|Venkateshwara Temple Premise|
|Bahind the Shanar Syambhu Pind|
|Another Ganesh Carved at the Back of the temple|
|View from the Rear - Majestic|
|Entrance to Data Mandir|
|Venkateshwara Temple Premise|
|Bahind the Shanar Syambhu Pind|
|Another Ganesh Carved at the Back of the temple|
|View from the Rear - Majestic|
|Entrance to Data Mandir|
Pune - Heritage Temple Walk
I did a heritage walk yesterday, 21 Feb 2021, with Sandeep Godbole (@GodboleSandeep) along with a small group of interested people at Pune.
Pune, in its about 350 years of history had about 400 temples of various eras in the old town generally called the "Peth" area. Today's walk was focused on the old and beautiful temples of the historic part of Pune city.
We started from Omkerashwar Temple, a 17-century temple built by Chimaji Appa, brother of Peshwa Bajirao I and one of the greatest General of the Maratha Empire. It is built-in Cheere Bandi stone structure style. The Samadhi of Chimaji Appa and his wife Annapurna exists in the premise of this temple. Interestingly, this temple has 9 Shikhars including the main Shikhar.
This temple also holds significance in the freedom struggle. It is said that the first "Holi' of British Goods was lit in this temple complex.
|The entrance of Omkareshwar Temple with Nakkar Khana|
|The narrow entrance to the Main temple, Seen from the temple Courtyard. 4 Shikhars can be seen|
|Nandi Statue in the courtyard|
|Omkareshwar. The door has a Ganesh Patti|
|Nandi Temple as seen from the main temple side of Courtyard|
Colourful Houses of Shaniwar Peth
While moving from here to Kameshwar temple via Veer Maruti, there were colourful old houses (not "Wada") which I clicked for you to see.
|A Ganesh Patti|
Veer Maruti Temple
Next on our trip was a glimpse of the "Veer Maruti" (Veer Hanuman) temple. Not much is known about the origin of this temple but it seems to be connected with commemorating the Veer Marathas who fought and died in Panipat.
There a tradition of the eldest son of the family of such "Veers" comes for darshan of this Maruti one day after Holi Purnima. It is said that this darshan ensures the continued presence of those Veers of Panipat in Swarg. There is also an Utsav from Hanuman Jayanti for some days to commemorate the dead Maratha warriors of Panipat. It is a very small temple in the middle of a road at Shaniwar Peth.
Murti here is very beautiful and small. It has a demon under its feet. Interestingly, this Maruti Murti has big Moustaches.
|Veer Maruti, See the Moustaches of Shri Maruti|
From here we proceeded to Kameshwar temple. Situated at Nene ghat of Shanivar Peth, this temple and ghat were established by Sardar Lele about 250 years ago. It has a Nakkarkhana at the entry. This temple was closed for maintenance. We could not see the temple but it has a Shivalinga and three more Murtis, Shiva Parvati Vihwah, Devi Kameshwari and Ganesh. Since the temple was closed, unfortunately, no photographs.
Varad Vinayak aka Gupchup Ganpati
Gupchup Ganesh came next. It is actually Varad Vinayak Mandir. However, One gentleman named Gupchup gifted this temple to his Guru Moreshwar Shashtri Dixit, hence Gupchup Ganesh. It is not a very old temple but it is a beautiful temple. It has Wooden Sabha Mandap with Glass Chandeliers.
|Varad Vinayak (clicked through its latticed locked door) aka Gupchup Ganesh|
Joshi Shri Ram Temple
Joshi Shri Ram Temple is again a privately owned temple with full wood and stone construction is about 150 years old. It had a Nakkarkhana which is now closed. It has columns and beams which are carved. This place gives very peaceful vibes and this temple is worth a visit.
|Ram, Laxman and Janaki|
Harihareshwar temple near the "Phutka Burj (Damaged Bastion) of Shanivar Wada in Shanivar Peth is over six hundred years. Peshwa's seem to have renovated it as Harihareshwar (Situated at Srivardhan in Konkan) is the family deity of Peshwas.
Those who can't visit Harihareshwar in Konkan visit the temple here. The Shivaling is situated a little deep compared to sabha mandap but there are mirrors place at important locations to ensure darshans of Harihareshwar without going down the steep 5 or 6 stairs. There is a beautiful stone Nandi here. The Shikhar of this temple is also unique.
|Harihareshwar. It has a unique Shikhar|
|Ganesh Temple in Harihareshwar complex|
|A Hanuman and Shani Temple of this complex|
|Ganesh Patti in one of the Temples|
Belbag Vishnu Temple
Belbag Vishnu Temple is on busy Laxmi road at City Post Chowk. It is on a property that was owned by Nana Phadnis, the Peshwa Administrator and still is held by his descendants. This temple also is a private one and does not allow photography, hence I can not show you how beautiful and majestic this temple is.
Pune Nagar Vachanalaya
Pune had a Public Library as early as 1848 which was started by the British for common people. with the name Poona Native General Library. Now it is known as Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir, situated on busy Laxmi road. The photograph below shows its building constructed in 1889 in Budhwar Peth (perpendicular to Laxmi road) which now seems to have a Bank in it while Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir is just a few buildings away on Laxmi Road.
|Poona Native General Library|
Our Heritage walk finished at Tulshi Bag, about which famous Marathi writer Chi Vee Joshi once satirically and famously wrote that Tulshi Bag is a famous market visited by ladies and girls of Pune and it happens to have a Ram Mandir (while it was originally a Ram Mandir in a Bag of Tulshi which acquired a very busy and crowded market around it with passing time).
Built around 18 century, This temple is within an enclosure with a Nakkarkhana. This has a full wooden Sabha Mandap and a Garbh Gruha of stone. Its Shikar is about 150 feet tall. This temple has been recently renovated and retains its old-world charm and its calm even within this busy and crowded market of Tulshi Bag. Photography inside was not allowed so only external area photographs for you.
|Tulshi Bag Ram Temple. See the beauty of Wooden Structure. This temple has a very high Kalash|
With this, we finished this over two hours of heritage walk. Thanks to Sandeep Godbole, Pune, a full-time cyber Security professional and passionate history buff for conducting this walk.
Hope you all enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed putting it together rapidly.
Riga Travel Blog - Part III - Road Trip from Riga
Recap - Useful Information
Here is the link to Part I of the blog - https://harshad-datar.blogspot.com/2020/12/riga-largest-baltic-city-part-i-riga.html
Here is the link to Part I of the blog - https://harshad-datar.blogspot.com/2021/01/riga-largest-city-in-baltics-part-ii.html
Riga is the capital city of the Baltic state of Latvia. It also is the biggest Baltic City with about 7 Lakh population. Some interesting statistics are, Riga is home to 1/3 of Latvia’s and 1/10 of total Baltics States’ compound population.
Situated at the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of Daugava river on Baltics Sea. Riga is almost the same age as Tallinn. This city was founded in 1201 AD. IN its long existence, Riga has seen rules of Sweden, Germany, Russia, USSR, etc. till Latvia achieved its independence from USSR in 1990.
Riga of today is a modern city generation about 50 % of Latvia’s GDP. It is a major Baltic Port and the main gateway for the export of wood, Software, Metallurgy, etc.
How to Reach.
Riga is a well-connected city. It has flights coming from over 80 countries which come to Riga International Airport.
It can be reached by sea from Germany and Scandinavian Countries. It has rail connect with Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia. It is well connected by highway network and bus services operate between all three Baltic States. Bus presents a low-cost option for travel across Baltics. Most buses in Europe ate Volvo kind of airconditioned and comfortable ones with a toilet and some service providers also provide hot tea and coffee during the journey.
Riga gets over 3.5 million visitors a year. With that kind of influx of the visitors, the stay options available are plenty. They meet the need for all types of travellers with the rentals that they can afford. There are a variety of hotels, highly rated hostels and B & Bs. There are small boutique hotels in and close to the old city, mostly in old historical buildings. A hotel in which we stayed was in an over 100-year-old building with real wood furniture. It was beautiful and it was very close to the Old city.
Riga has plentiful public transport. There is also an option of hiring Cras and Bicycles. However, for all the sights mentioned below, except for Day trip, no transport is needed. All these places are convenient to walk and the walks are pleasant in Riga with the places to visit and parks, small and big are intermingled. My recommendation is to walk but for those who can not, there is public transport.
Day Trip from Riga
The places visited -
1. Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial
2. Rundale Palace
3. Hill of Crosses (in Lithuania)
4. Kemeri National Park and Bogs
5. Jurmala (Covered in the blog but not visited)
Our third day at Riga was kept for a road trip around Riga. We hired a car through our hotel from a local car hirer. It was a Hatchback with a seating capacity of 5 but not much luggage space (that was ok. One does not need luggage space for a day trip). The car had a manual transmission.
The car was in good condition. After signing the documents and mentioning to the representative of the hirer that we will go up to Hill of Crosses in Lithuania (a neighbour country) we were all set to go. On our return, we realized that it was necessary to enter the fact that we would travel to another country (and back) in to the agreement. The company claimed that we need to pay fine as we did not disclose that we will cross the border but after explaining that their executive was told, they agreed no to take fine from us.
I have put a blog giving all the Do's and Don’ts of hiring a car, especially abroad. It can be read here – https://harshad-datar.blogspot.com/2019/07/renting-car-for-road-trip-in-europe-and.html.
Here is the map of our drive from Riga to various sites and back to Riga.
|The Map of this Drive|
We started from Riga around 9 am. Our departure got delayed due to late arrival of the hired car. We took off and used mobile-based navigation because the car did not have a navigation system. First stop was just 20 Km. It was Salaspil Memorial, created in memory of prisoners who died in Salaspils Concentration Camp created by Nazis.
As a human being, it breaks one's heart when one visits the Tower of Skulls in Cambodia (where thousand Skulls of victims of a despot communist ruler Polpot is preserved) or a concentration camps in and around Germany. One wonders how and why tortures were inflected by some on their fellow human beings.
Salaspils was one such concentration camp some 20 km outside Riga, near the town of Salaspils by occupying Germans in the year 1941. It is, in one sense (some solace) not a concentration camp where people were exterminated by Gas Chambers. It was a prison to house Russian Prisoners of War (POW), leaders of local resistance and Latvian, Russian, German and other Jews scheduled for further transit to main Concentration Camps. At various times there were about 20 thousand prisoners in Salaspils. Among the prisoners of all kind, there were many children who suffered the worst fate.
This Salaspils Memorial Ensemble was erected in memorial of those 2000 people who died in this camp and also in other places. This memorial opened in 1967. It has a symbol of the border between Life and Death. It is a 100 m long concrete box inside which there an exhibition of photographs and other details of life in Salspil Jail and Correction Center. There are Seven very moving concrete sculptured titled “Mother”, The Unbroken. The Humulited, Protest, Red Front, Solidarity and The Oath. The wall (concrete box) has very poignant words written on it, they are “Beyond these gates the land groans”.
|Memorial Wall - It reads "Beyond these gates the land groans"|
|Statues depicting the Jailed and their resistance|
|Memorial for the Children victims and the respect people have paid to their souls|
|Three of them, from L to R, Solidarity, The Oath and Red Front|
Set amid forested area, created in a creative way, this memorial should be included in a place worth visit, to pray for those unfortunate souls who have to endure much pain and suffering and to pray to supreme power to never endure such things on Mankind.
After spending some time at Salaspil Memorial and praying for the unfortunate souls who died here and elsewhere, we started our journey for Rundale Palace, about 70 km from Salaspils Memorial. While we were on the road, we did not have much idea s to what to expect there. What we knew was that the gardens of Rundale Place were supposed to be good.
When we reached Rundale Palace, its scale was mesmerizing. After buying tickets for the Gardens, we entered the premise. Grand was the word for the gardens themselves. The palace also looked grand but we were short of time to visit the palace and the museum.
While for the sake of completeness and blog writers duty, I will give researched information about the palace, however, the description of the Gardens is out of personal experience.
Rundale Palace was constructed in two phases from 1736 to 1738 as a family home to the Duke of Courland, a vassal of the Russian Empire with many independent rights as Count. The partial independence made the count administer his area and that made him rich out of taxation, etc This rich Duke made two grand Baroque style palaces, Rundale was one of those two palaces. It had been Duke’s Summer Palace, being less important compared to Jelgava Palace, the other Baroque-style palace.
This palace is not as big as Versailles or other European palaces, none the less, this is a charming palace having two wings, Eats and west, which house the official areas (formal areas) and private residential area respectively. 40 of the 138 rooms of this palace are open for visitors.
This 14249 Sqm, 16 building palace spread over 43 hectors (out of the total area of 85 hectors, rest are garden and forest) has seen many ups and downs during its over 250 years of history. It has been used for many other purposes including Military headquarter, school, hospital, etc. It has been painstakingly restored since 1972 and some work is still going on.
Hallmark of the palace (like many other castles and palaces in Europe) is the French Garden. No Baroque Style palace is complete without a well laid out garden and the garden of Rundale Palace confirm that fact.
The Franch Garden, spread over 10 hectors, consists of Ornamental Pattern garden, Rose Garden, Green Ampitheater and fountains. If it is to be experienced properly, one would need at least 1 hour 30 minutes. Now, instead of talking more about the Gardens, let me take you on a photo tour of Rundale Palace Gardens.
|Rose Garden, Rundale Palace in the Background|
|Geometrical Pattern Crystal Maze|
|A Water Fountain|
|Majestic Rose Garden|
|Beautiful Ornamental Pattern|
The drive to Hill of Crosses
This place, Hill of Crosses, is about km fro Rundale Palace. The road is very good and very scenic. It is mostly two-lane but the traffic is thin. Enjoy the drive till we reach the destination.
|Busy Driving the Car|
|Good Road, No Traffic|
Hill of Crosses
We have seen crosses in Churches, Cemeteries and some other place. There may be one cross or a few crosses, maybe one hundred, maybe 500. If I tell you about a place in Lithuania, a neighbouring Baltic state, which has not one, not 100, not 1000 but a place full of Crosses, over 200000 and counting, what would be your reaction?
That place is Hill of Crosses, a famous place of pilgrimage in Lithuania, just across from Latvia. This place needs to be seen to be believed.
As believed, Crosses started on this hill in 1831 when during the uprising against the rule resulted in many deaths where the relatives were unable to find bodies of their near and dear ones. As a symbolic ritual in place of burial, they seem to have left crosses in their memory.
Another legend has it that a Lithuanian farmer, whose daughter was seriously ill had a dream, where a lady asked him to plant a cross on this hill and pray for the recovery of his daughter. It is said that after he followed what was said in the dream and planted a cross, his daughter recovered. This belief that the prayers get answered if a cross is placed on this hill and prayer for recovery is made here, making this place a place of prayer to seek blessing.
Whatever may the origin of the Crosses on this hill, the fact is, people believe in the legends. The size, shapes and decoration on the crosses are good. Since traditionally the crosses are wooden, most of them are carved and the carving could really be intricate and beautiful.
This hill was demolished twice by Soviets during their occupation but the Lethunian’s belief was so strong that they braved soviets, KGB, etc to go and plant crosses on this hill. Most notable cross here is a statue of Jesus Christ under a roof.
One must visit this place when on a trip to Baltics. It is a mesmerizing place but it could be overpowering too because such a huge number of crosses can be overwhelming for few. Let the photos take you on this trip-
|Can not believe my eyes|
|Wooden, Metal or any other, a cross is a cross|
|Have you ever walked in the midst of so many crosses?|
|Faith and Belief|
Kemeri National Park and Bogs
Bogs are essentially wetlands where the water is acidic in nature. The plants and vegetation that grow here are special as they can survive in Acidic water. Such bogs are found in cold countries were vegetation growth rate in the bogs is low and the decay of plant and animal material is even lower. Most of the bogs are over 12000 years old. The decaying vegetation becomes Peat, an essential energy source for burning. Peat is used in industries, homes for heating and distilleries.
10 % of Latvia’s surface is covered by Bogs and Latvia is one of the major supplier of peat across Europe. As for Kemeri Bogs and National Park, it has forests, lakes and mires also called bogs. Ths park also has hot springs and sulfur baths. There are many treks for the walkers. However, when it comes to bogs, one has to be careful. To experience bogs, walking trails made of wooden planks have been made over the bogs and one must stick to those trails only. The bogs are dangerous, deep and unpredictable. Hence only a wooden boardwalk is recommended if bogs are to be experienced. It is said that a few German tanks were swallowed by these bogs during WW II.
Visiting Kemeri National Park and enjoying it to the full would be at least a days activity if not more. In our case, we had a short time and it was already nearing sunset. We, therefore, did only the famous Bord Walk and enjoyed the Bogs, nature, birds and vegetation and a wonderful sunset. Here are a few photos -
|Beauty in the Wilderness|
|Leaving Boardwalk is unsafe|
We had to skip Jurmala during our trip as it had become very late in the evening. However, I am covering Jurmala for completeness of the information in the Blog.
Jurmala is the only official resort town of Latvia. It has everything a resort town needs, white sandy pristine beach spreading 25 km in length. The town also has curative Mud bath spas, Mineral water and also Pine forests to boost.
This town also has an open-air museum depicting what Jurmala a few years ago (decades). A fishing village. The town has historical wooded Architecture, a water park, a great concert hall and a typical small-town market.
The town is worth spending time but it somehow did not fit in our programme.
With this road trip, we have finished our virtual trip of Riga, Latvia. We had a grand time over these four nights that we have spent here.
In the next blog, we will embark on Loire Valley road trip in France, going from Paris, through many castle towns to Mont St Michel and back.