Category Archives: Destinations

Kedarnath: Holy abode of Lord Shiva – The Protector, the Destroyer!

Recently PM Narendra Modi offered prayers at Kedarnath temple, the sacred Himalayan Shrine located on Garhwal Himalayan Range near Mandakini River in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand in India. You must be wondering am I following PM? Ah! Yes, though unintentional. His trips are as exceptional as he himself is. His visits take us to various unthinkable destinations which are great enough to generate big curiosity. I personally like to explore places, but it is not possible most of the times, so the best thing is to follow PM and write and spread awareness about those places. The destination of this is week is Kedarnath – where PM paid obeisance as soon as its doors opened after six-month-long winter break.

Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the devout Hindus. It is set amidst the stunning mountainscape of the Garhwal Himalayas at the head of the Mandakini River. Kedar is another name of Lord Shiva, the protector, and the destroyer. Shiva is considered the embodiment of all passions – love, hatred, fear, death and mysticism which are expressed through various forms. The shrine of Kedarnath is very scenically placed and is surrounded by lofty, snow – covered mountains, and during summer grassy meadows covering the valleys. Immediately behind the temple, is the high Kedar dome peak, which can be sighted from great distances. The sight of the temple and the peak with its perpetual snows is simply enthralling.

Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritiya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November). During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshiped there for six months. Lord Shiva is worshiped as Kedarnath, the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’, the historical name of the region.

All of us remember Kedarnath to be the worst affected area during the 2013 flash floods in North India. The temple complex, surrounding areas, and Kedarnath town suffered extensive damage, but the temple structure did not suffer any “major” damage, apart from a few cracks on one side of the four walls which was caused by the flowing debris from the higher mountains. A large rock among the debris acted as a barrier, protecting the temple from the flood. The surrounding premises and other buildings in the market area were heavily damaged.

The unstable temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by 14 kilometers (8.7 mi) uphill trek from Gaurikund. Pony and manchan service are available to reach the structure. The temple was built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Sankaracharya and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, expounded in Tevaram.

Pandavas were supposed to have pleased Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath. The temple is one of the four major sites in India’s Chota Char Dham pilgrimage of Northern Himalayas. This temple is the highest among the 12 Jyotirlingas.

The presiding image of Kedarnath in the form of lingam is or irregular shape with a pedestal 3.6 m (12 ft) in circumference and 3.6 m (12 ft) in height. There is a small pillared hall in front of the temple, that has images of Parvathi and of the five Pandava princes. There are five temples around namely Badari-year, Madhya Maheswara, Tunganatha, Rudra Nath and Kallesvara. The first hall inside Kedarnath Temple contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the guards of Shiva. Statue of Draupadi and other deities are also installed in the main hall.  An unusual feature of the temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia. Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby constructed on the site where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati was held. Adi Shankara was believed to have revived this temple, along with Badrinath and other temples of Uttarakhand; he is believed to have attained Mahasamadhi at Kedarnath. Behind the temple is the samādhi mandir of Adi Sankara.

The temple, at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), 223 km from Rishikesh, on the shores of Mandakini river, a tributary of Ganga, is an impressive stone edifice of unknown date. The structure is believed to have been constructed in the 8th century CE when Adi Shankara visited. The present structure is on a site adjacent to where Pandavas are believed to have built the temple. It has one Garbhagriha and a Mandapa and stands on a plateau surrounded by snow clad mountain and glaciers. In front of the temple, directly opposite to the inner shrine, is a Nandi statue carved out of the rock.

You can reach Kedarnath from Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun which is located 260 Km, whereas nearest railhead is at Rishikesh 243 km. Kedarnath is well connected to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun and Delhi.

The ideal time or peak season to go to Char Dham Yatra is from May – October, except monsoons, this is because all the four sacred sites are parched in Garhwal Himalaya, which is prone to heavy rainfall.

 

Ambaji Temple, Gujarat – Our next spiritual sojourn!

Mata Ne Bulaya hai!

This year when we decided to spend some part of our summer vacation in Rajasthan Hill Station, Mount Abu, I was driven by the drive of visiting and paying obeisance to one of the 51 Shakti Peeth’s – Ambaji temple. Ambaji ( Gujarati: અંબાજી, Hindi: अम्बाजी, Ambājī) is a census town in Banaskantha district in the state of Gujarat, India. It is known for its historical and mythological connections with sites of cultural heritage. The research on Ambaji town brought to the fore some important revelations, which I would like to share with my readers. You must be wondering that my year 2017 is taking me on a spiritual journey, believe me, it is just not by design, it is happening on its own. From many years, I have been planning to visit Ambaji temple, without knowing much about it, now I am looking forward to it.

Ambaji is an important temple town with millions of devotees visiting the Ambaji temple every year. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. Ambaji Mata temple is a major Shakti Peeth of India. It is situated at a distance of approximately 65 kilometers from Palanpur, 45 kilometers from Mount Abu, and 20 kilometers from Abu Road, and 185 kilometers from Ahmedabad, 50 kilometers from Kadiyadra near the Gujarat and Rajasthan border.

In the holy temple of “Arasuri Ambaji”, there is no image or statue of goddess the holy “Shree Visa Yantra” is worshiped as the main deity. No one can see the Yantra with the naked eye. The photography of the Yantra is prohibited.

The original seat of Ambaji Mata is on Gabbar hilltop in the town. A large number of devotees visit the temple every year, especially on Purnima days. A large mela on Bhadarvi Poornima (full moon day) is held. Every Year from all over the country people come here walking all over from their native place just to worship MAA AMBE in September. The whole Ambaji town is lit up as the nation celebrates the festive time of Diwali.

The temple is open from 7.00 am to 11.30 am, 12.30 pm to 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm to 9.00 pm.

The shrine of hi Amba is regarded as a revered shrine by the Shakta Shaktism sect of Hinduism. It is believed that the Heart of Sati Devi has fallen here. The origin of the Shakti Peetha status temple is from the mythology of Daksha Yaga and Sati’s self-immolation. Shakti Peethas were believed to have been formed when the body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi fell into different regions when Lord Shiva carried her corpse in sorrow after her death. The shrines are considered as highly revered by Shaivist (Shaivism) sect in Hinduism. The Shakti Peethas are mostly worshiped by tantra practitioners. Each Shakti Peetha has a Kalabhairava shrine associated with it the Kalabhairava of The Amba Matha Temple is Batuk Bhairav.

PM Narendra Modi performing puja at Ambaji Temple

Mythical History

Ambaji is one of the 51 ancient Shakti Peetha Tirth in India. There are 12 main Shakti Pith Tirth, significant places of pilgrimage for the worship of Shakti, namely, Ma Bhagwati Mahakali Maha Shakti at Ujjain, Ma Kamakshi at Kanchipuram, Mata Bramaramba at Srisailam, Shri Kumarika at Kanyakumari, Mataji Ambaji at AnarGujarat, Mata Mahalaxmidevi at Kolhapur, Devi Lalita at Prayag, Vindhya Vasini at Vindhya, Vishalakshi at Varanasi, Mangalavati at Gaya and Sundari at Bengal & Guhyeshwari Temple in Nepal.

There is no idol or picture in the temple but a simple cave like Gokh in the inner wall, in which A Gold Plated Holy Shakti Visa Shree Yantra having kurma back convex shape and 51 Bij letters therein, connected with that of the original Yantras of Nepal and Ujjain Shakti Piths, is also ritually installed in such a way it can be visible for devotion, but never photographed in past nor can be so done in future. The worship of this Visa Shree Yantra is done only after tying a bandage on the eyes.

More on return from Ambaji temple!! Watch this space for more!!!

 

 

CM Declares 2017 as “Visit Maharashtra” Year!

The government entered into a formal tie-up with the app-based cab aggregator recently to promote tourism in the state and boost “Mumbai Darshan”.

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Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal, Valsa Nair Singh, principal secretary, tourism and culture, and Pranay Jivrajka, founding partner, Ola, signed the MoU. Ganesh Shirsekar

 

Now, book an Ola cab and avail “special” treatment at the Siddhivinayak temple.

 

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The government entered into a formal tie-up with the app-based cab aggregator Wednesday to promote tourism in the state and boost “Mumbai Darshan”. State Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal said: “Mumbai Darshan started with a bus, which is doing alright as more marketing needs to be done and now, we have a cab aggregator (Ola) on your palm … the tourism department will plan your experience.”

He added that from now, a tourist who wants to go to Siddhivinayak temple would get a special offer. “The tourist will be in the special list or special row. It would be the same in case of the museum and the zoo, which we can leverage for Ola,” Rawal said.

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The deal is not only expected to boost tourism but also produce “skilled” drivers who will double up “as guides” for passengers, he said. The minister added there would be “no discrimination among those selected as guides for the city”.

“The first batch of tourist guides has been sanctioned, 100 in Mumbai and 400 in Maharashtra,” Rawal claimed. He said more integrated tourist plans were in the pipeline for Mumbai and Maharashtra.

CM Devendra Fadnavis has declared 2017 as ‘Visit Maharashtra’ year and according to officials, this is the first MoU signed by the MTDC this year. Ola launched a special category in its interface called ‘Mumbai Darshan’. Each customisable package has a 10-hour or 100-km ride to Mumbai’s hotspots. The tours start at Rs 1,799.

Ola operates in nine cities in Maharashtra, and there are plans to introduce such tours there too. “There will be tie-ups with various destinations … take an Ola to an MTDC resort or Elephanta caves and avail of discounts … it is a win-win situation. In these taxis, special reading material will be available for travelers to read. For instance, where to eat good Maharashtrian food in the city,” said Valsa Nair Singh, principal secretary, tourism and culture.

 

Lakshman Jhula, Rishikesh!

Lakshman Jhula, Rishikesh!

Absolutely clueless about what we would visit in Rishikesh, we landed in Rishikesh by Rishikesh Tourism bus boarded from Dehradun. After alighting at Rishikesh, I realized…now what next? Where do we go?  I must admit that it was the first trip of its kind where we had no plans in place like which hotel to embark, which places to visit and in what order. Suddenly it occurred to me that Lakshman Jhula is a famous destination, and we should go there first. We boarded an auto from the Stand, after a minor altercation with the auto driver but finally, he dropped as Lakshman Jhula Auto Stand. We asked him, “Where is Lakshman Jhula”. He showed us a tree on the right side of the road and said, “Take right from the tree.” Happily, we started moving, suddenly Mukund spotted a hotel and we decided to park our luggage there and then move on towards Lakshman Jhula. It was the bright sunny day but we decided to move because we wanted to attend “Maha Aarti” at Triveni Ghat in the evening. We started moving towards Lakshman Jhula from our hotel which was ideally located near our destination, which is probably in the center of the city. No sooner we realized that Lakshman Jhula is not that close as we were told. Voila, what a walk and the distance it turned out to be. We enjoyed our walk on the downward slope but when I realized how we will take an uphill walk, I became very jittery. There was hardly any transport available from Jhula till our hotel, so we had no option but to walk and just walk.

After walking for nearly 30 minutes, we reached our destination about which we were very curious since we had planned our trip. Lakshman Jhula is a famous landmark of Rishikesh where almost all tourists come to enjoy. Friendly Langoors and monkeys welcome you as soon as you enter the Jhula and I must say Ganges – in all its glory and splendor descending from the Himalayas looks just amazing. I forgot all my pain and was just enjoying the sight. The sight will not go off my mind for long! We walked Lakshman Jhula, which lies suspended over River Ganges, is 450 ft long and connects Tehri and Pauri district.

But do you know the story behind its name? Legend has it that Rama’s younger brother Lakshman crossed the Ganga using just two jute ropes. To honor his feat, a 284 ft long hanging Rope Bridge was built at the same place and named Lakshman. Until 1889, it was this very rope bridge that was used to cross the river but it was washed away during the floods of October 1924. After this, another bridge was built which opened to public use in 1930.

This is still in use but its name remains the same in honor of Lakshman. After crossing the bridge, we treated ourselves with chilled Jaljeera and Bunta (Soda) and then I and Tanya set out for some window shopping. The market here stocks stuff which appeals to foreigners mainly like idols, junk jewelry, dresses, Ramnami Jholas, stoles, kurtas, jackets, skirts, semi-precious stones, Rudraksha and other knick-knacks. We had a great time in the market while picking some stuff for us, whereas Mukund passed time with Langoors. We also saw the famous 13-storey Trayambakeshwar Temple which is on the other side of the Lakshman Jhula.

Indeed, it was great fun being on Lakshman Jhula, the suspension bridge in Rishikesh, where I felt like a child.

I must note here that to encourage tourism in the State and Rishikesh in particular, it is very important to keep Jhula spic and span. Many two-wheeler riders were freely crossing the bridge which made the movement of tourists difficult on the bridge and I could notice many tourists complaining about the same. It is high time Rishikesh Tourism paid attention to these things and made use of the amount we tax-payers are giving as “Swachh Bharat Cess” and bring alive the dream of PM Modi of “Swachh Bharat”.

Also, some signages at prominent destinations in Hindi & English should be displayed as I could notice some foreigners struggling with ways. It will certainly help all tourists and pilgrims alike. Hope Uttarakhand Governance is listening!!

Splendid, Spiritual & Musical Gangaji Maha Aarti, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

I would certainly like to visit, revisit & revisit the breathtakingly beautiful RISHIKESH, the religious abode of Himalayas, Ganga, Sadhus, Temples, Ghats, Truly religious and humble people, Maha aarti, Friendly Langoors, Ashrams, Yoga Centres, Adventure seekers, Students and Foreigners!

Read on to know, what all mesmerized me (A hardcore Urban Soul) in Rishikesh!

Our all of a sudden decision to visit Dehradun turned out to be a religious trip too, when as per plan on third day of our stay in Dehradun, we left for Rishikesh. We were super excited about visiting Rishikesh, particularly me as I had visited Rishikesh many years ago and had very feeble memories of the place. For the first time, I decided to move out of our comfort zone (read: hiring AC Cab) for our travel and decided to board State transport bus for Rishikesh from ISBT, Dehradun. It was a well-thought decision as I wanted to know how locals travel, think and behave in Uttarakhand. Believe me, my purpose was not defeated as I could see many college students, women and Government servants accompanying us on this ride. I wanted to touch the pulse of the people of UK who had voted so heavily in favour of BJP. People are happy about BJP rule and accepted that there was “Modi Wave” in the State. They accepted that since BJP is diligently moving on developmental agenda as many highways, flyovers, connecting roads in the vicinity witnessed fierce activity. But yes, to promote tourism in this naturally beautiful State, public transport needs to pull up its socks and provide better amenities to tourists. Buses are just the same as they were 50 years ago, AC buses need to be introduced with better access, but roads are better than any of the States in India. Believe me; it is not easy to make roads in the hilly terrain…

Hotel, where we were staying, owner told us that road work enroute Badrinath is on, so there is limited supply of electricity in the area. People are happy that their visit to the Shrine will be easier and happier now. & voila, next morning when I stepped out to enjoy the breeze across Ganga, I was surprised rather delighted to see, road nicely built on the route till where my vision could accompany me. This is good administration and governance, no wonder; Nitin Gadkari is the top choice for this coveted job. I am sure; Uttarakhand will be a changed State when I visit next.

Evening turned out as we had planned, we boarded Vikram (local means of transport) for Triveni Ghats from Laxman Jhula for the evening “Maha Aarti” which was truly Maha Aarti in letter & spirit. Believe me I had never seen anything so splendid, religious, musical & sentimental on any of my sojourns. Ghats were decked up nicely for all of us to sit and watch aarti comfortably where many foreigners too were awaiting keenly before we reached. The stage was set for aarti which started at 6:30 Sharp with the chanting of Ganga Aarti by Singers/ Pandits sitting on stage, before that Hanuman Chalisa was rendered. It was first day of auspicious Navratri so Vaishno Mata Mandir was decked up to the hilt with many pilgrims paying obeisance to the Goddess of Power.

I came to know that this Maha Aarti is major Tourist attraction taking place at this ghat.

This aarti is accompanied by chantings of bhajan, beating drums, bells and big diyas lighted all over the place. The devotees release small oil lamps placed on leaf boats in the water. These lamps float down the river and provide a beautiful view.

Ceremonies like “Pindha Shraddha” are also done at Triveni Ghat, which my husband Mukund also undertook for his recently demised father, late Shri Jamnadas Vaghela. We believe that we tearfully sent him on his final journey. The main Panditji performed this ritual for our forefather – our beloved “Pappa”.

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Triveni Ghat is the confluence of three holy important Rivers in Ganges, the Yamuna and Saraswathy which is most revered sacred bathing spot in Rishikesh and is situated on the banks of Ganges River.

It is a belief that holy dip here washes away all the ties and purifies the soul and will have salvation, a relief from sins carried out; the water has the power to purify them. It is very soothing to sit on the banks of the river and enjoy the cool breeze with many sentiments at a time at play.

Devotees make many offerings at Triveni Ghat; in the early morning at sunrise they offer milk to the river and happily feed the fishes in the Triveni Ghat.

Visit undertaken on March 28, 2017.

 

Chitrakoot Falls: India’s answer to the USA’s Niagra Falls!!!

oday I will write about beautiful & mesmerizing Chitrakoot Falls, beauty of which was narrated by my mother who had visited Chitrakoot few years ago but memory was still fresh in her mind of that trip. Chitrakoot originated in our conversation from the Ram Mandir of Ayodhya’s issue, which was being discussed on many television channels.  My mother insisted that I must visit Chitrakoot sometime and sooner the better.

Before planning a visit there, I started researching on Chitrakoot Falls, like I always do. The research revealed many interesting points which many of us wouldn’t know. I thought of sharing that with you.

The Chitrakoot is a waterfall located near Jagdalpur, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. This river is a tributary of the Godavari River. Chitrakoot waterfall is the largest waterfall in India. The height of the falls is 100 feet. The breadth of the waterfall varies as the water level in the river changes drastically. However during a monsoon, the river flow touches both the banks of the river, and is filled with silt. During monsoon the waterfall turns wild and violent. In contrast, during summer the water carries no silt and looks different. The area around the falls is largely forested. Chitrakoot waterfall is best seen during and after the monsoon, between July and October.

People can spend hours just sitting here and enjoying the scenic beauty of the place. The loud noise during monsoon is breathtaking. During the rains, this waterfall widens upto 150 meters. During the rainy seasons, people don’t visit this waterfall, owing to its extreme form. But once, the winter season arrives, the water becomes lighter, and the atmosphere here is worth seeing.

The first time visitors are sure to fall in love with this place and they just can’t have enough in just one visit. If you want to enjoy the wildness of the waterfall then July to the month of October would be the best time, the waterfalls of Chitrakoot attain its best phase and widens up to 150 meter. But if you want to enjoy the calm white waterfall then best time to visit is during the winters which start from October to February.

Chitrakoot waterfalls, popularly known as Niagara falls of india,  this fall is situated in Vindhyachal Ranges, which are stretched between Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

Historical & Geographical facts about Chitrakoot Falls:

  • The Chitrakoot Falls is located on the Indravati River. The river originates in the kalahandi region of Odisha, in the Vindhya Range of hills, flows westward and then forms a fall at Chitrakoot, enters Andhra Pradesh and finally flows into the Godavari River, after traversing 240 miles (390 km) in the state, at Bhadrakali. The free drop of the falls is a sheer height of about 30 metres (98 ft). Because of its horseshoe shape, it is compared with the Niagara Falls and is given in the sobriquet ‘the Small Niagara Falls’. During the rainy season, from July and October, rainbows are created with sun rays reflecting on mist from the waterfall.
  • On the left bank of the Chitakote Falls, a small Hindu shrine dedicated to the god Shiva and several naturally created grottos named “Parvati caves” (named after Shiva’s wife Parvati) are located. The weather in the area is generally pleasant except in the summer season when it is hot due to absence of vegetation in the area. The river flows sluggishly on the upstream side of the falls due to its meandering nature as it drains through the plains of Jagdalpur. This reach of the river valley has very little forest cover. Below the falls the river traverses the Bodhghat forested area and the river regime undergoes drastic change in its flow conditions. Aeration process and the forest in the downstream area filters the silt in the river.
  • Chitakoot Falls is one of the two of the waterfalls located in the Kanger Valley National Park, the other is Tirathgarh falls.[

How to reach Chitrakoot Waterfall

Jagdalpur is a popular city of Chhattisgarh and is very well connected to the rest of the state. Frequent bus services and taxis are available to reach Chitrakoot waterfall or you can also heir a private car.

 

Road Trip>>>To realize the true spirit of JAI HIND!

Road Trip from Dholero to Indo-Pak Border

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I ( Bienu Verma Vaghela) with Husband Mukund Vaghela taking a break from the long drive.

The lure of road trip is insurmountable; many of us have aspired for one; many of us have taken one willingly or unwillingly; many of us are still dreaming about it; many of us had given up on road trip, like me, but that was not to be. Given the avid travelers that we are, we love adventures and whenever we have aspired for a peaceful trip, adventure rather misadventure has followed us.  Given the ‘Bollywood” buff that I am, I had seen road trips in movies and admittedly have been quite fascinated by them particularly the one in Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

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Me and my daughter Tanya took a break to enjoy the breeze just before the border

Road trip sounds exciting but are actually taxing and painful at the same time for people like me who love to travel by train and plane! In my weirdest dream I had not imagined that Road trip would become a reality for me, though it was thrust upon us by circumstances. Howsoever exciting it may sound: Road Trip, it gets excruciatingly painful, if not planned well. ‘Planning’ plays paramount role in venturing out for a road trip. First and foremost, roads should be in great condition to drive on, amenities to be bankable, service centers, petrol pumps, eating joints, toilets etc. enroute so that we have a pleasant drive and we happily reach our destination.

We planned to embark on one such road – trip in December 2012, when we visited scenic and serene Rann of Kutch and were camping at ‘Bhungas’ (Mud Houses) in Dholero Village near Rann. It was then we were told that Pakistan Border was few 100 Kms away and it made a great sight. I, in particular became very keen to visit the border as I wanted to visit that place, which nobody had visited in my khandan or even in my friends circle. I want to boast: I have been to India – Pakistan Border. Whole night I did not sleep in excitement but to my great disappointment, driver took to illness and did not turn up.

My husband, me and my daughter decided to venture out on our own and took upon driving on us to the border. Resort owner was kind enough and noticing our disappointment, he offered his one of his staff to accompany us. Now we were to embark into a new territory, new area, new car and new destination. My husband took onus of driving on him and person accompanying him sat next to him for guidance. With lot of apprehensions in heart, we started on our road trip on chilly, breezy, wintry morning from Dholero Village to India – Pakistan Border.  But not before checking the condition of the car we would be driving to border and bring us back. I was particularly more worried as our daughter was with us. But she was quite gung-ho about it. We stocked enough food & beverages in the car which was quite spacious and commodious to accommodate four of us comfortably.  Then we went to nearby garage to get the report of condition of car, breaks, clutch, accelerator and last but not the least tyres. The Car’s condition was good and above all, tyres were in excellent condition which took good amount of worry off our shoulders.  For worry-free road – trip, you can bank on most bankable CEAT Tyres, like we did.

Packed with sufficient fuel, we embarked on the journey.

To our delight, roads were in excellent condition with proper signage’s all over which made the drive very pleasant and provided quite an experience.  Moreover, bright sunny but breezy / windy day made the driving slightly more challenging.  The remarkable part of the way to border was that it had deep marshlands on both sides. We saw many cars stranded in the marshland which looked like mirage. To describe it better, there are vast marshlands on both sides of the road when you approach border. After this adventurous but exciting drive which changed three hands, we reached Indo-Pak border which was heavily guarded by BSF Personnel who asked us to keep our cameras and mobiles in the car and then step out. The sight was so exciting, I saluted the Jawans guarding the borders and for the first time I realized under which conditions they guard our borders so that we civilians sleep peacefully. All in all our maiden trip turned out to be quite a satisfying experience. Special Thanks to my husband Mukund, our companion for the drive and taking us through Mukesh and my daughter Tanya for making my dream realize.  Though we did not anticipate any trouble spots during the journey, and did not find any but yes checking at various check posts provided breaks to the drive. But these were important for country’s safety.

Special Thanks to Blogadda and CEAT tyres to make me relive the experience. Indeed I had to stress my mind to recollect the road trip which I undertook in completely unknown terrain – The Rann of Kutch to Indo-Pak border in Gujarat – JAI HIND.

Road Safety Norms:

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Everyday as soon as we open Newspaper, we get to read about atleast 2 road accidents particularly on Highways or long drive-ways people undertake. Most of these are owing to negligence about following the Road Safety trips. It is important not only for drivers but also for pedestrians so that no untoward accidents happen.

Everyone should learn the following road safety rules preferably from an early age:

  • Everyone going on the road (especially drivers) must be to the left and let other vehicles pass on the opposite direction to pass.
  • Drivers should be in slow speed while bending or turning on the roads.
  • Take extra precaution while going on the over-crowded roads and road junctions.
  • Bikers or people using two wheel vehicles must wear helmets of superior quality otherwise they should never go on the road without helmet.
  • Speeds of the vehicles should be within the speed limit and slow especially in the areas of school, hospital, colony, etc.
  • Every vehicle on the road should maintain the right distance among them to avoid collisions and accidents.
  • Everyone using road should be well aware of the road signs and must follow rules.
  • All the road safety rules and regulations must be in mind while traveling.

Following the above rules, you are not only ensuring your safety, but others too and following duties of a Good Citizen. And…and don’t forget to have Ceat Tyres in your dream machine!!

‘I’m chronicling my road trip adventure for CEAT Tyres in association with BlogAdda.’

 

Trupti ko Rajasthan kuch aisa laga – Truptsthan!

जहाँ हवाओं में राजस्थान का संगीत है: माटी बांधे पैजनी, बंगड़ी पहने बादली!

My colleague Trupti Sharma along with her bunch of young, adventurous & enthusiastic friends ringed in New Year in mesmerizing Rajasthan & the choice was in favour of Dessert trek at Jaisalmer.  In over a week – long trip to Jaisalmer, Trupti experienced Rajasthan like never before…

… Trupti ko Rajasthan kuch aisa laga!

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Trupti was gracious enough to share her experiences along with unique photo-essay for travel-knots readers. Enjoy reading it here!!

Phir dekhiye Rajasthan appko bhi kuch aisa lagega!!!

Jaisalmer Trek: The Transition:

  • From 2016 to 2017
  • From one state to another
  • From Camp to Second Home
  • From Strangers to Friends
  • From Friends to Family
  • From Can I do it to I bet you cannot do it

But it was truly:

Challenging | Freezing | Arid | Windy | Quiet | Calm | Noisy | Golden | Royal | Natural | Raw

It was anything but boring…

Camping, Trekking, Climbing, Camel Ride, Boating, Posing, Singing, Folk Dancing; Challenging your physical and mental endurance, we did it all in Rajasthan

Base Camp: Jaisalmer City – Border Home Guard Ground

Higher Camps: Kharara Camp | Sam Sand Dunes | Sudasari Sand Dunes | Bama

When Trupti decided to be part of this trek and started checking on tickets to neighbouring cities of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, which was good three months ahead, I was surprised to note that all tickets to Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur or any possible city in Rajasthan were full or super expensive and she had to take Mumbai – Delhi – Jaisalmer route to reach base camp.  Unexpectedly she found Delhi not at all cold and she even enjoyed cold water shower there. From Delhi she embarked on her journey to Jodhpur.  This is the magic of Rajasthani soil…माटी बांधे पैजनी, बंगड़ी पहने बादली!

Thankfully she found Jaisalmer to be super impressive, quite a deal for true – blue Mumbai girl. Trupti found Station very clean and did not shirk it from terming it “One of the best”.

I present here the Trupti’s account of her Jaisalmer trek:

Jaisalmer is the largest district in India in fact even bigger than many Indian States which is also clean and royal in its look and feel.  It is endowed with perfect lighting which provided ample reflection for our pictures. I found everything there to be so grand and royal, even houses are made of hand carved stones which I had never seen before. It was a pleasure ogling at those beautiful stone house which a rarity in Metro we live in.

After this our next destination was “Patvaaon-ki-Haveli” where we found forever welcoming Rajasthani folk-singers, where we found Rajathani folk music spreading like aroma in the air.  We sang and even danced with these Rajasthani folk artists. Moreover, they did not expect much money from us; they thanked us for whatever we gave them. Indeed they were very humble, warm and welcoming.  I would like to mention here that colourful turbans have perpetual charm midst tourists coming here which would cost you not more that Rs. 50.  Before entering “Patvaaon-ki-haveli” don’t forget to gorge on delicious Paani – Puri where law of multiplication applies in full – force. Go on gulping, without counting though.

Now we had to embark on our first higher camp – the Kharara camp, where we came across lot of windmills and trust me windmills are one of the best inventions, just like mountains even they make you and your problems look relatively very small. To give you an idea- to reach top of an industrial windmill one needs to have 60 levels on a Human pyramid or terrace of a 38 storey building.

After walking around 12 Kms, we reached our second higher camp – Sam Sand Dunes, my first experience of sand dunes was quite amazing, nothing short of mesmerizing. It was little crowded since most people travelling to Jaisalmer visit Sam dunes but in a lot of ways it was still untouched. I must admit, evenings are the best part of a trek and you don’t have to walk with super heavy rucksack. Moreover, it is neither very hot nor very cold here. Last but not the least, you get to chill, sing, rest, roam around and watch one of the most beautiful sunsets.

So after all this and more like sand sliding, photo shoot and amateur Dangal, we were all set to march back to our camps. On our way we encountered few folk singers –  two kids and one ‘ol chap – and I am happy we met them as it was so much fun singing and dancing along on Rajasthani folk music for over an hour.  So much so that we broke into an impromptu “Sangeet Ceremony”  of our friends  Unnati & Madhu who are chained to get married in coming few months to their respective groom and bride.

In the second leg of our trek from Sam Sand Dunes, we had to reach Sudasari Desert National Park, which threw biggest challenge as we had to do 10 kms ride on camel and 12 Kms of walking along with crawling and hitch hiking!

I can term Camel ride as good and bad both, but to enjoy camel ride, you need to be in sync your rhythm but how do you keep up to a camel who keeps switching songs?

Moreover, trek to Sudasari is not at all easy. Firstly, it is near impossible to get permissions for trekking groups and even for individuals it takes at least three months of approval process but thanks to YHAI’s goodwill and good work that we (group of 40 people) were not just able to trek in but also got to camp one night.

Sudasari Sand dunes were amazing, so calm still so powerful… trust me deserted deserts are much more beautiful.

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Other major take away from this trip is that I got to know so many people from different parts of India say now I have friends from AP, Gujarat, Jharkhand, TN, Karnataka and parts of Northern India.

Pictures & text courtesy: Trupti Sharma

 

 

Poora London Thumakda!!!

London always excites me…right from the times when I was English Hons Student in Hindu College, Delhi University, many years ago. As the title of the course suggests, we as English Hons Students were extensively taught Shakespeare, Milton, Bronte Sisters, Tennyson…many more difficult to recall now.  I always marveled how beautiful Shakespeare’s UK would look?  I made a scrap book of pictures of United Kingdom with the limited resources I could lay my hands on…

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…with our limited means and all the more limited thinking, it was near blasphemous to express our desire to visit London (Read: UK) in those days. Life moved on, but dream lingered on! In following years, I got the chance of visiting many countries barring London and I had almost forgotten my dream. May be that was not for me…

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Buckingham Palace, London’s Eye, Wax Museum, Thames River, Hyde Park…fascinated me no end particularly when I read about Bollywood celebrities spending their Summers in beautiful London! I will read about it with great interest and watched photos even more keenly. Everything  about London looked so fascinating, but probably not for me.

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But as goes the saying, every idea (read: dream) has its own time. Time of my dream too came and opportunity of visiting London just fell on my lap in January, 2004.  Without wasting any thoughts, I just lapped it.  & Here I was in London! London called me finally!!

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My first solo trip to London was quite exciting, at the same time, was full of apprehensions as well.  Just praying and wishing, hope all turns out well as planned.  So how did my London trip turned out to be? Read on to know:

Landing at Heathrow Airport – one of the biggest airports on earth, it was beyond my comprehension and stores like Harrods, cosmetic shops, toy shops, designer dresses, big & well-known brands all over, quite enticing!

My sight-seeing began two days after I landed and my first destination was Trafalgar Square, I could not believe myself that I was actually there. It looked very similar to our Horniman Circle in Mumbai, never mind I had visited famed Trafalgar Square which I hugely admired in DDLJ where Amrish Puri fed pigeons. It was the first day of snow fall in London, so day turned out to be quite special.  I was finding it difficult to bear the cold, so I had to cut short the visit to neighboring places.

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Following days, I visited Buckingham Palace at 11 AM in the morning and was lucky to watch change of guard parade which was truly fascinating. Huge crowds had gathered on bright sunny morning outside the palace by London standards, not by Mumbai standards. Cruise in river Thames was an amazing experience in itself which was followed by the walk at Hyde Park. What to say of the Madam Tussaud Wax museum, I had never seen anything like this before, such real statues in wax.  I wondered all through, how they have done this? Why we don’t have one in India?  London’s Eye, just OMG!

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On one of my tube train sojourns, I landed at a station – Wimbledon, accidently! When tube announced next station – Wimbledon, I quickly got down there to see the famous Wimbledon Stadium, which I had seen only on TV with Steffi Graf playing tennis matches and voila what a sight it was! I beamed with pride as I was at a landmark destination, but not without paying heavy price for this adventure, rather misadventure!

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Now on the last leg of sight – seeing, I realized that I had not shopped for anything except for a pair of slippers as my sandal had broken during the outing.  I walked to the nearest tube station and luckily found a shop of foot wear after walking barefoot for nearly a kilometer, may be more, in that chilled / wet weather, holding sandals in one hand and tears in both my eyes.  I promptly bought a slipper from there, albeit two sizes large, but my joy knew no bounds. I will never forget that day in my life. It was the most expensive slippers I could have, rather forced to have.

On the last leg of my trip, I did some mall hopping, visited Harrods, did street shopping and ate nice spicy Indian food in famous Indian restaurants.  Though Pound exchange was quite unviable even then, still shopping was a delightful experience, as one pound has so much value.

So how London cropped up again? Today morning I read in Economic Times that falling Pound may make holidayers’ English Summer Dream Come True!

And I want to visit again…

… With the Pound steadily depreciating against the Rupee in recent months post Brexit, cheaper airfares and attractive promotional offers from airlines and lure of London as a sought after shopping destination, indeed it is going to be English Summer for Indian travelers!!

Am I included?

Amen!!!

 

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Gold diggers head to Dubai in Diwali

A unique photo-essay showing might of Gold in the ‘City of Gold’ – Dubai. As one of the world’s great gold trading hubs, there is no doubt that Dubai has some of the best gold shops in the world. When it comes to buying gold, be it bullion, bars or kilos, or jewellery Dubai has a plethora of gold shops where you can indulge your passion for the much sought after metal. However, as with any investment, it makes sense to proceed with caution when investing in gold, which, in many cultures, traditionally serves as an alternative to putting money in the bank.

The Gold Souk in Dubai truly demonstrates why this Emirate has earned itself the reputation of being the city of gold. The sheer scale and variety of designs available on offer is staggering – bracelets, bangles, earrings, pendants and necklaces are available in white, pink, yellow and even green gold in unimaginable designs. There are over 400 shops to choose from and the predominant style of jewelry available is Arabic and Indian styles with some European designs available as well. Additionally, the prices of gold here are amongst the cheapest found anywhere in the world as there is no VAT or tax applicable on the purchase of gold. Browse several stores before you decide on a particular design and don’t forget to haggle for the best possible price. Ask for certificates where applicable. Also be aware that credit card purchases incur an additional fee in most shops.

Have a dekko…what you can dig in Dubai…in Gold!dubai-1 dubai-3 dubai-4 dubai-5 dubai-6 dubai-7 dubai-8 dubai-9 dubai-11 dubai-12 dubai-13 dubai-14 dubai10 positive-poison-dubai-2

Photo Courtsey: Positive Poison