32 ANGELS, A CITY OF HOPE, AN UNWED MOTHER AND THE TEMPLE OF THANKSGIVING

India is indeed a mysterious country with folklore, myths and history so intricately intertwined , it’s hard  to extract one from the other.

Bhojpur is  the tiniest of villages located 30 kms from Bhopal,  the Capital of Madhya Pradesh . A landlocked state located in the heart of India, it is home to many secrets from the past.

Bhojpur was founded by Raja Bhoj in the early 11th century.

Sinhasana Battisi, a famous composition and literary masterpiece  of 32 yoginis ( angels) was composed in this area  itself.

Ashapuri or the  city of hope is about 6 kms from Bhojpur and is home to a vast array of temples, Hindu, Jain and Buddhist.

The region is unexplored and can be a delight for any curious traveler, mythologist or historian.

An enormous incomplete temple looms over its landscape.Each stone used to build this colossal structure weighs about 70 tonnes each.

Temple on a hill
                                 Temple on a hill

While I have given you a glimpse of this gorgeous marvel of architecture built about 1500 years in another article. Today I shall play the role of an archaeologist to unravel  the mysteries of Bhojpur.

This site is  off the tourist map and a site visited by but a few. As you can see the temple is INCOMPLETE. The spire or the typical pyramid on top is missing? It was never built, and has remained so for 1500 years.

The mammoth scale  represents the pinnacle of Temple Architecture of 11th century India.

Famous Historical Temple
  Famous Historical Inheritance, Bhojpur Shiv      Temple ( a translation of the writing on the green board) 

The Bholeshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Bhojpur was once the capital of the vast empire of Raja Bhoj who ruled this kingdom in the 11th Century AD.

It lies on the banks of the river Betwa which goes all the way to Orchha, another must see historical and quaint  town in Madhya Pradesh.

a closer look as the sunrays lights up the temple
a closer look as the sunrays lights up the temple

The construction of the temple was started by the illustrious KING BHOJ ( the airport at Bhopal is named after him) , who ruled the area known as Malwa.

His dynasty, the Paramaras ruled Malwa  for close to 3 centuries.

It is said that he was stricken by an incurable  disease. A sage advised him  to construct a lake fed by 365 springs ( one for each day of the year) . It is said Raja Bhoj was an accomplished engineer and astrologer as well.

Bhojpur was the site of this lake , nestled between hills and made by creating a unique  dam across the river Betwa.  A dip in this man made lake  cured the King of his ailments.

at the base
                                      at the base

The lake however  has dried up ( or was drained out)  over time leaving only the Incomplete temple as a witness.The temple was the Thanksgiving of Raja Bhoj.

The grateful King  wished to complete a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in gratitude for being cured of his ailments.

Was it an earthquake which destroyed the temple? A visit to neighboring Ashapuri  points to this possibility.

a small temple outside
a small temple outside the sanctum sanctorum

The thanksgiving continues to date as the gong rings calling the faithful to prayer.

It is a unique site, where you can see the plans of a mammoth proposed temple complex etched in stone. Drawings and etchings made  11 centuries ago can still  be seen to the north west of the temple.

the gong
the gong

The sound of the conch shell takes you through  a time warp  when gigantic stones weighing 70 tonnes were taken along a ramp and placed according to a meticulous plan. The ramp exists to date.

Did invading armies prevent the completion of the temple?

the beautiful sound of the conch
the beautiful sound of the conch

It is fabled the temples were constructed with assistance from the Chola Kings of the south. The Chola kings worshipped Lord Shiva a swell.

What prevented the completion of the temple, were no funds sanctioned by the rulers after 1085 A.D.?

the people collect
the people collect

The Largest Shivling in the world rises 22 feet ( 7m) from base to the top.

first glimpse of  the 21 m Bholeshwar Shivling through  smoke from incense sticks
first glimpse of the 7 m high  Bholeshwar Shivling through smoke from incense sticks

Bholeshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, built by Raja Bhoj ( 1010-1058 AD) was his thanksgiving for being cured from his ailments.

It symbolized the ingenuity of and the prosperity  of his kingdom as it overlooked a 450 sq km  man made BHOJPUR TAAL.( lake) .

Over time it has also acquired the name SOMNATH OF THE NORTH.

boleshwar shivling
boleshwar shivling

The Shivling itself is made from a single stone and is about 2 mtr in height.

inside the temple
inside the temple

It was damaged as the central dome collapsed breaking the Shivling into two. The polish on the sandstone is dazzling to date .

Fables of this mighty ruler reached every corner of the Land bringing the best crafstman under his command.

A treatise on ArchitecureSamarangana Sutradhara   was authored by Raja Bhoj alongwith 84 other books on a vast spectrum of subjects including Medicine & Chemistry.

The blueprints of the temple can be seen  even today , etched in stone, yet the temple was left incomplete ? Did the architects mess it up?

A 1500 year old Shivling carved from a single stone.
A 1500 year old Shivling carved from a single stone.

There is a story from the Mahabartaha ( 1500- 2000Bc)  that Karna ( son of the Sun)  was left in this very river by his unwed mother Kunti.

The incomplete temple brings to life folklore, fables and legends.

the village and river viewed from the temple
the village and river betwa  viewed from the temple

Lets travel to discover more of this amazing land.

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THE KING WHO LIVES IN A BASKET

The King Cobra under the thumb, literally.

The King and his tiny basket
                   The King and his tiny basket

Do notice the tattoo , the ring and the thumb which enforces the KING COBRA to live in a small, very small basket.

Literally under the thumb
                          THE HAND OF…?

Do notice the chipped nail and the coins under the King.

chipped nail as the king leaves his mark
           chipped nail as the King leaves his mark

THE KING and his now drastically reduced Kingdom, THE BASKET.

the basket is now the Kindgdom
The basket is all that is left of his Kingdom

A closer look at the MAN behind the hand which  keeps the King in a basket.

the snakeman?
The Snakeman?

He will open the basket , then push the basket and even whistle to get the attention of potential donors and the KING.

a push and a whistle to arouse the King
a push and a whistle to arouse the King

The pictures were taken during the Mahakumbh in Allahabad .

My life now
My life now

The King now lives in this basket under the thumb of the hand.

Have kept all doors open for comments and views and intentionally skipped any personal views.  Please discuss.

Do revert and comment with views/ comments/opinions?

IMMORTALITY , ATONEMENT , THE ORIGIN OF A RIVER and MORE : TRYMBAKESHWAR JYOTIRLING

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.

Anjaneri hills, birthplace of Lord Hanuman
Anjaneri hills, birthplace of Lord Hanuman

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.

approaching the epicentre
Approaching Trymbakeshwar

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.

first glimpse
first glimpse

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.

the main entrance
the main entrance

A wall painting spotted outside a wall adjoining the temple depicts Lord Shiva.

No beginning no end Lord Shiva
No beginning no end 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.

trees
trees
the town
the town
sadhus
sadhus

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.

Kushavarta, Origin of the river Godavri
Kushavarta, Origin of the river Godavri

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.

abhishek
Rudra Abhishek

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.

prayers
Prayers being offered by a couple

The Peshwas , the rulers of the region, had these aesthetically designed temples and halls constructed  600 years ago, which are used to date

a corner
a corner of the halls that surround Kushvarta

It is possible you miss this statue of Lord Vishnu , it is from here where the River Godavri originates.

river godavri
Origin of the river Godavri

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.

lord krishna and a cow
lord krishna and a cow

The author in traditional attire getting a ‘tilak’ on the forehead.

tikka
” Shiva tilak”

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.

BEDAZZLED WITH FAITH , IMMORTALITY AND ATONEMENT AT THE SINHASTHA KUMBH

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) .

This hoarding at Nashik tells the story of the Kumbh
This hoarding at Nashik tells the story of the Kumbh

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.

faith : at the feet of God
faith : at the feet of God

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 massive upsurge of humanity. 

It is a literary congregation/festival  of  scholars , sadhus and priests besides millions of people.

It reads
It reads ” the festival for Humanity is now taking place, welcome to the KUMBH fair  at Nashik”

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) .

Ram Kund at night
Ram Kund at night

Thus we will go to both , we go first to the Ram Kund which is in the heart of the charming city of Nashik.

ram kund at 0700 hrs
Ram Kund at 0700 hrs

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)

Lord Ram with his bros including Lakshman
Lord Ram with his brothers including Lakshman

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.

Ram Sthamb connects me to Tirupati
Ram Stambh connects me to Tirupati

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.

The city seen from the ram kund
The city seen from the Ram Kund

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 Goddess Godavri flows from Gaumukhs.
The Goddess Godavri flows from Gaumukhs.

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.

the urn is revered and cannot be placed on the floor
the urn is revered and cannot be placed on the ground

Do see the kumbh ( urn) in the foreground

the banks of the river Godavri at panchvati
the banks of the river Godavri at panchvati

Trees temples and people all merge. Man and woman exist in all  symbolized by Ardhanareshwar. Only the  two combined can complete the picture .

Lord Shiva as Ardhnareshwar
Lord Shiva as Ardhnareshwar

Trees are revered and you will observe people pray to them too.Even God’s creations are worshiped.

a tree and a sadhu
a tree and a sadhu

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 .

sundarnarayan temple forms the backdrop
Sundarnarayan temple forms the backdrop

The sun has set,  and I sign off with two captivating images of the Kumbh Mela.

Rameshwaram twemple
Rameshwaram temple

Nandiji on the banks of the RAM KUND

om namah shivam
Om Namah Shivaya

We now head to the second half of the Kumbh at Trymbakeshwar.