Feedback form

Share Your Thoughts

Are you enjoying our content? Don’t miss out! Sign up!

India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

A pilgrimage on foot

Mahakaleshwar (Ujjain) to Omkareshwar:
Phase 1 [May 5, 2022 – May 12, 2022]

For years, the idea of making a pilgrimage on foot to all twelve of the Jyotirlinga Temples has fascinated me. This journey would not only allow me to connect with the locals and hear their stories, but it would also give me a chance to experience the sanctity of the temples and the transformative power of spirituality.

Omkareshwar temple on a riverbank
Omkareshwar Temple, MP

Devotees from all over India consider the Jyotirlinga Temples, dedicated to Lord Shiva, as sanctuaries of spiritual enlightenment. They draw devotees from all over India. Pilgrims come to these sacred shrines to seek solace and connect with the divine.

In middle school, I learned about Shri Adi Shankaracharya, who embarked on a pilgrimage to visit these temples starting from Kochi in Kerala. The idea of someone walking across the entire country seemed mythical and beyond the realm of possibility for someone like me.

For many years, that dream lay dormant, relegated to the realm of tomorrow and too far-fetched for today’s reality. But as the milestone of my 70th birthday approached, a realization dawned upon me. I realized I couldn’t wait any longer to take action, as time was running out and I couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity. This newfound sense of urgency and determination fueled the first step, toward making that dream a reality.

The picture shows a map of India with locations of Jyotirling Temples in India (image courtesy.Vijay Rajvaidya)
Locations of the 12 Jyotirling Temples in India

Destination: Shri Omkareshwar Temple

On May 5, 2022, I set off on a pilgrimage from Shri Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, determined to reach Shri Omkareshwar temple, 100 miles to the south along the Narmada river.

People who have braved the scorching heat of an Indian summer will understand the challenges I faced during my journey. May is a month of intense heat, with temperatures reaching a blistering 116 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. I tried different strategies to manage the heat, such as starting my walks early in the morning or late in the evening. Despite these efforts, the lowest temperature I encountered was still a searing 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mahakaleshwar temple - the starting point of Vijay's pilgrimage (image courtesy: Vijay Rajvaidya)
Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain, MP

Friends and loved ones offered a lot of advice – download and listen to music, wear sunscreen, take a break every two days, and so on. I realize now that I didn’t do any of that!

Every day presented new challenges – where should I stay tonight? How can I find a bucket of ice to soak my swollen feet? Can I find someone to do a foot massage? How do I launder my sweat-soaked clothes during the journey? Do I have proper hydration? And how can I be safe while walking on main roads and highways? There were no footpaths or walking trails to follow.

Pilgrimage: Walking to a chant

During the walk, I recited the Mahamrityunjaya mantra and Shri Ganeshaya namaha in my mind using the rhythm of those chants to pace my strides.

Vijay Rajvaidya walking on a highway during the first leg of his pilgrimage (image courtesy: Vijay Rajvaidya)
Vijay walking on the highway from Mahakaleshwar to Omkareshwar (image courtesy: Vijay Rajvaidya)

My journey took me through bustling cities to peaceful plains, down the slopes of the Malwa plateau, and into dense forests. Navigating the busy streets of Indore was draining but the tranquil beauty of nature was a refreshing escape, even in the night’s stillness.

I was cautious – a car was always on call nearby for any unexpected challenges. This proved to be a wise decision because I felt vulnerable and afraid while walking alone in a forest near a river. 

People were naturally curious about me! I did not appear like a typical pilgrim – I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, Brooks shoes, and a garland of large Rudraksha beads around my neck, the only thing that hinted at a pilgrimage. The Rudraksha mala was a gift from the priest of the Mahakaleshwar temple.

The kindness of strangers

During my padayatra (walk), I encountered kindness from random strangers. Truck drivers offered me water and rides, and folks on scooters offered to drop me at my destination. One early morning as I passed through a rural area, the village headman approached me with a marigold garland and offered chai. He could tell that I was a pilgrim and wanted to learn about my journey. This outpouring of compassion and generosity touched me deeply.

In one amusing instance, I was even mistaken for a policeman. As I walked through the small town of Barwaha, which has a Central Reserve Police Force training center, two ladies on a two-wheeler stopped and commented that they had been observing me for some time and wondered if I was in training to become a policeman!

The picture shows Vijay Rajvaidya walking along a road at night during his pilgrimage(image courtesy: Vijay Rajvaidya)
Vijay on a padayatra from Mahakaleshwar to Omkareshwar (image courtesy/ Vijay Rajvaidya)

The final leg of the journey was both challenging and emotional. With a flight to catch the next day, I pushed myself to complete the last stretch, covering over 25 miles (about 40 km) through a dense forest along the Narmada river, in the dead of night. The darkness of the wilderness and the proximity of the river worried me, but I pressed on, the headlights of my car illuminating the way. With each step, I pushed past my limits – my feet ached so much and at some point became numb. I could barely lift my water bottle and drink the Limca it contained.

After a grueling five days of walking over 20 miles a day, I arrived at my destination. The sight of the revered Shri Omkareshwar temple at 2 am was gratifying.

Limits are self-imposed

I realized that the limits we impose upon ourselves are just that – self-imposed! Our abilities are determined not just by physical norms, but by mental strength. At 70 years of age, I could walk 100 miles over 5 days at 109+ degrees Fahrenheit!

As I continue on this pilgrimage, my spiritual journey, I am filled with a deep sense of purpose and a desire to make a positive impact on the world around me. My goal is to inspire others and shine a light on important issues such as literacy, environmental protection, and public health.

I invite you dear reader to join me, even for a brief segment, if we can bring positivity to the world. May we all find the courage to walk the path that is true to our hearts and to use our unique gifts to make the world a better place.

I started the next leg of my padayatra from Shri Omkareshwar towards Shri Somnath on October 6, 2022. Please look out for a firsthand account of this incredible experience in future updates!

Lead image: By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Avatar photo

Vijay Rajvaidya

Vijay Rajvaidya serves as the Managing Director of India Currents Inc. His 30 years of experience in the technology industry of the Silicon Valley have fueled the vision of growing India Currents into...