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A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 8)

Navratri 999 : 9 Dishes, 9 Colours, 9 Ragas for the 9 days

Did you know that the 9 days of Navratri are associated with 9 different colours?  I am sharing not just the colours of the day but also the Flowers, Food and Raga that are considered auspicious for each of the 9 days.

A Few Good Things wishes you a very happy Navratri & Durga Puja.  

Day 1: Shailaputri

Known as Pratipada, this day is associated to Shailaputri (literally “Daughter of Mountain”), an incarnation of Parvati. It is in this form that the Goddess is worshiped as the consort of Shiva. She is depicted as riding the bull – Nandi, with a trishula in her right hand and lotus in her left. Shailaputri is considered to be the direct incarnation of Mahakali. The color of the day is red, which depicts action and vigor. It is believed that Goddess slayed the demons Madhu and Kaidaba on this day. Jasmine and Vilvam are primarily used to perform the puja. Ven Pongal and Karamani Sundal are considered the perfect offerings for this day. Singing devotional numbers in Thodi raga will please the Goddess

Day 2: Brahmcharini

On Dwitiya, Goddess Brahmcharini, another incarnation of Parvati, is worshiped. In this form, Parvati became Sati, her unmarried self. Brahmcharini is worshiped for emancipation or moksha and endowment of peace and prosperity. Depicted as walking bare feet and holding a japamala and kamandalu in her hands, she symbolizes bliss and calm. The color of the day is Royal Blue which depicts calmness-cum-energy. In South India  the Goddess is worshiped as Kowmaari or Rajarajeswari. Jasmine and Tulsi are used for worship on the second day. Puliyodarai, Puttu and mangoes are usually offered as naivedyam. Raga Kalyani has a special significance today.

Day 3: Chandraghanta

Tritiya commemorates the worship of Chandraghanta – the name derived from the fact that after marrying Shiva, Parvati adorned her forehead with half-chandra (Lit moon). She is the embodiment of beauty and is also symbolic of bravery, and hence, the color of the day is yellow. In South India Goddess is worshiped as Varali Ambigai or Vaaraahi on this day. It’s considered auspicious to draw “Kolam” either in rice flour (rose or lotus designs are recommended) or using flowers. Shenbakam, Champangi and Marikozhunthu are ideal for performing the puja. Sakkarai Pongal and Ellu Podi are offered as naivedyam. Songs in Kaambhodhi raga can be sung today

Day 4: Kushmunda

Goddess Kushmunda is worshiped on Chaturthi. Believed to be the creative power of universe, Kushmunda is associated to the endowment of vegetation on earth and hence, the color of the day is Green. She is depicted as having eight arms and sits on a Tiger. In S India Goddess is worshiped in the form of a Lakshmi. “Padi kolam” in rice flour or rangoli in the shape of steps  is drawn in the houses. The idol of the Goddess is adorned with wild turmeric (Kasthuri Manjal). It’s believed that the fragrance of Jaathi Malli and Rose please the Goddess. Offer either Kadhamba Sadam, Curd Rice, Green Peas and Groundnut Sundal or Lemon Rice as naivedyam. Sing songs in Bhairavi raga in praise of the Goddess.

Day 5: Skandmata

Skandamata, the goddess worshiped on Panchami, is the mother of Skanda (or Kartikeya). The color grey is symbolic of the transforming strength of a mother when her child is confronted with danger. She is depicted riding a ferocious lion, having four arms, and holding her baby.

In S India Goddess is worshiped in the form of Vaishnavi. You can decorate her in the form of Mohini as well.

Pavazha Malii, Paarijaatham and Mullai are considered among the most auspicious ones for the puja today. Offer Ven Pongal,  Payasam and Payir Sundal today.In praise of the Goddess, sing songs, especially the Panchamaavaranai Keerthanai, in raga Panthuvarali.

Day 6: Katyayani

Born to a sage, Katya, she is an incarnation of Durga and is shown to exhibit courage which is symbolized by the color Orange / Red. Known as the warrior goddess, she is considered one of the most violent forms of Goddess Parvati. In this avatar, the Devi rides a lion and has four hands.

In S India Goddess is worshiped in the form of Indraani. Flowers for the puja should be in red — Hibiscus and Kumkum flower are among the most preferred. You can also use Parijatham for the puja.

Offer Coconut Rice or Ellu Sadam today. Neeelambari raga is considered auspicious today.

Day 7: Kalratri

Considered the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga, Kalaratri is revered on Saptmi. It is believed that Parvati removed her fair skin to kill the demons Sumbh and Nisumbh. The color of the day is white. Her skin turns black.

In S India it is  believed that Goddess appears as Annapoorni today. Use Thazhampoo, Thumbai and Jasmine to perform the puja. While Lemon Rice is ideal, you can also offer Vellai Sadam, Kalkandu Sadam or Sarkkarai Pongal today. Chickpeas Sundal can also be considered for naivedyam. The raga for the day is Bilahari.

Day 8: Mahagauri

Mahagauri symbolizes intelligence and peace. The color associated to this day is Pink which depicts optimism.

On this day, the Goddess is worshiped in the form of Narasimhi or Durga in S India. After slaying the demon, Rakthabeejan, she appears as karuna moorthy.

The flowers for puja today include Rose, Sambangi and Magizham. Offer Paal Saadam or Paayasaannam and Appam as naivedyam. It’s considered auspicious to sing songs in Punnagavarali today.

Day 9: Sidhidatri. Color associated for this day is also Pink or any bright colour

On this day, Goddess Durga attained all the Siddhis and also defeated the demons. In TN & Kerala this day is observed as Saraswati Puja. People break their fasts on this day

On this day performing puja using Lotus and Marikozhundu is considered auspicious. You can offer Ellu Sadam, Konda Kadalai Sundal  as naivedyam. It’s considered auspicious to sing songs in Raga Vasantha today.

Vijaya Dasami

Today, Goddess takes the form of Devi Vijaya. While jasmine and rose can be used for the special puja, Sweet Pongal and other sweets can be offered as naivedyam

The other approach to colours 

The second approach believes that the sequence changes every year. How to determine this is based on a simple rule

  • The first Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be having White, Red, Royal blue, Yellow, Green, Grey and Orange. in whichever order they come. 7 days hence 7 colors.
  • The first repeating week day that is in second cycle of week the colors followed are Pink and purple and/or sky blue alternatively. + 2 remaining days +2 colors
  • If you apply this logic for 2018 – the colors are as below

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Day 1 – 10 October 2018 – Royal Blue

First day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Shailaputri on this day and she is dressed in Royal Blue color.

Day 2 – 11 October 2018 –Yellow

Second day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Brahmacharini on this day and she is dressed in Yellow color.

Day 3 – 12 October 2018 – Green

Third day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Chandraghanta on this day and she is dressed in Green color.

Day 4 – 13 October 2018 – Gray

Fourth day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Kushmanda on this day and she is dressed in Gray color.

Day 5 – 14 October 2018 – Orange

Fifth day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Skandamata on this day and she is dressed in Orange color.

Day 6 – 15 October 2018 – White

Sixth day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Katyayini on this day and she is dressed in White color.

Day 7 – 16 October 2018 – Red

Seventh day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Kalaratri on this day and she is dressed in Red color.

Day 8 – 17 October 2018 – Sky Blue

Eighth day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Mahagauri on this day and she is dressed in Sky Blue color.

Day 9 – 18 October 2018 – Pink

Ninth and last day of Navratri. Goddess Durga is worshiped as Siddhidatri on this day and she is dressed in Pink color.

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Kailash Mansarovar Travel Tips

I feel energised visiting ancient Shiva temples. Having visited the Pancha Bhootha Temples and most of the Jyotirlingas I have had a deep desire to visit Kailash Mansarovar. This materialised between July 30th & Aug 14th in 2018 – a great advance 50th Birthday treat for me. A long and challenging trip that was executed to perfection by the Isha Sacred Walks team.

There is something mystical about Kailash that has drawn pilgrims for thousands of years. Many keep coming again and again. I would say this is how a temple should be – spread over 1000’s of km’s across pristine nature, no rituals, no flowers, no aartis, no poojari – just you and the Lord in direct contact. Kailash Mansarovar,

By the Grace of God and the blessings of the Masters the trip worked out magically. Here is a  summary before I delve into the details

  • We travelled via Lhasa (Bangalore – Kathmandu – Lhasa by flight) and then 1500 km bus drive @ 500 km / day from Lhasa to Mansarovar.
  • Lhasa is at 12,500 feet and Mansarovar – Kailash at 16500/17000 feet. For a perspective Simla is 7000 feet and Leh/Ladakah is 12,000 feet.
  • Our journey was across a fortnight spanning 14 different hotel rooms. Wake up at 5 AM, Pack your bags by 5.30 AM, Guru Pooja and Kriya till 7 AM, Breakfast then start the journey at 8.30 AM driving almost 10 hrs every day. Reach the hotel by 7.30 PM – Dinner – Bath – Sleep. It was a blur as the 14 days whizzed by.
  • Temperatures  ranged from – 5 to 10 degrees, cold and wet, and at times the high altitude sun searing down on you. The challenge of altitude sickness, lack of appetite, tiredness – all of this overcome with one singleminded purpose – the goal to visit and experience  Kailash Mansarovar.

map

The journey in Phases 

Phase – 1 : Planning 

I made my bookings in Dec 2017. I had been hunting for a good reliable agency and finally decided that Isha Sacred walks was the best. They have been at this for years and do a professional job with the highest regard for safety and convenience. This year Isha is conducting passage for 21 groups with ~ 70 people in each group. Thats a total of ~ 1500 Yatris which contributes to almost 15% of all who will visit Kailash Mansarovar. The pre travel communications for packing / medicines / fitness were crisp and efficient.

Phase – 2 : Arrival at Kathmandu  (Day – 1) 

Our assembly point was at Kathmandu. I reached a day early to visit the city and the famous Pashiupathinath Temple (The package covers this on the return leg). Kathmandu looks like a bombed city – dusty, potholed roads, congested, chaotic. We stayed at The Yak & Yeti in central Kathmandu a nice 5 star property. We completed our debrief, tied the Abhaysutra’s, collected our kits (Isha gives you a Duffel bag, back pack, sling bag and a Down jacket on returnable basis), converted currency to Yuan. We were strictly informed to remove all books / T Shirts that had any connotation of “Free Tibet” and travel as Yatris and not activists. One wrong message can put the whole group in jeopardy. Next morning we started with Guru Puja and Kriyas (Something we did every day) and then headed to the airport for the flight to Lhasa with our coordinators.

Phase – 3 : Acclimatisation at Lhasa (Day – 2/3)

The flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa is less than 90 minutes. Clearing immigration was a hassle – the Chinese are not very friendly and it took us over an hour to complete the process. Lhasa at 12500 feet is a modern city, well maintained with the hallmark Chinese infrastructure of broad roads and nice footpaths. We stayed at the Lhasa Mansarovar hotel – a nice spacious property with good facilities. Breakfast was the regular hotel buffet but lunch and dinner were Indian meals cooked specially for us. That was one of the highlights of the trip – we had fresh piping hot Indian food all through the trip.  Mansarovar hotel

The weather in Lhasa was bright and sunny and we had time to visit the ancient Jokhan Temple, The Potala Palace and The Summer Palace. Tibetans are happy friendly people, and they always oblige to take photos. But they seem to be a minority amidst the Chinese population.

The city was disciplined, organised and clean. We spent more time at Lhasa on our return leg and had dinner at a beautiful place, so more about it then.

 

Phase – 4 : Bus Trip from Lhasa to Mansarovar (Day – 4/5/6)

From Lhasa our journey shifted to buses for the next 9 days. Lhasa to Mansarovar is almost 1500 Km and we covered ~ 500 Km / day. Our first stop was at Shigatse, the 2nd largest town of Tibet at 12,500 feet. And this was the shortest drive of the trip for 6 hrs. From Shigatse we drove to Saga and reached a altitude of over 16,000 feet. This was a long day with over 10 hrs of driving. And then from Saga to Mansarovar.

Family trip

As we travelled from Lhasa the quality of the hotels started deteriorating. However, till Saga we had rooms with hot water and bathrooms.

We were lucky to get Indian food all through. Even lunch was packed. Breakfast was Khichdi, Upma, Cereal, Fruits, Milk, Tea, Coffee and lunch was Rice, Dal, Sabji, Rajma, Canned Sweets, Bhujia, Apple etc.

The landscape changes after Lhasa. Tibet is the worlds highest plateau. It’s a cold desert. All you see is undulating plains of grasslands with Yaks and Sheep and hardy nomads. There are no trees.

After reaching Shigaste (12500 feet), I fell sick. A combination of AMS and GERD hit me. I lost my appetite and felt feverish and weak. I rarely fall sick and was a little underprepared with my medicine kit. The YAK Butter, Milk Powder and Puri with Rajma for lunch must have caused the problem in this high altitude zone. Luckily we had doctors travelling with us in the bus and stationed at the hotels. They were checking everyone twice a day and thanks to their support I recovered in a few days.

(Doc in Green T Shirt was a fellow Yatri who was doing Gods own service by treating and helping us. I owe it to him for getting back in shape)Kailash Mansarovar,

On this trip it is best to avoid greasy food. I had carried a lot of “Groundnut Chikki” which I gave away. Figs, dates, biscuits, ginger balls, chocolates , energy bars etc are good to have. The family of Yatris helped me out with medicines and useful supplies all through. It’s amazing how people who you have never never met before come together as a family to help you in your time of need.

If you suffer from GERD or acidity, stick to a light diet. We got bananas and apples every day – so you can stock up on that. Falling sick has nothing to do with age. Our group of 75 had people from 26 – 66 and many of the people in their mid 50’s were the fittest of the lot.

Kathmandu

Diamox to prevent altitude sickness is a must have twice a day. It is recommended to start it 5 days before you leave for Kathmandu. With Diamox you drink a lot of water so that means frequent restroom breaks. Which is a challenge. There are no decent loos on the highway so your breaks are always in the open.  Diamox kept me waking up every hr at night all through the trip adding to the tiredness. At these altitudes its difficult to get a restful 5 hr sleep at night. And I am a super sensitive light sleeper.

Phase – 5 : We reach Mansarovar on Day 6

After 3 days of long drives we finally reached Mansarovar. We stayed at a camp right across the lake. Our camp was a Pucca brick structure room with no attached bath. For the next 4 days we would have to manage with no bathrooms, which was a challenge. The toilets were sink pits inside small tents and with no air circulation, it can be smelly. You have the option of using open air starry sky toilets also – which was a better option. At 4 AM, pitch dark, no power, armed with a torch on your head like a coal miner, wet wipes, toilet paper roll, a rain coat, layers of warm clothing you hunt for a nice starry corner. (Suggestion if you are using the tent loos carry some Camphor with you – the smell of Camphor minimises the stink)

Mansarovar lake

Mansarovar is a large lake. It is mystical and has a close linkage with Kailash. We could see the South Face of Kailash from our camp. Many have seen lights and divine bodies taking a dip at the lake during the Brahma Muhurtam  – we also woke up at 2.30 AM and spent some time but were not lucky to witness any celestial beings.

The next morning we did our meditation and prayers by the lake. It is a serene experience and as you sit quietly you can’t but help choke and feel the tears running down your eyes.travel tipsMany brave souls took a bath in the chill cold water. The authorities don’t allow you to take a dip – so the sherpas get water in drums. Recovering from fever, I splashed water all over my body and it was very refreshing.

Phase – 6 : The final Trek to Kailash – day 7 /8

After breakfast we had a short 1 hr ride to Yam Dwar and started our trek. Many people do the full 72 Km Parikrama that takes 3 days. We did a total of 32 Km (16 Km up and down). Starting from Yam Dwar and walking along the Western face till we reached the Northern face of Kailas where we camped for 2 nights.  We had views of the Southern Face, Western Face and the Northern face.

travel tips

You have an option of taking a pony. Most people walk. Its a easy trek. Broad path, scenic views, fresh air. You can do it comfortably in 4 – 6 hrs.  Good to have a porter as at this altitude even a few 100 grams can tire you out. The porters cost 850 Yuan for the round trip and the Pony costs 2200 Yuan. There are a few stopover points for tea and snacks to catch you breath and warm your hands.

travel tips

I was all set to walk but after 3 days of fever the doctor insisted I take a pony. Isha paid for the pony – which was a wonderful gesture, 2200 Yuan is almost Rs 24,000. The horses are young, wild and very sensitive. We were in a group of 4 horses and the Yatri on the 1st horse opened his umbrella, which got his horse troubled. In the neighing and confusion, my pony suddenly started running and knocked me down. For a few minutes I was in a state of shock, wondering if I had broken bones. Fortunately by the grace of God all was well, the thick jacket had saved me and all I had was a few bruises. In this panick moment I saw the horse man remove my RADO watch – but was in no state to stop him. With little oxygen, your memory loss is high and I forgot the incident. After the fall, I refused to sit on the pony and trekked the remaining way to Kailash and back. It was only late in the evening after I reached Kailash that I realised that my watch was missing. By sheer luck the organisers managed to get it back. Miracles do happen in Kailash.

Kailash Mansarovar,

Kailash is the source of enormous energy. The mountain looks different from others in its vicinity. Its majestic and towering. It draws sadhaks from across religions – Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Tibetans. Many come and spend years drawing energy and knowledge. The 1st Jain Tirthankara Rishaba spent over 7 years, Milarepa the buddhist monk spent many years. Sages, wise men, monks, students are all drawn to the power of Kailash. Some say it was made by extra terrestrials, others say it is the centre of the universe, and the global HQ of energy and power which the puny human mind cannot comprehend. Many holy rivers originate from here. You go to Kailash to dissolve. Not to ask, but to merge and take back a spark of that energy with you. You are lucky if you can connect and get that spark embedded in you.

After you reach Kailash you sit quietly trying to absorb this infinite power. You thank the Gods and the divine masters for a safe journey. And you can sense a catharsis within you as the tears swell up and flow silently. We spent 2 nights at Kailash – I wish we could have spent more. I did get a view of the full mountain, but it was cloudy most of the time. We did not have blue skies and at night could not see the stars. Old timers say that later part of Aug the weather gets clearer.

Our stay at Kailash was also in pucca camps similar to Mansarovar. The toilets were better as they were not tents. they were better designed with open roofs. It snowed at night making it very cold. The rooms were comfortable and the piping hot food was a treat. People started reaching Kailash by 4.30 PM and the last set by 7.30 PM. The sun sets only by 9 PM. Tibet is set to Beijing time so its 2 hrs 30 min ahead of India.

Next morning after breakfast we did our group meditation in front of Kailash and visited the Milarepa Monastery close by. The brave Sherpas went close to the mountain glaciers and collected “Kailash Teertha” for us. Fresh with minerals and the energy of Lord Shiva – one drop is all you need to energise yourself.

Kailash Mansarovar,

Phase – 7 : The Trek Back – Day 9

You dont feel like coming back from Kailash but after 2 nights we had to head back. The return walk is easier. This section is not steep and we touched a max of 17,000 feet. There are however parts of the 72 km Parikrama that are steep and a tough trek with altitude touching 18,000 feet. Many buddhist devotees do the entire Parikrama by prostrating. That takes nearly 45 days to complete. Yak land

Our luggage came by Yak’s. This is Yak land – they are strong wild beasts and the local population survives on everything YAK. From Meat, Wool, Milk, Leather – life in Tibet is tough and would not be possible without the Yaks.

Tibetans are tough people and with all the challenges they are a smiling lot. They may be Buddhists but their religion is steeped in tradition and rites and has a lot of Tantric aspects of Hinduism. They say that when the invaders came the Tantric knowledge of Hinduism was smuggled to Kashmir, Tibet, Nepal & Assam as it was safest here in the remote Himalayas. Somehow from here it managed to find its way to Kerala also.

Kailash Mansarovar,

After 4 days of no bath we finally reached Darchen – to a nice hotel with a bathroom and hot water. What luxuries. A nice warm bath, lovely hot food, contentment, a sense of accomplishment and happiness gave way to a relaxed nights sleep.

Phase – 8 : Back to Lhasa

Over the next 3 days we drove back the long 1500 Km back to Lhasa Via Saga & Shigatse. Most of the drive was along the Brahmaputra that was in spate and we had a few long stop overs were the bridges were broken or landslides had blocked the roads. Small incidents nothing serious. We were lucky.

After reaching Lhasa we  ventured out for dinner to a lovely places called The Tibetan Family Kitchen. Nobody knows a word of english in Lhasa – locating the place was a challenge. After a few misses I was lucky to find a young English speaking couple who escorted me to the restaurant. There are good helpful people everywhere.

Tibetan

The service and food at the restaurant was outstanding. We ordered almost every veg dish (Their speciality was Yak Meat) and enjoyed the meal. The group of 75 was split across 4 buses – we were in Bus 4 and over the last 12 days had built a good camaraderie with the group. Far far away in Lhasa, it was fun dining with a few good people.  The lady who runs the restaurant was the perfect host. She booked us cabs and got us back safely to our hotel. Kailash Mansarovar,

Phase – 9 : Back to Kathmandu

On the 13th of Aug we headed back to Kathmandu. And the jinx of 13th played up for a bit. Our flight almost landed at Kathmandu and then had to turn back to Lhasa as the weather was bad. A short stopover for refuelling and we were headed back to Kathmandu reaching in time for a late lunch at 2.30. the 2 1/2 hr time lag was a blessing.

That evening we had a Satsang with Sadhguru at the Gokarna hotel. Its rare to meet Sadhguru in a small group of 150 people. We were lucky. We were the 1st batch, A1, and there was a batch heading to Kailash the next day. The Satsang was for both groups. Sadhguru was in full flow and enthralled us for almost 2 hrs in an interactive session.

Phase – 9 : Back to Bangalore

Aug 14th we headed back to Bangalore. We had left on July 30th. It was day 16. We had covered a lot and had accumulated memories for a lifetime. We had survived on an adrenalin rush till now and as I sunk into the  Jet Airways seats, I was overcome by exhaustion. It’s going to take a few days to recover. Something tells me that this is not the last trip – I will head back again to Kailash again in the near future. And as I sign off a special thanks to our team lead from Isha, the young Pooja from the ashram, who did a stellar job with her band of volunteers in managing and coordinating this trip so well. A big thanks to the volunteers, sherpas, cooks, all the support staff who make this trip possible and the friendly helpful fellow yatris who were like family forging new bonds.

Kailash Mansarovar,

Other Tips 

  • Travel light. Dont pack too many woollens, reuse. Ensure 3 sets of Thermals, Undergarments change every day, Socks for every 2 days. Dress in layers.
  • Carry healthy food – Dates/Figs/Biscuits/Chocolates/Energy Bars/Gur/ Something salty – helps to munch something in the long bus rides.
  • Carry 2 – 3 pairs of Gloves, Caps, Mufflers – they tend to get misplaced. A good raincoat is a must. Wear ziplocks over your your socks so that they dont get wet as you trek.
  • Pack all your clothes in Ziplocks / Plastic covers. Use number locks for duffel bags.
  • Carry a flask for hot water and a regular water bottle.
  • A head torch can be very useful
  • Medicines I ended up having – Dymox, Domistal, Omniprosol, Allegra, Azithrol, Dexam, B Complex. (Carry the list that Isha subscribe – http://www.sacredwalks.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/First-Aid-Kit.pdf
  • Packing suggestions : http://www.sacredwalks.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/E-Brochures/Kailash-Packing-Suggestions.pdf
  • There is network connectivity available in almost all the places including Kailash & Mansarovar. Battery pack is needed only at Kailash & Mansarovar.
  • Hotels in China have Wi Fi – but FB/ WhatsApp / Google are banned – activate Airtel Roaming pack before you travel.
  • How much does this cost? Ex Kathmandu 2.85 Lacs. Flight to Kathmandu, 1 extra night stay, Porter, Misc etc add 30 K – so thats a total of 3.15 Lacs for the trip/person.

A few more Views from the trip

 Mythily with the bus drivers friend 
Kailash Mansarovar,

A Tibetian lady selling flowers at the Jokhan temple Kailash Mansarovar,

Meghna & Vikramjit Travel tips

Playing TT at the park at Shigatse Playing TT at the park at Shigatse

Afternoon view of KailashKailash Mansarovar

A performer / model near the Potala Palace Kailash Mansarovar

Community dance at Park at ShigatseCommunity dance at Park at Shigatse

Locals we met Enroute
Kailash Mansarovar

Mustard fields on the road to Saga Kailash Mansarovar

Room at Lhasa

Day Trip 19 – Rangasthala, An ancient Vishnu temple at Chikkaballapur near Bangalore

An ancient Vishnu temple that was built by the Cholas and later developed by the Vijayanagara empire, Rangasthala in Tippanahalli village, Chikkaballapur around 70 Km from Bangalore is a well kept secret. (Locals claim that the temple is over a 1000 years old and the main shrine was installed by the Sapta Rishis in the Treta Yuga)

Surrounded by misty hills and green fields lies this beautiful temple of lord Vishnu. The idol of Ranganatha is 4.5 feet in length with Bhoo Devi and Neela Devi at His feet. Lord is in Yoga Nidra and his Shesha (Lord Vishnus Snake) is spreading his hood like an umbrella. The idol is beautifully sculpted out of Black Saligrama stone and it is believed that the sanctum sanctorum was installed by the Sapta Rishis. Locals state that if devotees visit this temple after  Adi Ranga in Srirangapatna, Madhya Ranga in Shimsha and Anta Ranga in Srirangam, they achieve liberation or moksha. Hence the Lord is known as Moksha Ranganatha.

We were lucky to witness the elaborate “Abhishekam” of the Lord in Milk, Curd, Sandal etc with the divine chanting of mantras. A rare sight and the priests had no objections to photography and video. And guess what – we were the only people in the temple seated right next to the sanctum sanctorum.

On the wall there are sculptures of Saptarishis, Brahma, Rambha, Urvashi etc. It feels like the Lord is in Vaikunta and he is surrounded by all the gods who are prostrating in front of him.

The temple is serene and peaceful and its a joy to sit quietly and soak in the energy and vibrations exuding from its premises. On a weekday its empty.

The architecture of the temple is very “Chola” with the intricately sculptured pillars that support the temple. It is very well maintained and clean.

Adjacent to the temple is a large step well. That is currently not operational. But one can visualise how beautiful it would have been when it was brimming with water.

We left temple at 11.15 AM and reached our lunch place at Race Course Road –  South Ruchis Square exactly at 1 PM.  This is a newly opened pure veg restaurant that serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. I would call this Bangalore’s nicest fine dining S Indian restaurant. Nice interiors, good service and most importantly the food was sumptuous. You have a choice of a regular S Indian Thali or Millet Thali. Lots and lots of varieties in the Thali. And guess what, its priced at a very affordable Rs 180/-. This was the second great find of the day.

Other useful points

  • Drive Time from Koramangla Via Devanahalli Airport ~ 2 Hrs. Breakfast stop – Udupi Swaada. Nice place with clean bathrooms. Lots of restaurants on this stretch. We left Koramangla at 7.30 AM and reached our breakfast halt (10 Km after the airport) at 8.45 AM and after a leisurely tasty breakfast were at the temple at 9.45 AM. The last 15 Km are thru the town of Chikkaballapur, roads are good – last 1 Km is mud road. Google maps gets you to the temple correctly.
  • Budget 60 – 90 Minutes at the temple.
  • On the way back if you have time you can stop at the Devanahalli fort where Tipu Sultan was born. You can see it as your drive on the highway. Inside the fort there is another Vishnu temple. We had a 3.30 PM return deadline so could not cover this.
  • A Shirdi Sai Baba temple on the main road between Chickballapur and Devanahalli is also worth visiting
  • Back home at Koramangla 2.15 PM.

A beautiful documentary on this temple by Hackberry that I found on YouTube


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Explore Bangalore – 21 Curated Day Trips

There is more to Bangalore than Lalbagh, Cubbon Park, Vidhan Soudha and MTR. We have visited over 50 interesting places across 21 day trips in and around Bangalore. Almost all these trips are 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM day trips. Ancient temples 1000’s of years old, beautiful serene ashrams, Treks – Easy and not so easy, traditional restaurants, unique resorts …. and a lot many more of Good Places.

So form your groups of a Few Good People and explore Bangalore like never before by following these 21 curated day trips.  Every trip is documented after personal travel – which is what makes it authentic.

21 curated day trips

  • Trips 1,2,& 3  : Pyramid Valley, Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple, Basavangudi temples 
    • Trip – 1 : Pyramid Valley – Kanakpura Road
    • Trip – 2 : Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple , School of Ancient Wisdom (Near the Devanahalli Airport)
    • Trip – 3 : Basavangudi the heart of Bangalore.  Brahmins Cafe – Ramkrishna Ashram – Gave Gangadeshwar Cave Temple –  hanuman Temple on a Hill – Jain temple

Jain temple

Bangalore Trips

Temples of Malleswaram

  • Trip 9 : Kolar & Avani 
    • Kolar & Avani – Ancient Kolaramama Temple – Shiva Temple from Chola era, Ancient Ramalingeshwara temples at Avani

Kolaramama Temple

  • Trip 10 : Devrayani Durga
    • Fascinating Green hill temple of Devrayani Durga – Siddha Garden – Nammade Chilumme ( Place where Rama supposedly shot an arrow in the ground for water to put his Nama)

Green hill temple of Devrayani Durga - Siddha Garden

  • Trip 11 : Baevu Village 
    • Baevu Village – A lovely nature resort with thousands of Neem trees surrounded by Hills – Off Kanakpura Road

Baevu Villagewith neem trees

Trips to the edge of Mysore

  • Trip 13 : Antarganga trek 
    • Antargana Trek – A hillock near Kolar with fascinating dark caves that need you to be adventurous and flexible to explore

Antargana Trek - dark caves

  • Trip 14 : Bangalore Palaces & Forts 
    • MTR – Bull temple – Bugle Rock park – Tipu Summer palace – Bangalore Fort – KR Market – Bangalore Palace – Esplanade

Bangalore Palace and Forts

  • Trip 16 : Mandargiri 
    • Mandargiri – On Tumkur Road near Hoskote visit an ancient Jain temple complex on the top of a monolithic hill

Mandargiri ancient Jain temple

Sushil Dham Jain Temple

  • Trip 18 : Trek to Madhugiri 
    • Near Tumkur – Head on the Tumkur Road till Dobaspet and then drive past Devrayani Durga to reach Madhugiri.
    • A steep Monolithic hill supposedly Asias 2nd tallest at 3930 feet. A tough and challenging trek – not for the weak hearted

Trek to Madhugiri

  • Trip 19 : Rangasthala – An Ancient Vishnu temple at Chickballapur  
    • Visit an ancient Vishnu temple Rangasthala – over 1000 years old
    • Devanahalli fort of Haider Ali and the birth place of Tipu
    • Venugopalaswami temple
    • Lunch @ South Ruchi’s Square
  • Trip 20 : Channapatna (Planned)
    • Malur Krishna – An ancient Chola temple built by Rajendra Simha Chola on the banks of the river Kanva
    • Aprameya Temple – A unique ancient temple of crawling baby Krishna. The great Vaishnavite sage Ramanujacharya is said to have worshipped the lord at this temple.
    • Kokrebellur – a Town full of painted storks and many more migratory birds (25 Km from Channapatna)
  • Trip 21 : Vasanata Vallabharya Swami temple
    • Breakfast at CTR
    • A serene and beautiful 1000 + year old temple built by the Cholas at Vasanthapura layout
    • The Sanctum sanctorum is very old – idol was supposedly installed by Mandavya Rishi

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Trek to Madhugiri

A challenging and interesting trek – Madhugiri is a magnificent monolithic hill near Tumkur. Its not a long trek – but a steep one on rocky inclines with limited to no grips.

Located near Tumkur –  it is about 15 km ahead of Devrayani Durge. Look out for a signage for Devarayanadurga/Madhugiri and turn right  under Dobaspet overbridge and drive 100M on a one way or go a little further and take a U turn. The drive is scenic with lots of greenery, hillocks and lakes.  Enjoy the refreshingly fresh rural ambience. We left Koramangla at 7.30 and after breakfast at Shree Rathnam (You have many options on this route) we reached the parking lot at the foothills of this monolithic hill by 9.30 AM. And the first impression was  – Challenging and daunting.

Route – Google Map of the circuit

Madhugiri at  3930 feet is supposedly the 2nd tallest monolithic hill in Asia. The hill is home to a dilapidated fort supposedly built by Hyder Ali. A series of doorways leads to the hill. The ruined temple of Gopalakrishna is located at the top. It took us slightly over an hour to reach the summit. The steep slopes of the hill and exploration of the fort is slow due to steepness pf the hill. Descent is quicker.

There is one specific stretch that is very tricky and requires guts. You are on all fours as you inch forward with the wind blowing like a gale. Its almost a ten minute section but with every step you can feel your heart pounding. Even the bravest in our group had second thoughts about this section – but we all finally managed to cover it.

The Hill is steep and all rock – limited foothold. Yes the initial sections have regular stairs and and rock-cut steps. But after the halfway mark its just steep rocky ascent.  Be careful while climbing. Don’t be adventurous. This is a dangerous trek. Thats probably the reason why we hardly saw any crowds. Please dont risk with children.

There are no shops and stalls on the way so do carry water and some snacks to munch once you reach the top. Fortunately there were no monkeys either. Do get a shoe with a good grip. And have a hat – its pleasant but sunny.

The view from the summit is beautiful.

We spent 30 min at the summit and were back to the car park by 12 Noon. there are no good restaurants in the vicinity so we headed back to Bangalore taking a round route via Sira so that we could visit the Narasimhaswami  Temple at Seebi. This is a beautiful ancient temple but unfortunately it was closed. The Temple tank outside the temple is well maintained and clean.

Madhugiri

On the way back we stopped for lunch at Kamath and reached home by 3.30 PM.

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Bangalore’s Birla Temple – 1/2 Day trip on Hosur Road

Birla Temples are a must see tourist attraction in many cities of India. Bangalore doesn’t have a Birla temple – but we discovered a Jain temple on Hosur Road that was a lot nicer than many of the Birla temples we have visited.

Most of our trips had been in and around Devanahalli, Tumkur, Kolar  and of course Bangalore city. For the first time we decided to explore Hosur Road. I have frequented that road multiple times on road trips to Chennai, Salem, Coimbatore – but never stopped by to look at any of the sites. Hosur Road and Krishnagiri has a lot to discover.

Our 1st stop was an absolute stunner – a lovely Jain temple located 5 Km from Electronic City on Hosur Road, dedicated to the 23rd Jain Tirthankara – Parsavnath. The temple complex is so beautiful it felt better than a Birla temple. Intricate carvings in sparkling white marble – well manicured lawns, lots of greenery. The complex also has a nice museum. A very serene and calm ambience. Indeed an oasis in Bangalore.

Bangalore’s Birla Temple

The temple complex called Sushil Dham was built by the Surana Family who own Micro labs. The complex also has rooms for Monks & Yatris and a Bhojanalaya that serves authentic delicious Jain food for breakfast, lunch and dinner at very reasonable price (If I recollect breakfast was Rs 35 and lunch was Rs 75). the complex also has a small but nice museum.

Temple lunch Service

A shot walk ahead from this temple on the same Road the Surana family has built another smaller temple dedicated to the Goddess. Don’t miss this – built in red sandstone – this one also has intricate carvings.

Temple In Bangalore

Our second stop was in Hosur town – the ancient hilltop Shiva Temple called the Chandra Choodeshwar temple. The current structure of the temple dates back to 1260 AD and the temple was maintained by the Cholas, Hoysala and the Vijayanagara kingdoms. The sanctum sanctorum is believed to be very ancient as this temple legend is talked about in the Brahmananda Purana. This is a large temple on the top of a hill ( car can drive up) – and has the feel and energy of the ancient temples of Tamil Nadu (Incidentally we were in TN as we were in Hosur). Large granite structure, low ceiling, bells chiming , inner Parikrama , outer Parikrama , a small alley leading to the Sanctum Sanctorum etc.

Old look of the Jain Temple

Photo of the temple from 1860 

It was a coincidence that we visited the temple on “Pradosham” considered a very auspicious day for Lord Shiva. Fortunately it being morning the temple was not crowded. The Goddess in this temple is Margathambal.  Temples in Bangalore

We completed our visit by 11 AM and on the way back stopped by at A2B for a cup of Filter Coffee. The complex also houses a large retail outlet of the famous silk saree shop Chennai Silks.

We were back home by 12.30 in time for lunch.

This was our first foray to Hosur Road – but there is a lot to discover on that route right upto Krishnagiri and we will be back here soon to explore more.

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Palaces, Forts, KR Market and more – A unique Bangalore day Trip

Most people wonder what to do in Bangalore over a long weekend and the  roads to Coorg, Chickamagalur and Ooty are jammed. But Bangalore has a lot to see – we have done over 15 day trips and we keep discovering new interesting places.

This time we did a Fusion trip and accomplished a fun day between 7.30 AM – 3.30 PM covering a lot of ground

  • Breakfast at the iconic MTR
  • A visit to the Bull temple at Basavangudi
  • A walk in the Bugle Rock park watching colonies of Bats
  • A quick dash to the small but well maintained Tipu Summer Palace and the Bangalore Fort
  • The famous KR Market
  • The beautiful and vast Bangalore Palace
  • Lunch at Esplanade – a lovely Bengali restaurant at Indiranagar

Breakfast at MTR is always a treat and on weekdays it is not crowded. Yes the food is rich and since we were a group of 10 we got our own private dining space with excellent service. Hours of operation: 6:30 am – 11:00 am & 12:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Closed on Mondays

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms

MTR to the Bull temple at Basvangudi is a short ride. The main temple is a few steps climb – but they have a large Ganesha temple and an assortment of other temples in the complex. Right next to the temple is the Bugle Rock park ( You can reach there from the temple main sanctum area) a lovely green space with nice clean pathways. There is a small tower like lookout place atop a rocky section and from there when you look up you see thousands of bats hanging from the trees.

Bull temple at Basvangudi

We left from here by 10 AM and in a few minutes reached Tipu’s Summer Palace. Its a small but well maintained structure with a lovely green garden. Located adjacent to the Kote Venkatramana temple – it was at one time part of the Bangalore fort complex. The building dates back to 1791 and is made of Teak adorned with pillars, arches and balconies. One may feel that it is frugal to be called a palace – it hardly has any rooms, but for a king like Tipu who was always fighting wars it may have indeed been a palace.

Tipu's Summer Palace

A few minutes drive from here is the Bangalore Fort. Not much of it is left – but at one time the whole area including the Palace was part of the Fort complex. The Bangalore Fort was constructed in 1537 as a mud fort by Kempe Gowda (The founder of Bangalore) and later fortified as a  robust strong stone structure by Haider Ali in 1761. The fort was breached by the British in the 3rd Mysore war in 1790 – 92.

Kempe Gowda Fort

The Fort is located next to the Victoria hospital and a short drive from here brought us to our next stop – the famous KR Market. Having lived in Bangalore since 1996 – I had never visited the place. It was a pleasant surprise to see that it was well maintained and very clean – considering that it is the largest wholesale market for vegetables in Bangalore. The area outside the market you have villagers selling greens and some vegetables  – mountains of fresh “dhaniya” some of it crushed under the legs and wheels of trolleys gave a very appetising smell. And being sold for a fraction of the price that the supermarkets charge.

Krishna Rajandra Market

Once you enter the main complex, the big large iconic building there is a semblance of order in the courtyard and finally in the innermost section you see aisle after aisle stacked with vegetables, fruits and flowers. Fresh and very very cheap. They also have some shops selling traditional pots and pans, paper bags etc. You must do this trip with friends and family – it is indeed very enjoyable. Parking is a problem – but we had a driver. There is a Metro station close by – so thats an easy option.

Loaded with veggies we reached our cars and headed for the last destination – Bangalore Palace. This one was built by the Wodeyars in the later part of the 1800’s. Its built in Tudor style architecture with fortified towers and Turrets . Its a large building  of over 45,000  sft spread across 454 acres. Just to get an idea of Inflation – this imposing structure was bought by the British from the Wodeyars for Rs 40,000 in 1873.

Bangalore Places

We received a red carpet treatment as the palace was getting ready to host a wedding (yes you can rent it). The entry fees are expensive – it is owned and privately maintained by the Wodeyar family, and they take only cash. The palace is now a museum.

Having covered a lot – we were famished and were running late to meet our deadline of being home by 3.30. We landed at Esplanade – an authentic Bengali restaurant at Indranagar (Double Road – CMH Road junction). the food here is outstanding and the service is fast. Between the Mochar Chops and Baingan Bhajas, Dum Aloo, Luchi, Dal, Mishti and a lot more – we just ordered too much food. But we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We left at 3 PM and were back home by 3.20 – just in time to welcome the children coming back from school at 3.30

This is a fun Fusion trip – so easy to execute, try it with your friends and family

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Day trip to Baevu – The Village (Nature Retreat near Bangalore)

A few years back I had discovered Shreyas – a lovely nature / Yoga retreat at Neelmangala and called it Bangalore’s best kept secret. I now discovered another gem ” Baevu Village” on Kanakpura Road – 2 hrs drive from Bangalore.

Day trip to Baevu

“Baevu” in Kannada means Neem Tree and this 30 acre property has over 1000 Neem Trees. Its a green eco spot with over 800 Mango Trees and a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, paddy & ragi grown in an organic farm. Set in a scenic landscape surrounded by hills and forests its an oasis of greenery and tranquility.

Fram Stay in Banglore

I have stayed at Baevu for a weekend before – but this time we planned a Day Trip. This includes Breakfast , Lunch and tea , usage of pool and the freedom to explore the full resort and even indulge in a short trek if time permits.

We departed Koramangla as usual at 7.30 and took the Hosur Road – Nice Road to Kanakpura. After reaching Kanakpura Road – Baevu village is an hr away – after you cross Kanakpura town you need to take a right ( Google Maps will get you there) – th exact location is somewhere between Kanakpura & Ramnagara – Roads are good – last few Km’s is mud road.

We reached by 9.45 – and were treated to a delicious spread of authentic S India breakfast. Having feasted we explored the place between 10.30 and 12.30. We did not have time for the treks since we had to leave by 1.30 to reach home at 3.30. But if you don’t have a deadline you can relax at the rest till 4.30 – 5 PM – have tea and then leave.

Baevu is partly Resort – partly farm. They cross millets , vegetables , have their own cows and you can enjoy a bullock cart ride

Family Resort Bangalore

Or just walk past the scenic vegetable gardens

Eco Resort Bangalore

Take a look at the authentic rooms built like a traditional village house with a nice sit out.

Family Resort near Mangalore

Or just chill by the crystal clean azure blue pool

Banglore offbeat location

The lunch was also a treat – again authentic S Indian ( Veg & Non Veg) – overall a great way to spend a day in a nature retreat – and I am sure all those who did this trip will soon come back with family to spend a weekend.

Farm Stay near Bangalore

Other Information

  • Contact Details – Divya Kare – + 91 94482 86415
  • Website – http://www.avanileisure.com/baevu-home.php
  • Google Maps will locate the place – roads are excellent – budget 2 hr drive from Koramangla

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A week in fascinating Jordan

How is Jordan different from other countries in the Middle East ?

  • It has no OIL
  • A liberal modern country with no dress regulations. That is credit to the royal family.
  • Diverse landscape – from the depths of the Dead Sea to the highlands of Petra & Amman where it snows in winter. The country is blessed with lovely mediterranenan climate

We had a perfect one week holiday. My first experience with a travel company Byond Travel – and they scored 10/10. Jordan has lots to see. We covered 1500 Kms in 6 days with 4 hops across the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum & the capital Amman. A small group of 9, a dedicated bus to us and a wonderful guide all added up to make this a memorable trip. Jordan is waiting to be explored – we had nice weather (In May) , almost no Q’s (thanks to Ramadan) – and we covered a lot – thanks to the wonderful planning of Byond Travel. When you travel with a good agency it takes a lot of your head – my earlier self planned family holidays were a project , this one was relaxed. I just followed the guide. Since all payments were made in advance we hardly had any expenses right thru the week – barring our lunch bills and  stuff we bought to carry back home.

travel company byond travel

Detailed Notes 

Day – 1 

There are no direct flights to Jordan from India and we took Etihad from Bangalore to Amman Via Abu Dhabi. An early morning flight on Sat at 4.30 AM from Bangalore got us to Amman by 12 noon with a 3 hr stop over at Abu Dhabi. Etihad is good – better than Emirates and you get Jet Airways miles. Leg space is comfortable, food is decent. At Amman we were received at the gate and whisked past immigration (Jordan has Visa on arrival) and in less than 30 minutes after landing we were in the bus with our luggage headed to the Dead Sea – Holiday Inn Resort. A nice property located on the Dead Sea. A 1 hr drive – past barren land and olive trees ( Jordan is full of olive trees) we reached the lowest elevation on earth – 1400 feet blow MSL . It was warm but bearable. The Dead Sea is shrinking and the locals say it may not last beyond 2050. The salinity of water is almost 10X that of the normal sea so you float. And there is no life on the Dead Sea.

dead sea

The Holiday Inn resort is one of the many resorts on the Dead Sea – and many come here for the curative power of the water and the Dead Sea salts. After a few hrs at the beach we had a lovely dinner and hit the bed. A long day that started at 2 AM on Sat morning finally ending. Note that Jordan has a 2 1/2 hr lag with India – so when we slept at 9 PM it was 11.30 PM India time.

Day – 2

A 1 night stop at Dead Sea the next day morning we headed out to Petra and on the way stopped by a few interesting sights

Close to the resort was the Bethany church where Jesus was baptised by John the baptist. Thats a famous biblical location and borders Israel. All thru the tour we were almost touching the Israel border and at the Bethany church we could see Israel across the Jordan river a few feet away.

petra

From Bethany we visited Mount Nebo – a famous place from where Moses is said to have pointed towards the promised land before he passed away. We travelled Via Madaba visiting one more church famous for its mosaic paintings and reached the historic city of Petra by 4 PM.

Petra is an iconic city almost 2000 years old – its a city of sandstone mountains. We stayed at a lovely property The Old Village Resort at Wadi Musa for 2 nights. Nice rooms , good food. old village resort petra

Day – 3

After a sumptuous breakfast we left at 8 AM to Petra. The visitors centre was a few km from our property and we started the trek thru the maze of mountains by 8.30 AM. There is a lot of walking. 2 Km to the Khazana , 2 Km to the base point of the Monastery and then a trek of over 1000 steps to the top of the Monastery – all in all about 6 Km each way. It was hot – but the history and the stories of the Nabateans the rulers of Petra kept us motivated.

maze of mountains

We were back in the hotel by 3 PM and most of the team went back at 8 PM to see candle lit Petra by night. To my consolation they came back and said that I did not miss anything great.

A lot of walking had tired us out – and the next day was relaxed

Day – 4

We woke late, had a relaxed breakfast and left by 12 noon to Wadi Rum. A 800 sq km desert with craggy sandstone mountains – the landscape is martian and this is where many of the movies Lawrence of Arabia , Transformer , Martian etc were shot. Its barren sand dune desert and houses about 30 camps.

wadi rum

We stayed in one such camp in tents for a night. Its hot during the day but gets cold at night. Tents are basic – we had a family tent with 3 beds and an attached modern bathroom – no fans. Electricity and Wi Fi from 4 PM onwards.

tents for night

The set up and kitchen here is like that of a North Indian Dhaba- I did venture to the kitchen to make some potato curry and dal – as by now we were tired of Pita Bread, Hummus and Olives. The evening would have been alive in a starlit sky with belly dancing – but being the month of Ramadan we had to entertain ourselves with the dance of one of our colleagues. – who did an outstanding job.

Day – 5 

We departed Wadi Rum at 8 AM and after a 4 hr drive reached Wadi Mujib. This is a 2 km river trek. Its not open all the time as the water currents can get risky. We were lucky that it opened a week after being shut. But the water levels were high. This is fun but risky. You are neck deep in water at many places and the current is strong. The river bed is full of poky rocks and even with aqua shoes it can hurt. But this was the high point of the trip and we thoroughly enjoyed it. (Note only Children above 17 are allowed) – the trek took us about 3 hrs and we were back in the bus at 3.30 PM.

wadi mujib

The drive from Wadi Mujib to Amman was less than 2 hrs and we drove by the Dead Sea crossing the Holiday Inn resort where we had stayed the 1st night. So we had almost done a round trip of Jordan.

We stayed in central Amman at the Millennium Hotel a nice property. Amman is a modern city with an active night life – but again the Ramadan period limited activities. Our guide took us for dinner to a beautiful local restaurant – buzzing with people.

millenium hotel

Day – 6 

On our last day at Amman we covered the Citadel – an ancient Roman site and the Roman Theatre – sights we covered between 8 AM and 11 AM . Amman has a history that dates back to 6500 BC – Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians – all this culture blends into this ancient arabic city which is now ruled by the Hashemite dynasty – direct descendants of the prophet.

We shopped for dates, baklava, olive oil in Downtown and were back in our hotel for lunch.

amman

We had an early dinner at our guide Salah’s house – and his wife had cooked us a delicious spread. It was a wonderful gesture on his part to invite us home. early dinner

Post dinner we walked around downtown and were back in our rooms by 9 PM. Again being Ramadan the streets were deserted and most shops closed.

Day – 7

The last day of the trip – we were free. Being a Fri and the Independence Day of Jordan – all the malls , parks etc were closed in the morning. We walked around Paris square and saw the famous Rumi restaurant before heading back to hotel to depart at 12.30 for our flight.

A week flew by and we enjoyed every minute of it. A big thanks to Byond Travel for planning and executing the trip to perfection. They are a good company – a little pricey but you get excellent service. When on a holiday you want the best. I don’t think we would have seen Jordan so well in 1 week on our own. So thank you Byond for a great trip – and looking forward to more. And a big thanks to the team of co travellers – thanks guys you were great travel mates.

Useful Tips

  • Jordan has pleasant weather all thru the year – winters are cold
  • 1 JD ( Jordan Dinar ) = 95 Rs
  • Veg food is available all thru the trip – though the focus is on Non Veg.
  • Free Wifi is everywhere including in our bus.

Some more Views

enjoying the nature

jordan fort

family holidays

enjoying jordan

enjoying waterfalls

shot by iphone6

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Discovering Madanapalle & The Satsang Foundation – Sri M

A short 3 hr drive (120 Km from Bangalore) is the town of Madanapalle.Head to old Madras Road and after the 1st toll near Hoskote take a left and get off the highway.  Madanapalle is  famous for its mangoes, fruits  and vegetables and is  the biggest tomato market in Asia. Horsley Hills the highest point of Andhra – a hill station is just 25 km from here. Set in the midst of the E Ghats, rocky hills and lakes the landscape is rustic and captivating. If you leave Bangalore at 5 AM you can be blessed with a divine view of the rising sun as you drive into Madanapalle.

This is also the place where Rabindranath Tagore translated  “Jana Gana Mana ” from Bengali to English and set it to music in  1919 to the now familiar tune.Madanapalle is also the birthplace of Jiddu Krishnamurti the famous Philosopher, Writer and Speaker

My purpose of visiting was to stay at the Satsang Foundation – the HQ of Spiritual Guru Sri M. Sir is a living Yogi, a spiritual guide, social reformer and educationist. I had read his autobiography about 6 years back and met him at a discourse on Karma Yoga. His presence was electrifying. My first two visits to the Satsang Ashram were day trips. It was during my last visit (Thanks to a good friend for making that happen) that I had the joy of meeting him in person. He suggested that I  visit the Ashram frequently . This was my first trip where I spent 2 days at the beautiful ashram.

Its a small and divine ashram. The centre piece is the Shivalaya – which is a serene place housing a statue of Ganesha , Shiva Linga, and the Sri Yantra besides a beautiful peepal tree. This is where the group meetings and the functions are held.

ashram

There are two energised meditation rooms – the Babaji meditation room even in the summer heat felt cool and comfortable. These are powerful centres and a 30 min session here feels like meditating for  hours.

The rest of the Ashram has rooms , a dining hall, a meeting room and the administration office. The rooms are spacious, airy, clean and functional. Bathrooms have W Toilets and hot water. Many who revere Sir as their Guru have built their houses in the Ashram. Sir also has his house here. The Foundation  runs a school and a healthcare centre that are alongside. This is not an Ashram where you will be woken up with devotional songs nor are there evening Bhajans. The place was almost empty – its a place to go within and connect with your inner self.

Ashram

The Satsang Vidyalaya – provides free, high-quality, multi-lingual education to rural children from the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh. I met the school principal as he was waiting at the gate welcoming the students. It was a joy to see the high energy students trooping in  – some walking , some cycling and some running in at the last minute, all of them stopping by and greeting us Good Morning . The school was spotlessly clean. Most of the teachers have a Masters degree , many are B Ed and one of the volunteers is a microbiologist from Harvard. The students are mainly from the local Lambada community.

Satsang Vidyalaya

The Satsang Swasthya Kendra is a very well stocked, well managed centre. Run by an efficient doctor and her competent  team – the place is spotlessly clean and feels like it was inaugurated yesterday. But its been there for over 5 years delivering excellent service to the local community.

The ashram also has a woman self help centre – but it was closed and I couldn’t visit them. The Admin office has an excellent stocks of DVD’s and Books – Sri M communication is simple and lucid and his explanations of the Upanishad and Bhagwad Gita is a joy to listen. I stocked myself with almost all that they had to offer.

Books

The food at the Ashram is simple and Sattvik. You will love it.

Madanapalle

I spent a lot of time at the Ashram – but I also had time to go with Dr Priyam and her team to the villages nearby. Our first visit was to a mobile health camp run by the Govt of Andhra with the Piramal foundation. I was impressed with the process and the efficiency with which this camp was run. Cheers to the committed team of doctors and their support staff.

Madanapalle

Our second visit was to the Satsang rural school that imparts education to about 30 children. This is located 12 km from the Satsang Ashram. This is where you see the difference between city children and the rural kids. There was so much joy and happiness in the little things they had. Intelligent , sharp kids with great life skills – but sadly at a disadvantage from day 1. The Satsang foundation has clearly identified the two pillars for India to succeed – Education & Healthcare, without that India cannot progress.

Satsang rural school

I also found time to visit the local village market (Tue is the day to go) and eat the tastiest Idlis and Vadas at CAM’s idli. Needless to say a plate of idli , Vada and Dosa cost me less than Rs 50/-.

idly house

A 20 min drive from the Ashram is a beautiful Shirdi Sai temple on the Kadiri Byepass road. Its spotless clean and has a live “Dhuni”.

temple

Places I could not visit

Mallaiah Konda – which I was told is a beautiful place with an ancient Shiva temple. This is a hillock located off the road from madanapalle to Bengaluru. This is a hillock with a large monolith at its peak. On top pf this peak is a temple of Mallikarjuna Swami (Shiva). One can reach this place by taking a left turn near Vempalli village, while travelling from Madanapalle to Bengaluru. Luckily, the place is still pristine even though it is located near the town. It offers beautiful views of Madanapalle town. One can also see the surrounding Mahamalleshwara hills. The flat area found on peak of the hillock is an ideal location for stargazing during clear nights – best in summers.

Obalesh Temple: A Vishnu temple located on the same road, but still farther towards Bengaluru. This place is located inside the state of Karnataka very near to the border it shares with Andhra Pradesh. It belongs to the rayalapadu panchayat. Unlike the malliah konda, this temple is not on a peak, but is nestled between two tall hills. A good place for silent contemplation. Every Saturday bhajans happen in the temple from morning 7 to 10 am. There was another Vishnu temple I saw atop a hill from the Ashram – this is a trek with about 600 steps.

Rishi Valley – Once a drought ridden valley, but now a throbbing forest. Thanks to the Krishnamurthi foundation which has taken upon itself the task of afforestation in this valley and has done it successfully. Rishi valley is famous for the School. but, deep inside the valley one can find pristine locations, which I feel, equally deserve the fame. One such location is the Enugu Mallamma cheruvu. A natural percolation pond. One can enjoy a swim in the pond and also enjoy the view of surrounding hills.

Peepal Grove School (PGS) – a residential school run by the Satsang Foundation – It is one of the few schools providing alternative education in India.

There is also an organic farm close by that merits a visit. Horsley Hill may be worth exploring – I am told that during weekdays its empty.

The weather in Madanapalli is excellent between Oct & Feb. Summers can get hot. The area gets only a few showers every year and water is a challenge. There were no power cuts when I was there and I was told that things have got a lot better in the last few years. The network is decent – Airtel 3G works but Jio doesn’t.

 

For more details : http://satsang-foundation.org

 

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