24 November 2012

Dwaraka Yatra 4

Started early on 1 October 2012 from Somnath and drove to Porbandar. Porbandar is 130km from Somnath. It was the day before Gandhi Jayanthi. Drive was very pleasant on the West Coast Road, hugging the coastline, dotted with Windmills, Sun slowly rising. Nip in the air, no traffic. Sparsely populated villages on the dry Saurashtra coast. People wearing traditional Kathiawari dress.

Sudama Dwaraka
Reached Porbandar at 8am. We went straight to the Sudama Mandir. This was Kuchela's home. The temple is housed in a large campus surrounded by gardens. The temple has been built by the local Maharaja in early 1900. 

Porbandar appears to be in a time warp, belonging to the age of Gandhi, going by the buildings around the temple. Kirti Mandir, Mahatma Gandhi's house is closeby. The house has a meditative air, and transports you back to 19th century. Kasturba's home is behind Gandhiji's home. There are people living in neighbouring houses. There does not seem to be too much difference between Kasturba's 19th century home and neighbours' 21st century home.

Mul Dwaraka 2
After breakfast, started from Porbandar around 10am. We reached Visawada to have a darisanam of Mul Dwarakadhish Mandir. The temple has shrines for Dwarakadhish, Vishwanath, Saraswati and Vinayaka. The temple has a 10th century step well.

Dwaraka is 110km from Porbandar. It can otherwise be called Land of flies as the half the world's population of flies is in Dwaraka. We had booked room in Hotel Damji. Turned out to be the best hotel near the temple. But, to eat in the restaurant, you need about dozen hands to drive the flies away and eat at the same time. 

After a brief nap, started from the hotel around 2pm. Reached Nageshwar in 30 minutes. The temple has the entire population of flies in the world. Flies you see at your home at mere maya, not real. There are many Nageshwara temples vying for the Jyotir Linga title. You can perform puja here. Packaged Ganga water is sold at the temple for puja. 

After brief Puja, we drove to Gopi Talav.  There are many claimants for the original/ real/ actual/ true Krishna  - Gopi temple here. After a quick walk about, drove to Okha

Bet Dwaraka
Bet Dwaraka is an island near Okha. It takes a 15 minute boat ride from Okha to reach Bet Dwaraka. The boats are crude, over crowded, no safety features whatsoever. You really have to have enormous faith in Dwarakadheesar to visit Bet Dwaraka. Temple opens at 5pm. You have to wait outside among flies. Bet Dwaraka competes with Dwaraka and Nageshwar on Flies per Square foot ratio, though can't beat them.You cannot take your bags inside. The cloak room does not accept backpacks. If you go in groups, some of you will need to stay outside taking care of the bags. 

The temple is actually a maze like structure with lanes and bylanes and many small sannidhis for Krishna's associates. The priests in white upper vest and colourful veshtis in panchakachcham come out every now and then to smoke or chew tobacco and go back to worship. We comleted our darshan, trotting from Sannidhi to Sannidhi and were out in a jiffy. Took the boat ride back and we were in Okha by 530pm. 

Tour operators seem to offer a package for Pancha Dwaraka - 1, 2, 3

Reached Damji by 630pm.

At last, we reached the main object of the yatra, the Dwarakadhish Mandir. The affection showered on the Lord by devotees is infectious. The whole atmosphere is throbbing with chants, emotion, energy... In order not to tire the Lord, the temple keeps closing and opening. We could see the evening harati. There is a side queue where you can stand as long as you wish. There are separate queues for men and women. You can join the back of the normal queue, reach closest to the Lord in about 10 minutes, come out, join the side queue and stand before Him as long as you wish. We stood in front of the Lord for about 15 minutes and drank Krishnamrutam as much as possible. 

13 November 2012

Dwaraka Yatra 3

We reached Veraval near Somnath by Somnath Express. We had booked a room at Sukhsagar. I had looked at Trip Advisor and written to a few hotels. Sukh Sagar was the most proactive one, calling me the same day to confirm. I had also asked for a car. Jethubhai of Sukh Sagar called be the day before giving the nos of the car driver. We reached the hotel. The rooms were pretty decent. Freshened and had breakfast. 

Muldwaraka is about 40km from Somnath on the coast. The drive, though on National Highway, was pretty bad. The old temple is on the beach atop a mound near Ambuja Cement's jetty. The temple is pretty old, dilapidated and abandoned. We had a quick darshanand drove back to Somnath.

Muktidwaraka is near Veraval/ Somnath. This is the place from where Krishna went back to his heavenly abode. The smaill temple is open 7am to 7pm without break.

Other Places in Somnath
There are places in Somnath on the banks of Hiran river - Githa Mandir, Krishna's footprint, Balarama's Guha, Surya Temple, Triveni Ghat. We quickly visited the temples and came back for lunch.

Somnath Temple
Somnath is a Jyotir Lingam. Historically, the temple has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. The current temple is a huge one built in 1951. There is temple is under a large security apparatus due to obvious reasons. While you can have darshan at this temple, you can perform puja at the old Somnath temple which just infront of the main temple. We performed puja at the old temple and had evening harati darshan at the main temple.

11 November 2012

Dwaraka Yatra 2

We flew into Ahmedabad on 29 Sep 2012 morning at 10am. We had booked a cab through http://www.manancab.com/. They promptly sent us a car to pick us at the airport. We drive straight to Akshardham. For end September, Ahmedabad (Gujarat as we were to find over the next few days) was very hot. We spent 3 hours on all the exhibitions. The exhibitions give an wonderful overview of Swami Narayan's life and the sishya parampara. He walked on foot the whole of Bharat from Kailas, Manasarovar to Kanyakumari, walking 12,000km over 7 years. We had a Gujarati thali at the canteen here. 

Adalaj Stepwell
Left around 2pm to see Adalaj stepwell. Stepwells are an important source of water through out Gujarat as Gujarat is rain starved state. There are many stepwells over 1000 years old and of archaeological importance. 

Dakor Dwaraka
Drove on the marble smooth golden quadrilateral road to Dakor. There are interesting stories about how the temple was built. We were stunned by the affection showered by the devotees on the lord. This affection became the common feature in all Dwarakadhish temples we visited. Krishna is treated as a child who has to be bathed, dried, dressed up, fed. He needs to take rest, so the doors are closed ever so often after a few minutes so that Krishna does not get tired of giving darshan to devotees. Every hour or so, the child is undressed with all the love of a mother, oil is applied, massaged, wiped clean with towels. Then, dressed with new, rich, colourful attire of the time of the day. There are different dresses for Krishna when he gets up, goes to the forest with His cows, lunch time, afternoon nap, evening snacks, night dinner. The food offering change with the time of the day. We reached Dakor at 5pm. We saw the evening darshan and left for Ahmedabad to board the train to Somnath.

28 October 2012

Dwaraka Yatra

Between 29 Sep 2012 and 7 Oct 2012, we went on a trip to Dwaraka. Dwaraka was the only Divya Desam in Vadanadu we had not visited. With this trip, we have covered all Divya Desams and Padal Petra Sthalams in Vada Nadu.

Dwaraka is praised in puranas as one of the 7 cities of salvation. It was the city established by Krishna as he migrated from Mathura/ Vrindavan. Dwaraka yatra is variously mentioned as the visit to 5 Dwarakas and 9 Dwarakas. We visited the following temples.

1. Dakor Dwaraka (Location, Temple site), 70 km from Ahmedabad
2. Mul Dwaraka (Location, Temple),  Krishna landed here from Mathura, 50 km from Somnath
3. Mukti Dwaraka, 2km from Somnath, Krishna left for heavenly abode here
4. Sudama Dwaraka (Porbandar), Krishna's friend Kuchela  lived here (also mentioned in Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography
5. Mul Dwaraka  2 (Visawada), 25km from Porbandar, another version of Muldwaraka
6. Bet Dwaraka, 30km from Dwaraka, Island where Krishna built a palace
7. Dwaraka (Location, Temple site), main temple/ town
8. Gomti Dwaraka, Gomti Ghat in Dwaraka
9. Rukmani Dwaraka (Rukmani Temple in Dwaraka
10. Dwarakadhish Temple, Udaipur, Temple outside City Palace in Udaipur
11 Nathdwara (Location, Temple site), Krishna's idol was brought here from Vrindavan, 50km from Udaipur
12. Kankroli (Location, Temple site), Krishna's idol was brought here for protection during Mughal rule, 20km from Nathdwara

We also visited
1. Somnath,  Jyotir Lingam, Destroyed many times, including by Mohd Ghazni
2. Nageshwar, Jyotir Lingam
2. Chittorgarh, the fort of Meerabai

02 June 2012

Kedarnath Badrinath Yatra

Kedarnath Badrinath Yatra 5 May 2012
As part of our project to have darisanam at all Padal Petra Sthalams (276 of them) and Divya Desams (108 of them), we did our yatra to Kedarnath & Badrinath. We covered 3 PPS (Anegathangavadam, Thirukedaram and Indraneela Paruppadam) and 3 DDs (Kandamennum Kadinagar, Thirupiridhi, Thiruvadariasramam). Of this, Kedaram and Badari are accurate. It is generally believed Gaurikund is Anegathangavadam, Indraneela Parvatham is Neelkanta Parvatham, Joshimath is Thirupiridhi and  Devaprayag is Kandam ennum Kadinagar. Nayanmars did not visit these sthalams. Gnanasambandar sang these sthalams from Kalahasti. Azhwars have also sang the sthalams rather than the Moorthy. 

10 of us started from Chennai on 5th May 2012. We had mad our travel arrangements through GMVN. You can get customised tours organised through GMVN providing transport and stay just for your group. As most of the places in the route do not have established hotels, it is convenient to get a tour package for yourself through GMVN.

The plan was:

Date Day Day From  To KM Time Time See Stay
05-May-12 1 Sat Chennai Delhi 07:00 10:00
05-May-12 1 Sat Delhi Rishikesh 225 11:00 19:30 Rishikesh
06-May-12 2 Sun Rishikesh Rudrapayag 150 11:00 17:30 Rudrapayag
06-May-12 2 Sun Rudrapayag Rampur 60 18:00 20:30 Rampur
07-May-12 3 Mon Rampur Gaurikund 10 06:00 07:00 Gaurikund (Anekathankavadam)
07-May-12 3 Mon Gaurikund Kedarnath 15 08:00 13:00 Kedarnath (Tirukedaram) Kedarnath
08-May-12 4 Tue Kedarnath Gaurikund 15 08:00 11:30
08-May-12 4 Tue Gaurikund Tilwara 60 12:30 18:00 Tilwara
09-May-12 5 Wed Tilwara Nandaprayag 60 06:00 08:30
09-May-12 5 Wed Nandaprayag Joshimath 60 09:00 12:00 Joshimath (Tirupiridhi) Badrinath
10-May-12 6 Thu Joshimath Badrinath 45 14:00 17:00 Badrinath (Badari, Indra Neela Parupadam)
10-May-12 6 Thu Badrinath Joshimath 10 12:00 15:00
10-May-12 6 Thu Joshimath Auli 20 16:00 17:00 Auli Auli
11-May-12 7 Fri Auli Auli 0 Auli
12-May-12 8 Sat Auli Karnaprayag 100 07:00 14:00 Karnaprayag
12-May-12 8 Sat Karnaprayag Srinagar 70 15:00 18:00 Srinagar
12-May-12 8 Sat Srinagar Devaprayag 35 08:00 10:00 Devaprayag (Kandamennum Kadinagar)
13-May-12 9 Sun Devaprayag Rishikesh 75 11:00 15:00
13-May-12 9 Sun Rishikesh Rishikesh 15:00 18:00 Rishikesh

On 5th night, we stayed at the Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh. The Ashram is a serene place on the Ganga. 

Next day, we started at 1100 instead of planned departure at 0700. Our van had to get a 'Green Card' at RTO in Rishikesh to proceed to Kedarnath. On the way, we got down at Rudraprayag to collect the Holy water. The roads are unsafe, no barricades at the edges and there is a 1000ft drop beyond this. It is not safe to drive after sunset. Because of the delayed start, we reached our next night stay at Rampur at 2030. There is a sudden climate shock as Rishikesh is hot and Rampur is cold. You can see snow capped peaks from here. The GMVN guesthouse is set amidst hills and streams, the views are breathtaking. 

Road ends and the trekking route to Kedarnath starts at Gaurikund. There are traffic jams and no parking spaces as the day goes by. It is best to reach Gaurikund early in the day and start your journey to Kedarnath. If you are planning Kedarnath yatra, you should plan your night stay for day 2 at a place close to Gaurikund. Rampur is just 10km from Gaurikund so it was very convenient. 

We reached Gaurikund at 7 in the morning. We saw the kundam and the temples around. We reached the trek starting point, which is swarmed by horses and horsemen. You can book a horse at the Govt centre for Rs1100 and Doli for Rs4000. Or you can walk. Some of us took the Doli, a few hired horse and the rest started the walk. Horses reached the top in three and half hours by 1130. Doli took 5 hours and reached around 1330. After three hours of walk, trekkers had covered just 5.5 kms. The total trek is 14km. At this rate, the walkers would reach Kedarnath by 6pm or after ten hours! So the brave walkers also hired horses for rest of the journey. I recommend you take the horse if you want to be early and return the same day. Take the doli if you do not want to strain even a bit.

Kedar was very cold, the temple had opened a week back. The streets were full of snow. While the summer will melt the snow, July and August are rainy and not recommended. The temple was not crowded at all as we were early in the season. The padigams ( Sambandar, Sundarar)   are inscribed in the temple. The temple is quite compact. The mandapam has shrines for Krishnar and the Pandavars. Next day, early in the morning, we performed pujai. You can touch and worship Kedaranathar. We had taken Vibhuti and Vilvam for the puja.

On 8th morning, we started from Kedarnath at 8am and all reached Gaurikund by different modes in 3.5 hours at 1130. We reached Tilwara on the Ganga by 6pm. The GMVN guesthouse was pleasant, we spent some time playing in the waters of Ganga.

The next day (9 May 2012), we started at 6am. We spent sometime at Nandaprayag. Tirupirudhi is variously stated as Nandaprayag, Joshimath or Manasarovar. Then, reached Joshimath at 1200 noon. Visited the Temples and the Mutt established by Adi Sankarar.

Gate system operates between Joshimath & Badrinath. We caught the 2pm gate and reached Badrinath at 5pm. The road is quite narrow and dangerous. Had a good darisanam at the temple. The temple is crowded and there are quite long queues. There is free token system. There is less crowd in the evenings with 15min-30 min wait. In the mornings, waiting extends to 2 hours. We bought tickets for the Sahasranamam in the evening. You can sit before Shri Badrinathji for 20 minutes even as Vishnu Sahasranamam is recited.

We could also see the Neelkanth Peak (Indraneela Paruppadam) from Badrinath.

On the way back, we saw the sangamam at Devaprayag from where the Ganga starts.

15 October 2011

Gokarna/ Gokarnam - Padal Petra Sthalam - Tuluva Nadu

We visited Gokarna Oct 4-8th, 2011. Gokarnam is a Padal Petra Sthalam in Tuluva Nadu. Tuluvam (Tulu) is one of the five Dravidian languages, others being Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Gokarna is sung by Appar and Sambandar. The padhigams talk about sea, mountains, forests and animals like elephants, lions, tigers.

Gokarna is a tricky place to visit as it is sandwidched between the Western Ghats and the sea. From Chennai, we took Mysore Express to Bangalore, Hubli Janashatabdi to Birur, Mysore  - Talaguppa Intercity to Talaguppa. We were staying in Om Beach Resorts in Gokarna. We had asked them to send a car to pick us up. Talaguppa is a tiny station. You have to arrange prior pick up. There is some interesting history about Shimoga - Talaguppa railway. We reached Talaguppa at 2pm.

Jog falls, India's highest falls, is 10km from Talaguppa. You can see the falls from the top. Or go down 1450 steps to see from the bottom. There are big crowds swimming at the bottom. July - August are probably better to see the falls with full water flow.

We reached Gokarna at 7pm. Gokarna is a very small town/ village. Your stay options are limited. Om Beach Resorts was decent. Other than having darisanam of Mahabaleswarar, Gokarna is also known as a beach resort. Frequented by back packers from abroad as a cheaper alternative to Goa. The place a quaint mixture of divinity, drugs, sun, beaches, sands, mountains and forests.

The next day morning, we started from the resort after breakfast. The temple is 2km/ 15 minute walk. Mind you, the resort is outside the know, amidst hills/ forests, no mobile signals. We walked the lonely path fo5 15 min and suddenly you in the Radham Street, the main street of the village where Mahabaleswarar comes out in procession in a radham. The priests of the temple live the street. The houses have boards proclaiming the names, and every one is a hereditary chief priest. 

Our friend had referred us to Shri Anantraj Adi, Hereditary Chief Priest, We learnt his grand father, Dattatreya Adi, father, Parameswara Adi were are Hereditary Chief Priests and now he is the Chief Priest. We went into his home, were welcomed and met his brother.  We could see a number of rooms and many families were staying. The families were all guests from other towns, visiting Gokarna, staying at the Priest's home and doing their worship.

We chose to do Ksheerabhishekam and Archanai. The priest brought out a plate on which kunkumam, chandanam, akshadai were all neatly arranged, a vessel of milk and we were ready to go.

A 2 min walk, you enter the Maha Ganapathy temple. This Pillayar, instigated by Naradar, obtained the Athma Lingam from Ravanan, and cleverly placed it in Gokarnam. The priest does the Sankalpam, he chants the mantras and you can worship the Lord yourself. Anyone can touch him, do abhishekam, neivedyam etc. So, we performed the pooja to Pillayar.

Across the road is Mahabaleswarar. Anyone can touch and worship Mahabaleswarar too. The Priest chanted the mantras and we performed the puja. Mahabaleswarar is buried in the land and you can only touch and fell the cavity at the top of the Lord. The temple is a small temple, was not crowded at all. We completed the puja, did pradakshinam , had darisanam of Tamra Gowri, the ambal.

Mahabaleswarar faces the sea. We came out and we were in Gokarna beach. There are many beaches in Gokarna.  We walked from Gokarna beach to Kudle beach to the better known Om beach. We found the Gokarna beach very clean, not crowded, not too many waves. Kudle is muddy, full of waves, with foreigners in bikinis and less. We could see syringes lying around. Om beach is crowded with Indians, rocky, muddy, and rough.The whole walk took us 4 hours.

Next morning, we visited Murudeswar, Soleswarar in Bhatkal, Kollur and Mattur, the Sanskrit village. We took a train from Shimoga to Bangalore to Chennai.


Anantraj Dattatray Adi, Shankar Gangadhar Adi, Chief Priests, Gokarna
Phone 08386 256532, 94496 64428

13 August 2011

Kailasa Yatrai 8

BUrang/ Purang/ Pulan to Manasarovar 26 May 2011
We stayed put on 25 May at Purang to get acclimatized to high altitude. The rooms, while well constructed   have no heating and it is probably less than 5 degrees (no thermometers, cannot do exact measurement).  No hot water either. Even walking 10 feet to go to toilet becomes a task due to cold and high altitude. You feel short of breath and it takes a few minutes to come back to normal breathing.

The food is good, upma, chapathi etc for break fast, soup, rice, curry, chapathi for lunch and dinner. Food is arranged on a table in the open and you eat standing with a plate in hand under sun. 

Next day, we started our drive to Manasarovar at about 9am. It is a 2 hour drive on a very good road through a deserted landscape. After an hour, we reach Rakshas tal.    Rakshas tal is an irregular shaped lake, where Ravanan is believed to have meditated. You are not supposed to touch this water as this is evil lake.  Next to Ravana lake is Manasarovar, which is roughly an inverted triangle. We take a drive round it, a drive as per various sources, 80-100km. We also visited Selarung gompa.  This is a Buddhist monastery, destroyed during cultural revolution and rebuilt. Most of the monasteries even in this remote part of Tiber were destroyed and some of them have been renovated. You can get a very good view of Kailash during this drive, though it will appear small. Sometimes, Kailash will disappear among clouds.

We drove via Darchen, the last point with road to have a close darshan of Kailash from Ashtapad. The path was snow covered, Toyota 4X4 could move after a point. We had to return with disappointment. I recommend that yatris per form Yatra in Aug/ Sep as snow would melt and you can have the closest view of Kailash.

We came back, stayed for the night at Chiu Gompa. The rooms are built structures, but no electricity or toilets. You answer the call of nature is in a natural way - out in the open, behind the rooms. Women will find this an issue. I am told August is the peak season and you may have to stay in tents. 
Chiu Gompa is right on the Manasarovar and you also get good views of Kailash from your rooms. We stayed over night here.