September 27, 2015

Dakor Ranchhodraiji Temple

Site Name: Ranchhodraiji Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple dedicated to Krishna
Location:  Dakor, 100 kms from Ahmedabad, Gujarat state, India
Highlights: One of the most beautiful idols of Lord Krishna
Nearest Railway Station: Dakor
Nearest Airport: Ahmedabad, at a distance of 100 kms
How to reach: Well connected by road from Nadiad, Ahmedabad, Anand and Vadodara
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire city
Restaurants: Varieties of options across the entire city

Dakor is a small town located at a distance of about 30 kms from Nadiad in Gujarat state of India. Thanks to Ranchhodraiji temple located here, Dakor is one of the most important pilgrim towns of Gujarat. The idol of Krishna called as Ranchhodraiji of this site is considered as one of the most beautiful Krishna idols.

Legend/History:

Shiva in Dakor
Although the site is currently associated with Lord Krishna, it was originally associated with Lord Shiva. As per the legend, during the period of Mahabharat, this region was a dense forest with lot of beautiful lakes and streams. A seer named Dank Rishi was performing penance towards Lord Shiva. When Shiva appeared before him, he requested the Almighty to stay in this site forever. Thus, Lord Shiva started staying here in the form of Shiva Linga called as Dankanth Mahadev. Hence, the site got the name as 'Dankpur' which later became Dakur.

Bheem in Dakor
As per another legend, Bheem (one of five Pandavas of Mahabharat epic) and Lord Krishna were passing through this forest once. Bheem quenched his thirsty with the water in a basin near the hermitage of the rishi. He thought of making it wide so that it could quench the thirst of all wild animals in the forest. He stroked using his mace and the result was the formation of a huge tank named Gomati tank, which is found near the temple nowadays. After this, Krishna visited the rishi. The saint requested him to stay here permanently along with Shiva. Krishna promised him to do so after the beginning of Kali Yug.

Popular Legend
There is also another legend associated with this site/temple, which is popular among all the legends. There was a cow herd named Vijayanand lived in Gokul during the period of Lord Krishna. Except him, everyone else was worshiping Krishna on the auspicious day of Holi. However, Krishna disguised himself as his friend and made him to perform Pooja as well as play colors. Later, when he revealed himself, Vijayanand lost his pride and became his devotee. As per the wish of Krishna, he and his wife Sudha were born as Bodana and Gangabai in Dakor after several years. 

Bodana used to grow Tulsi plan in his house and he used to go to Dwarka along with Tulsi leaves to worship Lord Krishna. He became very old and it was practically impossible for him to travel to Dwaraka henceforth. Lord Krishna asked him to bring the bullock cart so that he would travel along with him and settle down in Dakor. When the priests in Dwaraka came to know this, they locked the sanctum sanctorum. However, in the midnight, Lord Krishna broke open the doors and traveled along with Bodana in the bullock cart. 

Before entering Dakor, they stayed under a need tree for one night. As Krishna touched one branch of that tree, that branch alone is believed to give sweet fruits even today. On his way to Dakor, the tree from which the bullock cart was made appeared in the form of a poor Brahmin. Krishna took pity on him and blessed him with Moksha.

The priest class of Dwarka temple were called as Gugli Brahmins. When they did not find the image of deity in Dwarka temple, they started chasing Bodana. As per the advice from Krishna, Bodana hid the idol under the Gomati tank water. The Brahmins killed him with a spear; the spear hit the idol inside the water and blood was oozing out in the tank. It is said even today, the place where the deity was originally hidden has water in red color and is different from other places in the tank. A small temple with the foot prints of Krishna was constructed in this site in the later period. 

The Gugli Brahmins did not want to leave without the idol. They sat on the banks of the tanks and did hunger strike. Krishna ordered the widow of Bodana to give away gold equivalent to the weight of the idol to those Brahmins. He ensured that the idol weighed only equivalent to the weight of a golden nose ring; that's all the poor widow had with her. Still the Brahmins did not leave the place. Krishna told them that they could find the exact replica of this idol in a particular well in Dwarka.

The impatient Brahmins looked at the particular well even before six months got over. They could find a similar idol but smaller in size, which they installed in the Dwarka temple.

Current Temple
For many centuries, the idol was lying in the water in the Gomati tank. Then it was recovered and was installed in Lakshmi temple. In 1770 CE, Shri Gopal Jagannath Tambwekar, who was the banker for the Peshwas and Giakwars, went to pilgrimage to Dwarka from Pune. In his dream, he was asked to visit Dakor by Lord Krishna. He visited Dakor and he liked the idol of Krishna very much. He purchased the land in Dakor and built the huge temple for Lord Krishna in 1772 CE.

Temple Layout:

The 250+ years old Dakor temple is huge but has only one deity, Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna in this temple is one of the most beautiful idols across the globe. The walls of the temple are decorated with few oil paintings and few carvings, which are not the highlight of the temple though. The domes of the Vimana are covered with golden sheets. The temple is open almost for the entire day and the devotees could get the darshan of beautiful Krishna dressed in different bright and colorful dresses.

Happy travelling.

September 20, 2015

Konganeswarar Temple - Thanjavur

Site Name: Konganeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Mela Masi Veethi (West Main Street), Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A little known ancient temple in Tanjore (Thanjavur); Goddess instead of Shiva holds deer and mazhu (pick axe)
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 a little known temple called Konganeswarar temple in this article. Although due to renovation work, the temple lost its antique feel, the temple has an interesting legend and the sculpture of the Goddess has some unique features. Probably, fate plays an important role not only on people but even on the temples. That's why not every eligible person does not get his/her due recognition. Similarly, this great temple remains unknown for people who do not belong to this surrounding of Thanjavur.

Legend:

As per the legend,there was a Siddha named Kongana Siddhar was living in this region of Thanjavur. He was performing penance towards Lord Shiva. The Siddha had the power of merging or uniting anything with him. Once, he made Lord Shiva to enter and get united with his matted hair. The typical activities of the universe got affected without Lord Shiva. Hence, Indra took the form of a tiger and tried to release Shiva from the Siddhar. However, the saint stamped the tiger and did not let it move. Sapta rishis got the task of releasing not only Shiva but even Indra from the Siddhar. They reached this site, lighted deep (lamps) in 11 layers and prayed to the Siddha. He ultimately released Shiva and Indra. In fact, Lord Shiva came out in the form of Jyoti (fire/light). The temple has the idol of Siddhar along with Sapta rishis and a provision to light 11 layers of deep.

It is said that Shiva Linga as well as the Goddess of the temple were installed by Kongana Siddhar. There are few people who claim that they were not installed by him; however, Shiva is called as Konganeswarar as he was worshiped by Kongana Siddhar.

There was a childless person belonging to Chettiar community who lived in this region. He found a beautiful female baby on the banks of the Ayyan Kulam (the temple tank which is found in the opposite direction of the temple). He brought the child to the temple and declared that the baby belonged to the God. When the girl reached appropriate age, the Chettiar tried to get his adopted girl married off. However, she refused to get married to any human being and instead she wanted to marry Lord Shiva in this temple. As she did not find a way to achieve her objective, she banged her head heavily on the walls of the temple. Yoga Vinayakar (Ganesha) of this temple appeared to her and advised her to perform penance towards Shiva. She did so and married Lord Shiva.

You can find the idol of Yoga Vinayakar in this temple. Also, it is believed that the girl is found in the form of Annapoorneswari in a separate shrine in this temple. Also, it is widely believed that Durga and Kali were protecting her when she was doing penance. Hence, they are also found in this temple.

Temple Layout:

The temple is located in the busy West Main Street at the heart of Thanjavur. Although the temple is well known in this area, it remains unknown even to the citizens of Tanjore who reside outside this area. 

The temple is ancient for sure. But to renovation work, it lost its antique feature to great extent. It is not known who built this temple or the period of this temple.

The temple has three tiered Raja Gopuram and faces towards the east direction. The temple is slightly big and even a school is being run in the outer prakara for the past 70-80 years.

The temple tank called as Ayyan Kulam is located in the opposite direction is a popular landmark of this area.

The flag staff (kodi maram) is unusually found under the covered ceiling and not in the open space. The bali peetha is found near Nandi idol and is slightly found away from the flag staff. 

The moola staan (main shrine) enshrines small Shiva Linga idol called as Konganeswarar. The ardha mandapa is long with 2-3 small divisions. In Maha mandapa, all the utsava (metal idols - procession idols) are placed.

The goddess of the temple Gnanambal is found in a separate south facing shrine outside the main shrine. She has four arms and holds deer and mazhu (pick axe) in her upper arms like Shiva. This is very rare. She is found in the standing posture. 

There is another separate shrine for the Goddess Annapoorneswari. On the exterior wall of the shrine, the sculpture of Kali (facing west) is found. Yoga Vinayakar is found nearby in a small shrine. Durga is found in a small east facing shrine separately near the school. 

The idols of Kongana Siddhar along with Sapta Rishis and 11 layers of lamps are found in the inner prakara, which depict the legend of the temple.

The exterior wall of main shrine has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti and Vishnu. Durga and Brahma are not found. As usual, Chandikeshwarar sub-shrine is found.

Some of the other deities found in this temple:
  • Triyambakeshwara - Tripurasundari
  • Vishwanatha - Vishalakshi
  • Sundareswara - Meenakshi
  • Eka Linga
  • Pancha Linga
  • Sadasiva Linga
  • Surya
  • Chandra
  • Bhairava
Some of the sub-shrines found in the temple include:
  • Jwarahareswarar (small Linga) and Kalateeswarar (big Linga) with Nandi (People pray here to get rid of fever).
  • Navagraha
  • Nataraja - Sivakami
  • Manikkatti Vinayakar
  • Murugan with Valli and Devasena
Happy travelling.


September 17, 2015

Siddhesvara Temple - Bhubaneswar

Site Name: Siddhesvara Temple 
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:   Bhubaneswar city, Odisha state, India
Highlights: 12th century period temple built by the Gangas
Nearest Railway Station: Bhubaneswar
Nearest Airport: Bhubaneswar
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: There are many options across the city
Restaurants: Varieties of options

Bhubaneswar, which is the capital city of Odisha (formerly Orissa) state of India, is called as 'the City of Temples'. It once had around 3000 temples and even today hundreds of temples are located in every nook and corner of this heritage rich city. The city is called as Ekamara Kshetra as it has so many Shiva temples. Let us explore one of the most beautiful and popular temples of Bhubaneswar, Siddhesvara Temple.

Location:

Siddhesvara temple is located on the north-west corner of the Mukteswar temple complex. The complex is very popular in Bhubaneswar. From Parasurameswar temple, it is located hardly 300 meters away. 

Introduction:

Siddhesvara temple is one of the temples located in the most beautiful Muktesvar temple complex in Bhubaneswar. Muktesvar temple is called as 'Gem of Odishan temple architecture'. 

The temple can be dated back to the early 12th century CE and was built by the Ganga Kings.

Architecture and Temple Layout:

Siddhesvara temple is a living temple which enshrines Shiva Linga idol in the big main shrine. The temple also has a sub-shrine without any deity. 

The temple's vimana is of rekha order and Jagamohana is of Pidha order and both of them are located on a raised platform. The east facing temple is Pancharatha on plan and Panchanga bada in elevation, while the Jagamohana is Trianga bada in elevation.

The interior of the temple as well as the vimana are plain. However, the exterior wall of the temple has a lot of decorative elements like khakhara mundi, pidha mundi, vajra mundi, stambha motif, etc. and decorative windows.

Ganesha and Kartikeya appear as Parsva devta deities in this temple. The sculpture of Kartikeya is very attractive. He is in the standing posture and has four arms which is slightly unusual in Bhubaneswar temples; he is also accompanied by peacock and cock; a woman attender or his wife stands nearby. 

Happy travelling.



September 11, 2015

Pavagadh

Site Name: Pavagadh Kalika Mata Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Pavagadh, near Halol, Gujarat state, India
Highlights: One of 51 Shakti Peeth temples; a very popular temple of Goddess
Nearest Railway Station: Ahmedabad, 140 kms away
Nearest Airport: Ahmedabad
How to reach: Well connected by road from Vadodara (45 kms away)
Hotel: Not many options nearby
Restaurants: Very few options are there; not highly dependable

Pavagadh Kalika Mata Temple is a very popular temple in Gujarat state of India. Millions of devotees visit this site every year. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peetha temples. 

Highlights:
  • One of the 51 Shakti Peetha temples
  • Goddess Kalika
  • The original temple dates back to 10th or 11th century CE
  • The toe of Shakti fell on this site 

Legend:

As per the Hindu mythology, as Daksha insulted his son in law Lord Shiva, Shiva's wife and Daksha's daughter Sati sacrificed her life. Shiva became very angry and started dancing Rudra Tandava carrying the corpse of Sati. To protect the universe, Lord Vishnu cut down the body of Sati into many pieces. The body parts fell in different sites on the earth; all of those sites became Shakti Peethas. In Pavagadh, it is believed that the toe of Sati fell in this site.

Temple Layout:

Pavagadh is a hilly area and the temple of Kalika is situated atop the hill at around 762 m above sea level. To reach the temple, one has to trek for 5 kms or take the cable car. 

The small temple, which is heavily crowded, has the idol of Kalika Mata in the sanctum sanctorum. The idol has only the head (called as Mukhwato) in red color. She is flanked by Kali and Bahuchara. Also, the Kali yantra is enshrined in the shrine.

The temple is plain in architecture and is located amidst fortifications. There are two altars in front of the temple used for offering sacrifices and for lighting the lamps. 

Happy travelling.


September 6, 2015

Pachai Kali and Pavala Kali - Tanjore

Site Name: Pachai Kali and Pavala Kali Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Mela Masi Veethi, Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: An unusual temple separately dedicated for procession idols
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 Pachai Kali and Pavala Kali temple associated with Kodi Amman temple, which is supposed to be one of the original temples of this city. 

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.

Temple Layout:

Usually the utsava (procession) idols made of metals are also found in the same temple where the main deities are located. However, this temple is unique and is dedicated to the utsava idols of Pachai Kali and Pavala Kali. The main deities are located in Kodi Amman temple in the outskirts of Tanjore city. 

This temple is very small and has two utsava idols adjoining Omli Pillayar temple near Tirugnana Sambandhar mutt in Mela Masi Veethi at the heart of Tanjore city. Though the temple is small, it is very popular 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. 


September 5, 2015

Parasuramesvara Temple - Bhubaneswar

Site Name: Parasuramesvara Temple 
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:   Bhubaneswar city, Odisha state, India
Highlights: An earlier temple architecture that belongs to the 7th century CE
Nearest Railway Station: Bhubaneswar
Nearest Airport: Bhubaneswar
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: There are many options across the city
Restaurants: Varieties of options

Bhubaneswar, which is the capital city of Odisha (formerly Orissa) state of India, is called as 'the City of Temples'. It once had around 3000 temples and even today hundreds of temples are located in every nook and corner of this heritage rich city. The city is called as Ekamara Kshetra as it has so many Shiva temples. Let us explore one of the most beautiful and popular temples of Bhubaneswar, Parasuramesvara Temple.

Location:

Parasuramesvara temple is located on the left side of the Kedara Gauri road leading from Bindu Sagar lake to Kedara Gouri temple.

Introduction:

If you claim that you have visited Odisha or Bhubaneswar without being to Parasuramesvara temple, I would laugh at you. Your visit to Bhubaneswar would be incomplete without visiting this strikingly beautiful temple.

The temple is an example for earlier temple architecture in Bhubaneswar. This Shiva temple is one of the oldest temples of the city. It was built by the Sailobhavas in the first half of the 7th century CE. The Sailobhavas are not known much in the history. Let me give a brief overview about this dynasty.

The Sailobhavas ruled over the coastal region of Orissa in the 6th and 7th century CE. Their kingdom was called as Kangoda Mandala. The first ruler was Pulindasena and the last greatest ruler of the dynasty was Dharmaraja. Their rule ended in 736 CE after the Bhaumakaras raised in the coastal Orissa. The Kings of Sailobhavas were the devotees of Lord Shiva. 


Architecture and Temple Layout:

Main Shrine:

Parasuramesvara temple is a living temple which enshrines Shiva Linga idol. The vimana is of rekha order and the Jagamohana is flat roofed with a clerestory. The style is unique as it belongs to early Kalingan architecture style. 

The temple is triratha on plan and triangabada in elevation. 



Doorjamb:

The west facing temple has two entrances. The main entrances has two dwara palas relief images. The image to the right side of the entrance is unique. The guardian appears in the form of Shiva with Trishul in his arm and serpent on his neck. We cannot have Shiva as the guardian for his own temple. So, I assume he is a dwara pala who resembles Shiva. It appears to be unique. At the top of the entrance, the relief image of Gaja Lakshmi flanked by two elephants are found.

The south facing entrance has more beautiful relief images. Apart from the beautiful dwara palas sculptures, the images of Nayikas, few Mithuna images, lions and different decorations are also found at the doorjamb. The top portion has the image of Ganesha flanked by Ganas.



Vimana:

The vimana is of rekha order and has many beautiful carvings. The main attraction of the vimana is the sculpture of Ravan carrying Kailash where Parvati is seen embracing Shiva out of fear, who are flanked by Ganesha, Kartikeya, a Goddess (Kali?), a skeleton image (who is this?) and few Ganas. Above that the relief image of Nataraja is found. In addition, there are few images of Ganesha, lions and various styles of designs are also found in the Vimana.

Jagamohana:

The Jagamohana of the temple is unique in style. Instead of being a stepped pyramidal tower called as Pidha deula as found in most of the other temples in Bhubaneswar, it has a terraced roof in two stages. It is rectangular in shape with a clerestory. The style is unique as it belongs to early Kalingan architecture style. 


Niche Images:

The exterior walls of the temple has niches which are surrounded in all sides by intricately carved figures. Although there are many small and big niches are found, only two of them are found with the deities. In one niche, Ganesha, an extremely artistic sculpture, is found in the sitting posture with two lion figures at his feet. Another niche has Kartikeya with peacock as the Parsvadevta. 





Other Parts:

Although the interior is plain, the exterior walls of the temple as well as the vimana have a lot of sculptures, carvings and design in various sizes and styles  such as Dikpalas, Sapta Matas, Makara, decorative motifs like scroll works, hamsa, chaitya motifs, amours couples, Vajaramastaka, birds, mythological animals, Varaha, Ganesha, Nataraja, Ravana Anugraha Murti, Shiva-Parvati-Ganesha with Nandi and lion, various lion figures, elephants, battle scene, soldiers fighting wild animals, saints, Kalyana Sundara Murti (Shiva and Parvati getting married and are flanked by Vishnu, Brahma and other deities), Bhikshatana, Goddesses in various forms, eight armed Mahisasuramardhini, Shiva in various forms, etc. There is not even a single piece of stone which is not sculpted. 


This temple is believed to be the first temple in Bhubaneswar to have Sapta Matikas. The Sapta Matas flanked by Ganesha and Veerabhadra found on the exterior wall is a highlight of this temple. 

The temple does not have Nandi.

A Sahasra Linga idol is found in the prakara near the Sapta Matas' sculpture.


Legend:

As per the legend, Parasuram, the Avatar of Vishnu, performed penance towards Shiva in this site. He got the blessings of Shiva. Hence, the Lord got the name 'Parasuramesvara'.


History:

There are three inscriptions found in this temple which determine the age of the temple to the 7th century CE. It was built by the Sailobhavas Kings. 

In the 7th and 8th centuries CE, there were Devadasis dedicated to this temple. 

If you are an art lover, this temple is like a heaven for you. Never miss this great site!

Happy travelling!