Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Yatra Diary Goes International!

A couple of months back, I put down two pieces as entries to two distinct contests hosted by my favorite blogger directory, that which I call as my learning playground – IndiBlogger. They were, The Village Woman by the Riverside - the contest post that I had written for Expedia,

Expedia and IndiBlogger Entries
Spot me with my entry on the Expedia contest page of IndiBlogger

and A Real Bond: An Ode to my Grandpa – Post for Kissan.

Kissan and IndiBlogger Result
Spot my entry in the second place on the Kissan contest page of IndiBlogger

Remember them? Well, it gives me immense joy and happiness to inform you all that I won prizes in both of them! And the icing on the cake is that both of the prizes pertain to traveling, or we could say.. yatras, that too for free! While expedia gave me an all exclusive 6 days fully paid trip to Japan – one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Kissan presented before me a tough choice list of 6 off beat places in India to choose my destination from.

Kissan and IndiBlogger Result
Me, holding the lucky position of number 3 and the other winners of Kissan

Out of the two, my Kissan yatra will still take a bit of time going, but the Expedia yatra is well underway and I am all set to fly to Japan very very soon!

A Bit More on Me and the Contests:

There were a lot of wonderful participating entries and with so much creativity flowing, honestly speaking, initially I never ever imagined to even get a place in the winners list... But...

Expedia and IndiBlogger Result
Yay! Japan, it was and boy, if I wasn't delighted!

I absolutely believe, it was all your wishes... they worked like magic wands for me... and that is truly the reason how I am where I am today - packing my bags, ready to soar high in the sky, all set to step foot on an alien land for the very first time in my life... Need I say, I feel truly blessed...

A lot happened since the time I won the contest– A lot of mails exchanged, a few phone calls, some edgy moments and a bit of anxiety but all this gradually snowballed into feelings of anticipation, excitement and gratitude –

Right now...

It’s a mixed bag of emotions that life has pleasingly placed in my little lap...  and like a new found toy, I am loving to fiddle with the things it has so lovingly assorted for me...

Every passing minute looks like a dream with something new popping out from somewhere ... flitting and zapping past my eyes... Sometimes, I am trying to figure out a way to get hold onto that... At other times, I am just letting it all flow...

A small note of --
My heartfelt THANK YOU to YOU,

Because it’s the strength of your wishes that got me this far... And I need it, once again... to take me further,

Your precious footprints on my little Expedia post

Close your eyes and speak with your heart,

Wish me luck...

Going on a short break, will miss all of you but will be back very soon to take you along too...

Till then, happy blogging :)

PS: I am busy with all the preparations and stuff like that, and hence not getting enough time to visit all your blogs. Kindly excuse me for the same.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brahmand Ghat: Purani Gokul - Mahavan, Mathura

Just a few mtrs. ahead of Raman Reti and Nand Bhavan (next diary entry), along the banks of the river Yamuna is another sacred spot - the Brahmand Ghat. This is the spot where an infant Lord Krishna had shown the entire universe or Brahmand in his mouth to His mother Yashoda. That is how the place came to be known as the Brahmand Ghat.

Significance of the Brahmand Ghat, Mathura
The Board explains why 'Brahmand Ghat' is so called

It so happened that one day while playing with His friends, Lord Krishna swallowed some particles of mud. When mother Yashoda came to know about this act, she rushed to this very spot and worriedly asked Him to open His mouth so that she could remove all the mud from the mouth of her darling child. Krishna opened His mouth wide. She stared in utter disbelief and amazement at what she saw - she could see everything, the sun, the moon, the planets, the movement of the celestial orbs, the entire galaxy - everything, the entire world was contained within the small confines of his Krishna's mouth. This sight that Yashoda saw is what has kept this place alive even today and helped it gain significance in the list of places-to-visit in Mathura.

River Yamuna flowing at the Brahmand Ghat, Mayhura - Uttar Pradesh
Yamuna River, Brahmand Ghat

In resonance with this story, the mud of this place - Braj ki Raj, is considered very auspicious and pilgrims take it along with them back home for good luck and well being. Packets of small mud balls are also sold, a smear of which it is believed can cure even the most fatal diseases.

A board displays the importance of the mud of Braj, Mathura
A board displays the importance of the 'Braj Ki Raj'

Braj ki Raj, Brahmand Ghat, Uttar Pradesh
Braj Ki Raj - the divine mud on sale

There is a small temple built in commemoration to this event in history on the banks of the Brahmand Ghat with the Yamuna River flowing below.

Temple on the banks of River Yamuna, Brahmand Ghat, Uttar Pradesh
The deity room in the temple at Brahmand Ghat, Mathura
Temple housing various deities

Pilgrims also offer prayers, women especially praying for their long lives of their husbands, to a wish fulfilling sacred peepal tree in the surroundings.

The sacred Peepal tree, Brahmand Ghat in Mathura
The sacred peepal tree

A cow shed is maintained in the premises too.

The Gaushala at the Brahmand Ghat, Mathura
Cow-Shed in the premises

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Raman Reti or Raman Van in Old Gokul, Vrindavan

Our first stop enroute to Vrindavan from Mathura is Raman Reti or Raman Van in Old Gokul, a few kms. off and approximately 45 minutes away from Mathura. The first thing that catches our eye here is a deer sanctuary. People flock around to catch a glimpse of the innocent and friendly creatures and the best thing is that these deer’s are quite willing to oblige.

Deer park in Raman Reti, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
Deer Sanctuary

A stones throw from this sanctuary is the Raman Reti compound. True to its name, it is filled with sand (reti) and is reminiscent of the past when Lord Krishna would frequent here along with His brother Balarama and cowherd friends to indulge in leisurely plays (raman). It is also the place where He would meet His love, Radha before leaving for Vrindavan together.

Raman Reti compound, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
Raman Reti compound

In the precincts is a beautiful Radha Krishna Temple, the environment of which is very much similar to Govind Devji temple of Jaipur but it is much smaller in size and grandeur.

Temple, Raman Reti, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
Radha-Krishna Temple

Main deity room at Raman Reti, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
The Beautiful deity of Radha and Krishna in the temple

A group singing at the Raman Reti, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
A group singing devotional hymn to the Lord

Just adjacent to this, a Shiva temple and a Krishna Balarama Temple stand in the premises.

Raman Reti ground temple complex, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
Shiva Temple to the left of the picture and the Balarama Temple to the right

A shivlingam at the Raman Reti, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
The Shivling inside the Shiva temple

Besides the temples, there is a residential area for ascetics and sages. The entire setting has a rural village feel with cottages and trees and the peace this place exuded was remarkable.

Huts of the resident sages, Raman Reti, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
Residential huts

Raman Reti grounds, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
People relaxing in the 'Ret (divine sand)' at the Raman Reti compound

Next to it is an Annapurna Bhandar or a Kitchen where food is cooked for the Lord and the tenants.
Annapurna Bhandar at Raman Reti, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
Annapurna Bhandar

Right next to Raman Reti is the Rangbihariji temple located in the famous Karshni ashram dedicated to the great saint Gyandasji of the 18th century. However, we had to miss this place due to lack of time.

Shree Udasin Karshini Ashram, Raman Reti, Gokul-Mathura,Uttar Pradesh
Shree Udasin Karshini Ashram

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Boat Ride along the River Yamuna in Mathura

After the stroll on the banks of the River Yamuna in the morning, evening saw us at the banks once again, this time to picture the city through a different lens – The Boat Ride.

We are at the Vishram ghat (the main ghat of Mathura), the best and perhaps the only place where one will find several different boats strapped up to the Yamuna riverfront. All the boats are manually oared and you have a choice to either take a personal one that’s exclusively for you and your family or share it with a group of pilgrims.

We choose the personal one for ourselves and after haggling a bit, fix our canoe for Rs. 120 for 4 persons for the complete tour of the Ghats and back. The prices are highly negotiable and different for different boats with the personal ones demanding a bit on the higher side than its counterpart, so bargaining hard is a must or else you run the chance of burning your pockets unnecessarily.

The harsh afternoon sun is gently making its way for a soothing and a pleasant evening. I am excited for we are told that we will conclude our boat tour with the evening Yamuna arti and watch it from the boat itself. Flashes of Varanasi Boat Ride and the Haridwar Ganga arti dance in the picture of my eye. These ghats are not as ornate and beautiful as Varanasi, but the boat ride still seems to afford everything that a traveler seeks the most –- SILENCE... in plenty, I muse. With exhilaration in my spirits and joy in my stride, I step in and take my seat...

Thus, keeping in tune with this serenity, I rest my pen here and request all of you to hop in and come along. Let us all virtually enjoy this ride in serenity - The Boat Ride on the River Yamuna - together.

Our Boatman during the Yamuna Boat ride in Mathura
Vishnu, our oarsman, paddles the oar back and forth.
And... there starts our boat ride!

A panaromic view of Mathura Ghats as seen from the Yamuna River Boat ride
Mathura Ghats as seen from the Yamuna River Boat ride
Spectacular view of the soaring temples and cenotaphs,
dating back centuries, still so full of charm... isn't it?

Kids playing in the Yamuna River, Boat ride
A few children diving in, laughing and enjoying
as if they were having the time of their lives.

A View of mathura during the Boat ride
The sight of the people bathing on the ghats fades out in the distance and long boats take their place, the accompanying chit chatter absolutely dying out eventually giving way to absolute tranquility and serenity.

Sun Set at the Yamuna River in Mathura during the Boat ride
The River literally comes to life as it is touched by the
soft rays of a late evening sun

Sunset at the Yamuna River, Boat ride
The Yamuna bridge lets the sunshine in, to dance softly
on the gentle waves of the divine river

Boat ride on the Yamuna River in Mathura
Heading back to the ghats before the dusk hits the sky

Back again at the Vishram ghat, the boat comes to a halt. We sit in anticipation waiting for the Yamuna arti which should commence any moment now. A loud gong of bell strikes and a series of several smaller and larger bells start ringing. Chants of Yamuna Maiyya ki Jai (Victory to the Goddess Yamuna) fill the air. A priest in white and saffron attire appears on the raised platform of the ghat with a huge lamp in his hand and starts the prayer. Hundreds of burning wicks flame the dark of the night.

Yamuna Evening Arti in Mathura
The priest standing on a raised platform with the lamp in hand
(in the far background)

Evening Yamuna Arti in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
Yamuna River Arti in full swing at the Vishram Ghat in Mathura

The night pulsates at the ghats as a mass of devouts exuberantly sing glory to the river. Amid all the glow of divine chantings and recitations, closer home... a small flicker of light twinkles in the waters of the Yamuna...

My leaf diya...
quietly makes its way forward,
to a world, unknown...