Sheroes : A monumental zeal of human spirit!

Well, honestly it was always on cards while visiting Agra. Honestly also, the trip to Sheroes Hangout meant for us more than a stopover for a food to a restaurant. Also, because Sheroes symbolises the strength of the human spirit against all odds. We also needed to visit this place to realise the tough times we live in! For anybody coming to this place a restaurant run by women survivors of acid attacks is altogether a different experience. Therefore, I feel that for any tourist coming to Agra this place is a must-visit.


A visit to place like this make you more humble and perhaps more committed and strong. Its a great inspiration. Agra is said to be place for monument of love, but I have no doubt in saying that in Agra Sheroes hangout is actually the real monument of love and compassion. Sheroes is an initiative by Stop Acid Attacks campaign that was founded in New Delhi in 2013. As the idea of this space has evolved from a campaign for acid attack survivors, the ideas of beauty and importance of appearance in society remain the epicentre of discussions and programmes run from here. This is world’s first cafe chain run by female acid attack survivors.

A painting outside.
A painting outside.

Hence, at the helm of the Sheroes Hangout are the women who have fought back for life and survival through heinous chemical burns and are now on a course to define themselves. They are courageous fighters who walk with scars on their skins but not on spirits. They are the real heroes- ‘She Heroes’. There are five of them here- Dolly, Geeta, Rupa, Neetu and Ritu Saini, – all with their different stories and distinctive strengths which give countless others across country a hope to fight and live. They have got the confidence to show their disfigured faces in public but actually they are showing the mirror to the society, that how disfigured its face has become.

The intrinsic beauty
The intrinsic beauty

At Sheroes hangout empowerment of women is embodied in form of a readers’ cafe, an activism workshop, a community radio hub and a exhibit space where works crafted by Sheroes are on display. There are books on the shelf, that you can just pull and read, while you have your tea.

The power of self!
The power of self!

The new wave of feminism evolves at the hangout through critical issues that cripple women and devoid them of equal opportunities. Women here manage the counters, take the orders, serve food, and engage visitors in full delight with their heroic stories of resilience.


Coming to the place, it couldn’t have been better located, right on the main Fatehabad road which is hub of all the tourist activities in Agra and close to most of the hotels. Small but neat place. There is a terrace kitchen on the upper floor. Ambience is just perfect to reflect the story behind the restaurant. The women and support staff are brilliant and humble. Independent of everything else, the food we had that day was best we could have- honey chilli potato, noodles and cutlets with few rounds of tea. The restaurant serves snacks as well as full course meals.

Another unique thing about this place is the pay as you wish concept. No items in the menu are priced. At the end, you can pay whatever you think is the suitable amount. Few might not be comfortable with this, but it works well with the overall idea of the restaurant. Sheroes also has free wi-fi to remain connected while you get involved in books, coffees and hot discussions. Tourists from world over are coming here.

Since it started almost two years back, there had been numerous high-profile visits and various high-idea workshops here. Probably this society laced with hatred needs a lot more.

Sheroes7The women here also sell some merchandise and the income goes for the fight against acid attacks. There is a beautiful desktop calendar, T-shirts and dresses. Make sure to visit here next time you go to Agra. For all those, who are interested, Sheroes hangouts has now also come up at Lucknow.

Hi mate! Shall I join you for the meal?

Watch these two for minutes and you will feel how close these two creatures are to each other. The heron closely follows each step of the Blackbuck. But then, follow more closely and you will notice that heron walks so close to deer because when the blackbuck is walking while grazing it is disturbing the insects resting in the grass, which are forced to fly and then they become easy prey for the herons. How nature has created this cycle!


Well, this is Sikandara in Agra, which is mausoleum of one of the greatest kings Akbar, the third mughal emperor to rule India. I had already done a post on the blackbucks of Sikandara, sometime back after my last visit to Agra. But couldn’t resist doing one more after the most recent trip.


Sikandara has hundreds of blackbucks in the four developed quarters of gardens on the four sides of the tomb of about 24 acres each. Blackbucks have been kept here as this is a walled enclosure within the reigns of the Agra city itself. But once you are inside the mausoleum, it seems to be an entirely different world. There seems to be a perfect symphony of history, heritage and nature.


All the antelopes or the deers here are blackbucks- both male and female. Dark ones are the males and the light coloured are females. They have long ringed horns, resembling corkscrews. Forest areas of Bharatpur are not far from Agra and Sikandara is located right on the Yamuna riverbed with plenty of natural environment in its backyard.


There is no concrete evidence or document relating blackbucks to this place, but people here say that they have been here since beginning. There is also a story which says that Akbar had a very favourite elephant named ‘Hiran’ (which means deer in Hindi). Akbar was very remorseful when the elephant died. So he thought that these blackbucks (from deer family or ‘hiran’ in Hindi) will remind everybody of his beloved elephant as well. Since then these blackbucks were kept here in a protected environment where there is no predator around. Well, as we know that Akbar had himself designed his mausoleum

So have a look at these blackbucks (hirans) of Sikandara.

Besides blackbucks, Sikandara also has a lot of peacocks and parrots. Occasionally, many other birds will also come here to take refuge.


Reflecting the mighty himalayas : Photo of the Day

Reflecting the Himalayas in the Nubra valley of Ladakh. Ladakh is actually lot more than just Leh. The last permissible point in Nubra valley is Turtuk which is more than 200 kms away from Leh. But the highlight of the Nubra valley is Hunder sand dunes near Deskit. People go there for riding the double humped camels. Right close to dunes is the section of Karakoram wildlife sanctuary where you can see scenes like this. Marvellous. Isn’t it!


The dunes, the pool, the forest and the Himalayas! The stillness of water can make or break your photo!


Puja songs from Bengal gave Bollywood many superhit numbers!

Its that time of the year again, considered to be one of the most auspicious one as per hindu beliefs. Durga Puja is indeed the most important event of the year for the Bengalis. Mahalaya was celebrated on 30th September and it is Panchami today, when the six day Durga Puja celebrations actually start in Bengal.

Since it has been traditionally most important time of the year for the Bengalis, it is also the time when just before the Pujas musicians and artistes will release their albums. Such has been the lure of getting hit during the Puja that many singers will even perform during the Puja celebrations with their new releases. The songs released at the time of the Puja were often termed as Modern Bengali songs. Actually this tradition has been there for quite a long, with every leading Bengali music composer following the trend. This tradition was used with such a great effectiveness that Puja albums actually gave some of the biggest hits to Bengali music industry. Many of these were songs, which were released only as Puja albums and not used in any Bengali films. But then among these many of the hits from the Puja albums were then re-crafted and redrafted into the Bollywood into Hindi songs for films. This was also easier because at most of the times in last five decades of the past century, the Bollywood music scene was also dominated by the Bengali composers and singers. As a result, many of these hindi remakes of the Bengali songs actually became super-duper hits in Bollywood as well. We call them remake because the music used to be the exactly same.

The legendary duo of Kishore Kumar and Rahul Dev Burman (Pancham Da) used this to perfection for the joy of both the music scenes- Bangla and Hindi. Many hindi listeners will not be knowing that some of the famous Hindi songs were actually copied from Bengali. Lets listen to few of them in this post.

The first one is a marvellous Bengali song “Aakash Keno Daake…” by Kishore Kumar, which was written by Gouriprasanna Majumdar and composed by Rahul Dev Burman. The song was recorded as Puja album by Pancham Da and Kishore. But once the song was hit, it was adopted in famous Hindi film Kati Patang released in 1970 as “Yeh Shaam Mastani...” filmed on Rajesh Khanna and Asha Parekh. This song was also sung by Kishore and composed by Pancham Da. You can yourself listen to the both songs-first one is the original Bengali from the Puja album and second one is from the Bollywood film.

The second song is “Ek Din Paakhi Ure Jaabe…” The Bengali song by Kishore Kumar was written by Mukul Dutta and composed by Rahul Dev Burman. The song was also recorded as Puja album by Pancham Da and Kishore. But once the song was hit, it was adopted in famous Hindi film Pyar Ka Mausam released in 1969 as “Tum Bin Jaoon Kehan…” filmed on Shashi Kapoor and Asha Parekh. But in the film this song was sung by great Mohammad Rafi and composed by Pancham Da himself. Enjoy the two songs- first one in Bengali and second one in Hindi.

The third one, this marvellous Bengali song “E Jhumri Re Cholechi Eka...” by Kishore Kumar was also written by Mukul Dutta and composed by Rahul Dev Burman. The song was recorded as Puja album by Pancham Da and Kishore. But once the song was hit, it was adopted in famous Hindi film Mere Jeevan Sathi released in 1972 as “Chala Jata Hoon...” filmed on Rajesh Khanna and Tanuja. In the film too this song was sung by Kishore Kumar and composed by Pancham Da himself. Enjoy the comparison- first one in Bangla and second one in Hindi.

Indeed Pancham-Kishore duo used this to perfection but there were many composers before and after them, doing this same thing. Listen to this fourth song. This famous bengali song “Amay Proshno Kore…” by none other than Hemant Kumar (hemant Da) was also originally recored as a modern bengali song (Puja Song). This song was later adopted in famous Hindi film “Anand” (1971) starring Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan. Music for both the versions- Bengali as well as Hindi was composed by Salil Chowdhury. This song written in Hindi by Yogesh and voiced by Mukesh ” Kahin Door Jab Din dhal jaaye…” is considered to one of his gems. Listen to both the versions here-

But adoption from Bengali to Hindi was not limited to Puja songs only. Few hits from Bangla films were also lifted in Hindi films and they in turn went to become super hits in Hindi as well. Like this fifth song. This famous song “E Ki Holo, keno holo…” from a Bengali movie Rajkumari released in 1970, starring Uttam Kumar and Tanuja. This song was sung by legendary Kishore Kumar and composed by great R D Burman. This song was also written by Gauri Prasanna Majumdar. This song was such a hit that it was used in Hindi film Amar Prem released in 1971 casting Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore. This song with hindi wordings – ‘Yeh Kya Hua…’ but identical music was brought to life by the same great singer-composer duo of Kishore & Pancham Da. Lyrics for hindi version were written by Anand Bakshi. Rest is history, this song filmed on Rajesh Khanna went on to become one of the biggest hits, may be bacuase of Rajesh Khanna’s mannerisms. Listen to both of them, you will enjoy a lot.

Interestingly, as soon as such songs will appear, there would be a raging debate that which version was better and Bangla & Hindi loyalists will fight out. But the true music lovers will enjoy the both.

There is lot more and we shall keep the discussion going on, with some more songs next time from other top singers and composers. Till than, happy Durga Puja.


(Please don’t use the text from the post anywhere without permission)

Amazing Ramayana Ballet of Java

These are days of Ramlila around the country and perfect time to see Ramayana as performed in different parts of world. Prominent among them is Indonesia. The islands of Java, Bali and Sumatra still have the historical hindu influence and they still follow the hindu culture and traditions. Java is also famous for its theatrical rendering of Hindu epic Ramayana. Although the story is more or less the same, but the presentation in traditional Java style is very fascinating. It is one of the high points for tourists visiting Java, specially Yogyakarta.

Ramayana Ballet1

Ramayana Ballet is performed at Purawisata, located just one kilometre from Jalan Malioboro at Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Purawisata is a place where legendary Ramayana Ballets are performed. This particular Purawisata is very close to Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta) Palace.

Ramayana Ballet2Purawisata is one of the top tourist attractions in Java. It is said that this place holds the record for a show performed every night without even a day off for more than 40 years now. Whatever the weather be and whatever the number of visitors be, the show has always gone uninterrupted. It has marvellous performance of traditional dance and culture. Its the same story that has been carved out on reliefs of Prambanan temple (You read my post on Prambanan Temple here).

The story taken from the epic written by Valmiki has been recreated into an enchanting performance with mixed variety of elements from the art, dance, music, drama, lyrics, song, make-up, special costumes, stage and lighting.

In the performance, whole narrative of the Valmiki’s epic has been summarised into an hour-long performance divided into several acts. Interestingly, entire story is presented through body movements and dances. There are no dialogues. There is background music of Java gending to sync with the dance poses. Singers also hum Javanese songs in the background. There is slight difference in the names of the characters, as we pronounce here in India.

The three main characters-

See some beautiful scenes from the performance-

There is also a Gazebo Garden Restaurant in the premises of the Purawisata. Just before the start of the show, one can enjoy an exotic authentic Indonesian dinner here. The restaurant has a marvellous atmosphere.  It also has a outdoor terrace. Often tickets for the ballet are available in package with the dinner at the Gazebo. It makes a perfect evening for the tourists coming to Yogyakarta. Amphi theatre is located right next to the restaurant.

Ramayana Ballet17

Want to watch the full show of Ramayana Ballet as performed at Purawisata at Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia! See the film on my YouTube channel-

October is all devotion & music!

India’s festive season officially underway and will continue for more than a couple of months. This is time for one big festival which is celebrated in various parts of India in various ways- from Bengal to Gujarat and Kullu to Mysore. Time for some devotional travel. Actually this also brings to start season of India’ some well-known music festivals. Let’s have a look at some of the top events for travel in this month.

Ramlila of Ramnagar at Varanasi

Ramlila of RamnagarThis is one of the holiest of Indian cities as per hindu mythology. Varanasi has always been a magnet for the spiritual, the religious, for holy seers and for the hippies. During the ten days of the Dussehra, the city becomes famous for its Ramlila, often considered to be the one of the oldest and perhaps grandest ramlila in world. Fifteen kilometers from the main city lies Ramnagar, where the Ram Leela is enacted in a unique manner. Unlike the rest of the country, where the enactment is done on single stages, here in Ramnagar the whole town is transformed into a large Ram Leela ground, structures are built and different spaces represent different locations in the story.  The whole Ram lila takes place over a month. For a month, Ramnagar is transformed into a giant stage for the story of Ram to unfold. Permanent structures and parts of the town within a five-kilometre radius are named after places mentioned in the epic, and different episodes of the lila are enacted at different venues every day. On most days, the Ramlila moves – the cast, the Kashi Naresh, audiences and all. Sometimes, the movement is within a larger venue. Sadhus coming to Ramnagar from all over the country during this time and reciting Ramcharitramanas are called Ramayanis and the audience follows the performers all over town.  Even though thousands of devotees, bystanders, tourists throng the town during this month, it is incredible to note that most of the recital is done without the aid of any loudspeakers, electric lights or mikes, and the audience maintains a hushed silence throughout the Ramayani recital. Audiences move around from one location to another in order to see the one of its kind Ramlila. The crowd ranges from a few thousand for some episodes, up to a lakh for episodes like Ram and Sita’s wedding, Dussehra (when a 60-feet high effigy of the Raavan is burnt), Bharat Milaap, and the coronation of Ram (the most auspicious episode). On the day after Dussehra, Varanasi celebrates the Bharat Milaap festival, which commemorates Ram’s return to Ayodhya and his reunion with younger brother Bharat.  This takes place at Nati Imli, and thousands of people flock and gather to see Ram meet Bharat.  People wear tilak on their foreheads and garland the brothers. Watching the entire scene from the background every year is Kashi Naresh (former king of Varanasi) in his regal attire and finery.

When: 15th September-16th October 2016

Where: Ramnagar, Varanasi

Music under the full moon

RIFF at JodhpurJodhpur RIFF, ranked amongst the Top 25 International Music Festivals in the world, is back again this year to enthral music lovers. Begun in 2007, the Jodhpur RIFF brings together more than 250 Musicians and performing artists from across Rajasthan and around the world to celebrate their musical heritage and create new sounds through innovative collaborations, for five days in October each year. Timed to coincide with the brightest full moon of the year in north India, Sharad Poornima, Jodhpur RIFF features a series of spectacular concerts and events based in and around Mehrangarh Fort – voted “Asia’s Best Fortress” by Times Magazine. The Festival is a heady combination of Folk, Jazz, Sufi and contemporary music that transcend global boundaries.  Jodhpur RIFF includes performances by master musicians from local Rajasthan communities, sensational headline acts showcased each night on the Main Stage, and cutting-edge global dance grooves that will keep the party going late into the night at Club Mehran. Interactive daytime sessions for visitors, school children and families are staged against the breathtaking backdrop of the Fort. The Jodhpur RIFF is a joint initiative of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and the Jaipur Virasat Foundation. Gaj Singh of Marwar-Jodhpur is the Chief Patron of Jodhpur RIFF, while Mick Jagger, front man of the rock band The Rolling Stones is International Patron of Jodhpur RIFF. The festival has been endorsed by UNESCO as a “Peoples’ Platform for Creativity and Sustainable Development.”

When: 13rd-17th October 2016

Where: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Getting there: Jodhpur is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of North India.

The Marwar extravaganza

Marwar FestivalAnother musical extravaganza at Jodhpur. Marwar Festival is held every year in memory of the heroes of Rajasthan. The festival is held in the month of Ashwin (September-October) in Jodhpur, for two days during the full moon of Sharad Poornima. Originally known as the Maand Festival, this festival features folk music centered on the romantic lifestyle of Rajasthan’s rulers. Organised by Rajasthan tourism and Jodhpur administration, this festival is devoted to the music and dance of the Marwar region and offers a good opportunity to see the folk dancers carrying pots on their heads and singers who assemble here and provide hours of lively entertainment. These folk artistes provide a glimpse of the days of yore, of battles and valiant heroes who still live on in their songs. Other attractions at the festival are the camel tattoo show and polo. The government Ummaid stadium, the historical clock tower in the midst of the old city and the sand dunes of Osian village provide the ideal venue for the cultural extravaganza – an integral part of the festival. On first day morning there is a procession from Ummaid stadium to the old city and back. There are various competitions during the day and the camel tattoo show by the BSF. In the evening there is cultural performance by the folk artists of Rajasthan at clock tower. Events on the second day take place at Osian village. Osian is an ancient town located in the Jodhpur. It is an oasis in the Thar Desert, and has been known as the “Khajuraho of Rajasthan” for its temples. It lies 69 km by road north of the district headquarters at Jodhpur, on a diversion off the main Jodhpur-Bikaner Highway.

When: 15th-16th October 2016

Where: Various places, Jodhpur

Getting there: Jodhpur is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of North India.

Classical Music and Dance at Soorya Festival

Soorya Dance and Music festivalThis is 40th year of an astonishing music festival. You won’t believe that this festival will run for 111 days and in this edition around 2000 artists from around the country will take part in this. Every year Thiruvanthapuram in Kerala reverberates with the sound of music of the festival. All music and dance aficionados will have treat at this festival and be exposed to the very best of Indian cultural arts. Held by the Soorya Stage and Film Society, a cultural society which promotes the arts vigorously, the Soorya Festival of Music and Dance presents varied dance performances by artistes showcasing different dance forms like Kathak, Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. Renowned dancers from all over India perform at this festival. Music concerts are also held at this festival and well known proponents in the Hindustani and Carnatic style perform jugalbandis, vocal and instrumental soirees. Soorya has its Chapters in 36 countries in the world. Soorya also has it’s actively working Chapters in 60 Centres in India. Actually in first week of October Soorya organizes festivals in almost every big city of Kerala as well as in some other big cities of South India such as Chennai, Bangalore and Madurai. Already started with the performance of ‘Ganesham’ this festival will also see performance of legendary singer Yesudas who has performed in each of editions of the festivals since its inception. Incredible!

When: 21st September 2016-11th January 2017

Where: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Getting there: Thiruvananthapuram is well connected by Air, Train and Bus services from all major cities of India. It is also an international airport.

Durga Puja at Barisha, the oldest

barisha_pujaBarisha is renowned for the Durga pujas. It is a residential locality of Kolkata. Historically, it is one of the oldest boroughs in Kolkata. It was the abode of the great Sabarna Roy Choudhury family. Barisha is known today for being the home of the Indian Cricket idol Sourav Ganguly. The six Durga Pujas of the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family are world famous. The Aatchala Bari hosts the oldest Durga puja of Kolkata which dates back to 1610, when the first Jaigirdar of the Sabarna Family Lksmikanta Roy Choudhury started the family puja at Barisha, which was a prosperous village of his donimion. The other pujas of the Sabarna family at Barisha are those of Baro Bari, Mejobari, Kalikingkar Bhawan, Benaki Bari, and Majher Bari. The family also established other pujas like Chandi puja, Jagatdhatri puja etc. and also founded a large number of temples like the Annapurna Temple, Radhakanto temple, Dwadash Shiva Temples etc. The Barisha Rathayatra Utsav started in 1719 is one of the oldest in the city and is quite famous. There is also a Lord Jagannath Temple (at least 150 years old) at Sakherbazar. So this puja, go and worship the goddess at one of the oldest Durga pujas in Bengal.

When: 5th-11th October 2016

Where: Barisha, Kolkata

Getting there: Barisha is situated in the southwest of Kolkata about 10 kilometres from the city centre Esplanade. Although originally a separate village, it is now under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation The area starts from Vivekananda Women’s College in the north and is spread to Thakurpukur in the south. The Diamond Harbour Road and the James Long Sarani runs through the heart of Barisha.

Garba at Navratri in Gujarat

garba-navratri-celebrationGarba is a folk dance in Gujarat and Navratris (nine nights for the goddess) had been the platform to perform the dance. Garba has been a traditional dance form to please the goddess Durga (or Kali) in Gujarat and many adjoining areas. There had been many folk songs in which devotees are requesting the bird to fly to Kali’s temple and ask her to come as they are performing garbas. But off late with advent of mass media garba has become more of a popular dance and now you can’t imagine navratris in Gujarat without garbas. Young ones take special classes for these events to polish their garba dance skills. For those nine-ten days whole Gujarat seems to be doing grabs in the evenings. It has also become a huge travel event. Get there to actually feel the pulse.

When: 1st-10th October 2016

Where: Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and many more places in Gujarat

Pleasing the snake gods at Mannarasala Ayilyam

mannarasala-ayilyamMannarassala Ayilyam is one of the major festivals in the Mannarassala Sree Nagaraja Temple, a unique temple dedicated to serpent Gods with over 30,000 images of snakes along the paths and even among trees. The major festival in this serpent shrine is the Ayilyam festival that falls on the Ayilyam asterism in the Malayalam month of Thulam, which roughly corresponds to the months of October / November. The festival which sees thousands of devotees visiting the temple from far and wide is celebrated with much grandeur. One of the major highlights of the festival is the ceremonial procession in which all the serpent idols in the temple and the sacred grove are taken to the illam (the Brahmin ancestral home) that manages the temple. Unlike other temples, here the head priest is a woman. The chief priestess will carry the idol of Nagaraja, which is the presiding deity of the temple. Special prayers and offerings are performed at the illam.

When: 24th October 2016

Where: Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple, Harippad, Alappuzha. Harippad railway station is just 3 kms from the temple while Cochin International Airport is about 115 km away.

Gustor of Deskit monastery in Nubra

deskit_gompaDeskit Monastery also known as Deskit Gompa or Diskit Gompa is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh. It belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelugpa, in the 14th century. Gustors take place at different monasteries at different time of the year. The festival takes place for two days. The celebration is to mark the victory over evils. The mask worn by the dancers represent the Guardians, Protectors and the Gods and Goddesses. The festival ends with the symbolic assassination of evils and burning of the effigy of evils. Deskit monastery also celebrates its Gustor festival. A major highlight of the celebrations is the resident Lamas performing sacred masked dances (or a ‘chaam’) accompanied by music from drums, cymbals and long horns in the monastery courtyard. These dances mark the victory of good over evil. A major highlight of the celebrations is the resident Lamas performing sacred masked dances (or a ‘chaam’) accompanied by music from drums, cymbals and long horns in the monastery courtyard. These dances mark the victory of good over evil.

When: 28th-29th October 2016

Where: Deskit Monastery, Deskit, Nubra valley, Ladakh. Deskit is 120 kilometres from Leh and just 7 kilometres before Hunder known for its sand dunes.

Grandeur of Ramlilas of Delhi

Vijayadashami in DelhiNow to the heart of the country. Delhi has a blend of Ramlila and Durga Puja. There are almost 1000 Ramlila and 250 puja pandals events are held in the city. Durga puja has been organised in the capital city before independence and the prominent ones are the pujas at Kashmiri Gate, Chittranjan Park and the New Delhi Kalibari. Delhi has been having Dussehra celebrations historically. Ramlila ground definitely has the largest congregation in the city, as the place gets its name exactly because of its Ramlila and Dussehra celebrations. Besides that, Subhash Maidan, opposite to Red Fort has another big Ramlila and Dussehra celebration. USP of Delhi’s Dussehra celebrations has been that, being national capital it gets maximum exposure. Both the biggest Ramlilas, one at Subhash Maidan and other one at Ramlila maidan get the high presence of celebrities, political bigwigs. Likes of Prime Minister and top political brass make it a point to be there at these two places on Dussehra and fire the customary arrow towards effigy of Ravana. Besides, these ramlilas are also known for presence of glitterati and who’s who of Bollywood. Actually, many of these ramlilas had been used earlier for promoting various films. Hence these stars provide an added attraction. There is also a marked difference between ramlilas of likes of Ramnagar and those in Delhi. While Ramnagar ramlila still holds its original style and presentation, those in Delhi are marked for their use of modern technology and innovations blending them very beautifully with ramlila performances. This is something liked a lot by the younger audiences, as it is always a challenge to attract new audiences for ramlilas especially in bigger metros.  Nevertheless, ramlilas in Delhi are a big draw among locals and visitors alike and are considered a must-see among top Dussehra celebrations of India.

When: 1st -11th October 2016

Where: Ramlila Maidan, Delhi

Dussehras of different hues 

Dasara in MysoreA festival so deep-rooted in our mythology is unique in the sense that it is celebrated in so different forms in different parts of country. Dussehra is marked as the victory of Good over evil, but the celebrations have taken various forms at various places. With underlying message the same in all of them, they all are worth a visit to understand the local customs, beliefs and rituals. Mysore Dasara is known for its sheer grandeur and participation. Mysore, or Mahishur as it was called in the past, traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hill, killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival and the festivities here are an elaborate affair and attract a large audience from all over the world. Another unique celebration from remote interiors of the country. The most important festival in Bastar is the Dusshera when all the deities from the surrounding villages unite at the temple of Danteshwari in Jagdalpur, the district headquarters. Unlike Dusshera in other parts of India, here it is not the celebration of return of Rama to Ayodhaya.  Dusshera in Bastar is devoted entirely to the goddess, Danteshwari Devi. Then, Kota in Rajasthan has a very popular Dussehra celebration as well, known for a mixed urban-rural ethos of this religious occasion. Located on the banks of the Chambal River, Kota celebrates a number of festivals. However, this festival of Dussehra bears a distinct appeal altogether. Here Dussehra fair is observed for 25 days. Then, after the whole country winds up the celebration of Dussehra by burning the effigies of Ravana, then the Dussehra at Kullu begins. The festival commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, i.e. on Vijayadashmi day itself and continues for seven days. The birth of Dussehra in Kullu lay in royal fads and it nourished on religious, social and economic factors and ultimately came to be well established, because of the inborn love of the hill- men for fun, frolic, displayed in community singing and dancing. Kullu Dusshehra is a beautiful amalgam of history, culture and customs. Another Dussehra in the hills is in the top list for its traditional style and culture. In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the Dussehra festival starts with the performance of Ramlila which is unique as it is based on the musical rendering of the katha or story of Lord Rama. It is based on the theatrical traditions set by Uday Shankar during his stay in Almora; these traditions were further enriched by Mohan Upreti and Brijendra Lal Sah. Almora’s Kumaoni style enactment has also been recognized by UNESCO as one of the most representative Ramlilas along with places like Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan and Madhubani.

When: 11th October 2016

Where: Mysore, Bastar, Kullu, Kota and Almora


Changing colours of autumn… to be!

In India we miss colours of fall (autumn) as they are in many other parts of the world. Only place in India to come close to the beautiful golden colours of fall is Kashmir. Kashmir is indeed spectacular during fall. Fall colours are always amazing and to me they are as beautiful as colours of spring.


So, while on my solo biking trip to Ladakh this month I was looking everywhere for the changing colours as I was fully aware that autumn was just round the corner. And the difference in colours was very stark from Delhi to Leh. See for yourself:

These are the lush green fields of our Haryana, no signs of autumn-


The scene was quite unlikely to change until this side os the Rohtang Pass. But after crossing Gramphoo and moving towards Spiti, some wild flowers brought the joy-


But then, shortly after Gramphoo till Chandratal, the terrain is almost barren.

(You can read my post on Chandratal by clicking here)

It was life on hills to see, only when we reach back towards Lahaul and move towards Tandi and further to Keylong. Keylong, though still had some touch of green and colour. But with snow falling on surrounding hilltops, autumn might not be too far-


But the green was gone, once I entered deep into Lahaul valley. Just after the Gata loops, I could see this touch of golden yellow on bushes-


But it is quite different once you enter the Ladakh region. Even in Ladakh, the areas adjacent to Indus or Shoyok rivers are quite different from the ones away from them. But roads near Leh, started to give a glimpse of autumn, like this…


…and this-


This is a view from Thiksey monastery of surroundings-


Even this image from top of a hill of the tents pitched for the Naropa 2016, near Hemis monastery gives a shot of some golden bushes in green surroundings. Its changing, isn’t it!


Once you cross Khardungla and move towards the Nubra valley, you are in store for some more surprises. Texture gets further different from here. Its a long valley sandwiched between two mountain ranges-


Karakoram sanctuary near Diskit and Hunder has another round of flowers-



But its the sunset at Hunder which gives the hue of autumn-


In almost two weeks, the signs of autumn are surely making there mark in the Lahaul valley. The hills around Tandi and Keylong too have started to covert to golden hues. I actually missed some better shots than the one below to my folly and anxiety to escape imminent rains-


Back to the normal lands in hills overlooking Una, life was still green and a bit to early to call autumn here. Leaves would have turned yellow in Kashmir… to welcome the Harud.


World through my eyes