Kumaon Nov 2016 – Part 2 (Mystical Dunagiri – Full of energy)

26 Nov

Dunagiri – Mystical, Rustic , Charming  & Energizing

Tucked deep in the Kumaon – Dunagiri is a small hamlet far far away.  Its picture perfect – and thankfully not exploited by Tourism. It took me 3 1/2 hrs  to reach Dunagiri from Binsar. (Dunagiri to Kathgodam is 4 1/2 – 5 hr drive 125 km). The roads are winding , empty, with great panoramic views. Its lonely and nice.

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If I recollect right I first heard about Dunagiri from the book “Apprentice to a Himalayan Master”  by Sri M and later in “Autobiography of a Yogi” By Paramhans Yogananda. For some strange reason the name stuck and I have been interested in visiting.

This is where Mahaavatar Babaji had initiated Lahiri Mahasaya to Kriya Yoga almost 150 years back. And a lot of Babaji followers came to Dunagiri to visit the caves.

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But there is more to Dunagiri than the Babaji Caves. There is a lot of Mythology associated with the place. According to the local tradition the town has been regularly visited by sages who established their ashrams here in the midst of nature. The Ashram of Garg Muni (Brother of Dronacharya)  was at Dunagiri. After his samadhi he became an underground river “Gagas” which is the source of many rivers in that area. Dronacharya is also supposed to have meditated for many years here.

Sukhdev Muni’s (Son of Ved Vyasa) was born enlightened . The “Sukha Devi Temple” is built at the site of his original ashram . Bharata the son of Shakuntala was supposedly born at this ashram. Hanumans quest for the Sanjeevini brought him to Dunagiri and the hills here are supposedly full of herbs and plants with magical healing powers. The Panadavas also spent a part of their time here in Agyatwas at a place called “Pandava Kholi”.

Dunagiri is home to an ancient Durga temple. The priest and an Old Naga baba I met at this temple told me that this temple is from the Treta Yuga and has phenomenal energy. This is the seat of Durga Ma. Like Vaishno Devi there are two “Pindis” that are “Swayambu’s” and the neighbouring forests are full of Leopards – the Devi’s vehicle. It is believed that the Divine mother has 9 forms – some for knowledge, wealth , health etc – but the Dunagiri Devi is considered to be the Godess of the Yogis.

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Folklore says that over 1000’s of years many have come to Dunagiri to visit the Durga Devi Temple and meditate. The Naga baba said that he has experienced Hanuman , Kripacharya, Ashwatamma and many more immortal souls visit the temple – he says “ you can’t identify them but their energy can be experienced”.  Even Shankaracharya visited the temple. The Naga baba also mischievously smiled and said that below the goddess was hidden “Amrit” and he was trying to figure out how to lay his hands on it. The temple is very clean and well managed – maybe I was lucky it was almost empty.

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At the temple I was lucky to get Darshan of  “Baba Dhanvantari Giri or “Bhatkoti Baba”. A solider from the Indo Pak war – he left it all to become a Naga Sadhu. And the brief interaction I had with him was very powerful. I wish I could have spent more time with him.

How does this translate to a common man. Whats the experience you get.

I am a layman – but I could experience the vibrations and energy at Dunagiri – there is so much energy that it is difficult to meditate. For some strange reason I was waking up at 3 AM every day without an alarm – and the Resort owner told me that was common.You need less sleep and food. The rarefied air at 8000 feet , the positive energy of so many great souls , the flora and fauna – it feels like you are the door step of heaven.

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Two other must visit places are the “Babaji Caves” and “Pandav Kholi”. Babaji Caves is a nice 45 min trek while “Pandava Kholi” is a steeper 90 min trek (Both one way). The trek is thru dense forests – totally empty and desolate –  in spite of being a Capricorn mountain goat I struggled.

Babaji Caves is deep – the driver cum guide told me that his grandfather had walked 2 ½ kilometres deep inside the cave. But currently its closed at the tip and you see less than 25 feet of the cave. The place is serene and I was lucky to have it to myself for an hr.

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Legend has it that “Pandav Kholi” is the place where the Pandavas spent some time during their Agyatwas period. Its located at 8800 feet. The car drops you at a point nearly 6200 feet and then you start the steep 3 km trek. When you reach the top – you are treated to some amazing views and a simple lunch at the Ashram. This is the ashram of “ Balwant Giri Maharaj “of the Juna Akhada – who attained Samadhi many years back – but his “Dhuni” is still kept active.  “Bhatkoti Baba” who I met at the temple was his disciple.

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The 3rd place to visit is “ Manasa Devi “ Temple . This is a day trek – I could not make it – but was told that the views enroute are beautiful.

The 4th place is “Sukh Muni Ashram “ and the  “Sukha Devi” temple. This is the place where Sukh Dev Muni had meditated. This is a short 1 km trek from the resort where I was staying

I stayed at the Dunagiri Retreat. It’s very rustic and spartan. Think of it as an high end Ashram.

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Basic rooms, hot water, simple veg food. Nothing fancy – but functional – it works. The rooms are designed with local architecture – thick walls with mud that keeps the room warm. The bathrooms are large, wood flooring , bright and spacious. Western style toilet and 24 hrs water supply. In all 14 rooms spread across a vast expanse. The Retreat also has a Pyramid for Yoga and meditation – and it accentuates the already strong energy at Dunagiri.

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The landscape is wild and when you first reach you may be disappointed on how unkempt and disorganized the place is. I felt that if “Monika from Friends”  was here she would have got really busy.

This is like an Ashram – lot of time for self discovery – there is no room service, no TV, patchy Internet at the main building, 3 G in some places. But somehow time moves on quickly – I never felt bored across the 3 nights I spent here.

There is reliable electricity supply – but when the current goes occasionally – its blackout – No generators. No water lines – so everything is conserved from rain water – so use water sparingly.

Dunagiri Retreat is unique. I have been to many places – but none like this.  It does attract a certain audience. It’s the base for many Retreats thru the year that include….Chi Gong by Pragata  (http://pragata.org – Coming up in April 2017), Yoga Camps by Claire Kerrigan & Jane Craggs and even a Sufi retreat by Nirupam Ryan. Followers of Babaji and those wanting to visit the Devi temple.

Its not a family holiday with a fire place and music. Its a spiritual enclave. Its a taste of heaven.

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The food served is simple, nutrition and very tasty. Fresh and juicy “Muli’s” , Spinach , potatoes  plucked from the kitchen garden and served piping hot. Its so tasty – and filling. Even the water packed with minerals is rejuvenating. Milk is so sweet you don’t need to add sugar to your tea and coffee.

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The owner Piyush Kumar is a semi mystic – a MNR Allahabad (REC) engineer from 1986, who went to the US and worked at the World Bank. Came back set up his own Software firm in India and then left it all to settle down in this hills. His partner Kate is a Phd in Vedic Astrology. She is spot on with the stars and her predictions. She can be contacted at http://www.Drkatyjane.com or katy@drkatyjane.com.

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It’s a large property – spread across 25 + acres and is in the midst of the forest.Wild animals frequently visit the jungles nearby and at times even the property. Every morning I opened the door – peeping out quietly hoping that leopard would be siting there.

As in the hills the flora and fauna is full of medicinal herbs. There are amazing views you can get of the Sunrise and the Sunset. There is peace and quiet , tranquility and a strange sense of affection develops to this place. I liked it.

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Piyush the semi mystic owner told me that this is the only place in the world where the “Ashta Vargha” a group of 8 rare herbs grow together. The locals believe that the power of the mythical Sanjeevini is still grounded here. Many cancer patients have had miraculous recoveries just by living here for some time. If you are a believer in energy and its healing power then this is the place to be.

I asked them whats the common thread that connects the people who come to Dunagiri.  Its people looking to connecting the dots, people on different phases of their spiritual journey. Anyone who visits here finds direction , finds tremendous inner peace. 

And yes in 3 days I was feeling lighter and at peace. I wonder what ten days would have done.

And as I drove down and reached Delhi & Bangalore over the next 24 years – I felt that its us who have created Hell out of this beautiful planet. Nature has bestowed us with fresh air , rivers , mountains  – that is Heaven , and we have created a hell called “Metro cities” out of them. All across the hamlet of Dunagiri I did not spot a doctor or clinic – life is tough , winters are cold , but Mother Nature takes care of you. The locals are happy and contended.

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I pray that this heaven on earth stays as it is and I get an opportunity to come back again and again.

http://www.dunagiri.com

Piyush Contact :  + 91 98102 67719

Driver Madhusdan : +91 97569 30090

 

Kumaon – Nov 2016 (Part – 1 Mary Budden Binsar)

25 Nov

Uttarakhand is truly Gods own land. So much of natural beauty – and thank God its still rustic & natural. The state can be split into two broad areas – Garhwal ( Rishikesh & Upwards – Uttar Kashi / Gangotri / Kedarnath / Badrinath) & Kumaon – Nainital / Almora / Raniket / Binsar / Dunagiri..

Garhwal with its famous 4 Dham Pilgrimage route is more crowded. Its easily accessible from Dehradun and there are multiple flights from Delhi to Jolly Grant. Kumaon is accessible from Kathgodam – the last railway junction before the hills.

This was my 7th trip to this beautiful state. Mary Budden Cottage was on my bucket list for long – so when we were planning an all boys getaway in the hills – it was an easy choice.

Getting there

Getting to the Mary Budden property from Bangalore was a 24 hr journey – Flight to Delhi, the night train from Old Delhi (Jaisalmer – Raniket Expresss leaves at 1030 PM  and arrives at 530 AM) and then a 4 hr drive to the property in Binsar (110 Kms). We consciously took the night train so that we could be at the property by 10 AM Vs the Shatabadi which would have got us in only by 3.30 – 4 PM thereby losing a precious day. Old Delhi Railways station is a mess – and if you are a lady travelling alone think twice before taking this night train. One can also drive from Delhi to Binsar – but thats a 9 – 10 hr long drive. The drive from Kathgodam is great – excellent road – no U Turn and pin bends. Considering that we do Bangalore Mysore 135 Km in 4 hrs – this 4 hr journey was a breeze.

Geo Highlights & when its best to visit 

The property is at an altitude of 2100 metres ( ~ 7000 feet , most Hill stations Ooty, Darjeeling, Simla, Mussoorie are at 7000 feet) and is deep inside the Binsar wildlife sanctuary. After you cross the sanctuary entrance you drive nearly 12 km to get to the estate. Roads are great all the way from Kathgodam – just the last few kms inside the sanctuary are dirt roads. The sanctuary is 47 sq km , dense evergreen forest – mainly Oak, Pinewood and Rhododendron. Animals that inhabit these forests are Leopards, Wild Boar, Barking deers, Mountain Goats , Porcupines etc.

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Best Time to visit is Spring  – March end / April – thats when the Rhododendron trees are in full bloom making the forest a carpet of pink and red. May / June is also a good time when the apple orchards and fruit farms in nearby Ramgarh are ready for plucking. July / Aug / Sep is Rainy season – best to avoid. Oct / Nov is again a great time to visit. Dec / Jan can be very cold with over 5 feet of snow. Its mid Nov when we visited and it was sub zero at night and early morning – we needed 4 layers. Snows from Mid Dec – at times till early March. Feb is a bad time to visit – its dark / gloomy / cloudy and rains.

About the Property 

There are two properties – the main one which is the Mary Budden estate and a second one that is unique – The Daler Village homestay

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The main property is spread across five acres, on the slope of a hill, facing a large verdant valley. Its one of the 5 estates inside the Binsar Wildlife sanctuary. All these estates date back to the British era and post the formation of the sanctuary no new real estate development is allowed. The property has a 100 year+ history and Mary Budden a missionary was the last British resident. The current management took it over in 1990 and it has been offered as a home stay to guests for the last 6 years.

The minute I walked in I could sense energy balance. Its Rustic, Serene and peaceful. You can hear the sound of silence. and yes there is Crisp Fresh air …..

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There are two cottages – the Heritage Cottage which is originally over 100 years old but extensively renovated and the contemporary Rhododendron Cottage that was built recently. Each Cottage has a dining, front room and 3 bedrooms. We picked the Heritage cottage – it seemed more homely and cosy and was perfect for the 3 of us. The Rhododendron cottage rooms are bigger and there is more sunlight – but you may miss history and nostalgia. Its a trade off and we went for Heritage. There is also a beautiful Suite right next to the library below the Rhododendron Cottage. In all 7 rooms – and we were lucky – we had the whole place to ourselves.

The designs are rustic, lovely fireplace, cozy furniture, nice big open verandahs, lots of books and pictures lining the walls. Very British – except for the stiff upper lip and the butter scones.

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The 5 acres are well designed – with enough open spaces. So you can have breakfast in a corner, take the steps down for lunch in another, watch the sunrise from one place and the sunset from another and gaze at the sky filled with stars. Lots of places where you can huddle around a fire. The sunrise and the sunset are a sight to watch – don’t miss it. And this is one place where you can actually see a zillion stars sparkling in the sky. Thats mesmerising –  a star studded sky each with so many planets – and they say we can see less than 1% of the stars in our galaxy with the naked eye. The vastness of the Universe , Infinity can be visualised when you sit quietly and stare at the sky and the sparkling stars. And thats a great antidote to melt the ego that we build over the years.

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The food is delectable and the service is outstanding. Indian, Kumaoni, Continental – the Chef and his team churn out a wide variety of very tasty food that is served with class. Ensure that you ask for one Kumaoni meal – Lai Ki Sabji , Bhat Ki Dal , Kumaoni Aloo, Kumaoni Raita , Kumaoni Chicken , Ragi Ki Roti with Gur (That was a surprise – I thought Ragi Mudda was a Karnataka staple). Most of the food is sourced from the hills and is fresh. They also grow some herbs and veggies in the property.

Deep inside the Forest –  there is no electricity or water connection – so everything is designed in a environment friendly manner. Solar power and rain water harvesting takes care of most of the needs. A generator is a backup. Solar power works fine and the water we got for our bath was boiling hot. But conserve electricity and water when you come here.

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The Daler Village Home stay is unique and I strongly recommend you plan a one night stay here. It has two rooms that are beautifully designed. Great views and total Soulitude. No Internet , No TV , Just greenery and peace. You get fresh veg food cooked as per your choice.

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How to keep yourself busy 

Start by watching the sunrise and do some Yoga in the verandah. Have breakfast and you are ready to step out at 9 AM. There are a few lovely  treks that the property organises

  • A short trek to a temple nearby – 1 hr
  • Zero Point Trek for great views of the snow capped mountains – Nanda Devi , Trishul , Nanda Kot, & Pancha Chuli – 2 Hrs
  • Myoli Walk – 21/2 Hrs
  • Daler Village Walk – 4 Hrs ( Combination of Walk / Drive and Time at the sister property in the village)

You can do a day trip to Jageshwar – leave at 9 and be back by 430. Jageshwar houses a 1000 year cluster of 125 Shiva Temples including the 8th Jyotirlinga. On the way you can stop by the Ramkrishna ashram and visit the Chitai temple. On the way from Kathgodam to the property you will cross the Neem Karoli Baba ashram at Kainchi – so that can be visited while coming or returning. Munsiyari is about 120 Km from here – and thats a base if you want to serious trekking and climbing. The Sanctuary has no jeep rides etc to spot animals – the only way to explore is by foot. And you need to be a brave soul to do that.

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The Cottages have a lot of books board games and there is a Library with a TV and TataSky (No TV in the room). There is no intercom – so ring a nice hand bell if you need assistance.

This is a getaway that is perfect for three nights –  Two at the main property and one at the Daler Village . They allow kids but I am not sure how much they will enjoy – unless they are evolved kids who love nature and books. If you are coming with kids come as two families and take an entire cottage. You can also go birdwatching and  spot over 250 species of birds – best seen again in March / April.

Other Points

  • They have Wi Fi that works 90% of the time and the bandwidth is good, 3G signal is active.
  • Rates are inclusive of all Meals / Tea / Pakodas etc
  • Cottages can accommodate 2 families with 2 kids each , they don’t rent out the third room if two rooms are booked.
  • Wooden flooring can be slippery so don’t walk in your socks.
  • You conserve water so take bath in buckets – don’t forget your toothpastes etc – the nearest shop is a long way away.
  • If you love dogs great – they have two lovely dogs. The younger one is very affectionate and will always like to be near you.
  • Don’t expect a Spa & a Gym here – this is all about being with Nature
  • Food is great – but they don’t serve liquor – so get your own stuff.

In Conclusion 

I have been many to off beat properties – thats slowly becoming my expensive hobby (Check out my blog A Few Good places – https://vak1969.com/2016/01/24/a-few-good-places/) – and this is high up in the list in term of experience & service.

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Places like this are run on passion and not for commercial benefits. Managing a property like this deep inside a forest totally cut off requires a lot of effort – and running this efficiently is kudos to the owner, the manager and the full team. Its classy and it is expensive ( ~ 350 $ / Night) – but when on a holiday you want everything to be perfect as you are building memories for life.

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The occupancy is low – and its mainly foreigners. Maybe the owners should not call it a Home Stay as that conjures images of a few rooms in a property where the owner lives. This is designed like a cottage but is professionally run like an up market exclusive boutique resort. We stayed at a Home Stay in Vermont many years back – Sleepy Hollow, and there are many Home Stays in Coorg – clearly Mary Budden  does not qualify to the traditional definition of a Home Stay. Even the next stay at Dunagiri would qualify close to a Home Stay (More of that in the next blog)

Mary Budden has been on my bucket list for a few years and it has exceeded expectations. We came as a group of three friends and I am sure that I will be back here with my family soon.

My friends left for home with the promise that we would do this once every year in offbeat properties like Mary Budden but I continued my Himalayan journey going deeper into Kumaon – to mystical Dunagiri ( 4 Hr drive from Binsar) . More of that in the next blog.

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Contact Details 

http://www.marybuddenestate.in

http://www.dalarvillagehomestay.in

Sheetal – Manager / Mountaineer / Trek Guide / Host Par Excellence : +91 9711171350

Car pick up at Kathgodam  : Madhusudan + 91 97569 30090

 

Book Review – The Celestine Prophecy

16 Nov

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If you believe in this – You must read ” The Celestine Prophecy” – By James Redfield.  Its an adventure story – but ignore the story and focus on the Insights that unravel.

I have always felt that there are some dots that need to be connected between People,Intuition, Transaction Analysis, Spirituality, Energy , Emotions , Relationships , Nature, The Invisible force  – but its been difficult to connect the dots. This book does that beautifully. Its a deep read – I normally finish a book of this size in a 3 hr flight – but this one I read slowly over a few months. Internalising the concepts. That when the true meaning and the impact of the book hits you.

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If you are reading this blog and getting introduced to this book – there is a reason. The book starts with the Insight on Meaningful Coincidences – they happen for a reason. This is a subtle way of the divine energy prodding you in a direction, its opening new doors. You may meet a person at a restaurant or the airport, there is a sudden eye contact – you feel connected , you feel you know the person – but you are hesitant to approach. Most people ignore these signals –  the book urges you to be perceptive and be aware of these signals and to follow your intuition.

It then goes to talk extensively about the concept of “Subtle Energy“. I have always felt that Humans are nothing but billions of electrons spinning around – we are 99% empty and 1% matter – since an atom is 99% empty. We like all matter in the universe are a wave. Think of us as a wave – but we are unique – we have the power to evolve, we have Intuition , we have a mind.

Think of yourself as a wave – that is always hungry for energy. And you tap that energy from people around you. When a manager is reprimanding his team – you can see the manager suck in energy from the team. When a parent scolds his/her child you can see the energy flowing from the child to the parent. You can be a bully and demand energy or you can be aloof sitting in a. corner expecting waves of sympathy and affection to flow to you – all these emotions Joy , Anger , Sympathy , Affection , Love , care are forms of energy.

Heather flowers on a fall, autumn meadow in shining settng sun that gives warm mood. Vintage retro style.

Heather flowers on a fall, autumn meadow in shining settng sun that gives warm mood. Vintage retro style.

The Control Drama determines how we behave. And each of our Control Drama is a function of our childhood upbringing. You can be aggressive – an “Intimidator” or an “Interrogator” or you can be Passive “Poor Me” or “Aloof”.

Its not just you and me who operate under a Control Drama – Companies, Countries we all operate under this frame. Today the level of conflict between humans is high because we are forever trying to draw energy from each other – the book talks about the concept of attracting energy from the universe. This is very similar to what the Upanishads and the India Sages have said in the past – if we can improve our self awareness and understand the source of our emotions, if we can answer the Question that Ramana Maharishi asks –  “Who Am I”  we can over time align with the infinite energy of the universe. We become one with the Universe. Thats Nirvana, Moksh … then you become God. The book talks about the concept of karma – You get back what you throw out. It talks about.

We all enjoy a walk in mountain surrounded by virgin forests – or a early morning walk by the sea. Why is that ? Because there is so much of energy in nature – in the mountains , forests , rivers , the Seas. Why did the Rishis and seekers go to the Himalayas – because there is so much energy there. There is energy in ancient temple , there is energy in Vastu. And we can train ourselves to draw upon this energy.

You can also transfer energy – when you look closely and appreciate a object – you can make your energy flow to that person ( That sounds similar to Positive Strokes).

This wave can be optimised – this wave is utilising only 1% of its capacity. Think of the TV Antennae of the past. The TV did not function till the antennae was aligned properly – one minute twist and the picture clarity was perfect , come a storm or wind and a slight change in the position of the antenna – the reception would be bad. In a similar manner the book talks about our ability to optimise ourselves to connect with the Universal energy.

A quick summary of the inisghts 

  • First Insight occurs when we take coincidences seriously
  • The Second Insight is about us opening up – we have been preoccupied with material survival , of controlling our situation out of our insecurity – our openness now represents a kind of waking up
  • The Third begins a new way of life – it talks about energy and how the energy responds to how we think . Its all in our control.
  • The fourth exposes the human tendency to steal energy from other humans by controlling them.
  • The fifth Insight reveals that this shortage can be solved when we connect with the higher source.
  • The sixth insight talks about how we can clear our old repeated patterns of Dramas and find our true selves
  • Seventh talks about the evolution of our true selves – through Question , Intuition and self discovery
  • Eighth talks about how to relate to others
  • The ninth talks about unification – about all religions having the same goal of connecting humankind to the higher source, Religions become corrupted when leaders are asked to propose Gods will as a mantra Vs helping them to find their own direction and truth within.

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The insights also talk about Group Energy and how the Male and Female energy are present in each person. Many a time we seek to compliment our energy with a person from the opposite sex.

The book finally over to the mission and talks about the purpose  – and how we are constantly evolving. Whats the end goal and how we will transform as more and more people on earth get aligned with this concept and are aware of their energy fields.

As our personal vibrations increase more energy flows into us. Meditation , Yoga , Satsang are all methods by which we can increase our personal vibrations.

Thats a lot to digest and like I said earlier this book is not meant for everyone. its for someone who has started the journey of self discovery and will act as a catalyst, summarising and reinforcing his perspectives. I was lucky to be able to discuss this book with a friend who lives and breathes the insights – and that really helped in understanding these concepts better.

I believe the book has been made into a movie and there are follow up books with other Insights. The “Tenth Insight” was followed up with ” The Secret of Shambala – In Search of the 11th Insight” set in modern day Tibet . I am sure those will be interesting reads too.

In 1995 & 1996 this was the Bestselling book in the world. When the book was first written the author found it difficult to find a publisher and had to self publish and hand carry the first 1500 copies to book stores.

I found this to be a very interesting read – if you are one of the few reading this blog maybe you are destined to read this too.

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Is 48 the new 58 ! The growing trend of Early Retirement

12 Nov

All the world’s a stage” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” . The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and documents the seven stages of a man’s life  –  Baby or infant, School boy or child, Lover, Soldier, Justice or judge, Old man , Extreme old age facing imminent death – again like a child

In Hinduism, human life is believed to comprise four stages. These are called “ashramas” and every man should ideally go through each of these stages:

The First Ashrama – “Brahmacharya” or the Student Stage
The Second Ashrama – “Grihastha” or the Householder Stage
The Third Ashrama – “Vanaprastha” or the Hermit Stage
The Fourth Ashrama – “Sannyasa” or the Wandering Ascetic Stage

So where do I stand after 25 years of work – knocking at age 48 – I clearly crossed the Shakespearean Soldier Phase – but I am not ready to call myself an “Old Man” – so I guess I fall in the Justice or Judge phase as per Shakespeare , and after 20 years of marriage I am probably 80% into the Grihasta Stage.

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I took the bold step and retired last week. A lovely career of 25 years of which 23 were spent in 3 great companies – Wipro, Sun & Apple. We are a lucky generation – my career started in 1992 when PM Narasimha Rao started the economic liberalisation ( Note I give credit to PVN and not Mr Singh)   – and I rode many waves – The PC wave , Mini Computer , S/W Outsourcing , Telecom , BPO  and finally the  Smart Phone wave. When we started our career telex and fax were the mode of communication – there was no email – a lot has changed in 25 years.

A big decision and the 3 questions that my friends and well wishers are asking me

  1. Why Retire ? Cant the good times continue
  2. How did you pull the plug – How much is enough to retire ?
  3. What will you do post retirement ?

For most people it is difficult to walk away from a Great Job in one of the worlds greatest company – Good salary , Great RSU’s , Great perks , 5 Star Lifestyle – yet I did it. its been 3 months since I put in my resignation and I have not had a single days regret.

  1. Why Retire ? Cant the good times continue

Corporate Life is at the cross roads – 9 out of 10 professionals I have met over the age of 45 don’t enjoy their job. They live pay check to pay check , RSU to RSU – worried about the future.

Over the last 25 years (1300 weeks) – I would have travelled for 1000 weeks – over 2000 flights and 3000 room nights in hotels. Wake up at 4AM for the early morning flight , reach home after midnight , skip meals regularly , over eat, eat unhealthy food, don’t exercise ….. all of this takes a toll and damages the body. The body gives you signals – I read the signal and said stop –  most don’t. They continue with their stress and depression and very soon land up in a hospital bed with a serious ailment

I can be categoric in saying that in India there is NO WORK LIFE BALANCE in the IT / Consumer Electronics industry . Best in class Indian Corporation or MNC our work culture sucks. (Maybe Manufacturing – Govt jobs are an exception)

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2. How did you pull the plug – How much is enough to retire ?

There are 3 Things that make you chug along in your Corporate Job

  • The need for Financial Security
  • Your Ego – Power , Growth , Peer Pressure , Bigger Job , Fancier Designation ….
  • Greed – Bigger Cars, Bigger House, Fancy Holidays , Want the best for me & my family …

(And then there are those rare 1% who found their calling and are immersed in their jobs )

The need for Financial security is basic. It would be stupid to quit if you have not planned and provided for the long life ahead – keeping in mind the inflationary trends.

There are 4 seeds that you need to sow to manage your post retirement era – lets call them 4 Buckets

Bucket 1  : Security  – Gives you Tax Free Interest income  7 – 9 % with which you can maintain your lifestyle and run your monthly household without cutting any strings

Bucket 2 : Growth – Investments in Stocks / MF that could potentially give you 12 – 18 % Returns , let this grow cumulatively.

Bucket 3 : Debt Free House to stay in and one as a backup for Rent / Investment

Bucket 4 :  Investments in Govt Securities like LIC / PPF that you can add on to Bucket 1 at a later stage to manage inflation.

If you planned this over the last 10 years ( Our generation started at a salary of Rs 3000 in 1992 so year 20 – 25 of your career is crucial to maximise investments) – then you should be in a good place.

Coming down to Ego & Greed – this is the tough one to solve. If you have developed a spiritual side and a sense of contentment you can pull the plug – else its your destiny . Most people my age reading this blog will have enough for their needs but not for their greed. Nobody but you can help solve this – its about introspection and prioritising what you want to do in life

3. What will you do post retirement? 

This one is easy – there is so much to do – we all have a long list of things we have wanted to do. Corporate life gives you 18 – 20 days off a year – almost all of that goes in family holidays / functions etc. The concept of sabbatical or extended time off is rare in India companies – even if it exists few take the risk of encashing it as there is the fear of what will happen to my job if I come back after 6 months ?

To fix 25 years of misuse to the body requires a lot of effort – I am going to invest 3 hrs a day on Yoga / Meditation / Increase self awareness / Gym. Perfect your asanas , go deeper in whatever you do . That is Priority no – 1

Fix my lifestyle – eat healthy – eat timely – plan your meals – cook some of them – have a fruit diet once a week – fast once a month. Read up on how to be healthy – Thats Priority no – 2

Do all that you wanted to do – Go for a 10 day meditation camp , visit a Ashram , spend time reading a book by a riverside in a quaint mountain, Trek the mountains , go to Mansarovar  , find a place where you can play TT , visit the offbeat locations near home , travel by a Bus , watch a movie on a week day at PVR (you can’t watch one on the weekend), nap in the afternoon …… There is no dearth of what one can do

Spend time at home –  be with the kids – understand what is their in their school books  (till now thats been 100% wife responsibility) – spend time with family ….

Find your passion – we did what was mandated by society – studied engineering , joined a good corporate job, bought houses , saved money, went to the standard holiday places … life was good but it was predictable … in the journey we forgot what was our passion

Read , meet new people , connect , flow like a river , talk less , observe more , be more self aware

Try and give back something to society – be thankful for all that we have been showered with

Most importantly sit back and enjoy the simple things in life – when was the last time you tasted your cup of tea and felt the flavour  Vs gulping it down, took a relaxed shower and felt the water on your skin , sat in the balcony as the world hurried by and heard the bird chirping and singing … its all there around us  – we never have the time to sit back and enjoy.

Like Newton said

I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

There is so much to do – how many of us know what Dy/Dx and Integral Calculus means – we mugged and passed ? Learn a language / learn an Instrument / Go back and understand better what you rushed by – there is no pressure , no exam , nothing to prove to anyone – you learn for yourself and that will be an interesting journey. The internet is an ocean of knowledge – a fast high speed Internet is all you need. Every day pick one topic on which you want to dig a little deeper.

I haven’t planned it out – my dream is to flow like a river . the River is amazing – its just keeps flowing , stops and crosses a boulder , changes direction if the blockage is large , flows fast , flows slow, it has energy , it is constantly moving. It lives in the present. All that the great masters taught is visible in Nature – in the river , in the seas , in the mountain – there is so much energy in nature.

So what will I Miss ? 

A lot – to start with the security and the comfort of the monthly pay check and the 6 monthly RSU. The Lifestyle at the Hyatt / Sheraton / Taj – the upgrades and the free nights. Free Wi Fi,  Free Breakfast ….

The Platinum status with the airlines – no Q, getting your luggage first off the block

The Chauffeured car waiting to pick you with your name tag

The great office infrastructure – high speed networks , printers , iPhone being upgraded every year, large display , dual screens….

The rushed Veggie shopping from Parle East Market – on the way back to the airport at Mumbai, the authentic street food Vada Pav & Pav Bhaji.

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And most importantly the few good folks with whom I have enjoyed working over the years – you meet thousands but there are those handful of what I call ” A few good people” who touched you and made a deep impact.

And what will I gain ? 

  • Time – the watch will no longer be my boss,
  • A stress free life – No corporate politics , no late night presentations
  • Maybe Discover my hidden Passion

and I hope the River finds its course and keeps moving gurgling with joy and happiness

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Thank you – Memories from Nov 5

7 Nov


Thank you for being there. My 25 year corporate life  is like a Train journey –  you meet thousands who come and go as the train travels from city to city – some get off , new people come in and the train chugs along  …. but there are a few with who you connect and want to keep in touch over the years. Leaders from who you learn , team mates who worked shoulder to shoulder and peers who were always ready to help with a smile, friends who were to there to rejoice and share bad times  …. here are some memories ….

( I was so busy talking and meeting all of you after so many years I am missing a few photos , so if anyone has some good clicks please do send to complete this memorable collection)

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Lunar Power & Full Moon Meditation

14 Oct

The sight of a Full Moon in the night sky strikes you with awe. Its mesmerising. Its romantic. It has inspired poets and writers over thousands of years. Most of us see it by chance – but its a calming and soothing effect to connect with the moon on a Full Moon Night in tranquility , by yourself or in a group of like minded people. Its pure coincidence but most of my holidays seem to happen during the Full Moon phase ( The effect of the full moon is there is 2 days before and after the Purnima) – and I have spent long hours staring at the moon  from a mountain,  a riverside, a calm peaceful resort or a beach in solitude

Since the Sumerian, Ancient Hindu and Chinese Civilisation the Lunar calendar has been in force and many of the popular festivals like Holi , Buddha Purnima, Guru Purnima, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Karthik Purnima are celebrated on full Moon days. Buddha was born on a full moon day. His renunciation took place on a full moon day. His Enlightenment, the delivery of His first sermon, His passing away into Nibbana and many other important events associated with His life-span of eighty years, occurred on full moon days.

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A lot of stories , facts , myths are associated with the moon – and one should follow their own belief and faith as scientific data may be limited.

A lot has been written about how the Moon impacts the human body and that makes an interesting read for believers.

Some scientific data on how the Moon was formed and its impact on Earth 

The moon was formed ~4.5 billion years ago, about 30–50 million years after the origin of the Solar System, out of debris thrown into orbit by a massive collision between a smaller proto-Earth and another planetoid, about the size of Mars.

The Earth would be a very different place if the moon did not exist. Not only did the Earth slow down the Moon’s rotation, but the Moon is slowing down the rotation rate of the Earth. Since the moon’s formation, the Earth has been slowing its rotation due to the friction of the tides caused by the moon, and in reaction to this exchange of energy, the moon has been moving farther away from the Earth. In fact, at the time of the moon’s formation the Earth rotated much faster than it does today; a day on early Earth was only a few hours long. But the Moon, being small in relation to Earth, will take more than twice the age of the solar system to slow Earth’s spin rate to the Moon’s orbital rate.

Gravity – Lunar Tides 

Tides are created because the Earth and the moon are attracted to each other, just like magnets are attracted to each other. The moon tries to pull at anything on the Earth to bring it closer. But, the Earth is able to hold onto everything except the water. Since the water is always moving, the Earth cannot hold onto it, and the moon is able to pull at it. Each day, there are two high tides and two low tides. The ocean is constantly moving from high tide to low tide, and then back to high tide. There is about 12 hours and 25 minutes between the two high tides.

Can a Full Moon impact the human body – How ?  

The effect on the Human Body by the moon is probably driven by the fact that 75% of what constitutes the body is water. Hence the force of Gravity during a full moon night tends to be more powerful. The contrary view to this is that water in the oceans and seas is not bound but the water within the body is bound hence the impact may not be the same. But grandmother tales talks about how the full moon is a time of positive opportunity if you use it correctly. It can increase your positive energy or conversely, it can wreak havoc on your emotions. Since the full moon pours down a tremendous amount of energy, you must be in a calm state of mind to receive a positive effect. Remember that whatever is going on in your body, mind and spirit will be amplified. If you are angry, you will feel angrier or if you are happy, you will feel happier. Crazy energy as well as loving energy will be intensified. Knowing this is a huge opportunity for your emotional and spiritual growth.

This is probably the reason that a group meditation of like minded people is beneficial on a Full Moon night.

Connect between Moon & Emotions 

Furthermore because of the moon’s astrological characteristics and effects on mind and emotions, often during the full moon period people tend to get more sensitive and often witness more emotional and relationship problems compared to normal times of the year. That is one of the reasons why insanity is also called lunacy ! Lunar & Lunacy have the same word root.

Moon in Vedic Astrology 

The Moon represents the mind and, accordingly, it indicates a person’s thinking, feeling, and willing processes. Emotions and sensitivity may be understood by the position of the Moon in a person’s chart. The moon’s nature is tender-hearted and wise. It rules peace of mind and gives a general sense of comfort and well-being. The Moon reflects understandings and sense of purpose, intuitive ability, sensuality, love for fine arts, music and jewels. It also rules our moods, emotions and sensitivity. A powerful moon gives emotional strength, makes for good relationships and love for others. It will give good intuition, purpose to life, an attraction for the fine arts and make a person attractive to others.

If the Moon is weak in the chart you may be subject to mental anxiety. There may be emotional instability and an inability to relate well to others. If badly aspected, the Moon can make one unfriendly and unable to share intimacy, or will cause you to lack contentment or peace of mind. An ill-placed Moon may make for inclinations to moodiness and feelings of depression, with an unclear mind. Depending on how severely afflicted it is there may be a tendency towards neurosis, hysteria, or insanity. It can make a person feel a lacking of joy or satisfaction, therefore bringing about acute realization of the sufferings felt in this material world. There may be indications towards ill health of the mother, or difficulties in social advancementIt is very good to meditate on a full moon day.

Gemology claims that Pearl is to be worn to strengthen Moon in the horoscope. It has an extremely calming influence on the mind and increases feelings of love, and compassion for other people. The pearl may increase peace of mind and enable the practice of spiritual meditations with greater concentration. PEARLS SHOULD NOT BE DRILLED. They should be set only in silver, so that the pearl comes into contact with the skin.

Kundalini & The Lunar Connect 

Nadis are the astral tubes made up of astral matter that carry psychic currents. The Sanskrit term ‘Nadi’ comes from the root ‘Nad’ which means ‘motion’. It is through these Nadis (Sukshma, subtle passages), that the vital force or Pranic current moves or flows. The body is filled with innumerable Nadis that cannot be counted. Different authors state the number of Nadis in different ways, i.e., from 72,000 to 3,50,000. Again Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are the most important of the Nadis. The pingala channel is the carrier of solar energy. It is full of heat and drive. It begins on the right hand side of the Root chakra and ends in the upper area of the right nostril.  The ida channel is the carrier of the cool and calming lunar energy. It begins on the left hand side of the Root chakra and ends in the left nostril.

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Pineal Gland – Bindu Chakra & the Moon Effect

The Pineal Gland has been the source of much research in Yogic and Medical science. Its considered to be located in the Bindu Chakra that is at the back of the head – directly in line with the centre of the forehead.

The symbol of the Bindu Chakra is the MOON; therefore it is also known as Chandra Chakra (Moon Centre). In the inner Cosmos, which is seen by our inner eye in meditation, the Bindu Chakra appears to have a circular opening with a lid almost completely covering it, and from this some light shines forth through a small gap. This glimmer of light that is the emanation of the radiance of the Self in the Sahasrāra Chakra is similar in appearance to the slender crescent of the new moon. If the Bindu Chakra is fully awake and open it shines brightly with a silvery sheen, like the Full Moon.

The moon is a symbol of perfection, nectar and energy. Nature receives life-sustaining Prāna from the moon allowing everything to grow and thrive, as moonlight is also essential for the growth of plants and the ripening of fruit – not only sunlight.

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In most Yoga books the Bindu Chakra is not mentioned, but in Tantra Yoga great importance is attached to the healing and rejuvenating effects of this Chakra.

Whilst this energy centre “sleeps” it is similar to a dot, but when awakened its energy begins to flow or to “drip”. The Bindu Chakra produces truly astonishing effects. It is a “health centre” that brings about improved physical, psychic and spiritual health, and is therefore a valuable aid on our spiritual journey. It also helps to quieten our emotions and brings harmony and a sense of wellbeing.

With the help of this Chakra we are able to control hunger and thirst and overcome unhealthy eating habits.

Concentration on the Bindu Chakra can also be beneficial for depression, nervousness, feelings of anxiety and an oppressive feeling within the heart. A slight pressure with the fingernail on the site of the Bindu Chakra gives rise to a spontaneous feeling of happiness that spreads to the heart. When a child is restless and will not go to sleep it helps to gently massage the Bindu Chakra with soft circular movements for a few minutes – the child will soon become quiet and sleepy.

But the most outstanding effect of the Bindu Chakra is the production of AMRITA, the nectar of immortality.

At the beginning of the Peace Mantra it is said:

ASATO MĀ SAT GAMAYA
TAMASO MĀ JYOTIR GAMAYA
MRITYOR MĀ AMRITAM GAMAYA

Lead us from unreality to reality
Lead us from darkness into light
Lead us from death to immortality.

On the physical level this means that with the awakening of the Bindu Chakra the Pineal Gland, which is connected to this centre, becomes active. This gland emits a hormone that has a “fountain of youth” influence on both body and mind. This is why the Rishis gave it the name “Amrita”, nectar of immortality. The more active the Bindu Chakra becomes, the more plentifully this precious Amrita flows. It is said in the ancient scriptures that just one concentrated drop is sufficient to make new shoots grow on a piece of dry wood, and bring the deceased back to life.

In Āyurveda this life-giving nectar is known as Sanjīvini Bhuti . There are Yogis who eat no food and are nourished exclusively by the nectar from the Bindu Chakra. If we were able to utilise this life elixir for our body we would not only prolong our life but also enjoy perfect health. But, unfortunately, this precious nectar normally drips straight down into the fire of the Manipūra Chakra (Jatarāgni) and is burnt before its effects develop. Through certain Yoga practices we can be successful in catching the drops of nectar in the Vishuddhi Chakra and supplying the body. The Vishuddhi Chakra is responsible for the purification and detoxification of the body if an imbalance occurs in the body due to harmful substances.

In the Gheranda Samhitā (Verses 28-30) it is written:

“The Sun is in the navel and the moon in the head. The nectar that comes from the moon is consumed by the sun, and the life force is gradually used up in this way.”

Here the moon stands for the Bindu Chakra and the sun for the Manipūra Chakra. Because the nectar from the Bindu Chakra is constantly being destroyed in the fire of the Manipūra Chakra our body is susceptible to illness and continues to deteriorate with advancing age.

In fact the Ātmā is immortal, but in this earthly existence we are bound to the mortal body. Only in this very fragile body can we attain spiritual realisation and liberation (Moksha). Therefore Yogis endeavour to keep their body healthy for as long as possible to enable them to complete their spiritual development in the current lifespan.

And this is why the Rishis, in ancient times, sought methods by which this valuable nectar could be gathered within the body and its benefits utilised. They found that they could control the flow of nectar with the help of the Vishuddhi Chakra and the tongue. The tongue possesses subtle energy centres, each of which connects to a specific part of the body or organ. Udāna Prāna, one of the five main Prānas (vital forces), works within the Vishuddhi Chakra and this Prāna Vayu activates the muscles in the throat that control the swallowing of food. Udāna Prāna also directs energy to the head. When the nectar is held firmly in the Vishuddhi Chakra and influenced by Udāna Prāna its effect is set in motion. The way it works is similar to Homeopathy; and like homeopathic medicine its beneficial effects are spread through the whole body via the outgoing energy channels in the tongue.

But how are we able to catch this precious nectar with the tongue? Through a technique known as Khecharī Mudrā , which is described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipikā. In this the tongue is rolled back as far as possible until the tip of the tongue reaches deeply into the Pharyngeal cavity. Then the nectar that drips down from the Bindu Chakra can be caught.

In order to be able to roll the tongue back far enough some practise is essential. Yogis achieve this by carefully stretching the ligament beneath the tongue, gradually lengthening it through gentle pulling. In this way the tip of the tongue can finally reach the Uvula.

The benefits of Khecharī Mudrā are strengthened when it is performed together with Ujjāyī Prānāyāma and Jālandhara Bandha (Chin Lock).

Ujjāyī Prānāyāma is a breathing technique with concentration on the process of breathing in the throat. The throat is contracted slightly so that the air flowing through it produces a soft sound, as in deep sleep. Through Jālandhara Bandha the flow of energy is briefly interrupted and the Prāna is held in the throat .

Another very effective practice is Viparitkaranī Mudrā , which has been translated as “The Energy Regeneration Pose” in the system of “Yoga in Daily Life”. The reason for this is that the nectar flows towards the throat in this inverted position and is therefore prevented from being burnt in the Manipūra Chakra.

In the Bhagavad Gita (15/13) Lord Krishna says:

“When I come onto the earth, I preserve all beings through my life-giving power. When I become the nectar-giving moon, I nourish the vegetation.”

The moon is the symbol of Lord Shiva, and the Mantra of the Bindu Chakra is AMRITAM – I am immortal. At the end of the Peace Mantra we sing the Maha

Mrityunjaya Mantra

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe |
Sugandhim Pushti-Vardhanam ||
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan |
Mrityur Moksheeya Maamritat ||

OM my adored One, the three-eyed Lord Shiva , who is omnipresent

May He nurture us and bless us with health
May His blessings liberate us and lead to immortality.

This Mantra is known as MAHĀ MRITYUN JAYA MANTRA – the glorious Mantra of victory over death.

May the light of Shiva fill our consciousness. May the nectar of immortality spread through and expand our inner space (Chidākāsha). Through this nectar all Chakras are brought into harmony. Fear, sadness, anger, resentment and other disease-producing emotions are released in the healing vibration of this Mantra. May it spread fragrance, melodiousness, love, happiness and contentment through the entire world.

( In References section visit the Video that has a music at a certain frequency that activates the Pineal Gland)

Chandra Namaskar 

In Hatha yoga, the first half of the word hatha i.e, ‘ha’, refers to the sun or fiery energies, while ‘tha’ refers to the moon or cooling energies.

Although, the Chandra Namaskar can be done at any time of the day, the best time to practice this asana is in the evening, around sunset, when the moon is up. Just as mornings are good time for sun salutations, evenings are best for moon salutations.

Benefits of the pose

Practise of moon salutation on full moon days can help in balancing fiery energies and helps in calming down, if you feel stressed, hyper-excited or over-stimulated. It helps channelize creative energies. Moon salutation is best practiced outdoors on moonlit night.

The physical benefits of the pose include stretching and strengthening of the thigh muscles, calves, pelvis, and ankles, mainly the lower body. It also helps activate root chakra. Moon salutation is beneficial to people under any form of stress. It helps balance your energy before you reach a point of exhaustion, as it is a quieting practice. In School of Yoga, it is practiced with a meditation at the beginning and at the end, and offers the option of chanting a different mantra related to lunar energy for each pose.

Among the specific health benefits of the pose are, it promotes balance, digestion, tones the spine, expands lungs and opens the Heart Chakra. It improves good blood circulation, keeps abdominal tract well regulated and healthy, stimulates spinal nerves, stretches leg muscles and back, cures sexual ailments and improves flexibility prior to childbirth. It also relaxes sciatic nerves, improves confidence, tones pelvic muscles, regulates functioning of adrenal glands, relieves constipation, anger, sciatica, helps in maintaining balance on both sides of the body, and helps develop a healthy sense of poise and respect for mind and body.

 

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Chandra Namaskar – Moon Salutation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci3_g2sSUOg

 

References 

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2013/08/08/the-top-5-things-wed-miss-if-we-didnt-have-a-moon/

http://www.chakras.net/energy-centers/bindu

Trataka And The Amazing Benefits Of Candle Gazing

Chandra Namaskar – Moon Salutation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci3_g2sSUOg

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/fitness/Now-Chandra-Namaskar-will-help-you-lose-weight/articleshow/46505055.cms

http://www.encognitive.com/files/%22Melatonin,%20Menstruation,%20and%20the%20Moon%22.pdf

Taj Coorg @Madikeri – Embedded in Nature

12 Oct

When I start writing a blog the Title comes naturally – the Title represents in a few words the essence of what I carried back from the trip , but this time I struggled – there is so much to talk about at the Taj Coorg its difficult to capture it in a few words . This is both good and bad – good because there is so much to talk about and not so good because its missing its core positioning.

Coorg has transformed – 8 years back when I made my first trip to Club Mahindra the drive time was 4 1/2 hrs and the notable resorts were Orange County & Club Mahindra  – today the drive time from Bangalore is 6 – 7 hrs and there are many more properties and home stays that have mushroomed. With all the crowd you tend to stay away from the town and the sights outside and prefer staying in a resort – for that the Taj is a great property.

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The property at Madikeri is embedded in greenery. Its a 180 acre property (built up area of 30 acres) at an elevation of ~ 4500 feet on a lush verdant rainforest valley. The design is harmonious with nature and from every where – the lobby , restaurant , rooms you get an unobstructed view of the green , misty valley and the hills beyond.

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The property has 63 spacious rooms in 4 varieties (Superior Charm, Deluxe Delight , Premium Indulgence Cottage , 5 Pool Villas and the Presidential Suite) – We stayed at the Premium Indulgence Cottage – a well laid out 1400 sft room that could easily accommodate 2 adults and 2 children. Room rates are from 18 – 35 K / night inclusive of breakfast.

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The Main Lobby is an impressive building that rises above 200 feet , built in a simplistic Zen Design it has an aura of great energy balance . Its open, large, spacious and has an excellent view of the valley.

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This main complex  houses the plunge pool , a small activity centre , the well designed Jiva Spa that offers a wide variety of treatment including some that are very local (Gudda Bath) and a well equipped Gym. The plunge pool is a big hit – its a heated pool with a mind boggling view of the rain forests and hills – and the kids never want to leave its premise.

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Rooms are designed along the hill slope so a walk up to the main lobby / restaurant can be a tad tiring – but the electrical buggy service is always around to pick you up. The pavements / foot paths are concrete , well finished and have the stamp of perfection – so no fear of slipping on rocks and rubble as you walk up & down. img_0968

The best things to do here is soak in the nature and go for long treks. The hotel organises two good treks to the nearby hills – easy 2 hr treks. Our guide Abhishek was exceptional – very knowledgeable and friendly. The highlight was our discussion on the Kurunji Flower – the rare blue flower that blooms once in 12 years and covers the hill slopes ( that why the Nilgiris are called the Blue Mountains) – its famous in Munnar but close to the Taj the hills we trekked are also full of Kurunji Flowers – so Sep 15 – Oct 15 , 2018 you may want to book a package at the Taj Right now.

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(And if you are wondering whats the khaki covering on our shoes – those are cloth flaps for leech protection)

The restaurant is  multi cuisine – serves a wide variety of dishes form India, to Local , Continental – there are 4 restaurants FernTree , Nelliki (Local Cuisine), Grill (Outdoor BBQ) , Dew a Small health Food Cafe and the Hive Bar – but we ended up going to the main one Fern Tree most of the time. Service & Food is good and dinner for a family of 4 is about INR 200o – INR 3000 (Without Liquor)

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They have a few more activities – Sat evening Local Dance, Mountain Biking , Zip Lining , a well maintained but small conservatory, Pottery Studio , Baking & art classes for Kids , Archery , Virtual Golf ….  A large olympic size outdoor pool , an amphitheater for holding functions / marriages. 3G Network is available all across the property and Wi Fi at decent speed is also complimentary.

Unlike most properties in Coorg & Chickamagalur the Taj is not a coffee estate,  Its not a Spa /Yoga Retreat like Ananda or Shreyas or Swaswara, Its not a honeymoon Corporate Offsite location like Tamara – so the question – What is it ?

And thats the question I carry back with me – is the Taj Coorg becoming an upmarket Club Mahindra catering to the weekend family traffic from Bangalore – that would be sad and not doing justice to a property of this stature. Are noisy kids spoiling the peace and the harmony of the place ? Can you enjoy the divine view from the plunge pool when you have a few brats noisily tossing the ball around. Can you have a relaxed romantic candlelight dinner or a peaceful breakfast with a howling baby in the next table and a hassled mother desperate to calm it as the husband is busily taking photos.

We went on the Dushera weekend and the hotel was full – barring one Foreign Couple the entire crowd was Bangalore families with 1 – 2 kids each. I would urge the Taj to revisit their positioning and decide what is the clientele they would like to attract. Many properties today have a Kids above 12 only rule – maybe the Taj should explore something like that.

Running a property like this in the hills is not easy and the staff , the general manager do a great job …. but I would like to leave them with a  few suggestions

  1. Entertainment every evening – Live entertainment like light music , a Sat evening local dance is good but you need something 7 days
  2.  Nelliki needs something more than authentic local cuisine – its looking empty
  3. You need more restaurant space
  4. Too late but would have been good for the rooms to have been designed with a His / Her basin and a Powder room – with large rooms that can accommodate 4 , you need more bathroom space
  5. The Treks could be longer
  6. Yoga session starting at 8AM  is a no go – I normally attend Yoga sessions in all the properties that I visit but missed it out here – I don’t think you are attracting people who will do Yoga at 6 AM  – also with such an amazing property the Yoga sessions needs to be done outside in the midst of nature – not in a closed room
  7. I think you are underpriced – there are high end Homestay’s in Chickamagalur and Binsar that charge over 20 K / Night ( Primrose, Mary Buden estate etc) – yes its true that money does not buy class , but for a property of this stature if you want to target the right audience you need to relook at your rates.

As the friendly GM said – maybe I should come back when its not so crowded on a weekday , and I definitely will. Having been to Club Mahindra, Orange County, Windflower and now the Taj – I would strongly say that when it comes to the beauty of the property and the rooms – the Taj is the best in Coorg.

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Few More Snaps

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