Category: Travel

Bird-watching at Lalbagh Botanical Gardens

Department of Horticulture Office - Lalbagh
Office of the Department of Horticulture – Lalbagh

I have been a part of a bird-watching group in Bangalore since around the year 1999-2000. The group, comprising of experts, amateurs, hobbyists and others interested in birds have been conducting bird-watching outings in and around the city of Bangalore for many years now.

Every second Sunday of the month, the group organised a bird-watching trip at Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in the heart of the city. This must be one of the oldest, continuously held bird-watching outings in India (couldn’t find any content on this online, so happy to stand corrected). The group is also quite active on email and social media, and a great resource to learn more about nature.

It was quite a large group that met this Sunday. It was great to see a group of school kids (in their uniforms) participating enthusiastically in the session. This session is specifically aimed for new comers to the field of bird-watching and the group leaders (typically Mr. J. N. Prasad) leave no stone unturned to ensure that people get a good idea of bird-watching, how to spot and identify birds, handy guides, etc.

Here’s a list of the birds that I observed (nomenclature as per The Book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali):

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Cormorant
  3. Little Cormorant
  4. Darter
  5. Little Egret
  6. Indian Pond-Heron
  7. Spot-Billed Duck
  8. Shikra
  9. Black Kite
  10. Brahminy Kite
  11. Blue Rock Pigeon
  12. Spotted Dove
  13. Rose-Ringed Parakeet
  14. Asian Koel
  15. Spotted Owlet
  16. Coppersmith Barbet
  17. White-Cheeked Barbet
  18. Ashy Drongo
  19. Common Myna
  20. Jungle Crow
  21. Red-Whiskered Bulbul
  22. Common Tailorbird
  23. Tickell’s Flowerpecker
  24. Purple-Rumped Sunbird

And some photos from a beautiful early winter morning at Lalbagh below:

The Glass House at Lalbagh
The Glass House at Lalbagh
View from the Lalbagh Glass House
View from the Lalbagh Glass House
Lalbagh Kere or Lake
Lalbagh Kere or Lake
At Lalbagh Botanical Gardens
At Lalbagh Botanical Gardens
Beautiful Day at Lalbagh
Beautiful Day at Lalbagh

Vattakottai Fort

Next in my series of arguably lesser known heritage sites in India is Vattakottai Fort.

When one thinks of forts in India, I would argue that most people would recollect the magnificent forts of Rajasthan and the historic ones of Maharasthtra. Of course, Golconda fort near Hyderabad is very famous. More knowledgeable ones might have heard of Chitradurga in Karnataka or Bekal in Malabar, North Kerala. But I certainly hadn’t heard of one almost at the very tip of mainland India.

Vattakottai (Circular) Fort is located a few kilometres to the north of Kanyakumari town. I haven’t been fortunate enough to have visited this place, but photos reveal the fantastic location right by the sea and with views of the beautiful Western Ghats in the distance.

A quick online research reveals that the fort was built by the Travancore rulers in the 18th century (so not very old by Indian standards). The monument is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Photos and this video by the Mathrubhumi newspaper reveal a well maintained structure which should surely be on the itinerary for anyone visiting Kanyakumari.

Adikesava Perumal Temple, Kanyakumari district

Kick-starting my series on lesser know heritage sites in India with this temple located in the Southernmost district of mainland India.

The Adikesava Perumal temple is located at Thiruvattar in Tamil Nadu, about halfway between Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Kanyakumari town in Tamil Nadu. I had the good fortune of visiting this place a couple of years ago while on a visit to Thiruvananthapuram.

I had never heard of the temple before my visit. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The idol of Lord Vishnu is depicted as reclining on his snake couch and has to be viewed through three separate doors. I could not find any specific date of establishment of the temple, but it has been mentioned in texts dating to the 8th – 9th centuries. So the temple must be at least 1200 years old.

The architecture of the temple is an interesting mix of Keralan and Tamilian temple styles, to my untrained eye. The entrance and roof is unmistakably Keralan, while the long columned corridors are typically seen in the temples of Tamil Nadu. The temple was quite and peaceful when we visited. There were repair works being undertaken as parts of the temple needed restoration. It was interesting to watch ‘traditional’ building materials being prepared to ensure structural integrity.

I sadly do not have any photos of this temple. But as a lesser known, but ancient, part of our heritage, this temple is worth a visit.

Indian Music Experience

Indian Music Experience
Indian Music Experience

The Indian Music Experience is a fairly new (established late 2018) addition to the museum scene in Bangalore. We recently visited this place located in a Southern suburb of the city.

The entry compound has a variety of novel musical ‘instruments’ that visitors can interact with. Children will especially like making ‘music’ on these installations.

Indian Music Experience - external view
Indian Music Experience – external view

The music experience starts on the third floor of this interestingly designed building. This section talks about the developments in popular Indian music over the past few decades before leading visitors to the classical music section. The exhibits are beautifully laid out with ample listening stations for visitors to hear representative music. There are also interactive exhibits where visitors can choose their musical instruments and they can instantly hear what an orchestra composed of their selected instruments sounds like.

The journey continues on the second floor where visitors can learn more about the development of film and folk music. The second floor also contains a large two storey wall installation composed of the various types of musical instruments played in India. One can also choose a instrument to listen to how it sounds.

Wall of Instruments - IME
Wall of Instruments – IME

The second floor also includes a set-up of a recording studio where visitors can experience the feel of recording the vocals on a song and also get their ‘song’ emailed to them.

The highlight, for me, was to see the actual shehnai and cap worn by Ustad Bismillah Khan. This section also has the tanpura and sari worn by M. S. Subbulakshmi as well as clothes and silver paan box belonging to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.

The entry fee seemed steep initially, but it is well worth it for the wealth of information presented inside. We spent a little over two hours, but one can easily spend twice that time in this world-class museum.


A visit to the Art of Living Ashram

The Art of Living Foundation has a large Ashram located on Kanakapura Road on the outskirts of Bangalore. We recently paid a visit to this Ashram founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

We had visited during Navratri, which is the busiest time of the year at the Ashram. Thousands of people were participating in the various programmes being held there at this time of the year. The entire place had a festive, busy feel to it.

We started our visit by having lunch at Vishala cafe. The food was delicious and plentiful. We then visited the Gaushala which has nearly 1,000 heads of cattle, all belonging to one of the 37 native breeds of cow in India. The vast majority belonged to the Gir variety, with beautiful brown coats and long, drooping ears. A quick online search revealed that this breed produces the highest yield of milk of all the breeds in India. They are also widespread in Brazil! There was a nice, pleasant atmosphere in the Gaushala, surrounded by these peaceful bovines.

We then continued our visit by taking in the small temples in the Ashram complex, visiting the lake area adjacent to which is a small pen containing a few Chital (Spotted) Deer, Rabbits, a couple of Turkeys and a few peafowl.

We then took in the Vishalakshi Mantapa. We could only view this beautiful multi-tiered meditation hall from the outside as there was a programme being held inside. Situated on top of a small hill, the walk offered beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

We took in the book shop and other shops located within the Ashram before heading back home.

I found the visit very refreshing, coming back with an increased sense of calm.