Mar 30, 2016

Roti and Rice, are they so different?

Roti and Rice

For the last 30 years or so I am traveling to North and Western Indian states and always I travel in Indian Railways. Every time I meet people from different parts of India. And every time people talk about the differences in the cultures, food, clothes etc. Most of them feeling superior than South Indians. I ignore such talks. Couple of months ago I heard a woman from one of the Western States whining relentlessly about the difficulties she is facing in Chennai. Her problem was that people of Tamil Nadu are dark in color, they wear lungi, even rich people! They eat rice, idly and Dosa sitting on the floor, they eat with hands. They always speak tamil. They don't have rich culture like North or Western states of India. Really? I am not from Chennai, still I don't agree.

I am from Karnataka and I have traveled to almost all the states of India except for the North-Eastern states. I have always seen this discrimination. I have never understood what is wrong with idly-dosa or rice? They are as good as or much tastier than dhokla or aloo paratha or pav-bhaji or roti. Well, masala dosa is one of the 'must-have' food in the world! Southis wear lungi because of the hot and sweaty climate. Almost all Indians eat with clean fingers, Don't they? I do. But, this post is not about roti and rice or lungi and pyjama. It is about the attitude of the people towards the cultures of other regions. 

Well, it always makes me think! Discrimination and some kind of superiority is always there with some people wherever you go! I lived in USA for almost over a decade. I lived there happily as I did in my home country. But, still I have experienced some discrimination time to time. In a remote place in Arizona a man at the front desk told me he will not sell anything from his shop including car fuel to dark people. Well, after hiking on the shadeless trails of American South-West my skin was charred. I cursed my fate and drove on with 10% fuel in the tank, on the deserted roads of remote Arizona in the pitch dark night! But, I rarely recollect that incident and treasured loads of memories of the kind Americans instead.

Discrimination is there everywhere which comes in different packets. Some encounters are serious and some you can just forget feeling silly. Outside India it could be between white and colored. In India it is between regions- North and South which indirectly again comes back to color of the skin, then food, clothes and culture. That doesn't end there. Again in South- I visited Tamil Nadu last year. Was browsing through the shops. Interestingly an old woman at a shop asked me if I spoke tamil. Obviously, I replied with a NO and explained her that it was my first visit to the state, so I haven't had enough time to learn the language of the land. Lady sternly spoke- Speak tamil discount speak kannada no discount!

There is more ... in my own state- Karnataka! My parents are from coastal area which is called Karavali. We moved from Karavali to the North which is called Bayaluseeme (plains) when I was a child. The people of Bayaluseeme who worship Lord Shiva had an attitude towards the Brahmins of Karavali. There we had a neighbor who was originally from a town called 'Sagar' which is located in the Western Ghats region of the state called Malenadu. Whenever the woman got a chance she proclaimed that Malenadu women are prettier than that of Bayaluseeme! She sang a kannada song Malenada henna maibanna ... in her donkey voice! Ahhhh!

What I have mentioned here is very basic silly stuff! There is a lot of discrimination in the world based on different factors which lead to serious consequences. I am neither an expert nor qualified to talk about those things. But, are roti and rice so different? What is all the fuss about?

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Mar 13, 2016

The ancient Seat of Learning- Nalanda

Temple-3 ruins at Nalanda Bihar India
The icon of Nalanda Temple-3

The private mini bus was jam-packed to the last step. I could only see through the window, the outside world looked big and green. The sights of rural Bihar were not much different from that of Uttar Pradesh. I was heading south from Patna towards Nalanda to visit the ruins of Mahavihara of ancient Kingdom Magadha. 90KM south of the capital city Patna, this place of importance is much visited by tourists as well as Buddhist and Jain pilgrims. From the minibus I was the only one to get off. I was surprised to see the ruins crowded with tourists, probably because it was a Sunday. In comparison, ruins at Vaishali were deserted and devoid of tourists!

Feb 16, 2016

1200 birds of India

Oriental White Eye at Khijadia Bird Sanctuary Jamnagar Gujarat India
Oriental White Eye at Khijdia Bird Sanctuary Gujarat
(CLICK HERE for the entire Photo Gallery)

A decade-and-a-half ago I was a bird enthusiast. It was my passion to identify birds. I even bought a then expensive zoom lens. But, soon I started with trekking and there was nothing else I thought of doing on weekends. When trekking I got the craze of waterfalls and then the waterfalls photography. I enjoyed watching wildlife including birds on the way though. Exclusive birding trips were long forgotten. Binoculars and zoom lens were left deep inside the closet. With the world travel and backpacking India trips I left behind the heavy camera gear and taking bird pictures was a forgotten story. I bought a high end point-and-shoot camera instead. Now, my trekking trips are stopped due to some mysterious illness. Recently, I was lazily browsing nothing in particular and found some articles on birds interesting. I was shocked to know many species of birds in India have found their place in the endangered list. It is very sad to know the very common birds are going uncommon. That info kind of rekindled the passion for birds in me! Thought if I don't see them now then I may not see them anytime later!

Jan 20, 2016

The relic stupa at Vaishali and the Asoka pilar at Kolhua

Relic Stupa in Vaishali Bihar
Canopy over Relic Stupa

To move in and around Patna city you will have to catch private buses and there is a separate stand for private buses- Mitapur. I got off from the shared autorikshaw and was nervous to see the dusty place with hundreds of old battered buses parked. It is insanely crowded place with bus drivers screaming to get passengers into their buses. I got into one of those numerous buses which would drop me near Vaishali. The bus driver and front seat passengers were kind enough to ask me the purpose of my visit so that they can drop me at the nearest cross road to my destination. After passing some green pastures of rice fields, banana groves I reached the outskirts of Vaishali. The bus stopped on the highway and I had to walk about a KM and half to reach the places of interest. There were no autorikshaws or cycle-rikshaws near the bus stop. One of the very few people sitting in the small tea stall there asked me what was I doing there. I told him about my interest. He stopped a passing motorcyclist and ordered him to drop me at the Relic Stupa! I was hesitant but the person insisted on taking a ride instead of walking all the way.

Jan 16, 2016

Backpacking India Part IV- In search of 1200 birds of India!

Map courtesy: Internet

Well, I am back after taking a long break from blogging. Many reasons for the break! First, I was sick with every bone and every joint in my body severely complaining :( After taking rest for a couple of months I was fed up of the walls around me. I fed up of liking, sharing, commenting the FB posts on Intolerant India, life inspirations, profile and cover pictures etc. I had never thought I would some day take interest in being active on Facebook. After suffering all the frustrations of being stuck in between four walls I decided go out no matter what! And I went travelling resisting the pain. Felt great indeed! I feel partly my pain is evaporated!

Nov 16, 2015

Kumrahar ruins of Patna- an insight to ancient Pataliputra

Kali Ghat Patna Bihar
Kali Ghat

I started from Varanasi railway station in an express train in the morning hoping to reach Patna by afternoon. Well, I was happy traveling in the 'almost empty' second AC compartment. My co-passenger was an eighty+ years old man. The train was an hour late at the starting point itself but still it would reach before dark I thought. I was traveling to the state of Bihar for the first time. Knowing the history and reputation for safety of Bihar I was wondering whether to tell my Mother about my trip or not. I didn't tell.

Aug 29, 2015

Khushinagar, where Buddha bid final adieu to the mortal world

Japanese monk at Mahaparinirvana temple Khushinagar Uttar Pradesh India
Monk enjoying a walk at peaceful vihara around Mahaparinirvana Temple

After my visit to Ayodhya- the glorious land of Lord Sri Ramachandra, I left for Gorkapur from where I could catch a bus to Khushinagar. It was a journey in the cold, with a grey sky looming over. Khushinagar is 53KM from Gorakhpur. From Gorakhpur I got into a private tempo which was overloaded. Every inch of space inside was packed with people. And hence the frigid morning breeze didn't bother me much. The tempo had boom boxes and the driver had some Indian pop music, specifically an 'item' song (rural Indian cabaret) on for his and the passengers' entertainment. The shrilled voice of the singer was barely audible from those cheap and loud boxes. I got off at the main road and started walking towards the small town yet important Buddhist pilgrimage center. I was unaware of the unexpected experiences I might bump into.

Aug 13, 2015

The remains of Ayodhya, The Ram Janmabhoomi

Picture courtesy- Google

This post is a part of my Backpacking India series. It is really amazing to learn the difference in experiencing the places from what we see in the news, books and the reality. It is just an attempt to narrate my personal experience of journey through the most revered Hindu divine destination, one of the seven sacred cities and the place which is center of disputes- Ayodhya, where Lord Rama was born.

Aug 8, 2015

The Imambaras of Lucknow

Bara Imambra Lucknow
Asifi Mosque in the same complex as Bada Imambara. People easily get an idea that this imposing mosque is the bada imambara.
This post is from my last backpacking journey through the states of India. Lately, I haven't been updating my blog for several reasons. I traveled from Allahabad to Lucknow in a "Delux" bus which broke down in between and I had to board another bus after waiting for half-an-hour on the roadside. It was a good start- I reached the city with no other difficulties. Lucknow is a busy city. This city of Nawabs is the capital of the Uttart Pradesh, a part of the Heritage Arc, and is home for many historical monuments, most popular being the Bada Imambara. The city is also synonymous with the chickan embroidery work popular as luckhanvi chickan

Aug 4, 2015

Back from another roadtrip!

Road trip USA June 2015 Utah Colorado Wyoming Idaho
June 2015 Road trip map

Well, I haven't been posting much (or say nothing?) on my blog recently. Not that I have stopped blogging but I have been distracted with other activities! I had to be with my mother and had to wind up things back in USA, then I went on a 15 days long road trip across Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho! The trip was kind of on an impulse! My lovely niece paid and booked my tickets and my kind cousin provided me the accommodation in USA.

May 18, 2015

Prayaga or Triveni Sangam where the three rivers meet!

Triveni Sangam Prayag Allahabad Uttar Pradesh
Boat queue for Triveni Sangam

Second oldest city of India after Varanasi- Prayaga is another holy city. One of the four theerthas (sacred places) Prayaga or Triveni Sangam is just 83KM from Varanasi. Triveni Sangam is the meeting point of three sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati (subterranean). One of the four places where the popular Kumbh-mela is held every 12 years sangam is believed to have soul cleansing powers hence a sacred bathing place. Also called as Theertharaja (king of holy places) Prayaga is the birth place of Soma (Moon), Varuna (God of rain) and Daksha Prajapati (Son of Brahma). The city has a long history dating back Vedic period as the location where Brahma performed a sacrifice and hence the name Prayaga. Mahrishi Ved Vyas wrote Siva Puarana here in this place. 

May 5, 2015

A triad of Goddess- Vindhyavasini, Kali and Ashtabhuja in Vindhyachal

River Ganga and the sandy riverbed on the way to Vindhyachal
River Ganga and the sandy riverbed on the way to Vindhyachal

As I had mentioned in my earlier post the my journey this time ended up as a classic pilgrimage. The places I visited were temple towns and each temple there has a interesting legend associated with it. One such triad of goddesses is Vindhyachal. 70KM from the religious city of Varanasi, Vindhyachal is another sacred place for the believers of Goddess Durga. The presiding deity Vindhyavasini (The Goddess who lives on Vindhyachal) is instant bestower of benediction.

Apr 24, 2015

Ramnagar Fort and Museum- An amazing collection of weapons!

Ramnagar Fort Varanasi
Ramnagar Fort
Apart from the popular Buddhist center Sarnath there is another half-day excursion from Varanasi and that is Ramnagar Fort. Built by a Kashi Naresh Ramanagar fort is the residence of the Royal family of Varanasi even today. The fort built in mughal style using chunar sandstone stands high above the flood levels of River Ganga. Only a part of the fortress is accessible to the public. Sarswati Bhavan which was the durbar hall those days is converted into a museum. The fort also houses a temple dedicated to Veda Vyasa.

Apr 20, 2015

Pontoon bridge from Varanasi to Ramanagar

Pontoon Bridge connecting Varanasi and Ramnagar
Pontoon Bridge Varanasi end

During my trip to Varanasi few months ago I visited Ramnagar for its popular fort museum. More than the fort and the interesting collection of weapons in the museum I was thrilled at the pontoon bridge across River Ganga. This pontoon bridge is available only during winters when the river recedes. When the river is swollen during summers the only mode of travel is by boat. The new bridge stands high but, is too very far from being completed. From Bharat Hindu University I took a shared autorikshaw to the fort and I went on this bridge! Though everyday thousands of people travel to-and-fro this bridge I was taken aback to see an autorikshaw front wheel stuck in the broken wooden plank of the bridge! I am sharing few pictures as only pictorial narration of my experiences and not being judgemental about anything. I sometimes get amazed by how makeshift arrangements effectively work though with some degree of danger involved!

Apr 8, 2015

Sarnath- where Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma

Dhamekh Stupa at Sarnath Buddhist ruins
Sarnath archaeological ruins and Dhamekh Stupa in the background

Most popular excursion from Varanasi is Sarnath. Another sacred place where Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma. Buddha delivered his first sermon in a deer park just outside of city of Kashi. He probably chose this place as it was an important crossroads of that time, an established religious and commercial hub of those days. People who visit Sarnath doesn't realize it was an important place for the believers of Lord Shiva. Sarnath- as it is called today is the short form for Saranganatha which means Lord of deer, ie another name of Lord Shiva. Though Sarnath is popular as Buddhist pilgrim center the name came from a small shrine dedicated to Saranganatha which is a KM away from the popular imposing Dhamekh stupa. That is how there was a deer park in this place. On Hindu auspicious days this temple gets many visitors otherwise is a very quiet place.

Apr 2, 2015

Kashi Yatra- Tales of the ancient temples!

Ancient temples of Varanasi
Durga Temple and Durga Kund of Varanasi

Tales of ancient temples in Kashi! That means- this post is a long read! Hope it keeps you interested!

Visit to Kashi is much more than collecting pictures of skinny bearded old men bathing in river Ganga, or ash clad Naga sadhus or the prevailing dirt. It is much more, at least for Hindus. And that is the reason I always mention I was visiting Kashi- to behold the image of divine, not Varanasi for sightseeing. People talk about disordered, crowded, unhygienic jungle of temples called Varanasi. But, for Hindus who's vision is beyond the lanes and ghats of the city, Kashi is an ordered and structured universe with Vishwanatha temple as the center. Every temple here occupies the right place in that sacred geography. Well, that structure is a bit twisted by the destruction during muslim rule but sanctity prevails.

Mar 24, 2015

Kashi Yatra- Canines of Kashi :)

Austere clad sadhus are favorite subjects to photograph in Varanasi? For me there were many favorite subjects including canines! I am sharing few pics here. Are you surprised? Why am I talking about dogs of all other sacred things in Kashi?

Mar 6, 2015

Kashi Yatra- The popular Ganga Aarti

Tons of websites appear in the result list when you google for Varanasi. And the most mentioned 'must-do' item will be Ganga Aarti in the evening on Dashashwamedha Ghat (Read more on ghats here). Well, it is a beautiful, grand, elaborate, touching event in Varanasi although it looks a bit dramatic and touristy. As I mentioned earlier my trip was for seven days in Kashi and every evening I watched this event with full enthusiasm and devotion. I didn't care about the mosquitoes, about the light colored clothes I was wearing, that stinking cow dung right beside me and the people who were determined to sell the music CDs to me. Everyday I was there at 5:45PM.

Mar 2, 2015

Kashi Yatra- One evening on Harishchandra Ghat

Well, Kashi is city of very interesting things. People come here- to die, to perform rituals, to pray, to get married, to smoke, to experience and what not! One evening I was walking back from Asi ghat to Dashashwamedha ghat and was immersed in some thought. I was walking near the Harishchandra ghat and a big crowd screaming with excitement brought me back to the world! Curious I was went looking for the reason for that kind of excitement near a cremation ground. Yes! Harishchandra ghat is a cremation ground. (Read more about Varanasi Ghats here)

Feb 27, 2015

Kashi Yatra- Kashi as I saw, a photo tour!

As I mentioned in the earlier post, Kashi is much happening place. For tourists, ghats (see post Experiencing Ghats)are the main attractions though there are few other attractions like Banaras Hindu University campus which is walkable from Asi Ghat. Kala Bhavan museum and the new Vishwanatha temple built by Birlas are located here. The Durga Shaktipeeth in the city too is quite popular ancient temple. There are few other temples in the city. But, after visiting the ghats and Kashi Vishwanatha Temple nothing seems very interesting. I was quite amazed to see the inflow of foreign tourists here. Sometimes tourists make great pictures too :) Here I am sharing 20 pictures of Kashi Ghat as I saw! 

Boats everywhere!