Pondicherry

The History of Puducherry can be traced back to the 2nd century. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, of the early 2nd century, mentions a marketplace named Poduke (ch. 60), which G.W.B. Huntingford identified as possibly being Arikamedu (now part of Ariyankuppam), about 2 miles from the modern Pondicherry. Huntingford further notes that Roman pottery was found at Arikamedu in 1937, and archeological excavations between 1944 and 1949 showed that it was “a trading station to which goods of Roman manufacture were imported during the first half of the 1st century AD”.

A remarkable degree of French influence in Puducherry exists to this date. Puducherry was designed based on the French (however originally Dutch) grid pattern and features neat sectors and perpendicular streets. The entire town is divided into 2 sections, the French Quarter (Ville Blanche or ‘White town’) and the Indian quarter (Ville Noire or ‘Black Town’). Many streets still retain their French names, and French style villas are a common sight in Puducherry. In the French quarter, the buildings are typically colonial style with long compounds and stately walls. The Indian quarter consists of houses lined with verandas and houses with large doors and grills. These French and Indian style houses are identified and their architecture preserved from destruction by an organization named INTACH. The use of French language can be still seen in Puducherry.


Pondicherry still has a large number of Indian and a small number of non-Indian descent residents with French passports. These are descendants of those who chose to remain French when the then ruling French Establishment presented the people of Puducherry with an option to either remain French or become Indians at the time of Puducherry’s transfer to India in 1954. Apart from the monuments pertaining to the French period, there is the French Consulate in Puducherry and several cultural organisations. Another important one is ‘Le Foyer du Soldat’. It is a legion hall for soldiers who served in the different French wars.

Day 01: Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Pondicherry (approx 96 Kms / 2-3 hrs). Upon arrival check in at the hotel. Rest and refresh. Later you visit the Aurbindo Ashram. This ashram promotes Aurbindo’s ideas in bringing about a synthesis of Yoga and modern science, so as to unite the material and soul. Later go on for a visit to Auroville – a unique experiment in international living and in creating a new environment where men and women of all nationalities live together in harmony.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 02: Pondicherry – Thanjavur

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Thanjavur (approx 189 Kms / 3-4 hrs). Upon arrival check in at the hotel. Rest and refresh. Rest of the day is at leisure. Thanjavur was once the royal city of the Cholas and the Nayaks. It is still considered the centre of all the classical arts and music, and is also well known for its unique painting style called Tanjore Painting
Meals: Breakfast

Mahabalipuram

Megalithic burial urns, cairn circles and jars with burials dating to the very dawn of the Christian era have been discovered near Mamallapuram. The Sangam age poem Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai relates the rule of King Thondaiman Ilam Thiraiyar at Kanchipuram of the Tondai Nadu port Nirppeyyaru which scholars identify with the present-day Mamallapuram. Chinese coins and Roman coins of Theodosius I in the 4th century CE have been found at Mamallapuram revealing the port as an active hub of global trade in the late classical period. Two Pallava coins bearing legends read as Srihari and Srinidhi have been found at Mamallapuram. The Pallava kings ruled Mamallapuram from Kanchipuram; the capital of the Pallava dynasty from the 3rd century to 9th century CE, and used the port to launch diplomatic missions to Ceylon and Southeast Asia.

All but one of the rathas from the first phase of Pallava architecture are modelled on the Buddhist viharas or monasteries and chaitya halls with several cells arranged around a courtyard. Art historian Percy Brown, in fact, traces the possible roots of the Pallava Mandapa to the similar rock-cut caves of Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves. Referring to Narasimhavarman’s victory in AD 642 over the Chalukyan king Pulakesin II, Brown says the Pallava king may have brought the sculptors and artisans back to Kanchi and Mamallapuram as ‘spoils of war’.

 
Believed to be ‘the city of great wrestler’ (Mamallavan or Mahabali), Mahabalipuram literally means ‘city of the Great Bali’. Derived from Mamallapuram, Mahabalipuram is a modern name given to the town. An 8th century Tamil text written by Thirumangai Alvar described this place as Kadal Mallai, (Sea Mountain) ‘where the ships rode at anchor bent to the point of breaking laden as they were with wealth, big trunked elephants and gems of nine varieties in heaps’. It is also known by several other names such as Mamallapattana and Mamallapuram. Another name by which Mahabalipuram has been known to mariners, at least since Marco Polo’s time is “Seven Pagodas” alluding to the Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram that stood on the shore, of which one, the Shore Temple, survives.

The temples of Mamallapuram, portraying events described in the Mahabharata, built largely during the reigns of Narasimhavarman and his successor Rajasimhavarman, showcase the movement from rock-cut architecture to structural building. The city of Mahabalipuram was largely developed by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I in the 7th century AD. The mandapa or pavilions and the rathas or shrines shaped as temple chariots are hewn from the granite rock face, while the famed Shore Temple, erected half a century later, is built from dressed stone. What makes Mamallapuram so culturally resonant are the influences it absorbs and disseminates. The Shore Temple includes many bas reliefs, including one 100 ft. long and 45 ft. high, carved out of granite.

The fact that different shrines were dedicated to different deities is evidence of an increased sectarianism at the time of their construction. A bas-relief on a sculpted cliff has an image of Shiva and a shrine dedicated to Vishnu, indicating the growing importance of these Sangam period deities and a weakening of the roles of Vedic gods such as Indra and Soma. The modern city of Mahabalipuram was established by the British in 1827.

Day 01: Chennai – Mahabalipuram

After breakfast, drive to Mahabalipuram (approx 57 Kms / 1-2 hrs) enroute visit Kanchipuram-the ancient capital of the Pallava’s, famous as the city of 1000 Temples. Visit Shiva temple. Kanchipuram is also famous for its silks. In the afternoon drive to Mahabalipuram. Breathtakingly real and artistic impressions of beauty and harmony, Mahabalipuram attracts tourists, due to its monumental splendour and sunny beaches. The visit is a spiritual refresher, with many artistic and period style temple displays representing various dynasties. Upon arrival check-in at the hotel. Later visit to the famous seven pagodas.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 02: Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Pondicherry (approx 96 Kms / 2-3 hrs). Upon arrival check in at the hotel. Rest and refresh. Later you visit the Aurbindo Ashram. This ashram promotes Aurbindo’s ideas in bringing about a synthesis of Yoga and modern science, so as to unite the material and soul. Later go on for a visit to Auroville – a unique experiment in international living and in creating a new environment where men and women of all nationalities live together in harmony.
Meals: Breakfast

Dehradun

The history of the capital of Uttarakhand, Dehradun (sometimes written as Dehra Doon, nicknamed “Doon Valley”) is linked to the story of Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is believed that after the battle between Ravan and Lord Ram, Lord Ram and his brother Laxman visited this site. Dronacharya, the legendary royal guru to the Kauravas and Pandavas in the epic Mahabharata is also believed to have been born and resided in Dehradun. Evidence such as ancient temples and idols have been found in the areas surrounding Dehradun which have been linked to the mythology of Ramayana and Mahabharata. These relics and ruins are believed to be around 2000 years old. Furthermore, the location, the local traditions and the literature reflect this region’s links with the events of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Even after the battle of Mahabharata, the Pandavas had influence on this region as the rulers of Hastinapur along with the descendants of Subahu ruled the region as subsidiaries. Likewise, Rishikesh is also mentioned in the pages of history when Lord Vishnu answered the prayers of the saints, slaughtered the demons and handed the land to the saints.

In the seventh century this area was known as Sudhnagar and was described by the Chinese traveler Huen Chang. It was Sudhnagar that later came to be recognised as the name of Kaalsi. Edicts of Ashoka have been found in the region along the banks of river Yamuna in Kaalsi indicating the wealth and importance of the region in ancient India. In the neighbouring region of Haripur, ruins were discovered from the time of King Rasala which also reflect the region’s prosperity.

Dehradun was invaded by Mahmud of Ghazni during his campaigns into India followed by Taimooralang in 1368, Ruahela Njibuddulo in 1757 and Ghulam Qadir in 1785. In 1806 Nepali King Prithvi Narayan Shah united Nepal and many of the Indian territories now fell under Nepal such as Almora,Phatankot,Kumaon Garhwal,Simur,Shimla, Kangra and Dehradun itself. But when the British East India company and Nepal went on war with each other from 1814 to 1816 and as a “deal” all these parts of Nepal were given to British East India company. The deal or so called treaty between the two countries was called Sugauli Treaty. The British conquered Dehardun in 1816 and colonised Landour and Mussoorie in 1827-1828. In the 1970s it was involved in the Garhwal Mandal. In 2000 , Uttarakhand (earlier called Uttaranchal) state was created from the north-western districts of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and Dehradun made its provisional capital. After becoming the capital of the city there has been continuous development.

 
Day 01: Mussoorie – Dehradun

After breakfast you are driven by car to Dehradun (approx 29 kms / 1-2 hrs). Dehradun is a blend of city and hill culture. Nestled in the mountain ranges of the Himalaya, it is one of the oldest cities of India. Upon arrival check-in at the hotel, rest and refresh. Rest of the day is at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 02: Dehradun – Corbett

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Corbett – India’s first wildlife reserve (approx 206 Kms/ 7-8 hrs). Upon arrival check in at the hotel/resort. You may spend time by going for an evening walk around kosi river. Rest of the day is at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast
 

Wild Rajasthan

The thinking that Rajasthan is an old desert land needs to change. The Wildlife National Parks in Rajasthan offer a fascinating diversity of terrain, flora and fauna. Each national parks and sanctuaries houses a large variety of animal from majestic tigers, leopards and other wildlife and a rich variety of exotic and colourful bird life. Some of them are rare while some endangered.

 
Day 01: Delhi – Jaipur

Today you arrive at Delhi, the capital of India. Upon your arrival you are greeted by our local representative and are driven by an airconditioned car to the Pink City – Jaipur (approx 267 Kms / 7H 13M) in an air conditioned car. Check in at the hotel in Jaipur. Rest and refresh.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 02: Jaipur

After Breakfast you visit the City Palace in the afternoon, which is still the formal residence of the royal family. You also visit Jantar Mantar, a stone observatory, which is the largest of Jai Singh’s five remarkable observatories. Then proceed to Hawa Mahal. The splendid Rajputana architecture, still speaks the glory of the royal family. Rest of the day is at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 03: Jaipur

After breakfast you are driven by car to Amber Fort (approx 12.29 kms / 40M). The solemn dignity of its red sandstone and white marble pavilions, when reflected in the lake at the foot hill, is a sight to behold. Also visit the Jaigarh Fort, which is on top of the hill, while Amber Fort is at the bottom. The highlight of this Fort is the massive cannon by the name of “Jaivan”. Jaivan, the cannon, is believed to be the largest cannon in the World. Later you are driven back to the city. In the evening enjoy time shopping around the local Bazaar as Jaipur is famous for its handicrafts and precious and semiprecious stones.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 04: Jaipur – Bharatpur

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to to Bharatpur (approx 183.42 kms / 5H 11M). Upon arrival check in at the hotel.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 05: Bharatpur

Today morning after breakfast you will visit the Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. One of the finest bird parks in the world, it is a reserve that offers protection to other fauna as well. Nesting indigenous water-birds as well as migratory water birds and waterside birds, this sanctuary is also inhabited by Sambar, Chital (deer), Nilgai (antelope) and The Wild Boar. In the afternoon visit Lohagarh Fort – built in the early 18th century by Maharaja Suraj Mal – the founder of Bharatpur.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 06: Bharatpur – Sawai Madhopur

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Sawai Madhopur (approx 229.45 kms / 7H 23M). Upon arrival check in at the hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 07: Sawai Madhopur

Today morning after breakfast you visit the famous Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Enjoy spotting the Royal Bengal Tiger in all its jungle glory besides enjoying great views of the Aravalli ranges and the rivers that flow through the area. Ranthambore is also home to many species of birds, animals and crocodiles. Also visit the Ranthambore Fort. This fort stands majestically atop a hill overlooking the entire park.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 08: Sawai Madhopur – Udaipur

In the morning after early breakfast you are driven by car to Udaipur (approx 418.37kms / 12H 10M). Upon arrival check-in at the hotel. Rest and refresh.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 09: Udaipur

In the morning after breakfast you are driven to City Palace, located peacefully on the banks of Lake Pichola. It is distinguished as the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. Also enjoy the sight of Udaipur Lake Palace, one of the most romantic places on this earth. The Palace situated amidst the scenic Pichola Lake offers a heavenly view to the onlooker. Then you proceed to Jagdish Temple. This three-storied temple is a wonder of architecture that comprises beautifully carved pillars, decorated ceilings, painted walls and lush halls. Later you visit Saheliyon Ki Bari – one the most beautiful gardens famous for its lush green lawns, marble art and fountains.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 10: Udaipur

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandir – home to an attractive collection of folk dresses, puppets, ornaments, dolls, masks, folk musical instruments, folk deities and paintings. Also visit Sajjangarh, known as the Monsoon Palace, it offers an unrivalled view of the city’s lakes, palaces and the surrounding countryside. Also visit Bada Mahal which when translated means Large Palace. This 17th century structure is also a garden palace that was built on a 90 feet natural rock formation.In the evening you have time to visit th elocal markets for shopping and individual activities.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 11: Udaipur

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to the Airport for your flight back home with beautiful memories of your holiday.
Meals: Breakfast
 

Vaishno Dev

Katra is a small town in the hilly northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. The town serves as the base camp for visiting the famous Ma Vaishno Devi Shrine, which is 13 Km uphill from Katra. Situated in the foothills of Trikuta Mountains, Katra is visited by more than 6.2 million devotees each year. A trip to the cave shrine is by far the most important activity in Katra.

Day 01: Delhi

Today you arrive at Delhi Airport. Upon your arrival you are greeted by our local representative and are driven by an air conditioned car to your hotel. At the hotel check in and refresh. After relaxing you are drivento take a look at Red Fort,Qutub Minar, the tallest stone tower in India and also visit Bahai House of Worship popularly known as the Lotus Temple.
Meals: None

Day 02: Delhi

In the morning after an early morning breakfast you are driven by car to visit India Gate, religious landmarks and historical monuments like Jama masjid & Humayans tomb, marvel at the Jantar Mantar which is one of five astronomical observatories. In the evening if time permits you are driven to visit Connaught Place and the famous Chandni Chowk for shopping.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 03: Delhi – Jammu – Katra

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to the airport for your flight to Jammu. Upon arrival at Jammu you are driven to Katra (approx 47.20 Km / 1H 22M). Upon arrival you check in at the hotel and enjoy the day at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 04: Katra

Today you get up early in the morning approx at 6 am and visit the Vaishnodevi Temple (approx 13 kms trek one way). After darshan, there is a state handicraft emporium close to the bus stand where you can check out shawls and other woollen items. Later return to the hotel and rest.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 05: Katra – Jammu

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Jammu airport for your flight back home with beautiful memories of your holiday.
Meals: Breakfast
 

Amritsar – Golden Temple

The city of Amritsar has a very rich heritage. The Golden Temple is the cradle of Amritsar with the city growing around it nurtured by its divine sanctity. It is one of the most sacred religious sites in India not only for Sikhs but also people from all religious backgrounds.

Amritsar, literally a Pool of Nectar, derives its name from Amrit Sarovar, the holy tank that surrounds the fabulous Golden Temple. It is now the Gateway to Punjab and North India. Amritsar partially shares the northwest borderlands between India and Pakistan at Wagah. The Amritsar that greets visitors today is a bustling, busy city with a distinct ‘frontier’ atmosphere, nestling as it does within breathing distance of the Indo-Pakistan border.

Day 01: Amritsar

Today early in the morning you arrive at Amritsar airport. Upon arrival, we shall transfer you to your hotel in an air conditioned car and may provide an early check-in. Enjoy the delicacies of Amritsar for lunch on your own. Later leave for Wagah border for the change of guards ceremony. Evening you return back to the city for shopping at the local market. In the night enjoy the sight of the beautifully lit up Golden Temple. Have dinner on your own and feast on not to miss Amritsari delicacies. The car will drop you back to your hotel.
Meals: None

Day 02: Amritsar

Today early morning you enjoy a visit to Golden Temple at sunrise. Partake in the offerings at Guru ka Langar. Later proceed to Durgiana Temple and Jallianwala Bagh. Enjoy the local delicacies of Amritsar for lunch on your own. The rest of the day is at leisure for shopping at the local market.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 03: Amritsar

After an early check-out from the hotel you are transferred in an air conditioned car to the Airport for your flight back home as you bid adieu to the holy city of Amritsar.
Meals: Breakfast

Divine Tirupati

Tirupati also known as Tirumala, is far-famed for the Sri Venkateshwara Temple. The mandir is situated in the hill top of Tirumala, where the town is situated in the foothills. This temple town is an exciting and awe-inspiring tourism spot. As well-known, Tirupati is popularly known for Laddu – the most familiar known prasadha!

DAY 01: Arrive Chennai – Tirupati

Today early in the morning you arrive at Chennai Airport / Railway Station. Upon arrival you drive straight to Tirupati (approx 152 kms / 04 hrs). Check in at hotel. Rest of the day is at your own leisure to explore Tirupati.
Meals: None

Day 02:Tirupati

Today early morning we shall go for a darshan at the temple. Later return back to hotel. Evening is free at Leisure. Overnight hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 03: Tirupati – Chennai Depart

Today after breakfast you depart to Chennai Airport / Railway Station from Tirupati (approx 152 Kms / 4 hrs) for your flight back home.
Meals: Breakfast
 

Tourist attraction of mahabalipuram

Located 60 km to the south of Chennai, Mahabalipuram (Mammalapuram) is an important tourist place of Tamil Nadu and is most famous for its spectacular monolithic structures. Some of the monuments in Mahabalipuram have also been recognized by the UNESCO and are must see for the tourists on their tour to Mahabalipuram. Besides, Mahabalipuram is quite popular for its sun-kissed beaches that are idyllic retreats for cooling off or taking long strolls in the evening. The tourist attractions in Mahabalipuram carry their individual significance and reflect the historic charm of this place.

Some of the important things to watch in Mahabalipuram are:

Thirukadalmallai:
It is a marvelous temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This temple was built by the Pallavas for safeguarding the sculptures from the waves of the ocean. According to the sources, after this temple was built, the remaining structure was preserved and was unharmed by the sea.

Rock Cut in MahabalipuramShore Temple:
This charming temple located on the shore is the most famous among the tourist attractions in Mahabalipuram. It is located between two Shiva temples and is a visual delight recognized for its architectural masterpieces. You will find the attractive sculptures of Nandi the bull while the figure of Vishnu is present in the sanctum.

Pancha Pandava Rathas:
These splendid structures dating back to the 7th century are located in the southern end of Mahabalipuram. These Rathas (chariots) are five in number and carved out of a single rock. Out of these rocks, gigantic stone animals have been carved out including an elephant.

Arjuna’s Penance:
It is a massive bas-relief replete with meticulous carvings that include a family of elephants and monkeys. The carvings on the bas-relief are the stories from the legends of India and the Panchatantra . You will also encounter the Krishna Mandapa nearby, which is a bas-relief of enthralling architectural brilliance.

Caves:
The caves in Mahabalipuram are among some of the most sought-after Mahabalipuram tourist attractions. The Varaha cave is one such cave which is actually a rock-cut mandapam (hall) and features two incarnations of Vishnu which are Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf). There is also a seventh century Dharmaraja Cave and consists of three empty shrines. The other caves located here are Mahisasurmardini Cave and Tiger cave.

Krishna’s Butterball:
This is a huge natural rock perched on a hillside and the precarious way in which it is balanced simply startles its onlookers.

Moreover, Mahabalipuram is also an ideal point for indulging in various adventure activities such as bike trips, boat rides, fishing trips, trekking and wind surfing.

Touristplacesinindia.com offers online information on the Mahabalipuram Tourist Attractions and useful inputs on tour to Mahabalipuram.

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram is located on the Coromandel Coast facing the Bay of Bengal and is recognized all over the country for its legacy of magnificent monolithic structures. This magical town is situated in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu and is home to a large number of rock-cut caves and temples. Mahabalipuram is also famous for its rich culture and heritage that draw a large number of tourists from various parts of India. A trip to Mahabalipuram would take you to some of the finest monuments and temples that are predominantly monolithic, apart from the beautiful sandy beaches of the city.

The city has kept its age-old charm intact and this place has produced many great poets, dramatists, artists, artisans and saints during the rule of the Pallavas. Mahabalipuram Temple,Hotels in MahabalipuramThe Pallavas highly patronized the creative pursuits and continuously supported building and other creative activities. Hence, the most prominent among the tourist attractions in Mahabalipuram are the unique relief works that depict various themes from the famous Indian legends. Mahabalipuram is also known as Mammalapuram and was mainly a port city of south India during the ancient times.

There are numerous things to watch in Mahabalipuram and the most famous among them are the spectacular sculptural works. The attention-grabbing architectural marvels add to the importance of the town and give it a unique place among the rest of the tourist destinations of Tamil Nadu. You will come across several magnificent structures here some of which are Thirukadalmallai, Arjuna’s Penance, Varsha Cave Temple, The Shore Temple and the Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots). There are many interesting destinations that are located nearby the town and can be explored on day long excursions. Some of the places that are worth paying a visit are Kanchipuram, Vedanthangal, Covelong, Crocodile Bank and Muttukadu.

Due to the growth of tourism in Mahabalipuram, a wide range of decent accommodations have come up in the city. Temple Bay Beach Resort, Quality Inn MGM Beach Resort, Ideal Beach Resort, Shelter Beach Resort and Sterling Resorts in Mahabalipuram are a few of them. Mahabalipuram has good transport network and it can be reached from the far corners of the state. The nearest airport is located in Chennai and one can reach here not only from the major Indian cities but also from abroad. Chengalpattu is the nearest railway station and you can get the trains for Chennai and other major cities of south India. The nearby destinations of Kanchipuram, Pondicherry and Chennai are well-connected to Mahabalipuram by the well maintained road network.

Tourist Attraction of Mahabalipuram

Ujjain – Holiest city of India

Ujjain is the city of holiness where the rhythm of spirituality blows in air of the city. Whenever we talk about Ujjain we never forget the Mahakaleshwar Temple to visit or to discuss it is so very connected with each other that one can never imagine them without each other.

Ujjain city is situated at a distance of 56 km from Indore, It is situated on the bank of the sacred river Shipra in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Its total area is 37 sq km. Due to its location; the climate of the city is tropical in nature-very hot in summers and cold in winters. Monsoon brings humidity into the atmosphere during the month of July and August. Visitors are advised to take along light cotton clothes during summer and a comfortable number of woolens for their winter trip to Ujjain. The best time duration to visit is October to March.

One of which is underground. The temple itself is located in a spacious courtyard surrounded by massive walls near a lake. The shikhara or the spire is adorned with sculptural finery. Brass lamps light the way to the underground sanctum. It is believed that prasada (holy offering) offered here to the deity can be re-offered unlike all other shrines.Because of all these beauties the temple looks more and more eye catchy.

Mahakaleshwar Temple
Mahakaleshwar Temple

Mahakaleshwar TempleMahakaleshwar is a magnificent temple of Lord Shiva. It is One of the 12 Jyotirlingas . Mahakaleshwar temple is alienated into 5 levels.

This temple is an important Shaivaite pilgrimage centre in North India and is revered as one of the 12 Jyotilinga manifestations of Shiva. It is a three-storey temple, on the side of the lake called Rudra Sagar.

The main deity, shiva in the lingam form is believed to be born of itself, deriving currents of power from within itself as against the other images and lingams which are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti. The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, facing the South. This is a unique feature, upheld by tantric tradition to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 jyotirlingas.

The idol of Omkareshwar Shiva is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakal shrine. The images of Ganesh, Parvati and Karttikeya are installed in the west, north and east of the sanctum sanctorum. To the south is the image of Nandi. The idol of Nagchandreshwar on the third storey is open for darshan only on the day of Nagpanchami.

Ujjain city has its  own charm due to its natural beauty, spiritual beauty and the blessing in the air of loard shiva.

Amarnath Yatra – Pilgrimage to Paradise

Amarnath – One of the holy trinity, Shiva is a living god. The most sacred and most ancient book of India, the Rig Veda evokes his presence in its hymns, Vedic Myths, rituals and even testify to his existance from the dawn of time. Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in a cave in Amarnath. Unknown to them, a pair of doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learnt the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. The annual yatra to Holy Amarnath Cave, situated at 14000 ft. above sea level, is organised by the Jammu & Kashmir State Government during the month of July and August. The intending pilgrims are allowed to perform darshan from Ashard Purnimashi to Shravan Purnimashi which course spreads over a month or so.

The trek to Amarnath, in the month of Shravan (July-August) has the devout flock to this incredible shrine, where the image of Shiva, in the form of a lingam, is formed naturally of an ice-stalagmite, and which waxes and wanes with the moon. By its side are, fascinatingly, two more ice-lingams, that of Parvati, and of their son, Ganesha.

According to an ancient tale, there was once a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik who was given a sack of coal by a sadhu. Upon reaching home he discovered that the sack, in fact, contained gold. Overjoyed and overcome, Buta Malik rushed back to look for the sadhu and thank him, but on the spot of their meeting discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of pilgrimage for all believers. To date, a percentage of the donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of Malik. and the remaining to the trust which manages the shrine.

Yet another legend has it that when Kashyap Reshi drained the Kashmir valley of water (it was believed to have been a vast lake), the cave and the lingam were discovered by Bregish Reshi who was travelling the Himalayas. When people heard of the lingam, Amarnath for them became Shiva’s abode and a center of pilgrimage.

Whatever the legends and the history of Amarnath’s discovery, it is today an extremely crucial centre of pilgrimage, and though the route is as difficult to trespass as it is exciting, every annum, millions of devotees from the subcontinent come to pay homage before Shiva in one of his Himalayan abodes.

Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder valley, Amarnath stands at 3,888 m and is 44.8 km from Pahalgam and 141 km from Srinagar. Though the original pilgrimage subscribes that the yatra be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common practise is to begin journey at Pahalgam, and cover the distance to Amarnath and back in five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar.

The trek from Pahalgam to Amarnath cave is on an ancient peregrine route. The 45-km distance is covered in four days, with night halts atChandanwariSheshnag (Wawjan) and Panchtarni. The distance from Pahalgam to Chandanwari (12.8 km) is covered in about five to six hours, and the trail runs alung the Lidder river. Pilgrims camp here on the first night out. A major attraction here is a bridge covered, year round, with ice even though the surroundings are free from it.

The next day’s trek, of 13 km, is through spectacular, primeval countryside, and the main centre of attraction is Sheshnag, a mountain which derives its name from its seven peaks, resembling the heads of a mythical snake. The journey to Sheshnag follows steep inclines up the right bank of a cascading stream and wild scenery untouched by civilization. The second night’s camp at Wawjan overlooks the deep blue waters of Sheshnag lake, and glaciers beyond it.

There are legends of love and revenge too associated with Sheshnag, and at the camp these are recounted by campfires, to the stillness of a pine-scented, Himalayan night.

The third day’s 13 km trek steadily gains height, winding up across Mahagunas Pass at 4,600 m and then descending to the meadow-lands of Panchtarni, the last camp enroute to the holy cave.

From Panchtarni to Amarnath is only 6 km, but an early morning’s start is recommended for there is a long queue awaiting entrance to the cave. The same day, following darshan, devotees can return to Panchtarni in time for lunch, and continue to Wawjan to spend the fourth night out; or continue further to Zojibal, returning to Pahalgam on the fifth day.

Entrance to the cave is regulated, and darshan a hasty affair for there are many others waiting outside to pay homage before the awesome Shivalinga. The devotees sing bhajans, chant incantations, and priests petform aarti and puja, invoking the blessings of Shiva, the divine, the pure, the absolute. For those who journey with faith, it is a rewarding experience, this simple visitation to a cave-shrine, the home of the

CharDham Yatra – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamnotri

Char Dham is referred to the four Hindu religious sites in Uttarakhand state of India. These are Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath. Nestled in the lap of majestic Himalayas, these four sites are the epicenter of religious activity in north India. Traditionally, the Chardham yatra is undertaken from the west to the east. Thus, the yatra starts from Yamunotri, then proceeding to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath.

Amongst the four Char Dhams, Yamunotri and Gangotri are dedicated to goddesses Yamuna and Ganga respectively. On the other hand, Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva while Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Moreover, people also visit Hemkund Sahib in the vicinity, which is one of the highest located religious sites in the country. Thus, pilgrims visit all these places in aspiration of washing away their sins and to attain salvation, by the blessings of the Lord.

Badrinath Temple:

On the right bank of alaknanda lies the sacred spot perched at an altitude of 3,133 meters above the sea level. Encircled by a beautiful valley, the 15 mts. high temple is dedicated to lord vishni. It is built in the form of a cone with a small cupola of a ilt bull and spire.

Built by adi guru shankaracharya the philosopher-saint of the 8th centurty.

The temple has been renovated several times due to damage by avalanches. Its colourful ‘singh dwara’ or the mainentrance gate give it a new, modern look.

The temple is divided into three parts the ‘garbha griha’ or sanctum sanctorum, the’ darshan mandap’ where the rituals are conducted and the ‘sabha mandap’ Where devotees assemble. The complex has 15 idols. Specially attractive is the one metre high image of Badrinath, finely sculpted in black stone. It represents lord Vishnu seated in a meditative pose.

Kedarnath Temple:

Amidst the mountainscapes of the majestic Kedarnath range stands one of the twelve ‘ Jyotirlingas’ of Kedar or Lord shiva. Lying at an altitude of 3.581 mts. Above sea level on the head of river Mandakini, the shrine of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimage for the Hindus.

The origin of the revered temple can be found in the great epic – Mahabharata. According to legend.

the Pandavas sought the blessings of Lord Shiva to atone their sins fafter the battle of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva eluded them repetedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull.

On being followed HE dived into the ground, leaving behind HIS hump on the surface. This conical protrusion is worshipped as the idol on the shrine. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva are worshipped at four places the arms (bahu) at Tungnath, mouth (mukha) at Rudranath, naval (nabhi) at Madmaheshwar and hair (jata) at Kalpeshwar. Together with Kedarnath, these places are known as the panch Kedar.

Gangotri Temple:

The picturesque pilgrimage in the hinter lands of the Himalayas is the most sacred spot where Ganga, the stream of life, touched earth for the first time.

According to mythology, Goddess Ganga – the daughter of heaven, manifested herself in the form of a river to absolve the sins of king Bhagirath’s predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries.

Lord Shiva received into his matted locks to minimize the immense impact of her fall. She came to be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source. Along the right bank of Bhagirathi stands the shrine of Gangotri dedicated to the Goddesss. Perched at a height of 3.042 mts., it was constructed in the early 18th century by a Gorkha Commander, Amar Singh Thapa.

Yamnotri Temple:

The first stopover for the Char Dham Yatra is the westernmost shrine of Yamunotri in the Garhwal Himalayas. Dedicated to Goddess yamuna, it is perched atop a flank of the Bandar Poonchh peak (3.165 mts. Above sea level) and is situated opposite to Gangotri. The shrine attracts devotees in large numbers from May to October.Yamunotri is the source of the revered river yamuna which originates from the Champasar Glacier lying 1 km ahead of the shrine, at an altitude of 4,321 mts. Pilgrims do not frequently visit the source of the river as it is not easily accessible.

Mathura Vrindavan

Brajbhoomi – the land where Shri Krishna was born and spent his youth, has today little towns and hamlets that are still alive with the Krishna legend and still redolent with the music of his flute. Mathura, a little town on the River Yamuna was transformed into a place of faith after Lord Krishna was born here. Vrindavan, a village – once noted for its fragrant groves, is where he spent an eventful youth. There are numerous other little spots in the area that still reverberate with the enchantment of Shri Krishna.

mathura-vrindavan

City of Mathura

The City of Mathura, in Uttar Pradesh, the nucleus of Brajbhoomi, is located at a distance of 145 km south-east of Delhi and 58 km north-west of Agra. Covering an area of about 3,800 sq. km., today, Brajbhoomi can be divided into two distinct units – the eastern part in the trans-Yamuna tract with places like Gokul, Mahavan, Baldeo, Mat and Bajna and the western side of the Yamuna covering the Mathura region that encompasses Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Barsana and Nandgaon.

The land of Braj starts from Kotban near Hodel about 95 km from Delhi and ends at Runakuta which is known specially for its association with the poet Surdas, an ardent Krishna devotee.
Shri Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, was born in the Dwapara Yuga as the eighth son of the Yadava prince Vasudev and his wife Devaki. To save him from the murderous intentions of his maternal uncle Kansa, the ruler of Mathura, the infant Krishna was spirited away soon after birth to Gokul, the village of the gopas (cowherds) in Braj (their pastureland). It was here that he grew to manhood, in the tender care of his foster parents Nand and Yashoda in the happy company of the cowherds.

Places to visit at Mathura:

SHRI KRISHNA JANMA BHUMI : The Birth Place of Lord Krishna

JAMA MASJID : Built by Abo-inNabir-Khan in 1661.A.D. the mosque has 4 lofty minarets, with bright colored plaster mosaic of which a few panels currently exist.

VISHRAM GHAT : The sacred spot where Lord Krishna is believed to have rested after slaying the tyrant Kansa.

DWARKADHEESH TEMPLE : Built in 1814, it is the main temple in the town. During the festive days of Holi, Janmashthami and Diwali, it is decorated on a grandiose scale.

GITA MANDIR : Situated on the city outskirts, the temple carving and painting are a major attraction.

GOVT. MESEUM : Located at Dampier Park, it has one of the finest collection of archaeological interest. Rare items from the Gupta and Kushan period (400 B.C.-1200A.D.) are on display. Major attraction for tourists.

Not to Overlook – Excursions
Govind Dev Temple
Built in 1590 AD by Raja Man Singh of Jaipur. it is an example of architectural excellence of mediaeval India. Built in the form of a Greek Cross, its upper four storeys were destroyed during Emperor Aurangzeb’s reign.

Rangaji Temple
The largest temple of Vrindaban, it was built in 1845 AD. The temple, partly in Rajput style and partly in south Indian style, precincts enclose a water tank, a garden and a.50 ft gold-plated flagmast. The walls enclose an area of 235.6 mt by 134.1 mt.

Gokul
16 km. The town where infant Krishna was brought up in secrecy and home of his foster mother. Yashoda Maiya. The most important temple is Gokul Nathji. Gokul is particularly known for the festivals of Janmashtami. Annakut and Trinvat Mela, which are celebrated here in a distinct style.

Nandgaon
56 km from Mathura. Home of Lord Krishna’s foster father. Nand. Important sites of the town are a temple devoted to Nand or Pan Sarovar. one of the four celebrated lakes of Braj Bhoomi, where, according to legend, Lord Krishna used to water his herd.

City of Vrindavan

Vrindavan, just 15 km from Mathura, is another major place of pilgrimage. It is noted for its numerous temples – both old and modern. The name Vrindavan evokes the playfulness and lovable characteristics of Shri Krishna. This is the wood where he frolicked with the gopis and tenderly wooed Radha.

Golden Temple -holiest shrine of the Sikh religion

Sri Harmandir Sahib, also know as the Golden Temple in Amritsar is the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion. Also known as the Shri Darbar Shaib, it is in the center of the old part of Amritsar. The Golden Temple sits on a rectangular platform, surrounded by a pool of water called the Amrit Sarovar from which the City is named.

The entrance to the Golden Temple complex is through an ornate archway with intricate inlay work. Verses from the Granth Sahib are inscribed on the doorway. The main north entrance is under a Victorian clock tower. Known as the Darshani Deori, the entrance is up a flight of steps and down again to the temple and holy tank. The temple is a two storey marble structure reached by a causeway known as Guru´s Bridge. The lower storey is in white marble with the walls decorated with inlaid flower and animal motifs in the pietradura style of the Taj Mahal. The architecture of the golden temple is a blend of the Hindu and Muslim styles.

golden-temple


The upper storey is gold plated,  crowned with a dome (the Golden Dome) shaped like an inverted lotus. With the first light of dawn, the reflection of the temple in the tank gives an ethereal atmosphere to the complex. As the sun shifts, the temple presents myriad views, each magnificent and captivating. The Golden Dome (said to be glided with 100 kg of pure gold) is supposed to represent an inverted lotus flower, pointing back to earth to symbolize the Sikh´s concern with the problems of this world.

The temple building has four entrances instead of the usual single entry. This is symbolic of the openness of Sikhism and indicates that followers of all faiths are allowed inside. The walls within are decorated with carved wooden panels and elaborate inlay work in silver and gold. The Adi Granth, compiled by Guru Arjan Dev, rests on a throne beneath a jewel-encrusted canopy. Priests conduct continuous recitation of verses from the holy book in 3-hour shifts. A complete reading of the text stakes 48 hours. The original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib is kept under pink shroud in the, Golden Temple during the day and at around 10 p.m. each day is ceremoniously returned to the Akal Takht (Sikh Parliament) building. The morning processional ceremony takes place at 4 a.m. in Summer and at 5 a.m. in Winter, when Sri Guru Granth Sahib is bought from Akal takhat Sahib in a procession to the Sanctum Sanctorum, which is washed with milk.

golden-temple-at-night

The Akal Takht, next to the Golden Temple, is the seat of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the religious governing body of the Sikhs. The building of the Akal Takht was begun by Guru Arjan Dev and completed in 1609 by Guru Hargobind.  If you miss the early morning or evening processions, the palanquin that bears the Adi Granth can be seen in the treasury room on the first floor of the Akal Takht. The palanquin is set with precious stones and has silver poles and a gold canopy.

Shrines on the northern edge of the corridor are venerated as the 68 holy shrines of the Hindus. According to the teachings of Guru Arjan Dev, it was enough for the devout to visit these shrines and not visit all the original Hindu shrines which are spread all over the country. Many of these shrines have now been converted into a martyr’s gallery showing the gruesome history of the Sikhs.

Around the Parikrama, or pathway, are four rectangular cubicles where Granthis (priests) sit and recite the Granth Sahib. Pilgrims leave offerings at the steps, and can also get the holy book recited in their names for a donation. At the eastern end are two brick watchtowers called the Ramgarhia Minars, which were damaged during Operation Blue Star in 1984. The Guru-ka-langar or community canteen is a Sikh institution, which was started by Guru Amar Das in the 16th century. The practice of eating together encouraged shedding of inhibitions and the principle of equality. The community kitchen feeds up to 10,000 people in a day, free of charges. The food is normally chapattis and lentils.

The Jubi tree, at the north western corner of the complex was planted some 450 year ago by the temple’s first head priest. The old, gnarled tree is believed to have special powers and childless women tie strips of cloth on it to be blessed with sons. Marriage deals are also fixed under the tree, though this practice is disapproved by the temple authorities. Two flag staffs joined in the middle with the emblem of Guru Hargobind symbolise the dual aspects of Sikhism – religion and politics. Two swords of the emblem are enclosed in a circle with the inscription Ek Onkar (God is one). The Guru Ram Das and Guru Nanak hostels on one side of the complex offer free accommodation up to three nights for visitors.

The Golden Temple is open to all. Pilgrims and visitors to the Golden Temple must remove their shoes and cover their heads before entering the precincts. No Smoking is allowed inside the whole temple area, photography is permitted only in/from the Prakarma , the marble pathway that surrounds the sacred pool. An English speaking guide is available at the information office near clock Tower that marks the temples main entrance. The information office has a number of interesting free publications.

The old city, with the Golden Temple and surrounding bazaars along narrow alleys, is encircled by a ring road. Even today, the markets have an ambience of ancient times, when traders bought and sold goods right across from central Asia up to the farthest corners of India. Little light reaches down to the congested streets, which are best negotiated on foot. There are rows upon rows of shops on each street selling specifics goods. Guru Bazaar specialises in gold jewellery shops, while the Bazaar Kesarian is for steel and brass utensils. The smells of Katra Kathian announce its wares before you reach the shops selling papads, warian (crispies made from pulses) murabbas (Indian jams), pickles and ampapad (dried mango candies). The Mishri Bazaar is the place to buy dry fruits, while Katra Mohan Singh offers a colourful kaleidoscope of bridal glass bangles.

There are many places to be visited around Golden Temple in Amritsar. A visit to the holy shrine of Golden Temple is incomplete without a visit to these places. About Golden Temple provides a list of these places for your assistance:

Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Guru, built Akal Takht in 1609. The weapons used by Guru Hargobind Ji Maharaj, Guru Gobind Singh and other Sikh heroes are preserved at Akal Takht.

Baba Atal is built in memory of Atal Rai Ji. Atal Rai was the son of Guru Hargobind Ji. He died at a very early stage (when he was nine).

Guru Ka Langar is a place where food (Langar) is prepared. The service is offered 24 hours a day to all visitors without any distinction on the basis of caste, creed, religion or nationality.

Shri Guru Ram Das Niwas is a place for accommodation of the visitors. 228 rooms and 18 big halls constructed by the Gurudwara Committee. The facilities of bedding, fans, cots are provided free of cost. The visitors are not allowed to stay for more than three days.

Guru Nanak Niwas has 66 rooms including 22 rooms with baths. On every floor there are 10 bathrooms.

Akal Takht Rest House has 26 rooms with double beds with attached bathrooms on affordable rent.

 

Vaishano Devi

Shri Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine is one of the oldest shrine of India, located at a height of 5300 feet on the holy Trikuta Hills of the Shivalik Hill Range. The Holy cave is 13 Kms from the Base Camp Katra. The Town Katra is 50 Kms away from Jammu and 35 Kms from District HQ Udhampur and is linked by road. The Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine is one of the most popular Shrines of India.

Location
The Vaishno Devi shrine is nestled in the Trikuta Mountain. It lies 61 km north of Jammu in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. Perched at a height of 5,200 feet above the sea level, Vaishno Devi is a cave in the lower Himalayas. Katra, the town at the foot of the Trikuta hills is the base camp for the Vaishno Devi shrine. Katra is 48 km from Jammu, 650 km from Delhi (via Una), 520 km from Udhampur, 410 km from Chandigarh and 80 km from Patnitop The shrine is visited all through the year, but the path is difficult during the winters when the route is often blocked by snowfall.

Vaishnavi – The Manifestation of Goddess Shakti
The temple of Vaishno Devi is dedicated to Vaishnavi, the human manifestation of Goddess Shakti. Within the temple is the deity in the form of a five and half feet tall rock with three Pindies or heads. It is written that the goddess to achieve her destiny of finally merging with Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a human and was born as Vaishnavi, in the household of one Ratnakar. Even as a young girl, Vaishnavi displayed an immense thirst for knowledge that soon out thought her teachers. Soon she started to search within herself for the answers that she couldn’t find elsewhere and learnt the art of meditation. Realizing the importance of Tapasya (meditation) Vaishnavi renounced all worldly comforts and betook herself to the forest to meditate in peace.

Legend has it that while Vaishnavi was in the forest she encountered Lord Rama, prince of Ayodhya, who was in exile. Recognizing him immediately as an avatar of Lord Vishnu she begged him to merge with her, but Lord Rama, knowing that the time was not ripe promised her that on the completion of his exile he would again pass that way. If she recognized him then he would fulfill her wishes. True to his word he returned in the guise of an old man, but Vaishnavi failed to recognize him. Rama consoled her and advised her to set up an ashram at the base of the Trikuta Hills and continue with her penance.

The Significence
The holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is unique as it contains the holiest of holy Pindis manifesting Mata in her three forms which are Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. Each of these forms represent particular attributes.

Maha Kali represents Tam Guna : Tam stands for darkness or unholiness. In her attribute of Maha Kali, Mata is constantly endeavoring to vanquish the forces of darkness. She blesses her devotees by giving them strength to never lose heart and constantly battle the forces of darkness till they prevail upon them. Maha Lakshmi represents Raj Guna : Raj stands for sustenance, prosperity and well being. In her attribute of Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Mata blesses her devotees with wealth and prosperity and thus makes their life more comfortable and happy.

Maha Saraswati represents Satva Guna : Satva stands for purity and goodness. In her attribute of Maha Saraswati, Mata blesses her devotees with pure thoughts and a high intellect. This enables them to distinguish between the good and the bad, between righteousness and unrighteousness and helps them to adopt the correct path in life.

A combination of these three attributes in a single Shakti is known as Mata Vaishno Devi Ji and this unique combination is what makes her revered all over the world. Each person on earth contains the attributes of Tam Guna, Raj Guna and Satva Guna in some degree or the other. His or her behavior is therefore, conditioned by the attribute that is predominant. However, to lead a full and meaningful life a balance has to be struck amongst the three. This balance is extremely difficult to achieve. It needs divine blessings. It is only at Vaishno Devi Ji that such blessings are possible simultaneously from a single source of Shakti . This is what makes the holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji unique in the world.

The Yatra
The Yatra begins at Katra and pilgrims have to cover 13 km of terrain on foot to reach the Darbar. One kilometer away from Katra, is Banganga, place where Mata quenched her thirst and at 6 km further down, is the holy cave at Adhkawari.The entire 13 km route is quite wide and tiled. Besides, the whole path is lit up every night by powerful sodium vapour lamps. The whole route is swept and cleaned from time to time throughout the day. Yatris are requested to keep the path clean.

Shelter cum sheds and shelter cum cafeterias are setup throughout the route. Pure vegetarian food is available at these outlets. Price charts are exhibited at all these outlets prominently. Drinking water has been made available all along the route, with water coolers and storage facilities.

Public utilities with automatic flushing systems along the track and at the Bhawan. After 6 km. of trekking, you would reach Adhkawari, the holy cave where Mata meditated for nine months. Do visit the cave. After 9.5 km., you would reach Sanji Chhat where you can rest for sometime. Accommodation is also available at this place. Bhawan is just 3.5 km. away.

The Darshan
At the entrance to the cave is a place called Bhavan where the worshipper buys prasad (offering to the God, a little of which is returned to the devotee for distribution amongst his near and dear ones) and other offerings. Here the Yatri is issued a token number on showing the Yatra ticket. The group no. and the time for the Yatri’s turn is mentioned on the token.

At Bhavan there are cloakrooms, lockers for your belongings and change rooms. It is customary to bathe and change clothes before joining the queue for the darshan. Amidst the continuous chanting of Jai Mata Di, pilgrims wait patiently for their turn after depositing their coconut at the entrance for which they are given tokens. Each one has to enter the cave alone as the tunnel to the shrine is very narrow and has to be negotiated with care. Once inside it widens out to provide darshan of the goddess. The return is via a different route that takes the devotee to the shrine of Bhairon and then back to Katra.

Cave
The total length of the holy Cave is about ninety eight feet. Here you can see symbols of a large number of Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. At the mouth of the original tunnel to the holy Cave on the left hand side of the rock face you can see the symbol of Vakra Tunda Ganesha. Adjacent to the symbol of Lord Ganesha you can see the symbols of Surya Dev and Chandra Dev. When you crawl into the holy Cave through the natural tunnel you cross over the Dhadh of Bhairo Nath who was beheaded by the Goddess at the entry point to the holy Cave. The Dhadh is fourteen feet long. After this you come across the symbol of Lord Hanuman who was also called Launkra Beer.

Beyond the Launkra Beer point you have to wade your way through water Twenty three feet beyond Launkra Beer, on the left upper hand side, the roof of the cave flares out and the weight of this over hang appears to the resting on the innumerable heads of Shesh Nag. Immediately below Shesh Nag there is the Havan Kund of Mata. Adjacent to the symbols of Shankh, Chakra, Gada and Padam. Higher up, almost touching the ceiling of the cave are the symbols of the five Pandavas, the Sapt Rishi, the Than of the divine cow, Kamdhenu, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiv and Parvati.

Three feet further ahead, on an elevation some what lower than Shiv and Parvati, is the Khamba that was gripped by the legendary worshipper Prahalad. Diagonally below this, at the water level you can see the Yantra with innumerable mystical signs and symbols inscribed on it. Twenty two feet beyond this point, the Sher Ka Panja symbolising the lion, which is the mount of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is located.

The distance from the entry point to the Sher Ka Panja is fifty nine feet.. Six feet further ahead, on the left hand side, are the symbols of Shankar and Gouri. Thirteen feet beyond the symbols of Shankar and Gouri the holiest of the holy Pindies of “Mata Maha Kali Ji”, “Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Devi Ji,” and “Mata Maha Saraswati Ji”.appear .To the right of the holy Pindies on the upper side we can once again identify the symbols of Ganesh, Surya Dev, Chandra Dev and Goddess Annapurna. Slightly behind the holy Pindies, on the right hand side you can see the symbol of the seated Sinh Raj. A little ahead of this you can make out the full hand of the Goddess raised in the Vard Hast mode, granting boons to the world. Immediately opposite the Holy Pindies is the natural symbol of Lord Pashupati Nath.

Water(Charan Ganga) gushes out of the base of the holy Pindies and flows out of the holy Cave. Charan Ganga is collected in small containers by the devotees and is taken home. It is also channelised to the bathing ghat and the devotees can take a bath in this water before they join the queue for Darshan of the holy Pindies.

The Pindis
The cave at the Trikuta mountain is indeed a unique cave as it is in this cave that Shakti in her incarnation of Vaishavi resides in a petrified rock form and it is only here that she is manifested in her 3 forms Maha Kali , Maha Lakhsmi and Maha Saraswati The holiest of the holy Pindies of “Mata Maha Kali Ji”, “Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Devi Ji” and “Mata Maha Saraswati Ji which are the ultimate destination for pilgrims are located at a distance of 91 feet inside the cave .In the surroundings symbols of ‘Surya’, ‘Chander’, ‘Sinh Raj’, ‘Pashupatinath’, ‘Shiva’ and ‘Dhrupad Ji’ are quite prominent.

A stream of water gushes out of the base of the holy Pindies which is commonly known as ‘Charanganga’. After flowing through the cave this Charanganga is chennalised to ‘Bathing Ghat’ at Bhavan where the devotees take their bath before proceeding for Darshans of the deity. As a mark of reverence the devotees also carry this ‘Charanjal’ in small containers to their homes.

The Aartis
The Aarti of the Goddess is performed twice a day, once during the morning at sun rise and again during the evening at sun set. The holy cave is closed for pilgrims during the period the Aarti is being performed. It usually takes around two hours for the Aarti to be completed. Only the Pujaris, Sahayaks and an officer are permitted in the cave when the Aarti is being performed. The sequence of the various activities that are performed at Aarti is as under :

  • Chanting of Mantras
    At the commencement of the Aarti the Pujaris utter aloud the 108 names of Durga. Then they perform Atam Puja for their own purification and apply Tilak on each other’s forehead. This is followed by the chanting of mantras exhorting the Devas to give the Pujaris sound health. Thereafter, Prithvi, Surya, Deep and Dhoop are worshipped by the chanting of mantras. Once these activities are over, the Pujaris chant the Pratigyaa Sankalp where they vow to worship Mata Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Mata and Mata Maha Saraswati

The Other Pilgrimage Attractions at Vaishno Devi

Ban Ganga Temple
After the goddess left the Bhumika Temple, she went to the Trikuta Hills passing through here. At this time, Langoor Vir (Veer Langur) felt thirsty. The goddess shot an arrow into the stone and a holy river was produced, now known as Ban Ganga. It is called Ban Ganga because the goddess washed her hair at this place. Most pilgrims take bath here. You must show the slip you got near the Bus Stand in Katra to pass this point. Ban Ganga is about 3 km from Katra.

Charan Paduka Temple
This is where the goddess stopped for some time while Bhairon was chasing her. Her footprints are supposed to be visible on a stone at this place. Charanpaduka means “holy footprints”. It is about 1.5 km from Ban Ganga at 3,380 feet.

Ardh Kuwari
Ardh Kuwari is the halfway point, and some pilgrims stay here for the night. There is a 15-foot-long cave called Garbha Joon where the goddess hid herself for nine months and showed herself to a saint. The cave is narrow, and you have to almost crawl all the way through it. When Bhairon entered the cave, the goddess made a new opening with her trident and ran away. Ardh Kuwari is 4.5 km from Charan Paduka and 4,800 ft above sea level.