A view of the riverside market at Braj Ghat, Gadmuktheshwar. Notice the nice flooring…
We walk to the car. Its drizzling… Time is just past 1 pm. We decide to visit the Garhmukteshwar village first, before we find a place to have lunch.
Most of us who come to Braj Ghat for Ganga Snaan, would probably not have visited the village. Snaan done, one would normally make ones way back to Dilli…. I too have never been to the village… But I have read that the village has some very ancient temples, including one of Goddess Ganga… As we drive out, we stop at the braj-ghat toll barrier, and ask the men there about the village and the temples. They are vague about it… One guys asks us why we want to go there.. “If you want to see Mandir, they are right here”, he offers by way of helping… He says that there are no temples in the village. Another guy disagrees and says there are sainkdon (any number) of temples in the village… So we let them decide among themselves and drive out…
A short distance back down the highway, we find a road to the right which goes to the Garhmukteshwar village… We turn in… Soon we are in the market road of garhmukteshwar…. Many Muslim traders…. We come to know that there is a mosque here, built by King Balban (the famous King of the slave dynasty) in the thirteenth century….
We ask the people the way to Ganga Mandir…..
Soon, we sight a sign board, put up by UP tourism….
The sign talks of four places…. Brij Ghat (which we have been to), Ganga Mandir, Nakka Kuan, and Mukteshwar Mandir… The last one, evidently, is the Deity that has given the name GarhMukteshwar to this place…
We go to Nakka kuan first, then to Ganga Mandir, and then come back to Nakka kuan as we had missed seeing some parts…
For this blog tour, lets visit Ganga Mandir first…
Concrete roads have been laid in the village.. We go past Nakka kuan, and then we have to take a somewhat kuccha road, and we arrive at Ganga Mandir…. The temple is built on a hillock…. We stand at the foot of a stairway to heaven…
Its drizzling, but that’s just fine… We walk up the stairs and make our way to the temple…
Here’s a first look at the temple-frontage.
The stairs are well made… Here’s a look… Rain washed steps…
The temple doors are closed… But that does not deter us… This is timeless India, and the pilgrim can disturb God if he so desires! So we knock on the door… Soon, a young priest comes and opens the door… He probably stays right here…. He is happy to welcome us….
Right in front of us is the shrine of Ganga Devi… But first lets look at some writings on the wall there…
The verses are in Sanskrit, with Hindi translations.
The one on the left says:
“Well known as Shiva-vallabha (beloved of Shiva)
and as Swarga-dvaar (door to heaven),
this sacred place gaNmuktishwar,
is the supreme among all places of pilgrimage!”
The one on the right says:
“By bathing in gangA sAgar on AshAdi pUrNima,
In mukti kshEtra (gaNmuktishwar) on kArtiki pUrNima,
In haridvAr on vaishAkha pUrNima
Or in tIrtha-rAja (prayAg) on mAgh pUrNimA,
One attains salvation!”
Ready for darshan of Goddess Ganga?
Here she is… The young priest sitting in the foreground.
jai mA gangA!
I ask the priest about the temple….. He says it is so ancient that he doesn’t know. He says it is there since dvApar yug… Earlier, the gangA river flowed right by this temple, washing its steps… Now, the river has moved six or seven kilometers away (to brij ghat area)…. I ask him when this shift happened…. He says ‘pachAson saal pehle!”, meaning “many, many years ago”….
On the right of Ganga Devi, in the sanctum, is a small platform with an idol of Bhageeratha, the great King whose superhuman efforts brought Ganga to the earth…
Lets look at a few more verses, inscribed on the outer wall of the sanctum…
The verse on the left says:
“For having given salvation
to gaNas (the attendants of Siva)
This (place of pilgrimage) is known as gaNmukthIshwar!
Enabling one (and all) to cross over the ocean of samsAra (transmigration, birth-death)
(gaNmukthIshwar is) the seaman, compassionate…”
The second verse (in the form of a conversation between Siva and Parvati) on the right says:
” (While) Dying in Kasi bestows salvation!
Just the sight of muktIshwar bestows salvation!
Spreading over a distance of two gavyuti
(two cow-calls, distance from which you can hear a cow),
This kshetra, O Devi,
Bestows liberation to humankind”.
** To be continued **