Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gunning it to Gan(r)Mukteshwar

It was another lazy, ennui-filled weekend, with the Sun shining bright on a morning that was displaying the chilly hues of the oncoming winter. The prospect of sighting the Ganges so close to Delhi was intriguing and the challenge of a long drive thereto, just seeming like a spot of good fun. And so we set out ...

GarMukteshwar is an area that lies 130 kms to the east of Delhi in the Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh, on the banks of the river Ganga. Its supposed to be the closest approach point to the river from Delhi and is a well known weekend getaway. The area sports a river ghat (called the Brijghat) and a multitude of temples dedicated to the dieties in the Hindu pantheon.

Lord Shiva, it seems, is the crowning diety - the name GanMukteshwar refering to this location as the place where his "Gan" (lieutenants, as my friend translated) received "Mukti" (salvation).

Brijghat has the look and feel of a mini-Varanasi, minus its crowd, dirt and fleecing pujaris. Since the location is upstream compared to Varanasi, the river is also much cleaner and faster. Its always a divine experience to do a boat ride on the Ganga, and the ability to do it so close to Delhi makes it all the more worthwhile. The river is shallow in most places and taking a dip is an easy proposition.

Apparently Gan(r)Mukteshwar has quite a history behind it. As gkamesh highlights:

This is a part of the Hastinapura region, the Kaurava capital of Mahabharata. Local lore has it that this is the place where Goddess Ganga met Shantanu, the great grandfather of Pandavas and Kauravas...

Famous among them is the Mukteshwar temple, after which the town is named, said to have been built by King Shivi, a benchmark among Kings, noble ancestor of Lord Rama. The Mukteshwar Siva Linga is said to have been worshipped by sage Parasurama. There is an even more ancient Mukteshwar temple, where Ravana is said to have offered worship.

All the temples are in a decrepit state now, but we noticed that renovation is in progress. The temple devoted to the Ganga has a hundred steps and is quite the climb. Interestingly, when one throws a stone down these steps, they give out a sound akin to that of a stone thrown into water. The local urchins have taken it upon themselves to show this effect to every traveller by lobbing a few down every minute or so - hence do not make the mistake of parking your vehicle near the steps.

To those who follow: GarMukteshwar is a 2-3 hour drive (depending on how fast you can leave delhi's traffic behind) along the Ghaziabad-Moradabad route. The roads are good (but for a small stretch) and the traffic on the weekend seems sparse. There are dhabbas along the route and hotels at periodic intervals. Is well worth a weekend day's visit (particularly in a weather with a bright sun and a wintery feel).
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