(Caution...it is an extra lengthy post ) .Hajo is a small town of cultural and religious importance in Assam . It is 30 kms to west of Guwahati .The uniqueness of this place is marked by its being a sacred pilgrimage centre for three religions -Hinduism,Buddhism and Islam.The whole area is thronged with innumerable ancient temples and also with some of the sacramental `artifacts`. Legends say that the Pandavas had taken refuge in this area during their agyatvas i.e, at times of their hiding. I visit this place on annual basis with my family.It is a beautiful drive of approx. one hour. As you enter this small town you see these pillars on both side of the road welcoming the visitors.Have a closer look at the picture and you will see three different architectural forms influenced by all the three religions mentioned.Its a perfect example of the term..unity in diversity. Hayagriva Madhav Temple which is highly revered by both Hindus who come here to worship Lord Hayagriva(an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and the Buddhists who believe that the image inside the temple is of Lord Buddha as according to them he attained Nirvana here.As another striking and unique tradition Muslim inhabitants of this town and the nearby village lead a 15 km long procession where the three idols of Bhrahma,Vishnu and Mahesh are taken out to the banks of river Bhramaputra,once in a year.Muslims come Hajo to visit Powa Mecca a mosque which is believed to have some(i.e. one fourth...the word Powa in Assamese or Pao in hindi) of the sanctity of Mecca.If you want to know more interesting facts about Powa mecca click here.
The temple is located on a hill top named Manikut Parvata.These are the stone steps leading towards the famous shrine Hayagriva Madhav Temple.If i am not wrong they are 101 in number(i count them every time i climb up) .The temple was constructed in sixth century by the king of Pala dynasty according to some historians.Later in the year 1583 King Raghudeva Narayan rebuilt it.Before we approach towards the shrine it is customary to touch the water of the sacred pond at the base of the temple.The giant tortoises of this pond are a big tourist attraction . Here are my kids trying to follow the ritual by the help of their father while i was busy taking pictures.
Here comes a tortoise to gulp down Lily Biscuits( yes,they prefer this particular brand a lot) ..you get to buy these biscuits from the shops at the base of the shrine.
It is customary to offer Tulsi jaal malas (Thai holy basil leaves garland) to the residing god of the shrine .These garlands are made by experts and are sold at a reasonable price at these shops run by local people .
These guys sell pictures of various Hindu god , goddess and other things like beads ,toys etc.I make it a point to buy something every time i visit this shrine....shopping here is lot of fun.My daughter and my help bought lots of colorful beads and bangles here.
Let me tell you that climbing up is not a very easy task but once you do it you get to see this beautiful view of the town from the hill top.
The temple has been declared a monument of national importance by ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). It is made of stone and is octagonal in plan . The temple is in a pitiable condition owing to the lack of scientific preservation.I was happy to notice that conservation and preservation work is being carried out at a large scale for the shrine .The temple enshrines an image of Lord Vishnu which resembles a lot to that of Lord Jagannath of Puri(Orissa). Photography inside the temple garbhagraha is not allowed but you get to buy the images of the same in local shops near the temple.Many interesting legends are attached to the history of this temple.
This is a huge hall where visitors get to offer earthen lanterns and incense sticks which is not allowed inside the main temple. After this visitors get to enter the main temple and offer their prayers and the tulsi malas.This year luckily we saw lesser crowd.
This is another structure adjacent to the main temple. Centuries old tradition of Bulbul Songbird fight takes place here.Mughals introduced it and Hindus have kept up the tradition .I have seen this festival just once .
It is believed that if you look at this gate and offer your prayers ,the action equals to that of prayers being offered to the famous Jaggannath Puri Temple.
After the completion of offerings and the prayers we do parikrama (complete a round around the main temple)....while parikrama i took these pictures.As in many other temples ,a row of elephants(gajathara) appears as a basement moulding which is identical to the decorative style of the Kailasa cave temple of Ellora.
The exterior of the temple has many sculptured figures, representing the ten Avataras of Vishnu, with Buddha as the ninth.
After spending some time at the temple premises we returned back to the parking area where we had light refreshments and some tea (all brought from home) .Buying vegetables from the local market is another fun activity .We left this small town promising ourselves that in the coming years we will include other temples as well as Powa Mecca Mosque .... when my kids are little older may be then .