Day 1: Shri Ramakrishna Ashram, Shri Balhanuman Sankirtan mandir, Dwarkadheesh Temple - My Journey through Saurashtra, Gujarat

25th Mar 2016


I've been to Ahmadabad several times (four and counting) and yet I have not seen a thing in the city or Gujarat. Either I'd be engaged somewhere or just not in the mood to go out. This time when I visited the city for my niece bday, I kept in mind that I'd visit around the city and Gujarat. I looked up the internet and found few Gujarat tourism packages. Luckily I found this Saurashtra package which contained many of my favorite places in Gujarat like Dwarkadheesh mandir, Somnath mandir and Gir forest. Seats were quickly filling so I booked one for myself immediately, aisle seat. My brother gave me his Nikon D60. I was all set to go.

Shubhi playing holi
Shubhi, my niece

Day 1

Holi was just the day before and I was dead tired. Bus was to start early morning at 6. I managed to wake up early but somehow the journey began with chhote-mote hiccups. No cabs were available such early morning due to Holi. Address provided on the ticket was somewhat misleading. The office agents would not pick up any calls on numbers provided. And when I finally caught the bus, my luggage broke down. Nevertheless bus started on time and we were off to Saurashtra darshan soon.

Our A/C Bus, 35 seater

Our guide was Mr Malik and Ms Priya was the newly recruited supervisor. Introductions were made. It turned out the travellers were not so strangers after all. One group from Mumbai consisted of 7 people while another group from Delhi had about 12 people, all retirees and avid travellers. One more family joined from Delhi along with their younger son. A newly married couple and another couple with a young daughter and family had joined the trip too. Two elderly couples had joined us from Hyderabad. I was the loner.

Us, wondering about the tour

Mr Ibrahim Malek, our guide
Mr Ibrahim Malek, our guide
Shaurabh Bharti, selfie
Me, the Loner

Plan for first day was to reach Dwarka by evening in order to join Aarti at Dwarkadhish Temple. Route passed through Rajkot and Jamnagar and idea was to short visit important places along the way. Roads were mostly 4 to 6 lanes, with divider and in excellent condition. Our pilot was an excellent driver, who hardly let us feel the brakes and turns along the ride.

the excellent pilot

First we stopped at Honest restaurant near Limbdi for breakfast. We were advised to try out Gujarati breakfast like Fafda, Dhokla etc and most of us tried and enjoyed it (I took the safer side with Poha though). It was a big complex, built with bricks and mortars using modern design, hosting couple of big restaurants, few shops and all facilities a traveller could ask for. Initially I thought its a one-off thing. Why'd anyone built this huge complex in a barren area on the highway? But after travelling throughout the Saurashtra I found that the concept of line hotels here is not that of huts, threaded cots and locals cooking food for you. It'd give city restaurants run for money given the kind of rush they witness and how well maintained they are.

Shri Ramakrishna Ashram, Rajkot

We entered Rajkot by 10am. Our first major place to see was Ashram of Vivekanand's Ramakrishna Mission. It had several portraits of Vivekanand, Ramakrishna, Maata and important disciples of Belur math and mission. I specially liked the book and articles section which had several books on vedanta and vivekanand, bhajans by several singers, classical music. It had portraits of important people, key rings, calendars and several such things to be taken as souvenirs.

Shri Ramakrishna Mission, Rajkot
Shri Ramakrishna Mission, Rajkot

Vivekanand rath is a way of spreading dharma. It goes around country spreading the good values. Once one such chariot made a stop at Jamalpur, Bihar, my hometown and stayed at Gayatri mandir there. My father was involved in management. They had a great time as participation of the people was overwhelming.

Vivekanand Rath, Shri Ramakrishna Mission, Rajkot
Vivekanand Rath

Shri Balhanuman Sankirtan mandir, Jamnagar

Our guide told us that Ram naam, chanting of "Shri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram", has not stopped at this temple since several decades. Not just that, you can even play and sing if you want to. I was surprised to have never heard of it but equally fascinated to visit it. Clicking through the way and after covering the small temples around, we finally entered the main temple where continuous chanting happens.

Shri Balhanuman Sankirtan mandir
Main gate
Shri Balhanuman Sankirtan mandir

Shri Balhanuman Sankirtan mandir

Shri Prembhikshuji Maharaj Smriti Mandir
Shri Prembhikshuji Maharaj Smriti Mandir

 

Shri Bal Hanuman Temple
Main Temple

My travel mates were already sitting on mat and had joined chanting. One young person was on harmonium chanting Ram naam, while another elder man was ticking dholak like a drum. Harmonium is my favorite but the person was playing it well, so I went after dholak and asked if I could play it. Although I don't know to play dholak, I was sure I could beat it better than him. What followed was a mesmerizing experience for me and my travel mates. With dholak beating loud and our chants resonating, the prayer hall came alive. We all started clapping, chanting, immersing into the beauty of Ram naam dhun. For several minutes we played and sang. While leaving the temple, all of us felt happy and rejuvenated.

Shri Bal Hanuman Temple
Shri Ram


playing and chanting @ Shri Bal Hanuman Temple
playing and chanting


Toran Hotels, Gujarat Tourism

All of our night stays were planned at Toran hotels, owned by Gujarat govt, at respective locations. My overall impression of the hotel was very satisfactory. Their location is right at the spot, near the temples but not too close as in the middle of bazaar. Their Rooms are of high standard, spacious. AC works well. Staffs are learned and courteous, and they speak Hindi well. Cleanliness, hygiene, service all were of high standard.

Toran Hotel, Dwarka
Our Room, Toran Hotel, Dwarka

Their food system was even more homely. It was not like a restaurant but a small kitchen, managed by permanent cooks. We'd need to give order before hand, and they'd prepare standard meals based on the day's menu. Prices were reasonable. Food was healthy, less spicy, well cooked and tasty. It was perfect specially for a person like me who doesn't eat outside much. Although some of our travel mates preferred to eat out, I stuck to them throughout the journey.

Welcome to Dwarka

We reached Toran Hotel at Dwarka by 5:30pm and by 6:30 we were on the streets to go to Dwarkadhish Temple. Evening was still bright as its far west of India. We took a detour via chowpatty, enjoying the evening sea view. Sadly beach was rocky and we could not venture into sea at all. In fact, our whole tour would follow the coastal line but we'd never venture into sea. Sad.

Watch tower @ Dwarka
Watch tower

Chowpatty at Dwarka
chowpatty

 temples opposite to chowpatty, Dwarka
 temples opposite to chowpatty

Sudama Setu @ Dwarkadheesh Temple
Sudama Setu

Dwarkadhish Temple

There was already heavy rush, it was getting dark and evening Aarti was about to start. Our guide left us with a Panda, who would give complete tour of the temple. It has basically several small temples. One complex houses temples of all major wives of Krishna: Rukmini, Satyabhama and others. We joined the queue later for the Aarti and started chanting "Hare Krishna". Loud drums are played and its an immersive feeling. 

Dwarkadheesh Temple
Main temple

Travel mates @ Dwarkadheesh Temple
Travel mates

Shaurabh Bharti @ Dwarkadheesh Temple
 the photographer

After Aarti, Panda took us to a shelter and told many stories around Krishna and the temple. He'd also explain the temple management. All the donations made in the temple is equally distributed into few brahmin clans. These brahmins in turn manage the complex for free (there is no compulsory charge anywhere, even for the panda). Their children are taught in the Gurushala housed within the temple complex, and the chain continues. Therefore, Ann daan (cereal donation) is considered very auspicious here. He'd give us handful of rice to be taken to home to be mixed with our cereals. Later on, we'd find that similar system is followed at Bet Dwarka and Somnath temples as well.

The place is small and sustains few shops around. Given this aura around Dwarka about being Land of Krishna, I had pre-planned to buy a nice beautiful flute here as souvenir. I practically visited all shops around but I could not find even a standard flute. All they had was small, ornamental, baby flutes. The ones roadside vendors had played faulty tunes. It was huge disappointment as I had purposely delayed buying one all this while. In the end, ladies put goodwill diyas in Gomti river flowing nearby. We all retired to hotel, had nice meal and slept.

Route map, Day 1


Ahmedabad to Dwarka via Rajkot and Junagarh
Ahmedabad to Dwarka via Rajkot and Jamnagar

Continue reading Day 2 - Dwarkadheesh Temple, Nageshwar Jyotirlinga Temple, Bet Dwarka, Porbandar

My Journey through Saurashtra

12 comments:

  1. I was lucky to be part of the tour and enjoyed never -forgetting memories with the tour companies particularly Sourav. The journey described by him make me feel that I m still in the tourist bus Thanks Sourav. Waiting for a call from u for next tour.
    S.Nandi Kharagpur

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  2. thanks uncle. it was lot of fun with u and family.. spl snikita who won all our hearts.. i will surely keep the group updated if im making any plans.. hope ur on our whatsapp group.. else mail me and i shall add. wish u all the very best.

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  3. Bhai kaafi acha exp tha....I would say beautifully explained...

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  4. thanks bhai.. yes the exp was excellent.. kaisa hai tu aur kya haal hai.. ping me smtime

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  5. very gud experience u had :)

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  6. yes it was wonderful. we shd plan sm trip together, its lot of fun

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  7. The streak of a good writer runs through your whole article. Detailed description with apt photographs makes it an interesting reading. Thanks a lot for sharing and best wishes for future endeavours!

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  8. thank you uncle for the appreciation and encouragement.

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  9. I am from chennai and researing on this tour, would you recommend this? guide will be in english as well?

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    1. guide speaks rudimentary english, but good enough for foreign tourists.

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  10. Thanks sourabh, your description will help us a lot. We are starting for the same tour (16.12.2016 to 19.12.2016)today.

    Sudarsan Sinha, bangalore.




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    Replies
    1. thats great. weather should be nice in gujarat around this time. wish u and family great time there.

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