July 30, 2012

Kollur Mookambika

Site Name: Kollur
Site Type: Hindu pilgrimage
Location:  Near Kundapura, Karnataka state, India
Highlights: An important Hindu pilgrimage site, one of the most popular Shakti shrines across India
Nearest Railway Station: Kundapura
Nearest Airport: Mangalore
How to reach: Well connected by road
Hotel: Mostly budget hotels are available in Kollur
Restaurants: Vegetarian restaurants - mostly middle class category 

Kollur town in Karnataka state in the southern part of India is an important Shakti Peeth (abode of mother Goddess) in the entire country. The mother Goddess in Kollur is called as Mookambika.

Kollur Mookambika temple is one of the most sacred sites of Karnataka state. Thousands of devotees throng to this temple everyday. It is impossible to enter into the temple without waiting for hours and hours in the long queue. The temple is located in a beautiful hilly area surrounded by forests and Mookambika wildlife sanctuary.

This particular region of Karnataka state is popular for temples. Some of the popular pilgrimage sites located near Kollur are Udupi, Dharmasthala and Subramanya.

Mookambika Temple

There was a saint called Kola Maharishi who was looking for a peaceful site. He atlast found a place called Maharanya in the middle of a forest surrounded by waterfalls, hills and rivers. He also found a self manifested (swayambhu) Shiv Linga idol there. He started doing daily poojas to that idol and stayed there.

An Asura named Kumbhasura defeated every King in the entire universe and ultimately came to this site (as per some versions, the name of the Asura is Mahisasura). He had declared himself as the God; he didn't like Kola Maharishi worshiping Shiva in this site. He chased the saint away and stopped all the religious activities in this site. As he had earlier got a boon that he could be killed only by a woman, none of the three supreme Gods  - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma could do anything. All of them together took a form of woman called Mookambika. She killed the Asura.

Upon the request from Kola rishi, the Goddess merged into the Shiv Linga idol and the golden streak (swarna rekha) was formed to visibly divide the idol into two parts. The left part has Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati whereas the right part has Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The site was called as Kolapuram in the name of Kola rishi and later became Kollur.

As per another legend, the Asura was trying to get the boon of immortality from Lord Shiva. The Goddess Mookambika made him dumb (Mooka) and thus he could not ask for this boon. Later, she killed him in a site called Maranakatte (meaning the platform of death) near Kollur. Upon the request from the Asura while dying, the Goddess got the name "Mookambika" and also stayed in the same site (Kollur).

Maravanthe Beach
Layout and Structure:

The huge temple of Mookambika can be dated to 12th or 13th century CE, except for the sanctum sanctorum which is much older. It is believed that the Panchaloha (five precious stones) idol of Mookambika was installed by Adi Shankaracharya. After killing the Asura, the Goddess was very furious. To pacify her, he installed the chakra. (Similar stories are told for many Shakti shrines across the country). The Goddess idol is found with four arms- the upper arms holding conch and discus; the lower arms are in varada mudra and abhaya mudra. The goddess is in the sitting posture and is extremely beautiful. The small Shiv Linga with the swarna rekha is also found inside the main shrine; however, it is very difficult to spot this from outside the shrine.

The current structure of the temple is a combination of Kerala temple architectural style and Vijayanagara style. It is evident that the temple was renovated mutliple times in the past.

The inner prakara has an idol of Lord Ganesha. The outer prakara is much wider and has lot of shrines. The shrines such as Shiv Linga, Partheswar (Shiv Linga), Panchamukha Ganesha, Nanjundeswara (Shiv Linga), Anjaneya, Subramanya in the form of serpent, Venkataramana and importantly Veerabhadra (the guard of the site) are found in the outer prakara.

Shankara peeth, the place where Shankaracharya performed dyaan is found behind the main shrine. Saraswati Mandap, the site where Shankaracharya wrote the popular 'Soundarya Lahari' is also found in the outer prakara.

The main shrine has the golden vimana. The tall lamp post and the stone flagstaff are found in front of the main shrine.

The sacred site is considered as one of the seven sacred sites of Karnataka state.

Other Temples:

Balampuri Vinayak Temple:

To the west of Mookambika temple in a corner a small but popular temple of Balampuri Vinayak is located. The white marble idol of Gaesha (Vinayak) alone is found in this small temple.

Maranakatte Brahmalingeshwar Temple

Maranakatte is a small village located at a distance of around 21 kms from Mookambika. It is the site where the Asura was killed by Mookambika. On the banks of Brahmakunda stream, the temple of Brahmalingeshwara - a temple with rare idols, is located. The small temple faces the east direction whereas the main shrine faces the north direction. As per a legend the Asura Muka was reborn as Maranakatte Brahma in her service.

The main shrine enshrines the idol of Brahmlingeshwara with fearsome features and holding a sword on his right arm. He is flanked by Malayali Yakshi and Vata Yakshi - two female village deities on either sides. Also, there are two dwarapalas in the form of fearsome soldiers are found on the two corners of the main shrine.

There is a unique shrine for Haiguli and Chikku (bhutas or ghosts). Actually, three idols of tigers are found in this shrine. Probably ghosts are worshipped in the form of tigers here. There is another shrine called as Chikamma and Parivar where the idols of many soldiers are found.

Maravanthe Varaha Vishnu Temple

Maravanthe is a small beautiful coastal village located at around 30 kms from Kollur. A small Kerala type rare temple is located in this village. Behind the village the river Sauparnika flows as a wide basin before joining the sea. The temple faces the coast. A lot of tourists throng to the famous Maravanthe beach.

The temple is rare as it is dedicated to Varaha - the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It cannot be found commonly in other places. The temple is called as Varaha Vishnu Narasimha temple. There are three main shrines each dedicated to Varaha, Narasimha (lion incarnation of Vishnu) and Vishnu. Also, there is a boar idol (Varaha) found in the temple.

Mastikatte Van Devta Temple

On the way to Mookambika, just 2 kms away, the temple for Van Devta (forest deity) is found below a tree. This place is called as Mastikatte.

Happy travelling.

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July 24, 2012


Site Name: Manipal
Site Type: A university town
Location:  Near Mangalore and Udupi, Karnataka State, India
Highlights: A beautiful town located on the plateau
Nearest Railway Station: Udupi (Mangalore train station has better connectivity from the other parts of India; Udupi station is a small one with less connectivity)
Nearest Airport: Mangalore
How to reach: Well connect by road from Udupi and Mangalore
Hotel: A lot of options are available in Udupi and few options in Manipal
Restaurants: Udupi cuisine is popular; many vegetarian restaurants are located across the town

Manipal town located in Karnataka state of India is very popular among Indians due to Manipal University. This beautiful university town is located in the rocky hinterland of Malabar coastal area near the pilgrimage Udupi. Let us explore some of the important tourist places in this town.

End Point Park
 End Point

If you go to Manipal's End Point, you will wonder if you have come to any foreign country. This well maintained deserted place at one end of Manipal town is really a heaven. From the top of the plateau (End Point) you can see the beautiful river running below and also Western Ghats. As no motor vehicles are allowed inside the complex the 3-4 km stretch of well laid road is good for jogging and cycling. The big playground located in End Point area is a boon for those who are interested in outdoor games. The green and clean park is the highlight of the entire area from where people view sunset, which is an important and interesting activity in this area.

Venugopala Temple
Venugopala Temple

Venugopala temple located in the university complex is a small and beautiful temple. The nearby children's park is a main attraction to the tourists. The temple houses the beautiful idol of Lord Krishna in the main shrine. The temple also has other shrines for Ganesha, Naga and Hanuman.

Manipal - a pleasant site for tourists!

Happy travelling.

Sunset at End Point

Sunset at End Point

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July 22, 2012

Taj Mahal - one of the world wonders

Site Name: Taj Mahal
Site Type: Monument, Historical, Heritage, Tomb, Mosque
Location:  Agra, Uttar Pradesh State, near New Delhi, India
Highlights: Considered as a world wonder; the most popular tourist destination in India; considered as the best Mughal work
Nearest Railway Station: Agra
Nearest Airport: Delhi
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail

Hotel: A lot of options are available within Agra city
Restaurants: Many options and varieties across the city

For any Indian traveller, 'Taj Mahal' definitely comes to his/her mind when he/she hears about Agra city; for any foreign traveller, the same monument comes to his/her mind when he/she hears about India. In simple words, that is the power of Taj Mahal, the most popular travel destination in India. Most of the foreign travelers visiting North India ensure that Taj Mahal is included in their travel itinerary. It has been the dream of any ordinary Indian to visit Taj Mahal at least once in his/her life.  It is considered as one of the seven wonders of world. (I personally do not consider Taj Mahas as the best destination in India. Neither is this the most beautiful monument. Nevertheless, I love this monument.)

This finest example of Mughal architecture, a combination of Turkish, Indian and Persian architectural styles, was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1653 AD. He started constructing this in the year of 1632 AD in the memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. In 1631 AD, Mutaz Mahal died during the birth of her 14th child. The Mughal emperor who loved her like anything was struck with extreme grief and he ultimately decided to construct the most beautiful memorable for her wife.

The tomb is the main attraction in the entire complex. The large white marble structure stands on a square plinth. Four minarets at four corners are found. The main chamber houses the false graves of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. The actual graves are found at the lower leve. The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is the most spectacular features.

The exterior decorations of the mausoleum are very attractive. The decorative elements were created by applying paint, stucco, stone inlays or carvings. They can be grouped into calligraphy, abstract forms or vegetative motifs. The lower wass of the tomb are found with the bas relief depictions of flowers and vines.

The complex is set around a huge char bagh aka Mughal garden. The raised pathways divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 flowerbeds. A raised marble water tank at the center of the garden, with the reflecting pool which reflects the image of the mausoleum is picturesqe and very popular among photo enthusiasts.

The complex is surrounded on three sides by red standstone walls; the river facing side is left open. There are additional mausoleums including the other wives of Shah Jahan are also present in the structure. There are two grand red sandstone buildings at the far end of the complex. The western building is a mosque and the other one is merely built for the purpose of architectural balance.

The main gateway is a monumental structure built primarily of marble is one of the finest examples of Mughal architectural style.

I have covered the features of Taj Mahal briefly in this post. It is impossible to cover all the intricate features of the monument and the corrsponding history in a single article. As there are many sites and books written on this great monument, let me not spend much time in elobaring them.

Happy travelling.

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