The Parikrama: A Story by Lakshmi Ajoy

I long wanted to get away from the hustle-bustle of urban life to search for inner peace. The mundane family life routine, blended with the rat race this society ran and compelled me to participate in, was extracting my equilibrium and making me feel off-beat.
I decided to embark upon the Narmada Praikrama, a circumambulation of the Holy Narmada River alone, by foot. Being one of the five holy rivers of India, Narmada is the only one that has the tradition of being circumambulated from source to sea and back, on a pilgrimage. Being the longest west-flowing river, the Narmada parikrama is a formidable spiritual exercise and challenge—an incredible journey of about 2,600 kilometers.
The mysteries associated with this journey are multitudinous. The real test began when I first landed on the banks of Narmada outside the holy shrine of Omkareshwar in Indore by a sleeper class train compartment.
A small offering in the form of a veneration to the Holy river Narmada and the journey began. I had to give away all the balance pennies that I had left with me in person, as charity.
With only two sets of clothes— one on the body and other as spare, minimal belongings, basic toiletries, first aid kit, a collapsible tent for camping and a pair of shoes with no money, cards or virtual transactions made this one of the most arduous trek for this average middle class urban resident.
The trek helped me deal with challenges from strangers to nocturnal animals, journey through jungle pathways, harsh weather conditions, no direct means of fooding and lodging except being dependent on the ashrams that housed parikrama inmates. These things kept me vigilant and aware of the self.
I had to traverse through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and part of Rajasthan. The most challenging part of the trek was the Amarkantak forests that had the fear of not just animal attacks but also Maoist ventures.
Once begun, there was no looking back. Every step ahead took us not just closer to the goal but also offered a deeper peek into the endless abyss of the Soul.
There were exceptional revelations by means of sustenance, life challenges, unfathomable experiences and survival skills that made us realize our true potentials.
This parikrama helped me accept myself despite all my flaws, know my true worth, fill myself with love and happiness and know well that the Universe provides us with whatever we are meant to receive, in complete abundance.
At the end of the five-month-long trek, I had discovered my true self. I had realised that life, despite its varied struggles, comes with pleasant surprises. It helps us understand that we come alone, traverse alone and go back alone. Others whom we encounter during the journey are only meant to provide us with the necessary lessons for us to learn and move on.
Life is afterall the perfect school that graduates the best student in us!