Rajasthan Through My Lens – I

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This is a guest post by my very good friend Bhakti Motta. She is an amazing photographer and had recently captured a lot of places in Rajasthan. In this post, we bring to you some of her lovely captures!

When one visits Rajasthan, its not just the colour-coded cities that astonish people but the simplicity of people residing there and the use of colours in their day to day life that’s what compel them to visit Rajasthan again and again.

Rajasthan is not only rich in culture and architecture but also in hospitality.

Palace of winds or Hawa Mahal located in the heart of Jaipur was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799. It is one of the major tourist attractions in Jaipur.

Just opposite Hawa Mahal, these cafes are good place to grab a cup of coffee and click wonderful photos of monument.

One can easily find such beautiful turbans in any market around Rajasthan. This pic is from a street of Jaipur.

A tourist buying colorful umbrellas and handmade clothes from the streets of Jaipur. Rajasthan is famous for colorful clothes and accessories, especially for handmade works.

A flock of migratory demoiselle cranes flying around a small village called Khichan in Phalodi tehsil of Jodhpur district in Rajasthan. These cranes visit khichan during winter and are fed by the villagers.

What is a desert without camels?

Khuri village in Rajasthan is famous for its sand dunes. khuri is a small village situated 50kms south-west of jaisalmer in Rajasthan. People visit khuri to experience the village lifestyle. The villagers here have adapted well to the increasing tourism.

Camel cart at khuri sand dunes.

A perfect place for sunset photography.

A new born (9-11 days old) calf in the village.

A female villager drawing water for her family’s daily needs.

The exteriors of jaisalmer fort.

 

The second part to this series will be out soon. Till then, enjoy these photographs and don’t forget to leave a comment!

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Kila Raipur Sports Festival – Getting Up and Close With Rural Punjab

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Tung tung da Sound Karda, tung tung da

Tung tung da saaj
Tere mere dil vich loud vajda
Tung tung tung hai tung waaj

It was MTV Sound Trippin that introduced me to the adrenaline pumping sports event of Rural Punjab. Kila Raipur Sports Festival went a little mainstream in 2016 when Amir Khan chose the setting has the shooting location for Dangal. After spending three days in this festive extravaganza, I realized what must have been the reasons for him to select this place as the shooting location.

Back in 2014, Bullock Cart race was very popular here, often called the USP of the event. For some reasons, animal right groups got it banned and since then horse and mule cart race have taken all the attention of the festival enthusiasts.

(c) Anshul Kumar Akhoury

I took a train from Delhi and reached Ludhiana at 5:30 in the morning. I had no idea about how I am supposed to travel further. All I knew was that there are buses going to Dehlon from where shared auto rikshaws will take me to Kila Raipur, or as the bus driver told me, Killa Rapper.

When you are traveling in Punjab, you are supposed to be very specific about two things. You do not pronounce the names as they are spelled in English. For example, Dehlon is Dhellon. This whole Dehlon, Dhellon confusion got me into the wrong bus and I almost reached Jalandhar.

(c) Anshul Kumar Akhoury

Second thing that you must take care of is that when a Punjabi offers you food, you must eat it. Punjabis are very emotional about their food and take is as a personal offence when you refuse to eat what is being offered. I was traveling to Anandpur Sahib, I stopped at a Dhaba. My tired face, dirty clothes and messy hair gave the dhaba owner and the guests a feeling that I haven’t eaten anything for a year. They started putting food on my plate. Chapatis to the size of an entire plate, daal filled in a tumbler double the size of regular ones. Then came a glass of Lassi whose quantity was enough to feed me four times. Politely, I asked them to stop and the dhaba owner looked as if I have questioned that entire logic behind his faith. I told him, I’ll get fat if I eat so much, a guest replied, ‘ agar mote nahi hoge to pata kaise chalega ki Punjab aae the’ (If you don’t get fat, how would you tell people that you were in Punjab.) Everyone laughed, Apparently in Punjab, there is no such thing as too much food.

It was 12:30 in the afternoon when I finally arrived Kila Raipur sports venue. For a change there were no soft drink billboards and banners sponsoring the event. This actually felt like one of those places free from the grip of corporate chains and mainstream media. I tried to get into the sports ground but was stopped by policemen as I didn’t have a press pass. I looked around and then entered the sports ground from the fields. I kept running away from the organizers so that they don’t send me back.

Teams from different districts of Punjab were trying to outmatch each other in a high flying kabaddi match. There were players who had previously participated in National Kabaddi League. A team member from the opposite team crossed the line and jumped on the defending team, they tried hard to catch him, he tried his best to eliminate atleast one of his opponents, both failed and the game continued.

(c) Anshul Kumar Akhoury

Tussi Said (side) ho jao, ghodeya wich breakan nahi hondi (Move aside, horses don’t come with breaks)

While human competitors are in their full force to perform the best, it is the animals who take the center stage. The hunter dogs from Punjab Police, the mules, horses and even a camel flaunting his intricate decorations, each of them is trying their best to impress the audience.

The race of the hunter dogs from Punjab Police is enough to thrill and scare the shit out of you at the same time. They are unleashed by their handlers and they run across the track in such a fierce speed that my camera fails to capture them. They themselves are unable to control their speed and by the moment they stop, they are already in the nearby fields. Not a big deal, they recognize their handlers through a special whistle. They are found in no time. A journo shows me the pic of dog race from his huge camera. It is so precise that I almost feel jealous at my inability to buy a decent equipment, but it turns out that these are some of my finest clicks till date.

(c) Anshul Kumar Akhoury

Finally, I get to see what I was waiting for. The horse race starts. There are competitors from Rajasthan, Haryana and the host state Punjab. A fire in the air and the horses and their jockeys race to their destination. The thrill can be felt from their faces and everytime the jockey screams the horse responds, trying to outmatch the leading horse.

Kila Raipur is a visual treat. For anyone who wants to get up and close with the culture of Punjab, this is the place to be. The sports event is sponsored by Grewal foundation and invites sportsmen from far off corners of Punjab and even Kenedda (Thet’s how Canada is pronounced here). It has something to offer to everyone, whether you are a sports enthusiast, a photographer or a culture seeker, you’ll find everything that you have been looking for. The range of sports varies from sprint events of 100, 400 and 1600 meters for men, women and senior citizens. There is a wheelchair race for army veterans, weight lifting contests with truck tires and wheat sacks.

Kila Raipur gives you a glimpse of rural and rustic Punjab. Green fields, glasses of lassi, sugarcane juice and spicy choley kulche are here to feed your soul. Bhangra performers take your heart away while stunt coordination by The Nihangs takes your breath away. Kila Raipur Sports Festival is one event that you must experience in the coming years before it goes mainstream.

When: Kila Raipur Rural Olympics is held every year in the month of February

How to Reach: Ludhiana is the nearest city where you can stay. There are buses leaving for Dehlon every half an hour from ISBT. From Dehlon you can catch a tuktuk to sports venue.

Follow my journeys on Instagram and Facebook


About the author

Anshul once used to be a struggling comic book writer that gave up his dream like many others, now he is just a struggling writer. As an engineering dropout he found his dreams hidden in the mountains and sea shores and since then he has been solo traveling across the country. Anshul likes putting down his thoughts and travel experiences in form of poetry, he calls himself a hopeless romantic who wishes to fall in love with the mountains, the oceans and the rivers. Apart from bitten by travel bug, Anshul loves reading comic books and writing his travel stories in his blog at http://dailypassengerr.wordpress.com/

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Filing For Indian Passport Just Got Easier!

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There used to be a time when attaining a new passport or even renewing an existing one was quite a cumbersome process. Over time, the rules started becoming quite transparent. And recently, rules at Passport Seva Kendra have been amended to make attaining a passport extremely easy. I collated the new rules and listed them in this post –

  • Annexure A or Marriage certificate which was mandatory to file an Indian passport are no more so. Married couple can submit their applications even if they don’t have a marriage certificate.

  • People who are divorced can now apply without having to submit the divorce decree which was earlier mandatory. Mentioning the name of the spouse is not a compulsory requirement anymore.

  • If an orphaned child was to apply for passport, earlier a birth or school leaving certificate was required. With the new rule, all that would be required is an attested letter from the Head of the Orphanage which will do as a proof of birth.

  • When applying for passport of adopted children, the resgistered adoption deed is no more mandatory. Instead, a self-attested letter autheticating the adoption would suffice.

  • When government employees seek a passport on urgent basis, they can submit a self-declaration in Annexure N, informing that prior intimation about the application for Indian Passport had been given to the Head of the Department. Identy certificate or no objection certificate from the employer are no longer needed.

  • Earlier, when sadhus and sanyasis applied for an Indian passport, they were required to mention the names of their parents. As per the recent rules, they have the choice to mention the name of their Guru instead of parents, as long as it is accompanied by atleast one document out of Aadhar Card, Election Photo Identity Card, PAN Card, etc. that has the name of the Guru under the header of parents names.

  • Children born out of the wedlock would not have any hassles with applying for an Indian passport. Only document that is required to be filled in this regard is Annexure G.

  • Regarding attestations of annexes, applicants can self-declare on plain paper and submit the documents.

  • Number of annexes to be filled have been brought down as A, C, D, E, J, and K have been detached reducing the number to 9 annexes only.

  • When single parents apply for passport of their children, the application has been simplified and the parents can opt against mentioning the name of the child’s other parent.

  • Mentioning the name of only one parents when an individual is applying for their own passport, is allowed now.

  • Earlier, those born after January 26, 1989 where required to sumbit their birth certificate. With the new rule, this is not mandatory. Any other proof of date of birth is also acceptable and the document could be any one amongst – Aadhaar card, Pan card, birth certificate issued by Municipal Corporation/Registrar of Births and Deaths, driving license, voter’s card or policy bond. Goverment employees can submit the copy of the Extract of the service record of the individual if still in service. If retired, Pay Pension Order with DOB can be submitted. Both kind of documents submitted by government employees need to be signed and authorized by the administer in-charge of the department/Ministry.

These are the current changes in the rules. However, rules can change with time, so it is best to check the website of Passport Application.

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10 Road Trips You Must Take In 2016!

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So, I am a sucker for road trips. Train trips are fun too, but frankly, I am losing the patience to travel for hours, locked in unhygienic compartments with strangers. This is not my idea of an ideal mode of travelling. And airplane travel is just plain boring; something I do only when I absolutely need to, which is unfortunately a lot more than I like. Road trips, on the other hand, are relaxed and enjoyable. To reach from destination A to B, one crosses multiple cities, villages, lifestyles, cultures and even states. There is so much more that one experiences even before reaching the destination – imagine not seeing them just because you are travelling by air or rail?
Of course, one has to look at the feasibility of it all, but hey, I love road trips and thankfully, so does the husband. Not only do you get to enjoy and soak in the atmosphere through the journey, if you are travelling with your partner, it does wonders to your relationship. Yes, road trips also double as relationship builder.

Having said that, how can I be an advocate for road trips, if I don’t suggest few kick-ass destinations for the same? So here is a list of what I think are the best roads to travel on, with in India. Go on, take a break. Fuel your car, pack your bags, grab your music and get the wheels rolling!

Manali to Leh
Leh-Manali Road Trip (c) Wikicommons
The best time to make this trip is between June to September. The snow melts and rains begin. The small rivers start taking shape with the melted snow. You will have a distance of about 480 kms to cover and it will take about two days, with ample rests. If your vehicle is not from Himachal Pradesh, you’ll need a permit from SDM office, Manali. This doesn’t apply to bikes, of course. Be careful while driving as the texture of the roads are different from what we are used to in rest of India.
The route you’ll take would look something like this: Manali – Rohtang – Gramphu – Kokhsar – Keylong – Jispa – Darcha – Zingzingbar – Baralacha La – Bharatpur – Sarchu – Gata Loops – Nakee La – Lachulung La – Pang – Tanglang La – Gya – Upshi – Karu – Leh.
I must add, that the drive back from Leh to Manali is more enjoyable as there is no rush, no bothering about pit-stops & GPS, and since you will be driving downhill, all the more fun, minus the nausea.
Below is a video of the road trip from Manali to Leh by Kartazon Dream:
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MjlmyIZzX8&w=320&h=266]
Bengaluru to Nandi Hills

 

View From Nandi Hills (c) WikiCommons
The distance of 61 kms can be covered in an hour and half, to two hours, depending on the infamous traffic. Situated at a height of about 4800 ft above sea level, the experience of being on a road trip becomes exceedingly breathtaking once you start driving up the hill. There are sharp turns, so be careful. Anytime of the year is a good time to make this trip as the climate is fairly moderate in this section of the country. You have the option to drive back before it’s dark, or you can put up in the farm stays or guest houses in the outskirts.

Below is a video taken by Joshu Samson, of a bike ride down Nandi Hills:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEnx_gRgtBY&w=320&h=266]
Guwahati to Tawang
Tawang City (c) WikiCommons
Covering a distance of almost 500 kms, the journey from Guwahati to Tawang is made through the world’s second highest motorable road. You have the choice to stop over and spend the night, at Bhalukpong and/or at Dhirang. The condition of the roads deteriorate as you move beyond Dhirang, so be careful when you drive, and be patient. It will take a while. The road is an excellent six-lane upto Tezpur, so you will get to enjoy the drive as well. Arunachal Pradesh is a paradise and any traveller would love to experience such natural beauty.
Below is a video of Tawang road trip uploaded by Sandipan Borthakur:
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAQx6Y886C8&w=320&h=266]
Ahmedabad to Kutch
Ahmedabad To Kutch (c) Krazysouls
The largest district of India, Kutch is pretty well-connected with Ahmedabad via other means of transport as well. However, the roads and the scenic beauty on both sides of the roads, demand that a road trip is made. About 400 kms far, when on a road trip, you pass through desert and even get to witness changing cultures as you pass. The entire road is a delight to drive on. On the way, you can stop at Dholavira which happens to be the only city of Harappan Indus Civilization in India, and go back to 5000 years. Here, you can also see the Kutch Fossil Park and enjoy an amazing view of the White Rann. Moving ahead, you can halt at Bhuj and spend the evening with the captivating white desert, while you head off to Kutch the next morning.
Sharing a very interesting documentary on Kutch, below:
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO8QV0PvQoU&w=320&h=266]
Puri to Konark
Konark Sun Temple built by the Eastern Ganga
dynasty is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
(c) WikiCommons
A very short road trip, but definitely worth the attempt, the distance between Puri and Konark is 35 kms and takes barely as much time. Drive through lush green locales and drive by the sea too. If this isn’t cool, I don’t know what else is. You can hear the waves splashing on the shores as you drive through the distance. The roads are great, making the drive absolutely worth the effort.
Below is a video of the beautiful road trip from Puri to Konark, uploaded by Jai Prakash Singh:
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amFGXfv5tUw&w=320&h=266]

 

Jaipur to Ranthambore

 

 

 

 

To travel from Jaipur to Ranthambore by road, you will need to take the Jaipur-Kota road highway and go via Basi, Lalsot, and Justana until you reach Ranthambore. A distance of about 150 kms, it can be covered in roughly 4 hours, approximately. The road is well-peppered with eating and resting joints, and petrol pumps at regular distances. While pink city Jaipur is famous for forts, palaces and monuments, Ranthambore is one of the largest national parks in northern India. You stand a chance to spot wild animals here, if you are cautious. The best time to make this trip is from October to June as in the rest of the year, the park is closed for visitors.
Catch this video of the Ranthambore National Park:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4hpokhoSqU&w=320&h=266]
Shillong to Cherrapunji
Noh Kali Kai Falls Cherrapunji (c) Hrishikesh Sharma
The distance from Shillong to Cherrapunji is about 54 kms and makes for a perfect road trip. The climate is amazing and the beauty on both sides of the road, mesmerizing. Meghalaya is beautiful; the roads are wide and good. Women entrepreneurs are everywhere and the people are very warm. Hills, forests, pastures – greenery everywhere. There is not a single reason why you should not be doing this road trip if you are planning a trip to the north-east part of India.
Here is a video of the road trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji:
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olx50dz40TY&w=320&h=266]
  • Gangtok to Lake Tsomgo
Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim (c) Sankalp Sharma

Sikkim is geographically placed between West Bengal and the seven sister states of north east India. A picturesque state, it is pollution free. Vehicle usage is restricted to the outside areas in the capital city of Gangtok while smoking in public, littering and usage of plastic bags are banned throughout the city. So, you can just imagine how beautiful every corner of the state is. The drive takes longer than what the distance would take on the plains, but that is because the route is zig-zag swirling around the mountains. Keep your medication near if you get motion sickness, and your cameras ready. The views are spectacular and need to be captured. The distance of about 56 kms takes you to Tsomgo Lake which is at the altitude of 3753 mtrs/12,310 ft. The lake is on the Gangtok-Lhasa trade route which falls between Sikkim and Tibet.

Here is a video showing the Tsomgo Lake and nearby:
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=046Hs8IWo_s&w=320&h=266]
Vishakhapatnam to Araku Valley
Araku Valley (c) roadconnoisseur
The distance between Vishakhapatnam and Araku Valley is about 115 kms and takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes. If Vishakhapatnam is quaint and beautiful, wait till you reach Araku valley. The entire route has beautiful sights on both sides and while a journey on the train is also enjoyable, a road trip makes the journey worth all the trouble. If you are travelling to Vishakhapatnam, while it is understandable that the beaches will keep you occupied, you simply need to take at least a day off and drive down to Araku valley.
Kolkata to Digha
Digha beach (c) Rajarshi Mitra
Digha is probably one of Kolkata’s favourite weekend getaway. An ultimate destination to relax and rewind in the lap of nature, Digha is about 180 kms from the capital city. One can reach there about 3-4 hours. July to March is the ideal time to visit Digha.
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India’s First Drive-Thru Art Gallery: Bhopal Art Wall

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In the drive to make Bhopal the best city under the Swachh Bharat Mission Swachhata Survey-2017, the city now has it’s own Art Wall which is claimed to be the first drive-thru art gallery in India. It extends from Banganga to Polytechnic square. Renowned artists, tribal folk painters, top 10 participants for My City My Wall and chosen freelance artists have created these paintings on the wall which make the drive through this road, a beautiful experience.The paintings depict art forms, our society, our values and some of them even hold important social messages.

Below are some of the paintings I could capture while travelling on the road, over a few days.

Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma

Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma

Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma

Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Art Wall at Bhopal (C) Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
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A Visit To Patwon Ki Haveli, Jaisalmer

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If you are in Jaisalmer and, you will of course visit the Jaisalmer Fort or Sonar Killa. And once inside the fort, you simply cannot go back without walking a short distance to the five identical mansions also known as Patvon Ki Haweli. While most of your half day tour will be taken up in exploring the fort but do ensure that you have 60-90 minutes to explore Patvon Ki Haweli as well.

Legend has it that there used to be a wealthy trader named Guman Chand Patwa. He had five sons and for all of them he had got identical havelis made. The first of the houses is under Archeological Survey of India and ASI has ensured that the interiors of the house remain intact giving a clear indication of the lifestyle of the family inhabiting it. The house and the interiors have been well-maintained by ASI and visitors can explore it after purchasing tickets for admission. The havelis were built in the early 18th century and had taken 55 years for completion.

Made from yellow sandstone keeping to the picturesque look of the entire town of Jaisalmer, the havelis are examples of some of the finest craftsmanship. As I said, the first of the mansions has been converted into a museum and is being maintained by ASI.
We were spellbound from the first glance at the havelis, right from outside. The jharokhas and the windows visible from the lane outside give a clear idea of how beautiful the work of the craftsmen who built the structures were.

One didn’t need to be told that the families which resided in the havelis were rich. Right from architecture to interiors to the ceilings and the furniture, everything was modern, exquisite and way ahead of time in terms of design and planning.

The decor would make one wonder if the interiors are actually from current times and we are visiting the house of someone who has just stepped out for a while. Everything has been so well-maintained that it is difficult to believe that no one has lived here in decades. The master bedroom had things related to children like a paalna, a pram and even a tricycle.

The ceilings of the entire haveli are worth mentioning. The design of the ceiling is different in every room and each one has exquisite designs. Goes to show the standard of craftsmanship involved and one can easily imagine how much time it must have taken to create each design.

The interiors of the haveli is as if the house owners were there a minute before you enter the room. Everything is displayed in such a manner that I actually went into a trance like mood to imagine the family there, in front of me, everyone doing their own things,

From the terrace of the first of the Patwon Ki Havelis, we can see the entire expanse of the Sonar Kella – Jaisalmer Fort.
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Travel To 5th Century AD At The Udayagiri Caves

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Last month, I’d gone to spend a few days with my in-laws in the family home at Vidisha, about an hour and half drive from Bhopal where we stay. The thing about Madhya Pradesh is that the state is bestowed with oodles of rich history and heritage. One can just take off in any direction and will soon land in some place of historical importance. It was sad to think that I’ve been in the region since more than three years now, and had not visited Udayagiri caves. So while on our drive back home, we took a detour and went to see these caves which happen to be national heritage.

A stone’s throw from Vidisha, Udayagiri caves were exactly the opposite of what I had imagined. I had honestly gone there expecting old, shabby caves and lots of dust. On the contrary, the caves were extremely well-maintained and kept clean. There are two entrances to the caves and it doesn’t matter where you come from.

We entered from the end which comes first while driving down from Vidisha. The other end comes if you are driving from Sanchi.
As can be guessed, if you are visiting the Stupas of Sanchi, it is best if you include Udayagiri caves in the same day as it doesn’t make any sense to split them into different days.

It being winter, the weather was pleasant. And since the area isn’t huge, one can visit the caves in the middle of the day also. Otherwise, Madhya Pradesh being in the center of the country and the Tropic of Cancer running from very near this place, it does tend to get very hot and uncomfortable during the day, in other seasons.

Ancient caves going back to as far as the 5th century AD, one look at them, and I was impressed with how well they were maintained. The more delicate and even the more closed ones were actually protected with doors which were locked. The caretaker opened the doors so that we could take a look inside.

The area is well-protected and like can be seen at other such historical sites in Madhya Pradesh, the government and ASI have together made genuine efforts to keep the place as intact as possible. At a stone’s throw from the caves is a MP Tourism guesthouse where you can halt for the night, unless you have already booked at Sanchi.

After Chandragupta Vikramaditya defeated the Shaks in the 4th and the 5th C AD, he established these caves. the caves had inscriptions and sculptures of the deities on the walls. It is said that the main purpose of making these was to promote Jainism in the region. Two of the caves here are related to Jainism, while the remaining eighteen of the twenty caves are about Hinduism.

There are about 20 caves which have been excavated on the spot. Of them, cave number 5 (below) is the most significant. There is a figure of Varaha, which is also the third incarnation of Vishnu and is in the form of an animal-human (a boar’s head on a human body). Also shown is Prithvi, the goddess of earth, who is depicted to be coming out of the ocean.

The plaque erected by Madhya Pradesh Tourism which stands outside the campus, talks in brief about the caves. It states that the caves are an exquisite illustration of the local art forms. And if the art works are observed carefully, they do depict stories of Hindu mythology, displayed through exquisite works of art made centuries ago.

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The Stupas of Sanchi

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Buddhism is pretty widespread throughout India and traces of the religion can be found in the quaintest parts of the country. One such is Sanchi. About 46 kms to the north- east of Bhopal, capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India, Sanchi houses the great stupas.
One of the oldest stone structures in India, this was commissioned to be made, by King Ashoka, way back in the 3rd century BCE. As is known, Ashoka had embraced Buddhism after the Kalinga war. In the war he had witnessed so many deaths that upon reflecting on them, he took up Buddhism and later spent a lot of time and money to spread the religion. In his quest to spread the teachings of Gautam Buddha and Buddhism, he got the stupas built at Sanchi, amongst others.

A hemispherical structure made of bricks, the great stupa is said to be built over Buddha’s relics. Because of its parasol like structure, it was called the chhatra. The stupa is surrounded by sandstone pillars which have inscriptions on them in Sankha Lipi dating back to the Gupta period.
It is believed that parts of the structures were vandalized in the 2nd century BCE, during the Shunga empire.

The grounds surrounding the great stupa houses smaller stupas, vast gardens and beyond the gardens are the hammam area. Even after all these centuries, when you look down at the hamman area, you can imagine hustle-bustle of life there. The gardens are neat and very well-maintained. Every inch of the premises are well-maintained, adding to the serene atmosphere of the place. Doesn’t matter which religion you follow in your personal life, once here, you’ll want to sit on the green grass, close your eyes and meditate. Alas! It is forbidden to step on the lawns.

There are a couple of smaller stupas as well and those are in better condition in comparison to the great stupa. The stupas of Sanchi makes for great photographic experience. The grounds are thronged with devotees from world over, apart from other world tourists who have special interest in history. 

There are a large number of Brahmi inscriptions which have been found at Sanchi, specially on the first stupa. The Brahmi script is the modenn name of the oldest writing scheme in our part of the world. It consists of a mix of languages like Prakrit, Dravidian, Saka, etc.

Till about 1881, amateur archeologists and hunters of treasure kept looking and digging up the stupas of Sanchi and only after this year was proper restoration of the site started. In the year 1989, it was listed amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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The Legend of Kuldhara – A Haunted Village Near Jaisalmer

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For me, travel is all about knowing the history of a place than visiting newly built places. Of course, newly built places have their own charm and fun, but if a place has a history, I must find it out.

Now, I was unaware about Kuldhara but apparently, it is quite famous and has even received media coverage. Interesting! I googled a bit about the place and what I read intrigued me. Our guide told us that there are many theories on what happened and no one really has any concrete idea of what happened since there are no written records of the event, but every possible theory is interesting.

Legend has it, that Kuldhara and the neighbouring villages, 84 of them, were inhabited by Paliwal brahmins. The village was established way back in the 13th century and was abandoned in the early 19th century.

Roughly 20 kms from the city of Jaisalmer, the village of Kuldhara was built around the temple of the mahisasur mardini. The Paliwals had migrated to the village from Pali.

It was honestly, heart breaking to see the ruins, to imagine the now empty lanes, once filled with playing children and shops on either side. To imagine how desperate the situation must have been that every single person had to pack whatever little they could and just walk out of their homes to never return.

Most of the village is in ruins. Whatever little remains, talks of better days and happier times. Once a prosperous village, it broke my my heart to see the abandoned village. The villagers were mainly farmers, bankers and traders. It is said that while everything was great, bad times befell during the time Salim Singh was the Diwan of Jaisalmer. He was infamous for debauchery and unfair taxation which he levied on the residents of the village. His eyes fell on the daughter of the village chief and the girl was very young. He wanted to marry her which the villagers were not very happy about. They resisted, to which Diwan threatened to levy higher taxes on them.

Scared and tired of Diwan’s already increasing atrocities, the villagers took a decision overnight. They packed up and left, taking along people of the neighbouring villages of the entire area. Nobody saw them leave, but about a thousand people left their homes that nice. There is no news of where they went and where they settled, but it is believed that the place is cursed. People have tried to settle there but to vain.

The government of Rajasthan is trying to restore parts of the site like in the picture below and Archeological Survey of India is maintaining it as a heritage site. Personally, I felt deep sadness there however, many people have reported it to be eerie and scary even in the daytime. Not many visitors are around but some of the houses are in pitiable condition. Every inch of the walls and every corner of some houses are filled with names written on the walls. There is a confusion if this has been done by anti-social elements and trespassers, or there is another story to them. The way the names are written, not leaving any space free, it looks eerie as well as annoying.

I was told that nobody stays around after sunset and before the sun sets, everyone, including the security, flees the place until sunrise the next day. I don’t know if the rumours of the village being haunted is true or not, but seeing that there was no light for kilometers around, I’d not want to be left there in the darkness.

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Party Responsibly At #LURMFest, Jaisalmer

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musicComing up later this month, in the middle of the Thar desert is the first ever Lurm Festival which is going to be India’s biggest desert festival during 23rd to 25th December 2016 at Sam Dunes, Jaisalmer.

The festival will be spread across 34 acres of land. The three day festival will be an extravaganza of film, fashion, food, music, camping, wine, adventure and beer. There will be 2000 camps at the site which will have the capacity to accommodate up to 13,000 guests. The festival promises to be cultural gathering of international standard with almost 200 films from fifteen different countries.

For an event the size as big as this, the organisers are busy day and night to create the best environment and ensure that all festival attendees have a time of their lives at the event. Along with the organization, it is also the responsible of the festival attendees to party responsibly so that every minute a the festival is a party and there are no untoward incidents.

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There are a few things we can keep a check on while attending the festival which will help us party responsibly. The event is going to be action filled overflowing with alcohol and music, so it is but obvious that you’d want to enjoy. Here are some pointers which can be in your mental check-list –

  1. Drink Responsibly: Keep a check on how much you drink. Drinking irresponsibly makes you vulnerable to many unwanted situations, irrespective of your gender.
  2. Don’t accept drinks from strangers: If you don’t know them, don’t accept any drinks for them. It might be fun while it lasts, but can lead untoward experiences.
  3. One person, stay sober: If your friend is getting drunk, step back and stay sober. Decide amongst yourselves and plan accordingly. If you are a small group, one person can stay sober on one day. And if you are a big group, divide times when one person won’t be drinking at all. There will be music, food and many other things at the festival to keep you entertained and thrilled!15356131_748064318676214_2008598749_n
  4. Don’t complain: The festival will be held in the middle of the Thar desert which in itself would be an experience of a lifetime. The experience will be different from your previous experiences elsewhere, so you are bound to feel odd at times. Don’t complain, for that will only spoil your experience. Enjoy, for this festival is going to rock! 15356091_748063828676263_1985243645_n
  5. Stay alert: When partying, one tends to let go of inhibitions and doesn’t stay alert which can lead to situations and problems you wouldn’t be proud of. So, stay alert, keep an eye on your people and belongings and have a good time.
  6. Do not create a nuisance: Like you, everyone else is there to have fun and they too have paid their way till there. They have as much right to the festivities as you do, so respect the public space. Have your own fun but please do ensure that your fun doesn’t end up as a nuisance to someone else.

milestone03More details of the event can be obtained at http://www.lurmfestival.com/

NOTE: THE EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO DEMONETIZATION.

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