The Adiyogi.

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I would like to start with a disclaimer akin to the one which appears before any movies starts. I did not start the blog as a religious or mythological exercise. Having said so, there are times when you travel, the history of the place or a quirky story attached to it, adds a special flavor to the monument you are visiting. Rather than looking at it through the eyes of a “been there, done that” traveler, adding a dash of mythology, I feel, increases the aura of the place!

So the story goes…..

There was a terrible demon called Banasura who was troubling everyone on Earth. He performed intense penance and asked for immortality from Brahma. When Brahma expressed his inability to grant such a boon, he instead asked Banasura to choose a manner of his death. Banasura wished that if he had to die, he would do so only at the hands of a virgin.

With a sense of over confidence regarding his own immortality, he started harassing the people even worse than before. Unable to bear the pain, people appealed to Lord Vishnu to help them. On the God’s command, they performed a yagna so powerful that the Goddess Parashakti  agreed to come down to the earth as Punyakshi to annihilate the demon.

Punyakshi was a woman of extraordinary intelligence and capabilities. She lived in the Southern parts of India long long ago. She had such immense power of perception that she was considered as an oracle by the society. Akin to how Mirabai worshiped Krishna, Punyakshi developed a deep love for Lord Shiva and resolved to marry him and none other.

While meditating in Mount Kailash, the Lord came to know of her devotion and was moved. He started his journey down south to meet this courageous young woman and marry her. When the news of this reached the people around, they were worried because they would lose their mentor and guide when she went back with Shiva. The devas and Narada were scared that if the wedding would take place, then there would be no one to kill Banasura. Hence, they tried hard to dissuade Shiva from reaching Punyakshi.  But Shiva and Punyakshi were determined.

So, the Chieftain of the village, asked for an impossible kind of bride price- a sugarcane stick without the rings, a betel leaf without veins and a coconut without eyes.  As nothing was impossible for Shiva, he could materialize all the three without a bat of an eyelid.

Becoming even more desperate, Narada plotted.  He scheduled the marriage to happen before sunrise, citing that if the cock crows, then the time would be inauspicious for their union. Punyakshi, secure in the belief that Shiva would definitely reach her, prepared for the wedding with happiness and anticipation. But the elders of the village, egged by Narada, conspired against them and lit a hill of camphor on fire. The blaze was so bright that the village rooster confused it to be daybreak and crowed ahead of time.

Punyakshi got so upset that Shiva had failed her,that she left the place and went to the southernmost part of the land and stood there heartbroken and crying. She is now called the Goddess Kanyakumari, who waits eternally in the place, which bears her name. Learning this, Banasura tried proposing marriage to her. When she refused, he tried to force her hand resulting in a fierce battle, which ultimately killed Banasura. Peace prevailed on Earth.

Meanwhile, Shiva, who was equally upset about his failure, drove himself into a state of despair. He climbed the Vellaingiri mountains and meditated for a long length of time before retreating back to Mount Kailash.

These mountains are now aptly called “South Kailash”.

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Sometimes, it is difficult to ascertain where fact ends and fiction begins. There are so many such stories in our mythology which tread the delicate balance, and add to the mystery. Many are convinced that at the heart of a mythological story is an event that occurred very very long ago. Hence, in Hindu mythology, these texts are called “Itihasas”, or history.

For me, knowing a story and visiting the place have a special charm of its own. Just imagining a land hundreds if not thousand years ago, where Gods and supposedly immortal creatures existed gives me goose bumps.

Visiting the Vellaingiri mountains was one such feeling. Compounded by the magnificent, awe inspiring and majestic bust of Shiva (or Adi yogi, as he is called there), right in the middle of a circular mountain range, green, lush and covered with clouds.

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Just before daybreak, when you see the thick grey clouds, heavy with rain, passing silently behind the huge bust of Shiva, sway involuntarily to the rhythmic chants emerging from a small temple close by, hear the howling wind and feel the light drizzle of rain on your face when you look up at the statue, the feeling is surreal.

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This is one of those moments where time seems to stand still and you feel one with nature and its elements. Fact or fiction, travel surely gives you such near perfect moments to enjoy!

Have you ever had an experience like this??

 

 

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Six fun ways to explore Coorg with kids.

 

Solo travel seems to be the flavor of the season. Unfortunately, a lot of us have caught the bus, or rather realized that there is a bus, a little too late. At this point of time, the craving to just  take a long walk without a purpose, daydream and travel according to my own whims and fancies is as irresistible, as is close to impossible.

Almost all the books that I have read recently, a lot of blogs and newspapers give accounts of people who travel and explore places and generally enjoy being by themselves, coming back rejuvenated. The introvert in me gets mighty excited at this prospect because, I really really enjoy being by myself. But the pragmatic side of me knows that probably this kind of travel is only possible for me when my kids outgrow me and when my work responsibilities are lessened.

In a world of uncertainties and with my level of impatience, waiting so long to travel and see the world seems like a gross waste of time. Hence, to take the road often traveled, I planned to travel bag and baggage,with my kids and enjoy them, myself and the place all together. A tall order,but no harm trying.

Our first such sojourn this year was to Coorg over the weekend.

I had been to Coorg fifteen years ago and had fallen in love with the place. And as I had explored it then quite a fair bit, it felt easier to plan and navigate this time round. For the uninitiated, Kodagu or Coorg is a district in Karnataka, famous for coffee, spices and the natural beauty. The district has about five principal towns by name of Madikeri, Kushalnagar, Somwarpet, Gonikoppal and Virajpet, all at close quarters to each other.

Coorg, is usually considered a honeymooner’s,coffee lover’s and  backpacker’s paradise. Despite not fitting into any of the above categories this time around, we enjoyed ourselves far too much. Definitely, we made it our own family paradise!

Though we stayed surrounded by a forest and coffee plantations,this is how we made it one:

  1. Harangi backwaters:

We planned our stay in a jungle resort in Kushalnagar, right on the banks of the backwaters of the Harangi river. The only problem with this being the commute for the last stretch of the road, which was quite bumpy. But the resort was such a pleasure. Well maintained, and clean food being the basic two necessities for the kids, it fit the bill perfectly.

The resort provided boating and kayaking facilities in the backwaters, and a great play area for small children. For the older ones, there are huge playgrounds created by the receding waters of the Harangi, which served as badminton and volleyball courts.

Meals in the garden, watching the birds and the vegetation scored over Doremon, in their novelty value, hence, making my job of feeding my younger one easier and their tummies fuller.

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a view of the backwaters early in the morning
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a bed of soft green ahead of the waters.

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  1. Dubare elephant camp.

Situated about 15 kms away from Kushalnagar,is an elephant camp on the banks of the River Cauvery. Owing to the amount of people who visit it, it has developed a touristy feel with junk food stalls and others selling locally made handicrafts. Nevertheless, nothing can take away the happiness of seeing and touching the huge, but seemingly gentle beasts swaying their trunks gracefully about.

Alongside this, there are other things to do in Dubare, like still water rafting (as a compensation for those mothers with kids less than five, who are not allowed to be on the riskier but more fun version of white water rafting). The vast expanse of green all around, cranes abound and the rhythmic sway of the oars create a tranquil atmosphere.

Right in the middle, the boatman allows a stop at a place where the kids can jump into the water for a small swim  and enjoy themselves. There are also places in between where you can cross the expanse of the water jumping over boulders and play in the water. (I’m told this is only possible in the summer and winters when the water levels are low).

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  1. Trekking up the Bhramagiri hill.

The word trek here, is what I am using quite loosely. Near the Talacauvery (the birthplace of River Cauvery), is a hill Brahmagiri, which offers an amazing view of the mountain range around it. You only have to huff and puff a few hundred steps to reach the top. Carrying a small picnic hamper, plonking yourselves right on top of the world and having a bite, all the while watching the clouds pass next to you is a lovely experience. The top of the mountain gives you a view of three states , one on each side- Karnatka, Tamilnadu and Kerala(Though all you can see is mountains and lush green, making you wonder as to the farce of man made boundaries!).

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Picnic with views like this atop the Bhramagiri
  1. Spice farms.

Being born and brought up in a city makes for a slight amount of ignorance regarding the place of origin of many of the things that we confidently stuff into our mouths. Like the kid who thought that milk came from the closest milk booth and all that. Tucked away in an expanse of green, we saw a small board reading “The Indian institute of Spice research”. It appeared desolate, but on getting in, we met up with a research student who was doing work on growing vanilla. He showed us around huge plantations of spices right behind the building. Brown fragrant vanilla beans, bright yellow nutmegs with a burst of red within, peppercorns looking like a small bunch of grapes… It felt really good. Bye bye, spice dumbness!

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  1. Cycling through the coffee plantations.

They say that you know a place only when you know its by lanes. Cycling through the small roads of the coffee plantations, stopping over every time we saw something new was great. With almost zero traffic, we could stop to watch every bright colored unnamed flower, coffee beans, small bugs and spiders. Houses with chillies spread out to dry, curious dogs looking at us and birds calling out ever so often into the silence, make for a great experience. Quite safe for young kids, as there is almost no traffic. Most resorts offer cycles, hence you can enquire beforehand, instead of lugging your own around. The only risk here is the condition of the bicycle. Make sure you find out ones with the best brakes!

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unnamed berries between the plantations
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the dew finds beautiful places to settle on.
  1. The honey farms.

This was one thing which I wanted to  show my kids, but had unfortunately disappeared this time. On the way to Bhagamandala, on our last trip, we found a small dilapidated museum and a honeybee farm. The museum was dusty and had a weird smell, but was manned by an enthusiastic old guy who explained to us in great detail the history and the progress in the area of making honey. The museum was home to many artifacts and boxes in which the bees are kept. This time, however, the museum was not to be found. Have any of you seen it??

All of the above were really short trips saving us a lot of time to laze, relax and sleep of all the week’s tiredness.

As a mother, it was important for me that my children enjoy their trip too. And we realized that it did not matter whether the tv was on, or that we did not have internet for most part or that there were no amusement parks around, our weekend in Coorg was one of the most memorable ones in the recent past.

Myths are my thing!

The entry into Sirigere
The entry into Sirigere

Off late, I have been reading a lot of books on spirituality and mysticism. Probably, this is why I got thinking about how and why myths, legends, tales of kingdoms bygone are generated. Are these true stories? Or did they grow as tales of strength and valor passing from generation to generation,peppered with liberal doses of imagination of the people who had no better past times than story telling? Or were they trying to glorify these stories just to get a proxy ego boost? Somewhat like, “Though I have not done anything great, wait till you hear about my ancestors!”. The glory of past achievements trickling down into their blood, giving them the confidence to carry out with their mundane existence.

Which ever way it goes, the best part about these stories are that, they are interesting to listen to. And if you are like me, in a way that anything history and mysterious fascinates you, they can lead you into the past of your imagination so many hundreds of years ago, when levitating sages and magic potions were probably as common as roadside cows now!

I first had this feeling when I visited Hampi, in Hospete. The ruins of the Vijayanagara Kingdom, the plains, the rocky mountains, the silence and the fact that most of the city is so well preserved, make it easy for you to suddenly imagine those times when they would sell gold in bushels on roadsides, the swish of the King’s silks as he entered the Vittala temple and generally,the grandeur of those times.

The same with the fort in Chitradurga, where one look at “Obavvana Kindi”(the crevice in the wall of the fort named after Obavva ) is enough to push me into a world where Hyder Ali’s treacherous plan was spoiled by a soldier’s wife with a wooden pestle.

Recently, this feeling caught me when we went to an almost unheard of place called Sirigere, about 30 kms from where I live. What started as a long drive in the rains became a lesson in history and mythology.

Sirigere looks like any common village in the heart of malnad, with one road,a couple of houses,and a temple on the top of a hill.But what sparked my interest was this board:

The board which reads"Pandavas prayed here"
The board which reads”Pandavas prayed here”

Which reads, “This is the place where the Pandavas(yes, the same ones from the mahabharat), prayed”. Trudging up the hill, we found a makeshift temple and an over enthusiastic priest. The temple consisted of a mound covered in red with a trident and some rudrakshis wound around it and another mound next to it.

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In front of the temple on top of the hill
In front of the temple on top of the hill

The priest explained that we were actually standing on the top of a temple which had been buried underground. He showed us a closed trap door entrance to the temple underground, which was not accessible to visitors, as they had seen and caught a lot of them trying to steal into the tunnel in search of treasure! (Only if it were so easy!). He claimed that this was indeed the place where the pandavas prayed last before their exile ended. And that there was a whole sect of people replete with a swamiji (Godman), who had grown on and into that belief.

A stream from up the hill finding its way out of a cow's mouth!
A stream from up the hill finding its way out of a cow’s mouth!

He pointed to the other mound and said that this was the place that the swami took his Samadhi. In other words where he died. But the concept of this again, is part spooky and part exciting to me. Taking samadhi means that the seer would have known by divine intervention that his time on earth was coming to an end. At which point he would crawl inside a cave on a self imposed fast and meditate for days on end. There would be a lamp placed at the mouth of the cave, with instructions that, once the lamp extinguishes(which meant that the swami’s soul would have left his body), the cave would be sealed.  I had recently also seen Sri Shankaracharya’s samadhi in a cave of a hill in Kashmir! Again, this is impossible for me to imagine, but apparently happened quite often!History or fantasy?

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Parrots in abundance
Parrots in abundance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We become instantly suspicious about the fact that we can be in a place so famous and deep in history which no one has heard about, when he comes out with yet another explanation.” If we let the Archaeological Department into this secret, they would most certainly dig out the temple from underground and spoil its aura. Why do we need a scientific body to prove something that we know as true and believe. Hence all this secrecy!” Put that way, it makes a weird kind of sense. Who are we to burst the bubble, if it is giving solace to so many??

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He went on to show us the weapons which were apparently used by the pandavas, hands us a visiting card of the temple, complete with a website, which some techie from Bangalore(who is also a devotee) has created with a detailed description of the miracles which have happened in the temple and tells us about a cave right on top of the hill in which Arjuna meditated, and is off bounds to visitors(but not to him) due to the divine energy it radiates.

 

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Dazed and part unbelieving,we clamber down in the rain.One part of me wants to believe that I have indeed been living close to a very important, magical, mysterious,mythologically significant place.The fantasizer in me is glowing, and how!The rational side, plays spoilsport though. I wonder how the pandavas strayed so far from their course, in exile. Then again, fourteen years is a really long while. And they did not have GPS for sure!

I had once met a scholar who told me that most of the stories of bravery and valor recorded as history in our textbooks and the like had actually never happened in that exact same way. The people existed, and so did their brave spirit, but the story was, in fact blown out of proportion to impress upon the lay people, the strength of spirit! Being the emotional country that we are, any talk of changing the story would erupt into a fight or convert into threats for the scholar!

Hence, our myths and legends have stayed. And grown. And enticed me into their mystery. Fleetingly making me forget that there is a line between fact and fantasy. And that sadly,most times we need to boringly stay with the facts. For the rest of the time, there is places like Sirigere!

The many moods of monsoon.

It is finally monsoon again. After playing truant for nearly a month, it has started pouring cats and dogs. And how the landscape changed! Trees that were wilting have suddenly sprouted green. Stone paved paths suddenly have grass nudging from their edges. The skies are grey, waiting to open up at any moment. Suddenly, there are cranes aplenty pecking their way through green expanses of paddy without a care for the poor soggy scare crows, farmers working in the rain with plastic raincoats and sheets of rain making the road gleam.

The earth smells fresh and green. Forests look lush and waterfalls erupt onto roads as if to please us. Clouds float low and make travel seem dream like.

I love rain in its many forms. I love the slight drizzly kind, when the wind blows chill and you get rain in your hair, and you can walk in the rain without getting fully drenched. Long walks in such rain rejuvenate me. I also love the angry kind when the sky suddenly decides to open up and pour barrels on poor unsuspecting me, and before I realize it and can open my umbrella, it is done. I am soaking wet and still standing with the umbrella half open! It used to happen all the time in Mangalore, and used to come at the end of a hot spell which made me hot, sweaty and irritable. And there is also the insistent, consistent middle of the path rain which keeps on for hours at the same speed, neither too much nor too less. Granted, life becomes depressing then, but on the positive side, this is the best for plonking myself on the ledge of a window with a hot cup of tea, a great book and roasted corn.

If there is anything I enjoy more than rain itself, it is the opportunity of travelling during monsoons. This time, I had the pleasure of traveling along the almost virgin forests of Gerusoppa in Uttara Kannada district for the upanayanam of my nephew. I was so zapped by the natural beauty around me, that I did not want to blink for the fear of missing out something more beautiful. No words can do justice to what God, or nature or some supreme power out there decided for the world during the rains.

Hence the photographs. Enjoy the many moods of monsoon.

The elephant camp at Sakrebail, was wet and beautiful. The elephants seemed to be good spirits with the cold weather, and did not mind visitors.

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Sudden rains marooned a motor boat in the water. Looks exciting, like a wreck with treasures, waiting to be explored.

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A sudden burst of green along a paved path.

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The sight of the grey skies. The silver lining behind the clouds. donotwanttoblinkable!

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The back waters of the river Aganashini.

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Can you see the water fall on top, between the trees? A lovely view of Gerusoppa ghats.

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A walk in the clouds…

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There is small, old, slippery, mossy stairway leading to a lookout point just at the beginning of the mountain road. The top is really filthy, but the view more than makes up for it!

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Green carpet of paddy for miles and miles.

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DSC_0220A lovely temple pond with still mint green waters.

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Memories of kashmir.

Every time I visit a new place, there are a few things about it that I end up storing away between the folds of my brain. These memories are unique, customized and last me forever. There may be things which everyone remembers, important monuments  which I may forget, but these special memories stay with me and make my experience unique. Thanks to digital cameras, (the old ones meant that I lost quite a lost of my pictures because of over or under exposure) and now smart phone cams, most of what I want to retain comes easier to me. Kashmir gave me many such favorite moments which I wanted to share.

A few of the photographs have been borrowed from our friend Dr. Deepak, courtesy a better camera to capture the same scene as compared to my phone cam.

1.This photograph was taken early in the morning from our houseboat on the first day of our trip. It was a cold chilly day, and we saw this couple start their day of work as usual. They seemed oblivious to the scenery around them, concentrating steadfastly on their work of fishing. They worked in harmony, no words needed. The mountains in the back, the bluish light of dawn and still waters made for a beautiful click.

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  1. On the way to Pehelgaum, we spotted a roadside stream and stopped for a photo shoot. There were some girls from nearby villages watching us curiously. We were reluctant to approach them at first, wondering how they would react. Finally when we did ask them, they were really excited and did an entire photo shoot with us! I love the smile on the first girl’s face. Such happiness!

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  1. This was a lovely sunset at Nishatbag, Srinagar. All of us tired after a long day. We were supposed to go to a Kashmiri friend’s home for dinner. There was a little bit of unease owing to the fact that, the area we were venturing into was a little unsafe, within the old city of Srinagar. Most of us were worried, but had no energy to think of an alternative. So we just sat and stared. And then came across such a lovely sunset,that it left me spell bound.
  2. 20150504_190840Well, the old city did come across as a scary place. There were no street lights, small gullies, houses packed against each other, and an eerie silence. There were broken down dust coated maruti cars, old scooters and small joints where boys stood smoking cigarettes and staring at people passing by. But, on the plus side, we got to see an authentic kashmiri house, which is so different from the ones we live in. There are huge completely opaque gates in front of every house. There are innumerable neat glass windows, but all are firmly shut.Even if a few of them are, they hide the innards of the house with gossamer thin lace curtains from which you can see some partly hidden faces peering out! On the first floor of this house, there was a small kitchen cum bedroom. Then on, upstairs a room with a single light bulb and huge pillows to lean on to while sitting on the floor. The floors are made of wood and carpeted. Food is served on a mat, and we need to pick whatever we want sitting around it. But the food compensated for any fear that we might have experienced. Our hosts, in an attempt to make us feel comfortable told us that they had stopped eating non vegetarian fare three days ago, to prevent us from feeling uncomfortable when we ate from the same china! Though we had not even thought about this, we were touched that they had been so thoughtful and hospitable!Each dish was finger licking tasty and we felt royal washing our hands from a huge samovar (a kettle like apparatus made of silver).
  3. 20150504_211601This photograph is my favorite. It looks like the snow is starting to form a wave and trying to move on. It almost seems alive to me.
  4. DSCN0384We trekked on to a mountain about 7000 feet above sea level at Sonmarg. We were out of breath, cold and out in the open with frozen nose tips.Though it was beautiful, there seemed to be a hidden element of danger lurking somewhere. A sudden thought came unbidden that if we were actually trapped on to this mountain with no one around, it would have been really scary. This was when, as if on cue, we happened to spot a small hut across the expanse of snow. Our guide informed us that it was both a mosque and a temple for people who had strayed to pray for their survival. Unfortunately it was closed, but the image stayed.
  5. 20150505_151350This is a Chinar tree up close and personal. The leaves resemble maple trees and the color is a vibrant green belying the fact that the tree is at least 400 years old according to the board stuck on it. It feels so new and so old at the same time.
  6. DSCN0358 Kashmir is such a photographers paradise that you cannot help clicking away continuously. It is one place where you wish your eyes had inbuilt cameras to film what you saw continuously to remember for a later day. Choosing these few were a difficult task, so I hope you enjoy it and feel a little whiff of kashmir inside you:) .

Iridescent Sri Lanka

the old and the new.. a Buddha temple between the lake and a skyscraper behind! a view of Colombo
the old and the new.. a Buddha temple between the lake and a skyscraper behind! a view of Colombo

The first thing that stuns you is the amazing natural beauty of the place. And second, the cleanliness. Though the feel of the place is very Indian, there is something distinct about Sri Lanka which endears it to you. The locals are friendly, the cities are clean (even the countryside) and the greenery is a feast for the eyes.

When we planned the trip of four days, we felt that it might be a tad too long, but I was mistaken. The more I saw, the more I wanted to see.

Sri Lanka is called the tear drop of India. Though not one among the most popular destinations for a family to travel as compared to Malaysia, Bali or Hongkong, it definitely has its own charm.It is comparatively unspoiled by consumerism like other tourist spots.

One of the most surprising and great things about Sri Lanka is its cleanliness. Through the trip we saw vast expanses of greenery and fertile land which, though inhabited by people, remained extremely tidy. No overflowing trash cans, no garbage on the roads, no spilling of plastic waste everywhere, no stray animals! This is true even in the most remote of the villages.

Our first stop was Colombo, the earlier capital of Srilanka, before it was shifted to Sri Jayawardhanepura kotte! I know, never heard of the place before, never saw it either! Unfortunately, it was not a part of the itinerary.

Sri Lanka became a democratic republic in 1972, and also at the same time, ditched its old name of Ceylon. ‘Sri Lanka’ apparently means ‘Auspicious Lanka’, which is the name preferred by the locals,  with reference to the Ramayana. Apart from Ceylon and Sri Lanka, this small island has many other names like Sinhaladvipa (Lion Island),Ratnadvipa(Island of gems),Tambapanni or copper water (signifying the copper color of the beaches), Zeylan (as called by the Dutch), Serendib(named by the Arabs, from which the word ‘serendipity’ – ‘happy discoveries by chance’ originated). Whew!

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Buddha, Buddha everywhere..

Colombo, home to about three million citizens of Sri Lanka, resembles most large cities. Chaotic, lots of traffic and people, with one side laced by long stretch of beach. The influence of Buddhism is seen everywhere. There are Buddhas of all sizes and shapes, gazing serenely at you around every corner. Apparently, Buddhism made an entry into the island in third century BC. The south of the island is populated with the Sinhalese who follow Buddhism,and the north (the infamous Jaffna strip, home to LTTE and Prabhakaran), is populated densely with Tamils.

elephants at Pinnewala, taking a bath break
elephants at Pinnewala, taking a bath break

Pinnewala elephant orphanage, is at half distance between Colombo and Kandy. It is the largest orphanage for captive and handicapped elephants in the whole world. It has to feed about 80 elephants every day, each one of them eating about 100 kilograms of food! The kids enjoyed the thrill of feeding milk in large bottles to elephants.

kids feeding elephants some milk
kids feeding elephants some milk

Kandy is famous for its Buddha tooth temple (Dalada Maligawa). It is home to Sri Lanka’s most revered relic -the tooth of the Buddha, which was smuggled from India in the third century BC. It is said that the tooth is kept on display only when the island is struggling with a bad drought. And every time that the tooth has been opened from its resting place, it pours rain within 24 hours. This has, according to our guide happened thrice in the past twenty three years!

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offerings for the Buddha
offerings for the Buddha

We next journeyed on to Nuwara Eliya, which is the highest town in Sri Lanka. It is home to old colonial buildings remniscent of British rule, a temple where Hanuman landed first in Lanka, another temple where Hanuman’s footprints are etched in a boulder near the temple. There are many references to the Ramayana everywhere. When asked how the Sri Lankans consider Ravana—we were told that he was a good king and kept his citizens happy. He was neither given an exalted status nor labelled a villain. His foibles were just considered a part of the excess which almost every rajah is supposed to have!

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tea estates, water falls and wonderful weather
tea estates, water falls and wonderful weather

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a break for tea
a break for tea

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Climbing down the mountainside swathed with picturesque tea estates, beautiful and bountiful waterfalls at every turn and vast expanses of farm land filled abundantly with colourful plump veggies, we reached a quaint tea house. It gave us the view of a water fall and had fragrant Sri Lankan tea served in a house with white picket fencing straight out of an Enid Blyton novel and a perfectly manicured garden. Loved it!Tea, samosas and french fries never tasted better! Somehow most of my favorite moments center around food and nature.

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In Bentota, at one end there is fresh water..
and one end is the sea
and one end is the sea

Bentota was one the place we got unlucky. Supposed to be the epicenter of beach tourism and water sports, we were met with a heavy downpour-screeching winds, torrential rain and swaying coconut trees—a little creepy and somewhat scary! What little time we got when the rain subsided was spent on the beautiful, unpolluted beach and building sand castles!

how often do you see a railroad, pavement and highway, next to each other and just jumping distance from the sea???
how often do you see a railroad, pavement and highway, next to each other and just jumping distance from the sea???

All in all, Sri Lanka threw us many surprises. I realized there was much more to see in this land filled with contrasts. In times of stress now, I close my eyes and picture the lushness of Sri Lanka and let out sigh of peacefulness.

we somehow zeroed in on this quaint, culturally as we1ll as geographically diverse land.