Traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
Wayanad district at the southern tip of Deccan Plateau is one of the popular destinations in Kerala. It borders both the neighbouring states- Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The folk etymology of the word Wayanad says it is a combination of Vayal (paddy field in local language) and Naad (land) meaning ‘Land of Paddy fields’.
I had planned a weekend getaway with Crazy Yatra (a travel group who organizes treks) to Wayanad. We were a group of 33 members all excited to be in nature’s lap in Wayanad for next 2 days. We started from Bengaluru on a Friday night at 8 pm amidst cool breeze and rain.The rain added to our traffic woes due to water logging in some areas. Settling down in the bus after multiple pickups on the way and fuel refill, the organizers started a intro session. Some of them had been to previous outings from Crazy Yatra and others like me were travelling for the first time with them. Along with the intro, each one of them was supposed to share at least one of their crazy moments. It was nice hearing diverse experiences from fellow yaatris like scuba diving, free fall, getting lost during a trek, dancing in the middle of a highway at midnight with onlookers looking surprised, doing cabre dance in a supposedly cultural college event etc.
On the way to Mysuru, we stopped at Maddur for a quick bite for famished lot. Our target was to reach a town called Meppadi at 6 am the following morning, but only managed to reach at 7.45 am. Upon reaching our hotel rooms in Meppadi, got freshened up and had a nice breakfast with local delicacy like appams and sambar smeared with (generous amount of) coconut oil.
Now that we were all set and excited, it was time to scale the Chembra Peak- the highest peak in Wayanad at 6900 ft above sea level. To reach the base point we had to travel around 5 km in a jeep.
Tea estate at the base point- Pleasant way to start the trek 🙂
The organizers got a quick permission for trekking from the forest guards. If you’re carrying any plastic water bottles, one needs to register their names. If you fail to bring it along on return, pay a fine- a welcome move to prevent littering of the place.
Chembra peak trek comprises of 3 levels- about 1 km easy trail from the base point to watch tower, a 2 km trail through the forests, rugged terrains and grasslands from watch tower to heart shaped lake and finally a 1.5 km stepper trail from the lake to the summit.
Currently, it is permitted only to trek till the lake because of some restrictions imposed by the forest department.
The trail from the watch tower was through forests and steeper at some points. In between we could catch some amazing views of the tea estates. The sun was playing hide and seek and to our respite there were water streams in between to freshen up.
Traversing the rugged terrains, we reached the grasslands where one could see the misty peak. As it was early September, some of them got bugged by leaches when walking through the tall grasses.
Finally,we reached the heart shaped lake called as Hriday Saras (Hridayam is heart and Saras means lake in Malayalam). This lake is believed to have never dried up. We then caught some breathtaking views from the top and spent some quiet moments, a sense of satisfaction after having scaled the peak.
We started descending the peak and when we reached the watch tower for a much needed break, it started raining making our trail slippery. We braved the rain to reach the check post where the jeeps were waiting to drop us back to the hotel.
After freshening up, we had a quick lunch to board our bus to our next destination -Soochipura water falls. It is also known as Sentinel Rock waterfalls. Locally referred as Soochipara (Soochi meaning needle and Para meaning rock).
In about a hour journey passing by wide expanse of tea estates, we reached the waterfalls. After issuing of tickets and keeping our bag aside we plunged into the water to reach the base of the waterfall. All the tiredness of the trek went away with the refreshing dip into the water.One of the guys had brought a GoPro waterproof camera with a stick and next half an hour was spent for selfies,groupies.
Then, it was time to relax for the day, so we went back to the hotel to freshen up. There was sufficient time to stroll through the streets of Meppadi after which it was time for dinner. A delicious dinner was waiting for us after which we went to a hall on the top floor. One of our fellow traveler was celebrating her birthday, so we brought a cake. While she cut the cake, everyone encircled her dancing along as she was the made the center of attraction. Just as she was all excited and happy for a lovely gesture, all hell broke loose when the organiser took the whole cake and stuffed into her face. No one ate the cake that day except her face. Next an hour or so was spent playing some games as some of them retired for the day.
After having a sumptuous breakfast, we headed to Neelimala View point where all the 3 neighboring states-Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka can be seen from a height. We descended from our bus from the road and hopped into a jeep to reach the point as it was a rugged terrain. What we experienced on the Jeep was one helluva ride with lot of ups and downs. On the way to the point we spotted coffee plantations along with ginger and areca.
As we reached the point it was misty and the panoramic view was playing hide and seek. After a whole when it cleared up, it was such a mesmerizing sight. No words to describe it, just have a look.
We also spotted Meenmutti waterfalls (Meenmutty is a combination of Malayalam words Meen (fish) and Mutty (blocked)) and posed for photographs.
Then it was time to head to Eddakal Caves for further exploration. Eddakal caves are two natural caves at a remote location at Eddakal, 25 km from Kalpetta in the Wayanad district. We had to climb up a elevated terrain to reach there. Here again one was supposed to register for any plastic ones carry which was a welcome move.We could capture some spectacular views on the way.
Through a guide, we understood the significance of these carvings which was one of a kind. Inside the caves are pictorial writings believed to date to at least 6,000 BC, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilization or settlement in this region.The Stone Age carvings here are rare and are the only known examples from South India.After some exploration, it was time to descent and reach the hotel to checkout.
As we headed to Bangalore playing games all the way, we halted at a place called SultanBathery for lunch.
It was such a wonderful experience and more so because of Crazy Yatra for organizing it in a best way possible.
It was Gudi Padwa(Ugadi)-Hindu New Year and I embarked on a journey to Kolhapur in Maharashtra to visit MahaLaxmi Temple on this auspicious day. This photo blog is entirely based on my experiences in Kolhapur.
I was traveling on a Volvo in a overnight journey from Bengaluru to Kolhapur. After a good night sleep and upon nearing Kolhapur early morning, had a Maharastrian break fast in a pit stop after witnessing this beautiful sunrise.
The Shri Mahalaxmi(AmbaBai) temple, first built in 7th century is one of the Shakti Peethas listed in Hindu Puranas. It is believed that the divine couple of Vishnu and Mahalaxmi reside here.
The deity of Goddess Mahalaxmi, made of gemstone weighing around 40 kilos is considered to be at least 5000 to 6000 years old.
Unlike many temples where the idols of God face north or east direction, here the idol faces the west with a small open window open on the western side.Once a year during sunset, sun rays falls on the face of the image through this window. This festival called as KiranUtsav, is believed to be very auspicious and devotees throng the temple in large numbers.
Rathotsav (annual chariot festival) bearing silver representation of Goddess decorated with flowers is taken out for procession around the city in April celebrated with all the pomp and glory.
This temple is an exemplary specimen of Vesar style of architecture in Maharashtra. Vesar is a confluence of Nagar and Dravidian style. In this style, temples have a complex with several small shrines around the main shrine.
Flower market outside the temple is quite a spectacle too. Have a look.
After the Devi pooja, I headed to some pet-pooja as it was time for lunch. Kolhapur is famous for very aromatic and spicy mutton curry called tambda rassa. However since it was a festival, was prohibited to have non veg food and settled for a very satisfying Maharshtrian meal- baakri(roti) and viangan bharatha(baigan ka bhartha) in Gokul restaurant which serves very good food for vegans.
After a satisfying meal, it was time to head to Shree Chhatrapati Shahu Museum also called as New Palace museum. Built in 1884, the architecture of the palace is a combination of Jain and Hindu influences and local Rajwada style.
This museum is dedicated to fine collection of possessions of Chhatrapaties of Kolhapur like costumes, weapons, jewelery,embroidery,games, silver elephant saddles,stuffed tigers, tiger heads, wild boar,black buck etc.The Darbar hall occupies a double height space, while the side halls display lobed arches filled with stained glass illustrating scenes from life of Shivaji.
After a great showcase of regions history through this museum visit, I headed to city market for some shopping and some temple runs. Kolhapur is famous for hand crafted leather slippers called as Kolhapuris that are locally tanned.
Then in the pleasant evening, I headed to Rankala Lake for boating which is serene and picturesque on the western side of Mahalaxmi temple. This wide and spacious lake is so called as at its centre lies the temple of Rankabhairav.
It also hosts another palace which is inaccessible to common public.
And then signed off after having a delicious street food- some bhel puri and a fruit salad.
It was a nice time in Kolhapur. Hope you enjoyed it too. Until next time we meet, Be Good,Do Good And Keep Smiling 🙂
Hello, Welcome back after quite a some time. If you haven’t read part1 and its sequel yet, read before proceeding to this final edition of Calcutta Diaries…
After an excellent city tour which I thoroughly enjoyed, I witnessed an interesting Bengali wedding(my first time).But before we get started to experience its uniqueness, let’s know more about Bengali people and their culture through my retina display 😛
Bengali’s are very emotional and passionate people.Given a chance they can lecture or talk continuously for hours together.But they are sweet people owing their love for sweets. I think Mishti (meaning sweetmeat) comes a close second next to their first love which is Fish. A meal without a fish is very rare and incomplete.They can swear by fish literally. Apart from fish,they love their football and off course cricket. Mohan Bagan/East Bengal match at Salt Lake stadium garners as much attention and interest as a World Cup cricket match elsewhere in the world. Cricket in Eden Gardens is as electric and noisy that most parts of Calcutta near the Maidan can feel the atmosphere when a game is on. And Durga Puja in Calcutta is one of biggest festival of India. What Ganesh Chaturti is to Mumbai, Puja is to Calcutta. I was told that Calcutta experience is incomplete without Durga Puja which is revelled and celebrated with as much pomp and glory as one can ever imagine.
For my friend’s wedding, I lived with his family among his relatives and friends for four days which was an enriching experience. I was welcomed and treated very warmly and the icing on the cake was when I was given Mishti on arrival which bowled me over completely 😉 Since Hindi was the only common language we both knew, that was the mode of speech used for interaction. Bengali’s sound funny when they talk broken Hindi as most of them are not used to speaking Hindi. Also it was difficult for me to get their Bong accent and managed to get what they were saying or at least the context when they used some Hindi/English keywords. When they converse in Hindi, they pronounce some words such that its funny to a non Bengali who knows Hindi. My name being Harsha, over the years I have been called as Harsh, Harshu and off course Harsha but for the first time I was addressed as ‘Horsho’. Yes Horsho-The Bengali version of Harsha 😉 So Harsha becomes Horsho, Vidya becomes Bidya, Gaurav as Gourab and Rituparna becomes RituPorna. They say Jol Khaana(meaning eating water) for drinking water and Cha khabe( meaning eating tea) is what they sound when they ask you for tea. I found it sweet and funny and taught the kids out there multiple times that It’s spelled and hence pronounced as Harsha and not horseshoe amidst lot of laughs 😉
Unlike most of the wedding here in Southern part of India, a Bong wedding usually starts in the evening. On wedding day early morning at around 4.00 hrs the wedding rituals began where the groom and bride in their respective homes were made to have some food after which they were not supposed to eat anything until the next day when all the marriage rituals ended.
On the wedding day before lunch hours,a ritual called as Nanni Mukh took place where the groom remembered his ancestors before tying the knot (later in the evening) followed by haldi where all the women out there put haldi on the grooms face who was made to stand firm on a stone viz the most interesting time to click some candid and funny photos 😉 To wash off, he was poured with a bucket of water and then the groom had to crack open 4 small cups surrounding him made by mud. Once this was done, the haldi used to put on groom was passed on to bride’s place along with her wedding dress and some gifts generally called as shagun where bride is put up with same haldi. Amongst this, Rohu fish was decorated as a bride.
After lunch it’s generally a break time where most of them overlooked about different arrangements and had a good nap after a satisfying meal. Then in the evening we started to the marriage hall with band baaja and baarat 😉
The groom was greeted with all the necessary special attention and offered some mishti by bride’s side.During the mahurath, groom was made up to stand firm at a fixed place and the bride was carried to the mandap by her brothers while she covered her face with beetle leaves.The bride was made to take 7 rounds around the groom which signifies 7 vows of marriage and then to remove the covering from her face only when she faced the groom after saath phere amidst lot of cheers and clapping.Then they exchanged garlands 3 times followed by Sindhur Daan viz maang barna.The marriage rituals ended after a yagna(Agni shakshi).
After having a special meal viz as I said earlier, having quality time with Bengali fish, we had a friendly interaction between both the families which was playing antakshari in this case. We played for over 2 hours such that all the songs were either already sung or we had no new song to sing for a particular word. Led by the groom, we won when the bride’s side was deliberately and repeatedly given a particular word and the game ended when they finally gave up at 4.30 am.
Before that we had to negotiate a price with the bride’s friends, for making the couple enter a particular room.They were seven in total for which they demanded 20k and we gave them only 3.5k(500 per head) after making them wait for a long time and hence succumb to pressure and impatience.
The next day it was vidhaai time at bride’s place and a reception on the subsequent day on the groom’s side which panned out nicely.
It was a most fruitful and enriching to experience a Bengali wedding as unique as this. Hope you enjoyed it too through this blog post…
Until next time we meet, Be good, Do good and Keep Smiling 🙂
Before you proceed, if you haven’t read the first part yet, here’s the link for the first part Click Here.
It’s going to be a long day but I am excited after looking forward to today’s itinerary. So let’s not waste time and head to Kumortuli to have some dossier of information on artisans of the potters’ colony in North Calcutta. By virtue of their artistic and creative creations their clay idols supplied especially during the Durga Pujo on Dussehra is exported overseas too.
Their idols are mostly ordered well in advance and their clientele includes Indian communities living in America, Europe and Africa. For a record, this colony supplies idols to around 90 countries worldwide with new countries adding each year.Their creations gives greatest joy to Calcutta(The City of Joy) by transforming crude structure of clay to a beautiful, mesmerizing bedecked Bengali bridesque Goddess Durga. No wonder, this colony is one of the seven wonders of Calcutta.
During Pujo, these idols are supplied to countless pandals all over Calcutta. That their creation is going to leave Calcutta in awe and admiration for the entire duration of the festival and even beyond that is of no consequence to them as it is a just a means of survival to these talented and very skilled artisans, most of them creating these idols since a long long time. Needless to say, I was in awe of this place and their great artistic skills.
Self note: Have to visit Calcutta and this colony during Pujo.
Next stop is Jorasanko Thakur Bari (meaning House of Thakurs(Tagore)) in a place called Jorasanko in North Calcutta. It is the house in which Calcutta’s and India’s pride-Rabindranath Tagore was born and spent most of his childhood. He was the most celebrated poet(Indian National Anthem was his creation along with the national anthem of Bangladesh) and first non European Nobel laureate.
It was an exhilarating experience to visit this place and to know more about one of India’s jewels who contributed immensely in literature,art,music among other things. His legacy endures in several of his works on display here which is very well maintained and also in Visva Bharati University founded by him in Santiniketan.
Self note: A visit to Santiniketan when next time in Bengal.
I am a foodie and I am on a see food diet- I mean see the food and eat without much adieu 😛 A satisfying meal will only do good at this stage. So lets move to Peter Cat restaurant in Park Street where they serve a dish called “Chelo Kababs”- The protected regional product of West Bengal. A dish consisting of mutton kababs-the best I had ever had, perfectly cooked egg, juicy chicken, butter and aromatic rice. Such a perfect meal. Touché.
Lets now move to Eden Garden reminiscing about the memorable matches played here in this very ground. Who can forget tat famous victory on this ground during Australian tour of India in 2001. Laxman’s and Dravid’s epic partnership, Harbhajan’s hat rick and moreover India’s unreal comeback into the match and then to wrap up the series in Chennai. Unbelievable to say the least….
Calcutta has very unique facilities unlike some cities with respect to their public transport- Yellow colored cabs, cycle rickshaw, underground Calcutta metro and most fascinating of them all- Calcutta trams(mini trains on the road along with the other vehicles on the road). Have a look
Calcutta Metro is the first underground metro rail system system in India operational since 1984. Those Rickshaw walas are one of the most hard working people around toiling hard in the sun for their bread and butter. The Calcutta tram is currently the only operating tram in India and the oldest operating tram in Asia running since 1902.
Let’s stroll now to Princep Ghat and the ever so magnificent Victoria Memorial before we head for the dinner.
The Victoria Memorial, a large marble structure built between 1906 and 1921 is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. It is now a museum and a major tourist destination by the bank of Hooghly river.
It’s dinner time to end a fabulous day and what better way to end it by having Hilsa fish-probably the best fish in town. Bengalis love their fish and can swear by fish and I ain’t any different in this matter 😉
With this the city tour in Calcutta comes to an end. An awesome time and sheer joy in the city of joy. However, I will share my experiences with very interesting and unique Bengali wedding in my next post. Until next time we meet, Be Good,Do Good and Keep Smiling 🙂
P.S: On my last day in Calcutta, early morning when I was listening to music in shuffle mode, coincidentally this beautiful song by Hemant Kumar cropped up which sumps up my visit quite brilliantly.
Calcutta(now known as Kolkata)-the City of Joy is a fabulous city to live in, love at first sight you see. I was there for a mere 4 days which was not at all enough to see the uniqueness and intricacies of walking in the city with a perfect mixture of modern and heritage buildings,reminiscing about the yesteryear India. But I tried my very best to visit most of the places in my spare time and this blog post is entirely based on my experiences with the city and not influenced by anything else.
Calcutta has always fascinated me since I was a kid because of its rich history(served as the capital of India under the British Raj),sporting culture(Bengalis love their football and cricket),art forms whether its literature or cinema(Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray are in itself an institution) and above all Bengali sweet(Anyone here who don’t like RossoGulla?? Handful isn’t it?). I wanted to visit Calcutta at some point of time and having couple of Bengali friends did help my cause.One of my close friends decided to marry and thus I planned to visit the city and above all know more about Bengali culture especially their unique style of marriage which is quite different from marriages seen in Southern India.
Before we get the ball rolling with our city tour,let’s start our day with a cup of tea and a newspaper.
Our first pit stop would be a visit to Dakshineswar temple in Barrackpore.
Dakshineswar is a Kali temple built between 1847 and 1855 by Rani Rashmoni. Along with the Kali temple, we have 12 Shiva temples(lingas) and a RadhaKrishna temple situated along the Vivekananda Setu(Bridge) on the East bank of Hooghly River.The presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, ‘She who liberates Her devotees from the ocean of existence’.
Ramakrishna Paramahasamha, the saint of 19th century, regarded as incarnation of God, set his base here in Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna formed a group of spiritual aspirants which later paved the way for the formation of Ramakrishna Mission. Interestingly,before this temple was built, Nawabs of Chitpur used to hunt tigers in Dakshineswar.
Now that we have seen the beautiful Dakshineswar, let’s head to Belur Math on the other side i.e. west banks of Hooghly river. It is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission founded by his disciple Swami Vivekananda. This site was carefully chosen by Vivekananda on the banks of holy Ganges(Hooghly) such that a clear view of Dakshineswar and Cossipore- the two important places related to Sri Ramakrishna could be seen which add to its sanctity.
Belur Math is known for its splendid architecture and devotees want to develop inner appreciation of thought through this unique and beautiful architecture. On the day of my visit, it was 180th birthday celebration of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahasamha and visitors, devotees,media were sprawling from all corners of the world.
Self note:Visit this place when there is less crowd and more peace.
It seems like I am hungry now, so let’s have an early meal. And here in Calcutta, no meals is complete without fish. So let’s try the Bhetki fish from a Bengali food chain.
Now lets stroll to St. Paul’s Cathedral-The Mother Church of the diocese of Calcutta in the church of North India.Let’s gulp some RossoGollas as we get there and a bakery of N C Das- Creator of the iconic Bengali sweetmeat is the place to be. The RossoGolla(highly nutritious,easily digestible and truly a drooling affair) was born in 1868 in a moment of sublime inspiration.
Self note: Get some stock of this sweet rhapsody before leaving to Bengaluru.
As we enter the church and get to admire this magnificent architecture with all its past glory we have come to an end of this journey for today.Excited and curious as ever to visit Kumortuli-potters’ colony in North Calcutta where they create artistic clay idols especially for Durga Pujo, Eden Garden’s Mecca of Cricket in India,Jorasanko Thakur Bari-Ancestral home of Tagore family, ever so magnificent Victoria Memorial,Calcutta’s very own tram and metro ride,Prinsep Ghat-one of the oldest recreational spots of Calcutta.
It has been a great time in Calcutta so far. Hope you enjoyed it too.
Lets meet again soon. Until then, Keep Smiling 🙂
P.S: Day started with darshan of Goddess Kali in Dakshineswar followed by Belur Math on the other side of Ganges. Bought some books on Swami Vivekananda and a book on architecture of Belur Math. Then a sumptuous lunch in Bedouin-Sher-E-Bengal in Gariahat.Some saree(Dhakai Jaamdani-traditional Bengali saari) shopping for mom and then a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral, Academy of Fine Arts and Nandan-West Bengal Film Centre.
Looking forward for more….
P.P.S: Here in this post, Calcutta(old name of the city) is used instead of Kolkata as someone rightly said “Kolkata is a city whereas Calcutta is a emotion”.
Matheran is a hill station in Raigad district in Maharashtra on Western Ghats range at an elevation of 800m from sea level. Matheran means “forest on the forehead”. It is Asia’s only automobile free hill station.
First view from the Top
Greeted by Beautiful falls and off course the weekend traffic
Amazing train journey enroute to Matheran Station
Beautiful Matheran seen from different vantage points
Sweet little Gujrati Thali
Horse Ride-one of the popular mode of transport
P.S: Thanks for visiting this page.All pics taken from Nexus 5 🙂
RECAP: If you have missed previous post, Click here
Where were we? Oh yeah, we had seen all traditions/customs performed on first day of jatra in the Marikamba temple. Now it’s time for Rathotstav where Marikamba Devi is taken into a chariot and rowed from temple premises to Bidki Bail(town centre). So let’s start our journey from the temple.
As we traverse, there are lot of dol thashas/drum rolls from different parts performing their act.
Scorching heat but no dip in enthusiasm.
Swarm of people to witness Goddess and get blessed.
Multitude of Devotees.. “Vajra”- Police wing to the rescue of people if any eventualities.
After Goddess is placed in Bidki Bail where people are allowed to take darshan from very close quarters only during these 8 days.
Rathotsav(Chariot procession) and our journey from the temple culminates in Bidki Bail near Shivaji Chowk.
Good bye until next time we meet for yet another journey..
Marikamba Fair is one of the biggest jatra of Karnataka held in temple town of Sirsi. Over a lakh devotees,tourists and pilgrims gather from Maharashtra,Goa,Tamil Nadu,Andhra,Kerala and all parts of Karnataka making it one of the biggest festivals in the region. This fair is held every alternate year. This year it is celebrated from March 11th to 19th.
As the legend says, the Goddess(form of Durga) is said to have told a devotee in dream that her insignia was to be found in a tank on the outskirts of the town and to derive benefit to the region by its installation and worship. Accordingly the original idol is being worshipped since 1688.Unfathomable are the ways of Gods, whose mere wishes can transform a wilderness into a town in no time. The then little known village of Sirsi of about 200 inhabitants is today brimming with a population exceeding 100,000 and is flourishing as the richest region of the district, only because of the kind grace of the auspicious Goddess Shri Marikamba(It is also known as Doddamma Temple, with “Doddamma” denoting the “elder sister” of all Maraiammas in Karnataka).
Marikamba Temple In Sirsi
Various rituals performed on first day of Jatra mahotsav.
Chariot getting ready for the D-day.
When Mahatma Gandhi visited Sirsi in 1933, during his campaign to abolish untouchability of Dalits, he refused to visit the temple, as animal sacrifice was a prevalent ancient practice at the temple; the sacrifice was in the form of offering of he-buffalo as a sacrifice to appease the goddess. A he-buffalo was specially bred for offering as a sacrifice to the deity during the annual Rathayatra. Following the protest by Gandhi, there was a social movement in the town not only to abolish animal sacrifice but also to allow Dalits entry into the temple.
Some historical facts about the temple
- This is the first temple to stop animal slaughter-the age old custom in India
- This is the first temple in India to declare open its doors, some fifty years back, for Harijan entry into the temple. This is also the first temple where non-Brahmins are the priests for over two hundred fifty years.
- This temple is the first of its kind in India when one of the trustees is a Harijan and this system was later on adopted by the famous Tirupati Tirumala temple.
- This institution was a source of encouragement for the participants in the struggle for national independence.
To be Continued…………
References: Wikipedia, Sirsi.in