Gods own country.

Red Fort


Saturday, July 19, 2008


Shimla, the Heaven for tourist, the "Queen of Hill Stations." Situated in the north-West Himalayas, Shimla the summer capital of India before independence is now the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla derives its name from "Shyamala";- the goddess Kali, whose temple existed in the dense forest that covered Jakhu Hill in the early 19th century. The English named it Simla. Shimla is well connected by air, road and rail with all parts of Himachal Pradesh, and the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashimir and the Union territory of Chandigarh. Covering the area of 18 sq. km. at a height of 7,238 ft. Shimla is surrounded by pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron forests. Its well developed facilities, easy accessibility and numerous attractions make it one of Indian's most popular and biggest hill-stations.
Shimla is connected to the city of Kalka by one of the longest narrow gauge railway routes in India. Shimla is approximately 115 km (71.4 miles) from Chandigarh, the nearest major city, and 365 km (226.8 miles) from New Delhi, the national capital. The city is named after the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kali.
Shimla Tourist Attractions: The Mall: Known as ‘the Heart of Shimla’, the Mall is the main shopping centre of the place. It is teemed with colorful shops that sell various curios and trinkets to tourists. For gourmands, the place is next to heaven with a huge array of exotic cuisines and local delights. No vehicles except the emergent ones (like fire brigades and ambulances) are allowed inside the mall which makes it a pedestrian’s delight.
Tara Devi Temple: Among the various places to visit in Shimla, this temple occupies a crucial place and is also of great importance for the pilgrims. It is located on top of a hill facing Shimla and commands panoramic vistas of Shimla. It is also an ideal picnic spot surrounded by thick forest of oak and rhododendron.
Chadwick Falls: These are the 67 metres high water falls which come streaming down from the Summer Hill. The falls are set amidst thick forest at a height of 1586 metres. The falls are at their best after monsoons. You can go and explore the tracks in the forest on your own, deodar trees line the forest. There are also some old temples closeby and a fair is held here in April every year.
Himachal State Museum: The museum showcases a large collection of Pahari miniatures, stone sculpture, local handicrafts, textiles and embroidery.
Nature Park, Kufri : Kufri is a well known tourist resort near Shimla. A large number of tourists visiting Shimla also visit Kufri where a nature park has been established. In this park rare varieties of Hangal, Barking Deer, Musk Deer, Brown Bear, rare species of Monal and other pheasants are kept in social groupingsAccommodation: Shimla, being a very popular holiday destination amongst Indians & foreigners, does not leave scope for complaint in context of accommodation. Right from the luxury travelers to the budget ones, no one will find the hill station lacking in accommodation .Hotels in Shimla cater to every need and budget. The luxury ones provide world-class amenities and excellent hospitality, while the budget ones make sure to never ever put a strain on your budget. Some of the most popular hotels in Shimla are Wildflower Hall, Oberoi Cecil, Radisson, Shilon Resort, Hotel Asia The Dawn, East Bourne Resort, Chapslee Palace, Woodville Palace Resorts, etc.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tryambakeshwar (Nashik) One of Jyotirlinga

Tryambakeshwar, 30 km from Nashik in Maharashtra is revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is here that the river Godavari is born. This is an ancient shrine, but what we see today built by the Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in mid 18th century. This great JyotirLinga on the banks of Gautami has a unique form. The Lord in this temple’s Grabhagriha is not worshipped with Abhisheka with water (Jalahari) unlike others. There is just a bottom part of the pounding stone (Ukhali), instead, like a hole. In that hole there are three Lingas shaped like the Thumbs. Hence Tryambakeshwara. Of these three Lingas, the Linga of Mahesha has a constant shower of water from an orifice above. It is a natural source of water coming down as Abhisheka for the Lord.
Legend: Brahma and Vishnu searched in vain to discover the origin of Shiva who manifested himself as a cosmic column of fire. Brahma lied that he had seen the top of the column of fire, and was hence cursed that he would not be worshipped on earth. In turn Brahma cursed Shiva that he would be pushed underground. Accordingly, Shiva came down under the Brahmagiri hill in the form of Tryambakeshwar. The shrine enjoyed the patronage of the Peshwas. Another legend says that sage Gowtama resided on the Brahmagiri hill here with his wife Ahalya, and seeing his unflinching devotion received a boon from Varuna - a bottomless pit from which he received an inexhaustible supply of foodgrains. This of course enraged other sages who conspired for a cow to enter his granary, and caused it to die as Gowtama attempted to ward it off with a bunch of Darbha grass. Because of this misfortune Gowtama therefore worshipped Shiva, to invoke the Goddess Ganga down to his hermitage to purify the premises. Ganga came down as Godavari, and Shiva took up an abode here in the form of Tryambaka. Interestingly, locals refer to the river here as Ganga and not as Godavari.
Architecture : The Nagara style of architecture is what typifies this temple made of black stone. It is enclosed in a spacious courtyard and the sanctum (internally a square and externally a stellar structure) houses a small Shivalingam - Tryambaka. The sanctum is crowned with a graceful tower ,a giant amalaka and a golden kalasha. In front of the garbagriha and the antarala is a mandap with doors on all four sides. Three out of the four doorways are covered with porches, and the openings of these porches are ornamented with pillars and arches. The roof of the mandapam is formed by curvilinear slabs rising in steps. The entire structure is ornamented with sculptural work featuring running scrolls, floral designs, figures of gods, yakshas, humans and animals. The Shivalingam is seen in a depression on the floor of the sanctum with water constantly oozing out from the top of the Shivalingam. Usually, the Shivalingam is covered with a silver mask, and on festive occasions with a golden mask with five faces, each with a golden crown. The silver mask is equivalent to the processional images seen in South Indian temples.
Places of Interest
Shree KalaRam Mandir - This temple was built by late Shri Odhekar, a knight serving with Peshwas. There are great processions and utsav on Ramnavami, Dussahera and Chaitra Padwa (Hindu new year day). The specialty of the temple is that it was built with black stones.The stones were brought from Ramshej 200 years ago. It took 23 lakhs of rupees and 2000 workers to build the temple in 12 years.This temple is situated at a distance of 3 km from Central Bus Stand.
Brahmagiri - Original Ganges and Trimbak Tirtha are on Brahmagiri mountain adjacent to Trimbakeshwar temple. Brahmagiri is considered as a huge form of Lord Shiva and hence the mountain climbing was considered as a sin. Godavari is flowing in three directions on the mountain. The one flowing towards east is called Godavari, one flowing towards the south is called Vaitarna and the one flowing towards the west is called the west-flowing Ganga and meets Godavari near Chakra Tirth. River Ahilya meets Godavari in front of the Trimbakeshwar temple. Childless families worship at the Ahilya sangam and it is believed that they do get a child The first peak of Sahyadri is called Brahmadri. The mountain is 1800 feet high . Its height from sea level is 4248 feet. Five peaks of this mountain are called Sadyo-Jata, Vamdev, Aghora, Ishana and Tat-Purusha and are considered as five mouths of the Lord Shiva and they are worshipped.
Gangadwar - is half way to Brahmagiri mountain. There is a temple of Ganga, now known as Godavari River. Ganga appears first time here, after it vanishes from Brahmagiri Mountain. Godavari comes to Gangadwar from Brahmadri. Gangadwar is one of the five tirthas. There is an idol of Ganga and near her feet is a stone of the shape of cow's head through which Ganga water is flowing drop by drop.Nearby is Kolambika Devi, Varah tirtha further on is the cave of Gautam for practicing penance where there are 108 Shivalingas. A little further on is Gorakh Gumpha, a place where Gorakhnath practiced penance, the idol is worth seeing. After descending a few steps, Ganga flows from the roots of Audumbar tree. This is known as Rama-Laxman tirtha. Here Rama stopped for a few days and did Shraddha ceremony in memory of Dasharatha. There is Rama temple and Gopalrao Ghanekar built in 1857. Ganga Sagar is a big tank in the flow of river.
Ramakund - The most important place in Panchavati is Ramkund, which is at a distance of 1km from Central Bus Stand. It is so called because Lord Rama is believed to have taken bath there. In Hindu culture the body after dealth if dedicated to Fire and the ashes are then flown in to Godavari, Ramkund is the place where ashes are set free in the water.A dip in this kunda is considered very sacred.
Muktidham temple - is situated in Nashik Road. Built by Late Shri JayramBhai Bytco, is magnificient peice of architucture, made with marble from Makran in Rajastan, and by Rajastani scluptors. Unique to this temple are eighteen chapters of Geeta written on the walls. You can also see the replicas of all the twelve Jyotirlingas over here and also icons of all major Hindu Gods and Godesses. After visiting this temple one gets a feeling of visiting all the four Dhams in India. This temple is situated at a distance of 8 km from Central Bus Stand
Dhammagiri, Igatpuri - Vipashyana International Academy is located at Igatpuri. It was established in 1976 The aim was to conduct Vipassana Courses for those in search of peace of mind and harmony. Known as Dhammagiri, it is located in Igatpuri, 40 kms away from Nashik City, on Bombay-Agra road.This world famous meditation centre offers techniques which relieve mental stress and promote inner peace. It is turning the wheel of time conversion from Kalchakra to Dharmachakra under the able guidance of Guruji Satyanarayan Goenka. A 10 day residential course at the centre, which is free of charge, ends with Bhavatu Saba Mangalam meaning May all beings be happy.
Shree Saptshrungi Gad - is situated at a distance of 60 km from Nashik.It is one of the most visited and religious places for pilgrims.As the temple is situated on a mountain, a regular bus service is provided from the foot of the mountain to the temple.Saptashringa Garh is a place where Goddess Bhagawati dwells.It is one of the most important of the places of Goddesses in Maharashtra. Saptashringa signifies seven mountain peaks. Nanduri village is situated at the foot of the Saptashringa Gad. In front of the temple there stands Markandeya Rishi's (sage) hill. The Saptashringa Gad is full of a variety of trees having medicinal worth. As per the story depicted in Ramayana, Hanuman carried the herbal medicine for wounded Laxmana from this hill. There are about 108 water reservoirs on the hill, known as Kundas. Vani is situated at a distance of 60 kms. away from Nashik.
Pandav Lani - is situated at a distance of 9km from Central Bus Stand.These are three mountain peaks of Anjinagiri mountain ranges.These caves were built by Jain Kings and are 2000 years old.The engravings inside the gumpha are believed to be of Pandavas of 17th Century and thus these caves are named as "Pandav Caves".
Godavari ghat - River Godavari flows through Nashik and its Northern part is known as Panchavati. Lord Shri Ram and Sita along with Laxman stayed at Panchavati during exile. There are five Banyan (Vad) trees and thua the reason it is called Panchavati.Nearby is Sita Gumpha (cave) where Sita stayed for some time.
Dutondya Maruti - This idol of Lord Maruti is placed on the bank of Godavari river near Ramkund. This idol has two faces on eithe sides.
Sita Gumpha - is at a distance of 2 km from Central Bus Stand. It is situated at the western side door of Kalaram Temple.Lord Rama's wife, Sita dwelled at this place and King Ravan abducted her from this place. The Shiv linga that she worshiped is still there in the gumpha.There are five Banyan trees in this area and thus called "Panchvati".
Shri Ved Temple - situated at a distance of 1.5km from Central Bus Stand, was built with the aim of studying Indian culture and Ved and Puranas. A private trust of Mr Sarada founded the temple.The temple is the example of modern interiors with Italian Marble. The entrance to the temple is very large and attractive with glasses and flood lights. Free training and education on Ved-Puranas is given to students from all over India. The temple has the idols of Shriram, Laxman and Sita. Along with them is the beautiful idol of Guru Gangeshwaranandji.
Shri Someshwar Temple - This temple is on the way to Gangapur dam, at a distance of 8km from Central Bus Stand. This is a temple of Lord Shiva and Lord Hanuman on the banks of river Godavari. The area is covered with greenery, with a pleasant climate. Tourists can take pleasure of swimming and boating in the river.Someshwar has been a favourite location for many a filmshootings. On the way to Someshwar, there is a village named Anandwalli. It is so named because Peshwas - Anandibai and Raghobadada, lived there for some time. The temple - Navasha Ganpati was built by them.
Shree Kapaleshwar Mahadev - Situated at a distance of 1km from Central Bus Stand, this temple is one of the peculiar Mahadev Temples in Nashik.The most prominent aspect regarding this temple is there is no idol of Nandi in front of Lord Mahadev.Shravani Somvar(Monday) and Shivratri are the 2 days when pilgrims gather in large numbers in this temple.
Sundarnarayan temple - is built by Gangadhar Yashwant Chandrachud in 1756 at a distance of 1 km from Central Bus Stand. The entrance of the temple is to the East. The architecture is attractive and the round dome is made by little ornamental cordons. The arched recesses are impressions of Mughal sclupture. The main deity is of Lord Vishnu - also called Narayana. To the left and right are Laxmi and Saraswati respectively. Fine design is carved on the stones of the temple. On the road leading towards Godavari River there is Badarika Sangam Pond. It is said that the king of Devgiri bathed and performed rites in this pond. We also find a mention of this pond in the holy book Dnyaneshwari. One remarkable thing about this temple is that it is built at such an angle that on 21st March, rays of the rising Sun first fall exactly upon the idols.
Naroshankar Temple - Situated in Panchavati area about 2 km from Central Bus Stand, on the bank of river Godavari - fondly called as ganga by Nasikites - is Naroshankar Temple of Rameshwar built by Naroshankar Rajebahaddur in 1747. The architectural style of the temple is called "Maya". It is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture of the 18th century. Sculpture on the outer side of the temple is stunning. It has rows of exuberant designs. One layer is of decorative lacework. The next one is that of peacocks holding bead garlands. In four directions are statues of the saints in Padmasana. There is also an assembly of animals - tigers, monkeys,elephants etc. This depicts that Hindu culture is not limited only to human beings but also has relation with birds, animals, trees, and nature in general. In its four corners are umbrellas - called "Meghadambari" or "Barasati". One of them was washed away in Godavari floods and only three are existing presently. The surrounding fortification centres a "Bell house" in the front part. The famous bell , called "Naroshankar Bell" is fixed here. The bell is a victory memorial over Portuguese.