Gir: The Temple Tour


Day 3: 18th January 2011 After a beautiful Morning Safari, we decided to do a Temple Tour of Somnath. There is a point in Somanth from where there is unobstructed sea till Antarctica. And guess what, i checked Google Maps. Right it was ūüôā¬† This is a map of the route from Gir Forest to Somnath Somnath is one of the most beautiful temples of India which stands testimony to the fact that plunderers may come and go but what has to remain will remain. Somanth is a Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva also known as the Destroyer in Hindu Mythology. He is regarded as the most powerful god in Hinduism. Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power, he lives a life of a sage at Mount Kailash. In the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism, Shiva is seen as the Supreme God and has five important works: creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer, and revealer (to bless).

Quoting from the Somnath Temple Trust website,

“The Somnath temple stands at the shore of the Arabian ocean on the western corner of Indian subcontinent in Gujarat State. Somnath is in Prabhas Patan very close to Veraval.¬†¬† The Moon God is said to have been relieved from the curse of his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati by the blessings of Bhagvan Somnath.¬†¬†In¬† the Shiva¬† Purana¬† and Nandi¬† Upapurana, Shiva¬† said, `I¬† am ¬†always present everywhere ¬†but¬† specially¬† in¬† 12¬† forms¬† and places as ¬†the¬† jyotirlingas`. Somnath is one of¬† these 12 holy places.¬†This is the first among the twelve holy Shiva Jyotirlings.¬† It has withstood the six-repeated desecration by the Muslim invaders. The very existence of this temple is symbol of reconstructive spirit and cultural unity of our society. The seventh existing temple is built in the Kailas Mahameru Prasad style. The Iron man of India Sardar Shri Vallabhbhai Patel is the pioneer of the existing temple.”

India is a land of temples. So its a given that when we do go to any place, there is always a temple tour involved. It was always on the cards to do a temple tour of Gujarat.

There is Dwarka and Somanth and when we were coming to Sasan, there was Virpur, which again is believed to be a very powerful temple. Then there is a place of Jain pilgrims, Palitana. So Gujarat has its fair bit of divine destinations.

So we started off on our last evening in Gir, to visit Somanth. On the way, we drove through small villages and hutments. When i was small, there were some cottages near my grandparents’ building. There was a thin road connecting the road to my grandparents with the main road. So we had to cross over the thin stone layered road through the packed cottages. There was always a stream of water flowing beside the stone road. It was very quaint. Our first stop was a Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. There was a round of women who were singing and chanting. The temple wasn’t very clean or big.

The First Stop and the Chanting Women

It is an extraordinary feeling that you get when you drive through villages. The children look at you with such wide and surprised eyes. Also the cattle, they are everywhere!! The fields during the winter look brilliant because the winter crop is in bloom. The fields look green or white and flowers fill the air with their fragrance. Our next stop was Somnath. But before we actually went to Somnath for the evening Aarti, we went to a smaller Krishna and Shiva Temple close by. We went through a gate and a host of small mandaps made out of stone which were at the banks of the Arabian Sea. The sun was just setting then. It was idyllic.

There were people strolling around, dogs lazing and crows cawing. It was a very peaceful scene. I don’t know what it is about temples and the temple surroundings, but they are always very calm. It centers you when you’re there, quietens your mind and allows you to think. The funny thing here, was the large number of crows sitting on one of the stone structures. It seemed like they were having a parliament of their own. It was amusing to watch.

There was a Radha-Krishna temple which was our last stop before we went to Somnath. We’re usually not allowed to take pictures in temples, but this one was a really small one with not a lot of people coming. Also it was getting a little dark by then and we could see the moon. It was nice to go to a small temple. Sometimes you find serenity in small places, in corners where you least expect it. The crowd usually goes one way and it helps to go the other way. It throws up unexpected results!!

And finally we made our way to Somnath. There was a huge crowd there as it always comes during the evening aarti. And where a large number of tourists go, there are stalls selling wares. We got two books about Somnath and the 12 Jyotirlingas from an old man selling those. There were people selling shells and clips made of shells. I saw cowries with alphabets and promptly started searching for an ‘N’ in vain. There were hair clips and bracelets made with shells in addition to regular key-chains and other wares. There were also photographers who asked people to pose and then clicked photos. You have to stand and they click a photo with Somnath in the background. Then in half an hour, they develop the photo and bring it to you. So we decided to give this guy a chance and stood for a photo. The fellow charged some Rs. 30 and asked us to pay later when we got the photo. And then we went inside.

Its said that the Somnath was plundered time and again 6 times and each time a king built it, bringing funds from not only his kingdom but also the adjoining kingdoms. It shows a resilience which is an outstanding feature. Most plundered temples lay in ruin till date.

When we went inside, we were put in two lines, one for the ladies and one for the men. It is a good practice because it means men and women are not huddled together in the crowd. There was a wait after which the aarti started. Everyone leaned in forward to take blessings. There isn’t much time you can spend in the temple when there are crowds because security works in to slowly clear out the people. It was a short darshan but a nice one.

We’re not allowed to take photos inside the temple. There is a security deposit where you can keep electronics. When we were done with the darshan we collected the camera. The process was smooth. We went into the Temple Courtyard and there was a batch of school kids who had come. There was a sound and light show that was happening there that night which would tell us the history of the Somanth. So we decided to stay and watch that.

There isn’t a screen where anything can be projected and neither was the light rearranged to look like people. The projections were made on the temple and a sound boomed telling us all about the kings who ruled and made Somnath every time it was plundered. The current temple was pioneered by Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel, the Iron Man of India.

I felt proud that there was a Temple that kept coming up even though it was plundered for its riches. Shows the amazing grace we are surrounded with and the faith of the devotees which kept the Temple alive even under threat of invasion. We left after buying some key- chains.

And i figure we left so late that the photo fellow didn’t come. Usually they come and are prompt when money is involved. But by the time we left, it was late. I think we searched for him after our darshan too, but we couldn’t find him!! Case of the Missing Photo!!!

We retired, ready to pack and leave Gir after a short power packed trip!!!

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Coorgi Tales- Madikeri and beyond!


15th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India

Continuation to the Dubare note. After Dubare, we were plenty exhausted and not to mention dirty!! After reaching the resort, we freshened up and had lunch. We decided to spend the remainder of the day in the town of Madikeri. We had lunch at ‘Arabica’ and then went to the room (i must mention that one of the days we had a mint and melon mousse for dessert and it was amazing. One day it was strawberry and white chocolate mousse which was lip-smacking!! No wonder they say Club Mahindra pampers you)
We spent the afternoon resting and then drove down to Madikeri. By now, i knew the route to the market and back so it was no problem. Once you take a turn to go to Club Mahindra, there is a school, 2 parks and a temple. we decided to explore the park and the temple. .
One of the parks had a mini train. it was amazingly cute!! It reminded me of the time we used to go to a park in Santacruz where there used to be a similar train and we used to ride it till the park closed. So it was a trip down the memory lane for me!!

The ride itself was only for 3-4 minutes but it was fun. We grabbed seats in the extreme front just after the engine. And a guy first came and checked our tickets (you have to buy tickets for the ride, different tickets for kids and adults!!)
There were even boards for stations and a small tunnel. And this ride attracted a lot of the crowd. I guess in a small town you would find this very much fun, people in smaller towns have more fun than city dwellers anyway!!
After that we made our way to the other park which was more like a ‘Joggers Park’. It was so well maintained with broad lanes, lot of dustbins in the shape of cute animals and pretty flowers. There were many people walking and many playing.

Coorg is called ‘Scotland of the East’ and it was not difficult to see why. The view from the park bench was stunning!! Even though it was summer, there was a slight fog in the distance and there was a nice breeze which made it quite pleasant.
After a walk and a lot of photos, we decided to leave and snack on something. We had some ‘Joy’ Ice cream(=chocobar!!) and then to our surprise, the lights came on at the centre of the park and the people were standing around the circle which we later discovered turned out to be a musical fountain. And we slowly made our way towards the gate coz we knew we’d just come out and we couldn’t go in again but the lady sitting at the entrance told us to go right ahead. We went in and were totally awestruck.
They played some song with lyrics we couldn’t understand (=either kannada/tamil/malu) and the fountains danced to the tunes. It was so well done. The colours also changed. I was totally engrossed. We took videos and many pictures. I hear there is a musical fountain at the Vrindavan Gardens at Mysore but this was amazing. And there were very few ppl so that made it better.
The fountains were amazing. They jumped, they danced, we gasped!!! They played 4 songs and for that time, held the audience totally spellbound. They ended with ‘Saare jahan se Accha’ and the people slowly started making their way out.

Thats when i realised how pretty the flowers at the edges of the park looked. They were nice and purple. So got in some pictures of those as well. Then we went to the temple nearby and guess, we were just in time for the evening ‘Aarti’. The co-incidence was amazing!! After the Aarti, we made our way back to the hotel

Oh i forgot to mention that while coming back from Dubare, we stopped at a place and purchased lots of spice. Coorg is known for its spices. We also got some Vanilla to be had with milk. It smells so sweet and delicious. One really wonders why people go in for artificial substitutes when the real one is so much fragrant and better!!For dinner this time, we decided to try the a-la-carte restaurant at Club Mahindra called ‘Coffee Blossoms’ We had some thai curry(red and yellow), steamed rice, kheema paratha and some starter. The red thai curry was so delicious, we really enjoyed and literally licked our plates off. We did have some light dessert and made our way to the room.

This restaurant had another way which led to the swimming pool near our room so but we decided to take the longer route to enjoy the smell of the coffee blossoms. It was a super night and i really kept going back to the stunning Musical Fountains that we found in the small town of Madikeri.

cOMING uP next: Adventure Valley Part2, The town again,Coorg cuisine,Goodbye Coorg
Some of the pretty flowers

Welcome Udupi


11th April 2010, Karnatak Hinterland, India

The day dawned bright and clear. it was this day that we were leaving Manki and setting out. the first part of our journey was complete!!!
As we opened the kitchen door, we realised we had a little kite on the doorstep!! It was a small baby who i guess must have been tired of flying. this season was when all the birds like eagles and kites mated and their young hatched. so the sky was always dotted with birds teaching their young to spread their wings and fly.

After the tasty breakfast of jackfruit patoli and lots of pictures(with sanjay mam,suma pachi,shanti,hemant bhatmam and tender coconuts) we departed for Udupi to see the Krishna temple there.

As you move towards Udupi which goes towards the south, the vegetation differs, becomes thicker and the standard coconut trees give way to more banyans and other species which generally spread and make a canopy over the road.

There are 4 entrances to Udupi, all through entrance gates called ‘dwars’ which are intricately carved and beautifully painted, each gate having a different design.

We made our way through udupi to meet sanjay mam’s mother. we freshened up at her place and then made our way to the Krishna temple. The first thing that strikes you about udupi is that the roads are nice and done up well and there is no traffic. for a mumbaikar, any small place will have absolutely no traffic!!

The temple complex is very large and spacious and they have big warehouse type structures for storing ‘Raths’ for festivals when they have ‘Rathotsavas’.

the raths were in gold, silver and were so intricately done up. there was a huge queue
for entry into the temple so we got some special tickets (yes they are available there) and saw the inside of the temple. the inside is air conditioned and very clean. the idols are very clean and the air is filled with positive vibes. we had a bhatmam give us a tour and after seeing the temple we went to this restaurant called ‘Mitra Samaj’ which we heard was good for its food.
Its essentially very hot in south india at this time but the sky is pretty clear so we can see the carvings on all dwars and temples clearly ūüôā

Next Episode:Helllo Manipal,Mangalore Tales,Vitthal and Journey to Coorg,Coorg and Beyond
the baby kite!! soo cute!!!one of the many dwars we saw