mud road till we found an arch 'Om Shanti Dhama'. It was such a relief to see some trees that provided a good shelter from the simmering April heat. At the entrance, we met Arvind, an official from Om Shanti Dhama, who mentioned that he would guide us into the institution.

We asked Arvind if he could help us find a good location for us to drench in the river and he took us down a shortcut for about 5 mins from the school. And then, and then, we came across the most beautiful, out of the world location where small rocks bifurcated the huge river into an area which looked like a natural jacuzzi! Simply out-of-the world. It couldn't have been better than this. River Cauvery, all to ourselves and not-a-soul around. C'mon that does not sound real is what you might say, but check out the photos and am sure you will call me up for some directions to get there.

Well, I will let you folks salivate while the photos and videos do the talking.

Pooja Sings "Jana Gana Mana" on_Independence Day 2009

Photos from Kiran

What a blast!. When we just thought, it could not get better than this, a good cloud cover came from nowhere, masking the sun and sinking the mercury down making a very pleasant weather. All there were just happening for us. The sparking clean and crystal clean water allowed us to enjoy the colors of the fishes zooming in left right and center. The rocks around was just enough for the 10 of us 'Securely' enjoy the beauty of the private river bank.

Pooja and Anusha had a whale of a time and for once, we left them to make the most of the opportunity. Jumping and splashing the water, throwing the sand on each other and what not! Not to be out done, the elders imitated the kids by becoming one themselves and the fun did not end till about 2 PM.

While we were having fun, Arvind kept a watch on the other side of the river to ensure that we were covered from any mis-adventures from our crocodile friends, whom we heard, live in large numbers around this area. Also got to know from him that elephant herds do come on the other side of the bank in the evenings by 6 PM for partying it out, every day.

After a relaxing for 3 hours in water and in no mood to leave the place, we walked back to the school where we were invited for lunch. A good lunch onwards, we were given a guest cottage where all of us switched off for a while and took a cat nap. Oooooof. What else do you want on a hot summer weekend? We got it all.

Later, a few of us met the swamiji of the institution, who took us around the school premises and gave us a complete tour of the Gurukulam. He gave us the mission on which the school was built and the necessity to have such Schools to bring back the lost treasures of our Hindu value system and identity and propagate it to the whole world. All along the tour, Anna and myself inquired a lot of things on their methodology and the swamiji was more than happy to answer our queries. His answers were more practical and tactical than open-ended philosophical types, which made us feel the worth of their effort.

'Om Shanti Dhama' is an institution which imparts Vedic and modern system of education in the true Gurukula methodologies. Nestled in the middle of nature all around and river Cauvery winding around this school, zero noise levels, zero pollution, the location was just like what we would have heard in movies and fairy tales. Imagine a 'Vicco Vajradanthi' Ad where the white bearded swamiji churns out a few herbs and gives out the toothpaste to a beautifully garlanded female beauty!. Well, apart from the 'garlanded female beauty' part of the imagination, the rest was all still in place!

Back to reality, this school, offers education from 5th Standard to 10th Standard and even further if somebody wishes to pursue further studies. The mission of this school is to rediscover the lost vedic methodology of education and create students who would become the ambassadors of this methodology and enable them to propagate the rich value system inherent in our vedic system of education to the entire world. About 70 students are currently studying here. They have hostels named by the Vedas where they are housed. They have daily schedules from 4:30 AM in the morning to 10 PM in the night covering from Yoga, Yagna, Veda-Abhyasa and General modern studies. The 10th standard students apply in private for the final exam. No Saturdays, No Sundays. All days are the same!

Interestingly, this school is a private initiative, with no government support and run mostly by public donations and philanthropists. 'Ramdev Baba' the Yoga icon of international fame is one of the proponents and a huge donor to this Ashram. More details can be found though their website:

We went back to our cottage, where we sacrificed the green demon that we had bought back at Kanakapura. The fruit was gone in 10 seconds.

Later, we refreshed ourselves and said bye to our wonderful hosts and on the way went to the adjacent 'Ananda dhama' which is a resort offering summer camps for children young at age and at heart.

By the time we went there, the sun was already setting and we sat in the beautiful environs and ordered coffee and tea. While paying the bill at the counter, we were told that Tea and Coffee were complimentary!. Man, we couldn't trust our ears. The whole day looked like it was made for us and everything seemed to be working for us!. It was magically mystical.

With Om Shanti Dhama and Ananda Dhama providing and serving all the relaxation that we wanted from the trip, we left Sangama for the rest of the Junta to explore and enjoy. (He he he ;-) ).

By 7 PM, we started backwards and reached Kanakapura in 45 minutes. We had great Masaladosas at a local restaurant and to top it all with Gudbud ice-creams. We dragged our bloated tummies, back into our Maruthi and Santro and found that the cars struggled to pickup. But, at times, you need such kind of a pampered treatment at-least once a year! We were home by 10 PM and I personally did not want to sleep, to stop the current run of things to be taken over by a stupid dream. For once, the real day was better than the best of the best dreams!

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