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A pious journey into the heart of India-Madhya Pardesh



It’s one of the harshest months of the year when the blazing hot sun makes it difficult to even step out of the comfort of your home, forget walking miles barefoot. But a look at the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain tells you a different tale. The burning floor, sweltering heat, long queues, pushing and shoving — nothing deters hundreds of Shaivites (followers of Shiva) who have thronged the shrine to seek blessings of the ‘creator and destroyer’. The time is auspicious to offer prayers to Shiva and Mahakal, one of the most important of the 12 jyotirlingas in India. This one is believed to be born on its own (swayambhu), deriving power from within itself; the others are ritually established. The scenario is similar in other temples of such religious significance in Madhya Pradesh. Struggling to find a little space for myself in the crowd, I smell intense devotion. I see women, evidently from Andhra, incessantly chanting mantras as they wait for hours for a minute of puja.

Indore sees an influx of thousands of devotees who make annual trips to the sacred sites of Ujjain, Omkareshwar and Maheshwar. To host these tourists, the city has several branded hotels like Country Inns and Suites, Ginger, Lemon Tree, etc. (apart from non-branded hotels). Radisson Blu Hotel Indore — which made an entry into the city two years ago — hasn’t just added to the city’s room inventory but is also working towards promoting the destination. The hotel, in association with MP tourism, is offering attractive packages that include the stay as well as visits to the religious sites as well as to Mandu. I am here to sample one of the packages, on invitation by the hotel.


Hindu mythology holds that when the gods and demons churned the ocean of milk, a few drops of nectar fell on four places: Haridwar, Nasik, Prayag and Ujjain. Considered to be holy since time immemorial, these are the four sacred sites for the Kumbh Mela.

Surrounded by the holy waters of the Shipra River, Ujjain houses Mahakal, one of the twelve celebrated jyotirlingas in India. Called Dakshinamurti since it faces south — the only jyotirlinga to be so — the shrine, Mahakaleshwar Temple, is of great significance to tantriks. While visiting the temple at 3 am for early morning aarti might sound spiritually ideal, noon is a good time if you want to explore the five levels of the temple without facing the crowd.

One of the must-see rituals is the Bhasma Aarti, which takes place between 4-6 am. The lingam is smeared with still-hot ashes from the cremation grounds in homage to Shiva, the ‘master of death’. Women are not allowed entry during the ritual.

Other major temples in the holy city include ‘Bade Ganeshji ka Mandir’ that houses the only ‘panchmukhi‘ (five-faced) idol of Hanuman. There’s also Harsiddhi Temple, where according to the Shiva Purana, when Shiva carried away the body of Sati, her elbow dropped here. The most interesting temple is definitely the Kal Bhairav Mandir, where liquor is ritually offered to the deity that is believed to have emerged from Shiva’s third eye. The temple is believed to be associated with the tantra (black magic) cult. It is said that the liquor offered disappears pretty fast into the mouth of the deity. A state-sponsored research into the mystery has not yielded any results yet.


The next day I make an early start to head for Mandu. Nothing religious about this legendary town but more is less when it comes to describing beauty of Madhavgarh (or Mandu) especially during the monsoons. Located about three hours from Indore, it can be visited as a day-trip from the city. However, you might want to spend more time in this picturesque town.

Originally the fort capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa, it later came to be ruled by the Pathan Sultans of Malwa, who constructed exquisite palaces, tombs and gates. One can devote hours admiring the massive Jami Masjid, Jahaz Mahal and Hoshang Shah’s tomb that provided inspiration to the main architect of the Taj Mahal. Centuries ago, the town was a monsoon retreat of the Mughals, who made several pleasure palaces and lakes here. In fact Jehangir is said to have written: “I know of no other place that is as pleasant in climate and with such attractive scenery as Mandu in the rainy season.” The statement stands true even today.

Home to the distinctive hand-woven Maheshwari sarees, there is more to this tranquil town (located close to Mandu) settled on the banks of the holy Narmada River. You can sense the sanctity of the air when you take a boat ride here and gape at the temples distinguished by their carved balconies and intricately designed doorways. There are numerous temples that commemorate different forms or ‘avatars’ of Shiva. The most remarkable structure, however, is the Ahilya Fort, residence of the erstwhile royal family (Holkar) of Indore. The fort is now converted into a heritage hotel. It also houses a statue Rani Ahilyabai, who is credited for the rise of the town, along with relics and antiques belonging to the Holkar dynasty.


With the island shaped like the holiest of Hindu symbols, Om, the place cannot get holier. (A valley divides the two hills on the island in such a way that it appears in the shape of Om.)  Or it can if it marks the confluence of Narmada and Kaveri rivers. Omkareshwar means the Lord of Omkaara or the “Lord of the Om Sound”. There are different versions of stories about the origin and the history of the place.

The ‘Omkar Mandhata’ temple, dedicated to Shiva, shelters one of the twelve ‘jyotirlingas‘. Other temples, like the Siddhanath Temple, are fine examples of early medieval Brahminic architecture. This temple is well known for the fresco of elephants carved upon a stone slab on its outer perimeter.

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Many trains will be terminated




Many trains will be terminated

Many trains will be terminated due to fog. Please read this news paper report:-

dhund hind

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India Railway will help you visit Taj Mahal




“All arrangements have been made and our systems are in place. The trial will begin December 25. It has taken us a long time to work on this project which will change the image of the ASI,” Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), N K Pathak said.

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will be the service provider of the e-ticketing facility, in collaboration with the National Institute of Smart Governance, he said.

After one month trial of the e-ticketing facility at the Taj Mahal, the ASI would extend the similar facility to other monuments, managed by it.

ASI officials said the e-tickets will have security features including bar code, and bar code scanners would be installed at the entry gates.

The ASI is training its staffs for effective and efficient use of the facility, which is likely to put an end to the long queues at the ticket counters.

Tourists had to stand for long hours in queues to buy entry tickets.

Tourism circles in Agra have welcomed ASI’s initiative saying the facility would help check resale of entry tickets and fake tickets by unscrupulous elements.

It is said that the ensuing online facility would also help the ASI in managing the number of visitors.

(This article was published on December 13, 2014)
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Take a break: top 7 places for bird watching in India




Summer is setting in, sure. But, what about taking a break from Delhi and head to Maharashtra, for there are places there that are still playing host to winged visitors. Plus, the Flamingo Festival, starting on March 29, will be an added bonus. “The peak birding season started around October and is coming to a close by May,” says Rahul Jauhari, who runs the website Atul Sathe of the BNHS adds, “Mangroves in Vikhroli, wetlands in Nhava-Sheva region are good spots.” Here are some other places that the duo highly recommend.

Ulwe and Uran
What: Both places are renowned when it comes to bird watching. However, the numbers are rapidly dropping, thanks to rampant construction in the region.

Often spotted: The list of birds seen here is endless — from Marsh Harriers, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Green Bee-eaters to Black-shouldered Kites and Red Wattled Lapwings. Uran is the older haunt for bird watchers, but, according to the experts, is now a shadow of its original self. However, Red-vented Bulbuls, Ashy Prinias, Asian Pied Starlings, Moorhens, Scaly Breasted Munias, Red Avadavats and Spot Billed Ducks, among others, can still be seen in these parts.

Nagla Forest
What: One of the lesser-known spots inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), in Borivali East, Mumbai.

Often spotted: Situated to the north of Bassein Creek, this is thought to be one of the most highly rewarding walks at the SGNP. Nature lovers are in for a treat as well. Birds like the Grey Junglefowl, Indian Grey Hornbill and Rufous Woodpecker can be spotted while on the trail.

Tungareshwar sanctuary
What: Home to three types of forest — dry deciduous, moist deciduous and semi evergreen — it forms a corridor between  SGNP and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary.

Often spotted: Species like the Rufous Treepie, Shikra, Black-hooded Oriole, Brown-headed Barbet, Red-whiskered and Red-vented Bulbul can be seen in the area.

Thane Creek and Padale Gaon
: These spots are frequented by birders in the area.
Often spotted: While Thane Creek is known to attract Flamingos and Waders this time of the year, Black Kites seem to favour Padale Gaon. Apart from the Raptors, Munias, Woolly-necked Storks, Drongos, Egrets, Marsh Harriers and Sandpipers are also seen the region.

Kanheri Upper Trail
What: The route involves a gradual climb through the wooded forest of the SGNP.
Often spotted: One of the few places to offer the perfect mix of nature and adventure, catch a glimpse of the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Shikra, Grey Jungle Fowl, and Indian Peafowl. Or head to the plateau near Kanheri Caves, which is excellent for viewing raptors, like the Crested Serpent Eagle. You could also visit the ancient Kanheri Caves.

What: The mudflats here turn into a bird watcher’s paradise as they play host to millions to pink visitors.

Often spotted: One of the best places in the city to spot Flamingos, this is a good time to head there. It is also a good place to see migratory birds such as the Broad-billed Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, and Eurasian Curlew. On a good day, one will also catch a glimpse of the Common Redshank, Little Herons, Little Egret, Brown-headed Gull, Grey Plover, Sand Plovers and Avocet, among others. The annual Flamingo Festival is also scheduled to take place on March 29. Nature Park
What: Once a treeless garbage dump, this park located in the heart of the Mumbai (Dharavi) now acts as its green lung.

Often spotted: It is home to several migratory and resident species like the Black Kite, Shikra, Eurasian Wryneck, Little Green Bee-eater, Barn Swallow, Bluethroat, Purple Sunbird, Great Egret, Greater Coucal and Laughing Dove.

Bhandup Pumping Station
What: A well-kept secret, the lake near the pumping station attracts water birds. Signs put up also say that one can spot mongoose and snakes here. spotted: The area is known to host water and land birds, and often, Flamingos can be seen here as well. That apart, the Clamorous Reed Warbler, Common Kingfisher, Red Avadavat,  Pond Heron, Woolly-necked Stork, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Asian Pied Starling, Painted Stork, Little Cormorant, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Laughing Dove, Red-wattled Lapwing, Green Bee-eaters and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, among others, are common visitors.

Also Head to Airoli Creek and vashi bridge: These spots are frequented by birders looking for Flamingos and Waders.
talawe: This area on Palm Beach Road is yet another hotspot. The water body behind the NRI Complex, Seawood Estates, is a great place to observe birds.

Dombivli: Well-known birding sites here include Nilje Lake, the Bhopar area, Dombivli Creek and Khoni.

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