Rudraprayag

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Named after Lord Shiva (Rudra), Rudraprayag is situated at the holy confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakani rivers, at a distance of 34 km from Srinagar (Garhwal). The presence of two separate routes for Badrinath and Kedarnath Dham from Rudraprayag render great importance to the place. The entire region is blessed with immense natural beauty, places of religious importance, lakes and glaciers.

Rudra Prayag is a small town that is located in the state of Uttarakhand and in the district of Rudraprayag. The town is situated at the confluence of the River Alaknanda and River Mandakini. It has a special religious significance for many people as well. It is said that the place where the two rivers meet resembles two sisters embracing each other and there is a unique beauty about the place. Many visitors travel to the place to witness this phenomenon every year. The entire area is surrounded by immense beauty and one can see many lakes, glaciers, rivers and streams here. There are a few temples that are located in the town as well and these are a must visit while travelling to Rudra Prayag.

The main temples are the Jagdamaba Temple and the Shiva Temple. The town of Kedarnath which is an important pilgrimage center for many Hindus is located around 86 km from the town of Rudra Prayag and this can be visited as well. The Koteshwar Temple can be seen on the banks of the Alaknanda River and this is also a popular site in the town. Son Prayag and Okhimath are present outside the town and are important religious sites as well.

City Facts

State: Uttarakhand
District: Rudra Prayag
Famous for/as: Pilgrim
Languages: Hindi
Best Season: Oct – Mar
Weather: Summer 22 to 35°C
Winter: 15 to 25°C
Altitude: 895 m
Pincode: 246174
STD code: 01364

Distances

Delhi to Rudra Prayag 357 km

Chandigarh to Rudra Prayag 359 km

Rishikesh to Rudra Prayag 150 km

Corbett National Park to Rudra Prayag 163 km

Haridwar to Rudra Prayag 171 km

Best Season / Best time to visit

The climate of the town is pleasant for many months of the year, especially during the summer season and this is one of the best times to visit the place. The heat is never extreme in the town, even during the peak summer season. Winters are cold and temperatures drop rapidly as this period approaches. Rainfall is also prevalent during the monsoon season.

The temperatures during the summer season are mild and one can have a pleasant experience during this time. The maximum temperature that you can expect during the summer season is around 30°C. The lowest temperature that can be expected during the summer is around 15°C. The months of April, May and June form the summer season.

The monsoon season brings good amount of rainfall to the region and the conditions are generally humid. The humidity can reach up to around 70% during this time. The months from July to September form the winter season.

The winter season is extreme and temperatures can drop to around 0°C during this time. The maximum expected temperature in the winter is around 24°C. The winter period is from the month of December to February.

Attractions & Places to Visit and Explore in Rudraprayag

Chorabari (Gandhi Sarovar)

Only 2 km trek away from Kedarnath. Floating-ice on the crystal clear waters of the lake fascinates the visitors.

Vasuki Tal (6 Km)

vasuki_tal_0 A picturesque lake, 4,135 m above sea level is surrounded by lofty mountains and offers a commanding view of the Chaukhamba peaks.

Gaurikund

It is base to the Kedarnath trek. The village has hot water springs and a temple dedicated to Goddess Gauri.

Son Prayag

Located at an elevation of 1829 m and on the main Kedarnath route, Son Prayag lies at the confluence of river Basuki and Mandakani. The holy site of Son Prayag is of immense religious significance. It is said that a mere touch of the holy water of Son Prayag helps one attain a place in the “Baikunth Dham”.

Trijuginarayan

trijugi_narayan According to legend, this was the place where wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati was solemnized. In front of the Shiva Temple is an eternal flame, which is said to be witness of the marriage. It can be reached by a 12 km drive from Son Prayag.

Ukimath

Winter home of the deity at Kedarnath temple and the seat of the Rawal of Kedarnath. Connected by bus services to Rudraprayag and other major centres.

Agastya Muni

The temple of sage Agastya is the main attraction here.

Panch Kedar

Madhyamaheshwar, Tungnath, Rudranath and Kalpnath with Kedarnath form the Panch Kedar, the five most important temples of Lord Shiva in Garhwal Himalayas.

Madhyamaheshwar

madhmaheshwar One of the Panch Kedars, the temple of Madhyamaheshwar is located at an altitude of 3,289 m above sea level, on the slope of a ridge, 25 km northeast of Guptkashi. There is a motor able road from Guptkashi to Kalimath. The best statue of Har Gauri in India measuring over a metre high is found in the Kali temple. The trek from Kalimath to Madhyamaheshwar is distinguished by wild unparalleled scenic beauty and engulfed by Chaukhamba, Kedarnath and Neelkanth peaks. Gaundar at the confluence of Madhyamaheshwar Ganga and Markanga Ganga, is the last settlement before one reaches Madhyamaheshwar, the place where Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of belly.

Tungnath

The arms of Lord Shiva came out as per the Kedarnath myth, at Tungnath. He is worshipped here as one of the Panch Kedars. Tungnath Temple at an altitude of 3,680 m is the highest Shiva shrine among the Panch Kedars but the easiest to reach from Chopta, the nearest road head.

Chorbari Bamak Glacier

chorbari_bamak_glacier Chorbari Bamak Glacier is situtated in district Rudraprayag. The glacier is 6 km long and originates from the southern slope of Kedar-dome, Bhartekhunta and Kirti Stambh and this hill range is the water divide which separates the Gangotri group of glaciers and the Chorbari glacier. Several hanging glaciers and avalanche chutes feed the glacier. The lower part of the glacier is covered by thick debris and bounded by huge deposits of lateral moraines. The glacier starts from its accumulation zone (600 m) and terminates at an elevation of 3800 m, from where a snow – melt stream originates, called Mandakani and merges into the Alaknanda at Rudraprayag.The glacier is approachable by road up to Gaurikund via Rudraprayag, Guptkashi and Son Prayag. From Gaurikund, a trek runs over the hilly slopes up to Kedarnath temple. From Kedarnath temple, there is a 3 km footpath to the glacier snout. Between the rock face and right lateral moraine of the glacier, there is a lake formed by glacier melted water called Ganghi-Sarovar.

How to Reach Here

By air: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest Airport to Rudraprayag situated at a distance of 159kms. Jolly Grant Airport is well connected to Delhi with daily flights. Rudraprayag is well connected by motorable roads with Jolly Grant Airport. Taxis are available from Jolly Grant Airport to Rishikesh, Devprayag and Rudraprayag.

By road: Rudraprayag is well connected by motorable roads with major destinations of Uttarakhand and northern states of India. Buses to Rudraprayag and Rishikesh are available from ISBT Kashmiri Gate. Buses and Taxis to Rudraprayag are easily available from major destinations of Uttarakhand like Dehradun, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Pauri, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Srinagar etc. Rudraprayag lies on National Highway 58 from where road diverts to two major destinations Kedarnath and Badrinath.

By rail: The nearest railway station to Rudraprayag is Rishikesh. Rishikesh railway station is situated 140kms before Rudraprayag on NH58. Rishikesh is well connected by railway networks with major destinations of India. Trains to Rishikesh are frequent and Rudraprayag is well connected by motorable roads with Rishikesh. Taxis and buses are easily available from Rishikesh to Rudraprayag.

Image & Information copyright by uttarakhandtourism.gov.in

Yamunotri

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Situated amidst the Garhwal Himalayas, Yamunotri in the state of Uttarakhand is naturally bestowed with abundant beauty and charm. At a hovering altitude of 3293 meters, Yamunotri lies adjacent to the Indo-Chinese border and is encircled by the lofty peaks on all sides. One of the holiest centers in the Hindu pantheon, this sacred abode of the Asti muni boast of so many unparallel vistas of nature.

Highly revered as the origin of the majestic River Yamuna, Yamunotri is famed for its glaciers, and thermal springs that makes it one of the most important stopovers in the schedule of a Hindu pilgrim. According to Hindu tradition, Yamuna is the sister of Yama, the god of death and a holy dip in this river secures a painless death to the devotee.

A thrilling and exhilarating location in the footsteps of Garhwal mountain ranges, Yamunotri proffers picturesque surroundings with the awesome shrubs, lush meadows and gushing cascades. A legendary place, which demands lots of courage and stamina to reach, Yamunotri would be a perfect place for those who love escapades. The trek to Yamunotri is magnificent, subjugated by mind stilling views of craggy peaks and intense forests.

From the snow-clad summits to the turquoise lakes, Yamunothri has unbelievably romantic allures on store for those who are young at heart. Its imposing walking trails beside the gushing streams presents some of the spectacular moments that one could never forget.

City Facts

State: Uttarakhand
District: Uttarkashi
Famous for/as: Pilgrim, Trekking
Languages: Hindi, Garhwali
Best Season: Apr – Oct
Weather: Summer 6 to 20°C
Winter: -7 to 5°C
Altitude: 3235 m
Pincode: 249193
STD code: 01374

Distances

Chandigarh to Yamunotri 394 km

Delhi to Yamunotri 419 km

Shimla Manali to Yamunotri 509 km

Nagpur to Yamunotri 1470 km

Mumbai to Yamunotri 1795 km

Best Season / Best time to visit

Yamunotri has an all year cold climate. Summers during April to July are pleasant with temperature ranges within 6°C to 20°C and May-June are the warmest months. Winters during October to March are chilly freeze have temperatures at sub-zero level and are characterized by heavy snowfalls. This season is not suited for any outdoor activities, especially December and January. Rainfalls are very scanty here.

Basant Panchami held during January–February is a festival which is a blend of cultural and artistic performances. Other festivals celebrated with lots of enthusiasm are Phool Devi during March and Olgia during August.

Best periods to visit Yamunotri are during May to June and September to November.

Attractions & Places to Visit and Explore in Yamunotri

Yamunotri Temple

yamunotri_temple2 Yamunotri is one of the Char Dham and it is also first place to visit in the Char Dham Circuit. Thousands of devotees visit the sacred shrine of Yamunotri temple every month from May to October. Yamunotri Temple was constructed by Maharaja Pratap Shah of Tehri Garhwal. The temple opens on the auspicious day of Akshay Tritiya and closes on the second day after Diwali festival. The temple holds immense importance amongst the Hindus. Yamunotri is the source of the Yamuna River which is one of the major rivers of India.

Janki Chatti

It is the midpoint of the trek to Yamunotri which is accessible by jeeps. Janki Chatti is situated 7kms before Yamunotri and this place is popular for thermal springs.

Surya Kund

surya_kund There are many natural thermal springs in Yamunotri of which Surya Kund is renowned. The water of Surya Kund has a surprising temperature of 1900F. Pilgrims tie potatoes and rice to cook it by immersing it under water of Surya Kund. After cooking it is served as ‘prasad’.

Divya Shilla

Divya Shilla is a rock pillar which is worshipped before entering the divine Yamunotri temple.

How to Reach Here

By air: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest Airport to Yamunotri situated at a distance of 210kms. Jolly Grant Airport is well connected to Delhi with daily flights. Hanuman Chatti is directly not connected by motorable roads with Jolly Grant Airport. Taxis are available from Jolly Grant Airport to Hanuman Chatti.

By road: Yamunotri is directly not connected with motorable roads and the trek commences from Hanuman Chatti. Hanuman Chatti is well connected by motorable roads with major destinations of Uttarakhand state. Buses to Rishikesh are available from ISBT Kashmiri Gate. Buses and Taxis to Hanuman Chatti are easily available from major destinations of Uttarakhand state like Rishikesh, Dehradun, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Barkot etc.

By rail: The nearest railway stations to Yamunotri are Rishikesh and Dehradun. Dehradun railway station is situated 175kms from Yamunotri and Rishikesh railway station is situated 200kms before Yamunotri on NH58. Rishikesh and Dehradun are well connected by railway networks with major destinations of India. Trains to Rishikesh are frequent. Hanuman Chatti is well connected by motorable roads with Rishikesh and Dehradun. Taxis and buses are available from Rishikesh, Tehri Garhwal, Uttarkashi and Barkot and many other destinations to Hanuman Chatti.

Image & Information copyright by uttarakhandtourism.gov.in

Bikaner

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Bikaner is home to one of the only two models of the biplane used by the British during World War I. They were presented by the British to Maharaja Ganga Singh, then ruler of the city. Another unique aspect about Bikaner are the sand dunes that are scattered throughout the district, especially from the north-east down to the southern area. Bikaner is situated in the northern region of Rajasthan. One of the earlier established cities, Bikaner still displays its ancient opulence through palaces and forts, built of red sandstone, that have withstood the passage of time. The city boasts of some of the world’s best riding camels and is aptly nicknamed ‘camel country’. It is also home to one of the world’s largest camel research and breeding farms; as well as being known for having its own unique temple dedicated to Karni Mata at Deshnok, called the Rats Temple.

The origins of Bikaner can be traced back to 1488 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji, founded the kingdom. Legend has it that Bikaji, one of Rao Jodhaji’s five sons, left his father’s Durbar in annoyance after an insensitive remark from his father, the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. Bikaji travelled far and when he came upon the wilderness called Jangladesh, he decided to set up his own kingdom and transformed it into an impressive city.

Attractions & Places to Visit and Explore in Bikaner

Junagarh Fort

35 Junagarh is an impregnable bastion that holds the distinction of having never been captured. It was constructed in 1588 AD by Raja Rai Singh, one of Emperor Akbar’s most distinguished generals. The fort complex houses some magnificent palaces constructed in red sandstone and marble and visitors can feast their eyes on an attractive assortment of courtyards, balconies, kiosks and windows.

National Research Centre on Camel

36 The National Research Centre on Camel is 8 kilometres from the city. This camel research and breeding centre is the only one of its kind in Asia. The centre is spread out over 2000 acres of semi-arid land and is managed by the Government of India.

Lalgarh Palace and Museum

37 Maharaja Ganga Singh commissioned the construction of this majestic palace. This architectural marvel is made entirely of red sandstone and was built in 1902 to commemorate his father, Maharaja Lal Singh. The design was conceptualised by Sir Swinton Jacob, who created this oriental fantasy by blending Rajputana, Islamic and European architecture.

Rampuria Haveli

38 Bikaner has several havelis (aristocratic homes), the most famous cluster being the Rampuria Group of Havelis. Built of dulmera (red) stone, every aspect of the havelis – jharokhas (casements), entrances, latticed windows, divankhanas, gumaharias or basements – is simply exotic. Leaves and flowers decorate every jharokha, lending it a pleasant touch. These massive havelis are decorated with golden work of the highest quality. Their dankhanas (drawing room) take one back to the Mughal and Rajput era. One can notice an abundance of Victorian influence in their design as well. The wood carvings in Rampuria Havelies are extremely exquisite. Spaced close to each other, the havelis are truly a sight to behold.

Ganga Government Museum

39 Described as the best museum in the State, the museum contains a rich display of archaeological artefacts from Harappa and the early Gupta periods. There are separate sections for paintings, arts and craft, woven carpets, clay pottery, ancient coins and Rajput weaponry.

Laxmi Niwas Palace

40 Laxmi Niwas Palace was the residence of the king of Bikaner, Maharaja Ganga Singh. Built between 1898 and 1902 by British architect Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, this structure displays an Indo-Saracenic architectural style. It is now a luxury hotel.

Prachina Museum

41 Located in the great Junagarh Fort, this museum hosts royal costumes, textiles and accessories of Rajasthani royalty. The ‘Poshaks’ (garments worn by ladies) are a reminder of the now lost craft of traditional designs, styles and workmanship. The family portraits on display narrate a story about how changing cultural settings influenced the style of immortalising the former rulers.

Deshnok Karni Mata Temple

43 The Karni Mata Temple at Deshnok is a beautiful structure made of stone and marble, inside which resides an image of Karni Mata. The image is decorated with a ‘mukut’ (tiara) and garlands. The images of her sisters and the sisters of Avad Mata give her company on either side. The temple is known the world over for the presence of kabas (rats) that roam freely within the temple precincts.

Jain Temple Bhandasar

44 Jain Temple Bhandasar is a 15th century temple dedicated to the 5th Tirthankar (a person that has conquered the cycle of life, death and rebirth and paved the path for others to attain nirvana), Sumatinathji, and is one of the oldest monuments of Bikaner. The temple design includes intricate mirror work, murals and gold leaf paintings. Devotees throng to the temple from all corners of the country.

Kodamdesar Temple

45 24 kilometres from Bikaner is the Kodamdesar Temple. Kodamdesar Bhainru Ji was installed by Rao Bikaji sometime during the first three years of his arrival from Jodhpur. This place of worship was initially chosen as the site to lay the foundation of Bikaner, but was later shifted to its present location.

Shri Laxminath Temple

46 The rulers of Bikaner regarded Lord Laxminathji (Lord Vishnu) as the real king of Bikaner and themselves as his Deewans or Ministers. This temple, made of marble and red stone, was constructed to enshrine Lord Laxminath whose throne rests here.

Shiv Bari Temple

47 Located just 6 kilometres from Bikaner, this Shiva temple is fortified by a high wall. It was commissioned and built by Maharaja Doongar Singh in the 19th century to commemorate his father Maharaja Lal Singh. The highlights of this red stone temple are beautiful wall paintings, the four-faced black marble Shiva statue and a bronze Nandi statue facing the Shiva-Lingam. The temple also houses two large reservoirs of water known as bawaris.

Gajner Palace and Lake

48 Gajner is an incomparable jewel of the Thar. The Gajner Palace was founded by Maharaja Gaj Singh ji of Bikaner in the year 1784, and then completed by the great Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner on the banks of the lake. It was meant to serve as a hunting and relaxing lodge for the royal family as well as for visiting guests. It has now been converted into a hotel.

Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary

49 Barely 32 kilometres from Bikaner, on the Jaisalmer road, is a lush green forest which is a haven to the nilgai, chinkara, black buck, wild boar, flocks of imperial sand grouse and many other species of migratory birds that make the sprawling forest their winter home.

Devi Kund

50 8 kilometres from Bikaner is the royal crematorium. It has several exquisite chhatris (cenotaphs), each dedicated to the memory of a ruler of the Bikaji dynasty and situated on the exact spot where each of them was cremated. The chhatri of Maharaj Surat Singh is a fine example of the architecture of that era. Devi Kund also has cenotaphs of 22 female members of the royal family prior to Maharaja Gaj Sigh Ji, who committed sati. There is also one cenotaph of a Sata (male sati) of a ruler. Maharaja Surat Singh’s Chhatri is built entirely in white marble with spectacular Rajput paintings on its ceiling.

Rajasthan State Archives

51 Visitors to the archives are mostly researchers and academicians who come here to study the ancient administrative records that are preserved here. Some of the records date back to the Mughal period and include, among others, Persian Farmans, Nishans, Manshurs, etc. Records created during the administration of the various princely states of Rajasthan can also be found here. This exceptional collection is of immense value.

Kolayat

52 Kolayat is an important pilgrimage place for Hindus. Locals as well as devotees from distant places visit this temple complex every year. History tells the story of Kapil Muni, the advocate of Shankya yoga, who was so mesmerised by the serenity of this place that he interrupted his journey to the northwest and stopped here to carry out a ‘tapasya’ (penance) for the redemption of the world. The main attractions of the town are its several temples, ghats, the sacred lake and the town market. Kolayat is about 50 kilometres from Bikaner.

Katariasar Village

53 45 kilometers from Bikaner on the Jaipur Road is a village rich in ethnic, rural and cultural life. In Katariasar, one can walk on sand dunes and view the sunset against the desert landscape. The main attraction of this village is its inhabitants, the Jasnathjis, who are fire dancers. Herds of chinkaras, desert foxes, rabbits, peacocks, parrots and partridges can be spotted here.

How to Reach Here

By air: The nearest airport is Civil Airport at Jodhpur which is 253 kilometres away.

By road: The bus stand is north of the city centre. There are frequent express buses to Agra, Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Barmer, Delhi, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jhunjhunu, Jodhpur, Kota and Udaipur.

By rail: Bikaner has railway connections to several destinations in India including Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Churu, Jodhpur, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati etc.

Image & Information copyright by tourism.rajasthan.gov.in and Vinay Joshi

Dakor

Dakore_temple_-_By_Ashesh_Shah

The city of Dakor is a mythological cauldron, and being there is like taking a drink from fabled waters.

Once a sleepy village, it used to crackle with a large number of khakhra (Butea monosperma) trees and was therefore often called a ‘Khakhariu gaam’. It is said that Rishi Dank had his ashram here, so the temple and the village are named after him as Dankpur or Dakor, and the Danknath Mahadev temple stands on the banks of Gomti Lake. As you approach from faraway you see the swaying flag on the tall and beautiful shikhar of the Ranchhodrai Dakor Temple inviting pilgrims. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Mirabai have both come here to pay homage to its idol.

On purnima (full moon) every month this temple town awakens to thousands of visitors in colorful festivity. Inspired by the revered legend of Bodana, many devotees even today come on foot from great distances. But remember, your Dakor adventure is complete only after tasting its lip-smacking gotas accompanied by tea or dahi (yogurt).

The legend of Bodana

13925198467_e72a21d8ae ‘Vijayanand Bodana’, a Rajput of Dakor, walked every six months to Dwarka to worship Lord Krishna. He did this tirelessly and unfailingly until he was 72 years old, at which point the long journey became increasingly difficult for him. Feeling compassion for this faithful devotee, the idol of Krishna directed him in a dream to bring a bullock-cart on his ensuing visit to Dwarka. At midnight, the Krishna idol broke open all the doors of the Dwarka temple, awoke Bodana and told him to take him to Dakor. Near Bileshwar Mahadev on Dakor-Nadiad road, they rested for some time. Sri Krishna touched the branch of a Neem tree, and to this day that tree is said to have one sweet branch, though the rest of the branches are bitter.

In Dwarka, the angry Gugli brahmins, finding the idol of Krishna missing, chased Bodana and accidentally killed him. The Guglis were not ready to return to Dwarka without the Krishna idol. At last, Krishna asked Gangabai, the poor widow of Bodana, to give gold equivalent to the weight of the idol and ask the Guglis to return to Dwarka. The Guglis agreed, but all she possessed was a gold nose-ring. Miraculously, when weighed, the idol became as light as the nose-ring. The Guglis were disappointed but Krishna mercifully directed that they would find after six months an exact replica of the idol in Sevaradhan Vav at Dwarka. The impatient Guglis looked for the idol sometime earlier than they were told and as a result, found an idol which, though similar to the original one, was smaller. The original idol remained in Dakor. Even today on every purnima (full moon), pilgrims walk here from far away places to commemorate Bodana’s devotion.

Hidimba Van and Rishi Dank

In the past, Kheda district was known as ‘Hidimba Van’. This is where the Mahabharata hero Bhimsen killed a demon and married Hidimba.

Rishi Dank had his hermitage in the fertile lands of Dakor, then called Dankpur after the name of the rishi. It is said that Shiva, pleased by the rishi’s devotion, granted his wish and stayed in his hermitage in the form of a linga. At present the linga stands as Danknath Mahadev temple on the bank of the holy pond Gomti.

How to get there

By road: Dakor is in Thasra taluka of Kheda District, 43 km northeast of Anand, and 35 km east of Nadiad. Private and ST buses are available from Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Anand.

By rail: Nadiad and Anand are the nearest major railway stations. There is also a slow-train branch line terminus at Umreth, 7 km away.

By air: The nearest airport is in Vadodara- 78 km south, but the Ahmedabad airport- 90 km to the northwest, is not much further and has far more flights.

Image copyright by upload.wikimedia.org & flickr.com

Modhera Sun Temple

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History

As one traverses the length and breadth of Gujarat, one constantly stumbles across architectural legacies of the’ Solanki’ rule. You keep coming across, living spaces and monuments of another time, offering an eclectic glimpse of the artistic and ingenious beauty that makes this exotically state vibrant.

A soothing drive amidst green farmlands just 35 km away from Mehsana on the way to the temples of goddess Bahucharaji reposes the village of Modhera. Set along the backdrop of River Pushpavati, surrounded by a terra-formed garden of flowering trees and songs of birds, rests the famed Sun temple of Modhera.

As you relax and soothe your nerves, become one with nature and open your mind to the poetry in stone, dedicated to the sun god, living glimpses of the era far elapsed emerge out of the intricacies of narrative sculptures . The remains of the Sun Temples at Modhera are relics of times gone by when reverence of the natural elements fire, air, earth, water and sky were at their peak sharing space with myriad manifestations of Vedic gods. The ancient philosophy venerating natural elements and its association with humans was considered the prime force and energy of the life cycle. A walk around the serene temple campus makes you aware of the positively strong aura of energy which the place radiates and through it brings one closer to the environs.

The exclusively carved temple complex and the magnificently sculpted kund are jewels in the art of masonry of the Solanki period apparently which was also known as the Golden Age of Gujarat. Savor your voyage through time to the magnificent eons of the Golden period as you get welcomed personally by the life like icons, narrating stories and legends of Modhera!

Things to do

Modhera is an ideal destination for being away from the hustle-bustle of city life for a day. The unruffled peaceful landscape and the majestically welcoming temple complex will ensure to take you away from the mundane routines of daily life to the glorious times back in the Golden Age.

Sun_Temple_Modhera,_Gujarat As you enter the historical complex, you first come across the magnificent kund known as the Ramakund, built in rectangular shape containing 108 shrines to various gods and demi-gods. Check out the three main shrines positioned on the three sides of the kund, dedicated to Ganesh and Vishnu and an image of Lord Shiva dancing the ‘tandav’ facing the temple of the sun which covers the fourth side. Various shrines showcasing different mudras are arrayed along the staggered configuration of steps leading down to the base of the ‘Kund’.Try following the rhythmic ups and downs of the steps.

Beautiful_Modhera_Sun_Temple Walk up the steps to the ‘Sabha Mandap’ or the assembly and convene with sculpted renderings of twelve ‘Adityas’ (another name for the sun god). The twelve representations carved on the pillars represent the sun according to the twelve months. It is believed that these ‘Adityas’ are the base myth to the temple of sun, the legend imparts Aditya’s to be sons of ‘Aditi’, the goddess of Infinity and the constant within the inter-connectedness of the universe.

Erotic_Art_of_Sun_Temple_at_Modhera,_Gujarat If you love listening to stories, make sure you find the purohit or priest who has been taking care of the temple, and stays close to the vicinity. Request him to narrate or explain the tales and sequences from epics and legends which are carved on the 52 pillars adding grace and poise to the temple section. Even if you do not find him around, do go through the carved murals which serve as a virtual encyclopedia of history of communities, lessons in mortality, descriptions of fairs and festivals and rituals of the golden era. If time permits may be you can examine each panel in turn and witness the intricate details encompassing the panels speaking and sharing about their costumes, jewelry, performing arts, erotica and the intensely enigmatic art of making love, medicinal plants, and the pharmacopoeia etched in stone.

After witnessing and traveling across time with the raconteur figurines, a visit to the Garbagruha will definitely feel as a spiritual experience. The statue of the sun god no longer exists and the Suryavanshi Solanki’s have been scattered into the dust of history since a thousand years but still on the day of the Equinox, one can almost hear the chanting of the prayers, the aroma of incense, the tinkling of bells as the sharp, linear rays of the sun illuminate the inner core of life and light.

Do enjoy sitting under those shady trees and feel the tranquility and bliss of being part of the magnificent temple complex of Modhera!

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Background

Legendary Past

Although the districts of Patan and Mehsana are best remembered for the historical lineage of the Solanki dynasty, the area around Modhera traces its origins to antiquity. Puranic references refer to the place as ‘Modherak’ or ‘Moherak’ meaning mounds of the dead, and the locale has seen layers upon layers of settlements. Jain Manuscripts refer to the land as ‘Bhagvad Gram’. The Brahmapurana and the Skandapurana, alludes the legendary land of ‘Dharmavanyakshetra’ or land of righteousness to the area around Modhera.

Legend narrates that after vanquishing Ravanain battle, Lord Rama and Sita halted here on their way back. After due consultations with sage Vashishtha, Lord Rama decided to conduct a yagna here to cleanse himself of the sin of killing a Brahmin, namely Ravana who was a Shaivite and one of Shiva’s most glorious disciples. This yagna was performed by a local Brahmin belonging to the Modh community thus originated the name Modhera. There is even a temple of Modheshwari, a manifestation of the mother goddess near by.

Foundation of the Temple Complex

Rainbows of light cutting swathes of illumination on grandiose sandstone edifices of Modhera, marks the pinnacle of Solanki architecture. The temple complex was constructed as a magnificent offering in sculpture to the lord of life and light, fiery Surya, the sun god, under the patronage of Bhimdev I in the year 1027 AD. The king was a patron of the arts and an equal supporter of all religions.The Solanki kings of Anhilwad Patan enshrined their eminence in history through stone, most notably the Rani-ki-vav at Patan, the Jain temples at Taranga, Rudra Mahal at Sidhpur, and the sun temple at Modhera which incidentally is the only temple structure to have a ‘kund’ or ceremonial tank seamlessly dovetailing into the main complex thus emphasizing the dichotomy of the elements of fire and water.

The ‘Silavats’ were image or idol makers with an oral tradition of temple engineering. The temple complex is a marvel of planning engineering, mirroring their principles of ‘vaastu shastra’ and astronomy. Supervised by a mistry or elder, workmen chipped away at stone creating marvels of flora and fauna, creatures of fantasy, panels of narrative art depicting myth and legends and graphical impressions of geometrical shapes.

The temple is a classic example of the material aspect of Solanki architecture, namely a mastery over the elegantly intricate carving of stone and the judicious use of lime mortar. Ensconced in an undulating landscape of green foliage, the design element of the temple follows the tenets of Vastu – Shilpa. The kund and the entrance passageway face east in an aura of welcome to the tantalizing rays of the sun, and the entire structure floats on a plinth resembling a flowering lotus as an ablution to the sun god. The design specs of the steps are a stylized mirror image of the temple ‘shikhar’, thus symbolically linking fire and water, dream and reality. The main complex is divided into three parts, the entrance which is the ‘Sabha Mandap’, ‘Antaral’ the connecting passage and the ‘Garbagruha’, the sanctum sanctorum.

Decline

‘ With the waning of the Solanki dynasty and a decline in Sun worship, vagaries of time’Islamic iconoclasts and devastating’ earthquakes have all chipped at this structures form. Mehmood Ghazni during his raid of Gujarat marched into the Solanki Empire creating mayhem and after a great deal of loot and plunder was finally attacked by a regrouped Solanki army under Bhimdev which through knowing the terrain well destroyed almost half of the Muslim army and Mehmood and his shattered remnants had to flee to Ghazni where his death occurred in Ad 1030.

Owing to this ignomous defeat Gujarate njoyed immunity from foreign invasion for a period of 160 years. This peace was disturbed by the arrival of Allauddin Khilji, who after occupying Delhi and the north looked towards Gujarat as an ocean link for trade. Master pieces of Solanki architecture including Modhera once again defaced and plundered. Not content with just looting the temple marauding soldiers under royal command placed gun powder in the Garbagruha and set fire to it creating an explosion that damaged and caused the main shikhara to collapse.

In spite of it all and a shikhara missing the Modhera sun temple is still a magnificent work of art in stone and if your Itinerary allows you only one town in this region, then by all means make it to Modhera.

How to get there

By road: Distance from Ahmedabad to Modhera is 101 km and it takes around 1.45 hours. From Mehsana it is 26 km.

By rail: The train can take you as far as Mehsana (1.5 hours).

By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad

Image copyright by upload.wikimedia.org 

Grishneshwar Jyotirling

Grishneshwar Jyotirling

Ghrishneshwar Aurangabad,Maharashtra
Ghrishneshwar
Aurangabad,Maharashtra

Grishneshwar Jyotirling is an ancient pilgrimage site revered as the abode of one of the 12 Jyotirlinga manifestation of Lord Shiva. The Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga shrine is located at a village called Verul, which lies 20 km from Daulatabad (near Aurangabad in Maharashtra) and approximately 100 kms from Manmad station. Located close to Daulatabad (once known as Devagiri) is the popular tourist attractions Ajanta – Ellora.

The Grishneswar Jyotirling was constructed by Ahilyabhai Holkar who also re-constructed the Kashi Viswanatha Temple at Varanasi and the Vishnu Paada Temple at Gaya. The Grishneshwar Temple is also known by several other names like Kusumeswarar, Ghushmeswara, Grushmeswara and Grishneswara.

Legend Behind Grishneshwar Jyotirling
According to Shivapuran, in the southern direction, on a mountain named Devagiri lived a Brahmin called Brahmavetta Sudharm along with his wife Sudeha. The couple did not have a child because of which Sudeha was sad. Sudeha prayed and tried all possible remedies but in vain. Frustrated of being childless, Sudeha got her sister Ghushma married to her husband. On the advice of her sister, Ghushma used to make 101 lingas, worship them and discharge them in the near by lake.

With the blessings of Lord Shiva, Ghushma gave birth to a baby boy. Because of this, Ghushma became proud and Sudeha started feeling jealous towards her sister. Out of jealously, one night she killed Ghushma’s son and threw him in the lake where Ghushma used to discharge the lingas.

Next morning, Ghushmas and Sudharm got involved in daily prayers and ablutions. Sudeha too, got up and started performing her daily choirs. Ghushma’s daughter-in-law, however, saw stains of blood on her husband’s bed and parts of the body drenched in blood. Horrified, she narrated everything to mother-in-law Ghushma who was absorbed in worshipping Shiva. Ghushma did not deter. Even her husband Sudharma did not move an inch. Even when Ghushma saw the bed drenched in blood she did not break down and said he who has given me this child shall protect him and started reciting ‘Shiva-Shiva’. Later, when she went to discharge the Shivalingas after prayers she saw her son coming. Seeing her son Ghushma was neither happy nor sad. At that time Lord Shiv appeared before her and said – I am pleased with your devotion. Your sister had killed your son. Ghushma told Lord to forgive Sudeh and emancipate her. Pleased with her generosity, Lord Shiva asked her another boon. Ghushma said that if he was really happy with her devotion then he should reside here eternally for the benefit of the multitudes in form of a Jyotirling and may you be known by my name. On her request, Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Jyotirling and assumed the name Ghushmeshwar and the lake was named as Shivalaya thereafter.

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Kedarnath Jyotirling

Kedarnath Jyotirling

Kedarnath Kedarnath, Uttarakhand
Kedarnath
Kedarnath, Uttarakhand

One of the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus, Kedarnath Temple Jyotirlinga is located in the picturesque surroundings of Rudra Himalaya Range at a height of 12000 feet on a mountain named Kedar. Near Kedarnath is the source of the river Mandakini that joins Alakananda at Rudraprayag. This place is approximately 150 miles away from Hardwar and 132 miles north of Hrishikesh and is accessible by foot.

The temple at Kedarnath enshrining the Jyotirlingam of Shiva opens only 6 months a year (April-November) when the sun enters the zodiac sign of Aries and it is closed when the sun enters Scorpio. The priests then go to Ukhimath, where the worship of Kedareshwara is continued during the winter season.

Tradition has it that when undertaking Kedarnath Yatra pilgrims first visit Yamunotri and Gangotri and bring with them the holy waters from the sources of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga and offer abhishekams to Kedareshwara. The traditional pilgrim route is Haridwar – Rishikesh – Devaprayag – Tehri – Dharasu – Yamunotri – Uttar Kashi – Gangotri – Triyugnarayan – Gowrikund and Kedarnath. The alternative route to Kedar from Rishikesh is via Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag and Ukhimath.

Legend Behind Kedarnath Jyotirling
Legend goes that Nara and Narayana – two incarnations of Vishnu performed severe penance in Badrikashraya of Bharat Khand, in front of a Shivalingam fashioned out of earth. Pleased with their devotion, Lord Shiva appeared in front of them and said that they may ask for a boon. Nar and Narayan requested Shiva to take up a permanent abode as a Jyotirlingam at Kedarnath so that all people who worship Shiva shall be freed from their miseries.

According to yet another popular legend related to Kedar Temple, Goddess Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar. Besides, the Pandavas are believed to have visited this area several times. Arjuna is believed to have come here to pray to Shiva to obtain the coveted Pasupataastra. The other Pandavas are believed to have come here in search of him, where Draupadi came across the heavenly lotus Kalyana Saugandikam, and requested Bhima to bring here some more of the same. It was during his venturing out to seek these flowers that Bhima met Hanumaan.

Significance of Kedarnath Jyotirling
Located in the lofty Himalayas, Kedarnath Temple is one of the best known Shivasthalams in India and is considered to be one of the most sacred pilgrimage centers of the country. It is believed that by praying to Kedareshwar, one can get all his desires fulfilled. Importance of the shrine can be further understood from the beliefs that Upamanyu prayed to Lord Shiva in this place in Satayuga while in Dwapar, the Pandavas worshipped Lord Shiva here. Even the spiritual leader Adi Sankaracharya is closely associated with Kedarnath.

Structure of Kedarnath Jyotirling
Kedarnath Shrine is scenically placed amidst the lofty, snow – covered mountains and grassy meadows covering the valleys. Immediately behind the temple is the high Keadardome peak, which can be sighted from great distances. It is believed that the temple of Kedarnath was constructed by the Pandavas. At the entrance of the temple is the statue of Nandi, the divine bull of Shiva. Walls inside the temple are exquisitely carved with images. The revered Shiva Lingam housed in the temple is in the unusual pyramidal form.

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Tryambakeswar Jyotirling

Tryambakeswar Jyotirling

Trimbakeshwar Nasik, Maharashtra
Trimbakeshwar
Nasik, Maharashtra

Shri Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling is located at a distance of about 30-km from Nasik in Maharashtra near the mountain named Brahmagiri from which the river Godavari flows. Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling is revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva and as the source of the river Godavari. Just as Ganga is known as Bhagirathi and is one of the most important river in North India, in the same way, Godavari is also known as Gautami Ganga and is the most sacred river in South India.

According to Shiv Purana, it is because of the earnest request of Godavari, Gautam Rishi and other gods that Lord Shiva agreed to reside here and assumed the famous name Trimbakeshwar. Interestingly, locals refer to the river here as Ganga and not as Godavari. All the heavenly Gods promised to come down to Nasik, once in twelve years, when Jupiter resides in the zodiac sign of Leo. On this a grand fair is organized at this place. Devotees take a holy bath in the Gautami Ganga and then seek the blessings of Trimbakeshwar.

Legend Behind Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling
Legend goes that a sage name Gautam Muni resided on the Brahmagiri hill with his wife Ahilya. By virtue of his devotion, the sage received from Varuna, a bottomless pit from which he received an inexhaustible supply of grains and food. The other rishis, jealous of his fortune, arranged for a cow to enter his granary and caused it to die as Gowtam Rishi attempted to ward it off with a bunch of Darbha grass.

Gautam Rishi, therefore, worshipped Lord Shiva to bring the Ganga down to his hermitage to purify the premises. Pleased with devotion, Shiva requested Ganga to flow down and make Sage Gautam pure. After that Ganga flowed down. Lord Shiva told Ganga to stay there eternally for the good of everyone. All the Gods started singing the praises of Gautam Rishi, Ganga and Lord Shiva. On the request of all the Gods, Lord Shiva resided by the river Gautami by the name Trimbakeshwar (one of the Jyotirlingas). Hindus believe that Trimbak Jyotirlinga is one, which fulfills everyone’s desires. It emancipates all from their sins and miseries.

Another popular legend behind Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling is the legend of Lingodbhava manifestation of Shiva. It says once Brahma and Vishnu searched in vain to discover the origin of Shiva who manifested himself as a cosmic column of fire. Brahma lied that he had seen the top of the column of fire and was hence cursed that he would not be worshipped on earth. In turn Brahma cursed Shiva that he would be pushed underground. Accordingly, Shiva came down under the Brahmagiri hill in the form of Tryambakeshwar. Trimbakeshwar Temple is the only place where Shivlinga is not out but it’s inside the floor.

Some scholars say that Goddess Parvati also came down along Lord Shiva and Ganga. The place is therefore called Tryambakeshwa (three lords). Others believe that the place is so called because of the presence of three Shivlinga of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The Shivlinga of Lord Mahesh has always-flowing water among the three Shivlingas.

Structure of Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling
Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling is an ancient shrine, however the current structure is a result of the reconstruction efforts undertaken by the Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in mid 18th century. The Jyotirling is built of black stone in the Nagara style of architecture and is enclosed in a spacious courtyard. The sanctum internally a square and externally a stellar structure houses a small Shivalingam – Tryambaka. The sanctum is crowned with a graceful tower, embellished with a giant Amalaka and a golden kalasha. In front of the garbagriha and the antarala is a mandap with doors on all four sides. Three of these doorways are covered with porches and the openings of these porches are ornamented with pillars and arches. Curvilinear slabs rising in steps form roof of the mandapam. The entire structure is ornamented with sculptural work featuring running scrolls, floral designs, and figures of gods, yakshas, humans and animals.

The Shivalingam is seen in a depression on the floor of the sanctum. Water constantly oozes out from the top of the Shivalingam. Usually, the Shivalingam is covered with a silver mask but on festive occasions a golden mask with five faces, each with a golden crown covers it.
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Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirling

Vishwanath Jyotirling

Kashi vishwanath Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Kashi vishwanath
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Vishwanath Jyotirling Temple is located in the holy city of Varanasi also known as Kashi and Benares. The Vishwanath Temple enshrines one of the twelve Jyotirlingams of Lord Shiva and is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for Hindus. It is believed that Varanasi is the point at which the first Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which Shiva manifested his supremacy over other gods, broke through the earth’s crust and flared towards the heavens. More than the Ghats and even the Ganga, the Shivalinga installed in the temple remain the devotional focus of Varanasi. Millions of pilgrims converge here to perform an abhishekam to the sacred Jyotirlingam with sacred water of river Ganga.

Significance of Vishwanath Temple
Also famous by the name of Shiv Vishwanath Kashi, Shri Vishweshwar Temple is said to be dear to Lord Shiva. Hindus believe that those who come and die here attain liberation. It is said that Lord Shiva gives the Tarak Mantra to the ones who are going to die here. Some also believe that the Lord resides here and is the giver of liberation and happiness. The one who prays and worships Vishweshwar with devotion attains all his desires and one who incessantly recites his name attains all siddhis and finally gets liberated.

Structure of Shri Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Temple
Shri Vishwanatha Temple is situated amidst the crowded lanes of Varanasi on the banks of the rive Ganga. The temple can be approached from a lane called Vishwanatha lane. Beside its religious significance, the temple is also an architectural marvel. The magnificent edifice offers a breathtaking view to the onlooker. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is also popularly known as the ′Golden Temple′ due the gold plating done on its 15.5-meter high spire. One tonne of gold donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been used in the gold plating of the spire.

Inside the courtyard is the temple of Vishwanatha surrounded by many subsidiary shrines. A well, called Jnana Vapi i.e. ‘wisdom well’ located to the north of the main temple. The Vishwanatha temple consists of a mandapa and a sanctum. Inside the sanctum a linga is set into the center of the floor in a square silver altar. The Linga is of black stone. Though the interior of the temple is not large and elaborate it presents the peaceful atmosphere ideal for worship.

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Nageshwer Jyotirling

Nageshwer Jyotirling

Nageshwer Dwaraka,Gujrat
Nageshwer
Dwaraka,Gujrat

Nageshwar Jyotirling or Nagnath Jyotirling is located on the route between Gomati Dwarka and the Bait Dwarka Island on the coast of Saurashtra in Gujarat. The Jyotirlinga enshrined in the Temple of Nagnath is known as Nageshwar Mahadev and attracts thousands of pilgrims all round the year. This powerful Jyotirlinga symbolizes protection from all poisons. It is said that those who pray to the Nageshwar Linga become free of poison. The Rudra Samhita sloka refers to Nageshwar with the phrase ′Daarukaavane Naagesham′.

Legend Behind Nageshwar Temple
According to Shiv Purana, a Shiva devotee by name Supriya was attacked by a demon Daaruka while in a boat. The demon imprisoned him along with several others at his capital Daarukaavana where he resided with his wife Daaruki. Supriya advised all prisoners to recite the mantra ‘Aum Namaha Shivaya’. When Daruk came to know about this he ran to kill Supriya. Instantly Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a Jyotirlingam and vanquished the demon with the Paasupata Astram.

This Jyotirlinga manifestation of Shiva is worshipped as Nageswara. Two other sites in India, one near Audhgram near Purna in Andhra Pradesh and another near Almora in Uttar Pradesh also enshrine temples to Nageswara Jyotirlingam. According to the Shiv Purana, any one who ever with devotion reads the birth and greatness of this Jyotirlinga shall beget all material happiness and divine status in the end.

Structure of Nageshwar Temple
Nageshwar Mahadev Sivalingam is facing South while the Gomugam is facing east. There is a story for this position. A devotee by name Naamdev was singing bhajans in front of the Lord. Other devotees asked him to stand aside and not hide the Lord. To this Naamdev asked them to suggest one direction in which the Lord does not exist, so that he can stand there. The enraged devotees carried him and left him on the southside. To their astonishment, they found that the Linga was now facing South with the Gomugam facing east.

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Bhimashankar Jyotirling

Bhimashankar Jyotirling

Bhimshankar Pune, Maharashtra
Bhimshankar
Pune, Maharashtra

Bhimashankar is the sixth Jyotirling in the series of Dwadasha Jyotirlingas. The temple is very old and surrounded by a scenic nature with green forest. The place is totally surrounded by dense forest which is also considered as the wild life sanctuary by Indian Government. This hill region is called Sahyadri and situated at a distance of 125Kms from Pune. This forest is also called Khed. The temple is located at Dakini hill (Shikharam). Nana Padnis of Peshwa kingdom has improved this place to a great extent and built the beautiful temple.

Legend behind Bhimashankar Jyotirling
According to the legends, once a demon called Bhima lived with his mother Karkati in the dense forests of Dakini, on the lofty ranges of the Sahaydris. It is said that Bhima was so cruel that every one was scared of him. But what tormented Bhima was his curiosity regarding his own existence. One day, Bhima urged his mother to tell him who his father was and why had he abandoned them in the wilderness of the forest. His mother revealed that he was the son of Kumbhakarna, the younger brother of the mighty King Ravana – the King of Lanka. Bhima’s mother Kartaki also told him that Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Lord Rama annihilated Kumbhakarna. This infuriated Bhima and he vowed to avenge Lord Vishnu.

Bhima performed severe penance to please Lord Brahma. The compassionate creator was pleased by the dedicated devotee and granted him immense prowess. With so much power, Bhima began to cause havoc in the three worlds. He defeated King Indra and conquered the heavens. He also defeated a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva – Kamrupeshwar and put him in the dungeons. All this angered the Gods and they along with Lord Brahma beseeched Lord Shiva to come for their rescue to which Lord Shiva agreed.

Tyrant Bhima asked Kamrupeshwar to worship him instead of Lord Shiva. When Kamrupeshwar refused, Bhima raised his sword to strike the Shiva Linga. But as soon as he raised his sword, Lord Shiva appeared before him in full magnificence. Then the terrible war began. Holy sage Narad appeared and requested Lord Shiva to put an end to this war. It was then that Lord Shiva reduced the evil demon to ashes and thus concluded the saga of tyranny. All the Gods and the holy sages present there requested Lord Shiva to make this place his abode. Lord Shiva thus manifested himself in the form of the Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga. It is believed that the sweat that poured forth from Lord Shiva’s body after the battle formed the Bhimarathi River.

Structure of Bhimashankara Temple
Bhimashankara Temple is situated in picturesque extreme end of the Sahayadri Ranges and provides a wonderful view of the forts, the rivers and the hill stations around. The dense forests surrounding the high ranges also play an abode to the rare species of flora and fauna.

Bhimashakara Temple dates back to mid 18th century and is a composite of old and the new structures and is built in the Nagara style of architecture. The shikhara of the temple was built by Nana Phadnavis. Shivaji – the great Maratha ruler is said to have facilitated the carrying out of worship services. As with other Shiva temples in this area, the sanctum is at a lower level. The best time to visit the Bhimashankar Temple is said to be Maha Shivaratri as the temple organizes grand festivities on the occasion.

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Rameshwer Jyotirling

Rameshwar Jyotirling

Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

Rameshwaram Jyotirling is situated in the island of Rameswaram, off the Sethu coast of Tamil Nadu and is reached via the Pamban Bridge across the sea. The huge Jyotirling is known for its long ornate corridors, towers and 36 theerthams.Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga represents the southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India and has been a time honored pilgrimage center held on par with Banaras. Rameshwaram Jyotirling is associated closely with the Ramayana and Rama’s victorious return from Sri Lanka.

Legend behind Shri Rameshwaram Temple

According to a popular legend, it was Lord Rama who installed this Linga here. Story goes that when Lord Ram was on his way to attack Ravana, he reached this place where he made a linga of sand and worshipped it. It is said that when Lord Rama was drinking water on the seashore there was a celestial proclamation – “You are drinking water without worshipping me”. Listening to this Lord Rama made a linga of sand and worshipped it and asked to be blessed so that he could vanquish Ravana. Lord Shiva blessed him accordingly. He also requested Lord Shiva to reside eternally here so that entire mankind should benefit from it. Shiva then manifested himself as the Linga and got installed there for eternity.

According to yet another legend, while returning to Ayodhya, Ram worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of a Shiva Lingam made of earth by Sita. It is said that Hanuman was entrusted with the task of bringing an image of Viswanathar from Banaras. Anticipating delay in Hanuman’s return from Benares, Rama offered worship to a Shivalingam at a pre-chosen auspicious moment. This lingam is referred to as Ramalingam and the town is known as Rameswaram.

There is yet another Shivalingam here – Viswanathar said to have been brought by Hanuman from Banares. This Shivalingam is referred to as Kasilingam and Hanumalingam. Prayers are offered to Viswanathar before they are offered to Ramanathaswamy.

Structure of Shri Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga Temple

Rameswaram Temple is spread over an area of 15 acres and has lofty gopurams, massive walls and a colossal Nandi. Rameswaram Jyotirlinga also boasts of a 4000 feet long pillared corridor with over 4000 pillars, supposedly the longest in the world. The carved granite pillars are mounted on a raised platform. Worth noticing fact about this corridor is that the rock is not indigenous to the island and is said to have been brought in from elsewhere in Tamil Nadu across the sea.

The eastern Rajagopuram towers to a height of 126 feet and has nine levels. The Western Rajagopuram is also quite impressive though not as tall as the Eastern one. The temple also has several mandapams with mini shrines to other deities. There is a huge Nandi measuring 12 feet in length and 9 feet in height with the idols of Viswanatha Naicker and Krishnama Naicker. The lingams are housed in the inner section of the Ramalingeshwara. High walls enclose the temple, forming a rectangle with huge pyramidal gopura entrances on each side.

Significance of Shri Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga Temple

Significance of Rameshwaram Temple Jyotirlinga has been described through a shloka in Manas:

Je rameshwar darshan kari hahi |
Te tanu taji mam loka sidaari hahi ||

Meaning: Those who go to Rameshwar and seeks my blessings, shall always reside in Shivloka. It is said that there is greatness associated with the ceremonial bath given to the linga by water of the Ganga.

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12 JyotirLingas Temples of Lord Shankar

12 JyotirLingas Temples of Lord Shankar

A Jyotirlinga or Jyotirlingam is a shrine where Lord Shiva, an aspect of God in Hinduism is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam or “Lingam of light. Jyotirlinga are set of 12 Shiva Temples spread all over India and considered holiest for Shiva devotees.” The Dwadasa Jyotirlinga shrines or the 12 shrines enshrining Shiva in the form of a Jyotirlingam, have been held in reverence since time immemorial in the Indian system of beliefs. The southernmost of these is located at Rameswaram, while the northernmost is located in the snowy heights of the Himalayas at Kedarnath. These temples are closely linked with legends from the puranas and are rich in history and tradition.

Significance of Jyotirling
The Puranas vociferously sing the praises of the greatness of the Jyotirlingas. By reciting the name of this, one can eliminate all the sins. The Sadhaka becomes calm, chaste and pure. He becomes illuminated and enlightened with supreme and divine knowledge. The names mentioned for the benefits of all:

“Saurashtre Somanatham cha,
Sri Saile Mallikarjuna.
Ujjanyinyam Mahakalam,
Omkare Malamleshwara.
Himalaye to Kedaram,
Dakinyam Bhimashankara.
Varanasyam cha Vishweshwam,
Tryambakam Gautameethate.
Paralyam Vaidyanatham cha,
Nagesham Darukavane.
Sethu bande Ramesham,
Grishnesam cha Shivalaya”.

This is the famous sloka given in the Shiva Purana describing the 12 jyotirlingas of Shiva.One who recites these 12 names regularly in the morning and evening he washes all the sins committed in the previous 7 births and attains all the powers and Siddhis.

Mahadev, the Lord incorporates in Himself, the aura and the holiness of all the twelve JyotirLingas. The grandeur of these places is unique. Devotees line up in great numbers to take a look and get a Darshan of all the JyotirLingas.Even today devotees are said to have got his darshan in the form of jyoti at these places. They are mentioned in the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Stotra and are enshrined in following temples.

 

 

Somnath JyotirLing In Saurashtra (Guj)
Mallikarjun jyoptirling in Srisailam (A.P.)
Mahakaleshwar jyotirling in Ujjain (M.P.)
Omkareshwar jyotirling in Indore (M.P.)
Vaidyanath jyotirling in Parali (Mah)
Bhimashankar jyotirling in Pune (Mah)
Rameshwar jyotirling in Setubandanam (T.N.)
Nageswar jyotirling in Dwaraka (Guj)
Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirling in varanasi (U.P.)
Tryambakeswar jyotirling in Nasik (Mah)
Kedareswar jyotirling in Kedarnath / Himalayas (Utt)
Grishneswar jyotirling in Devasrovar (Mah).

Vaidhyanath Jyotirling

Vaidhyanath Jyotirling

Vaidyanath Parli,maharashtra
Vaidyanath
Parli,maharashtra

Vaidyanath Jyotirling temple, also known as Baba dham and Baidyanath dham is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the most sacred abodes of Shiva.Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the most sacred abodes of Shiva. It is located at Deoghar,Parli in the Santhal Parganas division of the State of Jharkhand .

In the temple complex are twenty-two other temples. The Vaidyanath Jyotirling faces east. The top of the Shiva Lingam is slightly broken, keeping with the legend that it chipped away when Ravana tried to uproot it. Near the temple is the Shivaganga Lake.

According to Hindu beliefs, the demon king Ravana worshipped Shiva at the current site of the temple to get the boons that he later used to wreak havoc in the world. Ravana offered his 10 heads one after the another to Shiva in a sacrifice. Pleased with this Shiva descended to earth and cured Ravana who was injured. As he acted as a doctor, he is referred to as vaidhya (“doctor”). From this aspect of Shiva the temple derives its name.

Legend behind Vidhyanath Jyotirling

According to the stories narrated in the Shiva Purana, it was in the Treta yuga that the demon Ravana, king of Lanka, felt that his capital would not be perfect and free from enemies unless Mahadeva stays there forever. He paid continuous meditation to Mahadeva. Ultimately Shiva got pleased and permitted him to carry his lingam with him to Lanka. Mahadeva advised him not to place or transfer this lingam to anyone. There should not be a break in his journey to Lanka. If he deposits the lingam anywhere on the earth, in the course of his journey, it would remain fixed at that place forever. Ravana was happy as he was taking his return journey to Lanka.

The other gods objected to this plan; if Shiva went to Lanka with Ravana, then Ravana would become invincible and his evil and anti-vedic deeds would threaten the world. Therefore the gods tricked Ravana. Ravana was offered water by Parvati, who then directed all the waters of three rivers (Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati) into Ravana’s stomach.

On his way back from Mount Kailash, Ravana felt an urgent need to urinate and as he could not do so with the holy linga in his hand, he started looking for someone who could hold it for him. Ganesha then appeared as a Brahmin in front of him. Ravana asked Ganesha to hold the linga and went to release himself, but he could not stop urinating because of the trick played on him. Ganesha, pretending to be vexed by Ravena’s delay, set the linga down on earth. The moment linga was kept down, Ravana stopped urinating.

Ravana needed to wash his hands after urination to make himself pious. Finding no water source around he hit the ground with his fist and a big crater was made which got filled with water. When Ravana now tried to move the linga, he could not. Out of anger he press the linga down with his thumb. But after restoring himself, he started to offer his prayers for the linga.

Various festivals like Makara sankranti and Mahashivratri are celebrated with great vigor here.

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Omkareshwar Jyotirling

Omkareshwar Jyotirling

Omkareshwar Indore, Madhya Pradesh
Omkareshwar
Indore, Madhya Pradesh

Omkareshwara Jyotirling is located at distance of 77 km from Indore in Madhya Pradesh. A special feature of the location of Omkareshwar Temple is that the river Narmada branches into two and forms an island Mandhata or Shivapuri in the center. The shape of the island resembles that of the visual representation of the Omkara sound, Om. There are two temples here, one to Omkareshwar and one to Amareshwar. Omkareshwar Temple is one of the 12 revered Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. The temple is closely linked with Mammaleshwar Temple (situated on the south of river Narmada) as both the forms of Shiva have been counted as one.

Also known as the Temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata, it is made up of locally available soft stone. As a result, there is detailed carving in the front chamber and mesmerizing wall paintings on the upper parts of the structure. Omkareshwar draws hundreds of pilgrims every year from various parts of the nation. The devotees kneel before the Jyotirlinga to be blessed by it. Omkareshwar presents a magnificent blend of natural as well as the human artistry. Apart from this, there are some other temples worth watching.

Legend behind Shri Omkareshwar Jyotirling
Shiva Purana describes the greatness of Omkareshwar and Mammaleshwar. It says, two sons of the sun dynasty Mandhata – Ambarish and Mucchkund practiced severe penance and austerities here and pleased Lord Shiva. They also performed great religious sacrifices in this place because of which the mountain is named Mandhata.

Another popular legend says that once upon a time Vidhya Parvat practiced severe penance and worshipped Parthivarchana along with Lord Omkareshwar for nearly six months. As a result Lord Shiva was pleased and blessed him with the desire boon. On the sincere request of all the gods and the sages Lord Shiva made two parts of the lings. One half being Omkareshwara and the other Amaleshwara or Amareshwar.

Some scholar say, King Mandhatha of the Ishvaku clan is believed to have worshipped Shiva here. Besides, Govinda Bhagavatpaada, the Guru of Shankaracharya is believed to have lived in a cave here.

Structure and Significance of Shri Omkareshwar Temple
A special feature of the location of Omkareshwar Temple is that the river Narmada branches into two and forms an island Mandhata or Shivapuri in the center. The shape of the island resembles that of the visual representation of the Omkara sound, Om. There are two temples here, one to Omkareshwar and one to Amareshwar.

The Omkareshwar Temple is built in the Nagara style and is characterized by a lofty shikhara. There are also shrines to Annapurna and Ganesha here. Before entering the temple one has to pass through two rooms. The Omkareshwar is not affixed to the ground but is naturally installed there. There is always water around it. The significance of this linga is that the linga is not situated below the cupola. The idol of Lord Shiva is situated on the top of the temple. The temple can be reached by ferry from the banks of the river. A huge fair is organized here on the day of Kartik Poornima.
Omkareshwar temple is the main attraction of the pilgrims. In fact the town owes its very existence to this temple.

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Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling

Mahakaleshwer Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Mahakaleshwer
Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

Mahakaleshwara Temple is located by the banks of river Kshipra, in the dense Mahakal forests in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. It is an important Shaivaite pilgrimage centre in North India and is revered as one of the 12 Jyotilinga manifestations of Shiva. It is a very important religious place for Lord Shiva devotees. There are numerous stories associated with this Jyotirlinga in Ujjain.

Legend of Shri Mahankaleshwar Jyotirling

According to an episode narrated in Puranas, a five-year-old boy named Shrikar was enthralled seeing the devotion of King Chandrasena of Ujjain towards Lord Shiva. Shrikar took a stone and by considering it a linga started worshipping it regularly. Others thought that his worship as merely a game and tried to dissuade him in all ways. But all the efforts went in vain. On the contrary, devotion of Shrikar increased by every passing day. Pleased by the boy’s devotion Lord Shiva assumed Jyotirlinga form and resided in the Mahakal forest.

Bhagwan Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling is located near a lake and has a spacious courtyard surrounded by massive walls. The temple has five levels, one of that is underground. Brass lamps light the way to the underground sanctum or Garbha Griha where the Jyotirlinga is situated.

The Linga is quite big in size and is encircled by a snake of silver. On one side of the Linga there is the idol of Lord Ganesha while on the other side, idols of Goddess Parvati and Kartikeya are installed. The shikhara of temple is adorned with sculptural finery.

The temple of Lord Mahakaleshwar is very big, beautiful and grand. This Jyotirlinga is big in size and is encircled by a silver snake. On one side of the Shiv Linga there’s the idol of Lord Ganesha and on the other side the idol of Parvati and Kartikeya.

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Mallikarjuna Jyotirling

Mallikarjuna Jyotirling

Mallikarjuna Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
Mallikarjuna
Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh

Mallikarjun Jyotirling is situated on Shri Shaila Mountain by the banks of the Patal Ganga, Krishna River in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Also known as Kailash of the South, Mallikarjuna constitutes one of the 12 Jyotirlingam shrines of Shiva and is one of the greatest Shaivaite shrines in India. The presiding deities of Mallikarjuna Temple are Mallikarjuna (Shiva) and Bhramaramba (Devi). Every year there is a fair organized on account of Mahashivratri.

The temple sculptures narrate in stone, epics from thre great Hindu epics-Ramayana nand Mahabharata.This temple is considered very holy and is dedicated to Mallikarjuna Swamy and Bhramaramba. One unique feature of the temple is that all the devotees who visit the temple are allowed to touch the idol which is not prevalent in any other temple. The temple is located at a distance of 245 km from Hyderabad.

The architecture of the ancient Mallikarjun Temple is very beautiful and intricate. The temple has fort like walls, towers and a rich endowment of sculptural work.

Legend of Shri Mallikarjun Jyotirling

According to Shiva Purana, when Lord Ganesh was married of before his Kartikeya, and because of this brother Kartikeya became angry. Despite being stopped and consoled by his parents Shiv-Parvati, Kartikeya went away to the Kraunch Mountain. Even the Gods went and tried consoling Kartikeya but all their efforts were in vain. Because of this incident Shiv-Parvati were very sad and both decided that they would themselves go to Kraunch Mountain. However, when Kartikeya came to know that his parents have arrived, he went away. Eventually Lord Shiva assumed the form of Jyotirlinga and resided on that mountain by the name of Mallikarjuna. Mallika means Parvati, while Arjuna is another name of Shiva. In this way both Shiva and Parvati came to reside in this linga. It is said that by merely seeing the tip of mountain one is emancipated from all his sins and worries. The person becomes free from the vicious cycle of life and death.

The sprawling temple is situated on the side of the Rudra Sagara Lake; this is a three storied temple, where is Mahakaleshwar Lingam installed at the beneath part, while Nagachandresvara installed at the uppermost part of the temple. One can only see Nagachandresvara at the festival time of Nag Panchmi. In the inner and outer walls there are various sculptures have been carved during the Parmar period. At the east side of the temple where is a large veranda, adjoining the way which lead to the ‘Garbhgraha’ (Sanctum). At the northern side there is Images of Lord Rama, Goddess Avantika. at the southern side of the temple, where is many small temples, built during the rein of Shinde. A lofty Kunda named Koti Tirtha is built in the sarvatobhadra style, which is situated in the temple complex.The massive spire of the temple is soaring into the sky; the architecture of the outer side of the temple is so fascinating, which depicts north-Indian style.

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Somnath Jyotirling

Somnath Jyotirling

Somnath Prabhas Patan, Saurashtra,Gujrat
Somnath
Prabhas Patan, Saurashtra,Gujrat

The Somnath Temple located in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is the first among the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the god Shiva. It has currently become a tourist spot for pilgrims. The temple is considered sacred due to the various legends connected to it. Somnath means “The Protector of (the) Moon god”.

According to legend, Som, the Moon God built the Somnath Temple from gold, Ravan made it from silver, Lord Krishna made the temple from wood and King Bhimdev of Anhilwad made the temple from stone.

Som constructed the temple out of respect after Lord Shiva cured his illness that was caused by Som’s father-in-law Daksha Prajapati’s curse. Daksha Prajapati had cursed Som as he was infatuated with Rohini and was not paying adequate attention to his other 26 wives who were all daughters of Prajapti. It is believed that Lord Brahma advised Som to build the temple to honor Lord Shiva.

The Somnath Temple is the seventh temple built to commemorate Lord Somnath, who was also known as Bhairaveshwar, Shravanikehswar and Shrilingeshwar, in Sat Yug, Treta Yug and Dwapar Yug respectively.

Earlier known as ‘Prabhas Patan’, the town remains a quintessential pilgrim town. The temple has been built at the tip of the landmass in Gujarat and no land exists between the temple and the South Pole. The temple is also believed to be the place where the holy river Saraswati meets the sea.

The temple is built in Solanki style. The sabha mandap (assembly hall), sanctum sanctorum (innermost shrine) and the shikhar (top) was built in the first phase followed by the nritya mandap (dancing hall). The apex of the temple reaches a height of 155 ft and the kalash (pot) on top weighs 10 tons. The temple was razed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1025 AD.

Somnath is mentioned in the Puranas and the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. Lord Krishna is believed to have been shot in the foot with an arrow in the region. The Yadav community, the descendents of Lord Krishna, is said to have fought among them and caused the downfall of the entire community in this region.

After the integration of Junagadh with the Union of India, the then Deputy PM of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel visited Junagadh in November 1947 and ordered the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple.

The ruins of the Somnath Temple were pulled down in October 1950 and the mosque was shifted a few miles away. The temple was built in 1951. A statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stands in front of the temple as a mark of honour for his contribution to the building of the temple.

The Somnath Temple is visited by millions of devotees every year. It is not just the temple, but other tourist attractions like Somnath Museum, Somnath beach and Junagadh Gate also attract visitors. The Sound and Light Show held in the temple is another attraction.

Best time to visit Somnath Temple: November to March.

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Majuli – A River Island

Majuli, the largest riverine island in the world, nestles in the lap of the mightly Brahmaputra. This is where the 15th century saint and fountain head of Assamese culture, Sankardeva, first established a Satra or neo-Vaishnavite monastery, born of insightful discourses with his spiritual successor, Madhabdeva.

Majulia Nature Majuli
Today, Majuli is the principal seat of Vaishnavite faith, culture and practice. The treasures of Majuli are undoubtedly it’s Satras. The first satra, set up by Sankardeva and Madhabdeva together, was Manikanchan Sanjog, now no longer extant. Subsequently, Majuli became the centre of 65 such satras. Of these, there are only 22 satras in Majuli today. Due to the annual floods and constant land erosion, Majuli today is only a fraction of it’s original size of 1256 sq. km. recorded by the Imperial Gazetteer in 1901. This has forced many of the sattras to shift base to Assam’s mainland.

Dakhinpat Satra Kamalabari Satra

Among those the main existing satras are Dakhinpat Satra, Garamurh Satra, Auniati Satra, Kamalabari Satra, Benegenaati Satra and Samaguri Satra. These Satras are the treasure houses of the songs and dances initiated by Shri. Sankardeva like “Borgeet” Matiakhara, Jumora dance, Chali dance, Motua dance, Nande Bringee, Sutradhar, Ozapali, Apsara dance, Satria Krishna dance, Dasavater dance etc.

Satellite View A walk through the villages of Majuli is highly recommended to savour the warmth of the people and their simple way of life. Most of them practice agriculture, fishing and weaving. Boat making, dairy farming, pottery and handloom are other important activities. The weaving is particularly exquisite, making use of a whole range of colours in cotton and silk, found only in Assam.

Majuli also has an exciting bio diversity. If the visit is timed right, one can spot many rare and endangered avifauna species here, such as the greater adjutant stork, pelican and the whistling teal.

Majuli produces about a hundred different varieties of rice without a drop of pesticides or artificial fertilisers. Among the fascinating arrays gorwn is Komal Saul, a unique kind of rice that becomes edible after just 15 minutes of soaking in warm water. It is usually eaten as a breakfast cereal. Bao Dhan grows under water and is harvested after ten months while Bora Saul is a sticky brown rice, used to make pitha, the traditional Assamese rice cake

Getting There

Majuli is 20 kms fom Jorhat town. Buses ply regularly from Jorhat town to Neamati Steamer Ghat, the main ferryboarding point for Majuli. The entire journey takes about three hours, involving a half hour bus ride to Neamati Ghat, which has a few tourist information booths, lodging facilities and food stalls catering to transiting ferry-goers, and ferry ride to the southern tip of Majuli island. Though Jorhat remains the principal entry point, Majuli can be approached through Lakhimpur on the north and Dibrugarh on the east.

Narayan Sarovar

In a land replete with pilgrimage sites, Narayan Sarovar is a different kind of holy experience. At almost the westernmost point of land in India, it can only be reached by traveling over 100 km from Bhuj across the barren scrubland of Kutch. A journey after which the appearance of a vast lake will surprise you even though you have come to see it and its spiritual significance will be tangible.

Narayan Sarovar:

Narayan Sarovar Narayan Sarovar

Narayan Sarovar Lake is one of the 5 holy lakes of Hinduism, along with Mansarovar in Tibet, Pampa in Karnataka, Bhuvaneshwar in Orissa and Pushkar in Rajasthan. The lake is associated with a time of drought in the Puranic area, when Narayan (a form of Lord Vishnu) appeared in response to the fervent prayers of sages and touched the land with his toe, creating the lake, now revered as holy to bathe in (though this is not recommended).

Vishnu Temple:

Vishnu Temple at Narayan Sarovar There are temples to Shri Trikamraiji, Laxminarayan, Govardhannathji, Dwarkanath, Adinarayan, Ranchodraiji and Laxmiji, built by the wife of Maharao Desalji. These are of more interest to those on religious pilgrimage here; other visitors are likely to find Koteshwar a more interesting option.

According to Hindu theology, there are five sacred lakes collectively called Panch-Sarovar (‘Sarovar’ means “lake”). Namely, Mansarovar, Bindu Sarovar, Narayan Sarovar, Pampa Sarovar and Pushkar Sarovar.[1] A fair is held here on the 11th to 15th days of month Kartik of the Hindu calendar (November/December).[4]
Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya during his lifetime is said to have visited Narayan Sarovar and spent time here as such the site is sacred also for follower of Pushtimarg.

Here, you can see red antelopes or chinkaras and in year 1981 the area around was notified and named after Narayan Sarovar as Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary.

How to reach:

By road: From Bhuj, 125 km away, buses go to Narayan Sarovar twice a day (morning and evening). However, that is the only public transportation available. Koteshwar Temple is a mere 2 km from Narayan Sarovar, on the coast, but visitors to Lakhpat (28 km further) or Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary (15 km) will need a private vehicle; this can only be hired in Bhuj. Prices for hired cars range from Rs. 5.50/- per km to Rs. 10/- per km depending on the type of vehicle and whether or not it has AC.

Unless you only want to visit the Narayan Sarovar lake and temples, hiring a car in Bhuj is recommended. Accommodation and food are available in Narayan Sarovar, but not in any of the other three sites (except the gurudwara in Lakhpat.) Visitors to the wildlife sanctuary should bring their own food and water.

Tirupati

Tirupati is located at a distance of about 525 km from Hyderabad. Situated at the southern edge of the Eastern ghats in Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati, is surrounded by seven picturesque hills, which have perennial water falls, forests and superb views of valleys.

While Tirupati is the town at the foot of the seven hills, Tirumala is the temple township located on top of the hills. The age old temple of Lord Sri Venkateswara located here, is considered to be the richest temple in the whole world… The outer walls of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple are covered in a sheet of pure glitteringgold… what a splendid sight to behold! The drive up the winding ghat road is a delightful experience as you get to enjoy fresh air and some breathtaking views. Now, Tirupati is a great holiday destination and pilgrimage center, thanks to its serene beauty and the facilities available.

Horsley Hills is a scenic hill-station at about 150 km from Tirupati. Here you can enjoy some great adventure sports, or just sit back and relax amidst the clouds. Visit Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park and wildlife sanctuary or enjoy trekking at Mamanduru, a truly refreshing experience. Visit the historic Chandragiri Fort and marvel at the architectural prowess of the Vijayanagar Dynasty. There is no end to the fun you can have here… Tirupati, will charm you indeed!

(1)  Singarayakonda:

200 years ago, at the time of erection of “Dwajastambam” in Varaha Narasimha Swamy temple, a saint installed Prasannajaneya swamy statue. Here, in 1918 a bridge was constructed over ‘Bhasanti’ river. The grand Brahmotsavalu celebrations held in June every year attracts a large number of devotees. The place is connected via rail and road.

(2)  Motupalli:

Motupalli is located 12 km from Chirala & 45 km from Ongole. An ancient seaport, Motupalle flourished under various dynasties from the 1st century A.D. onwards. It is also the site of Buddhist stupas and sculptures. An ancient temple of Sri Rama is also situated here. The place is connected by road.

(3)  Chandavaram:

Located at 75 km from Ongole, a major Buddhist site has been excavated here on a hillock known locally as Singarakonda, beside the Gundlakamma rivulet. A unique double terraced stupa on the hilltop, perhaps the only one of its kind in South India, is reminiscent of the famous Dharajaka stupa. A museum at the site houses important sculptures and other relics such as coins, black and red ware and inscriptions in the Brahmi script dating back to the 2nd century B.C. The place is connected by road.

 

Madurai

Madurai has a long and well recorded history. As early as the 3rd century BC, Megasthenes visited, the city being referred to as “Methora” in his accounts. The city is also mentioned in Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Madurai has been described as the seat of the Pandyan Dynasty in Sangam literature (especially in Maturaikkāñci). The city is also described extensively in the 2nd-century CE epic Silapathikaram. The city was home to the third and last Tamil Sangam (between 300 BCE and 200 CE). Madurai finds mention in the works of Roman historians Pliny the Younger and Ptolemy and those of the Greek geographer Strabo. It is also mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

After the Sangam age, most of present day Tamil Nadu, including Madurai, came under the rule of the Kalabhras dynasty, who were ousted by the Pandyas around 550 CE. The Pandyas were in their turn removed from power by the Chola dynasty during the early 9th century. The city remained under control of the Cholas until the early 13th century, when the second Pandyan empire was established with Madurai as its capital. After the death of the last Pandyan ruler, Kulasekara Pandian, Madurai came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate. The Madurai Sultanate, then seceded from Delhi and functioned as an independent kingdom till its destruction by the Vijayanagar Empire in 1378. Madurai became independent from Vijayanagar in 1559 under the Nayaks. Nayak rule ended in 1736 and Madurai changed hands several times between Chanda Sahib, Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (Marudhanayagam) in the middle of the 18th century.

In 1801 the British East India Company took direct control of Madurai and brought it under the Madras Presidency. In 1837, the city was expanded to accommodate the growing population by demolishing the fortifications around the temple. This was done on the orders of the then collector John Blackburn. The moat was drained and the debris was used to construct the new streets – Veli, Marat and Perumaal Mesthiri streets. The city was constituted as a municipality in 1866.

Madurai played a role in the Indian independence movement. It was there that Gandhi made the decision to switch to wearing a loin cloth after seeing agricultural laborers wearing it. The independence movement in Madurai was led by leaders such as N. M. R. Subbaraman, Mohammad Ismail Sahib and Meer Niyamatullah Ibrahim Sahib.[citation needed] Post-independence, the city has expanded particularly to the north of river Vaigai by the development of new residential neighbourhoods like Anna Nagar and K. K. Nagar.

Day 01: Thanjavur – Madurai

Today morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Madurai (approx 170 Kms / 5-6 hrs). Madurai was the capital city of the great Pandya kings, and today it is Tamil Nadu’s most happening cultural arena. Upon arrival check-in at the hotel, rest and refresh. Rest of the day is at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 02: Madurai

In the morning after breakfast visit the Meenakshi Temple, the Teppakkulam Tank and the ancient Tirumala Nayak Palace. The structures of the Meenakshi Temple date mostly from the twelfth to the eighteenth century. Its enormous gopurams, covered with gaily-coloured statues, dominate the landscape and are visible from all over Madurai. At every turn there is superb sculpture; a magnificent architecture. The Tirumala Nayak Palace is a gracious building in the Indo Saracenic style, famous for the stucco work on its domes and arches.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 03: Madurai

Today morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Madurai Airport/Railway Station for your flight/train back home with beautiful memories of your holiday.
Meals: Breakfast