meet him. Neelkanth
poses a riddle to the priest, "Iron sinks, but wood floats. What
should iron do to keep from sinking?" No matter how long it takes,
the priest promises himself to find the answer.
Continuing his way north, Neelkanth climbs his
way to the mountain village of Sripur, famous for its grand shrine,
Kamleshwar Muth. The mahant (chief priest) notices Neelkanth resting
under a nearby tree. He warns Neelkanth of the man-eating lion terrorizing
the village and invites Neelkanth to stay in the Muth. Neelkanth asks,
"Can your doors stop death?" As night falls, the doors of
every home are tightly fastened.
well past midnight and a chilling roar shatters the eerie silence.
A lion charges through the grass spotting Neelkanth. They meet face
to face. The Mahant, fearful for the young child, looks out his window
and sees a strange and unbelievable sight; the ferocious lion is humbly
lying by the feet of Neelkanth. The next morning, as Neelkanth leaves,
the grateful faces of villagers surround him.
Hosting a diversity of faces, India is home to a colorful mixture
of people. Neelkanth introduces us to the faces of India. Home to
18 different languages and 850 dialects, India is the envy of the
world; no other country, even continent, has so many different people
living and working together.
Continuing into the Himalayas, Neelkanth makes his way to Badrinath
Temple. Standing at 11,300 feet, Badrinath is one of India's most
revered temples. For six months of the year, the temple closes during
the deadly cold winter. A procession begins its journey down from
the mountains to warmer temperatures and safety. A priest meets Neelkanth
on the steps of the temple and invites Neelkanth to join him, but
Neelkanth says, "I am not going down, I am going up…to
Lake Mansarovar." The priest cannot believe what he has just
heard. He says "At this time of year…you'll face blizzards
and avalanches. You'll never survive." Neelkanth smiles and walks
down the steps, leaving the priest to wonder why such a young child
would risk his life in the mountains.
For six months, in the freezing temperatures with no shelter, Neelkanth
treks through the Himalayas, home to 92 of the 94 tallest peaks in
the world. Crossing a pass at 18,000 feet, Neelkanth reaches the sacred
peak of Mt. Kailash, and the holy shores of Mansarovar, the source
of four of India's mighty rivers - Indus, Brahmaputra, Karnali and
Sutlej. With no guide or maps, Neelkanth negotiates through the deepest
gorge in the world cut by the Kali Gandki between Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri
in the Annapurna Mountain range. Eventually, he reaches Muktinath
at 12,500 feet, where an ancient temple of Lord Vishnu gloriously
stands to this day, encircled by 108 waterspouts. Here he undertakes
a journey without motion, a journey within. Performing severe austerities
in a rare yogic posture, months turn to seasons, seasons turn to years,
and Neelkanth grows older and wiser.
Descending the mountains, it has been 5 years since Neelkanth has
left his home. From the peaceful villages to the mountain peaks, Neelkanth
leads us through a land ornamented with grand monuments, palaces,
and relics of stone. We explore Indian architecture and its paradise
of styles, forms and shapes.
Neelkanth's route leads him through the rainforests of Assam, the
jungles of Sunderbans and to the shores of Jagannath Puri. The annual
Rath Yatra (Festival of Chariots) is celebrated here. Every year,
for thousands of years, millions of pilgrims flock here to pull the
chariot of Lord Jagannath. Raja Mukund Dev, King of Jagannath Puri,
invites Neelkanth to celebrate Rath Yatra.
A conch shell blows and the boisterous clanging of plates deafens
us. Directly ahead, we see Neelkanth sitting on a colossal chariot
and the king standing by his side. Hundreds are pulling the chariot
with four massive ropes. Pilgrims are cheering, singing, dancing,
and throwing vermillion into the air. The huge wheels of the chariot
fill our vision. We float above and let the Rath pass beneath to reveal
an awesome sight of thousands. A sea of colors shines below.
This festival is just one of many festivals of India. They are expressions
of joy for many occasions - be it the birth of a child, the changing
of the seasons, or the New Year. A wide spectrum of colors, costumes
and customs are portrayed in the festivals of India. Viewers are immersed
in some of the greatest festivals of India; from the lights of Diwali
to the colors of Holi.
Following the eastern coastline, Neelkanth arrives in South India
at the ancient Rameshwaram Temple. Built in the 12th century, the
Rameshwaram temple has 1,212 pillars and India's longest stone corridor
stretching 1.2 kilometers. This temple is one of the most important
pilgrimage places in all of India. At each of the 22 wells, people
bathe as a purification rite. Standing by one of these wells, Neelkanth
is pleased to find the priest he met in Haridwar five years back.
The priest has found the answer to Neelkanth's riddle, "If iron
attaches itself to wood, iron too can float. We are the iron ring.
Enlightened persons like you are the wood." Pleased with the
priest's response, Neelkanth explains that the association of an enlightened
person keeps our weaknesses from drowning us in the ocean of life.
For the next two years, Neelkanth travels from the temple towns of
South India, through the backwaters of Kerala and ends his journey
in the village Loj in Gujarat. In the villages of India, where to
this day 80% of all Indians live, it is a tradition to welcome visitors
A giant banyan tree hangs over Loj. Under this tree, villagers often
gather for discussions. Neelkanth learns of a great saint and teacher
Ramanand Swami in one of these gatherings. Delighted to hear such
news, Neelkanth waits for him in his ashram. While at the ashram Neelkanth,
who conquered the challenges of nature, sweeps the floors. Having
mastered all the disciplines of yoga by the age of 14, Neelkanth shares
his knowledge with others.
Neelkanth and Ramanand Swami meet on a riverbank. Ramanandji says,
"Now that you have arrived, lead the people because you are the
true master." But Neelkanth prefers the silence of the mountains.
Ramanand Swami encourages Neelkanth and says, "Awakening was
your aim and shall continue to be so. Your footprints in the sands
of time will light up the path for seekers of courage, confidence,
love, truth, and tolerance."
Neelkanth grows older to become one of the greatest spiritual leaders
of India. His lessons continue to inspire millions. His vision, work,
and wisdom echoes the essence of Indian culture - its unity in diversity.
This is the greatest gift India can offer the world.