Kathryn Burrington is a professional travel writer, graphic designer and photographer in the travel industry for over 15 years. I have been following Kathryn on her blog and I have found it very entertaining and have learnt lots of things from around the world. She has been kind enough to share some of her experiences of her travels in India. I was impressed that she brought a sari from India as a souvenir. Equally impressive is that she has a print of a Raja Ravi Varma painting on her wall.
Here’s Kathryn’s interview
When did you visit India and which parts of India did you see?
I’ve been to India twice. Firstly in 2004, when I spent an unforgettable three weeks exploring Rajasthan. The intention was that this would be a one-off, trip of a lifetime. We stayed in some amazingly luxurious and historic hotels and some rather quirky hotels, including one built out of camel dung. It was all organised by a good friend of mine, who has spent many years travelling around India.
I enjoyed it so much that, when I was invited again the following year to Tamil Nadu and Kerala, I couldn’t resist. Our visit was planned for what turned out to be just a few weeks after the dreadful Boxing Day Tsunami. The first two hotels we were staying in were flooded but they were up and running again in plenty of time for our visit. Sadly, a couple of people pulled out worrying that it might not be a good idea to go just then. Most of us, however, felt it was even more important to go and support the area’s tourist industry, spending our money in the local shops and restaurants and so on. The local fishermen, for example, had lost their boats and so took it in turns to sell seashells on the beach outside one of the hotels. I was more than happy to buy some. Read More…
The Indian Railways constitute one of the largest rail networks in the world. The first passenger train in India left Mumbai (then Bombay) on 16 April, 1853 for Pune. The rail network in the country has come a long way since. Currently it employs over one-and-a-half million people, links 28 states and three union territories, operates over 6,000 locomotives running on more than 60,000 km long tracks spread across the country and ferrying over 10 billion people (more than the planet’s population) every year. This gigantic network offers an unmatched variety of trains – from notoriously crowded trains whose photos you often see on the web to cruise trains that offer an unrivalled luxury - and unique way to discover India.
I have been following Elle on her travel blog and I have to say I have been really inspired by her enthusiasm. Ellie from Germany has traveled to many countries including India. One of her experiences was sleeping in a fort in Rajasthan which I think was amazing. She has been kind enough to share some of her experiences of her travels in India.
The interview with Elle
When did you visit India?
I first visited india in 2006. I loved it so much that I re-visited a different area a year later!
Which parts of India did you see?
On my first visit I toured Rajasthan. It was incredible, and to this day I find it hard to believe that there is an area in India more beautiful than this state. I started off in Delhi, then visited a few villages such as Bundi and Bharatpur, staying in forts and traditional houses. I also visited the larger towns and cities such as Jaipur and Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is where I had an incredible time taking a camel safari in the Thar desert!
On my second visit I toured the golden triangle, taking in the famous sights such as the Taj Mahal. Then traveled up to Himachel Pradesh. This was an amazing area where I visited Shimla, Dharamsala and Manali. During these visits the amazing mountains were constantly in view.
Namaste is a popular greeting in India, Nepal and countries where Hindu population are in large numbers. Like Arabic ‘Salam Aleikum’ or Spanish ‘Adios’, ‘Namaste’ crosses the boundaries of language and region. Irrespective of your location inside India or Nepal, people will know your intentions are not bad if you join your hands and greet them by saying ‘Namaste‘.
Who can resist the temptation of sweets? When it comes to Indian sweets, it’s even harder. Indian sweets are not just sweets or desserts but a way of life and ingrained heavily in the culture of India. Amongst the various types of Indian sweets, the round shaped “Ladoo” is extremely popular in India. So much that even Lord Ganesha, the Indian elephant god is seen holding a ladoo in his hand. In fact, his favourite food is none other than the ladoo. There is no other way to please Lord Ganesh than offering him ladoos.
If you happen to be one of those people who are believers of the paranormal then why not come to India to explore some of the haunted places India has to offer. India is a nation of believer of gods, demi-gods and at the same breath they are quick to accept that ghosts (called bhoot in Hindi), demons, witches, the possessed and the un-dead exist side by side. Before I tell you some of the most haunted places, here are some of the types of ghosts Indians believe in and you’ll expect to find. They are different to the ones found in the West such goblins, monsters, demons or zombies.
I have been reading Daniel McBane’s travel blog and I have found it very entertaining and funny. He is one of those great travellers who has been travelling all over the world and supporting himself along the way. He’s also a hobbyist photographer, an English teacher and a blogger.
Mysore, locally known as Mysuru was the prominent city of Karnataka prior to Bangalore. This mystical and mythological city derives its name from the buffalo headed demon Mahishasur who is known to have been slain atop the Chamundi Hills by Goddess Chamundeshwari, an avatar of Parvati. The 10 day dussehra festival is organized every year to celebrate this victory of the good over the evil. The city can boast of its rich past given to it generously by the dynasty of the Wodeyars, which has created such an appealing charm about the city that it can enthrall tourists even to this day.
Culture of India is a complex phenomenon. In its broadest sense, it includes everything a society does. It can also be limited to a particular social class (working class culture) or genre (literature, music). Still it’s always near to impossible to define what exactly a popular culture constitutes. Contrary to what may appear from outside; to Indians, there is no such thing as Indian culture in sense of a uniform manner of doing something. There is little common between the Punjabi culture with its emphasis on having fun and the Bengali culture with its emphasis on intellectualism. In the south, a person from Kerala finds the food from Andhra too spicy for their tongue. The seven states in the northeast are home to thousands of tribes and regions, each boasting of a rich history and unique culture. So the term ‘culture of India‘ has little meaning, unless it’s used an amalgamation of a score of different cultures within the country. Nonetheless, it is thought that the culture of India stems from its ancient history from the amalgamation of the Aryan nomads that migrated from the Central Asia through Afghanistan and settled in India with the natives of the valley of the Indus River of Dravidian descent.
India has to be one of very few countries in the world where one can legally stand on the street and have a cannabis drink without being arrested. The reality is that, cannabis so ingrained in the culture of India that the authorities are unable to criminalise it fully. Although selling of cannabis is prohibited in India, it’s readily available and no attempts are made to arrest the sellers. In fact, cannabis plants are native to India and are often a nuisance in many Indian gardens and fields across the country.
Bhang (cannabis, marijuana) is made from the buds and leaves of female cannabis plant. Through production and selling of cannabis is illegal in the country, bhang remains legal at some places due to cultural and religious reasons. In my home town of Patna, you’ll fine women selling bhang goli (bhang balls) on the streets at the famous Patna Market.
Hindu holy men have used marijuana for centuries and they believe that it’s the best way to worship and understand Lord Shiva, one of the powerful gods of the Hindu trinity. In addition, according to the Vedas, the cannabis plant was considered as one of the many sacred plants.
Hindi is an Indo-European language which its roots in Sanskrit. It is spoken widely in India; in fact, it is thought that more than 60% of the population of India are able to speak Hindi or at least understand it. It is one of the many official languages and is the national language of the Republic of India. Hindi is the official language of the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. People
Learning Hindi is perhaps beyond the scope a traveller but it’s quite possible to learn some words and phrases. Although, leaning Hindi is not that hard at all but English speakers might find it a little challenging since Hindi has 11 separate vowels and 35 consonants.
But don’t let this trouble you; most Hindi speakers don’t speak the standard Hindi anyway. I myself speak Hindi with a Bihari accent which is sometimes subject to ridicule in India. My personal opinion is that the worst Hindi speakers are from Delhi itself.
A little local knowledge can go a long way. Here’s some the common Hindi phrases and words that you must learn if you wish to communicate with the locals in India, at least in Hindi speaking regions of India.
Some Hindi phrases and words useful for travellers to India. Listen to me speaking in Hindi, pay careful attention to the pronunciation. Read More…
Delhi happens to be one of the most visited places in India. It happens to be one of the most historical capitals of the world. In Old Delhi, you’ll find forts, mosques, Mughal monuments that represent India’s history. On the other hand you’ll find government and civil buildings, embassies of the world and many newly constructed temples and other attractions.
One such attraction of Delhi is the Old Fort known as the Purana Qila in Hindi. The Purana Qila is a must see for those interested in the history of the city and India in general or those interested in historical monuments. You can get to hear a show in the evening that explains the history of the entire city of Delhi.
By Marie McCarthy
This is another installment from my e-book, Travels in India, the tales of my first trip to India in 2011. In this segment, I’m in Jodphur, taking a day trip to buy a dhurry and search for the tradititional Bishnoi villages.
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I had seen photos of the Bishnoi traditional villages near Salawas and wanted to have a look. Prem had never been there and got directions from the hotel. As it turned out, it would have been better to have gone on one of the two or four-hour Bishnoi village jeep tours that the hotel could have arranged. I didn’t see anything like what I’d seen on the internet, but I had an interesting day all the same.
I wanted to visit Salawas because I’d read on the internet that Salawas is known for weaving dhurries. I wanted to see them being made and of course to buy one or two. Salawas was close to the Bishnoi villages and only about 25 kilometers from Jodhpur.
There were no road signs for either the Bishnoi villages or Salawas, but it was easy to tell when we were drawing close. Signs popped up offering dhurries for sale. The first one I saw had three attractive dhurries hanging outside, and I asked Prem to stop. As we were getting out of the car, the owner, who had been sitting across the street, dashed over to greet us. He was smallish and thin with a unibrow and a big smile.
I am happy to talk about my own state of Bihar. The more I learn about this state, the more I fall in love with it. The history of this great state to Bihar is essentially the history of ancient India. Its capital, Patna (ancient Patliputra) built by Ajatashatru in 490 B.C. as a small fort later became the capital of Magadha that stretched from Eastern India to Afghanistan. It was from here that the mighty Indian empires such as the Nandas, Mauryans, Sungas, Guptas and Palas used Patliputra as their capital. During the reign of famous Indian king called “Ashoka the Great”, the city became one of the biggest cities of the world. It was the Afghan king, Sher Shah Suri who made Patliputra the capital of his empire and changed its name to what is called “Patna” today.
Bihar is well known as the land of monasteries, which is well evident from its name itself, which is derivation of the word “Vihara”. The serendipity of the state offers a pleasant escape from the humdrum monotony of city life. The temples, monasteries, mosques, and mausoleums of Bihar boast of a great historic past, which are related to the all major religions of India like Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism Sikhism and Islam. The holy river Ganga flows wide and deep through the enriched plains of Bihar, and passes through the middle of the state from west to east. The other important rivers of the state are Kosi and Gandak which flow from the north, and river Sone which flows from the south join the Ganga.
The crowning glory of the state is its cherished linkage to the ‘Light of Asia’ Lord Buddha. The state boasts of special tourist attraction known as the Buddhist circuit, which is linked to the trail of the pilgrimage undertaken by Lord Buddha. The special circuit begins at Patna, the capital city, where you can view the exclusive Buddhist sculptures and the terracotta urns that contains ashes of Lord Lord Buddha at Patna museum. The trail then passes through Vaishali, Nalanda, Rajgir, Hills of Gridhrakuta and finally Bodh Gaya. All these places have special connection to the life of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira.