Sunday, November 22, 2015

Around Dwarka, Part II


As we were crossing the sea on a boat, I took this reflection of sunlight on the water. I liked it, thought I should share.






On Byet Dwarka jetty I was standing on my own. Sun was setting on the horizon. I took a series of photos and videos. The one below is a 60 min shot of setting sun on the sea.




When we arrived at the mainland, it was already dark. We were feeling a bit drained also. So we decided to cut short our sight seeing of Gopi Talao and Gomti Ghat. We went to visit Jyotirlinga Shiv. The actual temple is ordinary but it is believed that Lord Shiva has come out of the ground. Devotees believe, lord shiva is an awakened deity. Anyway, I did not enter the temple. I am averse to removing shoes repeatedly. I took a shot of gigantic statue of Lord Shiva.


We returned to our hotel, had our dinner and went to bed. Next morning, I got up early to have a darshan of Dwarkadheesh at the time of Mangalarati. After that, we packed our bags, cleared our dues and left for Somnath via Porbandar.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

BJP after Bihar


Bihar election is over. BJP lead NDA experience a crushing defeat. A lot of analysis has been put forward by different analysts. Ms. Sagarika Ghose wrote that Mr. Nitish Kumar's personality and charm with women had done the job. Mr. Shekher Gupta believes, Mr. Modi's honeymoon post 2014 national election is over. Another commentator, Mr. Ashok Malik, argued that Mr. Modi has to get into governance mode sooner than later and start delivering. Prime Minister must work as if it is his only term. I think most of the commentators have touched upon real issues that has been confronting BJP in general and prime minister in particular. Many even started discussing possibility of forming an alliance of like minded anti-BJP parties in upcoming state and central elections.   Experience point out that in India experient with ideologically disparate alliances has not been very successful. Yet unless Mr. Modi and his party does not do a course correction, it is possible that Mr. Modi may not get a second chance in 2019 general election. The following are my thoughts :

 I think one of the reason, Mr. Modi got a massive mandate in 2014 general election because he presented an alternative vision in front of the nation, that of development, jobs, and raising poor from the shackles of poverty by empowering them. It can be argued that 1.5 years may be too short  a time to get out of a mindset created over 60 years. Somewhere down the road it was forgotten that mandate was not for politics of intolerance, politics of division and politics of intolerance. Prime Minister reiterated the same in his speech in Bihar election campaign.

Prime Minister is one of the most articulate politician in the country. He can charm people when he wants to. Tumultous response in public functions abroad testify to this. Prime Minister expresses his opinion on a range of subjects on social network. He can condemn tragedies around the globe. Yet the same Prime Minister did not utter a word of condemnation on brutal lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri. Our Prime Minister was not hesitant to show his sensitive side in Face Book headquarter in California. Yet the same Prime Minister does not utter a word on farmer suicide! Is our prime minister forgetting that Indian citizens had voted for him. Any amount of adulation by crowd is New York,  Melbourne, London will not help him in election, let it be state or central.  

It appears that in his quest to protect his image as a clean person, Prime Minister has given an image of being inaccessible and aloof. Prime Minister does not interact with media often while in India. In this day and age of 24/7 TV news, by not managing discourse Prime Minister is losing the battle of perception. Congress party has learnt the art of managing media narrative. By cultivating high profile intellectuals, writers, editors, congress party has mastered the art of managing media narrative. Despite, so many sins congress is considered a secular party. Anything party leaders say, gain traction with media. The same is not true with BJP.In other mature democracies too, politicians talk to media at regular intervals. White House even throws party for media where President of the US interacts with media. Without having a media manager and without interacting with news channels, BJP will completely loose the battle of perception. Same bad news can be made to sound worse or neutral depending on how one delivers and how one analyses.

In two state elections where BJP got a drubbing, the party ignored local leadership. I think, PM Modi, like Indira Gandhi, wants hand picked people who will follow his agenda. However, in 2015 such a an idea may not work. There has to be leaders who can be projected to be honest, sensitive and cognisant of local sense and sensibilities. In Bihar election, it appears that Prime Minister harped on lack of electricity, where every Bihar house hold gets at least 20 hours of power supply. 

It is also possible that thought process of Western Indian may be different from the same in the East.  It may be possible that Bihari and East Indian voters may prefer peace over prosperity. As a result Modi's fast development did not get traction over Nitish's inclusive growth but slow growth. India is a very heterogenous country. One size fits all may not be the correct strategy for all elections. There comes the need for locally grown leadership. 

I think it is important that Prime Minister carries on with his development agenda. Prime Minister must work to smoothen his image and convey his message by showing more empathy for poor and weak at the same time showing his iron fist for the corrupt and venal.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Around Dwarka Part I


In addition to Dwarkadheesh temple, Dwarka has several other places that tourists / devotees visit. I have listed them in the order our driver took us to these places. These include the following:

1. Renuka Devi Temple
2. Tata Salt Factory at Meethapur
3. Byet Dwarka
4. Jyotirlinga Shiva
5. Gopi Talao
6. Gomti Ghat

Renuka Devi was the favourite wife of Lord Krishna. A temple has been created in her honour. Shown below a panoramic view of the temple and its sorroundings. Once inside the temple, a brief history of the temple is described. 



As is evident the surrounding is semi arid. So in the temple they ask donation to serve people with drinking water. One can donate in the name of people they respect. Name of the person and the amount of donation made are announced over the public announcement system.



Outside the temple premises, sadhus sat in an orderly row under blazing sun. Sadhus expected alms any reasonable amount. Their spokesman explained, whatever is given will be shared by all.

Byet Dwarka is around 20 km away from Dwarka. On the way one has to pass by salt factory set up by Tata group at Meethapur. We left Meethapur behind and kept on going towards Byet Dwarka. One has to cross a stretch of Arabian ocean to reach the island of Byet Dwarka. Shown below is a view of the ocean.


There are motor boats that ferry people across the sea. By some account there are nearly 150 boats that run between mainland and Byet Dwarka. Ticket can be obtained on the boat. Boat ride is like a local bus ride on the sea. 



Above is a boat is leaving for Byet Dwarka. It takes around 15 min to reach Byet Dwarka from main land. Many passengers buy puffed rice and stuff for feeding fish and birds at the time of crossing the sea.


Shown above is the jetty of Byet Dwarka. The flag indicates temple of Dwarkadheesh. Nowadays, auto-rickshaws ply from jetty to temple and back. They charge twenty rupees per person one way.



I did not go up the temple. I stayed back on the jetty to take a shot of sun set. We took the return ferry back to the mainland.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dwarka, the Kingdom of Dwarkadheesh Lord Krishna

We left Jamnagar around 9 am in the morning. The distance between Jamnagar and Dwarka is around 190 km. But road was no longer 4 lane expressway. It has narrowed to 2 lane but quality of road was not bad. We reached Dwarka around 11.00 am. We had booked a hotel for our stay in Dwarka through the travel agent that rented out the vehicle. 

Our plan was to dump our luggage in the hotel, take some rest and move to Byet Dwarka. We wanted to visit Dwarkadheesh first thing next morning. But some members insisted not to budge an inch without touching feet of Dwarkadheesh first. So we went on to the temple. Since our last visit, the temple premises has been renovated and reorganised. Mobile phones, camera and leather belts are not allowed in the temple. So one has to deposit them first. Shoes had to be deposited in a different counter. We decided to take turn in visiting the temple. Always one person stayed guard on camera, mobile and shoes. This time I had the opportunity to have a darshan at 11.20 am slot on the day of arrival. I could also have a darshan the next day at 6.30 am mangal arti. One has to walk bare feet towards the temple gate. After a body search one is allowed entry into the temple complex. Apart from the central temple of Dwarkadheesh, there are many other temples in the complex. 

Dwarkadheesh is the ruling deity of Dwarka. He is the king of Dwarka and he is treated like one. From morning waking at 6 in the morning till noon he performs different activities like  snan (bathing), shringar (dressing up), bhog (partaking a meal) etc. At the time lord is engaged, his idol is draped in a curtain. Once an activity is over, one can have a darshan (meet the lord). Between 1 pm to 5 pm in the afternoon is the time for lord to relax. So there can be no darshan at the time. Temple closes at 10 PM in the evening for lord to call it a day. A detailed list of darshan timings is available on the net. Briefly, in the morning one can have darshan at the following times : 

 6.30 Mangla Arti
  7.00 to 8.00 Mangla Darshan
  9.00 to 9.30 Shringar Darshan
  9.45 to 10.15 Shringar Darshan
  10.30 to 10.45 Shringar Arti
  11.20 to 12.00 Darshan
  12.20 to 01.00 Darshan
  
At the time of darshan, there are two separate lines for men and women. Senior citizens are allowed to enter through a less crowded entry point. General enclosures are very crowded. Devotees go into a frenzy with chant of "Dwarkadheesh ki Jai" and "Ranchod ji ki Jai". Many raise their arms as if to draw attention of the lord that they have also arrived to pay a visit. Gradually, line moves ahead. In front of the lord one hardly gets 30 - 45 sec. Give your offering of sweets and/or money, do a pranam. Priest offers the item to lord and returns the same or some other item as prasad.

After darshan, we went back to hotel which was booked in advance. Hotel Shri Darshan is an average budget hotel. Rooms were fitted with air conditioner and television. Bathroom was cramped but usuabl. On the positive side, rooms came with complementary breakfast in the small restaurant in the hotel. After taking our bath and lunch, we set out for seeing rest of Dwarka.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bihar Election : My Take on Experts and Outcome

Bihar election is over. After Delhi, this is the second consecutive rout for Mr. Modi lead BJP against a regional outfit. In Delhi it was AAP lead by Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. In Bihar, it was a Mahagathbandhan made of Janata Dal United - Rashtriya Janata Dal - Congress. Mahagathbandhan was lead by Mr. Nitish Kumar, sitting Chief Minister of the state.There are many explanations and hypotheses that have been discussed all of Sunday, 8 Nov, 2015: 

  • Good cast combination employed by Mahagathbandhan; 
  • RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's statement on reservation;
  • Beef politics and attempt at polarisation of vote along communal and caste lines;
  • Increased intolerance in the society;
  • Arrogance of Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah;
  • Non projection of any local BJP leadership;
  • Popularity of  Mr. Nitish Kumar as an inclusive leader;
  • Poor delivery of promises made by Mr. Modi in Lok Sabha election;
From my understanding, I am convinced most commentators have no clue why such a verdict has come. Most experts simply guess an outcome and hope they get it right. Sunday morning I was watching NDTV telecast of Bihar election results. Till around 9 or 10 am, NDTV was projecting a landslide for BJP lead NDA. I was listening to commentaries by expert panelists. All of a sudden, it was discovered that there was something wrong. NDA - BJP landslide reversed to Mahagathbandhan landslide. So did change points of view of experts. What was true only an hour before, became untrue and new narrative emerged. It appears, no one knows what the voter wants.  

Only person who had stuck his neck out was Surjit Bhalla in Indian Express. Mr. Bhalla had predicted 170 seats for Mahagathbandhan, a day before counting of results based on his understanding of ground level situation. Mr. Bhalla assumed 4% swing may be needed for BJP to win and apparently such a swing was impossible as there was no anti incumbency. This simple calculation in a caste based complicated political arithmatics of state like Bihar poll turned out to be prophetic. I hope such a process is replicated else where. That way complicated exit polls may not be needed. 

My take on election results is as follows: 

Modi has started a narrative of development, a discourse on all of us being an Indian first. Listen to Shazia Ilmi Nd Chiragh Paswan. These people do not want to be identified as a Muslim or a Dalit. They aspire to be an Indian politician /leader. I hope BJP defeat does not mean defeat of this idea of aspirational India, and we are back to caste, community, religion based politics. It would be unfortunate because most political outfits would adopt such a tactic at a time when  youth of India are responding to politics of development. 

I think, PM and BJP should have stuck to message of development even in the face of attempt to polarise electorate. That way, PM could have come out as a statesman convinced of his idea. Instead, PM resorted to cow and reservation politics that too in a very clumsy way. If a non Bihari voter, a sympathiser, can feel uncomfortable sitting in Delhi, less said about people that are going to vote. I also think, PM should have and from now on must speak against loud mouthed morons of his party. If not, BJP may be out of power sooner than we think.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Jamnagar, On the Way to Dwarka

Our first stop in Gujarat trip was Jamnagar. Jamnagar is nearly 300 km by road from Ahmedabad. We decided to stop at Jamnagar because some of our relatives had nearly 30 hour train journey a day before. A continuous travel from Ahmedabad to Dwarka would be too tiring for them. We had booked an Inova. However, our travel agent gave us Logie a car designed by Renault. For five people with luggage, Logie is not a comfortable car. 

 I had reserved hotel President at Jamnagar for our stay. Hotel was a budget hotel, reasonably clean and polite staff. Rooms had air-conditioning.  Bathrooms were clean and modern. 

Jamnagar was founded in 1540. It was one of the most important  Princely states ruled by the Jadejas. Ajay Jadeja, former Indian cricket captain, belonged to the Jadeja family of Jamnagar. Jamnagar has two petrochemical refineries. One of Reliance and the other of Essar. There are a few interesting places to visit in the city. However, to visit places like wild life and marine life sanctuaries, one needed more time. We visited two sites in the limited time we had. First one was Ram Dhun temple or Bala Hanuman Temple which was built by the side of Lakhota Palace and surrounding lake. 

Ram Dhun temple is famous for it not stop chanting of Ram Naam -  Sri Ram Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram. Since its consecration to the name of Sri Ram in 1964, till 2014 and beyond Ram Naam chanting never ever stopped in this temple. The temple has entered Guiness Book of Records for such performance. 

Bala Hanuman Temple or Ram Dhun Temple


A picture of the gate of Ram Temple with few members of our party is shown above. Another view of the temple with sanctum sanctorum in the background is shown below.


Ram Dhun Temple


Lakhota Palace
Shown in the picture above is Lakhota Palace surrounded by a lake. The is known as Lakhota Lake. Some people also call it Ranmal Lake. The palace was originally built as a fort. Lake functioned as a moat to prevent direct enemy attack. Lake was also a source of water for city people during drought season. We saw the lake being cleaned and palace being renovated. A road encircles the lake. Many local residents walk around the lake in morning and evenings. We were told in the evening, birds come and perch themselves on tree tops surrounding the lake and also on lake bed.


Shown in the picture, a white crane sitting on lake side in search of food. Below, one butterfly spread its wings, as if inviting me to take a picture.

Butterfly Spreading its Wings

Monday, November 2, 2015

Adalaj Ki Baoli

This october after Durga Puja, I visited Gujarat. This was my third visit to the state as a tourist. I get a  sense of exhilaration, overtime when car rolls westwards on Ahmedabad Rajkot highway leaving city of Ahmedabad behind. This time, I had a whirlwind tour of west Gujarat, covering : Ahmedabad - Jamnagar - Dwarka - Somnath - Rajkot - Ahmedabad.

The city of Ahmedabad is the commercial capital of Gujarat. City has many hotels to suit every pocket. I stayed at Ashish hotel, a budget hotel, close to Ahmedabad railway station. Hotel was booked through Goibibo.

Ahmedabad has many places for a tourist to visit. Most tour operators offer a package tour that covers 80 km and/or 8 hours in a day at a cost of Rs 8 - 12 / km (depending on size of car). Any extra mile or extra hour, over and above the agreed mileage and time, passengers have to pay for each extra km and each hour. On an average, an Ahmedabad sight seeing tour costs around Rs. 3600 using an Innova car. After a lot of bargain, I got a car for 2500 rupees, and we stuck to 80 Km and 8 hour formula.

Main sight seeing spots covered in the package are the following, not in the order of appearance: 
1. Adalaj ki baoli,  
2. Akshardham temple at Gandhi Nagar, 
3. Kankariya lake, 
4. Lal Darwaja Market, 
5. Sabarmati Ashram, 
6. Sabarmati river front walk, 
7. Sidi Sayyad Masjid, and 
8. An array of temples - Balaji temple, ISKON temple, Sai Narayan temple, Vaishno devi temple. 
9. Sun Temple at Motera. This is not part of city tour because this temple is in Mehsana, which is around 100 km away from Ahmedabad.  

Since I had come to Ahmedabad after touring all of Gujarat, I did not have much appetite to visit temples in Ahmedabad. I took some pictures of Adalaj ki baoli. Somehow, I do not remember visiting it in my earlier trips to the town.

Adalaj ki baoli is a step well used to collect rain water in a dry semi desert like place like Ahmedabad. The step well is five feet underground. At the bottom, temperature is at least 5 degree lower than the surface. It is believed that the stepwell was built in 1499 by Muslim king Mohammed Begda for his queen Rani Roopba.



A View of the Well from Top Floor

I was initially reluctant to go down the stairs to the bottom of the well. Shown below are the stairs and different levels leading to the bottom of the well.

A View of Stairs Leading to Top of the Well

As I reached the bottom, near the level of water, it was surprisingly pleasant temperature. Water was bluish green, clean enough to reflect the image of the arch.