India is one of the very few countries in the world where you will find an elephant walking down the road. We as Indians don’t find this surprising but as a tourist to India, you might find an elephant strolling down the road quite amusing or even frightening. Don’t worry, most of these elephants are domesticated and are used to being watched, photographed and ridden on. Elephants are of special significance in India as an animal that resembles Lord Ganesha (god of luck) and for being the mount of Goddess Laxmi (goddess of wealth).
The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Located in the Northern Indian city of Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh, near the capital New Delhi, the Taj Mahal is the world’s most splendid mausoleum which houses the tombs of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Built in the 17th century, the Taj Mahal is an architectural marvel, surrounded by lush green gardens. It also houses a mosque and guest house inside the complex.
You must have seen commercials on CNN and other channels about Incredible India. In fact, India is indeed incredible in many ways. There is no denying that Americans and Europeans come to India looking for spirituality and to explore this amazing country. But to honest, there are certain things that can make you incredibly insane which the Government of India adverts do not tell you.
This is a ritual that would terrify most mothers. The worshippers at the shrine of Baba Sheikh Umar Saheb Dargah at the “Musti village” in the district of Solapur, in the state of Maharashtra, Western India have been carrying out this tradition to bring good luck and health to the child. If you want to see this ritual, you must visit Solapur, in the state of Maharashtra on the first of May. The tradition is also carried out in other parts of the state where the babies are tossed off the roof of temple roofs. The people of this village have been practising this for about 500 years. In Bijapur, 550 km west of Bangalore, similar practice is carried out where children between 8 months to 5 year olds are thrown from temple tops.
Have you ever wondered why Indian women are shy?
I think they are shy because they are told from a young age not to associate with boys. I hardly talked to boys as I went to Catholic convent school and then all women’s college. However, we aren’t shy with our family members, just other people. The shyness goes away after a while. But not all Indian women are shy, it’s all about family culture and how an Indian girl is brought up.
I took these photos of the Maha Bodh Temple in the town Gaya town in Bihar. Bodh Gaya is an extremely historical place in Bihar. This is where Lord Buddha got his enlightenment. It is here that he sat under the banyan tree now called the “Bodhi Tree” for 40 days and used to think about life. The photograph below shows the exact spot where he used to medicate. Although the tree may not be exact tree but it certainly seems to have been derived from it.
Warning: Heavy floods in Uttarakhand on the 13 till 17 June have caused flooding in these areas. Thousands have died and many are still trapped. Please cancel your trip if you have been planning to make the Char Dham pilgrimage.
Dhams are religious places revered by Hindus of India. The word “char” denotes four seats or abodes of shrines of great spiritual significance. The concept of visiting these religious places is to remove all sins from one’s life. The central dogma of the Hindu religion is to attain “moksha” or “nirvana” which is to become free from the recycle of birth. Hindus believe that the ultimate religious goal of an individual is to attain moksha and become closer or part the ultimate being (God). One such way to attain moksha other than doing good deeds is to visit the “Char Dhams” or “four abodes” and become one with God. The pilgrimage to these four important sites not only washes away all the sins but frees one from the recycle of birth.
I recently went to a restaurant called “Rajasthan” in Patna (capital of Bihar) and took this photo of a plate of “potato cutlets” or potato chops. They are also known as the ‘aloo tikkis’. The world ‘aloo’ means potato in Hindi.
The dish was absolutely lovely and it happens to be one of my favourites. The two cutlets or chops/aloo tikkis seen on the plate are nothing more than spiced potatoes battered in floor and probably deep/shallow fried. The sliced potatoes on the side are probably supposed to be potato wedges. If you love these kinds of food then you must try this potato cutlet perhaps as a starter. Many Indians don’t have the concept of starters as in the West. We would rather get straight down to the main course however most Indian restaurant menus would have a ‘starter section’. So feel free to try them out. We Indians consider them as side dishes or something to have with a cup of tea so we would just go to the restaurant just to have these cutlets.
India is great fun but the fun can fizz out if you see some of the toilets India has to offer. The toilets in your hotel room will most likely be western style but if you are out and about and if you want to pee and most likely you want to, then you are in bad luck. You will have to deal with Indian style squat toilets and it’s not easy using it. If you happen to be travelling in trains then it’s even worse. You not only have to deal with a moving train but also the toilets are dam right dangerous. Guess where the ‘poo’ and the ‘pee’ drain on to. Yes – straight on the tracks! That is why most trains have signs requesting passengers not to use them on platforms. Even Indian ladies try not to use them unless they really have to, let alone foreign tourists travelling to India. It’s not going to be easy for a western lady to pull their pants down and bend their bum all the way down to the ground not to mention that they can get mosquito bites when the’re down there. If you’re not sure how to use the Indian toilet then read here.
Do you feel sorry for this old man who almost looks like Mahatma Gandhi?
Mahatma Gandhi upon arrival from South Africa to India in 1901 decided not to wear cotton clothes made in the cotton mills of Manchester (UK). The cotton grown in India was being shipped to the cotton mills in Manchester where it was spun into clothes and brought back to India to be sold. This completely destroyed the cottage industry and crippled the Indian economy. More on Indian history and what Indians wear.
However, unlike the Mahatma (meaning great soul) who refused to wear any clothes made by the British in protest, this man may or may not have enough clothing, I can’t be for sure for certain. Perhaps it was a hot day and he preferred to be in his ‘cloth’. He is most likely a cow herder. The stick caters for two purposes; walking and herding the cattle. What do you think?
If you are a student of history then you must visit the excavations at kumhrar (also spelled as Kumrahar) in Patna, the capital of Bihar. The capital of the eastern state of Bihar was once the capital of ancient India. Patna was once known as Patliputra and was the capital of the mighty king ‘Ashoka the Great’ of the Mauryan dynasty. Ashoka was one of India’s most powerful rulers during 269 BC to 232 BC whose empire stretched from the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan to today’s Bangladesh in the east and from Indian state of Assam to the South of India.
Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi will perhaps be the entry point for most foreign travellers to India. I have always wondered why this airport was not named after Mahatma Gandhi since he is considered as the father of the nation. Anyway, from a personal point of view, this is the worst International airport I have seen and rightly so, it was once considered as the worst airport in the world by an international consortium (can’t remember which one). The reason why I say this is because I have found the toilets semi unusable, absence of decent restaurants (good coffee by the way), unsupportive staff, long and slow queues, no decent baby changing facilities, overcrowding and so no; you get the drift. But anyway, you can’t judge a country by its airports!
Often the best way to travel to any destination within India, especially for foreigners is by flights. I prefer the trains as there is no other way to see India then by trains and coaches. But if you’re short on time, it not only reduces the travel time but can be a safer and viable option. With the advent of many private players in the Indian Airline Industry, flying has become cheaper and hassle free in India. You can choose from government owned airline services and many privately owned carriers. However, the suggestion would be to avoid the government owned carrier for the quality of service is not up to the mark of those that are provided by the private carriers.
The first “picture of the week” is a photo of a young girl performing “walking on the rope” trick in the city of Leh in Ladakh. I think the performance requires a lot of skill. You can see that she has a set of pots (I can see four) on her head and she is able to walk on the rope effortlessly with the assistance of the stick for balancing. There is a plate under the rope for spectators to leave money for her performance.