Lonar: Geology, mythology, history and today

I eye the steep and stony descent with some trepidation. The trail, or what passes off as one, appears to be made for goats, not humans.

“It’s okay. The path is perfectly safe. Nothing will happen to you,” says Rajesh, my guide.

“That’s easy for you to say,” I tell him, as I place my camera in its protective case and put it in my backpack. As an afterthought, I put my cellphone in as well, not willing to take any chances with it while climbing down..

“Are you sure this trail is safe?” I ask.

“Not only is it safe, it is also the quickest way to descend.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” I mutter to myself, as I look around to see the vista spread out before me. Beyond the goat trail that is.

Lonar, Lonar Temple, Travel, Maharashtra, Kamalja Devi, Meteoric Crater, Alkaline Lake

The orange flags of the Kamalja Mata Temple can be seen as a speck

An almost circular lake, tranquil and pretty as a picture, is stretches out below me ringed with a thick green cover and dotted with temples around its periphery. This is the Lonar Crater Lake, which was created when a high-speed meteorite slammed into the basaltic lava flows about 52,000 years ago. The meteorite is believed to be buried deep within the lake.

Though the Lonar Crater was ‘discovered’ in 1823 by a British military officer, C.G. Alexander, it wasn’t until 1973 that it was found that the Lonar Crater was a one-of-its-kind. It remains the only meteorite impact crater in basalt in the world.

Continue reading

The Bassein Fort at Vasai

There is an uneasy calm at the break of dawn on 17th February 1739 at Baçaim, an island off the west coast of India. In the fortified part of Baçaim, the Portuguese Commandant, Sylveira de Menezes, who has been tossing and turning the entire night, finally gives up on trying to sleep and prepares to carry out his first inspection of the day.

As Menezes is leaving his quarters, he gets a message from the Captain of the night watch requesting him to make haste to the easternmost rampart of the fort. Menezes rushes to the spot to find the Captain and a sombre group of soldiers waiting for him. Without saying anything, the Captain leads Menezes to a spot from where he can look over the ramparts.

The early morning light reveals a military commandant’s worst nightmare — the Baçaim Fort is surrounded by enemy soldiers, the Marathas, who have managed to reach the outer fort walls under the cover of darkness. This is the beginning of the siege of Baçaim Fort. Initial attempts of the Marathas to secure a breach and enter the Fort are unsuccessful. When they finally do enter the Fort and hold on to their advantage, 3 months have passed and lives of 12,000 Marathas and 800 Portuguese, including that of Menezes, have been lost.

The Portuguese are forced to surrender and the treaty of surrender and capitulation is signed on 16th May 1739. The Portuguese leave Baçaim a week later never to return again.

Vasya, Baxai, Bacaim, Baijpura, Bassein, Vasai Fort, Bassein Fort, Portuguese, Fort of Mumbai Continue reading

The tulsi vrindavans of Goa

As per Hindu tradition, a house without a tulsi or sacred basil plant is considered to be incomplete. Tulsi is one of India’s sacred plants with rich mythological and religious associations. The tulsi is usually planted near the entrance to the house in specially made planters known as tulsi vrindavans.

Tulsi Brindavan, Hindu Cultural icon, Hindusism, tulsi Vivaah

A tulsi vrindavan outside a Hindu home in a hamlet located in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa

Cities, highrises and tulsi vrindavans have an uneasy relationship and cannot really coexist well together. As a result, it’s rare to see tulsi vrindavans in cities like Mumbai; in smaller towns and rural India, however its a different story and I’ve seen them in my various travels in India.

When I arrived in Goa this time, last year the thing I did not expect to see were tulsi vrindavans. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As it happened I saw quite a lot of them !

Continue reading

Qila-i-Akbari: The red fort of Agra

October 2011
It is almost noon when I arrive at Agra Fort tired, dehydrated, sunburned and with the beginnings of a headache.

It has been a long day that began before sunrise by queuing up with what seemed like the rest of world to see the Taj Mahal. Then it was onwards to Sikandra through terrible traffic and road rage incidents to see Akbar’s Mausoleum, and finally back to Agra to visit the I’timad-ud-Daulah.

It is hot and dry and the Fort is quite crowded. I’m exhausted and unable to concentrate on what the guide is saying. After about 15 minutes like this, I give up and decide to leave, with the hope that I’ll get a chance to visit Agra again and walk through the Fort gates once more.

Agra Fort, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Travel, Red Fort of Agra, Akbari Darwaza

That chance comes almost 3 years later. :-)

Continue reading

The Christian mausoleums of Agra

You know that moment when you are looking for something, but end up finding something else? Something you were not expecting to find? Something you didn’t even know you wanted to find? I had one such moment about 10 days back.

I was headed to Agra the next day for a conference and hoped to squeeze in a visit to the Agra Fort. While checking the Fort timings on it’s official website, I came across a link to lesser known monuments in the city. Curious to know more, I clicked on the link and my eyes were immediately drawn to the photograph accompanying the second entry on the page — a red domed structure with four minarets in each corner, not unlike a Taj Mahal, but red in colour.

Roman Catholic Cemetery 2

Wondering which Mughal prince or noble was buried in this very obvious example of Islāmic architecture, I proceeded to read the description. And then read it again just to make sure that what I had read was indeed what I read the first time.

The Red Taj Mahal or John William Hessing’s Tomb was built by his wife in the memory of her husband. If Taj Mahal is known for the love of a husband for his wife, then on the other hand, the Red Taj Mahal is known for the love of a wife for her husband…

This was no mausoleum of a Mughal prince or noble or even a Muslim; this was a Christian’s tomb located in the Agra’s Roman Catholic Cemetery. Reading about this rather intriguing place, I was surprised that I had neither heard of nor come across the Cemetery and the ‘Red Taj Mahal’ before, in spite of having visited Agra in 2011! There was only one way to remedy this. Visit it.

And that’s exactly what I do when I visited Agra earlier this month. :)

Continue reading

Why I haven’t quit my job to travel !

“Why don’t you quit your job to travel full-time?” is a question that I’m asked quite often.

When I created a separate Contact Page on this blog about 2 years back, it was for a better way to engage with my readers and those wishing to connect with me. Soon, I started getting mails from readers wanting more information about the places I had travelled to or wishing to travel with me in the future; requests for book reviews; invitations to events; PR agencies wanting my contact details for their database; people seeking permission to use my photographs and posts on other sites; people wanting advice on how to start a travel blog and monetise it…

But the most interesting mails come from a group of people who want to know my ‘life story’. In other words, the story of ‘how I quit my job to travel’. This group of people are usually in their early 20s, fresh out of college/university, have never had the experience of working in a job (but hate the idea of a job anyway), and have dreams of making it big in travel blogging / travel writing business. My reply to such mails is usually standard: “that they should read the “About” page on this blog which would tell them that I work full-time, and haven’t quit my job to travel or do anything else”.

The correspondence doesn’t stop here. The next mail usually comes with the question, “Why don’t you quit your job to travel full-time?” or a variation of this. Depending on the tone of the mail and my mood at that time, I either reply with a shorter version of this post or just don’t bother to respond. I know it’s bad practice to not reply but, frankly speaking, I’m fed up with these mails. I’m fed up of replying to people who are convinced that the best way to travel (or do anything in life for that matter) is by quitting their jobs.

I’m so fed up that I decided to write a blog post on “why I haven’t quit my job to travel”. Another reason for writing this post is because the Internet is full of articles and blog posts on how people have quit their jobs to travel or do ‘something meaningful’ (just do a simple search and you’ll know what I mean). There are hardly any articles on why one doesn’t have to or want to quit their job in order to travel or do ‘something meaningful’. In fact, I have come across only one such article so far. This post is a teeny-weeny attempt to correct that imbalance of perception.

There are many reasons, big and small, as to why I haven’t quit my job to travel; I’ll only share the three main ones here.

Continue reading