Category: Heritage

Day Who Knows of Lock-down: My India Travel List Part 4

Camel on the Rann of Kutch, India
Photo by Hari Nandakumar on Unsplash

I have lost count of the days of lock-down. But I know that the next region for my India Travel wish list is West and Central India.

Rajasthan: The biggest state in the country and filled with magical tourist destinations. This is the place that I would love to take my wife and kids, who have never been there, to. In addition to the popular destinations, I would love to visit Pushkar and the havelis of Shekhawati.

Madhya Pradesh: Moving on to Central India and another state that has been bestowed with an abundance of beautiful places. On my next visit there, I plan to visit Khajuraho and Orchha.

Chattisgarh: To be honest, I am not very familiar with all the places in the region. But the tourism authorities of the state have been aggressively promoting the district of Bastar, so I might try and visit that region when I am in the area.

Gujarat: One of the states that I have stayed in and traveled around. One region that I haven’t visited yet, though, and I would love to, is Kutch.

Maharashtra: The state I was born in and spent a large part of my life. This is one place where I would willingly break my rule of not revisiting places I have been to previously. The reason for this is the stunning Ajanta and Ellora caves. These rank, in my humble opinion, high up on the list of the greatest human achievements ever, anywhere in the World. It is absolutely one of the places to visit in one’s lifetime.

Offbeat Holiday Destinations in India

ball ball shaped color earth
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s Friday, and if you are thinking of where to head for a holiday in the coming months, then you might want to consider these lesser-known destinations within India.

The North-East of India – Very few Indians, let alone outsiders, venture into this remote part of India.

Living Root Bridges – Meghalaya is known for its natural wonders, especially the place that receives possibly the highest amount of rainfall in the world. Another lesser-known natural wonder are these living root bridges.

The Magical Kumaoni village – Not many might be aware, but this place in the Himalayas has been visited by some extremely famous personalities, including Swami Vivekananda, Timothy Leary and Bob Dylan. Having visited this place myself, I can vouch that there is something about Kasar Devi that gives it a serene, almost mystical, air.

The Gateway to the Deccan – Some of the most popular destinations in India are to its north, west and east. Most travelers miss the vast Deccan plateau in the centre of the country, While Hampi, to the South, is now well entrenched in the tourist map, there are many lesser-known gems such as the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh.

The World’s Largest Single Tree Canopy – Most people might not have heard of Thimmamma Marrimanu, but this place in Southern Andhra Pradesh, located about 180 kilometres to the North east of Bangalore, has the world’s largest single tree canopy.

 

Monday Reads – 10/02

group of people making toast
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

A mix of tech, culture and food in this week’s collection:

Tech in 2020: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – What’s next in the world of tech, not that over 4 billion people have a smartphone? This is the question that tech analysts, Benedict Evans, attempts to answer in this presentation. A data point that was new to me – ‘China and India use more mobile data than the rest of the world combined‘.

Pop Culture’s Rate of Change May Mirror Organic Evolution – A fascinating research that compares the rates of evolution of certain cultural phenomena—pop music, automobiles, medical literature and 19th-century novels—with those of the scarlet tiger moth, the Darwin’s finches of the Galápagos Islands and two other well-studied creatures: a snail and another moth. And the conclusion is that “the evolutionary pace of modern culture is generally the same as that of many animal populations—which is to say, it is a lot slower than people think.

Inside Google’s Efforts to Engineer its Food for Healthiness – Almost everyone knows Google has a tech / data company. And almost everyone with some knowledge of the company would know that it’s very famous for its free food policy. I have been fortunate to have visited a couple of Google offices internationally. Our team would eagerly look forward to these visits as it was an opportunity to have the food there! This is an in-depth look at how Google is applying its famous policy of experimentation to get their employees, especially in the US, to eat healthier. “What Google is attempting here is culture change…And that’s the level we have to reach to transform behaviors and health for a lifetime.”

 

A stay at Annamalai Tiger Reserve

Sunrise - Forest Rest House Attakatty
Sunrise – Forest Rest House Attakatty

We decided to take a small break during the Christmas holiday period, pretty much at the last minute. As expected, decent places to stay without having to break the budget were hard to find. But as I started looking around places that can be reached in a comfortable day’s driving, the hill station of Valparai stood out.

Valparai is located on the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, close to the town of Pollachi. As I started reading more, I realised that Valparai is located adjacent to the Annamalai Tiger Reserve, which in turn is contiguous with Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Kerala. While researching for suitable accommodation for the family in and around Valparai, I came across the Forest Rest Houses located within the Tiger Reserve.

While I have stayed inside or adjacent to forests previously, I realised that my kids had not. This, along with the suitability of the accommodation for this specific trip and the budget were the key factors that influenced us to consider this option. But the most important, and surprising, factor was that accommodation at any of these Forest Rest Houses could be booked online through a surprisingly good web-site.

Accommodation booked, I rented a car through Zoomcar for the duration of the trip. An important point that we had to keep in mind was that, as the place was located within a Forest, access was restricted after 4 pm. This was to minimise any wildlife encounters. As the place is a fair distance away from Bengaluru, we decided to break our journey at a friend’s farmhouse near Coimbatore.

The drive to the rest house (at Attakatty) was uneventful, except for the fact that the location of the rest house is not very well sign-posted from the main road. We ended up missing the turn-off and had to make some sharp U-turns to get back on the route. But once there, it was very nice. Accommodation is in the form of low-slung rooms, beneath tall green trees nestled on the side of the Western ghats. It is sufficiently far away from the main road to block off vehicular noise, but close enough that we could walk down to the tea stall at the junction for delicious snacks.

Attakatty Forest Rest House
Attakatty Forest Rest House

The room was spartan, but reasonably clean. Bed linen was provided, but one has to carry all toiletries, as well as soaps, towels, etc. There was running water in the very clean toilets, but ours was missing hot water. The staff were attentive and made arrangements for hot water, so it was not too much of an inconvenience.

Dinners and breakfasts were at the Rest House. Prior notice of a few hours has to be given to the caretaker so they can prepare the required quantity of food. The food was typical basic South Indian fare, but delicious.

We were only there for a couple of days. but the experience of staying inside the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, one of the key ecological hot-spots of the World, was a very memorable one. On the first evening, we were visited by a small group of Lion-tailed Macaques, a species of monkey endemic to the Western Ghats.

View of Aliyar Dam
View of Aliyar Dam from Attakatty

I had high expectations of spotting endemic bird species, but this did not fructify. But I still managed to observe a good number of birds, some of which were lifers for me.

For a last-minute holiday, this surpassed expectations and made for a refreshing break.

 

 

Somanathapura Temple – A Sculptural Marvel

Chennakesava Temple Somanathapura
Chennakesava Temple Somanathapura

The Chennakesava temple at Somnathpur was built by rulers of the Hoysala dynasty in the 13th Century. It is located on the banks of the river Kaveri, about 20 kilometres to the South East of Mysore. Along with the more famous temples at Belur and Halebid, this temple forms part of the magnificent Hoysala temples of Karnataka.

I recently revisited this temple (more a monument as active worship does not take place here anymore) while on a visit to Annamalai Tiger Reserve. The intricacy and profusion of carvings is simply stupendous. I know it’s a cliche, but words really cannot do justice to the beauty of this monument.

Somanathapura Temple Compound
Somanathapura Temple Compound neatly maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India
External walls of the Chennakesava Temple
External walls of the Chennakesava Temple
Profusion of carvings
Profusion of carvings covering literally every inch!
A finely carved chariot
A finely carved chariot
Intricately carved ceiling
Intricately carved ceiling
Smoothly Carved Pillars
Smoothly Carved Pillars inside the temple