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Your "Sanctuary of Truth" in Pattaya
Ever wondered that you can experience Buddha's life in Pattaya city? Pattaya is infamously known for its 'Walking Street' and cool bars because of which many tourists often miss out on the other things that the city has to offer. It has everything from cool museums, beaches, theme based water parks (Cartoon Network, Ramayana and others), ATV adventures, Bungee Jumping and what not! And then there is this amazing masterpiece made of wood that will leave you awestruck - The Sanctuary of Truth Still under construction that started in 1981 and estimated to be completed by 2025, this wooden architecture astonishes you with the fact that it is built without any nails (barring a few that have been put now as it is still under construction). The museum or shrine or temple is all about the eternal teachings from Hinduism and Buddhism and features Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, Buddha on various walls. The shrine is located in North Pattaya and it is best to reach there by a Taxi, which can be easily booked through 'Grab' application. One can buy the tickets online as well which costs about INR 2000 for 2 people. The ticket price includes the guided tour which is done in groups. These are done in English, Russian and Chinese languages. As soon as you reach towards the deck from where the structure can be seen, the sight beholds you. The vast ocean in the backdrop is like the perfect background for the wooden beauty. Evenings would add to the charm, as it becomes a little difficult to admire it in the scorching sun. Nevertheless, you can't stop looking at it. Our English speaking group was ready to be taken by the guide who explained us each and every part of the museum. The tour starts from the area where the wood is being carved and shaped to continue building the structure and showcases how it is locked without the use of nails. Have a look at the video below: After the demo, it was time to enter the museum. The interiors are as amazing as it can be. The giant halls with the beautiful carvings on the walls summarises the life. The detailed carvings explain the 7 truths of life, namely: Who are we? Where are we from? How do we live our lives? The End of Life Samples of Civilization What is a Life Goal? Society is like a 2-sided coin The beginning of society These are taught through the carvings and explained by the guide. This will surely leave you in thoughts about how to approach life from hereon. Some pictures from this trip: The ticket allows you to stay till 6PM in the evening. So visitors can enjoy their time clicking photos or marvelling at the truths of life carved on the walls. There is a visitor's book as well where you can give your feedback and comments. Stepping out of the museum would mean that there is a dire need of something to eat and drink. Thanks to Thailand's hot weather! Here is a glimpse of the same: Apart from the outdoor dining area, there is one under the roof as well and is near the entrance. We enjoyed some refreshing watermelon and coconut juice there. Visit to the Sanctuary of Truth was indeed enlightening and different. Though, being a Hindu and brought up in India, we knew about the teachings, but it is all the more beautiful when you revise that in a foreign land! There was one takeaway from this visit - Monuments in India that have deep history behind it are often visited without a guide, reason being that there is no concept of a guided group tour. I think it would be great if the Govt. of India mandates the entry to some monuments only as a group and along with a guide. This would ensure that visitors get to know the history behind it and cherish them forever. Or else, the visit is normally lost in clicking photos. All in all, we really loved visiting the museum in Pattaya, a place which is synonymous to the glitz and glamour of Thailand! Here is a detailed video that I recorded when the guide was explaining about the Sanctuary of Truth! Hope you like it!
Railway Market, Bangkok
In this era of technology, most of the learning happens through the likes of Instagram reels or Youtube Shorts. This is one such 'learning' that I got aware of a couple of years back. I saw this amazingly cluttered and congested street market which runs besides a railway track. This definitely made it on top of my itineraries for Bangkok, which I recently visited. Situated about 1 hour from Bangkok downtown, the Maeklong Railway market is a very short stretch of the railway track that is surrounded by fruit and vegetable vendors along with cool restaurants. As soon as my wife and I saw the railway tracks crossing the main road and into the small lane, we were excited and surprised at the same time. Looking at the width of the street, it was difficult to imagine how a big train would fit in here! Add to it the various stalls that vendors have on both sides of the track. The timings of the train are almost every 1 hour, with the first train passing at about 6:20 AM in the morning. The last train can be seen at around 5:40PM. The taxi guys who will ferry you from the city to here are aware of the timings. Till the time this unusual sighting happens, visitors and tourists flock in the market to buy clothes, fruits, coconut ice creams and souvenirs. There are many who wish to take a comfortable seat outside a restaurant so that it is easy to see the train passing by. Like everyone, we also did the same and waited in a cool restaurant. Some smoothies and Egg noodles were to our rescue till the time we live our Instagram reel moment. And, did some window shopping too! It was now the time for the train to pass by! The people responsible for the same start announcing the arrival with their typical station-master type whistles. There are fine red lines that are drawn along the railway track and tourists are required to stand behind the same. It is amazing to see the train coming from a distance and how fast the vendors remove their stuffs in order for the train to pass. Some of the stuffs are not removed as they are kept appropriately with measurements such that there is no harm from the train. Tourists, especially the foreigners, and that too from countries like Japan and US who do not get to see such organised chaos can be seen smiling and excited! Now enough of talking! Here is the video of this amazing place: With lots of cheers and hand gesturing, the train passed by and the market was back in action! The shops were up, vendors were back on tracks to sell their stuffs and the next set of tourists wait for the upcoming hour! Don't you feel like visiting it too? :)
This hill town near Ooty will mesmerise you!
We all know Ooty as the most visited hill station in the south, and probably in the country as well. It was first commercially developed by the British, with the sole aim of their own relaxation and comfort. It's toy train also dates back to the British era.
Ooty has come up a lot since then. It is a fully grown hustling bustling town. The magnificent Dodda Betta peak to the beautiful rose gardens, almost every place is worth visiting. However, the recent surge of tourists have not only made it less attractive but also stole the title of the city that boasted of many movie shootings. Nevertheless, many roads lead to the top of the hill and there is one that will show you the calm and beautiful side of the hill town. It is the Kotagiri route. On our way back to Coiambatore, the driver, who was a local, suggested us to take the Kotagiri route instead of the usual Coonoor route. The route was a little longer but worth the experience. This is a pure hill town where you dont have sightseeing spots or branded hotel chains, but pretty houses, less people, temples, local kiranas and AirBnB homes! It is that part of the city where people like me who just want to gaze at the might hill and breathe in the pure chilly winds, instead of the honks and polluted air in the mainstream city. Though we did not plan to stay there, as we had our flights back, I managed to record the route on my GoPro. Here is a glimpse of the same: While we were on the way to Coiambatore, the diver drove past his village mentioning that he lives there and travels to Ooty daily for work. The mere sight of the village seemed so soothing. At that blink of a moment, I imagined what life would be if I come here and stay for a month! This is definitely a fact that if you go from a city to a village, be it hill or rural, it seems as if 24 hours here is more than what we have back in the city. You seem to have more time and can do so much productive work. Such thoughts do refresh our thoughts that has the potential to transform our lives. I wished to take more photos of by getting down but my next trip schedule was coming in the way. So, if you plan to travel to Ooty, do take the Kotagiri route and make sure to stay at least a day to experience the calmness of the hills.
A Spiritual Haven amidst Nature: My Experience at Sadhguru's Isha Yoga Center
Having listened to numerous podcasts and videos of Sadhguru, I finally visited the Isha Foundation in Coimbatore. I have been longing to come here since 2 years, and particularly during the Maha Shivratri, but couldn't plan it. So my family trip to Ooty brought me here. I'll make a separate post on it which was my second visit in an year. While returning back from Ooty to Coimbatore, to take my flight for Pune (which is my current residence and hopefully future too!), I had the entire day in Coimbatore. Needless to say, one part of it had to be with Adiyogi! For all those who do not know, Isha foundation was started by Sadhguru, who is a renowned personality and guru in the field of spirituality. His following spans across the globe and especially westerners. The Isha Yoga Center is situated in the foothills of Velliangiri mountains, some 25kms outside the city of Coimbatore. It is spread across a vast 150 acres of land with beautiful trees. Cabs or personal transport are the best ways to reach here, however, I am sure that local buses must also be running. I had my vehicle and must say that I was pleasantly amazed to see the route to Isha. It was through the forests with beautiful coconut and pine trees. I couldn't control myself and started recording through my GoPro! On reaching Isha, the one thing that you notice is the grand entry and the sheer size of the place. Right from the main gate to the parking lot, one can find broad roads, beautifully lined up trees which leads to the pathway to Adiyogi, Shiva! Hope the quick sneak peak made you wanting to travel here! Adiyogi Shiva statue is a wonder of its own. I do have a small replica of it in my house, but on seeing it right infront of me amidst the hills and green lands, I was literally mesmerized. Being a working day, the crowd was less, which all the more filled me with awe. My wife and I took off our shoes and went near the statue. There was a small enclosed space before it where many volunteers were present. They made the people sit down on the floor who wanted to meditate. The popular chanting of Sadhguru about Shiva (Shambhu, Shambhu..) was playing on the speakers that has the potential to immerse you in meditation. Since we had less time and my personal aim was to meditate in the Dhyanlingam, we went near the statue and clicked some pics. The next destination was the Dhyanlingam which was some 1.2 kms far, all within the Isha Yoga Center compound. Throughout the walking path, there were banners that explained about various entities like Vanashree, Linga Bhairavi, Patanjali, Dhyanalinga Dome, etc. Isha is not just about spirituality. You will find a number of eateries inside the compound that are priced reasonably. You can have all sorts of vegetarian foods available like Chats, Dosas, North Indian delicacies, etc. To quench your thirst you have everything from juices to cold drinks to coconut water to ice creams! Before entering the Dhyanlingam premises (which also has other spiritually enabled places), one has to deposit mobile phones and cameras. Of course, these things do not have any significance neither any use inside an area that teaches you to focus on yourself. The counters are available to deposit them without any worry and the volunteers would help you with everything - all with a beautiful smile on their faces, just like the way Sadhguru teaches in his videos and lessons. The entrance to the premises looks like this: There is a small banner that also describes the importance of snakes in Hindu culture! The premises has a large water pond that is said to be spiritually energized. There are separate ponds for men and women where people take dips in order to imbibe positive energies. You will also find many people simply sitting on the floor and doing yogic asanas, breathing exercises or meditating. These are people from across the globe. The volunteers also offer free Yoga exercises for 30 minutes for the sole purpose of promoting this well-being science. As we walked ahead, we saw the entrance to the Dhyanlingam. Dhyanlingam is a dome that houses a large Shivaling. The Shivaling is a consecrated one and hence imparts positivity. People are sent in groups inside the dome for a 10 minute period. These 10 minutes are purely for meditation. Volunteers stand before the entrance holding placards and requesting everyone's silence. It is even announced that people are requested to maintain silence and do not speak so that there is no disturbance to fellow beings. The Shivaling is housed under a large dome which gives the feel of a different mystical world. Doesn't matter if one is used to meditation or not, the mere sight of the Shivalingam and the atmosphere would make you immerse in meditation and you will actually feel that the distraction of the mind is relatively lot lesser. At least I was able to feel the same. We sat there for 10 minutes till a bell rang indicating that those who want to step out can now do so. We wished to stay longer but did not have much time, as there was a flight to catch. We stepped out of the Dhyanlingam premises and collected our belongings. It was now time to say goodbye to this magical serene place with a promise to return. This time the return would not be of few hours but days where I can actually practice the day to day routine of the Yogic life.
Kashi: The city that never sleeps and the spirituality that never dies
Kashi, the city of lights, is an extraordinary place that has a unique charm and charisma to it. It's a city that never sleeps, where the energy and the hustle-bustle of the streets is infectious. However, amidst all the chaos, there's a sense of calm and spirituality that is palpable everywhere you go.
My short visit to Kashi was a journey of enlightenment. The city's vibrancy, the Ghats, and the temples left me spellbound. The first thing that struck me about the city was the devotion and faith of the people. Be it any hour of the day, you will find people on the streets, either waiting for the next 'darshan' of Mahadev or simply sitting besides the Ganga.
The Ghats of Kashi are the lifeline of the city. The banks of the holy river Ganges are lined with ancient steps, each with its unique story and significance. The experience of witnessing the sunrise over the Ganges was an awe-inspiring moment that will stay with me forever. As I sat on the steps, watching the boats and the people going about their daily routine, I felt a sense of peace and tranquillity that is hard to describe in words.
The Ghats are not just a place for rituals and ceremonies; they are also a place for introspection and contemplation. The people who visit the Ghats come from all walks of life, seeking solace and spirituality. I witnessed many Sadhus who have made the Ghats their home. They had renounced the material world to seek a higher purpose and had found their calling on the banks of the Ganges.
The Vishwanath Temple is the one for which people visit Kashi. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and it is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in India. The temple's architecture is breathtaking, and the intricate carvings and sculptures are a testament to the city's rich heritage. The temple's sanctity and divinity are palpable, and it's hard not to get emotional when you're in the presence of the Lord. Moreover, the newly made compound is simply beautiful. Who better can understand and appreciate the beauty, cleanliness and management than those who had visited this years ago. Same goes with Ghats. It is an extremely sad fact that previous govts. did not pay any attention to crores of people who have their faith in Kash. Least they could have done is to make the religious place neat, clean and manageable. Thankfully, not the case now. Reaching the temple is through the thin roads housed by shops on both sides. These shops could serve you everything from food, to lassi, to bangles and clothes!
The temple's inner sanctum is a surreal experience that left me speechless. As I stood in front of the Lingam, I felt a surge of energy and a sense of oneness with the divine. It was a moment of spiritual awakening that I will never forget. Unfortunately, mobile phones are not allowed inside and hence I could not take any photo. I got a chance to see the Mahadev during His 'Shayan' aarti, which is done in the night at around 10:30PM. The energy of the compound was at a different level when all the devotees chant the aarti together.
Kashi is a city that leaves an indelible mark on your soul. It's a city of contrasts, where the old and the new coexist harmoniously. The city's spirituality is contagious, and it's hard not to get caught up in the energy and the fervor of the place. I left Kashi with a sense of fulfillment and a renewed appreciation for life and spirituality.
Kashi should be on everyone's bucket list. The experience of witnessing the city's spirituality and vibrancy is an experience that is hard to replicate anywhere else. The Ghats and the Vishwanath Temple are a testament to the city's rich heritage and offer a glimpse into the city's soul. Kashi is a city that never sleeps, and its spirituality never dies. Har Har Mahadev!!
Goa Chitra Museum
If you go beyond the beaches of Goa, you can get a chance to know the antique Goan life and how people lived. Goa Chitra Museum offers you exactly the same. It is a unique and fascinating museum located in the southern part of Goa. This museum is dedicated to showcasing the rich cultural heritage and history of Goa, and is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning more about the region's past. The museum is located in the village of Benaulim, just a short distance from the city of Margao. It was established in 2010 by Victor Hugo Gomes, a local artist and ethnographer, who had a passion for preserving and showcasing the traditional arts, crafts, and lifestyles of Goa.
The museum is housed in a beautiful 400-year-old restored Portuguese mansion and spans over 1.5 acres of land. The museum's collection includes over 4,000 artifacts, ranging from farming tools and equipment, to traditional musical instruments, to antique furniture and household items.
One of the unique features of the museum is its focus on the agricultural heritage of Goa . The museum showcases various farming techniques and tools used in the region over the centuries. Visitors can see how crops such as rice, coconuts, and sugarcane are grown and harvested, and learn about the traditional farming practices of the region. It also has a huge hall that shows the journey of transportation since mankind . The wheel-less carrier that was lifted by men to wooden wheel karts to the modern vehicle - the transition as we scan the hall is amazing!
Another highlight of the museum is its collection of traditional Goan costumes and jewelry . Visitors can see the various styles of clothing worn by different communities in Goa, as well as the intricate designs and patterns of traditional jewelry. Apart from it, I was amazed to see a full room that depicted a Judge's cabin back in the days. It had the old typewriters (without the delete button!), first age telephones, a coat and suit hanger, law books (which are still used today for some Goan laws) and photographs of different judges of the Portuguese era.
The museum also has a section dedicated to traditional Goan cuisine , which includes a collection of cooking utensils, pots, pans, and other kitchen equipment. Visitors can learn about the various spices and ingredients used in Goan cuisine, and even participate in cooking workshops to learn how to prepare traditional Goan dishes.
One of the most striking features of the museum is its use of traditional architecture and design. The buildings and exhibits are constructed using traditional Goan architectural styles and materials, such as laterite stone, clay tiles, and wooden beams.
Overall, the Goa Chitra Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning more about the rich cultural heritage and history of Goa. The museum's vast collection of artifacts, its focus on traditional farming and cuisine, and its use of traditional architecture and design all contribute to making it a unique and fascinating experience. It should definitely be in your check-list, especially during the afternoon time when it is not very pleasant at the beach.
Palolem, Goa - You Beauty!
Palolem is a picturesque beach town located in South Goa. Known for its stunning crescent-shaped beach, turquoise waters, and laid-back vibe, Palolem is a popular destination for both Indian and international tourists. In fact, the serenity of the town and entire South Goa attracts foreigners more than Indians. To reach Palolem, you can either take a taxi from Goa Airport, Panjim bus stand or Madgao railway station, or self drive. We had travelled from Pune to Goa in a bus which dropped us at the Panjim bus stand. As, Palolem is roughly 75 kms from Panjim, taxis are usually expensive (the operator was charging us Rs. 3500 one way). The best way is to take a self drive car or a bike (if you are an enthusiast) and drive across the scenic landscape. It costed us Rs. 1200 per day with a 3k refundable deposit. Here's what you need to know about the charming beach town: Beach and Activities : Palolem Beach is the star attraction of this coastal town. It's a wide and shallow crescent-shaped beach with soft white sand that's perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and long walks. The beach is lined with beach shacks that serve delicious Goan and international cuisine, fresh seafood, and cold drinks. There are also plenty of water sports activities to choose from, including kayaking, paddle boarding, and dolphin watching. It is recommended that you take your accommodation at the beach as it offers an amazing sea view and that is what Palolem is famous for. Yoga and Wellness : Palolem is also a popular destination for yoga enthusiasts and wellness seekers. There are many yoga studios and wellness centers in and around the town that offer a range of yoga classes, meditation sessions, and spa treatments. Some of the popular yoga schools include the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre and the Yog Temple. You will see many bill boards advertising the same. Nightlife : Palolem may be a sleepy town during the day, but it comes to life at night. There are many bars and clubs in the area that offer live music, DJs, and a lively party scene. Some of the popular nightspots include Neptune Point, Silent Noise, and Club Tito's. Nearby Attractions : If you want to explore beyond Palolem, there are many nearby attractions to visit. The nearby Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to see wildlife such as sloth bears, leopards, and deer. The nearby Cabo de Rama Fort offers panoramic views of the Arabian Sea and is a great spot for watching the sunset. The Dudhsagar Waterfall, one of the highest waterfalls in India, is also a popular attraction in the area. Another beach that is recommended is Galgibaga beach which is very raw and gives a view of Taplona river meeting the Arabian sea. Galgibaga Beach, South Goa Palolem is a beautiful beach town that offers something for everyone. Whether you're looking for a relaxing beach vacation, a yoga retreat, or a lively party scene, Palolem has it all. With its stunning natural beauty, friendly locals, and laid-back vibe, it's no wonder that Palolem is one of the most popular destinations in Goa.
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!