Category: Heritage

Monday Reads – 26/07

Today’s articles reflect the diversity and appeal of India.

Photo by Aditya Rao on Unsplash

How a village in Maharashtra is helping vultures make a big comeback – What’s the big deal, one might ask? Well, some of you might not know that, over the past few decades, India’s vulture population has declined from 40 million to 19,000! This prompted the development of a National Vulture Conservation Action Plan, to increase the number of vultures by 2025. This article is one rare success story in the recent history of India’s vultures.

India gets its 39th World Heritage Site – Telangana’s 13th century Ramappa temple has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Read more about this site, located near Warangal. And make a plan to visit when the time is right!

How One Man’s Conviction Put Jibhi Valley on the World Tourism Map – Jibhi, in Himachal Pradesh, is nowadays well-known on the traveler circuit. But this is a recent phenomenon, thanks in no small measure to the pioneering efforts of an ex-army man.

The Giu Mummy: Unsolved Mystery of a 14th Century Monk – Another fascinating article from Himachal Pradesh. This is truly Incredible India!

A 600-Year-Old Celebration on the Shores of Pangong Lake – Moving further north to another breath-takingly beautiful part of our country – Ladakh. We (my wife) were fortunate to have visited Pangong Tso, before it shot to prominence after the release of ‘3 Idiots’. The whole experience was one of a kind with the long drive from Ladakh through some desolate and difficult terrain, standing on the shores of the lake with its stunning blue waters and barely any one else around, to eating Maggi (what else) in possibly the only stall still open at that time. Ladakh is one of those placces that everyone should try to visit at least once in their lifetime.

Monday Reads – 26/04

Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Unsplash

It is feeling like 2020 all over again, with the rise in COVID-19 cases in India. So as much as I wish it wasn’t the case, today’s list starts with an analysis of the current situation regarding the pandemic in India.

India’s giant second wave is a disaster for it and the world – An analysis by the Economist on the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Yes, there is the standard Western take on Indian politics, but for the most part, this article gets it right, in my humble opinion.

The Pandemic Helped Some Marketers Kick This Digital Marketing Habit – I am a Digital Marketer by profession. Though I usually don’t refer to this topic in my weekly recommended reads, I am making an exception for this one as it’s an interesting one with possibly significant medium term implications for the field.

Threats – Moving from India to the United States of America and to Professor Scott Galloway listing some of the biggest threats to the nation (spoiler: none of them are external threats). Very thought-provoking, as is usually the case with the Professor.

5 Young Women and Girls Fighting for Climate Justice You Should Know – Last week (April 22nd) was World Earth Day and hence, this article was rather timely. ‘Girls’ education is one of the most powerful yet overlooked strategies in the fight against climate change‘ – I don’t think there can be any argument against this statement.

Thrissur Pooram – An Unmissable Spectacle! – India is well known as the land of spectacular festivals. But this one, celebrated last week, might be the grandest one that you have neve heard of!

Ajanta – one of the greatest wonders of India

Boddhisattva Padmapani, Ajanta Caves, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you were to ask tourists to India to name their greatest sights, or the one that they would like to visit, the chances of anyone saying ‘Ajanta‘ or ‘Ellora‘ are remote. In fact, I would argue that most Indian tourists themselves might not have it high on their bucket list. And that is a shame, for I believe that these are the greatest treasures in India.

I admit that there are lots of places in India that I am yet to see, but the caves at Ajanta (and Ellora) were easily the most awe-inspiring and moving sights of all the places that I have visited. The mind boggles to think that some of these caves were excavated, carved and painted over 2,000 years ago! They should rank high on the list of must-visit sights in India and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen them.

For people who would like to read and know more of these stupendous sights in Western India, here are a few resources that I came across recently:

The Ajanta Caves – a great introduction to the Ajanta Caves

Vignettes of Ajanta and Ellora – a virtual tour of some of the highlights of these caves

The Life and Times of Walter Spink – Walter Spink was an American researcher and professor, who dedicated over 60 years of his life to the study of the Ajanta Caves. This page provides details of his work. There is also an excellent film on the same site.

Meet The Man who is Digitally Conserving the Ajanta Cave Paintings – Ajanta is a place that inspires dedication. We saw that with Walter Spink. Another person who has spent years at the site capturing the paintings carefully on (digital) photographs is Prasad Pawar.

I hope reading these articles will make you add this place on your list of places to visit!

100 Common Birds in India

Image of peacock

I have been bird-watching for over 3 decades now. It’s one of my favourite hobbies, though I have not been able to spend as much time on it these days as I would have liked to.

India is one of the most bio-diverse countries on Earth, with a diverse range of habitat ranging from dry deserts, high mountains, to tropical rain-forests and a long coastline. And this diversity extends to the species of birds found in India as well. With over 1,200 species of birds, India ranks 9th in the list of countries by number of bird species. About 12% of the total bird species on earth can be found in India. And my guess is that I must have seen about 20 %- 22% of all the bird species in India.

Bird-watching is a very easy hobby to get into. All it needs is a good sense of observation, sight and sound. A pair of binoculars would be helpful, but not absolutely essential (to get started). But one resource that I would advise is to have a book handy to identify the birds that you see.

There are a few good birds available. One of the most commonly referred to birds for beginners is Dr. Salim Ali’s “The Book of Indian Birds“. This is the book that sparked my interest in birds and I would strongly recommend it for anyone interested in Indian birds.

I also came across a resource recently which might also be very useful for beginners. This is a PDF called “100 Common Birds in India“, written by Dr. Raju Kasambe. It is available as a free download here – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343218657_100_Common_Birds_in_India

This handy book covers all of the commonly found birds of India with their distribution map. I hope that you will find this helpful!

The Indian Monsoon

Monsoon Western Ghats
Photo by Satyan Chawla on Unsplash

The Indian Monsoon is considered as one of the biggest and most important weather systems on the planet. This is an eagerly anticipated event every year. By the end of May, with most of the country sweltering under the scorching sun, the eyes of the nation turn towards the South West, waiting for the first signs of the arriving rains.

The monsoons usually hit the mainland of India (the state of Kerala in the South West) on the 1st of June and makes it way steadily northwards to encompass the whole of the country by early July. June 10th is when it hits my home town of Mumbai.

Growing up in this city, I used to dread the arrival of the rains, bringing as it does long periods when the sun is obscured by dark, grey clouds. It did not help that the onset of the rains coincided with school reopening. Trust me, it is not fun to walk through school in the pouring rain and having to stay in class with wet uniforms, backpacks and, sometimes, damp books.

My feelings did not really change after I finished education and started to work. Other than the fact that school was replaced by office, everything else remained the same – commuting in the rains, having to make ones way through the crowds of umbrellas while trying not to step into puddles, having to spend hours in the air conditioned office with wet clothes and socks, the very thought depresses me!

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The rains bring renewal. I stayed at the foothills of Mulund hills and it was always fascination to observe the almost immediate transformation of the barren brown hills to lush green ones. Not to mention monsoon treks in the Western ghats (and the occasional holidays due to heavy rains and flooding!).

A few years older, and I have become a bit more accepting of this annual occurrence. It is a big change from the almost monotonous weather during the rest of the year (in many parts of India). It plays a very important role in irrigating the land and filling up the water reserves that sustain 1.5+ billion people and wildlife. I won’t go so far as to say that I enjoy this season, but I have definitely begun to appreciate it!