A similar dream nestled in the heart of Aishna, a woman who desired to be a mother to a child of her own. At 34 years, with a sound profession and a partner who could be termed as the perfect husband, when life should have been bliss of a musical rhyme, she experienced the songs of incomplete hymns and the feeling of missing the reflection of her face in her offspring. The battle of infertility started five years back, when she like any other young woman adorned herself to step into the world of motherhood. The failed attempts, miscarriages and abortions medically termed her “infertile” and the pain and agony of childlessness stimulated her to look for options beyond biological facts. She set on her fertility travel trail to 10 famous fertility temples in India & Bhutan.
“A mother is not made when a child is placed in her arms. A mother is made when the dream of a child is birthed in her heart”.
There is a very thin line between science and beliefs. Since ages man has found his answers either through technology or through beliefs and superstitions. When one fails the other gives him respite. And in this respite, man finds the strength to conquer the inevitable. This is one such journey of Aishna, which may or may not have fulfilled her dreams but definitely acted as a catalyst, to allow her to stand by an undying faith in the dreams of her heart.
In the quest of being able to conceive, Aishna embarked on a journey pan India to visit various shrines which are believed to be legendary and have proved to be miraculous for many. Her heart thumped with the hope that these beliefs may win over medical science. And this presumption, which arose from societal beliefs or superstitions, took her to places; places which had stories to narrate and glorified the richness of Indian myths and beliefs. From the captivating Nilgiris to the majestic Himalayas, she visited many places of worship, which are believed to offer hope to childless couples since ancient times. The fertility temples were her hope now.
Garbharakshambigai Fertility Temple, Thirukarukavoor, Tanjuvar
Her journey began with the famous Garbharakshambigai Temple located in a small village called Thirukarukavoor, in the Tanjuvar district of Tamil Nadu. This is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy. Here a spoonful of ghee is given as prasad which is to be mixed with regular ghee and consumed for 40 days by the couples seeking a child. On reaching there, Aishna discovered that those who cannot travel to this place can also receive the prasad by post by mailing their details.
“Garba means Womb; Raksha means to Protect and Ambigai means Parvati. Garbharakshambika means “The Mother Who Protects the Womb”.
With all her dreams now cocooned in a spoonful of ghee, she stepped forth to her next haven, in the same district.
Karuvalarcheri Amman Temple, Govindapuram, Kumbakonan
There is a temple named Karuvalarcheri Amman temple near Govindapuram in the outskirts of Kumbakonan. It is believed that the Goddess of this temple helps in the formation of foetus. Here turmeric is offered at the feet of the Goddess and the priest assures that if this turmeric is applied during bath daily (except on period days), healthy pregnancy is assured. With the belief that her dreams will soon be fulfilled Aishna wrapped the turmeric close to her heart and continued her holy voyage.
Chimi Lhakhang Monastery, The Fertility Temple Of Bhutan
The holy path took her through elaborate sceneries, mesmerising views, dramatic landscapes, and brought her to the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan on the Himalayas’ eastern edge. The Chimi Lhakhang monastery in Bhutan, also known as the ‘temple of fertility’, is believed to possess supernatural powers by the Bhutanese people. They say that childless couples are blessed with a child when prayers are offered here. Aishna followed the rituals as directed by the Lamas and from here learnt about the Indian state of Sikkim and the widespread beliefs of its native people.
As she didn’t want to leave any stone unturned in her spiritual journey she set forth to one of the highest lakes in the world, Gurudongmar. The lake has an unearthly beauty and historical significance for both Sikhs and Buddhists. Hailed from the city of Chandigarh, Aishna’s eyes were filled with tears to have reached the place which was believed to be travelled and blessed by the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev.
Read about how to reach: GURUDONGMAR LAKE -THE TALE OF SACRED LAKE & HIDDEN LAND by Amrita
Gurudwara Nanak Lama Sahib at Chungthang Valley, Sikkim
Spinning the web of her dreams with positivity she moved on to yet another soul stirring location Gurudwara Nanak Lama Sahib at Chungthang Valley, Sikkim. The local belief here says that “Whosoever takes the water of this lake will gain virility and strength and will be blessed with children.” Seeming to move closer to her dream and carrying her prized possession in a bottle, Aishna returned to her hometown.
Though, the beautiful cities relaxed her sense with the aromatic breeze of the foothills of the Shivaliks, her heart was still in search of contentment. With more inputs from friends and well-wishers, she went further and explored the famous Mansa Devi shrine which is dedicated to Ma Mansa Devi, a Hindu folk goddess of snakes and is considered to be the nurturer of fertility.
The Fertility Temple Of Kamlesh Mahadev, Srinagar In Uttrakhand
Traversing the path to fertility, she was now planning to culminate her spiritual journey with a visit to the holy abode of God, The Golden temple, when her aunt convinced her to tread to a quiet town nestled in the foothills of the enchanting Himalayas. The picturesque Srinagar in Uttrakhand situated at the banks of the meandering Alaknanda, not only boasts of its natural beauty but of the architectural and historical legacy of its temples. The Kamlesh Mahadev temple here is said to possess such spiritual powers that numerous childless women, who have stood the whole night inside the temple with a lighted earthen lamp in their hands have been granted the wish of a child by Lord Shiva. In her intense desire to have an offspring, Aishna too joined the beeline of women, standing whole night with a lamp and kept it lighted throughout the night. At dawn she took a holy dip in the nearby Alaknanda river and took blessings from the priest.
Sri Bade Hanuman Mandir, Amritsar
With the reverberating experience and her budding dream still yearning to bloom, she took the path to her final destination, the city of Amritsar which is home to the spectacular holy shrine , the Golden Temple. Before visiting the walled city she was told not to miss paying her offerings at Sri Bade Hanuman Mandir or more popularly called the Langoorwala Hanuman Mandir. The temple has a significance stating that couples seeking child, tie a thread on the ancient banyan tree of this Bara Hanuman temple and on the fulfilment of their wish, they come here during ‘Navratra‘ along with the child to untie the knot tied by them previously. During this festival, the child is dressed as a langoor adorning bright red dresses lined by gold or silver borders. Their faces are smeared with fuller’s earth and a big tail with an artificial mace to give a complete look of a langoor. Aishna offered prayers and fantasised herself praying with a child dressed as hanuman in the forthcoming year’s ‘Navratra’.
The Golden Temple, Amritsar
With her heart full of hope and belief she stepped into the divine and glistening Golden Temple. She took a dip in the holy Amrit Sarovar near the legendary ‘Dukh Bhanjini beri’ which is believed to relieve all pains and afflictions. With a resounding experience, Aishna culminated her spiritual tour and firmly believed that her prayers will be granted soon.
Aishna, is the face of every Indian woman who bears the pain of infertility. The pain which agonises the inner voice which cries ‘am I not good enough for a baby’? Our societal norms are based on what we have been taught to believe; to believe that being childless is a curse and being infertile is a disease. Aishna’s journey evokes us to wonder if faith and medical science clash. Should we term these legendary beliefs as myths when no results are foreseen? Numerous such questions hover over our minds but are left unanswered. Although medical ethics seldom acknowledge its roots in religious beliefs but for a person in pain, these beliefs & visit to fertility temples act as a tool to fight courageously. Though following them blindly and not seeking medical help may not prove fruitful to couples but they can definitely help to foresee the dream which awaits a tomorrow full of promise.
Thus I strongly believe that the most fertile place in a woman is not her womb, but her heart. Because it is in the heart of a woman that dreams and it is here that visions are born. The vision which promises…
“Already in my heart, someday in my arms”
Navneet Sandhu Singh
Architect, Writer & Social Activist