SPIRITUAL SITES

SPIRITUAL SITES IN INDIA

Somnath Temple

The Somnath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is said to be the first of the 12 jyotirlingas in the country. The first temple at Somnath is believed to have been built between 320 and 500 AD. The temple was considered to be very auspicious and as it grew in importance, pilgrims converged at the temple to make offerings, kings bestowed riches upon it, and the town and temple flourished with great wealth. Tales of its riches attracted a series of invasions, but each time the temple was invaded, it was restored to its original glory by devout Hindu worshipers.  The Somnath Temple is at a distance of 94kms from Junagadh.In the 11th century AD, Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030), sacked the temple and returned to Afghanistan with the temple treasures, including the famed silver gate. Then, after a rebuilding, in 1297 AD Allaudin Khilji's commander-in-chief Afzal Khan destroyed the structure. Over the next 500 years, the temple was successively reconstructed and ransacked, by Muzzafar Shah I in 1390, by Muhammad Begda in 1490, Muzzafar II in 1530 and Aurangzeb in 1706. In 1783 Maharani Ahalyabai Holkar of Indore built another Somnath temple next to the original site, which was in serious disrepair. After Independence, Sardar Patel visited Somnath, was deeply moved by the poor condition of the original temple site, and resolved to renovate it as soon as possible. In 1951, the new temple was constructed on the original grounds, next to the 18th-century construction of the Holkars. The remains of the old temple are now preserved in a museum for public view. The temple has been constructed in the Chalukyan style with a shikhara nearly 50 m tall. The temple's imposing architecture includes intricate carvings, silver doors, an impressive Nandi idol and the central shivalinga. In the vast courtyard stand the massive mandapa (hall), as well as the main shrine.The Kartik Purnima Fair is held here for four days in the month of November and attracts crowds in large numbers. How to Reach :The closest airport for visiting Somnath is Diu (about 83 km.) and the closest railway station is at Verawal (6 km.) 

Hemis Monastery

Hemis is situated around 45 kms to the south of Leh on the western banks of the Indus River. The Hemis Monastery is the biggest and very richly endowed monastery of Ladakh. It was built in 1630. Impressive and intriguing, Hemis is different from the other important monasteries of Ladakh. The monastery is decorated on all four sides by colourful prayer flags which flutter in the breeze and send prayers to Lord Buddha.The main building has white walls. The entrance to the complex is through a big gate that reaches a large courtyard. The stones of the walls are decorated and painted with religious figures. On the northern side are two assembly halls, and as in most of the monasteries one can also see the guardian deities and the Wheel of Life here. The Hemis Monastery also has an important library of Tibetan books and a very impressive and valuable collection of Thangkas, gold statues and Stupas embedded with precious stones.One of the largest Thangkas is displayed every 12 years during the Hemis Festival, held for two days in June-July. The annual festival, commemorating the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava brings alive the courtyard of the monastery. The festival, where good triumphs over evil in a colourful pageant, also holds the annual 'bazaar' where Ladakhis from remote areas buy and sell wares. During the festival, various rituals and mask dances are performed in this courtyard. Hemis is about 40 km from Leh and can be visited comfortably in one day if one is traveling by car or jeep.

Shirdi

Shirdi is famed all over India as being associated with the renowned Saint Shri Sai Baba whose mortal remains are buried here. A life-size marble statue was installed by the side of the samadhi in 1954. The temple premises of Shri Saibaba are spread in an area of 200 sq. mtrs. The main attractions are the temple where Sai Baba's samadhi is located, the former dwelling place of Sai Baba called Dwarakamayi, and the place called Chavadi where Baba used to sleep. These three places are located close to each other.Sai Baba Temple - Located at the heart of the town, this houses the samadhi (burial site) of Sai Baba. Entry is free. The temple opens around 04:00 and stays open till about 22:00. Gurusthan, the tree where Sai Baba was first spotted meditating by the people of Shirdi. After that, one can go to the Udhi counter to collect the Udhi. The temple premises also has the samadhis of some of Sai Baba's most prominent devotees.Dwarakamayi - Located adjacent to the temple complex, Dwarakamayi is the name of the mosque where Baba resided for an unbroken span of 60 years till his Samadhi in 1918. The structure has been renovated and houses the Dhuni , the fire that Baba always kept burning. The flames are never allowed to die and the Dhuni today is the same that Baba lit over 100 years ago. Additionally, some of Baba's articles such as his grinding stone, fireplace, a stone on which he used to sit are located at DwarakamayiChavadi - This is located next to Dwarakamayi. Every alternate day, Baba used to sleep in the Chavadi, a few meters away from Dwarakamayi.

Madurai

The oldest city existing in the Indian peninsula and one of the continuously inhabited cities in the world, Madurai is richly steeped in cultural heritage. It is called as Thoonga Nagaram that means a ‘city that never sleeps’. The city, earlier known as Madhurapuri, grew around a huge temple built by Pandian King Kulasekhara 2,500 years ago. Madurai became famous during the Sangam period through the third and last conglomeration of Tamil scholars, which existed for more than 100 years. Historically it is also called as the Athens of the East. Megasthanes visited Madurai as early as 3rd BC. Later Romans and Greeks started visiting this erstwhile Pandya Kingdom and there were serious trade connections between them that flourished till the 10th century. The city was the magnificent capital of Pandya kings and visited by travellers such as Pliny (77 AD), Ptolemy (140 AD), Marco Polo (1203 AD) and IbuBatuta (1333 AD). Today, Madurai is synonymous with the awe-inspiring Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple.The oldest city existing in the Indian peninsula and one of the continuously inhabited cities in the world, Madurai is richly steeped in cultural heritage. It is called as Thoonga Nagaram that means a ‘city that never sleeps’. The city, earlier known as Madhurapuri, grew around a huge temple built by Pandian King Kulasekhara 2,500 years ago. Madurai became famous during the Sangam period through the third and last conglomeration of Tamil scholars, which existed for more than 100 years. Historically it is also called as the Athens of the East. Megasthanes visited Madurai as early as 3rd BC. Later Romans and Greeks started visiting this erstwhile Pandya Kingdom and there were serious trade connections between them that flourished till the 10th century. The city was the magnificent capital of Pandya kings and visited by travellers such as Pliny (77 AD), Ptolemy (140 AD), Marco Polo (1203 AD) and IbuBatuta (1333 AD). Today, Madurai is synonymous with the awe-inspiring Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple.