A Photo-Ethnographic Study, India, On The Road, Road Journals
Comments 45

A Dip in the Rivers

From time to time, a dip in the river changes your perception about that river you just became with. She starts knowing you and you her. To start with, first of all she calms you down. Slowly changing your inner nature. And gradually of the outside. It may even happen that hundreds of dips later over the years you may start earning some qualities of that river. Your temperature of the body gets strengthened and so does your smile. And if you are open as you naturally should be, like a child; your ever expanding nature will carry you then to the places that can only be created behind your closed eyes. Sailing along patterns of current, looking at forms, colours, patterns, walls, speculating other dimensions in the dark, to the sounds of birds and leaves, of burning dead trees and water ripples, hearing bodies visually and later, very slowly language.

Sometimes a small reaction changes the whole tail of events. Sometimes the start itself is the end. But the dip is important. Because that is the window to nature. And all nature is within. 

Net left by the fish catcher

Today, three years ago, i was bathing in the northern most ancient river Vitasta; Jhelum, as people know of it today, with Rasool and Shiva, in South Kashmir. It was such a beautiful noon that even today i keep travelling back to every single tide that joined me whenever i hear of Jhelum. From where we were swimming, a few hundred metres later she, the river was meeting a small messenger like river Lidder. Some

Nara bathing in the river Vitasta, Jhelum

children had joined us from Anantnag, bathing too. I was observing them, more so looking after because I knew their parents.

Meanwhile Arif found an eagle for me to photograph, she had died may be that same morning. As the young boy opened her wings, its span covered his upper half.

Children who joined us from Anantnag, Kashmi
Arif had found an eagle and held for me to photograph it

People in most part of Kashmir, still carry a feel of the old world. A fish catcher just like a bird catcher in old days, was literally seen running over the river, catching fishes with a bow net, keeping them all alive in a bamboo basket. Decades old Indian houseboats were seen passing by, children sitting in them watching us watching them; these boats looked completely different from the british ones on Dal. It was here on her banks sixty six years ago, Rasool was born in a houseboat, their home- and his father after his birth decided to leave Jhelum and rowed on a rainy night approximately 150 miles upstream to Dal Lake, in Srinagar where now Rasool lives alone, mostly locked in a small room marred by memories and the floods of 2014. It was this room which became my home for five months, where i lived, slept and ate together with Rasool, looked after his bird park. Learnt rowing myself. But It was much later, only after all those months Rasool brought me to meet with his birth river, Jhelum from Srinagar.

I saw Kashmir with Rasool’s eye. It is his voice that i hear when i travel to Kashmir lying my Delhi Room today. His directions became mine. And the quiet midnight’s that he enjoyed on Dal only after he taught me rowing.

Ka is water and mir is collection. It was him due to whom all my dips in the ancient waters of Kashmir happened. And they all are dedicated whole heartedly to him.

Rasool in his room
Out of three families of Swans/Geese that Rasool looks after
With Rasool’s favourite fighter as we became friends
Swan family back from a long day outing
Rasool’s mystical bird Park on Dal
It was tricky to learn rowing and it took strength. And once i did become the Keeper, i started working and rowed for 2-4 hours daily
Rasool at his beautiful best, he smiled rarely



Many writers have different opinions about the name Jhelum. One suggestion is that an earlier name of Jhelum was Jalham, reportedly derived from the words Jal (pure water) and Ham (snow). The name thus refers to the waters of a river which have their origins in the snow-capped Pir Panjal, The Himalayas.


It is said that the sanskrit name of Jhelum is Vitastā, and which was given to her by Shiva himself. River Vitasta was written about in the first ever text known to mankind Rigveda, where she is mentioned as one of the major river, also as one of the seven rivers (sapta-sindhu). According to the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Vitastā is one of the many transcendental rivers flowing through the land of Bharata, or ancient India.


It had already been five hours. I was sitting sun bathing on the pebbles admiring the peaks of the Greater Himalayas on one side, and Pir Panjal on the other, thinking of this day, time, moments passing which I knew was nothing more than divinity gracing me, to feel her beauty, her nature like she welcoming an old acquaintance to her best kept corner; It was that feeling of simultaneous realisation when I wanted to have this afternoon going forever, letting the sounds of Shiva and Rasool talking and laughing over the sound of the river. Sitting, i kept desiring to keep going back to the river, to her cold assuring water so that no moment should pass where in I can regret in future that I didn’t drink her water more, as i knew that was the only day i had, the window to heaven cannot open forever. And thus came the last Dip, i remember it because in it was all the memories that were came together, of the Himalayas, of all the people I had loved till then, of all the rivers i had drank water from and all my desires, dissolving. And hence I let Vitasta take it with her to Lidder, and then them both to the another mighty beauty, Indus. 

One of the only images of ma and Rasool together, talking about Life may, at Char Chinar, Dal, Kashmir


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Bright sun showed after body-stopping dust storm made my movement impossible. I was in the middle then, crossing a bridge over Ganga when a blizzard of dust from found me alone. I had to turn back, pushing myself out of the storm’s way, instead I walked down to the river, and along her banks started walking towards har-ki-paudi; once again in this life time but probably alone for the first in three decades. And 18 years later in Mahakumbh

18 years, took me this much time to come back to Kumbh in Haridwar. The center, like navel in the body, kumbh carries you through multitudes of Yogis practicing Tapa in the only ways their individual memories know of. Some come up, for us to merely see them as explicit sights; mysticism unknown to our senses, and too old for our digital eyes. 

Coming to the banks of Ganga in kumbh, is like dipping one self in the electricity of emotions that this river carries. Of all the people who come, leaving prayers, bodies, sankalpa/promises, iccha/desire, siddhis; even doing away with all the left overs. Yet it is the awe that one can feel for Ganga, through the masses who have been moving around her for innumerable number of centuries, that she has seen.

 When in today’s world civilizations grow where the roads, highways become. Mother river is an assurance that here on earth is divinity flowing, something not only alive, but electric, something far bigger, deeper than all the seven lokas/heavens can absorb, that energy which can direct one’s kapala(brain/buddhi) to pure kalpa(imagination), Ganga.


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Leaving you all with a wish, a desire that i would love to make it happen slowly. As rivers are still the carriers of most civilisations, i would love to be graced only if i could bathe in these five someday.

1. Amazon River

2. Nile River

3. Volga River

4. Yangtze River

5. Danube River

6. Mississippi and Colorado Rivers

6. Each and every River of the Indian Subcontinent.


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And as i leave you with an image of the river Indus leaving Kashmir, Do tell me about your favourite rivers, in which you would love to dip in, bathe in and in time i must too ?

Indus in the evening just outside leaving Kashmir






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If you like to share your stories or ever feel like saying Hi, write to me at narayankaudinya@gmail.com

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To follow other ethnographical and short rural stories on the road, find me at 

narxtara and Road to Nara

by

Hi, I am Narayan Kaudinya. And i welcome you on this journey, the Road to Nara ! I am an Ethnographer and a practicing Indologist. I did my masters in History and further learnt Sanskrit, Yoga and Nerve-therapy. At 24, pushing most academic sounding, office sitting works away, i felt compelled to know and understand the world and my country, Bharat/India. I travelled, and as it happened i took up teaching in Kashmir and further up in the remote villages of Baltistan in the foothills of Karakoram Ranges. For around three years and many states later there came a time when i felt that it was only while teaching i learnt how to laugh, to see, feel, breathe, love and cry -with children, and mostly resource-less parents in the harshest-freezing border conditions. I write, and work as a documentary photographer and Filmmaker, with numerous published, exhibited and some awarded stories. In my travels and life i have let nature lead me, the divine mother, and as a Yogin, my resolve here is to share my experiences and thoughts as honestly, and through them to blossom in everyone the power and possibility in pursuing your breath, that you seek your true nature with courage and curiosity. Here, on this road i will share my spirit, my love for nature, the elements of life that are us. And in doing so, i'll be happy to see you along.

45 Comments

  1. So wonderful Narayan. yes the Amazon, the Danube, the Nile and every river in australia. Peace and love dear one. Greetings from Oz.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. also the Ganges, and any water that comes from Tibet. Ha it is hot here today and i am far from a river. Be safe and well friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ganga is my birth river gary, it is her waters i have in my blood most. She has been kind and calls me a few times every year. Only once i have had the chance to see Brahmaputra; the male river and the biggest coming to India from Tibet.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gary, if you can, please keep water in a small oval container near you. If from time to time you keep touching its water, It will not only bring peace but you will feel it is giving your soul some water, will change thought patterns, and will bring many new lines to your paper 🙂

      Love to you Gary.
      Nara x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Right from the beginning, the mood is set by the author’s suggestion to read this essay with our eyes opened “like a child” – that is of innocence, without any pre-conceptions, prejudice, but just curious and eager to find and see something new, as it cannot fail to affect deeply anyone in tune with nature.
    But as not everyone is, that is the main reason why this writer’s thoughts always draw people towards his fascinating writing, evident in all his work.
    The eloquent use of language includes even the use of the word “tide”, which here is not referring to the moon tide of the ocean or the big river, but is used as a noun – meaning
    ” great joy, happiness.”
    The observations he portrays belong to the eyes of a film-maker who intuitively writes about a fish-catcher running through the water catching fish in his net. While you are reading the text, at the same time you are seeing this in your mind as if watching a nature documentary.

    The explanation of the Sanskrit name Jhelum or Jhelam seems more than probable and quite beautiful – “water-snow”, connected with the Himalayas. The references to ancient Indian
    writings are of interest to anyone who likes to discover something new. Readers can emphasise with the poetical, even mystical description of the moment, we all know, when we wish it would last forever, suspended in time.
    We experience the same feeling when we touch the stone steps in the 1000 years old palace, and closing eyes we can hear the voices, the laughter of many people who passed this way before us during the millennia of the palace’s existence. And we experience the same feeling of reassurance that the world is still moving on, regardless of the tribulations of the human race.
    After reading such a spiritual and inspirational essay, in gratitude, we can only wish that the author will fulfill his heart’s desire and emerge himself in all the Great Rivers of the World.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Joanna,

      Thank you for such a detailed, important analysis Joanna. It made me work on it for the second time and also i brought in some newer images you will be happy to see.

      And even happier to read myself in third person. But what i kept looking for were some river names that have moved you in all your living years, or if you only want to visit/see any?

      Nara x

      Like

    • Also, I must congratulate you on your Yog progress that you have made. It is inspiring Kritika. 🙂

      And please share if you like to, your rivers that you have visited or would like to visit.

      Nara x

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much kindly 🙂
        Surely would share the story of the rivers I have visited and am eager to touch. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photographs.

        Like

    • Anita, thank you. There is nothing more uplifting than the moment one sits quietly after bathing, after a swim in an ocean. River or any lake.

      Thank you for writing Anita, my mother’s name is almost there, very close, can only replace ‘m’ for an ‘n’ 🙂
      Nara x

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for writing. I had to re-do the essay and had to bring in some newer images that you might like even more. Let me know.

      I hope dear new friend as also i saw your about image had you looking at the Sea. Living around water, bathing in is a rich experience and more so for all those who can even write about it.

      Nara x

      Liked by 1 person

      • Its always a pleasure to read your post. Its always very detailed and informative. I really like the additions you made to this post. Its amazing.

        Though I am more of a mountain person, sea has its own charm.

        Like

        • I have mostly wandered and explored the Himalayas throughout this life. Researching, studying traditions from Kashmir to Uttarakand to Nepal. There is nothing like to be able to get the blessings of Himalayan deities and people. And thus this essay was talking about the rivers and the experience of one’s soul in bathing in them, dipping in the rivers coming out of the Himalayas.

          Thank you dear Yeshu.
          Nara x

          Liked by 1 person

            • I am also blessed to have you to feel it in the same flow as i can, i may just write but you carry it forward and that is the prize, a gift i can enjoy too.

              Thank you again dear Wanderer.
              Nara x

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Hailing from the land of river Kaveri, it is her that we call mother in this part of the country and run to for our annual dip,
    Thank you for this wonderful post, as usual. It was a chilling I could feel through while reading.

    Thank you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kaveri os mother, i am still to touch her feet 🙂
      I had to re-write the post a bit and that led to adding some more images you like to see.

      Thank you always. Was reading your container like bucket list the other day ! Devil’s pool i remember 🙂

      Like

  5. Loving your river story, Narayan, as well your images so perfectly going along. I have been in Haridwar on my first trip to India about 5 years ago and I developed a deep love for the city. I was mesmerized by the holy bathing procedures and the devotions of love of people sending little flower boats with lit candles down the Ganges river.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your stories, journal entries and photographs are inspiring and thoughtful. The compassion you show to those around you is an example for all of us to follow. Keep telling stories and keep journeying forward. Have a lovely day.

    Like

  7. Dear Narayan, the greatest, spiritual, overwhelming feeling of being at one with nature and peace I feel when I am at the mouth of the river, high in the mountain., Standing in the stream that is fast-moving down, so clear you can see every pebble, and so pure that I love to cup my hand and drink this exire of life and feel for that precious time, immortal.

    Joanna

    Like

    • So beautiful put, it is as if i am there, as if i have already chosen my river mouth, high in the mountains, in the Himalayan glacier. Thank you, so much more for taking me there, thinking of drinking this precious nectar.

      Nara x

      Like

    • The man whom i talked about so much, after writing i yearned to hear his voice Joanna. When i heard his voice yesterday it felt that he is not in good health.
      I have some beautiful memories with the swans.

      Nara x

      Like

  8. From the first paragraph, your description of the river and the experience of being in it resonated with me. It is my favorite experience of swimming, to swim in a river and feel the moving water. It is so alive. You expressed this so beautifully.
    I like your dream of dipping in many rivers. I also appreciate your photographs because I have never traveled to that part of the world. They help to make the story come alive. I would like to share back with you a poem I wrote about the river. It is called, The River Knows. https://flashlightbatteries.blog/2020/03/05/the-river-knows-poem-by-ali-grimshaw/
    Please consider it a thank you for this piece. Safe travels. Keep on writing.
    Ali

    Like

    • Dearest Ali, it was delightful to read this and took many deep breaths as i could feel your presence nearby. I could feel your ‘not love’ but much intense bond with water. It is absolutely lively, like water living 🙂

      Ali, i too have been following your blog for as long and even though our presence has been minute but it has always been precious for me. This part of the world is enchanting because here is chaos with absolute unexplainable patterns.

      And whenever you plan from here onwards to pick on some rivers in which you must swim here in this part of the world, do write, i/we will plan your itinerary, your stay 🙂

      Nara x

      Like

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