SWIM: MAHESHWAR, INDIA by Carol Miltimore of Seek Collective 
Photographs courtesy of Carol Miltimore/ Seek Collective
  “Swimming brings memories of long summers by the pool or on the beach beside the dark and salty Atlantic Ocean. When I'm in India I come to appreciate water and swimming in a very different way. There, water comes as sweet respite from the intense sun, an element of often-holy significance.  In many places there’s a shortage so it quickly becomes a commodity. 
The evening I arrived in Maheshwar, a town located in the western central state of Madhya Pradesh in India, all I knew was that I’d be staying at a historic fort overlooking the Narmada River, one of the sacred rivers in India.  As I looked out over the wall, high above the Shiva temples along the water, the sun shone upon the river.  The majesty of that moment took my breath away.
Traveling in India, I’ve gotten used to crowds.  But as thousands of wayfarers gathered along the river steps, bathing, singing, eating, and sleeping, I found this experience entirely unique! Turns out I’d arrived during the celebration of Ram's birthday, an endless stream of people arriving on pilgrimage with "sita ram" chanted nonstop, day and night.  Men bathed, women cleaned dishes and laundry, and children played joyfully in the water.  The pilgrims’ clothing and textiles created a rainbow of movement against the ancient muddy architecture.
Compared to many of the bodies of water I had come across in India, the Narmada was surprisingly clean. When the celebrations ended a calm quiet took ahold of the ghats.  I decided then that my time for a swim had come.  
The sun descended and the penetrating heat subsided.  My friends and I hired someone to paddle us out to the 400 hundred-year-old Shiva temple in the middle of the river.  A small cow sculpture presided over the entrance.  Then, we took the plunge.  With it came the cool relief that only a swim on a summers day can bring.
I floated.   Immersed.  In the hallowed waters of the Narmada I couldn’t help but think about how many people had bathed in these waters.  The intention of the divine in their hearts and minds.  For thousands of years past.  And thousands more to come.”
 STAY: Ahilya Fort

~ Carol Miltimore
Carol Miltimore is the founder and creative director of Seek Collective. Her passions include art, yoga, travel and ice cream.