Sun-soaked in Somnath

We visited Gujarat in this winter vacation of Rachit (December 2008). The itinerary was as follows:

24th Dec – Rajdhani Express from New Delhi to Ahmedabad (19:55-10:05)
25th Dec – Somnath Express from Ahmedabad to Veraval (22:00-6:15)
26th Dec – Stay at hotel Shivam in Somnath
27th Dec- Depart to Sasan Gir
27th Dec- Stay at Hotel Annapoorna in Sasan Gir
28th-29th Dec – Stay at Anil Farms, Balcheel Village, Sasan Gir
30th Dec – Depart to Junagarh
30-31st Dec – Stay at Leo Resort, Junagarh
1st Jan – Depart to Ahmedabad

Gujarat! It’s not a preferred tourist destination. I agree. We chose it as we felt that in Gujarat it would be easier for us to find homely food. It was a must as Tanmay, my younger son, was only eight months old. Another reason to choose it was that we wanted to visit a place where we could get ample sun. The compelling desire to leave Noida was to avoid depressing days of sunless winters.

Rachit is crazy about trains. His dream is to visit France to travel in TGV – the world’s fastest train. He was excited that we would be traveling in Rajdhani Express – India’s fastest train.

Our first train journey was ok. We were traveling in night, so nothing special to write about. Traveling in India’s fastest train did not turn out to be that different for Rachit. Though, I would like to share my concerns about the hygiene of the meals served in the Rajdhani. The dinner trays were kept very close to toilets before being served to the passengers. I had to overcome my revulsion to finish the meal. I think this may echo the sentiments of thousands of train travelers.

We reached Ahmedabad the next morning. There was a full day between our arrival in the morning and departure at night. Jaishree was tired. She could not sleep properly in the train. We looked for an accommodation close to the railway station to take rest.

We zeroed in on Moti-Mahal Hotel. Unfortunately, it was too near to appeal to any auto driver to take us there. It required some convincing and some extra money to persuade the auto driver. For the auto-wallah the hope was that we may change our decision and may request him to take us to another accommodation, where he could possibly make some extra money as commission.

I was of the opinion that as we needed the hotel room only for the day, I would be able to convince the hotel manager to offer us a discounted tariff. I could not convince him and we had to pay the full tariff (Rs 550+4% tax).

Area around Moti Mahal

Traffic near Hotel Moti Mahal and railway station

This hotel and the railway station are located in old Ahmedabad – the walled city. The traffic in front of the hotel was heavy and the roads were congested. Luckily our room was not facing the road else the traffic could have been very annoying. It was good to see CNG autos there. This adoption of CNG should be the savior of the lungs of the walled city residents. Anybody could guess else how polluted the whole place would be!

Moti-Mahal was an ok kind of accommodation. It had a clean room and clean-spacious bathroom with hot water. I found the room small. But even in peak tourist season they were not charging very high amount, so the expectations were not high. However, we felt that it would be better to stay in quieter areas than in the walled city.

We were invited for dinner at my brother-in-law’s parent’s house. Auto-wallah’s in Ahmedabad are in general honest and go by the meter. It was an interesting ride to their home during late afternoon. The city was preparing itself for the kite festival. The grand finale of that takes place on the  15th Jan every year, on the festival of Makar Sankranti. Roadside shops were bustling with preparation of the colorful manjaas (thread to fly kites) with glass coating. All these shops were decorated with Charkhis (the spindles), kites and the manjaas. India is a country associated with riot of colors. We Indians are always looking for opportunities to celebrate in colors and, with colors.

As kids, we used to relish Makar Sankranti. In Khetrinagar, the small township where I had spent the most beautiful days of my life, we used to gather on terraces and playgrounds. There used to be fierce kite competitions. Every cutting of opponents thread was greeted with “woh kaata, woh maara!” at the top of our lungs and occasional drumming of old tin boxes.

Flying kites is good for the eyes of computer professionals sitting for long hours in front of their computers. Eyes need to look at infinity to reduce the negative effect of continuous staring at screens from short distances. What else can be a better way to do so then indulging in this sport?

We had a nice evening with our warm and jovial hosts. My BIL’s mother is an expert cook. I believe that anything that is cooked and served with love makes it extraordinary and there we had an extraordinary meal served with love. A meal with them is always a privilege. We had a hearty dinner. Even kids ate without fuss and filled themselves completely.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and tried to find an auto to take us to the railway station to catch our night train. We could not find any. Sometimes having a hotel at stone’s throw may not be desirable :) Finally we managed to carry the luggage on foot till the railway station.

We boarded Veraval Express. This time we had side berths. I wonder, how Railways is justified, in the difference of the amount one pays for II AC side seat and III AC side seat. It seems to me that railway is also aware of this unfairness. So they are planning to add an extra side berth in III AC at the cost of passengers’ breathing space. Sometimes its better avoid making noises about injustice. After all sometimes justice itself is unjustified. I hope that the air flights remain cheap enough for the railways to abandon this idea.

We reached Veraval, the nearest railhead for Somnath, in the morning. Veraval is around 6 Km from Somnath. It was the major seaport for the Mecca headed pilgrims before the rise of Surat. It is still one of India’s major shipping ports. During the British rein, cannons were kept at the ruins of Somnath to keep this sea port safe from sea pirates.

Autos were readily available at Veraval for Somnath. Auto-wallah asked us for Rs 30 to take us to hotel Shivam in Somnath. Almost midway between Somnath and Veraval, we felt a pungent strong smell of dead sea fishes. The smell was coming from nearby “fish-factories”. In my guidebook a few hotels of Veraval were suggested to be avoided in case someone is sensitive to that smell. I was happy that we decided not to stay in Veraval.

Hotel Shivam was in the middle of narrow alleys. Our auto tried to cross an open drain with a stone over it operating as a bridge. The stone cracked in two and the front wheel of the auto went into the drain. There was no way that our auto could move ahead. So we paid the auto driver and carried our luggage to the hotel.

One month prior to our visit to Somnath I made a casual enquiry about the availability of  rooms in Somnath. In all the hotels I called, I was told that all the rooms were booked. I started to panic. One option was to go to Somnath without any accommodation and to search for an accommodation there. Somnath is a small place. I was unsure of decent hotels in Somnath. In hotel Shivam there was a double room available in for 1500 Rs. Inspite of  knowing that the price is on the higher side, I booked it. On seeing the room, I grudgingly realized that this price being charged was almost 4-5 times of its normal traiff. This is amongst the drawbacks of traveling in peak tourist season. Families with school going kids perhaps have no alternative.

There are a good number of decent hotels in Somnath. Our hotel was situated in a congested part. It was hard to get fresh air and sun there. The hotel and the room in general were clean, with hot water in bathroom. But in mornings and evenings, there was smell of dead sea-fishes. Mayuram, another well known hotel was situated at a better location. There is also the newly constructed Sukhsagar hotel near Somnath’s new railway station. I felt that it was the best amongst all.

After checking in, we ate breakfast at Bhabha restaurant that was adjacent to our hotel. In the restaurants of this region we observed that the seats were with high backs. It gives privacy but takes away the warmth and liveliness. We neither liked the ambience nor the preparation of this restaurant.

Later on we discovered an Amul outlet just in front of Somnath temple. The very first day it was where we took our meal in the form of Shrikhands, Masala Chaach and ice creams. And there was a big tree to protect us from the harsh and scorching sun and a platform was constructed around its trunk. Nice place to enjoy the Amul meals.

Near Amul outlet there was a market. In the center of that market there were eateries all around with a raised area in between. We specially enjoyed Gujarati khichdi plate at ShivShakti restaurant there.

Enfiled Jugaad, commonly seen in Kathiawad

Enfield Jugaad, commonly seen in Kathiawad

Coming to the Somnath temple, I believe that the places of worship are for believers and devotees, not for tourists. But I visited Somnath temple more as a tourist. My observations would be accordingly. Am I also among the self-confessed religiously challenged ghumakkars! ;)

It was already around noon when we were ready to enter the temple. Even in winters sun started to become harsh. The big space outside temple was clean and concreted. A statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel was facing the temple. There were flocks of pigeons fed by tourists and devotees. Small act of kindness, be it with fellow human beings or animals and birds increase the general aura of spirituality. Pigeons are amongst the most docile birds. It’s calming to see them eating, and then suddenly flying off and then coming down again all-together. A few kids were chasing them and forcing them to fly.

Pigeons in front of Somnath Temple

Pigeons in front of Somnath Temple

There were long queues of school kids waiting for their turn to enter inside. Photography is disallowed inside the temple. Facilities are provided to leave luggage and footwear outside. Lockers are also provided free of cost for keeping valuables and cameras.

On first looks, the exteriors of this temple looked impressive. It is planned in the style of the Solanki period. We entered inside. I was of the impression that this temple is among the rich Indian temples. I was expecting the construction to be comparable to Akhshardhams. It was not. Carvings on the wall were gross and lacked refinement. In-total it was an unattractive modern construction. This observation is only as far as the touristic external looks are concerned.

Somnath temple has received many terror threats, so ample security arrangements have been done to protect it.

On the first day we could not attend the aarti in the temple. Next day we were pressed on by the owner of ShivShakti restaurant to attend it. It was worth it. I recommend participating in one in order to see the fervor and zeal of devotees and to experience the crescendo of devotion.

The best part of Somnath temple was its vicinity to the vast-tranquil sea and the Grey sand beach just next to  its boundary.

After visiting the temple and taking our Amul meal, my wife and kids decided to take rest in the hotel. It was decided that after some rest my wife would call me back once she was ready. In the mean time I could gallavant around, as I wanted. I decided to use this time to explore the town.

My first destination was an old museum that is situated north of the temple. The courtyard of that museum was littered with a jumble of old carved stones, statues, section of roof pillars and torans of the remains of the old temple. All of them were telling the same stories of vandalism, demolitions and destructions. I wonder how breaking idols could be an act of bravery. It reminds me of Taliban gleefully blowing down the colossal statues of Buddha in Bamiyan in front of the world media. The whole world looked helpless and watched as mere spectators. Some day in future Afghanistan will understand the loss they had on that day.

While loitering in the museum I noticed that all those remains lacked the refinement and sophistication of  Khajuraho. I remained wondering, was the temple of Somnath really so grand and sophisticated as it sounds in folklores! Or is it that in the series of attacks and in the centuries of negligence, it had lost all that made it so unique.

There was no call even after I came out. So, I decided to visit an old temple in front of the new Somnath temple. There was no one to take care of one’s shoes. Before the trip I had bought new Reebok shoes. God kept a strange condition for me. If I had to visit Him, I had to shun my materialistic affinities. I requested a guard to take care of my shoes and he shrugged my request telling me that he had better business to attend to. I tried to fool God. I took off my shoes and did a 100 meter race to do the darshan. As the distance upto the sancta sanctorum was more than 100 meters, I had to return midway. God smiled at my attempt. There was a beggar. I thought of asking him to take care of my shoes. But I could not convince myself that he would remain there till I return. Sadly, in the end, my love for my new shoes won and my tryst with God on that day was not ordained to happen :(

Dejected I moved away from the temple. There was still no call. So I decided to explore more. First I moved towards Somnath’s new museum. It was near the bus stand, but was closed for renovation. It is dedicated to regional “coastal life” and maritime events. There I was told about Sangam and that Sharda Peeth, Gita Mandir and Surya Mandir were in its vicinity. I walked towards Sangam. It was around one kilometer from the temple.

I was sure that at Sangam I would not have to take off my shoes and so I decided first to explore it. आख़िर दूध का जला छाछ भी फूँक फूँक कर पीता है (Its literal english translation is that those who burn their tongue drinking hot milk, sip even the buttermilk cautiously. In other words, once bitten twice shy).

I liked the place. So I returned quickly to come back with the family.

When I returned, I saw that the kids and my wife were awake. When I told them about Sangam, everyone got interested.

The laid back life of Somnath started to absorb us in. We decided to hire buggy to go to Sangam. The whole setting reminded me of Dilip Kumar’s famous film “Naya Daur”. It was a little before sunset. Somnath temple was gleaming in sunlight. It was a beautiful sight to view the glowing temple from the hooded rear portion of the buggy.

Sangam is located at the confluence of Kapila, Hiranya and vanished Saraswati rivers. At the entrance we bought some biscuits meant for fish. When we threw them in the water it was fun to see shoals of fishes rushing to grab them.

The tussle to grab the biscuit

The tussle to grab the biscuit

The scene seemed typical of a rugby match. A lucky fish moving ahead with its prized possession and other fishes vehemently following it. In this case though at the end the ball ended up being devoured by the hungry players. Such interesting sights usually evoke joy and excitement in the hearts of small children.

Lucky winner moving ahead with its prized catch

Lucky winner moving ahead with its prized catch

To commemorate the inauguration of Sangam by Morarji Desai there was a statue of his nearby. Morarji Desai, though spent most of his political time in Indian national congress, but has the distinction of leading the first non-congress government of India. He is the only Indian to receive the highest civilian awards from both India and Pakistan, the Bharat Ratna and Nishaan-e-Pakistan. As a kid I always sympathized with him as he was born on 29th Feb and could celebrate his birthday only once in 4 years. As an adult I envy him, he lived for 99 years but was only 24 birthday old. He is ridiculed for his championing of self urine therapy. I do believe that it is because such alternative ways are so looked down in the press.

Morarji Bhai Desai

Morarji Bhai Desai

At Sangam a few Brahmins were chanting shlokas and conducting prayers around  small shivlingas which they had brought with themselves. A few devotees were taking bath in the holy water after the prayers. It gave the whole place an atmosphere of calm, peace and religious feel.

Sangam near Somnath

Sangam in Somnath

A crane on the shore kept us entertained.

Western Reef Egret

Western Reef Egret

Mr Bagula Bhagat sometimes stood still while sometimes ran behind fishes with his tilted neck – like an old chowkidar of a mango orchard running behind children, who enter  inside the orchard excitedly looking forward to enjoying the luscious mangoes; never really been able to catch any of them.

The tlted neck Mr Bagula

The tlted neck Mr Bagula

Then there was something very pathetic to watch. After the prayers the Brahmins left the portable shivlingas unattended on the shore. I witnessed a dog lifting its leg there. Pitiful!

An abandoned Shivlinga at Sangam

An abandoned Shivlinga at Sangam

We decided to take a boat ride. The required number of passengers assembled and we boarded the boat. We were taken to the point from where the rivers Kapila and Hiranya could be seen arriving from different directions, till then with completely distinct identities. Eventually  they got  married at Sangam and lost their individuality completely.

The Great White Pelicans

The Great White Pelicans

There we could see big white water birds. Are they the Great white Pelicans? I requested the boatman to take us closer to the birds. He declined, explaining that the water there was shallow and hence going further was not possible.

The Great White Pelicans at Sangam, Somnath

The Great White Pelicans at Sangam, Somnath

It was the closest we could watch those magnificent, beautiful white birds.

On Rachit’s insistence after sangam we went straight to chowpatty – the sea beach abutting the Somnath temple.  (Yes, this beach was also called chowpatty like the one in Mumbai). As we reached there, we saw a few kinnars coming towards us. Rachit commented – “पापा, मस्त ताली बजाने वाले आ रहे हैं ” (Papa, the people who clap perfectly are coming towards us).

The beach was very lively. There were hordes of tourists sipping coconut water, eating chaats, and taking camel & horse rides. Camels at Chowpatty were very conscious about their beautiful faces and all of them could be seen wearing hats to avoid sunburns. Sorry, I don’t have a photograph of that!

Sun was yet to set. It was looking tired but experienced. The fierce yellow shine was paving way to a soothing yellow and the temple was glowing.

Somnath Temple

Somnath Temple

Setting sun has its own charm and it never ceases to impress us. Rachit was enjoying the incoming and receding waves, running forward and backward with them. But the camels and horses were also running along the shore and his safety became a matter of concern for us.

My younger kid - Tanmay

My younger kid – Tanmay

The Sunset

The Sunset

Rachit At Chowpatty, Somnath

Rachit At Chowpatty, Somnath

The final Dip

The final Dip

We decided to move from chowpatty to finish our meal before the sound and light show at the temple. After dinner,  the toll of continuous two night of train journeys,  began to appear. Inspite of  his tremendous efforts and strong desire to see the show, Rachit gave up and so did we. We also realized that he had fever and then decided to call it a day.

52 Comments

  • Sudhir says:

    Manish does it again. A detailed description with all the nitty-gritty thrown in. Sunset pics are awesome.

  • JATINDER SETHI says:

    Manish dear,
    great pictures,In-fact,just before I saw your post with excellent pictures of nature,I had forwareded a mail to Nandan “Nature at its best”, which I got from an old colleague of mine.See them because your pics are no less.Well, like you ,we have visited lot of religeous old temples,includingGolden Temple,as “tourists”–but once you step in,ones mood changes and and you feel the presence of some higher power! (Which perhaps disappears the moment you are out) .Train journeys are still great fun,even with deisal engines!

  • smitadhall says:

    Wonderful account, once again! Somnath Temple from the text books I read, always gave me a feeling of shiny, gold, rich structure which is about to get invaded.

    The pictures of the birds and the sunset are really very nice.

  • nandanjha says:

    After reading this, the myth behind Somnath Temple is almost gone. I always thought that Somnath temple is something but it seems that a day and a half might be enough, a stop-over on the way.

    Did you click a camel with the cap ? I have never seen one.

    Glad to find more religiously-challenged ghumakkars :)

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Thanks a lot Sudhir. You are always among the first few to read. Its always a pleasure to get a comment from you.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Sethiji,

    Very well summarized about the feelings when one enter inside religious places. I believe that its all power of human thoughts. In religious places the power of combined pious thoughts have such profound effects :) Nevertheless its among the few times that we can pause for some time and can think of bigger purposes of having a human life. Time for our soul to spend with its father.

    First of all thanks for the praise of photographs. I will request Nandan to forward those photographs to me.

    For me train journeys are fun when I am travelling in day time and in sleeper class. The tinted windows of AC, takes the fun away.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Smita,

    For me too its the same feeling. The new structure is un-attractive, but Somnath still reminds me of the temple with all its splendor, ready to be invaded. Its glorious past is etched deeper.

    Its a pleasure that you liked the pictures of Sunset and the bird. The pictures of Sunset are taken by Jaishree and I also liked them.

    In this trip I have a few photos with lots of noise and the reason is that I selected the highest speed ISO 800 in my digicam and spoilt many possibly good composition. Good that we learnt the lesson.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Nandan,

    For a tourist, I think a day and half in Somnath is enough.

    After writing about it, I too searched to see that have I taken any such photo. But there is none :(

  • Cuckoo says:

    Such a detailed description and what a read. Equally supported by good pictures. Gujarat is in my list too. I believe the less traveled places make it more interesting.

    And that hotel discount for a day ?? No way. Even then I feel 550/- is quite cheap.
    We also tried that in Amritsar when we wanted hotel room for just an hour. No luck.

    Tell Rachit, I’ll take him along when I go next time to Europe. :)

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    What an offer, I am sure Rachit will be spellbound :)

    I am seeing your comment after long time. Its definitely a nice feeling.

    There is a definite charm of exploring less travelled places.

    There are not many high range hotels in Gujarat. Most of them are mid range.

    Owner of hotel Motimahal was also telling us the same thing that he would have charged the same amount even if we wanted to stay there for just an hour. And I thought he is exaggerating. Thanks again Cuckoo for your comment :)

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Manish – In this trip you stayed at few places viz. Motimahal, Shivam, Annapoorna, Anil, Leo. A one page review (250 words) with couple of pics would go a long way in helping fellow ghumakkars.

    I know it not exciting to write these hotel reviews, but the upside is that by the time you finish with your Gujarat Saga, you would have hit into thirtees (no of stories).

  • Gopal says:

    Really very mast detailed trips. Thanks to manish

  • manish khamesra says:

    Nandan,

    I understand the need of hotel reviews as I myself searched for it many times before our trip.

    You can call it my limitation, but in my dictionary a hotel is just a place with a bed. Though I try to write a little about the hotel too, but I noticed that its not only repetitive; also I can’t write more than a para. I have explained to my conscious mind that this inability is due to my sub-concious definition of an hotel ;)

    Anyway, wherever possible, I will try to write about it even if its a para.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Gopal,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Getting comments from old readers is like meeting old friends and getting comments from new readers is like making new ones :)

    Its my pleasure that you enjoyed it.

  • smitadhall says:

    I am still wondering about clicking a camel with the cap!

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Smita and Nandan,

    Asking about the photos of camels with hat you have increased my sense of loosing the opportunity :(

  • Hi Manish,

    WRT your Ahmedabad stay, I know the perils of staying close to a station. No Auto/ Rickshaw is ready to take me home because it is very near to the railway station. I found a way out and I hire them for Hazrartganj.

    So God decided not to appear before you;-) Whatever happens is His will.

    Great write up with lots of varied insights like the need to look at infinity to compensate for the screen focus. And the Doodh chhachh translation;-)

    Do not worry, the Side middle berth is never going to come to Rajdhani trains.

    The snaps are superb, especially the Sun-set ones.

    Good that you did take care of Rachit at Somnath beach as waves at this place are known to have caused tragedies.

    As far as the beauty of the craft of the temple is concerned, it may not be a very fine piece of work at a detail level, but as a whole the structure looks magnificent from a distance. The remnants of one of the original temples are also there and they apperaed to have better work.

    Somnath’s greatness is probably from the history and legends around it. And that it is one of the Jyotirlingams.

    Look forward to report from Gir. Did not consider Diu? How are the roads of Surashtra now?

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Rajeev thanks for the detailed comment.

    I don’t know about Rajdhanis but I have heard that the side berth in III AC is no more just a thinking, its already been implemented in many trains. I don’t know how they manage during day travel. It would soon become the most dreaded seat to get.

    I too liked the snaps, they are taken by my wife :)

    I agree with you that the temple of Somnath looks very impressive from far and its Mahatamya is more because of it being a jyotirlinga. There were several idols in making, may be it will get richer with time.

    I was not aware of dangers at Somnath beach and there was no sign board too.

    No we didn’t plan to go to Diu. When I read about it, I could not find anything interesting there. I read that Diu is visited by Gujaratis mainly because Gujarat is a dry state. As there was no need to quench my thirst ;) so I gave it a miss.

    When we went there, we were waiting to see the GREAT roads of Gujarat. We were disappointed with what we saw. When we asked about it in Sasan gir. We were told that when Gujarat’s chief ministers attention was drawn towards it (on his visit to Saurashtra). He jokingly replied that its a jungle and what else can be condition of roads in Jungle :) Hope the improvement is the next in plan.

  • Then pass my compliments on the snaps to Jayshree.

    True, SMB is there in many trains, including my hometrain, Lucknow mail and all Garib Rath trains. But now there are news about IR not using them and in many SMBed trains these are not being allotted on reservation.

    Diu has got one of the most serene and clean beaches, albeit small. There is this portugese fort with canons and light house and a great Church. True that the major draw is the free flow.

    About a decade back, roads were in good condition, even if with single and narrow carriageways.

    And I am sure you would have sipped the thick Saurashtra Tea in a saucer?

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Rajeev,

    I will surely pass the compliments.

    I forgot that I am talking with the member of Indian railway fan club. I am happy to know about the disabandoning of SMB during allocation. Today only I requested my colleage to send me the site with Great railway pictures: Here are the two sites he sent: http://www.railpictures.net/ and http://www.irfca.org/ May be the first one is new for you :)

    It seems you have very nice & live memories of your own Gujarat trip. I am sure when commenting you would have wondered that that trip happened about a decade back. Good to get comments/reminders from a person who too travel a lot and remember things in detail.

    Thanks for reminding me of thick Saurashtra Tea in a saucer. In my hometown Udaipur too, there was(I am not sure, is it still so) this tradition of drinking tea in saucers with a loud noise. It seems so familiar that I almost forgot it :)

  • nandanjha says:

    SMB is gone, that what I remember to read a while back.

    Diu is on my list, and if I can drive from here then thats super. For thirst thing, I hope MK moves to the other side of fence as both of us grow old (and foolish).

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    I will ;) but just to keep balance, will first wait for you to cross the fence.

  • Manish,

    Thanks for the compliments. Though, most of my memories from Saurashtra are 10 years old, I still keep travelling to Gujarat. The one about riskyness of the Somnath beach is a current information I got from someone.

    Back then I stayed in Saurashtra for a few months and did the Amreli-Mahua-Una-Somnath-Gir trip regularly, though I remeber practically nothing.

    I am aware of railpictures.net, in fact it is hard to miss for people like us. Though now a days, it is hard to find time for train pics. I am giving you a link to a classic train pics site which also has contributions from an old IRFCA member Ronald Kappel, whose snaps from scandinavian train routes are simply breathtaking. Hope you will like them, a few of them were my desktop images for long time.

    http://rail-photos.fotopic.net/

    The tea in saucer with overflowing cup is hard to forget. As is the would be groom, always carrying a big Sword.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Thanks Rajeev for the site of train pics and the informative comment too. Rachit is great fan of trains, so I am sure he would love to see them. I have a strong feeling that I too will enjoy them.

    I have to be careful that my Gujarat travelogue would be read by a person who knows all this so well :) Thanks for adding more info to it.

  • Thanks Manish. I was looking for something on Gujarat in ghumakkar, when I came to your report. I am planning to have a family trip (you know the pilgrimage kind) to Gujarat/Rajasthan sometime in near future. I look forward to reading the rest off your trip to relive my memories as well as to update myself with the current situation.

    By the way, it is Holi today and I take this opportunity to Wish You Jaishree, Rachit and the younger one and to all those reading this, a very Colourful and Festive Holi.

    Now, while on Sauarshtra and Udaypur, I cannot but recall that my friend in Saurashtra hailing from Udaypur used to bring a heady “Holi special” issue of a local mag or something similar. Is that still published?

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Rajeev,

    Thanks a lot for your Holi wishes :) and wish the same to you and your family.

    It will be my pleasure that these travelogues may help you to finalize the details. I will try to complete them as soon as possible.

    About “Holi Special” issue of a local magazine, I can enquire about it. In case you know the name, I will do enquire. Obviously, in case you are recommending it, I will like to read it too :)

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Sun, sea and sand being the primary objective, it seems you had enough. However, barring a few days there was ample sun even in Noida, owing probably to changing global weather patterns.

    Even though the place isnt worth a visit, your narration makes it an interesting reading, as usual. Agree with everyone on the pictures.

  • arvindpadmanabhan says:

    I completely understand your dilemma of leaving footwear unattended before entering a temple. On some days when on a temple trail I have removed and worn my shoes no less that ten times. Most often I leave footwear outside but sometimes I put them in my backpack. This works only if the security is lax.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Parick,

    Thanks as ever for going through the post and leaving the encouraging comment.

    We also write on ghumakkar to promote more and more people to visit a place. So, I would not say that Somnath isn’t worth a visit. People always come with different opinions about the same place. I shared my experiences about Somnath, but other travellers may have different experiences. Though this is true that I was disappointed in the temple, I had grander expectations.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Arvind,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Footwears inside backpack :) very interesting.

    Does it defies the whole purpose of taking off the footwears ? I am 80% convinced that it does not.

  • tripper says:

    i think u guys are doin great job at ghumakkar bout various relativly unknown places…..i feel tat somnath temple is not a place for beach sports or beach activities but its rather a pilgrimage spot……wit some attractions thrown in…….one thing many of you might not know is that somnath mandir trust has a very slow speed of renovation due to the fact that it dsnt take any help from government and only money recieved from devotees is used for renovation and beautification purpose and social activities…this temple has not yet been comercialised like mathura temples or other places of worship……there are less chances of pilgrims bein made fools….and it is amongst the few places which have stood the test of time and rose from ashes again and again…….

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      First of all thanks again Tripper for giving your valuable feedback. Every opinion enriches us.

      I agree with you that this temple has not yet been comercialized and that the mandir trust does not take any help from govenment. About restoration work, we all can have different views. My mother was very happy on the prospect that this temple once again be covered with gold(as it is planned), but on the contrary I felt that more money could be spent on more refined work on stone. It also depends what you are looking for and sometimes also on what were your expectations.

      Its all personal opinion and I am sure that you will agree with me that anyone who initiates a work gets both applause and criticism, but those who criticize might not do a better work than those already managing it :-)

  • tripper says:

    those who visit somnath please watch the light and sound show conducted every night at 8.30 pm for 20 or 30 bucks adults….the show tells the story of somnath temple….but wat i like the most is the great voice of amrish puri telling the whole story as SAGAR ( THE SEA)….it also voice of darshan jariwala and other theatre actressess.,.plz watch it once its really good….and yeah even i dont like coating the whole temple in gold….it looks realyy bad…..

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Tripper you have increased the feeling of missing the sound and light show. I can’t really help it …I think this input will definitely help many readers to include this show as part of their itinerary.

      Thanks for it. I did not see any mention of Amrish Puri’s voice, at any other site as well. This information will definitely help many.

  • Manish, The trip to Somnath and Dwarka is on. We will make it a point to see the light n sound show. Also we would be stopping over at Udaipur for a night.

    Please name a couple of decent budget hotels, and whether Kajri is ok?

    Thanks
    rajeev

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Rajeev,

      Wish you a happy new year and a great trip ahead too :-)

      Rajeev from your side I also thank Toral for suggesting and writing about the sound and light show at Somnath.

      You asked for decent budget hotels but where in Somnath or is it in Udaipur. I learnt from a comment that you are also planning to include Udaipur in your trip. Please make sure that you visit “Bagore ki Haveli”, you can also visit it in evening for an hourly cultural show. I have not seen the cultural show , but should be interesting.

      As an option to Ranakpur you can also think about Kumbhalgarh / Mt Abu. There is nothing comparable to the temples of Dilwara in the whole world. Rankapur is beautiful, but Dilwara is incomparable. I think you will definitely love to visit Eklingji (very closer to Udaipur) and may be Nathdwara as well. You may decide to leave Nathdwara but please do visit Eklingji. Its on the way to Udaipur and people who have been there are taken away by its auspicious atmosphere.

      • Thanks a lot Manish.
        And yes, Indeed I must thank Tripper (Toral?) also for suggesting the sound and light show at Somnath.
        I actually asked about budget hotels in Udaipur. At somnath we are planning to stay at the temple trust guest houses.
        We will try to include Mt Abu too and definitely visit Eklingji temple.
        Thanks

        • Manish Khamesra says:

          Sorry for a late reply Rajeev. Actually I have never been a tourist in Udaipur so it was difficult for me to comment about it. I enquired from my friend and he commented that the location is good(anyway in UDR all places are nearby only), but he was not sure about how it is from inside. I personally feel that the RTDC hotels are located at good locations, the rent is less and the rooms are big. The only reason why tourists don’t like it much is the “I-DONT_CARE” attitude of some of the staff. Though sometimes the staff is good too.

          My friend also suggested hotel Meera ( should be of RTDC only). May be you can check that as well.

  • I wrote about Taliban’s destruction of Buddha’s statues in Bamyan. It is difficult to know that what was the reaction of the Bamyanese who have lived with those statues for so many centuries.

    Indian Express today carried a report about Simogarh Film association of culture and art from Herat in Afghanistan. This group staged a play called “Salsal and Shahmaama” in Delhi as part of Leela, the first South Asian Women’s theatre festival on this Saturday.

    Here is what these people of Bamyan has to say about it: “In 2001, when the Taliban destroyed the gigantic Buddha statues carved into a mountain in Bamyan, it wasn’t only art that was reduced to rubble. The Buddha’s symbolized the ancestry of the people of Bamyan. We called the larger statue Salsal and the smaller one Shahmaama or queen mother and believed that they were the legendary figure that gave birth to our community. In one brutal stroke Taliban wiped out our identity.”

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Thank you Mr Subramaniam for leaving your kind comment on all the posts you have gone through and liked.

      I really liked Ur gravatar :-) Having two kids of the same age Denis has become one of mine favourite character. I can’t stop myself from looking at his strips in HT and they always bring broad smiles, sometimes a laughter as well ;-)

  • Mallikarjun says:

    the description & pics were awesome as we are going somnath on 20 july infomation was very helpful
    for us

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Thanks Mallikarjun.

      Its a pleasure to know that the information in the post was helpful :-)
      And thank s for leaving your encouraging comment.

  • tripper says:

    it seems i have already visited somnath for thousand times n m still looking forward to visit it again this diwali to pray for the new arrival in our family also included on the tour is diu….one of the place i love, though it doesnt have any special things to offer..but it kind of gives u a feeling like being in mini goa..last time i visited somnath was in diwali 2009…cant wait….

    • Hi Toral

      Its a special occassion.
      I wish you a blissful-spiritual trip ahead.

      Wishing you and your family a Happy Deepawali. Please keep updated the ghumakkar famliy of your visits.

      Enjoy :-) & take care.

  • While reading about Morarji Desai in the article I realized that I have written a shallow and shabby paragraph on this political stalwart of Indian politics. This feeling is accentuated as I was reading about Morarji Desai in Indian Express, an article titled “Why Morarji was bound to lose” by political commentator Mr Inder Malhotra. I am putting forth some interesting observations.

    Morarji Desai was not an ordinary politician. In-fact he was third time lucky when he became first non-congress prime minister. He was finance minister in Jawahar lal Nehru’s cabinet and was a serious contender for the post of prime minister. In-fact Inder Malhora has described an incident on April 26, 1963 in the parliament where he displayed an authoritarian, rather dictatorial side of his personality that deeply alienated the bulk of his own partymen and generated fears of possible dangers of Morarji Desai succeeding Nehru.

    Inder Malhotra has also put contrast in his and Shashtriji’s working style. His dictatorial attitude was compared with Shashtriji’s unfailing search for consensus on every issue, his willingness to listen to every point of view, and above all, his absolute refusal to impose his views on anyone and after Jawahar lal Nehru’s death Kamraj and the syndicate ensured that the Lal Bahadur Shastri should be the next prime minister.

    Morarji Desai got second chance of becoming India’s prime minister after the unfortunate death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, but then his dreams were shattered by determined Indira Gandhi.

    In one of his article only, I think I have read that when the writer contacted Morarji Desai and asked his view about Indira Gandhi toppling his dreams, he confided in him that his astrologer has told him that one day he will rule the country and his party would be in power in five states and this is exactly what happened in 1977

    (Why I wrote the above paragraph because such information do make me wonder, is it so possible to predict a person’s fate, in that case do we have a destiny, I agree that the destiny can be changed by hard work etc etc, but do we have a destiny). If astrology can predict even 10% of a person’s fate, I am in awe of it. Anyway it is one of many digressions I have while I write.

    Important is that Morarji Desai was not a minnow, and I do believe that no person without capabilities could have reached the clout of No2 position and we are talking about leaders just after independence.

    Reading the article by Inder Malhotra made me realize that how little I know about him and I will gladly share whatever I will learn about this strong leader.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Dear Manish Khamesra,
    Morarji Desai’s astrologer has told him that one day he will rule the country and his party would be in power in five states and this is exactly what happened in 1977. Seems good and may be more than one astrologer can claim for it. In my point of view Astrologer can tell which time is good for start a new work or if someone failed in any particular business he can ask. I not trust in astrology. In 2004 me and my wife visit to a astrologer and he told us “we will have car and own house”. That time I had only Hero moped and rented house. In 2005 I bought own house and Luxury car. May be astrologer guess it that we were moving to Canada , House and Car are normal here.

    Regards

    • Dear Surinderji

      May be Astrologer predicted it by knowing that you are moving to Canada. However, even after deciding to move you were not aware that it is common to own house and car in Canada. May be astrologer had met a number on NRI indians and he had some idea.

      My quest is not even that astrologers can predict something or not. And I am sure that predictions can be changed as well. As written in Andha Yug by Dharamveer Bharti that when Duryodhan started the war against Pandavs, all astrologers predicted his win but one person (lord Krishna) challenged the fate with all his conviction and was able to change the destiny.

      The quest is do we have destinies. Probably macro level boundaries are defined for us and micro management is left to us. And by giving us brain, we are let free to stretch and to make our own macro level boundaries as well.

      If destinies exists, the question that comes to my mind is who has defined these destinies, who has created these macro boundaries. I am not seeking an answer in this forum, I am just sharing my thought process. I will prefer to find an answer on my own.

      • D.L.Narayan says:

        Manish jee, I would have missed out on this beautiful post if you had not commented about it. The pictures were truly awesome.

        Regarding Morarji Desai, I do not think that you were flippant in any way in your comments about him. He was a man of principles, very rigid and self-righteous and faced a lot of ridicule during his lifetime. I had the privilege of seeing him once in 1978 when he was in his 80’s but had the appearance and energy of a much younger person. He was definitely a worthy Bharat Ratna awardee.

        • Manish Khamesra says:

          Dear DL

          May I request you to please call me Manish. ??? ?? ???? ?????? ????? ?? ??? ???? DL ?? ???? ???? ????| ?? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?? ?? ?? ??? ???| I am sure that because of genuinity of my request you will be addressing me as Manish now.

          Generally when I see something related to my earlier post, I like to add as comments. You can say that I use the post as archival of information. However, this time when I was commenting, I had a feeling that may be I will get some comment/note from you. I was so right. Thanks.

          Coming back to the comment, I must say that this is what I like about the ghumakkar the most. We have people from across the age groups and many a times we get privilege to hear from much more experienced people, their views, the anecdotes ( and I treasure that).

          Thanks again for giving your personal account of Morarji Bhai.

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