Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jhunjhunu - An Introduction


    After taking the darshan at the Khatu temple, I was in the village of my granny, Jhunjhunu. As soon as I step in the Rani Sati Temple complex, it’s not long before the ambience of royal splendor grips me. Situated around 175 Km from Jaipur and 100 kms ahead of Khatu, we reached Jhunjhunu in about 2 hrs.

[ The imposing entrance to the Rani Sati Temple – Jhunjhunu ]

 [ Side view of the main entrance ]

    A huge structure sprawling over a large area, the temple here is housed in a beautiful complex. The temple is more than 400 years old, but still whispers tales of feminine valor, commitment, love and motherhood. The main deity here is Rani Sati Dadi, a devoted wife who had committed sati (a ritual suicide of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre…The entire story in the next post). She is today worshipped as a form of Shakti. The temple attracts a large number of devotees not only from Rajasthan but from all over the world. Administered by the Marwari Temple Board from Kolkata which is one of the wealthiest Temple trusts in India, it is said that earning of this temple amounts little less from that of Tirupati Balaji Temple.

Amongst one of the most ancient, glorious and truly magnificent temples of India, the grandeur of this outstandingly incredible masterpiece is beyond compare and mesmerizes me each time I visit it.

[ Beautiful carved, painted and decorated main entrance door ] 
[ One of the Wonderfully decorated and painted windows ]

    The Rani Sati Fair is one of the most popular fairs held in Rajasthan. On Bhado Amavasya (no-moon day) a special Pujan Utsav is held here. My grandmother often recounts how they used to celebrate the occasion at their home in Mumbai some 65 years ago (travelling was a luxury then), with bhajans being sung all night and bundi prasads being cooked and served to the whole colony. She has never ever visited the temple but her devotion towards Dadi is something of the very highest order.

Where to Stay, Eat

    Accommodation is provided within the campus of the temple with a variety of rooms (air-cooled, a/c rooms or ordinary rooms) to choose from. We stayed in an a/c room which costs Rs 500/day. The rooms are very clean and nicely kept. The well maintained rooms, the reasonable prices coupled with a peaceful ambience make it the best staying option in Jhunjhunu.

[ Jhunjhunu Temple complex showing rooms, 
there are almost thrice the  number you see here ]

    Within the temple premises, there is a huge dining hall catering to about 80-100 people at a time. This is the best place to have one’s meal while one is in Jhunjhunu. The food is freshly cooked, is tasty and is basic Rajasthani fare very similar to what I had described in my previous post on Khatu. The food is first offered as bhog to the goddess before being served to the devotees. Both lunch and dinner is available at a cost of Rs 40/thali.

Food timings:
Lunch - 12 noon, Dinner – 8 pm.
The timings are strictly followed and first one needs to buy a coupon which is available 2 hours or so before the meals. So, if you are planning to have your meal here then make sure to reach the place well in advance.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Khatu - Staying, Eating and Markets


Beautifully decorated idol of Lord Krishna with His beloved, Radharani
[ Beautifully decorated idol of Lord Krishna with His beloved, Radharani ]

Since the Khatu Shyam Temple is related to Lord Krishna, the markets here (just like Dakor) are full of shops selling beautifully dressed up Krishna idols which are a delight to the eyes for all the devotees of Lord Krishna.

Where to Eat in Khatu

After taking the darshan of Khatu Shyam Baba, it was lunchtime and we set out to eat at Shree Shyam Mitr Mandal, a famous dharmashala in Khatu.

A short walking distance from the temple, it’s a very good place to have your meal here. A thali here is available for Rs. 40 and consists of basic Rajasthani fare like missi roti/phulkas, dal/kadhi, sabji, rice and papad. What’s more, in just Rs. 40, you can eat to your heart’s content which simply means that the thali is unlimited. The food is tasty, fresh, ambience homelike; hence I will definitely recommend this place if you are looking for a good meal here.

Where to Stay in Khatu

Though I have personally never stayed in Khatu, but many lodging facilities are available in the form of dharmshalas and vishram grihas.

Shree Shyam Mitr Mandal Dharmashala, Khatu
[ Shree Shyam Mitr Mandal Dharmashala, Khatu ]

Accomodation is also available in Shree Shyam Mitr Mandal which I have just described above. The premises are huge, housing a number of rooms. It looks pretty clean and is well maintained, at least from the outside. I clicked a picture while I had stopped to have my meal here. During the fair it may be difficult to get a good accommodation, so book your rooms well in advance at that time of the year. For more information, I am giving the contact details below.
Phone Nos: (01576) 230022 / 38

How to Reach Khatu

About 115 km from Jaipur and 48 kms from Sikar district, Khatu is well connected by both road as well as rail. The road conditions being pretty good, it will not take you more than 2.5-3 hrs to reach the place from Jaipur.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Khatu Shyamji Temple

    Khatu Shyamji Temple is an important pilgrim centre of Rajasthan. And we visit it almost every time we travel here. Be it the hot summers or the chilly winters, the temple witnesses a steady stream of devotees the year round, but their number almost doubles up during the annual 3 day Khatu fair starting from Phalgun Sudi Dashmi till Dwadashi (in the month of February/March).

[ The Khatu Shyam Temple ]

    By walking through the markets of Khatu, I reached the Temple. A sense of peace and calm enfolds the main temple which is built in pure white marble. Photography is prohibited inside the temple.

[ Entrance to the Khatu Shyam Temple ]

History attached to the place dates back thousands of years ago to the times of the Mahabharat war

Barbarik was the grandson of the great Pandava, Bhima and Nag Kanya – Ahilawati. The epic Mahabharat battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas was about to begin. Barbarik, true to the nature of a brave warrior (Kshatriya), wanted to be a part of this big battle.

The possession of 3 divine arrows, which could finish the war in a moment, had made him invincible. Thus, the victory of the side which he would choose to support was certain. With a vow to his mother that he would support the weaker side in the battle, not the righteous one, Barbarik set out to take part in the war.

On the other hand, Lord Krishna knew that the defeat of the Kauravas (adharma) was inevitable. He realized that if this brave boy joins their side, the result would then tilt in their favour, which will end the war with a doubt on correct justice.

In order to prevent this, Lord Krishna, assuming the guise of a Brahmin, stopped Barbarik in his path. The Brahmin (Krishna) asked him to sacrifice his head as ‘daan (charity). He happily obliged and cut off his head (that’s the reason he is also famously known as Sheeshdani). But he sensed that something was amiss and humbly requested the Brahmin to disclose his true identity. Thereafter, not only did Lord Krishna show him his divine form, but also blessed him with two boons.

Firstly, as per his wish, his head was positioned on top of a small hill from where he could witness the entire battle. And as for the second one, Lord Krishna told him, “You will be remembered on earth forever; and in the age of Kaliyuga (current era), your head will be worshipped by humans in my name (Shyam). Just mere pronunciation of your name from the bottom of the heart will rid people of all their sorrows and bless them with immense joy.”
After the battle ended, his head was buried here in Khatu.

…Many years later, a head was found at Khatu which was worshipped by a Brahmin for many days. Shortly, the King of Khatu had a dream inspiring him to build a temple here and place this head of the courageous Barbarik, today worshipped as Khatu Shyam Baba.

[ The deity of the Temple - Khatu Shyam Baba ]

    Inside the temple, the idol is enshrined in the form of only a head which makes the temple one of its kind in the country. The remaining part below the head is covered with garlands and flowers. It is believed to be a wish granting temple.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Padharo Mhare Desh... Welcome to Rajasthan

It’s close to 7 am. I wipe my sleepy eyes and peep out of the train window. The city of Mumbai is far behind me. Rugged, rocky terrain with sand dunes adorning the landscape, the view outside tells me I am very near to my destination. Well, where am I headed??

Sand Dunes with Rugged terrain
[ Sand Dunes with Rugged terrain - View from the train ]

The land of valiance and chivalry, deserts with the golden sand dunes, royal palaces, invincible castles and forts, latticed havelis, intricately carved temples… Padharo Mhare Desh… Welcome to Rajasthan, one the most fascinating lands of India.

Ship of the desert - Camel
[ Welcome to Rajasthan ]

As it is my native place, I have been here many times before. And even today, whenever I get a chance, I feel compelled to return again and again. The charm of the destination is such… the exuberant celebrations, unique festivities, busy towns and quiet villages, camel safaris, men and women in colorful turbans and lehengas, friendly people, bustling bazaars, rich arts and crafts, sumptuous cuisine…first timer or a seasoned visitor, a heady fusion of all these excites one and all!

Which is why, we didn’t think twice before extending my Dad’s official trip into a spiritual one as well. Thus, in the summer of 2010, I along with my family boarded the Garib Rath Express from Mumbai…

I love Rajasthan; and as the train screeched to a halt… I felt a rising excitement as to what lay ahead… So what are you waiting for? Do join me and get ready to explore a small piece of a huge canvas - This beautiful state of Rajathan!!