A treasure in Byculla – Mumbai

Standing tall amongst the hustle and bustle of the Byculla town, Gloria Church is one of the oldest Roman catholic churches built by the Portuguese Franciscans in 1632 ( the old church was demolished in 1911 and the present one was opened in 1913)

 

It is a must visit on the list of “things to see in Mumbai” and though the church is surrounded by scaffolding and covered in dust, housing many of the local pigeons – the Gothic architecture still brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the visitor. The stain-glass windows in the alter drew in shades of light into the church, and I noticed a pipe organ hidden away on the opposite balcony …kneeling to say a pray, I could only imagine how beautiful the church must have been long years ago….

 

Advertisements

Faith makes anything possible

It is one of the most colorful and noisy festival that last for upto 10 days in India, but the Ganesha Chaturthi (also known as Vinayaka ChaturthiGaṇesa Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaviti) brings communities together in prayer and celebration no matter what cast or social status you are born into. The festival entails the placing of a clay statue of Lord Ganesh in homes or in public pandals and at the end of the festive period the statue is immersed in a body of water – usually in the sea or lakes and since recent time in man made pools as a measure to curb pollution.
The grand festival is celebrated in the state of Maharashtra by traditional instruments called dhol and tasha and the eating and sharing of Modaks (which is a dumpling made from rice or wheat flour, stuffed with grated coconut, jaggery, dried fruits and other condiments and steamed or fried – this is considered Lord Ganesh’s favourite sweet).
 
It would be a crazy time to be on the streets of Mumbai during the festivities, but it is an opportunity to see how faith triumphs and breaks all boundaries as it brings communities and families together in worship and belief.

Bandra walk about – exploring Mumbai

If your new to Mumbai, I would recommend you take one of the (many) heritage walks. We took one organized through Book My Show ( which is a phone app) which explored Bandra.

Though the day started quite early in the morning it allowed us to experience much more than we would have with the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. Our guided walk started from the Bandra Fort, through small ally ways and old architectural buildings. We stopped to admire the famous Mount Mary church (which was opened in 1760) and St.Andrew’s church in Bandra (which is one of the oldest churches in Mumbai built in 1575) and listened to the old tales and stories of events and families that lived and experienced the old Bandra.
I’m sharing a few of the photographs we took on our Bandra heritage walk …..

Happy smiling faces

We took this photo on our travels recently as we stood outside a temple in Rishikesh….they caught our eyes not just because of the vibrant colors hiding out from behind the row of bikes but also because of their smiles. The heat nor the bustle of yogies on the street seemed to be bothering them. This country has surprised me in many ways, but its also taught be to be humble while being assertive, to harden my heart  but also to be understanding, to not judge a book by its cover and to respect that everyone has a place in this great big world we all call home…sharing the words of one of my favourite bands R.E.M

Meet me in the crowd, peo_DSC0063.newple,
Throw your love around, love me,
Take it into town, happy,
Put it in the ground where the flowers grow
Gold and silver shine

Shiny happy people holding hands……Shiny happy people laughing

Everyone around, love them,
Put it in your hands, take it,
There’s no time to cry, happy,
Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines
Gold and silver shine

Exploring the mountains – Utterakhand

It was a trek non of us would ever forget! We never realized what we were really getting into until we started our 5 day trip in Utterakhand ( North of India) . We had seen such beautiful photographs of the Valley of flowers ( Ghangaria – the valley is only open from May to September) that when we had a long weekend we decided we had to make the trip and explore a part of India non of us had explored.

2 flights later ( Mumbai – Delhi -Dehradhun) we had to drive 6 hours to our first stop in Rudraprayag which was a mandatory stop as the Govindhgat pass is closed in the nights due to the conditions of the road and landslides ( if you have the time I would recommend a stop off in Rishikesh – especially if your into yoga and adventure sports). We started off early the next day on our way to Govindghat where we would start our trek to the Valley. These roads are very prone to landslides, so a good driver and a hardy vehicle is essential if not the trip would be very uncomfortable and unsafe. After 4 hours we reached Govindghat and after all the formalities were completed, we were greeted by our guide who talked us through the trek. The first 3kms can be covered in a jeep but after that  – your on your feet for the next 10 kms. There were lots of little shops on the way to grab a meal or a hot cup of tea ( oh, and all meals are vegetarian so be prepared). Through the cold and the rain we trekked -one small step at a time – 1500 meters to our destination. The road was narrow and made up of rubble and is used by not only humans but also the mules / horses that transported goods and people. Mother nature surprised us with her magic wand every corner we took – green, lush vegetation, a raging river and beautiful waterfalls that had been created by the monsoon rains. But our bodies just couldn’t handle the entire trek and a bad knee compelled me to take a horse for the last 3 kms. We made it to the base camp, 5 hours later tiered and wet – but what waited for us was a beautiful canvas. The Valley was surrounded by mountains bathed in mist and in the distance the snow capped glacier was a sight for sore eyes.

Don’t expect many options in Ghangharia ( this small village is located in the northern Himalayan ranges at an altitude of 3049 meters and is the last human habitation in the Bhyundar valley) there were no heaters in the room and no hot water and this can be challenging when all you need is a hot shower and a way to dry your wet cloths. The small village is buzzing with locals and visitors as well as Sikh pilgrims who use Ghangharia as a base on their trek to Hemkund Sahib.

Altitude sickness hit us slowly in the night and luckily there were pharmacies where we could purchase the necessary medication. The next day another 3 kms hike in the rain and we were in the Valley of flowers. Unfortunately, the weather did not permit us to see as many flowers as we would have liked too. Food can be purchased ( again only vegetarian) from any of the small restaurants in the village, but you have to turn a blind eye to the cook and the kitchen. We survived on Egg fried rice and lots of hot black lemon tea, if not the choices were limited to aloo ( potato) parata’s and naan’s with a vegetarian curry.

One of the highlights for us was the helicopter ride we took back – many of the trekkers had opted to not trek back but pay 3000 INR for a helicopter ride that took only 7 mins back to the starting point. But given the weather and our aching bodies, this seemed to be the best option. It gave us a little more time, as we stood in the rain for 2 hours waiting for our ride – to admire the beauty around us.

On our way back we stopped off in Rishikesh ( known as the Yoga Capital of the World) walked through the busy Yogi filled streets, had some lunch at the Freedom cafe ( recommended) , touched the Ganges river and headed back towards the Dehradhun airport.

She challenged us not only physically ( and this was after we thought we had all the necessary hiking equipment) but mentally – making us question ourselves if we could actually survive the hike and the weather. But mother nature was a pure painting of clean air and green lush valleys and vegetation and left a portrait in our minds that we would never forget and a sense of accomplishment that we dug deep and found the motivation and courage within us to completed the trek together.

 

In remembrance of a queen

This was not part of our list of places to see in Jaipur, but as we passed it by my husband and I both really wanted to explore this site a little more – only to find out that it was the Cenotaphs of the Jaipur Maharani’s ( Maharani ki Chhatri). The beautiful marble and sand stone monuments, engraved and woven into the pillars and stairways, were built to represented each the queens.

Reading up more I found this in mapsofindia.com – it mentions that “… some were made from pure white marbles, the others were constructed with local stones depending upon the importance of the women in the nobility. As a popular belief, a cenotaph was finished with a roof structure only if the queen died before her king. In case she died after the death of the king, it would remain unfinished”

What happens when we die…what is meant to be? is it only for our bodies to turn to dust and to leave behind memories… why do we build monuments in remembrance of those we have lost? are we afraid that we would forget them? Life is so fragile and no matter how much we try to be in control of our lives, death is the only certainty – which in the end would bring us peace….. but why then is it so hard to embrace?

 

Amongst camels and bright colored veils

We finally took some time out and did some travelling….we had already been to Udaipur in the Rajasthan state and were very keen on seeing more of this beautiful country side – and so decided to do Jaipur. We stayed 2 nights in Jaipur and then traveled by  car to Ranthambore ( because I was dying to photograph a Tiger in the wild) It was quite hot but we were told that in June it  gets even hotter! so we braved the heat and dust to experience this colorful city, its people, history and of course food.

Driving through the arches in the old city and new city and walking through the Amer and Ranthambore forts – it takes your back to a time when one of the main mode of transport was an elephant and when wars were fought with bows & arrows and master crafted swords and it was not funny for a man to wear a long flowing gown – where women wore lehenga’s that were adorned with pearls and woven in gold thread…where muslim and hindu architects worked together to build a chamber for the king that was represented by red and white walls and flowers were used to make paint that created art that is still marveled by thousands of visitors. History does stand still high above within these marvels and must be protected so that future generations can marvel at these man made wonders.

My husband and I both were in deep thought as we passed through villages – where life seemed so simple. The villagers smiled and women quickly covered their faces with their bright and colorful veils as they saw a camera in my hand….but in the midst of camels pulling carts and motorbiked whizzing past…some part of me wished life could be this simple…where you have what you need and don’t crave for more worldly treasures.

I had to pick up some handy crafts like traditional blue pottery, a hand made silk scarf, marble, silver jewelry, block print material and somehow did not give into the temptation of buying a carpet ( though that seemed to be the only goal of our driver)

The 5 days were filled with history and beautiful art / murals and wild life and as we got into the crazy Mumbai traffic and headed home, we take with us the feeling that maybe  life wont be as simple as it could be, but we would cherish those rare moments where we drift away into history and knowing that every generation bares witness to what was and what could be…..

 

Sunday hopping

While wondering around Bandra, we found this quaint Taj Mahal tea shop – it had been recommended by some friends, and if you are ever in Mumbai I’d recommend you try it out as well. From the beautiful tiled floors and framed paintings to the wooden chairs and tables…and of course the food wasn’t bad either. =)  If your adventurous enough you might like to try out one of the many tea preparations on the menu – but it may not be for everyone’s liking, I myself am a plain tea drinker.

Art on the streets

I love art….and art comes in many forms – from world renowned artist to simple street artists -and that’s the best part about art isn’t it…..it express ones feelings and emotions, moments in life… and maybe sometimes can be understood only by the artist but anyone can interpret it on how they see it.

For me I see art everywhere – and I love the art on the bodies of trucks on the streets of Mumbai. So I’m sharing a few of them which I captured while on the road.

Glowing in the sun – Exploring Mumbai

Our Sunday exploring of Mumbai found us travelling around 40kms from where we live towards Gorai. Though it was a hot day and we were stuck in quite a lot of traffic, we saw a new area which we would not have seen if not for getting lost on the road. The Pagoda was interesting for me as I had the opportunity to visit Myanmar a few years ago and it helped me appreciate Buddhism and the beautiful Stupa’s and Pagoda’s built years ago and of course the calming, peace of mind you feel when sitting inside them or around them.

The Global Vipassana Pagoda consists of 3 domes and the largest which is approximately 29 meters in height, is the world’s largest stone dome built without any supporting pillars. Though you are not allowed to take photos within the dome, it is an awe inspiring moment which you can photograph with your mind. If you have completed a meditation course you have the opportunity to sit through a meditation session within the dome – if not for visitor you would need to use the viewing gallery. To give you some perspective of how large the dome is,it can sit 8000 devotees and is around 6000 sq m! The largest dome was completed in 2006 when the relics of Buddha were enshrined there, and it is also the world’s largest hollow stone masonry structure containing relics of the Buddha. There is also a gallery with painting depicting Buddha’s life story, which is worth the walk through.

If in Mumbai, I would recommend you make the trip to this Pagoda, entrance is free ( even for foreigners)- and sit under one of the beautiful gold pillars, away from the crowd and heat ( unfortunately you have to turn a blind eye/ear to locals who maybe running around taking group photos – though there are boards requesting visitors not to misbehave as it is a religious location)

Take a moment as you enter to look up at the roof ( seen below,circular roof) and then stand in front of the main door to marvel at the beautiful carvings. These are just a few of the photo I took.

On the path of Dhamma two rare qualities naturally start developing in the
mind.
One quality is doing good for others, without expecting anything in return.
Then, if someone is really practising Dhamma, a second quality, the feeling
of gratitude, should develop — S.N. Goenka