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.

Chawand- The Lost Capital City of Mewar

About 65 kms from the city of Udaipur lies the sleepy hamlet of Chawand. The place which has a great historical significance in the annals of Mewar, was once the capital of Mewar’s favourite son, the Rajput king, Maharana Pratap.

The history of Mewar and Chawand

The history of Mewar and Chawand

Surprisingly, though other places associated with the Maharana such as Haldighati and Kumbhalgarh are known the world over, the capital town which he himself built and from where he reigned over Mewar for nearly two decades from (1578 AD till his death in 1597 AD), has been pushed into the back pages of contemporary history.

Ruins of Chawand

Ruins of Chawand

On a sunny September Sunday, aided by Google map, we embarked on a journey to the lost capital.

There are two ways to reach Chawand, one that is via the state highway to Jaisamand and the other by the National Highway No 8 that connects Udaipur with Ahmedabad. We opted for the latter one.

The NH8 takes you through valleys and lush greenery and we sped on till we reached the town of Parshad about 50 kms from Udaipur. A detour through the heart of the town took us onto the Parshad-Chawand road. A rough patch of road initially, gave us the hiccups, but that soon gave way to a picturesque road winding through hills and water-bodies.

The picturesque NH8

The picturesque NH8

The main attractions of the town of Chawand (about 13 kms from Parshad) are the ruins of the Palace of Maharana Pratap and his cenotaph, which are on either side of a crossroad beyond the town of Chawand. We turned left and our first stop was the cenotaph of Maharana Pratap in the middle of the Kejad Lake.

The entrance to the Cenotaph of Maharana Pratap

The entrance gate of the road leading to the Cenotaph of Maharana Pratap

The Cenotaph in the middle of Lake Kejad

The Cenotaph in the middle of Lake Kejad

What a spectacle we were treated to?? A stone and cement bridge led us onto an island which has shady trees and beautiful “Chattris” and pavilions along its perimeter. In its centre is the final resting place of Mewar’s valiant Rajput king, who valued self respect and freedom more than all the riches of the world.

Chhatri on the island

Chhatri on the island

The scenic view of Lake Kejad

The scenic view of Lake Kejad

Up and close with Nature on the island

Up and close with Nature on the island

Though the Maharana Pratap’s cenotaph is not very impressive architecturally, you are engulfed by an overpowering sensation of awe as you bow in veneration in front of it. A king, who willfully chose a life full of struggles and hardships and sacrificed his life for the love of his beloved ‘Motherland’, indeed the experience for us at the cenotaph was indescribable.

The Central Cenotaph of Maharana Pratap

The Central Cenotaph of Maharana Pratap

The Final resting place of the Maharana

The final resting place of the Maharana

The entrance to the Palace of Maharana Pratap

The entrance to the Palace of Maharana Pratap

From the scenic Lake Kejad, we set off for the Palace of Maharana Pratap. On entering the main palace premise, a Chamunda (Hindu Mother Goddess) Temple that predates Maharana Pratap’s era and is much revered by the locals, is a major attraction. Two ferocious stone lions on either side of the entrance of the temple are a source of fascination for children.

A Lion statue- a hit with kids

A Lion statue- a hit with kids

The Chamunda Temple

The Chamunda Temple

The presiding deity

The presiding deity

A steep walkway takes you to the ruins of the palace of Maharana Pratap. Some stone structures are what is left of the palace of the great king. Standing on the remnants of the palace, you get a great view of vast expanse of greenery, the Chamunda Temple and a statue of Maharana Pratap on a pedestal on an adjoining hillock.

A side entrance to the ruins

A side entrance to the ruins

The ruins of the palace

The ruins of the palace

Statue of Maharana Pratap on an adjoining hill

Statue of Maharana Pratap on an adjoining hill

After a thoroughly enjoyable, day in Chawand, it was time for us to say goodbye. But as we bid goodbye to the precincts of the palace, a metal statue of the Maharana stood as though blessing us for having visited and explored his capital, a town that has been lost in the pages of contemporary history.

The statue of the Maharana as though blessing us for visiting Chawand

The statue of the Maharana as though blessing us for visiting Chawand

Lake Jaisamand- A Quick Getaway from Udaipur

The Magnificent Lake Jaisamand

The Magnificent Lake Jaisamand

Udaipur is known  the world over as the city of lakes and the city palace and the adjoining Lake Pichola have provided backdrop for many a movie, both Hollywood as well as Bollywood. Even Lake Fatehsagar, the favorite haunt of the locals is a featured destination.

But the biggest of them all is the majestic Lake Jaisamand, which is located at a distance of around 50 odd kms from Udaipur city. Also known as Dhevar Lake, it is, in fact, the second largest artificial lake in Asia covering an area of about 90 sq kms.

The bund made by Maharana Jai Singh

The bund made by Maharana Jai Singh

Jaisamand Lake has a very colourful history. It was built by Maharana Jai Singh of the House of Mewar in 1685 AD, who emulated his illustrious father Maharana Raj Singh, who constructed the imposing Rajsamand Lake in present day Rajsamand district. The lake was built when Maharana Jai Singh made a dam on river Gomati with an aim to channelize the waters of the river for irrigation as well as providing drinking water for his subjects. In fact, even today pipelines bring in water from Jaisamand that quench thirst of a large part of the city of Udaipur. These huge pipelines can be seen running adjacent to the road that connects Udaipur with Jaisamand.

The densely wooded Kewre Ki Naal

The densely wooded Kewre Ki Naal

The picturesque route

The picturesque route

The ride from Udaipur to Jaisamand is a very scenic one, which crisscrosses through dense jungles, picturesque valleys, quaint water bodies and just about bypasses The Jaisamand Wildlife Sanctuary. If you are lucky enough, you could spot wild animals including panthers, in the area around Kewre Ki Naal, a protected biosphere.

The imposing Roothi Rani Ka Mahal

The imposing Roothi Rani Ka Mahal

As you approach the hamlet of Jaisamand, the imposing ‘Roothi Rani Ka Mahal’, a beautiful palace on top of a hill overlooking the Jaisamand Lake, is a sight to behold. To reach the Lake, you have to climb up a long winding steep road. At the base of this road, is a bazaar which has shops selling snacks like pakodas, chai, samosas, katchoris and fried fresh fish from the lake.

The beautiful embankment or 'bund'

The beautiful embankment or ‘bund’

The Shiva Temple and the Palace on the hill in the background

The Shiva Temple and the Palace on the hill in the background

The beautiful marble Bund of the lake

The stepped Bund of the lake

The Lone Sentinel- White marble elephant

The Lone Sentinel- White marble elephant on the embankment

The embankment or the ‘bund’ of the lake is a white marble marvel and is adorned by 6 chhatris or dome like pillared marble structures with exquisite carvings, a Shiva temple and white marble elephants that overlook the vast expanse of water, standing in testimony of a glorious era gone by.

Row Row Row your boat...

Row Row Row your boat…

Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds on a hillock

Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds on a hillock

Land Ahoy!

Land Ahoy!

Jaisamand Lake has 3 big islands and is also home to the famed Jaisamand Island Resort. Boats leave regularly from the ‘bund’ and you can choose from a variety of ticket options. The Rs 20/- per person ticket is the most economical one and takes you around a stretch of the lake that has a palace, known as ‘Hawa Mahal’ or the Palace of The Wind on a lush forested hillock on the banks of the lake. You can also avail of Rs 50/, Rs 75, Rs 100 or Rs 200/- rides which take you further and further into the wonderful lake towards the bigger islands that are home to the Bhils and Meena, the indigenous tribals of the region.

In Nature's own lap.

In Nature’s own lap.

If you are looking forward for a quick day getaway from Udaipur, then Lake Jaisamand definitely deserves a place in your list. A place which is a culmination of soothing rides, magnificent architectural wonders dripping with history, all in Mother Nature’s own lap.

The Holi Escape (Part-4)- The wonders of Moti Daman

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In 1498, long before the conquest of India by the British, the sea route to India was discovered by the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama, which led to Portuguese colonial expansions in Asia. The Portuguese established many colonies in India, the most notable ones being Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Diu and Daman.

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Moti Daman is separated from the Nani Daman area of Daman by the Rajiv Gandhi Setu on the Daman Ganga river (as already put forth in a previous post). This area houses some marvelous old Portuguese colonial architectural wonders and takes you back in time. The Fort of Moti Daman is the predominant structure here overlooking the Arabian Sea and most of the gems of Moti Daman are nestled within its bosom. The fort in itself is massive and has 2 gateways and 10 bastions with a moat encompassing it.

Following are some of the wonders that we came across in and around the magnificent Fort of Moti Daman during our wanderings.

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1) Church of Bom Jesus- As you enter the fort of Moti Daman through the main gateway, passing lush beautiful gardens, you are quite literally transported into a glorious era gone by. The first structure that greets you, inside the fort is the Church of Bom Jesus. The facade of the church is not too inspiring, but lo as you enter it, the exquisiteness of the very well preserved wooden work inside the church, leaves you awe-struck. The church as we see it today, was re-constructed in 1603 and has been a place of worship since February 02, 1559 which is more than 455 years. Though the church is past its glory, it still stands proudly in testimony to its wonderful past.

 

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2) Jampore Beach- Further south of Moti Daman (3kms approx) is the Jampore Beach. This beach is much better and less crowded than the Devka beach in Nani Daman and offers you a plethora of options to indulge in. On one end of the beach, it is not uncommon to find a number of fishing trawlers dropping anchor before they again set out to fish. The beach itself is quite broad and during the low tide you can walk miles into the sea. The beach has shacks, courtesy the tourism department which serve you some lip smacking sea food and also drinks. You could even go for a horse ride or the more adventurous can make their adrenalin flow by partaking in speed boat rides and para-sailing.

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3) The Old Light House- Back inside the fort of Moti Daman is an old light house overlooking the creek of Daman Ganga and the Arabian Sea. Built in the late 19th century, the light house that served as a beacon of hope to ships in distress, today is a major tourist attraction and a favorite haunt for picnickers. Some narrow winding solid stone stairs lead you to the light house, the view from which of the sea and beyond is mesmerizing.

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4) Secretariat- The Fort of Moti Daman used to be the seat of power during the Portuguese colonial rule. It still remains the seat of power, as the beautiful Secretariat located within the fort manages the administration of the quaint Union Territory of Daman and Diu. The building, that exudes an old world colonial charm, coupled with the dainty narrow roads within the fort, are just some of the wonders of Moti Daman, that we were able to enjoy, on that day, which incidently was the day, the festival of Holi was being celebrated all over India.

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Monsoon special quick weekend destinations from Mumbai

Though Rajasthan, especially the southern part of it; regions like Udaipur are still to actually experience the monsoons this year, other parts of India are reeling under its effects. The northern state of Uttrakhand has been devastated by heavy rains and landslides and the “Devbhoomi” (Divine land) of Kedarnath and Rudraprayag have been virtually destroyed.

But the season of monsoon is not only about devastation and destruction, it is a time that people all over the country actually look forward to. Taking inspiration from Monsoons, I penned my this month’s article of My Destination Mumbai on

The Top 5 Monsoon Getaways from Mumbai.

The monsoon has enveloped the metropolis of Mumbai. It is the time when the rains start providing respite from the summer heat and the Mumbaikars look forward to enjoying the gifts of Mother Nature enriched by the monsoons and throng places like Marine Drive and the beaches.

But to really partake and indulge in the pleasures that nature has to offer and to actually dodge the routine daily grind of the city life, one needs to make a quick weekend getaway from Mumbai, the available options of which are in plenty.

Presenting to you, a list of the top five destinations that provide quick, enjoyable and enthralling getaways from Mumbai, especially during monsoons.

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1) Khandala- This hill station just off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway is about 100kms from Mumbai. The easy accessibility that this place facilitates, makes it one of the most popular quick getaway destinations from Mumbai. Perched at a height of about 2,050 feet, Khandala is blessed with immense natural beauty. It has many luxury as well as budget accommodations and offers plenty of trekking and hiking opportunities.

The beautiful and tranquil Bhushi lake, the Tiger’s Leap and the Amrutanjan Point which offer an overwhelming view of the lush valley, the cliff that resembled the nose of Duke of Wellington and hence named the Duke’s Cliff and theBuddhist Caves of Karala and Bhuja are the main attractions of Khandala. It rains cats and dogs during the monsoons, so if you are not averse to getting drenched to the skin, then the place and its gems would leave you with memories to cherish for a life time.

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2) Lonavala- This hill station is the twin of Khandala, about 3kms further towards Pune from Khandala on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. A delightful place Lonavala, besides its natural beauty, is also famous for its ‘chikki’, a hard sugar boiled Indian candy with many variant flavours. The monsoon transforms Lonavala into a blissful natural paradise. The valleys become lush green and the hill sides become the bearers of innumerable waterfalls.

Rajmachi Point which gives a vantage view of the Maratha king Chatrapati Shivaji’s fort of Rajmachi, Valvan Dam and its beautiful garden, the picturesque gardens of Ryewood Park and Shivaji Udyan, the serene Tungarli lake which is the chief source of water for Lonavala, the seasonal Lonavala lake which gets completely dried up in winters and the Lion’s Point that offers an amazing view of the valley, are some of the attractions of Lonavala.

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3) Matheran- This beautiful hill station is located at a distance of about 100kms from Mumbai in the Raigad district. A popular weekend destination, the place which is situated at a height of 2,625 feet above sea level and is unique in the sense that no motorized vehicles are allowed within the town, enhancing the tranquility of the place.  An eco-sensitive region, one can travel around Matheran on foot, horse backs and hand pulled rickshaws. The picturesque town is dotted with many beautiful colonial bungalows, red coloured streets and a few local eateries. During monsoons, clouds practically descent on the town and the view of the adjoining valley from the more than 30 look out points, is breath taking; the many natural water falls magnify the mesmerizing effect. The beautiful LakeCharlotte, the ancient Pisarnath Mahadev (Shiv) temple and the MadhavjiGarden and point are some other attractions of Matheran.

The Matheran Hill Railway, a heritage railway is another attraction of this place. The 22kms narrow-gauge railway line connects Matheran station with Nernaland the 2 hour train ride takes you across dense forests and hilly area providing an exhilarating experience.

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4) Alibaug- This coastal town is located at a distance of about 110kms from Mumbai again in the Raigad district. Alibag is a potpourri of many cultures, Maratha, Jewish and English and today is the weekend home of many rich and famous like cricketers Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar and business tycoons like Adi Godrej, Ratan Tata. The popular Alibag beach, the formidable Alibag Fort, the famous (Shiva) Siddeshwar temple of Khandale, theBet El Synagogue reminiscent of the big Jewish community that once resided here, the pristine Varsoli beach that also has a big naval base, the Akshi  beachwhich is a favourite film shooting destination and the Kulaba fort famed to be the last fort built by Chatrapati Shivaji, are some of the major attractions of Alibag.

The place also houses the Magnetic Observatory of the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism which record changes in the Geo magnetic fields of earth.

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5) Durshet- This less frequented getaway is about 70kms away from Mumbai in the Raigad district. Nestled in the lushness of the western ghat, Durshet is a trekker’s dream come true especially during the monsoons. The Amba river that flows through this place, along with the natural waterfalls that spring to life during the monsoons provide a real amazing experience to anyone who desires to get respite from the grind and cacophony of daily life. A bird watcher’s delight Durshet is home to a variety of species of birds and fauna. The view of the Sahyadri ranges from this place is spectacular.

A jungle safari in the densely wooded region, a visit to the Sri Baleshwara Ashthavinayaka and the Shri Varad Vinayak temples both dedicated to Lord Ganesha are the other major attractions of Durshet.