Saturday, 16 November 2013

Cinematographic Wai - Menavali_November 6, 2013

We had a "real" long Diwali Holidays to our Company - 9 days - long enough to make all others, JEALOUS  ;-)
We colleagues decided to plan a one day trip after Diwali. Wai-Menavali-Dhom Dam was decided immediately.

We started off from Padmavati in Pune in a Santro at 6.30 am. We took the NH-4 (Pune-Bangalore Highway) - the new road bypassing Katraj Ghat.

By 8.30 am we were having breakfast at the Wai exit on NH-4. Wai from here is about 13 kms. Road is single lane, graced by large banyan trees on both sides. However, traffic is seen for obvious reasons - Mahabaleshwar & Panchgani, the most sought after Hill Stations for people Maharashtrians & Gujaratis of this side. Just before, there is a diversion towards Right for Wai Town from the main Mahabaleshwar Road.
Wai (वाई) is famous for its Maha-Ganapati Temple on the banks of River Krishna (कृष्णा नदी). Also called as Dholya Ganapati (ढोल्या गणपती) considering the size of the idol. It is HUGE. Carved out of single black stone along with a large back rest. It is beautifully painted. Photography inside is not allowed.
The temple was built in the year 1762.
Maha-Ganapati Temple of Wai - Dholya Ganapati
Next to the Ganesh Temple is the Shiva Temple - Kashi-Vishweshwar. It is said that the Nandi here is made out of same stone from which Shiv-Linga is made.
By the side, some idols & a Shiv-Linga is kept in a make-shift area. These idols are actually from Ganakeshwar Temple, which got submerged below Dhom Dam (ढोम धरण) backwaters when the Dam was made operational.
Kashi-Vishweshwar Temple - Wai
But the beauty of this place lies 3 kms ahead. There is this place called Menavali (मेणवली) ahead on the same road from Wai. This is the place where Nana Phadnavis (नाना फडणवीस), one of the influential statesman of Peshwas (पेशवे), built a Wada (वाडा) on the banks of River Krishna. It's been 230 years since, that this place is still present to tell us the History. It must have been witness to many diplomatic discussion that Nana had while directing the affairs of Maratha Empire in the midst of internal disputes.

Next to this Wada, is a tree with a massive trunk. Just see the photo, how tiny a human looks in front of it. A platform is constructed around it.
This tree & the parts of Wada were seen in the Hindi movie Swades - The Panchayat Scene.
Menavali - Nana Phadnavis Wada - Outsides
The Wada by itself is in a fairly good condition. Some areas are delapidated though. Descendants of Nana Phadnavis own this property, its items & the Ghat behind. There was family staying by the side; they might be the family of the watchman there.

We could go inside its compound. On the left we could see a large open square. Two storeyed structure is seen. On the right however, condition is not good.
We could not enter the rooms. They open at 11.00 am. There are some old documents, antique items like wooden bed inside. The interiors of this Wada can be seen in the Hindi Movie Mrityudand.
We had reached here at 9.45 am. Hence we decided to skip interiors this time. I would visit sometime later again.
Menavali - Nana Phadnavis Wada - Insides

Information Board - Nana Phadnavis Wada
Just behind the Wada is the most picturesque location of this entire trip. Menavali Ghat (घाट) on the banks of River Krishna. Stepping here, a film buff would start recollecting scenes from Hindi movies like - Entry Scene of Singham, Climax of Gangaajal, Bol Bachchan, etc.
Menavali Ghat (Krishna River)
There are two temples - one of Lord Vishnu & other of Meneshwar (Lord Shiva). There is a bell house in front of Meneshwar which has a large bell with carving of Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms. It is made of five-alloys & said to be of 650 kgs. It was captured by Chimaji Appa (brother of Bajirao Peshwe - I) from Portuguese in Vasai.
Meneshwar Mahadev Temple
(with Ghanta-ghar - 
Bell House in front)
Meneshwar Mahadev - Shiv Linga
The Shiv-Linga is located about 5-6 steps below. There is complete dark out there. I was not able to see anything at all. Somewhere in mind was a fear; don't know what is there inside. It was that dark. Carrying a torch inside is requested.
The photo above is taken blindly with just a camera flash. I tried 3 photos to get it right at the centre.
Climax of movie Gangaajal shot here
Village kids posing near two Nandis left
there out of some film shooting
It was about 10.45 am when we left for Dhom Dam. Another 6-7 kms from Menavali starts the Dhom Dam wall. Need to pass ahead of Dhom village. But before the dam, there is another piece of our glorious history. Dhomeshwar Mahadev & Laxmi-Narasimha Temple.
Dhomeshwar Mahadev & Laxmi-Narasimha Temple - Entrance
Once reaching the road at the base of earthen dam wall, take a left and again a left to road that descends down within the trees. Signboards for Laxmi-Narasimha are available from Dhom village.
It is a complex that houses two temples - Dhomeshwar Temple said to be from the times of Paandavas AND Laxmi-Narasimha Temple built by the Peshwas.
Master Sculpture @ Dhomeshwar Mahadev Temple
(Nandi on Tortoise back in a Lotus Pond)
There is one very different sculpture. Nandi in front of Shiva Temple is mounted on a Tortoise back. It's a huge tortoise over Lotus shaped pond. All this made out of black stone.
During one day in a year, the day Lord Narasimha appeared as per Shaastras, the pond is filled-up with water. At that time, it might appear as if the tortoise is swimming on water surface.
Dhomeshwar Mahadev
The main temple is intricately carved. It is built over a platform, need to climb 3-4 steps. Below the steps there is a small window, through which one can see a water cistern. The priest told us, it is actually a pond; the temple is built over a water body.
Climbing the steps are three arches behind which is the Garbha-griha.

There is a Well beneath, opposite the temple (left side as you enter the main entrance - pictured above). Need to climb down 7-8 steps. Water from here flows out of a Go-mukh (गोमुख), about 30-50 meters away into a pond. However the area around that Go-mukh is not worth taking a photo even. Cleanliness drive of the water body is urgently required.
Dhomeshwar Mahadev - Temple Complex
Opposite Shiva Temple on Left is a circular construction. It is the Laxmi-Narasimha Temple, built by the Peshwas. Unique here is that there are two idols of Laxmi-Narasimha back-to-back. Narasimha here is in its two forms, with Goddess Laxmi sitting on his left thigh.
Laxmi-Narasimha Temple
One form is of Ugra Roop (Angry Form), with Hiranyakashyapu (हिरण्यकश्यपु) lying on his thighs & Narasimha tearing his stomach with bare hands.
The other form is the Shanta Roop (Peaceful form).
Narasimha - Ugra Roop
Narasimha - Shanta Roop
There was another unique sculpture that I haven't seen anywhere yet. A Face Scuplture of Paandavas. Four faces are on the sides, facing outwards & fifth face is on top, facing the sky.
Looking at it, I felt as if its our answer to the USAs Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. And how old is Mount Rushmore? Only about 90 years!!! (it was built just recently in 1925).    ;-)
Face Sculpture - Paandavas (2 faces are at the back)
loved these colors
We turned back till the dam-wall road. Climbed a bit on the wall and view was breathtaking.
Panorama - Dhom Dam
(Kamalgad at the centre)
Dhom Dam backwaters were in front of us with Kamalgad at the centre. I tried capturing the entire scene by 4 photo panorama above.
Exactly behind me is Paandavgad.
Photographer in me awakens ...  ;-)
It was hardly 12 noon. And our planned places had finished. Now we were discussing another possible place. There was Limb-sheri near Satara (Baara Motaachi Vihir), Kaas-Bamnoli, Thoseghar, Panchgani. We decided to go to Panchgani (पाचगणी), have something at Mapros, visit few Points, have a lunch & return.

However, being Diwali holidays, there was mad rush. Heavy traffic jams in between. Mapros was jam-packed - inside and outside also. We dropped the idea & planned to go ahead to Mahabaleshwar. There was the same scene. Th road to Kates Point & Echo Point (which is really small) was packed due to traffic. We also dropped the idea of seeing any Points.

We had a lunch at a hotel near Mahabaleshwar market. Had a small stroll in the market post-lunch. By the time we decided to leave, the rush had started to increase. So we decided to go ahead via Poladpur in Konkan on NH-17 instead of turning back all through traffic jams. On the way is Fort Pratapgad. Hence it got added in our itinerary.

Pratapgad is that part of our history, for which each one of us are & should be proud of. It is a witness to the battle that was fought at its foot in the year 1659 - Battle of Pratapgad.
Adilshah of Bijapur had sent Afzal Khan to lead an assault against Shivaji Maharaj in order to curb the growing Maratha threat. Shivaji at that time was at Pratapgad. Afzal Khan therefore moved his forces towards here.
During peace-discussions between Shivaji & Afzal Khan, Khan made a life attempt on Shivaji. Shivaji was prepared for this & responded; killing Khan by a single stroke of Wagh-Nakhi. A battle erupted soon after ending with a decisive victory of Marathas over Adilshahi forces.
Afzal Khan was burried as per Islamic customs & a tomb built at the foothills. This was Shivaji's philosophy - "Once the enemy is dead, enmity is dead too".
This tomb was open to see earlier, but now due to a controversy, it is closed for tourists since past 7-8 years.

We ascended the Ambenali Ghat (अंबेनळी घाट) which connects Mahabaleshwar with Poladpur on NH-17. In between is a way on left towards Pratapgad. Fort is accessible by road. Spacious parking is available. However, people visiting are in so large numbers (due to Mahabaleshwar nearby), that the parking falls short now. Mostly on holidays, cars have to be parked on the sides of narrow road, which creates more traffic problems.
किल्ले प्रतापगड
Fort from here is very easy to climb. Well-cut steps are there till the top. After the Main Entrance, comes the highlight of Pratapgad - Mahadwar Maachi or Afzal Maachi. Due to shortage of time, we could not see the entire fort. We went a little ahead to capture a snap of this Maachi & we turned back.
Above this Maachi is the Citadel which houses a Bhavani Mata Temple, Life-size statue of Shivaji. There are many sites to see on the fort. All these on my next visit. Guides are also available who can take you around the fort with some information.
Mahadwar Maachi (Afzal Maachi) -
Afzal Khan's Tomb can be seen on the right
We started our return journey from Pratapgad at around 5.15 pm. We went to Poladpur on NH-17 and joined the Varandha Ghat from Mahaad. Reached the NH-4 again at Kapurhol. We avoided traffic at Mahabaleshwar but landed in pathetic road on this Varandha route.

We reached back in Pune at 9.30 pm.

Odo Readings:
0 kms    Padmavati, Pune
20         Khed Shivapur Toll
34         Kapurhole
71         Wai / Surur Phata (Exit)
84         Wai
88         Menavali
95         Dhom Dam
113       Panchgani
130       Mahabaleshwar
154       Pratapgad
180       Poladpur
193       Mahad
290       Khed Shivapur Toll
310       Padmavati, Pune


Saurashtra - Land of Hundred Kingdoms_September 2013

Saurashtra is the bottom peninsula of Gujarat State. It means "The Land of Hundred Kingdoms" - Sau=Hundred & Rashtra=Kingdom / Country. And actually after India's independence, 217 Princely States were merged to form state of Saurashtra. It later on became part of Bombay State & then of Gujarat after division of Bombay.

We started our journey from Pune in the evening. Morning at 6 am we reached Baroda. There is one train daily from Pune towards Ahmedabad via Baroda. After getting out of Baroda Railway Station move towards Left. Private Buses ply from here towards Bhavnagar, an important city of Saurashtra after Rajkot. Bhavnagar is 4 hours away from Baroda.

Bhavnager is named after its founder Bhavsinhji Gohil. Its was a Princely State before Indian Independence & said to be the first in the country to get merged into the Union of India.

It is said to be Cultural Capital of Saurashtra. It is an important centre for Diamond Cutting & Polishing Industry & stands second in India after Surat. Alang Ship Breaking Yard here is the largest in World (about 50% of World Ships are salvaged here).

We spent an evening in Bhavnagar Darshan.
First we visited Khodiyaar Temple which is situated at the outskirts of the City (Rajpara Village). It is an abode to the Goddess Khodiyaar whom the people of Gujarat & Rajasthan believe in.

Lake by the Side Khodiyar Temple
Bor-Talaav or Gaurishankar Lake (named after Deewan of Bhavnagar) is one of the most visited places of Bhavnagaris. At one time it was used to be a source of water supply for the City. There is huge model of a Ship constructed on other side of Dam Wall. I remember when I had seen it 25 years ago, it was awesome & beautiful. When the water might be flowing over the dam, it might be giving a feeling as if it is floating over water. Now, the condition is pathetic.

There is a big bungalow of the Royal Family on the banks of this lake. It is still in use as a holiday home.

There is a Shiva Temple as well by the name Thapnath Mahadeo.
A large Boot (like the one in Mumbai Hanging Gargens) also grabs one's attention; but again the condition is no good.

Bara-Sau Mahadeo: Literally 1200 Mahadeo is a small temple dedicated to Shiva & is said to have 1200 Shiv-Lingas properly placed on a stepped conical structure. It is a unique place; normally we don't see such type of a temple / arrangement.

Takhteshwar is the marble temple of Shiva situated on a hillock within the City. It is the highest point in the City & a 360 deg view looks beautiful. It is another most visited place by the locals.

Next morning, we started our Saurashtra journey. We had booked a Tavera & started off at 6 am. We decided to move towards Porbandar, left most coast of Gujarat. Distance covered about 310 kms. We took the route --> Bavnagar - Sihor - Gondal - Porbandar.

We reached Porbandar at 1 pm. We were scorching for an hotel when we came across Hotel Raghukul which provides AC Dormitory & Dining on MG Road. It was a nice place & budget too (Rs. 200 per person per day).

After a brief rest, we started for Porbandar Darshan in the evening.

First in the list was an obvious place - Kirti Mandir, Mahatma Gandhi's Birth Place. It is located at the crowded location in the heart of the City. However, it is well-maintained & extremely clean. It houses the ancestral structure of the Gandhi Family, the place where Gandhiji was born.

Kirti Mandir - Main Entrance

Ancestral House of Gandhis
Place where Gandhiji was born
Interiors of Ancestral House of Gandhis

Lane of Kirti Mandir
Sudama Temple:

Nearby is another place by the name Sudama Puri which houses Sudama Temple. Apart from Gandhiji, Porbandar is the birthplace of Lord Krishna's friend Sudama. Sudama used to stay at this place. It houses a temple dedicated to Sudama apart from few other temples and a Pigeon Square (one can buy grains for the pigeons). The most interesting structure is the "Sudama-ji ki Laksh Chaurashi Parikrama". It is simple maze which people believe, if they walk through it, they will attain Moksha. It's a fun walking through it.
Sudama-ji ki Laksh Chaurashi Parikrama
Rokadiya Hanuman: This is a temple slightly in outskirts of the City. One can go till the top of the temple.

Porbandar Beach: Nice place to relax & have a walk. The beach as such is not good for playing in the Sea. It is rocky & not clean. The road by the beach side is called Marine Drive (not like the one in Mumbai though). There are many hotels lined up along, facing the sea. We had herbal tea here (it was similar to Kashmiri tea - Kahwa).

There was one huge Ship sunk in the sea and flown on this shore. It was lying there for many days & some people were working on it. It also covered-up most of the beach area & was disturbing the view & causing a nuisance actually.

Porbandar has large number of old buildings reminiscing the era that have gone by.

Next day morning, we started-off to Dwarka. The route from Porbandar to Dwarka is awesome; it is coastal road with wind-mills all along.

On the way there is a place by the name Miyani (about 30 kms from Porbandar). It has a temple of Goddess Harsiddhi Mata (also known as Harshad) on a hill called Koyla Dungar. Need to climb about 100 steps. But the view atop is breath-taking - with a vast Arabian Sea on one side and the back-waters on the other with a bridge connecting two land-masses.

It is said that this temple is built by Lord Krishna himself after he defeated Jarasandha. Harsiddhi Mata is said to be Kuldevi of Yadavas, clan of Lord Krishna.
It is a small temple seem to be built of Sandstone. It has some sculptures carved out on it. It is built on a platform with a climb of about 15 steps. I

After spending about 1/2 an hour, we descended down & started our onward journey to Dwarka - Gateway to Heaven ('Dwar' means "gate" and 'Ka' means "Brahma"). Dwarka is among the Sapta-Puris - 7 most religious ancient cities of India (Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanchipuram, Ujjain & Dwarka).
It is also amongst the Char-Dhams - Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri & Rameswaram. It is situated at the west-most point of Saurashtra Peninsula.

Lord Krishna migrated from Mathura & settled in Dwarka & ruled this place. It was said that the City was so flourished that it was referred to as the City made of Gold. It is said that after the death of Krishna, there was misgovernance & mayhem within his people. Finally, Dwarka was destroyed - it got submerged under the sea.

What we see now is the Dwarka that got developed later on gradually. Even few Marine Archaeological investigations have revealed proofs under the sea surface. There are signs of a construction which can be a Port which is now beneath the sea. Actually, investigators found out two large cities twice the size of Manhatten inside. These are thousands of years old. Some of the Artifacts retrieved in Gulf of Khambata are about 32,000 years old. (However, when we asked to the Boatman there, he said he doesn't know anything about old Dwarka having submerged in sea; as per him, it is just a story with no proofs). Truly, Dwarka is "Atlantis of the East".

The residing deity, Lord Krishna, is referred as Dwarkadheesh (King of Dwarka) here. The Dwarkadheesh Temple is situated on the banks of River Gomati.
It is a huge temple, 5 storeyed made of Sand-stone and is said to have about 72 pillars. The temple is laced with intricate carvings all around. The original temple was built by Lord Krishna's grandson, Vajranabha, over the Residential Palace. Archaeological findings prove that it is about 2200 years old; however the existing temple is dated to 16th century.

The temple spire houses a large flag with Sun & Moon on it. It depicts the Temple will stand tall till Sun & Moon shine in the sky. The triangular flag is changed 5 times a day with new flag every time. The devotees pay hefty sums to purchase this flag for hoisting.

It is recommended to check the Darshan Timings. Darshan of Dwarkadheesh can be made only at specific times of the day. Apart from Lord Krishna, temples of his wives are also in the complex - Satyabhama, Jambuvanti, Laxmi, Saraswati & Radhika (not his wife).

After darshan at Dwarka, we proceeded towards Bet Dwarka. As the name suggests, it is another Dwarka located on a island. Bet Dwarka is considered as the part of original Dwarka which got submerged under the sea. Bet Dwarka also has a temple dedicated to Dwarkadheesh; the temple is much smaller though, compared to the one at Dwarka.

Bet Dwarka can be reached by a Ferry from Okha which is about 30 kms away from Dwarka. Ferry ride is about 2 kms.

However, I felt there is heavy loot by the Ferry owners. Since the Dwarkadheesh Darshan can be done on specific timings, they charge hefty sums from tourists to reach Temple in time. If you miss the Darshan time, you'll have to wait for another 2-3 hours for doors to open.

After darshan at Bet Dwarka, we returned on the same road. Our destination now was Somnath (one of the 12 Jyotirlingas). On the way near Dwarka, however, is another Shiva Temple - Nageshwar. Some say that it is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas; however, there is a dispute. It is mentioned in one Sholka - सेतुबन्धे तु रामेशं नागेशं दारुकावने॥ People of various opinions about this Nagesham Darukavane.
Large Shiva statue in Nageshwar Temple campus
Now, whether Jyotirlinga or no, this Nageshwar temple is different considering cleanliness. Normally Shiva Temples around India are known for not-so-clean. This is an exception. The premises are noticeably clean. What attracts as you come near is the huge statue of Lord Shiva.

Audio-king, Late Gulshan Kumar seems to have done much work for glorifying this Temple. Like he has done for Vaishno Devi. His photos & name can be seen around the temple premises.

We started for our onward journey to Somnath. We reached around 8 pm.

Next day morning, we started for Somnath Temple; one with most turbulent history. The temple was destroyed by Islamic attacks & rebuilt later-on many times. It was last destroyed by Aurangzeb in 1665. In 1783, Ahilyadevi Holkar of Indore built another Temple of Somnath adjacent to the ruins of the original. This temple still stands here. It has two Shiv Lingas - the duplicate one immediately inside, while the Main Shiv-linga beneath that with narrow stairs on both sides. This was avoid the destruction of Main Shiv-linga, in case the temple is attacked.

Adjacent temple built by Ahilyadevi Holkar
Later in 1947, after India's Independence, Sardar Patel initiated the cause of rebuilding Somnath Temple over its ruins at the original place.

Now what we see is the huge & befitting Temple of Somnath built to its past glory. It is situated near the Triveni Sangam of rivers - Kapila, Hiran & mythical Saraswati; along the sea-shore. Yellow Sandstone structure with vast expanse of blue Arabia Sea at the background, is a sight to ponder.

The temple is magnanimous in size. It is definitely one of the best examples of modern archetecture in India. There are exquisite carvings outside as well as inside.

There is a Sound & Light Show run inside the premises. However, it is closed during the Rainy Season (June to September) every year. We, unfortunately, missed this.

There is one peculier fact. The Temple is built on a land-mass which has no other land-mass in a straight line till South Pole (Antartica).
Iron Man of India
In front of the Temple Main-gate, there is a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. A true honour for a man whose efforts lead to restoration of this Temple for the seventh time after repeated destruction at the hands of foreign rulers.

There are couple of more sites to visit nearby - Triveni Sangam & Geeta Mandir. Following these we reached another site which has a mythological importance – Bhalaka (alse referred as Bhalaka Teerth).

Bhalaka is the place where Lord Krishna was believed to have hit by the arrow by a hunter named Jara, by mistake. Lord Krishna breathed his last here.

Lord Krishna was one of the mortal Awataars of Lord Vishnu. In his previous Awataar as Lord Rama, Lord Vishnu had killed Bali from behind (unlawfully). Actually Sugreev & Bali were fighting for supremacy. Seeing that Sugreev is losing this fight, Lord Rama striked Bali who was completely unaware. This is against the rules of a Duel Fight. Bali avenged this death in his next incarnation.

After end of Mahabharat, Yadavas of Yadu Dynasty (Lord Krishna's Dynasty), in a fit of arrogancy, fought with each other and destroyed themselves. Lord Krishna retired into a forest & took up meditation.

Lord Krishna was resting under a tree sitting cross-legged. A hunter, Jara, was roaming around in search of a kill. At a distance he mistook partly visible bare-foot of Lord Krishna to be a deer. He took a shot at it, mortally injuring Lord Krishna.

Jara came to him terrified for his mistake, when Lord Krishna himself told him the story about he being Bali in previous birth. Thus Bali avenged his death at the hand's of Lord Vishnu (Rama-avataar), by striking Lord Krishna completely unaware. Lord Krishna ascended back to his eternal abode.

The idols inside the temple are beautiful, full of expression. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside.

It is believed that the tree in the vicinity, is the same under which Lord Krishna breathed his last.

From here, we decided to get back to Bhavnagar. On the way, there is Gir Lion Sanctuary. However, since we were towards end of rainy season, there is heavy grass & greenery. It is very difficult to spot wildlife in such scenario. Hence we had cancelled it from our plan since beginning.

Actually, we had included to visit Diu. However, we had started witnessing change in weather (heavy rains). Also, visiting Diu for 3-4 hours was not worth-it. Hence we cancelled this plan in last moment.
Before reaching Bhavnagar, there is another interesting place - Alang. It is a major world-wide centre of Ship-breaking. It is termed as world's largest graveyard of ships (approximately half of all ships across the world are salvaged here). The longest ship ever built (Seawise Giant) also sailed here for salvaging.

During high-tides, ships are brought inside the docks & during low-tides, the workers dismantle these. The structure (metal, wood, etc) is sold as scrap, while the rest all items & equipments are sold to general public.

On the road outside, there are many shops lined-up which sale goods from Furniture to Shampoos & Electronics to Playing Cards. All these at a cheaper rate.

With this we returned back to Bhavnager, ending our Saurashtra Tour.

Bavnagar - Sihor - Gondal - Porbandar - Harshad - Dwarka - Okhla - Bet Dwarka (by boat) - Nageshwar - Porbandar - Somnath - Alang - Bhavnagar

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