Organized by Guruji Pt. Ram Hardowar.
A group of 46 young and excited devotees of Shri Surya Narayan Mandir through the guidance and leadership of Guruji and Guruma arrived in Mumbai, India on Friday, February 15, 2008 around midnight and stayed at the Sunshine Inn.
Early, Saturday, February 16, we left Mumbai via the Chattrapatti Shiwaji airport to Jamnagar. Upon our arrival in Jamnagar, we traveled by bus to the Safari resort in the western part of Gujarat.
On Sunday, we started our pilgrimage with a visit to Bhalka Tirth (place where lord Krishna allowed himself to be shot), then visited Gowlokh Dhaam (place where Lord Krishna left his Paduka-sandals). Gowlokh Dhaam is a very sacred place. It is the point where three sacred rivers Hiranya, Kapila and Saraswattie meet. There is also a Gita Mandir that houses the Murti of Lord Krishna in the center and a floor to ceiling portrait of Lord Vishnu on the right and has the all the verses of the Bhagavad Gita engraved in the marble walls of the mandir. Truly amazing. The temple was constructed around the tree which Lord Krishna was sitting at the time of HIS departure from earth.
We later visited our first Jyotirlingam Somnath (lord of the moon) temple, stayed for evening aarti and were treated to a divine Sound & Light show using the Somnath temple as a background, depicting the story of the Somnath Lingam approx 45 mins. It was very interesting to see how they effectively used sound and light to describe the legend of Somnath Mahadeo.
HARSIDDHI DURGA MAA TEMPLE
We left the Safari Resort around 9:00 on Monday traveling to Dwarka. Enroute, we stopped and climbed 272 stairs to visit Harsiddhi Durga Maa Temple situated at the top of a small mountain. We offered prasadam consisting of sindoor, coconut, red or green cloth, agarbatti and white sugar naivedyam .
Arrived at Dwarka Residency hotel was garlanded and served refreshments (nice hospitality).
We met as a group around 6:00 pm and walked to Gomattee Dwarka temple for evening aarti the aarti is an absolutely divine experience.
The temple is named Gomattee Dwarka because it is located in Dwarka and is situated on the banks of the Gomattee river. We were told that the clothing of the deities were changed everyday by the male Brahmins – a different color for each day.
The Brahmin ladies does all the cooking and chopping of the vegetables while chanting sacred mantras and names of the deities e.g. Radhe Radhe.
The huge flag (made from 52 yards of cloth) flying at the top to the dome of the temple is changed four times per day. Devotees sponsor the changing of flags and they are booked for the next six months. Only three families are given the responsibility to climb the very dangerous dome and change the flag. There have been no accidents. It is believed that Mira merged with Lord Krishna after climbing 56 stairs to enter this temple. (Note: 56 + 52 = 108, an auspicious number).
It is Tuesday, February 18, wake-up call was at 4:00 am and we left the hotel at 5:00am by bus for a visit to the Nageshwaram Jyotirlingam for 6:00 am morning aarti. What a beauty!
There is a HUGE 85 feet tall Lord Shiva in a sitting posture (stunning!) to greet you when you arrive.
This is a relatively new mandir, constructed in 1984 and financed by music producer/singer Gulsan Kumar. The original mandir was destroyed during the mogul invasion. However, there is a portion of the original Lingam that was saved and installed in the new temple where pooja and aarti is performed daily.
A wonderful exception was made to allow Guruji Ram Hardowar to perform pooja directly on the Nageshwaram Jyotirlingam. Only the resident Brahmin priests are normally permitted to perform pooja at the main Lingam. All the men folks dressed in traditional dhotis (a few out of practice) joined Guruji on the floor of the Lingam area for pooja. The women were not allowed to touch the Lingam or sit on the floor around the Lingam area as per the rule of the temple. We performed Havan in the outdoors, under the Gazebo as Shri Surya Bhagawan was rising. In deed a beautiful sight. After havan, we performed Surya Namaskar in the in the Mandir compound and walked around the temple three times (parikrama) before going back to the hotel for breakfast.
Left hotel at 10:00am for Bhait Dwarka. Took boat to Bhait Dwarka (island previously sunk because of its tremendous wealth, a portion now restored). This island was used by Lord Krishna as a vacation home to think and reflect.
Travel day Wednesday, February 20, left Dwarka residency hotel for Jamnagar and took connecting flight to Ujjain. Stayed at the Shipra Hotel.
It is Thursday; we drove to Mandu and checked into the Malwa resort located on the banks of the Narmada river. Took bath in the Narmada river and Guruji performed Havan on the banks of the river. The hotel provided live evening entertainment while dining on the lawns.
We visited the Mahakaleshwar Jhotirlingam on Friday. We were all very fortunate since we had an opportunity to actually touch the Lingam. We formed a line for darshan, offered flowers and poured dhaar on the Lingam then stood in a pavilion area to observe aarati. We observed the Brahmin Priests cleaning the Lingam in preparation for aarti and watched as they happily pour goblets of milk (dhaar) on the lingam during the pooja, they lovingly applied chandan by first starting with the symbol OM and upon completion they had painted the face of Lord Shiva, all with Chandan in a matter of minutes. (Amazing).
It is Saturday, February 23. We left Mandu and traveled to Indore by bus to visit the Omkareshwar Jyotirlingam. We took a short boat ride in a launch and walked up a few stairs to reach this Jyotirlingam. We formed a line to make our offerings and receive darshan. We were all very excited and thrilled to be able to touch the Omkareshwar Jyptirlingam.
We then resumed our bus ride leaving Indore to fly to Delhi. Stayed overnight in Delhi at the Metro Heights Hotel.
GANGA MAI HARIDWAR
On Sunday, we left Delhi by bus to Haridwar. I was very excited to see Ganga Maa as the bus drove over a bride. We visited the Ganges at HAR-KI-PUR for evening aarati at 6:00 pm and sat on concrete stairs leading into Ganga Maa. Everyone made individual offerings in a boat shaped tray consisting of flowers, agarbatti and camphor which when lit and placed to float in the Ganges was a beautiful sight. Stayed at the Tapovan Resorts.
We left the hotel at 6:00 am on Monday and around 7:00 am took a nice cold bath in the beautiful and purifying/sacred waters of the Ganges as Shri Surya Deva was rising. After bath we worshipped Ganga Maa and offered dhar to Surya Narayan Bhagwan.
There was a clean facility available for the women to change their clothing. We then returned to the Hotel, where Guruji performed special Ganga Mai Pooja on the lawns of the hotel and our beloved brother Bhai Jaichan received his Guru Diksha.
Later, we walked to Latchman Jhula (approx 10 minutes) did some sightseeing and then traveled by jeep (approx 5 minutes) to Ram Jhula. We did some more sightseeing and shopping and attended evening aarati at 6:00 pm at the Gita Bhavan. This was an unbelievable experience with extremely high vibrations from chanting of beautiful matras, dhoons, bhajans and aarati performed by very young children. This Havan and aarati took place on the banks of the Ganges and by now I know that we very blessed to be able to participate in this mind-blowing event.
Tuesday was a traveling day, where we traveled by bus to Mathura and stayed at the Wingston Hotel.
MATHURA – JANMA BHUMI
It is Wednesday, February 27; we visited Janma Bhumi in Mathura, the prison cell where Shri Krishna took Avatar. A divine experience, the hair on my body stood on end, knowing that the Lord actually took birth at this very spot where I now stand. We had a guided tour of the beautiful temple in the same compound consisting of all the deities beautifully dressed. There is an especially gorgeous murti of Lord Krishna and Radha Rani dressed in a heavily rich green sari outfit really outstanding. Sitting in the middle of the floor of this same temple is a large comforter/mat that facilitates you to lie and watch the spectacular paintings on the ceiling of different scenes with Lord Krishna (dancing with the gopis, swinging with Radha Rani etc.).
After lunch we visited Madhuban forest of Tulsi plants. It is believed that every night the animals and birds would leave the area and return in the morning because from midnight to 3:00, you can hear the music from Lord Krishnas basuri as he dances with the Gopis. The Tulsi trees become Gopis and Lord Krishna appears to perform the raas leela with them every night.
We also visited Lord Krishnas main temple where he rested after killing Kalidas. In this temple are huge murtis of Nandaji dressed in white, Mataji Yassoda making dahee and smaller murtis of Lord Krishna and Radha Rani.
Guruji gave charity on behalf of the devotees of Shri Surya Narayan Mandir to this temple organization (Krishna Trust) which also oversees the Mira Bai Temple that house approximately 2,000 women who chants all day. This Trust also oversees the Gowshala where cows stay safely in an open jungle area and are not sold or killed but remain until they die.
We then crossed the Jamuna River to Gokul, where we visited another temple of Lord Krishna. Here, it is customary for the men to walk in front and the women follow some distance behind. In this temple, you do not approach the Lord on foot rather all devotees will creep (on all fours) to the Lord which we eagerly obliged and offered flowers to Nandji, Yashodaji, Balramji and rocked a little Lord Krishna in a Jhula.
The Wingston Hotel provided a fantastic farewell show artists performed the peacock dance, candle dance and Holi dance with the group using bags and bags of flower petals a beautiful and colorful sight.
It is Thursday and as we left Mathura we visited Govardhan Parvat (the mountain Lord Krishna lifted with his finger to shelter the Gopis). It was also where we celebrated our beloved brother Jaichans 50th birthday as he was garlanded by his Dharampatni.
We visited the Taj Mahal before continuing to Delhi, where we stayed at the Crest Hotel.
We ended our trip with a bang on Friday by visiting the new world wonder in Delhi the Akshardham Temple a Swami Narayana temple (BAPS). This is a temple with adjoining buildings amazingly beautiful and breathtaking architecture, both inside and outside and still being worked on. Stayed at the Perfect Hotel.
It is Saturday, March 01 and we are all sad because our pilgrimage has ended and we must return to reality work and responsibilities. However, we picked ourselves up and did some last minute shopping in Delhi, had a great dinner and left around midnight as we head home to our families in New York.
Special thanks to Guruji, Guruma, Roshanji and everyone who helped to put this remarkable, exciting and memorable pilgrimage together. I had a BLAST!
In conclusion, let me add that his pilgrimage has and will continue to enrich my entire life to come. I am forever grateful to SURYA NARAYAN MANDIR.
Thank you, Thank you and thank you!