Thursday, August 8, 2013

Visit at Neelkanth Mahadev in holy month of Saanwan

I had an old desire to visit Neelkanth Mahadev, which is situated at the uphill near Rishikesh. Last year, I visited Haridwar to bring holy water of Ganga in the sacred month of Saanwan, I couldn't go Neelkanth, but visited Daksheshwar Mahadev Temple in Haridwar. I couldn't post that travelogue as my brother-in-law's mobile camera which we were using for clicking pics in our journey, was stolen with all pics gone. It was very heart-breaking.

Last year I asked a wish which got fulfilled, so this year 2013's Saawan month, we planned to offer the holy Ganga water from Har ki Pauri to NeelKanth Mahadev. One more Ghumakkar was added to the gang, my Cousin's husband Dilip ji, who accompanied us on the journey to Tarkeshwar Mahadev. So we were three now, me with my brother-in-law and Dilip ji. As per planned I reached Bijnore at Dilip ji's place at the night before Shivratri of Sanwan month, dated August 4. Ashwani was to join us on the way to Haridwar next morning. We left Dilip ji's place at 4 AM and joined Ashwani at Haridwar via Chandok & Bhaguwala. We met at Chandidevi bridge and proceeded towards Har ki pauri.

There was not much rush at Har ki Pauri as we expected because most of the Kawariayas had left for their places after getting Ganga jal. We had bath in river at Har ki Pauri. The water of river was muddy due to rains. It was continues rain in our whole trip. After holy dip we performed Ganga pujan, bought some containers to fill Ganga jal to offer at Neelkanth and some for home. After all this we decided to have breakfast at famous Mohan Puri wala near Har ki Pauri. We had Poori with Aalu sabji & Choley and a glass of delicious lassi.

On our way to Rishikesh we observed that there was an expected fall in the count of tourist post Kedarnath tragedy. As I said it was a rainy day and hills look breath-taking in rains. It was not easy to ride bike on wetty roads but we managed. I was on my CB twister with Dilip ji and Ashwani was on his modified bullet Electra.

We chose the route via Lakshman Jhula. Lakshman Jhula is an iron suspension bridge, built in 1939 and is a landmark of Rishikesh. A similar bridge near Lakshman Jhula is Ram Jhula. It is said that Lord Ram's brother Lakshman crossed Ganges on jute ropes between the place where this bridge is built. Situated 2 km away from Swarg Ashram, this jhula provides a beautiful view of famous temples, ashrams and River Ganga. The Lakshman Jhula is used by the people as a path for visiting Swarg Ashram and Gita Bhavan. On the either side of the jhula, there are famous temples like Lakshman Temple and Tapovan that are also frequented by the tourists. It was an interesting ride as we shared the space with pedestrians, two-wheelers, cows, dogs and monkeys! There are quite a few eating joints for Indians (Dhaba-style restaurant) and foriegners (German Bakeries) where you can sit back and enjoy watching people passing by. You can also walk down from Lakshman Jhoola to River Ganga to go rafting or for a boat ride.

My previous posts on Haridwar & Rishikeh are listed below:

Very soon we were on route to Neelkanth Mahadev Temple. The roads were slick and patchy, crossing the dense forest, we were thoroughly enjoying the route. We had some small halts to capture the view in mobile's camera. I didn't carry my Nikon camera this time as couldn't take the risk to lose that. There was no rush on the route, may be because of rain or some other reasons. We maintained the speed of 40 to 50 kmph and reached near the temple with in almost 2 hours from Rishikesh.

We parked our bike at saperated two-wheeler parking and walked towards temple. There were small shops for prashad. At one of them we left our bags and bought prashad to offer lord. The temple had huge parking area and a well maintained toilet managed by Sulabh Shochalya. Because of rain and festival season the temple premises was not looking Clean and orderly as it usually be. We again had brief bath in water spring of temple area and join the queue for Neelkanth Mahadev's Shivling darshan. It was a brief darshan of Shivling, I offered bilva leaves, flowers and Gangajal. As an ardent follower of Lord Shiv, it was life-time moment for me.

Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Nilkanth (Lord Shiva). The temple is situated at a height of 1330 meters and is located about 32 km from Rishikesh. The temple is one of the most revered holy shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a prominent Hindu pilgrimage site. It is surrounded by dense forests and is adjacent to the mountain ranges of Nar-Narayan. It is enveloped between the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot and Vishnukoot and is located at the confluence of the rivers Pankaja and Madhumati.

According to Hindu mythology, the place where the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple currently stands is the sacred location where Lord Shiva consumed the poison Halahala that originated from the sea when Devas and Asuras churned the ocean in order to obtain Amrit. This poison that emanated during the Samudramanthan made his throat blue in color. Thus, Lord Shiva is also known as Nilkanth.

The sikhara of the temple is adorned with sculptures of various Devas and Asuras depicting the Samudramanthan. Neelkanth Mahadev in the form of Shivalinga is the presiding deity of the temple.

Maha Shivaratri is the most prominent festival celebrated in the temple and lots of devotees flock to the temple during the festival. The devotees who pay a visit to Neelkanth Mahadev make an offering of Bael leaves, coconut, flowers, milk, honey, fruits and water to the Lord Shiva. The temple observes two fairs that are held annually on the occasions of Maha Shivratri (Feb-Mar) and Shivratri of Shraavana month of Hindu calendar (July-Aug) during which the devotees (Kawarias) trek from Haridwar to Neelkanth Mahadev Temple.

We came out of temple after having blessings and found the shop where we left our bags. We had tea with maggie there and left for parking. It was a great day, we were on the way back, leaving the hills behind; thanking Shiva Shankar for his blessings and making earth so beautiful. I would love to visit here again but some other time with my son Ishan.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Byke trip to Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple

I was dieing to be in hills. Then came an umeed ki cousin's wedding on Friday, February 8, which I had to attend at a village near Kotdwar. I made plan to visit Tarkeshwar Mahadev Mandir with one of my cousin's husband, a very nice guy named Dilip. I call him Dilip ji or Sir. So Feb 9 was fixed. As we planned, I reached Dilip ji's home in Bijnaur by 5 PM on 8th Feb after attending a ceremony for same marriage in Ghaziabad. We attended marriage, discussed our next day and went to sleep.
Next morning after daily routine we left Bijnaur for Kotdwar on Bajaj Discover bike. In Najibabad my brother-in-law with one of his friend joined us on his Bullet. We had our breakfast at Najibabad and reached Kotdwar by 11:30 AM, which was little late. Roads were traffic free and soon we crossed Sidhbali Mandir and Durga Devi Mandir.
About these two temple I have already written in my previous post..URL: Siddhbali & Durga Devi Temple


Tarkeshwar Mahadev Mandir is about 70 KM away from Kotdwar and 36 KM away from Lansdowne. Roads are very narrow with frequent turns but almost traffic free. For Tarkeshwar Mahadev, we had to take right turn before entering in Lansdowne. There were boards everywhere to guide us. We were already late so Lansdowne was not on that day's wish list. About Lansdowne, I have written on my previous post..URL: Lansdowne


We were flying in hills. (In car we transpose, but on bike we fly). So we were flying on our bikes, making videos of the route to capture memories, clicking stills to pose with hills in background.


Soon we had first glimpse of snowcapped mountains. It was clear sky.



I think, it took good three and half hours to reach Tarkeshwar Mahadev. HAR HAR MAHADEV.

Tarakeshwar is located in the Bichla Badalpur Patti of Rikhnikhal Block of District Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, and is about 36 km from Lansdowne. It is the abode of an ancient Shiva Temple which is the presiding deity of not only the Garhwal Rifles but also of 84 villages around it. Its mythological importance lies because it is believed that Goddess Parvati prayed in Tarakeshwar to get Lord Shiva. It is in the foot hills of the Himalyas and is about 5 kilometers aerial distance from the boundry of Jim Corbett National Park.

There is a meditation centre and the two dharmshalas. About 30 persons can be accommodated in the two dharmshalas and the meditation centre. There is an open swimming pool where devotees can take a bath before visiting the temple. For ladies there is another pool which is covered so that they may bathe in some privacy. Apart from these two pools there are two other smaller open pools which are located in front of the dharmshala. There is another ‘kund’ which is now covered from where devotees can take water for offering in the Tarakeshwar Mahadev temple. The water from this ‘kund’ is used for drinking and cooking purpose also. There is provision for heating water in the stove which can be used for bathing. Since there are no shops in Tarakeshwar it is recommended that people should take some provisions from Kotdwar like flour, dals, vegetables and cooking oil while going there. It is recommended that if you stay in the dharmshala you should pay a nominal amount for upkeep which can be kept in the donation box of the dharmshala. The management of the dharmshala and the meditation centre are not in the hands of the Temple Committee which has been formed to collect all the offerings in the temple and utilise the money for the welfare of the people who visit the place. There is no system of advance booking the rooms because as a tradition everyone is accommodated to stay for the night and share the facilities in the dharmshalas. In severe cold conditions the dharmshalas provide stoves for burning wood to warm the rooms. People can collect pine cones for burning in the stoves. The pine cones are found in plenty above the dharmshalas. The workers also provide wood for burning. 

Bells are offered at the Tarakeshwar Mahadev Temple. The devotees especially those who stay away on fulfilment of a prayer or after pious occasions like marriages or the birth of a child come to Tarakeshwar and offer a bell at the temple. These bells are stored in the temple premises and when their number becomes sizeable they are hung outside on the pathways to the temple.

There is another story about Tarkeshwar mahadev Temple, according to folklore after killing the demon Tarakasoor, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati came to Tarakeshwar to take rest. Since the sun was shining on Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati transformed herself into seven Deodar trees to provide shade to Lord Shiva. These seven trees are situated in the Temple complex. All the other deodar trees have originated from these seven trees. The whole area is now therefore called Tarakeshwar.

A visit to the temple is a must. It is said that the Shiva Lingam started sinking when the temple was being constructed. Shiva Lingam is located at the spot below the image of the deity where the water offered by the devotees goes. It is now not accessible to people.

A few years back a temple dedicated to the Goddess Shakti was also built adjacent to the old Tarakeshwar Mahadev temple. Also nearby is the ‘havan kund’ which is used by some devotees who do special prayers.

TARAKESHWAR has a unique micro-environment unparallel and unfound anywhere else. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that there is a dense Deodar tree grove located at about 4500 feet above sea level in Tarakeshwar. Normally Deodar trees grow at over 7000 feet. The Deodar tree grove is surrounded by Chir Pine and Oak trees. Deodar trees grove is located at an altitude lower than that of the Chir Pine and Oak trees. Even from the scenic point of view the Deodar grove in Tarakeshwar, surrounded by tall cliffs on all sides which are covered by dense forests and with small water bodies in the centre, is a paradise on earth.

I read somewhere that the shape of the deodar grove in Tarakeshwar is that of the Hindi letter ‘Aum’. The serenity and tranquility of the deodar grove is an excellent place to unwind and meditate. There are twenty micro and mini-micro watersheds in Tarakeshwar. Because of this reason the stream which flows out of Tarakeshwar is called the ‘Bees Ganga’. ‘Bees’ in Hindi means twenty. The Bees Ganga is a perennial stream and even in the severest drought it has never dried.

Two fairs are held on every year when special prayers are done in Tarakeshwar. The first one is on Shivaratri and in second one in June. The local people bring their harvested crop to Tarakeshwar and offer it in the temple before they consume them.

There is another room in which the bells offered to Tarakeshwar Mahadev are kept. A few years back the Temple Committee constructed a walk way to the temple in which the bells have been hung. Devotees going to the temple ring these bells the chime of which adds to the pious environment. The soldiers of the Garhwal Rifles after returning from any war operations to their cantonment in Lansdowne come in a convoy to Tarakeshwar and perform ‘puja’ here. They also offer a big bell which is normally hung at the gate of the Temple. Presently, the bell which they offered after returning from the Kargill war is hung at the gate. It is pertinent to mention here that Tarakeshwar is the ruling deity of the Garhwal Rifles.

Langurs, jackals, monkeys, parakeets, mountain deers, snakes and a variety of birds can be seen in Tarakeshwar. Leopard and bear are rare but can be seen at the end of the rainy season. It is advisable to get away whenever you see a bear because it has a tendency to attack humans. Wild boars can also be seen here and it is advisable to avoid them as they have a very unpredictable behaviour. Other animals normally do not attack human beings unless instigated. A speciality in Tarakeshwar is a bird which normally every night makes a chanting sound which it keeps on repeating for a very long time. The priest and workers of the meditation centre can tell you about this bird.

The sunrise from the top of the cliff above the meditation centre is worth experiencing. Kindly be at the top atleast 10 minutes before the first light can be seen on the horizon. On a lucky day a span of 800 km. of snow covered Himalayan mountain ranges can be seen at a distance. Someone told me that the Yamunotri peaks, the Gangotri peaks, the Chaukamba, Nandadevi and Trishul can be seen from the top.

For tourists who want hotel type facilities it is recommended that they stay in hotels and resorts in Lansdowne about 40 km. away from where they can make a day trips to Tarakeshwar. In Lansdowne there are Fairydale Hotel, GMVN Hotel, Blue Pine Resort and some more hotels where advance booking can be made.

We left the place to get back home on time. It took us lesser time in coming towards plane, as it was almost decline slopes. We switched off our bikes and enjoyed the roller coaster rides. Bikes were off and in neutral gear, still we were tring our best to control speed around 45 km/h by applying brakes. It was fun.

After having a few halts on our way for clicking snaps, we reached Kotdwar at 7 PM. We enjoyed our day so much that none of felt hunger. We were out of food for whole day. At Najibabad we had our dinner and made a vow to come back in hills very soon.