Monday, July 20, 2009

Lord Vittobha Of Pandarpur

Right from childhood I had a fascination for Lord Vittobha as there was a Vittobha temple right in front of my house at Kochi . I have spent a good part of my childhood in this temple playing , listening to the Bhajans and singing the same to the Lord in the evenings. With out my knowledge my heart was steeped in bhakthi and I learnt many devotional songs when young itself. This temple also has its own charm as it had played a good part in shaping my Bhakthi bhava. May be that was God's wish. I consider myself fortunate to have lived near the temple. I will reserve posting about this temple to a later date and this post of mine is on Lord Panduranga Vittobha of Pandarpur.

Panduranga or Vittobha is none other than Krishana himself. The temple is situated in Pandarpur in Maharashtra. This is one of the Divya deshams of Vishnu.This is one of the most revered temples in Maharashtra.

When I grew up I had the desire to see the real Vittobha and I chanced upon the same when my sister in law was in Walchand Nagar and she offered to take me to this temple. So my family reached Pandarpur but we unknowingly landed on a Ekadasi ( 11 th day of the Hindu Lunar calender) and this temple gets thronged with his devotees as it is a very auspicious day. There was no way for us to go near the sanctum sanctorum as there were long serpentine queues. I felt sad thinking that we will have to return even without a darshan of the Lord. We also could see the varkaris ( a religious movement, having hundreds of pilgrims) marching towards the temple on foot traversing hundreds of miles from the villages singing the praise of God . They were dancing with the beat of dholak, Thal and Chipla(Dumbells) .

Then may be God decided to intervene and a security allowed us to move to the entrance of the temple to have a mukh darshan (We can see the face of the God from a distance). of the deity.Thinking this itself as a blessing we went for the same and could get a glimpse of the Vittobha's face. I was not happy as I could go near the deity and made a decision to return the next year to have better darhan. Next year again I visited the temple and I met my dear Vittobha though he made me wait for all that long. I could place my head near the feet of the the Lord and felt blessed. The practise of touching the Lord's feet which was very much in vogue has been stopped since as a precautionary measure to save the idol from chiseling due to frequent touching by the devotees. We had a Darshan of his consort Rukmabai (Rukmani) She has a seperate shrine and many more shrines dedicated to Ganesha ,Garuda and Dattatreya.

The main Gate of the entrance i.e the eastern gate is named after the great saint Namdev and the temple has six gates.The temple is spread over a vast area. Pandarpur Yatras are very famous which comes 4 times in a year and lakhs pilgrims converge here to have a darshan of the God and spend time by singing the praise of God.

The deity here is of a standing posture with hands on hips as if waiting for his Bhaktha. The legend surrounding this temple is that a person named Pundalik who was ill treating his parents later under went transformation and devoted all his time tending to his parents with great devotion . God seeing his devotion to his parents comes to his house to bless him . As he was immersed in the service of his old parents he requests Panduranga to wait outside and throws a brick for the God to stand as there was slush outside. God waits for his bhaktha and Pundalik later meets the God and begs pardon and requests God to stay in his village and shower his grace on every body. Thus the God comes to be known as Vittobha -one who is standing on the eet(brick) . He is known as eetobha or Vittobha meaning same.

Many saints like Gnaneshwar, Tukaram , Eknath, Namdev, Purandaradasa and many more created hymns and Abhangas in praise of the Lord and have attained salvation. These abhangas are real gems till date and are very popular.It helps one to immerse oneself on the divine form of Vittobha . There is also a museum near by, dedicated to the life of various saints. It is some what shaped like a train, once inside you only can get out through the other side nonetheless it was blissful.

This temple is in Solapur district and situated on the banks of the Bhima river also called as Chandra bahga., which is in the shape of a half shaped moon. Pilgrims have a dip in this holy river before paying obeisance to the Lord.

How to reach.

The nearest airport is Pune which is 200 kms. from Pandharpur.
Cabs can be hired to reach the temple.
State owned transport buses ply between Pandharpur and the nearest cities. The city is connected to Pune (204 km), Mumbai (386 km) and Sholapur (74 km) by buses.

By train
Major railway station near to Pandharpur is Sholapur and the nearest is Kurdhuwadi 52 Kms ,one can hire a cab or buses are available.
Where to stay
Accomodation at Pandarpur is not attractive and it is suggested that one should stay in bigger towns nearby..
Sholapur has some good hotels
MTDC guest houses are also available.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Trip to the Golden Triangle of Orissa

I had lived in Kolkata for over three years and was always wanting to visit Orissa , the near by state as I had heard of its lovely tourist attraction and its wonderful people so when the opportunity arose the first time in the winter of 1988 I decided to grab the opportunity literally in both hands (as I had to take care of my son who was three years old in one hand and baggage in the other). If I remember correctly we took the Puri express which leaves Howrah at 9 pm and reaches Bhuvaneshwar at 6 am next morning. We checked into a decent hotel with in a few kilometers of the station and my son who enjoys traveling and eating out was thrilled with the hotel's ambiance and was really excited. After a quick refreshing and sumptuous breakfast my husband left to meet his business clients leaving us to fend for ourselves.Thank fully my nephew who had just joined for his MBA at Xaviers and was really feeling bored , so far away from his parents joined us pretty soon and we decided to venture out.


A Temple In Bhuvaneshwar

First we visited the Linganraj temple . This is a huge temple complex and the tower of the temple is 55 meters tall and is elaborately carved. Many shrines surround the main temple, in a courtyard stretching 250,000 sq.ft. This temple was built around 11th century and has exquisite sculptures carved all along the walls. It is made of pink stone and the grandeur of the structure was marvelous. The Sivalingam here is a Swayambhu which is 8' feet tall and there is a Bhagavathi temple in the north west side.. After spending a couple of hours in this ancient temple, we went around the famous Bindusagar lake.

Konark Temple View

25 Kms. from Bhuvaneshwar is the village Pipali famous for its applique and filigree work. The applique work consists of making patch work of motifs like elephants, flowers, with inset of mirrors on cloth with bright colours and one can get hand bags, parasols, wall hangings of this famous Pipali work. One could see tourists making a bee line to this shops to buy these things which were reasonably priced.
Another visit we made was to the Nandan Kanan wildlife sanctuary 20 Kms. from the Bhuvneshwar and enjoyed a lion safari , which was a first for us. We could literally see all the lions walking freely ,some having their lunch or some having their siesta. As we drove around the safari in an electric caged motor vehicle which prompted our young son to wonder whether we were scared of the wild lions or the other way.
Konark Temple -Front View
Next day was a Sunday and we hired a taxi to visit the Konarak and Jagannath temple. It was very warm even in the morning making us wonder whether it was really winter. We reached Konark temple,also called as the Sun temple. It was in ruins but the magic woven by the sculptors was imprinted in the stones for the future generations to marvel at the workmanship. The whole temple is in the form of a chariot with 24 wheels and it is pulled by 7 horses representing the 7 days of the week.
Konark Wheel

The wheels with intricate patterns on the spokes are really a sight to watch. We understand the Sun deity from this temple has been moved to Puri temple. It is a colossal structure . We came to know that the whole temple was submerged under sand and the archaeologist have the dug the whole place around to reinstate the temple to its present state. It is very difficult to imagine how many tonnes of earth they would have removed and how long it would have taken. All around the temple we could see various forms of animals sculpted in stone. Many were disfigured.There is Natya mandapam in front of the the temple and a very popular dance festival is conducted here every year. It is also believed that the first rays of the sun falls on this temple . We really were amazed by this stupendous structure and in my excitement I went on climbing only to realise at a later stage that getting down was a problem for me ; only I know how I got down because the climb down appeared very steep and slippery. Outside we could find lot of shops selling curios and we bought a small replica of a Konark wheel.

The Jagannath temple-The Tall Temple Tower with the flag on top

Lord Jagannath of Puri
Our next halt was at the Jagannath temple. We engaged a guide for the tour of the temple which was built in 12th century. We learnt that the guide actually was a qualified lawyer but found it attractive to give up his profession and become a professional guide as it was more lucrative. He communicated well in English.

The main dome of the temple is 218 feet tall. The temple complex was huge and here the deities are Lord Jagannath, Balabdra and Subadra. (Krishna, his brother and sister).The main gate of the temple is called Simha dhwar and we could see the two sculptures of lions guarding the front gate. In front of the Simha dhwara there is a big stupa 25' feet high which was originally at Konark but later moved to Puri . Like the main gate on east there are 3 other gates on north ,south, west. They are called Aswa dhwar, Hasti dwar,and Vyagra dwar. There are many small shrines surrounding the main temple and the whole temple is fortified with huge wall.
We had an easy darshan of the Lord and the idols were unique made of Neem wood and painted with big eyes. The idols are not fully carved but left little incomplete . it is believed that when the god himself was carving these idols in an enclosed chamber with the condition that no body should open the doors until he came out, the queen who was impatient ordered to open the chamber forcing the God to leave the work incomplete. Every 12 years these idols are replaced by new ones and there is special place inside the temple itself to rest these old idols.
The priest inside the temple carries canes ( the pieces of the carved out neem wood ) in their hands and taps it on the pilgrims head as blessing.
The unique thing about this temple is that it feeds Prasad to about 10,000 people and all this is cooked in earthen ware pots . Every day a new set of pots are used. The prasad here is called the Mahaprasad, it is believed that the God dines here and the cooking is supervised by Mahalakshmi herself. The kitchen has the capacity to cook food for about 100,000 people.We could see the food being carried by in earthen ware pots balanced on a sling. Pilgrims were waiting eagerly to collect the same.
Puri has a beautiful beach also and we did spend some time in the after noon in the scorching sun.
Rath yatra of Puri temple is very famous and lakhs of devotees converge here on those days and throng the streets to witness and participate in the rath yatra festival. The Raths are huge and magnificent and colourfully decorated and there are three charoits for the Lord Jaganath, Subhadra and Balabadra. The chariots are pulled by the devotees chanting the Lord’s name. Devotees sing and dance in front of the rath till they reach the Gundicha temple which is 3 kms away. Here the idols are kept for the next 2 days and then the return journey starts. On the day of Rath yatra even small children take small toy chariots with small replicas of the idols on the streets. Its really a sight to watch.
While returning we visited a temple called Raja Rani temple which is near Bhuvaneshwar dedicated to Brahma . The temple built of pink stone was well maintained .We could not see the deity here as the temple was closed after the noon pooja. But we circumambulated the temple and were pleased to see beautiful figurines carved on the wall of the temple.
If I ever get a chance to visit the Golden triangle I would definitely do so as I want to see this all over again.

How to Reach
As Bhuvaneshwar is the capital of Orissa it is well connected with rest of the metros by road, rail and air
Distance between Bhuvaneshwar and Konark -60 kms.
Distance between Bhuvaneshwar to Puri -70 Kms.
Distance between Konark to Puri is 35-45 kms.
Places to stay
Bhuvaneshwar has budget hotels as well as luxury hotels.
Puri also has lodging facilities but I found the place too crowded with pilgrims for a pleasant stay.