Govardhan Math – The First Schools of Learning in India

The people of India have always believed spirituality is a way of life. It is not only essential for self realization but also for welfare of the society as a whole. Our parents since our childhood give more stress over the way we build our characters than our academic strengths and talents. Character building is central to the Indian System of education and learning.

The best nurseries of the unique teacher-student relationship where ideas are free to flow are the Mathas in India. This Mathas or monasteries are the cradle of the Indian way of living. Govardhan Math is one of the oldest monasteries in India and was built in the 8th century.

Govardhan Math

Govardhan Math | Image Resource : wikimapia.org

The great spiritual leader of India named Sri Adishankara build the first four Mathas around the country. They were intentionally located along the four corners of the country. One of these was the Govardhan Math in Puri which has remained a major seat of learning in India for over 1300 years.
The importance of the math is not only as a spiritual learning establishment but as an institution of excellence which has produced some of the greatest national leaders. Our current Prime Minister is also a follower of the Govardhan Math.

The Govardhan Math is located not very far from the Jagannath Temple in Puri and just like most of the Temples in Puri; the guardian of the Govardhan Math is Lord Jagannath. The offerings and ceremonies performed at the Math are unique and general public is occasionally allowed to witness special ceremonies. I was lucky enough to witness one such ceremony and the air of serenity and calmness engulfed me completely.

The Shankracharyas are the leaders of the Mathas in India and their guidance is sought not only by Indian but also by foreign leaders. The establishment is a center of national unity and propagates the ideas of nationalism and harmony amongst its disciples. During times of national emergencies like natural disasters, the math disciples work passionately and selflessly following the teachings of the Shankracharyas. The mahavakya or the motto of every math in India reflects its central theme and mission. The mahavakya of the Govardhan Math is Prajnana Brahma.

Chakratirtha – The Doorway to the Holy Town of Puri

Puri is among the most important pilgrimages in India, for Hindus. The Jagannath Temple is considered to be the home of the Lord Vishnu in the Kalyuga and several mentions about this temple are found in the Puranas and the Upanishads, which are the holiest texts of the Hindu religion.

The city of Puri is marked with hundreds of temples of Lord Vishnu where he is worshipped in hundreds of forms and reincarnations. All these temples are important in their own way and have a mythological story related to their origins. I was deeply engrossed by these beautiful stories and felt excited to know more about these temples.

One of these many temples in Puri is specifically important. The Chakratirtha Temple located towards the northern part of Puri and 3 km away from the temple of Lord Jagannath is dedicated to the Nrusingha incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Chakratirtha Puri Orissa

Chakratirtha Puri Orissa | Image Resource : alltravels.com

The three main deities worshipped at this historic temple are the Abhaya Nrusingha, The Chakra Nrusingha and the Laxmi Nrusingha. The Laxmi Nrusingha form is considered to be Lord Jagannath himself. The repeated occurrence of three guardian deities in the temples of Puri is not a coincidence by any means. It is considered in Hindu mythology that the origin of all energy and the entire universe is from three Gods viz. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

It is also considered that the holy town of Jagannath Puri begins with the Chakratirtha Temple as this is considered to be the place where the holy log of wood out of which the holy idol of Lord Jagannath is made first touched the land of Orissa at Chakratirtha. It is popularly known the Chakra is the weapon of Lord Vishnu. The temple has a beautiful and extravagant architecture.

The most striking features are the large Chakra idol which is worshipped at the Chakratirtha Temple and the beautiful idol of Lord Vishnu in the middle of the Sanctorum which are placed over the Chakra. The architecture of the temple is breathtaking and was another reason for my visit to the holy town of Chakratirtha. The large Chakra is considered to originally belong to the Jagannath Temple and it is believed that a cyclone flew it away to Chakratirtha.

Puri Beach – The Centre of Festivity on the Shores of Orissa

Orissa is one of the largest states in Eastern India and it is also among the most culturally vibrant states in the country. The people of Orissa have always stayed very close to their own culture and traditions. This unique culture is closely weaved with the natural features of the state which includes a long coast at the Bay of Bengal.

The city of Puri is a port city and hence has a long coast line. It is also a major tourist destination given its religious importance and natural heritage. The wildlife diversity of Puri is also known around the world.

Puri Beach

Puri Beach | Image Resource : trekearth.com

The Puri Beach is among the most popular, busiest and longest beaches in the country. Do not expect to get the opportunity of a long peaceful walk in solitude while visiting the Puri Beach. It is a fast paced place in Puri and filled with an air of excitement at all times.

If you are careful and observant enough you can find some isolated places one of which is the Puri Beach Promenade. This is a long walkway which is quite often calm and peaceful. Enjoying the rushing waves in the evening when the sun is setting at the horizon on this walkway is a tremendous experience, one which I had the opportunity to explore and one which I will remember for long.

Camel Drive in Purfi Beach

Camel Drive in Purfi Beach | Image Resource : trekearth.com

The Puri Beach is also very popular for its cultural events and festivals. All throughout the year many religious events and art festivals are organized close to the beach. People from all around the nation witness artistic work from all around the country. The beach is most crowded generally during the evenings but the mornings are quite calm and serene.

Sunset View in Puri Beach

Sunset View in Puri Beach | Image Resource : holidayiq.com

The beach can be easily accessed from the Puri Railway station and hence it was the first item on my itinerary. It is just 2 km away from the station. If you wish to visit the Puri Beach from other parts of the state, it is just 60 km from the capital city Bhubaneswar. The enriching and refreshing experiences at the Puri Beach filled me with zeal to continue on my wonderful journey through the streets of Puri.

The Majestic Summit of the Tiger Hill, Darjeeling

As my tour comes to a close, I leave for the one best spot that I had reserved as a last part of my agenda. With the astounding sweeping views of the Colossal Kanchenjunga and the blaze of rapidly color changing snow peaks among the other snow clad Eastern Himalayan Peaks, the Tiger Hill is the best viewpoint of the little town of Darjeeling. Soaking in the Himalayan serenity, one can relish the actual beauty of the sunrise and the sunset right from this point.

Located approximately 11 kilometers from Darjeeling town, the Tiger hills lie above Ghoom at the highest altitude point in the town, 8482 feet. My trek to the hill began at 3:30 AM. As I reach the hill by 4:15AM, I am in time to witness the splendor of the sunrise. And I feel like I am at the top of the world. Trust me you will need to wake up even earlier if you need to beat the crowd. Hundreds thronged the slopes of the hill to grasp even a glimpse of the sunrise.

Look out for those nasty fogs and mist, they could upset your view. Plan well ahead.

Tiger Hill Darjeeling

Tiger Hill Darjeeling | Image Resource : darjeeling-tourism.com

The Divine Hill and its Silver Lining

This little hill grants us the chance to glimpse at the sun spreading its multicolor aura over the snow-capped peaks, living in the magical play of nature. You might come across a few tollbooths to reach the summit. There are several points along the way where you may feel free to stop and have a look-see if you feel that the viewpoint itself might be too crowded. There is a view tower, which is free of cost and you may help yourself to the wonderful views of Darjeeling.

A 360 degree view is visible from here, as you reach the top of the Tiger Hill. From here you can spot the five treasured peaks of the snow: Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, Mount Makalu, Chomol Hari Mountain of Tibet, The Kanchenjunga and more.

On your way down do stop at the Batasia Loop where the locals have their stalls set up even early in the morning, with hot samosas or singaras specially for the tourists.

Book either a car or a jeep if you want to reach the Hill on time with ease. Trek if you prefer the challenge.

Fresh Air, Open Area and Flowers- The Barbotey Rock Garden, Darjeeling!

Exercise is good for one and all. And every town should have its own play area and a place to exercise one’s mind and body together. Parks tend to attract not only kids but youngsters too. These days you also find middle-aged people as well as the elderly, taking walks in the park, seeing how they are all health conscious and prefer to meet their friends in the park.

My guide says the Barbotey Rock garden is pretty famous in the city with both the locals as well as the tourists. Beautifully structured as this is, the garden gives one a pleasant feeling and drives energy into the body as well.

The Rock Garden as it is fondly called, has been recently added to the tourist attractions of the Darjeeling Town. Located about 10 kilometers from Darjeeling, the drive to the garden alone is exciting and thrilling with the elevated location and the bends and turns of the roads.

Barbotey Rock Garden, Darjeeling

Barbotey Rock Garden, Darjeeling | Image Resource : holidaymine.com

The Garden And Its Layers

As the hill stream cascades over the Rocks along the slope, you will be brushed by a gentle breeze with the fragrance of multiple flowers planted at different levels of the garden. The Stream is a natural waterfall around which the entire garden has been terraced as a multi-level picnic ground. Teashops and other kiosks have also come up to satiate the hunger of the piling crowd.

Sit by the little lake or watch the beauty of the garden itself; the Barbotey Rock Garden is a magical place indeed. The Chunnu Summer Falls is also another great attraction in the garden.

The terraced garden gives you an unparalleled view of the entire valley, breathing in fresh and fragrance filled air as you relieve your mind of all your troubles. The rock garden has a splendid view both panoramically and geographically.

It is simply breathtaking to stand by the railed stone pathways and look down in the scenic view of the garden. Children enjoying the cool air and the trees swaying to the whisper of the gentle breeze are a memory one can never forget.

The Summit Of Peace At The Peace Pagoda Of Darjeeling!

Designed to unite people of all creed, caste and religion, the Peace Pagoda was constructed in 1992 in the little town of Darjeeling. For someone who enjoys learning more about the country and improving my knowledge, this trip has been the perfect choice today. I have a guide with me today who will impart all the details about the summit and its history.

This structure has been built under the guidance of a Buddhist Monk Nichidatsu Fuji from Japan, who is also the founder of the Nipponzan-Myōhōji Buddhist Order. With the foundation stone laid in 1972 on 3rd November, the structure was inaugurated in two decades successfully. This structure was designed by M.Ohka and has a height of 28.5 meters and a diameter of 23 meters and is one of the tallest freestanding structures in our Country.

The Temple of Peace

The Peace Pagoda lies only about a hundred yards away from the Japanese Temple. It showcases the four avatars of Buddha. According to the Lotus Sutra, the appearance of the Peace Pagoda is the very embodiment of Lord Buddha, radiating peace and non-violence, purifying the Lands, minds and souls of the people.

Japanese Peace Pagoda

Japanese Peace Pagoda | Image Resource : wikipedia.org

Taking a walk around the pagoda at its pinnacle is called a Parikrama. There is beautiful artwork etched along the sand stones, looking like a wooden framework. These artworks depict the life of Buddha and his relics. Mythological depictions of the Lord like, ‘Gift of Mango Grove’ by Amrapali at Vaishali and ‘Great Departure of Siddhartha’. The Parikrama spins around the four avatars of Buddha, including postures like sitting, sleeping, standing and also meditating.

With the Mountain range and the Japanese Temple down from its view, the Peace Pagoda has been set at an excellent spot for feeling a sense of being peaceful and serene. With the Japanese Temple chanting the Lotus Sutra along with the soothing drumbeats, the peace pagoda is the perfect place to meditate and find one’s peace of mind and inner peace.

Come hither and walk a few steps among these peaceful streets and find the path to your inner divine self, or maybe even a new revelation.

Photo Of The Week : Batasia Memorial Darjeeling

Batasia Memorial Darjeeling

Batasia Memorial Darjeeling | Image Resource : wikipedia.org

Batasia Memorial Darjeeling : The Batasia Memorial in Darjeeling is another tourist location that is extremely popular. Several tourists visit this place every year. It is a spiral railway created at the foothills of the Himalayan railway. It was established in the year 1919. Ever since then, it has been gaining major popularity. It is located at a scenic area that is lush green. It is also surrounded with beautiful, colorful flowers.