It is almost thirty years since I first traveled to Japan.
Had never heard of Sushi , let alone any other Japanese food type.
How the world has changed, Japanese restaurants have mushroomed in my hometown of New Delhi. Sushi has become a mainstay of all buffets in fancy hotels and a must like for all socialites ( read Page 3) . I have even seen Sushi bars in the malls. Is the day far when they are available along with momos at every street cafe ?
Now in Sakura, New Delhi celebrating “Kanto Matsuri” , the pole lantern festival .
The Red Lanterns and colour red seem to be the main theme of this restaurant serving Japanese cuisine, located on the first floor within the Metropolitan Hotel , New Delhi.
A well stocked bar with the sea food prominently displayed on the counter.
We were however the ‘only foreigners’ in this restaurant, all the tables were occupied by Japanese guests.
An introduction to the festival of lanterns and the menu( by the talented chefs ) for the evening was placed on every table.
A unique feature in many parts of the Far East including Japan is the display of “faux food”. Thus only for looking, not eating .
Sea Food is a cornerstone of Japanese cuisine . The various types are displayed in the restaurant .
salmon ( peach coloured) is on the extreme right.
The vegetarian and non vegetarian menus.I kept a careful watch so as not to miss a course.
I love Edamame beans.The tofu ( extreme left) was super soft and simply melted away in the mouth. Japanese momos ( Yaki Gyoza) are in the centre.
Can any food be complete without drinks ? Beer seemed to very popular amongst all the guests.
The sauce with the salad was fantastic.
Sushi has become the chic food now.
The Miso soup was a surprise add-on by the chef . It was not listed on the printed menu.
Japanese cuisine is always aesthetically presented and looks like a piece of art.
The tempura.( similar to the Indian pakoras) Did the faux tempura look better? Please do comment.
Hot noodle soup or Shoyu Ramen.
I was ready to burst. Skipped the ice cream and the tea as well.But you can have it.
Sayonara. Leave you with more of the colour Red.( picture is straight off the camera, no filters, no editing)
India is indeed a mysterious country with folklore, myths and history so intricately intertwined , it’s hard to extract one from the other.
Bhojpur is the tiniest of villages located 30 kms from Bhopal, the Capital of Madhya Pradesh . A landlocked state located in the heart of India, it is home to many secrets from the past.
Bhojpur was founded by Raja Bhoj in the early 11th century.
Sinhasana Battisi, a famous composition and literary masterpiece of 32 yoginis ( angels) was composed in this area itself.
Ashapuri or the city of hope is about 6 kms from Bhojpur and is home to a vast array of temples, Hindu, Jain and Buddhist.
The region is unexplored and can be a delight for any curious traveler, mythologist or historian.
An enormous incomplete temple looms over its landscape.Each stone used to build this colossal structure weighs about 70 tonnes each.
While I have given you a glimpse of this gorgeous marvel of architecture built about 1500 years in another article. Today I shall play the role of an archaeologist to unravel the mysteries of Bhojpur.
This site is off the tourist map and a site visited by but a few. As you can see the temple is INCOMPLETE. The spire or the typical pyramid on top is missing? It was never built, and has remained so for 1500 years.
The mammoth scale represents the pinnacle of Temple Architecture of 11th century India.
The Bholeshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Bhojpur was once the capital of the vast empire of Raja Bhoj who ruled this kingdom in the 11th Century AD.
It lies on the banks of the river Betwa which goes all the way to Orchha, another must see historical and quaint town in Madhya Pradesh.
The construction of the temple was started by the illustrious KING BHOJ ( the airport at Bhopal is named after him) , who ruled the area known as Malwa.
His dynasty, the Paramaras ruled Malwa for close to 3 centuries.
It is said that he was stricken by an incurable disease. A sage advised him to construct a lake fed by 365 springs ( one for each day of the year) . It is said Raja Bhoj was an accomplished engineer and astrologer as well.
Bhojpur was the site of this lake , nestled between hills and made by creating a unique dam across the river Betwa. A dip in this man made lake cured the King of his ailments.
The lake however has dried up ( or was drained out) over time leaving only the Incomplete temple as a witness.The temple was the Thanksgiving of Raja Bhoj.
The grateful King wished to complete a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in gratitude for being cured of his ailments.
Was it an earthquake which destroyed the temple? A visit to neighboring Ashapuri points to this possibility.
The thanksgiving continues to date as the gong rings calling the faithful to prayer.
It is a unique site, where you can see the plans of a mammoth proposed temple complex etched in stone. Drawings and etchings made 11 centuries ago can still be seen to the north west of the temple.
The sound of the conch shell takes you through a time warp when gigantic stones weighing 70 tonnes were taken along a ramp and placed according to a meticulous plan. The ramp exists to date.
Did invading armies prevent the completion of the temple?
It is fabled the temples were constructed with assistance from the Chola Kings of the south. The Chola kings worshipped Lord Shiva a swell.
What prevented the completion of the temple, were no funds sanctioned by the rulers after 1085 A.D.?
The Largest Shivling in the world rises 22 feet ( 7m) from base to the top.
Bholeshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, built by Raja Bhoj ( 1010-1058 AD) was his thanksgiving for being cured from his ailments.
It symbolized the ingenuity of and the prosperity of his kingdom as it overlooked a 450 sq km man made BHOJPUR TAAL.( lake) .
Over time it has also acquired the name SOMNATH OF THE NORTH.
The Shivling itself is made from a single stone and is about 2 mtr in height.
It was damaged as the central dome collapsed breaking the Shivling into two. The polish on the sandstone is dazzling to date .
Fables of this mighty ruler reached every corner of the Land bringing the best crafstman under his command.
A treatise on Architecure, Samarangana Sutradhara was authored by Raja Bhoj alongwith 84 other books on a vast spectrum of subjects including Medicine & Chemistry.
The blueprints of the temple can be seen even today , etched in stone, yet the temple was left incomplete ? Did the architects mess it up?
There is a story from the Mahabartaha ( 1500- 2000Bc) that Karna ( son of the Sun) was left in this very river by his unwed mother Kunti.
The incomplete temple brings to life folklore, fables and legends.
Lets travel to discover more of this amazing land.
While I write this blog I am relishing and reliving each moment of the trip to Gujarat.
After several trips to this state , am convinced that the women of this state have unparalleled skills.Its vibrancy rests on the pillars of WOMEN POWER.
Its the Women of Gujaratwho would sweep you off your feet . So keep your eyes peeled for the most amazing and graceful women of this vibrant state of India.
The little red fruits on the ladies work table ( “thela” in Hindi) caught my eye first. They turned out to be valuable clues in enabling me to catch glimpses of the working women of Gujarat.
All the photographs have been taken as we traveled within the Saurasthra region of this state.
This lady is roasting peanuts and selling these mysterious fruits outside a gorgeous Mahadev temple ( not in this picture ) near Ahmedabad.
These mysterious fruits guide me to these lovely ladies. The way the saree is draped is unique to Gujarat.
Snacks ( called Farsan) are a must for all in Gujarat. This little kiosk is selling a sweet called Jalebis( stacked on the right in the picture below) and other “snakes” .( the unique local accent transforms snacks to snakes)
Charming Momma in a beautiful and colourful saree is making delicious Jalebis ( made from lentils ) and is happy to look at the camera in the eye.
Adding to the joy of road travel within India and the colour of the women’s clothes is this amazing out of the box transport machine called JUGAAD.
Observe the gorgeous Pinks and unique sense of dress as these women head to work on this trailer attached to a tractor.
The grace and sense of balance even in the busy streets of India is a sight to behold. The utensils have interesting shapes and will vary from each region of India.
You see women at work in the fields , on the streets and even on boats.
This elderly lady is wearing a unique attire worn by a certain sect or tribe of women in Saurasthra. (southern region of Gujarat) They usually wear a lot of silver jewellery, have backless blouses and have the most amazing tattoos.
Spirited and full of energy, this bull had met its match in the lady Matador.
Do observe the expressions of the women in the background.( more on this in another blog)
Any questions or comments , feel free to write to me.
It is fabled a drop of Amrit (nectar) which grants immortality fell from the kumbh ( urn ) at the RAM KUND, Nashik.
The Urn was carried by Garuda ( the king of serpent eagles and vehicle of Lord Vishnu) .
I am writing with the hope that the article is read by a vast number of people and my travelogue motivates them to go to the Sinhastha Kumbh. The Kumbh is happening as I write and the fair will continue till the end of September 2015.
I was not even aware, let alone go to one, of the significance of the Kumbh Melas till about 3 years ago.Thereafter it has been a never ending educational journey . The Kumbh is a must visit for people from all walks of life. ( believers or non believers, Hindus and non Hindus)It is a chance of a lifetime to witness and learn about this massiveupsurge of humanity.
It is a literary congregation/festival of scholars , sadhus and priests besides millions of people.
It is a religious fair held once in 12 years when the Sun and Jupiter enter the constellation of “Leo”, the Lion. ( Singha is Lion in Hindi) .
A unique fact about the Nashik Kumbh is that it is held simultaneously at two locations, Ram Kund at Nashik and Trymbakeshwar ( 30 kms from Nashik) .
Thus we will go to both , we go first to the Ram Kund which is in the heart of the charming city of Nashik.
Panchvati, Nashik ( location of the Ram Kund) is a historic site as it is supposed to be the place where Lakshman cuts the nose of Supranakha, hence the the name NASHIK.
( please read the epic Ramayan)
The antique panel above is located at the base of the Ram Stambh( pillar) located at Panchvati near the Ram Kund. You have to look for it. I was lucky to spot it as a priest was there offering flowers.
The U shaped mark is the symbol of Lord Vishnu and can be seen at Tirupathi in particular. The flight of stairs descends to the ghats and Ram Kund where you take the traditional dip to wash away your sins.
The Stambh or Pillar also marks the centre of Panchvati where Lord Ram lived for two and half years with Sita and Lakshman.
It is interesting that a temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwar is located a few minutes away from this site.
Small temples are located under trees along the river banks and even in the midst of the river. Mythology, nature and religion form a beautiful amalgamation.
Millions have come and gone bound in the faith that a dip in these waters will atone all sins of the past. I too took a dip with thousands of others and symbolically offered the water to the Sun God.
The closest natural event to the Kumbh is the migration in far away Africa.The lady has traveled 1500 kms with her ailing husband to carry the holy waters in her urn ( kumbh) made of brass.
Do see the kumbh ( urn) in the foreground
Trees temples and people all merge. Man and woman exist in all symbolized by Ardhanareshwar. Only the two combined can complete the picture .
Trees are revered and you will observe people pray to them too.Even God’s creations are worshiped.
There are numerous bridges across the river.The temple is unique as the the first rays of the sun touch the feet of the ruling deity, the Creator Lord Vishnu on the 21st of March .
The sun has set, and I sign off with two captivating images of the Kumbh Mela.
Nandiji on the banks of the RAM KUND
We now head to the second half of the Kumbh at Trymbakeshwar.