Category Archives: Snippets

Aashaadhi Waari -A Photo Essay-Part 3

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until they are close to Pandharpur. About 6 kms from Pandharpur in Wakhri, they will rest and proceed to the temple city on the eve of Aashadhi Ekadashi. i.e the next day.

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Before proceeding to Pandharpur, the paalkhi and the rath are showered with flowers.

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The paalkhi reaches Pandharpur on the eve of Aashaadhi Ekadashi and is welcomed with much fanfare. It is open to darshan all night. The next morning, the paalkhi will be carried out around Pandharpur in a nagar pradakshina, followed by a dip in the Chandrabhaaga. After a few days rest, the paalkhi heads back to Alandi. The waarkari numbers go down significantly at this time, given that the return journey is completed in about a week, covering double the distance per day as compared to the onward journey. 

Aashaadhi Waari-A Photo Essay -Part 2

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When the paalkhi reaches its destination for the night, an arati follows. All the dindis close to the rath surround the paalkhi.  After the arati, the paalkhi is taken to the ceremonial grounds,where it is open for darshan. 

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The chopdaar or the bearer of the chop i.e this stick, raises the chop and instantaneously silence descends on this massive congregation in preparation for the arati.


There are three ringans or circumambulations during the waari. Two are circular ringans or gol ringans and one is an ubhe ringan or the standing raingan. The horse following the horse-rider is symbolic of the meeting of the jeeva or life source with the eternal source. The waari is a metaphor of this union, with waarkaris attempting to merge with the divine  i.e Vitthal.  

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The dhaava or the run also takes place en route and symbolises the restlessness of the waarkaris to see their beloved Vitthal. 

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These women will walk all the way with tulsi pots or a kalas (pot) on their heads. It could mean a mannat or wish-fulfillment or just be a sign of their devotion to Vitthal, who loved Tulsi very much.  

Aashaadhi Waari – A Photo Essay -Part 1

The onset of the monsoon in Southwest India commemorates the Hindu month of Aashaadh; a time when thousands and thousands of vaishnavites across Maharashtra and the Deccan plateau undertake the waari.

Today, June 29th 2016 is the Prasthaan or the departure of the Sant Dnyaneshwar waari from Alandi. The pilgrims or waarkaris will walk nearly 27 kms to reach Bhavani Peth in Pune from Alandi this evening. The tarmac road burns up on sunny days and a less-experienced waarkari will want to hop into the next vehicle. Except, the vehicles too are slowly winding their way through the throngs of people and walking to Pune might actually be a faster option.

The waarkaris will travel a distance of nearly 230 kms from Alandi to Pandharpur in about 15 days. The waari culminates in Pandharpur on the eve of Aashadhi Ekaadashi,when thousands will line up at the doors of the Vitthal temple for darshan of their ‘sakha’ or friend. Mukhadarshan (darshan of the idol) could take days so many waarkaris opt for kalas darshan (paying obeisance to the temple tower) and return home after a bath in the Chandrabhaga River.

Here’s a photo essay in three parts to commemorate the Aashaadhi Waari 2016.

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Alandi on the banks of the Indrayani. The paalkhi procession begins here at the shrine of Sant Dnyaneshwar who is believed to have started the tradition in the 13th century.

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The paalkhi contains the padukas or the footwear of Sant Dnyaneshwar and will be carried on a bullock cart all the way to Pandharpur and return the same way. On the day of Prasthaan, however, the paalkhi is carried by waarkaris.




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Most male waarkaris dress in white and wear a white cap. The ones belonging to a dindi or contingent will carry flags and a sign bearing the number of their contingent stating its position-preceding the rath, i.e chariot or following the  chariot.

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There is always lots of happy dancing along the way

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such as this happy dancer

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with the cops joining in every now and then



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On the way to Jejuri from Saswad, the waarkaris burst into a jogwa in honour of the patron god of Jejuri, Malhaari or Khandoba.

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Turmeric or bhandaara is sprayed in the air to welcome the paalkhi in Jejuri.


Hokka Trees in Diu-A prehistoric legacy or a colonial one?

These unique palm trees known as hokka can be found on almost every corner in the UT.

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Hokka trees in Diu 

The hokka tree has a fascinating history. Some say, they were planted here first by the Portuguese, who had brought them in from their African colonies. As you know, Diu was a Portuguese settlement until  1961. Other stories suggest they have existed here since the time India and Africa were one continent.

What we do know now is that these trees grow only in this region in India, making them standalone attractions in and around Diu town.

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A hokka tree in bloom. 

Now, the locals have been known to eat the largish seeds of the tree, although I wasn’t courageous enough to try any. Give me my apples, anyday. They did look somewhat interesting, though. The red skin, when peeled off, reveals a yellow flesh. The seeds can also be used to make liquor, sometimes of the spurious variety. So all those who like their taadi, beware!

The hokka tree is also known as the doum palm or the gingerbread tree and was considered sacred in parts of Africa. What makes hokka seeds or doum fruits special is that they stay well for days and months and well, a real long time, even after they are separated from the tree. Case in point: Doum fruits were found, well-preserved in King Tut’s tomb. Generally offered at funerals, the fruits were meant to accompany the Pharoah on his last journey.

So the next time, you’re in Diu, be sure to take a selfie with this celebrity tree.


Images courtesy:




Diu Fort –Standing the Test of Time

The Portuguese certainly knew what they were doing when they captured India’s West Coast in order to control trade routes. Judging by the sheer size and expanse of the outstanding and absolutely robust Diu Fort, no force could have stood a chance against the Portuguese.

Built in 1535 as a vantage point over the Arabian Sea, the Diu Fort covers 56,736 sq mts. (I know, right?) and is a huge delight to explore. I won’t be surprised if, while exploring the fort, you start to feel like an intrepid sailor out to discover new lands.

The entrance, with its double moat and imposing walls, can be pretty intimidating. One architectural feature that lent an air of friendliness to this otherwise formidable monument was this balcony here.

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The balcony for the melancholy Portuguese soldier. 

Granted, it was meant as a look-out. Nevertheless, it offered a certain degree of human contact. All that was missing was a cute Portuguese soldier, singing fado, drinking port wine and mournfully waving out to visitors.

The entrance has a huge iron door where one has to bend to enter the fort. From what little I know of this standard practice, the bending was meant to instill a sense of deference on part of the visitor.

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The entrance to the Fort. 

Walking around, the mind boggles at the grandiosity of this monument. Although sparsely decorated, one gets a fairly good idea of its functionality. There are numerous chapels inside the fort, indicating the presence of a great many soldiers. In addition, you’ll find storage rooms, underground tunnels and of course, canons that menacingly look out over the sea. Needless to mention, the fort was built to withstand long sieges. (Note, though that certain areas of the fort may be closed off. )


On one end of the fort stands a lighthouse. Westwards, you’ll  see the Panikota Fort in the middle of the sea, built by the Portuguese to defend the supply on their boats. The Panikota Fort looks like a ship and houses a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady Of The Sea, in addition to a lighthouse.

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The Panikota Fort

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A lighthouse inside the Fort ramparts



Signs of vibrant life prevailed inside the fort, thanks to this gorgeous Gulmohur. Other signs of life include a prison on the premises of the Fort, obviously off-limits to visitors.

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Gulmohur inside the Fort

Provide a good hour  at least to explore the fort from end-to-end. Wear good sports shoes and carry your water bottle and camera with you. This one is a must-do for all those who love their history and adventure.


The Life of Toys (before batteries)

When adults, like me, are enamoured by cute and colourful wooden toys, you begin to wonder if it’s the inner child in you that’s harking back to the simple joys of childhood. Or could it just be the timeless appeal of those toys themselves?

Before I lose you, let me come straight to the point. I speak of the lacquered toys of Channapatna, or the toy town of Karnataka, lying 60 kms from Bangalore. Vibrantly coloured and completely non-toxic, these wooden articles of joy make for perfect showpieces, and toys, of course.

Channapatna toys date back to Tipu Sultan’s time. Tipu was greatly fascinated by wooden toys and invited Persian artists to train the local craftsmen in the art of toy-making and lacquering.

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A craftsman at work 

The toys are produced in small workshops just outside the craftsman’s home, creating a cottage industry. Several toy workshops can be found in the many small gullies of this little town that has become synonymous with these attractive playthings.

The toys are made from locally-found ivory wood. The wood is soft and easily pliable, lending itself to many shapes. The lacquer is non-toxic and made from natural shellac. I can personally assure you that they are extremely durable, as well. I must have dropped my toys hundreds of times, but my small car and my adorable lil tortoise continue to smile back at me in a Zen-like manner, as if inured to the abuse.

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My little car and tortoise. 

The craftsmen have also diversified into home decor articles, like vases, napkin rings, hangers and suchlike. A great number of these unique items are exported and you are sure to find a few big dealers in the town stocking everything from small cars to puzzles to toy aeroplane models and skip ropes.

The sheer numbers in which the toys are produced are mind-boggling.

A brief chat with a craftsman revealed that each workshop is responsible for a few toy designs, leading to specialisation. One workshop may produce only key chains and spinning tops, another, only cars and aeroplanes and so on. Each dealer will stock an average of 100 different types of toy designs for all ages. It’s not uncommon to find a shop spread across 3 floors, with hundreds of items dumped in shelves, baskets, boxes, sacks, crates and even covering the floors. Yes, the prospect of slipping on a child’s toy becomes all too real.

Channapatna makes for a quick stop-over on the way to or from Mysore. So spend some time here, buy these charming toys and go back to a simpler time, when you didn’t need batteries for everything you played with.

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These are a few of my favourite things. 



Top 4 things to do in Munich

Munich, home of the Oktoberfest and FC Bayern, is also perhaps the most catholic city in Germany. Yet, an odd combination of those three seemingly incongruous elements need not put you off. For Munich is also one of the most visited cities in Europe, and not just during the annual beer chugathon celebrating the wedding of Ludwig I with Princess Therese. With its unconditionally welcoming stance towards refugees this year, Munich has also won itself a place in the most cynical of hearts. So here’s my top 4 things to do if you’re ever in the Bavarian capital.

4) Visit the Englischer Garten and watch people in wetsuits (and sometimes in Dirndls and Lederhosen) surf


Women in Dirndls surfing during Oktoberfest

If you, like me, enjoy watching other people indulge in adventure sports,head straight to Eisbach, the world’s only urban surfing spot on a manmade river. The Isar flows through Munich and a small arm of the river runs through the Englischer Garten, where it turns into a wicked little surfing spot, now haunted by hundreds of keen surfers. Feel free to stand on the bridge where you can catch some of the surfing action live at any time of the day and all times of the year, German winters notwithstanding. If watching these surfers makes you pant with excitement, you could always head back to one of the Biergaerten and chug a beer. (Only through the summer and sometimes in the autumn, depending on the weather.)

 3) Catch up on history and religion
The Ohel-Jakob synagogue in Munich is built on the Saint Jakob’s Platz close to the site of the old synagogue from the 20th century. Destroyed on the Kristallnacht like most Jewish establishments on that day, it has since been rebuilt and allows visitors inside. Munich is now home to a thriving Jewish community that supports this synagogue, among other Jewish centres located nearby, including a suave kosher restaurant and   a lovely museum with a quaint little bookshop. Be sure to book the Sunday visit 10 days in advance through its website. The synagogue tours are available in German and English and cost 5 Euros as of October 2015.

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The stunning Ohel-Jakob Synagogue


The hall of remembrance bears the names of the Holocaust victims .

2) Climb on top of old man Peter
Don’t worry! This is not some sordid sexual fantasy I’m talking about. Alter Peter (Old Man Peter) is the name of the tower of the Saint Peter’s Church opposite  the Rathaus am Marienplatz with its famous Glockenspiel. With nearly 300 steps leading to the top, the tower is a relic of the medieval era with its spiral staircase and narrow balcony. Need I say it, the view from the top is well-worth the literally breathtaking climb, I mean, literally, if you’re not fit, you’ll be stopping to catch your breath like, every three steps. On a good sunny day, you can see the snow-covered Alps. That apart, the view of the city in itself is rather charming, with its baroque architecture as also its stunning modern buildings. As of October 2015, a visit to the top cost 2 Euros.

1) Fill up on sugary treats.

Once you’ve had your fill of old Peter, come down and get yourself a much-needed sugar fix.  Rischart is Munich’s own family-run café chain with some of Germany’s most famous Kuchen and Kaffee. The alcohol and cake-lover in me was thoroughly spoilt that day with the rich, juicy, and rum-doused Tiramisu. Strange, you’d think, that the Germans would make a better Tiramisu than the Italians. But then again, Munich is also known as the the northern-most part of Italy. Friends, meanwhile, vouch for Rischart’s Kaiserschmarm, an egg-and sugar-based specialty, from the royal house of Ludwig. Incidentally, there is a Rischart diagonally opposite the Marienplatz and Rischart also has its own tent at the Oktoberfest themed along a fairy tale. This is where you’ll catch some of their best and most-delicious Kuchen doing the rounds, even as your mind boggles at the sheer variety of German confectionary.

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The dreamy, droolworthy Tiramisu at Rischart.


Confectionery at Rischart’s Oktoberfest tent. Yummmmn……