Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My pilgrimage to Trymbakeshwar Bhimashankar Grishneshwar Padli Vaijnath/Vaidyanath and Aundha Nagnath jyotirlingas in Maharashtra

20th October 2012- Reached charbagh railway station at 12 AM to board Kushinagar Express. Had made nearly 6 bookings over previous two months in Pushpak Express but did not get confirmed tickets. Had in fact made bookings in another train from Jhansi but since was travelling with family never liked that journey plan. Plan would have involved waiting at Jhansi railway station all night.

Got a rude surprise when found that train was late by 1 hour. Later it increased to 2 hours and then nearly 2.5 hours. Little kiddo was co-operative otherwise it would have been hell.

Train came in and we boarded with the help of a coolie. Interiors of the train were dismal and seats looked smaller than normal. We had booked in First AC initially, the booking that never got cleared and now this! Anyway the people did not appear problematic. I forgot to mention that a day before the journey I booked Tatkal tickets in this train.

The journey was long almost exactly 24 hours thankfully the train food was good and kiddo enjoyed the journey.

21st October 2012 – Reached Nasik railway station at about 2:30 pm in the night! Most stations in Maharashtra howsoever small are neat and clean. I am told there is heavy penalty for spitting in stations.  The problem that we had on our hands was that no coolie was present on our platform. This is becoming such a problem these days. My dad a senior citizen is the worst affected- no coolies specially outside UP! I did spot a coolie after walking towards the footbridge but he was standing on the other side of the tracks. Thankfully when I hailed him he crossed over. I was on platform 3 and two coolies together charged rs. 120. I first tried retiring rooms on the station but as often happens to me after travelling through nearly the whole of India – there was no vacancy. The only time I have managed to enjoy a retiring room was in Hyderabad and it had better ambience then a hotel!!

The two coolies strongly suggested that we leave straight away for Trimbakeshwar instead of staying in Nasik. They even negotiated with the taxi guy on our behalf. Now that was good! Coolies are seldom this gentle! We left for Trimbakeshwar with a pliable meek taxi driver who however charged us Rs.700 which was not much, as we got to know later, since he was driving us in the dead of the night.

Good thing about driving in the dead of the night is that roads are clear!! That is a big one if you are living in a city as crowded as mine and want to have some rest from the perpetual traffic jams! We reached Trimbakeshwar in about 1.5 hours. I saw a couple of hotels there and finally settled for the Taxi guy’s choice – it was Hotel Sahyadri ! A nice medium size hotel almost new! A good though a bit expensive restaurant!

Taxi guy was most co-operative poor thing and we took quite a bit of his time!

The room was almost exactly as I had dreamed nice clean toilets, floors lined with my favourite shade of marble. Woodwork and nice simple bed and of course with a very beautiful balcony opening on to the road.

We had planned to take a bath and go for darshan right away but we were so dead tired that we fell asleep like people drugged and only woke up at around 9 AM.

22 Oct. 12 – We woke up and ate a little breakfast we had brought in from Lucknow with tea with had ordered from the hotel. Here a word of advice – on a long travel trip it is advisable to bring along things like Bhujia, Mathri, Dalmoth, Saakhen/Namakpara and other food stuffs that can last out a few days. It helps you save time!

After breakfast we left our camera and mobile phones behind and set out for the temple. Due to terror threat most temples do not allow mobile phones and cameras. If you take them along you might have to deposit them at a stall outside temple complex as in Kashi Vishwanath temple where they might be swapped or damaged so it is better to leave them behind.

The temple is very neat and clean and well managed! It is advisable not to take a big bunch of flowers in a basket in the temple because you are not allowed to offer them inside Trimbakeshwar temple. Temple is of a very dark gray colour and I do not remember having seen a temple of this colour ever before. Floor is all lined with similar stone. It did not take us much time to do Darshan. Out of the queue for Darshan we emerged into a rather high but very dark hall at one end of which was the Garbha Griha housing the Trimbakeshwar Shivlingam. We were not allowed to go inside the Garbha Griha which was very disappointing. I was really upset about this because generally I managed to touch the shivlingam and it induces euphoria in me and makes me feel very near Lord Shiva.  I managed to talk to one temple staff. He asked me to wait for one hour. So we sat there on the steps for nearly one hour waiting patiently. Finally he made me change into a dhoti/lungi. Then he took me inside the temple and instructed one guard to take me into Garbha Griha. Now this was a really great moment for me. I managed to touch all three parts of sunken shivlingam representing Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.  Then we left. We went back to Hotel Sahyadri and brought back the camera and took photographs of the temple from outside bought some pictures of the temple and went back to hotel.  We then took an auto rickshaw and went to the bus station. We took a bus back to Nasik.

Once in Nasik we took a private bus to Manchar for our onward journey to Bhimashankar. We reached Manchar in about 6 hours and checked into Paras Lodge and Hotel on highway just next to bus station. The room was the best so far in entire journey though staffs was a bit rude.

The next day we took a bus to Bhimashankar. The hotel guy suggested we leave our luggage behind but we did not take his advice and regretted it. Bus journey to Bhimashankar was very comfortable and rather short. The whole route is very picturesque specially near Bhimashankar. Darshan at Bhimashankar was very comfortable very few devotees were there. We touched the shivalingam and bowed our heads. In less than hour we were back in the bus back to Manchar. There is little if no facility for accommodation in Bhimashankar. A few dharmshalas were there but they were very shabby and absolutely no hotels. So we came back to Manchar. Once in Manchar we were advised to go to Ala Phatak and take a bus from there to Nagar, Nagar in this case stands for Ahmadnagar. We waited and waited but could not board a bus to Ala Phatak so we hired a taxi who charged us Rs. 500 for only 30 km.

Once at Ala Phatak we waited and waited for a bus to Nagar that is Ahmadnagar but none came for a long long time. Finally just as we were ready to give up one bus came. Unfortunately this was full of rowdy boys from college who shamelessly played music as loud as possible on their mobile phones and even presence of ladies did not deter them. These were all Marathi boys since they were speaking fluent Marathi. Ironically it is they who blocked the seats for us. They plagued us all the way till Ahmadnagar. I noticed this breed of teenager all over Maharashtra perhaps they are there all over India but it is very sad that this rowdy generation has come up powered by electronic media and internet.

In Ahmadnagar we stayed in Hotel Swastik near bus station. In fact the crossroads is called Swastik Chowk after the hotel. The hotel was very safe and comfortable only irritant was the they did not supply us mosquito repellent and we were too tired to ask them. In the morning daughter woke up with three mosquito bites on her cheeks which infuriated me.

23rd October 2012 – At 9 we set off for Aurangabad. The bus was half full. It was a comfortable journey. We checked into Hotel ..... Once we reached. The auto driver took us to the hotel. Comfortable safe and nice hotel. We hired a taxi for taking us to Grishneshwar temple the last and the twelfth jyotirlinga. The driver was Muslim but his behaviour was exemplary. I have met very taxi drivers whose behaviour can be called exemplary. He never seemed to listen to what we were saying, never interfered and promptly answered all questions put to him. He always made a point to open the door for my wife which is something very uncommon for Maharashtra at least.

Ellora caves are on the way but the driver made sure that we knew the site was closed on Tuesdays. He told us so at the beginning of the journey in fact. We also came across tomb of Aurangzeb and Daulatabad Fort. The latter was a really impressive structure.

At Grishneshwara temple we seemed to have the whole temple to ourselves. We did puja and darshan to our heart’s content. It is worth mentioning that men have to go with naked torso inside the temple though whatever lower garments they are wearing is not a problem at all.

During return we inquired from the driver about Parli Vaidyanath and Aundha Nagnath temples and he gave us very accurate information.  Based on information given by him we chalked out our program and decided to go to Parli by bus.

We were dead tired by the time we returned to go to Daulatabad Fort and went straight to Central Bus Stand in Aurangabad to inquire about bus for Parli the next day. It was very intelligent of us to do that because the bus for Parli goes in fact from SUDCO bus station a bit outside the city where most five star hotels are located.  I had done another intelligent thing which was buying map of Maharashtra at Daulatabad fort though it cost us 100 bucks.

24th October 2012 we started off from Hotel without any breakfast or tea at 6:30 am by an auto rickshaw and reached SUDCO bus station. We waited and waited and waited still there was no bus for Parli. The MSRTC inquiry staff was not in the least helpful though he could have helped us if he wanted. Then I remembered about a place called Ambajogai just before Parli so we boarded a bus for the aforementioned. The journey was relatively comfortable but I decided that this was going to be our last journey by MSRTC. I have fallen in love with UPSRTC ever since I used MSRTC buses. Our buses are much newer and AC bus facility in fact Volvo buses are available on many routes. Or it could be that the routes we took were to very remote areas that is why good buses did not ply.

We reached Ambajogai in about five and a half hours. Once there I went outside the bus stand and inquired about taxi which would take us to Parli, Aundha Nagnath and drop us as Parbhani. Parbhani was the place where we had decided to board the train to Mumbai CSTM. A couple of taxi guy quoted astronomical sums like 3K but finally found an Indica Taxi whose owner would settle for 1800 rupees. This guy was decent, efficient and a man of very few words. He drove like a mad man but I could feel that he knew exactly what he was doing. The roads on the whole aforementioned stretch are bad and it is advisable to use an SUV if possible.

Taxi guy had us standing in front of Padli Vaijnath in less than two hours. We had a darshan to our hearts content although if we would have been late by a few minutes the temple would have been in semi closed state with devotees not being allowed to touch the shivlingam covered in silver.

We took a mineral water bottle and a soft drink and rushed off to Aundha Nagnath temple my final destination. I was absolutely dead tired by now dozing off to sleep in the car something I have done very few times in life. The highway was very narrow lined by tall grass or crops all along. No streetlights and big craters at regular intervals. It took us about 2 more hours to reach Aundha Nagnath temple.

Now there is something very curious about this temple. The actual shivlingam is in the basement where you cannot stand but have to sit and one has to go through a rectangular opening only about 1.5 feet by three feet. In the basement Lord Shiva was all ready for the procession I think since it was Dusshera. Shivlingam was covered by a huge silver mask.

I came out and phoned up father saying finally I have paid my obeisance at 14 jyotirlingas and he said something very encouraging which almost made me weep due to overwhelming feeling of joy but I controlled myself and talked of mundane things.

The driver dropped us at Parbhani station and settled myself in Upper Class waiting area to answer some business emails just then I saw on platform one Devgiri express crawl in. I was under the impression that it would arrive at 10:15 hours. Somehow we gathered our luggage which was quite numerous and ran towards our bogie but thankfully were able to catch it. There is no restaurant at Parbhani it being a small station only a stall selling samosa, vada etc. But also Puri sabzi of a substandard quality. Outside the station there is one Udupi restaurant not the original one but it serves tolerable food both north and south Indian. I had the owner pack two dosas for me which were just about tolerable.

Bam Bhole !