The last week of February this year sprang up a long weekend for Shivratri. Never the kind to let a long weekend go waste, we planned a road trip to the Marathwada or in simple words the Nanded area. For a change, instead of taking out our ageing Figo, we chose the much smaller Alto. We had heard the roads were not too good in this region and we thought the Alto would get a stress test.
The trip plan came up from a long time idea of visiting the Gurudwara, partaking of food at the Langar and doing a bit of service at the Gurudwara. Since we had 3 days, our search on Google Maps threw up possibilities of visiting nearby places of pilgrim interest and so our trip began from Hyderabad on the NH161 to Nanded.
A taste of Gujarat on TS-MH border
The start wasn't great with a disappointing breakfast at an eatery just outside Hyderabad near the ORR. The breakfast was only to keep us going till we found a better place to eat.
When you prepare for the worst, chances are that you are usually pleasantly surprised, we had heard stories of the sad state of the Nanded highway were braced for a bumpy ride but it turned out that the road was recently laid and in good condition, it was a smooth drive on the two lane highway, complete with big banyan trees, the kind of highways we grew up travelling on.
The traffic was decent, the landscape scenic and before long, we breezed to the Maharashtra border, here is the mandatory border click !
We stopped at a small eating joint a few kilometres away from the border. We were so hungry and our eyes fell on the Fafda exhibited at the counter, we even forgot that the place was a shabby looking shack ! Our friend who lived in Ahmedabad for a while suggested Fafda-Jalebi which we had along with Poori and subzi. What can we say about the Fafda-Jalebi except that 5 months later, while updating this blog, this writer had a severe attack Fafda-Jalebi cravings ! Fafda is technically a Gujarati delicacy, what it was doing on the Telangana-Maharashtra border, we had no idea but when a Bengali, a Telangana and two Andhra people relish it, it only goes to show the unity even in food diversity of our country !
The road continued to be kind to us all the way to Nanded, it took us about 5.5 hours to reach Nanded.
Service to mankind is service to God
As soon as we reached Nanded, we checked in at the NRI Yatri Niwas run by the Gurudwara. The Yatri Niwas is very well maintained and a comfortable place to stay when in Nanded to visit the Gurudwara. When we were planning the accommodation at Nanded, we came across the Gurudwara website but couldn't book online because the reservations needed to be made 15 days in advance. We had casually sent an enquiry mail and were highly impressed and touched when we received a reply from the authorities with reserved booking.
It was a hot afternoon at Nanded, after freshening up a bit, we straight away headed to the Gurudwara. As we stepped inside, we were quite taken aback, it was absolutely peaceful and serene despite the heat and the people. Beautiful marble structures, greenery, clean, quiet surroundings.
We went inside the Hazur Sahib Gurudwara, the place where the great Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh had held his court and eventually breathed his last. The Nanded Gurudwara is one of the Panj Takths or the Five Seats of Authority in Sikhism. This was our first visit to a Gurudwara and we were in awe of the spiritual beauty of it. The meditative silence inside the Gurudwara, with the low hum of the Guru Granth Sahib being recited is something to experience.
Then, we proceeded to the Langar, where free meals are served to all. The food is simple and it is a humbling feeling to sit among people from all walks of like and partake a meal. After the meal, you can volunteer to help cleaning the kitchen and doing the dishes. One can simply walk into the cleaning area and begin to help in whatever way they can, wash the plates, help co-ordinating the cleaning work, just do your bit as a service to the community, pay for your food in kind by working for your fellow beings.
We spent an hour helping with washing the plates, the satisfaction that it gave us out did all of our previous experiences in a place of worship. There is no better worship than serving your fellow beings.
For all those helping with the washing, tea was served every 20 minutes, people were chanting "Wahe Guru", talking, working as a team and living like how humans should be living actually, in camaraderie !
After this unforgettable experience, we left the Gurudwara, relaxed for a bit and then headed to explore a little of Nanded.
Sunset by the Godavari
Our first stop was the Nanded Fort. There is nothing of the fort left, it has been converted into a water treatment plant. Except for a few boundary walls, there is nothing much to see here but this place is worth a quick visit for a view of the Godavari River on whose banks Nanded city is located.
We then drove to Kaleshwar temple which seemed to be a popular one. We didn't know how popular it was until we saw a huge fair and thousands of people flocking the temple, it was Shiva Ratri and the temple was packed. We knew we wouldn't be able to have a darshan, instead, we chose to watch the sun go down over the Godavari River. It was, needless to say, a gorgeous sight !
While the crowds were teeming inside the temple, the river side was pleasant. Temples located on a river bank with steps leading down the river give you this tranquil feel of a pilgrim place.
A distance away from the temple is the Vishnupuri Dam built across the Godavari, here is a click.
We stayed on until the sun disappeared behind the trees.
We tried to visit the temple but the crowd seemed to have got bigger, so we simply offered our prayers from outside and returned to the Gurudwara.
The Gurudwara was lit up at nightfall and illuminated fountains came to life, the breeze was light - the perfect setting to feel inner peace.
We visited the Gurudwara once more, this time spending more time inside, just trying to sit still and empty the mind.
It felt like we were in a different world for sometime, Hyderabad and our daily lives seemed far away !
Under the lights, the buildings around the Gurudwara with their intricate designs looked even more beautiful.
Next, we headed to a nearby Garden to attend the laser show on the birth of Sikhism and the great Sikh Gurus. The laser show was held in an open air amphitheatre which was crowded beyond capacity. We settled on the stony lawns to watch the laser show in Punjabi. Though none of us knew Punjabi, we could follow the story and the history of Sikhism.
The laser show went on for about an hour, tracing the life of the 10 Sikh Gurus, it was heartening to hear their history and their struggles to stand up for their way of life. One thing that struck us the most about Sikhism is their dedication for the community, their service mindedness. We were deeply impacted our experiences at the Nanded Gurudwara.
We had a delicious Punjabi dinner at an eating joint near the NRI Yatri Nivas. Nanded is like a mini-Punjab !
Nanded is about 5 hours drive from Hyderabad, the road is very decent. You may not find too many food options on the way, especially if you are particular about hygiene. Finding washrooms could also be a bit of an issue. All information about the Nanded Gurudwara can be obtained from their website http://www.hazursahib.com If you wish to book accommodation online, you will have to do it 15 days in advance. You can also call or email to reserve booking. Eat a meal at the Langar and don't forget to do your bit of service in return. You can plan to visit Nanded as a weekend trip from Hyderabad. "The content and pictures on this blog are owned by the authors of http://www.highwayonlyway.com and are not available for copying or reproducing elsewhere without any written consent from us."