Monthly Archives: January 2015

Murud Janjira : The Monsoon Bride of Konkan

India is a country which experiences nature’s blessings and fury equally. Largely know for its tropical climate, with harsh snowy winters in the north and crackling summers in south, it transforms into a young blushy bride during the rainy monsoons.
The western coastal belt of India also called the ‘Konkan‘ has some of the most beautiful towns with lush green scenery in the backdrop of rugged Mountain ranges. The mid-year rains bring relief from the scorching heat and purges the whole atmosphere. Mostly people avoid travelling during this season as rains are quite moody, the roads may get slippery and driving may become cumbersome. But then, whats life without some adventure and taking an off beaten path? I made a trip to one of the towns in Konkan on some very rainy days of the season. 

After a fresh downpour, women in a Konkan village carry pails of water back home

Murud, is a small coastal village which is around 165 kms from Mumbai. (source:Wikitravel). A drive of around 3.5 hours in mild rain thru the lush green Konkan villages got us to this small village. Known widely for its timeless 11th century fortress ‘Murud Janjira‘, built on a rock just off the Arabian Sea coast. Turning some pages of history, this fort has stood test of times of foreign invasions and was pride of the chivalrous Maratha warrior clan. Iam not sure if its open to visitors, as we did not venture there owing to heavy rains. However from our vantage point on Murud sea coast we got some great views albeit a little bleary.

View of Murud Janjira fortress from the Murud Beach
Murud enjoys an envious position on the coast. It has unspoilt golden and sometimes chalky beaches. We couldn’t get much glimpses of sun which was enveloped behind heavy dark clouds. The waters were milky and frothy, surprisingly quite clean. The beaches are lined with resorts and hotels; you can just walk up to them from the beach. In hindsight I feel it was such a great idea to drive here on a rainy weekday, with only few locals around, we got the experience of the Beverley Hill celebs, of having our own private beach for hours and getting some good photos of the beach with no human obstructions.

Murud Beach

Flanked by date palms and coconut trees, the reflection in the clear water was ethereal 

The frothy waves making myriad patterns. 

And who minds some company after being whole day by yourself.

Two is a company. Come down beside Me!

We don’t mind a nice stallion ride on the beach.

While its holidaying for us, for someone its just another day!
And this is the most welcome company…Some good Sun to dry our soaked self!
And here comes the Sun…I remember it from Madonna’s song ‘Rain’. So truly befitting the mood.
Iam not really sure whats more to explore in Murud. We took a walk around in the evening and could only find resorts around, quaint shops and streets with houses of the local residents. Maybe the more enthusiastic ones can find something more other than the Janjira fortress.

As for me, I loved getting wasted on the beautiful beach of this quaint fishing hamlet. I have never had a beach to myself where I enjoyed just lying down gazing at the pouring sky, in between blinded by the thick drops of rain, to let the waves wash my feet, unknot my body and my mind. This was one of the most unforgettable trip of mine in India which was not touristy, which was with friends with whom Iam just Me and was actually relaxing in real sense. And yes it was my first tryst with a borrowed Nikon DSLR. Looking at the photos…well not a bad start 🙂

As we get back to Mumbai, a quick shot on a very misty day on Mumbai-Pune highway.

Notes for Travelers :
* Location – Murud Janjira is in the state of Maharashtra, India
* How to Reach Murud – Drive from Mumbai or Pune, great roads. Hire a private cab is the best way.
* Accommodation – Plenty of options, one google search will solve this for you.
* Food– All types of food was available in our resort. Try seafood or local Marathi dishes.
Language-Annexed to Mumbai, so easy to navigate. Safely English and Hindi to get you thru

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Iconic Temples of Chennai

If one has to count the temples in Chennai, I am sure it will be one of the most herculean task. There is a temple in almost every street or neighborhood. Sometimes they are so enveloped between the houses and shops that you would know them only from the sandalwood fragrance mixed with some ‘sambhar’ aroma on the streets.
Chennai is referred as Temple City many times. Its almost a daily ritual of people residing here to make a visit to these temples. For those who are in the city as tourists, some of these Iconic temples should definitely be on your ‘Must See Places’. 
Iam wearing both the Hats while writing this post; that of a ‘Chennai-te’ if I may say so and of a traveler.
An earthern lamp lighted in a temple, flickering in the wind. The flame still holds strong, as strong as the prayer of the one who lit it.
Chennai is a 400 year old city, so are the temples. There are many known, and many lesser known temples which date back to the era of the dynasties of Cholas and Pallavas. Most of these temples have tall gopurams (towers) with innumerable deities carved and scenes depicted from many Indian epics.
Secondly most of the temples are made of stone, black stone which gives a very dark look to the temples. Even the deities in the temple are generally of black stone.
Thirdly photography is banned in most of them, atleast in all the ones I have visited. So you can click some shots of the temple exterior only.
Fourth, there are a whole lot of bikes, cycles, and vendors selling jasmine flowers, lamps, coconut s outside the temple, so you may struggle to get a full portrait photograph of the temple. So this makes the Third point difficult.
Fifth, most of the sanctum sanctorum are dimly lit. There are no bright lights, its only the glow of the earthern lamps that lights up the deities. So dilate your eyes well to capture the moment.
Sixth and very important, ‘Temple’ in the local language Tamil is ‘Koil‘ or ‘Kovil‘. Most of the temple streets will start or end with the word ‘Koil‘. Also, inside the temple most of the directions, entry, exit and the names of the deities are written in ‘Tamil’ the local language. At few places they are in English. So if you recognize Indian Gods, you maybe able to decipher whom you are praying to and choose the right prayer. But if you dont, like Me you can simply admire their beauty and pray with faith in their superpowers. 
Seventh which is important for all who are not very familiar with Hindu Mythology. Hindu Gods are highly polymorphic. They appear in various forms or avatars. A single God is worshiped in different avatars in different temples and have different legends corresponding to it. Yeah, it can be confusing, I get confused too but at the same time very interesting and mystical. Truly spells the prowess of ‘multivariate existence’ of Almighty (oooh whats that???).

Having stayed for four years in Chennai, I never clicked a single picture of any temple. It was like home and who clicks photos of your own walls daily.While leaving the city for good to move to another destination, I visited these temples again as a mark of reverence for what the city offered me. Here is my pick of the temples that i loved in Chennai. This is also my recommendation to all travelers and tourists visiting Chennai who are looking to soak themselves in some history and aura of spirituality.
1. Sri Ashtalakshmi Temple
In a very cluttered metropolitan city, this is a young temple situated at an envious spot on the seashore on Besant Nagar Beach. Dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi who in Indian mythology is the consort of Lord Vishnu. She is also an embodiment of prosperity, beauty and wealth. This temple houses her eight different forms hence its called ‘Asht'(eight)Lakshmi.Its a three storeyed temple. I loved its ‘vimana/gopuram’which I got a chance to have a closer look as the terrace was open and i sneaked some photos of the beautiful scenes sculpted in bright colors.
The Vimana of Ashtalakshmi Temple
View from the Terrace of the complete Vimana
View of the Bay of Bengal from the terrace of the Ashtalakshmi Temple
2. Parthasarathy Swamy Temple
This 8th century temple in Triplicane, Chennai is believed to be the oldest and one of the 108 Holy temples of Lord Vishnu. Built by Pallavas, it is dedicated to Lord Krishna(one of the avtars/forms of Lord Vishnu).This beautiful temple is replete with history. The presiding deity is ‘Parthasarathy’. In Mahabharatha, Lord Krishna was the charioteer(called Sarathy) of Arjuna, the Pandava prince(also called as Partha), hence the name Parthasarathy. The deity who is a charioteer sports a moustache and is believed to have scars on his face owing to the blows from the arrows of Bheeshma in the war.One of the very few Hindu temples in the world dedicated to Lord Krishna as a charioteer and Lord Vishnu being present with his three generations..
The Gopuram of Parthasarathy Temple on a very Bright, sunny day.
Photography is prohibited inside the temple. So the only photos i could click were of the magnificent Gopuram of the temple.
 3. Kapaleeshwara Temple
Maybe one of the most visited temple in Chennai, located in the heart of the hustling and bustling Mylapore. Dedicated to the most popular Indian God, Lord Shiva, this was built in 7th century. This temple also worships his consort, Goddess Parvati, depicted as a pea-hen and called ‘Karpagambal‘.The temple has a beautiful gopuram. Statues from the life of Lord Shiva galore.I have always loved visiting this temple though its quite crowded. Being in the heart of an old part of Chennai, this temple is surrounded by lovely shops offering some delicious South Indian food. My favourite is ‘Karpagam Mess’ which is a family run mess featured in many National Food Shows for its amazing simple snacks(referred as Tiffin) Dosas, Vadas, Khichdi etc. A famous Kanchipuram Sarees showroom ‘Rasi Silks’ is just a stone’s throw from the exit of the Temple.
Kapalesshwar Temple Mylapore, Chennai. Clicked from my phone Camera from inside the temple.

4. Sri Nitya Kalyana Perumal Temple : 365 days Wedding Festival
Built by the Pallava kings, this is also one of the 108 holy temples of Lord Vishnu. This temple has an interesting legend. It is believed that Sage Galiva had 360 daughters. Woo! Thats a whooping figure, so needless to say he was a troubled father with worries of getting his daughters married. The very benevolent Lord Vishnu came to his rescue and promised to marry one daughter a day of the year. On the last day the Lord converted all of them to one, who is depicted as his consort, ‘Komalavalli‘ in the temple.Lord Vishnu is in the form of ‘Varaha‘ (Boar) and holds his consort on his left thigh. 
Because of this legend, this temple is very important for all those who are facing difficulties in finding their beloved Life partner. Parents, single men and women, pay reverence here beseeching the kind Lord Vishnu to answer their prayers and gift them the much awaited fruit of marriage.
I have visited this temple with my family members to pray for the wedlock of one of our unmarried ladies and well, it worked(though after a decade of visits) 
*I havent clicked any photographs of this temple and neither borrowing from the web, If you search by the name of the temple, you shall find many images*
5. Marundeeswarar Temple
My last pick and my Best one!
Another pristine temple dating back to 7th century and one of the largest spread over 1 acre near the shores of Bay of Bengal. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva called as Lord Marundeeshwara who taught Sage Agatsya about some magical medicine. Hence this temple gained fame for all who wanted to get rid of diseases and ailments. They pray to the Lord for a speedy cure.
It is believed that Sage Valmiki stayed here and was blessed by the Lord. The neighbourhood of this temple is called ‘Valmiki Nagar‘.
This temple is closest to my heart. During my fours years stay in Chennai, i was residing at Valmiki Nagar, a stone’s throw away from this sacred temple. Visiting this temple was quite a frequent affair for me. The peace and serenity of sitting in its stone courtyard soaked in the chanting of hymns is inexplicable.
I still remember those countless evening when I used to sit under a tree all by myself, reflecting on my life, sometimes shedding tears. Well I wasnt ailing if you thought so, just hit by a low phase in life.
We all turn to God during such testing times, don’t we?
After all he is the only companion who never leaves your side; be it Sun or Shade!
Marundesswarar Temple Gopurams from the front of the Temple. It was a very bright and sunny day.
Temple Tank also called Sarovar outside the Marundeeshwarar Temple.
Shops and Stalls outside the Temple selling Rosaries, earthern lamps, idols and other knick knacks.

Note to the travelers:

* Chennai is the capital city of Tamilnadu, India. Its the fifth largest city in India (source ; Wikipedia).
It is very easy to reach here from any national and international destination. It has a large international airport.
Language can be a big challenge for first time visitors while commuting or trying to get your way in local places like temples, shops, streets etc
Commuting in Chennai is also not too difficult. Autos and taxis is what i would recommend to first time travelers.Word of caution : They can be very expensive at times.
Weather is always sultry with high humidity. You will sweat, sweat and sweat! So prepare accordingly. Best time to visit as a tourist should preferably be in last 3-4 months of the year.
Food : Chennai is a haven for food lovers. Food from all over the world has a place here. However my strong recommendation would be to try local and famous food joints serving South Indian food.*
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