Festivals of India: Hemis Festival

India is a diverse nation. Everyday people are celebrating something in various parts of this huge nation. We know about many religious and cultural festivals but have very basic (in many cases none) knowledge about the art themed fairs & festivals celebrated across the country along with some traditional religious festivals which are pulling many tourists now a days.

This specific Travel series of mine concentrates on the calendar of those festivals which every Indian should proudly attend and enjoy!

Statue of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava)
Statue of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava)

When?

Every year this festival takes place in June or July. The two day celebration takes place on the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar month. 2017 dates of the festival are 3rd and 4th July. 2018 dates of the festival are 23rd and 24th June. You can visit and stay in the region from May to September as it’s considered as the time of pleasant and sustainable weather.

Where?

Hemis Monastery is in the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir. The largest monastery of Ladakh is just 45 km away from Leh. The official address is ‘Leh, Jammu & Kashmir, 194201’.

There are plenty of luxury hotels, home stays and resorts around the monastery. The monastery itself offers rooms to live for tourists. The festival is attended by locals as well as by tourists around the world. I would suggest you to pre-book a room around monastery to avoid the search for a roof after getting there. There are also many restaurants around the monastery which offer local and other Indian (especially North Indian) food. Even the monastery serves delicious food to its tourists along with traditional Butter Tea.

What is it exactly?

Hemis Monastery is considered as the wealthiest monastery in India. The festival is celebrated on the occasion of the birth of Guru Padmasambhava. Guru Padmasambhava is considered as a representative reincarnate of Buddha. In the festival the Chamms Lamas perform masked dance and sacred plays. The performances are glorified with cymbals, drums and long horns. Lamas dress in colorful brocades and masked attire while they perform the dance. The dance is supposed to be the symbol where of good defeating the evil, in other words Gods defeating the Demons. The dance drama is enhanced with different Mudras used by the dancers during their performances. The performers often use the masks representing different divinities of religious or historical importance.

The main festival activities take place in the rectangular courtyard in front of the main door of the monastery. The space is wide and open. There are two raised square platforms, three feet high with a sacred pole in the center. The raised dais is decorated with richly cushioned seats. There is also a finely painted small Tibetan table with the ceremonial items on it which include – cups full of holy water, uncooked rice, tormas made of dough and butter and incense sticks. The ceremonies begin with an early morning ritual atop the Gompa where, to the beat of drums and the resounding clash of cymbals and the spiritual wail of pipes, the portrait of “Dadmokarpo” or “Rygyalsras Rinpoche” is then ceremoniously put on display for all to admire and worship. It’s amazing to see the local people gathering around in their traditional attire to enjoy the festival.

How to reach?

The easiest way to reach the monastery is by road from Leh. The road is beautiful and scenic. You can book a ride from Leh which is just 50 minutes away from your destination. On regular days monastery is open from 8am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm. The entry fee is 100Rs. per person.

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The route map from Leh to Hemis Monastery

You can also plan a trek along with your visit to the monastery. There are number of treks you can do when you are in Ladakh. To decide which trek to take and other important details do visit the following site:

https://www.lehladakhindia.com/

 

PC.: Google

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Getting In A Shoe!

Five pairs of shoes are wrapped into my shoe rack
Each one holds a purpose there
But they hardly ever held my feet…

One is a red stilettos without a brand, without a label
It helps me see the small across the table
When those red belts snap around my feet,
They make me feel sexy and slut in a minute
They can’t hide the scars I have on my left leg
Instead they make new once every time I walk on his spine belt!

Second are the dignified flats which I wore the most
They are now covered with stains, the gum and the threads
I wear them under long skirts and dresses
I believe its easier to hide scars under the long drapes..!

Third and forth are of the same genre
Those green-grey and blue-black shoes stuffed in a corner;
One is old and one is new
The signs of my laziness to wake up and brew!

The fifth is the ugly duckling
But I love him the most
He knows all my secrets so I wear him everyday with hope!

I see people walking by the road
And judge them by their shoes…
Unable to pin my hills in the crowd,
I realize I never saw myself from across the street
May be getting a new pair will make me bare
And I will finally know
I am nothing but a bleeding wooden leg with a bow!

 

PC.: Durgesh Parmarthi

Sand Castles

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I see myself standing in the sand as I keep mum
It doesn’t matter I move or be steady,
I feel myself drowning in the ambush of conundrum…

The skeleton is in the closet
The beast is still in the woods
I try to be optimistic,
Still unable to ignore my caution for pessimism…

Every minute of every day surrounded by the same walls and same people
Life refuses to change rejecting opportunities
So I keep staring at the mundane screen with a picture of sand castle…

Seeing me like this, people often quote Froude
But difficult theories never always work
I realize this now as I put another feather in the facades of therapy!

The silver lining of all these thoughts is asking me to be courageous
The sand castles and the feather bows protecting it asking me
Will I set myself free from the closet full of woods
Or let myself buried in the sand below my feet…

Independence

Jpeg

Summer brought the dust on the leaves
Wind, sun and water from the can came along
But the dust refused to move on!
Monsoon came running bearing the strong harsh sprinkles
But the adamant dust still isn’t ready to move on…

Its stealing their energy, their purity, the peaceful look on their faces
It considers itself as the beauty spots
The wind, sun and water think its imposing on…

I, stand here wondering what the leaves want?
Coming into the world far away from land, surrounded by black grills, roots into pots
Their childhood wasn’t a pleasure ride neither is the awful adulthood going on

They grew up on themselves throughout the winter,
Later the spring helped them to blossom
It was easy and comfortable as spring did all the work
But as the spring took off they felt helpless, insecure and alone!
They clutched the hands of the summer dust out of fear
The dust took the opportunity and made a promise which was rear
It crippled the leaves by promising never to leave
Crossed their heart and hoped to die

The wind, the sun and the water are trying to separate them
But the dust isn’t going anywhere!
The leaves are scared to let the dust go and be themselves
The world isn’t a place for alone, beautiful, fresh leaves… they know!

I wonder will the leaves have the courage to make a decision
I wonder will I help them make a decision?
I wonder will I ever make such a decision??

 

Movie Review: Dear Dad

I was introduced to the concept of romantic idealism when I was in college. I learnt it in political context but later realized that we have embodied this concept in our daily lives including our cinema.  The directors and writers sometimes give it the name of ‘cinematic liberty’. This ‘overrated’ liberty is many times difficult to understand and sometimes ruins the good script. In my opinion, the director-writer (Tanuj Bharmar) of Dear Dad have tried to solve a real problem using their thoughts on romantic idealism in the name of cinematic liberty.

The movie tells us the story of father (Nitin Swaminathan, 45, played by Arvind Swamy) – son (Shivam Swaminathan, 14, played by Himanshu Sharma) and their complicated relationship. Every ideal family in the world is not so ideal. Everyone has a crack or a past. In this film, the father has both. The father is gay and now wants a divorce from his decade long marriage. The son is left devastated after learning this truth about his father. It took a lot of years and courage for the father to come out to his family and son, who idealizes him. The father doesn’t expect from his son to accept him immediately for who he is but to understand why he kept his real emotions aloof.

The father-son duo battle over the facts, emotions and the decision of divorce which will break their happy family. These scenes are very crisp and designed very beautifully. Though the movie has it’s own slow pace, it successfully keeps you engaged. The dialogues are straight, small sentences and to the point. The picture perfect location for not so perfect family bonding is a complimentary treat. The director and cinematographer keeps the movie fresh. The actors surely pour their emotions out. But the movie lacks (in the script department) in it’s second half, where the above  mentioned romantic idealism takes over.

After a break of few months (I guess 5-6 months) the Tanuj Bharmar brings back the father-son duo. This time the son has accepted his father for who he is, his parent’s divorce and to some extent the fact that he soon might have a stepfather (or stepfathers). This is what made me question the movie. A teenager boy doesn’t come over the fact of his parents divorce and his father’s sexuality in a few months. And considering the drama in the first half, its highly difficult to understand his cool, calm and happy buddy attitude towards his father. It took me nearly a decade to understand and comprehend my parent’s divorce and seeing the same thing happening on screen (with a twist of sexuality) in few months was just pure entertainment for me. It pains me that a movie started with such an exclusive topic, lost its core to the romantic idealism.  The ‘acceptance’ by the son is a practical decision which in my opinion, a difficult one to make for a teenager.

The movie handles the subject of ‘coming out of the closet’ like no one else has ever done in Bollywood. Even after the not so expected rainbow and unicorn climax, I will still recommend everyone to watch this movie. Watch it for its crisp dialogues, for the characters who are true to themselves, for the courage and acceptance. And most importantly watch to learn that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks about us; what matters is what you and your loved ones think about yourself.

Dear Dad Teaser:

Dear Dad Trailer:

It’s Time to Grow Up 90’s Kids

I was born in 1993 which makes me a 90’s kid. Everyday I see at least 10 images or links bringing back the television, film, sport and other nostalgic memories from my childhood. I feel happy and linger in my nostalgia for a while when I read or see such things. But I have noticed that this nostalgia is turning into a well tailored criticizing movement. The posts I read are now targeting directly to every single thing that is not from the 90’s and telling me how meaningless, uncultured and delusional the new era is.

90's 1
Yes they have the technology which we didn’t

Every era has its worst and its best. So did the 90’s and so do the new millenniums. In entertainment industry, trends tend to repeat themselves. In the 90’s people danced on the DJ-made remix tracks on the melodious songs from 1950’s-1970’s. Today, people are dancing on the remix tracks of the 90’s. In the 90’s, the remixes came as individual albums, today they are incorporated in films. In the 90’s, we saw M TV and Channel V; today we and the next generation is sticking to you tube, hot star and netflix. The 90’s gave us many album singer, each song had a love story, they were extremely melodious. Today we have web series on every possible topic.

90's 3
The kids today have to struggle more than the kids of 90’s considering the competition

The 90’s were different and the millenniums are too. The 90’s kids didn’t had so much of access to internet, television, there were no smart phones and very few people had desktops in their homes. Today every one has a smart phone, every room has a HD TV, we are surrounded by the waves of wi-fi. If we had so much of technology in our era, we would have behaved the same way. Each era brings technological revolution with itself. We can’t judge it from that.

90's 2
We WERE!! Remember its past tense…

Being a 90’s kid, I don’t have the right to negatively criticize each and every thing the new millennium has to offer me. I was criticized by the kids of 60’s-70’s-80’s when I willingly listened and danced to the songs by DJ Aqil and Baby Doll. I justified myself at that time and today I am just being stubborn. I agree that I feel bad when I watch badly rapped-up remixes or children playing ludo in their I-pads but I (and other 90’s kids too) have to understand that this is how time works. We are not kids anymore. We have to adjust with the kids of this era as we were of the 90’s. They don’t want to watch Dexter or Power Puff Girls. How many of us will watch those shows now if they start to telecast the old shows again? The answer is no one. We are so used to the actions of the Avengers that if DD plays Shaktimaan again, we will laugh on it’s production value (which we used to love when we were kids) and change the channel within seconds. Yes the shows like Surabhi were great but no one wants to compromise watching Sasural Simar Kaa for Surabhi.

90's 4
Now I watch Game of Thrones…

Our choices and priorities changed, so did the entertainment. We have to stop seeing each and every thing through the glasses of 90’s and accept the change. We need to move on so that we can truly call ourselves the youth of the new millennium.

90's 5
GROW UP!!

Image Source: Internet

Visit Kerala’s Off Beat Destination : Thangassery

When we travel to a place, we always wish to visit an off beat destination rather than a crowded tourist destination. You don’t find these off beat destinations easily, you have to look hard for it. Sometimes these destinations may be a total disappointment or sometimes they will feel like paradise. I found out such a off beat paradise like destination in Kerala.

I had planned a big busy trip to Kerala with my friends. We visited all the famous regular touristy destinations. But I had decided that we will visit an off beat destination, where tourists go  but it’s not always their first choice. I asked internet to help me to find such one place, and the name of Thangassery Beach popped up!

Thangassery beach is located in the Kollam city of Kerala. It’s just 5-6 kms away from main city. It’s easily accessible by road and rail too. Thangassery hosts a huge light house, ruins of an old fort and a fairly crowded beach. The small town has its own ancient history which makes it even more special.

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Panoramic View 1

We were living at the Summer House Holiday Home. Its located 3 kms away from the light house. Living at the holiday home felt like being in the heaven. The rates were cheap, rooms were huge and clean, food was testy and the view was BREATHTAKING. it was so amazing that we skipped our plans to visit the light house and fort and spent our time watching the sun set in the sea. We clicks 100s of photos posing on the rock body (which was working as a wall between the cottage and the sea).  Unfortunately we were there only for a day. I wish we could have stayed longer. But I am planning to visit and stay at the holiday home for a long time.

It will be absolutely fine if you miss a houseboat tour or a temple visit in Kerala. But mark my words, you don’t want to visit this awesome place.

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Panoramic View 2

When we entered, we were tired, sticky and singing Bollywood songs:

The moment we got dramatic:

Video courtesy: Durgesh Parmarthi

https://www.facebook.com/fooboo1pune/?ref=br_rs

https://www.facebook.com/An-EYEtography-383941348365248/…

What To Buy In Kerala’s Oldest Market?

I had a few things on my shopping list marked as ‘compulsory’ when I started planning my Kerala trip. I was sure that I will get those things in any of Kerala’s markets but like any other person, I wanted the best in quality and quantity. And I got my things with superb quality and local touch at Chalai Market in Trivandrum.

Chalai Market is serving the people in the capital city of Kerala as well as to the tourists from 18th century. It was built by Raja Kesavdas, the then Dewan of Travancore. The market was the central place to supply and segregate commodities and goods coming from around the globe. The market is spread over 2 kilometers with many shops selling the same things. To make your hunt to buy best easy, I am giving a list of shops I found genuine and providing best goods.

The Spice Stop:

Its impossible to anyone leave Kerala without buying any spices. In Chalai market, one can find more than 5 shops selling spices. But the Kannu & Co. spice shop was the one which caught our eye. The shop owners are very helpful and suggest you what to buy exactly. They have more than 50 types of spices, coffee, tea and other food items. The products are shipped from interior Kerala. The smell of the spices tell their quality. Also it’s not too expensive.

Buy the Metal Work:

Want to buy copper and silver statues to decorate your house or for gifting purpose? SKP (S. Kuttalam Pillai) & Sons is your destination. They offer a wide range of Samais’ (traditional lamps), statues of Hindu Gods and Godesses, elephants and other holy animals. They also undertake temple works. The shop is a little bit expensive but worth for it’s quality and options.

Buying the fragrance:

JAs Perfumes store in the heart of Chalai market totally steals your heart. One simply can’t decide which perfume to buy. The have more than 100 scents in the one tiny shop which is always crowded. Don’t back off when you see the crowd on it’s doors, just get in their ask what you want and you will get it. Even if you don’t know which fragrance is yours, the shop owner and the staff will help you to buy the perfect one. I got moon light and jasmine, two of the most soothing fragrances from the store. They also sell chandan face mask, fragrant dhoop and agarbattis, deodorants, air fresheners and bukhoors.

They sell online too. Check out their website:

http://jasperfumes.in/

Picture Courtesy: Durgesh Parmarthi & Tanvi Shaikh

https://www.instagram.com/darsh713/

https://www.instagram.com/tanvi_2327/

Where To Buy The Local Snacks (or chakhana) in Kerala?

Each town in Kerala has its own local taste. I always try to find hotels or stores where I can enjoy such local flavors. In my trip to Kerala, I found two such places where the shops were filled with local snacks and I wanted to buy the whole shop.

The AK Bakery in Kayamkulam city is filled with huge bags of snacks and sweets. You can buy more than 10 types of banana wafers, 2 types of jalebi, 3-5 types of badami halwa, achhapam and so many other Kerala delicacies (very difficult to pronounce thus difficult to spell for me) under one roof. The owners of the bakery are very helpful and suggest you the perfect snacks to buy. The bakery is located near Parabrahma Temple, Kayamkulam.

The other store I visited was in Thiruvananthpuram (also known as Trivandrum). The Maha Chips store in the capital city is located near the famous Padmanabham Temple. Suitable to its name, the store is huge. It offers you very different flavors of banana chips like salty, pepper, masala, garlic, chilli etc. They also have jack fruit jam, different types of chakalis, sweets, badami halwa. Each counter has a helper and the person helps you to pack the freshly made delicacies. The store is always over crowded and doesn’t have a parking space near by. So I would suggest you to walk to the store from the temple (the distance is hardly 50mtrs) and take only your wallet when you visit.

Read more about Mah Chips:

http://mahachips.com/

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