It was supposed to be an extended family visit but due to various genuine reasons, the other family members couldn’t make it but we decided to proceed.We had booked by Tejas Express from Thane to Ratnagiri, which is an early morning train and due to my mistake, we reached Thane station still earlier. The train reaches Thane station at 6.25 am. but I had misread it as 5.25 am. and had to face angry, sleepy stares from my wife and daughter. But since there was no other option, we waited it out for the train to arrive. Thankfully the train was on time so the wait did not extend for long.Tejas Express is one of the best trains in india and we were impressed with the spacious and clean interiors as well as the catering service. I must mention the excellent masala tea which was served. Very invigorating indeed.We reached Ratnagiri station on time. I have seen Ratnagiri station so many times but it still fascinates me, the way it has been constructed, gouged out of a small mound and retains an old world charm.After having a simple but tasty veg lunch at my company guest house and after freshening ourselves up, we moved to Ratnagiri ST Bus stop where we spent an eternity awaiting our bus for Adivare, to arrive. Every bus which came into the bus stand seemed like ‘our bus’ only to disappoint us with the town nameplate displayed at the front. Finally ‘our bus’ did arrive after almost 1.5 hours (@40 km.) and we were on the way. The short journey of approximately 1 hour was spent in catching up on our sleep.Why Adivare? Someone might ask as it is not on every tourist’s tourism goal. Well it happens to be the town which hosts the Kuldevi of the Tawde family, Maha Kali. In fact, in addition to Maha Kali Devi, it also hosts Maha Saraswati Devi and Maha Laxmi Devi. In addition to this, the Tawde extended family (all Tawde’s located anywhere in the world, irrespective of their native villages) have contributed to build a very elegant and imposing Tawde Wada (Tawde Atithi Bhavan), which is located off the Ratnagiri-Adivare road at a distance of @2 km. from Adivare towards Ratnagiri. This Tawde Wada was supposed to be our abode for the next 2 days.Though we had seen photos of Tawde Wada many times before, nothing had prepared us for the imposing red structure which greeted us, as we entered through the gates. The huge swords and shield which adorn the imposing, front facade give a fort-like feel to the already formidable construction. The central portion is occupied by a huge hall which also serves as a temple for Shree Saptakoteshwar (a form of the Lord Shiva), the Kuldaivat of the Tawde family. As the small reception desk is also in this hall, you have to remove your footwear outside and enter.We were warmly welcomed by the ever smiling caretaker, Mr. Sawant who registered us and then guided us to our room. After freshening up and resting for a while, we were outside to admire and explore the exquisite building.The lawns in front are very well maintained and so is the driveway. Though a huge structure, there are only 8 rooms which flank the huge hall in the centre, four on the lower level and four on the top. The construction itself reminds you of Rajasthani havelis, though there are no intricate carvings or designs. The building itself is made using laterite stone. It is apparent that the focus of the Architect was to give an exclusive feeling to discerning connoisseurs rather than maximising profits, which would be the main aim of any ordinary hotel.The homely atmosphere is further strengthened by very down to earth staff who are helpful and ever smiling. We had sumptuous veg meals on both days which reminded us of homemade food.On the second day, we proceeded to the Maha Kali temple in Adivare by an autorickshaw in the morning. The peaceful surroundings and no crowd allowed us to proceed with our prayers at a gentle pace. The highlight of the temple is the brightly painted, intricate carvings on wooden ceiling of the temple.In the same complex there is a Shiva temple which is said to be very ancient. A huge anthill from the floor, right upto the ceiling, occupies one corner of this temple which is said to be the abode of a cobra. A sighting of this cobra is said to be very auspicious.There is also a Ram temple in this complex where we prayed for the wellbeing of all.From Adivare, we proceeded to another temple nearby, the Sri Dev Kanakaditya temple which is dedicated to the Sun God and located in Kasheli village. It is one of the few remaining Sun temples in India. The murti is tejasvi (lustrous) and the entire temple complex is recently renovated. Beautiful and highly polished wooden carvings and pillars grant this temple a serene atmosphere.The story associated with this temple is very intersting. It is said that the main murti has been brought here from Prabhaspatan in Gujarat and here is the story -Many centuries back, a businessman from Prabhaspatan was proceeding on some business trip by a ship and he was carrying with him a murti of Sun God on the ship which was handed over to him for safe keeping by a priest of the Sun temple in Prabhaspatan. Once the ship reached the sea near the Kasheli village, it refused to budge! It did not go further so he instructed the seaman to reverse it but to no avail. One night, the Sun God appeared in his dreams and instructed him to take him to the shore. Early next morning, the businessman proceeded to take the murti onto the shore and established the idol in a small cave. Once this was done, the businessman was able to proceed further on the trip on his ship.Now it was the turn of the Kanaka, an ardent devotee of the Sun God, and a resident of Kasheli, to get a dream. The Sun God appeared in her dream and told her about his arrival on the shore and asked her to search for the cave which she dutifully did, alongwith the other villagers. With great pomp and gaiety, Sri Dev Kanakaditya was brought to his current location in the village and installed. The temple is said to have been constructed by the Shilahaar dynasty and there is an ancient tamrapat (copper plate) in the temple which establishes the ancient origins.The rest of the trip was rest and relaxation and then we were on the way back to Mumbai.Yatindra Tawde
Guys…it is not always that such days come into our life, which makes us say, WOW! I had such a day during my visit to God’s Own Country, Kerala.
I had gone to Kerala during the Diwali vacations with family in 2014…first stop Trivandrum…and as you might know, the city of Trivandrum is famous for the Shree Padmanabha Swamy temple…a very beautiful and majestic temple dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. And it goes without saying that we had to visit the temple . So we started for the temple from the hotel in an auto. After crossing many lanes and bylanes we reached the temple at @4.30 pm. Actually the auto dropped us at some distance away from the temple since autos or other vehicles are not allowed near the temple.
There is a huge archway through which you enter and as you near the temple you see the water tank near it. Water tanks near the temple are a hallmark of all small and big temples in Kerala. This water tank was very well maintained, with ducks swimming in it.
Anyway there were many other devotees like us who had come to take Darshan. My wife, myself and our daughter were proceeding towards the temple, like you approach any other temple in amchi Mumbai, when suddenly we heard shouts of “MUNDU…MUNDU…”and a portly old gentleman in the typical dhoti worn by the denizens of Kerala came running towards us gesticulating wildly. A whole lot of syllables, mono syllables , syntax and maybe syntax errors shot off from his mouth, which I was not in a position to understand. Then he pointed towards his own lower garment, which was a dhoti, and pointed towards a shop on the road side. Finally through all these gestures I was able to make out that I too had to wear a dhoti, also known as a Mundu before entering the divine temple. And my wife and daughter too, had to wear the Mundum Neriyathum which are a combination of the lower and upper garments, unique to Kerala.
As we approached the shop we saw a crowd of people who were there to get these garments. The shop was selling these and the first thought that came to mind is, what to do with them after the visit is over. Anyways I pushed that thought to the back of my mind and stood in line. Finally on reaching the counter I disbursed the payment and now became the proud owner of a Mundu.
Now the next question presented itself, which was, where do I change into it, and that too, modestly. While women had the option to wear the garments over their own clothes, the same option was not available to the men. I saw some men entering the same shop from a side door and I too joined the crowd. Since I have never worn this particular garment before, I was in a fix on how to go about it. So I started observing a few other men who were at it in all earnestness. Observing them I could make out there were many like me who were doing it the first time. Seeing them, I had a go at it. The first time I tried to wrap it around myself, as I passed the end from one hand to the other, it came off from the other side. I tried out a lot of permutations and combinations but without any luck. Then one gentleman pointed out that I cannot continue wearing my jeans below the mundu. That presented another challenge…now not only I had to wear the mundu properly, but also remove the jeans and ensure that the mundu did not come off while walking or something. I also had to ensure that it is not worn so tight, that I will be able to walk in only baby steps…too many challenges, to go in the presence of the Almighty.
Finally I applied my jugaadu dimaag…first I tied one end of the mundu to a clutch of mundu cloth securely (mundu is a long piece of cream coloured cloth)…after checking the security of this arrangement by pulling on it, I removed my jeans gently…so far so good…once the mundu was secure on my waist, I then proceeded to wrap the remaining cloth round and round around my body…and finally the the end of the mundu cloth was tied again to the first knot…I WAS READY TO FACE THE LORD…triumphantly I came out of the shop to see my wife and daughter bursting into uncontrollable giggles…But I was walking like a Kerala king going to meet the Lord…when suddenly the same portly gentleman again came running towards me shouting “SHIRT…SHIRT…” . I realized that all other men in the vicinity were shirtless.. And this was expected of me too. Gingerly I removed my shirt too and handed it over to the same shop for which I was given a token coin…the same system which is used in Malls everywhere…
Finally the three of us proceeded to meet the divine Lord himself…a thought struck me that you are going to the Lord ‘s abode leaving behind all your material belongings …you go there as a new person…
Once inside, it was a totally different atmosphere due to the unique aartis in Malayali language accompanied by an assortment of drums and trumpets. As we waited in a line to go into the presence of the Lord, I took a look at the temple architecture which was very beautiful. One thing I noticed, is the extensive use of wood in Kerala temples, which one does not get to see in Maharashtra. Another feature which I noticed, was the wide walking area surrounding the main temple area. I thought it must be for the people to do the Parikrama. I was partly right and partly wrong. But first things first.
To the sound of cymbals and drums, the gate to the Lord’s abode was opened. As the people started going inside to get a darshan of the Lord, the decibel level went up behind us. Once we had taken the darshan, we were ushered out to witness a grand spectacle before us!! On the wide walking path, going around the perimeter of the temple, an elephant, heavily bedecked with beautiful golden ornaments was walking across, with some pujaris sitting on a howdah, placed on the elephants back with many other people following the elephant, some of them walking briskly and some, almost running. We too joined the crowd for a couple of rounds, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and very happy to be part of this unique experience.
Then we sat inside a cool part of the temple, meditating before the great Lord, thanking him for this opportunity of a lifetime. This was certainly a great day in our lives, that it will always be remembered as a gift from the Almighty.