Flipboard

How Flipboard helps travel bloggers get tons of traffic to their sites

What is Flipboard?

Flipboard is a news aggregation and social network platform that has been around for more than 4 years. You can say that it marries the virtues of SM platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Medium. And yes, it has some resemblance to StumbleUpon in terms of generating traffic.

A declaration

I am a new user to Flipboard and don’t claim to be a master of this platform!

However, I would still like to share my limited understanding on this subject. I was particularly excited by a post written by WanderingwithJo . Bless you girl for this adorable post.

Flipboard is all about curated content. D you know what that means? It means putting your favorite blogs and articles in buckets. You would probably be doing similar stuff in Pinterest. You create boards or groups that you think should have amazing stuff that other people will like. Next, you add fab pictures to these boards or buckets and hope that the world will see them.

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Flipboard is an amazing platform for travel bloggers

If only things were that simple…

You know what, people check out content mainly through search. Which means that unless they are checking out stuff actively, they won’t arrive on your board. So you need to think smart and figure out what subjects are people searching on Pinterest.

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Practise search everyday!

So, the first principle to succeed on Flipboard and Pinterest is learn search.

Luckily, you don’t have to spend too much time on searching the right topics on Flipboard. There is a good number of topics already mentioned on the website.  I think with the passage of time, this platform will have a huge number of topics so it is wise to be a member of Flipboard now.

The next step is a cheesy one.

Do you run a blog? I do and probably you also have one.

So, if you are creating  a few buckets or topics, can you relate these with these buckets?

For example, I have created the following topics in my Flipboard account;

Travel Stories, Blogging Tips, Just Photos, Read Later, Historic Travel in India etc.)

Did I tell you that topics are called Magazines in Flipboard terminology?

Flipboard is all about curated content

Once you have created a manageable list of magazines, connect your related blog posts to them. For example, I have added a post on concubines  to the Travel Stories Magazine.

It isn’t over yet.


You know what? The world of blogging is populated heavily by people who want to be treated as VIPs. I will explain this.

Unless you do the following three things on this platform, there is a very little chance of succeeding on Flipboard;

    1. Follow other buckets as well.
    2. Flip ( Add) influencers’ relevant articles to your own curated Magazines.
    3. Like those  articles of influencers’ which you think add value to your reading experience.
    4. Devote at least 30 minutes per day perfecting this strategy. It isn’t going to help you in the short run, but after a week, you should be able to see the results.
    5. Create a compelling profile of yourself on Flipboard.
    6. If possible, activate the Flipboard social share button on your website.
    7. Lastly, write good content which  is pithy and has lots of images to engage your visitors. Your content should be original.

That’s it folks. I hope it helps me as it did Jo. I will keep you updated on the milestones achieved.

Update No. 1 dated April 2, 2017, 10.06 AM IST

I had promised you that I will be back with my updates. Did I get sizable traffic because of Flipboard? Here are the latest stats. Please note that I subscribed to this platform only on March 29, 2017. The upswing started from March 30 onward. Much of this spike has been due to my last and only post on Flipboard.

 

I shall come back with more updates on this.

Last but not the least, I want to help Rutavi Mehta who runs an awesome blog, www.photokatha.in for this insight. You can find ger on Facebook and is a very friendly person.

India Travel

Top historic travel sites in India that you can’t miss

Are you interested in historic travel in India? Here is my collection of those top 4 places that you simply cannot miss on your historical tour.

Chittorgarh- A historic travel site that you must visit

This is one historical place that at least I would never ever ask you to drop. Never. For me, this place is a pilgrimage to me and many other fellow Indians.

Chittorgarh brings up many emotions- nostalgia, pride, bravery, a sense of sacrifice etc.

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But, what is so special about this place?

Chittorgarh or Chittor is an ancient fort in Rajasthan and is roughly located 300 kilometers from Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. This fort is known for the valor and sacrifice of its inhabitants. They never bowed down to any foreign conquerors and invaders- Mughal, Turk or any other nationality. Indeed, this fort signifies the unbreakable spirit of free India.

Udaipur

This is my second favorite historic travel destination. Udaipur is roughly 100 kilometers from Chittorgarh and both the cities are well connected with a wide and smooth road.

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The special thing about Udaipur is that it marries history with style. While Chittor is all about history and romance, Udaipur is also about beauty. If you are young and want to get married, then Udaipur is the place for you. Find out a good hotel and get married there. It will be an experience to remember.

Hampi

To be honest, I have never been to the haunted ruins of Hampi, though I hope to visit this place one day.

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Hampi is the ruined capital of the medieval kingdom of Vijaynagar of India.  When you visit this city frozen in time, you can’t but help wonder at the crookedness of human nature. This city ceased to exist after the combined armies of 5 Muslim defeated Vijaynagar in a battle. The Muslims, flush with victory and overcome with the feeling of hate, destroyed this city completely. Ah, the cruelness of religion!

Hampi can be reached by road from Bangalore. It takes just 5 hours from Bangalore to reach this historic travel site.

Varanasi

Kashi or Varanasi is not just a spiritual center, it has a great historical value as well. Nobody can tell when this city came into being. Some people believe that Varanasi is as ancient as time!

Historic travel

You can reach this ancient city by either flying down from Delhi or catching an overnight train. I would recommend that you take a train, this would help you connect with the Indians in a much better way.

Delhi

Red Fort, Delhi

Last but not the least, you must have Delhi on your itinerary. This city is very old. Just the other day, I read that Delhi has had a pre-historic past. This means that people in Delhi have been living here for more than a million years! Surely, you would not like to miss this historic city, will you?

Gorakhnath temple

Why Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur must be on your travel bucket list in 2017

Who is Yogi Adityanath

Yogi Adityanath is the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. He is a no non sense man and will ensure that this state becomes safe for more than a million travelers coming to UP every year. For people planning to explore offbeat destinations in UP, it is indeed good news.

He is a member of the Nath order of Hindus. This order ( sect) can be roughly equated with the  Sufis in Islam. I am drawing this comparison for the benefit of people coming from abroad to India. This comparison may not be true for sure but I hope you get the gist.

Hindus have several sects and the Nath sect is one of them. The fundamental aim of the Naths is to achieve liberation in this life itself. Members of this sect do not want to take rebirth after their death. The idea is to commit oneself to a life of goodness and virtue to avoid the cycle of birth and death.

How old is this sect?

More than a thousand years. The Naths consdider Lord Shiva as their Adi Guru or the source of their learnings and inspiration. Matsyendranath is one of the most important teachers of this sect and lived more than 1200 years ago. You can say that Yogi Matsyendranath is the founder of this sect. He was a simple fisherman who later on became the head of this sect.

Where is the headquarter of this sect?

Gorakhpur in the north-eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Ok, got it. So why have you written about Yogi Adityanath in this post? Doesn’t it make it political?

No. Many people feel that this Yogi will clean up the law and order mess of Uttar Pradesh. He is a non nonsense man and does not have any agenda. The Yogi does not have any family so we can be sure that he will not be corrupt.

Will he make Gorakhpur an attractive travel destination?

I think he will. The Yogi will have to make his home constituency attractive for travelers to UP.

For example, one of the travel destinations in Gorakhpur is Kushinagar. This place is associated with Gautam Buddha and was the site for his cremation. It is located 52 kilometers east of Gorakhpur and is a holy place for many Sri Lankans, Japanese and other people. You can say that a safer Uttar Pradesh means more visitors to Kushinagar.

Gorakhpur
Remains of Stupas in Kushinagar Wiki)

Kushinagar is one of the oldest cities in India. Many people believe that it was founded by Kush, one of the sons of Lord Rama.

Kushinagar temple
Buddha Temple, Kushinagar

What are the other places of interest in Gorakhpur?

The most important place in Gorakhpur is the Gorakhnath temple. It is devoted to Guru Gorakhnath who lived several thousands of years ago. He is one of the most important gurus of the Nath sect.

images of Gorakhnath temple के लिए चित्र परिणाम
Gorakhnath Temple (Tripdvisor)

Another important place worth visiting is the Arogya Mandir which cures people of several disabilities. If you want to learn Yoga, then this camp is suited for you. Per person fees is 11, 000 INR.

If you are spiritually inclined person then you should visit the Gita Press, publishers of several books for spiritual development. Millions of Indians read the Gita Press books for uplifting themselves from disappointment and sadness.

How to reach Gorakhpur

You can take an overnight train from Delhi to Gorakhpur. This city is well connected with Lucknow and Varanasi as well.



Holi

Holi stories- When the God of Death was trapped in a web of sex

Holi
                                             Holi Hai…

In a few days from now , the madness of Holi will sweep away almost every body in North India. If you are a traveling to India for the first time, be ready to be swept off your feet, figuratively.

Why is Holi celebrated?

There are several reasons why we go berserk on Holi.

One- Many thousands of years ago, there lived a pious boy, Prahlad. He was a good soul and had faith in Lord Vishnu. His father, Hiranyakashyap, was an evil man, though. Vishnu is one of the trimurtis in the Hindu system of worship.

Dad was hateful towards Vishnu and wanted Prahlad to worship him, rather. After all, Hiranyakashyap was the most powerful king at that time. One day, after exhausting all his efforts to persuade Prahlad from worshipping Vishnu, Hiranyakashyap asked his sister to burn up the little boy. Image result for Prahlad

Actually, Holika, his sister, had a unique power- she was immune to fire. She persuaded little Prahlad to sit in her lap and as soon as the unsuspecting boy sat up there, she lit up a fire around them.

But God is great.

Vishnu had seen through the plan and he decided to teach Holika  a lesson. While Prahlad escaped unhurt, the evil woman died in a ball of fire. This event is celebrated with much gusto by all of us in India as victory of good over evil.

Holi story no. 2

I would rather go along with this interpretation. You see, since India is an agriculture economy, Holi is an occasion when our farmers express their joy after selling their farm produce.

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Holi Hai! Image courtesy- Sridhar Balasubramaniam
Holi story no. 3

Have you read or heard about Lord Krishna? He is famous for Bhagwad Gita, remember?

His childhood was not peaceful as there were many plots to kill him during his childhood. His maternal uncle, the King of Mathura, wanted to kill the child Krishna at all costs.

One day, Kansa i.e the uncle sent a woman demon, Pootna to suckle up child Krishna and later kill him. This woman had poison in her milk. But, Krishna had some other plans.

While he was happily feeding from Pootna’s breasts, the child Krishna strangled the unsuspecting lady demon and ended Kana’s dream of killing Krishna. Holi celebrates this occasion as well.Image result for image of Pootna

The legend of Shiva and the Lord of Love

Ha ha, this is interesting. Read on…

One day, Lord Shiva decided to go into meditation . Perhaps He had enough of solving the problems of his devotees so that is why Shiva wanted to go in for a spiritual detox.

The meditation went on and on and it seemed to people around Him that this meditation would last for eternity.

You see, Shiva is an eternal yogi and you will always see Him in the yogic pose.

The people worried that unless Shiva came out of his yoganidra , there would be utter chaos in the world.

After consulting among themselves, they decided to approach the Lord of Love, Kaamdeva. Please help us with your unique skills, they implored the God of Love.

Sure, Kaamdeva replied.

So, he approached Shiva who was immersed in his Yoga induced sleep.

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Ladies beat up a man   playfully in Barsana, India. Pic courtesy Shridhar Balasubramaniam
The web of sex

Kaamdeva is always shown with his bow and arrow. He spreads the web of desire and lust by shooting his arrow from his bow. This arrow represents desire and lust.

Kaamdeva did exactly that. He shot an arrow towards Shiva and waited with bated breath.

He waited and waited.

Finally, after a few moments, Shiva opened up his eyes. The arrow of Kaamdev had found its mark.

No, it is not proper for me to revel in those thoughts, Shiva reflected,but who is responsible for my mental turmoil?

Kaamdeva in a ball of flame

The Lord of Love was quickly spotted by the Lord of Death but what followed was disaster.

Shiva opened up his third eye and gazed in anger at Kaamdeva. Do you know what this means?

Opening of the third eye means apocalypse. Destruction. Calamity.

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Shiva and Kaamdeva

And this is how the Lord of Love perished.

But the world at large celebrated this event as Shiva had finally woken up from his yogic slumber. Humanity sighed a breath of relief. So this is another reason to celebrate Holi.

How do you find this post ,friends?

Varanasi-where the Lord of Death was banished

Welcome to Varanasi or the Mahashamshaan

Now this might come as a shocker to you guys. Varanasi is also called Mahashamshaan or the final resting place of humans.

Why?

You see, this city is closely associated with Lord Shiva, the God of Death. It is said that anyone who wants Moksha- liberation from Birth and Death, should come to this holy city at the time of his or her death.  That is why you see so many funeral pyres burning all the time on the ghats of Varanasi. People who are just on the verge of dying express their desire  to their friends and relatives to spend their last days in Varanasi.

Strange? Very strange indeed!

Who is Lord Shiva?

Travelers to India  may not know who Shiva is. So here is a bit of gyan to them.

You see, Indians have three main Gods. Brahma is the creator and he is also called Prajapati. Vishnu is the preserver of all things virtuous. He has several temple devoted to himself in not just India but also in many parts of South East Asia as well.

Shiva is the Lord of Death and his job is to remove and destroy all bad and deleterious things from the world.

Varanasi
Shiva- the Lord of Death

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva represent the various functions of the Supreme Almighty who is formless and has no quality.

Like Vishnu, Shiva too has several temples across India and the world.

Why is Varanasi associated with Shiva?

It is said that Banaras was founded by Lord Shiva! I have never heard of any other city in India that has been founded by God. Have you? I would love to know. Should you want to to write to me, you may send an e-mail to me at swayamt@gmail.com

Ok, let me make a tall comment- Varanasi is associated with the dawn of time! No body knows when this city was actually founded.

In Rigveda, Shiva is the source of the prime energy and the Big Bang Theory is closely associated with His creation of the Universe.

Can we say now that the origins of this city are covered in the mists of time ?

An interesting tale

There is an interesting tale as to how this city, also called as Kashi, came to be associated with Shiva. It is said that one day, the God was expelled from his home (Himalayas) by his wife, Goddess Parvati.

Upon his banishment, He came to this city with his followers and begun living there. While He lived in exile here, Shiva sent his two friends , Brahma and Vishnu to persuade the Goddess  to take him back.

After some time, Goddess Parvati allowed Lord Shiva to come back and live in the Himalayas. During all that time, his home in Himalayas was guarded by hsi two attendants- Kalbhairav and Dandapani.

I don’t believe in Moksha and all that, do you?

In fact, I have a different take on the theory of Moksha. It is this.

You and I and the rest of the world can get liberation because of knowledge. This knowledge can come to us only if we have a good guru. Since Kashi in the ancient times had a lot of gurus, many people came to this city in search of knowledge.

Over time, Kashi- the City of Light- lost its initial significance and became associated with the idea of death. I find this notion ridiculous. Do you?

Various names of Varanasi

By the way, did I tell you that Banaras is the corrupt form of Varanasi? When the Britishers came to India, they had trouble spelling this name, hence the word Banaras or Benares.

Another name of this city is Kashi which means  “the City of Light”.

My favorite name of this town is Anandvana- the forest of Bliss.

Since Lord Shiva (Rudra) resides in this forest, it is also called as “forest of Rudra”

What does  the word, Varanasi mean?

Friends, the word Varanasi is made up of two parts, Varuna and Asi. These are two rivers that merge together in this ancient holy town, hence the name Varanasi. It is much like Budapest of Hungary. Get the drift?

The City of Great Debates

In the ancient times, Varanasi was the center of knowledge and learning. This city housed men and women of the highest intellect.

Not surprisingly, these men and women were all the time engaged in debates and arguments on the finer points of life, philosophy , language etc. If some person in any other part of India had any doubt on any aspect of life, he could come to Varanasi and seek a solution.

No wonder, another name of Varanasi was “City of Light” in ancient times.

The Buddha connection

Have you heard about Gautam Buddha?

He chose Varanasi as the place for his first sermon. If you have Benares on your travel radar, then make it a point to visit Sarnath, the place where he delivered his first sermon. Preserved wonderfully well by the Archaeological Survey of India, Sarnath gives you goosebumps. Imagine, this place, Sarnath, has a history of more than 2500 years!

Varanasi

Probably he chose Varanasi as the place of his first sermon because he felt that his teachings would be easily accepted in Kashi, the land of the open minded.

City of Ghats

Now you will ask me- what are ghats? Well, my dear, ghats are stairs that lead down to the river. The river in this case is Ganga.

Varanasi is also called City of Ghats as it has a lot of them.

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The ghats of Varanasi

Many Indians use these ghats to cremate their dead relatives. The ashes are then immersed in the river Ganga. This is o because many of us believe that this immersion liberates the soul from the cycle of Birth and Death.

Other ghats are meant for the people to bathe in the Ganga. It is quite a sight to watch the devotees take their holy dips in the river early in the morning.

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Wow

The evening aarti of Maa Ganga on the ghats of Varanasi are a sight to behold. It is a surreal experience and I hope to watch that spectacle one day.

Watch this Ganga aarti on the Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi;

An aarti means an invocation to God or Goddess. We consider Ganga as Maa or mother because she tends us like a mother.

Don’t stay away, more stories  on the way

I must confess, I am a compulsive storyteller, so I want you to be around….

Story No. 1-This one is about Manikarnika Ghat. Many 100,000 years ago, the wife of Lord Shiva, Parvati once wished to go over to her parents’ house to attend a ceremony. When she told her husband about her intention, Shiva advised her to not to go.

When you haven’t been invited to this party, my dear, why do you want to go, Shiva asked.

But Parvati was insistent and later left for her parents’ house.

Daksh Prajapati , her father, was not too pleased at seeing Parvati at his house. He considered Shiva as inferior to his social standing. There was no question of Daksh inviting Shiva and Parvati to his house.

Why did Daksha not invite Shiva to this ceremony?

You see, Daksh had never wanted his daughter, Parvati marrying Shiva. According to him, Shiva did not have a social standing. But she was strong willed and went ahead and later married Shiva. Daksh felt offended.

Feeling insulted, at the behavior of her dad, Parvati immolated herself at her parent’s house.

Tandava

What followed was hell and fury. The Lord of Death was enraged at seeing her wife die in such circumstances. He carried Parvati’s body and started dancing in a manner that shook the entire world.

This dance is called Tandava and represents the cosmic dance of the Lord.

Alarmed, Brahma and Vishnu, decided to calm him down. Vishnu took out his celestial discus and began dismembering the dead body of Parvati. He thought that Shiva could be calmed down this way.

One of her parts fell in Varanasi. The Manikarnika Ghat marks the exact spot where one of her body parts fell down on the earth. There is a temple that marks that spot and is called the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. This temple radiates energy and is one of the most important religious sites of the Indians.

There are several such temples in India which mark the places where the body parts of Goddess Parvati fell down.

(To be continued later)

Aghoris

Aghoris- Their 9 deadly secrets and why you must avoid them

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Who are Aghoris?

Aghoris are a set of people who worship Lord Shiva (Lord of Death) and aim to achieve simplicity in their lives. You will not find  these people easily in Indian villages and towns. Discovering an Aghori in a city like Delhi or Mumbai is nearly impossible.

For many Indians and foreigners, they conjure a feeling of awe, fear and revulsion. Thanks to the controversy generated by a CNN program, there is a new found curiosity about this secret cult.

These people can generally be found in the cremation grounds. Not all the Hindu cremation grounds have Aghoris, though. If you are lucky, you may find them either entering a pre-designated cremation ground or exiting it.

Aghoris
One of the gentlest people in the world who always pray for universal good

If you really want to see Aghoris, then you can see them in Kumbh Melas that are organized every four years in India.

Do they really eat human flesh?

It is difficult to answer this question. I haven’t seen even one Aghori consuming human flesh. But this much is certain- members of this sect interpret life and death in very simple means. For them, it is impractical to distinguish between what is pure and what is not.

Aghoris
One of the most misunderstood people in India
What is their philosophy in life?

These people lead a very simple life. Nothing is impure for them. Their needs are few and they live to attain Moksha or salvation.

Moksha means escape from the cycle of life and death. We never escape this cycle because, we are always full of desires. Aghoris are always trying to escape this web of desire.

So they practice Tantra?

Yes, they do.

Aghoris chant occult mantras that resonate with energy. It is not easy for everyone to possess that secret because in order to be powerful, one has to subsume every desire of his.

Aghoris
They can even reveal your future!

I know that mantra but won’t reveal it here and now.

Are Aghoris dangerous?

No, they are not. It is an incorrect notion that these people kill others at will and eat their flesh. No, it is not that way.

These gentle people love everything that the society detests. Rather, the operative word is ‘accept’. If we loathe a dead body, they will accept it. If we detest a leper, the Aghoris will accept the leper too.

The point is, these people defy conventional logic and wisdom and that is why, it is difficult to understand this Indian sect.

We  consider dead bodies impure but the Aghoris are ready to consume them too, for their subsistence.

What all do these people eat?

Everything that is available as long as it does not contain life. You will find an Aghori eat human excreta as well as the choicest dairy products.

They never eat cows, though.

Why do they visit the cremation grounds?

An Aghori believes that to practice tantra, the best place is the cremation ground as there is no disturbance. As part of his tantra practice, the Aghori tries to understand death and the migration of the human soul.

Is it possible to speak with the spirit of a dead human being?

Is it also possible to bring the dead back to life?

These are just a few questions that always trouble an Aghori.

Why is an Aghori always angry?

This is not true. He sports and angry visage to discourage common people to come near him.

Though his eyes are always red, the Aghori has always words of reassurance when when he speaks.

Which are the most important places in India for Aghoris?

There are 3 main cremation grounds  for these people to pray and practice tantra;

  1. Kamakhya Devi temple cremation grounds n Assam
  2. Tarapeeth cremation grounds near Kolkata, Bengal
  3. The cremation grounds of Rajrappa

To sum up, the Aghoris are not at all a dangerous set of people. They practice tantra to achieve Moksha and do not believe in discriminating between ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ things.

For them, every thing can be eaten for subsistence, except the flesh of the cow.

Watch this video to get a sneak peek into the world of Aghoris.