AHOBILAM – Narasimha Deva – Part 2.

After coming to Lower Ahobilam after the darshan of Karanja, Ugra and Kroda Narasimha, before going to two more temples of the nine that we had planned, we went to the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple or Prahlad Varada Temple.

According to the Dasavatar of Lord Vishnu, he took the form of Narasimha, part man and part lion in his 4th avatar. He took this form to kill the evil Hiranyakashipu, who tried to kill his own son Prahlad, because he was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu had a boon whereby no man, woman, animal or bird could kill him. So Vishnu bhagvan took the form of half man and half lion to kill him. According to Brahmanda Purana, Ahobhilam was the place where the palace of Haranyakashipu existed and where he was killed by Narasimha Deva. Vagaries of time brought about the destruction of the then existing structures yielding place to nature’s creation of the mountain range that preserved the site of incarnation of Narasimha Deva.
The Eastern Ghats are likened to the great serpent Adhisesha basking in the sun with its head (or hood) at Tirumala, its middle at Ahobilam and its tail- end portion at Srisailam – all the three with famous temples on them.

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The Lakshmi Narasimha temple in lower Ahobilam is also called Prahlada Varada Narasimha as he is seen to be blessing young Prahlada. According to the Sthala purana, Lord Venkateshwara seeked Lord Narasimha’s blessings to marry Padmavathi Devi. Seeing Lord Narasimha in the Ugra roopa (angry form) in Upper Ahobhilam, Lord Venkateshwara is said to have installed the deity of Lord Narasimha in a peaceful form in Lower Ahobilam.

The temple that stands now was started by the Kakatiya rulers, mainly Pratapa Rudra. Additions were made by the Vijayanagar rulers in the 15th century.

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Wall beside the entrance on the outer prakara.

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Carving on the entrance wall of the inner prakara.

The entrance of the outer prakaram(temple compound) is carved and then after entering, we go beneath the 5 tiered gopuram to go into the inner prakaram. Here too, the entrance and the walls have lovely carvings of Devas.

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The exquisitely carved pillars are a delight to see. Pillars carved within pillars, What ingenuity. The sheer talent of the sculptors of the time.

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Lakshmi Devi sitting on the thigh of Varaha Narasimha.

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Rangamandapam                                            Mukhamandapam

As the temple was closing for the afternoon, we were supposed to leave the temple, so couldn’t admire every pillar, but managed to take pictures of many of them, to admire at leisure.

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After coming out of the inner prakara, we went for the annadanam prasadam, which the temple provides to the devotees who would like to have it.

Felt extremely happy that I was able to visit this beautiful temple, filled with sculpture and thanked all the sculptors in my mind, who had given us a legacy of such beauty.

From there continued on our visit to see the other temples.

 

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AHOBILAM – Narasimha Deva – Part 1.

Ahobilam, the abode of Narasimha Deva, the avatar of Lord Vishnu as a human with a Lion’s head, is situated in the Nallamala forest of Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh.
We were desirous of visiting this holy place along with a few more temples, so we planned a trip to Kurnool. We set up base at Nandyal, in Suraj Hotel. It is a decent hotel, with comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.

To go to Ahobilam, we booked a cab. Ahobilam is 60 Km from Nandyal. The road is good so the journey took an hour and a half.

Ahobilam is divided into Eguva(Upper) Ahobilam and Diguva(Lower) Ahobilam. Narasimha Deva is manifested in 9 forms in this hilly forest. It involves a lot of trekking amidst the beautiful forest. Some treks are strenuous, so it is not easy for people with health issues to go to all 9 temples. But many people do visit all temples. The ideal way to visit all 9 temples is to break the journey into two days. That way, it becomes less strenuous for people with no experience of trekking. Before starting on this trip, went through a lot of reviews regarding the place and decided to see 5 temples out of the 9, which are not too strenuous, because we were with some health issues.

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As soon as we reached Ahobilam, we stopped and waited for a person who came to show us the temples. I got down from the car and my gaze fell on this small mandapam. It is beautiful, with Yali’s carved on the pillars. Such an architechtural beauty is being used as a place to relax by people beside the road. Such fortunate people, they are relaxing in a part of history.

Then we started to Upper Ahobilam. On the way up, we stopped at our first Narasimha temple, KARANJA NARASIMHA, so named because he manifested below a Karanja(Pongamia) tree.

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Karanja Narasimha Temple.                        Broken pillar with Vishnu murthy carved.

At the entrance some broken pillars were placed which had carvings of gods. Entering the Temple complex, I was enveloped with a serene feeling. Some temples have that aura. After the darshan of Karanja Narasimha Deva, continued to Upper Ahobilam.

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Mandapam in the forest, seen from the car park area.

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The hill which looks as if it has been ripped apart.

At the car park area, to go to the upper Ahobilam temples, two scenes attracted me. One was a Mandapa a little into the forest, and another was the way the hill looked with a huge divide in between. It looked as if Deva himself separated the hill with his bare hands.

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Mandapam                                                    Gopuram of Ugra Narasimha

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Entrance with carvings.

Climbed some steps to go to the main temple of upper Ahobilam, which is the UGRA NARASIMHA. Here again saw a mandapam with carved pillars, where people were relaxing. The temples were built first in the 8th century by the Chalukyas and when they deteriorated, they were rebuilt by the Vijayanagara rulers in the 15th century. The gopuram is small compared to many south Indian temples. It is 3 tiered. The wall of the temple has carvings on either side of the entrance. Inside Deva is in a cave where he had self manifested, so is a Svayambhu. Besides him, his wife Chenchu Lakshmi is worshipped. Lighting a diya/deepam for Chenchu Lakshmi is considered auspicious. Chenchu Lakshmi was Lakshmi Devi reborn in the Chenchu tribe, to cool down the angry Narasimha Deva. Till today, the Chenchu’s(a tribe) treat the goddess as their daughter and Deva as their son-in-law. Special honours are accorded to the local Chenchu tribes.

After the darshan, started the trek to KRODA NARASIMHA, also known as Varaha Narasimha. It is 1 KM from Ugra Narasimha temple, into the forest. The trek is not too strenuous and can be covered easily.

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On the way, saw the steps to go to PAVANA NARASIMHA. The trekking way is covered in 7 KM, of which there are steep steps for 2 KM and if we want to visit Pavana Narasimha by jeep, we have to travel 20 Km from Lower Ahobilam through bumpy roads. Since we were not planning to visit Pavana Narasimha, we went ahead to Kroda Narasimha.

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Way to Kroda Narasimha.

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Kroda Narasimha Temple

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Kroda Narasimha temple is a small temple and the garba griha is in a cave. Deva is in the Varaha avatar, so he is also called Varaha Narasimha. There are carved pillars in the temple.

From Kroda Narasimha, there are two paths. One leads to JWALA NARASIMHA and another leads to MALOLA NARASIMHA. Since we were not in a condition to trek to these temples, we decided not to go.

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On the way to Kroda Narasimha, there is another mandapam with many pillars. only a few were carved. The kings must have made these mandapams for the piligrims to relax, as it must have been very strenuous for them, before the paths and steps were created.

Then we started for Lower Ahobilam.

 

Nainital – The Lake District of India

Our next destination was Nainital. From Dehradun, we took a train to reach Kathgodam.

Kathgodam is the last station on the Indian railways line, to reach places like Nainital, Mukteshwar, Kasauni, Almora etc. I had booked a room in a hotel at Kathgodam and planned to do sightseeing from there. The hotel was very near to the railway station and was thus convenient. It was evening when we reached Kathgodam, so we relaxed for the evening. On speaking with the manager, he assured us that he would arrange for a good cab for us for the next two days. Since our schedule was prefixed, we had an idea on what all we wanted to cover.

Day 1.
The next day, we had booked the cab to take us to see Nainital. Nainital, known as the City of lakes, is really beautiful. The scenic beauty, the Lakes and the general environment of peacefulness makes us love the place.

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The Nainital Lake

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A beautiful lake, high up in the mountains.

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The Sherwood College on the bottom right corner.

We had taken a horse ride to see various beautiful scenic spots. Riding on the horse was an adventure in itself as we had a doubt whether we would remain seated on the horse. Though a person controlled each horse, and though the horses too were mild, the cobbled path which we travelled was too steep and narrow, and we are tall people on smaller sized horses. So, though we did appreciate the beautiful views, we were more secure when the horses came onto normal paths. We went to Tiffin top and Snow view points.

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The Raj Bhavan

Then we went to the Raj Bhavan which is a colonial building, which is now used as the Governor’s residence. It previously served as summer residence of British Governors. We were told that part of the building had been open for sightseeing for many years but had been stopped, sometime prior to the time we went as there had been some disturbances. I would have loved to see the interior of that British building. I think it is open to visitors again.

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Boating on the Naini Lake

Then we went to Mall road which is besides the Naini lake, then went to Naini Devi temple which is believed to be a Shakti Peeta of Sati Devi, where her eye had fallen. Then we went for boating on the Naini Lake.
We went to all the tourist spots except the zoo. to go to the zoo, we had to walk on a steep incline, which we were too tired to do after all the sightseeing.

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Beautiful Bhimtal

While returning, we stopped at Bhimtal, took some photographs and came back to our hotel in Kathgodam.

Day 2.
We dedicated day two to Jim Corbett. I had booked a ticket online, for tiger safari in the Corbett National Park. So we took the cab and headed to Corbett National Park.

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Corbett Museum

First, we stopped at Jim Corbett Museum at Kaladhungi, which was the bungalow which he had resided in and displays the belongings he used. We had read many books about the adventures of Jim Corbett, so visiting the Bungalow that he had lived in was so nice. A glimpse into his life and activities was so interesting.

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Then we stopped at Corbett Falls, which is a scenic falls a short distance away from Corbett Museum. It is a popular tourist spot, and people were having a great time there. After spending some time there, we continued to Corbett National Park.

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Corbett National Park has five zones, Bijrani Safari Zone, Jhirna Safari Zone, Dhela Safari Zone, Dhikala Zone and Durga Devi Zone. Since my booking had been done online, we went directly to the entrance of the zone where we had a permit to. There we had to book a jeep which was charged again. We went in that jeep into the reserve after which a guide was assigned to each jeep. Then our Safari started. Sitting in an open jeep in a jungle safari was thrilling. Though we saw many animals and birds such as Sambhar, Elephants, Chital, Wild Boar, Peacocks and Paradise Flycatcher in the reserve, the Tiger eluded us. Sighting a tiger would have been an icing on the cake, but still we were happy with the safari and thoroughly enjoyed it.

After the safari we went back to Kathgodem to our hotel. The next day afternoon, we had a train to Delhi and a flight home from Delhi. Thus ended a lovely tour six years ago, with an amalgamation of Nature, Wildlife and Spirituality. A trip to remember.

Going to Mussoorie

The third day we decided to go to the hill station Mussoorie for sightseeing. Again we hired a cab for the day and after breakfast at my cousins place started for Mussoorie.

On the way to Mussoorie, we stopped at Sahastradhara falls. Sahastradhara which means ‘Thousand fold spring’ is around 15 Km from Dehradun. The place has a spread of waterfalls and caves. Water drips from limestone stalactites, turning it to sulfur springs. This is considered to heal some ailments. Since we went in May, the water was not in full flow but enough to appreciate the natural beauty of the place. Went into a couple of caves which had dripping water in it. It was a new experience.

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Inside one of the cave, with water dripping inside.

From there we went to Mussoorie. First we stopped at Kempty falls. I was not too impressed. To be fair, maybe it is more beautiful in the rainy and post rainy season, but in May, there was water directed to a single stream. Below the area was developed into big pools in two levels, where children and elders too could have fun and enjoy. It is a very touristy spot. A couple of stalls are set up to provide tourists with snacks and Maggi noodles.

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Kempty Falls

On the way up to Mussoorie saw hotels built in the slopes, where from the balcony you will have great views but also sheer drops. So, definately not my type of place to stay. Reached Mussoorie.
Mussoorie is a hill station in Uttarakhand situated at a height of 2005 mts above the sea level, situated at the foothills of the Himalayas and is known as the Queen of the Hills. Mussoorie offers superb scenic view of peaks of the Himalayas in western Garhwal.

Went and saw Company Gardens which is a well developed garden but not unique. It has a couple of stalls which cater to photography in local pahadi attire.

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A man made waterfall in Company Gardens.

The cab driver then left us at one end of Mall road, which is closed to vehicles. There are many restaurants and shopping places and is very vibrant. It is 2.2 km with the road rising and dropping.  With the chill in the air, we found it a bit tiring.

Mussoorie is a place to stay for a day or two and relax. That way you can take in the beauty of the place and appreciate the views offered from there. Going just to see the place and come back in a few hours does not make sense.

Thus we finished our trip to Mussoorie and headed back to Dehradun.

 

 

Rishikesh and Haridwar

The day after Dehradun sightseeing was done, we decided to visit Rishikesh and Haridwar, two towns with spiritual significance. We booked a cab to take us to both places and bring us back to Dehradun.

After an early breakfast, we started to Rishikesh.

Rishikesh is 45 km from Dehradun. Part of the route goes through beautiful forest area.

First we went to Triveni Ghat.

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Depiction of Lord Shiva opening his Jata (Hair) to accept Ganga, with Parvati Devi looking on.

Triveni ghat is a famous ghat in Rishikesh as it has the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers. It is regarded as a very holy place and a bath here is believed to relieve us of our sins. The main attraction during evenings is the Ganga Aarti over here. But we went in the morning, so sprinkled some water on our head and headed to Lakshman Jhula.

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Lakshman Jhula with the Tryambakeshwar temple on the other end.

Lakshman Jhula is an iron suspension bridge across the River Ganga at Rishikesh. Previously a jute bridge existed, which was washed away in floods in 1924. Later the iron suspension bridge was constructed. According to the legend, Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana crossed the Ganga at this point on a jute bridge due to which this bridge was named after him. At one end of the Jhula, the 13 storied Tryambakeshwar temple is located. There are a lot of shops at the entrance point of the Jhula selling precious stones, rudraksh etc. From the bridge, we can see the mighty Ganga on which White water rafting is very popular at Rishikesh. From here we left to Neelkanth Mahadev temple.

Situated at a height of 1330 meters and located about 32 km from Rishikesh, the Neelkanth Mahadev temple is where Lord Shiva is worshipped in his Shivling form. It is believed that Mahadev had taken the poison that emanated from the Sagar Manthan between Devas and asuras over here and held the poison in his throat, thereby becoming Neelkanth (Blue throat). Thus he is worshipped as Neelkanth Mahadev over here.
The narrow path, winding through the hills, takes us through forests and natural beauty. But because it is on a hilltop, a lot of time was taken to go to the temple and return.

From Neelkanth temple to Haridwar, the distance was 50km and it took more that 2 hours to reach Haridwar.
By the time we reached Haridwar, it was past 3 o clock. We were very hungry by then and we took our lunch at an eatery at Har ki Pauri. They served amazing chole kulche. So once our hunger pangs subsided, we went to buy tickets for the ropeway to Manasa Devi and Chandi Devi temples. But by then, the booking was closed, so couldn’t have a darshan. (We went to Manasa Devi and Chandi Devi temples a couple of years later, and if you go to Haridwar, do not miss them). So we went and took a place to sit at Har ki Pauri.

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Har ki Pauri is a famous Ganga Ghat. The atmosphere there is full of life. Countless people do Ganga snan and various rituals here, but be careful if you want any rituals done. The pujari’s over there manage to lighten your pockets with persuasion. So stick to the amount you had been prepared to give and do not let them sway you.
The evening Aarti is divine. We went and sat on the banks. It was a normal weekday with no religious significance, yet around 1 lakh people waited for the Aarti. After soaking in the blissful atmosphere, we left a diya with a prayer to Ganga Ma.

Then we started back to Dehradun which was a two hour drive.

 

Dehradun

A cousin, who has been living in Dehradun for many years, had repeatedly invited us to his home. Finally, 6 years ago, we made the visit happen.

If I am heading to a new place, I start my research by checking out all the places to see, around the place we are to visit. Then I plan what we can see, depending on our time and finances. Then I plan a schedule for the trip and take care of any online bookings that have to be taken care of.

All this taken care of, we took a flight to Delhi and from there went to Dehradun by train. Meeting cousins after many years was a happy affair and the next day my schedule started. My cousin took us around Dehradun for the sightseeing on day 1.

First we went to Tapkeshwar mahadev temple.
Situated 6 km from Dehradun, Tapkeshwar Mahadev temple is a famous temple of Lord Shiva, on the banks of the Asan river (The Asan river is a tributary of the Tons river, which is again a tributary of the Yamuna river). It has a very old Shivling in a cave and drops of water fall naturally on the Shivling. Hence it is called Tapkeshwar temple. Tall people have to bend a lot to get the darshan of Shivji.

Next we went to Forest reserve institute.

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Established as Imperial Forest Research Institute in 1906, it was previously located in Chandhbagh. Later land was acquired and the present building was constructed in Greeko Roman architechture style. It is an impressive building, huge and with a plinth area of 2.5 hectares. This building was inaugurated in 1929. Its history is synonymous with the evolution and development of scientific forestry not only in India but in the entire Indian subcontinent. This campus has museums along with the university. The day we went, we could only see the building because all museums were closed that day. A few movies have also been picturised here.

Next we went to the best part, Robbers cave

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Robbers cave which is locally known as Gucchupani, located around 7 km from Dehradun, is a popular tourist spot. It is said that robbers used to hide here during the British rule, which gave it it’s name. We have to walk through water to reach the caves, walking in between huge rock formations.

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A waterfall inside a cave and the opening above it.

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It is a natural cave formation where rivers flow into the caves. It is safe, delightful and thrilling. We had a real fun time here.

There was a makeshift eatery at the entrance, where we sat on chairs placed in water. Normally all eateries at tourist places in Uttarakhand serve maggi noodles. Wherever you go, you may or may not get some eatables, but you will surely get maggi noodles. Eating hot noodles, chatting, with feet in water was a new experience.

Anybody going to Dehradun shouldn’t miss Robbers cave.

 

Chittorgarh – A King among Forts.

Chittorgarh is a major city in the state of Rajasthan, which was a former capital of the Sisodia Rajput Dynasty of Mewar. Chittorgarh Fort is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Chittorgarh fort is a massive fort, spread over 700 acres. Though mostly in ruins, it is still majestic. Chittorgarh resonates with stories of bravery and pride of the Rajputs . Chittorgarh fort is the largest fort in India. It was the site of three major sieges (13031535, and 1567–1568) by Muslim invaders, and its Hindu rulers fought fiercely to maintain their independence.

We had started at Udaipur at 8.30am after having our breakfast. We took a cab to Chittorgarh and reached Chittorgarh at 11am. Started enjoying the view of the fort from the time we reached the city. Normally a modern city is a bit far off from forts. But Chittor city is right next to the hill where the fort is situated.

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The top part of the huge gate to enter the fort with designs carved on the wall.

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Lower part of the wall beside the gate with lovely carvings.

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Beautiful pillars of the asvashala (horse stable) in front of the gate. The horses must sure have been pleased to stay here surrounded by beauty.

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One of the entrance to the palace area. It has seven entrances.

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One more ashvashala which is plainer without beautification.

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Rana Kumbha’s palace.

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The Queens palace

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Kumbha Shyamji Temple which is the best preserved temple in the fort. It is well carved.

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How can we not appreciate such beauty?

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MeeraBai temple which has carvings all around.

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The Gaumukh reservoir. The fort has 22 water bodies which are in the form of ponds, wells and step wells. These water bodies are fed by natural catchment and rainfall. The biggest of these water bodies is Gaumukh reservoir which supplies water for the gardens of the fort, even today. Beside the reservoir there is a temple where the queen used to pray. We were told that there was a passage from the queens palace to this reservoir, so that the queen could come with her maids to the temple in privacy.

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A carved doorway which led to a balcony, which has a view of the present city of Chittorgarh.

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Entrance gateway to Shiva temple, Jauhar kund and Vijay Stambh.

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The Shiva temple where apparently the women prayed before committing Jauhar. Jauhar was the custom of Rajput women who would self immolate, rather than face capture, rape and slavery by the muslim invaders.

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The Vijay Stambh. The Vijay Stambha (Tower of Victory) was erected by Rana Kumbha between 1458 and 1468 to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Shah I Khalji, the Sultan of Malwa, in 1440 AD. It is beautifully carved and a treat to the eyes.

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Rani Padmini’s palace

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The Kirti Stambh (Tower of Fame)

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The Jain temple beside the Kirti Stambh. This Tower of Fame dedicated to Adinathji, the 1st Jain Tirthankara was built by a wealthy Jain merchant in 12th century AD.

Missed seeing a couple of monuments because the guide didn’t take us there. We started back. It was quite late and we were hungry by then. After coming out from the gate of the fort, a little further along we stopped at a hotel to have our food. I regret that I don’t remember the name of the hotel. The food was good and the service was awesome. They truly exemplified the saying ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ meaning guest is God. We had ordered the Rajasthani Thali and the spread was awesome, with the waiter coaxing us lovingly to eat. He reminded us of our grandmother and how she used to coax us to eat.

With this pleasant experience we left Chittorgarh.

 

 

UDAIPUR – City of Palaces and Lakes

UDAIPUR, what do I say about this beautiful city? The city of Lakes and palaces. A long ago dream to visit this place was fulfilled last year in November.

We reached Udaipur at around 1pm. I had already planned out where all I wanted to go, and what I wanted to see by exploring the internet. I had booked a reasonably priced accommodation which was close to the City palace. That was all I knew. After getting down from the bus, it was a bunch of new experiences, pleasantly surprising me. First we took an auto and told him the address of the accommodation, Bhanwar Vilas Guest house. When we came to our destination, I was a little apprehensive, because the way he showed us to the accommodation was in a gully and I couldn’t see anything resembling the present day hotels. When we finally entered the small entrance door, we realised that many houses of the old city (the place where we were staying) were converted into Guest houses providing accommodation to travellers. It was neat with basic comforts. It is at a walkable distance to Jagdishji mandir, Pichola Lake and Udaipur palace. We deposited our luggage in the room and went in search of a hotel for our lunch. It was in a walkable distance, so had lunch and after freshening up a bit, took a cab and went to see Saas Bahu temple and Eklingji temple which are a 45 minute drive from the main city.

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Saas Bahu Temple complex

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Toran with carving

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Beautiful carving.                                                       Carving on ceiling

Saas Bahu temple is a Lord Vishnu temple in Nagda village. The temple was actually called Sahasra Bahu (thousand arms) temple, where the deity was a thousand armed Vishnu, later the locals started calling it Saas Bahu temple. The temple is in ruins, the deity no longer there, but you can appreciate the beautiful carvings on the walls.

Then we went to the Eklingji temple which is in the fort of the Mewar rulers. Eklingji is supposed to be the principle deity of the Mewar rulers. It was a different experience going into the fort to see the temple. Leather items and cell phones and cameras strictly prohibited, so they were kept in lockers at the entrance. Inside it is more like a temple complex with many small temples. The carvings are good which made us feel the loss of the camera. Had a good darshan and started back to the guest house.

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Wall of Jagdishji mandir.

After relaxing for sometime, went to Jagdishji mandir which again was in walking distance. It is beautiful. Fully carved marble temple, not only are the aesthetics amazing, but the atmosphere in the temple is also divine. When we went, a bhajan was going on, we had darshan of Jagdishji and sat for sometime, enjoying the bhajan and blissful atmosphere. Then we went for dinner at White Terrace Restaurant and had Laal Maas, a special lamb curry which is a famous delicacy there, and which was awesome. The houses in the old city are converted into restaurants and guest houses and so many foreigners stay there. . The roads in between were narrow, with small shops on both sides. Having said that, the old city is the place to be. For a tourist, to absorb the atmosphere of Udaipur, you have to stay in the old city.

Next day morning, we started our city sightseeing. The weather in November was very pleasant, bright sunny day, not too hot and nights were a bit cold.

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Maharana Pratap on his Chetak.               Model of Chittaurgarh fort.

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Beautiful views of Fatehsagar Lake and Udaipur.

First we went to Moti Magri, a memorial to Maharana Pratap and his beloved horse Chetak. It is a lovely place overlooking the Fateh Sagar Lake with beautiful views all around. There is something about the place that lifts your spirits. Took some photographs and went to the adjoining museum. It has some beautiful paintings of the Mewar rulers and models of the Udaipur palace and Chittaurgarh fort.

Then we went to Bharatiya Lok kala Mandal, which is a collection of some arts and artifacts of tribals and locals. Saw a nice puppet show there.

Then we went to see the Vintage car museum, which is the collection of the vintage cars of the Mewar royal family.

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Saheliyon ki bari.

Then we went to see the Saheliyon ki bari, a garden built by one of the kings for his queen to enjoy with her friends and maids.

Then we went to the highlight of our trip, the City Palace. img_20181127_063123

We took tickets to see the palace and for the boat ride to see Jag mandir. The boat ride in Pichola lake was great. First he takes us around Lake palace, which has been converted now into a 5/7 star hotel. So we just see it from outside.

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The white palace in between the lake is the Lake palace and the Udaipur palace on the  bank .

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Jag mandir

Then we stopped at Jag mandir, which is also in between the lake, like the Lake palace. There we got down to spend some time to see the place, which is small but lovely, then we took the next boat back to the palace which is on the bank of the Pichola lake.

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Part of the palace

The palace is HUGE. It has 5 or 6 floors and is spread over such a huge extent. Hiring a guide is a must. Otherwise you will not understand where to start and where to go. A guide will take you to all the important places and explain everything. One more thing to take care of is that it is not for people with joint problems or leg problems. Some steps are huge that it takes a toll on you. Moreover climbing 5 floors on such type of steps will take a toll on average people too. But it is not everyday that you go to such places. So my policy is ‘Grin and bear it’. In the palace, you see the life of the royalty, beautiful courtyards and converted museums.

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This garden is on the second floor of the palace.

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An extremely beautiful peacock courtyard.

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The palace of the present king and the horse carriage gifted by a Bikaner (I think) king during a wedding between both families. The carriage is beautiful but the horses are awesome and so lifelike. Couldn’t take my eyes from it for some time.

Within the palace walls, there is a shop which is overseen by the royal family, which sells all the Rajasthani stuff, dresses, sarees, handicrafts etc. If you want to shop, that is the place. Everything is reasonably priced in comparison to other places in Rajasthan. So if Udaipur is in your schedule among other places of Rajasthan, plan to shop in the Udaipur palace grounds. Your guide will tell you which shop is managed by the Royal family.

By the time we finished the palace, we were in no position to go anywhere else. We were extremely tired. So took rest because we had to leave the next morning to Chittaurgarh. Thus ended a lovely trip to Udaipur.

Buddhist Caves – Bojjannnakonda

Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda

Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda are two buddhist rock cut caves on adjacent hillocks, near a village called Sankaram nearly 40 Km from Visakhapatnam, which are dated between 2nd and 8th century CE.

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Bojjannakonda. View from down. The stairway to go up.

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The caves are on two levels, Buddha statues are carved on top of the entrances of both levels. There is an unfinished carving besides the entrance in the lower level.

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A small cave near the entrance. The monks must have had to bend a lot to go in.

The second pic is the main cave on the first tier. It has a stupa and pillars carved, with a pradakshina path around the stupa.

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The climb to the upper tier.                     Buddha carvings on top.

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The first picture is the entrance chamber in the second tier and the second picture is another Buddha in an inner chamber in the second tier.

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The next hillock is Lingalakonda which gets its name due to the numerous stupas on the hillock. The path to go to the biggest stupa on the hillock.

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The biggest stupa is in the first picture and second picture has many more stupas.

These caves were excavated by a team led by Alexander Rim in 1906. It seems all three phases of Buddhism, Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana are featured here. During the excavation, a gold coin of Samudragupta, Some copper coins of Eastern Chalukya king Vishnuvardhana (633 CE), a lead coin which may have been from the Shatavahanas were discovered along with terracotta beads and figures, thereby dating it as 2nd – 6th CE.

It is taken care of by ASI now.

Travelogue – Sri Mukhalingam Temple

Srikakulam Temple diaries 3

Today I will share some pictures of Sri Mukhalingam temple of Jalamuru mandal of Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh.

Sri Mukhalingam temple built on the bank of the Vamsadhara river is also known as Dakshina Kashi. It is very close to the Someshwara temple but is much older.

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There are two prakaras (enclosed area around the temple) of the temple. I have taken this picture from the outer prakara.

The inner prakara has many smaller temples along with the main Mukhalingeshwara Temple. While the Mukhalingeshwara temple walls are filled with carvings, the smaller temples too are a delight.

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The main entrance of the Mukhalingeshwara temple with wonderful designs.

It was built in 8th century CE by Kamarnava II of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. Mukhalingeshwara swamy is also known as Madhukeshwara as the idol self manifested from the Madhuka tree. Normally no shiva linga has the appearance of a face, but because this linga has the appearance of a face, it is called Mukhalingam. Mukha means face in telugu, meaning linga with a face. According to Skanda purana, Lord Shiva appeared here in the Madhuka tree to release the Gandharvas, who were born as tribals, from a curse.

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Carvings on doorways.

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Vimana of a smaller temple in the inner prakara.

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Gajalakshmi on the lower side with a story carved on top.

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Surya Deva on the lower part of the picture. Scenes of an army carved above on two rows, foot soldiers, horsemen and elephants. Kalash’s on the row above, and notice the perforated windows in between.

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Varaha Deva and Narsimha Deva

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Sringara Rasa, An affectionate couple and ladies admiring themselves.

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Mahadev killing Andhakasura

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At first I thought this was Buddha, but I was mistaken. It is Lakulisa with his four disciples.

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The first pic is Shiva and Parvati on Nandi. The second picture is a battle scene. So vividly portrayed. A story on the upper panel and perforated windows between flowers in the panel above.

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Entrance of a smaller temple.

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Lord Shiva opening his Jata to accept and hold Ganga in it. Here he is also known as Gangadhara in this form. We can see Bhagiratha praying to Shiva and a displeased Parvati Ma.

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The outlet of the sanctum designed in such a way that we feel Vasuki is pouring the water. What an innovation!

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The first picture is people praying, this is on the doorway. The second is an inscription in ancient Telugu language.

I have captured only part of this temple’s beauty. For those who love carvings, this will be a bliss to behold.

Srikakulam is about a 110KM from Visakhapatnam.

Sri Kurmam is about 10-15 minutes drive from Srikakulam town. Mukhalingeshwara temple is 56Km from SriKurmam temple and takes 1 and a half hours.