Nov 16, 2015

Kumrahar ruins of Patna- an insight to ancient Pataliputra

Kali Ghat Patna Bihar
Kali Ghat

I started from Varanasi railway station in an express train in the morning hoping to reach Patna by afternoon. Well, I was happy traveling in the 'almost empty' second AC compartment. My co-passenger was an eighty+ years old man. The train was an hour late at the starting point itself but still it would reach before dark I thought. I was traveling to the state of Bihar for the first time. Knowing the history and reputation for safety of Bihar I was wondering whether to tell my Mother about my trip or not. I didn't tell.

Aug 29, 2015

Khushinagar, where Buddha bid final adieu to the mortal world

Japanese monk at Mahaparinirvana temple Khushinagar Uttar Pradesh India
Monk enjoying a walk at peaceful vihara around Mahaparinirvana Temple

After my visit to Ayodhya- the glorious land of Lord Sri Ramachandra, I left for Gorkapur from where I could catch a bus to Khushinagar. It was a journey in the cold, with a grey sky looming over. Khushinagar is 53KM from Gorakhpur. From Gorakhpur I got into a private tempo which was overloaded. Every inch of space inside was packed with people. And hence the frigid morning breeze didn't bother me much. The tempo had boom boxes and the driver had some Indian pop music, specifically an 'item' song (rural Indian cabaret) on for his and the passengers' entertainment. The shrilled voice of the singer was barely audible from those cheap and loud boxes. I got off at the main road and started walking towards the small town yet important Buddhist pilgrimage center. I was unaware of the unexpected experiences I might bump into.

Aug 13, 2015

The remains of Ayodhya, The Ram Janmabhoomi

Picture courtesy- Google

This post is a part of my Backpacking India series. It is really amazing to learn the difference in experiencing the places from what we see in the news, books and the reality. It is just an attempt to narrate my personal experience of journey through the most revered Hindu divine destination, one of the seven sacred cities and the place which is center of disputes- Ayodhya, where Lord Rama was born.

Aug 8, 2015

The Imambaras of Lucknow

Bara Imambra Lucknow
Asifi Mosque in the same complex as Bada Imambara. People easily get an idea that this imposing mosque is the bada imambara.
This post is from my last backpacking journey through the states of India. Lately, I haven't been updating my blog for several reasons. I traveled from Allahabad to Lucknow in a "Delux" bus which broke down in between and I had to board another bus after waiting for half-an-hour on the roadside. It was a good start- I reached the city with no other difficulties. Lucknow is a busy city. This city of Nawabs is the capital of the Uttart Pradesh, a part of the Heritage Arc, and is home for many historical monuments, most popular being the Bada Imambara. The city is also synonymous with the chickan embroidery work popular as luckhanvi chickan

Aug 4, 2015

Back from another roadtrip!

Road trip USA June 2015 Utah Colorado Wyoming Idaho
June 2015 Road trip map

Well, I haven't been posting much (or say nothing?) on my blog recently. Not that I have stopped blogging but I have been distracted with other activities! I had to be with my mother and had to wind up things back in USA, then I went on a 15 days long road trip across Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho! The trip was kind of on an impulse! My lovely niece paid and booked my tickets and my kind cousin provided me the accommodation in USA.

May 18, 2015

Prayaga or Triveni Sangam where the three rivers meet!

Triveni Sangam Prayag Allahabad Uttar Pradesh
Boat queue for Triveni Sangam

Second oldest city of India after Varanasi- Prayaga is another holy city. One of the four theerthas (sacred places) Prayaga or Triveni Sangam is just 83KM from Varanasi. Triveni Sangam is the meeting point of three sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati (subterranean). One of the four places where the popular Kumbh-mela is held every 12 years sangam is believed to have soul cleansing powers hence a sacred bathing place. Also called as Theertharaja (king of holy places) Prayaga is the birth place of Soma (Moon), Varuna (God of rain) and Daksha Prajapati (Son of Brahma). The city has a long history dating back Vedic period as the location where Brahma performed a sacrifice and hence the name Prayaga. Mahrishi Ved Vyas wrote Siva Puarana here in this place. 

May 5, 2015

A triad of Goddess- Vindhyavasini, Kali and Ashtabhuja in Vindhyachal

River Ganga and the sandy riverbed on the way to Vindhyachal
River Ganga and the sandy riverbed on the way to Vindhyachal

As I had mentioned in my earlier post the my journey this time ended up as a classic pilgrimage. The places I visited were temple towns and each temple there has a interesting legend associated with it. One such triad of goddesses is Vindhyachal. 70KM from the religious city of Varanasi, Vindhyachal is another sacred place for the believers of Goddess Durga. The presiding deity Vindhyavasini (The Goddess who lives on Vindhyachal) is instant bestower of benediction.

Apr 24, 2015

Ramnagar Fort and Museum- An amazing collection of weapons!

Ramnagar Fort Varanasi
Ramnagar Fort
Apart from the popular Buddhist center Sarnath there is another half-day excursion from Varanasi and that is Ramnagar Fort. Built by a Kashi Naresh Ramanagar fort is the residence of the Royal family of Varanasi even today. The fort built in mughal style using chunar sandstone stands high above the flood levels of River Ganga. Only a part of the fortress is accessible to the public. Sarswati Bhavan which was the durbar hall those days is converted into a museum. The fort also houses a temple dedicated to Veda Vyasa.

Apr 20, 2015

Pontoon bridge from Varanasi to Ramanagar

Pontoon Bridge connecting Varanasi and Ramnagar
Pontoon Bridge Varanasi end

During my trip to Varanasi few months ago I visited Ramnagar for its popular fort museum. More than the fort and the interesting collection of weapons in the museum I was thrilled at the pontoon bridge across River Ganga. This pontoon bridge is available only during winters when the river recedes. When the river is swollen during summers the only mode of travel is by boat. The new bridge stands high but, is too very far from being completed. From Bharat Hindu University I took a shared autorikshaw to the fort and I went on this bridge! Though everyday thousands of people travel to-and-fro this bridge I was taken aback to see an autorikshaw front wheel stuck in the broken wooden plank of the bridge! I am sharing few pictures as only pictorial narration of my experiences and not being judgemental about anything. I sometimes get amazed by how makeshift arrangements effectively work though with some degree of danger involved!

Apr 8, 2015

Sarnath- where Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma

Dhamekh Stupa at Sarnath Buddhist ruins
Sarnath archaeological ruins and Dhamekh Stupa in the background

Most popular excursion from Varanasi is Sarnath. Another sacred place where Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma. Buddha delivered his first sermon in a deer park just outside of city of Kashi. He probably chose this place as it was an important crossroads of that time, an established religious and commercial hub of those days. People who visit Sarnath doesn't realize it was an important place for the believers of Lord Shiva. Sarnath- as it is called today is the short form for Saranganatha which means Lord of deer, ie another name of Lord Shiva. Though Sarnath is popular as Buddhist pilgrim center the name came from a small shrine dedicated to Saranganatha which is a KM away from the popular imposing Dhamekh stupa. That is how there was a deer park in this place. On Hindu auspicious days this temple gets many visitors otherwise is a very quiet place.

Apr 2, 2015

Kashi Yatra- Tales of the ancient temples!

Ancient temples of Varanasi
Durga Temple and Durga Kund of Varanasi

Tales of ancient temples in Kashi! That means- this post is a long read! Hope it keeps you interested!

Visit to Kashi is much more than collecting pictures of skinny bearded old men bathing in river Ganga, or ash clad Naga sadhus or the prevailing dirt. It is much more, at least for Hindus. And that is the reason I always mention I was visiting Kashi- to behold the image of divine, not Varanasi for sightseeing. People talk about disordered, crowded, unhygienic jungle of temples called Varanasi. But, for Hindus who's vision is beyond the lanes and ghats of the city, Kashi is an ordered and structured universe with Vishwanatha temple as the center. Every temple here occupies the right place in that sacred geography. Well, that structure is a bit twisted by the destruction during muslim rule but sanctity prevails.

Mar 24, 2015

Kashi Yatra- Canines of Kashi :)

Austere clad sadhus are favorite subjects to photograph in Varanasi? For me there were many favorite subjects including canines! I am sharing few pics here. Are you surprised? Why am I talking about dogs of all other sacred things in Kashi?

Mar 6, 2015

Kashi Yatra- The popular Ganga Aarti

Tons of websites appear in the result list when you google for Varanasi. And the most mentioned 'must-do' item will be Ganga Aarti in the evening on Dashashwamedha Ghat (Read more on ghats here). Well, it is a beautiful, grand, elaborate, touching event in Varanasi although it looks a bit dramatic and touristy. As I mentioned earlier my trip was for seven days in Kashi and every evening I watched this event with full enthusiasm and devotion. I didn't care about the mosquitoes, about the light colored clothes I was wearing, that stinking cow dung right beside me and the people who were determined to sell the music CDs to me. Everyday I was there at 5:45PM.

Mar 2, 2015

Kashi Yatra- One evening on Harishchandra Ghat

Well, Kashi is city of very interesting things. People come here- to die, to perform rituals, to pray, to get married, to smoke, to experience and what not! One evening I was walking back from Asi ghat to Dashashwamedha ghat and was immersed in some thought. I was walking near the Harishchandra ghat and a big crowd screaming with excitement brought me back to the world! Curious I was went looking for the reason for that kind of excitement near a cremation ground. Yes! Harishchandra ghat is a cremation ground. (Read more about Varanasi Ghats here)

Feb 27, 2015

Kashi Yatra- Kashi as I saw, a photo tour!

As I mentioned in the earlier post, Kashi is much happening place. For tourists, ghats (see post Experiencing Ghats)are the main attractions though there are few other attractions like Banaras Hindu University campus which is walkable from Asi Ghat. Kala Bhavan museum and the new Vishwanatha temple built by Birlas are located here. The Durga Shaktipeeth in the city too is quite popular ancient temple. There are few other temples in the city. But, after visiting the ghats and Kashi Vishwanatha Temple nothing seems very interesting. I was quite amazed to see the inflow of foreign tourists here. Sometimes tourists make great pictures too :) Here I am sharing 20 pictures of Kashi Ghat as I saw! 

Boats everywhere!

Feb 23, 2015

Kashi Yatra- Experiencing the GHATS!

Varanasi Ghats

Well, what are ghats? In simple terms, they are just very wide flights of steps to go down to the river for a holy dip or bath! Many things happen here. In fact, the whole city (not Varanasi, but ancient city of Kashi) was built around these ghats and the Kashi Vishwanath temple. There are innumerable temples at every step. Submerged, mutilated, destroyed, rebuilt and non-existant ... there are many states to assign! The whole stretch of ghats from confluence of river Ganga with rivulets Asi to Varuna is of about 4KM. Dashashwamedha Ghat is the main and much happening ghat. As you walk away from here in either directions the ghats get less crowded, less expensive and less clean. Every step you walk there is a Shiva temple. The functioning temples are closed in the afternoon. Some temples have huge lingams.

Feb 17, 2015

Backpacking India III- A Classic Pilgrimage!

Backpacking India- Part III was much awaited. Two years ago I wanted a monsoon-visit to Maharashtra which didn't work as planned because my mother had to undergo knee replacement surgery. Many things happened after that! With the loss of a parent I found myself as a victim of a disaster. The feeling of void was paramount and I thought of finding peace in praying for my departed Dad. Couldn't really take the restlessness anymore and I started with the plan of visiting only Varanasi- that is what I told my family. But, then continued for almost 70 days until I was left with no money in hand. On my way, crossed the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu before reaching home in Bangalore!

Feb 14, 2015

Why specific destinations for Honeymoon?

Long ago my sister got married. Both she and my brother-in-law were very much excited about their honeymoon in Kashmir. And they came back with the same excitement to reach their home town :) I hear people going to Kodaikanal, Ooty, Pachmarhi, Kullu-Manali, Shimla, Goa, Europe, Hawaii and Alaska for their honeymoon. I wonder why those specific destinations!