Lord Karthikeya, known in Tamil language as Murugan, holds a special place in the heart of the Hindu natives of Tamil Nadu. In fact, it is the only state where we have observed really high importance given to the second child of Lord Shiva. In most other states, Lord Ganesha is held in high regard while Karthikeya gets a small sanctum somewhere in a corner shrine in major temples. In fact, so important is Lord Murugan to Tamil Nadu that they have the concept of Arupadai Veedu, or the six abodes of the Lord. This is comparable to Maharashtra’s Ashtavinayak, the Char Dham of Uttarakhand and the Shaktipeeths across India.
The Arupadai Veedu concept appears in literary works of Tamil poets and story writers who were staunch devotees of Lord Murugan. A good example is Arunagirinaathar’s work Thiruppugazh and Nakkeerar’s work Thirumurugaatrupadai. Both names are quite a mouthful for our non-Tamil readers. So let’s make this post easier and go on a tour of the six major Murugan temples around Tamil Nadu. Continue reading →
Between the late 17th century to the early 19th century, the Maratha empire had a formidable navy. Started by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as a way of countering invastion by foreign forces from the west coast of India, the navy flourished under the Peshwas with the able commandership of admiral Kanhoji Angre. Maharashtra’s coastline was particularly strong because of the presence of some strong forts along the coastline. While not all of them were built by the Marathas, several of them were captured by them and held for more than a century. Most forts fell to the hands of the British when the Marathas were defeated in 1818.
Here is a glimpse of the most important sea forts in Maharashtra.
While there are some really huge rivers in north India, such as Indus, Jhelum, Chenab and Beas, south India does not have perennial rivers or those with high volume of water all year long. Cauvery river is one such important river to both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Let’s take a tour of the river starting from its source at Tala Kaveri upto the point where it joins the sea — at two different places!
In trip India 360, we didn’t aim to travel by any theme. The goal was to cover as much of India as we could in one year, seeing each region during its best weather. After covering a large part of India, we could easily identify patterns among some of the places we visited. One such pattern is a Mahatma Gandhi trail. As we were reviewing our trip, we found that we covered a lot of cities important to the life of Gandhiji. A thematic tour around those cities forms a great blog post.
Uttarakhand is a large state, despite being carved out of Uttar Pradesh. It required us 50 days to see each of the its important destinations. This is because, the state is mountainous and it requires a lot of time to commute from one place to another. Also, there is something of importance at an average distance of every 40 – 50 km. To plan a trip around the state is mind-boggling. But we used a simple rule to plan our route. By the time we reached Rishikesh from Delhi, we had a solid plan for exploring the home state of Ganga river. While there are hundreds of places to see in the 13 districts of Uttarakhand, at the most elementary level, the state has just two divisions: Garhwal and Kumaon. Planning a trip where you cover one division followed by the other makes the task less overwhelming. Continue reading →
India is a tropical country, with half of the country lying between the equator and the tropic of Cancer. Summers are harsh, whereas the winters can get cold, but milder than what North America or Europe faces. But then, to the northern end of India are the Himalayas, where it snows heavily. Depending on where you are in India, the winter is as diverse as the country itself. India has places like Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, where winter merely means that the night time temperature may drop to less than 27 degrees celsius with a pleasant breeze. At the other end of the spectrum, there is Dras in Jammu & Kashmir, which ranks as the second coldest inhabited place on earth, averaging -20 degrees celsius in winter, with the record low being -45 degrees celsius. Depending on whether you just want pleasant weather or an adventure in head-popping cold, holiday destinations may vary.
In Uttarakhand, the towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar are the only ones that that see Ganga river in its entirety. To their east, several towns see the tributaries that go on to make up the mighty river. Several rivers make up India’s longest river that is considered a Goddess or a mother figure by Indians. But the three major rivers that play the biggest part are Alaknanda, Mandakini and Bhagirathi. All of them are in the Garhwal region, the region that forms the northern half of the state of Uttarakhand. At the origin of these three rivers are three of the holy pilgrimages which are part of Char Dham (the 4 abodes) desinations: Badrinath, Kedarnath and Gangotri. The fourth of the Char Dham is Yamnotri, which is the source of Yamuna river. The Yamuna river plays no part in the Ganga river system until much farther in Uttar Pradesh at Allahabad. So let’s ignore Yamuna for this post. We’ll come back to Her later.
Along with three of the four Dhams, there are 5 more places that are considered holy for a different purpose. These are the places where major tributaries joins forces to form a bigger river. These places are known as Prayags or Sangams. Since there are 5 holy unions, they are collectively termed as the Panch Prayag. In relation to the Char Dham, the 5 Prayags are less well-known, but they make up extremely beautiful destinations, especially Rudraprayag. Let’s go on a beautiful and interesting journey, flowing through the tributaries of river Ganga and pause at the places where She joins other rivers and becomes a bigger river. We will have a closer look at each of the 5 Prayags.