"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." ~ Rabindranath Tagore


Dhavalagiri - Wonder, Awe and Beauty

Binu Jose Philip's heart-warming travelogue was among the 5 short-listed travelogues that contended for the winning prize.The writer has tried to share what was essentially a spiritual experience and has transparently expressed feelings and emotions, transforming a chance stopover into a complete and fulfilling experience.

When we went to Bhubaneshwar, there was nothing much mentioned about this place - Dhavalagiri. Everything was the world-renowned glory of Konark and its architectural marvels, a must see. Dhavalagiri was to be a stopover on the way to the grand destination of Konark. About an hours journey from Bhubaneshwar you can see the unassuming, quiet and unadorned place: a shrine, a temple on top of a hill, or call it a mini-mountain.

The car went till the steps of the temple premises, from where there is a climb to the top. The glimpses of the place from the car hadn't inspired any great expectations. I thought, here is another temple, another place for devotees to come and unload themselves.

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Even before I took my first step into the garden before the temple what struck me was the stillness and the silence. It was as if everything and everyone there were in the presence of something so sacred, so holy, that any noise or movement would be sacrilegious. The garden had some stone tablets with inscriptions on them, attempts of people to immortalize themselves.

Shantistupa I didn't pay it much attention, looking instead at the temple before me, standing on an elevated platform some 25 feet high. It is made of white stone, circular with a very broad dome at the top. Facing the four directions are four Buddha statues - the ones in which he seems so serene and all knowing in his enlightenment. On the dome were Buddhist style umbrellas, those flat affairs that look so alien. You have to take off your footwear before you climb more steps that take you through the portal to the heart of Dhavalagiri.

As I climbed up, I seemed to be invading the privacy of something unknown, which humbled me with its serene majesty. It was the silence, the all-pervasive stillness, which was almost a force now, that surrounded me on all sides. It forced its way inside me. I didn't feel violated, it was a recognition of something greater than self. Bowing down before it wasn't a duty, it was an honour.


The walkway around the central structure was not wide. It overlooked a stretch of countryside that could tempt a saint. I gazed over the walls at the picturesque landscape. A delicate cloud of mist hugged the horizon. It spread around us, keeping away from the temple, seemingly having come to pay obeisance. It was almost ethereal, so I could visualize fairies swirling their way through the mist. Below was the wavy blue thread of a river stretching over the landscape. The water seemed to be lazing its way to an unknown destination it had chosen for itself. There were some cattle taking a dip in the river. It looked like a fairy tale setting, their lazy movements seemingly saying that time is not a problem for the truly free.

The trees seemed to be so much in charge that the slight wind that was caressing its way across the plains avoided them. The wind brought with it smells of the unknown, tempting me with mysteries untold. The sunlight glinted on the leaves and the river. It was a sight that could tempt the coldest of hearts into beating again. The wet misty smell of the river, the freshness of the day, the hint of the smell of flowers, the smell of dew strung grass - all of it was part of the wind. The toughest of men couldn't have but stopped to see what nature had wrought for them.


The temple where I stood was as much a part of this as anything else. I could see some people far below going through their daily chores. How blessed were they to be part of this dreamscape. The wind seemed to whisper a message of peace. My heart was full, it was calm and content and a bit overwhelmed. I could have stood forever and merged into the show of grandeur. I walked around a bit. There were four stone lions guarding over the terrain from their perches on the walls of the shrine, masterful in features and unrelenting in duty.

I sat down beside one of them, gazing as the panorama unfolded before me. The feeling that all this was mine stole over me. Nature and the subtlety and the awesomeness of it, along with the beauty and the delicacy of it all - just for me, so I would want to be one with it. I wanted to loose my identity in that beauty. What better fate than to be part of a greater something. I understood how Alexander would have felt looking at the conquered kingdoms, how the astronauts would have felt when they saw this globe - how every explorer must have felt when they looked back from where they reached. Mine was a smaller vision, but no less noble.


The sun shone with a sense of gaiety and seemed to tell me there is more. I looked up and saw the clouds. Like little sheep they were gambolling their way across the sky. Jostling each other, pushing themselves this way and that, and suddenly rushing away with a purpose. Insubstantial puffs of vapour that they were, at that moment they were very much alive. Soaring in between them, touching the sky, were some eagles declaring their freedom, singing the song of the truly free. My mind was with them, looking down at this sight - I could even see myself, a minuscule being in the midst of beauty, nonetheless able to realize a gift when the gods give it. But as things do, this also came to an end. The trance was broken, but the memories were left, no one could claim them, no one can change them. It is still here, in my heart, a warm memory when I need it.

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