Following the Shiva trail- A road trip to the Jyotirlinga temples in Maharashtra- Part 1- Unraveling the secrets of the Shiv Lingam

shivling-nuclear-reactor

“So what are your plans for the Year End?”,I asked a friend. “Oh, I am going to the States. My cousins stay there. I will either visit the one of the East Coast, or the one on the West Coast”. “That is nice. And how about you?” I asked another friend. “I will be in Canada this time. Pammi Aunty and Hiroo Uncle stay in Toronto. We haven’t visited them for years”. “That is nice too. And you?”, I asked a third friend.” Don’t know man. We will either go to Singapore-Malaysia, or maybe Dubai. My wife’s brother has his family there”. “What about you?”, they asked me.

My response was 😓

I came back home and quietly opened Google Maps. Anywhere outside of India at this peak tourist season was absolutely out of question.

North India? No, I had been there last December. It was kind of cold for a road trip. North East then? Too cold again. How about Rajasthan? Too expensive. The NRIs had probably booked the whole state as a part of their Biennial visit to India. Kerala? The Mallus had exercised their right of way to fly in from the ‘Gelf’ for Christmas and the New Years. Not even the oil reserves there could bring down the flight ticket prices below 10k.

I zoomed in on Maharashtra. This seemed to be a better bet. No flight tickets, just take your motorcycle and ride out. I was googling for road trips in Maharashtra when an advertisement popped up. 3 Jyotirlingas with Shirdi and Shani-Shingnapur. I let the latter two names pass, the first intrigued me though.

I have always been fascinated by Shiva. Less from a religious aspect, more from a conceptual one. An ascetic and a householder, a loving husband and a doting father, short tempered yet a perennial meditator, detached from material world, yet very much a part of many people’s daily life. He has been the original ‘Complete Man’ for ages, much before Raymond coined the term as a marketing gimmick.

The idea caught my fancy in a second. I got possessed by the trip. A usual fervor of planning later, I had a proper route laid out. And what a ripper of a road trip it turned out to be?

I travelled about 1400 kms across the state of Maharashtra, visited 4 Shiva Jyotirling temples and one Goddess Temple, a few ancient and historical monuments and structures and natural lakes, stayed in small towns like Jalna and Parbhani that I had read about only in my school text books, and in the process roamed around in over 10 districts of Marathwada and Khandesh Region.

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The Jyotirling temples were to act as reference points for my road journey. The idea was to visit the temples, along with other famous places on the way.

Once the trip was planned, I started to delve deeper and deeper into the secrets of Shiva.

Jyotirlingam

Before we proceed to the temple visits, let us have a quick understanding of the concept of Shiv Lingam, or a Jyotirlingam in particular.

It is downright primitive to accept a very popular belief that a Shiv lingam is a representation of a phallus and a vagina, meaning a representation of sexual union of Shiva and Shakti (Male and Female). It may still represent this union, but definitely not from a sexual perspective.

Firstly it makes no physical sense since it is turned upside down, and the dome symbolizing the phallus comes out. Secondly, if everything is to be linked to sexuality, then the Christian Holy Cross can be easily forced to symbolize a male and female union, and so can the Star of David in Judaism. No, there had to be more to a Shiv Lingam than pure carnal desires of the human race.

The word Jyotirlingam is a Sanskrit Sandhi (joint words) of two words- Jyoti meaning light and lingam meaning a form or a pillar in this case. So a Jyotirlingam is a pillar of light.

A mythological take on Jyotirlingam

We all know that Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh form the holy trinity of Hindu gods, and symbolize creation, preservation and destruction respectively.

Once Brahma and Vishnu had an argument on who is the greatest amongst them. They approached Shiva, who transformed himself into an infinite ray of Light. He asked Brahma and Vishnu to go in opposite directions, and come back when they find the upper and lower end of the pillar of light.

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Their search went on for years, when Lord Vishnu finally realized the infinite greatness of Lord Shiva and bowed down to him. Brahma was still filled with arrogance. Once during his search, he met a flower Ketaki, and he asked her if she would testify for him in front of Shiva. When she agreed, they went to Lord Shiva together and Brahma said he had found the head of the pillar of light, and that Ketaki was a proof for the same.

This dishonesty enraged Lord Shiva, and he cursed Brahma that he would never be worshipped like other Hindu gods, and Ketaki flower will never be a part of Hindu puja rituals. Thus we still find that there are hardly any Brahma Temples, as opposed to those of other Hindu gods. A few exceptions are the Brahma Temple at Pushkar, Rajasthan, but it has a different legend to it.

Difference between Shivlingam and a Jyotirlingam

Both are a representation of Lord Shiva. However, a Jyotir Lingam is considered to be Swayambhu i.e the one which manifested itself, meaning Lord Shiva himself created it. A Shivl Lingam is a more generic representation, and is installed in temples by human beings.

A scientific take on Shivlingam or a Jyotirlingam

We have seen that ‘Jyoti’ means light. Light is a form of energy. So we can say that a Jyotir Lingam is a symbol of Energy.

Let us look at some of the characteristics of a Shiva Lingam

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  1. The structure of a Lingam is divided into 2 parts i.e the dome and a base on which the dome rests
  2. Any Shiva Temple with a Lingam (not compulsory for a temple with an idol), is necessarily present near a water body. This water body can be in the form of a river (e.g Kashi Vishwanath temple on the banks of the Ganges, or Someshwar Somnath Temple on the beach in Gujarat)
  3. A constant abhishekam of water is done on the lingam through a vessel on the top
  4. Although this water is consumed as teertham (holy water) at most Hindu temples, the water used for Abhishekam on Shiv Lingam is always allowed to flow/ drain away from the elongated tunnel like part of the lingam, and never consumed as teertham by the devotees
  5. Bel Leaves (Bilva Patram) are offered to the Lingam during the puja
  6. River Ganges is shown to be flowin from Lord Shiva’s head, and there is a Moon (crescent) on the head in the idols and pictures

These are a few characteristics that we commonly observe.

Now let us look at an image we have all seen as a part of our science text books in school, the Nuclear Reactor at BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Center) .

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BARC Nuclear Reactor

 

Compare it with the characteristics of the Shiv Lingam above

  1. The structure of divided into 2 parts, with a dome shaped reactor resting on the base
  2. Water is used as a coolant in nuclear reactors, to stop it from exploding and creating destruction (Shiv- Lord of destruction?)
  3. Water around nuclear reactors is not considered safe for consumption, since it is charged with the radioactive waste

It is not very difficult to see that the Shiv Lingam is actually a representation of some kind of a source of energy, like nuclear energy. The idea of light (again a form of energy) then fits the logic as well.

The use of Bilva Patram also sounds logical, since it is established by modern science that the Bael Leaves are capable of absorbing radiations. The symbolic Ganges and Moon on the head of Lord Shiva also point towards the cooling qualities.

There is another way that a Shiv Lingam can be looked at.

For this we again need to go back to our school days, when we studied the Atomic Model, as proposed by Niels Bohr and Ernest Rutherford (Also known as Bohr’s Model).

As per the model, an Atom is made up of Electrons, Protons and Neutrons, and they are bound by strong electromagnetic forces. These atoms make up a molecule, which is the basic building block of the entire universe.

Now the Holy Trinity of Hindu Gods can be related to the atomic model in the following way-

Brahma=Electron – Depicted in a negative manner, and always outside of the core of the atom

Vishnu=Proton- Positive, nurturer and protector of the universe

Mahesh=Neutron- Neutral, detached from materialistic world

Shakti=Electromagnetic Field- The peedam or the circular base of the Shiv Ling, which has 3 grooves along the circumference

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Niels Bohr’s Atomic model compared to the Shiv Lingam structure

 

There is also a theory that Mount Kailash is actually the biggest nuclear reactor, with many lakes at the base to serve as the cooling mechanism. One such water body is the Rakshas Tal.

The story around it is that King Ravan had everything in Lanka, still wanted the Shiv Lingam because it was a source of immense energy. When he tried to take it, he had to take a dip in the lake nearby, since the effort to take the Shiv lingam was too much.

This lake came to be called as Rakshas Tal or Ravan Tal and it is still believed that anybody who takes a bath in the lake will turn into a Rakshas (Demon). This is symbolic.

A more scientific way to look at this is that the water is contaminated with heavy elements, and even today no aquatic plants or fish can survive in the lake.

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Mount Kailash with Rakshas Tal

 

It may be difficult to blindly accept all the rationales. But they are definitely a lot more mature and practical views, than simply looking at the Shiv Lingam as a mere sexual object.

When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the Bhakra Nangal Project, he had said that dams, steel plants, power plants, research institutes are the Temples of Modern India.

The importance of scientific advancement cannot be more relevant in today’s times of ever diminishing oil and coal reserves as a source of energy to the world.

Perhaps, it is about time that we learn to look beyond mere symbolism and rituals used by our ancestors and dig into their real meaning, stop to merely rote learn and recite the mantras and instead get an understanding behind the Sanskrit words . Stop to visit temples like we used to, and look at them in a totally different way?

In the series, I will try to look beyond the fables behind each Shiv Lingam I visited. I know I will go wrong many times, because I am not even a novice in this, leave alone being an expert. But I will be happy that I at least tried to look at things, the way our wise ancestors really wanted us to.

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The inseparables- till death do us part

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Bollywood has always been fascinated by love stories of rich girl meets poor boy. Countless movies have been made on the premise, and many of them have gone on to become box office hits. However, a fact unknown to many, even the writers themselves, is that these bodies of fiction have been inspired by an ultimate love story, which happened millions of years ago.


Part 1

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a young lad who dwelled in the valleys and peaks of a mountain with his tribe He was a maverick. A non-conformist to popular beliefs and norms, he lived his life on his own terms. Young, handsome and dynamic, he was the ultimate rebel. Although a vagabond, he was also extremely intelligent and caring, which made him a favorite of his tribesmen

Like most youth of his age do to while away time, he used to spend hours hanging out with friends, trekked across the mountains, enjoyed an occasional drink or a drag of hashish.

Living a care free life that he was, there wasn’t any semblance of him getting married and settling down. But destiny had a different plan, and made him fall in love with a girl.

While he was rustic and rugged, she was a complete opposite. Born to a rich businessman who ran almost an empire near the foothills of the mountains, she had everything a girl could ever dream of. Dainty and beautiful, she was the apple of her daddy’s eye, and he ensured she always got the best.

Years went by, and as the girl turned into a beautiful young woman, it was but natural that her father wished that his daughter gets married into a suitable family. Rich, handsome, high social status were some of the specifications put forth during groom hunting.

The beautiful girl had no real attraction towards fame and fortune, but was attracted to our man from the mountains. Cupid struck, and before they knew, they were madly in love with each other.

As expected, their marriage was strongly opposed to by her father, though her sister and mother were a little more supportive. The rich businessman felt enraged and insulted that his daughter chose to marry someone visibly uncouth, poor and clearly not very successful in life.

Notwithstanding her father’s opposition, the girl got married to her love, and left her father’s palatial home to come and stay in a modest house of her husband.

Days and months rolled by, and they were happily settled in their married life.

Then came the news one day.

Her father had organized a grand celebration, a get together of sorts. Invitations had been sent out to every eminent and distinguished person from near and far. Thousands of commoners were to be a part of the celebration and the feast too.

“Why didn’t father invite me and my husband?” the girl wondered. “Maybe I should not expect an invitation. It is my family’s function, and you don’t send a formal invitation to your own kin”, she told herself.

“I think we should visit my father’s place to attend the function”, she said to her husband. “I am not sure if we should go uninvited. No, leave it”, he replied. She got angry. “Why should we need an invitation from our own people? If you are not coming with me, I will go alone”. “As you wish dear”, he smiled and replied calmly.” But don’t go alone. I will ask a few of my friends to give you company”

The day of the event arrived and what a sight it was!! Tens and thousands of people had come from faraway lands. Businessmen, politicians, their wives and their kids. People were decked up in their best attire, the alcohol flew freely and the food was aplenty. Everyone seemed very happy to be a part of such a grand ceremony.

Our girl walked into the celebration hall, feeling timid and shy. She had lost touch of moving around in social circles like these. The very manner in which she had interacted with people earlier, and the same manner in which they were talking to each other now, felt so fake and selfish. This was very different from the social gatherings in her new life, and she felt terribly awkward and out of place. She looked at her husband’s friends, and their condition was no different.

She gazed around and saw her sisters with their husbands and went up to them. Although they were happy to meet her, the discomfort was evident. She then went to meet her mother, who was delighted to meet her daughter after many days. Then she went to meet her father and all hell broke loose.

“And with whose permission or invitation are you here?”, her father snorted in anger and disdain. The poor girl felt nervous at being asked something like this by her own father, that too in public.

“Father, it is our family function. Why should I need an invitation from my family?” she said meekly.

“Yes exactly. You don’t need an invitation to meet your family. But what makes you think we are your family? I disowned you the day you married that destitute and a fool. I can clearly see how shabbily you have come to live”, the father started hurling abuses at his own daughter and son-in-law.

“Father, please stop. You can insult me if you wish to. But not my husband. I love him and will not hear a word against him”, she said, as she finally picked up her confidence.

“Of course I will insult him. He is worthy of every insult ever thought of”. The girl’s father had no intention of stopping, and kept on with the abuses.

Finally, the girl could take it no more. She felt responsible for the insults that were thrown at her husband. Not able to bear the shame and the humiliation, she decided to end her life.

There was a stunned silence as people saw her kill herself. Nobody dared to move to save her. Her father was a powerful and a well-connected man, and it was in their best interests to stay in his good books.

The news reached the mountains in no time. The man was first struck with grief, and then felt a burning rage inside. He came down from the mountain with his friends and stormed into the celebration hall. He was maddened with grief and anger, and asked his friends to destroy everything and kill everyone in sight. Then he saw the lifeless body of his wife, slumped down on his knees and wept.


Part 2

Years went by, and the man had accepted his loss. The loss of his love had left him detached from the world around him, and spent hours in isolation.

His friends were concerned. “I think it is time for you to start a new life”, the man’s closest friend said to him once. “No my friend, I can never love another woman, and her memories are enough for me”. The man denied the idea of getting married again.

His friend was persistent though, and called in a match maker. “I have a girl who is perfect for him”, the match maker said to the man’s friend as they watched him stare into nothingness.” She will ignite his lost spirit again”, he said.

The match maker came down from the mountain and visited the house of another eminent personality in the region, who was a land lord. “I have found a perfect match for your daughter”, he told his host. “But isn’t he a widower? Why should my daughter marry a widower?” asked the visibly disturbed father.

The father called his daughter and asked for her opinion. “I know what happened with him, and I know he has decided that he will never marry again. But I also know that I love him, and one day, I will win his love”, the daughter resolved.

Thus began a period of trials and tribulations. The young woman used all her charms to woo the man. He was unperturbed and distant. After months of trying, she sought the help of a local counsellor and his wife. “I will handle it, he will fall in love with you and will marry you”, assured the counsellor. In the days that followed, the counsellor tried every trick in his book to make our man fall in love with the young girl.

At one point, he disturbed and irritated him to the extent that the man almost killed him. That was also the time the girl finally won over him, not through her charms, but through her devotion and dedication towards his love. He apologized to the counsellor, thanked the match maker and his friends, and sought the permission of the girl’s father to marry his daughter.

The story doesn’t end here. A few years later, they were blessed with two beautiful kids.

One grew up to be a chubby boy. He was mischievous, yet very adorable, and was loved by all. He was highly intelligent too. The second boy was short tempered, very shy of girls, and wanted to become an army man.

Like all parents, our man and his wife were worried for their kids. However, the kids grew up, eventually married and had their own family. This was truly the beginning of ‘they lived happily ever after’ phase of our couple.

It is not very difficult to guess who I was talking about all this while. For the benefit of the readers who have not been able to guess already, let us add a dash of mythology to our fable and deify the characters.

Our man from the mountains is none other than Lord Shiva from the great Himalayas. His best friend is Nandi, and his group of friends are his followers or ‘Gana’ as they are known.

The rich, arrogant businessman, and the father of the girl is King Daksha Prajapati, whose kingdom or empire was at the foot hills of the Himalayas. His daughter, who falls in love with Lord Shiva is Goddess Sati.

The grand celebration and get together was the ‘yagna’ that Daksha had organized, for which he deliberately did not invite his daughter and Lord Shiva.

The suicide of his daughter at the celebration hall is the self-immolation of Goddess Sati, unable to bear the insults thrown at her husband, Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva’s friends, who caused destruction after Goddess Sati killed herself are Veer Bhadra and Bhadra Kali.

The match maker who persuaded Lord Shiva to marry again is Rishi Narada. The Land Lord that Rishi Narada went to with Lord Shiva’s proposal, is King Himavat, the owner of the Himalayas, after whom the mountain was named. His daughter is Goddess Parvati, or one of the mountains (Parvat).

The counsellor who tried to help her and was beaten up is Kama, the god of desire. Lord Shiva had killed him by opening his third eye, and later brought him back to life at the behest of Goddess Parvati.

The chubby, potbellied, intelligent kid is Lord Ganesha or Ganpati. The shy, hot headed boy, interested in warfare is Lord Kartikeya.


Part 3

It is interesting to see how our earliest gods were always depicted as followers of the natural order. They were shown as possessors of super human powers, and as house holders at the same time. Humanity along with the divinity that was attached to them, actually brought the gods closer to their devotees, because they felt their god was just like them. Possibly this is why real devotees always love and respect their deities, but are never scared of them.

My next road trip will take me on yet another temple run, this time across Maharashtra where I will delve deeper in the legend of Lord Shiva. Watch out this space for the travel story.

A ride along the West Coast- Temples of Konkan- Part 3/3

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Part 2 Onwards (https://sushantgole.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/a-ride-along-the-west-coast-temples-of-konkan-part-2/)

I left Guhagar and rode towards Ratnagiri, visiting a few more beach towns and temples on the way.

Shri Dev Velneshwar (Shiv Mandir), Velneshwar

The Shiva Temple of Velneshwar is located in the beach town by the same name. The village is just about 25 odd kms from Guhagar, but it took me over an hour to reach it, not because of the traffic or bad roads, but because the scenes on the way demanded a second look. Apart from an occasional vehicle, the road was silent and empty for long stretches, and I stopped many times to watch groups of monkeys fooling around.road-from-guhagar-to-velneshwar

The origin of the word Velneshwar

The word Velneshwar comes from two Marathi words. Vel, meaning time and Ishwar meaning God. There are different theories behind the origin of the word. One theory says that Lord Shiva is the Lord (Ishwar) of time (Vel) and rules over it, hence the name Velneshwar. The other theory is that the god here is very kind towards his devotees, and wastes no time in granting their wishes, hence the name.

A striking feature of the temple is the deep maal (or the sacred lamp post) which is over 10 meters in height. In the temple precinct, apart from the main Shiva temple of Velneshwar, there are temples dedicated to Lord Ganesh and Shri Kal bhairav (the local village deity of Velneshwar). There is also a temple dedicated to Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva.velneshwa-2velneshwa-1

From velneshwar, I rode towards the beach town of Hedvi, which has the famous Dhasha Bhuja Ganpati Mandir.

Dashabhuja Ganpati Mandir, Hedvi

Dasha bhuja, meaning 10 arms, is a temple in Hedvi, dedicated to Lord Ganesh. The temple is situated on a small hill, but one can ride/drive right up till the temple entrance.

The Dasha  Bhuja Ganpati  idol is white in colour, and it is said that this stone is available only in the Himalayas, from where it was brought specially to create the idol.

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There were just 2-3 locals when I reached the temple, and they immediately got interested in the concept of making a supposedly dharmik tour an exciting one by doing it on a motorcycle.

“But, aren’t you scared?” ,they asked.

This is a staple question that I come across during every single ride, and I have a ready answer to it. I respect the nature and the rules of the road, I never attempt something I am not comfortable and confident doing, and always take the opinion of the locals. I have followed these principles, and have felt as safe on a bike as I have in a car or a bus.

It was getting late and I had to reach Ratnagiri before day end to meet my friends. However,as I was about to leave, the priest came out and said to me, “aarti karun ja” (attend the evening prayer and then go). I somehow did not feel like leaving and decided another 10-15 minutes wouldn’t do any harm, and I did not regret it. When the aarti started, I realized it had been ages since I had attended one in a temple.

With all the paraphernalia of zanja (or taal)- a type of Cymbal, mridanga- a percussion instrument like a drum), and a small ghanta (a bell), and the people clapping their hands while singing seemed a little chaotic and noisy to begin with. Also, it was in stark contrast to the peaceful church prayers that I had attended in the churches in Goa. However, there is a certain rhythm to an Aarti, and you only have to give yourself some time to get hold of it.

After finishing the aarti and taking Prasad from the priest, I quickly hopped onto my motorcycle and rode towards Ratnagiri. On my way to Ratnagiri, I crossed the creek at Tawsal on Hedvi side, and went to Jaigad on Ganpatipule side. I paid a quick visit to the temple, my last of the trip, went to Prachin Kokan, and reached Ratnagiri before night fall to join my friends.

Ganpatipule

It is difficult to decide if Ganpatipule became famous for its temple, and then became a tourist spot, or it became a tourist spot first, and the temple gained prominence later. Either way, the temple as well as the beach is a wonderful experience, not to be missed.

According to a legend, Lord Ganesh was not always at this place, but used to stay in a nearby place called ‘Gule’. He was insulted by a local lady once, took offense and decided to move out of Gule, and settled in the nearby village of ‘Pule’. Due to the presence of Lord Ganesh (or ganpati) at Pule, the place came to be called as Ganpati Pule

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Prachin Konkan (Ancient Konkan)

Situated at a stone’s throw away from Ganpatipule temple is Prachin Konkan, an open air museum which depicts the life and times of the people of Konkan of the yore.

In the midst of thick foliage of trees, the guided tour lasts for around 30 minutes. It starts with an entry through a rock tunnel, symbolic of time travel to the past.

Once you enter, the tour starts with the statue of Lord Parshuram, who as per the legends, created the land of Konkan by pushing back the sea.

Once you move ahead, you first visit the house of the village head or sarpanch, the most important person in the village in those times. From there you visit different places like a fishing pond, the river where women used to come to wash their clothes etc.

Life size structures of the homes of different villagers depending on their caste/profession are erected, and the people are shown performing their daily chores.

Bara Balutedar

In the past, caste system was strongly prevalent in Konkan, and people had work assigned to them based on their caste at birth and were not allowed to do anything else. The bara balutedar system, or a system of 12 groups or categories of profession originated from this.

It was a sort of community living, where each group had a specific task, and together the whole system worked like a clock without a glitch. The twelve balutedars shown were as below-

Sonar (Goldsmith)

Gurav (Temple servant)

Nhawi (Barber)

Parit (Clothes Washer)

Kumbhar (Potter)

Sutar (Carpenter)

Lohar (Blacksmith)

Chambhar (Cobbler)

Dhor (Maker of ornaments for cattle)

Koli (Fisherman / Water carrier)

Chougula

Mang (Watchman)

There were many more statues of different people going about their business.

The tour guide also tells you interesting anecdotes.

One such was the Kasar (one who sells bangles) never used to charge for the bangles given to the young girls. He used to do this till the girls got married, and on the day of the marriage, he used to get a huge quantity of useful goods (like grains, oil etc), from the bride groom’s family, as a thank you gesture for years of giving bangles to their daughter.

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On the way back to Ratnagiri, I stopped to see fishing boats and trawlers returning from the backwaters after the days catch.

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river-near-ganpatipule

I reached Ratnagiri by day end, had a quiet dinner with friends and retired for the night. Next day was a visit to not a temple in real sense, but was in no way less than a temple for me

Tilak Smarak / Janmasthan

In an era where a new class of shameless and ungrateful pseudo-intellectual liberals take pleasure in disgracing and desecrating the Indian freedom fighters selectively, there is one person who nobody has dared point a finger at.

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, one of the earliest freedom fighters, and termed by the British Colonial Officers as the Father of Indian Unrest, was born in a typical Maharashtrian home on 23rd July, 1856 at Ratnagiri. The house which saw the birth of Lokmanya Tilak, is now converted into a museum. The original structure has been maintained, with cow dung covered floor (shena ne saravleli jamin) and thatched roof (kaularu ghar) and wooden structures like stair case. Strict silence is maintained at the museum, and photography is strictly prohibited.

Lokmanya Tilak was known to be a stern man, and you can almost feel the sternness filled in the space.

I have seen people fooling around in museums, laughing and cracking jokes. However, there were about 10 people in the house/museum with me, and not one person looked like he was up to no good.

Even I usually get tempted to take pictures where they are not allowed, but during this visit, I voluntarily switched off my mobile and its camera, for the fear of disturbing the silence with a stupid SMS or whatsapp message tone. I tried to request the official there to allow me to take a few pictures, but I was flatly refused, and didn’t think of acting smart. I downloaded a few pictures from their site, and google, for the readers to see.

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I wanted to ride on and keep exploring, but I supposed to join my new organization within the next 2 days, and the time had come to get back to Mumbai. I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride anywhere till the end of rainy season, so I was happy I was able to steal at least a few days.

What was more important this time was my takeaway from the ride. It is possible that I have still not been able to completely let go of the apprehension towards Konkan and its image that I carry with me. I may still not be totally comfortable with the idea of my folks visiting the region. However, I definitely got rid of the distrust in my heart, and gained back some of the lost love, and that is not a bad start at all 🙂

A ride along the West Coast- Temples of Konkan- Part 2

Tired with the arduous ride of the first day (https://sushantgole.wordpress.com/2016/09/29/a-ride-along-the-west-coast-temples-of-konkan/),  we chilled out at Ketaki Resort in the morning. The resort is really good, whether you are with your friends or with your family. The layout is like a typical Konkan home, with garden/plantation in the front, and beach at the back.

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This day was packed with visits to various temples. We set off at around 9 AM and visited the first temple of the day.

Kadya varcha Ganpati, Anjarle

Kadyavarcha Ganpati literally means a Ganesh on the mountain cliff, and true to its description, the temple is situated right near the edge of a small hill overlooking the sea below.

This temple of Lord Ganesh was first built around 1150 AD using wooden pillars. Sometime during the 1780 AD, the temple was reconstructed in a modern way, again possibly by the Peshwas.

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The Ganpati idol in the temple is ‘Ujvya Sondecha’, which means the trunk is curved towards the right, instead of the usual left. The right sided form of Lord Ganesh is considered to be more stern, strict and difficult to please, while the left sided one is more gentle and loving.

This Ganpati is considered to be a ‘Jagrut Daivat’ or ‘Navasala Pavnara Ganpati’, a deity which responds to the call of its devotees (Nawas), if prayed to with true devotion.

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The temple has a stone staircase to reach the top, from where one can see the vast Arabian Sea just below the hill, and also Fort Suvarnadurga which is nearby in the sea. However, the temple care takers did not allow me to go up and I missed the opportunity.

From Anjarle, we rode towards Dabhol, riding along the beaches of Harnai and Karde, coming inland towards Dapoli, and riding out again to the waters near Dabhol.

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Chandika Aai / Chandkai, Dabhol

The port of Dabhol has a history which goes back to hundreds of years. From 14th to 16th century, Dabhol used to be a major port of Konkan region, from where the ships used to travel to the ports in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf for trade. In the 13th-15th century, the port and the city was ruled by the Bahamani dynasty and was named as Mustafabad. Later it was named Hamjabad, before finally becoming Dabhol.

The port city went to many people from the Bahamani Dynasty to Adilshah, then to the Portugese and finally to Chatrapati Shivaji. In the early 90s, the place got notoriously famous because of Dabhol Power Corporation, a joint venture with Enron Corporation.

The temple of Chandika Devi, also known as Chandika Aai (Mother Chandika) or Chandkai, is a popular tourist destination in Dabhol. The idol of the goddess is believed to be ‘Swayambhu’, or one which manifested itself without a human intervention. The idol is inside a cave, and you have to crawl through a passage to reach the gabhara/ garbha griha (Sanctum Sanctorum). Torches or other artificial source of light is not allowed inside the passage, and the only light is from the oil lamps, which are kept alive by the priests all the time. During the Navratri, tourists from adjoining villages throng the temple. It is said that Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj also used to visit the temple to seek blessings from the Goddess.

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Siddheshwar Shiva Temple-   Veldur, Guhagar

By this time, my friends had grown weary of the temple run and decided they would rather relish the sea food and chill out on the beaches. We decided to ride separately for a few hours, and meet at Ratnagiri by the end of the day.

Veldur is my native place, and I was visiting it after almost 15 years. I called up my cousin who came to pick us up at Dhopave Jetty, from where my friends rode out to Ratnagiri. I went to the temple of Siddheshwar, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in Veldur.

I had faint memories of the place. But I remembered that every time we had visited our native place, we had visited this temple and performed puja. Hence I paid a quick visit to the temple, and went to our home.

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I had a long way to ride till Ratnagiri, and had to visit many temples on the way. So after spending some time with my folks, I rode towards Ratnagiri, visiting a few more temples on the way.

Vyadeshwar Temple, Guhagar

The Shiva Temple of Lord Vyadeshwar may not look very ancient in its current form, but has a very old history with many legends around it.

We all know that it was Lord Parshuram pushed back the sea and created the land of Konkan. Parshuram, considered to be the sixth avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, was a great devotee of Shiva and once during his daily prayers, he requested Lord Shiva to come to Guhagar and reside there permanently. Lord Shiva was pleased by the pious Lord Parshuram and decided to honour his request.

In the earliest settlers in the present land of Guhagar, there was a Brahmin priest by the name Vyada Muni. He was a great devotee of both Lord Shiva and Lord Parshuram, and desired to have a darshan of Lord Shiva. When Vyada came to know of Lord Parshuram’s request to Lord Shiva, he installed a Shiva Linga with the permission of Parshuram and a temple was built around it. Since the Shiva Linga was installed by Vyada, the temple came to be called Vyadeshwara.

There is another story to Vyadeshwar. Many years after the original temple was built, the place changed and turned into a forest and grazing area and the existence of the temple was forgotten

There was a cowherd who used to bring his cows daily in the area for grazing. In his herd, there was one particular cow with a reddish skin named Kapila, who suddenly stopped giving milk. The owner of the herd got suspicious of his cowherd’s honesty and blamed him for stealing the milk. The cowherd was innocent and decided to investigate the matter to find the truth.

The next day he followed Kapila as she grazed, and saw she went inside the jungle. There she emptied her udders and showered a rock below with all her milk. This angered the cowherd, and he started beating up the cow. In his anger, he also hit the rock below, and was aghast to see blood oozing out from the ground. He got scared and informed the villagers, who in turn dug up the place and found the old Shiv Linga buried inside the ground. A new temple was built on the spot, and since the Shiv Linga was seen in front of a wada (stable or grazing area), the god was called Lord Vyadeshwar.

According to myth, once three tiny pieces of this Shiv-ling, shattered and felt into places of Anjgoli, Borya-Adur and Anjanvel. Serially on this three places, three temples of Shiva were formed, named Balakeshwar, Pudaleshwar and Talkeshwar respectively.

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After leaving Guhagar, I rode further South and visited 3 more temples of Velneshwar, Hedvi and Ganpatipule, before reaching Ratnagiri by the end of the day.

Spirits and Ghosts of Konkan Culture & the Chakwa experience

Quite a few readers of the first part of my ride to Konkan, https://sushantgole.wordpress.com/2016/09/29/a-ride-along-the-west-coast-temples-of-konkan/  expressed interest in the Chakwa experience.  So I decided to digress from the Konkan trip series and post a write up which will give the readers some insight into the different spirits in Konkan culture.

Konkan has always been a land of demons and spirits, as much as that of the Gods. In fact, many a times, there is an overlap of the local deities and the local spirits.

Konkan has never been a cash rich land, compared to its neighbors over the other side of the Western Ghats  (e.g Kolhapur, Satara etc). Mainly involved in activities like fishing, farming and working in plantations (mango, jackfruit, beetle nuts etc) , the people of the region are heavily dependent on the vagaries of nature, be it turbulent seas during the rains which stop fishing, or a drought which cuts off water supplies.

Perhaps this uncertainty in life has made people  to seek the power of the supernatural, which starts from Gods, and before one realizes, moves to the spirits or ghosts. The practice of Bali (sacrifice of a goat or a chicken) to appease the spirits, or the practice of ‘kaul lavne’, the act of asking an idol of a deity adorned with leaves a question, and accepting the answer depending on which leaves fall off the idol are some common practices  across the region.

There are many big and small, celebrated and not so celebrated gods in Konkan.And to balance the divine forces, there is a strong counter culture of the supernatural too.

There are mainly 15 types of ghosts/spirits found in Konkan culture. Their origins are different, and so are their characteristics. Like the humans, even the spirits belong to different religions, castes and sex.

Some of these spirits are even elevated to a status of a deity, and are worshipped in a pure form (not black arts). In such cases, they are considered to be Demi-Gods and are believed to be protectors of their communities. However their idols are very different from the usual idols of gods that we see, and at times are downright scary.

For an educated, scientifically leaning urban mind, it is very easy to dismiss these beliefs as a villager’s superstition and stupidity.

However, if one is able to put aside his/her pseudo intellectualism, and  look at the beliefs of the locals without a scoff, it is not very difficult to comprehend the practical standpoint behind the seemingly blind superstitions.

I am by no means an expert in this, and I have researched through many forums, blogs and videos to gather the information below. I may or may not believe in these spirits, and I most definitely do not endorse rituals involving sacrifice of any creature to mollify these supernatural beings.

The ghosts/spirits of the Konkan Culture

Vetaal

A Vetaal (or Betaal in Hindi) is considered to be the King of the spirits. The spirits (pishachh) are considered to bow down to and obey the Vetaal. A vetaal is generally summoned by the priest (bhagat) in a case of a possession, and it is believed that the Vetaal enters the body of the priest and drives the spirit out of the possessed person. The spirit has no option but to obey his King and leave the body of the possessed. In local lingo, it is also called as ‘Vetoba’ and has temples dedicated to it

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Brahma Rakshas

This is a spirit associated with the Brahmin Community of Konkan. When a Brahmin who is well educated becomes arrogant and proud of his own knowledge, and forgets his dharma of imparting his knowledge to others, cheats others with the using the knowledge to his advantage, he becomes a Brahma Rakshas after his death

By instilling in a person a fear of turning into a Brahma Rakshas, our wise ancestors were probably asking us to stay humble and honest.

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Samandha

It is believed that if a person dies without an heir or if his heirs do not bid a respectable farewell to a person by not performing the final rites, he does not attain salvation and move to the other world. Which in other words mean that his soul/spirit gets stuck in the earthly world, and he transforms into a Samandha. A person who dies with unfulfilled wishes is also believed to turn into a Samandha.

In some cases, the Samandha troubles the members of the family, by creating obstacles in the path to their success. Issues like problems in education, delay in marriage, lack of progress in career is usually attributed to some unhappy ancestor. This is also possibly the spirit that an astrologer talks of when you show your horoscope to him to find out the reason for your difficult times.This spirit is invoked through a Bhagat (local priest) and when it’s wishes are fulfilled, it is believed to turn good and bring back the fortunes for his descendants.

The idea behind this probably is to teach people to show a feeling of respect and gratitude towards our ancestors, and to always remember their importance to our existence.

 

Devchar

This spirit is considered to be of the Shudra caste. A person who dies soon after marriage is considered to become a Devchar. This spirit resides on all the four sides of a village, hence possibly the word ‘char’ i.e four is included in its name. This spirit can be appeased and pleased by making it an annual offering of Coconut, Sugar and a Chicken. It is considered that if a Devchar is made happy, he will protect the community from all harm that comes their way.

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Munjya

A man is considered to go through 4 stages in his life. Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (House holder), Vanprashtha (Retirement- formerly meaning a stage of renouncing the city and staying in a forest) and Sanyaasa (Renunciation).

The ritual of Upanayan/Thread Ceremony, or Munja as it is called in Marathi (Konkan region) is the event that marks the initiation of a child into his student phase. Sod Munja is another ceremony which is usually performed as a part of his marriage rituals. The ritual marks the end of his student phase and initiation into Grihastha or householder phase.

However, if a man dies a bachelor i.e after his Munja (Upanayan) is done but his Sod Munja ritual remains to be done, he is considered to become a Munjya. The spirit is generally resides in the Peeple trees or near a well. It doesn’t kill or hurt people, but usually scares them.

The Marathi term ‘bara pimpla varcha munjya’ comes from the notion that the spirit is so restless that is moves from one peeple tree to another, and is used for a person who is very restless.

 A realistic way to look at this is that a Peeple tree being huge,  gives off large quantities of Carbon Dioxide after dark. Introducing the fear of a Munjya residing in the tree  must have made people avoid sitting under it after sunset, saving them from inhaling the Carbon Dioxide in the process

.Vir

This is a spirit which belongs to the warrior community or Kshatriya community. This can be considered as a counterpart of Munjya. If a person from warrior caste dies before he gets married, he is considered to turn into the spirit Vir

The concept of the above two spirits was probably brought in to remind people that it is their responsibility to get married, start a family and ensure the sustenance of the human race, just like their forefathers fulfilled this responsibility and brought them into the world.

Khavis

This spirit belongs to the Muslim community of Konkan and is said to be very dangerous and cruel. If a man is murdered and dies a very brutal and tortured death, he is turned into a Khavis. A khavis is a very angry spirit and tries to seek revenge for his death by blindly killing even innocent people.

Not very difficult to understand the idea behind this spirit. Killing is wrong.

 

Girha

If a man dies by drowning, he is considered to turn into a Girha. This spirit usually dwells near water bodies like lakes, rivers or creeks. It deceives people who venture out into the water at night time by calling out their names and misguiding them into deep waters. The fishermen of Konkan region, who go to catch the crabs (Kurle) during night time usually face Girha.

It is believed that if a person manages to get a hair of the Girha, it becomes the man’s slave, bestowing all the worldly success on him. However, if the Girha somehow manages to get back his hair, the slavery ends and a lot of misfortune befalls the man.

The concept of this spirit might be used to dissuade people from risking their lives by venturing near water bodies in the dark of the night

Chetkin

A chetkin, also called as a Daav, is a spirit associated with Kunbi caste. A caste considered lower in Konkan, the people usually work as domestic help or in the plantations for manual labour. A chetkin is not necessarily a spirit, but a human who has the knowledge of dark practices and controls the spirits.

Zoting

This spirit is considered to belong to the Kharvi or the Koli community of Konkan. It is also considered to be a spirit of the Konkani (Kokani) Muslims.

Hadal

If a woman who has just delivered a baby dies due to complications during delivery or within 10 days of delivery, she is considered to turn into a Hadal.

The idea behind the concept of this spirit probably to create awareness and to ensure that the woman is given proper care during her post-delivery period, when she needs it most.

Lavsat

A lavsat is the ghost of woman who was a widow at the time of her death

Jakhin

If a lady dies when her husband is alive (opposite of Lavsat), she is considered to turn into a Jakhin

Bayangi

This can be considered as a really corrupt and unscrupulous spirit. There are practitioners of the black arts in Konkan area and the Bayangi can be bought through them for some money. When bought, the Bayangi brings in a lot of prosperity for its owner, and troubles his enemies. This is a little similar to Girha, but a Girha can’t be bought with money

Chakwa

The last and possibly the most mischievous spirit. This spirit is not known to kill anybody or even harm a person. The spirit usually pranks a person who has ventured out late into the night in the jungle, confuses him and makes him lose his way. The person usually goes round and round in circles through the night, not finding a way out of the forest. However, at the break of dawn, the power of the Chakwa ceases and the person is able to find his way out unhurt and unharmed.

The logic behind this spirit might be to discourage people from roaming around in dangerous places like forests at night

That brings us to Our Chakwa Experience

It was not difficult to understand why the concept of Chakwa might have got introduced.

When we left from Velas to go to Anjarle, the route showed on Google Map had a short ride across the creek on a ferry, which considerably reduced the travel time. However, since it had got pretty late, the jetty must have got shut down for the day, or we did not take the right route towards it. But we missed it, and ended up riding more than 80 kms than was planned, through an almost deserted patch.

Had this been a solo ride, I would never have started it, but there is safety in numbers, and since there were 3 of us, we decided to take on this adventure. We had prepared ourselves with chips and water bottles, in case we needed to spend the night on the road. As we left the village of Velas, whatever was left of the road vanished. We were riding in the dark, through a forest, with no idea what was on our sides.

 

At a certain point, we saw a patch of road getting constructed, and a solitary truck (Dumper) parked by the road. We rode past it, till after some 20 odd minutes of riding, we came back at the same spot. We did not remember taking multiple turns to bring us back to the same spot, but carried on nonetheless till we reached the place for a third time. This time it got a little confusing. It was like getting stuck in a loop with no way out. Plus the yellow light of the vehicle in the dark night, beside the silent waters of the creek looked a little unnerving. Scenes of a ghost truck without a driver, running over its victims flashed in front of my eyes. This was turning to be some sort of a Hollywood Thriller.

 

On moving further, we saw two local people, who instructed us to go straight, cross a bridge and take a right turn. We did exactly that, hoping the turn would take us out of the area. What it actually took us to, was an empty settlement, a cluster of some 25-30 small houses, which for some reason had been totally abandoned by their residents. If you think empty roads look scary, try empty homes.

 

We quickly moved out of the settlement, and took a road that went the opposite way. A few kms ahead, we saw a solitary bungalow, with some light inside. Expecting to get some information, we stopped our bikes and started walking towards the house. That was when we saw a lady standing at the gate. Being the one who could speak Marathi, I walked up a few steps and called out to the lady. Without answering, she just looked up, turned back and swiftly ran to the bungalow and closed the door. If that was any sinister invitation for us to walk in, we were taking none.

We finally got some signal, called up our friend Akshay in Mumbai, who had done the trip a few months back during the daytime, told him of our whereabouts, and finally after two more hours of riding, managed to reach Anjarle safely.

 

There is a lot of scientific explanation to all of the above things.

 

A road under construction, with the authorities working round the clock to ensure early closure. A cluster of homes left by the people probably because the construction had become too old and dilapidated to stay there anymore, a lady in a bungalow, who probably got scared seeing three men on their bikes, running back to the house for the fear of her own safety.

 

However, in that moment of excitement of a road trip, riding through a lonely jungle, who would want to believe and accept how seemingly unreal these things are?

 

I had set out to take on the fear of these very spirits and practices with the help of gods of Konkan, and it is only fair that one of them decided to show up that night.

A ride along the West Coast- Temples of Konkan- Part 1

Konkan will always hold a special place in my heart. Many of my childhood vacations were spent at our native place till academic and professional pursuits almost stopped the visits. Over the years after the visits stopped, I read a few books, heard a few experiences from people about the dark practices followed by the people in Konkan. Activities like Karni, Bhanamati, Bali (sacrifice) to please the evil spirits and bring upon bad luck and hard times on others started to sound believable.

What was once for me, the land of balmy and quiet noons to be spent playing in a ‘baug’ (plantation), the land of raging rains and tranquil beaches, the land of milking and bathing the cows and the buffaloes, the land of mangos and jackfruits, suddenly became a haven of witchcraft and black magic, a safe and a flourishing harbor for the dark and disturbing voodoo arts. Anybody who watches the ongoing Marathi serial “Ratris khel chale” might be able to understand my feelings towards Konkan.

The distrust towards the place and its people grew with time, to a point that I almost decided that Konkan was out of bounds for us forever, simply because I wouldn’t take the risk of my folks being around these supernatural activities.

Being a native of Konkan, I always felt a little bad about the feelings I had come to have towards it, and I wanted to erase them.

During one of work related visits to Ratnagiri, I visited the temple of Ganpatipule, and the germ of an idea was born. What better way to come out of the fear of the ghosts and spirits of Konkan, than a visit to the Gods there? And what better way to do it than on a motorcycle?

The theme of the trip was set- Temples of Konkan. The plan was to ride from Mumbai to Ratnagiri, along the sea coast (MSH-4 or Sagari Mahamarg) and visit the temples on the way.

 Day 1- Ride along the Arabian Sea Coast, visit to Harihareshwar and Diveagar, and a scary ride in the night through the forest

I was joined by my friends Siddhesh and Mohsin for this trip. We left from Thane on the wee hours and reached Panvel junction in no time. A short break later, we rode towards Wadkhal Naka, where we intended to have breakfast (Hotel Kshudha Shanti).  We reached Alibaug at around 10, after which the real fun started.

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The views presented while riding along the sea coast were simply amazing, and surprisingly the road was in a very good shape. Along the way, we saw some deserted structures and silent palaces.

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Here we are, going the good ol’ way with physical maps and a  hard copy guide.

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We rode in the interiors of Alibaug and then rode along the fishing villages of Chaul and Revdanda, till we reach to the Arabian Sea  till we reached the Jetty.

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By late afternoon, we had covered a considerable distance from Mumbai, and reached our first temple.

Suvarna Ganesh Temple – Diveagar

The history of Suvarna Ganesh Temple at Diveagar is quite fascinating. Sometime in the late 90s, on the day of Sankashti Chaturthi (a special day for the devotees of Lord Ganesh), a metal crate was found by accident, buried in a plantation owned by a local. The crate looked pretty old, and had some Sanskrit inscription on it. A few days earlier, a Tamrapatra was found by accident in a similar way. On opening the crate, the villagers found an idol of Lord Ganesh, made out of pure gold, along with a few ornaments. According to the historians, the idol was about 400 odd years old, which could mean the Peshwas (who hailed from Konkan) had got the idol made. The idol was in the form of a mask, which could mean it was used to cover another idol, this one possibly of stone.

The villagers named the idol Suvarna Ganesh, and installed it in the temple nearby.

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As the idol and its history started getting famous, the place gained prominence as a tourist attraction, helping the local economy flourish. But all good things come to an end, and so did this. A few years ago, one night, two thieves managed to break into the temple from the rooftop, killed the elderly guards and stole the idol. Before they could be caught and the idol recovered, the thieves melted the idol with the help of some local goldsmiths. There have been talks of creating a replica of the original idol, either of gold or some other metal. It might happen one day, but a piece of history was lost forever to the greed of a few.

When we visited, the temple was under renovation / reconstruction, and although the new temple looked better compared to the old one, it looked forlorn without its idol.

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After the temple visit, we visited Diveagar beach and fooled around for some time before we moved onto our next destination. From Lord Ganesh, we moved to Lord Shiva.

Harihareshwar

Harihareshwar is an ancient Shiva temple, many a times referred to as ‘Dakshin Kashi’ i.e the Kashi to the South of the original Kashi Vishweshwar Temple of Varanasi/Kashi/Benaras.

The 18th century temple is flanked by four hills Harihareshwar, Harshinachal, Brahmadri and Pushpadri. The remaining side faces the Arabian Sea, with the beach just next to the temple. The river Savitri, which originates in the hill station of Mahabaleshwar, meets the Arabian Sea at Harihareshwar. The river was in news recently due to the British era bridge on the river at Mahad, which collapsed due to heavy rainfall, claiming many lives.

The temple of Harihareshwar has two main temples, apart from a cluster of smaller ones. A smaller temple, dedicated to Lord Kalbhairav, an incarnation or an avataar of Lord Shiva, is to be visited first, followed by a visit to the adjacent temple of Harihareshwar.

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The pradakshina or circumambulation is not just around the temple, but also across and over the adjoining hills. One part of the pradakshina requires you to walk on the rocks along the ocean. During high tides, the water completely covers the rocks, so it is advisable to check with the locals for tide timings and plan your pradakshina accordingly. There is absolutely nil scope for rescue if you get caught by a wrong judgement of the high tide timings. Constant bashing by the ocean waves have given the rocks a unique design, much like the craters on the surface of the moon.

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After Harihareshwar, we deliberated if we should stay put at the place or move further down. A bad piece of decision meant we decided to ride further down to Velas, which included taking a ferry from Bagmandla Jetty to Bankot Jetty and riding into the village.

The beach at Velas is a nesting place for the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles. The turtles lay their eggs on Velas Beach during the breeding season and villagers play an active role along with the conservationists to keep the eggs safe till they hatch and the babies run back to the sea. A google search revealed that we were in the middle of their breeding season, so there was a bright chance we could see a few babies ambling on the beach.

But what a mess we got ourselves in! It was pitch dark by the time we reached Velas, and the village seemed so small, it almost ended even before it began. There was absolutely no option for any sort of accommodation. No homestay, no hotel, not even an eatery. With the turtle conservation, I had imagined a proper flourishing tourism business here, but the village turned out to be nothing more than a small cluster of houses. It is quite possible that we saw only a small part of the village, and the main area was somewhere else, but we were not in a position to explore anything.

With no luck in Velas, we left for the next practical option, Kelshi. We also anticipated that we might have to stay on the road that night, so before leaving Velas, we filled our bellies with glasses of Sugarcane juice, and bought a few bottles of water and some packets of chips for the night ahead.

We started our ride towards Kelshi, on what we thought were roads. It was a thriller of a ride. Riding through the jungle, with the head lights of our bikes as the only source of light, it was difficult to comprehend what we would see at the next turn. We were not even sure when we left the beach area and went into the interiors, and were clueless if the black nothingness on our sides was a valley or a creek/backwaters. Thrilling as it was, the ride was tiring, and also got a little spooky and scary after a time.

Now people may not agree to this, but I am pretty sure we were hit by Chakwa, one of the 17 spirits of Konkan culture. Chakwa is a spirit which is a prankster at heart. It usually goes after people who travel in the remote areas and jungles late night, confuses them so they go around in circles, and get dead tired before they find a way out the next day.

A perfectly scientific explanation to this is somebody who wanders into a dense forest at night is bound to lose his way, go around in circles till the day break gives him light and shows him a way out.

But at that time, the logic of Chakwa seemed more exciting and realistic.

With Google Maps not working, we were actually out in the wild. Finally we called a friend back in Mumbai, who had been here a few months back, and he guided us out of the jungle maze.

We had planned to stay at Kelshi, but after a good 4 hours of riding more than 80 kms through a jungle in a beast mode, we reached Ketki Resort at Anjarle, and quietly retired for the night.

to be continued..

Note- A few of the pictures e.g those of the temples and idolsare taken from the internet, and I do not own any rights for the same.

WHERE WILL YOU RIDE NEXT? Malshej Ghat, Maharashtra

After riding to Uttarakhand, this time we ride closer to home. We ride out to Malshej Ghat, which is just about a 100-150 odd kms from Mumbai/Thane, and is extremely scenic during the rains and famous for its waterfalls.

I have never been too fond of rains. And I honestly believe that Mumbai Rains is an absolutely overrated marketing gimmick. I see nothing exciting or romantic in getting caught in rain induced traffic snarls, walking through dirty, smelly overflowing gutters, stepping over disgusting squishy stuff, reaching work late and drenched, leaving late, struggling to find a transport, and finally returning home in a foul mood.

Rains out of the city is a different affair though. I am always open to go on a drive / ride out of the city to enjoy the weather. I have gone quite a few times to Lonavala and Khandala, however I had never been to Malshej Ghat, which is equally, if not more famous among the rain revelers.

The ride to Malshej happened unexpectedly this weekend, when I had to abort a planned trip to Ashtavinayak.

How will you ride?

Start from Thane / Mumbai and take the Mumbai Nasik Highway. Take a right turn at Kalyan Fata (Right turn at the first big Junction / square on the highway. Once you cross the bridge over Vasai creek  and reach Durgadi Fort, take a left turn and ride towards Murbad and beyond to reach Malshej Ghat.

On your way back, ride till Saralgaon, and take a right turn to go to Shahapur. The internal road is beautiful, with paddy fields on both sides. The road joins Mumbai Nashik Highway, from where you turn left and ride back to Mumbai/Thane.

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A glimpse of what you will witness  during the ride

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Watch out this space for our next ride which will come up soon 🙂