Kumbh Mela

Shahi Snan at Kumbh Mela at Ujjain... Grand celebration of humanity and the largest gathering of mankind on the earth. Let your Soul get immerse into the the divine occasion...

Istanbul - Where civilizations merge

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

Malana

A place which has been lying forbidden and has never been ruled by any external administration. Malana still follows their culture and traditions...

Bhangarh

One of the most haunted place on the planet. Staying after sunset and going before sunrise is STRICTLY prohited by law.

Musical Pillars of Hampi

Musical notes from the Pillars has bought people from around the world to this place.

Mitawali

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

May 18, 2016

Chambal Safari, Kakan Math Temple

Change your attitude and whole world changes for you...

The moment I decided to put on my exploring shoes, every road turned into a worthy destination. It was the time to complete the Chambal Safari which had started 2 years back to explore the hidden ancient historical marvels situated in Chambal ravines. First round had resulted in discovery of Mitawali temple, which had been the inspiration behind the design of Indian Parliament house.

Sorry I forgot to mention the objective of the quest; discovering Kakanmath temple which must have been one of the most prominent temples in India, in its glorious days. Don't be surprised once you reach there, you will get the answer...Since my last attempt to reach Kakanmath had failed so this time we set out to chase our passion with whatsoever it may be approach and followed our hearts to finally arrive at this sensational architecture...


Coming from Gwalior, it was a sheer pleasure to surf the Chambal ravines once more, which has changed a lot in last 2 years. Excellent roads now are a sheer pleasure to meander. Kakanmath is in Bawadipura village,  around 3 km. away from Sihoniya in the Morena district. 
Found records indicate that Suhoniya which is now known as Sihoniya was the capital of Kushwahas of the Kachwaha kingdom, established around 11th century. One of the king of  Kachwaha, Kirtiraj got this "Shiva Temple" built at Sihoniya between 1015 to 1035 A.D. This temple is known as "Kakan Math Temple" and is notable for its amazing sculpture; however in ruins now.

It is believed that praying in this temple fulfil all your wishes. This temple Kakanmath was built by king KirtiRaj to fulfil the will of his Queen Kakanwati. It is 115 ft. high and is built in Khajurho style. Pyramids have a stark resemblance with the overall structure of this temple...

My goodness how these stones have been arranged to give the temple its shape. It speaks  highly of technological acumen available in India in ancient times, perhaps those were the times when our country was known as सोने की चिड़िया, The Golden Bird". Modern day engineering practices will surely term this structure as unfeasible. It stands on a lofty ornate pitha. You can see the huge tomb while entering the near by area of the temple. It is made by joining the huge stones and it seems that the building will fall down any moment.

This temple was built without using any adhesive materials. Stones are arranged in such a manner which gives this beautiful structure its present form. Do not believe, check it from the bottom, the articulate arrangement of the stones...

By this time we were totally mesmerized by the structure. Now we decided to get closer to the temple and found that the walls and pillars of the temple are carved with such grace that one can't stop appreciating the work.


While coming up from the stairs for the temple, there is huge gate like structure. However orientation of this gate is in parallel to the temple entrance. Generally such gates are perpendicular to the temple entrance so that when anyone who enter through this gate directly faces the temple entrance gate.


Some of the secrets are still to be explored. However it looks like the main temple must have been surrounded by a number of smaller temples. Come here in the morning time if you want to see peacocks, lot of peacocks. Infact Morena is derived from the Mor (Peacock) + Raina (Living place) means the place where many peacocks are found and Morena is home to perhaps the largest number of peacocks in the India.  
When you enter the temple gate on left you can see lord Shiva idol under the blue sky resting and enjoying beauty of the temple or keeping a guard over this place?


The ruins are so majestic. The outer covering has been lost, but if you see it closely there are still some stones intact which depicts Gods and Goddess. Such a huge structure and covered with numerous carvings, it is not difficult to imagine the aura of this temple in its prime time.



Site is being excavated to unearth the broken parts of the temple. Particularly the broken part at the top of the temple. I was able to find out the remaining broken part of the temple top...

Thanks to MP tourism and Archaeological Survey of India restoration work is going on for past sometime. Going around the premises one can find a lot of broken parts of temple structure and statues, which will very soon find their original place in the temple structure.

Move around the campus and try to find the location of excavated parts of the temple...

Now a days we use cement and water mixture to make buildings but in those days lime and mud mixture was the medium to join the stone. Structures of this size can not be joined using the cement. Since the restoration work is going on for this temple, the mixture is made by the same technique and mechanism which was employed in the earlier days masonry.


This hidden but spectacular marvel is 34 km. from Morena bus stand (left turn from Morena crossing while coming from Agra, Dhaulpur) and 23 km. from Mitawali Shiva temple, when coming from Gwalior (57 km. from Gwalior bus stand via Bhind road).

There are many such Kakanmath lying hidden in different parts of our country. Most of them are in ruins due to apathy of citizens and government. It is upto us to preserve our rich heritage so that coming generations also get a chance to feel proud on our amazing history by seeing such masterpieces. Chambal ravines have been secluded for long, but has amazing wealth of our history. Continue towards Gwalior and you will come across Shiva Temple at Mitawali and Padawali (Superior of Khajuraho temple). Take out some time whenever you plan a trip to Agra or trip to Gwalior.


Nearest railway station is Morena and most of the trains halt here. State transport buses ply from Morena and Gwalior bus stand to Sihoniya village. Sohoniya is also connectd to nearby towns by city buses, however frequency is not so good. One can also avail sharing options from Morena to Sihoniya to reach Kakanmath.

Keep on travelling Guys...






May 5, 2016

Simhastha Kumbh, Hangover that refuses to end...

Yes this is one hangover we will never try to get rid of, in fact will treasure in a corner of our beings, forever. We are talking about our adventure/pilgrimage/ educational tour to Ujjain during Simhasth Kumbh Mela, whatever one would like to call it. Yes the grand carnival or Mahaparv (Grand Festival), celebrated by largest human gathering on Earth in every 12 years, this time from 22nd April – 21st May 2016. Excitement and nostalgia of being the blessed one for getting a chance to take dip in the holy waters and experience the Day 1 Shahi Snan was overwhelming and uncontrollable.
Day 1: Shahi Snan at Ujjain Kumbh
We five ladies having introduced to the sanctity of the dip in the river during the Kumbh set out to have our own trip to Ujjain. The plans begun, tickets booked, all happened as though someone was over looking us and we landed in Indore on our way to Omkareshwar.

The drive to Omkareshwar from Indore was comfortable and we were welcomed by the hottest blow of air as we got down visiting the temple at Omkareshwar. After the darshan at Omkareshwar and a relaxed visit to the temple, we settled down to a comfortable stay at the MP tourism hotel. Next morning we set out for a dip in Narmada, and we were pleasantly surprised by the group of Bengali ladies who joined us. All were much older than us, but their pure joy as they took the dip unabashed was inspiring. Some hung on to our arms as they wished to swing for a while in the water, as we city bred cautious ladies, were looking at the rocks with moss on them cautiously.  Narmada with her quite, magnanimous way had lessons to teach us, in that little while. Mother after all, she is. We were wondering which other culture in the world has so much reverence to the life giving rivers: Calling them rivers, bowing to them, energizing oneself with a dip in them, praying and lighting the lovely lamps that shine as the stars which came down to earth for a walk.

Very soon we left for Ujjain and a brief stopover for a hearty lunch in Indore. The ride was smooth and we reached the hotel after an eventful journey in the last leg resulting from security and logistics issues set out by the MP govt. Those of us who visited Ujjain during the last year could not help but notice how elaborate the arrangements were and the efforts that have gone in to make the visitors comfortable.
The presence of the police and local administration at every corner overlooking each detail is wonderful. Even the hot summers were thought of and sprinklers in the temple made our visit to the temple comfortable and memorable. Water in the river is cleaned regularly, boats with personnel on watch make your dip worry free. Did we ladies go there for a dip in the river Shipra, yes we did, for a darshan of Mahakaal yes we did, for an experience of the ancient holy city of Ujjain which has the liquor drowning Kaal Bhairav, Lord Krishna's school Sandeepani ashram with a beautifully sculptured well in its compound  which would put any swimming pool of the modern schools to shame and the ancient caves giving us the glimpses of the conditions people set themselves out for to find the limits of human possibilities, etc, etc. and other places to visit in Ujjain. But we were also asking for more as we wanted to visit the “Akhaadaas”.
What are these akhaadaas? Knowing not much more than that these are places where Aghoras, Naga Babas might be present, we were keen to have a glimpse of them after reading and sharing a few books on them not too long ago. We set out to visit the Akhaadaas finally, the ones where the Naga-Babas will be there. The walk through these lanes was nothing that can be remotely termed as serene, spiritual or calming. Each of these tents were as bright and loud as any exhibition a middle class Indian visited at any time in his life. Each of them were open and inviting. We chose to sit with one and found him smoking continuously, we were informed he has an ashram in Gujarat which is frequented by many and his complexion is so spotless and clear would give any fancy facial and makeover a run, that, in spite of smoking uninterruptedly.





To our wonderment, some yogis and sadhus were walking or simply sitting in Digambar Avastha.......a clothless state. The Nagas…! For some, smoking seemed their only interest. Even when they smoked it was not casual, careless. It looked like there was some purpose behind their smoking. Some looked fierce, some were compassionate. They had given up families, worldly life even the clothing...Actually, after a while when we saw many who were smoking and smoking various stuff, were thinking that these babas are actually poster boys for tobacco industry. They all looked fit, energetic and that in spite of chain smoking. What are these people doing that we are missing, our experience from the urban world is - you go to any specialist and if you ask him to cure you, he tells you to stop smoking, and we know how much that is possible.
Another experience worth mentioning is from a baba we named the “Joyful One”. In all my life of five decades and more, I have not met any who is so joyful for so long for no reason. Watching him is being a life lesson; he stands on one leg, and takes support on a swing that has been put up temporarily. Was he told he got 99.9% in SSC today, did his child get into IIT today or did he win a lottery today, none of these or any of the many things which most of us are slogging away all the time for this reason, but HE IS JUST PLAIN JOYFUL ALL THE TIME...!
We were amazed and anxious that how can someone consistently be so joyful for sooo long? We were with him for over 45minutes. He made us chant Om Namah Shivaaya and was open to questions, answering joyfully whatever one throws at him. When asked how he remains so joyful he said what is the reason not to be, all have the same soul, we come and go why not to be joyful. Even I know those answers but WHY AM I NOT SO JOYFUL? When he heard I am from Andhra he quickly dialled a number and wished I talk to the lady on the other end. Even as my group was leaving I could not say no and waited to talk expecting a bigwig from the other end looking at his enthusiasm. After a couple of minutes I heard a lady who was on her way to gulf for a petty job and encountered this Swami in Srisailam. Did someone say “Do not judge people by what they do but how they are?” 
After a couple of hours of this round we were feeling tired so decided to relax on the beautiful ghat, bank of river Shipra under the full moon. It was a beautiful sight and ambience par excellence.

We found a baba with nothing on him but a sack wrapped around his waist. We had been warned before that these people do not like us dwindling into our purses so we ladies took out some money and kept some handy as our budget for the day. Having come to the tail end of both our energies and our budget for the day our last tens were all we were left with. We went down and gave that to him and he graciously accepted without a thought and started talking to us. In no time we knew he was educated and very well travelled. When he found where we each came from he listed out all the holy places around and encouraged each of us to show them to the others in our group. Srisailam to Dwaraka to Girnar nothing he missed. All throughout during the conversation he was with quick wit and understanding and surprised us totally. When we look back today we feel sorry for ourselves and the assumptions we had as we set out on our encounter with him. In our culture, we hear that we should be grateful to those who accept anything from us; this experience indeed taught us that to core.
Also there were Naga Babas around, with ash on their bodies and in all different ways possible, long hired ones, high hired ones, etc, etc. how can one human being with nothing on their body, terrorize everyone around. No one can stand in the way of Naga Babas. We could not but help thinking of them as “Emperors with No Clothes”.
Having more than possible assumptions and expectations cultivated from the urban world getting destroyed in one evening, we could not but wonder which university in the world could have taught us more in one evening. These are people who stretch the physical limits to teach us what is possible with ourselves physically. Having achieved the heights of so called success and material well being, when the junta is lost for happiness and look grim, they show us how to be absolutely joyful with nothing much round you. They are in our world hidden, quietly stretching the human possibilities. Where around us we calculate the value of gifts and return gifts they offer us an opportunity to offer them unconditionally.

Next time you visit Kumbh, just do not go for Snan (Dip in the waters) it has much more to offer.
My Guru said Mahakaal dissolves you – How True.
By Lata Francis, Feruzan Khambatta, Mona Patel, Pooja Mehta and Usha Boppana – Isha Meditators.
Thanks to the blessed ones who got this sacred opportunity to experience this sacred conclave of humanity and one of the greatest festival for the mankind…Waiting for my turn to be at Kumbh, may be this one or the next one... 

To reach Ujjain:
By Train: Ujjian is well connected by railway with most of the major cities in India
By Road: Well connected with major cities
Nearest Airport : Indore approx. 60 km., regular flights ply from all the major cities.
Accommodation: Dharamshalas near Mahakal temple, MP tourism guest house and hotels in Ujjain to suit every budget





March 25, 2016

Coimbatore, Gateway to the Bliss...

Coimbatore is 2nd largest city in Tamil Nadu and one of the major industrial centres in this state. With these statistics any hopes of good sightseeing should have been effectively dropped. However smoke filled environment and traffic jams were not in my destiny as I came across a well planned beautiful city.

During my stay here, I came to know about lot of beautiful temples in and around Coimbatore and therefore a real temple run was on the cards.
15 km. from Coimbatore and situated in lush green hilly surroundings is the Marudhamalai temple, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It was twilight when I reached the temple, which is actually the best time to see the hazy ambience created by the blue skies and the hills. Situated on a hill top, temple rises like a mirage to surround over the landscapes.

Getting closer to the main entrance of the temple, it is beautified with number of images of Gods and Goddesses:
Origin of the temple is traced back to 12th century by some of the inscriptions found. Lets go inside the temple for praying and also to enjoy the beautiful inner sanctum.

The divine Cow Kamadhenu is reported to have grazed here in the fields. Hills surrounding the Marudhamalai temple are abounding with Medicinal herbs and it is believed that any physical and mental ailments can be cured with these. Cool breeze and peaceful ambience is a welcome refreshment to all visitors. Also a walk in the temple premises takes you closer to magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.

Regular buses ply from Coimbatore to the foothills of this temple. From bus stand at the foothill, one can take mini buses to reach the temple gate. The temple premises also houses a number of shops, try out local snacks.




10 km. from Coimbatore on main NH-209, Eachanari Vinayagar Temple is one of the oldest in the city and dedicated to Lord Vinayagar (Lord Ganesha).


Legend says that while Lord Vinayagar decided to stay at this place as the axle of the cart transporting the statue broke down at this spot. The deity 6 ft. x 3ft. was actually meant for Perur Patteeswara temple. All the south bound visitors stop here to pray as Lord Vinayagar is believed to be remover of hurdles in the path. Cladded in white temple structures has beautiful carved scriptures of Gods and Goddesses. A sneak preview of the Lord Ganesha.
Temple premises remain closed from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM.



Next in line was that Dhyanlinga temple (23 km. from Eachanari Vinayagar temple) consecrated by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi and a mystic. While driving towards this place we all of a sudden found ourselves in middle of a forest and started wondering whether we are on the right path.

However after driving for few more minutes we arrived at the Isha foundation campus, situated at the foothills of the Velliangiri Mountains in utterly peaceful environment. Check the entrance path flanked by beautiful trees on both sides of the walk way.




There is a huge statue of Lord Shiva at the entrance of the campus, which is actually being used more by visitors to get themselves clicked in front of Lord Shiva. Dhyanlinga temple houses the largest mercury based live Shivlinga, measuring 13 feet 9 inches in height. This temple attracts people of all faiths and from all over the world. India.



One can discover inner peace and benefits of meditation in the exceptionally calm environment here. There are beautiful scriptures in the campus which are soothing to senses...
(Photography is prohibited in the campus, above pictures are taken from the website for illustration)
Yoga programs of various durations are held here and accommodation facilities are also offered at the centre. Occasion of Mahashivratri festival sees a grand celebration in which Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev also takes part and is attended by numerous dignitaries and people from around the world. Regular bus and taxi services are available from Coimbatore to reach Dhyanlinga temple.


Perur Patteeswara temple was on the way while returning from Dhyanlinga temple. This is also a very ancient temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The hall of the temple has been carved with beautiful and rare scriptures. Sanctum of this temple is the result of joint efforts of Cholas, Hoysalas and Vijaynagar rulers during their respective reigns. (Temple premises remain closed from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM)

At a distance of 65 km. from Coimbatore, one can soak himself/ herself in the lavish natural waterfalls, called by name Monkey Falls. Monkey Falls is located near Aliyar Dam between Pollachi and Valparai road in the Anamalai Hills range.

Nestled in the lush green Anamalai ranges with rocky cliffs and Aliyar dam reservoir, this is an ideal destination to unwind your spirits and relax in the laps of nature.

Monkey Falls has got its name due to presence of large number of monkeys here; the actual name of this waterfall is Athirampalli Falls. The spot if full of energies and many people take bath in the medicated waters of this fall. Take care of your belongings, do not leave the window panes of your vehicles open or anything on your bikes.
The falls is easily accessible as all buses between Pollachi and Valparai stop here.

After enjoying for sometime at Monkey falls we started towards Arulmigu Masani Amman temple, 15 km. from Pollachi town. Visit to the Monkey Falls and Coimbatore is considered incomplete without praying at this sacred temple. The drive is amazingly pleasant with coconut trees on both sides of the road.



Dedicated to Goddess Parvati (Masani Amman), this is the only temple in the world where Goddess Parvati is lying down at her back and is watching the skies. The divine idol of Masani Amman attracts large number of devotees.

Anyone who has suffered financial losses or people hassled by enemies take bath; sport holy ashes of the shrine and grind red chillies in stone grinder of the temple are surely blessed by the Goddess. Check out the ladies offering red chilly powder at the pillar outside the temple sanctum.

People here submit their wishes on piece of paper to the temple priest, who in turn places the paper on the trident of the Goddess. It is believed that wishes submitted with pure heart and utmost devotion is fulfilled by the Goddess within 3 weeks.
Also Lord Rama had offered prayers here when he was wandering around in the forests in search of Goddess Seeta, on the route to Lanka. There is a small market outside the temple premises. 



While returning, a thought flashed in my mind that - The price of anything is the value of life you exchange for it. Time spent here in exploring the beautiful temples and exquisite natural surroundings which came as pleasant surprise was definitely worth every moment. Well maintained roads and exceptionally clean neighbourhoods is something worth emulating in other parts of the country too. Someone rightly said to me sometime Southern part of India is altogether a different experienceHats off to the diversity of my country...

Coimbatore is overnight from Chennai (510 km.) / Bangalore (325 km.) and is well connected by trains and roads. It is also strategically located in line to many hill stations like Ooty (90 km.), Coonoor (70 km.) and Valparai (110 km.). Also Guruvayur, site of famous Lord Krishna temple is 140 km. from Coimbatore.
Keep travelling Guys...



February 20, 2016

Forbidden Republic of Malana

When it is the year 2016, it is very difficult to believe about places which are still lying disconnected from the mainland. Malana is such a spot which is 45 km. from much popular tourist destination of Kullu and has been lying isolated from the outside civilization for thousands of years. 

That much mention of such a solitary village was enough to stir the exploring soul of this vagabond. In line to my philosophy that Good travellers never plan in advance, I was on the way to Parvati Valley, situated to the north east of Kullu valley to see the sights of Malana.

Drive to Malana is extremely picturesque with beautiful valleys to accompany you till Malana. The excitement to reach this place coupled with a captivating drive kept me glued to the window and in the process I forgot to click the pictures in the drive.
Malana is considered to be the oldest democracy and locales consider themselves to be descendants of some deported soldiers of Alexander. Their participative type justice system reflects traces of ancient Greek system.
In the way I came across an ancient Lord Shiva temple. A quick pit-stop was necessary to thank Lord Shiva for blessing me with this wonderful opportunity and continued my quest in the snaky roads.



After surfing some of the snakiest roads in these mountains, finally I was at the destination from where cars cannot go further. 

The last 4 km. to Malana Village has to be covered on foot, now this trekker was all charged up as the trek would have taken me to the rock bottom of this valley. A first time experience for me...
45-60 minutes of trekking to Malana will remove all the calcium and rust from the bones and will provide memories worth cherishing forever. At places trek is too narrow and steep but manageable, my trekking capabilities were being rigorously tested. Do not try to test the might of mountains, however cherish the experience of checking the mountains from the bottom...


Finally I was at the cloud nine, the Malana village:

I found here some very exquisitely carved temples:



Please do not touch the temples and structures as it is prohibited. If any outsider touches these structures then purification of the structures has to be carried out from the fine which has to be paid by the defaulter. It is believed that father of Lord Parshuram, Sage Jamdagni performed meditation here to please the gods. 

I found this strange, so I started talking to the locales. By what locales told me I was simply astonished. Malana still follows their form of democracy where village council is unanimously chosen by trust of villagers (no election). Justice is without any favoritism as opinion of everyone in the village is taken into account and thus is agreed by everyone.




Small place, innocent/ simple people are offering big lessons to outside world – Trust, respect and strong believe in God. Here people do everything in front of God, even the justice.
Most of the cases are resolved by this manner. In case of severe disagreement, justice of Lamb comes to the rescue. Yes, Justice of Lamb...??? A cut is made on one foreleg of each of the 2 lambs assigned to each faction; cut is poisoned and sewn back. Accused is the one whose lamb dies first, nobody disagrees then.
Role of external police is not at all required. If the accused want police intervention, a fine has to be paid to the village council.
Locales also told me very interesting facts about their lives, like.
  • Fixing nails on a tree and burning wood in forests of Malana is prohibited
  • Only dry twigs and branches can be carried outside the forest.
  • Hunting of wild animals is forbidden, except for a few occasions and that too with the permission of the village council.
  • The wild animals that attack the villagers’cattle are killed by hunters from the village.
Not only temples, the houses here have distinct construction which is very different from other similar places. The ground floor, Khudang is the cattle shed which stores firewood and cattle fodder. Gaying is the first floor and stores eatables, wool and is used for weaving woolen fabric. The top floor which is the living quarter is called Pati and has a balcony too.

The place is amazing but if you plan to visit in February, you can be a party to Harlala Mask Dance Festival. At this event people dance around in demon like masks.
Request to all travellers: Experience this beautiful place to the extent of enjoying and avoid invading the privacy of local people. People here do not like outsiders mainly due to steady rise in influx of tourists. 

Way to Malana:


Keep travelling Guys. If you still have energies and time, drive to Manikaran Sahib or continue your journey to Manali...