The featured Image and the picture below are the first glimpses of the Hemis Monastery ( building in yellow) which is discretely located and practically invisible till you are literally at it’s doorstep.
This picture was taken from the main courtyard of the Monastery where the Winter Hemis Festival is held annually in February.
It is only now I realize the colour yellow is from the silken banners.
Beautifully integrated into the landscape, the construction can be a lesson for modern architects.
The Hemis Monstery is located at a Height of 13000 feet and does leave you gasping for breath in awe.
The ARDH KUMBH at Haridwar takes place once in 6 years and millions express their faith by thronging the banks for a dip in the Holy Ganges.
Hindu Mythology states that the Holy Ganges descended from Heaven into the flowing locks of Lord Shiva ( see the picture below) , from where the Goddess Ganga gently flows onto Planet Earth via the Himalayas.
A larger than life statue of Lord Shiva blesses all the pilgrims who arrive at Haridwar ( Doorway to the Lord)
The Aarti ( Prayers) to the The Goddess Ganga is held every evening at Har Ki Pauri, ( At the the feet of the Lord) , Haridwar.
However this evening is special as it on the eve of an Auspicious day ( Mauni Amavasya) when a dip in the Ganges is considered extremely beneficial.
The Faithful assemble in thousands along the banks of the Holy River eagerly awaiting the Sun to Set and the Aarti to commence.
The River shimmers in anticipation and the perceptible religious fervour reaches a climax as the lights are turned on and first of the Lamps are Lit.
The heat from the lamps warms my cheeks as the flames from the Oil Lamps reach the Black Skies and the mammoth crowds sing in Unison in praise of the Goddess Ganga under a Moonless Sky .
Lo, Behold the magnificent AARTI at the Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar, Utrrakhand, India.
The Ardh Kumbh has commenced at Haridwar and will continue till April 2016. It is an experience of a lifetime I would not wish to miss.
The mammoth crowd magically disappears within minutes of the conclusion of the Aarti at Har Ki Pauri, leaving the River alone to reflect the lights of the temples.
There is a website you can access to see the Auspicious dates or you can go on any suitable day to behold the spectacle at Haridwar.
Do watch the Power of Faith during the Ardh Kumbh.
The India Art Fair is annually held in January at the NSIC grounds, Okhla in New Delhi.
It was an amazing opportunity to see some fabulous works of Art brought together under one Roof.
The threads that bind the four works of art selected by me for this blog are:
The Artists of all the paintings are Anonymous.
They are all almost 200 years old dating to the 19th Century.
All of them are expressions of Faith and reveal tales from Hindu Mythology.
The Colourful and detailed featured Image of Maa Durga ending the terror of the Rakshas ( Demon) Mahishasur portrays so many symbols and tales that it would take me years to understand and pen them down.
The large almond shaped eyes are a signature of the artists of Bengal and Maa Durga is portrayed as such to date.
The painting below beautifully illustrates Lord Shiva with his wife Parvati seated on their vehicle the Bull, Nandi. Mount Kailash in the the Himalayas is his fabled abode which is depicted in the picture below.
An unusual potrayal of Goddess Parvati depicted as Mother with her younger son Lord Ganesha.
The crown in the painting seems to be an influence from the Mughal Period and is repeated in all the pictures above as well.
Maa Durga is an incarnation of Goddess Paravati who assumes a Fierce and Powerful form armed with various weapons to end the Evil of the Demon Mahishasura.
Symbolism and Philosophy is deeply entrenched in all the depictions and portrayals in the paintings.
The painting of the Goddess Saraswati below is distinctively different from those above.
The headgear and attire are more in tune with depictions from Southern India. The style was made extremely popular by the famous artist Raja Ravi Verma from Travancore ( now in modern day Kerala).
The attention to detail is simply mind blowing as the Jewellery is visible through the extremely fine and translucent Saree that drapes the Goddess of Wisdom.
The Veena ( musical instrument in her hands) , the string of White Pearls and the Vedas ( Holy Books ) symbolize the Goddess of Fine Arts and Knowledge.
All the paintings show the fascinating minds of the Anonymous Artists who have unfortunately been lost in the Mists of Time.
Hidden in the midst of skyscrapers of this chic and upscale locality ( Malabar Hill ) in Mumbai (Bombay) is a well hidden secret, the holy Baanganga Tank.
Walking through narrow lanes you are transported back in time.The picture below showcases the ancient and the modern.
Within but a few hundred metres from the salty waters of the sea , the water of the tank is mysteriously sweet.
Embalmed in the fables of Ancient India , the history of the tank goes back to the time of the Ramayan ( the immortal Epic of India) ie. about 4000 BC.( time period is not ascertained to date , some fix it at 2500 BC) .
Within a few days of writing this post all of India will erupt into celebration and the story of the Ramayan will be reenacted across the length and breadth of this country.
In the quest for his consort Sita, Lord Rama and his brother Lakshman reach the top of the Malabar Hill at the site where the Baanganga tank now exists. Lord Rama asks his brother for water, who releases an arrow ( a baan in hindi) from his bow. The arrow releases the sweet water of the underground river Ganga, called Bhogvati.
The twin towers ( do not mix with the Lord of the Rings) are the entrance to the Baanganga tank. The towers reflect the unique architecture of the Marathas and are in fact oil lamps.
The Baanganaga tank is today part of the Walkeshwar Temple Complex.
It is today a site of pilgrimage and many immerse the ashes of the departed in the tank.
The area is extremely interesting as it tells the story of Mumbai and the various communities who inhabit this region even today.
An elderly lady looks out from the window of her terracotta tiled roof home,as pedestrians walk by the Peepal Tree little realizing they are walking through History.
Lord Rama created a Shivling from the sand of the Baanganga and offered his respects. Sand is called Waluk in the local language and Ishwar is God , hence the name Walkeshwar.
Many residents living in the posh Walkeshwar Area of Mumbai today are probably unaware of this legend.
A hen pays obeisance to Lord Shiva. ( Shivling in the centre)
The vast sweet water tank is now surrounded by skyscrapers all around.It is fed by an underwater stream.
Numerous priests were offering prayers around this vast tank during the time I took these pictures from my mobile.
Swans and ducks ( white specks in the picture below) swim gracefully near the trees.
The enormous Baanganga Tank in the heart of Mumbai
I strongly recommend a walk through these parts after reading about the History of Mumbai. A metal plaque at the entrance of the tank details the history and layout of the Baanganga region.
Thank you Vivek and Arpita for unraveling this secret destination.
There is another legend of the Baanganga in the Himalayas near the famous Vaishnodevi temple in Jammu & Kashmir. But that is another story…
As mentioned before the Sinhasta Kumbh takes place at two places. We have already been to Ram Kund at Nashik. The second part takes place at the Kushavarta Kund in Trymbakehwar.( 30 kms from Nashik) .
Trymbakeshwar is nestled in the Sahydiri Hills on the Brahmagiri mountain.The names of the hills and the region are a fountainhead of numerous mythical tales.
The hills of the Western ghats are the catchment area for the rivers Krishna and Godavri .
The revered river Godavri ( also called the Ganges of the south) originates from the Brahmgiri hills, trickles into the Kushvarta Kund , goes onto the Ram Kund and then joins the sea in the Bay of bengal.
Trymbakeshwar is one of the twelve Jyotirlings, of which I will write in detail later.Have written on a few Jyotirlings before as well.Have personally been to Eight of the twelve.
It reads JYOTIRLING: SHRI TRYMBAKESHWAR TEMPLE . We had been forewarned of a waiting period extending to several hours before you could enter the main temple.
However the Lord himself had cleared the path and we were inside the sanctum sanctorum within a few minutes. It’s a gorgeous temple with antiquity written on every stone.
A wall painting spotted outside a wall adjoining the temple depicts Lord Shiva.
Nature is an intrinsic part of Hindu mythology and folklore. Trees and animals are protected by the hand of God.
The location of ancient temples like Trymbakeshwar in catchment areas ensures the survival of rivers as well. Ancient folklore and myth entwined with religion are a guarantee that the environment is protected.
The area has the highest precipitation in the region and it was pouring on the day we went as well. Do observe the pictures well and you will see the clouds had descended to ground level.
An intrinsic part of a Kumbh is the process of taking a dip in the holy waters.
You hold your nose and squat ensuring the water covers your head. This is the process of Atonement or cleansing the sins of the past.
Lord Shiva is represented in the form of a Shivling. Milk and water is poured on the Shivling in a process called Abhishek or coronation.
The Kushvarta pond is surrounded on three sides by these halls you see in the picture which have the most amazing statues of the Hindu pantheon of Gods.
The Peshwas , the rulers of the region, had these aesthetically designed temples and halls constructed 600 years ago, which are used to date
It is possible you miss this statue of Lord Vishnu , it is from here where the River Godavri originates.
I was lucky to witness this amazing sight as well.The cow is licking the statue.Have never seen such a sight in 51 years of my life.
The author in traditional attire getting a ‘tilak’ on the forehead.
I am aware have used a large number of words and names which make the head of many spin. Relax, email me if you want to know more or simply enjoy the scenic beauty of TRYMBAKESHWAR.
It is fabled a drop of Amrit (nectar) which grants immortality fell from the kumbh ( urn ) at the RAM KUND, Nashik.
The Urn was carried by Garuda ( the king of serpent eagles and vehicle of Lord Vishnu) .
I am writing with the hope that the article is read by a vast number of people and my travelogue motivates them to go to the Sinhastha Kumbh. The Kumbh is happening as I write and the fair will continue till the end of September 2015.
I was not even aware, let alone go to one, of the significance of the Kumbh Melas till about 3 years ago.Thereafter it has been a never ending educational journey . The Kumbh is a must visit for people from all walks of life. ( believers or non believers, Hindus and non Hindus)It is a chance of a lifetime to witness and learn about this massiveupsurge of humanity.
It is a literary congregation/festival of scholars , sadhus and priests besides millions of people.
It is a religious fair held once in 12 years when the Sun and Jupiter enter the constellation of “Leo”, the Lion. ( Singha is Lion in Hindi) .
A unique fact about the Nashik Kumbh is that it is held simultaneously at two locations, Ram Kund at Nashik and Trymbakeshwar ( 30 kms from Nashik) .
Thus we will go to both , we go first to the Ram Kund which is in the heart of the charming city of Nashik.
Panchvati, Nashik ( location of the Ram Kund) is a historic site as it is supposed to be the place where Lakshman cuts the nose of Supranakha, hence the the name NASHIK.
( please read the epic Ramayan)
The antique panel above is located at the base of the Ram Stambh( pillar) located at Panchvati near the Ram Kund. You have to look for it. I was lucky to spot it as a priest was there offering flowers.
The U shaped mark is the symbol of Lord Vishnu and can be seen at Tirupathi in particular. The flight of stairs descends to the ghats and Ram Kund where you take the traditional dip to wash away your sins.
The Stambh or Pillar also marks the centre of Panchvati where Lord Ram lived for two and half years with Sita and Lakshman.
It is interesting that a temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwar is located a few minutes away from this site.
Small temples are located under trees along the river banks and even in the midst of the river. Mythology, nature and religion form a beautiful amalgamation.
Millions have come and gone bound in the faith that a dip in these waters will atone all sins of the past. I too took a dip with thousands of others and symbolically offered the water to the Sun God.
The closest natural event to the Kumbh is the migration in far away Africa.The lady has traveled 1500 kms with her ailing husband to carry the holy waters in her urn ( kumbh) made of brass.
Do see the kumbh ( urn) in the foreground
Trees temples and people all merge. Man and woman exist in all symbolized by Ardhanareshwar. Only the two combined can complete the picture .
Trees are revered and you will observe people pray to them too.Even God’s creations are worshiped.
There are numerous bridges across the river.The temple is unique as the the first rays of the sun touch the feet of the ruling deity, the Creator Lord Vishnu on the 21st of March .
The sun has set, and I sign off with two captivating images of the Kumbh Mela.
Nandiji on the banks of the RAM KUND
We now head to the second half of the Kumbh at Trymbakeshwar.