Chhinnamasta temple

Jaya and I decided to go on pilgrimage to Chhinnamasta temple during this auspicious period of Navaratri. This is after many years that I am at home during the Vasanta Navratri period this year. Vasanta Navaratri started from March 31 this year. We therefore visited the Chhinnamasta temple on the Tuesday, April 1, 2014.

Navaratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. Vasanta Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Chaitra (March–April) and is observed during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) of Chaitra. The beginning of this Navratri also marks the start of the new year as per the Hindu mythological lunar calendar (Vikrami Samvat).

The word Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit – nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or “Dussehra”. The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn are considered to be important junctions of climatic and solar influences. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother Durga. Navaratri or Navadurga Parva happens to be the most auspicious and unique period of devotional sadhanas and worship of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy) of the Divine conceptualized as the Mother Goddess-Durga, whose worship dates back to prehistoric times before the dawn of the Vedic age.

Chhinnamasta Temple dedicated to Goddess Chinnamasta is a hindu pilgrimage. The temple is located at Rajrappa, 28 km away from Ramgarh Cantonment along NH-23 in the Ramgarh district of the State of Jharkhand, India. It is situated on a hillock at the confluence of rivers Damodar and Bhairavi popularly known as Bhera.

The Bhera River joins the Damodar River from a height of 20 feet creating a waterfall.

Chhinnamasta (She whose head is severed), also called Chhinnamastika and Prachanda Chandika, is one of the Mahavidyas, ten Tantric goddesses and a ferocious aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother. The headless statue of Goddess Chhinamastika stands upon the bodies of Kamdeo and Rati in a lotus bed.

The temple is very old and the place Rajrappa finds mention in the Vedas, Puranas and Hindu scriptures as a “Shakti Peeth” which is flocked by devotees from Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and Nepal for worship of Goddess Chinnamastika. Vedic book Durga Saptashati also mentions the temple. The art and architectural design resembles the design of temples of Tantrik importance. The temple is considered as notable as the tantrik site of Kamakhya Temple of Assam which has a similar architecture. The ancient temple of Goddess was destroyed and later a new temple was constructed and the original idol of Goddess was placed in it. Animal sacrifice is still practiced in the temple.

We performed our pujas, prayed at the temple and sat there for some time. Then we left for our home in Ranchi in the afternoon after praying at other Dakshina Kali and Mahavidya temples nearby. Rajrappa is around 80 km from Ranchi.

The place attracts devotees from all parts of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Pilgrims come here throughout the year. The place also attracts many foreign tourists due to its natural and religious importance.

Jai Maa Chhinnamasta!

Baba Mandir

Baba Mandir is a distinguished sightseeing place of Sikkim. This “mandir” or shrine is dedicated to “Baba” Harbhajan Singh, who was a soldier of the Indian Army. He died near the Nathula Pass in eastern Sikkim, India. Two shrines have been built to show reverence to Baba Harbhajan Singh. The old one has been built at the site of the bunker, where Baba Harbhajan was posted during his tenure in the Indian Army. The new one has been built at close proximity from Tsomgo Lake. It’s located at above 13,000 ft.

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DSC02714We visited the shrine nearer to Tsomgo lake as we planned for a trip to Baba Mandir and Tsomgo lake on Monday, March 17, 2014. Even though, it’s around 18 km from there and we had to cover several stretches of the road which were under Chinese surveillance due to close proximity to Indo-Chinese border.

DSC02716Hoards of devotees visit the shrine of Harbhajan Singh every year.

The shrine features three room structures. There is a large portrait of Baba in the central room, which has been placed with other Sikh Gurus and Hindu deity. At the right of the central room, there is the personal room of Baba.

The room houses all essential household belongings, needed for daily livelihood, starting from clothes, slippers, shoes to a clean sleeping camp bed. Neatly ironed uniform and polished boots are also kept. The bed sheets are reportedly found crumbled each morning and the boots become muddy by evening. There is another small room, which is used as office cum storeroom. The room is filled with unused slippers, water bottles, toothbrushes and other items that are offered to Baba. The salary of Major Harbhajan Singh has not been stopped and he is also granted his annual leave.

DSC02720There is a strong belief that water kept in the shrine of Baba gains healing property and turns into sacred water that can cure all possible ailments. This blessed water is needed to be consumed within 21 day and in this period, no family members of the ailing person is supposed to have non-vegetarian food. It is also believed that the slippers kept in the temple, help to cure gout and other foot problems. Followers, who cannot reach to Baba’s temple, are allowed to send letters to Baba, which are opened by Baba’s associates.

It is believed that Baba Harbhajan Singh guards the international boundary between India and China, over the last three decades and he is accomplishing this task alone. Even the Chinese army also confirms that they have noticed a human figure, guarding the border at night, riding on a horse. It is also said that Baba Harbhajan Singh foretells any dangerous activity on the border through the dreams of the fellow army men and safeguards the force.

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There is Yak Golf course here, which is acknowledged as the highest golf course in the world by the Guinness World Records. It’s located at 13,025 ft!

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Because of heavy fog and difficult road terrain, it’s advised by Indian Army to leave the Baba Temple area by 1:30 p.m. so as to reach Gangtok in safety. So, we returned after a while there, after having some cake and hot coffee. Hot coffee in near zero temperature at 13,000 ft was tasting very delicious.

While returning, we encountered heavy fogs causing poor visibility. It made the driving quite difficult.

After Baba Mandir and Changu Lake we returned to our hotel in Gangtok via Hanuman Tok and Ganesh Tok temples.

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We had hot coffee and local snacks at the cafeteria at Ganesh Tok. It’s really refreshing!

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Tsomgo (Changu) Lake

Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake is perched within mountains at an altitude of 12,400 ft. Located in Sikkim at Gangtok – Nathula Highway only 40 km, from Gangtok, the Changu Lake is one of the most spectacular landscapes of Sikkim.

ROAD JOURNEY

The road to Nathu La passes the lake on north side. Nathu La is a mountain pass in the Himalayas. It connects the Indian state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. The pass, at 14,140 ft forms a part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road.

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The Chinese border crossing is only some 5 km east-northeast in a straight line, but some 18 km by road. A winding road through rugged mountain terrain and sharp cliffs takes you to Tsomgo.

Jaya & I visited our son Babai for three days. On Monday, March 17 we decided to visit Tsomgo Lake and hired a cab through hotel. We asked the hotel on Saturday to arrange for the trip and the inner line permit needed to visit there.

THE LAKE

With a depth of around 48 ft and spreading over 1 km, the magnificent Changu Lake romances with its picturesque surrounding.

The water of the lake comes from the melting of the snow of its surrounding mountains, which is why this lake never dries up.

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This azure blue lake remains completely frozen during winter.

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In winter the placid lake remains frozen with the area around it covered in snow while in late spring the profusion of flowers in bloom adds a riot of colours around the lake. Changu Lake is also the place of origin of Lungtse Chu River. This lake is also home to Brahmini Ducks and a favourite stopover to other species of migratory birds.

FAITH & LEGEND

The lake is highly revered by the local Buddhists and Hindus as a sacred lake. Changu Lake is shrouded in myths and legends. It is said that in ancient times, the Lamas (Buddhist Saints) used to predict the future by observing the lake’s colour. If the water of the lake had a dark tinge, they predicted the future to be dark and gloomy, full of unrest. The faith-healers of Sikkim, popularly known as Jhakhris also visit this lake during Guru Purnima to offer prayers.

A small bridge just at the entrance of the lake will take you to a viewpoint cum cafeteria, from where you can view the complete lake and its surrounding mountains.

YAK RIDE

You can trek along the lakeside in deep snow during winter or even take Yak rides along the coast of the lake. The yak is a long-haired bovid found throughout the Himalayan region of south Central Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and as far north as Mongolia and Russia. Most yaks are domesticated. The yak may have diverged from cattle at any point between one and five million years ago, and there is some suggestion that it may be more closely related to bison than to the other members of its designated genus. Yaks are heavily built animals with a bulky frame, sturdy legs, and rounded cloven hooves. They have small ears and a wide forehead, with smooth horns that are generally dark in colour. Domesticated yaks have been kept for thousands of years, primarily for their milk, fibre and meat, and as beasts of burden.

We preferred Yak ride. It’s our first experience and we enjoyed the ride although initially the sight of the mighty Yaks with their huge horns was a bit scary.


VILLAGE MARKET

There is a small rustic market before entering the Changu Lake which sells yak cheese, trinkets and local curios to the tourists. You would also get snow boots and gumboots on hire from here.

There are few eateries too selling Momos and tea in this area. We had some hot soupy noodles at one of the eateries before leaving Tsomgo for Gangtok.

Surprisingly, there was a wall painting of Che Guevara in one of the walls in the market indicating great popularity of the  Argentine Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla leader.

Tsomgo lake falls in the restricted area and hence an inner line permit is required by Indians to visit this place. Foreign nationals are not permitted to visit this lake without special permission. is open for both Indian and foreign nationals, however foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for a visitors permit through a registered travel agency.

The Citadel of Erbil

We reached Erbil today for a two-day seminar from Baghdad. In the evening, I went towards the Citadel along with two of my colleagues – Ouss and Oday. The parks and the roads have been beautifully illuminated.

Erbil Citadel or Qala’t Erbil, which is situated dramatically on top of an artificial, 32-meters high earthen mound, and visually dominating the expansive modern city of Erbil, is believed to have been in continuous existence for 7000 years or even more. Thus, it may be regarded as the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world. The earliest evidence for occupation of the citadel mound dates to the 5th millennium BC, and possibly earlier.

The present name of “Erbil” is derived from the Assyrian word “Arba-Illu” meaning “Four Gods”. The Assyrian city of Erbil was thus a sanctuary for four worshipped gods.  These included Ishtar, the great goddess of love and war, and Assur, the national god of Assyria. The other two gods are not yet known.

In 331 BC, the Achaemenid king Darius lll was defeated by Alexander the Great in Erbil.

Although there are many fortified and military citadels in the world today, there are only a few surviving citadel towns anywhere.   Erbil Citadel is unmatched in the region not only because of its nearly 7000 year history but also because it is a town inhabited by people and not a military structure. The Citadel is today one of the most dramatic and visually exciting cultural sites not only in the Middle East but also in the world.

We walked around as there were a lot of decorations and lighting because of New Year celebrations. There’s a huge clock tower in front of the citadel.

We enjoyed hot baked, stewed broad beans in chilly winter night. The temperature at that time was around 3 degrees Celsius.

In such chilly night, next best thing is to sip hot tea. We went to a tea joint by the road. It’s crowded. Also a few people were playing ‘Backgammon’. We had to sit outside on the pavement. There’s no table. There were some plastic chairs and a few stools to keep the tea cups & plates on.

20140108_212015We had two cups of tea there. The tea was excellent. There was street kebab vendor. He was also selling stewed broad beans.

CAM00255Some people were eating the beans stew with Iraqi bread – sumoon.

After that we walked back to our hotel – Erbil International Hotel.

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Bahrain trip

I went to Bahrain on December 9, 2013 on an official trip. My four other colleagues went to Bahrain two days before me. So, I traveled alone to Bahrain. As Gulf Air doesn’t fly on a Monday, so my bank booked me in Qatar Airways via Doha.

Bahrain is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. Bahrain is believed to be the site of the ancient land of the Dilmun civilization and later came under the rule of successive Parthian and Sassanid Persian empires. Inhabited since ancient times, Bahrain occupies a strategic location in the Persian Gulf. It is the best natural port between the mouth of the Tigris, Euphrates Rivers and Oman, a source of copper in ancient times. It was an important Bronze Age trade centre linking Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley.

The flight from Baghdad was in the afternoon so I went to the airport after attending the office until 2:00pm. There’s a nice café – Gate Café at the departure Terminal. I went there to have coffee before boarding the flight.

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Cafe at the departure terminal of Baghdad International airport

I reached Doha. This is my first visit to Doha airport. It’s situated on a very big area. The arrival and departure & transfer terminals are quite far off. The bus that carries the passengers from airplane announces the terminals so that they get down at the right terminals. Also, Qatar Airways have color coded the boarding pass jackets to help the passengers.

Since I had to catch the next flight for Bahrain so I got down at the ‘Departure and Transfer Terminal’. This is the main terminal at Doha and handles all economy class Qatar Airways flights as well as all other airlines using the airport.

Duty Free Shops at Doha International Airport

My next flight for Bahrain was in 2 hours so I spent the time easily walking through the duty-free shops at the terminal. Doha-Manama is a very short distance journey and took around 40 minutes to reach there. On arrival, I am told that my original visa is not deposited with Marhaba. I then contacted the sponsor of the visa and they talked to the Marhaba official. Then they charged me BHD 8 for stamping the visa on my passport. I reached Intercontinental Regency Hotel around 10:20pm. The hotel lobby has been beautifully decorated for forthcoming Christmas season.

Lobby of Hotel InterContinental Regency Bahrain

Decorations for Christmas at the lobby of hotel Intercontinental Regency Bahrain

A model of Santa Claus at the Hotel InterContinental Regency

I just had a chicken sandwich and beer and then went for sleep.

My hotel room had a nice view of a part of the city.

A view from my hotel window at InterContinental Regency Bahrain

Next three days we had official meetings for most of the day. In the afternoon, I used to go for walk alone to explore the neighborhood. There’s a nice Bab Al-Bahrain market nearby plus the old traditional Manama souq.

Bab Al Bahrain

There’s a beautiful Bab Market, but it’s not fully occupied and there’s no crowd although there were two restaurants.

Bab Market, Bahrain

I used to have some snacks or coffee at various restaurants or cafés.

In the evenings, after shower I used to go to the Club lounge for some wine and snacks.

We were also hosted a dinner by our service providers at a nice Italian restaurant – Oliveto.

On the last day, after our final meetings I was casually walking on the road and found an interesting building. I saw a few women came out of a car and entered the building. I also walked into it. It’s the World Trade Center.

World Trade Center towers in Bahrain

The ground floor has many internationally renowned brands’ showrooms plus café too. After going around the shops, I sat down with iced mint condition mocha at Caribou Coffee. It is real chocolate – dark, milk or white – melted into steamed milk and combined with rich espresso and mint flavor, topped with whipped cream.

There was a pianist in the next café playing nice music.

Teeba & Rasha came to the Club lounge to invite me to go with them to City Centre. I finished my wine and went with them. Yesterday was our day of returning. We took 11:10pm flight to Doha. We reached Doha just around midnight. There’s a nine-hour layover in Doha. There’s no transit hotel in Doha airport. We are forced to spend the night stretching partially on chairs. I tweeted about the plight yesterday morning. Qatar Airways suggested me in their reply tweet to use Oryx lounge.

We went to Bahrain International Airport to catch the flight to Doha. The airport is also getting ready for the Christmas.

A decorated Christmas tree at Bahrain International airport

We went to the Oryx lounge. They charge USD 40 per six-hour per person. It’s quite crowded. We somehow managed to find three chairs for us.

In the morning, we went to board the flight as scheduled at 8:10am. The scheduled departure time is 9:00am. The gate opened and we were ushered into a bus and taken to our airplane. We all took our seats and the doors closed as usual. But, the plane was not moving. After around half an hour, the Captain announced that the delay was due to closure of the airport by the air force as they were rehearsing for the Qatari National Day scheduled on day after tomorrow and our plane is at serial number 27 to take-off!! The plane ultimately took off with a delay of around 90 minutes.

As we reached Baghdad airport, it was crowded with pilgrims for Arbaeen from neighboring gulf countries. So, the visa processing and passport control took more than an hour today.

Anyway, it’s all well that ends well. I reached home safe.

Palaces of Gondal

On our way to Rajkot during our return phase of our pilgrimage trip from Somnath, we entered the Gondal city to see the royal palaces. It is a city in Rajkot district of Gujarat.

Gondal state was one of the eight first class princely states of Kathiawar Agency during Bombay Presidency.  Gondal finds mention in texts like Ain-i-Akbari (written in the reign of Akbar) and Mirat-i-Ahmadi as Vaghela state in Sorath (Saurashtra). The Gondal state in Kathiawar Agency was founded in 1634 by Thakore Shri Kumbhoji I Meramanji from Jadeja dynasty, who received Ardoi and other villages from his father Meramanji.

Later Sir Bhagwat Sinhji who reigned from 1888 until his death in 1944, was its most noted ruler, known for his various tax reforms, compulsory education for women and also removing the purdah tradition for women at a time when the royal households of India were known for this tradition.

Naulakha Darbargarh Palace was built during the 17th century. This palace is one of the oldest and the most beautiful palace in Gondal. This palace is situated on the banks of the river on a grand masonry base, rising to the monumental scale of at least 30 meter above the river bed. This palace was built in about rupees nine lakhs then and thus named so.

The palace is approached by the high gateway with the clock tower from the town side.

The entrance leads to a huge open space with administrative blocks on the right and a grand staircase with balustrade on the extreme left corner leading to the intricately carved pavilions on the open terrace.

There are stone carvings with exquisite balconies, fabulous pillared courtyard, delicately carved arches, and a unique spiral staircase in the palace.

Spiral staircase

The grand Darbar Hall has series of huge windows which open into long balcony supported by intricately carved brackets. This balcony overlooks the river.

The Darbar Hall has large chandeliers, stuffed panthers, gilt wooden furniture and antique Belgian mirrors.

The private palace museum displays artifacts, gifts and messages received by Maharaja Bhagwat  Sinhji as a ruler of Gondal, on his 50th birthday and various other relics.

There are many old horse-drawn carriages kept in the palace for public display.

The Huzoor Palace is the current royal residence, whose one wing is opened for public.

Way to Huzoor Palace

It is known as the Orchard Palace because of its huge surroundings of fruit orchards, lawns and gardens.

There are many peacocks in the gardens of the palace.

The Room of miniatures is a splendid sitting room with a collection of miniature paintings, brass, and antique furniture.

Dining Hall

The palace estate houses a collection of vintage and classic cars from pre-1910 to contemporary makes, a royal rail saloon beautifully finished with inlaid wood and ornate furniture. The Royal Garages have an extensive collection of vintage and classic cars, for which it has been famous all over the world.

There is one railway couch available for public view in this palace, which was one part of Gondal Royal Railway.

Rain is following us everywhere. Here also it was raining almost continuously as we were having the tour of these palaces. The rain affected my photography too.

Somnath

We continued our pilgrimage to Somnath as planned. We reached Somnath yesterday in the afternoon. We checked in to the hotel. After taking our lunch, we went to the Somnath temple. The Somnath Temple located in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the God Shiva. Somnath means “The Protector of (the) Moon God”. The Somnath Temple is known as “the Shrine Eternal”.  It also has the sacred soil from where Bhagvan Shri Krishna took his last journey to his neejdham.

 As per Shiv Mahapuran, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of protection) had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshiped till the end of eternity.

Somnath Temple

Ancient Indian traditions maintain a close relationship of Somnath with release of Chandra (Moon God) from the curse of his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati. Moon was married to Twenty-Seven daughters of Daksha. However, he favored Rohini and neglected other queens. The aggrieved Daksha cursed Moon and the Moon lost power of light. With the advice of Brahma, Moon arrived at the Prabhas Teerth and worshiped Bhagwan Shiva. Pleased with the great penance and devotion of Moon, Bhagwan Shiva blessed him and relieved him from the curse of darkness partially, thus causing the periodic waning of moon. Pauranic traditions maintain that Moon had built a golden temple, followed by a silver temple by Ravana, Bhagvan Shree Krishna is believed to have built Somnath temple with Sandalwood. Located as it is, it is widely believed that if one were to sail from here in a straight line, the end of the journey would be at the North Pole, without having to travel over land.

We reached Somnath temple after visting Bhalka Tirth – the legendary spot where Lord Krishna was mistakenly hit by the arrow of a hunter. We worshiped at the Krishna temple there.

No electronic item is allowed inside Somnath temple. We deposited our camera, mobile phones at the locker room and walked into the temple. We worshiped at the temple. Then we went to the famous Triveni Ghat.

Triveni Ghat in Somnath is the meeting point of three holy rivers – Kapil, Hiran and a mystical River Saraswati, which are believed to be flowing to their ultimate destination – Arabian Sea.

These stages of rivers where they meet and then flow together to the sea symbolizes human birth, life and death. Considered as a sacred location for taking a holy dip to get rid of all curses and diseases,

Triveni Ghat holds a significant place in the Hindu Mythology and Puranas and also finds a mention in the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is believed that Lord Krishna visited this holy spot when he was hurt by an arrow shot by Jara – a hunter.

I offered tarpana to my ancestors. Prabhash teertha is a holy place to offer tarpana to ancestors. Also, it’s the pitripaksh. After that, we returned to Somnath temple for Aarti scheduled at 7 PM. We also joined in the Aarti. After that we relaxed for sometime in the lawns and then returned to our hotel.

Today, we are leaving for Rajkot via Sasan Gir, Junagarh and Gondal. On the way, we will pay our respect to Jalaram in Veerpur.

Madhavpur

There is a serene beach at Madhavpur on the road to Somnath from Dwarka. It lies on the seashore, close to Porbandar.

We stopped here to enjoy the beach for a moment and to have a look around.

There are a few shacks and some vendors in open selling green coconut.

We had green coconut at the beach. The coconut water tasted sweet. We opted for the ones with flesh too. The flesh was also nice.

According to folklore, Krishna married Rukmini at Madhavpur after first kidnapping her. This event is memorialized with a temple dedicated to lord Madhavrai and by an annual fair held in the village. The original temple has been badly damaged in attacks by Muslim invaders; however a ruined structure is still present.

After getting refreshed by cool sea waves and nice tender coconut, we proceeded for Somnath.

Porbandar

We were travelling to Somnath from Dwarka. Porbandar lies on the way. It’s a coastal city on the seashore between Dwarka and Somnath, where the River Asmavati meets the ocean. The city of Porbandar derives its name from ‘Porai’ and ‘Bandar’, which refers to the harbour of Porai, the local Goddess. The Indian mythology says its the birthplace of Sudaama (Friend of Lord Krishna), hence its being referred to as Sudaamapuri or Sudamapuri.

Kirti Bhawan

Porbandar is best known for being the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, which is also a reason for the growth in Porbandar’s tourism. We visited his house and birth-place. Today also happens to be his birth anniversary.

Birth-place of Mahatma Gandhi

Porbandar has evolved as one of the important industrial centres in the state of Gujarat though it still maintains the old city charm. It also houses a cement factory.

Porbandar is also believed to be the place of Sudama. The Sudama Mandir is a beautiful shrine dedicated to Sudama, the best friend and devotee of Lord Krishna.

Sudama Temple

The temple, located in the center of the Porbandar city, is said to be the only temple in India dedicated to this ardent devotee of Lord Krishna.  There were many pigeons. Jaya fed bajra (pearl millet) to the flight of pigeons.

Jaya feeding bajra (pearl millet) to a flight of pigeons

After praying at the temple, we proceeded towards Somnath. The discovery of ancient jetties along the Porbandar creek signifies the importance of Porbandar as an active centre of maritime activities in the past. Onshore explorations in and around Porbandar brought to light, for the first time, the remains of a late Harappan settlement dating back to the 16th – 14th century BC, which is similar to that from Bet Dwarka. This is another evidence to suggest that the Harappan legacy of maritime activity continued till the late Harappan period on the Saurashtra coast.

Dwarka

Jaya was planning for pilgrimage to Dwarka, but it was getting deferred. We planned this time for our visit to Dwarka.

Located on the west coast of Gujarat, Dwarka is known as Lord Krishna’s adobe. Dwarka, the holy land surrounded with the legends of Lord Krishna, is a significant pilgrimage site for the Hindus. The city lies in the westernmost part of India. Dwaraka (also known as Dvaravati, both names meaning “the many-gated city” in Sanskrit.

We reached Jamnagar by air via Mumbai. From Jamnagar airport, we drove down to Dwarka. On the route we crossed the famous Reliance Industries Ltd and Essar oil Ltd. We had our stay arrangements at Govardhan Greens. It’s a nice, tiny resort just at the outskirt of Dwarka.

Dwarka is a relatively flat region at sea level, having an average elevation of 0 metres. It is one of the seven most ancient cities in the country.  it is considered to be one of the holiest cities in Hinduism and one of the Char Dham along with Badrinath, Puri, Rameswaram. The city is especially respected by Vaishnavas. Adi Shankaracharya had visited Dvarakadisha Shrine and had established the Dwaraka Pitha. The others are at Shringeri, Puri and Jyotirmath.

This legendary town is well-visited by religious travellers world-wide for its famous Jagatmandir temple that houses the Dwarkadhish (Lord Krishna) and dates back to 2500 years. The Lord here is dressed in Kalyana Kolam where he appears to be in a Royal Wedding costume. It is one of the 108 Divya desams.

The present temple was built from 6th to 7th century, while the original temple was believed to have been built by Krishna’s great grandson, King Vajra. The 5-storied temple is made of limestone and sand. A flag is hoisted in the temple tower five times each day. There are two gateways – Swarga Dwar, where pilgrims enter, and Moksha Dwar, where pilgrims exit. From the temple one can view the Sangam (confluence) of River Gomati flowing towards the sea.

The temple opens at 5 PM. So, we had some tea after checking in at the resort and then went to the temple. Cameras, phones are not allowed there and therefore we left our mobiles and cameras in the car. It’s a nice temple. We worshiped at the temple. There is divinity at the temple and one can feel the divine vibrations.

We returned home in the night. Next day, we planned to visit Bet Dwarka. This is the place where Krishna used to reside and this is the place where Lord Krishna met his friend Sudama and blessed him, there is a Peetha (seat) where Lord Krishna met Sudama. The temple also has the main Dwarkadish deity which was believed to have been made by Krishna’s chief Queen Rukmini and in which Meera bai merged and disappeared from the material world.

Bet Dwarka Island, also known as Bet Shankhodhara, is situated in the Gulf of Kutch. Early historic settlement remains have been located on the island which may be dated back to 3rd century BC on the basis of a potsherd inscribed with ‘Nandakasa’ in the Mauryan Brahmi script.

We drove to Okha jetty, which is around 30 km from Dwarka. There are boats available from Okha Jetty from where people are ferried to the Island. It was quite a sunny morning, but when we reached Okha, it was quite cloudy. We boarded a boat to reach Bet Dwarka.

We then went to Dwarkadheesh temple after reaching the island. We then had bhog there in the temple premises. The temple and other coastal sites have ample antiquities, mainly potsherds, suggesting maritime trade and commerce with the Mediterranean countries around the Christian era. As we walked out of the temple, it started raining. We hired an autorickshaw to take us to Hanuman temple. This is the place where Hanuman fought with his son Makaradhwaja. From here we rushed to the jetty as it was raining heavily then. On reaching the jetty, we found a boat ready to leave. We managed to get Jaya’s father inside the cabin. We were on the deck of the boat. As we returned to Okha jetty, we were completely drenched.

We then went on to see Gopi Talav. This is the place where Lord Krishna used to play with his Gopikas. There is a small pond where it is said that Lord Krishna used to play with the Gopika Strees (Gopika Women). From here, we went to Nageshwar Temple – this is also one of the prominent Jyotirlingas. We performed Rudrabhishek here.

We returned to Dwarka after visiting Rukmini temple. This temple is situated at 8 Kms from Dwarka. This is in the outskirts of the city and this is a lonely temple and there is an interesting story of Rukmini being cursed by sage Durvasa because of which the temple is situated outside the city and it’s because of this curse only that the water in Dwarka city is salty.

We then visited Bhadkeshwar Mahadev Temple. It is set right in the middle of the Arabian sea near Dwarka.

We then returned back to our resort. Today we spent moving around completely drenched in rain.