J&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. Though 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. The 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!
River Doodh Ganga flows at this point and water of this river trickles inside the cave. When you reach the inner sanctum you see a swayambhu shivling, interestingly just above it you see water from river Doodh Ganga dropping over this shivlng nonstop. Here you will find natural impression on rocks which would resemble not just Lord Shiva but also Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesh, Nandi, Kamdhenu, Sudarshan Chakra etc. It’s a place where all Gods are present in their natural form. In this cave there’s another cave which directly goes to Amarnathji according to a saint who lived there named as Baba Ramesh Giri. It is now closed as some sadhus who dared to go ahead never returned.
As legends go that pleased with the demon Bhashmasur, Lord Shiva had bestowed him with a power that could make him kill anyone by keeping his hand on its head. Bhasmasur wanted to kill Lord Shiva to test the boon. So Lord Shiva fought with him but could not kill Bhasmasur. Fearing his wrath Lord Shiva threw his Trishul that made indents in the earth’s crust creating the now famous Shivakhori (Khori means Cave) and entered in with Maa Parvati and Nandi for safety and asked Lord Vishnu to help him out. So it was Lord Vishnu who then killed the asur through trick. Once the demon was killed Lord Vishnu entered the cave along with all the other Hindu Deities and later returned back home. According to devotees, the incredible amounts of natural formations found inside the caves of Shivkhori are considered the holy images of those same Deities.
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.
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!
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 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.
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
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
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.
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
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
Maakan churakar jisne khaaya, Bansi bajakar jisne nachaya
Kanha hai uska naam, Brijwasiyo ka dil jisne lubhaya
Ek haath mein murli sohe, Duje haath chakra sudarshan
Kanha hi hain jinke ungli pe, Naache vishaal Govardhan.
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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 occur 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
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!
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.
Many think the Om Parvat is in itself the Adi Kailash. That is not the case. Om Parvat is located near Nabhidhang while Adi Kailash is located at different place, near Sin La pass and near Brahma Parvat. As per mythology, Pandavas had stayed here with Sage Vyaasa and meditated for a long period. Even Ravana, a great devote of Shiva, is said to have come from far off Lanka to pray to Lord Shiva here. This Kailash is considered to be the oldest adobe of our Lord Shiva and Parvati.
Adi Kailash area is full of great natural beauty, peace and serenity. Though in a very remote area, the Darshan (view) of Lord Shiva’s abode is well worth the effort it takes to get there. With the roar of urban life receding to the background one finds the healing quietude of this region conducive enough to turn inward and be one’s own listener.
The trek was really treacherous at places especially when you reach Budhi passing Malpa. It was like a test of our endurance. At Malpa we did stop for few minutes to pray for the souls of all those travelers who died while in sleep during the Uttarakhand deluge after a cloud burst.
There are many rituals and traditions that we follow blindly without really knowing the true reason behind them. And one I would address today is connected to Durga Puja, especially the making of idol. So many times I have visited the Kumartuli of Kolkata just to watch the Kumors making different idols of Gods and Goddesses. Kumortolas across Bengal is most busy before Durga Puja when they are busy making n-number of idols of Maa, each one as beautiful as the other.
But this idol making of Durga has a custom, soil collected from a prostitutes home is used to partially make the idol. This soil is called “Punno Maati” or the pure soil. It’s said that when a man enters the porch of a prostitute, the “Nishiddo Palli” meaning the forbidden territory, he leaves behind outside all his purity and virtues. Hence the soil outside is considered pure. There’s another view that because Maa does not make difference among human beings. So the soil from outside a prostitute’s home is used to show inclusiveness. The destitute sections of society are shunned by all and through this process; it makes them feel a part of society and shows them that they too belong to the world as much as the others. Continue reading
The temple city of Somnath or Prabhas Patan is situated in the state of Gujarat on the Arabian Sea. This is the first among the twelve Jyotirlings. Since ancient times, Prabhas Patan has been a pilgrimage center, being the confluence of the mythological Saraswati, Hiranya and Kapila. Legend has it that Lord Shiva’s Kalbhairav linga is situated at Prabhas. It is also associated with the moon as the Moon God is also said to have worshipped this Shivling. This is also the reason why this temple is popularly known as Somnath, the one named after the moon. The present temple, Kailash Mahameru Prasad is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture and reflects the inherent skill of sompuras, Gujarat’s master masons. It has the shikhara, the Garbhagriha, the sabha mandap and the nritya mandap.
On the Southern side of the temple, on the wall at the sea shore, there is a pillar. It is called “Baanstambh” बाणस्तंभ्. On the top of the pillar is placed a globe of Earth and an arrow pierces through it. On the pole is inscribed “Aasmudrant Dakshindhuvparyant Abaadhit Jyotirmarga”. It means If you start travelling from Somnath Temple towards South in Arabian Sea, you will not meet any land until you reach the South Pole or the Antarctica. The temple has been built in such a position that there is no land between the Somnath temple and Antarctica.
All those who follow Durga Puja are aware of the different rituals that are followed during these 10days puja. There is a significance and reason behind every single ritual that is practiced during Durga Puja. All these rituals have a mythological story behind it which many of us are unaware of
Goddess Durga descends from her heavenly abode in Kailash to visit her devotees on earth every year. She comes with her children Devi Lakshmi, Devi Saraswati, Lord Kartik and Lord Ganesha.
Devi Paksha rituals start from Mahalaya and people do Tarpan on the day. Mahalaya means “Maha” meaning Big and “Laya” meaning Destruction. It is the day when there was the big war between the Devtas, Rishis with the Asuras. The war started on the first day of the waning moon in the month of Bhadra and ended on amavasya or Mahalaya as we call the day. Many Devtas and Rishis died in the hands of asuras. Devtas and Rishis are considered to be our forefathers hence the ritual of Tarpan. We pray for the peace for our entire forefather’s souls’. Continue reading