Saturday, 30 April 2011

April 30, 2011

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April 30, 2011

Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP)



Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), previously Borivali National Park, is a large protected area in the northern part of suburban Mumbai city in Maharashtra State in India. It encompasses an area of 104 km2 (40 sq mi) and is surrounded on three sides by India's most populous city. It is notable as one of the majornational parks existing within a metropolis limit in Asia and is one of the most visited parks in the world

The rich flora and fauna of Sanjay Gandhi National Park attracts more than 2 million visitors every year. Tourists also enjoy visiting the 2400 years old Kanheri caves sculpted out of the rocky cliffs which lie within the park.

The undulating green lands of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park have a natural environment which tourists love to retreat to for moments of quiet introspection or meditation. The great views of forests, hills, valleys, lakes and open expanses have a therapeutic effect on mind, body and soul. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park area has a long written history dating back to the 4th century BC. In ancient India, Sopara and Kalyan were two ports in the vicinity that traded with ancient civilizations such as Greece and Mesopotamia. The 45 km (28 mi) land route between these two ports was partially through this forest.

The Kanheri Caves in the centre of the park were an important Buddhist learning centre and pilgrimage site sculpted by Buddhist monks between pradyut sakhseria 9th and the 1st centuries BCE. They were chiseled out of a massive basaltic rock outcropping.

The park was named 'Krishnagiri National Park' in the pre-independence era. At that time the area of the park was only 20.26 km2 (7.82 sq mi). In 1969, the park was expanded to its present size by acquiring various reserve forest properties adjoining the park. After this, an independent unit of the Forest Department called 'Borivali National Park Sub-division' administered the area. Krishnagiri National Park was created in 1974 and later renamed as 'Borivali National Park'. In 1981, it was re-dedicated as 'Sanjay Gandhi National Park' in memory of Sanjay Gandhi, the son of ex Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, who was killed in an air crash in 1980. The park is nestled in the hill ranges around the suburb of Borivali. It occupies most of the northern suburbs. To the west lie the townships of Goregaon, Malad, Kandivali, Borivali and Dahisar. To the east lie the townships of Bhandup and Mulund. To the south lies the Aarey Milk Colony. The northern reaches of this forest lie in Thane district. The park and these areas surrounding it are all part of the Mumbai metropolitan area.

The region is hilly with elevations between 30 m (98 ft) and 480 m (1,570 ft). The Park encompasses two lakes, Vihar Lake and Tulsi Lake, which meet part of the city's water requirements. The park is said to be the lungs of the city as it purifies much of the air pollution of the city. The park is a bustling forest. An estimated 800 types of flowering plants; 284 kinds of birds; 5,000 species of insects; 36 types of mammals; 62 reptiles and 150 species of butterfly call the forest their home. The park has also many endangered species of plant and animal. The world's largest moth, the Atlas moth, was discovered here. Karvi or Karvy also known as Strobilanthes callosa to the Botanists is a flowering plant which blooms once in 8 years, carpeting the slopes with a shade of mauve. This plant is native to this and the surrounding regions of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, including Karnala, the Yeoor hills, Tungareshwar and some parts of Goregaon’s Film City. The park is also home to a small population of leopards.

Flora and fauna


Leopard at SGNP
The park is home to a number of endangered species of flora and fauna. The forest area of the Park houses over 1000 plant species, 251 species of migratory, land and water birds, 50,000 species of insects, 40 species of mammals. In addition, the Park also provides shelter to 38 species of reptiles, 9 species of amphibians and also 150 species of butterflies and a large variety of fish.

Flora: Kadamba, teak, karanj, shisam, and species of acacia, ziziphus, euphorbia, flame of the forest, red silk cotton and a number of other varieties of flowers. Karvi or Karvy, a flowering plant that flowers once in seven years, can be found in the Park.

Chital (Spotted deer) at SGNP
Fauna: The forest cover in the park helps provide the ideal habitat for many wild animals. Chital (or spotted deer), Rhesus Macaque and Bonnet Macaque are some of the wild mammals that can easily be spotted roaming inside the park. Other large mammals found in the park are: Black Naped or Indian Hare, Muntjac (Barking Deer), Porcupine, Asian Palm Civet, Chevrotain (Mouse Deer), Hanuman or Gray Langur, Indian Flying-fox, Sambar Deer and Leopard. One can also spot hyena or four-horned antelope.

Reptiles living here include:crocodiles in the Tulsi Lake, pythons, cobras, monitor lizards, Russell's Vipers, Bamboo Pit Viper and Ceylonese Cat Snakes.

Butterflies which may be seen here include the spectacular Blue Mormon, the phenomenal artist of camouflage the Blue Oak leaf, the bright jezebels and Large Yellow and White Orange tips, Monarchs, Egg flies and Sailers.

Avian-Fauna: Some of the birds one may see in the park are: Jungle Owlets, golden orioles, racket-tailed drongos, minivets, magpies, robins, hornbills, bulbuls, sunbirds, peacock, and woodpeckers. Migratory and local birds such as paradise flycatcher and various species of kingfishers, mynas, drongos, swifts, gulls, egrets, and herons have also been spotted.

Tiger Safari and Lion Safari
Sleeping Lion at SGNP Lion Safari
Main attractions of the park are a Lion Safari and a Tiger Safari for encouraging Eco-tourism. The Lion safari is a 20 minute ride through a 12 ha (29.65 acres) fenced forest area in one of the park's green buses.The Park is said to have a total of about 25 lions and lionesses. There are hardly 2 lions which visitors can safely see up close from inside the caged buses. The remaining 23 have been relocated or placed in fenced areas far away from the roads used by the green buses. During visiting hours, some of the resident lions are let out into the enclosure, and can be viewed from the safety of the bus. There are 4 tigers that are kept semi-confined in a 20 ha (49.42 acres) fenced area that is toured by the buses. A 5 m (16.40 ft) high and 2,200 m (7,217.85 ft) long protective fencing surrounds the area. This is done so that all visitors can safely view lions and tigers in their natural habitat. Here the visitors are caged in the bus so the big cats can roam like in the wild. Two other tigers roam in a much larger area.


Walking trails
The path to Kanheri
There are several public walking trails in the park. The popular Ashok Van trail winds up through thick forest to a dense cluster of Ashoka trees that are a welcome half way resting spot. One can return by Gaumukh trail to an open place of volcanic rock to return to the Kanheri caves. A more ambitious route is the 'View Point' trail to the highest point in Mumbai, for a panoramic view of the city and a view of the three lakes of the city - Tulsi, Vihar and Powai Lake. New jungle trails at Sanjay Gandhi National Park allow visitors to see the more unexplored parts of the park. They are the 4 km (2.49 mi) Shilonda Trail, the 5 km (3.11 mi) Malad Trail, and the 6 km (3.73 mi) Yeoor Trail. Trails access cost is Rs.25 per person.

Local conservation NGOs such as the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and World Wide Fund for Nature - India (WWF-India) bring groups of urban residents from Mumbai and elsewhere, sometimes in collaboration with other organizations, for regular guided nature education walks in the nature trails of Sanjay Gandhi National Park and organize special trips when the rare Karvi flowers are in full bloom which only happens once every eight years

Kanheri caves
The Kanheri Caves are a protected archaeological site at 19°12′30″N 72°54′23″E. The caves were sculpted by Buddhist residents starting in the 1st century BCE. The area was actually a settlement and once served as inns for travellers. The word Kanheri comes from the Sanskrit word Krishnagiri which means Black Mountain.

Friday, 29 April 2011

April 29, 2011

Gateway of India


The Gateway of India is a monument in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India. Located on the waterfront in Apollo Bunder area in South Mumbai, the Gateway is a basalt arch 26 metres (85 feet) high. It lies at the end of Shivaji marg.It was a crude jetty used by fisher folks and was later renovated and used as a landing place for British governors and other distinguished personages. In earlier times, the Gateway was the monument that visitors arriving by boat would have first seen in the city of Bombay. The gateway has also been referred to as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai, and has also lent its name to the city of Mumbai.

Its design is a combination of both Hindu and Muslim architectural styles, the arch is in Muslim style while the decorations are in Hindu style. The Gateway is built from yellow basalt and reinforced concrete. The stone was locally obtained, and the perforated screens were brought from Gwalior.

The central dome is 15 metres (49 feet) in diameter and is 26 metres (85 feet) above ground at its highest point. The whole harbour front was realigned in order to come in line with a planned esplanade which would sweep down to the centre of the town. On each side of the arch are large halls that can hold six hundred people. The cost of the construction was Rs. 21 lakhs (2,100,000), borne mainly by the Government of India. For lack of funds, the approach road was never built, and so the Gateway stands at an angle to the road leading up to it. The Gateway of India to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay, prior to the Delhi Durbar, in December 1911. Unfortunately the British king and Queen only got to see a cardboard model of the structure construction did not begin till 1915. The foundation stone was laid on 31 March 1911, by the Governor of Bombay Sir George Sydenham Clarke, with the final design of George Wittet sanctioned in 31 March 1913. The architect combined the elements of the Roman triumphal arch and the 16th century architecture of Gujarat. Between 1915 and 1919 work proceeded on reclamations at Apollo Bundar (Port)for the land on which the gateway and the new sea wall would be built. The foundations were completed in 1920, and construction was finished in 1924. The Gateway was opened on 4 December 1924, by the Viceroy, the Earl of Reading.

Gammon India claims that it did India's first pre-cast reinforced concrete job for the foundation of the Gateway of India.

The last British troops to leave India following India's independence, the first Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, passed through the Gateway on their way out in a ceremony on 28 February 1948. The Gateway of India itself is a major tourist destination and is a starting point for boats that leave for the Elephanta Caves. It is also right next to the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel. For Britishers arriving for the first time to india the gateway was a symbol of the power and majesty of the British Empire.

Opposite the gateway stands the statue of  Shivaji Maharaj, a symbol of Maratha pride and courage.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

April 24, 2011

Navegaon National Park



The Navegaon National Park is located in Navegoan in Gondia, Maharashtra. It is one of the most popular forest resorts in the Vidarbha region. Spreading over an area of 135 sq km, it consists of a deer park, an aviary and three beautifully landscaped gardens. 

One can see tiger, panther, sambar, chital, langurs and other animals during the safari. Staying in a unique treetop house and riding a power or sailboat on the lake, are the other thrilling pastimes that the park offers. 

Nearest airport is at Nagpur, which is 142 km away from the park, while Deulgaon on Chandrapur-Gondia railway line is the nearest railway station, which is 2 km away from the park. The nearest bus stand is Navegaon 10 km away from the park. 

One can stay at the Rest Houses or Youth Hostel in Gondia. Apart from the regular suites and cottages, it also offers a unique tree top retreat with two suites and reservations by MTDC. 

April to May is the best time to visit this national park. Temperatures are pleasant all year round. 4.00 am to 7.00 pm are the entry hours.

Friday, 22 April 2011

April 22, 2011

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April 22, 2011

Victoria Terminus

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, (formerly Victoria Terminus) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and historic railway station in Mumbai which serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. Situated in the Bori Bunder area of Mumbai, it was built as a new railway station on the location of the Bori Bunder Station in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. In March 1996 its name was changed to the present name in honour of the Maratha warrior King Shivaji. Its abbreviation CST is popularly used by locals to refer to the station and it is also known by its abbreviation Mumbai CST or CSTM. It is the busiest railway station in India, and serves both as a terminal for long distance trains terminating in Mumbai as well as commuter trains of the Mumbai Suburban Railway.  Bori Bunder (alternatively "Bori Bandar") was one of the areas along the Eastern shore line of Mumbai, India which was used as a storehouse for goods imported and exported from Mumbai. In the area's name, 'Bori' mean sack and 'Bandar' means Bhandaar or store; So Bori Bunder literally means a place where sacks are stored. In the 1850s, the Great Indian Peninsular Railway built its railway terminus in this area and the station took its name as Bori Bunder.On 16th April, 1853 the Great Indian Peninsula Railway operated the historic first passenger train in India from Bori Bunder to Thane covering a distance of 34 km, formally heralding the birth of the Indian Railways. The train between Bori Bunder and Thane was 57 minutes it was a distance of 35 I'm apart.The station was eventually rebuilt as the Victoria Terminus, named after the then reigning Queen, and has been subsequently renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CSTM) after Maharashtra's famed 17th century king. Though the shortened name is now CST, it still continues to be referred to as VT by the masses.

The station was eventually rebuilt as the Victoria Terminus, named after the then reigning Queen, and has been subsequently renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CSTM) after Maharashtra's and India's famed 17th century king. Though the shortened name is now CST, it still continues to be referred to as VT by the masses.

The station was designed by the consulting British architect Frederick William Stevens(1848-1900). Work began in 1878. He received 1,614,000 (US$32,199.3) as payment for his services. Stevens earned the commission to construct the station after a masterpiece watercolour sketch by draughtsman Axel Haig. The final design bears some resemblance to the St Pancras railway station in London. GG Scott's plans for Berlin's parliament building had been published four years before, and also has marked similarities to the station's design.

It took ten years to complete and was named "Victoria Terminus" in honour of the Queen and Empress Victoria; it was opened on the date of her Golden Jubilee in 1887. It cost £260,000 when it was finished in 1888, the highest for any building of that era in Bombay. This famous architectural landmark in Gothic style was built as the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. Since then, the station came to be known as Bombay VT.

Originally intended only to house the main station and the administrative offices of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, a number of ancillary buildings have been added subsequently, all designed so as to harmonise with the main structure. A new station to handle main line traffic was erected in 1929. The original building is still in use to handle suburban traffic and is used by over three million commuters daily. It is also the administrative headquarters of the Central Railway.

In 1996, the Minister of Railways, Suresh Kalmadi, changed the name of the station to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in honour of the great Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji.
April 22, 2011

Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally "the city of caves") in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to the east of the city of Mumbai in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, consists of two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the god Shiva.The main cave, also called the Shiva cave, Cave 1, or the Great Cave, is 27 metres (89 ft) square in plan with a hall (mandapa). At the entrance are four doors, with three open porticoes and an aisle at the back. Pillars, six in each row, divide the hall into a series of smaller chambers. The roof of the hall has concealed beams supported by stone columns joined together by capitals. The cave entrance is aligned with the north-south axis, unusual for a Shiva shrine (normally east-west). The northern entrance to the cave, which has 1,000 steep steps, is flanked by two panels of Shiva dated to the Gupta period. The left panel depicts Yogishvara (The Lord of Yoga) and the right shows Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance). The central Shiva shrine (see 16 in plan below) is a free-standing square cell with four entrances, located in the right section of the main hall. Smaller shrines are located at the east and west ends of the caves. The eastern sanctuary serves as a ceremonial entrance.

Each wall has large carvings of Shiva, each more than 5 metres (16 ft) in height. The central Shiva relief Trimurti is located on the south wall and is flanked by Ardhanarisvara (a half-man, half-woman representation of Shiva) on its left and Gangadhara to its right, which denotes river Ganges's descent from Shiva's matted locks. Other carvings related to the legend of Shiva are also seen in the main hall at strategic locations in exclusive cubicles; these include Kalyanasundaramurti, depicting Shiva’s marriage to the goddess Parvati, Andhakasuravadamurti or Andhakasuramardana, the slaying of the demon Andhaka by Shiva, Shiva-Parvati on Mount Kailash (the abode of Shiva), and Ravananugraha, depicting the demon-king Ravana shaking Kailash.

The main cave blends Chalukyan architectural features such as massive figures of the divinities, guardians, and square pillars with custom capitals with Gupta artistic characteristics, like the depiction of mountains and clouds and female hairstyles.

The rock cut architecture of the caves has been dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries, although the identity of the original builders is still a subject of debate. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. All the caves were also originally painted in the past, but now only traces remain.

The island was called Gharapuri and was a Hindu place of worship until Portuguese rule began in 1534. The Portuguese called the island Elephanta on seeing its huge gigantic statue of an Elephant at the entrance. The Statue is now placed in the garden outside the Bhau Daji Lad (erstwhile Victoria & Albert) Museum at the Jijamata Udyan (erstwhile Victoria Gardens) at Byculla in Mumbai. This cave was renovated in the 1970s after years of neglect, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to preserve the artwork. It is currently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, is about 7 miles (11 km) east of the Apollo Bunder (Bunder in Marathi means a "pier for embarkation and disembarkation of passengers and goods") on the Mumbai Harbor and 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Pir Pal in Trombay. The island covers about 4 square miles (10 km2) at high tide and about 6 square miles (16 km2) at low tide. Gharapuri is small village on the south side of the island. The Elephanta Caves can be reached by a ferry from the Gateway of India, Mumbai, which has the nearest airport and train station. The cave is closed on Monday.

The island is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in length with two hills that rise to a height of about 500 feet (150 m). A deep ravine cuts through the heart of the island from north to south. On the west, the hill rises gently from the sea and stretches east across the ravine and rises gradually to the extreme east to a height of 568 feet (173 m). This hill is known as the Stupa hill. Forest growth with clusters of mango, tamarind, and karanj trees cover the hills with scattered palm trees. Rice fields are seen in the valley. The fore shore is made up of sand and mud with mangrove bushes on the fringe. Landing quays sit near three small hamlets known as Set Bunder in the north-west, Mora Bunder in the northeast, and Gharapuri or Raj Bunder in the south.

The two hills of the island, the western and the eastern, have five rock-cut caves in the western part and a brick stupa on the eastern hill on its top composed of two caves with a few rock-cut cisterns. One of the caves on the eastern hill is unfinished. It is a protected island with a buffer zone according to a Notification issued in 1985, which also includes “a prohibited area” that stretches 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the shoreline.

Since no inscriptions on any of the caves on the island have been discovered, the ancient history of the island is conjectural, at best. Pandava, the hero of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, and Banasura, the demon devotee of Shiva, are both credited with building temples or cut caves to live. Local tradition holds that the caves are not man-made.

The Elephanta caves are "of unknown date and attribution". Art historians have dated the caves in the range of late 5th to late 8th century AD. Archaeological excavations have unearthed a few Kshatrapa coins dated to 4th century AD. The known history is traced only to the defeat of Mauryan rulers of Konkan by the Badami Chalukyas emperor Pulakesi II (609–642) in a naval battle, in 635 AD. Elephanta was then called Puri or Purika, and served as the capital of the Konkan Mauryas. Some historians attribute the caves to the Konkan Mauryas, dating them to the mid 6th century, though others refute this claim saying a relatively small kingdom like the Konkan Mauryas could not undertake "an almost superhuman excavation effort," which was needed to carve the rock temples from solid rock and could not have the skilled labor to produce such "high quality" sculpture.

Caves of Elephanta, c. 1905. Note the broken pillars, which were restored in the 1970s.
Some other historians attribute the construction to the Kalacuris (late 5th to 6th century), who may have had a feudal relationship with the Konkan Mauryas. In an era where polytheism was prevalent, the Elephanta main cave dedicates the monotheism of the Pashupata Shaivism sect, a sect to which Kalacuris as well as Konkan Mauryas belonged.

The Chalukyas, who defeated the Kalacuris as well as the Konkan Mauryas, are also believed by some to be creators of the main cave, in the mid 7th century. The Rashtrakutas are the last claimants to the creation of the main cave, approximated to the early 7th to late 8th century. The Elephanta Shiva cave resembles in some aspects the 8th century Rashtrakuta rock-temple Kailash at Ellora. The Trimurti of Elephanta showing the three faces of Shiva is akin to the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva), which was the royal insignia of the Rashtrakutas. The Nataraja and Ardhanarishvara sculptures are also attributed to the Rashtrakutas.

The elephant sculpture from Elephanta is currently installed at the Jijamata Udyaan
Later, Elephanta was ruled by another Chalukyan dynasty, and then by Gujarat Sultanate, who surrendered it to the Portuguese in 1534. By then, Elephanta was called Gharapuri, which denotes a hill settlement. The name is still used in the local Marathi language. The Portuguese named the island "Elephanta Island" in honour of a huge rock-cut black stone statue of an elephant that was then installed on a mound, a short distance east of Gharapuri village. The elephant now sits in the Jijamata Udyaan zoo in Mumbai.

Portuguese rule saw a decline in the Hindu population on the island and the abandonment of the Shiva cave (main cave) as a regular Hindu place of worship, though worship on Mahashivratri, the festival of Shiva, continued and still does. The Portuguese did considerable damage to the sanctuaries. Portuguese soldiers used the reliefs of Shiva in the main cave for target practice, sparing only the Trimurti sculpture. They also removed an inscription related to the creation of the caves. While some historians solely blame the Portuguese for the destruction of the caves, others also cite water-logging and dripping rainwater as additional damaging factors. The Portuguese left in 1661 as per the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal. This marriage shifted possession of the islands to the British Empire, as part of Catherine's dowry to Charles.

Though the main cave was restored in the 1970s, other caves, including three consisting of important sculptures, are still badly damaged. The caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 as per the cultural criteria of UNESCO: the caves "represent a masterpiece of human creative genius" and "bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared".

The island has two groups of caves in the rock cut architectural style. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. All caves were painted in the past, but only traces remain. The larger group of caves, which consists of five caves on the western hill of the island, is well known for its Hindu sculptures. The primary cave numbered as Cave 1, is situated about 1 mile (1.6 km) up a hillside, facing the ocean. It is a rock cut temple complex that covers an area of 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2), and consists of a main chamber, two lateral chambers, courtyards, and subsidiary shrines. It is 39 metres (128 ft) deep from the front entrance to the back. The temple complex is the abode of Shiva, depicted in widely celebrated carvings which reveal his several forms and acts.

On the eastern part of the island, on the Stupa Hill, there is a small group of caves that house Buddhist monuments. This hill is named after the religious Stupa monument that they display. One of the two caves is incomplete, while the other contains a Stupa made in brick. The main cave, also called the Shiva cave, Cave 1, or the Great Cave, is 27 metres (89 ft) square in plan with a hall (mandapa). At the entrance are four doors, with three open porticoes and an aisle at the back. Pillars, six in each row, divide the hall into a series of smaller chambers. The roof of the hall has concealed beams supported by stone columns joined together by capitals. The cave entrance is aligned with the north-south axis, unusual for a Shiva shrine (normally east-west). The northern entrance to the cave, which has 1,000 steep steps, is flanked by two panels of Shiva dated to the Gupta period. The left panel depicts Yogishvara (The Lord of Yoga) and the right shows Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance). The central Shiva shrine (see 16 in plan below) is a free-standing square cell with four entrances, located in the right section of the main hall. Smaller shrines are located at the east and west ends of the caves. The eastern sanctuary serves as a ceremonial entrance.

Each wall has large carvings of Shiva, each more than 5 metres (16 ft) in height. The central Shiva relief Trimurti is located on the south wall and is flanked by Ardhanarisvara (a half-man, half-woman representation of Shiva) on its left and Gangadhara to its right, which denotes river Ganges's descent from Shiva's matted locks. Other carvings related to the legend of Shiva are also seen in the main hall at strategic locations in exclusive cubicles; these include Kalyanasundaramurti, depicting Shiva’s marriage to the goddess Parvati, Andhakasuravadamurti or Andhakasuramardana, the slaying of the demon Andhaka by Shiva, Shiva-Parvati on Mount Kailash (the abode of Shiva), and Ravananugraha, depicting the demon-king Ravana shaking Kailash.

The main cave blends Chalukyan architectural features such as massive figures of the divinities, guardians, and square pillars with custom capitals with Gupta artistic characteristics, like the depiction of mountains and clouds and female hairstyles.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

April 20, 2011

Hutatma Chowk



Hutatma Chowk ("Martyrs' Square") is the official name of a square in South Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. The square hosts Flora Fountain and was known by that name until 1960. It was officially renamed in 1960 in memory of the members of Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, who lost their lives when police fired upon their peaceful demonstration. A statue of a "Martyr with a Flame" stands next to Flora Fountain.

Hutatma Chowk is located in the busy financial district of South Mumbai. It derives its present name from an incident in 1960 when a peaceful demonstration by the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti (United Maharashtra Committee) was fired upon by the police resulting in 105 deaths. The incident was part of ongoing struggles of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, amongst others, for the creation of the State of Maharashtra. The shooting proved to be a major impetus for the creation of Maharashtra on May 1, 1960.

The Hutatma Chowk square is lined on all sides by buildings constructed during the British Raj. An ornate fountain surrounded by delicately carved figures forms the center of the huge square. This was the Flora Fountain.

The fountain itself was built in 1864 and represents the Roman Goddess Flora, the Goddess of Abundance. Today it is a heritage structure. It cost Rs. 47,000 to build, a princely sum at the time and was constructed by the Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India. Cursetjee Fardoonjee Parekh donated Rs.20,000 towards the construction of this fountain. The fountain was carved from stone that was imported from Portland. It was built in honour of Sir Bartle Frere, who was the Governor of Bombay at the time. Sir Frere was responsible for dismantling Bombay Fort and shaping much of modern Mumbai. Initially it was to be named after the Governor but the name was changed before the fountain was unveiled. When it was constructed it was in the middle of the city. Flora fountain stands in exactly the same place where the original Churchgate of Bombay Fort stood. The area around Flora Fountain is the business center of Mumbai and is surrounded by offices, banks, colleges and shops.

Monday, 18 April 2011

April 18, 2011

Saints of Maharashtra

Maharshatra is a state with rich cultural heritage and is a land of intense spirituality and religious faith, which is reflected in the profusion of temples presented here. It has a long tradition of Saints for centuries. Saints who propogated amongst masses the real values of religion. Saints who preached equality, humanity and godly behaviour. Saints who preached valour.  Saints like Namdev traversed the lengths of India and reached Punjab and is a reverred name even today. Saints like Ramdas Maharaj preached valour and dignified living. 

The tradition of Saints were furthered by the dominance of Warkari Tradition. Saint Dnyandev, Tukaram, Eknath etc being the icons of this Tradition.  These saints gave hope amongst the depressed populace then. Saint Eknath through his "Bharuds" awakened the masses about the injustice meted out to them by the tyrannical rulers.  Saint Dnaneshwar gave the access of Bhagvadgeeta to the masses by translating the sacred sanskrit verses in Marathi.  Women too were not far behind in this tradition of Saints, Saint Janabai, Soyrabai, Sakhubai etc.

Some of the Saints from Maharashtra are as below :
- Namdev
- Sant Gora Kumbhar
- Sant Rohidas
- Samarth Ramdas
- Sant Narhari Sonar
- Chokhamela
- Savta Mali
- Bhakta Goma Bai
- Sant Banka Mahar
- Sant Bhagu
- Sant Damaji Pant
- Sant Janabai
- Sant Kanhopatra
- Sant Karmamelam
- Sant Nirmala
- Sant Sadna
- Sant Sakhubai
- Sant Satyakam Jabali
- Sant Soyarabai
- Sant Sena Nhavi
- Sant Eknath

Sunday, 17 April 2011

April 17, 2011

Vasai Fort


Vasai or Bassein Fort is a large fort in Vasai village, in the Vasai taluka (county) of the District of Thane, Konkan Division, Maharashtra State, Republic of India. The name "Bassein" is the English version of the Portuguese "Baçaim" (with the "ç" spoken as "s" and with the "m" silent), itself a version of an apparently native name that may have a connection to the Vasa Konkani tribals of the North Konkan region, extending from Mumbai into "South Gujarat." The Marathi name of the place is Vasai.

The complete form of the Portuguese name is "Fortaleza de São Sebastião de Baçaim" or the Fort of St. Sebastian of Vasai.

The fort and the village are accessible most easily through the Vasai Road Railway Station, which itself is in Manikpur-Navghar, a part of the newly raised City of Vasai-Virar (See "Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation"), and lies to the immediate north of the cities of Mumbai and Mira Road-Bhayander. The "Vasai Road" Railway Station is the third last station on the Western Railway line (formerly the Bombay, Baroda & Central India Railways) in the direction of Virar Railway Station. Portuguese mariners exploring the north Konkan Coast, discovered the Arab Sultanate of Khambat or Cambay, building or renovating or expanding the fort in the early 1400s and attacked it in a failed effort to seize it. Later, after more systematic efforts, the Sultanate of Cambay ceded the fort to Portugal by the Treaty of Saint Matthew signed on the Portuguese brig Sao Matteus anchored in the Bhayander Creek or Vasai Harbor.

Under Portugal, the fort was the Northern Court or "Corte da Norte," second only to the City of Goa, functioning as the headquarters of the Captain of the North. As such it was the capital of Portuguese possessions on the coast north of Goa, over places such as Chaul-Revdanda, Karanja Island, the Bombay Archipelago, Bandra Island, Juhu Island, Salsette Island including the City of Thane, Dharavi Island, the Vasai archipelago itself, Daman, Diu, and other Portuguese holdings extending up the coasts uptil Pakistan, Oman, the UAE, Iran, and other parts of the Persian Gulf.

The ethnic community locally known in the Bombay region as the "East Indians" were called "Norteiro" (Northernmen) after the Court of the North functioning out of the fort.

In the 18th century, the fort was attacked by the Maratha army under Peshwa Baji Rao's brother Chimaji Appa, and fell in 1739 after a three-year-long campaign. The English shortly after took over the territory from the Marathas as the price for supporting one faction of the Marathas against another.

How to Reach :
One needs to take a Western Railways train bound to Virar from Churchgate and get off at Vasai Road. If someone is coming from the Central Railway or Central Railway Harbour Line then they have to switch to the Western Railway line at either Dadar, Bandra or Andheri. Another railway line connects the Central and the Western Railways lines from Vasai Road Railway Station to Diva, a stop just beyond Thane city on the Central Railway line, and long-distance passenger trains travelling this route also carry commuters between the two lines. A new railway station named Kopar has started which is between Diva and Dombivli. Passengers travelling from Thane or Kalyan can alight at Kopar and go top by staircase and at Platform No.3 they can catch the Diva to Vasai train. Vasai Road station is only one hour by train from Kopar station. Currently there are 5 trains daily which goes to Vasai Road from Dombivli, Diva and Panvel and 5 trains from Vasai Road to Diva and Panvel.There is a State Road Transport Bus Terminus & Station adjacent and to the immediate west of the Vasai Road Railway Station in Manickpur-Navghar. The destination for buses going to the Vasai fort is :Killa Bunder" or "Fort Jetty/Quay." There are buses every half hour. Ticket costs you Rs. 7.00 and you can get off at the last stop and walk around. Auto-Rickshaws are also available which can be hired from the western entrance to the Railway station but cost more per head and are unsafe in that they are usually congested.Auto Rickshaws are also available which can be hired from the main road outside the station but it would cost you around Rs.20.00 per head
April 17, 2011

Bibi ka Maqbara

Bibi Ka Maqbara is a maqbara built by the Mughal Prince Azam Shah, in the late 17th century as a loving tribute to his mother, Rabia Durrani (the first wife of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb). The comparison to the Taj Mahal has resulted in a general ignorance of the monument. This monument is also called the Dakkhani Taj (Taj of the Deccan). The monument's name translates literally to 'Tomb of the Lady', but has earned the nickname 'poor man’s Taj' because it was originally planned to rival the Taj Mahal (but was prevented from doing so due to budgetary constraints—Aurangzeb gave Azam Shah Rs. 7,00,000 only for the construction, where Taj Mahal cost 32 million Rupees approximately). It is situated in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The tomb in itself represents the transition from the ostentatious architecture of Akbar and Shah Jahan to the simple architecture of the later Mughals.

In the form of a hexagon and angles are ornamented with minarets. Bibi-ka-maqbara was built in 1660 by Aurangzeb's son, Azam Shah, as a loving tribute to his mother, Dilras Bano Begam. In 1720, Nizam-ul-Mulk Asif Jah, a distinguished General of Aurangzeb with the intention of founding his own dynasty in the Deccan, arrived at Aurangabad and made it his capital. He paid a visit to Delhi in 1723, but returned in 1724, Nizam Ali Khan Asaf Jah II transferred his capital from Aurangabad to Hyderabad in 1763.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

April 16, 2011

Balaji Temple Nerul


Balaji Temple at Nerul is built on the lines of Venkateshvara temple at Tirupati. It has been constructed according to the Shilpashastras. According to the Shilpashastras popular in Southern India, the main temple is always surrounded by subsidiary temples thus making a temple complex. Similarly one can find a temple complex at Nerul, with several temples around the main temple:
Vidya Ganapati temple
Shri Padmavati Devi temple
Hanumana temple
Vishvakasena temple
Ramanuja temple
Lakshmi Nrisimha temple
MAIN TEMPLE AND THE DEITYEntering the temple complex one can see the Bali Peetham and the tall Dhwaja stambha, which were consecrated on 10-02-2000.
Next to the Bali Peetam and the Dwajastambham , a flight of steps leads to the Tiru Mamani Mantapam. This is the entrance hall, with dimensions exactly same as at Tirumala temple i.e. 40' X 40'. This hall houses the Dwara Paalakas (doorkeepers) viz. Jaya and Vijaya, who guard the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum. These images were installed on 10.02.2000.
The structure of the Mani Mantapam is of Cement Concrete following modern architectural practices and is meant for hoisting various temple and religious activities. The cement concrete surfaces are being dubbed with exquisitely carved granite stones. The Ardha Mantapam and Garbha Griham are constructed in granite stones, following the Aagama / Silpa sastras by Sthapathies. The architecture and various details followed here are almost the replicas of the sacred Tirumala shrine. For example - the inner dimensions of the Garbha Griham are 12' x 12' - similar as at Tirumala.
Below the Mani Mantapam is the Kalyana Mantapam. Festivities of the temples are conducted here - Bhajans, Keertans, Pravachans, Kalyana Utsavam etc. Names of donors who have contributed for construction of all these temples are inscribed in this mantapam.
The devotees are not allowed to enter beyond the Ardha mantapam. Just behind the Ardha mantapam is the Garbha Griham where the benign Lord stands smiling majestically. The samprokshanam was done in an elaborate manner, guided by his holiness Chinna Jeer Swamiji of Tirupathy Sri Sri Ranga Ramanuja Jeer Swamigal on 21-06-1999. 
The majestic idol stands 8' tall (11' 1 from Peetam to Kreetam) and was sculpted at Mamallapuram (near Madras) out of a single rock.
At the right foot of the lord is a small silver idol which is called bhoga Srinivasa / Kautuka Bera. This idol imbibes the essence of the Lord and is loosely bonded to the main Moolavar idol by a string. There are also a few beautiful Pancha Loha idols of Shrinivasa with Sridevi and Bhoodevi. These are known as Utsavar idols (images for festivities). There are also the idols of Shri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Anjaneya. There is also the beautiful idol of the Shri Krishna with Rukmini. These images are similar to those at the Tirumala Shrine. There is also an image of Chakkarathalwar - Sri Sudarsana. On the other side of the same idol is the image of Shri Nrisimha. 
In the Ardha Mantapam, is the Pancha loha idol of Sri Ramanuja, supervising all the religious activities. The Srivari Hundi is housed, patterned after Tirumala, in the courtyard. 
Just in front of the deity is a standing image of Garuda. As a matter of fact no one is allowed to stand in such a way as to block the line of sight between the lord and HIS special devotee Garudalwar. 
The Archakas or the pujaris (priests) who perform various rituals in this temple are erudite scholars (in Sanskrit and Tamil) and have under gone 10 to 15 years of learning, austerities and practice to be eligible to enter the Garbha Griham!

Friday, 15 April 2011

April 15, 2011

Banganga



Banganga or Banganga Tank is an ancient water tank which is part of the Walkeshwar Temple Complex in Malabar Hill area of Mumbai in India. Tank was built in the 1127 AD, by Lakshman Prabhu, a minister in the court of Silhara dynasty kings of Thane. The tank was rebuilt in 1715 AD, out of a donation for the Walkeshwar Temple by Rama Kamath. The main temple, has been reconstructed since then and is at present a reinforced concrete structure of recent construction. According to local legend, it sprang forth when the Hindu god Ram, the exiled hero of the epic Ramayana, stopped at the spot five thousand years ago in search of his kidnapped wife Sita.

As the legend goes, overcome with fatigue and thirst, Rama asked his brother Lakshmana to bring him some water. Laxman instantly shot an arrow into the ground, and water gushed forth from the ground, creating a tributary of the Ganges, which flows over a thousand miles away, hence its name, Banganga, the Ganga created on a baan (arrow).

The Banganga also houses the 'Shri Kashi Math' and 'Shri Kaivalya or Kawle Math' of the Goud Saraswat Brahmins at its banks and samadhis of their various past heads of the Math.

The area also has a Hindu cremation ground which after 2003, received a makeover to house a Gas crematorium.

The area still has an old Hindu cemetery consisting of samadhi shrines of various Advaita gurus, such as Sri Ranjit Maharaj (1913–2000) and his guru Sri Siddarameshwar Maharaj (1888–1936). The tank today is a rectangular pool structure surrounded by steps on all four sides. At the entrance are two pillars in which oil lamps called diyas were lit in ancient times.

The tank, as well as the main Walkeshwar Temple and the Parshuram Temple belong to the Goud Saraswat Temple Trust, which once owned most of the property in the complex. Many Goud Saraswat Brahmin families to date reside in the complex.

The tank is spring fed and so its water remains sweet, despite being located only a few dozen meters away from the sea. Apart from being a cultural hub, the place over the years has provided inspiration to many artists, be it on film or on canvas.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

April 14, 2011

Anwa Temple



Anwa Temple is located 10 km away from Golegaon close to Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Presiding deity is Lord Shiva, and the temple dates back to 12th century. The temple has a sanctuary and a mandap (open hall) with decorated pillars. Anwa is a small village on the main road leading from Aurangabad to the Ajanta Caves. 

Anwa village gained significance because of Anwa Temple. The pillars of the temple has beautifully carved sculptures and bedecked pillars. The temple has also images of Vishnu, Ganesha and other divinities. 

As Anwa is very close to Ajanta, it is very suitable to travel by road from Golegaon. Private car or taxi is the best approach of transport. For room small budgeted hotels are available at Ajanta. One can also stay at the government guesthouse.
April 14, 2011

Ambarnath Shiv Mandir



The Shiv Mandir of Ambarnath is also called the Ambreshwar Shiva Temple. It is situated 2 km away from Ambarnath(East) railway station in Maharastra, India. It is said that Shilahara king Chittaraja constructed it, his son Mummuni rebuilt it. The temple is on the bank of Vadavan (Waldhuni) river. The temple is Hemadpanthi styled beautifully carved on stones.

It is also believed by some people that the temple was built by the five Pandava brothers in just one night in a huge single mass of stone. But official records are not supportive to this.

This temple has 20 steps to go down in the main room called (Gabhara) there is one shivling at the center of the room. on the occasion of Mahashivratri there is a big fair in the ambarnath to get blessings from lord Shiva.Mahashivratri Fair continues for 3-4 days. It starts 2 days prior to Mahashivratri and continues for 1 day after shivratri as well.

This temple is overcrowded in Mahashivratri. On the day of mahashivratri Ambernath's Eastern side is blocked for vehicles and route is diverted for vehicles due to heavy traffic of pilgrims. Temple becomes overcrowded again in Shravan mahina(Month) to get blessings from Lord Shiva.

Pooja like Rudra Abhishek can be performed on the temple premises. The temple has beautiful architectural work done on it. It was built 1100 years ago.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

April 13, 2011

Alandi



Alandi is 20 km from Pune off the Pune-Nasik Road, Popularly known as Devachi Alandi (God's place). Situated on the banks of river Indrayani, is known for the samadhi of the saint poet Dnyaneshwar, who authored Dnyaneshwari, the Marathi commentary on the Gita. Regular buses from various points in the Pune city. Samadhi temple is worth to see and creates a pleasant atmosphere. This temple was built in 1570. You can also see the famous wall in Alandi on which Dnyaneshwar sat and flew the wall to meet Changdev.

Saint Dnyaneshwar spent his short life here. He inspired the entire Maharashtra to worship Lord Panduranga. The Palakhi in the month of Ashadh is very popular and many people walk almost 150 kms. from Alandi to Pandharpur. Two fairs are held annually here: one on Ashadhi Ekadashi and the other on Kartik Ekadashi. The other famous places in Alandi are Muktai temple, Ram temple, Krishna Temple, Math of Swami Hariharendra, Vitthal-Rakhumai temple and the famous wall.

Also situated on the banks of the river Indrayani, 31 kms away, is Dehu, the birthplace of Tukaram, the great 17th century poet-saint of Maharashtra. He lived here and taught people how to pray the god. He and Sant Dnyaneshwar were the popular saints and both worshiped Lord Vitthal. The 'Palakhi' in the month of 'Ashadh' from Dehu is one of the main attractions of Dehu. Many people are taking part in it from so many years till now.

Transport is easy with a number of State Transport buses from Pune. One can also find 'Dharmashalas' for a comfortable stay, but prior booking is necessary.

Friday, 8 April 2011

April 08, 2011

Saint Tukaram


Shri Tukaram or Tukoba (1609-1650) was a seventeenth century saint, who constantly sang the praises of Lord Vitthala, or Krishna in what is today western India. It was the constant singing about God which led Tukaram to compose the 5,000 abhangs for which he is most famous. The abhangs are unique in the world of literature and are often called poems, but they don't have the artful imagery associated with poems. The abhangs express Tuka's feelings (whether elation or frustration) and philosophical outlook. While they are focused on God, many of them include brief mentions of events in Tukaram's life, which make them somewhat autobiographical.

In his life, he patiently faced many difficulties but was steadfast in his devotion. At one point, his disciple, Shivaji Maharaj offered him diamonds and opals, but they were refused as they would become an impediment to his devotion.

Tukaram's writings had pervasive influence on Marathi language, culture, literature, and spirituality. His followers say that his devotional accomplishments are so colossal that to describe them, many future generation of translators and commentators will have their pens occupied for centuries to come. In a sense, Tukaram is a saint-poet who belongs more to the future than to a specific historically bound past.

Tukaram was born in Dehu, a lively village on the banks of the holy river Indrayani, in approximately 1608 to two well-to-do devotees, of Lord Vithala: Bolhoba and his wife, Kanakai. Dehu, near modern day Pune. He was one of three brothers.

During the time of Saint Tukaram, Muslims reigned in southern India and were constantly at war with each other. The rulers enjoyed the privileges of stolen royalty while their warriors plundered villages.

In spite of the difficult political situation, Shri Tukaram’s childhood was spent in comfort and luxury. His troubles started with the illness of his father, due to which he had to start supporting his family at the tender age of thirteen.

Soon after Shri Tukaram’s parents died, severe drought and famine struck his village during which his wife and son died of starvation. These relentless hardships convinced Tukaram of the temporary nature of earthly pursuits. In a mood of quiet prayer, he climbed Bhamgiri Mountain to seek solace from the Lord. Although attacked by the snakes and wild animals, he was determined to stay there until he had found the eternal truth. After fifteen days of seclusion, fervent prayer and calls for his Lord’s attention, Shri Tukaram received Lord Vitthala’s audience. Pleased by Tukaram’s bhakti, Lord Vitthala bestowed upon him the eternal truth and love of Godhead.

Shri Tukaram states in his abhangas that he received the guru mantra containing the holy names of Krishna, Ram and Hari—names of God in the Maha Mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama hare. (Hare is the vocative form of both Haraa and Hari).

Tukaram has revealed through his renowned devotional writings that he received his Mantra through the medium of a dream from a divine personality he called “Raghava Chaitanya, Keshava Chaitanya.” Scholars and historians cite evidence that Saint Tukaram had some mystical connection with Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu. Gauriya Vaishnavas (followers of Lord Chaitanya) believe that Shri Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu initiated Shri Tukaram by way of this transcendental dream. Sheila Prabhupada writes in his introduction to Shrimad Bhagwatam: “Saint Tukaram, after initiation by the Lord, over flooded the whole of Maharashtra province with Sankirtana movement, and the transcendental flow is still rolling on in the southwestern part of the great Indian peninsula”.

As Tukaram’s meditation on Lord Vitthala became increasingly more profound, he began writing and reciting verses called abhangas, which encapsulated the essence of ancient shrutis and shashtras. As Sheila Prabhupada writes in the foreword to Songs of Vaishnavas Acharyas, “Songs composed by Acharyas are not ordinary songs. When chanted by pure Vaishnavas, who follow the rules and regulations of Vaishnavas character, they are actually effective in awakening the Krishna Consciousness dormant in every living entity.

Saint Tukaram continuously sang the Lord’s praises in his mother tongue of Marathi, composing over 5000 abhangas. Many of these are reflections of events in his life, which make them somewhat autobiographical. However, there is an unmistakable clear focus of Lord Panduranga (Vitthala), Lord of Pandharpur.

Shri Tukaram regularly went on Sankirtana pilgrimage from Dehu to Pandharpur, along with thousands of his followers. Along the way he would stop and enlighten the crowds, which would increase from village to village. Always crying out to the Lord with his loving abhangas, Tukaram used his bhakti poetry to encourage every one to take up a God centered life.

Shri Tukaram’s public discourses focused on offering one’s daily life as service to the Lord. Tukaram worked for the enlightenment of the society and emphasized Sankirtana, chanting of the Lord holy names, rather than ritualistic observances or the mechanical study of the Vedas. Singing, dancing, Saint Tukaram and the crowds he drew would happily walk over two hundred kilometers to Pandharpur.

Shrila Prabhupada writes, “Tukaram Aachaarya became very famous in Maharashtra province and he spread the Sankirtana movement all over the province. The Sankirtana party belonging to Tukaram is still very popular in Bombay and throughout the province of Maharashtra, resembling the Gauriyaa Vaishnav Sankirtana parties in chanting of the holy name of the Lord, accompanied by Mridanga and Karataalas”.


Shri Tukaram states in his Abhangas that he received the guru mantra containing the holy names of Krishna, Ram and Hari—names of God in the Maha Mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama hare. (Hare is the vocative form of both Haraa and Hari).

Tukaraam has revealed through his renowned devotional writings that he received his Mantra through the medium of a dream from a divine personality he called “Raghava Chaitanya, Keshava Chaitanya.” Scholars and historians cite evidence that Saint Tukaram had some mystical connection with Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu. Gauriya Vaishnavas (followers of Lord Chaitanya) believe that Shri Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu initiated Shri Tukaram by way of this transcendental dream. Shrila Prabhupada writes in his introduction to Shrimad Bhagwatam: “Saint Tukaram, after initiation by the Lord, overflooded the whole of Maharashtra province with Sankirtana movement, and the transcendental flow is still rolling on in the southwestern part of the great Indian peninsula”.

As Tukaram’s meditation on Lord Vitthala became increasingly more profound, he began writing and reciting verses called abhangas, which encapsulated the essence of ancient shrutis and shaashtraas. As Shrila Prabhupada writes in the foreword to Songs of Vaishnav Acharyas, “Songs composed by acharyas are not ordinary songs. When chanted by pure Vaishnavas, who follow the rules and regulations of Vaishanava character, they are actually effective in awakening the Krishna Consciousness dormant in every living entity.

Saint Tukaram continuously sang the Lord’s praises in his mother tongue of Marathi, composing over 5000 abhangas. Many of these are reflections of events in his life, which make them somewhat autobiographical. However, there is an unmistakable clear focus of Lord Pandurang (Vitthala), Lord of Pandharpur.

Shri Tukaram regularly went on Sankirtana pilgrimage from Dehu to Pandharpur, along with thousands of his followers. Along the way he would stop and enlighten the crowds, which would increase from village to village. Always crying out to the Lord with his loving abhaNgas, Tukaram used his Bhakti poetry to encourage every one to take up a God centered life.

Shri Tukaram’s public discourses focused on offering one’s daily life as service to the Lord. Tukaram worked for the enlightenment of the society and emphasized Sankirtana, chanting of the Lord holy names, rather than ritualistic observances or the mechanical study of the Vedas. Singing, dancing, Saint Tukaram and the crowds he drew would happily walk over two hundred kilometers to PanDharpur.

Shrila Prabhupada writes, “Tukaram Aachaarya became very famous in Maharashtra province and he spread the Sankirtana movement all over the province. The Sankirtana party belonging to Tukaram is still very popular in Bombay and throughout the province of Maharashtra, resembling the GauRiyaa Vaishnav Sankirtana parties in chanting of the holy name of the Lord, accompanied by Mridanga and Karataalas”.

Saint Tukaram knew and taught that a human being can never attain happiness if there is no place for God. He wrote, “ Look at my experience. I made God my own and He gave me the answers to my questions whenever and wherever I put them to Him.”

Saint Tukaram was several centuries ahead of his time. With utmost compassion, he anticipated the spiritual anguish of modern man. He would invoke divine love within his audiences, immersing them in deep emotions for God.


Several events in Saint Tukaram’s life deeply affected his spiritual writings and teachings. One incident involved a scholar named Rameshwar Bhatta, who was surprised to find the essence of the Bhagwat Gita being presented in the Marathi language with such eloquence. The envious scholar believed that Tukaram’s birth as a non Brahmana disqualified him from elucidating the essence of the Vedas. Tukaram responded: “You might think these are my verses, but no, this is not my own language. Nor is it my own skill; it is God who makes me talk. It was Lord Vitthobaa Himself who ordered me to versify.”

But Rameshwar Bhatta was not convinced of Shri Tukaram’s purity of heart. Backed by a local militia, he ordered Tukaram to sink his verses in the sacred river Indrayani. Laughing and humiliating Shri Tukaram in public, Raameshwar announced to the crowd that if these devotional works were the outcome of divine order, then Lord Vitthal Himself would save the books form being destroyed.

Tukaram collected all his abhanga books, tied in a heavy stone to the bundle and with full faith tossed his entire collection of bhakti writings into the Indrayani River. One night, thirteen days later, Lord Vitthala, dressed as a child visited Saint Tukaram. The Lord told him that He had been safeguarding the books underwater and that they would resurface the next day.

Some followers of Shri Tukaram received similar divine messages. Word spread and next day a large crowd gathered on the banks of the Indrayani. To the crowd’s astonishment and Raameshwar Bhatta’s dismay, the books were floating on the surface.

With exhuberant excitement and enthusiasm, people retrieved the sacred books-which were completely dry-and respectfully returned them to Saint Tukaram. His abhaNgas were protected by Lord Vitthal Himself, Tukaaram was free to preach and so he continued with his devotional discourses and Kirtana.


Shri Tukaram’s reputation eventually reached King Shivaji, who sent a messenger bearing valuable gifts, such as lamps, horses and gems. Tukaram politely refused the gifts and responded to the King with four of his abhangas. In one of the verses, Shri Tukaram complained to King Shivaji: “You seem to provide me exactly the things that do not interest me.” King Shivaji was astounded by Saint Tukaram’s attitude of renunciation. So later, the King decided to travel to Lohgaon, near Dehu, to see Shri Tukaram and seek his saintly association and advice. When the King presented more gifts, Tukaram said, “What use is this treasure to me; I want only Lord VItthobaa. Your gesture shows your generosity but to me these gifts are like pebbles.” Shri Tukaram politely asked King Shivaji to recite the names of God and become servant of Lord Vitthobaa.


Saint Tukaram’s passing was remarkable. During the night before he left this world, the saintly devotee prepared for his departure by chanting the holy names without stop.

He extended an invitation to his family, friends and followers who had gathered there: “I am going to Vaikuntha. Come along with me.”

It is said that after Tukaram announced his imminent departure, Shri GaruDa landed on the bank of the Indrayani to carry him to the spiritual world.

No one understood Tukaram’s invitation. He affectionately embraced his fourteen intimate followers and his surviving son named, Mahadev ViTthobaa.

They all came forward and paid their final respects to Shri Tukaram, who then cast a look at his second wife, Jijabai and said to all, “Bid farewell to me now and return home. Its high time I responded to Vitthobaa’s call in Vaikuntha. Vitthobaa has been waiting for quite some time now. Its time for me to leave and I beseech all for their blessings. Vitthoba has come through for me at the end and Tuka will now disappear.”

Shri Tukaram peacefully proceeded to board Garuda. The huge celestial bird flew to the spiritual sky, leaving behind a scene of hundreds of weeping and grieving devotees. He left this material world in his self same body, singing the holy names of the Lord, just as Dhruva Maharaj had done in a previous age.

 Anecdotes
Tukaraam finds Employment

Whenever Tukaraam returned home his wife used to offer water to wash his feet. But, one evening his wife was not at home when he returned. When she came home after some half-an-hour he asked her, "Where have you been?" She said hesitatingly, "The children at home have to be fed. You are unable to attend to the family needs. Therefore, I earn through cleaning the dishes in few houses." The shocked Tukaraam said to her in an apologizing tone, "From tomorrow do not go anywhere. I will try to get some job and earn something for the family." He went to some houses in the village to ask for some work. But, the moment he entered a house he was welcomed with honor and affection. They washed his feet and offered something to eat. When he told them the purpose of his visit they were aghast. They said, "Swami! You are a great Sadhu. How can we make you work for us? It is verily a sin. We will provide you with all your needs but do not say that you wish to work for us" But, Tukaraam would not accept a single paise or grain from anyone. Since every one knew him in the village he went to the next colony where none had seen him. There he managed to get the job of guarding a field.

Tukaraam was happy to have secured this kind of a job, which posed no block to his Namasankirtan. He happily said to his employer, "I will take good care of your field."

He sat on the wooden platform that had been placed on a tree and singing the Name of the Lord watched over the field. Soon he lost himself in the thought of Bhagavan. Birds, goats and cows entered the field. To Tukaraam every one of them seemed to be Panduranga. He said, "Oh! Panduranga! Come! Come! Have a feast. Eat to your fill. All are verily yours!" All of them had a great day and that evening when the owner came to the field he was aghast to find everything lost. The whole field was in havoc. The furious man caught hold of Tukaraam and shook him up. He shouted angrily, "What have you done? I asked you to guard my field from animals and birds. I have lost everything. You have to make up for the loss." Tukkaram, who was now out of his trance, realized what had happened and deeply regretted the negligence on his part. He said, "Sir! I have nothing with me to pay you. If I did, I would not have sought this job from you. I am sorry for what has happened." The employer said, "Well! Let us go to the king and ask for justice." The horrified Tukaraam said, "No! Let us not go to the king." Tukaraam was not afraid of the king. Shivaji was his disciple and if they went to him this good man who had offered employment to him would have to face the wrath of the king. He wished to avoid this situation. He, therefore, said to him, "You may beat me as much as you want for the wrong done."

The employer tied up Tukaraam to a tree and slashed him with a whip. Tukaraam exclaimed, "Vittala!" The angry employer barked, "Are you the great Tukaraam that you call out 'Vittala'?" Tukaraam said, "I am Tukkaram." The employer was horrified to learn that it was the great Sadhu Tukaraam whom he had employed and had now tied to a pole and whipped. He fell at Tukkaram's feet and pleaded, "Master! What a great sin I have committed. Please say that you have forgiven me; otherwise my whole family and the generations before and after me will stand cursed for my misdeed." Tukaraam hugged him and said, "You have not done any wrong." The man said, "Your Lotus Feet have touched this field. What has been lost now will soon be gained in hundred folds. I have nothing to worry on this account." He then filled a cartload of sugarcane from another field of his and offered it to Tukkaram.

Riding the cart of sugarcane Tukaraam reached home. He said to his wife, "I have earned a cartload of sugarcane today." She said, "What can we do with this sugarcane? Please take them to the market and sell them so that we can buy food for our children." Tukaram turned the cart towards the market. Children are fond of sugarcane. Tukaram had hardly gone a few yards when children came rushing to the cart singing loudly, "Ramakrishna Hari! Vittala! Panduranga!" The Name of the Lord was enough to distribute the sugarcane to the children. With just one sugarcane left in the cart, Tukaram returned home. Tukaram's wife asked him, "Have all sugarcane been sold out? Where is the money? Let us buy food for our children." Tukaraam said to her, "Oh! No! I have not sold them in the market. Children came running to the cart singing the Lord's Name. I could not help distributing it to the children who joyously cried out the Lord's Name."

His wife could take it no more. She lost her temper. She was deeply distraught that her children had to go without food for another day. She picked up the last sugarcane in the cart and beat Tukkaram's back with it. The sugarcane split into two halves. Tukaraam smilingly pointed out to her, "See! How great Bhagavan is! He has used your hand and my back to split the sugarcane into two equal halves so that we do not quarrel over our share." Coming back to her senses, his wife fell at his feet and said with tears, "How can you smile even at this moment. Don’t you feel angry? How is it that you do not lose your temper at any point of time? What have I done in my anger? Please forgive me." Tukaraam consoled her. He said to her, "How happy is our life! Everyday, every moment we enjoy the Name of the Lord. Sadhus visit our home frequently. There is Nama sankirtan every day."


Saint Tukaram knew and taught that a human being can never attain happiness if there is no place for God. He wrote, “ Look at my experience. I made God my own and He gave me the answers to my questions whenever and wherever I put them to Him.”

Saint Tukaram was several centuries ahead of his time. With utmost compassion, he anticipated the spiritual anguish of modern man. He would invoke divine love within his audiences, immersing them in deep emotions for God.