A short compilation from our visit to Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. Although we could only catch a glimpse of the Tiger’s paw, we had a great experience spotting other animals.
Over 5000 years the quest to spirituality has been a constant rouse for explorers across the world when they happened to arrive to India! That has always been a very important phenomenon of the Indian culture.
Despite that more recently, there has been a troubling side of it, being the repressive rules, the hypocritical approach of many folks irrespective of gender. The lack of awareness to global etiquette while interacting with travelers across the world has been a huge challenge, even so to provoke those tourism ads to educate Indians. While India always has brought a spiritual quest to many travelers and explorers there always are political considerations and factors in play in. Those that aspire towards a more fundamental leaning towards agendas that are meant to control chaos and simply construed as against ‘our Indian culture.’ This is simply a fact that many fail to address or simply choose to ignore!
But as a traveler, a travel blogger and most importantly an Indian, I’d like to say, that no matter what you do there are always two sides to this coin! And the change that is happening, is largely driven by an undercurrent of changing global economy, as well as cultural shift in the paradigm of the world. In light of that, there are some interesting aspects of India, that I’ve found amusing as always, as a traveler. While I’d relate to the thought and reasoning behind these small things, it’s ironic that while you go out there in the world probably imposing endless restrictions upon citizens. Restrictions on matters that are as trivial as what we should eat, what we should watch or many such things. There is a plethora of two faced approach where, in the name of religion anything goes.
Spirituality for us is not significant in the blindness that conquers the rationale of our country, but opens our eyes towards progression and a far larger understanding of what we should be as human beings. As always, religion world over has been an instrument used by people in their quest to power conveniently cite, unless they find value in people who are willing to apostatize their beliefs for their convenience.
To me, travel has certainly broadened my horizon to a greater extent. Travel has given me a perspective that is far wider and different. Especially if you were to compare it to a reason of meaning and belief that exists in your heart. Having said that, there has been the element of tolerance and contempt that conflict my thoughts every time I put on my backpack when I traverse the country.
Every different situation in different regions of the country either inspire me or bring me to a new low that I have probably never imagined. On most trips, I’m either enlightened or completely thrown back into stone age. But no matter what I do, where I go, there is one strong belief that I have which enriches everything about my travel experience. It’s the meandering quest towards a sense of calm and invigorating tryst towards experiencing spirituality despite not knowing the inclination towards it’s religious associations. There are no boundaries when it comes to spirituality especially when you are traversing not just across locations but beliefs that hold true to achieving a greater high, which is far more important than trivial matters of existence.
Travel reaches out to your spiritual roots to find art, imagination, a sense of purpose within history, heritage,nature, food, people, and magical souls that gives you that wider horizon of reality that exists out there in the world. Here are a few pictures that have captured my imagination leaning towards a spiritual belief of a simple admonishing fact that everything aside, Travel is that dose of medicine, that spiritual reality of my existence, that purpose of my life in this world that is constantly exclaiming to crave for more of such experiences across the beautiful country of ours! It is that singular belief, which, when, all said and done reaffirms and assures me that there is still hope…
“Art is the craving of the hungry travelling soul!”
While on my travails, I’m always on the look out for something interesting, something off beat, something that doesn’t come to you often when you walk around in familiar environments! If you are the one with a penchant for newer experiences, you always have that sheer urge of falling in love with a lot more than the surroundings or a gleaming opportunity to see newer places and log them in your diary of an encompassing journey that you’ll leave behind as your own legacy.
Sometimes, I even dare to imagine to look beyond just the ordinary, beyond what is seen or talked about, and many a times, I feel inspired by small joys of travel and the simple things that it teaches you and how it broadens your horizon. I have spoken about this often, maybe not enough, but certainly enough number of times where I have talked about the interesting people I meet on my travels. And being a Wandering Thinker, Pondering Writer that I am, I always wonder, how is it that I get to meet these interesting people or why I bump into them so very often. The answer to that is very simple I believe.
It is because of a connection that we all humans share. No matter what levels or degrees of separation are among us, all of us have a desire to know and connect in some little way or the other. For me, one such thing is Art! Being an aspiring writer, I always try to look for experiences that drive the philosophy of ‘Art imitating life.’ I seek out to look beyond the ordinary, only for that very simplistic, yet resonating belief and feel it is always inherent within most explorers.
One such experience was connecting with the artisans of Khawasa village at Pench, Madhya Pradhesh! While the wildlife was one amazing experience in it’s own, I couldn’t help but forget the beautiful and brief interaction with one of the potters at that village. Tukaram Gonde, who is an ancestral potter and makes his living through crafting one of the best artworks, it is sad, to see very little appreciation as a whole for people in this village. To me, that experience was more than just enriching, it was something that told me a lot about how this trade has become what it has. It is something that we always tend to overlook, while we buy these products for our festivals and daily use maybe, there’s a lot more than just the mold, the earthen flair and the technique that these amazing folks use.
To me, this travel experience gave an insight on a story that is beyond just pottery, art and craft of the trade. It is more than just a story about his life, his words, his family. It is something that he understands as a philosophy as an ingrained belief, as an experience that has transcended upon him in a form of that art. The same art that, maybe his father, his grandfather or forefathers cherished and groomed him for. This story is more about that deep rooted belief in what he did. He had an uncanny smile, a belief that told us how he was the master of his fate and captain of his destiny, in the great words of none other than Madiba.
While the experience wasn’t for many hours or even for that matter, it was something we cherished because of the quality of the craft and the beauty of the handiwork we saw within those minutes and closely observed a level of concentration, ease and amazing tendency to be a professional who doesn’t just work because he has to, but loves what he does. An experience that gave us an insight on how the rugged and unkempt life brought out the true artist within these folks. How, their life, despite it’s simplicity had a complex aura to a brilliant mind of sorts. One that you don’t often get to see in the life that we choose to live in.
Watch the Video of him indulging us with his artwork
Tukaram at his masterful best
Why do I travel you ask? To tell stories that very few have heard I reply! The best part about travel for me is not just the beautiful views I get to see, not the amazing experiences of climbing mountains in the Himalayas or for that matter the most delicious food I eat no matter what corner of the world I am in. To me it’s the singular experience of meeting some of the most beautiful people, who make me challenge the way we live our lives. It is in the question that they ask me subtly, without even hinting at how their life is different than ours. It is in the humility that begs to ask myself a simple yet profound question! What have you done with your life?
And then, I feel great that I have a lifetime ahead of me to go ahead and pursue that goal of whatever it is that I want to without the fear of forgetting the soul purpose of my life. Travel, tell stories, make magic and help more people believe in the mere existence of a world larger than the sort of bubble we live in. All of that isn’t possible without having experiences that broaden our horizon. One such experience was when we recently visited Sikkim.
We were in Sikkim for about 10 days and most of our trip was North Sikkim and a little bit of Gangtok. And interestingly we met a couple of folks who were fellow travelers who recommended an quaint little place a few miles away from the main area of Gangtok, a little far from the local taxi stand of Deorali called Tadong. On the road, right next to the Baker’s Cafe stood a small but submissively enchanting home stay called Tashi Tagey. Not unexpectedly it’s a name taken from Tibetan Buddhism meaning eight lucky signs. Something you’ll find a description of in the Museum next to Do Drul Stupa in Gangktok.
You wouldn’t ordinarily find such warmth in a place that is unusual and unfamiliar considering you’re miles away from your subtle comforts of the place you call home, but this isn’t the first time that I have experienced something like this before. Earlier, when I talked about meeting real people on your journeys, I shared anecdotal references of people who have a certain aura within themselves that the minute you meet them or come across them, you tend to realize that your connection with them is more than a faint memory and something that’ll be etched into your travelogues that you leave behind. Such was our experience at this beautiful little traveler’s abode!
From the time you enter the lobby of this quiet and well furnished home-stay, you realize you’re in good company! A company meant for world travelers! A nice couch, a lounge like feeling with an archive of TIME magazines, a photograph of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama and an adorned wall full of beautiful pictures, paintings and a decor that’ll quickly make you fall in love and fondly so, with this enchanting place. But, wait, that’s just the beginning.
The beautiful couple and our very good friends Dorjee and Nyima are quite the couple and have spent over 30 years serving travelers and being part of helping the community as well as pursuing their own goals and aspirations, that they’re someone who would be truly an inspiration for many souls who wander off and bump into them. We have seen and heard of heaps of compliments because of their wonderful home stay and their impeccable service to all. Nyima aunty, as we call her, is more than just a home stay owner. She has an extensive passion for knitting, painting, gardening and their home stay has a diverse collection of her art. In fact, one travelling couple from Italy have even named their daughter after her. Now, that is nothing short of what we call ‘mighty respect.’
With that I leave you a few memories from our journey of the Kingdom of Paradise, Sikkim and the warm, homely stay at Tashi Tagey, Tadong!
The carelessness of real beauty lies in the imagination of perfection. Such is the breathtaking brilliance of the views you get sometimes in the magical mountains. A minute you’re walking into a fog and the next minute you see a magical snow dwelling peak shining in front of your eyes with the sun giving you a glimpse of his glory. But sometimes, real beauty in the mountains are it’s carefree animals who absolutely have no inkling of what travelers see unto them or the beauty that surrounds them.
It’s the vision of these kinds that makes you walk up to these mountains more often. Sometimes. it’s not just the beautiful peaks, the nature, the landscape or for that matter the weather that you experience. It’s about a beautiful and breathtaking divinity that you visualize within a split second before your shutter could capture that moment. That moment of what you may later on in life realize as an unbound feeling of flawlessness. Something that cannot tether your freedom to express your wilderness, no matter what age you are at. Whenever I travel into the mountains, I always keep an open mind, for I never know what I will literally ‘bump’ into. The bliss of such a feeling is, that it is devoid of any expectations and makes any experience the best experience and sometimes even keeps you wanting more.
And that’s how I felt when I was able to capture this magical moment and delve into my memory of lenses while I had stopped by to have nothing but a bowl full of noodles at the Rohtang Pass! The added element of a surprise capture such as this, just doubled my bowl of happiness!
One of the best things about traveling to a beach, even though I’m not so much a beach person is to absolve myself of all worldly existence and let the waves reach out to my ears and see the horizon across the ocean to drive a beautiful point home.
Other than that of course is the Sand, Solitude and most importantly the Serenity! That is something I must say was a plentiful when we had an opportunity last weekend, a long one I must say to head out to the pristine, clean and virgin beach of Vengurla! Usually, beaches for people in Mumbai mixed with a long weekend always amounts to a trip to Goa and back. Having been there umpteen number of times, this time around we decided to take a short detour, though not that far away from Goa, yet seculded enough to give us our very own version of a ‘Private Beach’ destination at Golven Beach Resort.
Golven – Solituded De Strand is aptly named, with all the solitude you can get especially if you are the kind who likes the view of the beach more than actually passing out on the beach, the sound of the waves more than the whiplash of the stirring ocean. Golven in French means ‘White Sand’, White Sand indeed and How! The sand is truly grained, white and a blessing for your feet when you lay your feet down and sink in the surreal view and the magnificence of the simplicity this place offers you.
One of the best things about this place, besides the quiet and serene nature of the surrounding has to be it’s comfortable and cozy cottages laid meticulously across the landscape so as to provide each and every one of them a really good view to the beach. Other than that of course is what one needs the most. The comfort of a nice bed, clean and minimal interiors and a great balcony to sit, ponder, think and get back to your soul, especially when time is aplenty.
A great blend of good architecture, by an architect from Pondicherry, as I’m told by Mrs. Pandit, the caretaker and owner’s mother shows a contemporary belief in minimal, modern and blend of both good rustic cottage like ambience, coupled with great glass and steel decor with lamp shades, AC and a remote controlled Fan. I must say we were quite impressed especially when we went in first. Not to mention the local ‘Kokam Sharbat’ for a welcome drink. Yep, Konkan has it’s specialties and Golven Resort too. First impressions, were most suitably the best impressions.
Besides the beautiful ambience, the nicely cleared pathways, a garden with beautiful flowers and of course hammocks and bean bags staring into the ocean, you realize that you’ve come home to your vacation. Post freshening up, we decided to head to lunch. And might I add, no Konkan lunch is complete, unless you have the most infamous Kokam Kadi.
If you are the romantic type and want to have a dinner date in the evening, the ambiance picks up really well and gets you in the mood for the perfect dinner!
Other than lazying around and vacationing in style, there are a few things you can do to feel relaxed especially when the sun is down. Taking scooty ride across to a nearby village and find some still water to Kayak towards the ocean was a beautiful experience. The ride to this place was full of greenery and it also rained a bit, something that added to the magic of the weekend trip.
And of course another interesting thing to do, especially if you want to take a hike is to go to the Lighthouse nearby. Walking about 300 steps amidst a few Mimosa Pudica (Touch Me Not) leaves and some really beautiful plantations to come across to a magical view of the expansive ocean, the Vengurla beach and the breezy feel of nothing but some really encapsulating touch to the whole experience.
Special Note: Our trip to Vengurla was possible thanks to the invitation and hospitality extended byGolven Beach Resort. Situated bang in the center of Bagayati or Vengurla beach, Golven Beach Resorts offer 10 self-contained AC cottages with an open-deck restaurant open air conference hall and provision for beach camping since December 2013. Owing its roots to the French, the resort is named as a tribute to the white sand beaches in the area. Our accommodation and food was sponsored by them on this trip. A special mention of their lovely staff for extending their warm hospitality to us.
Some stories are part of legends and some stories are ‘Legendary.’ While I dawn upon a realization that most journeys have that one story, one place, one person, one experience that gets etched into memories of the travelers, there are stories that remind you that there are places that are etched in History and more importantly a passion that is driven by the stories of our past.
One such story was when I took a journey across Rajasthan and Agra about five years ago and stumbled upon this place via Bharatpur en route Agra. While we were on a traveling spree and covering city after city trying to experience the ruggedness and rustic nature of wonderful structures, cultural heritage and beautiful serenity of the magical monuments across India during the World Heritage Week in 2009 we were blinded by the magnanimous structure of the ‘Buland Darwaza’ on the outskirts of Bharatpur in a place called Fatehpur Sikri on our way to Agra.
‘Fateh’ stands for Victory and ‘Buland’ stands for powerful, stentorian and it is not just mere irony that this Indian Monument from the Mughal era was supposed to be built in this place. This Darwaza (gate/door) was constructed by built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 A.D. at Fatehpur Sikri. As we passed across the beautiful and green road structures on our way to reach the Buland Darwaza, as soon as we witnessed the huge structure, it made for an awe inspiring look on our faces only to realize that the structure had more to it. While you approach it closely and realize the marvel of the sculptures and inscriptions on the gate, you realize that this is sheer art created from a marvel back in the 16th Century. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat, there is some folklore which has a lot more to speak about this monument.
Two things that you will only get to know when you go there. There is a Dargah inside the Buland Darwaza outside of which, you’ll find multiple graves of the Salim Chisti Dyansty. Even today his descendants reside within the complex and Dargah area, and whoever dies will be buried within those confines. It was believed that Salim Chisti already lived in the area where the Buland Darwaza stands today.
Before it was built, it was nothing but barren land in the woods where the holy prophet practiced his religion. The Mughal Emperor Akbar, is believed to have consulted him because his wife was unable to give birth to a child. After which, Akbar’s wife gave birth to a baby boy Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim, at Fatehpur Sikri. He is also known by his imperial name Jahangir (30 August 1569 – 8 November 1627), was the fourth Mughal Emperor who ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. And of course, no wonder he was named Salim, after this holy man Salim Chisti.
Another interesting thing about this place is a underground subway, which is now closed, however in those days, it was a direct passageway to Emperror Akbar’s Fort in Agra, now known as the Agra Fort! This was built for a safe passage as well as convenience if ever Akbar wanted to consult with Salim Chisti, who he highly regarded. What marvels of ancient archaeology, I must say.
The entire sight is plain beauty and while you’re there, you must marvel and admire the beauty of the ancient Mughal architecture and of course look around and speak to a few locals who’ll give you some inside stories of this place. And no wonder it’s called Buland Darwaza, for truly it is sheer Magnanimity and Fortitude in its elements!
One of the most amazing destinations in Ladakh is the Pangong Tso Lake. The beauty of this huge multi-colored lake is that 30 percent of the lake is in India while the rest of the seventy percent is layered in China across the border that stretches from there. On our way to Pangong Tso, we encounter the Chang La pass.
It is certainly an enchanting place and something that would come very close to actually riding across Khardung la pass, (the highest motorable road in the world) and Chang La is the third highest. at 5,360 m or 17,590 ft) The name literally means “Pass towards the South” or “Pass in the South” (Chang = south, La = Pass). It is falsely claimed that the pass is named after the supposed sadhu Changla Baba, a myth propagated by the dedication of a temple at the pass to the supposed Changla Baba. If any such sadhu exists or existed, he would have been named for the pass, rather than vice versa (since the name “changla baba” means the “baba of the southern pass”. The small town of Tangste is the nearest settlement. The Changla Pass is the main gateway for the Changthang Plateau situated in the Himalayas. The nomadic tribes of the region are collectively known as the Changpa or Chang-pa.
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
One of the most amazing trips to self discovery are the trips that you take without any rhyme or reason and just keep wandering and walking across the horizon! But once every while comes a trip that you have to take… The aboriginal walk if I may say so… Such trips have a way of shaping themselves within their journeys and make for one of the most enchanting experiences of your life. Some spiritually enlightning, some full of incidents that open your mind to new dimensions and some full of introspective self provocating thoughts that keep you wondering, how far you’ve traveled on this road, a journey that you began years ago and where you are right now.
One such trip I took about six months ago. It was when I decided to celebrate the death anniversary and perform rites of my departed father along the banks of River Ganga in the most revered destinations across the country. The holy land of ganges! While I did that I also had some time to follow my passion for travel and come back with stories of the land of enchanted. My trip started off with Banaras and my first ritual was at Kashi, then at Gaya and finally at Prayaag.
The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals. (Varanasicity.com)
Ganges is said to have its origins in the tresses of Lord Shiva and in Varanasi, it expands to the mighty river that we know of. The city is a center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 km away, Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries. Also a pilgrimage place for Jains, Varanasi is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar.
Some pictures from my journey in Kashi/Banaras:
Next up was the second ritual at Gaya. Gaya is 100 kilometers south of Patna, the capital city of Bihar. Situated on the banks of the Phalgu (or Niranjana, as mentioned in Ramayana), it is a place sanctified by the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Jain religions. It is surrounded by small rocky hills (Mangla-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni) by three sides and the river flowing on the fourth (eastern) side. The city has a mix of natural surroundings, age old buildings and narrow bylanes. Since I was there only for a day or two, we couldn’t explore a lot of it, but we made it a point that Bodh Gaya was visited.
Some pictures from Gaya:
The final stop on this journey was Allahabad, yes the most famous of all! Prayaag and Triveni sangam was the place where we did the final rituals. As enchanting as it may look, it has great facets of its old Hindu and Indian culture that still is integral part of Prayaag. The city’s original name—Prayaga, or “place of sacrifice”—comes from its position at the sacred union of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati. It is the second-oldest city in India and plays a central role in the Hindu scriptures. The city contains many temples and palaces. Allahabad is located on in the southern part of Uttar Pradesh. It is bounded by Pratapgarh in the north, Bhadohi in the east, Rewa in the south and Kaushambi in the west.
Some pictures from Allahabad/Prayaag:
This trip was certainly quite memorable because of the root cause but also overall the journey to the three spiritual destinations across North India was something that gave it a deft touch a touch of a journey unknown and yet beautifully spiralled into something more meaningful.