Ganesh Chaturthi – A Divine Celebration in Konkani Style!

The holy chants of “Ganpati Bappa Moraya” were booming all over the streets in the past few days. Long drawn celebrations and festivities are a part of the social and cultural fabric of India. Among the many religious and social customs that mark the diverse festive calendar of Indians, is a very important religious occasion – Ganesha Chaturthi celebration is about the birth of the Elephant-headed god, Ganesha. It is celebrated with much enthusiasm in Maharashtra, especially at my native place i.e. Konkan!

I would like to take you through my experience of Ganapati celebrations in Konkan. So here we go…

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My Bappa!

Almost every festival in Maharastrian calendar has been celebrated in Konkan with wide and extreme level. In that Dusshera, Holi, Gudipadwa and Ganapati festival are prime attractions of Konkan region. Each and every family heads towards Konkan during the festive season of September-October.

During this period, all the zealous Konkani devotees come together to deck the village for ten days. As a result of this, all railways, Government buses, private travelers are full and if you chose to travel via road, then get ready to experience the long hours of traffic jams. At the time of Ganapati festival, if you are able to book a Konkan Kanya train ticket, then you will be treated as a lucky lottery winner. I would rather say, if you are able to get any confirmed railway ticket, then you will feel like King… ;-p

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Journey by Train

In villages, each family invites lord Ganesha for 1 & half days, 5 days or 11 days as per the rituals. In these 11 days, we pamper Bappa with delicious food & modaks (Bappa’s fave dish ;)) It also constitutes of varied holy programs like Aartis & Bhajans to keep lord Ganesha happy.
There are more superstitions and believes in Konkan regarding festivals and lords so we fulfill all required beliefs during this. After five days some families bring Gauri to their home who is Ganpati’s mother some families bring Riddhi & Siddhi as Bappa’s brides.

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The luscious food spread!

The inception of Ganapati festival is marked by the onset of heavy downpour & full grown paddy fields. Just imagine sitting amidst the lush green paddy crops accompanied by cool breeze & having your grubs. Wonderful feeling, isn’t it?

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An evergreen paddy field!

After the festival is over we say god bye to bappa and send him to his next journey by immersing the idol in a water body.
Ganpati Bappa Morya Pudhachya Varshi Laukar Ya! (Come back soon next year)

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Praying the holy chants before Visarjan!

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My dad and uncle performing Visarjan (idol immersion)!

We have been enjoying Ganesh Festival every year at my native place.. If you also want to enjoy these festive moments, then start planning about backpacking to the residence of god – Konkan 🙂

See you in our Beautiful & Evergreen Konkan with my Bappa next year….. 😉

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A Visit to the 7 Wonders of the World!

Never been able to visit the seven wonders across the globe? Not to worry! You can now witness all of them in a single go. Wonders Park in Nerul comprises of all the Seven Wonders of the World. Yes, you’ve read it right! The main attractions at this wonderful park are the beautiful miniature replicas of the seven wonders of the world. These include Taj Mahal, Great Pyramid, Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower, Christ the Redeemer of Brazil, Colosseum, and Statue of Liberty.

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A wondrous entrance of the Wonders Park! 

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The Wonders Park is a well-manicured and clean garden with bright botanicals. Kids are seen running and hopping in the lush green garden while adults are seen sitting, chatting, and relaxing in the open area. The park includes a well-equipped play zone for the kids with the convenience of rubber flooring.

The park houses some of the best amusement rides. There is a toy train for kids and adults which is one of the most thrilling attractions at the park. The toy train station looks no less than a real railway station.

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A Joy Ride in Toy Train!

Other perks in the park are a jogging track, cycling space, an open air amphitheater with the seating capacity of around 1000 people. The huge real chess board on the ground will catch your attention. You may also find the horse-cart for a quick and exciting ride. For nature lovers, there is a Khandoli Lake, the Lazy River and its foot over bridge. There are some other stunning sculptures like hands holding the tennis ball in the blue pond and watermelon miniature to provide a picturesque sight.

Cameras are allowed in the park so that happy moments can be captured. Also, facilities such as food stalls with delicious food at a nominal rate, lockers, and washrooms are offered to the general public. It is best to visit the park in the evening.

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A Grand Chess Board!

It has become a famous tourist spot and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the city. People flock to the park to enjoy a lovely picnic with friends and family.

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Selfie with my Travel Buddies!

All things considered, my view is that this park at Nerul is definitely worth a visit. It’s undoubtedly one of the most bewitching public places in Navi Mumbai, which casts a spell on the travellers with its cheery aura.

Knowledge facts about Wonders Park in Nerul:

  • The Wonders Park at Nerul in Navi Mumbai was inaugurated on Saturday, 15-Dec-2012 by Union Agriculture Minister Mr. Sharad Pawar.
  • The park is spread over 30 acres of open space, and has several attractions for children and grown-ups alike. Entry fees is Rs. 35 per person.
  • The total project cost incurred by the Navi Mumbai Muncipal Corporation for the development of the Wonders Park at Nerul, as reported by the newspapers, has been around Rs.44 crores.
  • The park is gaining in popularity and a large number of people are flocking to Wonders Park to enjoy the toy train and other rides and to see replicas of the seven wonders of the world, that have bestowed the park its name.

Kaas Pathar – A Paradise of Blossoms!

Kaas was a khaas (special) trip for me. Why you may ask? Well, back in September 2016 it was my first trip with my brand new cam- my Nikon. I was extremely thrilled about the idea of driving down to a place which has 700+ species of FLOWERING plants!

There are some places in Maharashtra, where you will feel blessed. One such place is Kaas Plateau, Satara. This “Out of the world” place deserves to be visited every year in the month of September to witness not only the amazing carpets & diversity of wild flowers, but also the serene atmosphere that mesmerizes one’s soul…..

Nature Lyrics

We left Mumbai on Saturday evening and reached Pune and stayed overnight at Pune. On Sunday morning, we left early (7 am) and reached Kas by 10:30 or so. The drive is relatively straightforward on NH4 towards Satara from Pune. As you approach Kas (about 5-7 kms before actual Kas plateau), you will start finding patches of yellow and purple wild flowers. The flowers bloom in so much profusion that, if you are a first time visitor, you might mistake these plateaus as the actual Kas plateau! Everywhere you look, the green grass is topped with the blankets of flowers. To be honest, it would be wise to soak in the fresh air and click some snaps of the flower beds spread in front of you right here.

Nature Lyrics

For the Kas plateau itself, when in full bloom, words are inadequate to explain the beauty, and I would rather let the pictures do the talking! Unlike any flower garden you might have seen, the beauty of Kas lies in its completely natural. Nobody plants these flowering plants…mother nature hides them most of the year, and then tends them to flourishing in the few weeks of Aug to early Sep every year. The best part is that, every weekend you visit Kas in the blooming season, you will find a riot of different colors since new species of flowers bloom every week while the ones that were in bloom the previous weeks, wilt away! How neat!

Tips to take care of :

The Kas plateau is heavenly when in bloom, but even a single visitor/observer to visit the place would impact negatively the quality of what is there to see. Nature hasn’t made paved walkways for you to move around its garden of wildflowers. It’s impossible to walk a few steps without trampling on some flowers. Besides, since the blooming season is peak monsoon, the whole plateau is slippery and slushy and you need to be careful to not trip and fall on a flower bed!

The Sparkling Kaas Lake

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It was already getting a little late when we decided to head back to the plateau, but go visit the lake close-by, quite predictably named Kaas lake. Many more rare plants were waiting to be discovered as we walked from the bus parking to the lake and I was simply mesmerised by it all! I have never been as interested in plants before and I can give all the credits to our amazing mother nature for this.
We were hoping to find more rare plants at the lake, but unfortunately the water level was a bit high and the plants had submerged.

Anyway it was a bit dark when we walked back to the car parking and had a cup of hot chai and pakodas, the perfect combination on a rainy day. The return journey was nice as well, as we broke down into groups and played antakshari through the entire distance.

My recommendation is to simply just go and enjoy whatever nature has planned for you, you won’t come back disappointed 🙂

VISIT IT WHILE IT LASTS!!!! 🙂

Travel Trivia

Did you know?

  • Kaas has one of the largest concentration of endemic flowering plants and that has also given it the status of UNSECO Natural World Heritage Site!

A Getaway to the Land of Caves- Historical treasure!

Mumbai, a city of Bollywood dreams makes imaginations come alive and it also ignites true passion for the backpackers and travel enthusiasts. I had travelled to vivid destinations in Mumbai, but always missed visiting Elephanta Caves for reasons unknown. But the time was now and the historic call could not be ignored any longer, so off we went on a balmy summer morn’ to the famed Gateway of India from where there are boats that ferry you across to the Gharapuri or Elephanta island.

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An Emblematic Landmark – Gateway of India!

Dating back to the 7th century and situated at a distant depth of 9 nautical miles, the Elephanta caves can be reached through a one-hour long ferry ride from the Gateway of India. The ferry tickets are available at the ticket counters at Rs.120 per head for return journey. There was a boat waiting to motor us across and having bought the return tickets, we took vantage positions on the boat to get good views on our journey that would last an hour.

On the way to the caves during a fascinating ride through the Arabian Sea, the ferry gives view to gigantic Naval Ships anchored to the base. After about 45 minutes into the journey we could spot through the haze, the outline of the Elephanta island. The island has a to-and-fro toy train ride option to reach the feet of the caves from the harbor. On the way, as you walk to the interiors there are stalls selling beautiful artifacts, paintings, jewellery, Indian traditional souvenirs and much more. For the Indian food freaks, the tuck shops sell raw mangoes, star fruits, berries and tamarind sprinkled with chillies and salt.

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The Beautiful Elephanta Jetty

The caves are secluded and offer the most serene experience away from the loud noises and struggle in cities. Night hault isn’t allowed in the caves and the last return ferry is available till 5 pm in the evening which gives ample time to explore the minutest historical aspect and experience the sunset on the ferry ride back to the Gateway of India.

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A visit to the Elephanta caves is a life giving experience to back packers, photographers, writers and shopaholics. The monkeys in the caves are too affectionate and scampering for the visitors. Kindly, do not keep your valuables outside (PS: eatables or snacks) to the view of the naughty instincts of the monkeys.

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Historically, Elephanta cave’s priceless statues were damaged and destroyed by the Portuguese who used the Hindu gods for target practice. The modern visitors have also been reported of vandalism and damage, and on serious concern backpackers should avoid such instances and expression. To add to the charm, a spectacular dance festival is held at Elephanta Island every February, hosted by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).  The shopaholics can buy the grandest artefactsethnic wrap-aroundskaftansjewellery and bags. Be sure to bargain to the lowest prices possible to avoid being duped.

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After spending a couple of hours admiring and photographing the ancient artwork we came out hungry. The food available at the MTDC lunch house situated in the entrance of the caves is the most appropriate investment for the stomach viz the money and taste. There is much to the place for history lovers.

We took the ferry back to Gateway of India at around 4:30 PM. The scenic view of the colorful evening was worth captivating. The sun rays touched the Arabian sea & made it to dazzle like a diamond. The ferry ride became more exciting when we spotted certain beautiful birds flying around our boat. They were milky white in color and looked very adorable. I stretched my hand out with a biscuit placed on it, the bird quickly snatched it away. Aww, that was a wonderful feeling ! 🙂  Just imagine you are sitting in a ferry boat amidst the sparkling blue sea and surrounded by the tuft of white birds. Doesn’t it sound mesmerizing? 😉

As the boat rocked and swayed over the sea the hazy skyline of Mumbai slowly came even closer into view. The sun set hastily, giving the hazy outline of Mumbai’s skyscrapers and shacks a deep amber glow. As the familiar shape of the Gateway of India came back into view the sun lowered behind the outline of the grand Taj Hotel.

As we stepped ashore, our minds were filled with the tons of memories & cheerfulness. I will once again visit this historical island of caves! 😀

Travel Trivia

Did you know?

  • Elephanta caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987!
  • The island on which Elephanta Caves are sited was originally called Gharapuri. It was the Portuguese who renamed it as Elephanta, after they found a large stone elephant near their landing place.
  • One of the sculptures in the caves depicts Lord Shiva bringing the Ganges River down to Earth, letting it trickle through his matted hair.