March 27, 2015

Modhera Sun Temple

Site Name: Sun Temple
Site Type: Temple, architectural marvel
Location:  Modhera, 100 kms from Ahmedabad, Gujarat state, India
Highlights: An architectural marvel built by Solanki Kings
Nearest Railway Station: Ahmedabad
Nearest Airport: Ahmedabad
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire city
Restaurants: Varieties of options across the entire city

Modhera is a small village located on the banks of the river Pushpavati at a distance of around 100 kms from Ahmedabad city. The highlight of this village is Sun Temple, which was built in 1026 CE by King Bhimdev of Solanki dynasty. It is an architectural marvel similar to the Sun Temple of Konark.

Legend:

As per the legend, the place was called as Dharmaranya in the olden days. After killing Ravana, Lord Ram came to this site as per the advice from the sage Vasistha. He stayed in a village called Modherak and performed yagna here. The village is called as Sitapur nowadays which is around 15 kms from Modhera.

The Sun Temple was built by Bhimdev I of Solanki dynasty in 1026 CE. It should be noted that the Solankis considered themselves as the Suryanvanshis (the descendants of Surya, the Sun God). 

Allauddin Khilji attacked and partially destroyed this temple. Currently, the temple is partially in ruins and prayers are not offered. 

Temple Layout:

The Sun Temple of Modhera has a unique architectural style. It comprises three separate sections called Surya Kund, Sabha Mandapa and Guda Mandapa. All of them are axially aligned. 

Suryakunda which is also called as Ramakunda is a very large rectangular stepped tank. This tank serves as a fine example of geometry. There are 108 small shrines carved in between the steps inside the tank. The sculptures in these sub-shrines are very attractive.

There are two huge ornamental arches which form as gateway to the Sabha Mandapa. The mandapa is open from all the sides. It has 52 intricately carved pillars depicting the episodes from Hindu Puranas and epics. 

The section between the Sabha Mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum is a beautiful hall with pillars and arches. The walls have 12 niches depicting the different aspects of the Sun God in each month. 

In the sanctum sanctorum, the idol of Sun God is missing. The idol of Surya was standing on a chariot carried by seven horses and driven by Arun. It was designed in such a way that the rising and setting Sun rays on two particular days every year fall on this idol. The entire idol along with the chariot and charioteer were made up of gold. It was taken away by Mohammed Ghazni. 

The exterior of the temple wall has different postures of Surya, eight Dikpals, Vishwakarma, Agni, Varuna, Ganesha, Saraswati and also few erotic sculptures.

Happy travelling. 

March 26, 2015

Gandhi Nagar Akshardham Temple

Site Name: Akshardham Temple
Site Type: Temple
Location:  Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat state, India
Highlights: A huge temple complex; one of the largest temples of India; an architectural marvel
Nearest Railway Station: Ahmedabad
Nearest Airport: Ahmedabad
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire city
Restaurants: Varieties of options across the entire city


Gandhi Nagar is the capital city of Gujarat state in India. It is located near the famous Ahmedabad city. Ahmedabad has a lot of important tourist destinations. However, Gandhi Nagar has only few places of interest. Akshardham temple is one of the few important places of interest located in Gandhi Nagar.

Akshardham temple is one of the largest temples of Gujarat state and even the entire nation. It is dedicated to Swami Narayan. 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. This Akshardham temple is much older than the Akshardham temple of New Delhi. 

The temple is spread in a huge area of about 23 acres. It was built in 1992 CE. It came to international attention when two heavily armed terrorists attacked it in 2002 CE. 

The complex consists of temple, gardens, educational centers and even a research center. The main shrine of the temple enshrines the 7 feet high idol of Swaminarayan. The temple structure is intricately carved and is an architectural masterpiece.

The temple structure is located in a garden named Sahajanand Van. It has herbal garden, children park, an artificial lake and waterfalls.

There are three permanent exhibition halls set up to educate the visitors about Swaminarayan and this movement. In the first hall name Sahajanand, the life of Swaminarayan is portrayed through shows and settings. The second hall named as Sat-Chit-Anand presents an IMAX large format film on Swaminarayan. The third hall is called as Nityanand. Here, the visitors can walk through the figures which display the messages of Hinduism. 

Happy travelling.


March 23, 2015

Ahmedabad

Site Name: Ahmedabad
Site Type: City with lot of tourist and shopping options
Location:  Gujarat state, India
Highlights: One of the most important cities of Gujarat
Nearest Railway Station: Ahmedabad
Nearest Airport: Ahmedabad
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire city
Restaurants: Varieties of options across the entire city

Ahmedabad is one of the most important cities of Gujarat state in India. It is the former capital city of the state. There are many tourist destinations including masjids and temples in this city. Let us explore about all the important destinations in Ahmedabad in this article.

In the beginning of the 15th century CE, the local governor of Gujarat, Zafar Khan Muzaffar declared himself independent from the Delhi Sultanate and founded Muzzaffarid dynasty. His grandson Sultan Ahmed Shah converted the forest area on the banks of the river Sabarmati into a new walled city in 1411 CE. 




Hutheesinh Jain Temple

Hutheesinh Jain Temple is the most popular Jain temple in Ahmedabad. This architecturally beautiful temple was built by Shet Hatheesinh, a wealthy trader and his wife Shethani Harkunvar in 1848 CE. The total cost was around INR Eight Lakhs during that period, which was a huge amount.

The main building of the temple is double storied. The main shrine has the big marble idol of Lord Dharmanath, the 15th Jain Tirthankara. There are 11 shrines in the main building. In addition, there are 52 sub-shrines dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras. The front portion of the temple is ornamented by a dome shaped structure.

Sabarmati Ashram

Sabarmati Ashram is the main attraction of Ahmedabad city. This Ashram located on the banks of the river Sabarmati was founded by Mahatma Gandhiji. He lived in this ashram for about 12 years. He led the famous Dandi march from this site. Today, the site has been converted into a museum which displays charkahs and other things related to Gandhiji. For the Gandhian followers, this peaceful site is more like a temple.

Sidi Saiyyed Mosque

Sidi Saiyyed Mosque is one of the most popular mosques in Ahmedabad. It was built in 1573 CE by Sidi Saiyyed, who served in the army of Muzaffar Shah III of the Gujarat Sultanate. The mosque is famous for beautifully carved latticework windows called as jalis. The jalis with the design of intertwined trees and foliage and a palm motif is very attractive and popular. 

The Shaking Minarets

Sidi Bashir mosque, which is located near Ahmedabad Railway Station, has the popular shaking minarets. The mosque was built in 1452 CE. There are two different versions on who built this mosque. As per one version, it was Sidi Bashir, the slave of Sultan Ahmed Shah. As per another version, it was Malik Sarang, a noble in the court of Muhammed Begada, the Sultan of Gujarat. 

The main building of the mosque does not exist today. Only the minarets and arched central gateway remain currently. The building got destroyed in the war between the Gujarat Sultans and Marathas in 1753 CE. 

Both the minarets are very tall and have carved balconies. A gentle shake in either minaret causes the other minaret also to vibrate after a few seconds. Importantly, the connecting passage remains free of vibration. This phenomenon was discovered in the 19th century by a British scholar. However, the actual reason for this still remains mystery. 

There is another mosque named Raj Bibi in Ahmedabad which has the shaking minarets. Unfortunately, one of the minarets was dimantled by the British. They were not successful in putting them back together.

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in entire India. It was built by Ahmed Shah I in 1424 CE. This mosque is architecturally beautiful. The tombs of Ahmed Shah, his son and grandson along with the graves of the wives of Ahmed Shah are located near this masjid.

Happy travelling.


March 17, 2015

Punnai Nallur Kodanda Ram Temple

Site Name: Kodanda Ram Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Punnainallur, near Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The idols of deities are made of Shaligram stones from Nepal; Sugreeva is found along with Ram
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: Budget hotels are found; for better options go to Tanjore city
Restaurants: Many restaurants mostly budget restaurants are found; for better options go to Tanjore


Punnai Nallur is a locality near Tanjore city in South India.The popular temple dedicated to Mariamman is located here. It is one of the most famous temples of mother Goddess and Mariamman in South India. Around 1 km from this famous temple, there is a little known temple of Kodanda Ram is located. Let us explore this temple which has unique features in this article.

Punnai Nallur is a popular place among the devotees thanks to the famous temple of Mari Amman. Thousands of devotees visit this temple everyday. Hardly few of them would know about the Kodanda Ram temple located nearby.

The bow carried by Lord Ram is called as Kodanda. As the main deity (Ram) of this temple carries his Kodanda, the temple is named as Kodanda Ram temple. (Many of the sites, blogs and magazines mention this temple as 'Kothanda Ram' temple, which has annoyingly wrong pronunciation.) It is located at a distance of about 1 km north of Mari Amman Temple. 


Highlights:
  • God Kodanda Ram
  • Sugreeva is found along with Ram, Sita and Lakshman in the main shrine
  • The idols of Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Sugreeva are made of the sacred Shaligrama stone from Nepal
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Punnai
  • The utsava idols are 1400 years old
  • Possibly the only Ram idol made of Shaligrama
  • Built in the 18th century CE

History: 

The Maratha King Pratap Singh ruled Tanjore between 1739 and 1763 CE. He got Shaligrama stones in the form of dowry by his co-father-in-law, the King of Nepal. The stones are very sacred and are found only in the river Gandaki in Nepal. The stones represent Lord Vishnu. Pratap Singh made the idols of Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Sugreeva using the Shaligrama and also built this temple.

The Maratha Queen Emunambal Pahi Saheb had donated about 40 acres of fertile land to this temple in 1892 CE. 

The utsava idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshman are 1400 years old. They were found buried in a village called Puvanur near Needamangalam. 

Temple Layout: 

The east facing temple has a five tiered tower. The vimana above the main shrine is called as Soundarya Vimana.

The sanctum sanctorum has the Shaligrama idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshman. Sugreeva is also found on the other side of Ram. It is unique to find Sugreeva in the main shrine. Possibly, it is the only Ram idol made of Shaligrama. All the idols are big and are found in the standing posture. Another highlight is to find the stone idol along with the bows. Both Ram and Lakshman hold bows in their hands. There are nine bells (Nava Mani) on Ram's kodanda; he is found wearing a ring and has Lakshmi on his chest. Sugreeva is found with crown, moustache and sword. All these idols are found to be extremely beautiful.

There is a separate shrine for Hanuman. He is in the standing posture with a lifted right arm and is holding lotus flower in his left arm. The ceiling of the shrine has the carvings of 12 sun signs. 

The 1400 years old utsava (metal) idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshman are placed in the shrine of Hanuman. Ram's idol is much taller than the other idols. All the idols are very attractive.

Sudarshan with 16 arms with Narasimha on his back side is found in a sub-shrine. There is a small bas-relief of Ganesha and sub-shrine of Alwars located here. 

Facing towards the main shrine, the idol of Garuda instead of Hanuman is found near the bali peetha and the flag staff.

Opposite this temple, there is a small temple dedicated to Hayagreeva-Lakshmi found. It is attached to Ram temple. In Ram temple, the utsava idol of Hayagreeva is found.

Happy travelling. 


March 9, 2015

Punnainallur Mari Amman Temple

Site Name: Mariamman Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Punnainallur, near Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of the most popular Mother Goddess or Mariamman temples
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: Budget hotels are found; for better options go to Tanjore city
Restaurants: Many restaurants mostly budget restaurants are found; for better options go to Tanjore

Punnai Nallur is a locality near Tanjore city in South India.The popular temple dedicated to Mariamman is located here. It is one of the most famous temples of mother Goddess and Mariamman in South India. 

Legend:

The Marathi King Venkoji (1676-1688 CE) of Tanjore went to Samayapuram on a pilgrimage. Samayapuram has a popular temple for Mari Amman. The Goddess appeared in the king's dream and told him that her idol was lying in a forest of Punnai trees near Tanjore. The king immediately found out the location and installed the idol. He also built this temple originally.

It is believed that the daughter of Tulaja Raja (1729-35 CE) of Tanjore regained her lost eyesight after worshiping this Goddess in this temple.

It is also believed that the idol was originally in the form of a white antihill. It was the saint Sadashiva Brahmendra Swamy who made the present idol from the anthill.

Temple Layout:

The east facing temple has a seven tiered tower. Outside the temple compound, there is a very big temple tank located. The surrounding area of the temple is vast and it belongs to this temple. Thousands of devotees use the surrounding area to offer their offering and there are many shops that sell the pooja items. Head tonsuring is one of the major offerings in this temple.

Mari Amman is found in the sitting posture in the sanctum sanctorum. Mari Amman is Renuka Devi, the mother of Lord Parasuram. In Tamil Nadu, she is worshiped as the Mother Goddess and is one of the main village deities. 

There is a separate shrine for utsava metal idol of Mari Amman. There is another shrine dedicated to Vishnu Durga.

The temple has just one prakara. At the entrance of the temple, the idols of Ganesha, Kartikeya, Dharma Shasta with his two consorts are all found.

Happy travelling.


March 8, 2015

Dharmaraja Draupadi Temple - Chennai

Site Name: Dharmaraja Draupadi Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Anna Pillai Street, Sowcarpet, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The oldest temple in Chennai dedicated to Draupadi
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 Dharmaraja Draupdai temple located in Chennai.

Sowcarpet is a congested but popular locality in Chennai. It is part of the original Madras city formed during the British period. In this area, there are many temples dated 300-400 years are located. Dharmaraja-Draupadi temple is one of such temples located here. It is located near Arunachaleshwar temple in Anna Pillai Street in Sowcarpet area.

The temple which is dedicated to the first brother among five Pandava brothers of Mahabharatha epic Yudhishtra (Dharmaraja) and his wife Draupadi is around 350 years old. Although there are many small temples of Draupadi/Dharmaraja in and around Chennai, it is believed to be the oldest in this region. It is the Kula Devta temple of various groups including Marathas, Chettiars, Mudaliyars and Idaiyars.

The east facing temple does not have tower. The sanctum sanctorum enshrines the stone idols of Dharmaraja in the sitting posture and Draupadi in the standing posture. The idols of Ganesha and Krishna are also found in the main shrine. Krishna is found with four arms and holding conch and discus in his fore arms. He is not in his usual posture and looks similar to Maha Vishnu.

The utsava (metal) idols of Ganesha and Draupadi are also placed inside the main shrine.

The temple has just one prakara. In the sub-shrine that is located in the prakara, the utsava metal idols of Arjuna and his wife Subhadra are found. Anyone could mistake this idol for Rama as he is holding bow and arrow. It is very rare to find Arjuna and Subhadra in a temple. Subhadra is generally found along with his brothers Krishna and Balrama in Orissa style temples.

The sub-shrine also enshrines the utsava metal idols of Krishna with his two consorts Rukmini and Bhama. (The temple authorities claim that they are Radha and Rukmini, which is technically wrong according to me.)

The big stucco image of Aravan's head, a small stucco image of Porththu Raja (the general of Pandava army?) and the ferociously looking stucco image of Draupadi are also found in the prakara.

The flag staff and bali peetha are found facing towards the main shrine. The bas-relief image of Porththu Raja is found in the flag staff facing towards the shrine. 

Two big stucco idols of Dwara palikas are located at the entrance of the temple. The top portion of the entrance has the stucco images of five brothers, Krishna and Draupadi as well as Krishna with his two consorts.

Happy travelling.


March 6, 2015

Kodaikanal - the Princess of Hill Stations

Site Name: Kodaikanal
Site Type: Hill station
Location: Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The Princess of Hill Stations
Nearest Railway Station: Kodai Road 
Nearest Airport: Madurai 
How to reach: Well connected by road from 
Dindigul and Madurai
Hotel: A lot of options are available in Kodaikanal and Dindigul
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian and non vegetarian; North Indian, Chinese, South Indian, etc. in Kodaikanal


Don't claim that you have traveled to India if you have not visited Tamil Nadu State. Similarly, don't claim that you have visited Tamil Nadu without traveling to Kodaikanal, the Princess of Hill Stations. Of course, this Princess is much prettier than the Queen of Hill Stations (Ooty). 

Kodaikanal is one of the most important hill stations in India. People from all over the country come to Tamil Nadu state in South India to visit this extraordinarily beautiful hill station.

If you think that Kodaikanal is like any other hill station or city which is just worth to enjoy your holidays for two or three days, you are wrong. Kodaikanal is more than a leisure spot. It has 'life'. The town has unique culture and activities which makes it more interesting. The original citizens of Kodaikanal love this town more than their lives.

There are many Europeans who have made Kodaiknal their homes permanently. There are Americans who can speak Tamil language fluently live in Kodaikanal. There are Parsis who love this land so much that they run many shops which are not meant for profit making. There are doctors and other professionals who have fallen in love in the golf course of Kodaikanal that they settled down here. There are 80/90 years old citizens who are healthy and travel by bus on their own. Go to Seven Road Junction in the evening time - you might see an European singing in front of Daily Bread shop; you might notice people from different countries or races shopping or just wandering around; you might find some American helping out poor children. All these make Kodaikanal a special town, more than a mere holiday destination. 

People generally stay in Kodaikanal for one or two days. Visiting a town without exploring it completely is a sin - believe me :-) . Do not miss any site; explore them completely! let me help you by introducing all the places of interest in Kodaikanal.

When you travel towards Kodaikanal, you can get down at Ghat Road to get distant view of Thalaiyaru waterfalls, the third highest waterfalls in India.

Once you enter into Kodaikanal, the first tourist spot that you spot is Silver Cascade waterfalls.

Cycling, boating and horse riding are some of the things which people identify with Kodaikanal. For all these entertainment activities, you need to go to Kodai Lake. Kodai Lake is situated well within the center of the town. Near the lake, Bryant Park and Coaker's Walk are some of the travel destinations which attract almost all the travelers. Don't miss Seven Road Junction. There are some unique shops such as Daily Bread which are part of heritage of Kodaikanal.

You might have seen Pine Forests in lot of South Indian movies. Most of those scenes were shot in the Pine Forests of Kodaikanal. 

Kodaikanal became very popular in the 19th century CE thanks to American missionaries and British people. Due to this reason, so many places of interest in Kodaikanal are named after Americans and Britishers. Not only Americans and Britisheres, the town has attracted even Israels. You can find an Israel colony in Vattakkanal

The museum located in this town is unique in style. The town also has a small wax museum

A short drive of about one hour would take you to the breathtaking Anju Veedu waterfalls located inside a remote forest. In fact, there are so many waterfalls in and around Kodaikanal. Even Courtallam, the city of waterfalls, cannot compete with Kodaikanal on this. Fairy Falls, Lyril Falls, Bear Shola Falls located insider Shola forest, little known Gundar Falls located inside Pine forest and Pillar Rocks waterfalls are some of the important waterfalls.

Kodaikanal being a hill stations provides a lot of options to enjoy the beauty of valleys, plains and plateaus in the form of view points. Poomparai village view (once you visit you will never forget its beauty in your lifetime), Green Valley view point, Pillar Rocks, Dolphin's Nose (a popular trekking site) and Moir Point are some of the popular view points in and around Kodaikanal. 

The hill station also offers some religiously important sites such as Kulandai Velappar temple, Maha Lakshmi temple and Kurinji Andavar temple for devotees. 

There are many more attractions such as Mannavanur lake, Devil's Kitchen, the exceptionally beautiful Berijam Lake, Chettiar Park and 500 years old tree. 

Happy travelling.