Hanuwantia can be the change you need this new year!


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A bird’s eye view of the Hanuwantia island in days of Jal Mahotsav

On the lines of Rann Utsav of Kutch, Madhya Pradesh tourism has dared to do the unthinkable of bringing tourists to a location as remote as Hanuwantia with nothing to lure them. Now Hanuwantia is a hub for air, land and water adventure activities. Jal Mahotsav is in its third year now and gradually increasing its time span. For ten days two years back, it increased to one month last year and now 80 days. This year Jal Mahotsav specially targets the year-end tourists. So, if you are looking for any new destination this new year eve, why not try Hanuwantia. This year festival started on 15th October and will continue till 2nd January 2018.

One of the clusters of the tent colony

The vision of Hanuwantia Festival was actually inspired by Sentosa island of Singapore. Although these are very early days for Hanuwantia to climb to any comparable league half as good as Sentosa. The main attraction of Jal Mahotsav is water sports in its huge reservoir which will often look like a sea. But there are aero activities too, like paramotoring, parasailing and ballooning. Swiss tents have been put up for the tourists at the Jal Mahotsav. There are houseboats as well. An exhibition focused on Narmada river besides food zone, craft bazaar is being organised.

For all those who have been to Kutch, they will find quite a similarity between the tent colony at Hanuwantia and the tent colony at Rann Utsav of Kutch in Gujarat. Few clusters of tents and every cluster having a tents surrounding an artificially levelled ground.

Away from concrete cities, this is welcome change to be besides an artificial sea of water. Hanuwantia is besides the Indira Sagar Reservoir which is said to be the biggest such inland water body in Asia.

A paramotor at Hanuwantia in evening lights
Closer look of an airborne paramotor
Two paramotors in the sky at sunset, best time to enjoy
You can have fun riding a bicycle around the tent city

But being here is fun, only if you are planning to indulge in some air or water activities. Otherwise it could be boring after some time. Since Hanwantia has got no other activities, therefor the experience of coming to Hanwantia had to be a packaged one with everything under one roof. Hence came the idea of a tent colony and all sort of land, water and air activities.

Jet scooter on waters of Indira Sagar

Water sports is a genre getting immensely popular among Indian tourists and Hanuwantia has plenty of water to play upon. You can find a host of water activities here.

Jungle trek on Boria Mal island
Smaller cruise boats to take you to ride in the lake

Besides, you can also take boat trips to other islands in the reservoir. Some of these islands like Boria Mal has even got tents to stay overnight. Even forest department has pitched some tents on its own for the tourists. These islands can be explored even on non-festival days. Some of these islands have also developed wildlife due to reserved forest land. You can also enjoy trekking in these islands. Some other islands are haven for migratory birds in the winter.

What would have been a top dome of a big temple in its prime is now a testimony of the submergence alone in this huge waterbody!

Hanuwantia is popular as Hanuwantia Tapu among locals, named after a village of same name in Malhargarh tehsil of Mandsaur district in Madhya Pradesh. Foundation stone of Indira Sagar project on Narmada river was laid way back in 1984, but the work on project started in 1992. This was the earliest project on Narmada river and later the downstreams of the project paved way for more projects like Omkareshwar, Maheshwar and Sardar Sarovar projects. Indira Sagar project reached to its full capacity in May 2005.

Locals in their boats near Boria Mal island

For a reservoir that big, it can be easily estimated that how huge would have been the submerged area. All islands in the Indira Sagar reservoir would have been little hillocks in the past. These islands have been named on nearby submerged villages. A history got submerged in the lake.

Where to Stay:

Inside the Swiss tent
Tents besides the Indira Sagar reservoir!

All tents are Swiss tents, with minor difference in facilities as per the package one opts for. Tents are undoubtedly good, with attached toilet and shower. Beds are comfortable. Tents are spacious, there is a sitting area inside the tent and a covered sitting area, outside the tent giving you the full view of the cluster. Tents also have air conditioners. The ground outside the tents work as a activity ground or playground where you can enjoy cycling. Teas can be served at the tents but dining area is separate, where all guests have to go for breakfast and meals.

Outside the tents

Be watchful to keep you tent door nets zipped, specially in evenings as there can be mosquitos around as there is ample water everywhere. Food is good if not exceptional. Try to taste some local delicacies of the Malwa region. The existence of this tent city comes only during the duration of Jal Mahotsav. SO if you plan to be at the Jal Mahotsav, than this tent city is perhaps only mainly available accommodation in Hanuwantia.

MPTDC Cottages at Hanuwantia

Hanuwantia also has a Madhya Pradesh Tourism resort with beautifully designed lake facing cottages but during the time of the festival these cottages mostly remain occupied by officials and politicians. But if you go outside the festival dates, you can certainly stay in these cottages.

House boats at Hanuwantia

There is another stay option during the festival time and also afterwards and it is Kerala style houseboats, a couple of them at Hanuwantia. These houseboats have three rooms on the lower deck and an open upper deck sitting area. There is a kitchen as well. These houseboats can also take you on a trip inside the lake.

How to Reach:

Islands near Sailani on the Indore-Hanumantia route

Hanuwantia  Tapu (island) is in Khandawa district of Madhya Pradesh. Indore is the nearest airport which is almost 140 kilometres away. Road to Hanuwantia from Indore passes through Omkareshwar and Barwah. This road journey takes around three to four hours, depending on road as well as vehicle. If you prefer train to reach here Khandawa is the nearest railway station on the Main Delhi-Bhopal-Itarsi rail line. Hanuwantia is 48 kilometres from Khandawa. Barwah on the Indore-Hanuwantia road also has a railway station but this is a metre gauge section line coming from Mahu.

A fisherman in the Indira Sagar lake

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Paradise regained : As beautiful as it can be!

With the perils of trekking in rain quite exposed on second day, third day turned out to be an absolute beauty. It started with a dose fog and ended with a light drizzle, but in between it was bright, sunny and extremely picturesque. After having completed the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, I can safely say that out of the six days of this arduous trek, third day’s trek from Vishansar (or Vishnusar) camp to the Gadsar camp is arguable the best- in both the respects- ease of trek and beauty of the trail. As a icing on the cake, the weather also remained favourable throughout the day.

Also read: Kashmir Great Lakes- Romancing the rains at Nichnai Pass

Kishansar lake in full glory!

It is only after the Vishansar or Vishnusar camp that we actually get to experience the lakes part of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. This third day’s trek takes us from Vishansar camp to Gadsar camp. Passing through twin lakes of Vishunusar and Kishansar and to the Gadsar Pass which at an altitude of 13,800 feet is the highest point of the whole trek. There is an steep ascent till the Gadsar Pass and than a descent on the other side. After descending we pass through beautiful meadows laden with blue and pink flowers. Trek takes us alongside other two lakes Yamsar and Gadsar and through an army check post to the campsite.  A paradise regained on the 3rd day.

Also Read: Kashmir Great Lakes- First day trek to Nichnai

It was so charming that it is worth saying just through the images. So lets take the day’s journey through the images.

It all started with dense fog all around, when we got up in the morning. With memories of last day still fresh, this fog was a mood dampener. Vishnusar Lake was bit away from the camp. Many of us who were late to reach the last evening were not able to go the lake as it had got dark. So in the morning many of us went to the lake but it was still misty around, as you can see in the image below.

But only satisfaction was that there was no rain. Hence there was hope that as soon as sun get bright, fog will vanish. And, it happened so. There was a small hillock between the campsite and the lake. Campsite was along the stream which originated from the Vishnusar lake. Here are the three images (below) of the campsite – first one in dense fog, second when it starts getting clear and last one when it is sunny, just before our departure.

While on the other side, mist also started clearing over the Vishnusar lake. As if a dream was taking shape…

Also read: Thajiwas is a perfect acclimatisation for great lakes trek

So finally group moved on the trek with national anthem (below)

With sun shining everyone one was like in a dancing mood (below)

We had to cross the stream flowing along the campsite and then climb upto the other side of the Vishnusar lake. The lake had by now taken the majestic view (below)

One could feel the feet being reluctant to move ahead. The nature was taking another hue every minute and we always felt like looking behind and capturing the moment. As was this another look of the Vishnusar lake from bit high up (below).

After a brief climb there was a meadow just before the Kishansar lake which is roughly half kilometre from the Vishansar lake.

Kishansar Lake is equally beautiful. Both lakes are connected through stream. Kishansar lake is bit higher by almost 500 feet. This is also a glacial lake and water from this lake flows to Vishnusar lake through a stream. Kishansar lake (below) is at the base of the Kishansar peak.

Colours of water of lakes change as per the light and time of the day. As we cross the lake, the climb to the Gadsar pass starts. You can see the trail taking us to the top of the pass, but it in’t as easy as it looks from below.

As we were on our climb, suddenly there were hundreds and hundreds of sheeps following us up to the Gadsar pass and then to he meadows on the other side. These sheeps and the shepherds had camped close to our campsite in the night. Sheeps were in long queues on every trail leading to the pass (below).

While on other side, you can see the mighty peak shining with moon in the background in bright daylight (below)

Roughly after 45 minutes to one hour in the climb from Kishansar peak, you turn back and see the view which is one of the highlights of this trek- Vishnusar and Kishansar lake together. A frame which is photographers’ delight.

This fascinating view of both lakes together will last till we reach the top of the Gadsar Pass. So after the ascent is deep descent on the other side, but the view only gets better and better with many small lakes visible with meadows on one side and peaks on other (below)

The climb for the day is over and now it is a leisure walk upto the campsite. Just a shortwhile in the descent and we can see a lake which is called as Yamsar lake (below). 

After some descent, we reach the meadows and the entire topography changes. We feel like having reached to the valley of flowers. You can see the entire stretch carpeted with small flowers- blue, purple, yellow, pink, white and all. These flowers growing out of green grass make it a fascinating sight as in images below

There are few more small unnamed lakes after Yamsar, but they all are connected to each other by a stream flowing down from one lake to another.

Looking back you can see the trail from where we came down from the Gadsar Pass and even the mules coming down with the bags and camping equipments (below)It is a trek worth enjoying each and every moment as these two fellow trekkers below are trying to soak themselves in

Even the mules are having some time of breathe before start of another descent to the lake belowFor trekkers, it is time to have some refreshment and packed lunch by taking rest alongside the stream connecting different lakes on the way

After lunch and some well deserved rest, it is time to make final push towards the camp, but wait… there is something else on the way. This is one of the most beautiful lakes on the trek- Gadsar Lake (below). Our next campsite is named after this lake, although campsite is another few kilometres ahead.

After spending some more time in the company of this lake, we move ahead towards the camp.

See the way, the stream is passing below the small glaciers on the way (below)

The valley widens as we move ahead (below)

It is like nature’s playing field, as vast as it can be (below)

Then there is final descent to the campsite. You can see the tents far down in the valley (below). First come few shepherd huts. Just before the campsite is a small army checkpost, where every person has to register themselves with full identities and a proof of identity. This place being close to Pakistan border, is considered to be highly sensitive. Besides authenticated identities, trekkers also need valid permission to trek in the region from authorities in either Sonamarg or Srinagar. Don’t forget to get it before you leave Sonamarg, although normally your trek operator will arrange that for you.

You can watch a video of the day’s trek on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

Have you been there? Please share your views in comments section below.

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Its now Dualfie time with Vision 3

Smartphone makers are getting as obsessed with selfie features as are the smartphone consumers with their phone selfies. Just a few months back ASUS tried to widen the selfie with a 120 degree FOV (field of view) ’wefie’ and now InFocus mobiles have gone a step further with their Vision 3 smartphone which gives you a ‘Dualfie’, where you can capture in a single shot image from both the from as well as the rear camera. Thus when you are taking a selfie, you can also show what is happening in front of you, i.e. behind the camera! What more, this front camera also gives you 120 degree FOV.

Only catch might be that the rear camera is 13MP and 5MP dual lens and front camera is 8MP, which some people might feel as just OK with current industry trends. But what needs to be considered is that this camera also gives class leading 5.7-inch full vision screen and 18:9 or 82.4% HD High-resolution screen ratio display. When all this comes with just a price tag of 6,999 INR than it is worth a bargain. The phone goes on sale from midnight today i.e. 20th December exclusively on Amazon.

Phone was launched in Delhi today by Dr. Luo Zhongsheng, Global CEO for Sharp & InFocus Mobile. With this launch the US company has put some big goals in front of it for the new year. This company has all its phones manufactured by Taiwanese company Foxconn. Production and assembly is placed in the hands of Foxconn while InFocus handles global sales and marketing teams around the world. Company this year also launched some low cost high performing smartphones like Turbo 5 Plus and is now trying to catch up with other competitors like ASUS and Oppo.

Phone is equipped with a powerful 4000mAh non removable battery tempting enough to enjoy videos on a bigger screen. Supported by a full screen Vision 3 also sports single key split screen to work on 2 apps simultaneously. The larger screen makes this feature more viable to use. Front camera also comes loaded with industry standard beauty features and allows up to 7 levels of beauty modifications. The front camera also sports background blur feature to blur out unnecessary background and give more sharpness to the subjects. Another interesting camera feature of the InFocus Vision 3 is that is allows users to click and share photo stories in a grid. Grid photography allows users to take photos creatively, which can be directly shared on social media and with peers.

As for built, phone is powered by MediaTek MTK 6737H quad core 1.3GHz processor and the Android 7.0 Nougat operating system. Vision 3 comes loaded with 2GB RAM + 16GB variant which is expandable up to 64GB memory (through micro SD). Infocus has also introduced its latest UI with new-look icons and design and named it Smile UX. Vision 3 is a dual SIM smartphone that accepts Nano GSM SIMs in both the slots. On connectivity front, options include Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, USB OYG, FM, 3G and 4G LTE networks.

The smart Fingerprint sensor allows the users to save up to 4 sets of fingerprints and access multiple applications at the touch of a tip. It also has standard gravity sensor, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor. What can be a game changer for InFocus is that it plans to bring face detection ID to Vision 3. This technology was much talked about recently with launch of Apple’s iPhone8 and iPhoneX. If InFocus is able to put it together in its low priced Vision 3, than it can certainly catch a many eyes as it would be first in class and category.

A mission drives a unique collection

‘It’s the newspaper number 3191,’ Shashanka said gleefully as I handed over to him the latest issue of my tabloid travel magazine- Awara Musafir. He had requested me to bring a copy for him before I left Delhi for Bhubaneswar. This is one of the ways he uses to enlarge his collection, by asking friends and well-wishers to get a copy of a newspaper for him from wherever in the world they go.

Shashanka Sekhar Dash with his collection

A journalist, writer and social worker Shashanka Sekhar Dash is fondly known as ‘Paper Boy’ for his this very unusual hobby. What started just as a passing thought in 2001 slowly developed into a passionate hobby and now he has taken this as a journalist mission. At that time Shashanka was working with a small newspaper. He noticed that newspaper was printed in Delhi but there was no copy available in the Odisha market. He though it was better to preserve a copy. Than it crossed his mind that there might be more such newspapers whose copies are not available in the market, he started collecting them as well. Slowly he kept widening his collection.

Hence in last 17 years till now, he collected more than three thousand newspapers and tabloids representing 59 languages from 69 countries in the world. This accumulation has already earned him a place in Limca Book of Records and India book of records in 2012 and now he is in process of finding  place in Guinness Book of World Records, which he is quite sure of.

Shashanka belongs to Arangabad village in Bari block of Jajpur district in Odisha. Now he is working as COO of the Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust which is a community livelihood project at Mangalajodi Wetlands in Khurda district of Odisha. Shashanka also purchases the newspapers whenever he finds one which he does not have in his collection. He also writes directly to newspaper offices for a souvenir copy.

Shashanka Sekhar Dash with his collection

Obviously housing such a huge and ever increasing collection and preserving it is no mean task. It requires space also. So what Shashanka does is that he puts a sticky note on every newspaper with a brief sketch. He then carefully wraps them in a poly bag and then stores them carefully in shelfs and almirahs. They will then be brought out whenever he has to show them for an inspection or display them for an exhibition, which he already has had a few. Newspaper collection is not a usual hobby, but Shashanka has come across some other couple of persons with this passion, although there collection is very small still in comparison to Shashanka’s.

With such a long journey already completed, Shashanka doesn’t want to go it as a waste. He now plans to convert a portion of his family home in his village as the museum and research centre, where budding journalists and students can come and have a glimpse of newspaper journey around the world. May be in couple of years from now, he will fulfil this dream. With lot of digitisation going on, life of newspapers is getting smaller. With many newspapers closing their editions, this collection will have an eternal value. Shashanka already has many newspapers in his collection which have closed down. Now they are of enormous value.

Shashanka has also written six books in Odia which include poems, short stories and also a book on journalistic essays. In the year 1999 he also published Odisha’s first children’s newspaper.

Shashanka lives with this passion. In past week since we met, he has received six newspapers from New Zealand through a friend who just returned from the country and three other in Chinese via another source. His count now stands 3203.

Do you know of any such other collection! Please share in comments section below.

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Kashmir Great Lakes : Romancing the rains at Nichnai Pass

Trekking in rain might seem however romantic but it is quite challenging when you are up in Himalayas constantly over altitude of 11K ft and you have to cross a pass in chilling wind. In last almost two and half decades have trekked in rain at numerous occasions. However beautiful it might look in the beginning, but if it prolongs than it is certainly going to trouble. It does more to all those who are ill-prepared for the happening.

Assembled to take off!

Well, continuing with the Kashmiri Great Lakes trek, second day trek was from Nichnai camp to Vishansar camp. Rain had started the previous evening even before we reached Nichnai camp from Sonamarg. It kept raining the whole night continuously. It was quite damp and chilly. It was quite certain that we won’t be having an early departure in the morning but on YHAI treks, likelihood of group overstaying is almost impossible as there is another group approaching the camp from down, hence earlier group have to vacate the camp and go ahead, until weather is so drastically poor to make further trekking virtually impossible. It wasn’t so, it was just rain and hence we had to leave the camp. We did that at 9.30 in the morning.

Also read: Thajiwas is perfect acclimatisation for Great Lakes trek!

Off go the trekkers!

 

It was like moving through the clouds. It wasn’t raining heavily but still enough to give you the damp feeling, walking with raincoats and using sticks to be safe from slipping. But it was so chilling that you had to were the gloves, otherwise fingers were getting numb with freeze.

Looking behind! You can see the Nichnai camp in the background at the edge, just before the clouds!

Nichnai camp is at an altitude of 11,500 ft and Vishansar camp is at an altitude of 12,000 ft but on the way we have to cross Nichnai pass at an altitude of 13,500 ft. So a steep ascent followed by a steep descend.

Also read: Kashmir Great Lakes – First day trek to Nichnai

Starting the ascent to pass

Normally the ascent to the pass should take around two and a half hours but surely not in rains. Than, in a trekking group, normally speed and stamina differs from trekker to trekker. It is imperative to remain close and let nobody be left too far behind. Climbing in the rain got so difficult that some of the trekkers had to wait for some ponies to unload their backpacks and send them to the next camp.

Weather looks like getting clearer but it was not to be so

While looking from the Nichnai side, pass looks quite close but it isn’t so as looks are quite deceptive because what we see is actually the ridge quite below the pass. Initial climb after Nichnai camp is through the rocks until the river. After crossing the river, the boulders continue for a while and then path gets smoother as we get close to meadows.

Walking along the stream

Ascent is along the stream and no amount of rain was capable of hiding the beauty of nature around us. Streams, snow and small carpets of pink flowers here and there are good enough to mesmerise anybody.

Moving ahead, you can see some small glacial ponds. There is another lake at the foot of the mountain. It was first sight of any lake formation on Great Lakes trek, thus building the expectations of things to come.

Taking turns and turns to reach the pass

It took more than four and half hours for the last batch to cross the pass. It was still raining and in between there were also hails making there way down to us.

After crossing the Nichnai Pass. You can see the trekkers down in the valley

Interestingly, I was able to get network on my mobile phone at the Nichnai Pass, last time till reaching Naranag on the last day. On the left of the pass are peaks covered with freshly fallen snow. Reaching from 7,800 feet to 13,500 feet in just one and half days of trek was no mean task.

Also read: Naranag – Kashmir we know less about

Descending the Nichnai Pass

Trek descends after the pass. And it gets more and more beautiful. Initial descend is through rocks but eases down gradually. You can even see a large waterfall towards your left.

A beautiful waterfall.

 

Trekkers enjoying taking a breath and few snack after a tough climb

Once the descend is complete, we reach to the river formed by the same waterfall and adjoining other streams.

After completing the descend

We have to cross the stream and go to the other side to move ahead towards the Vishansar. Just after crossing the river is a dhaba offering some hot Kehwa and maggi, very refreshing after a tough trek.

Crossing the river

After that, trek to Vishansar camp is beautiful through the wide green meadows and along the river. Its a pleasant walk between mountain ranges on the both side. Luckily, rain had also stopped by now, making the rest of day’s trek more beautiful.

Walking in the meadows
As if a gladiator has cut this rock in two pieces with his sword!

It was a beautiful but tough day of trekking as most part of the day was covered in rain and hail fall.  Otherwise moderate trek of 12 kms was made difficult by rains. Hence what could have been covered in six to seven hours was completed in eight to nine hours. But it was as if weather’s way to test our will. Here onwards, weather turned out to be good for the rest of the trek. Luckily all the charm of the trek was about to come our way from the next day.

You can watch the video of highlights of this trek from Nichnai to Vishansar on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

Feel free to share the post, but not so free to cop and paste.

Have you done this trek? Share your views in the comment section below.

Christmas is a fairy tale in Taiwan

Christmasland is a “realm of Merry Christmas” in the urban setting of Xinban Special District, a sprawling playground intended for people of all ages, and also an effort to enhance New Taipei City’s global profile. By connecting attractions throughout the neighborhood (The Lin Family Mansion & Garden, 435 Art Zone, Huangshi Market, Fuzhong Shopping District, Nanya Night Market, etc.) to Xinban Special District’s emerging shopping district, Christmasland bolsters tourism in both New Taipei City and Northern Taiwan as it transforms the entire Banqiao area into a spectacular winter getaway destination complete with culinary treats, entertainment and lots of shopping.

Read Also: New year eve celebrations! Got to be Brussels!!

To mark the period between Christmas and Chinese New Year, the most festive time of the year in Taiwan, Christmasland incorporates elaborate venue and event planning efforts to touch visitors’ hearts with a sense of joy. It is a gorgeously illuminated, happiness-evoking enclave that creates a fairy tale-like experience out of the country’s tallest Christmas trees, fun-packed rides, and a series of regular events from county fairs, large concerts, and markets selling handmade goods to carnival parades. Designed with all demographic groups in mind, Christmasland is a true embodiment of the gleeful, festive atmosphere.

Then there are the New Year Eve Celebrations in Taipei that are special. The festivities begin at Taipei 101 building, when the countdown enters the final stage, the building itself lights up floor by floor from the bottom up for the New Year’s countdown, making Taipei 101 the biggest New Year’s Eve countdown clock in the world. After the countdown is over, fireworks are immediately set off, a star-studded group gathers on the spot to accompany a variety of activities and special ceremonies, and a special, exciting, out-of-the-ordinary Taipei New Year’s Eve celebration is on display!

Although taking place in the winter with its low temperatures and frequent bursts of cold air, Taipei New Year’s Eve celebration attracts a huge number of visitors despite the weather. Even if a cold snap hits, there is no drop in the enthusiasm of those welcoming in the New Year. The Taipei city government, that runs the event, has made the concept of turning Taipei city into “New Year City,” the creative axis of the event.

Since the staging of Taiwan’s first-ever grand New Year’s event in 1995, it won an enthusiastic response among young people and had the media competing with each other to report it, and this later spread throughout the entire country with similar celebrations being held everywhere. On the day of the event, the Taipei city government invites popular entertainers and famous pop singers to perform at the celebrations on the square in front of the government offices. At the same time, this glamorous New Year’s Eve celebration puts Taipei squarely on the global stage, winning international applause and becoming one of the most famous international and Taiwanese New Year’s events.

How to do Taiwan!

Taiwan is located in the western Pacific Ocean 160 km (100 miles) off the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland and is a convenient gateway to Asia for the Indian traveler.

FLIGHTS: A number of airlines such as China Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Southern and Thai Airways fly directly or with a stopover, in to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the Kaohsiung International Airport and the Taichung International Airport from the Indian metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Scoot Airlines also connects the cities of Jaipur, Amritsar, Lucknow, Chennai, Trichy, Kochi, Lucknow, Bangalore and Hyderabad with a stopover in Singapore to Taipei.
The average flight time between India and Taiwan is of about 6.5 hours; and Taiwan is 2.5 hours ahead of India.

VISA: Indian Passport holders can enjoy Visa exempt entry into Taiwan for 30 days via an online system

The applicant must have at least one of the following valid or expired visas issued by UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand or any of the Schengen countries.

  • Valid resident or permanent resident card
  • Valid entry visa (may be electronic visa)
  • Resident card or visa that has expired less than 10 years prior to the date of arrival in Taiwan

New year eve celebrations! Got to be Happy Brussels!!

Still planning for your new year eve celebrations! If you are looking for some options abroad, why not Brussels! It is a fantastic place to be on the new year eve. Besides being the capital of Europe, Brussels is also a dream place to hit the dance floor. With a plentiful of bars, nightclubs and party venues, there will be room to dance till dawn for all types of revellers. What more, for all those stepping out to look for new experiences, happy.brussels offers a pass that provides entry to various unmissable parties for New Year 2018. Brussels night life will no longer hold any secrets for them. If you are fond of hip-hopping in true sense, jumping from one party to another, this pass gives you a variety of options. Beauty is that it is not just limited to the parties alone. You can do much more with a happy.brussels pass to make a fantastic start to your new year.

So you can even plan a new year eve celebration and a winter holiday in Brussels. Queen of diversity with its 183 nationalities, Brussels also prides itself on offering a wide range of late night party venues. From tech house to dance, not forgetting hip hop, all musical styles can be found here. Many head for a night out in the capital to see the latest DJ or have a crazy night in one of the string of late night venues that light it up.

Brussels’ nightlife in all its forms

For the New Year, the Happy Brussels pass gives you a unique opportunity to discover all the facets of “made in Brussels” nightlife. The capital puts on its party clothes. From the superb Galerie Horta to the mellow atmosphere of the Sounds Jazz Club, not to miss the unmissable Fuse, the events offered take place in the capital’s most famous venues.

Apart from entrance to about ten New Year’s Eve events, the Happy Brussels pass also includes ways of enriching your stay with rewarding daytime activities. Indeed, Happy Brussels gives you the best tips on bars and unusual places to start off your celebrations; The pass also provides access to the Atomium, the unmissable architectural giant symbolising the capital of Europe. Finally, it includes admission to a show of your choice at the Cinéma Galeries.

Reaching Brussels

Right in the heart of Europe, Brussels has superb air, road and rail connections. More than 60 million Europeans live within 300km of Brussels, less than two hours by high-speed train. For those who fly in, it takes only 20 minutes from the airport to the city centre. And when you have arrived, it’s easy to move around the compact city, by public transport or on foot.

So, what are you waiting for! Come, joint the party!!!

Ten wayward manatees rescued

Members of the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team at Florida, USA traveled to Charleston, S.C. recently, where in collaboration with multiple organisations and volunteers – they helped save 10 wayward manatees. The manatees were spotted in the upper reaches of the Cooper River, near a warm water outflow area. Historically, manatees move south into warmer waters when the water temperature drops below 68 degrees.  Due to rapidly dropping water temperatures in the river, the manatees remained close to the warm water outflow, instead of continuing to travel south. In doing so, they were isolated from adequate food sources and naturally warm waters.  Following close coordination with some members of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff decided that rescues and relocation of the animals by SeaWorld Orlando’s manatee rescue team were warranted.

SeaWorld Assists with Rescue of Ten Manatees Stranded in South Carolina

Manatees are also called as sea cows. They are found in West Africa, Caribbean Sea and the Amazonian area. They are called as cows as they are slow plant eaters, peaceful and similar to cows on land. They often graze on water in tropical seas. Female manatees are called as cows, male are called bulls and their offsprings are called as calfs. But they are more closely related to elephants. Despite their size, they are graceful swimmers in coastal waters and rivers.

(Also Read: Melon Headed Whale Rescued in Florida)

In addition to SeaWorld Orlando’s team, support for the rescue effort included USFWS Ecological Services Office staff from Florida and South Carolina, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – including staff from St. Petersburg, the Northeast Florida Field Lab in Jacksonville, and the East Central Field Lab in Melbourne along with volunteers and law enforcement, Sea to Shore Alliance, ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, NOAA National Ocean Services – Charleston, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Clearwater (FL) Marine Aquarium, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, Brevard Zoo, Brevard County Parks and Recreation, Florida Wildlife Hospital, and Waterfront Solutions. Sea to Shore Alliance and local businesses played an integral role in monitoring the manatees’ activity and condition in the weeks leading up to the rescue effort.

Florida manatee and calf {Trichchus manatus latirostris} Crystal River, Florida, USA. Image by © Doug Perrine/Nature Picture Library/Corbis

The rescue operation took place over three days.  From November 28-30, 2017, the interagency rescue team captured 10 manatees from the Cooper River including eight males and two females. Once captured, each manatee received an immediate health assessment by a veterinary medical team comprised of veterinarians from SeaWorld, Jacksonville Zoo and UF. Manatees were transported south and accompanied on their journey by veterinary and animal care staff.  Once in Florida, additional health assessments were conducted at the Jacksonville Zoo by vets from the Zoo and the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. FWC staff served as the lead on transports in Florida to the release site in Brevard County, FL. Nine manatees were deemed releasable.  One female was exhibiting mild cold stress and is being cared for by veterinarians and staff at the Jacksonville Zoo with support from SeaWorld and the Lowry Park Zoo. She is Jacksonville Zoo’s first critical care patient at their new facility and is doing well. The Sea to Shore Alliance tagged five of the manatees before release and will monitor these animals as part of their Atlantic Coast manatee study.

One of the rescued Manatees

Jon Peterson, SeaWorld’s rescue manager, helped with coordination of the multi-agency effort.  “It is particularly gratifying to be a part of such a large scale effort, with partners from all over the Southeast lending expertise and manpower,” he explained. “When you can give ten threatened animals another chance at life that is a great week.”

(Also Read: SeaWorld returns two more sea turtles to the ocean)

Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership

As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees. The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. The Florida manatee was recently reclassified from endangered to threatened but is still at risk from both natural and human causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by floodgates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.  As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees.

SeaWorld’s Rescue Efforts

SeaWorld Assists with Rescue of Ten Manatees Stranded in South Carolina

Over the last five decades, SeaWorld has rescued more than 31,000 wild animals in need including those that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned. SeaWorld’s goal for every rescued animal is to rehabilitate and return them to their natural environment as soon as possible. This year alone, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued 47 manatees and returned 25 following successful rehabilitation. Guests to SeaWorld Orlando can learn more about the vital rescue work SeaWorld does for wildlife at the park’s behind-the-scenes Rescue Center used for rehabilitating wildlife that has been ill, injured or orphaned – including manatees, sea turtles, birds and other marine animals.

(Also read: Swim with sharks and feed the stingrays)

While a guided tour of the entire facility has been available for years, the park has now opened up one portion of this area for complimentary viewing to all park guests. Visitors are invited to step behind-the-scenes and catch a glimpse of SeaWorld’s working manatee rescue and rehabilitation facility to learn more about the plight of these vulnerable animals in the wild. See firsthand some of the top problems today’s manatee populations are facing and simple actions we can all take to help through digital medical charts, interactive displays, underwater camera viewing and rescue footage straight from the SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team.

Serendipity of art, culture & music fests this month


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Last month of the year brings most of the enjoyment. One of India’s Best dance festivals ended on 5th at Konark in Odisha and alongwith it, also concluded the Sand Art festival held simultaneously at Chandrabhaga beach. Both festivals are organised every year from 1st to 5th December. Similarly, another festival held every year on same dates is about to conclude- Hornbill festival at Dimapur which showcases stunning natural beauty of Nagaland and its great cultural traditions from 1st to 10th December every year. So, I might seem like already late in suggesting few events, but actually some of the best of the month are yet to come and you have enough time to plan a trip.

I can also definitely say that some of the events left in the month are few of the biggest and most outstanding events of the year. Just consider the fact that Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar is being held for last 142 years. It might be actually few of events on India’s culture map which started in 19th century, continued for whole of 20th century and are now still going strong in the 21st century. Do you remember anything like this! If not this, than there is Tansen Samaroh, which is organised in Gwalior every year for last 93 years. But if these two festivals are torch bearers of India’s cultural traditions, than their are also few which are more contemporary but still magical and bold enough to not just hold fort but position themselves at the top of plans for music lovers across India and abroad- like the Sunburn and Magnetic fields festivals. But I start with a festival which has in no time (in two years precisely) turned itself into biggest canvas for India’s art & culture.

Serendipity at banks of Mandovi

Serendipity Arts Festival is a multidisciplinary event on the banks of the river Mandovi in Panaji, Goa. A cultural experience in itself, the festival brings together visual, performing and culinary arts. Curated by a panel of artists and institutional figures, this second edition will feature over 70 art projects including 40 projects that are commissioned specifically for the festival. This festival in Panaji includes art initiatives that transform venues into spaces where audiences can experience the arts in exciting new contexts. Festival is organised by Serendipity Arts Trust (SAT), which is an arts and cultural development trust created to encourage and support the arts as a significant contributor to the civil society. SAT aims to promote new creative strategies, artistic interventions, and cultural partnerships which are responsive and seek to address the social, cultural and environmental milieu. Committed to innovation, SAT intends to support, promote &create platforms for innovation and creativity. Right from the first Serendipity Arts Festival, the aim has been to provide masses with a unique cultural and historical source of modern contemporary art and culture. SAT programs are designed and initiated through innovative collaborations with partners across a multitude of fields, each intervention created using the arts to impact education, social initiatives, community development programs, explore interdisciplinarity between the arts, and to understand the shared histories of the sub-continent better. To be precise, the entire endeavour is to justify the meaning of serendipity meaning i.e. a happy chance. There are 14 curators who have worked towards assembling a combination of acclaimed works, commissioned pieces, and innovative adaptations within their field of expertise. They will be present at this multi-disciplinary arts festival in Goa to engage, mould and mentor ideas into fruition.

When: 15th to 22nd December 2017

Getting there: Spread across a 1.8 km stretch along river Mandovi, the Festival locations have been strategically chosen for their historical value, natural settings and affinity towards the arts. With its close-knit networks and practical commute options, the is accessible to and welcomes everyone. Serendipity Arts Festival intends to transform the waterfront along the river Mandovi, Panaji into a hub of cultural activity. Goa’s only airport is at Dabolim and it is around 30 kms from Goa’s capital Panaji, which is where festival is.The main train stations in Goa are Madgaon station in Margao; Vasco da Gama; and Karmali station near Old Goa, 12 kms from Panaji, all well connected of different cities. Private and state-run long distance buses run to and from Goa.

142 years of enchanting classical music

Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan is the oldest festival of Indian Classical Music in the world. The vibrant voices of the vocalists, The soul stirring strains of Sitar, Santoor and Sarangi; the thundering sounds of Tabla and Pakhawaj; the cascading notes of Flute & Shehnai; the magic of Mohan Veena; the enchanting notes of Veena & Violin and the harmonious notes of Harmonium- all have touched the souls of enlightened audiences at Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, year after year for the last 142 years. This magnificent achievement has been made possible by the great musicians, the generous donors, the devoted audience and the dedicated ‘Harivallabh’ team. For some it is a matter of sheer devotion, for some it is a pilgrimage and for some it is a mission to preserve the best in Indian Classical Music, that attracts them to this Sangeet Sammelan and to receive the blessings from the great seat of music. Harivallabh shall complete 142 Years this year. The Government of India has recognized this festival as one of the National Festivals of Music. Drawing inspiration from Saint-musician – Baba Harivallabh, who started this Sangeet Sammelan in the memory of his Guru Swami Tulja Giri Ji, the Sangeet Sammelan has provided a platform where distinguished musicians could perform and give the best of their art and where anyone interested – initiated and uninitiated alike, could listen to them, free.

When: 22nd to 23rd December 2017

Getting there: Festival happens at Devi Talab in city of Jalandhar in Punjab. Jalandhar is well connected to all parts of country through road and rail network. Amritsar is the closest airport.

Tribute to a great musician at Tansen Samaroh

This is 93rd year of one of the oldest and most reputed music festivals in India. This cultural festival is dedicated to the pillar of Indian classical music, the great Tansen. The place where this great musician lies buries, Tansen Tomb, in Gwalior is the venue of a music festival held annually. Gwalior is the place that has retained the rich classical music tradition and Tansen devotion to music laid to the foundation of what is known as the Gwalior gharana style with its unique Dhrupad classical form. Khayal was also refined from the Gwalior gharana only. This festival is noted for its unique compositions in Indian classical style and forceful performances. Organised by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad, the Tansen festival of music, the event is a unique show for the music lovers of the country to experience the superb melody rendered by the great exponents of Indian classical music. The history of the Samaroh shows that this used to be the most significant music festival of the Gwalior State. The great and well-known musicians and music lovers of the country and abroad participate in the Samaroh to offer their musical tribute to the all-time great music Maestro Tansen. Since it is the only one and the oldest day night music festival, the Academy honours the senior celebrities and junior artists of the music on this occasion by including them in the Samaroh through their music of performance. But unlike earlier years, this year there will be no foreign artists. This year there will be total nine music sessions. Seven of them will be held inside the complex holding Tansen’s tomb and tomb of Mohammad Ghaus. Eighth will be at birth place of Tansen in Behat at the banks of Jhilmil river. Ninth will be Goojari Mahal in the fort complex. City administration has declared a holiday on 23rd to facilitate people to attend the festival. In an addition, this year on the eve of the festival, i.e. on 21st December there will be a ‘Gamak’ seating at Hazira chowk, as a part of the ‘poorvrang’ to be graced by performance by Anoop Jalota. Two troupes of Adivasi artists will dance all the way from fort gate to Hazira chowk.

When: 22nd to 26th December 2017

Getting there: Gwalior is well connected to all parts of country. Gwalior airport has got daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur. Gwalior is very well connected to major cities across India by direct train links. Gwalior is situated on the North-South corridor of National Express Highway. The festival venue Tansen Tomb is right in the heart of the city.

Sunburn Festival gets new venue at Pune

Coming back to contemporary, deemed to be the biggest outdoor dance party to hit India’s beaches some years back, the Sunburn Festival is into its eleventh year this year. But it is beaches no more. Sunburn, one of the world’s biggest music festivals, last year moved from Vagator beach of Goa to a new venue ‘Sunburn Hills’ in Pune. But venue in Pune itself is again changed this year. India’s premier electronic music brand bids farewell to Sunburn Hills and is all set to deliver a better, smoother and bigger experience for all our fans this year. Ola Sunburn Festival 2017, will be hosted at Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune, providing a perfect setting to celebrate the new decade of brand Sunburn. The new venue will not only host one of the biggest artist line ups and grand stage but also enhance the fan experience by giving hassle free entry to the festival arena and easy access to the venue, better parking facilities and traffic control. The strategically located venue will provide an excellent infrastructure along with health and safety amenities. The venue is also well-connected to the express highway, being just 5 mins away to entering the festival arena making the overall experience even more enjoyable. On its 11th anniversary, Sunburn is looking at creating an array of experiences that would not only give dance music enthusiasts memories that last a lifetime but also redefine the way entertainment and live music is consumed in the country. Sunburn is India’s premier electronic music brand hosting Asia’s largest 4-day Electronic Music Festival in Pune, Various city festivals, Arena gigs, Campus gigs and Club tours across the country since 2007. Sunburn Arena was introduced in 2011, bringing some of the worlds best DJs to India like Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, Dash Berlin, Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia and many more in an exhilarating arena format across all major cities. Fans can expect a world class experience with on-site camping options, the fan village, an extensive array of food courts, 40+ experience zones, flea markets, chopper rides, after parties among others. On the music side festival includes some of the biggest names from the dance music scene including Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, DJ Snake, Clean Bandit, Martin Garrix and Nucleya among others.

When: 28th to 31st December 2017

Getting there: Event will be held at Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune. The venue is also well-connected to the express highway, being just 5 mins away to entering the festival arena.

Getting ‘Magnetic’ in bigger ‘Fields’

Magnetic Fields Festival is newest addition to Rajasthan’s vastly growing music scene. Earlier it used to be a largely closed affair, but with increasing popularity, it has also grown in size. This is held at two stages in the restored 17th century Alsisar Mahal, in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. This palace is now a heritage hotel. Lots of heavy metal music both from bands and DJs, traditional fashion, art and food will be on platter. Its a sort of fantasy carnival. Set in the pristine heritage village of Alsisar in Rajasthan, Alsisar Mahal is a battle hardened palace that has recently been renovated and refurbished into a luxurious hotel. Magnetic Fields is more than just a music festival, it’s a visual dream, a unique marriage of contemporary culture with Rajasthani heritage and hospitality. You will be transported through the looking glass into an intimate world with adventures, new experiences and memories waiting to be made. You can expect the freshest Indian sounds accompanied by some of the most exciting underground international stars alongside a cultural programme of local legends. Stretch in the morning and watch the new day come alive with yoga sessions; immerse yourself in treasure hunt, get better acquainted with the night sky in star gazing workshops, find your own little pocket of paradise and lose yourself in Bedouin dens; secret areas and feast on local delicacies given an alternative twist. Festival has accommodation option like palace suites, premium bedouin, normal bedouin are classic tents. You can also come and pitch your own tent provided you purchase a festival ticket. Line up for this year include Four Tet, Daphni, Ben UFO, Machinedrum, Khruanbin, Sassy J, Jayda G, Tijana T, Arjun Vagale, Josey Rebelle, Willow, The SKA Vengers, Komorebi, Jack Barnett, Teebs, Dolan Bergin, Begum X, Priya Purushothaman, Deep Brown, Stalvart John Tarqeeb, and many others.
Earlier Alsisar Mahal was the residence of the Thakur of Alsisar. Alsisar Mahal is the most recent addition to Alsisar Group of Hotels which has now become an ideal base to explore not only the old historic capital of Jhunjhunu but also the whole painted region of Shekhawati. This majestic palace, spread over a lush 10 acre plot, is situated in village Alsisar which is 23 Km’s from district head quarter ‘JhunJhunu’ in Rajasthan. The regal magnificence of the Alsisar Mahal’s architecture and the splendour of its beautifully decorated interiors are just mesmerising; antique furniture, intricately carved poster beds and medieval delicate Rajasthani motifs on fabric recreates a flavour of luxury living for guests.

When: 15th to 17th December 2017

Getting there: Delhi or Jaipur are the closest options. Daily from Sarai Rohilla, New Delhi to Sadulpur Junction – just under 4 hours followed by 45 min taxi from Sadulpur to Alsisar. This is the recommended travel option! By road its 6 hours from Delhi via Gurgaon > Rewari > Narnol > Singhana > Chirawa > Jhunjhunu and 4 hours from Jaipur via Chomu > Sikar (take a bypass) > Nawalgarh > Jhunjhunu.

A month long celebration of heritage at Mamallapuram

The Mamallapuram dance festival is conducted every year during Dec-Jan. It is a month long festival and dances take place during the weekends. Mamallapuram has retained its fame in stone, thanks to the great contribution of Pallava artisans. It is among the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture and a jewel in the crown of Tamil Nadu. In a land that is liberally strewn with some of the best in temple art, Mamallapuram holds its own, and stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators. Unfortunately most of the work was left incomplete, and time and nature have also eroded the remains of this once great port. Yet, Mamallapuram’s wonders in rock leave visitors enthralled, conveying as they do, an impression of beauty and harmony. The monuments are floodlit at night and so it is possible to enjoy their beauty even after sunset. The 31-day Mamallapuram Dance Festival features 64 forms of traditional folk dance and 64 classical dance forms, showcasing the cultural ethos of the State. Classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Odissi, Kathak etc., are performed by well-known exponents of the art. The dances are performed against the magnificent backdrop of the Pallava Rock Sculptures. These sculptures provide an aesthetic touch to the festival where the best folk dancers in India perform. The crowd gets a visual treat by the incredible performances of Indian folk dancers where artists perform beautifully decked up in the finest traditional attire representing the rich cultural heritage of the country. Mamallapuram is also a popular beach resort and a culture front, especially for the tourists, who come from the world over who love to imbibe and soak in the rich traditions. This town beach is full of ancient monuments, sculptures, caves, monolithic temples and beaches.

When: 21 December 2017 — 21 January 2018

How to reach: Chennai (58 km) is the nearest airport for domestic and international flights. Chennai is connected with all the major places in India. The nearest railway stations are Chengalpattu (29 km) and Chennai (58 km). From these stations one has to take road journey to reach Mamallapuram. Buses from here to Pondicherry, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Chennai to Mamallapuram daily. Tourists can also hire taxis from Chennai.

Ushering in the new year with Losar

While looking for the tradition, you just can’t overlook culture at India’s most dramatic landscapes. The Losar festival marks the beginning of the New year in Ladakh/Tibet and is considered to be the most important festival of the region. During this festival, the Ladakhi Buddhists make a religious offering before their deities in the domestic shrines or in the Gompas. A medley of cultural events, ancient rituals and also traditional performances are performed during this festival. The Losar festival dates back to pre-Buddhist Bon era in Tibet. As per the ancient tradition a spiritual ceremony was conducted every year in the winter. During this ceremony people offer considerable amount of incense in order to propitiate the local deities and the spirits. Later, this ceremony was converted into a yearly Buddhist festival which most probably started during the tenure of the ninth Tibetan king, Pude Gungyal. The sleepy town of Ladakh is transformed into a melting pot of culture, colour and festivity during the Losar festival (Lo means year and Sar means new). The story behind these New Year celebrations is an interesting one. When the King of Ladakh, Jamyang Namgyal, was setting out on an expedition against the Baltistan forces, he was advised by the oracles to wait until the next year. His solution to this problem was bringing forward the New Year celebrations by a month. Since then, it has become a tradition to celebrate the Losar in the eleventh month of the year. It is also the time which marks the end of the harvesting season in Ladakh.

When: 19th December 2017

Getting there: With roads closed for the winter, only way to reach Ladakh at this time of the year is by flight to Leh. Leh has flights from Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu and Chandigarh.

Then there are also few regular ‘touristy’ ones like the Shilpgram Festival organised every year from 21st December to December 31st, at Udaipur in Rajasthan. This attracts massive crowd creating a scene of rural market fair and festival with live performance of folk artist from different parts of the country. There are several huts constructed in the traditional architectural style using mud and local building material to reflect the geographical and ethnic diversity of the different states of west zone of India. Situated 3 kms west of Udaipur near the Havala village is the Centre’s Shilpgram – the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex. Over 400 artisans and craftsmen from all over India come to set up stalls at the fair, which takes place in a sprawling artisans’ village set up by the government. Folk dances and cultural programs are also held as part of the festival. It’s a great way to experience rural India culture.

Another event in Rajasthan is the Winter Festival at Mount Abu which is held every year during the last week of December (29th to 31st December 2017 this year). The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of this quaint hill station, only one in the Aravalis. The three-day colourful festival is organised by the Rajasthan Tourism and Municipal Board of Mt. Abu. Mount Abu is located on the broad gauge line between Delhi and Mumbai via Ahmedabad. Direct trains run to various destinations including Ajmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Convenient bus services are from Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Baroda, Jaipur,Jodhpur, Mumbai, Udaipur. Nearest airport is Udaipur.

Similar is the Cochin Carnival down in God’s own territory. This is one festival the whole of Kochi impatiently awaits every year. For this festival (23rd December 2017 to 1st January 2018) Fort Kochi is decked up like a bride and tourists, not only from within the country, but also outside, flock to this lovely port city to participate in the revelry. The inception of the Kochi carnival can be traced back to the Portuguese New Year revelry, held here during the colonial days. Gradually, it evolved to take the form of what is today popularly called the Cochin Carnival of Kerala. Preparations generally begin months in advance for hosting the unique games, fairs and partying during the Carnival of Cochin. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession on the New Year’s Day. Led by an embellished elephant accompanied by drums and music, the carnival is a moment to behold. There is also staging of different South and North Indian folk dances during the festivity. Colour white simply dominates the concluding 10 days of December, during the carnival.

Still in Kerala, then you shouldn’t miss the Kanathoor Nalvar Bhoothasthanam at Kanathoor village of Kasaragod. To be organised this year from 28th December to 1st January 2018, this festival provides a platform for almost 40 theyyams to perform together. It is undoubtedly a must watch for all those who love the pomp and richness of Theyyam. This prominent Theyyam festival stages the Theyyam of the mother deity as the leading one. The costumes and paintings of the body remind one of an outburst of colours. The visual beauty and the incessant music would transform the onlookers to a different level, almost trance-like state.

But that’s not all as we have many more this month like- Chennai Music Festival at Chennai (December-Jnauray), Enchanted Valley Carnival at Amby Valley (16-17 December), Poush Mela at Shantiniketan in West Bengal (22-26 December) and Taalbelia festival at Castle Mandawa in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan.

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Getting nostalgic with Shashi Kapoor memories!

Shashi Kapoor was certainly one of most watchable Bollywood actors of his times- pure grace and handsome to the core. Personally I had one great memory of this star, one of the lifetime, which I never had with anybody else. It was of watching him on the sets of a film. His passing away yesterday took me back to that incident four decades back.

It was summer of 1977 and I was in Kashmir with the family, my first trip to the paradise. I was quite young that time. Forty years have passed since than but I still remember it very well. We stayed in Srinagar, courtesy my uncle who was the commanding officer of the Army unit at that time. We had gone to Sonmarg, Khilanmarg and Pahalgam. Those were peaceful times in the valley. And it was during one of these excursions that we had a chance encounter with shooting of the Hindi feature film ‘Atithee’ (अतिथि). Film’s script or storyline had nothing to do with Kashmir, but as it was a trend during those days to shoot at exotic locations, hence Kashmir used to get fair chance of few shots in every other film. So, there was this scene being shot in the film.

Scene of Atithee film whose shooting I witnessed

Scene was between Shashi Kapoor and Shabana Azmi, the lead pair of the film. Being guest of the Commanding Officer of the Srinagar, we got the chance to watch the shoot closely. Actually this particular incident was so itched in my memory that I always remembered that particular dialogue which was being filmed- Shabana’s character says to the Shashi Kapoor’s character, “जब से मैंने फ्रॉक छोड़कर साड़ी पहनना शुरू किया है, तब से हर आदमी मुझसे अकेले में ही मिलना चाहता है” (..ever since I have stopped wearing a frock and started wearing sarees, every man wants to meet me in alone). It was all retakes and retakes for those couple of dialogues between these two. There were so many retakes that I forgot the count even. However fantastic a dialogue might seem on the screen, watching so many retakes on a shoot is rather irritating. But than, a director needs a perfect shot. It was a chance close encounter, first one with a star of his calibre… encounters that we cared least about when I entered into mainstream journalism, more than a decade later after that event.

As Siddhartha with Simi Garewal in this 1972 film

Film ‘Atithee’ released in July 1978 in theatres, but I got to see it more than a decade later when it was telecasted on Doordarshan. I was so anxious to watch that particular scene on the screen and was really quite happy after that. Film wasn’t that big commercial hit as was his other films around the same time. Actually 1978 was one of the most extraordinary year of Shashi Kapoor’s career because his as many as 12 films were released that year, most in a calendar year in his entire career including much acclaimed Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Trishul.

As poet Nur Shahjehanabadi in Muhafiz

Shashi Kapoor was so different in that movie (Atithee) than his usual self- in somewhat pencil moustache and a different hairstyle. That’s what I always loved about Shashi Kapoor, although being a romantic, handsome mainstream hero, he dared to be different.

As editor Vikas Pande in New Delhi Times

He crossed boundaries like none of his contemporary greats tried to do. For all his superhit films, Shashi Kapoor’s bigger contribution is perhaps the way he gave life to Prithvi Theatre; the way he produced films like 36 Chowringhee Lane, Junoon and Utsav, and certainly the way he chose to act in films like Muhafiz, New Delhi Times, Siddhartha and the Shakespeare Wallah. He was also one of the earliest mainstream top stars to act in a TV mini series- Kissa Kathmandu Ka in 1986, where he played the character of popular Bengali fictional detective Feluda.

As Samsthanak in Utsav

He was undoubtedly one of the first international stars of Hindi cinema… and indeed my first introduction to the world of cinema, as I don’t remember even seeing any film before that incident. Surprising!!!