Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Akshardham & Kurukshetram

Day 1 :

A very early start to the day with early morning flight to Delhi. Reached Delhi with no issues. Then transfer to hotel.  Checked into the hotel and had lunch at a nearby Gujarati restaurant.


Post lunch, we went to a place called Akshardham in Delhi. It is a cultural cum spiritual complex in Delhi built in remembrance of Swaminarayan. (1781 - 1830). The complex showcases and exhibits various traditional Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality and architecture.  

-  A robotics show portrays the life of Swaminarayan and his message about  the importance of peace, harmony, humility, service to others and God. 

-  The second highlight was a 40 minute film about 7 year pilgrimage (Nilkanth yatra) made by Swaminarayan during his teenage years throughout India. The screen was huge. I have never seen such a big screen. I googled and here are the details 

The theatre houses Delhi's first and only large format screen, measuring 85-foot (26 m) by 65-foot (20 m)

-  The highlight for us was a 15 minute boat ride. The boat ride was fantastically designed and took us through years and years of Indian heritage through all walks of life right from family life to bazaar to medicine, research, science, maths and education. Both the kids and us thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride.

There are other attractions like musical fountain show in the evening, a surrounding lake etc. A very small play area for the  preschoolers too to engage them and a food court to wind up for our dinner :)

Altogether a novel place to visit once.

Unfortunately, mobiles, cameras were prohibited inside the campus and we had to hand over everything in a locker facility. So i dont have any photographs of this place.

Day 2 : Kurukshetram

Kurukshetra, punya kshetram dharma kshetram where Mahabharata war was fought. It is at Haryana at a distance of 150 kms from Delhi. The region got its name from king Kuru, ancestors of Pandavas and Kauravas. It is here that Sri Krishna Bhagvan preached Bhagwad Gita to Arjuna when he was in a dilemma and it was also here that Sri Bishma pithama was laid down in a bed of arrows by Arjuna. 

Once we reached kurukshetra, our first stop was Bhrahma Sarovar.

Brahma Sarovar:

It is an ancient water tank sacred to Hinduism. It is believed that Lord Brahma created the universe from this place. It is one of the largest man made ponds.

Actually, one thing that i was dreading was our trip to Kurukshetra due to the weather conditions as we would be out in the sun most of the day. The month of May in and around Delhi, one can imagine how hot it would be. But we were extremely lucky. The day was very cloudy and pleasant, completely shielding us from the scorching heat and sun of the Delhi summer. 

The place had a wonderful ambience. The atmosphere was calm, peaceful and eternal beauty of the place brought an inner peace. 

A sacred shrine of Lord Shiva stands within the Sarovar. It is believed to be very auspicious to take a dip in the sarovar on solar eclipse day.

Another point of interest is an ancient Draupadi kupa (well)

Jyotisar : 

A travel of a few kms from Bhramasarovar brought us to Jyotisar, holy place where Shrimad Bhagwad Gita was born.

We tried to envisage /visualize the long ago scene of the battlefield with thousands and thousands of sainyams standing on the ground, waiting for the war to start. It gave goosebumps just trying to imagine and to think that we were standing in that very place of such historic importance.

Here, you can witness idols of many characters of the great epic Mahabharatha. Bhishma, Dhuryodhan, Arjun, Guru Dhronaachaariyaar, Naradhar, Dhirudharaashtran, Bheem etc.

Bhishma Kund:

3 kms away from Jyotisar brought us to Bhishma kund. It is here that Arjuna (with the help of an arrow) brought Ganga water to Bhishma Pitahma to quench his thirst. It is also here that Bhishma Pitahma was lying on a bed of arrows wounded in the war and was waiting for Uttarayan (even after the war was over) to depart from this world and attain the lord's lotus feet.

There is a goshaala maintained here. It is so very rare to find goshaala these days. 

We sat down nearby a tree and took the time to recite vishnu sahasranaamam in the Bhishma kund before taking leave.

Kurukshetra Panorama and Science Centre:

This museum is amazing. You can spend hours here and you wont know how the time flies. There are numerous scientific exhibits that interests both the kids and the adults simultaneously. Unfortunately, we could not spend more than an hour and a half here as we had to head back to Delhi. Please allocate time for this if you are planning to visit kurukshetra. You can spend atleast half a day here. 

There is also a world class panoroma that depicts the war scenes of the kurukshetra war with real effects.

Other places of interest that we could not visit

1. Sannihit Sarovar
2. Sri krishna Museum
3. There are 2 durga mandirs

Monday, May 15, 2017

Badrinath travel Inception

Well, its been a long time since I sat down to write or rather blog :). Its been ages. I think my last post here has been 7 years back. But, thanks to my dear friend SK, i am right now trying to put my mind together and record my very recent trip to Delhi and Badrinath last week. Thanks SK for motivating me.

How did the whole plan start ? Sincerely i dont know. I never thought I will be taking the initiative & planning for a pilgrimage trip to Badri 6 months back. Not even in my dreams. But as they say, you dont decide. It is not in your hands. It is HE who decides to call you and give you dharshan.

My parents have been desiring to dharshan Sri Badri Narayanan for the past 4 years. They have almost completed other kshetrams among the 108 divya desams. They had even booked for theertha yatra for Badri in 2013 with a regular tour operator. But due to the natural calamity (land slide), Badrinath was closed in 2013 and they could not travel. Post that, every year, something or the other was preventing them from going and my mothers health also played a major role in the delay. 

With the dawn of 2017, again the topic of Badrinath started with my parents and suddenly one fine day in Feb 2017, it struck me out of the blue that I might be in a similar state when I get older (health problems preventing me to travel and miss out). This, along with my desire to satisfy my parent's long pending thavam, made me think "why not ? with god' s grace, right now it is possible for us to travel in all aspects - heath , financial, mental peace. So lets plan and go together". There's a saying in Tamizh. "Ore kallu la 2 mangaa. " Here its 3 . I was also slightly hesitant to send them alone with a tour which would mean I would be sitting here worried with no proper communication & signal. Thus the seed was sown.

Next important aspect in the pre planning  stage was getting Sriram's acceptance as well because I just cannot manage alone with elders & kids (leaving them was not an option). It is a big project, hundreds of miles to cover and anything could go wrong. The first time I opened the topic with him, he was not very keen. But once I told him about the 3 mangoes :), he was very generous and sweet and immediately accepted with no further questions. A very big thank you to you, Sriram. This definitely made a big difference and would have been a show stopper otherwise.

The rest, as they say is history. Once the ball started rolling, devotees increased :). My chithi, mom's sis wanted to join. Next my FIL, though technically he cannot be called a devotee but he loves to travel. Last, just before 1 week of commencement of travel, my athai, dad's sis also expressed her desire to join. 

The making of the Itinerary

I should say again, it is his blessings only that has made this happen as the whole thing could have gone wrong with my one single negligence.  Initially, when I started to plan for badri, i enquired and did the basic regular ground work as usual. The general occurrence is that Badrinath opens on the day of Akshaya thrithiyai every year. (Badrinath is closed for 6 months from Deepavali to May during winter). I asked around, made enquiries and planned to start on April 30 (Akshaya thrithiyai was on Apr 29 2017) right after closing of school for the girls.  (Had I gone ahead with my plan, I would have been in a rude shock later.) But my mom wanted to start only on May 2 as May 1st was Ramaujar jayanthi (his 1000 th birthday) and wanted to see the happenings at Sriperumbudur live on the TV. My mind was not open enough to accommodate for this as I had other reasons as well to stick to my dates. But a chance warning from one of Sriram's friends that sometimes they open late in May and the fact that tickets to Delhi were cheaper on May 2nd when compared to April 30 made me go ahead and book tickets for the latter date of May 2nd. (This was the time when I should have double checked the opening date of Badrinath. But it never occurred to me to re check and confirm.) Still a costly mistake which I could have avoided if I had just double confirmed. 
As it is, bookings were made on May 2nd to travel to Delhi by flight and return a week later.

The plan was to travel to Badrinath first, then 2 nights halt at delhi. We had booked Panicker travels to take us from Delhi to Badrinath and drop us back at Delhi.  My parents wanted to visit kurukshethra from Delhi. So, the moment I mailed the dates to Panicker for Badrinath travel as May 2nd, I got a highly panicky call from Panicker. The lady on the other end was all jitters as she said that Badrinath opening date was only May 6 th  and no way we could travel on 2nd. I got a few scoldings from her as I had not asked her the opening date during my initial talks. My heart stopped for a moment and then started racing. Then my mind cleared and I instructed her to pick us up on May 4 th from Delhi for Badrinath instead of May 2 nd as our return date to Chennai was only May 9th and we had the buffer to take in the change. (It takes 2 days to reach Badri from Delhi through Haridwar Rishikesh by road). Man proposes, God disposes. I had to change my plan to first stay 2 nights in Delhi ,visit kurukshetra and then move on to Badri. Although altered, the trip was still on with his blessings.  

If I had booked as per my earlier date of April 30, I would have been left with no buffer and would have had to either cancel the tickets or just visit Delhi with no Badrinath. But why still a costly mistake ? Because with these dates, we were left with no option but to dharshan the lord on the opening day and the crowd was unimaginable along with the added hindrance of the honorable President Of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee choosing to visit the shrine on the opening day, it took us 8 long hours to dharshan the lord in the crowd. It is our misfortune that Badri did not open as per norm on the Akshaya thrithhiyai this year. But, it is his wish that we should dharshan him this way. 

Once the bookings were made and everything was set and paid, Sriram dropped a bombshell that he might have to be in the United Sates on May 10 and had to start from Chennai on May 8th for the same.  I did not panic this time. I understood this was a wait and watch game. I entirely left it to the lord for the next 2 months. "If it had to happen, it will happen ". Just 1 week before our departure we came to know that he need not travel.

We were all set. My chithi came down from Bangalore 2 days before. Appa gave for yatra dhaanam in Sathya narayana kovil on May 1st.  8 of us started from chennai to Delhi on May 2nd early morning.  My athai was to join us in Delhi the next day on her own before starting for Badri.

On to Delhi with me in the next post....