David Kinsley, author of Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, wrote:
One hymn of the Rg-veda (10.146) refers to a goddess of the forest, Aranyani. From this one hymn we get a rather clear picture of the goddess. She is an elusive figure who vanishes from sight and avoids villages. She is more often heard than seen. She speaks through the sounds of the forest, or one may even hear her tinkling bells. She seems to make her presence known especially at evening, and those who spend the night in the forest sometimes think they hear her scream. She never kills unless provoked by some murderous enemy. She is sweetly scented, is mother of all forest things, and provides plenty of food without tilling.
To develop a special relationship with her, create trails! She has a lot to say about how you do that, and she loves to change them for you.
In Part 1, I said that Aranyani is incarnate as forest; forest is the embodiment of Aranyani. Maybe this is why she is so seldom depicted in human form by classical artists, unlike so many other deities.
I was happily surprised to find this work by photographer Bijan Pirnia titled Aranyani, The Hindu Goddess Of Forests, with no anthropomorphic entity in it (that I can find). It is just forest, the embodiment of Aranyani!
Enjoy browsing terrific forest photos by Bijan Pirnia. Thank you, Bijan.
Back to making trails with Aranyani …
The following are not pretty pictures, just documentary, to show you one part of the Aranyaka Maze of paths, each a unique experience. I’m starting with the path into Aranyaka Sanctuary from the west.
This is an opening I created in Rock Wall 2 within a month after closing on the land purchase in 2005. It is the only place where I moved the rocks for a trail to cross a wall. All the other crossings just go over the wall. This one had a special use for the rocks. (Of course, the pictures here are delightfully clickable.)
The path turns right at the big pine at back center. Yes, it IS important to you which way it turns. You could get lost in Aranyaka Maze. Although, that’s a wonderful thing to do, too.
My greatest adventures hiking the remote haunts that I favor (on state land beyond Balsamea) may have been ones where I almost got lost. I figure I’m not lost until I stop looking, and sometimes looking gets hairy. I keep in mind what Daniel Boone said:
I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days. —As quoted in Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer, 1993, by John Mack Faragher p. 65
You’ll find this Boone quote butchered six ways all over the web, but now YOU have the great fortune seeing it properly quoted by Boone’s biographer. You’re so lucky!
I haven’t lost my keys until I stop looking for them. Does this make any sense to you?
The removed rocks became a short stub from the wall, finished with a deluxe fireplace. That’s a concrete bottom in the fireplace. I was a lot fancier in those days (2005). The other fireplaces in Balsamea go bare bottomed.
After thirteen years of evolution, as of September 22, 2018:
The interior got bigger as fire gradually split and cracked the rocks. Notice the original big rocks at the back are small ones now.
This fireplace has seen some fire, in all seasons. There is no solitude in the forest. When in doubt, have a campfire. Click into the gallery if it matters:
I never worried about the rocks crumbling. There are a few more on hand.
The turn. This turn is easy to remember because now your bare feet meet lots of sticky pine cones because last year we were inundated with them, more than I’ve ever seen before. They are finally drying up enough that you don’t have to scrape your feet when you get home. Well, just a few patches of pitch. Isopropyl alcohol is a good solvent.
This is the last leg on your unbelievably marvelous and breathtakingly fascinating journey to Aranyaka sanctuary. From the house, this trip takes three minutes sauntering. And you really should saunter, according to Thoreau.
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absoutely free from all wordly engagements. … When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shop-keepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them — as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon — I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.
— from Thoreau’s greatest essay (sez me), Walking (PDF), published in The Atlantic, June 1862 issue, a month after Thoreau’s death.
When I fail to show up on the trails daily, I weaken in every way.
And you have arrived at the northwest entrance to Aranyaka Sanctuary, one of four approaches to it in Aranyaka Maze. I know you are thrilled right out of your socks. Good, for this is sacred ground on which Aranyani prefers the bareness of your feet, as is her way there, too.
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. — The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, 1923
End of Aranyaka Part 2 — Part 3 coming soon, I hope
Oh, one more thing … Aranyani’s Theme …
I want to share this mind-melting bit of flute and orchestra written by Georges Bizet for the Entr’Acte (Intermezzo) between Acts 2 and 3 of Carmen, performed by Leonard Bernstein with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
Balsamea has adopted it as Aranyani’s Theme, because it feels like her. Give it a click. It’s less than 3 minutes. Close your eyes right after clicking, and keep them that way for 3 minutes. Don’t think about it. Just let it take you for a ride. You may have to listen a few times before you finally let go and let it do that. In any case, you will enjoy it. It’s the kind of thing that somebody might call a “haunting” melody, but it’s not.