Sunday, September 9, 2007


The states of Goa, Maharastra, Gujarat and Rajastan, add to India’s rich religious tapestry, with their distinctive Temple, Churches and shrines, their unique customs and traditions, their inimitable art and architecture.

Goa is celebrated for its sun-kissed beaches. The spiritual side of this beach country is evedent in its many ancient churches. The main church of Panaji, the charming capital city of Goa, is the church of our lady of the immaculate conception. It stands above the square in the main part of the town. Consecrated in 1541, it was here that Portuguese sailors offered thanks for a safe passage. Just 9 km east of Panaji, old Goa is the spiritual heart of the christen community here. There are many imposing churches and cathedrals here. The largest of these is the se cathedral, built in the Portuguese-gothic style. The tower here houses the famous Golden bell. The convent and churches of st, Frencis of Assisi has rich interiors including a stunning ornamental screen behind the altar murals depict scenes from the life of St Frencis. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is famous throughout the Roman Catholic world, containing as it does the mortal remains of st Frencis Xavier, housed in a silver casket. On the walls surrounding it are murals depicting scenes from the saint,s journeys. Also of interest is the church of st cajetan modeled on the original design of st peter,s in rome, the church of st monica, the chapel of st Anthony, the church of st Catherine and the church of our lady of the Rosary.
Maharastra, the land of forts, canvas and legends is home to ancient pilgrim centres and Temple the most important of these being the shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha Ganesh chaturthi is a big event in Maharastra with celebrations resounding from every nook and corner of the state. Mumbai, the capital city of Maharastra, is home to the Mahalkshmi Temple the siddhi Vinayaka Temple and the walkeshwar Temple. The last one is associated with Lord Rama, who it is believed, stayed here on his way from Ayodhya to Lanka. He built a linga of Lord Shiva here, out of said. About 9 km north east of the Gateway of India, in Mumbai are the Elephanta Caves. These rock cut Temples, dedicated to Shiva Mahadeva, are rich in sculptural content and enshrine a colossal 20 feet-high image of the three headed shiva, Trimurthy. 375 km south of Mumbai is Ganapatipule. The swayambhu Ganapati or the naturally formed monolithic Ganesh attracts thousands of pilgrims. In the village of Bhavagiri, about 110 km away from Pune, is the Bhimashankar Temple, enshrining Bhimashankara. This ancient shrine is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. Near the Temple is a shrine to Kamalaja, an incarnation of Parvati. The Mokshakund Thirtha is located behind the Bhimashankara Temple. The Sarvathirtha, the Kusharanya Thirtha and the Jyankakund are also of importance. About 195 km from pune Shirdi, associated with the mystic saint sai Baba. Pilgrims of all faiths visit here to seek the blessings of shirdi sai Baba. Standing on River godavari one of the holiest river of the Deccan, is Nasik, peppered with hundreds of Temple and bathing ghats. An important pilgrim centre, Nasik has many associations with the Ramayana and is also the venue of the Kumbha Mela held once every 12 years. The city,s holiest Temple is the Kala Ram Mandir, housing the shrines of Rama, Sita and Lakshman. Also of importance are the sita Gumpa cave, the Sundar Narayan Temple and the Mukti Dham Temple. 30 km from Nasik is Tryambakeshwar, revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. Tryambakeshwar is the source of River Godavari. The Temple isa built of black stone in the Nagara style of architecture with the sanctum housing a small Shivalinga Tryambaka. The other Temple of significance here are Kolhambika dedicated to Parvati Ganga Devi enshrining a white marble image of Ganga and shrine to Kedarnath Rameshwar Gowtameshwar, kashi Vishwanath, Jareshwar, Kanchaneshwar, Tribuvaneshwar, Rama Parashuram, Krishna, Balaji, Lakshmi Narayan and hanuman. Also held in reverence are the Gangadwara Thirtha the varaha Thirtha the Kushavarta Thirth, the varaha Thirtha the Kushavarta Thirtha, the Gangasagar the Gautamlaya, Bilva Thirtha, Indra Thirtha, Vishwanath Thirtha, Mukund Thirtha, Prayag Thirtha, Rama Kund, Lakshman Kund and the confluence of River Ahalya and Godavari. The massive rock-cut monolithic Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora, near Aurangabad, is built in the Dravidian Style. Famed for its architectural grandeur and sculptural splendour , the Temple covers an area of over 60,000 square feet and the profusely sculpted shikhara, rises to a height of about 90 feet. Other caves of interest in Ellora are the Rameshwar cave, the sita ki Nahani cave and several Jain caves. The Temple of Ellora have a world heritage listing. 11 km from Daulatbad, near Aurangabad is Grishneshwar an ancient pilgrimage site revered as the abode of one of the 12 Jyotrlingas of Shiva. Ramtek, about 40 km north west of Nagpur has a number of picturesque 600-year old Temple spectacularly situated on a Hill above the town. Lord Rama is said to have spent time here with Sita and Lakshman. Bhavani was the tutelary deity of Maharaj Shivaji, the valiant Maratha ruler. At the Bhavani Temple in Tuljapur, near sholapur, she is worshipped in the form of a three foot-high granite image with eight arms holding weapons, bearing the head of the slain demon Mahisharura.

Bhavani is also known as Tulja, Turaja, Tvarita and Amba. 65 km west of sholapur is Pandharapur, enshrining Vithoba in a grand Temple on the banks of River Bhima. Vithoba is a form of Krishna. The worship of Vishnu- Vitthala at Pandharpur is derived mainly from the puranas and has been augmented by the contribution of the great Vaishnava saints of Maharastra from the 13th through the 17th centuries Namdev, Jnaneshwar, Eknath, Tukaram. There is also a shrine to saint Pundalik, at Pandharapur. Situated on the banks of river panchganga, Kolhapur is full of ancient Temple and shrines. The most important of these is the Mahalakshmi Temple, with its three sancta housing Mahalakshmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati. Above the Mahalakshmi sanctum is a shrine with a Shivalinga and Nandi. The Devakoshtas house Venkatesha, Katyayani and Gowri Shankar. There are a number of subsidiary shrine in the courtyard. Also located in the courtyard is the Temple tank Manikarnika Kund on whose bank is a shrine to Visweshwar Mahadev. On the western coast of India is Gujarat, a state steeped in history, Archaeological finds at Lothal near Ahmedabad and Razdi in Saurashtra trace its history back to 3,500 years to the times of Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Legends date it even earlier. The somnath Temple, for instance, is said to mark the creation the Universe. 30 km south of Patan is the village of Modhera, home to the famous sun Temple, a truly magnificent structure, with a sanctum, a pradakshina patha and a sabha mandap in front. The exterior of the sanctum has many carved images of the sun god. The Temple has been designed in the such a way that the sun’s rays illuminate the sanctum at dawn, during the time of the Temple now. In front of the Temple is a colossal tank, with a series of caved steps leading to the bottom. Several miniature shrines adorn the steps of the tank which is an art gallery in itself.

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