Sun Temple Jharkhand : Being from the city of Patna, I have always seen a large number of people visiting the popular Sun Temple, Jharkhand. This temple is located on the Tata Road near Bundu. The temple architecture has the shape of a big chariot with eighteen wheels and seven lifelike horses that seem to be ready to take off for the journey. Surely, you won’t get simply mesmerized by the beauty of the Sun Temple, but also by the exquisite surroundings. Devotees visiting this temple take a dip in the lake close by, believed to be something that can wash away all sins.
Mandore Garden Temple Rajasthan : When I landed at Rajasthan, I felt like leaving my world behind and landed on a fantasy. I, especially loved spending time at the Mandore Garden Temple. Looked like a bygone setting in a natural environment. The turquoise waters of the pool surrounded with greenish meadows made me wonder if Rajasthan really is a dessert region!
Located in the midst of Rajasthan, Ajmer has to be arid but it’s enriching past is what makes it more intriguing. There is a lot of hustling and bustling of both Hindu as well as Muslim pilgrims to offer their prayers to the deity.
So, after a 22 hour long journey, I finally arrived in Ajmer in the night at around 8:20 pm. I was tired, but yet enthusiastic to start the journey of exploration the next day. My itinerary was fixed and my destination was also finalized, so I had to just find a good hotel to rest. I got various options like Haveli Heritage Inn, Deluxe Golden Hotel, Bhola Hotel, Hotel Ajmer Inn, Hotel RK, etc. However, I finalized upon Hotel RK as is boasts simple decor with a soothing ambience.
Next day, I was up early and the plan was to visit the famous Ajmer Jain Temple which was close to my hotel. Rich in architecture, this double storey Jain temple is also fondly called as Soniji Ki Nasiyan. As the entrance gate is made up of red sandstone, it is also known as ‘Red Temple’.
Built in the late nineteenth century, the main chamber has several gold-plated wooden figures that depict several important figures of the Jain religion. As it is gold, it is also known as the Swarna Nagari or ‘City of Gold’. Not only this, but this hall is painted in multi-color and the walls and ceilings are covered with glass. The temple is open for all between 8.30 am to 5.30 pm with a small entry fee of Rs. 10.
Once you enter the temple you get a chance to view the beautiful 82 feet high Manastambha. The central image is of Lord Rishabhdev who imparts true knowledge of life and humanity. It’s an icing on the cake for people who love art and architecture as the hall is also decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. To get in-depth knowledge, I also picked up a booklet which explained the entire place and cost just Rs. 15. Being a lover of historical places, this was one of the best places I visited!
The next destination in our list was the Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden Srinagar, which was also known as Model Floriculture Centre in the olden days. It is considered to be the largest of its kind in the entire continent. It is named after the first woman prime minister of the country and boasts of a wide range of tulips.
We were really spellbound by the massiveness of the garden and came to know that it was spread over an area of around 12 hectares. We had to travel towards the foothills of the Zabarwan Range, which also enabled us to have a mindboggling view of the renowned Dal Lake. It was Ghulam Nabi Azad, the former CM of the state, who had done all the hard work in conceiving, conceptualizing and finally creating the entire garden. It came into existence in the year 2006 and the main aim was to increase the scope of tourism and increase floriculture in the beautiful Kashmir Valley.
The Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden Srinagar is situated at a height of 5,600 feet above the ground. We were left speechless with the large number of tulips extending over the entire garden. We could see that the beauty of the massive garden was further enhanced by a number of Mughal Gardens such as Chashma Shahi and Nishat Bagh on different sides. It is located as if in the shadow of the massive mountain ranges near the Dal Lake.
Since it was in the end of summer, we could explore the garden very closely. The locals told us that the garden generally remained closed for the public during the winter season or during heavy rainfall. There is no doubt about the fact that the tulip show plays a great role in attracting a large number of tourists to the Kashmir Valley.
There were more than forty gardeners who were employed simply to look after the needs of the tulips. One of the gardeners told us that there is an art of picking up the bulbs. While some of the tulips mature early, some others take time before they are ready to be plucked. The time ran out and we were mesmerized by the beauty of the garden; it was getting late and we had to move on.
The adventurous sport activities at the Sanasar villages or rivers surely refreshed our bodies. I was tremendously excited to perform such activities after a long time. The next destination in our list was the Jama Masjid Mosque, which is located in the centre of the old city known by the name of Nowhatta. We were very happy to visit this place because as I have already pointed out that both of us are big fans of historical forts, monuments and buildings.
We knew that it was Sultan Sikandar, who had built the mosque in 1400 AD. His son, Zain ul Abidin also took efforts in extending the mosque. We were very impressed with the uniquely designed courtyard and the beauty of the Indo Saracenic architecture. Nevertheless, we were unable to keep a count of the number of elegantly crafted pillars made of wood.
The locals told us that there were a total of 370 such pillars. The serenity and the calmness of the ambience inside the mosque were worth noting as well. Despite being surrounded with a number of old markets where vendors were shouting at their full strength, the peace offered inside the mosque was simply awe inspiring.
We also came to know that the mosque is flocked by thousands of Islamic followers every Friday in order to offer prayers. The fact that the richness of the mosque is still intact after suffering a host of attacks is really commendable. It has suffered from fire attacks thrice and has been reconstructed every time. It was during the rule of Maharaja Pratap Singh that the last restoration was executed. The holiness of the mosque combined with its constructional magnificence makes it a must-visit tourist spot.
The mosque clearly represents a great architectural specimen, which has been standing tall even after resisting the troubles caused with the passage of time. It is extremely massive and has the requisite space to house over 33,000 people at the same time. It also has a square-shaped garden in the centre. The local people told us that there are times when around one lakh people offered prayers together.
Feeling contented, we walked out of the mosque to our next destination, which was Pari Mahal Srinagar.
The beauty of the fort and the surrounding place was still etched in my memory. Though I did not want to leave the place immediately, I followed my friend as we had to visit a few other places today; our next destination was the Raghunath Temple.
The entire temple complex is made up of seven different shrines associated with Hinduism, each having its own Sikhara. It holds the credit for being in the list of the largest temple complexes in this part of the country. The entire complex is built on an octagonal shaped raised platform with a height of 1.5 meter.
We came to know from the locals that the credit for the construction of the Raghunath Mandir Jammu is given to Maharaja Ranbir Singh and his father Maharaja Gulab Singh, who belonged to the clan of Jamwal Rajputs.
It has been in existence since the 1860s and acts as a host to a number of shrines with the presiding one being Rama who is considered to be one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu. We could easily spot the influence of the Mughal architecture in the construction of the temple. The complex of the temple was situated in Sui, which is at a distance of 18 km from the main city of Jammu.
There were spiral shaped towers equipped with spires plated with gold. The tower existing above the chief shrine however was constructed in the Sikh style. There were around 300 images well designed representing different deities embedded in the walls surrounding the shrines. We could also find themes representing Krishna, Vishnu, Sita and Ganesha from Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana in the paintings put on the fifteen panels surrounding the chief shrine. There were some paintings that throw light on the type of weaponry and attire used at the time of the construction of the temple.
The locals informed us about a sad incident, which took place in 2002 with some suicide bombers attacking the temple with the motive of destroying it with grenades. The resulting firing led to the death of many people. We could easily spot open cattle yards and residential buildings inside the closed space. The interiors of the main inner chamber are completely gold plated. By then, it was time and we had to move on.
Shankaracharya Hill Temple Srinagar : Just a beautiful temple set around breathtaking views. I climbed the 200 steps to the top of the temple and the view was just unexplainable. The feel of this place has of be experienced. It’s divine and rich history will bind your soul to this temple. The forest around are quite fascinating and the view of Dal Lake from the top is surely out of this world.
A visit, though official, to Amritsar was becoming fruitful; nonetheless, I realized that I simply could not vacation here – there was too much to know and see at any place I visit and the time we had was too little. The Akal Takht Amritsar, which was next in our agenda, is located in the Golden Temple complex and took us just five minutes to reach there.
Built by Guru Hargobind in 1606, the place constitutes a political institution, where temporal and spiritual issues are addressed. Interestingly, the name Akal Takht gives a meaning of the “Throne of Immortal”. I walked in and around admiring the architecture of the building. It looked a five-storey structure having a ‘gold-leafed dome’. The lime plaster and painted decorations gave a great look. Moreover, the paintings on the wall and ornamented ceilings showcase the exemplary work of the artisans.
No wonder, Amritsar has encouraged history and heritage-based tourism with many architectural buildings, most of them refurbished when they were damaged due to certain political reasons. I dug in to collect some details about the building. It was built at the place where there was a high mound, where Guru Hargobind played in his childhood. The term ‘Takhat’, which means the throne, represents the raised platform, used to sit and perform kingly duties by the Guru.
Today the ‘Jathedar’ is regarded as the highest spokesperson in the Akal Takht. They administer the duties upholding justice for the Sikh Panth. The place was renovated and looked in its present form was built by the Sikh on the traditional policy of Kar Seva and service.
The announcements of Hakamnamas, which are called writs, are made from the Akal Takhat. They help give clarification on any doctrines of Sikh religion, or offer guidance on some points you want to practice. Furthermore, it is religiously understood that everyone should follow the Akal Takhat.
Any sacrifices or services of exemplary nature done for the cause of Sikh community are recorded and appreciated time to time by the takhat.
The place has increasing number of visitors from many places and they try to learn the culture and practices of Sikh religion. It was getting late and we were quite tired and wanted to rest to perform our official duties the next day.
It took us couple of hours to freshen up and we were ready for our first visit in Amritsar. I had included a few historical sites in our agenda because I loved to visit them. Amritsar, a city with overactive streets, traffic and pollution – is of course in most tourists itinerary for its heritage places. Frankly speaking, our first visit was to Golden Temple, which was located just 12 km away from the hotel.
Our cab was ready and within no time we were off to the holy temple. It took us just twenty minutes to reach the place. Contrived by Guru Arjan, who was the fifth guru, the Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib, is the holy gurdwara of Sikhs. The gleaming beauty of the temple is enhanced by the surrounding water in the tank, which is called Amrit Sarovar where Amrit stands for nectar and Sarovar for pool.
We entered through one of the four doors, which gloriously represented the openness to other religions by Sikhs. The holy structure showcased a blend of Islamic and Hindu architecture with marbles and animal motifs. Furthermore, the engraved panels and dome are immaculately finished with gold, giving a stunning look. The temple was somewhat crowded with people from all walks of life. We had to wait for some time before we entered the gilded bridge.
Next, we entered the inner sanctum of the temple, where we heard the nonstop chanting of scripts from Guru Granth Sahib, which is the holy book of Sikh. We stood there and paid our respects and moved on to reach the ‘Sevadars’, who offered us the Prasad.
It was a mesmerizing experience that we lost track of time. We were guided to the Langar Hall, where we were served vegetarian meal. The food tasted really good. Before leaving the place, we also went to ‘Har ki Pauri’ to bow and collect nectar from the tank to take home.
Next, we moved on to visit the Central Sikh Museum in the first floor. I was thrilled to see large exhibits of paintings, which represented mainly the Sikh personalities who contributed to their religion. There were exhibits that elaborated on the history, struggles of Sikh.
It was getting late and we have to return to go to our next destination, which was Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.