Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Neelkanth Mahadev Temple Sariska

Alwar-Sariska belt is an exquisite place for its variety of offerings. Of course, there is Sariska National Park, which remains on top of the list of any visitor or nature lover alike. Then there are famous palaces in Alwar that everybody knows. Surrounded by rugged hills of Aravali. there are many things, which are yet to be explored. On my recent trip to Alwar, I discovered few of them. Initially, I thought about Siliserh lake palace, Marble mines of Aravali and Neelkanth Mahadev Temple situated in Tehla village, which comes under the buffer zone of Sariska National Park.

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The time before I actually get on wheels is always difficult to me. I always feel butterflies on my stomach, and it never let me sleep before journey. This time one of my friends was going along, and he is such a late riser whom I don’t want to get sleep so I convinced him that you can do sleep in car while I’ll drive. So finally at 12 AM I decided that it’s the time to start, I’ll try to drive slow and will reach Alwar by dawn. However, the road condition turned out to be so excellent that from Ghaziabad, I reached Alwar in flat three hours without any fast driving. It is highly recommended to take this route if you are going to Alwar. Drive via Gurgaon- Dharuhera (Keep looking for left turn at Dharuhera)-Tijara- Kishangarh- Alwar, avoiding rush of NH-8. The entire stretch was properly divided and well built, with only state transport buses or few private vehicles to accompany. Finally, I reached Alwar by 3.30 in the morning and to Siliserh palace by 4.00. The palace gate was closed, and we had no other option than to sleep in car. I tried to avoid my friend who continuously scolded me for such a situation and tried to get some sleep.

I wake up with a bang; no it was not him but somebody from outside. I guess it must be around 5.30 or 6 and there were dozens of monkeys and languor of all shape, and sizes were busy in checking the intruders of wee hours. We did what one should do in such a helpless situation, i.e. no movement….no eye-contacts with mighty enemies…not making them angry…and remember God. After half an hour with no potential threat at the sight the troops started to disassemble. Now it was time to check the damages, but thankfully, it was not much except few minor scratches who can be easily washed out in rubbing.




However, this was just the start of torture of my beloved car. After two years of love that I gave to her, I snatched all of it that day without any mercy and that too unconsciously. If someone owns a vehicle either a car or bike before marriage, then it’s always a first love. And I too was not happy with my stupidity. Until then, the palace get was wide open and few guests were coming out for taking photographs, etc. We didn’t pay attention to their curiosity and smile. We used the outside wash facility of palace and moved out as it was not at all looking promising for a quick visit. First had a tea to get our mind on track, clicked some pics and then moved to Sariska National Park. Nevertheless, again, our luck was not in favor.


Had a hot cup of tea here...

First, a good news that we actually didn’t like at that time, Sariska Natioanl Park is now a properly maintained park, with fixed visiting hour, i.e. 7-12 in the morning and 2-6 in the evening; no private vehicles are allowed except Tuesday & Saturday (due to Pandupole Hanuman temple), and can be visited only by authorized vehicles that are very few in numbers.

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Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, Alwar, Rajasthan
















It is a protected monument by ASI

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Excavation has revealed many secrets here...

It was already 8, and the next shift was from 2 in noon. So, we decided to stick to our plan and moved towards Neelkanth Mahadev Temple. Since SC has banned all construction activity around Sariska National Park, so I guess it has been auto implemented on roads also. The entire stretch from Sariska to Thana Gazi is so pathetic that you force to drive at first gear. Then it was ok until 3-4 km and then again, until Bhangarh it was too bad. Since we came so far that returning was not seemed to be a good idea. After Bhangarh, road was ok somehow for few kms but again came in its worst avatar. What was most challenging that we had to cross Aravali hills as the temple was behind the hills. It was worst driving experience of my life and strongly suggested that without a SUV one should not get on this route. We were like since we came this far so let’s cross it. There was a horrific sound of stones striking on the chassis of the car. Somehow, we managed to reach at the temple.

Now it was time to cheer.



Around the temple...

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The temple was a kind of discovery for us. It was like a Khajuraho in Rajasthan. Besides someone like us this place is regularly visited by four-footers.

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Neelkanth Temple is also called Khajuraho of Rajasthan

Eternally satisfied we started back and visited marble mines. There were a number of trucks loaded with the huge piece of marbles. We didn’t allow to click around mines, but we saw the process of extraction of marbles from mines. It was indeed an experience.

This part of Alwar is connected through Rajgarh, which will again put you back to the Delhi route. The road condition was comparatively ok.

Again, we took the same route and reached Delhi by 10, satisfied with our discovery.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sultanpur National Park

Sultanpur National Park is located in close proximity of Delhi. It is just 20-25 km away from IFFCO Chowk Gurgaon. In January 2011, I visited this place which was declared a Bird Sanctuary in 1972 and later a National Park in 1989. Though I am not an avid bird watcher but the word National Park was enough for me to explore this place. It is around 60 km from my place (Sahibabad). I took the route of Dilshad Garden-Nizamuddin-Mathura Road-Chhatarpur-Gurgaon and then followed easily available Indian GPS system till Sultanpur. I reached around 8.30 AM and the ticket window was open with no body at sight except the staff. Next to National Park gate there is a food joint managed by Haryana Government which turns to be pathetic and costly at the same time. But overall it was pleasant till that moment. A perfect winter morning of Delhi, a hot cup of tea with some puff and about to enter in a National Park….my restless soul was started to getting some much needed peace. More pleasure came my way when I saw just two cars in the parking area. Happily I got the ticket and carried my binocular, digital camera and a bottle of mineral water to the park.

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That moment was the end of my honeymoon period and what lies ahead was harsh reality of life. Till few meter the road was well paved which I somehow didn’t like. Nobody needs concrete in a supposing national park. Let it be ruined by pristine beauty of nature. But it was just the start few meters ahead full on construction was going on.


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Sultanpur National park consist a lake which is centre of all avian activity and the construction work was going along circumference of the lake to make it well paved. The circumference is around 4-5 km and it takes around 2-3 hour to complete a round. One can step down to get close to lake. Probably this year if one would go there then they might witness a lake with less avian activity and a marine drive like structure around the lake.

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It was around 10 when I heard an unbearable amount of noise that those tiny-miny creatures would not be able to make under any weird circumstances. There were hundreds of people loaded with every sort of equipments necessary for a picnic. In few minutes the place was over crowded with activities not at all suited for bird watching. Most of them were teenagers  from neighborhood area and they were utilizing the bird-watching  machaan for their own love story. So, the do-hanso-ka-joda kind of were easily and conveniently available at the cost of others convenience.

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Somehow I completed my round and when came back to parking lot there were around 200 cars instead of just 2 in the morning, and I was assuming that this could be a place less known to others. I was complete dumbstruck with no clue that how to get out from here. Luckily after half an hour few visitors returned and I managed to get my car out.
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So, first and foremost lesson to visit this place is parking your car at a point from where you can take it out easily. Sacrifice a little and visit early because this is a favorite place for picnic dwellers around Gurgaon. In outer area of the park you’ll see kids playing around and parents busy in taking brunch that is quite annoying. The Government restaurant is not ideal and costly at the same time so it is good to carry light food with you. Every year the number of migratory birds is decreasing but still it is a good place to visit. Last advice if possible avoid Sunday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tracing the ancient roots of Mahabharata in space and time: Hastinapur, Part 2 (Jain Religion)

Taking further where I left the first part; The ASI carried out excavation work at Hastinapur in 1950s. The eminent Archaeologist B.B.Lal tried to find out the stratigraphic position of the “Painted Grey Ware” with reference to other known ceramic industries of the early historical period. B.B.Lal strongly believed that there must be a correlation between Mahabharata, the text, and the material remains that was excavated at Hastinapur. The excavation report was published in “Ancient India”, the annual journal of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1955.

** The Painted Grey Ware culture (PGW) was an ‘Iron Age’ culture of Gangetic plain, lasting from roughly 1200 BC to 600 BC. It is contemporary to, and a successor of the Black and red ware culture. It probably corresponds to the later Vedic period.

Around Vidur-Kutir
Caves inside the Pandeswar Temple is now fenced

They live behind the temple in a Ashram to perform daily rituals
After the archaeological excavations at ‘Vidura-ka-tila’, a collection of several mounds, in 1950-52, was concluded to be remains of the ancient city of Hastinapur, the capital of Kauravas and Pandavas of Mahabharata, which was washed away by Ganges floods.

This site is in the midst of forest
Kali statue near Pandeswar Temple
B.B. Lal associated Hastinapur, Mathura, Ahichatra, Kampilya, Barnawa, Kurukshetra and other sites with the PGW culture, the (post-) Mahabharata period and the Aryans in the 1950s. Furthermore, he pointed out that the Mahabharata mentions a flood and a layer of flooding debris was found in Hastinapur. However, he considered his theories to be provisional and based upon a limited body of evidence, and he later reconsidered his statements on the nature of this culture.

Few years later B.B.Lal himself admitted the failure of his theory. In his words; “I could no longer sustain the theory of the PGW having been a representative of the early Aryans in India. (The association of this Ware with the Mahabharata story was nevertheless sustainable since that event comes at a later stage in the sequence.) I had no qualms in abandoning my then-favorite theory.”

The detailed presentation can be found here:

http://www.archaeologyonline.net/artifacts/19th-century-paradigms.html

Now there is another side of this story. Hastinapur at one time was the capital of Bharat-Varsha and a center place for political, cultural, and spiritual events some 86500 years back. There is enough documented support, besides excavation, to prove the historic importance of this place. ASI has done their job. The details can be found here, which was later denied and now nothing is going on.

 http://asi.nic.in/asi_exca_imp_uttarpradesh.asp

Now, I would like to mention another interesting fact here; there is another Hastinapur in Argentina known as ‘city of wisdom’. The place has temples of Ganesh, Krishna, Surya, Narayana, Siva and Pandavas. The dozen Argentines who live there look after the gods and the place. The Argentines go there for wisdom. This is why the place is called as the City of Wisdom (ciudad de la sabiduria).

http://latinamericanaffairs.blogspot.com/2011/06/hastinapurcity-of-wisdom-in-argentina.html

Each truth has its own version, and sometime for many the truth is where, their beliefs are. There are Ashrams in Hastinapur where priests are performing daily rituals with deep faith. Locals as well devotees from across the nation keep coming, though less in number. The sign board of UP state tourism also confirms this site to be of historic importance. However as a believer of our heritage I just want to keep traveling and sharing the fact that is coming my way and wish that they must be preserved for future generations.


PART-2

It was a kind of de-tour from my main agenda but the importance is so immense that it need to be put in details. Hastinapur has two historical significant, one is related to Mahabharata and another is related to Jainism. This place is also known as ‘Kashi’ of Jain religion. My trip to Hastinapur was solely dedicated to trace the ancient marks of Mahabharata era. However this place is dominated by enormous temple complexes of Jain religion and I did visit these temples too to get the essence of Jainism which was relatively less known to me.

Jambudweep temple complex
View as seen from top floor of Sumeru Parvat
Kamal Temple
Ancient history and Ved-Purans state that this country has been named as ‘Bharat-Varsha’ on the name of the eldest son of Tirthankar Rishabhdev i.e the first Chakravarti (Monarch)-Emperor Bharat. Three out of 24 Tirthankars of Jainism i.e. 16th Tirthankar Shri Shantinath, 17th Tirthankar Shri Kunthunath and 18th Tirthankar Shri Arahnath were born at Hastinapur.

Sumeru Parvat Complex
To Sumeru Parvat
Top view from Sumeru Parvat
Sumeru Parvat distant view
The main attraction of Hastinapur is ‘Jambu Dweep’ with ‘Sumeru Parvat’, ‘Teen lok rachna’, ‘Meditation Temple’ and ‘Kamal Temple’ in its premises. According to Jain and Vedic scriptures the Sumeru Parvat (101 ft. high) is considered as the most scared and the highest mountain in the whole universe.



Inside Meditation Temple
Terahdweep Jinalaya is the prominent centre of attraction of Jambudweep. It represents the whole universe with 13 dweeps of Madhyalok (Middle Universe), 458 golden natural temples, 5 golden merus, 170 Samavsarans, various dev-bhavans, ocean, rivers, mountains, bhogbhumis etc. Due to reflection it was very difficult to click the image of this beautiful structure which is first of its kind in the world.



“Teen lok rachna” is another marvelous structure of Jambudweep campus. It consists Adholok (7 hells), Madhya lok (with island and oceans) and Urdhvalok (16 heavens). This lift-fitted building charges 10 Rs to its visitors.


Inside Teen Lok Rachna

Besides this I have also seen few other huge temples in the surrounding area but since I covered Jambudweep first and I was getting late for Mahabharata sites so I decide to call off till my next visit.

Jain Temple in Hastinapur
Another temple that I couldn't visit
Hastinapur Wild Life Santuary at the one side of the Jambudweep
Tip: Jambudweep have excellent residential facilities for pilgrims. Besides there are numbers of Dharamshala in close vicinity. Surrounded by thick forest it is a perfect week-end gateway or can be covered in a day tour if reached early.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tracing the ancient roots of Mahabharata in space and time: Hastinapur, Part 1 (Vedic Religion)

Two greatest epic of our nation Ramayana and the Mahabharata, touches our soul and lives in many ways. Most of us grew with these stories of extraordinary courage, dedication, truth, betrayal and victory of good over bad. These stories have all aspects of life. So, completely fascinated by these epics I decided to trace the marks of Mahabharata in our time.


Going through various sites on net I tried to learn more about Hastinapur, one of the greatest kingdoms of ancient India. King Santanu who married to Goddess Ganga was the famous king of Hastinapur. After the death of the Santanu, Chitrangada became King of Hastinapura and he was succeeded by Vichitravirya. Vichitravirya had two sons, Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Dhritarashtra was born blind, therefore Pandu, the younger brother, ascended the throne.

Pandu did commit some mistake so he was forced to live into exile with his two wives Kunti and Madri. During their stay in forest, the two wives of Pandu, gave birth to five sons who became well known as the five Pandavas. Pandu passed away while they were still living in the forest. The sages brought up the five Pandavas during their early years.

After the death of Pandu, Dhritarashtra took over the rein and because of his blindness he was accompanied by his elders Bhisma, Guru Dronacharya and Guru Kirpacharya for day-to-day affairs related to kingdom. It is believed that Dhritarashtra had 100 sons who were known as Kauravas. The rivalry among Kauravas and Pandavas and the role of lord Krishna to justify the ‘truth’ and ‘dharma’ is all about the Mahabharata.
The Mahabharata discloses a rich civilization and a highly evolved society, which though of an older world, strangely resembles the India of our own time, with the same values and ideals.

Coming back to present, Hastinapur is situated between Merrut and Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. The NH-2 between Delhi and Merrut is a nightmare to drive. Most of the part is in pathetic condition and people living here have suicidal nature, so you actually need to equally watch the other side of the divider, because, a guy standing on other side of the road will suddenly start to walk and it is a mutual understanding between him and the drivers on the road, that he is not going to stop and it’s your responsibility to drive carefully. 
While reaching Merrut take the right side cut instead of toll booth that will go through bypass of Shastri Nagar. Take right turn from Mawana and from there a lush green route will lead to Hastinapur, some 40 km from Merrut.

Hastinapur is also said to be Kashi of Jain religion and today it is mainly visited by followers of Jainism and the locals of surrounding areas who came to see the well articulated temples of ‘Jambudeep’ and other temples, mainly for picnic purpose. However I’ll cover that in a separate part as it is not related to Mahabharata.


The first and foremost place of Mahabharata period is ancient “Pandaveshwar Mahadev Temple”.


Locals believe that it is the place where Pandavas came to worship the Lord Shiva. The place was later destroyed by Mughals, but the remains of Shivling are still there.

Remains of Shivling inside the temple
On the temple walls
 There is a Banyan tree inside the temple premise, which is said to be of same period. This place really has some strange feelings. It was feeling like Aleph, those who have read the latest book of Paulo Coelho’s “Aleph” can understand me. The temple is regularly visited by locals and they do pray here.


  Entire temple complex was surrounded by thick forest which is a part of Hastinapur national park. Locals are very scary of snakes which are in large number around the complex.



A few meters from here is the “Vidur kutir” and an ancient “Durga Devi Temple”.




The third place of that era is “Karn Temple”.


This temple is now trying to renovate by authorities. I talked to the priest of the temple and he was really disappointed by the way the ASI and state government is handling the issue. The priest “Shankar dev ji” told me that, till last year one person was used to hold the umbrella in order to perform the daily ritual due to heat and rain, as there was no roof on the temple.

Daily rituals and process of preserving our heritage is continued in silent manner
Finally UP Government made a room after continuous persuasion and the cost of this unfinished room on paper is more than Rs 12 lakh, thanks to their honesty and willingness to preserve our heritage.

Remains of Actual temple dome in nearby field
Till that I was getting late and priest warned me against the visit of “Draupadi Ghat” as it was in dense forest and the road was in bad condition due to rain. He also told me that there are places inside the forest where the Draupadi “cheer haran” was happened.
Since I was alone and it was already getting late so I started back thinking that who are the culprits of this negligence, the place which should be a great pilgrimage for Hindus are now well known because of Jainism.  Mughals did everything to ruin Hindu culture and so the British. But is it us? Who are not doing enough to protect our culture and heritage and one day it would only last in the pages of history.

Additional Info: Hastinapur Wild life Sanctuary is mentioned in most of the websites as a national park, and I was so excited that if I find a national park, that close to Delhi, then it would be my permanent week-end destination. But unfortunately the park is not open to public, although it contains a wide area joining Ghaziabad, Bijnor and other adjoining districts.

Continued...