Category Archives: Pilgrimage

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.

 

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.