Gujarati Gargoyle @ Shamlaji Temple

I am sure, you will agree with my thought….that the first day of the year should be full of positivity ! Travel and Temple( for that matter any religious site) is intoxicating for me! Hence, deal was made! We choose Shamlaji temple ,that is situated 130 kms from Ahmedabad. It is cuddled by Aravali hills. the drive to the place was smooth as the roads are just perfect !

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Shamlaji temple is a Vishnu temple built in and around 11th century and later renovated around 500 years ago…It is surrounded by a bunch of small dilapidated, broken , creepy temples ! I find Beauty in everything…and hence captured a few pics in my cam !

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This according to locals is the original temple, I has been engulfed by cactus,poisonous creepers ! I felt sad,  as I could not dare to go near it…

twin temple, near old shiv temple

I found these twin temples near the main Shamlaji temple.

The temple timings are morning 6:00 am to 11:30. and then 2:30 to 8:00 pm. We reached around 12:30 and hence I got a lot of time for photography !

Scenes from Mahabharata , Ramayana I could spot….

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I even found a few unusual things

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GARGOYLE OF GUJARAT!(This tile, I found to be very unique. A man fighting a Gargoyle ! ). Then moving ahead, I noticed elephants have been used everywhere on the walls..very generously…

Elephants, Horse ,cows are commonly found on the walls of Indian Temples! I discovered camel on a temple tile!

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The carvings, the sculptures,the jali work will mesmeris you…If you are a history/mythology enthusiast, this place is a must visit !

I found figures of Ganesh, shiva, Aditiyas( Sun God), What is again unusual was this…

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Can you spot Budhha’s face ? Please note :Photography is not allowed inside Garbha Griha.

I wish we all have a great year 2019, full of travel and lots of learning !

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unfinished Mission @killa-Pardi

2018 was full of adventures, I have made many memories..Good,Bad, sad..One such memory ,I want to share today…. My unfinished mission at a Lost Killa….

I always wonder , why the first thing I get to learn about any fort that I greet or read , is the long list of rulers that have inhibited it ? What made these rulers constantly battle  and conquer forts ….on and on and on?  Was it the Adrenalin rush ? or the precious  jewels and gems ? or  was it just their ambition ! ? India is a country of ‘killa'( fort). Ironically or intentionally, I do not know…the Hindi word ‘ Killa’ has the English word ‘ Kill’ !

So, friends behind every fort that we see , there is a long list of Love,lust and hate stories… One such Killa , We stumbled upon accidentally on our way to Udvada last year….We were following the route dictated by GPS…I saw the name of this place and it hit me ! Killa means fort !

this was the first look…sharing a few more pics….

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According to locals, this fort belonged to The Shivagi Maharaj.

We wanted to explore , but then on the steps we saw…( my daughter discovered something and started screaming ! Hence we had to leave …. 😦

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( Traveling and exploring the world with a toddler , only advice lots of patience )…

I could not get any story related to this fort, which I regret till date ! ‘ mere picture toh adhuri reh gaye….apki agar poori hoo..zarur batayega !)

Jodhpur part 2….

day 2 at Jodhpur was all about Mehrangarh….

Sharing a few snaps…

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View from the top….

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can u find Blue ?

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The magnicient Mehrangarh fort and view from the top….

and there is more……It is one the the best maintained palaces , I have ever seen….

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Shesh Mahal…..

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Rang Mahal…..

the palace has seen many generations…

When @ Mehrangarh ..dont leave without visiting Ma Chamunda temple…

Jodhpur -Blue city, Red meat, Golden sand….what else can one desire ?

Hello… I am back again after a long long break from blogging…I missed you all… Hope some of you missed me too <3so…we went to Jodhpur this August for almost 2 days and , I have a bag full of experiences to share with you all…

Day 1.

We took a train……. reached Joshpur early morning at 6:00Am. We parked ourselves at THE KOTHI HERITAGE ( Its a budget friendly 3 star hotel in jodhpur. http://www.thekothiheritage.com/index.htm .The reason I choose this hotel ( This Kothi was constructed about 130 years back in 1888 by Bachraj Ji Singhvi He was Commander In Chief, Member of State Council and Member of Municipal Committee at that time. He also constructed the famous Building in Jodhpur named as Tripolia in a shortest period of one night.) History attracts me always…

 

The current owner of the place is Mr. Tapan Singhvi , a very soft spoken man , true gentleman…..After settling down at the hotel and after all the admiration of the boutique hotel..we were all fresh and pumped up for the journey….

DAY 1 and spot 1

Spot 1: Mandore.( Raavan’s  wife Mandodari is supposed to belong to this place. )

1. 13 kms from city

2. Ola , auto rickshaws available.

The ancient town of mandore has seen many rulers come and go..starting from Pratiharas of Mandavyapura, who ruled the region in the 6th century CE to Rao Jodha who shifted his capital to Jodhpur.

a few snaps from Magical Mandore

 

 

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These are all cenotaphs ( final resting place of the great Kings who inhibited this town)

 

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this one is Ek thamba Minar…..

we took around 3-4 hours to hike around this place.. we came across a very interesting temple, here they say..33 crore Hindu Devis and Devtas are worshiped !

Second half of the day, we dedicated to temple and sand….60kms  from Jodhpur city, there is a place called Osiyan… (We hired a Jeep from our hotel and hit the road, Charge = 2400 rs)….Osiyan is an oasis in the Thar Desert, and has been known as the “Khajuraho of Rajasthan” for its temples. Osian is famous as home to the cluster of ruined Brahmanical and Jain temples dating from the 8th to 11th centuries. The city was a major religious centre of the kingdom of Marwar during the Gurjara Pratihara dynasty. Of the 18 shrines in the group, the Surya or Sun Temple and the later Kali temple, Sachiya Mata Temple and the main Jain temple dedicated to Mahavira stands out in their grace and architecture.

The town was a major trading center at least as early as the Gupta period. It maintained this status, while also being a major center of Brahmanism and Jainism for hundreds of year. This came to an abrupt end when the town was attacked by the armies of Muhammed of Ghor in 1195.

and finaly had some some @ THAR…

The jackpot of the day was this…..

We made an early start that day..did not wait for the sunset and ….EUREKA….we hit gold !

we saw Blackbuck on our way back home…

wild..open free….we both stared at each other…there was a question mark on his face…

” why did we meet so late ?”……My answer was..At least we met !

 

DAY 2 of my journey in my next Blog……

Sleeping Beauty of Gujarat – UDVADA

The first thing I did on entering  this town was to Inhale Lungful of fresh air….Udvada is a Parsi coastal town located in Valsad district of Gujarat. I christen Udvada sleeping beauty of Gujarat !as it sleeps ,breathes and thrives peacefully hidden from the hideous cacophony and pollution all around…..

I first got to learn about this quaint little town from a Food channel ! The place is famous for Parsi food (Non veg ) and Fire temple. Also , I once read a legend in a book (Surya,the sun god. by Shakti.m.Gupta) which highlighted an amalgamation of Hindu and Iranian cultures and traditions. According to the book,there is a legend in the Bhavisya purana , that mentions how Maghas, the traditional priest of Sun were born. Rishi Rijihva had a beautiful daughter called Nikshubha ,who was worshiper of Agni an aspect of Surya. Once,while she was worshiping surya, the Sun god fell in love with her and from their union was born a child called Jarasabda. When Rishi Rijihva got to know about all that had happened, he cursed his daughter. she was heartbroken,Sun god came to the rescue and blessed the child that he would become worthy of worship one day. The very learned Jarasadba became Zoraster of Iran later….

Being a foodie plus history enthusiast , the gamble was tempting…My palate was craving for yumyy_licious Parsi goodness and ear for more legends…

We had clubbed Udvada with out trip to Surat . Distance is around 112 from Surat. We started at around 9:00am and reached  the town around 1-1:30 Pm…streets were deserted.. It was a Sunday afternoon…It seemed most were  blissfully enjoying their siesta..

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We were unable to find a single soul for directions…Our first destination was Iranshah Atash Behram….

 

Beautifully crafted town, I have to admit…Aesthetic sense is commendable ! Admiring the architecture all around..we somehow managed to reach our spot 1 , following signboards !

(For all those like me… Parsis( Parsees) are group of people following Zoroastrianism, they migrated from Iran to preserve their culture and took refuge in India and Pakistan during 8th to 10th century CE). that time Iran was under Arab/Muslim invasion .They first settled at a placed called Sajan( 30kms from udvada, then over a period moved to Navsari,surat,Udvada and Bombay….

Spot 1  : Iranshah Atash Behram…

 

There is a big board outside the fire temple ,that says Non Parsees are not allowed ! felt disappointed  ……Sharing a little history that I gathered from internet..

You will be surprised to know, that only 9 fire temples exist in this world…and out of these none ,8 fire temples are in India ! Yes India is truly unique and was very fortunate to have seen one such wonderful temple . further details of Fire temples in India (four in Mumbai, two in Surat, one in Navsari, and the one in Udvada), and one of which is in Yazd, in central Iran. Atash Behram (from Middle PersianAtash Warharan for “Victorious Fire”, the highest grade of ritual fire of the Zoroastrians) housed in the fire temple there.The Udvada Atash Behram is the most sacred of the Zoroastrian fire temples in India and the oldest continuously burning fire-temple fire in the world. Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion. It is one of the world’s oldest religion. They worship a deity called Ahura Mazda.

ahura-mazda AHURA MAZDA

( The literal meaning of the word Ahura is “mighty” or “lord”, and Mazda is wisdom. The religion was started and taken forward by Iranian Prophet Zoroaster. The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta, which includes the writings of Zoroaster known as the Gathas. Zoroaster proclaimed that there is only one God, the singularly creative and sustaining force of the Universe, and that human beings are given a right of choice, and because of cause and effect are also responsible for the consequences of their choices.

The contesting force to Ahura Mazda was called Angra Mainyu / Ahirman, or angry spirit.

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Zoroastrianism, the purpose in life is to “be among those who renew the world…to make the world progress towards perfection”. Its basic maxims include:

  • Humata, Hukhta, Huvarshta, which mean: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
  • There is only one path and that is the path of Truth.
  • Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and then all beneficial rewards will come to you also.

There is a small curio shop outside the fire temple, small figures of Ahura mazda ,sandal wood,home made masalas are some of the items on display….

Inside the fire temple, the scene is somewhat like this I guess..( I clicked this picture at the museum)

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Inside the fire temple, there is a big vessel in which fire continuously burns.The establishment and consecration of this fire involves the gathering of 16 different types of fire. Each of the 16 fires is then subject to a purification ritual before it joins the others. 32 priests are required for the consecration ceremony, which can take up to a year to complete. The 16 types of fire required for an Atash Behram are:

  1. The fire used by a dyer
  2. The fire from a house of a king or a ruling authority
  3. Fire from a potter
  4. Fire from a brick-maker
  5. From an ascetic
  6. Fire from a goldsmith
  7. Fire from a mint
  8. From an ironsmith
  9. Fire from an armourer
  10. From a baker,
  11. From a brewer
  12. From a soldier
  13. Fire from a shepherd
  14. Fire produced by atmospheric lightning
  15. Fire from the house of any Zoroastrian

SPOT 2 : Dastur Baug

It was nearly 2-2:30, and we were starving…Luckly my hubby spotted Dastur Baug…

 

Before inquiring about availability of food..I got busy taking pictures…

 

It was a big mansion,elegantly kept, just like the hostress! and yes Food was available ! (thank god for that !)The owner of this gracious homestay/Restaurant is one of the most pleasant ,sweet sounding ladies ,I have ever met in my life…Perviz…

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Few pics from her album,that she showed us…

 

her silvery voice hinted me of her golden past. Out of curiosity , I inquired and as a result ,I got to know….She had a band named ‘Wild cats’ many years ago. She was the lead singer. Cooking was in her blood..Her ancestors were chefs and the legacy and talent continues ( Thank god for small mercies)…. I learnt,she had grandchildren my age ! Such an evergreen beauty she is…coming back to food…

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Fish Cutlet – with the first bite I took, I still remember..there was an explosion of Parsee goodness in my mouth..(I was happy)

 

and then came the very famous Dhansak Dal and Mixed fried Rice ( Non veg) . As I write this ( I am actually salivating and missing Dastur Baug, Previz and Udvada) . She just charges 300 per plate( Non Veg) and she serves  her culinary magic !

P.S( One plate is enough for two)

For dessert , we had home made kulfi…I did not wait to take picture..I simply wanted to savor the sweetness of Parsee Cuisine and her hospitality before leaving….

SPOt 3 : Udvada Beach..

It is Rocky muddy beach…I could not see a single soul on the beach and hence chose not to venture…

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Spot 4 : Zoroastrian Information Center 

Government has made a small Museum to promote tourism. From Birth to death..almost all the rituals involved…everything has been covered very thoughtfully ! A must visit spot.

 

To sum up my impression at the end was Neither sweet..Nor salty ! Not sour or Bitter…I was simply delighted to touch this part of India in my life….

On the way back home….We discovered a new place accidentally and yes the place had a fort! the locals call it Shivaji’s fort ! More on that in my next blog…..

How to reach

CAR ( Drive)

Option 1 : Ahmedabad to Udvada ( Minimum 3 days required)

Distance – 355km ,

Option 2:

You can halt at surat on the first day.  ( Ahmadabad to Surat – 269km)

Drive down to Udvada next day. come back to surat same day. ( Surat to Udvada-112km)

Go homewards on the third-day.( Minimum 3 days required)

Option 3:

Club it when visiting Daman. (14.7kms)

 

 

 

 

Sun-n-sand @ Suryapur ( Surat)

Who goes to Surat for a vacation ! Was the reaction ,that I got from most of my relatives….The reason for this inhibition to choose Surat as a holiday abode ,may be for the fact that, people fear the old Surat of 1994( plague ) or because of the Riots that occurred in 1992-1993. Surat is only seen as a money minting ,pollution spilling monster.. If you count the positives, Surat without doubt is the Textile capital and Diamond capital of India…and without doubt Surti cuisine is famous ,as I have read about it many times….

(Food + Textile + Beaches + Parsi culture ) tempted me to select Surat this Independence day( 70th Birthday Of free India). I wanted to explore,how well, It will score as a tourist spot !

Surat is 270kms from Ahmedabad, Minimum 3 days you need ,if you wish to cover surat to its full potential. I had so much in my bucket list for Surat #HauntedBeach(Dumas) , #Suratcastel, #Suvalibeach( the cleanest beach of India), #Hazira Beach( Mangrove forest) and much more…before the trip ,I was busy packing and enlightening my grey cells about ‘khubsoorat Surat’

DAY 1

We started from Ahmedabad at around 7:30 Am and reached Surat at around 3:30 PM, enjoying the ride…The road to Surat is full of good food joints,we even crossed a chocolate factory( Schimitten luxury chocolates)…My baby had a great time chockie Shopping! After so many bad experiences, I wonder how Online hotel booking sites are thriving ! this was the second time, we faced a problem on reaching a hotel, my advice would be go for makemytrip.com..The best site for bookings ( booking.com and cleartrip.com have made our vacation mood go sour quite a few times now) . Anways after all the hitch, we were ready for the sightseeing by around 5PM.

Destination 1 : Dumas Beach ( Haunted Beach)

Around 18kms from Surat city….

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The Internet says, It is amongst the most haunted places of India ! Do not know why ! The place was full of human beings…some of them, were of-course behaving like ghost !  There was no real ghost sighting !

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She has started enjoying ,what most of us don’t !

silently watching the sea rock and roll …..

Deciphering the secret whispers of the sea breeze……

Watching the sun sleep(set) peacefully ……

 

It was a great evening…with a lot of photography and food !

P.S( try cheese corn chat)

 

A few elements on the beach, did make me feel spooky !

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To see series of transmission poles on the beach is scary…( Water + Electricity + Humans)..not cool!I saw a lot of crows on the beach, I have heard my granny saying, crows are evil and they carry message from the dead ! I do not believe in these superstitions..but still I have been conditioned like that…somewhere ..some corner, sitting on  a Haunted beach…you feel not very safe !..:P

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Balancing act near the beach…

 

We saw temple of universal mother near parking lot ! A temple for one and all….

On our way back….We discovered something , on a roundabout( circle) !

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Surat was a princely state I knew..But details I did not. ‘Sachin state’ was a princely state of the Surat Agency. Sachin state was founded on 6 June 1791. Although over 85% of the subjects were Hindu, the state was ruled by Sunni Muslim Sufis of the Sidi dynasty.The Sidi dynasty is of African origin.

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There is a palace near this circle…But entry was restricted. An ice-cream vendor informed us, the rulers lived somewhere in Navasari . There permission was mandatory to access this property! Some interesting facts I learnt on returning back from our adventure….Fatima Begum (1892 – 1983), one of the early superstars in Indian cinema and India’s first female film director, was allegedly married to Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Muhammad Yakut Khan III of Sachin State. But Sachin royal family sources cast a veil over this. Zubeida, leading actress of India’s first talkie film Alam Ara (1931), was her ( Fatima Begums) younger daughter. I am sure most of you reading my blog are not aware of these strange facts !

I have heard this phrase quite a lot of times now from my Gujarati friends “SURAT NU JAMAN NE KASHI NU MARAN ” that is …DINE IN SURAT AND DIE IN KASHI”…It was time to check its validity…We chose an Iranian joint near out hotel, on our way back, from the beach for dinner…

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For starters, we ordered Chicken Masala papad and Murg farcha..and main course was Chicken Dhansak !

Day2

Firts half of the day, we went to Udvada , it is around 120kms from Surat. We had an eventful day there…That I will write in a separate blog….

On our way back..we went to the DANDI BEACH….That too on Independence day…(This is the place where Mk Gandhi made India independent from salt Tax Law)…Coming back to present..It is a great beach for long walks, Ideal beach to make sand castles with your kid !

 

 

DAY 3

SPOT 1 : Mughal Sarai..

It is one of the ancient monuments of Surat city and was built originally as a ‘Sarai’ or Musafarkhana (travellers’ inn). It was built during the period of Mugal Emperor Shah Jahan in the year 1644 A.D. and was popularly known as ‘Mugal Sarai’. During 18th century the same building was used as jail, currently use as Headquarters of Surat Municipal Corporation.

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Spot 2: Dutch Cemetery

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First look …and my reaction ….Muslim Tomb?!…the answer is no..The Dutch as well as Armenian cemeteries at Surat are situated in a locality known as ‘Gulam Falia’ near the mail road leading to Katargam Gate. The Dutch tombs are of various sizes and shapes, but the one that excels all the rest in magnificence is the grandiose mausoleum of Baron Adrian Van Reede and, is described here in detail.

Spot 3 : ENGLISH CEMETERY

 

The English cemetery which is situated outside the city-wall (which was known as ‘Alampanah’) near the Katargam Gate reminds the visitor eloquently of many a famous names in the historical narratives of the English factory at Surat who were the significant persons in the political history of the city.

Source: https://www.suratmunicipal.gov.in/TheCity/Cemeteries

SPOT 4 : Surat Castle

 

Not in a very good condition,the government is giving a face lift though…I took the pics from a bridge nearby…

Spot 5: Suvali beach

 

It is supposed to be the cleanest beach of India, Its claim to fame is also credited to the fact, It is the Birth Place of modern Indian Navy.  in 1612, Captain Thomas Best encountered and defeated the Portuguese at the Battle of Swally.

Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suvali_Beach

Spot 6: Hazira beach…

Gujarat is full of surprise packages..It has a mangrove forest !!! can you believe it !…It is a private property I guess..Took a few pictures …

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If you are still living in the past and feel Surat is full of rodents ( impression beacuse of the plague) or is dirty….believe me it is now, One of the cleanest City I have seen….9/10 for cleanliness  ! It is exactly what, this signboard says..’ Sundar surat’

DSC_0702.JPGIts a huge city and a very clean city…Food is yum….On top of it…Shoppers paradise and has a bag full beaches and historical monuments to explore ! and not to forget..A photographers heaven…

 

 

 

 

 

 

no more due…- DIU islands

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VIEW VISIBLE FROM THE OUTER FORT WALL -DIU FORT

Daman and Diu though sound like twin cities, are approx 700 kms apart ! This I wanted to clear before starting the blog, as I have seen many of my friends asking me ..why did you miss Daman ?! ( p.s, I did visit daman and shall share my adventures at Daman in a fresh blog later)..coming back to Diu…..

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SUN SET POINT – JALANDHAR BEACH

The first and the only major disappointment we came across while visiting Diu islands was..It did not feel like an island atall ! Diu has been connected by the mainland via a bridge . As the kid in me wanted an adventure . I wanted to reach the first Island that I had ever put my foot on via a boat or a ferry or a ship or some sea-bound machine…but that fantasy did not happen…

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NEAR GANGESHWAR TEMPLE

Due to its strategic position.. the peaceful,tranquil,calm,serene looking island has seen many blood baths…The first recorded war on this island is battle of Diu(1509) and the last one has to be Operation vijay(1961)..The last and the final battle, which retrieved Diu back to India from almost a 450 years Portuguese rule…(1535-1961)…

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CIRCUIT HOUSE visible from SUN SET POINT JALANDHAR BEACH

Diu, one of the seven union territories of India.. was on our must visit list for long  in-spite the fact that this island has the lowest female to male ration in India that is .533 (2011 census) :(…The best time to visit the islands is winters…It is just 361 kms from Ahmedabad and  can be accessed by road..thanks to the recently constructed bridge….

Gujarat Roads trust me are longdrivephobic( so good they are)..It was a smooth drive, we started early morning..Had our lunch at a restaurant near Somnath( Viraval) and reached our hotel at 3:00 Pm..We( mum ,dad,hubby,Daughter) were exhausted but not dead tired..took a power nap..and were up again at 5:00 to see the sun set…:)We Bid adiu to the sun for the day .. @ Jalandhar beach…( it is near circuit house)…

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VIEW FROM THE TOP – SUN SET POINT JALANDHAR BEACH

The beach named after the Demon Jalandhar is without any doubt one of the most beautiful and untouched beaches I have ever seen…. The water is calm and clear and without any undercurrents. A small memorial is located at one of the hills close to the beach containing a stone face of the demon Jalandhar. Legend has it that the head was severed by the Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu. A temple dedicated to Goddess Chandrika is also located in the vicinity.

I read a very interesting story of jalandhar ( King of Asuras) . ” He was born from Shiva ! It so happened that Indra and Brahaspati were going towards mount kailasha to meet Shiva. Shiva dressed as a naked monk,wanted to check their knowledge. Shiva blocked their path. Indra failed to recognize SHIVA and threatened him to vacate the road and let them move ahead, Shiva got furious and this resulted in opening of his third eye…I thunderbolt came out towards Indra,As luck would have it,Indra was saved by Brahaspati, just in time ! But the thunderbolt went and hit the ocean and a boy was born out of it ! This boy grew up to be a handsome young man . He was appointed the emperor of Asuras by their guru Shukra. Jalandhar’s wife was Vrinda ( who later got a boon from vishnu to be Tulsi and is worshiped for her chastity in every Hindu household).  Jalandhar was a very good ruler , Lakshmi considered him her brother ,as he was borne out of ocean. His power and might grow so big,that he started ruling ( teen lok). Jalandhar did all well,except one. His biggest sin was to desire Parvati . This resulted in his death by Mahadev.” I narrated this story to my family while we were looking at the setting sun…..

For Dinner , some locals informed us that fresh fish is available at the very famous Nagao beach..The deal was alluring so we reached the place…Small shacks have been lined up at the shore..Diu being an union territory has no ban on liquor and non veg…We enjoyed our dinner amidst sea breeze ….It was an early dinner and retreated back home to be charged for the next day….

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The hotel that we had booked from makemytrip.com was depressing to be honest..There was not much to do..So we slept early…Next morning we were not even offered chai( Bed tea) as it was only boarding kind of hotel..( Again it took us an hour to get tea, we had to bribe the room boy to get us 4 cups of tea)…All this combined ,we started our day late..:(

DAY 2

First destination : St. Paul’s Church

I learnt that this particular style of architecture was known as ‘Barouque’.  Baroque architecture is the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late 16th-century Italy. The St. Paul’s Church, named after St. Paul, the Apostle of Jesus also known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, is most renowned, surviving and functioning church. I was told by a local that  frontal elevation of the church is a replica of the Bom Jesus Basilica Goa.

Bartolomeo_Montagna_-_Saint_Paul_-_Google_Art_Project St. Paul

( In christian theology, twelve Apostles were the primary disciples of Jesus , they became the primary teachers of the gospel message of Jesus)

Second Destination :DIU FORT

The fort was built in 1535 subsequent to a defense alliance forged by Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat and the Portuguese when Humayun, the Mughal Emperor, waged war to annex this territory. Some additions made in 1541 and the fort was strengthened over the years, till 1546. Portuguese ruled over this territory from 1537 (from the year they took control of the fort and also the Diu town fully) until 1961.

The lighthouse is Diu’s highest point, with a beam that reaches 32 km in every direction. There are several small chapels, one holding engraved tombstone fragments. Part of the fort also serves as the island’s jail. It was time for lunch…We were so famished after hoping around the fort.We hit Nagao beach ( Apart from shacks , there are several AC restaurants/hotels on the beach)…After relaxing..We were heading back to the main town ,when we came across this very unique ‘Shell Museum’ This museum has a private collection of shells and dried fish from different parts of the world..The owner is a chirpy naval officer..He did not allow us to take pics..He said he has registered his name in limca book of records and is aiming for Guinness book of world records..

Third Destination: PANIKOTHA

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PANI KOTHA – Captured from Diu fort

I got the first sight of this beauty from Diu fort…I wanted to get a closer look..no one as able to guide us…Thanks to captain sahab from the shell museum..he told us the gateway to this beauty…I shall revel the secret ! In case you plan to meet this beautiful fort ( PANI =Water + KOTHA =house/fort) ,One has to reach a place called “jetyy’ ( P.S – Plan your trip to panikotha early morning before 2:00 PM, then you can get to enter the fort, after 2:00 PM, water gets a bit violent and hence entry is prohibited). We managed to reach the place after all the searching at 3:30PM, We took a ferry and had a closer look…( Ticket charges 20 rs per person).

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PANIKOTHA

PANAKOTHA The fortress of Fortim do Mar (Sea Fort or Pani-Kotha) is a magnificent stone structure in the sea. It is made on an island in the shape of a ship ! This fort according to me is the USP of DIU ! It also has a light house and a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Sea.

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(Our Lady, Star of the Sea is an ancient title for the Virgin Mary.)

Fourth destination: DIU MUSEUM

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                                            St. Thomas Church – Diu Museum

The old St. Thomas Church has been converted into a museum which houses antique statues, various stone inscriptions of the earlier rulers, wooden carvings and idols, in evening, multicolored fountains and special lighting of the imposing building fascinate everyone. Saddest part, no one was there, to explain anything to us…I came home and researched…

( St. Thomas is one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus . He is informally called doubting Thomas because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told .Tradition claims he traveled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as Tamilakam which are the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India.

Thomas St. Thomas.

 

Fifth destination:  GANGESHWAR SHIVLING….

We rushed to this place as we wanted to end that magical day after taking the blessings of (Panch shivling)

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source:http://bit.ly/2oRnjzJ

 

It seemed to be a popular sight compared to other spots, Five shivlings are placed inside a cave, local legend says that these five shivlings were installed here by the panch pandav. Everyday the shivlings get abhishek from the sea during high tide!

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NEAR GANGESHWAR TEMPLE

After all the hoping …we settled down to enjoy the SEA, the SAND, the SETTING SUN and the SMASHING DIU…

ALL dues cleared at DIU …

TIPS

BY FLIGHT : There is an Airport at Diu. You can easily get regular flights to Diu from major cities of the country.

BY TRAIN :There are no regular trains from other major cities to Diu. Nearest train station is Somnath. Diu 63 km away.

BY BUS:Diu is well connected to other major cities of the country via regular buses.

Gujarat Ke Gaddhe..a desert famous for its Ass ( little Rann of Kutch)

My first thought on meeting LRK( Little Raan of kutch)- By all evidence we are in this part of the world to do nothing…..We encountered Nothingness the moment we stepped into the Raan…It felt so silent….It was kind of scary !

Welcome to The LITTLE RANN OF KUTCH – the word ‘little’ is a misnomer as this (Raan) desert is not at all little ! LRK is a marsh land in  Gujarat…It is famous for its Gaddhe or Wild ASS( Khur). It is the only place in the world,where this handsome animal is found galloping around in glory…..

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source: http://bit.ly/2nxnDRA

The area is plain dry, vegetation is sparse..Flora is almost zero,but the place is rich in Fauna..Specially during winters our (videshi feathered mehmaan) migratory birds troupe the place…waterbirds like cranes, ducks, pelicans, flamingos and land birds like sandgrouse, francolins and the Indian bustards. It is also home to various unique mammals apart from wild ass such as the Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), desert fox (Vulpes vulpes pusilla) and nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)….

I shall share the details of how and what to see at Little Rann of Kutch…We started our new venture early as the distance between Ahmadabad and Little Rann of Kutch is around 180 kms. We were on road at around 5:00 Am and reached our destination enjoying a lazy drive at around 11:00 AM. We crossed  a place called Patdi, Fort wall remains  and grand archaic gates advocated its royal past…On returning back, thanks to (Google baba)  I found the following…Patdi is a town and former princely state on Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat. Patdi used to be an estate in Jhalawar prant of Eastern Kathiawar under the rule of (rare) Kunbi Chieftains, styled (Desai) Darbar.source-Wikipedia

Moving ahead,….Our First destination…

Rann Riders(http://www.rannriders.com/). It is a Motel…The only place that we could locate ,where decent food(non veg)/Water/Restrooms/Rooms were available..It is a themed resort…the cottages are made like ‘Kuba’ houses( Huts made of mud)..one can get a feel of real life of a kutchi…(unfortunately I lost most of the pics…courtesy my toddler..She does not let me touch my phone these days..She has denied me access to my own mobile phone..)

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Kuba house @ Rann Riders..

Anyways I was lucky, as my husband clicked a few pics of LRK from the ordinary camera that we own…We took the lunch buffet ..After (pet pooja), we were becoming impatient for the safari to start..It happened around 3:00pm…Open Jeeps are available with them, We hired one from Raan Riders @4550/- (Advice – Make pre booking with rannriders for food/safari)

Second destination – zaniabad village...

Before entering the desert, One has to take permission from a govt check post located in this village. After doing all the formalities and paying a sum of 500/- we entered the ‘ not so little Raan’….

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There we encountered a mob ( all pretty little girls)..They were all so curious and chirpy. They wanted to know my darling’s name..in seconds the air around was filled with their echos.. MISHI… MISHI… MISHI !!! ( I was happy to see them so happy !)

Third and our final destination LRK…

we kept taking pics to our hearts content !

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Long sheets of Cracked parched land was all that we could see…Occasionally we could spot a few cactus species sprouting ..That is the main source of food for Nilgais and Wild Ass..

 

I kept nagging that I could see huge water body at a distant end, where the land was touching the sky..My driver simply told me ‘Madam you are experiencing chalawa( Mirage)’

 

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Little Raan of kutch has a light brown , to be precise sandy shade unlike Great Raan of Kutch..that is completely white ! This part of land has its own beauty ….You will feel ‘Nothing’ in front of the huge empty before your eyes . It is indeed an unique occurrence

No car honks, No planes, No pollution, No human over-explosion, No buildings, No cars, No roads,No vegetation…The feeling of nothingness is what we experienced at this Rann…The feeling to be alone and be content with your past ,present and future…and while all this was brewing inside us and we were trying to quite my overexcited daughter so as, not to spoil the tranquil outside….She was the first one to spot it ..She referred to it as HORSE !!!( That is the only word,till date that she uses to call any animal).

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we got the darshan of The great Indian WILD ASS ( My daughters horse !)

We spotted a few Nilgais…saw few birds( migratory ones ) at a distance…Satisfied we were back to our Camp site by 6:00 Pm. Had a little snack and it was time to go home….

There is a famous hindi proverb “mushkil ke waqt gaddhe ko bhi baap banana Padta hai”..Sadly the common donkeys( gaddhe) have a very low status  in our society (  compared to other four legged animals)…Certainly these donkey’s of LRK belong to a different world…and it was worth spending on these handsome Gaddhes…

 

 

 

 

Chandrabhag Beach – Sadly, not so famous beach of Orissa..

Before writing..I want to share a few pics, that attracted me to this place just 4 kms from the famous sun temple of (Odhisha)Konark..

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source : http://bit.ly/2nV6K6c

Source: http://bit.ly/2okWEIH

A pristine blue beach with less human dominance ,I read somewhere and was instantly attracted to the place…The beach has no doubt lesser human presence than the world famous -over crowded/Hyper commercialized Puri beach…but, what broke my heart was the place is like an open garbage..sadly /shockingly ! It was so dirty..my little one loves to explore everything and anything that comes her way..I was scared to let her even stand on the sand…( of-course she did not let my concerns bother her fun )

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Beaches are fun…Blue water…the sound of waves, the cool breeze hitting your face, and yes the sun…I feel the sun looks sexy on a beach anytime of the day….Mentioning sun ( surya dev)..I remember a legend ( not so famous associated with him ).Once upon a time there was this damsel named chandrabhaga. She was a divine beauty and hence Surya dev( sun) was magnetized towards her…He wanted to express his love to her..But Chandrabhaga  was not impressed and she did not offer herself to god… Maddened by romantic pangs, the God chased behind a frightened Chandrabhaga who jumped into the river and killed herself, succeeded in protecting her chastity. As a mark of tribute to her sacrifice, every year on the 7th day of the full moon fortnight of Magha month, people from all over the state and outside gather to take a holy dip in the river that is reduced to a shallow pool, offer their prayers to the Sun God and enjoy the sunrise.  During this festival the trio trishambhu is assembled on an altar near the holy pond. the tishambhu comprises of (Triveniswar of Madhipur, Aishaneswar of Santhapur and Dakhineswar of Bang ) Many devotees and locals offer puja and bhog to the three deities.

source: http://www.orissapost.com/5-lakh-pilgrims-take-holy-dip-at-chandrabhaga/I could spot

I could spot a temple on the beach, few locals advised us not to go near…( I am still curious ,why were we stopped ) Moving further …I saw an army of trees lined up on one side of the beach( no one could tell me the name of those trees)…the path to the parking is lined up by small shops selling shells and shell related handicraft..( I loved the place no doubt !)

Before ending, I remember there is another legend associated with the beach, which  says… Sambha son of lord Krishna was once cursed of leprosy by none other than his father ! Sambha was very handsome and krishna felt his 16000 wives were getting more fond of Sambha than him ! Broken hearted ,Sambha was roaming in Chandrabhaga river,they say….He prayed to sun god ,with full devotion and was cured of his leprosy !!

Chandrabhaga River meets the sea ,but sadly over the years ..it has dried up..We could not locate even a small stream or something 😦

 

 

 

POLO FOREST…Archaeological paradise hidden inside a jungle full of secrets..so lets polo !

One of the lesser known Archaeological paradise of Gujarat, If you love adventure/Trekking ,flora ,fauna and are crazy for ancient architecture and history.. This is the place to be… Polo forest lies in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat. The (anokha) name  comes from ‘Pol’ which means housing complex in Gujarati…

The place is just 145 kms from Ahmadabad.. This Holi ( 2017), We chose Polo as our secret Hideout from our overenthusiastic Holi fanatic neighbors …..and yes we freaked out like mad….We savored different shades ( raang) of nature ( Site is rich in Flora and fauna) , relished local folk tales, got high on rustic architecture and archaic temples…We were treated with a lot of local cuisine, Full moon night, tent , bonfire and the temperature outside freezing cold…What more can you ask for ??

We had made our bookings with POLO SAFARI. I wanted to relax and luxuriate this Holi and Team POLO made this dream happen for me..complete trip was planned by them..We had to pay a total of 4700/- and rest was taken care of ( Boarding , Food , Guide). It was a relaxing /informative / venturesome two days trip……

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DAY 1:

We reached our destination early around 10:00 am..My baby had just woken up from her sweet sleep…We settled in our allotted room. We were informed that the trek starts at around 2:00, we had a good numbers of hours with us to rest and for me..complete all task related to my little devil( 2 year old daughter). We had our lunch and started our adventure with a big group ( Other residents/tourists of the resort).

and the fun begins..

Spot 1 : SARNESHWAR TEMPLE -Where Nandi is greater than Shiva….

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A concept very unknown to the world…According to Mr Chirag from POLO SAFARI.. The temple was made in 4th century….It was made by parihar kings from Idar.

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The outer wall or the main gate /fort like gate of the temple…can you spot Nandi…What is unusual ? Nandi is placed on a pillar..That is Nandi is placed above his lord Shiva….very peculiar ain’t it ?

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/polosafari.in/

Who is Nandi ? He is Shiva’s gate keeper…He is Shiva’s Main attendant.. He was born to Sage Shilada from a Yagna performed by the sage. Nandi’s Bhakti and Penance earned him a place in Kailash..He is the gate keeper and the Mount(Vahan) of Shiva. Nandi is depicted as a seated bull in almost all of the Shiva temples..At Sarneshwar , Nandi is seated on a pillar.If we try to decipher this ancient mystery ( why the butler is placed above the master)..There is a lot that can be said..One theory is..The time at which the temple was made..worship of Nandi was of greater importance than that of Shiva…This is quite possible , as they say, worship of Nandi and Shiva is as old as Indus Valley Civilization….Nandi or Bull is a symbol of male untamed Virility and being and agrarian society worship of fertility/virility was and still is a common practice in India.

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To your extreme right, Notice the statue of (Kali) like god, She is locally known as Rakht Chamundi…She loves to quench her thirst by drinking human blood, She is draped in minimal clothes and has a garland of skull around her neck…After even resorting to cannibalism, Torso of Rakht Chamundi is depicted malnourished…This is basically a symbolic figure and points out the political scenario of Polo Forest during 4th century..The place belonged to tribals or Bhils..There was not much education around, food must have been a big problem . There was a lot of chaos and dispute within locals.Taking advantage of the situation and following the famous principle of ‘Divide and Rule’…Kings of Idar , then Mewar and finally the Mughals invaded the place..

 

Spot 2: SURYA MANDIR

Not much history is known about this Surya Mandir. I could spot sculptures of Aditiyas around the outer walls of temple…( There are a total of 8 Aditiyas or solar deities according to Vedic traditions)

Spot 3 CROSSING HARNAV RIVER…

polo harnav river bridge

Locals say, Maharana Pratap was somewhere near Harnav River, when he was hiding out and preparing for a come back against Mughals…He had sparred a baby Fawn Hiran(deer) his life after seeing his innocent eyes and that is how, the River got its name..

After crossing Harnav river and trekking for a bit, We were bombarded with a truck load of age old temples to our delight…

Spot 4 : SERIES OF ANCIENT TEMPLES.

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Sadly,the temple is in complete ruins…

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MINI CHANDBAORI OF GUJARAT…..

Kund- Placed behind the Shiva temple…Wont you agree with me , if I dare say ,this kund is a micro mini sized ChandBaori – Step well ?This is what I felt…You may have a different opinion….That’s okay..let me know..Some more snaps of the kund (akka) Stepwell..

(Stepwells, also called bawdi or baori, are unique to India. These wells acted as the reservoirs or the storage tanks that can store large amount of water and keep it cool as well.)

In both the pictures, Chambers are visible, According to Mr. Chirag, These were used by the pilgrims to rest and change clothes after holy dip in the kund( abolition) , before visiting the temple ! If you watch closely it is a four storied step-well, pyramid shaped steps lead to each storey…Moving ahead, I am sharing a downloaded of ChandBaori and will highlight few observations that I believe is true….

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Source :Chandbaori Step well – The largest and oldest step well of India and probably most famous !

Another fascinating thing that I noticed, Location of both the place has a striking similarity…Chand Baori is located in a place called Abhaneri ( city of brightness) and The step well at Polo forest is located in a village called Abhapur( city of brightness).. If you still don’t agree on their (rishta) relation with each other… Both the step wells have chambers for people to change clothes and rest ! The basic plan is same…(I am no historian ,but I am an Indian and I love to explore and analyse my heritage.)

Moving ahead…we reached Spot 5..

The grand Parshvanatha temple….The temple, from the top ( helicopter ) looks like a human body we were told !

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Parshavanath  is 23rd Tirthankar of Jainism.

parshavnath  Source: http://bit.ly/2nMLmjx

A major default in the architecture of this temple is…The mul swami or the main deity at the Garbha Griha is not visible from the entrance.. This is very typical and a prime requirement for a Jain temple….

They say this is the reason why the city perished( local superstition)…Nevertheless the architecture is worth a mention..Delicate detailing has been done, but due to lack of care and erosion over the years…our past is fading /washing out….

We were shown a secret door, (surang) in the assembly hall of the Derasar..

This Surang we were informed was mighty 45kms long! This was a secret escape route in case of attacks..and connected Idar to polo forest…The main idol is missing and few of the idols kept in the temple complex are in a very heartbreaking /dilapidated condition…The place has seen many Invaders including Mughals…

Spot 6: Lakhena Temple..

Interesting fact about this temple is.The architecture of the temple is a unique blend of Hindu, Muslim and Jain architecture…The amalgamation of cultures ,visible in the craftsmanship, is delightful to watch…

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A photo tour of this Derasar…

Geometric /symmetric Jali work – a typical feature of Muslim architecture, Gomukh – a must for Hindu Shiv temples, We were even shown an idol of Krishna on one of the walls…If you are a history maniac like us ( My husband , me and my lil baby)..you will love the place..(The moment she( My baby) enters a temple..she says namho namho with all due respect and bhav . She even gestures namaskar mudra..)

we moved ahead and reached the final destination of this Ancient temple complex and thus our Spot 7: Jain temples ( 15th century)

The first temple is made of marble and the second one made of bricks…Both the temples are in complete ruins …

The last destination for day one was Vanaj Dam…

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Water was leaking from the Dam….People around were murmuring.. MohenJo Daro..( the last scene from the Bollywood movie flashed in my filmy brain ).!

It was end of Day one and we returned back to our resort…It was a moonlight night…The resort and the place around was looking heavenly…I have never seen such darkness in city….( The resort is placed in the  middle of a farm and circumferenced by hills…

We ended the day by enjoying, Gujarati meal..There was Bhakri, Tamater ni sev, Khechri, Kadi and some sweet…(Shudh) vegetarian food…

Day 2 of my journey in polo forest in my next blog…

To be continued…

 

POLO SAFARI DETAILS

facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/polosafari.in/

Call – Mr Chirag Shah – 9408510911