Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jyotirling-2 Nageshwar

Nageshwar Jyotiring is 15km off Dwaraka.

We reached Dwaraka from Somnath late night. We checked into a hotel and asked about details of Nageshwar temple. The hotel owner was very helpful. He said that there is a bus which takes you on a darshan of all the temples in Dwaraka which covers Nageshwar Jyotirling too. The bus was to leave at 8.30. We are light sleepers. Due to continuous travel we woke up at 7.30 and rushed out at 8.00.
The bus left at 8.30AM


The structure is relatively new and is built by T- Series. There are buses which take you to the temple






We had a fantastic darshan, We decided to perform puja and bought a puja plate from a counter next to the sanctum.We did a small puja to the jyotirling.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Char Dham - Yamunotri


We started off from Rishikesh at 10.00 AM after finishing the bio metric registration for the Char Dham trip. This is a simple procedure of a photo and card issued with a QR code.

We traveled through Dehradoon and Mussourie and on to Barkot. This was the place of halt and we were taken to our place of stay. The hotel was empty because the season was yet to start. We decided to go ahead and look for an accommodation closer to Yamunotri. We reasoned that it did not make sense to travel 2.50hrs in the morning to the Yamunotri base to start our trek. The scenery on route was beautiful and the atmosphere, magical. There were sign boards everywhere with a common theme

                              " Uttarakhand : The aboard of the Gods"

Every inch of our journey seemed to affirm this and seemed to say that our dreams are puny compared to the works of the divine. Since this is the first part of the journey and had seen nothing so beautiful we were gobsmacked into a tranquil silence. We were going up the hill with the Yamuna on one side for close to 100 + km
















We reached Janaki Chatti which is the base camp at about 5.00 in the evening. This was a blessing in disguise as we were spared the trouble of driving 3 hrs in the morning from Barkot which was the original place of stay for the night.



This is a quite village which is the base for the start of trek to the Yamunotri temmple. We checked into a hotel. It was a small room with a couple of beds and a neat toilet. Very basic , but we were thankful it was clean. It was a blessing that we had chosen the last week of Aug for the trip. The hotel owner tells me that it is extremely crowded during the season Apr - Jun and Sept 15 - Diwali. They say that the trek starts 12 km away as the whole area is filled with devotees and cars and buses. The season was still 3 weeks away . This was both good as well as stupid. Good because the darshan can be done at leisurely pace and there is no one pushing you to move on. Stupid, because the monsoon would still be active though in its final leg and this area is notorious for landslides. However we had bright sun shine through out the trip . We walked around the village and we retired early as it was extremely cold and we had a long trek in the morning. We woke up early and left for the trek at 6.30am. We decided to walk as we were keen on taking the sites and sounds of the mountain. we were not in hurry to get there and we trekked at a leisurely pace. The sites again were breathtaking.












After a trek of 3 hours we reached the Yamunotri temple. The trek was a medium level difficulty. It had some steep sections.There were patches where we had to go underneath a waterfall. Nothing big but the spray which hits your face when walking was refreshing and brings out the child in you.People who are reasonably fit will be able to do it without any difficulty. "Gauri Kund" is a  hot water spring at Yamunotri where the water is hot enough to have a bath. It was so refreshing after the long trek that we could actually feel the tiredness untangling itself from our stressed muscles. 






Once we have had a bath we go up a flight of stairs to "Surya Kund". This is a hot water spring which has boiling water. Devotees cook rice and potatoes and have it as prasad. Adjacent to Surya Kund is a Divya Shila which is is a bas relief of goddess Yamuna. This appeared to be swayambu  We performed Puja and moved on to the main temple. Here the idol of Ma Yamuna is in black marble. There are 2 other idols of Ganga and another one which I have forgotten.
The actual source of the river is further high up in the mountain and is not easily accessible. But the water is fresh and comes at a phenomenal force as can be seen in the video.

 

I was in a hurry to get back to wearing my footwear as it was extremely cold and so we started our journey back. The return journey took 3 hours and we were back in Janaki Chatti at 2.00 pm. 

We went back to the hotel and we rested until early next day when we left for Gangotri









Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Char Dham - Rishikesh

This is in continuation of our temple tours.All these years we had taken short pilgrimages and we had been keen on a long and preferably arduous pilgrimage. We had zeroed in on Kailash Mansarovar this year and the Himalayan Chardham in 2016. We had finalised the tour operator and had paid an advance. We had timed it so that we are in Manarovar on full moon day. All our plans had come to a naught because of the earth quake in Nepal. So we decided to do the Himalayan Char Dham covering Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath this year and hopefully the Kailash Masarovar Yatra in 2016

We took the early morning flight to Delhi and landed in Del at 8.30am. The car (Ertiga) picked us up from the airport and we set of to Rishikesh. The journey was uneventful and we reached Rishikesh at 3.30 pm.

Rishikesh


The hotel was empty as we had chosen an off season to make this trip. There was a slight drizzle in the evening as we started off for the Ganga aarthi. I was praying that the rains would give us a miss as this region is prone to landslides and it is at a peak during the monsoons.
We had reached the banks of the Ganga a little early and the scenery which awaited us was astounding. The Ganga was flowing at a brisk steady pace. It is said that the entire length is sacred and there are certain spots where you feel the intense spiritual energy. Rishikesh is certainly the divine's chosen  spot. It was liberating, catapulted from a concrete jungle with its cacophony of words and thoughts and never ending noise into the grandeur and vastness of tranquil nature. From one end of the spectrum to the other.
We were walking along the banks of the river soaking in the moment . The only thing which I can say is that there was no eagerness or anticipation for anything. The normal eagerness to be done with our objective and move on to the next was surprisingly missing. We let the events pan out and play at its own pace which is surprisingly an anti- thesis of my personality. There was a silence in the mind which I cannot articulate further.
We learnt that the aarthi is not at any fixed timing but happens at dusk. So there is a window of +/- 15 mins.  The banks had begun to fill up. Since this was the off season the crowds were absent and we could actually see the Ganga aarthi without the pushing and jostling for space.














The aarthi started a little after 6.30 pm. It was a grand spectacle. The hand holding the aarthi was covered by a wet cloth to prevent it from singeing. One person was constantly wetting it with water from the river. Such huge lamps lit fully and the aarthi thereafter is a sight to watch. One did not feel that they have come to witness a spectacle and seemed a part of the ceremony. Very few diyas were lit and floated in the river. It would have been quite a spectacle had there been 100's of diyas.  


 














  




Yamunotri








Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jyotirling Yatra1 - Somnath

Having a made a decision to visit all the shiva temples , the jyotirlings were on top of the wish list. We had been visiting them over the years. Hence these updates will be a few years old.

Somnath is the first among the twelve Aadi Jyotirlings. Located  on the western coast of India, itderives its name from the tradition that the first temple was built by the Moon God in gratitude to the Lord Shiva for ridding him of a curse placed on him by his father in law. Som in Sanskrit means “Moon” and hence the name Somnath for the temple built by “Som”.

The temple is so situated that there is no land from here to the South Pole. An arrow indicates the direction.


Pauranic legends tell us that the Moon God had built a golden temple, followed by a silver temple by Ravana, Bhagvan Shree Krishna is believed to have built Somnath temple with Sandalwood.




The present day temple was the brainchild of Sardar Vallabhai Patel who had visited Junagadh when he was tasked to build a united India integrating 500 princely states into India. There is a massive statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel in the front looking at the temple with devotion which he helped build. 



The then President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, did the Pran-Pratistha at the existing temple on 11 May 1951.

We reached Ahmedabad from BLR by the Indigo flt at 8.30 am. We took a cab to Modhera and Rani-Ki –Vav. I will give details of those magnificent heritage sites in  a different post. We were back in Ahmedabad by 6.30pm and proceeded to the railway station for our train to Veraval which is about 7 km from Somnath. The scheduled departure was 10.00 pm and it left on time to arrive at Veraval at 7.30 am. We took an auto to Somnath which is a 20 min ride. The auto driver was chatty and friendly and was keen that we hire him to show us around Somnath. Luck wasn’t on our side as we did not get a room in the temple guest house. I was unable to see the room but my impression of the facility from outside was that it was neat and clean and well maintained.
The aarthi timings are  7.00 am , 12.00 noon and 7.00 pm. The auto driver suggested that  we go to the temple at 12.00 in time for the noon aarthi. I had been waiting for years to make this trip and was keen to have the darshan first before I do anything.We checked into a hotel close to the temple and freshened up and left for the Somnath Mandir immediately.

The security is extremely high. No bags/ mobiles/cameras. Though the security personnel  were present everywhere they were unobtrusive and very helpful. One thing which strikes you apart from the overwhelming security is the cleanliness,, not just here but all of Gujarat.
Everything about the temple is massive. It  has  a 7 tiered gopuram which rises about 150 ft with  a flag pole on top of it. It faces east and is bang on the shores of the Arabian sea. Once you enter the temple there is a massive courtyard with a beautiful lawn. 
The temple built in the 1950’s is built on the same lines as the old temple built on 56 pillars. Coming from the south, where one can see “100 pillar mandapam” or a “ 1000 pillar mandapam” I wondered the significance of 56. There is a legend associated with 56. Krishna had come to the rescue of villagers from the anger of Indra who had brought torrential rain and floods for 7 days by lifting the Govardhana giri. The people had taken refuge under the mountain and were saved from the wrath of Indra. Indra realized his mistake and the futility of taking on Krishna came to his senses and peace returned to the villages. Kishna is supposed to have 8 meals/day. 7X8 =56 item menu is prepared for Krishna. Krishna is supposed to have shed his mortal coil in Somnath. Is that why we have the Somnath temple built on 56 pillars?
When we enter the sanctum there is a huge Ganesha on the left and a huge Hanuman on the right both made of white marble. The floor is white marble inlaid with black granite. Up ahead is the sanctum sanctorum with a huge lingam. The goddess is behind the linga and can be seen only if you stand slightly to the side.


An interesting system allows you do abhishekam to the lingam without entering the sanctum sanctorum. There is a small opening on the platform in the front where you pour the abhishekam water (water/milk etc) . The priest pushes a button. and the milk/ganga jal trickles on the lingam . The pipes are well concealed and appears neat.


Outside is "sakshi Ganapathi" who keeps a record of all the devotees who visit the Somnath temple.


There is an open air auditorium for  sound and light show. We missed the show as we had to leave for Dwaraka by late noon. But going by the pictures on the net it seems like a brilliant effort and a lot has gone into choreographing the show. I would encourage the readers to stay overnight and see the program.

Also of interest is a small gallery displaying old photos of the temple. This is within the temple complex. There are photos of excavations and the old stones with markings 

Dehotsarga also called Balkh Tirth where Krishna shed his mortal coil is nearby. The tirtha stands at the confluence of Hiranya, Saraswati and Kapila rivers. Vallabhacharya's Baithak is also there at PrabhasPatan

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ahobilam

Ahobilam had been in our wish list for long and for some reasons we never got around make the pilgrimage. My inlaws were keen on visiting it too and our schedules needed to match for us to make the trip. Eventually we did, when we had a long weekend in the first week of Mar 2015. 

Before I get into details of the trip let me tell you that this pilgrimage was like none other. The temples by themselves are small (miniscule), but what sets this yatra apart is that one goes through a complete range of emotions  during the trek. From worldly worries to ecstasy, from ecstasy to silence from a silent mind to unexplained joy. I would urge you to take time off by yourself and sit by the various mountain streams.

I could not find a recent update from helpful bloggers on Ahobilam and was trying to figure out which of the 3 routes to take from Bangalore. We set off at about 16.00 hrs from Bangalore and decided to take the Bangalore – Kadri- Pulivanthala – Ahobilam route. The road  was passable with bad stretches when crossing villages. However, on our return we decided to take the

                                                Ahobilam – Kadappa – Rayachotty – Chinthamani- Bangalore.

In hindsight, this was a good decision as the road was very good and we could reach Bangalore without a hitch.

I had booked my stay in “Ahobilam Malolan Tours and Religious Services Ltd”(AMTRS).  The A/c rooms were clean and functional and the food was home cooked. The rates included the services of a guide (Very much required) and also a jeep to visit 2 temples in the middle of a forest after a grueling 20 km drive. This is run by an enterprising lady, Mrs.Komala who has built the rooms for stay as an extension of her house.This was probably one of the best decisions I had taken, as once the stay and food were taken care of, a major part of the planning is done.

We had reached late night but were up early and left by car with packed breakfast and the guide in tow for the temples in Upper Ahobilam which has 4 of the 9 temples.

Since my father-in- law is 80 and MIL is 75, we had organized dolis for them @ Rs 2000/ each.






You reach the Ahobila Narasimha temple at the base after a short drive of 8 kms. Our trek  starts from here to the other 3 temples. From Ahobila temple, going to Jwala Narashima involved climbing through rocks on a river bed and up a narrow path way for about an hour. Kroda is on the way to Jwala and Malola can be reached after a short trek and a a climb of 100 steps from Kroda.

This is a trek which is about 2-4 kms passes through some of the most beautiful landscapes, mountain streams and green vegetation . The final stretch to reach the Jwala Narasimha temple is a neatly constructed flight of stairs. After the climb you cross a path carved out of the face of the hill.  The guide told us that it would be a thrilling sight during the rains as one would be trekking under the waterfall from the Vidyatri mountain. We had to make do with just a trickle and a fine spray on our faces.






The path down was fairly easy and we were back in our cars in 3 hours. There is a lot written about the trekking which can put off many a pilgrim. Most of it is overstated and can be done without a hitch. I’m not in the best of shape and have weak legs.  I was able to cover the 3 temples in Upper Ahobilam and still have enough energy to drive back and cover 3 more temples on the way back. The 5th temple Karanja was on the road side of the way back to Lower Ahobilam.

We covered the other 2 temples (Yogananda and Chatravata) in Lower Ahobilam by driving right up to the temples.

We came back to the room and rested for a couple of hours and had home cooked food at the house of the organizer. She had organized for the jeep to pick us up to take us to the final 2 Narasimha temples deep inside a jungle. The starting point for Pavana is also Ahobila Narasimha temple, but the route is on the opposite side of Jwala Temple. This is about 20km from the town and drive was on a dirt track. It was fun and the 40km to and fro trip took about 2.5 hrs. I had conjured up visions of a dense rain forest with an odd wild animal running around. The reality was far from it. The forest by itself was dry and barren and all the jolting left us _ _ _ _.

We finally reached the temple and were surprised to find a number of people who had made the journey on foot. I realized the depth of their faith and the strength of their resolve. In comparison, my bhakthi was conditional and was practiced only if it was within my comfort zone. This revelation of was a humbling experience.








The last temple (Bhargava )which was just 3 km from the town was covered on the return by jeep. You have to walk a short uneven path and climb a flight of steps to reach this. My FIL and MIL were able to manage the last segment on foot without much hassle.


We went back to the room to freshen up and were right in time to see the last few overs  of India – WestIndes match of the world cup. The win was a perfect end to a great trip.

We visited the Prahalada Narasimha Ahobilam temple in the town later in the evening. It was the last day of the Brahmotsavam and it was crowded.  We had people waiting on top of structures as a vantage point for viewing the grand finale procession later during the night.
  
Some pics of the devotees and the crowd.







My 2 cents 
  • Make full use of the bamboo pole for trekking and use it effectively so that it takes most of the weight of your legs. This reduces fatigue to a huge extent. We covered the so called arduous journey in 3 hours.
  •  We had carried breakfast and had it after the darshan of the 2nd temple . This slowed us down considerably. If hungry during a trek have a banana or other fruits for energy and drink  lots of water.
The Legend and the Temples:

According to Hindu Mythology Western Ghats is considered to be the celestial thousand hooded serpent Adi Seshan in which Lord Vishnu sleeps in the milk ocean. Tirumala being the head portion, Ahobilam the middle and Sri Sailam being the tail portion.

This is also known as Nava Narasimha khshetras -  as per legend the nine shines of Narasimhas are Nine Navagrahadhipathis and the Navagrahas are said to have attained their power by worshiping these deities.

“Jwala Ahobila Malola Kroda Karanja Bhargava Yogananda Kshatravata Pavana Nava Moorthayaha”

Graha
Grahadhipathi
Angaraka
Jwala
Guru
Ahobila
Sukra
Malola
Rahu
Krodha
Chandra
Karanja
Surya
Bhargava
Shani
Yogananda
Kethu
Chatravata
Budha
Paavana



Every year, in the month of Phalguna, Brahmotsavas  are held. Apart from this, every month, on the star day  of the Lord, which is Swathi, Thirumanjan Seva is performed with 108 Kalasas at the Prahalada Narasimha temple.

Jwala Narasimha - Jwala means flame - the Lord is at His most ferocious form.

There are three idols in this shrine - first one depicts him emerging out of the pillar to kill Hiranya.

In the second one the Lord is depicted with eight hands –
·        two hands tearing open the stomach of Hiranya
·        two hands garlanding himself with the intestine
·        two hands holding the legs and head firmly in place on His thigh
·        two hands wielding the conch and discus.

The third idol depicts the fight between the Lord and the demon

Ahobila Narasimha also known as Ugra Narasimha - Ugra means ferocious

The main shrine is a cave and the Lord is depicted with Hiranya on His lap. The idol of Prahalada is in front of the Lord. Adi Sankara and , Thirumangai Alwar have sanctified the Lord with their hymns. There is a shrine for Senju Lakshmi also.

Malola Narasimha - Maa means Maha lakshmi and Lola means Lover. In this form the Lord gives dharshan with His consort Mahalakshmi seated on His left thigh. He is depicted as Santha  (peaceful) Narasimha showering His blessings to the devotees.

It is said that the 'utsavamoorthi' of the Lord appeared to Srimath Adivan Satakopa Jeeyar, the first Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt and the Utsava Murthi accompanies each of the Jeeyars whenever they are on religious tours

Krodha Narasimha - Kroda means the extruded teeth. The Lord is depicted as the Varaha Narasimhar (boar) holding mother earth in His teeth.

Karanja Narasimha – the main shrine is under the Karanja tree and hence Karanja Narasimhar.
Hanuman did penance to see Lord Rama  and when Lord Narasimha appeared before him, Hanuman requested him to give darshan as Rama. The Lord is seen here with bow and arrow with the celestial serpent as umbrella

Bhargava Narasimha - Bhargava (Parasurama) did penance here to see the Lord in his Narasimha form. Lord Vishnu appeared as Ugra Narasimha and also showed the dasavatharam forms to Parasurama.

Yogananda Narasimha - The Lord is depicted in a yogic posture with legs crossed and the hands in yogic posture. The legend is that He taught the nuances of yoga to Prahalada here.

Chatravata Narasimha - Chatra means umbrella and Vad means banyan tree. The Lord is depicted in  jolly mood enjoying the music of Ahaa and Uuhu two divine singers under the banyan tree with one of his hands is tapping the rhythm on his thigh

Paavana Narasimha – located on the banks of the Pavana river. The Lord gives darshan along with His consort Chenchu Lakshmi. The legend is that the Goddess Mahalakshmi took birth as a tribal Chenchu Lakshmi and married Lord Narasimha after the death of Hiranyakashpu. The local Chenchu tribals celebrate the marriage of Goddess Mahalakshmi as Chenchu Lakshmi and Lord Narasimha.

Other places of importance:
  1. Ugra Sthambham -  Located in the mountains further above the Jwala Narasimha is a cleft of the mountain dividing it into two visible parts. Legend is that this the pillar from which Lord Narasimha emerged.
  2. Prahalada Mettu - Small shrine with an image of Prahalada in a cave on the hill between Ugra Sthambham and Upper Ahobilam.
  3. Rakthakundam – This is on the way to Jwala Narasimha and the Lord after killing Hiranyakasipu is said to have washed his hands in this 'theertham' and hence the name Rakthakundam.
  4. Garudatri - opposite the Jwala Narasimha shrine. Garuda wanted to have darshan of Lord as Narasimha and did severe penance in these hills. The Lord appeared in the form of Narasimha and gave darshan to Garuda. Garudatri resembles the shape of eagle with folded hands and beak in the middle and two wings on either side.