Ramblings of a lonely girl - Days spent in tiny village in Uttarkashi


By Priyanka Das


“Aapka gaon bahut sundar hai...” I said smiling.
 (Your village is very beautiful)

“Hai na? wohi toh.. Pata nahi aap sheher wale kaise rehte ho? Humko toh soch ke hi ajeeb lagta hai ki roz ganga maa ke darshan nahi honge!” she said.
(Yes, how do you city people live? The thought of not seeing Mother Ganga every day is so uncomforting!)


 Between the gasping for breath and trying to find my foothold, I braved a glance at the old wrinkled face of the lady sprinting and hopping across boulders making her way through the lush fields flaunting its abundant harvest of soybean and paddy. The turbulent Ganges flowed beneath us, roaring, marking its territory. But there was no turbulence on this lady’s face. It was calm. It was happy.
I had just met her that morning in the little village of Siror on the banks of Ganges and she had offered to take me uphill to see her fields. This little unassuming village was to be my home for 30 days.
As we stopped for breath, overlooking the gorgeous landscape dotted with clear white waterfalls, I thought of the sequence of events that had led me to this spot.

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Very often in our lives we take a quick decision that changes the entire course of life. Taking a solo trip to Uttarkashi was one of them. When I boarded my train from Delhi railway station after saying goodbye to my friend, for the first time it dawned on me that I was going to undertake this 12 hour train journey followed by a 6 hour bus ride all on my own... I was going to be Alone.

My mind was filled with apprehensions and possibilities seeded by endless stories of crime shown on TV. I spent the entire train journey clinging on to my bag eyeing every passenger in the train with suspicion and as a potential rapist. Then  I spent another 6 hours on a rickety bus, making its way through narrow foggy roads occasionally flying through tiny water streams, hoping that there is no landslide on the way that would entraps us! Needless to say it was an arduous journey. Once in Uttarkashi, I boarded a taxi for the final conclusive leg of the journey and reached Sivananda Kutir, Netala.
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The Ashram


“Madam aap Sivananda ashram ja rahe ho?”

 (Madam, are you going to Sivananda Ashram)

“Haan". (Yes.)

“Aap thak gaye lagte hain. Par aapke wahan pahunchte hi sari thakan door ho jayegi” proclaimed my taxi driver.
(Don't worry, the moment you reach there, you won’t feel tired anymore.)

I smiled. This was not the first time I had experienced the intense devotion the region has towards the Ganges. She was the solution to every problem from crops failing to SENSEX dropping 100 points. She was the very lifeline of this place.

The unassuming taxi driver was right of course.

The ashram was right on the banks of the river and my room was perched on the river side in a rather precarious way almost floating on the ravaging swirling water beneath.
For many nights thereafter, I lay wide awake in my bed listening to the noisy river flowing right outside my window.

“Has the water level risen?”
“I bet, the river sounds closer and louder than an hour before”
“There was a flood a few years back...maybe this is not the best place to be...”
“Was this the 3rd night? Or maybe the 4th?”


My train of thought was endless.

The River Ganga flowing right next to the Ashram
There is always a ‘chicken little’ hiding in all of us for whom the sky is always falling. My apprehensions were driving me to the point of insanity. With nothing else to do, I got up and walked out of my room into the small platform. The sky was exceptionally clear that day and the moon was full. The Ganges was flowing with more gusto than ever before. I walked closer to the edge of the platform and placed my hands on the railing. There was no other light in entire place but the moon.  The moonlight reflecting on the river was rendering the river a silver ethereal glow. And then suddenly there was complete silence. Something deep in my heart had been released. The water of the river swayed, swirled and flowed with all its might, washing away everything in its path.  But somewhere in all this chaos, there was still this unknown divine energy that moved and united everything around me.



Devotion is a tricky thing. It is staggeringly difficult to find it. But once you do, it is almost impossible to lose it.  If you have ever been a traveller you would know that every journey in life teaches you something. For me this journey was a journey of discovering love and how to surrender. It was a journey of knowing that I am always watched over. It was a journey that taught me that there is immense goodness in this world if only we open our eyes and look.


It was a journey that taught me, no matter where we are, we are never truly “Alone”.

Author Bio: After working in the software industry for four years, Priyanka quit her job to take up writing. She is passionate about offbeat traveling, food for soul, meeting new people and sharing their stories, recycling and yoga. You can follow her thoughts, stories and travelogues on her blog  Postcard from Life 

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Kumarakom – Entering a Time Warp



Kumarakom – Entering a Time Warp


By Sharmistha Sahoo


It was my second vacation and my husband’s first in Kerala, fondly known as God’s own country, and we wholly agree! Leaving the hustle bustle of Mumbai, we travelled to Kumrakom, Kerala in the month of August. Putting our fast lives on a pause, we entered what seemed like a time warp. The trip began with a boat ride in our house boat along the breathtakingly serene Vembanad Lake.



The lake is dotted by palm trees on both the sides. We saw many houses of the locals by the backwaters. They all had their own boats for commuting from one place to another. So exciting no? Everyday would be like an adventure. Also, there were some schools on both the sides. We could even see children studying in their small classrooms. I would have loved to be in such a school where the lake is your campus! We cruised through the lake and even entered many small canals. And then we broke out into the huge lake out of the backwaters and could see the magnanimity of the Vembanad lake, which by the way is the longest lake in India.


 The entire experience was very humbling. To see local people enjoying their lives in simple activities gave us an perspective and the much needed break from our hectic lives.  After the idyllic backwater ride, we made our way back to our hotel.Next morning, I woke up to the sound of camera clicking, from the attached balcony in our hotel room. My husband was already up, taking in the backwaters view at the crack of the dawn.  I was fully mesmerized by the view of backwaters from our balcony.


I couldn't believe the calmness that the view was eluding. We could just sit there doing nothing but gazing for hours.


After taking in the view as much as we could, we finally bade goodbye to Kumarakom with a promise to return soon as we had left a piece of our heart back there.


Author Bio: The author is a banker by profession, and is always craving to travel. She loves reading, writing, reviewing, photography and ofcourse exploring new places. She is documenting her life stories including her personal, travel and corporate life in her blog 

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Has any place you've been to made you forget your city life?

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In Awe Of The Avian Wonders!



By Rashmi Gopal Rao


It was the end of April and a totally impromptu decision by us as we did not want to miss the river terns that religiously visit Bhadra each year for about three months. Nestled in the midst of the Western Ghats and surrounded by the Baba Budangiri hills of the Chikamangalur district in Karnataka, the place is a perfect weekend getaway from the hustle bustle of the city.


On reaching the river we boarded a fairly large boat along with another group.  The waters were calm and the skies were clear.  As we approached the tiny islands in the river, we could see buzzing activity of hundreds of birds on them.  The grey-dull black colour of the river terns perfectly blended with the soil and rocks of the islands making it rather inconspicuous from a distance.

But as we moved closer, one could not help but wonder at their large numbers.  Our boat man cum guide was a friendly chap who explained to us that the numbers peak in May as the young ones hatch.   We could see the females busy warming the eggs while the males hovered around and occasionally swooped down into the waters catching a fish or two with their bright yellow beaks.  The prey is for the female birds that are stationed to protect the eggs that are likely to be attacked by other species like ibis and herons.  I must admit that this kind of coordination and so called ‘division of duties’ between the genders had me awe struck and is definitely worth a lesson or two!


The bird which is a part of the tern family typically visits the island between March and June before flying off to the Himachal.  During the monsoons the islands also get submerged making it a lull season for visitors.  The ambience is serene and you can also treat yourself to leisure bird watching, trekking and also take nature walks in the serene ambiance.



One can also visit the Bhadra Wildlife sanctuary which is located about a kilometer away.   The sanctuary is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna including the tiger, elephants, Gaurs, wild boars, leopards etc. Avian species include the Grey Junglefowl, Painted Bush Quail, Emerald Dove, Southern Green Imperial Pigeon and Great Black Woodpecker among others. The Bhadra dam which has created the Bhadra resorvoir is also worth a visit!






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AUTHOR BIO: Rashmi Gopal Rao is a freelance content writer and journalist. She is from Bengaluru and her hobbies include travelling, reading, writing and  photography. 
She is also passionate about home decor and gardening. You can follow her on her blog https://rashminotes.wordpress.com.

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                       Have you visited a wildlife destination on your travels recently?

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A weekend Tour of Hampi- The Boulder City of India


By Trinetta Fernandes

Five Female Travel Enthusiasts. One Weekend. That’s all we needed to set out exploring yet another place. We were clear about discovering a piece of ancient India and we zeroed in on Hampi.

Hampi is located in North Karnatak on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, approximately 709 kms. from Mumbai. It was once the capital of the Hindu Vijaynagar Empire which ruled South India between 14th to 16th century AD. The ruined temple city is famously known as the ‘Boulder city of India’. It is a labyrinth of temples, busy market places, narrow streets, ancient monuments surrounded by boulder strew mountains. It also features among UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. 

First sightings of boulders
The friendly rickshaw guys who picked us up from the Hospet Bus Stand offered to take us around after we quickly checked into our guest house. Finding an economical place to live is no mammoth task. Tiny lanes lined with rows of houses with extra rooms attached are a common sight. Tourism has helped generate a source of revenue for the locals.

Our rickshaw drivers doubled up as our guides and thus we began our exploration. Our first stop was the magnificent Virupaksha Temple, which is believed to be one of the oldest active temples in India. It dates back to the 7th century AD.  The temple complex was filled with people performing prayer rituals along with the tourists queued up to admire the carvings on stone at the entrance of the temple. The intricate designs on stone along with the precision would have been quite a task in the times the temple was built.
  
A view of the Virupaksha Temple entrance

 Filled with admiration after visiting the temple complex, we headed onwards. While there are local tourists, Hampi is also a common destination with international tourists. Our next stop was the royal enclosures and the elephant stables.
The stables served as a home to the royal elephants. It is a long structure spread across a garden. Every stable is big enough to accommodate a minimum of two elephants. Within the same premises is situated the Lotus Temple. It is an ornate structure with a mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Our guides informed us it was used by the queens during their leisure time.  

The Elephant Enclosures

The Lotus Temple

The Lakshmi Narsimha
Famished by now, we headed to have a meal at a rather quaint restaurant ‘Mango Tree’ after which we went to see the Lakshmi Narsimha. The statue of a ‘half man and half lion’ carved out of a single rock is 6.7 m high. It is said to be one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu with detailed carving. The complex houses the Badavi Linga Temple, which is largest monolithic Linga in Hampi. It is filled with water throughout the year and the temple priest spends his entire day in waist deep water- such is his devotion!

 Early next morning, we set off to catch the sunrise at Matanga Hills, from where one can have a bird’s eye view of the entire town. Our last stop was the Vittala Temple Complex. This temple complex has various shrines and is noted for its intricately carved pillars, some said to be musical pillars. The mighty stone chariot, in the same complex is believed to be a shrine. On closer inspection, mythical battle scene can still be seen carved all around it.




The Vittala Temple Complex

The Stone Chariot
The complex offers a spot for every tired traveller to rest. One can find their quiet place and sit back to admire the vast temple complex or indulge in a coracle ride across the river, just behind the temple. (A coracle is a small round traditional boat)
A quiet spot in the Vittala Temple Complex

The weekend had ended and so had our trip. We headed back home with sore feet, happy hearts and content smiles. We cannot wait to go explore another place soon!
Happy Us!
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AUTHOR BIO - Trinetta works in the Development Sector as a Social Worker. An animal lover, she loves heading out of the out at every given opportunity. She enjoys solo traveling as well as exploring places with her girl group.  


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A Kaleidoscope of The Middle Land : Spiti



By Malita Crasto

The Spiti Valley is a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalaya mountains in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India – Wikipedia.


Here is a kaleidoscope of my favorite moments from my trip to Kinnaur and Spiti.

Meeting the Goddess

Our first stop – The Bhima Kali temple in Sarahan village. Human sacrifices were carried out here till about the 18th century to please the goddess.





Chitkul is rainy and cold when we arrive and is also the last village at the Indo Tibet border. There is nothing notable about the place, but visiting the last village should be good enough reason.




Dhankar was the erstwhile capital of Spiti and the monastery overlooks the Spiti – Pin confluence
This monastery too is around 1000 years old and is of religious significance. The landscape around Dhankar is grandiose and unlike anything that I ever saw before (loss of words).



Magical Lake

A steep upward trek leads us to the Dhankhar Lake. The way up was not difficult however the thin air made the climb arduous. The lake was a magical color of turquoise, green, blue…again at a  loss of words to describe beauty.



Dancing In Demul

We were excited to watch a traditional Spitian dance. The dancers were all women who were beautifully attired in their traditional shawls and a lot of jewelry. After a while we joined them in their dance. The dance was indeed a good way to understand the culture of the people here
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Komic!

Breathless due to the trek but feeling accomplished we finally reached Komic, the highest village in Asia and a pretty village too.This time my hosts were a large family with two very cute and sweet kids.The menu for the evening dinner was potato momos and soup. Given the blowing cold winds outside this was a welcome.


Mr. Postman at Hikkim

The post office at Hikkim is the highest in the world!!


 Kinner Kailash

We were at Kalpa on the last day of our trip. I woke up for a walk to watch the sunrise from the mountains.


Spiti has all of these and a lot more to offer. If offbeat and unexplored is your kinda holiday, then Spiti should be on your list :)
Julley!

For the complete post please go to Malita's Blog

Author Bio: Malita travelled with us to Kinnaur and Spiti this June. She enjoys adventure travel. Discovering and exploring the offbeat and unknown comes naturally to her. You can follow her travel adventures on her Blog
     
                                                                      ***

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Colorful Postcards from Pushkar



By Achin Gupta


 The Sleepy town of Pushkar, in the Indian state of Rajasthan comes alive during the month of November, when a grand event starts its week long schedule.


I visited Pushkar back in 2014 to attend biggest spectacle of cattle trading on Earth. Yes, the ‘Pushkar Fair’. I was part of a group, full of photography enthusiasts and our sole purpose was to indulge in  culture and street photography. We used to wake at 4 am to witness groups of camels coming with their herders to the fair ground where they spent the rest of the day. Clicking these herds in the dramatic light of sunrise was our sole aim in the morning session.

Camels approaching ‘Fair’ ground early morning

 
Picture perfect ‘Fair’ ground setting
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In addition to cattle trading, Pushkar Fair is a confluence of Indian culture. Vibrantly colored handicrafts, artisans from near and far off villages showcasing their skills, cultural dances and adventure sports, all are an indivisible part of this large gathering.

Handmade puppets, a very popular handicraft from Rajasthan





A lady selling colourful beads

Thousands of cattle are brought to this venue from across India for trading, but majority of them are  from the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat & Uttar Pradesh.
The Three Musketeers


The Fair provides ample opportunities for street photography. People dressed in colourful religious clothes and portraying various forms of God is a common sight.

Innocence: Children dressed in various Indian God forms


Thousands of devotees take a dip in the sacred Pushkar Lake during this time.



Pushkar town besides the sacred ‘Pushkar Lake’


It is a must visit at least once in a lifetime. You will be spellbound by the energy, motivation and dedication of all the villagers who begin their day early to spend rest of day in heat and dust. Their enthusiasm never dies.
I got some great shots, learned some lessons and made new friends. Who knows, you will do much more!

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Author Bio:


Achin Gupta is Delhi based IT engineer who follows travel photography and writing as his only passions. In the pursuit of his dream to see the world, he has travelled many parts of India and a few places abroad as well.