Thursday, August 23, 2012

My visit to Somnath, Nageshwarnath and Dwarkadheesh Temples

August 16 2012
Boarded jet konnect flight to Ahmedabad. Flight took off at about 10:50 AM
Landed at ahmedabad aiport at about 2:30 pm. Nice airport luggage was already on belt when I arrived at ARRIVALS.
Pre-paid taxi counter is available at Arrival lounge as also auto rickshaw.
I had to go to Paldi chau rasta from where all buses leave Ahmedabad. Pre-paid auto rickshaw counter wanted me to pay Rs.350 but I went on outside the airport and found an auto guy who agreed to take me to Paldi for Rs.200.
It was hot and I was a bit indecisive whether to check into a hotel or to leave for Somnath rightaway.
Reached Paldi around 3 o'clock and started inquiring about buses to Somanath. I was told that Patel Tours and Travels and Eagle Travels were the biggest operators but they did not have buses to Somnath starting in the afternoon. Then I went to Mahasagar Travels agent. He suggested I go to Junagadh by AC bus and from there Somnath would be much closer and I could take another bus to reach.
I paid the agent Rs.300 and he gave me a printed ticket to Junagadh for an AC bus.
I had some food already packed from Lucknow so I immediately boarded the bus. I paid the auto guy who was really helpful all the while and brought me a bottle of mineral water too. I also tipped him a little bit.
Bus started at 3:45 pm.
It was a video coach bus and he played popular Hindi movies.
Bus passed through Rajkot and other cities which I did not make not of.
It also stopped midway on a big dhaba kind of place though much cleaner than normal dhabas and much bigger in size, also more expensive. Place also had clean toilets.
Bus driver drove on and on except for stopping to take in more passengers who had booked their tickets online.
We reached Junagadh at about 10 pm.
We alighted from the bus and a mini bus was already waiting for us.
The bus was to take people to interior of Junagadh. Inside the bus I happened to spot a Bengali guy, a young boy. He told me to stay overnight at one of the hotels near bus stand less than half a km away and then start for Somnath the next day. I took his suggestion and started on foot. I was really tired and wanted to fall down on any bed I could get hold of. I reached the bus station and bang opposite it was a lodge named Shri Ram Lodge. It is bang opposite Junagadh Bus station however a very budget hotel.
I had my doubts whether they would be having AC rooms but it appeared that they did have one room with AC.
I checked out the room, there was something cosy about it and the AC worked! Mistake I made was not checking out the toilet which turned out to be a bit dirty. I was dead tired as I said before I paid him and advance of Rs.800 of which Rs. 100 was refundable.
I told him to wake me up at 6:30.
17 August 2012
Woke up next day due to the hotel guy's banging at my door. Immediately got ready had no breakfast just two cups of tea. Tea cup in Gujrat is about half the size in UP but cost is same. You can take the tea home when the tea vendor packs it in a polythene tube. In fact he pours it down the tube with a funnel. I found this very funny !!
Bus started soon, a non-AC bus but people said I would hardly notice due to being near the sea, they were correct and in any case there are no AC buses plying between Junagadh and Somnath.
Junagadh to Somnath is about 90 km.
The road is good and bus was comfortable.
I had been advised to stay at Veraval less than ten km from Somnath but I decicded to go directly to Somnath.
Bus dropped us at Prabhas (patan??) from there I took a shared auto to the temple.
It being last day of Gujrati Shrawan police stopped the auto about 1 km from temple near Lilavati Guest House belonging to Somnath Trust. If possible one should book room online in advance in this guest house it is cheaper. I however had done no such thing.
It was painful to drag along my stroller attache for a km specially when I had a laptop bag full of stuff.
I bought a new pair of slippers as I had not brought along any. The slipper guy told me about a hotel nearby .
I reached the said hotel but he had no rooms at least no AC rooms. I was a bit angry and frustrated then I found a young guy, the type who take people to hotels. He promised to take me to a Hotel with AC rooms near the temple. Having no option I followed him. He showed me two or three rooms which I did not find good. Finally he took me to Hotel Sharda who had a huge room vacant, the only AC room vacant at thattime. Catch was that it had yet not been vacated. I wanted to catch the 12 PM aarti and it was already 11:30 AM. He had me taken to another room where I quickly changed and had a bath and left my stuff in . Neither camera nor mobile phones are allowed inside temple.
I quickly readied myself and left for the temple.
The crowd was extremely well managed. There was a depot for depositing luggage and foot wear but I did not go there I just left my slippers outside the temple like many others had done. From then on it took only about 10 minutes to reach the temple. Just as I entered the temple the aarti started. If you miss this aarti, be sure that you have missed something divine. Like in Rameshwaram temple you have to do darshan from afar you cannot go near the Shiv Lingam. I wish it was otherwise. Also you are not allowed to stay for more than a few seconds before Shiv Lingam and will be showed out by somnath trust staff if you overstay. I went outside the the main temple but within hearing distance of big aarti drum. A shehnai is also played along with drums.
On my way out I bought parshad which is sold at a designated kiosk by temple staff.
I was very hungry by now so I immediately left for Sardar Restaurant in Lilavati Guest House campus. Food here is expensive but really delicious and the ambience is superb.
Here i met Nepali students who came from Nepalgunj on India-Nepal border. I talked on phone and by my accent the Nepali student who worked as manager of restaurant immediately understood that I was from Lucknow. He lamented that he knew nobody in Lucknow otherwise he would not have had to travel so very far from his home to work. I assured him that I would give work to anyone he would care to refer to me. I gave him my mobile number.
After this I went back to Hotel Sharda and swapped my room. The new room was huge really meant for four people. It was tolerably clean with TV and huge space for putting things in.
Tea was made inside the hotel itself this I found very convenient as I am hugely dependent on tea.
I tried to catch some sleep but after some effort I gave it up and strolled out.
The sea near Somnath temple is lovely and one can stand on the rocks piled up against the sea for hours on end. It is not a cluttered beach very few pilgrims at a given point of time. Beside this pile of rocks is the regular beach which is crowded with ppl sipping a drink or even venturing out into the sea waves. coconut water , cold drink, snacks and sea shell mementos are sold on this beach.
Afraid that it could rain I went back into the hotel and watched some news on TV .
I again visited the temple for the 7 am Aarti. It was again a very smooth darshan. No pushing and shoving and no rush.
This time I sat on one of the benches facing the sea inside temple complex and did mala jaap.
Temple closes at about 9:30 PM in sharp contrast to Jyotirlingas like Mahakaleshwar and Vishwanath which are open almost througout the day and night.
After this I went again to Sardar restaurant and had dinner.I also had fried rice and roti and sabzi packed. I always do this before starting on a journey and I really thanked myself for this later on.
The bus station is near the temple and the inquiry guy told me  that a bus to Dwarka, my next destination, would start at 6:30 AM in the morning. Of course a non-AC bus since AC buses did not ply between Somnath and Dwarka
Reached hotel and after watching TV and packing up my things I went to sleep.
 18th August
Started from Hotel Sharda at 6o’clock reached Bus station just a few buildings away. Inquiry guy said at the bus station that bus will leave at 6:30 am. Bus did come and leave at allotted time but I was not on it reason being that I have not mastered the fine art of pushing and jostling and elbowing one’s way into a government buses.
 It was suggested to me that I go to Veraval and wait for another bus which would arrive at 7 am. I took an auto and went onto Veraval and waited. A bus did come for Dwarka but it was the same bus that I could not get into. 
There was a group of financially weak students there too facing the same plight. We inquired about private buses but none were available. Then a mini bus guy suggested we first take a mini bus to Porbandar and from there take another bus to Dwarka. This is what we did. 
I and those seven people got into a rickety mini bus which took us to Porbandar . It was a beautiful coastal road with strong breeze blowing. But we were cramped for space so a ride of nearly four hours was a torture.
 At Porbandar the bus guy dropped us near bus station . From there we took an auto and went to bus station. Just as we got there a bus for Dwarka came inside the bus station. 
We got onto this bus which had become  fully vacant due to most of the passengers alighting. When the bus started we heaved a sigh of relief. It was again near the coast and cool breeze blowed. 
We reached Dwarka at around 1:15 pm and were shocked to learn that the temple had closed and would open only at 5:30 pm. 
Temple of Dwarkadheesh closes at 12:30 pm.
I was deeply worried as I was very very far from Ahmedabad and had to catch the plane back to Lucknow in the afternoon the next day.  
We inquired about Nageshwar Nath and Bet Dwarka thinking of doing these in the meantime . We were told that buses charged only Rs.70 for the whole tour. 
We went in an auto to inquire about these buses but apparantely they were all full. At this point the group of seven told me to take a special auto and go on forward on my way and they would stay back and manage somehow.
 I got an auto for Rs.600 both ways . I got onto the auto and heaved a sigh of relief. It took me to Nageshwar Nath about 16 km from Dwarka. Nageshwar Nath ji mandir was in a dilapidated condition but Late Gulshan Kumar had it renovated and a gigantic statue of Lord Shiva was installed there by him.
 Here I again met the same guys who helped me in getting darshan quicker. 
As we drew nearer the temple I bought gangajal and Prasad from the vendors there. I was disappointed to see that one had to do darshan only from a distance as in Somnath but those guys I had travelled with pointed to me that some people were going near the shivalingam so I inquired from two Pandits sitting there and they said I had to pay Rs.210 to go near shivalingam I paid and started to go in but they said first I have to change into a dhoti, so I went and changed into a dhoti and poured some gangajal on myself as I had not taken a bath.
 I was allowed to touch the shivalingam covered in silver except for a small window from where i touched it. It was a very old shivalingam with stone highly corroded. No body checked me I also offered bel patra and gangajal . 
I was so overcome by emotion that I clutched at the feet of two staff members there. Even they felt embarrassed but at that point of time I did not know how to thank them. One of them perhaps the Mahant gave me a special picture of Nageshwarnath Ji. It was the only picture I could acquire and why you would know later.
I also bought two bags of prasad from prasad kiosk which i later distributed to people back in Lucknow.
From this point the auto took me to Bet Dwarka jetty . I passed through salt making factories. 
At the jetty I was really tired but had no option but to move on. There was a mad rush for getting onto the steamer which was a large boat acting as a ferry.Steamer people charged Rs.10 . the rickety vessel chugged its way towards bet dwarka jetty. There we alighted . I saw a restaurant in front of me and stopped for bread pakora and tea which were only items available there that interested me. 
I was really tired by now with my soles paining badly but somehow pushed on. At bet dwarka temple i deposited my camera and mobile and my luggage with the security guard. I quickly had darshan of Dwarkadheesh. 
Lord Krishna 's idol here is almost a copy of the one at Dwarkadheesh temple. 
After this I quickly moved back to jetty and boarded the same boat with the same unpleasant owner. When I got back I again met those students who did not want to go to Dwarka but wanted to push off. I said goodbye to them. It was nearly six . I got onto a bus for Dwarka. He charged me only rs. 20. I had bid adieu to the auto rickshaw guy as i found him too unpleasant.
In the bus I met a couple . The man told me that he would take me to the office from where I would be able to get a bus back to Ahmedabad in the night. He dropped me at an office but the guy there said there was no vacancy in any bus. Then I went to adjacent agent and he gave me the only seat available in a sleeper bus. Ticket cost was Rs. 360. It was 7:45 and the bus was to leave at 8:30. I quickly took an auto to Dwarka temple . There I met a young Panda clad in jeans. He took me past the long queue and made it possible for me to have Darshan of Lord Dwarkadheesh. I asked for a bit of Tulsi from temple guard and he gave me a whole mala. Outside the temple I gave the young Panda Rs.500 for making it possible for me to have Darshan of Lord Dwarkadheesh. 
 I quickly rushed back to Bhadrakali chauraha where the bus was to come. I got my ticket checked and bought some patties , cream roll and mineral water and sat or rather lay down inside the sleeper bus.
The bus reached Ahmedabad at about 7. One autowalla took me to three hotels, of these I liked Hotel Crystal. Very clean luxurious hotel with wi fi and everything neat and new . I ate food there took a bath repacked my luggage and left for airport. 
Room tarriff was nearly 2K but I negotiated with him and he agreed on 1200. I had a heavy meal there of dal roti and chappatis.
The auto guy who had dropped me earlier had sent his brother to take me to the airport.
Reached airport at around 12 and checked in immediately.
Took a flight and came back to Lucknow again
It will be 3 jyotirlingas again in winter.
Jai Baba Somnath n Nageshwarnath. Jai Dwarkadheesh !