Religious

Coorg Chronicle – Part 2

Continued from here

After having a good sleep, snuggled in warm blankets due to chilly night, we woke up and got ready to go out exploring. After a hearty breakfast we decided to explore the surrounding area of the homestay first. The whole place looked so rustic, serene and charming in the cosy winter sunlight…a small village nestled in the woods and hills.

dsc07314

We followed the sound of the babbling stream and came upon it after walking a short distance from the homestay. So peaceful and clean without any plastic waste floating on the water. We climbed down through a narrow path and rocks and spent some time playing with the water and photographing the surroundings…sadly we didn’t spot any birds except for a stork.

dsc07320

dsc07336

dsc07827

dsc07344

After spending some time at the stream, we came back to take our car and go out for sightseeing. Oh noooo!!! One of our tires was almost flat!! That too in this godforsaken place. Though we had a spare, we had to get this one repaired too for our return drive. Thankfully our homestay host informed that there was a repair shop nearby. Somehow we drove to that shop and got it repaired. It was almost noon and this unexpected event had eaten into our sightseeing time. So we had to cut short our list as we wanted to be back before it got dark and driving from one place to another in hilly region takes time.

So the place we decided to visit was Talacauvery. Talacauvery is supposedly the originating place of the river Cauvery. It is located on the slope of Brahmagiri hill near Bhagamandala.

dsc07374

After reaching Bhagamandala from Kakkabe, there is a T section where on one side is the Triveni Sangama or joining of 3 rivers namely Cauvery, Kannike (Tributary of Cauvery) and the mythical Sujyothi. Also there is Bagandeshwara temple. On the other side is the curvaceous road leading to Talacauvery. The drive to Talacauvery is quite scenic but with some sharp turns so one needs to be careful.

dsc07364

Bagandeshwara temple

Finding a parking spot is really tough and you may have to park quite far and walk. After a beautiful entrance gate, there is a pond built at the place which is said to be the origin point. The river originates as a spring feeding this pond and then flows underground to emerge as the Cauvery river some distance away. There is a small temple of sorts too at the place where a wedding was taking place when we visited.

This is the pond. Apparently in October on a particular day water gushes up from the spring at a predetermined moment and the pond overflows. That day the temple is flocked by pilgrims.

dsc07402

There was an outlet through a Nandi bull’s head out of which the holy water was falling onto a smaller pool. People had thrown coins in that for good luck as the tradition goes. There are some other temples in the complex and some decorated holy trees with information written in stone tablets below them. But walking barefoot in the hot cement/stone floor was not possible for me so didn’t pay my obeisance to them.

There were steps leading to the top of the hill which D decided to explore. But he couldn’t make it to the top as I called him back. I got tired of waiting 😀 He did manage to take some photos from up there. On the hillside he spotted many rocks stacked vertically in small piles. We tried searching on internet the significance of this curious way of keeping rocks but didn’t find anything. Any idea readers?

By this time we were feeling very hungry and I recalled spotting a KSTDC hotel on the way to Talacauvery. So we decided to have our lunch there without spending time searching for a restaurant. There was only thali option there and food was not tasty at all. But hungry people can’t be choosers. So somehow we finished our meal and decided to head to our next destination – Nalaknad Palace which was close to Kakkabe.

To be continued….

Categories: Hills, Karnataka, Religious | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dharmasthala – Malpe Chronicle

I decided to document our road trip to Dharmasthala and Malpe instead of continuing with our trip to Coorg from the first part here because it was an adventurous road trip and just right to write for the BlogAdda travel blogging activity. I am chronicling this road trip adventure for CEAT Tyres in association with BlogAdda.

Back in September 2014, when my research paper got accepted for presentation in a conference at an engineering college in Dharmasthala, I and D decided to make a trip out of it and included the nearby Malpe beach into our itinerary. We love beaches and a visit to any of the Karnataka beaches was pending in our list. So we started out after breakfast hoping to reach Dharmasthala by late afternoon. We decided to go by this route.

Capture.PNG

It was to be our second trip through Western Ghats area, the first one being the trip to Ooty. The drive on NH75 was so smooth and awesome. It was a clear blue sky day and a bit hot. It was hard trying to stay within 100 kmph on the great quality of road with less traffic.

DSC09438.JPG

NH75

Soon the highway changed from four lane to two lane which was also good. As we neared Sakleshpur, the road condition began to deteriorate and it was hard to believe that it was a national highway!! We stopped for lunch at Kamath Upachar on

DSC09440

Two lane national highway

DSC09450

Road condition getting bad

After sometime from Hassan, we could make out from the vegetation that the Shiradi Ghat area had started.

DSC09454.JPG

The Ghat road was quite wide and the traffic consisted of trucks and cars. But soon the smooth drive ended and the stretch of the National Highway passing through the Shiradi Ghat got very bad. We were going slow anyway due to Ghat region but now we had to drive slower to avoid getting back ache and to prevent damage to car suspension!! Concrete and asphalt were missing altogether!! It was one of the worst roads we have driven on till date. Thank god for CEAT Tyres that we made it through without any mishap.

DSC09474.JPG

We had to stop to take a picture of the road!!

DSC09492

Horrible road!!

Nevertheless the drive through the Ghat region was mesmerizing with the different varieties of trees surrounding the road, the blue hills in the horizon and a bubbling stream hidden somewhere in the forest cover, sometimes getting louder, sometimes farther. I was not looking forward to meeting any elephants in the area. We had hoped to reach by late afternoon but due to slow speed, evening had started to set in. I was praying that we make it out of the forest before dark. There was no mobile signal also for a major portion of the road. Apart from that, it was one of its kind of drive. The late afternoon sun looked so beautiful through the canopy of trees.

DSC09476

Sun playing hide and seek

DSC09486

Heading into the unknown!

DSC09490

Hills in the horizon

At last we could catch sight of the elusive stream..rather a river!! Google informed me later that it was the Kempuhole river which originates from the Sahyadris.

DSC09504

Kempuhole River

The road condition became better and soon we turned right onto SH37 which leads straight to Dharmasthala.

DSC09495

Out of Ghat area at last!

Sun had already set by the time we reached the guesthouse where the college authorities had made accommodation arrangements for our stay. We were exhausted by the unplanned long drive. We checked in, had dinner at the canteen of the guesthouse and went to bed.

The next day D went exploring the town while I was away attending the conference. The town, located in the Dakshina Kannada district, is famous for its Dharmasthala Temple which houses the shrine of Shiva, Manjunatha, Ammanavaru, Chandranath and the Dharma Daivas (guardian spirits of Dharma) namely Kalarahu, Kalarkayi, Kumaraswamy and Kanyakumari. (Source:Wikipedia) Apparently, on an average the flow of pilgrims is about 10,000 people a day!! But since neither D nor I were interested in visiting the temple, I won’t be able to provide any information on that in this blog. D loved the natural surroundings of the place though.

DSC07079

The Gateway to Dharmasthala

DSC07097

Sri Manjunatha Temple

I spent the next day also in conference while D watched movies on laptop in the guesthouse as there is nothing much to do in the small secluded town..infact not even a good place to eat. The guesthouse canteen was pathetic in variety of dishes. Then on the 3rd day, after breakfast we moved on to our next destination – Malpe. The road condition was good. We decided to go to Malpe through Mangalore though it is the longest route.

Capture.PNG

We stopped at the NIT Surathkal beach on our way. The weather was bit hot but it was so refreshing to see the Arabian Sea. The beach was clean and deserted at that time of day except for a couple or two of lovebirds 🙂 There was a lighthouse at the beach giving a mystical look to the beach. As the tide was low there were some moss-covered stones exposed which were accessible but not to be climbed barefooted!! We spent some time playing in the water and photographing the views. Then the tide started to increase which forced us and reminded us that we have still not reached our destination.

We had planned to stay only one night at Malpe and we had booked our room at Paradise Isle Beach Resort which located right on the Malpe Beach. When we reached the hotel, we were thrilled to see the location. The room/cottage was also good. The surroundings and the garden were well-kept.

After we freshened up, we went for lunch. Even after two years I still remember what we had ordered because it was so delicious!! Being on seashore means seafood for me and so I ordered Crab Masala while D ordered Chicken Hariyali along with rice and roti. Both the dishes were awesome in taste!! The only other time I have eaten such tasty crab dish was when we had visited Puri.

After such a splendid lunch an afternoon siesta was a must. Then we went off to the beach in evening. Malpe is a natural port located about 6 km from Udupi, Karnataka. It is an important fishing harbor too. The beach had golden brown and whitish colored sand which gave it a different look. Beach gazebos, palm trees, less crowd and cleanliness made the beach even more attractive, especially the gazebos which gave the beach a unique look. The water was also quite clean and blue. A melee of activities was going on at the beach. Young boys were flying kites which are made & sold by locals at the beach. Some guys were going on jet ski rides, some were driving ATVs on the beach, some kids were enjoying camel rides, some enjoying the water and some people like me were lazing about on the beach. There is something enchanting in watching the waves come and go..I could spend hours doing that..just chatting with a companion and looking at the ocean/sea.

DSC09552

Gazebos at the beach

 

DSC09578

Kai Po Che!

DSC09600

Sand Sculpture

The different stages of sunset at Malpe beach

DSC07254

DSC07244

DSC09636

We came back to our hotel after darkness fell. We decided to have vegetarian dinner and that turned out to be horribly tasteless!! Sadly the place doesn’t have much eating options outside. Then at night we sat at the porch chatting while listening to the night sounds of the sea until mosquitoes made it impossible to do so!!

Next day before checking out, we again went to the beach. Malpe beach has many islands off the coast, among which St.Mary’s Islands – a set of four small islands – is the most famous tourist destination. They are known for their unique geological formation of basalt rocks but sadly, due to lack of time, we couldn’t visit that place.

DSC09650

DSC09651

The golden brown colored sand

Then our drive back home began. We left after breakfast. As we were going to drive from Malpe to Bengaluru, it was going to be a long drive. In the entire Ghat stretch of road, there are just small eateries. We stopped at one to have tea and to stretch our legs. Then in Sakleshpur, we stopped at a restaurant called Surabhi’s Nx for a late lunch. The food was okay. The view behind the restaurant was very good. By that time dark clouds had begun to gather making the weather awesome.

Soon it started raining and that slowed down the drive speed to avoid any skidding. But again thanks to our car’s CEAT tyres, we didn’t face any problem.

Thus one of our work + fun road trips ended with lovely memories and a promise to go back again to visit St. Mary’s Islands next time.

Categories: Beaches, Karnataka, Religious, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Talakadu Chronicle

Some of my colleagues proposed the idea of going on a picnic trip to any nearby place. Rest of us agreed. The places chosen were Talakad or Talakadu which is around 130 kms from Bangalore and 24 kms further to Somnathpur. Bus was hired and food arrangements were made which consisted primarily of South Indian dishes. Permission to go on a picnic on a working Saturday was taken from the management. Bus started at 6 am from the first pick up point. At around 8 am we reached Kanakpura to pick up our supplies. At around 10.30 we stopped for breakfast somewhere beside the road. After breakfast, on our way to Talakadu, all of us started playing Antakshari. It was fun!!

On Way

Breakfast break

As soon as we reached the outskirts of the small rural settlement, there was a barrier on road and some kids ran up to us to collect “vehicle entrance fee”. The signboard was extremely dubious. But that is the way it is at many places around Bangalore.

Rate Charge

Kids collecting entrance fee

Talakadu is a small town, with lot of ancient history and mythology related to it, located on the banks of the famous river Cauvery. Remains of pre-historic settlements have been unearthed at Talakdu. The town is peculiarly covered with sand dunes several meters deep and has a folklore behind its appearance. Talakadu is also a centre of pilgrimage. It is also known as Kasi of the South. It is mentioned as Gajaranya meaning Elephant forest in ancient lore of India. Tourists come here mainly for the “darshan” or to offer their prayers to the five sacred Shiv-lingas (representation of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva) and especially in the month of Kartika of Hindu calendar. Talakad has been ruled by several dynasties over the ages (Gangas, Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas,Vijayanagar Kings) and recently by the Wodeyars of Mysore.

At the parking area, one can find vendors selling guide books of Talakadu. Those are really helpful in knowing the history of the place and for guiding the religiously inclined to the correct procedure of visiting all the temples in the area. The book has a Kannada section and an English section. If you bargain well, you can get it in Rs 10.

The tale of The Curse of Talakadu goes like this:-

Vijayanagara king had appointed one Srirangaraya as the viceroy of Vijayanagar Empire to Wodeyar kingdom, in 1610. The viceroy’s wife was Alamelamma who used to send her ornaments every Friday to decorate Sri Ranga Nayaki, the consort of Sri Ranganatha of the Srirangapatnam temple. After the death of her husband, the Wodeyar king and his soldiers started to harass the woman for her jewels. The Mysore king sent his force to seize the jewels. Out of helplessness and anger, Alamelamma jumped into the river Cauvery at a place called Malangi with the jewels tied up in a cloth. When she was drowning, she uttered a curse in Kannada saying

“Talakadu managali, Malangi madwagali, Mysooru arasarige makkalu aagadirali”

which translates to ‘Let Talakadu be covered by sand, let Malangi become a whirlpool and may the kings of Mysore not have any heirs’

Now the strange thing is Talakdu is really covered with sand (which scientists attribute to either building of a dam in the 14th century or a fault line  running through the river), the river really has whirlpools at Malangi and the Mysore royal family have faced problem in having a rightful heir to the throne since that time. Apparently the present scion of Mysore Royal Family, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, has made amends for the same. I am not advocating any supernatural hocus pocus or superstitions, but one has to admit there is a certain romanticism, charm and curiosity in knowing such folklore. 🙂

Talakadu has derived its name from two hunters called TALA and KADA. They also have a mythological story which goes like this :-

A sage Somadatta with his 16000 disciples was on his way to Siddhashrama situated on Mount Somarka to worship Lord Shiva. Enroute wild elephants killed him. He was reincarnated as an elephant and continued worshiping the god with his disciples at a place where a ‘salmali’ tree stood. In due time the Lord appeared and blessed them all with mukti or emancipation of the soul in human form from the cycle of births and deaths. Now, later in the course of time, two hunters called Tala and Kada, were travelling in the region. They struck the ‘salmali’ tree with an axe and blood gushed out. They fainted. When they regained consciousness, they heard a voice telling them how to dress the wound and heal the tree. The hunters did as instructed and became ‘pramathagana’ (whatever that means). Lord Shiva who suggested medicine to his own illness came to be known as “Vaidyanatheswara” (The Lord of Physicians). The place became famous as Talakadu and the blood which had oozed out got mixed with earth and got the name “moolamrithika”. The sacred mix is supposed to cure all diseases including those caused by misdeeds of previous births.

After reaching bank of the river, we chose a spot under the shade of a tree and settled down. Most of my colleagues went for a ride on the special round boats or “parisals” across the river. Parisals or Indian coracles are primitive, light, bowl-shaped boats with a frame of woven bamboo, grasses, reeds or saplings covered with hides. They are used commonly in South India and are a major tourist attraction. After the boat ride, all of them went for a swim or to just play in the water. There are changing rooms available near the river. There are various food items and refreshments vendors also. I and my friends ate watermelon pieces to cool off. It was so hot in February!

On way to beach

Cauvery Riverside

Changing rooms

Parisal Boats

Boat Ride Across Cauvery

Birds on Cauvery

Expanse of River Cauvery

Frolicking in water

Buried in hot sand, drunk perhaps? (not my colleagues)

After everybody returned reluctantly from the water, we had lunch. After lunch all of us went for the tour of temples around the area on foot. And my appreciation for the “Ship of Desert” i.e. the camel increased manifolds. It is really so difficult to walk on sand. After visiting the first temple (where I bumped my head due to low height of the entrance) and walking some more distance to the next one, some of us gave up. We were sweating profusely and were so thirsty. Thankfully a watermelon seller rescued us. We reached the end point of the tour by a shortcut and relaxed in the bus while the more energetic and religious colleagues completed the tour in that hot weather.

There are about 30 temples at Talakadu, some of which have been excavated and some of which are still buried under sand. Among the temples, the Pataleshwara or Vasukishwara, Maruleshwara or Saikateshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheshwara and Mallikarjuna temples form the famous “Panchalinga Darshana” which is held once every 12 years. The Panchalinga Darshana is held on a Monday falling on a new moon day in the month of Karthika (November/December) when the sun is in the Scorpius constellation. Apparently the last Panchalinga Darshana was held in the year 2006. The Pataleshwara Shivalingam is said to change colors during the day (red in the morning, black in afternoon and white in the evening).  Apart from these, there is also the Keertinarayana temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is built in Hoysala style of architecture. The sanctum has an eight foot tall idol of Keertinarayana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Roadsign

Pataleshwara Swamy Temple

Half Buried Temple

On way to second temple

Restoration work in progress

Keertinarayana Temple

All the visible temples have exquisite carvings and sculptures. The ancient structures always manage to fill one’s mind with awe at the workmanship, isn’t it? The town has an atmosphere rich in history, mythology, religion, belief and faith with the river Cauvery quietly flowing agelessly, a witness to the rise and fall of several kingdoms, to the fervent prayers and resonant chants of devotees, to the happiness and sadness in their hearts and to the progress of human civilization over time.

Religion in every heart

Faith in every grain of sand

We left Talakdu at around 4.30 pm for Somnathpur but by the time we reached there, the place had closed for the day. Maybe I will visit that place on my own someday. There was an excellent shop of antiques and artifacts at Somnathpur. After tea and refreshments, we started for Bangalore and returned by 10 pm.

Talakadu Temple Timings:- 08.00 am – 06.30 pm. Entrance is free.

Categories: Historical, Karnataka, Nature, Religious, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Delhi Chronicle Part 1

After spending a wonderful week at Ahmedabad, we went to New Delhi to meet my sister and my niece whom I had not met since her birth. It was my first trip to the capital city. The train journey was uneventful and we reached New Delhi in morning after an overnight journey. The weather was bad with the summer sun showing its ugly face. After getting freshened up at the hotel near relatives’ house, we went to see my precious niece. Poor thing! She was surrounded by so many strangers all of a sudden and such weather and water at that! As for the first impression of people of Delhi, I think every family of every status and income owns a car whether they use it or not and whether there is place for parking or not. Moreover all these cars are dented!! In the evening D and I decided to visit the famous Lotus Temple. Though we were interested to go via Delhi Metro, we hired a cab because one has to change trains three times to go to Nehru Place from Patel Nagar. The cab driver was an affable Punjabi person and just as we were about to leave another car backed into our cab. We understood why all the cars in New Delhi have dents! We had an amusing experience on our way to Lotus temple while the cab driver pointed out the landmarks of Delhi on our request.

DSC05665

 DSC05669

An example

Cab driver – And that is AIIMS….the biggest hospital in Asia, all people come here for treatment blah blah

D – Ahh yes we know.

Cab Driver – Humph! I am telling only because you asked me to show the  landmarks as you are visiting for first time. If you already know then why did you ask me? Blah blah

I – Okay okay calm down. My sister is a doctor so we know about AIIMS. Please continue.

( D and I were smiling to each other)

Finally we reached the place.

# Lotus Temple – Located at Kalkaji, this lotus shaped temple is the house of worship of Baha’i faith. It was  completed in 1986 and is the seventh of all the Baha’i Houses of Worship all around the world. It was designed by Iranian-Canadian architect Fariburz Sahba and is made of marble entirely. The architecture of the building is exquisite with 27 white-marble petals, lush green landscaped gardens and nine reflecting pools surrounding the temple from outside. There is a central hall which can be accessed through nine doors. Silence is mandatory inside the hall and visitors are encouraged to sit peacefully and meditate for some time. The serenity and calmness of the place really brings peace to one’s mind and thoughts from the noisy world outside. Though it is a Baha’i house of worship, it is open to all people of any faith to come and meditate in the beautiful environment. At the entrance there is a slab which describes the Baha’i philosophy and after reading that we were truly impressed and inspired by the principles of the Oneness of God, the Oneness of Religions, and the Oneness of Mankind. Entry is free and photography is prohibited inside.

DSC05673

DSC05670

DSC05690

DSC05697

DSC05698

After we reached our cab, the driver took us to some emporiums right behind the temple complex for shopping. I guess that is the usual practice the cab drivers follow for tourists. We went inside and roamed around the shop and came back without buying anything. 🙂 Then he dropped us back to our hotel. D left the next day to come back to Bangalore while I stayed back to spend some more days with my family as my parents were due to arrive in Delhi two days later.

To be continued…..

Categories: Cities, New Delhi, Religious | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Ahmedabad Chronicle Part 3

Continued from here. This last post in the Ahmedabad Chronicle Series is all about the excursions we went on from Ahmedabad and shopping in Ahemdabad which is one of the important aspects of my trips 🙂 Actually Adalaj Vav should have been included in this post.

# Akshardham Temple : It is located in Gandhinagar around 30 kms from Ahmedabad. Akshardham temple is a spiritual and cultural complex built over an area of 23 acres. The central monument which enshrines the 7 feet high golden idol of Lord Swaminarayan, the founder of the Swaminarayan Faith, is an imposing 10 storeys high building made entirely of intricately carved, 6000 tons of pink sand-stone and is an architectural marvel which exudes excellent craftsmanship. The monument has three floors – Hari Mandapam (the main floor), Vibhuti Mandapam (the upper floor), Prasadi Mandapam (the ground floor). There are several exhibitions of both walk-throughs and video/audio animatronics type. The exhibitions are about the life of Lord Swaminarayan, the mysticism of India, messages of Upanishads, Ramayan and Mahabharat etc. The garden (Sahajanand Vun) around the monument is beautiful and well maintained. There is a water show too called the Sat-Chit-Anand Water Show which depicts the Upanishadic story of Nachiketa. Since photography is prohibited and mobiles are also taken at the entrance I have no photos of this marvellous strtucture. Outside food is also not allowed. There are eateries in the garden so after an exhausting walk around the complex we had some refreshments. Timings : From Tuesday to Sunday (Closed every Monday) Mandir: Daily 9:30a.m. to 7:30p.m. Night Lighting : On Saturdays, Sundays. Exhibitions : Daily 10:00a.m. to 6:00p.m. Rides & Games : 12:00 noon to 8:00p.m. Restaurant : 10:00a.m. to 8:00p.m.

# Sarkhej Roza : Located off the Sarkhej – Gandhinagar highway, it is (apparently) one of the most elegant and famous architectural complexes of Ahmedabad. But what we saw were dilapidated buildings surrounded by grazing cattle, rubbish and wild grass and plants; tucked away inside a ghetto area with an entrance gate which one can miss easily!! The complex instead of showing off its excellent architecture and craftsmanship was radiating the neglect being meted out by the concerned agencies. The complex consists of several buildings grouped around a large stepped tank. The buildings consist of a mosque and a mausoleum built by the monarch Mohammad Shah in the honour of Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh, a Sufi saint in 1451 A.D.; the tombs of Mehmud Shah Begada and his queen, and the palace and pavilions. The dry tank added to the misery of the place’s condition in the eyes of a tourist but one can imagine what the place would have been in the olden days.

Entrance to Sarkhej Roza

# Ambaji Temple : Located in the Danta Taluka of Banaskantha district, near the Gujarat-Rajasthan border, around 183 km from Ahmedabad, this holy place is famous for the Hindu temple of Arasuri Amba (since the temple is located in Arasur hills of Aravali mountain range) and is considered to be one of the 51 ancient Shakti Peeths of the Indian subcontinent. There are actually two temples, this one and the other one atop the Gabbar hill right opposite the first one. The hilltop one is considered to be the original abode of the Mata Ambaji and had been built on the site where the piece of the heart of the dead body of Devi Sati fell according to the mythological legend.

The rustic town was clean and serene where a strange feeling of devotion and faith fills one’s heart after entering this place of the greatest power inherent in all Creation. Also irony strikes the mind that in a country where the female supremacy is revered and forms the base of the main religion, crimes against women are so high. 😦 Needless to say photography was prohibited so no photos of temple from inside. Though paid parking facility is there. The Mataji temple is built of white marble with gold cones and has one main entrance and one side door. Devotees have to keep shoes outside, before the Shakti Dwar and then join the long queue for the “darshan” but thankfully the trust people have made good arrangement for public by providing shade and carpet the entire way. There are lots of shops both inside and outside the complex where you can buy offerings for the deity. Speaking of deity, there is no idol of the goddess in the inner sanctum, perhaps because the temple is so ancient that it predates idol-worship. Instead there is a niche in the wall on which a gold plated marble inscription of the Viso Yantra (a Vedic text on sacred geometry) is fixed and worshipped. The priests decorate the upper part of the niche in such a way that it looks like an idol of a goddess from a distance. But as happens in all famous temples, the time one gets to see and observe is one minute hardly, after which one is asked to move ahead or shoved ahead. 😦 Anyway so after the darshan and collecting prasad, we headed for lunch at one of the eateries on the outside road. The menu aka Guajrati thali was fixed and I was looking forward to taste one! And I was so hungry that the photo got unfocussed 😀

After a satisfying lunch, we went to the temple on the hill top. Parking facility is not there. Apparently there are 1000 steps leading to the temple but again thankfully the trust has installed a rope way to help the pilgrims. It was my first time on a ropeway and the experience was both scary and enjoyable. The view from the hilltop was amazing. After the visit, we left for Ahmedabad and reached the city by evening. The entire drive was quite smooth and road conditions were good. Timings: Ambaji temple is open all days of the week, 7:15-11:30am, 12-4:15pm, 6:30-9pm.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

# Shopping in Ahmedabad :

Law Garden Road – Whenever I asked my friends or acquaintances from Ahmedabad for shopping places, two answers were common – Law Garden Road Market and National Handloom shop. The road has derived its name from the nearby Law college and the adjoining garden called the Law Garden which is a recreational spot for both children and adults.  The road is lined with shops of local vendors selling ethnic oxidised jewellery, beautifully embroidered and mirror worked kurtis, ghagra cholis, handbags, table cloths, bed sheets, bed covers, cushion covers, wall hangings and other home decor stuff.  It is truly a shopper’s and bargainer’s paradise!! These shops open after 6 pm usually (don’t know if they are open during the day) and the rule of thumb to shop there from my experience is to quote less than half of the selling price when you start the bargain. The first lady vendor I tried ignored my quote and was rude and almost shooed me off. But I was undeterred! 😀 I continued along the road and purchased lots of stuff at good rates. The places also has shops selling Gujarati meals, fast food, ice creams and other delicacies. All this makes the entire area a popular place to hang out. In the evening the area glitters due to all the mirror work stuff and all the wares add to the vibrancy and colorfulness of Gujarati culture.

National Handloom – It is a three storeyed family super market sort of place right next to the Law Garden. You can shop clothes and handicrafts there. But I found it less impressive than Law garden in terms of handicrafts. But dress material and sarees were good.

Iscon Mega Mall – It is located in the newly developed shopping hub off S. G. Highway in Ahemdabad, just after the ISKCON temple. Apparently it is the largest mall in Gujarat so we visited the mall for some shopping. But we found it to be small as compared to Bangalore Malls and the food court was pathetic and over priced for such a mall.

So the one week trip to Ahmedabad was an enjoyable experience with fun, sight seeing, food and shopping. It would have been more pleasant if it wasn’t the summer. If you have one week time and intend to visit Ahmedabad 2-3 days then you can make plans to visit Somnath and Dwarka too, which we intend to include in our itinerary next time. On 27th April we boarded the train to New Delhi for the next part of our trip.

Categories: Gujarat, Historical, Religious, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Aurangabad and Ellora Caves Chronicle

A long 12 day trip was planned during the 2009 summer vacation. The places on itinerary were Aurangabad, Ellora Caves, Pune, Khandala, Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. This post is about the visit to Aurangabad and Ellora caves. Rest of the places will follow soon. 🙂

1st Day :- Hometown to Manmad. Had to get off at 3.30 am! Train to Aurangabad (2 hrs journey) was at 5 am. Though it started from Manmad itself, it came and left at 7.30 am. It was a passenger train and that meant seat for the quickest :) Thankfully we got seats. Both Manmad and Aurangabad stations are lacking in coolies (porters). Checked in a hotel at Aurangabad and went sightseeing in evening. Hotel experience was not good due to power cuts and bad food. But the evening was well spent at Bibi ka Maqbara and Panchakki (water mill). I realized that photography is very difficult in India as people don’t move out of frame even on request!!

The Bibi-Ka-Maqbara is a beautiful mausoleum of Dilras Banu Begum, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb, constructed by her son Prince Azam Shah. The mausoleum was intended to rival the Taj Mahal, but, the decline in architecture and proportions of the structure had resulted in a poor copy of the latter.

DSC00841

DSC00865

2nd Day :- Checked out of hotel at Aurangabad and left for Ellora Caves (30 kms from Aurangabad) in a hired car. We stopped at Daulatabad fort on way to Ellora but didn’t have the energy to climb it.

DSC00946

There I found guava sellers coloring their guavas to decorate their baskets. They too had a sense of color and style!! :) I took a snap with a seller’s permission.

DSC00959

Then we went to see Aurangzeb’s Tomb. It was a simple building and the tomb was nothing special. Apparently Aurangzeb lead a very modest lifestyle.

DSC00965

Then we reached Ellora. We were awestruck to see the monumental caves and sculptures made by cutting the rocks and faces of the hills. Ellora, a World Heritage Site, is something that needs to be seen to be believed. The most famous cave of Ellora was the Kailash Temple. Such intricate and difficult work after cutting stones and faces of the hills is unthinkable.

Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 “caves” – actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – being Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain caves (caves 30–34), built in proximity, show the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.

Ellora has a lot of shops and restaurants nearby. After a nice lunch we visited the Ghrishneshwar Temple that enshrines one of the 12 jyotirlingas dedicated to Lord Shiva.

DSC01143

From there we left for Manmad where we had to catch the night train to Pune.

To be continued….

Categories: Historical, Maharashtra, Religious | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Lucknow Chronicle

In 2007 I and my parents spent the Diwali vacation at a relatives place in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. The scenery of rural Uttar Pradesh is beautiful. One can see lush green and yellow fields, mango orchards, wells, cattle, eucalyptus tress and even peacocks roaming freely! But one can also see the lack of electric transmission towers, the darkness at most of the areas, the lack of any traffic rule and the density of population.

I didn’t get a chance to go out much in that town. We made plans of  a one day trip to Lucknow (the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India) to do some sightseeing, shopping and eating – my favorite combination 😀 So here is an account of that one day trip.

Located in what was historically known as the Awadh region, Lucknow has always been a multicultural city. Courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known among Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Lucknow is popularly known as the The City of Nawabs. It is also known as the Golden City of the East, Shiraz-i-Hind and The Constantinople of India.

We left for Lucknow early morning in a hired car. Because of the Golden Quadrilateral project, the highways of U.P. have become quite good. As we entered Lucknow from the west side, the first place we visited was the Hussainabad Imambara or the Chota Imambara.

The Hussainabad Imambara is a major tourist attraction of Lucknow. The monument was built by Muhammed Ali Shah in the year 1837 under ‘Food for Work’ program initiated by him to bring respite for the city populace when the region was hit by a famine.  The walls of the monument are decorated with Arabic verses that have been carved beautifully by efficient craftsmen. The structure has an imposing white colored dome and many pillars or minarets.  There are small miniatures of the Taj Mahal on either side of the monument.

This is the Chota Imambara

DSC03077

And these are the two Taj Replicas on either side of the Imambara

DSC03094-horz

The tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah and his mother are inside the Imambara. Also a number of tazias ,mirrors with gold frames and beautiful chandeliers are kept in the hall. From there we went to see the Rumi Darwaza.

The Rumi Darwaza of Lucknow is one of the most impressive architectural structures in India. It was constructed in the year 1784 by Nawab Asaf-ud-daula. The Rumi Darwaza goes upto a height of 60 feet. The uppermost part of Rumi Darwaza comprises of an octagonal Chatri (Umbrella) carved beautifully that can be accessed by a staircase. On top of the Rumi Darwaza was kept a huge lantern that would light up the structure at night making it look absolutely fabulous. Little jets of water would rush out of the sides of the arch from beautifully carved flower buds thus making it look like a gateway to Paradise. The beautifully carved flowers and designs speak volumes about the unique architectural style and eye for detail.

This is the back side of Rumi Darwaza

DSC03122

Next to Rumi Darwaza is the Asafi Imambara or the Bada Imambara.

Bada Imambara complex was commissioned by the then Nawab of Awadh, Asaf -ud-Daula in the year 1784. The complex also includes the large Asfi mosque, the Bhul-Bhulayah (the labyrinth) and a summer palace with running water. Bada Imambara was also built under the ‘Food For Work’ program. The Bada Imambara is built at the end of a spectacular courtyard approached through two magnificent triple-arched gateways. The central hall of the Imambara is almost 50 metres long and 16 metres wide. The ceiling of this column-less hall is more than 15 metres high. The hall is one of the largest of its kind in the world without any external support of wood, iron, or stone beams. The roof has been put together with interlocking bricks without using a beam or a girder.

This is one of the gateways

DSC03147

And this is the Bada Imambara and the next image is the central hall.

DSC03153

DSC03177

But the monument is not well maintained. The elaborate chandeliers were dusty. Lighting was tacky. There were cobwebs, paint peeling off walls, names scratched on wall by people and above all the mark of U.P. – red paan stains.  In fact it was the only tourist place  of all the places I have ever visited where I saw a large steel dustbin totally red with paan stains!!Here is a sample of the wall. 😦

DSC03188

Outside in the courtyard, there is a man who sits under an umbrella and sells tiny versions of  shoes worn by the Nawab and some Begum. There is no bargaining. But the shoes were so cute that I bought many of them. Thats what I call entrepreneurship. 🙂

DSC03192-vert

From there we went to Aminabad, a quaint bazaar like Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, is situated in the heart of the city. It is a large shopping centre area that has all kinds of shops for all kinds of customers. Due to Diwali, there was too much congestion. Its better to leave the car in the parking area and shop while walking. First we had lunch in one of the restaurants. The service was slow but the food was tasty and reasonable priced. This is the non veg thali I had ordered.

Image0129

After lunch we went for shopping. Take care of your purses, mobiles, sunglasses,jewelery and pockets while roaming in Lucknow markets!! A very suspicious looking and shabbily dressed man tried to sell a single Ray Ban goggles to me…evidently a stolen item. Shopping in Lucknow is incomplete without buying Lucknow Chikankari clothes.

Chikankari is actually a very complex and delicate form of embroidery that primarily uses muslin clothes. This kind of embroidery is only confined to the city of Lucknow. The design motifs in Chikankari are predominantly influenced by Mughal art. There are various stitches used in Chikankari. The most often used stitch is the satin stitch. Apart from that there are others like stem stitch and chain stitch etc. Chikan has very light, gossamer like quality that makes it fit for the extreme climate.

Needless to say Chikan material is costly too depending on the quality and measure of embroidery done on the cloth. These are the two dress materials I bought.How could I resist? 😀

DSC03284

After 3 hours of shopping, we went to eat Tunday’s Kebabs – a must-eat advised by many people on Twitter. Not a place for vegetarians of course. And if there are women in your group then its better to get them parceled and eat outside. The mutton kebabs were as delicious as I had been told. 🙂

Image0131

After spending such a wonderful day at the city of Nawabs and Kebabs, we headed back home. Hopefully, I will get a chance to go there again someday to visit the rest of the tourist places and to explore the markets and restaurants fully 😀 😀

Categories: Cities, Historical, Religious, Uttar Pradesh | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Dakshineswar – Aadyapeeth – Belur Math Chronicle

I and Hubby had gone to Kolkata in December 2010. During our stay there, we went on two trips – a one day trip in Kolkata only and a 3 day trip to Digha beach which is the most popular weekend destination for Calcuttans.

The one day trip in Kolkata was to Dakshineswar – Aadyapeeth – Belur Math; some of the holy places of West Bengal. we (In laws and us) left for Dakshineswar in the hired car in early morning. It is advisable to reach there as early as possible otherwise the queue just keeps getting longer and the “darshan” time shorter. Dakshineswar is famous for its Kali temple built on the bank of river Hooghly by Rani Rashmoni in 1855.

The temple compound, apart from the nine-spired main temple, has a large courtyard surrounding the temple, with rooms along the boundary walls. There are twelve shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva along the riverfront, a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat on the river, a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni. The chamber in the northwestern corner just beyond the last of the Shiva temples, is where Sri Ramakrishna spent a considerable part of his life.

There are shops selling garlands and other offerings for worship. Also there are shops selling various souvenirs and a paid place to keep shoes. We gave offerings of sweets,flowers, 5 types of fruits and a pair of “pola” along with sindoor.

From there we went to Adyapeeth which is near Dakshineswar.

Adyapeeth was founded by Sri Anand Thakur in 1915 after he had an unusual dream. Devoted to Adya Maa ( a form of Maa Kali) the statue of the deity was chipped out of a black stone.

One can not see the diety directly. There is a separate big hall right in front of the doors of the main temple and people can sit there to watch the “aarti”. But the problem with that place is the timing. The doors are open just for an hour or so during the day which is quite frustrating. (This whole concept of closing of temple doors and the gods/goddesses having sleeping/resting time etc is quite aggravating but I will save that for some other time some other post)

Then we went to Belur Math. One can go to Belur Math via ferry across the river Hooghly from Dakshineswar Ghat. It takes only 20-30 mins that way. Since we were in car we had to go via Nivedita Setu.

We managed to reach Belur Math in time before it closed for the afternoon. The cleanliness and the serenity of the place was wonderful. One can sit on the grounds adjoining the bank of river Hooghly and enjoy the breeze while watching boats go by. There is a museum too in the premises containing articles and artifacts connected to Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.

Belūr Maṭh is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, a chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. It is one of the significant institutions in Calcutta. The temple is notable for its architecture that fuses Hindu, Christian and Islamic motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions. A full size statue of Sri Ramakrishna is seated on a hundred petalled lotus over a “damaru” shaped marble pedestal wherein the sacred relics of Sri Ramakrishna are preserved.

After spending some time relaxing at Belur Math, we ended our “Holy Day” trip and headed to few relatives’ places on our way back home. One more very important holy place of Kolkata is the Kalighat Temple. But that is like on one end (south) and all these places on other (north) of Kolkata. So maybe next time!!!

Categories: Cities, Religious, West Bengal | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Puri – Konark – Chilka Chronicle

One Diwali Vacation, I decided to go on a trip to see the ocean with my parents. Destination Puri was selected and a four day trip was chalked out.  The scenery was pretty much alike to that en route Kolkata (my homeland)….All small ponds, coconut trees, ponds full of lotus plants……Unlike the barren and dusty route when one goes towards Pune/Nagpur….

As the train sped towards Cuttack, we crossed the 2,250 m long bridge built on the river Mahanadi. It was awesome. After dealing with agents and browsing through pamphlets we decided on a cottage type hotel “Hotel Shankar International”. It was a good bargain  with very tasty food and located right on the beach with the ocean 30 metres away.

In the late afternoon of the day we arrived, my parents went to see the ocean while i kept sleeping. Then we again went for a stroll after dark and the beach light being out of order, it was quite scary to walk across beach in darkness..And then I got the night view of Bay of Bengal…..Looking so ominous in night..A dark unknown water world…So wild and powerful. Then later we went for a quick ride around the city.

Next day, the plan was to visit Lord Jagannath Temple. We made a deal  with a “paanda” (aka agent of God…the god depending on the place..in this case Lord Jagannath) beforehand to escort and guide us in the temple. It is advisable to do so to prevent getting “robbed” inside the temple.

So after submitting our mobiles and camera, we washed our feet and entered the 8000 yrs old temple consisting of many temples inside, carved out of hillocks. Here and there various types of prasads were available and once you take it innocently, the pandas ask for money….It is a whole business going on there. The place was so crowded that our hired paanda held our wrists and literally dragged and pushed us inside the main temple to see the Lord.

Then we came back to our hotel and had breakfast. A rented car came to take us to Konark to see the famous Sun temple. The 13th-century Sun Temple (also known as the Black Pagoda), built in Orissa red sandstone and black granite by King Narasimhadeva I (AD 1236-1264) of the Ganga dynasty. The temple is one of the most well renowned temples in India and is a World Heritage Site. [This information has been provided by the courtesy of wikipedia]. While driving to Konark, we crossed a place called Chandrabagha. The view of the sea from there was awesome , but due to afternoon time we couldn’t enjoy much. The snaps didn’t come well too due to so much of sunlight. We also crossed some forest area but didn’t get to see even one deer. The Sun temple was really grand…such a huge structure made of stone…so much creativity and hard work. Its surrounding gardens were extremely beautiful. Huge elephants and other creatures made of stone were there. There were many “guides” who pestered to hire them to show around and tell stories of the various sculptures. I took many snaps and bought a lot of souvenirs from outside stalls.


The food shops outside the site don’t serve tasty food. But we drank very tasty coconut juice and ate pulp. Then we returned to our hotel and had our lunch. After our afternoon nap, we went to the main beach of Puri; “Sworgodwar” meaning gateway to heaven. Here the beach was very crowded and all the prominent hotels were on the road next to the beach. It was already sunset when we went, so couldn’t enjoy much. There was a large market too but as we were tired from our day trip, we just did window shopping. We planned to come back the next day in early evening. From there we went around a trip around the town. Visited a Buddha temple where stone sculptures were kept for sale. Exquisite work but very costly.

The next day the same rented car came to take us to Chilka Lake. Chilka Lake is a brackish water coastal lake . It is the largest coastal lake in India. The driver told us Chilka is famous for its crabs. We were tempted to eat crabs and had decided to buy from there. The fun part of Chilka visit consisted of boating ; the activity of which both my Dad and I were afraid. So we just roamed a little , took snaps and sat in the adjoining park while eating chips and feeding crumbs to crows. Also Dad bought 3 crabs weighing one kilo and gave them to the hotel chef to prepare for us. I was looking forward to my dinner that night more than I usually did. 😀

In evening we went to Sworgodwar and enjoyed a lot. Even Dad went to wet his feet in the waves crashing on the shore. At the beach there were local people selling “pearls” and “stones” collected from sea at prices of Rs 5-25!!!! There were camels for giving ride and chairs were available on rent at the rate of Rs 10 per hour to sit and enjoy. We “rented” chairs as the beach was quite dirty.

Then we bought some snacks from the Mongini’s outlet and sat by the “Marine drive” to enjoy. After that we went shopping and I bought knick knacks, dress material and gift items for colleagues back home. Beautiful idols made of stone and coral were available. Came back to hotel. After dinner we went for a night walk on the beach.

Next day was our last day in Puri. All of us went for early morning walk on beach. The ocean at each time of day has different sights and different effects. The morning chill, the fog, the boats going out to earn livelihood…..whereas in night the darkness, the sound of waves crashing in the silence of night, boats returning home, a feeling as if we’re standing at the edge of the world. Dad and Mom went for some last minute shopping. In late afternoon, Dad and I went for our last view of the Bay of Bengal, to take in the vastness of the elements of earth before we left for station.

Next day we reached our home with the memories of a wonderful trip.

Categories: Beaches, Odisha, Religious | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments
%d bloggers like this: