Tag Archives: Heritage

India Summer Days return to Karlsruhe and lot more in SouthWest Germany


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On the weekend of 14th to 15th July 2018, the INDIA SUMMER DAYS return to Karlsruhe under the heading ‘Baden-Württemberg meets Maharashtra’: a small piece of India right in the centre of Karlsruhe, with all its sumptuous colours, music and dance. India fans can indulge in live music, an Indian bazaar, culinary delicacies and numerous other cultural highlights, as well as Ayurveda and yoga workshops.  Last year India Summer Days were held for the first time alongside the “Pre-Festival” in the middle of the Günther-Klotz-Anlage.

SouthWest Germany, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, is right in the heart of Europe and is bordered by France, Switzerland and Austria. Easy to get to, easy to get around, easy to have fun: that’s SouthWest Germany, a real four-season destination! With history and high-tech, romantic palaces and vibrant cities, natural beauty, glamour and fun, SouthWest Germany guarantees something for everyone. 

Also Read: Germany Unplugged – Holidaying in the SouthWest

Due to its varied historic and cultural heritage, South West Germany is abound in cultural monuments. Six of 42 UNESCO World heritage sites in Germany are located between the lake of Constance and the northern part of South West Germany. Ice Age Art in South West Germany, Historic Stone Age lake-dwellings on Lake Constance, the Frontiers of the Roman Empire , the Maulbronn Monastery and the Monastic Island of Reichenau. Worth mentioning as well, are the apartment buildings of the French architectLe Corbusier in Stuttgart, „the Weissenhof Estate“. Le Corbusier designed as well the master plan of the Indian City Candigarh in 1952 which was declared by UNESCO as World heritage in July 2016.

Wherever you go in Southwest Germany you are never far from a grand palace, a romantic castle, half-timbered houses – and something good to eat and drink. Stop in a café for coffee and cake; linger in a beer garden over a locally-brewed pint; taste wines at a traditional wine festival; sample schnapps and world-class gin in the Black Forest. Order traditional dishes in a Weinstube (tavern) and gourmet meals in Germany’s most Michelin-star studded region. In 2018 there are many foodie reasons to come to Southwest Germany, or Baden-Württemberg, as we call it.

Europa Park

In the heart of the border triangle, between the Black Forest and Vosges, lies the best theme park worldwide- Europa-Park. Whether Ireland, France or Spain ‒ 15 European themed areas with exemplary architecture, gastronomy, and vegetation are waiting to be discovered by visitors from around the world, embarking on a journey of discovery through Europe with over 100 attractions and shows and the promise of lots of fun and adventure for the whole family. The park’s own 4* hotels provide everything visitors need for a perfect family holiday or romantic wellness weekend with an authentic atmosphere and ambience unique to each themed hotel.

Shop till you drop! Read: Munich is a ultra-chic shopping destination

At India Summer Days, visitors will experience the great diversity of Indian culture and tradition in an authentic way. The focus will be on Maharashtra, Baden-Württemberg’s partner region in the heart of India, which has been linked to Karlsruhe for years. Last year Balaji També and a team of Ayurveda doctors, yoga teachers and cooks traveled from Atmasantulana Village, India, to the summer festival in Karlsruhe and offered many informative workshops on Ayurveda, Ayurvedic products, pulse diagnosis, Ayurvedic nutrition, healing music, meditation and yoga. Numerous other artists and musicians as well as yoga and Ayurveda experts will be arriving in Karlsruhe directly from India. This region has got special relations with Maharashtra. Stuttgart meets Mumbai wine festival also celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2014. The long and enduring town-twining between Mumbai and Stuttgart which dates back to 1968.

India Summer Days, Credit: jowapress.de

Susanne Schlung, Marketing Director of the State Tourist Board said after her recent visits to Mumbai and Delhi that  she could see a lot of interest in traveling to Europe and especially the interests of travellers who travel the second or third or….time to explore a region of Germany – such as SouthWest Germany. She was really surprised that a lot of the people she met during our stay, know of Cuckoo-clocks, the Black Forest with its delicious Black Forest cake and Baden-Baden with its Spas and Casino.

Sharing culture! Read: A culture feast at Upper Rhine Valley

Susanne said, “Due to the demand for smaller family groups, apartments and smaller busses for more people are more relevant. Small groups and individual travellers also like to try our lovely traditional food and beverages (beer and wine) as well as our high level cuisine in lots of Michelin starred-restaurants. But on the third or fourth day of their journey they need to have Indian food again. No problem; south west Germany has a lot of Indian restaurants to offer! Indians also like Shopping! So, in south west Germany they have lots of possibilities to go shopping – from traditional souvenirs , e.g. the Cuckoo-Clock at the Tiitisee-Shops up to designer wear in the Outlet City in Metzingen which is a 30 minute drive to Stuttgart or Wertheim Village in the north of SWG. Outlet City Metzingen offers at about 80 different luxury designer brands (such as Hugo Boss, Prada, Nike, Michel Kors, Armani, Burberry, Gucci & Jimmy Choo).”

Europa Park

German cars, especially Mercedes Benz and Porsche are well-known and loved in India. There are two museums in the capital city of SWG, Stuttgart, were one can see a lot of cars and learn something about the history of the cars. Traveling by train, which is very fast and convenient in Germany is also very popular with travellers.

Have you visited SouthWest Germany or Europa Park? How was the fun? Please share with us all!

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Creating young artists at Bali Art Centre

View from outside

Taman Budaya or Bali Art Centre is a prime example of how traditional art forms should to be preserved. Built in traditional Balinese architecture this is a centre of learning and also a centre of excellent performances. It motivates young Balinese people to learn all the forms of traditional Balinese performing arts. Bali Art Center grooms young ones in traditional Balinese arts- dance, theatre, music, painting and lot more.

A scene from Mahabharata at Bali Art centre

A beautiful complex run by public money is a very sincere attempt to preserve the traditional forms of art. Interestingly, all these classes are completely free of cost for the children. Such art centres encourage them to learn and perform and thus keep the traditional art forms alive by transferring them to the next generation… A way to learn for all such societies!

Even the bridges inside campus have artistic designs

In Islamic Indonesia the Hindu majority Bali is fascinating example of co-existence of cultures. Equally fascinating are the attempts to preserve art and dedication among the young ones to learn.

Here is a photo journey of this excellent centre:

Kids striking poses in their training schedule-

rigorous training is quite hot!
Notice the name of the arena! An Indian feeling! Where gems are being polished!!

Amazing beauty! Read: Sea on Fire: Sunset at Bali Beach

Bali art centre campus is big and beautiful
Young student practicing theatre
While some learn sketch and painting….
….and many others learn traditional musical instruments

Art centre for wedding shoots? Read: From the Bali album- Royal attires for pre-wedding shoot!

Students are also assessed for there progress, when they perform on stage whatever they have learned
Time for some rehearsal before the show
Confident looking trainees for their evaluation

Bali has lot more to do. Read: White water rafting in Bali

Multi purpose open theatre with traditional architecture
Everything designed tastefully

When there are so many students around, then they ought to be hungry.  So there are plenty of options for them, like these ones-

A lady selling street food
Parents need to kill time as well, while kids are busy in training
A lot of options to eat
Young trainees having some refreshment in the interim

Moving in to Bali! Read: Bali from the sky- few captures

Besides imparting training, Bali art centre also preserves many artefacts and paintings.

This video is from such a class inside the centre, where young ones are learning the art of playing the traditional musical instruments.

Another video of kids taking training in Balinese dance. Such is the dedication that while watching this performance, you will feel as if you are viewing a stage performance, not a training class.

Have you been to Taman Budaya or any such art centre anywhere else? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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Traditional folklore and cool technology are woven together at Taiwan Lantern Festival

The 29th Taiwan Lantern Festival was officially opened, with the lighting of the lanterns in the Main Lantern area. The exhibition scale for this year’s festival reaches 50 hectares, making it the biggest lantern festival ever held in Taiwan. The exhibitions will feature the main lantern which depicts an indigenous child with a Taiwanese dog, portraying the theme of Loyal Auspiciousness. Besides this main attraction, the innovative designs area will showcase various exquisite traditional lanterns that embody traditional customs and auspicious themes; these are sure to dazzle people.

For the first time, full-field spotlights will be used to shine the latitude and longitude beams in the sky and present the Tropic of Cancer going through the mountains, sea and plains of Chiayi County. The design incorporates folk culture and will give people a brand new sensory experience. International tourists who visit the “2018 Taiwan Lantern Festival” and present their passport or relevant entry certificate from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 3-10 at the No. 1 Service Desk can receive a 2018 Year of the Dog DIY paper lantern, a limited edition gift and a voucher (valid from March 3-10), which they can use to access the Main Lantern Area to watch the light show.

On the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Lantern Festival, also known as the Little New Year, celebrates an important traditional folk activity for the Lunar New Year. Traditionally, residents celebrated by setting off firecrackers, displaying hand-held lanterns, and going to temples to look at beautiful lanterns. Amid the fun atmosphere, it’s also a time to wish for peace and prosperity for the country and people. Every year, during the Lantern Festival, throughout Taiwan, large and small scale celebrations are held. The biggest difference between the Taiwan Lantern Festival and the lantern festivals held in various counties and cities in Taiwan is that it integrates tradition and modernity.

Based on traditional culture, the Taiwan Lantern Festival each year uses the animal sign on the Chinese zodiac as the theme of the main lantern. It also pays attention to traditional customs in determining the location, construction and placement rituals. The Main Lantern’s base is designed based on the Chinese Eight Trigrams, which symbolises Taiwan’s traditional philosophy and culture. The Main Lantern lighting ceremony time is selected based on what is considered an auspicious moment. It also involves the traditional blowing of the whistle. (When the President lights the lantern, a team of people blow whistles 9 times, when the Premier lights the lantern, the whistles are blown 8 times and when the Minister of Transportation and Communications lights the lantern, the whistle is blown 7 times). In addition to that, drumming, and hitting the gongs precede the lighting of Main Lantern. And with traditional etiquette, and folk tales as the theme, we cleverly combine lanterns with scenario-based technology to create an ambilight-like scenery.

To bring refreshing results to the public, a number of initiatives have also been planned for the “2018 Taiwan Lantern Festival,” including the center of attention, the Main Lantern “Loyal Auspiciousness ” which for the first time will depict not only the zodiac animal of the year but also include a Taiwan indigenous child waving, so that spectators can feel as if the child is greeting them and sending them good wishes with a smile. With the vigorous development of mobile payments and the introduction of cashless bazaars, the public also can experience the convenience and friendliness brought by science and technology. In order to showcase Taiwan’s intention to promote the protection of the bay resources, the “Bayside Tourism Lantern Area” has also been established to demonstrate the unique vitality of Taiwan being surrounded by the sea. A National Palace Museum water lantern area has also been laid out, and set up a Lantern Festival environmental navigation area, an environmental live broadcast and digital carved water curtain projection.

Through years of constant innovation, the Taiwan Lantern Festival has become one of Taiwan’s premier folk festivals. It has been selected as one of the “World’s Best Festivals” by Discovery and praised by international media as a Disneyland without a roller coaster! Through the holding of the Lantern Festival, the development of various types of Lantern Festival celebrations in Taiwan will be further promoted and world-class lantern designing and making technology will be cultivated. Chiayi County sits in front of a mountain range and faces the sea. It is the only county in Taiwan that spans Alishan, Siraya and Yun-Chia-Nan, three major national scenic areas. In addition to enjoying the sunrise and sea of clouds on Alishan, visitors can also visit the villages of the Zhou indigenous tribe on the mountain, as well as the eco-rich Aogu Wetland, Ruili Scenic Area’s Yanziya, the Dongshi Fisherman’s Wharf’s famous White Sand Beach and eat delicious seafood, Fengtian Temple, which is dedicated to the worshipping of the Goddess Mazu in Xingang, and Bantou village cochin pottery village. Visitors also shouldn’t miss delicious local food such as Minxiong goose, Budai seafood, Dongshi oysters, Xingang peanut candy, and duck soup. Traveling to various tourist spots in Chiayi County during the day and enjoying the Taiwan Lantern Festival in the evening will surely be the best way to celebrate the festival.

In order to promote Taiwan’s unique activities, the Tourism Bureau Chiayi County of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has been highlighting the special festivals of Taiwan in the past few years. In addition to the continuous integration and marketing of the Taiwan Lantern Festival, and other Lantern Festival events, such as the Taipei Lantern Festival, the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival Art Festival, the New Taipei City Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, Miaoli Fire Side Dragon Festival, Tainan Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival, and Taitung Bombing of Master Han Dan Festival, since 2013 has been promoting the “Taiwan Tourism Calendar” program, which integrates information on various large-scale special events in Taiwan, including the upcoming annual meeting of the world’s most beautiful bays in Taiwan (Penghu), the Taichung World Flora Exhibition (Taichung City), the 9th Asian Birdwatching Exposition (Chiayi County) and other international conferences and activities. Visitors from home and abroad are welcome to visit the unique and magnificent sightseeing activities of Taiwan’s folk festivals.

About 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

Photo credits : Taiwan Tourism Bureau

Have you seen any lantern festival? How beautiful it was? Share your views in the comments section below.

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Morning lights at Menar – the birds village!

City of Lakes Udaipur is famous for many things but rarely for its birds. Ironically village Menar, 15 kms from Udaipur’s Dabok airport is known for many things including its birds. Menar is also called as the bird village.  More than couple of lakes in close surroundings of the village are known to host a huge number of migratory birds every year. Menar also has a long history which connects it closely to the Kings of Mewar. Rich in culture, this village also has an honour to produce some of India’s finest chefs who have worked in kitchens of many celebrities- home and abroad. Residents of this village have been known as Menarias.

But my recent trip to this village, roughly around 45 kms from my hometown Udaipur, was purely to catch some morning light. Capturing birds at sunrise (for that matter also at sunsets) has been always very delightful.

The Wild Fire!

And, indeed it turned out to be so. With sun playing hide and seek in the clouds and birds, ready to start their day- it was morning worth every minute.

Lakes around Menar get good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, Pintails and Shovellers in the winter months.

There are two lakes- one inside the village and another at the far end. Later one is better for spotting birds because of its calmness and undisturbed environs.

Early morning movement of the birds

Menar has always been hosting here birds but it has come to the radar of bird watchers across the world only recently.

Now a large number of bird watchers flock here in winters to capture some memorable images. The local community here has played a big role in conservation efforts and popularising this place as the bird village. Volunteers here are called as Pakshi Mitras (friends of birds). They take care of patrolling, rescue and reporting of any attempts of poaching. Many other steps are taken to maintain the ecology of this place as a safe haven for the birds. Besides regular weeding and prohibition of fishing, locals have also stopped using water from these lakes for the purpose of irrigation. These lakes have no other source of water besides the rains. Hence, it is very significant to use the water judiciously.

The water of gold!

As the light gets brighter, birds are off to their daily routine.

Flying in tandem

Besides waterfowls, Menar is also second home to many other birds, small and big including this Bluethroat-

Among the goose family, these Bar-headed goose make a big colony here every year-

Here these common (Eurasian) coots seem to be having a morning meeting before starting day’s business-

Eurasian coots at Menar

Interestingly, Menar also gets fairly good number of Flamingos. Here greater flamingos look in small number but in another lake close by, there are good number of flamingos visiting every year.

How to reach: Little known village of Menar is 45 kms from Udaipur. It is 15 kms ahead of the Udaipur’s Dabok airport. That means while going to Menar from Udaipur, one has to first cross the airport and than move ahead towards Menar. Menar now has a few homestay options for those, who are serious in bird watching and want to spend more time around. But alternatively, you can always make Udaipur as the base and go to Menar early in the morning for bird watching. There are many young people in Menar village who can be your guide for the bird-watching tour of the village. One of them is Dharmendra Menaria who is also pursuing B.Sc. in agriculture.

P.S. Menar is also famous for some of its festivals which include a grand festival to commemorate the valour of local people. The festival is held on second day of Holi every year.

Have you been to Menar? What was your experience? You can share it here in the comments section.

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Hampi in Monsoon : Virupaksha Temple

Hampi is indeed one of the most prominent heritage sites in peninsular India. In our childhood, we all had been deeply associated with stories of Raja Krishna Dev Raya (Krishnadevaraya) and Tenali Raman (Ramkrishna). It is always fascinating to be there where all those immortal stories of Vijayanagara empire would have taken place. Hampi is also a place which can be included in our monsoon travel itineraries. Having there been in monsoon, I can safely say that it is one of he best time to visit Hampi. Summers are indeed a torture here and winter would be fun but it is the monsoon which brings the best out of this historical place in Hemakuta hills of Karnataka.

So here are few images from monsoon travel in Hampi, starting with the Virupaksha temple. Few striking ones to begin with- views of Virupaksha temple from the Hemakuta hills:

Right before the rain-

During the rain…

…and immediately after the rain

See, how the colours change so dramatically. Virupaksha Temple is the heart of Hampi, as this is the temple which is centre of all activities in Hampi- markets, bus stop, restaurants, shops- all are in surrounding areas of Virupaksha temple.  This temple dedicated to Shiva is considered to be one of the holiest and most sacred in Hampi. Hence it gets the most steady stream of visitors, all the year round. It is main centre of pilgrimage to Hampi.

Main gopuram of the Virupaksha temple, which makes the main entrance. This nine storied 50 metre high gopuram is one of the highest in Hampi.

Temple has a history that dates centuries earlier than the birth of Vijayanagara empire. Although this region of Hampi has mythological association with Ramayana, but the temple history is available only from 7th century onwards. But indeed during the rule of Vijayanagara empire that this temple reached to its glory. It was also amazing that though Raja Krishnadevraya was a vaishnavite, but it was the Virupaksha temple dedicated to Shiva that represented the glory of his empire.

Once you enter through this gopuram, you come to the outer courtyard of the temple.

A show stand and the souvenir shop in the outer courtyard

In the outer courtyard, there are many smaller shrines and mandapams.

Three faced Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva

From this outer courtyard, through another smaller gopuram, we enter the main inner courtyard, which houses the main shrine and mandapams.  Some views of the inner courtyard.

Centre view…In the image above we can see third gopuram towards the north which takes us to some more shrines and it eventually leads us to river Tungabhadra, which flows besides the temple.

….the left view of the inner courtyard

….and the right!

In the image below you can see the main pillared hall on the left and mandapams on the right, which were used in the past by the pilgrims to stay while visiting the temple. In the front is the same main gopuram, through which we entered the temple. Pillared hall in the left quite rich in architecture as well as sculptures. This hall also has some inscriptions related to Krishnadevraya. 
Temple has gone through various phases of renovation and restoration. In the image below you can see the difference between the original work (towards right) and restored work (towards left).

Ceiling of inside hall has still got intact some of the paintings of past (image below)

Temple got different types of constructions. While the gouprams have been prepared with brick, main hall has beautifully sculpted pillars. Some of the pillars are even in black marble. Inner sanctum sanctorum of the temple is quite rich in its sculptures.

Family of Lord Shiva

Just behind the main shrine at an upper level is this display of the photography technology. In a dark room there is a hole in the wall (left on the image below) You can see the main gopuram from this hole. But this small hole actually coverts itself into a pin-hole camera and hence through this pin-hole you can see an inverted image of the gopuram (below right) on the wall just opposite the hole. Looks astonishing. It is unlikely that the hole would have been originally created that way. But it would have been interesting to know, how and when this phenomenon was discovered here.

Moving out, it is almost ritualistic for the pilgrims to feed the temple elephant (image below). This elephant is normally used in festivals and processions.

Erotic sculptures: But my story of the temple won’t complete without referring to these It seems that erotic sculptures were part of temple architecture in down south as well, at least in medieval times when Krishnadevaraya would have renovated these temples. Although the  sculptures don’t have finesse of the ones of 9th and 10th century, that we find in North India, or even of Kalinga region, which might have inspired few of Krishnadevaraya’s ideas around Hampi.

A sculpture depicting various sexual acts inside the inner courtyard on the outer wall of the main shrine

But more striking are the sculptures on the main gopuram of the Virupaksha temple. They are big, although due to height of the gopuram, they are not clearly visible to naked eyes from the ground level.

Interestingly, some of the poses in these sculptures are quite different to what I have seen anywhere else in India. (You can click on the images to have a bigger and clearer view). That makes me wonder about the idea behind them. Its is very unfortunate that we don’t have any authentic account on origin of these type of sculptures in this temple.  Perhaps no inscriptions, only hearsay.

Due to these sculptures, I had often considered Virupaksha temple as one of the top erotic temples in India. It is very interesting to have different insights while visiting a temple of this huge cultural and historical importance.

Reaching Hampi: Virupaksha Temple is in heart of Hampi, close to bus stand. Hampi is located in Bellary district of Karnataka. Although closest big city to Hampi is Hospet, just 12 kms away. Hospet is also the closest railway station. Hospet is located on National Highway 63 which connects Ankola to Bellary via Hubli. Hubli is 160 kilometres from Hampi and has the closest airport to the erstwhile capital of Vijayanagara empire. Hubli is in Dharwad district and also has a railway station. There are also many daily trains from Hubli to Hospet which normally take between 2.30 hours to 2.45 hours to cover the distance. Actually Hubli is on railway line connecting Madgaon in Goa to Hospet. Similarly, you can also come by train from Pune-Kolhapur to Hubli and then move to Hospet. From Hospet you can even take a taxi or auto rickshaw to Hampi. Hubli is also the second biggest city in Karnataka after capital Bengaluru. Bengaluru is bit far from Hubli- roughly 335 kilometres.

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Kashmir, we know less about : Kheer Bhawani at Tulmul

There have been many facets of this paradise on earth. The political disturbances since last many decades have made many places either out of bounds or less frequently visited. One of such places is Kheer Bhawani temple at Tulmul (Tullamula) in Ganderbal district of Jammu & Kashmir. Just a few days back on eighth day (Ashtami, अष्टमी) of brighter fortnight (Shukla Paksha, शुक्ल पक्ष) of the hindu month of Jyeshtha (ज्येष्ठ या जेठ) pilgrims gathered at three shrines in Kashmir valley including the Kheer Bhawani temple. Devotees, mostly Kashmiri Pandits, thronged the shrine situated in south Kashmir, which is currently hot bed of  unrest in the Valley. Other two shrines are Tripur Sundari temple in Devsar (Kulgam district) and Ragnya Bhagwati in Manzgam (Kulgam district). This particular day is considered to be the birth day of Goddess Bhagwati. The day is celebrated  with hawans, community kitchens and mass prayers.

Outside Temple compound

Despite all fear created in media, devotees came here and paid obeisance at the shrine. It was usual as was in the past. Much hype was given to element of fear on social media, which led to fall in number of pilgrims but there was no such fear there. Besides this annual festival, people come here every month on the same day to perform rituals and seek blessings. Kheer Bhawani is one of the most revered Hindu shrines in Kashmir valley.

Also read- Naranag: Kashmir we know less about!

Message is clear: Go Vegan!

Though this temple has a rich mythology associated with it, the present temple was constructed by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1912 and it was later renovated by his nephew Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra king.

Inside compound of the temple

Surrounded by streams, this place is rich in true Kashmiri beauty, Its abound with Chinar trees- inside and outside the compound. There is a stream surrounding the temple. People take holy bath in this stream.

Also read: Wedding Bells

Stream surrounding the temple.

Now there is a legend on how Goddess Bhagwati reached in Kashmir. Mythology says that King Ravana of Lanka worshipped the goddess and pleased by his prayers, the goddess Bhagwati agreed to shower her blessings and reside in Lanka. But later because of Ravana’s misdeeds goddess cursed him and then she asked Hanuman to take her far in northern mountains away from Ravana’s kingdom. Hence goddess along with her vehicle and 360 nagas (serpents) was brought by Hanuman here at Tullamula near Shadipora.

Its a beautiful compound surrounded by Chinar trees

Then there is another legend on how the temple was discovered in medieval times. It is said that a Kashmiri Pandit, Krishna Dayal Tapilu from Srinagar had a dream wherein the goddess asked hime to travel from Ganderbal to Shadipora in a boat. From Shadipora a serpent would guide him to a pious spring. It so happened. Serpent disappeared after leading that pandit to this spring in Tullamula and this is where the temple is built today. Once you visit the temple, you will find many details about this legend.

Samadhi of the priests

The main spring called as Amrit Kund (अमृत कुंड) of goddess Kheer Bhawani is an irregular hexagonal shape. It has an island in the centre where a mulberry tree grew. And  here goddess Bhagwati is decorated and housed in a small white marble temple. It is said that idols in the temple are the ones that were taken out from this spring.

Devotees offering prayer to goddess

It is also said that water of this spring changes its colours from time to time. These colours are found to be red, light green, lemon yellow, milky white, grey white etc. There is no definite time or reason of changing the colours but any colour in shade of black is considered to be inauspicious. It is also said that there are bubbles rising out of spring water at times and they form a chakra (a mystic symbol, चक्र या यंत्र ).

The temple in the spring

The goddess here is offered Kheer (a sweet dish made of milk, rice and sugar) as prasad (offering, प्रसाद). People are not supposed to eat any form of meat when they visit the holy shrine.

Also read: Tulip Garden in Heaven

The main temple of goddess in spring

Years of unrest have decreased the number of tourists and pilgrims coming to this temple. Tourists just remained glued to their fixed itineraries. Hence, you won’t find many people here on regular days. There are number of restaurants here in the compound which also double up as prasad selling shops, and there is also availability of some rooms for pilgrims willing to stay. These restaurants also serve some local vegetarian delicacies. There is a guest house near by with all facilities.

Restaurants in the temple complex and guest house in the background

Also read: Never a dull morning in the Dal

How to reach: Located in foothills of Himalayas, this temple is not far from Srinagar. Once you move out of the city on the Srinagar-Leh highway, you come close to Ganderbal. Cross the Sindh river and move to Manasbal road. After few kilometres, there is a diversion towards Tullamula. Temple is around 25 kilometres from Srinagar and you can easily find taxis or buses to this place.

Beautiful surroundings

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Lost temple discovered after 1,000 years in China

Chinese archaeologists have found a famous temple that remained hidden for nearly a millennium in China’s southwestern Sichuan province. The Fugan Temple, located in downtown Chengdu, was a famous temple that lasted from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317- 420) to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Daoxuan, a famous Tang Dynasty (618-907) monk, once wrote that an official rite to pray for rain to end a persistent drought was held in front of the temple, and it rained as if the prayers had been heard in heaven.

The story was the record of how the temple got its name, Fugan, which means “perceive the blessing.”  The popular Tang Dynasty poet Liu Yuxi left a poem to commemorate the temple’s renovation, describing its heavenly appearance. The poem further noted the temple’s important role at that time, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. However, the building was worn down during the later period of the Tang and Song dynasties, with all traces of the temple disappearing during wars.

Archaeologists unearthed more than 1,000 tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures and over 500 pieces of stone sculpture as well as glazed tiles with inscriptions. “We have only excavated a part of the temple’s area, but already have a glimpse of its past glory,” said Yi Li, who led the excavation project. He said they have found the temple’s foundation, ruins of surrounding buildings, wells, roads and ditches.

During the excavation, archaeologists found some 80 ancient tombs scattered near the temple, dating back to Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BC). In the temple’s surroundings, they have unearthed large amounts of household tools and utensils and building materials dating back to various periods from the Song to Ming dynasties. Chengdu became an economic and cultural centre in western China during the Sui and Tang dynasties. The temple’s discovery could greatly contribute to the study of the spread of Buddhism in China during that time, said Wang Yi, director of the Chengdu Cultural Relic Research Institute.

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

Chengdu, the capital of China’s southwest Sichuan Province,  is famed for being the home of cute giant pandas. The history of the city can be traced back 2,400 when the first emperor built his capital here and named the city. Through thousands of years its original name has been kept and its position as the capital and as the significant center of politics, commerce and military of the Sichuan area (once called Shu) has remained unchanged. Since the Han (206B.C.-220) and Tang (618-907) Dynasties when its handicraft industry flourished, the place has been famous for its brocades and embroideries. Shu embroideries still enjoy a high reputation for their bright colors and delicate designs, ranking among the four main embroideries in China.

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

The city was also the place where the bronze culture, an indispensable part of ancient Chinese culture, originated; the place where the Southern Silk Road started; and the place where the earliest paper currency, Jiaozi (not the dumpling!), was first printed. It is listed among the first 24 state-approved historical and cultural cities and owns 23 state and provincial cultural relic units.

Photo credit: businessdestinations.com

Forgetten heritage and shades of Khajuraho near Udaipur

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

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

A look at the temple complex-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very interesting, isn’t it!

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

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

Now look at this another picture from a wider angle-

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

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

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

The Disappearing Hotels of Wales

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

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

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

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

‘Fairy Queen’ Ready to Haul Heritage Train Once Again

Fairy Queen1Its a journey worth albums- a short trip for a long-lasting memory. The ‘Fairy Queen’, the oldest surviving functional steam engine in the world is once again ready in this season to haul a heritage train from National Capital Delhi to Rewari, Haryana after a gap of 5 years. This train, which is a great attraction among steam engine lovers across the globe, will run between Delhi Cantt. Station and Rewari from tomorrow i.e. 11th February 2017 for a single day trip. Train will leave Delhi Cantt. railway station at 10.30 in the morning and reach Rewari at 1.00 pm. And on the return journey it will leave Rewari at 4.15 pm and reach Delhi Cantt. at 6.15 in the evening.

Fairy Queen2The locomotive was constructed by Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson at Leeds, in England, in 1855, and reached Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, in the same year. On arrival, it was given fleet number “22” by its owner, the East Indian Railway Company, not receiving a name until 1895. Initially, the 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) gauge locomotive was used to haul light mail trains in West Bengal, operating between Howrah and Raniganj, and during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 hauled troop trains. It was later consigned to line construction duty in Bihar, where it served until 1909.

Fairy Queen3It was restored and given a special spot in the newly built National Rail Museum at Chanakyapuri, in New Delhi which was opened to public 40 years back on 1st February, 1977. The locomotive was restored to full working order in 1997, in preparation for its first mainline journey in 88 years and its return to commercial service on 18 July. It was certified by the Guinness Book of Records in 1998 as the world’s oldest steam locomotive in regular operation. The following year, the train received a National Tourism Award for the most innovative and unique tourism project from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India.

The Trip: There will be three exclusive journeys. First one is tomorrow 11th February and next two on 11th March and then 8th April this year. Ticket price for complete two way journey on the day trip is 6480 Rs per adult passenger (3240 Rs for child below 12 yrs) and for one way trip (either way Delhi-Rewari or Rewari-Delhi) is 3240 Rs per adult passenger (1620 Rs for child below 12 yrs). Journey includes the trip and the visit to Heritage Steam Shed at Rewari. What else, there you will get chance to see another two of Indian railways’ heritage steam engines- Azad and Akbar.

Coaches: The Steam Express has a capacity of 60 seated air-conditioned chair car. Specially designed rail car has large glass windows for better viewing and also a long area in the front to give you a scenic view of the countryside. Whole trip is worth the price indeed.