– Ashok’s floody adventures continue for a third time
– Left Mumbai amidst heavy rains and adventure
– Brief halt at Ahmedabad where it had rained that night only
– Resumed journey with wife to Rajkot
– Great journey with lovely atmosphere, great view, new leaves, bad movie Bhagambhaag
– Heavy rains encountered on the way and they entered the bus
– Rajkot streets were full of water. M K Gandhi Vidyalaya had become an island
– Rested at Bhabha Hotel, had nice Darshan and Aarti of Lord Jalaram at Virpur in the evening
– War of water on earth continued in the night and transportation collapsed
– Luckily mobile phones allowed communication
– After hours of wait, boarded a bus to Shankheshwar and made the way through dark clouds, lakes and fear
– Wonderful Darshan at Shankheshwar, revisited some basics of Jainism
– Stranded in Shankheshwar as roads were damaged and / or under water due to heavy rains
Gujarat Rain Snaps…Click Here
Gujarat Rains Travelogue
I left Mumbai amidst heavy rains. Luckily my trains was late only by half an hour and rains had not ventured into Gujarat. To put it the other way, I had not carried the pregnant clouds to Gujarat.
Lokshakti Express started at 9:15 from Borivali in the night. The train was empty as many Mumbaikars had dropped their travel plans at the last minute. Also, the schools had just started and family people would not be looking at new vacations as of now. I was reading the latest issues of Business Today and Businessworld as train chugged on. I slept at 11:30 and could hear the music of rains. The melodies continued throughout the night and indicated to me that the rainy adventures will continue.
I reached Ahmedabad in the morning at 7:00 am instead of 5:30 am. The streets indicated the strength of the downpours. Many small streets were submerged under water These small streets were indeed small. They could not bear the impact of first rains and had given up. I reached at our relative’s residence where Komal was staying for last 2-3 days. I had a quick tea and then we both started for Virpur via Rajkot.
Our travel bus was named AshwaMegh Travels. Good name. Bad service ahead. AC bus was postponed and now there was only non-AC bus. The bus started 45 minutes late. The bus was damp and all seats – curtain were wet. Entire bus had terrible stench which got diluted as the bus covered kilometres and we also got used to it. The choice of movie was comedy, as always. Movie was Bhagambhag.
The view on the way was picturesque. The first few days of rain had resulted in the emergence of fresh new green grass. It looked lovely. The air was windy and sun was on vacation. We both enjoyed the view and were happy. After we crossed Limbdi – Chotila we had a halt at Hotel Darshan. After a difficult selection from limited options, we had a quick bite and then we resumed our journey. The rains now started and with each passing minute it got worse. It is very beautiful to watch the rains when you are not in the middle of it. Only exceptions are children. Our bus roof was leaking and we could feel the rain outside. The visibility was poor and it had grown dark outside with presence of fog. We reached Rajkot at 12:30 pm.
The streets were full of water. We got down near Mahatma Gandhi Vidyalaya in Rajkot. Next to it is the famous Gujarati Thali Restaurant and Hotel, Hotel Bhabha. We decided to get stock of the situation while we first have our lunch at Bhabha. We took the auto for a few hundred metres as it was waterworld. We had our lunch and we decided to check in at Hotel Bhabha itself instead of moving to Virpur now. Hotel Bhabha is a traditional hotel. The service is functional and decor minimalist. But it has its own unique style and a culture.
We rested for a few hours and then woke up at 4:30 to see receding rains. We quickly moved out at 4:45 and luckily got an express bus to Virpur. The roads were empty. The markets were empty. It was Sunday plus a day of heavy rains. The NH8B Highway was also clear and was beautifully maintained. The wide roads had rows of trees and flower plants planted in the divider section. The journey was beautiful. GSRTC Bus had improved its service and we reached Virpur within an hour. We got an auto quickly and he demanded reasonable fare. I was surprised as I was expecting bargaining session. Maybe he had not done good business that day or was one of the few good men.
We reached Virpur Temple at 6:00 pm. We had a nice Darshan and we spent an hour in the courtyard. Then we witnessed the 7 PM main Aarti and then we had Prasad Food of Khichdi and Kadhi with Rasdar Alu. Then we moved to the S T Station and got an super express bus. This GSRTC Bus Conductor had an automatic ticketing machine and I was impressed. At the same time, I was imagining how the simple ticket we are used to now, will become an extinct thing and an item for museum / nostalgia. We reached within 45 minutes to Rajkot and we walked down to our hotel. After heavy rains, the road were wet and night was quiet. We reached our hotel at 11:00 pm and soon went to sleep.
The rains again commenced their war on earth in the night. It rained heavily throughout the night with strong lightening and stormy winds. When we woke up in the morning, we saw water, water and more water. We waited for nearly 2-3 hours for the rains to subside. Finally, we gave up and decide to move out. We knew that highways would be clearer and we should move on rather than wait in the hotel. But we did not get the auto for next half an hour. There were few autos. Those on the roads, were occupied. And some were just not interested in short distances or pull in their auto in the watery streets to collect our luggage from the main gate. Finally we got an 12 seater auto and we moved to S T Station after paying double the normal fare. Small price.
We were in tough luck. A direct bus to Shankheshwar had left 5 minutes before we ventured in. We were at S T Station from 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM. We were tired. I had a bad time running after buses in the S T Stand in the rains to check in whether they would take us to Shankheshwar or Viramgaam or Surendranagar. Most of the buses directly went from Chotila Limbdi to Ahmedabad on the highway.
Inquiry officer at S T Stand was good for nothing. All his information on buses proved to be incorrect. We were promised that a bus for Viramgaam would come at 11:30…then at 12:00 and one for Shankheshwar at 1 pm. Earlier, he also told me that there was no bus for Shankheshwar. I did not trust him. Of course, rains would have wronged his estimates.
Many people in the bus stand were frustrated like us. People were cutting short their trips or returning abruptly. There were stories of many places being submerged and roads being cut off. The gravity of the situation started sinking.
Komal and I decided to have food while we waited for 1:00 pm. We went into a restaurant behind S T Stand. Komal made a wise decision of ordering Kathiwadi food. I made a mistake of ordering Pasta in Afghanistan. I ordered for Pav Bhaji which I left after the first morsel. Then I gave up on the next toast sandwich. Finally my favorite food of my Henkel Sales days saved my day. Parle – G! My wife was smiling.
1 pm bus did not come but we got inside the 12:30 bus which was still in stands at 1:15 pm. But this bus was till Viramgaam only. However we chose it over the direct bus to Shankheshwar. It was a wise decision to not wait for the 1pm bus. This GSRTC bus impressed me further. Apart from the automatic ticketing gizmo, this one had music playing on. Like private luxury buses, GSTRC has experimented the music stuff. This one also had HUTCH PCO inside like BEST buses in Mumbai.
We could see the impact of rains outside. People were flocking to safer places and moving their wares. Some people were busy on bridges over rivers to see the never-seen volumes of water. Almost all rivers, rivulets, streams had record level of waters. Cows were busy searching for a roof over their bodies. The entire stretch of fields on either side of road were filled with waters. I had seen this water during Gujarat floods. I could recollect my bus moving between fields / lakes on either side. We had diversion in Surendranagar City as the road ahead was not safe. Then there was immense darkness and I saw huge stretch of black clouds. We had never seen mega clouds like these before. As soon as we reached near clouds, we were under a huge deluge. After a few hours, rains weakened. We were now ready for music which had been stopped. Nadeem Shravan hits like Payaliya, Sapne Saajan Ke were on.
We reached Viramgaam at 4:30 pm. We waited for an hour. Finally we got the bus for Shankheshwar. We reached Shankheshwar at 7:00 pm. We checked in at Bhakti Vihar Dharamshala at 108 Parshvanath Trust. There was only one more family. The room was damp and also dusty. Since very few pilgrims were there, not enough attention being paid. Also renovation was on. We had our bath and went for the darshan of Lord Parshvanath. The atmosphere there was magical and all our tiredness vanished. The beautiful image of Lord Parshvanath and the devotional climate in the temple had its impact on us. Bhavana / Stavans had started and we listened to few Stavans. Then we returned back. All the small shops selling puja articles, religious items, clothing, mukhwaas, etc. were closed. Normally they close at 9:30 – 10:00. Weak traffic and rains were the main reason. We had our dinner in Mahavir Bhojnalay as the main Bhojnalay operates till Sunset only. The food was good and returned to our dharamshala. The rains had stopped and we sat in the open space benches near the dharamshala. We retired for the day. Komal went to sleep while I was checking my mails.
Due to heavy rains, many insects / living creatures had made their way into the dharamshala. Those living under the ground, had seen their homes flooded with water while many other were washed away. We did not have proper sleep. The next day Dharamshala had no water as boring well was being repaired. We shifted to VIP AC Dharamshala. Usually it is reserved but today there was no one. This Dharamshala will put many hotels to same. Our mind will have many questions but this was an example of religion meeting modern day comforts. If we want our VIPs / Ministers to visit our temples, we need matching facilities for their comfort. Or is religion about non materialism ? Many questions were in my head.
Heavy rains were on while we shifted to the new Dharamshala. We had our bath and visited 108 Parshvanath Temple. I shared some of the basics of Jainism to Komal. She already knew Navkar Mantra and method of worshipping. I told her other basics of Jainism, concept of Nissihi, types of Puja, precautions, meaning of Swastik etc. I told her the following:
Ten Rituals of the Temple (Dasha-Trik)
01 Nissihi Renunciation of worldly matters, while in temple
02 Pradakshinä Circumambulation – going around the Jin’s idol for three times
03 Pranäm Salutation with reverence
04 Pujä Worship through verges of prayers
05 Avasthä- chintan Contemplation upon the various states of the Lord
06 Dishätyag Concentrate only on Jin’s idol
07 Pramärjana Cleaning the floor before sitting down
08 Älambana Mental support
09 Mudräs Postures for meditation
10 Pranidhäna Remain meditative
– One should repeat the word Nissihi three times to discard all the thoughts relating to worldly affairs. (I have always been unsuccessful to completely insulate my mind from world while in temple)
– One should not be distracted by anything while in temple. Your eyes and mind should concentrate on the idol and you should not look up, down, sideways, or behind.
– Before sitting, one should clean the ground three times with your upper cloth, so that no small insect may be hurt by you sitting there.
– The flowers, the decorations, and the sandalwood paste should be kept on a clean plate and should not be allowed to fall to the ground. In case they do fall, they should not be used in Pujä.
– Never wear black or leather or silk while visiting temple
– Never show your back to the Lord…Walk three steps back while facing the lord and then turn sideways.
– Personally, as long as one knows Navkar Mantra and bows three times to Lord, things are fine. Navkar Mantra is very powerful.
We were the first visitors for the day at 108 Parshvanath Temple and Poojari offered to offer flowers to Lord Parshvanath on our behalf. This temple has 108 different idols of Lord Parshavanath in different moods. The temple also had beautiful sculpted architecture. I had seen this temple complex from day one when this was just a plain ground. I had seen the foundations. I have seen Rajasthani workers working on carvings and bringing life into stone. I have seen idols of Lord Parshvanath in a room, when they had arrived from different parts. I had seen the first definition of garden when a few trees had been planted. Today this 108 Temple is a huge complex with Dharamshalas, Bhojnalay, Garden, Community Hall, Sadhana Bhavan, Lovely Temple, Beautiful Garden etc. I have been coming to Shankheshwar every year since I was born. Sometimes I come twice a year.
Shankheshwar is an important place of pilgrimage for Jains. It is next to Shatrunjaya in importance for Jains. Shri Krishna had blowed the Shankh here and hence the place is called Shankheshwar. Lord Parshvanath is worshipped here. His idol is suspended in air. It was made of mud and other material and was found on its own. Poonam or Full Moon Day are important days of worship. Diwali / New Year is the main day of worship for pilgrims and thousands and thousands of people converge here.
Initially there was only one main temple. This is the temple for which Shankheshwar is famous. There was only one Dharamshala with common accomodation for all and general bathroom / toliet blocks. Now there are many more Dharamshalas, more Bhojnalayas and more temples. Some of the other temples are Agam Temple, 108 Parshvanath Temple, Halari Temple, Parshva Padmavati Temple.
After our visit to 108 Temple, we returned. We were totally drenched in 5 minutes. We changed into another set of clothes and went off to Main Temple. The roads were emplty. The temple also had very few people. After Darshan, we had our lunch at Main Bhojnalay. Then we came back. The cold climate and watery environment made us lazy. We enjoyed the siesta.
In the evening we went to Agam Temple. Then we went to Parshva Padmavati Temple. We again had darshan at main temple and had an early dinner. The town was empty, shops were closed, roads were closed. We were back in our room at 7:00 pm. I and Komal chatted on various topics, spoke to our parents, checked my mails and then went to sleep.
Today we were supposed to return to Ahmedabad. After waking up, I had my tea. But today no newspaper were available. This indicated that the roads had not opened yet. Anyway, we packed our bags, visited temple and had an early lunch. We inquired and our doubts came true. The roads were still blocked. On the left side side of the highway, a small pool had broken. So one could not go towards Sami / Haarij / Radhanpur. On the right side of the highway, the river had gone crazy and was overflowing. The waters from Taraanga and other high altitude place were flowing in. No vehicular movement on this side too. So one could not go towards Viramgaam / Ahmedabad too. So we were stuck in Shankheshwar and had the opportunity of more Darshan of Lord.
State Transport bus which had arrived yesterday afternoon was still here. The passengers were given temporary accommodation and food. We arrived back in the room and decided to check the situation after 3 hours. Komal slept while I started to write this diary.