Tag Archives: Travel

DEULTI – THE HOME OF SARAT CHANDRA CHATTOPADHYAY


Deulti, a village 50 kms from Kolkata, leads to Samtaber which is the abode of famous Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was a Bengali novelist and short story writer of the early 20th century. Most of his works deal with the lifestyle, tragedy and struggle of the village people and the contemporary social practices that prevailed in Bengal. He remains the most popular, translated, and adapted Indian author of all time.

His house was constructed in the year 1923 by a local worker named Gopal Das and it cost a sum of ₹17,000. He stayed here for twelve years before moving to Calcutta.

The house and his belongings are still kept as is. The rooms, the courtyard, the staircase, the balcony – each and every corner of the house takes us back in time.

This two-storied Burmese-style house onlooking the Rupnarayan river, was also home to Sarat Chandra’s second wife, Hironmoyee Debi, and his brother, Swami Vedananda.

Parts of the house was damaged in the 1978 West Bengal floods.

The Zilla Parishad repaired the house, and it was declared a heritage-historical site under the West Bengal Heritage Commission Act (IX) of 2001.

Trees such as bamboo and guava planted by the novelist still stand in the gardens surrounding the house.

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s works such as Devdas, Baikunther Will, Dena Paona, Datta, and Nishkriti among others were serialised during his stay here. He also wrote Ramer Sumati and Mahesh among others during his stay in the house. We can also see the guava tree in his garden which has also found a place in his book Ramer Sumoti.

Green agricultural fields, temples, village houses by the Rupnarayan river and the house of famous Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay – that’s all what Deulti has to offer. A perfect blend of history and rural Bengal!

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Air Travel During Covid-19


Two weeks back I traveled to Kolkata from Bangalore.

I started at around three o’clock in the morning. The airport approved cabs were perfectly sanitized. The driver sanitized my luggage before putting them into the car. Also, the cab was compartmentalized with a transparent plastic curtain between the front and the back seats.

I reached the airport two hours prior to the scheduled time of flight. Multiple checks had to be done before being allowed inside the airport.

Boarding pass and identity cards were checked. Body temperature and Arogya Setu app status was checked the next. The status of the Arogya Setu app confirms whether we have traveled from any containment zone or not.

The smell of sanitizers and phenyl welcomed me inside the airport. The smell was very similar to what one gets inside a hospital. Kiosks were all set up for generating baggage tags and dropping our luggage. Almost everything at the airport was automated. The airport was totally ready for a no-contact experience.

I generated baggage tags from a kiosk and dropped my luggage at the respective airline counter and moved on to the security check. The CRPF guys scanned the hand baggage as they usually do. Electronics devices, belts, and wallets had to be kept on a separate tray. The body scans involved no contact.

Once the security check was cleared, everybody was provided with masks, sanitizer sachets, and face shields in the boarding area. The middle seat ticket holders were also provided with PPE tops.

Boarding usually starts 45 mins before the scheduled departure. But it started 75 mins before the schedule as social distancing was being followed and the boarding process was slower than usual.

Before boarding everybody was handed with self-declaration forms stating the below points –

  1. I have not tested Covid-19 positive in the last two months.
  2. I am not suffering from any cough/ lever/ respiratory distress.
  3. If I develop any of the symptoms mentioned in point 2, I will contact the local health authorities without any delay.
  4. I will make my mobile number/ contact details available to the local authorities for contact tracing if required by them.
  5. I undertake to strictly adhere to the protocol as prescribed by the health authority for Home Quarantine without any deviation.
  6. I understand that furnishing any incorrect information would make me liable to penal action.

I filled up the self-declaration form and boarded the plane.

What followed was business as usual.

The flight landed in Kolkata after 135 minutes.

Wearing a face shield over a tight mask in an enclosed environment was very suffocating. I tried to sleep through the entire journey, but all my efforts were in vain. Overall it was a very uncomfortable journey.

After landing we were transported to the terminal by bus. On reaching the airport, we were asked to throw away our PPEs and face shields into a dustbin specifically kept for this purpose.

Lastly, body temperatures were checked and a mandatory home quarantine of 14 days was advised before letting anyone out of the airport.

P.S. Special thanks and salute to the people wearing PPE suits on duty daily in this hot and humid weather.

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Hogenakkal Falls – The Niagara of South India


It was second of October and we had a national holiday in India on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary. So, we set out to visit the Hogenakkal Falls.

Hogenakkal Falls is located in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu. The falls can be viewed from both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as it lies on the border. Also, this is the point where river Kaveri enters the state of Tamil Nadu.

Hogenakkal greeted us with ample sunlight. This was not much of a surprise as the sun rarely feels diffident at most places in Tamil Nadu.

Once you reach Hogenakkal, you have to walk down a few stairs to get tickets for the coracle ride. Coracles are small and round boats made out of bamboo. Coracle or as the locals call it ‘parisal‘ is one of the main attractions there. Hogenakkal Falls is not accessible by land and one can only reach the falls by water.

The place was crowded as it was a public holiday. We, who don’t speak the native tongue, generally face problems in long queues. We waited for our turn and received our tickets.

A maximum of five including the helmsman were allowed in a boat. We had to take two coracles as we were eight in number.

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On the way to Hogenakkal Falls

The coracle ride over river Kaveri was fascinating. Coracles, being small and round shaped boats, turn both clockwise and anti-clockwise depending on the way one rows it.

The helmsman gave us a nice swirl. First clockwise and then anti-clockwise. This swirling and whirling was certainly high on adrenaline, but it assailed me a faint rotatory vertigo.

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Coracles at Hogenakkal

After half an hour of riding through the waters, we reached the falls and were welcomed by the most beautiful views of Hogenakkal.

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Hogenakkal Falls

The river is surrounded by hills and dense forests. The gushing river water drops into a semi-round cavity and forms the Hogenakkal Falls.

Situated at a distance of 127 kms from the IT capital of India, Hogenakkal Falls, popularly known as the Niagara of South India, is a good one day trip destination from Bangalore.

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Jim Corbett National Park – Photo Blog


Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest national park in India and was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered Bengal tiger. It is located in Nainital district and Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand and was named after Jim Corbett, a well known hunter and naturalist.

Corbett National Park comprises 520.8 kilometer square area of hills, riverine belts, marshy depressions, grasslands and a large lake. The elevation ranges from 1,300 to 4,000 ft (400 to 1,220 m).

The park has sub-Himalayan geographical and ecological characteristics. An ecotourism destination containing 488 different species of plants and a diverse variety of fauna, it has been a haunt for tourists and wildlife lovers for a long time.

Tourism activity is only allowed in selected areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve so that people get an opportunity to see its landscape and wildlife. In recent years the number of people coming here has increased dramatically. Presently, every season more than 70,000 visitors come to the park. The increase in tourist activities, among other problems, continues to present a serious challenge to the park’s ecological balance.

Source of Information – Wikipedia

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Jungle Safari

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Into the Wild

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Corbett Falls

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Inside Jim Corbett National Park

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Tirupathi – A Shrine Amidst The Hills


Six of us from Bangalore took a bus on a Thursday night and headed to Tirupathi. The plan involved visiting two temples there and returning back the next day.

It was a short and comfortable journey. We reached Tirupathi around 4 in the morning, freshened up in 40 minutes and left for the Padmavathi Ammavari temple straightaway.

The Padmavathi temple is situated in Tiruchanur, at a distance of 5 km from Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Padmavathi (or Alamelumanga) is the main deity of the temple. Padmavathi is the incarnation of goddess Lakshmi and is the consort of Lord Venkateswara.

We reached the Padmavathi temple and had to wait in a queue to get the tickets for darshan. There are three types of darshan one can avail – a free darshan, a 20 rupees ticket darshan and a 100 rupees ticket darshan.

We waited for around thirty minutes to get hold of the tickets and then another thirty – forty minutes for the actual darshan of Padmavathi.

Padmavathi Ammavari Temple, Tiruchanur
Padmavathi Ammavari Temple, Tiruchanur

Post Padmavathi darshan, we had to change our bus as the bus which brought us from Bangalore wasn’t allowed to go up the Tirumala Hills. So we got into an APSTC bus which took us to the Tirumala Hills.

Tirumala Hill Bus
Tirumala Hill Bus

Sapthagiri, also known as Tirumala Hills, is 853m above sea level and is located in the Eastern Ghats. It has seven peaks – Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The seven peaks represents the seven heads of Adisesha (In the Puranas, Adisesha is said to hold all the planets of the universe on his hood and constantly sings the glories of God Vishnu from all his mouths. It is said that when Adisesha uncoils, time moves forward and creation takes place.). The Venkateswara temple is on Venkatadri, the seventh peak, and is also known as the “Temple of Seven Hills”.

Tirumala Hill
Tirumala Hill

It was a beautiful and scenic journey. We reached there in another forty minutes and kept all our shoes and electronic devices in a shop before entering the temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Sri Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu, who is believed to have appeared here to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga. Lord Venkateswara is also known by many other names like Balaji, Govinda and Srinivasa.

We headed straight to the temple and didn’t have to bother ourselves for queues and tickets as the Sheegra Darshan passes were included in our bus tour package.

Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala
Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala

People from all across the world come here to pay a visit to Tirupati Balaji. They stand there in queues for hours to get a glimpse of Venkateswara for few seconds. Like everyone else, we stood in queues for around 80-90 minutes for Balaji Darshan. The chants of “Govinda Govinda” accompanied us all throughout this time.

I have heard and read about people waiting in queues for 14-15 hours for this. Whereas, we were fortunate enough to complete all this within a time of 6-7 hours.

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Durga Puja – Bonedi Baris of Kolkata


I have many qualities. But patience ain’t one of them. I believe I have an attention span of that of a kid. With me pondering on this thought for the past two hours, I heard the pilot announce, “We have landed in Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport and wish you all a very Happy Durga Puja!”.

Finally after five long years, I made it to Kolkata during Durga Puja. Homecoming is always special. It becomes more special during Durga Puja in this part of the world.

Durga Puja is a ten day festival which starts from Mahalaya and continues till Dashami. It is considered to be one of the biggest festivals in the world.

As the festivities started, we planned to visit the bonedi baris of Kolkata. The term ‘bonedi‘ comes from the Urdu word ‘buniyaadi‘ which in turn comes from ‘buniyaad‘ meaning foundation. Bonedi baris are ancestral houses of Bengali babus, dating back to the 18th century.

We started our bonedi bari puja hopping from Shobabazar. Shobabazar has two rajbaris, one is known as the Shobabajar Rajbari and the other is known as Maharaja Naba Kissen Thakurbari. Maharaja Naba Kissen was the Dewan of Lord Clive and was considered to be ‘Calcutta’s premier zamindar’ during his time and his palace in Shobabazar was thought of as the foremost in the list of North Calcutta’s great houses. Originally, built by Sobharam Ghosh in the early 18th century, Naba Kissen came to own the property in 1757. After acquiring the palace, he began a series of alterations and renovations.

The Thakur Dalan was completed in just three months, in time for a lavish Durga Puja Festival. Such was the prominence of Naba Kissen in the North Calcutta Society that other durga puja ceremonies could only begin after the firing of Naba Kissen’s palace canon. The original palace building features Mughal and medieval Bengal temple-style architecture. However, some areas that are partially restored show European influence. The durga puja at Shobabajar Rajbari is still celebrated with ample grandeur.

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Shobabazar Rajbari

After this we moved on to Khelat Ghosh Rajbari in Pathuriaghata. Pathuriaghata was once the home of Bengali babus, now mostly dominated by the Marwaris. The Tagores were one of the oldest residents of this neighborhood. Babu Khelat Chandra Ghosh was the grandson of Warren Hasting’s clerk Ramlochan Ghosh. His mansion is filled with marble sculptures, paintings, crystal chandeliers and other art objects. All Bengal Music Conference is held here and is patronized by the Ghosh family. All Bengal Music Conference was founded in 1937 in the halls of this house. Indian classical music was still in a nascent stage then.

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47 Pathuriaghata Street

Then we moved on to the durga puja of the Daws of Jorasanko. Late Shri Nrisingha Prasad Daw, after shifting the family business from spices to gun powder and as the business expanded, the business and family shifted here in Kolkata. Late Shri Narasingha Chandra Daw, known to the British as Nursing Chunder Daw, laid the first stones for the gun business that the family boasts of today. He handed over the family business and tradition over to his sons who took it further ahead.

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The Daws of Jorasanko

Moving on from the northern part of the city, we went to Esplanade. Janbazar near Esplanade used to be known for the Rani Rashmoni Family. Rani Rashmoni was the founder of the famous Dakshineshwar Temple, who also remained closely associated with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. She is the one who appointed Sri Ramakrishna as the priest for the Dakshineshwar Temple. Apart from this, she had contributed in other constructions like the road from Subarnarekha river to Puri for the pilgrims, Babu Ghat, Ahiritola Ghat, Nimtala Ghat, Imperial Library (now known as the National Library of India), Hindu College (now known as the Presidency University) and many more.

There are three durga pujas here. One at Rani Rashmoni’s ancestral house and others at her two daughters’ houses.

Rani Rashmoni's Ancestral House
Rani Rashmoni’s Ancestral House

The bonedi baris are a big proof of Bengal’s glorious past. They still stand strong holding the cultural and historical significance of the place. Sadly, Bengal, once a business center, is now struggling to keep their sons and daughters in Bengal as most of them end up leaving the state for better opportunities.

Bengalis have failed greatly to do justice to the pre-independence slogan, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”.

But come what may, most of us find out a way to return home every year during Durga Puja.

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Kumara Parvatha Trek


Pushpagiri or Subramanya Hills (also referred as Kumara Parvatha) is the second-highest peak in Kodagu and also fourth highest peak in Karnataka.

It is located amid the jungle and has two base points for starting the trek. The Eastern entrance can be reached from Beedehalli via Heggademane temple and the Western entrance from Kukke Subramanya via Girigadde. Our plan was to start from the Girigadde side and come back before it gets dark, even if we don’t make it to the summit as we didn’t want to camp overnight inside the forest.

We reached Subramanya village in the afternoon and decided to start the trek early morning next day. We set ourselves a target of completing 34 kms in 12 hours and getting back to the base on the same day.

It was 5:50 AM and raining very heavily. We were all set with our raincoats on and bags filled with fruits, energy bars and water. We started walking through the cemented road, which is the initial part of the trail. After walking for around 2 kms we reached a small gated entrance, which marks the beginning of the forest. None of the rain gods were on our side. It felt like they were taking out their wrath on the forest. Inspite of being in our raincoats, we got fully drenched within the first few minutes of our climb.

Forest Trail

Forest Trail

Forest Trail

The 2-3 kms of jungle felt like it was never ending. The forest was dense and full of leeches. We tried to get rid of them, but invited more of them in the process. All our efforts of staying away from them were in-vain. The presence of leeches added to the difficulty level of the already treacherous jungle trail. It took us almost three hours to cross the jungle and reach Bhattara Mane.

Bhattara Mane

Bhattara Mane is the house of the Bhatts, which is the only house within the jungle. Most trekkers seek shelter at Bhattara Mane after hours of trekking through the forest. This is also the last point in the trail where one can camp overnight. The forest check-post also lies few meters away from this point. One has to get permission from the forest check-post before continuing further.

Trail Beginning

We rested for a while at Bhattara Mane, got permission from the forest office and continued trekking. The trail from here on is less difficult than the forest stretch. It mostly has inclined grasslands and green meadows. We had planned to continue with our ascent till noon as we wanted to be back before it gets dark. We assumed that the jungle would get dark early in the evening as the forest was very dense. It being the month of August, the jungle was at its densest form as it was the peak of monsoon season.

Pushpagiri Hills

After crossing the forest check-post we crossed a few peaks, trekked for another couple of hours and decided to make our way downwards. We didn’t make it to the Kumara Parvatha peak as getting down safely before it gets dark was our first priority.

Pushpagiri Hills

We trekked for 12 hours continuously with few pauses here and there. It was very foggy and rained very heavily throughout the day, which made it grueling for us to reach the peak.

Pushpagiri Hills

We almost got lost while returning back as we spotted multiple paths for getting down the hill. Those paths were not visible to us during our way up due to heavy fog. We wandered away through some other trails for sometime and had to trace back the route till Bhattara Mane and start afresh.

Pushpagiri Hills

The trail seemed endless and felt like being stuck in some loop. But we didn’t stop and finally, we were back to the base around 6:15 PM with no energy left and full of leech bites on our legs.

It was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to spend 12 hours of time inside such a dense and dangerous forest, amidst mother nature and coming back safely to the humdrum of city life.

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Torna Fort Trek


After my last hill-fort trek experiences of Lohagad and Sinhagad during the summers of 2016, I was keen to witness the scenic Sahyadris during the monsoons this time.

10:00 AM, 17th July 2019: It was a rainy Wednesday morning and we were standing at Velhe, the base village for the Torna Fort trek. It being a weekday, we were not expecting much of a crowd and our expectations didn’t disappoint.

We started the climb in our raincoats, with water-bottles and some snacks in our backpacks. It was raining on and off. It is not at all recommended to trek Torna during the monsoons unless you are an expert trekker. We were not sure about our expertise, but decided to give it a try. As the saying goes, “You never know until you try”.

The Torna trail is not one of those where you should go unplanned. If you are serious about making it to the top, you should at-least have some basic idea of what to expect from the trek.

Initially the trek starts like a normal walk amidst the trees and the slope gets steeper as you progress. The starting phase of the trek has red soil which gets muddy and slippery during rain. Small granular stones on the track make it slippery and difficult to maintain continuous balance.

Initial phase of the trek

Once you have crossed this area, then comes the most difficult part of the trek. The rocky part, which is more difficult and slippery if you are climbing during rain. There are railings installed at some places to help us with the grip. One just can’t climb through these rocks without holding onto any support. According to me this was the most challenging part of the trek.

Some places on the trek demands hundred percent of your focus where you can’t afford to be careless for a bit. It was very foggy and misty all along. Nothing more than a distance of fifty meters was visible, making it very difficult to predict the remaining climb to be covered.

We went on with the flow and helped each other on the climb. After an hour and twenty minutes, we reached Bini Darwaja, which is the entrance to the fort. Once you are in the fort, it is somewhat like a a flat top. But it remained slippery due to the rain. I slipped flat on the ground there after having covered all the difficult parts successfully. Kinda embarrassing to be honest.

We were happy to reach the top so quickly as we had read about others reaching the top in 2-3 hours. Reaching the top was difficult, but getting down through this slippery rocky slope was going to be a different challenge altogether.

Budhla Machi and Zunjar Machi are the two most important points inside the fort. Machis are like watch towers, which are the most important vantage points on any fort. Budhla Machi connects Torna Fort to Rajgad Fort through the Kokan Darwaja, which is a separate trek of 14 kms.

On the way to Budhla Machi, we visited the Mengai Devi Mandir, which is a temple inside the fort that can accommodate up to 25 people for a night camp.

The way from the top of the fort to Zunjar Machi is one of the dangerous parts of the trek. First you have to go down a ladder where the base of the ladder can accommodate only one person at a time, then you have to slide down few big boulders to reach to an end.

Ladder down to Zunjar Machi

After walking for a while, you will get to see a very small door of crawl-able height which will finally lead you to Zunjar Machi. Need to mind your head here and also might need to go on all fours.

The last hurdle

Now, if you have reached this far, a grand spectacle awaits you!

 

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Breathtaking, isn’t it? It did take away some of our breath to reach here.

The view from there is massive (prachanda) and is definitely one of the best views I have seen in my life. It was very foggy, but we waited for the fog to clear out.

We explored the fort for the next hour and decided to sit and have some snacks before we started our trek downwards. The descent was as challenging as expected as there was always a threat of slipping and rolling down. Thankfully, we trekked down to the base safely.

Best things in life are unplanned. This was one of such experience for us. This trek was also an experience of many firsts and many things which I haven’t imagined to have done. This will certainly be one of those moments in life which I can always look back and be proud of.

Facts about Torna Fort – Torna Fort, also known as Prachandagad, is a large fort located 60 kms from Pune. It is historically significant because it was the first fort captured by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1646, at the age of 16, forming the nucleus of the Maratha empire. The hill has an elevation of 1,403 meters (4,603 ft) above sea level, making it the highest hill-fort in the district.

Torna Fort from Zunjar Machi

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Kerala – God’s Own Country


The first word that comes to my mind whenever I think about Kerala is diversity. Both culturally and geographically Kerala is a conglomerate of beautiful places. The scenic beaches of Kovalam, the amazing backwaters of Alappuzha, the mesmerizing tea gardens of Munnar, the Chinese fishing nets of Kochi and many such things make Kerala the place to be.

Kerala is the cleanest state of India and also the first Indian state to receive rainfall. It also has the highest female to male ratio and the highest literacy rate in India.

Kerala is also known as the Spice Garden of India for it’s varied production of spices. If you are travelling to Munnar, then make sure you don’t miss out on the spice gardens there. Besides spices like pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove, they are known for many medicinal plants as well.

Last but not the least, anything about Kerala would remain incomplete without the mention of the majestic houseboats of Alappuzha. Very few things are better than a houseboat which serves amazing food throughout the day, that too riding through the beautiful backwaters of Alappuzha.

Do visit Kerala, sooner or later. Till that time, I will leave you with some photos from my Kerala trip.


Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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Kanyakumari – A Photo Story


Kanyakumari, or Cape Comorin, is the southernmost point of Indian mainland. One can also see the confluence of Bay Of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean here. I was there for a weekend with two of my friends. We reached Nagercoil Junction around 7 o’clock in the morning, the muggy weather came as no surprise.

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Land’s End

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Sunrise

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Voyage

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Like everyday, that day too, the sun had set into the Indian Ocean

 

Akash Chaudhuri
Email Id: akashchaudhuri93@gmail.com
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