Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pandari-Shirdi-Ellora Trip

I had been longing to visit Pandaripuram (Pandharpur) for quite a while. So when my wife asked me to plan a trip to Shirdi, I decided to combine Pandharpur with it. Though both of them are in the same state of Maharashtra, they are not visited together that often.
Pandharpur was close to my heart because of this story that I heard during my childhood days..!
Myself and my friend Ganeshraman made this trip with our families in Nov 2008..! (Yes there is no typo...I am just blogging some of my old!).We had a great trip.!

 I've collated the photos into a visual photostory with some soothing music to go with. Each photostory is not more than 10 minutes of duration. The photos are collated in the order of our visit and each slideshow is appropriately annotated within. I had done this earlier to share with my family friends and relatives and so I could not omit a few of our photographs in the whole story. However they are all taken in the background of the places that we visited and hence will not be radically out of place. I also do not intend to split the post based on places as I intended this to be an account of our entire trip to be experienced together..So you might find it a bit lengthy, but will give you an experience of having made the trip together.. !
If you are short of time you may want to look at the videos first before looking at the Photostory as the videos are shorter..!
The travel plan runs like this - I guess this will be useful for someone who wants to visit these places from Chennai.

30-Nov-08       Sun  AN         1042-Mumbai Exp Chennai to Solapur
 5 -Dec-08       Fri 19:30         1041                 Dound to Chennai
30-Nov-08      Sun  11:45am   Start from Chennai
  1-Dec-08      Mon  4:30am    Reach Solapur
                       Mon  6:00am    Depart to Phandarpur
                       Mon  8:30am    Reach Pandarpur - Stay at ISKCON Pandharpur
2-Dec-08       Tue    6:10pm    Start to Manmad (to Shirdi)
3-Dec-08       Wed 4:30am      Reach Manmad
                      Wed 7:00am      Reach Shirdi (60km from Manmad)
                      Wed 11:00am    Settle into a Hotel-MTDC Hotel The Pilgrims Inn
                      Wed 01:00pm    Shirdi Darshan
4-Dec-08       Thu Full day       Ellora
5-Dec-08       Fri                     Shirdi-Darshan
                      Fri 12:00pm       Proceed to Daund @150Km-by Cab
                      Fri 5:00pm         Reach Daund
                      Fri 7:25PM        Depart to Chennai
                      Sat 4:45PM       Reach Chennai Central
Wikipedia holds good amount of information on this place.
We went to Solapur from Chennai by Mumbai express. Pandharpur is 70kms from Solapur and buses ply from Solapur.Numerous autos are available from Solapur railway station to go to the bus stand.

We stayed at ISKCON at Pandharpur. We blocked a couple of twin bed rooms from Chennai by phone.The Ashram does not charge rent for the rooms...! But accept donations.The rooms are spacious with balcony overlooking river Chandrabagha.  We could see the river from our balcony that overlooked green paddy fields and the house of our boat man Pandarinath amidst this green backdrop..!  See the video below.
Caution - You don't get hot water in the room. No Geyser..!
The ISKCON is on the west bank of the river Chandrabagha while the temple and the town is on the eastern side. Boats are available to cross over at a cost of Rs 5/- Per head. We enjoyed our stay in this peaceful locale and took the boat whenever needed rather than staying amidst the thickly populated town-side.Frequent boat ride itself was an experience..!

 ISKCON provides free Veg meal (very delicious) to the guests twice a day -Morning at 9:30am and Evening at 4:30pm-Yes dinner at 4:30pm and nothing after that. The ISKCON Sadhus do not eat anything after 4:30pm....! We used to go to the other side of the river and have dinner.

ISKCON houses a Radhapandarinatha temple. The krishna & Rukmani idols are of impeccable beauty. The evening Aarthi at this temple is elaborate and an exhilarating experience... with Sadhus dancing  in ecstasy..! A short video of this Aarthi can be found under Videos section below

The cute little Vittala Rukmani idols, the vast temple and grand wooden structure.. mark this temple uniquely. I understand this temple is built on a vast area and has 6 gates. The temple contains inscriptions that date back to 13th Century AD. Enormous amount of data are available on the internet about this place.
Some thing unique, I noted and liked when I visited was that in the banks of the Chandrabagha river a huge tented shamiana was erected where continuously Abhung was sung. Many devotees drop by and sing for some time before giving way to the next party. I am not an expert in music and so can not comment on the grammer of the musics... But it was so genuine and stirring that it drew me to the tent to seek these details..! I don't remember , if it was organized on account of some special occassion...! But my friend says Abhung at the Vittal Kshetram is a normal affair..!
We also visited a temple of Janabai,Thukaram famous devotees of Sri Vittala krishna.From ISKCON,the temple has to be reached by crossing the river Chandrabagha by boat and then a walk of 1 Km (Horse carts were seen for our return trip..!) On the way, We encountered a unique temple- rather a small mandapam- for Naradha in the midst of the river, half submerged.  The priest sits on the roof of the mandapam and comes down when a boat stops by..! See this interesting spot in the slideshow below.

Speakers on...Please !

Photostoty- Pandharpur and around

Videos-Pandharpur and around

We went to Shirdi by train from Solapur to Kopergaun via Daund. The compartment is detached at Daund and attached to another train to Kopergaon. There is about 4hrs of halt at the Daund Junction.
We stayed at MTDC Hotel The Pilgrims Inn. We booked the accommodation online. Old hotel, but Spacious rooms and a decent restaurant mark the hotel uniquely..I liked it so much that I would love to stay there again...!

This Shirdi Photostory & Video covers some Shirdi sight seeing spots,the Hotel & some street shots. I could shoot a video of Dwarkamai temple with the lightings on..a video I liked much and might interest you too..!

The cave temples of Ellora , a UNESCO world heritage site is the pinnacle of Deccan Rock Architecture.
Exquisite carvings and 150 years of hard work of nearly 7000 laborers mark these cave temples.Stupendous feat..!
The story and facts are annotated in the video.
Wikipidea will give you more information than anybody else could give you on this monument.!
Kailanasanatha temple is one of the greatest feats of all time, I would say..!

We also visited one of the Jyothirlingam temples en-route Ellora.
This temple -Grishneshwar Temple -is on the way to Ellora from Shirdi . Built by Rani Ahillyabai Holkar is an important Hindu pilgrim place located in the village of Verul, near Ellora caves. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of India, where Lord Shiva is worshipped. Half a kilometre from Ellora lies this beautiful temple, built by Rani Ahillyabai Holkar, a Maratha princess. It is the most superb example of medieval temple architecture. This Jyotirlinga is said to be self - oriented. It is the last Jyotirlinga without which the journey to the Jyotirlingas is considered incomplete. The temple walls are richly sculptured. Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled Indore from 1765 to 1795, built both the temple and its masonry tank.

Photostory Ellora

Video Ellora