Tag Archives: Rajasthan

The tall, beautiful and a mate for life!


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They are the true ‘love-birds’. Always found in pair and always remain loyal to each other. Hardly we recognise bird species with these qualities but our guide or naturalist- as they liked themselves to be called as, was more than beaming in explaining Sarus Cranes to us in this manner. But it was really so amusing to hear all this, though we had already heard about crane couple ‘singing’ and dancing together and seen some amazing photographs earlier too.

Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur has been one of the favourites to watch this amazing bird, although they can be found in Gangetic plains. There number is decreasing constantly everywhere, including Keoladeo, due to various threats. Hence it was on top of my bucket list while going to this amazing bird sanctuary. Our naturalist cum guide Gajendra Singh told us that there were hardly around six pairs left in the park.

We weren’t that lucky on the first day. We could see a pair but it was quite far in the fields (pic above) and due to a stream flowing in between, there was no way to get closer to them. I was still able to get a slightly closer view through my telephoto and look of its dark orange head was exciting enough.

Its an amazing bird without any doubt. It is the tallest flying bird in the world, standing at six feet (taller than me). Its wingspan is bigger at almost eight feet. How fascinating it would be to watch this bird fly!

Also Read: The giant turtles of Keoladeo National Park

We were luckier next day morning. Early mornings are always the best time to watch birds. Company of an energetic guide helped. What helped more was the fact that we were on cycles and hence were able to go to interiors of the park where a cycle rickshaw or a tonga wouldn’t have been able to. We were able to locate a pair at a distance. I will always suggest to go inside the Keoladeo National Park on a bicycle.

Since it was a dry patch, it was possible to go closer. Another benefit of going to a bird sanctuary is that you can dare to go closer to the birds for nice close-ups. Although there is always a fear that they might fly away, but then that’s a chance you need to take. Something you are not allowed to do in a wildlife sanctuary.

Our naturalist Gajendra Singh was busy telling us about Sarus crane, as how they will mate for life with a single partner. They are always found in pair and rarely in large group. He also told us that if any one in the pair dies, the other one will stop eating food and thus give life too- something which we were not able to corroborate factually, although I have heard of this from various people.

I left others behind and started moving in the field closer to the pair. I was clicking while moving forward and also taking care of the ground below- small pools of water, marshy area, thorny bushes and any chance encounter with an unwanted reptile.

My idea was to get as closer as to get a good close-up shot using my telephoto lens and also not too close to scare them away. They indeed noticed me coming close, but didn’t fly away. Just kept moving further.

For a layman like me, it was tough to distinguish between a male and a female. Another interesting thing about this bird pair is that they both (female as well as male) incubate the eggs for a period of 26 to 35 days.

Sarus Cranes are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red list, mostly because of the loss of habitat, i.e. destruction of wetlands due to human population pressure, expansion of agriculture, ingesting pesticides and lot more.

There are said to be 25,000 to 37,000 Sarus cranes globally with there population limited to Indian sub-continent, south-east Asia and northern Australia. It is sad to know about their reducing numbers as they are known for their ability to live in closely with humans. They live in open, cultivated, well watered plains, marsh lands and lakes. Such areas suit them well for foraging, roosting and nesting.

Going closer to the pair and returning back to others and our bicycle took too much of time. But I was still content, wanted to go more and more closer, but didn’t want them to fly away hence marked my limit and turned back.

It wasn’t like I didn’t want to go further, but having spent two hours already and now after watching a pair of Sarus crane so closely, I knew I could call off the visit without any regrets. And in any case, in any wildlife trip you can’t see everything in a single visit. I already had two.

Where: Home to a host of migratory birds and large number of domestic birds, Keoladeo Ghana National Park is located in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. Park is on the outskirts of Bharatpur city. Park gate is right on the Agra-Jaipur national highway about 20 kms from Fatehpur Sikri and 65 kms from Agra.

Park is open from sunrise to sunset. Unlike other national parks there are no safaris, no motor vehicles allowed inside. We can walk inside the park but that takes too much time and one won’t be able to see big area while on foot. There are cycle rickshaws as well as tongas. Best option is to take a cycle. Also take a guide as they will be able to tell you about the park and its birds. Guides also come with a high powered binoculars to watch birds at far off places. Rickshaws, tongas and guides have per hour rates while cycles can be hired for the day. There is also an entry fees for every visitor.

Also see: Perfect host for a birding trip

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Perfect host for a birding trip


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For many people visiting to a wildlife sanctuary or a national park, what matters most is a good trip to the park, but it certainly helps if you get a comfortable place of stay after a tiring trip to park. Sunbird  hotel at Bharatpur gives many reasons for a pleasant stay.

Outside the rooms said to be two best on the property

Too many plus for a hotel which normally won’t fall into the big brand category. Actually, to my surprise it was few of those hotels which hardly gave any reason to complain or even dissatisfied with. When we checked in, the staff said that we were being given the two best rooms in the property and we couldn’t have disagreed. For a place like Bharatpur, this hotel has one of the best location you can ask for. Property is just five minutes walk from the main gate of Bird sanctuary.

Hotel is located in the area called as Saras circle and most of the hotels in Bharatpur catering to tourists coming to bird sanctuary are in the same area.

Spacious room with an extra bed

We booked two rooms and had asked for extra beds in both the rooms at he time of online booking. To my pleasant surprise, at the time of check-in the extra beds were already in place in both the rooms. My experience so far, even at many five star hotels has been that they will place the extra bed only by late in the evening. But here, they were already in place. It actually helped all of us to immediately stretch ourselves after a long road journey.

A garden right in front of our rooms

Rooms were very spacious, clean and good. Right in front of our rooms was a beautiful garden that constantly gave us a nice cosy feeling of being close to a bird sanctuary. Actually, whenever we stepped out of room, we felt like having a slice of the bird sanctuary. Full marks to design of the hotel in this regard. You might feel like seating outside your room lazily on a chair and enjoy the surroundings or just read a book.

A meeting room in the garden

Actually from outside, you don’t get the feel of the property. You just can’t imagine that it would be so big inside. But once you move inside further from the lobby, you get to see the space. There are four cottages around this garden and four rooms including the two deluxe rooms we stayed in.

One of the cottage around garden

Rooms are neat and clean with wardrobe, study table, a sofa, safe and tea-coffee maker and a 32 inch LCD television, but you hardly feel like switching the TV on in this place.

Another view of the room

Hotel has been aesthetically designed with traditional Rajasthan interiors. Moreover, rooms have photographs or beautiful pencil sketches of various birds found inside the Bharatpur sanctuary. It always gives you a feeling of the place you are in.

Photos and sketches of birds in the rooms

As far as food is concerned, we didn’t have meals here, so can’t say anything about it. But buffet breakfast was part of the tariff, so we had it on all days and was satisfactory. It has to be acknowledged that it is tough for a hotel to manage breakfast when it is so close to a wildlife sanctuary, because most guests will be either having an early breakfast before going to the bird sanctuary or will have a late breakfast after returning from sanctuary. But staff managed it very calmly and kept fulfilling all requirements. But having said that, food is perhaps the only department where they need to improve a bit.

Staff was in general very courteous and forthcoming. Overall stay gave us a relaxed feeling. Surely looking for another visit.

Location: Hotel is located at Saras circle which comes as soon as you enter the Bharatpur city. While coming from Fatehpur Sikri, when you reach Saras circle a road goes straight into the city and another one, the Agra-Jaipur national highway turns left. Hotel Sunbird is just 100 metres away from the circle on this road. Main gate of bird sanctuary is further 200 metres from the hotel.  Fatehpur Sikri is just 20 kms from Bharatpur.

P.S. Bharatpur doesn’t have too many good independent restaurants. Most of talked about restaurants are attached to one or another hotel. We tried to find some independent good food options, but were not satisfied. You need to keep that in mind.

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The giant turtles of Keoladeo national park

Keoladeo Ghana National Park at Bharatpur has been the earliest and most popular of bird sanctuaries in India so much so that until few decades back whenever plans to visit a bird sanctuary will come in mind, name Keoladeo used to prop up almost instantly. But this park, popular for its cranes and once a critical wintering ground for endangered Siberian cranes, is also known for its giant soft shelled turtles. Park has seven species of turtles.

The number of turtles is very good, in few hundreds. There are many myths and folklores associated with these turtles, but indeed there lifespan is very good. In that sense many turtles here are said to be living here for more than couple of hundred years. Now the catch is that this park doesn’t have perennial source of water. It depends lot on monsoon rains and water sourced from near by reservoirs through canals. So when water gets dried up, turtles move towards a pond located besides a historical temple situated right at the second barrier of the park.

Watching turtles at this pons is an exhilarating experience. There is a temple complex, an ashram adjacent to the pond.

Temple complex
There are big numbers of monkeys in the complex as well

There are stairs going to the pond from the temple side. The caretakers of the temple often feed turtles with wheat flour in attempt to bring them towards the stairs for exciting tourists to see them. In return, tourists will pay them tip for their efforts.

Temple caretaker luring turtles with wheat flour

Its fun to watch this lovely creature coming up to the stairs to get some quick food. They are different in age and sizes. Often more than one will come to the stairs.

Three turtles on the stairs

For me personally, it was first time to watch these turtles so closely and it was very exciting to photograph them. Monkeys around the temple often bring a twist to the tale, when they loot the bounty meant for the turtles. Its thoroughly entertaining.

Looting the bounty
Keeping a close eye on the proceedings
Filled in both hands… still looking for more

But despite these side-artists, the main character is still the turtle. Here comes one :

Swimming towards stairs
Gets his food and pulls himself back

Getting some close shots was fascinating, like this one-

…and this one too:

Putting its neck back into the shell…

A closer look of feet and the eyes:

Here comes another turtle to give an audience and also gives a glimpse of its size-

…same way to retreat back, what a power nature has given to this creature-

Holding its food in the mouth…

Neck looks so decorated…

You can spot turtles in the national park at many other places as well. You need not essentially go to the pond to see them…

Enjoying some sun
A bigger one…

In other water bodies of the park..

So, next time you go to the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur don’t forget to give some of your time to this lovely creature as well.

Where: Keoladeo Ghana National Park (erstwhile  Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary)  is located in Bharatpur city of Rajasthan. Park boundaries almost touch the Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh border. Park is just 20 kms from Fatehpur Sikri and 65 kms from Agra. Park gates are located right on the  Agra-Jaipur National highway. The turtle pond, as it is famously known is just a kilometre from the park gate and left of the second barrier, which actually is the entrance to the park.

 

Onam to Bathukamma via Ladakh Festival!

It is one of those months, which have festivities right from start till end and that too almost in every corner of the country and with many shades. How wonderful to have all these occasions to supplement the usual zest for travel! And, what a diversity we have, it can be envious for any other country on the planet. Just consider this- the nine days before Vijayadashmi are celebrated as Durga Puja in Bengal, Garba in Gujarat, Ramlila in north and as Bathukamma in Telangana. All these festivals celebrated on same days of calendar have different myths, different customs, different performances, different food but same gusto. Even the ramlilas are different in different parts and so is Vijayadashami.

Festival of prosperity & joy – Onam

Festivities for the month start with Onam in Kerala. Its interesting that in spite of centuries that passed by, various rulers having ruled the land, the mythical King Mahabali enjoys a popularity that no other ruler can boast of! The greatest charm of Onam lies undoubtedly in the coming together of the Malayali folk to welcome the mythical king on his imaginary annual visit to the land. The ten-day long festival begins with atham asterism in the Malayalam month of Chingam and culminates grandly on the day of Thiruvonam. The households bubbling and bustling with energy is a sight reserved during Onam days. As per mythology, King Mahabali decided to leave for the nether world, failing to keep his promise given to Lord Vishnu who came in the guise of Vaamana. As for the delicacies of Onam one would wish it to go on and on. Payasam (the traditional Kerala dessert), the show-stopper among the Onasadya (the sumptuous feast) is itself of plentiful variety. It is very interesting to watch how kids make every festival their own. Children dart in the neighbourhood in search of flowers to make floral carpets (pookkalam) that adorn their courtyards. Traditional arts and games throbs the rustic ambience of villages. The inevitable swing is a unique feature of this festivity. There are many Onam special programmes conducted across Kerala including Kerala Tourism sponsored programs all over the state. Atham asterism was on 25th August this year and  Thiruvonam will be celebrated on September 6, 2017.

 

Snake boat race at Aranmula

Onam has lot many things associated with the celebrations and among them are the traditional snake boat races of Kerala. Aranmula has got a unique place when it comes to the cultural imaginings of Kerala. The boat race held annually on the Uthrittathi asterism (as per the local Malayalam calendar) during the Onam festival is one the cultural hallmarks of this land. Teeming with rich tradition and rituals immersed in splendor, the Aranmula Uthrittathi boat race is considered more of a ritual than a race. Legend has it that a devout Brahmin vowed to offer all the requirements for the Thiruvona sadya (the grand traditional feast on the day of Thiruvonam) at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Once, the boat known as Thiruvona Thoni carrying these offerings was attacked by enemies. In order to protect the Thiruvona Thoni people from neighbouring areas sent their snake boats. Later on, this practice evolved into an offering to Lord Parthasarathy in the form of a snake boat race, held on the Uthrittathi day, which eventually became popular as the Aranmula Boat Race. This year the boat race will be on 8th September 2017.

Where: Race is held in River Pamba in Aranmula, District Pathanamthitta of Kerala. If you want to be there than nearest railway station is Chengannur, about 11 km while nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 117 kms.

Regatta of remembrance with Payippad Boat Race

But than Aranmula is not the only boat race of Onam. Two days before the Aranmula boat race, takes place a legendary boat race at Payippad. It is also said to be perhaps the oldest boat race in Kerala. This one is in the northern part of the state though in all famous Alappuzha district. A regatta to commemorate a legend associated with water. The legend is about the installation of the idol in the Subrahmanya Swamy Temple, Haripad. The legend says that the villagers once had a vision, which directed them to a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake where they discovered the idol of Sree Subramanya. Held annually on the Payippad River, this boat race is noted for the largest participation of snake boats after the Nehru Trophy boat race. The boat race is marked by synergy, speed and rigour. Thousands swarm to the banks of Payippad River to celebrate the event. This event runs for three days. So if you can’t make it to Aranmula, then try to be at Payippad. There is another boat race on the same day- Sree Narayana Jayanthi Boat race at Kumarakom, one of the best beach resorts in Kerala. Payippad boat race event will run from 4th to 6th September 2017.

Where: Race will be at Payippad backwaters in Payippad, District Alappuzha. To reach there nearest railway station is Haripad, about 5 km while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha.

Pulikali, the tiger dance

There is still something more associated with Onam in Kerala. Come Onam and the Swaraj Round in Thrissur district becomes a hunting ground teeming with prowling tigers and wily hunters. Each tiger has its ferocity writ large on their faces as well as on their bellies. Yes, bellies, for these are not the four-legged tigers you would come across in the wild. Rather, they are all men with their bodies painted as that of tigers with life like vividness. Pulikali (the play of the tigers) is an event that has become synonymous with the festival of Onam in Kerala. Apart from the true colours of a tiger, one would also come across other colours and patterns and even the facial features of lions on the bodies of the performers. The finesse with which the makeup is done with paints is awe inspiring. With the performance being centred on playing hide-and-seek with a hunter wielding a gun, the event is exciting and fun for both the performers and the onlookers. To say the least, it is a riot of fiery colours that is a feast to the eyes. This year Pulakili will be celebrated on 8th September 2017.

Where: Swaraj Round, Thrissur. Nearest railway station is Thrissur, about a kilometre while nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 58 km from Thrissur.

Spectacular Neelamperoor Patayani

Onam ends but festivities don’t in Kerala. ‘Neelamperoor Patayani’ is a spectacular event that falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam (usually August / September). Visiting Neelamperoor Palli Bhagavathy Temple during the time of annual patayani festival is a colourful treat to the eyes. The patayani (also called as padayani) celebration at this temple is said to have a history of around 1700 years. The word patayani literally means rows of army. Though patayani is performed in a number of other temples in Kerala, the one held at Neelamperoor is unique. Kettukazhcha (display of deftly decorated effigies) is what makes this festival stand out. A grand procession of huge effigies of swans and other legendary and mythical characters are brought in. The making of the effigies of swans is locally known as annam kettu. At night the ambience is set by a colourful procession carrying the effigies of mythological characters like Bhima, Ravana, and Yakshi, which is a spectacular sight. This year it will be celebrated on 19th September 2017.

Where: To witness this get to Palli Bhagavathi Temple at Neelamperoor in Alappuzha

Glory of Ramnagar Ramlila

Back to mainstream in one of the holiest of Indian cities as per hindu mythology. Varanasi has always been a magnet for the spiritual, the religious, for holy seers and for the hippies. During the ten days of the Dussehra, the city becomes famous for its Ramlila, often considered to be the one of the oldest and perhaps grandest ramlila in world.  Fifteen kilometers from the main city lies Ramnagar, where the Ram Leela is enacted in a unique manner. Unlike the rest of the country, where the enactment is done on single stages, here in Ramnagar the whole town is transformed into a large Ram Leela ground, structures are built and different spaces represent different locations in the story.  The whole Ram lila takes place over a month. For a month, Ramnagar is transformed into a giant stage for the story of Ram to unfold. Permanent structures and parts of the town within a five-kilometre radius are named after places mentioned in the epic, and different episodes of the lila are enacted at different venues every day. On most days, the Ramlila moves – the cast, the Kashi Naresh, audiences and all. Sometimes, the movement is within a larger venue. Sadhus coming to Ramnagar from all over the country during this time and reciting Ramcharitramanas are called Ramayanis and the audience follows the performers all over town.  Even though thousands of devotees, bystanders, tourists throng the town during this month, it is incredible to note that most of the recital is done without the aid of any loudspeakers, electric lights or mikes, and the audience maintains a hushed silence throughout the Ramayani recital. Audiences move around from one location to another in order to see the one of its kind Ramlila. The crowd ranges from a few thousand for some episodes, up to a lakh for episodes like Ram and Sita’s wedding, Dussehra (when a 60-feet high effigy of the Raavan is burnt), Bharat Milaap, and the coronation of Ram (the most auspicious episode). On the day after Dussehra, Varanasi celebrates the Bharat Milaap festival, which commemorates Ram’s return to Ayodhya and his reunion with younger brother Bharat.  This takes place at Nati Imli, and thousands of people flock and gather to see Ram meet Bharat.  People wear tilak on their foreheads and garland the brothers. Watching the entire scene from the background every year is Kashi Naresh (former king of Varanasi) in his regal attire and finery. This year Ramnagar Ramlila will be organised from 5th September to 5th October 2017.

Dussehras of different hues 

Dussehra in Almora, Uttarakhand

A festival so deep-rooted in our mythology is unique in the sense that it is celebrated in so different forms in different parts of country. Dussehra is marked as the victory of Good over evil, but the celebrations have taken various forms at various places. With underlying message the same in all of them, they all are worth a visit to understand the local customs, beliefs and rituals. Mysore Dasara is known for its sheer grandeur and participation. Mysore, or Mahishur as it was called in the past, traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hill, killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival and the festivities here are an elaborate affair and attract a large audience from all over the world. Another unique celebration from remote interiors of the country. The most important festival in Bastar is the Dusshera when all the deities from the surrounding villages unite at the temple of Danteshwari in Jagdalpur, the district headquarters. Unlike Dusshera in other parts of India, here it is not the celebration of return of Rama to Ayodhaya.  Dusshera in Bastar is devoted entirely to the goddess, Danteshwari Devi. Then, Kota in Rajasthan has a very popular Dussehra celebration as well, known for a mixed urban-rural ethos of this religious occasion. Located on the banks of the Chambal River, Kota celebrates a number of festivals. However, this festival of Dussehra bears a distinct appeal altogether. Here Dussehra fair is observed for 25 days. Then, after the whole country winds up the celebration of Dussehra by burning the effigies of Ravana, then the Dussehra at Kullu begins. The festival commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, i.e. on Vijayadashmi day itself and continues for seven days. The birth of Dussehra in Kullu lay in royal fads and it nourished on religious, social and economic factors and ultimately came to be well established, because of the inborn love of the hill- men for fun, frolic, displayed in community singing and dancing. Kullu Dusshehra is a beautiful amalgam of history, culture and customs. Another Dussehra in the hills is in the top list for its traditional style and culture. In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the Dussehra festival starts with the performance of Ramlila which is unique as it is based on the musical rendering of the katha or story of Lord Rama. It is based on the theatrical traditions set by Uday Shankar during his stay in Almora; these traditions were further enriched by Mohan Upreti and Brijendra Lal Sah. Almora’s Kumaoni style enactment has also been recognized by UNESCO as one of the most representative Ramlilas along with places like Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan and Madhubani. This year Dussehra or Vijayadashami is on 30th September.

Cultural renascence through Bathukamma festival

Bathukamma at Lal badhur Stadium in Hyderabad.Photo/P Anil kumar

Bathukamma is one of the many undiscovered facets of Telangana which are now getting popularity with formation of separate state. The nine day Bathukamma festival is a celebration of womanhood and is an ode to the various emotions that woman feel. Bathukamma, a prominent festival prior to Dussehra is a historic festival embedded with the lives of woman in Telangana. Bathukamma represents the cultural spirit of Telangana and signifies the Goddess Maha Gauri, the patron goddess of womanhood. The Telangana government has declared ‘Bathukamma’ as a state festival. There are number of legends that surround this 1000 year old festival. Festival is most renowned for its large flower pyramids or ‘bathukammas’. Larger the better. Women spend hours building their bathukammas all through two week long celebrations. Once done, they offer it to the deities. The celebration is combined with traditional dance and folk songs. This year festival will be celebrated from 20th to 28th September.

Its all bright at Abhaneri Festival

This is comparatively a new entrant to Rajasthan’s festival calendar. ’Abhaneri festival’ is named after the village Abhaneri in the Dausa district which is around 90 km from Jaipur on the Agra road. This two-day festival has gained immense popularity amongst the tourists around the globe. This year, it will commence from 21st to 22nd September with various Rajasthani & local folk performances like Kachhi Ghori, Kalbeliya, Ghoomar, and Bhawai. Festival was initiated by Rajasthan Tourism in 2008, it is of great significance for Rajasthan. The village of Abhaneri was originally named Abha Nagri, meaning “city of brightness”. The place is popular for the Chand Baori-step well, one of the largest step wells built over a thousand years ago. Be a part of the celebrations at Abhaneri and dip into the rustic charm of traditional Rajasthani music.

Peak of season at Ladakh Festival 

So if you are done with all religious festivals than move north to Ladakh for yearly Ladakh festival. The main aim of organising this Ladakh festival in the month of September is to extend the lean tourist season in the region and also to represent and propagate the rich cultural heritage of the area. The grand success of the festival and the tremendous response from both foreign and home tourists is due to the rich cultural heritage and variety of other attractive programmes like traditional Polo match and Village archery. The famous monastic dance in the monasteries including exhibitions of invaluable Thankas and other Ritual Instruments of the monasteries. The tourists have the opportunities to see the entire traditional cultural programme of the region like Traditional Folk dance and songs of different parts of Ladakh. The grand achievements of the Ladakh Festival are noticeable of the significant increase in the arrivals of tourists during the lean tourist season of the year.Ladakh festival is celebrated from 20th to 26th September, every year in Leh and its villages. The inauguration ceremony of the festival takes place in Leh on a large scale with a procession of several cultural troupes from different part of the region which traverses through Leh Market. There is dancing, singing, traditional music, people wearing colourful traditional Ladakhi dresses. It comes to end at the Polo ground. The festival is for 6 days with regular celebration in various villages including archery, polo, and masked dances from the monasteries and dances by cultural troupes from the villages. There are musical concerts too. Best part is, that this is one of the best time to go to Ladakh region, just before the onset of winter.

 

EAT, DRINK, MERRY! at Ziro

Ziro Festival of Music is probably one of the most happening fun outdoor music festival in the country. It also showcases the India’s independent music scene. This year the festival will be held from 28th September to 1st October 2017. So far ZFM has featured stellar acts from around the world including Lee Ranaldo & Steve Shelley (SONIC YOUTH -USA), Lou Majaw, menwhopause, Shaa’ir n Func, Whirling Kalapas, Sky Rabbit, Peter cat recording Co, Guru Rewben Mashangva among others. This edition will be over four days and will feature 40 performances from across the globe as well as the best folk musicians from the North East on two stages. More than 6000 people are expected to attend the festival. Lineup for this year includes Reggae Rajahs, Damo Suzuki, The Kathmandu Killers, Alaska Snack Time, Alobo Naga & The Band, Bint El Funk, Rizal Abdulhadi, Jambili, Thaalavattam, Dhruv Visvanath and Sofia Ashraf among others. Ziro is primarily home to the Apatanis – simple, friendly and hospitable people with an interesting culture and legacy. They are a non-nomadic, agrarian tribe who share a responsible relationship with nature. Apatanis cultivate permanent wet land cultivations instead of dry land cultivations which involves burning forests. Ziro valley is lush with paddy farms and is known for its unique paddy cum fi sh cultivation where using traditional irrigation methods, farmers rear fish in the knee-deep water. Keeping them company are the adorable, shy, and harmless Indian Bisons. All visitors – Indian and foreigners – to Arunachal Pradesh need special permits to enter the state. Indians need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) and foreigners require a Protected Area Permit.

Getting there: Ziro is the district headquarters of Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh (India) and is situated 167km from the capital, Itanagar. It is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal Pradesh in a valley at a height of over 5500 feet above sea level surrounded by misty mountains. The nearest airport is Tezpur. However, flights to Tezpur are often cancelled without reason. The best option is to fly to Guwahati and do the road journey. Guwahati is 450 kilometres from Ziro. It takes around 12 hours on road but lot also depends on weather. The nearest railhead is North Lakhimpur by Arunachal Express from New Bongaigaon. Direct buses are available from Guwahati, Itanagar and North Lakhimpur. You can also reach Naharlagun station by train which is 3 hours from Ziro. Naharlagun has overnight trains from Guwahati.

 

A Octopussy fame to an architectural marvel!

I have been to this temple number of times since childhood, but never got to photograph it as extensively as I did recently. It is indeed one of the landmarks of the old city of Udaipur. Jagdish Temple rises high on the middle of a square, which is the main junction leading to Udaipur’s city palace. On this square road on two sides go downhill, while another two go uphill. So, it would have been a hillock on the banks of the lake, when this city would have been established centuries ago.

Well even this temple is a few centuries old, 365 years precisely. It is temple of Lord Krishna in Jagannath form. Built in 1652 by Rana Jagat Singh of Mewar, this temple rises 125 feet from the road through steep stairs. These stairs might be having almost a gradient of something between 50 to 60 degrees. It is said that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s army raided this temple and demolished the front part. During this attack 20 protectors of this temple laid there lives. Then Rana Sangram Singh II renovated the temple in 1723.

Temple as seen from the square

Temple has got a beautiful architecture. Although not very big, still lot has been said about this temple’s resemblance to some of sculptures from Khajuraho. Temple itself is 100 feet high and another 28 feet high flag post  on the top. Temple is based on 50 beautifully sculpted pillars. There is huge difference in time periods of Khajuraho and this temple—more than six hundred years. Hence there is as much difference in sculptures as well. There might be similarity in some of the poses, but there is stark dissimilarity in facial and body features. Even on the temple itself there is difference between facial features of different sculptures. But they are indeed beautiful and there is also some pattern to it. Some of them are sensuous but there is no profound eroticism as was found in the Suparshvanath temple at Ranakpur.

(Read: Obscured by an architectural wonder!) 

Main temple

The structure of this Jagdish temple is so imposing on that particular skyline that it is just not possible to miss it. Locals have been regular to this temple. Its sudden rise and elevation from the road is something that is more impressive for tourists. And actually this impression brings out an interesting story related to this temple and this is a recent one. This also provided a fresh lease of popularity to this temple among foreign tourists.

Outside walls of the temple
Sculptures on walls
Sculptures on outside walls

 

Sculptures on outside wall
See the perfect pattern on the walls
Closer look at the sculptures
Closer look at the sculptures

Well, I am talking about ‘James Bond’ Roger Moore’s Octopussy. This 1983 film was shot extensively in Udaipur and especially in the area around city palace, two palace hotels, Lake Pichola and this Jagdish Temple. I still remember those days, when only source of news used to be the morning newspapers and one fine day this news spread in the city like jungle fire that new James Bond film is being shot in Udaipur. But that was not all, the news that also disseminated was about stunts being shot in the film. Film unit was looking for some stuntman to do a couple of stunts in the film and it was like who dares wins! One of these stunts was related to Jagdish Temple.

Stairs going down the temple

Actually the Director John Glen was so impressed with stair elevation of the temple that he wanted somebody to ride a bike down these stairs to incorporate it in a chase scene. He would have thought that how perfect it could be for a James Bond film. He tried hard, but it was obviously so fatally dangerous that nobody came forward to do the scene despite a big (as per those times) offer. Glen had to drop his wish. But the film still has many scenes around this temple as you can see in these images. Although, the chase scene around the temple looks very comical by today’s standards, but then who cared, when it was a Roger Moore film. Film also had a big Indian cast including Kabir Bedi and one of India’s greatest tennis players- Vijay Amritraj. Yes, he has also acted in films!

See some stills from the film played around the temple stairs-

Jagdish Temple square as filmed in Octopussy.
A chase scene in the film on road coming from city palace to Jagdish temple
Activities at temple square in film and you can see the temple stairs in the background
A flying auto-rickshaw and temple shikha in background
Auto rickshaw taking flight right in front of temple stairs
Scene of temple stairs in the film
A camel-cart in the front of the temple
And, what all happens in a James Bond film.

You might not enjoy Octopussy all over again, but you will certainly enjoy visiting this temple, whenever you are in Udaipur next. Don’t miss!

More look at the temple and its sculptures

Temple of Garuda- Vishnu’s vehicle
A face of Shiva

Where: Jagdish Temple is right on the square in old city which has been named on the temple itself. Its is just  200 metres from Udaipur’s city palace and less than half kilometre from Lake Pichola. It would be hardly four kilometres from the Udaipur City railway station. There are many hotels around, including some old havelis which have now been converted into heritage stay options. Everything is so close that you can almost walk to the entire tourist worthy area around this temple.

See some more images from the temple. Click to have full view-

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A Den of wilderness

Indian Bloggers

Its vacation time and also plan some quick trips. Besides regular beach and hill station trips, national parks, especially the tiger reserves are the most preferred ones. For two reasons precisely- it is time to go to tiger reserves before they close for yearly four month monsoon vacation period. Secondly, in this sweltering heat, chances of wildlife sightings around water bodies is more likely.

(Read: Some wild moments in Sariska!)

Outside the main gate of the Tiger reserve, which is very close to Tiger Den

Had done quite a few posts about Sariska Tiger Reserve and places around it of lately. Now it is time to look at places of stay.So here is the review of the place, where we stayed- RTDC’s Tiger Den, located at the Sariska Gate of the Tiger Reserve. I have stayed in these government tourism properties at various places across North and had mixed experiences.

(Also read: Birding in a Tiger reserve)

RTDC hotel Tiger Den at Sariska Tiger Reserve

There can be no denying to the fact that when you are visiting a jungle, you will certainly like to stay at a place closest to the jungle, which can give you real feel of it. Tiger Den is definitely one such place near Sariska Tiger Reserve and National Park. Obviously, when you are there for a jungle trip, least you should expect is any luxury. Tiger Den is a property of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC). Hence, it has all the pros of a government property and it also has all the cons of a government property. But despite all the cons, I will still always love to stay here, whenever I visit Sariska. Ever since, I went to Sariska for the first time, may be roughly thirty years back, I had dreamt of staying in Sariska Palace, but this time I felt that apart from luxury, Tiger Den is better in all other respects.

Way to reception and lobby area

Biggest positive is the distance. This RTDC hotel is just about 100 metres before the entry gate to the tiger reserve. In this respect, this is the closest place to stay near Tiger Reserve. As with all government properties, they have the best locations and are the most spacious. Hence, being close to jungle means that its wild around and you feel like staying inside the jungle. Peacocks and monkeys are around everywhere to give you some wild company. But this also means that you are discouraged to walk out of the hotel on foot, once its dark outside.

(Want to go around Sariska? Read: Khajuraho of Aravalis: Neelkanth)

Main gate of the hotel complex coming from the jungle

This hotel is also close to the booking office for the safaris inside the park. SO, when you are staying here, you have an added advantage of reaching booking office in less time and thus get early in the queue if you don’t have an online booking. Its helpful mostly for spot booking for early morning safaris, when you need to be as early as 4.30 or 5 in the morning at the queue for a 6 am safari. Being close means, you don’t have to take whole your group to booking office, as just one early riser can go and stand in queue, by the time others get ready.

Hotel has two wings and two floors. Only the front wing has two floors. Back wing has only rooms on ground floor. These rooms have beautiful, big, lush green lawn in their front. Nice place to relax and for young ones to enjoy. These rooms also have balconies.

(Enjoy forts? Read: Kankawari: A fort and a history in deep jungle!)

Biggest con of this property is the general apathy towards maintenance of the property, which is common to perhaps all government tourist properties, barring few exceptions. If at all they give some effort to maintenance, these government run tourist rest houses can give a run for money to all private players. But since that’s not going to happen anyway, so better to keep prepared. Its not messy, but furnitures, beds, cupboards etc seem to have not been refurbished for ages. They need to bring in some professionalism, but honestly speaking it seems very unlikely having heard all the inside stories from the department and within the government.

Divine protection

Food is normally buffet here, with no menu of choice, but it is still good and tasty. I would have preferred some local dishes in the food. But there are non-veg items as well as sweet dishes included in the meal. Best thing is that buffet breakfast and buffet dinner are included in room tariff. That makes it a bit easier to manage daily routines. Otherwise, there are very-very limited options of eating out anywhere nearby. As for day time, you will normally be out visiting nearby places, where you can get food. If in any case, you are still in the hotel during day time, you can order food, for a charge ofcourse. Besides, you can get tea, and other snacks, pakodas etc at any time of the day.

(Looking for some thrill around Sariska? Read: Haunted fort of Bhangarh: Nothing spooky about it!)

Royal settings!

Staff here has been generally helpful and courteous. Two winter nights, when we were here, they arranged separate campfire for us. They were also accommodating in our choice of room, though unfortunately they had limited options in their inventory. Despite that, it was a nice stay overall.

Its so beautiful around, especially in spring time

Indian Bloggers

Obscured by an architectural wonder!

How often will we visit a landmark destination and return satisfied, without even knowing whether there was anything else, that we missed in the aura of that wonder! There are many hidden architectural gems in India. How often would have we noticed the shark difference between number of visitors to Taj Mahal and then to Tomb of I’timad-Ud-Daulah in Agra!! Well, this is not about Agra, but about something down west in Rajasthan, close to Udaipur.

You would have heard about famous Jain Temples at Ranakpur.

(Read: Going to Udaipur! Don’t miss on these 10 things)

This temple I am talking about, is right adjacent to Ranakpur temples  and actually in the same complex. But as it happens, not even one percent of the tourists going to Ranakpur visit this quite smaller temple. Ranakpur has actually three temples in the complex- main is the one we all know- Chaturmukha Jain Temple of Adinath. Other two are- Sun temple and the Suparshvanatha temple (सुपार्श्वनाथ मंदिर). These two temples are obscured under the grandeur of the main Jain temple.

View of Chaturmukha Adinath temple from Suparshvanatha temple in Ranakpur

However small these temples might be, but they are architectural beauty themselves. The temple we are talking about it is Suparshvanatha Temple. Suparshvanatha was the 7th Jain Tirthankara and was said to be born to King Pratistha and Queen Prithvi of Varanasi. Now there is no inscription here to tell us that when was this temple exactly built, before the Adinath temple or after that. But what we are sure of is that this temple has very beautiful intrinsic architecture.

This temple is also famous for erotic sculptures on its walls. And for this, it reminds me of two other temples in Rajasthan- one close to Udaipur near the Elkingji temple-

(Read: Forgotten heritage and shades of Khajuraho near Udaipur)

And another one is in Sariska Tiger Reserve near Alwar-

(Read: Khajuraho of Aravalis: Neelkanth)

Some locals say that because of its erotic sculptures, this temple was also called as Paturiyon Ka Mandir (पटुरियों का मंदिर- temple of prostitutes) . Was there any other reason for this, is not known. But indeed this temple has some remarkable erotic sculptures. Not all of them, but few of them might be comparable to even sculptures of Khajuraho for their sheer beauty.

Many of the sculptures here are intact, but there are still many which have been either defaced or weathered out.  There also seems to be some difference between periods of different sculptures because of their figures. That might also be because some of them are pretty damaged or weathered out or look quite raw.  But you can’t miss the eroticism in them. Have a look yourself-

Many of these expressions could be easily find in Khajuraho. It also belies the myth that the Jain temples didn’t have such explicit sculptures. A lot remains unanswered due to unavailability of details about origin of this temple. It might sure be part of local folklores, but then it needs to be researched more.

Other than the sculptures pictures above, most of other sculptures are quite intrinsic, detailed and beautiful.

Many of the designs and sculptures are quite typical of Jain sculptures of those times (Ranakpur temple was built in 15th century using Maru-Gurjara architecture of West India).

This architectural style is considered to be different from North Indian temple architecture. Also lies the fact that Jainism has been very strong in these areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Hence, next time you visit Ranakpur temple, don’t forget to visit this small temple which will certainly remind you of sculptures of Khajuraho.

Ranakpur temple

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