Of late, I have been visiting several Delhi events and concerts for two reasons;
One, to refresh me after a week of self-imposed misery.
Two, because it helps me again connect with all of you with my writings.
Attending these weekend Delhi concerts and events pushes me to write about them. These are my content engines.
Lok Gatha Utsav
Last week, I had the good fortune of visiting this festival at the Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts lawns. This place gives immense joy to all those who want to explore Indian art, dance, music and other aspects of culture. This is a one-stop shop for all the art and music lovers who do not want go to every nook and cranny of the country to explore its culture and lifestyle.
This festival, Lok Gatha Utsav, brought together several folk artists at the IGNCA.
Look at what I saw at this festival.
Shweta is just 18 and is already making waves in the country. She is the only woman in India who sings Alha, the popular ballad of Central India.
Alha is a folk song about the martial exploits of two brothers who lived more than 900 years back. A few years back, I had written about this folk song.
Have a look at this video and I am sure you will be impressed.
This young girl was accompanied by her Guru as well.
The Band from Bombay
Sometimes, Delhi events and concerts throw up surprises.
Have a look at this group from the Bombay area. Its performance was about Shivaji, the King of Bombay area in the 17th century.
Look at the expressions of the lead singer!
The lead singer dresses after the King while his teammates wear the clothes of soldiers.
I took a video of this energetic song. Watch it here.
The dancers from Braj
Now, let us have a look at these dancers from the Braj area.
They are enacting a dance sequence representing Lord Krishna and the Gopies.
This is not an ordinary dance. Krishna represents the God almighty and the Gopies are us mortals.
This post on Delhi events and concerts would be incomplete without pictures from Rajasthan
Have a look at this family.
Many folk singers from Rajasthan and other states now showcase their talents in government-sponsored events like this one.
If they are lucky, then they are invited to perform at private events of the rich and powerful. The leader of this group has given me his card. In case you are interested in contacting them, please e-mail me.
The warriors of Odisha
I find these folk dances to be a rich source of history.
Take for instance these dancers from Odisha who told me that their martial dance is about the Paika rebellion against the British!
These ‘dancers’ belong to the martial classes of Odisha. Look at their stern faces.
The word, ‘Panchangam’ refers to a calendar that records important dates and future events. Also called an almanac, the ‘Panchangam’ tracks the movement of the Sun, Moon and the other celestial bodies.
‘Panchangam’ is a Sanskrit word and means ‘five limbs’. It refers to the five attributes of the day. These five attributes or limbs of the day are Tithi, Nakshatra, Rashi, Karana, and Yog.
These attributes depend on the movements of the Moon and tell us about what is going to happen in future.
Hindu astrological table and demonetization
This Arcot almanac had predicted way back August 2015 about the ban on Rs. 500 and 1000 currency notes.
Please read this sentence on page no. 12 of this table;
New changes in banking sector will occur. Black Money will be unearthed
And sure enough, the Narendra Modi government banned the possession of the 500 and 1000 rupee currency notes on November 8, 2016! The prediction was true.
The same edition of the Arcot Panchangam had predicted heavy rains and floods in Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Melmaruvathur, Chengalpattu, Maduranthakam, Tindivanam, Villupuram, Cuddalore, Neyveli, Panruti, and Virudhacahalam.
These predictions were also proven right last year in December. All these places received heavy rains and were devastated by floods. Hurricane Vardha caused immense damage in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts. More than 50, 000 people had to be evacuated.
The Arcot calendar had predicted correctly about the Indonesian earthquake. And sure enough, in December 2016, there was a major earthquake in Indonesia that killed more than 100 people. Thousands of people were displaced and became homeless.
And that is not all…
The same Hindu astrological table had predicted heavy rains and cyclones in the Kanyakumari area of Tamil Nadu. And yes, this time also its predictions have come true.
Actually, I am horrified while telling all this to you. Imagine someone predicting things 2 years ago and those events actually happening!
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Have you heard the story of the Indian holy woman who breastfed the Gods?
Read this post on Indian culture and know more about the people and history of this marvelous country. I am writing this post because I wanted to cover the birthday of Lord Dattatreya. He is considered to be one of the most important yogis ever born.
Who was this holy woman?
Her name was Anasuya and she was the purest lady who ever lived on Planet Earth. By purity, I do not mean physical cleanliness only, I also mean mental purity.
How was she pure? She was pure because she used to consider her husband, Sage Atri, as God. He was a great sage and you will be happy to know that one of the stars of the Great Bear constellation is named after him.
But let us come back to Anasuya.
Since she was mentally strong and pure, the gods of Devalok used to fear her. They thought that someday Anasuya might remove them from their nice little perches and make her husband the king of Devalok.
So one day, they hatched a plan.
The plan to insult this holy woman
Led by Indra, all these gods approached the Holy Trinity of Bramha, Vishnu, and Mahesh and asked them to insult Anasuya in some way.
The Trinity agreed and decided to test Anasuya’s mental toughness.
Bramha, Vishnu, and Mahesh disguised themselves as ordinary human beings and one day reached the holy woman’s house.
Her husband was not around that moment and Anasuya was busy doing some work.
They called her out and requested some food to eat. She agreed and began preparing lunch for them.
But the Trinity had some other plans in its mind. It wanted to shame that great lady.
Please get naked
When she came out of her kitchen and laid out the food, the Trinity made a very stupid and insulting demand.
We will have food only if you serve it while being naked, the Trinity said.
Anasuya was a bit shocked but then quickly regained her senses. She went to one of her rooms and meditated deeply. Ultimately, she became aware of the identity of these guests.
She meditated again and established contact with her husband. Both of them planned a strategy to save the situation.
What was the plan?
She disrobed herself and when she entered the room where the Trinity was sitting, she made them into infants.
Now it was the turn of the Trinity to be horrified.
One by one, each infant was picked up by Anasuya and was suckled to its heart’s content. But the infants could do nothing, they were powerless. The Holy Trinity was now powerless infants.
This carried on for many days. Every morning, these small infants were picked up by the holy woman and breastfed.
Where are our husbands?
By now the wives of the members of the Holy Trinity had become worried. They could not find their husbands.
Finally, they came to know that their husbands had last gone to the house of Anasuya.
The wives rushed to her house and saw Anasuya feeding the three infants.
Excuse me, have you seen our husbands?
Err…I don’t know where your husbands are but right now I am busy feeding my three children, Anasuya replied.
But the small infants had noticed their wives and were now crying for their attention.
‘These are our husbands, why are they here as small children,’ the ladies cried.
Oh, are they your husbands? These kids…..? Are you sure?
Yes, yes, please give them back to us.
Ok, take them back, here hold them…
Can you please make them grown up men again? Please?
Sure, why not?
And here the tale ends
And sure enough, Anasuya, the holy woman had turned those small kids back into full grown adults.
The Holy Trinity was embarrassed but it asked the lady to ask for a boon.
I want you to be my children for a very long time, Anasuya demanded.
Sure mother, all three of us will merge into one human being who will become your son.
After a few days, Anasuya Devi was blessed with a baby whose name was Dattatreya. He is shown in images being accompanied with 4 dogs and a cow.
The dogs represent the 4 Vedas and the cow is a symbol of Mother Earth.
Many people consider Lord Dattatreya as the first Guru of mankind. He did not have any teacher but learned the philosophy of life by observing birds, animals, sky, moon, winds, Sun, oceans, elephants, deer, bees, beekeeper etc. Please read about the first Guru of the human race here > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dattatreya
Did you find this tale interesting?
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But what is Gita Jayanti? Well, for folks who live outside India, this is the day when Lord Krishna revealed the secrets of life to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
According to the Hindu calendar, Gita Jayanti is observed on the 11th day of the month of Margsheersh. In Sanskrit, the 11th day is called Ekadashi.
In a year, there are 24 Ekadashis. The more important Ekadashis are Devshayani Ekadashi and Devprabodhini Ekadashi. On these two days, Lord Vishnu sleeps and gets awake.
Gita Jayanti and Mokshda Ekadashi
You will be mildly surprised to know that the name of the day when Gita was revealed to Arjuna by Krishna is Mokshda Ekadashi.
Let us understand four important words here;
Gita- means song
Bhagwad- means Of the Lord
Mokshda- one that delivers salvation, Nirvana or Moksha
Ekadashi- means the 11th day of the month
Anybody who listens to Bhagwad Gita on Mokshda Ekadashi achieves salvation. This year, that day fell on November 30.
Millions of people from all over the world derive satisfaction after learning life’s lessons from Bhagwad Gita.
International Bhagwad Gita Festival
You will be surprised to know that every year, the Government of Haryana organizes this Festival around this time of the year to commemorate the Bhagwad Gita. If you are in Delhi right now then you may like to visit Kurukshetra to participate in this fair. This town is located roughly 100 kilometers from Delhi in the northwest.
It was in Kurukshetra that the Great War of Mahabharat was fought between the Pandavas and Kauravas, several thousands of years back. The tree under which Bhagwad Gita was delivered by Krishna to Arjuna still stands proudly after all these thousands of years.
Now you would be wondering how can one attain salvation by just listening to Bhagwad Gita.
Well, Gita teaches us to attain Moksha by detaching ourselves from desire, anger, and other bad qualities. Most importantly, it teaches us that we should be concerned only with our duties. Results are commensurate with our efforts. If we do hard and smart work then good results will follow. But we should always remember that our results are not in our hands.
So Gita teaches us two things- be action-oriented and secondly, keep a balanced mind.
If you are wondering what salvation has got to do with a balance of mind and being result focused then here is a thought.
Assuming you worked very hard on a project and did not get due recognition. So what do you do? Don’t you become bitter? Doesn’t that bitterness stick to you for the rest of your life? Your life becomes unhappy and generally, you turn into a pessimist.
But if you just focused on your actions and did not bother too much about your results, then you’d become a saner person.
This post will recap whatever has been written about this famous Shiva temple and add something more interesting for my readers who are spread all over the world. I hope that after reading it, some of you may like to visit this hauntingly beautiful place in Gujarat.
Magnificent Somnath Temple- what is the history?
Many Hindus believe that this temple is 8 million years old! That is crazy, isn’t it?
It was built by Moon or Chandra to cure himself of the dreaded disease of Tuberculosis!
But let us deep dive into the history of this fascinating temple.
The word Somnath means Lord of Moon and it refers to Lord Shiva.
Husband of 27 wives
Many millions of years ago, Chandra or Moon married the 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati. Daksha is considered to be the originator of the human race. Would you like to know the names of the wives of Daksha?
It so happened that Chandra or Moon used to love Rohini much more than his other 26 wives. It is natural among human beings that we like one person more than the others in our family. Isn’t it?
Rohini, of course, used to relish this attention, but the other 26 ladies felt jealous. One day, they complained to their father, Daksha.
Don’t do this, please
Daksha understood the situation perfectly and one day met his son-in-law.
Don’t do this, dear son-in-law, the Lord of Mankind pleaded. Please treat all your wives- who are my daughters- equally.
Chandra said okay but did not change his behavior. This unfair treatment of the 26 ladies happened continued.
They complained again, and another meeting happened gain between Daksha and Chandra.
The latter promised to his father-in-law that he would change his behavior but went back on his promise.
The 26 ladies again approached Daksha to complain about their husband’s behavior
This time, Daksha felt insulted.
Angry at his son-in-law, he rushed to Chandra’s house and cursed him.
‘O Chandra, may you be afflicted with a terrible disease!’
Sure enough, the effect of Daksha’s curse had the desired effect on Chandra. The latter began to wither and die.
Seeing all this, the gods became very worried. They decided to visit Daksha’s father, Lord Bramha and request him to intervene.
After listening to the gods about Chandra’s misery, Bramha expressed his helplessness. But he suggested a way out.
‘Go to Lord Shiva, he will help you, O Chandra!’
Please help me
Now Chandra approached Lord Shiva who also happened to be his brother-in-law. Do you know who Lord Shiva is?
He is the God of Death and another member of the Holy Trinity.
It is very difficult to please Him, so Chandra worked very hard to please Lord Shiva.
He prayed and prayed to get Shiva’s blessings.He recited the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra ( a hymn that protects one from death) more than 10 million times.
Chandra also decided to do something exceptional.
Magnificent Somnath Temple
To make Shiva happy, Chandra then decided to make a beautiful temple devoted to Lord Shiva. He also installed a Shivalinga ( an egg-shaped idol that represents the infinite nature of Shiva) there.
This marvelous building was made of pure silver and was the first edition of the present day Somnath Temple.
Lord Shiva became happy with Chandra’s devotion and granted him a boon.
Live another day, Chandra!
‘Ok, you will not die a horrible death, but I have to respect the curse of Daksha too,’ Shiva explained to Chandra.
For the first fifteen days in every month, there will be no moon in the nights, and in the next installment, you will start regaining your brilliance. Is that ok?’ Shiva asked his brother-in-law.
Yes, I am fine, Lord, Chandra replied in relief.
So that is the reason why every fortnight in a month you can see the moon but can’t see him in the balance part.
Gold, sandalwood, stones
The Somnath temple in the Saurashtra area of Gujarat has been rebuilt several times.
Some say that many thousands of years back, this place of worship was made of gold, and later of sandalwood.
The sandalwood temple was made by Lord Krishna to pay His respects to Lord Shiva.
In the more recent times, this glorious building was rebuilt by the Chalukya rulers of Gujarat which was later on demolished by successive Muslim kings who ruled Delhi and Ahmedabad. The first demolition of the magnificent Somnath temple was done By Mahmud Ghazni in 1024 A.D.
Ghazni carried away several gems and jewelry pieces from this temple on his way back to Afghanistan. He also captured several thousand Hindus from this temple town and wanted them to sell them as slaves.
The last demolition of this temple was carried out by Aurangzeb in 1702 A.D after which it lay in ruins for the next 200 years.
It was only in the 1950s when Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister of independent India helped in the reconstruction of this great temple. Today, it is made of stone and stands proudly on the Arabian Sea coast of the Gujarat.
It has a fantastic history, isn’t it?
Somnath temple and Lata Mangeshkar
Do you know that this magnificent Somnath temple and the legendary Lata Mangeshkar are connected with each other?
The story goes like this. When Ghazni attacked this magnificent temple, most of the singers and dancers of Somnath left Gujarat and headed to the Goa region. These people were ardent devotees of Lord Shiva and sand and danced only for Him.
When the resettled in the Goa region, the locals started calling these resettlers as Mangeshkars- meaning devotees of Lord Shiva.
Now you see the connection between Lataji and Somnath temple?
That November evening, all those Padmawati stories came alive in front of me.
I could hear her sing, and talk, and walk around. And yes, I could also hear her painful scream. It was an anguished scream.
Chittor, Oh my Chittor!- Padmawati Stories
To those of you who have never traveled to India, Chittor is a place that oozes history. Though it is a fort, yet, this place resembles an old man, full of wounds, waiting to recount his eventful history to all who care.
Many say that this fort is more than 1,000 years old. Yes, older than many countries in this world like the United States.
There are other forts too in India like the Red Fort in Delhi and the Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur and the Golconda of Hyderabad. But Chittor is not just a fort. It is living history. I think its stones and battlements were the warriors, queens, and soldiers of the past.
To me, Chittor, home of the Padmawati stories as well as the tales of Panna Dhai and Meera, is a pilgrimage. And I am not an exception. Millions of Indians almost revere Chittor and its mighty Rajputs.
Even as I write this stuff, I cannot resist booking a train ticket to this ‘pilgrimage’.
Gazing at the Moon
While I was in college at Udaipur, I was crazy about Chittor. Though it is around 70 miles from Udaipur, I used to bike to this fort-town to just spend some peaceful moments among the ruins.
And every time I sat on those battlements gazing at the rising moon, the Padmawati stories came flooding to me.
My favorite haunt was a wall that was just next to the ‘Jauhar Kund‘. If you are alone and planning to spend some quiet hours in the evenings in the Chittor fort, DON’T VENTURE NEAR THE JAUHAR KUND. Read on and I will tell you why later in the post.
That’s right. That autumn evening even as I marveled at the orange moon rising on the eastern horizon, I suddenly got disturbed by a female voice.
This voice was coming from the Jauhar Kund and seemed hollow. Without emotion. Ghostly.
I quickly ignored that voice; perhaps it belonged to a woman who was exploring the ruins.
But I heard that disemboweled voice again, and this time it came from just a few feet behind me. Was there a faint trace of perfume? Yes.
Who was she?
I quickly turned my head back but all I could see was the entrance to a room where a maid had seen her child killed by a jealous king.
My heart started pounding hard. It was 7 pm, getting dark and there was nobody in sight. I was in the midst of these haunted ruins and had no idea whether there was a lurking soul calling me out.
All those Padmawati stories now started flashing before me.
The bedecked women, all covered in jewelry and expensive clothes. Fair ladies who sang as they jumped in the pyre a few feet away from me. 16, 000 of them- all wanting to burn themselves to death to avoid a life of slavery. The Turkish Sultan had invaded this fort and had won the battle. But these fair ladies who were queens and princesses had decided to escape the Sultan’s armies by jumping into the burning pyre.
The year? 1303 August.
Was she Padmawati calling out to me?
I felt like a stupid guy seated there. One of the guards had just left after warning me that this place becomes strange after dark. And I had laughed him off.
And here I was listening to strange sounds near this tank of death.
Why are you here?
Soon, I could hear several voices- all of women. They were all talking in Mewari.
Some of them were sobbing too!
Was it my imagination- I wondered? Were things playing out in my head?
‘Who are you, and why are you here?’ , a woman asked me.
Shocked, I looked up and saw a middle-aged woman looking up at me inquisitively. She looked angry and her hair lay scattered over her otherwise graceful place.
Before I could answer, she motioned me to leave the place.
My mind said to me quietly,’ Let’s leave and ask no questions’. I packed my bag which contained my water bottle and got up.
Ready to leave, I could feel her gaze piercing my back and reaching my heart.
Sure enough, I left that haunted place of Chittor quickly and without looking back.
The year was 1995. November.
Was she Padmawati?
When I shared this incident with my friends later, they rebuked me. ‘No need to visit that place after dark,’ was their instruction.
I asked them, ‘ Was she Padmawati?’ But, I did not get any answer from them.
That’s it then, folks.
I thought I will share my experience of that fateful evening with you.
Did you like this post on Padmawati stories? Do you want to see the Chittor fort?
Frog weddings claim several victims in India every year.
This year, Geeta, a 25-year young girl from a village 170 kilometers from Chennai, will be marrying a frog against her wishes.
She doesn’t have a chance to escape this union because her father has been threatened.
Of course, she can run away but that will make her parents outcastes in her village.
Which means that there will be no communication between the unfortunate parents and the village society. This is a scenario that nobody wants, not even Geeta.
Frog weddings- queer but acceptable
I had first seen a frog marriage when I was very young. I was perhaps 10 years old and was excited to watch the drama unfold before me in a Rajasthan village.
I can still remember that a frog sat coquettishly on a small palm-shaped leaf, its lips smeared with red lipstick, while the bride sat opposite it. Her face was covered with a ghoonghut or a veil.
The bride was a human- she was a girl.
She was wearing very attractive clothes and had nice jewelry on her body. Probably she was crying during the marriage because I could see that her friends were consoling her.
Mr. Frog was perhaps enjoying the spectacle and the attention that he was getting. If it was thinking something, then it gave little away.
The panditji or the priest was uttering some mantras or hymns. After a few minutes, the bride and her ‘groom’ stood up and took seven rounds of the sacred fire. It was understood now by all those present that the frog and the girl were now husband and wife for the next seven cycles of birth and death.
If you thought that this ‘wedding’ was attended by a handful of people, then you are mistaken.
I can still remember that there were at least 100 people in the marriage party and everyone enjoyed as if the wedding was his personal affair.
Making gods happy
Let us now come back to our friend Geeta.
She is a college graduate and wants to become an important government official.
For the past few years, she is preparing for an exam that would help her achieve her aim. Her parents support Geeta but have limited means to fund her education. Geeta’s father is a retired postman and his government pension cannot support his family’s monthly expenses.
At times, he has to take loans from his neighbors who do not charge any interest from him.
Most of the people in this Tamil Nadu village are farmers and depend upon rains for their crop earnings.
YUnfortunately, for the past two years, rain gods have not visited this village and this is a cause of worry for its residents. They have tried every tactic in their book to make the gods happy, but have failed so far.
One day, the village priest told the villagers that frog weddings can help all of them in this crisis.
After a little bit of discussion and debate, all the villagers agreed to this idea. But there was just one problem- who will be the bride?
The reluctant bride
Panditji again came to the rescue of the villagers. The bride should have been born in August, be fair in appearance and must be approximately 25 years of age- he prescribed.
After a little bit of research, the villagers found out that Geeta fit the bill perfectly. But did, she like the idea?
No way. She simply laughed at that idea and said it was plain silly.
The villagers, however, had other ideas. Led by the headman, they told her father that this frog wedding was a must for the welfare of the village.
‘Else, risk a boycott by us….,’ the headman threatened.
Geeta’s father had no option but to obey the headman’s orders.
It is not necessary that frogs only marry girls. In many cases, such marriages take place between frogs. But in Geeta’s case, it was necessary that the bride be a girl of marriageable age.
Frog weddings- Shrouded in time
Panditji is partially right. Nobody knows when frog weddings started in India.
However, we do know that Lord Vishnu, one of the three Gods of the Holy Trinity, had once taken the form of an amphibian. Hindus believe that this avatar was necessary to save mankind from drought and floods. This was several millions of years ago.
Is that the reason why frog weddings are so important in certain parts of the country?
For example in Assam, frog marriages are organized with much pomp and show. Like in traditional marriages, the ‘bridegroom’ frog leads band party and its guests.
Frog weddings in Assam are called ‘Bhekulia Biya’.
Similar frog marriages are held in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and a few other parts of the world. Brides are identified for frog ‘grooms’ according to some yardsticks and they are later wed to the selected amphibians.
Almost all these marriages are held to please the rain gods so that the farmers get a good crop. India still depends on farming to a large extent.
What happens to the frog later?
After the marriage is over, it is sent back to the well or the pond from where it was collected. It goes back to its original home, intact.
And the bride?
Also nothing. After this sham wedding, the village allows her to go back to her home and lead her normal life.
But I am sure that this sham wedding would leave a deep scar on Geeta’s psyche. Her friends and other who know her would always call as Mrs. Frog and this is not good for the girl’s health.
What do you say, my friends?
Do you want to read more amazing Indian stories? Click here.
Yet, another amazing Indian story from me. This one is about a FOUR LEGGED SOLDIER who defied death. Who was he?
Your love and affection motivate me all the time so I cannot stop write and share unknown Indian stories with you. I love you all.
Amazing Indian story of Pedongi
Pedongi, who is this Pedongi, you might be asking.
Pedongi was an Indian Army veteran who not only served his employers well, he also did something unthinkable.
He came back from the enemy lines stealing their ammunition.
Was Pedongi a soldier?
Yes. A different kind of a soldier.
He was a mule.
Pedongi joined the Indian Army in the brutal year of 1962; the year when India lost a war with China along its northern borders.
The job of this mule was to transport equipment from the base to the forward areas. Trucks and other motorized vehicles, sometimes, are unable to negotiate tricky mountain roads and ledges.In such areas, where the path is sometimes a few meters narrow, mules are the best options.
They are nimble footed and balance themselves really well.
Hoof Number 15328
Actually, when this bay mule joined the Army, he was given a hoof number -15328. Mules were and still are not given any names, generally.
But, Pedongi was an exception and he had to wait several years before getting this name.
Hoof Number 15328 was just 4 years old when he joined the Indian Army. But, neither he nor anyone else could guess that the mule was going to create an amazing Indian story.
Bullets flying past
It was in the 1971 war, that Hoof Number 15328 showed his bravery.
In that war, he, like the other soldiers, was always in the thick of the action- transporting supplies, bringing back wounded soldiers and doing other selfless and brave acts.
Hoof Number 15328 was always ready for action. And action was also ready for him.
One day, during the war, he was kidnapped by the enemy soldiers and taken to their camp. He was a part of an army transport column that was ambushed by the enemy.
Everybody, this side of the border thought that the mule was gone and will never be found.
Days passed. The mule’s handlers had given up on their favorite soldier. They thought that either he had been kidnapped or was killed in the crossfire. Most probably, kidnapped.
One day, during the war, the animal’s handlers were astonished to see 15328 amble into their camp.
The ‘soldier’ looked fine and healthy- albeit tired- but was carrying a load. What load was that?
On checking it, the mule’s handlers found out that 15328 was carrying a box of enemy ammunition!
Oh boy, that was such a touching moment! Not only had the mule survived all those bullets and bombs, he had also stolen some ammunition from the enemy too!
That was indeed a WoW moment for Hoof Number 15328.
His Commanding Officer was touched by his bravery and recommended to his seniors that 15328 be honored in some way.
No more a number now!
The senior officers of the Army promptly agreed with the Commanding Officer.
A few days later, Hoof Number 15328 had a new official name- Pedongi. He also got an award for his brave and selfless service.
My dear readers, it is extremely rare for mules and mares in the Indian Army to have names. This privilege is reserved for horses.
But Pedongi was an exception and that is why he created this amazing Indian story.
A long inning
Pedongi worked like a horse in the Indian Army. He was always cheerful and ready to undertake any work assigned to him.
One day, in 1987, an Army Major spotted Pedongi working diligently in a camp. When he found out that Pedongi had been working for 25 years, he was impressed. Mules, normally, work for no more than 15-18 years.
To recognize the long and illustrious service, Pedongi was awarded a blue velvet dress, which is a distinguished honor.
His picture was also put on the Greeting Cards of his Army unit. Such was the love and affection of his fellow soldiers for Pedongi.
Pedongi worked for the Indian Army till 1992. After his retirement, he was given pension and later given a big field to roam around and graze.
Hoof Number 15328 finally said goodbye to this planet in 1998.
To remember his service, the Indian Army authorities have named one of the lounges in their headquarter after him.
These top Jodhpur foods are sinful in taste. If you are traveling in India, or plan to travel to this country, then make Jodhpur a part of your itinerary. Next step; take down the names and addresses of these top hotels in Jodhpur to satisfy your tongue and then set out for those exotic restaurants.
My selection of top Jodhpur foods is not limited to the vegetarian cuisine. This list comprises vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian Jodhpur food. I have tried to be as objective as possible.
Which are the top Jodhpur foods?
1.Mawa Kachori- This Jodhpur food forces the tongue to say ‘slurp‘ after watching it being served on your plate. Mawa Kachori is a yummilicious food made of corn /gram powder that is shaped like a little ball. You then stuff some mawa or a mild derivative inside this ball and later fry it in a sugary syrup called chashnee. Eat to your heart’s content. Do you want to know how Mawa Kachori is made? Watch this video
2.Pyaz Ki Kachori-This top Jodhpur food is made like Mawa Kachori but there is a critical difference- the filling is made of moong ki Daal and is salty in taste. There is a dash of onion also to the Daal. If you are in Jodhpur and don’t taste this food, then you are committing sacrilege, I tell you.
Don’t forget to gorge on Jodhpuri jalebis and samosas during your trip to this city
3.Daal Baati– If foods were considered rock stars, then this cuisine is the Michael Jackson of them all. Made of flaky dough, the Baati is fired and baked over a traditional oven ( made of clay) to give that crackling taste. Once ready, dip the Baati in a bowl of ghee before dipping it once again in the pulse or Dal that is served along with it.
4.Laal Maas– This non-vegetarian food comes straight from the palaces of Jodhpur and rest of Rajasthan. The word Lal means Red and the reason this Jodhpur food is called Red is that it is prepared with Red Chilli powder.
More Jodhpur cuisines that will tempt you
5.Panchkuta– This is Jodhpur recipe that is made of different kinds of vegetables and spices. It is cooked in oil and eaten with Rotis ( Bread) or Chawal (Rice). In Jodhpur and other parts of Rajasthan, this food is called Ker ki Sabzi.
6.Lassi and Chhaach– Your Jodhpur stay will be incomplete without having a large kulhad of Lassi or Chhaach. These delicacies are actually by-products of fermented milk. Milk is first fermented and later converted into curd. The best lassis have a thick layer of cream that makes the lassi-drinking experience out of this world. While a lassi is sweet in taste, chhaach is salty. This food is best served in kulhads or glasses made of fired earth. You see, us Indians try to be environmentally conscious most of the times.
Restaurants that serve top Jodhpur foods
I won’t go away just like that. My responsibility is to tell you about some of the hotels and restaurants in Jodhpur that serve the above-mentioned cuisines. Which are they?
Kalinga Restaurant, Near Jodhpur Railway Station
Gypsy Dining Hall– 689, First Floor, 9th C- Road, Sardarpura
On The Rocks– Ajit Bhawan, near Circuit House, National Highway, 65, Ajit Colony
Kesar Heritage Restaurant– Mehron Ka Chowk, Naya Bas, Killikhana
There are other good places to eat Jodhpur food also.
Don’t forget to try the top Jodhpur foods in Umaid Palace Hotel, one of the most luxurious places to stay in the world. It is no doubt expensive, but worth a visit at least.
I hope this article not only helps you in getting information about Jodhpur cuisine but also good places to eat too.Want to know more about Jodhpur?Click here.
That’s it, folks. Thanks for reading it.
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Kumhar Gram of Delhi is perhaps the last surviving art eco-system of the city and may die out soon.The potters of this ‘village’, who make lamps, diyas and other pottery items for the city folk are on the verge of extinction. Can we reverse this culture ‘extinction’?
Last Sunday, I took a trip to this enclave that lies within the somewhat ‘ modern’ colony of Uttam Nagar. Accompanied by some researchers from the Sharda University, I was astonished at seeing the mental inertia of the potters of the Kumhar Gram.
Kumhar Gram- where time stands still
Translated into English, Kumhar Gram means ‘ Village of Potters’. The word ‘village’ here stands out like a sore thumb for, this habitat is very much a part of the thriving metropolis of Delhi. But once you step inside this enclave, you can’t stop yourself thinking how much its residents have fallen behind the rest of their fellow Delhiites in terms of adoption of modern management techniques.
The Alwar connect
It was difficult tracking the Village headman, Harkishan Prajapati. He is not only the most noticeable face of this potter’s village, he is also a National Award winner. A master of this ancient craft, Prajapati is also considered as the founder of this village.
He came to Uttam Nagar in the early 1970s, and since then, this colony is now home to more than 500 families. Some of the residents of this village also belong to Haryana, which is a neighboring state of Delhi. Almost all the residents of this quaint area sport the surname, Prajapati.
The word, Prajapati, means Lord of People. This community of people believes that they are descendants of Lord Bramha, who is the Creator and the Master of this World.
Alwar is approximately 150 kilometers and is best known for its tigers.
Ever since Prajapati made Uttam Nagar his home, he has been followed by several other potters who wanted to strike gold in the pottery making business.
Initially, they did well, but with the numbers of potters in this colony swelling, competition among themselves is hurting them real bad.
The potters here live cheek by jowl and this is perhaps the greatest barrier to their success. Buyers of their products who come from Dwarka and other neighborhoods from Delhi are able to drive a hard bargain with these sellers.
‘There is little differentiation on offer here,’ rues Prajapati. People here are used to making the same style of diyas and other forms of pottery, he explains.
Even though the potters spend a little fortune on making their superbly designed products, their average price realization is very low. Interestingly, the demand for these products shoots up during Diwali or the Festival of Lights. Domestic buyers don’t find value in what we lovingly make, laments Prajapati.
But the silver lining is that foreign buyers find these products delightful and reflective of Indian culture. The price that they get from international travelers coming to this part of Delhi is very attractive.So, the obvious strategy is that the potters of Kumhar Gram should look out for foreign buyers.
It is not that the Government of India has not encouraged the potters of this village from adopting new marketing practices. Prajapati’s wife is also a National Awardee. He has been sent abroad by the Government on several sponsored trips several times to showcase his products.
But Prajapati and his wife are exceptions here. Most of the people whom we spoke to were reluctant in taking part in Government sponsored workshops and training sessions.
‘There is little value in attending these sessions,’ says Ram Prakash. ‘We will have to shut down our factories for a day or two and we will lose business, ‘ he says.
I think it is more about their mental inertia. Perhaps they think that the village headman will teach them this art and craft and make money. After all, Harkishan Prajapati is like the Moses of this community.
Modern Times at Kumhar Gram?
If you thought that the youth of this colony will take up this ancient art and craft of their ancestors, then perish this thought. Many of them want to join the swelling ranks of IT workers, Uber drivers and government employed peons. For them, pottery is a dying art with little revenue potential. It isn’t glamorous either for a generation that is very much into mobile phones, internet, cricket, and movies.
Fortunately, several organizations are offering their helping hands to the Kumhar Gram community to make pottery more relevant and profitable in these modern times.
Monica from Sharada University wants to change the community’s attitude toward this dying art. Armed with a sheaf of papers and a pen, she goes from house to house in this village, convincing elders and youngsters to join a training program.
‘The training program will help you find new markets and earn better profits, ‘ she explains to a bunch of curious onlookers. She repeats these lines many times as she visits houses and speaks to the ladies and men of this community. Monica is fairly successful in her efforts. More than 100 people consent to attending that training program, but she has doubts.
‘I wonder how many will actually pick up the phone when I call them up, ‘ she says. But, she is hopeful, nevertheless about the success of her mission.
Sonu, in the picture above, represents a young breed of potters who can revive this ancient art by making use of technology and new marketing platforms like Amazon and Flipkart.
His village has turned into a mini-tourist attraction for all those Delhiites who want to explore the city and move outside their air-conditioned cubicles. And therein lies another profitable opportunity.
Meanwhile, the potters of Kumhar Gram are still waiting for their Messiah to come and deliver them from their self -inflicted poverty.
Would you be interested in contributing towards the welfare of the potters of Kumhar Gram?
Or would you like to buy some good quality pottery from this place? If yes, please write me an e-mail and I will connect you with some of the better-known potters here.
In case of any problem related to this Delhi weekend event, please contact at 91-8851367241
The Angrez, The Sultan and The Pigs- Mehrauli Archaeological Park -Delhi Weekend Events
This 3-hour heritage walk is all about the enchanting history of Delhi and is surely one of the best Delhi weekend events that you have ever attended.
We soak in the interesting facets of Delhi’s history in this 3-hour walk through the Mehrauli Archeology Park. The trip will rummage through the forgotten, not so forgotten and the unknown chapters of Delhi history.
They say that whoever bows his head to this grave meets an untimely death? Whose grave is this? And why does this grave emit that heady aroma? Who is this Sultan who rests in this grave and why is he called the Dracula of Mehrauli?
This ‘Angrez’ (slang for Britisher) was one of the most colorful figures of his time.
Stationed as the Agent of the Empire in the court of the Emperor, this man lived an opulent life. He needled the Mughal Badshahs and the Begums and their Vazirs by having drunken parties in the tombs of high and mighty Mughals! Who was he? And how did he die?
Do you believe in Djinns? If you do, then be mindful of the attire you wear when you visit this tomb. There are spirits that may get attracted by your perfume that you are wearing so be mindful of that too!
We will hear and ponder on these and many other stories!
The experience will also introduce you to the Tomar, Mughal and Turk monuments, and the significance of each one of them.
Lastly, the experience will touch upon an interesting subject- the controversial history of Lalkot.
This walk will be an interactive storytelling session.
Dates- All of November, December, January, and February
Time- 9 am-12 pm
Tickets- INR 1000 per person. Inclusions- Snacks + Beverage
Please contact at this number to know more- 91-8851367241
Delhi weekend events-Theatre
For those travelers who like attending theatres and plays, here is a short list of my favorite Delhi weekend events.
Raju Raja Ram aur Main- Orana Convention, Sector 64, Golf Course Extension, Gurugram- December 9, Time-7pm. City industrialist Madan Sukhnandani catches his second wife in a compromising position with his PA. Tickets- Rs. 1,500-4,500
Deal Wali Dulhaniya- Shri Ram Centre, Safdar Hashmi Marg. Date- December 10, Time-7pm. Sanjana and Avinash have been happily married for more than 5 years now. One day, all hell breaks loose and the couple is on the verge of a divorce! Tickets- Rs. 100 onwards
TIFLI- International Theatre Festival for Children and Young Audiences- National Bal Bhawan, near ITO. Date- On until November 9, Time- 5/6/7 pm. Take your kids to this masterclass on theatre. Watch world-class theatre performances by national and international child artistes. Tickets- Rs. 200
Chand Roz Aur Meri Jan- Celebrated Urdu poet Faiz’s letters to his English wife Alys are brought alive on stage by Salim Raza and Banwari Taneja. Date- December 10, Time- 7 pm. Tickets- Rs. 700
Jashn-e-Qawwali- Kamani Auditorium, Copernicus Marg. Date -December 10, Time- 6.30 pm. Tune into a magical performance by Sufi Hayat Brothers, Ustad Hamsar Hayat is the lead vocalist and the mentor of the band. Tickets- Rs. 200-300
Udaipur World Music festival- Bikaner House, Pandara Road. This is a 2-day Jazz event and has been arranged by Seher. Date- December 13 and 14. Time- 7 pm. Entry is free.
Hindustani Vocal Recital- India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road. Hindustani vocal recital by Manjusha Patil with Pandit Vinod Lele on tabla and Dr. Vinay Mishra on harmonium. Date- December 10, Time- 10.30 am
Other Delhi weekend events
Cinema Screenings- Raj Kapoor Retrospective, Roseate House, Aerocity, Indira Gandhi International Airport. Date- December 8-10. Awara, Mera Naam Joker, Bobby. Ticket-Rs. 1,000 and above
Cinema Screenings- 6th Internantional Film Festival, NDMC Convention Centre, Sansad Marg. Date- On until December 9. Time- 10 am inwards.
How to book your favorite Delhi weekend events?
Click these websites to directly book your tickets;
These Lucknow haunted places hadn’t captured my attention until a few days ago when I visited this city.
Lucknow, down the ages
For those of you who live away from India, Lucknow is the capital of the largest state of the Indian Union, Uttar Pradesh. The history of this haunted city is very old and according to some historians, Lucknow was founded by the younger brother of Lord Rama, Lakshman.
Lucknow is associated more with its Shia rulers than with Lakshman and other non-Muslim kings. This city passed into the hands of the British after the fall of the last Nawab, Wajid Ali Shah, in 1857. That year also saw a bitter battle between Indians who aspired for independence and their British masters.
Lucknow formally became the capital of Uttar Pradesh after a few years of the independence of India in 1947.
What are the top Lucknow haunted places?
Being an ancient town, Lucknow has many haunted and ghostly places. Many such sites are associated with the Britishers and the Muslim kings of the Awadh region.
Let us have a look at the top Lucknow haunted places.
This desolate and sad place was the residence of the British Agent to the Court of the Nawab of Awadh.The last British resident or agent who lived in this house was General Outram.
In the battle of 1857 and 1858, this house was attacked by the rebel Indian soldiers and as a result, many English men and women were killed.
Today, this building looks devastated. There are no roofs and doors here and the whole place looks spooky.
Local people insist that in the nights they hear anguished voices of the dead men, women, and children.
They also say that in the evenings, a white child often follows passersby and requests them to take him home.
Recently, the Archaeological Survey of India has found out some figures made of terracotta, a fly whisk, some plates, a wine bottle and a few other interesting things.
A visit to the Lucknow Residency would be incomplete without entering the Tehkhana or the Basement. Many British women and their young kids lost their lives during the fateful days of June and July of 1857. These people had hidden in this place after being wounded by bullets and cannonballs. Today, when you enter this basement, you feel as if those dead women and children are staring at you from the corners!
The Battle of Lucknow was captured by the famous British poet, Lord Tennyson in one of his poems.
I would rank the Lucknow Residency as on top of the Lucknow haunted places list.
Even I, who has a house in Lucknow, was surprised to know that the OEL House is haunted. But, what and where is this building?
This grand building is the residence of the Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University. More than 100 years back, it was the house of the Nawab of Awadh.
They say that the OEL House used to be haunted until a few years back. There is a well within the campus of this building and during the 1857 war, a number of dead soldiers were dumped into it. Their spirits and souls used to roam around and torment the local residents.
Since you are so interested in the haunted places of Lucknow, why don’t uou read this interesting stuff on Shimla as well? most haunted places in Shimla
It is also said that one day, the young child of the driver of the VC of the University was throwing pebbles into the well. This action enraged the spirits and the ghouls who later caused the death of that unfortunate child. Initially, the father of the dead child did not believe that it was the handiwork of the bad spirits but later, he got the well sealed to prevent any further unnatural deaths.
I think I will visit this haunted place next time when I go to Lucknow.
Charbagh Railway Station
Who can imagine that this beautiful building at Charbagh is one of the most haunted places in Lucknow? Every day, hundreds of trains arrive and depart from this beautiful railway station. Several thousand passengers and travelers enter the majestic gates of this handsome building and add to the chaos here. The roar of the engines mixes with the shouts and cries of the travelers here to a great extent.
So why is this building in the list of Lucknow haunted places?
More than a hundred years ago, here, in one of the turrets, lived a Railway engineer whose name was Turner. He was married to an extremely beautiful English woman and both were deeply in love with one another.
It must be noted that Mr. Turner had married late in his life so there was a substantial age difference between him and his wife.
Unfortunately, this love did not last long; it ended in a tragedy.
One day, Mr. Turner discovered that his darling wife was having an affair with another Railway employee. Enraged, Mr. Turner drew out his pistol and shot the two lovers dead. Later on, he committed suicide.
Today, more than a hundred years after their horrific deaths, their angry and dissatisfied spirits roam inside that turret of this beautiful railway station.
This was another surprise to me. All this while, I had imagined that this hospital has everything about medicines, doctors, and patients.
I was proven wrong.
It so turned out that this hospital is also a haunted place.
More than a hundred years ago, when a piece was land was donated to build this hospital, little did anyone know that there were a couple of graves on that plot.Nobody knew whose graves were those.
One day, after the hospital was built, a woman was brought into the hospital for a suspected case of appendicitis. The doctor was away and there was no way of reaching him as there were no telephones at that time. The woman was in deep pain and everyone was thinking that the lady would soon die.
As her relatives waited for the doctor to arrive, they saw two men in doctors’ uniforms come in and take the woman to the operation theatre. Next day, the relatives found the patient in perfect health. However, the two doctors were never found.
There were no doctors that fateful night in that hospital! So who were they? Nobody knows about them even today.
Could it be that those two were the two British doctors whose graves lay in that vacant plot?
Sikandar Bagh, one of the topmost Lucknow haunted places
I had always sense that this famous garden in Lucknow had some eerie quality about it.
A few days back, my suspicion was confirmed that Sikandar Bagh is indeed a haunted and ghostly place.
In the War of Independence that took place in 1857, 72 Britishers and more than 2,000 Indians lost their lives here.
The Britishers won that War and cremated their fallen comrades with dues respect.
However, these people did not allow a proper cremation of the dead Indian soldiers! Their bodies were left to rot and be eaten by vultures, dogs, and other wild animals! Such, was their depth of hostility.
Until a few years back, it was said that the spirits of the dead soldiers used to roam in this beautiful park. I would rate Sikandar Bagh as one of the most Lucknow haunted places.
Now that I have aroused your curiosity in this timeless city, let me help you in reaching here.
How to reach Lucknow?
There ate many trains that connect Lucknow with Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Agra, and Hyderabad. Consult this website www.irctc.co.in to book your train tickets to Lucknow.
If you want to save time and reach there quickly, then a couple of websites that you can visit for booking flights; www.makemytrip.com and www.yatra.com. Yes, Lucknow is very well-connected too.
Where to stay in Lucknow?
The best hotel in Lucknow definitely is the Taj Palace. Another good hotel is The Carlton. This hotel was formerly a palace and you will immediately fall in love with it upon checking in.
The best time to visit Lucknow is from October to March when the weather is cool.
Did you like this post on Lucknow haunted places? Would you like me to add some more places to this list?
Please let me know.
And by the way, if you want to read authentic stuff on haunted houses in India then, you may please buy this book written by Ruskin Bond.
These Varanasi festivals like Dev Dipawali and Kartik Purnima will delight you no end. If you are in Banaras (Varanasi) right now, then you must immediately reach the banks of the Ganga. Fabulous sights and experiences await you.
Varanasi festivals- let’s explain some terms
The word Dev means god or gods. Dipawali means ‘ a row of lamps’. ‘Kartik’ is a month (roughly corresponding to October/November) of the Hindu calendar, while ‘Purnima’ refers to the night of the full moon. So here we are, Dev Dipawali is a festival of lights in honor of gods and is celebrated in October/November, each year. Of course, it should be a full moon night on the day of the festival.
I won’t give anymore gyan on this subject. Have a look at some of the images that I have sourced from Flickr.com. Thanks, Flickr.
Though the traditional Dipawali just passed us a few weeks back, the ancient city of Varanasi has its own version of this festival.
Isn’t this surreal? Can you see those people standing on the waters holding big lamps and praying to the gods in the sky?
And many thanks, Anoop Keshari for this wonderful snap.
Story of Dev Dipawali
There are two reasons why this festival is celebrated in Varanasi this day.
According to one story, Dev Diwali is celebrated to remember the victory of Lord Shiva over the demon, Tripurasur. This rakshas or demon was a combination of three demons, actually.
If you have been following my blog, you will remember that Lord Shiva is also considered as the God of Death. Varanasi is HIS city. It is Shiva who brings people alive and it is HE alone who takes away their lives.
Another story about Dev Diwali goes like this. One day, Sage Vishwamitra thought that the gods needed to be punished. He then decided to send his disciple, Trishanku to heaven and take over its affairs.
The gods became afraid and thought of preventing Trishanku from entering their kingdom. As Trishanku was preparing to enter the heavens, he was stopped mid-way by the devas or the gods.
Now Trishanku had nowhere to go. He stood suspended in the sky for many years. Vishwamitra would not let him come back to the earth and the gods would not budge, either.
Frustrated, Vishwamitra then decided to create a new heaven altogether. He had the yogic powers to do so after all!
When the devas came to know about it, they pleaded with the Sage and after some time, a solution was reached between him and the gods. So, Dev Diwali celebrates that particular occasion when a peace agreement was reached at between the devas and the Rishi.
It is said that on Dev Diwali, humans and gods celebrate the occasion together. Interesting, isn’t it?
Go to any part of Varanasi today and you will find all the homes lit up like this.
Now that you have read about this Varanasi festival, you must know about how to reach the city and where to stay.
How to reach Varanasi?
Train- I would recommend that you take a train to this city. There is good connectivity to Varanasi with Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and other major Indian cities. Aggod website for making reservations is https://www.irctc.co.in/eticketing/loginHome.jsf
Flight- If you don’t have time and would like to fly into Varanasi then there are a couple of online travel companies like www.makemytrip.com or Cleartrip. You can also book your tickets at Jet Airways, Indigo, Spicejet and of course, the state-owned Air India.
A few days back, I got the chance of visiting the famous Lodi Gardens Delhi. Have you visited this park, yet? No? I would strongly recommend you to spend a few quiet hours in this glorious place along with your family. Weekends would be fine but this beautifully landscaped garden is visited by thousands of people even during the weekdays.
Lodi Gardens Delhi as a battlefield
Not many people know that this park was the site of a major battle several hundreds of years ago between the forces of Timur Lame and the Sultan of Delhi. After that battle- which was won by Timur- Delhi lost more than 100,000 citizens in a massacre ordered by the victor.
I have taken some images of this garden, I hope you will like them.
These images were taken at 11 AM, so there is a little bit of haziness in them.
All the buildings in the Lodi Gardens Delhi display elements of Hindu architecture. For example, in the above image, the gateway is Hindu in origin. In my opinion, the Muslim Sultans converted the existing Hindu temples and palaces into Muslim tombs.
Do you agree?
Look at this window, also called as a jharokha, in Hindi/ Sanskrit.
This jharokha is a typical Hindu style window. Perhaps there was a Hindu palace here which was later converted into a tomb.
A magic of a pond
This wonderful garden has a small but enchanting lake as well. Relax yourself by watching the ducks come very close to you and raise a holler.
And if you want to lose yourself in the greenery of this wonderful garden, then go ahead and hide.
This is that part of the year when the whole world waits to watch Krishna’s celestial dance Maha Raas with its naked eyes.
I am not kidding but it is believed in many parts of India that Lord Krishna actuallycomes down to Earth in His mortal body and dances with Gopies!
Read this article to understand the philosophical meaning of this legend.
Actually, I should have written about this fascinating story a couple of years ago but God knows why I did not pen it down.
You know who Lord Krishna is, right?
For the benefit of my overseas readers, Krishna is the eighth avatar of Vishnu. I am writing about Him in the present tense because, though, He lived and died several thousand years ago, Krishna lives on in the hearts and minds of billions of people the world over.
Some people, particularly the ladies, consider Him to be a bubbly child, whereas others consider him to to be the perfect human being. For them, Krishna is devoid of desires, greed and other human imperfections. He was the embodiment of God or Bramha or Parmatma who came down to Earth to teach us about how to lead a good and virtuous life.
Krishna’s celestial dance Maha Raas
Every year, millions of Indians believe that Krishna comes back to Earth during these days of the autumn season and dances with His Gopies.
I think this is just a legend and nothing else. This legend has a philosophical underpinning that I will explain to you, but first, let me explain the meaning of ‘Gopies’.
This word means young maidens and girls in a simple sense. But do you think that Krishna would come down to Earth simply to dance merrily with young nubile girls?
Krishna is Parmatma or Supreme Being. Gopies are us the atmans of us mortal beings. We yearn to become one with God or Parmatma. We are unsuccessful in our attempt to become one with Paramatma because our atma is covered up with desires, wants, greed, lust, anger etc.
Until we remove these bad qualities from our persona, we will never be able to achieve Nirvana or Moksha. The ultimate aim of every human being is to become one with Paramatma but for most of us, this task is near impossible.
So, when Krishna comes down to Earth to dance with his Gopies, it essentially means that the Lord is trying to help us become better human beings so that we can become one with Him. Unless we consciously remove our vices, we will never succeed in our efforts.
Watch this video and you will be zapped by this unknown facet of Indian culture ;
This is my interpretation. There can be thousands of other interpretations and each one of them may have a ring of truth to it.
Let’s read an interesting story about Krishna’s celestial dance Maha Raas
My dear Robert, John, Joseph, Lisa etc, what if I told that Krishna actually dances with the ladies these days in a secluded garden located in Central India?
You’d be zapped, isn’t it?
Well yes, many people believe that during this time of the year, Krishna cavorts and plays with his favorite Gopies in a small park in Vrindavan. This ancient town, Vrindavan is roughly 160 kilometers from Delhi.
Intruders turn to stone!
Yes, the same people believe that gatecrashers to this park- Nidhivan- face a terrible punishment for this crime. All of these ‘ unwanted guests’ turn to stone!
All of these ‘ unwanted guests’ turn to stone and nobody is spared.
You know what? I have been trying to visit this park for many years but I guess, Lord Krishna does not want me to visit this place.
Would you like to see Nidhivan? Let me know so we can plan a visit to this interesting place.
Carrying the Indian culture forward
I wrote this post on Maha Raas because I feel that more and more number of Indians and people living outside must know about it. Though Kathak is a popular form of dance, yet many people do not really know about Krishna’s celestial dance.
I will fail in my efforts if I did not tell you about the lady who is the driving force behind the Maha Raas dance. She is none other than Sushri Uma Sharma, one of the greatest experts in Kathak today. I have grown up watching her perform this dance in several shows.Read more about this wonderful person here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kum_Uma_Sharma
Nearing seventy, Uma ji still looks like a sprightly 25-year-old today. Surely, it was sheer joy in watching her speak and perform a little bit yesterday.
Venue of Maha Raas
If you happen to be in Delhi at the time of reading this article, then you should go to the Lakshmi Narayan temple or Birla Temple. This performance starts at 6.30 and goes on till 9.30 in the night.
The last day of this dance drama will be October 7, 2017. So rush to this magnificent place with your family.
I was there yesterday and a full moon shone brightly down upon the temple spires, the sight was truly enchanting.
Di you like this post about Krishna’s celestial dance Maha Raas? Did I answer all your questions?
Don’t you want to escape the cycle of birth and death?
Don’t you want to forever run away from this non-stop cycle of love, separation, anger, jealousy, greed, and attachment?
Who doesn’t? I, for one, would like to get salvation or, as they say, Nirvana, from this non-stop cycle of death, birth, death, and rebirth,
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If you are a Muslim or a Christian, you will find it difficult to relate to what I am saying. Non- Hindu/ Jain/ Buddhist philosophies do not believe in rebirth.
But, what if you hit upon a magic formula which makes it easy to escape this cycle? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, now it is really very easy to get salvation, moksha or nirvana.
How to escape birth and death?
You don’t have to perform mountain breaking feats for this, really. It is very easy and all you need to do is get a copy or a notebook from a bank.
This copy is available from the Bank of Rama in Ayodhya which is a city in Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya is also the birthplace of Lord Rama, the hero of Ramayana. He lived on this planet several thousands of years ago and led a virtuous life. Some people aver that He lived several hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Because of His noble deeds, Rama is considered by millions of Indians as the avatar of Vishnu who is the protector of all the living creatures. They worship Rama and try to copy His good deeds and values in order to become better human beings.
Kaliyuga and birth and death
You see, in India, we have divided time into four main bands. These are Krityuga, Satyuga, Dwaparyuga, and Kaliyuga. The proportion of evil increases progressively in these yugas or bands of time from Krityuga to Kaliyuga. Our present era is Kaliyuga and that is why we see so many incidents of lust, anger, greed, and other forms of violence.
Attaining moksha or liberation from the birth and death cycle is very difficult in this age because of so many distractions.
To achieve our objectives easily, our epics say that all a person has to do to attain nirvana in Kalyuga is to chant the Sitaram. You don’t have to do any other work like performing pilgrimages or fasting. Simple chanting of the name of Rama and Sita is enough. This purpose can be also be served by writing Sitaram several times on paper.
The Bank of Rama’s value proposition
Clearly, this is a big business idea for the Bank of Rama in Ayodhya. This bank sells copies and notebooks to anyone who is interested in writing the names of Rama and Sita. More the number of times that you write Sitaram, the better it is for you.
So, So far, this bank has donated millions of notebooks to devotees who are spread in India, United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific. And in return, the Bank of Rama has received billions of names of Sitarama written down by His devotees in all those copies! Billions! Isn’t it amazing that faith and business come together in such a non-intrusive manner?
Now you may argue that the devotees have been conned into writing the name of Rama by this bank to make big bucks. Well, you have your own views but nobody is complaining! In fact, people have been writing the name of Rama on paper for a very long time. Even His favorite disciple, Hanumanji, is often shown writing his Lord’s name on a piece of paper. The Bank of Rama in Ayodhya is situated in the Mani Ram ki Chhaoni area.
Opening your account
To open an account, the account holder has to write “Sitaram” 500,000 times on paper and give it to the bank manager. Later, his name and address are recorded manually by the manager and an account is also created. Every account holder is also expected to write ‘Sitaram’ at least 8.4 million times to maintain his account. This is the total number of species in the world and we as humans get our human body after living as all these species. T
The idea is that when we write ‘Sitaram’ 8.4 million times, we will never enter the cycle of death and birth again.
And if you are wondering who Sita is, then let me tell you this- She is divine energy and was the consort of Rama. Rama is incomplete without Sita, to obtain HIM, you will have to utter the name of Sita first.
Why this ‘business’?
This bank was founded by Mahant Nrityagopal Das, one of the most important saints of Ayodhya.
One day he realized that most people are wasting their time doing useless things like gossiping or spreading rumors. The Mahant began encouraging these people to better utilize their free time to write’ Sitaram’ on paper and improve their chances of attaining moksha. And this how this bank started its ‘business’.
The manager of this bank is a retired engineer who says that he finds joy and peace in maintaining records of all these repetitions of the word ‘Sitaram’. I am pretty much excited by the value proposition of this bank. Are you too?
There is another bank like this one in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The difference between these two banks is that the Chennai bank sells copies and textbooks. I guess it is okay to raise money for its operations. What do you think?
To be honest, I had been wanting to write about my brush with a few solo women travelers for quite some time.The thought was there but I wasn’t sure about its articulation.
I am using the word, ‘brush’ because never in my life had I expected to spend long hours with this set of people.
Friends, I had never even expected that I will turn a travel professional. Writing travel stories was all I knew.Never in my wildest dreams, had I imagined that I will take women travelers around in Delhi!
But as the knowledgeable say, one doesn’t have any control over one’s destiny. The same thing applied to me as well and here I am a full fledged travel professional who takes people around historical places in Delhi.
I will not be long winded so let me come straight to the point. I am just letting you know my challenges of handling the emotional outbursts of some of my solo women guests.
Confessions of solo women travelers
The Girl who sees ghosts
I am not joking with you when I tell you with all seriousness that this lady indeed communicates with spirits, ghosts, and other supernatural entities.
I first met, N, more than three months back after she responded to one of my event calls. She wanted to explore Delhi, particularly the abandoned places of the city. N was very clear that she wanted to accompany me alone.
N was very clear that she wanted to accompany me alone.
‘No other guests’, she insisted at the time of booking the tour. I made a feeble protest but then she was clear with what she wanted. ‘Fair enough’, I replied weakly.
When the trip began, she was absolutely silent. N was hanging on to each word that I spoke. She seemed to me to be quite an impressionable student. But I felt uncomfortable. I expect my guests to be vocal. If they don’t speak up, it means I am a boring speaker.
In the second hour of the trip, N began to loosen up- what she did, where she grew, her education etc.
I was mildly amused.
A life troubled
At the beginning of the third hour, her words had started coming out in a torrent
Separated from her husband
Deep into spirituality
As she vented her emotions, her trials, and tribulations, I did not know what to do.
I was at a loss for words.
Should I have probed her further?
Or kept silent?
Or just maybe placed a comforting arm around her shoulders?
The last option was simply not possible.
I was plain dumbfounded as she shared the details of her troubled marriage with me. She told me she had married of her own will and had gone against her parents. A couple of years down the line, she divorced her Aussie husband.
Took up the job of an air-hostess in a major airline. Rose to the top of her department.
Quit the job.
Became spiritually inclined when she thought she was hearing voices of her dead relatives.
The Karaoke Champion
V had landed from a foreign country and was on her way to Ladakh when she decided to explore the Chandni Chowk area of Delhi.
We met at a convenient point and began walking down the crowded alleys of Old Delhi. Unlike N, V was a quite a chatty woman. She quizzed me about the various run down buildings of the Chowk area, gazed at the attractive saris displayed in the shops and generally laughed a lot.
People travel for different reasons like taking part in cultural festivals worldwide or to take on an adventure. Some travellers want to try new foods and meet new people.whatever reason you have for travelling, it’s amazing to get out there and see the world. A great immersive opportunity to get involved with is a cultural festival.
Whatever reasons you have for travelling, it’s amazing to get out there and see the world. A great immersive opportunity to get involved with is a cultural festival. And around the world, there is plenty to discover.
The best cultural festivals worldwide
Starting with India, and then exploring elsewhere in the world, we’ll highlight some of the best cultural festivals worldwide you can get involved with. Check them out:
1.Festival of Holi
Arguably one of India’s better-known religious celebrations, the Festival of Holi – often referred to as the festival of colour – has spread across the world. Although to experience the true cultural significance, you should visit India and their spectacular celebrations.
Image Credits- Wikimedia
Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season and typically lasts for two days. Although it celebrates religious myths and legends, Holi is best known for the main event where people throw scented coloured powder and perfume at each other.
2. Pongal Harvest Festival
As one of the biggest annual harvest celebrations, Pongal celebrations mark a period of plenty, peace and happiness. It’s held in Tamil Nadu in January. As this page on Indian festivals explains, ‘Pongal’ means the ‘boiling over’ of rice and milk – so prepare yourself for plenty of delicious food. After all, India is known for its amazing cuisine.
3.National Cheese Festival
If food is your thing, there are so many festivals to choose from. We’ve opted for Spain’s National Cheese Festival in Trujillo, which boasts over 300 different types of cheese. What’s more, as Escape Here say, the festival also holds a variety of workshops, tasting sessions and demonstrations. It’s no surprise that it attracts upwards of 100,000 international cheese-lovers, Truly, this is one of the greatest cultural festivals worldwide.
In Mongolia, there’s an ancient cultural spectacle dominated by performances of archery, wrestling and bareback horse riding. Held in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, it offers a unique insight into the Mongolian way of life. Naadam Festival is closely related to the history and culture of the culture.
As this blog on the history says, it celebrates the many talents of the people, including strength, movement and flexibility revealed in their wrestling skills, their eye-sight and hand-orientation is shown in their spear-throw and archery skills, and patience and bravery in their horse training skills. Be prepared to be impressed.
It might not have religious significance, but Glastonbury has arguably become a cultural event for many people. The most popular music festival in the world takes place in the British countryside and attracts thousands of people every year. In fact, tickets sell out in minutes. Expect crowds, mud and some of the best live music you’ll ever hear.
6.St Patrick’s Day
An important cultural and religious celebration, St Patrick’s Day marks the death of the foremost patron saint of Ireland. On the 17th March, you could have an absolutely great time celebrating in a way only the Irish can. However, some experts suggest heading to the US, where some people might just care more about being Irish than the Irish themselves.
Highlights include the green-stained river in Chicago, the famous parade in New York and the huge crowds in Boston, where 16% of residents claim Irish origins.
What cultural events have you attended around the world? Share your recommendations and experiences with us.
We know that you have been planning your India travel for several months. This article will help you enjoy your India vacation to stay away from these common health problems. Make a note of this article, maybe you can bookmark it for future reference. It would be good if you also shared this health article with your friends who are headed to India if not this year then somewhat later.
Please note that this health article does not substitute for doctors. It can only guide you to overcome certain health related issues that you might encounter while traveling through India.
We also advise you to visit a doctor for the necessary injections and immunizations before you start your travel.
6 common health problems
Many travelers to India often suffer from this illness. This is actually upset stomach which results when you eat unclean food. This illness is more painful when you are away from toilets and other public amenities.
Diarrhea also results because your stomach is unable to cope with a change in diet.
To treat yourself with this illness, carry some Immodium with yourself. Also, carry some Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) to take care of your tummy. Dissolve ORS in clean water and drink the mixture.
Prevention– Avoid diarrhea by refusing to eat food cooked on street. You should have your lunch or dinner in restaurants frequented by a large number of other diners. Don’t take washed salad and fresh fruit juice because the juice may be mixed with contaminated water. Insist upon having hot and freshly made food. Avoid having meat during your India trip because it may have been washed with dirty water.If someone is offering a freshly cut fruit, just say NO. The knife may have been washed with unclean water.Drinking bottled water is a must. You will also see a large number of vendors selling freshly cut coconut. Don’t fall for that fruit. Have lots of spicy food while in India, it helps in cleaning up your stomach and nose.
Stay away from ice-cubes offered to you by street vendors as these cubes may be made in unhygienic conditions.
Tips on coping with diarrhea have been shared with me by my dear friend Stephanie Langlet, who lives in France. She is a regular visitor to India and works closely with Indians. You can interact with her via this website, https://tribesandminorities.com/blog/
Mosquito -related diseases
Dengue and Malaria fever
Dengue and malaria are some of the most common health problems that affect not just the travelers but also the Indians. These diseases are caused by two different kinds of mosquitoes.
If you are travelling through India during the July, August and September months, then ensure that you have the required protection against these diseases.
Typically, these diseases occur in areas where there is stagnant water which causes the mosquitoes to breed in large numbers.
The main symptom of malaria is a flu-like fever. You can treat yourself by taking anti-malarial drugs. Prevent malaria by rubbing on your skin anti-mosquito repellents ( creams) that you can buy at the local chemist. One very popular cream is Odomos.
There are also some anti-mosquito repellents that emit some smoke (All Out), buy them and use them during the nights. Malaria mosquitoes normally bite during nights.
Dengue is caused by tiger-striped mosquitoes that bite during early morning or late evening.
The symptoms of dengue are quite similar to those of malaria. However, dengue is also accompanied by pains in the joints, bones and behind the eyes. If you are not careful, then your platelet count may go down because of this illness.
If you think you have dengue, then go to a doctor immediately. Luckily, most government hospitals in India give free treatment of dengue.
Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen, if you have dengue as these drugs may increase complications.
This disease is caused by having food that is contaminated by the faeces of an infected person.
The common symptoms of this disease are diarrhea, high fever, vomiting and sweating.
To prevent this disease, please get yourself inoculated by a doctor. You can also use antibiotics to cure yourself of this disease.
One of the most common health problems that affect the travelers is Tetanus. It is a bacterial disease that enters the human body through cuts and bruises. If you get a cut or a bruise for whatever reasons, go and get yourself injected.
The most common symptom of this disease is stiff muscles and spasms.
Get inoculated by a doctor before you start your journey to India.
You will find a large number of stray dogs in India when you come here. While most of these dogs are harmless, you never know when one of them can decide to bite you.
Dog bite can cause rabies and if you do not consult a doctor in time then you may get into serious trouble.
Symptoms of rabies include mental confusion, fever, headache, excess salivation, muscle spasms and even paralysis.
What happens if you are bitten by a dog? Follow these steps:
Place a clean towel over the injury to stop bleeding
Try to keep the bitten area elevated.
Wash the bitten area with lots of soap water
Apply a sterile bandage over the injury
Visit a doctor immediately
The doctor might ask these questions;
Did the dog bite you after it was provoked or was it an unprovoked bite?
Do you know the owner of the dog?
Is the dog vaccinated?
Do you have a medical history? Do you have diabetes, high blood pressure etc.?
I hope that you have a safe and pleasant experience in India. In case you fall sick , then please consult this website for a list of hospitals in Delhi that will provide you urgent care:
‘ Savdhan,’ shouts Vyasji, ‘Chup Raho’ in the Ramnagar Ramlila of Varanasi. He is a 70-year old Brahmin and his task is to ensure that all the characters of this more than 200- year old dance drama remember their lines. Right now, he is asking the young boys of the Lila, to keep quiet and concentrate on their jobs.
Right now, he is asking the young boys of the Lila, to keep quiet and concentrate on their jobs.
At the Ramleela
There are several other elderly gentlemen like him at one of the several venues of the Ramnagar Ramlila. These wizened people, also called as Vyas Jis, work as prompters, directors, and trainers of this dance drama.
On the stage, you also see 12 wise men seated in concentric circles, reciting verses from the Ramacharitmanas.As the voices of these men (Ramayanis) fade away, a wooden chariot appears near the stage.
Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita are back to Ayodhya after their 14 year-exile in the jungles.
The crowd bursts into an uproar,’ Raja Ramchandra ki Jai’.
It has been 2 hours that the crowd has been waiting for the trio of Ram, Lakshman, and Sita to arrive at the stage. Today is the last day of Ramnagar Ramleela and everybody is waiting for the coronation of Rama as the King of Ayodhya.
The main sponsor of the Ramleela, Kashi Naresh is already on the stage to welcome the trio.
Ramnagar Ramlila and how it began
For travelers who are coming to India for the first time, Ramlila is an intensely personal experience. If you get an opportunity to see this ancient dance-drama, grab it with open hands. You not only get an insight into the soul of India, you also get to rub shoulders with Indians of all classes.
But what is Ramlila?
In one sentence, Ramlila is a docu-drama about the life of Rama, his family, the monkey god Hanuman and the Lord of Rakshasas, Ravana.
Every year, this drama is organized by several theater groups across the country and is watched by millions of Indians. The language of this drama is Hindi.
While there are Ramlilas and Ramlilas, in Varanasi, there is a special kind of Ramlila which goes by the name, Ramnagar Ramlila.
Ramnagar is the name of a small fort or castle in Varanasi. This Ramlila is patronized by the King of Ramnagar and hence the name, Ramnagar Ramlila.
It is said that this Ramlila was started by another King of Benares more than 200 years back. His name was Udit Narayan Singh.
Ask Jai Prakash Pathak, the personal secretary of the present Maharaja, and he will gladly share the history of this Ramlila. According to him, one day Udit Singh had gone to Mirzapur for some work. After he completed his work, he stayed back in the town to watch the local Ramlila. Unfortunately, he couldn’t as he arrived at the venue late.
Feeling bad about the experience, the King decided to create a Ramlila in Varanasi on his own and since then, the Ramnagar Ramlila has been in existence.
The storyline about Ramlila is taken from the great Indian epic, Ramayana composed by Saint Valmiki.
Some experts think that Valmiki lived during the time of Rama, which is several thousand years ago. Others, however, are not sure, they say that Rama lived several million years back.
However, the present day Ramlilas are inspired by Goswami Tulsidas who lived approximately 500 years back. He thought that Valmiki’s Ramayana was difficult to understand by the masses as it was written in Sanskrit. Tulsidas also thought that it was high time that Ramayana is re-interpreted keeping in mind the changes in morality and social values.
Keeping all these factors in mind, Tulsidas wrote the Ramcharitmanas ( the story of Rama) in a local Hindi dialect, Avadhi. A few years later, he decided to lend an audio-visual character to the Ramcharitmanas by starting Ramlilas.
You will agree with me that listening and watching a story is more effective than reading it.
And this is how the concept of Ramlila came into being.
Today, millions of Indians start their day by reciting verses of Ramcharitmanas- this literature has indeed impacted our lives very deeply.
I know what your next question is going to be.
Where is Ramnagar, Mr. Swayam Tiwari?
The answer is -right across Varanasi. To reach Ramnagar, you will have to cross Ganga.
This small place is known for the Ramnagar Fort which is the official residence of Kashi Naresh or the Raja of Benares. The word, Kashi means Varanasi or Benares and Naresh stands for King.
Unlike the other Indian Kings, the Kashi Naresh is not a Rajput. According to some people, he is a Brahmin while others say that he is a Bhumihar ( an amalgam of Kshatriyas and Brahmins).
Ramnagar Ramleela- what is so unique?
Unlike the traditional Ramlilas, the one at Ramnagar is very special.
Firstly, this Ramlila is staged for 30 days or one lunar month. The first episode starts from Ganesh Chaturthi or Anant Chaturdashi (sometime in September) and concludes 30 days later. The traditional Ramlilas are held for only 10 days.
Secondly, the Ramnagar Ramlila does not take place in one central place. The venue keeps changing daily and this means that the audience keeps following the cast from one episode to another.
For a month, parts of the Ramnagar Fort and Varanasi are named after the places mentioned in the ancient epic, Ramayana.
A dusty plot of land represents Ayodhya while a small garden is chosen as the venue for the Sita-Rama meeting. The Sita Swayamvar is held on a small raised platform where Rama pulls the might bow and wins the hand of Sita.
Sometimes, when the action shifts from one venue to another the same day, the audience follows the cast.
Just young boys
All the characters are played by boys and men only. There are no ladies in the cast.
Girls are not allowed to play in the Ramleela at Ramnagar. Since young children have pure hearts, only they can play the roles of Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughna. For the next one month, these children are considered divine by the spectators.
The main cast of Rama, Lakshman, Sita, Bharat, and Lakshman are played by boys under the age of 16. These boys are Brahmins and must know Sanskrit. The Kashi Naresh is personally involved in the selection of all the artists and he indeed makes sure that the best make the cut.
Har Har Mahadev, the crowd chants as the Kashi Naresh finally crowns Rama as the King of Ayodhya. It is midnight and it seems the whole of Varanasi has come to Ramnagar to witness the final event of Ramnagar Ramleela- Coronation
I did not know the significance of the Savan Somvar Vrat until yesterday when I got down to write a new blog post for my website.
For some time, I had been wanting to write on the ancient practice of offering milk and water to Lord Shiva by millions of Indians during July-August.
Fortunately, I got the inspiration to write this post on the second Somvar of this Savan i.e. yesterday.
Meaning of Savan Somvar Vrat
There are three words in Savan Somvar Vrat and I will explain each of them here, as simply as possible.
The word Savan represents a particular month in the Indian/ Hindu calendar. This month marks the beginning of the monsoons in India. Normally, Savan corresponds to July.
Somvar is Monday, the first day of the week. The word Som denotes moon and Var is a day. So, Somvar is the day of the Moon or Monday.
Vrat in Hindu terminology means a penance or a vow. People observe certain vows on Mondays during July.The idea behind these vows is to clean one’s body, mind and spirit.
This year, there are 5 Somvars in the 2017 Savan.
I hope it is now properly understood.
Shiva and Parvati
On these Mondays in July, people offer milk and water to Lord Shiva. This year, there are 5 Mondays in the Savan month when devotees can offer milk and water to the Lord and observe penances and vows. The Savan Somvar Vrat tradition is tightly linked to Lord Shiva.
Shiva is one of the three Gods of the Holy Trinity. He is the God of Destruction but is also the primordial source of all creation.
The Vedas say that billions of years ago, there was a Golden Egg which burst open all of a sudden and created our Universe and Solar System. That Egg is represented by Shiva whom we represent in the form of a Shivaling.
When we all die, then our souls go and rest in that Egg.
Isn’t all this mystical?
Parvati is the wife of Shiva. He has an entire family which comprises Parvati and two sons- Ganesh and Kartikeya.
Why is Shiva worshiped?
First of all, Shiva is the God of Death so many Indians pray to him so that death doesn’t visit them.
But there is another reason why Shankar or Shiva is worshiped .He is selfless and friendly and does not harbor any ill will towards any creation.
In fact, Shiva is so selfless that He once drank poison for the benefit of all His creations! That poison made His throat blue and that is why another name of Lord Shiva is Neelkanth or the One whose throat is blue.
However there was a problem. The bridegroom was blind by one eye and did not want to tell the King about his disability. This marriage was going to be a sham affair and the King was unaware of this plot.
The indecent proposal
When the bridegroom saw the handsome young man standing by the road, he came to the latter and made a proposal; why don’t you marry the girl in my place? I will reward you with lots of gems and jewellery. Once the marriage is over, you can go back to your house and leave the girl with me.
I think our young man was tempted by the lure of money for he agreed readily.
When he sat down for the marriage rituals, the young man reflected on his stupid act. He fished out a handkerchief and began writing a small message for his ‘wife’- I am not your bridegroom, the real person is somebody else.
Alas, the young boy could not hand over his note to the girl and finally both of them were married.
Nevertheless, the young man finally explained the situation to his wife and told her that he was leaving for his house to pursue studies. Of course, the girl was shattered upon hearing all this and she too decided to go back to her parents’ home. She simply did not want to continue her life with her one-eyed husband.
The clock was ticking..
We all have limited lives on this planet but we don’t know when our time will be over.
In the case of our handsome young man, the clock was ticking all the time.
One day, tragedy struck finally.
It so happened that on that fateful day, the uncle was feeding some guests in house and his nephew was studying in another room.
All of a sudden, the nephew experienced a pain in his chest and in the next few minutes, passed away. The time of the nephew was well and truly over. The God of Death had come and taken away the young man’s life.
When this information reached the young man’s parents, they were stunned. While the father had prepared himself for this eventuality, the mother went into a painful silence.
Tragedy had revisited this couple.
Seeing all this, Goddess Parvati again requested Shiva to intervene. But, the Lord merely said,” Dead men can’t be brought back to life”.
But She persisted and later the Lord had to concede to her request.
Lo and behold, the young boy came back to life once again !
You can imagine the happiness that swept through the hearts and minds of the couple.
But why did Shiva bring back the dead boy to life ?
The Lord says to his consort, ” All those who keep the Savan Somvar Vrat make me happy and contented. I return that happiness to my devotees”.
This is also one reason why many Hindus practice this Vrat on Savan Somvars as it keeps death away.
Do you know that Shiva is also offered milk , leaves, and water to cool HIS throat? After consuming poison, His throat is always burning and one way of thanking him is to offer cold milk, leaves and lots of water.
What a way of thanking the gentle Shiva!
Did you like this post?
If you have any other information on Savan Somvar Vrat, please write back to me.
How many of you have heard about Maheshwar? I would bet that very few from among you would be aware of this Varanasi of Madhya Pradesh.The land of the famous Maheshwar Saris, Ahilya Fort, and the world famous Narmada ghats awaits you.
Many travelers to Madhya Pradesh know only about tigers, jungles, and Khajuraho and I hope Madhya Pradesh Tourism does some serious marketing of Maheshwar.
But Madhya Pradesh is a state of many mysteries. It is like the famous Russian dolls- each doll holds another one inside it, you know what I mean, don’t you?
Maheshwar- about legends and folklore
Many Indian towns and cities are associated with folklore and legends, but Maheshwar is different.
This ancient town, which is on the banks of the Narmada, is as old as Varanasi and packs in several legends. The dates of some of these legends go back to several, several thousands of years. You think it is weird, then you are not an exception. India is the land of fables and legends and my job is to share them with you.
History of Maheshwar
Have you watched the film, Bahubali? You will remember the name of a city, Mahishmati, in the film. Well, this town is closely connected with Mahishmati. Some writers like Sankalia, Bose, and Francis Wilford say that Maheshwar and Mahishmati are the same.
I brought up the subject of Mahishmati (महिष्मति) because various travelers and historians have failed to find out this ancient town.
Mahishmati is believed to have existed till 13th century AD. This town was also the capital of the Kalchuri kings who lived in Central India.
The earliest known Kalachuri family (c. 550–620 ce) ruled in northern Maharashtra, Gujarat, Malwa, and parts of the western Deccan and probably had their capital at Mahishmati in the Narmada River valley. Three members of the family—Krishnaraja, Shankaragana, and Buddharaja—are known from epigraphs and coins distributed over a wide area. Although the rise of the Badami Chalukyas ended Kalachuri power in the early 7th century, the dynasty seems to have lingered in the Malwaregion until a late date. (source- Encyclopedia Brittanica)
Many ancient Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharat mention Mahishmati. This was the capital of King Kartaveerya Arjun, who was the Lord of the World.
Some experts, however, consider the temple town of Omkareshwar as the site of Mahishmati.
However, according to the majority opinion, Mahishmati and Maheshwar are one and the same.
The story of Kartaveerya Arjun
If I told you that the King of Maheshwar had 1000 arms, what would your reaction be? You will exclaim, of course, no?
His name was Kartaveerya Arjun but I doubt he actually had 1000 arms. Probably, this King was very powerful in his time and controlled several thousand kingdoms. You know how stories convert into legends.
Arjun lived in Mahishmati and had several wives in his palace. Some people say that he had 500 wives!
This king is mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharat and if you want to read more about him then please read this book;
The wives of Arjun wanted a large playing area so the king stopped the flow of the mighty Narmada that was flowing close by.
While the king and his party were enjoying themselves, in came Ravana, the King of Lanka.
Ravana was another powerful king and had 10 heads! He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva too and always carried a Shivaling with him.
Finding an open ground, Ravana placed the Shivaling upon it and began praying to the Lord.
Meanwhile, Arjun was finished with his merrymaking and so undammed the Narmada. He did not know that Ravana was worshipping on the river bed nearby!
As the Narmada gushed down the river bed, its waters swept off the precious Shivaling of Ravana. He was zapped and did not know what happened all of a sudden.
And then he found out the reason for his discomfort.
10 heads and 1000 arms
No prizes to guess what happened next. There was a furious battle between Ravana and the 1000-armed Kartaveerya Arjuna. Both were battle-hardened fighters and extremely powerful kings.
Ravana challenged Arjuna to a duel which the latter declined haughtily. Arjun considered Ravana with contempt.
But Ravana was Ravana. He was arrogant but did not know the power of Arjun. Ravana thought that he was the most powerful king in the world.
A bitter battle ensued which led to a humiliating defeat of Ravana. He was tied down by ropes and put in a jail by Arjun.
So, the next time when you visit Maheshwar, replay this story in your mind.
The Cow and Arjun
Then there is another story about Maheshwar that you must know and this one again relates to Arjun.
One day, he and his army were passing through a jungle. It was a hot day and all these people were feeling tired and thirsty but there was no soul in sight which could help them.
After walking for a few miles, they came to an ashram of Sage Jamdagni. He had a cow that used to give lots of milk and other kinds of food to the travelers, free.
Jamdagni offered those goodies to these tired travelers and lo and behold, these people regained their energy in no time!
But Arjun was a greedy fellow. He demanded the cow from Jamdagni but the Sage refused. The King became angry and killed his host for refusing his demand.
After killing the Sage, Arjun captured the cow and left the premises. He had just stolen the cow of one of the most important saints.
Unlike Jamdagni, who was a peaceful man, Parashuram was the polar opposite. His DNA was made up of anger and Parashu, or axe was the son’s favorite weapon.
When Parashuram came back in the evening, his mother told him about the murder and mayhem. Of course, the son was filled with uncontrollable rage.
Losing no time, Parashuram caught up with his father’s killer and killed Arjun. Parashuram had finally fulfilled his vow.
So you see, Maheshwar is known for this legend too.
Agni and the girl
While researching on Maheshwar, I came across a very interesting fact about this town. Until now, I hadn’t known that this ancient Madhya Pradesh town allowed girls to marry according to their choice!
Yes, that is true.
But what is the origin of this practice?Again, there is a story behind this as well.
Several thousands of years ago, Agni, the God of Fire had promised to protect Maheshwar as long as its people allowed their daughters and sisters to marry according to their choice.
The Fire God was forced to grant this promise because he was a secret lover of the daughter of a brahman living in Maheshwar. Every day, when the brahman lit his sacred fire, Agni used to gaze secretly at the daughter.
The father was, quite obviously, unaware of these developments until one day when he saw Agni and his daughter in an embrace.
The brahman became angry at Agni and was about to curse him when the God gave him a solemn promise. Agni promised the brahman that Maheshwar would stay protected as long as the girls of the town were allowed to marry put of pure love.
Did Maheshwar remain a safe city down the ages? Do the research and let me know.
In relatively modern times. Maheshwar was the capital of Ahilya Bai Holkar.
Ahilya was an amazing woman of her day and age and has left an indelible impression on Indian history.
She was married at an early age to a king of Central India. Her husband, however, died quite early and left her with small kids. Many people expected that Ahilya would commit sati and join her husband in heaven. Ahilya was just 29 when she became a widow.
Many people expected that Ahilya would commit sati and join her husband in heaven. However, her father-in-law dissuaded her from committing suicide and asked her to lead a normal life. Ahilya considered her father-in-law as her father and accepted his advice.
Unfortunately, after a few months of her husband’s death, her father-in-law too expired. Ahilya’s subjects later crowned her as the Queen of the Holkar kingdom.
The young queen did an admirable job and defended her people stoutly against the Muslim invaders. She also constructed several temples, dharmshalas and other buildings for her people.
Ahilya encouraged her people, especially the women, to study and be self-reliant.
When you go to Maheshwar, you will not fail to be impressed by the magnificent Ahilya fort on the banks of Narmada.
One of the everlasting legacies of Queen Ahilya is the Maheshwar saris. These saris were introduced to the people of Maheshwar by Ahilya. She actually invited various artisans and weavers from the Gujarat city of Surat to teach the Maheshwar artisans this art.
Today, these saris are always on the bucket list of every traveler to Maheshwar.
Places to see in Maheshwar
Having delved into the history of Maheshwar, let us go the important places of this town;
Ahilya Fort- This was the palace of Queen Ahiyabai Holkar. If you want to see the setting sun on the banks of Narmada, then this is the place to be in.
Sahastrarjuna Temple- As is evident, this temple was made for Lord Shiva by the famous king, Kartaveerya Arjun. The original temple has been replaced by a newer construction.
Rajrajeshwar Temple- The ceiling of this temple is made of glass and when you visit this place, you will see that the temple is lit by thousands of lamps. These lamps have been burning continuously for hundreds of years.
Ahilya Chhatri- Interested in visiting the memorial of Queen Ahilya? Then visit this place.
Vindhyavasini Temple- This temple is one of the Shaktipeeths of India. If you want to invoke Shakti, then visit this temple.
Sahastradhara- This is a place where the Narmada splits up into several streams.
Maheshwar has more than 100 temples and this is the reason why this town is called the Varanasi of Madhya Pradesh.
Booking a hotel in Maheshwar is not very difficult. Madhya Pradesh Tourism operates a property in the town and you can book one of its rooms online.
Check out these hotels in Maheshwar- Hotel Devarshi, Kanchan Recreation, and Hotel Sanginee. Fares range from rs. 2,500 to Rs. 850/-
How to reach Maheshwar
This town is just 90 kilometers from Indore. You can reach Indore by taking a train or a flight.
Upon reaching Indore, book a cab and reach Maheshwar easily.
The best time to reach Maheshwar is from October to March.
Traveler’s Tip- Club your visit to Maheshwar with Ujjain and Omkareshwar.
Did you like this article on Maheshwar? I hope to get your feedback, dear friends.
This year, the Fourth of July is being observed as the Devshayani Ekadashi. Tomorrow, millions of Hindus will take vows to lead lives of honesty, purity, and abstinence. For the next four months, they will try to stick to their vows.
The word, ‘Devshayani’ means Sleep of the Dev or Lord and ‘Ekadashi’ means the Eleventh Day.In this context, the Eleventh Day refers to the eleventh day of the first half of Ashadh month (June-July).
The Dev, in this case, Vishnu, goes to sleep for the next four months until November. He sleeps in the Ksheer Sagar, or the ocean of milk and His bed is made up within the coils of Sheshnag, or the Great Serpent.
Devshayani Ekadashi is also known as Shayan Ekadashi or Hari Shayan Ekadashi. The word Hari means Vishnu and Shayan means Sleep.
Devshayani Ekadashi and Jagannath Yatra
For many Hindus, Devshayani Ekadashi begins a few days after the Jagannath Yatra. This Yatra marks the journey of Krishna, Balram and their sister, Subhadra to their house and back.
Millions of Hindus believe that Vishnu and Krishna are one and the same. Many thousands of years ago, Vishnu took the form of Krishna to protect the good folks of the world. Reincarnation or avatar is a central thought in the Hindu thought.
People have been observing fasts and other penances on Hari Shayan Ekadashi for many thousands of years. It is not a new phenomenon.
In the Bhavishyottar Purana, Lord Krishna advises Yudhisthir, the head of the Pandava clan, to observe fasts to mark this day. Similarly, Sage Angiras also had advised King Mandhata to observe severe penances and fasts on Shayan Ekadashi. He said that these fasts were necessary to bring rain to the King’s parched kingdom. Sage Angiras also advised that the King’s subjects must join him in observing fasts to bring rains to the country.
Since then, observing fasts and penances has become an important activity for millions of Hindus on Devshayani Ekadashi.
Many Hindus put off their travel plans during the Chaturmas period as the roads become slippery and there is always the risk of sudden rains. In the hills, there is always the risk of landslides and flash floods.
This period comprises the months of July, August, September and some part of October. During these months, Hindus try to stick to their vows and also fast on some days.
For some, this means no liquor, non-vegetarian food and in some cases, no onions also.
Rituals of Devshayani Ekadashi
Devotees must take a bath in the Bramha Muhurta ( before sunrise) to clean their bodies and minds
They must observe a fast for the entire days on Hari Shayan Ekadashi
Do not eat grains, cereals, spices, onions and other tamsik food
Clean the praying area and decorate the idol of Lord Vishnu
Bathe the idol with panchamrit ( curd, milk, honey, ghee, and gangajal)
Offer roli, flowers, kumkum, incense sticks, holy water, fiyas, a hand fan, and prasadam to the deity
Visit nearby temples of Lord Vishnu with their families
Chanting of bhajans
On Hari Shayan Ekadashi, many people go to the ancient temple at Pandharpur finish their yatra (journey).
Pandharpur is a small town in the Sholapur district of Maharashtra and is known for the Vitthal Temple. Vitthal or Vithoba is another name of the combined form of Krishna and Rukmini.
On this day, many devotees carry the images of several renowned saints in palkis. These saints are known all over the country for their devotion to Lord Vishnu.
These saints are Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Tukaram, Eknath, Nivruttinath, Muktabai, Sopan and Gajanan Maharaj.
Did you like this post? Have I missed an important detail in it? Please write back to me in case you want something to be added to this article.
These Top Indian travel tips are for those who want to experience India raw, uncut and fresh!.
Before we begin this article, watch how a horse dances in one of our festivals. Now there is no reason why you should not visit India!
Top Indian travel tips that will make you say, Wow!
Junk your toothbrush and get some datoon
If you are a budget traveler then don’t buy a toothbrush or toothpaste in India. Get a bunch of datuns.
A datun or a datoon is basically a twig from a neem tree. Neem is a medicinal tree and many Indians use it for various health-related reasons. Like millions of Indians,
I chew a neem twig in the mornings and find it refreshing.
After you have chewed it for ten minutes, then you can use it for brushing your teeth. Trust me, a 10-minute chewing session will freshen your mouth immensely. No need to carry your toothpaste or brush all over the country now.
Stay away from hostels
Like many countries, there are several hostels in India too. While I know the owners of a few hostels personally, I would request you to avoid you booking your stay there. The reason is this: I am not sure if people coming from abroad are vetted by the hostel owners and the police. It is better to stay put in places which are registered and regularly checked by the legal authorities. You don’t want to get into a legal trouble, do you?
One of the best travel tips to India is trying to make friends with the man on the street. No guidebook, no Lonely Planet magazine and no social media platform is going to help you as much as an average Indian. I am not saying that you simply go up to an average Joe and start talking with him. That would look odd, it is obvious. What I am trying to say is that wherever possible, get help from the paanwala, rickshawala or the dhobi. These people know India like the back of their hands. Making friends is definitely one of the top Indian travel tips for people who are vsisting this country for the first time.
Watch a movie
Many books and guides do not list watching a movie on their list of top Indian travel tips. I wonder why. Indian movies tell you about India in unimaginable ways. Buy a cinema ticket and plonk yourself in the theater seat. Initially, you will not understand the movie, I know. But we use so many kinds of emotion in our movies that you will ultimately understand what is going on.
But, please don’t watch Indian movies on laptops and mobiles. You will miss out on the experience.
To be honest, there are more than a million classes of Yoga going on in the world currently. So, the next question is – which is the best class for learning this ancient Indian skill? I would suggest you join a free Yoga class in a park near you. Thanks to Baba Ramdev, millions of Indians practice Yoga every day in the neighborhood parks. Meet them, smile with them and learn a few Yoga asanas. Basically, make friends.
Get lost in the crowd
One of my favorite top Indian travel tips is to just lose yourself in the crowds of India. Immerse yourself in the vast mass of humanity here and get a new experience. Many foreigners who come to India like to stay away from the masses.
It is understandable because nobody will like to be surrounded by strangers and being pushed and shoved by them. That is not my point, my friends. What I am trying to say is that go and visit India during the Kumbh Mela fair which draws millions of Indians.
Take a bath in our holy rivers, and converse non-stop with fellow bathers on various subjects like life, spirituality, happiness etc.
Drink camel’s milk
Ever drunk the milk of a camel? No? Ha ha ha. Well, then, in that case, head over to the camel fair of Bikaner in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Else, you can go to the districts of Jaisalmer and Barmer and enjoy this drink. Camel milk is known for its virility. There are many Indian men who drink this milk and retain their masculinity even in their nineties!
Attend the Camel Fair at Pushkar
Speaking of camel milk, why don’t you head to the Camel Fair at Pushkar when in India. In fact, your Indian travel plans must include a trip to Pushkar.
Watch the camels dance to popular Hindi dance numbers. Ride a camel and take a few memories home.
One of the travel tips for India is to attend a marriage party. For us, marriages are not religious affairs; they are social occasions! You must see the happiness on our faces when we dance to the popular tunes being played by the bands in the marriage processions.
These processions are called baraats and are attended by the close relatives of the bridegroom. He is the king of the party and sits on a white horse. No other baraati sits on a horse; this privilege belongs to the bridegroom alone.
The wedding party takes its own sweet time to reach its destination- the house of the bride- but this small journey is full of excitement and happiness.
Chai at the roadside-Top Indian travel tips
This is one of my favorite top Indian travel tips for all my international traveler friends. Chai is tea by another name. Most of us, I included, like to sip tea on the roadside and enjoy our surroundings. Sipping tea like this helps us connect with fellow tea drinkers. When we connect over tea, then strangers become friends and the world becomes one happy family. Traveling tips like this one help strangers become friends with each other. Don’t you think so?
Music in the Park
Travel tips for India travel would be incomplete without asking recommending you a music session in the Park. Here is a link to one of the music sessions at this Park. The singer is Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, India’s one of India’s greatest singers.
The Park here refers to the Nehru Park in the Chanakyapuri area of New Delhi. People who have come to Delhi several times know where this park is located. Look out for the SPIC MACAY website and find out its music programs in the Nehru Park. These sessions are free to attend and are led by world famous singers and instrumentalists.
One of the amazing things to do in Delhi these days is to participate in a Ramzan Walk. Have you done it, yet?
15 amazing things to do in Delhi
Refresh yourself, be a newer you. You deserve a better life than just being an office slave.
Do you know what is a Segway ride? This is a two-wheeled battery operated vehicle that lets you move around in a standing position. These vehicles are manufactured by Segway Inc.of the United States. Pick up one of these and explore Delhi this weekend. Fun comes in different packages these days, isn’t it?
Delhi is a city of Havelis or mansions. Just take a trip to the old city of Shahjahanabad and make your way through centuries-old havelis of Old Delhi. My personal favorites are the Namakharaam ki Haveli and Mirza Ghalib Haveli. Do you know that in the old times, the rich, powerful and the famous of Delhi used to live in these havelis?
More amazing things to do in Delhi
Feeling stressed? That is why we have included drumming in this list of 30 amazing things to do in Delhi. Attend the Djembe Drum Circle event in the city and let your hair down. This is a gang of enthusiastic people who converge every week in a garden, mall or a well-attended place. There are no fees for attending this event.
Hauz Khas Village
If you have a bohemian personality, then the Hauz Khas Village is the place to go to. Pubs, restaurants, gigs, stand-up comedy sessions, we have the works for you. The cherry on the top is the 600-year old Hauz Khas Palace nearby. This monument is a great hit among amateur photographers.
Did you know that you can try your hand at climbing steep rocks in Delhi? We too were comprised when we were compiling this list. The venue for this activity is the Lado Sarai rocks in the vicinity of Qutub Minar.
You have done wildlife safaris in Kenya and the jungles of Ranthambore National Park, but are you aware of the Air Safari in Delhi? Now see the magnificent city of Delhi while flying like a bird. Okay, okay, you do not have to actually fly like a bird. All you have to do is sit in a chair and let a propeller and a motor do the rest of the job. Enjoy the stunning scenery of Delhi as the city whizzes below you.
Secret lakes of Delhi
One of the amazing things to do in Delhi is to join a group of like-minded people and trek down to the secret lakes of Asola. These lakes are hidden among bushes in the Aravali ranges of Faridabad. The water is clear blue and there is no noise or pollution near these lakes.
Some more amazing things to do in Delhi
8.Delhi Temple Walk
If you are a religious person then don’t worry. We will take you on a guided walk to the various temples of Delhi. This city has several beautiful places of worship like the Laxmi Narayan Temple on Mandir Marg, the Akshardham Temple, Yogmaya Temple. Kunti Temple in the Purana Qila and the Appa Gangadhar Temple in Chandni Chowk. Charges-Rs. 1,500 per person.
Delhi Sight Seeing Trip
One of the amazing things to do in Delhi is visiting the various historical monuments by a private car. This 10-hour trip includes Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, India Gate, Nizamuddin Dargah, Purana Qila, and the Bahai Temple. We will drive around the city in a Toyota Liva. Charges per head- Rs. 3,000 ( includes snacks). Please drop me a mail at email@example.com if you are interested.
10. Haunted tour of Mehrauli
You must join me on this haunted tour of Mehrauli. Did you know that the earlier name of Delhi was Mehrauli? There are several abandoned ancient buildings in Mehrauli that are haunted. The tomb of Balban is certainly haunted. Another weird place in Mehrauli is the tomb of Jamali Kamali. Join me on a 3-hour trip to these haunted places of Mehrauli.
And there are some more…
Open Mic sessions
Are you the next Kapil Sharma? Do you like bringing the house down with your one-liners? Do you want to share your poems and short-stories with strangers? You will be happy to know that there are several open-mic sessions that encourage budding artists to share their creativity with a willing audience. Ping me if you want to know more.
Visit the National Museum
We would strongly recommend you to visit the National Museum. This building is a treasure trove of ancient relics, statues, and other memorabilia. National Museum is located on Janpath. Take a Metro to reach this Museum and keep the environment clean.
One of the amazing things to do in Delhi is to visit this beautiful building near the National Museum. If you want to know more about the art and culture of India, then you should come to this place. The IGNCA is just adjacent to the iconic India Gate and is set in the middle of a huge lawn. Entry to this building and its events is free.
You will be amazed to know that there is a Delhi edition of Madame Tussaud’s! This wax museum is located in the Regal building of Connaught Place. Drop in at this place and marvel at the wax figurines of celebrities displayed here.
Do you know that this famous monument honors of more than 90,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting for the British in the First World War? India Gate is maintained by the Indian Defence Ministry. The memorial to the unknown soldier is guarded by the soldiers of Navy, Army and the Air Force.
Red Fort Delhi is a treasure chest of tales if only, you and I cared to stop and listened to its stones. As a frequent traveler to this fort, I have paused at its gates, and in its rooms and wondered about the enchanting history of this monument.
The Red Fort Delhi stories
I do not want this post to be a travel guide; this post will be more about the history of Red Fort and its most famous inhabitants-the Mughals.
While I will introduce you to the various monuments of Red Fort Delhi, I shall also tell you the various events associated with them.
I hope you enjoy these stories.
Veil of the Bride
Visitors enter the Red Fort Delhi via the Lahore Gate. This gate faces the city of Lahore in Pakistan.
Now you will wonder about the nomenclature of this gate. No? Well, in the earlier days, Lahore was very much a part of Mughal India and was an important city. Lahore was also the springboard for any military campaigns directed at Afghanistan. At that time, Afghanistan was called Kandhar. Invaders headed to India had to conquer Kandhar first.
Well, in the earlier days, Lahore was very much a part of Mughal India and was an important city. It was also the springboard for any military campaigns directed at Afghanistan. At that time, Afghanistan was called Kandahar and invaders headed to India had to conquer Kandhar first.
When the Red Fort first came up in 1648, the Lahore Gate used to face Chandni Chowk. But, when Aurangzeb assumed power in 1659, he changed the direction of this Gate by 90 degrees. The new Emperor wanted to twist the approach to the Fort.
Upon hearing this change in alignment, Shahjehan, the father of Aurangzeb, wrote a moving letter to Aurangzeb. He was in the captivity of his son at that time. Among other things, Shahjehan lamented that this change was like a putting a veil on the face of a bride.
Red Fort Delhi Fact #1
Did you know that Shahjahan was imprisoned by his third son Aurangzeb after the latter defeated Dara Shukoh in a battle? Dara was the elder son of Shahjahan and was next in line to become the Emperor. Aurangzeb kept his captive father in the Agra Red Fort.
Meant for bows and arrows, not guns
The Red Fort walls are bows and arrows based defensive structures. These battlements were not adapted for guns and canons. This is surprising because the Mughals had introduced the artillery in India way back in 1526. In that year, the Mughals had defeated the Lodhis in the first battle of Panipat.
Watch this excellent video to appreciate the history of the Mughals:
I think that when Shahjahan built this Fort in 1648, he thought that there won’t be any attacks to his palace for a long time. He was clever and industrious and had brought a large part of India under his control. During Shahjahan’s time, the Mughal Empire was quite secure from external attacks.
When Aurangzeb came to power in 1659, initially he faced very little opposition from his enemies. However, after 15 years of his rule, Aurangzeb realized that he was not secure from external attacks. Tearing down the fort walls was impossible so he decided to change the direction of the gate.
Call Now at 9810840763 for your trip to Red Fort
Meena Bazaar- the Mall of Lust
Just as you enter the Red Fort Delhi, you are greeted by two rows of shops. This is a medieval era bazaar and has survived more than 360 years of turmoil. The name of this market is Chhatta Bazaar and has a very interesting history behind it.
Unconfirmed reports say that this roofed market in the Red Fort came into being after Shahjahan saw a market like this in Peshawar.
The Chhatta Bazaar was also called Meena Bazaar in the earlier days. Do you know why? It is said that during the 9 days of Nauroz, only the ladies belonging to the elite of the Mughal Empire could set up their stalls here. The only male who could come here and shop was the Emperor himself. The Emperor used to haggle a lot with the beautiful ladies in this bazaar. It also was a good opportunity for him to entice some of them to his harem.
The Meena Bazaar or the Chhatta Bazaar was much more than a small time market. The Mughals used this mall to impress the visiting envoys with their opulence. On display in this market were some of the finest materials that the world had seen- perfume, spices, bullion, textiles, muslin etc.
From Agra to Delhi
One thing has always puzzled me; why did the Mughals shift their capital from Agra to Delhi? They were quite settled in Agra which gave them strategic space to fan out in the rebellious Deccan and Rajputana. Shahjahan did not face any significant threat from his enemies for most of his rule so what made him go 250 kilometers up north?
Shahjahan’s dad, Jahangir
Our Red Fort Delhi story begins with Jahangir. I could have started with Akbar and Humayun but their connection with this monument is very indirect. I would dwell on them some other day in this post.
Jahangir was an indolent man. Probably, Salim (Jahangir) in his later years, did not want to come to this world at all. Mughal records say that his mother, could not conceive him for many years until she was pressed into the service of Salim Chishti. We do not know about the nature of service that she performed but, her child was duly named after the Sufi saint.
Salim grew up to be an indolent man. He was an opiate and a heavy drunkard. God knows how he picked up these bad habits. Salim had a weak spirit and a weaker mind and was quite unlike his father in many respects.
The affair of Khusro- Part 1
Akbar preferred Khusro over Salim as his successor. But, who was Khusro?
Khusro was one of the sons of Salim. The latter had other sons as well and one of them was Khurram, but right now we will talk only about Khusro.
When Akbar fell sick, he thought of anointing Khusro as his successor. To Akbar, Khusro was an ideal successor. He was handsome, industrious, clever and clever. Akbar thought that Khusro would manage the Mughal Empire well. Akbar;s close confidantes did not think that way, however.
Would you like to take a guided tour of Red Fort Delhi?
However, things did not go the way as Akbar had planned. Akbar’s close relatives forced him to change his mind and ultimately, Salim succeeded Akbar upon the latter’s death in 1605.
The affair of Khusro- Part 2
Khusro had a Hindu mother and a Muslim father. His mother was a Rajput and belonged to Amber. His father, Jahangir was, of course, the son of Akbar.
This extraordinary man was handsome, well-spoken and tactful. He had several followers but none of them gave him sound advice.
When Jahangir ascended the throne after his father’s death, the latter decided to keep a close watch on Khusro. One day, the son came up to Jahangir and asked for permission to visit Akbar’s tomb. Jahangir agreed readily to his son’s request but decided to keep an eye on him. Khusro left the Agra Fort accompanied by 300 soldiers and reached Sikandra, where his grandfather was buried. After praying at the grave of Akbar, Khusro left for Mathura which is 50 kilometers from Agra.
The spies duly informed Jahangir of Khusro’s moves.
After spending some time at Mathura, Khusro left for Delhi, 200 kilometers from Mathura. From Delhi, Khusro and his train departed for Punjab, where he met Guru Arjan Dev.
Clearly, Khusro had something in his mind.
All this while, Jahangir was tracing Khusro. He finally cornered his wayward son in Lahore. Khusro, at that time, was trying to capture the Lahore Fort.
A battle ensued between the father and son and ultimately Jahangir defeated Khusro.
Khusro was imprisoned and brought to Delhi along with his supporters. They were lined up on both sides of the main street in Delhi and later impaled alive. Khusro was made to watch this spectacle.
All this while, Manbai, the mother of Khusro was confused. She could not decide whether her husband, Jahangir was right or whether Khusro needed to be supported by her.
One fine day, she consumed a lot of opium and committed suicide. Manbai was sad at the turn of events unfolding in the Mughal household.
The Noorjahan saga
The story of Red Fort Delhi would be incomplete without Noorjehan or Noorjahan who was Jehangir’s wife.
Salim or Jehangir was a prisoner of her charms and did all that what was told to him by her. He was her virtual prisoner, so the records say.
Noorjehan was the only Mughal empress to have coinage struck in her name. She was often present when the Emperor held court, and even held court independently when the Emperor was unwell. The Empress was given charge of his imperial seal, implying that her perusal and consent were necessary before any document or order received legal validity. The Emperor sought her views on most matters before issuing orders.(Creds- Wikipedia)
Noorjehan was already in her 30’s when she married the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir. He was her second husband; her first husband, Sher Afghan, was killed in a duel.
Some people say that he was killed on the orders of Jahangir, who was jealous of Sher Afghan.
Noorjehan already had a child, Ladli Begum who was fathered by Sher Afghan, when she entered the harem of Jahangir.
Sometime after her marriage, Noorjehan and Jahangir ran into opposition by some old Akbar faithful courtiers like Mahabat Khan. The old noble had served Akbar well but thought that Jahangir was unworthy of the Mughal throne.
You will be surprised to know that the Khan was once the Commander-in-Chief of the Mughal Army during Jehangir’s rule. So why did Mahabat revolt against his Emperor?
It is said that many Mughal nobles in Jehangir’s court felt insecure at seeing the rapid rise of this man from Persia.And you know what happens in these cases. Some of the jealous nobles told the Queen that Mahabat Khan was acting pricey and did not respect the royal family.
What do you think, Noorjehan did to counter Mahabat Khan?
(To be continued)
How to reach Red Fort Delhi– Delhi Metro offers excellent connectivity to this place. You can take a Metro from Rajiv Chowk or any other station in Gurgaon. Get off at the Chandni Chowk Metro Station and take a rickshaw.
You can also take a Metro from Mandi House and get down at the Red Fort Metro station.
Red Fort Delhi Timings– Open on all days, except Mondays. Timings- 9.30 am -6 pm.
Some places in Shimla are not just tourist destinations, they are about some profound life experiences. In my case, one of these places is connected with a beautiful girl who stole my heart away more than twenty years back.
The Ridge Area
Yes, if you want to steal someone’s heart then the Ridge area is the place to be in. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this place has that magical feeling which cannot be explained. The Ridge is one of the places in Shimla which will always be etched in your heart. Won’t you be interested what it did to me in the winter of 1992?
I was a young man then and was traveling to this magical town but my travel had little to do with fun. This trip was more about learning- I was a trainee geologist. While I and my gang were waiting for a bus in the Ridge market, I saw a most beautiful girl having red cheeks! Those cheeks were like apples and I swear, I hadn’t seen cheeks like those all my life until then. Cupid struck me and for the remainder of my trip, I was always trying to locate that lass.
Today, the Ridge area is a lot more romantic place. Honeymooners make it a point to visit this landmark in Shimla and make it a part of their memories. If you haven’t visited the Ridge until now, then do it now.
Places in Shimla-read on…
My search for the beautiful lass took me to the Scandal Point. Some smart Alec told me that the best place for finding her was this scandalously named place. Scandal Point, hmm, I said to myself, here I come.
Alas, I did not find her here, either. But what I did discover was the fantastic history of this place.
Scandal Point is so named because from this place more than a hundred years ago the Maharaja of Patiala had eloped with a British girl! Now, this girl was the daughter of the then British Viceroy and this affair became a major scandal.
But, who was this Maharaja?
I did a little bit of research and discovered that he was nobody else other than Rajinder Singh of Patiala. This man had several wives and was quite evidently, a ladies’man. When this affair was discovered, the king was banished from entering Shimla by the British. Undeterred, Rajinder Singh founded a spankingly new town for himself, Chail, which is located 45 kilometers from Shimla.
My search for the fair lady took me to other places in Shimla too.
Jab We Met at The Mall
Every city has a road peculiarly named, The Mall Road. I think that the word, Mall, means a street lined with high-end shops. Is this why this road is named so in Shimla?
Ruskin Bond Uncle says that when the British came to the hills, they made roads that resembled the tree-lined promenades of London. They named these avenues Mall Roads.
Did you know that several Hindi movies like Jab We Met and Black were shot in the Mall area? Ah, now I can see you planning to visit this pretty area and checking all those sites that you saw in these movies. No?
By the way, there is a lovely property of Treebo Hotels in the Mall area. I found this hotel clean, fresh and warm in hospitality. The staff is polite, friendly and helpful. If you are visiting Shimla on your honeymoon, I would advise you to stay in this property.
Ring a bell at the Jakhu Temple
Monkeys greet you at this ancient Hanuman temple upon your arrival. This is one of the very few places in Shimla that give you an unhindered view of the Shivalik Hills. It is located just a couple of miles from Shimla and can be reached by taking a pony or a horse.
Do you know the history behind this amazing place? Locals say that when Lord Hanuman was rushing back to Lanka after carrying the sanjivani booti, he decided to spend a few hours in Jakhu to recoup his energy!
Did I pray to the Lord to help him find my beloved? Yes. And after visiting this temple, I was filled with a new found resolve to find her.
If you are married, then you must not visit this pretty place which is located a few miles from Shimla. The woods of Annandale are dark, deep, and unspoiled by construction and human activity. Annadale hadn’t come up when we were in Shimla twenty years back but travelers now swear by this place. The Indian Army has made a museum in this place which is open on all the days except on Mondays.
All the coffee lovers rejoice! There is a pretty cafe in Annandale which will nourish your heart, body, and soul.
Annandale is truly a lover’s paradise.
Summer Hill- Reliving the 1960’s Romance
One of the best places in Shimla to rekindle your romance is the Summer Hill. A UNESCO heritage site, Summer Hill is one of the seven hills of Shimla. When the Brits came to this wooded place in the nineteenth century, they decided to make it accessible by laying down a railway line. The toy train from Kalka to Shimla chugs through Summer Hill and the nearby valleys and forests wowing its passengers.
Did you know that Rajesh Khanna romanced Sharmila in the epic, Aradhna while driving his jeep along this Kalka-Shimla railway line?
The surprise of the package- Summer Festival
Are you a music and dance aficionado? In that case, don’t forget to attend the Shimla Summer Festival. This is the place to go to enjoy local music, culture, dance and make new friends.
And who knows, you may meet your lady love here.
How to reach Shimla
You can reach this beautiful place by taking a bus or train from Chandigarh. Alternatively, you can also book a flight to Shimla from New Delhi.