Saturday, 28 April 2012

Summer Festival in the Nilgiris!

Nilgiris Mountains beckon all the flower, fruit, spice, tea, boat-racing, vintage-cars, horses, dogs, sports, art lovers from all over the country to participate in the 16-day Summer Festival organized by the Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu during the second-half of May this year.

The District Capital of Nilgiris District – Ooty – a Hill Station at 7350 feet altitude in Tamil Nadu, is going to play host to the Summer Festival held in May where the Nilgiri Mountain Range is going to display its proud possessions in various shows held at various locales in Ooty and its environs.
 o   Flower Show: More than 150 types of imported and indigenous flowers would be put on display at the Botanical Garden in Ooty. Indian floral arrangements, Japanese floral arrangements, flower rangoli, Bonsai, vegetable carving are some of the many activities and competitions held here. The Flower Show tradition in Ooty has been in practice since 1896. A 2-day Flower Show would also be held at Kodaikanal in which florists from all over the country would participate.
o   Rose Show: More than 3000 types of Roses will bloom this May in Ooty to participate in the prestigious Rose Show which happens every summer.
o   Fruit Show: More than 25000 tourists visit the Sim’s Park in Coonoor to participate or view the tons of fruits on display – organized by the Department of Horticulture which has been in practice for more than 50 years.
o   Vegetable Show: The Nehru Park in Kotagiri is visited by more than15,000 people every summer for the Vegetable Show organized by the Department of Horticulture for 2 days. The Star attraction of this show every year is the depiction of the Map of India using red, yellow and green Capsicums.
o   Spice Show: Department of Horticulture organizes the Spice Show at Gudalur in the Nilgiris each year putting on display the immense wealth of spices that grow in the Nilgiri Mountains.
o   Dog Show: The third oldest Dog Club in India – the ‘South of India Kennel Club’ has been organizing the Dog Shows in Ooty at the Government Arts College Grounds for more than 107 years. You will get to see some of the best looking and well trained canines strut around in this show. The same event shall be held at Kodaikanal as well.
o   Boat Race & Boat Pageantry: The Ooty Lake will dazzle with countless boats which will all muster to participate in this century-old spectacular tradition of boat pageantry and competitions in Ooty. This is a jumbo crowd puller with tourists and natives of Bangalore, Chennai, Kerala and other nearby towns thronging to the Ooty Lake to see this event every summer. The Kodaikanal Hill Station would also host a boat-race organized by its Boats Club this may in its scenic Kodaikanal Lake.
o   Vintage Car Rally in Ooty is an interesting piece of the Annual Nilgiris Summer Festival where many vintage cars will drive around the main town of Ooty to display their antiquities.
o   A Marathon Race would be held in Ooty for the ‘fit and the fast’.
o   The Breeks HADP open-air stadium in Ooty will be the venue for the 9-day Summer Cultural Festival comprising dance, drama and music programs.
o   Hot-air balloon Show: In one of the largest ballooning events of India, scores of hot-air balloons shall fill the skies of Ooty in a colourful and elaborate display of hot-air balloons.
o   Amateur Photo Contest: Ooty is where all the photography-enthusiasts and amateurs get their chance to click and compete for a prize in the Summer Festival.
o   Painting Exhibition: Artists are invited to showcase their creativity in their paintings in the Painting Exhibition in Ooty.

o   Heritage Building Trek: You would be given a guided-tour of the great centuries-old Heritage Buildings of Ooty which throw insights into the history of these Mountains and Ooty in particular.
o   Eco-trekking: Where there are verdant mountains, there is eco-trekking and Ooty offers myriad such opportunities to explore and enjoy the natural lush green Mountains, valleys, forests and tea-gardens.
o   Catch-a-Fish Event: This amusing event shall be held in Kodaikanal during the last week of May this year.
o   Horse Competition: Kokaikanal which is famous for its horses would hold a competition for Horses this May.
o   Sports Competition: Kodaikanal District Sports Office would conduct sports competitions in hockey, football, volleyball and mini-marathon in Kadaikanal at the Bryant Park.
 You may not be allowed to dance atop the Nilgiri Mountain Railways 'Shahrukh Khan style'…..but you certainly can ride this steam-locomotive-turned-diesel-locomotive – one of the rare and few ‘toy trains’ of India while you climb up the Nilgiri Mountains for an interesting summer this May.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Mesmerising Gokarna

While everyone was rushing to Goa to escape the heat, we decided to explore Gokarna beach in Karnataka about 80 km from Goa. We reached the main junction, Hubli (160 km from Gokarna) and took a cab to Gokarna which was more comfortable than a bus. People coming from places like Bangalore can just drive down (500 km from Bangalore).

We were amazed when we reached the town through the beautiful Ghats and valleys of the Sahyadri mountain range. Gokarna is a unique combination of hills, valleys and a beach that is rare to find. The Gangavali River flows through the town. And the best part is it is still not commercial and crowded unlike Goa. A few tourists including foreigners generally visit during November to February.

There are many hotels in the town where accommodation is easily available. But a stay on the hill top and valley facing resorts is undoubtedly a better option. And they are not very expensive. Plenty of cabs and autos are available for transport.

There are three beaches in the radius of five kms – Om Beach (named so for its Om shape), Town Beach (in the heart of the town and hence a little dirty) and Kudle Beach (the most exotic beach one can find).  The drive to the beaches is amidst the hills and valleys and the serene lush green, clean and calm beaches are heavenly. You can do boating, fishing, play in the water or simply relax and hear the waves or watch the sunrise and sunset. The small walk towards the Kudle beach was unforgettable through the rocky slopes of the hills as though you are heading towards a water fall. The coconut and mango trees all around the beach added to its beauty.  There are restaurants near the beaches that have some amazing sea food. 

Although not very popular in the glorified list of beaches, yet it is one of the best beaches of the country in terms of serenity, cleanliness and natural beauty. An ideal family holiday destination and a getaway from city stress.

There are some ancient temples like – the over 500 year old Mahabaleshwar Temple (one of the Jyoti Lingas of Lord Shiva where the Linga is underground), Parvati Temple, Bhadrakali Temple, and Ganesh temple, Bharat Temple, Rama Temple, a holy Kund, and Shiva Temple etc. The temples are beautiful and believed to be very sacred.
The town is very small but really interesting with small houses belonging to the colonial and pre-colonial construction that is worth having a look. People are very humble and helpful that makes the stay very comfortable. Food is good with a lot of options and quite economical. Not much of shopping to do except for some western clothes and shell jewellery. There are some nearby tourist spots like water falls, ancient temple etc. about 90 km from Gokarna. 

Birthday of Blue-eyed Buddha !

Did you know that before he became a spiritual leader on whose teachings ‘Buddhism’ was founded, Lord Buddha was originally called Siddhartha Gautama who was born to a Kshatriya King of the ‘Sakhya’ Kingdom? 

Did you know that Lord Buddha was a trained Military Warrior since birth?

Did you know that Lord Buddha was a very strong man who was said to have possessed the ‘32 Signs of a Great Man’?

Did you know that Lord Buddha was a blue-eyed handsome man with a very attractive face?

Well… you do.

But the most sacred Buddhist Festival – the 'Buddha Purnima' or the 'Buddha Jayanti' marks and celebrates the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha and his Spiritual achievements each year on May 6th.

Buddha Purnima commemorates 4 significant events in the life of Lord Buddha:

1.    His birth in 623 BC at Lumbini.

2.    His Enlightment in 588 BC in Bodh Gaya.

3.    His attainment of ‘Nirvana’ at age 80 in Kushinagar.

4.    His very first sermon preached at Sarnath.
Each year, the followers of Buddhism – though not necessarily all Buddhists, embark upon ‘Buddha Pilgrimage’ spanning across Nepal and India.

The 4 places to visit on Buddha Purnima are:

  1. Lumbini in Rupandehi District, Nepal.
  2. Bodh Gaya in Gaya District, Bihar State, India.
  3. Kushinagar in Kushinagar District, Uttar Pradesh State, India.
  4. Sarnath near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh State, India.

Typically, on Buddha Purnima, the Teachings of Lord Buddha on Peace, Compassion and Universal Brotherhood are preached at the various Buddhist Gompas; Stupas and Monasteries all over the world. Buddhists also engage in feeding and clothing the underprivileged on Buddha Purnima.

Other major places where Buddha Purnima is celebrated in a large scale in India are:

1.    Shey Buddhist Monastery in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir.

2.   Namgyal Monastery near Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.

3.    Japanese Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling, West Bengal.

4.   Sanchi Stupa in Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

5.    The Great Stupa of Nalanda, Bihar.

You may not be a Buddhist but you certainly believe in Buddhism if you believe in the following quotes which were preached by Lord Buddha and date back to 588 BC.

·         We are shaped by our thoughts - we become what we think.

·         There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.

·         You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger.

·         Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

·         It is better to travel well than to arrive!

Cheers to that !!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi…

This was one my unforgettable journeys that I and two of my office colleagues has undertaken from Dehradun to Simla. Due to budget constraints we had to board the last bus from Dehradun to Simla as we got to know that Simla had experienced snow the previous day. It was Friday night 11.30 pm and with Saturday and Sundays off we thought it would be a fascinating idea to touch snow. We packed our bags and waited at the main bus stand near Dehradun station. We were told that this was the last bus and if we missed it…we miss snow!! So, anyway we said to each other that whoever gets a seat shall reserve it for the other. One of my colleagues (Sanjay) was thin enough to get into the bus from any window; I was ready to throw my haversack onto one of the seats as the bus arrived. To our shock the bus was already full with people hanging outside the entrance. Before I could ask my colleagues ‘Chadhey Ki Nahin’, they ran to get a grip on some part of the bus. I had no option but to hang on as I had all the cash with me to buy the tickets only if I happened to meet the conductor. The bus started and caught speed in no time. I shouted “Ajay, Ajay… (1st colleague) can you hear me?” Ajay replied “Yes, I am in the bus somewhere holding on to somebody’s…feels like a dirty jacket.” I asked “What about Sanjay?” Ajay replied “Pata nahin…shaayad chadhha nahin hoga?” We tried shouting requesting the bus driver to “Roko roko” but he replied “Ab bus sirf Paonta Sahib mein rukegi”. The cold outside was freezing as I shouted to Ajay again to get down wherever the bus stopped or else Sanjay may find it hard to reach Simla alone. Somehow Ajay slipped inside the bus as he started searching for Sanjay all over as one of the passenger shouted “Yeh saamaan kiska hai bhai?” Ajay looked below the passenger’s seat to find Sanjay sleeping there. Ajay shouted to me confirming “Utarne ki zaroorat nahin hai saamaan mil gaya…Simla mein hi utarkar bichdon ka milaap hoga”.

Somehow we faced the cold journey and reached Simla ‘lataktey-lataktey’ the next morning at 6 am in one piece but all we could say was ‘Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi’ aur ‘Zindagi bhar nahin bhulegi woh Be-Busi ki raat’.