The Sun temple – Konark!

Magnificent, imposing, intricate, aesthetic, striking…. I fall short of adjectives to describe the beauty of the Sun temple at Konark, situated in the eastern state of Odissa, India. I had visited this medieval monument some time back and was spellbound by its architectural marvel. No wonder it has been declared a world heritage site by the UNESCO.

The name Konark is an amalgamation of two words, Kona- corner and Arka- Sun, dedicated to the Sun god. It was constructed in the 13th century in a span of mere 12 years.

It is said that, “The language of the stone defeats the language of man here”. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the Sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants and beneath them is a man.  The lions represent pride, the elephants represent wealth and both of them consume man.

The base of the temple has many erotic carvings. There are sculptures of animals, dancers, musicians, warriors on horses and other mythical creatures. The three images of the Sun God are positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset.

Today, unfortunately a huge part of it is in ruins. The government is undertaking some restoration work. In spite of this, the grandeur of the temple is worth witnessing. The stones come to life narrating their saga.  It reflects the mastermind of the architects and sculptors who envisaged it centuries ago. Sharing some of the pictures from my visit.

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Zakopane!

Our vacation to a few European countries some years back evokes fond memories even today. One of the places we visited during the last leg of our trip was Zakopane in Poland . We were five families, totalling about 16 members who traveled together from India. It was a picnic all the way with great company, fun, games and bonding  🙂

Nestled in a valley between the majestic Tatra mountains and Gubalowka Hills, Zakopane is located at the southernmost region of Poland, bordering Slovakia. A popular tourist destination, summers are a good time for treks and hiking while winter attracts the ski lovers.

Leaving behind the architectural marvel of Krakow, we started for Zakopane after our lunch. The drive was a pleasant one.  Bright and sunny, with a nip in the air, excellent roads and the natural scenic beauty of the place kept us delighted.  As we approached Zakopane, the weather was becoming colder. The lush green grass meadows, the quaint sloped roof houses and the majestic mountains welcomed us to this beautiful tourist destination.

After a sumptuous breakfast the next morning, we headed to the foothills of the mountains for the eagerly awaited trek. The trek in the Koscieliska Valley was an exhilarating one. The scenic trail presented a breath taking view, with gurgling streams and several caves enroute to the tranquil lake beyond the valley. Enjoying the company of friends  helped us complete the day long trek with ease. Surprisingly none of us were tired at the end of the day. The reason for that I guess was that the air there was so fresh and pure, devoid of any kind of pollutants!

Next morning was an exciting one.  The expedition to one of the highest peak in the Tatra mountains, the Kasprowy Wierch. The route was covered by cable car upto 1900 meters and then we trekked up to reach the peak at 2012 meters. The Kaspowry Wierch is a half Polish half Slovakian mountain with the border visible from the top of the peak. At the peak, the cold wind was blowing so hard that it was difficult to keep balance. On the other side was the view of  Slovakia. It was truly a top of the world feeling with all of us singing “Brawo! Brawo! Brawoossimo!” a song sung by the Polish scouts to applaud a courageous effort!

The next day was spent in local sightseeing .The distinctive cottages and the architectural style which was inspired by folk traditions were impressive. Evening was spent in playing games and fun activities.

Next morning did some retail therapy in the buzzing market place, before heading back to the airport for our return trip, with beautiful memories in heart!

 

Mana – The last Indian Village

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The dawn of 17 May 2013 was a memorable one. The darshan at the holy shrine of Badrinath rejuvenated our soul with spiritual bliss.

After recharging our souls, it was time to recharge the body too. We stopped by a local eatery for some hot breakfast. Then we headed out to Mana, a mere 3 kms from there.

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The excitement among us was palpable as Mana is the last village of India. Located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand at an altitude of 3200 meters, it is 24 kms from the India and Tibet/China border. A small population of about 600 inhabit the place.

On the onset of winter, the entire area gets covered with a blanket of snow. The weather becomes very hostile for survival.  The villagers then migrate to the lower plains from October to April.

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Their houses typically are made of stones and plastered with mud. They have slate tiled sloping roofs. Most houses have kitchen gardens where they primarily grow spinach, potato and cauliflower for their livelihood. The women are endowed with fine craft skills. Their adept fingers knit beautiful sweaters, shawls, caps, mufflers and carpets which find many takers.

 

A shop there having the distinction of being the last Indian shop. People generally buy a drink or some eatable to tell the folks back home that they shopped from there!

Just a few meters away from the shop, the Saraswati River merges with the Alaknanda. Further ahead is a cave called Vyas Guha where it is believed that sage Veda Vyasa resided and composed the entire Mahabharata.

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After spending about an hour there, capturing moments to carry with us, we headed back. Today writing this post has taken me back on that beautiful trip down the memory lane!

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Mesmerizing Munnar

Suprabhatam, Swagatam to God’s own country – Kerala. That’s where we went on a holiday some time back. Nestled among the mystical mountains and serene evergreen forest of the Western Ghats of Kerala, it is the amalgam of 3 rivers. It is a hill station located in the Idukki district of Kerala at a height of 5200 feet above sea level. Sprawling tea plantations, scenic beauty, winding roads and great holiday facilities make it a popular resort town. Can you guess the name of the place we went to? Yes, this beautiful place is Munnar!

From Madurai Airport we took a cab to reach Munnar. After driving for over an hour from Madurai, the landscape started to paint a different picture. Tall coconut trees and green fields gave way to twists and turns of the winding roads, up the hill. With each turn nature was unraveling a different facet of its beauty. I went on clicking spree to capture the charisma of nature’s creation. It was breathtakingly beautiful.  As we reached higher we could see the clouds waft all around us. They felt as soft as fluffy cotton balls. A long 3.5 hour drive later found us at our resort. Soon a blanket of mist engulfed the place as if dancing along with the cool breeze. We could hear the sound of insects, the birds chirping and the water fall in the background. A stark contrast from the chaotic city landscape, the natural charm of the place felt surreal. With hot cup of tea we sat and soaked in the scenic beauty of our surroundings.

The next few days just flew by as we set out to savour the beauty of the place. Waterfalls, mountain peaks, speed boating, trekking, visit to the spice garden, tasting the local cuisine and shopping, it was sheer fun. The highlight was the visit to the tea factory and museum. We saw the entire journey of the tea leaves from the plantation through the different process it undergoes before finally coming into our homes. I learnt a lot about the humble cup of tea.

The lush green tea plantations, the aroma of the spice garden, the charming exotica of Mother Nature, the magnificent mountains, the rambling water falls, and the serene lakes all made it a picture perfect place. The quintessential charm of Munnar rejuvenated our spirits. We headed back to base carrying with us myriad memories filled with happiness and peace etched in hearts forever. ❤ 🙂

Sharing some of the pictures from the trip.

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Twilight Saga

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Periakanal waterfall

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Drive through the winding roads

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Green carpet

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Misty mountains

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Magical moonlight

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Tranquil treasures

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Envious green

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Glowing beauty in blue

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The Plains- just off Madurai

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Natural beauty

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Speed thrills

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Monkey business

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Nature’s slpendour

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Fresh n tender tea leaves

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Figs n more……

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Moon amidst the drifting clouds

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Coffee berries

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Going bananas

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Crimson hue

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Welcoming dawn

Himalayan Ecstasy

Sharing a few pictures of the Mighty Himalayas on our visit to the holy shrine of Badrinath, a few years back. The spectacular scenic beauty enroute and the positive vibrations at the temple rejuvenated the body and soul.

“The magnificent mountains of the Himalayas soared up to the heavens to kiss it, the clouds whispering and caressing its high peaks. Serrated and snow-capped, these gigantic mountains were a sight to behold. The eyes admiring the pristine beauty in awe, the heart soaking in the pure energy of the tranquil atmosphere and the mind experiencing the spiritual bliss.  The evening rays of the sun painting its peak to a golden blush. Standing in front of the majestic mountains felt like the eons of time stood still. ”

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Salt n pepper

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Jagged edge

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Romancing the mountains

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Whispering clouds

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Rendezvous heights

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Careless Wisps

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Sentries of the North citadel

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Dusk beckoning the hills

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Golden blush

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Sun shades

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