For this sky watch I am presenting the travel collection of skies from my trips so far in 2015. I got a few nice shots in each trip. I hope on my next one (yes it is in the offing), I will get a bonanza of sky pictures!
Kareri Village, Himachal Pradesh
Kareri is a beautiful village tucked away in a corner in Himachal Pradesh. There is no hotel in the village, the only option is to do a homestay. I was out for a morning walk on a clear day when I stopped to click the mustard flowers. It was a clear day with blue skies, the kind you remember for months after the trip is over!
I remember Sirpur most for is scintillating music and dance festival. But it was also a quiet place, away from the bustle of life. The town moved at a slow place. There were only dhabas in the the town, I like such places. There is only one hotel which belongs to the state tourism department. There was less construction and more open spaces. I love that too.
Cities are more about concrete, but the sky is still there. The rides at the craft mela at Surajkund were immensely popular. As I had left Chhavi at home, they were of foreground and background value to me. For once I was happy to leave my daughter behind because the mela was just too crowded.
All my recent trips to Mumbai have been one night affairs. I have mostly been there to attend events and fly either to another destination or home. On my latest trip I was lucky to stay on the 28th floor of Palladium Hotel and to catch awesome views!
A Tree and Some Sky
There is something about grand old trees that just refuse to fit into my my camera frame. I found one such tree at Shivpuri. The evening sky with colors was a bonus.
Fagu, Himachal Pradesh
When I go with Chhavi to places like Fagu, when I see her walking carefree in such surroundings I wonder if she realizes how beautiful it is ? On a whole I feel she is busy with some mischief but you never know with her. I actually need to ask her about it!
Camping by the Ganges
Camping by the Ganges is a wonderful experience. Rafting is another incredible thing to do on the river. I could stay in this exact spot at least for a month before longing for civilization! And that brings me to the end of trips for 2015 till March. I hope you enjoyed my travel collection of skies.
I saw Mr. Arun Kumar Sharma for first in the conference hall of the Hiuen Tsang Resort in Sirpur. Looking at him I would have guessed that he must be in his sixties. When the MD Chhattisgarh Tourism, Mr. Santosh Misra, introduced him as the excavator of Sirpur, he added that Mr. Sharma was in his 80s.
You can see him climbing down the Suranj Tila’s crooked stairs unaided! How I admired him! He is a man with stories and there are stories about him! We were extremely lucky to be shown around Sirpur by Mr. Sharma himself.
Sirpur is said to be mentioned in the documents as old as 5th century AD. However, it is surmised that the town was buried in a powerful earthquake in 12 century AD. The town is situated on the banks of Mahanadi and the excavations reveal that it was a well planned city in the ancient times. One of the most important monument is the Lakshman Temple discovered in 1872 by Lord Cunningham.
Tantrik Mandir is a part of the Surang Tila Complex. This is considered to be the second most important place after the Lakshman Temple. This temple is devoted to Lord Shiva.
Sirpur is also prominent for its discoveries of the remains the Buddha and Jain monuments. These complexes have statues of Buddha, residential complexes for monks and nuns and rich carving on the walls. I sincerely wished that the modern looking sheet was absent from this Buddha Vihar but then I also understand that protecting the heritage comes first. You can gauge the importance of the discoveries by the fact that the Dalai Lama visited Sirpur in 2014.
Close to the bank of Mahanadi are the remains of the grand market place which was probably a grain, iron and metals market. The proximity to the river hints at the existence of a port as well. While walking along the huge place I was seriously trying to imagine how the place would at the peak of its glory, what would the traders talk about, what were their preoccupations? But then my imagination hardly supplies any answers to these questions!
When I look at such ancient heritage as Sirpur it reminds me that there was life on this earth much before I was here and there would be life much after I am gone. It makes me feel quite insignificant, along all the hopes and worry that dominate my world. But it a strange way it is a comforting thought too.
Sirpur is about 80 Kilometers from Raipur the capital of Chhattisgarh. A taxi is probably the most comfortable way to travel to Sirpur. There is only one accommodation at Sirpur- the Hieun Tsang resort of Chhattisgarh Tourism.
It all happened because of the small girl. She was at the hand pump, washing her face. We were visiting the museum at Sirpur. And that is when I met the real nomads!
There were a lot of people camping in its grounds. I started kidding around with the children, soon they wanted a photo. That was the ice breaker, the kids started talking to me and the adults followed suit.
Suddenly the man sitting in the middle announced to me in Hindi, “we are from a place near Nasik and we are coming from Jagganath Puri and we would go to Shirdi in Maharashtra.” That caught my attention like anything, for the ground was full of children and women. There was an elderly couple and their belongings were scattered all over the place. Fire was lit in at least two places. It was soon obvious to me that they were spending the night in the open.
They told me that when they are on the road, they put all their belongings in the jugad (motorized cart) they have. Children also travel in the same cart. Elderly might take a bus for a while but generally they walk all through the way! Now that sounded like traveling in true nomadic style and suddenly I felt like such loser!
They ask for a camping ground once they reach a new place. Then they go around the town asking for bhiksha (food, probably money too) and that is how they are supposed to fund their travel!
They are actually farmers in their village in Maharashtra, so they are not without means. They take such a religious journey once in every 5-6 years and for that duration they live like nomads.
The ladies offered me tea and allowed me to take selfies with them! One of the bloggers, Gaurav, tried to talk to the ladies and he got no reply! Next day, he had a chat with men and I am waiting to read his account.
It was one of those occasions when I didn’t even have a candy with me to offer to the kids. It did not feel appropriate to offer them money for tea or for kids. I felt very bad that I had nothing to give them in return for their hospitality!
Late at night at the Hiuen Tsang Resort I woke up at night in my room. I was finding it cold and I put on another sweater before I curled up tightly in the blanket. I thought of those small faces, sleeping out in the open. Then I drifted back to sleep again.
I attended the recently concluded Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival 2015 in Chhattisgarh. Now that I am back, if I could have it my way, I would like to attend the next year’s festival too. You can read about it all in this post or you may go and check out my short videos on Vine and listen to the music. If you would take my advice, that would be the better course, but then free feel to ignore it, that way you will read my post!
Sipur is about 80 KM away from the capital town of Raipur, where we were staying. The festival is held against the ancient Laxman Temple of Sipur. It was a three day event held from 16 to 18 January 2015. Each day presented scintillating music, I was surprised because I never expected that I would enjoy it so much. I found myself tapping my feet, clapping to the tune, or more likely out of tune, things I hardly ever do because I am tone deaf! And yet at Sipur even this tone deaf person was enchanted!
Day 1 Sirpur Festival 2015
The best event of Day 1 was the performance ‘Taal Chhattisgarh.’ Actually it is useless to try to capture that divine music that Pete Lockette produced with 60 tribal musicians in words. It has to be experienced. Chhattisgarh has an extremely rich tribal culture which the MD Chhattisgarh Tourism, Mr. Sanotsh K Misra, was quick to highlight in his media briefing.
The sequence was followed by Kathak by Yasmin Singh and Group. The last performance of the day was by Shounak Abhisheki & Asha Khandilkar’s devotional songs. The program used to end around 10 at night and by that time it would get cold. On day one Anuradha Shankarn and I were in a deep conversation about music and everything else. It was difficult to believe even for us that we met for the first time in real life! We two had the cab to overself on our drive back to Raipur!
Day 2 Sirpur Festival 2015
On day 2 of the festival I was completely swayed by Rahul Sharma and his group and the music they created. Also amazing was Leonardo Eto on drums from Japan. Day two also saw the crowd puller Anuradha Paudwal performing with her group.
By day two I realized that if I wanted better pictures I need elevation and I started climbing on the platform where the TV cameras were hosted. No one asked me to get lost and that became my preferred position to watch the program.
Day 3- Sirpur Festival 2015
By the last day I didn’t want the festival to end! And I am saying this about a cultural festival, when I hardly consider myself cultured! I enjoyed two superlative performances on this day, one by Ustad Shujaat Khan and his group. I enjoyed Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram on Ghatam. I never thought a Ghatam could sound this amazing.
Then of course the finale was superlative with Pt. Birju Maharaj and his group. I could only marvel at Pandit ji’s energy and devotion to his craft. It was such a cold night and yet he performed with such a zeal.
If you are a music lover, you would truly enjoy the festival. I can vouch for it. If a stiff person like me can go foot tapping, clapping and swaying, anyone would, I can take a bet on it.
If you wish to know more about the festival you can go to the official page of Sirpur Festival.
PS. I was invited by Chhattisgarh Tourism Board to attend the event.