Monday, March 4, 2024

Seated on the ghats, Lakshmi Manchu saw bodies burning

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Actress Lakshmi Manchu, who was recently on a spiritual journey, takes The Pioneer through her experience of these sacred destinations for our weekly segment of Travel Tales.


Human life is solely a series of immediate experiences — in view of the fact that our very own doyen from the Telugu industry, Lakshmi Manchu, made her way to an awe-inspiring spiritual journey across various sacred destinations. Behind the creative force that she is lies a curious mind. So with a deep reverence for spirituality, she embarked on a transformative yatra seeking solace in the divine presence of holy shrines. Her journey was sometimes difficult, but she garnered all the chances to reflect.

With a trip to Amritsar, she fulfilled her long-standing desire to visit the iconic Golden Temple — “It was magical. One experience was better than the other. Starting from the refreshments, listening to the ‘Ardas’, it was a divine high.” Stepping inside the gurdwara, it became more than just a checkbox on her spiritual journey. Spending over an hour in the serene ambiance, she soaked in the spiritual vibrations and savoured the best adding another cherished memory to her spiritual sojourn.

Lakshmi also had the privilege of witnessing the magnificent Maha Ganga and immersing herself in the serenity of this sacred place. She continued, “I was attending a course for seven days in Hrishikesh — the experience of Ganga aarti was incorporeal and to know that it’s been handed down for almost thousands of years was nothing less than unworldly. They are creating harmony in the world because I saw a myriad of outlanders experiencing the same! It’s a deep prayer to the almighty, and you go into an ethereal world automatically. We actually say our prayers to who I call the modern gods and in the midst of that forgot about the five elements. That connection became obvious during the aarti, owing to the fact that our modern gods used to pray to the elements actually.”

Exploring the numerous temples, maths, and meeting different Swamijis left her awe-struck. Walking on the revered Ram Jhula, she experienced the simplicity that transcended the ordinary, leaving an indelible mark on her heart.

A moment of pride and reverence awaited the Monster’s fame as she visited the temples in Varanasi at the ethereal hour of 2:30 in the morning. She added, “I was there for two days and didn’t sleep until my flight had to take off the next day. Sitting at the ghats, I saw bodies burning. It made me question morality immediately! All these places I was going to were giving me such a deep understanding of life. We have a finite time on earth so just enrich your soul. People were awake at midnight with extreme vibrancy and it was awesome to see. I was in wonderment at the temple that has been restored where Brahmastra was shot. The architecture took me into disbelief.”

Again, overwhelmed by the spiritual significance of these ancient sites, she cherished the pride in the restoration efforts. Witnessing the rituals and sitting in Shivji’s temple among agoras, she observed the humbling impermanence of life, prompting her to embrace kindness in her heart. She also noticed an increasing presence of Telugu-speaking devotees in Kashi, further exemplifying the universal appeal of these sacred sites!

Then the visit to Vaishno Devi also left her spellbound by the subtle energies that emanated from the revered sadhus. Considering, “There are so many modes of transportation to get there. You have to walk hundreds of stairs! I was sauntering through rains and a hailstorm. I was fortunate enough to have gone inside the guha and meditate without any communication, early in the morning. There are no incarnations over there, just three rocks that protruded out of the caves and earlier had to crawl through this cave for darshan. The caves are closed now! But, I kept on wondering how did they find this? Thank God for the enlightened sages there who give us access to enlightenment. My energies started to transport automatically as soon as our conversation began.”

Whether it was the arduous trek, the thrilling helicopter ride, or the majestic horse ride, the challenges paled in comparison to the devotion demonstrated by countless pilgrims throughout history. The divine power experienced within the sacred cave was undeniable, percolating through every fibre of her being. The presence of Devi was truly impactful, reinvigorating her faith and reminding her of the intuitive connection her ancestors had with spirituality.

She concurred with us on choosing hotels is tough! The mystery question, she explained, “I always prefer choosing a hotel from the Taj group — they take care of you like home. Otherwise, in our Andhra Pradesh government runs Haritha hotels so just do your research. Your experimentation will not work out in Vaishnodevi because you are already allocated rooms, and you have to carry your own blankets to the top and be conscious of the luggage you are bearing along. I wasn’t comfortable. In another instance, in Kailash, you have to do your business in the open, if you know what I mean. So these places really challenged me! There’s a hailstorm, I am getting wet — can I still go for it? Or, I need to go to the bathroom immediately but there are twenty people around me, so what do I do? Should I stop the bus? Seems like how did I do it!”

These trips left a long-lasting impression on her even if it meant hearing that taking a chopper ride is risky because they may return with dead bodies. Frightening! But the more she travels to these places the more aware she becomes. She always has extensive research, especially about the street food she’s going to consume because when on a yatra she says au revoir to the five-star cuisine. She thinks every individual should make an effort to go to spiritual places, especially youngsters because we live in a world of clutter, chaos, and noise. If we have to be one with ourselves this is the only path, we must cultivate a connection with our inner selves.

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