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Wellington, Ooty - The Offbeat Beauty
We all know Ooty, (British) short for Udhaghamandalam, the beautiful hill station of Tamil Nadu. Often flocked by tourists and a weekend destination for Bangaloreans, the place is a relaxing retreat. But not many take out their time to stay and explore Wellington, which is just about an hour before Ooty. Situated in the Nilgiris, just about 3 kms from the popular Connoor, Wellington can be reached by road from Coiambatore. Now, if you really enjoy being with yourself and in nature, it is best to ride on a toy train from Coiambatore to Wellington. The charming railway station that you see in the pic will make you crave for the slow and beautiful journey. Wellington is prominently a cantonment now that houses the Madras Regimental Center and Defence Services Staff College. Cantonment areas, by nature of the profession, are well maintained and clean. Now imagine the same surrounded by cloudy hills and colourful trees. It surely will re-energize you. There is also a beautiful lake named after Wellington in the area. When I had visited it in April 2022, I was the only tourist and I could not admire the beauty more. Have a look! This is what I sincerely love about offbeat destinations. Unlike the touristy noise and crowd in Ooty and other commercially popular places, a place like Wellington is so calm that bird chirping form the natural music. Simply sit down and admire this for hours. It is a beautiful feeling. Me and my car were in an exploration phase when I found some beautiful houses (probably owned by rich people!!!) in and around Wellington. The one above surprised me in the most pleasant manner. It seemed like those dream houses amidst the hills with a clear undisturbed sight of the valley. It really gave me a goal of my life to have one such. How wonderful it would be to live and work from this place! Now it ain't that everyone has houses like this. The majority of the population lives in the town, well within the range of daily necessities which makes the place lively. It also is worthy of a photo frame or a postcard. As I had always preferred and suggested, offbeat places will give you a better view and experience. A stroll in my car led me to this place where I could see the entire Wellington town from a distance. The prominent red and white rectangular building is the MRC! The beautiful tea gardens and the breath-taking sight of the town immediately relieved any tension in me. I saw some offbeat tourists on their bicycle, motorcycles and even cars who were more interested in exploring Wellington than visiting the popular Ooty spots. Network isn't a problem anymore which makes the stay even more comfortable and satisfying. This short trip was intensely satisfying for me which also gave way to some thoughts. Today I am more willing to work hard to live in a place like this and probably own one of those houses that I could perhaps rent out! Travel not only gives you a sense of relaxation, but also makes you think what you actually want to do in life. I wish that someday I become an amazing host of my holiday home and welcome you people! Trip to Wellington made me fall in love with the charming hill towns of India. Unfortunately, I could not take a ride in the toy train as I got to know that bookings have to be done in advance through IRCTC. It is normally full during the tourist season. Nevertheless, I managed to take a selfie in front of the station. The tracks took me back to my childhood days!
Shaniwar Wada - The Throne of the Peshwas
The Maratha empire was the most powerful and liberating empire in Medieval India. Started by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who is loved, respected, adored and thanked by all, was the founding father of this great empire. Peshwas, who were earlier the appointed Prime Minister in Marathas, later became the rulers. Shanirwar Wada is the historical fortification in the city of Pune which was once the seat and the palace for the Peshwas. Built in 1732 by Bajirao I and once a large palace now reduced to just fortified boundaries, used to house more than 1000 people at a time. Just like any other gigantic kingdom, this too starts with a magnificent gate or popularly called as "Dilli Darwaza" as it faces Delhi. This is the only fort in India whose main gate faces Delhi. As I walked past this huge gate and collected my entry token, I was mesmerised by the beautiful garden that was ahead of me. The neatly managed park and fountains, which were once a grand palace with many halls and rooms, is now flocked with tourists and locals. The image gets stamped in the mind if viewed from the top, which is by climbing to the first floor of the Jharokhas. The complex also had a lotus shaped fountain, which was the most intricate design in those times. It was built for the pleasure of the infant Peshwa Sawai Madhavrao. Roaming around the complex would show you different gates (darwazas) which were used for different purposes. The major ones were: Mastani Darwaza - This was used by Bajirao I's wife Mastani to go out of the palace Khidki Darwaza - Contained an armoured window Ganesh Darwaza - Was used by the ladies who wanted to visit nearby Kasba Ganpati temple Jambhul Darwaza (Narayan Gate) - Was used by concubines (mistresses) to enter and leave the fort Doesn't it tell you how organized kingdoms were in the past? A mere walk in the complex with all this information, takes you visually in that time. The fort was destroyed in a fire in 1828 which brought down many storey's. We can still see the stone structure that was used still intact. It is funny to see common folks sitting around those destructed structures which was once throned by the royals! The hall depicts paintings from Ramayana and Mahabharata at the ceiling and the floor is made by polished marbles with mosaic style. Maharashtra history is full of valour and might of the Marathas. The strongest and impenetrable forts exists here which will make you wonder how we consistently degraded from the onset of the decline of these kingdoms. So, if in Pune, Shanirwar Wada is a must visit! I just managed to click one photo of mine :D
Ramdara Temple & Lake, Pune
It is 2022 and wishing you all a very happy new year! With a hope to travel and explore more places, I set out on a drive on the 1st of Jan. A small road trip with my father! After coming to Pune, I did not drive to any place and hence wanted to start the year with it. With google maps and my mobile phone, I took a small journey to Ramdara Temple and Lake, situated in Loni in Pune. It is hardly 25kms from the city centre and I must admit that what a beautiful start of the year it is! Tall coconut trees making the perfect shade for the temple and the beautiful lake surrounding it will make you in a joyful state of mind. Merely roaming around the premises will give a very positive vibe. How to reach? Though it can be easily navigated on the Google Maps, neverthless, just drive on the Sholapur highway and cross the Loni Kalbhor Toll Plaza. A signboard to Ramdara will guide you through the Loni Kalbhor village. Drive past the village to reach the temple. You will find bad roads for some time but then once you approach the village, the roads and the surroundings become more beautiful! About the temple So, the temple was built by Dhundi Baba (Shri Devi Puri Maharaj) in 1970 who also has his samadhi here. It is devoted to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvaty but has sculptures of many other deities as well. The temple can be is hidden amidst the surrounding hills and cannot be spotted from a distance. It is when you come closer to it, you can see the shikhara. The beautifully carved sculptures on the temple pillars is soothing and takes you back to mythology lessons. The temple is more famous for Ram, Sita and Lakshman and hence the name Ramdara. One can also find sculptures of Sant Tukaram, Surdas, Meera, Ramdas, Swami Vivekanand and others here. Sanskrit shlokas from Gita and mentioned on the ceiling walls. I would highly recommend you to recite it. This is because recitation of shlokas in this surrounding will fill you up with good vibes and positivity. Around the Temple Premises Once you have seen the temple from inside, it is time to take a stroll around this beautiful compound. You will be amazed to find beautiful tree garden where devotees sit and do the Kirtan. Get immersed in this spiritual environment. I actually did stop by and listened to this spiritual musical gathering! As you can also see that the place is full of big and heavy trees which makes this place a lot cooler than any other. You can also find almost real looking animals ;) Aren't they too real!!!! There are also some exotic birds that visit this place and if you are lucky, you may spot one. The lake surrounding the temple is clean and adds to the positivity. Do read about the significance of water body near the temple compounds. All, in all, it was really a wonderful start of the year. From a travel perspective, I wish that we all explore new places and find out hidden gems of our country, like the Ramdara Temple. Here is a sneak peak as well! And that's me with my father! Next time I will try to smile more :D
Bhaja Caves - Since 2nd century BC
The more you go into the history of India, the better knowledgable you become. I recently shifted to Pune and was very excited to stay here for a good number of years, for the sole reasons that this part of the country has so much to offer in terms of exploration. Just when I started my internet exploration of real world, I came across this marvel - Bhaja Caves - Ancient Buddhist Caves since 2nd century BC! Yes, you read that right, BC- Before Christ! These Buddhist excavations are a small series of very early Hinayana (Theravada) caves dating back to 2nd Century BC and containing 29 excavations. The most important or significant excavation is the "Chaitya" which has timber fitted ceiling, plain octagonal shafts with inward rake. The Stupa is also magnificent consisting of cylindrical base supporting a tall domical body. Once you step inside this giant hall like structure, try to visualize and take yourself back in the ancient era where monks would come and meditate amidst these hills, inside these caves. I bet you will not be able to think of any other place as quiet and peaceful as this one. The caves also has inscriptions which gives insights on the ancient writing Ofcourse, novices like us cannot interpret or understand, but can definitely appreciate the work of ASI to excavate and maintain it! Walk along the sides of these caves and you will find the other excavations too. There are 29 of them and if you are interested in history, should visit all of them. It may look same but it surely gives that grandeur image of those times. Another important sighting is the lining up of the Stupas. These are the relics of the monks who stayed here. The names of those monks are inscribed in some of them. There are many sculptures of Indian Gods and Goddesses as well indicating the strong influence of Hinduism in this area. How to Reach? These are approximately 70km from the city of Pune and in the direction of Lonavala. Drive by your car or motorcycle is the best way to reach as it also shows you the beautiful surroundings. Do note that the caves are a at a height and you have to climb a lot of steps! Thankfully, there is a water container at the top to quench your thirst. It is natural mineral water, so do not worry about that! The entry ticket is Rs. 25 which can also be paid by Paytm. You need to upload your ID proof in order to do so. Overall, it has been an amazing day trip. I wish there was some guide too for those who want to get into the history more to understand the significance of these caves. Here is a sneak peak of the caves:
A walk through the Dumna Nature Park
Finding a jungle in a big city is almost impossible. People throng to nearby areas where they can find some peace in the middle of the nature and be away from the hustle & bustle of the city. This is precisely the reason why I love tier 2 and 3 cities where one can have a perfect balance of the both. Dumna Nature Reserve Park in Jabalpur is one such place! Dumna Nature Reserve Park is an eco-tourism spot in Jabalpur with around 1000+ hectares of land! Yes, that is the advantage of living in Madhya Pradesh! It is located near to the airport and has rich wildlife and trees. One can easily spot deer, wild boars and even jackals. Not to mention the different types of birds that can be seen here as well! It is open from 10AM in the morning till 6PM in the evening. People throng to this place for some day relaxation and to enjoy the nature. The park gives you a view of the Khandari lake which itself is a peaceful moment. One can also cycle on the defined cycle track to enjoy the forest. The management has also started a toy train that takes you on a round of this amazing park. You can find the animals during this ride and re-invent your childhood :) Remember the old toy train stations? ;) That's me taking a GoPro selfie with the Khandari Lake! The park also has a cafe in case you want to grab a bite or have a sip of tea or coffee. People mostly bring their own cooked food and make this journey as a picnic tour. The picnics that we used to have in our childhoods still exist in the rest of the parts of the country! Unfortunately we miss this in the Delhis and Mumbais of India! All in all, Dumna is a perfect getaway for the day. Come along with your family, friends or even solo to enjoy the nature, wildlife, silence and rejuvenate yourself for the week ahead! Take a sneak peak: Madhya Pradesh has always been less popularised amongst tourists and travellers. In fact, it has the most offerings to show you in various formats. Next time you make a vacation plan, MP can be the number 1 on your bucket list!
Ancient Temples of Kalchuri - Amarkantak
Amarkantak is called as the "Tirtharaj" or "King of Pilgrimage". This less visited destination in India has the origin of Narmada river, temples from Kalchuri Dynasty, temple dedicated to the highly revered design of Shree Yantra and much more. The positivity that this place brings along is unparalleled. Narmada Kund is known by many but not the same with the Ancient Temples of Kalchuri. It is managed by ASI and is a protected monument. These are the oldest temples in this region and are located just opposite to the Narmada Kund. The great legend Shankaracharya had installed the idol of Shiva in the Pataleshwar temple here, however, the construction of the compound and other temples was done in the reign of Kalchuri Dynasty (somewhere around 10th century). The premises has many temples, Pataleshwar and Karna temple being the more prominent ones. Pataleshwar temple has a panchratha shikhara , meaning that it has five elevation type structures at the top. One amazing feature that I find in ancient temples is the ability to maintain a cool atmosphere inside the temple. You do not need an AC at all! One can very easily tell the difference between the outside temperature and inside. It is said that Shankaracharya had installed the Shiva idol beneath the temple to pray and find out about the source of Narmada. Legend has it that Maa Narmada used to offer her prayers at this temple and that is how the source was found. Even today, the water level below the temple rises during Shravan as Maa Narmada comes here to offer her prayers. The Karna Mandir is the oldest in the compound and also the most neglected. It appears that the tree temples raised on a platform were supposed to be connected but the construction never completed. Here is a quick sneak peak of the Kalchuri Temple premises: Amarkantak is a 5 hour drive from the city of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, which itself offers a lot of things to visit. I bet you cannot miss this amazing drive to have a well spent holiday! Also in Amarkantak: Kapil Dhara Falls Shri Yantra Mandir Narmada Udgam Kund
Parashuram Statue in Jabalpur
Parashuram Ji is the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is considered to be the immortal one. He is believed to re-appear at the end of Kaliyuga as the Guru of Vishnu's tenth incarnation, Kalki. The excitement and thrill of such events grow manifold when we, the moral human beings, witness places of such Gods during their human incarnations era. One such place of Parashuram Ji is in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. Situated at the outskirts of Khamaria in Jabalpur, this 31 ft tall Parashuram statue was established in the late 2000s. It has a wide area all around it and surrounded by farm lands. The statue was built on top of the rock cave where Parashuram meditated and prayed for a very long time. The cave itself is around 20ft from the ground. This is where He used to meditate and pray: The statue also boasts of 14 ft long and 2.5 ft wide(top) tomahawk (axe) which is considered to be Parashuram's weapon. It also features in the Golden book of records as the largest tomahawk. As the statue is built on the rock, the front view was difficult to take due to the steepness of the rock. I somehow managed with this GoPro selfie :D Talking about the place and the surroundings will not give justice to the magnificent feel that can be experienced here. Being on top of a rock with farm lands all around you and with practically no one makes you feel like the king of the world! Come here, relax, meditate, introspect, do whatever! In fact, thanks to my GoPro, the surroundings pic came as if it is the Earth's curvature. Have a look: Since this place is on the outskirts of the city of Jabalpur, hardly anyone visits it on a daily basis. But during festive occasions related to Lord Vishnu, and especially Parashuram Jayanti,, the local people throng to this place to offer their devotion. As a customary practice, they climb up to the feet of the statue and touch them to seek blessings. There is a temple on the opposite side of the statue dedicated to Him. Locals and tourists (if any) visit it and pray for their well beings. Here is a sneak peak of my journey: So what are you waiting for? Head out to this offbeat destination!
Temple on the Hill - Sharda Devi, Jabalpur
Temples are the places where you always get positive energy, isn't it? Not just this but you also feel calm and quiet even if it is in the centre of the city. What if such a temple is situated at the top of a hill surrounded by amazing views and with practically very few people in non festive times? Welcome to Sharda Devi Temple in Barela, Jabalpur! History This temple was built by the great queen Rani Durgavati during the 1500s during a drought situation in the region. The region had not had any rainfall due to which the locals were unable to grow food. As Sharda Devi is widely worshipped in this place, Rani Durgavati had got this temple built which kept her faith in the Gods. As soon as she raised the religious flag over the temple, minutes after it rained heavily and the land's thirst was quenched. Not only this, but after a fierce battle with Sultan Baj Bahadur, Rani Durgavati successfully defeated his army and made him flee the place. The winning made her raise the flag yet again and the nature repeated herself by showering all over the region. Since then the ceremony of raising flags has been going on in the temple premises. The temple has the idols of Maa Sharda, Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha. It can be easily reached by well maintained roads. The view from the top is simply amazing! Having spent some time here, I felt like meditating to the fullest. The atmosphere was so full of energy and positive vibes. Cool breeze and the city view added to the already enriched experience. I have always been an admirer of temples and their architecture. We often just visit temples and leave it in a few minutes by just offering prayers to our Lords, but instead temples are best experienced when you give it some time and sit in there. This is because of the energy system that has been widely written in Hindu texts and also explained in Yoga. Your mind will be full of positivity owing to the design of the temples and the nature of the place, be it ancient or modern. Try this once and take a pledge to sit in a temple for some time in order to experience this supernatural phenomenon of energies! For more such travel pictures, visit my IG page https://www.instagram.com/prakhar.maheshwari/
Maa Narmada Aarti, Jabalpur
Narmada, the holy river in Madhya Pradesh, is highly revered with people following Hinduism. In fact, India has many such rivers, but Ganga and Narmada are probably the most auspicious ones. The everyday 7pm evening Aartis is a treat to watch for. I was lucky to get a chance to witness the Haridwar Aarti at the popular spot Har-ki-pauri. Having lived in Jabalpur for more than an year now, I somehow was not able to attend the Narmada aarti here due to Covid restrictions. Better late than never, before leaving this place, the Aarti was the only thing left in my travel bucket list. Gwarighat in Jabalpur is the Banaras like ghat which is on the banks of Maa Narmada river. A large space with temples, roadside eateries, pandits in their typical attires, beautifully decorated boats to help you cross to the other side of the river and even some leisure surfing is the sight that you will witness here. The Aarti, just like anywhere else, starts sharply at 7PM every evening spreading a stream of positive energy throughout. There is something with the temples and the rituals, when performed in a group with all the necessary etiquettes, fills you with such a positive vibe that you naturally become joyful. A beautiful thing about Gwarighat is that one can seek blessings in the Ghat temples and Gurudwara at the same time. Just cross the river on the beautiful boats to reach the Gurudwara Gwarighat Sahib. What a serene moment it is! Take a sneak peak of the Aarti and I bet it will clear your mind from all sorts of worries and stress: As a ritual, one has to light a small diya and give it to Narmada river by placing it on it. There are many such ready made diyas available for Rs. 5. You should purchase one and light it to offer to Maa Narmada. This completes your puja for the day. Such events cannot be experienced everywhere and hence places like Hardiwar, Banaras, Prayagraj, Jabalpur and others become the attraction point. Make sure you do experience this in your lifetime and I am sure it will entice you to visit such points again and again! Read more about Narmada and how she originates here
Kapil Dhara, Amarkantak
My love with exploring nook and corners of India is growing exponentially. This is not just because of patriotism but realising that Indian places of significance not only offers you scenic and breathtaking natural views but also briefs you about deep scientific, religious history behind. Of what I considered just a plain waterfall actually has an amazing history that delves into science and philosophy. Just about 6km from the Narmada Udgam Kund, lies these beautiful waterfalls, Kapil Dhara. Narmada river when originates from the Kund silently, flows to this place which then takes the form of a fall and later seeps in to the forests. The surroundings offer a lush green forest with the gentle stream of river that ferociously falls from the 100ft height and entices everyone by its sheer force and beauty. The reason that it is called Kapil Dhara is because thousands of years earlier Kapil Muni, one of the great Indian sages used to live here and meditate. It is this place where Kapil Muni wrote the "Samkhya" , which counts human experience into two principles - Purusa (Consciousness) and Prakriti (nature). The explanation to this is beyond the scope of this small travel experience, but I would strongly suggest you to read it. It is sad that most of us do not know the rich history that we come from that spans across each and every discipline. Nonetheless, such places can revive your interest in it. To enjoy this view, one has to go past the bridge, take the steps down and enjoy the beauty of this place. Yes, climbing back up takes a toll on your legs if you are not used to walking! But, that should not be a deterrent for you to miss the most amazing piece in this trip. You can find a lot of monkeys here and there is a need to be little careful. Avoid giving any food or looking straight into their eyes, though largely it is not a menace. There are lot of street vendors who can make you enjoy this place with their tea, lemon soda and other eatables. How to Reach? It is better to have a car or hire a vehicle when taking a trip to Amarkantak. If not then you can also find local autos who can ferry you to Kapil Dhara. Have a blast and keep travelling!
Shri Yantra Mandir - The Perfect Geometry
With every new sculpture or monument I come across, the feeling of pride that I belong to Bharat profounds. A yet another example of such a thing lies in our temple - once again! Welcome to Shri Yantra Mandir of Amarkantak, which is nothing but A Perfect Geometry. Surrounded by forests and a water reservoir, stands the Shree Yantra Mandir dedicated to Goddess Tripur Sundari (Beauty of the 3 worlds). The Mathematical Wonder of the Temple It is built on an elevated platform measuring 90,000 sq.ft. in the form of a mandal of uniform length, breadth and height - each measuring 52 sq.ft. The temple in the middle of the compound is unique as instead of a shikhara, it has the shape of Shri Yantra - It is formed by 9 interlocking isosceles triangles of varying dimensions that surround and radiate from a focal point - known as the Bindu. The triangles are so interfaced that they form 43 smaller triangles in a maze perfectly depicting the cosmos. Just below the triangles structure you can see two rows of lotus petals - 8 and 16 respectively. The temple has been built keeping in considerations of Vaastu Shastra. 'Dance of time' is displayed on the external walls. The 4 edges on the top have 4 paws of a powerful lion with spherical balls stuck in them. These spherical balls symbolise the life and death cycle of human beings and the way they are trapped in it. The circumference of the temple has the long snake that ultimately reaches the front of the temple and stand with its hood wide open. Notice the 4 faces above - These represent Goddesses Kali, Bhuvneshwari, Saraswati and Lakshmi. The lower part of the structure consists of the Yoginis - 16 on each side with Tantrik cults. How to Reach? Amarkantak is a 5 hour drive from Jabalpur and can be reached by car or public bus. The route and the roads are both fantastic and scenic. Here is a sneak peak of the same: If you visit this place, try to acknowledge and understand the intricacies behind this construction which will definitely make you feel proud of how ancient powerhouse we were once!
India's Grand Canyon - Raneh Falls
There is a reason why Madhya Pradesh is called the "Heart of India" because once you start exploring the city, you heart will stay here forever. One such moment is visiting the underrated and least known, Raneh Waterfalls, also called as the "Grand Canyon of India". If you are not aware, then Grand Canyon is in the Arizona, USA which is a river valley with grand rocks formed millions of years ago. A similar replica is in our MP and nowhere in the world. Thus the foreign tourists named it as the Mini Grand Canyon. Location and Features The Raneh Waterfalls is about 30 kms from Khajuraho and is a must visit for any traveller. The Ken river makes her way through these rock marvels. One can come directly to Khajuraho Airport or Mahoba railway station. Note: As I visited the place by my car, the charges for 4 wheeler is 600 + 100 mandatory guide fee. For 2 wheeler, the fee is 300+100 mandatory guide. These waterfalls with their jaw dropping beauty have five primary rocks that makes the canyon - Green Dolomite, Black Basalt, Brown Quartz, Red Jasper and pink granite. It is said that a volcanic eruption millions of years ago led to the formation of such rocks over a period of time. Some of the colours can be seen in the pic above. The depth of the canyon also varies greatly from as shallow as 5m to as deep as 60m. As you go along with the flow of the river, you can see the Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary (Alligators). If lucky, the Ghariyals can also be seen taking a sun bath on the rocks! However, it wasn't a lucky day for me in that sense :( The route to the grand canyon is also wonderful. You have to drive past the farms and then enter inside a forest area that leads up to the Raneh Falls. Covid times have led to even a further fall in the tourists and the place hence looks more serene. With no heads rolling nearby, one can feel the enormous nature and the insignificant role that we play in this beautiful world. Here is a sneak peak of the place: Does it excite you to explore more of Madhya Pradesh? I bet it will!