Travelogue

Jaageshwar -Binsar

Jaageshwar -Binsar

A little about the name and its origin before moving to the famous temples in this wondrous area called Binsar. Binsar was originally known as Bineshwar and Binsar became the easy pronounceable choice. Most of the temples in this area are dedicated to the local Kumaoni God Gwalla or Golu. There are many temples dedicated to this God in this area, who is most renowned for his sense of justice. At the Chitai temple near Almora , people hang bells with letters to Golu asking for His mediation in legal issues.

Apart for the local Gods Binsar is home to one and only Mrityunjaya temple in the world and also a host of other temples in the Jaageshwar temple complex. These comprise about one hundred and more shrines, large and small, backed by huge deodar trees. There is a vast array of stone temples, all of them magnificently carved but the best are the shrines dedicated to the deities Jageshwar, Mrityunjaya and Pashtidevi, which have some beautifully intricate carving along the outer walls and main doorways. Most of the shrines are located in the main temple complex, but a kilometre away is the Dandeshwar group of temples, seven or eight shrines dominated by a massive temple with a towering spire.

Jaageshwar is believed to be one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of the country and has been an important centre for shaivism in our country. These 12 jyotirlingas are spread across the length and breadth of India but the location of these temples is contorversial too like all else in india. The eight one is the most controversial and has 3 claimants to this position. One is the Naageshwar temple in Aundh , Maharashtra, the second is the Dwaraka Naageshwara and the thirs is this Jaageshwar temple in Uttarakhand! The controversy arises from the fact that the scriptures describe the temple as ‘Daruka Vanam’. This translates to the Deccan plateau for some which originally was daruka vanam, for some others it is the Dwaraka temple. The Jaageshwar for others because it is located amidst dense deodar forests and casinostiver.com deodar is also known as ‘daruka’!

As you reach this 1000 year old temple complex there is a considerable drop in the temperature and it can get very cold under the shade of the lofty deodars trees which surround this beautiful temple complex. Jaageshwar assumes further importance because Saurabhi and Nandini flow down and converge in this holy place. The priest narrates the story that this jyotirling was originally known as ‘Naageshwar’ but changed by the locals over the years to ‘jaageshwar’ the presently known name. Naageshwar is the original name because the lingam inside the temple has a covering or ‘kavach’ which has a snake prominently displayed on it.  Next to the diety are 2 figures, a man and a woman about 4 feet high; the priest informs that they are the king and queen under whose reign this temple complex was constructed in the first place.

The whole temple complex has almost 124 temples and is a magnificent display of craftsmanship popular during that period. The oldest or the first constructed amongst these temples are the Mrityunjaya and the Dindeshwara temples respectively. Jaageshwar temple,or the shiva temple was built somewhere between the 8th and the 18th centuries and is the biggest temple of its kind along with 108 other temples in the same vicinity.

The other temple of interest is the ‘Pushti Devi’ temple. Pushti means nourishment so this is the goddess who gives the people what they need. The locals eagerly ask the visitors to focus not on the idol of the goddess but on the Yantra or the symbol, as present inside the temple and considered to be of real significance. The Sri Yantra has the figure of Goddess Kali etched on it. Story goes that when Kali defeated her enemies she was drunk with power and blood and danced all over the battle field in frenzy. Shiva was the only one who could bring her to her senses and calm her, which he did by lying down on the battlefield. Kali stepped over him in her frenzied state and immediately regained composure and conscious. The Yantra is a bit chipped off but the Goddess is still very visible on it.

Another temple called the Lakushila temple is also worth visiting. Apparently, Lakushila was one of the earliest teachers of the Pashupata philosophy and is considered to be an avatar of Lord Shiva. The name literally means ‘the Lord with a club’ and this is how the idol was inside the temple originally. Now all that is left is the Shivaling and most of the idols are preserved in the museum maintained by the archeological survey of India.

The architecture and superb carvings reflect the cultural efficacy and Buddhist influence. The archeological importance of this temple increases multifold for this exceptional difference and the intricate carvings and their depiction of the rich culture during those times demand a closer look.

In all almost 175 sculptures are housed in the museum and each is a wondrous beauty to behold. Photography is prohibited which makes this museum a must visit. All the details are available on the website and have further details too.

Jaageshwar is about 125kms from Kathgodam, 35kms from Almorah and about 85-90kms from Pittoragarh. The Temple is on the Kailash -Mansorvar yatra route. The accommodation options are very few and numbered and prior booking is advised. Jaageshwar itself has no known places to stay, but Binsar has Club Mahindra resorts and some others also. KMVN guest house is by far the other best option for stay purposes. However, it is quite easy to drive down from Nainital, Almorah and Binsar to this temple site. The roads are good and also offer scenic beauty exemplary flora and fauna and many other delights, local cuisine stalls, the fish lake expedition and the giant frog on the bridge, lastly ‘Vridhha Jaageshwar’ or the older Jaageshwar are all worth seeing along the way.

Warangal – Andhra Pradesh

Warangal – Andhra Pradesh

I can go on endlessly about my country.  This time it is about a small place called Warangal. This is a town in Andhra Pradesh state, about 175 km north of Hyderabad, the capital city. This is a politically active region of the state and suffers because of the recurring strikes, dharnas (protest shows). Yet it has retained its rustic charm and has definite air of mystery and enigma. People are loud and soft in the same breath. It is a place full of contradictions. My country is such, the whole length and breadth of it; full of good –bad, tradition-modernity, myths- truth.

Warangal happens to another such town on the brink of breaking tradition yet trying to retain its cultural values. We took a taxi from Hyderabad, at around 5 in the morning. It is a 4-5 hours journey. The main attraction of Warangal is its 1000 pillar temple. There is neither a duplicate nor anything close to this in the whole world. I had visited this temple when I was barely 7 years old; and it left an indelible mark.  This trip was to relive that memory and see the rush of adrenalin on my kids faces when they would see this unimaginable beauty. The Warangal fort, which is in semi ruins now was another place of interest for me, that I wanted my kids to see.

The journey began in a bad way; we got a horrible driver with no driving sense. He broke all records, drove at a break neck speed, his hand never left the horn and the sound was deafening. We all had a splitting head ache.  The kids began to complain, they were getting angry, irritable, tired and weary .I was regretting this decision of mine. Only a wonder of the world may pacify my battered kids and this temple was a religious, historical, architectural monument; a far cry from a wonder of the world genre! After the arduous journey, imagine my dismay when I saw a miniature temple complex and the driver insisting, “THIS IS THE 1000 PILLAR Temple, madam!” I was crestfallen; the children looked at me with murderous rage. God! For a few fleeting seconds I saw Yama (The Hindu God of Death) in front of meJ.

We later found out that the Archeological survey of India had dismantled a part of the temple, comprising of almost 400 pillars! And the remaining 600 pillars are tightly knit to form the walls. They definitely look far less than 600 in number. The temple is star shaped and has a huge NANDI (Lord Shiva’s mode of transport). The guide took us through the entire complex giving us the history in great detail. This is a temple which dates back to 750AD- 1325 AD. Till date the temple is breathtakingly beautiful and intact. This is the only temple which faces south, and the Nandi too looks eastwards only here.  Usually Hindu temples face east and the Nandi looks westwards. The guide also mentioned that the whole city, the original Warangal was carved out of one rock in the 13th century.

Finally, I did get to see the awe struck look on my children’s face. The sheer magnitude of our cultural richness and our achievements humbled my son.  With all our technological advancements we still fall short in comparison to what our ancestors created centuries ago. It was a successful trip and we returned very content despite the bad beginning. You also please do not miss it for anything. The other places of interest are A Kali temple on a hilltop, a serene lake called Pakhal Lake about 45-50km from Warangal and a Jain temple too.  The fort I already mentioned above is another must visit site.

Just a tribal Land ?- think again

Just a tribal Land ?- think again

I grew up in Bhilai, a steel city in Madhya Pradesh (Now part of Chhattisgarh). I always lived under this illusion that Chhattisgarh is a state seeking a lot from every quarter. It was renowned tribal area and also thriving with dacoits. Phoolan Devi hailed from this place! I was secretly very happy when dad left Bhilai for work reasons. This place showed no promise of any development or progress ever. India was making giant leaps in every way, tourism included. And look at this pathetic state! Apart for the steel plant, coal mines and the best forgotten Tribal warfare, what did this state have to showcase?

My father is now residing in Bhilai and we spent our new year’s there. And I was in for a huge surprise. The way the state has transformed is unbelievable.  Amongst the tourism ads this state’s Ads are the best (I used to think all this is a trap, false claims to tempt and lure tourists). Every architectural monument has been renovated new colleges and institutions have come up not to miss out on the innumerable flyovers, mall and multiplex movie theatres.

Chhattisgarh has the best Tiger reserves, lush green forests and abundance of flora and fauna. The Kanha tiger reserve has cent percent chances of sighting a tiger! We went to Mudumalai Tiger reserve (Chennai) ,Jim Corbett reserve (Uttar Pradesh), went on an evening, morning, noon safari  hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic animal; all futile.  We chanced upon this wondrous beauty in all its glory strolling in its natural habitat in the Kanha tiger reserve! This state also boasts of India’s best, largest waterfalls, second to the Jog falls in Karnataka called the Chitrakot falls.  We can marvel at the 100ft drop throughout the width of Indrāvati River. Very rare caves called Kutumbser caves to mention a few. A very ancient temple site called the Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh is also in this state. The ‘Bhoram Deo’ temple epitomizes eternal love and beauty. Not to miss the Tribal Land Bastar. The government has made attempts to reconcile with the tribal’s, and made mutually beneficial agreements. A lot of their handicrafts, made in metal are up for sale. A weekly haat amongst the tribal’s takes place, barter system is prevalent here. Pench Tiger Reserve (Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle book), Kanger valley National Park and Tirthagarh Falls are some other interesting tourist destinations.

We went to Kutumbser caves this time. We saw natural limestone rock formation and amazing stalagmite, stalactite formations. It is very narrow underground opening, pitch dark and very hot. It lacks oxygen and has a wet feeling through the stretch because of the lake flowing overhead. A small Shiva temple is inside this cave, a pundit lives their! In that dark low oxygen cave, we were sweating profusely, many Bengali tourists found it hard to breathe and beat a hasty retreat. The rock formations are of different kinds. The guide showed us formations which resembled the unicorn, the elephant head, a lion face many more that I am unable to recall now.  A Small stream flows here in which you can see small fish, blind fish. They die the minute you take them out into the sunshine.  A very unique experience it was.  My father says we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.

My illusions shattered, I am eager to visit this amazing state and explore its wondrous places. You are invited too. Come and get surprised.

Travel-tales-Basara

The Goddess of Learning

In my last hub I was talking about the city of Warangal, in Andhra Pradesh state. This is another wonder from the very same state, The Basar Saraswati Temple. This is the only temple dedicated to the Goddess of Learning. The other one is in Kashmir; but that temple is in almost ruins and dilapidated. This gives the Basar Saraswati temple a very unique place amongst the devout Hindus.

From the capital city Hyderabad, Basar is about 200-225 kms. Basar is idyllically on the banks of the river Godavari. A quintessential town in Adilabad district about 50km from Nizamabad, a place you have to cross to reach Basar. A little about the History or the etymology of this ancient temple and then my experience will follow. It is believed that the present structure of the shrine was built by Chalukya Kings. The Saraswati Idol is in Black stone and exceedingly beautiful. The temple is also famous for its Akshara Gnana ritual, which is celebrated for the formal start of a child”s education. History says that Maharishi Vyasa and his disciples and sage Suka came here after the Kurukshetra War, in search of some peace and quiet. The great sage used to bring three fistfuls of sand, from the river Godavari, where he used to go every morning for his regular chores; and place it in three small heaps and made images of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali with his mystic power. This idol made of sand has its face smeared with turmeric. A myth again is that eating a little bit of this turmeric paste will enhance one”s wisdom and knowledge. Since Maharishi Vyasa spent considerable time in prayers, the place was then called “Vasara” which later merged with the prevalent Marathi language and graduated to Basara as it is known today. However, according to the Brahmada Purana the poet Valmiki installed Saraswati and wrote Ramayanahere. There is a marble image of Valmiki and his Samadhi near the temple. It is also believed that this temple is one of the three temples constructed near the confluence of the Manjira and Godavari rivers by Ashtrakutas. A few other stories run parallel. But let me move on to my story and experience at this unique temple.

 

As I already mentioned, this temple is primarily dedicated to the goddess of learning. Many parents who seek an improvement in the academic performance of their children visit this temple to seek this deity’s blessings. For the ardent believers, they are asked to spend the night within the premises, closest to the sanctum sanctorum, in front of the goddess’s idol. She is very likely to come in the dreams of the sleeping devotees and bless them with intelligence and wisdom. Many parents have experimented and reported favorable results and raving reviews. So, we also decided to spend the night in the premises and ‘test’ the Devi! She may appear in my son’s dream and bless him was my propitious thought.

The place was so crowded that we could barely squeeze in and grab a place for ourselves, for the night’s rest. We lay down ram rod straight, my sister with her daughter, me with my son and tried to sleep. The kids complained incessantly of mosquitoes, noise, and no space to move, everything actually. We were drained trying to pacify them and knew that we would not sleep a wink even. When would the children dream and then what chance we had of the Devi appearing in their dreams! Very far-fetched the whole sequence seemed to both of usJ. At last somewhere around 3 am the noise, hustle-bustle subsided and all was quiet. I could see the children settling down and smiled to myself. Immediately I sensed someone rudely shake me up! Startled, I sat up and saw the time, 4 am; I looked around and the whole temple was alive again. I could see busy movement online casino everywhere, people up, packing their night gear and hurrying towards the common washrooms. I was crestfallen; barely one hour of sleep, how in the world could the Devi make her appearance to bless my babies! My children would remain as is, no luck of intelligent and wise children for us sisters. Very sadly I woke up my sibling and we went back to the room we had booked the previous night.

We were back after our ablutions and could perform the puja to our satisfaction. The Idol is mesmerizing and looks straight into you. As if she is literally talking to you and blessing you, individually. It was a much defined moment for both of us, my sister and me. She too felt very different and suddenly elated. The whole night’s circus and the futility seemed fruitful now. We were blessed with intelligence and wisdom, not the children! We needed some sense driven into usJand we could see the humor in it better after the puja.

It is a beautiful temple. Sleep wherever you want and enjoy the serenity of the place. Every temple in my country has a tale attached, we Indians are gullible and discerning in the same breath; a package of contradictions. If you want to be blessed you are blessed and if you feel cursed all the time then so be it, that is exactly how you will be. Blessings or otherwise are a mere reflection of your own thought process. You have to seek for whatever you wish to achieve or have for yourself. And the more awake and aware you are the sooner the realization. For dreams to come true, one needs to keep their wits about them and work towards achieving the dream. That is when the blessings will come true too, right?! Please visit this temple for its wondrous beauty. You will definitely be blessed with, without the dream, without sleeping in front of the deity.

There are many other places you can see in the vicinity. In case you are planning a tour it would be prudent to check the website and plan accordingly. We missed seeing the wild life sanctuary close by because of paucity of time and our unpreparedness.