The Dying Remains of Awanti Swami Temple

Serendipity is travel’s favourite child. For at every turn you take, you’ll discover an experience you weren’t even expecting to encounter.

While on our way to Srinagar, our friend insisted that we must take a little detour and visit Awantipora. Please note that it wasn’t a polite proposal, but a clear instruction given directly to our driver. Throughout the way she campaigned for the site, saying that it was a shooting location in one of the famous Bollywood films; and that we must visit such a prime spot that contributed in the evolution of Indian Cinema. In short, she just didn’t leave us with any choice. Well, I’ll always be grateful to her stubbornness.

We reached the ruins of Awanti Swami Temple in Awantipora (Awantipur), located between Anantnag and Srinagar. And, boy oh boy, we were enthralled.

The entrance of Awanti Swami Temple, Awantipora
The entrance of Awanti Swami Temple, Awantipora.

What we were witnessing were nothing less but the ruins of an entire era captured in grey limestone.

The entry fee to this temple is measly Rs. 10. The Government Tourist Guide was happy to see us, as we were the only visitors at that point. The guide was earnestly telling us about the tale of this temple, built to praise Lord Vishnu.

The ruins of Awanti Swami Temple, Awantipora
The ruins of Awanti Swami Temple, Awantipora

Hundreds, or may be, thousands of years ago, a catastrophic earthquake ruined this beauty. But they say, the real beauty cannot stay hidden for too long. Soon it was resurrected by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Awantipora 3
A close up of the carvings

Each niche was dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses of Indian Mythology. Each pillar, each stone restored to life was telling a story. But unfortunately, there weren’t too many ears to listen to them. There are so many architectural wonders like this craving for visitors, be it connoisseurs or mere tourists.

Would these unheard stories die a sad, silent death in spite of getting raised from the dead in the past? I hope not.

That's my friend I'll always be thankful to.
That’s my friend I’ll always be thankful to.

P.S. This temple was not used as a filming location. But, who cares! The visuals recorded in our memories are far better than anything else!


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Worli Buddhist Temple: Travelling inwards without travelling too far

Amidst the chaos of this city, there are so many hidden gems that are waiting to usher you into their calmness; one such place is a Buddhist Temple near the picturesque Worli Sea-face of Mumbai.

Do not confuse this temple with the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji Buddha Temple. Unlike the later, this one is not much talked about on the internet. Even Google Maps carry little to no information about it.

In spite of being part of a plush residential building’s premises, this temple oozes out simplicity and modesty, the virtues on which Buddhism has flourished.

As you enter the temple, you’ll be greeted with a huge golden statue of Lord Buddha calmly casting down his eyes as if inviting you to meditate with him.

The walls of the temple are filled with ancient paintings depicting stories from the life of Gautam Buddha. One thing that piqued my interest towards these paintings is that most of the paintings were brought from Sri Lanka. A few even mentioned full address of its place of origin.

(Upon enquiring, I discovered that this temple is built by Late. Ven. Prof. K Ananda Maha Theo. He was the Founder and President of Bahujan Vihar Trust, Sri Lanka. After doing extensive work in Colombo, he visited India and opened three Buddhist temples in Mumbai, one of them being the Worli Buddhist Temple. The other two temples are in Parel and Andheri.)

As I was admiring the art, one of the paintings caught my attention. It illustrated Gautam Buddha meditating under a Bodhi tree. Three beautiful women are dancing in front of him, trying to break his penance. The painting reminded me of the famous characters from Indian mythology – Rambha, Urvashi and Menaka. But the title read, ‘Mara’s daughters tempt to attempt the Bodhisatta’.

When I asked the caretaker about that painting, he happily told me the story of Mara, the demon and his three daughters.

The legend says that Mara was a powerful demon who wanted to defeat Buddha and any person who followed the path of spirituality. And in order to do that, he employed his three daughters to seduce Buddha.

I looked at the painting again. The three sisters were certainly beautiful. I’m sure it would take only a great and pure soul like Lord Buddha to not waver in front of such incarnations of beauty.

Please do check out this piece if you happen to pay a visit to this quiet place. If you love ancient art and painting, you’ll definitely love this humble collection.

After marveling at the paintings, the idols, and the simplistic architecture, I sat down in front of the statue to meditate for a while.

I believe that you don’t have to be a yogi to meditate. A simple exercise like concentrating on your breathing can also have a tremendous effect on your mind, body and soul.

The soft, salty breeze sweeping in from the ocean comforted my skin. The profound silence enveloped my mind. And soon, I was travelling into the deep realms of my soul for that one hour.

Well, isn’t travelling inwards the longest journey one can embark on without travelling too far?

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