September 30, 2014

Sirpur

Site Name: Sirpur
Site Type: Heritage site; Buddhist site
Location:  Chhattisgarh state, India
Highlights: 7th century brick temple of Lakshman
Nearest Railway Station: Raipur, 78 kms from Sirpur
Nearest Airport: Raipur
How to reach: Well connected by road from Raipur
Hotel: A lot of options in Raipur
Restaurants: Very limited options; better to go to Raipur

Sirpur is a historical town located at a distance of about 78 kms from Raipur city in Chhattisgarh state of India. It is located on the banks of the river Mahanadi. The city was once the capital of Somvanshi kings of Dakshin Kosala. The town which was also visited by Hieun Tsang was an important Buddisht centre once. It is believed that the town was buried under debris due to a earthquake in the 12th century CE. The town has so many noteable heritage sites including the 7th century brick temple of Lakshman. Let us explore the important sites of Sirpur in this article.

Gandheshwar Temple:

The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva called as Gandheswar is an important temple in Sirpur. The 8th century temple is located on the banks of the river Mahanadi. This artistically beautiful temple has a lot of attractive sculptures. The big idol of Buddha under the tree is a highlight of this temple.

Lakshman Temple:

The 8th century brick temple of Lakshman is the highlight of Sirpur. It is said to be one of the finest brick temples erected in India. The temple is dedicated to Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Ram, which is unique. The walls and pillars of the temple have exquisite sculptures. 

Buddha Vihar:

The 6th century Buddha Vihar has a big Buddha statue and other small idols excavated. 

Sirpur is full of heritage sites. Apart from Buddha Vihar, there is a 6th century Buddhist monastery called Anand Prabhu Kundi Vihar, 6th century Swastik Vihar, 6th century Baleswar (Shiva) temple, one Jain vihara, a lot more Shiva temples, Buddha vihars and Vishnu temples excavated recently.

A temple for Goddess Chandi located in the nearby Birkani village is also an important site.

Happy travelling.





September 28, 2014

Sarnath

Site Name: Sarnath
Site Type: Buddhist religious town; sacred site for Buddhists
Location:  Uttar Pradesh state, India
Highlights: Buddha taught dharma for the first time in this site; the national emblem of India is kept
Nearest Railway Station: Varanasi, 13  kms from Sarnath
Nearest Airport: Lucknow
How to reach: Well connected by road from Varanasi
Hotel: A lot of options including low cost hotels/ashrams and free accommodations in Varanasi; very few options in Sarnath
Restaurants: Varieties of options in Varanasi but very limited options in Sarnath

Sarnath is a small village located near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state of India. It is the site where Buddha started preaching dharma for the first time. It is the site where the national emblem of India is kept. It is considered as one of the four most important Buddhist pilgrimages. The village is dotted with Buddhist shrines of various countries. Let us explore all the important places of this historical village in this article.



Museum:

The Sarnath Museum is the mostly visited site in Sarnath. The museum has antique sculptures and artifacts ranging from the 3rd century BCE and 12th century CE kept in five galleries and two verandahs. All of them represent Buddhist art and culture. The highlight of the museum is the Lion Capital of Ashoka. This is the most famous sandstone sculpture erected around 250 BCE atop an Ashoka Pillar in Sarnath. It has been adopted as the National Emblem of India. Also, the museum houses a lot of sculptures from the Mauryan, the Kushana, the Sungas and the Gupta periods. 

Dhamekh Stupa:

Near the museum, Dhamekh Stupa is located. It was built between the 5th to 6th century CE. It is the only ancient structure left intact by Qutb-ud-din Aibak. The stupa has a 33.5 tower with a stone plinth measuring 28 m in diameter that dominates the site. Lord Buddha preached his famous first sermon in this site. (There is another site called Dharmarajika Stupa which also has a similar claim). I appears that the stupa might have been rebuilt as the current structure belongs to 5th/6th century CE. The excavations revealed the brickwork form the Mauryan period. The floral patterns of the stupa belong to the Gupta period. The Brahmi scripts date from the 6th to 9th century CE.



Chaukhandi Stupa:

Chaukhandi Stupa is the 5th century CE structure. It is the first monument that can be visited while entering into Sarnath. Here, Buddha reunited with the five ascetic companions (the Panchavargiya Bishus) who had deserted him. The octagonal tower found in the site is a later addition and is believed to be built by Akbar.
Dharmarajika Stupa:

It was built in the 3rd century BCE with a lot of later additions. It was reduced to rubble to Jagat Singh, Dewan of the Maharaja of Benaras in 1794 CE. It is the site where Buddha delivered his sermon for the first time.


Mulagandhakuti Vihara:

Mulagandhakuti Vihara, which is presently maintained by the Sri Lankan Government, is in ruins. It is believed that Buddha spent his first rainy season here. A large gold plated idol of Buddha is kept here. There is a Bodhi tree which is believed to be related to the original tree from Bodh Gaya.

Tibetan Temple:

Tibetan temple has a very big idol of Buddha. There are hundreds of miniature idols of Buddha found all over the temple complex.

Burma Temple:

The temple of Buddha which is maintained by the Burma government is one of the main attractions. This temple is architecturally beautiful. 

Japan Temple:

Buddha is in the reclining posture in Japan Temple.

China Temple:

Three big idols of Buddha are kept in China temple.

Saranganath Temple:

Saranganath temple is small but beautiful and important site of Buddha.

Digamber Jain Temple:

Digamber Jain Temple was built in 1824 CE. It is the birthplace of the 11th Jain Tirtankara Shreyanshnath. 

There are even more temples of Buddha maintained by several governments such as Thai temple, Korean temple, etc.

Happy travelling.




September 23, 2014

Ayodhya

Site Name: Ayodhya
Site Type: Hindu religious town; sacred site
Location:  Uttar Pradesh state, India
Highlights: The birth place of Lord Ram
Nearest Railway Station: Faizabad, 6 kms from Ayodhya; there is also a very small train station in Ayodhya
Nearest Airport: Faizabad; the nearest popular airport is Lucknow
How to reach: Well connected by road from Faizabad 
Hotel: A lot of options including low cost hotels/ashrams and free accommodations
Restaurants: Varieties of options in Ayodhya but mostly vegetarian

Ayodhya is one of the seven most sacred sites for Hindus. It is located near Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh state of India. It is famous as Ram Janma Bhoomi. Many of the temples and sites in this small town are associated with the birth and other events in the life of Lord Ram of the great epic Ramayana. Let us briefly explore various sites in this town.

Swarg Dwar:

Ayodhya town, which was much bigger once and the capital city of Raghu dynasty kings, is situated on the banks of the river Sarayu. The Naya Ghat and the surrounding areas are called as Swarg Dwar. It is the place where Lord Ram and his three brothers left this world and reached Vaikuntha. Taking a dip in this place is considered as sacred for the Hindus.

Sarayu Temple:

All the holy rivers are worshipped as the deities by the Hindus. The legend associated with the holiest river Ganga is very popular. There are so many temples found for Ganga across the country. Similar to Ganga temple, there are temples dedicated to other rivers too which are not very common. There is a temple for the river Sarayu located in Ayodhya on the way to Nageshwarnath temple.

Nageshwaranath Temple:

There is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the birthplace of Ram, who is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva is called as Nageshwaranath in this temple. As per the legend, Kush, the son of Lord Ram, started destroying the Nagas mistaking them for stealing his amulet. After the intervention of Lord Shiva, he stopped this and then he built this temple of Lord Shiva. As per another legend, he built this temple to get of his sin of killing the Nagas by mistake. There is also another version which states that the lost amulet was found by a Naga girl; she fell in love with Kush and made him to build this temple. One common factor in all these legends is that this temple was built by Kush. This is a small temple but is considered as very important. The temple tank is very big and is called as Ram Paundi. 

Kale Ram Temple:

Kale Ram Temple is also called as Treta Ke Thakur Temple. It is situate at the place where Lord Ram performed Ashwamedha yagna. Around 300 years ago, the King of Kulu built the current structure of the temple. The main deity Ram is found with Sita and his brothers in the pattabhishek posture. The idols are carved out of a single block of black sandstone. The belief is that these idols resemble the form of the idols in the original Ram temple that was destroyed many years ago. These are the oldest idols of Ram, Sita and his brothers that are found in Ayodhya today.

The holy books such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas are kept in a separate shrine and are worshipped.

    Valmiki Bhavan Temple:

    Valmiki Bhavan Temple is very big with a lot of small sculptures throughout the temple. The main deities are Valmiki rishi along with Luv and Kush, the sons of Lord Ram.

    Hanuman Garhi:

    Hanuman Garhi is one of the most important temples in Ayodhya. Although everyone believes that the main deity of the temple is Hanuman, it is not the case. The main deity is Anjana Devi holding the baby Hanuman on her lap. The temple is built on top of a small hill and the structure is surrounded by fort like walls. 

    Ram Janma Bhoomi:

    Ram Janma Bhoomi is the place which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. Today, the metal idols of Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughna as infants are kept in this temple. This is a highly secured and controversial site.

    Lakshman Ghat:

    Lakshman Ghat is the ghat on the river Sarayu where Lakshman voluntarily gave up his life.

    Ratna Sinhasan Temple:

    The idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshman along with Hanuman are the main deities of Ratna Sinhasan temple. There is another pair of Ram and Sita idols plated with gold. It is the place where the pattabhishek of Ram took place.

    Dasharat Bhavan:

    The metal idols of Ram, Bharat, Lakshman and Shatrughna along with their consorts are the main deities of Ratna Sinhasan temple. Three pairs of Ram and Sita idols are also located in this temple. It is the place where Dashrat's palace was located in those days.

    Kanak Bhavan:

    Kanak Bhavan aka Sone Ke Ghar has two pairs of Ram and Sita idols. They have golden crowns on their heads.

    Birla Mandir:

    Birla Mandir is a modern day temple dedicated to Lord Ram. Ram is found with Sita and Lakshman in this temple.

    Mani Parbat:

    It is formerly a Buddhisht vihara which was converted into a Hindu temple. The temple has Ram and Sita as the main deities. The idol of Mani Bhagavan is also found. There is a small shrine for Hanuman. From this hilltop temple, one can get the aerial view of the entire Ayodhya town.

    Beware of monkeys. You can find hundreds of monkeys everywhere in Ayodhya.

    Happy travelling.


    September 22, 2014

    Jaipur

    Site Name: Jaipur
    Site Type: Historical City
    Location:  Rajasthan state, India
    Highlights: Called as 'the pink city'
    Nearest Railway Station: Jaipur
    Nearest Airport: Jaipur
    How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
    Hotel: A lot of options in Jaipur
    Restaurants: Varieties of options in Jaipur

    Jaipur is the first planned city in India. Located in Rajasthan state of India, this city was formed by Raja Jai Singh in the 18th century CE. This city is also called as the Pink City. All the buildings in the old city of Jaipur are painted in pink color. Let us explore the important tourist sites in Jaipur briefly in this article.

     City Palace:

    City Palace is the most important tourist site in Jaipur city. It is located inside the old city. The architecture of this beautiful palace is a blend of traditional Rajput and Mughal architecture. The vast palace complex occupies around one seventh of the old city of Jaipur (Pink city). The palace has many courtyards, gardens and various other buildings. Some of the important buildings in the palace include Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Diwan-e-Aam and Ridhi Sidhi Pol. The two largest silver vessels in the entire world are kept in Diwan-e-Khas. They are one of the major highlights of this palace. 

    Jal Mahal:

    Jal Mahal, which literally means the Water Palace, is a Rajput style palace located in the center of the Man Sagar lake. 

    Govind Deo Temple:

    Govind Deo Temple also written as Govind Devji Temple is the most important temple of Jaipur city. It is believed that the presiding idol of the temple, Lord Kirshna, was brought from Vrindavan during the Mughal rule. As per the popular belief, it looks exactly like Lord Krishna's original form. The temple is located in the City Palace complex. 


    Hawa Mahal:

    Hawa Mahal which literally means the Palace of Breeze was built by Maharaj Sawai Singh in 1799CE. It was used as the women chamber as an extension of the City Palace. The royal women could watch the people from this building without being seen. It is a red sandstone building and has five storeys and about 950 windows. 

    Amber Fort:

    Amber Fort is the second most important tourist site in Jaipur. It is located at a distance of about 11km from Jaipur in Amber. This is a massive palace located within the fort and was built by Raja Man Singh in the early 18th century CE. The Sheesh Mahal which literally means the Palace of Mirrors is the major attraction in this palace. It has thousands of small and big pieces of mirrors on the ceilings, walls and tiles. This place has been featured in many Indian cinemas. 

    Some of the other important tourist sites of Jaipur include Maharani Market, Tibet Market, Sheela Devi Temple, Kanak Vrindavan Park, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Moti Doongari Temple, Marble Temple, the Sun Temple, the Monkey Temple and Jantar Mantar.

    Happy travelling.






        September 21, 2014

        Karol Bagh Lakshmi Narasimha Temple

        Site Name: Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
        Site Type: Temple
        Location:  Karol Bagh, New Delhi, India
        Highlights: An important Hindu temple in the capital city of India
        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 the temple of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha located here in this article.

        Lakshmi Narasimha temple is a small temple built based on the South Indian temple architecture style. It is located on the busy road of Guru Ravidas Marg of Karol Bagh area which is dominated by South Indians. It is the only temple dedicated to Narasimha in New Delhi. The temple is managed by Ahobila math.

        The main shrine enshrines Lakshmi Narasimha. The idols of Ashta Lakshmi are found in the prakara. Vishnu is found in the niche. There are Sudarshan, Garuda and Hanuman idols too found in the temple.

        Happy travelling.


        Ram Temple - New Delhi

        Site Name: Ram Temple
        Site Type: Temple
        Location:  Lodhi Road, New Delhi, India
        Highlights: An important Hindu temple in the capital city of India
        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 the temple of Lord Ram located here in this article.

        The temple of Lord Ram is situated in Lodhi Road in New Delhi. It is built as per the South Indian temple architecture style and it is maintained by South Indians. 

        In 1968 when this site was dug up to construct a temple, it is said that a small idol of Goddess Mahalakshmi was excavated. Originally only the photograph of Lord Ram alone was kept and worshipped in this temple. Later, the metal idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshman were made. It was after the installation of 12 feet high idol of Lord Hanuman, the temple became popular in the early 1970's.

        A lot of additions were made to the temple in the last 40 years. The main deity of the temple is Rama Pattabhishek which means the coronation of Lord Ram. All his three brothers and his consort Sita are found along with them. Hanuman is found at the feet of Ram. Only in few temples Lord Ram and Sita are found in the pattabhishek posture.

        Some of the other shrines/idols that are found in this temple:
        • Ranganath with Ramanuja at his feet - Vishnu in the reclining posture
        • Balaji with Padmavathi at his feet
        • Ganesha
        • Navagraha
        • Vasudeva Pada Padmam
        • Saptarishis
        • Different forms of Vishnu
        Happy travelling.

        Enathur

        Site Name: Enathur
        Site Type: Temple
        Location:  Near Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu state, India
        Highlights: 120 feet statue of Adi Shankara
        Nearest Railway Station: Kanchipuram
        Nearest Airport: Chennai
        How to reach: Well connected by road from Kanchipuram
        Hotel: A lot of options in Kanchipuram
        Restaurants: Varieties of options in Kanchipuram

        Kanchipuram is an ancient town located near Chennai city in South India which is famous for temples. It is said that there are about 1000 temples in Kanchipuram. 

        Enathur is a small village near Kanchipuram. The village is popular for its 120 feet high statue of Adi Shankara. Nowhere else such a tall statue of Shankara is found and hence this site is unique.  Right behind the statue, there is a library that contains large collection of rare manuscripts from various parts of India.

        Happy travelling.

        Varanasi

        Site Name: Varanasi aka Banaras aka Kashi
        Site Type: Ancient city
        Location:  Uttar Pradesh state, India
        Highlights: One of the most sacred and the oldest cities in India
        Nearest Railway Station: Varanasi
        Nearest Airport: Allahabad
        How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
        Hotel: A lot of options including low cost and free accommodation such as ashrams
        Restaurants: Varieties of options 

        Varanasi is one of the oldest cities of India. It is called in various names such as Kasi, Kashi and Banaras. The city which is located on the banks of the river Ganga is considered as one of the sacred cities for Hindus. From the time immemorial, Kasi has been the center of education, religion, art, culture and heritage. A lot of historical events have been taken place in this city. This city has been widely and repeatedly referred in Indian mythology. Even today the city attracts thousands of pilgrims and equal number of tourists due to its rich heritage and uniqueness. 

        Varnasi has different kinds of attractions - dip in the river Ganga, hundreds of river ghats, aarti of river Ganga in the evening, ancient temples that the city is dotted with, shopping for Banaras silk sarees and lot more. Let me give an overview of the important tourist sites of Varnasi.

        The Ghats of Varanasi

        The ancient city of Kasi is mainly famous because of the river Ganga and its bathing ghats. People flock in large numbers every day to take bath in the river and visit the temples located on the banks of the river. It is believed to be sacred to take a dip in the river in Kasi. It would get rid of you from your sin. Although there are hundreds of ghats in Kasi, five ghats are considered as the most sacred. To complete 'Kasi yatra' one has to take dip in these five ghats without fail (as per the tradition) - Asi Ghat, Dashashwamedha Ghat, Adi Kesava Ghat, Pancha Ganga Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat. 


        Kasi Vishwanatha Temple

        The most important temple of Kasi is Vishwanatha (Lord Shiva). The gold plated 15.5 meter high spire is very popular in this temple. The original temple was built in the time immemorial. The temple was referred in lot of Hindu puranas. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt many times. The previous structure was destroyed by the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb. It was Rani Ahilya Bai of Indore who built the current temple in 1776 CE. The Shiva Linga idol of Vishwanath is very small in size similar to the size of the current structure of temple located in a narrow lane of Kasi.


        Annapurna Temple

        Situated in the lane where Vishwanath temple is the temple dedicated to Annapurna, the Goddess of Kasi.


        New Vishwanatha Temple


        A grand temple of Vishwanatha is situated inside the campus of Banaras Hindu University. This temple was built by the reputed industrialists, Birla family.


        Tulsi Manas Temple

        Tulsi Manas Temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is the place where Tulsidas composed 'Ramacharitramanas'.


        Nepali Temple

        The temple in Lalita Ghat is called as 'Kathwala temple' or 'Nepali temple'. It was built by the King of Nepal. The architecture resembles the Nepali style of architecture. The temple was built in special wood brought from Nepal.


        Dundi Ganesha Temple

        Dundi Ganesha temple is actually a tiny temple. The red-colored stone Ganesha idol is installed in a niche on a wall. That is considered as the temple. Although it is very small, this temple is one of the most important temples in Kasi. People visit this temple first and then only go to Vishwanatha temple. This temple is located in the Vishwanatha temple lane.


        Vishalakshi Temple

        Vishalakshi temple is located near Kasi Vishwanatha temple. It is one of the important sites in the city. Vishalakshi is considered as the consort of Vishwanatha. The temple is built in the temple Dravidian temple architecture style and is managed by South Indians.


        BhairavaTemple

        The city of Kasi is always associated with Kala Bhairava and the cremation of dead bodies on the banks of the river Ganga. Hence, there is a separate temple dedicated to Bhairava.


        Dandapani Temple

        Dandapani is the guardian deity of Kasi. The temple dedicated to him is an important one in the city.


        Bindu Madhava Temple

        Bindu Madhava is another name of Lord Vishnu. The deity is very attractive in this temple.


        Sankat Mochan Temple

        The temple of Sankat Mochan aka Hanuman is spacious and pleasant. It is one of the important temples of Kasi.


        Kedareshwarar Temple

        The temple of Kedareshwara (Lord Shiva) which is located on the Kedar Ghat is one of the oldest temples of Varanasi. People who take a dip in the dip do not miss to visit this temple.


        Kamakoteeswarar Temple

        Kamakoteeswarar temple is built in the typical South Indian temple architecture style. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. A lot of deities are found in this temple.


        Durga Temple

        Durga temple was built in Nagara architecture style in the 18th century CE. It is one of the important temples of Kasi.


        Kaudi Mata Temple

        Kaudi is a kind of shell. This temple dedicated to the mother Goddess Kaudi Mata is famous for the tradition of throwing kaudi on the deity.

        Happy travelling.