Celebrating Shiv Ratri in the oldest city of the world.

vranasi

Varanasi also known as Benaras or Kashi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and is regarded as the holiest place in the world in Hinduism.

According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.  In Hindu cosmology, the city is considered the, “center of Earth”, and most religious activity here occurs around stair structures called ‘Ghats’.

Mark Twain described Varanasi as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.

Varanasi is a bridge or ‘tirtha’ between heaven and earth, a crossing point where Gods visit this world and mortals travel to the next. The city is known for its belief that any one leaving his / her mortal body here, goes to heaven in their afterlife. Its location on the banks of the sacred Ganges River also contributes to its prestige as an important site of pilgrimage.

There is possibly not a single month, when Varanasi is not preparing or in the midst of a festival. The city celebrates its festivals with such zealous fervour, that it is difficult not to get drawn into the carnivalesque atmosphere. Pick any month and you will find some festival to plan your trip around. There is never a dull moment in the city.

The city known as the spiritual capital of India, has one of the most important Shiva temples in the country and hence it’s quite natural that Maha Shivaratri (the wedding of Shiva & Parvati) is celebrated here in a grand manner. Mahashivratri, “The Great Night of Shiva” is considered the most significant event in India’s spiritual calendar.

kashi

The festival sees more than a million Hindus from all over India, converge at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

kashivishwanath-87_5

The city is thrown into frenzy as hundreds of small troupes carry bedecked Shiva idols in processions to the Shiva temples. The preparation starts early in the morning with a parade that starts from and ends at the Tilbhandeshwar temple. The procession lasts roughly about 5 hours and it is celebrated with loud music in the background and people consuming Bhaang (a form of marijuana legal and common in Varanasi) and dancing in the procession. As marijuana is considered as the blessing of Lord Shiva, a lot of people do it here for religious reasons. After the procession, everyone returns back to the temple, offers their prayers and perform rituals.

Out of the 88 Ghats in Varanasi the most popular one is the Dashashwamedh Ghat. It attracts a large gathering every evening, when a group of priests performs a synced ritual known as Ganga aarti -to praise and pray to Goddess Ganges with lights, Conch sounds and bell ringing along with Vedic chants.

dashwameda

The aarti is always carried out facing the river Ganga. It starts by lightning up the multi-tiered brass lamps, along with a well synchronised chanting of mantras and blowing the conch shells. The shells are known to sanctify the atmosphere. The other remaining priests light the incense sticks and offer it to the goddess in a clockwise circle.

Ganga-Aarti-at-Dashashwamedh-Ghat-on-the-banks-of-The-Ganga-Shutterstock.com_

Witnessing the Ganga aarti is no less than a spectacle. The energy around this daily ritual fills your core with peace and tranquillity.

ganga_aarti_as_seen_from_the_boatride_on_the_ganges

 

Maha Shivratri falls on 21st February this year.

 

-M

 

PC: AirPano.com;VaranasiTourism; Youtube;Indiatimes;

 

Travel Traits of an Aquarian.

Picking a destination for your next vacation should be simple. Ideally you should be able to tick off as many places as you can on the globe.  But if you’re looking for something a little more, let’s say, unconventional, how about choosing something based on your zodiac sign. For example an Aries probably thrives off of some sort of activity with an adrenaline junkie kind of element, or a Virgo who loves to go on well planned and executed travel itineraries, and an Aquarian who is always known to be unconventional, loves to immerse themselves in a completely different culture.

I understand that this may seem a little hocus pocus and weird, but why not indulge in it just for the fun of it.

Aquarius-woman

Let me just give you an insight into the world of an Aquarian (AKA ME) with this post today.

While children make wishes on rainbows, artists paint them and dreamers chase them, an Aquarian is way ahead; not only do they live on a rainbow they even believe in it!

Being an air sign, Aquarius beings crave the numerous rich and varied experiences that travelling has been known to offer.

It’s often been heard that the Aquarius prides itself on being unique and different— whether it be in dress, thought, behaviour, or even choosing a travel destination.

Knowing how determined, intelligent, and charming Aquarians can be, it’s not surprising that Aquarius travellers seek qualities in their trips that mirror their personalities.

Anchorage-Skyline

So, unexplored landscapes such as the one-of-a-kind and full of adventure over the permanently snow-capped mountains and volcanoes of the Alaskan hotspots are a perfect destination for that “inner-maverick” wanting to do things differently. With tons of culture, sophistication, and stunning natural beauty in the large port city of Anchorage, makes it the ideal location for sight-seeing or taking on traditional Alaskan rendezvous.

Machu_Picchu

Shrouded with age-old mystery, Machu Picchu, Peru offers a good dose of rich history, as well as the chance to breath in some mysterious Incan ruins. Travelling to this Peruvian citadel where mountaintops and archaeological wonders are all around, this awe-inspiring ancient city perched atop a high plateau deep in the Amazonian jungle would be the perfect getaway for the dreamy Aquarian.

tech museum

Having being blessed with loads of energy, a hunger for steady mental stimulation, and a love for innovation with a constant need to change the world, it really is not surprise that Silicon Valley, the Northern Californian technology and research hub is a fitting motivation for any innovative and visionary Aquarius being-the revolutionary, the genius, the scientist, the eccentric artist, the truth-sayer, and the ultimate inventor.

computer museum

Engaging in tours of the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, as well as long walks through the spectacular campus of Stanford University near Palo Alto fuels their inspiration.

northern-lights-finland

Always on the lookout for a world away from the daily grind of working nine to five, the enchanting Northern Lights, in the Land of the Midnight Sun— a.k.a. Finland comes closest to an utopian paradise for all Aquarius individuals.

A modern state with well-planned out cities and towns, along with pristine landscapes, awesome latitudes and vast spaces of ripe wilderness to explore and breathe in, offers a wintry, European experience that’ll fulfill any Aquarian’s childhood fantasy, and cast a magically powerful spell that’ll haunt the imagination and memory for years to come.

disney

Doing anything too ordinary or going anywhere too touristy will bore dear Aquarius individuals to the bone– so it’s important to keep these water carriers excited with a highly adventurous vacation. What better place than Orlando to bring out their inner child, and let loose the excitement in places such as the Florida Kennedy Space Center, the Great Barrier Reef, or, for little Aquarians, the Magic Kingdom and Disney World’s Epcot Center. There’s nothing ordinary about this place. It’s truly magical!!

Water bearers love to find solace in places filled with rich doses of spirituality, serenity, and harmony. Getting close to nature and indulging in unique pampering indulgences which take a load off their shoulders, leaves them feeling invigorated and beautiful.

Spa-Four-seasons

To calm their over active mind and always craving for more ‘alone’ time, enjoying a soothing luxury spa treatment at the Four Seasons Resort Mauritius, would perhaps top the charts. The “Let it go” is just an indulgence found few other places in the world. This signature Let It Go 8 Handed Massage treatment” originating in Ayurvedic treatment takes place in an overwater villa and is the perfect opportunity for the water bearer to indulge in an exclusive treatment, where four highly trained therapists work in synchronicity, like a “dancer’s choreography,” on the body to release stress, emotional weight, and offer a sense of total rejuvenation. WOW!! Can there be anything better than this?

Aquarians love things that are unique and uncommon more than anything else. Something that’s off the wall and unconventional, something peculiar that’ll blow their minds.

Hawaii rainbow

Natural wonders offer the ultimate experience these free spirited beings are looking for. It goes without saying that the hills or the oceans have an inspiring affect on their creativity, and the Aquarian positively respond to the calming effect nature provides.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Where you would like to travel to based on your Zodiac sign? Do share in the comments.

-M

 

 

PC;AlaskaTourSaver; LonelyPlanet;VisitSanJose;HouseofLapland;Tripadvisor;LuxuryMauritius;TravelAndLeisure

 

 

 

A photo walk through the charming lanes of Old Delhi

purani dilliPC:Deviantart

Old Delhi, the former walled capital of the Mughal Empire, and one of the world’s most distinctive historic quarters, never fails to attract tourists for its captivating energy and heritage walks.

Being one of the city’s most crowded and chaotic areas the sights, smells, and sounds fill you up with a sensory overload. The lively bazaars, ancient shrines,  monuments, tombs and forts, bustling bazaars, centuries-old heritage sites, and winding back alleys make you forget about the chaos , the dusty lanes and the innumerable people around to relive the rich history and the lost glory of the Mughal era.

old delhi

jama

UNESCO World Heritage the Jama Masjid-the largest mosque in India and one of Asia’s largest ,houses sacred relics of the Prophet Mohammad and an ancient transcript of the Quran. Built in a Mughal style of architecture with its Islamic, Indian and Persian influences, the mosque is known as “ Masjid e Jahan Numa”, meaning “a mosque that commands a view of the world.

Red-Fort

One of the most unexplored monuments of Delhi, spread Across 256 Acres Of land, The Red Fort, an icon in India’s struggle for freedom, has two primary entrances – Delhi Gate and Lahore Gate. Red Fort used to house the legendary Kohinoor Diamond in the Diwan-i-Khas.

 

meena bazaar

The fort’s entrance through Lahore Gate opens out onto Chhatta Chowk, aka Meena Bazaar once the shopping centre for the ladies of Mughals, has a long arched passageway that used to house the most exclusive royal tailors and merchants. It’s now a market area with many shops selling souvenirs and handcrafts.

 

gauri

Gauri Shankar Temple built in honor of Lord Shiva, has a lingam believed to be around 800 years old, as well as statues of Shiva, Parvati (Shiva’s wife), and their sons, Ganesh and Kartik.

 

digamber-jain

Digambar Jain Temple-The focal devotional room (first floor) has images and statues of revered Jain figures such as Lord Mahavira and Lord Parasnath. There’s a bird hospital on the temple compound.

 

sisganj

Sisganj Gurdwara, a Sikh temple built at the place where, in 1675, the Mughals killed Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru.

Cycle-rickshaws

chandani-chowk

Old Delhi’s main strip, Chandni Chowk-is in fact the heart of Old Delhi. It’s said that Chandni Chowk, meaning Moonlight Square, got its evocative name from the moon’s reflection in a large pond of water. Apparently, the pond existed in the square in front of the present-day Town Hall but the British built a clock tower over it (the clock tower collapsed in 1951). Gradually, the whole street and adjoining area became known as Chandni Chowk.

 

spice.jpg

Khari Baoli, is home to the largest wholesale spice market in Asia. Spices connected India to the West, and the market at Khari Baoli Road has been in business since the 17th century. You’ll get to see huge sacks of spices being transported and sold.

 

naugraha.jpg

Naugarha– In Hindi, naughara means nine houses and gali is alley. Naughara Gali is an alley where nine colorful Jain havelis were built in the 18th century. This little hamlet is complete with an exquisitely carved white marble Jain temple at the end of the lane. Its interiors have some magnificent murals and paintings.

 

kinari

Walk into a bylane and you enter Kinari Bazaar which specializes in wedding paraphernalia, such as glittering tinsel decorations and ornate bridal accessories and mainly jewelry.

 

ghalib

Ballimaran has wholesale shops selling a choice of specs, stylish sun glasses and lenses. Down a quiet lane stands an old dilapidated structure which was once a Haveli. This mansion was once home to Mirza Asadullah Khan, better known as Mirza Ghalib; one of India’s most celebrated and quoted Urdu poets. Now a heritage site under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the memorial museum displays the objects and other things used during those times to make it look like the actual dwelling of the poet.

 

books

Delhi’s largest books market Nai Sarak has thrived for decades by buying and selling old text books. Nai Sarak also has everything from fourth hand college books to textbooks for competitive exams, from brand new fiction to first edition Hindi non-fiction. In the midst of all this happy chaos, this road also serves writers, artists, scrap bookers and crafters. Writing and art material from foreign brands abound if you know where to look.

 

 Half the fun of visiting Old Delhi is getting there; the other half is its food.

jalebi

Jalebiwala, This jalebi shop aptly named, ‘Old Famous Jalebi Wala, has been around since 1884; having been in operation for the past four generations of the family now. A 140 year old sweet shop enormously famous for the piping hot, thick and juicy, freshly made jalebis that they offer.

 

parathewali gali

Amidst Old Delhi’s architectural marvels, rests the Paranthe Wali Gali- an enigmatic emblem of India’s culinary heritage serving a variety of the city’s classic street dishes paratha, a stuffed Indian flatbread.

 

daulat ki chaat

Known for the magical flavours, Old Delhi is known for the delicacies that one cannot forget for life. And, one of those dishes is ‘Daulat ki Chaat’-the dessert that melts-in-your-mouth and can warm-up-your-heart. Available only during the winter season (November-January). The special chaat uses milk as the main ingredient and the end result is a foam like heavenly soufflé.

 

dahi

Right close to Chandni Chowk metro station lies Natraj Dahi Bhalla a perpetually mobbed corner stand. It offers just two items- Dahi Bhalla and Aloo Tikki. Both of these are worth a taste.

 

lassi.jpg

If you hate summer then a refreshing lassi  is the best solution to cool you instantly. This creamy and refreshing Yogurt based drink is just out of the world. Served in one of the oldest shops Amritsari Lassi wala in Chandni Chowk there is a reason for you to put it on your “must try” lists.

 

1489060429-nahari-2

Where there’s smoke, there’s flavor – Matia Mahal street just opposite Jama Masjid Gate No. 1, has a number of street vendors selling Nalli Nihari, kababs and various non veg curries which will surely satiate your meat cravings.

 

 

If your world revolves around food, and you also like to spend time exploring heritage, culture and different cuisines then Old Delhi is one of the best places in the world to fulfill that desire.

 

🙂

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

PC: LBBDelhi;NDTV;Googleimages;Pinterest