Saturday, November 12, 2011

Eklingji - Architectural marvel of Princely state of Mewar

Eklingji is Hindu temple complex 22kms north of Udaipur on way to Nathdwara on NH8. Kailashpuri the modern name of town Eklingji houses total of 108 temples enclosed in high fortified walls. Built in 734 AD by Bappa Rawal and dedicated to lord Shiva, the temple complex is architectural marvel in itself.

The temple has been rebuilt and refurbished by several Maharanas of Mewar dynasty. Shri Parameshwaraji Maharaj, the principal deity of Shri Eklingji temple is the personal family deity of Maharanas of Mewar, Maharana of Udaipur still pays a personal visit to the temple every Monday evening. Part of temple complex is not accessible to general public and is only dedicated to family of Sisodiyas, former rulers of Mewar.

How to reach: Buses and taxis are available from across Rajasthan for Kailashpuri (modern name of Eklingji), Its 22 kms north of Udaipur on way to Nathdwara or Jaipur on NH-8.

Temple complex: The temple complex considered to be among the top 50 temples in India is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The magnificent architecture of the temple is simply remarkable, the double storied temple looks awesome with its pyramidal style roofs and distinctly carved towers. The temple boasts of four faced idol of Eklingji that is made out of black marble. Outside the temple is small silver statue of Shiva's sacred bull - NANDI.

The main temple has heavy silver doors and to the north of the temple, there are two kunds (ponds) namely Karz kund and Tulsi kunds, the water of which is consumed during the services to the Lord. The festival of Shivratri is time when the temple complex comes in its full glory and galore.The sleepy town has total of 108 small and large temples around it.  he temple by the name of "Nathon Ka Mandir" that dates back to the 10th century catches attraction. There is also another temple by the name of "Sas-Bahu" that is all raised in marble. The temples of Pataleswar Mahadeo, Arbada Mata, Rathasan devi, Vindhyavasini devi are worth mentioning. The wonderful architecture of these temples makes the onlooker to ponder over the artistry of those times.

Rulers of Mewar: The Sisodiyas, the rulers of Mewar are Chattri Rajputs of Suryavanshi lineage. Notable among the clans of Mewar rulers were Rani Padmini, Rani Karnavati, Rana Pratap Singh, Rana Raimal.

Jauhar and Saka: The ancient Indian tradition of honorary self immolation of women of Royal family to avoid capture and dishonour at the hands of their enemies in times of certain defeat or death of men folks in battlefield. The upset caused by the knowledge of their women were dead, filled the men in battlefield with rage in the fight to death called "SAKA"This tradition was followed mainly by Rajputs and three famous Jauhars in history was committed by the royal female folks of Mewar family.

Pics from my clicks:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nathdwara (Shrinathji) - Mecca to Vaishnavs

Nathdwara - literally means door to Shrinathji.

Located approx 50 kms from Udaipur (Rajasthan). Its a small town on banks of Banas river in Aravali mountains which is home to 14th century idol of 7year infant incarnation of Krishna called "SHRINATHJI".  Shrinathji symbolizes form of Krishna when he lifted Govardhan hills with left hand raised and right hand made into a fist resting on the waist with large diamond beneath the lips.

Appearance of Shrinathji : As the story goes. A cow called "Ghumar" would daily climb the sacred "Govardhan" hill 14 miles from Mathura and perform "Dudh Abhishek" to hand coming out of the mountain. The owner once followed the cow to understand the reason why the cow would not provide enough milk to him. This was the first appearance of Shree Krishna in his new form. This idol was worshipped in Vrindavan for 3 centuries. The idol of Shreenathji was moved from Vrindavan in Mathura to protect from anti- Hindu barbarian destruction of Mogul ruler Aurangzeb in 17th century. On the way to Mewar from Govardhan, the wheel of the chariot carrying the idol of Nathji got stuck in the village called Sinhad where the temple was built for Shrinathji and the village is today called as Nathdwara.

The descendants of the Brijwasi who followed the chariot from Mathura still live in Nathdwara. And the original chariot which carried the idol of Nathji from Mathura is still preserved in the temple complex in Nathdwara.

Tilkayat Parampara and its lineage: In this tradition the Vallabh dynasty of Shree Vallabhacharya has been designated as Supreme devine Agni dynasty. Shri Vallabhacharya (one of the five main Acharyas of Hindu Religion) was born to Brahmin family originally from Andhra pradesh in place called Champaranya in M.P at the same time when Shree Krishna appeared on Govardhan hills in Mathura. During his pilgrimage across India, Shreenathji appeared in front of him to reestablish Pushti marg and propogate the pushti kind of devotion. The present Tilkayat of Vallabh Sampradaya - Shri Rakeshji is the seventeenth descendent of the dyanasty. The family is responsible for all rituals and care taking of Shreenathji temple till date.

The Haveli of Shrinathji: The temple complex also called Haveli is a palace. Its called Haveli because like traditional household, it has store rooms for milk (doodhgarh). store room for beetlenuts, store room for flowers, jewellary room, Mishrigarh to store sugar, 4 wells to store ghee, a rasoigarh. The access to certain places are restricted to only selected sewaks to maintain the purity (shuddhi).
It comes alive at dawn at 5am when the first darshan called Mangala is done and is full of hustle, bustle throughout the day with 7- 8 different darshans happening during the day which has its own significance.Each darshan is for 20-30 minutes and then the doors of the temple will be closed.The Haveli is in fill glory during Janmashtami, Holi and Diwali festivals with rituals and festivals performed as it was done centuries ago.

My visit: I boarded the Nathdwara bus from Borivali around 8pm on Saturday. The journey which passes through 3 states,  Maharashtra, Gujarat and concludes in Rajasthan. I got the sleeper seat on upper deck and was quite happy at the thought of spending the night peacefully sleeping in the A/C bus, not knowing that by the time I got down at Nathdwara after 18hours journey, I could barely stand properly for journey was hell of a bumpy ride causing vertigo problems to me and am sure would have caused some serious disorders  from spine dislocation if it had continued for some more time.

Having checked in afternoon in Hotel Gokul Niwas very close to the temple complex, first thing was to have a full meal as next darshan was in late afternoon around 5pm for 30minutes and last one was at 7pm. Nathdwara is famous for its bhojnalay's. Unlimited 12 course meal from Rs 60/- to Rs 125/-
After lunch and quick nap, it was time for Darshan. Here in Nathdwara, the Darshan is little different as compared to other temples as there are 7-8 darshans in a day with idol dressed differently each time which has its own significance. People had already started gathering for the darshan when I reached the temple and as soon as the doors are open, people run to get the first glimpse of the Shrinathji. There are different queues for ladies and gents. Each darshan would last around 30minutes after which the doors are closed for next darshan and idol of Shrinathji gets a new look.
The first glimpse of Shrinathji idol is so mesmerising that devotees and even I have got drop of tear in the eyes attimes. The atmosphere is so electric, so positive, so vibrant.
There are eight darshans in a day, each time the idol is dressed differently and no dress is ever repeated. They say that if the ornaments or vastra is pushed three times by the idol then another pair is kept ready for him. No one is allowed to watch when Shreeji shringar is changed or when Bhog is offered to the idol, Its done by Tilkayat or Mukhyiyaji of the temple. The tradition of making various food offerings in the kitchen, malas which are made from flowers especially grown in nursery around the temple complex and team of tailors preparing vastra of Shrinathji has remained the same as it was done 500 years ago. The last darshan of "Shayan" only happens for six months in Nathdwara and during winters the "Shayan" is done in Vrindavan temple and then it comes back to Nathdwara after six months. I was lucky to get the last darshan of Shayan which will only happen after 6months now.

After the last darshan, its time to roam around in the markets outside the temple, its a small village type atmosphere with small lanes so no car is allowed near the temple complex. The markets are full of stalls selling food items, the famous being the Kand (Suran /Yam) cut in pieces and deep fried, sprinkled with lemon juice and special masala.
Preparing for the Left shake & Right Shake

Left Shake

Right Shake
The other famous item is hot dry fruit sprinkled saffron milk and cannabis (bhang) thandai. Milk is available so abundantly in Nathdwara that glass full of dry fruit milk or thandai would only cost Rs 20/-. My evening was spent hogging on the foods from the stalls and couple of glasses of thandai. My day ended at 8pm for I was too tired from my journey and also I had to get up early for first darshan at 5am.

Next day morning, I was up at 4.30am and after getting fresh, I was again in queue for the first darshan of Shrinathji. At 5am in the morning, the shops are all open and temple is full of devotees.

The opening of temple in the morning is announced by sound of Shankh, tradition followed again for centuries announcing the villagers that its time for the darshan.

After the darshan, It was time for the mint + ginger tea. The taste of the tea here is unique as its made on sigdi with lots of ginger and mint leaves. People flock to the tea stall after the first darshan for hot cup of tea which is served not in cups but "Kullads or small clay pots". They say that first darshan is to be done empty stomach so breakfast and tea is only after the first darshan. The atmosphere at 5am in the morning is something that cannot be described but needs to be experienced first hand.
The breakfast is usually poha or gujju Khaman dhoklas and tea, The best part is having them so early in the morning. I could only satisfy myself with couple of plates.

With nothing much to do after my breakfast and first darshan, I decided to get another quick nap before the doors of the temple are open for second darshan which usually happens at 7am. In all there are 4 darshans by mid noon and then 3 in afternoon and evening. I had a tour of 4days and I did all the darshans during my visit.

Nathdwara town is also famous for its pichwai paintings which is done on cloth depicting various moods and shringar of Shrinathji. The artist use different stones and real gold paints to paint.
I have been in interior passage of the town and it would be extremely easy to get lost. The town always gives me strong vibrations gripping me with excitement and extremely nostalgic. Its very very mystic, the entire passage, the people and the aura of the town.

On my journey back home, I decided to travel through Neeta travels as buses are double axle which makes the journey less bumpy and more comfortable even though it cost little more than other bus operators. But remember its better to spend couple of hundred rupees more as compared to getting some disorders caused by spine dislocation due to bumpy bus rides. Lol

As my tour also included a visit to Eklinji temple close to Nathdwara and visit to my kuldevi at Nadol which is 3 hours bus journey in heart of Rajasthan which will be described in my 3part series of Rajasthan tour.

How to Visit Nathdwara: There are bus service available from Mumbai which takes you straight to Nathdwara. Second option is to take train Mumbai - Udaipur which is 3days in week and from Udaipur, you can take bus which are available every 15minutes to Nathdwara. The distance between Udaipur - Nathdwara is approx 50kms.

Other places of Attractions around Nathdwara:

Govardhan parvat as seen from Nathdwara

Parikrama wall being contructed around the parvat

  •  LalBaugh Gardens
  • Ganesh Tekri which is a Ganesh temple on a hill.
  • Gaushala where hundreds of cows are herded and they say there is still a cow from the linage from the times of Shree Krishna.
  • The hill surrounding Nathdwara also called Govardhan Parvat. 
  • Kakroli which is 50kms from Nathdwara is also important pilgrimage center for Vaishnavs.


Last green patch of Rajasthan after which its all desert

Aravali Mountain Range

Aravali Mountain Range 

Common site in Rajasthan

3 volunteers making the soil more fertile !!!!

Pilgrimage center on the way

This ride is more than roller coaster ride

Monday, September 26, 2011

Culturely diverse hidden gems of Mumbai - Temple tour

In this post I plan to present some unique, hidden temple gems in Mumbai, These places are not very architectural delight but holds its own significance and has been part of interesting history of Mumbai, which has got noticed by few but largely play a silent but important role in adding flavor to cultural diversity of city of Mumbai. I plan to cover few unique and hidden temples of Mumbai which I have recently visited, places which have been silently playing spectacular role in enhancing and preserving cultural diversity of the city.

Nipponzan Mydhoji Temple : The name doesnt sound Indian at all but the place has been very much a part of Mumbai. Tucked on the road to worli sea face from worli naka, lies a quaint Japanese Buddhist temple.

Built somewhere in 50's on the land donated by the Birlas and looked after by the followers of Nichiren sect of Japanese Buddhism. This small but spacious temple walls are lined with paintings of life of Buddha. The atmosphere here is rather tranquil and peaceful in the temple with regular prayer sessions conducted in the morning and evening, During these sessions chantings of mantra to achieve enlightment "Nam Myoho renge kyo" is followed with slow and rythmic drum beats. The divine ambience with slow and rythmic drum beats with mesmerising chanting of the mantra by devotees in the temple in the morning and evening relaxes your senses. 

When I stepped in the temple during evening prayers, It hardly had the presence of 3-4 people with one person lighting candles and other beating the drums and everyone chanting the mantra. I was amazed to see the paintings on the walls and some artifacts of Buddha. The place really had a divine ambience.  I was invited to enter small room which housed the statue of Buddha in white marble and some other religious artifacts of Buddhist religion lined on the walls.

Capturing the temple in my lens, I sat for some time experiencing the unique feeling as I heard the drumbeats and chants of few devotees.I bid adieu to the place hoping to step in whenever I am in Worli to experience the positive and amazing divine ambiance.

Kwan Tai Shek Chinese Temple :  Mumbai also has one hidden Chinese temple built almost 80 years ago by Chinese traders, sailors and migrants from China. Worshipped once by only Chinese settlement in Mumbai before most of families got migrated across the globe. And remaining few have got gelled in the air of Mumbai becoming a Mumbaite with their 4th generation in existence.On my way to the temple, from Dockyard station behind Mazgoan docks, I asked one local for direction only to be informed that there was no such Chinese temple in the vicinity but I had all the information from "Google baba" so I moved ahead only to find the temple tucked in peaceful locality in BPT colony at Nawab tank road. Its two story building painted in pink and hardly looks like a temple unless you walk in the building.

 The temple from inside painted in red is a peaceful place with Chinese meditative music played with burning incense sticks creating a serene atmosphere. Adorned with paraphernalia typical of Chinese temples, latterns hanging on the wall in red and yellow. The walls of the temple is adorned with pictures of other Chinese deities.
The main shrine of Kwan Shek is beautifully decorated with silk takes center stage. A large bell and a drum used to welcome the New Year sits in one corner waiting to announce the new year as it arrives on Jan 23rd 2012.
 The temple also has amazing carpet of shape of Tiger which is also a Chinese new year animal sign. When looked from top, it gives a 3 dimensional effect.

For believers, this temple is the answer to lots of questions, literally. The wall next to the shrine is lined with bamboo sheets that tell the fortune, if you know how to read it. There is also a pair of the Chinese mystical Yin and Yang, the forces of the universe. You ask a question and throw them to the floor. If they fall with the opposite sides up, it means the forces are with you

I happened to meet the caretaker of the temple Albert Tham who is 3rd generation Chinese and speaks fluent Hindi. His mother was also the caretaker of the temple.The temple rarely has visitors but in Chinese new year which falls in January and Febuary it comes to full glory with descendants of Chinese community who come here to worship and pay homage. Albert is building another temple on the ground floor which is dedicated to female deity revered for peace, mercy and wisdom "GUAN YIN".

Kwan Tai Shek is a serenely beautiful temple, and a great place to simply sit and meditate in silence. It’s one of those places in Mumbai that is rarely spoken about, but is a gem for a must visit. The temple is definitely a treasure trove of Chinese spirituality in Mumbai.I plan to visit the temple again in Chinese new year in last week of January hoping to capture the atmosphere and the temple in its full glory.

We have so many religion in India and Mumbai is melting pot of all the religions. But the above examples prove that Mumbai is also a place where religion from far away land have also been part of cultural and religious diversity.