Surajkund Mela – A Photoblog for travelers visiting Delhi

Surajkund Mela

The Surajkund Mela 2017 for you in pictures. For foreign  travelers visiting India around this time , this is the place to go to and take pictures. You will find a riot of colors, some out of the world folk music and dance and a lot of happy people.

Colors galore at Surajkund Mela 2017
Surajkund Mela
You will immerse  yourself in a sea of colors in this Mela

 

 

Surajkund Mela
Click me, please
Surajkund 2017
We could not resist a cuppa

We just could not resist starting our tour of the Surajkund Mela with a cup of chai. Ha, I am sure even you too would do the same which we did!

Surajkund Mela
This Panditji is prescribing something for his bhakts.

“Be pure, buy pure’, is the message of this jolly Panditji here.  I agree with him. Do you?

Surajkund Mela
Up in the sky….

You can’t help looking in amazement at the gateway to this fair. This image represents the traditional icons of Chhattisgarh, one of the states  participating in the Surajkund Mela.

Surajkund Mela
India is the land of music

If you try to escape music, it will find you somewhere. And , we have lots of music. Why don’t you check out the Surajkund Mela to find out the kind of music these people are playing?

The amazing life of the Banjaras

We found a group of nomads, called Banjaras, in this fair. They have lived in bullock carts for more than 450 years now.

Surajkund Mela
These are the Banjaras or nomads from Rajasthan

These people are also called Gadia Lohars, meaning iron smiths who live in their caravans. I have written a post on them elsewhere in this blog.

Surajkund Mela
Trifle disappointed to see this child in just whites!

Us Indians have this crazy habit of smiling at any random stranger and this child is no stranger to this phenomenon.

Surajkund Mela
Close by, Lord Ganesha enjoys the show!

 Lord Ganesha rides a mouse and is one of the most lovable gods in India and we invoke his blessings before very initiative.

Surajkund Mela
Isn’t he handsome?

 Our artisans and craftsmen work really very hard and use a lot of creativity to bring such statues to life!

Surajkund Mela
Are they gambling?

I thought of joining these well dressed village folk but realized, I did not have enough money…Ha ha ha

Surajkund Mela
Aha, the joys of dancing!

You have time till February 15 to be a part of this spectacle. Don’t miss this show.

Surajkund Mela
Would you want to join them?

These lovely women are from the Indian state of Jharkhand.

Surajkund Mela
Thanks for clicking me! Musicians from Jharkhand

If you are planning to travel to offbeat destinations in India, then Jharkhand is the place to be in.

Surajkund Mela
That’s me with Mr. Ravan

This gentleman is one Mr. Mohammad and  plays the role of Ravan in Ramleelas. Thank you Sir, for posing with me.

Surajkund Mela
Ha Ha Ha

I have never had a photo of myself like this….

Surajkund Mela
That’s a lot of colors, really
Surajkund Mela
Enjoy the cup of life!
Surajkund Mela
Some selfies are mandatory

No, I don’t like myself as I am all puffed up!

That’s it all folks, thank you.

Delhi photoblog-the city comes to life

Delhi photoblog

My mobile camera encouraged me to do a Delhi photoblog  while coming back from the Red Fort last Sunday. Since a large number of my readers live outside India ( I hate the term ‘foreigners’) , a photoblog like this one would be in order for them. Many of them see Delhi through the eyes of tourist places and hotels and they do not get to see how people in India actually live their lives.

Let me know if you like this Delhi photoblog. It would be better if you suggested improvements. Some pics are crappy, but I am not  a professional photographer, you see.

Delhi photoblog
The Lodhi  Colony Art District

The staid government colony, Lodhi colony, is undergoing an image makeover these days. Graffiti is making this habitat an interesting place for the backpackers.

Whomsoever has planned and executed this project deserves my kudos.

Speaking of doors, I found this one..isn’t it pretty?

Delhi photoblog
Can you imagine the age of this beautiful door? My guess is it is more than 220 years old.
Delhi photoblog
Is she a goddess or is she a beautiful girl?

Can you guess who she is? I think she is a working woman. Carrying her child on her back, she is seen flitting from home to school to back to home. She can be found in places as diverse as New York, Nigeria, Japan or Delhi.No?

Delhi photoblog
This lady reminds me of the American Indians

What is the grandmother saying? Can you guess? Perhaps, she is pleading to save the environment. “Save trees.”

Delhi photoblog
Delhi has never looked this beautiful

Yes, the ladies need to be fearless. Whether young or old, they should look the world into its eye.

Mornings=Tea Time

Delhi Photoblog
Chai, Chai

Delhi photoblog would be incomplete without this picture. Our mornings begin with chai. This chaiwalla uncle is preparing tea for his guests. I am calling this gentleman an uncle because he is  a little younger than my dad.

The most famous chaiwalla ( tea-seller) of India is our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He used to sell tea in the trains and railway stations in his teens.

Delhi photoblog
A chaiwalla brews up some excellent tea

This is paradise my friends, paradise. If you like this photo, the credit goes to my Gionee camera.

Bliss!

Delhi photoblog
She too is a mother. Don’t you dare touch my kids, she is saying

My kids would have hijacked some of these pups had they been around ;)))

Morning News !

Elsewhere, a gent is catching up on some morning news.

Delhi photoblog
The printed word still is still trusted by many when it comes to news.

Setting up shop

Delhi photoblog
A panoply of colors

Can you imagine India without color? I took this snap when a shopkeeper had just opened up his stall to sell bangles. Gods and bangles jostle for space in this stall.

Delhi photoblog
The spice seller at Chandni Chowk

India has always been known as the land of spices. I read in my history classes that the Romans and Egyptians used to trade their bullion for our spices which is not a bad deal after all!

Sharing is caring

Delhi photoblog
Many Indians start their morning by sharing their foods with animals

We share our spaces, roads, homes and even food with animals and I hope you like this photo from the Delhi photoblog.

Color my skies

Elsewhere, our skies were getting ready to welcome their guests- the kites.

Delhi photoblog
This was the first time Delhi played host to an international kite flying festival

People in Delhi fly kites on January 26th and August 15 but this was the first time that kite flying  was promoted on an international scale in the city. Good effort but a lot of distance to cover.

If you were around, you could have bought a few puppets as well  in the festival.

Delhi photoblog
Puppets have their own tales to tell

Kathputlis or puppets are dying in Delhi. When I was young, I could see many puppeteers around and telling stories about folk heroes through the kathputlis. Video  and mobile games have replaced this popular form of entertainment and alas, our kids don’t know much about this craft. Puppeteers use their hands and voice skilfully to recount ancient tales of folk heroes and heroines.

Delhi photoblog
This joker was balancing dominoes as part of his entertainment duties

A jeep hauls up a heavy kite!

Delhi photoblog

I have flown kites when I was in teens  but never knew that some of them need to be hauled up by jeeps!

Have you ever flown kites?

The Jallikattu Story-Of unending traditions and animal welfare

Jallikattu Story

The Jallikattu Story is an interesting reading material for all those interested in India’s hoary traditions. This one has more than 2, 500 years of history behind it.Read it to understand how a lovely tradition changed for the worse.

What is the Jallikattu Story?

Jallikattu refers to the age old practice of embracing the bulls by people of Tamil Nadu. This practice is a sight to watch during Pongal.

Can I see how this Jallikattu thing is played out?

Sure, watch the video.

What is Pongal?

The Pongal season marks the arrival of the fresh crop in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

But, heck, what is the connection between Jallikattu and Pongal?

Since ancient times, Indians have used oxen and bulls for farming purposes. Jallikattu provides the reason for the farmers to thank their animals.

Jallikattu Story
The bulls are thanked on Pongal

But, why is the Jallikattu Story creating such a ruckus?

You see, over a period of time, people started using their bulls in a wrong way. Rather than thanking them , the farmers started using the occasion as a spectator sport.

So, what is wrong in that?

Good question. What went wrong in the Jallikattu Story was that animals began to be teased, agitated and beaten in such fairs. The bulls and oxen were fed with great food and on Pongal, were used by the villagers as toys. The animals were caged in closed places and teased so much that they had to escape from the hordes of people.

Jallikattu Story
Over the years, the lovely tradition of Jallikattu has changed to one of animal bashing.

Sometimes, the bulls escape to busy  roads and other inhabited places and this scares the drivers of the vehicles.

Did the animals die in this Jallikattu Story?

An emphatic no. There is  no record of any animal dying because of this practice. However, according to PETA, more than 1, 000 people have been injured because of trampling by the animals.

Got it. So, how do you prevent this cruelty to the animals?

The Supreme Court of India has ordered a ban on this inhuman practice. Not surprisingly, the people of Tamil Nadu have opposed this ban.

They say that the Jallikattu tradition has been in vogue for more than 2,500 years. It also helps the state get tourists and also helps in breeding superior quality of milch cattle.

Really?2,500 years?You must be joking!

No way. Here is an image of an ancient sculpture of Jallikattu.

Jallikattu Story
This image which is more than 2,500 years old shows the practice of Jallikattu

But, so many people kill animals for food. Is that not cruelty?

It is, definitely. I have seen so many birds and animals dying a slow and painful death in the name of religion! And here, PETA, one of the petitioners has failed to establish that Jallikattu leads to animal deaths!

So, when is Pongal?

Tomorrow, i.e. January 14th, Saturday!

Holy Moly, isn’t it also Makar Sankranti day?

Yes, indeed. In North India, Makar Sankranti means flying kites, but the underlying reason is the same- new harvest!

India Story- This man cycled more than 6000 miles to meet his love

India Travel

This is the fantastic India Story of a poor man from Odisha who cycled thousands of kilometres from his village to Sweden- just to meet his lover, who was a Swedish princess. At the outset, I will like to express my thanks to Nelson singh who has permitted me to use his photographs in this article.

India Story- Meet Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia

The hero this story is Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia who was born in 1949, just a couple of years after India gained her independence from the Britishers. Mahanandia came from the Dhenkanal district of Odisha. This district was and is one of the most impoverished regions of not just Odisha , but the entire country as well.

To make matters worse, Pradyumna’s family belonged to the lower strata of the society. His parents were extremely poor and ranked low in the social pecking order. The rest of the villagers avoided all social contact with Pradyumna and his family. The family members had to subsist on meagre rations. How tragic is this India Story? Ironically, the word ‘Pradyumna’ is also the name of the son of Lord Krishna.

Off to the Art Schools

In the early 1970s, Pradyumna gained admission to one of the best universities in India- the Vishwabharati University. Unfortunately, he did not have enough money to pay the tuition fees and had to come back to his impoverished village. Life was very painful for him.

A few months later , he got admission into an Odisha college but again, he was unable to fund his education.

Finally, lady luck smiled upon him and he got an admission to the College of Art in Delhi. It seemed, the poor lad from Odisha had found his bearing. Ladies and gentlemen, this India Story isn’t over yet.

Portraits, Portraits

The young man from Odisha had to struggle a lot in Delhi to carve out a living. He liked making portraits of people and found Connaught  Place  (now Rajiv Chowk) as the best place to find his subjects. Connaught Place was in the centre of the city, had lots of people and was also close to his college. Not surprisingly, he found many clients in this beautiful place that still oozes a lot of old world charm.

Pradyumna meets his lady love-the princess of Sweden

One day, while he was engrossed in his work, a beautiful young woman came up to him. Her name was Charlotte and she was visiting India as a traveller. Charlotte had heard about Pradyumna and wanted him to create a portrait for her.

You can’t imagine what happened in the next few minutes…both of them fell in love. Isn’t this India Story enchanting?A princess falling in love with a poor, out caste man! Haa…I wish, a princess would have found me out too…ha ha ha;))

Marriage and then separation…

Of course, the two married and the princess offered to take her new husband back to Sweden, to a life of luxury and comfort. But, our hero would have none of it. He was determined to stay back in India and fund his way for travel to Sweden.

India Story
Love is not limited by boundaries

The distraught princess , after much cajoling, left for Sweden in the fond hope that she and her husband would be soon reunited. Our hero, Pradyumna , refreshed by this marriage, went back to his work, determined that he would earn enough to see his lover once again.

Keeping in Touch

The two kept in touch with letters. There was no internet in those days so you can forget about e-mail and WhatsApp. Dear readers, please imagine the intensity of love between the two; writing a letter, posting it and waiting for the other person’s reply ! In those days, a letter from Sweden would take 14 days to reach India and vice versa. My salute to them.

Can’t bear without her..

A few months after Charlotte’s departure, Pradyumna started pining for her. He could not bear her absence. Pradyumna wanted to be with his wife-the beautiful Charlotte- at all cost.

But the poor artiste did not have enough money to fly down to Sweden! What to do?

No problem, I will cycle down

And yes, dear readers, Pradyumna took a very difficult decision. He took out his ramshackle bicycle and decided to ride down to Sweden ! His friends and well wishers tried to convince him not to do this crazy thing but, what can you do when your heart is possessed with infinite love!

With prayers on his lips and love in his heart, Pradyumna began his dangerous and arduous journey to meet his lady love. He travelled through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Central Europe and many other countries before reaching Sweden. It is easy to list down all these countries here but very , very difficult to imagine the pain that he experienced in his journey.

India Story
It took  Pradyumna 4 months to travel to Sweden from India!

His cycle broke down several times.

He had no money to buy food and clothes.

Many people thought he was a spy.

His body would have ached a million times on the way.

He did not know where he could get a shelter.

HE DID NOT KNOW WHETHER HIS WIFE WOULD ACCEPT HIM OR NOT…..

Sweden…

After four months of painful, arduous and dangerous travel, Pradyumna reached Sweden.He did not know any Swede there. This was an alien country for the poor artiste from Odisha and he did not know what to do next. Nobody seemed to know English and for our lover here, the situation was quite pathetic.

It had taken him 4 months to ride down to Sweden and all that he wanted was to meet his wife.

Did the lovers meet?

The Swedish immigration officials promptly arrested him upon his arrival in Sweden. They thought he was a spy. He told them he was a lover. The Swedish princess was his wife and her name was Charlotte.The police was unconvinced.

Our boy from Odisha had to spend some anxious moments in Sweden before Charlotte was told by her friends of Pradyumna’s arrival in Sweden .

What……, she was overjoyed and surprised. Pradyumna has come to meet me riding a cycle! Oh, my goodness!

And you know guys, what happened next?

Reunion of the two lovebirds!!!!!!

Post Script

Pradyumna and Charulata (Charlotte) now live in Sweden. They are a happy couple and have been blessed with beautiful kids. It has been more than 45 years that the couple has been living in Sweden. I wish them well.

Our man from Odisha is now a cultural ambassador of India to Sweden. He is a much loved and respected person there. He runs a Facebook page too.

Haunted Tour- Among the djinns of Mehrauli

Haunted Tour

We had called this tour, the Haunted Tour of Mehrauli! The day chosen for this tour was perfect- December 25. The sky was overcast and a heavy fog lay over the city. Indeed, the weather gods had conspired among themselves to really make December 25, haunted day!Even the Qutub Minar was enveloped by a thick blanket of fog.

Haunted Tour
The famous Mehrauli landmark was covered by a thick fog

The first building on the Haunted Tour in Mehrauli

I have been to the Mehrauli Park several times in the past. All alone. Immersed in my thoughts. But, what made this Haunted Delhi tour special was that here, I was  a part of an audience. I just wanted to be a listener.

The tour organiser was the enthu duo of Ritesh Datta- Sushmita. These guys are bubbly and full of energy, warmth and good humour. And boy, did they do their job well? Yes, most certainly.

The Park can accessed with a gate that is always open. There are no tickets. If you are on the Mehrauli- Gurgaon Road, you will find that gate.

The first building that we visited  in the Haunted Tour was the grave of Balban. Sushmita told us that the grave indeed is haunted. Can we have the photographs please?

Haunted Tour
Sushmita-our Tour Guide

The photo was taken by an iPhone camera.

This is the grave.

Haunted Tour
Balban’s Tomb

But, who the hell was Balban?

History tells us that this Sultan of Delhi was a murderous soul. He was much like Count Dracula of Romania.

People say his grave is haunted. If someone bows his head in front of the grave then that fellow loses his life shortly. Do you believe it?

The inscriptions that you see in black send out an inexplicable aroma in the air. Nobody knows who paints those letters in black, It is a mystery. Can you read those letters? I can not because they are in Farsi and all I can read is either English or Hindi.

If you want to know more on Balban, click here.

Much like his stern personality, his tomb is also serious looking.

Haunted Tour
A cold Sultan has a cold grave for company

Now have a look at these circular holes. These carried djinns in small pitchers! Can you believe it?

Haunted Tour
Where did the djinns escape to?

Haunted Tour ‘s next destination- Jamali Kamali

If you are alone, do not enter this place in the dark. The tomb of Jamali Kamali is also said to be spooked. The weather added to the spookiness.

Haunted Tour
The Sufi and his lover sleep here; Jamali Kamali tomb

Much has been written about this place, but very few know about Jamali and Kamali. My theory is that they were a teacher and pupil duo who loved each other and died in each other’s arms. Both of them were men.

Is it spooked? A paranormal scientist who committed suicide thought so ! Read here of his death!

There is a theory which says that unfriendly ghosts will get you if they are disturbed in their resting places. Apparently, the scientist woke up a sleeping djinn and this made him commit suicide!

The Jamali Kamali tomb has a fine building, nevertheless!

Haunted Tour
The facade of the Jamali Kamali mosque
Haunted Tour
A sunflower adorns the top of the gate
Haunted Tour
Without happy people, all the buildings seem to be tombs

While, I was listening to the the history of this mosque, my friends were busying their equipment for their shoots.

But, who was Jamali and who was Kamali?

This was the question uppermost in the minds of the Haunted Tour members.

There are many opinions about the origin of Jamali and Kamali.Some people say that Jamali was a Muslim poet who lived in the court  of  one of the Sultans of Delhi. When this Sultan lost in a battle, the poet shifted his loyalty to the winning king. The winning king built this mausoleum for the poet.

No body knows for sure who was Kamali. Some say that he was a homosexual partner of Jamali. Others think , Kamali was the wife of Jamali. If you know who were they, please let me know.

The Jamali Kamali complex was built in the 1500s and Balban’s  was built in the late 1200s. We just covered 300 years of history. Now let us take a leap of another 300 years.

The Angrez  and the swimming pool

The Britishers became the masters of Delhi in the middle of the 19th century. One of them was a colourful character. His name was Thomas Metcalfe and he was a great host for his guests.When he was not working, Metcalfe used to enjoy the Delhi summers lounging in the swimming pool or the Hauz that he had made for himself.

Haunted Tour
The Metcalfe Hauz

Thomas Metcalfe was the younger brother of Charles Metcalfe, who was a senior officer in the East india Company. The junior Metcalfe was made by his brother the agent of the Company in the Mughal court. Thomas made sure he lived his life while being an agent of the British. He converted some important Mughal buildings into pleasure houses. One such pleasure house was build in Mehrauli in the mid- 19th century.

This was resented by the Queen of the then Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. It is suspected by many that she poisoned one day Mr. Metcalfe to his death. He lies buried in an old part of Delhi near the present day Inter State Bus Terminus, Kashmere Gate.

This then brings us to the end of the Haunted Tour of Mehrauli.

I hope you liked it.

 

most amazing travel destinations- Allahabad, the city of the dropped nectar

One of the most amazing travel destinations in India is Prayag or Sangam. Though, there are several places to visit in India, I would say that this one of the places you must visit if you are in India during January. The city plays host to one of the most important Indian festivals– Magh Mela.

Allahabad has a long story behind it. After reading it you will understand why the city is one of the many places of interest to not just Indians but many foreign travellers as well.

The story of Allahabad or Prayag or Sangam

The city is as old as, if not older than Benares. Legends say that the creator of the universe, Bramha offered his first sacrifice at Prayag. Brahma is one of the three Gods in the Hindu civilization. So you can imagine why this town is so important to many Indians.

Another name of Allahabad is Sangam, meaning the place where there is a meeting of three rivers- Ganga, Yamuna and the Saraswati. While the first two can be seen mingling into each other, the Saraswati is a mythical river, an ‘invisible’one.

most amazing travel destinations
Millions of Indians visit the Sangam to was away their  sins

Nobody knows who founded the city. It is a secret to many of us living here in India. What we do know is that many historical characters are associated with Prayag. Lord Rama, the hero of Ramayana is believed to have visited this city . He lived more than 10, 000 years ago, many Hindus believe. Rama spent his time in the ashram of Sage Bharadwaj. An ashram is like a hostel. This ashram still exists in the heart of the city and is one of the places of interest. No wonder, Allahabad is one of the most amazing travel destinations in the world.

Akshay Vat- The Indestructible Tree

In Allahabad there is an ancient tree, Akshay Vat, which has survived  thousands of years . In the 16 th century, a Mughal emperor, Jahangir tried to burn it down. However, it survived. If you want to visit this tree, you will have to take the permission of the Army. The tree is within a fort controlled by the Army.

most amazing travel destinations
Akshay Vat has survived for more than 5000 years. courtesy Panoramio

For the archaeologist, Allahabad is treasure trove for Iron Age artefacts.

Have you read  about King Yayati? Read on because Allahabad is closely related to this king.

The story of Yayati

Yayati was the king of the entire  world and the son of Nahusha. As was the practice those days, one day Yayati went hunting. He saw the girl of a famous Rishi and married her. Her name was Devyani.

Devyani had a friend , Sharmishtha who was equally pretty. Yayati fell for her too.. When Devyani came to know about it, she complained to her father, Rishi Shukracharya. The Rishi was livid. He felt insulted by the king’s behaviour. The Rishi cursed the king and made him an old man. Yayati was crestfallen as he had just begun to enjoy his life.

Yayati wants to enjoy youth

The king had five sons. He approached each one of them , asking for their youth. But, except for Puru, his youngest son, nobody wanted to their youth and vitality with the king’s old age. Puru, on the other hand was ready to see his father young again. Yayati was mightily pleased with Puru. After a few days os enjoying his new found youth, Yayati came back to Puru and took back his old age from his son. Now it was the turn of Yayati to make his son happy. Puru got his dad’s kingdom. In due course, the young prince, Puru founded the dynasty of Pauravas, an important kingdom in India. The Pauravas or the Kauravas are the central figures in India’s epic , Mahabharata.

From Hastinapur to Allahabad

The Pauravas ruled from Hastinapur, until it was destroyed by floods a few thousands of years back. After the town was destroyed, they came back to Prayag and established their new capital at Kaushanbi, which is 40 kilometres from Prayag. If you  plan  a trip to India , include Kaushambi in your itinerary.

The Mauryan Connection

If you are a history aficionado. Allahabad is one of the places to visit in India . It is one of the Mauryan sites where the Mauryan king, Ashoka had erected one of his pillars .

And the Guptas too

Prayag was an important city during the reign of the Guptas too. One of the Gupta kings, Samudragupta , had spent a lot of his time here.

most amazing travel destinations
The Ashoka Pillar carries inscriptions of 3 kings- Ashoka, Samudragupta and Jehangir. credits Wiki

The Magh Mela

Every year in January, millions of Indians converge on the banks of Ganga and celebrate Magh Mela. Magh is an Indian word for January and Mela means festival.

most amazing travel destinations
Magh Mela starts January onwards. Credits- Pinterest

When the Sun starts its annual journey towards the Tropic of Cancer , Indians celebrate this ritual by bathing in the Ganga. For us, it is a season of happiness and hope. This is a  period  of fasting and praying. The Mela grounds near the Ganga have a surreal feeling around them. This festival goes on for the next 14 days.

 

most amazing travel destinations
Devotees spend the next one month fasting and praying. courtesy International Business Times

Allahabad also hosts the Kumbh Mela, a festival that draws tens of millions of people to these grounds. Amazing, isn’t it?

The story of Kumbh Mela

Allahabad marks one of the spots where a few drops of the holy nectar spilled down from a vessel carried by Garuda. The celestial carrier of Vishnu  was trying to take away the nectar from the asuras, enemies of the devas.

There are so many interesting stories  about this ancient place. Alas, I cannot share all of them with you but, I hope you are now sufficiently motivated to travel to this place.

The best time to travel to Allahabad is January.

How to reach Allahabad

Check out the various trains from Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata to Allahabad at this site . This is a Government of India website and is absolutely trustworthy.

There are flight options too but they are expensive.

If you are planning to travel to several places in India like Agra and Varanasi, I would recommend you to take a cab to Allahabad. It is just 250 kilometers from Benares.

 

 

 

 

 

Indian offbeat destinations- Where the Vindhyas kneel down

Indian offbeat destinations

Jhukehi is not one of those typical Indian offbeat destinations  where you arrive by a train, get into a nice hotel, backpack around , take pictures and leave a couple of days later. It is just a train halt but has an interesting folklore behind it. Why? Read on…

Indian offbeat destinations
The mighty Vindhyas bow down here

But, where is Jhukehi?

 

Indian offbeat destinations
Location of Jhukehi on the map

I am not sure whether this map can be easily read by a typical reader but the passionate traveller will easily interpret it. Jhukehi marks the spot where there is a gap in the Vindhyan range. This gap is of strategic importance as it helps in the movement of men and materials between the northern and southern parts of India.

Indian offbeat destinations
Not a typical Indian destination

But why are we talking about Jhukehi?

Good question. Why should this mountain pass deserve this attention here?

Well, many thousands of years ago, there lived a sage in India, Agastya. He was well regarded, was knowledgeable and lived in North India. Sage Agastya is considered to be the son of Sage Pulastya, one of the saptarshis or the 7 stars of the Great Constellation.

Sage Agastya is also the elder brother of Sage Vashishtha , the preceptor of Lord Rama, the hero in Valmiki Ramayana.

Agastya rishi is as  equally revered in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka as in North India.

But, we are digressing, aren’t we? We were discussing the significance of Jhukehi, one of the Indian offbeat destinations.

Breaking the ego!

One day, Sage Agastya resolved that he would travel to the region south of the Vindhyas. At that time, the Vindhyas , full of arrogance and ego, were becoming taller by the day. The mountains were being taunted by Narada everyday about their ‘low height’. Agastya was aware of the mountain’s ego and haughtiness and wanted to teach the Vindhyas a lesson.

When the sage reached the Vindhyas, the mountain, bowed its head in respect.

‘O sage, I bow my head to you, kindly cross over my head and resume your journey, ‘ the mountain said. The sage was amused. ‘Ok then, I shall cross over your head, but how long will you bow your head?’, he asked.

‘I shall bow my ahead as long as you return from your journey, Sir’, the mountain replied.

Ok, Agastya replied, wait for my return.

Indian offbeat destinations
The mountain bows its head to the Sage

The mountain has been waiting for the sage to return ever since. The small hill that you see in the image above is said to be the head of the mountain. Isn’t it a delightful story?

So as I said, Jhukehi is not a destination in the popular sense. It is just a train halt and  falls on the Jabalpur- Satna train route. in Hindi Jhukehi means ‘to bow’.

I hope Madhya Pradesh Tourism acknowledges this train halt as another interesting spot in the tour and travel circuit in the state. The state abounds in many such offbeat destinations and I guess, a lot of such stories like this one will have to come out to promote them.

Did you like this story? Thanks for reading up on this post.

 

 

 

Rajasthan offbeat destination- Mesmerizing Menal awaits you

Rajasthan offbeat destination

Rajasthan offbeat destination
                                          Magnificent Menal

The Rajasthan offbeat destination at Menal will simply floor you with its delights.

Dear readers, I have written  about another Rajasthan offbeat destination in one of my earlier posts as well but Menal is simply out of the world.

Menal is located roughly 90 kilometers from Chittorgarh  on the Chittorgarh Bundi road. It is also known as ‘Khajuraho of Rajasthan’. There is another great  Rajasthan  destination that has the same title- Jagat. When you reach Menal you will understand why this place makes you remember Khajuraho, this place is astoundingly beautiful.

Rajasthan offbeat destination

 

Menal is the corrupted form of ‘Mahanal’ or the ‘Great Gorge’. As you drive on the road from Kota towards the temple complex at Menal, you can hear the sound of a river rushing alongside. You simply cannot escape its roar. The river follows you as an invisible friend , hidden in the jungle that lines the road.

At Menal, the river descends 100 meters down with a deafening roar.After the descent, the water splits into a number of small streams that run over the granitic floor.

Rajasthan Offbeat Destination

At this Menal be prepared for a visual feast of verdant hills, water and a temple complex that is more than 1000 years old!The temple is devoted to Lord Shiva.

Rajasthan offbeat Destination
Nandi, the loyal secretary of Lor Dhiva

Experts say that this temple complex was built by the Chahmans or Chauhans. This was a dynasty that ruled large parts of Central and Western India. The king who made this temple was Someshwar. The main part of this temple complex is on the left bank of the gorge and was built by the king. His wife had a monastery built for the monks on the other side of the river. Her name was Suhavadevi and she belonged to the Shakambhari dynasty.

Rajasthan offbeat destination

 

The Menal complex has some amazing images of young ladies such as this one.

Rajasthan offbeat destination

The Khajuraho connect can be seen here

Rajastha offbeat destination
Carvings at the Mahanal Temple in Menal, Rajasthan, India, Asia

The Chauhans were ferocious fighters and were most of the times engaged in fratricide with fellow rulers. The most famous Chauhan was Prithviraj Chauhan who is considered by many as the king of Delhi and Ajmer. I have written a post on his fights with the king of Bundelkhand. Read it, you will like it.

http://www.ahauntedtravel.com/alha-udal-the-ballad-what-is-the-story/

Menal is not known as a popular destination on the Rajasthan travel circuit. But I am sure that this quaint and pretty place gets its due attention from the travellers.

Rajasthan offbeat destination
The facade of the temple

How to reach Menal

Menal can be reached only through road. When you drive from Udaipur to Jaipur, take a detour to Kota from Chittorgarh. 10 kilometres from Chittorgarh, you will encounter another offbeat Rajasthan destination. Click here to know more about it. 

If you want to book hotels on the way, click on this Rajasthan Tourism website http://tourism.rajasthan.gov.in/ .

 

Delhi this December- Discover the artist in you

Delhi this December
Delhi this December
Can you see yourself here?

Delhi this December and for the rest of the winter season throws open its creative aspect to the numerous travelers coming to the city. If you are planning to visit India and stay in Delhi for a few days, this post will help you in exploring the unknown facets of Delhi.

While you can visit several bazaars, palaces and tombs in Delhi this December, you will be pleasantly surprised to know about the several gigs that help the artiste in you to surface. I was myself unaware of these literary ‘watering holes’ in Delhi till last year. To discover these places all you have to do is keep an eye on the events calendar- it is that simple.

1.Caferati at Antisocial- Budding poets and writers converge here every month’s last Wednesday and lay bare their souls and emotions to the assembled crowd. Participation is free but every participant must wrap up her gig in 2 minutes. For the literary inclined , it is a ‘must visit place ‘ in Delhi this December.

Delhi this December
Antisocial, Hauz Khas Village

Most of the guys here are novices and this gig in Delhi provides a platform to budding poets and writers to demonstrate their craft to Delhi. Antisocial is located on the second floor of the Hauz Khas Social restaurant in the HKV.

By the way guys and gals, this place gives an awesome view of the Hauz Khas lake.

  1. Chai Aur Chakallas- We went to this event last November and are longing to go there again. Chai aur Chakallas is definitely on our radar in Delhi this December  as well and we are just waiting for the dates to be announced . Last time the gig was hosted by Kunzum cafe and it saw more than 60 people turn up. Again, the time allotted was 2 minutes and the list of speakers was limited to just 20.
Delhi this December
Chat, sing, make friends- Kunzum Cafe

One of the travel poets is in full form here;

  1. Delhi Literary Festival- Last year, this event was hosted at the eponymous Dilli Haat. It saw several interesting speakers , publishers and even diplomats share their experiences, writings and other creative aspects. Publishing company representatives spoke about the opportunities for newbie  writers and novelists in an age of self publishing. Let us see what is the venue of this event in Delhi this December.

Watch this participant share her perspective of life in this presentation.

 

  1. The Great Indian Film and Literature Festival- This one promises to be an exciting event this December.Please note it is not being organised in Delhi. The venue is DLF Cyberhub. I hope to be here on December 3 this year. Are you planning to head here? Let me know.

 

Delhi this December
Poetry on Wheels

 

Do you know some other places where you can exploit your talent? Let me know. I shall feature those places in my next post.

 

Madame Tussauds- Shortly at Regal Cinema in Delhi

Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds
Credits- Youtube

Madame Tussauds, the eponymous wax museum in London that celebrates success by installing wax figurines of celebrities  comes to India in 2017, April. In India, it will be Delhi that will have the privilege to host the museum. It is interesting to note that one of the oldest buildings in New Delhi, the Regal Cinema will house the museum. India Travel Blog takes you through the history of Madame Tussauds  and Regal Cinema in this post.

History of Regal Cinema

The Regal Cinema building in Delhi is an apt place for Madame Tussaud’s for the simple reason that both the  two institutions are eminently British in origin and heritage.

Madam Tussauds
Regal Cinema, Delhi ,credits- India.com

The Regal cinema building came up in Delhi in 1931, a few years after the Connaught Place was set up by the English architects. The designer/ architect of Regal Cinema was Sir Sobha Singh. This Singh was once described as “adhi Dilli ka Malik” or owner of half of Delhi. Do you know that this cinema came up  right after the introduction of talking movies in the early 1930s?

Sobha Singh was quite a an influential person in his heydays. Besides being the creator of the Regal Cinema , he also made some parts of The Rashtrapati Bhawan, South Block, India Gate , Modern School, Dyal Singh College and the National Museum. Madame Tussauds has no less an impressive history. The originator of this world famous wax museum, Marie Tussaud  was born in 1761 in Strasbourg, France . The lady has the honour of making the wax figurines of people like Voltaire , Benjamin Franklin and Rousseau.

The history of Connaught Place, now Rajiv Chowk is no less interesting. The site of this famous Delhi landmark was earlier occupied by jungles and villages. It was only after several rounds of persuasion and force that the villagers left their homes and settled elsewhere. Today, the site is covered with colonial styled buildings and stores. Connaught Place is ranked as the fifth most expensive market in the world.

Not surprising that Madame Tussauds is coming to Delhi and occupying a piece of the bygone British era architecture.

 

 

 

India Travel- The haunted village of Madhyamika Nagri

India Travel

 

India Travel
                               Credits- ASI

India Travel Blog today takes you to the abandoned village of Madhyamika. Is this place haunted? I do not know but the settlement does emit an eerie feeling. The locals are unsure why this once flourishing town ceased to exist more than a thousand years ago.

Where is Madhyamika located?

This “haunted” village is located roughly 10 kilometers north-east of Chittorgarh, Rajasthan. Readers of India Travel Blog can locate some interesting stories about Chittorgarh elsewhere in this blog. This town , which is now a village comprising 50 odd settlements, sits on the banks of Berach.

So, what is so special about Madhyamika?

Also known as Nagri, Madhyamika was an important centre during the Mauryan period.Ok, let me make it even simpler- Madhyamika was living its life during the times of Alexander of Macedonia. Yes, he was the same guy who tried invading India after getting the better of Iran and the Middle East. Since this town sat on the trade route from Afghanistan to the ports of Gujarat, it became an important trading centre for many.

We are talking about more than 2700 years ago!!!

But, let us come back to the original question- what is so special about Madhyamika or Nagri? According to legends, this town was founded by Raja Harishchandra. This Raja is one of the members of the solar race that comprises eminent kings like Raja Rama (the hero of Ramayana). You cannot really prove this assumption but coins as old as 3000 years have been said to be found here.

India Travel
            Was it a lighthouse that guided the travellers?

So, that makes Madhyamika or Nagri one of the oldest living settlements in India. Can we say that it rubs shoulders with Varanasi?

The legend of the Shibis

Ancient India had several republics or janapadas. One such janapada was the Shibi republic. The Shibis were residents of modern Punjab. It is conjectured that the Shibis were active participants in the war against Alexander of Macedonia. After this war, they migrated roughly south-east wards and settled in the area later known as Madhyamika. However, nothing is proven yet.

The city that faced the first sack

You would be amused to know that Nagri was the first Indian town to have faced the first sack by a foreign invader. It would have come as a surprise to the Nagri citizens because Indian kings never sacked the towns of the kings that they were at war with. The Sanskrit grammarian, Patanjali, has recorded this sack in his memoirs. Probably, the sack happened more than 2000 years ago.

India Travel

More than 600 years of existence

Nagri was a city that was in existence for roughly 600 years. Its disappearance is inexplicable. Some people surmise that an earthquake flattened it, while others ascribe its fall to frequent sackings and invasions.

A treasure trove of artefacts and coins

Even though there are very few traces of the haunted and abandoned  town of Madhyamika today, an alert traveller can still find a few coins , idols, figurines and other artefacts. India Travel Blog strongly recommends that if you find anything interesting, please hand it over to the government authorities for safe keeping.

Nagri has ceased to exist but its legend carries on. Not many travellers know about it. But, gradually, over a period of time, people interested in unknown destinations are getting to know about such places , which is a good sign.

How to reach Nagri?

If you are driving from Chittorgarh towards Jaipur, then the best way to reach here is via a car or a taxi. You will have to take a slight detour towards the right away from the highway. The nearest airport is at Udaipur.

Other places of interest near by are Gagron, Chittor and Kota-Bundi area.

Did you find this post by India Travel Blog interesting? Please let me know .

Thanks

 

India Travel- Khajuraho of Rajasthan,Ambika Mandir

India Travel Blog

Your India travel plans would be incomplete if you did not visit the temple of Ambika Mata at Jagat. This place is located roughly 50 kilometers south-east of Udaipur, Rajasthan. Also known as the Khajuraho of Rajasthan, this temple complex is largely unknown to travellers headed to India..

The objective of India Travel Blog is to acquaint international visitors with the unknown gems in the travel circuit. Many of these unknown destinations have an appeal that borders on the hauntingly beautiful. I hope this India travel post will urge you to go to places that are a little far off from the beaten path.

Jagat is quite close to the world famous artificial lake , Jaisamand. This is the largest fresh water lake in India and was earlier known as Dhebar lake.

India Travel
                         courtesy Wiki

The Jagat temple is of recent origin. It  was constructed just a thousand years back.Historians say that it was made in 961 AD, the time when the crusades where in full swing in the Middle East.

The temple is devoted to Goddess Ambika. She is another version of the fierce Durga , the Goddess of War. The word Ambika means Mother. Goddess Durga can be really violent when she goes out to slay the enemies of humanity in a war but, she is equally benevolent and full of love to her children. The temple at Jagat celebrates the motherly virtues of the Goddess.

India Travel Blog
                             Jagat Temple          courtesy; artandarchaeology.com

Can you see the red flags? They denote that the temple is used as a place of worship by the local residents.

While, Goddess Durga is widely associated with the Hindu thought, she is also considered a central figure by the Jains. It is said that she appeared in the dreams of Vimal, the builder of the world famous Delwara temples, and ordered her to make them.

But, why is this temple known as the Khajuraho of Rajasthan? Just have a look at this image and you will understand.

India Travel

India Travel
                     Celestial Dancers

I am simply marvelling at these sculptures. The lady below is apparently removing a thorn from her feet. These ladies are not goddesses but are  celestial dancers. The Jagat temple has lots of such images.

The Jagat temple also has images of celestial musicians. Have a look athe image below.

India Travel
                          Celestial Musicians

The lady above who is a dancer in the heavens above, is carrying a veena or a stringed musical instrument.

Now look at the image below.In the left panel is a beautiful lady who is adjusting her robes while the next panel has two warriors trying to tame a vyala or a mythical animal. This animal  probably represents the passion amongst us.

India Travel
                     Beauty and the Beast

Now you agree with me that the Jagat temple can rightly be called Khajuraho of Rajasthan?

All this and much more at this temple at Jagat.

India Travel
                                    Temple Front View

How to reach Jagat Temple?

It is quite easy. You can book a Uber from Udaipur. Else, you may write to me at swayamt@gmail.com for getting a Uber cab. I am a Uber business partner and would be more than happy to take you around.

 

 

 

Uber Diaries-The Case of the Unhappy Wife

What do you do when a passenger starts sharing with you details of her married life? Do you clam up or offer suggestions to her on how to sort out her mess? As a Uber partner, I had some tough choices to make. Today  India Travel Blog shares a new story.

I was returning from Saket to my place in Dwarka when Uber pinged me; there was a woman who wanted a ride to Dwarka.
I had just signed up as a Uber partner and was quite keen to pick random people up and hear their stories.
Signing up as a Uber partner is easy- download the Uber Business app on your phone, enter your details. The guys at Uber do some background checks and post that you are good to go.

What is difficult is to cope up with the various kinds of people who come to you as passengers. You do not know about them at all. The only thing that gives an inkling about their personalities is their ratings but, almost everybody gets a 5 star rating these days, so, ratings is not a big deal.You still are left guessing about the person when he/she gets into the back seat of your car.

Anyways, my passenger turned out to be a 30 plus woman, well dressed, articulate and yes, attractive.Naturally, like many other passengers before her, she was bit surprised about me. She had imagined that her Uber driver would be a regular taxi guy which I was not.

After a few polite questions, I started my car and offered her a snack that I was carrying.She wasn't hungry but as a matter of courtesy she took the snack.

The drive was a good 25 kilometers long and I thought some light banter was necessary to keep the monotony away.I think she was also eager to strike a conversation with me.

So, here she was, the wife of a successful businessman who had come to the Saket area to celebrate her anniversary. As things turned out, her hubby had to leave in a  jiffy because of his business commitments. 

I told her that I also blog on travel, run a website and yes, I have a day job too.

It was 9 pm and she hadn't exactly liked the idea of returning in an Uber.

"How can some one be so insensitive, you tell me?", she asked me."Two years in the marriage and he is acting so irresponsibly, he doesn't even understand my feelings!", she continued.

I kept silent. I did not know what to say.

"Are you married?", she asked me. "Err, yes!"

"Would you have left your wife like this?", she pressed on.

Now, I was confused. Should I reply truthfully or be evasive? I decided to keep quite.

"Hello, I am asking you", she pressed again. 

"Err, madam, I would not have done ike this, I am sure ", I replied. I knew I was lying but wanted to get away from this uncomfortable situation.

Over the next 20  minutes, the young lady became an emotional wreck. Apparently, her marriage was on the rocks and she simply did not know how to handle the situation. At the moment, she wanted a pair of listening ears and I fit into that role wonderfully.

Did she also want a comforting voice at that juncture? I do not know but there was an over whelming temptation on my part to act as a shrink.

She had run from her home in Bombay, she said. Her dad was a wealthy businessman there and wanted her to marry one of his clan. But, she had her own ideas. A childhood sweetheart was what she was aiming for.The two got married a couple of years back and she hoped life would be one big, never ending party.

As she continued with her story, I could not help but think of the mirage of happiness. We think that achieving our goals- be it marriage, business, finances etc - means getting a treasure trove of happiness.But, here, exactly the opposite was happening. I reflected on her wasted life.

As we drove on, I wondered about the ethereal nature of life.But, life is not unpleasant either. If it is offering lemons, then there are oranges too. Besides, this one example does not define life.It was her life that was so lonely.

I won't go into what happened when the ride ended. As most professionals do, I bid her good bye.On the contrary, she wanted to keep in touch with me.Thank you, I told her, you are most welcome to speak with me as and when you desire. I did not want to sound rude.

Do you think I should have offered advice/suggestions to her? Please let me know.

Thanks for reading all this.

Uber Diaries- The Girl With The Wedding Cards

Is Uber safe for women passengers in India?Hope, my travel blog answers this question.

As a  foreign  woman traveller coming to India, you would be wondering whether Uber in India is a safe and convenient mode of travel, isn’t it? Well, let me share some of my experiences with you as a Uber business partner.

I became a Uber Business Partner several months ago when a friend of mine suggested me to become one. And , since then, it has been one hell of an experience.

The Girl With The Wedding Cards

She was sure an attractive lady when I first saw her get into my car. Thank you lord, I murmured in anticipation of a good day ahead.
I was driving back to my home after work and had set my Uber app online.She had hailed me through the app and after a couple of minutes' drive, I had found her waiting at the exit of her office.

You do not seem to be a regular driver, she said to me . No, I am not.., I replied, I am a regular employee like you. The words came in English and sure, she was impressed.Trust, as they say, comes packaged in English.

Let us call the lady, Madam X. I will further shorten her nomenclature to X, for simplicity sake.

X was carrying a large plastic bag, apart from her laptop case. I offered to help her lift it up. No, thanks, she said, all the bag carries is wedding cards.

Wedding cards, I wondered aloud, are you a printer of cards? No, I am getting married next month, so I am going to my friends to personally invite them for my shadi.

Shadi is Hindi for wedding.

But, you could have sent them cards electronically or could have whatsapped them, I gently asked as we navigated through the super lousy Gurgaon traffic.

Yes, I could have, she replied patiently. But, you see wedding invitations require a bit of personal attention and I want all my friends to feel special about it !

So, how many cards are you carrying in your bag?

100.

So, you will be going all these 100 people. I asked incredulously.

Yes, why not, all these guys are people whom I value! 

In the meantime, she fished out a phone and started calling up her friends to check on them.

I balked. So, here she was, a modern young  woman working as an HR Manager in a global beverages company and still sticking to some time honoured Indian traditions.I could only marvel at the contradictions in our society.

We talked. I was full of questions and she answered each one of them patiently.

Do you find Uber safe in the evenings?

Yes, why not, she replied, I often take it when I have to go to multiple places.

The amorphous Gurgaon traffic melted away as we conversed. 



Uber had just helped me understand the world from another angle.

 

 

 

India’s Most Haunted Places- Gagron, Rajasthan

Forts of India
The haunted fort of Gagron

Planning to visit India? One of the most interesting  and haunted places to visit in November this year is the unknown destination of Gagron in Rajasthan.You can also visit it during December or January and soak in the amazing experience of the haunted fort of Gagron.

How to reach Gagron?

Well, this amazing place in India is located south of Ranthambore, the famous tiger sanctuary of India. You will have to take a cab from Ranthambore or Sawai Madhopur to reach the district headquarters of Jhalawar. Gagron is just a short distance from Jhalawar. Alternately, if you are in Udaipur while reading this, then book a cab from there to reach Gagron. This is one of the many places that you can visit in December with your family.

So, what happened in this haunted place?

The fort was constructed by a king several hundreds of years ago, maybe one thousand years back. For the next 300 years, it remained with the same dynasty. All was well and quiet and peaceful till the 15th century AD when tragedy struck. 
One of the sultans of Mandu ( and you must visit Mandu too during your visit to India) ,Hoshang Shah, was enamoured with the riches of Gagron.He decided to invade it with a large army. The resident Rajput king of Gangron, Achaldas, held out for several months. He was a brave guy but the fort did not have adequate reserves of food and water.
It was a moment of crisis for Achaldas and after consulting his nobles, he decided to let out a last hurrah.The Rajput ladies decided to immolate themselves before their men folk went on their last campaign.
All the Rajput ladies and their small kids burnt themselves to death. This practice was called Jauhar in the ancient days.
After the ladies burnt themselves to death, the Rajput menfolk draped themselves in saffron coloured clothes and charged at their enemy. But. alas, not one of the men survived the battle.Hoshang Shah emerged victorious and captured the fort.
The troubled soul of the king, Achaldas, is said to haunt the for all these hundreds of years.

The Mystery of the King’s Bed

Achaldas’ properties were not touched by Hoshang Shah  after the battle. The sultan left them intact ,he was so enchanted by the bravery of Achaldas.

One of the properties of the king was his bed that survived till 1950. It was said by the locals that  the cleaner of the bed used to find 5 rupees every morning by the side of the furniture ! The keeper of the fort, Thakur Moti Singh tells us that he used to listen to voices of people enjoying the hookah from inside the locked room of the king! Was the room haunted? I do not know.

No Foundations And Three Walls

The fort of Gagron is perhaps the only castle in India that does not have any foundations. Another interesting thing is that the fort is surrounded by 3 walls. Another interesting feature of the Gagron fort is that it is surrounded by a river on its 3 sides.

Forts of India

Traitor, parrot squawked!

This is a very interesting story on Gagron. Read on…The parrots of this place speak in human voices. It is said that upon the capture of this fort by Humayun, the Mughal king found a parrot in the belongings of the defeated sultan, Bahadur Shah. The parrot could speak in a human voice.

This parrot had heard the plans of a noble of Bahadur Shah to assassinate Humayun. The name of the noble was Rumi Khan.Rumi presented himself to Humayun and asked for refuge. But, as soon as the parrot saw Rumi , it squawked., “Rumi is a traitor, don’t believe him!” Rumi Khan was embarrassed no end and had to leave the service of Humayun a few days later. Humayun was the father of Akbar.

Interested in exploring this travel site? No worries, you may write an email to me and I will help you in planning your travel itinerary. In fact, if you want to explore Gagron and other places in rajasthan on your own, my advice is to book the accommodations of Rajasthan Tourism. They are safe, clean and affordable.

The other places that you can explore nearby are the forts of Boondi, Kota and of course the city of Udaipur.

Thanks for reading this post, hope you enjoyed it.

 

India Travel Blog- Ramlila And The Story Of Valmiki

Festivals of India

rama-sita

If you are travelling to India this time and happen to be in Varanasi or any other North Indian town, do drop in any of the several Ramlilas being enacted there..Trust me, this will be an experience of a life time. Today is Dussehra and many Ramlilas will come to an end. So, pack your bags and head to the nearest Ramlila and soak up that experience.

Several thousands of years ago, there was a prince, Rama who was banished from the kingdom by his father, King Dashrath on the advice of his headstrong queen, Kaikeyi. Rama, the dutiful son that he was , spent the next 14 years of his life in the forests of India and was accompanied in his travails by his brother, Lakshmana.and wife, Sita.One day, she was kidnapped by Ravana and while taking her to Lanka, he was attacked by Jatayu, the King of Birds. Jatayu failed to help Sita and was killed by Ravana.

rama-sita
Lord Rama with Sita.Courtesy- santabanta.com

The story of Rama and Sita spans several countries- Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and of course, the present day, India.

Rama was born in Ayodhya, a small North Indian town located on the banks of the mighty Saryu river. He was the eldest of the 4 sons of Dasaratha and the natural claimant of the throne. Fortune had other things in store for him and the machinations of  Kaikeyi- Dashrath’s favourite queen- ensured that Rama spent 14 years of his life in the vast and intimidating jungles of India  and fighting the enemies of humanity.  Rama fought and defeated Ravana, the King of Lanka and the mightiest king of his times. Ravana had almost all the devatas in his thrall and even had an aeroplane to fly around.

While, Rama was all alone when he started his journey of banishment, over the years, he collected a vast army comprising the subdued and oppressed people of the various parts of India. The most trusted commander of Rama was Hanuman, a member of the forest dwelling tribe of India. Though Hanuman was born in a low class family, he had a tremendous intellect and was also blessed with a phenomenal strength.

Many Indians remember Hanuman daily in their thoughts and regard him as the remover of all obstacles. Hanuman is immortal and lives everywhere.

Rama is considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the Holy Trinity in the Indian thought. Many people believe- and I am a member of that community- that the mere utterance of the name , Rama, delivers us from evil and gets us Moksha or salvation. The final endeavour of Hindus is to attain salvation – escaping the cycle of birth and death.

Ravana was a terrible foe and possessed the strongest army in the entire world. He was near  immortal and had his formidable brother, Kumbhakarna and son, Meghanad as military commanders. His other brother, Vibhishana crossed over to Rama’s side before the start of the war.

Ravana had a pitcher of nectar placed in his navel area and nobody knew this secret but Vibhishana. He shared this important piece of information with Rama and this led to the death of Ravana.

The war lasted for 10 days in the island of Lanka. To cross over to the island, Rama and his army constructed a bridge across the Palk Strait, that divides India and Sri Lanka. This bridge is visible from the outer space.

On the 10 th day of this war, Rama vanquished Ravana. The 10th day of the war is celebrated as Vijayadashami or Dussehra. Indians celebrate Dussehra by erecting effigies of Ravana and his son and  his brother and lighting them with fire. The effigies are stuffed with crackers. This year, another effigy has come up alongside those of Ravana and his kin- the effigy of terrorism.

Festivals of India

Dusshera

After this win, Rama returned to Ayodhya and ascended the throne. His father, the king Dashratha had expired by then  of grief.



Rama is considered to be a man who stayed within his limits and was the epitome of human perfection in qualities. He was the ideal son, ideal king, brother, friend etc. The great sage , Valmiki penned his story in the eponymous, Ramayana. Valmiki was a robber in his earlier days. Moved by the sight of a stork crying out in anguish after its consort was hit with an arrow, Valmiki became a poet. The resultant of his pain and anguish came out as Ramayana.

ramlila-840

Many centuries later, another sage, Tulsidas wrote another story of Rama- Ramcharitmanas. He followed it up by starting Ramlilas- dramas on the life of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and the other characters.

During the 10 days that the Ramlilas are on, the atmosphere in the cities is electric. It is believed that Lord Rama himself comes and resides in the bodies of the characters enacting his role. These 10 days are a journey for millions of Indians to once again start living in a virtuous way. But, it is really difficult for most of us. to even copy even 1 % of his ideals. I am uploading here a video of one of the episodes of Ramlila.

I have included a short clip of a Ramlila which I visited yesterday. The armies of Lord Rama and Ravana are poised to fight each other. Have a look at this Ramlila video.

Ramlilas also provide a short time business opportunity to many small time as well as established businesses. Now wonder, Rama is a source of succour to so many famished souls even after thousands of years after his death.

Festivals of India
A trader sells “jalebis” at one of the stalls

 

Festivals of India

Effigies of Ravana
Effigies of Ravana on sale on a Delhi road

Today, even though several thousands of years have passed since Rama walked this earth, his name finds resonance in several geographies. Rama is the title of the Thai rulers. Many people are of the opinion that the King Rameses of Egypt borrowed the name of Rama and appended it to his title. Mahatma Gandhi considered Lord Rama as his spiritual guide and mentor.

Millions of Indians have this fervent wish that the word “Rama” should be on their lips at the time of their deaths.

The Story of Rama’s Death

Well, one day, while he was the king of Ayodhya, a man came to meet him. The meeting happened in private and nobody knew what  was being  discussed. After the meeting was over, Rama stood from his seat, opened the door of his room, walked to the door of his palace, exited it and walked all the way to the river Saryu. He continued walking all the way to its banks. He did not stop even even when the water reached his knees. He continued walking to the middle of the river . Now, the river was engulfing him. He did not stop and reached the deepest part of the river. Now, only his crown was visible, shimmering in the afternoon Sun.

Image result for guptar ghat ayodhya
(Guptar Ghat- Ayodhya. Courtesy- Tripadvisor)

And, in an instant, Rama was gone. After performing his earthly duties as the ideal king, husband, brother, father, son, friend and warrior, Lord Rama had left this material world.

The ghat or the steps from where Lord Rama descended into the river at Ayodhya is the Guptar Ghat.



More on Lord Rama can be read here ; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Rama

How did you find this post on Dussehra, my friends? Hope, you enjoyed it.

Happy Dussehra.

 

India Travel Stories- Fortnight of the Dead

 

Shraadh.jpgToday marks the end of the Fortnight of the Dead in India. If you are travelling to India right now, you will probably see several Indians, Hindus particularly, paying obeisance to their long dead ancestors. This is an age old custom in India and has several interesting facets .

This fortnight plugs the gap between the monsoon or the rainy season and the festive season. So, after a fortnight of solemnities, we are back to our happy selves.

This period is also known as Shraadh Paksh in Hindi or Sanskrit. The word Shraddh means “devotion” or “respect”. The word Paksh means ” fortnight”. So, this period of fortnight is meant for paying respect to our ancestors who are no more with us.

We believe that our ancestors have made us what we are today. Their values have shaped us into being better human beings. We owe our existence and identity to them.

There is another angle to this period of paying obeisance to them. Us Hindus believe that after death, our souls are held up in suspended animation. The souls keep wandering from one body to another , after death, for countless number of years. There is always a constant yearning for salvation or mukti from the cycle of birth and death. Mukti is also known as Nirvana in Buddhist thought.

In the Indian philosophy, the aim of every individual should be to attain salvation.

So, in this fortnight, we pray to the almighty to liberate the souls of our ancestors and give them salvation.

It is thought by many Hindus that the souls of some of our ancestors live in the bodies of crows, dogs and other animals. By feeding these life forms, we are essentially respecting our long dead ancestors.

crow

 

 

Going to Gaya

My blog on Shraadh Paksh would be incomplete if I did not tell you about the town of Gaya.This is an ancient town in the Indian state of Bihar and is famously associated with the preachings of Gautam Buddha.

gaya

A  lot of Indians visit this town during this fortnight to pay their obeisance to  their ancestors. The local population benefits from such trips because it helps the local economy. Hotels have come up there and there is a good number of people in Gaya who specialise in taking you through the various rituals.

Buddhist Man Meditating

 

 

Visit Delhi- Mehrauli is much more than just Qutub Minar

Visit Delhi

Visit Delhi and you will be surprised to discover some hidden gems as travel destinations. In this post, I shall take you through the lanes of Mehrauli- one of the oldest villages of Delhi.

Visit Delhi
Qutub Minar

How to reach Mehrauli village?

Wondering about the unknown travel destinations of Delhi? Today, I take you to the back lanes of Mehrauli. I went walking to this amazing but secret part of Delhi and look, what I found? People interested in the history and culture of Delhi would definitely like this post.

You need to get down at the Qutub Minar Metro Station. Ensure that you have adequate water with you as walking around Mehrauli is quite a laborious affair. You also need to have a sturdy pair of boots.Don’t worry- the roads aren’t uneven. It is just that the monsoon slush does not dampen your feet.

To get into Mehrauli village, take the road that veers right from the entrance of the Qutub Complex. This way, the famous tower of Qutub will fall towards your left.

Visit Delhi
The Qutub stands tall and casts its gaze over this ancient village
Visit Delhi
Once upon a time, these streets carried the palkis and carriages of kings.

Why Mehrauli is a must on your itinerary when you visit Delhi

Since, it was a rainy day I did not feel the heat in the air- it was quite cool while walking.

But, let me tell you this- walking on this road gave me goosebumps! I wonder how many generations of people, kings, commoners etc  would have walked upon this ancient street.

Do you know that Mehrauli is one of the oldest settlements in the human history? Some people say it is more than 1000 years old!

Temple of Lord Krishna’s sister

A few metres ahead is the ancient temple of Yogmaya. She is the sister of Lord Krishna, one of the heroes of the mankind.I did not feel like taking the photograph of the temple. But, here is a snap of the two golden lions that guard the temple.

Visit Delhi
This golden lion guards the Yogmaya Temple

This temple is one of the most ancient temples of Delhi- it is more than 5000 years old! When, the Turks captured Delhi more than 800 years ago, they demolished it. The temple was renovated by King Hemu in the 16th century. The modern look of the temple is ascribed to its renovation in the `19th century.In fact, all the ancient temples in Delhi wear a modern look.

So, you see, Mehrauli is littered with monuments that are as old as 5000 years! Where else in the world can you such exciting monuments, where else?isn’t Mehrauli a backpacker’s paradise? Now, I hope you realize why this place is a must for all travellers planning to visit Delhi.

As you walk further down the road, you encounter an imposing monument towards your right. It is a grave and this one is dedicated to a noble who was killed by a medieval king, Akbar.

Interesting stat about this tomb- It was used as a party hall by the British officers!

Visit Delhi
Adham Khan’s Tomb

No full stops in Mehrauli!

Though, Mehrauli was overrun by so many invaders over the past 1000 years, the it  still has  retained its life and colour. People in Delhi are generally lovers of life and energy and there are no full stops in Mehrauli too!

This is Shehzad who sells home made remedies to the locals here. All his “medicines” are stocked in a gunny bag. There is a speaker that belts out his message exhorting the passers by of the virtues of his drugs.

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Mehrauli is a melting pot of cultures

Shehzad is from Bengal which is more than 1500 kilometres from Delhi and there are many more such Bengalis working here. Over the years, Delhi has become a melting pot of many kinds of people, such is the allure of Delhi.

But,dear lovers of Delhi, do you know that there is a small memorial to the fallen soldiers of the British Indian Army who fought in the First World War (1914-1919)? Tell this to your friends when they are planning to visit Delhi after reading this.

Visit Delhi
Memorial to the First World War

Arches and much more!

But,Mehrauli is still all colour after all these centuries of turmoil.And, if you have a keen pair of eyes, you can behold some fantastic looking arches and doorways.

Visit Delhi
Arches, gateways, arches ! My heart aches!

In another part of Mehrauli, you see a lady selling rakhis or sacred threads that are supposed to ward off evil from brothers.

167The festival of rakhis is round the corner and the friendly lady is ready with her wares.

And in case you may want to buy gigantic cigarettes or hookahs, my dear friends , here is the shop.

175

I am a non smoker, though!

Meanwhile, as I continue walking onward, I stumble upon yet another “ancient” temple. This one is dedicated to Lord Shiva , the God of Death. The temple is located on the Maharaja Agrasen Chowk. Maharaja Agrasen is the founding father of the trading community of North India and has a stepwell or “baoli” named after him in Central Delhi.

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And what dis we find here? A Jahaz! A Ship!

More surprises on the way…the next stop is this Jahaz Mahal whose origin is unknown.No one knows who constructed it but its architecture and form is appealing. Have a look.

Visit Delhi
Jahaz Mahal, Mehrauli

The word “Jahaz” means ship. Does this structure give you a feeling that you are looking at a ship?

I spotted a pillar bearing some words in Sanskrit.It was inverted and was supporting one of the canopies of the Jahaz Mahal. Is it possible that this structure was made by the demolished pillars of a pre existing Hindu temple or palace?

Visit Delhi
Why was the pillar put up in such a manner? Any answers?

The words suggest that the pillar was erected in 1508 AD, more than 500 years back.

And, if you care to turn your head backwards, you will see an exquisite pond- Hauz Shamsi.

Monuments of Delhi
Hauz Shamsi

The legend says that the pond came into being after the hoof of the horse of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish hit the ground.

Do you believe in this story?

Some trivia

Let us hit the road again and here is what we see- three dogs sleeping in a row.Wow! Such bliss and carelessness !

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Ok, let us cast our gaze on some ancient doors, please.

MehrauliYou can’t do away with these wires, they take the show away!

170And , can Mehrauli escape the traffic jams? Can it really? A three wheeler struggles to negotiate with the clogged Mehrauli streets.

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You will find cars and autos everywhere when you visit Delhi?

Cars..yes cars also try to make their way into Mehrauli! Why can’t the people understand these small things that these streets are far too narrow for vehicles?

Many people who visit Delhi for the first time notice far too many cars on Delhi roads.

So, that takes me to the end of this post my friends. I wanted  to introduce you the little known monuments of Mehrauli and Delhi as I believe that travel destinations such as these have a soul of their own.

I hope you like this post.


Places to Visit in Delhi-Hauz Khas Village

HKV or Hauz Khas Village has something for everyone who is interested in the history,culture,cuisine,art or craft of Delhi.An amazing destination or the Delhi traveller, this quaint place is a bohemian’s paradise.

Located just off the  Aurobindo Marg in Delhi,Hauz Khas Village is a secret waiting to be unveiled. 

Since, I am a history and heritage lover, I shall take you through some amazing spots of this place.

Firoz Shah is credited with the construction of this place. Many experts of history ever that Hauz Khas Village was the site of a medieval Islamic madarsa.A madarsa is a school of Islamic concepts and principles.However,there is nothing to prove this version till now.Foreign travellers are largely unaware of this 14 th century monument.

The main centre of attraction in this complex is the tomb of Firoz or Firuz Shah, a Sultan of Delhi.He was more than 40 years of age when he was persuaded to become the Sultan upon his cousin’s death.Firoz’s cousin, Mohammad was an enigmatic Sultan and had died hairless.

Firoz a credited with building several monuments in Delhi-some of them are covered in this blog.

Adjacent to the complex of Firoz is a mediavel water tank, Hauz Khas.This water body was was excavated by an earlier Sultan,Alauddin.

So,you can see that this place crawls with history.

But,on any day, you will find this place teeming with young romantics.There is not one corner that you will see unoccupied with them.

I like this place for the various shades of architecture and open spaces here.

You will like the green lawns here to unwind.

But,Hauz Khas Village is much more than just a mediavel complex.Look what I found here:a live music coffee shop that overlooks this complex.

As the clouds gathered in the skies,the monuments took in a haunted look!

Inside the cafe,the music added to the seductiveness of the ambience.

So,while Delhi experiences the joy of monsoons, head over to this beautiful place.

You will get lots of interesting places at Hauz Khas Village to indulge yourself.

I came across another interesting place to hang out.Except that there was nothing in there!

Places To Visit in Delhi- Azim Khan Tomb

Places to Visit in Delhi
Azim Khan Tomb, Mehrauli

One of the lesser known stopovers for the travellers in Delhi, the Azim Khan Tomb sits astride the Mehrauli Gurgaon Road. You can see it easily from the Mehrauli Gurgaon/Mehrauli Badarpur intersection.What is the story behind this place?

Ever since I landed up in Delhi more than 16 years ago, I had made a mental note to go and explore this forlorn and hauntingly beautiful structure but, time constraints were the main culprits.

This “tomb” is located behind the Jain Ahimsa Sthal and the traveller will have to find for directions to reach it. There are no markings or directions and so, you will have to ask the passers by or the roadside vendors for directions.

The path leading to this structure is narrow and in my case, I had to make way for some donkeys which were being led for grazing. I found them cute. Donkeys in Delhi!

DSC01943Please note that you will have to either walk or ride a bike in this alley. Don’t expect to drive a car here.

The man who lies  “buried” here seems to have been an influential man- he had such a big place for himself ! The Government of India has this to say about this man,

Places to Visit in Delhi
Azim Khan’s Tomb

However, there is nothing about this “Azim Khan” in the available history of Delhi. I tried researching about him on the internet but found nothing.Some people say that he was an important general in Akbar’s army. Tired of fighting numerous wars, one day he decided to quit his profession and lead the life of a simpleton.

This place gives the traveller a great vantage point. On a cloudy day, you can simply sit here with your friends and gaze at the spread of greenery below the hillock. You can have a great view of the Qutub Minar and the serene statue of Lord Mahavira, one of the greatest philosophers the world has known.

Places to Visit in Delhi
View of the Qutub Minar

A word of advice to the curious traveller- the terrain is rocky here so make sure you put on your sneakers or hiking boots. No slippers, flats or heels, please- else you risk getting a sprain.

As I said earlier, unlike the other monuments of Delhi, this place doesn’t have a story behind it. So, my post here is more of an image gallery rather than a detailed account.

DSC01950

Greenery all around! A month back, the same place was all brown and dusty-this is what monsoons do to Delhi.

 

The 'kangooras" of the tomb
The ‘kangooras” of the tomb
Places to visit in Delhi
Can you see the Qutub?
Places To Visit in Delhi
The imposing building

Surprisingly, the building does not have any grave! It is said that the British rulers had removed the grave to make way for a party hall here!

DSC01970

There are a couple of graves outside the structure and this is one of them. Can you understand what is written here in Farsi/Arabic lettering?

Places to Visit in Delhi
Juxtaposed

On my way back, I wandered into a dense forest that lay next to the path. And, this is what I discovered!

Places to visit in Delhi
A haunted building!
Places to visit in Delhi
A milestone?

 

 

DSC01969And you certainly cannot escape the declarations of love such as this one!

Safety and Security- It is advisable to visit this place in groups of two or three.Azim Khan’s tomb is normally not visited by many people so better to take an extra precaution.



The Most Haunted Places In India-Kiradu

Most haunted places
Kiradu Temple

Kiradu is one of the least known places to visit in India. Does it have ghosts?What is the story of this haunted place?Why is it forbidden to stay here after dark?

I have been writing stories around the haunted destinations of India for the last few years.The idea is not to frighten my traveller friends but to encourage them to visit these places so that the local economy picks up. There are so many offbeat destinations in India that many of us hardly know about.And, almost all of these places have some weird and unlikely stories around them and I do not know how many of them are true. But, they do interest all of us, isn’t it?Otherwise, you would not be reading this fascinating post.

History of Kiradu

Kiradu is a village located between the two towns of Barmer and Jaisalmer in the state of Rajasthan.  If you want to travel to Kiradu, you will have to take a taxi or a car to reach here.

http://www.distancesbetween.com/road-map/driving-map-barmer-kiradu-temple/2982937/vi5/

More than a thousand years ago, Kiradu had a Sanskrit name, Kiradkot The word “Kirad” denotes the clan of Rajputs that used to live in this place and “Kot”means town or city. So, Kiradu was the city of Kirad Rajputs. Nowadays, it is a devastated village and has acquired the reputation of a haunted place.

The Kirad Rajputs were the vassals of the Chalukya or Solanki Rajputs. The word “Rajput” refers to the fighting arm of the Indian society. This arm used to defend the society against the foreign invaders.The Chalukyas are the guys who have made the world famous Somnath temple in Gujarat.

But, the Kirad Rajputs built an equally superb set of temples in Rajasthan.And, these came up in Kiradu.

What is the story of “Haunted Kiradu”?

The temples here are devastated. There are three theories behind this.

The first theory says that several thousands of years ago, there lived a holy man in the village with his disciples. One day, he decided to take a tour in the surrounding country. He called the villagers to his hut and shared his plans. “I am leaving my disciples to you, my dear people, and please take good care of them,” he requested them. The villagers agreed and so, the holy man left on his tour.

Most Haunted Places

But, the villagers ignored the holy man’s request, His disciples were left to their fate by the villagers and unfortunately, some of them died. It was a terrible time for them and all of them would have died but for the help provided by a local woman.She took good care of them but, her effort was not enough to save all of them.

A few months later when the holy man returned, he was stunned at seeing the condition of his people. Angered over the conduct of the villagers, the holy man cursed them and cast a spell over the village. But, he also felt a sense of piety for the friendly, helpful woman and so , he advised her to leave the village. “Leave the village but make sure to not turn your head back while leaving”, he advised to the woman.

Kiradu 2

The lady , heeding the advice of the holy man, left the village but, was quickly tempted to have one last look at the village where she had grew up.

But, as she turned back to have one last look at the village, she turned to stone!

Her stone statue is still present in the village , though, it is forbidden to take its photograph.

I am sure after reading this short story, you will be tempted to visit this haunted village. But, dear friends, please do not stay back in the village after dusk. This advice is given to the travellers by the locals.If you stay back then you may turn to stone!

The second theory behind the devastation of the village says that an earthquake visited this village.

The last theory says that the ruin of the village was caused by the Muslim armies that had invaded Rajasthan in the past.

This place has even allured the BBC to visit this place and record its history; http://www.bbc.com/news/live/magazine-32969581

Wikipedia has this to say about Kiradu;https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiradu_temples

Dear readers,I have written a post on the haunted place of Bhuli Bhatiyari in Delhi. You may read it here;http://www.ahauntedtravel.com/the-most-haunted-place-in-delhi/

Khajuraho of Rajasthan

The Kiradu temples have got a lot of erotic art on their walls. I am always wonderstruck at this phenomenon.Why is there so much of eroticism here when the temples have been devoted to Lord Vishnu and Shiva? Would you have any answers?

By the way, I had written a post on the world famous temples of Khajuraho, You can read this here.

http://www.ahauntedtravel.com/5-reasons-why-khajuraho-has-lots-of-sex-on-its-wallswhat-is-the-story/

Kiradu 3

How to reach Kiradu

Kiradu can be reached from Jaisalmer as well as Barmer. Both are district headquarters of Rajasthan and can be reached by train from Delhi. Visit https://www.irctc.co.in for train and seat availablity. This is a Government of India website so you can get the best information here.

Once you reach Barmer or Jaisalmer, you will have to take a bus or taxi to reach the Kiradu temples.

For overnight stay in Barmer and Jaisalmer , please check this government website http://tourism.rajasthan.gov.in/

Rajasthan Tourism has some really good hotels to stay in .They are clean and comfortable.




Did you like this post my friends?Please write to me at swayamt@gmail.com

Yogyakarta- Exploring the soul of Java

 

BorobodurYogyakarta is the “soul” of Java province of Indonesia. The adjective is appropriate because the city is home to the art, culture, music and other aspects of the Javanese culture. Also pronounced as Jogjakarta or Jogja (JOG-jaah), the city is the capital of the Special Province of Yogyakarta.

The city has an interesting past because during the Indonesian struggle for Independence, the Sultan of Hamengkubuwono had offered the city of Yogyakarta as a refuge to the revolutionaries.After Indonesia became independent  from its colonial masters , the Indonesian government gave a special status to this city.

Interestingly, many people say that Yogyakarta is named after the ancient Indian town Ayodhya. The word “Yogya” means capable or apt and “karta” means city. So, etymologically, Yogyakarta means – A Capable City.

Getting Around Yogyakarta

Travellers can enjoy the sights and sounds of Yogyakarta by many ways;

A) Trishaw- This is a three wheeled traditional vehicle powered by humans. It is a nice conveyance to be used to savour the sights and sounds of the city. Be sure that you negotiate the fare before your journey.

B) Horse Cart- Also known as andong, you can find a horse cart outside train stations and other places like the Kraton and Mal Malloboro. Most horse carts will try to take you to the shopping districts that sell fake items so be sure where you are going.

C) Buses- Mostly. the local population uses buses for local travel so if you are planning to mingle with it, please use buses. However, also note that most bus stops are located 1-2 kilometres from one another so one may have to walk a long distance to catch a bus. Also, avoid keeping valuables while travelling in a bus.

Places to see in Yogyakarta

The Kraton– Also known as Sri Sultan;’s Palace, this place is the number one tourist attraction for travellers to Yogyakarta. Close to this building are other popular places like Bank Indonesia, Central Post Office and BN’ 46 building. All these buildings are heritage structures and if you love old colonial style structures, you will enjoy these places.

Kraton_Yogyakarta_6

The Kraton has the Sultan’s residence, the palace grounds and the residential quarters of his servants and officials. This place is open 8AM-3PM and is closed at 11 AM on Fridays.You can also have a look at the various carriages used by the Sultan during his hey days

Benteng Vredeburg; This is a Dutch era fort and is located in front of the President’s Palace. A few wartime objects are still preserved in this fort.

Kota Gerde– This was the capital of the first Islamic kingdom of Mataram. What is of interest is the tomb of the first Sultan of Mataram- Panembahan  Senopati. Kota Gerde still displays elements of medieval architecture. What is of interest to the travellers here is the “silver village“, a place where you can buy silver artefacts.Since, this place is large to cover by foot, be sure to use a mode of conveyance like bus or trishaw.

yogyakarta-malioboro_7

Taman Sari is a ruined water castle. It was originally a pleasure house used by the first Sultan in 1755 and it housed his harem. There was a water pool here and the Sultan used to take his pick from his harem by climbing atop a tall tower. Taman Sari is open 9AM- 3PM every day.

There are several museums and art galleries that you can visit while travelling to Yogyakarta. Some of them are Museum Affendi, Museum Ullen Sentalu  and Museum Kekayon. The art galleries are at Bentar Budaya and Cemeti Art House.

Places to Stay at Yogyakarta

In my opinion, Whiz Hotel at Yogyakarta is an excellent place to stay at . I found it comfortable and host friendly during my last trip to Java .However , you can have your own choice of hotels and inns and get  best  Yogyakarta hotel deals or you can visit http://www.traveloka.com

More information on Yogyakarta

You can get more information about Yogyakarta from the following websites;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogyakarta

http://wikitravel.org/en/Yogyakarta

www.born2travel.it

www.indonesia-tourism.com

Hope, this information helps you. Happy travelling.

 

 

India Travel- The Story of The Son of The Pregnant King

Lion-Chaukhamba view

What happened when the thirsty king gulped down water stored in the pitcher? The story of the pregnant king. Amazing travel stories from India!

India is not just a travel destination, it is a store house of bizarre stories, legends and myths. Each city, village, town etc. here has a story of its own and my mission as a storyteller is to introduce you to these places through my stories. I hope, you have liked the tales that I have told in my earlier blog posts.

This story is about Mandhata who ruled India several thousands of years ago. Nothing great, you will think probably, so what is so special about him?

Dear readers, the speciality of Mandhata lay elsewhere.He was not born of his mother as all of us have. He was born of his father ! It was his dad that gave birth to him.! Read on to get to the full story.

A Childless King

Several thousands of years ago there lived a king by the name of Yuvanashwa. This king belonged to the Ikshwaku dynasty. This dynasty has produced some pf the greatest kings that India has seen. The greatest king of all times in India, Rama , belongs to this dynasty.So does, Gautam Buddha. So, you can say that this was the greatest alumni community that India and perhaps , the world has seen.

It is also said that the Ikshwakus sprung up from Sun.One of the earliest kings of this dynasty was Manu and it is said that the word ‘man’ has evolved from Manu.

Now, Yuvanashwa did not have any children and this was a source of worry to the mighty king. “Whom would I bestow my kingdom?”, he would often wonder.

The king tried several medicines, recipes , tricks but to no avail. Even though he had several wives, not one of them could conceive. The king was worried, very worried. Age was fast catching up with him.

One day, one of his ministers advised him to seek the advice of Sage Bhrigu. The word “Sage” means “Saint” and in ancient India the saints possessed knowledge and wisdom on every subject. So, Yuvanashwa decided to go up to the venerable Bhrigu and seek a solution to his problem.

“No problem, O King, you need to perform a penance and everything will be alright. Just ensure that you follow certain rules, O King!”, the Sage advised.

The Penance Starts

And so, the penance started. The king had to observe a set of rigid rules . His daily routine became tighter. His queens had to follow suite.

Days passed.They turned into into  months and months became years,




One fine day

The King was terrible thirsty that day.He had gone on a long expedition and the sun overhead blazed real hot. It was time for him to come back to his palace and take rest.

It was sundown as he arrived at his home and the first thing that he did was to search for a glass of water.

It was pitch dark and everyone was asleep after a day of hard penance. The queens were asleep and so was the Sage Bhrigu.Everyone was tired.

The king did not want to disturb anyone so he quickly went to the kitchen and dipped his glass into a pitcher. The water was cool and the the king was grateful and happy for that. At last, he thought to himself, finally my thirst has been quenched.

But, the Sage had woken up after hearing the slight sounds that the king was making in the kitchen. The Sage went up to the kitchen and found the king drinking away water happily.

The Sage was appalled! “O King,” the Sage cried,”what have you done?You have drunk the water meant for your wives. This water would have made them pregnant!”.

Now, it was the turn of the king to get dumbfounded. He was also crestfallen that all his labour and sacrifice had gone waste.

The Sage continued,” You will have a son, alright!But, that child will be borne of you; you shall be his mother, Yuvanashwa. You will get pregnant in due course of time.”

Bhrigu

Sage Bhrigu is one of the seven Saptarshis of the constellation of the Great Bear.Indians have named each of the stars of the constellation according to important sages . Bhrigu was respected widely for his intellect and wisdom. Even, Lord Vishnu ( featured above) respected and feared this Sage.

A child is born 

In due course, Yuvanashwa bore a baby. The baby was named, Mandhata.The whole kingdom was aghast at this development. For sometime, the king, Yuvanashwa was embarrassed about this incident but, he got support from his queens. They took good care of the child.

Over the years, Mandhata grew u to be a mighty prince and as was the custom in those times, he was appointed as the next king by his father.

The Legend of Ukhimath

Mandhata was blessed with divine powers. He had the strength and power to conquer all the dominions in the world. He had a divine bow from Indra, the Lord of the Gods.The bow helped him win numerous wars. Mandhata conducted several Ashwamedhs Yagyas. He also performed Rajsuya Yagyas.

Over a period of time, Mandhata accumulated countless riches.His teachers advised him to share his wealth with the poor and the needy.

There is a place in the Indian state of Uttarakhand- Ukhimath. It is said that Lord Shiva retires to this place in the winters. Shiva is the Lord of Death and is the presiding deity at Kedarnath, Uttarakhand.

Mandhata decided to give away his riches to the people at Ukhimath.He did penance here while standing on his feet for 12 years.He wanted to please Lord Shiva with his penance.Pleased with his dedication, Lord Shiva appeared before him in the form of primordial sound.This kind of sound is called Om.

The place where Mandhata performed his penance is now marked with a temple called Omkareshwar temple and has an idol of Mandhata inside it.

Temples of India
Omkareshwar Temple

It is said that he donated millions and millions of cows  and oxen to the farmers and other common people of his kingdom. Cows give milk and are considered sacred in India.The oxen help in the tilling of land.

Legends say that at this very village , Mandhata gifted away gold and silver , whose current value would be in quintillions, to the poor people. Some people say that all this bullion is still buried under the rocks and boulders of Ukhimath. I don’t know how far is all this true.

Death of Mandhata

As his wealth and riches increased manifold, Mandhata became arrogant. He started thinking that he was invincible. There was only one hurdle to his immortality and that was the conquest of the Realm of Indra- Realm of the Lord of Gods !

However, Indra was a clever man. He managed to convince Mandhata that on Earth, there was still one kingdom that was beyond the purview of Mandhata- the kingdom of Mathura.

Mathura is just 250 kilometres away from Delhi.

Now, the ruler of Mathura was Lavana and he possessed a terrible trident that was gifted to him by Lord Shiva.

Mandhata was supremely confident in his power and weapons and he decided to attack Mathura straight away.The two armies met and fought fiercely, but , Lavana ultimately managed to kill Mandhata. The trident that Shiva gave to Lavana proved to be the nemesis of Mandhata. And, this is how the son of the pregnant king met his end.

Isn’t this a hauntingly beautiful story?

You maybe interested in the Wikipedia link on Mandhata here; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandhatri

How to reach and places to stay in Ukhimath

Ukhimath is not just a temple town of Uttarakhand. You get to see some of the tallest peaks of Himalayas from here like Mount Kedar.

Himalayan Destinations
Mount Kedar as seen from Ukhimath

Won’t you be interested in visiting Ukhimath? Just click here for information on how to reach Ukhimath.

If you want to know more on the places to stay in Ukhimath, click here 

Hope , you enjoyed the story around the destination of Ukhimath.Please write back to me if you want to know more.

 

 

7 Accommodations to Stay in Seville

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Wondering where to stay in Seville? Here are the top 7 places to stay while being at Seville.

Seville is one of the ancient cities of Spain and is located in the region of Andalusia. According to historians, the first settlers of Seville were the Tartessians.They were displaced by the Carthaginians who laid the foundations of the city of Hispalis.The town of Hispalis is very close to Italica, the birthplace of the founders of the Roman Empire, Hadrian and Trajan. Italica is just 9 kilometres from Seville therefore is easy to reach this ancient place.

Culturally, Seville has witnessed the flowering of the artistic, intellectual and Romantic movements while the rest of Europe was in the midst of Industrial Revolution. It witnessed the Spanish Civil War as well as the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, two decisive cultural milestones.

Seville is considered to be one of the most happy cities in the whole of Europe and travellers will find themselves easily accepted in the local culture.

Do you know that Seville was founded by Hercules

There are several good accommodations for travellers to Seville. Some of them are;

1.Hotel Petit Palace , Santa Cruz

Petit Palace Santa Cruz Hotel

This property is located in the centre of the city and combines modernity with tradition. This hotel is ideal for the romantic couples who want a getaway to the Andalusian highlands. Families who want a trip to the Santa Cruz district will also find this accommodation a great one.The hotel prides itself on comfort, technology and low prices.

https://read.amazon.in/kp/embed?asin=B01FKJ98NA&asin=B01FKJ98NA&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_j03AxbM7T2KZB

Name: Petit Palace Hotel, Santa Cruz
Address:C/ Muñoz y Pabón, 18 (Plaza Ramón Ybarra Llosent). HOTEL CIUDAD H/SE/01070 – Seville (Seville) – Spain
Timings: 24 hour front desk open, check in; 2 pm, check out- 3 pm
Accepts Credit Cards?: Yes
Parking: Information not available
Pricing:Moderate
Website: http://en.petitpalacesantacruzhotel.com

2.Hotel Maestranza

Maestranza Facebook

Source:Google
This hotel is also located in the centre of the city affording convenience to travellers to Seville. The notable feature of this property is the classical style of its architecture which is typical Sevillian in nature.

Even though the hotel is located in the centre of the city, it is so designed that the weary traveller will find it comfortable and noise free.It is 6 minutes from the Savile Cathedral, 3 kilometres from Plaza de Espana and 4 kilometres from the royal palace at Alcazar.

In order to encourage people to people interaction in the city, the hotel does not serve breakfast. There are several open air restaurants close by where the travellers can have their breakfast while interacting with the local people.

Information

Name:Hotel Maestranza
Address: Hotel Maestranza, Gamago, 12, 41001, Sevilla, Spain
Timings: 24 hour front desk open
Accepts Credit Cards?: Yes
Parking: Public Parking available 30 metres away.
Pricing:Moderate
Website: www.hotelmaestranza.es
3. Adriano Hotel

Adrianofb

Source: Facebook
This accommodation is good equally for the visiting businessmen as well as leisure travellers. Located close to the important monuments like Giralda , Royal Palace and Cathedral, the hotel is located on the Adriano street.Hotel Adriano offers the culture hungry traveller all that is available in terms of events, food, conferences and parties. The fittings and furniture of the hotel are antique and are a throwback to ancient Seville.

Information

Name:Adriano Hotel
Address:C/ Adriano, 12, 41001 – Sevilla
Timings:Front Desk open 24 hours, check in; 12 noon, check out- 2 pm
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Parking: Paid
Pricing: High
Website:en.adrianohotel.com

4.Hotel Alfonso

Alfonso

Source:Twitter

This is a luxury property located very close to the Reales Alcazares and the Cathedral.Located in the historic district of Santa Cruz, this Seville accommodation has been inspired by Moor architecture.It was constructed in 1929 and is meant for the high paying as well as the budget conscious travellers.Alfonso XIII was one of the most popular kings of Spain and this hotel has been named after him

Information

Name: Hotel Alphonso XIII

Address: Calle San Fernando, 2, 41004, Seville, Spain
Timings: Front Desk open 24 hours, check in time-12 noon, check out- 2 pm
Accepts Credit Cards?: Yes
Parking:Available at 22 Euros per day
Pricing: Moderate to High

5.Hotel Zaida

Zaida Facebook
Source:Facebook
Hotel Zaida will appeal to the culture lovers of Savilla as it is styled on Moorish architecture. It will take them back to the Moor days of early Spanish history. It is convenient to the typical traveller as it is located close to all the major monuments in the city. The word “Zaida” is Arab/ Moorish in origin. The hotel is well stocked with Spanish products.

For the budget conscious traveller, the hotel provides free toiletries, 32 inches TV for entertainment, free WiFi and lots more.

Information

Name: Hotel Zaida
Address: Calle San Roque, 26, 41001 Seville
Timings: Bookings available round the clock, Front Desk open 24 hours, check in- 12 noon, check out-2 pm
Accepts Credit Cards?:Yes
Parking: Free
Pricing;:Low to Moderate
Website:http://www.hotelzaida.com

6.Exe Sevilla Palmera Hotel

exe-sevilla-palmera-02

Source:Google
This accommodation is intelligent in construction and sports a modern look. If you have a flair for technology, this is the place for you. The glass facade defines the character of this hotel.It has a large number of rooms- 96- and is suited for a traveller having modern taste and medium budget. The hotel is located close to Villamarin and the city hospital.

Information

Name: Exe Sevilla Palmera Hotel
Address: Cardenal Ilundain, 28 City: Sevilla
Timings: Check in; 3 pm, Check out; 4 pm
Accepts Credit Cards?:Yes
Parking; Yes
Pricing; Moderate
Website- http://www.exesevillapalmera.com/EN/hotel.html

7. Hotel Inglaterra

Inglaterra Seville

Source:Facebook

For the traveller interested in art and history of Seville, this hotel is located quite strategically- it is just 250 metres from the Cathedral and very near to the old section of the city. Most of the monuments are within a walking distance from this hotel.Dating from 1857, this hotel is opposite City Hall and overlooks Plaza Nueva.It serves Mediterranean cuisine and has a trendy restaurant.

Information

Name: Hotel Inglaterra
Address: Plaza Nueva, 7 41001 Seville, Spain
Timings: Check in,3 pm, Check out,5 pm
Accepts Credit Cards?: Yes
Parking: No
Pricing: Moderate
Website: http://www.hotelinglaterra.es/en/index.html
We hope the above information will help you in having a comfortable stay during your travel in Saville.

Have a good trip and travel !



4 Travel Bloggers I love ….and try to ape.

Ok, this one is to the point. No pictures, no keyword stuffing , no beating around the bush. This one is about the  four guys who travel, who have fun and who hold my attention.Two girls and two guys. Just 4. If you aren’t there, try harder, maybe in the next edition you find your name here.

Shivya Nath 

I was fascinated by her looks.She was young, good looking and impossibly successful. She travelled all over the world. One moment she was here and the next moment she was gone. Like a jugnu or a firefly..

She is the numero uno in the world of travel writing. People know her as Shivya Nath and I was besotted by her 4 years ago. How the hell- I used to wonder- she is so successful in the mundane world of travel writing? How can travel make you so fuckingly rich ? Or is it all a world of make believe?

I still have not been able to make out how Shivya has made travel look so cool. She is not there on social media (read Facebook), though, on Twitter, me and her sometimes exchange messages. Of late, I have not been in touch with her but , I am sure Shivya Nath would be doing something pathbreaking.

Can I say that Shivya Nath is the Amitabh Bachchan of travel blogging? Google her to know more about her work.

Lakshmi Sharath

Lakshmi is definitely a far more approachable person than Shivya. And, more communicative too! Me and Lakshmi have been Twitter mates for more than 4 years now and for some stupid reason, she follows my handle ! Not that I am a superstar. It just shows how friendly her persona is to aspiring bloggers such as I.

Lakshmi was the one who persuaded me to have my own domain. Till a few months back I used to blog under the umbrella of WordPress. I was a tenant of WordPress and did not realize that my tenancy actually brought my status down in the world of bloggers. Lakshmi brought me down to earth. And, then, I decided to have my own domain.

Lakshmi ‘s blog design is definitely something to die for. And, I am not exaggerating . Have a peep at her blog and you will know what I am talking about. I hope to share a cuppa with her sometime. Lakshmi, I hope you are reading all this bull shit !

By the way guys, if you get the idea that I am apple polishing here….you are dead right. But, these chaps have class and you better accept it.  Else, take a walk.

Avanish Maurya 

You know what Maurya does when he is not blogging? He helps planes find their destinations, he works for Air Traffic Control.Isn’t it coooool?

But, his coolness quotient does not spring from his technical skills. What he has done is this- he has travelled a fucking 5000 kilometers in the Trans Siberian Railway from Vladivostok to Moscow.

if you are a “travel blogger” and don’t know what the hell is Vladivostok is, go take geography lessons.It is one of the most inhospitable places on Planet Earth . Located on the Arctic coast, this place is the coldest place that a human can ever see. Temperatures plunge down to -20 degrees and less.

Russia is one of the deadliest countries to travel in. While most  of us have read about the subway gangs of New York, very few of us know of the cruel and trigger happy Russian gangs that roam the vast landscape of Russia. To travel 5000 kilometers in this region and survive is really some experience . This the stuff that makes travel a truly romantic experience.

Avanish is heading to a tamer destination this June- Indonesia. This is a let down for me . Actually ,he has set the bar so high for the normal traveller that unless he makes a voyage to the North Pole, everything else that he does for travel is …well.. trivial.

Sanjeev Goyal 

The dude is present in most of the Delhi based travel meetings. Very few people recognize him or even know him, he is is such a nondescript person.

But, Sanjeev is a man of surprises . He has travelled more than 33 countries.Okay, so what is so special?

Sanjeev specialises in budget travel. Even if you have a thousand rupees, Sanjeev will give you a trick or two to survive in China..Of course, I am exaggerating. But, you get the drift of  what I am trying to say, no!

A few months back he was off to Turkey.Yes, Turkey where the ISIS is playing footloose.And, can you believe it, he spent all his sleeping hours sprawled in the buses! He never once spent a dime at any hotel for his night caps!Such is his budget planning prowess. Ask him about travelling to South East Asia, and, he will give you more than 20 tips on how to travel light.



Why Legalizing Prostitution Is A Stupid Move- Tales of Sex

BANGKOK, THAILAND - JANUARY 21: Thai women working at a bar wait for business at the red light district called Soi Cowboy January 21, 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand. The popular sex tourism area filled with bars is next to an anti-government protest which has decreased their clients. Starting tomorrow the Thai government will impose the 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and the surrounding provinces in an attempt to to cope with the on-going political turmoil. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Sex was the last thing on my mind as I trudged back to my pad at the Hilton in downtown Bangkok. But, they were waiting for me. They were everywhere at the entrance. Some were in hot pants, smoking their Benson and Hedges. There were others hiding their pain filled and tired eyes behind the garish frames of Mont Blancs. Sheer tank tops and stilettoes easily marked the ladies there as the whores of Bangkok. Web Analytics


“I will charge just 1000 Indian bucks from you. Just 1000 rupees, mister”, came an unsolicited offer from a 25 year old to me. It was difficult for me to look up to her and express my disinterest.I was shit scared even as she was offering her body to me. No, I said under my breath, as I walked away into the comfort of the foyer of the well appointed Hilton property. My room mate saw the offer as a manna from heaven perhaps. Yes, he winked at the girl, and slunk away in a tuk tuk.

Welcome to the flesh markets of Bangkok, I thought to myself. 

The year was 2008 and it was my first visit to the Thai capital. I had known  that sex was what defined Bangkok but, I was unprepared with what I saw that evening in Bangkok. You could literally place your hand on the shoulder of a willing girl  and have an unbridled session of pleasure.I had heard stories of the ill famed streets of Kamathipura and GB Road in India but, this was simply unimaginable.

Not that Bangkok was and is  only about sex and girls, it had and still has some world class beaches, resorts and forlorn islands.But, the city has become chained to the reputation of the sex capital of South East Asia , if not the world.

Bangkok

Today, i.e. June 2, I ventured to a facebook group run by travel bloggers and got caught in an inane discussion on legalising prostitution in India. The discussion was around International Hookers day. Why should it be legalised and given a respectable cloak,I asked the moderator of the discussion. Because, he answered, there are so many girls coerced in this profession by their close relatives.I was reminded of my Bangkok sojourn during this conversation thread.



Well, the argument had an appeal, but , it was built on quicksand . So, by legalising prostitution , you hope to lessen their miseries? Would it stop the flow of unwilling girls to this profession? Would you encourage your own kin to take to this profession if it was legalized, I asked.

Now, you would be wondering why I am relating the issue of legalizing prostitution  in India to the sex markets of Bangkok. My simple submission is this; an industry based on sex is no industry at all. No girl enters this profession willingly and I am sure that in Thailand, there would not be the kind of coercion that happens in India. But, sex trade based on poverty  and deprivation perpetuates that poverty. I do not think there is any one single country where prostitution has ameliorated poverty.Rather, empirical evidence suggests that prostitution and drug running go hand in hand.

So, to legalize prostitution in India that is beset with poverty would be to indirectly sanctify drug running which I do not think it is a desirable outcome.

By the way, I am not sure whether prostitution in Thailand is the outcome of coercion as in the case of India where young poor girls are thrown in brothels and made to “work” in inhuman conditions.

While laws may not be adequate to tackle the issue of immoral trafficking and prostitution, the existing sense of social disgust and  revulsion is a potent means of dissuading this kind of trade.

I hasten to add that I have no advice for the Thai government on this matter. But, in so far as India is concerned, I have my own concerns and strong opinions.




We do not want our country to be another Thailand.

We do not want India to be the next sex capital of the World.

How to monetize travel blogs

Places to see in India

1024px-Swargarohini

How to monetize travel blogs? Do travel bloggers make money or they are just spewing bunkum? How much money can I make from a travel blog? Is travel writing lucrative?

Such questions keep on assailing most of us. A word about me, I am not a travel blogger. I am a story teller. Travel bloggers travel, I don’t. Period.

But, after being a part of incessant chatter over the numerous blogger platforms on Facebook , I can say this thing with conviction- some of these travel bloggers do make money but, travel is not their main money spinner.

To most of us, including me, travel bloggers seems to be rockstars, today here, there tomorrow. Always jetsetting. Probably, the airhostesses would be knowing more about the diets of these travel bloggers than their wives, husbands etc. You agree with me?

But, most of us agree with this thing; Travel Bloggers Are Slaves. You don’t agree?  Here are the reasons.

  1. At least in the Indian context, most of the guys who sport the title “travel bloggers” are nothing but serfs. Throw some fam trips to them and they will line up to the destination like obedient puppies. A lot of them even spend from their own pockets reaching to those destinations.And, once they are at that exotic place, then, look at the fawning behavior of these travel “knights”. Their social media feed is replete with superlative descriptions of the locations. Honesty takes a back seat. Filters are applied to  produce absolutely heavenly images of the resort. Grey water turns to pristine blue. If there is heaven on earth, that heaven invariably is the place where the travel bloggers are staying.
  2. But, why spend from your own pocket? Can’t you simply say, fucker, I damn care about your invite. Sponsor me 100 percent or take the highway.It doesn’t happen that way, folks. If a blogger bloke turns down this invite, he is subjected to numerous heartburns when he sees those glorious pictures of the same resort  posted on Facebook, by his rival. Get the picture?
  3. In Hindi, there is a popular saying- the world rests on hope. I think the better word would be “subsist”. So, the blogger after making countless trips to countless destinations , courtesy fam trips, hopes that some brand would ultimately reach out to her and say. ” Hey Miss P,would you reviewing our brand for this much of money?”  But, that doesn’t happen. You, Miss P , have eternally been branded a freeloader. Nobody would even touch you with a barge pole.
Monuments of Delhi
                                                    Class in progress- How to monetize travel blogs

Now, do you actually think that bloggers make awesome money through writing and travelling?

You are kidding if you do.

But, the good news is that travel blogging does help you make some money. Trust me it does and I am not fibbing. But, to know the ways and means how some people use travel blogging to make money, you need to follow my blog.

Wait, till my next blog post tells you how to make money by writing.

Cya around.

Who else wants to know about this haunted place in India?

Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary

Out of the 200 million blogs online, you will never find a story such as this-the story of the haunted palace of Ranthambore. Want to lay a bet?Then, read on…

Haunted Ranthambore
The imposing gate of Ranthambore Fort  Courtesy;Live India.com

The year was 1992 and I was offered a trip by my father , who headed a department of the Central Government of India , to Ranthambore.I agreed and as it turned out, this trip proved to be one of a lifetime.

About   Haunted Ranthambore

Ranthambore is best known for its tiger sanctuary. Located in the south eastern part of Rajasthan, the sanctuary derives its name from the towering fort that overlooks the jungle. This fort, Ranthambore , is one of the strongest and oldest forts of India and for a long time it evaded conquest by invaders who eyed it because of its strategic location.

Ranthambore is located a few kilometres away from the railhead of Sawai Madhopur which is an important railway junction on the Delhi-Bombay route.

Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary

This place is actually a part of the Vindhyas, one of the oldest mountains in India, if not the world. Several years ago, the valley of Ranthambore was teeming with wildlife comprising species of tigers, leopards, hyenas, bear, deer, crocodiles and birds. Incessant hunting by the British and the Indian Maharajahs led to a drastic fall  in the numbers of tigers and leopards till the time when the Indian Government realised the problem.Now, after new measures regarding conservation of wild life have been started, the wild life figures have improved, significantly.

The Haunted Fort of Ranthambore

Yes, this fort is haunted.It gives a sense of weirdness when you walk around its walls. And, there is a reason to why it generates such a feeling.

Nearly 800 years ago, the fort was ruled by an Indian king, Hammir or Hamir.He was a brave and gallant ruler who had a big heart towards all who came and sought refuge under him.Hamir would never say no to such people.

During that time, Delhi was under Sultan Alauddin Khilji and he  was a cruel man.One of his officials drew the ire of the Sultan and had to flee from Delhi. The official escaped to Ranthambore and was promptly given refuge by the large hearted Hamir.

The ire of Sultan

When Khilji came to know about this, he asked Hamir to return the official.The demand was promptly rejected by the proud Rajput king. Khilji persisted with his demand, Hamir again said a firm NO! War was imminent…

..and finally declared by the Sultan of Delhi.

A large army from Delhi came down to Ranthambore and surrounded it on all sides.

Now, Ranthambore was not a picnic spot for Khilji.It was a vast fort, located on a hill and surrounded by jungles and valleys.Hamir was safe and comfortable and had a lot of food and supplies to fall back upon, so he did not have to worry.Days passed.One month led to another.There were no signs of Khilji going away and Hamir was dead set against giving away the fugitive official to Khilji.

Signs of Desperation

As time passed by, Hamir realized that the siege had to be broken. He was running out of supplies. A quick decision had to be taken so, Hamir called for a meeting with his ministers and asked for their opinion. Everyone agreed that a surprise attack on the Sultan was the need of the hour and it had to be done in secrecy.

So, one dark night, when the world was sleeping soundly , Hamir led a crack team of his commandos and launched a guerilla attack on the Sultan’s men.The enemy was surprised and was quickly routed away. Some members of Hamir’s commando force were also killed but ultimately, it was the Rajput who prevailed. But, as Hamir was preparing to return to his fort, an unexpected event happened that turned the tide against him.

The treacherous minister

Hamir had a minister who was a turncoat. He was a spy for Khilji and lived a life of secrecy and stealth in Ranthambore.

When the turncoat heard of  Hamir’s return to the fort, he plotted a deadly conspiracy. The minister went to Hamir’s family and told it of the “death of their King”.Now, the family did not suspect that the minister was a spy and that he was lying! Grief quickly swept over the members of the family and they took a horrendous decision. Since, there was no King now, the grieving mother and daughter jumped over the walls of their palace into the adjoining lake and committed suicide!




Haunted Places in India
The haunted palace of Hamir in Ranthambore Fort

This lake is called “Padam Talao” and you can still see when you visit the Ranthambore fort.

Hamir Returns!

When, the victorious King returned to his palace , he was met with a crowd of wailing relatives.Now, they were surprised at seeing his “ghost” and he in turn could not comprehend the sorrow all around.

When , the matter were clarified to him, Hamir was overcome with a sense of desperation.”Who should I live for?”., he wondered aloud. He had no family now, even though he was the winner in the battle.Should I rejoin my family in their after life, he wondered, and leapt down from the balcony of his palace to the valley below, to his death.

hamir_mahal_ranthambore_2

Another version of the story says that Hamir, upon learning the death of his daughter and wife decided to fight the final battle against Alauddin Khilji.He fought until his death in that battle.

The traitor is still remembered by the residents of the fort. His image in stone is spat and kicked upon  by the locals for his cowardly act. The name of the ungrateful and coward spy was Ratipal and he was bribed by Khilji with the offer of the kingdom of Ranthambore.




Traitor of Ranathambore
Traitor of Ranathambore

The Haunted Palace of Hamir

When, I visited this palace in 1992, the guard would not let us in. He told us that the palace has been locked for several years now because it is a haunted place. People have heard sobs and screams and whispers come from inside the palace. Nobody has seen the “ghosts” but, sure it is one eerie place to be in..A few years ago, someone had lost his mental balance in the palace so, the government was clear that it was not allowing anyone enter this haunted palace of Ranthambore.

If you go to this fort, you will agree with me that this place is indeed a strange place.With so much devastation, murders and killings in this fort, it is not surprising that Ranthambore does have an eerie surrounding.

Interested in visiting the haunted places in India?You may write to me and I can guide you around.

Mountain Climbing Stories-Onward to Heaven

Stories of Himalayas

Climbing higher up the Himalayas, one by one they started slipping off the perilous slopes into the jaws of death.The Pandavas had hoped to reach heaven but only Yudhishthir could set his foot there.What is the story?

Mountain Climbing in Himalayas
Swargarohini Peak of  Himalayas

Swargarohini is a real place and legends say that it leads to heaven or paradise.Hindus have a different word for heaven, it is Swarg.Interested? Read on…

As you travel northwards and towards the intersection of the borders of China, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, you meet the legend of Swargarohini, a mountain massif of Garhwal Himalayas. Swargarohini is a mountain peak and it is famously associated with the great story of Mahabharata, the epic that comprises stories of our failures, successes , weaknesses and our strengths.The word “Swargarohini” is composed of two parts- “Swarg” means heaven and ‘Arohini” stands for climbing.

Did I forget to mention that Swargarohini peak is located in the Uttarakhand state of India?

This peak of Swargarohini is one of the 4 peaks that the Pandava brothers had to cross on their way to paradise.But, then, what is the story behind Pandavas and Swargarohini?

Five brothers, a wife and the War

The Pandavas were 5 brothers and they shared a wife, Draupadi. They were princes and the eldest of them, Yudhishthir was the legal heir to the kingdom of their father.But, as it so happens in most of the royal families, the Pandavas had a hostile bunch of cousins as rival claimants to the throne.These cousins , who numbered 100 and were called Kauravas, deceived the Pandavas in a game of dice- to settle the ownership of the kingdom- and forced them to go to exile for 12 years.It was agreed that the Pandavas would get back their kingdom upon their return from exile.

When the Pandavas returned home, their cousins went back on their words of handing back the kingdom to the Pandavas.War was declared and a terrible battle ensued.Hundreds of thousands of men perished. The battle lasted for 18 days .

Finally, the Pandavas won and Yudhishthir was anointed the king.

After spending quite a few number of years as the king, Yudhishthir and his brothers decided to forego the pleasures of royalty and leave for the Himalayas and thence to paradise.The brothers were accompanied by their wife, Draupadi.Somewhere along the way, a dog joined them in their expedition.

The climb was initially gentle for the party, but as they walked northward, the gradient became steeper and the paths slippery. Deep abysses stared them on their way and often,the brothers and their wife had to save themselves from the falling boulders from the sides of the mountains.The paths became narrower as they climbed further upwards.The expedition became tough and tougher for all of them- except for Yudhishthir …and the dog.

Now, you can only expect the mountain climbing goats to be adept at this task and these men and woman were people of the plains!

Draupadi was the first one to fall to her death.Then, came the turn of the twins, Nakul and Sahdeva. Arjuna, the hero of the War was next. And , finally it was Bhima, the one who possessed the power of 18, 000 war elephants, who slipped and hurtled down the abyss to his death.

Stories of Himalayas
Artistic representation of Pandavas walking up the Swargarohini peak

Yudhishthir survived this heartbreaking journey and made it to the gates of Swarg or paradise.And, yes, he was followed by his companion, the humble dog.

But, why did Yudhishthir alone make it to the paradise?Well, that is another story and will be covered in my Ebook on Kindle.Hope, you buy it. Suffice it to say that only Yudhishthir possessed the qualities of a virtuous person.

It is believed by many that the only way to reach heaven is to climb  the Swargarohini peak.

Swargarohini is not one of the higher peaks of the Himalayas. That honour goes to Kanchanjungha, Nanda Devi, Makalu and many others.It is just a little more than 6000 metres from sea level.But, what strikes the average mountain climber about this peak is the sheer gradient from the northern and southern sides. The peak has two summits and they are located east and west of each other. The western summit is higher of the two. So far, this peak has been scaled 15 times by climbers.

I hope you are now sufficiently interested in trekking to this part of Himalayas in India so, I am going to make it easy for you to plan your travel and stay here;

Would you like to watch a video of this peak? It is in Hindi and was broadcast by a Hindi TV news channel , IBN 7.It is a bit dramatized here.

Click here to get authentic information on booking and availability of resorts and hotels in Uttarakhand, the home state of Swargarohini > http://uttarakhandtourism.gov.in/ .It is a government website and so it is trustworthy. It will also give information on the various trekking programmes going on in Uttarakhand.

But, if you still are unable to get the right kind of information, please write to me at swayamt@gmail.com and I shall surely help you out.

For climbers interested in the specifics of this mountain peak, here are a few links that you can check upon.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Alpine_Journal 
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Himalayan_peaks_of_Uttarakhand

Thank you for reading this post.Bye for now.

 

What is the story of Udaipur?

 

Monuments of India
An artistic representation of the Banbir affair

His arm raised in blind hate, Banbir stood poised to strike at the sleeping child.Panna sat lifeless, unable to do anything except cry silently, without tears.A gripping tale of Udaipur for people travelling to India and Udaipur.Mother’s Day special from India Travel Blog !

That fateful night, the House of Mewar was deep in grief.Ratan Singh, the King of Mewar had passed away at a very young age.The nobles had to take a decision on the next King. And a decision they took. The next King of Mewar was to be Vikramaditya.

The throne of the King of Mewar at that time was in Chittor.

But, I will take my friends back a bit. In 1527, the King of Mewar , Sanga had passed away.He died of his wounds in the battle of Khanua, against Babar. Upon Sanga’s death, one of his sons, Ratan Singh ascended the throne but after a few years, he passed away young.Sanga had seen 3 of his sons die in his lifetime and now, after Ratan’s death, there were only two contenders to his throne- Vikramaditya and Udai.

Vikramaditya proved to be an arrogant and useless guy.One day, he had a heated argument with one of his knights and this reulted in him getting imprisoned!

Now, Vikramaditya had a half brother who harboured the dreams of becoming the King of Mewar.His name was Banbir and this guy was an utterly ruthless person.One dark night, Banbir murdered Vikramaditya and set in motion his plans to occupy the throne.But, there was another son of Sanga, Udaisingh , and he was alive. Udai was just 14 years old.

With a dagger drawn and blood still dripping from the weapon, Banbir walked purposefully toward’s Udai Singh’s room.The prince had to be despatched today, Banbir was determined.He could imagine himself sitting astride the throne of Mewar- that glorious throne that had a 1000 year old history behind it!His pace became faster and his breath became shallow and shallower every moment.

Panna had just put Udaisingh  to sleep and was beginning to put out the lamps.As she walked to the last lamp. she saw the faint silhouette of a man rushing towards her room.Who could it be, she wondered? She was a maid servant of Udai and could recognize many members of the  royal household.Oh, that seems to be Banbir, she realized, but, what is he doing here in this ungodly hour?

Monuments of India
Was this palace the scene of Banbir’s misdeeds?This palace is in Chittor,India

Panna was the royal maid and was assigned the duties of tending to Udai Singh.

And, then, the flash of realization hit her.Oh dear Lord, is this fellow coming to snuff out the life of Udaisingh?Yes, it seems so, she concluded.After all, the steel blade of the murderer’s dagger still wore a crimson hue.The hue of blood!

Quickly she made a decision.With a little bit of effort, she removed Udai from the royal bed.Hiding him under it, she quickly put her own son on the same royal bed- he was asleep in another room. Her heart wrenching in pain, she covered her own son with the quilt.Now, nobody can make out if the child on the bed was  her son, she thought to herself.

In a few minutes, Banbir was inside the room, his eyes searching for his foe.”Where is Udai Singh.?, ” he demanded.Panna did not answer.

Where is Udai Singh, O, idiot woman, Banbir persisted.

No answer.

Banbir stepped ahead and raised his arm to strike the poor ,terrified  maid servant.

With a great effort at controlling her emotions, Panna pointed out the sleeping figure to the murderer.Banbir stepped forward, his eyes aglow with ambition.

Panna’s heart shrank.Oh, my lovely young man, my son, when will I get another chance to caress you, fondle you, clothe you, sing songs to you!

Banbir reached the edge of the bed, his right arm raised, clutching the dagger.

With one fell swoop, the dagger had pierced the quilt and the heart of the sleeping child.Panna had just made the throne of Mewar her eternal debtor.The price of her son was simply now incalculable!

As Banbir, made his way out of the room, satisfied that he was now the King of Mewar, Panna, quickly forgot her grief. Udai Singh was quickly smuggled out of the room to a safer place- far far far away from the murderous Banbir .He , Udai, grew up into a strong and handsome young man and later staked his claim to the throne of Mewar.He attacked Banbir and the latter had to run for his life.The throne of Mewar was now finally with Udai Singh.

Stories of India
The King who built Udaipur-Udaisingh

This Udai Singh later on built the grand city of Udaipur , famous for its lakes, Lake Palace and the assorted grand gardens and buildings.



Places to see in India-Udaipur
Lake City-Udaipur

So, next time you travel to Udaipur, please spare a thought for the indomitable Panna who sacrificed her son so that the life of the rightful heir of the throne of Mewar could be saved.

Did you like this story?I am keen to know about your opinion.Please write back to me if you want to know more on this.

You may also like to read some more interesting and gripping stories like the one on white tigers in India 

 

Thanks you for dropping bye