Modhera Surya Mandir, a Poetry on Rocks!

Solanki dynasty is famous for their beautiful temple architecture and Modhera Sun Temple is one of their exquisite display. From Skanda and Brahma Puranas we get to know that the surrounding was known as Dharmaranya and Modhera was a village here, called as Modherak. Puranas also tell of a yagna done here by Lord Rama to purge himself from sin of killing a Brahmin, Ravana. According to Saura Purana this temple was originally made by Samba, Lord Krishna’s grandson and later rebuilt by King Bhimdeva of Solanki dynasty in 1026

I already gave the engineering part of the temple. [CLICK] Here’s the architecture and sculpture part. The Temple consists of three parts – First you have the Surya/Rama Kund, next the Sabha mandapa or the assembly hall and finally the Garbagriha with an attached Guda Mandapa.

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Image Courtesy – Google

Kund consists of the diagonally intersecting steps placed symmetrically on all four sides. Another unique feature is the presence of 108 shrines surrounding the Kund. 108 has always been sacred number for Hindus. Of them there are four major shrines dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva, Shitala Mata & Ganesha. The Sabha Mandapa is an example of stone craft at is best! It consists of 52 pillars symbolizing the no. of weeks in a solar year. Each pillar is a masterpiece depicting episodes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, war scenes, nritikas, musicians etc. Every surface of the Sabha Mandapa is intricately carved and you can watch it for hours yet feel like getting more! The Guda Mandap has sculptures of 12 Adityas or forms of Surya Dev symbolizing the 12 months in a solar year. Each Aditya has 7 horses as his vahana, representing the 7 colors that form white light. The entire structure of Guda Mandapa and Sabha Mandapa appears to float on an upturned lotus. Just above the lotus are 365 elephant sculptures representing 365 days of a year.

Every corner, every niche of the temple is painstakingly transformed into a canvas of beauty. The ornately carved columns, the intricately carved sculptures, everything unbelievably enthralling.  It was wealth that was reason for attack by Mohamad Ghazni and later by Khilji. With such devastating attacks we find ruins inside the temple yet what remains is extremely beautiful and glorifies love of art of Solankis.

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Modhera, an Engineering Marvel of Ancient India!

Modhera Sun Temple is a gem gifted to us by our ancestors. This is the oldest Sun Temple in India, built around 1026-1027 AD. The temple showcases not just beautiful sculptures but also tells us about advanced engineering knowledge of our ancestors. I would share the beauty & history of this temple in my next article and stick to the engineering part of ancient India here especially the earthquake Resistant Engineering.

This temple is situated at Mehsana district of Gujarat and the area falls under seismic zone IV. It has faced many historic earthquakes. But even though it got destroyed by plunderers, earthquake did no damage to the structure. Around 70s this temple restoration work was done by Government but all those new restoration parts got destroyed during 2001 severe Gujarat earthquake. The Old structure remained intact.

The temple has been built using locking system to make it earthquake resistant. The whole temple has been built without the use of any lime, cement, mud or any such thing as adhesive. Each stone slab has been interlocked with the adjoining ones in appropriate grooves and sealed with seasoned wood. The Temple was plundered by Ghazni & Khilji and those destroyed pieces shows the proof of this locking system. Here’s one from a broken wall.

1 Locking System

The temple made with lime stone slabs, were joined in a unique way. Groves were made in the stone slabs as given below. Each stone slab has been interlocked with the adjoining ones in appropriate grooves and then sealed with seasoned wood.
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Too many columns (pillars) and their unique construction is another earthquake resistant feature of the temple. The temple has three parts, the kund, the hall and the main temple sanctum and the latter two have many columns. Let’s take the Assembly Hall (Sabha mandap) first. The assembly hall of the temple has in total beautifully carved 58 columns. Each column represent each week of a year. This high number of columns helps to transfer load to the foundation. Top of it these columns are all well connected with the slabs. Connections well spread out so as make maximum load transfer.

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Saptarangi Dwarkadheesh ji

After Dwarkadheesh temple beautiful architecture (Click Here) lets come to Dwarkadhish ji himself, who is equally cute and beautiful. Time stops while you watch the Supreme Lord, such is his power. It is said the original Dwarkadheesh temple was built around 400BC, way before Christ was born by Krishna’s grandson. The idol installed then was a different one. There’s an interesting legend about the idol in the Dwarkadheesh temple. Once a girl named Badana was a regular visitor to the temple. Pleased by her devotion, the Dwarkadheesh one day walked out with her. But the priests suspected that Badana had stolen the idol and pursued her to get it back to the temple. Badana wanted to keep Lord with her so pleaded that she would give gold in proportion the weight of the idol and the priests accepted. The idol was placed in one side of the scale and to the surprise of all the priests, one single nose stud of Badana could equal the weight of the statue. Lord knew she had nothing so played the miracle. Just then an ethereal voice said the priests could dig in a particular place the next day to find a similar statue. When they hurriedly dug the place without waiting for the next day, they found only an incomplete statue which was installed in Dwarkadhish temple and seen to this day.

Dwarkadheesh ji is dressed in different colour clothes on different days. Monday Pink, Tuesday yellow, Wednesday green, Thursday Saffron, Friday White, Saturday Blue and Sunday Red. On special days some special colour is worn by Lord and routine is not followed. Since body of Lord Krishna is meghshyam & glittering like rainbow, maybe reason why the colour of he wears is “Saptarangi” like rainbow. Here’s Dwarkadheesh ji in all seven colour atires.

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Monday – Pink

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Tuesday – Yellow

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Pandrethan Temple, another ancient temple of Kashmir

Pandrethan is few miles from Srinagar at Badambagh. It was originally an old capital of Kashmir, founded by King Pravarsena in the 6th century AD as mentioned by Kalhana in his work Rajatarangini. The word Pandrethan is formed of “Purana” meaning “old” and “adhishthan” meaning “capital”. At Pandrethan is a beautiful stone temple, located not far from the road in a very low spring fed tank though its plinth is now submerged.

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The Entrance

The Pandrethan temple was built by Meru, minister to King Partha who ruled Kashmir from 921-931. The temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu and was named Meru Vardhana Swami. The design and evidences illustrate that the temple must have been a popular seat of pilgrimage in ancient times. Pandrethan finds proud mention in the Amar Nath Mahatmva, but now has lost its sacred associations. Continue reading

Shivkhori, the Mysterious Divine cave!

006J&K has many religious places for pilgrimage. The state at one time was the main centre of Shaivism sadhana and you get to see innumerable Shiva temple spread all around J&K. We know about Amarnath caves, what many are not aware of is the Shivkhori caves in Raesi district. Reasi is an ancient town of Jammu that was established by Raja Bhim Dev during the 8th Century and was also the erstwhile capital of Bhimgarh Estate. The caves are naturally formed where you see naturally formed deities like Shiva, Parvati, Kamdhenu, Trishul and so many. 004Though Shivkhori is not a very popular pilgrimage place to visit but it has its own importance. And a visit to the place takes our faith to another level.

The walk from the moment you enter the cave and reach the inner sanctum is sheer thrill. It is nothing short of a divine heavenly experience filled with adventure at every step. The pathway is too narrow at places and even low. You need to stoop low, crawl or bend sideways to move ahead. They have lights placed yet it is quite low and at many points it’s almost dark. Oxygen level also gets low as you enter deep into the cave. All factors together makes things bit suffocating inside. 002The cave is supposed to be protected by Naagraj Vasuki. Some say its protected by Sheshnaag. But one interesting thing to see is the walls of the cave. It looks exactly like a snake skin! Continue reading

Connecting with Achintya at the oldest Temple of Kashmir..!

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Beautiful scenery at the temple

On the banks of river Liddar in Pahalgam, Kashmir, is situated the ancient Mamalaka Shiva Temple. Liddar river divides into two branches at this point in Pahalgam and the temple lies on the bank of right branch. It is known as Mamaleshwar and was a popular destination for all pilgrims going to Amarnath. Now the temple is a protected one under ASI as its the oldest temple of Kashmir dating back to AD 400 and they have taken some steps to preserve this ancient temple of historical importance. This ancient temple finds itself in Kalhanas Rajatharangini.

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Majestic Himalayas and revered Kedareshwar!

The temple at Kedarnath enshrining the Jyotirling of Lord Shiva opens only 6 months a year (April-November). The priests then go to Urvimath, where the worship of Kedareshwar is continued during the winter season. The temple sits at the bottom of majestic Himalayas, peaks always covered under snow, it looks beautiful.

Amazing Ancient Architecture Engineering!

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Legend Behind Kedarnath Temple

Legend goes that Nara and Narayana – two incarnations of Vishnu performed severe penance here. Pleased with their devotion, Lord Shiva appeared in front of them and said that they may ask for a boon. Nar and Narayan requested Shiva to take up a permanent abode as a Jyotirling at Kedarnath so that all people who worship Shiva shall be freed from their miseries. According to yet another popular legend, Goddess Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with Lord Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar. Besides, the Pandavas are believed to have visited this area several times. Arjuna is believed to have come here to pray to Shiva to obtain the coveted Pashupata Astra. Continue reading

There’s Something Compelling about ‘Diyas’…

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There are fire crackers going off around me as I write these words even though Diwali is tomorrow. I took out all my diyas, collected last few years and kept safe. I have this habit of buying different kind of diyas, all shapes and sizes, some painted, others decorated with bright colours. And I keep few for next year.

 

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There is really something so compelling about these earthen lamps. Perhaps somehow they connect me to the earth. Lighting an oil lamp made of mud on Diwali, to me personally feels like somehow akin to rooted to mother earth. And not to mention that fragrance of oil, earth, soot and flame, I come across this smell in old temples that still use these oil lamps and haven’t yet resorted to ugly fluorescent lights. Continue reading

When the leaf falls, you know Maa is coming….

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I was sitting on the banks of Ganga at Belur Math. Far off I could hear the bells and conch. Bringing back many memories of many such evenings spent here. I was just back from Israel posting. A company which followed no human work hours, a boss who knew only to talk about codes, no holidays even to come home and top of it family & friends who felt I was deliberately ignoring them; all this had taken a toll mentally. And in this, for the second time my IPR was stolen by a colleague with blessings from top! There was numbness, memories flashing in slow motion. Boats passing by, crossing the Ganges ferrying people to Dakhineshwar but my thoughts were somewhere else. Continue reading

The Holy Lake Manasarovar!

Lake Mansarovar is a freshwater lake in the Tibet autonomous region. It is very close in distance to the sources of important rivers such as Brahmaputra, Karnali, Sutlej and Indus. The word “Manasarovara” originates from Sanskrit, which is a combination of the words “Manas” & “Sarovara”; manas meaning mind and sarovara meaning lake. According to the Hindu scriptures, the lake was first created in the mind of the Lord Brahma after which it manifested on Earth.

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When you reach Mansarovar Lake, the light blue expanse of water nestled amongst the high Himalayan Mountains looks heavenly.  One of the most serene and sublime beauty will be in front of you.  The first instinct was to go and touch the water and take a dip after the long arduous journey we had taken. Continue reading

Jhator -Gruesome but confronts Death directly!

Buddhist religion has three schools of thoughts or branches and all three have different focus but follow the basic teachings of Buddha. The first one is Theraveda Buddhism, the second, Mahayana Buddhism and the third being Vajrayana Buddhism. Vajrayana Buddhism, which is mainly followed by the Tibetans, is also known as the Tantric Buddhism due to its reliance on sacred texts called tantras. Of many other rituals, I will stick to one followed by them as part of burial after death, called as “Jhator”.

When death occurs, three forms of burial are used: cremation, water burial, and Jhator. Because of lack of wood/forest, cremation is almost absent in Tibet unless rich. Cities which have flowing rivers do follow the water burial. But majority Tibetans follow Jhator, which means “giving alms to the birds,” or Sky burial, a phrase coined by Europeans.

Tibetan Buddhists believe life is not over at death, but merely entering a rebirth. Monks emphasise this cyclical nature of existence to dispel the fear of death in Tibetan society and help people prepare for a new beginning. They believe that the corpse is nothing more than an empty vessel. The spirit, or the soul, of the deceased has exited the body to be reincarnated into another circle of life. Tibetan people witness sky burial and confront death directly. They know the impermanence of life!!

Interestingly, this is the same teaching that Lord Vasudev passes on to us in Bhagavat Gita, Chapter-2, Verse-22. वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि। तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही।। Meaning: As a person gives up old and worn out garments and accepts new apparel, similarly the embodied soul giving up old and worn out bodies verily accepts new bodies. Hence this physical body of ours is nothing when the soul leaves it. Continue reading

Journey of Swastika through years!

 The auspicious symbol of the swastika is very commonly used in Hinduism. It is usually a major part of the decoration for festivals and special ceremonies like weddings. The word ‘swastika’ is a Sanskrit word (‘svasktika’) meaning ‘It is’, ‘Well Being’, ‘Good Existence, and ‘Good Luck’. However, it is also known by different names in different countries – like ‘Wan’ in China, ‘Manji’ in Japan, ‘Fylfot’ in England, ‘Hakenkreuz’ in Germany and ‘Tetraskelion’ or ‘Tetragammadion’ in Greece.

The clockwise swastika is one of the 108 symbols of the god Vishnu as well as a symbol of the sun and of the sun god Surya. The anti-clockwise swastika (called a sauvastika) usually represents the terrifying goddess Kali, night and magic. However, this form of the swastika is not “evil” and it is the form most commonly used in Buddhism.

Vedas are possibly the oldest sacred texts and you find mentions of Swastika in Rig Veda, Atharva Veda and even Yajur Veda. Swastika has always been with the sanatan dharma. But when you do research on its journey, you realise how this has been prevalent from ages in different religion and civilizations. How and why did so many diverse countries and cultures, across many eras, use the same symbol and apparently with the same meaning, I do find it intriguing. In West, Swastika is now more associated with Nazis and Hitler. But use of it can be seen long before that and by different religion. What was common was the fact that everyone considered it as symbol of good luck. And it do proves a point – Humanity brings every religion together.

North Pole Star is called Dhruva Nakshatra in Sanskrit literature. Saptarishi are seven stars of the Big Dipper named after seven Rishis in our Vedic scriptures. North Pole Star is the center of Kalachakra around which Saptarshi Mandala revolves around a fixed centre on clockwise direction. Through the four seasons, the SaptaRishis form a swastika in the sky. I think this is the first Swastika of this planet earth.

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Mathematics Behind Dwadash Jyotirlings

When you look nature closely you realise Nature is more of an animated mathematical constructs. And when you start understanding and pondering on it, it leads to a new beauty and astonishment. It leads to a greater understanding of my place in the scheme of things in this creation! It’s hard to wrap your head around that animals, flowers, trees, mountains and galaxies and universe; even our bodies are nothing more than self-replicating fractals of an interactive biological software program. Yes that is how it is!!

Bee hive has a geometric pattern, migrating birds travel in perfect formation just as schools of fish do in the ocean. Most of all these blueprints are based on the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci spiral in this creation. The Golden ratio and the Fibonacci spiral Fibonacci_Spiraloccur everywhere in nature: in the spirals of DNA and in the dimensions of the earth and moon and planets. (Click Here to know about Fibonacci Numbers – LINK)  No matter where we look we see fractal geometry. An interesting example of fractal geometry is the human finger. A finger has three joints and is a fractal of our arm which also has three joints; and so it goes, big or small, repetitive fractal patterning is the same. Personally I feel nothing is random in nature, and nothing happens by chance. Continue reading

Five Kailash Yatra!

For past many years I had this wish of visiting all the five Kailash. It is said this gives you salvation. Frankly speaking I don’t think just visiting these Kailash can give you salvation, there’s lot more you’ll need to do. Getting salvation I feel is not so easy.

The Five Kailash Yatras are able to transfer devotees’s physical journey into a spiritual experience, a journey in search of truth. The five Kailash Yatras is perhaps one of the most arduous calling pilgrimages. It entails long pilgrimages to five holy sites in upper reaches of Himalayas to seek the blessing of Lord Shiva who, as per the Hindu scriptures and legends, supposedly reside on the holy mountain peaks. Surrendering yourself through Bhakti lets you experience the oneness of “Jiva and Shiva”, the union of jivatma with parmatma!

  1. Shrikhand Mahadev or Shrikhand Kailash

When Bhasmasur got the boon from Lord Shiva that he can turn anyone into ash by placing his palm on anyone’s head, the Asura wanted to test if the boon really works by testing it on Lord Shiva. So Lord Shiva started running from this Asura. Finally Lord came to Shrikhand and sat down in meditation in the 50ft stone shivling till Lord Vishnu came and killed Bhasmasura by tricking him in putting his hand on his own head. Later Mata Parvati did long Akhanda Upasana to break his Samadhi, whereby she filled Nainsar Lake with her tears; Lord Shiva came out after breaking the shivling. Shrikhand Mahadev is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Its peak is 5155 meters high from main sea level. The journey passes through beautiful mist-laden forests filled with beautiful flowers and huge trees. Then the journey enters the difficult Himalayan terrain where you need to even cross few glaciers.

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Shrikhand Kailash

  1. Kinnaur/Kinner Kailash

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