On Things to do in India category we will be providing ideas and information on all that is interesting to do from north to south, east to west in India then here is the place. We cover all the activities, adventures, courses, trips, tours and much more here.

A perfect background for a masterpiece

8 Filming Locations in India That Will Make Your Travel Glamorous

It was exactly 100 years ago this week that Dadasaheb Phalke released his first film Raja Harishchandra. This was not only Phalke’s first film, but it was the first film in India to hit the big screens.

Dadasaheb Phalke, father of Indian cinema

Dadasaheb Phalke, father of Indian cinema

Who would have thought that this film would give birth to what would become the world’s largest film industry? When you go to a theater in India to see a movie, you can’t help but be absorbed in the vibrant and lively vibe in the building. The energy flows inside the theater is different than anything else you’ve seen. This vibe, in India, is sacred. Indians call it Tamasha (entertainment); the more of it, the better. For a culture so vibrant and well-versed in telling colorful tales, the advent of moving pictures was tailor made to the Indian DNA. The theater has become a hall for expressing emotions where the audience is not only watching the movie but also taking a vital role in it. Cinema Theaters in India are the noisiest in the world. If you don’t cry, laugh, shout, clap your hands, boo, whistle while the movie is playing, you’re simply not getting the full experience.

Now here’s how cinema and travel become friends – Good friends…

Cinema in India is an obsession and you are about to step into the film sets of some of Bollywood’s cornerstones. We are about to start a journey to some of the most beautiful film sets that almost every Indian has seen on the screen. Places that have become a part of Indian’s cultural identity.

Location #1 – Rancho’s School Ladakh

Movie: 3 Idiots starring Amir Khan

The most successful Bollywood film ever, Raju Hirani’s 3 Idiots has become a massive success throughout India. Critics are gushing; audiences (across gender and age) are packing into theatres in hordes, declaring that there is no better film. Film directors like Raju Hirani and other up and coming ones such as Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Vishal Bhardwaj have been changing Bollywood’s mind set and have carried the Indian film industry into a new territory.

Druk White Lotus School in Shey, Ladhak

Druk White Lotus School in Shey, Ladhak

The film 3 Idiots states a bold massage: India’s higher education system is idiotic. If nothing is done about it very quickly, India will become the vision put forth in 3 Idiots. Although the core massage is troubling, the film is still super fun to watch, especially when the filming locations they’ve picked up are outstanding like the small village of Shey, a 30 minute drive from Leh in the Himalayas. In the movie it is the school which Rancho and Amir Khan set up for the local kids. After the movie was released, the school became so popular that the locals actually officially changed its name from Druk Padma Karpo Institute to Rancho’s School. But even before the movie, this school had a lot of accolades to its credit. It was the first earthquake proof building in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The school runs entirely on solar energy, and it has won the best screen building and best Asian building in the world architecture award. The structure represents the concept of a Buddhist Mandala , and all the materials used to build the school were sourced locally. 3 idiots has brought fame to this extraordinary school in Shay village in Ladakh and has put this gem in the spotlight.

3 Idiots If you’d like to volunteer in the school click the link and make a difference!

Happy seventies -The age of the angry young man. A new king steps in the ring; ladies and gentlemen please welcome Amitabh Bachchan.

Location #2 Nandi Hills, Karanataka

Amitabh BachanMovie: Coolie

The stunning performance of Amitabh Bacachan, the King of Bollywood, in the film Coolie has turned the film into another landmark of Indian cinema, but there is even more stunning fact that every Indian knows about this film. While filming a fight sequence in movie, Amitabh was knocked down by the film’s villain Puneet Issar, due to bad timing, seriously injuring him. In the accident, Amitabh was nearly killed. It’s impossible to imagine Bollywood without Amitabh Bachchan. In the spirit of the incident, we have chosen the location from the movie where the song Accident ho gaya (accident has happened) that was shot in beautiful Nandi Hills near Bangalore.

The mysterious Nandi Hills -Bangalore's Gateway

The mysterious Nandi Hills -Bangalore’s Gateway

The scenic hill station Nandi Hills is the birthplace of the Arkavathi and Palar rivers, 60 km from Bangalore. Forests, ancient forts, and temples are all part of this beautiful Bangalore getaway.

Location #3 Ramanagara, Karnataka 55 km from Bangalore

Movie: Sholay

Sholay is one of Bollywood's classics

Sholay is one of Bollywood’s classics

Another major role Bachchan played is in the film Sholay, regarded by many to be the first major blockbuster of Bollywood. In it, Amitabh Bachchan plays a is notorious criminal alongside Dharmendra. Sholay has gone beyond being just a film, and today it is part of a culture, a collective memory, a reference point. Even to this day, the film is still referenced in other films, and even in advertising. It has provided a metaphor which is used everywhere. Phrases from the movie have even popped up in political speeches and in conversations amongst young people who were not even born when Sholay was made. This is a Bollywood classic . Ramanagara is surrounded by rocky terrain – an ideal location for “Wild West” genre, but it is also great place for one day treks in nature and loads of rock climbing adventures are available.

Sholay film set at Ramangarh

Sholay film set at Ramangarh

Location #4 Nani Taal (Lake) Uttarkhand

Movie: Kati Patang

But it was not only Amitabh Bachchan who had conquered the hearts of the Indians. Rajesh Khanna another pillar of Bollywood has made his entrance to the show biz industry and will always be remembered as the “original superstar” forever. The 1970 movie Kati Patang, based on Cornell Woolrich’s novel ‘I Married a Dead Man’ has become one of Bollywood’s cornerstones.

Nani taal lake_Kati Patang

 

The 70s not only marked changes of the content and themes of films, but also the entrance of mega female superstars such as Asha Parekh, who had played alongside with Rajesh Khanna in Kati Patang. Here we’ll head to Nani Tal (lake) in Uttarkhand where the beautiful song ‘Jis Gali me’ was filmed. The best time to visit Nani Taal would be during the festivals, which are taking place in Nani Taal. Escape Festival of Art and Music is a real gem so if you are in the area while the festival is about to begin you should defiantly include it in your plans.

Location #5 Dargah Sharif, Ajemr Rajasthan

Movie: Jodhaa Akbar

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai

This time we head off to the 16th century’s epic tale of the marriage between the great Mughal Emperor Akbar to a Rajput princess, Jodhaa. The controversial epic story has become a Bollywood blockbuster starring Hrthik Roshan and the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai. We take you now to the place where Akbar, played by Hrthik Roshan, made one of his toughest decisions as an emperor of the Muslim empire – to marry a non-Muslim wife. The filming took place in a Sufi Shrine called Dargah Sharif in Ajmer Rajasthan. The shrine belongs to the 13th century’s most famous Sufi saint who had introduced the Chishti’s Sufi order to the subcontinent. The best time to visit the Dargah is when the Urs festivals are taking place between May to June. This is an annual festival which commemorates the death anniversary of Muiddain Chishti .During Urs, in honor of the saint Urs, Qawwali concerts are held reciting Chishti’s own works and those of other saints.

Sharif Dargah in Ajmer Rajasthan

Sharif Dargah in Ajmer Rajasthan

It attracts a large number of devotees to the shrine. The dargah, which is visited by Muslim pilgrims as well as Hindus, Sikhs is as a symbol of intercommunal harmony. This is why the Jodhaa Akbar’s movie production chose this place for the filming location for Akbar’s courageous decision.

Location # 6 Pangong Lake, Ladakh

Movie: Dil Se

A perfect background for a masterpiece

A perfect background for a masterpiece

Despite its failure in the box office, the film Dil Se won accolades from many critics, and just as many awards . This controversial film (some call it poetry) is a masterpiece! Shah Rukh Khan, one of Bollywood’s mega superstars is in the lead role. The lake is at altitude of 4,350 m and 134 km long. 60% of the lake is considered to be under Tibetan territory, whereas the rest of it belongs to India. It is 5 hours drive from Leh but you’ll have to obtain a special permit (Inner line permit) in order to visit the lake. Any travel agent in Leh will be able to get it for you. On the shore of the Pangong lake was the filming location one of the famous songs ‘Satrangi Re ’ (seven colors). The film is said to be a journey through the 7 shades of love that are mentioned as a principal in ancient Arabic literature. Those shades are defined as attraction, infatuation, love, reverence, worship, obsession and death. The choreography of the song ‘7 colors’ on the Pangong bank brings the whole 7 emotions to the extreme.

Location #7 Wai , Maharashtra

Movie : Dabangg

Dabangg_salman Khan

Dabangg (Audacious) is a 2010 Indian action film, directed by the talented Abhinav Kashyap starring Salman Khan. If you don’t know whoSalman Khan is, don’t tell this to any Indian you meet! Dabangg is in the Bollywood’s top 5 highest grossing Bollywood films list and Salman Khan is the most popular Bollywood star.  The small village of Wai has a complex of more than 100 temples this is why Wai is called ‘Dakshin Kashi’. It is located on the banks of Krishna River and has 7 famous Ghats (A series of steps leading down to a body of water, particularly a holy river) down to the water. Because of the pastoral atmosphere and the relatively short distance from Mumbai Wai has become a very popular filming location for many Bollywood films.

Location # 8 Lodi Gradens , Delhi

Movie : Fanna

Once again we meet Amir Khan now with Kajol

Once again we meet Amir Khan now with Kajol

Amir Khan, whom you’ve already met above in the first movie 3 Idiots, is now in the key role of a much smaller film as a Delhi tour guide who falls in love with a blind girl, Kasmiri, who is Muslim . The movie had raised some difficult political issues concerning Hindu Muslim relationships in India. It is a beautiful film that you should definitely watch. The relationship between the two characters is woven into the background of Delhi and takes you to a magical journey. Following those moments in the movie we’ll be going to the vast Lodhi gardens inside the busy metro ado is a perfect escape to bring some sanity back.

Escape from the city rush

Escape from the city rush

The 15th and 16th century’s gardens have been beautifully maintained and preserved. There are some various medieval monuments as tombs and mosques, belong to the Lodhi dynasty that give the gardens a mystical charm. Apart from the historical structures, Lodhi gardens are environmental like impressive. The gardens have a variety of plants and trees some huge Neem , Deodar and Chir trees , as well as herbal plants. The beauty is that Lodhi gardens are just 10 minutes walk from Khan Market where you can grab a cup of coffee and disappear in the greenish gardens.

So we have been visiting some of Bollywood’s most beautiful filming locations and some of Bollywoods legends who entered to India’s hall of fame. Now you should watch those movies maybe it will open your appetite to discover more of the 35 mm Indian adventure.

Everywhere cinema is part of the culture. In India however the cinema experience is somewhat different. Although It tends to be rather unfamiliar for the westerner eyes and feel this unfamiliarity could be a challenge which invites you to dig deeper.

 
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Feel free to leave a comment below

North India in June

Who else wants to get the most out of North India?

Here’s a short story:

A traveler walks in the great desert of the Sinai Peninsula. He’s almost spent. He doesn’t know where he is and where to go. Fortunately, he sees an old Bedouin standing under an Acacia tree.
Man, please tell me where I am and how far is to the nearest town!?” The traveler asks. Bedoin under a tree
“You should go there…” the Bedouin replays while pointing his finger towards the mountains.
“And how long it takes to get there?”
No reply for that question. The traveler asks again. All he gets in return is silence.
He’s exhausted. “Just tell me how long?” he screams at the Bedouin guy. But the Bedouin remains quiet as the desert itself.
Disappointed, feeling his fate is doomed the traveler starts walking and leaves.
“You are 3 hours away!!” He hears the Bedouin shouts.
“Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”
“I had to see your ‘mood’, your natural walking pace in order to tell you the right information…”
The Bedouin replied.
The main point here is that each of us has our own way of traveling and our desires and moods change while we’re on the road. That’s why in this post we go for three possible moods you may have while traveling in North India this June.
[list style=’arrow’]
[list_item]  Mood #1- Getting socialized – looking for company? List of places where you can get friends in less than 5 minutes

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[list_item] Mood #2- Stay away from the Mob – would you like to read a book without getting nagged

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[list_item]  Mood #3- getting cultural – want to find out about events and festivals in north India where you can engage with local culture?

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(We are a bit more flexible than the Bedouin guy who didn’t wanted to say a thing until he could see the guy walking for real)
Let’s start

Want to get socialized? Mood #1

In this list you’ll find some of the most popular destinations in Northern India. Everybody who’s traveling in North India at this time of year will presumably be visiting at least one of them. Chances are that they’ll visit all. Here you can find all types of tourist: backpackers, volunteers, high budget or even local tourists; you name it. If you want to get social, these are perfect places to hang out.

1) Manali, Kullu Valley Himachal Pradesh. 

Old Manali

Old Manali

It’s 17 hrs by bus from Delhi. Or a 1 hour flight from Delhi to Bhuntar (A local airport in Kullu Valley) plus approximately 2.5 hrs from Bhuntar by car and you are in Manali. The peaceful mountain town has become a delta for all types of travelers and it can get quite packed on its peck season. Travelers use Manali as a base for round trips, like to Spiti valley and Ladakh. And Some simply chill out in the super tourist friendly town.

2) Parvati Valley , Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
15 hrs. by bus from Delhi, or a one hour flight to Bunthar airport and you’ll reach the entrance to Pravati valley. Parvati Valley is a well-established travel hangout. Several small towns along the valley have been transformed into hippie resorts. It is loaded with hip Israeli backspaces and is known as an ‘Israeli colony’. You’ll find cheap accommodations, international food and a nonstop reggae soundtrack, plus crowds of dreadlocked and taffeta-skirted travelers. The attractions of the valley are peaceful scenery, the hot springs at Manikaran and plentiful wild charas (marijuana), with all the risks that entails.

3) Dharamsala, Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh.

Dharmsala. Foreigners feel at home.

Dharmsala. Foreigners feel at home. Image by oded Keet

15 hrs. by road from Delhi will get you the nearest to his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. For those of who do not know, it is the places where the central Tibetan administration is located. When we say Dhramsala we actually refer to three places:
• Macleod Ganj – A small town where the exiled Tibetan government is located.
• Bhagsu / Bhagsunath – A small village located 10 minutes walk from Macleod Ganj
• Dharamkot – another tiny village located 5 minutes walk from Macleod Ganj hosting the Sikhara Dhamma Vipassana meditation center.
Dharamsala, like Manali, is another of North India’s Mega Tourist destinations.
Dharamsala attracts loads of tourists from all over the world. The social scene is highly developed. Many tourists usually stay for longer periods to take some of the endless courses available. We’ll cover more in the Cultural mood section below. That’s why Dharamsala is a perfect place to hang out and socialize.

4) Leh, Ladakh

Leh, Ladakh

Leh, Ladakh

2 days from Manali by Bus (one of the most beautiful rides in the world). 1.5 hrs. flight from Delhi.
Way up north, surrounded by snowy peaks mountains, on the Tibetan plateau lays the famous capital of the kingdom of Ladakh. The city attracts travelers with a high sense of exploration. Trekkers, jeep safari groupies, expeditions groups, motor bikers, and cyclists are all coming to Leh this time of year and bring a lively vibe.

We’ll get back to Leh later when the mood of being cultural will fall upon you.
In the meanwhile, let’s give the loners some great places to hide.

Feeling like you want to be left alone?  Mood #2 

We selected some places where you will be able to read quietly on a guesthouse porch. You will be able to practice Yoga without being nagged from all around. Tranquility is sound and promised -You are saved from the mob!
Still, rest assured we didn’t let you get lost in hard core India. While choosing these places we kept a few important rules:
• They should be relatively close to the main travelers’ routes.
• They must be touristic friendly i.e. accommodations, food, internet
• You won’t be the only foreigner around

1) Kasar Devi, Unttarkahand – If it was good enough for Bob Dylan it’s good for you too.

5 hrs from Rishikesh to Almora and another 20 minutes with the local taxis and you’ll get to the peaceful village of Kasar Devi. It is the place whereSwami Vivekananda, one of India’s greatest modern philosophers used to meditate. The scenery from this tiny mountain village was inspirational for both him and Bob Dylan.
2) Jibhi, Banjar valley , Himachal Pradesh – Go now before it gets crowded

With a 5 hrs bus from Manali to Banjar town, and another local ride, you’ll get to Jibhi. It is a small pastoral village in Banjar valley. Endless hidden places within the gigantic Himalyan Oak forests around it make Jibhi a perfect place to stay close to both nature and yourself. Here is a great article for further details about Jibhi and banjar Valley.

3) Riwalsar Lake , Mandi area Himachal Pradesh – Om Mani Padme
Om Mandi is 10 hrs by bus from Delhi and 4 hrs from Shimla.

Riwalsar lake is a small Buddhist oriented village with a super easy-going vibe. With a lake in the center of the village and a complex of Gompas (Buddhist monasteries) around it, you will definitely find the place so relaxing that you might not even want to go back to the noisy traveler scene.
4) If you feel like moving Kinnaur –Spiti circuit can work great for you. 2 weeks within magnificent scenery starting from lush green mountains into the high altitude desert of Spiti. Kinnaur-Spiti circuit is a perfect round trip to hop on to from Manali if you feel you just had enough.
There are some great treks in the area. We have just launch a a full guide for one of the best treks in the region. Subscribe to our news letter and get it for free.

 

Feeling cultural? Mood 3# 

Here’s a review of some destinations in North India which are an integral part of Indian culture and religion(s). We assume that if you are in a mood of being cultural, you would like to know about events and festival that are going on this June.
Rishikesh and Haridwar, Uttarkhand  6 hrs by bus from Delhi.

People are bathing in the Ganges in Haridwar

Pilgrims are bathing in the holy Ganges River.

Rishikesh is a small town on the Ganges River bank. It is known as the world’s yoga capital. You can find Yoga courses and trainings from beginner to advanced levels in every corner of town. Rishikesh and haridwar are two of India’s most significant pilgrim destinations. It is the place where the Holi Ganges River hits the mighty Indo-Gangetic plains.
On Tuesday the 18th of June, there will be the Ganga Dussehara festival In Haridwar, a neighboring town. If you want your sins to wash away, you should plan to pay a visit to Haridwar. You’d better get ready with loads of space on your camera memory card.

Ladakh_june

 

Let’s go up to Ladakh now, and see what they can offer us in when we get into the culture section..

Here we are back to Leh and the surrounding area with two major festivals that you won’t want to miss.

  •  Hemmis Festival (18th- 19th June) A half hour drive from Leh is the famous Hemmis Buddhist Gompa ( Monastery). It is a two day festival which commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. There’s traditional music, colorful masked dances, and a fair full of striking handicrafts.
  •  The Sindhu Darshan festival ( 1st – 3rd June ). It is a 20 minute ride from Leh on the bank of the Indus River. This festival is a celebration of the River Sindhu or Indus. More than anything else, the Indus River represents the ancient Hindu civilization and gave India its name. The festival aims to project the Sindhu as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony, and peaceful co-existence in India.
  • Beside the Festivals we’ve mentioned , discovering the beautiful Buddhist Gompas in Leh and around it sure will leave a magical impact on you :
  1. Check out the 6:00 a.m daily puja ( prayer) in Thiksey
  2. Treat yourself with a sunset climb up to Shanti Stupa (relics monument).
  3. Cross , Khardung La, the highest motor pass in the world to visit the impressive Diskit Gompa in the Nubra Valley.

In the Himachal area there is lot of cool stuff waiting for you….

In Manali: The Manali Summer Sundowners – Sounds United Project music festival features live concerts of blended genres and styles every Friday and Saturday throughout June.
• In Dharamsala: The Dharamsala Film Festival ( 11th -13th June)

Buddhist lama in Macloed Gang.

Buddhist lama in Macloed Gang.
Image Oded Keet

Beside the annual film festival there are loads of curses that you can do In Dharmasla. The most famous Vipassana course ( see the link above), but also Yoga, Tibetan Language Classes, 10 days Introduction to Buddhism/meditation, Reiki, Cooking classes and much more. Also there’s a lot of volunteering stuff that you can do. Two popular ones would be Lha Charitable and Mountain cleaners
In Shimla: The annual Music summer festival has been held since the 1960s. Food fairs and local handicrafts are on sale, too. The event will begin in June 1st until the 9th.

Feel free to leave a comment below!

 

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Amir Khusrau: A Journey Into the Sounds of Nizamuddin Dargah

The sound of unfamiliarity , The poetic touch of Amir Khusro, Father of Qawwali, What is Qawwali?, Hazzat Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi, Bonus for the braves

!Let’s start this time with a poem

I have become you, and you me”
I am the body, you the soul
.
So that no one can say hereafter, that you are one person, and I, someone else

,My heart is a wanderer in love, may it ever remain so
,My life’s been rendered miserable in love
“may it grow more and more miserable

This poem was written by the Amir Khosrau, who we will get to him in a minute.

The Sounds of Unfamiliarity – An Invitation to Stick Around

For many first timers who come to India, Delhi is perceived no more than a giant big busy hub. Actually, not only for first timers but also for many second and third-timers too. Booking a flight, a bus, a train or any other mean of transport to get away from the city would be the first thing to do for many people when arriving to Delhi. While doing so you might end up in one of Delhi’s central train station in Nizamuddin neighborhood at south Delhi

This post is an invitation for you to stop before you hop on the train.  It’s an invitation for you to re-schedule your travel bookings. It is an invitation to listen closely to some of the most unique and unexpected sounds Delhi has to offer, and to a voice that has played such a significant role in shaping Delhi and India’s culture, especially in music and poetry. It is true that this voice can be heard elsewhere in India since it belongs to the century’s long tradition of Sufism, but in Delhi, inside the Nizamuddin Dargah (the Sufi saint’s            tomb and shrine),  is  where we suggest you to visit

This is the most appropriate place to listen to voice of Amir Khosrau

Amir Khusro with his master sittingand reading poetry

Amir Khusro with his Master Auliya Nizamuddin

!To get into the right mood, listen to one of the video posted below while you read this post. Enjoy

Amir Khusro

Amir Khusro was one of the most creative poets who ever lived in India. He was born in 1285 in a small village called Patiyali in Uttar Pradesh, right in the middle of the road connecting Delhi and Lucknow, fairly close to the Ganga river bank. He died in 1325 and was buried in Nizamuddin Dragah in Delhi, next to his spiritual mentor -Nizamuddin Auliya.

For Khusro, Nizamuddin Auliya was not just a spiritual mentor, but a direct channel towards God. This deep and devotional relationship between the disciples to their master is the core principle in the Islamic Sufi order, which Khusro belonged to. This , unique pairing, called PirMurid (disciple-master) relationship, is a unique bond that stands in the heart of the practices and beliefs of the Sufi. So total and extreme is the devotional attitude held by the disciple that essentially it should lead to complete elimination of  the acknowledgement of their selves. This inner elimination is a source of creation and the highest expression of love

Painful as it may be, it is a considered for the Sufi disciples as the ultimate goal of his religious life, his highest wish. Fanna, an Arabic word, is the best term to describe the process of the dissolving ego. The strict boundaries between man and the divine  gradually melt down, and unity becomes possible. Love is the fuel for progress. What else can better express the idea of Fanna than the  poem above

Amir Khusro wrote his work in Persian and Urdu, but he wasn’t only a craftsman of words, he was outstanding musician too. This is a artistically lethal combination which aims for the soul, made a great impact on the future generations of India. He is also credited with enriching Hindustani classical music, by introducing various Persian and Arabic elements to the art. Some also claim that the invention of the Tabla (Indian drums) should be attributed to him. Can you imagine the world without the tabla? Actually, no matter what your answer ,you must go at least once to the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi where Chishti Sufis gather every Thursday night to sing the songs of Amir Khusro at the tomb.

In the meanwhile check this out this YouTube video with over 3,000,000 views , with a performance by the brilliant Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and listen to the role of Tabla in this wonderful Qawwli

                             

Father of Qawwali

Qwwali performance the sound of Amir Khusro

Qawwali performance-The sound of Amir Khusro

If that wasn’t enough to prove how gifted Amir Khusro was, then you also must know that he was the father of the famous Qawwali music style.The Qawwali parties held in the Nizamuddin Dargah are defiantly something you’d want to stick around for. It happens almost every day as we said but Thursday nights are traditionally dedicated to the songs of Amir Khusro.

? What Is Qawwli

Qawwalis are basically folk songs mixed with devotional music performed in the Sufi Dargah, as an integral part of the Zikr ceremony. The Qawwali is one of the most popular genres in the Khusrau tradition, and in a way it kept his fame alive throughout the years.

Qawwali is derived from the Arabic root QAUL, meaning ‘to speak’, which is a prominent feature in the performance that ensures the significance of poetry in the sequence. The Indian style comes with a group of about nine singers and musicians who sett up the rhythm by clapping their hands for the main singer.

The protocols of the Chishti ceremony instructs the listeners to sit absolutely still when listening to Qawwali, the same way as a person

Leaving the world...Img by 3quarksdaily.com

Leaving the world…
Img by 3quarksdaily.com

would when in the presence of a king

While hearing the words of the music, the audience will find it absolutely impossible to sit still, and they are permitted to get up and raise their hands above their heads, moving in a shuffling dance-step. Moving along to the beat of the music can easily get them into haal, another word for ecstasy; however the listeners must resist the urge of being carried away. This brings up the tensions between formality and spontaneity, sobriety and ecstasy. Isn’t that a familiar conflict?  Sticking to a plan that presumes to tell us what is right and what is wrong, what we should or shouldn’t do, or to lose ourselves into the shaky hands of the unexpected?

? should I stay or should I go now

Back to Khusro and to Nizamuddin Dargah

When Nizamuddin Auliya died, Amir Khusrau was not in Delhi. When he arrived back to Delhi and heard the news of his master’s death, he just couldn’t bear it and died just few months after his teacher. That was in 1325. The only suitable place for Amir Khusro’s burial was near the tomb of his teacher on a slightly raised platform. This platform called is Chabootra-e-Yaran.

As Nizamuddin Auliya, Amir Khusro’s master, once said:” “If the Sharī’ah (code of Islamic law) allowed me, I’d have him buried with me in the same grave”. There may be a small distance between the two tombs physically, but it was the closes they could ever have been. In a way, their aspired union had fulfilled itself, and in their death, the mystical journey of the master and his disciple towards God had come to its peak

People come to Nizamudding Dargah to  pay their respect to Amir Khusrau

Amir Khusrau tomb in Nizamuddin Dargah

Quite often, Nizamuddin Auliya would request visitors to his grave to first visit the grave of Amīr Khusro and pay to his beloved murid (follower) the most respect.

Amir Khusro’s domed marble tomb was constructed in 1605. Intricate ornamented filigreed screens surround the small room, creating an elaborate decorated wall. The room contains a tall tombstone constructed in 1496 by Mehdi Khwaja, a courtier of the first Moghal Emperor Babur.

Opposite to the door of Amir Khusrau’s tomb there is a heavy wooden door leading to an ancient room called Hujra-e-Qadeem usually kept under lock and key, except when Qawwali gatherings are taking place.

Bonus for the Braves

To lighten up the mood and not to finish on such a dramatic note, lets change subjects to my suggestion for those who want to walk the extra mile, and rebook their train tickets

The area between Nizamuddin Dargah and New Delhi’s Mathura road (as shown on the map) is worth the visit on its own. You will find yourself wandering like Alice in Wonderland, in a distinctly medieval ambience: labyrinthing alleys, crowds of street-vendors, bazaars with cheap food stalls hawking kababs and other delicacies towards the hungry passers by, and people selling caps, rosaries, religious posters. It is the perfect back setting for Amir Kusro’s poetry

Aside from all this, there is one thing that that will raise you so close to the Dargah, that it would be a crime not to go! The well known Mughlai restaurant, Dastarkhawn-e-Kareem, is the ultimate place to finish up your explorations, and rest your feet while dining on  some of the best food in the area

 Get Directions to Nizamuddin Dargah

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WE WILL BE HAPPY TO HEAR FROM YOU, SO FEEL FREE TO LEAVE  COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE ARTICLES

Hampi_romantic places in India1

Romantic Places in India- A Valentine’s Day Special!

1) Hampi – Secrets and hidden love 2) Agonda – be inspired by turtles 3) Meenakshi temple -love burns 4) Bollywood studios in Mumbai- Love factory 5) Konark Temple Orissa- love’s architecture jam 6)  Jaisalmer- romantic oasis of the endless desert 7)  Nagin lake, Kashmir-landscape of fantasy 8) Get directions 

 

I can’t think of any better way to celebrate love in the most romantic places in India, without mentioning Kalidasa- the 5th century poet who many consider to be the greatest poet in the history of the Sanskrit language.

Hampi is one of the most romantic places in India

Hampi

Meghaduta (The Cloud Messenger), Kalidasa’s famous work, has become an inalienable asset in Indian culture. Kalidasa’s cloud has become a convention, a symbol, to the point that every literary work in Indian culture with even a notion of love is a mere footnote to Kalidasa’s Meghaduta.

The story depicted in Meghaduta is about Yaksha – half-man, half-god- who was punished severely, and sentenced to a long exile in the south of India. Poor Yaksha was separated from his beloved wife, who had to stay far up in the Himalayas, and suffered from intolerable longing. Being isolated in his agony and pain, he asked the first monsoon cloud floating above him to deliver his message of love to his distant wife. The cloud then started his journey to the north, hovering above India’s landscape of love.

In this post, we will be riding too, on Yaksha’s cloud, above the most romantic places in India. Some of these locations are famous worldwide for their strong connection to love and romance, and some have been left unrecognized as monuments of love. We chose a few because of their setting that can melt even the coldest of hearts. Others were chosen simply for the story they hold.

We must confess however, before we hop on Kalidasa’s cloud, that our journey won’t use exactly the same trail as Yaksha’s cloud messenger.

Get off the cloud at Hampi (secrets and hidden love)

Hampi, a Unesco world heritage site, is a hilly landscaped village in northern Karnataka. It’s the perfect place for hidden love. The boulders and ancient ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, is the ultimate setting for every lover’s secrets.

Hampi in India is a one of the most romantic places

Hampi,perfect setting for love and secrets

Get off the cloud at Agonda, Goa (be inspired by turtles)

Fifteen minutes south of Palolem, there is a wild and remote beach named Agonda. Just next to this natural and simple beach are rooms and bungalows to run to, in order to get away from the Palolem fuss. Agonda beach is also famous as a Ridley turtle nesting site, so maybe this Valentine’s Day you’ll get some inspiration for something wild as well.

romantic places in india can also be wet

Get wet at Agonda

Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai (love burns)

Again, we return to one of the most famous temples in southern India, this time to the Lotus pool in the center of the temple. The site was not chosen because of human love, but for the love of a God, in this case, Shiva.

The story tells that Nakkeerar, a famous medieval Tamil poet, had doubted Lord Shiva’s capabilities in the esthetics of love poetry. He had criticized a poetic motif Lord Shiva had used in a poetry contest held in the king’s court yard.

Shiva became furious and opened his third eye to burn Nakkeerar, who kept insisting on the fault in Shiva’s poem. That was when Shiva could no longer control his anger, and opened his divine eye, burning Nakkeerar, who could not bare the scorching heat emanating from the eye, causing him to jump into the Golden Lotus pool.

Coming out of the pool, Nakkeerar found that he had completely lost his memory. He could not remember anything, lest the entire grammatical rules of Tamil love poetry. Now, Nakkeerar had to learn everything from scratch, which he did. Years later, Nakkeerar wrote his first poem after the incident.

romantic places in India can be dedicated to God too

The lotus pool at Meenakshi temple

The poem was dedicated to Shiva, like all other poems he had written since then. The pool at Meenakshi temple is the place where the strongest love for Shiva was born. It is a celebration of the rebirth, and breaking free from the rules which may hold us away from expressing our love in the fullest.

Our next stop will be a place where you can meet living gods who made their fame by expressing love and becoming riche from it in the meanwhile.

Bollywood studios in Mumbai (the heart is crazy)

Bollywood is the place where the whole spectrum of the expression of love is on the line; love between straight couples, gays, lesbians, love towards gods and goddesses, love towards the love, romance or eroticism, and what ever lies between. Of course, so long as it comes in the highest volume possible.

Bollywood and Kashmir- Love Story

Bollywood and Kashmir- Love Story

Bollywood is constantly shaping India’s concept of love. Its films address some of the core issues which arise in Indian society, such as love marriages versus arranged, or any forbidden love you can possibly think of.

Bollywood movies celebrate the idea that love has the capacity to overcome, or at least challenge, the orders of society, even the strictest. There might not always be happy endings however. And what about the Bollywood stars? They are becoming gods for delivering the message of love.

As Vatsyayana, the author of the Kamasutra once noted: “When the wheel of sexual ecstasy is in full motion, there is no textbook and no order”. Indeed, Bollywood films quite often burn India’s social “textbooks” and get rewarded for that at the box office.

Visiting Bollywood studios in Mumbai is a visit to India’s biggest love factory. We recommend that you tour Shah Rukh Khan’s love factory.

The next station will be eastwards to Orissa, to have a look over the mighty Bay of Bengal.

Konark Temple Orissa (love’s architecture jam shining from the distance)

In our previous post, we already mentioned the Khajuraho temple as an architecture jam dedicated to love and sex. Konark temple in Orissa is also a timeless masterpiece built with love and for love. Like Khajuraho, Konark belongs to a medieval group of temples, and both hold common motifs with many questions remained unsolved. If there is one clear and unambiguous message in the sensuality of the sculpted representations of Konark temple, it is that the human soul is preeminently amorous and nothing but.

Masterpiece of love

Masterpiece of love

Now let’s get the consensus.

Taj Mahal (make love simple)

Probably more than anything else in the world, Taj Mahal Is linked to the deepest feeling of love in the most total and uncompromisable way. It has become synonymous with the word love. For some, the Taj Mahal may be considered as the physical manifestation for the abstract notion of love. Our suggestion however, for this Valentine’s Day, is not to visit from the inside, but from outside. The Taj is located on the Yamuna bank, on the other side of the Yamuna you can sit on a wide, sandy beach, and watch as the Taj changes its colors in the sunset.

As simple as that.

Jaisalmer in Rajasthan (romantic oasis of the endless desert)

While so many cliches addressed to the desert are attributes of loneliness and remoteness, as a metaphor of life without love, Jaisalmer is proof that love as water can be found everywhere. The Golden City of Jaisalmer was pulled straight out of the fancy world from the fables of the Arabian Nights. At night, when the stars arise and merge with endless desert and sand dunes, having a beer on any of the old city’s restaurant rooftops or at the hotel can be an extremely kitschy, yet romantic, experience.

Our final stop, where Kalidasa’s cloud messenger evaporates, is the land of passion and romance-Kashmir.

Nagin Lake, Kashmir (landscape of fantasy)

Kashmir is famous for being an object of love and passion in India. Kashmir was the background for some of Bollywood’s most sensual scenes and romantic plots.  This very fact illustrates how the landscape of Kashmir is perceived in India. What kind of other collective feeling can bring this up?

Most romantic places in India

Nagin lake , Kasmir

I doubt if there is another place in India with the same romantic magnitude attached to it as Kashmir.

Nagin Lake got its name from the trees surrounding the lake. Commonly known as the Jewel Ring, it is one of the most impressive lakes in east Srinagar. Since the best time to visit Kashmir is from mid-May to October, you’ll have to be patient until then. Fortunately love isn’t limited by time, and Valentine’s Day can last through the entire year, as long as you want to, and the land of passion and fantasy will be waiting.

Get directions – Map

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That was our list for some of the most romantic places in India, please feel free to comment below. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Truck is going uphill from Manali to Ladakh

Manali to Ladakh

Manali to Ladakh: The Road and the National Highway:

Index

1) Acclimatization

2) Break down the ride from Manali to Ladakh

3) Milestones: Manali to Ladakh, up until Leh

4) Drill down with our Google’s  maps smart tools

 

The 473 km road from Manali to Leh, The capital of Ladakh district, is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. It is known as Leh Manali Raja Marga, which can be translated as the main route from Leh to Manali.

Trucks on the way from Manli to Leh

Trucks goes up and down along the road to bring supplies to the villages.
Pic: womansday.com

best of India- Food in India

Best of India

Only four and a half months a year the road from Manali to Ladakh is open. It is the only time of the year that the northeast region of India has access by land. During winter time heavy snowfalls block the road which isolate the region from the lower Himalayan area.
Approximately from mid May until mid October the road is clear and ready to connect the state of Himachal with Jammu Kashmir so there is a long line of traffic waiting to enter. It gets very busy on the Himalayan highway.
Indian Army trucks loaded with supplies head towards the northern army posts. They carry food, ammunition but the most important treasure they carry is fresh manpower.
Indian soldiers that were posted in the remotest army bases along the borders of China and Pakistan will now have a chance to see their families after a few extremely solitary and cold months.
But not only military trucks will be populating the national highway also civilian trucks loaded with goods take advantage of these four months that the road is open to bring supplies to the villages in Ladakh.
The Himalayan highway from Manali to Ladakh is not solely for tourists. Local people rely on this road during this particular time of the year. For them, summer time means that they are getting connected again to the world. However, the time is ticking and the trucks will have to keep up with the pace in order to fill up the empty storages.
This is why we urge you to be careful if you plan to travel from Manali to Ladakh on your own (by car, motorbike or bicycle) remember – the road is busy and the drivers are in a rush. Another reason to be careful is the condition of road. The road from Manali to Ladakh is long and unexpected. Due to the topography and the climate of the region landslides, rockslides and floods may quite often happen. The temperature at summer time is rising and the frozen ice is getting melted so the water washes land and rocks downhill which causes many blocks on the road. The Border Roads Organization (BRO) usually clears the roads and restores damaged bridges very effectively.

Acclimatization

Before you hit the road up to Leh, we strongly recommend staying one or two nights in Manali. There are a few nice things to do in Manali and it will be the beginning of your acclimatization process.
Note that it is critical to spend at least one night on the road to let your body acclimatize. There are few accommodation options on the way. My advice is to break down the road into small pieces and to gradually elevate into high altitudes. Don’t let headaches, vomiting, lack of appetite, dizziness, nausea and other AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) symptoms spoil the fun of this incredible road to Leh. Drink a lot of water at all times and have some energy snacks with you.

Mountain passes on the way to Leh from Manali

Mountain passes on the way to Leh from Manali

Break down the ride from Manali to Ladakh:

1) 1st night : Manali –Jispa / Keylong
Keylong is just another town however Jispa (3200 m) is a small village on the Bhaga river bank. Jispa can be very nice place to stop for one night.
2) 2nd night: Sarchu. On Sarchu you will find few campsites. Some of them are very expensive but if you want to go for a cheap option than stay the night on the Dhaba’s (restaurants) tents.

3) 3rd Sarchu –Pang/ Tzo Kar

Milestones: Manali to Ladakh, up until Leh:

1) 7-8 hrs drive a day if you decide to take our advice and break down the road to three nights
2) 8-10 hrs drive a day if you chose to arrive to Leh after two nights on the road.

1. Manali to Rohtang Pass at 3,980 m
2. Rohtang to Gramphu at 3,200 m. It is a steady descent. Turn left (towards west) at Gramphu on the highway along Chandra river. The right turn (towards east) at Gramphu leads to Spiti valley
3. Gramphu to Kokhsar, the first village north of Rohtang Pass 6 km . On Kohsar you will have to show your passports with valid visa at the police check post here
4. Kokhsar to Tandi  (2,570 m). Tandi is located at the bottom of the river valley at the confluence of the Chandra River and the Bhaga river (flowing down from north) which merge to form the Chandra-Bhaga river. Cross the Bhaga river over the bridge towards the right, take the right turn at the fork and the road again starts climbing
5. Tandi to Keylong (3,080 m). Keylong is the capital of Lahoul districts in Himachal Pradesh. There are many accommodation options here but it might be a good idea to keep on a little bit farther 1-1.5 hrs down the road to Jispa which is more pastoral place to lay your head for the night
6. Keylong to Jispa (3,310 m)
7. Jispa to Darcha  (3,360 m). All tourists have to register at the police check post at this point just before the bridge
8. Darcha to Zingzingbar (4,270 m) .The steep ascent to Baralacha La starts at Zingzingbar. Don’t forget to take some pictures in Suraj Tal the beautiful lake on the way.
9. Zingzingbar to Baralacha La pass at 5,030 m 18 km .It is a steady climb. (Both the Bhaga river and the Chandra river originate from melting snow at opposite sides of Baralacha La, the former flowing southwest and the latter flowing first southeast and then northwest to merge at Tandi

Suraj Tal is located just below Baralacha La

Suraj Tal, below Baralacha La.

10. Sarchu (4,300 m). Sarchu is a military base and has a police check post. At Sarchu you will find few camping sites to stay. You’ll have to register at the police check post here and say bye-bye to Himachal Pradesh for you have just entered to Ladakh at Jammu Kashmir
11. Sarchu to Pang (4,600 m) climbing 500 m through the Gata loops at 4,190 m and traversing through Nakee La pass at 4,739 m  and Lachulung La pass (5,065 m). Register at the check post at Pang
12. Pang to Tanglang La pass (5,328 m). The 69 km will be an amazing ride through a 4,700 m plateau known as Morey plains. Those of you who plan to stop at Tzokar lake will have to turn right (east) for 10 more minutes until the camp site
13. Tanglang La pass to Upshi. Upshi has a customs and excise taxation check post before crossing the Indus River
14. Upshi to Leh. This would be the last part of your drive. Just Follow the Indus River via the famous Hemis monastery and Tekshey monastery. This is not the time to stop… Get a shower first

Drill down with Google’s maps smart tools

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Beatle portraits inside the ashram they once stayed in '68

The Ashram of the Beatles

68′ was a year to remember along the shores of the Ganga in Rishikesh and especially for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John, Ringo, Paul and George. Well, Ringo might also remember that he didn’t eat enough meat!

Jai Guru Dev

A portrait of the Maharishi inside the ashram ‘With every mistake we must surely be learning.’

On a sunny Rishikesh morning, Maharishi Mahesh woke up, washed his face climbed into his sea shell covered meditation cave and dived into his morning meditation as he did every morning, until a knock at the door. It was a young disciple who came to announce the arrival of his “golden key”. For a long time the Maharishi had been trying to spread his knowledge on transcendental meditation.

His golden opportunity had now been granted in a shape of the craziest phenomena that had been going all over the western world back in ’68 – The Beatles. The Maharishi who already had a few Ashrams in India invited them to his great mansion in Rishikesh.

After the Beatles released 2 albums all inspired by their experience with the host of this big mansion (although if you pay attention to the “song name”, Sexy Sadie, you can hear John pointing out some accusations at Maharishi) several groups of curious fans and also spiritual seekers popped out like snails after a monsoon. The name “Maharishi Yogi” and transcendental meditation spread and finally reached the other side of the globe as the Maharishi had always wished.

Entrance to the Lost Ashram of the Maharishi in Rishikesh

Entrance to the Lost Ashram of the Maharishi in Rishikesh

The years after, Maharishi managed to build up his Ashrams to small villages which the government noticed and claimed their cut. The Maharishi who was now well connected followed his goal and made his way to the West taking with him his followers.

Behind him he left Ashrams at the hands of the forest department and the ashrams were left to be buried in time and nature. This is how you would find them today overgrown and desolate. They have been locked and barred to keep away visitors because the spirits have moved on. Since Maharishi moved India has not suffered from lack of spiritual seekers, new ashrams have come and grown but the old Ashrams have just grown old and lonely.

Doors are left open, nature is overgrown

Doors are left open, nature is overgrown

The Ashram that the Beatles visited is the easiest way to get an understanding of what an Ashram would feel like. With endless trails hidden beneath wild bushes and blooming orchids it takes you through the abandoned history of the Maharishi.

For every visitor that goes through the barred gates of the ashram their trip is individual but each shares the same answer that there is something paranormal about the place. The ashram is inundated with ‘visitors’ at night, babas, tigers, bears and bats. During the day it is a time for travelers to visit

Looking around and taking pictures of the lost ashram

Looking around and taking pictures of the lost ashram

As for the Maharishi, he relocated all his spiritual business to the place where it is said money grows on trees but he didn’t find any money tree in London. However what he did find were those looking for deep spiritual guidance with deep pockets. As he did in India he did in the west he opened an ashram and the another one and more and by the time he had to redeem his soul to Shiva he had built a whole legacy in the west with thanks to the 4 guys who had come for a visit to Rishikesh back in 68.

Walking around the corridors and alleys of the old ashram

Walking around the corridors and alleys of the old ashram

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Learn to speak Hindi in India. Image BBC

5 Tips to Boost your Hindi While you are Traveling in India

Boost and Learn Hindi in India

We posted recently on how much fun it is to study Hindi in India and how it can really contribute positively to your entire travel experience. We also recommended some reputable places where you can study. On this post I will suggest a few tips to boost your Hindi while you are traveling in India.

Of course the following tips are only useful if you already have a grasp of some basic Hindi vocabulary and grammar… so I am afraid to say that only being able to say ‘yes’ and ‘no won’t be of much help but you definitely do not need to be an expert. I must say that I met an Australian guy who spoke fluent Hindi only by watching Hindi TV series!

So here goes. Some tips to boost and learn Hindi in India

  • Insist on speaking Hindi with locals even if they don’t want to

Many Indian people tend to show off their English skills and might be a little bit impatient in your efforts to improve your Hindi. Do not speak English what so ever! It’s a battle out there and you must win…

  • Read a Hindi newspaper every day in a chai shop

The reason for reading in a chai shop specifically is that the people there will usually be only too happy to help you. Unlike fancy coffee shops in the center of town, chai shops are usually in non-English speaking areas and people there will be just as curious of you as you are in them. Hindi is a very good channel of communication. Always have a pen with you and note down any new words and phrases that you will pick up. Besides the value of improving your Hindi it is really fun to interact over a cup of chai.

Learn Hindi in a chai shop that is in non English speaking areas

Learn Hindi in a chai shop that is in non English speaking areas

  • Get off the beaten track

We advise you to stay away from the beaten track all the time especially if you are looking to improve your Hindi skills. You will need a lot of will power to avoid speaking English if you stay for a long time in places where English is the default language (touristy areas). However, when you will find yourself in a remote village you will simply have no choice but to implement everything you have learned and of course improve on what you already know.

  • Bollywood movies

They are fun and pure entertainment and give you such a great opportunity to pick up some Hindi that it would be an absolute shame if you won’t go to the cinema as much as you can while you’re in India. Almost every city has dozens of cinemas so just ask the locals during your morning chai stop where the nearest cinema is (Hint:Yahann ke aas pass koi cinema Ghar hai?). On top of just enjoying a movie and learning some Hindi watching the cinema in India is an experience in itself. Brace yourself you are going to be exposed to Hindi movie mania. There are no words (not in this post anyway) to describe the phenomenon of cinema in Indian culture. Obviously you don’t always have to go to the cinema you can just watch UTV, Sony Set, Zee Cinema on your TV.

  • Indian TV

Watch TV in the hotel only when you have absolutely nothing to do which is not often when you are in India. As I mentioned earlier I met a guy who picked up Hindi only by watching soap operas. But again this is the last resort… because human interaction is always best!

If you have any questions, comments or tips about learning Hindi please let us know and we will be happy to hear and help

Dhanyavad, Shukriya, Thanks

Ashram in Rishikesh

4 Popular Ashrams in India

The Spiritual Path in India

In India there is a considerable variety of ashrams (spiritual centers), which offer various activities for the renewal of body and mind. Yoga, meditation and breathing methods are some of the ways to achieve it. Many of them are volunteer centers, promoting different values and social or communal development. Here is an overview of some of the country’s most popular ashrams:

Ravi Shankars Ashram

The main building of the Ravi Shankar ashram in Karnataka

Ravi Shankar’s Ashram, Karnataka

The Ashram of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar opened in Bangalore in 1982 and has since had a reputation far and wide as an excellent place for anyone looking for a solution to relieve stress and self-development. It is, in fact, a voluntary organization called Art of Living, that has a representation in over a hundred countries. The ultimate goal of the organization is to promote a world without violence and tensions. They support many fields of work including conflict resolution, empowerment of women, prisoner rehabilitation and more. The center of the organization is in an ashram in Bangalore which offers various courses, based mainly on the study of breathing techniques, yoga and meditation. The basic course lasts for three days and includes breathing techniques, to help restore the body and mind balance.

Website: www.vvmvp.org

Contact details:

Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Peeth
21st Km, Kanakapura Road, Udayapura
Bangalore, Karnataka 560 082, India
Phone: +91 80 28432273 / 74
email: info@vvmvp.org

 

 

The Osho Ashram, Pune

The Osho Ashram, Pune

Visitors participate in activities at the Osho ashram in Pune

Osho’s Ashram in Pune is probably the best known ashram in India. The spirit of the spiritual leader Osho continues to reside over it. It is a spiritual institution but very commercialised and prices for the ashram activities and facilities are quite high. Conditions are very good, and the Ashram has a resort feeling with comfortable rooms and a swimming pool. Each year visitors from dozens of countries come to the ashram to attend various meditations.

It is compulsory to wear maroon robes and every participant must undergo an HIV test. The Osho community is one of the world’s most well spread and Osho centers exist across India as well as in many countries.

Website: www.osho.com

Osho International
17 Koregaon Park
Pune MS 411 001
India
Phone: +91 20 6601 9999
email: resortinfo@osho.net

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Sri Aurobindo ashram is an urban ashram located in Pondicherry

Sri Aurbindo Ashram, Pondicherry

The Ashram founded by the philosopher and Guru Sri Aurbindo in 1926. Its goal was to work toward creating a better world and currently serves as a volunteer center, and charitable works initiated in Pondicherry. The Ashram is located in an urban setting and emphasizes the practice of yoga, as a tool that can be used for mankind and the goal is to achieve a new humanity and spirituality (Ananda) by removing the ego and desires. Besides yoga, you can also volunteer in any of its departments – library, theatre, Ayurvedic Center etc.  From the ashram a universal community has grown in Auroville next to Pondicherry which is a small idyllic town which was set up by a French lady called Mirra Alfassa.

Website: www.sriaurobindoashram.org

Contact details:

Information Centre of Sri Aurobindo Ashram,
Cottage Complex,
3, Rangapillai Street,
Pondicherry 605001
India
Phone: +91-413-2233604
email: bureaucentral@sriaurobindoashram.org

Amma’s Ashram, Kerala

Amma

Picture of Amma also known as the hugging mother

The Ashram of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known as “Amma”, the embracing mother. The ashram is located in the city of Kollam in the state of Kerala and is a mecca for many devotees from all over the world. Amma seeks to overcome the lack of love and compassion in the world and gives out warm hugs to her followers. Whoever wants to stay in the ashram can join classes in yoga and meditation combined with joint prayers, held every day. Amma holds public darshans (meetings with the public) on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at morning.

Website: www.amritapuri.org

Contact details:

Mata Amritanandamayi Math,
Amritapuri.p.o, Kollam,
Kerala, India, 690525.
Phone. +91-476-289-7578, +91-476-289-6399

 

So hopefully, after reading this post you are one step closer to enlightenment…  : )

The Golden Temple

Who Else Wants to Visit the Golden Temple?

A visit to the temple of gold will leave you in Awe

The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple, Amritsar the holiest place for Sikhs

If you want to be left in awe a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar is a place that you must see. It is the holiest site in the Sikh religion and is considered one of the most fascinating spots to visit during a trip to India.

It is all about gold and a wonderful experience

If you like gold you will like the temple.

It really is a magnificent structure coated with gold and stands serenely in a huge pool. Its beauty is equally matched by the electric and vibrant atmosphere of the Sikh people that are all too willing to help, show you around, offer you food and are just generally happy that you have come to visit.

We guarantee you that you will have an outstanding experience.

So you are probably wondering what is so special about the Temple?

 The Golden Temple in a nutshell

The construction of the Temple was completed in the 16th century by Guru Arjun Singh. Its architectural style combines those of both Hindus and Muslims and its interior is decorated with precious stones, frescoes and glass. A visit to the temple by Sikhs just once in their lives is believed to purify. The Temple has four entrances which marks the openness to all four castes in Indian society.

Reaching the Golden Temple

Amritsar Golden Temple Complex

Devotees walk around the Golden Temple complex, Amritsar

Each corner of the Temple has a gate with a tower and every gate reads prayers from the Sikh holy book Granth Sahib. The book is carried in procession to the shrine every day at four in the morning and leaves the shrines at ten in the evening.  To reach the temple follow the walkway parikrama, which goes around the Pool of Nectar in a clockwise direction. To reach the Golden Temple you need to cross the Guru’s Bridge which symbolizes the journey of the soul after death. As you make you way inside the temple you will be amongst devotees paying their respects to the Granth Sahib. Inside is a canopy decorated with jewels and there the scriptures from the Granth Sahib are sung.

When to visit the Temple?

The ideal time to visit is during weekdays in the morning when you can listen to the faithful singing from the temple. Also if you have the opportunity you should not miss seeing the temple at night when it is lit.

What to do when visiting the Temple?

Before entering the Golden Temple complex remember to take off your shoes and to cover your head. Smoking and photography inside the actual temple is prohibited but you can take pictures in the complex.

Guru-ka-Langar, community kitchen inside the Golden Temple

Volunteers prepare thali plates for meal times inside the Golden Temple

An eating experience not to be missed

best of India- Food in India

Best of India

Don’t miss the Guru-ka-Langar, a community kitchen where around 35,000 people everyday are fed by temple volunteers. From 11:00 to 15:00 and 19:00 to 21:00 food is served without any payment. This act of generosity symbolizes the Sikh belief in equality of all people regardless of caste and everyone is welcome to join.

You will witness diners waiting in line and when the doors open flocks of people come to sit in long rows on floor mats. Temple workers serve food of dal (lentils) with chapatis (wheat bread) and rice.

Anyone who wants can join the volunteers preparing food, knead the dough, prepare chutney, peel onions or wash dishes, a fine way to feel grateful for the good meal. Another option is to leave a donation in the donation box of the temple.

Staying at the Golden Temple

Amritsar has a selection of places to stay, but the most interesting option is to stay in the temple. Accommodation is in a large room with beds placed side by side. No fee is taken but the hosts expect donations. Besides shared rooms there are also individual rooms with two beds and a private shower.

Other attractions in Amritsar and around

Durgiana Temple

Built in the 16th century it is a peaceful temple which resembles the Golden Temple and it is dedicated to the Goddess Durga.

Devi Temple

Built after the 20th century female Saint Lal Devi. It is around 2km from Amritsar railway station.

Ram Bagh Gardens

Beautiful gardens with a museum displaying weapons from Mughal times.

Wagah border, Amritsar

The changing of the guard at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan

City Tours

In 2011 the Amritsar Tourism Bureau began 2 hour guided tours throughout the city. The tours leave every day at 8:30 from the town plaza and end at the Golden Temple.

Details can be found at the tourist office located at the exit of the train station in Amritsar.

Changing of the Guard at Wagah Border

The changing of the guard takes place between India and Pakistan every day at sundown. It is around one hours drive from Amritsar. You can arrive there by taxi (approx. 500 rupees), rickshaw (approx. 250 rupees) or shared jeep which leave Amritsar at 15:30. The ceremony is very entertaining and theatrical and the crowd go wild to try and demonstrate their superiority over the Pakistani side. You should know that you cant bring in bags, only cameras and there are no storage lockers. The ceremony lasts around an hour.

Rishikesh is considered one of the holiest places in India

Travel Tips for India- 2 Dont’s

2 Important Don’ts -Travel tips for India

There are a lot of things not to do in terms of cultural codes and proper behavior while traveling in India. In this post I will tackle only two travel tips for India which belong to the Don’t section!! These are two things that always makes me so upset when I see it happening when I’m travelingIt’s important to say that I don’t blame anyone only the lack of knowledge and awareness.  I’m sure that after you will read this post you will be more alert and will also make others feel better. These two don’ts are based on long conversations I had for years with some of my Indian friends who work and operate in the heart of some of the most touristy places in India.

Do not walk half naked in India

A friend of mine once told me: “Imagine that a woman enters the Vatican half naked, almost topless, or rock-climbing on the Western Wall in Jerusalem dressed up only in a bikini? This is how we feel when tourists are coming here absolutely ignoring the religious and holy nature of places.”

“So how come nobody is doing anything about it? Why not tell tourists do not bath in the Ganga or elsewhere naked or half naked?  Or don’t walk in the street like you just came back from the beach? If you want to avoid frontal confrontation out of respect for the tourists put signs,” I suggested.

Varanassi one of the holiest and respected places in India-travel tips for India: 2 Dont's

Varanassi one of the holiest and respected places in India

Firstly, it’s a matter of common sense, people should know that when they visit such places there are cultural codes to follow and to obey out of respect.  Secondly, for local Indians there is a big dilemma when it comes to prohibiting misbehavior of foreign tourists. It is hard to prioritize what is more important and what is less and where to stop? The streets can’t be filled with signs saying don’t do this and don’t do that! The tourists at the end of the day are guests in the country. Added to this is of course the economic aspect of foreign tourism especially in rural areas where this is their only source of income. Tourists bring money and this means food onto the table and this of course a big thing.

However, it is really heart breaking to see people coming from the most remote places in India for a once in a life time Yatra (pilgrimage) and spending their savings to visit the holiest place for them. Sometimes the entire village helps them financially to fulfill this Yatra so they will know that at least one of them made it. When they come to the place what do they see? Foreign tourists breaking the codes of Dharma (set of religious, social, cultural and behavior standards).  We as visitors at holy places should be committed to these standards as well.

Do not smoke in public places

Another big don’t in our travel tips for India section is not to smoke pot in public places. Smoking pot on buses, in restaurants, trains and other public places is absolutely inappropriate. I have heard so many travelers say that this is part of Indian tradition and therefore it is not offending anyone and pointing out babas (holy men) as examples of those who smoke Chillum everywhere and nobody tells them anything.

Sadhu dressed in traditional clothing in a local bazaar, travel tips for India

Sadhu dressed in traditional clothing in a local bazaar

It doesn’t matter how appealing a baba’s style may be. A tourist can’t be part of it, no matter what you do, no matter how you will be dressed up or even if you don’t cut your hair for thousand years we will never be perceived as part of Indian tradition while Indian Sadhus are and always be. Indian Sadhus have a traditional justification to ‘break the rules’ within Indian society. This ‘privilege’ is something we as tourists simply do not have. Their relationship with Indian society is a complex issue which is under debate as far as Indian history goes back in time. Using Sadhus as a sign of Hindu society’s approval for smoking pot in public places is ignorance.

So next time you are India remember these cultural no no’s it will definitely be appreciated

 

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