Thank You – India Railways and Mysore Police

18 Jan

I have heard great things about the Indian Railways and its improved efficiency ever since Suresh Prabhu has taken over. The trains are cleaner, the platforms and the bathrooms are sparkling clean (At least in South India), Trains are punctual.

A few days back I had a great experience – in the Chennai Mysore Shatabadi. On Sun 15th Jan we boarded the Chennai – Mysore Shatabdi at 6 AM headed to Bangalore. We were a group of 6 with 5 suitcases and many small bags and accessories.

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After a very comfortable journey in a very neat coach we got off at Bangalore Majestic. I always take count of the suitcases before we leave – but this day there was some miscommunication , and I was not as alert as usual. We came back home and realised that we had left a suitcase in the Train. It was my dad’s suitcase and had his medicines and a few other important items.

I had no clue what to do and there was a sense of panic at home. Searched the web for the station numbers at Majestic and Mysore – but the numbers that popped up were obsolete and not out of service. I then tried contacting some business associates at Mysore who could send someone to the station and pick up the Suitcase from Coach C5. But being a Sunday at 12 Noon – nobody was reachable.

At my wits end I called my friend seeking advice. He asked me to call 139 Railway Enquiry. After a few options I finally reached a friendly call centre advocate who politely told me that she could not help and I would need to contact the Railway Police Mysore for Lost & Found – she was not able to help with the number.

After multiple Google attempts I finally reached this site http://202.138.101.165/railwaypolice/Railway%20Police%20Contact.html. 

Fortunately it had a Mobile Number listed for Mysore (9480802122) – which I immediately dialled. And thats when the efficient miracle started.

The phone was picked up on the second ring and a confident no nonsense efficient voice answered me. I explained the situation – he responded by saying that Shatabadi was just entering the platform and he would send one of his team to C5 to locate the suitcase and call me back.

I waited patiently invoking the universal energy – my mother was very confident that we would get the suitcase back. Expecting a call back from a Govt official was rare. But this man was different – within 10 minutes I got a call back saying he had traced the Suitcase and he would be sending it back with Pappu Khan the pantry boy in C5 Coach and I could pick it up at 420 PM when the train reached Bangalore Majestic.  He gave me Pappu Khan’s number – I called him and established contact.

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We were there at the station at 4 PM and promptly at 4.20 the train chugged in Platform no 7. As we waited anxiously Pappu Khan was at the gate with our suitcase. We thanked him profusely.

For me a miracle had happened – I had never expected a lost suitcase in the train would be got back so easily. And it all happened because of  Mr S Krishnamoorthy – Sup Inspector Police at Mysore Railway Station.  Thanks a lot Mr Krishnamoorthy – people like you instil confidence that in todays world there are still good people. It was your attitude and efficient approach that made things happen. You are a role model. Thank You Sir – May God Bless you and your Family. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://202.138.101.165/railwaypolice/Railway%20Police%20Contact.html

 

Best of Kanchipuram in 10 hrs

2 Jan

Kanchipuram – The golden city of 1000 temples (Currently about 125 are in good shape),  is just 71 kms from Chennai. Its an irony that I have been travelling to Chennai  multiple times every year for the last 20 years but have never been to Kanchipuram. Most tourists go to Mahabalipuram not realising that the Pallavas Capital – Kanchipuram is equally close.

Its a sheer coincidence that within 10 days of visiting Varanasi (Kashi) I was at Kanchipuram. Many regard Kancipuram to be the second holiest city in India after Varanasi. Its in the list of 7 sacred cities of India (the Mokshapuri cities – it is believed by living or death in these cities you get liberation from the cycle of birth and death). The similarity between Kashi and Kanchipuram is not just in the piousness and the temples but also in the world famous silk sarees that they make.

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Kanchipuram was under Pallava rule from 6th – 8th century , followed by the Cholas and then the Vijaynagar kings. Many of the amazing temples were built by the Pallava in the 6th and 7th century and still stand majestically in great shape. While most Hindu Temples in South India are Shaivite or Vaishnavite bastions , Kanchipuram has divided itself into Vishnu Kanchi surrounded by the Vardarajan Perumal Temple and Shiva Kanchi surrounded by the Ekambaranath temple while the Kamakshi Amman temple stands in between as a place of Shakti worship.

Kanchipuram has over a 1000 temples and you can spend weeks visiting them – but then there are a few that definitely merit a visit.

We left Chennai at 530 AM and reached our first stop – The food Temple – Saravana Bhawan, on the Chennai Bangalore Highways just before Kanchipuram by 7 AM.(Lakshmi Narayani Complex, NH-4,Banglore Highway | Near Meenakshi Medical College). Lots of parking , spacious , clean toilets – and the standard high quality veg breakfast of piping hot idli , Wada and Pongal – was a good start to a great day.

1st Stop –  Ekambareshwar Temple ( Budget 45 min on a week day not crowded)

6AM – 1230 PM & 4 PM – 8.30 PM 

Most famous Shiva temple of Kanchipuram – considered to be one of the oldest in the country. Here Shiva is worshipped in the form of an Earth Linga. One of the rare temples where no Abhishekam is done on the lingam.  One of the tallest temples in S India the Gopuram soars to a height of 192 feet. The temple is spread over 20 acres. As per Legend Shiva was enraged with Parvathi and sent her packing to earth. She prayed at this temple spot under a mango tree for many years by making a Shiva Linga out of the sand of the Kamba River. Finally Shiva came to earth and stayed with her at this Temple. To this day people worship the mango tree. The 3500 mango tree is believed to produce 4 types of mangoes from 4 branches that stand for the 4 vedas.

The temple compound also has a Vishnu Shrine – Nilathunda Perumal – which is revered as one of the 108 Divya Desams. The temple also has two large tanks. The temple was originally built by the Pallava king and later enlarged by the Chola and Vijaynagar kings. Well maintained – neat and clean it was empty on a weekday we visited – and we could cover it well in 45 minutes.

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2nd Stop – Kailasanathar Temple ( Budget 30 – 45 Minutes) 

9.30AM – 1230 PM & 4 PM – 6 PM

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This temple was built by the Pallava king Rayasimhan in the 8th century. It is perhaps the largest surviving sandstone temple in the world and is considered the oldest structure of Kanchipuram. Looks very similar to the shore temple – but the distinguishing feature are the panels on the walls depicting the life of Shiva.

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The temple is unique in its architecture and is viewed more as an architectural beauty than a holy place. When we reached at 920 the temple was closed and the priest was expected only by 930. Legend has it that “Poosalar Nayannar”  a Shiva devotee decided to build a temple – but due to lack of means he built it in his dreams. The day of the consecration of the Kailasanatha temple clashed with that of Poosalar’s imaginary temple. Shiva came to the King and his dreams and asked him to change the date of the Consecration as he would be first visiting Poosalar’s temple given the devotion and passion with which he has built his temple of dreams.

3rd Stop – Kanchi Kudil (Budget 15 – 30 Minutes)

Opens at 930 AM

Its a traditional Mudaliar house that has been preserved like a museum. They also serve a traditional Lunch if you order in advance ( Veg & Non Veg) at 350/ plate – Contact A Udhayakumar – 9941138703

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4th Stop – Kanchi Kamakshi Temple (Budget 60 Minutes)

5.30AM – 1230 PM & 4 PM – 8.30 PM

India has 3 main cities where the Goddess Shakti is worshipped – Kanchipuram holds the most important rank amongst the three. The 3 powerful goddesses are Kanchi Kamakshi , Madurai Meenakshi and Kashi Vishalakshi.

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The Kamakshi temple is an ancient one and was built in its current state by the Cholas in the 14th century. Spread across 5 acres the sanctum is gold plated. While the goddess Parvati is seen standing in most temples she is found sitting here in a yogis posture – Padmasana  and is referred to as Parabrahma Swarupini. She has four arms and is seen holding a bow, a lotus, a parrot and a sugarcane.

It is believed that Kamakshi was originally a Ugra Swaroopini and Adi Shankara on establishing the Sri Chakra personified her as Shanti Swaroopini. The temple structure is complicated and when we visited in Dec 2016 – it was undergoing renovation.

You can reach very close to the sanctum sanctorum and get an excellent Darshan of the powerful deity. Fortunately the day we visited it was not crowded.

 

5th Stop – Vardaraja Perumal temple  also known as Devraja Temple (Budget 45 – 60 Minutes)

7AM – 12 PM & 3.30 PM – 8 PM

Dedicated to Lord Vishnu this temple is located in Vishnu Kanchi a short drive from the Kanchi Kamakshi temple. The main temple here is Lord Varadaraja who is seen standing and facing west. It is considered a very holy site for Vaishnavites. It was built immediately after the Kailasanatha temple by Paramaeshwaravarman Pallava in the 7th century. The majestic Gopuram with its intricate carvings is a sight to behold.

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The 100 pillared hall is the unmistakable legacy of the Vijaynagara rulers. The unique features of this temple are the lizards carved above the sanctum that are plated in gold. A large temple spread over 20 acres. Very well maintained.

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5th Stop – Vardaraja Perumal temple also known as Devraja Temple (Budget 45 – 60 Minutes)

6th Stop – Shankaracharya Mutt (Budget 30  Minutes)

One of the Mutts established by Adi Shankara – for the religious Tamil Brahmin its a rare honour to visit the Mutt which is home to the Shankaracharya of Kanchi. We stopped by for 30 min – steeped in rituals and tradition it may be very religious but sadly it lacked spirituality.

 

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7th Stop – Lunch at another Saravana Bhawan – in the Main Kanchipuram city

We were lucky as the temples were almost empty we reached the Saravana Bhawan at Gandhi Road for lunch. We had made good time and we reached by 12 noon. The City is clean and well maintained. None of the temple we were hounded by priests for extra money neither were there VIP Q’s .

For the ambitious post lunch you can travel to Mahabalipuram. Chennai – Kanchipuram – Mahabalipuram form a Triangle. But we decided to head back. Our timing was great and we were back home by 3.30 in the afternoon well before the traffic rush.

Kanchipuram can get very hot in the summers – best time to visit is between Nov – Feb. 

If you have the time and energy here are a few other temples you could visit

  1. Ulahalanda Perumal temple
  2. Kumara Kottam Subramaniam Swami temple
  3. Kacchapeswarar temple
  4. Chitragupta Swami temple

And visit some stores for the Original Kancheepuram silk sarees

The driver we engaged was excellent – Raju owns a well maintained clean Innova. You can contact him at + 91 9941404541 or +91 8939756776. He is efficient and professional.

For those travelling from Bangalore its best to plan an overnight trip. Leave Bangalore by 10 AM and reach Kancheepuram by 2.30 3. Check into the GRT hotel – freshen up and start your temple tour by 4 PM when the temples open for the evening Darshan. Complete a set in the evening and do the rest the next day morning 6.30 – 9.30 AM. Have Breakfast – check out and leave by 1030 AM to Reach Bangalore by 230 – 3.

Regency Kanchipuram by GRT Hotels

Address: 487, Gandhi Road, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu 631502.

Contact No: 044-27225250

E-mail: reservationskanchi@grtregency.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Axis Bank – ” Dear Madam Shikha – Your letter is not Re -assuring”

19 Dec

Dear Shikha Sharma ;

I logged in my mail and saw your letter after visiting an Axis Bank branch this morning. I have been a Axis Privilege Customer for the last 11 years. Initially I recommended a lot of my friends and family to your bank – but recently I am thinking on whether I should continue or not.

Its not just about the fraud and the crisis that happened with demonetisation – but over the years there has been a steep decline in Customer Service , Approach , Technology Robustness and of course as we see Governance and Controls.

This morning it took 30 minutes for the Teller at the 80 feet road Koramangla branch to serve me . he apologised ” Sir – The systems are slow” – and this is not the first time that we have seen your systems behave badly with a huge crowd waiting to be serviced. The poor hassled teller was at his wits end as the crowd that has been waiting since 845 AM started getting angry. (A similar transaction at Citibank last week took me less than 5 minutes). Later in the afternoon when I visited the Branch at 4th Block near Forum – I saw no Q and the security informed me that the system had stopped working totally. You are one of the top private banks in the Country and your system are down for hours – there is no apology / no SMS from the Bank saying sorry our systems are down.

The branches are dirty and unswept at 930 AM – it feels like I am walking into a Government building. The Vinyl posters are torn an tattered. The walls are plastered with papers most of them peeling off. The staff are lackadaisical and lost in their own world. Not just lost some are nasty.

Last week ( Thursday 15th) I was in the Q to withdraw money ( Again at the Branch near Forum) – I was sanding from 845AM . The Teller started his operations at 955 AM – bank opening was supposedly 930. There was a Q of over 75 people spilling into the streets – and there was money – as the support staff rolled in the trucks with the cash to the teller counter by 9.40. In a busy branch only 1 Teller was operational and he started his day at 9.55. The second Telleer counter  was empty.

As I was standing in the Q – a staff got a call ( she was from the Forex team) and she started shouting at the customer. ” Stop calling me – you can check your account and you will get a SMS once the credit happens” – post the call she tells her supervisor sitting next to her ” This customer is a Psycho – he is a mad guy” all of this within earshot of the customers standing in the Q – If thats the attitude with which you treat your customers – I am really worried.

The branch manager is invisible – his room is always empty. 10 years back the Branch Manager would be visible, greeting his customer by name , there was leadership displayed, he would run the bank. Today I don’t even know who your Branch Manager is – he prefers to hide rather than come in the front and solve issues.

Even before demonetisations your ATM’s were dry most of the time. Your sales people were interested in selling Insurance Linked products… . The people in your branch look lost and confused – and its amazing that in this confusion there are still a few sincere hard working people who stand out. Many of the good people I have interacted with at your branches over the years have moved on …..

Maybe its time for me to move on to. Maybe the Fraud and the negative publicity is an opportunity for you to fix the mess in your Bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________________________________

Dear Customer,
On behalf of my colleagues’ at Axis Bank, I write to thank you for your support and understanding since the demonetisation initiative began. It has been a challenging time and we have tried our level best to make it easier for you.
During this period we have been overwhelmed by the care and understanding customers such as you have shown us, from bringing food for our branch staff to the instant appreciation for a job well done. We have made every effort to ease the transition by making special arrangements for senior citizens and differently abled people at our branches, using micro-ATMS to deliver cash to BSF personnel, ensuring salary disbursement to government and corporate employees across the length and breadth of our country.
Hence the recent media reports around the conduct of a few of our employees have left me embarrassed and upset. We have fallen short of your expectations because a handful of people did not follow our fully compliant and robust processes. We have taken the toughest action against such employees and we will do so in every case of divergence from our Code of Conduct. I regret that the misdeeds of a few people have eroded the hard work of 55000+ employees, who have been at the front end beyond working hours, displaying extraordinary patience and commitment to their responsibilities.
I would like to reassure you that the bank has always been committed to the highest standards of operational control and continues to fully cooperate with the authorities. We have been tracking sudden surges in account activity and have proactively identified potentially suspicious accounts. This proactive identification has been one of the inputs in investigation by the regulatory authorities, who are visiting some of our branches to seek out information. Further, we have hired KPMG to conduct a forensic audit for enhanced due diligence and building more safeguards.
I assure you that the fundamentals of the bank, built painstakingly over the last 22 years, focused on serving its retail and corporate customers is on a solid footing. The Banker, a publication by the Financial Times, UK has ranked us amongst the safest banks in the world and we rank second in India. CRISIL the premier rating agency of the country has on December 2, 2016 reaffirmed its ratings on the banks’s existing debt instruments at ‘CRISIL AAA/Stable/CRISIL A1+”. The ratings reflect Axis Bank’s robust capitalisation, healthy resource profile and comfortable earnings.
If there is more information you seek at this time, do click here to visit this link. Also, our branch managers and relationship managers are always available to help in case of any assistance that you may require.
In closing, I am grateful for your support all through these years. We will always safeguard your interests because your trust matters the most. I look forward to your continued confidence in making us a safe, strong bank that is always focused on you.
Thanking you,
Warm regards,
Shikha Sharma
MD & CEO Axis Bank

Benares & Sarnath in 48 Hrs

13 Dec

Kashi & Sarnath in 48 Hours

It competes with Jerusalem for the tag of the oldest city – but clearly no city can compare with it for its mix of Mythology, Religion, History, Art and Culture. It’s the summer home of Lord Shiva – throw a stone you will hit an ancient temple and walk a furlong you will find an Ashram.

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From Baba’s & Aghoris, Saints & Sufi Mystics, Silk Weaving to Shehnai, Pan, Desi Ghee sweets, Good tasty affordable food and lots more – it’s all packed in the 8 km stretch across 84 Ghats and in the narrow by – lanes of this ancient city.

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Sarnath is a stone’s throw away – a mere 15 kms. While Varansi the hub of Hindu Religion is steeped in ritual and tradition – Sarnath symbolizes Buddha with its peace and tranquil atmosphere. This is where Buddha after his enlightenment gave his first sermon to his 5 disciples. This is where the first Ashok Chakra was built with the Sarnath Stupa. This is where the 11th Jain Tirthankara was born. Sushruta, the great surgeon and author of the Sushruta Samhita, the Sanskrit text of surgery, lived in Varanasi and practised medicine and surgery sometime during the 5th century BC. Tulsidas wrote his epic poem on Rama’s life called Ram Charit Manas in Varanasi. Several other major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas. Guru Nanak Dev visited Varanasi for Shivratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism.

From Shiva to Buddha, the Jain Tirthankara’s, Kabir, Lahiri Mahasaya, Dr Lal Bahadur Shastri, Pt Ravi Shankar, Shehnai Maeestro Bismillah Khan , Pt Madan Mohan Malviya (Founder of IT BHU) and many more – the city definitely has contributed a lot. And all of that comes from the rare energy that the city possesses.

Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev explains this beautifully in his video on Varanasi –  Benares is not a city it’s a Yantra. There is a science by which the temples were built in a certain pattern to accentuate the energy. On the banks of the holy Ganga the city was designed in such a manner that anyone who came here never wanted to go back. He even says that it’s a celestial city that sits on Mahadevs Trishul – in a different plane from most cities.

But sadly a lot of that is lost. The beautiful architecture of the rock temples is covered with gaudy layers of paints, the city chokes in its crowded by lanes and you really need to dive deep past this muck to get a breath of fresh air and feel the energy of the ancient Varanasi. But this energy is so powerful that there are places where it still does touch you and that’s what attracts tourists and pilgrims in droves.

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Can you cover all of this in 48 hrs – yes you can and here is a plan to get going.

Indigo has a direct flight from Bangalore to Varanasi. Departs at 11.15 AM reaching at 1.45 – our flight was delayed by 30 min. Our guide Manoj was at the airport to receive us ( and he was a godsend – we owe the success of covering so much ground to him) – the journey from the airport to our hotel near Assi Ghat in Varanasi was a mess. About 30 kms it took us almost 90 min. (Hopefully 2017 should get better as Modi Ji is getting a expressway constructed that should let you zip in less than 30 minutes). Typical E – UP town, small shops, dusty, crowded roads – it’s like how the Durgapur – Calcutta Grand Truck road used to be in the 80’s. it’s a sore sight and I did get a tad worried on what the next 2 days had in store for us.

We reached our hotel – a small boutique property “De Bouginvilla” located in a nice residential area very close to Assi Ghat. It’s a new property less than 1 month old – small and efficient – Rs 3500/- night, inclusive of breakfast & Wi Fi. (P 3/6, Lane no. 15, Ravindrapuri, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221005).  Suited us perfectly. http://debougainvilla.com. (Other options you could consider as recommended by our Guide – Alka Guest House, Ganapati Guest House & Benares Haveli – all properties with room rates within 5K)

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Day – 1 : We started around 4 PM

A quick cup of tea and we were ready to leave. In Dec the sun sets at 5 PM and we were starting out at 3.45. It was cold and in Varanasi you walk – so get yourself a good pair of walking shoes. You share the narrow alleys with Cows, Dogs, Bikers and fellow pedestrians. There will be garbage and dung – so look around as you walk. The city has over 23,000 temples but there are a few that you cannot miss – The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, The Kedareshwar temple , and the Kal Bhairav Temple – these form the 3 Main Temple Complexes. Mythology says that these 3 temples are perched on the 3 points Shivas Trishul.

We spent a few hrs walking around the by lanes of the old city and immersing ourselves. Stopping by a chai shop for a warm cup, looking at temples as they popped out in every nook and corner. We walked past the Vedshala – where the young kids were being trained in Yoga and Vedic Sciences and general studies. Right next to it was the ancient Kedareshwar temple and we stopped by for Lord Shiva’s blessings for a successful trip. As per mythology praying at the Kedar temple in Kashi is 7 times more effective than the main temple at Kedarnath.

(http://varanasi-temples.com/category/shiva-temples/main-shiva-temples/kedareshwar/)

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From here we headed to Dashashwamedh Ghat for the evening Ganga Arti. This is also called the Rajendra Prasad Ghat. The arti starts around 6 PM and continues for about 30 minutes. Fire, Drums, Bells clanging, large crowds – it’s definitely a must watch. No tickets. But come early for a prime spot – you won’t be as lucky as PM Modi and Abe to have a decorated area cordoned off for you.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe witnessing the Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh on December 12, 2015.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe witnessing the Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh on December 12, 2015.

After the arti we walked along and visited the ancient Brihaspati temple (http://varanasi-temples.com/category/shiva-temples/other-shiva-temples-a-d/brihaspateeshwar/) and headed for dinner to “Keshari” near Gadoria Chowk. A sumptuous meal (After our breakfast at home – all we had was an Upma in the Indigo flight and a few cups of tea and we were famished) – and we headed back to the hotel – day 2 was to be a long one starting at 5 AM.

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Day – 2 : We start at 5 AM

We were up by 4 AM – had a nice bath and took off on a cold foggy day at 5 AM with Manoj. We had an option of going to Assi Ghat and seeing the morning Arti – which is very different from the evening Arti (Mantras / Music / Yoga etc) or to start with the temple tours. We preferred to start the day with a trip to the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple. One of the 12 Jyotirlingas ( The second one I was visiting within a month after the recent trip to Jageshwar , I missed the Jyotirlinga near Ellora a few months back). This temple has been destroyed a few times by invaders including once by Aurangzeb but has been rebuilt.

Past multiple narrow by lanes we finally reached the temple (you need to leave your bags, belt, cell phone) before you enter the temple. We were lucky – there was no crowd and got a great Darshan of the Swayambu and were able to sit quietly near the sanctum sanctorum for a long time. ( Visual is a Google Image – we were not allowed to take our Phones inside)

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The temples in Benares are not large like the S Indian ones. They are small and located in the heart of the city – no open gardens / courtyards. If the temple could have spoken it would have screamed like an American “Give me Space”.  Its jammed in the midst of houses, shops, lanes. There have been endowments from Maharaja Ranjit Singh so parts of the architecture have a Sikh design and the main temple pyramid is covered with 900 kg of Gold (Wonder if the ascetic god Shiva would have appreciated that). Fortunately, nobody bugged us – no tickets for special darshan, no Q’s for Prasad – that was a pleasant surprise in all the temples we visited. All the Temple premises are clean and well maintained.

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Immediately after this we visited the Annapurna Temple nearby and then as we were heading to Manikarna Ghat we stopped by a beautiful Nepali Temple (Almost all temples in Varanasi are dedicated to Shiva or Devi barring the Sankat Mochan temple which is dedicated to Hanuman). The Nepali temple was originally made of wood with intricate carvings but has now been restored and is a mix of Red Bricks and the original black wood. It’s a beautiful temple with a great view of the Ganges and the rising sun.

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A five-minute walk to Manikarna Ghat (This and the Harishchandra Ghats are the only two Ghats where cremation services can be done). Its messy and not a nice site so see the dead bodies burning. For people who work here its business as usual. Right next to the Manikarna Ghat is a Kund and a small Shiva temple which is almost submerged. This temple is supposed to be older than the Kashi Vishwanath temple – but few come here. (Note that women are not allowed to visit the burning ghats).

We took a boat and crossed over to the other side of the Ganges. Our Guide was worried – hardly anyone does this trip. But I wanted to visit a Aghori – and there were a few camping on the other bank of the Ganges.  The Aghoris path to enlightenment can sound gruesome. They worship the Devi, follow Tantric Rites, conduct their prayers at midnight and eat even dead bodies. The Aghori we met was from Tiruchi and he was training a few more – he seemed down to earth and spoke well. The tent was full of skulls and as we were speaking one of the disciples dropped something in the fire – the Aghori explained that was the heart of a Pig which they had sacrificed yesterday and this would form their next meal with rice soaked in the blood of the pig. Each one has his own way to get to Nirvana – clearly this is not my way and I walked out educated and aware of the Aghoris.

The morning was still foggy and it was admirable on how the boatman could get us to Panch Ganga Ghat. The water of the Ganges was surprisingly warm and clean and our guide asked us to cleanse ourselves with the holy water before we headed to the next set of temples.

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It’s a steep climb from the Panch Ganga Ghat and we headed to the Kal Bhairav temple.

This is one of the oldest Shiva temples in Varanasi, India. Situated in Bharonath, this temple has great historical and cultural importance in Hinduism. The temple is dedicated to one of the fiercest forms of Lord Shiva and wears a garland of skulls and carries a club of peacock feathers. The word “Kaal” means both “death” and “fate”. It is believed that even death is afraid of “Kaal Bhairava”.

A quick darshan here – again it was empty and nice. By now we were famished and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast of Hot Jalebis and Kachoris freshly made. (Madhu Jalpan , Keshyam Kanhaiya Chitra Madndali Bas Phatak)

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By now it was almost 945 AM and we took a Battery Auto to our hotel for a 15 min rest and to pick up the address for our next destination – the revered Sage – Lahiri Mahasya house. He was the saint who was initiated by Babaji to Kriya Yoga in 1861 at Dunagiri and his family still maintains that tradition. ( 31/158 Madanura Lane, Garudeshwar Mohalla,  Chowsatti Ghat)

Lahiri Mahasaya’s house is quiet and empty and is a great place to sit quietly and meditate. Lots of energy here.

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Right next to this is a small guest house – Shivakashi Guest House. Very affordable.

Morning was dedicated to visiting Ashrams so from here we headed to the Kabir Mutt ( en -route picking up some Bhang from an authorized Bhang Shop) – a calm and quiet place.

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Next stop was the Silk Weavers market or Muslin Market. A great place to understand how the famous Benarasi Silk sarees are made and also to get some great deals.

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By now it was noon and we headed to Annapoorna for lunch (J12/16A, Ram Katora) . We had covered a lot of ground since 5 AM – but we still had a few more things to cover which was planned for the last phase.

A trip to the famous BHU – that was on the other side of the city and took us a good 1 hr to get there by Auto. The university is beautiful, green and clean – very well maintained. Right in the heart of the campus is a lovely Birla Temple. We had chai and tried out a very sweet local dish called “Lavang Lata” – it was really sweet.

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We could have walked the 3.5 Km from here to the Main Gate or Lanka – but we preferred to take an Auto and headed to the famous Sankat Mochan Temple. Famous recently for the bomb blast from 2011 – because of which there is more security and you need to leave your cell phone / bags etc at the entrance) – This is a Hanuman Temple – the only Non Shiva / Non Devi temple we visited.

And then on the way back to the Hotel the last stop was at the Adi Shakti Durga temple.

We reached our room by 5 PM – and as we summarized with Manoj what we had covered there was a sense of joy that we accomplished a lot in almost 24 hrs.

All this would have not been possible without Manoj. You cannot do Varanasi without a Guide and if you are planning a trip give a call to Manoj Yadav at + 91 9935956290. He was a godsend. I had initially booked Varanasi Tours – they were charging Rs 1600/- person for a 3 hr walking tour. We would have paid double and not covered even half of what Manoj showed us with the Varanasi tours. I am so glad that they cancelled in the last minute and I was able to connect with Manoj by pure luck.

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A nice warm shower and then we strolled out to ” Kshir Sagar” the most famous sweet shop of Benares to sample a few . On the way back stopped by a local Pan shop and picked up a few ” Original Benarasi pan” and headed back to the hotel for a simple dinner. We slept like a log that night.

Day – 3 : We start at 630 AM

The last day was dedicated to Sarnath. About 20 km from our hotel. The driver was there promptly by 6 and we headed out on a very foggy morning with visibility less than 20 feet. On the way stopping by for a simple meal of Kachuri & Jalebi ( Cost us Rs 75 for 3 people). We are at Sarnath before 745 AM.

Sarnath is a Village – its green and quiet. No hustle & bustle of Varanasi. This is where the enlightened Gautama gave his 1st sermon to his 5 disciples. There is a main temple built by the royal family of Ceylon at this spot. The place also has a pipal tree similar to the one at Bodh Gaya.

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Right adjacent to this is the Sarnath Stupa – a massive structure of solid bricks and rock with a lot of carving. This was built by Ashoka and this complex was excavate in the early 1900’s and renovated by ASI. Its in excellent shape – large gardens , very calm and quiet , very well maintained. The same complex also had the Ashoka Chakra which is now housed in a. well maintained museum next door.

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Sit down in a. corner and go back 2500 years to visualise the splendour of this place. This is not Mythology this is History.

The Thai’s, Japans, Nepalese, Burmese , Sri Lankan Governments have also built a few beautiful temples in Sarnath and they are worth a visit. Especially the Thai and Japanese ones and the Bajra Vidya temple. The Thai temple has a 180 feet Buddha statue – the tallest in India.

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And the Japanese temple which is made of wood

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Next to the Sarnath Stupa and the main temple is a Digambara Jain temple dedicated to the 11th Jain Tirthankara and thats definitely worth a visit.

You can complete all this and the Museum comfortable by 11AM and head back to the Airport. Most people stay at Varanasi and drive to Sarnath as its so close. We were back in Benares by 12 noon for a rushed lunch at the Taj Vivanta at Cantonment (All the big hotels Taj / Radisson etc are located in the Cantonment area which is a good 7 – 8 kms from the Ghats) and made it to the airport just in time at 115 to catch our 2.15 PM back to Bangalore.

We reached at 2.45 on Saturday  and the return flight was on time – in 47 hrs we had covered a lot of ground and there was a sense of satisfaction – Mission Accomplished. It was great to have my Brother In law for company and I hope we can do more of these in the years to come.

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Other Points to Note 

  • Best time to travel is Nov or Feb / March ( Dec / Jan can be very foggy and cold, and summers can be very hot, during the rains the river swells up massively)
  • At the Kashi Vishwanath temple there is a 630 PM Saptarishi Arti – which is supposedly great – try attending it, we couldn’t
  • We hunted for some classical program, Quawali / Mehfil etc – unfortunately none of that exists. So beyond temple hopping , street food and walking – entertainment options are limited
  •  Its a friendly and warm city and the people are nice – though the dialect is rough and tough. We found the place safe.
  • Trivia – how did the name Varanasi emerge from Kashi & BenaresTraditional etymology links “Varanasi” to the names of two Ganges tributaries forming the city’s borders: Varuna, still flowing in northern Varanasi, and Assi, today a small stream in the southern part of the city, near Assi Ghat. The old city is located on the north shores of the Ganges, bounded by Varuna and Assi.In the Rigveda, an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns, the city is referred to as Kāśī (Kashi) from the Sanskrit verbal root kaś- “to shine”, making Varanasi known as “City of Light”,[6] the “luminous city as an eminent seat of learning”.[7] The name was also used by pilgrims dating from Buddha’s days.

 

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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