End of an awesome trip..

14.11.2016:

11.00 hrs – We were back from Shani Shingnapur to Shirdi. We headed straight to our resort – Sri Sai Athidi Resort, which is good and comfortable and worth the money we paid. We opted for a brunch, but as it was already 11.45 hrs by the time we reached the adjacent restaurant, when they told us that the lunch was ready, we ordered for two North Indian thali (plate). Food was served hot, and the thali consisted of a roti, some hot rice, paneer butter masala, Chole masala, dal and dahi (curd). The food wasn’t that great.. panneer way too far sweet, roti is made of maida, rather atta.. But, we should eat something or other to gain some energy, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜‰

12.30 hrs – Back in our room which was too cool though the fans were off, we slid ourselves under the warm blankets and slept off. Our train from Shirdi to Hyderabad is at 16.30 hrs from Shirdi station, and remember that I told that this trip would always be a miracle for me? It’s because we booked these tickets under the Tatkaal scheme the other day, where the chances of the ticket getting booked will be like 30% and that too from a place like Shirdi!

15.30 hrs – We checked-out from our resort and headed to the railway station. 15.45 hrs – Into the waiting hall. 16.15 hrs – We were into the train, the berths being Side Upper and Side Lower. 16.30 hrs – The train started. We too started chatting with each other, mostly of our demonetization experiences and how we used our brains in the most tricky situations ๐Ÿ˜‰ , about our friends and school times, watched the sunset together and also the supermoon ๐Ÿ™‚ . Though we couldn’t make much difference, we kept on watching it as the moon was at it’s best ๐Ÿ™‚

19.00 hrs – Our train reached the Manmad junction. We got down and picked up some food from a tapri (make-shift place), who is selling hot mirchi Bhajji, masala dosa and idli. Idli for mythri, a masala dosa for me. I suggest everyone to try food here, as it was fresh, good and tasty. 20.00 hrs – I occupied the upper berth and bid a good night to Mythri.

15.11.2016:

07.30 hrs – I woke up and got down, while Mythri was still sleeping. 09.00 hrs – Train reached Secunderabad Junction and I gave away the rest of the money which was there in my wallet to Mythri so that she can get a cab to her apartment, while my brother Srinu was there at the station to pick me up. First to our uncle’s home and then to Trivandrum..

The End of a short and sweet journey.. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay tuned for my upcoming adventure trip.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

At the feet of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba..

14.11.2016:

03.45 hrs – Our bus reached one of the famous shrines in India, Shirdi. Many a people from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat visit this shrine every year to offer their prayers and my mom so wanted us to visit this temple from a long time. Though this was not a part of my plan at first, Mythri told me that we can visit the temple and I readily agreed. I don’t know how it happened, but everything came to us ย like a miracle. Firstly, we didn’t know that we will make it to this sacred place. Secondly, the bus reached so early leaving us with a chance to attend the aarti and thirdly, it so happened that today i.e. 14.11.2016 is a full moon day of the ‘Karthika’ month, which is considered to be one of the most auspicious months according to the Hindu tradition.

03.50 hrs – We started looking for an auto-rickshaw to our resort and one needs to bargain hard with these auto-walas, otherwise you will be on the verge of getting looted. Though we bargained hard, as it was the wee hours and there were not many autos around, we paid him a hundred rupees to drop us at our resort and asked him to wait for few minutes so that we can reach the temple in the same auto and thank God, he agreed.

04.05 hrs – Checked-in to the hotel and quickly refreshed ourselves and made a move. The whole idea is to attend the aarti. Aarti is an ancient yet living ritual that takes place every day across India. We left our mobiles back in our rooms as mobiles were not allowed inside the temple complex. Though there were cloak rooms there to safe keep our belongings, we don’t wanted to waste our time there. 04.30 hrs – Started back to the temple and it was so cool early morning. When the driver dropped us at the entrance of the temple, we started running so that we could be among the first people who can get a chance to see the aarti. But we were late by few minutes and we had to stop in the ground floor and watch the aarti in the LCDs that were arranged there ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Aarti (aa meas ‘complete’ and rati means ‘love’) is part of a Hindu puja or act of religious worship and is always performed facing the deity. Integral to any aarti puja is the circulation of the lamp around the deity, which acquires the deity’s power. The priest then offers the lamp to the devotees, passing on the deity’s blessing. In the temples of South India, the lamp may use camphor or oil, and it is then presented to the devotees, who hold their hands over the flame and touch their hands to their eyes. The simple gesture signifies a desire for spiritual insight: “May my eyes be opened up to the knowledge of the unity of life.” And the temple icons are often wrapped in silk fabric and beautified with ornaments – these offerings are another way of enhancing the relationship with the Divine, and is part of the ritual of temple worship.

The aarti is performed at Shri Sai Baba’s Mandir, which is the place where his body is resting in Samadhi.ย We moved towards the deity when once the aarti was completed and we had a good darshan (sighting) of the Lord Shri Shirdi Sai Baba. The Samadhi (resting place) is constructed of marble stones and the railings around it are of ornamental decorations. The unique feature of this temple is that it is visited both by Muslims and the Hindus equally and the Muslims offer Chaddars (Shawls) to drape the Samadhi. The idol present here is made up of Italian marble and is life size.

Shirdi Sai Baba is a guru of the Nath tradition, a tradition formulated by Lord Dattatreya based on the instructions of Lord Krishna. The text Sripada Srivallabha Charithamrutham mentions the saint Sripada, incarnation of Lord Dattatreya, calling upon Hanumanji to take birth as Shirdi Sai Baba.ย The distinct feature of the Navanath tradition is the absence of formal procedures or teachings; everything happens in the presence of the guru. Proximity to the guru is paramount; by just being present in his energy field, one gets cleansed and liberated.

Considered to be one of the greatest gurus, it is told that Shirdi Sai Baba often asked for the two coins of shraddha (devotion) and saboori (patience) from those who came to him. The path may sound simple but it is difficult in practice โ€“ since even a speck of ego or doership is unacceptable. Had our darshan and gone around the temple complex to see the other important features of it. Dwarakamai, which was an old mosque and Lord Sai turned it into Dwarakamai is situated on the right side of the entrance and has two levels. The importance of this is that it hosts all the things once used by Shri Sai Baba and the legend is that this is the very place where Sai has proved that God is one – Sabka Malik Ek Hai!

They gave prasad (sugar coated boondi) and we were out of the temple by 06.00 hrs ๐Ÿ™‚ . For me, this trip would always remain a miracle, as everything was so hassle-free and smooth ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

Travelling in Pune..

Pune – a metropolis surrounded by lush green hills and pleasant weather, was once the heart of the Maratha Empire as the Peshwas resided here and today, it’s known as the ‘Oxford of the East’ due to its numerous education institutes. Pune is also best-known for it’s food and cafes.

13.11.2016:

20.30 hrs – The bus reached Shivaji Nagar Railway station and we started walking towards a restaurant for having our dinner when Mythri stopped at a pani-puri wala ๐Ÿ™‚ . One of the most popular street foods all over India – Pani Puri (called Puchkas in Bengal and golgappe in Punjab). Puris are puffed, hollow dough balls, fried to a light crispiness and filled with a masala of cooked potatoes, peas or chickpeas, and served with pani (water), a sweet and sour, tangy chutney made with tamarind or coriander. We had 5 puris each and walked towards the restaurant.

The first question we asked the waiter is whether they gonna accept debit cards, and the answer was instant, they do ๐Ÿ™‚ . We ordered for some jeera rice, aloo mattar and vegetable raitha as well as some coke. Food tastes better with coke :-p . During our train journey from Lonavala to Pune, Mythri booked our bus tickets to Shirdi, while waiting for the food, I reserved a room for us at Shirdi. Online made everything easy. Thanks to red bus and make my trip ๐Ÿ™‚ . We have to kill sometime as our bus is only at 22.30 hrs.

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Thanks to the waiter, as they served our food a bit late, so that the pani puris which we had earlier would have occupied a corner in our stomachs and we can fill the remaining with the food we ordered ๐Ÿ˜€ . The food arrived and we ate at a much lesser pace so that we can sit for more time there ๐Ÿ˜€ . 21.40 hrs – We finally made a move towards our boarding point which is like a 10 min walk from the restaurant. 22.00 hrs – I made a call to the bus driver to just make sure that we were at the right place waiting for the bus. The bus driver asked us to come to another pick-up point which is like another 5 mins from the point where we were waiting.

22.40 hrs – Boarded the bus to Shiridi, our next destination. Settled down with a blanket covering our faces, I didn’t even notice when our bus moved off ๐Ÿ™‚ . A long day.. Wasn’t it??

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? ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

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.ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

The Jewel of Sahyadris – Lonavala

13.11.2016:

Discovered in 1871 by Sir Elphinstone, the Governor of the Bombay Presidency, Lonavala lives up to its name, which means ‘city surrounded by caves’. One of the most famous hill stations known for it’s lakes and breath-taking views is also well known for it’s chikki and fudge, Lonavala is a must visit place for every tourist or adventure-lover. If I have had enough time with me, I would have definitely gone for a trek around one of the circuits here, but as time is a constraint now for me, I would just go around for this time!! Come, soak along with me in the beauty of this place ๐Ÿ™‚

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14.20 hrs – The plan is to explore Lonavala first and then proceed to Khandala. We kick started our journey and proceeded to one of the most famous tourist point of Lonavala called the ‘Lions Point’. Now don’t ask me why was it named so? ย ๐Ÿ˜€ . Lonavla – Known as the ‘Jewel of Sahyadris’, is a perfect choice for a quick visit that to if you have got less time with you. A hot spot for Mumbaikars and Pune-ites, Lonavla is the most popular weekend gateway. Whenever we think of Maharashtra, the first thing that strike our minds will be Khandala and Lonavala as both Bollywood and Tollywood has romanticized this place for a very long time ๐Ÿ™‚

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The up-hill road is narrow and curvy and it took us around 30 mins to reach the Lions Point. We started walking toward the cliff and the beauty in front of us is beyond description. This point gives us a panoramic view of the entire valley and hills and a few waterfalls. Though this time or season is not the right time to visit this place, I will leave the beauty of this place during monsoons to one’s own imagination. Well-known for it’s weather, Lonavala is really an ideal place to break free all our worries and fall in love with the nature.

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We have gone around the area and looked around the area on the other side of the road too! It too gives some fantastic views. Our next stop is the Bushi Dam that was mentioned by my cousin to us earlier. One has to walk for 10 minutes in order to reach the dam. It was almost dry except for the water in the reservoir. Another 3 min walk from the dam would take you to the reservoir where one can sit with their feet being washed with the cool waters. This would be definitely a hot-spot during the monsoons as the water gushes down and the place is ideal to play as it’s not too steep or dangerous.ย And I heard many of my Mumbai friends saying thatย theyย love to throng at Bhushi dam, where water runs over the steps of the dam, creating a beautiful waterfall.

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The third spot is the Lonavala Lake and again there was no much water and we just walked down for some distance and resumed our journey. The fourth point that was included in my driver’s listย is a children’s park and we turned it down :-p . Though we were a bit disappointed as most of the places were dry and looked like some routine places, I could very well imagine how beautiful this place would be in the monsoon. So, it was decided, Mythri and I would be visiting this place again, that too during one of the monsoons ๐Ÿ™‚

Khandala is waiting!!

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ . 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” ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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 ๐Ÿ˜€ . 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ :-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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . We lost our hope again!

14.00 hrs – Mythri and I, the deadly combo will never give up so easily ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . But our driver was like the King Vikram who wanted to go after the ghost Bethal ๐Ÿ™‚ . 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

Bandra – Worli Sea Link – An architectural Marvel

12.11.2016:

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18.00 hrs – Gateway of India ๐Ÿ™‚ . Got a chance to see this beauty with it’s lighting and all ๐Ÿ™‚ . 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ . 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ . Thanks to the Demonetization again, as there was no toll fee those days and we save few bucks ๐Ÿ™‚ .

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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.ย 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 theย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ . 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 realizedย 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ and ultimately, we couldn’t do much other than cancelling our order ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . 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) ย 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Tough times ahead :-p

Elephanta Caves – History’s Hideout

12.11.2016:

11.00 hrs – We reached the “Gateway of India” from where we have to take a boat to the Elephanta Island, situated in the Kolaba district off the coast of Mumbai. The Gateway is more crowded than the other day. The tickets for the ferries are being sold by the ticket agents and a to and fro trip is of Rs. 180. It was only at the time of buying the tickets did we realize that we were running out of the few 100 rupees notes we are left with and made a point that we should withdraw money from some ATM after return from the Elephanta.

11.30 hrs – Caves can be dark, mysterious and, at times, frightening, but surely adventurous and a window to the eras gone by. These natural passages are also where history meets myth and legend. Elephanta caves are one of the most heard after the Ajanta and the Ellora caves in Maharashtra. And finally we were into the ferry which carries us to the island. Though we opted to sit in the deck, we dropped our plan as it was too hot that day and remember you have to pay an extra ten rupees if you want to sit there :-p . The journey wasย a bit boring though we get a chance to watch someย giant vessels carrying out various tasks on the Arabian Sea. It took us almost 75 mins to reach the island. We bought the tickets for a toy train ride to the caves ๐Ÿ™‚

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12.40 hrs – We started walking towards the caves. There are lots of shops along the pathway selling soft drinks, snacks and food. The staircase leading to the caves is also full of vendors selling various kinds of crystals and souvenirs. Be careful if you are carrying some food or drinks as there are lots of monkeys here and they don’t mind in snatching the things that were there in your hands. The climb was tiring and we decided to have our lunch before we start going around the caves. There are many restaurants here run by private vendors and also a restaurant that is being run by the Maharashtra Tourism Dept. The dining hall is spacious and food is good here ๐Ÿ™‚

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14.00 hrs – Bought the tickets and reached the Cave 1, also known as the Great Cave known for it’s great architecture.ย Dating back to as early as first century BC and artistically built over a few centuries, its caves have an extraordinary appeal and aura. Nestled in the formidable Sahayadri Mountain Range, these caves have been home to monks of different religions. Most of the caves are viharas (hall) and chaityas (pillared religious caves) and showcase fine art heritage of India. A visit that will induce a sense of discovery, of the self and of the divine.

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Elephanta island, located 11 km from Mumbai, have beautiful carvings, sculptures and a temple of Lord Shiva. The main cave has a 7 mt high bust of ‘Sadhasiva’ that represents three aspects of Shiva, the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. It also has other forms of Shiva like the Ardhnarishwar – The ultimate union of Shiva, the Lord of the universe, with his consort, Parvati. Parvati (Shakti or Uma) is the embodiment of grace and beauty, self-sacrifice and love. Also there is the “Trimurti” idol which is said to be so unique that we can find such ones only at these islands and another one in Nepal. There are 7 caves in total, but there is not so much to see in the other caves than Cave 1. These received the status of a World Heritage Site in 1987.

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16.00 hrs – We made a move towards the Canon Hill, which is like a 20 mins hike from the entrance. There is an old canon placed on top of this hill and it is said that this had been used to protect the sea from the pirates. And one can get a good view of the sea and the mountains surrounding these islands from here. Nothing more to see! 17.00 hrs – We were back in the ferry to be carried back to the Gateway of India. The return journey was more refreshing as we watched the sun set and also some sea birds strolling behind our moving ferry ๐Ÿ™‚

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P.S – For more info on the Elephanta Caves, please visitย http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/244

Seeking Divinity.. Being Secular..

12.11.2016:

The plan is to wake up at 5.30 hrs and start at 06.30 hrs, but as usual we were late ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It was only at 06.30 hrs we were up and only at 07.30 hrs we started. We decided to visit theย Siddhi Vinayak Temple which is quite famous as almost all the rich and famous, poor and needy, actors, politicians equally visit this temple. The only hope was that it won’t be too much crowded as it is a weekend!

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08.00 hrs – We are here! The temple has a tight security system and didn’t allow me to carry my camera and asked me to deposit it in a locker. Careful with these locker people, as they won’t care about the stuff. After depositing the camera, we made a move toward the inner sanctum to seek the blessings of one of the most powerful deities according to the Hindu tradition. As hoped, there wasn’t a big crowd, but it was decent. We stood in the queue and it took us around 10 mins to reach the main deity Lord Ganesha ๐Ÿ™‚ . The central idol in the temple is of Lord Ganesha and the inner roof of the sanctum is plated with gold. There is also Lord Hanuman in the temple complex.

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08.30 hrs – Breakfast time! For a change, we wanted to have our breakfast at one of the carts on the pavement. While Ryan ordered for a Masala Dosa, Mythri opted for Idli and I chose Misal Pav ๐Ÿ™‚ .Misal Pav is one of the traditional Maharashtrian dish and also a popular Mumbai street food! This dish is almost same as that of Pav Bhaji, except that Misal is a thick spicy gravy made with mixed sprouts or moth beans. It is said to have different variants like the Puneri Misal, Kolhapuri Misal, Nagpur Misal etc. My Misal is garnished with mix farsan and served hot. The food here tasted as good as that of a good restaurant. The idlis were served hot and the masala dosa ordered by Ryan is soft, crisp and yum ๐Ÿ™‚

09.00 hrs – Time for some juice too! We quickly had our juices from a outlet just beside the Ganesh temple and looked out for a Kaala Billi to continue our religious quest. It was in this car, an interesting thing unfolded. While we told our driver to drop us at the famous Haji Ali Dargah, the guy who is a muslim asked us whether we have visited the Mahalakshmi temple and we told him that we will do that after we are done with the Dargah. And further he was like how come you are visiting the dargah first and the temple next? Do visit the temple first as she is your deity and then visit the dargah. A perfect scenario of religious tolerance. Where else other than India can this be found?

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09.20 hrs – We were dropped at the famous Mahalakshmi temple on the Bhulabhai Desai Road. History says that the temple was built around 1831 and the main goddesses in the temple are the Goddesses Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and MahaSaraswati. There weren’t so many people and we had a quick darshan and headed towards the backside of the temple from where we can watch the Arabian sea as well as the Haji Ali Shah Dargah. On our way back to the road, we also visited a small old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the smaller Mahalakshmi temple.

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09.45 hrs – We started walking towards the Dargah as it is located just beside the temple. The mosque seems to be floating in the sea and is visited by people of all religions alike. What makes this a unique landmark in Mumbai is the pathway leading to the dargah from the main road and it is said that during the full moon and new moon days when the sea would be rough, this pathway would be covered by the sea water and it almost looks like the Dargah is inaccessible. History says that the Dargah was built in 1431 AD.ย Haji Ali Dargah has the tomb of the Muslim Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and also a Masjid (Mosque).

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There were lots of stalls selling the chaddars (shawls), flowers and food along the pathway and lot of photographers who could give an instant Polaroid photograph of yours with the dargah near the dargah. As we entered the complex, while Ryan and I were permitted to visit the tomb, Mythri was stopped as she was wearing a sleeveless frock! The person sitting there handed over her two shawls to cover her head and legs and I too was given one to cover my head ๐Ÿ™‚ .

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The Haji Ali Dargah is made of marble and the architecture of this monument reflects the styles and patterns of Mughal and Indo-Islamic architecture. It is said to occupy 4,500 sq. meters space and is 85 feet tall. A marble courtyard with the central shrine, and the main mosque brocaded with a red and green sheet welcomes us! Artistic marble pillars, mirror work with kaleidoscopic patterns and minarets sentinel the shrine in the center, making the monument a grand sight for all. We prayed for a while and made a move out of it to continue our quest ๐Ÿ™‚

A walk around the iconic monuments of Mumbai..

11.11.2016:

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18.30 hrs – We started walking towards one of the most iconic monument of Mumbai, the Gateway of India. It is a world heritage site that is perpetually frequented by tourists and the locals alike. Built to commemorate George V and Queen Mary‘s visit to Mumbai, this compelling structure by the Arabian Sea is a ‘must visit’. The foundation was laid in 1911 by Sir George Sydenham Clarke, the then Governor of Bombay and the architectural design in the Indo-Saracenic style was fashioned by architect, George Wittet. The structural design of this monument is constituted of a large arch, with a height of 26 m. The monument is built in yellow basalt and indissoluble concrete.

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We walked around the structure and sat on a beach to watch the Arabian Sea with boats and cruises and the tourists and locals clicking selfies or getting instant Polaroid pictures with the iconic monument, and some returning from their visit to the near by Elephanta caves.ย There are also those Victorian style horse-driven carriages that are available at the Gateway on which we can hop and have a joy-ride. I don’t want to try one as I already tried it at the Victoria in Kolkata ๐Ÿ™‚ . Also adjoining the gateway is another landmark of Mumbai, the Taj Palace hotel. One says that there is an interesting story behind the construction of this hotel.

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It is said that Jamshedji Tata (a pioneer Indian industrialist who founded the TATA group) built this hotel after he was refused entry to Mumbaiโ€™s grandest hotel then, the Watsonโ€™s on racial grounds (since he was not of white skin). It was then that he decided to build a hotel which would give stiff competition to the Watsonโ€™s and allow everyone (no matter what the color of the skin). ย The original Indian architects were Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza, and the project was completed by an English engineer, W. A. Chambers.

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This hotel has numerous elements that were a first in India then โ€“ย the main dome is made from the kind of steel that was used in the construction of Eiffel Tower, it had aย ย steam elevator,ย imported American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. And today also, it still remains one of the most grandest hotels of Mumbai. There came a new wing of this hotel called the Taj Mahal tower just beside the Taj Mahal Palace.

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19.15 hrs – Time to relax! What else could be more relaxing than a cool off at the beach? After a long day of journey, shopping and sightseeing, it’s time to sit and enjoy a evening snack ๐Ÿ™‚ . We asked the cab driver to leave us at yet another place in Mumbai that reveal its stunning coastline. It’s the Marine Drive – the ideal antidote for sore legs, watch the marine drive transform itself into the ‘Queen’s Necklace’ at night and have a seat while listening to the claiming rhythm of the sea. We walked along the promenade which was occupied by couples, friends and the evening walkers. We also took a seat and watched how the promenade arches into a semicircle of shimmering lights creating a sight that is called the ‘Queen’s Necklace’.