Shanti Stupa

Postcard : Shanti Stupa, Leh

The Shanti Stupa has become synonymous to Leh, and we thought of posting one of our photographs of the popular landmark. The stupa provides 360 degree views of the Leh landscape. Even with numerous tourists visiting the Stupa, it is really quiet around other than the sound of the strong winds that seem to blow away your woolen scarves and hats.

We were actually pretty lucky to have no tourists around when taking our pictures. It was probably due to the strong gusts of winds that literally froze our fingers, and made it extremely challenging to take pictures.

Shanti Stupa

Note: Look at the snow-capped mountains on to far right of the image. You can see the Khardung-La pass, arguably the highest motorable road in the world.

Read more about Leh on our blog.

Take a virtual tour into the peaceful Leh monasteries with us.

Also check out our postcard of the popular Thiksey Monastery and a Yellow Hat monk performing his prayers..



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Chillum Ganja (Marijuana) buddies

Sadhus of Kumbh

Kumbh is a great once-in-a-lifetime experience. For a photographer, more so. With such a huge gathering of people, you are bound to find interesting characters. But what makes for the best shots are the Sadhus at Kumbh Mela. The Sadhus and Naga babas were one of the main reasons we wanted to visit the Kumbh Mela. This post contains some of our shots from the Kumbh Mela.

Chillum Ganja (Marijuana) buddies
Chillum Ganja (Marijuana) buddies

These two Sadhus were in a happy mood and smoking ganja. Check out their chillum smoking shots in our attached ebook.

Sadhu we met along the Ram Kund, Nashik
A sadhu we met along the Ram Kund, Nashik


Hotels in Ujjain

As you progress towards the Akhada camps, you can spot numerous Sadhus camped up along the route. Most of them ask for money in exchange for blessing their devotees.

Sadhu camped up on the sidewalk
Sadhu camped up on the sidewalk

Some Sadhus are private people who do not like talking to people, some like to charge for being photographed. There are a rare few who are plain happy and love to be photographed.

Happy to be photographed
Happy to be photographed

If you are interested in viewing more such shots from our Kumbh Mela visit, subscribe below and get a free copy!




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Depiction of Megalithic Burial Site in Anegundi

Unearthing Pre-historic Rock Paintings of India

India is supposed to have the third largest concentration of rock art, after Australia and Africa! And yet how many of us have actually heard of these rock art sites, let alone visit one? It does go to show the need to educate people about India’s pre-historic heritage as well as popularize these sites.

While researching about the pre-historic rock art in India, I realized that they are spread across most parts of India: Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, North East, Kashmir etc and yet it was difficult to find information about these sites on State tourism sites. The only information we found were research journals or papers published by Indian historians or researchers. For a traveler, the reports are pretty technical. Also the actual sites are not easily accessible and sometimes hard to find even.

What is Pre-Historic?

We do not want this to be a history lesson but just want to give readers an idea of what we want to convey here. So trying to explain relevance of some technical terms in easily understandable language.

Pre-historic literally means something so old that it precedes recorded history. It would denote an era when there would most probably be no written language, and hence we can learn about these time periods only by other forms like sculptures, carvings, pottery, weapons or art/paintings.

Pre-historic era is divided between different time periods:
Palaeolithic Age : Early Stone Age; Before 10,000 BC, marked by introduction of basic stone tools
Mesolithic Age : Middle Stone Age; 10,000 to 5000 BC
Neolithic Age : New Stone Age; Beginnings of farming

What is a Rock Art?

Rock art is a form of painting or carving that is done on massive rocks or caves as a canvas. Since in ancient times, people lived inside caves and had huge rock formations around them, it can be assumed that they took up painting or carving (using natural colors from leaves and flowers) as something to pass their time.

Rock art from the pre-historic times are extremely useful in understanding an era of which there is no written record. We can learn a lot about the beliefs of the people, any kind of rituals that they followed, the type of animals found in the area, etc. The most popular Indian rock art is from Ajanta and Ellora, which although ancient are not from pre-historic times.

Bhimbhetka : UNESCO World Heritage Site

The most well-preserved and probably most popular amongst the India pre-historic rock art are those in Bhimbhetka near Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh). The rock shelters and cave paintings have been accorded a World Heritage Site status, and have been quite well-maintained by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI).

There are official guides available who can give you a tour of the site. There are elaborate paintings like the “Zoo Rock” which shows paintings from various eras layered over one another. The paintings evolve from being mere stick figures to elaborate depictions of rituals and war scenes.

Other Madhya Pradesh Rock Art Sites

Madhya Pradesh has a large number of recorded rock painting sites including Shamala hills, Pachmarhi, Panna and Rewa. Dr Meenakshi Dubey Pathak is recognized to have done a lot of research and fieldwork around these sites.

Anegundi, near Hampi (Karnataka)

Ten foot serpent cave painting in Anegundi
Ten foot serpent cave painting in Anegundi

Before our trip to Hampi we had read about the cave paintings in Anegundi and made it a point to visit them. It was a real task to find the location as the guides weren’t fully aware of them. There are no signs that guide you to the cave paintings site and you are left to the complete mercy of the guide. The approach to the caves is through paddy fields and then trekking up some barren boulder-laden areas. Right up until you reach the caves, you can never tell there are these paintings hidden in these fields.

There are two sets of cave paintings located opposite to each other. The caretaker does not speak English, so understanding the paintings is difficult. We wrote about the cave paintings in a separate post on Hampi.

Chhattisgarh

Recently there have been reports of some unusual cave paintings found in Kanker district of Chhattisgarh. These paintings have been dated to at least 10000 years back. Archaeologist Bhagat involved in researching this site has hypothesised that people from these regions might have been in contact with alien civilizations! Taking a look at the cave paintings sure will make you believe so!

10,000-Year-Old Depictions Of Ancient Aliens And UFOs Discovered In India – Archaeologists Say

It is believed that there are many such rocks hidden in the forests all over the state. The Chhattisgarh State Department of Archaeology and Culture is supposedly planning to get in touch with NASA and Indian space agency to explore further, if reports are to be believed.

The theory about Ancient Aliens is not new. We have been really fascinated by these theories where certain section of researchers and historians believe that certain structures like the Pyramids or Stonehenge were built with the help of aliens, and pre-historic man was in close contact with aliens. Whether you believe in this theory or not, it does make for some interesting stories! It is the first time that we have heard about Ancient Aliens theory in India, and its fascinating!

Another archaeologist Hari Singh Chhatri has reportedly found unique rock art from dense forests of Korba, which he believes to be from the period of the Ramayana.

Rest of India

There are several other pre-historic rock painting sites showcasing art from tens of thousands of years back. Some other sites that find mention but have not been on the tourist map:

Kaimur, Bihar : http://www.bharatonline.com/bihar/art-craft/rock-painting.html

Tejgadh, Baroda : http://indiatogether.org/photo/2003/bhil.htm

Leh, Karu Petroglyph site : http://www.outlooktraveller.com/photo-features/petroglyphs-rock-of-ages-1004842
http://www.academia.edu/2563450/STUPAS_IN_PETROGLYPHS_A_LIVING_HERITAGE_OF_LADAKH

Maharashtra : https://buddhistartnews.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/kondane-cave-art-depicts-myth-and-daily-life/
http://www.academia.edu/13013981/Maharashtra_Rock_Art

Note: The most consolidated information that I could find on the rock paintings of India was with the Bradshaw Foundation.

We definitely will be planning to visit many of these sites in the future, and hope the ASI and state tourism boards try to assimilate these sites in the Tourism maps and websites, giving history-lovers like us a new aim to explore this different side of India.

 

Disclaimer: We are not experts in the field of archaeology or history. We are just making an effort to make the masses aware of India’s unique pre-historic locations.



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Here is your free “Sadhu Portraits from Kumbh Mela”!

Download your free “Sadhu Portraits from Kumbh Mela” by clicking on this link.

Please leave your reviews, queries, praise or rants about the ebook in the Comments section below! Spread the word on Social media using the icons below.




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Spring Postcards from Skagit

It was our first time viewing such huge and lush farms of daffodils and tulips, and we were completely awestruck! No wonder Skagit, Washingon, makes it to the National Geographic “Best Spring Trips 2016”. We got some breathtaking views of the blooms and converted the best ones into postcards.

Daffodils at Roozengarde
Daffodils at Roozengarde

 

Tulips at Tulip Town, La Conner
Tulips at Tulip Town, La Conner
A young girl running across tulip fields
A young girl running across tulip fields


Hotels.com Canada: $99 or Less




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The ‘Unpleasant’ Holi

Holi in India, as we know is widely popular. The colors, the festivities, the food and the fun, the complete package. During our childhoods, we used to play with our pichkaris (water pistols), for hours together and splash water balloons at friends. As we grew older, we realized that people indulge themselves in different kind of ‘celebration’ by getting high on Bhaang, which is almost synonymous with Holi nowadays. Well, as long as it’s for fun and does not harm others.

Last year, the day of Holi festival in India was the culmination of our epic 10 day road trip which we took from Mumbai to Hampi and back. Early in the morning we left from our Hotel in Badami towards Koyna in Maharashtra for a pit stop before we proceeded for Mumbai the next day. As soon as we left the small town of Badami, we were greeted with spectacular views of the boulder shaped mountains which are typical of the region, and along with those views we were greeted by some hooligans on the highways. Not once, Not twice, Not thrice…more than 10 times.

They were ‘celebrating’ Holi in their own fashion, stopping all vehicles on the highway using large stones, boulders and even barbed wires on the highway. And once the cars, stop asking money to buy some booze or Bhaang for celebrating more. We stopped once, tried to maneuver our car slowly around the rocks and at the same time not heeding to their request of giving money. Second time around, we politely refused again in sign language as we were scared to pull down our car windows, seeing the drunk angry mob of men. When we used to pull our car away from the roadblocks without giving them money, they angrily threw stones at our car.

After a point of time, we were just furious! They were not kids, not teenagers high on festivities. They were middle aged men, with no common sense or respect. All they wanted was money from strangers for their booze.. and all in the name of such a beautiful, pious festival of Holi.

There is a saying in India – ‘Bura na mano, Holi hai’, which means – ‘do not mind anything, as its Holi’. Well, there is a limit to it. If someone is hurting us, our families, throwing rocks at our car and making all possible efforts to ruin a wonderful road trip; I will mind! Post this incident, we decided not to take any road trips during the Holi time in India. I still want the memories of Holi festival to be fun filled with colors and food, and would want to stay away from any unpleasant incidents.




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A kid performing an Irish dance with enthusiasm

Seattle St Patrick’s Day Celebrations 2016

We witnessed a St Patrick’s Day celebration for the first time in Seattle. The crowd’s exuberance and the excitement of the performers helped us feel a part of the gathering.

Irish Sports
Irish Sports
Marjorie Dwiggins carving leather at her stall
Marjorie Dwiggins carving leather at her stall

See Marjorie Dwiggins’ amazing hand crafted leather here.

An Irish singer performing on stage
An Irish singer performing on stage
Irish Lego display and kids' activities
Irish Lego display and kids’ activities
A kid performing an Irish dance with enthusiasm
A kid performing an Irish dance with enthusiasm
Brilliant performance by a group of Irish kids
Brilliant performance by a group of Irish kids
Display of "Carbony Celtic Winds" wind instruments
Display of “Carbony Celtic Winds” wind instruments

Visit the Carbony Celtic Winds collection online.

The Irish band at the Closing Ceremony
The Irish band at the Closing Ceremony
Amazing participation from the community
Amazing participation from the community




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Affimity

Affimity : Relevant Conversations, Less Chatter

Affimity is a pleasant relief in the world of social media clutter. Its tag line that states “Social Networks Reimagined” aptly defines what Affimity brings to the table. Any social media conversation that happens over Affimity is confined to the relevant channel.

So if I being a travel blogger want to share my travel experiences, Affimity makes sure that I am heard by travel enthusiasts and not a whole bunch of people who are not really interested in travel. They have done this by segregating conversations into buckets called “Channels”. When you subscribe to Affimity, you select which channels you are interested in, e.g. Food, Travel, etc., limiting you to have meaningful conversations and subscribe to relevant user generated content. And yes, I call it a conversation and not post because Affimity gives you the ability to respond and interact with each other.

Affimity Channels
Affimity Channels

An additional feature that I really like is the “Questions” section of each channel. People can ask questions related to the channel you are subscribed to, for e.g. “Which is the best place to visit in India in March?” and they will receive response from like-minded people. This adds to the conversational element of Affimity.

For Travellers / Travel Enthusiasts

Those who are looking to learn more from personal experience of other travelers and go beyond the standard travel articles found all over the web, Affimity is a great place to get user-generated content from people’s first-hand experiences. Affimity users can subscribe to interest based channels that they are interested in and further follow other users who they think post interesting content.

Users do not have to go looking for other travelers and writers all over the web. Finding relevant travel blogs otherwise needs some research and you are still not certain to find the ones whose writing style you can connect with. Facebook lets you make groups but there are numerous groups out there that it gets difficult keeping track sometimes. Affimity shows you only targeted profiles you would love to follow.

For Bloggers

As a blogger, having explored Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, trying to learn growth hack tips on social media, Affimity is such a pleasant relief. I have gained more social media followers through Affimity in just a month than I have done yet on Facebook and Instagram, even after putting in so many futile hours of marketing efforts on Facebook and Instagram. In Affimity it is just about putting in your content and the relevant channel subscribers can hear you.

Twitter is about finding the right hashtags and even then creating a buzz is a challenge. It takes a lot of time to learn tricks for the platform. Instagram is another tough nut to crack. Even with good photographs, it takes a lot of time to increase your account followership and reach relevant readers. Travel bloggers who are good storytellers but lack photography skills sometimes do not gain much from Instagram.

In Facebook you need to join the right groups to be connected to other influencers and relevant bloggers. Even then there are so many that you sometimes lose track of them. Joining such groups also does not really mean an increase in your followership. Reaching your target followers is extremely difficult and time-consuming.

Buzz Feed
Buzz Feed

It is much easier to get noticed on Affimity than on any other social media website, sans any additional marketing efforts. Affimity is an open social platform unlike Facebook which does not display your accounts anywhere, other than when you pay them for marketing purposes. With Affimity, every time you post your content, it comes up on the channel “New” section and each conversation that really picks up with the users comes up in the “Buzz” section. It’s as easy as that!

Channel Leaderboard
Channel Leaderboard

A blogger’s life is simplified a little bit by Affimity by helping them reach targeted followers, courtesy their interest based channels. All a blogger now needs to do is produce good content. Producing some good content at regular intervals and getting a good “Buzz” also helps a blogger to be ranked on the “Channel Leaderboard”, which is great motivation and not to mention great marketing for a blogger sans any additional marketing efforts or spend.

Affimity Profile
Affimity Profile

For Brands

Although I have not yet seen many brands using Affimity, I believe it would help cut the clutter for them as well. It would help them reach their target audiences to promote advertisements or brand messaging. It would also help them reach the right influencers for each interest based channel. Right now in India it is difficult to identify and reach out to influencers in many categories. Affimity, with its targeted channels, Channel Leaderboard and a display of each user’s Affimity user level and followership, can help brands identify influencers for each category.

So check out my Affimity profile and give it a try yourself:




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Mahant Leela Giri ji

In Search of the Sadhavis of Kumbh

This International Women’s Day there has been a lot of talk over gender equality. In our last post for Women’s Day we talked about everyday ordinary women. This post is about a group of women also called Sadhavis (holy women) or Sanyasins (women who have renounced the world) whom we met at the Nashik Kumbh.

Mahant Prem Giri ji
Mahant Prem Giri ji

Before leaving for the Nashik Kumbh I had read in the papers that the Sadhavis were asking for a separate Akhada and a separate location to stay exclusively for women. But their request was denied. We were pretty interested to see how did they then manage to attend the Kumbh and where did they stay exactly!

As we set about in search of the female ascetics at Trimbakeshwar, we came to immediately understand that the locals did not know much about them. Even our experienced guide could not tell where the Sadhavis were staying. But we were determined to find some of them and talk to them if possible. Our guide explained to us that the Sadhus weren’t much into talking and we might have to shell out some money to photograph them. We had somewhat of a different experience. Probably having a female photographer helped!

Mahant Maya Giri ji
Mahant Maya Giri ji

The first two Sadhavis we spotted (Mahanta Maya Giri ji and Mahant Prem Giri ji) were seated along with two Naga Sadhus inside a hand-built tent. The Sadhus were pretty interested in being photographed and wanted to chat with us but the Sadhavis weren’t much of talkers. They just observed us as the Sadhus carried on with some poses for the cameras. Slowly as we started to chat a bit more, all of them got pretty comfortable with us. They invited us for some tea and even offered us to share their tent if we needed to stay back at Trimbakeshwar for the night.

This interaction made us a bit more confident for our next encounters. The next two Sadhavis we came across, Mahant Shanti ji and Mahant Leela Giri ji, were again sitting in a tent with another Juna Akhada Sadhu (not a Naga). This time we were much more comfortable from the beginning and so were they. The ladies called me into their tent and we share some stories about Madhya Pradesh, as they were both from the state. They told us how they will be spending the whole of 2016 visiting the different Kumbhs and staying at each location for about two to three months. They also gave us tips on where we could get a better photo of the Naga babas, for eg the bhandaras in the morning were a good place to spot the different babas like Jata wale baba (Baba with dreadlocks), Goggle wale baba (Baba who always wears a sunglass), etc.

Mahant Leela Giri ji
Mahant Leela Giri ji

Interesting facts

One interesting thing was none of them wanted to share their names when we started to chat but as they became more comfortable and we gained their trust, at the end of the conversation, they divulged their ascetic given names.

The most interesting thing we noted in our interactions was the part about gender equality. If you note their names, they are called Mahants, which although we would consider a male title, is neutrally used for both women and male ascetics. The “Giri” in the name is one of the four Juna Akhada titles: Giri, Puri, Bharati and Saraswati. The Sadhavis are not treated differently when given their ascetic names.

Also, when we asked the Sadhavis about their living situation they were pretty happy sharing tents with their “brothers” from the Juna Akhada (the oldest akhada). When we asked them about the demands of Sadhavis for a separate Akhada and living area, they did say they had heard of it but even if that happened they would still stay with their “brothers”.

Mahant Shanti ji
In conversation with Mahant Shanti ji

It was a pity we could not meet with other Sanyasins who did not belong to the Juna Akhada to get the complete picture. There definitely is a lot more to it with the struggles of the Pari Akhada for a separate akhada at the Ujjain Kumbh. Also there is so much we cannot learn in such a small amount of time. Still, the interactions did open our eyes to a small part of the Sadhavis‘ worlds and it was an interesting experience.



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Smiling Faces

Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives

Most of us have seen at least one woman in our lives who has struggled, or is still struggling, to achieve balance juggling between her job and her family. She was a superwoman – cooked, cleaned, fed, washed at home, after working 9 to 5 and performing pretty well at her job! Though we have a long way to go, we do see things changing, with more support pouring in from our families, spouses and colleagues.

When we started to take road trips across India, we came to see a very different side in rural sections of India. When we speak of equality for women – sharing the workload at home, equal pay at work, better job opportunities – we often forget about the rural parts of India. Women from certain sections of the society are expected to work on the fields and help provide for the family, and then return home and do the cooking, cleaning, washing with no help from the men of the family.

This International Women’s Day, we are sharing pictures of some such inspirational women from our travel diaries, who represent all those women who never get appreciated for their overwhelming efforts all their lives.

An old woman selling hats during a sunny day at Dona Paula
An old woman selling hats during a sunny day at Dona Paula

We can debate a lot on women should fight for equality, education, healthcare etc etc. Yes we definitely need all that, especially for the economically less privileged. But for now we are in complete awe of these women! These ordinary women who are showing extraordinary strength to provide for themselves and their families are an inspiration. The very fact that they do not let any adversity let them down in life is an inspiration.

Cheers to all these women and their unsung heroic lives!



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