PILGRIMAGE OF MAHARASHTRA
Pandharpur is an important pilgrimage city on the Bhimā river in Solāpur district, Maharashtra, India. The Vithoba temple attracts about half a million Hindu pilgrims during the major yātrā (pilgrimage) in the month of Ashadh (June-July).
Pandharpur is one of the most prominent pilgrimage sites in Maharashtra. It is located on the banks of the Bhimā river, which is alternatively known as Chandrabhāgā because of its half-moon-like shape. It is named after a merchant, Pandarika who achieved self-realization there.
Pandharpur, alternately known as Pandhari, hosts the renowned Vitthal temple on the banks of Bhimā. "Vithoba", "Pāndurang", and "Pandharināth" are the popular alternate names of the deity, Viththal, who is regarded in Hinduism as a God form of Lord Krishna, who, in turn, is considered as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Rakhumāi or Rukmini is Viththal's consort in Hinduism.
The worship of Vitthal in the Pandharpur temple is based mainly on the contents of the Puranas, and the contributions of the Vaishnav saints of Maharashtra and Karnataka during the 13th through the 17th centuries, namely, Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Eknath, Tukaram, Purandara Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, Gopala Dasa, and Jagannatha Dasa, have augmented the worship.
The Pandharpur temple covers a large area, and has six gates. The eastern gate is known as the "Namdev Gate".
Pandharpur hosts four annual pilgrimages ("yātrās") of Hindu devotees. Among them, the pilgrimage in the month of Āshādh (June-July) in the Hindu calendar attracts the largest number of pilgrims --around 0.5 to 0.7 million people. The pilgrimage in the month of Kārtik (October-November) attracts the next largest number of pilgrims.
This has been a great place to visit for devotees all over India. There are some other important holy places around Pandharpur as Goddess Tulja Bhavani (Goddess of family - KulDevata of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj)at TuljaPur, Saint Shri Swami Samarth (God Form of Dattatreya) at ShriKshetra Akkalkot, Lord Dattatreya at Ganagapur etc. All are located in / near to Solapur District. Devotees from all over Maharashtra and surrounding states visit all these places at least once per year. Vishwas
Muktagiri is a Jain Pilgrimage centre, located on border of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in India. It comes under Bhainsdehi tehsil of Betul district or Baitul district in Madhya Pradesh, India. It is 14 km away from Paratwada, Dist. Amravati ,Maharashtra. Muktagiri is 7 km away from Kharpi village on Paratwada - Baitul road.
Muktagiri is also called as 'Mendhagiri'. There are 52 temples on the mountain, surrounding a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall is generally visible only when there is enough rainfall in the area. One can plan trip to Muktagiri between June to September to see the waterfall. A lot of monkeys can be seen near the 10th Temple - Bhagwan Sheetalnath temple - near which the waterfall is located. The 10th Temple is an ancient temple and is inside an ancient cave. The cave is prone to stonefall (which is generally said to happen only during night). Also, lot of honeybees are at a large distance from the cave. The 1st Temple, 10th Temple, 26th Temple and 40th Temple are the main temples.
The temples close at around 11 am. Since the temples are in Satpura Mountain range and surrounded by jungle, it is better to visit the temples before 10 am. It takes around 1.25 to 1.5 hour for an average person to finish the entire upward and downward journeys and also little bit of puja in each temple. After 11am, one can not go inside the temples. One has to greet the Bhagwans from outside the door of each temple.
Since the nearby area is a jungle, one has to come down before noon or before it becomes dark. There are separate routes for upward and downward journeys. The temples are jagrut or holy and divine temples. So one should not carry out any bad acts in or around the temples.
302 Km away from Mumbai, a small village in Ahmednagar district, Shirdi has become famous all over India on account of its association with the renowned Saint Shri Sai Baba. Pilgrims belonging to all faiths, throng here all the year around. The renewed temple is huge and the facilities are very good. Though whole week the temple is crowded with devotees, but Thursday, being Saibaba’a day it is very much crowded. Devotees offer prayers from 2 o’clock morning till late evening, when it closes. The nearest Railway station is Manmad and then Nasik. From both the places you will get buses as well as Taxies, jeeps and Tourist buses to Shirdi. It is 60 kms from Manmad and 123 kms from Nasik. The nearest airport is Aurangabad, 145 Km from Sai baba temple, which is connected by Indian Airlines and private airlines with other cities / towns. The road distance from Pune to Shirdi is 205 km and from Aurangabad is 144 km. Lodges and ashrams are available near the temple. Mostly People from outstation come at night and early morning they offer the prayer to Sri Sai Baba.
The Ajanta caves were built between 2nd century B.C to 7th century A.D. The 30 chaityas and viharas have paintings, which illustrate the life and incarnations of Buddha. The Ajanta Caves are situated 108 kms. North-east of Aurangabad. They are carved in rock in the form of a horse-shoe with stream Waghora flowing th rough it. These caves are the representation of Buddhist thoughts which were etched on the walls of the caves. The caves were accidentally discovered in 1819 by a group of British Officers on a hunting expedition. The caves are open from 6.00 am to 5.30 pm. State Transport buses have the daily package tour to Ajanta caves. Although there are plenty of other options like Autoricksaws, Taxies, Tanga’s are also available there. Aurangabad railway station is nearest railway station to this place, and is connected to Mumbai by daily Trains. Aurangabad is 388 kms away from Mumbai. But train journey is more comfortable than Buses or Private vehicles via Road.
Ellora (Marathi: वेरूळ) is an archaeological site, 30 km (19 mi) from the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra built by the Rashtrakuta rulers. Well-known for its monumental caves, Ellora is a World Heritage Site. Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 "caves" – actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – being Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock cut temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.
Ellora caves* UNESCO World Heritage Site:
The Buddhist "Carpenter's" cave (Cave 10)
A painted panel showing the dancing Shiva (Nataraja) from the Kailash Temple at Ellora (Cave 16). One can still see a lot of the paint that once covered the entire temple.
Wall carvings – A scene depicting the wedding of Shiva(four armed figure,right) and Parvati (two armed,left).
Shiva-Parvati seated on mount Kailash, while Ravana tries to lift it.
A Jain cave in Ellora
Ellora caves. Cave 34. The Yakshi Ambika sculpture
Kailasanatha Temple, (Cave 16) view from the top of the rock
The Buddhist caves:
The Buddhist caves were one of the earliest structures, created between the fifth and seventh centuries. These consist mostly of viharas or monasteries: large, multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, including living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, and other rooms. Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints. In many of these caves, sculptors have endeavoured to give the stone the look of wood.
Most famous of the Buddhist caves is cave 10, a chaitya hall (chandrashala) or 'Vishwakarma cave', popularly known as the "Carpenter's Cave". Beyond its multi-storeyed entry is a cathedral-like stupa hall also known as chaitya, whose ceiling has been carved to give the impression of wooden beams. At the heart of this cave is a 15-foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose. Amongst other Buddhist caves, all of the first nine (caves 1–9) are monasteries. The last two caves, Do Tal (cave 11) and Tin Tal (cave 12) have three stories.
The Hindu caves:
The Hindu caves were constructed between 500 CE and 1000 CE and represent a different style of creative vision and execution skills. Some were of such complexity that they required several generations of planning and co-ordination to complete. The early caves (caves 17–29) were constructed during the Kalachuri period, while the caves 15 and 16 were constructed during Rashtrakuta period.
cave 16, named The Kailasa or Kailasanatha Temple, is the unrivaled centerpiece of Ellora. This gargantuan structure – designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva – looks like a freestanding, multi-storeyed temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock, and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens.
All the carvings are done in more than one level. A two-storeyed gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. The courtyard is edged by columned galleries three storeys high. The galleries are punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves containing enormous sculptures of a variety of deities. Originally flying bridges of stone connected these galleries to central temple structures, but these have fallen.
Within the courtyard are two structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, an image of the sacred bull Nandi fronts the central temple housing the lingam. In Cave 16, the Nandi Mandap and main Shiva temple are each about 7 meters high, and built on two stories. The lower stories of the Nandi Mandap are both solid structures, decorated with elaborate illustrative carvings. The base of the temple has been carved to suggest that elephants are holding the structure aloft.
A living rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandap to the porch of the temple. The temple itself is tall pyramidal structure reminiscent of a South Indian temple. The shrine – complete with pillars, windows, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, and an enormous lingam at its heart – carved from living stone, is carved with niches, pilasters, windows as well as images of deities, mithunas (erotic male and female figures) and other figures. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Shiva) while on the right hand side the deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Vishnu). There are two Dhvajastambhas (pillars with the flagstaff) in the courtyard. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art. The construction of this cave was a feat of human genius – it entailed removal of 200,000 tonnes of rock, and took 100 years to complete.
Other Hindu caves:
Other notable Hindu caves are the Ramesvara cave (cave 21), which has figurines of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance and the Dhumar Lena (cave 29) whose design is similar to the cave temple on Elephanta Island near Mumbai. Two other caves, the Ravan ki Khai (cave 14) and the Nilkantha (cave 22) also have several sculptures. The rest of the Hindu caves, which include the Kumbharvada (cave 25) and the Gopilena (cave 27) have no significant sculptures.
The Jain caves:
Jain caves reveal specific dimensions of Jain philosophy and tradition. They reflect a strict sense of asceticism – they are not relatively large as compared to others, but they present exceptionally detailed art works. The most remarkable Jain shrines are the Chhota Kailash (cave 30), the Indra Sabha (cave 32) and the Jagannath Sabha (cave 33). The Indra Sabha is a two storeyed shrine with a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. In another cave, an imposing image of Ambika, the Yakshi (dedicated attendant deity) of Neminatha is found seated on her lion under a mango tree, laden with fruits. All other Jain caves are also characterized by intricate detailing. Many of the structures had rich paintings in the ceilings – fragments of which are still visible.