Sunday, January 30, 2011

Photographs from Here and There in Nashik-Shirdi... Along the Way

Sunshine is delicious,
Beautiful sunny day on the Mumbai-Shirdi highway
Rain is refreshing,
Mumbai- Nashik highway in the rain
Wind braces us up,
Mumbai-Nashik Highway, Beautiful scenery
On the way to Trimbakshwar from Nashik
Clouds are exhilarating;
A field on the way to Trimbakshwar from Nashik
The clouds are setting on the Mumbai- Nashik highway
Anjaneri Mountain near Trimbakeshwar - the birthplace of 
Lord Hanuman

There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather - John Ruskin

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kushavart Kund - Trimbakeshwar

After visiting the Trimbakeshwar Temple, we headed towards a water tank revered as a sacred bathing place, the Kushavart kund.

The sacred pilgrimage known as Kushavart in Trimbakeshwar
[ The sacred pilgrimage known as Kushavart in Trimbakeshwar ]

There is an interesting account explaining the significance of the place. Sage Gautam once committed a sin of killing a cow. As an act of repentance, He performed penance at the peaks of the Brahmagiri Mountains, appeased Lord Shiva and asked for the Ganga waters so that he could wipe off his sin. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva jerked His big locks of matted hairs on the Brahmagiri Mountains and sent Ganga down onto the earth. Today that place is known as Gangadwar, situated half way to the Brahmagiri Mountains. There is a temple of Ganga, now known as Godavari River. Ganga appears first time here, after which it vanishes.

But the flow of the Ganges was tremendous due to which the sage could not bathe in her waters. He then surrounded the river with Kusha, a type of grass and put a stop to her flow.  After bathing here his sin of killing a cow was finally wiped off. The tirth (pilgrimage) came to be known as Kushavart.

Thus today, Kushavart is known as the symbolic origin of the River Godavari. It is from this Kushavart that the river Godavari flows up to the sea. There are temples at the four corners of Kushavart.

People at the Kushavart kund
[ People at the Kushavart kund ]

Temples besides the Kushavart kund
[ Temples besides the Kushavart kund ]

A Shiv Ling on the banks of the Kushavart kund
[ A Shiv Ling on the banks of the Kushavart kund ]

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trimbakeshwar Temple - One of the 12 Jyotirlings

Located at a distance of about 30 km from Nashik and 125 km from Shirdi, at the foothills of a mountain called Brahmagiri, the Trimbakeshwar Temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas (Self manifested lingams of Shiva popularly known as the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga) of Shiva. There are accounts of Lord Rama having made the Yatra at Trimbakeshwar.

One of the 12 Jyotirlinga's - Trimbakeshwar Temple
[ One of the 12 Jyotirlinga's - Trimbakeshwar Temple
photo courtesy google images ]

The Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple near Nashik
[ The Trimbakeshwar Temple as seen from the car parking area ]

I was here on a Shravan Monday, His favorite day in His favorite month, and there was a humongous line for the darshan, but passionate chants of ‘Har Har Mahadeo’ and ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and enthusiasm of the devotees kept us going.

The look of the temple is very similar to the Kalaram Temple and Sundernarayan Temple we have visited earlier. It is built entirely with black stones and has a shikhar (spire) topped with a golden trident. The porch of the temple is decorated with beautifully carved and decorated pillars and arches. The temple walls are intricately sculpted with floral designs and figures of various Gods and Goddesses.

The temple is unique in various aspects which makes it one of its kind in the country. There are 2 idols of Nandi in the temple, one in the courtyard and  the other inside the temple room in front of the sanctum. The sanctum has three “Lings”, of the size of a thumb, identified as Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh - the creator, the organizer and the destroyer. They are placed in a square space positioned at the three corners of a triangle. It is also the only Jyotirling where the Lings are in a hollow space beneath the floor. There is a huge mirror placed strategically such that the devotees can get a clear view of the lings. Since there are three lings, the place is known as Trimbakeshwar. One more amazing aspect is that they are always submerged in the water of the Ganges naturally.

Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple courtyard.

While approaching Trimbakeshwar, 20 km from Nashik on the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar road, we spotted the Anjaneri Mountain.

[ The Anjaneri Mountain ]

Not only is it unusual and beautiful but is also a place of devotion and worship since it is the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. From the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar road, one has to take a diversion from the Anjaneri Phata towards the Anjaneri village, from where it takes around 2 hours to reach the Anjaneri plateau on foot. Here you can visit the Anjaneri fort and the Temple of Anjani Mata, the mother of Lord Hanuman.


[ From the highway you can see the two pinnacles called Navara and Navari ]

The entire trek is said to be very beautiful with various waterfalls, dense forests, caves and lakes giving you company. We have never visited the place but would definitely love to visit it some day!

(The other Jyotirling that I have covered in my blog is Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirling also known by the name Shri Vishweshwar in Varanasi)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Other Places to visit in Nashik - Tapovan

Tapovan is a province which was blessed by the touch of Lord Rama’s feet during His exile. It was later used by the monks and sages for their spiritual advancement and welfare of the public in general. Tapovan literally means jungle for meditation and penance.

Idols of Lord Rama, Laxman and Goddess Sita at Tapovan
[ Idols of Lord Rama, Laxman and Goddess Sita at Tapovan ]

The beautiful setting of the river and the rocks amidst greenery
[ The beautiful setting of the river and the rocks amidst greenery ]

Set amidst lush greenery, this place is nice, tranquil and a scenic spot with its soft flowing streams, and rocks. I love to sit on the rocks and spend some quiet time here.

The Sangam of rivers Kapila and Godavari at Tapovan
[ The confluence of rivers Kapila and Godavari at Tapovan ]

There is a Kapila Tirth where the sage is believed to have meditated.

Kapila Tirth where sage Kapil meditated - Tapovan, Nashik
[ Kapila Tirth ]

There are 3 kunds which, according to the guide, are known as Brahmatirth, Shivtirth and Vishnutirth. They are linked to each other at the bottom by narrow paths. There is another kund known as Agnitirth which he said is very deep and is the place where Lord Rama had hidden the real Sita while keeping the shadow Sita with Him who was later abducted by Ravana from the Sita Gumpha, seen in the earlier post.

Various kunds - Brahmatirth, Shivtirth, Vishnutirth and Agnitirth at Tapovan - Nashik
[ Various kunds - Brahmatirth, Shivtirth, Vishnutirth and Agnitirth ]

Just across Tapovan is Parnkuti believed to be Lord Rama’s Cottage.

The Parnkuti Temple where Lord Rama is said to have lived during the exile
[ The Parnkuti Temple ]

A few paces ahead you will come across the only temple belonging to Lord Rama’s brother Laxman in the country.

The Temple of Lord Laxman where He meditated - Tapovan, Nashik
[ The Temple of Lord Laxman ]

Place where Lord Laxman cut Suparnakha's nose - Tapovan, Nashik
[ Place where Lord Laxman cut Suparnakha's nose ]

Laxman meditated here for 12 years to kill the son of Ravana, Meghnad, which is how the place got its name, Tapovan. This is also the place where he is said to have cut the nose of Ravana’s sister Suparnakha and threw it on the other side of the River Godavari. Thus the city got its name Nashik, meaning nose.

There is also a swayambhu (self manifested) idol of Lord Hanuman and a temple of snake Sheshnag, the seat of Lord Vishnu who incarnated as Laxman nearby.

Self manifested idol of Lord Hanuman
[ Lord Hanuman idol ]

The Temple of snake Sheshnag, the seat of Lord Vishnu who incarnated as Laxman
[ Sheshnag Temple ]

To read about some other Temples in Nashik go to the following links:-
To read about Kalaram Temple, Goraram Temple and Panchvati - Click Here
To read about Sundernarayan Temple, Muktidham Temple and other temples in Nashik - Click Here

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Temples of Nashik - Muktidham, Sunder Narayan and others

Shree Sunder Narayan Temple

Shree Sunder Narayan Temple is a small temple situated besides the Ahilyabai Holkar Bridge in Nashik, but it is quite ancient and its architecture is very impressive. And just like the Kalaram temple we had seen earlier, this temple is made out of black stones too.

Magnificient Sundar Narayan Temple in Nashik
[ Magnificient Sunder Narayan Temple ]

Entrance to the Sundar Narayan Temple in Nashik
[ Entrance to the Sunder Narayan Temple ]

Dedicated to Lord Vishnu a.k.a. Narayan, the temple was built by Gangadhar Yashwant Chandrachud in 1756 at a total cost of Rs. 10 lacs. In the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, are idols of Sunder Narayan with Goddess Laxmi and Vrunda while His vehicle Garud sits in front.

Idols in the Sundar Narayan Temple in Nashik
[ Idols of Lord Vishnu, Goddess Laxmi and Vrunda in the Temple ]

It is said that Goddess Vrunda had cursed Lord Vishnu following which his complexion had turned black. To free Himself from this curse, He took a dip in the Godavari River and became Sunder (beautiful) again.

The arched niches and fine carvings on the stones of the temple are impressions of the Mughal era.

Sundar Narayan Temple in Nashik
Beautiful carvings on the Sundar Narayan Temple in Nashik
[ Beautiful carvings on the Sundar Narayan Temple ]

The temple is artistically built in such a way that on the 20th and 21st of March every year, the very first ray of the rising Sun touches the holy feet of the idols. The temple also has idols of standing Ganesha, Kaal Bhairav and sitting Maruti.

Mukti Dham Temple

Built in pure white makrana marble of Rajasthan, Muktidham temple of Nashik is an architectural delight. Verses from the Bhagavad Gita are inscribed on the walls of the temple. The temple encloses beautiful replicas of the 12 Jyotirlings besides the idols of almost all the saints, Gods and Goddesses. A visit to this temple makes you feel like having taken a virtual yatra to the many pilgrimage places of India.

The grand entrance to the Muktidham Temple in Nashik
[ The grand entrance to the Muktidham Temple ]

Side view of the Muktidham Temple in Nashik
[ Side view of the Muktidham Temple in Nashik ]

There were some more temples in the Nashik province we wanted to visit but couldn’t due to lack of time.

Naroshankar Temple

Situated in Panchavati area, the temple is famous for its beautiful pieces of architecture of the 18th century and for a huge bell called the Naroshankar Bell. The bell was fixed here as a victory memorial of the Peshwas over the Portuguese.

Shree Kapaleshwar Mahadev

Situated on the banks of River Godavari, the distinguishing feature of this temple is that there is no idol of Nandi in front of Lord Mahadev which makes it one of the most peculiar Shiva or Mahadev Temples in India.

Pandav Caves (Pandav Leni)

One has to climb about 200 steep steps to reach the caves. These caves were built by Jain Kings and are 2000 years old. Icons of Gautam Buddha are wonderful crafted. During Jain regime B.C. 1000 to 1100 these were home to Jain saints. Inside the caves one can see idols of Buddha, Bodhisatva, Jain Tirthankar Vrishabhdeo, Veer Kapibhadra and Ambikadevi. There are large caves within the cave complex which were used as the meeting places of the disciples and where sermons were preached. The caves are well designed with beautiful architecture, engravings and carvings.

To read about the other temples in Nashik - Kalaram, Goraram and Panchvati - Click Here

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Temples of Nashik - Kalaram, Goraram and Panchvati

Shri Kalaram Temple

Situated in the Panchvati area of Nashik near the banks of Godavari River, the Kalaram temple is dedicated to Lord Ram and is among one of the largest, prominent and the most captivating temples in the city. Spread in a sprawling campus, the most amazing feature of the temple is that it is totally black.

Entrance to the Kalaram Temple in Nashik
[ Entrance to the Kalaram Temple in Nashik ]

Magnificient Kalaram Temple made from black stones in Nashik
Wonderfully carved Kalaram Temple dedicated to Lord Ram in Nashik
[ Magnificient Kalaram Temple made from black stones ]

Beautifully carved Kalaram Temple in Nashik

One of the gates to the temple
[ Beautifully carved Kalaram Temple in Nashik ]

Built in 1790 by Sardar Odhekar of Peshwa, the entire temple is constructed in black stones which were especially brought from the Ramshej Mountains. It took 12 years, 23 lakhs of rupees and 2000 workers to build this beautiful temple. The only hint of any other color is provided by the gleaming spire of the temple which is capped with 32 tonnes of gold. The main sanctum houses black stoned idols of Lord Rama, His wife Sita and His brother Laxman. Since the image of the Lord is in black color, the temple has come to be known as ‘Kala Ram’ meaning ‘black Ram’.

Right across the sanctum is the idol of Lord Hanuman which is similarly black in color and enshrined in such a way that He faces His beloved Master, Lord Rama.

The porch of the temple is decorated with pillars and arches. Idols of Lord Vithala and Lord Ganesha can be spotted in the surrounding courtyard.

Kalaram Temple - Nashik, Panchvati
The large Kalaram Temple courtyard - Nashik
[ The large Kalaram Temple courtyard ]

Lord Ganesha idol in the courtyard of the Kalaram temple - Nashik
[ Lord Ganesha idol in the courtyard ]

The festivals of Ram Navami, Dusshera and Gudi Padwa are celebrated here.

Goraram Temple

This temple is situated in the Kalaram temple lane. Unlike Kalaram, Goraram is a much smaller temple and has idols of Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita in fair hue; which is how the temple gets its name.

The Goreram Temple in Panchvati - Nashik
[ The Goraram Temple in Panchvati ]

Idols of Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita in the Goreram Temple in Nashik
[ Idols of Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita in the Goraram Temple ]

Sita Gumpha

Adjoining the Goraram temple is the Sita Gumpha. The cave is approximately 4 ft in height and is believed to be the place from where Ravana had abducted Sita during the 14 year exile. The cave complex has figures depicting the account of the incident.

The entrance to the Sita Gupha in Panchvati - Nashik
[ The entrance to the Sita Gumpha in Panchvati ]

The entrance to the Sitaharan and Marichivadh cave in Nashik
[ The entrance to the Sitaharan and Marichivadh cave ]

Outside the cave is a large grove of 5 very old Banyan trees, after which the area is named, Panchvati.

One of the five vat trees after which the area is called Panchvati - Nashik
[ One of the five vat trees after which the area is called Panchvati ]

The place has an uncanny similarity to KabirVad in Gujarat  which is also named after a Banyan tree.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Nashik Introduction - River Godavari

Nasikana Dharmik Gramstanam meaning Nashik is a religious province - This inscription carved in the very ancient Pandav caves aptly describes my next destination – Nashik. Nashik and Shirdi being in close proximity to each other, people generally visit both the cities whenever they plan a trip to this part of the country.

Situated 100 km from Shirdi and 190 km from Mumbai, Nashik is a rich historical town dotted with legendary caves and ancient temples. It is venerated as the town of Lord Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana, who spent some time of his exile here. Great poets of yore like Rishi Valmiki, Mahakavi Kalidas and Bhavabhooti have praised this holy city in many of their works.

India’s second largest river, known as the Ganges of the south, and one of the seven sacred river of the Hindus, River Godavari flows through the city of Nashik. It is believed that Lord Ram had taken a bath at the Ramkund Ghat here. Many famous sages like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu have bathed in her waters as an act of worship.

Our trip in Nashik started off with a holy dip in the Godavari River on the banks of which the city is located. People were performing various rituals like offering prayers to the sun god, some lighting oil lamps (Deep daan), while others collecting the holy waters to take back home. To know more about the rituals performed on the ghats of the river click here.

Flower and diya sellers at the Godavari river in Nashik
[ Flower and diya sellers on the ghats of the Godavari river in Nashik ]

A boy collects holy waters of the river Godavari in Nashik
[ A boy collects holy waters of the river Godavari ]

The Godavari river is one of the four locations for the Kumbh Mela (the other places being Haridwar, Allahabad and Ujjain), a Hindu religious event, when it becomes a convergence point for millions of spiritually enlightened from all over the world.

Imagine this place with millions of pilgrims...

River Godavari in Nashik where Kumbha mela is held every 12 years
Godavari river banks in Nashik
[ River Godavari in Nashik where Kumbh mela is held every 12 years ]

I remember my trip to Triveni Sangam in Prayag, Allahabad during the Magh Mela in January 2010… Gosh, the crowds were huge! And this, when the Magh Mela is just a mini version of the actual Kumbh event!!

[ From the archives: The Magh Mela at Prayag in Allahabad ]

…Its difficult to imagine, really!

Numerous small temples and pilgrimage places dot the banks of the river. The main temple on the ghats is the Ganga Godavari temple.

The Ganga Godavari Temple on the banks of the Godavari river in Nashik
[ The Ganga Godavari Temple on the ghats of the Godavari river ]

A Lord Shiva Temple on the banks of the Godavari river in Nashik
[ A Lord Shiva Temple on the ghats of the Godavari river ]

Where to Stay, Eat in Nashik

There are numerous places where you can stay in Nashik, but if you are planning to visit during the Kumbh mela then make sure you book your rooms well in advance. I stayed at the hotel Abhishek, situated very close to the banks of the Godavari. The rooms are spacious, clean and the tariff reasonable. For eating, you can check out Hotel Panchvati Yatri. The thali at their restaurant Pangat is way too good to be missed.

My room at hotel Abhishek in Nashik
[ My room at hotel Abhishek in Nashik ]

Hotel Panchvati where we took lunch in Nashik
[ Hotel Panchvati ]

Address:
Panchvati Karanja,
Panchvati, Nashik.
0253 – 2514201/02
www.hotelabhishek.com

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