Pictures: River Godavari, adjoining temples and Sita Gumfa

The last time I had visited the banks of River Godavari in Nashik was more than 20 years ago. It was probably the first time I had spent so much time at a river bank then. Needless to say, I had fond memories of that place.

My next visit to Godavari was last month. I had expected massive changes in and around Godavari. However, much to my pleasant surprise, I realized that the river bank and the adjoining area had hardly changed.

Godavari

 

At a time when rapid change and urbanization is the norm of the day, this sight gave me the same kind of joy it had given me more than two decades ago.

Thankfully, the Govdavari, which is based in the Panchvati area of Nashik, was full of water the day we visited. To see people happily taking a dip in it was a happy sight. Surprisingly, it wasn’t so polluted, as is the case with other rivers.

There are a number of small but pretty temples ound the river. A big sthamba and a beautiful statue of Lord Hanuman also adorn the place.

The Shree Kapaleshwar Mahadev Mandir is one of the prominent temples here. It is a Shiva temple. Just ahead lies Shri Goreram Temple, in which the idol of Lord Ram is made from white marble. Similarly, in Shri Kalaram Temple, which is also nearby, the idol is made of black marble.

Once you keep walking ahead for some time, you will find the historic Sita Gumfa aka Sita Cave. It is believed that Sita, Ram and Laxmana prayed here during their exile period. The passage to the gumpha is extremely narrow and everyone is not advised to go through it.

By: Keyur Seta

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History of Shree Goreram Temple
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Entrance to Sita Gumfa
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Photos: Godavari-Kapila Sangam and Laxmana Temple at Tapovan, Nashik

The most important twist in the Indian epic Ramayana is when Laxmana cuts the nose of the evil Supranakha, the sister of Ravana. It was this act that played a role in Ravana kidnapping Sita, wife of Lord Rama.

It is believed that the incident took place near a place where lays the city of Nashik currently. The area where the encounter happened is called Tapovan, which was a part of the ancient Dandakaranya forest.

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On the banks of Godavari-Kapila Sangam

The name Tapovan is derived from Sanskrit words Tap, which means meditation and van, which means forest. Hence, the place was used by many sages for meditation.

 

Because of Laxmana’s act, a temple in his name is formed at this place, which is just a stone throw away from the place where rivers Godavari and Kapila meet (known as Godavari-Kapila sangam). At the same place, lie few holy water kunds (holy reservoirs).

Despite the heat, the place appeared pleasant and calm when we had visited it recently. We were told that this is the only Laxmana temple in the world. However, after doing a simple Google search just now, I realized that this is not true. There are Laxmana temples in Chhattisgarh and Khajuraho.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience being at this place. More than the temple, the Godavari-Kapila Sangam was more remarkable. The area where two rivers flowing and the various kunds (Mukti, Agni and Sita Kund) reside was quite adventurous. There are also three kunds signifying Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.

On the far end one can see huge idols of Lord Rama, Sita and Laxmana.

By: Keyur Seta

More pictures:

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Outside the Laxman  Temple

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Entrace of Laxman Temple. Pictures aren’t allowed inside

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Idols of Ram, Sita and Laxmana

Pictures: Khandoba Temple atop the hill at Deolali

The Khandoba Maharaj Temple or Khandoba Tekdi at Deolali (also known as Devlali) is an interesting mixture of mythology and history. As per a legend, it is believed that Lord Shiva took the form of Khandoba Maharaj to eliminate two demon brothers Malla and Mani.

After performing a lot of austerities, the brothers had received a boon from Shiva through which nobody could kill them. But they became extremely arrogant and started creating havoc on innocent citizens. Hence, Shiva took matters in his own hands and killed them through his Khandoba avatar.

Khandoba-TekdiThe legend goes onto say that Khandoba Maharaj, after killing Malla and Mani, took some rest at this place. That’s the reason why the place is also called Vishram (which translates to ‘rest’) Gadh.

It is believed that much, much later when Shivaji Maharaj was going towards north, he took rest at this place. Ever since, the temple was formed and it has been taken care of by Amle family.

Surprisingly, the premises of the Khandoba Temple start with a huge park meant for both children and adults. It ends where the steps to the temple, which is situated on a hilltop, start. The steps are wide and less in height. This makes it possible even for older people to climb them.

It’s an enjoyable climb due to it being easy and the view that it offers. One gets a peaceful and calm feeling after reaching the temple at the top. The entrance and the inner sanctum are well structured and maintained. The vibrant colours add to the beauty.

By: Keyur Seta

More pictures:

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History of Khandoba Temple
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Gita Saar on the way
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Hanuman Akhada (place where wrestlers fight)
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Almost there

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Khandoba temple

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The main idol of Khandoba

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Pictures: Shiva Temple in the snow-clad Gulmarg where Quran is recited

Gulmarg, the small town in Kashmir, gets garnished in snow with the arrival of winter every year. In between the snow-peaked mountains lies a Shiva temple on top of a hill. Named Rani temple, it is visible from all corners of Gulmarg.

Spotting a Hindu temple in Kashmir is a rare sight as there are hardly any left in the region. The Rani temple is one of the last signs of the Dogra Dynasty and was built by Maharaja Hari Singh in the 20th century. He was the last Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Far view of the Rani Temple in Gulmarg

The temple is named after his wife Maharani Mohini Bai Sisodia since she used to ardently perform prayers over here. She was one of his four wives.

The most incredible feature about the temple is the priest. He is not an ordinary priest. His name is Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh. Yes, the Hindu temple is guarded by a Muslim priest. But that’s not all. The priest daily recites verses from the Gita as well as the Quran. I guess this practice isn’t seen anywhere else. Unfortunately, he wasn’t present when we visited the temple.

Gulmarg-Shiva-templeThe Rani temple is also famous for being featured in the classic Hindi song ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’ from J Om Prakash’s Aap Ki Kasam (1974) and was picturized on Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz.

The way to the temple is through a long staircase. As Gulmarg lies at a high altitude of 8690 feet, one is bound to become breathless after the climb. But the effort is truly worth for the peaceful atmosphere the temple offers and the breathtaking view of this beautiful snow-clad town.

Gulmarg is known for its iconic Gondola ride that takes you almost as far as the PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) at a height of close to 13000 feet at Mount Apharwat Summit. It is a place that is worth innumerable words.

Pictures and article: Keyur Seta

More pictures from the temple and Mt Apharwat:

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View from the Rani temple
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View from the Rani temple

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Mount Apharwat
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Gondola ride to Mount Apharwat

 

 

 

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

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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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