Category Archives: Pilgrimage

Obeisance at Chilkur Balaji Temple, divinity paramount!

June 29: Visit to Chilkur Balaji Temple!

We (Vandana, Me & Mukund) set out for Chilkur Balaji temple in the morning, it was in a long time that I was visiting a temple. Full credit for this visit and divine experience goes to Vandana & Jijaji ( Anil Kumar Saxena), who made it possible. The drive was pleasant as the weather was breezy and cloudy and even sunny some times. Enroute, we saw Golkunda Fort also. It took us around one – hour to reach there. In the morning, Jijaji had given me some finer points about this temple which I would like to share with you.  

This temple is also popularly known as “Visa Balaji temple”. Apparently, the temple is known for fulfilling devotees’ wishes to get a visa for going overseas. Chilkur Balaji is also known for being one of the very few temples in India without any hundi or donation box, preaching only the devoutness in one’s nature. So, if you have visa issues, visit Chilkur Balaji temple. Secondly, you have to make a wish with your eyes open and thirdly, there is no donation box, which is a rarity for any place of worship. For the first time, I saw Tulsi mala made of fresh green big Tulsi leaves, which all devotees offer to the deity. I loved the mala, how I wished I could carry it!

The temple premises were very crowded as it was a Saturday and it was some auspicious day. There was a long queue, but it was not at all tiring, as we all wanted to reach the temple and make a wish. Indeed, the crowds were very disciplined, moving in the queue properly.

Balaji temple is located almost 30 kilometres from Hyderabad, in Chilkur, which is a small picturesque village and a popular pilgrimage. On the banks of Osman Sagar Lake, close to the Vikarabad road, this temple attracts hordes of devotees from all over the country. Chilkur Balaji temple has a pleasing architecture too, boasting of being one of the oldest temples in Telangana. It is said that this temple was built more than half a millennium ago, the temple is being considered as an alternative of Tirumala temple. The main deity of the temple is Lord Balaji Venkateswara along with Sridevi and Bhoodevi accompanying him.

Usually, the devotees follow a common pattern. They offer 11 “pradakshinas” and their prayers to the deity. Once the wish is granted, they take 108 pradakshinas of the temple to show their gratitude and thank the God.

The rounds are done amid the chanting of mantras and religious yet lively talks of the highly educated priests, who speak and motivate devotees in English and Telugu. This temple is known for its positive and peaceful atmosphere, away from the commercialized touch.

Chilkur Balaji temple darshan timings are from 5 in the morning to 8 in the night. It is open throughout the week. Devotees can be seen doing pradakshina since morning till late in the night. Outside the temple, there are many small hotels as well. For accommodation, you can go to the Haritha Hotel by Telangana Tourism which is located very near to the Chilkur Balaji temple.

 

Our visit was not complete without some more shopping of bangles…

…Thanks, Vandana & Jijaji for this divine experience!

Ayodhya’s answer – Ayutthaya in Thailand

One again Ram Mandir in Ayodhya was in the news yesterday when all TV channels were discussing the topic through panel discussions, and TV anchors were racing for outdoing each other on the subject. A highly disputed and discussed subject on the planet, Ramjanmabhoomi has been a subject of curiosity all over the world. Everyone has its opinion on Ayodhya dispute but no one’s matters.

While Indians were very hopeful that Ram Mandir will be constructed in the tenure of full majority Government of BJP and with Modiji in the centre and Yogiji in UP, this does not look like happening any time soon.  The channels picked up the topic as the Supreme Court on Friday referred to the Ayodhya land dispute case for mediation and ordered panel to start proceeding within a week and complete it in 8 weeks. There is some spark here, hope some way out happens soon…till then you wait, wait and more wait for Mandir in Ayodhya.

But if you are very keen to visit Ayodhya but can’t visit you, can visit Ayutthaya ( Ayodhya ) in Thailand. Though Ram Mandir in Ayodhya still looks like a distant dream for us, we can now do with the grand Ram temple being constructed in Thailand’s Ayutthaya.

The capital of the mightiest Siamese kingdom (33 kings ruled from here) Ayutthaya was indeed named after our own Ayodhya, and many Thai kings have taken on the official title of King Rama I, II, III and so on.

The Ram temple is being constructed on the bank of Chao Phraya river which flows through the heart of Bangkok. It is said that in the 15th century, the capital of Thailand was a city called Ayutthaya, which is Ayodhya in the local language.

When Burmese soldiers overran this city in the 18th century, a new king rose. He called himself Rama I, established the city now known as Bangkok, wrote the epic Ramakien, which is Ramayana in the local language, made it the national epic, and got it painted as murals on the walls of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, patronised by the royal family, it is believed.

Though he was a Buddhist, the king established his royal credentials by identifying himself with Lord Ram, who was as much a hero for Buddhists of south-east Asia as he was for the Hindus of South Asia.

This once-prosperous Siamese trade and political capital go down as the most glorious as well as the most devastated city in Thai history. Still, tourism is healthy, as the city is bursting with stories to tell.

Wandering through endless ancient ruin sites, you can’t help but feel humbled by the ingenuity of the Ayodha craftsmen and their powerful spiritual beliefs. At the centre of Ayutthaya City is Ayutthaya Historical Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the most visited site in the area. Here, the four spectacular temples of the early Ayutthaya period (1350 – 1529) stand amongst a dense canopy of ancient trees. West of it is the site of the Royal Palace and Royal Chapel (Wat Phra Si Sanphet) – the political and spiritual heart of the lost kingdom.

Ayutthaya is located on a distance of 100 km from Bangkok and it is nearly two hours drive, you can decide to stay overnight there.

So do it with Ayutthaya in Thailand till we have our own in Ayodhya!

 

Ayodhya: Mandir Kab? Vikas Ab!


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While Court was busy in giving tareeq-pe-tareeq, Modiji, Gadkariji and Yogiji developed Ayodhyaji as a remarkable pilgrimage and tourism centre. Now people visiting UP, can’t miss visiting Ayodhya, it is a prominent destination on India’s tourism map and of course holy shrine of all Hindus. Mandir kab Banega, Mujhe Nahi pata, but Ayodhya Jana to Banta hai…

Ayodhya is one such holy city in the entire world which is in the news every day, round the year. Why? I don’t need to tell you here. But recently, it was in News for a different reason, when Mr Nitin Gadkari announced infrastructure projects worth Rs. 5300 crores in Ayodhya, which included improvement of 84 Kosi Parikrama Marg and Ram Van Gaman Marg, which was long overdue. These two projects have religious significance for pilgrims.

With Yogiji as CM of UP, Ayodhya got its due, many infrastructure projects have been commissioned, Saryu aarti became the talk of the town and tourists have started visiting Ayodhya. Though Ram Mandir is still subjudice with next hearing coming up in Supreme Court soon (tareeq pe tareeq), if doesn’t get shelved as has been happening from last so many months, testing the patience of Indian public. All are helplessly watching – when Ayodhya dispute will be put up for hearing and will not be deferred on some or the other flimsy ground. Keeping our fingers crossed.

Read on to know its history and geography and more…

The Ayodhya city situated on the banks of the River Saryu being associated with a mythological epic Ramayan as the birthplace of Lord Ram has various temples that are prominent spiritual places for tourists to visit. Along with temples,

Historically Ayodhya was known as Saketa which was an important city during the 6th Century in civilized India. Indeed, during Buddha’s time, Saketa was ruled by Prasenadi whose capital was Sravasti. Even, during Maurya rule, Saketa continued its prominence and was attacked by Bactrian Greek expedition allied to Panchala and Mathur during 190 B.C.

During the Gupta rulers, Ayodhya reached its highest political significance such that during the reigns of Kumaragupta and Skandagupta capital of the empire was shifted from Pataliputra to Ayodhya where the old name of Saketa was replaced to Ayodhya. Ayodhya name of the city defines the city as Lord Rama’s capital city. But, during Narasimhagupta the empire was destroyed by Huns that caused the shifting of the capital to Kanauj in the 6th century. It resulted in the oblivion of Ayodhya. In the early second millennium, Gahadavalas came into power at Kannauj. During his rule, Gahadavalas built several Vishnu temples at Ayodhya. In subsequent years, the cult of Rama developed within Vaishnavism, with Rama being regarded as the foremost avatar of Vishnu.

Consequently, Ayodhya’s importance as a pilgrimage centre grew and tourists can visit so many pilgrimage places in Ayodhya. Ayodhya also has various other tourist spots. Some are:

Ram Janmabhoomi Temple

However, the area of Ram Janmabhoomi is disputed since the destruction of Babri Masjid built on it; yet due to its mythological association with Ramayan as the birthplace of Lord Ram, this place is a major tourist attraction in Ayodhya. This place possesses spiritual significance for Hindus and hence it is a place worth visiting.

Hanuman Garhi

Another important temple that is situated in Ayodhya is Hanuman Garhi that is solely dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The temple is characterized by the 70 steep steps that should be scaled in order to reach the temple complex. Truly, this place is a must to visit.

Treta Ke Thakur

Treta Ke Thakur is an ancient temple situated on the banks of the river Sarayu in Ayodhya. This temple has a beautiful idol of Lord Ram carved out in black sandstones.

Kanak Bhawan

This temple is built on an area that was supposed to house another temple which was gifted to Sita immediately after her marriage by Lord Ram. The temple was later renovated by King Vikramaditya of the Paramara dynasty and again rebuilt in 1891. This temple has a marvellous architecture that makes it worth visiting.

After the independence of India from British rule, Ayodhya has been an important city of Uttar Pradesh from a spiritual point of view.

The distance between Lucknow to Ayodhya is 135 km by Road and 142 km by Rails. Aerial distance is 125 km. There is/are 15 direct train(s) from Lucknow to Ayodhya. You can reach Lucknow by Air and Train, very well – connected network of airports and railways.

Not only in India, in Uttar Pradesh, in Thailand, but the place known as Ayutthaya is also named after Ayodhya – the birthplace of Lord Rama in India. Thai kings called themselves as Rama and their capital Ayutthaya. Beautiful!!

More on it my next post…

Kumbh Mela: To witness the world’s biggest congregation of humanity

After the tumultuous year 2018, people are hoping big for peace, harmony & spirituality for the year 2019, as it is starting with the Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019, going to be held at Allahabad (Prayag) from January 14th – March 4th, 2019. According to estimates, the Kumbh Mela 2019 would have more than 12 crore pilgrims drawing in for the bathing ritual held in Allahabad.

With PM Narendra Modi performing the Maha Aarti on Sangam Ghat and announcing the prarambh of Ardh Kumbh along with UP CM Yogi Adityanath, this year Kumbh is unquestionably the most anticipated event of the Year 2019. Massive preparations are underway to provide bhakts with never before experienced. In the words of Yogi Adityanath, “ With Kumbh (Ardha Kumbh) Mela due in Prayag in January 2019, the preparations are afoot to host an expected 12 crore visitors. Inviting one and all to be a part of the Mela. He informed about the world-class arrangements of the Kumbh Mela, and of cleanliness. He added, “I promise, you will not find any dirt in the venue, which we have expanded to 10,000 acres from 5,000 acres. Also, this time, the Kumbh Mela will have more cultural attractions than ever before.”

Going by the arrangements put in by the Yogi Government this Kumbh, it is going to be a big tourist attraction for Indian & Foreign Nationals besides being Spiritual, Cultural and Religious experience which comprises its core. The major attractions being Shahi Snan, Sangam Walk and Laser Show etc. Not only this, the Centre has plans to start airboat service from Varanasi to Prayagraj for the Kumbh Mela as per the announcement made by Central Road Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari recently. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is arranging for a ferry service near Sangam Ghat as well.

Noted film producer Subhash Ghai upheld the Kumbh Mela as an inspiration for all artists. “As artists, we get inspired by history, our epics, our puranic sanskritis and give this punarjivan in our own ways. We consider the age-old Kumbh tradition that was mentioned as early as in the 7th century by Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang, as a great pride of India. I hope by taking part in the Kumbh Mela, this unique gathering of humans focused on soul and world peace alone, we will give more power to this wonderful tradition.”

The Royal Bath or the Shahi Snan or the Rajyogi Snan is the first holy bath that is taken by Nagas, followed by saints and sages of different Akharas (religious groups) in the Sangam. Millions of pilgrims follow these saints and sages down onto the river; the Nagas take the lead.

The organisers have left no stone unturned to make Kumbh Mela as women-friendly as possible with sensitisation training and the establishment of separate ghat among other measures. The Gobind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute (GBPSSI) at Prayagraj is training about 8500 police personnel and additional 9000 paramilitaries on gender, cultural and linguistic dialect sensitization. In another first at the Kumbh, women – only ghat is being constructed.

The city of Prayagraj will host its first Kumbh in January 2019 after its recent rechristening. Kumbh Mela 2019 promises to be a grand spiritual event in which millions will throng from around the world at the holy confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

It is believed that the Kumbh Mela starts when astrological positions of Sun, Moon and Jupiter are fully occupied. This is considered a holy time in the Hindu religion. Prayagraj is connected by air to several domestic destinations. The airport is at Bamrauli and is 12 km away from the city centre. The city has four major railway stations namely Allahabad Junction, Prayag Station, City Station at Rambagh and Daraganj Station. Prayagraj is well connected by road as well.

Millions of people visit Prayagraj during the Kumbh Mela. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that the city expects 15 crore visitors during Kumbh Mela 2019. Peshwai is one of the attractions of the Kumbh Mela. Peshwai marks the beginning of the Kumbh Mela and is a marvellous procession. Holy men and their entourage arrive at the Kumbh on elephants, horses and in carriages.

Uttar Pradesh government is organising Sangam Walk for the tourists visiting the city for Kumbh Mela. A laser-light show will be one of the attractions this year. The show will be held at Allahabad Fort.

Indian, as well as foreign nationals from abroad, are expected to visit the Kumbh Mela. Heads of foreign missions in India were invited by the government to observe the preparations at the site Kumbh Mela.

This is the first time that about 1500 cameras would capture images and videos across the city. This would enable organisers to understand crowd behaviour and pedestrian’s movement which is very critical handle crowds of this scale.

Plan your visit in advance for that unique spiritual experience!

Inputs: News 18 and ET

 

MTDC and MCGM embrace international tourists for Ganesh festival in Mumbai

~ Special arrangements made for international travellers at Girgaum Chowpatty during Ganeshotsav. ~

With an aim to celebrate and promote the majestic Ganesh festival amongst travellers, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) in association with Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has made special arrangements for International Tourists at Girgaum Chowpatty in Mumbai. A pavilion with the capacity of more than 300 has been set up at for the venue for tourists to observe and participate in the spirit and cultural fervour of Maharashtra.

Looking at the overwhelming response received last year during the Ganesh Festival, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) are offering amenities like online registration facility, clean drinking water, mobile toilets, bus transport and refreshments.

With this alliance, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) aims to make Ganeshotsav an international event. Tourists can study and participate in various aspects of Indian culture and rituals. They also get to experience the 126-year-old heritage of Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav.

Commenting on the occasion, Shri Jaykumar Rawal, Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra said, “It is a pleasure to showcase the best of Maharashtra’s rich culture and tradition. The distinct pavilion has been set up for overseas travellers to perceive our beloved deity Ganesha. The pavilion will include amenities like clean drinking water, mobile toilets, bus transport along with refreshment. Tourists can see the Ganapati idols from all over the city at Girgaum Chowpatty which will certainly showcase the transformation in the celebrations over the years.”

Shri Vijay Kumar Gautam (IAS), Principal Secretary, Tourism, Government of Maharashtra added, “The objective is to position this festival on the global map, so we are inviting international tourists to participate through MCGM registration facilities for the Ganesh festival. We have made a separate pandal for the International tourists at Girgaum Chowpatty. The tourists can catch a glimpse of the Ganpati idols from across the city. I am certain that the festival will attract a large number of International visitors in the state of Maharashtra.”

Commenting on the occasion, Shri Suhas Diwase, Managing Director, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) said, “Ganeshotsav is a festival that has always brought individuals from different cultures and communities together. Tourists from diverse countries come to experience the Ganesh Darshan Tour of MTDC every year. We are happy to associate with MCGM to accommodate International tourists and give them an experience of one of the most popular festivals in the state.”

For further details, please visit: http://www.maharashtratourism.gov.in/

 

 

Pracheen Hanuman Temple in Nayi Dilli!

We recently visited Pracheen Hanuman Mandir in Connaught Place after a gap of four years. However, I always make sure that I visit this unique temple, whenever I am in Delhi, but it doesn’t always happen. This time, the trip was planned in such a way that Hanuman Mandir visit must happen and it happened. Early morning trip to the temple is really divine experience and I was very happy being there after a gap of so many years.

I always give complete look at the main foyer of the temple which has massive silver plated doors, which are engraved with scenes of the epic Ramayana story. The foyer is ventilated with clerestory windows that are adorned with paintings of Hanuman in the cardinal directions depicting his four aspects. Below each Hanuman painting, the full text of Tulsidas’s Sundar Kand is inscribed on the marble tablets affixed on the walls. It is a great feeling to watch it all…

…I experienced some real nostalgic moments as soon as I entered the temple, which I use to visit many years ago while my stint at BHEL and Mummy use to join me every Tuesday morning to visit the temple. Praying at the temple, made us sail through many challenges in life like the untimely death of my father, and circumstances followed thereon. As everything passes away, so did the tough times but temple visits stayed with us.

It is my favourite religious destination and I miss that most in my life while living in Mumbai besides many other things like evenings in Connaught Place, Shopping in Sarojini Nagar, Dilli Haat, Dilli Chaat, Khadi Gramodyog Bhawan, Lodhi Gardens…my beautiful house in Mayur Vihar.  Life has to move on…though! As a ritual, I applied mehndi from the mandir’s mehndi waali and did some bangle shopping in the bangle bazaar in Mandir campus. The bangles sold there can only match the ones being sold in Jaipur’s manihari bazaar.

For the uninitiated, Hanuman Temple in Connaught Place, New Delhi, is an ancient (pracheen in Sanskrit) Hindu temple and is claimed to be one of the five temples of Mahabharata days in Delhi. The idol in the temple, devotionally worshipped as “Sri Hanuman Ji Maharaj” (Great Lord Hanuman), is that of Bala Hanuman namely, Hanuman as a child. The temple, which has a self-manifest idol of Hanuman, has an unusual feature fixed in the spire (Viman) in the form of a crescent moon (an Islamic symbol) instead of the Hindu symbol of Aum or Sun that is commonly seen in most Hindu temples. This became particularly important during the Mughal period corroborating this extraordinary depiction.

The Sanctum Sanctorum, which houses the Hanuman idol, is on the north wall on the right side of the entry foyer (pictured), with the idol facing the southern direction in a small bass Relief carving (pictured). Images of Radha and Krishna, a central triumvirate of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita are also installed to the right of the Hanuman idol on the same wall. As the idol of Hanuman faces the southern direction, devotees can discern only one eye of the idol. The idol depicts a Gada (mace or club) in the left hand with the right hand crossed across the chest showing veneration to the adjacent idol of Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. A tapering crown adorns the idol, which has a sacred thread on the right shoulder and is clad in a fashioned dhoti. Hanuman. The height of the temple is reported to be 108 ft (32.9 m). The ceiling of the main mandap (hall or pavilion) depicts the epic story of Ramayana artistically painted.

Whenever you are in New Delhi next, don’t miss visiting this great abode of Hanumanji.

Source: Hanumantempledelhi.com

Dwarkadhish Temple: Gujarat – Epitome of Spirituality & Tranquility!

Gujarat has been in the news, the reasons are well-known.

Now that heavy – duty and hyper – hyped elections are over in Gujarat and results are keenly awaited, you can plan a trip to Gujarat and pay obessience to Dwarkadhish temple like our national leaders, who did pre-elections, lesser mortals like us can do post-elections. You can choose to say thanks to deity for the results! Just kidding!! Here you can enjoy beautiful winters of the state and inimitable, authentic Gujarati food which is loved globally. This will certainly make your trip to the shrine, more blissful.

So for the uninitiated, Dwarka is the headquarters of Okhamandal taluka  in the extreme West of the Saurashtra peninsula on the Arabian Sea. It is a station on the Ahmedabad-Okha broad gauge railway line, about 137-km from Jamnagar, 217 km from Rajkot and 378 km from Ahmedabad.

A state highway with Jamnagar and Okha also connects it. The nearest airport is Jamnagar. Dwarka lies on 20.22′ north latitude and 69.05′ east longitude and built on the night bank of Gamut creek. Dwarka was known as the city of Gold. Shree Krishna came here from Mathura along with some Yadav families and established his own empire Dwarka. That was the legend but science proved it partially. Scientists researched on that and have found some facts.

Dwarka is derived from ‘Dwar’, a door, and in ancient times its flourishing port was considered to be the gateway to the mainland. As ‘Ka’ means ‘Brahma’ meaning, gateway to Moksha. It is called Dwarkamati and Dwarkavati. Being adopted home and capital of Shri Krishna after he gave up Mathura. It is held in such a high esteem as a place of Hindu pilgrimage that it is considered to be one of the four principle holy places or Chardham, it is also known as Mokshapuri.

The Dwarkadhish temple, also known as the Jagat Mandir and occasionally spelt Dwarakadheesh (Gujarati: દ્વારકાધીશ મન્દિર; Sanskrit and Hindi: द्वारकाधीश मन्दिर), is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Krishna, who is worshiped here by the name Dwarkadhish, or ‘King of Dwarka’. The temple is located at Dwarka, Gujarat, India. The main shrine of the 5-storied building, supported by 72 pillars, is known as Jagat Mandir or Nija Mandir, archaeological findings suggest it to be 2,200 – 2,000 years old. Temple was enlarged in the 15th- 16th century. The Dwarkadhish Temple is a Pushtimarg temple, hence it follows the guidelines and rituals created by Vallabhacharya and Vitheleshnath.

According to tradition, the original temple was believed to have been built by Krishna’s grandson, Vajranabha, over the hari-griha (Lord Krishna’s residential place). The temple became part of the Char Dham pilgrimage considered sacred by Hindus in India, after Adi Shankaracharya, the 8th-century Hindu theologian and philosopher, visited the shrine. The other three being comprising Shringeri, Badrikashram and Puri. Even today a memorial within the temple is dedicated to his visit. Dwarakadheesh is the 108th Divya Desam of Vishnu on the subcontinent, glorified in the Divya Prabandha sacred texts.

As per Hindu legend, Dwarka was built on a piece of land by Krishna that was reclaimed from the sea. Sage Durvasa once visited Krishna and his wife Rukmini. The sage wished that the pair took him to their palace. The pair readily agreed and started walking with the sage to their palace. After some distance, Rukmini got tired and she requested some water from Krishna. Krishna dug a mythical hole that brought in river Ganga to the place. Sage Durvasa was furious and cursed Rukmini to remain in the place. The temple where Rukmini’s shrine is found is believed to the place where she stood.

The town of Dwarka in Gujarat has a history that dates back centuries and mentioned in the Mahabharat epic as the Dwaraka Kingdom. Situated on the banks of river Gomti, the town is described in legend as the capital of Lord Krishna. Evidence such as a stone block with the script, the way the stones were dressed showing that dowels had been used, and an examination of anchors found on the site suggest that the harbour site dates only to historical times, with some of the underwater structure being late Medieval. Coastal erosion was probably the cause of the destruction of what was an ancient port.

Hindus believe that the original temple was constructed by Vajranabh, the great grand son of Krishna, over the residential palace of Krishna. The current temple in Chaulukya style is constructed in 15-16th century. The temple covers an area of 27 meters by 21 meters with the east-west length of 29 metre and north-south width of 23 metres. The tallest peak of the temple is 51.8 m high.

The flag atop the temple shows the sun and moon, which is believed to indicate that Krishna would be there till Sun and moon exist on earth. The flag is changed from 5 times a day, but the symbol remains the same. The temple has a five-story structure built on seventy-two pillars. The temple spire is 78.3m high. The temple is constructed of limestone which is still in pristine condition. The temple shows intricate sculptural detailing done by successions of dynasties that ruled the region. The structure was not expanded much by these works. There are two entrances to the temple. The main entrance (north entrance) is called “Moksha Dwara” (Door to Salvation). This entrance takes one to the main market. The south entrance is called “Swarga Dwara” (Gate to Heaven). Outside this doorway are 56 steps that lead to the Gomati River. The temple is open from 6.00 am to 1.00 pm and 5.00 pm to 9.30 pm. The Krishnajenmastami festival, the birthday of Krishna was commissioned by Vallaba (1473-1531).

So what are you thinking, pack your pilgrimage bag and head to Dwarkadhish temple!  Jai Shree Krishna!!

 

UNESCO recognizes Kumbh Mela’s ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’

India’s Kumbh Mela has been recognised by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” and held up as the world’s largest peaceful gathering of pilgrims.

The External Affairs Ministry recently said the recognition was accorded by the Inter-Governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, an entity which works under UNESCO.

The decision to recognise the Kumbh Mela was taken at its ongoing meeting in Jeju, South Korea. The inscription of the Kumbh Mela was recommended by the expert body which examines the nominations submitted by member states. The committee observed it was the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on the earth.

“The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO inscribed the ‘Kumbh Mela’ on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its 12th session held at Jeju, South Korea,” the MEA said.

The session, which started on 4 December, is to end on 9 December. It said the inscription was the third in two years following ‘Yoga’ and ‘Nouroz’.

“The committee observed that ‘Kumbh Mela’ is the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on the earth. The festival, held in Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik, represents a syncretic set of rituals related to worship and ritual cleansing in holy rivers in India,” the MEA said.

“As a religious festival, the tolerance and inclusiveness that Kumbh Mela demonstrates are especially valuable for the contemporary world,” the MEA said in its statement.

The committee also took note of the fact that knowledge and skills related to the ‘Kumbh Mela’ were transmitted through the Guru-Shishya parampara (teacher-student relationship) by way of saints and sadhus teaching their disciples about traditional rituals and chants.

Reacting to the recognition, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said it was a proud moment for India. “A very proud moment for us as sacred Kumbh Mela is just inscribed as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO,” he tweeted.

In 2003, the UNESCO General Conference had adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage as an international treaty, acknowledging that cultural heritage was more than tangible places, monuments and objects and that it also encompassed traditions and living expressions.

The Kumbh Mela joins new elements from Botswana, Colombia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Morocco, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on the UNESCO list.

 

 

 

Chhath Puja, in obeisance of Sun God!


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The Juhu Beach in Mumbai will be decked up yet again as lakhs of devotees mainly from North India (read: UP & Bihar) gather at Mumbai beach of performing Puja.  BMC has kept a tight vigil along the entire coastal line of the city and has made special arrangements. A danger line has been drawn beyond which the devotees would not be allowed to enter the sea. Like every year, this year too programs have been organized which included singing for the sun devotees along with other arrangements. Visit Juhu beach 5:30 PM onwards to observe festive fervous in all its glory and beauty!

It is believed that the celebration of Chhath puja may predate to the ancient Vedas, as the rituals performed during the puja are similar to the ones mentioned in Rig Veda, in which the Sun god is worshipped. At the time, the rishis (sages) were also known to worship the Sun and remain without the intake of good as they would obtain their energy directly from the Sun.

सूर्य देव की उपासना का पर्व छठ शुरू हो चुका है। चार दिन तक चलने वाले इस त्योहार में भगवान सूर्य की आराधना की जाती हैं। 24 अक्टूबर को नहाय खाय के साथ शुरू हुआ ये पर्व सप्तमी को उगते सूर्य को अर्घ्य देने के साथ ही समाप्त होगा। इस पर्व में भगवान सूर्य की पूजा का काफी महत्व है। पहला अर्घ्य आज अस्त होते सूरज को दिया जाएगा। आज षष्ठी के दिन व्रतीजल में उतरकर डूबते सूरज को अर्घ्य देंगे।

पूजन विधि – अर्घ्य देने के लिए बांस के सूप में सभी प्रकार के फल रखकर उसे पीले कपड़े से ढ़क दें और डूबते सूरज को तीन बार अर्घ्य दें।

अर्घ्य देने का शुभ समय – सायंकालीन अर्घ्य- 26 अक्टूबर (गुरुवार)
सायंकालीन अर्घ्य का समय :- सांय काल 05:40 बजे से शुरू

प्रात:कालीन अर्घ्य: 27 अक्टूबर (शुक्रवार) – प्रात:कालीन अर्घ्य का समय: प्रात: 6.28 बजे से शुरू

Chhath festival, one of the most ancient and revered Hindu festivals, is celebrated with much fervour primarily in northern parts of India. It is also believed that Chhath is the only surviving Vedic festival observed in the country at present. If legends are to be believed, Chhath was first observed by Drapaudi, a mythological character from the Epic Mahabharata. During this time, devotees observe a four-day fast and offer prayers to the Sun God. The rituals involved in the Chhath puja celebrations are quite rigorous and apart from fasting, it also includes holy bathing and standing in water for long hours. Devotees offer prasad and arghya to the rising and setting sun.

Chhath Puja is an important Hindu festival that is mainly celebrated in Bihar and some regions of Nepal. The puja is dedicated to the worship of the Sun god and his wife Usha. During the occasion, devotees perform puja to thank god for supporting life on earth and seek the divine couple’s blessing. However, Chhath – the main day – isn’t the first day but the third day of the puja and, this year it is celebrated today – October 26.

According to Hindu religion, the Sun is believed to heal many severe health conditions and ensure longevity, prosperity, progress and well-being. People celebrate the festival by following a rigorous routine that lasts four days. The rituals include: fasting (including abstinence from drinking water), holy bathing, offering prayers to the rising and setting sun, and meditating by standing in water.

In addition to Bihar, many other states such as Jharkhand, eastern UP, regions of Nepal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh also celebrate the festival with great fervour. Chhath Puja is so called as it is celebrated on the sixth day of the month of Karthika in the Vikram Samvat. It is also celebrated in the summers, some days after Holi. However, Karthika month’s Chhath is more ardently followed by people.

However, another sign of the puja is attached to the story of Lord Rama.

According to ancient texts, Rama and his wife Sita had kept fast and offered prayers to the Sun god, in the month of Kartika in Shukla Paksha, once they returned to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. From then on, the Chhath Puja became a significant and traditional Hindu festival, which is celebrated with zeal and zest every year.

The four-day festival starts four days after Diwali.  This is how the devotees observe the festival.

Nahay Khay: The first day of Chhath Puja, devotees take a dip, preferably in the Kosi river, Karnali and Ganga, and carry home the holy water to prepare the offerings.

Lohanda: The second day, the devotees observe a fast for the whole day, which ends in the evening a little after sunset. After worshipping the Sun and the Moon, they prepare offerings of kheer, bananas and rice for their family. After consuming the offering, they fast for 36 hours without water.

Sandhya Arghya (evening offerings): After preparing the prasad, the devotees take a dip in the holy water body in the evening and worship the Sun god and Chhathi maiyya. They offer the evening offerings amid folk songs.

Usha Arghya: The fourth day, devotees go to the holy waters and offer morning offerings or ‘Usha arghya’ to the sun, following which they break their fast.

Chhath Parv ki anekon shubhkamnayein!

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.