Monday, March 10, 2014

Trip to Somnath, Gir, Nageshwar and Dwarka

The moment the idea of the trip to the three Kathiawari cities cropped up into conversation, everybody in the family got excited. Undoubtedly, the places Somnath, Nageshwar and Dwarka are as scenic, as they are religious.

The famed coastal road, connecting Somnath and Dwarka with its undulating curves and clear blue Arabian sea water can simply take the breath away. The ferry ride across to Bet Dwarka in a high tide creek, can be equally amazing, and so can a temple run in Somnath.


** Planning for the Trip **

If traveling through road, the ideal mode to travel would be making Rajkot as your base. As then, you'd be traversing a triangle during your travel. From Rajkot hire a taxi, beginning from Dwarka, moving on a day trip to Bet Dwarka, reaching Somnath through the coastal highway (While dropping in to Porbandar en-route). Leaving for Gir early morning and reaching back Rajkot by noon. The trip map would look something like this.
If you have an extra day by your side, you can very well cover Diu. 90 Kms away from Somnath, Diu can be a great outing, with its relatively less crowded beach.
If traveling in a group of 3 or more, this would invariably be the best way, both on time and wallet. But then as I began you need to be on an 'ideal' scenario for that. We didn't have that luxury.
Mom wasn't too enthused about our covering this 700 odd Kms trip without a stretch of rail. So we decided to make Ahmedabad, Gujarat as our base and then beginning from Somnath, cover the places relaxed and comforted. At the end, this indeed turned out to be a laid-back easy trip.


Train to Somnath
So..Rail it was - (http://www.building-your-model-railroad.com)

The rail tickets are difficult to get by, especially as we were traveling during November around the season for Hindu festival, Diwali. Fortunately with some luck running by our side, the tickets were available.

** Veraval **

The overnight Somnath express made us reach Veraval, the nearest train station to Somnath, quite early in the morning. The air had a nip which despite the coastal winds flowing around, felt cold. We hired a taxi that costed us around 80 bucks and 30 minutes.
Veraval Station
Veraval Station -  http://static.panoramio.com
Somnath Station
Somnath Rail Station

We later discovered that Somnath also happen to have a decent rail station, but with only few, very few trains actually using it. For all practical reasons, if traveling through train, Veraval is the most suitable option.

** Somnath - Stay **

Staying comfortably in Somnath can be a big concern if there is a planning lacunae. The best place to stay are Somnath Temple Trust accommodations. Various options including high-end rooms are available.  Lilavati among them is the best value of money. However, the rooms have to be booked in advance to avoid reservation hassles. The trust books the tickets through bank draft. Expect rush across all seasons. Further, the trust has offices in Ahmedabad and Mumbai too. Other 'Hotels' (if you can call them so) are poorly managed and the tariffs are irrational.


Somnath Stay
Lilavati - Value for money

** Somnath - Jyotirling 'Darshan' **

Somnath temple is amongst the 12 Jyotirlings, or the prominent Shiva temples, supposed to be 'Swayam-bhoo' or self-created. The history however bleeds through the series of plunders that were carried in greed and jealousy of the temple's riches. Material and aesthetic riches. The larger glory  is in the manner the temple has been restored. Somnath temple indeed is a manifestation of phenomenal efforts and vision. It is a marvel of modern architecture( remarkably functional and efficient) with its serene background . The place is heavily guarded, quite understandably by virtue of its symbolism of proclamation (sic) of (never lost) glory.
After settling in for some time, we stepped to have our breakfast in the common dining hall for Somnath temple trust accommodations. The food was good and the place was tidy. Food is yet another reason to stay in the temple trust. There aren't many options around in Somnath that can match the quality available, if not the choice.
For the darshan, or a glimpse of the divine, the queue was fairly long. The cloak room was insufficient to handle the rush. So keep all your phones, cameras tucked back in the room you stay.
Sea revering Somnath Temple - http://whenintrovertspeaks.files.wordpress.com
The passage leading to the temple is adorned with stories of restoration through paintings etc. Better upkeep of the gallery including provision of more space would definitely attract a lot of tourist attention. The piousness in the environment can definitely be felt. At times, it seems even the Arabian sea kiss the temple feet in reverence. The sanctum sanctorum is magnificent, to say the least, with ubiquitous silver work. Upon the exit from the sanctorum, one can soak in the beauty of the temple by relaxing across the carefully planned stone benches by the side of the sea. As we came out from the temple, it was still just 11 in the morning.

Somnath Temple
Somnath Temple

** Visiting Gir - The open Den **

The best way to reach Gir, is to hire a taxi locally from Somnath. We reached at the sanctuary gate in no time and hopped on the open gypsy from the gate (mandatory to hire these special vehicles). The view was surreal, and with some luck by our side, we could spot the famed lion. It was a special moment, and the years of yearning came to life. After staying in Gir for a couple of hours, we reached back Somnath in the evening, enriched and fulfilled.
Lion at Sasan, Gir
Lion at Sasan, Gir


Lion at Gir
Beauty or the Beast


Affection
Dear Deer
Images Courtesy : www.google.com


** Temple Run **

After an early dinner, it was good time to relax in the beach facing garden. The breeze was ideal to rejuvenate the tired souls. There isn't much to do in Somnath apart from the temple, so the bustling garden adjacent to the temple is good thought (so we had wrongly thought). However, some people left their fastidious cows and some bulls to feed on the snacks, people were having in the garden. From nowhere, the temple run started. The aggressive bovines tried to run havoc by harming people caught by unawares. There was a virtual screen play of the famed 'Temple run'. The bulgy overfitting monster of the game replaced by the bovines, and for a change the frame wasn't unreal! Within no time 100 odd people that had occupied the place, left their snacks for the feed, and ran to save their lives, hiding in the temple compound. (Have a feeling, such incidents can be avoided by some sense of administration.)


 Many like us didn't dare to enter the compound thus for the evening, and  surely could have uninstalled the game from their smart phones.
Somnath Temple at night
Somnath Temple - Glorious at night too
** Dwarka **

An overnight train runs between the two pilgrimages. It was not long back before our trip, that the rail connectivity between Somnath station and Dwarka had started. Albeit quite slow, and less scenic as the coastal road between Somnath and Dwarka, it still is very comfortable. It departs late night and you can reach Dwarka early, but not uncomfortably early. The Somnath rail station is not far from the town and it took us less than 10 minutes to reach station from the temple trust accommodation. Fresh and excited, we reached Dwarka in the morning to head to 'Kokila Dheeraj Dham', our place of stay (by far, the best place to stay in Dwarka).
Dwarka Station
Dwarka Station


Jagatmandir at Dwarka
Jagatmandir

It's conveniently close to the main temple, the rooms are pretty much functional, inexpensive and the service is excellent.The ideal value for the price you pay! Prior booking, though, would be great, considering the rush. There is a sizable traffic coming for day trips from Jamnagar, Gujarat. Reliance employees hold quota in the reservation at the guesthouse.  Around 11 am in the morning, we left for the temple. En-route do remember to book your 2pm tickets from the municipal office for ''chaar dhaam yatra''(visit to four religious places around Dwarka), namely, ''Bet Dwarka, Gopi Talab, Nageshwar jyotirlinga and Rukmini temple''. There are private operators too, but not to the match of the bus run by municipal administration. 
Do book the overnight bus tickets from Dwarka to Ahmedabad around this time. You may like to save precious time, as the train leaves only the next morning.

** Dwarikadheesh ki Jai **

Dwarka, one of the 'Chaar Dhams' (Four major Hindu pilgrimages), holds a very special place in hearts of Indians. Dwarikadheesh, referred for Lord Krishna, was the king of historical (and now submerged) (old) Dwarka city, along his eternal kingdom of consciousness. The Jagatmandir architecture is wonderful and the idol 'darshan', benign. The divine atmosphere is made more special as people chant 'Dwarikadheesh ki Jai' all the way. As with other vaishnavite temples, at Dwarka too, the timings of darshan need to be accounted for. The guest house reception can be of great help, before you set your travel for soul. There was ample time for the darshan, and it was far better managed then its contemporary Nathdwara temple of Shrinathji in Udaipur, Rajasthan.
After the darshan and lunch in a restaurant near to our accommodation, we set ourselves for the bus pick point for the 2 PM bus.
Jagatmandir, Dwarka
Jagatmandir, Dwarka


Kokila Dheeraj Dham
Reception - Kokila Dheeraj Dham
** Nageshwar Temple **

Nageshwar temple is also among the 12 Jyotirlings. A sizable queue can be expected in the temple. There is a really grand Shiva statue in the compound. The temple management is however totally commercialized. 'Pay and worship' mismanagement. Unfortunately, it is a sham to the sentiments and faith of the devotees.



Shiva statue, Nageshwar
Grand Shiva Statue - Nageshwar Jyotirling


Nageshwar Temple
Nageshwar Temple


Rukmini Temple
Rukmini Temple


Gopi Talab
Gopi Talab(Pond) - Entrance
** Bet Dwarka **

You can mistake yourself to be in an industrial town, as you reach Bet Dwarka through Okha. However, that experience would not hold long, as the commercial activity would vignette quite fast. There were a lot many tourists that day heading for Bet Dwarka. Perhaps because of the 'Ram katha' by Morari Bapu in Bet Dwarka. Bet Dwarka (abridged version of Bhent (meeting) Dwarka, the place where Sudama met Krishna in  his friend) is situated on an island and the place has to be reached in a ferry.As we reached the bridge, we could notice swarms of people waiting for their turn in the ferry. It was very crowded, but we persisted, and so did our boat in the water. There was some monitoring by the coastal guards.
Bet Dwarka
Bet Dwarka - Entrance


Bet Dwarka
Oversized Ferry - Indian Flag flying high


Bet Dwarka
Rough Sea

Creation and Canvas
The creation and the canvas

Some walk to tread across the hill, and you reach the main temple. Passing by a lively small market on both the sides of the street, you would find people selling religious items and snacks. The main temple is surrounded by adjacent small temples.

By the time we'd walked down the street back for our ferry, it was 7:00 in the evening. 

**  The Ferry ride - recalling the Life of Pi **

The ferry ride back to the mainland was more of a forced adventure trip. The rough sea we had encountered in the day, got rougher on account of high tide and full moon night. The ferry was full to brim and the waves literally ferocious. The experience made me recall watching 'Life of Pi' in 3D. Adventure, nonetheless !  We thankfully reached mainland safely. After reaching Dwarka by 8 PM, we hurried with our dinner to get back in time for our 9:30 bus to Ahmedabad.

Dwarkadheesh, Two Jyotirlings, One Lion Sanctuary, the heart still goes out for that trip. 

Traveled for Soul, by Soul.

***
Stay Duration :        2 days at Somnath, Dwarka
Stay Place:              As referred in the post
Travel Companion : Mother, Better Half
Travel Phases :        Dwarka, Somnath and Gir in phases
Arrived through:      Train from Ahmedabad
During:                    Oct, 2013

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Any feedback on my post? Similar stories to share ? Any suggestions I can provide for the places. I'd love to help in your trip.
                                            
Looking forward to your comments/queries.

***

10 comments:

  1. Great series of shots. I haven't been to this place yet, so this was a great treat to me.

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    1. Thanks Indrani. Do keep dropping by to the blog.

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    2. As if enjoyed the journey myself

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  2. Awesome description! I felt I was there myself!! I have never been to this place and after reading this I am also planning a visit there. Thanks Mr. Joshi for your wonderful story.

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  3. Very good details! Thank you very much. Its very helpful for me to plan a trip.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Shrihari. Hope you'd enjoy other posts too. Keep dropping by !

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Hi,

    Thank you so much for your kind information.

    I hope it will be helpful to me.

    But i have question please answer me, is there any other ways to take 'chaar dhaam yatra' tickets apart from municipality?

    Is there any online booking availability?
    or else which is the right time to go and take the tickets from municipality?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sekhar.

      Thanks for dropping by !

      I'd recommend the municipality bus, by virtue of its timeliness and coverage. You can book the bus tickets from the designated counter of the municipality office (don't think it's available online though), but make sure that you book early as the counter closes around 11 am and tickets fill fast.

      There are other decent options for the yatra by private players , plying albeit bit later than the municipality bus and for which tickets are available later as well.

      Hope the above information could be of some help.

      Cheers.

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