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Thursday, 12 March 2020

MPdiaries Part 14. Maheshwar

For my women friends, Maheshwar was the most interesting place, you know why? Because women love shopping and they love temples. 

Maheshwar is the commercial and spiritual capital of Ahilyabai Holkar’s city, and has rows and rows of colorful shops and everybody went crazy shopping for sarees, dupattas, dress materials and stoles. We walked down the narrow lanes, that had fragrance of fried samosas (so very tasty) and we shopped.

But before shopping, we drove up the hill to enter 250-years old Ahilya fort that is perched high above the ghats of Maheshwar. We entered through the north gate, called Ahila Dwar, previously known as Gadi Darwaza because this is the largest gate where the vehicle can enter.

Part of the fort has been converted into a heritage hotel, that is for one who enjoys luxury with scenic beauty and can stay there. We turned right to see the part reserved for tourists.

The big statue of queen Alilya Bai Holkar greets you in all its simplicity of just white sari and shiva linga on her hand. Queen Ahilyabai was a great patron of literature, music, art and industrial enterprises. She is considered as one of the strongest and most powerful women rulers of India.

We started our descent through the stone step passing through different gates. We passed through a gate that had beautiful, small statue of Lord Ganesha perched on top of the temple’s main door flanked by two Maratha dwarpala (doorkeepers)

We passed through a temple that had beautiful architecture and sculptures in black stone.

The climbing down the steps was quite scary, there were no handrails and no support, the steps are quite huge and I needed help to climb down. The view was fantastic from above.

We reached the ghats where boats were parked on banks of Narmada river.

Colorful boats lie moored at the ghats to take the tourists for the cruise down the Narmada river passing along the shores that has palaces and different temples.

We just walked along the shore passing through the different temples on the way till we reached the shopping lanes…

That was quite a distance for me….

To be continued…..

Monday, 24 February 2020

MPdiaries Part 13. Omkeshwar

I consider myself blessed that I have been able to visit the sacred island of Omkeshwar that is shaped like as symbol Ohm- the holiest symbol of Hinduism , it has one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of India.

The other jyotirlinga shrines in India are

The Somnath Temple in Gujarat is situated near Veraval in (Prabhas Kshetra) Kathiawad district.
The Mallikarjuna Temple is situated on the Shri Shaila Mountain, on the banks of the Krishna River in the southern part of Andhra Pradesh
Mahakaleshwar Temple is located on the banks of the Kshipra River, in the dense Mahakal forest in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Vaidyanath Temple is also known as Vaijnath or Baidyanath. It is located at Deogarh in the Santal Parganas region of Jharkhand.
The Bhimashankar Temple is located in the Sahyadri region of Pune, Maharashtra.
Rameshwar Temple, the southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingas, is located on the island of Rameshwaram, off the Sethu coast of Tamil Nadu
The Nageshwar Temple also known as Nagnath Temple is located on the route between Gomati Dwarka and the Bait Dwarka Island on the coast of Saurashtra in Gujarat.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in the most revered site in the world- Kashi!
The Trimbakeshwar Temple is located about 30kms from Nasik in Maharashtra near the mountain named Brahmagiri from the river Godavari flows
One of the holiest pilgrimage sites in India, the Kedarnath Temple is located on the Rudra Himalaya Range at the height of 12000 feet on a mountain named Kedar
The Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga is located in a village called Verul, which lies 20 km from Daulatabad, near Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

Omkareshwar Temple is one of the highly revered Jyotirlinga and is located on an island called Shivapuri in the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh

 I was quite eager to see it.

We crossed the cantilever type bridge(about 1/2km) above the Narmada river to reach the shrine. Loud hymns played on the bridge in the background. There were many hawkers selling all kinds of things, like offerings of flowers and prasadas, some hand crafted toys and artificial jewellery and some fruits. On our return from temple, my friend and I bought sliced cucumber with salt and red pepper…it was very tasty.

We reached the temple after crossing the bridge and there was long queue to go in for sighting of the lingas. I was offered a (short cut to avoid long queue) back gate for closer darshan. It was just for 2 minutes sighting and then we all gathered at another temple outside, behind the main temple.

A proper prayer was conducted by the priest with offering of flowers and sweets.

On route I saw many people dressed in white, with a stick in one hand and bottle of water in other. I learnt that these people take the water from the river and do the Parikarma all around Narmada to fulfil their wishes.

The view from the bridge was really scenic....

To be continued.............

Thursday, 6 February 2020

MPdiaries Part 12. Ujjain

Any direction you look, all you see are temples. We visited many temples at Ujjain and all were unique in its own way. We were asked to stick to vegetarian diet, so that we could visit all the temples guilt free.

We visited temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Mahakaleshwar Jyotilinga, that has shrines said to be most sacred abode of Lord Shiva.

In another temple, there were beautiful painting on the walls , ceiling, doors, pillars, exhibiting the 14 disciplines of knowledge.

Our next stop was at Kal Bhairav temple. Kal Bhairav is the guardian deity of Ujjain. He is considered as Senapati of the town. I was surprised to see the tray of prasad that people were buying at the stalls. There was liquor, incense sticks and marigold flowers for offering amongst other things.

Hundreds of devotees offer liquor to the deity. I stood in front of the deity to watch the pundit offer prayers and take the saucer containing liquor near the deity’s lips, that had slit. He tilts the saucer and the liquid disappeared. The rest of the bottle was given back as prasaad.. The priest claims that there is no cavity in the slit and that deity swallows the liquor offered to Him.

There are five tantric ritual offered to temple deity known as Panchmakara: alcohol (madya), meat(maansa), fish (meena) parched grains(mudra) sexual intercourse(maithuna). Only alcohol is offered, other four offering are in form of symbolic rituals.

Outside the temples, the roads were very busy with street vendors selling all kinds of things, and I was drooling over big sized papads sold on the streets.  (which of course, I didn’t eat)

The Ujjain Simhastha is a mass Hindu prigrimage. This is famous for the Khumb mela that is held every 12 years, on the banks of Kshipra river. During the Simhastha, thousands of Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river.

I didn’t visit all the temples, but clicked the pictures from a distance, saying prayers silently, mainly to seek blessing for living my life peacefully.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

MPdiaries Part 11. Sanchi

 We drove 46kms away from Bhopal to reach Sanchi stupas that are one of the oldest stone structures in India and important monument of Indian architecture 

Originally commissioned by Emperor Ashoka, the great of the Maurya Empire in the 3rd century, its nucleus were built over the relics of Buddha on a raised terrace encompassing its base, a railing and a stone umbrella on the summit..

Although made of stone, the gateways are carved and constructed in the manner of wood and the gateways are covered with narrative sculptures, considered as the birthplace of Jataka illustrations

The reliefs show scenes from the life of the Buddha integrated with everyday events that would be familiar to the onlookers and so makes it easier for them to understand the Buddhist creed as relevant to their lives. Women were given the equal status and women are seen also riding the elephants.

The complex is huge and there are many different shape and sizes of stupas.

It was a scenic spot and we could see the bird's eye view of the city. There is a small restaurant-cum-handicraft shop that burnt our pockets and we gave the shopkeeper a lot of business.

There were geese (symbolical perhaps of the flock of the Buddha's disciples), happily moving around in the compound and were a target for our photography.

On the northern slope, just before the stupa is the Chethiyagiri Buddish Temple and a museum.

To be continued….

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

MPdiaries Part 10. Bhopal

We reached Bhopal late evening and checked into a nice comfortable Raj Bhoj Hotel.

Bhopal is the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, known as the city of natural and artificial lakes and is also one of the greenest cities in India.

I couldn't see all the lakes but did see one big lake (on route) a Bada Talaab aka Bhojtal that had a 32 feet statue of Raja Bhoj, the king of Malwa in the water closer to the promenade.
According to legend, Bhopal was founded by Parmara Raja Bhoj, King of Malwa, in the 11th Century AD. He was intellectual, believer of justice, art lover, musician and a good administrator.

We had stopped earlier at Tropic of Cancer spot to click few shots

 Tropic of Cancer, otherwise known as northernly circle of latitude, was used by ancient travellers, who used the heavenly guides, as the crucial demarcation lines. Many of my fellow travellers got off the bus to click pictures with that sign in the background.

Bhopal attracted international attention in December 1984, when there was leakage of deadly poisonous gases composed mainly of methyl isocynate. We passed by the affected area, that was shanty. This part of the city bears the scars of that disaster. The impact of the disaster continues to this day in terms of physiological and neurological disabilities, blindness,, breathing and birth disorders.

The city is developing into the smart city and there was lot of constructions going on. Very close to our hotel was a most innovative Peoples’ mall,  (still under construction) but worthy of our visit.

Spread over 80acres, PeoplesMall is the perfect option for spending a leisure time with family and friends. It is no ordinary mall with shops, food court and multiplex but it also has a huge theme park in its complex that has ship, airport and railway station. We hired an electronic cart to explore the area that had miniature monuments from around the world that included the replicas of Taj Mahal, Red fort, Taj hotel of Mumbai, Statue of liberty, Japanese and Chinese monuments and many more important monuments.

There were street performers, and many more such entertainment. For children there is water park and car rides. There is go-carting for youngsters. I was told that this complex is also used for wedding and other important events at its large open spaces. It is a must see place when visiting Bhopal 

To be continued….

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