Answer by Srinivas Kulkarni:
Yes! Yes and Yes!
Before I begin the answer from a travel enthusiast perspective, just some insights to share about Asia and India in general, might give you some perspective pertaining to the question you have asked.
Travel Facts – Asia & India
Some interesting facts about the travel Industry in India & Asia in general.
Over the next few years, Asia — mostly China and India — and Latin America will drive world economic growth, contributing up to 75% of global GDP from 2010 to 2012.
The 2012 outlook for Asian outbound travel is positive. 6 to 8% increase in this year’s expected 14% growth.
In particular India appears to be set for strong growth with 43% planning more outbound travel next year. IPK’s travel confidence of India is at a high 113 points.
Incredible India – Travel Galore
I began exploring India truly about five years ago and I’d say despite traveling to a lot of parts, I hae hardly touched 1/4th of the country so far. An endeavor that makes me want to go on and on till I have set foot across each and every state at least. One of the reasons why I enjoy doing so is cause of it’s geographical and cultural diversity with of course significant historic and mythical relevance to various places. Adds to it’s mystery in its own way. To such an extent that every different place that you travel to within India is a completely different landscape and a cultural expose of sorts. There is a great sense of encompassing travel experience that yuo get when you explore various parts of India. From the beautiful mountains in the Himalayas to the amazing temples and the beaches down south. From the most diverse religious and cultural places across the four corners of the country to the much modern and very well built cities in various metropolis. From the multiple Indian languages spoken in different parts to the very familiar tour guides or audio guidebooks that you’ll get at various heritage sites to help understanding places in the country much better for yourself. India has it all. If you are the type who loves adventure and mountain climbing then you can explore various destinations across the Himalayas which span across the Indo-Nepal-Tibet and Pakistan border you’d love every bit of it. There are practically every kind of geographically diverse landscapes in Leh and Ladakh. If you are interested in culture and meeting new people of ethnic and traditional origin then a trip to Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and some remote villages in Harayana, Punjab and some parts of South India would do the trick. Archaeology fans might really enjoy The Ruins of Hampi, various parts of Gujarat and some across India-Pakistan border where Indus valley civilization ruins exist and of course Madhya Pradesh for it’s beautiful terrain and charismatic caves depicting ancient lore of Kama Sutra and love in Khajurao. Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore are the metropolis you might want to go to, best serve as connectivity to various different parts and mostly flights to any place in the world or other part of the country are available here. South India give s you a lot of insight on the Hindu cwith it’s various temples and also a great escapade towards nature in God’s own country Kerala will enchant you with it’s beauty. The North East has it’s own charm with various landscapic mountains, monasteries, Buddhist culture and an eye awakening spirituality towards nature and this planet. Then there are the beautiful islands of Lakshwadeep and Andaman and Nicobar which are a place in itself. Secluded from most parts of India they lie within the terrains of water a world within their own these places must not be missed. And last but not least, there’s no place like Goa! If you come to India, Goa is a must visit for….
Of course there are pitfalls when it comes to hygiene, beggars, lots of crowd, the problem of communication at times in certain parts. The potential risk of being duped by locals or overpriced at various destinations are certainly there… But if you are aware and well educated about your destination with some planning and research, yo can get along well with any of those situations. Plus that in itself is an experience for you so to speak. Overall, India tourism is trying to create infrastructure and overall awareness for its tourists and travelers. You’ll find a lot of information on this website and also if you carry the India Travel Guide book, which most tourists and travelers from the world carry with themselves you should be good to go. In most places local authorities, police are quite helpful, sometimes you may have issues with the bureaucratic ways of the cops and local authorities, but if all your paper work is good then mostly there are no worries.
So overall I’d say, India is certainly a good travel destination. One thing I’d recommend to watch before you start your journey to India is an interesting six part documentary series by BBC and Micheal Wood called ‘The Story of India.’
Lastly here are some of the places that I’ve visited and shortlisting them for you to show you what I really mean when I wrote this answer. For the detailed answer refer to this: What are the must-see travel destinations in India? (qr.ae) Would give you quite an answer to your question and my explanation to why India is a good travel destination
P.S If nothing else, there’s the Taj Mahal to come to India for!
What are the Places to travel to?
Trek towards Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Saheb (Glacier may not be always there…)
Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand HImalayas
Paragliding in the Solang Valley
Spiritual Quest at the Dalai Lama Temple in Dharamsala/McLeodganj
Shey Palace in Ladakh
Shanti Stupa in Ladakh
Leh Palace in Leh, Ladakh
Nubra Valley in Ladakh
Disket Temple in Nubra Valley in Ladakh
Ride a Bullet to Khardung La in Ladakh *Highest Motorable road 18380 ft
Alchi Gompa – Oldest Monastery in Leh, Ladakh
Indus River Valley in Ladakh
Pangong Tso Lake across Ladakh and China Border
The serene Om beach in Gokarna
Rameshwaram Temple and it’s 1000 Pillars
Chinese Fishing Nets in Fort. Kochi
Boat to Allepy from Kottayam in Kerala
Buland Darwaaza of Fatehpur Sikri
Hawa Mahal in Jaipur
Jain temples of Jaisalmer
The Vintage car museum in Udaipur
Matri Mandir in Auroville
Pondicherry & Auoroville Beach
The Garden City – Bangalore
Visit the Ruins of Hampi – A must visit if you are a fan of archaeology and historic ancient culture.
Stone Chariot in the Vittala Temple
Hazara Rama Temple – Carvings from 10th-13th century of Rama
Lakshmi Narsimha statue
Lotus Mahal in Zennana Enclosure… Ancient air conditioned palace
Monolithic Bull, carved out of one Stone
Mythical Lions called Yalli inside Krishna Temple
View the Marina Beach Sunrise in Chennai
Conquer the Mahuli fort during rains in Maharashtra – The Sahayadaris
Charminar in Hyderabad
The Buddha Statue in Lumbini Park in Hyderabad on the Husain Sagar lake
Be part of the Kala Ghoda Festival in Mumbai
Lenayadri Hills in Maharashtra – One of the Ashtavinayaka Temples
Ajanta Ellora Caves in Aurangabad
Badrinath Temple in Uttarakhand
Mana Village and Vasudhara Waterfalls – The last indian Village on Indo Tibet Border
Haridwar for it’s cultural and spiritual expose.
Lakshman Jhoola and the Parmarth Temple in Rishikesh
So the other day, I was watching, Life is a Beach on NDTV Good times, that’s when I thought to myself, How many beaches have I traveled to? Come to think of it, I’m more a mountain person than a beach person. But nonetheless, there are some beaches that I’d love to die for. The early morning sunrise, the long walks on the beach, the non-stop swim for hours, the amazing sound of the ocean and the waves hitting at you, the cool breeze blowing across your face and of course, the best food and some alcohol to give you some company. How can I not like the beaches?? That’s when I decided to list down some of the beach holidays I have been to. Here’s the list:
1. Palolem, Goa
This has to be the prize catch. Of all the beaches that I’ve been to, this is the one that I have visited at least thrice. South Goa has it’s own charm and Palolem rocks when it comes to a clean beach, nice blue water and one of the most amazing beach shacks and restaurants across Goa. This has to be one of the best considering the beautiful Sunset point, the Kayaking and the dolphins it has. Not only that, it also is near the Agonda fort, and another similarly serene and calm beach, called Agonda. Both these destinations are a few kms away and one can bike it up. If you are in Goa, taking a bike ride is not new to you, but of course.
2. Gokarna, Karnataka
Gokarna has it’s own charm. Besides being renowned for it’s historic and symbolical reference when it comes to Lord Shiva, this destination has an isolated beach called Om, beach. Everyone has a relaxed laidback attitude and this beach is perfect if you want to just put your feet up and have a really chilled out long weekend. I’ve been here once or twice, taking a bike ride from Goa to Gokarna is quite adventurous. Fun if I may say so, especially if you are into riding. The beach has about seven eight shacks and they are pretty reasonably priced and they most certainly serve one of the most amazing dishes. If you are a food buff, this one place called Namaste Cafe’s to die for…
3. Anjuna, Goa
Mostly in Goa, I prefer south Goa, but if you are in North Goa and cannot go further, then I’d recommend either Anjuna or Vagator. Anjuna wit the first preference. Most people like to hang out at Calangute or Bagha if they are party mongers. I prefer Anjuna for it’s serentiy and its beauty. But besides that, Anjuna is world famous for its trance parties held on the beach during the tourist season. Anjuna also hosts the famous flea market wherein you can purchase many things, ranging from fruits to jewelry, clothes and electronic devices.
4. Vagator, Goa
This is my place of solitude. I’d like to call this beach as one of the hippie beaches that still hasn’t lost it’s charm. This is totally isolated and if you have to get here, having your own bike or car is the best option. The whole amazing look and feel of the beach is what adds to the whole charm. Vagator Beach is the northernmost beach of Bardez Taluka, Goa. It is located on the opposite bank of the Chapora River from Morjim in Pernem. To the south of Vagator is Anjuna, one of the first hippy haunts of Goa. Vagator Beach has dramatic red cliffs looking down on the shore and two fresh water springs within a stone’s throw of the sea.
5. Pondicherry Beach, Pondicherry
I went here a couple of years ago, this beach was certainly one where you’d love to relax and enjoy if you are into good food. This destination has a variety of cuisines. From French to Portuggese to Chettinad, you’ve got it all. While Pondicherry beach is near the town and quite a bustle it does not give you the serene and calm nature. For that, I’d recommend Auroville beach. The famous Auroville Ashram a few kilometers away from Pondicherry, the beach is enchantingly beautiful and one of the most calmest and cleanest in South India.
These are some of the amazing beaches that I’ve been to and the top most on my list. What are yours?
So it had been my desire to visit this place for quite a while now. The last time I was near Murudeshwara was when I had stopped by over a long weekend, a ride taken to visit Gokarna. Too bad, I didn’t realize back then that it was hardly 70 kms from Gokarna. So I had made it a point to ensure that this visit happened this year. And thankfully, it did happen. I had planned a trip in Karnataka, specifically off the locations that had interesting stories with regards to it’s grand mythological and historical references. A seed had been planted in my head, after reading Dr. Devdutt Patnaik’s books on mythology. I was all the more fascinated and had read two books of his on Lord Shiva. A belief doesn’t become stronger unless you have corroborated stories or beautiful understanding about any subject. That’s when I realized that this trip was going to be even better.
Night Train to Murudeshwara
A night’s journey in the Matsyagandha Express was smooth as I traveled sleeping like a log and woke up to realize Murdeshwar had already arrived at 4.30 in the morning. I had anticipated that I’d reach there early in the morning, but had not thought about what I’d do after reaching there so early. Having said that, as always, I tried my luck in the Railway quarters, only to realized there was one room available and there were a middle aged couple along with me who had to visit someone in the town and I decided to go into the waiting room and sleep some more before I headed to the temple.
Fresh early morning cold with beautiful breeze certainly enchanted my mind and made me realize that my week long tour of Karnataka had already begun. After taking a short nap for an hour, I decided to stroll near the station and see what’s around. Silent as a grave, yet serene, the railway station was quite a beauty. I decided to click some snaps of the sunrise which certainly gave solace to the mind.
After freshening up, the best thing I could do is get a cup of tea and head towards the temple. But since I didn’t want to carry my backpack, I decided to keep it in the cloak room and come back in the afternoon and collect it. The problem was, my backpack, didn’t have a lock and they wouldn’t accept it. But thankfully, the railway employee suggested that I can keep the bag safe with the canteen guys and collect it later. I picked up my DSLR and my mobile phone with me, after which I didn’t have any valuables and I felt free to keep the bag with him. Nonetheless, the best part about travelling across South India, is that more often than none, you will encounter really amazing people who would help you out at each step of the way.
So there I began towards the temple, it was hardly 3 kms from the railway station and I decided to walk it up enjoying the early morning breath of fresh air…
Amazingly, Murdeshwar is quite unknown and secluded and hadn’t it been for the second largest statue of Lord Shiva constructed by the R.N Shetty trust, it’d not be as fascinating as it is or attract so much crowd. Yes there is historical significance of this place connected with the Atma Linga story of Ravana and Lord Shiva. Which is probably why it’s more significant and hence someone took the initiative of building something here. Also, just across the Murdeshwar beach are the Nettrani Islands where you can Scuba Dive, which I’d had to save for later as this was a shoestring budget trip
While I approached the village and I could see the Lord Shiva statue’s head in the distant horizon, I saw a crowd that had gathered nearby. Just near a small tank near another temple, there was a group of onlookers to this interesting game of fetching the bananas. To begin with, there was a pulley on which a bunch of bananas were attached. On the edge of the tank on top of the wall, a group of young boys, decked with flower crowns waited their turn to jump in the air and try to bring down that bunch. While they tried their best to do so, the person who controlled the pulley tried his best to not let them have it. Enjoying this activity with a playful spirit others were cheering for these boys. While I’m sure there must be some significance, symbolic, religious or historic, when I asked around, very few knew what it was. All I got to know was it was a sacred activity performed by boys of the landlord’s family. My best guess is that these boys were entering into adulthood and this is a significant symbol of them trying to fight for the price catch (Metaphorical: A wife, materialistic life, food for themselves, responsibilities) well that was my best guess.
As I walked past the village, and reached closer to the Temple, I could see the Murdeshwar beach in the vicinity and it was truly beautiful. Something that gave joy to my sight and peace of mind to my soul. The next thing was to of course, visit the temple itself and then behind it the Lord Shiva’s Statue…
There is a lift that will take you to the top most floor. All you have to do is pay 10 rupees and wait a bit with other people. But once you go on top, you’ll realize that the wait is worth it… From the top, you can see the Lord Shiva’s Statue, which will give you the top view and that is also very enchanting, with the sea in the backdrop.
Inside, the temple is very serene and there’s ample space for you to just sit and meditate. It’s a blissful experience. But, one of the fascinating things you’ll notice is the Temple’s smaller gopuram has enchanting encryption and engraving which is also gold plated. It contains the entire story of Ravana being tricked by Ganesha with the help of Lord Vishnu in order to protect Lord Shiva’s Atma Linga. (The source of power to immortality.)
After that, to get an up-close and personal view of Lord Shiva himself, I headed to the base of the statue, which has the cave, in which a description of the entire story of how Murudeshwara became a significant place in the context of Ravana, Lord Shiva and the Atma Lingam. They also play an audio clip inside the cave, which tells you the story in Kannada and English if I remember correctly.
The Story of Murudeshwara
Ravana’s mom just like Ravana, was a stout devotee of Shiva. Also, she knew about the Atma-Linga of Lord Shiva and the powers it could give his son. The Hindu gods attained immortality and invincibility by worshipping a divine Lingam called the Atma-Linga. She convinced his son Ravana, to pray to Lord Shiva and attain the Atma Linga.
Ravana promised his mother that he’ll seek out Lord Shiva, pray to him and conduct penance but at whatever cost, he’ll get the Atma-Linga
By this time Narada had asked Lord Vishnu to change Ravana’s mind. By this time Narada had asked Lord Vishnu to change Ravana’s mind. As a result of this plot, Ravana asks for Goddess Parvati, and Lord Shiva offers her to him.
On his way back to Lanka Narada tells Ravana that Lord had not given him the real Parvathi and that the real Parvathi was in Pathala who was a King’s daughter in the world below the earth.
So Ravana frees his companion,goes to Pathala and marries a king’s daughter ,assuming her to be the real Parvathi.
He then returns to Lanka, where his mother asks him for the Linga. Ravana then comes to know of the tricks played on him by Lord Vishnu.
He therefore prays to Lord Shiva again, begging for his forgiveness. This time, it’s even more difficult to get Lord Shiva’s attention. He then decides to offer sacrifice by cutting his heads.
Lord Shiva is moved by this dedication and restores his heads. Also when he appears, Ravana requests the AtmaLinga as his boon. Lord Shiva agrees to give him the boon with the condition that it should never be placed on the ground. If the AtmaLinga was ever placed on the ground, all the powers would return to Lord Shiva again.
Having obtained his boon, Ravana started back on his journey to Lanka. Sage Narada, who came to know of this incident, realised that with the AtmaLinga, Ravana may obtain immortality and create havoc on earth. He approached the Lord Ganesh and requested him to prevent the AtmaLinga from reaching Lanka.
Lord Ganesh knew that Ravana was a very devoted person who used to perform prayer ritual in the evening every day without fail. He decided to make use of this fact and came up with a plan to confiscate the AtmaLinga from Ravana.
As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu blotted out the sun to give the appearance of dusk. Ravana now had to perform his evening rituals but was worried because with the AtmaLinga in his hands, he would not be able to do his rituals. At this time, Lord Ganesh in the disguise of a Brahmin boy accosted him. Ravana requested him to hold the AtmaLinga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Ganesh struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the AtmaLinga on the ground.
As predicted, before Ravana could return after completing his rituals, Ganesh had already placed the AtmaLinga on the ground. Ravana got angry and in an enraged state, he hit Ganesha.
Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. Ravana, realising that he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy it.
Due to the force exerted by Ravana, some pieces were scattered. One such piece from the head of the linga is said to have fallen in present day Surathkal. The famous Sadashiva temple is said to be built around that piece of linga. Then he decided to destroy the covering of the AtmaLinga, and threw the case covering it to a place called Sajjeshwara, 23 miles away. Then he threw the lid of the case to a placed called Guneshwara (now Gunavanthe) and Dhareshwara, 10–12 miles away. Finally, he threw the cloth covering the AtmaLinga to a placed called Mrideshwara in Kanduka-Giri (Kanduka Hill). Mrideshwara has been renamed to Murudeshwara.
Quite enchanting and after having spent more than an entire day in this enchanting place, I returned to collect my backpack and take a bus to Bangalore… From there, my next stop was Sravanabelegola! Another ancient and yet very enchanting place full of beauty and history.
Gokarna, truly a land of beauty and serenity… It was quite a ride for me to get here and I’m sure as hell that it was worth it. At certain points I felt that it couldn’t get worse and might as well think of better alternatives or simpler solutions… But no, it wasn’t meant to be… I had to be here… Well, it had to be it!!! I had to make this one a road trip… What better than having my own set of wheels! I had made up my mind that I’d go biking it across about 150 Kms from Goa to Gokarna! Eventually that’s what I did and boy, am I glad that I did it that way… But before I reached Gokarna, Om Beach to be precise, I wanted to take a short detour to Cotiago WildLife Sanctuary and check the beautiful place out. Beautiful that it was I couldn’t find many animals as I ended up going there in the afternoon… Yet, after spending a few hours looking for animals, I enjoyed the nature trail and certainly made my Journey to Gokarna in the evening, much more pleasant. Riding on the fast lane with the sun setting by my side, I couldn’t have asked for anything more…
Besides that there were a couple of interesting things and an interesting bunch of people I met down here… But I’ll save that story for the next blog post. Meanwhile, here are a few pictures of my journey from Goa to Gokarna.. Truly a roadtrip of eccentric proportion, catching up with my solitude yet again..
So this is how it shaped up, I began my journey after a heavy lunch from Margaon, Goa. Eating the traditional Thali as I always do before I head out for long journeys, it was certainly going to last me for quite a while. Seeking out a new destination on my own set of wheels meant a lot more adventure and fun, besides of course having the independence to just stop anywhere I wanted to… So I had made up my mind that it was going to be a motorbike journey to Gokarna across the border of Goa into Karnataka. An eccentric ride filled with some panoramic views of the sun setting across the mountains. It was not just the ride but the adrenaline that pushed me into going on the biking trip. Suggested by a friend of mine on twitter, it was a really good recommendation.
This was it… This was my roadster.. One that was going to take me all the way to Gokarna.. Was quite a new bike and certainly riding smooth. Was fun riding with this baby!
Since I had my own set of wheels, on my way to Gokarna… I decided to take a little detour. Between, Goa and Karwar happens to be this amazing Wildlife Sanctuary, which claims to have Panthers, Cobras, Babboons and other wild animals… I did go there in the afternoon…Didn’t know what to expect, but I took my bike deep into the forest till there was a road to ride it on. After that I did a bit of hiking and went on a nature trail inside the dense forest. Maybe not so scary, but it was quite thrilling entering their territory.
Since I went there in the afternoon, all I saw there was a few deer, a couple of snakes and a few birds… Maybe next time I’d go early in the morning…
There was something about this Deer… I was trying to get photographs of most of the Deer inside the enclosure… But they all kept running away, probably scared… But this one stood it’s ground… It stood next to the cage as I clicked it a multiple times. It was as if this one had something special to tell me. In fact, it shared a kind of connection with me that I can’t really express or explain in words. It was truly amazing and at the same time a bit depressing to see them so out of tune from their own self…
As soon as you enter Karwar town, you’ll see this Majestic ship standing across the ocean out there telling it’s tale of glory. Karwar is a coastal city and a majority of their occupation is to do with fishing, especially since Karwar beach is quite a catch for most of the fishermen. Also Indian Navy has a huge base in Karwar… So that’s something that this place boasts of. It was quite something to catch hold of these pictures on my way to Gokarna.
Since I took such a huge detour, by the time I was about to reach Gokarna, the sun was about to set… So just as usual, without wasting much time, I stopped by and took a few shots of the sunset and a few great views that followed me across the journey on this beautiful stretch of NH17….
If I had come by the bridge, say about 10 minutes earlier, I could have most certainly caught the Sun actually set in those mountains and the view from this bridge would’ve been even more ecstatic… Well, nonetheless, it was a glimpse that caught my eye instantaneously and I had to stop by for a great capture…
That was also a sign for me to just speed up and make sure I reach Gokarna before it’s way too dark… So I decided to up the anti and turbo boost my wheels into Gokarna… On my way, this is a sneak preview I got… What I did in Gokarna and how interesting the stay was would have to wait for another blog.. Yes, folks, it certainly was interesting so I’m going to have to continue it in the next post… But I’ll tell you, you guys won’t be dissapointed… So stay tuned, and until then do tell me how you like this journey so far. What say guys?