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Showing posts with label Ancient Site. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ancient Site. Show all posts

Shanichara Temple, Morena

The charming affair for exploring offbeat and marvellous hidden spots continues non-stop with Gwalior and nearby Chambal Ravines. I had a day in hand and thankfully got a car to drive, so Chambal Ravines were again the natural choice for exploring some more unexplored spots. What else this Vagabond would have thought of when Life gave him a spare day and a vehicle to drive.

It took me around one hour from Gwalior to locate, ask locales about the way and finally reach Shanichara Temple, situated deep inside remote corners of Chambal Ravines. Dedicated to Shani Dev, such a Grand Temple at such a remote location arouses curiosity to know about the history of the place as much as quest to explore another hidden spot.
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Rameshwaram - Tracing the footsteps of Lord Ram

It all seemed like a fantasy at first. It was an auspicious full moon night. Goddess Parvati, dressed up in all the fineries, was taking the round of the Rameshwaram temple in a golden palanquin. The accompanying chants, smoke and drum beats added to the rare spectacle. The following round by Lord Shiva from his sanctum to the goddess’ almost seemed like a royal routine. And, why not, for, he is the Lord of the Lord here in Rameshwaram – literally meaning Ram’s god.

When Lord Ram returned to these shores after slaying Ravan in Lanka, despite being on the right side, he wanted to repent for the killings. He washed his hair at the spot now called Jada Teertham before worshipping Shiv. Where Laxman, Ram’s younger brother, took bath Laxman Teertham. It so happened that Hanuman was getting late in bringing a lingam from the Himalayas for the worship, so Sita built one from sand. The lingam in the sanctum of the Ramanathaswamy temple or the Rameshwaram temple is believed to be the same. And, the 22 tanks and wells in the temple’s periphery, called teerthams, are said to absolve the sins of human beings today.
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Mandore Gardens, Jodhpur

- Time has stood still since 1459 CE in Mandore -
A suburb of Jodhpur, 5 km. from Jodhpur is the small town of Mandore which was once a seat of power of prominent Rathore clan Rajputs. Not only Rathore Rajputs, Mandore had been the capital city of many Rajput kings and has played a major role in safeguarding Northern India from the attacks of western invaders and Muslim kings from Gujarat. During 6th century, a princess of Pratiharas dynasty was married into Rathore dynasty and Mandore was the Wedding Gift to the Rathore prince.

Around 1450, the capital seat was shifted to Mehrangarh Fort in order to protect the city and the residents from further attacks and invasions. However Mandore Gardens still stand high in pride to tell the glorious tales of the bygone eras seen by the Mandore. Though Mandore lost the prominence in 1459 CE as the capital seat shifted to Mehrangarh, but word abandoned cannot be used with the town. Mandore gardens have been well preserved to let visitors visualize/ imagine the glorious past of this ancient town.

Ancient temples, Cenotaphs of erstwhile Jodhpur rulers and an ancient tunnel makes an enriching trip to Mandore Gardens. Brilliant temples carved out of Sandstone are the first to get attention. 

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Collecting the ancient links at Bithoor

Peaceful ambience of a riverside settlement appeals to everyone; 
Why not? The river ghats have been the sole witness for civilization transitions since times immemorial and have always celebrated the traditions while continuing journey with changing times. As I always say, take life as it comes and try to make the best of whatever comes your way. It was one of those moments, when I got some free time for myself in Kanpur. So managed to reach Bithoor, a small town located 27 km away from Kanpur, on the banks of River Ganga. 
Though I was aware about the name Bithoor and its location alongside river Ganga, however was totally unaware of its ancient roots. What could have been more ancient, the place which is considered as birth place of Lav-Kush, you got it right sons of Lord Ram. Also Bithoor was the centre for Revolt of 1857 as Nana Sahib, then Peshwa of Maratha Empire led the freedom struggle revolt from here.

So got to know that the small town of Bithoor has both historical and religious importance. It is also believed that Lord Brahma selected Bithoor as his abode and performed Ashwmedh Yajna at this place. Because of which Bithoor came to be known as Brahmavart and the place where I was standing is known as Brahmvart Ghat. There is a small temple, “Brahma Khoonti” dedicated to Lord Brahma at the Brahmvart Ghat. It is so small that prayers are done from the outside only. As per Brahmvart Puran, this point is the centre point of the earth. Close your eyes to feel the divine vibes.


Pilgrims from far off places come here to pray at Brahmvart Ghat and see the Valmiki Ashram. My country has been blessed with such a heritage, which makes us proud on our civilization.








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Maheshwar - Cultured by Ahilya Bai Holkar

Once the devil Ravana took up a fight with King Sahastrabahu. However, the result did not go as per his expectations and Ravana was taken as prisoner by king Sahastrabahu. The place where Ravana was kept as prisoner is mentioned as “Mahishmati” in Ramayana.


Yes, the same “Mahishmati” which was mentioned in blockbuster movie Bahubali. But where this city Mahishmati is or had existed in the past? After finished our exploration of Mandu, we were all set to Maheshwar, 45 km. from Mandu situated along the banks of river Narmada.


This small and peaceful town is noted for its mammoth Ghats, temples, and Sarees. Lots of pilgrims and saints come here to offer prayers and worship sacred river Narmada. Lot of Saints, why? Reason being - The mythological city of Mahishmati “, is now known as Maheshwar. Our spirits soared to unprecedented heights to realize that we were standing in legendary mythological city of “Mahishmati”.


To thank the Gods for this fortunate trip, we went to the banks of Narmada River for thanksgiving. That is the first thing to be done in Maheshwar. Neat and clean mammoth structures alongside the Ghats (riverbanks) will ensure every moment spent here is worth. Ahilya Ghat is the most prominent place of worship on river Narmada.


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LALITGIRI - The Pilgrimage from Ancient History!

Flourished under the patronage of legendary king Ashoka, the kingdoms of Magadh and Kalinga became important centers from where Buddhism spread to the outside world. Present day areas of Bihar-Jharkhand used to be the kingdom of Magadh and parts of Odisha-Andhra Pradesh composed Kalinga kingdom. At their peak these places were often referred as most prosperous regions on the earth and were full of amazing temples and universities imparting ancient Indian knowledge. However, with passage of time dust accumulated on these sites and these places gradually faded out from the eye of common people. In fact, many got buried with layers of earth and since then have been waiting to get resurfaced in future.

With the development coming to these areas, many of these extinct places are coming to life. One of the such places I came to know during one of my visits to this part with lots and lots of things to discover was Lalitgiri. Lalitgiri is situated at a distance of 10 km. beyond the River Virupa in Cuttack district, about 90 km. from Bhubaneswar which is the capital of Odisha state. Excavations in this region have indicated towards existence of very ancient Buddhist complex. With the discovery of Lalitgiri, and stitching together the chronology of event with iconographical similarities, the timeline of Lalitgiri goes back to the 2nd century BC. Based on this, Lalitgiri can be safely considered as one of the most ancient Buddhist establishments. So, I was about to walk into one of the lost chapters in our history, with due excitement.  

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Bodhgaya - Where Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment...

Long back a boy got so much disturbed on seeing the people suffering in the vicious cycle of life and death. One fine day he left his house in search of divine knowledge which can provide freedom from the cycle of life and death. The name of the boy was prince Siddhartha. He travelled relentlessly across places in search of that knowledge. Finally, he decided to sit in deep meditation to attain that wisdom under a tree. Legend says the demons of darkness, illusion and ignorance were unleashed onto him, but his wisdom conquered all the devilish forces. By now prince Siddharth had become “Lord Buddha”, meaning the Enlightened one. And the place where he attained the enlightenment was Bodhgaya.

Far from the eyes of the popular travel itineraries lies the town of Bodhgaya, the most revered destination for Buddhists worldwide. Mahabodhi temple complex is the spot where Buddha had attained enlightenment. It is one of the earliest built Buddhist temples, still standing.

References found shows that the temple was initially built by king Ashoka around 246 BC and was further revamped in 5th -6th century during reign of Gupta dynasty. The main temple is 50 m. high structure built entirely in brick is a classic example of ancient Indian architecture.


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Hampi - Majestic ruins of the lost era...

The city is such that the pupil of eye has never seen a place like it and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world

- wondered by a traveller, Abdur Razzak from Persia who visited the Vijayanagara  in 1443 AD.


"Roses are sold everywhere and are an intricate part of life of people here, as necessary as food. Each strata of society/ class has shops adjacent to one another; the jewellers sell pearls, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. In this agreeable locality, as well as in the king's palace, one sees numerous running streams and canals formed of chiseled stone, polished and smooth." This show cases the heights of equality the society has achieved where each profession was duly respected without any discrimination.


With awesome landscape along the banks of Tungabhadra River, Hampi was the capital of mighty Vijayanagara kingdom. The era of Vijayanagara empire has been often called as the most prosperous region ever to have happened on this earth. The Vijayanagara kings were great patrons of art and made Hampi flourishing centre of Indian culture.


There were opulent palaces, marvelous temples, massive fortifications, baths, markets, aqua ducts, pavilions, stables for royal elephants and elegant pillars. The word "Grand" seems too small in this region. To begin with, check out one of the important ceremonial structures of royal use: 


Above structure, Mahanavami Dibba or Dasara Dibba was constructed by Krishnadevaraya after his victory on Udaigiri. This platform was used by royals to watch "Mahanavami Festival", "Dussehra Festival", army march past and any procession. This GRAND, three tiered 8-metre-high stone platform is located to the northeast of the royal enclosure. Built in granite in 16th century AD, the platform is nearly 35 sq mts and has steps on the East, West, and South. Platform has sculptures depicting the socio-cultural activities of the time in the typical Vijayanagara style of architecture. Get ready to explore Hampi.


45 minutes’ drive from Toranagallu (35 Km.) took us to Queen’s Palace, a palace where royal ladies used to take bath. This is the first spot in line to Hampi exploration...


From outside it looked like a palace, where once water filled trenches all around the structure with fiery crocodiles used to ward off any unwanted invaders.
Few yards ahead is the Prasanna Virupaksha or Underground Shiva Temple: As the name suggests, this temple was constructed below the ground level.

The roof top of the temple is almost matching the ground level (check the ground level on the other side of this temple), due to which the sanctum and the inner side of the temple is always flooded with water. Reasons for such a construction are still unknown. Prevailing legends say that there is a hidden water source beneath the temple. During monsoon season water level rises in the temple. When the water level recedes below a certain level, a further down cellar room becomes visible, however whom so ever has tried to go inside that room has never been seen again. As per the myth there resides a big snake which is protecting the temple. Guys, enter at your own risk.


The temple was buried for over 400 years before it was discovered in the 1980’s. Looks like this the private temple of the Royal family members for their private ceremonies, as it is very near to noblemen’s quarters.


Few steps ahead ahead Hazara Rama Temple:

The Hazara Rama Temple is a significant spot in Hampi. It was once the private temple of the kings and the royal family of the Vijayanagara Empire. The reigning deity of the temple is Lord Rama. The temple is known for its relics and panels that depict the story of Ramayana.  

Only a few steps and few minutes in Hampi and I have been completely floored by the unique charm of this place. Next spot in line is Henkuta Hill and the amazing world of temples here. Just below the Hemkuta hill is the Laxmi-Narsimha temple. Carved out of granite stone in 1528 AD during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya, this 6.7 metre statue still retains its original charm. Lord Narsimha is seated on divine snake "Adishesh" which is also forming the hood over the head of Lord Narsimha. Observe this statue, one can see a feminine hand on the left part of the torse. As told by localites it is the hand of Goddess Laxmi.


This beautiful statue was vandalized and broken by the invaders in 1565 AD, broken portions are still visible. But the glow in the eyes of Lord Narsimha is still intact.

Adjacent to Laxmi Narsimha temple is Badavilinga-temple: Legend has it that this was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in local tongue). Base of this Shivlinga is always under water.


Walking a few steps on Hemkuta Hill, it was the time to pray at Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple.
Bouldered temple                                                                                         Lord Ganesha Statue with snake tied around Belly

Lord Ganesha'a love for food is widely admired. As per the legends one fine day, Lord Ganesa ate so much that his tummy was about to explode. To save his tummy, he just caught a snake from the ground and tied it around his stomach to prevent his tummy from bursting. Snake tied around his tummy is visible in the statue.


Just in front of Sasivekalu Ganesha shrine you can see a huge site map of Hampi installed by the archaeology department.  


Moving ahead we are on Hemkuta hill, the best place in the region to watch Sunset and the amazing world of temples. Hemkuta hill is a paradise for art lovers, numerous structures are carved out of beautiful images of Gods and Goddesses.

No doubt the times of Vijaynagar empire was the golden times for art and culture which flourished in every part of this place.
Temples to be continued...

To reach Hampi:
  • Nearest railhead is Hospet, 13 km away and Toranagallu station, 25 Kms. There are about 10 daily trains and about 5 special trains to the station, which run once or twice a week. From Bangalore, Hampi Express is the best option.
  • Nearest Airport is Bangalore, around 350 Km. from Hampi
  • Hampi is well connected by roads to almost every nearby city. Staying options are available at Toranagallu or Hampi.
If you decide to reach Hampi by road, you can witness some beautiful Emu rearing farms in the way, check out:
Keep travelling Guys...
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Sarnath - Where Lord Buddha first preached...

The Holy city of Varanasi has been a symbol of spiritualism for thousands of years and has been a centre of enlightenment and awakening for many great thinkers and preachers. Almost all the renowned saints/ personalities like Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, Kabir, Tulsi Das, Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanuja and Patanjali have been associated with this city in one way or other.


Lord Buddha too started his journey from this place. After Lord Buddha has attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya he came to "Sarnath", located 10 kms. from Varanasi. This was the fortunate place where Lord Buddha gave the first teachings of what enlightened the world as "Buddhism".


On reaching Sarnath, the first monument to come our way is the 
CHAUKHANDI STUPA. Stupa is a huge mound of brickwork whose square edifice is surrounded by an octagonal tower. What a gigantic structure this is...? Construction of such a huge structure with only brick work might not get approval in present times:

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Varanasi - Divine blessings in the land of temples

........................ is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.....By Mark Twain

This is a city renowned for its religious and artistic activities since times immemorial. This city has been a cultural centre of India since several thousands of years and as per the available historical details this city is older than most of the religions in the World.


Its none other than one of the most colourful, spiritual, and charismatic places in India, welcome to "VARANASI", also known as KASHI or BENARAS. Place where temples outdo the number of people, Varanasi is one of the most spectacular and visited cities on this earth. Considered to be auspicious by the presence of "Lord Shiva" this sacred place is believed to have the power of washing away all the sins; those who die and gets cremated here is liberated from the cycle of life and death and attains " मोक्ष (Moksha)".   


Varanasi is one place where you can venture out without any schedule or fixed program and take my words you will not be disappointed while coming back. There is a glorious history associated with every part of this city. No surprise you can also find people from many nationalities getting familiar with diverse Indian traditions in the city.   

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Back to Rishikesh...

There is something about "Rishikesh, the DEVBHOOMI, Land of God" which keeps on calling the visitors again and again. Land is bestowed with eternal charm: "Spiritualism" coupled with unparalleled Natural splendour leaves visitors spellbound.


Rishikesh, sometimes nicknamed "the world capital of Yoga", has numerous yoga centres that also attract tourists. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it.

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