!ncredibly India – Off Wheels
I didn’t want to write this initially. I honestly have no idea how to summarize a month of India and what I saw in a single post. And I really don’t want to bore you guys into reading a never ending essay either. So, I figured let’s just go by the traditional way. Allow the pictures to speak for themselves. Although they might not exactly convey my feelings, for some photographs were just badly pictured. Sorry about that guys, no matter how much technology improves, batteries have a life and they tend to die often.
Even then, I had no choice but to break it into two posts. This is the first of the two where I spent about 10 days in South India observing and participating in things. It’s titled “Off Wheels” simply because the second post is all about my train journeys around India. Anyways, let’s focus on this part of the journey first, shall we?
Here we go…
An Indian Wedding
It started off with my participation in an Indian wedding. It was my cousin’s. What was supposed to be my watch- and- be -impressed with Indian weddings, ended up being on-stage with my cousin. Not quite what I had in mind.
One would think, least I did, that wearing jewelry would invite looks. Man, I invited quite a few stares for not wearing any. Indian aunts and grannies offered to part with their chains so that “my neck wouldn’t appear bare”. I’m sorry what?
Did I mention Indian weddings can actually last a week?
I was told that my cousin’s three day affair was actually short. Good Lord!
Then again, I am glad it was a huge event else I will never have been able to witness an Indian wedding first hand. By the way, not all Indian weddings take place the same way. Well obviously given the number of states and the diversity of India.
The one I attended followed the Telugu customs. Specifically the Naidus. During the climax of the wedding, the part where the groom ties the sacred thread; was performed with a cloth between the groom and bride. Interesting aye. I was told about its significance, but as time went the information dissipated from my memory. Oops!
Did you know there were pre and post wedding events?
I didn’t. I hardly ever attend weddings. And the ones I have attended, ended within three hours or less. Not this one. One of the post wedding events was a visit to a remote temple in the heart of a South Indian village.
Both the names of the temple and the village were quite a mouthful. But that’s not the point. The temple was built for a deity or otherwise known as a guardian-deity. Can you actually say that? I just coined the term, I’m not sure if it exists. Anyways, the fact that the deity’s responsibilities is the well being of the people, the temple lies in the out skirts of a village. Makes sense innit.
The groom’s family are closely affiliated with the temple hence they tend to visit the temple, after every successful occasion, as a way of saying thank you to the deity.
Besides weddings, Indians celebrate everything. I’m not kidding. There was an ear piercing ceremony for a young kid and they even shaved his head.
The parents didn’t cut his hair since birth; all for this day: To shave his head bald and get his ears pierced. And between all of these, stuff a banana in his mouth hoping that would distract him. Ok…
The lady on the left was the official “ear-piercer”.
She was not using the pierce gun but a freaking needle! One that she would heat before piercing (read: hurting) the 3 year old’s ears. I swear she was aggressive but many would disagree with me. Sighs!
What’s a trip to India if you haven’t seen enough temples right?
At every step of the way, at every corner street stood a temple. Be it one with its towering height, and intricate designs or a simple hut with a deity sitting inside. The numbers were baffling. The bigger, grander temples were the most intriguing. With its cool interior despite the sweltering heat outside, and the history behind its architecture was just pure amazement.
Venky requires a post of his own, but remember how I didn’t wanna bore you guys to death with my long winded-ness? Hey, I hear you say, as if this post was any shorter but seriously I have summarized it to the best of my ability. Sobs.
Venky is a rich God. People donate their wealth to this deity. I was glad the money was put to good use, for the accommodation provided and the surrounding areas and areas within the temple were kept relatively clean. Infrastructures to aid devotees were well constructed too.
That was when I noticed these see through walls within the temple: the men behind the walls were counting cash! Loads of them! It was pouring cash in this part of India. Will someone please enlighten the poor souls begging on the streets about this place please!
It was literally raining money and… hair, due to devotees shaving their heads for one or another religious reason related to Venky. Meeting Venky was a tedious task. I had to shove and push people. Shout Govinda and later push through the crowds before me. It appeared as if people were shouting “Govinda” to get the adrenaline running before they exert their strength on the dude infront. Wonder how Venky feels about this? Sorry Govinda.
What I also realized, after I mastered the art of being Indian was that I hardly made eye contact with Venky. The entire union with throngs of other Indians between me and Venky, around me and Venky, lasted less than 2 minutes.
After the main viewing, which was twice, thanks to a certain privilege endowed by cousin’s father-in-law, we proceeded for a particular Unjal Utsav. What happens here is that Venky is brought in a chariot, and later transferred to a swing in a room filled with mirrors. The priest slowly pushes the swing creating a momentum for it. The scene is, devotees get to see Venky while he is relaxing with his two spouses on the swing. The comedian in this scene was this other priest at the entrance of the room going “Govinda Cepu! Govinda Cepu” at all who entered.
I mean why? Dude! Venky is resting. I don’t wanna go all Govinda on him now.
(To be continued…)
Mount Abu – Memorable Moments
Hi! I am back with the next JITC for you and though our jewel is a tiny one – all of 25 sq km compared to Delhi’s 1484sq km, it is quite strategically located. The hill station, at 1220 m altitude, in the Aravallis, the only one in Rajasthan is more of an oasis and has been quite popular with the tourists from Rajasthan and Gujarat. But rather than being famous as a conventional hill station it is more famous for the Dilwara Jain temples and in recent years as a headquarter of Brahmakumari’s spiritual centre. Not to mention the World Spiritual University and of course Ekta Kapoor made it famous in her daily soap Kasamh Se
Reaching Mt Abu is no problem as it is really well connected , with butter smooth roads nor is the accommodation, with havelis turned into hotel or conventional hotels and guesthouses
As I always say, there is no lack of information of this small town, as you will always get enough both from hearsay and the net, I will just attempt to bring before you my own personal observations ( which you can say tips)
As it is a small area, it can be covered in just a day and half , so you can club it with your trip to Udaipur, the beautiful lake city just 185 kms away
The roads are simply lovely and if you are a learner (learning to drive) then the roads are best for some smooth practice.
If you are a nature person, then don’t get fooled by the Hill station tag. It is beautiful in its own way, an oasis among the sandy rugged landscape, but it is not a hill station with alpine forests and winding twisting climbing roads
The Guru Shikhar Peak is the highest peak.
Don’t be tempted by the road conditions and attempt to drive in at night as there are unconfirmed reports of robbery in the highway leading up to Mt Abu.
Dilwara temples from 11th -13th century are its primary attraction, but photography is not allowed inside.
Other than that of course, there is the hot favorite for strolling, boating and shopping – Nakki jheel or lake. It’s a point you will not miss nor can miss it.
There are other tourist points like the sunset point, the Achalgarh fort, the famous Trevor’s Tank, Adhar Devi temple and many more.
You will find the strange rock formations lining the road , an interesting sight ( some of which you will find in the slide show)
While there don’t forget to try the Dal Bati chorma – a local dish- the trademark Rajasthani dish in fact- quite unique.
Shopping for Rajasthani block print cloths and lehenga choli is a must. They are rightly priced and affordable- one that will bring a smile to the women of your family.
You can go for camel riding and have a feel of being in the Desert State.
What I found quaint was the hand carts type of thingy near the Nakki Jheel used to transport to and fro the market and up to your hotel. You can ride in one just for the experience.
Being in Mt Abu is an experience in itself, which cannot be measured in words. Here I have attempted to portray Mt. Abu through the images that struck me, while there! Other wise Mt Abu is of course much more than these.
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Gaga over Goa!
Ok this isn’t about Lady Gaga! But its my about my jewel Goa of the crown called India.
Yes friends ,I am back again to take you from the heights of Spiti to the depths of the Arabian Sea in Goa, but first of all I would like to say that – Since Mani couldn’t be every where God created Jayati (I know its a corny line but couldn’t think of anything better) So Friends please welcome Jayati as my co author for JITC from hence on.
Goa as per statistics is one of the most frequented tourist spot both by the domestic crowd and the International tourists and if you google search it there is no dearth of information on this beautiful Coastal state with its beautiful beaches, quaint culture and lovely countryside
What I have attempted is to present before you a kaleidoscope of myriad images of Goa with some very personal observations
And as I always say, Goa is of course much more than these!
The location of Goa is obvious to all. Its in the western coast in between Maharashtra in the north and Karnataka in the south.(of course You know it, but it seems I am supposed to say it) Reaching Goa is not at all a problem too as it is covered by airways, roadways and railways,
Nor is finding accommodation as the place is bustling with hotels, resorts and villas of all ranges. Unless you have any special preferences you can always find decent accommodation even after landing there
If you are looking for a decent economical accommodation with a great view of the beach from your hotel window then head for the tourism hotel in Colva beach. Believe me the above combination of decent, economical room with a view is hard to find
Getting around Goa is no problem at all, as you are spoilt with variety of choices like –Taxis, Motorcycle Taxis (cool isn’t it guys? You get paid for taking a gal around in a bike, but of course it is your choice, whether to charge or not to charge) ferries, buses etc. But the best option I think is renting out a bike and exploring around on your own.
Exploring Goa properly requires three days minimum- North Goa , South Goa and Panjim and Old Goa not to mention hanging out in the hippest night clubs in the evenings and a river cruise in the Mandovi River.
The terrain ranges in between an altitude of sea level to 1022 m of the ghats and so are the varieties in the places of interest. Beaches, countryside, architecture, market, water falls, temples, churches night life – everything.
Beaches of North Goa and South Goa are distinctly different; in fact each has a unique charm of its own. It is said that beaches of south goa has white sands.
Some of the uniquely famous places are Basilica of Bom Jesus, the flea market in Anjuna beach, Dudh Sagar Waterfalls, Donna Paula, Fort Aguada the old house are some of the examples.
The best time to visit Goa is in winters when you can laze around in the sun or indulge in water sports. The famous carnival is also held during the winters.But if you like to stay away from the crowd and enjoy the rains and the green country side then monsoons is the time for you. Just take rain gear with you.Do not forget to take a moonlight walk in the beach. The beach looks ethereally beautiful at night.(especially if you are planning to propose anybody)
One of the hippest night spot is Mambos in Baga beach. You will see a good crowd; find the coolest music and a great choice of drinks.
For shopping point of view, Goa is famous for Feni(an alcoholic drink) and Cashew nuts and shells as mementoes. Its better to stick to these articles only.
Every place on earth has its sleazy characters so is in Goa but that would not make me declare it as an unsafe place because I have seen strangers help us out even at night 2am when we had an accident without expecting anything in return.
The only point is that just relax but remain cautious and nothing untoward should happen. A small warning- Don’t go for freebies and offers from strangers in the roadside
I may be wrong in some of my observations as I am writing all from memory and will be glad if anybody points it out. Of course Goa is much much more than these but these are just some of my personal remarks as you will see no dearth of information regarding Goa
At the end, I would like to sign off with just this small request- please don’t drink and drive. Thanks.
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Its winter and to top it, its the festive season so I have picked one of my favorites as the Jewel in the crown , the crown being India, for this issue. I hope you like it. Its Manali in HP, India.
When I googled Manali, the results showed was-1910000. Huge isn’t it? So there, you wont find any lack of information in the net but that doesn’t mean that I will not feed in any detail. Of course I will , but these will be my very personal tips, tips that I had accumulated after visiting and observing Manali 6 times in 4 years.
I won’t go into a detailed description of its beauty and spoil the magic with my words, rather let the photos speak.
So lets get on to our journey to one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Reaching Manali is the easiest and the road to Manali boasts of amazing vistas. So how do we reach Manali. Ok easy way out is to take the flight to Bhuntur, Kullu from Delhi, but you will miss out on the beautiful scenic drive. The roads are in good condition, you can drive yourself as we did. … even at night, NO bendy mind blowing gravity defying curves . And you have so many picks to take from. Like?
You can take the conventional route via Chandigarh- Bilaspur- Sundernagar- Mandi –Aut- Kullu or you can experiment for some adventure through Shimla-Naldehra-Tattapaani. Extreme adventure- then go for the drive in from Leh, Ladakh or try the Buddhist circuit of Shimla Rampur –Kinnaur-Kaza(Spiti) –Lahaul-( Details about Lahaul Spiti in my coming posts). Unconventional one- then try through the Jalori Pass.If Religious then visit – Viashno Devi or Dharamshala and proceed on to Manali through Kangra-Mandi, So the options – there are many. You can go by train. The nearest station can be either Joginder Nagar or Pathankot but again from there you have to ascend up by a car or bus, So better to take a vehicle from Chandigarh or Delhi itself.
Best Season. You can go to Manali in any season you want. If you like snow then go in the winters. Want to try the river rafting and stuff then go during spring or Autumn. Apple Orchards? – Late monsoons. The roads will cooperate with you through out the year. Winters are cold but you can take your kids without any hesitation. That’s the reason I submitted a copy of the snap of the Baby seated comfortably in the Snow in Rohtang Pass, The altitude BTW there is quite high.
Hotel Reservations, bus reservations. Yes everything can be booked previously through the internet. Even a bus if you want, through the Himachal Pradesh tourism website. Their Hotels are run professionally – better than the other State Govt. run hotels and you get quite a range. I mean 2 budget hotels. 4 deluxe hotels and I premium hotel- All economical-efficient and Govt. run. (psst! They have bars too). Of course you have the private ones too, like Club Mahindra. Holiday Inn etc etc. I had read a news item that HP govt. was offering a discount of 10% in Hotel Reservation for Parents of girl child, but I am yet to check that.
You will be spoilt for choice.
- There is a strong possibility of finding snow in Rohtang Pass. Just 50 kms from Manali and a popular destination. You can go for snow tubing, skiing. Tobogganing. There are snow mobiles/bikes for a ride.
- You can go for Parasailing, Zorbing, in Solang valley –another popular Hotspot
- Hot Air Balloon, River Crossing, Rappelling or simply go for a hike.
- During the hotter months you can go for river rafting in Kullu.
- By the way, the Maggi though expensive is most delicious in Rohtang Pass
- In the evenings you can go shopping for handicrafts, pubbing, discotheque, or plain Bird Watching of the other Kind. An advice – they may offer you Chingu- a blanket made from Shahtoos- Don’t buy it , its fraud. Buy only if they give you a hefty discount
If you like temples or architecture, then you have Hadimba temple, Valmiki temple and the Gurudwara at Manikaran. The Langar food or prasad in Manikaran is simply tasty, but you have to follow some rules in Manikaran as it’s a Gurudwara- nothing scary, just cover your head and ask a sevak or directions, If you want then I can fill in the rest but that is if you want, You can visit Naggar Castle- Now a premium hotel for its architecture .
Then as mentioned there is Rohtang Pass, Solang Valley, Kullu Valley. You can easily avail the tours from your Tourism Hotels or hire a cab. They also rent out snow suits. If you don’t have the proper attire and there is snow, better to hire it. The last time I had taken was at 100 Rs per piece. Or if not snow suits take boots at least. BTW if any body has vertigo or motion sickness better stock up on domperidone and cinnarizine before proceeding onto Rohtang Pass
So that’s all I can remember at present. And Now you can proceed on to the visual treat. Just remember .one trip is not enough for Manali. Manali is much more than these photographs which are just random shots of Manali as I see it.
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Hi friends I am back again with yet another in My JITC series (though a bit delayed) and the Jewel being portrayed from our Dear Crown India is Guwahati from North East India- Housing the political capital of Assam Dispur,
It is well connected by air, railways and roadways. it’s a picturesque city situated between the eastern flanks of the Himalayas and gateway to the seven Northeastern states of India. Besides being the Biggest City in Assam and a vital tourist point ,it is an attraction on its own
It is a perfect blend of the Old and the new , of the occult and the modern. A city on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra, abundant in natural beauty with its pristine sand banks, verdant countryside and blue hills
Though its full tourism potential was not developed earlier due to insurgency, now everyone has woken up – from the grass root level to the upper echelons of the administration ( The GOI has announced special LTC schemes), so I think its time we gave the people of Assam a chance to show us their hospitality.
I have tried to bring to you the essence of Guwahati in these few random snapshots but as always I will only say that Guwahati is much more than these.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank my friend Dr.Jayati Nath who has captured Guwahati in her photo lens and allowed me to share it with the world
Here is a slideshow of Guwahati :
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