Lush green surroundings on way to Ananda retreat

Ananda Retreat Pune and its beautiful surroundings

Lush green fields on way to Ananda Retreat Pune after rains

We had actually set out on a drive to Lavasa on a Sunday morning after several weeks of plentiful rains. It so happened that while having my coffee before we set out, I came across this petition in change.org against Lavasa and its wrongdoings. We had decided to drive to Lavasa as I had never visited the place. After quite some time in the drive, I realised that Ananda meditation and yoga retreat is somewhere before Lavasa. When we spotted the signpost for the retreat, there was hardly any debate. We just turned into the road to the retreat. What an experience it turned out to be. The road upto the retreat with lush green fields around, a small river that we crossed and beautiful weather.

Lush green fields and a small river

All around it was beautiful hues of green and it was so comforting to the eyes. We crossed few small villages and settlements.

Lush green fields and beautiful surrounding

We crossed a small river which had a lively current.

Small river on way to Ananda Retreat Pune

This lady was keeping a keen watch on her buffalos who were obviously enjoying their bath in the river on a beautiful morning.

Lady with her buffalos in the small river
Buffalos in the water enjoying themselves

At Ananda retreat

First impression of the yoga and meditation retreat was that its serene campus blended well with the beautiful surroundings. It exuded a calm which any retreat should. Best thing was that it was not ostentatious at all. Dr. Aditya of Ananda Sangha was helpful in letting us in despite a last minute request and made arrangements for us to be shown around.

A path at Ananda Retreat

 

Papaya at Ananda retreat

Here is the spot I loved the most during our brief visit to the campus. I could easily spend an entire day here reading, writing, sketching, thinking (all that) with intervals of doing nothing. Doing nothing in such surroundings can be so fulfilling and rewarding.

Sit down here till eternity at Ananda meditation and yoga retreat

Other blog posts related to nature and trails

Forest walk in Sangla  valley

Sunrise in Kumaon mountains overlooking Ramganga river

Photo features by Milind Vishwas Sathe

 

Window from Dhangkar monastery

Window, light and wall texture at Dhangkar gompa

This window with bright light and a colourful cloth set in textured wall of the ancient monastery at Dhangkar gompa caught my attention. The wall texture, the pattern of the wall colours and the steps going up contributed to this very symbolic visual. (Dhangkar Gompa, Spiti, 2011)

Light through the window and wall texture at the ancient Dhangkar gompa, a prominent Buddhist monastery

Location of Dhangkar Gompa

Dhankar Gompa (also called Dankhar or Drangkhar) is a village and also a Gompa or monastery. It is an ancient Buddhist temple in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, India.  The gompa is situated at a height of 3,894 metres (12,774 feet) in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means a fort on a cliff.

Dhankar, like Key monastery and Tangyud monastery in Spiti, and Thiksey, Likir and Rangdum monasteries in Ladakh, was built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern. It was reported to have had 90 monks in 1855. Below the Gompa lies the small village of Shichilling which houses the new Dhankar monastery, home to about 150 monks belonging to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Beyond the surrounding harsh, lunar landscape, notable sights at Dhankar Gompa include a statue of Vairocana consisting of four figures seated back-to-back, in addition to various crumbling thangkas. There is a small museum in the gompa. In 2006, World Monuments Fund selected Dhankar gompa as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhangkar Initiative, is attempting to organize its conservation.

History of Dhangkar

Dhankar was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features dating back to the 12th century. It was the seat of the early rulers of Spiti, the Nonos, who had the right to cultivate the government lands nearby and were required to keep the fort in repair. They also dispensed justice to the people and were noted for their harsh penalties until the British replaced them. (source : Wikipedia)

Relevant Links

Prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery

History & Heritage pictures by Milind Vishwas Sathe

Photo features by Milind Vishwas Sathe

Prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery

Prayer wheel

Prayer wheels at monasteries is a fascinating sight. Usually there is line of prayer wheels and the visitors make it a point to touch each and every wheel. This prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery or gompa in Spiti looked as old as the monastery itself and it was a different feeling to touch the prayer wheel as well as the wall around. It had a deep cold feel to it almost as if connecting with its ancient past.

Prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery, Spiti valley

 

Dhangkar Monastery

Dhankar is a village and also a Gompa, a Buddhist temple in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in India. It is situated at an elevation of 3,894 metres (12,774 feet) in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar Village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means fort on a cliff.

View of the mountains from top of Dhangkar Monastery

Dhankar, like Key and Tangyud Monasteries in Spiti, and Thiksey, Likir and Rangdum monasteries in Ladakh, was built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern. Below the Gompa lies the small village of Shichilling which contains the new Dhankar Monastery, home to about 150 monks belonging to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Beyond the surrounding harsh, lunar landscape, notable sights at Dhankar Gompa include a statue of Vairocana consisting of four figures seated back-to-back, in addition to various crumbling thangkas. There is a small museum in the gompa. In 2006, World Monuments Fund selected Dhankar gompa as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhangkar Initiative, is attempting to organize its conservation. (source : Wikipedia)

Relevant Links

Window from Dhangkar Gompa

History & Heritage pictures by Milind Vishwas Sathe

Photo features by Milind Vishwas Sathe

 

 

 

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Shakambhari, an incarnation of goddess Parvati

Banashankari Devi temple at Badami

Shakambhari is the deity at Banashankari temple, Badami which was originally built by Chalukya kings

Banashankari Devi Temple or Banashankari temple is a Hindu shrine located near Badami, in Bagalkot district, Karnataka, India. The temple is popularly called Banashankari or Vanashankari since it is located in the Tilakaaranya forest. The temple deity is also called the Shakambhari , an incarnation of the goddess Parvati. The original temple was built by the 7th century Badami Chalukya kings, who worshipped goddess Banashankari as their kuladevi (tutelary deity)

Banashankari temple with deep stambha (lamp tower)

History

Ringing the temple bell at Banashankari temple, Badami

Historians have dated the original temple to the 7th century AD – the Kalyani Chalukya period to Jagadekamalla I in 603 AD (according to epigraphic inscriptions) who installed the image of the goddess as their kuladevi. The present refurbished temple was built in 1750, by Parusharam Agale, a Maratha chieftain.

Structure

Banashankari temple surroundings at Badami

The temple was built initially in the Dravidian architectural style. The rebuilt structure is in the Vijayanagara architectural style. The temple is enclosed by a high wall on all sides. The main structure has a mukha mantapa (portico), ardha mantapa (entrance porch/chamber in front of the sanctum) and a sanctum topped by a Vimana (tower). The main sanctum of the temple has the image of goddess Banashankari deified in it. The black stone sculpture depicts the goddess seated on a lioness trampling a demon under her foot. The goddess has eight arms and holds a trishul (trident), damaru (hand drum), kapaalpatra (skull cup), ghanta (war bell), Vedic scriptures and khadga-kheta (sword and shield). The goddess was the Kuladevi (tutelary deity) of the Chalukyas. 

Cobra carving in stone at Banashankari temple, Badami

There is a 360 ft (109.7 m) square water tank in the forefront of the temple at the entrance, which is locally called as Haridra Tirtha. The pond is enclosed with stone mantapas (halls) on three sides. A pradakshina or circumambulatory path surrounds the tank.

Lamp towers (Deep stambh) are seen in the foreground of the temple on the west bank of the pond and also at the entrance. The tower on the bank of the tank is also an uncommon guard tower which is “reflects the Vijayanagara blend of Hindu and Islamic style“. It is called the Victory Tower.

Temple ecosystem supports many people

Festivals

The temple celebrates its annual festival called Banashankari jatre, in the months of January or February. The festival comprises cultural programmes, boat festival as well as a Rath yatra, when the temple goddess is paraded around the city in a chariot.

Legend

The scriptures Skanda Purana and Padma Purana state that the demon Durgamasura harassed the local people constantly. Answering the prayers of the Devas (demi-gods) who appealed to God through a sacrifice to protect them from Durgamasura, the Lord directed the goddess Shakambhari to help the people. The goddess appeared through the fire of the Yagna (fire-sacrifice) in the form of the goddess Shakambhari. She then killed the demon after a fierce encounter and restored peace in the region. Banashankari is considered as the incarnation of goddess Parvati, who is the consort of god Shiva.

Other blog posts related to faith

Temples and ghats at Maheshwar on river Narmada

Ahilyabai Holkar, creator of river ghats and temples

Narmada river ghats and temples

Narmada river ghats, temples and colourful boats at Maheshwar

Impressive would be an understatement to describe the legacy of Ahilyabai Holkar who built temples and river ghats all over India. She carried out this great work when she took over the reigns of of the kingdom in central provinces after the death of Yashwantrao Holkar. The Holkars were generals with Peshva dynasty which was ruling from Pune. The most remarkable creations of Ahilyabai can be seen at Maheshwar on the banks of river Narmada. The temple at Maheshwar and the ghats on Narmada river are the real showpieces.

Narmada river ghats and temples at Maheshwar built by Ahilyabai Holkar

 

Ahilyadevi Holkar, creator of temples and ghats

Ahilyadevi Holkar built temples and ghats on river Narmada at Maheshwar

Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar (1725 – 1795) was the Holkar Queen of the Maratha Malwa kingdom, India. Rajmata Ahilyabai was born in the village of Chondi in Jamkhed, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Ahilyabai’s husband Khanderao Holkar was killed in the battle of Kumbher in 1754. Twelve years later, her father-in-law, Malhar Rao Holkar, died. A year after that she was crowned as the queen of the Malwa kingdom.

Ghats on river Narmada and temples at Maheshwar built by Ahilyadevi Holkar

Accomplishments of Ahilyabai Holkar

Rani Ahilyabai was a great pioneer and builder of Hindu temples. She built hundreds of temples and Dharmashalas throughout India. She also built forts and roads in Malwa, sponsored festivals and gave donations for regular worship in many Hindu temples. Outside Malwa, she built dozens of temples, ghats, wells, tanks and rest-houses across an area stretching from the Himalayas to pilgrimage centres in South India. The Bharatiya Sanskritikosh lists as sites she embellished, Kashi, Gaya, Somnath, Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Kanchi, Avanti, Dwarka, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar and Jaganathpuri. Ahilyadevi also supported the rise of merchants, farmers and cultivators to levels of affluence, and did not consider that she had any legitimate claim to their wealth, be it through taxes or feudal right.

Maheshwar and Indore

Among Ahilyabai’s accomplishments was the development of Indore from a small village to a prosperous and beautiful city; her own capital, however, was in nearby Maheshwar, a town on the banks of the Narmada river. Ahilyabai’s capital at Maheshwar was the scene of literary, musical, artistic and industrial enterprise. She entertained the famous Marathi poet, Moropantand the shahir, Anantaphandi from Maharashtra, and also patronised the Sanskrit scholar, Khushali Ram. Craftsmen, sculptors and artists received salaries and honours at her capital, and she even established a textile industry in the city of Maheshwar.

(source : Wikipedia)

Other blog posts related to Maheshwar

Art of Weaving at Maheshwar