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.

Gulmarg-snow
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:

Gulmarg
View from the Rani temple
Gulmarg-Kashmir
View from the Rani temple

Shiva-temple-Gulmarg

Shiva temple-Gulmarg

Rani-temple-Gulmarg

Gulmarg-Apharwat
Mount Apharwat
Gulmarg-gondola
Gondola ride to Mount Apharwat

 

 

 

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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:

Nageshwar Mahadev-temple-Dwarka

DSCN1023
The entrance

Nageshwar-Jyotirling-Dwarka

Nageshwar-Jyotirling-Dwarka

Nageshwar-Mahadev-Dwarka

Nageshwar-Jyotirling-temple-Dwarka

Nageshwar Jyotirling Dwarka

Nageshwar Jyotirling-Dwarka

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.

Bet-Dwarka-island
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:

Bet Dwarka

Bet-Dwarka Ferry

Bet-Dwarka

Bet-Dwarka-boat

Bet-Dwarka-Ferry

Bet-Dwarka-jetty

Bet-Dwarka village

Bet-Dwarka-temple
The entrance to the temple

Bet-Dwarka-village

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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

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.

 

Garba-pot
Picture: http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in

 

Label Beh Gaye (Poem on 2017 Mumbai floods)

Here is my poem on the deadly Mumbai rains and floods that shook the city yesterday (August 29, 2017). The poem speaks about the spirit of Mumbai, like many of us. But there is also something deep hidden inside these scenes of people helping rank strangers.

Mumbai-floods-2007लेबल बह गए

निकले थे घर से सज सवरकर
धरम जात के लेबल लगाकर
साथ आया बारिश का झोंका
न लगा इसमें कुछ अनोखा

पर तूफ़ान थम नहीं पाया
२६/७ की याद ले आया
जल्द ही हुआ घातक नज़ारा
कुदरत का था जवाब करारा

मुंबई पे छाया मुसीबत का साया
निडर दिलों में भी डर ले आया
शहर बना जल समुदाय
जिसमे फसा जन समुदाय

लेकिन साथ आई एक उम्मीद
हमने पकड़ ली फिर एक ज़िद्द
भले ही ठोकर खाते रहेंगे
कश्ती को किनारा देते रहेंगे

सब ने बड़े दिल दिखाए
मानवता के झंडे लहराए
अनजान लोग अपनापन दिखा गए
धरम जात के लेबल मिटा गए

अब ठहरा कुदरत का क़हर
निकले वापस घरों के बाहर
अब भी लेबल अदृश्य रहेंगे
हम यही आशा करेंगे

– केयूर सेता

 

(In English font)

Label Beh Gaye

Nikle the ghar se saj savarkar
Dharam jaat ke label lagakar
Saath aaya baarish ka jhonka
Na laga isme kuchh anokha

Par toofan tham nahin paya
26/7 ki yaad le aaya
Jald hi hua ghatak nazara
Kudrat ka tha jawab karara

Mumbai pe chhaya musibat ka saya
Nidar dilon mein bhi darr le aaya
Shehar bana jal samuday
Jisme phasa jan samuday

Lekin saath aai ek ummeed
Humne pakad lee phir ek zidd
Bhale hi thokar khate rahenge
Kashti ko kinara deke rahenge

Sab ne bade dil dikhaye
Manavta ke jhande lehraye
Anjaan log apnapan dikha gaye
Dharam jaat ke label mita gaye

Ab thehra kudrat ka qahar
Nikle wapas gharon ke baahar
Ab bhi label adrishya rahenge
Hum yehi asha karenge

– Keyur Seta

Ganeshotsav Poem: Dhoond Raha Hoon Khud Ko

Here is a poem on the atmosphere during Ganeshotsav festival.

Ganpati-photoढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

वैसे तो सृष्टि के कण-कण में पाया जाता है मुझ को

पर ऐसे माहौल में मैं खुद ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

आइटम नंबर्स के अश्लील शब्दों में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

हिंसक शोर शराबे में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

उस शोर से बच्चे-बीमार के कराहने में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

पढाई न कर सके छात्रों की मार्कशीट में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

पॉलिटिशंस के फोटोशॉप्प्ड़ चेहरों के बीच ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

हवा में फैले पटाखों के ज़हर में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

नशे में धुत्त मवालियों की गालियों में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

उनसे की गई लड़कियों की छेड़-छाड़ में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

पर गली मोहल्ले घूम-घूम कर भी न महसूस किया खुद को

अंत में, विसर्जन के बाद के दयनीय दृश्य में पा लिया खुद को…

– केयूर सेता

 

(In English font)

Dhoond Raha Hoon Khud Ko

Waise toh srushti ke kann-kann mein paya jata hai mujh ko

Par aise mahaul mein main khud dhoon raha hoon khud ko

Item numbers ke ashleel shabdon mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Hinsak shor sharabe mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Us shor se bachche-bimaar ke karrahne mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Padhai na kar sake chhatron ki marksheet mein dhoon raha hoon khud ko

Politicians ke photoshopped chehron ke beech dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Hawa mein faile patakhon ke zehar mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Nashe mein dhutt mawaliyon ki gaaliyon mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Unse ki gayi ladkiyon ki chhed-chhad mein dhoon raha hoon khud ko

Par gali mohalle ghoom-ghoom kar bhi na pa saka khud ko

Ant mein, visarjan ke baad ke vivash drishya mein paa liya khud ko

– Keyur Seta