The 2.5 hours train trip from Thirandrum to Karunagappaly went almost disappointingly smooth. After all the adventurous and tumultuous Indian train stories I had come across, my awesome travel friend Cat and I were prepared for the worst – only to find ourselves with ample space, remarkably clean toilets and chai and sweets vendors passing every 20 minutes. It was travelling en class despite having paid the cheapest fare of 70 IR (1.5 A$!).
We passed stunning views of Kerala’s backwaters and, for a few moments, saw no rubbish anywhere – just lush, green tropical scenery. Heavenly! Upon arrival at the little seaside town train station we hopped into a Riksha to take us to Amma’s Ashram. We still paid too much but are getting better at the haggling that seems to be an expected part of any transaction here. Once more the scenery during the bumpy ride is nothing but spectacular. The Arabian sea splashing against white sand and bright rocks, the occasional seaside hut or temple, all scattered with lush banana trees and coconut palms.
Arriving at the Ashram we are greeted warmly by the well-organised international welcome office and appointed our room. We pick up the bedding and, once again, are surprised by what India dishes us up. From the 12th floor of the 15-story accommodation building right next to the main Kali temple the view of the sparkling Arabian Sea, in parallel with expansive broad forests of coconut palms and Kerala’s picturesque backwaters leaves us speechless.
The next three days pass meditating for hours, chanting, cleansing in poojas and making friends from around the world. The characters who end up at an ashram are always interesting and somewhat insightful – whether for a short visit or a decades-long commitment. Every time I sit to draw inwards, it feels like an energy runs through me, connecting me both to the deepest depth of the earth, as well as to the vast heavens above. Although in her presence, I can feel all of Kali’s emotions in me at times – from motherly protector, to raging wife – it is always held in a container of profound peace and fountains of bliss.
Meditation feels deep here, as if the temple buried from long-forgotten civilizations underneath the newer structures emanates all the spiritual vibration that seems to have evolved around this land for even longer than what our history books are telling us. I do not intellectualise it further as it is evident on a cellular level in my body which requires no questioning. As I kneel one more time in front of the first goddess I ever truly connect with, I realise that this is the closest that my Western mindset has ever allowed me to come to Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of devotion. And once again India has done it’s thing – not giving you what you might expect or want, but most likely exactly what you need