Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shree Ashapura temple - Nadol (Rajasthan)

Shree Ashapura Mataji is goddess worshipped mainly in Gujarat and Rajasthan, Its also a family deity for many in Gujarat and Rajasthan. One of the temple of the goddess is located in Nadol - Pali district and Modran in Rajasthan. There are other famous temples of the goddess at Matanamadh near Bhuj - Kutch, Jasdan - Rajkot, Morbi, Gondal, Jamnagar, Ghumli all in Gujarat.

Shree Ashapura mata is kuldevi of some of the gotras in Brahmin swarnakar samaj clans like Kala, Bhajud, Bhucha, Kathdiya, Kumbhalmera, Paldiwal, Solanki, Duhada, Kulmand, Lakhpal, Gugsa, Parkhavat, Ratanpal. She is also personal deity of Jadejas rulers of Kutch (Gujarat) and many other castes.

Shree Ashapura temple - Nadol

Reconstruction in progress

Gate of temple complex on Highway
Kuldevi : Every Hindu family has its own family deity which can be god or goddess and the families make a visit to obtain blessings of the deity especially on auspicious occasions like wedding, or new born in family. This tradition of having a kuldevi is similar to Tutelary deity worship which was practised in ancient Greece,Rome even in Native American religion, Asia and still practised today in Christianity.

Nadol - A sleepy small town in Desuri tehsil in Pali district on way to Jodhpur by bus from Udaipur. The town is famous for two important temples, one of Shree Ashapura mata which is also kuldevi (family deity) of people from Gujarat and Rajasthan, and Nadol Tirth which is Jain temple.

How to reach Nadol - Take a bus from Udaipur - Nathdwara which passes through towns of Gomti, Desuri, forest reserves of Khumbhalghar to reach Nadol. Takes 3 hours to reach from Nathdwara and buses are available in morning and evening. Nearest railway station is Rani junction which is 10kms from Nadol.

Lodging facility: Lodging facility is available in temple complex which also runs a Bhojnalay.

My visit: I had been planning a trip to get blessings of our Kuldevi - Shree Ashapura Mata since couple of months. After some research about Nadol, I decided to visit Rajasthan, Since it was my first visit and also first from anyone in my family so I decided to stay at Nathdwara which has better lodging facility and also it is 3hours bus drive to Nadol, bus & taxi service available from here. So it can be day trip.

Marble blocks

I boarded a Jodhpur bound bus from Nathdwara in the morning which stops at Nadol. The journey was not that exciting except for some eye popping marble and granite workshops along the route as Aravali mountains and Rajsamand in Rajasthan are famous for marble / granite mines. The bus also passed through the serpentine roads and picturesque forest reserve of Kumbhalgarh which is last green patch after which the barren desert starts. On reaching Nadol, found it to be small sleepy town which hardly would have a population of around 10000 and main highway to Jodhpur passes right in middle of the town. The temple complex which is a walk of 5-7 minutes from main highway is nice little temple which is being renovated and reconstructed with better facility for devotees. The idol of mata is quite unique and more mesmerising is to watch devotees who come here to seek blessings of the deity. The atmosphere is all charged with religious fervor. After performing puja, saw the temple complex also has lodging facility as well ;as Bhojnalay. After puja it was time for petpuja. The food served here is complete meal with roti, sabji, dal, rice, unlimited with charge of Rs 10/- per person.

After my darshan, I decided to return back to Nathdwara without doing any other adventures as October heat was taking its toll on me. On enquiring found that bus back to Udaipur had already left at 11.30am and next bus would be only in the evening. haha ... I was so !!!!!!!!!!!
Sitting on a stone arranged like a sitting bench on lone shop which was cycle repair shop on the highway, I decided to click pictures of Rajasthani folks passing by without offending them. With sun at its peak in mid afternoon, shop owner noticing that I was a novice or first timer in the village advised me to take a bus to Desuri village from where I would get other mode of transport to my destination. And I saw of bus to Desuri just pass by and I could only look at it as people were sitting on the roof of the bus !!!!!!!!

Gomti Village square
I started thinking that may be since I had not visited the kuldevi before, it was her way of punishing me for coming so late for her blessings.......But that was not the case as I saw a Maruti Omni which stopped in front of me and driver confirming if anyone would want to come to Desuri for a charge. I just hopped in the front seat without thinking twice. In Rajasthan, this is also one mode of transport as someone who is travelling to one location in a car, wants to make some money, would carry passengers for a charge. The driver dropped me to a village called Charbhuja which again is famous for some ancient temple of lord Vishnu. He also advised me to take bus to Gomti, from where I would get another mode of easy transport to Nathdwara. So here I was on a state transport bus to Gomti - town famous for Gurjar agitation and another important junction as buses going towards Jaipur and Jodhpur passes through it. Having reached Gomti, I was little more relaxed as it was only an hour drive to my destination so I decided to stop for a small tea break on highway tea stall all lined with "Khatiyas". Sipping hot ginger tea and watching the vehicles zooming past on national highway. It was first time for me to have tea on road side dhaba on a national highway. My journey back to Nathdwara from Gomti in state transport bus more reminded me of local train journey in Mumbai as it was a standing bus journey which got me back to Nathdwara.

This post is mainly for folks of Brahmin Swarnakar Samaj.

Rajasthani men & women multi coloured dressings.

Tribal women
Orange Pagdi

Red Pagdi

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