Mitawali

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

Varanasi

...is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.....By Mark Twain.

Dharamsala-Mcleodganj

This is a picturesque small village enroute to Mcleodganj. Isn't it a painting by GOD himself...!

Bhangarh

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

Luxembourg

Enjoy boating in the green waters of Luxembourg and park your boats in the above parking bays.

February 21, 2014

Sarnath - Where Lord Buddha first preached...

The Holy city of Varanasi has been a symbol of spiritualism for thousands of years and has been a centre of enlightenment and awakening for many great thinkers and preachers. Almost all the renowned saints/ personalities like Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, Kabir, Tulsi Das, Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanuja, Patanjali,....have been associated with this city in one way or other. 

Lord Buddha too started his journey from this placeAfter the Buddha has attanined enlightenment in Bodh Gaya he came to "Sarnath", located 10 kms.from Varanasi was the fortunate place where Lord Buddha gave the first teachings of what enlighted the world as "Buddhism".

On reaching Sarnath, the first monument to come our way is the CHAUKHANDI STUPA. Stupa is a huge mound of brick-work whose square endifice is surrounded by a octagonal tower. What a gigantic structure this is...? Construction of such a huge structure with only brick work might not get approval in present times:

The Chaukhandi Stupa is believed to have originally built as a terraced temple during the Gupta period between 4th - 6th Century to mark the site where Lord Buddha and his first disciples met traveling from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath. Later Govardhan, the son of a Raja, modified the stupa to its present shape by building the octagonal tower.

Buddhists wordwide look upon India as the land of the Buddha and a visit to this country means a pilgrimage to those places sacred to the memory of the Enlightened One. Sarnath alongwith Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar is amongst the four cities declared sacred by Buddha to his followers. While we were appreciating the peaceful environment here, we found ourselves at the doors of celebrated "Sarnath Temple"


It was the time for praying and thanking the GODs for their benevolence on me and also seeking thier blessings for continuing my travels.

The walls of this temple are decotated by life paintings of Lord Buddha.

Lord Buddha is reforming a notorious savage:



This place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon was and still is a Deer Park. In the language of religions, Lord Buddha set in motion the wheel of Law (maha- Dharmachakra Pravartan).

Lets share the session of Lord Buddha teachings underneath the same tree, which has been actually the witness of that great session.
Actual place where Lord Buddha gave his first teachings
Those 5 disciples also deserve a mention, names being - Mahanama, Kaundinya, Ashwajit, Bhadridaya and Vappaji.

One of the greatest emperors of ancient India, King Ashoka, who dedicated his life in spreading the Buddha’s message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, visited Sarnath around 234 BC and erected a stupa here. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD, and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst places on the Buddhist trail.


Originally said to built by Emperor Ashoka. DHAMEK STUPA (Dharmarajika Stupa) is the most remarkable structure at Sarnath. The Stupa is a huge cylindrical structure, 28 m. in diameter at the base and 43.6 m. in height, built partly of stone and partly of brick. The stone facing the lower part is adorned with delicate floral carvings of Gupta origin.


Adjacent to the Dhamekh Stupa is a beutiful temple dedicated to Lord Mahavira. The top of the main chamber where statue of Lord Mahavira rests is inscripted by a basic reality of life:

Meaning - "Whether he is a king , emperor and used to ride on elephant with great pomp and show,                                                                      but everyone including him, has to die one day when his turn will come"

Most of the times we keep on living as if we are immortal and will stay on this earth for ever and on the day of our end we realise that we have never lived. However the truth is that we are just a visitor for a small time in this world. Walls of the temples too are decorated with paintings of various Tirthankars of the "Jainism" religion.


Sarnath is also sacred to the Jainism as Sarnath is looked as the site of asceticism and death of Sreyansantha the 11th Trithankara. Opposite to this temple their is park dedicated to Lord Mahavira:

Not to forget an exquisite museum dedicated to Lord Buddha, is the oldest site museum by Archaelogical survey of India displays grand panorama of Buddhist cultural wealth and the antiques ranging from 3rd Century B.C. - 12th Century A.D. found at Sarnath.
Since photography is "strictly" prohibited inside the temple premises, so I had to content with only a picture of the museum building from outside. 

Some of the notable antiques/ statues are: Abacus, Giant Umbrella, Terracota figurines and Lord Shiva killing demon Andhak; all the antiques are dated around 1st century AD.


The Modern name Sarnath seems to be a contraction of Saraganatha (Lord of deer). Sarnath is an exceedingly tranquil place giving the universal message of peace and harmony to the entire World. With a peaceful mind and a contented soul it was the time to return to Varansi, however while humming within ourselves:



Buddham saranam gacchami (बुद्धम  शरणम्  गच्छामि )
I go to the Buddha for refuge

Dhammam saranam gacchami (धम्मम् शरणम्  गच्छामि)
I go to the Dhamma for refuge

Sangham saranam gacchami (संघम शरणम्  गच्छामि)

I go to the Sangha for refuge

Lets pledge to keep this earth a beautiful place with peaceful co-existence of every soul and form of life, because a life lived for others is truly a life lived.

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January 5, 2014

Kodaikanal - Gift of the Forest

I have been staying in Bangalore for the last two years, working day in and day out. Off late was feeling too much cramped by not being able to enjoy at all. This was the time I came across articles posted on Travel Diaries and thanks to the posted articles, I started believing that for a small trip all we need is a decision and a weekend. As there are a lot of places to explore near to Bangalore, so I discussed my plans with some of my friends. What I realized they also had same opinion about me and were planning to go out for some time.

Four was the company for us and one fine evening we packed our bags and boarded a late night bus to "Kodaikanal". We had whole travel plan in our mind that we will have our first stop in Kodaikanal where we had to take permission from the District Forest Officer to enter the forest for trekking but were unaware of the little obstacles we may face in-between.

We had little hint that Kodaikanal may give a feeling of a hill station but never imagined that it would welcome us with somewhat like below.

The scenic beauty made us believe that it is going to be one of the best Independence Day celebrations. We had a limited time of 3 days with us to explore whatever we could have and it takes more than 2 days to trek till Munnar Top Slip.

On the outskirts of Kodaikanal, our bus had a pit stop at a highway roadside hotel. We had a delicious south-indian breakfast and as expected it was "VOWWW".

On reaching Kodaikanal, we straight away rushed to District Forest Office (DFO) to seek permission for trekking to Munnar. We were with our full spirits when we arrived at DFO but it had something weird in its box for us.

Government officials simply rejected our request to enter the forest by saying ‘It’s dangerous to trek in this season due to some internal problems in that area’. As it was our Independence day so we could not get District Forest Officer to talk and convince him to grant the permission. Waited and kept argued for 3 hours but their response was same and finally we decided to step back and search for a good decent hotel keeping one thing in mind ‘Lets Live today and Fight tomorrow’.


Kodaikanal is a small town with lot of staying options suitable to all budgets. Luckily we got a very good place managed by Tamil Nadu Government itself with easily affordable price of 500/- per room. Rooms were really clean and surroundings were AWESOME.

We had complete half day with us so we just moved out to explore the city after having an economical & hygienic lunch in the HOTEL itself. The moment we stepped out of our hotel we saw many tourists cycling on the roads so without wasting a second we went to a nearby cycle shop and grabbed four cycles on rent.

Cycling after a long time was an extraordinary experience and we were feeling like kids again. We cycled arond 5 km. to very a popular and beautiful place called ‘CROAKER'S WALK’. Within no time it was evening and place started to transform into a beautiful hill station with lights glowing in night.

There was a small teashop where we had one of the best tea of our lives having unique & fresh aroma, unfortunately the teashop guy was unable to fulfill our one of the companion's request of having Bournvita instead of Tea & Coffee. After having snacks we set out to explore the place on foot. as evening was setting in we were enjoying the foggy air of the evening.


Again we had our dinner in our hotel itself and we ended our day with 100% positive attitude that we will definitely get our permission tomorrow for trekking early in the morning itself.

Day  2– We were standing at DFO at sharp 9 AM and got to know that officer will arrive at around 11 AM, this did not mattered as we were prepared to wait. Finally our long wait ended and the officer arrived. Despite sitting immediate outside the office we could not get officer's appointment and finally we had conversation with him over the mobile phone only and answer was still 'NO'. We decided to keep aside our egos and asked the same officer to suggest some better alternatives as we thought that the Forest officer is the person most knowledgeable about the Forest. By seeing our eagerness to trek, the same officer suggested us an alternate trek at Tamil Nadu, Kerala border.

We boarded a common city bus in the late evening which took around 2-3 hours to reach our destination place. We have already decided that instead of luxuries of hotel we will be pitching in the tents. So immediately after reaching our spot we starting preparing our camps & bonfire to cook some food.


It was a perfect night with 0% pollution and brightly shining stars which is a little difficult to find in city's life. While camping you can cook your own food under the blue sky; you can cook whatever you like. Naturally prepared food is always out of the league and same we experienced while having it under the dark blue sky - 'SIMPLY DELICIOUS'.


The place had plenty of Eucalyptus tree leaves which made lighting fire easy. After the dinner, our beautiful camps were waiting to serve us with a good sleep.

Day 3
Whole beautiful nature was in front of my eyes in the morning. I was feeling rejuvenated and 6 hours of sleep seemed like a sleep of continuous 24 hours.


No doubt it was one of the wonderful mornings I saw, Having said that it was also our last day of trip so we quickly geared ourselves for 6 KM trek which includes one waterfall also. I was really excited about the waterfall as I love playing with water irrespective of not knowing how to swim.

In the beginning itself we saw a tomato and garlic plantations coming our way which was quite surprising and delightful to see.

After these plantations, we came across one Mystery Rock and if taken a closer look at you will find the rocks on the upper side resemble some faces. There was something unusual about this place.


After meddling over the mysteries associated with the Mystery Rock, we again continued our trekking on the less explored path:

In our 6 km. of trekking we searched our way through the forest and lot of different trees, majority being pine trees:

In about one hour we completed the trek and reached our cherished spot, "the Waterfall". Seeing a waterfall without any crowd was amazing.


When you go there avoid removing your shoes as the place has leeches and be careful with the slippery rocks. It is hard to explain the feeling I had of being close to the nature on this calm little waterfall, you will have to experience it on your own.

It was time when we had to move and leave the place for Kodaikanal where we had to catch our bus back to Bangalore. However it was every difficult to bid farewell to such lovely surroundings.

Standing here I was thinking that our trip could have got extended by a few days more but i was really happy in my heart that despite not getting the DFO's permission to trek we did not ended up spending time in Kodaikanal itself, but instead explored a new place which most common tourists does not do.


Finally our much desired break was coming to an end and it was the time to say good bye to this place and start your return journey to Bangalore.

Kodaikanal is situated in Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu and is 9 hours from Bangalore by bus. The nearest Railway stations are Palani Railway Station - 64 km. north, Kodai Road Station - 80 km. south east and Dindigul Railway Junction - 100 km. east.




December 10, 2013

Varanasi - Divine blessings in the land of temples

........................ is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.....By Mark Twain

This is a city renowned for its religious and artistic activities since times immemorial. This city has been a cultural centre of India since several thousands of years and as per the available historical details this city is older than most of the religions in the World.

Its none other than one of the most colourful, spiritual and charismatic place in India, welcome to "VARANASI", also known as "KASHI, काशी" and "BENARAS, बनारस ". Place where temples outdo the number of people, Varanasi is one of the most spectacular and visited cities on this earth. Considered to be auspicious by the presence of "Lord Shiva" this sacred place is believed to have the power of washing away all the sins; those who die and gets cremated here is liberated from the cycle of life and death and attains " मोक्ष (Moksha)"

Varanasi is one place where you can venture out without any schedule or fixed program and take my words you will not be disappointed while coming back. There is a glorious history associated with every part of this city. No surprise you can also find people from many nationalities getting familiar with diverse Indian traditions in the city. 


Walking around the city is not just walking it is an exploration about India: holy chants from the temples and numerous sages and saints with their distinguished patronage and beliefs is itself an experience to cherish. 
Do not know why he is looking at me so angrily...?
For Hinduism "Varanasi" is the ultimate pilgrimage spot.

Ganga Ghats (River front: series of steps leading to the banks of river Ganges) are the most sought after pilgrimage spot and Ganga AARTI (worship of river Ganges, in Hinduism rivers are worshipped as mother) performed during sunrise and sunset attracts lot of devotees. 



Dashashwamedh Ghat, दशाश्वमेध घाट (According to the legends Lord Brahma performed ten horses sacrifice, दस-अश्वमेध  at this ghat) is the most ancient and main ghat in Varanasi where Agni Pooja, अग्नि पूजा (Aarti - आरती ) is performed  everyday after sunset by beautifully clad priests in saffron colour dresses and big brass lamps.
Priests starting the Aarti, facing river Ganga


On the back side of the Priests, people are sitting on the boats in river Ganga
This Aarti, Agni Pooja (अग्नि पूजा) is dedicated to Lord ShivaRiver Ganga (the Ganges), Surya-सूर्य (Sun), Agni-अग्नि (Fire), and the whole universe. What a mesmerizing craft is being created by the Gods, devotees and the priests.

This Aarti is not just a prayer, it is a phenomenon par excellence and the being a part of this Aarti is a feeling which can not be described in words. You have to be a part of it to believe... 
Aarti is now facing Kashi Vishwanath Temple to worship Lord Shiva
Final thanksgiving to the Gods
Despite so many people there is a perfect silence during the Aarti and only holy chants of aarti are heard. Thousands of earthen lamps immersed in holy waters of Ganga as floating lamps makes this aarti an awesome ritual of devotees. At this moment religion takes a back seat and everyone gets immersed in the spirituality and the sacred power of the prayers. There are no words in the English vocabulary which can truly convey the aura of this Aarti, you have to be a part of this moment to believe. "If India is considered as a Body, then Varanasi is the Soul". It is this charm of Varanasi which makes it a must in India visit itinerary. 

Varanasi is also acclaimed worldwide for the Silk produced here. One can buy exquisite silk sarees, some of the notable shops are located near to the ghats.


During the daytime, one can enjoy boat ride in river Ganges, enjoy delicious food or can go around Varanasi and offer prayers in the numerous temples. Notable few of them:


Kashi Vishwanath Temple, कशी विश्वनाथ मंदिर

Vishwanath - Ruler of the Universe, Lord Shiva. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is one of the most acclaimed temple in India and is home to one of the twelve, 12 Jyotirlinga in India. However worship at this temple is worth more than the visit of all other Jyotirlingas combined.
This the entrance gate to a Vishwanath lane which leads to the temple.
Such is the significance of this temple that people from all over the country try to visit this temple at least once in their lifetime. On special occasions around 100,000 devotees from all around the world come to offer prayers in this temple. Main temple is surrounded by temples of other gods. 
Visit of so many devotees to this place also indicates the universal desire of human race to live in peace. "May Lord Shiva be benevolent on me to let me continue my life like this"
(Photography is strictly prohibited for the Kashi Vishwanath temple, Vehicles are not allowed to enter the lane and are stopped at the round about which is around 100m. from the above temple gate)

Vishwanath lane which leads to the temple is also famous for shopping. After praying in the Kashi Vishwanath temple, do not forget to take back some stuff from the numerous shops apart from the sweet memories from the Vishwanath lane




Sankatmochan Hanuman Temple, संकटमोचन हनुमान मंदिर :
One of the most sacred temple in India for Lord Hanuman, it is believed that this temple is built on the very place where Saint Tulsidas had a vision of Lord Hanuman.



Every Tuesday and Saturday thousands of devotees line up to offer prayers in this temple. There are hundreds of monkeys in the temple premises, however they have not harmed any human till date. According the tradition, visitors to this temple get special favours from Lord Hanuman.This temple is also special in the aspect that Lord Hanuman is facing Lord Rama, whom he worshiped with utmost devotion.

On occasion of Hanuman Jayanti, birthdEach year in the month of Apay of Lord Hanuman a special Shobha Yatra, a procession starting from Durgakund adjacent to the historic Durga temple to this temple is carried out. Each year in the month of April, the temple organizes a classical music and dance concert festival, "Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh", attended by musicians and performers from all over India.

(Photography is strictly prohibited in this Hanuman temple)



Durga Temple, दुर्गा मंदिर:
Durga Temple was built around 500 years back. The statue of Godess Durga is not man made, according to the belief, the present statue of Goddess Durga was not made by man but appeared on its own in the temple. History about the temple:

Fabulous crafting of fine stone works makes this temple an excellent example of Indian craftsmanship.
There is also a square pond, Durga kund adjacent to the temple, which earlier used to be fed by the river Ganges itself. However that channel has been blocked now and the pond is dependent on rains for replenishing its water.

Millions of devotees visit the Durga temple during the auspicious Navratri occasion. It is believed that Goddess Durga always protect Varanasi from any troubles.

Tulsi Manas Temple, तुलसी मानस मंदिर :

Constructed by the royal family of Varanasi, this temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is situated at the place where Sant Tulsidas used to live and wrote the epic "Shri Ramcharitmanas", which narrates the life of Lord Rama. 
Verses from Tulsidas’ epic are inscribed on the walls. It is close to the Durga Temple.

Visiting Varanasi is not just any travel, it is a journey to enlighten oneself. If you want to see only temples or ghats perhaps your one life will not be enough.What is more important than the river Ganges, Ghats or temples is the environment of tranqility and inner peace which one can find here. Why not, afterall this is the place which attracts visitors with so much of devotion:

People who come here often delay the return to their usual routines, mainly becuase of all of the above factors and the richness of the environment magnetise their stay at Varanasi. There is one India on this earth and there is no other Varanasi also.

Varanasi is well connected by trains/ roads to all major cities of India and also has an international airport. Accomodation is not a problem as there are lot of hotels suitable to all types of budget. Just make plans and leave everything to GOD, he will take good care of you in this city.


Next in line was "SARNATH", the place where Lord Buddha gave his first teachings...Journey still continues and shall contine with the blessings of God almighty...


-:- In Varanasi while visiting the temples better to use slippers instead of shoes as one has to remove the shoes at every temple or religious place -:-





October 29, 2013

To Rohtang Pass...

Though Manali is a small place, but it is base for onward travel to Rohtang and further to Leh, as widely acclaimed Leh-Manali highway starts from here only. First thing while in Manali is to set off to Rohtang Pass. Start as early as possible, so that you get ample time to enjoy the journey and can get back to Manali before it gets too dark in the evening.
In the morning as the sun was spreading its rays from behind the mountains and the city was about to come to life, the moment seemed like the whole world to us. It was an amazing Way to Go..or What a way to go....

Well-defined snow capped peaks, Deodar and Pine trees, will give you company on this journey.

Start with adequate winter gear to counter any onslaught of the chilling winds at Rohtang pass. There are lot of shops at the exit of the city which rent out adequate winter gears and drivers insist a lot on taking those clothes from local shops. The distance of 52 km. will take around 3 hours owing to frequent landslides and bad condition of the roads.

However mighty mountains, falling waterfalls will keep you occupied and will make up more than the bad condition of the road. Click after click continue to capture the opulent nature.



Limits of vision were the mountains only and nothing else. As it is said Human will to triumph is above all, we stopped at a place full of eateries.
We wondered how much efforts must have been done by these shopkeepers to open such shops at this height. This place is "Marhi" and like everywhere else view from this point was staggering brilliant, barren mountains were  incomparable.
We had to stop for 15-20 minutes due to some blasting work being carried out by Border Roads organization. Landslides are frequent here, may be due to loose mountains:



At RohtangThe view was "Incredible".


Everyone was hiring horses to go up the distance which was hardly 2 Km. As our feet are always the best option, we decided to chart the course by walking on for the summit.  All my trekking experience was coming handy, like take small steps, have little water.

Braving the winds and walking on the frozen rivers, one constantly hear the noise of water gushing underneath the frozen layer of ice. Don't worry keep on moving.

Snow at the top was calling us and Step by step we kept on moving and it did not took long to reach the summit, with snow everywhere around. Rightly said "View from the top is what makes the journey of 1000 steps so exhilarating". A sense of Deja Vu ---

Return journey was as usual devoid of any thrill, except the fascinating memories gathered during the day. Fast changing landscapes from hills covered with trees to barren mountains, what a diverse panorama on display here.

The best plans slould be kept early during the trip as one snowfall or landslide, the Leh Manli highway, which is the road to Rohtang gets closed. So when in Manali first thing to do is to head straight to Rohtang..

Someone rightly told that you have to be lucky also to experience Rohtang...