The Mystical Awari Mata of Asawara

About 90 kms from the city of lakes Udaipur is the temple complex of the mystical Awari Mata, a deity who, it is claimed, provides dramatic cure to people suffering from paralysis, polio, stroke and other physical handicaps. It was on the insistence of a colleague of mine who suffers from a limb handicap, seconded by my better half that we decided to pay our obeisance at this temple situated in the village of Asawara, in Chittorgarh district.
A bright sunny morning saw us embark upon our trip to Awari Mata. The drive down the Udaipur-Chittorgarh highway is serene and pleasurable with the exception of the speedbreakers at the congested Debari stretch of the route and the occasional uneven craters that have been formed due to the heavy vehicular traffic. Thus, before we knew we were at Mangalwad Chouraha munching on hot samosas in kadi garnished with freshly cut onions and green chilly accompanied by piping hot tea.
After a very satisfying breakfast, it was again time for us to keep our tryst with the mother goddess. From the Mangalwad Chouraha, you have to take the straight double laned Mangalwad-Nimbahera road and keep driving till you reach Nikumbh Chouraha. From there a left turn will lead you to the village of Asawara, the abode of Awari Mata also known as Asawara Mata ji.

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Temple of Awari Mata also known as the Temple of Asawara Mata ji

The temple complex consists of a beautiful pond, some resting places, public bathrooms, shops that sell offerings for the deity, a temple dedicated to the Hindu Simian God Hanuman and the temple itself. The place has ample parking space and the parking ticket for a four wheeler is 20INR. We entered the temple complex from the backside which is adjacent to the parking lot.

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A whiff of cool breeze from the pond

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The embankment of the Holy Pond

On entering the premises, the first thing that greeted us was a whiff of fresh cool breeze that emanated from the scenic pond on the banks of which the temple complex is situated. The pond, which a notice board proclaims is the private property of the Ekling ji Trust, is believed to have medicinal powers. It has ghats on its embankment where people were taking a dip in the holy waters in a bid to cure their ailments and even otherwise. We too took a dip in the water that soothed us for sure, from the heat of the stinging summer sun.

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Shops that dot the area

A narrow pathway dotted with shops that sell variously priced offerings for the Mother Goddess leads you to the main temple. Besides the regular items like coconut, red cloth and garlands, the offerings also include bottles of oil.

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Awari Mata ji of Asawara

The scene inside the temple was almost electric. There was a long line of devotees who were there dripping in religious fervor but despite such a long queue there was an almost tranquil vehemence, an oxymoron that I can’t possibly describe in words. The line was fast moving and an entry through a small window like opening landed us in front of Asawara Mata ji, Avari Mata. All things seemed so miniscule, so irrelevant in front of the Mother. Numbness overpowered my senses and an indescribable sense of joy percolated whole being. Oblivious to my surroundings, it took a security guard and his whistle to dislodge me from my state of spiritual actualization.

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Devotees gathering ash at the courtyard

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Devotees with ailments lying on the floor with hope and conviction

The courtyard of the temple has ash from the incenses (agarbattis) that keep on burning day and night. Some people smear it on their bodies others take them back home in the hope of divine miracles. In the passage that surrounds the courtyard; many people suffering from paralysis, stroke, polio and other physical disabilities could be seen lying down. Their bodies told a story that was oozing with their pain, distress and misery but their eyes told a different story, a story that was full of hope and conviction. It is believed that participating in the daily rituals of the temple and inhaling the smoke from the incense lit during the rituals go a long way in curing the ailments of the devotees who are otherwise incapacitated by their ailments.

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Passing through the archway 

Devotees make it a point to go almost sliding through a small archway made of stone in the courtyard. It is believed that a person who can pass through the archway, for him recovery from ailment or fulfillment of a wish is almost certain.
As I drove back home from the dwelling of the Mother in reminiscence of the day gone by, I almost felt overwhelmed by a strange feeling of gratitude, a gratitude whose genesis was from the fact that even when the struggle is unfathomable, there always is a divine power that always backs up the person, who has not ceased to struggle.

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The Mewar Wanderings!

Last week, as I sat down to pen this month’s travel article for My Destination Rajasthan, I looked for a subject, an inspiration. After deliberating on many topics, I started watching the ‘idiot box’ before zeroing on any particular topic. A serial coming on one of the channels caught my fancy. It was the tale of valor and sacrifice of Maharana Pratap, the heroic Rajput king of Mewar (present day, southern Rajasthan). That coupled with the fact that my hometown of Udaipur, just about celebrated Maharana Pratap’s 473rd birthday on 11th June, gave me my topic for this month’s travel article-

“On the trail of Maharana Pratap-Retracing the journey of the great Rajput warrior king”.

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Presenting to you the article I have written for MyDestination for the month of June.

Rajputana as Rajasthan was once known has been the homeland of the Rajputs, a fierce martial warrior clan for centuries. The clan which is renowned for its fighting prowess and love for the motherland has produced many great warrior kings but Maharana Pratap Singh of the Royal House of Mewar is arguably the most famous amongst them.

Born to Maharana Udai Singh II and his wife Rani Jeevant Kanwar in the magnificent fortress of Kumbhalgarh on 9th May 1540 AD, Maharana Pratap spent his whole life fighting the invading army of Akbar, the Mughal emperor of Delhi who had captured Chittorgarh, the traditional seat of power and the capital of the state of Mewar. The brave Maharana took an oath renouncing royal lifestyle, eating simple food from plates made of leaves and sleeping on the floor till he drove away the invaders from his beloved motherland, endearing him more to the masses and making him a part of folklore.

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The sight of Maharana Pratap on his loyal steed Chetak backed by a legion of the native Bhil tribesmen of the Aravali ranges and Rajput warriors, perfect in the art of guerrilla warfare apt for the hilly terrain, struck fear in the hearts of the marauding army for years. By the time of his death, the Maharana had freed most of Mewar from the Mughals with the exception of Chittorgarh.

In an attempt to retrace the trail of the most famous son of Rajasthan, I am presenting to you the places that have utmost importance in the life and times of Maharana Pratap.

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1) Kumbhalgarh Fort- About 85 kms north-west of Udaipur, perched magnificently on top of a 3,500 feet high hill of the Aravali ranges, is the famed fortress of Kumbhalgarh.  This formidable fort on the border of the kingdoms of Mewar and Marwar was strategically built on the remnants of an old citadel in the 15th century by Maharana Kumbha. As mentioned above, the fort is also the birthplace of Maharana Pratap. So in effect, it is where it all started.

The Kumbhalgarh fort is huge and is in a pretty good condition even today, after centuries. In fact, the walls of the fort extend over 36 kms and are the second-longest continuous wall in the world after the Great Wall of China. Within the fort, there are seven fortified gateways, palaces, gardens and more than 360 temples, the most famous of which is the temple of the Hindu god, Lord Shiva.

The lush forest encompassing the fort has been converted into the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and adds to the spectacular panoramic view that is on offer from the top of this ‘impregnable’ fort, especially during the rainy season.

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2) Chittorgarh Fort- The erstwhile capital of the kingdom of Mewar is located at a distance of about 110 kms east of Udaipur, overlooking the rivers Berach and Gambheri. It was the seat of power of the royal house of Mewar and Maharana Udai Singh II ruled his territories from here till 1559 AD when the fort was attacked, ransacked and captured by Emperor Akbar. Maharana Pratap waged a life- long struggled to win back the fort of Chittorgarh.

The Chittorgarh fort is the largest fort in India in terms of area and traces its origins to the 7th century AD.  The fort has seven fortified gates, four palace complexes and innumerable historical monuments such as the Vijay Stambh and the Kirti Stambh besides 19 main temples.   In the present, the fort is a major tourist attraction attracting visitors not only from India but the world over.

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3) Gogunda- Situated about 35 kms north-west of Udaipur, this is the town that Maharana Udai Singh II sought refuge after the fall of the fort of Chittorgarh. Its precarious location on top of a hill made it an ideal place for the Maharana to make it his base. It was the temporary capital of Mewar and in fact the coronation of Pratap Singh as Maharana Pratap Singh took place in Gogunda after Maharana Udai Singh II died here in 1572 AD.  It was also the place where Maharana Pratap had his final war council meeting before the battle of Haldighati.

Present day, Gogunda has a palace, many temples and also remnants of a town that once was the epi-centre of power in Mewar, albeit for a short duration.

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4) Haldighati- After his coronation, Maharana Pratap became a thorn in the flesh of the Mughals and there were numerous skirmishes between the two forces. The hostilities between them finally culminated into the famous battle of Haldighati. Haldighati, literarily meaning  the turmeric valley (because of the turmeric colored soil of the valley) is a mountainous pass about 40 kms north-west of Udaipur and it was here in 1576 AD that a fierce battle was fought between the forces of Maharana Pratap and a huge Mughal army under Raja Man Singh of Jaipur. The greatly outnumbered Maharana Pratap and his men up a valiant fight and inflicted enormous casualties on the Mughal forces but in the end the Maharana was persuaded by his generals to retreat, to fight another day. The royal steed Chetak was killed in the battle but now before it saved its master.

Today, Haldighati has a museum which exhibits various weapons and paintings of the famous battle and hosts a light & sound show which gives a glimpse of the events that unfolded during the battle. The museum visualizes the incidents from Maharana Pratap’s life and brings them alive through animated statues. Also there is a mausoleum to Chetak at the site of the steed’s death which is about 3 kms away.

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5) Moti Magri- The battle of Haldighati took an enormous toll both financial as well as with respect to manpower on Maharana Pratap, who took refuge in Udaipur, the city that was founded by his father Maharana Udai Singh II. A famous incident happened in the wilderness of the Moti Magri, a pearl shaped hillock overlooking Lake Fatehsagar. In the absence of anything better to eat Maharana Pratap’s young son was given a roti (Indian bread) made of grass which was stolen and eaten by a wild cat. The sight of his crying hungry child caused Maharana Pratap extreme pain and he even contemplated discontinuing his fight for freedom and submitting to the Mughals.   That he did not was a result of the timely financial assistance provided to him by Bhama Shah, a wealthy trader of Mewar and a letter of encouragement from Prithviraj Rathore, a Rajput courtier in Emperor Akbar’s court.

At present, Moti Magri has a memorial dedicated to Maharana Pratap, a bronze statue of the Maharana mounted on Chetak, the faithful royal steed. A beautiful Japanese rock garden and the ruins of the ancient Moti Mahal (a dilapidated palace) are also within the premises.

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 6) Chavand- 60kms south of Udaipur lays Chavand, the last capital of Maharana Pratap and the place where he breathed his last. After having realized the futileness of engaging the vastly superior Mughal army in direct confrontation as evident from the battle of Haldighati, Maharana Pratap continued to torment the Mughals through guerrilla warfare and regained most of his lost territories. At Chavand, he built 16 hideouts and many secret depots. He also constructed temples and made fortified structures that remained camouflaged in the hilly terrain. The last ten years of Maharana Pratap’s reign were relatively peaceful and he administered over most of Mewar (with the exception of Chittorgarh) from Chavand. He died in a freak hunting accident on 29th January 1597 AD at the age of 57 years.

Today, Chavand besides having the ruins of the structures made by Maharana Pratap, also has a statue memorial, that of the great warrior king and four of his aides.

Maharana Pratap led a life fighting for his people, his honor and most importantly for the freedom of his beloved Mewar and the places mentioned in the article bear a testimony to the love, pain, hardships and successes that he faced during his struggle. 

A visit to these places therefore is a must to soak in the deeds of valor of the great warrior king and to relive a past that is drenched with human endurance and glory!