Showing posts with label Temples of Pushkar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Temples of Pushkar. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Unearth the Secrets of Talakadu

It is the classical Indian story . A tale told by gods and demons, filled with kings and queens, replete with curses and boons. There is a little bit of history here, blended with some geology and topped with legends and myths. Set on the banks of the River Cauvery in Karnataka, this saga dates back to the 4th century and has certain intriguing elements, defying the very laws of nature.

Talakadu temple
It was a natural curiosity to unearth the secrets of Talakadu that drove us from Bangalore one Sunday morning. It was one of those beautiful moments. The weather was just right. An eagle scooped down and soared away with the same ease. A herd of goats clamored for attention. Flanked by the verdant greenery, we passed fresh dewy fields, lotuses jostling for space in ponds, flitting butterflies and a few scattered hamlets. We saw glimpses of rustic life as various stages of harvest were in progress. The entire scene was an ode to the countryside. We ambled on for a couple of hours on the Mysore Road and took a detour at Maddur, passed Mallavalli en-route to this sacred, historic town.
We were rather unprepared for this. At the first glance, it was just a prosaic picnic spot, overcrowded with swarms of loud local tourists and besieged by persistent guides. Stalls selling local fares were protruding in every corner. We made our way towards the river bed, where the Cauvery flowed at her own pace. It presented an unusual, yet a stark picture. There were huge mounds of sand by the banks of the river, like a beach. With a canopy of tall eucalyptus trees spread out from the sand, it felt like being in the middle of a forest. The dense shrubbery, some lively birds and monkeys dangling between the branches completed the picture.

The mounds of sand were everywhere, like small hillocks, some as high as even 15 meters. It was a steep climb, as the feet sank in with each step. It was an inexplicable sight; nobody could fathom where the heaps of sand came from. The fertile soils of the Cauvery basin seemed to have become fine particles of soft sand by sheer magic. While the answer may be with a geologist, my local guide narrates this legend.

The curse of Talakadu 

A curse of a woman he says is the cause of this sand blown town, an erstwhile fertile capital of several dynasties that ruled over Karnataka. A tale filled with greed and lust for power. It was the time when Talakadu and Srirangapatna were under the Vijayanagar empire. The death of the last Viceroy, Srirangaraya provoked the Wodeyars of Mysore to declare war. As Srirangapatna fell, the Wodeyar ruler sent his soldiers to covet the jewels of the late Viceroy’s widow, Alamelamma. As she fled from her pursuers, she is supposed to have jumped into the Cauvery, uttering the curses. My guide gets all dramatic as he proclaims the curse…” May Talakadu be always covered with sand and may the kings of Mysore always remain without heirs. “ The locals fear the curse as they say that it has come true. Talakadu is mysteriously engulfed with a sea of sand and the family tree of Mysore rulers show a large number of adopted heirs.
The story moves from being a mere myth to some startling historic discoveries as well. Recent excavations have unearthed temples from these mounds of sand and each dynasty has left their architectural stamp on them.. My guide points out that 30 such temples are still buried underneath the sand dunes as we climb our way to the excavated areas

Unearthed - spirituality under the sands 

Talakadu is famous for the Panchalingas – the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva called Pathaleshwara, Maruleshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheeshwara and Mallikarjuna.Of these, the first two are the oldest, built by the Ganga kings. The locals here say that the Shivalinga in the former is said to change color according to the time of day – from red in the morning to black in the afternoon and white in the night. To us though, in the cool afternoon, it was simply black.

We continued our spiritual quest and reached the Vaidyanatheeshwara temple, the largest of them all, which was built by the Chola rulers. All these temples are neatly thatched and embedded in pits as we climbed down to visit them. Remnants of the bygone era were seen in some scattered stones, broken pillars, an ancient well and even some idols. The Pancha Linga festival is celebrated with much fanfare once in 12 years during the Kartika season, where the temples are allowed for worshipping. The last festival happened in 1993 and the next scheduled late this year. The lost and forgotten township sees throngs of devotees only during this period, while at the rest of times, it remains a desolate spot, with a few picnickers.

Tala and Kadu - More Stories...

We paused to give our feet a bit of rest and heard the story of Tala and Kada, the two hunters, after whom my guide says, this town in named. One more story, this time, it fuses a bit of religion as well. A sage, Somadutta and his disciples were killed by wild elephants when they were doing their penance. They were said to be reborn as elephants in the same forest. Two hunters, Tala and Kada watched the ritual of the elephants offering prayers to a silk cotton tree. And out of curiosity, axed the tree down, only to find it bleeding. A voice then instructed them to heal the wound with the leaves and the blood miraculously turned milk which immortalized the hunters and the elephants as well. A temple later was built here around the tree, and the place became known as Talakadu.
temple at talakadu
Temple at Talakadu
We resumed our journey amidst the excavations. Besides the Panchalingas, another magnificent temple stands out. The Keerthinarayana temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, built by the Hoysolas, to celebrate the victory of Talakadu over the Cholas. Scattered stones lie all over the place along with the pillars, stone inscriptions, some carvings. The main temple, intricately carved houses an eight foot tall idol of the deity.

Excavations, they say have unearthed a 12 feet tall stone mandapa along with remnants of Garuda kamba. Work by archaeologists is still in progress here, as we stroll among the many stones, which my guide claims are ‘originals. It looked like each piece of stone was being numbered and the mantapas were being rebuilt to recreate the splendour of the past.

We had walked for more than a couple of hours, deeply engrossed in the continuous banter of our guide. Our feet caved in many a time, as we scaled the steep sand dunes. In the last two hours, we had traveled back to several centuries. We paused for a moment, taking in the sight. The silence was overwhelming. The voices of the past were buried under the layers of sand. We sat there, trying to build castles, but the wings gently swept them down. This, we realized was the destiny of Talakadu -the confluence of the historic and the holy spirit, where myths and legends merged, but were all completely swept away by the blasts from the past.

Getting There

Talakadu is just three hours by road from Bangalore, enroute to Mysore. It is about 130 kms kms from Bangalore, which is the closest airport. You could drive down from the Kanakpura Road or take the good old Mysore Road upto Maddur, past Mallavalli and proceed on the road towards Kollegal. About some 5 kms before the detour for Sivanasamudram Falls, there are sign boards indicating Talakadu, 22 kms to the right. The road is bad in patches and very often, it is long and winding, without any landmarks or signboards.

Pushkar - The Sacred Place

The Pushkar City

11-kms from Ajmer (132 kms from Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan) on the edge of the desert lies the tiny tranquil town of Pushkar along the bank of the picturesque Pushkar Lake. This is an important pilgrimage spot for the Hindus, which has the only temple of Lord Brahma in the country and the world. Lord Brahma is known as the creator of the world as per the Hindu mythology.

The pushkar lake also has a mythological significance associated with it. As per hindu mythology, Lord Brahma was on his way to search for a suitable place to perform a "Yagna' (a fire sacrifice), while contemplating a lotus fell from his hand on the warth and water sprouted from that place. One of them was Pushkar where Lord brahma performed "Yagna".

As indicated by Pushkar's position as the starting point of the grand pilgrimage, the worship of Brahma was considered highly important at the end of the first millenium BC. Pushkar is the only pilgrimage shrine dedicated to Brahma in the whole of India. The function of Brahma - creating the world - has been completed, while Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer) still have relevance to the continuing order of the universe. Brahma is also a god of the Aryan invaders and during Vedic times, his cult temporarily displaced the more ancient indigenous Shiva and Shakti cults. With the passing of the period of major Aryan influence, these deities reemerged more powerful than before.

The 'Nag pahar' or the Snake Mountain forms a natural boundary between Ajmer and Pushkar. Surrounded by hills on three sides, pushkar abounds in temples. Of these the most famous is the only Brahma temple in the world.

Then there is the holy lake, which has 52 ghats and pilgrim taking a ritual dip in the lake is a common sight specially during the festival.

A city of Pilgrimage from time immemorial with over 500 temples and ghats, Pushkar begets a legacy of timeless architectural heritage. Pushkar radiates an ambience of peace and spirituality that casts a lure to visit again and again.

Pushkar has an immense hidden potential as a tourist destination:

  • The Pushkar fair is amongst the largest cattle fairs in the world.
  • Amongst the oldest cities in India, with references in mythology and the Mahabharat - Site of the only temple in the world dedicated to Brahma - the creator.
  • The site of the holiest lake in the country.
  • 52 bathing ghats, which are linked to the lunar calendar, enclose the lake. Each ghat has its own miraculous qualities and powers of healing.
  • This city of temples has over 500 temples built over different eras with varied architectural styles.
  • The rose garden of Rajasthan - the essence of the famous Pushkar rose is exported the world over.
  • The most varied terrain in Rajasthan with sand, rock, hills, vegetation and lakes is ideal for adventure activities.
  • Proximity to a number of heritage properties in the area.
  • A number of fairs and festivals in Pushkar, especially on the new and full moon days.
  • The Dargah of Khwaja Moin-Uddin-Chishti amongst the most sacred Muslims shrines is located at near by Ajmer.
  • An opportunity to visit local villages still free from commercialization. 

Pushkar Fair 
Camel fair
Camel Fair in Pushkar Rajasthan
Rajasthan is at its colorful best during its fairs and festivals.

One of the most popular and colorful fairs of the Thar desert is the Pushkar fair, which begins on Kartik Shukla Ekadashi & goes on for five days till Kartik Purnima. The time of the fair coincides with the bright half of the moon during the months of October-November. The lake at Pushkar is one of the most sacred in India.

Special Attractions -

The picturesque lake of Pushkar is set in a valley just about 11 kilometres northwest of Ajmer, surrounded by hills on three sides and sand dunes on the fourth. Pushkar forms a fascinating location and a befitting backdrop for the annual religious and cattle fair. Turbaned heads of men, and colorful veils and skirts of the women, bring alive the arid desertscape. The village women dress in their best colourful clothes and finery for the five-day mela.

Like Varanasi, Pushkar is one of the sacred places for the Hindus, with 400 temples of which the most important is dedicated to Lord Brahma - the creator of the universe. Fifty-two ghats bind the lake. During the days of the mela, the otherwise tranquil lake is engulfed with religious fervor. Thousands of devotees collect to take a dip, sadhus descend from the Himalayas and people pray for salvation to the sound of verses from the Holy Scriptures, which fill the air.

In the afternoons, people crowd the stadium where camels, horses, and cows are paraded and raced. Camels are bought and sold during the Pushkar fair.

On the roadside, stalls of all kinds are set up to sell a cornucopia of items. Almost every household is engaged in setting them up as the locals try to capitalize on the massive influx of people. It is impossible to drive around because of the large crowds. Either you hire a camel or you walk. In this aspect, it is truly a rural bazaar.

An interesting part of the Pushkar Fair is the mass trading of camels. Of course, cattle and other livestock are also traded, but it's camels that hold center stage at Pushkar. Camel-traders and villagers from miles away converge to Pushkar with their humped beasts. Over 25,000 camels (on the conservative side) are traded; making this world's largest camel fair.

Since Pushkar is a religious place alcohol and non-vegetarian food is prohibited.

Pushkar Fair - Rituals and Traditions

These five days are a period of relaxation and merry-making for the villagers, despite being the busiest for them, as this is one of the largest cattle fairs in the country. Animals, mainly camels, are brought from miles around. Trading is brisk as several thousand heads of cattle exchange hands. All the camels are cleaned, washed, adorned, some are interestingly shorn to form patterns, and special stalls are set up selling finery and jewelry for the camels. Camels at the Pushkar fair are decorated with great care. They wear jewelry of silver and beads. There are silver bells and bangles around their ankles that jingle-jangle when they walk. An interesting ritual is the piercing of a camel's nose.

Races and competitions are organized. Camels lope across the sands sometimes throwing their riders on to the vast sands, amidst cheers and jeers from thousands of spectators. An interesting event is the camel beauty contest, where they are adorned and paraded. The camels preen before the crowds, enjoying every moment of the attention they get.

It is believed that for five days every year, all the gods visit Pushkar and bless the devout. This accounts for the unbelievable number of devotees who flock to the lake to wash away their sins.

Pushkar Lake 

It is semicircular lake around which there are 52 "Ghats". The max depth of the lake is 10 mts. The lake is a holy place and is known as the king of the "Trithas". The bath at Pushkar is thought to be more important than at any other place. The holy dip in this lake on kartika Purnima is thought to be salvation giving.The man who BATHES in the Shukla Paksha of Karitha month and has the Darshan of varah will not take rebirth on this earth and enjoy the bliss of heaven. The people who have a holy dip at the lake on karitha Purinama, gain the fruit equal to do the Jap and Tap for one hundred years. There are many yajna spots which cannot be counted even by Vrihshpati, the teacher of the gods.

List of Important Ghats(bathing steps)
  • Bara
  • Gau
  • Bangla
  • Bharatpur
  • Kota
  • Sikar
  • Murli
  • Yegh
  • Brahma
  • Badri
  • Guru Govind Singh
  • Gangor
  • Cheer
  • Surya
  • Jaipur
  • Nursingh
  • Karni
  • Maharshi
  • Dadeechi
  • Gwalior
  • Chandra
  • Jodhpur 

Temples of Pushkar

Pushkar abounds in temples, the special attraction being, the temple of Lord Brahma, the only temple in India, dedicated to Brahma.This somewhat somnolent town, reverberates with hectic activity during the festivities.

Brahma Temple
The Brahma temple is an important pilgrim centre for the Hindus. It is nestled in the Pushkar valley which lies beyond Nagaparvat and the Anasagar lake. This place, full of natural beauty, holds a special place in the hearts of Indian for it is believed that Lord Brahma, together with all the gods and goddesses, performed a Yagya here. Legends also has it that the ancient lake Sarovar had appeared miraculously, when a lotus fell from the hands of Lord Brahma and dropped into this valley.Brahma Temple The most famous temple in Pushkar, this is the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma (the creator of the universe according to Hindu mythology) in the entire country. You can identify it by its red spire and by the image of a hans(the goose considered sacred to Lord Brahma).This temple built with marble is decorated with silver coins and there is a silver turtle on the floor of the temple.

Savitri Temple
This is the temple dedicated to Lord Brahma's first wife. It is located on the hill behind the Brahma temple, and one has to climb a long series of steps to reach the destination. It gives a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding sand dunes.

Rangji Temple
The gracious temple is very conpicuous,due to its south Indian style of architecture. It has a high rising 'Gopuram' typical of southern India.

Warah Temple
The Warah temple houses an image of lord Vishnu in the incarnation of wild boar.The temples of Brahma and Warah are considered equally important. This ancient temple belived to be constructed by King Anaji Chauhan (1123-1150). Mythologically a very important temple temple and is believed that Vishnu came on the earth in the incarnation of Warah(wild boar) to kill the demon Hirnayaksh and liberate the land from his atrocities.

Apteshwar Temple
Another important temple of the town,the 12th century temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. 

Accommodation in Pushkar

During the special occasion of the Pushkar Fair, accommodation is arranged in special tents in a tourist village, which is self-sufficient and specially designed to complement the natural beauty of the site. The village has a coffee shop and dining hall that can cater to 1,500 guests at a time. The village is arranged on blocks of tents, each with its own identity, named after the famous dances of Rajasthan. The village also has huts with attached western style toilets and running water.

Besides this village, Pushkar also has some hotels / resorts. However, it is sometimes difficult to find accommodation in Pushkar, especially if you arrive late in the day. Most hotels are nothing fancy, but they are generally clean and freshly white-washed.

Pushkar Resorts  ***
The Pushkar resort is set over 15 sprawling acres of land with an exotic fruit orchard. Offers air-conditioned rooms with international class amenities. Every room has a mini bar, television with satellite and telephone with STD/ISD facilities.

Pushkar Palace  Heritage
Partially Airconditioned, Mini - Bar, Refrigerator.

Tents in Pushkar  ***
On the outskirts of Pushkar, which is about 150 kms from Jaipur. It offers a majestic view of Pushkar, and particularly The Camel Fair

How to reach Pushkar

Pushkar is a sacred town for the Hindus, situated 11 kms. (7 miles) to the North-West of Ajmer.

Jaipur, the nearest airport is 138 kms. (86 miles).

Ajmer is connected to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Abu Road and Jodhpur by regular trains. Two of the best trains of the Indian Railways, Pink City Express and Shatabdi Express connect Ajmer to Delhi and Jaipur.

A dense network of bus service operates from Ajmer to key destinations around. Distances from important tourist centres are: -
- Jaipur: 138 kms. (86 miles).
- Delhi: 392 kms. (244 miles).
- Ahmedabad: 526 kms. (327 miles).
- Jaisalmer: 490 kms. (304 miles).
- Bikaner: 233 kms. (145 miles).