Walking in Peace

Were I to tell you that there are innumerable great places to walk in the congested city of Bombay (Mumbai) you would probably smile cynically in disbelief and mutter under your breath “Just what has he been smoking…”

Right through my 100 for 100 programme, hopefully at the pace of one every decade, I’m going to tell you all about these great places and gradually wipe that cynical smile right off your face.

First up is my current favourite — The Swami Muktananda Peace Park adjoining Saraswat colony in Santa Cruz. This used to be a poorly maintained municipal park a few years ago. Then the Brahma Kumaris took it over, and have transformed it into a haven of tranquility and rustic natural serenity — thankfully minus the artificial, manicured opulence that’s a characteristic of places such as Jogger’s Park in Bandra.

The Brahma Kumaris is “an international non-governmental organisation headquartered at Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, India, with over 8,500 centres in 100 countries. The organisation seeks to help individuals re-discover and strengthen their inherent worth by encouraging and facilitating a process of spiritual awakening. This leads to an awareness of the importance of thoughts and feelings as the seeds of actions. The development of virtues and values-based attitudes creates a practical spirituality which enhances personal effectiveness in the workplace and in family life. Based on the principle that the roots of change lie within, Brahma Kumaris encourages individuals to live by their highest values, vision and purpose. It holds that this commitment to self-transformation will create peace and a better world for all.”

Amen to that! Coming back to the Muktananda park, it’s care is supervised by two or three gleaming-white-sari-clad Brahma Kumaris ladies, who, I think, live in a small cottage that’s at one corner of the park.

I particularly like this park because of its unstructured layout. There are several paths criss-crossing each other and there is also one outer path that runs somewhat along the periphery (one round is about 270 metres). Somewhere in the middle is a pagoda-like structure in which small groups of people gather for short discourses, presumably on spiritual topics and religious scriptures. I reckon this area must be used in the mornings for yoga by individuals or groups. Near the pagoda is a small labyrinth consisting of a concentrically circular brick path along which one can walk, presumably while reflecting and introspecting. There is also a small meditation hut, which is really cool, peaceful and relaxing.

Swami Muktananda Peace Park (click any pic for larger image or slideshow)
100 for 100: Walking in Muktananda Park, Santa Cruz, Mumbai

Path to the Pagoda

100 for 100: Walking in Muktananda Park, Santa Cruz, Mumbai

Path on the Periphery

100 for 100: Walking in Muktananda Park, Santa Cruz, Mumbai

Meditate in the Peace Hut

100 for 100: Walking in Muktananda Park, Santa Cruz, Mumbai

Flower Power

100 for 100: Walking in Muktananda Park, Santa Cruz, Mumbai

Serenity Now

100 for 100: Walking in Muktananda Park, Santa Cruz, Mumbai

The Grass is Greener

It’s wonderful to walk along the outer path surrounded by a wide variety of trees and to observe now and then the different types of people who frequent the park — the elderly, strolling around or chatting on the benches; the school kids walking around studying; the overweight walkers; the couples coochie-cooing in secluded corners; the children playing on the slides and swings; and, the occasional rowdy teenagers swaggering around and creating a ruckus just because they think they have to. Overall though, everyone seems to be so relaxed and happy, it’s infectious.

In addition to the pictures above, check out the satellite map of the park by clicking on the satellite picture below.

Satellite map of Muktananda Peace Park

As is true for just about anywhere in Bombay, you’re never too far from a slum — zoom out a bit on the map and you’ll see one to the south west of the park. Fortunately, the park is insulated by barren land on the two sides and a strip of dense foliage on the western boundary. Lots of green, not much dust and not much noise — Blissful in Bombay!

- Val Souza

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