Category Archives: South India

Dinesh Wagle goes South India. Sea, beaches and the great Indian railways

Hello from Hyderabad, India

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.

Inside the Tirupati Balaji Temple Complex

Venkateswara Temple Complext, Tirupati india

...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

mahabalipuram india stone carving monolith temples (15)

Rocks and Monolithic Temples of Mahabalipuram, India

mahabalipuram india stone carving monolith temples (15)

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

Matrimandir, Auroville, Pondicherry

The Banyan Tree of Auroville

The Banyan Tree of Auroville

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 and Matrimandir

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


A trip to Pondicherry, India

green garden

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“.

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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

Marina, Chennai: A Year After

How fast time flies! I am here in Marina. The sight of sea fascinates the hilly, landlocked person in me so immensely that the salty water holds inexplicable taste to me. The waves, the sand, the color.

marina chennai dinesh wagle

Me, this morning, at Marina beach, Chennai.

I was in Marina last year jumping and running around the beach wearing dhoti and operating a camera. It’s the same Bay of Bengal, the same water (salty!) and the same sand- I believe. The beach, second longest in the world hasn’t changed it’s appearance- like in July 2009 the beach may not make it to the list of 1000 cleanest beaches in the world this year too. Even a dirty beach excites the hilly man in me. Continue reading

Back in Delhi

And today we are back in Delhi. It was around 20 hours train ride from Bandra, Mumbai to Nizamuddin. It was ok and we were all tired. We are super tired. It was not a particularly long journey but it was a whirlwind. Coming back to delhi was like being in the frying pan again as it was hot here

The trip, like chai, is over, pals. We were somewhere in Gaziabad, not far from Delhi, when we took these pictures. Continue reading

Bombay. Day II

Crossing the Bombay sea bridge

Here is first part of this entry and photo album

10. Wondering where’s Sandra in Bandra 🙂 [btw, dats interesting documentry screened in Film South Asia some yrs ago.

11. The great Indian railway bazaar, as appeared in yesterday’s Kathmandu Post:

12. Inside a local train to VT. Destinations: Gateway of India and Colaba area. Then to Bandra-Worli sea bridge. No time 4 Dharavi though.

13.Frm dis local train, tall, grand Mumbai buildings r cnstantly blokd by view of filthy slums,horribly dirty railway track-side hms. Contrast.

14.Railway track’s so ‘unmumbai’, it fils like travelin in path full of shit n other dirts. Parts of same city dat boasts Marine Dive skyline. Continue reading

Bombay! Second Edition

This post talks about events happened in July 11 (yesterday, the first of our two days in Bombay):

Last time when I woke up inside a Goa-Bombay train compartment, I was in Victoria Terminus (CST), right in the heart/lung/or whatever of the city. That was in October last year. This time, on Saturday 11 July afternoon, I got off at Kalyan Junction, sub-urban Bombay from Goa-Bombay train.

From there we went to Bandra in a local train as we were scheduled to catch 12 July train to Delhi from there. Then, after booking a hotel room and eating in a Dhaba outside, we went to Marine Drive in a local train.

Here are the tweets from Bombay. Some of them migh sound too cryptic. I’ll elaborate them, along with relevant pictures, in the next few days: Continue reading

Anjuna, Goa. [Second Day]

The following photos were taken in Kolva Beach, Goa, the Cafe Coffee Day near the beach and in Madgaon train station.

@Madgaon Train Station, Goa

The following post details the events happened on 10-11 July.

10 July: Second day in Goa. We woke up at 9 am and headed to the beach at 10. There was a photography session and playing with the sea water which was dirty and filthy and of course salty! The waves were pretty strong and we tried to challenge them taking help of a rock. Futile effort. One wave almost took Gokul away. It was scary.

We also climbed the hilltop that originated from the beach and went up to several meters. Climbing was relatively easy and we posed for camera with whole lot of creativity!

Arrived in the train station on Margao to carch the 5:25 train to Bombay. We had to change theree buses to come here from Anjuna (to Mapusa to Panjim to Margao to Station). Then these tweets: Continue reading