Posts Tagged With: holiday


Bangalore – Tiruvannamalai – Chennai – Mahabalipuram – 3 days (Dec 2013)

The drive to Mahabalipuram was by far the best drive of the trip. The roads were wide, and very well-maintained.  The traffic too was not too heavy, making this a very fast trip. The road to Mahabalipuram runs right along the sea-coast during the latter half of the journey, making a visually interesting sight, and definitely kept the kids occupied by making them watch out for the next peek-a-boo view! 🙂

Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a town in the Kanchipuram District of Tamil Nadu. This was a bustling port during the time of the Pallavas (7th Century CE). However, Roman and Chinese coins dating to the 4th Century CE have also been found, making this an active port engaging in trading even during the late Classical period. The place is today famous for the various sculptures dotting the Mahabalipuram coastline that were built by the Pallava rulers. The various styles of the sculptures and their themes (varying from Shiva and Vishnu idols to Buddhist influences) display the various influences brought by the visiting traders and craftsmen. The Pallavas had also brought back craftsmen as “spoils of war” from their wars with the Chalukyas during their reign. This is reflected in some of the sculptures that seem to echo those of Ajantha and Ellora.

The town was also referred to as “Seven Pagodas” by Marco Polo who named to such for the 7 Temples that dotted the shore. Today one 1 temple stands true, and is simply referred to as The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram now. The Shore Temple along with all the sculptures have been declares as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.

We reached the town around 1pm, and drove directly to the stone cravings and caves for which Mahabalipuram is so famous for. The caves are spread over a large area, and we couldn’t possibly cover it all, not with 2 kids in tow and a flight to catch in Chennai later in the day. So we decided to stop at the main open-air sculpture called the Decent of the Ganges.  The sculpture, made from 2 huge rocks placed side-by-side, shows the decent of the Ganga from Shiva’s tresses led by Bhagiratha. In fact there are 2 stories that seem to be connected with this bas-relief.



The first story is that of Bhagiratha (shown as an ascetic standing on one leg in penance) who preformed penance to Lord Shiva to make the Holy River Ganga flow over the ashes of his ancestors and release them of their sins. To break the force to the river reaching the plains, Shiva caught the river in his hair and broke it up into multiple rivulets. This was apparently displayed in a very graphic way in times part. there is a brick cistern at the top of the relief, and water was apparently let flow through the fissure in the relief to show Ganga flowing to the Plains.

Ascetic is placed on the upper portion of the rock on the left.

Ascetic is placed on the upper portion of the rock on the left.

Another story is that Arjuna from the Mahabharata performed penance to gain a weapon called Pasupata, Shiva’s most powerful weapon. Asuras had let loose a boar to kill him. Shiva took on the form of a hunter and stood next to Arjuna. Both shot arrows to kill the boar, and both claimed that their arrow was the one that killed the boar. They fought a duel to find who was superior, and Arjuna was defeated by Shiva. Shiva then showed Arjuna his true form and gave him the Pasupata weapon.

On one side of this bas-relief was a set of sculptures that depicted the agrarian life in (supposedly) the town. The sculptures were all life-sized, and were a treat to the eyes.

View of agrarian life of the time period

View of agrarian life of the time period

another view with lovely detail

another view with lovely detail

The other side of the bas-relief was an open lawn that led up to the other caves. Further along the lawn is a huge rock, seemly balancing precariously. This is commonly refered to as Krishna’s Butter Ball. It definitely makes for a great set of photos where one can pose as though they are either pushing or lifting the rock! 🙂 And no prizes for guessing who made that particular attempt! 😉

Krishna's Butter Ball

Krishna’s Butter Ball


Krishna's Butter Ball

Krishna’s Butter Ball

By this time it was already lunch time, and the kids were getting hungry. So we found a nice tree to sit under, and feed the kids.

The next stop was the Mahabalipuram shore. The temple was shut till evening, so that feature in our to-see list. Along the way we saw a lot of lovely stone sculptures. They were so beautiful, we couldn’t resist taking pictures. Some were idols of various gods, while a lot of the others were meant to be as decor around a house or garden. It was a wonder to see the sheer talent of the stone sculptors.

various religious idols in stone

various religious idols in stone


amazing detail in the sculptures, and a small table of trinkets in stone too!

amazing detail in the sculptures, and a small table of trinkets in stone too!

The path to the beach was dotted with shops selling various trinkets, stone items and sea food. The last was a bit of a problem with the over-whelming smell, but otherwise we enjoyed the (rather long) walk to the beach. The beach though felt like an anti-climax after that walk. It was really small. Being a weekday, there were not as many people as on a weekend, but it still felt crowded! We let the kids enjoy the water for 30-40 mins and then made our way back.

She sell sea shells....

She sell sea shells….

Just outside the town was a large Adyar Ananda Bhavan restaurant. We had a quick lunch, and left for Chennai at around 3.30-ish. We finally reached the Airport at Chennai around 4.30 pm in the evening. After seeing off my Sister-in-law and the kids, we started off for Bangalore at around 6pm. The evening traffic on the Highway was pretty heavy, and we finally got home at 12.30 am.

The trip holds great memories of amazing locales and fun-filled memories, and was an amazing end to 2013!

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Categories: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, Tiruvannamalai | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ooty and Coonoor

Bangalore – Ooty : 2 day trip (18th &19th July 2009)

For this trip, we went through a local tour operator to confirm the itinerary. All bookings were done through the operator, and hence we didnt really put in any effort in this regard.

We left Bangalore on a Friday evening by a KSRTC bus to Ooty from the Shantinagar bus stop. The bus left at around 8pm and we reached Ooty by 6am.

The only shock we got was when we found the hotel. This was apprently a “deluxe” hotel, and tour operator told us that it was a 2-star. Though, it was nothing more than a Lodge :(.

JLG Paradise, Ooty

However, the rooms were quite nice. The place was a little damp, but then it was the rainy season!

The first day we were part of a tour called the “Filmy Chakkar” tour. As the name suggests the primary focus of the guide was to let us know which were the movies, and in which languages, were shot at each of the locations! 🙂

The tour itinerary

The locations were truly beautiful, and the trip was worth every moment.

The 2nd day heralded a more extensive trip. We started at 9.30am from the hotel, and covered sight-seeing spots uptil coonoor. From here we took the Heritage Train back to Ooty.

This trip held a lot of surprises, the first being the Thread Garden. We hadnt heard of it before and were truly surprised with the amount of creativity, talent, and hard-work it surely had taken to create a garden from embroidery threads!

The Thread Garden

The next major surprise were the eucalyptus ‘factories‘. We had an image of a proper factory, complete with machines and a whole lot of people. The image alongside shows how these ‘factories’ actually look!!!

eucalyptus factory!

They are basically small huts dug deep into the ground to process the leaves and extract the oil.

The school where "sapnay" (hindi movie) was shot, as seen thru the telescope at Dodabetta Peak

The "Chaiyya Chaiyya" rail track, as seen thru telescope from Dodabetta peak

At Lamb's Rock

At Sim's Park

Lastly, there was the heritage train from Coonoor to Ooty. It reminds me of the toy trains that we all travelled in as kids at various nature parks.

View from the Toy Train - 1

View from the Toy train - 2

Ooty Station

We reached Ooty by around 5.30pm, and had to hurry a bit to reach the bus station.We boarded the bus by 8.30pm, and were back in Bangalore by early morning the next day, refreshed to meet the week ahead 🙂

Categories: Ooty & Coonoor, Tamil Nadu | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Agra, Mathura, Brindavan

Gurgaon – Agra, Mathhura & Brindavan : 1 day trip (27th June 2009)

This was the first holiday that we undertook after our marriage, and so has a special place in our memories.

We took this trip in a single day. Though we had originally planned for Agra & Fatehpur Sikri, we dropped the idea by noon, and changed our plans to Mathura & Brindavan.

We left Gurgaon by car at around 6.30am. The driver we got was well versed with the route, so we didnt really pay too much attention there :). We made 3 stops in Agra: Sikandra fort, Taj Mahal & Agra fort.

Our 1st stop in Agra was Sikandra Fort. This is the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.  This tomb has three storey towers on the four corners. These minarets are built in red sandstone and the interiors of the tomb are built in marble giving it a very splendid appearance. The place is rather serene and beautiful. The intricate inlaid work on the entrance is very eye-catching.

The 2nd stop was the Taj Mahal. It was quite a experience to be there. Most people wax eloquent about it being a ‘moving’ experience because it was a monument made with ‘love’. Well, it wasn’t a place that touched emotions. Probably because every 2 minutes you are accosted by people offer to take photos of you with the Taj (at a fee of course!).

True, the sight of the Taj is awesome. To be able to see it so closely was an experience of a lifetime. The sheer beauty of the structure and the work on the marble walls is spell binding.

The weather however, had not been the most ideal for that visit. It was burning hot, and literally for us, since we had to walk barefoot from the foot of the Taj to the entrance of the building… and back!!!

On the way to Agra

The Taj Mahal

The 3rd stop was the Agra Fort. Most of the place was shut down for either the military or for the Archeological Survey’s renovations. Only the Diwan-e-aam and the ruined prison were open to view.

The main problem with this place is there are no markers or pointers to specific locations on the site. If you are not very keen to looking through everything, then you will very likely miss the prison section where Shah Jahan was imprisoned. There are no cells remaining any more, but a small board, hidden from view, marks the spot.

The story goes that Aurangzeb had imprisoned Shah Jahan in this section of the Agra Fort, and Shah Jahan, old and feeble, used to look out of the window toward the Taj Mahal which is visible in the distance.

View inside Agra Fort

View of Taj Mahal from Agra Fort

One speciality of Agra that is a must try is the petha. Made from white pumpkin, its amazingly delicious. You get it in many flavours as opposed to the simple white one you get everywhere.

We headed toward Mathura after this last stop at Agra.

Mathura is known for being the birth-place of Lord Krishna. The temple here is under high security since it shares a wall with a large mosque. So, everywhere you have security guards, and nothing is permitted into the temple premises.

There is a narrow path within the temple complex that leads to the prison cell where the Lord was born. It’s a very different experience altogether, standing in that small cell.

We followed this up with another side trip to Brindavan. Here we were not sure where we were going. The driver just stopped the car and told us to go straight to ‘the temple’. This turned out to be the temple of Shri Banke Bihari Maharaj, or  the Boy Lord Krishna as he is called here.

We walked through a bustling marketplace winding through small gallis to get to the temple. The streets here sell either offerings to the Lord or food items. The rich smell of sweetened milk permeates the air. Lassi is sold in small clay jars, and is normally topped with a thick layer of cream. One jar of Lassi can keep hunger away for at least 2-3 hours! One must certainly forget the words “diet”, “calories” and “weight’ ;).

The temple was bursting with people. Apparently we had reached during some festival, so there was hardly any standing space.

During the aarti, the priests in the temple keep shutting the curtains every 10 mins or so. There is a legend which goes to tell how a princess, on a  pilgrimage to the temple,  was so enamoured with Banke Bihariji that she wanted to stay with him for the rest of her life. But she was forced by her family to return to her kingdom. Bihariji was touched by the princess’ devotion, and followed her to her kingdom. On being found missing from the temple a frantic search was conducted, and Bihariji was found in the princess’ house. He was then coerced back to the temple by his devotees who wanted to visit him.
So till this day, a curtain is dropped over Bihariji, so that no eyes can gaze on him too long and melt in devotion.

There is also an ISKON temple here, which is said to be very beautiful. But we had to get back, so we opted not to visit the temple.

We reached our residence by 10pm, contented.

Categories: Agra, Mathura & Brindavan, Rajasthan, NCR & UP | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments