Forgetten heritage and shades of Khajuraho near Udaipur

Well, since Udaipur is my hometown so I had always been knowing about this temple and have visited this quite a few number of times, since my school days. Similarly, almost all people from Udaipur know about it. But ironically, though Udaipur is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India for domestic as well as foreign tourists, still you will rarely find any tourist visiting this temple. Baring the school days, when we would come here for picnics or drop here while visiting the famous Eklingji temple; in recent times whenever I visited this temple, I or our group were the only persons around. So strange.

Well, this part of north-west India is full of shrines and temples but this image shows that it is no ordinary temple. It is actually a temple complex with a few temples around- a couple of them are still intact while there are others which have turned into ruins. The temple is called as Saas-Bahu (सास-बहू) temple. Bahu means young married woman and Saas means mother-in-law. And there is no historical reference behind this name. Actually, very little is known about the origin and construction of this temple. This is very intriguing given the elaborate architecture of this temple.

A look at the temple complex-

Interestingly, this region has a mix of temples- Jain, Shaivite as well as Vaishnava, very close to each other. Many of them have been top religious institutions of their times. This temple is indeed under supervision of ASI and what is known to us is that this temple belongs to eleventh century. This also means that the temple predates many of other prominent temples of this region by a few centuries. Tragedy for curious travellers like me is that, the inscription stone here clarifies nothing, worse  still, the language (there are two inscriptions- one in Hindi and in English) of the matter written here, presumably by the ASI, is hopeless. There are no sentences, no expressions and henceforth no meanings. The one who wrote this probably knew neither English, nor Hindi. This can happen only in India.

The complex has twin vaishnava temples. One is bigger and another smaller. The bigger one is surrounded by ten subsidiary shrines. Smaller temple is Panchayatna style, i.e. the main temple has four subsidiary smaller temples. Both temples have pancha-ratha sanctum. Inside the doorway is a mandapa, porch and lateral transepts. Porch also encloses balustrade.

The temple have quite detailed relief panels around the outer wall as well as inside the sanctum. Surprisingly, many of the relief panels are still quite intact. It’s these panels which bring to our mind the erring similarity between the sculptures of this temple and all famous temples of Khajuraho.  Have a look-

Such elaborate sculptures and minute but profuse ornamental carvings are also there inside the sanctums of the existing temples in complex. You can see the makara-torana inside the sanctums or mandapa, which is said to be typical feature of medieval temples of western India. You will find similar torans in many Jain temples, including famous Jain temples of Dilwara near Mount Abu. Even the pillars are lavishly carved with sculptures. See-

Ceilings, porches and the doorways too have quite delicate carvings as with most temples in the region. Although in one temple, you can find the ceiling burnt black. It might be either due to an accident or an deliberate attempt to extract sculptures by heating them.  Nobody knows. Have a look-

Now what brings similarity to Khajuraho is the criticism in the sculptures. Let’s have a closer look at few of the panels to see the detailed carvings-

You will see that not just the postures, mood and expression but in some of the sculptures, even the human carvings are quite similar to those find in various temples of Khajuraho. You can also have a look at some of the bigger sculptures-

Very interesting, isn’t it!

There are many temples around and also in the complex. Some are intact, some are ruined with only platforms left and some you can even see submerged in the lake like this one-

This Saas-Bahu temple is located just on the banks of this lake and by looking at the temple submerged in the lake, it can be safely assumed that there would have been bigger structure below, which is now under water. It also means that the lake would have come up later and was not there when these temples were constructed. It also can mean that there would have been few other temples in the complex which would have now completely submerged under the waters of this lake.

Now look at this another picture from a wider angle-

There is a luxury resort on the hillock on the other side of the lake. Seems strange, that when we are struggling to preserve this amazing, almost thousand year old heritage, there is such an opulent display of luxury nearby, which wants to showcase itself as heritage.

What would have been the main entrance of the temple during its glory… onlooking the existing lake

Where: This temple is just around 10 kilometres from the Udaipur city and off roughly a kilometre from NH8 which connects Delhi to Mumbai via Jaipur-Udaipur-Ahmedabad. While going from Udaipur to Delhi via NH8, there is famous EKlingji (एकलिंगजी) shiva temple. Just before you go downhill towards the Eklingji town, a road turns left over a dam. This road takes you to temple on other side of the lake, on which dam is built. This means, if you are coming from Delhi-Jaipur-Nathdwara side, than this road will come to your right once you cross the Eklingji town and climb uphill. Obviously Udaipur is the nearest railhead as well as airport to reach here.


The Disappearing Hotels of Wales

Want to Two hundred fortunate visitors will get a chance to book themselves in hotels which will vanish gradually. These boutique hotels will emerge at three spectacular secret locations across Wales. This unique concept is a part of Welsh Tourism Planner as a part of Welsh 2017 “Year of Legends”.

The concept is a perfect blend of luxury and adventure, where eight bespoke cabins pop-up in unheard of places; in a mystical and epic land of entailing tales which is called Wales. Only a select few will be able to access these privilege sites. The guests will be treated to exclusive Welsh experiences during their stay inspired by their location, ranging from fishing, to beer tasting, to Welsh cuisine prepared by top chefs of the region.

The cabins are specially designed for the project by the most sought after designers of Wales namely, Timber Design Wales & Newcastle Emlyn’s Rural Office for Architecture Ltd. The designs of each cabin are completely unique and speak of the famous legends and rich heritage of Wales.

The themes of these boutiques are meant to resemble various icons of the Welsh history owing, to its different eras. ‘Black hat’ cabin is designed in the fashion of a traditional hat worn by Welsh women. ‘Arthur’s cave’ is yet another theme of this project, probed by the legend of King Arthur and a cave where he and his knights slept while travelling. ‘Miner’s hut’ pays tribute to the revolutionary industrial era of Wales. The ‘Skyhut’ is another such cabin being designed especially for star gazing that does justice to the ‘International Dark Sky’ area of Wales. Some of the other design themes for this project are ‘slate cabin’, ‘cabin in the woods’,’ little dragon’ and ‘dragon’s eye’. The project is a part of Epic Retreats in partnership with Best of Wales, Cambria Tours and George + Tomos Architects partly supported by the Welsh Government’s Tourism Product Innovation Fund.

Getting ‘high’ in the hills!

Fermented alcoholic drinks have been part of different local cultures  since time immemorial. They have been part of local traditions and the art has been transferred from generations to generation. Many survived and many modified themselves. In India, wherever you go, you will find such local flavours in deep interiors of the hinterland. One such famous drink is Tongba. You go into hills of Sikkim and West Bengal and you won’t be able to miss it. During my treks to Sandakphu and in North Sikkim over the years, we could see it everywhere and actually enjoyed it… if not for taste then for its culture, and of course the unique way it is served in a container which itself is called as Tongba.

This drink is actually traditional and indigenous drink of Limbu people of eastern Nepal and perhaps travelled with them to the nearby areas of mountains of Sikkim and Darjeeling and to some parts of Tibet an Bhutan as well. Border with Nepal in the hill regions of Darjeeling district are very porous and not just that, while trekking you will often not know when you have transcended the international boundaries. Hence there was no way that these borders would have stopped the amalgamation of cultures. Therefore, Tongba is very much now the part of the local culture in Indian regions of Sikkim and Darjeeling hills. Best part is that you have to be here to taste it, hence those who have not been here, rarely get to know about it, leave aside tasting it.

Enjoying Tongba at Lachung in North Sikkim

Tongba is actually a heady millet brew. Tongba is this traditional wooden vessel with copper rings on top, bottom and in centre. The beverage is also called as Jaand. It is prepared by cooking and fermenting whole grain millet. It is a long and tedious process, but local people are expert in doing this at their homes. Cooked millet is cooled and mixed with murcha, known to be source of moods, bacteria and yeast, required for fermentation.

A lady cooling the cooker millet at her grocery store cum home cum tongba brewery in her village near Kalapokhri in Singalila hills

Once this is done, the mixture is collected in bamboo baskets, lined with green leaves. The basket is then covered with cloth and left to get warmed naturally for a couple of days. Once this process is over, the mixture is transferred into earthen pot and then covered tight at the mouth to prevent any air from entering in. It is then left like this for couple of weeks or even more depending on fermentation required. Once its done, jaand is ready to be consumed. This is then left to mature.

Lovely hosts, who also run a guest house for travellers

This jaand might be stored for about six months. Longer it is kept, taste intensifies but it becomes more mellowed. Now comes the drinking part, that is further interesting. Whenever it has to be consumed, the mixture is put into wooden tongba and then it is filled with boiled water, left for few minutes and is then sipped with a bamboo straw. The boiled water instantly derives the alcoholic essence from the millets. Once the water is finished and tongba gets dry, you add more water to the same mixture and keep repeating it until the essence is exhausted from the mixture. Drinking itself is an art, so that only liquid is sipped and grains aren’t sucked to your mouth.

Cool night, hot Tongba and some fine tuning on harmonica at Gurdum in West Bengal
Tongba ready to drink

So, when somebody sits to drink Tongba, there is invariably kept a thermos of boiled water besides. In hills, tongba also serves as a community drink, where people get together for a chat and a tongba is shared by all by passing it to one-another after every sip. Gives a real feeling of brotherhood! In its drinking manner and sharing, it also reminds me of mate, favourite drink of latin America. Similarly, Tongba is culturally as well as religiously important to the Limbu people of Nepal. It is also offered as respect to guests coming to house or family gatherings.

A tongba drink is like what is beer to the commoners and it even tastes like that. Time magazine in an write-up commented long back, “tongba is like Guinness to the Irish or whisky to the Scots; it’s something to celebrate and revel in and to stumble and sing under its influence.”

Those who don’t love alcohol might detest on this, but as a traveller you ought to know and often have a feel of such things to be able to soak in the atmosphere.  Try it only if you are comfortable and never overdo a new taste, until you get used to it. Tongba is not that strong in terms of alcohol, but then different bodies, react differently on strange tastes. Better safe! You never know, when you will geta ‘high’!!



Spirited Traveller explores Indian Culture

This Summer, Fox Life will ease up your thirst for adventures with a brand new show Spirited Traveller when Catch Chef Kiran Jethwa travelling across the country to explore diverse Indian culture, through its beverages!

Fox Life, India’s favourite lifestyle channel, brings an all new exciting show – Spirited Traveller that explores the exotic beverages of India with the acclaimed Indo-Kenyan Chef Kiran Jethwa. The show unravels the enigmatic culture of India as the Chef travels the length and breadth of the country in search of its unique beverages and delicacies.

Spirited Traveller will voyage across India – Kerala, Goa, Mumbai, Coorg, Bangalore, Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi, Kolkata, Ravangla in Sikkim, Dimapur and Benreu village in Nagaland and Majuli Island and Jorhat in Assam – delving into the rich local traditions, distinctive beverages and the cultural idiosyncrasy that the country has to offer. Right from meeting the royals in Jaipur to tasting their aromatic royal drink Chandrahas to relishing the special coconut palm wine Toddy and duck chasing in Kochi to playing a game of archery in Ravangla and Kushti in Varanasi to joining the traditional puja of the forest Gods in Ravangla – the show is an exciting celebration of Indian culture like never before.

Talking about the new show, Shruti Takulia, Creative Director, India Productions, FOX Networks Group India said “

We take great pride in our original productions at FOX Life and are very excited to bring forth an original concept in the form of Spirited Traveller, which is a fresh take on exploration and experiential travel. Spirited Traveller reiterates our promise to create innovative, exciting and quality local content for our audience. Chef Kiran Jethwa reflects the brand personality; he is fun, adventurous and uninhibited and we are happy to have him host the show.”

Excited Kiran Jethwa talking about his experience said “I’m delighted to be a part of this exciting show. Through the show Spirited Traveller, I have had a chance to explore India’s varied culture, beverage and experiment with its cuisine. The people have been very warm in welcoming me into their kitchens and sharing their delicious recipes; I truly feel enriched with newer experiences!”

Explore India like never before by tuning into Spirited Traveller, starting 20th March 2017, every Monday and Tuesday at 9pm only on Fox Life.

India’s favourite lifestyle channel. FOX Life is a global brand, the flagship lifestyle channel in the FOX Networks Group portfolio. FOX Life showcases exciting content that viewers love and many more interesting and fun journeys – from exploring a mouth-watering array of food from around the world, to fashion, to music, to party, to reality, to sexy destinations – giving viewers a variety of content. FOX Life reaches out to audiences in India and various South Asian countries including Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The channel is available in four different languages- English, Hindi, Tamil and Bengali and is also available in High-Definition.

Brussels in Renaissance times

Ommegang 2014

Once again this year from May through September during the Charles V Festival, Brussels brings back the Renaissance spirit with its artistic and scientific innovations. On this occasion fifteenth century European history and heritage will be in the spotlight thanks to a full schedule of festive, cultural, and family activities planned for different locations throughout the Brussels-Capital Region.
The festive and historical Charles programme is incorporated into the “European routes of Emperor Charles V” network. This historical and tourist route is recognised by the Council of Europe’s European Institute of Cultural Routes. It combines the places that marked the reign of Charles V and the cities through which he travelled. This year we are commemorating the 150th anniversary of Charles de Coster’s Ulenspiegel, a masterful work of Brussels literature set in the old Netherlands at the time of Charles V and his son.

Carolus Festival _ Coudenberg _ Family day

Now here is a preview of the must-see events of this edition:
Exhibition/route: Remigio Cantagallina, an Italian traveller in the Southern Netherlands
More than 400 years ago, a Florentine artist named Remigio Cantagallina journeyed across Europe to present himself at the court of Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabelle in Brussels. His reasons for making this trip have been the subject of meticulous research straddling history and art history. During his 1612-1613 stay in the old Southern Netherlands, he produced a number of drawings which constitute a unique record to this very day. These small drawings have been enlarged and staged in the underground ruins of the old Coudenberg Palace. Immerse yourself in the cities of the old Netherlands and time-travel between Brussels, Temse, and Spa. These drawings belong to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium’s collection, which is displaying a selection of original works especially for this occasion.

Diner of the Ommegang Р© E. Danhier

THE ERASMUS HOUSE, a 500 year-old abode
The Erasmus House, one of Brussels’ oldest homes (1515), brings together a collection of paintings (Holbein, Bosch, and Metsys) in a restored period interior, a rich library with thousands of old titles, and a Philosophical Garden all in one place.
A letter signed by Charles V will be on special display throughout the festival.
Treasure hunts for children: Travelling with Erasmus (ages 6 – 9) – On the Erasmus trail (ages 10 – 12).

Diner of the Ommegang Р© E. Danhier

– Family Day (21 May 2017)
On Family Day today’s families will travel back in time. A day full of surprises awaits them at Coudenberg Palace. On the schedule: games and themed workshops, a period buffet, crossbow shooting, encounters with Ommegang characters, introductory dance classes, and guided tours. It’s a delightful opportunity to travel back in time and learn among family and friends.

Ommegang 2014

– Ommegang Week (5 – 8 July 2017)
On Wednesday, 5 and Friday, 7 July, the parade held in 1549 for Charles V and his son will take to the streets of Brussels. All told, 1,400 walk-on performers will immerse you in the period atmosphere. Charles V’s coach and his procession, comprised of musicians, dancers, horsemen, guards, standard-bearers, and more, will wind their way through city streets from the Parc de Bruxelles to Grand-Place, where the traditional show will round out a lovely day. A medieval village, market and jousting exhibition will animate this festival. Not forgetting, of course, the unmissable crossbow workshop that will be held in front of the Notre-Dame du Sablon church. All these activities and more will take the region back into the heart of the 16th century on 5, 6 and 7 July 2017.

Contemporary art – Brussels’ cultural heartbeat in April 

“Is Brussels the new Berlin?” Some say it is, others aren’t convinced. But one thing is certain: Brussels has become a hub of contemporary art and April we be the perfect time to enjoy the richness of its art!

Salon Beurs Show at Art Brussels

Once again this year there are several fairs taking place in the capital: the two largest, Art Brussels for its 35th edition and New York fair Independent for a second year in Brussels, as well as three other alternative fairs – YIA Art Fair, POPPOSITIONS and OFF COURSE Young Contemporary Art.

Numerous parallel exhibitions and events will animate proceedings in the city. The WIELS will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. To mark the occasion, the art centre will be inaugurating a large exhibition/festival which will take place not only in its main building, but also in two neighbouring ones, which are vestiges of the old Wielemans brewery heritage. The exhibition is called “The Absent Museum – Blueprint for a museum of contemporary art for the capital of Europe” and will take place from 20 April to 13 August 2017. The exhibition will be supported by a partnership with Kunstenfestivaldesarts offering shows and performances.

BOZAR Horta Hall © BOZAR

The new version of the BelgianArtPrize will hold its official award ceremony on 19 April at Bozar. The prize aims to reward artists that best represent the sector, and promote the development of their visibility on the international stage (exhibition from 17 March to 28 May 2017). Winners of the 2016 Marcel Duchamp prize will be exhibited in Hangar H18.

Events also take place at the MIMA, Centrale for Contemporary Art, the CAB, ADAM, at the Vanhaerents Art Collection, at the Loge, at the Museum of Ixelles, at the Botanique, at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and at Villa Empain with an exhibition on globalisation commissioned by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Asad Raza.

To make travelling between venues easier for visitors, will be putting on a free minibus service from 20 to 23 April that will stop at all the fairs and main exhibition venues.

Salon Beurs Show, Art Brussels

This year, Art Brussels is celebrating its 35th edition! Taking place for the 2nd time in Tour & Taxis, the fair will gather 140 galleries from all over the world. It welcomes more than 25,000 visitors of which 30% are from abroad and also brings together famous Belgian and international collectors. On top of this, Art Brussels has the reputation of being THE best fair in Brussels at which to make new discoveries.

Musée d’Ixelles © Olivier van de Kerchove

Independent is a contemporary art fair that was born in New York in 2010 and successfully set up in Brussels for the first time in 2016 in the Vanderborght, a building of more than 6,000 m² in the heart of Brussels’ historical centre. Independent invites some 60 international galleries and offers visitors a new, open plan way to explore an art fair!

Art Brussels

POPPOSITIONS is a niche fair that gathers the projects of some 20 specific art galleries and spaces around one general political theme. The atmosphere is young and the tone is experimental. POPPOSITONS invites you to take a closer look at the pieces and what they could teach you. It feels more like an exhibition than a fair.

The YIA Art Fair was created in France in 2010. After five editions in Paris, the YIA moved to Brussels for the first time in 2016. This year it will welcome a selection from 45 prospective international galleries at the Square on the Mont des Arts.

An alternative fair, OFF COURSE gives the floor to young artists as well as emerging artists. Young talents with diplomas from international art schools are invited to present their work, as are winners of various fine art competitions.

Lot outside Kerala too to enjoy in March

I talked about Kerala yesterday but there is lot more happening outside Kerala too in terms of events and festivals. With spring in its full bloom, it is riot of colours everywhere- in nature as well on faces! Actually, this is one of the most awaited months of the year because of its festivities- festival of colours- Holi undoubtedly. It is also last of the months of the pleasant weather before the summer strikes. Its already getting hot this time of the year. Don’t spare a chance to be around at any one of these places! As a matter of fact, there are so many happenings this month that instead of usual ten, I couldn’t stop myself from listing eleven this time. Here they go-

Festival of colours in Brij

HoliThough there are many festivals around the world where people throw colours, waters, flowers, mud, tomatoes, oranges and what not on each other, but no celebration can be compared to the fervour of celebrating Holi in mythical land of Krishna. Though Holi is celebrated in almost all parts of northern and central India, but it is the spirit of tradition that draws thousands every year to Mathura-Vrindavan to feel and play the holi as it used to be when Krishna used to play with Radha. In this area, festival of colours starts many days prior to the actual Holi day and continues long after that. It seems that for weeks together, this land has nothing else to do then relive the tradition of playing with colours. From temples to every household, prepares for it and is part of it. This holi is played in all possible ways- with flowers, colours, water and even by women folk beating their male counterparts when men of Nandgaon go to play Holi with women of Barsana, a mythical representation of Krishna going to play Holi with Radha. Tourists from all over the world come to witness this unique festival.

When: 5-15 March, 2017

Where: Barsana, Mathura

Check your Yoga quotient

International_YogaWhen it comes to Yoga, India has many gurus—as many as we have cricket experts. With growing popularity around the world, yoga festivals are the flavour of the season. There are many international tourists who plan their India trip around such yoga festivals. Places like Rishikesh has many of these. One among these with an international repute is the annual International Yoga Festival organised by Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh. This year it presents a ‘truly’ International Yoga Festival grounded in the authentic origin of Yoga. Practise and learn from masters from the Traditional Yoga Lineages from India, as well as masters of International well known yoga schools & styles. During this one-week Festival, one will have the opportunity to participate in over 60 hours of Yoga classes from world-class Yoga teachers practicing multiple styles of Yoga including Kundalini Yoga, Power Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga and Kriya Yoga. The International Yoga Festival explores the eight limbs of Yoga and how they apply to human lives whether one considers itself as Yoga student or not.The participants will also be blessed with the presence, satsang and divine words of ‘revered saints and spiritual masters’ from within India. Started in 1999, this is the 16th year for this festival. With more than 400 people from over 30 countries, it’s grown to become one of the largest yoga gatherings in the world.

When: 1-7 March, 2017

Where: Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh

Harvest festival of Chapchar Kut

Chapchar-KutChapchar Kut is a harvest festival named after bamboo that has been cut, and is drying for burning and subsequent cultivation. The traditional bamboo dance performed by women (while men sit on the ground and beat bamboo sticks against each other), called cheraw, is a big part of the festival. Different styles of tribal dance performances take place amidst symbol clashes and beats of drums. There’s art, handicrafts, concerts, flower shows, and food as well. At the end of February, when winter starts receding, the Mizos prepare the land for fresh planting. There are few days of relaxation before the serious business of sowing starts and that is when the Chapchar Kut festival is celebrated with gaiety and fervour. A spring festival, this is the most important festival and the only one regularly observed during the first week of March in Mizoram. On this day people of all ages, young and old, men and women dressed in their colourful costumes and distinctive head gears and jewelries, assemble and perform various folk dances, singing traditional songs accompanied by beating of drums, gongs and cymbals. They dance in joyous celebration of life, each team displaying the best of its region. These are generally group dances with a lot of bonhomie and courting woven into them. Some dances are strictly martial danced by strong virile warriors with their weapons and trophies. One dance perennially popular is the Cheraw or the “bamboo dance” so called as long bamboo staves are used for this dance. This is the most colourful and distinctive dance of the Mizos requiring skill and an alert mind to perform. The other main dances performed during Chapchar Kut are Khuallam, Chheihlam, Chai and Sarlamkai. “Khual lam” is an auspicious dance performed by a group of dancers celebrating new beginnings. It is also a welcome dance for guests during community festivities.Exhibition and sale of indigenous Handloom and Handicraft products and other tourist attractions like flower show, food festival, musical competition and different traditional games are also organised during the Chapchar Kut festival

When: 3 March, 2017

Where: Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. Also Lunglei and Saiha

Goa’s version of Holi- Shigmo

ShigmotsavGoa’s biggest spring festival, Shigmo, is the state’s version of Holi. It’s a Hindu festival that’s filled with bright decorations, singing, dancing, and colors. One traditional dance that’s often performed is the Ghode Modni martial arts horse dance. Shigmo parade is a street festival where vibrant colours and overwhelming celebrations lift the spirits of the entire state. It’s an experience you cannot afford to miss. This religious Hindu festival is filled with colours, music, dance and floats. In true meaning, it depicts the life of a Goan in elaborate folk performances by local men and women who dance tirelessly in huge processions along with the parade. Traditionally it was celebrated as spring’s biggest festival which honoured the homecoming of the warriors who had left their homes and families at the end of Dusshera to fight the invaders. Traditional folk dances and enactment of mythological scenes is the major highlight of this parade. Shigmotsav as they call it, is similar to Holi but it’s celebrated for 14 days in Goa. It is also a farewell to the winters. Traditional folk dances like Ghode Modni and Fugdi are performed on streets in massive troupes along the procession, showcasing the tradition of Goa. The shimmering floats with extensive lighting and sound effects move along with the parade gripping the attention of a huge crowd that aligns the streets of Goa.

When: 24 March-7 April, 2017.

Where: All over Goa, particular evenings in Panjim where a huge street procession is held with floats depicting Ramayana and Mahabaratha scenes, drums, and folk dancing. Celebrations are more authentic in rural areas. Expect plenty of authentic Goan cuisine and fenni (local alcoholic drink).

A festival for Olive Ridley turtles

turtlesNow that’s unusual. Spend a time at beach to show the commitment towards conservation of an endangered species. See newly hatched, endangered Olive Ridley turtles take their amazing march into the sea at the annual Turtle Festival. As well as this, you’ll get to sample traditional Indian village life by stopping over at local home-stays in the area (dormitory rooms only). Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) is a leading non-government organisation (NGO) in India, engaged in conservation of, education about and research on nature. In the year 1992, SNM started its work in the pristine region of Konkan on the western coast of Maharashtra state in India.Sahyadri started ‘Home Stay’ to host metro tourists at Velas in 2006 as a part of ‘Turtle Festival’. Turtle festival is an opportunity for metro-tourists to bid best wishes to the newly born sea turtle hatchlings while crawling towards their home. To ensure longevity of the project, Sahyadri also helped locals to form ‘Kaasav Mitra Mandal’ (Turtle Friends). Over the last 6 years, ‘Home Stay’ has received excellent support and guidance by locals, Gram Panchayat and the Forest Department. Sahyadri empowered villagers by starting Velas Homestay to host the tourists visiting during Turtle Festival. There is no fixed date and people organise different tours during the hatching time of turtles in February-March.

When: March, 2017

Where: The turtle village Velas in Konkan region is almost 225 kms from Mumbai and around 120 kms from Chiplun. Its also 6 hours bus journey from Ratnagiri. Chiplun and Ratnagiri are on the Konkan railway main line.

Myoko Festival, Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh

MyokoOne of the most impressive festivals of the Apatani in Arunachal is Myoko. It is celebrated in spring. In it age-old beliefs in the possibility of attaining and directing fertility to the fields and the people are interwoven with methods of strengthening family, clan and inter-village ties. The most important day is the day of the great pig sacrifices. It is believed that on this day the gods and goddesses will bless the place. At 2 o’clock the pigs are brought to the sacrificial place. From 4 o’clock onwards the priest starts reciting prayers which last for many hours. With the sunrise the freshly married women appear in their festive attire and sprinkle rice flour and rice beer over the dozens of pigs lying on the ground. At the same time the assistant priest sacrifices chickens on an altar on the sacred ground. After the main Myoko priest has been chanting his prayers for several hours, selected pigs receive special rituals before sacrifice. That part of the festival might not be for the weak-hearted. The Apatani tribe living in the Ziro Valley are keepers of folklore and legends, and customs so different. Bringing together all the Apatani tribes is their most important festival, Myoko, when the tribes renew their relationships, and pay homage to ancestors and nature for its gift of life and means of sustenance.

When: 20-30 March, 2017

Where: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh

A garden so exclusive!

mughal-gardenIt can be called as one of the biggest private gardens in the world at one of the biggest private residence in the world. Nearly 10,000 Tulips in vivid colours are be the main attraction of annual ‘Udyanotsav’ which President Pranab Mukherjee recently threw open at Mughal Garden for public. The iconic Mughal Gardens of the Rashtrapati Bhavan is open for the public from February 5. The beautiful lawns, comprising the spiritual garden, herbal garden, bonsai garden and musical garden, will remain open from till March 12 (except on Mondays which are maintenance days) between 9:30 am-4:00 pm.) So you still have time, if you have not already gone there. President Mukherjee inaugrated the gardens, as part of the ‘Udyanotsav’, on February 4. Entry and exit for people to reach the Mughal Gardens is from Gate No 35 of the President’s Estate, close to where North Avenue meets Rashtrapati Bhavan. Visitors are not allowed to bring any water bottles, briefcases, handbags/ladies purses, cameras, radios, transistors, boxes, umbrellas, eatables etc. Such articles, if any, have to be deposited at the entry point. Arrangements for drinking water, toilets, first aid/medical facility and rest rooms for senior citizens, women and children have also been provided. There will be special visiting days too as the gardens will open exclusively on March 10 for farmers, differently abled persons, defence/paramilitary forces and Delhi Police personnel. They can visit the gardens on this day between 9:30 am-4:00 pm and the entry will be through Gate No 35. The tactile garden will be open for visually impaired people on March 10 from 11:00 am-4:00 pm and the entry can be made from gate No 12, situated on Church Road (next to North Avenue). The garden has more than 120 celebrated varieties of roses who have their prime bloom is in February-March. The special roses include Green Rose and Angelique. Nearly 40 fragrant varieties include Belami, Black Lady, Double Delight, Eiffel Tower, Granada, Jadis, Mr Lincoln, Sadabahar and Taj Mahal. The Gardens include roses named Mother Teresa, Arjun, Bhim, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jawahar and Dr BP Pal besides international celebrities with names like John F Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth, Mr Lincoln and Montezuma. Other rose varieties worth mentioning are Christian Dior, Happiness, Century Two, First Prize, Kiss of Fire, Iceberg and Granada. Unlike other gardens which grow a limited variety of roses but in large masses, the Mughal Garden features a large range of rose varieties in one place.

When: 5 February-12 March, 2017

Where: Mughal Gardens, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi

Gangaur at Jaipur

Gangaur-jaipurOne of the most important festivals in Rajasthan, Gangaur is all about honoring the goddess Gauri. In some form or the other it is celebrated all over Rajasthan. “gan” is a synonym for Lord Shiva and “gauri” or “gaur” stands for Goddess Parvati, the heavenly consort of Lord Shiva. Gangaur celebrates the union of the two and is a symbol of conjugal and marital happiness.This festival is predominantly for women. Colorful processions of bejeweled images of the goddess Gauri wind their way all over cities and villages, accompanied by local bands. In Jaipur, traditional procession of Gangaur commences form the Zanani- Deodhi of the City Palace, passing through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan stadium and finally converges near the Talkatora. The procession is headed by a old palanquins, chariots, bullock carts and performance folk artistes.

When: 29-30 March, 2017.

Where: All over Rajasthan, however the festivities in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and Nathdwara are the most notable

Mewar Festival at Udaipur

Mewar-FestivalThe Mewar Festival welcomes the arrival of spring. It coincides with the festival of Gangaur in Udaipur, and has a unique charm about it. The women folk gather to dress the images of Isar and Gangaur and then carry them in a ceremonial procession through different parts of the city. The procession winds its way to the Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichhola. Here, the images are transferred to special boats amidst much singing and festivity. Once the religious part of the festival is over, it is time for cultural events where Rajasthani culture is portrayed through songs, dances and other programmes. The festival culminates with an impressive fireworks display. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see a range of traditional musical instruments being played.

When: 30 March-1 April, 2017

Where: Udaipur, Rajasthan

Taj Mahotsav at Agra

Taj-MahotsavNormally this festival is held every year in February, but due to elections in Uttar Pradesh, it was postponed this year for a month. This 10 days long carnival is actually a vibrant platform that gives you information of India where you can find India’s rich arts, crafts, cultures, cuisine, dance and music. Taj Mahal is the most beautiful historical place of India which tells about incredible India. Taj Mahotsav is organized by UP Tourism and it is a source to increase Indian Tourism. This cultural bonanza was started in year 1992 and since then its grandeur has reached to greater heights. One of the objectives of this craft mela is to provide encouragement to the Artisans. It also makes available the magnificent work of art and craft at the most reasonable and authentic prices that are not inflated by high maintenance cost. About 400 legendary artisans from different parts of the country get an opportunity to display their exquisite works of art. To name a few among them  are the wood/stone carvings from Tamil Nadu, Bamboo/cane work from North East India, Paper mash work from South India and Kashmir, the marble and zardozi work from Agra, wood carving from Saharanpur, brass wares from Moradabad, hand made carpets from Bhadohi, Pottery from Khurja, Chikan work from Lucknow, silk & zari work from Banaras, shawls & carpets from Kashmir/Gujarat and hand printing from Farrukhabad and Kantha stitch from west Bengal etc. Apart from the exquisite craft work you can experience the majestic and magnetic performances by artistes from every walks of life. The soul-stirring performances will engulf you to the extent of casting a spell. Throughout the Mahotsav, one can experience a profusion of folk & classical music & dances of various regions. Besides the folk, the Mahotsav also exhibit the performance from the world renowned artistes from classical, semi-classical and popular art forms. Beside being the right destination for the arts & crafts, the Mahotsav is also a delight for the connoisseurs of good food as it is the ideal place to pamper the taste buds of the visitors with endless varieties of scrumptious dishes. Some of the oldest exponents of the cuisine-art prepare the lip-smacking dishes. One can also relish the typical preparations from the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. Funfair is the biggest attraction for children in the festival. It is a complete family entertainment which offers thrill and amusement for every one. Teenagers and adults enjoy various rides and roller coaster while children are happy with small ride such as merry-go-round, Train-rides and Ferris wheel.

When: 18-27 March, 2017

Where: Shilpgram, Eastern gate of Taj Mahal, Agra

Oracle tradition of Ladakh at Matho 

matho-nagrangTough to say to go to Ladakh at this time but there is no barrier for those who are keen to enjoy the fun. Each year, in the small village of Matho, the people come together to celebrate a part of their mystical heritage. The Oracle Matho Nagrang Festival is held each year in Ladakh, India during the first month of the Tibetan new year. It is believed that two oracles, or Ronstang, inhabit the bodies of two specially chosen monks in order to predict the future of the village and of individual villagers. Matho itself, just 26 kilometers from Ladakh, is named after the Matho monastery, which means “many happiness.” Due to its location, the monastery does not get many visitors outside of the annual Winter Festival of the Oracles but has a great deal to offer. It is the only monastery of the Sakyapa sect in Ladakh – one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism. The Sakya sect dates back to the 11th century and practices esoterism, or tantra, as its foundational teaching. The monastery also houses a museum with centuries old Thangpa. A Thangpa is a painting done on silk tapestry. Buddhist deities or mandalas are usually depicted and the Thangpa are used as teaching tools in the Buddhist tradition. Also in the museum are the colourful silken robes and ceremonial masks worn by the monks during the festival. The costumes are worn during dances that depict Buddhist history as well as the history of the village. The festival begins much earlier than the two public days of festivities. For the monks who serve as the vessels for the oracles are chosen every four years.

When: 11-12 March, 2017

Where: Matho monastery, Ladakh



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