Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Am A Changed Person Now... More Self-confidence...Jai Maataa Di!

My sister in law had visited this temple long back, around 20 years back! She had said that the road to the temple was too tough and they had to go via a small cave to reach the garbha gruha of Ma Vaishno Devi.  I love adventure and wanted to visit this place for a long time.  And I love to visit ancient temples than modern temples! Then I came to know how Amitabh, after losing all the money via ABCL, his company (He nearly lost his house too), got the opportunity to anchor Kaun Banega Crorepathi, a quiz show in TV and then no looking back for him.  He has got 4 houses in Mumbai now and other assets.  He, along with his producers had visited Vaishno devi temple before starting the shooting, for KBC, it seems.  I wonder whether it was luck, god's gift or his talent brought him this far! I have heard others also talk a lot about this temple.  For us, South Indians, human-like black images are gods. I was curious to see how this temple is and became so famous without a proper moorthi (sculpture) of the devi!

I read these links before visiting this temple... Ma Vaishno Devi here. One more link is here. This is the second 'most visited temple' in India, after Sri Venkateshwara temple at Tirupati. This god is believed to be very powerful.  Ma Vaishno Devi did penance in the cave at Trikuta hill,  where she resides now, the story says.  She is called as Santoshi ma and Lakshmi also...different versions of stories are there.  Anyway, this is a powerful god and I could feel the vibration at the temple.  Now, let me write about our visit in detail.

As I told in my earlier post about 'Wagah border' we went on a North India tour with 20 other couples...Nirmala Tours & Travels, made our tour comfortable.   This tour was called, Amritsar-Vaishno Devi tour. 

This image of Ma Vaishno devi is from wikipedia. 

The priest said that the stone in the centre  is Ma Vaishno devi.  The right one is Maha kaali and the left one is Saraswathi.  This is a replica of Ma Vaishno devi which was at the hotel we stayed. 
We had reached Katra, a small village in Jammu from Amritsar at about 4.30 pm on 22nd Oct. '13 by bus.    We stayed at the hotel Shankar Palace.  It was good.  We had dinner.  The Nirmala Travels people bring their cooks along with them.  They cooked vegetarian food at the hotels, wherever we stayed and served us.  Then, Pradeep, our tour Manager, took us to a place where we had to register our names for visiting the temple.  They took our photos and asked where we came from and gave us a card to visit the temple.  Pradeep said that it was better to walk to the temple, all 13 Km. at night since the weather would be good instead of walking in the sun in the morning.  The shrine is at an altitude of 5300 feet.  So, we and some 4 others started walking at 9.30 pm, on that night itself...we had some chocolates and water, that is all and my mobile, which was not allowed inside the temple later!  Some people hired helicopters and some horses.  We can go by palki too... 5-6 people will carry us...mostly old people use this.  I saw many old people walking slowly, shouting 'jai mata di'  on my way...the road was quite crowded. Children and youngsters were enjoying the walk. The other people who started walking with us had gone up, walking speedily than us! There were many hairpin bends which were tough to climb because of the road level.  Many people took walking sticks with them which cost Rs. 10. 

Some old people asked us to drink water, just take one sip at a time.  We were sitting at benches which were in front of the shops, often.  There were many shops selling eatables and drinks.

Benches like this were seen everywhere on the way.  We sat in these benches often and then proceeded. 
View from the road to Vaishno devi.
Another view from the road to Vaishnodevi
I noticed around 4 T-series shop (Gulshan Kumar's!) on the way up!

Even 'Coffee day' shop was there!


We saw these types of steps on the roadside.  They are used for people to hop on the horses. Many people used horses to visit the temple.  Our tour manager said that it was tough for women.  They had thigh pains the next day!
Fog filled road...a small girl is made to sit here with red cloth draped on her, for begging...she was with full make-up! Felt sorry for the girl.  The road was so lonely.
This young donkey looks beautiful...!
Since no motorised vehicle could not go uphill, donkeys are used for taking loads, even gas cylinders.  The traffic of horses and donkeys were so much that it was difficult to walk alongside them at places. This picture was taken while coming back in the next morning!

 One more girl is begging.  At least this area is lit and people were there.
Some of the friends I met on the way! Saw many langoors too, but was too tired to click them!

Our tour manager had insisted on us to take the last 5 Km, the battery car road, which would be easier to climb.  We could feel the difference  between the road we had come and this road.  This was smoother and the steepness was less! People who wanted to climb steps to reach the temple, can do so.  But it was too difficult for us!

We reached the temple gate at about 4 am, the next morning.  We had to walk more to have the darshan of the Devi...wet steps were there to climb.  Every devotee is checked for the registered card.  Body search were there at two places.  And it was raining outside! I saw two people skidding and falling down in the steps.  Everyone must have been tired.  WE were very tired.  Thank god, the crowd was less on that day.   Red chaddar and nariyal (red zari cloth and coconut) were being sold for offering to the god.  The place was too crowded and we were tired to stand  in the queue again.  So, we just offered some money, which was the only thing with me then! Even hand bags were not allowed inside! Leather is banned, I was told. My husband wore a watch with leather strap.  He left it at the hotel itself. I think it is OK.  A priest was standing a few steps before reaching the Devi and placing teeka on our foreheads. 

When I reached the Gabha gruha (sanctum), I asked the Panda to explain about the gods since I was coming from Chennai and did not know much about this god.  He explained about the 3 gods (pind or pindi).  The gods were not facing us but they were on the left side, facing the opposite wall.   The old cave has been converted into a modern cave...I didn't feel it like a cave.  So, it is very easy to reach the  god/deities  now.  But it was wet everywhere.  Then we came out. Again, it was a long way to reach the gate.  Since the darshan was over, we felt more tired while coming out.  We lost the way and entered the area where horses were many horses and their stench!  My husband had tea and biscuits on the way but since I was feeling a bit sick, I didn't have anything except a little water and it was showing! Somehow we came out of the place and reached a hotel which was very nearby.  It was 5 am by then.  I saw many people sleeping, on the way back,  covering themselves with rugs/woollen blankets.  We came to know that the temple offers them freely.   The verandahs where they were allowed to sleep, were quite clean.  Somebody told me that the darshan was closed for the morning aarthi.  I thought I would go back and watch it.  But then they said that only select people were allowed inside, for the aarthi!

Both of us had tea and bread toast at the hotel.  It was very cold and drizzling outside.  I was shivering though I was wearing sweater.  Then, the toilets...they were horrible!  The bucket and mugs were also dirty.  Why is it like this when our temples get so much money, can't they provide the basic facilities?  The toilets on our way up were very clean and modern!

We were told that a few battery cars were there to take us down for about 5 Kms.  But they started at 8 am.  We were so tired to start walking down immediately.  They charge Rs.200/- per head, for the 5 Kms.  Still, it made us the climbing down easier! No, climbing down was tougher than climbing up! We had to balance ourselves downward! Knees had started buckling often! My husband had some ginger tea and I had ginger soda in a small shop.  The shopkeeper had not heard of Chennai or Tamilnadu! But then I thought that I didn't know exactly where Chattisgarh or Uttarakhand was!

We were able to get bottled, Kinley water everywhere on our way to the temple, for Rs.20/-. It was a blessing! All goods to the shops came via donkeys.  I didn't see any cart or tempo carrying goods on our way!

Everybody was smiling and no untoward incidents were seen on the way.  I felt sick in the morning hours because of sleeplessness, I think and my husband was sweating a lot in the chilly weather.  I was a bit worried about him, but everything went on well, thank god..mata di! We never thought we could make the trip by walk, but we did.  I never knew that it would be so tough before going, but then we made it!  We reached the hotel at 11.15 am, the next morning! Pradeep, our tour manger said that he was worried about our walking because of our age and he was so happy to see us back, smiling! We had bought some fruits on our way back.  Had a hot water bath at our room.  Had the fruits and some hot milk and slept till 4.30 in the evening!  The next morning, we started to Jammu by bus!

Everybody in the bus congratulated us for our trip to the temple by walk.  Only a few people in our group did it, it seems! Others went by helicopter and horse backs.

Ma Vaishno Devi assured us that both of us have got very good health and make more trips in the future like this!


EDITED TO ADD ON 30.11.13:   I forgot to mention about a clinic on our road up the hill.  There was always a doctor - 24 hours a day, it seems! Nice!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Celebrations! 300 posts Mark Crossed, Thanks To All My Friends!


I had crossed the 300 posts mark with the previous 'Wagah Border' post and I didn't notice it, but my son did! That was my favourite post  and I am happy that it became my 300th post!

First I must thank my son, as usual, who pushed me into writing and it has brought out a different Sandhya out of me! Thanks to my old and new blogger friends who comment and encourage me, I seem to be more interested in writing now than before.  The change in writing is drastic from my 'Amarnath post' to the 'Wagah Border' post.

A BIG 'THANK YOU'  to all!

I had promised Ashok who awarded me the 'Versatile blogger' award that I would nominate people for passing on this  award in my 300th post.  But I feel that all my friends seem to be good writers and the list might be too long, though  I know that I was happy to read Ashok's view about my writing!  But I can't prepare a list like you, Ashok! So, I am awarding all my friends this award now:

Thank god, I remembered my promise!  A couple of other awards were also given to me and I have to write posts on them.  I will do them soon!

I am posting some photographs which were taken from our balcony, one early morning,  last week to make this post more interesting.  We, in Chennai, seem to have a short rainy season this year.  The sun was not very bright and it was going in and coming out of clouds and it was interesting to watch it! Some snaps are here:


P.S.: Thanks for the '300' image, Partha Sir!


Monday, November 4, 2013

I Shouted Loudly, 'Vande Maataram', 'Bhaarat Maata Ki Jai' After Many Many Years...

I was wondering whether to do a post on our visit to 'Vaishnodevi temple' or the Wagah Border's Beating Retreat first...Wagah border won!

We went on a group tour to North India recently with Nirmala Travels, Bengaluru.  This is our first group tour.  We enjoyed it thoroughly! I will write about the interesting parts in different posts.

We visited  Wagah Border on 20th Oct. '13.  It was a Sunday.  We had visited Jalianwala bagh and Golden Temple, Amritsar in the morning.  We visited Wagah Border in the evening.  All of us, around 40 people, went by a bus.  Our bus stopped at Wagah, a village in Amritsar which connects India with Lahore, Pakistan.  The village is divided into two halves, one part is in our country and the other is in Pakistan.  Wiki says so, here.

A ceremony called 'Beating Retreat' is conducted everyday here, when flags of the two countries are lowered simultaneously in the evening.  Our bus stopped 1 Km from the gate.  We had to walk without carrying our handbags or even water bottles.  But the water and pop corns were being sold at the venue!  Cameras were allowed, thank god! We were warned by our tour manager to walk in single file without making much noise.  Soldiers on horse backs were seen going here and there.  We were 'nervous', don't know why!  I had never seen any video before going there and so everything was new to me.

I heard this song (link) as soon as I entered the stands.  I had goose bumps as usual, whenever I hear this song.  Then came other patriotic songs of Mahendra Kapoor's (Manoj Kumar films) and A.R. Rahman's! I wanted to hear this song, 'Vande aaaa....maataram' from 'Anand Mutt' on that day.  Maybe it was played earlier! Since it was a Sunday, we could see people everywhere...young, old...even small babies!

It was near empty when we reached here.  I could see the gates clearly from where we sat.  It was on the left side.

This gate of ours is on the right side to where we sat.  We thought we were sitting in the best position until more people started gathering! The photo of the father of our nation, Gandhi, is here.
I took this photograph from where I sat.  This was on the left side. The photo of  Jinnah, the father of Pakistan,   is here.  Their colour, green is seen everywhere!
Then the children running with flags on this road started.  And we cheered them.  There was a long queue. Only girls were asked to participate and then women! I and my friend wanted to do it, but the queue was tooo long! So, we just cheered!
Girls and women were asked to dance to the patriotic songs...Rahman's 'Jai Ho' was a patriotic song on that day! His 'Vande maataram' had a different impact there on that day! But 'jahaan daal daal par sone ki chidiyaan karti hain basera' was THE best!
This man was a photographer. Women and girls who ran with the flags were photographed by him.  I think he collected their addresses to send the pictures to them. I noticed money being exchanged.  Good business.  I might be wrong too!
Fullll attendance! This is just on one side.   Men were seated separately. We were peeping to see if the Pakistanis had this sized crowd! NO! We were mean to feel happy!
Another section of the crowd!
Very old people were asked to sit here.  That is the Border Security Force office.  These people are responsible for this side of our border.  I saw a couple of tiny, 2/3 month old babies too, here. Two, very old people came in wheel chairs and sat for nearly 2 hours in the sun.
The marching of the soldiers started! They have got such colourful head gears!  And we kept on cheering them! Before they started to march in pairs, one of them stood in front of the BSF office and made a long sound,  continuously for full 5 mts. without taking a breath.  The army man who was cheering, was holding the mike in front of  his mouth.  You can hear it in the video.  The Pakistani soldiers too make the same sound before starting to march! They were touching their heads with their right foot often, while marching.  The Pakistani soldiers also did the same on the roads and near the gates.
Marching to the gate.
This army man was the hero of the crowd on that day! He was asking/directing us to cheer the soldiers who were marching to the gate.  We were waving our hands and shouting...I couldn't speak the next day!  My throat was aching! He had so much energy!
The sun has started going down and the flags of both countries are being lowered slowly, inch by inch and evenly, to the military music.
The two flags of the two countries at the gate, this flag and the BSF flag on top of their office, were lowered together.  The crowd was cheering... The soldiers from both sides shook hands, folded the respective flags in the same way.  The flags were taken to the office by 5 soldiers...on both sides! The gates were closed for the evening.
I have got some questions, the answers to which are not available in the net.  Does anyone know?

1.  They say that this exercise of closing the gate was started in 1959.  Why was it started? 

2. Who choreographed?

3. How did they train the soldiers of both countries to do the exercise at a same pace at the same time? The military music in the background is the same for both countries!

Though I don't want to accept, I was/we were happy to see less crowd and less cheers from the Pakistani side.  Is it because we hear them intruding our space, killing our soldiers, often?  I tell myself that they are people like us and their soldiers go through the same agony like ours? But...

I got to see this video now... I was sitting through this atmosphere of patriotism.  Yes, we don't have much discipline...people were going here and there all the time through the parades.  But the cry of 'Vande mataram' compensated every flaw of ours! We are lucky to be born here.  We have got more freedom here to do anything. Our women are not 'disciplined' like theirs.  Let us be happy about these things!

I had tears in my eyes, without my knowledge, when I got up from my seat when the ceremony was over! A friend who was with me also was crying...she was my age!

This video which was taken from the Pakistan side of the border, shows what happens at the gate, clearly.  The shaking of the hands of the soldiers of both sides is clearer.

While watching I felt that these soldiers from both sides must be friends at other of them must be telling the other, how his leg hurts while stamping on the ground!

The crowd looks less here, in this video. Maybe it was not a Sunday.  We went on a Sunday and the stands were full.

Our throats were aching, the next morning after the full-throated shouting!

I will cherish this experience throughout my life! 

Wagah Unity symbol!


Edited to add: My friend Shail has sent this link which gives some answers to my questions.  Thank you, Shail.

P.S.: Thanks 'you tube' for the two videos!

Friday, November 1, 2013






Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Agra ( 3 ) ants ( 1 ) Arya Samaj wedding ( 1 ) Aurangabad ( 1 ) awards ( 3 ) Badami cave temples ( 4 ) balika vadhu ( 4 ) Bhimsen Joshi ( 1 ) birds and butterflies ( 28 ) Book Review ( 2 ) Books ( 5 ) Chennairain ( 1 ) children ( 2 ) Churches ( 1 ) Chutney ( 1 ) Cinderella Man ( 1 ) cinema ( 15 ) common wealth games ( 1 ) concerts ( 7 ) Corporation Schools ( 1 ) cricket ( 3 ) Dharamshala ( 3 ) dogs ( 5 ) Doordarshan ( 9 ) down memory lane ( 5 ) Education ( 15 ) English Movie Review ( 16 ) Environment ( 52 ) Europe tour ( 1 ) Festivals ( 20 ) Firaaq (2008) ( 1 ) Fitness ( 1 ) Forts ( 3 ) Foto Friday ( 18 ) Gafla ( 1 ) General ( 42 ) Health ( 7 ) Hindi film songs ( 3 ) Hindi Movie Review ( 25 ) Humour ( 6 ) Jagjit Singh ( 4 ) Kalakshetra ( 1 ) Kamal Haasan ( 2 ) kanjira ( 1 ) Karsh Kale ( 1 ) kaun banega superstar ( 3 ) kbc ( 2 ) Kew Gardens ( 2 ) Kittens ( 10 ) Kurnool ( 4 ) kya aap paanchvi paas se tez hain? ( 1 ) language ( 1 ) London ( 5 ) Mahabaleshwar tour ( 5 ) movie review ( 8 ) Mumbai Meri Jaan ( 1 ) music ( 58 ) my garden ( 17 ) Nature ( 19 ) New year ( 3 ) Notre Dame ( 1 ) onion ( 1 ) patriotism ( 19 ) pattadha kallu ( 1 ) People whom I admire ( 62 ) Personal experience ( 2 ) pets ( 19 ) politics ( 20 ) Portugese anchor ( 1 ) Pt.Chaurasia ( 1 ) radio ( 4 ) rantings ( 3 ) reality shows ( 2 ) recognition ( 2 ) religion ( 3 ) s ( 1 ) Sangeeth Saritha ( 5 ) saregama 1998 mega final ( 3 ) saregama 1999 finals ( 1 ) saregamapa 2010 ( 1 ) showcaves ( 1 ) Sonu Nigam ( 5 ) sound of music ( 3 ) sparrows ( 4 ) Sports ( 7 ) Srilanka tour ( 4 ) sunrise ( 6 ) superstitions ( 2 ) Tagged ( 11 ) Tamil movie Review ( 8 ) Temples ( 22 ) Tendulkar ( 3 ) The King's Speech ( 1 ) The Taj ( 1 ) thief ( 1 ) Tirupati ( 3 ) tour ( 59 ) tours ( 1 ) Travel ( 26 ) TV serial review ( 8 ) Ulagath Tamizh Semmozhi Maanaadu ( 1 ) unbelievable news ( 2 ) US tour ( 5 ) Ustaad Zakir Hussain ( 1 ) Vaalpaarai ( 3 ) vedanthangal ( 3 ) voh kaagaz ki kashti ( 75 ) wordless wednesday ( 38 ) yoga ( 2 )