Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mnajdra - Prehistoric Temples of Malta



Name :  Mnajdra

Location :

Mnajdra  is a megalithic temple complex found on the southern coast of the Mediterranean island of Malta. Mnajdra is approximately 500 metres from the Ħaġar Qim megalithic complex.

Description :

Mnajdra was built around the fourth millennium BCE; the Megalithic Temples of Malta are amongst the most ancient religious sites on Earth, described by the World Heritage Sites committee as "unique architectural masterpieces." In 1992 UNESCO recognized the Mnajdra complex and four other Maltese megalithic structures as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In 2009 work was completed on a protective tent.

Mnajdra is made of coralline limestone, which is much harder than the soft globigerina limestone of Ħaġar Qim. The main structural systems used in the temples are corbelling with smaller stones, and post-and-lintel construction using large slabs of limestone.

The cloverleaf plan of Mnajdra appears more regular than that of Ħagar Qim, and seems reminiscent of the earlier complex at Ggantija. The prehistoric structure consists of three conjoined but not connected temples: the upper, middle and lower.

The upper temple is the oldest structure in the Mnajdra complex and dates to the Ggantija phase (3600-3200 BC). It is a three-apsed building, the doorway of which is formed by a hole cut into a large piece of limestone set upright, a type of construction typical of other megalithic doorways in Malta. This temple appears originally to have had a vaulted ceiling, but only the base of the ceiling now remain on top of the walls. The pillar-stones were decorated with pitmarks drilled in horizontal rows on the inner surface.

The middle temple was built in the late Tarxien phase (3150 – 2500 BC) and, in fact, is the most recent structure. It is formed of slabs topped by horizontal courses.

The lowest temple, built in the early Tarxien phase, is the most impressive and possibly the best example of Maltese megalithic architecture. It has a large forecourt containing stone benches, an entrance passage covered by horizontal slabs, one of which has survived, and the remains of a possibly domed roof. The temple is decorated with spiral carvings and indentations, and pierced by windows, some into smaller rooms and one onto an arrangement of stones.

Functions :

The lowest temple is astronomically aligned and thus was probably used as an astronomical observation and/or calendrical site. On the vernal and the autumnal equinox sunlight passes through the main doorway and lights up the major axis. On the solstices sunlight illuminates the edges of megaliths to the left and right of this doorway.

Although there are no written records to indicate the purpose of these structures, archaeologists have inferred their use from ceremonial objects found within them: sacrificial flint knives and rope holes that were possibly used to constrain animals for sacrifice (since various animal bones were found). These structures were not used as tombs since no human remains were found. The temples contain furniture such as stone benches and tables that give clues to their use. Many artifacts were recovered from within the temples suggesting that these temples were used for religious purposes, perhaps to heal illness and/or to promote fertility.

Excavations  :

The excavations of the Mnajdra temples were performed under the direction of J.G. Vance in 1840, one year after the discovery of Ħagar Qim. In 1871, James Fergusson designed the first plan of the megalithic structure. The plan was quite inaccurate and hence in 1901, Dr. Albert Mayr made the first accurate plan which was based his findings. In 1910, Dr. Thomas Ashby performed further investigations which resulted in the collection of the important archaeological material. Further excavations were performed in December 1949, in which two small statues, two large bowls, tools and one large spherical stone, which was probably used to move the temple's large stones, were discovered.

Websites :

Hagar Qim - Prehistoric Temples of malta



Name : Hagar Qim (English: Standing/Worshipping Stones)

Location :

This megalithic temple complex found on the Mediterranean island of Malta, dating from the Ġgantija phase (3600-3200 BC).

The Megalithic Temples of Malta are amongst the most ancient religious sites on Earth, described by the World Heritage Sites committee as "unique architectural masterpieces." In 1992 UNESCO recognized Haġar Qim and four other Maltese megalithic structures as World Heritage Sites. Vere Gordon Childe, Professor of Prehistoric European Archeology and director of the Institute of Archaeology in the University of London from 1946-1957[5] visited Hagar Qim. His observation was:

    I have been visiting the prehistoric ruins all round the Mediterranean, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, Greece and Switzerland, but I have nowhere seen a place as old as this one.
    —Vere Gordon Childe, Professor of Prehistoric European Archeology

Hagar Qim's builders used globigerina limestone in the temple's construction. As a result of this, the temple has suffered from severe weathering and surface flaking over the millennia. In 2009 work was completed on a protective tent.

Excavation :



Ħaġar Qim was first explored in 1839 at public expense during the Governorship of Sir Henry Bouverie, by T.G. Vance of the Royal Engineers. Within two short months, that officer had made a plan of the buildings and sent to Valletta a stone altar, a decorated slab and seven stone statuettes which are now exhibited in the Valletta Museum. The account of his excavations was published in 1842. Further excavations were done in 1835 by Dr. A.A. Caruana.

In 17 September 1949, three statuettes and several pieces of a much larger stone statue were discovered buried beneath a rectangular stone. These statuettes, commonly known as the "fat ladies", are on display in the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta.
 
 

The megalithic complex of Haġar Qim is located atop a hill on the southern edge of the island of Malta, on a ridge capped in soft globigerina limestone. All exposed rock on the island was deposited during the Oligocene and Miocene periods of geological time. Globigerina limestone is the second oldest rock on Malta, outcropping over approximately 70% of the area of the islands. The builders used this stone throughout the temple architecture.

The temple’s façade is characterized by a trilithon entrance, outer bench and orthostats. It has a wide forecourt with a retaining wall and a passage runs through the middle of the building, following a modified Maltese megalithic design. A separate entrance gives access to four independent enclosures which replace the north-westerly apse.

Features of temple architecture reveal a preoccupation with providing accommodation for animal sacrifices, burnt offerings and ritual oracles. Recesses were used as depositories for sacrificial remains. Excavation has uncovered numerous statuettes of deities and highly decorated pottery.

No burials exist in the temple or the area surrounding Ħaġar Qim, nor have any human bones been discovered in Maltese temples. Bones of numerous sacrificial animals have been found. It is theorized that the Ħaġar Qim complex was built in three stages, beginning with the 'Old Temple' northern apses, followed by the 'New Temple', and finally the completion of the entire structure.

500 metres from Ħaġar Qim stands the Mnajdra megalithic temple. The surrounding area is typical of Mediterranean garrigue in its starkness and isolation; it is designated as a Heritage Park. A few hundred metres from the temple is one of the thirteen watchtowers built by Grand Master Martin de Redin, called Ħamrija Tower. A memorial to General Sir Walter Norris Congreve, Governor of Malta from 1924–1927, is located nearby. The village of Qrendi is a further two kilometres southwest of the temple complex.


The Temple Complex :

The Ħaġar Qim complex consists of a main temple and three additional megalithic structures beside it. The main temple was built between 3600 and 3200 BC; however, the northern ruins are considerably older. The outside entrance serves as an interior passage and connects six large chambers. The right apse is constructed as an arch to prevent the upright slabs falling inward. The outside wall, built of huge upright blocks, projects inwards, thus creating an extremely solid building. This entrance passage and first court follow the Maltese megalithic pattern but as building progressed, this design was considerably modified. The northwesterly apse was replaced by four independent enclosures.

Ħaġar Qim shares its basic architectural design with the Mnajdra, Tarxien and Ġgantija temple complexes. The basic shape includes forecourt and façade, elongated oval chambers, semi-circular recesses and a central passage connecting the chambers. This configuration is commonly termed "trefoil". It is also suggested that the shape of the temple in some way mimics the sacred sculptures found within them.

Main Temple

Beyond the temple entrance is an oval area 14.3 m (47 ft) long and 5.5 m (18 ft) wide with large slab walls, originally topped by courses of masonry. The two apsidal ends are separated from the central court by two vertical slabs pierced by rectangular openings. These openings are thought to have been adorned with curtains to limit access to the side apses. Visual access from the apses seems to have been limited to porthole slabs.


Past the first pair of apses, the temple interior is more firmly screened off than is usual at other temple sites. The central area is paved with well-set smooth blocks, and along the walls are low stone altars, originally decorated with pit-marks. Some of these blocks are discolored by fire. In 1839, archaeologists discovered important objects in this court, now shown in the Valletta Museum. These include stone statuettes, a detailed altar-stone with deep carvings representing vegetation, a stone slab with spirals in relief and a displaced sill-stone, illustrating a pair of opposing spirals similar to those of the Tarxien Temples.

On the outer side of the north flank of Hagar Qim a open-air shrine has been inserted into the wall, whose facade combines the suggestive symbols of the male and female generative organs. There is also the unique four-sided altar. Various facades of the temple have been interpreted as symbolically depicting male and female reproductive organs.

The right-hand apse contains a setting of low orthostats forming a pen, theoretically intended for the corralling of animals. The left-hand apse has a high trilithon altar on its left, two others on right with one in a smaller chamber. It also serves as a passage, admitting access to an additional chamber combining a central court, niche and right apse. A low-standing pillar stands at the end of the apse.


The entrance to the enclosure is well-paved and neatly flanked by slabs on end. A threshold is provided by a couple of conical pits connected at the apex, demonstrating the "rope holes" seen in many other Maltese temples. Heavy slabs form a Niche to the left of the entrance, to the right a cell contains an altar constructed out of a single block of stone and deeply discolored by action of fire. This space is theorized to have been the most sacred in the temple.

Northern Temple :

The northern temple is the oldest part of Ħaġar Qim, containing an oval chamber with a semi-circular apse on each side. Following the second doorway is another chamber with similar apses.

The northern temple uniquely has three insulated layers of flooring. The pavement on the topmost level is not marked by sacrificial fires, unlike the lower floors. Due to the different methods used in polishing the stone, scholars have theorized that the three layers of pavement illustrate three major shifts in construction at Ħaġar Qim.

Stone balls of different sizes are located alongside the walls of the northern temple and other parts of the structure. These are theorized to have been the rollers used to transport the megaliths. Excavations have revealed such rollers buried beneath the megaliths, thus contributing to a solid foundation.


Il- Misqa - The Watering Place 

Il-Misqa (English: the Watering Place), is a flat area of bare rock atop a hill nearby the temple complex. It contains seven bell-shaped reservoirs that still retain rain-water during any winter with an average rainfall. Of the seven, five wells hold water; the three wells which no longer hold water are the deepest and are joined as a single tank through subterranean channels. A monolith surmounts one of the dry holes and is theorized to have been used in drawing water from the well. An eighth well exists but is blocked up by a mature fig tree.

The water-channels cut in the surface of the rock distribute rain-water into the wells individually and the level of water in any well is kept relative to that of the immediately adjoining well. 

Women's Chamber 

The Northern Temple's first recess contains a round stone pillar and a rectangular slab held vertically ahead of the pillar. Resting on the slab are spherical hollows which may have served as holders in which to stand small libation jars. Jars excavated from the site are characterized by a specifically oval base, designed to stand upright when placed in the slab.

Remnants of the vertical blocks which once flanked the recess are still observable today. To the right of this chamber is another recess, containing an acoustic opening called the "oracle hole". Sound passed from the main chamber into the recess, and vice-versa. The hole has also been linked to alignments of the Summer solstice. On the right side of the chamber is a horizontal block that may have served as seating.

Website :

Ġgantija - Prehistoric temples of Malta

Name :  Ggantija
Location :
The largest megalithic complex in the Maltese islands, Ggantija stands high on the southeast slope of Xagħra hill, overlooking Ramla valley, southern Gozo, and beyond to Malta, five miles away. The site is composed of two temples spanning more than 120 feet, and enclosed by a single huge outer wall, which reaches almost twenty feet in height.
Legend :
According to an ancient legend, the temple walls were built in one day and one night by a female giant named Sunsuna, who did it while nursing a baby. Ggantija is Maltese for "giant's grotto." 


According to archaeologists, the Ggantija temples were dedicated to the Great Earth Mother, a goddess of fertility. Evidence indicates there was an oracle here, as at the much-later Temple of Apollo at Delphi. A priestess prophesied while in a trance, possessed by the spirit of the goddess. Ggjantija also seems to have been a place to pray for healing


In ancient times, the temples dedicated to the Mother Goddess at Ggantija drew pilgrims from across the island and even from North Africa and Sicily. 

Description :
The two temples of Gjantija are estimated to be 5,800 years old (built between 3600 and 3000 BC). One of them is the oldest stone structure in the world, predating Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids by hundreds of years. Round in shape and containing statues of full-figured goddesses, the Ggantija temples were dedicated to the Great Earth Mother and probably included an oracle. The site was a place of pilgrimage for the ancient inhabitants of Malta.
What to see : 

In addition to being the oldest, the Gjantija temples are the most complete shrine complexes on Malta. The two temples cover a total of 10,000 square feet. They are surrounded by a common wall, which reaches up to 17 feet, and they share a forecourt. 


As with many megalithic sites, it is hard to imagine how these ancient peoples were able to hoist stones weighing several tons into place. The slabs may have been rolled into place on "roller stones" about the size of cannon balls, which have been found on the site.


The Ggjantija complex is characterized by round, curved architecture, reflecting a powerful, full-figured Mother Goddess. The two shrines themselves suggest the body of the Earth Mother, with broad hips and full breasts. The ritual rooms are round, and it is thought that the priestess entered symbolically into her Mother's womb and returned reborn. The temples were roofed with great domes, painted in red on the inside. 


Each temple consists of five apses connected by a central corridor that leads to the innermost trefoil section. The first temple to be built is larger and has niches with altars, relief carvings and libation holes. The second has none of these features. 


The large common forecourt may have been where congregations gathered to attend rituals, while the inner rooms of the temple were reserved for the priestess. 


Many of the doorway slabs have round holes carved in them. The purpose of these is uncertain, but they may have held wooden rods on which fabric was draped to create curtains or screens. More holes can be seen in some floor slabs, but these do not go all the way through and were almost certainly libation holes for holding liquid offerings.



The altars in the larger temple are trilithons; that is, made of three stones to form a vertical surface. There is evidence of animal sacrifice on these altars, most of which have been reconstructed. Another interesting feature is the evidence of a sacred fire - a stone hearth, some paving stones of which have been reddened by fire, can be seen on the floor of the inner right-hand niche of the larger temple. 

A few artifacts have been found at the site, which are now displayed in the national museum. They include a small clay figure of a full-figured sleeping goddess that was found in an egg-shaped chamber. Some architectural decoration can still be seen in its original position in the temple, including three stone blocks with spiral carvings and several stones with decorative pitting.
Website :
Full details with visitor information can be seen at website below
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/malta/ggantija-temples

Haeinsa


Name : Haeinsa Temple

Location : 

Haeinsa is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in the Gaya Mountains, South Gyeongsang Province South Korea.

Legend and History :

Tradition says that Haeinsa was first settled in 802 by the monks Suneung and Ijeong, who had just returned from China. The name, meaning "Temple of Reflections on a Smooth Sea," derives from a verse in a Buddhist sutra that compares the Buddha's wisdom to a calm sea. When the mind is freed from the wild waves of worldly desires and follies, it will attain a calmness in which the true image of all existence is clearly reflected.
Soon after, the temple was built by a grateful King Aejang after the monks healed his wife. According to legend, the monks tied one end of string to the queen's tumor and the other end to a tree, chanting Buddhist verses. Miraculously, the tumor vanished as the tree withered and died

Hundreds of years later, 13th-century Korea was at war with the Mongols. The Korean government, in exile on Ganghwa island, commissioned a copy of the Buddhist scriptures in hopes of earning the Buddha's intervention in the war. The resulting Tripitaka Koreana (carved 1237-48) is considered the best copy of the scriptures in Asia. According to tradition, the woodblocks were made of white birch first soaked and then boiled in sea water for three years, then dried for three years in the shade.

Haeinsa suffered a devastating fire in 1817, in which nearly all the wooden temple buildings were destroyed. Only the Tripitaka library at the rear of the complex, built in 1488, escaped damage. The main worship hall was rebuilt in 1818 during the late Joseon (Chosôn) dynasty, on the foundations of the one built a thousand years earlier by Haeinsa's two original monks.

The library hall and its woodblocks of scripture were designated a Korean national treasure in 1962 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

In the late 20th century the monks of Haeinsa entered the computer age, painstakingly inputting the contents of the Tripitaka Koreana into electronic form from 1992 to 1994. The ancient text is now stored on a CD-ROM and the monks have further plans to provide a parallel translation into modern Korean and extensive cross-referencing and other indexes.

 Haeinsa is one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea, and represents Dharma or the Buddha’s teachings. It is still an active Seon practice center in modern times, and was the home temple of the influential Rev. Seongcheol, who died in 1993.


 What to see :

Haeinsa's magnificent Tripitaka consists of 52,382,960 classical Chinese characters carved on 81,258 double-sided woodblocks in 6,802 volumes. It is said to be the oldest and most complete copy of the Buddhist scriptures in the world, and also one of the most beautifully made. It is displayed on floor-to-ceiling shelves in the oldest building at the temple (1488), called the Janggyeong Panjeon.

The Janggyeong Panjeon building is notable in itself. It is one of the oldest buildings constructed specifically for the storage of artifacts and it exhibits "remarkably effective solutions developed in the 15th century to the problems posed by the need to preserve woodblocks against deterioration" (UNESCO).

The main worship hall, Daejeokkwangjeon (Hall of Great Silence and Light), was rebuilt 1818 on ancient foundations. Unusually, it houses a Vairocana Buddha statue, carved in 1769, instead of the usual Seokgamoni. One of the Five Celestial Buddhas, Vairocana represents the center of the universe. Behind the statue are wall paintings of the Buddha's life.

Website :

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mandher Devi Temple in Mandhradevi



Name :  Mandher Devi Temple at Mandhardev hill

Location :

Mandher Devi Temple that is famed as “Kalubai temple” in Mandhradevi nearly at the place Wai, District of Satara, Maharashtra, India, situated on a hill about 4,650 feet above sea level and just some 20 km far from Satara.

Description :


The temple is popular among Hindus who undertake the annual Kalubai Jatra pilgrimage over a ten day period every January. The main event is a 24-hour-long festival on the day of the full moon that includes animal sacrifices to the demons of goddess whom she killed. The goddess is offered (Nivad) of Puran Poli - a sweet and also Curd-Rice. The religious event usually draws more than 300,000 devotees. The annual fair is in honour of Kaleshwari Devi, fondly called Kalubai by the faithful. Over 300 devotees died there in a stampede in 2005.

The idol of Kalubai sports two silver masks and silk finery. The masks are carried in a procession by members of the Gurav family, seen as the hereditary custodians of the shrine. Members of this family take turns to conduct rituals.



Devotees attribute miraculous properties to a grove around the shrine. Local lore has it that the temple is more than 400 years old and was built during Shivaji's Maratha rule. However, no definite date on the temple's construction is available.


The title of the land is in the name of Lord Mandeshwar and Kaleshwari Devi. After the festival most of the year there is little tourist traffic here. The nearest primary health centre is six kilometres away and a major hospital is at Satara town.

Website :


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandher_Devi_Temple_in_Mandhradevi

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jivdani Mata

 
Name :  Jivdani Mata

Location :

The Goddess rests in a temple situated about 1375 steps above the ground on a hill that forms a part of the Satpura Range in Virar, a northern Mumbai suburb, about 60 km away from Mumbai.
Legend :

The name Virar comes from Eka-viraa. Just as Tunga Parvat becomes “Tunga-ar”, similarly “Vira” becomes “Vira-ar”.There is a huge temple of Eka-vira Devi on the banks of Vaitarna River at the foot hills of Tunga Parvat, (this is now totally broken by the continuous raids of Mohamedeans and Portuguese in last 400 years), where people used to conclude their “Shurpaaraka Yatra”, as described in the Puranas and local legends. There is a huge tank here dedicated to Eka veera Devi called “Viraar Tirtha”, i.e. “Eka- Viraa Tirtha”. Even today, on the west banks of Viraar Tirtha, one finds a carved stone about three feet long and nine inches broad. Below that is a group of female figures of the Yoginis of Ekaveera Devi. Nearby one can find a stone with a roughly cut cow and calf (Savatsa Dhenu), a symbol of Govardhana Math which symbolizes eternity or Moksha.

Moving ahead near the foot of a knoll of rock are two cow’s feet (Go-Paad) roughly cut in rock. The legendary story of Jivdani Devi is as follows: During their forest journey, Pandavas came to Shurparaka. They visited the holy temple of Vimaleshwar consecrated by Lord Parashuram and on their journey to Prabhas halted on the banks of Vaitarni river. There they worshipped the Bhagavati Ekaveera on the banks of Viraar Tirtha and seeing the serenity and lofty nature decided to carve caves in the nearby mountains. They did so on the hills nearby and installed and worshipped the Yoga Linga of Ekaveera devi in one of the caves. They called her Bhagavati Jeevadhani (That is Goddess, who is the real wealth of life). Doing so Pandavas also made a set of small caves now known as “Pandav Dongri” about a mile from Shirgaon for the hermits. Many yogis used to stay in Pandav Dongri and have darshan of Jeevdhani Devi.

After the onset of Kali Yuga, and after the advent of the Buddhist faith, the number of Vaidik Yogis lessened and slowly people forget the hillock and the devi. During times of Jagadguru Shankaracharya’s advent, a Mahar or Mirashi used to stay in Viraar who used to graze the village cattle. He came to Nirmal Mandir for the darshan of Jagadguru Shankaracharya Padmanabha Swami and requested His Holiness to bless him so that he could have darshan of his beloved Kuladevata. Jagadguru was pleased with the devotion of Mahar and advised him to serve Go-Mata on the foothills of Jivadhani, and at appropriate time he would have darshan of his Goddess and attain Go-Loka. He literally for the rest of life followed the advice of Jagadguru Shankaracharya and herded the village cattle. While grazing the village cattle, he used to see a cow grazing along with, whose owner never paid him for herding her. By his virtue, he determined to find the owner of the cow. He followed the cow on the top of Jeevdhan Hill. A beautiful woman with divine features appeared. The Mahar remembered the words of Jagadguru Shankaracharya and understood that she is none other than his Kuladevi Jeevdhani, he was overjoyed and asked “Oh Mother ! I have grazed your cow, will you not pay me for her herding ?”. The Devi just smiled in delight and was on the point of putting some money in the Mahar’s hand, when he said “Do not touch me, I am Mahar. Give me something which cannot be spoilt by touch, words, smell, figure, and ether.” Knowing this Devi asked “Lo my child, whence from you learned this unique knowledge of Varnashram Dharma and Moksha Dharma?”. To this Mahar replied, “From none other than by the Grace of Jagadguru Shankaracharya”. Bhagavati was pleased by this and said “By your virtue (Punya), see this cow which is none other than Kaamadhenu has taken your forefathers to higher abodes by her tail, crossing the Vaitarini”. Thus saying the Mahar saw the cow lept from the hill top putting her two feet prints on hill foor and other two across Vaitarini River in heavens. Now Devi told, “I confer upon you the thing which you demanded that is Moksha.”

Saying so the Mahar attained Moksha (The real Jeeva Dhana, the real wealth of Life)and the Devi was about to disappear in the cave, when a barren woman saw all this divine incident screamed “Devi Devi, Amba Amba, will you leave this barren daughter of yours without our jeevan dhan a child in my laps?”. Devi was pleased by her prayers and said “ Great indeed are you who saw all three of us. I henceforth bless you with a child.” The lady was not satisfied by this, she said “Oh Mother of the three worlds, do not just bless me, but let all barren daughters of you who pray you be conferred with the child”. Devi was pleased at this and said “See henceforth, due to the advent of Kali Yuga, in order to maintain purity of rituals, I will stay into a hole in the niche of the cave. The barren women who offer me the beetlenuts in this hole, as is offered in my original place in Mahurgad, will be rewarded with a progeny”. Thus saying the Devi disappeared.



Description :

The lady spread out the incident and thus once again the Jeevdhan hill started to be visited by the pilgrims. The presently installed image is a very recent one, the original sanctum sanctorum is the hole in the niche of the cave, which is the central place of worship.

The goddess is worshipped for providing relief to the suffering and new life to the dying hence the name of the goddess - Jivdani. Many people of Vasai especially - Mangayle, Koli and Bhandhari treat Jivdani as their family goddess.

The devotees return the "Navas" or blessing / favor by sacrificing goats and chickens. They also offer gold ornaments.Devotees believe that to return to have "Navas" granted they must climb the mountain and worship the goddess but not return the same way as they climbed the mountain. So all are blessed by maa as they return from mountain.
Offerings of beetle-nuts are dropped into a hole in the niche in which the deity is believed to reside. The goddess Jivdani Mata is an avatar of Adi Shakti Devi. Jivdani Mata’s temple is situated on a hill that has around 1375 steps.The 150-year-old Jivdani Temple at Virar, which attracts thousands of devotees on Sundays and during festivals, is getting a facelift. It is recognised as one of the 51 Shakthipeethas like Kanyakumari, Kamakshi and Kalimata temples.
 
Festivals :

During the nine days of the Navratri festival many followers visit the shrine, and devotees also tend to visit on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Websites :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jivdani_Mata

http://www.jivdani.org/

http://jivdanimaa.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Renuka Mata Temple, Mahur


Name :  Renuka Mata Temple Mahur

Location :

Mahur is the abode of the goddess Renuka, mother of Parshuram, an incarnation of Vishnu. The place is in Kinwat about 130 km away from Nanded in Maharashtra.

Legend :

The legends of Renuka are contained in the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa and in the Bhagavata Purana.

Early life

Renuka raja (father of Renuka) performed an yajna — a ritual performed to maintain peace and good health. He was blessed with a daughter, who originated from the fire of this yajna. Renuka was a bright and active child and became the most beloved child of her parents.
When she was eight, Agastya, who was the guru of the Renuka Raja, advised him to have his daughter married to Jamadagni when she reached maturity. Jamadagni was the son of Ruchik Muni and Satyavathi and had obtained the blessings of the gods by performing severe penance. Renuka and Jamdagni Muni lived in the Ramshrung mountains, near the present day Savadatti area of Belgaum district. Renuka helped the Jamdagni Muni in all of his tasks of performing various rituals and puja. Gradually she became close and dear to Jamdagni.

Later life

Renuka would wake up early in the morning to bathe in the Malaprabha River with complete concentration and devotion. Her devotion was so powerful that she was able to create a pot to hold water made only of sand, one fresh pot every day. She would fill this pot, on the bank of the river and would use a snake which was nearby, turning it into a rope-like convolution and placing it on her head, so that it supported the pot. Thus, she brought the water to Jamdagni for his rituals of oblation. ("Renuka" is derived from the Sanskrit for "fine grain of sand".)
Renuka gave birth to five sons: Vasu, Viswa Vasu, Brihudyanu, Brutwakanwa and Rambhadra. Rambhadra was the youngest and most beloved, gaining the favour of Lord Shiva and Parvati and hence called Parashurama (the sixth incarnation of Vishnu).
One day when Renuka went to the river, she saw Gandharva spirits playing. These were young couples carelessly frolicking in the water with abandon. For a moment, she lost her concentration and devotion and fantasized about playing in the river with her husband. She wished she and her husband had such fun sometimes too, living so close to such a beautiful place. After some time, Renuka came to her senses and cursed herself for her indiscretion. She hurriedly bathed, as she had lost precious time, and tried to create the pot, but was unable to as she had lost her concentration. She even tried to catch the snake but it disappeared. Disappointed by this, she returned to the ashram in shame. Seeing Renuka returning empty-handed, Jamadagni became furious and angrily ordered her to go away.
After being cursed by her husband, Renuka went east and sat in the forest to meditate. In her penance, she met with the saints Eknath[citation needed] and Joginath; she prayed to them and asked to gain the mercy of her husband. They first consoled her, then instructed her to follow their advice exactly as told. They told her to purify herself, first bathing in a nearby lake, and then to worship a Shivalinga, which they had given to her. Next, she should go to the nearby town and beg for rice from the houses (this ritual, called "Joga Bedodu", is still carried out by women during a particular month in Karnataka). After collecting the rice, she was to give half to the saints and cook the remaining half, adding jaggery, partaking of the cooked rice with full devotion. They said that if she performed this ritual for three days, she would be able to visit her husband on the fourth day.

Punishment and resurrection

Jamadagni was still furiously angry with Renuka and ordered his sons to punish their mother. One by one, four of them refused flatly. Jamadagni, who possessed the power to burn anyone to ashes with his one look, was so angry that he went berserk and turned four of his sons into four piles of ashes. Parashurama, who was not there when this happened, found his mother weeping by the piles of ashes when he arrived and his father was still raging mad. Jamadagni told him what happened and ordered him to behead his mother for her infidelity. Parushurama had to think quickly. Knowing his father's powers and the extent of his anger, Parashurama immediately obeyed his father, using his axe.
His father then offered a boon to Parushurama, who asked for his mother and brothers to be brought back to life. To everybody's astonishment, Renuka's spirit multiplied and moved to different regions. Renuka was back as a whole too. This miracle inspired her sons and others to become her followers, and worship her.

Renuka vs. Yellamma

In many traditions, Renuka and Yellamma are taken to be two names for the same goddess. However there is also an oral tradition that distinguishes between the two. According to these tales, Renuka fled to a low-caste community when her son Parushurama was coming to kill her. He found and beheaded her, along with a low-caste woman who had tried to protect her. When he later brought them back to life, he mistakenly attached the woman's head to Renuka's body, and vice versa. Jamadagni accepted the former as his wife Renuka, while the latter remained to be worshipped by the lower castes as Yellamma, the mother of all. Matangi, Renuka, and Yellamma are all names of the Goddess of the lower castes.

Legend 2 :

About the goddess Renuka the following anecdote is told.

Renuka was the daughter of the king Renu of Kubaj country and the wife of the sage Jamadagni. When the king Sahastrarjuna paid a visit to Jamadagni in his abode, he was taken by surprise by the hospitality of the sage. When asked about the same, the sage told him that it is all because of the Kamadhenu, i.e., cow that fulfils the desires of the owner given to him by Indra, the king of the Gods.

Thinking that if the Kamadhenu was in his possession he would be able to maintain his vast army easily, the king Sahastrarjuna tried to seize the Kamadhenu from the sage by farce when his request to hand over the Kamadhenu to him was turned down by the sage. In the scuffle that ensued the sage died and his wife Renuka was injured due to 21 wounds she had received at the hands of the king. At this juncture many soldiers appeared on the scene from the body of the Kamadhenu by divine magic and farced the king to retreat.

On coming to know of the above incident Parasuram, the son of Jamadagni who rushed there vowed to defeat and punish the king 21 times. His mother asked him to cremate his father. He carried his father and mother to Mahur and cremated his father there. His mother became a sati.

The religious rites were conducted on this occasion by the God Sri Dattatreya himself. However, after everything was over Parasuram was stricken by grief and at this time a voice from the heavens told him that his mother would came out from the earth but he should not look behind. Being eager to see his mother, Parasuram just saw behind far a fraction of a second to find the mother's face aver the earth. The upper facet is the present upper facet of the Renukadevi.

Renukadevi is adorned with various gold ornaments such as the golden flowers to be used as earrings, gold garlands (putal mal candrahar, jaymal, etc.), nose-ring (nath), etc.




Temple :
Mahur is amongst the four places of pilgrimage having the abodes of the three and a half goddesses that are of major significance in the state of Maharashtra. The other three are Kolhapur, Tuljapur, and Saptashrungi and Mahur is half, because it is only the head of the goddess that is visible (maybe because the body is of Yellamma).

It is believed that the temple has been constructed by a Yadava king of Devgiri about eight or nine hundred years ago. The temple of Renukadevi is located on a hill top. There are carved caves in the hills around Mahur.

Mahur is pilgrim Centre of great significance. It is considered to be one of the Shaktipith of Maharashtra. On the day of Dasara every year a very big fair is held in honour of Renukadevi.

Website :

Matsyodari devi Temple


Name : Matsyodari devi Temple

Location : The Matsyodari devi Temple of Ambad situated in south 21 k.m. away from Jalna city. 

Description :  Matsyodari, so called because the temple is on the hill which resembles the shape of a fish (matsya). It is believed to be one of the oldest temples in the region.

A largely attended annual fair is held at the temple in October, in Navratra.

Upper Bagh Devi Temple



Name : Upper Bagh Devi Temple

Location :

This is an ancient shrine at Kulada, Ganjam District in the state of Orissa in India. The temple is about 8 km from Bhanja Nagar, 102 km from Chhatrapur and 140 km from Bhubaneswar. The nearest railway station is at Berhampur, 88 km away.


Legend :

Its people's believe that there were three sisters (including Upper Bagh Devi). One is more upper of current Upper Bagh Devi Temple is also called as Bada Raula (may be means big sister) and there is another temple simply called as Bagh Devi (youngest sister) near to Jagannath Temple.

People say that these three sisters always fought each other for Coconut and then once decided that they can divide the region who will stay where. So they throw three Lotta (type of rounded drinking container widely used in Orissa for drinking water). One stuck in the same place where Bada Raula is staying currently, second one stuck in the place where today called as Upper Bagh Devi and the third one was fallen into a Pond which currently a temple which is below the ground level.

Then Kavi Samrat Upendra Bhanja got indication from devi (through dream) that he may need to build temple in these places. Gradually the temple were built and renovated but the Bada Raula's Temple was never built since it is very difficult to go there as there is no steps to go there till now.


Description :


Kulada is famous  for  Goddess Bagh Devi which is the  presiding deity, Kulad is said to be birth place of great Oriya Poet Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja.  It is situated to the north west of Ganjam District with a ruin fort, river Mahanadi flowing in the east and dense forest in the west side of the ruined fort. Legend speaks that during 12th century a Bhanja ruler had joined hands with a tribal leader’ KULA’ to be eradicating the foreign invasion. Seeing the danger from the tribe he stained the tribal leader KULA and on the same place, constructed a fort which was later known as Kulad / Kulargad.
   

The presiding deity of the temple is Goddess Bagh Devi. The original temple is at the top of the hill known as Upper Bagh Devi with 210 steps. Upendra Bhanja spent his term in meditation at this place. As the steps are yet to be made and the route is very tough for climbing another temple of Goddess Bagh Devi has been constructed near the road where people in large number gather to worship. Kulad has many other temples also. The other important temples of Kulad are Temple of Lord Jagannath, Mausimaa temple, Ratneswar Mahadev temple etc. 

Festivals :

Sankranti day of every month. Thakurani Yatra every three years. Rathyatra and Dola Purnima, Dashahara (4 days) and Ashoka Ashtami.  

Website :     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Bagh_Devi_Temple

Friday, August 19, 2011

Basilica of St. John, Ephesus


Name : Basilica of St. John, Ephesus

Location :

The basilica is on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill near the center of Selçuk, Izmir Province in Turkey.

Legend :

It is believed that the Apostle John fled from Jerusalem to the city of Ephesus where he remained for the rest of his life and it is also where he wrote his gospels as well as receiving the last Revelation of Jesus and wrote the Apocalypse.

During his time and until his death in Ephesus, Apostle John preached about Christianity. According to legend, before he died, Christ, along with all the other apostles, visited Apostle John and said to him:
Legend had it that John wrote his gospel in Ephesus at the request of other disciples, then died in the church named for him on Ayasoluk Hill. Later legends developed that he was not really dead, but sleeping, and dust could even be seen moving above his grave as he breathed.

The 13th-century Golden Legend narrates John's death as follows:
According to Isidore, when John was 98 years old, that is, in the 67th year after the Lord's passion, the Lord appeared to him with his disciples and said: 'Come to me, my beloved: it is time for you to feast at my table with your brothers!' John rose and was about to go, when the Lord added: 'You will come to me on Sunday.'

When Sunday arrived, all the people gathered in the church that had been built in his name, and John preached to them at cockcrow, exhorting them to be steadfast in the faith, and zealous in carrying out the commandments of God. Then he had them dig a square grave near the altar and throw the earth outside the church.

He went down into the grave and, with arms outstretched to God, said: 'Lord Jesus Christ, you have called me to your feast: here I am, and I thank you for deigning to invite me to your table. You know that I have longed for you with all my heart!' When he had said this, he was surrounded by a light so brilliant that he was lost to human sight. Then, when the light faded, the grave was found to be full of manna. This manna is still produced there to this day, and it covers the floor of the grave, looking rather like the fine grains of sand at the bottom of a spring.. Because of this, the dust, called manna, was said to be able to cure the sick.

Miracle and flasks :  

The tomb itself acted upon its miracle every year on the 8th of May, during an all night-festival in honor of St. John, for nearly a thousand years, prompting many pilgrimages throughout the medieval period.

The pilgrims who journeyed to Ephesus did not leave empty-handed. Flasks were produced at St. John’s tomb for the pilgrims. These flasks usually had the Saint’s image designed on to it as well. They were used to collect the dusts that would appear around St. John’s tomb, which was then carried back to the pilgrims respective homeland where it was said to have performed miracles by curing sickness and even calm storms on land or sea.

Description :

The Basilica of St. John (St. Jean Aniti) was a great church in Ephesus constructed by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It stands over the believed burial site of St. John, who is identified as the apostle, evangelist (author of the Fourth Gospel) and prophet (author of Revelation).
The basilica is on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill near the center of Selçuk, just below the fortress and about 3.5 km (2 miles) from Ephesus.

St. John's grave was marked by a memorial and enclosed by a church of modest proportions in the 4th century. In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian (527-65 AD) believed that a tomb dating from the 300s was John's, so he built a magnificient church on the site dedicated to the saint.

The traditional tomb of St. John, located under the main central dome, elevated the site to one of the most sacred sites in the Middle Ages and thousands made pilgrimage here.

But with the decline in importance of Ephesus and after Arab raids, the basilica fell into ruins until the Seljuk Aydinoglu clan converted it into a mosque in 1330. The building was then completely destroyed in 1402 by Tamerlane's Mongol army.

The ruined church was thereafter pillaged for building materials, but recent restoration enables visitors to understand its size and visualize its former splendor.



Websites :

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/ephesus-basilica-of-st-john

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_St._John

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Amanosan Kongoji Temple



Name : Amanosan Kongoji Temple aka. “Nyonin Koya”

Location : 

The Japanese seaside town of Rikuzentakata (of Gojo, Nara Prefecture)  is home to a tiny temple called Kongoji. It's perched on a hillside and is one of the few structures still intact after recent Japan's earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

Description :

Amanosan Kongoji Temple, was founded by the venerable priest Gyoki in the Tempyo era (729–749) on the order of Emperor Shomu. Amanosan Kongoji is the main temple of the Omuro school of the Buddhist Shingon sect, where the monk Kukai (Kobo-daishi) is said to have undergone religious training in the Konin era (810–824).

The temple buildings and pagodas became dilapidated later. However, since the temple was worshiped at and supported by the ex-emperor Goshirakawa and his sister Hachijo-nyoin in the late Heian period (12th century), the temple buildings were reconstructed by the holy priest Akan from Koyasan (a mountainous, sacred place where the headquarters of the Shingon sect is based).

Hachijo-nyoin received from the Koyasan headquarters the image of Kukai drawn by the princely priest Shinnyo, and enshrined it in Amanosan Kongoji’s mieido (hall in which the image/statue of the sect founder is enshrined). In contrast to Koyasan, where women were not admitted, Amanosan Kongoji Temple allowed women to worship Kukai inside the temple. This is the reason why Amanosan Kongoji was dubbed “Nyonin Koya” (literally translated as “women’s Koyasan”).

In the Northern and Southern Courts period in the 14th century, the temple was used as a temporary abode for Emperor Gomurakami, and was called Amano-angu. Amanosan Kongoji Temple possesses a number of national treasures and important cultural properties. The temple’s garden, created in the Muromachi period (1336–1573), brims with seasonal beauty throughout the year, such as cherry blossoms in spring and colorful foliage in autumn.

Open Hours :  9:00-16:30

Admission Fee :  Free (400 yen for entry to treasury/garden)

Websites :

www.osaka-info.jp/en/search/detail/sightseeing_205.html

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kalpeshwar



Name : Kalpeshwar

Location :

Kalpeshwar the Shiva Temple located at an elevation of 2,200 m (7,217.8 ft) in the picturesque Urgam valley in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand state in India. The temple’s ancient legend linked to the Pandavas, heroes of epic Mahabharata eminence is the fifth temple of the Panch Kedars (five temples) of Shiva’s five anatomical divine forms; the other four temples in the order of their worship are Kedarnath, Rudranath, Tungnath and Madhyamaheshwar temples; all in the Kedar Khand region of the Garhwal Himalayas.

Legend :

1) The epic legend narrated on the creation of the Panch Kedar temples is that Pandavas of Mahabharata epic history, while chasing Lord Shiva to seek his pardon for the fratricidal sins committed by them during the Kurukshetra war, realized that Shiva, in order to distance himself from the Pandavas, took the incognito form of a bull. But when this form of Shiva was discerned by Bhima, the second of the Pandava brothers, tried to hold on to the bull's tail and hind legs. But the bull vanished underground at Guptakashi. Subsequently it reappeared in five different forms: His hump appeared at Kedarnath, his bahu (arm) was spotted at Tungnath, his head surfaced at Rudranath, the stomach and navel were traced at Madhyamaheswar and his jata (tress) was divined at Kalpeshwar.

2) Another legend states that this place was much preferred by sages of folklore for meditation. Particular mention is made of sage Arghya who through his austere penance created Urvashi, the famous apsara (nymph) at this place. Durvasa, an ancient sage, son of Atri and Anasuya, considered an incarnation of Shiva, known for his short temper did penance and meditated under the Kalpavriksha, the wish fulfilling divine tree in the precincts of the temple. Further, it is said that Durvasa had given Kunti, mother of Pandavas, a boon that "she could invoke any of the forces of nature and they would appear before her and grant whatever she desired". Once, when Pandavas, were in exile here, in order to test them Durvasa visited them along with his desciples and desired to be dined by them. Unfortunately, there was no food available with in the house to feed the surprise guests. Draupadi, wife of Pandavas, sought Lord Krishna's help. Krishna materialised on the scene and solved the problem



Description :

Kalpeshwar is the only Panch Kedar temple accessible throughout the year. At this small stone temple, approached through a cave passage, the matted tress (Jata or Hair) of Lord Shiva is worshipped. Hence, Lord Shiva is also called as Jatadhar or Jateshwar. It is approachable only by 12 km (7.5 mi) trekking from the nearest road head of Helong on the Rishikesh-Badrinath road. On the bridle path from Helang to Kalpeshwar, the enchanting confluence of the Alaknanda and Kalpganga rivers is seen. Kalp Ganga river flows through the Urgam valley. The Urgam valley is a dense forest area. The valley has apple orchards and terraced fields where potato is grown extensively.



The temple priests at this temple also are the Dasnamis and Gossains, desciples of Adi Shankara. At Tungnath also the priests are Khasiya Brahmins. These priests hail from South India; the Namboodiri brahmin sect who worship at Badrinath and Kedarnath from Kerala, the Jangamas are lingayats from Mysore and the Dasnami Gossains belong to Adi Shankara’s group. The priests at the Rudranath temple are Dasnamis and Gosains.

Websites :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalpeshwar

Temple of Jyeshteswara [Shankaracharya] on the Takht-i-Sulaiman Hill



Name : Temple of Jyeshteswara [Shankaracharya]

Location : 

Shankaracharya Temple is located on the summit of Takht-i-Suleiman (Throne of Solomon), near Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir.

Description :

'The Takt-i-Sulaiman Hill overlooks Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir; standing 1000 feet above the plain, it commands a noble view of the Valley and its surrounding ridges of snow-topped peaks. On its crest, 6950feet above the sea, stands the most ancient in building in Kashmir, the temple of  Jyeshteswar, which according to tradition, existed since B.C.220 and to have been built by  Ashoka's son Jhaloka. What exists now is  possibly a 7th century structure which replaced the earlier Buddhist monument of the third century BC traditionally ascribed to Ashoka's son Jhaloka. Now it is popularly called Shankaracharya after the 9th century Hindu philosopher-sage who visited Kashmir and is associated with it.

The Temple of Jyeshteswara rests on the solid rock, and consists of an octagonal stone basement twenty feet high, on which is supported a square building: on each of the four sides are two projections which terminate in a pediment and a gable, the latter intersecting the main roof half-way up its slope. The terrace surrounding the Temple is reached by a stone staircase encased between two walls, and a doorway , exactly opposite, leads to the interior, which is a small and dark chamber, circular in plan. The ceiling is supported by four octagonal columns, which surround a Basin containing a Lingam encircled by a snake.'

Commanding a panoramic view of the city of Srinagar and Dal Lake, this temple with its square plan, recessed sides and circular inner sanctum is one of the earliest Hindu shrines extant in Kashmir, dedicated to Shiva.

Websites :

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/photocoll/k/019pho0000981s1u00002000.html

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Uspensky Cave Monastery



Name : The Uspensky Cave Monastery

Location :

Founded in the 15th century, the orthodox monastery is built in caves in the limestone walls of a spectacular valley leading to the ancient `cave city of Chufut- Kaleh, Crimea, Ukraine

Legend :

1) In the old days in the valley shepherd named Michael tending the herd. Suddenly he saw a wonder: a rock in seven yards from the ground - the icon of the Virgin and the lighted candle in front of her. Michael hurried home and told about the miracle of the owner. The local prince ordered the icon to be carefully moved to his palace, but when he awoke the next morning he found that the icon had returned to its position on the cliff.
A further attempt to remove the icon met with the same result, and the people realised that they were meant to leave it where it had appeared. Accordingly they built a small chapel in a cave about 20m up in the cliffs and a flight of steps to reach it. The icon was placed in the chapel.

2)  An alternative, and certainly older account of the founding of a monastery here tells how a huge snake or dragon appeared in the valley, preying on both cattle and people. The Greek and Genoese inhabitants at the time were christians and prayed to the Most Holy Mother of God to free them from the monster. One night they saw a candle burning high up on the cliff. When they went to look, they found steps hewn in the rock leading to the candle, which illuminated an image of the Most Holy Mother of God, and nearby the corpse of the dragon. The people cut the corpse into pieces and burnt it, and from that day the place became a holy shrine.

Description :

As any other Orthodox monastery, it is very beautiful inside, but it is also unique since it is built inside the rock. You can also find a spring water downstairs in front of the monastery.
It is likely that the site of the existing monastery had religious significance well before the 15th century, and there is evidence of monastic activity here from the 9th century AD. The valley was originally settled by the Greeks and later by the Genoese, and there are Christian graves in the area dating from the 6th century.
The monastery continued to function during the centuries of Tatar rule, and some of the Russian prisoners held in Chufut-Kaleh higher up the valley were allowed by their Tatar captors to attend services there, and to meet the Russian envoy there too on occasions. It fared less well during the soviet period and 7 years after the 1917 revolution it was closed by the government.

During the Crimean war the hospital was settled in it and till now graves of the Sevastopol defence participants lying at the ancient monastery cemetery.
In 1921 the monastery was closed by Bolsheviks, and little by little it had fallen into a state of neglection and began to collapse. Over the past years the main monastery church has been partly restored named after The Virgin Mary Assumption, and in 1993 the male monastery was opened here.

Websites :

http://www.blacksea-crimea.com/Places/uspensky.html

http://www.restcrimea.com/en/article/show/id/39/

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