Visiting Mt. Abu to envision the camps Osho held there and to sit under the magnificent mango tree.

The journey by car from Udaipur is pleasant along a brand-new highway, two lanes up, two lanes down, separating the barren landscape. The Indian government is working on having all large cities connected by such roads, so wide swatches of the country are presently being tarmacked with quite unnerving traffic jams in some areas. Our driver has to slow down and even halt a few times because recent severe landslides cover parts of the new toll road and now wire mesh is being installed in certain areas to prevent future catastrophes.

We make a rather long detour to visit the spectacular marble Jain temples in Ranakpur built about 600 years ago, commissioned by Dhanna Shahwe who was inspired to do so by a dream of a celestial vehicle. When we finally reach Mt. Abu Station we pass a building that has a large color picture of a smiling Osho in the window, which in turn makes us smile. We have heard that some sannyasins live in the vicinity.

Up and up we go on a steep, windy road on this huge rock, which represents the highest peak in the Aravalli (the mid-rib) Range in Rajasthan, allegedly the oldest range in the world, which uplifted and folded during the late Precambrian Period. Mt. Abu is the only hill station in the state. We are congratulating ourselves to have taken motion sickness pills and feel quite heady because of it – but no nausea!

Jaipur Palace

Jaipur Palace

Nakki Lake

Nakki Lake

Toad Rock in Mt. ABu

Toad Rock

Monkeys in the sun

Morning sun meditation and when they noticed us they all turned

View towards town

View towards town

Palace Hotel Bikaner House

Palace Hotel Bikaner House

Entrance to the room Osho used to stay in

Entrance to the room Osho used to stay in

Courtyard adjacent to Osho's room

Courtyard adjacent to Osho's room

The mango tree now

The mango tree now

Osho under the mango tree

Osho under the mango tree

Mt. Abu camp in the seventies

Mt. Abu camp in the seventies

A view from the mango tree

A view from the mango tree

The tennis court today

The tennis court today

Downtown Mt. Abu

Downtown Mt. Abu

Rajasthani pilgrims

Rajasthani pilgrims

Hindu shrine

Hindu shrine

Scout Ground

Scout Ground

Osho Tree at the Scout Ground

Osho Tree at the Scout Ground

Full moon over Mt. Abu

Full moon over Mt. Abu

Ranakpur

Ranakpur

Finally on level ground again, the driver stops close to the very ancient and sacred Nakki Lake. According to Hindu legend it is called by this name because it was scooped out with the fingernails (nakh) by gods to live in, for protection against the Bashkali rakshash (a wicked demon). We already see Jaipur House higher up on the hillside, the place we want to stay in. A charming if not frivolous affair in pale pink, it used to be the pied-à-terre of the Maharaja of Jaipur during summers. Upon entering we are thrown back a few decades into the era of the British Raj. We have a choice of a number of rather stately rooms with plush, upholstered divans and chairs, heavy drapes, an array of photos of the immediate family of the Maharaja and his ancestors, and of course a selection of the British Royals.  Finally we emerge on the large roof terrace which allows us a sweeping view and are shown a delightful room arranged on three levels with view of the lake and much light; we like it immediately and decide we can live with one photo of the Maharaja on the wall…

Mt. Abu has only about 22,000 residents, yet many visitors arrive daily – some visit the Brahma Kumaris who have their headquarters there, others come up from nearby Gujarat over the weekend to drink beer, as in Gujarat alcohol is prohibited. You might ask why: because Gandhi was born there…and he was against it. And then there are the few odd sannyasins who come to see where Osho used to conduct the meditation camps. We detect very strange-looking rock formations with droll names such as Toad Rock that dot the landscape and feel the energy of Mt. Abu – which apparently has been visited by many rishis in the past – to be very strong.

It is a typical Indian town, not all too clean, with a clutter of restaurants in the center, a couple of ice cream parlors, a few beer outlets, and strangely a lot of rifles for sale. The food available is rather plain and most menus seem to be alike, but that’s not what we came for. We want to revisit the sites where Osho conducted his camps. I call up Jashen (aka Harry) who runs the Osho Laughing Meditation Centre, located close to yet another famous Jain marble temple called Delwara. The oldest of these is the Vimal Vasahi temple, built in 1031 AD by Vimal Shah and dedicated to the first of the Jain Tirthankaras. Harry and his endearing mother Savraj Kour, who is devoted to Osho, immediately come to see us and we agree to set out the next day to visit The Palace Hotel, also called The Bikaner House.

We reach Bikaner House via a long road through the grounds and I can see the tennis court where the meditations used to be held. I know that because I have seen photos from that time. After acquainting ourselves with the friendly staff at reception we walk towards the magnificent huge mango tree which grows near the tennis court. The tree takes up my entire vision and I feel tears welling up (and I am crying as I am typing this); I climb up the stone step to the small platform where Osho used to sit, to touch the trunk. In my heart I sense that the tree remembers. I sit down and just stay still. There is nothing else that matters, just being; nowhere to go. Mere words are inadequate to convey the inner experience. Opening my eyes, I see the view he would have had – three high trees in the distance.

Later, we get a tour of the premises and are shown the room where Osho used to stay, which has its own private courtyard with a gulmohar tree. I am told Osho liked to sit there just by himself. Visiting the presently rather empty grounds, it is easy to conjure up the image of hundreds of orange-clad sannyasins milling about, getting ready for discourse or meditation.

On another day we go to visit the Scout Ground, another location where camps were held. We reach a totally barren and dusty area, with palm trees and lots of goats grazing on what withered grass is there. During monsoon the area might be more lush but today we are standing in the glaring sun trying to locate the tree which Osho sat under. We don’t feel any particular energy on those grounds – maybe because they seem rather windswept and overgrazed. Feeling rather hot and bothered, we cut our visit short.

Dharm Jyoti, in her book ‘One Hundred Tales for Ten Thousand Buddhas’ describes the last evening of one of the camps:

“The meditation camp at Mount Abu ended with the full moon night. In the afternoon, I talk to friends about going boating in the night. We come up with the idea to tell Osho about it. When we ask Him, He says, ‘We should reserve all the boats and after the night meditation everyone can go boating.’

“People attending the meditation camp are just thrilled with the message about boating. All the boats are reserved and after the night meditation everyone rushed to the lake like little kids going for a picnic. When Osho arrives at the lake there are already about five hundred people waiting there in the garden. It looks very chaotic but surprisingly in a couple of minutes people fall in line on both sides making a path for Him. Osho never gives any discipline to His people but His mere presence creates the harmony. His people love and respect Him out of their understanding.

“He walks towards the lake with folded hands, namasteing everyone. A few friends join Him in the same boat and the rest of us take other boats. It feels like a great celebration on the lake. All the boats are filled with sannyasins dancing and singing. I look at the full moon and imagine that moon god must be desiring to come down and join in our celebration.”

Looking at Nakki Lake from our terrace on full moon night, I can just about see them all reflected by the moon…

BhagawatiBhagawati is a regular contributor

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