Holy Waters and Sacred ash at Nashik Kumbh Mela

kumbh-mela-1Hundreds of thousands of Hindu faithful including ash-smeared holy men gather in the Indian city of Nashik on the banks of the Godavari River, as devotees from all walks of life bathe in the holy waters.

Kumbh Mela, or Pitcher Festival, is celebrated in four different Indian cities over a period of 12 years. This time round pilgrims congregate in Nashik, in the western state of Maharashtra.

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Hindu faithful, sadhus or holy men among them, gather to pray in the water and cleanse themselves of sin. Kumbh Mela is rooted in the Hindu belief that Vishnu fought with demons for a golden pot containing the nectar of immortality. Four drops fell to earth in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujain and Nashik.Pilgrims take ritual grand baths, or Shahi Snan, during auspicious planetary alignments. Believers say spiritual energy flows to earth while they plunge in the water.

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Eco-Friendly Ganesha Idols For This Ganesha Festival

Ganesha Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrated in honor of the god Ganesha, the elephant-headed, remover of obstacles and the god of beginnings and wisdom. These days we are seeing the Ganesh Idols which are causing environmental effects while immersed in water. Some of the people who are aware of the adverse effects are making eco-friendly Ganesha’s.

Let’s hope these idols bring awareness among people about the environment. We wish you a Very Happy Ganesh Chaturti

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Why is Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated?

There are two different versions about Ganesha’s birth. One has it that Goddess Parvati created Ganesha out of dirt off her body while having a bath and set him to guard her door while she finishes her bath. Shiva who has gone out, returned at that time, but as Ganesha didn’t know of him, stopped him from entering. An angry Shiva severed the head of Ganesha after a combat between the two. Parvati was enraged and Shiva promised Ganesha will live again. The devas who went in search of a head facing north of a dead person could manage only the head of an elephant. Shiva fixed the elephant’s head on the child and brought him back to life.

The other legend has it that Ganesha was created by Shiva and Parvati on request of the Devas, to be a vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) in the path of rakshasas (demonic beings), and a vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) to help the Devas.

This year, September 17th marks the beginning of this festival which is also called as Vinayaka Chaturthi

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Hyderabad received new Android Update

Indian artist Kandhi Kuppa Surya Prakash (top-L) gives the final touches with helpers to an Hindu God Lord Ganesh figure made from thin-gauge thermoforming plastic cups and some paper cups at his workshop in Hyderabad

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The Bikers Who Travelled from India to Thailand, Through Myanmar, on the Royal Enfield Bullet share their wonderful Journey

An Indian Army officer took a quick look at our stamped papers and motioned for the gate to be lifted. Noel, my Aussie riding buddy, and I had left New Delhi a few days earlier on Asian Highway 1, battling northern India’s freezing winter conditions on a pair of kick-start Royal Enfield Bullet Machismo 500s.

Many travellers have made the journey to the border at Moreh, only to be turned away. If the Indian border officials didn’t think you’d be allowed into Myanmar, they wouldn’t allow you to exit. But things are different now. After months of anxious planning and wondering whether to attempt this trip, we were almost there.

Myanmar Maps          (Photo: Google Maps)

Until a few years ago, crossing Myanmar overland with your own vehicle was prohibited. It took some enterprising individuals to sort out the paperwork and convince their governments to open the border and allow travellers to enter.

13-bullet-[1600x1200]Riding through the jungles of western Myanmar where the tar road hasn’t reached yet. (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

Myanmar is now, technically, a democracy. But it remains military-dominated and paranoid about state security. What do secretive states fear most? Independent travellers roaming the country, interacting with locals and reporting to the outside world. As a compromise, overlanders are now allowed to cross the country to Thailand with one major caveat – they have to be escorted by a government officer and a tour guide, along with a fixed itinerary following a pre-planned route. This isn’t my preferred style, but the opportunity to be one of the first to blaze the trail across this ‘virgin’ country was too tempting.

Crossing the single-lane, iron Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge at Moreh was a big moment – a continuation of my round-the-world journey without needing to take a flight.

20-bagan-bullet-[1600x1200]The enigmatic plains of Bagan with pagodas from a thousand years still standing. (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

The western part of Myanmar is quite remote compared to the south and the east. With no tar roads until a few years ago, there were many tales of notorious mud jungle roads that mired vehicles. But the Indian government, in its bid to open trade with Myanmar and counter China’s influence, surfaced a 160 km-long road from the border to Kalay.

However, any chances of making quick time were ruined by more than a hundred narrow wooden and iron bridges. Some were well-maintained, but others resembled those I’d traversed deep in the Amazon with missing planks and exposed nails.

15-bridges [1600x1200]Crossing over a hundred wooden bridges in remote western Myanmar. How good is your balance?

(Photo: JayKannaiyan)

We made it to Kalay in a day, then set off for Mandalay. The tar surface disappeared within a few kilometres, revealing baseball-sized rocks jutting from the hard-packed mud.

Our Bullets bounced about and just like in the Amazon, when trucks inevitably came from the opposite direction, the road’s fine clay dust enveloped us, drowning our senses for several seconds and leaving a powdery residue everywhere. But in this primitive landscape, riding through virgin jungles, we were in adventure riding paradise.

Down the Irrawaddy River lay Bagan, Myanmar’s tourist Mecca and a place to marvel at the imperial legacy from the Eleventh Century. Thousands of pagodas dot this plain, many covered in gold leaf. Its grandeur is intense, emotional and deeply personal. As we caught the sunset that evening from atop one of the largest pagodas, spontaneous applause broke from the crowd when the last ray disappeared beyond the horizon.

18-temple-[1600x1200]          (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

The next day we headed east and the road twisted tightly up and over the Shan Hills. Bullets are low on horsepower, but their balanced chassis makes for nimble cornering. Going uphill, sliding our butts off the seats, and leaning into corners is a movement every biker learns to love, even if the Bullet wasn’t designed to be ridden like a sportbike.

Back over the Shan Hills and we entered Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital built 10 years ago. Like most planned capitals, this one feels sterile, filled with wide, multi-lane concrete roads almost entirely devoid of traffic. We were left stunned by a 20-lane road in front of the parliament building. Ten lanes each side, with no cars. A sad demonstration of showmanship – no doubt a venue for military parades intended to signal the government’s disdain for Western sanctions – instead it remains a monolith of Myanmar’s squandered fortunes.

26-inlay-[1600x1200]         (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

Bikes are banned from Nay Pyi Taw’s modern four-lane concrete highway to Yangon and they’re not even allowed into the city, so we had to park them at the city’s northern edge from where we caught a van and made it just in time to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Over 325 feet tall, covered in gold leaf, with endless candles lit by chanting devotees around its base, the pagoda possesses an immense spirituality. We said a customary prayer, walked around the base and then headed to 19th Street in Old Town for a night of barbeque meats and cold beer.

119-myanmar-food [1600x1200]         (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

After fetching our bikes the following morning, it was a leisurely ride east to Kyaiktiyo. Here we took the hour-long steep uphill climb in the back of a truck to Golden Rock – a massive boulder impossibly balanced on the edge of a cliff, covered in gold. When the sun came out from behind the clouds and lit up the rock in all its golden radiance, it was almost enough to make me a believer.

On the last day, we crossed the Dawna Range to reach the Thai border. And, just like in the far west where the road is yet to be paved, Noel and I had one last hairy ride. From Hpa’an, the road east is laden with trucks and tourist buses. This deteriorated road gave us a bone-rattling ride, which worsened in the mountains, becoming a gnarly off-road track filled with giant potholes. We charged up along the sides of minibuses, tankers and trucks – not lingering on the cliff edges longer than necessary.

84-inlay-boat-[1600x1200]Long boats on Inle lake where the locals have created a thriving economy whilst living on the lake.

(Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

This thrilling ride made for a fitting end to the journey through this adventure rider’s paradise. We reached the Thai border at Mae Sot and after bidding farewell to our escorts whom we’d befriended over the past ten days, we exited Myanmar.

Noel and I high-fived as we realized we were among the first riders to cross this wonderful country from India to Thailand – and on Royal Enfields!

What a stunning country to experience on a bike. If you would like to do this, get in touch as I’m organising another ride across in a few months.

India to thailand on road       Successfully entering Thailand at Mae Sot after crossing the length of Myanmar. (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

 

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Places in India to Travel on a Low Budget

Kodaikanal: Located in Tamil Nadu, about 7200 ft above the sea level, Kodaikanal is called the ‘Princess of Hill Stations’. It clutches to an unexplainable magnificence and boasts of some of the best street food at the lowest prices. There are lovely places to stay which would never burn a hole in your pocket. Moreover, you can try your hand at a few adventurous activities or just revel in the incredible beauty of nature.

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Darjeeling: A beautiful and gratifying travel destination, Darjeeling is famous for its traditional yet charming little hotels, home stays and cottages that are unexpectedly low-priced. The scenic exquisiteness of the snow laden mountains, marvelous views of the sunrise and the sunset, delectable food available at sensible rates and the divine savor of the renowned Darjeeling tea make it a place worth adding to your travel bucket list.

Darjeeling

Hampi: If you love architecture and take pleasure in marveling over the magnificence of palaces, temples, and incredible royal buildings, then, I am sure Hampi will take your heart away. People spend days and weeks in this wonderful city in Karnataka where traveling finds an altogether different manifestation. You can stay at any of the affordable cottages or hotels, rent a bicycle or a bike, eat out at amazing eateries and experience a kind of survival that doesn’t exist in most other places

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Gokarna: A faultless beach town in Karnataka, Gokarna is admired by Indians and foreigners alike. It is the idyllic travel destination for those in search of quietude, splendor and some appealing places of worship. You can stay at one of the multiple guest-houses and home stays at cheap prices and spend days without really worrying about the expense of living through a town as pristine as this.

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McLeod Ganj: This picturesque city is a suburb of Dharamshala and is extremely popular with travelers who look forward to some out-of-the-world experiences. You just need to take a train to Dharamshala and then move on to McLeod Ganj through a looping bus route or a private car. This place offers you with some of most reasonably priced and outstanding places to stay, marvelous eating joints and cafes, wonderful museums, temples and galleries, and cheap guided treks.

McLeod Ganj

Varanasi: Who said that the lust to travel cannot be merged with an essence of spirituality? Varanasi (Benaras) is one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism and is continually sprouting with the purity and divinity that it withholds. There are a large number of guesthouses and hotels that can fit well within every budget. Also, Varanasi offers amazing yet affordable food options and striking locations for tourists. Just take a walk along the ghats or marvel in the colorful vibrancy of the city and its temples.

Varanasi

Goa: Goa is one of the most touristy places in India and yet I’d never say that it’s overrated. Everyone needs to come across the spirit of Goa at least once in their lifetimes. This delightful and blithe Indian state has some of the best beaches, restaurants, home-stays and churches in the country. When you’re in Goa, you can find the cheapest of accommodation options, rent a bike and roam around, eat at small yet incredible food joints, spend hours on the beach, take a dip in the sea and also, consume very cheap liquor. Up for a party? Goa is your place!

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Courtesy :  Nikitha Mandhani

Khari Baoli – Asia’s Largest Spice Market

Shop_selling_tea_leaves,_at_Khari_Baoli,_Old_DelhiKhari Baoli- is a street in DELHI,known for its wholesale grocery and Asia’s largest wholesale spice market selling all kinds of spices, nuts, herbs and food products like rice and tea. Operating since the 17th century, the market is situated near the historic Delhi Red Fort, on the Khari Baoli Road adjacent to Fatehpuri Masjid at the western end of the Chandni Chowk, and over the years has remained a tourist attraction, especially those in the heritage circuit of Old Delhi.