Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Siddheshwar Temple, Solapur

Solapur is an important city in Maharashtra most well known for its textile industry, and bed sheets in particular. I remember my mother waiting to buy Solapur bed sheets at the Solapur station en-route to Chennai (then Madras) during my summer vacation. All other bed sheets were considered inferior quality than the Solapur ones, and to do them justice, they outlive all the other varieties. There is still one Solapur bed sheet with a beautiful peacock pattern, one that was bought almost 20 years ago still occupying the pride of place in my mother’s house.
We visited Solapur en-route to Pandharpur, Tuljapur and Akkalkot, and stayed overnight there for the purpose of catching the train back to Bombay. We had a few hours free and decided to visit the local Shiva temple, called the Siddheshwar temple, as it was a Shravan somvar (i.e. a Monday in the Indian month of Shravan, which is considered auspicious for Lord Shiva). We hardly knew what a treat was waiting for us, and I regret not taking along my camera.
We had to stop our vehicle quite far away from the temple, as it was a festival day, and there was a sort of fair going on around the temple. The local artisans, craftsmen and traders were peddling their ware all along the road, and it was tempting to buy almost everything in sight. We controlled our urges however, and went straight to the temple, which is situated on a lake.

The temple, situated in the middle of the lake, is picturesque; with a backdrop of the fort looming behind it. The temple was built by a yogi, Shri Siddharameshwar, who was a devotee of Sri Mallikajuna of Srisailam. He was on his way to Srisailam, when he was ordered by his guru to return to Solapur and consecrate many Shiva lingams. He duly returned to Solapur and began his work, starting from this temple. In all, he installed 68 Shiva lingams in Solapur, the list of which is given at the end of this article.
It is believed that Sri Siddharameshwar dug the lake himself, when all the holy rivers came and asked for permission to reside in the lake, thus making it sacred. There are a number of fish in the lake, and the locals consider it holy to feed them. As a result, there is a crowd of vendors selling foodstuffs to feed the fish... The lake has been kept reasonably clean, considering the amount of food thrown into it.
Apart form the main lingam of lord Shiva, there are temples of various other gods in the temple complex which is considerably huge.
Shri Siddharameshwar himself attained Jeeva Samadhi in the temple complex itself, and his Samadhi itself draws a lot of crowds.
The Siddharameshwar trust looks after the maintenance of the temple, and it is doing a good job. The temple itself is well maintained and clean, when there are crowds, there is a good queue system wherein men and women enter the sanctum sanctorum separately, and they have a shop where they sell books relating the temple’s history and photographs. Apart from all this, what is really noteworthy is the amount of charity and good works done by the trust. They run schools, colleges and hospitals, and when we visited the temple, they were collecting funds for cancer treatment of those who couldn’t afford it. They have a huge library within the temple complex with some good collection of religious literature. We came away quite impressed, and today, one of the most prominent photographs in my puja room is of the Siddheshwar temple. We did not have time to visit all the other 67 lingams consecrated by Sri Siddharameshwar, but we intend to make another visit soon. For anyone who wants to visit the temple, I am including below, the temple address as well as a list of al the 68 lingams.

Shri Siddheshwar Devasthan Panch Committee,
Siddheshwar Mandir,
Solapur 413001

Phone No: (0217) 2723778

List of 68 Lingams installed by Sri Siddharameshwar

No-- Name ------ Place
1 - Shree Amrut ling----- Siddheshwar temple
2 - Shri Papeshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
3- Shri Popeshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
4 - Shri Sangameshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
5 - Shri Parmeshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
6 - Shri Yoginath ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
7 - Shri Vajreshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
8 - Shri Omkareshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
9 - Shri Aaheshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
10 - Shri Maheshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
11 - Shri Akleshwar ling ---- Siddheshwar temple
12 - Shri Umeshwar ling ---- Samanti Katta
13 - Shri Shikeshwar ling ---- Mahadwar
14 -- Shri Aadilingeshwar ling ---- Mahadwar
15 - Shri Nandikeshwar ling ---- Mahadwar
16 - Shri Aaleshwar ling ---- Mahadwar
17 - Shri Teleshwar ling ---- Near Narthcoat highschool
18 - Shri Vishweshwar ----Near Dafrin hospital
19 - Shri Brahmeshwar ling ---- Parshi Bangalow,Railway lines
20- Shri Kopeshwar ling ---- Head post office
21 - Shri Adkeshwar ling ---- Near Railway Station
22 - Shri Tripureshwar ling ---- Near Railway Station
23 - Shri Anandeshwar ling ---- Juni Mill
24 -Shri Havgveshwar ling ---- Murarji Peth,Manik Mill
25 - Shri Rameshwar ling ---- Murarji Peth,Manik Mill
26 - Shri Nageshwar ling ---- Murarji Peth,Manik Mill
27 - Shri Rambhadreshwar ling ---- Murarji Peth,Manik Mill
28- Shri Homeshwar ling ----- Near Juni Mill Chal
29 - Shri Jageshwar ling ----- Chakradev mala
30 - Shri Anantanameshwar ling---- Bhogade Vasti canal
31 - Shri Pashuptiya ling ---- Deshmukh Mala,Ganesh Nagar
32 - Shri Shatkeshwar ling ---- Chandak Bagicha
33 - ShriYalleshwar ling ---- Near Tarti Naka
34 - Shri Jambukeshwar ling ---- Maruti(underground)
35 - Shri Jabreshwar ling ---- Maruti Balves
36 - Shri Jagdeshwar ling ---- Balves
37 - Shri Bandeshwar ling ---- West Mangalvar Peth
38 - Shri Bhadreshwar ling ---- West Mangalvar Peth
39 - Shri Shelgi Ganesh ling ---- East Mangalvar Peth
40 - Shri Kameshwar ling ---- East Mangalvar Peth
41 - Shri Shankeshwar ling ---- Opposite to Varad Math
42 - Shri Panchmukhi ling ---- Opposite to Varad Math
43 - Shri Amogheshwar ling ---- Sakhre vada
44 - Shri Someshwar ling ---- Madhala Maruti
45-Shri Ahimukhibhrameshwar ling----Khari Bavdi,Shukravar Peth
46-Shri Brahmanadeshwar ling----Maruti Mandir,Shukravar Peth
47 - Shri Achleshwar ling ---- Vaidya vada,Shukravar Peth
48 - Shri Chinheshwar ling ---- Tripurantakeshwar,Shukravar Peth
49-Shri Tripurantakeshwar ling---Tripurantakeshwar,Shukravar Peth
50 - Shri Sarveshwar ling ---- Panchkatta
51 -Shri Umamaheshwar ling ---- Collector Bunglow
52 - Shri Navaneshwar ling ---- Gurubhet
53 - Shri Sidhvanti ling ---- Homekatta
54 - Shri Jyotishwar ling ---- Homekatta
55 - Shri Akleshwar ling ---- Park Maidan
56 - Shri Gomukhi ling ---- Park Maidan
57 - Shri Balabrahmeshwar ling ---- Near Shami tree
58 - Shri Vajreshwar ling ----- Near Shami tree
59- Shri Umamaheshwar ling ---- Near Shami tree
60 - Shri Balayogishwar ling---- Near Shami tree
61 - Shri Shamishwar ling ---- Near Shami tree
62- Shri Khayeshwar ling ---- Barabaluti,Murarji Peth
63 - Shri Molgeshwar ling ---- Kalmma Mandir,North Kasba
64 - Shri Kutharsomesh ling ---- Revensiddheshwar Mandir
65 - Shri Mallikarjun ling ---- Mallikarjun Mandir
66 - Shri Ayleshwar ling ---- Mallikarjun Mandir
67 - Shri Anandshwar ling ---- Mallikarjun Mandir
68 - Shri Umakshetreshwar ling ---- Mallikarjun Mandir
We have been told that by hiring a local auto, it is possible to cover all these lingams within a day.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kodaikanal-Two trips-Two experiences

Kodaikanal is a well known hill station in Tamilnadu, and much has been written about it. I don’t intend to write this as a travelogue. For more information, see An Indian Bureaucrats diary. I came across the blog when I was looking for something, and it brought back lots of memories about Kodaikanal. It is exhaustive, and well written, and contains almost all the information anyone would want. What I am going to write about is my own experience in the princess of the hills.
Yes, Kodaikanal is considered as the princess of the hills- Ooty is the queen of hills- now, why anyone would classify a hill station as female, is beyond me (unless maybe, because it is so very beautiful, and pleasing to the eyes). Usually, mountains and hills are referred to, as male… the Himalayas –for example, and the Govardhan hill are referred to as masculine.
I have had the pleasure of visiting both Ooty and Kodaikanal, and I definitely enjoyed Kodaikanal a lot more. The climate was superb in Ooty, but the place has become too commercialized for my taste. There is so much of a crowd wherever you go; one hardly gets to relish the atmosphere of the place. The biggest disadvantage in Kodai was that it pours almost throughout the year, and the rain does sometimes dampen ones spirit, but in spite of that, we enjoyed the place for its simplicity. It is nowhere as large as Ooty – the whole city is situated around the lake- but the crowds are catching up with Kodaikanal.
We visited Kodai twice- the first was for our honeymoon, and very frankly, all I remember about it, is that it was very very cold. We went thought the entire tourist circuit, as was expected of us, but nothing much remains in my memory, except a memorable shikara ride on the lake. Incidentally, the next time we went there, the shikaras were not available any more- God alone knows what had happened-probably they simply became old and unusable.
Another thing I remember are the Pillar rocks- Seeing those HUGE rocks standing clearly in front of you one minute, and the next moment, invisible, covered by the mist- is an awesome sight.
The next time we visited Kodai, was for an extremely different reason – Sri Satya Sai Baba, who is revered by many all over the globe, was in Kodai, and my husband, who is an ardent devotee, and His student, wanted to visit him. The idea came out of the blue- “Swami is at Kodai, and He may stay there till Easwaramma Day ( which also happens to be our son’s birthday) so, lets go there” my husband said, and before any one could say a word, returned home with flight tickets to Coimbatore, the nearest airport. But then, there was a catch. It was the peak season for Kodaikanal, and apart from the colossal crowd who would come there to have Swami’s darshan, the hill station would be absolutely packed with tourists. Finding accommodation would not be easy. And, in fact, when we started searching we received only negative responses from most of the hotels. “Sorry! We’re full” was the refrain everywhere. Finally relief came in the form of the Club Mahindra Holiday Inn, where they offered us one room for just one night. Desperate that we were, we jumped at the chance, and left Mumbai with an assurance that we would have a roof over our heads at least for one night, and also with a decision that if we couldn’t get a room after that, we would leave and go to Madurai, where we had relatives.
So there we were, with a room for one day, and Swami staying till He alone knew when, but trusting Him to find us a room somehow…. And believe me, He did! We stayed on at the same place for a whole week, changing rooms every other day, making place for people who had already booked months in advance, but without having to move our entire luggage from one hotel to another. People too, were quite considerate- for example, one day when we returned late from darshan, we found that the people who had booked the room had arrived early, and were waiting for us.. We were quite apologetic, and felt bad that they had to wait for a room that was rightly theirs.. But to our surprise, they refused to let us apologize, and in fact they were quite happy to hear that we had gone for darshan, and were extremely courteous and respectful.
As we had expected, the crowd was really huge, and as a result, most of our time was spent in traveling from our hotel to the lake and standing in the long long queue to get into the ashram. We didn’t get to go sightseeing on this trip, and only managed a boat ride on the lake, and a visit to the local Murugan temple.
The best thing about this trip was of course, Swami’s darshan. We had been to Puttaparthi, to Swami’s residence, Prasanthi Nilayam, many times, and were accustomed to the crowd there and having swami’s darshan from far far away, but at Kodaikanal, after the initial rush, when the crowd settled down, we were treated to darshan at very close quarters. Swami came in a wheelchair, unlike at Parthi, and darshan here was really a treat for eyes longing to see Him. All in all an experience I shall never forget. If only we lived nearer to Kodai, we would all certainly try to got there every year, but that only seems a distant dream ……….
After feasting our eyes on Swami for a full week, we had to return back to Bombay.
On our way, we stopped at the hill temple of Palani, which happens to be the family deity of my father’s family. This was the first time I was bringing my son to the temple, and he thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the winch ride up the hill.
And then, there we were, back at Mumbai, back to our daily chores, the usual routines, but full of memories that we will never forget. Truly, it was a wonderful trip to Kodaikanal. A trip my son remembers as well….he keeps asking- “Mamma, when shall we go to Kodaikanal again?” A question I have no answer to, at the moment. He is only putting into words a feeling that we all have.


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