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Ladakh Diaries Part 9: Lamayuru

Lamayuru is one of the most ancient monasteries in Ladakh, the oldest surviving structure dating to the 11 th century CE. What makes this monastery particularly fascinating, is its location, amidst what is today called the “moonscape”, for the spectacular natural rock formations, which truly are “out of the world”! As per legend , there once existed a huge lake in this area, populated only by the Nagas (serpents). It was prophesized that there would be a great monastery built here. This prophecy came true when the great acharya Naropa (756-1041 CE) arrived. He emptied the lake, meditated for many years inside a cave, and built the first monastery here. The present structure is a new one, built around the cave where Acharya Naropa is said to have meditated. This legend seems to fit well with the geological formations seen in the area, which suggest this was a paleo-lake, which disappeared around 1000 years ago. Lamayuru is about 130 km from Leh , and the Indus River flows along th

Seasons Greetings

Wishing you all, all the very best for the coming year... and indeed all the years ahead!

2011 - A Retrospective

2011 has been a memorable year in more ways than one. It brought me not just more opportunities for travel, but also brought me some much needed boost in the form of recognition as a travel blogger! I brought in the new year with a visit to Hampi , Badami and Pattadakal ......

Creativity with stirrers and straws...

This one is for all those of you who had been asking me about Samhith and what he is up to. I am still caught up with umpteen things happening at once, and unable to write, so meanwhile, you can hop over to his space on the www to see what he has been up to! Click on the link below.. http://juniorwanderer.blogspot.com/2011/12/creativity-with-stirrers-and-straws.html

Karthikai - Its Time to Light the lamps!

Karthikai could possibly be called the South Indian equivalent for Diwali. While Diwali for us means Ganga-snanam (purifying bath), new clothes and of course, crackers, it is Karthikai for which all the lamps come out in full force... especially the earthen ones! The festival is celebrated over 3 days - the first day is called Bharani Deepam, the second is called Annamalai Deepam, and the third is Sarvalaya Deepam. The second is the main day, when a huge lamp is lit on the holy mountain of Thiruvannamalai , symbolising the form of Shiva as a never ending pillar of light (Yes, that's another long story, one I dont have time to write right now!). 

Temple Procession

Yesterday was Kumara Sasthi, a day special for Lord Karthikeya, who is also known as Kumara, Muruga or Subramanya.  Muruga at Enkann Temple near Thiruvarur

More Temples at Pattadakal

The World Heritage Site of Pattadakal deserves more than just a cursory glance. There is so much to see and appreciate, and even during our short visit to the place, I clicked so many photos that I found it impossible to put all of them together in one post! Here are my first two posts on the temple complex at Pattadakal - Silhouettes of Temples at Pattadakal Getting Started with the Temple Tour Continuing with our walk through the temple complex, we next arrived at the Chandrashekhara Temple . The plain and simple structure is the one which attracts least number of visitors, and consequently, is empty and easy to photograph!

Pattadakal - Getting Started with the Temple tour

Our trip to Pattadakal was a hurried one, and we had time only to visit some of the main temples. Come along with me as I go over the same path once more..... We started at the northern end of the temple complex, and this was the board which greeted us...

Skywatch Friday - Silhouettes of Temples at Pattadakal

Pattadakal is on my mind...It s been almost a year since I visited the World Heritage Site, but the memories of the consummate artistic talent are as fresh as if it were yesterday! Our first glimpse of the temples at Pattadakal .. the temple towers stand out tall against the clear sky..

Memories from Corbett Safari Resort

While on a vacation, I usually don't like to stay in a resort, preferring instead to wander and discover the area I am visiting. On my recent visit to Corbett, there were so many things planned that we spent very little time in our rooms, which is just the way I liked it! However, there are some things about the Club Mahindra Safari Resort which I shall always remember.... such as the towel art.....

Sunrise and Sunset for Skywatch Friday

Considering that Samhith's school i s extremely miserly about holidays, we had completely forgotten that Guru Nanak Jayanti would bring us a day off. By the time we realised it, it was too late to plan something properly. But some frantic googling and lots of phone calls later, we finally headed out, before sunrise, on our unplanned, last-minute-holiday to Bhimshankar! The trip was special because it had been a long time since we had headed out of town on an impulse, but even more because, Bhimshankar, home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingams (of which I have now seen 10) had been on my radar for a long long time, but it had eluded me for so many years! The Lord seemed to want to make up for all the times my trip had been postponed, because the trip was memorable, not just because of the temple, but because of so many other experiences... You will have to wait to read about them, though, till I manage to sit down long enough to write all of them down.... Meanwhile, here are some phot

Guest Post - India, the Coastal Delight

Given that India is the largest peninsular country in the world, there is a vast coast line with the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea sweeping in on three sides of the nation. When Goa found itself on the travel map of the world as a fervent hippie beach-joint in the 1960s it wasn’t long before the rest of the coastal territories were explored and India became a go to place for getting a long lasting tan, unexplored private stretches and of course delectable sea food. Starting from the Western edge of the country, we skirt all the way through to the east, exploring the best beach destinations in India

Jim Corbett Museum

The association between Jim Corbett and Corbett National Park is much deeper than just the name. For anyone familiar with Corbett’s books, it is impossible to think of the area without remembering his encounters with man eaters. Even as we wander around the forest, hoping we come across the tiger, we cannot but imagine how it would have been, a hundred years ago, when tigers roamed free, and they were hunted by one and all! The efforts of Jim Corbett and those of his ilk are all the more important and relevant when we realize that in spite of the official count of 164 tigers in the reserve, it is so difficult to see a single one! On my recent visit to Corbett as part of the Club Mahindra Bloggers Trip , we set out in search of Jim Corbett, and what better place to begin that at his erstwhile home, now turned into a museum?

A Special Get-Together on a Special Date...

The magic of numbers or the significance of dates has never held any fascination for me. As far as I am concerned, a date is special, not for the combination of digits, but the events which make it memorable. It was thus, not the date but the event and the location that attracted me – the Postcrossing Meet at the G.P.O. Mumbai on 11.11.2011!

In Search of the Elusive Tiger at Corbett

In the year 1936 , under the influence of the then governor of the United Provinces, Sir Malcom Hailey, India got its first national park. Aptly, the new sanctuary was named after its founder as Hailey National Park, and so it remained for the next twenty years. There were others involved in the formation of the sanctuary, but none more so than Edward James Corbett, or Jim Corbett, as he was more popularly known. Born and raised in the area, Corbett had an intimate relationship with the reserve and its animals. A keen naturalist and photographer, Corbett knew the forest as well or even better than the locals, and he is most well known for ridding the area of some of its most notorious man eaters. It was through his efforts that the national park took shape, and after his death in 1955, the park was renamed after him as Corbett National Park. Corbett was well aware, and extremely concerned about the need to safeguard the tiger population, and fittingly, it was here that Project Tiger

Sunset at Nainital

On my recent visit   to Corbett as part of the Club Mahindra Bloggers Trip , we spent some time at Nainital. After roaming around the streets for a while, we took the ropeway to get a glimpse of the snow covered peaks of the Himalayas. The ropeway idea was just a lark, to spend some extra time at Nainital, but it turned out to be full of surprises - from the beautiful aerial view of the Naini Lake.....

Finding beauty in unexpected places...

October is over and November is here. Before I know it, the year will be over! And I am nowhere near catching up with all the posts I have to write. October brought in so much travel, from the unexpected Club Mahindra Bloggers Meet to another unexpected Diwali trip to Sringeri. There is so much I want to write, but the words will take some time to come. Meanwhile, I just realised that the blog has been left alone for too long without a post, so I will be posting some random images from my trips..... We were on our way to Nainital, when we stopped to take pics of the wonderful view of the hills and valleys. But as we clicked and posed for others, these weeds by the roadside caught my eye.  They are just weeds - unwanted and un-cared for. Yet, they grow profusely wherever they get the chance! If we see them in our garden, we pluck them and throw them off, but look closer and see the innate beauty, the perfect geometrical shapes. Remember drawing flowers with a compass in sc

Corbett Falls

In an area surrounded by mountains and inter-crossing rivers, a waterfall comes as no surprise. However, when you enter a gate just off the highway, drive along a lane leading into a dense forest of teak, and then alight to walk through a narrow path cut amidst the dense undergrowth, you know that this is something special! I was at Jim Corbett National Park as part of the Club Mahindra Bloggers Trip, and we were visiting the Corbett Falls, situated 25 Km from Ramnagar and 4 Km from Kaladhungi, on the Kaladhungi – Ramnagar Highway. The falls were an unexpected treat, giving each one of us something to remember it by… For some it was the waterfall itself, the sound of gushing water drawing them from a distance, for some of us, the inviting sound was drowned by other sights and sounds along the way, and we tarried here and there, to revel in the glory of nature or take a pic of an insect basking in the morning sun. No matter what our interests, when we finally did get to the waterfall

On the Kosi at Corbett

The Kosi river forms the eastern boundary of the Corbett National Park, and Club Mahindra’s Corbett Safari Resort is located on its banks. The winter had begun to set in, and the river was just a narrow stream, though flowing quite deep and fast at some stretches. The rest of the river was just a bed of stones worn smooth by the flow over the years, a tempting sight for me, since as you all know, I love to collect stones! On the very first day of our Bloggers trip at the Club Mahindra Corbett Safari Resort, we went upstream to an old bridge to try out some adventure sports.

A Welcome Break - Bloggers Trip to Corbett

Our school library had a system where we were only allowed to choose among books that were considered ‘suitable’ for us to read. Raised on a steady diet of Enid Blyton books, I still remember the first time we were given one of Jim Corbett’s books to read. Our teachers had kept these books away from us, because they worried that our young and innocent female minds would be affected by tales of man eaters. They seemed to be partly right, because, for the first week, many of us spent sleepless nights imagining man eaters instead of monsters under our bed! I was fascinated by these tales though, and continued to read his books, in spite of the occasional nightmare! It took a long time for me to discover that not all of Corbett’s books were about man eaters! There was so much more! He wrote about the people who made up ‘His India’ as he called it, about the villages, the customs and traditions, their beliefs and faiths, their fear and their superstitions….. and above all, the

Nine Days - Nine Goddesses!

The Chedda Nagar Murugan Temple has an interesting way of celebrating Navaratri. The focal point of the celebration is the elaborate homam (sacrifice) which is conducted over all the nine days of the festival. The temple is packed with devotees waiting for a glimpse of the sacrifice offered in front of a pot of water, which is invested with the power of the sacrifice, and then poured over the idol of the goddess. Sitting for any part of the homam is impossible when it comes to Samhith, and I have no hopes of attending any of the events there for the next few years. However, there is something which draws even Samhith to the temple religiously for all the nine days..... This is the image of the goddess made for the homam . Every day, for nine days, the decoration changes, and the image represents a different form of the goddess. It might depict a story, or just a form of the goddess, but it is interesting enough for Samhith to want to go and see which arrangement has been made everyd

Durga Puja at Chembur

Over the last ten days, I have taken you along on a tour through the South Indian celebration of Navaratri in Mumbai. It is now time for something different. I usually try to take Samhith for the Ramleela as well as other Navaratra Pandals. Dandiya is something I havent been able to introduce him to, and that is mainly because I dont dance at all! However, if there is one celebration we manage to catch, it is the Bengali Durga Puja. Somehow, the image of Mahishasura Mardini seems to attract me each year, as do the decorations..... So, here is the Chembur Durga Puja this year......

The Last Kolu Pics for this year!

Some of you might be bored of Kolus by now, after seeing so many over the last few days! However, before I close the Navaratri chapter for this year, here are the last three kolu arrangements for this year..... The Fine Arts Society, Chembur , has a mammoth 15 steps Kolu which draws visitors over all the ten days of the festival. Besides, there is also usually an interesting decoration based on a theme.  This year, the theme was a dual one - Of Andal and Meera, represented picturesquely with handmade dolls!

Fun With Lego in Mumbai!!

Dusshera has come and gone, but I am not done with my Navaratri posts. There are a couple of interesting golus and lots of pics I still have to share with you, but I am interrupting my Navaratri series to tell you all about an event we attended yesterday. It was so exciting and so much fun that I just cant wait any more to write about it!  Those of you who connect with me on Facebook already know that I was planning to attend the Lego Build a life size Fire Truck Event at High Street Phoenix in association with Hamleys. And all those who have been reading my blog know that Samhith loves Lego. We love to build and are big Lego fans. How could we miss such an interesting event????We set off soon after lunch, and by the time we reached, the Fire truck was almost half done! It was fascinating to see a structure as tall as me built from Lego bricks, and Samhith had to go close and touch it himself before believing that it was indeed built from bricks, and not from cardboard or someth

Yet another creative Kolu..

Some of you have been wondering where we get all the ideas for our kolus. The answer is actually quite simple - from each other! We keep looking out for ideas, and happily pick up others's ideas for our own kolu! Why else do you think Samhith is so eager to go and visit others' kolus? Besides, creativity does run in the family! Growing up, I kept hearing about the fantastic and innovative arrangements my uncles made when they were younger, and Shankar's uncles and aunts have a very creative streak too! No wonder Samhith is so enthusiastic about this!

More Navaratri Kolus for you....

Any festival signifies a hectic time, but none more so than Navaratri! We have to visit all our relatives and friends to see what they have come up with for the festival, catch up with all the kolus in the vicinity, see the latest arrangement at the temple, and over and above all this, we also have to play host to everyone who visits us! It can get really hectic, especially with school on in full swing, but its an enjoyable ten days! This is practically the only time of the year we get to meet so many of our said relatives and friends. Everyone is too busy the rest of the year with their own lives to go and meet anyone else! Besides, we also get some wonderful ideas for our kolu next year!  Since the people we visit are almost usually the same, the dolls and kolus are almost usually the same too! Only sometimes do we see something new, so this time, I decided not to bore you all with the same kolu pics from everyones' houses, but just some pics of things I found special or inter

Navaratri Kolu at Home

For the last three years , the focal point of our Navaratri Kolu has been Samhith's train set. Our entire decoration is arranged around the track, and o0ur tunnel last year was a huge hit with all the kids! It was no surprise therefore that Samhith wanted a tunnel this year too! With the idea of giving you all something different to look forward to, we have set up a village this year around the Kolu steps. Without more ado, let me invite you into our home for our kolu.... This is what you see as soon as you step in...

Navaratri Preparations

Its time for yet another festival - one which gives me the maximum opportunity to use my creativity - Navaratri - the festival of nine nights.  These nine nights (and days) are dedicated to the goddess in her myriad forms, and this festival is a celebration of not just the mother goddess, but also her creations. For us, South-Indians, Navaratri is a time for the Bommai Kolu (or Golu) , a series of steps with dolls placed on them, and also a time for socialization. The kolu represents the different stages and aspects of life. The bottom steps represent life as we know it - as humans. We therefore use them to depict scenes from life. The higher steps are meant to represent our quest for divinity - which is represented by dolls showing stories from mythology involving gods and demigods. The highest steps are used to show the Gods, who are, after all, believed to be above us all! Apart from the dolls placed on the steps, we also decorate an area around the steps, usually based on som

Badami Cave Temples Part 4

The fourth cave at Badami is the only Jain cave among the four. This is also by far the simplest cave, though there are quite a lot of renditions of the Jain Tirthankars. This was also the only cave which the school students gave a miss, so it was practically empty! Unfortunately, this cave seems to get less than its rightful share of eyeballs, so it was dark and dank. The inner sanctum was so dark that I could see nothing! Our guide didn’t have a torch, and since it was late in the evening, I managed to get a decent capture of the sanctum with my camera in the ‘night’ mode! The sanctum houses an image of Mahavira…. Outside are many interesting carvings of Jain Tirthankars….. My knowledge of these is rudimentary, so let me just take you on a photo-tour…

Badami Cave Temples Part 3

Badami Caves Part 1 Badami Caves Part 2 My main worry while on our tour of Badami and surrounding places was how Samhith would react to seeing just sculptures and temples all day long. He had tired of temples after Aihole and Pattadakkal, but Badami was interesting because of the caves. Besides, the beautiful work on the rough stone, made over a thousand years ago seemed to excite him. However, by the time we had climbed up to the third cave, his enthusiasm was flagging, especially seeing all the other visiting children clambering all over (something I wouldn’t allow him to do!) I hoped there would be something in the third cave to keep him attentive, but I needn’t have worried! He was all agog, because, by now, he could identify some of the figures by himself, something which impressed our guide, and this made him feel extremely proud of himself! The third cave is also dedicated to Vishnu and is the most beautiful one with the most intricate of sculptures.

Badami Cave Temples Part 2

Please read the first part Badami Cave Temples Part 1 (if you haven’t already) before reading this one! The caves at Badami have become quite a tourist attraction, and also a popular spot for school picnics and excursions. When we visited the caves in late December, there was a huge crowd of school students, all of them thrilled at having a day off from studies. The teachers accompanying them seemed bored, and least interested in anything except making sure that the children didn’t lean too much over the parapet wall and fall off!

The Cave Temples of Badami

The main attractions at Badami are the rock cut cave temples. Carved out of the sandstone cliffs in the late 6 th and 7 th centuries, these caves have a verandah at the entrance with pillars cut into the stone. This leads to a pillared hall or mandapa, which in turn leads to a small sanctum. There are 4 such caves – the first one is dedicated to lord Shiva, the second and third are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the fourth one is a Jain cave. Come along with me for a photo-tour of the caves. Please excuse the quality of the photographs. I have tried to capture the beauty I saw all around me, but, there are many which do not do justice to the beauty of the originals. It was evening when we visited the caves, so the light wasn’t too helpful. Besides, the caves were so filled with school children who had come on a picnic, that just getting a shot without them in the frame was a challenge!

Badami Fort

Huge red sandstone cliffs are all we can see as we drive into Badami. Soon, the lake comes into view, and the two sets of cliffs which attract thousands of visitors to this small town become clearer. Opposite us we can see the famed caves filled with tourists who stand out against the red rocks in their multi-coloured clothing. On the other side, we see a board announcing the presence of the ASI museum, and over it, an arch which appears to be the entrance of a fort. Our driver discourages us from entering. “Madam, there is nothing to see there… just two old and broken temples, and the climb is strenuous. Everything here was destroyed by the Pallava kings. No one goes there. It will be deserted.  Let us go and see the caves instead.” However, the cliffs are too inviting to miss and a sudden desire to climb and see the ruins of the old temples strikes me. Besides, every place we visited has been crowded, and the caves seem to be full too. The strain of climbing seems to be t

Ganpati Bappa Morya! Pudchya Varshi Laukar Yaa!

Those are the words which resound through the air as we bid goodbye to the Lord. Literally, they would translate to 'Glory to the Lord! Come again soon next year', but to the devotees who bid goodbye to the Lord with these words, it means so much more. 

One Last Ganpati Before Its Time to Bid Him Goodbye!

Tomorrow , we bid goodbye to Ganesha, and have to wait for one full year before he arrives again. I have taken you along as I visited Ganeshas all over Mumbai, and there is just enough time to share with you the last one for this year........ This one is the one in our colony - the Chedda Nagar Ganpati.

A Collaborative Post on Ganesh Chaturthi

A festival is all about getting together, and what symbolizes it more than the Ganesh Chaturthi which brings together the most disparate of Indians? On the 9th day of the festival, as the Lord readies to go back to his abode, Arti from  My Yatra Diary  has managed to get together 4 of us bloggers to write our own versions of the way we celebrate the festival.  My contribution is about the Ganeshas we made at home.... and Santosh from Bangalore, who writes on Huchchara Santhe writes about the Gauri and Ganesh Puja celebrated all over Karnataka. Abhi from Be the Geek , like Samhith, seems to love the Prasad at the various Ganpati Pandals all over Mumbai.. and Mercury from FZed Chronicles talks about the celebrations in Goa. Its a beautifully put together post, so please do go over and read it! Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations - Transcending Virtual Boundaries, Bringing Bloggers Together Last but not the least, Thanks Arti for this wonderful opportunity!

Visiting the Matunga Ganpatis

Matunga is a place closely associated with South Indians living in Mumbai. I remember braving the train crowds as a child, visiting Matunga to see the Ganpatis, and especially the serial lights strung up all along the roads. I was then brought here by my uncle. Later, as I studied at Ruia College, I no longer needed anyone to accompany me. The ten days of the festival used to be busy ones for me, as I explored every lane looking for some interesting Ganeshas or at least some interesting decorations. Time has moved swiftly since then, and now, I take Samhith along to show him the Ganeshas I have enjoyed watching for so many years! 

A Few More Interesting Ganeshas

Now that our own Ganesha has left, we have time to go and see a few more Ganeshas around us.... Here are a couple of interesting ones we came across.... This one was Krishna-style, with a flute and Gopis in attendance..... This one was simple, sort of like the Dagdu Sheth Ganpati in Pune...

Bidding Goodbye to Ganesha at Home..........

.....A Small experiment and some thoughts it threw up..... We bid goodbye to the Lord at our home today. For those who are new to this blog, here is some background information.... We had placed 3 Ganesha idols in our Puja this year . The first and main one was made by me, and I tried to make it a little colourful by painting some Geru or Chemman , which is basically red brick powder.The second and third were made by Samhith. Today, when it for time for the Lord to leave, we were faced with a dilemma - which ones should we immerse, and which should we keep? Finally, after much discussion, we came to an agreement. For more than 40 years, our Ganesha idol has been sent for immersion with the big Ganesha of the neighboring colony, (remember the Facebook Ganesha ?) and I wasn't in the mood to change the tradition just because I had made the idol. Hence our main idol continued the tradition, joining his friends on his journey home. 

When Ganesha tells us Stories..

One of the most interesting things about the Sarvajanik Ganpati Pandals is the pains they take to decorate it, especially to relate a story. While it is certainly a great stage for bringing social issues to the fore, even a mythological or historical tale has its plus points, especially if it is interesting enough for kids (and adults) to want to know more! We have visited quite a lot of Ganeshas in our locality, but there are two we always look forward to. 

Reflections of Ganesha

It is time for us to reflect.....

Ganesha on Facebook

As I do every year, this year too, I will take you along with me as I visit Ganeshas in and around my locality. I start the series today with our favourite Ganesha at the moment. This Ganesha has been installed in our neighbouring building, and Samhith went over to take a look as soon as it arrived. He came back all agog at the theme.....

Welcoming Lord Ganesha

Yesterday was a day for celebrations - and as is usual for any mass celebration in India, filled with the noise of drums and brass bands, people dancing on the streets, and loads of colour being thrown in joy! Even heavy rains didnt dampen the enthusiasm, even as Ganesha idols continued to be brought in, late into the evening! We welcomed our own Ganesha idols rather quietly, with Samhith starting off the puja this year. After all, he had a hand in the idols too this year. We went completely eco-friendly, using the clay idols we had made. The idol in front is the one I made.. The smaller ones behind are Samhith's We went for a walk in the evening, in spite of the rain, hoping to see some Ganeshas, and we weren't disappointed. Some of them were still making their way to their pandal, thanks to the pouring rains and potholed roads slowing them down!

Ganesh Chaturthi 2011 - The Festival begins!

This blog has been selected by Blogadda for the week's Spicy Saturday Picks, 3rd September, 2011! Click on the image or the link above to see the other wonderful posts on the list! Ganesh Chaturthi is here and Mumbai is all set to welcome its favourite God. The most interesting thing about Mumbai's Ganesha's is their variety - we see all sorts of Ganeshas in all sorts of sizes - tiny to huge, Ganeshas with their parents, Ganeshas dressed like Krishna, Ganesha dressed in modern clothes.. the list in endless. Come and see our Ganeshas through my lens.... Waiting for a coat of paint

Kitchen Garden Day with Urban Leaves at Maharashtra Nature Park

Kitchen gardens were something I had only read about in books! Then I heard of Urban Leaves , and visited their city farm on a water tank in the Maharashtra Nature Park, and was hooked! More than me, it was Samhith, who, I must say, was fascinated by the idea of eating vegetables plucked directly from the garden, once he realized how much tastier they were than the market bought ones! A few months back, I hadn’t even thought of having my own kitchen garden, much less heard of something called “World Kitchen Garden Day”. When Preeti first told me about it, I simply relegated it to some corner at the back of my mind, a reminder that there was something on the 28 th of August, which I had to attend (if possible). A couple of months and a few visits to terrace farms in the city managed by the enthusiastic volunteers was enough to get me more excited about the event!

A Festival I hadn't heard of!

Considering how much I enjoy festivals, and coming from a family obsessed with celebrating not just our own, but every festival we come across, I had thought myself to be fairly well up to the mark when it came to knowledge of festivals celebrated in India.... at least those celebrated in the parts I come from and where I live! It just goes to show you how much I know when I came across a completely new festival today... in the market of all places!

Skywatch Friday - Images from Badami

Badami was the capital of the early Chalukyas, from the 6 th to the 8 th century AD. The city was then known as Vatapi. The name came from the legend of Sage Agasthya who destroyed the demons Vatapi and Ilvala here. As the story goes, Vatapi and Ilvala were demon brothers. Vatapi had a boon from the gods that no matter how many pieces his body was cut into, when called, they would join and he would be whole and alive. Taking advantage of this, the brothers tricked all sages who passed by their region. They would invite them for a feast, an invitation which could not be refused. Then Vatapi would turn into a ram and Ilvala would cut him up and serve him to the guests (in those days, even sages ate meat).

Aihole

This was the sight which greeted us as we entered Aihole, and it is probably the best description of Aihole that I can ever give.

Of Festivals and Creativity

The month of July b rought with it a host of festivals. Some were small ones, celebrated without much ado, while some involved a lot of preparation. Some were small ceremonies celebrated quietly at home, while some were big affairs, with hordes of people coming home. July has passed us by, and so has August, but the next couple of months bring even more festivals our way! It has been tiring in some ways, and from the state of my blog, you can realize that I haven’t been able to pay much attention to it. However, it has also brought with it, lots of opportunities to bring forth my creativity. Hence, I thought of this post as an update about what I have been up to!

Stray Thoughts on Corruption...

Today’s Mumbai Mirror's Cover Story… Article - If … brought a smile to my face.

The Best Gift - Books for all ages

When I won the World Environment Day Contest held by Pratham Books , I was thrilled! Any prize is exciting, but nothing beats a book received as a prize! And I would be getting a copy of their latest offering - "A King Cobra's summer"! From the moment I told Samhith I had won a prize, and that he would be getting a book, he started asking me when the book would arrive! And then , last week, the postman held out a parcel which looked a bit too bulky to hold just one book, but it did appear to be from Pratham Books, so  I wondered what it could be! And what a surprise it was, to receive not one, but FOUR books from them!!!!

Our 'Pet' Snails!

Samhith's fascination for snails is well known to all those who read this blog! This monsoon was no different, though the enthusiasm has worn off a bit for me, and I refused to take pics of every snail we saw! He, of course, continues to look for them, and at last count, we had at least 20 big ones living among the bushes opposite our building, and numerous small ones (babies). The last time he tried to count them, he managed to go till about 80 before the bus arrived and he was forced to stop! That will give you an idea about how prolific the snails are at reproduction!! and also why they are considered pests!!! He has even started thinking of them as his pets, but which he leaves free to roam around, since he doesn't want to put them in a cage!! We have a variety of snails, ranging from huge ones about 10cm long, to tiny ones less than a centimeter in length! Here are some of them!! These are the most common snails we see. The shell alone is about 5 cm in length, and

Sky Watch Friday - Skies over Mumbai

The Mumbai Skyline , over-set by monsoon clouds...... Walking along Marine Drive in the pouring rain brings back memories of my college days when I walked the path alone. So many years later, I walked the same path, this time with my husband and son! A memorable experience indeed!!! For more beautiful skies from around the world, go to the Skywatch Page

Jungle Babblers

These are probably among the commonest of birds, but here, the Jungle Babblers are sitting on some beautiful works of art, which are equally uncommon......

A Pair of Ducks

We saw these ducks on the way to the Dhyanalingam at Coimbatore..... Does anyone know what they are called?

Grasshopper.. oops! sorry.. Cricket!!!

I have written earlier about how we have become interested in insects thanks to photography and blogging.... Of late, however, there has been a change. These days, Samhith no longer calls me to take a photo of an insect. He simply takes my camera and tries it himself! Of course, many of his attempts did not bear fruit, but here is one of his successful endeavors.....

Memorial to a loved Pet

I was wandering with Samhith around Gulab Bagh, the huge garden where the Udaipur Zoo is located. We had time to kill before we could catch the bus which would take us back to Mumbai, we had checked out of our room, and Shankar had already flown back the day before. Having so much time on our hands, but hesitant to wander into lonely places, we tried to stick to the well marked paths, at the same time trying to avoid the crowds thronging the park. Following a butterfly, we moved away from the well trodden path, and suddenly, right in front of us was a marble edifice. Curious, we moved closer, and both of us were stunned!

Eye of the Peacock

We have seen plenty of peacocks - both in the wild as well in zoos. At the Udaipur Zoo, the birds were peacefully having their siesta, and were totally unconcerned about all the ruckus around them. As we passed by the peacock enclosure, one of them looked up and cast such a disdainful glance at the spectators who were trying to rouse some of the sleeping birds, that I just had to take a pic!

Rufous Treepie

Here is another bird we have seen before, but never managed a decent shot - the Rufous Treepie.

More than just Coochie Coo!

It was hardly mean t to be a birdwatching trip, but we saw more birds than expected. Yes, many of them were common ones, but we saw them in uncommon positions, many of them either courting, or mating! These Eurasian Collared Dove s at the Nehru Park on the Fateh Sagar Lake were oblivious to the tourists as they went about their business during their breeding season. 

Brahminy Starling

It looked just like a myna from a distance. However, there was something different about it. It took some time for me to realise that we were seeing a Brahminy Myna or Brahminy Starling .