Sunday, 22 June 2014

|| Om Shanishcharaya Nam: ||

Shri Shani Mahatmye has 5 chapters or adhyayas. It mainly tells you the story of Raja Vikramaditya of Ujjain who faced serious consequence for abusing Lord Shani. And mentions some examples from Puranas, Mahabharata & Ramayana where many faces difficulties because of Shani dasha on them. Finally everyone in their lifetime will face the wrath of Shani dev, even Mahadev Shiva is not spared. Anyhow by worshiping him in those difficult times, impact can be reduced and thus pass such bad days. 

Shani dev is considered the main god/graha among 9 planet lords / Navagrahas. As I was offering him pooja [24th May 2014] with the guidance of our archaka guru / priest, reminded me of the main Shani temples visited - Shani Signapura which is an hour from Shirdi, Maharashtra & Navagraha temple of Ujjain, Madhaya Pradesh.

Navagraha Temple [Triveni], Ujjain
Triveni Sangam [confluence of Gandaki and Shipra rivers, mythical holy Saraswathi believed to be the third]
On 9th June 2013, morning we left to see Maheshwar & Omkareshwar from Ujjain, where we had spent a whole day to have darshan of Shri Mahakaleshwar, Shakthipeeth Gadkalika and many other important places within the holy town. Just as we left, around 8km from Ujjain, our driver mentioned about a Navagraha temple being there which has a triveni sangam / ghat. We decided to get darshan of the Navagraha deities as well, a good way to start the day.

As we reached the place and entered the premises, it seemed as though a ceremony or a fair was held which might have seen a very large crowd. Because it was a bit messy around and some staffs had started cleaning early that day. We first went inside the temple and prayed with the 9 lords, who were installed (prathishta) at the direction of the respective lord's are meant to be. Each lords were dressed with the colour of their preference and idols were mostly soaked with gingelly (sesame seed's) oil offered by the devotees.

Then we got reminded of the Triveni sangam ghat (ouch.. we should have visited the sangam before temple darshan :-| hmm.. anyhow..), where confluence of Gandaki river with Shipra (Kshipra) takes place. The third river which meets here is said to be holy mythical river Saraswathi. As we went near, we were completely surprised to see heaps of clothes, footwear/sandals lying around all over the bank of the river at the ghat. A guy was instructing some workers to clean them up with whom we enquired and learned that previous day large number of people gathered as it was special day to visit there (Amavasya/New moon & Shanivaar/Saturday). Devotees who visit the temple take a holy dip in the triveni sangam and leave/dump their clothes, footwear.. !! It's believed that by this, bad omen (graha doshas) will be washed in holy sangam and will be left behind with the clothes !!!

30 June 2012: Shirdi is an overnight journey in bus. It's one of the richest temples in terms of donations it receives in India. Being Sai Baba's birth place, followers from all over the country keep visiting the place and take darshan. Some people do the paada yatra from their place till Shirdi whatever the distance !! Usually in such yatra they travel as a group with a truck/tempo assisting them with water and food. As we reached early morning, checked with a hotel for just to have bath and freshen up for the temple visit. Within a hour we finished the darshan, which was not much of a time as we expected will take and headed to the Signapura town in a cab which was around 73km from Shirdi

Shri Shani Maharaj at Signapura

We had heard that the town was unique and the belief is so strong among the people of that town, the homes/buildings doesn't have any doors !! And yes.. it turned out to be TRUE !! Just a screen was put in every house without any doors, even in the newly constructed ones !!! There were stories.. like if a thief steals something, he'll go through a horrible fate and the stolen items will be returned to the owners somehow. Such incidents are said to have occurred which multiplied the faith in Lord Shani, being a true protector of the people. As all such stories/legends were sinking within us we took the blessings from the lord with crow as his vāhana or Khagesha (lord of the planets) Shri Shani dev. Whatever is the fact, one has to admit.. Belief is everything :-)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Pass over the Naneghat..

"Wooohooo..." everyone were excited like hell !! It was fully chilling with fog, drizzle and wind that blew too strong to stand still casually. I had to make effort to keep my balance. Fortunately fog/cloud had drifted beneath us after 10 mins of waiting.. I quickly started my camera in video mode. Even though not a full clear view of the valley below but a glimpse for some seconds itself was enough to make us enthralled !! I guess we screamed for more than a minute. Nobody else were present near by. The visibility itself was not more than 5mts. May be by our screaming sound another group came over to the top who were just some distance below expecting the clear view but it had already again covered by clouds. The heart full joy it offered will not be forgotten for life, even though it was not one of the greatest hill-tops, still excellent climate made us the day :) Delwin was visiting for the 2nd time who guided us through the trek (and of course guide as such not required. The trekking path will guide us automatically). We had been climbing for almost 2 hrs 15 mins before reaching to the peak. Descent should not take more than 1 hrs 15 mins but in monsoon it's not that easy. Need to be careful because chances of getting slipped is high.. [Check out the video recorded below :) :D]

Naneghat - one of the most popular trekking destination of Maharashtra in Malshej ghat region where we see a unique  mountain pass, caves rather than a fort (which is quite normal in maratha region). Its a simple-medium range trek which require 2-3 hrs for uphill depending upon the breaks we take. According to wikipedia : Naneghat is a mountain pass in the Western Ghats range near Junnar in Pune district of Maharashtra, India. During the reign of the Satavahana (200 BCE–190 CE), the pass was extensively used as a trade route between Kalyan and Junnar. Literally, the name nane means "coin" and ghat means "pass". The name is given because this path was used as a tollbooth to collect toll from traders crossing the hills.

Rakshith, Delwin, Karthik & Akshay at the starting point
We planned to start early from mumbai to cover 165 km to reach the starting point of the Naneghat. We had a reliable contact, Sunil for a cab to book when we need for our trips (he's from kulupwadi near borivali east, mumbai). A really decent fellow, if he can't come himself he'll arrange another for sure. As planned Qualis reached our apartment at 6 am on 28th July 2012 for which we had made the usual deal for 300km/day at 9rs/km + 300 rs BATA for the driver. We took the route to the base of Naneghat from our place Thane - Kalyan - Murbad - Tokawade and 4km further from a place called Vaishakhare where a diversion appears with a board Nanghat. And that's the starting point for our adventurous ascend to the Naneghat Peak :)

Oh yeah.. we need to cross that peak too.. !! Lovely :)
There was another route which was nearer to Pune or Ahmednagar. But it was a round about for Thane/mumbai people. The advantage of that route is.. no need to trek at all !! Yeah.. it will take us right to the next end of the mountain pass which I mentioned at first. And from that pass, it was just 500mts to the peak. Anyhow we were very enthusiastic for the trek rather than lazy drive till that end. Always trekking makes us feel deserved to see the beautiful view from the peak which makes mind peaceful.

Resting, Energizing-up en-route :)
Chilled sweet water source at a stage. No mineral water can beat its taste :D 

Calm wind, cloudy lush green surroundings, soothing fog, now and then the drizzle touch.. WOW !! The best weather ever in which we did a trek. That's the reason this trek will always remain special.. For 2 hrs we crossed steams, plains, forests, mountains, enjoying the nature which was at its best (also takings pictures ofcourse..). At one stretch we did not even sit for a min to take rest. Err.. don't think we were full of stamina and spirited to finish with competition but as we tried to take rest, were not allowed to by the most irritating creature of the planet.. mosquitoes !! :P As we approached the peak the one who totally exhausted was Rakshith.. He had sat down giving up to move any further. He had started to feel dizzy a bit too.. After eating some biscuits, banana and water.. along with a bit of rest, encouragement slowly he followed us.. And thus in a while we reached the 1st destination - the mountain pass and caves :) Everything else captured to explain !!

Almost there to the starting of mountain pass and caves.
Protective railing in front of the caves.
Me at one-end of the mountain pass. Right rock cut stairs is to the 2-3 caves where trekkers usually take shelter over-night. At the monsoon peak, this pass will be half filled with water flowing !! Yeah a bit dangerous at that time to cross.
Yes, the cars at the other end of the mountain pass (from Junnar route). Just see the visibility due to fog :) 500mts from here, it's the peak of naneghat !
At the peak 'The Hobos' (hehe, just a name we made up for our group :P) where this blog article started :)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Aurangabad - The city built by the throne !!

"Muhammad-bin-Tughluq (The brutal and foolish ruler of Delhi Sultnate, 1325-1351 AD) wanted to make Devagiri second capital so that he might be able to control south India better. Devagiri was named Daulatabad by him later. However, after a couple of years, he decided to abandon Daulatabad largely because he soon found that just as he could not control south India from Delhi, he could not control North from Daulatabad." - All must have read these lines in their school days. This Devagiri is 25km from Aurangabad city of Maharashtra now, was initially capital of Yadava kings but captured by Ala-ud-din Khilji of Delhi. Anyway rather than that, we wanted to visit Aurangabad to see another marvel of our olden days architecture, UNESCO heritage sites, Ajanta and Ellora !! There's one more place, a pilgrimage, a jyotirlinga temple where the lord Grishneshwar resides :)

Aurangabad (meaning - built by the throne) is a district at the center of Maharashtra which has a capital city by the same name. It is one of the industrially developed and fastest growing city of the world. The state government has declared this city from medieval period as the Tourism Capital of Maharashtra. And because of the 52 "gates" it's nicknamed 'City of Gates', but out of which only 13 such gates have survived to the present days.

Mumbai to Aurangabad is around 8-9hrs journey in train. As planned me, karthik, akshay, harsha, sunil and sreejith reached on 24th Sept, 2011 Saturday morning in devgiri express. Just outside the station, our typical dressing as mumbaikars with shorts and t-shirts might have made that cab driver understand correctly as tourists and offered us to show all of the Aurangabad. We liked him, he was sensible enough to understand our places of interests and hence a deal was made with him. Firstly he showed a budget hotel room for 6 to stay just for Rs.600 for a day.

Every Jyothirlinga temples have their own legend. They are the place where Lord Shiva himself descended to earth. There are 12 such temples in India. 3 of them in Maharashtra itself. One of them is Grishneshwar Temple 23km from Aurangabad city and 5km from Ellora. Go through the following link for the legend behind the temple. We had started the first day by taking blessing of Lord Grishneshwar and headed towards Ellora Cave temples.

Paithan is another city of Maharastra, 56km south to Aurangabad where a variety of fine silk saris are woven by hand called by the name Paithani Saris, is one of the richest saris of Maharastra. They are characterized by borders of an oblique square design, and a pallu with a peacock design (Haha, don't be amazed at my knowledge regarding a sari, just took help from Wiki to get the words :P :D). But simply to say, even I found it impressive, well-made ones and took one of them to Mom :) Surprisingly, she even liked my choice of color !! :P Sunil also took a sari and a chudi piece for his sister. Another variety of fabric made of silk and cotton called Himroo is also a specialty they have got. Himroo shawls, bed covers are famous for its unique style and design. Harsha had bought one shawl which definitely will come to use in Hassan, esp during winter :)

Devgiri hill fort from a distance

As mentioned earlier, Devgiri/Daulatabad Fort is 16 km from Aurangabad city. The fort is situated on an isolated cone-shaped hill rising abruptly from the plain to the height of about 190 metres. Quoting from MTDC website regarding its history - "Though the city of Devagiri was founded in 1187 AD by the Yadava king Bhillan V, the fort was constructed during the reign of Singhana II (1210-46 AD).  It was captured by Ala-ud-Din Kalji in 12 94 AD, marking the first Muslim invasion of the Deccan. Finally in 1318 AD, Malik Kafur killed last Yadava Raja, Harapal. Then in 1327 AD, Muhammed-bin-Tughluq sought to make it his capital, by transferring the entire population of Delhi and changing the name from Devagiri to Daulatabad. Then it was in the possession of the Bhamanis till 1526 AD.  The fort remained in Mughal control till Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 AD., when it passed on to the Nizam of Hyderabad." 

What fascinates to see is the fortified walls surrounded by water (may have contained crocs during those times !!). Fort is also designed strategically to defend from enemy attacks with canons and "dark passage" to confuse, scare the intruders (read the description in the pic). The orange colored Chand Minar, about 63 metres in height  adds attraction for the visit. Visit in rainy will give a beautiful lush green view from above the fort making you feel relaxed. :)

Water trench surrounding the fort..

The Chand Minar at Devgiri/Daulatabaad
The next day we wanted to visit 2 places - Bibi Ka Maqbara (aka The Mini Tajmahal) and the famous Ajanta Caves. Bibi Ka Maqbara was built between 1650-57 A.D by Prince Azam Shah (son of Aurangzeb) in the memory for his mother Dilras Banu Begam. But who thought it'll be strikingly similar to the Tajmahal of Agra !!? Yes, it is.. but a smaller version !! Hence also called Taj of the Deccan or Mini Tajmahal. Its too a UNESCO heritage structure with 5Rs per person ticket. Simply remarkable to see the structure with well maintained garden around. As we had reached early opening hours, it was only us which gave us an advantage to enjoy roaming around and have enough photos :P

Bibi-Ka-Maqbara (The Mini Tajmahal)
Next we headed towards the magnificent caves of Ajanta which is beauty on its location along with its sculptures and paintings. I think it's better to write on Ellora and Ajanta in a separate post..

Here's my-note-to-consider about Aurangabad: Need 2 days at least to see all the places. Grishneshwar Temple, Bibi-Ka-Maqbara, Devgiri fort, Ellora and Ajanta not to be missed. Remember, here Ellora and Ajanta should be allocated half day for each. If you have an extra day, visit Lonar which is at 160km from Aurangabad. Its a crater believed to have been caused by a meteorite hitting Earth around 52,000 years ago !! Now its world's only salt water lake in basaltic rock and thus geologically interesting. But we couldn't visit the place because of time crunch. And don't forget to visit Paithani silks saree shops which will be found all over the Auragabad. For reference check my map below to plan :)

My heart skipped a beat or two !!

Location - Kasarvadavali, Ghodbunder Road, Thane West.

Period - a morning around 9am of a day in 2012.

Scenario - Our apartment was on 6th floor of wing A1. It was a 9 winged apartment complex raised to form a U-shape. We could see houses opposite to our flat as our house's windows were facing inside curve of the U form.

That Chilly Moment - After a refreshing bath was dressing up for the office in my room when I heard a little giggle from outside the window. Just as my heart tickled with the innocent sound that of the child's, it shook as I saw the scene outside in the opposite flat. For a moment, was left dumb-stuck when I saw that crawling child trying to come out of their house's window which had no protective grills (noting.. it was 6th floor) :(

Action - Confused as how that infant come up to that situation without any adult being near it, noticed next window where its mother was cooking in the kitchen. Was sure I cannot alert directly to her, but quickly called "security" to be heard below. Fortunately one of them heard me and looked up to me in a questioning expression. Made a quick sign to look up towards the opposite flat and made a loud voice to be heard "bachcha..". He gave a quick turn and got horrified by seeing the situation, blew his whistle loudly. Along with my clap and sound, luckily its mother recognized the sign made by security to look into her child next room.. !! She quickly understanding the seriousness, ran out of kitchen and appeared in adjacent room to grab her loving child and pulled it inside the room. Even if she had delayed by a minute I would have suffered my entire life watching the horror :( That child was at least 50% outside the window pane when her mother pulled back.. Just then its father stood up from below from sleep in the same room !!

Analysis - A sofa was kept just below the room's window which had no protective grill. So if you accidentally fall off that window, you'll directly land to death 6 floors below !! I guess, dad had made his infant sleep on the sofa and himself too had gone to sleep below. Child being with its father, mother was taking care of her household work. Now baby might have then woken up and started to move.. on its own to feel the breeze from the window which made it happy and giggle !!

Relief - After seeing the baby being pulled inside safely, I sat down with a deep sigh to settle down the slight shiver in my hands.. Gathering strength in some minutes continued to groom for office with a mixed feeling. Whatever.. Life moves on..