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Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Ambaji


Staying away from the blog as long as I have, this time, starting to write is that much tougher. I have spent days wondering where to begin, starting posts and abandoning them, and finally, have decided to start afresh this time, taking up a place I visited in May 2011, as part of our summer vacation trip. We began our tour at Mount Abu, and then headed over to Udaipur, spending some wonderful days in the Lake City as well as Chittorgarh. Unlike my usual regular posts, the whole trip has been covered in fits and starts, one post here and another there. Here is yet another – this time about Ambaji.





Ambaji is a name for the mother goddess, whose temple gives the town its name. The temple is considered to be one among the 51 Shakti Peethas, (a story I will one day get around to writing), and is located in the Banaskantha district of Gujarat. The town is on the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan, about 45 Km from Mount Abu and 20 Km from Abu Road. We drove over from Mount Abu and spent a day at Ambaji, staying at the Holiday home run bythe Ambaji Mata Devasthan Trust. The rooms were surprisingly clean and comfortable, considering that these were maintained by the temple, and we spent a day roaming, visiting a number of temples around.


The town is a small one, situated around the temple of Arasuri Ambaji, a name which comes from the hill ranges surrounding the temple – Arasur. These hills are rich in marble, and the stone is very much in evidence wherever you go. From the marble workers making beautiful items for sale, to the workshops specialising in marble shrines, to the temple itself, marble is all around!



The temple houses in the sanctum, not an image of the goddess, as in other temples, but a yantra or a symbolic form of the goddess. Photography is strictly prohibited, so no photos of the temple, sorry!

Being the summer vacation, the temple was packed with devotees. Most were from Gujarat or Rajasthan, but there were many others like us from other states too, and at first sight, the queue was rather intimidating. However, once we entered, we were surprised by the order and peace, in spite of all that crowd! Though there were a few shops outside the temple, the vendors had not troubled us. Inside, we saw shops on both sides of the path, and we overheard another visitor telling his family that these were the shops approved by the temple board for selling puja items as well as souvenirs. It was all well organised and neat, and while the vendors called out to us from their shops, none moved out of their area, or invaded our space in the queues. Such organisation in a temple was a surprise, to say the least!!! For once, it actually made me stray from the line and buy some offerings!



The queue was orderly all the way to the sanctum, where men and women were separated into different lines, which is where the usual chaos set in, making me feel more like I was in a normal temple! We had a quick darshan, and rushed out of the crowd, which was still waiting for that one extra glimpse before they were pushed out of the way! Some things never change, no matter how hard you try!!

Our main temple visit over, we had time to do some sightseeing. First on the list was Gabbar Hill – a hillock nearby, which is believed to be the original site of the Shakti Peeth, the place where Sati’s heart is believed to have fallen. (Yes, I will get around to writing the whole story soon!) The hill is also associated with Krishna, and it is believed that this was where he was brought for his first mundan – a ceremony where a child’s hair is removed for the first time. Besides this, the hill is also associated with various other legends, and is a much-visited place. However, the biggest draw here is not the small temple atop the steep hillock, but the ropeway, or cable car, which takes us there!





We joined the long queue for the ropeway, and ultimately found ourselves in one of the cable cars. There is also a footpath leading to the temple, and it is not a very difficult climb, apparently, for the devout rarely use the cable car, but the steps, which takes them a little more than an hour.



The view from the car was spectacular – though the scorching sun made things a bit too difficult to capture on camera.



We reached the top eventually, only to be confronted by a huge crowd, all heading into the tiny temple, which had an eternal flame as a symbol of the goddess. For a while, I wondered if I actually wanted to join the rush, but I had no choice, as the crowd pushed me towards the temple. This was so much more like the usual scene at a temple – my fellow devotees pushing me to get closer to the flame, a couple refusing to move out of the way, and the priest demanding money for keeping the eternal flame burning!! 




We escaped from the chaos and headed to a small stall for refreshments as we waited for our turn to use the cable car for the way down. The magnificent view was worth all this and more, was what I thought as we made our way down eventually!



At the foothills once again, we couldn’t but help notice the enterprise of the ropeway management. While the waiting area for the cable car was a no-frills zone, the landing area was an entertainment park!! Giving in to Samhith’s demand for ice cream, we sat down, only to be pulled in as an audience for a puppet show!



It was a challenge to pull him away from the gaming zone, but we spent quite a while in the gardens, where he made the most of the swing, not allowing anyone else to get on!! Then there were the rabbits and love birds, and by the time we got out of the place, it was too late to go anywhere else!

We did go to some other temples the next day, but this post is getting too long to include them. Wait for my next post to read about them!


Comments

  1. Lovely views from the car and the puppets look so colorful!

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  2. Beautiful pictures Anu, loved them all. I am not regular these days as we have intermittent power cuts which is hampering all my work.

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    1. Thanks Chitra, I did hear about the additional power cuts, but so sad to hear that thats why u havent been able to write... hope things improve soon!

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  3. We visited Mount Abu in 1995 but we missed this place, good coverage of Ambaji

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    1. Thanks! I am sure you would have enjoyed the place!! you should go again sometime..

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  4. Beautiful place. This is in my wish list for long time now.

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  5. Beautiful photos and a lovely temple.

    www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.com

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  6. Great pictures Anuradha, i especially loved the rope way ones and that of puppet show

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  7. Beautiful Pics as usual....
    was wondering where you were:))

    The puppets are a terrific end to the compilation..great job

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  8. Beautiful
    Was wondering where you were:))

    Puppets are a great finish to the compilation...good job

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  9. Like your blog it's looking nice and awesome with good photos. I always keep in touch with your blog and going to bookmark also.
    Thanks

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  10. Wow, Anu! The photos are fabulous. And I love the temple architecture. Thanks for sharing them here. I am not sure if I will every get to visit these places, but getting a sense of your trip through your blog.

    And apologies for having not responded to you earlier. U have been in my thoughts! Will send a message soon!
    TC
    Subadra

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Subhadra....i certainly hope u get to visit some of these... am sure the children will love to see such amazing beauty! and no prob.. pls take ur time... i know how hectic it must be :)

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  11. Excellent post & nice click !! I must visit the site you have mentioned. I am greatly interested in temple. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    http://www.bigindianwedding.com/

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  12. India is a place where in every step you can experience something or the other. In fact, this is a place that gets you addicted as much as you explore. Each nook and corner is like a plethora of images and color and it gets better when you delve deep into it. India is a picturesque country and every moment you get something to get intrigued about. That’s how India is – colorful, adventurous and gorgeous. I love your blog and the posts because it is able to bring out that zing about India.

    Divya Bhaskar
    MyGrahak.com

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  13. This is an exciting place to visit, I think. We missed that able car ride when we were in Mt.Abu .The tour guys did not take us there :-(.

    Mt.Abu is a lovely place to visit and easy to visit too.

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  14. Hi Anuradha, Can you pls share more info about the holiday homes. I plan to stay there for 2 days. Are the rooms decent with geyser and attached bathrooms?

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  15. Hi Anu, planning a trip next month. Good and pray we would get a nice Darshan. Your post was informative.

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    1. Glad to hear that, Chitra. Best wishes for your trip.

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  16. Very informative, AnuRadha can you suggest an accommodation for us we are a group of 31 going for a Gujarat. Ambaji we are unable to confirm accommodation. Our group is friends relatives, neighborhood senior citizens

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    1. Thank you Savithri. I dont have the contact number of the temple guest house, but if you are going during the week you should not have any issues. Plus there are other hotels as well, though again I dont have any contact numbers right now. best wishes for your trip.

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  17. Great pictures and useful information..thanks for that.. still mundan ceremonies are performed here??

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