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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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

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