Last week's SWF is here.
September 26, 2008
Last week's SWF is here.
September 21, 2008
I boarded the Mussorie Express from Delhi a little before 9 pm. In the air-conditioned compartment of the train, I chatted with my fellow travellers and co-passengers until around midnight and then caught up on a few hours of sleep on the berth in the solace of pillows and blankets provided by the railways. Before long, I was in Haridwar, the place believed by every pious Hindu as the ‘Doorway to the House of the Lord.’
I watch in astonishment as a few pilgrims go through a continuous motion of prostrating on the ground, stretching their arms as much as they can, while their partners walk alongside assisting them by marking the point where their stretched fingers reach with a wooden stick. The pilgrim then starts from the marked point onwards for the next round in the same way. All this through the thronging crowded streets. What a painfully difficult and slow journey it is!
I find pilgrims in every nook and corner moving from one holy site to another. It is drizzling now but I do not bother to take cover, nor do any of the pilgrims collected there. After all, they have travelled all the way for a dip in the Holy Ganges to seek absolution.
I can see many elderly pilgrims. In spite of their frail health, they have undertaken a journey to their holiest place – a place they consider as the most auspicious of all lands. After all, it is the place for them where they believe Vishnu first manifested in this world. For many pilgrims in Haridwar, just being present there is a fulfillment of one of their most cherished desires. They are there to carry out their last wish to visit this holy site. Some of them are not even sure if they are capable of a return journey home. At times, death at the ghats is taken in the right stride, as if dying at the banks of the holy river is as good as dying at the doorway of Hari, as the name implicates.
Haridwar is enigmatic!
Some recent related posts:
September 19, 2008
The Sky Watch Blog can be found here.
September 16, 2008
September 14, 2008
Journeying through just Karnataka and Maharashtra, I was able to relish Delhi style Chole Baturae, Punjabi Dal Makhani, Keralite Fish Curry, Sikkimese Momos, Madhya Pradesh type Daal Baati, Gujarati Dhokla, and Tamil Nadu style Sambhar. And a lovely way to end each meal with either Bengali Mishti Doi, or Marathi style Shrikhand.
Indian cuisine varies from place to place. It reflects the varied demographics of the ethnically diverse subcontinent. The beauty of India is that a person does not have to be in one particular state or region to enjoy the cuisine of that state. A variety of food is available almost in every town and city.
What is your favourite of the above food items?
- Lonavala, and Monsoon Magic
- Lonavala, and Karla Caves
- 24 Hours Are Not Enough
- Singing in the Rain
- A Journey called Life
- Journey to Garhwal
- A Tryst with the Himalayas
- Garhwali Bears with Tiny Bells
September 11, 2008
Continuation of my post titled:
2. Valvan Dam
Hardly 2 kms away from the heart of Lonavala is the area from where it is a peaceful walk to the Valvan Dam. The huge Dam is fed by the Kundali river. The large water body has a beautiful greenish-blue tinge to it. Photography is not allowed.
On one side at the bottom is a neatly kept garden adorned with a wide variety of colourful flowers and other plants. The Khopoli power station sources a major portion of its water from this Dam.
3. Whispering Woods and Shivaji Udhyan
The Reywood Whispering Woods with a park has sprawling gardens, tall trees and spacious open spaces. It began to rain as I reached these woods. Without an umbrella or any rainy wear, I got partly soaked in the showers. For some reason, I decided to cut short my walk in the Whispering Woods.
4. Bushy Dam
Pulling off my sneakers, it was fun wading uphill to the Dam through the overflowing waters of the Bushy Dam but it was not easy to walk bare feet through the stony paths. Though swimming is not allowed at the Dam, a few did manage to pass through the barricade and jump into the deep waters for a swim.
Soon it started raining cats and dogs. The downpour revived many memories of rainy days of the past. It was a pleasant time listening to the blissful sounds of the rain with a good cup of tea in a nearby shack.
At one point, even though the showers were continuing relentlessly, I decided to walk back fully aware I’d be drenched in no time. I liked the feel of the rainfall on my face as I lifted it ever so slightly, and shortly I was fully soaked in it like parched earth does after a long summer drought. At times, rainfall can be celebratory and the feeling of getting drenched in it is sublime!
5. Bhaja Caves
The Bhaja caves are also Buddhist caves similar to Karla Caves with the same Chaitya style but on a smaller scale. It was another climb of half hour or so to reach the Bhaja caves through a pleasant drizzle. I understand why people enjoy trekking in the rainy season.
Close to the main entrance are some stupas, few inside and most of them outside the caves. Close by was a small natural waterfall where a group of youngsters were chilling out in the cascading waters.
The view from the top of the surrounding hills that were the stronghold of the erstwhile Maratha rulers is delightful. Far in the distance in the opposite hills, I could see two forts: Visarpur Fort and the Lohagad Fort. A trek to the top of Lohagad Fort and return is something that I have been longing for a while, but for lack of time I had return to Mumbai next morning. So that will be another trek, another day...
The return journey of approximately two hours by a luxury Volvo bus to Mumbai through the Pune-Mumbai expressway was comfortable. Beautiful scenery of green hills and vast fields can be enjoyed all the way back, however, upon reaching Panvel, I felt it was like getting back into the concrete jungle. The spirit of Janmashtami was being celebrated on the streets of Mumbai and they were delightful sights.
Lonavala is not directly connected by Air but it is well connected by Rail and Road links. The railway stations of Lonavala and Khandala have the trains from Mumbai (110 Kms) and Pune (66 Kms). Trains halt at both Khandala and Lonavala. The Mumbai-Bangalore National Highway connecting western and southern India passes through Khandala-Lonavala.
September 9, 2008
Known as the Jewel of the Sahyadhris, Lonavala is at an altitude of 625 m asl while its twin town, Khandala, is slightly lower. The place has cool and pleasant weather through most of the year. Around 1811 the British developed Lonavala and Khandala as hill resorts.
Monsoon paints the Sahyadri region in different hues of green. The scenery everywhere was that of verdant hills and gentle valleys with pristine woods and many beautiful cascading waterfalls.
I caught the evening train from Dadar and reached Lonavala railway station 130 kms away in approximately two hours. A late evening autorickshaw ride reached me to the MTDC resort in Karla.
The resort is spread over quite a large area and has many cottages and a small water park. River Indrayani flows touching the boundaries of the resort. I could not find much of activity at the resort except finding a few people dining at the restaurant and generally chilling out in the lovely weather. I have been to better resorts elsewhere, however, the cottage I was assigned was sufficient for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Prime attractions in Lonavala and Khandala are many. The ones I chose to visit were:
1. Karla Caves
Path to climb to the Karla Caves
With clean and crisp air enveloping me, I particularly enjoyed the 40-45 minute climb up the hill offering scenic views of Lonavala and Khandala in the distance.
Upon reaching the top at Karla caves, the first impression that I got was that the place was not maintained well. I am not sure if part of the mess around was because of the monsoon season.
Entrance to the Chaitya
The rock cut caves built in 80 BC is a good sight but I was kind of surprised to find that the structure was almost blocked at the entrance of the principal cave by a temple named after goddess Ekveera.
The caves of Karla, being the largest of the Buddhist caves in the country, reminded me of the rock cut caves of Udaigiri in Madhya Pradesh, and those at Petra in Jordan though the beauty of the latter is quite different.
Rock cut art
Close to the entrance of the main hall, Chaitya, stands a huge pillar with lion carvings similar to the ones I found in the Asoka Pillar in Sanchi.
The outer walls of the cave have walls outlined with carvings of couples and elephants.
What I found remarkable about the main cave is its arched roof supported by wooden beams. In spite of it being more than 2000 years old, the wooden roof has survived the onslaught of elements and seemed to be in amazingly good condition. It was a pleasant feeling at the Chaitya because of the effect that natural light created there. The diffused light and shadows created a sense of solemnity to the place.
While descending, I admired the verdant hills and thought of the proximity of this place to Mumbai. Just a couple of hours travel away from bustling Mumbai and it’s so easy to land in a place of rolling hills abounding in peace and tranquility!
to be continued...
Related Post: Singing in the Rain
Related Post: Singing in the Rain
September 5, 2008
Have you heard anyone say they are bored? Or come across people who have the audacity to think you are expected to entertain them because they do not know what to do with their free time?
If so, have you tried advising them to go ahead, scratch themselves, even if nothing itches. Or give them a choice to imagine they are robots and walk down the street with mechanical movements, adding zzttaclung sounds with each motion. Or better still, tell them to blink wildly and then close their eyes very tight for an interesting light show. Haha!
If I had a choice and freedom from certain responsibilities, guess I’d have gladly retired from office work right now and I’d still not get bored. I can think of a zillion things to do to keep myself busy. Right now, I have much on my plate that keeps me busy. And some people say they are bored!
Okay. Enough of raving...
I have lately travelled more than I could possibly write about on my blog here. Some of my recent travels that I have not written in detail about are:
Mangalore, Karla, Lonavala, Khandala, Mumbai
Garhwal Trip from Delhi to: Haridwar, Rishikesh, Rudraprayag, Joshimath, Auli, Govindghat, Valley of Flowers, Hemkund, Pandukeshwar, Badrinath, Mana village.
Trip to Jordan including: Amman, Jerash, Ajloun, the Dead Sea and the Petra.
Kumaon Trip from Delhi to: Nainital, Bhimtal and around, and Corbett National Park.
Then there was the tour that included Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Jhansi and some of the places I went to in Madhya Pradesh including Gwalior, Datia, Orchha, Khajuraho, Panna, Bandavgarh, Bhedaghat, Jabalpur, Pachmarhi, Bhojpur, Bhopal, Bhimbetka, Udaigiri, Sanchi, etc. I have written posts until Khajuraho, and have more photographs to upload and to write on my experiences in the other places as well.
I had never got around to completing my writing on my jeep safari from Manali to Leh and my travels to the rest of Ladakh, but in this case, I’ve put up at least some posts here and there about them. That was the time I had just about started blogging.
There are other journeys made last year to parts of Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra in addition to my travels to Cambodia and Thailand in January 2007 prior to my blogging days. I had meant to write about them but it seems time is slipping through, and I may not be able to catch up.
Need to Focus and Welcome Distraction
I am presently pursuing my studies and have a few papers to answer in January 2009. So, in addition to a full time office job besides domestic chores, a part of my time these days is spent on preparing for those exams. In the meantime I can’t help but get distracted by dreaming of more travels and it is true that a few plans are in the offing!!
Seeking Your Views
My dear reader, I would like your advice on what would be the best approach of presenting my travel experiences. Is anyone really keen to read my post with details or would it be sufficient to simply upload some pictures? How about to begin writing from my recent travels and then if time permits to continue with the rest? Do you have a good suggestion?
I’d love to hear from you, so please do drop in a line or two.
September 2, 2008
Following a little more travels and just having recovered from a bout of flu, I’m here. I wonder if the flu had anything to do with getting soaked in the rains in Lonavala? Oh, but the feeling of getting drenched in the showers was exhilarating and definitely worth it. Certainly so for one who is presently tolerating temperature in the range of 45 to 50 degrees Centigrade these days, but thankfully in the sanctuary of air-conditioned surroundings!
The range is home to hill stations like Matheran, Lonavala, Khandala, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Amboli Ghat within Maharashtra, some of which I've been to. It brought back few memories of my last year’s summer trip to Matheran and earlier visits to Lonavala-Khandala but I find monsoon is a fine time to enjoy the Sahyadhris. More details in posts to follow.
Here’s a coup dóeil:
On the way to Karla caves