Shani Shingnapur – The lockless village

14.11.2016:

06.05 hrs – We were on the road trying to get an auto-rickshaw which can take us to the famous nearby village Shani Shingnapur. Our auto-driver earlier who dropped us at the temple told us that the auto-wala would charge a sum of Rs. 120/- for a to and fro journey from Shirdi to Shani Shingnapur. I think that was the first auto which was ready for it’s first trip of the day πŸ™‚ And there we were telling them the same old story that we don’t have any money left with us, but want to visit the other temple πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ . Thanks to demonetization once again πŸ™‚

The auto was getting filled infront of us, but we were still struggling to convince the auto-driver to find out ways to take us there. Finally, we came with our brilliant idea of swiping our debit cards at any petrol pumps πŸ™‚ . The old driver thought of it for a moment and told us that he would be getting his tank filled by swiping our card and would return the balance amount after our ticket-charges. It seemed to us like hitting a jack-pot. Hurrah! He is gonna give us some hot ready cash in our hands which is very much essential to carry on with our forward journey from Shirdi πŸ™‚

At last, we settled down at the rear end of the auto-rickshaw and the driver brought the engine to life. It was still dark outside and Mythri and I started eating the prasad. Once finished, we dozed off, but couldn’t get a nice lap, as the condition of the road was too bad and there were bumps all the way. It took us almost 1.5 hrs to reach our destination. 08.00 hrs – Our auto stopped infront of a shop from where we can buy the things like oil and flowers to offer at the temple.

Hinduism considers that the planets in our solar system have an impact upon our physiology, psychological structure and the context of our lives. Hence, Hindus consider these planets as forms of different energies and had constructed temples for them. Shani or Saturn, son of the Lord Surya, is considered to be the lord of dominance, distress, depression, disease and disaster. The Indian astrologers, based upon the birth place and time of birth and some other facts calculate when the impact of Saturn can be more in our lives which is known as ‘Saade Saati’ or ‘Yellanati Shani’ (in Telugu), which will last for seven and a half years.

In this phase, one may become more susceptible to depression or distress and in order to bridge those pits, various processes and rituals are associated with Shani temples. These are the temples where Saturn is personified as a God. And Shani Shingnapur is one such temples in India. This temple is not of the regular architecture which one can see throughout India, but the deity is in open space. The deity here is a 5’9” idol made of black stone, mounted on a raised platform in an open place. Usually in every other temples which I visited so far, Lord Shani would be in a sculpt form, but here it is in the form of a stone.

According to Hindu tradition, oil is poured onto the idol of Lord Shani in any temple. Here, there is a large bin in which we can empty the oil packets or bottles and the oil would be poured directly on top of the idol as it passes through the pipes that are connected to the bin. We went around the temple complex after the aarti. Legend is that the idol flowed along with the flood waters and struck in the bushes and a local shepherd tried to release it, and when he tried poking it, the idol started bleeding and the villagers left the idol at the same place after this incident. Later that night, Lord Shani Dev appeared in a villager’s dream and told that it was he and the other morning, the villagers cleared off the bushes and erected the idol and started offering pujas.

But why a lockless village? Coz, the houses in this village doesn’t have any doors and latches, except that they hold some curtains. It is believed that Lord Shani Dev protects the village and no theftΒ will occur here. They villagers also say that if ever a thief attempts to stole something, he goes blind and the things would be intact at the same place as they were placed before. The most astonishing thing is that even the bank and the police station in this village keep up with the tradition and has no locks. It is also a zero-crime village!

Interesting, isn’t it??

 

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Aagayi Mein Khandala ;-)

Aey, Kya Bolti Tu
Aey, Kya Mein Bolun
Sun,
Suna,
Aati Kya Khandala
Kya,Karoon, Aake Mein Khandala,
Arey Ghoomenge Phirenge Nachenge Gaaenge
Aish Karenge Aur Kya

While the perfectionist of Bollywood Amir Khan asked Rani Mukherjee for an outing to Khandala, the Versatile actor of Bollywood Farhan Akhtar too the most beautiful Deepika to Khandala for a coffee! Not only Bollywood, but also the young super star of Tollywood (the Telugu film industry) Mahesh Babu chose the very same Khandala as home in his debut film! What else could be a more better introduction? Isn’t it? πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

13.11.2016:

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Lonavla and Khandala are two sister hill stations in Maharashtra (7-8 km apart), at an elevation of 653 km from sea level. Located at the top end of Bhor Ghat, Khandala is at the heart of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and a favorite weekend gateway. And if you remember, we just had a quick view of Lonavala and here we are at Khandala.Β The best viewpoints are Tiger’s Leap and Amrutanjan Point. And our first choice is the Tiger’s Leap. While some told that, that was the Tiger’s Leap, some called it the Monkey point. Whatever it might be, we are there and the salubrious air was soothing.

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One can get a beautiful panoramic view of Lonavala and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway cutting those mountains. The view is breath-taking. A quick photographic session and we moved towards the Waghjai Devi temple, a temple dedicated to the goddess Waghjai. The idol of the goddess is quite different from the other shrines which I had visited so far and it is said that the Navratri festival will be celebrated here with much pomp πŸ™‚ We sat there in the temple for a few minutes and started walking towards the back of it.

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There were few youngsters walking in front of us and we followed them. There we were, at the edge of the cliff with a valley infront of us and this is also the place where I saw the people’s obsession with selfies. All of a sudden, a youngster jumped on to a tree which is right there at the edge and was trying to get a selfie. He was absolutely careless about his own life and more careful of getting a perfect selfie! How ridiculous!! It’s totally alright to take selfies, but not at the cost of one’s own life. Isn’t it?

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After all this, we were starving. Remember, we just had only a vada-pav from the time we stepped in Lonavala. And luckily, there is a small restaurant and it was buzzing with people all around ordering for food and tea. We asked for some paneer pakoda, jeera rice and dahi (curd). A chilly evening and pakoda – what a combo! πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚ Time to leave these beautiful hill-stations back. Our auto-wala dropped us at the Lonavala railway station from where we would be catching a train to Pune.

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17.00 hrs – Again, the demonetization effect, we preferred a second-class ticket for an express train so that we can save a few rupees which we can use for our onward journey. With the tickets in our hand, we are ready to get into whichever train comes next to Pune πŸ™‚

Demonetization – A realization ;-)

13.11.2016:

10.05 hrs – Here we are, at the Lonavla junction! Kaka dropped us here after giving his mobile number, if we need any help and giving us some info about the places to visit as well as how to get a vehicle to go around and things like that. We bid a bye to kaka and the first thing that came to our notice are the Chikki shops around the place. As far as my eye sight goes, the only shops which I can see are the chikki shops.

Chikki is a candy made up of jaggery and peanuts usually. But people do prepare these candies with other stuff like sesame, chana dal (chick-peas) etc. And Lonavla is famous for it’s chikki. Don’t forget to buy some when you visit this place next time πŸ™‚ . Kaka asked us to inquire with the auto-rickshaw people to go around the places and he told that usually they charge Rs. 500 to 600 for a trip. When we approached an auto driver and inquired, he asked us to pay him Rs. 1200, exactly double the amount which Kaka told us!

10.40 hrs – After a good bargain, he reduced the fare to Rs. 800 and it was only at this point of time did we realize that we are left only with Rs. 600. The next question to the driver is “Brother, are there any ATMs near by?” and the reply is “Lot of ATMs, but no cash in them” 😦 . Only then did we realize the gravity of the situation, that we were left only with Rs.600 and we still have a long way to go. So, it was decided that we would be sacrificing the plan of going around these beautiful hill-stations Khandala and Lonavla, for the sake of pumping few more bucks into our wallets 😦

11.00 hrs – We asked the auto driver about AXIS Bank, coz this is the only bank which don’t require a pass-book to withdrew money and he told us that it’s a 10 min walk from there. We walked towards the bank only to hear the answer that there was no cash available with the bank. We wanted to give a last try. If we could get some money from the ATM of State Bank of India, we would go around here or otherwise we would be heading directly to Pune. We reached the bank and there were 3 queues with some 100 people in each of them waiting for their turn either to deposit the old bank notes, or to withdraw money from the bank or from the ATM.

11.30 hrs – We too stood in the ATM queue and waited for our turn. The twist in the story was that the ATM was closed, none knows when it is going to be opened or is it going to be opened at all? It’s just a hope that it would open sometime πŸ˜€ . When inquired about the same with the security guard, he always used to show me his index finger and the middle finger! I could never understand, what it meant, I mean is it that the ATM opens at 02.00 PM or in another 2 hours! Waited for another hour in the queue till the time we got exhausted. We gave up our quest for money 😦 . Headed to a small eatery shop and ordered for some vada-pav and decided to leave to Pune!

12.45 hrs – Something clicked in Mythri’s mind. She called up her cousin to find about the Rs. 500 she has lent to him and found that he kept the same in the book in Mythri’s bag. She made a thorough search and at last found Rs. 400! Yippee!! Another Rs. 400 added to our reserve. Now the dilemma crept in. Should we bargain hard and fix the trip at a cost of Rs. 600 and save the rest for our onward journey or should we save all of it?

13.20 hrs – After having a vada-pav, my brain started to work sharp I guess πŸ˜‰ :-p . I told Mythri about the plan that was running in my mind. It was to ask the auto-driver to accept our debit-card and swipe it at any one of those chikki shops or the hotels or any petrol-pumps and get the money! We were elated with our idea and headed towards the auto-junction and we found the same driver with whom we had a bargain in the morning. But to our utter disappointment he wasn’t of any help 😦 . We lost our hope again!

14.00 hrs – Mythri and I, the deadly combo will never give up so easily πŸ˜‰ We found another auto-wala and when we told him that we don’t have ready cash and he can execute the idea which we had in our mind and he readily accepted. He took us to a near by hotel whose manager he knew well, but that manager turned him down 😦 . But our driver was like the King Vikram who wanted to go after the ghost Bethal πŸ™‚ . He approached his group of drivers and somehow persuaded the leader to speak with a petrol-pump owner and finally the owner agreed to swipe our card and pay the driver πŸ™‚

14.15 hrs – We made a payment of Rs. 700 to the driver to show us all the important places which we should visit both in Khandala and Lonavla and asked him to drop us at the railway station before 17.00 hrs as we have to catch our train to Pune! Finally, we made it πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Bandra – Worli Sea Link – An architectural Marvel

12.11.2016:

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18.00 hrs – Gateway of India πŸ™‚ . Got a chance to see this beauty with it’s lighting and all πŸ™‚ . My day didn’t come to an end yet. I didn’t miss to catch the words that were told by the cab driver while we were going to the Siddhi Vinayak temple that had we told him, he would have brought us there passing through the Bandra – Worli Sea Link. So, we decided that our return journey would be only by passing this πŸ™‚ . One more thing which I didn’t forget is that we are short of money and I should find an ATM with cash, thanks to Demonetization!

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While walking towards the Chatraparthi Shivaji Terminus, we came across a lot of ATMs but only without any cash 😦 . After few inquiries, we came to know that the feasible thing to do is to travel to Bandra by a local and catch an Ola cab from there to Andheri routed through the Sealink. 19.30 hrs – Reached the bandra station and took the cab and asked him to execute our plan πŸ˜‰ . Thanks to the Demonetization again, as there was no toll fee those days and we save few bucks πŸ™‚ .

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No pedestrians, buses and trucks are allowed on this. Only private vehicles are allowed and no one can stop on this to click photographs and if one did so, it’s sure that you will land up infront of the Mumbai Police. The 5.6 km long cable-styled bridge that crosses the Arabian Sea and links Mumbai’s suburbs with the southern part of the city is considered to be an engineering marvel. All eight lanes of the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link (as it’s officially called) were opened to the public in March, 2010. The infrastructure is remarkable, with gigantic pillars constructed inside the sea.Β It is said that the steel wire used in the bridge equals the circumference of the earth.

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The Sea Link is mainly to reduce theΒ load on the Mahim Causeway, the only road connecting the western suburbs to Mumbai and save the travel time (from 40 mins to 8 mins) and improvement in environment, especially in terms of reduction in air and noise pollution in Mahim, Dadar, Prabhadevi and Worli areas of Mumbai. Now, there is a proposal for the Bandra-Versova Sea Link, a northward extension to the Worli-Bandra Sea Link, that represents the last leg of the one which starts from Nariman Point. This 9.9 km long link is to be built 900 metres into the sea.

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21.30 hrs – Reached home along with fully slept Ryan and half-slept Mythri πŸ™‚ . But the scene reversed as we entered the home. After refreshing ourselves, Mythri is the first one to sleep and Ryan and I started to grab some food. This is the time, when I realizedΒ that the much bigger Rs. 2000 note is not of much use during crisis! Think off, we ordered some pizzas from Dominos, and the bill was Rs. 800 and they are not ready to accept a new Rs. 2000 note 😦 and ultimately, we couldn’t do much other than cancelling our order 😦 . I could understand that if I need to continue on my travel I have to convert this Rs. 2000 into 100s as soon as possible.

22.00 hrs – Ryan and I started our quest for 100 rupee notes and almost went around all the shops and hotels that were there on the Sahara Airport Road, which was of no use. When we entered the last hotel which is left, luckily we could see few persons who were in possession of some 100 rupee notes and when we approached them, the only words he spoke to us were that I have to give him 20% of 2000 (i.e. 400) Β if I need change. After a lot of bargain, he reduced the commission percentage to 10% and I got Rupees 1800 for my 2000. We don’t have any other go, do we?

22.45 hrs – We were back in our home and I called up my cousin only to say to check for any ATMs and if we can withdraw some money. 23.00 hrs – We were off to sleep! 02.30 hrs – My cousin is back home from his night shift and woke me up to say that he didn’t find even a single ATM with cash 😦

Tough times ahead :-p

End of Day 1 :-)

11.11.2016:

20.15 hrs – We landed up at a restaurant in the Colaba and we wanted to try some authentic Marathi food. So Ganesh took us to one such place and we ordered some bajra rotis, tandoori rotis, Paneer Koliwada, Jeera rice and so forth. The bajra rotis were generously buttered and were served with pickled onions and some other pickles. The food tasted too good and we were satisfied πŸ™‚

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21.00 hrs – Time to go home! We walked towards the famous Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus to catch a local train to Andheri. We clicked some photographs infront of this beautiful structure as well as the Mumbai Nagarapalika (Municipal building) and passed through one of the busiest sub-ways perhaps, which was still buzzing with people at that point of time.

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The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station, in Mumbai, is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The building, designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay as the β€˜Gothic City’ and the major international mercantile port of India. The terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878. It was a mix of the British, Italian architecturesΒ and Indian palace architecture and this blend became a unique style of Bombay.

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We weren’t lucky today 😦 , as we couldn’t spot even a single dabbawala of Mumbai entering or leaving the station. Mumbai is famous for its Dabbawala network, which is a complex food delivery system. They collect lunches from residences and deliver them at the respective offices of the people. The legend is that this system was started in 1890, when a Parsi banker wanted home cooked food at work and this system took it’s origin. The efficiency and precision of these Dabbawalas are renowned across the world. Not to forget, Prince Charles met them during one of this trips to India and even invited some of them to his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles in London, in 2005 πŸ™‚

Also as it was weekend, the crowd in the local train was less and we managed to get seats for ourselves. Reached home around 22.00 hrs to call it a day πŸ™‚ . No demonetization troubles so far πŸ˜›

Mumbai… Here I come :)

11.11.2016:

07.00 hrs – While the Demonetization effect is seeping into the lives of India, I was getting ready to start my masti in Maharashtra. With just a new 2000 rupee note and 10 ten rupee notes, I got into an auto rickshaw to catch the Jet Airways flight from Trivandrum to Mumbai. The practice of raising up hands if at all some one asks for extra money or change for higher denominations started from this point. Though the auto-driver switched on the meter and the bill was Rupees 98, he asked me for a hundred and twenty and I simply gave him the last 10 ten rupee notes which I had and told him if at all he needs an extra twenty he needs to give me one thousand eight hundred and eighty rupees in return. Lol! πŸ˜€ . No more arguments, the driver left without a word πŸ˜‰

07.40 hrs – I was standing in a queue of two persons at the State Bank of Travancore ATM at the Domestic terminal of Trivandrum and it just took me 10 minutes to get 20 crisp hundred rupee notes and I was on cloud 9 as I have got 4000 rupees in my wallet and thought that it’s not going to be a alright in the current crisis. 09.15 – Call for boarding was given and 09.30 hrs – Boarded the flight, 09.40 hrs – The flight took off..

11.30 hrs – The flight landed at Terminal 1 of Chatrapathi Shivaji Airport of Mumbai. Just before few minutes of the landing, I could see the real life of Mumbai. The airport which is among the most classy airports in India is surrounded by a huge slum and we can get a glimpse of it throughout the landing time. And here I am – in a Cosmopolitan city, a concrete jungle which has the highest sky scrappers, a city that never sleeps – Mumbai! The airport is really classy. I had been to almost all the major airports like Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata, but this one attracted me the most πŸ™‚

11.45 hrs – Mythri and Ryan – my nephew, were waiting for me outside the airport and we left to my brother’s place which is in Andheri East. Mumbai is said to have been built on seven islands that were part of Portuguese territories and that the British received it as a part of dowry when in 1661 King Charles II married the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza. Mumbai stretches from north to south, and Mumbaikars call the south region ‘town’ while the northern part constitutes mostly of ‘suburbs’.

12.00 hrs – A friend of mine in Mumbai Ganesh, is going to take us around the city for the rest of the day. We quickly had our lunch and left @ 13.00 hrs to meet catch up with Ganesh at the Cotton Green Station. The Ola cab services is quick enough to pick us from our home and leave us at our destination.

Just wait and watch what we gonna do in the city now πŸ˜‰