Kopeshwar Temple near Kolhapur in Maharashtra is a masterpiece of Chalukyan temple architecture. It is yet to get the fame like Chola temples of Thanjavur or Chandela temples of Khajuraho. Maybe because it is a single temple in this region with a much smaller Jain temple in the vicinity. Maybe its time has just come now.
First view of Kopeshwar Mahadev Temple at Khidrapur
Kopeshwar Mahadev Temple in Khidrapur was my prime motivation for this trip to Kolhapur. So, early morning we drove down from Kolhapur to Khidrapur, some 70 Km away, to see this temple in all its glory.
Kopeshwar Temple Khidrapur
Nested between the relatively new houses, the stone door with a lovely doorjamb welcomed us. The first thing I noticed was the shining polish the stones carried. I would soon see many sculptures and pillars inside with even better, shining polish on them. It reminded me of the fine polish I saw at Barabar caves in Bihar.
First rays of Sun falling on Swarga Mandapa as it is being cleaned in the morning
I stepped in to see the temple shimmering in the morning rays of the sun. I hurriedly stepped into the Swarg Mandap – for this is the most unique architectural feature of this temple. And stood there awestruck by what I saw. No matter how many images or videos you see, there is nothing like standing on the large circular stone disc surrounded by 48 carved pillars with an opening to the sky.
An elderly lady asked me to first go and meet the deity of the temple – Kopeshwar Mahadev. She is probably used to see the tourists get lost in the sculptures and forgetting to meet the deity. I stepped inside the Sabha Mandap through another lovely stone door with a stunning doorjamb. Another set of pillars surrounding another large circular stone welcomed me. I wondered what dance and music this stone would have seen over the ages.
When I could take my eyes off the circular pillars and the stories, they have on them, I saw the single Dwarpala on the right side of Antral Dwar or the door leading to the vestibule. The other space was empty waiting for the Dwarpala Murti to be fixed, or was it there but removed by the thieves? Antaral is full of Madanika or Sur Sundari images, the beautiful women who are adorned with all kinds of jewelry and are considered Mangala or auspicious.
The Garbhagriha or the sanctum has two Lingas and there is an interesting legend about it. There are Madanikas on the walls of sanctum as well. This is rare. The same lady pointed us to the meditation cave on the left and it felt like the perfect place to sit and meditate in complete darkness.
It was time to go around the outside walls of the temple. I was lost in the sculptures of Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu & Devi punctuated by Madanikas in various poses. I did notice a lovely Krishna Murti. However, it was when our guide Shashank came and explained us the whole temple for more than an hour that each of these sculptures started talking to us, taking us back in time when a Kalyani Chalukyan king would have probably first built it.
History of Kopeshwar Temple at Khidrapur
There are different views on when this temple was exactly built. Sources point to it being first built in 7th CE, probably built by Badami Chalukyas. Other sources place it in 9th CE during the times of Kalyani Chalukyas. While yet other sources put it to 12th CE built by Shilahar Kings, who were earlier the vessels of Chalukyan kings.
Kopeshwar Temple, Khidrapur
My sense is that it is probably a 9th CE temple later enhanced by Shilahars. You do see a lot of incomplete elements in the temple. For example, the incomplete north and south Mukh mandapas, incomplete carvings on pillars with markings for carving. As they say, incomplete structures give you insights into the making of temples. The Shikhar of the temple is also out of sync with the rest of the structure. Temples anyway are on perpetual construction mode.
The temple thankfully has 12 inscriptions, 11 of which are in old Kannada script while one is in Devnagari. However, none of these inscriptions tell us about who built it and when. One of them dating to 1204 by Yadava Kings of Deogiri do mention the renovation of the temple, implying that the temple existed well before 12th CE.
Marks of Aurangzeb’s visit in 1702 CE can be seen all over the broken images of the temple. Most faces and hands are broken, weapons are broken, as are the trunks of elephants that form the platform on whom the temple stands.
The story of Kopeshwar Mahadev
They say in Sanatan Dharma, every story eventually goes back to the story of Sati’s self-immolation at her father Daksha’s Yagya. Kopeshwar Mahadev celebrates a moment of that key episode. After Sati kills herself, Shiva is angry. Vishnu steps in to pacify his anger. It is that moment that this temple freezes in time. Since Shiva is angry he gets the name Kopeshwar. Kopa means anger in Sanskrit. Vishnu is present here as the second linga to pacify Shiva.
Shiva and Parvati on their vehicle Nandi
Nandi, an integral part of every Shiva temple is missing here. Not without a reason. When this episode happened, Nandi had accompanied Sati to her father’s place. So, he is absent here. Now, the Daksha’s place is in Kankhal in Haridwar, but people in Maharashtra believe it to be in Yadur village a few kilometers across the Krishna river. The Nandi there at the Virbhadra temple, it seems looks towards this temple. I missed visiting this temple, but probably next time.
I wonder if the presence of so many Madanikas, especially in the sanctum is to pacify the Shiva, who is Kopeshwar here.
The Architecture of Kopeshwar Temple Khidrapur
Architecturally, so as per Shilpa Shastra, this is probably the richest temple of Maharashtra.
Stone used in this temple is hard basalt rock, that is found in the Sahyadri range of mountains, the closest point being at 60 km away. So, the stone must have been ported here via Panch Ganga and Krishna rivers. Most of our rivers had good waterways once upon a time.
Let us look at the architecture of this beautiful temple in detail.
Swarg Mandap – the stunning architecture of Kopeshwar Mahadev Temple
The Swarga Mandap – an exquisitely carved structure, with a circular open ceiling is the most unique feature of this temple. I have not seen anything like anywhere in temples across India. To the best of my knowledge, have never even heard of anything like this anywhere.
Swarga Mandap is the first part of the temple that you see once you step in. It is detached from the main temple by a very small margin. The circular structure of Swarga Mandap is supported on 48 pillars, each of which is beautifully carved. Seen from outside, you can see the impression of an inverted lotus on the roof.
12 Deities on 12 Pillars of Swarga Mandap
There are 12 horizontal spokes coming out on the ceiling, both inside and outside the structure.
The inside edge has 12 deities carved on them. There are 8 deities of 8 directions, collectively called Digpals occupying their respective direction. In addition, there are 4 images of Vishnu, Kartik, Sun, and Shiva. All the deities are riding their respective vehicles with their consorts except Kartik who is believed to be a Brahmachari or single.
Geometric Patterns on Swarga Mandap Pillars
Figures are carved in a manner that if you stand in the middle, you will only see the deity riding alone. It is only when you step aside, you will see the consorts sitting behind them. You simply smile at the craft of the architect who designed it & you wonder when, why and how did we lose it all!
Vishnu with Lakshmi on a pillar in Swarga Mandap
The circular stone slab on the floor called Rangshila is exactly the same size as the hole in the ceiling. It roughly measures 14 feet in diameter and is carved out of a single stone. Talk about mathematics in our temple architecture.
Video of Kopeshwar Temple Khidrapur
Stunning Kopeshwar Temple at Khidrapur Maharashtra - YouTube
48 Pillars surrounding the open space in Swarga Mandap are carved in geometric patterns. The polish is to be seen to be believed, almost metallic finish. Of these, 12 pillars surround the Rangshila. At the bottom of these pillars are the different temple architecture designs carved, especially the shikhara styles. A slim strip going around the pillars have different flowers carved on it.
An obvious question that comes to your mind is why would the ceiling be open. A logical answer that I got was that this place was used to perform Yagnas, so an open ceiling was required. Another explanation said it is to be able to see the Sky from inside the temple. Sky, as we know, is one of the five elements that everything is supposed to be made from. The name Swarg Mandap comes from this window to the sky, as it is believed that you see the Swarga or heaven from here.
Open Sky Architecture
I did wonder if the roof is missing because the temple is not yet complete or it fell off at a certain point in time. My curiosity was answered when I saw a well-built channel to take the water out of the mandap. So, it was always meant to be open to the sky.
It was probably also used for cultural performances as you can see a rough seating arrangement at different levels around it. It gives an impression of a mini amphitheater. Does the sky window has an acoustic role, needs to be explored?
Once I soaked in the charms of Swarga Mandapa, I looked towards the temple, standing in the middle of the Rangshila of Swarga Mandap. What amazes you is that the trinity of Sanatan Dharma, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh are all visible in one frame. Shiva is inside the temple as the presiding deity, Brahma can be seen on the left wall of the temple and Vishnu on the right. Interestingly, you only see three of them from this point and no other deity.
Sabha Mandap Door
The Sabha Mandap is a part of the main temple, slightly detached from Swarga Mandap. The doorjamb is beautiful with a Saraswati Murti on top and Purna Kalash on both sides. Lower panels on both sides of the door have 10 Dwarpalas, 5 on each side. Figures are well ornamented and adorned. They look beautiful even when their Gadas have been broken. At the bottom is a panel of mythical animals called Vyals.
Lattice Window – the signature of Chalukyan Architecture
The lattices windows with flowers carved at intersections is a signature element of Chalukyan architecture. An incomplete Chandrashila is carved in front of the door.
Inside the Sabha Mandap, the geometry of Swarga mandapa is repeated except the ceiling is covered here. 60 pillars are arranged in 3 layers, a square in the middle and the third layer embedded in the walls. The four corner pillars bigger than the rest of the pillars.
Kirtimukh on the pillars of Kopeshwar Mahadev Temple
Each pillar has Kirtimukh carved on it, each in a different style with different motifs. Some of the motifs include Peacocks, Crocodiles, Dancers, Vahanas like Garuda, deities like Vishnu, Shiva, Sadhus, Fruits, and Flowers. Polish on black basalt stone shines like a mirror.
Mangala or Auspicious Signs – Makar, Mayur & Purna Ghat or Crocodile, Peacock & Pot
In some of the pillars, we admired the miniature version of sculptures where no single detail was missing. A small carving of Vishnu and Lakshmi has all the jewelry properly carved with all the iconographic details that help you identify the deity.
There are two Jataka or Panchatantra tales that can be seen carved on the pillars. One is that of a Monkey and a Crocodile, another is that of the talkative tortoise. There is a depiction of Vasant Ritu or the spring season. There are mirror images of dancers and animals. A Ramayana panel showcases Hanuman with Ram & Lakshman. Carvings of some of the pillars are in an incomplete stage.
A circular Rangshila again takes the center stage here. The performances here would have been like a Pooja offered to the deity inside the Garbhgriha.
In one corner is the image of Saptamatrika on a stand-alone stone. A Bhairava Murti in one of the niches looks like a later addition.
Exquisite Jewelry of Dwarpala
The masterpiece of Sabha Mandap is the Dwarpala outside the Antral or vestibule. It is heavily embellished and the jewelry designs can still be seen in the markets of Kolhapur. The crown has a row of Mund-Mala or the garland of skulls. The jewelry is brilliant and the finish so fine.
Antral or Vestibule
Square Antraal or vestibule again has some lovely carved figures and a place to see the temple doorjamb. On the right wall of the vestibule is a longish inscription in old Kannada.
Garbhghriha or Sanctum
We crossed a finely carved Chandrashila with conch shells and crocodiles carvings to enter the Garbhgriha. On top of Doorjamb is Lakshmi. There is a depiction of life around the door and the auspicious figures like Purna Kumbha, Makar & Mayur or Pots, Crocodile and Peacocks.
Beautifully Carved Chandrashila
A unique feature of the Grabhgriha of this temple is that you find the Madanika figures all around the walls of the sanctum. Unfortunately, most of them been broken.
The two Lingas depicting Shiva and Vishnu are at the base level. A pujari regularly worships them.
Kopeshwar & Dhopeshwar Lingas
As I said earlier, the Garbh Griha has two Lingas – one representing the Shiva as Kopeshwar. The second one represents Vishnu as Dhopeshwar, as the pacifier of Shiva. Since this temple celebrates that moment, both Shiva and Vishnu are present in Linga form here.
We all are travelers in our own ways and there different types of travel to explore. While some of us are in the business of traveling, it is a part of life for everyone. Humans have an inherent urge to travel, to see the unseen, to know the world unlike ours. Our ancestors were nomads, they wandered around in search of food and shelter. I wonder if they also wandered to discover new lands, new landscapes, new types of food and maybe better dwellings.
Human Civilization has come a long way since then. Our urge to travel, our curiosity for the world not seen yet has taken the shape of holidays. We look forward to breaks from our work to enjoy leisure time in a new destination.
37 Types of Travel
I am often asked what type of traveler you are? How does one answer that? There are so many reasons and seasons to travel. So, here is a post telling you some of the popular ways to travel. Which one should you choose depends on your interests, your finances, and your personality? I would say try as many as possible at least once.
1, 2 – Short Weekend Breaks Vs Long Slow Travel
The first thing that you need to travel is time. If you do not have time, there is a day job that needs all your active time. Take a weekend break at least once a month. Explore the areas surrounding your own city and you will be surprised how much there is to explore there. When I was working full time I used to follow weekend travel for at least one week in a month.
On the other side of the spectrum is Long Slow Travel is the type of travel that digital nomads prefer to work with these days. In Long Slow Travel you stay at a destination for a longer duration – anywhere from one month to one year. Most nomads would stay for 3-6 months and explore the destination or region at a slow pace. Many Travel bloggers also do this.
3, 4 – Backyard Travel Vs Travel the World
If you live in an ancient land like India, there is so much to explore right in your neighborhood. You can simply go walking around in your own city and you will discover so much. When I lived in Delhi, I walked around the streets of Delhi and explored so much about the ancient to the modern history of the city. I wrote 30 odd walking tours of Delhi. It was a world in itself waiting to be discovered. And, while you go around exploring the nook and corner of India, don’t forget to secure your journey with Tata AIG’s Domestic Travel Guard Insurance to have a hassle-free trip.
Travel the world is everyone’s dream. We all fulfill it to some extent. It is always fascinating to visit new countries and learn about their culture and food. Many travelers keep a count of the number of countries visited, some are chasing the number of stamps on their passports. Whenever you travel overseas, make sure you have International travel insurance to take care of any mishaps. The laws of every land are different and costs of trip cancellation, baggage loss, unexpected accidents, and medical emergencies can be prohibitive.
5, 6 – Leisure Vs Business Travel
Leisure travel is what our dreams are made of. Sitting on a sunny beach, sipping our favorite drink in a luxurious resort away from the world. This is travel when we leave our normal day to day life back home and treat ourselves to all the luxuries we can afford, pamper ourselves and rejuvenate ourselves. Please treat yourself to such travels once in a while, works like magic for your well being.
Business travel also takes you to different parts of the world. While most of us see it as work, it shows you the world from a common citizen’s perspective. Take out time in the evenings or add a day to your travel to explore the destination. When I was working, I used a lot of my business travel to explore many destinations my work took me to.
7, 8, 9 – Air Travel Vs Train Travel VS Cruise Trips
A journey is as enjoyable as the destination they say. The mode of travel you choose can be a part of the travel adventure. Many of us who grew up in the 1980s in India, travel memories are invariably tied to long train journeys. I remember my uncle used to live in Varanasi and we used to visit them during our holidays. The joy of the train journey is what I remember the most. We used to wait for stations for the food that we used to get there.
Air Travel is the most popular in this day and age. It has the advantage of speed, but I do not recall any stories from my thousands of air journeys. For some reason, people hardly speak to each other on airports. The food is usually bad. Having said that, Air travel is the best option for long distance travel or when you have a shortage of time.
Cruise ships take you over waters. Imagine surrounded by waters all day as you move from one destination to another.
10, 11, 12 – Road Trip Vs Cycling Tours Vs Walking Tours
Carrying the mode of travel thought forward, one of my favorites modes to travel is road trips with no defined itinerary. You have a final destination but there are a lot more than you discover on the way. Road trips are when you discover the small eateries on the way. You stop by the fields to admire them. I remember Sarson Ke Khet that you find across North India when you drive from Delhi to Alwar or in rural Punjab around Patiala.
Cycling tours are favorites with those who prefer eco-tourism and responsible tourism. It is also great for fitness travel. You are slower than a vehicle but faster than walking. You can stop where you want. There are cities like Chandigarh or Vancouver where you can rent a cycle and tour around the city. Hope every city in India someday gets this system in place.
Walking tours are my favorite. I love walking around the cities I live in & the cities I visit. When in nature they take the form of nature trails. Walking is like meditation in nature. In cities, it is like being a part of the trail you are walking. You engage with all the elements of place, absorbing them, making them your own.
13, 14, 15 – Luxury Travel Vs Backpacking or Flashpacking
Travel is for everyone – rich or poor or middle class. If you can afford it, you can buy all the possible luxuries in your holidays. If you can’t, you can still roam around like a carefree person with your backpack. The core of travel remains the same – a luxury traveler may take business class flight ticket while the backpacker may travel in second class in railways. The luxury traveler may enjoy the Gourmet food while backpacker may binge on fresh street food.
Lately, Flashpacking is becoming the trend, which is nothing but an affluent backpacker. The clear definition is still evolving but in my mind, it is the what next generation free-spirited travelers will aim for.
16, 17, 18 – Solo Travel Vs Family Travel Vs Friends Travel
Let’s come to who do you travel with. They say that travel brings out the best and worst in you. Maybe you should travel with your potential partners to discover that.
Solo travel is overhyped in digital media, most people travel solo as they cannot find a company to travel. Having said that, I suggest you should do some solo travels in life. It is when you travel alone that you are 100% in the destination. It is during solo travels that you get to know yourself a lot, get to spend quality time with yourself. It’s also the freest mode of traveling with no constraints to accommodate others. It comes with its own downsides, so balance it out by traveling with others, at other times.
Family travel comes naturally to most families, who look forward to spending some free time together. I think if you ask a couple or a family, their fondest family moments – they are always the travel moments. So, go ahead and create those magical moments for yourself and your family.
Traveling with friends is fun. While family usually has different age groups, most friends’ groups are in your age bracket. People in our age bracket tend to have similar tendencies, and that makes travels with friends so much fun. There is nothing like gossiping through the night or binging on your favorite food with friends sitting on a beach or a mountain.
19, 20, 21 – Visiting Friends & Relatives Vs Retreats
Do we always have to travel to distant places? Not really. Most of our childhood travels meant traveling to visit grandparents or relatives or family friends. It is still a great idea to go and stay with family and friends when you want to explore a destination. Not only do you get to meet your loved ones but your costs are also taken care of. Be welcoming when the reverse happens.
Retreats mean going away from everyone and spending time with yourself. There are different types of retreats offered in distant resorts like Yoga retreats, meditation retreats, spiritual retreats or wellness retreats.
22, 23 – Package Tours Vs Follow your Heart Travel
Package tours are looked down upon by many travelers, but they are the easiest way to travel. Everything is outsourced to someone and you just follow the itinerary and enjoy the tour. Yes, it does not give you the flexibility to do your things or spend as much time at any place that you may like a lot. I suggest if you have just started to travel – they are not at all a bad option to explore. Package tours are usually economical.
Planning your own travel itinerary or following your heart is something we all want to do. Please note that this requires a hell lot of research, negotiations, planning and any downside anywhere is your responsibility. You have the freedom but you have to do take care of every minute thing yourself.
24, 25 – Laid Back Vs Adventure Travel
Laid back and adventure travel may seem like two ends of a spectrum, but we need both of them. When you are stressed out and in need of some relaxation, choose the laid back resort to relax. On the other hand, when life is too sedentary, take an adventure break and get back your Josh.
I would not suggest choosing between these two types of travel but just enjoy them alternatively.
26, 27, 28 – Culture Travel Vs Nature Trails Vs Offbeat Travel
I am a culture vulture. I can spend hours in the galleries of museums, in the crowded markets, in old streets and talking to people. All the old living places are my go to places. This does not mean you have to like it too, but try it, you may just fall for it.
Nature is everyone’s muse. Who does not like to be closer to nature? Till industrialization made us a part of concrete jungles, our ancestors happily lived with nature. Flora and Fauna were a part of their everyday life. We visit national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to relive those times. For me, it is an opportunity to learn about wildlife, trees, spiders, and things that are not there in my surroundings.
Offbeat travel is a jargon. Anything that you have not seen but you want to see is offbeat. Does it really matter of million other people also want to see that? If you have not seen Taj Mahal but you want to see, it is offbeat for you. So, make your own wish list of places you want to see and follow it. You will keep adding things as you go, that is another thing.
29, 30 – Traveling for Festival Vs Sports
These types of travel are time-based. You must do them at a particular time.
Festivals are a good reason to visit a destination at a particular time like visiting Gujarat for Navaratri or Surajkund during Mela or Prayagraj during Kumbh Mela. This includes shopping festivals that are hosted by countries like Singapore and Dubai.
Sports events too, take place in a given duration. So, if you are a huge cricket or a football fan and you have a followed the sport all your life on television, once in a while you should see the action live. I think this would be best enjoyed with your buddies who are equally passionate about the sport.
31, 32 – Gap Year Travel Vs Volunteering
Gap year travel is popular in the western world. This is one thing I hope our Indian youth also starts taking up. There is so much you can learn first-hand from traveling that it would enrich you for the rest of your life.
Voluntourism came in vogue last few years but lately, there are a lot of questions being raised about it. I would say pick up a small job with a local organization that allows you about 50% of your time to yourself, that you use to explore the place.
33 – Pilgrimage Tourism
Pilgrimage is the oldest form of tourism. In India, many Yatras are prescribed for everyone, that would take you around the country. Though the ultimate destination is always a temple or a Tirtha the journey would take you through the landscape of the route. You would end up interacting with the people on the way and discover their cultures.
It is also the spiritual travel that you take as much inwards as you take it outwards. In good old days, when you went on pilgrimage, you also spent time with learned saints and sadhus with an aim to gain knowledge.
34, 35 – Medical Tourism Vs Industrial Tourism
These are two modern age technology driven travels. Medical tourism lets you go to a new destination for medical treatment. You may do it for its cost or for the quality of treatment. For example, a lot of people come to India for Ayurvedic treatments or Dental treatments.
Industrial tourism is mostly done by students trying to gain insight into the world of industries that they would soon become part of. However, in Germany, I visited the Volkswagen factory on a tour, and it was an incredible experience. There may not be too many readily available, but try the ones that you can take up.
36, 37 – Mountains Vs Beaches or Skiing Vs Surfing
Some of us are mountain lovers and others are beach lovers. I like both. Do not let the labels you give yourself not to enjoy the other. I have friends who would not touch beaches because they call themselves a mountain person. Skiing and surfing are equally enjoyable.
Types of Travel
Finally, no matter what types of Travel you choose, you are essentially choosing between disconnecting from the World or engaging with the world. No matter how you travel, enjoy it, these are some of the most precious moments of your life.
Firozabad in my mind was always the city of glass bangles. Every time I looked at piles of colorful, bright shining glass bangles in fairs and markets across India, I wanted to visit the town. So, this time when I went exploring Holi in Mathura Vrindavan, I decided to take a detour to Firozabad.
Passing by Agra, I did get a glimpse of Taj Mahal, and it brought back memories of past visits. This time it was the tinkling of glass bangles that was calling me.
Like all unstructured trips, this one also had a small surprise for me. I discovered a lovely Jain temple as soon as we entered the city of Firozabad. More on that later.
Firozabad Glass Industry
Making of Glass Products
Glass Jug manufacturing
Our first stop was the Lazer glass unit that manufactures all types of glass items like drinking glasses, jugs, bottles and even the headlights of vehicles. I thought that they only manufacture glass bangles. I was wrong. Firozabad is as engaged in manufacturing many types of glass products.
The owner of the glass manufacturing Mr. Subodh Jain unit walked me through the process of manufacturing common glass items. The process included both the manual molding and automated process using a dye. I walked through the noisy factory, looking at sand and recycled glass taking the shape of fresh utility items in a matter of hours.
With an artisan like precision, the employees turned the molten glass into handles of jars. Another one was cutting the unwanted parts of a glass giving it a clean finished look. On a slow conveyor belt, the products moved from one stage of production to another as much as they moved from one space in the big hall to another.
Dye to make glass products
At the end of the hall, a very mechanical dye making unit was busy creating dyes for future products. Not too far from it the neat clean cardboard boxes packed with ready to ship products. Have used glasses, bowls, bottles all my life, this is the first time I saw them coming to life.
Other items manufactured include chandeliers, glass bottles for all purposes and Glass Art at times.
My small industrial tour took me behind the scenes of the glass industry.
We moved next door to see the Glass Bangles.
Glass Bangles Manufacturing
Piles of bright red colored bangles welcomed us. They stood out with their bright color in an otherwise drab environment. In a room, the long rolls of bangles were being cut to create single bangles. I was looking at the last step done at this bangle manufacturing unit.
Piles of Red Glass Bangles
Nikhil Bansal, the young owner of India Electrical Glass Works welcomed us. Even though we had landed unannounced, he took out time to show us the whole process of making glass bangles in his factory. This is the beauty of small-town India. People adjust their work to accommodate a visitor, even when she is a stranger with no appointment.
Video: Behind the Scenes Glass Industry in Firozabad
Get a glimpse of manufacturing in the glass industry.
Behind The Scenes - Glass Industry in Firozabad - YouTube
Fun Facts about Firozabad
It is also called Suhag Nagari because of the bangles.
In Firozabad Bangle industry a dozen is counted as 24 i.e. a dozen for each wrist. They sell it the same way in the wholesale market. The retail sale is, however, another story.
Bangles manufactured here are the ones with a joint, and each bangle is joined manually. Bangles without joint are made with a dye and as per Nikhil, only in Pakistan.
Before it became a city, this area was dominated by dacoits.
There are more than 400 glass work units in the city. Most of these would come under small scale industrial units.
Making of Glass Bangles
We started from the piles of sand that is rich in Mica that comes from Jaipur. It is mixed with some chemicals and put in a kiln to melt. The temperature goes up to 1500 deg. You can feel the heat as you go close to it, although the mud coating manages the heat quite well.
Molten colored glass in different stages of heat
The raw glass is then mixed with color and again heated in the huge containers inside the kiln. Once the color is mixed, molten glass is picked up at the edge of a long metal stick. As soon as the glass is out of the kiln, it starts solidifying within a matter of seconds. A worker gives it a conical shape before adding more molten glass to it.
Firozabad Glass Bangles Video
Glass Bangles of Firozabad - Behind the Scenes - YouTube
With enough glass on the stick, the still burning red hot glass is kept in front of a worker, who gives it a long conical shape. You can see the red hot glass turning into dark red and then finally red, which in this factory was the color of bangles manufactured.
Though the bangles remain the primary produce here.
Red Glass Bangles Rolls just out of Kiln
This lump of colored glass at one end of a long metal stick then goes into another kiln. This time a small bit of it is rolled over a pipe to make a long spiral roll. The diameter of the pipe decides the size of the bangle. The long rolls are taken out and kept in a pile. Again, when they are brought out of the kiln, they are almost black but within minutes they are of the color of bangles.
Broken pieces of bangles are everywhere. No one is bothered. They will simply go back into the kiln and come back as another bangle.
Bangle Rolls being cut with a Diamond
These rolls then move into the room that I first saw. Each roll is cut in a straight line with absolute ease using a diamond tool. At the other end, you have a pile of single bangles open at one end. They would now be picked up by small entrepreneurs who would join them one by one at their homes or small workshops.
After they are joined, some embellishment work may be done on them, including any cutting work. Finally, they reach the colorful Bohran Gully of Firozabad, where they are sold in wholesale.
Bangle Bazaars in Firozabad
You see carts full of bangles, usually in one single color moving amidst the crowds.
Glass Bangles Shop in Bohran Gali
Walking through the colorful lanes on either side of the main bazaar of Firozabad is a delight. Walls on both sides are bright yellow and in the foreground are the colorful shining bangles. Lovely aesthetics. You see the business of bangles, as the piles are traded, loaded on bicycles, packed in brown paper.
Packing of delicate glass bangles is an art in itself. To see them stuck together with a small incline in a way that they would not break is a pleasant surprise. The speed with which young men pack them is amazing. Do watch them pack these bangles towards the end of this video.
Though the city is relatively new, the tradition of making glass bangles and bottles from recycled glass is very old in this region.
Things to see in Firozabad
Glass bangles remain the top most attraction.
History goes back to the days when it was a part of Chandravar region that was under the Chauhan kings before invasions began in India. It is still a small village 5 Km from the city. The place was inhabited by Jain families and hence was home to Jain temples.
The city as it stands today was set up by Firoz Shah, a mansabdar of Akbar in 16th CE. Gazetteer records suggest it came under various rulers including Bajirao Peshwa, Jats, Marathas & British.
Digambar Jain Temple
Digambar Jain Temple
Like I mentioned above, my first stop was the Jain temple. It is a fairly large temple dedicated to 24th Tirthankar Mahavir Ji. It was built by the family of Jain Seth Chhadamilal.
What is interesting in this temple is the largest Bahubali statue in North India. Temple officials told me that the statue indeed came from Karnataka a few years back. Like the large Bahubali statues there, this is also made of a single stone.
Whistler was my introduction to Canada. I landed in Vancouver late evening and headed straight to Whistler village. This route is famously called sea to sky as it takes you from coast to a hilltop. I will admire the beauty of this route on my return to Vancouver a couple of days later.
Late night I checked into my luxury resort – The Fairmont Chateau Whistler hotel, nestled in a perfect Alpine setting. In the morning, I woke up to the perfect snow setting. It was the beginning of winter and snowfall season in early November. As I sat down to have my breakfast, I remember the layer of soft snow on furniture and trees from the restaurant window. Like a picture postcard, the image would stay in my mind.
Etymology of Whistler
The village gets its name from the call of Hoary Marmot – a kind of large squirrel that is found here. The other contender for the name of this lovely valley was ‘London’. I like the name from a local species.
My first activity in Whistler was to go Ziplining. I walked to the town center, that had typical hill architecture with tall sloping wooden roofs, surrounded by snow as it was softly falling all around.
Ready for Ziplining
When I stood on top of the mountain with another hilltop across the river that was almost frozen, I was scared, to say the least. Thankfully, I had bought my International Travel Insurance Online for any emergency. However, that was would still not give me the courage to step into the air and zip across the mountain over a Gorge.
Having done it, I would always remember what I saw from the top. It was definitely worth it.
Peak to Peak Gondola Ride
Peak to Peak Gondola Ride
An easier option to see the mountain tops is to take the Peak2Peak Gondola ride. You get wonderful views of the mountains around including the famous Blackcomb mountains. If you are lucky, you might spot some bears in the hills.
I had to choose between Ziplining and Gondola ride and I chose the former. I did see the Gondolas moving around from town.
Museums in Whistler Canada
You know I am a museum junkie. I knew there are two important museums I have to see in the village.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center
Displays at Squamish Lilwat Center
This cultural center celebrating the aboriginal culture of Squamish and Lilwat tribes that lived in the region is a delight. It introduces you to the aboriginal culture through different artifacts like masks, totem poles. costumes, boats, folk stories and music on a guided tour. Towards the end of the tour, you can get weave yourself a bracelet from Cedarwood.
This was my first introduction to the aboriginal or First Nations culture of Canada. More importantly, I learned about the efforts being done to keep the culture alive. I would keep discovering the different aspects of it throughout my trip to British Columbia. At the souvenir shop & café, I had my lunch, while admiring the range of souvenirs with aboriginal ethos woven into them.
Audain Art Museum
Wooden screen used for theatrical performances by First Nations
Audain Art Museum is a very modern museum in design, though its displays take you for a walk from the past to the near past. A guided tour of the Audain Art Museum introduced me the celebrated artist Emily Carr. Her works showcasing the totem poles were potentially the first triggers for the revival of First Nations art. I would later see her statue in Victoria BC.
Emily Carr painting showing Totem Poles
A must see work here is a giant wooden screen with aboriginal motifs used for theatre performances. You also get to see contemporary expressions of the old motifs in this museum like a totem pole made with backpacks.
Pile of Copper Glasses at Audain Museum
A pile of Copper glasses reminded me of the evolution of human civilization as the metals became available to us, becoming an integral part of our lives.
I picked up the first of my Canada Souvenirs from the museum shop – A colorful totem pole fridge magnet.
Rainbow Lodge scene depicted in the Museum
This is a rather small museum that focuses on things like sports connection of the village and the evolution of Ski here. The village, as you know, was the venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
It is a small museum but suits the size of the village it showcases.
Whistler Village Walk
Village Square scene
I love walking around places. This is my way of being a participant observer, you see the outsiders interact with the locals and a kind of osmosis happening.
The village is a remarkably walkable village. There is really no need for any kind of transportation if the weather permits.
Libraries are another weakness. I spent a few precious minutes in the public library as I reached it tiptoeing through the snowfall all around. It is a lovely library – quite big for a small village. There are some displays around that you can see.
Whistler Ski Town
Now, the town is best known for being a Ski Town. In fact, it was discovered as a place to Ski and continues to be a favorite Ski destination. However, my timing for Ski was little offbeat as it has just started snowing. So, I could only see the mountains and slopes that bring Ski lovers here.
It reminded me of my trip to Poland on a Schengen travel countries schedule, I visited Zakopane, which is a popular Ski destination and I saw that too in the offseason for Ski. I came back admiring its architecture and cheese.
For more details on Skiing, check out the official tourism website.
Lost Lake Walk
The Lost Lake snowclad landscape scene
Lost Lake is a lovely lake not too far from the village. I wanted to walk around the lake, having seen the lovely images of the same. However, the constant snowfall made it impossible for me to walk. I did manage to drive down to the lake and walk about 200 meters in the snow to see the lake that looked like a giant black spot surrounded by water.
I had my magical moments with snow all around – on trees, benches, around the lake as it was falling softly and settling down. It was like walking into a dream sequence with nothing but nature all around me.
During summers, the colors would be different and so would be the walk around the lost lake.
Spa in the Hills
Now, I am not new to spa experiences. However, this one at the village would leave me stunned. Imagine surrounded by snow all around and sitting in a hot water spring. Top it with a dip in the ice-cold water before you sit in a steam room surrounded by tall cedar trees. This is what I experienced one late evening at Scandinave Spa in Whistler which is one of the many Spas the village has.
Winter landscape as seen on a drive
I still remember walking into the Spa area with many big and small open pools. Most of these had reasonably hot water and few the ice-cold water that you could also call normal temperature in that weather.
Again, no photography is allowed but the experience is worth it after a long adventurous day. It helped me sleep well, despite my jet lag.
Events to look forward to
Being a tourist village is home to many events around the year. When I visited it in November, Whistler Cornucopia – a food and drinks festival was on. As a vegetarian Teetotaller, I skipped this festival. Rest of the year too, there are some event or the other ON to keep the visitors engaged. Do check out the schedule when you visit.
Hotels & Resorts
Whistler is a resort village. The shuttle buses from Vancouver or Vancouver airport would drop you at the doorstep of your hotel.
Most hotels are located close enough to the village to walk to the village. My hotel was about a kilometer away and they had a regular shuttle to pick and drop their guest from the town every 15 mins or so. They were also kind enough to give me a ride to the lost lake.
So, even when you do not Ski, there is a lot that you can do in this small Canadian village. I was all set to explore the rest of British Columbia with my next stops at Vancouver and Victoria BC.
I first came to know of Kalady when I read the biography of Adi Shankaracharya. Google helped me locate the place very close to Kochi Airport. A Kerala trip soon came along and I grabbed the opportunity to see the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya on the banks of River Poorna. Kochi airport is, in fact, the closest point in Kochi to Kalady.
Adi Shankaracharya was born in Kalady, where you can still find temples where his mother prayed. Sringeri Mutt now stands at the place and the place is called Adi Shankara Janam Kshetra or the area that celebrates the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya, India’s greatest thinker.
Closeup of Murals and Wood Carved Panels at Adi Shankara Janam Kshetra
Kalady literally means footprints. It is believed that Poorna or the Periyar river used to flow some distance away from the river. Once young Shankara’s mother fainted while walking to the river and he prayed to Krishna. Pleased by the child’s devotion and faith, Krishna blessed him that river will follow his footprints. This is how he brought the river to the village. It continues to live on the banks of Periyar or Poorna.
Incidentally, Kalady and its links to Adi Shankaracharya were discovered just over 100 years ago. Since then, an effort to preserve the area has been done by the followers of different Shankara Mutts in the country.
Places to See in Kalady
There are 3 main areas that you need to see. Two of them are by Sankara Mutts of Kanchi and Sringeri and the third is ancient temples and other things surrounding this village. So, let us go for a walk around.
Kalady Sringeri Mutt is the largest mutt here. This is where you need to spend the most time to know the story of Adi Shankara and his birthplace.
Adi Shankara Janam Bhumi Kshetra
Adi Shankara Janam Kshetra
The name itself means the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya. The main door is beautiful. Its walls have the traditional Kerala paintings in rust orange color punctuated by dark wooden panels. On top of the door are images of Adi Shankara with his disciples, Sharadamba the presiding deity of the Mutt and various Shankaracharyas of the Mutt. I remember admiring this wall for some time. Not many facades of contemporary buildings are so well designed with Indian aesthetics.
Inside the complex has a huge Sharamba Temple. It was closed when I visited but from the windows, I could see the sculptures of all the 7 Saptamatrikas. It is a huge temple with a huge hall. I hope next time I visit, it would be open.
There is Vrindavan of Aryamba or the samadhi of mother of Adi Shankara. There is a Shakti Ganapati Temple. You can, of course, see the life story of Adi Shankara in marble plaques. The birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya celebrates his life and shares his philosophy.
Visiting Hours: 6 AM to 12.30 PM and 4 PM to 8 PM. No specific dress code.
Photography is not allowed in this complex. For more details check the Mutt Website.
Ghats of Poorna River
Poorna or Periyar River
Poorna or Periyar as it is called now flows gently behind the Adi Shankara Janam Kshetra. A small path from the complex leads you to the river. It is like any other river, surrounded by wilderness. Lone bridge over it is visible from the banks. However, if you have read the stories of Adi Shankara, there are many stories that bring you to this river.
One of the popular stories is that when he wanted to take Sanyas, his mother did not agree for it. He went into the river and a crocodile caught his leg. Shankara told his mother that crocodile will let him go if she agreed to let him take Sanyas. She agreed and rest is history. A mural depicting the story can be seen at the ancient Krishna temple here.
Sri Krishna Temple
Ancient Sri Krishna Temple Entrance
Sri Krishna Temple is the oldest temple in town. It comes in the story of Adi Shankara’s parents who used to worship here. The current temple is obviously recent with a large compound. The core temple is still small, the compound around is fairly large.
Sri Krishna Temple
There is a small temple dedicated to Dharam Shastra who is supposed to be an avatar of Kartik, in the complex. There are murals depicting Adi Shankara as a kid worshipping Krishna with his mother as the other Devtas overlook. Another mural shows him playing with a crocodile.
Dress code for visitors: Dress conservatively.
Kalady Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham
Kanchi Mutt here has built a lovely Keerthi Stambh that celebrates the 6 paths of worship taught by Adi Shankaracharya.
Sri Adi Shankara Keerthi Stambh Mandap
Adi Shankara Keerthi Stambh
This tall tower in Ochre color and full of windows looked like a tall Deepstambh in an ancient temple. This is fairly new construction and the lack of aesthetics proves it beyond any doubt. Two elephants stand at the entrance with a Deepstambh in front. On top of the door is Adi Shankaracharya with his four disciples. I assume these are the ones who went on to establish the 4 Mutts in 4 directions in India.
Adi Shankara Keerthi Stambh Mandapa
Inside, a circular ramp takes you up. On your way up, you see the temples dedicated to 6 paths of Hinduism represented by the deities Ganesha, Shanmukh or Kartikeyan, Surya, Vishnu, Shakti, and Shiva. In each of these temples, the deity is being worshipped by Adi Shankaracharya. On the walls of the ramp is the life story of Adi Shankaracharya. The various episodes of his life are sculpted and painted as you go up.
You get a lovely view of the Kerala countryside from the top floors of Keerthi Stambh.
There is a nominal ticket of Rs 10/- for entry to Keerthi Stambh.
Temples at Kanchi Mutt
Small and Simple temples at Kanchi Mutt
In the same complex of Kanchi Mutt, there are two small temples. One is dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya, it is his birthplace. Another is dedicated to Shiva Parvati and Ganapati. These are small and simple temples but you can feel the energy of devotion in them, almost instantly.
Both these small temples have a small circular back, adhering to the architectural style of the region.
Ancient Temples and Things to See In and Around Kalady
India is full of ancient temples, you can not miss them in any village. Here too I found a lovely temple with typical Kerala Temple Architecture.
This temple is located very close to Kochi Airport. From a distance, it looks like a big house with white walls and slanted red tile roofs. We stepped in and saw another smaller house like structure inside an open compound. A narrow path took us to the door. Inside was a lovely temple in a circular shape, surrounded by wooden pillars.
Murals, wooden brackets at Nayathodu Sankara Narayana Temple
The circular wall of the temple is full of wall murals in burnt orange color. I had seen these earlier at Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum. Brass lamps hung from the ceiling. Stone steps on four sides take you to the sanctum, doors surrounded by the Dwarapalas in stone. I could only imagine how beautiful the paintings would look in the evening when the oil lamps are lit up. The oil and soot in the lamp told me that they are indeed lit up every evening.
Wooden Mandapa of Nayathodu Sankara Narayana Temple
Kerala Temple Architecture
We had the Nayathodu Sankara Narayana Temple all to ourselves, probably because it was noon, not a time when people visit temples. It is a great example of Kerala Temple Architecture. Subtle yet colorful, round walls with slanting conical roof, wooden brackets, a mandapa with wooden pillars and ceilings, corridors along the outer wall.
Dwarapalas at Nayathodu Sankara Narayana Temple
A unique thing about this temple is that Shiva here is worshipped with a Vishnu Mantra. It is believed that Shiva prayed to Vishnu, who came to live in the same Murti. In a way, by bringing Shiva and Vishnu together, it is celebrating the Advaita philosophy of Adi Shankara. I also found the Gargoyle of the temple very unique, almost like a canon re-used for the purpose, that sits on the head of a Yaksha.
Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram – This is a branch of Ramakrishna Mutt in Belur. Located close to the Sringeri Mutt.
Manickamangalam Karthyayani Temple – It is believed that Shankara’s father was a priest in this Devi temple
Sanskrit University here is one of its kind university focused on research in Sanskrit.
How to Reach
Adi Shankaracharya Mural
Kochi International Airport, Nedumbassery is the nearest airport, about 5 KMs away from Kalady. Ernakulam, Angamali (about 8 KMs) or Aluva (about 16 KMs) are the closest Railway stations. Local buses also ply.
It is about 80 KMs from the other famous religious town of Guruvayur. Buses ply between the towns.
I did not see major hotels here, you can probably do a day visit from Kochi. Sringeri Mutt does have some facility for stay but you would need to check the modalities with the Mutt.
It would be best to have your own vehicle or taxi, as the three places mentioned above are a few kilometers apart. You can potentially get a cab from Kochi Airport.
Walk around the village to see the Kerala countryside.
Sitting on The Continent, overlooking the ocean, I couldn’t believe I made it to the end of the world.
After days of travel, I clocked 19,000 kilometers to reach the place – that’s even more than the diameter of Earth!!!
Too often we travel only for the likes on social media, the stamps on our passports, or as a status symbol. But when you travel to a fragile place like Antarctica, you would want to reconsider the purpose of your travel. Is it to soak in the culture, some experience that will enrich and alter your life in some positive way or if it for a cause that you uphold!
From India to Argentina
AROUND THE WORLD TO REACH THE END OF THE WORLD
Imagine having to use every single mode of transport available to barely reach the edge of the continent. I hail from the southern state of India, Telangana. From my hometown, Hyderabad is where my journey began.
That first flight from Hyderabad to Dubai is when I could finally start breathing. Going to the end of the world does take a lot of effort – physical, emotional and financial. Can’t recall at what age did I first dream of this. But for all practical purposes, the goal I set was in 2013.
Sir Robert Swan – The Inspiration
As a kid, I was always fond of Geography and countries and places. I still sleep with a world map hung next to my bed. Back in 2013, I happened to attend a Leadership Conference and to my good fortune, I got a chance to listen to Sir Robert Swan. He is the first person to have walked to both the North Pole and the South Pole.
What was merely a dream until then started shaping into a reality. It was unbelievable that normal people like you and me could go to the last great wilderness on Earth! All these thoughts on my long second flight between Dubai and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
While I looked at the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Brazil, I lost track of time. Which time zone am I in? How do I calculate the time at home, and how many hours of journey this actually is? I was brought back into reality by the Final Boarding Call on the third flight between Rio to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina in South America. Argentina will be very special to me for all the years to come.
India & Argentina
It would be interesting to note that, Argentina is around the same size as India. India is approximately 3,287,263 sq km, while Argentina is approximately 2,780,400 sq km. Meanwhile, the population of India is ~ 1.3 billion people (1.2 billion fewer people live in Argentina).
Buenos Aires is in the North and my fourth and last flight would be to the Southern tip of the country, Ushuaia which also happens to be the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia is not connected to mainland Argentina. The city is on the island of Tierra del Fuego, which is divided between Chile and Argentina. To reach the city by land, you have to cross into Chile and take a ferry across to the island.
Ushuaia is the portal to Antarctica. While you can also reach Antarctica from South Africa and New Zealand, Ushuaia is the most popular and the shortest way to reach the 7th continent. This small town though windy and cold is picturesque. Every direction you see can be framed into a postcard. And this is only the beginning of the journey!
After a day spent understanding about the ship and safety precautions, we get on board Ocean Endeavour, the place we shall call home for the next couple of weeks.
Traveling in the open seas is challenging. No sight of land or other humans, and being at the mercy of nature is both mentally and physically demanding. Unlike, even the remotest places on land, where help can be received, here you are on your own. That’s scary and humbling in equal measures.
There are some tours that operate in this part of the world too. But when going to the most sensitive place on earth, I wanted to have a purpose. What you seek, you shall receive is what I believe.
So, I was selected as one of the 80 Ambassadors from around the World to be a part of the International Antarctic Expedition-2018. It is Leadership on the Edge program where committed individuals are shown the real face of Climate Change. We underwent training on the same.
Expedition to the 7th Continent – Antarctica
Feeling extremely purposeful, a day after we lost sight of all land, I was standing on the deck of the ship. Suddenly, I spotted this white massive floating object in the middle of nowhere. As our ship steered closer ahead, I realized it was an ICEBERG!
The first I have ever seen in my life. The only knowledge I have of the iceberg is from the movie Titanic. Though I hoped a million times after that no one should meet such a tragic end. The Iceberg we came across was massive, intimidating, almost felt reverential.
A chill down my spine, knowing that we are getting closer to the Antarctic Circle, and the Captain’s announcement blazing in my ears, for us to be prepared. Oh! But we are yet to cross the much-feared Drake Passage.
The Drake Passage a stretch just less than 1000 km is located between Antarctica’s the South Shetland Islands and South America’s Cape Horn. It is the spot where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Seas converge.
What makes the Drake Passage so infamously rough is the fact that currents at this latitude meet no resistance from any landmass, anywhere on the planet. This roaring current mix coupled with high winds can make the crossing of the Drake Passage quite an adventurous exploit.
Despite the stated facts, this route is preferred as it is wider and does not become icebound along with the presence of abundant wildlife.
Some people on our ship planned to hibernate for a whole day. Some started fasting, some with medication, ear patches, and sickness bags. The calm and excitement that we started off with, turned into sudden paranoia all credited to this part of the Ocean.
With the blessings of Neptune, the Roman Sea God, we passed the Drake Passage safely without serious sickness.
The fourth day since the start of our journey, and we waited for the sunrise. A clear sky and we all gathered at the Bow of the Ship. We were passing the Antarctic Circle 66°33′47.5″ south of the Equator. The Captain addressed all the shipmates with an official ceremony. This is the farthest south that anyone could possibly go safely without it becoming our last adventure!
Then we started our journey back North, but this time moving closer to the Continent of Antarctica. Camping on Antarctica is impossible with our limited training and resources. The brighter side of staying on the Antarctica Cruise Ship is, we explore different parts of the continent by day and travel across the Ocean at night. Thus benefitting from the opportunity of exploring the much larger landscape that would have been otherwise not possible.
Exploring the Antarctica Continent
There are some places on the continent that we could set foot on.
Some unique continental landings that are etched in my memory were:
Detaille Island was the Base for the British Antarctic Survey. Though abandoned now, it is preserved in a time capsule. The food cans ready to be prepared, the newspaper turned a few pages, the beds made – it felt like we were living in a parallel universe. The past and the present happening simultaneously without interfering with each other.
Later at the Fish Islands, we came across some rich biodiversity of penguins and seals. Penguins that are naturally camouflaged in black and white huddled together in hundreds as colonies. And the Seals are big lumpy creatures that on most occasions would be floating on the Bergy bits basking under the sun.
Petermann Island which are of volcanic origins. The ice-free areas here surprised me as even in this hostile weather conditions there is some growth of moss and lichen.
Deception Island is the caldera of an active volcano, which was a whaling station earlier. Being on this specific land was painful. Seeing the extent of destruction men of the world can cause even in this remote pristine continent is heart-wrenching.
Antarctica is rich in wildlife.
Penguins have to be one of the more commonly spotted birds here. There are at least ten listed species of penguins in Antarctica. The ones that are more commonly found towards the edge of the continent are the Adelie, Chinstrap, and the Gentoos.
We were strictly given instructions not to meddle with the wildlife and let them be in their natural environment. I was fortunate to have a counter experience, where a penguin came up to me and tugged on the zips of my pant and bag. Chuckling, I wonder if even the greatest of explorers shall have this to their credit!
Since the ship obviously cannot go till the Continent because of the depth, it was anchored in the middle of the Ocean. From there, we traveled on small floating boats called Zodiacs.
Each Zodiac can accommodate only about ten people. Outside the safety of our ship, exposed to the cold wind and the vast ocean, while we commuted between the Ship and the Continent is when we experienced another marvel of nature – Whales!
Though there are quite a few of those in this cold vast southern ocean, we were fortunate to see Humpback and Minke whales. They along with their families, swimming in twos and fours, occasionally breaching i.e. when they come up to the surface for air – teasing us momentarily and then disappearing into the depths of the Antarctic Ocean!
Antarctica & Climate Change
I have described how beautiful and humbling nature is, but like any good story, there are two sides to this as well. Man being greedy and mindless has not left this part of the world too. Many parts of Antarctica have been exposed to commercial activities like Oil and Mineral Exploration, Whaling etc.
Even a peaceful cause like Research has meddled with this pristine environment. This is when International Organizations and Laws become essential. The Antarctica Environmental Treaty ensures there is no dumping of hazardous waste on the continent. All material is taken back to their respective countries for recycling.
The International Whaling Commission has imposed a ban on the killing of whales for commercial purposes. The Antarctica Treaty, which is the most important of them all, ensures this last pristine wilderness is not owned by any one country. It shall be used only for peaceful research purposes.
Amidst all this, I networked with Ambassadors from around the world, who are all Champions of Climate Action. It was like-minded people collaborating on how to integrate knowledge and resources to fight the common evil of Climate Change.
If a calamity were to strike, it shall not consider boundaries of a country, it shall not distinguish between a developed and a developing country, rich and poor, or between religions and regions. It shall come and take everything in its way.
With this understanding, is it not of utmost importance to stand united and take collective action against Climate Change. We were filled with hope and determination that emerged from our common goal. In the year 2041, the Antarctic Treaty shall be tabled for renegotiation. We pledged to strive and ensure that Antarctica continues to remain as a Continent for Science, and further laws are imposed for its protection.
And so, as I was about to step on to the white snow of the last great wilderness on Earth -The remotest, coldest, driest place, Antarctica. My eyes welled up and I didn’t want to contain my tears. Filled with so much gratitude that I will forever be counted among the very few people in all the centuries to have set foot on this land! I bow my head in silent prayer.
Can you Visit Antarctica?
Antarctica is not a tourist/holiday destination. I shall not be a hypocrite – I love traveling and am constantly on the lookout for new experiences. However, in the last one year, I have realized that the Tourism Industry is also causing harm to the environment and more so on fragile ecosystems. So, would request everyone to consider the kind of impact you have while you travel and find ways to make it sustainable.
I traveled to Antarctica with an organization called ‘2041’ that trains selected individuals from around the world to be lifelong Climate Force Ambassadors. Ours was a Certified Carbon-Neutral Voyage. Entire carbon footprint generated on our Expedition has been offset through various Environmental Projects around the world. Also, 2041 is not conducting its ‘International Antarctic Expedition’ Leadership Program as of today.
Having said that, there are a few Private Companies that take tourists cruises to Antarctica. Check out their details on the Internet.
In my opinion, Antarctica is a place best left untouched!
This is a Guest Post by our young friend Prathyusha Parakala.
Prathyusha Parakala is a freelance consultant on Climate Advocacy and Sustainable Living. She is the recipient of Telangana Visishta Puraskar Award, conferred by the State Government of Telangana. She was the only woman from the State to be a part of the International Antarctic Expedition-2018, a Leadership on the Edge program to study about Climate Change. Prathyusha has been a Radio Presenter at Radio Mirchi.
Prathyusha is the Founder/Director of Praana, a nascent NGO that aims to work in the Environment and Sustainability Sector. She can be reached at on her Twitter & Instagram handles.
Holi Festivals is the most fun festival in India. However, if there is one place you need to enjoy Holi – it is in Braj Bhumi or Mathura Vrindavan.
What is Holi Festival?
Colors of Holi – Mathura Vrindavan, Stock Photos – AJP / Shutterstock
Holi is the festival of colors. People apply colors on each other and play with colors. These days they also wish Happy Holi. It comes during the harvest time in North India when people of agrarian society have funds at hand. Weather is just perfect, with winters behind and summers yet to set in.
Holi is played across most of India although playing with colors is more popular in North India.
Gulal – the most popular Holi Color
Gulal or the bright pink is the most popular color to play Holi.
This is followed by the natural colors that come from Turmeric, Mehandi, Sand, and Sindhoor. Over years natural colors gave way to chemical-based colors. However, recently, there is a conscious effort to revert to natural colors to play Holi.
Old Pichkari from Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan
Dry colors are in the air but it is the watercolors that soak you in. Children prepare balloons with colored water since morning. It is fun to catch people unaware of your balloon hitting them. Pickhari is used to throw a water jet on the people from a distance. I saw a lovely old Pichkari from Banke Bihari temple at the Braj Museum in Vrindavan.
Playing with colors is followed by the eating of good food. Gujhia is a favorite sweet of the season. Consuming Bhang laced Lassi is a norm.
When is the Holi Festival?
Colors of Holi at the Yamuna in Mathura
As per Indian calendar or Panchang, the Holi in Braj starts on Vasant Panchami and goes on till Phalgun Purnima. The last day i.e. Phalgun Purnima is the day Holi is celebrated across the country. By Julian calendar, it roughly falls in March. You can check the exact dates online, they are easily available.
In Mathura Vrindavan, Holi lasts for roughly 40 days. Yes, that is right 40 days. It starts on the Basant Panchami day that roughly falls in early February and peaks at the end of Phalgun month.
Holi 2019 Dates
Laddoo Holi – Barsana – 14th March 2019
Lathmar Holi – Barsana – 15th March 2019
Lathmar Holi – Nandgaon – 16th March 2019
Sri Krishna Janambhumi Holi – Mathura – 17th March 2019
Banke Bihari Temple Holi – Vrindavan – 17-20th March 2019
Chhadimar Holi – Gokul – 18th March 2019
Holika Dahan – Falen – 20th March 2019
Chaturvedi Samaj ka Dola – Mathura – 20-21th March 2019
Dauji ka Huranga – Baldeva – 22nd March 2019
Mukhrai Dance – 22nd March 2019
Legends of Holi the Festival of Colors
Holi is one of the two biggest festivals of Braj Bhumi, of which Mathura and Vrindavan are a part. The other one being Krishna Janmashtami. Braj Bhumi is spread across 84 Kos or roughly 300 odd kilometers. In the current day context, it spreads between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. This is the land of Krishna. He did his Bal Leela and Ras Leela in this land. Holi festival continues to celebrate his stories and legends.
Different Types of Holi in Mathura Vrindavan
While most of India celebrates Holi with colors and music, in Mathura Vrindavan there are different types of Holi celebrated. Each has its own date and venue. I am sharing them in the chronological order as they are celebrated each year.
Laddoo Holi – Barsana
Barsana is the village of Radha or her father Vrishbhanu. Her lovely temple sits on top of a hill called Brahmagiri Hill.
The formal beginning of the Holi Festival begins with people of Nandgaon inviting the people of Barsana for Holi. It is called Phag Amantran Utsav. Laddoo Holi is played in Barsana the same day. Next day it is the time for Lathmar Holi in Barsana. Following day it is Lathmar Holi in Nandgaon.
Bright yellow Bundi Laddoos are thrown at each other in the temple. This reminded me of my school days when we used to play with laddoos that were given to us on Independence Day and Republic Day. The place is full of yellow color – the favorite color of Krishna. Remember he is also called Pitambar or the one who wears yellow cloths.
When – Falgun Shukla Ashtami
Lathmar Holi – Barsana & Nandgaon
Women with their Lath during Holi, Image – UP Tourism
Krishna lived in Nandgaon as a young man and played Holi with Gopikas and Radha. So, in Nandgaon and Barsana, he plays Holi as a youth. This is where the world famous Lathmar Holi happens. So, if you want to see women beating men with big sticks as everyone is soaked in colors all around with choicest of cuss words head to Nandgaon and Barsana.
Lathmar Holi at Nandgaon, Image – UP Tourism
The story of Lathmar Holi goes back to the days of Radha and Krishna. The relationship between the two villages continues to be derived from the relationship of Radha & Krishna. Men of Krishna’s village Nandgaon who come to play Holi with women of Radha’s village – Barsana.
Lathmar Holi of Barsana, Image – UP Tourism
Women of Barsana beat the men of Nandgaon with Lath or bamboo sticks, who of course protect themselves with a shield. The colors are all in the air while this goes on. Choicest cuss words are used by both parties.
If you are visiting for Lathmar Holi, be prepared to be soaked in color. There is no way you can avoid it. Be careful of the potential teasing that may happen in the highly charged environment, especially if you are a female.
When Falgun Shukla Navami in Barsana Falgun Shukla Dashmi in Nandgaon
Chhadimar Holi – Gokul
Krishna lived as an infant in the village of Gokul on the left bank of Yamuna. This is where his father Vasudeva brought him by crossing the Yamuna at night just after his birth. So, in Gokul, he continues to be treated as an infant.
In most temples in Gokul, you see baby Krishna in a Jhoola or a swing. People visiting the temple swing the swing in a manner of rocking the cradle.
People in Gokul village play Holi with a small delicate stick called Chhadi, called Chhadi Maar Holi. It is a very delicate version of Lathmar Holi of Barsana and Nandgaon.
Krishna Janambhumi Holi – Mathura
Krishna Janambhumi complex at Mathura has a huge compound where Holi is celebrated. I am told that color is thrown in the air with fountains & no one in the campus can escape color. Why would anyone want to escape the colors of Holi? It is like becoming one in the colors and losing our fragile identities.
When – Ranbharni Ekadashi or Falgun Shukla Ekadashi
Banke Bihari Temple Holi – Vrindavan
In Vrindavan, the most happening place for Holi is the temple of Banke Bihari. The Holi here lasts for 4 days, starting from the 11th day of Falgun till the full moon day.
Holi at Banke Bihari Temple – Vrindavan, Stock Photos – Mazur Travel / Shutterstock
The images of priests throwing colors on the crowds are mostly from this temple. This is a very popular and crowded temple.
When – Ranbharni Ekadashi or Falgun Shukla Ekadashi to Purnima
Holi at Dwarkadheesh Temple – Mathura
Like all temples in Mathura Vrindavan, Holi is played in the premises of colorful Dwarkadheesh temple near Vishram Ghat.
Holi at Dwarkadheesh Temple – Mathura, Stock Photos – Yavuz Sariyildiz / Shutterstock
When I visited it a week before Holi, I saw groups of women singing Holi songs on its platform. The Holi Dola is a popular cultural procession that starts from Dwarkadheesh Temple.
A giant procession is taken out by Chaturvedi Samaj on the day of Holi. It starts from Dwarkadheesh temple near Vishram Ghat and goes through Chhatta Bazaar, Holi Gate, Kotwali Gate, Ghiya Mandi, Swami gate before returning to Vishram Ghat.
Holi Dola of Mathura, Stock Photos – Mazur Travel / Shutterstock
As the procession moves, people sprinkle color, perfume, flowers on each other. Holi songs are sung along with live music. Bhang is also consumed customarily.
Holi Dola usually starts around 2 PM.
Phaguwa is a tradition where the brother-in-laws visited their sisters-in-law and give them a gift for playing Holi. Usually, it is a box of sweets, but then it all depends on the one who gives and receives.
Women celebrate the first Holi after marriage at their parent’s place and the husband goes to her with gifts.
I think this is to formally close the Holi Festival on a good note in case someone ended up offending anyone during the festival. So, if you are a woman, and men come to play Holi with you, you can rightfully ask for your Phaguwa.
When – Chaitra Krishna Pratham – 20-March-2019
Phoolwali Holi or Holi with Flowers
This is a relatively new Holi tradition in Mathura Vrindavan. As part of many cultural events, playing Holi with flowers has become a new trend. At places, flowers are showered, and at places, people throw flower petals at each other.
This is not a Holi traditionally associated with any of the temples of Mathura Vrindavan as of now. In the future, you never know it may become a tradition. It would be fun to be surrounded by flowers all around. This is the time when flowers of all types and colors bloom in this region.
Holi played by the widows living in Mathura has been highlighted. For me, they are as much the citizens of Braj or India as any of us. So, yes, they play Holi as we all do.
Holi in Temples of Mathura Vrindavan
Almost in every temple in Mathura Vrindavan or Braj Mandal, Holi is played every day during the Holi season. A Dona or a leaf bowl, full of Gulal or the pink color with a couple of marigold flowers is placed in front of the deity. You can throw some towards the deity, apply some to yourself or the people around.
Holi at a temple in Vrindavan
Most of the times I saw families visiting temples singing the Holi songs like ‘Aaj Biraj mein Holi hai re Rasiya’ and playing Holi. I even saw some of them playing it with the Yamuna at Vishram Ghat. They would sing, symbolically apply some Holi Color to the Yamuna while singing the same song and then play among themselves.
Besides the Radha Krishna, there is one more legend associated with Holi.
Holika Dahan Story
Hiranyakashyap was a powerful demon king with the whole of the earth under him. He wanted everyone to worship him and not any other God. As luck would have it, his own son named Prahalad refused to worship him and turned out to be a great Vishnu devotee.
Frustrated, Hiranyakashyap tried to kill his son in many ways but failed every time. Finally, he requested his sister Holika, who had a boon that fire cannot hurt her to enter the fire with Prahalad in her lap.
When she entered the fire, with Prahalad chanting the name of his lord, she was burnt while Prahalad the devotee remained unharmed. It marks the victory of good over evil.
A fire is lit up on the same day i.e. Falgun Purnima to commemorate this. People usually put a lot of cow dung cakes into the fire. This tradition is followed in Mathura Vrindavan like other parts of India. However, in one village Kosi, it is done with a twist.
Jalti Holi Se Panda ka Nikalna – Falen, Kosi
In the village of Falen near Kosi, Holika Dahan still commemorates the safe passage of Prahalad through fire. A panda or a priest prays at the Prahalad temple in the village. He takes a dip in the Prahalad Kund and then walks through the giant fire surrounded by hundreds of people watching him.
The 30 feet long walk that the Panda crosses is not small. He is received by the people waiting with a wet cloth on the other end. Needless to say, the whole walk takes a few seconds and the Panda comes out unharmed. He does a Parikrama or the circumambulation of the fire and goes back home.
People trace this Holi tradition to the days of Krishna in Braj. It is also believed that Falen is the village of Prahalad and the Panda actually chants his name through the day before crossing through the fire.
When – Falgun Shukla Purnima
Dau Ji ka Huranga – Dau Ji Temple – Baladeva
Dau Ji is how Balram, the elder brother of Sri Krishna is lovingly called. In a region of Braj called Baldeva, about 30 Km from Mathura across the Yamuna is a big temple dedicated to Balram. This was a part of Khadir Van, one of the 12 forests of Braj.
Braj ki Holi, Image – UP Tourism
This is where the Holi festival of Mathura Vrindavan reaches its peak. The festival is called Dau Ji ka Huranga. Huranga literally means riot in a way.
Most Brajwasis would close the Holi festivities with Dau Ji ka Huranga.
When – Chaitra Krishna Dwitiya
Mukhrai Charkula Dance – Mukhrai
Mukhrai is the village of Nani or the maternal grandmother of Radha. In fact, the village is named after her grandmother. It is said that when Radha Rani was born, Mukhrai lit up the lamps on the chariot wheels and danced with it on her head.
This dance came to be known as Charkula dance. I believe it comes from the word – Chakra which means wheel or a circular shape. It is still performed in the Mukhrai village.
The lamp is a giant circular wheel-like formation with the 4-5 story of 108 lamps and weighs upward of 30-40 kgs. I love how the legend of Radha and Krishna continues to live in every village associated with them.
When – Chaitra Krishna Dwitiya
Holi is a festival of joy and it cannot be complete without music. In Mathura Vrindavan, the traditional Holi songs are sung in temples every evening. Most Bhakti poets and Vaishnav poets from different eras have written about the Holi Festival or the Phagun Utsav. In popular parlance, these songs are known as Hori.
Holi Songs – Samaj Gayan at Barsana
Communities sit in front of the deity in the temple and sing. There are competitions of singing between villages, especially between Barsana and Nandgaon. I attended the practice sessions at Barsana temple and it was a blissful experience.
The reference book for singing is Shringar Ras Sagara available at book shops in Mathura Vrindavan.
You can enjoy some Holi songs here sung by the maestros of Indian classical music.
I heard Holi songs in temples, on banks of Yamuna, in streets and just about everywhere.
Is it safe to participate in Holi Festival in Mathura Vrindavan?
It is a commonly asked question about Holi in Mathura Vrindavan. Here is what I think of it.
If crowds intimidate you, choose your spot at a distance.
Do not expect No Color or water from Pichkari to come your way. Even before Holi, I had water balloons thrown on me while traveling in E-rickshaw. Colors were applied after taking permission in temples. It may not happen on the Holi Festival day and in the streets.
Holi is a festival where liberties are taken. You would see men and women who do not interact otherwise, playing Holi. Consent is assumed if you are in a place where Holi is being played.
Anonymity in the crowd and hiding behind the color does give an edge to rowdy elements. Observe before you join, and join only if you are comfortable. Look for the UP Tourist Police officials, they are there to help tourists in any kind of untoward situation.
If you want to see a milder form of Holi, visit Mathura Vrindavan a few days before the peak days of Holi. You will get the flavor. You can sit back and enjoy the music and other cultural programs that are hosted around this time. Although you might miss taking the colorful images, that is a tradeoff. I chose to visit a few days before Holi.
Travel Tips for Holi in Mathura Vrindavan
Mathura is well connected by road with Delhi. It takes just about 2 hours to reach Mathura from Delhi which is the closest Airport.
Mathura is well connected by train.
I stayed at Brijwasi Lands Inn in Mathura which is a decent and centrally located hotel to stay in. The same group has two more hotels in the city. Many resorts have come up in the outskirts of Vrindavan and Govardhan. However, it is best to stay in the city to feel the festival of Holi.
Local transportation is easily available. To reach the narrow lanes, e-rikshaws are the best mode of travel.
Monkeys are a menace in Vrindavan. Take care of your mobile phones, cameras, and other valuables.
Ancient Temples in Prayagraj are hardly known outside the city. We know the city for the Holy Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati – The Triveni Sangam. When I visited the city for Kumbh Mela, I wanted to visit its ancient temples too. Google helped me with a few names but I knew there would be more.
Once I was there, I discovered the concept of Dwadash Madhav, the 12 Madhava temples around Prayag. I could visit only a couple of them, I wish I had known about them earlier. I knew there are ancient Devi temples in Prayagraj, but it was once I reached the first temple that I discovered the two more. Happy I could find some of the temples mentioned in the Puranas.
Temples in Prayagraj
I have tried to classify the temples as I saw them. You can see them in any order.
Devi Temples in Prayagraj
Ganga Temple – Triveni Sangam Prayagraj
Prayag has always been called Tirthraj Prayag, the reason it is now called Prayagraj. The three rivers that meet here are treated as Goddesses across India and invoked before any ritual is performed. I expected the temples of these Goddesses. I did find a small Ganga Temple near Triveni Sangam at Ram Ghat. It seems to have been recently painted in preparation for the Kumbh Mela.
Alopi Devi Temple
Alopi Devi or Alopa Shankari Temple is the first temple I visited in Prayagraj. It was on my plan, but when I visited it happened by chance. My auto driver dropped me near the temple and asked me to take another auto from here onwards. I saw the temple board and decided to visit it before taking the auto for the next leg.
Kali Murti Prayagraj
I walked past a road that has recently been widened. The demolition of the houses on the left looked fresh. On the right, I passed by a series of ancient Murtis in black stone. I stopped by to pray and to speak to the priest who was taking care of them. He told me that a Kali temple has recently been demolished and the Murtis are now on the streets. Potters were selling their wares next door.
A little further a small lane led to the simple temple in pink, dedicated to Alopi Devi. I walked through the small shops selling bangles and bindis, things that are offered to the Devi to the main door of the temple. Took off my shoes, and entered the temple to see many representations of Devi inside the temple. No photographs were allowed.
Alopi Devi Temple Prayagraj
Sanctum of this temple has a well at its center. A well-decorated but small Jhula or a Swing is hanging over it. It is the most unusual sanctum I have seen. There is no image. It is believed that the Devi disappeared from this swing, so this swing is worshipped. The temple priest told me that this temple is a Shakti Peeth, where the fingers of Sati fell.
I saw many people sitting and reading the Durga Saptashati or the Devi Bhagwat in the temple premises. It is a small but powerful temple. If you are sensitive enough, you will feel the energy here.
Lalita Devi Temple
I visited this temple on the last day of Kumbh Visit. As per Google maps, it was just a few kilometers away from Sangam, but no auto was willing to take me there. Everyone was willing to take me some distance from where I can take another auto. I changed 5 autos or e-rickshaws to reach Lalita Devi Temple. The temple as you see now is fairly new with some signs of antiquity.
Sri Lalita Devi Temple Prayagraj
The image of Sri Lalita Devi is accompanied by two other images. Covered in silver all around, it looked very similar to the DevKali image I had seen in Ayodhya. It could be a regional influence. On a side niche, there were a series of Sri Yantra kept.
I sat down and chanted Lalita Sahasranama, spoke to the priest and a fellow devotee. We all sought her blessings for ourselves, our families and our society.
Kalyani Devi Temple
Sri Kalyani Devi Temple Prayagraj
About a km away from Sri Lalita Devi temple is another ancient temple – Sri Kalani Devi Temple. Board outside claimed that this is the ancient Shaktipeeth mentioned in the Puranas like Padam Puran by the name Lalita Kalyani. Now, all the three temples of Devi have claimed to be the original Shaktipeeth. Well, we would never know which one is the real one or maybe all of them are.
Sri Lalita Kalyani Devi Vigrah – Prayagraj
From an energy perspective, I think Alopi Devi was very strong and Kalyani Devi temple also has a lot of old energy. Here again, there are 3 images at the sanctum. They are fully covered with only their face and bright eyes on it can be seen. The present Murti is believed to be at least 1500 years old based on archaeological evidence. As per Purana this Murti measuring 32 fingers was installed by Rishi Yagyavalka in the Treta Yuga. She is the Adhishtatri or presiding Devi of Rishi Bhardwaj and his clan, who we know lived in Prayag.
A story of Lalita Kalyani Devi
In the temple premises which is like a Haveli, there is a temple dedicated to Shiva called Kalyaneshwar Mahadev and another to Bhairav. Another ancient Shiva temple Shool Tankeshwar is supposed to be close by, but Google did not help, so I will have to visit it another time.
Hanuman Temples in Prayagraj
Hanuman Ji is an important deity in Payagraj. I saw three of his temples that are ancient and very popular.
Bade Hanuman Ji or Lete Hanuman Ji Temple
Bade Hanuman Ji Temple – Prayagraj
This ancient temple is located close to Triveni Sangam. It is a part of Allahabad Fort built by Akbar, but it is accessible to the public. It is usually very crowded on Tuesdays, but during Kumbh Mela, every day was like a Tuesday. So, I stood in the queue to enter the temple. Slow queues let you observe the place in detail. I saw the temple compound all soaked on Kesari color – the color of Hanuman. A shop selling Rudraksha Mala, a wall mural and an ancient Banyan tree were all surrounded by people.
The temple steps took us down a few steps and there was this giant statue of Hanuman Ji in a lying down posture. No wonder he is called ‘Lete Hanuman Ji’. It is called ‘Bade Hanuman Ji’ for its big size and Qila Hanuman Ji for it is a part of fort premises. The original image seems to be in black granite. But the Sindoor all over the body makes it look Sindoori.
The story goes that a wealthy merchant of Kannauj did not have children, so he decided to erect a huge Murti of Hanuman Ji. He brought the Murti to Triveni for holy bath and the Murti refused to move from here. The merchant was blessed by children after this. Since then, people believe that all wishes are fulfilled by Lete Hanuman Ji. Another story says the Murti was under water for a long time and it refused to be in standing position no matter what tricks were tried.
Khade Hanuman Ji or Hanuman Gufa
Khade Hanuman Ji Temple – Jhusi Prayagraj
Across the Sangam in a village named Jhusi, there is a fort called Ulta Qila. On top of the hill where the remains of the fort are is an ancient Hanuman temple inside a cave. You have to climb up the fort and then go down a couple of levels to see this ancient Hanuman Ji Murti. It is a simple Murti.
Samudra Koop – Prayagraj
Close to it is an ancient well called Samudra Koop that belongs to the Gupta period. Pauranic references say that the kings used to invite the waters of all the oceans for ritual purposes into this well. A small pavilion stands next to it. I was surprised to see many tourists visiting this well, although these may be people visiting the Ashram next door.
Jhusi was originally called Pratishthanpur and it was ruled by Chandravanshi Kings. Due to the curse by Guru Gorakhnath and Matsyendra Nath the city was burnt and the fort turned upside down earning it the name Ulta Qila.
Hanuman Temple – Civil Lines
There is a fairly big Hanuman temple close to Company Bagh in the city. It was closed when I reached it around lunchtime. I was told like every Hanuman temple it is very crowded on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Interestingly it has a scene from Gita carved on its main gate, where Sri Krishna is giving the knowledge of Bhagwad Gita to Arjuna.
Other Temples in Prayagraj
Temples inside Allahabad Fort
Akshay Vat is an ancient Vat Vriksh or the Banyan Tree that is now within the premises of Allahabad Fort. The tree gets a mention in various Indian scriptures including the Ramayana.
Patalpuri Temple is an ancient temple inside the fort. It is a giant temple with stone pillars. During Kumbh Mela, it was too crowded to notice many things, but what you can not miss is its huge size. There are many small temples and priests sitting there keep telling the abridged stories of each of them. As always donating here is considered good for pilgrims.
I could not find any references to who built this temple but Huan Tsang it seems does mention this temple and the Akshay Vat. Going by its name – Patalpuri, was it meant to be a representation of Patal Lok, as it is below the ground.
A distance away but within Allahabad fort is Saraswati Koop. It is a fairly large well, that is all covered now and you can only see it behind a glass wall. Remember Saraswati is supposed to be the third river meeting here at Triveni Sangam. She is supposed to be present in this well.
You can visit these places, but you have to leave your bags and cameras outside. You can take your mobiles but no photography is allowed.
Nag Vasuki Temple
Nag Vasuki Temple Prayagraj
If you are at Kumbh Mela, you probably know the story of Sagar Manthan or the churning of the oceans. The rope in this churning was a snake named Vasuki. His temple stands close to Ganga, overlooking Ganga in fact. The recent street art on its walls and steps makes it look inviting.
Nag Vasuki Temple Prayagraj
Inside there is a small temple in a typical medieval style with a simple Shikhara. In the northeast corner of this temple is a small temple dedicated to Asi Madhav – one of the 12 Madhavs in Prayagraj. I could not see the image behind the lattice in this temple as there were too many dogs here.
I spent some time and moved on to my next destination in Kumbh Mela. Being on height, this temple gives a great view of the Ganga and its banks. During Kumbh, you can see the tents all around.
The Gangoli Shivala is an ancient Shiva Temple located in Jhusi area of Prayagraj. This is a stone temple with a narrow tall Shikhara in stone. At the time of Kumbh Mela, its front wall was painted. It is said that many years ago, the temple was built by a merchant from Agra called Ganga Pradas Tiwari, and hence the temple gets his name Gangoli.
Temples at Bhardwaj Muni Ashram
Shivalinga at Bhardwaj Muni Ashram – Prayagraj
Though small, Bhardwaj Muni Ashram complex has a lot of old temples and Murtis. Besides the ancient murtis of Bhardwaj Muni, it has temples for Rishi Atri and his wife Anusuya. There are temples for Sankata Mata, Durga, Kalyani, Pap Mochan, Rin Mochan, Yagnavalkya, Vyas Muni, Satya Narayana, and Annapurna. There are footprints of Sri Ram commemorating his visit to Prayag on his way to the forest. There is a Sati Kund and Koteshwar Mahadev Temple.
12 or Dwadash Madhav Temples in Prayagraj
Adi Veni Madhav – One of the 12 Madhav Temples in Prayagraj
A series of 12 Madhav Temples in Prayagraj takes you around the Prayag Kshetra.
1. Sri Adi Vat Madhav – Triveni Sangam
2. Sri Asi Madhav – Nag Vasuki Mandir
3. Sri Sankasht Har Madhav – Jhusi
4. Sri Shankh Madhav – Chhatnag Munshi Bageecha
5. Sri Adi Veni Madhav – Arail Ghat
6. Sri Chakra Madhav – Arail Ghat
7. Sri Gada Madhav – Chhivanki village
8. Sri Padma Madhav – Bikar Devariya
9. Sri Manohar Madhav – Johnsanganj
10. Sri Bindu Madhav – Draupadi Ghat
11. Sri Veni Madhav – Daraganj
12. Anant Madhav – Ordinance Depot Factory
I could visit 2 of these temples in Prayagraj – Akshay Vat, Asi Madhav, and Adi Veni Madhav. Rest of them would hopefully happen on a subsequent visit.
If you know of ancient temples in Prayagraj, please do let me know about them in the comments below.
Kailasanathar Temple in Kanchipuram was the third big temple I visited after the Kanchi Kamakshi Temple and Ekambareswar Temple. Both the earlier temples were so full of Shakti or the devotional energy that I was still wrapped in that when my auto stopped in front of Kailasnathar temple. An array of bronze Murtis were stacked on a pushcart in front of the temple welcomed me.
Now, this is a temple that scholars love. They have written a lot on this temple, interpreting every sculpture on its walls. They have built so much aura around it that I was all excited to visit this temple. However, I found it a rather small and stand-alone temple compared to the other temples. I was the only visitor on a September Morning at the temple. I had it all to myself.
Main entrance – Kailasanathar Temple
It is breathtakingly beautiful and stunning, to say the least. The clear blue skies added their own brilliance to the sculpted walls.
Meditation Caves or Shrines
I had read about and even seen images of the meditation caves at Kailasnathar Temple in Kanchipuram. However, I did not expect a row of 8 of them in front of the temple, almost like a screen standing to shield the temple. In fact, these 8 caves in front of the main temple are 8 shrines with a Shivalinga installed in them.
8 Shrines in front of Kailasanathar Temple
The main door through the Gopuram asymmetrically stands between these cave shrines, 2 on one side and six on other. The architecture is unique, no wonder students of architecture and art history find it intriguing. The round pillars with bottom carved in the shape of mythical animal lions are the signature stamp of Pallava dynasty.
Shrines or Meditation Caves
All around the temple wall called the Prakara, that goes around the temple, there are small meditation caves. Or, are they really the smaller shrines surrounding the main shrine? They are just big enough to allow just one person to sit. There is no space to move or look around. The walls facing the meditation caves are sculpted and painted with mostly Shiva-Parvati sculptures with occasional Ganesha sculpture. Sculptures have managed to stay in some shape. Paintings can be only imagined from what remains in a few of them.
Shiva Parvati Painting
There are 50 of them surrounding the main temple. One can only wonder what was their purpose, and how did the temple look when they all were worshipped.
I entered the temple after passing the initial 8 shrines. I found myself standing in front of a wooden blue door with two giant Shiva sculptures on either side. They stand out for their size as well as their white color. They are facing each other but looking the other way. At their feet are again the Pallava lions that you see everywhere in Kanchipuram. The temple Shikhara was still not visible.
Inside Main Temple
One naturally walks towards the left, as if ready to do the parikrama or circumambulation. I walked with a series of meditation caves on my left, each raising my curiosity. After a few steps, the main temple and its lovely Shikhara made an appearance. My eyes and my senses struggled between the two sides of the corridors. On one side was this unique piece of architecture, the smallest possible stone caves, on the other another lovely example of the Pallava architecture. Sculptures on every visible part of the walls are enchanting and captivating.
Mandapa of Kailasanathar Shiva Temple in Kanchi
A pillared mandapa stands in front of the main temple. It is closed as of now. This was the independent mandapa of the temple that was later joined with the main temple by building an Ardh-Mandapa between them. When you stand there, you can sense some disproportionality. I tried to visualize how the temple would have looked without those plain walls connecting the mandapa and the sanctum. The answer is a lot more balanced and proportionate.
The Temple Corridor
Little ahead, there is a side entrance to the temple. A lone priest manages the temple. Compared to the army of priests that I had seen at Ekambareshwar Temple who were busy running around, he seemed to be waiting for devotees. Having said that it does not mean he was polite or has any less airs about his priest status.
Inside the sanctum, the temple is rather simpler. There is a 16-faced Shivalinga in black granite. Behind the Shivalinga is an image of Somaskanda that is Shiva, Uma with Skanda or Kartik. This is something I have seen only in the temples of Kanchipuram.
A very narrow parikrama path goes around the sanctum. It is so narrow that I did not dare to go around, feeling claustrophobic. I wonder what was the reason to build such a narrow circumambulatory path. In fact, it is not even a straight path, you need to climb a flight of stairs and then crawl down on the other side to do the parikrama and repeat the same at the exit. I was not comfortable for some reason so skipped it. The priest did suggest I do it anti-clockwise, which was a bit simpler, but the Hindu in me disagreed this time.
Later I read that it has a philosophical meaning like going through a re-birth. I am not sure. It sounds more like a strategic escape route that most kings would build for themselves.
Kailsanathar Temple has a pyramidal Shikhara, with sculpted figures on each later. It looks like the stone plates are delicately balanced on each other while holding the stories they must tell. On the top is a spherical dome like finish, almost like a cherry on the cake. The Nandis sit in all four directions on the layer just below the top.
Durga Sculpture surrounded by Pallava Lions
No matter where you stand, you can not miss the series of lion base pillars. If you stand in the corner facing the temple, it would feel you are in the sanctuary of lions.
You can see every conceivable form of Shiva on the walls. There is one shrine behind the main temple’s back wall that is dedicated to Kartikeyan. Here you can see his Vigraha in black stone. There is a lovely Durga sculpture and Saptamatrikas.
The Kailasanathar Temple Complex
Kailasanathar Temple is a stand-alone single temple with no other temple in its complex. As you know, in Kanchipuram Shiva Temples do not have the Devi temple inside them, as is the norm in Shiva temples across India. In Kanchipuram, Devi lives in her own abode only.
I saw a few Nandi figures behind the back wall of the temple facing the meditation caves. I assume they are for the Shiva Vigrahas in the caves.
Open Air Nandi Mandapa
The main Nandi Mandap is about 100 meters away across the sprawling lawns from the temple. The Nandi is mid-sized and facing the sanctum, although there are distance and multiple layers of stone that separate the Linga and the Nandi. Four independent pillars stand on the mandap, but it all looks patched up. I wonder if the Nandi Mandap was always located so far or it has been moved away during some conservation effort.
When you walk in the lawns away from the temple, that is when you see the lions coming out of the outer wall at the regular intervals. I wonder if they were also free-standing pillars once and got plastered together later on. The shikharas of smaller shrines or meditation caves are visible from the outside like a miniature version of the bigger one. Nandis sit in between them on the wall, as they do in every Shiva temple in Kanchipuram.
Kailasanathar Temple Tank
A tank is located diagonally across the temple at the other end of the lawns.
History and Architecture of Kailasnathar Temple – Kanchipuram
The temple in stone dates back to late 7th CE and is attributed to Pallava king Narsimhavarman II. The façade that seems to be built later was added by his son Mahendravarman II. It is believed that Rajaraja Chola who built the mighty Brihdeeswara temple in Thanjavur, was inspired by this temple.
Kailasanathar Shiva Temple – Kanchipuram
The base of the temple is made in hard granite stone while most of the superstructure is in softer sandstone. The main shrine is almost rectangular as is its pyramidical shikhara. The meditation caves or the shrines surrounding the temple are a unique feature of this temple that I am yet to see elsewhere. They do remind me of the meditation caves at 84 Kutiya in Rishikesh.
Kailasnathar Temple is probably a royal temple, built by the royal family, probably for their private Sadhna. It is now under ASI and they maintain this temple. The absence of devotees makes it like a relic of the past even though it is pretty much a practicing and living temple. I am told it is full of people on Shivratri as most Shiva Temples are.
What makes Kailasanathar Temple important is the fact that this may be the first standalone stone temple in the region. Temples earlier to this were built by carving out the rocks in situ or what we know as cave temples. Many of these can be seen at Mahabalipuram nearby.
Travel Tips for Visiting
Outer Walls of the Temple
You can take an Auto from anywhere in the city to reach the temple, located in Shiva Kanchi.
Temple is open from 6 AM -12 PM and then 4 PM – 9 PM.
You need at least 30 mins to see the temple properly.
It is a very photogenic temple and thankfully photography is permitted, except inside the sanctum. Morning is a better time to go for photography of Kailasanathar Temple.
Kanchi Kudil, an old heritage house converted into a museum is close by. You can easily visit it when you visit Kailasnathar Temple.