December 14, 2014

Akshardham - Delhi

Site Name: Akshardham Temple
Site Type: Temple
Location:  East Delhi, Delhi, India
Highlights: A huge temple complex; one of the largest temples of India; an architectural marvel
Nearest Railway Station: New Delhi
Nearest Airport: New Delhi
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: A lot of options in Delhi
Restaurants: Varieties of options in Delhi

New Delhi is the capital city of India. There are varieties of tourist sites in this city which include forts, monuments, memorials, mosques, heritage sites and temples. Let us explore Akshardham temple in this article.

Akshardham temple is one of the latest attractions of Delhi city. More than 7000 workers' hardwork for about five yeas resulted in the inauguration of this huge temple complex in November 2005. The temple is also called Swami Narayan Mandir. Swami Narayan was a Hindu saint who lived in the beginning of the 19th century CE. He was from Uttar Pradesh state and settled down in Gujarat. He is the central figure in Swami Narayan sect of Hinduism. The Akshardham temple in Gandhi Nagar is older than this. 

The complex has multiple sections and buildings. The central building is the main temple dedicated to Swami Narayan. It is a blend of different architectural styles from different parts of India. The structure is built entirely from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble without using steel or concrete. The structure has around 234 carved pillars and around 20,000 sculptures on the pillar and walls. 

The main deity Swaminarayan is a 11 feet high idol. He is surrounded by similar statues of the Gurus of the sect. The idols of Ram-Sita, Lakshmi-Narayan, Shiv-Parvati and Radha-Krishna are also found in the main shrine. 

The prakara around the main shrine has many elephant statues in different postures.

There is a section called Sahajanand Pradarshan, which features lifelike robotics displaying incidents from Swaminarayan's life.

The Neelakanth Darshan is an iMax screen which displays the film on the life of Swaminarayan.

The Sanskriti Vihar features a boat ride which takes the devotees to different periods of India starting from Vedic period to modern day.

There is also a small Swami Narayan temple within this complex.

Happy travelling.



December 13, 2014

Nainital

Site Name: Nainital
Site Type: Hill station, Lake
Location:  Uttarakhand state, India
Highlights: One of the most popular hill stations and tourist destinations in India
Nearest Railway Station: Kathgodam, 35 kms from Nainital
Nearest Airport: Pantnagar, 70 kms from Nainital
How to reach: Well connected by road through National Highway 87
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire town
Restaurants: Varieties of options across the entire town

Nainital is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. It is situated in Uttarakhand state of India. Various lakes and picturesque lakes in Nainital and the surrounding places make it the important tourist site. Let us explore about all the important destinations in Nainital.

Drive from Kathgodam to Nainital

Kathgodam is the base station to reach Nainital. The railway link is available only till Kathgodam. The one hour drive to cover 35 kms from Kathgodam to Nainital, which is located at an altitude of 6837 feet above sea level,  is interesting with a lot of breathtaking viewpoints. Nainital, one of the most beautiful places in entire India, is situate on a valley with a large lake and is surrounded by hills in all sides. The highest hill in the mountain range is called as Naina.

Naina Devi Temple

Naina Devi Temple is located on the shore of the famous Naina Lake in Nainital. As per the legend, the Goddess Sati destroyed herself by falling on the yagna fire of her father Daksha. Lord Shiva got extremely angry;he lifted her corpse and started dancing rudra thandava. To protect the universe from the wrath of Lord Shiva, Vishnu cut down Sati's corpse into multiple pieces. The sites where her body's parts fell were called as Shakti Peethas. Naina Devi temple is one of those Shakti Peethas. It is believed that Sati's eyes fell in this site. (Naina means eyes.)

The temple is small and beautiful. The main deity Naina Devi is represented by two eyes. She is flanked by Lakshmi, Saraswati, Riddhi and Siddhi. Some of the idols that are found in this temple include Ganesha, Navagraha, Shiva Linga, Hanuman and Radha-Krishna.


Nainital Lake

Nainital Lake aka Naini Lake is the most important tourist attraction of Nainital. The lake got its named from the Goddess Naina Devi and the town got its name from this beautiful eye shaped lake. The lake which is located at the heart of the town is the most visited site in Nainital. A boat ride in the lake to view the picturesque hills that are surrounded should never be missed out. 


Zoo

Although the zoo is very small, it is unique due to its altitude. It is located at an altitude of 2100 meters from the sea level. An one km trek or a yak ride takes the tourists to this small and cute zoo. Importantly, it is one of two high altitude zoos in India.


Bhowali

Located at a distance of around 11 kms from Nainital, Bhowali is the junction from which one can travel to all the nearby hill stations. It is famous for it hill fruit mart. 


Ghorakhal

Situated at a distance of about 3 kms from Bhowali, Ghorakhal has a tribal temple dedicated to tribal God called Golu. The deity is small and is sitting on a horse. The temple which is full of bells hanged also houses other deities such as Kali, Smashan Devi etc. Devotees bring goats and sheep in large number to sacrifice in this temple.


Sattal

Sattal is a cluster of seven lakes. It is located at an altitude of 1370 meters at a distance of about 23 kms from Nainital. Nala Damayanti and Garud lakes are the first two lakes. As we move down further, the cluster of five lakes namely Ram lake, Lakshman lake, Bharat lake, Sita lake and Hanuman lake are found as a group. The boating is not available in Hanuman, Garud and Nala Damayanti lakes.


Bhimtal

Bhimtal, which is located at a distance of 22 kms from Nainital at an altitude of 1370 meters is larger than Nainital lake. The lake has an island in the middle where tourist vistas are located. Boating is the highlight of this site.


Hanuman Garhi Temple

At a distance of around 4 kms from the Nainital bus stand and at an altitude of 1951 meters, Hanuman Garhi temple is located. It has a large idol of Hanuman as the main deity. The other deities found in this temple include Shiva and Ram-Sita. There is a replica of Vaishnov Devi cave shrine found in this temple complex. 


Naukuchia Tal

Naukuchia Tal, which is located at a distance of 26 kms from Nainital at an altitude of 1220 meters is an ideal place not only for boating but also for bird watching.


Ropeway

Ropeway is one of the best attractions in Nainital. It connects snow view point at 2270 meters with Nainital. 


Horse Riding

Horse riding is an important tourist attraction in Nainital. Horses are available at Barapathar. The tourists can visit Lover's Point, Tiger Top, Tiffin Top, Dorothy's Seat and other viewpoints and also get spectacular Himalayan view on horse riding.


Caves Garden

Caves Garden is a collection of six natural caves located in a garden along with a fountain. It has become a main tourist attraction in the last 10-15 years.


Waterfalls

There is a waterfalls located in the outskirts of Nainital. It is an added tourist attraction where tourists can take refreshing bath.

Happy travelling.

December 10, 2014

Melavasal Subramanya Temple

Site Name: Subramanya Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of the important temples of Tanjore
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Restaurants: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city

Those who know about Thanjavur (Tanjore) city is South India know mainly about the great Brahadeeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja Chola around 1000 years back. However, there are many rare and interesting sites found across the entire city. Let us explore about Subramanya temple.

Melavasal Subramanya temple is one of the important temples in Tanjore city. It is located at West Main street. 

The temple is very small and it is located slightly at higher altitude which can be reached through small staircase. 

The sanctum sanctorum has Subramanya along with his two consorts Valli and Devasena.

The idols of Shiva Linga, Ambal, Ganesha and Subramanya are also located in this temple.

Happy travelling.


Tanjore Kodi Amman Temple

Site Name: Kodi Amman Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Outskirts of Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The legend associated with the temple reveals the origin of the name of Thanjavur (Tanjore) city
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Restaurants: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city

Those who know about Thanjavur (Tanjore) city in South India know mainly about the great Brahadeeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja Chola around 1000 years back. However, there are many rare and interesting sites found across the entire city. Let us explore about Kodi Amman temple, which is supposed to be one of the original temples of this city. 


Highlights:
  • The city Thanjavur was probably named after the demon who was killed by Goddess Kodi Amman, the main deity of the temple.
  • Goddess - Kodi Amman
  • The utsava idols of this temple are located in a separate temple in faraway place.
  • The Goddess bears Lord Shiva on her head which is unique.

Legend:

As per the legend, the demon Thanjan got boon from Lord Shiva and became very powerful. He was troubling the Devas who had inhabited the site where the temple is currently located. The Devas sought Shiva's help. Lord Shiva sent his consort to help them. The Goddess took the form of Pachai Kali (her complexion in green color) and started fighting the demon. However, the demon started taking different forms and was reappeared crore (kodi) times. Kali became very ferocious and turned red in color and was called as Pavala Kali. As she ultimately killed the demon who took kodi forms, she was named as Kodi Amman. The blood of demon flew as river and as it was reflecting in the body of Goddess, her body turned into red, as per another version. As per the request by Thanjan to the Goddess, the place was named as Thanjavur.

There is slightly a different version which states that the Goddess fought with two demons Thanjan and Tharagan in order to protect Parasara rishi and his disciples. 

As per another version, as the temple is located at the corner of the city, the deity was named as Kodi Amman. Kodi means corner in Tamil language.

There is another legend associated with this temple. There was a Chola king ruling this region once. As his country was affected by drought, he sought advice from the sage Vashisht. As per his advice, he expelled a Brahmin who was associated with an unchaste woman from his country. The Brahmin aligned himself with a king named Chatrgopan, the enemy of the Chola kingdom. The king attacked the Chola Kingdom, Kali took score of figures carrying burning woods and protected the boundary of the Chola King. Thus the Goddess was named as Kodi Amman. The Chola king built this temple.

Temple Layout:

This is a village temple located in the outskirts of Tanjore city enroute to Kumbakonam. It is close to a place called Sungan Tidal. 

The temple is very small and has no tower. The sanctum santorum has the five feet tall large stucco red colored idol of Kodi Amman. She looks very ferocious. She has eight arms and bears Lord Shiva on her head. 

Kodi Amman is flanked by Pachai Kali and Pavala Kali. Both are stone idols are they are present in the main shrine too.

The entrance of the temple has the idols of Ganesha, Subramanya and Shasta- Poorna-Pushkala.

The temple has just one prakara. The idols mostly of village deities are located in the prakara. Some of the idols present here include Madurai Veeran, Karuppanna Swami, Shiva Durga, Vishnu Durga, Shakti Linga, Raja Vishnu Durga, Swarna Bhairava, Karuppannan, Dakshinamurti and Kala Bhairava.

Usually, the processional (utsava) metal idols are also present in the same temple premises. However, the utsava idols of Pachai Kali and Pavala Kali, the deities of this temple, are located in Tirugnana Sambandhar Mutt adjoining Omli Pillaiyar Temple in Mela Masi Veethi (West Main Street) in Tanjore. 

There is a famous festival called Kali Attam connected to this temple where the utsava deities Pachai Kali and Pavala Kali are taken for procession.

Happy travelling. 

November 23, 2014

Navagraha along with their wives in Chennai

Site Name: Bala Murugan Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Thendral Colony, West Anna Nagar, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A rare temple where Navagrahas are found along with their consorts
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India

Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road as this is centrally located in the city
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

Chennai is considered as the gateway to South India. The capital city of Tamil Nadu state of India has hundreds of tourist sites which include museum, British period monuments, temples, beach, etc. Let us explore a little known temple called Bala Murugan temple located in Chennai.

Temple Layout:

Bala Murugan temple is located near Anna Nagar railway station in West Anna Nagar area in Chennai city. Although it is popular in this locality, it remains unknown to the people from the other parts of Chennai. The highlight of the temple is Navagrahas are found along with their consorts. It is unique and it is one among very few temples having Navagrahs along with their wives.

The south facing temple has a small tower. All the mains shrines face the east direction. The sanctum sanctorum has the beautiful idol of Bala Murugan. To the right side of this shrine, there is an equally big shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The wall around the main shrine of Murugan has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Vishnu Durga. A small Chandikeshwara sub-shrine is also found in this prakara. It should be noted that all these niche idols are usually found only for Lord Shiva. It is rare to find all these deities as Koshta (niche) deities around the shrine of Subramanya.

The left side of the main shrine has four small sub-shrines dedicated to Ayyappa, Vishwanatha (Shiva Linga), Vishalakshi and Nataraja. The Ayyappa idol is stone idol which is not usually found in other temples. 

There is a big shrine dedicated to Lakshmi Narayana.

The temple also enshrines Lakshmi Hayagreeva, Kubera Bhairava with his consort, Nagavalli Amman found in front of an anthole, the bust idol of Nagavalli Amman, Danvantiri, the utsava deities of Murugan and other Gods, Sudarshana with Narsimha on his back and importantly Navagrahas (nine planets) along with their respective consorts. 

The highlight of the temple is Navagrahas, the nine planets. Surya is found with his two consorts. All other eight planets are found along with their respective consorts. It is very rare to find planets with their wives.

The details of planets and their consorts are given below.

Surya - Usha and Chaya
Chandra - Rohini
Mangal (Sevvai) - Shakti
Budha - Ila
Guru - Tara
Shukra - Sukirti
Shani - Neela
Rahu - Simhi
Ketu - Chitralekha

Happy travelling.

Little known Nimishamba Temple of Chennai

Site Name: Nimishamba Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Kasi Chetty Street, Sowcarpet, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A rare temple of Nimishamba in Chennai city
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India

Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road as this is centrally located in the city
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

Chennai is considered as the gateway to South India. The capital city of Tamil Nadu state of India has hundreds of tourist sites which include museum, British period monuments, temples, beach, etc. Let us explore a little known temple called Nimishamba temple located in Chennai.

Nimishamba is another name of Goddess Parvati. It is believed that the Goddess would remove the troubles of her devotees within a minute and hence she is named as Nimishamba (nimisha means 'minute'). As per the legend, the Somavanshi Mutharasa King Muktharaja was blessed with the boon that Nimishamba would come to his aid in his fight against the demons in a minute. There is a temple dedicated to Nimishamba built during the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar in the 17th century CE. The temple is found near Srirangapatna. There are few temples of Nimishamba built in many places in Karnataka state later. One such temple was built probably in the 18th century CE in Chennai city in Tamil Nadu state. The temple is situated in the congested Kasi Chetty Street in Sowcarpet area in Chennai.

Sowcarpet is a highly crowded area. It is difficult even to walk in the streets. This temple is located along with other shops and hardly anyone visits this temple. In fact, only few would know about the existence of this old temple in such a busy area. 

The temple has a small tower and the entire structure is recently renovated. The main shrine has Nimishamba in standing posture. There are sub-shrines of Mukteeshwara (Shiva Linga), Ganesha, Subramanya, Vishnu-Sri Devi-Bhoo Devi, Hanumana and Navagraha. The niche idols of Ichcha Shakti, Kriya Shakti and Gnana Shakti are found on the walls of the main shrine.

Happy travelling.


November 16, 2014

Thanjapureeswarar Temple

Site Name: Thanjapureeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Outskirts of Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The city Tanjore is named after the main deity of this temple; supposed to be the original temple of Tanjore
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Restaurants: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city

Those who know about Thanjavur (Tanjore) city is South India know mainly about the great Brahadeeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja Chola around 1000 years back. However, there are many rare and interesting sites found across the entire city. Let us explore about Thanjapureeswarar temple, which is supposed to be the original temple of this city. It is believed that the city was named after the main deity of this temple. Also, it is believed that the temple must have existed even before the Brahadeeswarar temple was constructed.

Highlights:
  • Supposed to be the original temple of Tanjore. The city Thanjavur was probably named after the main deity of the temple, Thanjapureeswarar.
  • God - Thanjapureeswarar aka Kuberapureeswarar
  • Goddess - Anandavalli
  • Sthala Vruksha (holy tree) - Vanni tree
  • It is believed that this temple is older than the temple of Brahadeeswara.

Legend:

As per the legend, Kubera lost his kingdom and treasure to his half brother Raavan. Kubera started visiting various Shiva temples to get back his glory. He visited this temple which was a small temple then. It is said he did not have to visit anymore temple after this. As Kubera surrendered to Lord Shiva here, Shiva is called as 'Thanjapureeswarar'. The town was also named after the deity as Thanjavur.

Temple Layout:

Although it is believed that the temple must be older than Brahadeeswara temple, there is no visible evidence. The structure appears to be comparatively new. 

The temple has west facing entrance with a small tower. The west facing sanctum sanctorum enshrines a big Shiva Linga named as Kuberapureeswarar aka Thanjapureeswarar. At the entrance there are idols of Ganesha and Subramanaya apart from the big attractive idols of Dwarapalas. As usual, the bali peetha, Nandi mandapa and flag staff are located facing towards the sanctum.

There is a separate south facing shrine for the Goddess Anandavalli. At the entrance of this shrine, there is a Ganesha idol and two big and beautiful idols of Dwarapalikas (females). Nandi is found facing towards her shrine.

At the entrance of temple below the tower, the idols of Ganesha, Subramanya and Ayyappa are located. 

The wall around the sanctum sanctorum enshrines the niche images of Dakshinamurti, Nataraja, Brahma and Durga. It is rare to find Nataraja as a niche (koshta) idol. There is a small sub-shrine of Chandikeshwara located. 

In the outer prakara, there are many ancient idols which were discovered nearby are kept. The idols such as Saraswati, Ganesha, Brahma, Dakshinamurti and Shiva Lingas are beautiful.

The sub-shrines of Nataraja-Sivakami and Navagraha are also located in this temple.

On the way to the Goddess shrine, the idols of Lakshmi and Kubera performing pooja to Shiva LInga are found. It is very unique.

Happy travelling.