Tag Archives: Travel

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Enchanting Mysteries of South India

“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 Marina Beach. The warm, humid air in Chennai bore a 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, traveling amongst the locals on 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 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 ambiance to the story it had to showcase. Different from all the other temples in the state, it had a charm on 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

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

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

The 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 a 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 life.

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

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

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

The end of my expedition. Traveling 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

Tawang: Land of the Monpa People

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be off to explore another magnanimous Himalayan destination. Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh.

This destination has been on my list ever since I kindled my love for the rustic parts of the Himalayas! One of the most interesting things about the beauty of these mountains is, no matter how many times one visits the magical paradise, no matter how much time you spend there, you are bound to seek out more. The thirst for exploring wilderness amidst these peeks is never quenched.

It’s not an easy task, mind you, whether you’re trekking the high altitude snow tops or for that matter driving or moving around on the slithery roads of the highest motorable roads in the world the adrenaline rush is one that compounds the thrill of being in the company of enchantment.

That’s what I’m looking out for when my travel partner Feet on the Map and I will head out in a couple of weeks to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh! Thanks to Ride And Climb Adventure, we’re hoping to get an experience of a lifetime.

From what I’ve heard so far, Tawang certainly seems to be one of the popular yet less explored and so called off-beat locations! One where you’d ideally visit ‘luxuriously’ with whatever little luxury you can afford in such high altitudinal locations.

Not that you don’t get material comfort, but I never was the one that seeks that, Tawang is a land known for it’s Tibetian heritage, Buddhist monasteries and of course the beautiful lakes and majestic mountains!

Tawang was historically part of Tibet inhabited by the Monpa people. The Tawang Monastery was founded by the Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, and has an interesting legend surrounding its name, which means “Chosen by Horse”.

The sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, was born in Tawang. In fact, when the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet to escape from Chinese army, he crossed into India in 1959 and spent some days at the Tawang Monastery before reaching Tezpur in Assam… I realized this when I’d watched a beautiful movie called Kundun on His Holiness!

A good destination like this must have a great itinerary and interesting places to visit. While we’d be visiting most places, and be off the grid for a whole week. While there are plenty a places that we’ll visit and pass through, I’ve already made up my mind on what places are going to entice me spiritually and of course scratch the traveler’s itch within me.

Tawang Monastery: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of the Gelugpa sect – constructed in 1681. It was the birth place of the celebrated 6th Dalai Lama, and is home to more than 500 lamas.

Travel blogger india, srinistuf, Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang Monastery

Bum La: The Bum La Pass is located about 37 km away from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, at the Indo-China border above 16,500 ft above sea level. This is an old traders road went from Tawang via Milakatong La Pass (La in Tibetan is pass) to Bum La Pass and finally to Tsona Dzong in Tibet province of China. This area is heavily guarded by Indian Army and one need to obtain Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit this place. PAP can easily be obtained with the help of travel agents in Tawang.

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Indo-China border at the Bumla Pass

P.T.Tso Lake: This lake is situated above Tawang and is frozen for about 4-5 months of a year. One can hire a local vehicle and go to this lake. The lake itself is splendid as well as the views from the lake are also unbelievable.

Nuranang Falls: About 100 metres high, these falls are located in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, India. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in this part of the country, yet is unknown to many travelers. It lies some 2 kilometres away from the town of Jang on the road connecting Tawang and Bomdila, so it is also known as the Jang Falls. There is a small hydel plant located near the base that generates electricity for local use. The Nuranang river originates from the Northern slopes of the Sela Pass. Just below the waterfall it falls into the Tawang river.

Jang Falls, Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang

Bomdila Monastery: And of course on our way back to Guwahati, the visit to Bomdila monastery is a must. A home to Buddhist Lamas and monks at Bomdila in the west Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. The colorful land of Bomdila, which lies amidst the graceful Himalayan ranges at a height of 8500 feet above the sea level, is the headquarter of the western Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The small and beautiful land of Bomdila is an attractive destination for the tourists from all across the globe, who come here to get themselves pampered by the mother nature and have a closer look of Indian culture, Buddhist tradition and hospitable locales of the north eastern India. An ideal place for trekking, the land of Bomdila and its culture is under a strong Tibetan cultural and traditional influence, and therefore, also nests many Gompas or monasteries.

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Now begins the 2 week wait and hopefully ends in an eagerly awaiting trip to the land of the Monpa People! And of course, once the journey’s over, hopefully I’ll have many a stories to tell…

A trip down the memory lanes of Rajasthan

The land of the Kings! Certainly an enchanting aura that it carries, Rajasthan has always titillated my soul and senses and the one time I have been to this place, very early in my life as a travel blogger or as a wanderer, I’ve enjoyed the range of diversities and ethnicity of culture, craziness and beauty of the deserts and landscapes that take your breath away.

Throughout my week long escapade in the beautiful state of Rajasthan, I admired it not just for its true heritage and flamboyant art encompassed among the roots of its people, palaces and food, but also for the feeling it gave me of a rustic but divine revelation of sorts. Every different city that I explored had a native yet interesting niche that made it a tad different from every other city within the state. The museums, the forts and the cultural expose that I saw, made me believe in a grand heritage that actually told a lot of stories.

Be it the journey from Udaipur to Ajmer in a rugged jeep with locals staring at you with their sense of warmth and helping other locals out like the story of Bindaas Baaji, or be it the long stretches of just nothing but marble quarries on the road the roads told a story that no other could. Even the mile markers had their fascinating bits to add to the spice of the journey. Be it exploring the different admirable aspects of Jain architecture in Jaisalmer Fort or enjoying a chilled beer in the desert after a camel ride there was a stark contrast to every little thing we did in our travels across the state of Rajasthan. The amazing food we ate every evening at a different place, the warm milk and hot jalebis in a chilling weather in Japiur or the Rajasthani thali we hogged in Udaipur or the Parathas we ate outside Udaipur Palace, every memory is still etched in my mind till date. The ride to Pushkar encompassing the mountainous travails still remind me of the ride in the local bus. The beautiful sight of vintage cars in the Mueseum in Udaipur and how can I forget the huge and beautiful architecture of the Hawa Mahal! Not to mention the impulse that we carried at every step of the way, so much so that we managed to ditch a bus to Jaislmer and take a detour towards Ajmer, or extend the trip into Agra and back, every little incident was trivial and at the same time memorable till date.

Baaji

Baaji

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Into the Jaisalmer Desert

Into the Jaisalmer Desert

Vintage Car Mueseum: Udaipur

Vintage Car Mueseum: Udaipur

This probably carries a lot of significance in terms of the way I decided to travel across the country, the rugged trip across 7 cities in 6 days, the camel rides, the cycle rickshaws, the autos the desert the sleeping at night in buses and exploring cities during the day probably added to the beauty of the journey across Rajasthan. The almost getting beaten up in a fight that was not ours to get into, the almost getting ripped off by an auto driver, the street food and the drinking of beer in every city kind of made the journey as rugged as possible. This trip had an essence to itself, which denotes a lot of the style of travel I’ve adopted over a period of time. A style that gives me a reproach in terms of the freedom I need to feel when I wake up in a different city across the country, probably telling me that my wandering feet are free to choose their calling and all they need is a fresh smell of the road and the path that is available for the taking. Something that told me right at the beginning of my journey across various destinations that I was yet to take… Rajasthan will most certainly be one of those destinations and most certainly on my list to go to once every while…

The Old Kingdom of Kullu

“A window into the reflection of life, inside my soul lies a deep yearning to climb the peak up above the snow clad mountains of Himalayas! A time will come when I look at that mirror, where I don’t see the reflection at all for I’ll be one with these mountains of glory!”

As we drove past the mountainous reigons of Himachal Pradesh, while most of the mountains, look dry and surrounded by a cold yearning in the beginning of summer, elsewhere in India, it was a pleasant 1-5 degrees centigrades in this quaint little village of Kullu. About 20 odd kms from Manali and the same from Kullu, Naggar, Himachal Pradesh is the quiet little place you would want to visit and if your intention is to just sway away from the crowded places, especially if it’s a long weekend, this is quite the place to be at. It was the capital of Kullu Rajas in 1460! Hence the old kingdom of Kullu, as pointed out by one of my commenters on my previous blog as well. 

Amidst breathtaking forested hills, the Naggar Castle is a magnificent historical edifice. Made of stone and wood, this palace served as the residence of Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu. It was built in AD 1460 in an impressive amalgamation of European and Himalayan architecture. Fireplaces, fitting staircases, and magnificent stone and wood works grace the castle’s interiors.

Here’s some breathtaking pictures from this beautiful place which you can call home, especially if you are in love with the mountains!

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Naggar, Himachal Pradesh, India, Travel Blogger, srinistuff, Srinivas Kulkarni, Himalayan Blogger, Travel Blogger India

Hello Himalayas! Let’s meet again…

It’s been a long wait… And the moment has finally arrived!

After working hard for the last couple of months, especially over almost all the weekends or Saturdays to say the least, this next long weekend is going to be a  much needed break traveling to my favourite destination in the world, eighth year in a row!

While most trips to the mountains are either an escapade across the longwinded journeys of durations beyond 10 days, sometimes, long weekends give that amazing opportunities to just take a glance at the love of your life, give a peck and come back to return to your hustle and bustle of the city life!

Considering the next week is one such long weekend, we thought it would be a great time to say hello to the mountains, spend a few days in the mountains and enjoy the breathtaking views of the snowcapped Himalayas.

This time, we’re off to Naggar, a quaint little village, about 20 odd kilometers from both Kullu and Manali. Considering, it’s also just about the right time where the weather in and around Himachal Pradesh would be pleasant to cold, it’s certainly a good idea to spend some time in here. While, Manali is like a pitstop to most travelers heading to the beautiful locations of either Leh-Ladakh, Spiti Valley or many other sought after destinations in the Northern Himalayas, this village-town was a great find, especially because it’s a little off-beat and also would give us some time to explore Manikaran, which maybe  a little touristy, but right around this time of the year, all the  more beautiful.

So, yeah, come this next week, the plan is to kind of unplug, unwind and settle down with some reading, conversations with friends and pondering over into oblivion while gazing at the snowcapped mountains, spreading grandeur across our lives.

Naggar is a settlement in Kullu district, Himachal Pradesh, India, and it usually falls as a stopover, but is also a great destination because most treks, such as Chandrakheni, Rumsu. Back in the day it was the capital of Kullu Rajas in 1460, the name derived from ‘The Learned Man’

Apart from of course chilling out in Naggar, there are quite a few places, mostly temples which you can visit if you’re interested like Gauri Shankar Temple, Tripura Sundari temple, etc. But a couple of places that are interesting to me are

The Castle, Naggar

Castle Naggar

The Castle in Naggar is of a medieval structure and considered as a prominent tourist spot found nearby Manali. It was constructed in 1460 A.D. by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu. The castle is of an architecture that is a blend of western and Himalayan style. The castle is strategically located near Beas River and provides 360o view of the surroundings.

The castle houses the Reorich Gallery that exhibits the painting of the well known Russian painter, Nicholas Reorich. Constructed with a blend of stone and wood, the mansion was once the home of the Raja, but was rehabilitated to a rest house in the year 1978.

Naggar Castle was converted into a heritage hotel by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation that took the charge in late 70’s. This castle turned hotel, offers complete view of Kullu Valley. The castle was constructed of wood and medieval stone with traditional architecture. (Courtesy: Holidayiq.com)

The Roerich Art gallery

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This is a place which is beautifully maintained.A small cottage where the. Ground floor is dedicated for the paintings and the first. Floor displays rooms with the furniture used by the Roerich’s. Takes you back to the old world charm. This place is a must For art and history lovers.

Dagpo Shedrupling Monastery

Dagpo Shedrupling Monastery

This recent addition to the list of attractions in Naggar, was built in 2005 and is home not only to Spirituality and Buddhism but also some of the most breathtaking views and backdrops of the area. The monastery is dedicated to Dalai Lama. (Source: Holidify.com)

Gauri Shankar Temple

Gauri Shankar Temple

This temple, located just below The Castle, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is an important religious center of the town. The historical temple was built in the 11th century and is said to be the last structure of the Gurjara-Pratihara traditions. (Source: Holidify.com)

And of course, if time permits,

Bijli Mahadev near Kullu.

Bijli Mahadev

A good ride for off road seekers and as well trekkers because the way from Naggar to Bijali Mahadev temple leads through cedar, pine forest and goes through top of the ridge of Pirpanjal range. Once you reach in the temple you can have a 360 degree panoramic view of Kullu and Parvati valley.

Hope this turns out to be a really interesting trip!

Mountains, they’re always, always calling…

  • Every time I look around the corner there’s a new horizon,

  • Every time I look at a peak, my eyes widen!

  • The hope the feeling of surrealism that lasts beyond words we can’t express…

  • One that takes you away, Beyond all that entangled stress!

  • Hope, Dreams, Paradise beyond enchantment!

  • A breath a mile, as we climb this ascent!

Journey to the mountains is always a belief! A belief beyond a shadow of an underdog’s achievement towards glory! A hope, a dream and an experience that we take upon ourselves to feel that exhilarating madness that you derive after you climb the peak and reach the top!

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Snowcapped mountains at Har Ki Dun

Just around this time of the year, I have a strong urge to go back to  these magical, mystical divine creation of nature! A feeling that I cannot, and I do not want to resist as much as I want to! While I took to trekking in the Himalayas about 6 years ago and have been continuing to visit these mountains every year, whether I trek or not, it just feels like yesterday!

Every year, for that little glance, a beautiful peek at the sunrise beyond the mountain or the sunset hovering across the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas, gives me that sense of fulfilment. One that I cannot express in mere words! It’s as if there is another universe in itself and I’m tangled in this undying bond, a delirious and encapsulating feeling of boyhood, a desire to keep playing with a toy!

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Live like a nomad by the rocks, or by the river…

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Magnificence Unexplored!

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Keep your head down and keep walking…

Mountains mean a lot to many, and every one has their story or their connection with the Himalayas! I have many and hope to have some more, each and every year, until I finally decide to be with them forever…

Until then, I’ll keep my head high, hopes to fly and soar by every time they call upon me to pay a visit! Hopefully sometime soon again…

Of Art, madness and magnificent views

“Nothing is art if it does not come from nature.” – Antoni Gaudí

One of the best things about visiting Barcelona is to be able too see the beauty of the maestro, an artist who is far beyond your extraordinary. Well if you ask me, Barcelona is Gaudí, Gaudí is Barcelona.  Yes, I’m talking about the master architect Antoni Gaudí of the early 20th century who shaped the city with his marvels. Not just his most famous century old work which’ll finish hopefully by the end of this decade, the La Sagardia Familia, but a lot more than that. The sheer marvel of visiting various places in Barcelona to view magnificence of Antoni Gaudí is a fortune that many should seize!

On our visit to Europe and Barcelona, after Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery, I think what caught my eye was Catalan Modernism artworks across the city by this amazing artist. If you intend to visit Barcelona, and have the sailing or seas on your mind, then do take some time out to visit some of the most spectacular works by this master artist.

One such experience is Park Guelle! A must visit if you’re in Barcelona.

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All the work of art right from the windmill to the steps to the alligator statue on your way up to the Park Guell terrace, you’d realise the spectacular cuts, the design the beauty of the elements of architecture including colours are inspired by nature, true to his style.

Park Güell is the reflection of Gaudí’s artistic plenitude, which belongs to his naturalist phase (first decade of the 20th century). During this period, the architect perfected his personal style through inspiration from organic shapes. He put into practice a series of new structural solutions rooted in the analysis of geometry.

To that, the Catalan artist adds creative liberty and an imaginative, ornamental creation. Starting from a sort of baroquism, his works acquire a structural richness of forms and volumes, free of the rational rigidity or any sort of classic premisses. In the design of Park Güell, Gaudí unleashed all his architectonic genius and put to practice much of his innovative structural solutions that would become the symbol of his organic style and that would culminate in the creation of the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family!

Some magical moments of this artistic creation, captured in a lens of time! One that I wouldn’t hesitate to re-visit again!

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