Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dev Bhumi ~ Himalayan Shrines




The Hindus consider the Himalayas as 'Dev Bhoomi' or the 'Abode of the Gods'. The Himalayas are so strikingly beautiful and difficult to conquer that a human mind can only perceive it as God's home.
Every year thousands and thousands of pilgrims go to the Himalayas to meet God in God's own home. Some of the very popular 'jatras' or pilgrimages are 'Char Dham' ,'Panch Badri','Panch Kedar' and 'Panch Prayag'. Though ardous but undertaking any of the yatras will surely reward the pilgrim/traveller with a new perspective of life and with a bountiful of nature.

Below are some of the yatras that I am listing for reference. I would love to hear from you if you have been to any of these.

CHAR  DHAM

According to Hindus,the CHAR DHAM are the houses of four Gods. Each Dham is presided by a ruling deity.

1. Kedarnath (3584m)
2. Badrinath (3096m)
3. Gangotri (3048m)
4. Yamunotri (3185m)

Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva , Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Yamunotri and Gangotri are dedicated to Goddess Ganga and Yamuna rivers respectively.

PANCH BADRI

The five Badries are considered as the main places of worship of Lord Vishnu.

According to mythology,this place originally belonged to Shiva but Vishnu just like any other Hindu god came here to offer penance. He loved the place so much that he plotted to unseat Shiva from his meditation here. He took on the form of a beautiful child and began to wail. Shiva's wife, Parvati picked him up but could not calm the child.

Since his wailing continued to disturb Shiva, Shiva shifted to Kedarnath in exasperation, leaving the spot free for Vishnu to occupy.

1. Badri Vishal - Sri Badrinath (3584m)
2. Yogdhyan Badri (1920m)
3. Bhavishya Badri (1380m)
4. Vridha Badri (1380m)
5. Adi Badri (1630m)

PANCH KEDAR

The Panch Kedars are places of worship all dedicated to Lord Shiva. As per folk-lore, it was the Pandavas who went to the Garhwal Himalayas in search for Shiva. Bhima or the second of the five Pandava brothers spotted a beautiful bull and immediately understood it as Shiva in disguise.

Bhima caught the bull, but it disappeared from his grip although it appeared again as a gigantic one with the hump raising in Kedarnath, the arms in Tunganath, the nabhi (navel) and stomach  in Madhyamaheshwar, the face at Rudranath and the hair and the head appearing in Kalpeshwar. The Pandavas pleased with this reappearance in five different forms, built temples at the five places for venerating and worshipping Shiva.

1. Madhmaheshwar (3490m)
2. Tungnath (3680m)
3. Rudranath (2286m)
4. Kalpnath (2134m)
5. Kedarnath (3584m)

PANCH PRAYAG

Prayag meaning "confluence" in Sanskrit, constitutes a group of five sacred river confluences in the Garhwal Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand, India.

According to the Hindu Mythology, King Bhagirath prayed day and night for Ganga to descent on Earth.When Goddess Ganga started descending to earth,Earth was not able to face the force which Ganga came down. To lessen her force, Lord Shiva allowed Ganga to first fall on the cusp of hair on his head.After falling on Shiva's head, Ganga was splitted into 12 channels. These channels or flows again gets united into single stream after Devaprayag. These five prayags are the places where the confluences occur.

1. Vishnuprayag (1372m)
2. Nandaprayag (914m)
3. Karnaprayag (832m)
4. Rudraprayag (610m)
5. Devprayag (813m)

DEVI DARSHAN

There are almost 50 Devi temples in Uttarkhand. Out of them the most popular four are

1. Kunjapuri (1665m)
2. Surkanda Devi (3030m)
3. Chandrabadni (2278m)
4. Anusuya Devi (2000m)

Monday, 24 April 2017

Nandi Hills ~ Highlights


Whenever we are in mood for some really short but awesome trip from Bangalore, we hit the roads for Nandi Hills. With temperatures in Bangalore making us all sweat, there is nothing better to have a quick day outing at Bangalore's own hill - Nandi Hills ( although not theoretically since Nandi Hills is some 50 kms from Bangalore...but who cares!)

Incase if you are interested in knowing about the route and related details please go through our very first and off course special blog here
http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2011/09/nandi-hills-yet-another-ancient-hill.html.

We started our travel blogging after visiting Nandi hills and thereafter there has been innumerable number of times we have visited Nandi Hills, and it has been pleasant every time.

Also please check out our new video on Nandi Hills. The detailed one will be coming soon and we are working on that. Also please do SUBSCRIBE to our youtube channel and shower us with your love as you have done for our blog.



Thanks and much love ~ Soma and Ankur

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Valparai ~ In search for Lion Tailed Macaque



A very beautiful and magnificent looking monkey it is! You may ask why? Imagine a monkey having a magnificent mane of hair surrounding its face like that of a lion and a black shiny hairy coat on its body. And also it has a long tail bearing an uncanny resemblance to that of a lion's.

Lion Tailed Macaque

But sadly due to human's encroachment on forest areas, deforestation, scarcity of fruits the population of this wonderful looking animal was at one time declared as critically less. They now live in isolated pockets only in the Nilgiri region in India and are rarely spotted.

Some of my friends who wanted to catch a glimpse of this elusive beauty had to stay in the Nilgiris for about a week before they finally got a look at this animal. However we were lucky. We visited Valparai and on the same day we saw two separate groups of lion tailed macaques(LTM). We saw one group on our way to Valparai from Pollachi. The group was about 6-7 member strong and were high up on the canopy.

Lion Tailed Macaque

A group high up in the canopy

LTM

While just entering Valparai, we heard some noises in the jungle and some calls. We stopped our car and whoa we saw an enormous group of around 30 LTMs. A lot of babies,females some males and one alpha male. The alpha male was horny on that day, chasing one female after the other. But thankfully his efforts will help in ensuring that one of the very beautiful creatures on this planet do not disappear fast.


Alpha male


We also saw a lot of monkey bridges, created by the forest department so that monkeys can use them while crossing the roads and the monkeys are clever enough to understand that. We did not see a single macaque cross the road, they all used the bridge.

LTM on tree bridge

On getting to know that a group of lion tailed macaques has arrived, a good local samaritan came out from his house holding a placard reading "Go Slow". All the cars that were passing simply stopped and everyone came out to see these beautiful creatures. This simple gesture of people and government shows that we can achieve anything if we really care about, and thankfully the lion tailed macaques are endangered but not critically endangered.

Go Slow- LTMs crossing




With this s major point in bucket list ticked, but again a new point is added. The Hoolock Gibbons in North East India.

Travel Titbits:

Nearest Airport: The nearest airport will be Coimbatore. Alternately you can also reach from Ooty which is a popular hill station in South India by a car.

Stay: There are not too many budget stay options in Valparai. So to stay in Valparai you need to book a homestay or bunglow. Also there are not too many food shops on the way so its better to have some packaged food and water for the way.

You can take the services of the locals for spotting the lion tailed macaques. Your homestay should be able to assist you in that.

And finally be a responsible tourist. PLEASE PLEASE do not litter, do not throw plastic.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Talsari , a rare beach



From Digha, we booked an auto-rickshaw for half a day that will take us to Talsari and back. The auto rickshawas will charge around INR 400 - 1000 depending upon your negotiation skills, the season and also the length of the time you want to keep it reserved.

The ride is a mere 30 minutes ride, through semi concrete and muddy roads passing through paddy fields, casurina plantations and under-developed villages. The path was rustic , the air very calm but the sun god too harsh.

On the way we also saw shared autos, but they were mostly for local people's commute.
Talsari is not as popular as Digha or Puri, so at anytime there are fewer tourists than the other two, but sadly the beach is not that well maintained. Once you go near the beach there is a strong smell of fish all around, I saw a lot of people returning back to their cars because they could not stand the smell. I think the beach is slowly developing as a tourist destination.

 But once you start tolerating the smell and heat, you slowly start enjoying the place. There are so less people, no hawkers, no touts...only a handful of local fisherman and some temporary shops scattered here and there. So this reminds me of another think, there are no such places for lunch. Either you pack your own food or better still is to have it on your way.

Talsari is unique because apart from the quietness,you can see the river estuary as well as the sea beach. If you go during the high tide, then you need to take a boat and that will take you till sea. The boats I think take a very nominal charge of  INR 30 per person to take you till the sea.Whereas during low tide, you can walk on the river bed and walk till the sea beach. By the time we reached Talsari, it was low tide so we got down on the river bed, walked through the sand dunes and the little puddles filled with water and reached the beach.

There are motorbikes available for as little as INR50, however we preferred a light stroll. Low tide has a big advance than high tide, you can walk on the river bead , can do beach combing. Also you will see red crabs, tiny white crabs, jelly fish, star fish, live shells and very rarely sea cucumber. We were lucky to find a few fiddler crabs.


A perfect shell

what a cute mini crab

star fish

red crabs

river bed

fishing boat

A massive jelly fish on the beach

Squid

sea shells

sea shells

Shell
A crab and its hole


I got to know from the locals that the sunrise looks pristine on Talsari beach, but for that one needs to stay at Government Panthanivas which is a government guesthouse very close by. For pre-booking you may contact through OTDC website. Apart from that there are not too many options for staying.

Almost after an hour and half on the beach, we came back to our auto. The Sun was getting unbearable. We came back to our hotel in Digha. We thanked our auto- driver and he thanked us back with a note requesting us to hire him only if we again come to Digha.

Information Titbits:

Talsari is a less known beach in Orissa. It is very near to the popular beach known as Digha in WB.
Half a day trip can be arranged from Digha by renting an auto rickshaw.

There are no such places  for night stay except the OTDC Panthanivas. Charges are nominal and food is simple yet tasty.
Not an ideal place for shopping.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Top 4 Summer Destinations in South India


Now that the mercury is nearing to 40 degree Celsius, I am certainly getting crazy to pack off my bags and head for some cool destination.

Here are our top four pics for summer destinations in South India and the numbering has nothing to do with preference.

1. Ooty

The first name that comes to mind whenever we think of any proper hill station in South. Though Ooty is very touristy now a days, still it is an awesome place to relax, breathe some fresh air, do boating on Ooty lake and watch the warm orange tinge on the coniferous trees as the sun sets in.

Nothing beats the sweet Ooty chocolates and the chocolate coffee on Mall Road. Also travelling from Ooty to Coonoor on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is such an amazing experience.

For people like us who love more of solitude, Coonoor is another fantastic sister hill station very close to Ooty. There are ample of homestays in Coonoor and most of them are nestled in the tea plantations.

It is always good to pre-book hotels in Ooty or Coonoor during the peak season.

Ooty in Summer

Ooty Lake

A part of Emerald Lake in Ooty

2. Kodaikanal

Kodai looks so green and vintage. I absolutely admire Kodiakanal. The last time I went there was during my anniversary. Kodai lake is one of the largest lakes in South India and is so picturesque. The lake is surrounded by a road that has the lake on one side and huge high walled mansions belonging to the very rich on the other side.

Spices and  eucalyptus oil are sold in almost all shops in Kodai. A boat ride in the evening or a stroll around the lake is pure bliss. While in Kodai, no one should forget a visit to Pillar Rocks and Cloaker's Walk.

Kodai lake

Pillar Rocks

Liril Falls

Beautiful road

Kodai

In Kodai

Kodai Lake

Kodai Lake

Kodai Lake

3. Valparai

A place that is very fast making its mark in the tourist map is Valparai. Also if you coax me to spell out my favorite summer destination in South India, then it is no doubt Valparai. Valparai is a beautiful place with unending tea and coffee plantations, one or two old bunglows of the British era, cheerful villagers and clear blue sky.

This place is amazing not only for its bountiful natural beauty but also for its wide flora and fauna. It is a tiny pearl on the Nilgiri biosphere and is home to some of the endemic animals and plants only found in this part of the world.

We were very fortunate to spot two huge groups of lion tailed macaque which is very rare and endemic to Western Ghats. We also saw Malabar Grey Hornbills, Pied Hornbill and the Great Indian Hornbill only at Valaparai. And also not to forget the Nilgiri Tahrs that were grazing on the hills.

Nothing much to buy here. Hotels are less so its always advisable to pre-book before hand in any season you go.

lion taol macau

Tea Gardens

Tea Gardens


Valparai

4. Munnar

Since I am not ordering the places as per my preference, so I am justified in placing Munnar at the last.  Munnar is not just beautiful its awesome and splendid, and infact its so beautiful that I always suggest everyone to visit Munnar twice. You cannot assimilate all the beauty in one visit.

Beautiful tea and spice plantations, undulating roads, an unblocked vision, amazing food and above all very lovely people are things that makes Munnar amazing. There is also the icing on the cake that is culture. You can witness a mesmerizing kathakali dance performance or the very graceful mohiniyattam dance show at Munnar.

Spices, tea, coffee are some of the things you can take back home.
Munnar is a very popular tourist destination both for Indians and foreigners, so even though there is no dearth of hotels but its a good idea to pre-book if you are planning to go in the tourist season.

Munnar

Tea gardens at Munnar

Cattle Point at Munnar

Munnar

Munnar








Do let me know if you have any other hill stations in mind.


Friday, 31 March 2017

Photo Memory of Alleppey

It's been quite some time we visited Alleppey in Kerala.
So we thought how about making a photo memory of the travel with just a few bits of information.

Hope all our readers enjoy it.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Pondicherry,The once french capital of India



A yearning for French architecture bought us to Pondicherry. Interestingly this little piece of old France is some 7000 km away from where you expect to find France in map. Its a place in India called Pondicherry establised by the French East India Company in 1764.

We came to Pondicherry from Mahabalipuram driving along the absolutely scenic East Coast Road. From Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry is 100 kms and takes around 2 hours to reach along the East Coast Road. As the name signifies, the road runs along the east coast.In every 500 metres on the road, there will be small signboards pointing to a nearby beach. We stopped at one of the eateries on the road and were treated to awesome filter coffee with appam.

There are a few lakes that will fall on the road. They are so huge that we could not see the other end. These lakes were mostly formed because of the sea water getting inside the land. We stopped at one. A few fishermen were there, wrapping up their catch.Lots of seagulls and storks.Far we saw a very long white line of birds and we were sure they must be flamingoes. I did a 50X zoom with my camera and voila it was a huge group of flamingoes!! We also saw the sign boards of several shrimp hatcheries. I was just wishing if I had a farm, I surely would have taken some to cultivate.

Welcome to Pondicherry

A 'Welcome to Pondicherry' slab greeted us as we entered Pondicherry. We crossed the bustling city and went towards Promenade beach. Something not so funny in Pondicherry city is that no body cares about traffic rules. Cars meeting at any intersection moves in a random zigzag fasion. Its too noisy However as one leaves the city and approaches Promenade beach the scene changes completely. The places are so very clean, the buildings are so very different that one can mistake it for some western place.

The iconic statue of Gandhi

The iconic statue of Gandhi rules the Promede beach. The status is so very beautiful,pure and big, build right at the shoreline of the beach on an elevated pedestal. We also stood on the beach for sometime. Its a rocky beach and one can sit on the gigantic size rocks and feel the wind and the water splashes, but can't get down. After that we went to the adjacent cafe 'Le Cafe' for some coffee and sandwiches. The place is heavenly. You sip coffee in a beautiful quaint cafe looking at the sea.What more to ask for!

Promede Beach

Pondicherry Roads

Pillar

Opposite to the Gandhi statue is the French War Memorial. Its a small beautiful memorial and will not take more than 10 minutes.We started moved in the lanes and bylanes, took photo of as many beautiful houses as we could. The houses are so very beautiful that we could not help but admire each and every that we saw. The road names are written in French and Tamil, but no English. Maybe the french in Pondicherry still do not approve of English :)

War Memorial

Enjoying the sea breeze

Posing for the camera


There are quite a few good number of statues to see in Pondicherry. Apart from the Gandhi statue which is so very hard to miss, there are statues of Joan of Arc and Dupliex. There is the French War Memoral, old light house,Place de la Republique, Museum and Governor's Residence.One can take the French Heritage Walk (organized by INTAC and Puducherry Tourism Department). It is a 2 km walk that will cover all the above places of interest.

A show piece outside a shop

What beautiful houses!

All lane names are written in tamil and french

wow...what a beautiful house

Pondicherry lanes and avenues

vibrant!

Pondicherry has something for every wanderer. There are french cafes serving freshly baked pastries, croissants, creme caramel, cheese platter, amazing french crepes and many more which I do not remember.For the spiritual seeker there is Sri Aurobindo Ashram. We skipped the ashram this time since we already have been there before.And for the 'all you can see' type there are monuments, beaches, cafes.


Pondi Police

Foot Note: The police in Pondicherry still wears the red high hat :)

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