Photos: Huge Shiva statue at Nageshwar Mahadev temple in Dwarka

Dwarka is famous for being the holy place of lord Krishna. The Dwarkadhish and Bet Dwarka temples are the ones that are thronged the most by Krishna devotees. But during our recent trip to the place, we realized that the Nageshwar Mahadev temple or Nageshwar Jyotirling temple also holds a lot of significance in the town of Gujarat.

When our driver-cum-guide told us that he is taking us to a temple of Lord Shiva which is some distance away from the town, we were interested but not excited. However, even when we were some distance away from the destination, excitement suddenly crept up.

Also read: Mercure Dwarka Review: Serene hub in the land of Lord Krishna

Nageshwar-Jyotirling-DwarkaIt was the huge statue of lord Shiva or Shankar that appeared fascinating as we approached the place. As expected, we were in complete awe of the mammoth piece of art work as we finally reached the place.

The huge white coloured Shiva statue stood as an astounding figure commanding respect. The rudraksh necklace around His neck and fingers, tiger skin costume and the presence of the snake, damru and trishul along with the calm facial expression made it appear like a real person.

The sight almost made me forget that the main temple was actually inside. Like what you expect from a place of worship, the atmosphere inside the Nageshwar Jyotirling temple provides peace and serenity. We were easily able to do darshan of the main Shivalinga as there was hardly any crowd (they don’t allow pictures). The compound also has an artistic little Shiva-Parvati temple.

A large photo frame of the late music mogul Gulshan Kumar is also hung inside the temple. We assumed that he must have done a hefty donation to the temple trust.

Like every well-known temple, there is a legend about this place too. The Shiva Purana says that Nageshwar Jyotirlinga is in the Darukavana, which means forest. According to the legend, a Shiva devotee named Supriya was attacked by the demon Daaruka. After chanting Shiva’s name, Supriya was saved by Him, who resided there in the form of a Shivalinga.

By: Keyur Seta

More pictures from the Nageshwar Mahadev or Jyotirlinga Temple in Dwarka:

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The entrance

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Nageshwar Jyotirling Dwarka

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Nageshwar Mahadev Dwarka

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Short story: The age-old pujari near the secluded beach

Being all of just 22, the idea of going on a pilgrimage to Dwarka didn’t sound exciting to Vikram. It is believed that holy places are only for the old. A young person venturing to such trips is considered weird, especially in India. But after a lot of emotional force applied by his parents, Vikram finally agreed.

Vikram wasn’t an atheist though, which didn’t make it that difficult for his parents. The end of monsoon was zeroed in as the right time to take a tour. Vikram’s Diwali vacations had also commenced, so he wasn’t required to miss college. He was studying his Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication in a reputed college in his hometown, Mumbai.

The journey from Jamnagar airport to Dwarka was smooth. After doing the rounds of the Dwarkadhish Temple, Vikram and his parents took a tour of the neighboring places like the Rukmini temple, Sudama Setu, Nageshkar temple, etc. Vikram was pleasantly surprised to realize that he was enjoying the trip. Despite him not being too religious, he had stopped regretting coming here.

Dwarka-beach

On the second last day of the trip, the trio decided to visit an unnamed beach near the Momai Mata Temple. Vikram was interested in seeing the beach but not excited. Having experienced a lot of beautiful beaches in Goa and other Konkan areas, he thought this would be just another beach.

But a single glance at the beach was enough to convince Vikram how wrong he was. They were standing atop a hill-like structure while the beach was further down. This vantage point provided the perfect view. The Momai Mata temple stood just from where they were.

Vikram was feasting his eyes on the view instead of the temple. His parents decided to take darshan inside the temple whereas he impatiently went down to the sea.

Dwarka beach

The beach was in a pristine condition to say the least. It looked virgin. It appeared that the sand was untouched as there was not a single person or even an animal visible till the far end. While wondering how the beach was so secluded, Vikram forgot to admire its beauty. What he saw appeared surreal to him.

The eerie silence of the place was broken by the chatter of his parents who had slowly descended the steps. As the sun was just about to set, they urged Vikram to visit the temple before it gets darker. He did so hesitatingly. Although he was praying in front of the idol, his mind was at the beach.

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Momai Mata temple

As soon as he turned around after the darshan, he heard someone jump towards him out of nowhere. Shaken, he looked to the right from where an old man clad in orange lay bended. Vikram was shocked to see a snake in his hand as he slowly stood up. He just saved his life. It was easy for him to make out that he was the pujari (priest).

 

But he didn’t look like a normal pujari. Going by his facial appearance, it seemed to him that the man might be centuries old. However, his physique and agility made him look extremely fit and strong. Without saying a word, he went towards the left of the temple where stood a hut-like structure made out of cement. The pujari went inside and started sweeping it.

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Pujari inside the hut with a statue

Vikram peered inside. He could see a statue of a pujari in similar clothes. The darkness didn’t allow him to have a look at its face and he wasn’t even interested in the same. Going by what was written on a board outside, it was the statue of the founder of the place and the first pujari. As the old man turned, Vikram thanked him from saving his life.

Without showing any sort of feeling, the pujari said, “This temple is under my control. I won’t let anyone get into trouble over here.” He merely walked off.

Vikram kept on looking at the direction where he went for some time and then joined his family downstairs at the beach.

He couldn’t get the secluded beach and the age-old pujari out of his mind while being on his bed in the hotel room. Brooding over the place, he slowly drifted into sleep. Even before opening his eyes the next morning, he could hear his mom asking him to hurry up as they had to leave for Mumbai that day.

But a couple of hours before they checked out, she felt a mild shock when she realized that she forgot one of her bags near the steps of the Momai Mata temple. As the place was on their way to Jamnagar, they decided to visit and see if it is still there. They were quite sure the bag would be there considering how secluded the place was.

When their car reached the vicinity of the temple, Vikram was ordered to hurry and get the bag. He did so and luckily found it at the same spot. He took the bag and out of curiosity peered inside the hut where the statue of the founder resided. In the bright daylight he could clearly see the face of the statue and what he saw froze him.

He didn’t know how to react when the face told him that it was the statue of the same pujari who saved him from the snake last evening. Just then, he recalled the only thing the pujari had said.

This temple is under my control. I won’t let anyone get into trouble over here.”

By: Keyur Seta

Note: The place and the temple are real. The pictures were clicked during the author’s visit to the place. But the story is fictional.

Bet Dwarka: The island where Lord Krishna resided (See photos)

The Dwarkadhish temple is considered the main attraction in Dwarka. But I personally beg to differ. For me, Bet Dwarka (‘bet’ translates to ‘island’) is the most important place of Krishna worship. You will get to know the reason as you read.

Bet Dwarka is an island situated some distance away from the main Dwarka town, which is called Krishnanagari or the land of Krishna. You are required to travel from Dwarka to Okha by road for about an hour. Once you reach Okha, you need to take a ferry to Bet Dwarka island. The ferry ride is around 15 minutes long.

It is a pleasant experience to travel through the sea to the island. We were worried about the heat just before boarding the ferry. But we didn’t think about the weather once the ferry took off. The beautiful waters and the sight of the island (as you reach near) will make you forget the high levels of heat.

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Bet Dwarka shore

The ticket costs Rs 20 (as per September 2017). The seat inside the cabin of the ferry operator costs Rs 50. However, only locals are allowed to travel in the shade for reasons best known to them. But that’s not all. The ticket conductor refused to charge passengers who hailed from his village. Nobody knows how he recognizes people from his native.

It seems you can also get away from buying a ticket if you are related to some influential people. For example, during our return trip, when the ticket conductor arrived to give tickets, two men sitting next to me said with authority (in Gujarati), “We are Nareshbhai Joshi’s sons.” This was enough to allow them free travel. A Google search didn’t help in knowing who this man is.

Once you reach bet Dwarka, you realize that it isn’t a small island with not too many structures. It is like a proper village, very much like the main Dwarka city. There are plenty of shops selling whole lot of items, just like the vicinity outside the Dwarkadhish temple. Food and beverages stalls are also found in large numbers.

A number of such stalls lead to the main Bet Dwarka temple (cameras are strictly not allowed inside). This place is considered the residence of Lord Krishna once.

This is the reason why I consider Bet Dwarka as the most important site in Dwarka. The Dwarkadhish temple was built by Krishna’s grandson Vajranabha in His memory whereas Bet Dwarka is where Krishna actually stayed.

Coming back to the Bet Dwarka temple, once you enter, you are asked to gather at a place where a learned priest narrates the history of this place. He said that the room where we had gathered was the one where Krishna met his childhood friend Sudama after years (another reason why it’s important to me).

The custom was to never visit someone empty handed. As per the legend, Sudama gave Krishna some quantity of beaten rice as that was the only thing he could afford. In remembrance of the incident, devotees are given a fistful of beaten rice as prashaad. But instead of eating it directly, you are supposed to mix it with the stock of rice at your home.

You can also get a normal sweet prashaad.

By: Keyur Seta

More pictures:

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The entrance to the temple

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Short story: Happy Diwali to Sulekha and her pet dog

This time of the year was most awaited by the people of Bharat Nagar. Diwali brought in a new vigor and energy all irrespective of age and ethnic differences. As the festival was just a couple of weeks away, the shops and roadside stalls started displaying Diwali related items like diyas, rangolis, kandils, firecrackers decorations, etc. The shops selling clothes are also ready with latest materials.

It was just a matter of 1 or 2 days when people would throng these shops and stalls. It would appear as if they have received parole from the drudgery of everyday life. It’s that time of the year when students would forget the burden of their studies while working individuals would stop cribbing about their bosses, although temporarily.

However, life wasn’t so hunky dory for the 65-year-old Sulekha and her pet dog, Marco, who are put up in the busiest locality in Bharat Nagar. She has been staying alone with Marco after her husband passed away eight years ago. Her two daughters, who are married abroad, hardly check on her. But that is not the reason why she is gloomy these days.

Diwali-KandilSulekha has been an asthama patient since last few years. Her situation aggravates due to air pollution. So, needless to say, her asthama reaches higher level each Diwali through the rampant use of firecrackers. In other words, her need for the asthama pump increases during the festival.

Worse, there is no escape from the situation. The few relatives with whom she is in touch are based outside city. Her house is just above the chowk that sees the maximum crackers being burst. As most of them are burst at night, she can’t go anywhere thanks to her old age and knee problem.

Her life situation doesn’t hamper her jolly mood though. In fact, she is the most calm, peaceful and humorous person in the locality. This is all the more reason why very few people realize what she goes through during Diwali. There are times when taking the pump isn’t enough and she feels she might not make it to the next morning.

With so much suffering, it was never a Happy Diwali for her, although she sends and receives numerous Diwali wishes on What’s App. The celebrations at her place are next to none. She hardly ever bought anything for Diwali in recent years despite the shops being so close to her building.

But she doesn’t suffer alone. She has Marco for company. His only mistake is that he is an animal (not for Sulekha though). Most of us are aware how nightmarish life can be for animals when crackers are being burst around. But then, we turn a blind eye to this fact.

Hence, every Diwali, when people around them are in a celebratory mood, Sulekha and Marco tolerate the worst period of the year. They just hope to get rid of this ‘festival’ ASAP.

The feeling was the same this year. Just 10 days for the the festival, people of Bharat Nagar had thronged the shops and stalls while Sulekha and Marco sat at the window thinking about the challenging times ahead. It was difficult to say whether the dog was low because of his master feeling gloomy or whether he actually knew that Diwali was round the corner.

Sulekha switched on the TV to divert her mind. The loud mouthed news anchor was screaming out at the top of his lungs that the court has banned firecrackers during Diwali.

After years, she was seen excitedly buying decorations and kandils for Diwali the next day. Marco was wagging his tail besides her as he was happy to see his master happy.

Suddenly, it was a Happy Diwali for Sulekha and Marco this year.

By: Keyur Seta

Krishna’s Dwarkadhish temple to Sudama Setu: Pictorial tour of Dwarka

After becoming a Krishna devotee since last few years, I, obviously, developed a keen interest to visit Dwarka. It so happened that just recently I told my parents about my wish to visit the holy place at least once. And just one or two days later, I get a mail informing that I, along with few other bloggers, was selected for a trip to Dwarka. Was this a mere co-incidence?

The trip was a part of a bloggers’ review program for Mercure Dwarka hotel, which was inaugurated in the town of Gujarat in August this year. We landed at Porbandar airport and reached Dwarka in a drive of around 90 minutes. The place can also be reached from Jamnagar airport in little over two hours.

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Sunset captured from Sudama Setu in Dwarka

Dwarka is located at the western end of Gujarat on the shore of Arabian Sea. It is one of the Chaar Dhams (four major holy places) along with Jagannath Puri, Rameswaram and Badrinath.

Also read: Mercure Dwarka Review: Serene hub in the land of Lord Krishna

Dwarka has been built and rebuilt seven times in history. It was said to be built first few thousand years ago by Lord Krishna when he migrated from Mathura with his followers. The aim behind the migration was the safety of the villagers from the evil ruler and Krishna’s staunch enemy, Jarasandha.

The city built in the ancient period got submerged into the sea after the fall of the Yadavas (villagers) and the passing away of Krishna and his brother Balrama. They are said to have succumbed to the curse of Gandhari but not before Krishna had finished his aim of taking birth on the earth.

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Cows roaming on the roads of Dwarka

Our driver enlightened us that since the modern times, Dwarka has more tourists than locals. Its population is only aroun 38000. He also said that the city lies only in 3 by 3 kilometers land. As our trip progressed, we did realize this as we found proper civilization only around the Dwarkadhish and Bet Dwarka (situated in an island nearby) temples. But one can find huge number of cows on the roads in and around Dwarka.

Places to visit:

Dwarkadhish Temple

This is the biggest attraction as this is considered the main Krishna temple. Dwarkadhish is another name for Krishna. The temple is also called Jagat Mandir. Archeological studies suggest the temple to be around 2000-2200 years old. It is said to have built by Krishna’s great grandson Vajranabha. The temple has been destroyed twice by Mughal rulers Mohammad Shah and later by Mahmud Begada and rebuilt on both occasions.

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Dwarkadhish  Temple

It has a beautiful dome along with a vibrant dhwaj (flag). Unfortunately, cameras or any sort of gadgets are strictly not allowed inside. One has to deposit them at the entrance. The entrance leads up to the main area where the idol of Krishna resides. The idol is veiled during different times of the day. Witnessing the reaction of the people when it is unveiled is quite an experience.

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Krishna is also called Shrinathji in Gujarat. Shrinathji’s idol is given black colour and has peculiar turban and other attires. This form of Krishna is seen in the Dwarkadhish Temple. The idol is adorned with jewels and royal clothing. The vicinity also has other pretty and peace-inducing temples that are surely worth visiting. They offer Prasad (offering) in the form of puris we use in Sev Puris. The only difference is that it tastes sweet.

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Outside the temple

 

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A shop opposite the temple

The main market area lies around the temple. One can find shops selling sweets, snacks, different type of idols, conch shells (shankh), clothes, etc. One sweet item that I would highly recommend is Sata. After looking at it, I wasn’t expecting it to taste so lovely.

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Sata

 

Sudama Setu

Just a stone throw away from Dwarkadhish temple is Sudama Setu (Sudama’s bridge), which lies over the Gomti river. Sudama was Krishna’s closest friend. It offers a beautiful, panoramic view of the city and the river (see the 1st image of the article). And if you happen to witness the sunset, you would be amazed with the breathtaking visuals.

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Sudama Setu

Sudama Setu connects the market to an area exactly the opposite. Once here, you would feel as if you suddenly landed in Rajasthan. It is a desert-like area where camels are seen loitering. Don’t forget to sit on the benches on this side to feast your eyes on the flowing Gomti along with the side view of Dwarkadhish temple.

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Laxminarayan Temple

This area also has an old, mysterious Laxminarayan temple that offered a serene feeling. I also found a small Hanuman temple, behind which lay idols of other Gods for unknown reasons.

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Other side of the bridge
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Dwarkadhish temple from the other side of Sudama Setu
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The desert like area on the other side of Sudama Setu.

Rukmini Temple

Legend has it that Krishna and his wife Rukmini were taking sage Durvasa to their place in Dwarka in a chariot pulled by them. During one point, Rukmini felt thirsty, so Krishna dug his toe in the ground and water flowed out of it. She quenched her thirst but Durvasa felt insulted since they didn’t offer him water. He cursed that Krishna will have to stay away from Rukmini and that the water of Dwarka will always taste salty, which is still the case.

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Rukmini Tenple
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Entrance of the Rukmini Temple

His curse is also the reason why the temples of Krishna and Rukmini are separate. The Rukmini Temple is a pretty work of art which is seen on the human sculptures on its dome and other areas. Like the Dwarkadhish Temple, the dome of this one also deserves mention. As Dwarka only gets salty water, there is a tradition of donating normal water on your behalf if you feel so.

By: Keyur Seta

Mercure Dwarka Review: Serene hub in the land of Lord Krishna

Dwarka is the land of Lord Krishna. He is said to have built this town out of scratch to provide shelter to his followers. He had migrated with them from Mathura, his birth place, to save them from the wrath of his enemy Jarasandha.

Mercure DwarkaToday, around 5000 years after it was built, the pilgrimage continues to attract tourists on a large scale. The place is also known as Krishna Nagari or Devbhoomi. It is one of the chaar dhams (four holy places) of India along with Badrinath, Jagannath Puri and Rameswaram.

Our driver, during our recent trip to Dwarka, informed that the town at any given point has more tourists than locals. Hence, it is imperative to have good hotels in and around the holy place.

Mercure Dwarka is the latest one to be built in the city to facilitate the devotees. It became the first hotel from an international brand to arrive in the holy town of Gujarat when it was inaugurated in August 2017. Mercure Dwarka is a part of Accor Hotels. It mainly suits to people from urban or western areas who prefer a comfortable and luxurious stay during their pilgrimage.

Mercure-Dwarka

Let’s analyze different features of the hotel:

Location: Mercure Dwarka is situated on the Porbandar-Dwarka Highway. It is a lone big structure in the locality. It is one and a half hour’s drive away from Porbandar Airport and little over two hours from Jamnagar Airport. The main Dwarkadhish Temple is at five minutes’ drive away. From here, one can also visit other prominent sites like the Rukmani Temple, Nageshwar Mahadev Temple, Bet Dwarka, Gopi Talao and Sudama Setu (bridge).

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The entrance

Rooms: The most important aspect of any hotel is the room since it is your temporary abode for the next few days. Mercure Dwarka has 99 rooms in total with 20 on each of the first four floors. The fifth floor has 19 rooms as one is a suite. Every floor has four interconnecting rooms.

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To put it simply, the rooms are exactly what you expect from such hotels. The bed is soft and comfortable. The same can also be said for other furniture like the sofa, chair and table. The interiors and ambience offer a feeling of serenity. The simple and light colours used on the walls have a large role to play in it.

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The icing on the cake is the beautiful painting of Lord Krishna (in each room). This adds to the spiritual as well as artistic value. They also have the same painting of elephant in every room. The staff told us that Mercure adds local flavour to each of their branches. This was clearly on display here.

The suite has a nice extra room that can also be used for office or meeting purposes.

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The bathroom and washroom are posh and luxurious. I personally felt one problem due to the lack of bucket and tumbler while bathing. Everyone might not be used to the shower. Availability of tap would also help in reducing wastage of water.

Lobby: The lobby and reception area goes with the peaceful demeanor of the rooms due to its spaciousness, use of light colours and simple properties. It becomes even better when they play the flute music (which goes with Krishna’s personality).

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Food: The restaurant inside the hotel is called Makhan (as Krishna was called Maakhan Chor), which serves vegetarian food. Its specialty is the Gujarati thali, which is quite a sight as you can see from the picture below. We were served Theplas, Shev Tomato (bhel sev mixed with tomatoes) and Ringna Bateta (brinjal potatoes) sabzis, Dal, Rice, Gulab Jamun, Salad, Kachori and Khakra along with a glass of Chhaas (buttermilk). The taste of the food does go well with the looks.

Gujarati-thali

I was surprised to see Shev being added in the end in the Shev Tameta. We always add it while cooking.

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The restaurant area

Maakhan also serves good Punjabi food on ala carte and buffet basis. The subzis that we had over there on three occasions were quite satisfying and so were the rotis and naans. One can try their Pasta too. The breakfast menu too offers a wide range of options like simple bread butter and toasts to items like Pohe, Medu Vada, Shev Upma, baked beans, etc.

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Other facilities: The conference or meeting room has a capacity of 40 people. There is also a gym with a good range of equipment.

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Conference room
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Gym

Staff: The staff deserves special mention for being extremely humble and friendly.

Overall: Mercure Dwarka is an ideal hotel for Krishna devotees who are looking for a comfortable and luxurious stay during their pilgrimage.

Article and pictures: Keyur Seta

Navratri special: Ever heard of Garba Visarjan?

Here’s some meaning, importance and relevance of Garba pot or matka.

Like Ganesh Visarjan, there is Navratri Visarjan too. For most of you, this would mean the visarjan or immersion of idols of Goddess Durga. But this is not the only visarjan during Navratri. There is a section of the devotees that also carry out Garba Visarjan.

This might have come as a complete surprise to many. The word ‘Garba’ generally means a dance form carried out during Navratri along with Dandiya. However, that isn’t the only Garba that exists.

Garba pot matka
Picture: Indiamart.com

Garba is actually a pot which is brought home on Navratri and then immersed on Dusshera. Just like the Ganesh idol, it is worshipped daily. But it is not like any other pot. It is a wide pot which is designed and decorated royally in different colours. It has various holes on it. This enables enough air for the lamp (diya), which is ignited inside, to keep its flames alive.

The practice of bringing home the Garba is practiced mostly among Gujaratis. But it is practiced by people from other Indian communities too.

The Garba is also used in another manner. While playing Dandiya and Garba, the Garba is placed at the center and the people dance around it in circles. The Garba symbolizes the universe while the light inside symbolizes God. In other words, it shows that God is at the center of the universe.

That’s not all though. The dancers represent the never-ending nature of life, which indirectly hints at the idea of reincarnation.

Lastly, just like the Ganesh idol, Garba too is immersed in the sea, lakes, river or ponds with much fanfare.

 

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Picture: http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in