My name is Dinesh Bhatia, a 34 year old with a restless feet and heartfelt desire to see the world. In 2017, I picked up my brown beauty - Duster - and started my road trips. Till now covered 21000 + kms and covered eight states and UT, and more than 150 places in India. My mission is to show that it is possible for women to plan and travel independently, while staying safe and having fun at the same time.
This blog is going to be a guide to travel in India, especially Solo female travel and inspirational travel tales around the country.
“It is only in quietness and peace that one can know what is the best thing to do.” –
Pondicherry was one of my destination on my #100days of road trip to South India. It so happened that Pondicherry was one of those places I couldn’t do any prior bookings for. After some initial research on Google, I decided to go first to the White Town. Honestly, I didn’t know about it then. I reached and parked my car in front of the post office, a little away from Aurobindo Ashram. The moment I stepped out of the car, I was in awe. I have this habit of collecting stamps from all the places I go to, so the first thing in front of me was a post office. I went there to collect stamps. There I saw the stamp carrying picture of The Mother, Mirra Alfassa. Then I asked the lady sitting there and she told me the story about the Mother and White town. I was amazed at it and wanted to know more. She told me to visit Auroville for that. I decided that that had to be one of my to do list for Pondicherry.
I walked around in the White Town for almost three hours…street after street. It was peaceful and serene. It is a peaceful, laid back town with a legacy of being a French colony. Pondicherry and White Town are synonymous. I stayed in a luxurious hotel – Le Dupleix and then in beach hotel run by Aurobindo Society. Both are properties were good. Personally between the two of them, I like the Aurobindo run society guest house more than Le Dupleix. That was booked through a friendship that germinated in Aura Shop on Promenade Beach road. I met two beautiful souls there – Charles and Venkat, who not only helped me in planning my Pondicherry and Auroville tour, but also helped me in booking a perfect stay for me.
The city has everything – cleanest beaches in India, chinches, Ashram, temple, museum, and cafes. The town has got everything to offer what one could desire for. I went for four days, but ended up spending a week there. And still didn’t want to leave. Pondicherry is one place where you can stay in peace for almost a week and connect with yourself.
A day spent at Auroville will need another write up, for another day. For now, enjoy trip to Pondicherry.
Fragrance of burning incense sticks, Vedic mantras in the background, echoes of sadhus and sadhavis, and public in general chanting prayers related to Hindu mythology, millions of people gathering to take a dip at Sangam, thousands of diyas lit, colours from all over the world – that is how Kumbh Mela looks like!
Kumbh Mela in India is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm, attended by people all over the world. It is not a festival, not an occasion – it is a faith, a faith in which Hindus (majorly) gather to take a dip in holy waters. It is also considered as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”. This faith behind the greatest congregation on Earth, this all encompassing energy of belief and power – it is the spiritual belief of hinduism – MOKSHA. It is this faith in the form of Kumbh Mela, the only one in which people together believe in the fact that one has to get out of this circle of life and death, and they take an attempt (whichever way they can understand) to get out of this cycle. It has also been inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
There are only four places for it – Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.
The Ganges – At Haridwar; when Jupiter is in Aquarisu and Sun is in Aries during The Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April)
Sangam of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati – At Prayagraj (Allahabad); when Jupiter is in Aries or Taurus and Sun and Moon are in Capricorn during The Hindu month of Magha (January-February)
The Godavari – At Nashik; when Sun and Jupiter are in Leo during The Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August-September)
The Shipra – At Ujjain; when Jupiter is in Leo and Sun is in Aries, or when all three are in Libra during The Hindu month of Vaisakha (April-May).
There is a difference of around 3 years between Kumbh Melas at Haridwar and Nashik; the Melas at Nashik and Ujjain are celebrated int eh same year or one year apart. Maha Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years – at Haridwar and Prayagraj (Allahabad).
STORY BEHIND KUMBH MELA
This Mela is associated with a Hindu Legend – In Samudra Manthan (churning of ocean), a pot (“Kumbh”) of nectar came out of it, for which gods and demons fought. This fight was for immortality. When the pot was produced, to prevent the demons from seizing it, a divine carrier flew away with it. As per the legends, while carrying the pot around, it spilled at four places – these four are the places where Kumbh Mela takes place.
Another story is that each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Moon, the Sun, and the Jupiter.
SIGNIFICANCE OF HOLY WATERS
Mela at Prayagraj (Allahabad) is probably the oldest. It derives its importance from the fact that the waters here creates a vortex – confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and invisible Saraswati. It is believed that whenever the planet Jupiter enters the astrological sign Taurus, when the Sun and the Moon are in Capricorn, a powerful positive energy space is created at Prayag. The whole area is charged with that force – water, air and the entire atmosphere.
It is believed that taking a bath in holy water that is imbued with a power to promote spiritual growth, emotional strength, and health, and finally putting an individual on the path to moksha.
Now, one need to understand that only taking a dip in water doesn’t bring moksha/liberation. It puts on the path of moksha – the journey is still long from there. Because of the positive and charging energies there, people are put on the path of liberation and move towards attaining true knowledge. It is only this true knowledge that would end the war between the good and the bad – like the legend – where it is the search for the nectar of immortality that ended the war between the gods and the demons. It is for this search, when both came together and worked for it. That is what a human being also needs to do – accept and assimilate, both the good and bad, work together to move towards liberation.
In 2019, Ardh Kumbh Mela is being held in Prayagraj (Allahabad, India).
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This article basically deals while planning for solo travelling by public transport. India is a safe destination to travel if you know a little about your basic safety too. #indiaissafe
Let me start with one important fact of travelling. Always have information handy. Information gives you well – deserved confidence too. It is the right information that gives you a choice, rest it depends on your experience with travelling too – beginners, or experienced – as solo and otherwise too.
Thorough research is the foremost thing – wherever you are planning to go; especially when the place is new. A lot of people say – go with the flow; in fact I also do that. But do it only when complete information is there and some experience of travelling in hand.
Trust your intuition. Believe your gut feeling, Intuition again is something that comes from experience, exposure and information.
Keep water bottle handy (say no to plastic) and get it refilled from wherever you can. I didn’t buy any plastic water bottle and if someone refused to refill it (which they do at most of places you visit and stay), pay for bottle but still refill your own bottle.
4. Carry a small purse – sling bag – around your neck
Keep part of your cash, ID cards, and few essentials (for security like pepper-spray) in that purse/bag. Keep the duplicate copy somewhere else.
Confidence is foremost – your people, your country. Language can be an issue, but believe me everything works out. Solo female traveller – most of the people anyway turn to be helpful. Thats what I gained from my trip to entire south of india where I had no friends and didn’t know any language.
Be conscious of what you are wearing – especially trains and buses. You don’t want unwanted attention of any kind, for whatsoever reason.
If staying in a homestay – do let the owners/keepers informed about your schedule (but again use discretion). There is no thumb rule in there. But keep their contact handy. I had a nice experience in Trivandrum, when I was getting late to reach the stay and the owner kept calling me where I am. In fact they offered to pick me up from wherever I was, thinking it might be difficult for me to get vehicle back.
4. Remember to book in advance – online bookings are easy. Remember to go through all the reviews too and then make booking. If you are travelling by train, you can ask for a pickup too, incase you want to avoid haggling right after your arrival at a new destination. Also have an idea about the localities where you are planning to book. Surroundings do make a difference.
5. While taking a room in a hotel, even though pre-booked, remember to go and check it. There are times when I had booking through booking.com and didn’t find the rooms clean and safe enough to stay. So ask for a room change. The other party also understands that you are a pro-traveller 😉
6. You can also look for hostels in cities too – usually, they are nicely located.
7. If you are reaching any new destination, make sure you reach before sunset. Usually, if we need help after that, it is difficult to find people (in case reaching late).
8. When travelling in taxi/cab, be aware about your route. Even though you don’t know, be awake then. I see a lot of people putting earphones and getting lost in their own world. Use discretion here, and decide accordingly. Keep your google maps on.
9. Do keep some numbers handy on phone, like added in favourites. And keep sharing your location 24/7 with someone. Android and iPhone, both have amazing apps for the same. I used whats app share location. Earlier had used one provided by iPhone.
10. Never share where you are staying on FB, when travelling solo. Can share about the places you are visiting, but not where staying. Also, if you go somewhere and find it isolated (I faced it a lot of times), “Go Live” on social media.
11. In caseyou are taking any kind of intoxication (alcohol or any kind of drugs), be observant about your surroundings (people, place, etc.). The advice is not to engage in either.
12. Stay connected to social media – LOCAL NEWS especially. That keeps you updated about local happenings.
13. If beginner, and want to try hitchhiking, try it nearer – at least in place you understand the language. That is why you see most of it done in the Northern part of India or where at least English is understood.
14. Food – Be ready to experiment! When I say experiment, it means do not expect your staple to be available there. Stick to basic local food; unless it is a capital city or a good hotel.
15. And try to find out which phone network is easily accessible in the place where you are travelling. I carried airtel, Vodafone, and Jio – all. Most of the time, it was only Jio that was helpful. Vodafone was the worst in entire South India. Keep bsnl handy it works in rural areas very well.
Honestly, my plans haven’t really been the planned months in advance. But whatever time it takes, I read and try to know the place beforehand. It gives alot confidence and travel planning actually fun. To enjoy the place/sightseeing one more, again research and know about it in advance.
It was build during the period of Napoleon III, Emperor of France. It is located in the centre of #BharathiPark. This monument tells a story of a king and a prostitute. Kind Krishnadevaraya and Aayi. So there’s a link of hundreds of year story and the one during the time of Napoleon III.
Krishnadevarya, while on a visit to the town, got impressed by the beauty of a house. He unknowingly bowed down before the beauty of Aayi’s brothel. When people started making fun of him and he realised his mistake, he fumed with anger. He wanted to destroy the brothel. Aayi pleaded to the king and asked for permission to break down the house herself. The prostitute broke down the house and build a well in place of that. It is called #aayikulam in her memory.
Years later, the French made Pondicherry their capital. The French town on sea shore side faces water shortage and all the wells present had only salty water. The French king, Napoleon III sent an architect Monsieur Lamairesse to sort out the problem. The architect built 5km long tunnel from Aayi kulam to a park in the French town. When the French king heard about the story behind Aayi kulam, he ordered to build a monument for Aayi. This monument is built in French architectural style.
A visit to Coffee and other spices Plantation in Madikeri, Coorg. Coorg also is known as Kodagu.
This coffee plantation is a private property of an individual whom I met on this journey, through another known, and we ended up becoming friends. His name is Rohith Mathews and through him, I got home cooked food too 😛
Rohith’s usual days start early, going to the farm and assigning work to everyone. He too stays and work wherever needed. Through this walk, not only did I learn a little about coffees but also saw a glimpse into the lives of people who put their hard work into it. So a coffee farmer, as he calls himself, is unlike what I always thought. I assumed it to be toiling – pruning and harvesting. But unless I saw it, I couldn’t imagine the read hard work. Also, Rohith had a brilliant understanding of soil and plants reaction towards the nature. He had more sensitivity towards the earth / understands and connects to the soil in a way I have never seen or heard so far. I also learnt that cardamom plant is actually really sensitive plant. You need to visit it on a regular basis to get a good crop. Rohith calls the plant as “Attention Seeker”.
Inspite of being the owner of this plantation, He does participate in all work with his labour forces- harvesting, pruning, fertilising, experimenting with new planting techniques, marketing, transporting, and then finally praying to the Mother Nature to take care of the crop.
The coffee plants harvest once a year, and the life period of one plant can go up to 20-25 years. Initially when these plants are planted, they take 3-5 years to get the first harvest. So a farmer has to wait for at least five years to get its results. Some patience and perseverance is needed.
On the other hand, then there are landslides, unwanted rains, etc other natural occurrences which is taking away the soil’s capability of growing produces.
This coffee plantation has been with Rohith’s family since 1950s – bought by his grand mother. Then his father worked on it. Quite a number of plants in the plantation belongs to grandmother’s time. Rohith himself is also experimenting with new ways too.
Still, a lot of coffee plantations are getting out of family and sold to big players. No youngster as such really wants to learn and take over the business of being a coffee farmer. When you are a farmer, you will eat what you will work for. You are responsible not only for yourself but others too. Most of the youngsters need a salaried, secured job. Rohith wishes that the plantation stAys forever in family and his children inherits it.