Chaturbhuj Temple of Love Khajuraho Madhya Pradesh

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Chaturbhuj Temple is situated in village Jatakari ,Khajuraho, built in 1100AD , the Chaturbhuj (Lord Vishnu ) means the one with four arms . It is peculiar temple in three distinct characters which differentiate it from other temples of Khajuraho .  It houses the tallest stone carved idol among all the Temples in Khajuraho , only temple in Khajuraho with no Erotic figures, it is also the only important temple in Khajuraho that faces west . 

Chaturbhuj Temple of Love Khajuraho

Standing over a platform with entrance from the West , it is normally  not seen in the Hindu temples but rest all the architecture needs are taken care of like the Mandapa , Garbhagriha and the Shikhara , there are images of Ganga can be identified with the presence of Crocodile and Yamuna can be identified with Turtle , there is a beautiful image of Lord Shiva in his Ardhnarishwar ( half man , half woman) carvings along with the heavenly life .

Main entrance , tallest statue among all the temples at Khajuraho

The main idol is suppose to be of Lord Vishnu but the close observation gives impression of three bodies in one , head with Jata ( hairs) of Lord Shiva , the four arms carrying Lotus, Conch , one arm showering the blessings and the other is giving the Abhay ( fearlessness ) , the standing pasture with one leg resting on toe is a Lord Krishna dancing style ( Incarnation of Lord Vishnu) , near the main idol there are images of Sura – Sundari .

Lord Chaturbhuj , Features of Lord Shiva and Lord Krishana

Beauty of this temple is seen  at sunset the sun comes streaming in and falls on the figure, lighting it in such a way that it appears to be full with life.

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Karnaprayag on way to Sri Kedarnath

Karnaprayag is one of the five holy Prayags  with Alaknanda in Himalayas which all together forms the holy river Ganga , situated at 172 km from Rishikesh at a height of 1451 meters from sea level , it is a Prayag  (confluence ) river Alakhnanda with river Pindar which originates from Pindari glacier in Kumaon region of Uttrakhand . This place is surrounded by the Peaks Nanda Devi ( 7816 meters) , Trishul , Dron Giri , Narad Ghunti , Migathuni and Maikotli ,

Kran Prayag

The temple here is dedicated to Uma and Karna , this temple holds high importance and respect among the local people . The legend is, the name of this place is after the name of Karna from the epic Mahabharata, friend of Duryodhana , son of Kunti who is also mother of five Pandva brothers, Karna who is son of Sun God The Surya  performed his prayers for three years after this he was rewarded a impregnable shield to protect himself, he became unmatched  warrior in the battle field, he was cremated here by Lord Krishna after he was killed in the battle fields of Mahabharat at Kurukshetra .

It is also a place where King Dushyant met Shakuntla, had courtship and she gave birth to Bharat on his name our country is named Bharat,  Abhijanana Shakuntalm play written in Sanskrit  by poet Kalidas in 1st centuary in the period of King Vikramaditya of Ujjain  is based on this legend

Nauti village  is the maternal place of Nanda Devi , It is said that for the past Five Thousand years every twelve years a Nanda Raj Jat Yatra is performed it is the longest and most strenuous pilgrimages done on foot , the male members of Garhwal royal families and Chand Garhi village visits the Nauti village to worship the SRI YANTRA  in a tantrik rites and rituals to invite the sprits of Godess Nanda into the Gold Idol from her husband’s abode  the Himalaya , very strange but true a four horned male sheep is born every time in this period  is given in the custody of royal family to be fed and taken well care of along with the other preparations to perform a 22 days long journey and to leave this Sheep in the Himalayas in Nanda Devi area passing through the age-old legendary Himalayan trek that has so much of traditional religious significance. The beauty of the trek is a picture perfect fusion of high mountain valleys, lakes, streams, glaciers and luminous dense green forests and it is a veritable paradise for trekkers. The Nanda Raj Jat Yatra is a spectacular festival.

Karn Prayag is also a base for Roop Kund and Pindari Glaciers trek.

Swami Vivekanand along with  Guru Turianand ji and Akharanand Ji  meditated here for eighteen days in 1890 when he was wandering and meditating at different places from 1888 till 1893 .

 

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Dev Prayag on way to Yatra Chardham

 

Dev Prayag is the first Prayag ( confluence ) it is 70 km from Rishikesh at a height of 830 meters from sea , it is here the river Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meets,  forms the name Ganga to flow towards Rishikesh into the plains of North India. It is one of the Panch Prayag (five sacred confluences) in the hills and is an important place of pilgrimage for devout Hindu. It is a beautiful village, on the lower side is the Prayag and on the upper side of village is a pyramid  shape stone built temple dedicated to Raghunath Ji Legend is that King Dashrath and lord Ram worshiped here and the temple is built at this place. just before the confluence on Bhagirathi river is the Brham Kund and on Alaknanda is the Vashistha Kund . It is also said that Leprosy is cured if the affected person takes a bath on a rock called Baital shila on the banks here.

It is also famous for the astronomy observatory with age old instruments used for astronomy calculations established by Acharya Pt. Chakradhar Joshi in 1946, having two Telescopes and latest equipment along with a library with a collections of books and manuscripts as old as 17th centenary, it also has the ancient equipment like Surya Ghati, Jal Ghati and Dhruv Ghati, it is situated at a mountain called Dashrathanchal

There are few more temples worth visiting are Danda Naggaraja  (the Snake Lord ) and Chandrabadni temple.  Dhaneshwar Mahadev temple and Mata Bhuvneshwari temple

The cuisines of Devprayag are also rich and famous as Devprayag. Dishes like Singori and Bal Mithai , Singori, traditionally made with khoya wrapped in form of a cone with Maalu leaves. The khoya absorbs the fragrance of Maalu leaves. Bal Mithai is a brown chocolate-like fudge, made with roasted khoya, coated with white sugar balls.

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Yatra Chardham – Yamunotri

Yamunotri is the place where the river Yamuna originates from the Himalayas and flows down to the plains of North India and meets river Ganga at Allahabad ( Prayagraj ), it is situated at the height of 3293 meters from the sea level, the actual source is the Champasar glacier in the Bandar Punch range in the Kalind mountain at 4421 meters above the sea level one km further up, it is difficult to reach their, the temple is at the foot hill. The main Idol of Ma Yamunotri is of a black stone in the shrine which is on the left bank of the river, before paying visit in the temple, there is a hot water spring the Surya Kund where pilgrims first take bath and offer their puja at the Divya Shila then pays respect to the Ma Yamunotri in the shrine, the Yamuna is given a status of Ma ( mother) equivalent to river Ganga.

Ma Yamunotri Temple

Legend

The Asit Rishi who use to take daily bath in the river Ganga and Yamuna had his hermitage here, he in his old age and weakness was finding it difficult to reach Gangotri a stream of Ganga appeared here for him. Another legend associated is that Yamuna is daughter of  Sun God Surya and his consort  Sangya gave her the birth here, the Kalind Parvat is next to the source of the river, Kalind is also  one of the name of Surya .

The temple opens on Akshya Tritya of Vikram Samvat ( the Hindu Calendar) every year which falls somewhere end of April and first half  of May every year.

Best Time to Visit

One can visit upon the opening of the temple till the closing date which is Yam Dwitiya of Vikram Samvat, the two days after Depawali  but the best time is April till June or till the start of monsoon, then best time is September mid till October, during the monsoon there is a danger of land slides, broken roads and flooding of water streams on the way and one may have to be stranded for days to wait for roads to open.

Where to Stay

There are guest houses and dharamshalas at Jankichatti from here the Yamunotri is 6 km trek, the good hotels and Swiss tent accommodations are available at Barkot  which is about 50 km before Jankichatti.

Places Around

Kharsali is the winter seat of Ma Yamunotri , it is also the oldest temple of lord Shani Dev, lord Shanidev is also brother of Ma Yamuna

How to reach here

There are Buses and trains available up to Hardwar or Rishikesh connections from all over India, one can also reach Dehradun by air onward journey could be performed by buses, cars and jeeps , opening of Helicopter service is a big relief for old age people, it is available till Kharsali which is about a kilometer from Jankichatti, from here onward one can walk the 6 km trek , hire a mule or a palki carried by a porter or a pitthu who carries the person in a basket on his back.

Distance Delhi to Rishikesh               230 km

Rishikesh to Barkot                           170 km

Barkot to Jankichatti                           50 km

Jankichatti to Yamunotri                    6 km

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Char Dham Yatra, Holiest Pilgrimage in Himalayas

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Char Dham Yatra is the holiest of journey for Hindus  in Uttarakhand  Himalayas, this pilgrimage starts with the opening of the doors (Kapat) of four temples,  are closed during the winters due to heavy snow , normally opening of doors is announced on Shivaratri.  This year 2016  journey starts from 8th May with opening of Kapats (Doors) 09 May Sri Yamunotri, Sri Gangotri 09 May, Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badrinath on 11May.

The Starting point Yamunotri
The journey starts from Rishikesh full day road journey passing through Dharsu, Sayanachatti and Barkot, entire route is full of beautiful view of snow capped Banderpunch Range, Pine forests and water falls, pilgrims stay at  Hanuman Chatti or Barkot, where most of the hotels, guest houses and dharamshalas are situated, it is also confluence of river Hanuman Ganga and river Yamuna . Next day one is to cover 6 Kms by Jeeps/SUVs up to Janki Chatti , there are guest houses with basic facilities at Janki Chatti the trek 6 Kms . to the Yamunotri Temple starts from here it is on the left bank of the river, a  hot water spring is near the temple the Surya Kund” ,  pilgrims tie potatoes and rice in cloth  dip in boiling hot water of Surya Kund , so cooked rice is taken as prasad back home, pilgrims take bath at  “Gauri Kund  which has hot water suitable for bathing. Prayers are offered first at the Divya Shila a Black stone slab   then in the Temple. The actual source of river  is further ahead 1 Km at  Champasar Glacier on Kalind Mountain, it is very difficult to reach there, people offer the prayers at the temple situated at the foot hill . Pilgrims return  same day and take rest for the next day onward journey to the Gangotri.

The next stop Gangotri

To reach Gangotri we have to returned to Dharsu and then drive to Uttarkashi to reach Harsil a 250 Kms drive, it is a small town famous for its natural beauty, apple orchards, trekking routes to lakes and undiscovered stretches of grassy meadows. One can reach Gangotri by road from here distance 23 Kms passing through pine forests ,  transport is available till the Temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga, on the banks of River Bhagirathi, the glacier mouth is further ahead 18 kms trek, towards Gaumukh, The Ganges is known as Bhagirathi here, it unites with Alaknanda at Devprayag to form Ganges. Temple is at a very picturesque location amidst high mountains , towards east is the Gaumukh Glacier. It is here  the  Bhagirath shila where King Bhagirath performed the tapasya to bring Ganga from the heavens to earth, water is ice cold here , it is difficult to stay in water for even half a minute. This place is at a height of 3142 meters . Those who want to trek to Gaumukh can spend two more days, which needs clearance from the local authorities, the trek passes through Chirwasa and Bhojwasa, Gaumukh is one of the Largest Glacier in the World, on the way one can find the Ibexes(Snow Goat) grazing on high mountains, the opening of glacier to from where it releases water to form Bhagirathi is a shape of Cows mouth that is why it is called Gaumukh. From here one can have a panoramic view of mountains, Shivaling (6540 meters), Meru (6660 meters) and Bhagirathi (6500 meters).

Ma Gangotri Temple

Sri Kedarnath – Lord Shiva’s Abode

Next place in Chardham Yatra is Sri Kedarnath,  Harsil to Uttarkashi is 69 Kms, then to Guptkashi is 230 kms, Total journey time is about 10 hrs. Passing through Srinagar, Uttarakhand, This route is followed by River Mandakini. Hotels, camps and guest houses at Guptkashi are available at a very reasonable price. Morning starts by a travel upto Gauri Kund , a motor able road or to Phata from where Helicopter Service is available to Kedarnath. Gauri Kund the starting point of Kedarnath trek is a hot water spring, here the Goddess Parvathi lived and performed sadhna to please Lord Shiva to finally got married to him. It is also the place where Lord Ganesha acquired the elephant head. 15 kms trek from here is very tough and takes about 4-5 hours.  Rambara . From Rambara the Yatris cross the River Mandakini to reach Limchuli and then to Kedarnath temple . It is at the height of 3585 meters situated near the head of river Mandakini, surrounded by snow capped mountains, it’s name is derived from the King Kedar in the Satya Yuga, his daughter Vrinda who is also an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, this temple existed in the Mahabharata period, when Pandavas performed tapasya (prayers) to please Lord Shiva. It was here the Adi Shankaracharya took samadhi at the age of 32 years,  soon after establishing the four sacred dhams, it is considered a must visit place, there is a small hot water spring which gives relief to the pilgrims from the tiredness of hard journey, there are dharamsalas, camps and small guest houses, the temple opens at 6 o’clock in the morning and closes in the evening, Kedarnath is the highest among the 12 Jyotirlings, it is built of massive stone slabs over a rectangular platform, here Lord Shiva who was evading the Pandavas hide himself as a bull, on being followed, he dived in the ground leaving behind the hump, the conical rock inside the temple is worshiped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form, outside the temple there is a large statue of Nandi Bull as a guard. After the floods of year 2013 a big boulder named as Divya Shila is also worshiped as it saved the temple by obstructing the flow of flood water to cause any damage to the temple.

One has to be careful while staying at night here because of low oxygen concentration at this altitude. Pilgrims are advised not to exert themselves too much and breathe normal. 
Staying overnight and performing poojas in the morning one returns to Gauri Kund and drive to Joshimath, there are two routes, one is which normally pilgrims take is driving through Rudrapryag, second is through Chopta which is the most beautiful, passing through dense forests of Mandal and Gopeshwar, from Chopta one can take a trek to Tungnath, it is Lord Shiva’s temple situated at about 4 kms trek from Chopta. Drive to Joshimath is about 7 hrs. It is better to stay night in Joshimath and take a morning drive to Sri Badrinath  a 44 kms distance is very rough  and takes about 4 hrs drive , on the way is Gobind Ghat from where trek for The Hemkund Sahib, Laxman Temple and Valley of Flowers starts.

Sri Kedarnath Temple Aug 2015

Sri Badrinath The Lord Vishnu Dham

Shri Badrinath Dham is the temple dedicated to lord Vishnu’s dual form Nara-Naryana, the temple is 15 meters tall with top covered with gold gilt roof, it is built of stone with arched windows, the main entrance is a arched gate, inside is mandapa a large pillared hall leading to the Garbha Griha. It is surrounded by Nara-Narayan peaks and in the backdrop is the Neelkanth peak. Legends says that to reduce the impact of Ganga on earth it was split into twelve rivers and one of them is river Alaknanda, the other legend is that the Pandavas passed through Badridham and to Mana village to ended their life by climbing the heights of peak Swargarohini, there is a cave near the village Mana where the Vyas Rishi complied  the Mahabharata. Before entering the temple, pilgrims must take bath in hot water spring at the Tapta Kund and Surya Kund fed by thermal sulphar springs, the boiling hot water falls into ice cold water of Alaknanda creates the steam over the water surface. North of the temple is a Bharama Kapal where Lord Bharama is said to reside, here the last rites of departed souls are performed. There are lots of other places around like foot prints of Lord Narayana on rock is about 3 kms called Charan Paduka, over a kilometer  on the other side of river is Shesh Netra, the eye of Shesh Nag on which the Lord Vishnu rests is seen on a rock, about 8 km. is the source of Alaknanda the Bhagirath Kharak and Satopantha Glaciers this place is called Alka Puri. One can return same day to Joshimath or stay one night to visit all these places. Sri Badri Dham is also referred as Badri Vishal thus giving the supreme status among the all Dhams.

Sri Badrinath Ji Temple

Returning Home

One may stay a full day at Joshimath , take an excursion to Auli which is at the height of 3050 meters, there are Taxis available to reach a famous winter sports destination for Skiing, there is a rare medicinal plants nursery and little above one can trek to Gorson, Tali, Kauri Pass, Khulara and Tapovan. One can have a panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range of Nanda Devi (7818 meters), Mana (7272 meters), Kamet (7728 meters), Mount Neelkanth, Mount Chaukhamba (6874 meters), Mount Hathi Ghora Palki. One can also visit Vishnu Pryag, the confluence of River Alaknanda and Dhauli Ganga from Joshimath .

Return journey starts from Joshimath passing through Rudraprayag and Srinagar, Dev Prayag  and reaching Rishikesh/Hardwar  a 250/275 km. journey for a night stay, participating at Aarti at Ganga Ghats and to leave for home next day.

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Guptkashi on way to Sri Kedarnath

Guptkashi is a village situated at the height of 1319 meters above sea level famous for its Vishwanath temple. The Guptkashi means the Hidden Kashi , it is on the way to Sri Kedarnath, legend is after the Mahabharat war was over the Pandava brothers wanted to wash their sin of killing their own relatives in the war , they were searching the Lord Shiva , Lord Shiva hide himself at this place . It is also said that Lord Shiva proposed to  Parvati here at the confluence of river Son Ganga and Mandakini at Triyuginarayan ( 48 kms) . It is also said that during the Mughal King Aurangzeb period when he ordered to construct the mosque at Vishwanath temple at Varanasi ( Kashi) or Kashi Vishwanath, the original Shiva Lingam was removed from there and brought here to be in safe hiding .

According to the old texts the Purans of Hindus the Kashi and Kanchi are the two eyes of Lord Shiva and there are six more Kashi  sacred and of equal importance as main Kashi the Varanasi or Kashi Vishvanath , those who can’t travel to main Kashi can reach the nearest one , these are Uttarkashi and Guptkashi in Uttrakhand , The Dakshin Kashi in South India, the Bhubneshwar in East of India , Nashik in Western India ( also called Paithan) and Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.

Vishvanath Temple Guptkashi

Vishwanath Temple

It is built of stone with high tower and a wooden frame with sloping roof , at the entrance there are two guards and walls are painted with flowers , main entrance is also guarded by the Bhairov, on the one side is a temple of Ardhnarishvar the half man and half woman form of lord Shiva , outside this temple is the Nandi bull statue made of metal.

Ukhimath

It is the temple across the river Mandakini at Guptkashi , it is the winter seat of the Sri Kedarnath  , there is a small water pond the Manikarnik Kund two water sources the water is coming out of a mouth of cow  is called Ganga  the water is coming out of a elephant trunk  is called Yamuna , the water falls on the Lingam. There is a Stupa which according to the local legends is a grave of Nala one of the characters in Ramayana , The legend also says that the Anirudha the grandson of Lord Krishna  and Usha the daughter of demon King Banasur had affair at Ramgarh ( Ronitpur) this affair led to the war between Banasur and lord Krishna  which resulted in as  end of the Banasur dynasty.

Guptkashi is becoming more important for a night stay on trip to Sri Kedarnath as there are good hotels, guest houses and camps , it is also because of the Phata , Sita Puri and Sirsi helipad ,  people prefer to stay here.

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Yatra Chardham – Hardwar

Yatra Chardham pilgrimage in Gharwal Himalayas Uttrakhand is a devout wish of a Sanatan Hindu since 8th century the establishment of temples or Dhams by the Adi Shankarcharya to make the Sanatan Dharma more strong which was loosing its prominence because of influence from the Jainism and Buddhism which originated from India and had patronage from many kingdoms in the Indian sub continent also because of the strict disciplined form of Sanatan Dharma described by the Brahamins, all these places were rediscovered and reconstructed  by him  which we see as on today, one wonders as to how a man could have reached here and these temples were constructed at  the places with limited resources and the area which are accessible only for about 5 months in a year . Most of the pilgrims visits the main shrines and ignore the other places which are equally important and part of our Purans and Mythology, I will be introducing my readers to these places and associated legends with it.

Hardwar – Har Ki Pauri

Hardwar Har-ki Pauri

This is the place visited by all the pilgrims , a holy dip in the river Ganges here is considered to be absolving of all the sins, legend is, as a result of Churning of Sea by the Asuras and Devs, the Amrit ( Ambrosia) came out and there was a dispute as to who should have it, in between the Garuda took the urn  from the battle field and flew away, the four drops fell on earth at places Ujjain, Nasik, Prayag (Allahabad) and Hardwar , it is at this place in Hardwar the devotes take a bath on the banks of holy river Ma Ganga.

Chandi Devi Temple

It is the most ancient temple of India didicated to Chandi or Chandika , it is said that Ma Parvati assumed the  form of Chandi as a attractive beautiful women to attract the Demon brothers Shumbh and Nishumbh who wanted to marry her, she had to kill the demon chieftains Chanda and Munda before killing the two brothers, after the battle was over the Ma Chandi took rest at this place known as Neel Parvat , near by there are two peaks known as the Demons Shumbha and Nishumbha peaks, here  is another  temple dedicated to Ma Anjana mother of lord Hanuman .

Mansa Devi Temple

It is said that Chandi Devi and Mansa Devi are two forms of Ma Parvati and the temples didicated to each one is always be in close vicinity . The Mansa Devi ( Wish) temple is across the river Ganga on a Bilwa Parvat , Mansa Devi is sister of Nag devta Vasuki and it is a form of Shakti emerged out of the Muni (Sage) Kashapya. It is a Sidh Peeth and people tie a thread to get their wishes fulfilled and return to untie it .

Maya Devi Temple

The ancient name of Hardwar is Mayapuri , the Maya Devi is the Adhisthatri deity of Hardwar , it is said that the Naval and heart of godess Sati fell here and it is a Shakti peeth. It is one of the oldest temple built about one thousand years ago, The goddes Maya with three heads and four arms is in the center the other deites are Ma Kamakhya on the right and Ma Kali on the left .

Saptrishi Ashram

It is said that seven Rishis (sages)  Kashyapa, Vashisht, Atri, Vishwamitra, Jamadagi, Bharadwaja and Gautam. meditated here , the river Ganga never wanted to distrub the meditating Rishis thus splited into seven streams .

It is from here the Yatra Chardham starts with a holy dip at river Ma Ganga and ends with the Aarti at Har Ki Pauri.

 

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Rukmini Devi Temple , Dwarka , Gujarat

Rukmini Devi Temple is also known as Rukshmani Devi Temple situated just outside the Dwarka City in the North direction near the road leading to Bet Dwarka , its construction is of  12th Century with beautiful carvings on pillars and the dome.

It is located on the banks of Bhagirathi River, the Mandir comprises of a beautiful marble deity of Devi Rukmini, with four hands or Chaturbhuja. These four hands hold Shanka, Chakra, Gada and Padma, which symbolic of  her being reincarnation of Goddess Ma Lakshmi.

Rukmini Devi temple Dwarka Gujarat

Rukmini was younger sister of Rukmi and daughter of King Bhishmaka of Vidharba , Rukmi was friend of lord Krishna’s uncle Kansa and never wanted his sister to have relation with Krishna, while coming out of temple Rukmini spotted Krishna and fled with him on his chariot , Krishna won the war with Rukmi and  wanted to kill him but Rukmini prayed to forgive him and Krishna let him go after shaving his head . Krishna had 16108 wife and  made Rukmini Patrani (the chief queen ), to celebrate their marriage they invited Sage Durvasa for a feast , Durvasa accepted the invitation on a condition to accompany them if Krishna and Rukmini will pull  his  chariot instead of bull or horses, on the way Rukmini felt thirsty and requested Krishna to fetch some water for her , Krishna hit the ground with his feet and Bhagirathi appeared at that place and escaping the eyes of Sage Durvasa , gave water to Rukmini to drink,  Durvasa saw this and got angry because he felt insulted being a guest he was to be fed first , he cursed that the Dwarka will not have sweet water , that the Krishna and Rukmini will not live together for 12 years .

Lord Krishna and Rukmini Devi statue

The Rukmini temple is built outside the Dwarka at a place where lord Krishan gave water to Rukmini and had separation due to the curse of Sage Durvasa , away from Dwarka’s Jagat Mandir, even today the drinking for Dwarka is fetch from 100 kms. away  It is widely believed among the devotees that the pilgrimage is incomplete if a devotee doesn’t go to offer prayers at Rukmini Temple even if he worshiped the Lord at Dwarkadheesh temple.

Carvings at dome , Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka

 

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Kawariyas , Devoties of Lord Shiva

Every year in the Shrawan month of the Hindu calender ( July, August ) more then 10 lakh ( one million ) number increasing every year, devotees from various part of North and Central India gathers at Haridwar and Gangotri to to take holy water of river Ganges, carry  it on their shoulders walk to their respective Lord Shiva temple in their city or village and pour it on Shiva Lingam.

The prepration is done much before the Kawariayas leave from their home by observing strict disipline of simple vegetarian food , sleeping on floor and away from induldging sex ,tabaco and alcohol, wearing saffron colour cloths,  they leave from home at least 7 -10 days before Shivaratri after performing the pooja for Haridwar or Gangotri by any means of transport , again after performing the pooja they fill their small copper or brass urns , hang it on a decorated  bamboo stick , wearaing saffron cloths bare foot or non leather sandals or shoes start their return journey back home trekking up to 600 – 700 kms to reach their respective destinations before the Shravan Shiva Ratri . these devotees of Lord Shiva are as young as toddlers with mothers and as old as one can walk long distance I have seen 80 years old covering distance of more than 300 kms with young devotees even crippled , lame and blinds undertaking this journey chanting BOL BUM. One wonders is it just faith that makes them complete such a long journey on foot or there is some divine power which makes them perform to do.

There are kawariyas who carry the Ganga water themself upto their destination , there are another set of Kawariyas who carry it as a relay race a team of devoties accompany in a truck and turn by turn each one carries, walk or run with the Ganga water while others rest and wait for their turn in the vehicle these are called the Dakiyas or the Postmen.

Legend is when the churning of Sea took place ( Samundra Manthan) ambrosia (amrit ) and poison (vish) surfaced. No one wanted to have poison. Yet consuming poison was crucial as it would have caused  destruction had it touched the earth. Lord Shiva drank the poison but kept it holding in his throat which caused tremendous heat in his body. To pacify that heat Gangajal was poured over Lord Shiva.

It is not only a yearly ritual for the Kawariyas to carry  the holy water of Ganges but villagers and people on the way take it as their religious duty to feed ,  medical help , offering foot massage, arranging for night stay and rest to Lord Shiva devotees, large number of camps are erected on highways  from Haridwar to Delhi , Jaipur , Alwar, Agra, and Haridwar to Sahranpur, Ambala , Panipat, Rohtak , the main highway Haridwar to Delhi NH8 is closed for traffic for 4-7 days due to heavy rush of walking Kawariyas back home .

There are similar rituals at Deoghar in Jharkhand state , the devotees over 7-8 million in number bringing holy river Ganga  water from various places and pour it over the Shiva lingam at Baidyanath Dham Deoghar

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Yatra Chardham Uttrakhand in Winters

Yatra Chardham in the Uttrakhand also called the Chota Chardham is a journey of four places or Dhams done from spring to autumn months, and as per the Hindu calender, from Akshaya Tritia till the Bhai Dooj ( April end /May first week till October end / November second week) . During this time, all the roads and trekking routes are accessible and free from any Snow.

During the Winters when all Dhams are closed due to snowfall in the higher  reaches of the Himalaya , the main deities for worship are brought down at the temples located in the villages for the uninterrupted  daily Puja and rituals, one saves on the long uphill treks which are difficult for the Senior Citizens. Hotels are less expensive and temples are not crowded. One can spend as much time to perform the puja and dhyan. The usual Yatra Chardham is of 14 days in summer months from Delhi by road but same journey can be done comfortably  in 10 days in winters

 Ma Yamuna is worshiped at village Kharsali seven kms before the Yamunotri main Temple,  just across river Yamuna at Janki Chatti, it is a picturesque village which has the oldest Lord Shani temple. 

Ma Yamuna stays with her brother Lord Shani during the winters.

Shani Dev , Naag Devta Temple at Kharsali

Ma Ganga is worshiped at village Mukhwa near Harsil. A lesser known and ignored fact about Harsil  is that Harsil is a place where many rivers meet which forms a Maha Prayag like Vishnu Ganga, Jalandhari, Pawan Ganga, Hatya Harini, Kheer Ganga , Kakora, Tilangana and  Bhim Ganga pouring their waters into the main River,  Bhagirathi. 

Harsil’s Mayank Parvat  has mention in Kedarkhand a chapter in Skandh Purana. This place is also famous for Ashram of Maharishi Markandaeya, who composed the Durga Saptshati at Mukhwa

Ma Gangotri Winter Seat , Mukhwa Village , Uttrakhand

Lord Kedarnath ( Lord Shiva) is worshiped at Gupt Kashi  Ukhimath, located on the banks of  Mandakini river, where, during the winter months, the Idols are brought in from the main temple of Sri Kedarnath .

Lord Kedarnath Winter seat , Ukhimath

At Gupt Kashi it is said  “जितने पत्थर उतने शंकर ” (All the stones are Lord Shiva) 

One can visit and offer prayers at places associated with Sanatan HinduMythology, at Guptkashi namely Ardhnarishwara, Manikarnika Kund ( Pond)Love legend of Anirudha (the grand son of Lord Krishna ) and Demon King Banasura‘s daughter Usha and then killing of Banasur, Grave of Nala of epic Ramayna,

One gets a beautiful view of Chaukhamba , Kedarnath and Neelkantha peaks.

Lord Badri Vishal Winter Seat Pandukeshwar , Uttrakhand

 

Lord Badri Vishal is worshiped at Pandukeshwar  during the winters, this place is 18 kms from Joshimath and very close to Govind Ghat. Pandukashwer is also associated with King Pandu father of Five Pandavas of Mahabharata

After the curse from a Sage, ( Rishi) Kindama, mistakenly killed by King Pandu, spent his life here and his queens Kunti and Madri gave birth to the five Pandva brothers, Namely Yudhishthir, Arjun, Bheem, Nakul and Sahdev (in order of their ages, elder first).

Yudhishthir, Arjun and Bheem were born from Kunti and Nakul, Sahdev were born from Madri.

All these places hold equal importance in Sanathan Hindu Mythology, as the main Shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. These places have been the winter seats for these gods for generations.

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