Tag Archives: Kolkata

Goa on your mind for vacation? Think Havelock Island!

Few days ago when I called my cousin Rinku who is an Administrator with IIT Kanpur, she surprised me by excitedly telling me that she was going to Andaman for her April Vacation with husband Anuraag and children Gauri (Aged 10) and Gauransh (Aged 2) with group of friends. My interest grew in the place and I probed more being a travel blogger. She told me that they would be taking a flight from Lucknow to Kolkata, after which they would go to Port Blair. Port Blair would be her base but their main tourist destination would be Havelock Island. Havelock is a picturesque natural paradise with beautiful white sandy beaches, rich coral reefs and lush green forest. It is one of the populated islands in the Andaman group with an area of 113 sq. km. and is located 39 km of north-east of Port Blair. She added, “Havelock Island is blessed with beautiful sandy beaches fringed with green canopy of the rain-fed forests. We are going to enjoy the frolic and fun at the azure sea.” She would be there for nearly a week; I wished her a very successful journey and hung up.

With snow-white beaches, teal shallows, a coast crammed with beach huts and some of the best diving in South Asia, Havelock has a well-deserved reputation as a backpacker’s paradise. For many, Havelock is the Andamans, and it’s what lures most tourists across the Bay of Bengal, many of whom are content to stay here for the entirety of their trip like my cousin Rinku and her group of friends.

Now I wanted to know more about Havelock Island and I started digging for articles on the place. Luckily I bumped on with an article on Havelock in Mid-Day titled Seven Beach high in Havelock by Bindu & Radhakrishnan Unni. They shared that Andaman’s Havelock Island offers a 7-beach in 1 offer within 113 kms. Indeed it was a very wonderful account of the place.

So if you are planning your next trip to Goa, think again, in favour of Havelock Island!

Havelock Island (often just Havelock for short) with an area of some 92 Sq.Km is the largest of the islands which comprise Ritchie’s Archipelago, a chain of islands to the east of Great Andaman in the Andaman Islands. The island population is comprised of Bengali settlers. It is one of the few places that the administration of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands union territory of India has permitted and encouraged development of tourism, with a focus on promoting eco-tourism.

Havelock Island avoided much of the devastation which was visited upon most of the shores affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and its resultant tsunami, and there were no documented casualties. Beach No. 7, better known as “Radha Nagar” Beach, is one of the most popular beaches in Asia. The elephant beach at Havelock is known for rich marine life, especially the corals. Beach No. 5 is famous beach for Israeli tourists.

Elephant beach is another ideal site for snorkeling. It has a rich coral reef formation and amazing underwater marine life. One can reach Elephant beach by small cruise boat from Havelock Jetty in about 40 minutes. By road one can go up to the Forest Camp which is 8 Kms from the Jetty towards Radhanagar side and from there by walk to the Elephant beach which will take another 40 minutes. Private ferry operators organize tours to Elephant beach from Havelock.

Beach-combing, sunbathing, scuba diving, seawalk, snorkeling, watersports, surf riding, swimming, game fishing, watching the sunset or sunrise, elephant ride, bird-watching, trekking, sailing, kayaking and much more you can do in Havelock.

The abundance of marine life around Havelock provides a rich variety of varied diving sites.  ‘Seduction Point’, ‘Aquarium’, ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Pilot Reef’, ‘Mac Point’, ‘Minerva Ledge’ and ‘Turtle Bay’ are promising areas for diving. The ideal dive season is from December to May.

Vijaynagar Beach, Havelock, is a long stretch of sand on the east coast of the Island, punctuated occasionally by rock section. Most of the beach is lined by mahua trees, whose trunks grow along the ground for many feet before they begin to climb vertically. These trees have lent a distinct character to the sea front and provide shade, close to the water. Vijaynagar Beach is perfect for long walks along the sea. Dolphin Resort run by the Tourism Department and many other hotels are also located on this beach.

One can enjoy swimming at the calm and clear waters of Radhanagar, Vijaynagar and Elephant beach. Snorkeling is available to view shallow areas of the coral reefs without going underwater with scuba equipment. Under the water, one can glide along the coral shelf and experience the strange and striking coral formations. One can see fish swim, nibbling at colorful algae, sea anemones and plankton right next to you.

Havelock Island is logged using elephants.  The spectacle of elephants working in the forest and bathing and swimming in the nearby sea is a special attraction. The Elephant Training Camp managed by the Forest Department at Kalapathar open its doors to tourists occasionally. The Island is surrounded by emerald lagoons and tropical evergreen forests. In some stretches, mangrove swamps line the shores.

It is a landscape of primeval splendor. White-headed mynas or the woodpecker with a white-barred black mantle and red crown, fulvous-breasted woodpecker are endemic to the island. The olive-backed sunbird and Andaman swallow are other endemic birds in the islands, which are a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Kayaking is also gaining popularity in the Havelock Island. Safe and calm creeks offer an excellent scope for kayak lovers.

The main dive sites on Havelock are:

  • Lighthouse (6-20m)
  • The Wall (10-55m)
  • Minerva Ledge (10-18m)
  • Aquarium (12-15m)
  • Pilot Reef (6-18m)
  • Dixon’s Pinnacle (18-40m)
  • Jackson’s Bar (20-35m)
  • Johnny’s Gorge (25-30m)

One of the most popular sites, this is a small rocky outcrop in the open sea surrounded by an ocean of sand. The outcrops are home to large and small species. Dolphins, white and black-tip sharks, giant groupers, rays and eels among various others are found here.

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Mid-January until mid-May sees the best weather, and often the best diving conditions. The days are mostly sunny at this time of year, and the sea sometimes flat enough to reflect the clouds. The monsoon usually hits around late May, lasting until the end of July, and is probably the worst time to visit the island – strong winds, frequent rain and low visibility underwater. August thru November see some occasional showers and slightly rougher seas, but diving can still be great at this time of year. The weather often takes a turn for the worse for the month of December through early January.

Havelock Island now has two ATMs; SBI and Axis bank. Some of the hotels and resorts are able to perform card transactions. Nevertheless, it is best to make sure you take plenty of cash with you from Port Blair. Also, it is hard to buy some items in the market – differing factors of sun cream can be hard to find, as can mosquito repellent.

 

Triveni Sangam in Kolkata

 February 7, 2016:  Kolkata tasted the flavour of intricately crafted sarees from Surat, served on a platter by none other than Surat based Triveni Sarees. Kolkata which is famous for its exquisite Bengal Handloom sarees, welcomed Triveni Sarees with open arms, probably because of their variety, colour, styling, fabrics, embellishments and wonderful blending of mass & class elements in their sarees. Kolkatta Saree(nistas) gathered  at Oxford Book Store, Park Street on sunny Sunday morning to catch the glimpse of Triveni Sarees and learn the craft of draping by famed Ms. Dolly Jain. I am sure bloggers must have had a great time, like we had in Triveni’s Meet in  Mumbai.  Indeed it was crossroad of bloggers, ethnic wear and saree lovers and Triveni’s insight and ideas upon ethnic wears.

I think venue was very carefully selected by Triveni Team because as much we love our books, we love our sarees too. Can’t get enough of both! Never say never for both. Any number of books on our book-shelves and any number of sarees are welcome in our wardrobe, as both have place of pride in our hearts too!!

Oxford bookstore

The event channelized by Arvind Saraf, Director, Triveni, turned out to be unique where bloggers had great time amidst sarees and more sarees.

Here is a report on Triveni Meet, Kolkata:

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On the ‘Fresh – February’s one of the rosy Sundays women with an ethnic connect and some with curious amazement participated in the Triveni meet. Many of them shared their musings and excitement over the two sessions in which the

event was spread. Mr. Arvind Saraf, Director, Triveni introduced the brand and spoke about the vision of spreading the endemic heredity since expanding beyond sarees and dealing with all sorts of ethnic wear for men, women and kids.

Dolly Jain demonstrating

Ladies present at the event were then introduced to many fabrics and their characteristics. Attendees were eager to know about the specialty of the sarees and their distinct appeal. Much awaited part of the meet approached when Ms. Dolly Jain took the stage and everyone present was left gasping with her unique fete of draping a saree in most velocious and elegant fashion. Ms. Jain is a world renowned saree draper, who also happens to be the Limca and India Book of record holder for draping a saree into 125 unique styles. The very fun, sprightly – Le Debonair bloggers who attended the event were found clicking pictures, mingling with each other over the splendid grace of sarees at session end.

All Draped!(1)

Attendees shared their experiences and memoirs related to sarees. Stating about their delight after being left informative and amazed, bloggers at the meet stated how they have developed the confidence of wearing one regardless of their body frame, thanks to the meet. The event was channelized by Arvind Saraf, Director, Triveni. Checking the brightness of the event, Saraf described the meet informative and involving. Speaking about further such activities, Saraf added that Triveni has always endeavored to get people involved and evolve as ‘People’s brand’.

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Hence, many such associations are looked forward to.

Triveni is a 30 year old maker of Sarees and Indian Ethnic wear. Based on the solid foundation built by its Sakambari Silks Mills, Triveni has spanned to global proportions with the advent of its online store – TriveniEthnics.com. Triveni currently has over 80 wholesale counters all over India with listings in all major online retailers as well. Triveni went online in 2011, taking the Triveni collection worldwide (www.triveniethnics.com), online & a few clicks away. Triveni’s designs & collections are now available at most major retailers in India and most major web-portals in India & worldwide.

 

Rani Rashmoni’s DREAM inspired DAKSHINESWAR temple, Kolkata!

I really don’t recollect from how many months, which may run into years, I have been listening to Bhajan Samrat Anoop Jalota’s soulful rendition of Bhajans on Seher Program on 92.7 FM at 6 AM. and that has been my permanent ritual. Here in this program Jalotaji tells a story around a temple or a religious place. Few weeks ago he told the story of Dakshineshwar temple of Kolkata, which immensely interested me. So much so that I started contemplating a visit to Kolkata just to be in the temple. I don’t know when my wish would be granted or would be granted at all, but I would visit to the temple is on my wishlist.

The thought lingered with me for few weeks, and in one of my thinking sessions I recollected that my brother Prabhat had visited Dakshineshwar temple in Kolkata last year. This made things easier for me and I narrated the story to him which Anoopji had told on FM that day. He confirmed the story and shared with me few details about the temple which I would love to share with my religious & spiritual readers, in particular.

A dream inspired the construction of the Dakshineshwar Temple in Kolkata, a structure more than 100 ft high, built within a huge complex that also houses 12 shrines dedicated to Shiva and one to Radha-Krishna. In 1847, when the wealthy widow Rani Rashmoni was preparing to leave for Varanasi, Goddess Kali appeared in her dream and said, “There is no need to go to Kashi. Install my statue in a beautiful temple on the banks of the Ganga and arrange for my worship there.” The Rani followed her orders.

Our PM Narendra Modi paid a visit to Dakshineshwar temple.

To the west of the vast temple courtyard stand 12 Shiva temples of Bengali aatchala (eight-roofs) style in a row. Sri Ramakrishna spent many years in the chamber to the north-west, a little beyond the last of the Shiva temples. Some of the most important events in this enlightened soul’s life took place at the Dakshineshwar Temple.
With six temples on either side, a flight of steps goes down to the bathing ghat in the Hooghly. At the head of the ghat is the traditional chandni, a roofed terrace where visitors can enjoy the riverfront. To the left of the temple courtyard is the temple to Radhakanta, or Vishnu. A temple dedicated to Rani Rashmoni was added later, near the entrance.

Built in the traditional ‘Nava-ratna’ or nine spires style of Bengal architecture, the three-storeyed south-facing temple has nine spires distributed in upper two storeys, and stands on a high platform with a flight of stairs, overall it measures 46 feet (14 m) square and rises over 100 feet (30 m) high.

The garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) houses an idol of goddess Kali, known as Bhavataraini, standing on the chest of a lying Shiva, and the two idols are placed on a thousand-petaled lotus made of silver.

Close to the main temple are the row of twelve identical Shiva temples built facing the east in the typical ‘Aat Chala’ Bengal architecture, they are built on either side of the ghat on the Hoogly river. To the North east of the Temple Complex is the Vishnu Temple or the Radha Kanta’s Temple. A flight of steps lead to the columned verandah and into the temple where a silver throne rests with a 21 1⁄2-inch (550 mm) idol of Lord Krishna and a 16-inch (410 mm) idol of Radha.

This way this abode of Kali is manifestation of Rani Rashmoni’s dream!

Must visit when in Kolkata.