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.

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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 !

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3 churches and a basilica: Exploring Bandra’s Christian heritage

It’s a little before 7 on a muggy Saturday morning in March earlier this year.

At Bandra’s Basilica of Our Lady of The Mount, otherwise known as Mount Mary, the morning service is in progress. The stalls outside the Basilica are already open for business. At that time of the morning, there are hardly any people out on the roads; an occasional rickshaw, car or jogger pass by stopping for a quick prayer before going on their way.

Mount Mary, Churches of Bandra, Mumbai

A jogger stops to say a quick prayer outside Mount Mary

I had wanted to attend the morning service at Mount Mary, but the bus that got me to Bandra from Navi Mumbai got delayed. Not wanting to enter the church midway through a service, I decide to wait at the Oratory of Our Lady of Fatima, which is across the road from Mount Mary.

With me is a friend and together we plan to explore Bandra’s Christian heritage that morning by visiting some its places of worship. I pick up a pamphlet on the history of Mount Mary from one of the stalls outside the Basilica and settle down on the steps of the Oratory to read.

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Diwali markets: Lights, glitter and crowds

It’s that time of the year again. Diwali’s here (and at the time of publishing this post, almost over).

I don’t like Diwali very much. I hate the firecrackers and noise, the smoke and pollution it brings with it leaving me ill by the time the festivities get over. It’s a time I get all irritable and morose and develop a Scrooge-like persona. Well, not really, but almost.

The only saving grace about Diwali and also the only thing I like about this time of the year is the Diwali market that springs up all over — stalls selling lanterns, clay lamps, sweets, flowers, rangoli powder, clothes … So, every year, the week before Diwali is for walking through the various markets in the city and enjoying the buzz, the colour, the wares on sale and sometimes buying them as well. Like this set of beautiful diyas I bought a few years back.

Clay diyas, earthen lamps, Diwali diyasThis year, too, was no different. So amidst stocking up on my anti-allergens and inhalers in readiness for Diwali, I also explored the markets in Chembur, Matunga and Vashi. For the first time, I also took pictures, thanks to my new smartphone with a smarter camera. :)

Come, see what fascinated me in the markets and duly captured by my camera phone. :)

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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. :-)

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