Tuesday, 24 May 2022 | Vinod Chamoli | New Tehri
Even the biting cold in the Himalayan region of Gangotri in Uttarkashi district has failed to deter an ascetic who has been performing penance in and meditation for the past 21 years on the banks of the Bhagirathi river in the area. However, it is the manner of his penance which is quite different.
Swami Vadantananda had a unique way of worshipping the Ganga as he cries every morning and evening. Calling to mother Ganga while positioned near the river, he lets his tears become part of the Bhagirathi’s waters. He has been doing so for the past 21 years without any break. This is his way of invoking mother Ganga and he has chosen the region where the Ganga originates as Bhagirathi from the Gaumukh glacier as the place for his penance. This region has been favoured by ascetics and seers for a long time. Such ascetics can be seen immersed in devotional and spiritual activities throughout the year despite the freezing temperatures experienced here during the winter. While the ascetics have their own ways of progressing spiritually, Vedantananda has been offering his tears in devotion to the Ganga for a bit more than two decades now. During the winter when the higher Himalaya are covered in thick snow and the Gangotri shrine is also closed to the public, the Swami remains here and practices meditation to keep his spirit high.
Vedantananda lives alone without any helper in a cave on the banks of the Bhagirathi river some distance from Gangotri. Though he has made some improvements in the cave, he shuns visitors and even publicity in general, preferring to continue his spiritual practice in solitude. He does not allow people to enter his cave and if disturbed his outburst is enough to keep the onlookers at bay.
Aged about 55 years, the Swami said that about 21 years ago he heard a call from mother Ganga and went straight to the Gangotri shrine. Since then, the idea of being separated from this mother has not come to his mind, he says. He avoids talking on other subjects and shuns opining on other matters, preferring to talk only about the goddess Ganga.