Can places possess power? Yes, they can. Dotted all over the world are not just one but many types of places infused with power, sometimes strange and mysterious, sometimes mesmerising, sometimes ominous, sometimes sinister. Invariably, the power of such charged places is fascinating. Some of them are blessed, some are cursed, some are haunted, but they all share a common characteristic: unexplained power. While theories about their power abound, most times a rational explanation proves to be elusive.

This or that place has atmosphere. You may have heard that comment or made a similar one yourself. And you’ve probably also experienced that a particular place is “charged” and has strong vibrations. Often, as I’ve written earlier, such observations or experiences go way beyond the scenic splendor, décor or beauty or architectural layout of a place. Obviously, there is more to places than mere geographical location, construction or manmade designs and effects.

There is a distinct power that certain places exude and if you probe deeper into the unexplained power of places, you soon discover that a long period of regular prayers or worship in some form  along with a  supernatural link hold the key to the power behind certain places. At other places, a curse, a terrifying or sad history, an unfulfilled wish are at work. In a sense, places with power can be divided into constructive, positive power and destructive, negative power, with both often possessing a link with the paranormal.

For instance, during a stay at the historic Sapt Rishi Ashram in the holy town of Haridwar, I experienced a curious mix of power.  I heard one of the priests warning the new caretaker of the ashram’s
“yagya shala” or place where fire ceremonies are performed, “Attend to your duties conscientiously. This yagya shala has a lot of power and for some time now very few people have been able to last here for any length of time. Only those who have looked after this yagya shala with sincerity and devotion have been allowed to stay”. For more than fifty years, the flame in the hawan kund here has been constantly burning and over the years innumerable hawans have been performed here. Former President of India, the late Shri  Rajendra Prasad  was so taken in by the charged atmosphere of the ashram and the daily rituals and quality of worship—performed by learned priests in accordance with the Vedas and other scriptures, that in the 1950s he made a donation for the Gayatri mantra to be recited and the holy flame in the yagya shala to be kept burning for 101 years.

Built on the site where long centuries ago the powerful seven rishis or sages—sapt rishis—performed tapa or meditation or  penance and where the holy river Ganga was forced to split into seven streams to bypass each of the meditating rishis, both peace and power emanate from the entire ashram. Apart from such strong linkages, the yagya shala’s power has been enhanced in recent times by the untimely death of a sadhvi who took care of it for many years.

During her years at the ashram, she took loving care of the yagya shala—cleaning it daily, decorating it with fresh flowers and mango leaves, making sure there was never any shortage of wood to feed the agni or fire in the hawan kund. After her death, a virtual procession of individuals have taken over charge of the yagya shala but none have been able to last for long. Old timers and priests at the ashram believe that the sadhvi, who laid great emphasis on performance of duties and honesty, ensures that once dereliction of duties takes place or donations are pilfered, it is followed by dismissal.

Just an hour’s drive or train journey from Haridwar, scenic Dehra Dun also boasts of a charged place that has drawn and continues to draw lakhs of people. Popularly known as the Jhanda Sahib, this charged place was once the “dera” or main place of stay of ex-communicated Sikh Guru Ram Rai who still commands a very large following. In fact, one of the origins of Dehra Dun is attributed to this “dera”—hence the name Dera Dun—of Guru Ram Rai. Today, centuries after the Guru passed away in very unusual circumstances, strong vibrations still hold you in thrall inside the premises of the Jhanda Sahib and devotee after devotee narrates how a visit to the Jhanda Sahib leads to wish fulfillment—a feature which seems to be shared by most such charged places, probably because of the intense “fields” of positive energy that permeate the environs.

Along with many other points at the Jhanda Sahib—its Darbar Sahib—its evocative garden with the samadhi of the Guru and his wives—a small underground chamber that was used for meditation is noteworthy. There is so much energy in the small chamber, that several people have been lifted off their feet. My father, who had a great interest in such places and the supernatural, surmised that the positive energies created by the founder grew stronger and continue to grow partly because of the number of devotees who still flock to the place with fervour, devotion and purity in their hearts. Many of them journey barefoot for several days all the way from Punjab and Haryana. Supernatural forces too are at work here – I have written about them in earlier columns—and combine with other forces to enhance the strong power of this place.

Places of power are not confined to land. World-wise, numerous lakes, rivers and other water bodies, even wells, are reputed to be imbued with a mysterious power. Lake Otjikoto, a relatively small, natural lake in Namibia, Africa, is rumoured to have a vast treasure of 6 million gold marks lying in its depths, dumped there by the Germans before they surrendered in 1915.  The lake is also believed to be cursed, “full of vengeful spirits”. The lure of such a large treasure has been irresistible to numerous treasure hunters and ironically, led to their doom.

Author and crypto expert Bret Swancer wrote: “So many people have died trying to get to the treasure that the lake has gained a reputation for being a cursed death trap, and it was the focus of an episode of the Travel Channel’s Expedition Unknown, with Josh Gates.” India too has a famous “Lake of No Return” —stunningly beautiful but with a dark sinister history and legend. People who have ventured too close to it have been “swallowed” by the lake and today, lovers of beauty camp at a safe distance. More about such mysterious, cursed, haunted places, theories to account for their unexplained power and points for debate in a future column.

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