Tag Archives: South India

Fragrance of Culture in Kochi

Fort Kochi - Chinese Fishing Nets

Fort Kochi – Chinese Fishing Nets

While Kerala is infamously popular for its backwaters and magnanimously known for being GOD’s Own Country, there are many other facets that describe the beauty of Kerala. One such part of the state that adds a spice of it’s own to this beautiful God’s own country is Ft. Kochi. Kochi was a fishing village in the Kingdom of Kochi in the pre-colonial Kerala, has a mix of old houses built by the Portuguese, Dutch and British in these colonial periods line the streets of Fort Kochi. St Francis Church was built in 1503 by the Portuguese as a Catholic church. 

An Ancient building in Ft. Kochi

An Ancient building in Ft. Kochi

One of the first things you’ll notice when you set foot off the boat, that arrives from Marine drive is the fragrance of the spices. Since early days Arabian and Chinese traders sourced spices, especially pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, sandal wood etc. from the Kochi region. Even today, it is hugely important for it’s spices. But other than that, from a traveler’s point of view there are far more interesting things that you’d love to take a look at.

In fact, Ft. Kochi is a place that’s far more different than any other places in Kerala. Much different from the beautiful, landscape full of trees and water, different from the valley of coffee plantations, certainly a sight far closer to the beaches of Kovalam, and yet has a distinctive look and feel about it that you can’t really spot a place like it elsewhere in Kerala.

Oldest Jewish Synagogue lies in India at Fort Kochi - Pardesi Synagogue

Oldest Jewish Synagogue lies in India at Fort Kochi – Pardesi Synagogue

St. Francis Church - Ft. Kochi

St. Francis Church – Ft. Kochi

A Hindu Temple on Dutch Street in Ft. Kochi

A Hindu Temple on Dutch Street in Ft. Kochi

The ancient, historic confluence of the Church as well as the Jewish Synagogues,  a Hindu temple on Dutch street and the Chinese Fishing nets will mesmerize you while the sun sets across the shores and the most beautiful roadside stalls on Jew Street offer a cultural expose that even the Merchants of Venice would have been envious of.

Jew Street

Jew Street

Sunset at Fort Kochi

Sunset at Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi has a thing of it’s own to offer to most travelers. You have got to experience it in a way that you’ll never experience any other place across India. And while you’re at it, you must breathe in the synchronicity of rich heritage and various cultures that still forms part of this magnificent country that I’d like to call India!

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Is India a good travel destination?

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.’

You can also check out my Travel Blogs to give you some idea of what places to visit across India Travel Tales… (srinistuff.com) & Tumblelog Travelogue (tumblr.com)

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

Krishna Temple

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

View Answer on Quora

What are the must-see travel destinations in India?

Answer by Srinivas Kulkarni:

India is one of the richest places to travel to when it comes to culture, people, places and beautiful landscapes. There is a rich heritage and culture with diversity across various geographical and social plains in India. I’m a travel blogger  blogging about my Travel Tales… (srinistuff.com) while I’ve been travelling across the country for over five years now and have tried to cover a lot of destinations across the vast geographical plains of India. No matter how much I traverse across the various different parts of the country I feel there’s a lot more to see. With the exception of North East, Jammu & Kashmir, some parts of MP and Gujarat I’ve traveled to a lot of other parts including the famous Himalayas! Here are some of my favorite locations that are must see and one must visit for sure…. These are the places I’ve visited and of the lot, these are my favorite in no particular order 🙂

Trek towards Valley of Flowers and  Hemkund Saheb (Glacier may not be always there…)

The actual Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand HImalayas

Camp in the tents near Keylong

Paragliding in the Solang Valley

Rohtang Pass enroute Manali

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

Krishna Temple

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

View Answer on Quora

Enchanting South India – A route to rediscovery

“To traverse beyond the limitations of my mind, I travel to look upon the journey within myself.” With these thoughts, I set off on an adventure of a lifetime. A voyage to the mysterious beauties that unravel the most amazing parts of my country. A travelogue to capture the ‘Incredible India’ down South.

My visit to Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala had begun. I had heard from my friends, people didn’t speak anything else but their local languages out there. That made me equally foreign to these lands as anyone else who came from any other country.  To me, this was a challenge, and a trip that would be monumental after I had completed it. With solitude on my side I had decided to explore over 17 superb locations in 15 days. Most importantly, I was going to discover the beautiful culture South India had to offer and document each and every location as a journal on my blog. With a Vernian, inspiration l had to ensure this journey went  down in my books as the best one!

It all started with Chennai. From my helpful twitter friends to the conductors and everyone else warmly responding to my requests, helping me out wherever I went in little or broken English they spoke in. Yet always willfully extending their support without any intent but to help me out. With a sultry atmosphere, one I hadn’t anticipated, I started my journey by heading off to the Marina Beach. The warm, humid air in Chennai bore resemblance to the weather that I was used to during the summers in Mumbai. But, in winter, this humidity came to me as a surprise particularly when it was about 20-22 degrees centigrade back home… Nonetheless my objective was to start off with a beautiful array of sunrise shots to tell a story of this marvel in Chennai! The experience of going to Marina beach, travelling amongst the locals in the train was something I could relate to. Very similar to our Mumbai Locals… Gave me content in the fact that our cities, despite the cultural difference, had a lot in common.

The Marina Beach, Chennai

The Marina Beach, Chennai

Rest of Tamil Nadu was a quest for my spiritual journey across the fortresses and temples of the most majestic kinds in the country! From a  mysterious yet wonderful experience in Kancheepuram, to  satisfying and peaceful tryst with Lord Shiva in Thrichy, every temple had a story of its own. The most appealing temple was of course Thanjavur, unique in its own way and its rustic feel gave a  nice ambience to the story it had to showcase. Different from all the other temples in the state, it had a charm in its own. Ruled by various dynasties from the Cholas to the Nayakas and the Marathas, it gave a completely versatile feel to itself. The grandeur it had was read between the brightness it shone despite the sun setting down upon its face.  Abode to one of the biggest Nandi Statues, the  Brihadeeswara Temple was  an enchanting destination.

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Then there was Rameshwaram. The same island where existed the famous temple of Lord Rama, the mighty king from Ramayana. This was the same location where an army of millions of apes (vanar-sena) built a bridge made out of floating stones engraved with Lord Rama’s name itself. This bridge built to take the army across the borders of India to the Golden empire of Lanka and wage an epic battle of great proportions upon the demons of this kingdom.

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Something you can’t forget in Hindu mythology. A battle that spoke to us of the triumph of good over evil! A battle that till today is considered as a conquest of moral right over plain wrong. It was quite  an experience, one that I would never forget.

While Tamil Nadu has its own share of spirituality I also enjoyed the beauty, nature and wildlife at the most amazing waterfalls ever… I sat in a small canoe or sort of a paddle boat to take the streams of Hogennakalu Waterfalls. A noteworthy place with  perennially flowing streams of waterfalls. Off the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, one can easily reach this place from Salem by bus and literally take a boat towards the Karnataka border on the disputed Cauvery river. With an aquarium and a crocodile rehabilitation center to its attraction, this place certainly is thronged by children, youngsters and elders alike.

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Finally Tamil Nadu ended with a short visit to the mystical land of Kanyakumari, popularly known for Triveni Sangam, meeting point of the three oceans that surround the peninsular region of our Incredible India. One that envisages the true feeling of being in touch with the spiritual side of yourself. Known for The Swami Vivekananda memorial rock . A place where the great leader attained enlightenment of sort and  found bliss within himself. Visiting the most beautiful temples in our country to being  overwhelmed by a sense of spirituality my journey across the state of Tamil Nadu truly gave me an understanding of oneness to myself.

Tamil Nadu certainly took a lot of my time and energy due to constant traveling in state transport buses in this rugged sojourn of mine. Whereas, my stay in Pondicherry was one of great relaxation and unwind. A visit that made me realize how time stood still and made me feel like a recluse of sorts in a land of the unknown.

Pondicherry Beach

Pondicherry Beach

Highlight of Pondicherry was tasting delicious food of various cultures dished out at the most amazing restaurants in town. From Chettinad food at the Apache Restaurant to french delicacies at the Le Café, Pondicherry was all about living life with the luxury similar to the tastes of most of the Europeans around. Spending three magical days exploring various parts of Pondicherry on a rented motorbike, places like the French Colony, the museum, Auroville and a lot of shopping streets across various parts of the town gave me the feeling of belongingness to that place. Sipping beer at the beach restaurant at night, listening to the roaring waves in a calm that gave most frenzied thoughts a form of tranquil made me realize what we miss in our caught-in-a-rut kind of a life.

Chettinad Food at Apache

Chettinad Food at Apache

Lastly, being in Kerala, God’s own country was like being in heaven itself. A boat ride in the backwaters of Kerala got me close to nature and  made me believe in what their lifestyle stood for… Very quiet, peaceful and serene… The melodious sound of birds chirping in the background and a real feeling of standstill, told me a lot about how people  loved and lived life in this paradise.

Kerala Backwaters

Kerala Backwaters

One of the most memorable trips within Kerala would be my infamous boat ride from Kottayam to Alaphuzza. It’s listed as one of the recommended things to do by Lonely Planet Magazine. From the start it was memorable especially after gorging on the sumptuous Malabari Parota with Kadala Curry.

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

What a way to start off a journey across the Venice of Kerala. Going to Venice has always been my dream… Until I get there, I have to make do with this one! A notable thing we did on our way back was to stop by at the very famous RBLOCK Island. We ate some  good food and had local coconut palm beer, also known as Toddy… This Island was manmade by over 5000 villagers led by Mr. Baker. This was done in order to get more land to cultivate Paddy… A fantastic place for you to take  a pitstop and eat some  delicious food.

Lastly, I couldn’t ask for anything better than finishing my trip with a visit to Fort Kochi, a place that will be etched in my memories for its diversity and remarkable beauty, especially with its blend of cultures and religions. The Jew Street and the Paradesi Jewish Synagogue… gave me a mesmerizing  feel of being in a place of some rarity. You will  find a very different setting out here and experience a different feeling while walking on this street. The Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. Then there are the Chinese Fishing Nets, with magnificent fixed installations for an unusual form of fishing makes for  great photographs.

Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets

The end of my expedition. Travelling around, wandering like a nomad for 15 days. A feeling of bittersweet, told me that my journey was over, just like the setting sun when I left Fort Kochi. Indeed at the end of that 15th day I felt like Phileas Fogg, whose surmounting adventure had successfully come to a fulfilling end. One that I will cherish forever until I come back to soak it in yet again…

P.S This is my writing sample to Glimpse‘s ‘Correspondent Program for Fall 2011‘, Also the shortened version of it is my submission to WorldNomads Travel Writing Scholarship for 2011 which can be read here

© Copyright 2011 Srinivas Kulkarni. All rights reserved

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Murudeshwara – Lord Shiva’s Magnificence at it’s best…

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.

Sunrise at Murdeshwar Railway Station

Sunrise at Murdeshwar Railway Station

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 😉

A fascinating game played in the village

A fascinating game played in the village

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.

Murdeshwar Beach's Serenity

Murdeshwar Beach’s Serenity

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…

The Royal Entrance to the Temple -  Rajgopuram

The Royal Entrance to the Temple – Rajgopuram

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.

Lord Shiva's Statue as seen from the Temple Gopuram

Lord Shiva’s Statue as seen from the Temple Gopuram

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.

Lord Shiva's Statue at the base of the temple

Lord Shiva’s Statue at the base of the temple

The Story of Murudeshwara

Ravana's Mother worshipping Shiva's Linga

Ravana’s Mother worshipping Shiva’s Linga

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 Promising his Mother

Ravana Promising his Mother

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

Ravana Praying to Lord Shiva

Ravana Praying to Lord Shiva

Narada goes to Vishnu

Narada goes to Vishnu

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.

Ravana asks for Parvati

Ravana asks for Parvati

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.

Narada talking to Ravana

Narada talking to Ravana

So Ravana frees his companion,goes to Pathala and marries a king’s daughter ,assuming her to be the real Parvathi.

Ravana marrying the King's Daughter

Ravana marrying the King’s Daughter

Ravana's mom asks for the Linga

Ravana’s mom asks for the Linga

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.

Ravana Prays for Forgiveness

Ravana Prays for Forgiveness

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.

Ravana cutting his heads as sacrifice

Ravana cutting his heads as sacrifice

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.

Narada approaches Lord Ganesha

‘ Narada approaches Lord Ganesha

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.

Ravana giving the Atma Linga to the Bramhin Boy

Ravana giving the Atma Linga to the Bramhin Boy

Ganesha places the Atma Linga on the ground

Ganesha places the Atma Linga 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.

Enraged he hit the Bramhin boy (Ganesha)

Enraged he hit the Bramhin boy (Ganesha)

Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again.  Ravana, realising that he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy it.

Ravana uprooting the Atma Linga

Ravana uprooting the Atma Linga

Pieces of the Linga

Pieces of the Linga

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.

God works in Mysterious ways… Kancheepuram tales

So, after the Marina beach was done with, I had decided to go to Kancheepuram! Then I saw a couple of tweets one from @BwahahaO_o and @Shradzberry that I must visit Mahabalipuram and it’s something that I should not miss.  So I had my lunch and I was almost set to head to Mahabalipuram. I asked around and they said, you can go to Mahabalipuram via Broadway or Koyembedu. These are the two hubs where you get buses to most places. I must say up until now, the transportation in Tamil Nadu has really impressed me. Incidentally, Tamil Nadu has the 3rd best commutes in the world. Wow!! So, anyways, I was all set to head to Mahabalipuram and probably do Kancheepuram later, maybe the next day.

 

So anyways, I get this call from @BwahahaO_o earlier @WhatdBeep earlier @Oyebehendetakke aka Shreyans Deora aka Skid and God alone knows how many more names he has :P. He says, he’ll try to arrange for a car and we both can go to Kancheepuram or Mahabalipuram… or both… So he speaks to his dad, his dad tried to hook us up with someone in the temple so that we don’t have to stand in a huge queue etc etc.. So after going back and forth about what we should do… and spending almost an hour of conversation with @BwahahaO_o and his dad over the phone, we finally decide to do Kancheepuram and leave Mahabalipuram for the next day…

Clicked by @BwahahaO_o

Ok, now, from 1:00 PM, it’s 2:oo PM, @BwahahaO_o says he’ll meet me at Chennai central in half an hour… I wait for him, looking around and wondering what to do, besides tweeting of course… I keep observing people on a warm Sunday. Chennai central is buzzing at this time. Auto drivers haggling people to come sit in their auto, and people nodding their head choosing to walk the other way.

 

So I’m waiting… It’s 2:30 PM, I call him up and he says, he’d be there in 5-10 minutes… time flies by and it’s 3:30 PM and still no sign of @BwahahaO_o I tweet out to him @BwahahaO_o:  Dude..WTH are you?? I wud have reached Mahabalipuram by now #SriniOnTour

 

After a long wait, I decide to head to Mahabalipuram myself… at least I could reacht there before sunset and get great pics… I take a bus to broadway which by the way costs just Rs. 2.  I don’t know anywhere else a ticket would cost that much.  So I’m on the bus, off to Broadway and then to Mahabalipuram… guess what @BwahahaO_o calls me up.

“Where are you dude?”

“Headed to broadway… You didn’t come, so I thought of going to Mahabalipuram”

“Oh, So what do we do?, I’ve been to Mahabalipuram many times.. don’t want to go there…”

So then we figure it out and decide to meet at Koyembedu… and after an hour of going back and forth… we finally meet. It’s almost 4:00 PM and the journey to Kancheepuram is about 1.5 hours… As we head off, @BwahahaO_o apologizes to me and says, Sorry man, it got so late… looks like we won’t get good pics of the sunset. I just tell him “Everything happens for a reason buddy…Wait and Watch”

 

Kancheepuram Arrived

 

So as soon as we arrive at Kancheepuram, the first thing I wanna do is to (EAT) I’m really hungry and that is the only thing that seemed most logical at that point, of course, visiting the temples was on the agenda… So anyways, for the first time I get to have Idiappayam Kuruma, very delicious vegetables and appayam made out of rice paste. Really delicious!

 

“Everything happens for a reason..” Well now we know why… It was a huge celebration and Sankalp in the temple… There were prayers, mantras and japas going on (recitals) We realize that the lord of the temple is being worshipped and he will be taken on a procession in a chariot… A golden chariot which is glaring in front of us, beautifully lit at night… I look around, ask if it’s okay to take photos of the chariot!!! I get a go ahead from a swamiji (priest)  nearby.

 

So, I’m all set to take some really nice pictures and… suddenly, the trumpets, the dhols and the tablas start blowing… There is a huge c crowd all of a sudden.. that starts flocking the chariot. Everyone starts taking pictures as the Kamakshi goddess has arrived… They get her statue outside and mount her on the chariot.. The procession has begun… I’m awed by the aura of the chariot and he beautiful colors they have on the goddess…

 

As I’m taking a few snaps with my Canon 1000D DSLR camera, I see the head preist waving to me… I first think that  he’s forbidding me to take pictures… then I see him smiling… and he’s calling me out. I got a little confused, maybe he wants to know something and then suddenly, it strikes me.. amongst everyone else who’s shooting with their mobile cameras, digicams, I’m the only one with a professional camera around. So he calls me up and asks me to take a few pictures of his guest besides the chariot and shoot a few pictures of the procession itself. He requests me to email it to him.. Yes email, I see the email ID as he hands me the card. (I say to myself, wonder if he’s on facebook… it would be easier for him to take those pictures then :P) Anyways, I tell him I will and I’m about to head to the queue to take darshan…when he asks me.

 

“Have you taken the Darshan?” (Have you visited the temple?)

“No, not yet sir, just going”

“How many of you are there?”

“Two”

“Come, I’ll arrange for someone to take you inside…”

“Everything happens for a reason…”

 

What do you think about the whole incident??

 

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The journey begins… #SriniOnTour

All my bags are packed

I’m ready to go…

Standing here outside your door…

Finally, the day is here… The day that I have been so meticulously planning for! I mean, come to think of it, I have never been so organized and well planned on any of the trips… Yet, #SriniOnTour has always been about those amazingly impromptu trips that have been taken… So ya, this time around, there has been a little planning into this one. And why wouldn’t I?? Afterall, it’s going to be something different… than the ones that I’ve already done before. Before I begin, I’d like to give my thanks to @debLPMAG from Lonely Planet, India, @travelwell_in and the entire team for helping me with the nice badge you see up there 🙂 and of course featuring my blog on their website.  http://travelwell.in 🙂 Thanks guys… We are onto something 🙂

 

Live Blogging this trip is something I’m really geared up for. Taking great photos… Blogging, tweeting, twitpicing, facebooking and all that… 😛 A blogumentary, my first… Let’s see where this is headed… Quite a vacation I must say.. (P.S Those who didn’t know, this is my vacation 🙂 Refer: WorkaholicTravel Junkie

 

So what does one pack for such an extensive trip?? After two hours of carefully making sure everything on my checklist has been stuffed into that goozy backpack of mine, I’m hoping that I have the strength and energy to carry it around for 15 days! I mean, that looks small, but it is certainly not a mean feat to carry it around on this hop-skip and jump kind of an adventure!!!

 

Having said that, here’s how my departure looks like. I’m going to take a bus to Bangalore… Leave Mumbai (Chembur) at 6:00 PM and hoping that I reach Bangalore by 2 PM latest by 3 PM. Hoping to catch up with the #FordFigoTour man… @dhempe if he’s free and most importantly if we get time…

 

I’ve calculated it as much… I think if all goes smoothly, I should reach well within time to get my train to Chennai. But If my bus doesn’t reach  Bangalore before 4.25 PM on Christmas, then I’m doomed for sure…:P Well, I have to catch the Chennai Express/Mail that leaves Bangalore by that time…  You never know, what might come my way… that’s the best part about these kind of adventure trips… Just go with the flow and hope all falls into place…

 

So what are the bets like?? Will I reach Bangalore on Time(16.25 PM on 25th Dec) to catch my Chennai train??  If not, what options do I have?

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