Category Archives: Pilgrimage

Gabbar Hill or Gabbar or Gabbargadh near Ambaji Temple, Gujarat!

By whichever name you call it, it’s a place worth paying your obeisance and worth your visit, particularly if you are Mata ke Bhakt!

Gabbar (or Gabbargadh), a small hillock about four km to the west of Ambaji village, is believed to have been the original seat of the goddess, the site of Krishna’s tonsorial ceremony (ritual head-shaving), and the abode of the divine Mahishasur-Mardini.

Read on to know how we reached Gabbar and what our experience was like…

…this is fourth in the series of my Mt. Abu posts!

On the same day of reaching Mt. Abu, we decided to visit famous Ambaji temple in Gujarat, which is around 45 Kms away from Abu Road. The drive in open jeep was quite adventurous in itself, the road passes through hilly terrain and for some patch, and the road was really bad. But visiting Ambaji temple was the main purpose of my visiting Mt. Abu. Excitedly we ventured out…and reached Ambaji temple around 5 PM and aarti at Ambaji temple happens at 7 PM. Please note arti is at 6:30 AM in the morning and 6:30 PM in the evening. Follow timings and reach much before time due to huge crowds for darshan during the arti.

Mannat ke Dhaade in the backdrop

So having good two hours at hand, locals suggested that we visit Gabbar Hill which is some four kms ahead. Without knowing much about the place, we reached there and found it to be quite interesting, especially those pagdiwalas selling Butter-Milk with big dollops of butter floating on it. Tanya enjoyed this chaas very much after which we set out on our journey. We took tickets for rope-way to reach temple and ride was just awesome amidst hills, rocks, trees and clouds. After reaching there we had to climb some more steps to reach the actual temple which made a rare sight. On the flat top of the hill there is a small niche facing the temple of Ambaji, in which a well-protected lamp is kept constantly burning, and can be seen from the main Ambaji temple at night. There are footprints of the Goddess under a pipal tree, which are worshipped.

The place is just divine; you would love to be there, sit there, pray there and could feel the divine presence. There is a jyot prajwalit – 24 hours, which is visible from Ambaji temple in the night. While climbing down, you see some good handicraft stores selling memorabilia’s, which I picked up for my family & friends and then there is a food court below where you can enjoy some fast food and coming further down you can see Navratna Plants which is a rare sight. Overall, we returned happily to our original Ambaji abode – Ambaji temple.

Enjoy the beauty and divinity of Gabbar in photographs which we clicked.

Don’t miss this place while visiting Ambaji.

While climbing up the temple, I saw a huge assortment of stairs which was of around 1000 steps and my heart nearly skipped a beat, thinking what if I had to climb them to visit this place.

Ambaji is in Danta Taluka of Banaskantha district, near the Gujarat-Rajasthan border. The walk from the bus station to the temple is less than one kilometer, under a roofed walkway. Direct buses are available from many places, including Mount Abu, 45 km away, Palanpur, 65 km away, Ahmedabad, and Idar.

 

Jain Temples of Dilwara – Architectural Marvel of the World!

After our brief stay at Nakki Lake, we proceeded for Dilwara Jain temples, which was around 3 Kms away from the place…

…without any specifics in mind, just going by the mention made by Shri Balwant Jain who advised me to visit Dilwara temples while in Mt. Abu.  I have rarely missed his advice!

Couldn’t help my mind going back to school days when there was a chapter in our History book or Social Studies book ( Terms Social Sciences, Humanities were non – existent then) on Dilwara Temples and how much I wanted to visit then, but it had to happen years later…never mind!!

When we started moving towards Temple Gate, it looked to me quite unusual one from the temple perspective, why? Can’t say? But I couldn’t figure out, how far temples were located from the temple gate. Being it a hot day, Tanya insisted some Chaas (Butter-Milk) and she spotted an old woman making it and selling it. She made a rare sight, smiling face, spirited and pleasing to look at. She sits just at the entrance of parking to the temple. Tanyaa promptly hopped off to her and fondly addressed her as Daadi (Grand Mom) and over a sumptuous glass of Chaas they struck a bond. Daadi & Poti had some great conversation…till we settled down to  enter the temple.

As we entered the temple complex, we spotted some stores selling our favourite Rajasthani Costume Jewellery, and we could not resist ourselves buying some earrings, bangles, anklets what not to our heart’s content. Don’t miss out visiting these stores if you are a jewellery buff, you can pick up some great pieces at reasonable prices.

Now was the time to enter the temples. As per the norms, you had to deposit your mobile phones and other gadgets at the gate and I promptly deposited my hand bag as I wanted to freely visit the temples.  Oh Yes, don’t miss reading the entire dos and don’ts put up on the entry gate. We promptly complied with all the dos and don’ts and soon became part of the group which guide of the temple had comprised. I must say the guided tours were excellent, without any cost and we have explained everything very well. Our Group was also quite receptive where people often smiled at each other.

Now was the time to enter the temples and marvel at the architecture created in marbles for the generations to see. We really missed bringing along Tanya’s friend Jeanie who is studying Architecture at J J School of Architecture. Her takeaways would have been certainly different than mine. We were told by the guide that these were made around thousand years ago and marble from Kota was transported on elephants for 14 years.  Guide also showed us Devrani – Jethani Jahorka which took some 9 – Odd years to complete. Lord Mahavir’s Statue is made of Ashta Dhaatu where the major component is Gold weighing several Kgs which is in the main temple.  Architecture is so unique & uniform all over that you just can’t stop admiring all through. We marvel at modern architectures but they are not even a patch on the architecture of Dilwara temples.

I would like to share some specifics about the temples: The Dilwara temples are located about 2½ kilometers from Mount Abu. These Jain Temples were built by Vastapul Tejpal, Jain laymen between the 11th and 13th centuries AD and are world-famous for their stunning use of marble. The five legendary marble temples of Dilwara are a sacred pilgrimage place of the Jains. Some consider them to be one of the most beautiful Jain pilgrimage sites in the world. The marble temples have an opulent entranceway, the simplicity in architecture reflecting Jain values like honesty and frugality. The temples are in the midst of a range of forested hills. A high wall shrouds the temple complex.

Although the Jains built some beautiful temples at other places in Rajasthan, some believe that none come close to these in terms of architectural perfection. The ornamental detail spreading over the minutely carved ceilings, doorways, pillars, and panels is simply marvelous.

Facilities are available for bathing, which is mandatory before puja is performed for the idols. These facilities use passive solar power to heat up the water for bathing and other things.

There are five temples in all, each with its own unique identity. Each is named after the small village in which it is located. These are:

  • Vimal Vasahi, dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabha.
  • Luna Vasahi, dedicated to the 22nd Jain Tirthankara, Neminatha.
  • Pithalhar, dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabha.
  • Parshvanath, dedicated to the 23rd Jain Tirthankara, Parshvanatha.
  • Mahavir Swami, dedicated to the last Jain Tirthankara, Mahavira.

Among all the five legendary marble temples of Dilwara, the most famous of those are the Vimal Vasahi and the Luna Vasahi temples.

I have no words and photos to share with you, for these architectural marvel, just see it believe it!

Even after stressing my mind, what I read about the temples in my Social Studies book, I could recollect only the title: Dilwara ke Jain Mandir, & here I was!

Rajasthan Tourism needs to promote Dilwara Temples like no place so that people are benefitted more from their visit to Rajasthan.

 

 

 

 

Kedarnath: Holy abode of Lord Shiva – The Protector, the Destroyer!

Recently PM Narendra Modi offered prayers at Kedarnath temple, the sacred Himalayan Shrine located on Garhwal Himalayan Range near Mandakini River in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand in India. You must be wondering am I following PM? Ah! Yes, though unintentional. His trips are as exceptional as he himself is. His visits take us to various unthinkable destinations which are great enough to generate big curiosity. I personally like to explore places, but it is not possible most of the times, so the best thing is to follow PM and write and spread awareness about those places. The destination of this is week is Kedarnath – where PM paid obeisance as soon as its doors opened after six-month-long winter break.

Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the devout Hindus. It is set amidst the stunning mountainscape of the Garhwal Himalayas at the head of the Mandakini River. Kedar is another name of Lord Shiva, the protector, and the destroyer. Shiva is considered the embodiment of all passions – love, hatred, fear, death and mysticism which are expressed through various forms. The shrine of Kedarnath is very scenically placed and is surrounded by lofty, snow – covered mountains, and during summer grassy meadows covering the valleys. Immediately behind the temple, is the high Kedar dome peak, which can be sighted from great distances. The sight of the temple and the peak with its perpetual snows is simply enthralling.

Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritiya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November). During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshiped there for six months. Lord Shiva is worshiped as Kedarnath, the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’, the historical name of the region.

All of us remember Kedarnath to be the worst affected area during the 2013 flash floods in North India. The temple complex, surrounding areas, and Kedarnath town suffered extensive damage, but the temple structure did not suffer any “major” damage, apart from a few cracks on one side of the four walls which was caused by the flowing debris from the higher mountains. A large rock among the debris acted as a barrier, protecting the temple from the flood. The surrounding premises and other buildings in the market area were heavily damaged.

The unstable temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by 14 kilometers (8.7 mi) uphill trek from Gaurikund. Pony and manchan service are available to reach the structure. The temple was built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Sankaracharya and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, expounded in Tevaram.

Pandavas were supposed to have pleased Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath. The temple is one of the four major sites in India’s Chota Char Dham pilgrimage of Northern Himalayas. This temple is the highest among the 12 Jyotirlingas.

The presiding image of Kedarnath in the form of lingam is or irregular shape with a pedestal 3.6 m (12 ft) in circumference and 3.6 m (12 ft) in height. There is a small pillared hall in front of the temple, that has images of Parvathi and of the five Pandava princes. There are five temples around namely Badari-year, Madhya Maheswara, Tunganatha, Rudra Nath and Kallesvara. The first hall inside Kedarnath Temple contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the guards of Shiva. Statue of Draupadi and other deities are also installed in the main hall.  An unusual feature of the temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia. Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby constructed on the site where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati was held. Adi Shankara was believed to have revived this temple, along with Badrinath and other temples of Uttarakhand; he is believed to have attained Mahasamadhi at Kedarnath. Behind the temple is the samādhi mandir of Adi Sankara.

The temple, at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), 223 km from Rishikesh, on the shores of Mandakini river, a tributary of Ganga, is an impressive stone edifice of unknown date. The structure is believed to have been constructed in the 8th century CE when Adi Shankara visited. The present structure is on a site adjacent to where Pandavas are believed to have built the temple. It has one Garbhagriha and a Mandapa and stands on a plateau surrounded by snow clad mountain and glaciers. In front of the temple, directly opposite to the inner shrine, is a Nandi statue carved out of the rock.

You can reach Kedarnath from Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun which is located 260 Km, whereas nearest railhead is at Rishikesh 243 km. Kedarnath is well connected to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun and Delhi.

The ideal time or peak season to go to Char Dham Yatra is from May – October, except monsoons, this is because all the four sacred sites are parched in Garhwal Himalaya, which is prone to heavy rainfall.

 

Ambaji Temple, Gujarat – Our next spiritual sojourn!

Mata Ne Bulaya hai!

This year when we decided to spend some part of our summer vacation in Rajasthan Hill Station, Mount Abu, I was driven by the drive of visiting and paying obeisance to one of the 51 Shakti Peeth’s – Ambaji temple. Ambaji ( Gujarati: અંબાજી, Hindi: अम्बाजी, Ambājī) is a census town in Banaskantha district in the state of Gujarat, India. It is known for its historical and mythological connections with sites of cultural heritage. The research on Ambaji town brought to the fore some important revelations, which I would like to share with my readers. You must be wondering that my year 2017 is taking me on a spiritual journey, believe me, it is just not by design, it is happening on its own. From many years, I have been planning to visit Ambaji temple, without knowing much about it, now I am looking forward to it.

Ambaji is an important temple town with millions of devotees visiting the Ambaji temple every year. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. Ambaji Mata temple is a major Shakti Peeth of India. It is situated at a distance of approximately 65 kilometers from Palanpur, 45 kilometers from Mount Abu, and 20 kilometers from Abu Road, and 185 kilometers from Ahmedabad, 50 kilometers from Kadiyadra near the Gujarat and Rajasthan border.

In the holy temple of “Arasuri Ambaji”, there is no image or statue of goddess the holy “Shree Visa Yantra” is worshiped as the main deity. No one can see the Yantra with the naked eye. The photography of the Yantra is prohibited.

The original seat of Ambaji Mata is on Gabbar hilltop in the town. A large number of devotees visit the temple every year, especially on Purnima days. A large mela on Bhadarvi Poornima (full moon day) is held. Every Year from all over the country people come here walking all over from their native place just to worship MAA AMBE in September. The whole Ambaji town is lit up as the nation celebrates the festive time of Diwali.

The temple is open from 7.00 am to 11.30 am, 12.30 pm to 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm to 9.00 pm.

The shrine of hi Amba is regarded as a revered shrine by the Shakta Shaktism sect of Hinduism. It is believed that the Heart of Sati Devi has fallen here. The origin of the Shakti Peetha status temple is from the mythology of Daksha Yaga and Sati’s self-immolation. Shakti Peethas were believed to have been formed when the body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi fell into different regions when Lord Shiva carried her corpse in sorrow after her death. The shrines are considered as highly revered by Shaivist (Shaivism) sect in Hinduism. The Shakti Peethas are mostly worshiped by tantra practitioners. Each Shakti Peetha has a Kalabhairava shrine associated with it the Kalabhairava of The Amba Matha Temple is Batuk Bhairav.

PM Narendra Modi performing puja at Ambaji Temple

Mythical History

Ambaji is one of the 51 ancient Shakti Peetha Tirth in India. There are 12 main Shakti Pith Tirth, significant places of pilgrimage for the worship of Shakti, namely, Ma Bhagwati Mahakali Maha Shakti at Ujjain, Ma Kamakshi at Kanchipuram, Mata Bramaramba at Srisailam, Shri Kumarika at Kanyakumari, Mataji Ambaji at AnarGujarat, Mata Mahalaxmidevi at Kolhapur, Devi Lalita at Prayag, Vindhya Vasini at Vindhya, Vishalakshi at Varanasi, Mangalavati at Gaya and Sundari at Bengal & Guhyeshwari Temple in Nepal.

There is no idol or picture in the temple but a simple cave like Gokh in the inner wall, in which A Gold Plated Holy Shakti Visa Shree Yantra having kurma back convex shape and 51 Bij letters therein, connected with that of the original Yantras of Nepal and Ujjain Shakti Piths, is also ritually installed in such a way it can be visible for devotion, but never photographed in past nor can be so done in future. The worship of this Visa Shree Yantra is done only after tying a bandage on the eyes.

More on return from Ambaji temple!! Watch this space for more!!!

 

 

PM’s visit to Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar, Odisha

On Saturday, April 14 almost all the News Channels were running clippings of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The detour of Lingaraja temple by Modiji along with temple priests and his entourage generated my excitement in the temple, though I am not a temple person per se, but Lingaraja temple looked very unique and antique. The architecture is timeless and feeling of being there…just divine!  Honestly, I had never heard about this temple before… but if Modiji is visiting the place, then it must be truly special & indeed it is special!

To curb my curiosity about the temple, I dug deep into it to know more about the Lingraj temple which I would like to share with the readers.

Lingaraja Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Harihara, a form of Shiva and Vishnu and is one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the East Indian state of Odisha. The temple is the most prominent landmark of the Bhubaneswar city and one of the major tourist attractions of the state.

The Lingaraja temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. The central tower of the temple is 180 ft (55 m) tall. The temple represents the quintessence of the Kalinga Architecture and culminating the medieval stages of the architectural tradition at Bhubaneswar. The temple is believed to be built by the kings of the Somavamsi dynasty, with later additions from the Ganga rulers. The temple is built in the Deula style that has four components namelyVimana (a structure containing the sanctum), Jagamohana (assembly hall), Natamandira (festival hall) and Boga-mandapa (hall of offerings), each increasing in the height to its predecessor. The temple complex has 50 other shrines and is enclosed by a large compound wall.

Bhubaneswar is called the Ekamra Kshetra as the deity of Lingaraj was originally under a mango tree (Ekamra) as noted in Ekamra Purana, a 13th-century Sanskrit treatise. The temple is active in worship practices, unlike most other temples in Bhubaneswar and Shiva is worshiped as Harihara, a combined form of Vishnu and Shiva. The temple has images of Vishnu, possibly because of the rising prominence of Jagannath sect emanating from the Ganga rulers who built the Jagannath Temple in Puri in the 12th century.

Lingaraja temple is maintained by the Temple Trust Board and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The temple has an average of 6,000 visitors per day and receives lakhs of visitors during festivals. Shivaratri festival is the major festival celebrated in the temple and event during 2012 witnessed 200,000 visitors.

The Lingaraj temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. James Fergusson (1808–86), a noted critic and historian rated the temple as “one of the finest examples of purely Hindu temple in India”. It is enshrined within a spacious compound wall of laterite measuring 520 ft (160 m) by 465 ft (142 m). The wall is 7.5 ft (2.3 m) thick and surmounted by a plain slant coping. Alongside the inner face of the boundary wall, there is a terrace to protect the compound wall against outside aggression. The tower is 45.11 m (148.0 ft) high and the complex has 150 smaller shrines in its spacious courtyard. Each inch of the 55 m (180 ft) tall tower is sculpted. The door at the gate of the entrance porch is made of sandalwood.

PM also visited the temple of Goddess Bhubaneswari and Parbati before interacting with sevayats and asked about the temple’s history, rituals and architecture. The Prime Minister emphasized the need to keep the temple premises clean and ensure ‘swachhata’ all around.

 

Lakshman Jhula, Rishikesh!

Lakshman Jhula, Rishikesh!

Absolutely clueless about what we would visit in Rishikesh, we landed in Rishikesh by Rishikesh Tourism bus boarded from Dehradun. After alighting at Rishikesh, I realized…now what next? Where do we go?  I must admit that it was the first trip of its kind where we had no plans in place like which hotel to embark, which places to visit and in what order. Suddenly it occurred to me that Lakshman Jhula is a famous destination, and we should go there first. We boarded an auto from the Stand, after a minor altercation with the auto driver but finally, he dropped as Lakshman Jhula Auto Stand. We asked him, “Where is Lakshman Jhula”. He showed us a tree on the right side of the road and said, “Take right from the tree.” Happily, we started moving, suddenly Mukund spotted a hotel and we decided to park our luggage there and then move on towards Lakshman Jhula. It was the bright sunny day but we decided to move because we wanted to attend “Maha Aarti” at Triveni Ghat in the evening. We started moving towards Lakshman Jhula from our hotel which was ideally located near our destination, which is probably in the center of the city. No sooner we realized that Lakshman Jhula is not that close as we were told. Voila, what a walk and the distance it turned out to be. We enjoyed our walk on the downward slope but when I realized how we will take an uphill walk, I became very jittery. There was hardly any transport available from Jhula till our hotel, so we had no option but to walk and just walk.

After walking for nearly 30 minutes, we reached our destination about which we were very curious since we had planned our trip. Lakshman Jhula is a famous landmark of Rishikesh where almost all tourists come to enjoy. Friendly Langoors and monkeys welcome you as soon as you enter the Jhula and I must say Ganges – in all its glory and splendor descending from the Himalayas looks just amazing. I forgot all my pain and was just enjoying the sight. The sight will not go off my mind for long! We walked Lakshman Jhula, which lies suspended over River Ganges, is 450 ft long and connects Tehri and Pauri district.

But do you know the story behind its name? Legend has it that Rama’s younger brother Lakshman crossed the Ganga using just two jute ropes. To honor his feat, a 284 ft long hanging Rope Bridge was built at the same place and named Lakshman. Until 1889, it was this very rope bridge that was used to cross the river but it was washed away during the floods of October 1924. After this, another bridge was built which opened to public use in 1930.

This is still in use but its name remains the same in honor of Lakshman. After crossing the bridge, we treated ourselves with chilled Jaljeera and Bunta (Soda) and then I and Tanya set out for some window shopping. The market here stocks stuff which appeals to foreigners mainly like idols, junk jewelry, dresses, Ramnami Jholas, stoles, kurtas, jackets, skirts, semi-precious stones, Rudraksha and other knick-knacks. We had a great time in the market while picking some stuff for us, whereas Mukund passed time with Langoors. We also saw the famous 13-storey Trayambakeshwar Temple which is on the other side of the Lakshman Jhula.

Indeed, it was great fun being on Lakshman Jhula, the suspension bridge in Rishikesh, where I felt like a child.

I must note here that to encourage tourism in the State and Rishikesh in particular, it is very important to keep Jhula spic and span. Many two-wheeler riders were freely crossing the bridge which made the movement of tourists difficult on the bridge and I could notice many tourists complaining about the same. It is high time Rishikesh Tourism paid attention to these things and made use of the amount we tax-payers are giving as “Swachh Bharat Cess” and bring alive the dream of PM Modi of “Swachh Bharat”.

Also, some signages at prominent destinations in Hindi & English should be displayed as I could notice some foreigners struggling with ways. It will certainly help all tourists and pilgrims alike. Hope Uttarakhand Governance is listening!!

Splendid, Spiritual & Musical Gangaji Maha Aarti, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

I would certainly like to visit, revisit & revisit the breathtakingly beautiful RISHIKESH, the religious abode of Himalayas, Ganga, Sadhus, Temples, Ghats, Truly religious and humble people, Maha aarti, Friendly Langoors, Ashrams, Yoga Centres, Adventure seekers, Students and Foreigners!

Read on to know, what all mesmerized me (A hardcore Urban Soul) in Rishikesh!

Our all of a sudden decision to visit Dehradun turned out to be a religious trip too, when as per plan on third day of our stay in Dehradun, we left for Rishikesh. We were super excited about visiting Rishikesh, particularly me as I had visited Rishikesh many years ago and had very feeble memories of the place. For the first time, I decided to move out of our comfort zone (read: hiring AC Cab) for our travel and decided to board State transport bus for Rishikesh from ISBT, Dehradun. It was a well-thought decision as I wanted to know how locals travel, think and behave in Uttarakhand. Believe me, my purpose was not defeated as I could see many college students, women and Government servants accompanying us on this ride. I wanted to touch the pulse of the people of UK who had voted so heavily in favour of BJP. People are happy about BJP rule and accepted that there was “Modi Wave” in the State. They accepted that since BJP is diligently moving on developmental agenda as many highways, flyovers, connecting roads in the vicinity witnessed fierce activity. But yes, to promote tourism in this naturally beautiful State, public transport needs to pull up its socks and provide better amenities to tourists. Buses are just the same as they were 50 years ago, AC buses need to be introduced with better access, but roads are better than any of the States in India. Believe me; it is not easy to make roads in the hilly terrain…

Hotel, where we were staying, owner told us that road work enroute Badrinath is on, so there is limited supply of electricity in the area. People are happy that their visit to the Shrine will be easier and happier now. & voila, next morning when I stepped out to enjoy the breeze across Ganga, I was surprised rather delighted to see, road nicely built on the route till where my vision could accompany me. This is good administration and governance, no wonder; Nitin Gadkari is the top choice for this coveted job. I am sure; Uttarakhand will be a changed State when I visit next.

Evening turned out as we had planned, we boarded Vikram (local means of transport) for Triveni Ghats from Laxman Jhula for the evening “Maha Aarti” which was truly Maha Aarti in letter & spirit. Believe me I had never seen anything so splendid, religious, musical & sentimental on any of my sojourns. Ghats were decked up nicely for all of us to sit and watch aarti comfortably where many foreigners too were awaiting keenly before we reached. The stage was set for aarti which started at 6:30 Sharp with the chanting of Ganga Aarti by Singers/ Pandits sitting on stage, before that Hanuman Chalisa was rendered. It was first day of auspicious Navratri so Vaishno Mata Mandir was decked up to the hilt with many pilgrims paying obeisance to the Goddess of Power.

I came to know that this Maha Aarti is major Tourist attraction taking place at this ghat.

This aarti is accompanied by chantings of bhajan, beating drums, bells and big diyas lighted all over the place. The devotees release small oil lamps placed on leaf boats in the water. These lamps float down the river and provide a beautiful view.

Ceremonies like “Pindha Shraddha” are also done at Triveni Ghat, which my husband Mukund also undertook for his recently demised father, late Shri Jamnadas Vaghela. We believe that we tearfully sent him on his final journey. The main Panditji performed this ritual for our forefather – our beloved “Pappa”.

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Triveni Ghat is the confluence of three holy important Rivers in Ganges, the Yamuna and Saraswathy which is most revered sacred bathing spot in Rishikesh and is situated on the banks of Ganges River.

It is a belief that holy dip here washes away all the ties and purifies the soul and will have salvation, a relief from sins carried out; the water has the power to purify them. It is very soothing to sit on the banks of the river and enjoy the cool breeze with many sentiments at a time at play.

Devotees make many offerings at Triveni Ghat; in the early morning at sunrise they offer milk to the river and happily feed the fishes in the Triveni Ghat.

Visit undertaken on March 28, 2017.

 

Wat Pho – Home of world’s largest Reclining Buddha

In the series of Buddhist Shrines I have visited in the past, I have presented before my friends Sanchi Stupa and Sarnath at Varanasi. Today I will bring for you WAT PHO – House of world’s largest reclining Buddha in Bangkok.  It was the Christmas of the year 2011 when we visited famed Wat Pho temple in Bangkok. & what an incredible experience it turned out to be! It was a scenic drive from hotel to the temple. Wat Pho turned out quite unique in many ways for us at least due to sprawling lawns, Buddha Statues, Buddhist architecture and reclining Buddha. Wat Pho houses many temples in the campus and it needs one full day to enjoy its beauty, serenity and spirituality.  I was super excited to visit reclining Buddha but our guide suggested that we visit all the temples in the campus before finally visiting reclining Buddha. We had to heed his advice and we did!

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Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and a must-do for any first-time visitor in Bangkok. This is what we did. It was our first tourist destination as soon as we stepped out. The ticket cost that time was 50 Baht which has been increased now to 100 Baht, this is what I know.

We bring before you the exclusive photo-essay of our trip:

Wat Pho is one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. It’s an easy ten minute walk between here and the Grand Palace, and we recommend coming to Wat Pho second, because even though the golden Buddha here is just as popular many people don’t take the time to wander around the rest of the complex so the experience tends to be far more relaxing. This is also a great place to get a traditional Thai massage. Wat Pho is often considered the leading school of massage in Thailand.

The highlight for most people visiting Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha. The figures here are impressive: 15 metres tall, 46 metres long, so large it feels like it has been squeezed into the building. The Buddha’s feet are 5 metres long and exquisitely decorated in mother-of-pearl illustrations of auspicious ‘laksanas’ (characteristics) of the Buddha. 108 is a significant number, referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to perfection.

You’ll need to take your shoes off to enter, and if you would like a little good luck, we recommend purchasing a bowl of coins at the entrance of the hall which you can drop in the 108 bronze bowls which line the length of the walls.

When we drop small pennies in the bowls, they make a nice ringing sound and even if your wishes don’t come true, the money goes towards helping the monks renovate and preserve Wat Pho.

Fond memories of visit to Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, on Shivratri!

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Today is one of the most important and biggest festivals of India – Mahashivratri. This is an auspicious day to celebrate the Lord of the lords, the mightiest of all Gods – Shiva. The day is celebrated amidst much fanfare with utmost bhakti, shraddha and aastha. This day is of great significance as it marks the union of Shiva and Shakti.

The biggest abode of Shiva in Mumbai is Babul Nath temple in South Mumbai where devotees flock since early morning to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva. I too celebrated Mahashivratri at home by lighting 11 diyas, dhoop, agarbatti, bel patra, dhatura, flowers and offering of Panchamrut & Jal on Shivlinga in the morning. It was an indeed a divine experience! Felt connected to Lord Shiva!! Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most famous  temples in Varanasi, also known as the Golden temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva.

Today my memories took me to my visit to Varanasi in early 90s for some friend’s marriage. I very reluctantly boarded the train from Lucknow to Varanasi on a chilly winter night in December with my mother in tow. I really did not know what the trip to Varanasi would unfold for me except that I wanted to buy some Benarasi Dupattas and Sarees and a trip to BHU, nothing beyond this…

…but it turned out to be 180 degree reverse experience. I was never a highly religious person, and in early 90s not at all. As marriage was in the night, our host suggested that we visit holiest abode of Lord Shiva Kashi Vishwanath Temple via Vishwanath Galli and then visit Dashawadhmedh Ghat and other Ghats on river Ganges. They told us that Vishwanath Galli is so narrow that no Taxi would enter there and the best option is to walk it over. So our walk began in the morning, and believe me, the walk looked to me just unending, finally we reached temple after walking to nearly an hour. What an experience it turned out to be! There were hardly any devotees in the temple so we could peacefully do Puja with the Pujariji. It was indeed a divine experience. Pujariji said, “Bhole Baba se jo chaho maang lo”. & what did I ask for? Top secret!! Sorry I don’t have photos of that trip.

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Kashi Vishwanath should be must visit for every Shiv Bhakt as the Jyotirlinga present in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered as the 12th of all the Jyotirlingas. Lord Shiva is the main deity in Hinduism and also known as the Vishwanath or Vishweshwara (means the ruler of the universe). Kashi is the oldest city of the world in history and known as the city of Lord Shiva.

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Jyotirlinga in the Kashi Vishwanath temple has an extraordinary and exclusive importance in the religious history of India. The main deity is known by the name Vishvanatha or Vishveshvara meaning Ruler of The Universe. The Varanasi city is also called Kashi, and hence the temple is popularly called Kashi Vishvanath Temple.

It attracts devotees from all across the world. The management of the temple was taken under UP Government on 28th January, 1983. The current temple is constructed by Late Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780. A Naubatkhana (in front of the temple) is constructed by the Collector Mohd. Ibrahim Khan in 1785. The two domes of the temple were covered by the gold (offered by the Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singh) in 1839. And the third dome was gold plated by the Ministry of cultures and Religious affairs of Uttar Pradesh Government.

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This makes Varanasi a tourists place because of great religious importance to the Hindus. The gold used to cover the two domes of the temple was donated by the Punjab Kesari, the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who ruled the Punjab. Now, after 28 January 1983, this temple becomes the property of the government of Uttar Pradesh and it is managed by Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Singh, then by the Kashi Naresh.

Opening time of the temple is: 3:00 am

Aarti time:
Mangala Aarti : 3 AM- 4 AM (Morning)
Bhog Aarti : 11.15 AM to 12.20 PM (Day)
Sandhya Aarti : 7 PM to 8.15 PM (Evening)
Shringar Aarti : 9 PM to 10.15 PM (Night)
Shayan Aarti : 10.30 PM – 11 PM (Night)

Location of the Temple: Kashi Vishwanath temple is located almost 5 km away from the Varanasi railway station and almost 6 km from the BHU.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple located at the western bank of the holy river Ganges. According to the Shaiva philosophy, it is considered that Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the midpoint of the worship for a long time. There is a Gyanvapi Mosque located adjacent to the temple. During spiritual occasions such as Shivratri, the king of Kashi (Kashi Naresh) comes to the temple. At that time nobody is allowed to enter the temple. Other devotees are allowed to the temple only after Kashi Naresh has completed his worship.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple has most religious importance for the worship in the Hindu religion. Many great Hindu saints (like Adi Sankaracharya, Goswami Tulsidas, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, Gurunanak etc) had came to the Varanasi to take bath in the holy water of the Gange and for the Darshan of the Jyotirlinga. It is believed that the one who will take bath (at least once in the lifetime) in the Ganges in the holy city Varanasi will get Moksha. True devotees of the Lord Shiva get freedom from the cycle of the death and birth. After death they directly intermingled into the Mahadev. People beliefs that the one who decided to end their life at the temple, Lord Shiva himself drive a mantra of freedom in his ear.

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Vishwanath Gali

Vishwanath Gali in Varanasi is the way to Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in the Vishwanath Gali and one who want to go to the temple he can go through the Vishwanath Gali. Vishwanath Gali is very popular gali of the Varanasi and famous for ladies corner, shops for the pooja goods and sweets. Devotees can make an affordable shopping in the Vishwanath Gali after completing the Darshan of Lord Shiva in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. & I did the same…picked up some lovely Benarasi Dupattas & Sarees.

I loved going down memory lane on this auspicious day!

Look forward to visiting Kashi Vishwanath temple next year!

Om Namah Shivay!

चित्रकूट के घाट पर हुई संतन की भीड़, तुलसीदास चन्दन घिसे, तिलक देते रघुबीर

Recently my brother Prabhat went to Lucknow for some of his official work. Having a special connect with Lucknow, as we have lived and worked there for many years, I called him to know that which all places he is planning to visit in Lucknow. Prabhat told me that he is skipping Lucknow and is visiting Chitrakoot instead, the land of Lord Ram & Tulsidas.

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I questioned, “Is this the same place, which has mention in the famous ballad “चित्रकूट के घाट पर हुई संतन की भीड़, तुलसीदास चन्दन घिसे, तिलक देते रघुबीर” He laughed when I recited the Ballad to him. Going by the fact that the religious and spiritual person he is, he sounded quite excited about going to Chitrakoot. He called me once he reached Chitrakoot after driving for nearly six hours and was mesmerized by the greenery and beauty of the place. My curiosity grew in the place but I had to wait for some more days for him to return to get updates on Chitrakoot. He doesn’t like to be disturbed in his religious and meditation sessions. But the wait was worth. The place is indeed very religious and spiritual and is a heaven for Ram Bhakts. I thought of sharing the details shared by him with my readers. You will particularly love the place if you are a true Ram Bhakt!

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Celebrated in ballads and the scriptures for its natural beauty and closely associated with the epic Ramayan, Chitrakoot or “the hill of many wonders” is a hallowed centre of pilgrimage. Prabhat first told me how you can reach there. The nearest airport Khajuraho is 185 kms and the nearest railway station Karvi is 8 kms. Also, Chitrakoot is well connected by road. There are regular bus services to Banda, Allahabad, Jhansi, Varanasi, Chhatarpur, Satna, Kanpur, Faizabad, Lucknow, Agra, Maihar, etc. Some Road distances are : Allahabad – 125 km. Satna – 75 km. Lucknow – 285 km, Mahoba – 127 km, Kalinjar 88 km and Jhansi 274 km.

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Prabhat first told me about Hanuman Dhara, a place he loved immensely. Located on a steep hillside, it is approachable by a flight of 360 steps. Here, the waters of a natural spring cascade over an image of Lord Hanuman. This is a hill where there are 3 main spots – Trimukhi Hanuman mandir, Panchmukhi Hanuman mandir (Main) and Seeta Rasoi at the top. There is a continuous stream of water that falls on Hanuman idol and the source of water is not known.

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He bought grams of “Chana” and fed langurs there which are in abundance. He added, “Langurs are very calm and will hold your hand and eat every chana one by one. This is a real fun for the kids.” People return after seeing Panchmukhi Hanuman mandir and do not go to Sita Rasoi. Sita Rasoi is not in good condition and is just an old room where Sitaji cooked food during ram vanvas. There are two ways so take one way to go up and come back using other. This place is around 3 km away from Ramghat.

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Now tell me about Ram Ghat, I quipped. On the banks of the River Mandakini, and centre of ritual activity, this ghat is the most frequented in Chitrakoot. The “Aarti” performed in the evening is particularly beautiful. This is a main ghat in Chitrakoot. You can do boating here by hiring boat for around Rs. 100–150 for an hour. Many of them have pet rabbits on the boats and playing with them would be really fun for the kids. Tulsidas statue is there on the ghat. Bharat Milap temple is also there on this ghat and all this you can cover this in around two hours. Daily arati happens at 6PM in the evening and you should find some time to secure a place to attend the arati. This is a central place in Chitrakoot.

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Other attractions being:, Gupt Godavari Caves where there are around three caves. Water streams flow through these caves. You could see few crabs in the water but they do not and never harmed pilgrims. It becomes very humid in these caves since there are no proper arrangements of ventilation, so be prepared. In one cave water flows over stones and it is not be convenient to walk over such short stones, so be prepared as per your physical fitness/weight. This place is around 20 km from Ramghat.

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Kamadgiri is a forested hill of prime religious significance, this is believed to be the original Chitrakoot. The Bharat Milap Temple is located here. Pilgrims perform a ritual circumambulation of the hill to seek blessings. Sphatik Shila: This picturesque spot is marked by two immense rocks. It is believed to be the place where Lord Rama and Sita feasted their eyes on the beauty of Chitrakoot.

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Chitrakoot is also known for its Kamadgiri Parikrama which is around 5 kms round which can be completed in approx 2 hours. One should be beware of notorious monkeys on the parikrama, at times they can be really nasty.

So when you are in Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad or Jhansi, must pay visit to Chitrakoot to enjoy nature in its most unadulterated splendor.

– With inputs from UP Tourism.