Kolkata Kaleidoscope- Part2 The Temple of Balai Chand

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Balai Chand

Kolkata, the city of Joy, is a melting pot of humanity of various castes, creeds, races and religions who have been living together in perfect harmony for centuries together. The ethnic Chinese of China Town at Tangra, the Jews, the Armenians, the Parsis, the Iranis, Anglo Indians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Hindus, Marwari, Biharis, South Indians, people from the North East, all call Kolkata their home. Pagodas, Synagogues, Fire temples, Churches, Gurudwaras and Temples all dot the secular, cosmopolitan landscape of Kolkata.

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An illustration of the Dakshineswar temple in the background with Ma Kali standing on Lord Shiva and Sri Ramkrishna Parmahansa and his wife Sri Sri Sharada Ma in the foreground.

Temples dedicated to the Hindu Mother Goddess, Durga and her various incarnations especially Goddess Kali are found in abundance in Kolkata. To state that Ma Kali is the presiding deity of the city would not be an exaggeration. Kali Ghat and Dakshineswar temples dedicated to Ma Kali are renowned the world over and they evoke immense emotions among the devotees who throng these temples.

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The Abode of Balai Chand

Hence, the temple of Balai Chand located within the private precincts of the Mitras of Phool Bagan, Beleghata, east Kolkata comes across as a very unique temple.

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The entrance to the divinity’s own chambers

The temple of Balai Chand owes its origin to Shri Pitambar Mitra, the grandfather of Raja Rajendra Lal Mitra, the doyen of the Mitra family who was an Indologist, an author and a key figure in the Bengal Renaissance, the awakening that infused modern thoughts and scientific temper in the otherwise religious bigotry riddled society especially in Bengal.  The lore is that Pitambar Mitra when on a trip to the holy city of Vrindavan, once saw in his dream Lord Balaram or Balbhadra, the elder brother of Lord Krishna, arguably the most popular of the Hindu Gods. During the course of the dream, Lord Balaram asked Pitambar Mitra to construct a temple dedicated to him in which the deity should be carved out of the wood of a neem tree that Lord Balaram promised would come to Pitambar.

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The idols made from neem wood as per the dream of Raja Rajendra Lal Mitra

The next morning Pitambar Mitra woke up and did not think much about his dream. Dismissing the entire episode as a flight of his imagination, he went out for his usual stroll on the banks of the River Yamuna. While he was in the midst of his stroll at Keshi Ghat, he chanced upon a log that had been washed ashore. And Lo, as though a miracle the log that had been washed ashore was a log from a neem tree. The prophecy made by Lord Balaram in the dream had come true.

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The temple constructed by Raja Rajendra Lal Mitra in accordance to Balai Chand’s wish

Taking a cue from this event, Pitambar Mitra set it upon himself to build a temple dedicated to Lord Balaram as directed by the Lord in his dream from the wood of the log that had miraculously come to him.

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Lord Balaram and his consort Revati Rani

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An idol of Lord Jagannath

Today, the idols of Lord Balaram, his consort Revati Rani, Lord Krishna and Lord Jagannath that one sees at the Balai Chand temple is made from the same neem wood that Pitambar Mitra came across during his stroll, one fine day in far off Vrindavan, nearly century and a half years ago.

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The Mitra family conducting the Aarati during Raash

The family organized annual ‘Raash’ at the Balai Chand temple that takes place usually in the month of March after the festival of color- Holi or Dol is over, is an event that is looked forward to by all.

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Blessings of the deity during the Aarati

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Distribution of proshad after the Aarati

 

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The temple ground has old garages as well

During this time, the deity and his consort are taken for a round across the grounds of the temple by the devotees.

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Musicians during the Raash

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The decorated pavilion from which Balai Chand and his consort enjoy the cultural activities during Raash

During the round of his estate, Balai Chand as Lord Balaram is fondly referred to, rests at the embankment of the pond located within the premise. At night, cultural activities like ‘Jatra’- local musical plays are organized in Balai Chand and his consort’s honor which the deities enjoy from a specially made elevated pavilion along with the devotees.

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Stalls at the fair during the Raash of Balai Chand

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Ghugni, Khaja and Nimki- While the divinities enjoy their Raash, the mere mortals too have their share of Gastronomic Fun.

In fact, a 3 day fair is held during the course of the Raash in which children have a great time riding merry go rounds and ferris wheels, the women shop to their heart’s content and the men folk watch the Jatras and musical programmes that are held. In a nutshell, enjoyment and amusement galore but all dripped in the religious fervor of Balai Chand.

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Kolkata Kaleidoscope- Part1

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The Victoria Memorial is a museum and tourist destination that was built in the memory of Queen Victoria

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The old co-existing with the new

Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta), the capital of the state of West Bengal is by far the largest city in Eastern India. Once the seat of power of the British Raj, the city today is a potpourri of the old and the modern where underground metro railways exists with electric trams, where air conditioned taxis coexist with hand pulled rickshaws, where Victorian era architecture jostle for your attention in company of swanky new buildings, where global eateries like KFC and Mc Donald’s satiate your hunger along with the roadside stalls selling traditional savories like beguni, phuluri, cholar dal, luchi, kochuri, shingara, deemer devil,rolls, jhaal muri, phuchka and ah the list is endless……

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A Kolkata street food that packs a crunch “Deemer Devil”- Boiled egg coated with spiced mashed potato rolled on breadcrumbs and deep fried to a golden brown.

Modernity is slowly but surely overpowering things that bear a testimony to an era gone by, but the city still retains an old world charm.

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The Loyal Sentinel- A Lion statue at the entrance of the Victoria Memorial, one of Kolkata’s most renowned landmarks

In my subsequent few posts and photos, I envisage to bring out the flavors, sights and colors of Kolkata as I encountered and experienced it during my recent visits to the “City of Joy”.

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Some of the old buildings in Kolkata are still resplendent outshining even the more modern swanky ones…

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But some buildings have borne the brunt of the vagaries of time.

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The tussle between the old and the new is on and these three buildings are a symbolic testimony to that.

Expect the unexpected in the city of Kolkata, made famous the world over by virtue of being the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity and the work place of Mother Teresa (who after her canonization is now known as St Teresa of Calcutta).

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House of eminent Bengali playwright Shri Girish Chandra Ghosh that is located right in the middle of a busy road in the Baghbazar area.

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Two laborers rest adjacent to an idol of Sri Sri Sharada Ma, wife of the the Bengali sage and philosopher Ramkrishna Paramahansa, so as to emphasize the fact that divinity abodes in the masses.

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Africa in Kolkata?? Giraffe statues on the pavement of Baghbazar Street

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A man prays at the gates of Balaram Mandir, the house of Balaram Ghosh a disciple of Ramkrishna Paramahansa. The house is now a branch of Ramkrishna Mission.

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Kolkata is situated on the banks of River Hooghly, a distributary of River Ganga. A lonely boatman rows back home to the loved ones after a hectic day.

There is no greater love than the love of FOOD and the Kolkatans are Gastronomic Cassanovas to put it mildly. Every nook and corner of the city is filled with gastronomic delights.

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A Bengali is incomplete without his plate of rice and fish. In the picture a typical Bengali lunch of shukto, bhaat, daal, aloo bhaja, maach and a chorchori.

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Luchi, Kosha Mangsho and Posto Bora at 6 Ballugunge Place, a bunglow that has been converted into a fine dine restaurant specializing in authentic Bengali Cuisine.

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The deadly duo-Fish fry with kashundi (mustard)

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Buttered roti and Mutton Masala at Aminia, one of the more famous chain of restaurants in Kolkata that serve Mughlai delicacies

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A boiled egg, two pieces of Mutton and a piece of spiced potato and lo you have the unique Special biriyani of Kolkata. Arsalan and Aminia are supposed to be the best biriyani makers of Kolkata.

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A roadside eatery selling Aloor torkari, Luchi and bhaja

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Chicken cutlets from a roadside stall. These stalls and small shops that dot the Kolkata eating landscape give any of the leading restaurants a run for their money with respect to quality, taste and of course the prices of their items.

After every eat, the Kolkatans crave for something sweet. The sweet tooth of the Kolkatans is legendary and every locality has its own sweet shop that sells the best of Bengali sweets and the stars more often than not are the famous Shondesh and Mishti Doi.

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A typical sweet shop in Kolkata dotted with sweet goodies. This one is a neighborhood sweet shop at Pikepara.

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Mishti doi- sweetened yogurt is one of the more famous sweet indulgences in Kolkata. The doi is served in a ‘haand’, an earthen pot with a wooden spoon. The delicacy is creamy, flaky and delicious.

End of part 1

To be continued……….

Fish Therapy at Jaisamand Lake

When an escape is required from the monotony that mundane routine life has to offer, we try to go off for a quick day trip from Udaipur. With the summer sun gradually but surely embracing the days, it was a point of contention amongst us, where we should be heading to. Besides the sun, the exams of my 9 year old son that were starting almost immediately turned the tables on many other options and we headed for Jaisamand lake, a place that has given us much pleasure umpteenth times, previously.

Approach

The road leading to Lake Jaisamand with Mona restaurant on the right

The drive to the second largest artificial lake in Asia has always been enjoyable and this time too it was no exception barring the bottlenecks and diversions that the work in progress of the construction of the broad gauge railway line from Udaipur to Ahmedabad have created at the peripheral junction of the city of lakes.

 

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Soaking in the beauty of the lake

We were visiting the lake after a hiatus of maybe six months or so and this time we found that the place leading to the embankment of Jaisamand had been enclosed with wire mesh surrounds and a ticket counter had cropped up. Now for an entry to the “Paal’ of Lake Jaisamand, you needed to dish out a nominal Rs10 per person as an entry fee. As we were entering, voices of dissent from the public was heard but if the money collected from the public is really put to good use for the beautification and adding of facilities at the embankment, then nobody would be complaining.

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School of fish savoring the corn kernels

My son as always bought Rs10 worth of corn kernels to be fed to the fishes that are found galore in the lake. The splashing of water by the movement of school of fishes as they scamper to savor the corn kernels is a sight to behold. After the feeding session was over, it was now time to laze around and soak in the beauty of this magnificent tranquil lake. We contemplated whether a boat ride could be fitted into the agenda but decided otherwise as feeding the fishes had given rise to pangs of hunger within us.

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The no ambiance open kitchen of Mona Restaurant

We searched for any cabin that served fresh fish nearby but in vain. Thus we came down from the embankment and zeroed in on a ‘fishy’ looking road side restaurant by the name of Mona that proclaimed that it served Fish Fry. With no ambiance to speak of and an open kitchen on top of that, was enough to dissuade us initially but the gastronomic grumblings got the better of us and we ordered a plate of Jaisamand lake fresh cuttle fish fry for Rs150.

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The freshly marinated fish

Fresh fish, freshly marinated was fried in front of us in the wood fired traditional hearth, ‘chulha’ as it is locally called. The cheerful owner who also doubled as the chef as well as the attendant told us stories about how he started this restaurant nearly two and a half decades back as he continued frying the fish.

The Craftsman at work

The owner honing his craft

The fish pieces when fried to a golden brown was served with a red garlic chutney and freshly round cut onions slices. The owner on his part insisted that we also try a gravied version of his fish and gave the gravy complimentarily along with a local fish which was fried to a crisp.

Delights

The Fish Therapy

The cuttle fish fry was divine and the red garlic chutney complemented it to perfection. The fried local fish also packed a crunch and was delicious. The gravy though was more like a spicy water concoction, nothing much to write home about.
With our hunger satiated and mind rejuvenated it was time for us to again get back home and start a new week afresh, fresh from Fish therapy at Lake Jaisamand, albeit a gastronomic one.

Serene & Scenic- Lake Jayana Sagar, Badi

The epithet “City of Lakes” amply describes Udaipur and justifiably so, as the city is home to world famous lakes like Lake Pichola, Lake Fateh Sagar, Lake Swaroop Sagar, Lake Udai Sagar, Lake Rang Sagar and a little further off Lake Jaisamand to name a few.

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Serene & Scenic- Lake Jayana Sagar, Badi

Lake Jayana Sagar situated about 12 kms north-west of Udaipur near the village of Badi might not be that well known a name but the lake exudes a surreal charm and serenity that overwhelms one and amplifies mankind’s insignificance in front of Mother Nature.

Locally, the lake is known as Badi ka Talab meaning The Pond of Badi, because of its proximity to the village of that name.  It is by this name that the Lake is more widely known and the name Lake Jayana Sagar, might not ring a bell in many a mind both local as well as among visitors.

A devastating drought hit the erstwhile kingdom of Mewar during the 1660s AD. Maharana Raj Singh-I who was the king of Mewar during that time constructed the fresh water lake as a famine relief project in a bid to counter the effects of the drought. The construction of the lake started in 1662 AD and the lake was formally opened for the public on 15th November 1664 AD and was named Jayana Sagar or Jiyan Sagar, after the name of Raj Singh-I’s mother Jana Devi. Six lac Indian rupees a princely sum for those days was the total cost of building the lake.

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The embankment of Badi Ka Talab

The lake and its catchment area are spread over an area of 60 square mile. A 180 metre long and 18 metre wide embankment that has pavilions and steps that also have half submerged pavillions that lead to the water of the lake are the main attractions. The view from the pavilions especially during the sun set is spectacular. A few shikaras or small rowing boats plying on the waters augment the scenic magnificence of the lake.

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The factually incorrect information stone at the entrance to Badi ki Pal

Recently, Badi ka Talab has been brought under the Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary that is nearby and is being promoted as an eco destination. The once free access to ‘pal’ or the embankment of the lake now costs rupees 10 per person as entrance fees.

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Invigorating drive around the lake

A serene drive around the lake through the lush winding road that links it with the village of Gorela at the foothills of Sajjangarh- the Monsoon Palace, nourishes the body and mind and acts as Mother Nature’s own detoxifier and releases one from the clutches of the materialistic world, albeit momentarily.

The Mystical Awari Mata of Asawara

About 90 kms from the city of lakes Udaipur is the temple complex of the mystical Awari Mata, a deity who, it is claimed, provides dramatic cure to people suffering from paralysis, polio, stroke and other physical handicaps. It was on the insistence of a colleague of mine who suffers from a limb handicap, seconded by my better half that we decided to pay our obeisance at this temple situated in the village of Asawara, in Chittorgarh district.
A bright sunny morning saw us embark upon our trip to Awari Mata. The drive down the Udaipur-Chittorgarh highway is serene and pleasurable with the exception of the speedbreakers at the congested Debari stretch of the route and the occasional uneven craters that have been formed due to the heavy vehicular traffic. Thus, before we knew we were at Mangalwad Chouraha munching on hot samosas in kadi garnished with freshly cut onions and green chilly accompanied by piping hot tea.
After a very satisfying breakfast, it was again time for us to keep our tryst with the mother goddess. From the Mangalwad Chouraha, you have to take the straight double laned Mangalwad-Nimbahera road and keep driving till you reach Nikumbh Chouraha. From there a left turn will lead you to the village of Asawara, the abode of Awari Mata also known as Asawara Mata ji.

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Temple of Awari Mata also known as the Temple of Asawara Mata ji

The temple complex consists of a beautiful pond, some resting places, public bathrooms, shops that sell offerings for the deity, a temple dedicated to the Hindu Simian God Hanuman and the temple itself. The place has ample parking space and the parking ticket for a four wheeler is 20INR. We entered the temple complex from the backside which is adjacent to the parking lot.

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A whiff of cool breeze from the pond

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The embankment of the Holy Pond

On entering the premises, the first thing that greeted us was a whiff of fresh cool breeze that emanated from the scenic pond on the banks of which the temple complex is situated. The pond, which a notice board proclaims is the private property of the Ekling ji Trust, is believed to have medicinal powers. It has ghats on its embankment where people were taking a dip in the holy waters in a bid to cure their ailments and even otherwise. We too took a dip in the water that soothed us for sure, from the heat of the stinging summer sun.

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Shops that dot the area

A narrow pathway dotted with shops that sell variously priced offerings for the Mother Goddess leads you to the main temple. Besides the regular items like coconut, red cloth and garlands, the offerings also include bottles of oil.

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Awari Mata ji of Asawara

The scene inside the temple was almost electric. There was a long line of devotees who were there dripping in religious fervor but despite such a long queue there was an almost tranquil vehemence, an oxymoron that I can’t possibly describe in words. The line was fast moving and an entry through a small window like opening landed us in front of Asawara Mata ji, Avari Mata. All things seemed so miniscule, so irrelevant in front of the Mother. Numbness overpowered my senses and an indescribable sense of joy percolated whole being. Oblivious to my surroundings, it took a security guard and his whistle to dislodge me from my state of spiritual actualization.

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Devotees gathering ash at the courtyard

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Devotees with ailments lying on the floor with hope and conviction

The courtyard of the temple has ash from the incenses (agarbattis) that keep on burning day and night. Some people smear it on their bodies others take them back home in the hope of divine miracles. In the passage that surrounds the courtyard; many people suffering from paralysis, stroke, polio and other physical disabilities could be seen lying down. Their bodies told a story that was oozing with their pain, distress and misery but their eyes told a different story, a story that was full of hope and conviction. It is believed that participating in the daily rituals of the temple and inhaling the smoke from the incense lit during the rituals go a long way in curing the ailments of the devotees who are otherwise incapacitated by their ailments.

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Passing through the archway 

Devotees make it a point to go almost sliding through a small archway made of stone in the courtyard. It is believed that a person who can pass through the archway, for him recovery from ailment or fulfillment of a wish is almost certain.
As I drove back home from the dwelling of the Mother in reminiscence of the day gone by, I almost felt overwhelmed by a strange feeling of gratitude, a gratitude whose genesis was from the fact that even when the struggle is unfathomable, there always is a divine power that always backs up the person, who has not ceased to struggle.

Tajpur- Sun, Sand and Serenity!

On a family vacation to the City of Joy, Kolkata, the capital of the East Indian state of West Bengal, it was my father who zeroed upon the coastal hamlet of Tajpur, on the Bay of Bengal, in Mednipur district.

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Teeming humanity at Digha Beach

About 180 kms from Kolkata, Tajpur is a less visited sea shore destination though the famous sea town of Digha and Mondarmoni are located at a stone’s throw away from it.

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Howrah station

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We took a morning 11.15 am Duronto Express from Howrah railway station which raced past scenic meadows, villages, water bodies and lush green vistas. We were served a sumptuous non-veg lunch pack on board and by 2 in the afternoon we were at Digha, the terminal point of the train.

From Digha, Tajpur is about 20 odd kms and waiting for us at the station was a mini van sent by the resort that we had booked for our stay at Tajpur, the Mallickaa Resort.

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Fish farms enroute to Tajpur

Our journey from the Digha railway station to the Mallickaa  Resort took us about half and hour and during that period we could gauge that we were gradually getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and a huge wave of humanity to something that was quieter, less uninhabited, something that promised, bliss.

From the main highway, our van took a turn onto a narrow road that had fish farms lined on both its side. We soaked in the beauty of the place and breathed the freshness of the air and before long we were at the gates of the Mallickaa Resort.

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The resort in itself was pretty amazing with ample flora and fauna within it precincts. Turkeys, swans, pigeons, hens, rabbits, guinea pigs all roamed around freely in the vast greenery of the resort. It did not have a swimming pool but to compensate for it, it had a pond in which one could go boating. The pond also acts as the breeding ground for the fresh water fishes that adorn the menu of the restaurant of Mallickaa.

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The pond in the resort

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Boats at Mallickaa Resort

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Turkeys on the ground

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Guinea pigs

We checked into cottages that had their own unique names and were comfortable with all basic amenities in place. A cat nap later we were ready for our tryst with the sandy serene shores of the Tajpur beach.

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Uniquely named cottages

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The wooded road to Paradise

An unpaved, about half a kilometer long, road from the main gate of Mallickaa resort through Casuarina groves and dense shrubbery leads you to inverted crescent shaped beach of Tajpur. Oh, What a sight it was to behold! A few shacks scattered around and with hardly a soul around, the sea shore was an epitome of serenity, a place that washes away all your materialistic worries and detoxes you and uplifts you spiritually. The noise of the sea crashing on to the shore, adds to the surreal experience. One could spend hours and hours together in the very lap of Mother Nature, far from the maddening crowds.

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The Tajpur Beach

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Sun, sand and serenity

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Fun on the run

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Detoxing effect

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A fisherman at his trade

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Toto-the electric rickshaw

Though we year marked a shack that offered food and drinks on the beach itself, the grumblings of the gastronomic variety forced us back to our temporary dwelling within the confines of Mallickaa resort. The resort provides the services of a Toto, an electric rickshaw for a charge, for guests who desire so but we walked our way back through the delightful wooded road.

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King sized-Breakfast

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ABC-Authentic Bengali Cuisine

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Up and close

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Crab Masala

At Mallickaa resort, the farm fresh vegetables, fish and poultry made our gastronomic indulgences even more satiating. For breakfast we had loochi (a fried Bengali bread made of flour), begun bhaja (fried brinjals) and aloor torkari (a potato dish). Lunch was an Authentic Bengali Cuisine affair with bhaat (rice), dal (lentils), aloo bhaja (fried potatoes), lau chingri (a prawn & bottle gourd dish), shorshe parshe ( mustard fish), chingri maacher malai curry (a prawn delicacy), topping it off with a nolane gurer rosogolla (a spongy sweet filled with jiggery). For dinner chicken korma (white gravied chicken dish), butter chicken, fried crab masala, dahi chicken (chicken in yogurt) and rotis (Indian bread) were the star attractions.

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The misty morning

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Dew drops from the foliage breaking the silence enroute to the beach

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we were off again to absorb the beauty of the Tajpur beach. It was a misty morning and that augmented the tranquil magnificence of the whole area. An overwhelming calmness reigned all over, periodically broken by dew drops sliding through the dense foliage making an eerie noise that got amplified in the hushed environment.

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Mist overpowering everything else

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Fog all around

The sea was hardly visible even from the shore. The fog and mist had truly embraced it in their bosoms. A biting cold wind swept through the large expanse of sand and sea. No animal was in sight let alone humans. Gradually, the sun started overpowering the prevailing murkiness. Resilient village folks started trickling out, doing their daily chores, facing the challenges that a brand new day had on offer for them.

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Resilient villagers trickling out

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Brown crab

Sea creatures too started coming out of their hiatus. Red crabs, brown crabs and other varieties of oceanic life forms could be spotted on the beach.

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Red Crab

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Sea Creature

Our explorations on the beach had made us hungry and we made our way back to our designated base camp, the shack that offered food and drinks.

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Food at The Shack

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A most pleasurable breakfast

Breakfast at the shack was a simple one but one which provided us with utmost pleasure. Loochi, aloo kopir torkari (potato with cauliflower), double egg omelet, sipping piping hot coffee, soaking in the visual gems that Mother Nature had on offer, ah life indeed was heavenly on that wonderful morning in December.

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Good things happen over a coffee

But as with all good things in life, our trip to Tajpur too came to its conclusion but not before we had energized ourselves and filled our minds with memories that we would be cherishing for life.

Wah-Taj!

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Saas Bahu Temple-The Forgotten Wonder

 

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Famous, the world over for its shimmering lakes, Udaipur, often called the Venice of the East, has a facet which is lesser known. The capital of the erstwhile princely state of Mewar, Udaipur boasts of some ancient exquisitely carved temples. Though temples like the one dedicated to Lord Jagdish, an incarnation of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu and the one dedicated to Lord Ekling ji, the chief deity of the Royal House of Mewar are revered and thronged by thousands, some others like the 11th century temple complex of Shahastra Baahu, popularly known by its local name ‘Saas Bahu” have been relegated to the back pages of relevance and reverence.

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Set on the banks of Lake Bagela near the Ekling ji temple about 22 kms from Udaipur is the small hamlet of Nagda, which lore claim was one of the earliest capitals of Mewar. Nagda is named after its founder Nagaditya, the fourth King of Mewar from the linage of King Bappa Rawal, and is set in a surrounding which is breathtakingly picturesque. The temple of Saas Bahu expands the magic and charm of the place. Built in the early 11th century, the twin temple complex which is right on the shores of lake Bagela, is an example of exemplary architectural workmanship of ancient Vaishnav art form.

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On a sunny winter December afternoon, we decided to take a road trip to the Sahastra Baahu Temple Complex. To get to the Saas Bahu temples, you have to turn left adjacent to the embankment of the Lake Bagela, as you approach the steep slope that takes you to the temple of Ekling ji at Kailashpuri. A glaring drawback en route to the temples is the absence of any road signs or indicators that might help you to reach the temples without getting the feeling of having got lost. The narrow road takes you past a resort aptly name Heritage Resort and centuries old Jain temples but even the approach road towards the Saas Bahu temple complex is devoid of any signage that might proclaim its existence to the wandering visitors. An empty and derelict parking lot added to the confusion.

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We took a steep road past the parking lot and were greeted by the sound of cascading water from a small artificial water fall beside a small shop selling curios. The shop owner doubled up as a parking attendant and after paying INR 15/- as parking fees to him, we began our tryst with the complex that houses the twin temples of Saas Bahu.

 

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Entering the complex, which is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), you are greeted by a well maintained garden and beyond that is the raised platform on which are the temples of Shahastra  Bahu dedicated to Lord Vishnu in an incarnation with thousand hands (hence the name shahastra meaning thousand and baahu meaning hands)

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The complex though is more widely known by its distorted name ‘Saas Bahu’ temples.  Saas in the local language means mother-in-law and Bahu connotes daughter-in-law and it is not hard to fathom why the temples are known as the Saas Bahu temples. Standing right across each other, the ‘Saas’ temple which has a beautiful archway at its entrance,  is comparatively larger in size than the ‘Bahu’ temple which has a fascinating octagonal carved ceiling, signifying the relative place of importance that a mother-in-law has for the daughter-in-law and the family in general. Both the temples are adorned by some exquisite carvings depicting events and figures from Hindu mythology like Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh besides others like Ram, Parshurama and Balrama that showcase the sculpting prowess and vivid imagination of the sculptors of that time.

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There are two more much smaller temples on the platform, both in ruins. The ancient temple complex has been a witness to destruction by marauding invaders for centuries and it shows. Today, the temples despite the scars that ravages of time have wrecked on them mercilessly stand resplendently in resilient abeyance to their creators and as a proud reminder to modernity that the past has more gems hidden in her bosom than the future can even aspire to provide.