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 🙂  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-Goodbye Coorg!!


17th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India
On this day, we checked out of Club Mahindra Kodagu Valley and proceeded to our next destination, Mysore. We would miss the ‘Scotland of the East’. When you really see the diversity in landscape and foliage and wildlife here and in Scotland, you’d never want to see Scotland. Sure they have the lochs(=lakes) but apart from that, its nothing spectacular. There was never the chirp of insects, the smell of flowers, the hustle of people that you find here. Rather we should be saying that Scotland is the ‘Coorg of the West’.
After checking out and stuffing all our luggage in the car (believe me, it wasn’t an easy task) we proceeded. Now that we’d been in the market often, i could distinguish the roads. After filling up the Civi with petrol, we drove on. Like i’d mentioned earlier, the road to Mysore was under construction so we had to go via Dubare. We passed the Tata Coffee estate and a small village on the way. The most fascinating thing about this road trip is that people from all the villages know where the road leads to and how to reach different villages, towns and cities. The depth of their knowledge is amazing.

Destination 1: Namdroling Golden Temple.

This is a Buddhist Monastry, College and Hostel where the idols of the gurus are in gold. Its a beautiful and peaceful place. A must visit. The approach road to the Monastry was lined with different flags and there are adequate signs showing directions to the place. I think our culture has only stood to gain from helping out the tibetans. Of course they are a fiercely independent group but a very peaceful one at the same time. After parking our car, we made our way inside the Monastry. I think the tibetans are tremendously grateful to Indians and i’ve never heard of any conflict between the Indians and Tibetans.
When we entered, there were some old tibetan ladies sitting wearing colourful quilts. I always find old people very cute but i find tibetan ladies cuter coz of their wrinkles!! The temples that we saw when we entered were amazing. They are so intricately carved and so well painted. The picture below shows the first temple we saw when we entered. there were geese in the gardens that were playing with water when we came. It was very sunny that day and it was extremely hot. But it was fun to see the temples. Most of the temples have 2 demons painted outside. One which welcomes luck,laughter and all positive energies and the other fierce devil which keeps out all the bad and negative energies. Tibetan script looks a lot like bengali. Plus there are big bells outside every temple with intricate carvings on it too. The main temple had a huge and heavy door with a very thick mesh of ribbons tied to the knocker.

This main temple had 3 idols, which were made of gold. Actually legend goes that they are made of clay and have ancient scripts and treasures inside and the gold is a way to protect that. Each idol sits in a meditative pose and in an intricately done frame. The wall behind the idol is painted exquisitely with angels on clouds and other heavenly bodies. The pillars are adorned with dragons for in their culture as in chinese beliefs, the dragon keeps the bad out and lets prosperity in.

There were also intricate wall paintings, which indicate the 25 disciples of Guru Padmasanbhava, one of the biggest gurus. The 3 idols were Guru Rinpoche,Guru Padmasambhava and Guru Amitayus.
There were boards with written material regarding the idols and the wall paintings. It was a fascinating insight into their culture. The temple was so peaceful. There were positive vibrations everywhere. Also there were a lot of sparrows flying everywhere. I’ve noticed that in peaceful places like temples, there are a lot of sparrows flying around. We sat around for a little while and meditated. After that we explored the temple area. It was nice to see that the landscaping had been done so well. There were plants from Malaysia and other exotic work like fountains done up.

After that we went to another small temple. we had to be careful and jump about a lot because the temple complex had heated up quite a lot. The second temple had the ancient scripts which the monks read from when they prayed. In the third temple there was a small monk who was praying with a rosary, it was so cute. Everyone was taking pictures of him. In this 3rd temple there were 6 idols who all had their eyes closed and were meditating. This temple was the one which we saw when we first entered into the Monastry.
After the Monastry, we decided to have lunch at one of the tibetan restaurants. Before that, we got some jackfruits from the local vendors and then made our way to the tibetan market. These are tibetan co-operative stores so they all sell their wares at the same price. Even though we may not believe in charms and stuff, these tibetan things made us belive in them. We got some nice key chains, some good luck charms for cars and a bell called the ‘Om bell’ if you run a wooden stick around its circumference then the vibrations grow louder and sound like ‘Om’. It says it spreads positive energy around.
After that, we had lunch at ‘Hotel Shanthi’. We had thupka(=tibetan soup), Momos(=dumplings) and also some curd rice for my granny and the every tasty gobhi manchurian(=karnataka’s find)
And then we set off for mysore. The road from here on was smooth. We were no longer on the hills but had come down to the plains and it was evident from the difference in landscape and vegetation.

Mysore is a small city and not difficult to navigate. And the roads to mysore are really very well done with adequate signs so we had no trouble finding our hotel

Stay:Hotel Siddhartha
Location: Near the Mysore Palace. Prime Location
Rooms:Comfortable

After being allotted our rooms, we had some refreshments and then chilled out.

Coming Up next:: Vrindavan Gardens, Exploring Mysore, A nice Meeting. Stay Tuned and post in your comments

we stayed here!!Scotland is the ‘Coorg of the West’!!The Monastry

Vitthal and the Journey to Coorg-The traveller continues the journey


12th April 2010, Karnatak Hinterland, India
I continue with the journey
Most hotels in South India and also our hotel at Kolhapur give the guests a complimentary breakfast if they stay in the hotel. As we soon discovered that, we helped ourselves to the same yet tasty breakfast of dosas,idli vada and kesaribhat. We checked out after that and made our way to our next destination,
“CLUB MAHINDRA, Kodagu Valley,Coorg”
The road from Mangalore was not a smooth one because the Govt was in the process of expansion so it was a bumpy ride. But we saw a lot of bungalows on the way. Most of the bungalows are painted in bright almost horrifying colours like bright green and baby pink but these ones were painted in stately combinations like white and navy blue, white and gray etc.
We decided to go and see the temple at Vitthal so we took a detour from NH-48 and made our way to Vitthal. The landscape was changing, more like a tropical forest types, wet with very fresh air blowing at our faces. The Vitthal Math was being renovated and the bit of the new Math we saw looked very nice. At almost all the Maths in South India, they give you sandal paste which smells totally out of the world. There was also a temple dedicated to the Naags. As you would know, Naags depict our elders who we pray to so that we have their blessings for the present and future generations.
We met one of our acquaintances and we went to their house where we saw an enormous beehive. i’ve never seen a beehive so closely before and it was mesmerising…so many bees!!!

After Vitthal we made our way to Madikeri,Coorg. Coorg is actually the name of the district. Its very famous for spices so we’ve heard. While leaving Vitthal, we were stuck in a traffic jam and we could only make our way out of it because Vitthal unlike Mumbai, does not have any open drains!!!
Our first halt was at a place called Shuliya and we kept asking for that whenever we met people. The people in South India are generally quite knowledgeable they know routes to explore entire karnatak at the back of their minds!! quite an amazing feat!!

A special encounter:
At Shuliya, we encountered Karnatak’s biggest specialit, “Gobhi Manchurian” which could be found in every Nukkad and gully of Karnatak. The journey to Shuliya was uneventful, except that the road was winding and made veryscenic landscape because it was so lush and green!!
By the time we reached Shuliya, we could feel the heat beat down on us ..it was noon. So we stopped at Hotel Surabhi. Let me tell you, this place looks small but the food is totally awesome and very tasty. Here we tasted the famous ‘Gadbag’ and ‘Gobhi Manchurian’ both extremely delicious.

After lunch, we made our way to Club Mahindra. There were more and more plantations and lots of nurseries selling rubber spalings. A lot of areca nut trees and pepper creepers on them. It was pleasant to watch. Also i notcied right from Shuliya onwards, lot of stalls selling ‘Neera’, a drink from which toddy is derived, and that almost all street lights had solar panels on them, which was very nice to see that atleast our rural counterparts were making an effort to be environment friendly.

As we approached Coorg, the scenery was breathtaking. Lush green forests and the constant chirping of birds and c\insects. It was out of this world.!!
Also we passed a lot of estates with the home stay options available. Small cottages looked very inviting. we even stopped the car for some time to take in the environment. We passed a road which led to the ‘Indian Institute of Spices’ and then made our way to club mahindra. Here also in this small town of Madikeri,all street lights had solar panels and trust me at night, they glowed brighter than the other thermal electricity powered lights.

We made our way slowly, not before we passed a JM Financial (work follows my dad here as well!!!) and then drove into the resort. All Club Mahindra properties are huge and excellently done up. After resting in our room, we made our way to the Conference Room where they had a presentation for us to explain the facilities at the resort and also to explain the tourist sites around. It was followed up with some Coorgi coffee!!

We had a quiet dinner at the Buffet restaurant which was called Arabica (=name of a coffee) and retired for the night

Coming up next-Coorgi Tales

A beehiveMe!! at the hotel at Shuliya

Maybe I Was Destined


It had been a while since i felt so good. So light and free. So zapped. To see a sky glittering with millions of stars. To hear nothing but my voice. To feel protected. I took a breath and pinched myself. A spectacular view from a mountain? A night sky with beautiful stars? Was it a dream?

Lets unravel a bit!!

This relates to the time I was in Auckland working part-time as I studied. I’d been through a hectic term. Exams and Interning was tough enough not to mention it was a cold harsh winter. I longed to be back in India sipping an OJ for it was summer there. I’d come home late from work and then stay up downing coffee and pushing myself for yet another sleepless night. And then pull through a paper not remembering anything after. The adrenaline was bound to burn off someday.

I had a weekend off after the exams and I decided to drive down to no place in particular. I’d heard about the beautiful parks in Auckland especially Mount Eden and I thought I should give it a try. But i struck out. The highway was jammed. With cars and snow. I had to stop mid way in a small road connecting the highway.

And that’s when I’d had enough. I got out of the car and stumbled in the dark with tears pouring, blinding my way. Snowflakes melted at my hot face as I drowned in a torrent of emotions. I couldn’t even see where I walked.

That’s when I met her. Mrs Eugene. I couldn’t believe what happened then. She took me to her cottage. (=Just like in a movie…a small cottage atop the hill with a friendly dog and a cute old man!!) And in that messed state I was in, they heard me out and gave me some brandy to drink 😉 (=Hey I was chilled in the snow!!)  And for that while I couldn’t stop crying. And secretly feeling so good that someone was so concerned.

In a while I was good to go. Mr Eugene took me through a different way to my car which incidentally was at their gate?!!? And I stopped. I saw IT. The snow. The trees. The sky. The silence. I gaped.  A brilliant dark blue sky with thousands of diamonds. Glittering diamonds. The beautiful city lit up and celebrating. The rivers and the beautiful night lights dancing together. I stood for an astonishing amount of time.

Just looking at a beautiful landscape, those unadulterated colours and that silence made me feel that this experience was god sent. The Universe wanted to replenish me. Refuel the adrenaline. I could feel warm wind engulfing me in a hug and the trees whispering their support to me.

When I realised that Mr Eugene and Wolfie the dog were waiting I was led to my car with directions and a welcome anytime. Contacts were exchanged and I drove for a bit and then looked back waving.

I know that life is hard. You’re knocked a little hard too often. But what I realised looking at the stars and blurting out all my seemingly silly troubles to an old couple who stared at the stars every night is:

Tonight I was destined. To see the stars and to feel ALIVE again. And that what took my breath away came after I was pushed to the precipice. The thing is the Little Girl in me believed that something nice HAD to happen. And Happen it did.

Maybe I was Destined. Maybe it Just Happened. But the Stars for me have never stopped Twinkling. Since then. Enjoy the brilliance in You. Maybe you need a star-studded sky to realise what a bright STAR you are. But its worth it.

Yes Maybe I was Destined.