Travelogue – Series 14… Junagadh, Gir Forest, Somnath, Dwarka…

In continuation of my Travelogue Series…

During my recent travels – discovered “Incredible India” and taking the opportunity to share my awesome experiences of  our rich Indian Culture through my blogs…..

An exciting, slightly hectic but rejuvenating short trip from Junagadh in Gujarat to Somnath, Gir Forest and Dwarka – various pilgrim centres and wildlife, beaches !!

Shree Ganesh is the first to be worshipped before beginning any new project or venture as he is the destroyer of obstacles (Vighnaharta).  We began our journey in our own vehicle with close family and friends from Vadodara to Junagadh…

First Stop : KOTH Ganesha Temple (Ganpatpura Ganpati Temple);  a famous Hindu temple near Koth village in Dholka taluka of Ahmedabad district of Indian state Gujarat. Also known as Ganpatpura because of this Ganpati temple; situated at distance of 40 km the Ahmedabad city. The main idol of lord ganesh is more than 6 ft of height;   On the date of Vikram Samvat 933’s Ashad Vad 4th, Sunday, while digging in the land near tree’s and shrubs in Hathel Lord Ganesha’s idol was found with Golden Anklets, Kundal in ears, Crown on Head and Kandora on Waist. on that day there was an argument among the leaders of the villages Koth, Rojka and Vankutaas as to who will take the idol of Lord Ganesh.  They decided to put the idol in cart without ox and let it go where the lord wishes. The cart without ox stopped at Ganpatipura where shepherd “Dudo” had established Shaktimata of Gokul. Lord Ganesha’s cart stopped there and the idol came down oneself from the cart. So from then onwards the land was known as Ganapatipura. The same date and day is found embossed in Arnej But. The name Arnej has been named after the pujari Ambaram Pandit. On that day this literature was written and given to barot.

Reached late night at Junagadh… early morning left for Gir Forest to watch Lions in their natural habitat !! We stayed 2 nights / days at the hotel in Junagadh close to Girnar Hills:  The city is the 7th largest in Gujarat, located at the foot of the Girnar hills, 355  km south west of state capital Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad. Literally translated, Junagadh means “Old Fort”. An alternate etymology gives the name as coming from “Yonagadh”, literally “City of the Yona (Greeks),” referring to the ancient inhabitants of the city under the Indo-Greek Kingdom. It is also known as “Sorath”, the name of the earlier princely state of Junagadh; After a brief struggle between India and Pakistan, Junagadh joined India on 9 November 1947. It was a part of Saurashtra state and later Bombay state. In 1960, after the Maha Gujarat movement, it became part of newly formed Gujarat state…

Major attractions : Girnar Hills, Mahabbat Maqbara, Darbar Hall Museum,  Bhavnath Mahadev Temple at the footsteps of the Girnar Hill,  Patan Gate, Damodar  Hari / Revati Balaram Temple, Damodar Kund, Wellington Dam,  Gir National Park / Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhavpur Beach …

As part of the The Bhavnath Fair (Feb/Mar) festival, naked sadhu monks offer prayers at the Bhavnath Mahadev temple and bathe in the sacred water tank..

Girnar Hills is one of the oldest mountain which has 10000 stairs to be climbed to and fro. Datta temple is located above..

Gir National Park in Gujarat is the last abode of the Asiatic Lions in the world & has a vast collection of wildlife – some 200 species of birds, 37 species of reptiles, alongside mammals such as deer, lions, leopards, etc.  The  Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Sasan Gir, is a forest and wildlife sanctuary near Talala Gir in Gujarat, India. It is located 43 km north-east of Somnath, 65 km south-east of Junagadh and 60 km south-west of Amreli. Established in 1965, with a total area of 1,412 km2 of which 258 km2 is fully protected as national park and 1,153 km2 as wildlife sanctuary. It is part of the Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests eco-region.

Madhavpur beach is on the highway from Somnath after Chorwad on the Porbunder Dwarka highway… nice view along the highway from dwarka to madhavpur via porbandar.

Next Somnath… here we stayed back one night at hotel

The Somnath temple located in Prabhas Patan near Veraval in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat, is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot of Gujarat.  Reconstructed several times in the past after repeated destruction by several Muslim invaders  and Portuguese, the present temple was reconstructed in Chaulukya style of Hindu temple architecture and completed in May 1951. The reconstruction was envisioned by Vallabhbhai Patel and was completed under K. M. Munshi, the then head of the temple trust. The temple is considered sacred due to the various legends connected to it. Somnath means “Lord of the Soma”, an epithet of Shiva.

The site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times on account of being a Triveni sangam (the confluence of three rivers — Kapila, Hiran and Sarasvati).   Soma, the Moon god, is believed to have lost his lustre due to a curse, and he bathed in the Sarasvati River at this site to regain it. The result is the waxing and waning of the moon, no doubt an allusion to the waxing and waning of the tides at this sea shore location.  The name of the town Prabhas, meaning lustre, as well as the alternative names Someshvar and Somnath  (“The lord of the moon” or “the moon god”) arise from this tradition

Triveni Ghat in Somnath is one such spot in Somnath where three Rivers namely Hiran, Kapil and Saraswati meet with the Arabian Sea !!

Bhalka Tirtha (Bhalka Pilgrimage) (Hindi: भालका तीर्थ) located in the Prabhas Patan near Veraval in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is the place where Krishna was hit by an arrow shot by a hunter named Jara, after which he is said to have left the earth for the heavenly abode, an act referred to in the Puranas as Shri Krishn Neejdham Prasthan Leela ; Bhalka Teerth is situated almost 4 kilometers away from the Somnath temple.

According to Mahabharata, the Kurukshetra war resulted in the death of all the hundred sons of Gandhari. On the night before Duryodhana’s death, Krishna visited Gandhari to offer his condolences. Gandhari felt that Krishna knowingly did not put an end to the war, and in a fit of rage and sorrow, Gandhari cursed that Krishna, along with everyone else from the Yadu dynasty, would perish after 36 years. Krishna himself knew and wanted this to happen as he felt that the Yadavas had become very haughty and arrogant (adharmi), so he ended Gandhari’s speech by saying “tathastu” (so be it).

After 36 years passed, a fight broke out between the Yadavas, at a festival, who killed each other. His elder brother, Balarama, then gave up his body using Yoga. Krishna retired into the forest and started meditating under a tree. The Mahabharata also narrates the story of a hunter who becomes an instrument for Krishna’s departure from the world. The hunter Jara, mistook Krishna’s partly visible left foot for that of a deer, and shot an arrow, wounding him mortally. After he realised the mistake, While still bleeding, Krishna told Jara, “O Jara, you were Vali in your previous birth, killed by myself as Rama in Tretayuga. Here you had a chance to even it and since all acts in this world are done as desired by me, you need not worry for this”. Then Krishna, with his physical body ascended back to his eternal abode, Goloka vrindavan and this event marks departure of Krishna from the earth. The news was conveyed to Hastinapur and Dwaraka by eyewitnesses to this event. The place of this incident is believed to be Bhalka, near Somnath temple.

According to Puranic sources, Krishna’s disappearance marks the end of Dvapara Yuga and the start of Kali Yuga, which is dated to February 17/18, 3102 BCE.

Next Dwarka.. we stayed back for 2 nights at the hotel

Dwarka is an ancient city in the northwestern Indian state of Gujarat. It’s known as a Hindu pilgrimage site. The ancient Dwarkadhish Temple has an elaborately tiered main shrine, a carved entrance and a black-marble idol of Lord Krishna. Dwarka Beach and nearby Dwarka Lighthouse (Shivrajpur Beach) offer views of the Arabian Sea. Southeast, Gaga Wildlife Sanctuary protects migratory birds and endangered species like the Indian wolf.  Dwarka is home to important temples like the Rukmini Devi Mandir,  Gomti Ghat, Nageshwar Jyothirlinga Temple, etc.

The famous Dwarkadhish Mandir houses the Dwarka Math (Monastery), one of the four religious centres (i.e. char dham). Near the city is an island called Bet Dwarka where the family of Lord Krishna is said to have once lived. You will also find a lighthouse on the seashore.

Known for its shrine of Lord Krishna, Dwarka is believed to have been the first capital of Gujarat. Located in the Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat, Dwarka is part of the Char Dham pilgrimage and is also one of the seven ancient cities (Sapta Puris). Also known as Dwaravati, Dwarka is derived from the words ‘dwara’, meaning door and ‘ka’ refers to Brahma. Hence, Dwarka means the gateway to Brahma or Moksha.   After leaving Mathura,  Lord Krishna established his kingdom at Dwarka on the banks of Gomti River. Legend has it, after the death of Lord Krishna, the city of Dwarka submerged under the sea. It is said that the city was rebuilt six times and the present city is the seventh.   A fortified wall, extending more than half a mile has also been unearthed. The present day Dwarka is a prominent pilgrimage site and boasts of several shrines. Among the temples, the 2000-year-old Dwarkadheesh temple is the most notable one. Besides its temples, the city is also popular for its beaches. Scuba diving to see the underwater remains of Dwarka is a popular activity here.

Dwarka is as old as the history of India. It was the seat of Sri Krishna after He quit Mathura, His maternal home, to come and reign here. Since it has been held as holy for a long time it has gradually accumulated, over the years, a large number of religious monuments and institutions that today make it one of the most revered spots in Hinduism. .   The main Dham temple houses Ranchchodji, another name for Lord Krishna who time and often fled from the battlefield under unfavorable circumstances to return again another day and win. “Ran” means “War” while “Chod” means “Running away”. There is also a temple to Lord Krishna’s wife Rukmini, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lakshmi….

Also resident near Dwarka is the Jyotirlinga temple of Nageshwar.

Adi Shankaracharya, one of the most learned and sanctified personalities in Hinduism, built one of his four maths here.

Gopi Talab (Gopi Pond) – Dwarka :  It is 21 km from Dwarka and 5 km from Nageshwar Jyotirlinga temple.    Story is related with Arjuna. After the battle at Kurukshetra, Arjuna thought himself to be the best warrior of the world. To show him his place, Lord Krishna asked him to escort his queens to Bet Dwarka. On the way, just near this pond, Arjuna was attacked by people of Kaba community, and Arjuna was defeated. The queens were shocked at this and died in this pond. So it is called Gopi Talav. The famous phrase ‘Kabe Arjun luntiyo,vohi dhanush vohi ban’ reflects this incident.

Gopi Talab is a small pond and the sandal like yellow sand is known as Gopi Chandan. The devotees take Gopi Chandan, believing it to be very good for skin diseases.   According to Vaishnava tradition, gopi-chandana, or the sacred soil from Dwaraka or Vrnadavan, is applied on the body in twelve places while reciting mantras to Lord Vishnu. This process purifies one’s body, designating it as a temple of the Lord.  Besides purification, the tilak also offers the wearer protection from ghosts, evil influences, bad dreams, accidents and many other things. It keeps one’s mind calm and allows one to constantly remember Lord Krishna. The sacred dust of vrndavan is said to have touched the lotus feet of Sri Krishna’s exclusive devotees and is worship able even by Sri Krishna himself.

Bet Dwarka or Shankhodhar is an inhabited island at mouth of Gulf of Kutch situated 3 km (2 mi) off the coast of Okha, Gujarat, India. The island is measured northwest to southeast in 13 km (8 mi) with an average 4 km (2 mi) in east-west direction. It is a strip of sand and stone situated 30 km (19 mi) north of town of Dwarka;    Bet Dwarka is considered a part of the ancient city in Indian epic literature Dvārakā, the abode of Krishna, found in Mahabharata and Skanda Purana.   Bet Dwarka can be reached by ferry service from Okha.

Nageshvara Jyotirlinga is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiva Purana.    According to Shiv Mahapuraan, Brahma (The Creator) and Vishnu (The Preserver) once had a disagreement about which of them was supreme. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as an immeasurable pillar of light, the Jyotirlinga.  Vishnu and Brahma parted company to determine the extent of each end of the pillar. Brahma, who had set off upward, lied that he had discovered the upper end of the pillar, but Vishnu, who had gone in the direction of the base of the pillar, admitted that he had not. Shiva then appeared as a second Jyotirlinga and cursed Brahma, telling him that he would have no place in the ceremonies, though Vishnu would be worshipped until the ‘end of eternity’.    The Jyotirlinga is the supreme indivisible reality from which Shiva appears.  Jyothirlinga shrines commemorate this time when Shiva appeared.   It was believed that there were originally sixty-four jyothirlingas. Twelve are considered to be especially auspicious and holy. Each of the twelve sites takes the name of the presiding deity and each is considered a separate manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary deity is a lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the Shiva’s infinite nature.

The twelve jyothirlinga are:

  1. Somnath in Gujarat,
  2. Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh,
  3. Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh,
  4. Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh,
  5. Kedarnath in Himalayas,
  6. Bhimashankar in Maharashtra,
  7. Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh,
  8. Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra,
  9. Vaidyanath at Deoghar in Jharkhand,
  10. Nageshvara Jyotirlinga near Dwarka in Gujrat,
  11. Rameshwar at Rameswaramin Tamil Nadu
  12. Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra

End of 6 days ..back home, feeling re-charged, spiritual….back to normal routine !!!

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4 thoughts on “Travelogue – Series 14… Junagadh, Gir Forest, Somnath, Dwarka…

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