August 17, 2016

The Gujaratis of Chennai and their Temple

The Gujarati community of Chennai has its own history and tradition. Kheda is a district near Ahmedabad city in Gujarat state. The Brahmin community from Kheda are called as Khedawal Gujaratis. A group of Khedawal Gujaratis from Kheda district migrated to Tamil Nadu state in the beginning of the 18th century CE. The reason for their migration or the exact year of their migration is not known, though there are different versions and different theories about their migration.

It should be noted that Thanjavur was ruled by the Marathas from the late 17th century CE. Probably, during the Marathas period, apart from the Marathis and Saurashtras, even the Gujaratis decided to migrate to Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, the Khedawal Gujaratis first settled down in Thanjavur. Hence, they are also referred as Thanjavur Gujaratis. Later, they migrated to other cities of Tamil Nadu such as Trichy, Tirunelveli and Chennai.

Two women, Ramkor Bai and Ratna Bai by name, from a wealthy Tawker family of Gujarati community from Chennai, went for pilgrimage to Varanasi in the beginning of the 19th century CE. They brought two Shiv Lingas from Varanasi and installed them in a temple in Ayanavaram and in Motta Uttara in Sowcarpet.

Motta Uttara is also called as Sri Niketan. It is a community center for Khedawal Gujratis, located in Mint street opposite to Ekambareswar temple. In Uttara, there is a small shrine which enshrines this 200 years old Shiv Linga from Varanasi. As this was originally brought from Varnasi, the Linga is called as Kasi Vishwanath.

There is another highlight about this shrine. In the sanctum, the idols representing five out of six Dharmas of Hinduism are found. They are Vishwanatha Linga of Shaivism, Vishalakshi of Shaktism, Surya of Sauram, Ganesh of Ganapathyam and Vishnu of Vaishnavism. Apart from Shiv Linga, all other idols are later additions. The sanctum faces the west direction and not the usual east direction.

The wall around the sanctum has the Koshta idols of Dakshinamurti, Vishnu and Durga.

There is a sub-shrine which enshrines some Utsav (mobile) idols. The adjoining Pooja room has some very old photographs of various deities.

Happy travelling.


August 7, 2016

Shaniwar Wada - Pune

Site Name: Shaniwar Wada
Site Type: Museum, Historical
Location:  Pune, Maharashtra state, India
Highlights: The fortification of the Peshwas
Nearest Railway Station: Pune
Nearest Airport: Pune
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Pune city
Restaurants: Varieties of options especially delicious Maharashtrian food across the entire city

Pune is the second largest city of Maharashtra state of India. The city which exists since the 9th century CE was the first capital of the great Maratha Emperor Chattrapati Shivaji. Pune is also considered as the cultural capital of Maharashtra. The city has many attractions and most of them are religious sites. Let us explore a historically important site called Shaniwar Wada in this article. 


Before talking about Shaniwar Wada, let me brief about the Marathas royal history. The Maratha Kings were called as Chattrapati. The Prime Ministers in the Maratha Empire were called as Peshwas. Originally, they served as the subordinate to the emperors. Later, they became the de facto leaders and the Chattrapatis were just the nominal rulers. However, at last even the Peshwas lost their power and they remained under the authority of the other Maratha nobles and the British East India Company. 

It was built by Baji Rao I, the Peshwa of Chattrapati Shahu in 1732 CE. It remained as the residence of the Peshwas till they were defeated in the Third Anglo-Maratha War in 1818 CE. In 1828 CE, all the buildings inside the fort were lost in fire. 

Currently, the site has five gateways, nine bastion towers, a garden complex and a small temple. The statue of Baji Rao outside the main entrance is a later addition. 

The magnificent north facing main gate is called as Dilli Darwaza. The other gates are named as Mastani Darwaza, Khidki Darwaza, Ganesh Darwaza and Narayan Darwaza.

It is sad to find the entire fort almost empty with just traces of the palaces and buildings.

Happy travelling.






Vishrambaag Wada - Pune

Site Name: Vishrambaag Wada
Site Type: Museum, Historical
Location:  Pune, Maharashtra state, India
Highlights: The residence of the last Peshwa of Marathas
Nearest Railway Station: Pune
Nearest Airport: Pune
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Pune city
Restaurants: Varieties of options especially delicious Maharashtrian food across the entire city

Pune is the second largest city of Maharashtra state of India. The city which exists since the 9th century CE was the first capital of the great Maratha Emperor Chattrapati Shivaji. Pune is also considered as the cultural capital of Maharashtra. The city has many attractions and most of them are religious sites. Let us explore Vishrambaag Wada, a heritage site in this article.


Before talking about Vishrambaag Wada, let me brief about the Marathas royal history. The Maratha Kings were called as Chattrapati. The Prime Ministers in the Maratha Empire were called as Peshwas. Originally, they served as the subordinate to the emperors. Later, they became the de facto leaders and the Chattrapatis were just the nominal rulers. However, at last even the Peshwas lost their power and they remained under the authority of the other Maratha nobles and the British East India Company. 


Baji Rao II was the last Peshwa of the Maratha Empire. He ruled between 1795 CE and 1818 CE. He served as the puppet rulers under the Maratha nobles and the British. Vishrambaag Wada was the luxurious residence of Baji Rao. It was built in 1807 CE.

Vishrambaag Wada should have ideally been converted as a museum. But, only one portion of the building is converted into a museum where few artifacts of the Marathas are kept. The other portions serve as a local post office and other Government offices.

The entrance and the balcony with carved wooden work of Vishrambaag Wada look very attractive.

Happy travelling.