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.

Saas Bahu Temple-The Forgotten Wonder

 

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Famous, the world over for its shimmering lakes, Udaipur, often called the Venice of the East, has a facet which is lesser known. The capital of the erstwhile princely state of Mewar, Udaipur boasts of some ancient exquisitely carved temples. Though temples like the one dedicated to Lord Jagdish, an incarnation of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu and the one dedicated to Lord Ekling ji, the chief deity of the Royal House of Mewar are revered and thronged by thousands, some others like the 11th century temple complex of Shahastra Baahu, popularly known by its local name ‘Saas Bahu” have been relegated to the back pages of relevance and reverence.

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Set on the banks of Lake Bagela near the Ekling ji temple about 22 kms from Udaipur is the small hamlet of Nagda, which lore claim was one of the earliest capitals of Mewar. Nagda is named after its founder Nagaditya, the fourth King of Mewar from the linage of King Bappa Rawal, and is set in a surrounding which is breathtakingly picturesque. The temple of Saas Bahu expands the magic and charm of the place. Built in the early 11th century, the twin temple complex which is right on the shores of lake Bagela, is an example of exemplary architectural workmanship of ancient Vaishnav art form.

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On a sunny winter December afternoon, we decided to take a road trip to the Sahastra Baahu Temple Complex. To get to the Saas Bahu temples, you have to turn left adjacent to the embankment of the Lake Bagela, as you approach the steep slope that takes you to the temple of Ekling ji at Kailashpuri. A glaring drawback en route to the temples is the absence of any road signs or indicators that might help you to reach the temples without getting the feeling of having got lost. The narrow road takes you past a resort aptly name Heritage Resort and centuries old Jain temples but even the approach road towards the Saas Bahu temple complex is devoid of any signage that might proclaim its existence to the wandering visitors. An empty and derelict parking lot added to the confusion.

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We took a steep road past the parking lot and were greeted by the sound of cascading water from a small artificial water fall beside a small shop selling curios. The shop owner doubled up as a parking attendant and after paying INR 15/- as parking fees to him, we began our tryst with the complex that houses the twin temples of Saas Bahu.

 

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Entering the complex, which is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), you are greeted by a well maintained garden and beyond that is the raised platform on which are the temples of Shahastra  Bahu dedicated to Lord Vishnu in an incarnation with thousand hands (hence the name shahastra meaning thousand and baahu meaning hands)

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The complex though is more widely known by its distorted name ‘Saas Bahu’ temples.  Saas in the local language means mother-in-law and Bahu connotes daughter-in-law and it is not hard to fathom why the temples are known as the Saas Bahu temples. Standing right across each other, the ‘Saas’ temple which has a beautiful archway at its entrance,  is comparatively larger in size than the ‘Bahu’ temple which has a fascinating octagonal carved ceiling, signifying the relative place of importance that a mother-in-law has for the daughter-in-law and the family in general. Both the temples are adorned by some exquisite carvings depicting events and figures from Hindu mythology like Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh besides others like Ram, Parshurama and Balrama that showcase the sculpting prowess and vivid imagination of the sculptors of that time.

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There are two more much smaller temples on the platform, both in ruins. The ancient temple complex has been a witness to destruction by marauding invaders for centuries and it shows. Today, the temples despite the scars that ravages of time have wrecked on them mercilessly stand resplendently in resilient abeyance to their creators and as a proud reminder to modernity that the past has more gems hidden in her bosom than the future can even aspire to provide.

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

Bhilwara-The Textile Town of India

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Railway Station-Bhilwara

Railway Station-Bhilwara

About 165 kms away from Udaipur on the Chittorgarh-Ajmer-Jaipur highway lies, Bhilwara, the town made famous by the teeming textile mills that have resulted in it being bestowed with the epitaph the “Manchester of India”.

Tribal women on the roads of Bhilwara

Tribal women on the roads of Bhilwara

The origin of the name “Bhilwara” is obscure and there are many variants to why the town is called Bhilwara. But the most widely believed version is that once the town was inhabited primarily by the indigenous tribals of the region, the Bhils, who were subsequently vanquished by the settlers. In present day Bhilwara, the original citizens are a minuscule minority with the “Maheshwaris” and other business classes being the dominant groups.

The roads of Bhilwara

The roads of Bhilwara

On the whole the city, especially the older part, is quite well planned as most of the roads are connected to traffic roundabouts (“chourahas”) which further lead to more roundabouts and getting your way through the city is that much simpler.

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Chaos on the roads

But the traffic is chaotic and the traffic sense of the people even more so. You would be tempted to thank your stars even after conducting a basic thing like crossing the road, successfully.

Roundabouts of Bhilwara

Roundabouts of Bhilwara

Since, Bhilwara basically is an industrial and business town, the places of attraction in the city are few. One place that caught my fancy and is a wonderful place to visit if you are, even a little bit, religiously inclined and love serenity, is the temple of Harni Mahadev, a temple dedicated to the Hindu God of destruction, Lord Shiva.

The majestic outer entrance of the Harni Mahadev Temple-Bhilwara

The outer entrance gate of the Harni Mahadev Temple-Bhilwara

Located at a distance of around 6kms from the city in the village of Harni, the temple of Harni Mahadev is neither overwhelming nor awe-inspiring from the outside. In fact the entire temple complex is very simple and frugal in appearance. But lo, as you enter the main temple, the sight of the natural Shiva Linga beneath an uncut natural solid rock is a spectacle to behold and fills you with a religious fervor. The Linga of Mahadev has idols of the entire Shiva family for company and you could even bath the deities with water that is kept in buckets the sanctum of the temple.

The entrance to the main temple of Harni Mahadev

The entrance to the main temple of Harni Mahadev

 

The Shivalinga of Harni Mahadev beneath an uncut rock

The Shivalinga of Harni Mahadev beneath an uncut rock

Harni Mahadev is the ancestral temple of the Darak family of Bhilwara, who are one of the richest and most influential families of the textile city. The temple complex buzzes with devotees during Maha Shivaratri and “Sawan” month when more than 10 lac people visit the temple in 3 days.

A serpent shaped religious structure outside the Harni Mahadev temple

A serpent shaped religious structure outside the Harni Mahadev temple

Just outside the Harni Mahdev temple is a unique temple that is shaped in the form of a serpent around a Shiva Linga. This structure sure is an attraction of the place, especially for young kids.

Roadside non-veg joints near Railway station

Roadside non-veg joints near Railway station

Bhilwara could be a difficult place, if you are a carnivore by your eating habits. There are a very limited number of restaurants that serve you non-vegetarian dishes. Some roadside joints in the Muslim dominated area around the City railway station provide you with some delicious non-veg street food but if you are looking for some great non-vegetarian fine dining experience, you would be thoroughly disappointed. The roof top restaurant of Hotel Ranbanka is probably the only place where you could have decent food to satiate your carnivorous taste buds.

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But connoisseurs of vegetarian food are spoilt for choice in the textile city. Mughlai, Continental, Chinese, Indian, Fusion and street food, you name it and it is all available in Bhilwara. People throng street side stalls that sell katchoris, samosas, pakodis with kadi and also go to restaurants like Saffron that serve you multi-cuisine vegetarian dishes. Even a small shop near the city railway station that sells buttered buns and tea, is full round the clock. A neat swanky restaurant, again near the railway station by the unimaginative name PFC (Priya Food and Continental) and Amit Palace Hotel on the Ajmer Road has an amazing variety of Continental cuisine on offer besides the regular Indian fare.

A terrific fusion sizzler at PFC, Bhilwara

A terrific fusion sizzler at PFC, Bhilwara

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Delicious Indian fare at Saffron restaurant

After meals, if you like to munch on a betel leaf, popularly known as “paan”, then Bhilwara has a very special place on offer, the JBB Pan Corner. Here you can get a variety of Paans, that range from INR 15/- to a mind boggling INR 1500/- per piece.

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JBB Pan Corner near Bus Stand

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The rate list- From Rs 15 to Rs 1500/-

All in all if you are a veggie, then Bhilwara sure could be a foodie’s paradise.

In a nutshell, the city of Bhilwara, in itself might not be very attractive at first look but it sure is a place that grows on you overtime…….

 

Explore like never Before- (part2)

When we reached the main medical centre of Parshad, it looked as though some sort of curfew had been imposed on it. Not a soul was to be seen anywhere in the vicinity of the place besides some patients, who were waiting patiently in the soothing sun for the doctors to come. The notice board at the centre said that the winter timing of the centre was from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm and 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm but even at 10.20 am there was nobody to attend the patients. The patients instead of sullying over the matter seemed to be enjoying chit chats amongst themselves quite oblivious to their own ailments, enjoying each other’s company besides the warmth of the sun. Truly Incredible India, this!

Not a soul at the Health Centre, Parshad

Not a soul at the Health Centre, Parshad

From Parshad we moved on to the historically important town of Chawand. It was at this place that the heroic Rajput king Maharna Pratap breathed his last, after a fatal hunting accident. The town has a memorial in honour of the great king, which unfortunately lies in utter neglect, today. The landscape in and around the town is dotted with remains of a glorious era, gone by and I, for one was taken aback by the sheer beauty of a small castle on a hillock on the Chawand – Sarada road, whose historical significance, none of the people I encountered seemed to know, besides the fact that one time or the other in history, it acted as the treasury for Maharana Pratap.

The imposing treasury in ruins!

The imposing treasury in ruins!

At Sarada, the main medical centre was abuzz with activity and the doctors were efficiently tending the patients. It was here that we had a plate of crisp crushed samosa dipped in hot “kadhi” sprinkled with “sev” and garnished with chopped onions and chillies. This street food from a street side shop was a real gastronomic delight, the perfect antidote on a winter morning.

The gastronomically delightful Street Food

The gastronomically delightful Street Food

The next haunt was Semari and the first thing that strikes you when you enter this hamlet is the temple of the Mother Goddess that is located right in the middle of the main road of this town. The cattle jostle with mechanized vehicles for supremacy of the road aided by the “divine intervention”, as mere mortals like me just look on in awe.  But in spite of seemingly so much chaos, the harmony and a pleasant flavor of rural India that the place bestows on you, is just overwhelming.

The temple at the centre of the road, Semari

The temple at the centre of the road, Semari

From Semari we went to Kalyanpur and the road though narrow and winding was pretty amazing. It took us along idyllic villages and scenic ponds. We came across a very big pond which was host to a large flock of migratory birds. Cranes, swans and kingfishers were there in galore and their chirping and the sound of their flying was purely divine. The pond even had an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva partially submerged in its water which seemed to signify the fine blend that exists between divinity and nature.

The beautiful pond

The beautiful pond

The submerged ancient temple

The submerged ancient temple

Rishabhdeo or Kesariyaji , a place that is holy not only for the local tribesmen of the area but also for the believers of the Jain sect, was our next stop. It has the famous temple that houses a black stone idol which is worshipped as Adinath by the Jains and as a form of Lord Shiva by the tribals. But this was not the place we went. My colleague told me that a newer temple was being built very near to the ancient temple and the trust which was building the newer temple also served wonderful Jain lunches. Since, it was well past 1.30 pm we decided to go there. The approach road to the new temple was very narrow and the façade was highly unimpressive. But lo as you enter the gates of the temple, the beauty of the exquisite work in progress marvel, just strikes you. The white marble temple that is surrounded by large life like white marble elephants is full of highly intricate carvings and would surely be a great tourist attraction once it is fully complete. The lunch as promised was simple, hot and delicious.

The beautiful new Jain Temple, Rishabhdeo

The beautiful new Jain Temple, Rishabhdeo

Temple surrounded by white marble elephants

After a very satisfying lunch, we went to Dungarpur via Kherwara. After completing the official job at hand, we went to the embankments of Lake GapSagar. The bank of the lake is a host to a flurry of activities. You can find shops selling branded cloths wear, accessories and glares on one hand and on the other there are vendors who sell you fresh farm produces along with many stalls and carts that sell street food.  Also on the bank is the ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shreenath ji and incarnation of Lord Krishna. As you enter the premise of the temple you are suddenly enveloped by a serenity that is way beyond words. Leaving behind the humdrum of the big bad world, the temple offers you an oasis of serenity and complete bliss. The presiding deity and his consort and the keeper of the temple, the mighty winged demi-god Lord Garura leave an indelible impression on your mind.

Lake Gap Sagar, Dungarpur

Lake Gap Sagar, Dungarpur

The ancient Shreenath Temple, Dungarpur

The ancient Shreenath Temple, Dungarpur

The blackstone keeper of the temple

The blackstone keeper of the temple

The presiding deity, Shreenath Temple, Dungarpur

The presiding deity, Shreenath Temple, Dungarpur

Divinity-Up and close

Divinity-Up and close

With the sun fast setting, it was time for us leave, back for home. Capturing the sun setting among the cactus that guarded a lush sesame field on my 3 Megapixel Samsung mobile camera, rounded off a wonderful day for me, in which I explored places which were off the beaten track, all around Udaipur.

The Sun sets on a beautiful day.

The Sun sets on a beautiful day.