Shamalaji Sri Krishna Temple is an important Vaishnav pilgrim spot in India. It is situated at the Gujarat-Rajasthan border along the National Highway No.8 in a district called Sabarkantha. Built along the banks of a river called Meshwo, the temple is marked by a silk flag on the apex, thus it is also known by the name Dhodi Dhwaja Wada among the local people. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is Gujarat's one of the most famous temples and the Vaishnavs consider it very sacred.
There are several stories behind the history of the temple. The locals believe that Lord Vishwakarma, the architect among the lords, himself constructed the temple in the course of a single temple. Other sources say that an adivasi, or tribal found the idol of Shamlaji in the field while he was ploughing his land. He lit a lamp in front of it every day and worshipped it. Within some days he was blessed with good yield, wealth and prosperity. Hearing his story, a Vaishnavi merchant made the temple along the bank of the river and established the idol there. The temple was later made much more beautiful by the Idar rulers.
The local people, especially the Bhil community call the Shamlaji idol lovingly as Kaliyo Dev. It means the Divine Dark lord. They have immense belief in the powers of lord Shamlaji. The temple made out of sandstone is about 500 years old. It is a two storey structure, supported on an array of pillars. Carvings are made on the pillars and walls and they depict scenes and stories from the two Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The ceilings are in the shape of beautiful domes and the ancient architecture style is a major attraction for the tourists. The courtyard of the temple also has a huge, life-size carving of an elephant which is a delight to watch. The idol Shamlaji is a representation of Lord Vishnu. Cow idols are also worshipped here because Krishna was a cowherd in his childhood. The Vaishnavis regard the temple as one of their most important pilgrimage places.
It is said that Lord Brahma himself went out on a journey to find the best sacred places on earth. He went everywhere and when he came to Shamlaji, he found it to be the best. On the advice of Lord Shiva he started performing a yagna and manifested himself as Shamlaji. He was thus established in the temple.
A Shamlaji fair is held in November for about three weeks which is a major festival associated with the temple. It is celebrated in the Hindu month called Kartik and the full moon day is especially significant. Huge number of devotees come here on foot or even camels from far and near in honour of Shmalaji. They sing, dance, chant hymns and celebrate the festival with lots of pomp, colour and gaiety.
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