Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ahmedabad, Dwarika, Nageshwar, Somnath and Diu

Ahmedabad - Modhera - Dakor - Jamnagar - Dwarika - Nageshwar - Porbandar - Somnath - Diu - Sassan Gir - Junagadh

Ever since I made a visit to Himalayan shrines in summer of 2012, the idea to visit Dwarika was grooming up.

I had already covered three out of four holy abodes, Badrinath, Puri and Rameshwaram. Dwarika was still pending. Other reason was that I had not visited western India and so that was another motivation.

So the idea to visit Dwarika came in summer of 2012 itself, based on my leaves and my parents and in-laws convenience, it was decided to make this trip in December end.

Till almost last week, I was worried, if we will be able to do it, the reason was the health of parents and in-laws. Lord of Dwarika paved the way for the trip...

Salutation to the benevolent Lord of Dwarika......

I had to do proper planning and travel arrangement as I did for himalayn trip. I wanted to make the journey as comfortable as possible as my parents and in-laws were coming. I contacted Gujarat Tourism, explored their packages, finally zeroed on the package from AtoZ holidays. Their reference, I got from Gujarat Tourism website.

The King @ Sassan Gir
There are direct trains to Dwarika, but still I decided to start from Ahmedabad, the reson was to take some rest after train journey of almost 33 hours and also to roam Ahmedabad and surrounding areas.

Dwarika and Somnath trip, I planned from Ahmedabad and so I booked it from starting 24th December till 29th of December from Ahmedabad to Ahmedabad.

The places identified were Dwarika, Somnath and Diu, with sighseeing at Jamnagar, Porbandar, Sassan Gir and Junagadh.

My parents and in-laws reached Ahmedabad on 22nd morning, while I was there to welcome them, as reached there on 21st morning itself.

I boarded Jodhpur Express from Bangalore, while my parents and in-laws took Sabaramati Express from Varanasi and Lucknow respectively the next day.

My train reached Ahmedabad on 21st morning, I had already hotel Skylon booked, so took an auto and reached there in 15 minutes. As anywhere else in India, some bargain is required with auto drivers.

As we were going to hotel, we crossed the Sabarmati river. It was quite clean in sharp contrast to Gomti river at Lucknow! It was a pleasent surprise to me.

As I had reached Ahmedabad one day in advance to arrival of my parents and in-laws, so decided to utilise this time in a better manner. After getting relaxed and refreshed, took a taxi to visit Modhera.

But before that we decided to take some Gujarati delicacies for our breakfast.

Near our hotel was one Mehta restaurent. We enjoied Dhokla and Paratha-Shaq. Dhoklas were very soft and very delicious. Though I didnot liked the sweet Daal. I am used to Daal with salt since I know the taste and hence it was not fine for my taste buds to relish Daal with Sugar. Except that I enjoied Gujarati food particularly Dhokla and Thepla.

Day 1: Friday, 21st of December

The plan for 21st December was to Visit Modhera, Adalaj Step well and Hathi Singh Jain temple.

There is problem with Taxi, that I realised at Ahmedabad. They want to charge for minimum 250 Kms for Indica and 300 Kms for bigger vehicles. Modhera is just 90 KMs and so I had to pay quite a extra amount. But they didnot agreed on less and I had to pay them as per their wish.

Taking a road through the district of Mehsana, we reached Modhera in noon. This road journey introduced me to some aspects of rural Gujarat.Also I found that the day temperature was in range of 30-35 degrees, though it was end of December. One can feel, how much hot this area will be in summer!!

I called AtoZ holidays, through whom I booked the Dwarika trip, to arrange a AC vehicle for us.

We reached Modhera Sun temple and the Lord Anshumaan was welcoming us in full blaze.

Sun Temple @ Modhera
Modhera is about 95 KMs from Ahmedabad via Mehsana.

As I entered into the Sun Temple complex, the first thing that came to my mind was the resemblance of this complex and temple with temples of Belur, Halebidu, Somnathpura as well as those at Hampi (in Karnataka). This temple at Modehra perhaps predates a few of them at Karnataka, But togeather they all, including temples at Khajuraho and Konark, represent the great creativity that our ancestors had!!

Sun Temple @ Modehra
The Sun Temple Modhera was built in 1026 AD by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty. It is situated on the bank of the river Pushpavati. Though I didnot found any water in it. Rivers are in bad shape in India. They are paying a huge cost of so called development and human population. Not sure, how humans will handle the water crisis in coming times.

It is said that the areas near Modhera were known during ancient days as Dharma-aranya (the forest of righteousness). According to these legends, Sage Vasistha advised Prince Ram to go there and purify himself from the sin of Brahma-hatya (the sin of killing Ravana).

Ram performed a yagna there at village Modherak.

The construction of Modehra Sun Temple concides with the time when Somnath and the adjoining area was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni.

The temple was so designed that the first rays of the sun fell on the image of Surya, the Sun God, at the time of equinoxes.The temple is in ruins after it was destroyed by the Allauddin Khilji. Shikhar is not there and also there is no Idol in sanctum. Instead there is a deep pit in the sanctum, where earlier the idol of Lord Sun was stationed. Mideaval barbarians have taken a deep toll on India's cultural heritage.

Sun Temple @ Modehra
However, enough has remained of the temple to convey its tales and grandeur.The temple is in three parts, Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap and Garbha Griha.

There was not much rush, only a handful of people, my kids got specially excited and started running here and there. Me and my wife had great difficulty in controlling them.

I decide to hire a guide, as I always do at any historical place.

The first thing that I realised here the beauty of pond, the Surya Kund. It is also known as Ramakunda.

Surya Kund is a stepped tank under the east face of temple. In earlier days perhaps the devotees were required to perform ceremonial ablutions here before worshiping the Sun God.

A total of 108 miniature shrines are carved in between the steps inside the tank. There are four terraces to descend to reach the bottom of the tank. There are a few small temples on these steps which include of Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesh, Lord Natraj and Sheetala Mata.

From the pond, one enters into the Sabha Mandap through two huge ornamental arches called "Toran Dwar".

Sabha Mandap as well as the Garbha Griha are just amazing, the master piece of the art. With skillfully carved pillars and ceiling, these halls left the vistors with their eyes wide opened.

Sabha Mandap is open from all sides and has 52 intricately carved pillars representing 52 weeks in a year. The carvings depict episodes from the epics of Ramayan, Mahabharat and stories of "The Complete Man" Lord Krishna.

Between the Sabha Mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum is a beautiful hall with pillars and arches. The walls have 12 niches showing the different aspects of the Sun God in each month.

The entire temple is based on an inverted lotus-base plinth. Whereas the similar temples in Karnataka are on star based platform. It was designed so that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the day of equinox fell on the bejeweled pure gold idol of Sun. It is said that the entire gold idol including the charioteer, chariot and horses was placed on a pit that was 15 feet deep and filled with gold coins.

Everything is destroyed and looted by Mahmud Ghazni, Allauddin Khilji and other such muslim invaders.

Inside the sanctum now, the roof is home to score of bats. As they hung themselves in reverse direction, I was just wondering how the fate has taken toll to this masterpiece and the faith of so many people.

We spend some good time roaming in and outside temple, justing memerising with skills carved on stone, the skill that has made the artists and their creations immortal, even after a thousand years, even after so many attacks and pillage.

Lord Bhaskar was now moving towards west and so decided to say good bye to this magnificent piece of sculpture.

There is one small shop from Gujarat Tourism and we found only some chips and biscuits there. Perhaps not many people come there so not good eateries?

I heard that Modhera dance festival happens during the third week of January every year, after the festival of Uttarayan for three days in the backdrop of the Sun temple to bring alive the memories of this place.

We took the road back to Ahmedabad.In between we stopped for few minutes at Seemandhar Swamy Jain Temple at Mehsana.

Seemandhar Jain Temple @ Mehsana
Most of the temples here, that I observed are magnificently carved and construction is huge. Seemandhar Swamy Temple is also very grand.

In the Sanctum is the white-colored idol of Bhagawan Seemandhar Swamy in the Padmasana posture. There was environment of peace and tranquality around.

There are many Swamynarayan Temples in Gujarat, almost in every town. I saw many while travelling by road across different towns.

As we approached Ahmedabad, at the ouskirts there is a famous historical site, the Adalaj Step Well.

Just next to the entrance to Adalaj step well, there is a small but beautiful temple of mother Goddess. We went their and paid our respect to the benevolent mother.

Adalaj Stepwell or "Vaav" is an ancient well, where one can reach through many steps down. It is almost five story down from normal surface and each story and pillar and roofs are carved with magnificent designs.
Adalaj Step Well (Vaav) near Ahmedabad
These stepwell were fed by subsoil flow. The soil naturally filters the water.

Such step wells were once integral to the Gujarat as they provided basic water needs for drinking and bathing.

It is said that this step well construction was got initiated by Rana Veer Singh and got completed by Muhammed Begda.

There is an interesting legend related to the building of this stepwell. In the 15th century, Rana Veer Singh reigned over this territory. His kingdom was attacked by Mohammed Begda. The battle resulted in the Rana King getting killed. The muslim monarch asked Rana veer Singh's wife to get married to him. The beautiful lady known by the name Rani Roopba, though in deep grief at the death of her husband, agreed to marriage proposal on the condition that he would first complete the building of the stepwell. The Muslim king agreed to the proposal and then built the well in quick time, and with great interest.

Once the well was completed, Begda reminded the queen of her promise to marry him. But the queen who had achieved her ambition of completing the stepwell started by her husband, decided to end her life, as mark of devotion to her husband. She circumambulated the stepwell with prayers to God and jumped into the well, thus ending the saga of building the well in tragedy.

As per the scriptures of Lord Swaminarayan sect that before she died, she had requested saints to take bath into this stepwell so that the water of the stepwell gets the touch of purity of these saints, and she would get deliverance.

I heard that nearby, there is tomb of six masons, who constructed this well. It is said that the Begda asked the Masons if they could build another similar well. and a positive answer from them resulted in their death.I didnot observed the tombs though.

Muhammed Begda was so enamoured of the architectural excellence of the stepwell that he did not want its replica to be built.

We were badly tired but decided to step down. there were lot of people there looking at the granduer of the construction, we went down till well, which is covered with iron gate.

From here if we see up, we can instantly realise the beauty of construction. It is octagonal construction, built on beautifully carved pillars. The well is open to the sky.

And the surroundings says the story of the bygone era of pain and joy.

It has been implied that the temperature inside the well is about five degrees lower than the outside temperatures.

I just sat there, trying to visualise the queen, who got immortalised with the well and masons who crafted this master piece and paid with their lives.

History is so cruel indeed.

We entered in Ahmedabad now. The Sun was setting and the traffic was high. I felt that traffic conditions were not very good. I felt Bangalore is better in that respect. There were very few policemen manning the different squares and people were just moving without bothering, if their act will result in traffic jam.

Another thing that I observed was the special road for "BRTC" city buses. They run on specially carved out paths and no other vehicle is allowed on that road.

This makes sure that the commuting time is less. I felt other cities in India, should follow this model.

I was not very happy that I had to pay the taxi driver the charges for 250 Kms, though we had not travelled that much distance, so I asked him to take us to HathiSing Jain Temple. This temple is in heart of city and due to heavy rush, took some time to reach there.

As other temples that I saw in Ahmedabad and surroundings, Hathi Singh temple is also an example of art. Built around the year 1848 AD, this is dedicated to the 15th Theerthankara of Jains, DharmaNath.

This temple is named after Sri Hathi Singh Kesari Singh Jain, a rich merchant, who get the construction of this two-storied white marble temple done. This temple is famous for its brilliant architecture and design. Elaborate porches on three sides are a site to see. The entrance is carved beautifully and it is a pleasure to be here.

Inside the temple, it is peace and bliss. We went to the sanctum and paid our respect to the tirthankar of peace and bliss.
Hathi Singh Jain Temple @ Ahmedabad 
The inside courtyard of the temple is encircled by 52 shrines. Each shrine has an image of a Tirthankara.

Near the main gate there are also idols of mother Goddess and Krishna. There is a painiting of Seth Shri Hathi Singh Kesari Singh Jain and his wife Sethani Harkunwar also.

We paid our respect and moved out.

Outside the temple is a "Stambha". Though I have not seen the Stambha of Rana Kumbha, but I remembered that as I had witnessed it through books.

We returned back to hotel. It was 213 KMs, but I had to pay for 250 KMs, on top of that the driver asked me for 100 more bucks for lunch, which he carried from his home and we, the tourists were empty stomach.

After a good dinner, which included the speciality of hotel, the Skylon special vegetable, we went to sleep. The travel of two nights and today full of sight seeing, took its toll and all of us were carefully blssed by the mother goddess in the form of sleep.

Day 2: Saturday, 22nd of December

Sabarmati Express is famous for getting late. As I had reservation for parents and in-laws done in this train, I was worried how much the train will be delayed.

The scheduled time for this train to reach Ahmedabad is 4 AM. I was expecting it to arrive at around 6 or 7 AM so that it is comfortable for me as well as to them also.

I was pleasenly surprised that the train was running on time and reached Ahmedabad well in time. I took an auto at around 345 AM and reached station in 10 mins. My parents and in-laws were waiting there after getting alighted.

It was a bit cold and so we took one ambassdor, the grand old car of India. The driver. an aged kind looking Sardarji, asked for 500 rupees but kindly agreed to 350/- and we all boarded in that old symbol of India.

In next 10/15 mins we were at the comfort of our hotel rooms.

I again tried to sleep for some time but mother sleep had left for the day. So I got up and started planning for this days' itinirary.

After parents and in-laws were comfortable and had some rest, we did breakfast at hotel itself and then asked the reception, if he can arrange a taxi for sight seeing. Again the issue of money and we need to do a lot of negotiation for the Innova and as far as I remember, it was agreed upon Rs 2500/- for the sight seeing day trip at Ahmedabad.

The plan included to visit ISKCON Temple, Balaji Temple, Vaishno Devi Temple, Tri-Dev Mandir, Adalaj (once again), Akshar Dham and finally evening at Kankaria lake. I wanted to visit Gandhi Sabarmati Ashram and Patel Museum as well but postponed these two for next day.

There is a famous Calico Museum also in Ahmedabad, but I came to know that children below the age of 10 are not allowed, so I dropped the plan to visit there.

The first place that we visited was the famous ISKCON Temple.

It is always a pleasure to be in a Krishna Temple, The aura of playfulness and the grace of Jagatguru is always there.
ISKCON Temple @ Ahmedabad
The temple has fascinating architecture and as we entered the temple, the side walls are sculpted and paited with Krishna Leela and also his "Vishwa Roop", that he showed to Arjuna, while imparting the knowledge of Bhagvat-Geeta.

The hall is huge and is home to Radha-Govinda, Gaura-Nitai, and other dieties. The roof is adorned with paintings of Krishna's pass-times.

Getting blessed, we took the road to Balaji temple complex.

The Ahmedabad Andhra Mahasabha in association with Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), Tirupati took the task of constructing Balaji Temple complex at Ahmedabad.
Tirupati Balaji Temple @ Ahmedabad
The temple is said to be built with granite stones from Kanchi and carved at Tirupati. The temple complex is beautiful and imposing idol of Balaji in blessing mode takes away all the miseries.

We were lucky that for both ISKCON as well as Balaji temple, we reached at just in time, as it was noon and temples were getting closed. The Lord helped us with their darshan well in time.

Vaishno Devi Temple @ Ahmedabad
Our next stop was Vaishno Devi Temple, which has been designed to give a feel of the original temple at Jammu. The strurcture have been carved beautifully to make tunnels and caves, short passages and water sources in between. I have not visited so far the famous Vaishno Devi Temple at Jammu but visiting here was also very nice.

The gorgeous Tri-Mandir was our next destination. It is on Mehsana Road, near Adalaj Step well. Actually yesterday, we had passed through this road, but we just visited Adalaj and had skipped Tr-Mandir.

This magnificent temple is inspired by Pujya Dada Bhagwan. The Pran Pratishtha was done in 2002 AD.
Tri Mandir @ Ahmedabad
It was quite a hot afternoon. We first took some rest in tree shades at temple compound, before ascending some steps to reach the temple central hall.

Sanyo camera, being carried by my brother, suddenly started giving some trouble. Vedio mode was working fine but still photos were not good. So we stopped using it and anyway my Canon was sufficient to cage the Gujarat moments.

The central sanctum of the temple has a huge idol of Shri Seemandhar Swamy, similar to what we saw yesterday at Mehsana. It also includes a few more Tirthankar idols.

The first sanctum of the trimandir includes the Shivling, Parvati Devi, Hanumanji and Ganpatiji whereas the third sanctum includes Shri Yogeshwar Krishna Bhagwan, Tirupati Balaji, Shri Shrinathji, Shri Bhadrakali Mataji and Shri Amba Mataji.

The smiling face of shri Dada Bhagwan is a soothing feeling.

Next to the third sanctum and outside of these three central temples, there is shrine of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi.

It was bright and sunny afternoon. Temperature must have been soaring around 30/35 degrees.

We were on the way to Gandhinagar, to visit the famous AksharDham temple.

Akshardham Gandhinagar temple complex was the target of terrorists a few year back. It is a beautiful and imposing complex, by Shri Swamynarayan sect and is spread in an area of about 23 acres.

This temple complex came into existance, thanks to Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). It was inaugerated on November 2, 1992.

Cameras, Mobiles and any such electronic items are prohibited inside the temple complex. This disheartened me a bit as I was not able to click the photos of this gorgeous architecture.

As we entered the complex, there are some rides on left side, though kids wanted that, but we had limited time, so we moved ahead.

The teample architecture is beautiful with lush greenery and gigantic architecture.

This temple is dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan and the sanctum has his golden idol. As we entered the temple, the beautiful sculpture work and the master architecture just mesmerised us. The environment was just amazing and blissful.

The complex includes "Sahajanand Van". The surrounding gallery and exhibition halls are there to throw light on Swamy Sahajanand and message of the Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata. There are shows happening in exhibition halls to educate the visitors.

"Sat-Chit-Anand" water show, which depicts the story of Nachiketa is very famous. This is of 45 minutes duration. The show was at evening 7 PM, but we had to visit Kankaria lake this evening so we excused oursleves with this otherwise amazing thing.

We had not taken lunch and it was around 330 PM by now. Visitors are not allowed to carry food inside the premises. But at "Panchvati" food and snacks are available.

So we headed towards the "Panchvati" and filled ourselves with tasty food and finally with refreshing tea.

The other amazing thing was the desings that was depicted in trees. They were cut to give shape to horseman and peacock and other birds etc.

Kudos to the designers and cutters!

The temple is closed on every Monday otherwise it is open from 930 AM to 730 PM.

Now we were ready to spend our evening at famous Kankaria Lake.

We returned back to Ahmedabad and went straight to this mideval man made structure.

Kankaria Lake was built by Sultan Kutubuddin in 15th century. It was then known as "Hauj-e-Kutub". It is believed to have a water purification system but it has been lost since then. There is a path which goes into a garden called Nagina Wadi, an island in the lake.

The lake and the surroundings haver been beautifully converted into walkways and picnic place. First of all we took the train tickets and enjoied the ride, which takes a round of the lake. Weather was pleasent and as the sun was setting, the golden glow was reflected across all the directions.
Train ride @ Kankaria Lake, Ahmedabad
There are many food joints as well where, we relished the "paav bhaaji". My mother and brother are not very eager to take street food so they resisted, others took and enjoied the evening.

As it became a bit dark, the lights were on and the water was illuminating with its colours. Some people were enjoing the water sports. There were a few baloons floating and some kids were inside that baloon, floating along with it. I had seen such sport first time.
Water Sports @ Kankaria Lake at Ahmedabad
This lake is an ideal place to spend some good quality time with family and friends.

After spending some quality time there we were back to hotel.

I also saw the add in news papers reagrding Kankaria Festival being inaugrated on 26th of December by Narendra Modi.
Evening @ Kankaria Lake at Ahmedabad
Taking dinner, we retired to bed to refresh ourselves for third day at Ahmedabad.

Day 3: Sunday, 23rd of December

This day, I had planned to visit famous Krishna temple at Dakor. This temple of Krishna, more famous with the name of "RanChhodRaya", (meaning the king who ran away from battle field) is very old and as famous as the temple of DwarikaDheesh itself.

Krishna is known as "RanChhodRaya" because after he killed Kansa, The King of Mathura, his father-in-law, Jarasandh, the king of Magadh, attacked Krishna. As Jarasandh was powerful king and his death was ascertained to Bheema, the Pandava, Krishna, ran away from battle field and established the capital at Dwarika.

Salutations to the Leela of Krishna....

As Dakor is about 90 KMs from Ahmedabad, after great negotiations, one Qualis was arranged for 2500/- bucks.

Dakor is in Kheda district and from Ahmedabad it took around 2 hours to reach there. Lord Anshumaan were shining bright pushing the temperature to quite high even on that December morning.

After getting down at road, we had to walk through narrow lanes for about a KM to reach the temple. The lanes gave us the oppertunity to have the glimpse of rural Gujarat.

The legend of Dakor is that a Krishna devotee named Bodana, used to walk all the way from Dakor to Dwarika on every full moon night. As he aged, it became difficult for him to take this journey.

Pleased by his devotion, Lord Krishna then told him that he need not walk all the way to Dwarika as he had decided to stay with him in Dakor. But the priests prayed to the Lord and asked him to remain at Dwarika.
RanChhodRaya Temple, Dakor
वचनं मधुरं चरितं मधुरं वसनं मधुरं वलितं मधुरम् ।
चलितं मधुरं भ्रमितं मधुरं मधुराधिपतेरखिलं मधुरम् ॥


(O Krishna) Your Speech is Sweet and Charming, Your Nature is Sweet and Charming, Your Garments are Sweet and Charming and Your Bent Posture is Sweet and Charming, Your Walking is Sweet and Charming and Your Creation of Confusion is Sweet and Charming; Everything about You is Sweet and Charming, O Lord of Sweetness.
~Madhurashtakam Shloka - 2

Krishna gave them dream to find the same idol in a nearby tank and install that at the temple of Dwarikadheesh.

Both the idols are same and hence the merciful God manifested himself in different forms to help his devotees.

On full moon days, people visit the temple to seek the blessings as was done by the devotee who brought Shree Krishna to the temple. On the day of sharad purnima, which comes after end of navratra is the day believed to be the day when Lord Krishna came to Dakor.

There was huge rush in temple and the temple sanctun gets closed every 30 minutes or so for the different "Shringaar" of the most beautiful Lord. My father and father-in-law got a glimpse before the gates got closed, but I and other family members couldnot. So we waited for about 45 minutes there in the main hall to get our eyes filled with joy of having Darshan of him. As time passed the rush increased and then the gates were open and there he was the most "Madhura" infront of us.

Being blessed, we walked back to take taxi. I took some Guvava, though my mother was not happy as these were not ripe enough, but I relished them. I had decided to do Ekadashi fast on that day but later as consulted with Pandits, I decided to do the fast on next day.

We were back at lunch time. After lunch as parents decided to take rest, me, my wife and brother decided to visit the Gandhi Ashram and sardar Memorial.

We took an auto. I felt auto are cheaper in Ahmedabad than Bangalore.

Sabarmati Ashram or Gandhi Ashram is located on the banks of Sabarmati river. This was residence of Mahatma Gandhi, who spent almost 12 years, from 1918 till 1930, of his life here along with wife Kasturba, Vinoba Bhave and Magan Gandhi.

This ashram is now a national monument due to its significance for the Indian independence movement. Gandhiji undertook the famous Dandi March, from here in 1930 against the Salt Legislation of Britishers, 241 miles from the Ashram, with 78 companions.
"Hriday Kunj", The home of Mahatma Gandhi, Sabarmati Ashram @ Ahmedabad
This ashram is in between a jail and a crematorium, and Gandhiji believed that a satyagrahi has invariably to go to either place. Mahatma Gandhi used to say that "This is the right place for our activities to carry on the search for truth and develop fearlessness, for on one side are the iron bolts of the foreigners, and on the other the thunderbolts of Mother Nature."

In around 15 minutes, we were at Ashram. While at the Ashram, I felt a lot of bliss. The aura of Mahatma is very much present there even now.

We walked through the museum called "Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalay". This was erected (designed by architect Charles Correa) in 1963 and inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, on 10th of May, 1963.

This museum has many photographs, Gandhi quotations, letters and other relics exhibition of his times and also details of his activities and freedom movement.

There is also a book shop, where I stopped and purchased a few books.

I am an avid book lover!

I just passed through different galleries indulged in the thoughts, how a humble and physically weak person lead our nation's freedom movement. He was a true leader with lot of mental strength and dedication for mother India. Though personally I don't like some of his decisions regarding partition of our country, but that does not in any manner diminish his role for our freedom.

Salutations to Mahatma! No one is even close to his stature in modern times in India.

After walking through the galleries and book shop, we moved towards residence section. The first one was the residence of Shri Magan Bhai Gandhi, who was secretary to Mahatma.

Then we approached the Hriday Kunj, the then residence of Mahatma.

A humble compound, which immediately took me to my village home in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, was residence of Leader of India. There are Kitchen, Guest room, room of Kasturba and the room of Mahatma, where his Charkha and seat is still preserved and put in same manner as it was there in those days.

From this humble residence the revolution to oust foreigners originated. The skills and leadership is not bound to birth and wealth!

Right side of "Hridaya Kunj" is the Vinoba Kutir, named after Acharya Vinoba Bhave who stayed here, and also known as Mira Kutir after Mirabehn, Gandhiji's disciple, daughter of a British Admiral.

Towards the banks of Sabarmati, is Upasana Mandir. It is an open air prayer ground, where Gandhiji and all other Ashram inmates used to pray.

There is also a Library, consisting of thousands of books dealing with Gandhi's life, work, teachings, Indian freedom movement etc. There are also archives consisting of thousands of letters from Mahatma Gandhi.

We spent some time roaming across the Ashram and trying to go back in time to visualise how things would have been. This monument is a living embodiment of Mahatma, his thoughts and freedom struggle.

Our next planned destination was Sardar Patel Memorial at Shahibag area. We hired an auto and reached there in next 15 minutes.

I always admire Sardar Patel. Because of he, India is in this form as we see it today. There were 562 princely states, when Britishers left us. They gave them option to remain independent or join India/Pakistan.

It was Patel who convinced so many Kings and Princes to join India. Some tough nuts like Nizam of Hyderabad and Junagadh and Raja of Jodhpur were overwhelmed by diplomacy or force.

I am of strong opinion that if Patel would have handelled Kashmir, then there would have been no problem today.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial is located at the Moti Shahi Mahal, Shahibag area.
Sardar Patel Memorial @ Moti Shahi Mahal, Ahmedabad
As we stepped in, there was beautiful Moti Shahi Mahal, which is a gorgeous structure, constructed by Mughal emperor Shahjahan between 1618 and 1622, when he was the Governor of Gujarat.

Rabindranath Tagore stayed in the palace for some time in 1878. On the first floor in the right wing of the palace, is the room where he lived.

Following Indian independence, this palace was the Raj Bhavan, official residence of the Governor of Gujarat, from 1960 to 1978. It was endowed by the Government of Gujarat in 1975, upon the centennial birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, to establish a memorial to honour him. The memorial was founded on March 7th, 1980.

Before the palace stands a statue of Patel. We paid our respects to this great son of India and proceeded towards the museum gallery.

The Patel memorial is originally said to be located on the ground floor, covering the central hall and four adjacent rooms. But when we visited, it has been shifted, with all related articles into an underground passway, at the left side of the building, perhaps some restoration work was going on in palace.

As we entered the gallery through staircases going down, there was portrait of Rabindra Nath Tagore and some of his rememberance of his stay here.There are portraits, pictures etc. and a statue of Tagore, including some of his paintings and one poem that he is supposed to had been composed here.

Further there are portraits of Sardar Patel, his family, friends and colleagues in the Indian freedom struggle in chronological order and with descriptions of periods of his life, and quotes.

There are also political cartoons from newspapers of that time.

There is also kept his belongings like his khadi kurta, jacket and dhoti, his shoes, slippers and European-style clothes from his younger days.

There is also a small replica or model of Somnath Temple which was renovated with the efforts of Sardar.

We all bowed our heads in respect to sardar and his dedication to mother country.

We took an auto to visit the last destination of the day. The Law Garden Market. It was sunday and most of the markets, I found closed so we could not do any shopping at Ahmedabad.

Road side shops, famous for "Chaniya-Choli" were open at Law Garden Market. My wife took interest and we purchased a few items there.There is a mantra to do shopping here. Just start negotiating with shopkeeper at 1/3 of the quoted price. You will get very good deal!!

We returned back to our hotel. I was waiting eagrely for the morning as we had to start for Dwarika. A good dinner and sleep refreshed us for journey ahead.

Day 4: Monday, 24th of December

We got up early and got ready with breakfast at hotel. Driver Bhika Bhai in his AC Tempo Traveller arrived at around 730 AM to pickup us for journey to Saurashtra region.

The Saurastra or Kathiwar region comprises the south western part of Gujarat state and the districts included in this region are Rajkot, Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Amreli, Surendranagar, and some portions of Ahmedabad District.

Vehicle was in good condition and road was excellent. As day progressed. Lord Anshumaan started showering upon us good amout of heat. But AC in vehicle defended us well.

Destination for today was Jamnagar, about 315 KMs from Ahmedabad.

We stopped briefly in between to take some refreshment, and then continued to reach Jamnagar by round 3 PM.

In between, while passing through the outskirts of Rajkot City, I saw the distant temple of mother Goddess on a hill. Perhpas, some day the benevolent mother will give me oppertunity to ascend the steps of hills to bow down in her darbar there.

We also saw many gorgeous temples on the way, which include SwamyNarayan Temples and temple dedicated to Saint Jalaram.

We checked into hotel President. There was a bit of exchange of words between me and hotel manager. I had booked three rooms there. The hotel manager asked me ID proofs for all the adults. I questioned this as I had booked the rooms in my name and I was giving them my ID proof. He was adament but as I shouted on him, he agreed. Later I got a call from AtoZ Holidays, through whom, I booked the trip. They requested me to provide atleast three ID proofs, atleast one for each room. we did the same.

Nowhere else I faced this issue. My ID proof was sufficient.

My mother-in-law admonished me for my short temperness. I also realised that but perhaps I dont have control over it!

After some rest and refreshment, we decided to explore Jamnagar city that evening.

Jamnagar is also known as 'Oil City' because the world's biggest oil refinery belonging to Reliance Industries and a smaller one belonging to Essar Oil are located here.

Roughly there were three places that I had noted down, Marine Park, Lakhota palace and Bala Hanuman Temple.

Jamnagar was founded by Jam Raval in 1540 A.D.as the capital of the Princely State of Nawanagar.

According to legends, impressed by Jam Lakhaji's role in at the siege of Pawagadh, Bahadurshah, the Emperor of Gujarat, bestowed 12 villages on him. But he was treacherously killed by his cousins, Tamachi Deda and Hamirji Jadeja. Jam Lakhajis son Jam Rawal escaped and on growing up, took vengeance of his father's murder in the same manner by killing Hamirji Jadeja.

Hamirji's two sons Khengarji and Sahibji fled to Delhi and during a lion hunt, saved the Emperor from being killed by the lion. As a reward for their valour, an army was sent with them to regain their kingdom. When Jam Rawal heard of the two princes coming back to the Kutch with the imperial army, he started getting ready for the battle. On one night, he got dream from mother Goddess Ashapura, who told him that as he had broken an oath taken on her name about not killing Hamirji, he was no longer to dwell in Kutch but cross the sea and reside in Kathiawar instead.

Jam Rawal and his entourage marched out of Kutch, attacked and killed King Tamachi the other conspirator in the killing of his father. Then he conquered parts of Saurashtra and formed his kingdom.

Once on a hunting trip on the land of present day Jamnagar, a hare was found to be brave enough to turn on the hunting dogs and putting them to flight. Deeply impressed by this, Jam Rawal thought that if this land can breed such hares, the men born here would be superior than other men, and accordingly made this place his capital. On the 7th day of the bright half of the month of Shrawan, (August 1540 AD) on the banks of two rivers Rangmati and Nagmati, he lay the foundation of his new capital and named it Nawanagar (new town). Nawanagar eventually came to be known as Jamnagar meaning the "town of the Jams".

Marine park is a bit away (around 30 KMs) and so required one full day. We dropped the idea to visit there.

First we went to Lakhota palace.
Lakhota Lake and Palace @ Jamnagar
It is on an island in the middle of the Lakhota lake, once belonged to the Maharaja of Nawanagar. (Nawanagar was renamed as Jamnagar, later) There is a pathway leading to the palace in between. I didnot liked much as most part of the lake was dried because there is severe water scaracity in this part of Saurashtra. This fort-like palace has semi-circular bastions, guard rooms, guns, swords, powder flasks and muskets etc.

The palace and lake were constructed on orders of Jam Ranmalji for drought relief, when there was severe drought in the area during the years 1834, 1839 and 1846.

Also in case of urgency the soldiers and Royal family can protect themselves using lake as a moat.

At the entrance is the sculpture of Jam Ranjit Singh, the famous cricketer, on whom name we have the Ranji Trophy in India.

There is also a dargah inside it.

One room inside this palace houses the old paintings and adjacent small room is adorned with colours and paints.

It also has a small museum through a staircase. This fort museum has a good collection of sculptures that spans a period from the 9th to the 18th century and pottery found in ruined medieval villages from the surrounding area. This open daily except on Wednesdays.

There are charges for still camera. I had not taken the ticket but once inside got strong urge to capture the moments there. Somehow I managed to keep myself away from the vigilent eyes of lone official there on guard and took some photographs.

On one side of this island palace is one fine sculpture of Rawal. That pathway was closed so could not go nearby and my camera zoom did the required job.

We walked back. The Sun god was going to set. I realised if the lake is full of waters, this is a magnificent place for spending some good quality time.

Just infront of the Lakhota Lake and Palace, I saw another huge old building. I enquired about that from locals. it was Bhujio Kotho.
Bhujiyo Kotho @ Jamnagar
Bhujio Kotho is a imposing struture because of its height. This monument having five floors was believed to be constructed for protection during the invasions. On the first floor there are guns placed in each directions and in the walls, holes are made to place the rifles. On the upper floor a tank is constructed to store water.

As of now this building was closed for tourists as it is in depalidated state. So though very much interested, I could see it from outside only.

We refreshed ouselves with coconut water costing 20/- Rs each. This cost has become a unique feature about coconut water. The cost I have found as same whether at Bangalore or Mysore or Ahmedabad or Coorg or even at Lucknow.

Walking along side the periphery of lake for about 250 Meters or so, we reached the Bala Hanuman Temple.

This temple is famous for the continuous 24-hour chanting of the mantra 'Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram', since 1 August 1964. This devotion has earned this temple a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Bala Hanuman Temple @ Jamnagar
Thousands of devotees visit the temple every year. There is a Shiva idol at the right side as one enter the temple complex. Also there is samadhi of saint Prem Bhikshuji Maharaj, who initited the "Raam Dhun".

'Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram',

We returned back to hotel.

There were a few saree shops nearby. My wife was interested in purchasing some sarees there, so we visited there. The sarees were a bit costly than expectation so we dropped the idea and returned back to our rooms.

Day 5: Tuesday, 25th of December

As the world celebtared Christmas, we took the road to Dwarika, the ancient capital of Lord as he roamed on earth in human form.

Dwarika is about 150 KMs from Jamnagar.

There was a lot of excitement. All of us in vehicle, except my wife and kids, were going to complete the four Dhaams. These four Dhaam of Badrinath, Jagannath Puri, Rameshwaram and Dwarika were established by Aadi Shankaracharya and it is a wish of every HIndu to visit all the four abodes atleast once in his/her life time.

Breakfast, we had taken at Jamnagar hotel itself. It was around 11 Am as we entered the narrow lanes of Dwarika.

Dwarika is one of seven most holy places for Hindus.

“Ayodhya Mathura Maya Kasi Kanchi Avantika
Puri Dvaravati chaiva saptaita moksadayikah"
~Garuda Puraan

Dvaravati is Dwarika.

We went to hotel first, the driver Bhikha Bhai had suggested us to first visit Bhent Dwarika and then enroute Nageshwar Jyotirling, Gopi Talaav and Rukmini Temple and in the end the Dwarikadheesh Temple. I agreed with him.

Salutations to the Lord DwarikaDheesh!!

Legend is that the city was built by Vishwakarma, the architect of Gods. Land was claimed from the sea on the condition that when Krishna will depart to his Vaikuntha, the Sea will reclaim his land.

The deep sea excavation has revealed that Dwarika was well planned city. It had well-organized sectors, residential and commercial zones, wide roads etc.

After Krishna left the earth for Vaikuntha, about 36 years after the Mahabharat War (~3138 BC). it was submerged into the sea.

Following is the account given by Arjuna, found in the Mahabharata:

The sea rushed into the city. It coursed through the streets of the beautiful city. The sea covered up everything in the city. I saw the beautiful buildings becoming submerged one by one. In a matter of a few moments it was all over. There was no trace of the city. Dwarika was just a name; just a memory.

The Vishnu Purana also mentions the submersion of Dwarka:

On the same day that Krishna departed from the earth the powerful dark-bodied Kali Age descended. The oceans rose and submerged the whole of Dwarika.

One interesting note about Dwarika....
Dwarika was attacked on the night of 7 September 1965 by Pakistan Navy under Operation Somnath. The Pakistani vessels fired over the main temple of Dwarika for more than 20 minutes. The ships fired total around 350-400 shells. All the shells remained unexploded, except one which hit one old abandoned railway quarter without any injury to anyone.

Salutations to Lord DwarikaDheesh!!

We stayed at Hotel Gomti.

After getting refreshed, we went to Shri Dwrika Dhaam, Sharda Peeth office with a monk. The current Shankaracharya knows my father-in-law so they had invited us for lunch at mutt.We took the simple but delicious lunch at mutt. The monks there also suggested us the same itinirary to us as suggested by Bhika Bhai.

So we started for Bhent Dwarika. It is known as Bhent Dwarika beacuse at this palace in his capital, Krishna received his old friend Sudama hence the name "Bhent" Dwarika. "Bhent" means meeting or receiving someone.

It is said that the sea submerged the entire city of Dwarika except Palace of Krishna at Dwarika (where the current DwarikaDheesh Temple is there) and Bhent Dwarika because it had the other palace of Krishna. Today Bhent Dwarika is an island and steamer takes about 20 minutes to cross the section of Arabian sea.

Enroute we first visited Gopi Talav.

When Krishna moved to Dwarika, the Gopis could not bear the separation and came to visit him. They met with him at this place on the night of Sharad Purnima.

Legend says that, unable to part from Krishna, the Gopis offered their lives to the soil of this land and merged with their beloved. It is said that they turned into yellow clay, known as Gopi Chandan. Even today the soil of the Gopi talav is extremely smooth and yellow in color.

We offered our prayers to the exceptional devotion of Gopis and visted the nearby small temple of mother Rukmani. There is also another small temple, which also we visited to offer prayers.

Our next stop was Nageshwar Jyotirling.
Shiva @ Nageshwar
Nageshwar is one of the twelve Jyothirlinga. It is in an underground sanctum. There is a 25 mts. tall statue of a sitting Lord Shiva, installed by Late Shri Gulshan Kumar.

As we reached nearby, the temple and large Shiva idol was visible.

Nageshwar Jyotirling Temple
I continuously bow to that Linga of Siva,
Which is honored by Brahma, Murari and Indra,
Which is adorned and resplendent by clear light, and
Which destroys the grief born out of the birth.
~Lingashtakam Shloka - 1

Nageshwar was earlier known as Darukavana. According to the legend, here lived a demon couple named Daruka and Daruki. Daruki was a devotee of mother Goddess Parvati and was blessed by her. They misused her blessings and terrorised the local folks. One day they captured a Shiva devotee called Supriya who was one of the pilgrims on a boat. The demon imprisoned her along with several others at his capital Darukavana. Supriya advised all prisoners to recite the Shiva mantra ‘Aum Namaha Shivayah’ to protect them. When Daruka came to know about this he ran to kill Supriya. Instantly Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a Jyothirlinga from the earth. He could not kill the demon, who was blessed by Parvati, but he assured Supriya that he would protect them. So this place and the linga here thus came to be revered.

It was a quite hot afternoon and there was a long queue. We went into the queue and had a small skirmish with a guy, who tried to enter in queue with me without taking pain of starting from beginning of the queue. After few minutes tempers were calmed down and as we entered the temple it was pure bliss.

This temple was renovated with the help of late Shri Gulshan Kumar. He is said to have installed the giant idol of Lord here.

We took the pooja thaali. Inside the sanctum only males are allowed with only with dhoti. There is a room to change the cloths and also some spare dhoti are available there. Me, my fater, father-in-law, brother and son went to the underground shrine and paid our respect to the Lord Supreme.

Ladies can have darshan from a distance. I am not sure why this tradition because at most of the shiva temples, ladies are allowed in sanctum.

Now we were on the way to Bhent Dwarika. For that we had to take a boat from Okha Jetty (port). 

There was a good rush there. I felt the way people embark the boat is a bit dangerous. There was no railing as people descend the steps. Each boat was carrying minimum of 2-3 times of their capacity. I am not sure why authorities dont take any notice of this fact.

A bit nervous with these boats, I also enquired about an individual boat for us but cost was too high. He asked me for three thousand rupees. On the other hand, in a normal over crowded boat, it was Rs 10/- per head.

We went in queue and with all "Dhakka-Mukki" secured the place to stand in boat. I started shouting and advising people not to overload the boat. But the people were not listening and in hurry, were jumping to enter the boat. Even a lady with a small kid in her lap jumped from stairs to be in boat. I was speeachless on her "courage".

The boatman objected that I was shouting on people not to overload the boat. Other fellow pessengers were on my side. A few minutes of heated exchange again and then finally boatman started the engine.

The water was calm and not much waves. The island was very much visible. A couple of mosque were also seen on the island.

Will the followers of other religions allow a temple on their one of the most holy places?

A team of archeologists have carried out explorations around Bhent Dwarika and the findings are very significant. It is inline with the legend. A lot of things have been uncovered from here which includes seal of conch shell engraved with a three-headed animal motif, inscriptions, copper fishhook, coins and pottery. A large number of stone anchors of different types have unearthed here from sea that include triangular, grapnel and ring stones. They are made out of locally available rocks. Recently, Roman antiquities have also found. There is also an indication of a shipwreck of Roman period here.

I heard that there is a proposal for the Dwarika museum, which involves laying a submarine acrylic tube through which visitors can view through glass windows the ruins of the submerged city. The State Government of Gujarat and the Travel & Tourism Department of Gujarat are working on this proposal.

It took around 20 minutes to reach Bhent Dwarika from mainland. When we see other boats, we feel how much overloaded they were and were fighting with waves to cross it. Perhaps the people in other boats must be thinking the same about us.
Bhent Dwarika Krishna Temple (identified by flag)
We landed at Bhent Dwarika. From shore the temple is a 10/15 minute walk. Temple is under renovation and said to be the Palace of Lord Krishna. It is said that Sudama met him here (so the name "Bhent Dwarika") and presented him with rice here and so the tradition is continued by the visitors who presents the Lord here with donations of rice. There are other smaller temples in the same vicinity.

अधरं मधुरं वदनं मधुरं नयनं मधुरं हसितं मधुरम् ।
हृदयं मधुरं गमनं मधुरं मधुराधिपतेरखिलं मधुरम् ॥

(O Krishna) Your Lips are Sweet and Charming, Your Face is Sweet and Charming, Your Eyes are Sweet and Charming and Your Laughter is Sweet and Charming, Your Heart is Sweet and Charming and Your Going is Sweet and Charming; Everything about You is Sweet and Charming, O Lord of Sweetness.
~Madhurashtakam Shloka - 2

The presence of a large number and variety of stone anchors in Bhent Dwarika suggests that this was one of important ports in ancient times. The location of Bhent Dwarika was favorable for safe anchorage in the past since it was protected from high waves and storms.

There is also a Dandiwala Hanuman Temple situated about 5 km east of the main temple. But we did not visited there. This temple is said to have a shrine of Makardhwaj, son of Hanuman. It is said that he was born with the sweat of the celibate Hanuman.

We returend back with little shopping of toys for kids for their patience and cooperation.

Again same 'Dhakka-Mukki" to take the boat. My father-in-law negotieated with boatman and we got the driver's cabin to sit for Rs. 200/-. A few other people enterd the cabin, though my family members objected but I allowd them to join us there.
Sunset as seen from a steamer between Bhent Dwarika and mainland India
The Sun was setting and it was a beautiful, unforgettable moment. To me, I was on the abode of most beloved Krishna, it was just amazing feeling.

Krishna was here some 5000 years back, Was I also with him here? Perhaps yes, in the words of my boss only... there was never a time when we were not here and there will never be time when we will not be here (Gita)

We disembarked at Okha. Bhikha Bhai was waiting for us to take back to Dwarika.

It was a bit dark now, we took another route via Mithapur, as we had to visit Rukmini Temple. Mithapur has the factory of Tata Salt.

Perhaps this route is bit longer or perhaps we were tired so we felt so. It was dark by now as we reached the famous Rukmini Temple.

The temple was shining with lights. The structure is adorned with beautiful sculptures, but the salty air blowing from nearby sea has made the stone porous. Similar thing I also observed with the DwarikaDheesh Temple.

For our luck, the temple was open, though not many people were there. The priest stopped us there and narrated a story, before allowing us to have darshan of mother goddess.
Rukmini Temple @ Dwarika
The story that he narrated goes like this.Once Krishna and Rukmini requested sage Durwasa to visit Dwarika. Durwasa agreed on a condition that if Krishna and Rukmini pull his chariot inplace of horses, then only he will come. The divine couple agreed for the respect of sage and started pulling the chariot. After some time, Mother Rukmini felt tired and thirsty. She told this to Lord, who pressed the earth with his thumb of leg and water came out. They took the water and Sage Durwasa got angry that why without asking him they took the water. As a guest, he should have been asked first, the sage thought. In a fit of rage, he cursed that there will not be any sweat water in Dwarika and the divine couple will be seperated for twelve years.

Since then the underground water in and around Dwarika is salty. Rukmini did penance for tweleve years and then Krishna came to take her back to his capital.

This temple is in memory of that incident.

Lord is so merciful. To honour his Bhakta (Durwasa), he accepted his bhakta's conditions also.

Salutations to Lord Dwarikadheesh!!!!

Here sweat water is given as prasadam, which comes from a far away distance. People offer donations here for that cause.

As far as I remember, it was around 7 or 730 PM by now. We did not had plans to visit the Dwarikadheesh temple today. My father-in-law enquired by calling the young monk of Sri Sharda Peetham, he replied that there will be Aarti in sometime, so if we can reach in time, it will be great.

We asked Bhikha Bhai to take us straight to the grand abode of Lord of lords.

The DwarikaDheesh temple is also known as Jagat Mandir.

It took around fifteen more minutes as we reached the back side gate of temple. We rushed into it. There is seperate queue for ladies and gents.

The young monk took us to temple bypassing the huge crowd and soon we were in VIP queue. there were only a few people in that VIP queue, but from here it was difficult to see inside the sanctum because this queue was on left side of Lord. The common people, who come through main gate, can directly see the master.

DwarikaDheesh Temple
 वसुदेव-सुतं देवं कंस-चाणूर-मर्दनम्
देवकी-परमानन्दं कृष्णं वन्दे जगद्गुरुम्

To the son of Vasudeva, to the God, to the killer of Kansa and Chanura
to the utter bliss of Devaki, to Krishna, praise, to the Universal-Guru

This five storeyed temple was said to have been built by Krishna's great grandson, King VajraNabha. The present temple was built in 16th century. A flag is hoisted at the temple tower changed five times each day. There are two gateways - Swarga Dwar, where pilgrims enter, and Moksha Dwar, where pilgrims exit.

I tried to have a glimpse of him by riding and hanging on the iron seperaters. With my son in my lap, it was a bit difficult, but master made it easy and gave us his divine glimpse.

There is seperate queues for ladies and gents even in VIP section.

Salutations to the Lord DwarikaDheesh!!

The queue moved slowly and finally:

I was infront of him. Infront of the most beloved form of Lord, Infront of the Power Supreme,
Infront of the most benevolent, the most merciful

With tears in eyes, I paid my respects as my son shouted Hello Krishna!

Salutations to the Lord DwarikaDheesh!!

I was pulled out by security men as there was crowd even in that VIP line. I came out thanking the Lord of Sweatness.

My parents, in-laws, wife and kids all met in the temple varandah after Darshan. The joy of Darshan was on face. Except my wife and kids, all of us have completed the four abodes of Lord in India.

Feeling light and happy, we returned back to hotel. Bhikha Bhai was afraid of taking the tempo traveller to smaller lanes so we had to walk a bit. We were a bit unhappy with him, but ok.

It was a bit painful for my mother and father-in-law, because of knee problem, but the satisfaction of blissful darshan overwhelmed.

Infront of hotel, there was some lane construction work in progress. I heard that Reliance family is behind this noble cause. It is on the banks of Gomti river. Even the big hall next to main temple, where the "Shankaracharya Gaddi" is there, is constructed by them.

Salutations to Lord DwarikaDheesh!!

Happily we took the dinner at hotel and went to bed.

Day 6: Wednesday, 26th of December

In Dwarika, there are also shrines for Vasudeva, Devaki, Balarama and Revati, Subhadra, Jambavati Devi and Satyabhama Devi. But we could not visit there.

Time is the main constraint. As all of them reside in Krishna, so his darshan is assumed enough.

I heard there is a small shrine of legendry devotee Meera Bai. She is said to have become one with Lord here.

Salutations to Lord DwarikaDheesh!!

Morning after breakfast, we planned to visit the Gomti Ghat. This is very close to the main gate of Shri DwarkaDheesh Temple. As we entered the lane to go to Gomti Ghat, on left side there is a pond said to be related to Sage Durwasa. Paying our reverence, we reached to the banks of blessed river.
Gomti river being one with sea @ Dwarika
The water is salty and the confluence with sea is visible and is about 500 mts ahead. We spent some time here playing with water. bathing is said to be blissful here, though we didn't.

It was about 10 AM or so, time to move on.

Some small shopping of prasadam was done and we took the road towards Somnath.

Breakfast was done at Hotel itself.

I had read about Harsiddhi (Harshad) Mata Temple at a place called Harshad or Miani (ancient name MinalPur). It is about 35 Kms from Dwarika enroute to Porbandar/Somnath.

Harsiddhi (Harshad) Mata Temple, Miyani, enroute Dwarika and Porrbandar
भवाब्धावपारे महादुःखभीरु पपात प्रकामी प्रलोभी प्रमत्तः ।
कुसंसारपाशप्रबद्धः सदाहं गतिस्त्वं गतिस्त्वं त्वमेका भवानि ॥

In this Ocean of Worldly Existence which is Endless, I am full of Sorrow and Very much Afraid, I have Fallen with Excessive Desires and Greed, Drunken and Intoxicated, Always Tied in the Bondage of this miserable Samsara (worldly existence), You are my Refuge, You Alone are my Refuge, Oh Mother Bhavani.
~Bhavani Ashtakam Shloka - 2

Harsidhhi is considered one of the aspect of mother Goddess Amba.

The ancient Harshad Mata temple is situated on a hillock, called Koyla Dungar, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the pilgrims need to climb around 275 steps to reach up to the temple. The last 100 steps are a bit steep and one has to be careful.

There is a temple constructed to divine mother at ground level at the base of hillock also. We visited this temple and paid our reverence to the mother.

The legend says that with the Harshad Mata temple on the Mountain, the ships coming in the way of Mataji's eye site were getting sunk in the Sea. Due to this reason, Seth Jagdushah prayed to Mataji to come to the ground level to avoid such drowning incidents of the ships. Mataji accepted this request and Jagdushah built the similar temple of Mataji at the ground level and the Harshad Mata stays in this temple since then.

The idol of JagduShah is also situated to the right of Goddess's idol inside the temple, which is also being worshiped as per boon given to JagduShah that his name will forever be associated with this temple.

Parents and in-laws showed their inconvenience to climb to hill. Though my mother was interested, but I was not keen. So leaving them to sit in a shop along with kids, me, my wife and brother took the steps to hillock top.

It is said that King Vikramaditya was devotee of Harsiddhi Mata and he had convinced Harshad Mata to remain at Ujjain during the daytime and be at this Harshad Mata temple on sea-shore during the nighttime. It is said that Shakti Yantra is placed at both the temples.

Lord Krishna is said to have worshiped her here. The original temple atop the hill is said to be have been build by him.
Harsiddhi (Harshad) Mata Temple at hill top, Miyani, enroute Dwarika and Porrbandar
न जानामि दानं न च ध्यानयोगं न जानामि तन्त्रं न च स्तोत्रमन्त्रम् ।
न जानामि पूजां न च न्यासयोगं गतिस्त्वं गतिस्त्वं त्वमेका भवानि ॥

Neither do I know Charity, nor Meditation and Yoga, Neither do I know the practice of Tantra, nor Hymns and Prayers, Neither do I know Worship, nor dedication to Yoga, You are my Refuge, You Alone are my Refuge, Oh Mother Bhavani.
~Bhavani Ashtakam Shloka - 3

There is a small temple at top. I was a bit surprised to see that there was no Shikharam at the temple. It is small shrine but very powerful, that we felt, as we went inside. The benevolent mother blessed us with her darshan.

The waves from Arabian sea were thrusting upon the land below, like trying to touch the feets of mother divine. The view of landscape from here was just amazing.

A cluster of wind mills were also seen.

There is also a small Shiva shrine there. How Shiva can stay away from Shakti?

We came down and moved ahead towards Porbandar.

About 10/12 KMs further from Harshad is temple of "Mool Dwarika".
Mool Dwarika Temple, Viswada, enroute Dwarika and Porbandar
This temple at place called Viswada has the legend that While going from Mathura to Dwarika, Lord Krishna had stopped here.

Its two main temples are dedicated to Shiva (facing east) and Krishna (RanChhod Ji) (facing west). Each is surrounded by smaller shrines making a "Saptayatan" and a "Panchayatan".

We visited the temple and prayed to Lord. This current temple is construction of 17th century.

Just before the main gate there is an old step well (Vaav in Gujarati). This 13th century stepwell is in L-shaped architecture. Its locally known as "Gyaanvaapi".The niche in the vaav has idols of Sun God, Bramha and Vishnu.

I went down a few steps and then came back.

After a refreshing sip of coconut, we were on the way to Porbandar, which is around 30 Kms from Mul Dwarika and 75 Kms from Dwarika.

Porbandar a small village on the coast of Kathiawad region of Gujarat became famous, as one of the great sons that mother India has produced so far, MohanDas KaramChand Gandhi born here on 2nd of October, 1869.

I heard that Porbandar has also became famous as a region of mafia gangs and smugglers.

What a contrast!

As we entered the lanes of Porbandar, the traffic increased, the road leading to Kirti Mandir was "one way" and hence we parked the tempo traveller near the gates of the famous Sudama Mandir and took a to and fro auto to the birth place of Mahatma.

Porbandar was known as Sudama Nagari in ancient times as it is believed that Sudama, the blessed friend of Lord used to live here.

The ancestral house of Gandhiji, where he was born is now in the compound of Kirti Mandir. At the time when Gandhiji was released in 1944 from the Aga Khan Palace in Pune by the British Government, the citizens of Porbandar had decided to construct a memorial on his birth place.
Kirti Mandir Complex, Porbandar
The then Maharaja of Porbandar, Maharana Shri Natavarsinhji, and industrialist Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta and his wife, Santokbehn Mehta took interest in this cause. The ancestral house was purchased from members of the Gandhian family. Gandhiji himself had given his consent to Nanjibhai in writing, with legal documents for the sale of the whole building. He had signed with his own hand the registration papers, which we saw in a room in Kirti Mandir Complex.

The ancestral house, as such, now forms a part of Kirti Mandir complex.

The foundation stone of modern structure and attractive Kirti Mandir was laid in 1947 by Shree Darbar Gopaldas Desai. The whole credit of constructing this national memorial of Mahatma Gandhiji goes to the famous industrialist, Nanjibahi Kalidas Mehta, who not only initiated the idea to build a memorial but also donated the whole money to purchase the ancestral house and also to build new complex called Kirti Mandir.

The memorial was completed in 1950, by which time Gandhiji was no more. The memorial was named Kirti Mandir and then Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel inaugurated and declared open this place for public on May 27, 1950.

The height of the temple is of 79 feet, which symbolizes the 79 years of life span of Bapu.

This complex is inside a narrow lane and gives the impression of bygone era. There is a gate through which we entered in the lane.

Near the gate on the center of that square, there is an idol of Mahatma.

In this lane on left side is the gate of imposing building of Kirti Mandir. There was a little rush, but not too much. Even in that atmosphere of crowd and chattings, there was a blissful and serene silence persisting around. The aura of Mahatma is very much there still.

At the gate of Kirti Mandir, one metal detector was there with a policeman manning that. I dont know, what mahatma would have felt today to see metal detector at his gate.

There are paintings of Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba kept side by side in the centre of Kirti Mandir. The photographs of Sardar Patel is also nearby, announcing the inaugeration of Kirti Mandir by him.

Gandhiji wanted that he should not be made a God and so, keeping his wishes, floral garlands are not used. The auspicious words, ‘The Truth’ and ‘Non-violence’, symbolizing his life and preachings are placed near their feet.

A small altercation happened between that policeman and my father-in-law. As he was walking past the metal detector gate he leaned and took the help of that wooden structure for support. But it was not strong enogh and leaned on one side. The Policeman objected and as usual, I also got involved in skirmish. It lasted for some 5 minutes, and then things became normal.

Bapu must be laughing on me!

On the left side of entrance is the ancestral home of Gandhiji. We entered with all respect and reverence to this home, which is not less than a temple.
Gandhiji's ancestral home, now a part of Kirti Mandir complex, Porbandar
As we eneterd his home, on right side room is the place where Gandhiji was born. This place near the wall is marked with a Swastika announcing his exact place of his birth.
Bapu was born here, Kirti Mandir complex, Porbandar
Bliss was around everywhere there.

Walls have paintings and other objects of his time or depicting events in his life time. Narrow steps are there to go to upper floors, One hanging rope must be used to keep balance while ascending or descending. I went till top floor, where there was the study room of Mahatma in his childhood.

After some serene moments there, trying to visualise this great soul, we came out of his home and went towards the museum room in Kirti Mandir.

On the right side there are two rooms as the memorials of Shri Maganlal Gandhi and Shri Mahadev Desai.

Spending some time there, we were ready to take leave from this blessed place.

The Kirti Mandir is the main tourist attraction of the town. Our vehicle was parked near Sudama mandir. That is also a famous attraction, but as we were getting a bit late, we excused ourselves and took road to Somnath.

It was around 145 PM now.

Somnath is about 150 Kms from Porbandar. On the way we passed through a place called Madhavpur, which is famous for its beach and a temple dedicated to Krishna as "MadhavRaiji".

Madhavpur finds a mention in the scripture. It is believed that Krishna had married Rukmini at this place. The temple of Madhavraiji is the chief attraction. There is also a "Baithak" (seat) of Shri Vallabhachrya, who had given discourse on Shrimad Bhagwat here.

The original temple is said to have been badly damaged by attacks by Muslim invaders.

We went to beach as it was just on the right side of road. It was around 245 PM but my kids and all other family members could not stop themselves to run and touch the waves of Arabian sea.

Not much crowd was there. Lord Anshumaan was shining in full glory, but a cool breeze kept things going. After spending some time there we returned back and got ready to take road to Somnath with a cool sip of Coconut.

Somnath is about 80 KMs further. We reached there by around 530 PM and went straight to Hotel Safari Resorts.

Somnath Temple, attacked and destroyed seven times by barbarian foreign invaders, is an icon in itself. It is said to be the first Jyotirlinga and besides that it is a symbol of resolve of India to face the enemy and show him that we can not be destroyed, we can be subdued only for a while and we will come back rocking soon.

Hail to Lord Somnath!

The area in which the Somnath Temple is located is known as the "Prabhas Paatan" in scriptures. It is just on the sea shore where the waves of Arabian Ocean runs towards the temple to wash the holy feet of Mahadev, the God of Gods.

We took some rest and refreshed ourselves with a cup of hot tea and got ready to visit the first of all the Jyotirlinga, the Somnath.

From hotel, it was about 2 KM. The vehicle was stopped by Police near the bus station and afterwards about half a kilometer, we need to walk. For parents, due to knee problems, it is a bit painful, but no more today. We were at the gates of Somnath. The name which itself brings the devotion, the joy. The name which repersent the resolve deep inside us, that we are eternal, we are undestroyable, undestructable.

Hail to Lord Somnath!

Somnath means "The Lord of Soma (Moon God)". Most recently it was rebuilt in November 1947, when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel visited the area for the integration of Junagadh state with the state of India and draw a plan for restoration of temple to its previous glory. After Patel's death, the rebuilding continued under Shri K.M.Munshi, a minister with the Government of India.

The legend is that Moon was married to Twenty-Seven daughters of Daksha. However, he favoured Rohini and neglected other queens. The aggrieved Daksha cursed Moon and the Moon lost power of light. With the advice of Prajapita Brahma, Moon arrived at the Prabhas Teerth, built a Shivlinga and worshipped Bhagvan Shiva.

Pleased with the great penance and devotion of Moon, Lord Shiva blessed him and relieved him from the curse of darkness partially letting the periodic waning of the Moon.
Somnath Jyotirling Temple
प्रचण्डं प्रकृष्टं प्रगल्भं परॆशम् अखण्डम् अजं भानुकॊटि प्रकाशम् ।
त्रयी शूल निर्मूलनं शूलपाणिं भजॆहं भवानीपतिं भावगम्यम् ॥

I salute that God who is vehement, Who is superior, capable and divine, Who is limitless, who is not born, Who has the luster of billions of Suns, Who holds the trident , who completely destroys,Who holds the spear, who is consort of Parvathi, And who goes in to the state of divine.
~Rudrashtakam Shloka - 5

Lord Shiva decided to rest in that Lingam here till eternity.

The Somnath temple:

1.) First time destoyed by Junaid, the Arab governor of Sind in 725 AD.
2.) Second time the temple was raided by Mahmud of Ghazani in 1026 AD.
3.) Third time the temple was attacked and destroyed in 1296 AD by Allauddin Khilji's army.
4.) Fourth attack on temple happened in 1375 AD by Muzaffar Shah I, the Sultan of Gujarat.
5.) Fifth attack happened in 1451, the temple was once again destroyed by Mahmud Begda, the Sultan of Gujarat.
6.) Sixth time the temple was attacked and destroyed by Portughese.
7.) The last attack happened in 1701 AD by Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb built a mosque on the site of the Somnath temple, using some columns from the temple.

The temple was rebuild every time with even more vigour and splendour.

Hail to Lord Somnath! You kept our spirit alive.

In 1783 AD, by a joint effort of Maratha chiefs and Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, the temple was rebuilt at a site adjacent to the ruined temple which was already converted to a mosque.

During that time, (In 1782-83 AD), Maratha chief, Mahadaji Sindhia victoriously brought the three Silver Gates from Lahore, after defeating Muhammad Shah. After refusal from the then rulers to put them back on Somnath temple, these silver gates were placed in temples of Ujjain. Today they can be seen in two temples of Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga Mandir and Gopal Mandir there.

In 1842, Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough issued his famous 'Proclamation of the Gates' in which he ordered the British army in Afghanistan to bring back to India the sandalwood gates from the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazni at Afghanistan. These were believed to have been taken by Mahmud from Somnath. But on arrival, they were found to be replicas of the original. They were placed in a store-room in the Agra Fort where they said to be still lie to the present day.

From bus station, as we got down, the Balaji temple is visible. As we moved towards it, on our right side is the Somnath Shrine and on left side the road goes towards Golok Teerth and Gita Mandir.

We walked slowly towards the temple. I was having mixed feeling, though the bliss prevailed and with that joy, I entered the temple complex.

“Somnath: celebrated city of India, situated on the shore of the sea, and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of that place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnath. This idol was in the middle of the temple without anything to support it from below, or to suspend it from above. It was held in the highest honor among the Hindus, and whoever beheld it floating in the air was struck with amazement, whether he was a Musulman or an infidel. The Hindus used to go on pilgrimage to it whenever there was an eclipse of the moon, and would then assemble there to the number of more than a hundred thousand."

When the Sultan Yaminu-d Daula Mahmud Bin Subuktigin went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnat, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Muhammadans. As a result thousands of Hindus were converted to Islam. He arrived there in the middle of Zi-l k’ada, 416 A.H. (December, 1025 A.D.). “The king looked upon the idol with wonder, and gave orders for the seizing of the spoil, and the appropriation of the treasures. There were many idols of gold and silver and vessels set with jewels, all of which had been sent there by the greatest personages in India. The value of the things found in the temples of the idols exceeded twenty thousand dinars."

~ "Wonders of Things Created, and marvels of Things Existing” by Zakariya al-Qazwini, a 13th-century Arab geographer.

These are what I heard about Somnath. Unhappy with the fact that how Muslim and Portughese invaders played with faith of hindus, but satisfied that we have the resolve that, we cant be bowed down indefintely.

Hail to the Lord Somnath!

As we moved towards temple, one "panda" (priest) on his bike, approached us, that if we would like to have some pooja done at temple. I immediately agreed. He asked us to come to "Old" Temple of Somnath at 730 AM the next day.

As I mentioned earlier, Maratha Satraps and Queen Ahilya Bai of Indore had constructed the Somnath temple adjacent to the original temple. This temple is known as "Old" Somnath temple.

The temple got constructed with the efforts of Sardar patel is known as the "New" Somnath temple. This "New" temple is at the same spot where the original shrine was located.

In the "New" temple only darshan can be done from a distance. But at "Old" temple you can do "abhishek" etc. also.

Both the temples are adjacent to each other.

First we went to the Old Somnath Temple. The shrine is in an underground sanctum, though the replica (shivling) is at ground level also, just above the underground sanctum. Not sure why this is so, but perhaps to evade the attacks, it is constructed in this form to somehow concel the original shrine, which is underground.

We stepped down and paid our reverence to "Mahadev", the Great God!

Then through a narrow channel of staircase we came back to ground level and paid or respects to Shivaling there. Not many people were there at this level.

Now it was becoming a bit dark and we decided to quickly go to the "New" Somnath temple.

Mobiles/Camera etc all need to be deposited before we go near the temple.

It is said that when Sardar Patel, K.M.Munshi and other leaders of the Congress went to Gandhiji with the proposal of reconstructing the Somnath temple, Gandhiji blessed the move,but suggested that the funds for the construction should be collected from the public and the temple should not be funded by the state. But soon both Gandhiji and Sardar Patel were no more and the task of reconstruction of the temple continued under Shri K.M.Munshi, who was then the Minister for Food and Civil Supplies with the then central Government.

The ruins were pulled down in October 1950 and the mosque present at that site was shifted few miles away.

On May 11, 1951, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the Republic of India, performed the "Pran Pratishtha" ceremoney for the temple.

"It is my view that the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple will be complete on that day when not only a magnificent edifice will arise on this foundation, but will be the mansion of India's prosperity of which the ancient temple of Somnath was a symbol".

"The Somnath temple signifies that the power of reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction"

~ Dr.Rajendra Prasad

This episode created a serious rift between the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who saw the movement for reconstruction of the temple as an attempt at Hindu revivalism and the President Rajendra Prasad and Union Minister K. M. Munshi, who saw in its reconstruction, the fruits of freedom and the reversal of past injustice done to Hindus.

So this was it, the magnificent structure, not only in terms of construction, but also in terms of faith. The faith which reconstructed it again and again like a Phoenix. A faith which prevails on all attackers and barbarians!

We went into the sanctum. Hands folded, wet eyes and blissful thoughts prevailed as we had the darshan. There was a bit rush, but Lord gave us the oppertunity to have his darshan quite peacefully.

The temple is consisting of Garbhgriha, Sabhamandap and Nrityamandap with a 150 feet high Shikhar.

Getting blessed, we came out and roamed around the temple. There is seperate queue for darshan at temple for ladies and gents so we all got seperated. It was a bit dark. I went to search them but could not find. But meanwhile I had darshan of Shri Kapardi Vinayak and Shri Hanuman Temple.

Finally my father-in-law was successful.

On the right of the temple, there is a "Arrow Pillar". This arrow points to south direction towards Antarcatica. It tells that there is no land in straight-line from there till Antarctica. There is an inscription written in Sanskrit at the base of that "Arrow Pillar" called "Baan-Stambh".

We just stood their for a while and then moved towards the back side of temple, overlooking the sea.

On the left side of temple there is a gallery depicting the tweleve Jyotirlinga. As we were going towards that, we heard the sound of Aarti with drums and so we all rushed inside the temple.

The evening aarti had started. It was 7 PM. Next twenty minutes were just amazing. There was rain of devtion and bliss. The hall was full of devotees. We were at place from where direct aarti was not visible, but we could see it at the TV screens.

As aarti was over and all shouted "har Har Mahadev". My son who was in my lap, and my daughter who was in my wife's lap also responded with all their might "Har Har Mahadev!!

People around saw them, smiled and again the chorus did the same blessed sound: "Har Har Mahadev".

As people started moving out of sanctum, I again got an oppertunity to have darshan of the blessed lord, who is there in the form of lingam.

The temple is illuminated every evening and we enjoied the view.

The Sound and Light Show “Jay Somnath” is also displayed every night during 8.00 to 9.00 PM. But on that day it was not there. The temple was getting decorated for a proposed visit of some VIPs, perhaps Narendra Modi, the next day.

With joyful mood, we came out and during this time other family members also did the darshan of Shri Kapardi Vinayak and Shri Hanuman Temple.

We walked some 500 meters again to reach near the bus stand. I called Bhikha Bhai and he came in next 10 minutes or so.

Back to hotel, we took dinner and the goddess of sleep took us in her sweat lap.

Day 7: Thursday, 27th of December

Morning we all went to "Old Somnath temple for abhishekam. There was quite a rush and queue, both for darshan and abhishek. we sat nearby the sanctum and waited patiently. It took more than an hour, before we were called inside for pooja.

The "Panda" was good and he did all the poojs and abhishekam for us. We were quite happy.

There are a few places in and around Somnath associated with Lord Krishna. One is Bhaluka tirth and another is Golok Tirth.

It is said that after the Yadav clan was on the verge of destruction and the time for "Kaliyug" was near, Krishna came down to this place. At Bhaluka Tirth, near Veraval, as he was taking rest below a Pipal tree, one hunter mistook him for a deer from a distance and shot his "Bhalla" (arrow and hence the name Bhaluka).

Krishna got injured, the hunter fell down on his feet and asked for forgiveness. Krishna consoled him that in last incarnation as Raam, he had shot the "Vaanar" king Baali from the hiding of a tree and hence that karma was still on him. That hunter was the King Baali in his previous birth.

Karma we all have to carry, we have to go beyond it. Even Lord had to follow the consequences.

From Bhaluka tirth, Krishna went to Golok Tirth, near the Somnath Temple. There on the banks of Hiranya river, he left for Vaikuntha. That place is marked as a canopy is constructed over that.

There is also an underground chamber, from where Balraam took his form of Sheshnaag and left for Paataal.

Nearby are the temples of Lakshmi Narayan and Gita mandir. In Gita Mandir all the 18 chapters of Gita has been sculpted.

As the Bhaluka Tirth was in the opposite direction (near Veraval), where we had to go, so we decided to skip Bhaluka Tirth for today to cover it the next day and proceeded towards the Golok Tirth in an auto.

I was a bit emotional at Golok Tirtha. First I visited Lakshmi Narayan temple, then the underground chamber, from where Lord Balraam took his form of Sheshnaag and went to Paatal, and then to Gita Mandir.

I went towards the "Krishna Paduka, which is the place from where Krishna left his mortal body and went to vaikuntha. I sat there on a bench for some time. The date was 18th of february, 3102 BC, afternoon 2:28:30 hours.
Shri Krishna Paduka, here Krishna left his mortal body, Shri Golok Tirth, Somnath
This calculation is mentioned there based upon descriptions in the scriptures.

Nearby is the "Baithak" (seat) of Shri Vallabhacharya. Vallabhacharya was a great devotee and his poem "Madhurashtakam" is second to none in devotion.

I visited there as well and then went towards ghaat and just saw the Hiranya river, which is blessed to have witnessed my beloved Lord.

It was time to move on. We took the auto back and reached the bus station. Bhikha Bhai was waiting for my call and arrived soon.

It was around 1130 AM, as we came back to hotel. We had not taken breakfast. The complementary breakfast time was over but the hotel manager kindly obliged and we relished the breakfast.

At around 12 or so, we started for Diu, our next destination.

Diu word originated from the Sanskrit word "Dweep" or Island.

Diu is a Union terretory and is about 90 Kms from Somnath. It was a Portughese colony and was freed in 1961 along with Daman and Goa.

It took us a little more than 1-1/2 hours to reach there.

Diu Island is off the south coast of Gujarat's Kathiawar peninsula, separated from the mainland by a tidal creek. Crossing the bridge on sea, we entered the island of Diu.

Diu was also a vital trade link with the rest of India for traders overseas. Around 16th century, came the mighty wave of invasion of the foreign rule that lasted well upto 450 years.

The first thing that struck us was the The Palm and Coconut trees with branches. So far me and none of us had ever seen the Palm and Coconut trees with branches. These trees are said to be introduced from Africa by the Portuguese.
Branched Palm and Coconut trees (Hoka Trees), Diu
We directly went to the hotel Apaar. Rooms were quite costly but the view of creek from rooms was beautiful.

We were in island of Diu to relax and that we did.

After some refreshment, my mother, brother, wife and myself started to explore Diu, while others stayed at hotel just relaxing and gulping tea.

Legend says that Diu was ruled by the demon king Jalandhar, who was killed by Lord Vishnu with his Sudarshan Chakra.

If someone has enough time, walking is a good means to roam around this tiny island. We took an auto and headed towards the Diu fort.

I love forts. They takes me to the bygone era of Kings.

The fort of Diu is a imposing structure, situated on the coast. The fort commands a magnificent view of sea. It was constructed between 1535 and 1541 AD.
Diu Fort
A little walk took us inside the fort. All the walls are still equipped with Guns. Seems time has not moved much.

The fort is skirted by the Sea on the three sides. On the fort stands a big Light House. Inside there is a jail and only some limited portion is open for tourists. We climbed up towards St. George Bastion, which gives the magnificent view of the town and sea. On a small island in sea, there was a light house, that is visible from here.

My brave mother, though suffering from knee ailment could walk along with us.

Spending sometime there, we returned back and took auto to go to Diu Museum.

St. Thomas Church has been converted into a museum which houses antique statues, various stone inscriptions of the earlier rulers, wooden carvings and idols.
St. Thomas Church (Diu Museum)
Though its a small museum but very good with respect to the antique collection that it has.

After Museum, we returned back to hotel and asked Bhikha Bhai to be ready to take us to Nagoa (pronounced Naagwaa) Beach.

Oh this beach is exceptionally beautiful and quiet. What a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature along with friends and family.

This is a horse shoe shaped beach and there are many water sports facilities available. With shallow water, it is assumed to be quite safe for swimming.

People were doing para-gliding and enjoing the water scotter ride or banana boat rides. We just played in water. Kids were specially charged and just ran here and there in water.
Nagoa (Naagwaa) Beach, Diu
Parents and in-laws were also quite relaxed and happy. Plenty of branched Palm and Coconut trees (called Hoka trees) were whispering with the gentle breeze. This along with satisfaction of completing the four holy abodes and two Jyotirlingas of Nageshwar and Somnath gave all of us peace and pleasure beyond expression.

We spend there quite a good time just moving in and out of waters, clicking with camera and chatting, gossiping and enjoing the time.

Wonderful beach and wonderful experience!!

Sun was setting and we decided to visit Gangeshwar Temple.
Gangeshwar Temple, Diu
There are five shivlings here, located in the midst of the rocks on the seashore. It is believed that these are installed by the five Pandava brothers.

The gentle sea waves offering their obeisance to the "Shiva Lingas". There is a mystic aura around them, where the Lord makes his presence felt.

After worshipping there, we sat there for some time overlooking the Shivalingas and the sea.

It was becoming dark now. We decided to head back to hotel.

I had seen the signboard for "INS Khukhri Memorial". I asked Bhikha Bhai to take us there, in case it is still open.

A few steps upwards, took us to the open air memorial just next to the arabian sea.

This is a sad story for every Indian.

Indian Naval ship Khukri was a frigate of the Indian Navy. It took part in 1971 war with Pakistan and fell pray to three torpedoes fired at it by a enemy Submarine on 9th of December, 1971. It sank 40 nautical miles off the coast of Diu taking down with it a crew of l8 Officers and 176 sailors. Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla, Mahavir Chakra (Post humous) of the Indian Navy, the then Commanding Officer of the ship, chose to go down with the warship. The heroic act of Captain Mulla and his valiant crew is a shining example of unyielding spirit and indomitable courage glorifying the heist traditions of the Indian armed forces.

There is an replica of warship and a small memorial depicting the names of the braves.

A amphitheatre is also there just adjoining the memorial.

It was inaugurated on 15th December, 1999 in memory of the officers and the sailors who chose to go down with the warship INS Khukhri.

Salutations to the brave!
Moonrise in Arabain sea @ INS Khukhri Memorial, Diu
Blessed are your mothers that they gave you birth. Blessed is the soil, where you got the birth!!

Though it was a pleasent weather with gentle breeze and soothing moon-light, with a bit heavy heart, I stepped down and we all started back for hotel.

First a cup of tea and a bit later a good meal, completed a satisfying day.

New year eve was close by and there was a good rush. I spend a few hours just sitting at the balconey overlooking the creek.

Whole night as I tried to sleep, I could hear the dance music and party sounds, carried by the pleasently smelling waves of Arabian ocean!!

Day 8: Friday, 28th of December

Friday morning, we started back from Diu after taking a breakfast. There was no hurry and now we were on our way back to Ahmedabad viw Sassan Gir and Junagadh.

The route was via Veraval (near Somnath) and here we had to visit the Bhaluka Tirth, that we had missed the previous day at Somnath.

We reached Bhaluka Tirth at around 1045 AM.

As I mentioned earlier, the Bhaluka Tirth, is the place, where the hunter named Jara shot the arrow (Bhalla) on Krishna, mistaking him as a deer.

Krishna was sitting under the banyan tree in "Yoga-Nidra" and the hunter mistook his feet as mouth of deer.

The time for Kaliyuga was fast approcahing and Krishna had to leave back to Vaikuntha.

There is a simple temple, there amidst of peepal trees. Inside the temple is beautiful idol of Lord, along with hunter, asking for forgiveness.
Bhaluka Tirth, here hunter Jara, shot and wounded Krishna
Again a bit of emotinal moments for me. The end of time for Krishna on this planet started here.

There is a also a Shiva Temple in the complex known as "Prakateshwar Mahadev" temple. Also as one enters the Bhaluka Tirth complex, there is an ancient pond, and in the middle of that a Shivaling is installed.

So Bhaluka Tirth is the place, where Krishna got injured and Golok Tirth is the place, from where he left for Vaikuntha.

We took some fruits outside the temple and now we were on the way to Sassan Gir.

Sassn Gir is the last refuge of the King of the beastes, the Majestic Lions. I was very excited to see them in wild.

It was around 12 as we eneterd the forest region of Gir.

Forest area of Gir and its Lions were declared as protected in the early 1900s by the then Nawab of the princely state of Junagadh. This ban on hunting of Lions helped in conservation of their population, which had dropped to as low as around 15 through merciless hunting to fake show of bravery.

"Sinh Sadan" is the place from where the safari to wild starts. This safari is in open jeeps, which can carry upto 6 tourists at a time. There was huge rush here, and all the jeeps were booked.

The forest department has also setup a center at a place called Devalia for the convenience of tourists.

We headed towards Devalia.

The final stretch of the road to Devalia is off Junagadh road by about 7 KMs. At the junction, the guard informed us that the safari will start only at 2 PM, so we went a nearby dhaba for some refreshment.

This road to Devalia remains closed from sunset to sunrise. For the locals here, it is common to sight a lion roaming after dark.

The April 2010 census recorded the lion-count in Gir at 411.

Generally the lions take rest during daytime and are active during night.

Usually the prey is done by the females. The lions follow the strict family hierarchy, with two to three males and a few females and cubs form the family called as pride.

At around 130 PM, we were at Gir Interpretation Zone at Devalia.

Devalia is deep under forest. What I understood that here at Devalia the forest department has setup some barracading along the road for some distance so that the Lions in wild and the excited tourists remain seperated here.

I found Gir to be mostly a deciduos forest with bushes and very less number of big trees. May be the other part of forest is greener. The Gir covers a total area of 1412 sq KMs.

The chances of sighting Lions are very high here as forest department makes sure to keep some lions in this area by luring them of easy prey and meal.

There was huge rush, I went into queue and after about 45 minutes got the tickets.

We all were in mini bus. Crossing the barricades now we were in the Gir forest, the Palace of The King.

For about 10 minutes or so there was no sighting of any animal and then two Jackals running away from the noisy bus welcomed us.

Then a bunch of deer, followed by blackbuck were sighted and just about 500 meters further, we met with the King.
Black Bucks @ Gir
Two males (easily recogniseable with the manes in the neck, females don't have the manes) were taking rest below the shades of a tree, a little further away, I saw a female. The bus was stopped at some distance, and my camera zoom did the rest.

Happy moments to meet the King. There was a bit surprising thing that deer were just about 1/2 KMs away from the King and not that fearful. Perhaps they know that daytime is the resting time for the King.

While returning, we also observed a bunch of Vultures. The vulture population has declined significantly and it was good to see them flourishing here at Gir. Perhaps they were waiting for King to provide them an easy meal.

Happy and satisfied, we came back and did some shopping on the small souvenier shop for calender, a book, caps and T-Shirts.

Time to take road to Junagdh.

We started from Devalia at around 245 PM and were in Junagadh at about 415 PM.

I was excited to be at Junagadh. Though it was going to be a very short stay, but I was happy that I will get a glimpse of the place, for which I have read and heard so much as a history student.

Junagadh means "Old Fort". It is also known as "Sorath". After a brief struggle between India and Pakistan, Junagadh joined India on 9 November 1947.

On September 15, 1947, the then ruler of Junagadh, Nawab Mohammad Mahabat Khan III, chose to accede to Pakistan. But the states of Mangrol and Babariawad, who were under control of Junagadh state, reacted sharply by declaring their accession to India. In response, the nawab of Junagadh militarily occupied the two states. Rulers of the other neighbouring states send troops to the Junagadh frontier, and appealed to the Government of India for assistance. A group of Junagadhi people, led by Samaldas Gandhi, formed a government-in-exile.

India pointed out that the state was 96% Hindu, and called for a plebiscite to decide the question of accession. India cut off supplies of fuel and coal to Junagadh, severed air and postal links, sent troops to the frontier, and occupied Mangrol and Babariawad that had acceded to India.

Pakistan agreed to discuss a plebiscite, subject to the withdrawal of Indian troops, a condition India rejected. On 26 October, the Nawab and his family fled to Pakistan following clashes with Indian troops.

On 7 November, Junagadh's court, facing collapse, invited the Government of India to take over the State's administration. The Dewan of Junagadh, Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the father of the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, decided to invite the Government of India.

The government of India rejected the protests of Pakistan and accepted the invitation of the Dewan to intervene. A plebiscite was conducted in February 1948, which went almost unanimously in favour of accession to India.

So the Junagadh is now part of India.

Again, as usual, Bhikha Bhai has problem in parking his tempo traveller. He was hesitating to take the vehicle in the narrow lane, though it was enough spaced to handle this vehicle. The hotel manager also talked to Bhikha Bhai but to no avail, he arranged a few staff from hotel to carry our luggage from vehicle.

We had only this evening at Junagadh and had to start for Ahmedabad the next morning, so we decided to utilize this time as much as possible.

After taking a much required cup of tea, we all took an auto and headed towards the "Darbar Hall". Passing through many narrow streets and ups and downs of not that great road, we reached an old building surrounded by other nondescript buildings.

Darbar Hall Court @ Junagadh
The Durbar Hall was used as durbar (court) of the Nawabs of Junagadh. As we entered, the court is very much arranged in the same fashion, as it used to be in those days. Though it is quite beautiful, but I did not liked much as the then Nawab, tried to get accession to Pakistan.

Going further one can see the sections like Picture Gallery, Palanquin, Textile and Arms Gallery. There are also on display, handeliers, palanquins, howdahs, cushions, and a large carpet that is said to be woven in the Junagadh jail.

This Darbar hall was converted as a museum in 1977.

It was around evening 530 or so, I was getting nervous, if we can reach the famous Uperkot fort or not.

Let us try to be there before 6 PM....
Uperkot Fort @ Junagadh
we boarded the auto and the driver assured us that in next ten minutes, we will be at fort.

He was correct and at around 545 PM or so we were at the gates of the gigantic and very old Uperkot fort of Junagadh.

I enquired, if there is any entry ticket. The official at the gate told me that there is no entry ticket but reminded that gate will be closed by 6 PM so come out befrore that.

I was not that worried, I knew if I am inside fort, there is no hurry to come out till dark.

And we successfully entered the fort before 6 PM......

Uperkot fort is said to be originally built during the Mauryan dynasty by Chandragupta in 319 BC. An inscription with fourteen Edicts of Ashoka is found on a large boulder about 2 KMs from here. I could not went there due to lack of time.

As we entered the fort through a big gate, there are some shrines and we pass through them by a bit narrow lane to reach inside the fort. There were a few shops there, one of the shop keepers asked us if we need guide. With a bit of hesitation, as he was not ready to charge less than 300 Rs., we agreed.

He told us that the original fort was built by King Ugrasen, father of Kansa of Mathura.

As we ascended and reached the upper portion of the fort, we were welcomed by two cannons, targetted towards the town. One is called Neelam and another Manek.

Neelum is a huge, fifteen-foot cannon and said to be made in Egypt in 1531 AD. Other canon, the Manek is smaller, the Guide was not sure from where it came.

Behind the Canons, there is a huge compound. It was said to be the Royal palace, before the Muslim rulers took over the fort and converted it into a mosque.

Further down the way are the Buddhist caves. The inscription says that they are from 2nd century AD.
2nd Century Buddhist caves @ Upaerkot Fort, Junagadh
The entrance to caves are open till 6 PM and we were just about to cross the time, as we got into the caves.

These underground caves are three storied, center of each floor open to sky. There are elaborate system of pond to collect the water, perhaps rain water. Guide told us that these caves were adorned with idols of Buddha, and as the fort was taken over by Muslim rulers, all the idols were mercilessly broken and thrown away.

Further there are two interesting large step wells (Vaav) here. The 11th century Navghan Kuva which descend around the shaft in right turning steps and the Adi kadi Vaav with 168 steps. It is believed that the steps surrounding these step wells could hide a large army.

From here there is a beautiful landscape of greenery behind the fort and also the Majestic Girnar Mountain.

Girnar is revered by Hindus and Jains alike. There are about 8000 steps to reach the top. May be sometime in future the Gods residing here will bless me so that I can come here.....

As we started returning towards the fort, we came across a large underground granery. The guide told us that the granery can stock enough grains for five thousand people for 12 years!

It was a bit dark as we proceeded towards the fort gate.

While returning, we asked the auto driver, if there is any famous cloth market. he took us to a market, where my wife purchased a few sarees. Though now I dont remember the name of market.

We were back by dinner time and thus ended a satisfying day of exploration...

Day 9: Friday, 29th of December

29th of December was our last day to trip, we woke up in luxury and after a good breakfast at roof top restaurent, took the road to Ahmedabad at around 915 AM.

Today's plan was to visit Jalaaram Temple at Virpur and also Gondal car museum and Swamy Narayan Temple.

In about an hour, we reached the temple town of Virpur. This town is famous as an abode of saint Jalaram bapa.

The vehicle was parked on the main road and we need to walk about a KM or so to reach the famous temple. The "Samadhi" of Shri Jalaram Bapa is on the feet of Lord Shri Ram Chandra. This is on the Left side of the gate as we entered the temple complex. The "JHOLI-DANDA" is kept in the Transparent Cup-board and Hanumanji's Idol is also Placed near the "Samadhi".

The place is filled with aura of bapa and anyone can feel the bliss of his presence.

There is an old either peepal or vat tree, nearby which people circumambulate. Also there are three copper pots are kept, which are filled with the waters, said to be sanctified by the Goddess Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

This water is given as Prasadam and it is believed that no one had suffered from any disease after drinking this sanctified water.

Nice feeling enveloped us as we were in temple.

Outside the temple, there is a market selling lot of things related to daily rituals, aurvedic medicines, juices, cloths, toys etc. We took some time to purchase a few things for gift and memory.

Now we were on the way to Gondal. our last stop of itinerary.

Gondal is not very far from Virpur and as far as I remeber now, in about 30 minutes or so, we were at Orchard Palace, Gondal.

Orchard Palace @ Gondal. This compound also has the vintage car collection.
Gondal is an ancient town and finds mention in books like Ain-i-Akbari as Vaghela state in Sorath (Saurashtra).

Ancestors of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, instrumental in the division of India on communal lines, belong to Paneli village in Gondal.

The orchard palace is famous for the collection of Vintage Cars. One section of this palace is still in use for the royal family and the other has been converted into a hotel.

There are 37 vintage cars here. It is a good collection, through the ticket charges were a bit hight. It costed per person Rs 170/- to get access to car museum, palace and the vintage train compartement.

I remembered the vintage care museum that I had got chance to see at DharmaSthala in Karnataka.

Mercedes, BMW, Jeeps and so many other old cars. I liked most the 1907 made bus kind of car, to be started by a liver on the front.

Then we went to the palace, of which a few rooms are open for tourists and gives a glimpse of the grandeur that the royals enjoied at their times. We took a snaps on the antique sofas and carpets.

Nearby is the famous Swamy Narayan Temple of Gondal.
Swamy Narayan Temple @ Virpur
Swamy Narayan sect is very famous in Gujarat and almost all the towns have temple dedicated to Swany Narayan shri Sahajanand ji Maharaj. They are instrumental in spreading the way of life as preached in ancient scriptures of the Sanaatan Dharma.

It is said that Lord Swamy Narayan and his paramhansas often came to Gondal and took bath in the waters of the River Gondali.

It was noon time and the sanctum has been closed. Though a bit disapponited, we satisfied ourselves with the clicks of camera caging the beautiful temple from different angles. I was not able to capture the Akshar Dhaam temple at Gandhinagar, so I satisfied myself here.

Ahmedabad is about 250 KMs from here. Taking refreshment midway, we reached Ahmedabad by around 6 PM and staright away headed for Ahmedabad Railway Station at Kalupur.

This was our last evening of this trip in Ahmedabad and Gujarat.

We offloaded the luggage, we gave some money to Bhikha Bhai and happily he left us for his home after roaming with us for 9 full days.

Many coolie approached us, finally in a bit of disappointment, we agreed with one, who took 500/- rupees for his services to carry our luggage with his cart. Though I was a bit unhappy but my father-in-law, in state of joy for successfully completing the "Chaar Dhaam", was very generous.

I had to take train for Bangalore, while parents and in-laws had to board train for Lucknow and Varanasi. Fortunately they were in same train.

Our trains were at different platforms, so we moved to our respective platforms. Going away from parents always felt bad. My wife started crying, I was also not in good mood. Somehow the time consoled us.

As we boarded the train, suddenly the collie, who ferried our luggage appeard in my compartment and asked for 50/- more rupees, I in a bad mood, rebuked him nicely and he left immediately.

My parents reached Lucknow on the evening on 30th and in-laws disembarked at varanasi at the early hours of 31st.

We reached Bangalore at around 7 AM on the last day of 2012.

Thus fulfilled our journey to Ahmedabad and Saurashtra!!

24 comments:

  1. Wow! You visited so many places. Good trip with all the family members. I wish I can also do this kind of trip.

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  2. Amazing summary alok. It is very detailed and very interesting.

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  3. Nice blog Alok, I am glad someone is visiting and blogging about our heritage

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  4. Very nice Alokbhai. Amazing you visited many places and different parts of Gujarat and summarized it in details.
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