August 31, 2014

Har Ki Pauri - Haridwar

Site Name: Har Ki Pauri
Site Type: River ghat; a sacred place for Hindus
Location:  Haridwar, Uttarakhand state, India
Highlights: The most important site in Haridwar
Nearest Railway Station: Haridwar
Nearest Airport: Dehradun - 35 kms from Haridwar
How to reach: Well connected by road 
Hotel: A lot of options including low cost and free accommodation such as ashrams
Restaurants: Varieties of options - but only vegetarian

Haridwar is a relgious city located on the banks of the beautiful Ganges river in Uttarakhand state of India. The city is an ancient city and has so many sacred places and temples for Hindus. It is considered as one of the seven most sacred sites of Hindus. Haridwar is dotted with a lot of religiously important sites such as temples and ghats. Let us explore the most important site in Haridwar, Har Ki Pauri, in this article.

Haridwar is located on the foot hills of Shivaliks mountain range. The Ganges river which leaves the mountains and enters the plains in this town does not lose its rapids. There are many ghats built across the entire town. Among all those ghats, the Har Ki Pauri ghat is the most popular one. This site is also the most popular site in all categories in entire Haridwar and the nearby town, Rishikesh. 

Thousands of people take bath in this ghat, which is also called as Brahma Kund. The aarti ceremony is performed everyday in the evening. Thousands of lamps and marigold flowers float on the water of the river, which is a spectacular sight. At the same time, aarti is performed in all the small temples located on this Ghat, which should not be missed out. Thousands of people gather on the ghat to get the glimpse of this great event everyday. It is one of the most important not-to-be missed things for a traveller in entire India.

Har Ki Pauri is one of the five sacred bathing spots of Haridwar. The other four places are Kankhal, Nila Parvata, Bilwa Teertha and Kusavarta. It is believed that the footprint of Lord Shiva is found on a stone in a wall and hence this place is called as Har Ki Pauri (the word Pauri means 'foot steps'). Few people claim that it was the footsteps of Hari (Vishnu) and not that of Shiva.

The great internationally popular Kumbha Mela festival happens in Har Ki Pauri once in twelve years.

Being the most popular place has its own disadvantages too. The ghat is dotted with a lot of tiny temples most of them are dedicated to the river Ganga called as Ganga Ma. The idol of Ganga is mostly found along with her mount Makara, the mythological sea creature. It should be noted that most of these modern days temples are built not out of devotion but mainly to collect money from the devotees and visitors. The place is filled full of Pandas, Pujaris and beggars who extract money from the visitors. The devotees or travellers need to enjoy the experience of this place along with all these nonsense. It is unfortunate.


Legend:

As per the legend, the King Bhagiratha of Ayodhya brought the heavenly river Ganga into the earth to calm the souls of his ancestors who were burnt by the curse of the sage Kapila. The spot where the sage's hermitage is found is called as Kapilastaan in Haridwar. Hence, the city is also called as Gangadwara

As per another legend, the nectar (amruddha) that came out from the ocean churning was sprinkled at 12 places in the entire universe. Out of those 12 places, only four places were on the earth. Har-Ki-Pauri ghat in Haridwar is one of those four places. 

The great legendary King Vikramaditya (of 1st centurcy BC?) is said to have built this ghat in the memory of his brother Bharthari who had come her to meditate. It should be noted that the Vikrama Shaka (epoch) is attributed to this king.

Happy travelling.





August 30, 2014

Haridwar

Site Name: Haridwar
Site Type: Hindu religious site
Location:  Haridwar, Uttarakhand state, India
Highlights: One of the seven sacred sites of Hindus
Nearest Railway Station: Haridwar
Nearest Airport: Dehradun - 35 kms from Haridwar
How to reach: Well connected by road 
Hotel: A lot of options including low cost and free accommodation such as ashrams
Restaurants: Varieties of options - but only vegetarian

Haridwar is a relgious city located on the banks of the beautiful Ganges river in Uttarakhand state of India. The city is an ancient city and has so many sacred places and temples for Hindus. It is considered as one of the seven most sacred sites of Hindus. The other six sacred sites are Ayodhya, Mathura, Kasi, Kanchipuram, Puri and Dvaravati. 

Haridwar is located on the foot hills of Shivaliks mountain range. The Ganges river leaves the mountains and enters the plains in Haridwar. It is considered as the gateway to the four major pilgrim sites of Hindus namely Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Rishikesh, the nearest site of Haridwar, is also equally important for Hindus.

Although the river Ganges does not lose its rapids completely, it is comparatively calm in Haridwar. Unlike other cities or towns, the Ganges in this city is clean. Thousands of people take bath in the river in Haridwar as it is believed that taking bath here purifies the soul. Hence, there are numerous river ghats built in this city.

Haridwar is visited not only by the devotees. Even the natural lovers visit this beautiful city. There are thousands of people who love to be here in the evening to watch the spectacular Aarti to the river Ganga. It is a breathtaking view with thousands of lamps and marigold flowers floating in the waters of the river Ganga. Apart from its religious importance, the city is also popular as Ayurvedic medicine center and major learning center. 

Haridwar is one of the few sites in India where the great Kumbha Mela festival is celebrated once in twelve years.

The city is also called as 'Har Dwar' by the devotees of Lord Shiva. (Please note 'Hari' means Vishnu and 'Har' means Shiva).

Haridwar, which has a temple for Maya Devi, is also called as Mayapuri.

Legend:

As per the legend, the King Bhagiratha of Ayodhya brought the heavenly river Ganga into the earth to calm the souls of his ancestors who were burnt by the curse of the sage Kapila. The spot where the sage's hermitage is found is called as Kapilastaan in Haridwar. Hence, the city is also called as Gangadwara

As per another legend, the nectar (amruddha) that came out from the ocean churning was sprinkled at 12 places in the entire universe. Out of those 12 places, only four places were on the earth. Har-Ki-Pauri ghat in Haridwar is one of those four places. 








Places of interest:

  • Har-Ki-Pauri aka Brahmakund - the most popular place of Haridwar; the evening aarthi ceremony pulls thousands of people every evening to this place; the most sacred river ghat in Haridwar; a lot of small temples are built on its banks
  • Chandi Devi Temple - One of the most important temples of Haridwar
  • Mansa Devi Temple - One of the most important temples of Haridwar 
  • Anjana Devi Temple - A rare temple dedicated to the mother of Lord Hanuman
  • Maya Devi Temple - The most important Shakti Peetha temple of Haridwar
  • Sapta Rishi Ashram - A picturesque place where the river is split into seven currents
  • Lal Devi Temple 
  • Bharat Mata Temple - A multi-storey temple dedicated to Mother India
  • Pawan Dham - A modern day temple made full of glass materials with Hanuman as the main deity
  • Kankhal - An important religious site near Haridwar
  • Ramanand Ashram
  • Ananda Mayee Ashram
  • Shantikunj
Apart from the temples, the city is otherwise also charming for early morning walk, late night walk or watching aarti on the ghats in the evening. Also, the river bath in Ganga is very enjoyable. For those who love to do shopping, there are options in the city. Religious items and ornaments are available in the markets of Haridwar. Also, some delicious roadside North Indian restaurants and authentic restaurants such as Chhottiwalas make the place more interesting.

Happy travelling.










August 29, 2014

The Twin Temples of Tambaram

Site Name: Vaidyanatha Swamy and Ramanjaneyar Temples
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Tambaram, near Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Twin temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Rama
Nearest Railway Station: Tambaram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: All sorts of options are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All sorts of options are available in Chennai

Tambaram is a town located near Chennai city in South India. There is a twin temple dedicated to Shiva and Rama in this town. Let us explore this temple in this article.

Highlights:
  • God - Vaidyanatha Swamy /Rama
  • Goddess - Thaiyal Nayaki /Sita, Maha Lakshmi and Andal
  • Twin temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Rama

Introduction:

The twin temple of Lord Vaidyanatha Swamy (Shiva) and Lord Rama is located in the Airport road in Tambaram Sanatorium area near Chennai city in South India. As it is located in the prime location, it always attracts a lot of devotees. It is rare to find a twin temple dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva. In Chennai, there is one such temple located in T. Nagar.

Vaidyanatha Swamy Temple:

As mentioned above, there are two temple located in the same complex. The first temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva called as Vaidyanatha Swamy. It has a separate tower and it faces the east direction. The sanctum sanctorum enshrines Lord Vaidyanatha Swamy in a big Shiva Linga form. There is a separate South facing shrine dedicated to the Goddess Thaiyal Nayaki. 

The prakara around the main shrine has Dakshinamurti and Vishnu Durga as the niche deities. The sub shrines of Sasi Mangala Maha Ganapati, Muthukumara Swamy with his consorts Valli and Devasena and Navagraha are also located in this temple. There is another shrine dedicated to utsava idols where various metal idols such as Nataraja-Sivakami, Uma-Maheswara, Ganesha, Subramany-Valli-Devasena, etc. are found.

The temple has flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi facing towards the main shrine.

Ramanjaneyar Temple:

The second temple is dedicated to Lord Ram; it is called as Ramanjaneya temple. The main shrine has the tall idol of Rama along with Lakshman and Sita as well as a small idol of Hanuman. 

Importantly, the idol of Garuda is found facing the main shrine instead of Hanuman. Usually, Hanuman is found facing towards the main shrines of Rama. It is a unique in this temple. 

This temple also has separate tower, bali peetha and flag staff.

In the prakara, there are two sub-shrines dedicated to the Goddesses Maha Lakshmi and Andal. It is again a rare feature; Lakshmi and Andal are found in the prakara only in the Vishnu temples and not usually in the temple dedicated to Vishnu's incarnation, Rama.

There are separate shrines for Yoga Narasimha holding discus in all his four arms, Chakrathalwar (Sudarshan) and Vishwaksena.

The shrine dedicated to Hanuman in this temple is very important as it was the first idol which in a way was the reason behind the construction of this temple.

Happy travelling.


August 28, 2014

Golkonda Fort

Site Name: Golkonda Fort
Site Type: Fort
Location:  Hyderabad city, Telungana state, India
Highlights: A historical fort and one of the most popular forts in entire India
Nearest Railway Station: Hyderabad
Nearest Airport: Hyderabad
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: All sorts of options are available in Hyderabad 
Restaurants: Hyderabad city has no shortage of restaurants of all varieties

Hyderabad is an important city in South India. It is the capital city of the newly formed Telangana state as well as Andhra Pradesh state of India. Hyderabad, which is also called as 'the city of Pearls' is a historical city. In the last two decades, the city became very popular thanks to the IT companies. There are many popular and varieties of tourist spots such as forts, palaces, lakes, masjids and temples located in this city. Let us explore one of the most important tourist destinations of the city, Golkonda Fort, in this article.






Introduction:

Golkonda Fort is located in the outskirts of Hyderabad city (around 11kms from the city) in South India. It is one of the most popular forts in entire India. It derived its name from the Telugu word 'Golla Konda' which means shepherd's hill. It originally belonged to teh Kakatiyas of Warangal. The control of the fort went to Baihmanis in the 14th century CE and then to Qutb Shahi Kings in the 16th century CE. These kings extended and strengthened the fort. Auranzeb annexed it and appointed Asaf Jah as the Subedar. He declared independence in 1713 CE and his Nizam dynasty controlled the fort till 1948 CE.

Many famous diamonds such as Kohinoor diamond and the Hope diamond are believed to have been excavated from the mines of Golkonda fort. Towards the end of 19th century CE, the word 'Golkonda' was generally used by the English speaking people to refer any particularly rich mine, and later to any source of great wealth.

Layout:

Golkonda Fort was built on a 400 feet high hill. It has three lines of massive fortification walls. The outermost wall has a deep moat and it covers the entire town. The main entrance is 'Fateh Darwaza'. After the outer wall at a distance of around 1 km, there is a double wall that runs around the foot of the hill. There is a third wall that extends from this double wall which goes inside. This innermost fortress is called as Bala Hissar. The entire fort compound is spread across 11kms of area. 

Golkonda fort is one of the largest forts. Importantly most of the structures inside the fort are in good shape. So, it takes almost 4 to 5 hours to cover the entire fort.

The signalling device is a unique acoustic system that is found near the entrance. It is said if one claps from this place, the sound is reflected from the building on the other side. 

Some of the important structures found inside the fort:

  • Aslah Khana - a stunning three storied armory building
  • Akkanna-Madanna Offices - which was used as the secretariat building in those days
  • Nagina Bagh - considered as jewel among the gardens; design based on Mughal Gardens; it once had Persian style axial waterways. 
  • Ramdas Prison - originally a storage place and converted into a prison in the 17th century CE
  • Ambar Khana - Granary and the adjoining step wall
  • Ibrahim's Masjid - It was raised by Ibrahim Qutb Shah in the 16th century CE; it's architecturally beautiful
  • Jaganmata Temple - a small cave temple for Kali
  • Jami Masjid - a small mosque built in 1518 CE by Quli Qutb Shah
  • Kilwat - the private chambers
  • Rani Mahal - used to be the chambers of royal women
  • Taramati mosque 
  • Two pavilions
  • Durbar hall
  • Ramadas Bandikhana - the place where Ramadas was prisoned; the bas relief images of Hanuman are found here
  • Baradari - the topmost place of the citadel
Happy travelling.




August 26, 2014

Visa Balaji Temple

Site Name: Balaji Temple
Site Type: A Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Balaji
Location:  Chilkur village, near Hyderabad city, Telungana state, India
Highlights: It is believed that a visit to this temple will ensure the devotees to get US visa successfully
Nearest Railway Station: Hyderabad
Nearest Airport: Hyderabad
How to reach: Well connected by road from Hyderabad
Hotel: All sorts of options are available in Hyderabad 
Restaurants: Go to Hyderabad

Hyderabad is an important city in South India. It is the capital city of the newly formed Telangana state as well as Andhra Pradesh state of India. Hyderabad, which is also called as 'the city of Pearls' is a historical city. In the last two decades, the city became very popular thanks to the IT companies. There are many popular and varieties of tourist spots such as forts, palaces, lakes, masjids and temples located in this city. Let us explore one such popular site named Visa Balaji temple in this article.

Highlights:
  • God - Balaji
  • Goddess - Sree Devi and Bhoo Devi
  • A popular temple in and around Hyderabad
  • Those who seek US visa visit this temple in great numbers

Legend/History:

It is believed that the temple of Balaji aka Venkateshwara which is located on the banks of Osman Sagar lake in Chilkur village near Hyderabad  was built during the period of Madanna and Akkanna in the 17th century CE.

As per the legend, there was a devotee who used to visit Tirupati Balaji temple regularly. Once, owing to ill health, he could not go there. He felt very sad about the same. Lord Balaji appeared in his dream and told him that he was present in the nearby forest. As per the advice from the Lord, the devotee dug the place filled with molehill. His axe struck the chin and chest of the idol accidentally. The blood started flowing. He heard a divine voice which ordered him to flood the molehill with the cow's milk. Once he did so, he discovered the idol of Balaji accompanied with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. He installed the idol and this is the story of this temple's origin.


Temple Layout:

The temple is small however the surrounding area is big as it has to accommodate thousands of people who visit the temple everyday. 

The sanctum sanctorum houses the idols of Balaji along with his consorts Sree Devi and Bhoo Devi. It is rare to find Balaji with two consorts.

Facing the main shrine the relief image of Garuda made of red stone is found.

The temple also has a small tower. 

It is believed that walking around the sanctum sanctorum (circumventing the prakara) for 11 times and praying to the Lord ensures the devotees to get US visa. After the devotees get visa processed, they come back to this temple and circumvent for 108 times. Due to this, there is always more crowd in the prakara than near the shrine. The temple is popularly called as 'Visa Balaji Temple'.

Happy travelling.