A quick note. Have been traveling to east,central & south AND west India. First leg was in Puri and Konark of Odisha state. Today arrived in Hyderabad. Had boarded into the train, which we almost missed as the Sun temple in Konark demanded more time from us, in Bhubaneswar last year- last day of 2010. Some kids in the train woke us with their Happy New Year screams. The train, on schedule, was moving somewhere in Andhra Pradesh. Here are a few mobile pics from today.
First day in Hyderabad:
1. Bangles on sale in Lad Bazaar, very near to the landmark Charminar.
2: Kids enjoying themselves in, ahem, LUMBINI Park!
3/4: Giant standing Buddha statues in Hussain Sagar, not very far from Lumbini park.
...I spent the rest of the night leaning against a concrete staircase inside a huge hall full of hundreds of people trying to get some sleep. (This pic was taken before I moved in to the hall.)
It was 1 am when I reached Tirupati Balaji temple in Andhra Pradesh. Tired of the long journey from Mahabalipuram via Kanchipuram I was planning to get off the bus and head toward the nearest hotel. God had different plans. I was surprised to see bustling crowds of devotees at that hour of night and shocked to learn that no room was available in the whole of the temple town. I spent the rest of the night along with my co-traveler leaning against a concrete staircase inside a huge hall full of hundreds of people trying to get some sleep. When the day broke we moved towards the temple hoping to get inside for darshan.
The richest temple of the world, formally known as Venkateswara temple, is hidden from the devotees until they pass some barriers. A glimpse of the roof of the temple could be seen from a small hilltop. Devotees wishing to go inside the temple have to pay Indian Rs. 300 so that they could stand in a queue that is supposed to have less people. But that priority queue appeared to be a couple of kilometres long, forget about the regular one that I guessed could have extended several kilometres more. We decided not to go for darshan. Continue reading
A woman at the top of a rock in Mahabalipuram's World Heritage Site
Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram) is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in India in the past two years. The combination of beach and rocks AND the awesome monolithic structures makes the place so special that, by the end of the day, you will realized that a day is simply not enough to explore this historical site. It’s a small town, peaceful and touristy, where centuries old monolithic stone temples and carvings are scattered in walking distance from the beach. It’s barely an hour from Chennai, on way to Pondicherry (two hours from here).
The Shore Temple is a top destination because of its location, right on the shore as its name suggests. The rocky beach in front of the temple saves it from being hit directly by the water but that doesn’t mean the occasional wrath of the sea doesn’t harm it always. Over the centuries parts of temple have been washed away by the water, a book on town says.
The huge complex of rocks and carvings on the other side of the road is where we spent most of the day. The book Mahabalipuram- a journey through a magical land by Srinivaas and J Prabhakar that we had bought in Chennai came very handy while exploring the carvings and rocks. The writers could have done without their occasional ‘witty’ observations about the arts and carvings. The reader is interested in the structure and its historical significance, not the jokes and moral lessons that the writers prefer to draw from them. The research that they have done to prepare the book is commendable. I have used writers’ descriptions of structures and carvings alongside the relevant photos posted below. Continue reading
Aerial prop roots have grown into thick woody trunks supporting the banyan tree as it extends laterally. Click on the photo for more info.
I always thought बर (Banyan) was the husband of पीपल (Peepal). It’s not because the word बर also means husband in Nepali . It’s probably because I have always seen these trees together on चौतारीहरु (chautaris) in villages- mostly on the opposing sides of a chautari. On certain days people go to chautaris or whereever Banyan and Peepal are and “marry” them. They garland both trees- single garland- amidst a ceremony. This should explain the significance that Banyan (बर) along with Peepal holds in Nepali society. Peepal is considered more religous and sacred than Banyan, I believe. Both of these trees are deeply rooted in our culture too. A lot of songs talk about them.
खोला वारी खोला पारी पीपल र बर
हावा चल्यो पात हल्यो माया वर वर
[Thanks to my significant half who told me about the existence of this particular song.]
Tourists in front of Matrimandir, Auroville
I remember hanging and swinging on the aerial prop roots of Banyan tree in my childhood. But I had never seen a Banyan tree with APR fully developed into woody trunks before I visited Auroville in Pondicherry last month. An hour ago I also knew that Banyan is the national tree of India. I was completely awed by the sight of this giant banyan tree near Matrimandir. All Indian tourists who were traveling with us and other Westerners we saw at Matrimandir completely ignored the tree and kept walking ahead. We branded them fools for not stopping by the tree and admiring its shape, size and beauty. Continue reading
Pondicherry has one of the oldest (1828) botanical gardens of India.
The British once ruled the Indian subcontinent (except Nepal, of course) that included present day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. But they were not the only foreign powers to rule India. The Portuguese and the French controlled Goa and Pondicherry, located on two opposing coasts of India. Having visited Goa (west coast) twice I always wanted to go to Pondicherry (or Puducherry)- sometimes described as “the French Riviera of the East“.
I haven’t been to the French Riviera but didn’t find Puducherry the town up to my (and my co-traveler’s) expectation. We had expected the place to be very calm, without much traffic, touristy, romantic and better than Goa. It is not entirely so. But the rocky beach where French and British once killed each other for the control of Puducherry looked nice- far better than Marina. We spent couple of hours there in the evening after returning from Auroville where golden metallic Matrimandir is the center of attraction. But we found a huge banyan tree nearby far more grander and mesmerizing then the man-made structure. (More about the banyan tree and photos later). The botanical garden near the railway station is a nice place to be for a while though it’s not exactly a garden. It’s kind of an orderly jungle with trees of various kinds. Unfortunately no nameplate could be found attached on all of them. Continue reading