Chaturbhuj Temple - Orchha

Gigantic architecture of Chaturbhuj temple is a stark deviation from regular temples in India and attracts thousands of visitors...

Istanbul - Where civilizations merge

Being one of the oldest cities on this earth, Istanbul is a delight to history lovers...

Malana

A place which has been lying forbidden and disconnected from the mainland. Malana still follows their culture and traditions...

Temples at Batesara

Around 350 temples are estimated to have existed here. Excavation work is ongoing to restore temples of a lost era.

Mitawali

The Ancient Temple which inspired the design of Indian Parliament House.

Dharamsala

Synonymous with tranquil environment, spirituality, great food and Teachings of LORD BUDDHA. Find out true meaning of life at Dharamsala...

December 1, 2016

Katarmal Sun Temple, Almora

Call of the blue skies and sight of mighty mountains makes a thrilling combination for an Explorer’s heart beats. Enjoying on the mountainous snaky roads and sometimes making the way out of non-existent roads to uncover hidden spots truly justifies the explorer spirit of a vagabond.

Where the first ray of sun falling on temple enlightens statue of Sun God in the temple! This phenomenon happens once in a year and attracts thousands of devotees from the nearby places. Let’s unearth one of the perfect offbeat destinations in Uttarakhand. In the picturesque Almora district of Kumaon region is the hidden Katarmal Sun temple. Despite being one of the biggest and tallest temples in the Kumaon region, Katarmal Sun temple is relatively unknown in the tourist circles.
Spectacularly nestled in the nascent pristine Himalayan ranges and enveloped by lush green surroundings in the Almora district of Uttarakhand is the “Katarmal Sun Temple”. Proud addition and latest entry in the list of offbeat destinations explored by this vagabond…!

From Almora there are 2 options to reach this temple, either a trek of 3 km. from the Kosi main market or drive for 3 km. and then explore the way out through a 2 km. unpaved road. We were ready to trek for 3 km. when someone told about the unpaved road, which was actually road under construction. Nonetheless car was able to go all the way to the final point at Katarmal village. And the last 300 m. from inside the Katarmal village has to be covered on foot, around 10 minutes walk. With lot of expectations we started the final march towards the Katarmal temple. Our excitement to reach the temple, did not let us take a break even for a cup of tea. We were ready to click lifetime memoirs on this hill top temple. .
There are also 44 smaller temples around the main temple devoted to Sun God. The smaller temples are dedicated to Shiva-Parvathi, Lakshmi-Narayana and various Gods and Goddesses. The spacious compound in the front is enough to depict the glory of the bygone times. Check out the smaller temples opposite to the main temple...
Why One of the temple which is directly opposite to main temple has a square hole above the pillars? Strange...
Believed to have constructed by the King Katarmal of Katyuri dynasty, somewhere around 9th century. Main temple is dedicated to Sun God, Vraddhaditya or Baraditya...There is not even a proper approach road to this temple, think for a moment how this mammoth construction would have carried out in the past times. A proud moment for engineering acumen available in India in ancient times…!

Temples on the left hand side of the main temple. Some pillars look different from rest, due to restoration work by Archaeological Survey of India ..

One extremely small temple...

All of a sudden I realised that the gates of the main temple are not the original ones. The caretaker told that the original carved wooden doors and panels are safely resting at the National Museum, Delhi. Katarmal Sum temple has been declared a monument of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958.


One carved structure...










While moving around, I asked the caretaker, why this temple is called as Sun temple, just because Sun God is worshipped here? He took us in front of the Square hole visible in one of the smaller temples just opposite to the main temple. This square hole in the walls of the temple is meant to guide the first ray of sunlight to the Sun deity. The sun rays strike first the circular structure in front of the hole. That’s why this sacred moment which happens once in a year attracts devotees from far of places. The mystery of square hole finally resolved.


Finally the incredible views of the Almora valley from the temple! No words, just clicks. Someone has rightly said, it is the journey of thousand steps that makes the view from top so exhilarating…
Blessed are the people who are natives in these heavenly valleys. Vow, we also didn't wanted to go anywhere from this magical spot, but we had a train to catch in the night and come again to the maddening city life.
Good news for the travellers that a road is being constructed to ensure easy access to the Katarmal Temple.

To reach Katarmal:
Katarmal is 130 km. from Kathgodam and 24 km. from Dwarahat (left turn) while on the way to Almora/ Jageshwar Dham. 2 hours are all which is required to experience this architectural marvel. Road is in pretty good condition, you may try for self driving too.

Keep travelling Guys...

November 26, 2016

Hiking to Cliff TROLLTUNGA, Norway

Contributed by Jennifer Schlüter, www.discoveringlegacies.com..

When was the last time you drove 100 miles for a cup of coffee or you decided to enjoy trekking while your friends preferred the cosy drive by road. Well those who are driven by Passion, always hear to their heart rather than comforting brains...One fine night our friend Jennifer decided to trek through the secrets of night in Trolltunga just to catch the Sun by surprise. Rest all, lets hear the inspiring adventure filled travel diaries of Jennifer, in her words...

It was 9 in the night when we arrived in Skjeggedal, the path ahead for Trolltunga, one of the world’s most breath taking (literally!) hikes. As we started to climbing rocky steps of the first kilometre, almost everyone coming down was greeting us with confused eyes asking us that why are we going up at this time? I translated this to: “Are you crazy?! Why would you hike 6 hours through the night?” – because that had been the initial reaction of my friends after I told them about my idea.

“Hike through the night to see the sunrise up there?”, “Why would you do that? That’s got to be dangerous! What if you get lost?” But simply because I don’t do things like everyone else and because I don’t like having tourists in my pictures or waiting in line for two hours to take a rushed photo, I wanted to hike through the night to catch the sunrise at 4 AM plus, the lighting and the atmosphere are much more magical obviously.

So here we were, as the only group hiking up the 11 km (7 miles) well-marked trail, only to be joined by an Australian couple much later. What I hadn’t planned for and thus didn’t expect was the full moon rising above the mountains. Lucky! We had planned for everything else however: Warm layers of clothes, lots of energy food and water, a cooking pot for Ramen and hot chocolate, raincoats, and head and flash lights. Surprisingly, we did not need the latter because it stayed quite bright throughout the night.


Once we reached Trolltunga, we all were stunned by the beauty nature had created. Even the best photograph fails to project what you actually see when you’re up there. You’re surrounded by mountains partially covered in snow, and down below the deep blue water weaves through the valley. When it’s clear, you can see miles of land nearly untouched by man. A place which looks unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. You can’t help but ask yourself how someone thought of hiking the mountains in the middle of nowhere for six hours and discover the so called troll’s tongue.



While getting there was not as rough as expected, our way back became super painful for me towards the end because I was wearing shoes that were too tight. With every step down, my toes hit the front of my shoes so hard, that it was better for me to take them off for the last 3 km. Out of pain and exhaustion, I couldn’t stop crying and had to lean on my friend for support. This took us at least two hours longer, but in the end, the troll’s tongue was more than worth it. It’s something you should do at least once in your life, and add to your bucket list right now!

To give you an idea about the hike, here are some tips:

1. Fly into Bergen and spend one or two full days there because it’s definitely worth it. Or fly into Oslo and take a bus/train/car from there.

2. From Bergen, there are busses to Odda, a town close to the trailhead of Trolltunga, which cost around 300 NK.

3. Stay at least two nights in Odda or Tyssedal (I can recommend the Trolltunga Guesthouse in Tyssedal, where I had a great stay). In case it rains one day, you can choose to hike the next day. And if you hike the first day, you’re glad you can rest somewhere close right after the hike. You can also camp anywhere on the trail, even at the very top.

4. Pack the following: Warm layers of clothes (it can be sunny and nice at the bottom but windy and snowy towards the top), comfortable, waterproof shoes (you will cross a few waterfalls), one bottle of water (it’s safe to refill it at any one of the waterfalls), hiking sticks or a stick you find there (it’s much more comfortable to have some support), high energy and good carb foods such as nuts, cereal bars, berries, apples, or bananas, flashlight or head light, a beanie or headband to cover your ears (the wind can be icy), gloves, blister band-aids and tape (tape your toes and shoulders where your backpack straps are).

5. Plan in some more money for the transport from Odda or Tyssedal to the trailhead (our cab for four people from Tyssedal to Skjeggedal was 400 NOK and some busses are 50 NOK per person, for example. Prices can vary).

6. You can’t hike from October 16 until March 18; from March 19 until June 15 and September 15 until October 15 a guide has to assist you, so plan accordingly. Snow is very likely during shoulder season, and even in the summertime, you might encounter snow or snowfall.

(* NOK – Norwegian Krone, the currency of Norway)

Keep Travelling Guys...

November 1, 2016

9 Offbeat locations in Madhya Pradesh that will fascinate you

Madhya Pradesh is known as the heart of India as it is the state that is geographically located right in the middle of the country. Madhya Pradesh has seen the rise and fall of many kings and kingdoms with cities like Ujjain playing a pivotal role in bringing prosperity to the city. The state attracts a flock of tourists every year due to the presence of many historical monuments like the Khajuraho temple and Sanchi Stupa. Being the state with the highest forest cover in India, Madhya Pradesh is also home to a lot of rare and indigenous species of flora and fauna. But these are facts that you already know. For travellers who are looking for more, here are 9 Offbeat Locations in Madhya Pradesh That Will Fascinate You.

1. Orchha

The historic town of Orchha lies on the banks of Betwa River was founded in the 16th century by Rudra Pratap Singh, who was the ruler of the princely state of Central India. The town still holds the grandeur of the fallen kingdoms with a lot of temples and monuments that will take you travel back in time. Orchha fort is a visual treat due to its location on the islands of Betwa River. Chhatris, Dinman Hardul’s Palace and Jhansi Fort are the nearby places to visit. The architecture and wall paintings in Laxminarayan Temple, which was constructed in 1662 is a wonder of its own. Read more about Orchha...

2. Mandu

Mandu is a ruin city that is protected by the plateau of Malwa to the north and the valley of the Narmada River to the south. Jahaz Mahal or the Ship Mahal was a construction by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Khilji. The palace looks like a ship that is about to set sail leaving its reflection on the water. Baz Bahadur’s Palace and Hindola Mahal show the influence of foreign architecture in India. Champa Baoli is a step well that draws inspiration from the construction of Turkish Baths.

3. Panna

Panna National Park situated on the banks of River Ken is a home of many animals and one of the best maintained national parks in the country. Just near the Panna National Park is Pandava Caves and Falls. This place is said to be the location where the Pandavas stayed during their exile. The copious vegetation entwined with the whispering rills is a sight to behold. Other attractions in Panna are the diamond mines and Raneh Falls. Panna is also a place with a lot of temples such as the Padmavati Devi temple and Jugal Kishoreji Temple. The Baldeoji temple with its Roman-style architecture is a unique construction that stands out.

4.  Burhanpur

Burhanpur was a city that flourished under the Rashtrakuta Dynasty and there are many forts and towers that still carry pages from the history. The Asigarh Fort and Shahi Kila are located along the banks of river Tapti. The Zanana Hammam in the Shahi Fort is a construction that is a smooth portrayal of Persian architecture which inspired the Mughals. Burhanpur is also a major Muslim Pilgrim Center. Jama Majid and Dargah-E-Hakimi are visited by thousands of devotees every year.

5. Shivpuri

Shivpuri is a place where nature’s colors are at its best. The Bhadaiya Kund is a natural spring for a refreshing journey. The water in Panihar is considered to be holy and meant to wash away your sins. Karera Bird Sanctuary and Madhav National Park add much to animal lovers rejoice. Banganga temple and Siddeshwar temple are some of the oldest temples in the city known for its sacred kunds and idols depicting the various Hindu Gods.

6. Tikamgarh Fort

Tikamgarh Fort or Garh Kundar Fort as it is locally known is situated on the hilltop on a village in Tikangarh district. The watch towers and citadels stand tall among the granite flooring and fallen masonry. The Fort is visible from far but appears to vanish as you get closer to it much adding to its clever construction. Rock Pillar inscriptions that tell the tales of Khangar kings can be seen on the walls.

7.    Maheshwar

Maheshwar Temple on the banks of Narmada River finds mention in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Maheshwar is home to the best looms and fabric in the country and Maheshwari sarees are famous for its color and intricate details in the weaves. There are many shopping sites where you will get the best Maheshwari cotton sarees. Maheshwar is a major pilgrim centre for Hindus with places such as Ahilyeshwar temple and Jaleshwar temple that are dedicated to Lord Shiva.

8. Chanderi

Although Chanderi sarees have been famous for a long time among the womenfolk in the country, this small town is slowly earning a place in the popular destinations in Madhya Pradesh. Chanderi Fort and Koshak Mahal are epitomes of Afghan and Mughal architecture in the country.  Kati Ghati, a gateway which was cut out of a single rock forms the entry to Chanderi from Malwa and Bundelkhand regions. The view from the place is spectacular with Ram Nagar Museum and Ram Nagar Lake on one side and the Jain Temple and the fort on the other side

9.  Tincha Falls

Tincha Falls is located near the city of Indore and is a place for a picnic for families. The waterfalls are opulent during the monsoon. You can just pack some food and spend an evening with the family gazing at the water. Kaligarh Fort near the Tincha Falls and Kajligarh Mahadev Temple surrounds the place. On the way to the falls, you will find wildlife being in harmony with nature with birds like peacocks wandering seamlessly along the place.

If you are looking for new sites to explore upon in Madhya Pradesh, then this list will not disappoint you. Far from the troop of too many tourists, you can find peace in a quirky and peaceful location.

Author Bio
Rohit: A travel enthusiast and blogger, Rohit loves embarking new journeys across India. Read more of his eccentric experiences in his blog TransIndia Travels.




October 21, 2016

Pandharpur - Place of Lord Panduranga (Vitthal)


Vitthal temple, Pandharpur – Solapur District, around 200 km. from Pune city – via NH9, is the main centre of worship for the Hindu deity Vitthal, believed to be a local form of God Krishna or Vishnu. It is the most visited temple in Maharashtra. The Warkaris start marching from their homes to the temple of Pandharpur in groups called Dindi to reach on Aashadhi Ekadashi and Kartiki Ekadashi. A dip in the holy river Chandrabhaga on whose banks Pandharpur resides, is believed to have power to wash all sins. All the devotees are allowed to touch the feet of the idol of Vithoba. In May 2014, the temple became first in India to invite women and people from backward classes as priests.

Saga of Pundalik – Pundalik is a devoted son to his parents Janudev and Satyavati, who lived in a forest called Dandirvan. Later in life Pundalik began ill-treating his parents.
In the city of Kashi, Pundalik gets a strong realization that ill-treatment with the parents is the greatest sin.
Pundalik’s consciousness transforms and he becomes entirely devoted to his parents. By seeing his devotion Lord Vishnu comes and knocks at Pundalik’s door. He realizes that God is at his door but due to pure devotion towards his parents he asks God to stand outside on brick and wait until he finishes his duties.
Seeing this act, Visnu gets extremely impressed and the ever-loving God waits for his devotee. Pundalik asks God to stay back and bless all his devotees, God agrees and the Vitthal temple comes up there.

Queue Stand – Way to the temple goes through a 6 storey building. At the time of huge rush during festive season the crowd has to pass through every floor. It may take 3 to 4 hours, or more to get a glance/ the दर्शन of the deity. While passing by each floor you can purchase garlands from the vendors, sitting thereby, and snack, if you need a quick bite.


If you need more prasadam for distribution purpose – the shops are just outside the temple. You can buy prasadam, incense sticks, coconut, for offering, and other sacred items.









Beautiful Panduranga deities, whom you can establish in your home and offer prayers daily, are available with the vendors sitting outside the temple. Buy MANJEERA and perform transcendental kirtana at the holy place.



Janabai temple – A great devotee, Janabai, used to cook personally for the lord Panduranga.




VishnuPad Temple – Lord Vishnu stepped down at this place with his cow named Gopinath.


Narad Muni Temple – When the Dam gets open the temple will be visible completely, rest of the time it is submerged.





There is an ISKON temple – farm community in outskirts, approximately 5 Kms away from Vishnupad temple, where you can offer prayers to the beautiful deities of Goddess Radha and Lord Krishna.






Hare Krishna movement is a medium to make people Krishna conscious and to let them know their only goal, in this material world, is to serve Krishna, the supreme personality of godhead. Hare Krishna movement is dedicated towards awakening the lost consciousness and spirituality of the human society in this material world by preaching the transcendental philosophy of Bhagvad Geeta, Srimad Bhagwatam and Vedas.


Mahamantra – “HARE KRISHAN HARE KARISHNA KARISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE


                             HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE”
The Kali-santarana Upanishad states that if one chants this mahamantra daily, for at least 108 times, and follow the four basic principles i.e. no intoxication, no meat – eating, no illicit sex then he/she can be freed from the painful cycle of birth and death and go back to the supreme lord's planet Vaikuntha.
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, incarnation of Krishna, also instructs to chant this transcendental mantra to get liberation. Remember we are only the visitors on this planet, enjoy and find the true meaning of life...

Keep travelling Guys...




October 1, 2016

Orchha - Land of Forts, Palaces, Cenotaphs, Relics and Ruins

Going beyond the ravines of Chambal, we were on the way to explore a small hidden town of Orchha, which literally means hidden. Orchha is a small town in the Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh and is 125 km. from Gwalior and 15 km. from Jhansi. Kingdom of Orchha was established in the 16th century AD, year 1531 AD by the Bundela Rajput chief, Rudra Pratap Singh on the banks of Betwa River. Orchha was developed as an impenetrable fortified citadel. Orchha fort complex consists of numerous temples, forts and cenotaphs (Chhatris), which all make Orchha an interesting spot to visit.

All good things shall start with a prayer to the Gods; first spot in Orchha shall be the Raja Ram Temple, an acclaimed temple which was earlier in fact a queen’s palace. This is the only temple in the world where Lord Rama is worshipped as King Rama.

Adjacent to Raja Ram temple is the gigantic Chaturbhuj Temple, built by the king Madhukar to idolize Lord Rama. However Lord Rama decided to rest in the Rama Raja Temple.
Read the interesting story about Raja Ram temple and Chaturbhuj Temple...

After praying, time to walk the heritage trail. Orchha fort consists of many palaces like Raja Mahal, Jahangir Mahal and Rai Parveen Mahal. Jahangir Mahal reflects the Bundela architecture. The views from the balconies in the palace are spectacular.

Raja Mahal is most ancient historic monuments in Orchha fort. Standing on the island created by Betwa River, Raj Mahal is surrounded by a battlement wall.

The fort consists of several buildings connected to each other in a perfect display of battle architecture, the most significant of which is the Raja Mahal. The most prominent palace in the Raja Mahal is in fact the Rani Mahal (Queen's Palace) Mahal. Rani Mahal from inside...

Decorated walls of House of Commons, Deewan-e-Aam in the Raja Mahal...

More mural paintings in one of the abandoned spot in this palace...

After Raja Mahal, the Jahangir Mahal with such a grand view of  from the Raja Mahal...

The Jahangir Mahal is built on a rectangular base and has a circular tower at each corner surmounted by a dome. The Jahangir Mahal is a beautiful example of Bundela architecture. 

It is believed that it was constructed for Jahangir reception. The mother for Jahangir was also a Rajput, Jodhabai. Looks like that with this fact in mind, the Rajput king of Orchha had built the Jahangir Mahal. To actually see the beauty of this palace one should climb up to the roof, which is crowned by eight large domes with smaller domes between them connected by beautiful railings.

From the roof get an amazing view of Raja Mahal with Chaturbhuj temple in the backdrop...

There is also the Unth Khana, the royal Shelter for the Camels, where the King's camels used to get relax, is right next to the fort and at back of Jahangir Mahal.
This was one of the structures to support the powerful military of bundles kingdom. Take a few steps and climb on the roof of the Unth Khana and enjoy a fantastic view of Orchha town. It houses the residences of various military officers and ministers of Orchha rulers. Although most of them are in ruins, a silent walk through the ruins is not for the fainthearted.

Also worth mentioning is the Rai Parveen Mahal, however related to any of the royal family member. Now it is in ruins, but must have been a beautiful palace with lush gardens surrounding it. Rai Parveen was a poetess and a dancer par excellence who had bedazzled the king by her charm so much that king Indramani built a palace for her. Sounds familiar with the movie script of Bhool Bhaiya...! Check out the prime location of this palace...

Dauji ki kothi, the ruins of one of the prominent ministers in the Bundela kingdom...

And some ruins around the Raja Mahal. Battlement wall of the fort is clearly visible...

After illustrious fort and the palaces, let’s make our way to the Cenotaphs. The kings of Orchha built huge cenotaphs to celebrate their afterlife journey. There are 15 (Fifteen) cenotaphs (memorials of rulers) locally called as chhatris on the banks of the Betwa river at Kanchana Ghat.

Cenotaph of Vir Singh Ju Deo at the river front and some neglected structures...

The Cenotaph of king Indramani...

Chhatris or Cenotaphs were built to honour the dead ancestors of the Bundela kings. Meaning of word Bundela - "One who has offered drops"; first king of the dynasty, offered drops of his blood to the Goddess Kali and was called Bundela. His descendants carried this tradition till the royalty came to an end.

Word Orchha literally means “Hidden”. No doubt the place is still unknown in the tourism circles and surely can be classified as one of the best offbeat destinations in Madhya Pradesh. But that is the advantage India, here every spot turns out to be more beautiful than the previous one. Travelling back in time is an integral part of a visit to Orchha. Orchha has been a witness to a bloody rebellion by price Salim (Jahangir) against his father emperor Akbar. Around Orchha there are a number of unusual temples and tombs. The more unguarded and neglected of these buildings have become hangouts for bees, wasps, and other such excitable creatures.

Please note - Entry ticket is required to visit all the monuments in Orchha, other than the temples. Entry tickets are available at the entrance of Orchha fort only. Cenotaphs shall be visited after Orchha Fort.

To reach Orchha:
By Train: Nearest Railway Station is Jhansi,  18 Km. on Delhi- Mumbai route. All express trains including Shatabdi Express stop at Jhansi. From Jhansi individual as well as shared taxis are available. One can also enjoy Auto-Rickshaw drive.
By Air: Gwalior is the nearest airport, 125 km.
By Road: Jhansi is well connected by roads to major cities. Road condition from Jhansi to Orchha is very good.
One day is all which is required to explore Orchha. Trip to Orchha can be easily coupled with a trip to Khajuraho (175 Km. from Orchha) or just extend the Chambal Safari by one day.

Keep travelling Guys…