Scratch to Ship at Beypore

This a place which most of the tourists travelling to Kerala will overlook. But I was told that foreign tourists are more inclined to go there than Indian tourists. But I was anxious to be there, as soon as I came to know about this place. Still, when I ultimately reached here, I was the lone traveler. I am talking about ship building yards of Beypore in Kozhikode or erstwhile Calicut in Kerala.

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Its the traditional way of ship building both in wooden and metallic frames for bigger fishing boats and smaller passenger boats (and not for bigger passenger ships). This traditional art of ship-building is called as uru. Actually this art came to Kerala centuries ago from the Arab world. The Arabs used to call them dhows. They were used as traditional Arabian trading vessels. Arabs used to come to Kerala for trade in spices. They came to know about availability of timber in forests of north Kerala and also about the quality craftsmen here. Hence they started getting there dhows made here in Malabar region. Tradition of ship building in Beypore is said to be more than 1500 years old. Now ship building has become modern, but the tradition still continues albeit at smaller scale.

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Being a major harbour of the Malabar region Beypore has been major centre for making urus in Kerala.  Beypore several centuries ago was itself a prominent port and an important centre for trade via sea, attracting Arab and Chinese travelers and later the Europeans. A typical uru in appearance is a large vessel. It demands hard labour and the dexterous hands of craftsmen to build one. This seagoing vessel earlier was completely made of wood and built by joining planks of good quality timber.  Urus were traditionally built totally machine free. Even nails were not used. Unlike their ancestors, modern day Uru makers use simple machines as well as nails. Most of the work is done by basic carpentry tools.

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But now metal is also used in frames and support structure of fishing vessels. We can see some other fishing vessels being constructed here.

Here you can see a metallic frame:

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Another ship is in final stage of construction:

This one is almost ready to go into water within few days-

Modern fishing vessels go through a complicated process with integration of different works at various levels. They also need a proper communication system-

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The time taken and cost involved depends on the size of the vessel. The vessel above is almost 80-90 feet and it takes almost six months to build this. The cost for this is estimated to be around 90 lakhs rupees. Bigger ones with around 100 feet length have a cost tag of more than one crore rupees.

Few other ships getting ready-

Rails to finally push the vessel into the water-

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Uru building yards are near river Chaliyar, about 1 km off from where it drains into the sea. Beypore is easily accessed from Kozhikode (Calicut) city, by half an hour car drive. You can even take city buses or auto rickshaws to reach Beypore from Calicut. Kozhikode has an airport, rail head, and several bus terminals.

One can also purchase small souvenir Urus from handicraft shops of Beypore and Calicut. The changed scenario in the ship building industry at Beypore has in turn made the local craftsmen to switch to crafting little wooden models of their gigantic masterpieces. The miniature of urus made out of teak wood also come enclosed in bottles. There are many centres in Kozhikode, where one can buy the models of urus and also get them made-to-order in Kozhikode.

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Bali from the sky – few captures!

Its fun to be on window seat of a plane, provided you are interested in capturing images. And if images are from a beautiful beach resort like Bali, then you just can’t stop clicking. How different it is to see a place from the top, then being there! A lot perhaps. Lot changes with the change of the angle and perspective. Eye angle is more wide than  ever. The view and the perspective, both become more holistic. Hence the idea of beauty also changes!

So here starts the fun-

Plane looks like walking right into the sea!

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… or along it! Is it quite close for comfort or just thrilling!!

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It looks more normal now-

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Games of the window seat!

Quite different to see a beach resort from up in the sky!

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… but it still looks amazing with all those boats and yachts lined up!

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The three shots of the sea link from Denpasar towards Nusa Dua. The view is equally fascinating as was to actually travel on that bridge-

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….its big. We don’t have anything like this in India, I presume (not undermining Worli sea link in Mumbai).

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…. right on the top. Want to get airdropped here!

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You can also see the difference in the colours of the sea in different patches..

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On to the other side of island…

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Now getting farther and higher… seeing more of the land-sea divide.

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Leaving behind the land but with lots of memories stacked up in baggage!

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A Supermoon on a night so revered!

It is one of the most awaited celestial phenomenon of the year- the Supermoon. This year it was special as moon was closest to earth  since 1948. It was just 356, 509 kilometres away. For us Indians, the supermoon night was one of the most auspicious full moon night of the year- Kartik Purnima or the full moon day of the Kartik month of the hindu calendar.

Skygazers took to high-rise buildings, tourist landmarks and beaches worldwide on Monday to catch a glimpse of the closest supermoon in almost seven decades. Many of enthusiastic Indians enjoyed the sight of the moon while taking dip in waters of many holy rivers. Actually, on the occasion of Kartik Purnima people take dip in the rivers considered to be holy. This bath is taken mostly in the early hours of the full moon day. It is considered to be the one of the most auspicious days of the year. Incidentally, this is the day when founder of the Sikh religion- Guru Nanakdev was born.

So, like the enthusiasts around the world, I too was waiting for the grand day to capture some precious moments. I even tried to test my photography skills a day before and this was the result post correction-

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Prelude to the supermoon, the night before!

On the eventual day, I traveled a bit to look for a clear view of the moon. I was finally able to manage at a place. It was fascinating to see, how the colours and brightness of the moon kept changing as it moved on to journey upward from horizon to sky.

You can see for yourself-

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Reddish orange at the time of moonrise

It turned from red to yellow-

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… and also bit brighter-

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There is a lot of difference between what is seen through a naked eye and what is seen through a telephoto lens.  It is said that this supermoon was 14 percent larger and over 30 percent brighter. But that is not enough difference to notice by a common viewer through naked eye. See for yourself-

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Well, and finally it shed all its colours to become full bright, still equally charming, first this-

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…. and this-

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Supermoons are quite common and appear on our sky once every 14 months on a average. This year (2016) itself had six super moons and  months of October, November and December are going to have three consecutive super moons, this year.

Will end the post with another post-correction view of the Supermoon-

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You missed it? Don’t worry, we are going to have another supermoon on 14th December, slightly smaller than yesterday’s one. But talking of closer than yesterday? That will now be only in 2034 when moon will be another 64 kms closer than yesterday’s supermoon. Not a big deal. Isn’t it!

Thiksey is one of the most glorious monasteries of Ladakh

Thiksey monastery has one of the most recognisable images of the Ladakh. It is imposing- standing on a hill top with complete hillock dedicated monastery campus. One just can’t miss this place as it is right adjacent to the road to Leh while coming from the Manali side. Its also very close to Leh, just 19 kms before it.  It is also one of the biggest monasteries in Ladakh. It is also said to resemble Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. At the altitude of 3,600 metres this monastery overlooks the Indus Valley with full view of the magnificent Stok range.

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There are two ways to reach the monastery on the top. There is a pedestrian way but that is quite steep. But one can also drive right to the entrance of the monastery via a loop on the hill.  That route is just more than a kilometre. There is a parking area and then one has to walk up, still quite a bit of stair-work. But that all is quite worth it. Overall it is a 12 storey complex.

One you reach at the top and enter the monastery campus the surrounding view of the Ladakh valley is mesmerising. It looks something like this on the one side-

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Indus valley and Stok ranges far behind

Thiksey monastery is most popular among tourists after the Hemis monastery. Spon Palden Sherab with his Master Jangsem Sherab Zang, one of the six contemporary disciples of Lord Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, responsible for the dissemination of his teachings to the remote provinces founded Thiksay monastery in 1433 AD.The disciple of “Jamgon sokapa, Sherab Zangpo” of stod, first built the temple of Stkmo Lakhang at top the Thiksay Alley. Then Paldan Sharab nephew of Sherab Zangpo, founded Thiksay monastery. Here are sacred shrine and many precious to be seen. The successive reincarnation of Skabjay Khanpo Rinpoche act as in charge of the monastery. This monastery houses many items of Buddhist stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and other ornaments.

See the photo gallery of the interiors of the monastery-

The highlight of the Thiksey monastery is the temple of Maitreya Buddha, also known as future Buddha. This is the newest temple in the monastery consecrated in 1980 by Dalai Lama. This temple has 12 metre (40 ft) high statue of Maitreya Buddha which is said to be largest such statue in Ladakh. Thirty artists took three years to build this statue.  It is made of clay and terracotta brick painted with gold. The murals behind the statue tell the story of the future Buddha.

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Statue of Maitreya Buddha

Biggest festival of the monastery Thiksey Gustor is held on the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan lunar calendar every year. It is a traditional ceremony conducted in the monasteries of Gelukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. During these  days of festival mask dances are performed by monks of the monastery wearing colorful silk brocaded robes and mask in different forms of Gods and Goddesses. The celebration end with the dismembered and dispersal of the Torma (Sacrificial Cake) by the leader of the Black hat dancers in a ceremony called “Argham” or “klling”. This sybolise the destruction of all form of evil. And also re-dnacts the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-Darma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid 9 th century. This year Thiksey Gustor will be celebrated on 17th and 18th November.

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This is the place where all temple festivals including Gustor are organised

Monastery also runs a hotel- Chamba Hotel which is located right at the base of the hill from where way to monastery starts. So those who want to stay close to the monastery can stay here. There are different categories of rooms here. Good option if one wants to be part of the early morning prayers. Besides, there are also simpler guest rooms in the monastery campus itself. But the guests are not allowed to stay in rooms of monks.  For day-visitors, staying at Leh is the best option.

Are you planning to go there for Thiksey Gustor on 17th-18th November?

Make sure to visit next time you are in Ladakh.

Now Zenfone 3 goes Max!

Asus launched its Zenfone 3 series in August this year, less than three months back. (Read the post: ASUS goes premium) Earlier in June it had launched superpower version of its phones- Zenfone Max (Read Review: A Power Packed Maximiser.) It has quickly realised that it is time to combine the battery of Max with premium features of Zenfone 3. Hence came the idea of Zenfone 3 Max which was launched in India today, 9th November 2016. At the onset, I will like to tell you that Zenfone Max had a 5000mAh battery, while Zenfone 3 Max has a 4100mAh battery. Probably the additional features of Zenfone 3 have not let room for a bigger battery!

zenfone3max1Well, the new smartphone will be available in two variants, 5.5 inch (ZC553KL) and 5.2 inch (ZC520TL), priced at INR 17,999 and INR 12,999 respectively. Prices already look very competitive. But few catches. The basic model of Zenfone 3 series (Zenfone 3 Laser) launched in August had the price tag of 18,999 INR. Zenfone 3 Max is cheaper than that. Whereas, Zenfone Max launched in June carried a price tag of 12,999 INR for its uppermost model. So, while the battery goes less powerful in Zenfone 3 Max (in comparison to Zenfone Max) it gets improved features and better processor. Hence, theoretically as well as practically it is not any of the phones of the earlier Zenfone 3 series with improved battery, but it is entirely a new phone which has been gelled with the already launched Zenfone 3 series as there is always a good market for smartphones with high-performing batteries.  Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL is available from today in all the major E-tailers and Retailers in India while Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL will be available by end November’16.  Both models will be available in three stunning metallic colours – Titanium Gray, Glacier Silver, and Sand Gold.

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Unlike earlier Zenfone Max and like the current Zenfone 3 series, this smartphone sports a 2.5D contoured glass touchscreen in a finely sandblasted full-metal, aluminum alloy-body with brilliant diamond cut chamfered edges, matched around the back by a gently curving rear cover that feels natural to hold. The display is surrounded by a slim, 2.25mm bezel that gives it a high 75% screen to body ratio enhancing the sleek look of the phone while minimizing bulk, giving users as large a screen for as compact a phone size as possible.

Designed for photography enthusiasts, Zenfone 3 Max features extraordinary 16MP/8MP (5.5”- ZC553KL) and 13MP/5MP (5.2”-ZC520TL) rear + front cameras that deliver crystal clear images. ASUS’ iconic PixelMaster camera captures beautiful, high-resolution photos with zero shutter lag and is loaded with powerful camera modes to capture every precious moment. The industry-leading Backlight (Super HDR) mode lets users see clearly through daytime shadow, Super Resolution captures multiple shots simultaneously for a single photograph with stunning 64MP(5.5”- ZC553KL)/ 52MP(5.2”- ZC520TL) detail and Low Light mode takes clear and bright photos, even in poor lighting.  The 16MP f2.0 camera of the Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL features triple technology autofocus system which ensures a superfast focus time of 0.03 seconds.— laser, phase detection and conventional contrast detection for continuous auto-focus — into one harmonious system that automatically selects the best one depending on the subject, lighting and range. When shooting handheld videos with Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL), an electronic image stabilization (EIS) system counteracts hand movements to ensure the resulting videos are stable and shake-free.

Stronger battery allows users to use the phone for a full working day and beyond. As with Zenfone Max this phone also doubles up as a fast-charge power bank for charging other devices. The product comes with inbox OTG cable for reverse charging and File Transfer. Despite this incredible battery performance, Zenfone 3 Max weighs only 148 grams (5.2’’- ZC520TL)/ 175 grams (5.5’’- ZC553KL) and  up to 8.5mm thick at the sides, making it one of the lightest and most compact smartphones with a battery that is more than 4000 mAh in capacity. To optimize performance, the smartphone also offers five selectable power modes that enable users to regulate their usage according to their needs – Performance mode, Normal mode, Power saving mode, Super Saving mode and Customized mode.

Here is the video of the launch event-

For added security and convenience, Zenfone 3 Max has a fingerprint sensor that is conveniently positioned near the top of the rear panel, allowing the user’s index finger to rest naturally upon it. The fingerprint sensor allows rapid locking or unlocking of the phone, and can also be used for authentication by other apps. The sensor functionality is integrated with the camera as well, allowing you to double tap to open the PixelMaster Camera app, and a single tap to capture the photo. It registers up to five separate fingerprints, and accurately detects fingerprints regardless of the orientation of the finger on the sensor in as swiftly as 0.3 seconds.

Zenfone 3 Max 5.5 (ZC553KL) is equipped with a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 64-bit octa-core processor. Together with an Adreno 505 graphics processor, the smartphone provides a greater responsiveness and ability to run graphically demanding games. While  ASUS Zenfone 3 Max 5.2 is powered by a 64-bit quad-core processor, a Mali T720 graphics processor and a 3GB RAM.

KEY POINTS:

  • Beautiful metallic design: Elegant sandblasted aluminum-alloy body with rounded edges, 2.5D contoured display glass and diamond-cut edges
  • Advanced camera: Excellent 16MP/13MP PixelMaster camera with industry leading Backlight (Super HDR), Super Resolution and Low Light modes for exquisite photographs
  • Extreme battery life: All-day talk time from a powerful, yet compact 4100mAh lithium-polymer battery
  • Remarkable reverse charging capability: Equipped with an OTG cable for charging other devices as well as for file transfers
  • Responsive Fingerprint Sensor: Fingerprint sensor unlocks in 0.3 Sec. with 5 fingers, 360 Degree Recognition and Camera Integration

Himalayan Rides : Road from Manali to Rohtang & Gramphoo

Lets take you on a virtual ride to Lahaul & Spiti valley. Every rider or driver or adventurer enthusiast going to Leh or Kaza is very much keen to know about the road conditions on these arguably two of the most fascinating road journeys in the world.

So, in this long and continuing series of road journeys in Himalayan India, I will try to bring for viewers what roads and riding on them is like. Recorded on various devices- explorer camera, smartphone and DSLR, these videos shall hopefully pump up the adrenaline, or atleast rekindle old memories. They will also help a few in planning their future trips.

In the first part is the journey from Manali to uphill Rohtang La and to downhill Gramphoo on the other side. Rohtang La at 13050 feet is the first mountain pass en route Leh. But Rohtang is also a favourite excursion for all tourists coming to Manali. Its a scenic route of 52 kms (Manali-Rohtang) and roads are perfect atleast till Marhi. After that roads start to deteriorate as we approach close to pass. Stretch from Marhi to Rohtang is also known for its traffic jams, prompting authorities to regulate movement of traffic. This has also resulted in some strict regulations, permits and green tax imposed by NGT (National Green Tribunal).

Gramphoo is 15 kms downhill from Rohtang top. Gramphoo is the place where roads to Lahaul valley and Spiti valley bifurcate. Road from Rohtang top till 4-5 kms was good in condition but next ten odd kilometres to Gramphoo were terrible this year (2016) due to widening of road and large scale repair work.

One also needs to understand that road conditions on these two stretches is lot dependent on weather as well as month of travel. Early in the season (June) roads will be worse than what one will find towards the end (September-October). Month of travel will also decide the amount of snow and running water (nallahs) one might find on roads. Thats the reason, September end is considered to be one of the safest time to ride or drive on these roads.

Here is the video

P.S. My explorer camera was on left side of my bike’s handlebar as I couldn’t get time to set it at more appropriate place. Hence videos are a a bit left-angled. Secondly, few videos were taken on the route during return journey. Idea was to get good visuals of the route. They have been merged.

 

This full moon will also be a supermoon

I talked about the events and festivals related to the coming full moon day, referred to as Kartik Poornima in hindu calendar in my last post . (Read it here: A full moon and a month full of festivals) But mark it, this full moon will also be a supermoon. It would be a an astronomical event that happened last time 68 years ago and will next happen only after 18 years.

‘Science Alert’ says that, “If you only see one astronomical event this year, make it the November supermoon, when the Moon will be the closest to Earth it’s been since January 1948.” During the event, which will happen on the eve of November 14, the Moon will appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than an average full moon. This is the closest the Moon will get to Earth until 25 November 2034, so you really don’t want to miss this one.

So how do you get a supermoon?

As NASA explains, because the Moon has an elliptical orbit, one side – called the perigee – is about 48,280 km (30,000 miles) closer to Earth than the other side (the apogee).  When the Sun, the Moon, and Earth line up as the Moon orbits Earth, that’s known as syzygy. When this Earth-Moon-Sun system occurs with the perigee side of the Moon facing us, and the Moon happens to be on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun, we get what’s called a perigee-syzygy. That causes the Moon to appear much bigger and brighter in our sky than usual, and it’s referred to as a supermoon – or more technically, a perigee moon.

(See below couple of images from the last full moon on 16th October)

Supermoons aren’t all that uncommon – we just had one on October 16, and after the November 14 super-supermoon, we’ll have another one on December 14. But because the November 14 Moon becomes full within about 2 hours of perigee, it’s going to look the biggest it has in nearly seven decades. “The full moon of November 14 is not only the closest full moon of 2016, but also the closest full moon to date in the 21st century,” says NASA. “The full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until 25 November 2034.”

Depending on where you’re viewing it from, the difference between a supermoon and a regular full moon can be stark, or difficult to tell. If the Moon is hanging high overhead, and you have no buildings or landmarks to compare it to, it can be tricky to tell that it’s larger than usual. (Budding photographers take note of it!)

See some striking images of 2014 supermoon from around the world-

But if you’re viewing from a spot where the Moon is sitting closer to the horizon, it can create what’s known as ‘moon illusion’. “When the moon is near the horizon, it can look unnaturally large when viewed through trees, buildings, or other foreground objects,” says NASA. “The effect is an optical illusion, but that fact doesn’t take away from the experience.”

Watch this video to know more about this year’s supermoon.

A full moon and a month full of festivals

It is one of the most beautiful moons of the year. Correspondingly, this is one of the holiest month of the year- Kartik. Rich in festivals- including some world-famous ones on and around Kartik Purnima (full moon day). Interestingly these festivals are spread throughout the country. That also makes it one of the best months to travel. Weather generally remains clear and winter is yet to make some ground. Many people even like to travel to hills during this month to have some good views of snow-clad peaks in blue skies. For those who want a pretext, here is a list of top 10 travel moments of the month of November

The charm of Pushkar

Pushkar FairThe Pushkar Cattle Fair is one of the largest in India and the only one of its kind in the entire world. During the fair, Lakhs of people from rural India flock to Pushkar, along with camel and cattle for several days of livestock trading, horse dealing, pilgrimage and religious festival. This small town, becomes a cultural phenomenon when colourfully dressed devotees, musicians, acrobats, folk dancers, traders, comedians, ‘sadhus’ and tourists reach here during Pushkar fair. According to Hindu chronology, it takes place in the month of Kartika (October or November) beginning on ‘ashtmi’ 8th day of Lunar Calendar and continues till full moon (‘Poornima’). The camel and cattle trading is at its peak during the first half of festival period. During the later half, religious activities dominate the scenario. Devotees take dips in the holy “Sarovar” lake, as the sacred water is known to bestow salvation. This small town is transformed into a spectacular fair ground, as rows of make shift stalls display an entire range of objects of art to daily utility stuff. Decoration items for cattle, camel and women, everything is sold together. Small handicraft items are the best bargain for buying souvenirs. The camel and horse races have crowds to cheer. Camel judging competitions are quite popular with animal lovers. Each evening brings different folk dances and music of Rajasthan, performers delivering live shows to the roaring and applauding crowds. Pushkar fair has its own magic and it’s a lifetime experience for travellers. It has featured in numbers of travel shows, films and magazines. According to the Lonely Planet: “It’s truly a feast for the eyes. If you are any where within striking distance at the time, it’s an event not to be missed.”

When:  8th to 14th November 2016

Getting there: By Air, nearest airport is Jaipur, which is connected with major cities. A newly built air strip at Kishangarh can cater to small charter flights. Helipad at Ghooghra (Ajmer) and Devnagar (Pushkar) can cater to clients travelling by helicopter. Ajmer is well connected by Rail to all important cities. Pushkar is just 13 kms away from Ajmer.  Ajmer is also well connected to important cities of Rajasthan and country through roads and is on Delhi-Mumbai National highway no 8.

Rann Utsav at Kutch

Rann MahotsavGujarat never fails to amaze and its amazement lies in a celebration at the largest tent city situated in the heart of the Kutch District-The Rann Of Kutch. This celebration is rightly called the “Rann Utsav”. It is the most amazing tourist destination to travel to, with friends as well as family either on short weekends or on long sojourns. The Spectacular site of a glistening White Rann under the full moon along with various glimpses of Kutchi Culture, Handicrafts and outdoor activities make this desert carnival a perfect holiday destination. The Great Rann of Kutch, the Little Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands at the southern fringe, makes up for some 30,000 square kilometres of white lands, sweeping the Gulf of Kutch at one end, and the seat of the great Indus Valley Civilization on the other, falling in southern Pakistan. A cradle of craftsmanship, Kutch is known for its exquisite variety of weaving, patchwork, block-printing, bandhani, tie-and-dye, rogan-art and other ethnic styles of embroidery, pottery, wood-carving, metal-crafts and shell-work. The variety emerges from the enchanting terrain that provides a perfect backdrop to an extra ordinary fair. Perhaps because the landscape is so white and ochre, even a hint of colour adds a fascinating element to the rustic life of Rann. The staple food is khichdi (a sumptuous mix of rice cooked with pulses), kadi (A lightly-flavoured, yellow curry made with yogurt), rotla (A nutritious Indian bread made from black millet flour) and green chilli pickle. Wash it down with creamy, ice-cold chaas (buttermilk)! Round it off on a sweet note with jalebis (Indian sweetmeat) or go for dudhpak, a spiced milk and rice pudding although the range of mithais does not end with these.

When:  1st November 2016 to 20th February 2017

Getting there: The old, walled city of Bhuj is the most important town in Kutch and also the district headquarters. Bhuj is accessibly by Air, Train and Road. By air, Bhuj Airport receives flights from Mumbai. All the capital cities of India are more or less connected to Bhuj by railways. Bhuj has a well connected railway network and there are regular trains from different parts of the state. The city can be reached easily from places such as Ahmadabad, Delhi, Mumbai and many other cities by rail. National highway No. 8A connects Bhuj to Ahmedabad. There is regular bus service that connects Bhuj to the neighbouring cities. Buses from the neighbouring cities ply to Bhuj regularly. Journey to Bhuj by road is a beautiful experience with vibrant landscape around. Kutch is another 71 kms from Bhuj.

Ganga Mahotsav & Dev Deepawali at Varanasi

Dev DeepavaliGanga mahotsav is a festival only once of its kind, certainly doubles the attraction of this city of temples, Ghats and traditions. As classical music fills the atmosphere, a mystique seems to envelop the environs awating a mood both celestial and soulful. The classical music rendered by maestros indeed imparts an unforgettable flavour. The attraction of the five-day-long Ganga Mahotsav is its message of faith and culture, that increase with the daily Shilp Mela and the unique Dev Deepawali with innumerable ‘Diyas’ or earthen lamps in chain, lit by devotees and which floating down the river on the full moon night of Kartik, a spectacle both mystical and heart winning. Thus, on the final day (Poornima), which coincides with the traditional Dev Deepawali (light festival of the Gods), the ghats on the Ganga River glitter with more than a million lit-up earthen lamps. It is believed that Ganga nourishes the Varanasi civilization for long and it has been a great religious importance in the Hindu society. It provides the people a great sense of different identity and belonging. For the religious and cultural beliefs of the people to the River Ganges, a festival of Ganga Mahotsav is organized every year. People at Varanasi celebrate Ganga Mahotsav continuously for 5 days at the banks of the River Gange. The trend of celebrating the Ganga Mahotsav in the Holy city of India, Varanasi, tends to keep the importance of the Varanasi as a cultural, religious and traditional capital of the India. At this occasion, pilgrims celebrate the event by performing an Indian classical style music and dance. It provides an immense chance for tourists to see the real presentation of the Indian classical dance and music. Many of the great personalities of India have participated and performed their enchanting performances at the Ganga Mahotsav such as Ustad Bismillah Khan, Bal Murli Krishnan, Vilayat Khan, Pundit Chhanulal Misra, Birju Maharaj, Girija Devi, Sujat Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Amjad Ali Khan, Zila Khan and Zakir Hussein. This festival attracts pilgrims and tourists from all the corners of the world.

When:  11th-14th November 2016

Getting there: Varanasi is accessible by all means- air, road and train. It has an airport with daily flights from Delhi. It is also on main Delhi-Howrah rail line. Road connectivity to all nearby cities- Allahabad, Lucknow or Patna is  also very good.

 A Tradition through the Ages at Sonepur

Sonepur FairThe annual Sonepur Fair in Bihar is an authentic rural fair that combines spirituality with elephant, cattle, and horse trading. It gets underway on the auspicious Hindu holy occasion of Kartik Purnima, when pilgrims take an early morning bath in the river, and continues for around three weeks. Street magicians, spiritual gurus, snack stalls, handicrafts, amusement rides, circus performers, and theater all create a carnival like no other. Apparently, the Sonepur Fair has ancient origins back to the rule of India’s first Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, who used to buy elephants and horses from it for his army. The Fair also commemorates the intervention of Lord Vishnu to end a great curse and long fight between elephant and crocodile in Hindu mythology. The elephant was saved, after bathing in the river and being attacked by the crocodile, by Lord Vishnu. Originally, the venue of the fair was Hajipur and only the performance of the puja used to take place at the Harihar Nath temple of Sonepur. However, under the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the venue of the fair got shifted to Sonepur. The temple of Harihar Nath is believed to have been originally built by Lord Rama, on his way to the court of King Janak to win the hand of Mata Sita. It is further said that Raja Man Singh later got the temple repaired. The Harihar Nath temple, as it stands today, was built by Raja Ram Narain, an influential person during the late Mughal period. Since Sonepur is situated at the convergence of the sacred rivers Ganges and Gandak, the Hindus regard it as a holy site. One of the purposes of the people visiting the Sonepur Cattle Fair, apart from the fair, is to take a holy dip at the convergence and pay respects at the Hariharnath Temple. Traditionally known as a cattle fair, while still wonderfully off the beaten path, the Sonepur Fair now has a more commercial focus with the aim of attracting both domestic and international tourists. In order to facilitate this, Bihar Tourism took over its organization, including tourist accommodations, in 2012. A new leaf in famous Harihar Kshetra Sonepur fair chapter has been added this year as the organizing committee has opened an account on Facebook for circulation of its events. The fair is scheduled to be inaugurated on November 4 and will be officially declared closed on December 4. While the Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan is famous for its camels, it’s the elephants that are the star attraction at the Sonepur Fair. They’re decorated and lined up on display in rows in an area known as the Haathi Bazaar (Elephant Market), and reportedly even raced. The special thing about it is that you can go up to the elephants and touch them, and even feed them.

When:  14th November to 13th December 2016

Getting there: Sonepur is easily accessible by Roadways and Railways. Moreover, it is only 25 kilometers from Bihar’s Capital Patna, which is well connected by Airways, Railways and Roadways to the other parts of the country. During the time of Fair, BSTDC also organizes Ferries from Patna to Sonepur.

Celebration of culture at Majuli

Majuli FestivalMajuli, the largest riverine island in the world, nestles in the lap of the mightly Brahmaputra. This is where the 15th century saint and fountain head of Assamese culture, Sankardeva, first established a Satra or neo-Vaishnavite monastery, born of insightful discourses with his spiritual successor, Madhabdeva. Its spans about 1,250 square kilometers but is gradually losing its terrain due to soil erosion and now only has an area of 421.65 square kilometers. Majuli is shrinking further as the vast Brahmaputra keeps getting bigger. The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti river (a branch of the Brahmaputra), joined by the Subansiri River in the north. The island is about 200 kilometers east from the state’s largest city, Guwahati.  Majuli is enveloped in lush greenery and the flora, fauna and the natural scenery found there is breathtaking. The Majuli festival is one of the most popular festivals and is celebrated on the picturesque banks of the river Luit situated 1.5 kilometers from Garamur, the sub divisional head quarter of the island. It is celebrated during the month of November keeping in mind the climatic conditions of the region. The celebration takes place for 4 continuous days. The Majuli festival is an enlightening celebration where various the cultural aspects of the different communities living there are revealed and honored. This is the one place where the artists of such different communities gather to celebrate their unity amongst this diverse gathering. On this day, they put aside their differences and hardships in their life, share their love for music, dance, arts, crafts and food. Elaborate events are organized on this day and people from these various tribes living in India and all over the world congregate to celebrate their heritage and culture. Rasleela is also a three day festival held usually in mid-November. It celebrates the legendary love of Radha and Krishna and the devotion of the gopis to Krishna.

When: 21st to 24th November 2016

Getting there: Majuli is 20 kms fom Jorhat town. Buses ply regularly from Jorhat town to Neamati Steamer Ghat, the main ferry boarding point for Majuli. The entire journey takes about three hours, involving a half hour bus ride to Neamati Ghat, which has a few tourist information booths, lodging facilities and food stalls catering to transiting ferry-goers, and ferry ride to the southern tip of Majuli island. Though Jorhat remains the principal entry point, Majuli can be approached through Lakhimpur on the north and Dibrugarh on the east.

Guru Purab at Golden temple

golden templeAll those who can’t go to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to pay homage to Guru Nanak at his place of birth, may still find solace at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib- the founder of Sikhism- falls on Kartik Purnima (i.e. full moon day of month of Kartik in Hindu calender) and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by the Sikhs throughout the world as Guru Purab. This day is widely celebrated throughout Punjab but especially so at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the main shrine of the Sikhs. This is one of the most sacred festivals in Sikhism. Apart from Sikhs, Hindus and other followers of Guru Nanak’s philosophy also celebrate this festival. The festivities in the Sikh religion revolve around the anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus. These Gurus were responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs. Their birthdays, known as Gurpurab (or Gurpurb), are occasions for celebration and prayer among the Sikhs. The celebration is generally similar for all Gurpurabs; only the hymns are different. The celebrations usually commence with Prabhat Pheris. Prabhat Pheris are early morning processions that begin at the Gurudwaras and proceed around the localities singing hymns. Generally two days before the birthday, Akhand Path (a forty-eight-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs) is held in the Gurdwaras. The day prior to the birthday, a procession, referred to as Nagarkirtan,[6] is organised. This procession is led by the Panj Pyaras. They head the procession carrying the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib and the Palki (Palanquin) of Guru Granth Sahib. They are followed by teams of singers singing hymns and devotees sing the chorus. There are brass bands playing different tunes and ‘Gatka’ teams display their swordmanship through various martial arts and as mock battles using traditional weapons. The procession pours into the streets of the town. The passage is covered with banners and gates decorated flags and flowers, for this special occasion. The leaders spreading the message of Guru Nanak.

When:  14th November 2016

Getting there: Amritsar is one of the most important cities of north India, hence it has a high speed connectivity to other cities through road and train network. It has also got an airport which connects it through to major airports with direct daily flights.

A carnival for city beautiful

Chandigarh carnivalThe City Beautiful- Chandigarh is among the few Indian cities to have their own city carnival. For three days every November city is turned into a stage for fun and frolic. The stage is set for the another Chandigarh carnival at Leisure valley. Every year this carnival has a special theme. There are comedy shows, musical shows and rides. For music buffs, two mega-musical nights are held by renowned Bollywood singers and Punjabi artists are something to look forward to. The fair marks a highly innovative step taken by the Chandigarh administration that has over the years been a great promoter and contributor towards exposing and exhibiting the talent breeding in the city. An elaborate food court will take care of the visitors’ taste buds. Last year the theme was science fiction which drew a large crowd. Apart from Souvenir Shop and Le-Corbusier Centre, Vintage Car exhibition at Museum and Art Gallery are also a part of the Chandigarh Carnival. To give it a carnival feel, a parade is also held on the streets of the metro. The beats of Bhangra and Giddha force a many to shake their legs. A fun to be in the city on those days. All the three days of the Carnival are well planned and packed with numerous activities. Numerous competitions, events are present for every generation and taste of people. Over the years the carnival has become so popular that viewers come from far and wide to witness this mega event.

When:  25th to 27th November 2016

Getting there: Chandigarh is one of the most important cities of north India, hence it has a high speed connectivity to other cities through road and train network. It has also got an airport which connects it through to major airports with direct daily flights.

Celebration of ‘Vijay’ at Hampi

Hampi FestivalHampi Festival is the largest festival at Hampi. Generally they are scheduled for 3 days during the first week of November. Hampi Utsav, also known as the Vijaya Utsav, Festival of Hampi has been celebrated from the times of the Vijayanagar reign. Hampi being a World Heritage Site is a international tourist spot. This festival is attributes to the mega cultural extravaganza. Renowned artistes all over India come forward in bringing the grandiose days of the Vijayanagar Period to the present day. The rich culture of Kannadigas in the fields of dance, music and art thus showcased complement the beautifully carved ruins of Hampi. Bright colored handicrafts, leather puppets done by the traditional craftsmen of the past are reproduced with the same skill by their present generation. Musical instruments such as pipes and drums traditionally played vibrate the air with past grandeur. The Government of Karnataka promotes this festival every year to attract people all over the world to this magnificent land. This year as many as eight stages have been erected at various places – Virupaksha temple precincts, near monolith Sasivekal and Kadlekal Ganesh, opposite to Krishna temple, near Gayatripeetha, at Kamalapur and near Vijaya Vittala temple complex. Artistes of national and international fame, including Padma Bhushan Mallika Sarabhai, Padmashri Venkatesh Kumar, Narasimhalu Vadvati, Nagaveni Srinath, music directors Saleem Suleman, Rajesh Krishnan, Raghu Dixit and Benny Dayal are among those who would enthral the audience. Light & Sound show, which is being organised again after a gap of seven years near Elephant stables, Hampi by sky, being organised for the third year in succession, rural sports, particularly ‘Kusti’ (wrestling), magic show by Kudroli Ganesh, Poets’ meet will be the other special attractions during the festival. Light and Sound show will be staged from November 3 to 9, while the Hampi by sky chopper ride would be held till November 7.The celebrations attract are too much crowd for this otherwise low profile town to handle. So if you are planning to visit Hampi during these 3 days be prepared to face the associated troubles (overbooked lodges, overcrowded sightseeing, packed buses& trains etc).

When:  3rd to 5th November 2016

Getting there: There are only very few connections since there are not major airports. There are a number of options to reach Hampi. Gateway town to Hampi is Hospet , bustling town located very close to the Hampi ruins. This is the major travel hub from where one can get the travel connections. There are two airports near Hampi – Bellary and Hubli. But both are far from the Hampi site (needs at least 2-3 hours travel by road). There are good road and rail connections from Hospet to a number of major towns and cities around this part of India.

Gustor Festival at Thiksey

thiksey gustorThiksey Gustor is held on the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan lunar calendar every year. It is a traditional ceremony conducted in the monasteries of Gelukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. During these  days of festival mask dances are performed by monks of the monastery wearing colorful silk brocaded robes and mask in different forms of Gods and Goddesses. The celebration end with the dismembered and dispersal of the Torma (Sacrificial Cake) by the leader of the Black hat dancers in a ceremony called “Argham” or “klling”. This sybolise the destruction of all form of evil. And also re-dnacts the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-Darma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid 9 th century. Thiksey is one of the biggest monasteries in Ladakh region and most popular among tourists after the Hemis monastery. Spon Palden Sherab with his Master Jangsem Sherab Zang, one of the six contemporary disciples of Lord Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, responsible for the dissemination of his teachings to the remote provinces founded Thiksay monastery in 1433 AD.The disciple of “Jamgon sokapa, Sherab Zangpo” of stod, first built the temple of Stkmo Lakhang at top the Thiksay Alley. Then Paldan Sharab nephew of Sherab Zangpo, founded Thiksay monastery. Here are sacred shrine and many precious to be seen. The successive reincarnation of Skabjay Khanpo Rinpoche act as in charge of the monastery.

When:  17th-18th November 2016

Getting there: Thiksey Monastery is located 19 kilometres from Leh, the capital town of Ladakh. It is situated on a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley with full view of the magnificent Stok range. It is located right on the main road towards Leh.

A festival of 100 drums- Wangala

wangala festivalThe Wangala is a Garo post-harvest festival that marks the end of the agricultural year. It is an act of thanksgiving to the sun god of fertility, known as Misi-A-Gilpa-Saljong-Galapa. A nagara (a special drum used for calling the people on solemn occasions) is beaten. The Wangala is an age-old practice by the ‘Songsareks’ or non-Christian Garos in all the villages of Garo Hills. However, the time and mode of celebration varies from village to village. But fast modernisation and the influence of Western culture has adversely impacted the Wangala, which is the cultural identity of the Garos. The social aspect of the Wangala Festival goes on in the villages for a number of days, with eating, drinking and merrymaking. This is the most popular festival of the Garo Hills, and is held in November, the precise date being fixed by the headman. The men and women dance in mirthful gaiety with the beating of drums, blowing of the buffalo horn trumpets and bamboo flutes. The men wear dhotis, half-jackets and turbans with feathers. The women wear colourful dresses made of silk, blouses and a head-wrap with feathers. The highlight of the festival is when 300 dancers and 100 drums descend on the field in all their splendour in celebration.

When:  10th-12th November 2016

Getting there: Festival happens at Asanang village which is 18 kms from Tura in Meghalaya. Tura is one of the largest towns in Meghalaya. Tura is situated in the western part of Meghalaya which is quite close to the National Border of Bangladesh. Main mode of transport is by road, there are no railways or any scheduled flights from Tura airport. From Guwahati, it is 221 km, through the National Highway 51. Day time Sumo and overnight bus services are available form Guwahati. There is a 3-days-a-week helicopter service available from Guwahati and Shillong, run by Pawan Hans. Capital Shillong is more than 320 kilometres away.