Friday, May 13, 2011

Mt Abu: Go once and you’ll want to go again

A Digambar Jain temple opposite the Dilwara Temple
Nestled among the Aravali mountain range lies the sleepy little hill station of Mount Abu, a town situated at a height of approximately 1,220 above sea level that will force you to visit not just once, but again and again.

This hamlet has been drawing crowds in droves from both India as well as from across the globe every year for its world famous Dilwara Temples, the architecture as well as the stone carvings of which are arguably among the best found anywhere in the world.
The Dilwara Temple looks like any other temple from outside
Interiors of the Dilwara Temple are simply mind blowing
A closer look at the carvings, inside the Dilwara Temple
 Inside the Dilwara Temple
Despite being a popular tourist destination and the summer capital of the princely state of Rajasthan, a large part of the 15-km-long and 5-km-wide Mt Abu is virgin territory, with pristine forests and waterfalls still a part of the landscape.
Even as tourists make a beeline for this awesome resort, Mt Abu uncannily manages to maintain its calm.
During ancient times, Mt Abu had been the abode of the 33 crore gods of the Hindus. It was here that many rishis (sages) rested, including Vaishisth Muni, who created four Agnikul Rajput clans by performing yagna (sacrifice by fire).
Mt Abu also had a mega role to play during the British period. It was the headquarters for residents of Rajputana until independence and also a sanatorium for troops.

How to reach there
Mt Abu can be conveniently reached by train from Delhi. The Ahmedabad Rajdhani Express and other trains from Delhi, after an almost 12-15 hour journey, halt at Abu Road. From Abu Road, a bus or a cab ride to Mt Abu takes around 45 minutes to one hour.
 The Brahma Kumari peace park
 Inside the Brahma Kumari peace park
If you want to fly down, the nearest airport is in Udaipur, at a distance of 185 km, and from there, Mt Abu is a five-hour drive. Also, there are many buses from Udaipur, which take around five-six hours.
From Jaipur, Mt Abu is an overnight journey by Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation’s air conditioned buses. Private buses would be a bad option as they tend to stop now and then. There are also a slew of trains from Jaipur.
 Inside the Brahma Kumari Gyan Sarovar Ashram
The Bhojan Ghar (dining hall), inside the Brahma Kumari Gyan Sarovar Ashram
A typical cottage inside the Brahma Kumari Gyan Sarovar Ashram
Mt Abu’s reputation as a tourist destination is mainly owing to the presence of the Dilwara Temples. Here are some of the places you must see while on your visit to Mt Abu:
Dilwara Temples: Mt Abu’s Dilwara Temples (the temple complex is around two and half kms away from Mt Abu) may look like any other temple from outside, but once inside, it will make you simply awe struck.

The breath taking carvings on marble is something you probably have never seen in your life. The interiors of the temple make it so mind blowing that some archeologists consider the temple to be even more beautiful than the Taj Mahal, so far as the architecture goes.

The Dilwara series of temples was built around 11th and 13th century. It will baffle you how such a marvel could be constructed at such a height, where tonnes of marble had to be transported to the mountains on elephant backs to build the temple.
The Dilwara Temple complex comprises five temples which are unique in their own way. They are:
  • The Vimal Vasahi (Shri Adi Nathji temple), which is dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankar lord Rishabh
  • The Luna Vasahi (Shri Neminathji temple,) which has been dedicated to the 22nd Jain Tirthankar lord Neminatha
  • The Pithalhar (Shri Rishabha Devji temple), made for the first Jain Tirthankar lord Rishabh
  • Khartar Vasahi (Shri Parshva Nathji temple) for the 23rd Jain Tirthankar lord Parshva
  • Mahavir Swami (Shri Mahavir Swamiji temple), which was dedicated to the last of the Jain Tirthankars, lord Mahavir
Guru Shikhar is not only the highest point in Mt Abu but also in the entire Aravali range
The Sunset Point
While getting bewitched by the temple’s beauty, you must keep in mind that photography is strictly prohibited within the complex.
Brahma Kumari Ashrams: It is a religious community centre that can boast of visitors from across the world. The ashrams have put Mt Abu on the global map. There is Madhuban (forest of honey), the headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, which is situated near the main market, the hub of Mt Abu.
There is Shantivan, another campus of the Brahma Kumaris, where the gigantic hall can accommodate over 20,000 people. A third campus, the Gyan Sarovar, is higher up in the Aravalis, the serene environment of which will surely unclutter your mind.

If you want to stay in these unparalleled ashrams, you need to get a letter of recommendation from the nearest Brahma Kumari Ashram in your city. At the ashram, you’ll get wholesome food, time to meditate and be at peace with yourself as well as others.

The Nakki Lake is an ideal boating spot ahead of dusk 
All this for free! It is recommended you wear only white or very light-coloured clothes while staying in the ashrams.

Also, the beautiful Peace Park of the Brahma Kumaris is something you shouldn’t miss.

Guru Shikhar: Want to be at the highest point in Mt Abu and also in the whole of the Aravali range. Guru Shikhar is the place (at a height of nearly 1,720 metres) to be in. Guru Shikhar offers you a bird’s eye view of the entire Mt Abu is also a prime spot to gasp at the Aravalis.

Near Guru Shikhar is the temple of Guru Dattatreya. It is believed that Dattatreya is an incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswar (Shiva), the three creators of the universe, according to Hindu legend.

The main market is the hub of Mt Abu. You can shop for a litany of Rajasthani handicraft here
Nakki Lake: if you want to go boating by dusk, head for Nakki Lake, which is not without its bit of history. According to legend, the Devtas (gods) used their nakh (nails) to dig Nakki Lake and that is how the lake got its name.

Achalgarh Fort: Its breathtaking medieval monuments will bowl you over. The fort was commissioned by Rana Kumbha, a well-known designer, who created a slew of huge fortresses in Rajasthan. Achalgarh is eight kms away from Mount Abu town.

The 9th Century Achleshwar Shiv Temple. The Nandi (bull) seen is made of panch dhatu (five sacred metals)

Climb 365 steps to reach the Adhar Devi (Durga) Temple
The Adhar Devi Temple: It is a temple of the Goddess Durga. Prepare to climb 365 steps to reach the temple. Moreover, you have to bend to get into the low-entrance of the temple. If walking is not your forte, you can give this ancient shrine a miss.
Sunset Point: You can get a mindboggling view of the sunset atop a mountain. From Mt Abu’s main market or Nakki Lake, it’s just about a km away. You may opt for a horse or a trolley ride (for Rs 50) to reach Sunset point. On a cloud day, you could miss the view at sunset.
The Achleshwar temple: This ninth century temple houses a Nandi (Lord Shiva’s bull) which is said to be made of panch dhatu (five sacred metals) - fold, silver, copper, brass and zinc. The Nandi weighs around four tonnes. According to legend, the temple was built around a foot print of Lord Shiva.
So, just go and visit Mt Abu once and you will want to go back.

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