Onam Sights in Kerala

So you’ve read our King Mahabali story, and are all set to travel to Kerala during Onam time! Here’s our follow-up guide on the different sights that you’ll encounter on your trip!

1. Onasadya (Onam Feast)

Let’s start with the epic onam feast that you will find everywhere under the name “Onam Sadya” or “Onasadya”. Most vegetarian restaurants in Kerala have a “sadya” option available for lunch, but Onam season takes this lunch feast option up a level. If you’re staying with a family during Onam time, they will surely invite you to partake in their onasadya.

The elaborate meal often consists of over 20 dishes and is served on banana leaves!

 Flickr:  Ramesh NG

Flickr: Ramesh NG

2. Onathumbi (Picture Wing Dragonfly)

These beautiful dragonflies are only seen for a few weeks around Onam time, earning them the name Onathumbi (translated as onam’s dragonfly).

They’ve been the inspiration for many songs and poems in Malayalam (the language of Kerala). Just search for videos of “onathumbi” and you will get several Malayalam movie songs in the results 🙂

 Flickr: Anurag R S

Flickr: Anurag R S

3. Mundu & Kasavu Saree

On Thiruvonam, the main day of the Onam festival, celebrants usually purchase new clothes in a tradition known as Onakkodi. The attire for men is a mundu (a 15ft long rectangular piece of cream cloth bordered (also known as dhoti) with gold border stitching, wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist, resembling a long skirt).

The attire for women is a Kasavu Saree – saree made with off-white cotton and a gold brocade work around the border in style known as kasavu.

This is the attire that is also worn by the women for Kaikottikali – a dance exclusively by women around a brass lamp (Nilavilakku). The women arrange themselves in concentric circles and start to dance in a circular motion to the beat of their clapping and singing!

 Wikimedia Commons: Pranchiyettan

Wikimedia Commons: Pranchiyettan

 Flickr:  Peter Tullett

Flickr: Peter Tullett

4. Pookalam

Many homes, restaurants, and offices in Kerala organize pookalams (floral rangolis) – a basic circular shape filled with flowers in various intricate designs. Some schools even arrange pookalam competitions between different clubs/teams in the school!

 Flickr:  Anoop Joy

Flickr: Anoop Joy

 Flickr:  Madhu Kannan

Flickr: Madhu Kannan

 Flickr:  Deepak Kumaran

Flickr: Deepak Kumaran

5. Puli Kali (Leopard play) or Kaduva Kali (Tiger play)

Pulikali, also known as Kaduvakali, is a common sight during Onam season. Performers are painted like leopards or tigers in bright yellow, red, and black and dance down the street to instruments like the chenda (cylindrical wooden drum).

 Wikimedia Commons:  Jpullokaran

Wikimedia Commons: Jpullokaran

6. Onam Events

There are also specific events to check out such as the Thripunithura Athachamayam, and the Aranmula Snake Boat Race!

 Flickr: Jerry John

Flickr: Jerry John

Hope this inspired you to make your next trip to Kerala during the Onam festival!

-Beeni

A whirlwind trip to Dharamsala

When I think of my recent trip to India, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by all the beautiful memories rushing back to me. A whirlwind trip undoubtedly – my wife and I traveled through 7 states & 11 cities in the span of 18 days – that’s no simple feat!

We live in Toronto, Canada with our 2 beautiful daughters. My wife and I had taken a long flight to India at the end of April. Our first destination was Bengaluru (I prefer calling it ‘Bangalore’ like most still do), the capital of the beautiful state of Karnataka.  It is India’s third largest city with an estimated population of 10 million. Once called the “Garden City of India” and the “Pensioner’s Paradise”, these epithets no longer apply to Bangalore, which is now a large, thriving cosmopolitan city with diminishing green spaces and a large working population. Bangalore is the major center of India’s IT industry, popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India.

The main reason for visiting Bangalore was to attend my nephew Vijay’s wedding. We had a blast at the wedding, meeting almost all our relatives, enjoying delicious food, dancing and catching up on old fun times together. Bangalore really paved the way for the rest of our trip!

The next portion of the trip involved several days of continuous travel, with us only stopping for a few days between cities to spend time either with relatives or at a hotel to take in the sights. We also made some time to enjoy the local cuisine and shopping. We chose to travel between the cities by train, which allowed us to enjoy the charming countryside. The entire trip took us through the cities of Bangalore-Trivandrum-Hyderabad-Pune-Delhi-Agra-Amritsar.

Our favorite portion was the final part of our trip – our stay at Dharamsala, a hill station at the foothills of the Himalayas. The drive to Dharamshala was incredibly scenic. But the splendour of the hills around Dharamshala just blew us away. We were able to stay with a very close friend of mine with whom I grew up in Pune, and studied together from kindergarten to college. She gave us an awesome welcome into her home in Dharamsala.

The next few days we visited a few of the local tourist attractions. The first one, McLeodGanj, is a suburb of the Dharamsala region and well known for being the location of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s residence.  A small town that can be navigated by foot, McLeodGanj’s elevation is around 2000 meters (~6500 feet), making them considerably cooler than the plains below. There were many different opportunities to visit monasteries where we came across Tibetan monks leading large groups in prayers. Altogether, the town was a wonderful fusion of different Buddhist-influenced cultures.

Another day trip was to the Bhagsu Waterfall, about 3 km from Dharamsala. It was an easy walk down Bhagsu Rd through the village of the same name, then 1 km up to the beautiful waterfall.

The cuisine in the region was delicious. A blend of Tibetan and Punjabi Cuisines, an unlikely fusion to be sure, there were many popular vegetarian dishes and a few unusual non-vegetarian options such as yak meat! There’s also beautiful artwork in the area in the Thangka style – buddhist deities depicted with cotton or silk appliques.

When we finally had to pack up our bags and leave to head back to Canada, we both felt as though we had left a part of ourselves there at Dharamsala… Though a whirlwind trip, starting in the cosmopolitan Bangalore, ending in the peaceful Dharamsala, and all the other sights in between gave us the much-needed fill of our homeland that we’d been craving!

-Sudhir

Glimpse of Maharashtra – Cities, Towns & Hill Stations to Visit

Maharashtra is an expansive canvas displaying many of India’s iconic attractions and is best known for the fast pacing capital, Mumbai. There are lazy, palm-fringed beaches, lofty, cool green mountains, World Heritage Sites and bustling cosmopolitan cities.
It is also famed for sites like the British-Raj era Gateway of India monument and the cave temples at the nearby Elephanta islands.To the south is the beach lined, rustic Konkan coast and its temple town of Ganpatipule.
So, take the road less traveled and plan a fantastic tour around India with Javian, which marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your body and your heart.

1. Mumbai

Mumbai is the big busy city that is home to the Bollywood film industry. The food, bars, shopping are all some of the best in India. There are easily multiple days of sightseeing that can be done in the city itself.

Though the city life is fast-paced and crowded,  there are relaxing day-trips available near the city as well such as camping or trekking are Badlapur, Vasind, Kapolei, and several other exciting destinations.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 3-4 days.

 The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel ( Image Source )

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (Image Source)

 Chowpatty Beach ( Image Source )

Chowpatty Beach (Image Source)

2. Pune

A thriving, vibrant metropolis, Pune is a center of academia and business that epitomizes ‘New India’ with its baffling mix of capitalism, spiritualism, ancient and modern. The large student population in the city makes for a lively nightlife and vibrant atmosphere. Pune also houses fantastic restaurants, excellent museums and is well known for its surrounding hill forts which offer panoramic bird’s-eye views. Visit the Aga Khan Palace built in 1892.
The metropolis is banked on river Mathura and has an ambient weather throughout the year. The places to visit here are Aga Khan Palace, Pataleshwar cave temple, Peshwa Udyan and others.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 2 days.

 Aga Khan Palace ( Image Source )

Aga Khan Palace (Image Source)

3. Mahabaleshwar:

The one-time summer capital of the Bombay Presidency, Mahabaleshwar is fringed with gurgling rivers, evergreen forests, and fascinating hills.  It is one of the most lovely and evergreen hill stations the country.

The places to visit here are Wilson point, Mumbai point, and Arthur’s seat.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 2 days.

 Mapro Garden, Panchgani - Mahabaleshwar Road ( Image Source )

Mapro Garden, Panchgani – Mahabaleshwar Road (Image Source)

4. Nagpur

Way off the main tourist routes, the isolated city of Nagpur lacks must-see sites but is an important gateway to several reserves and parks. Notable ones are the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and Pench National Park.
Once the center of great Maratha reign and now the commercial and political center of Maharashtra, Nagpur boasts of his historical past and natural beauty.Summer is the best time to eat the city’s famous oranges. It is also close to the temples of Ramtek and the ashrams of Sevagram.

The places to visit here are Shri Ganesh Mandir Tekdi, Nagzira wildlife sanctuary, Ramtek fort temple and the others.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 3 days.

 Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve ( Image Source )

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (Image Source)

5. Aurangabad

Named after an Emperor, Aurangzeb sees a lot of international tourist traffic thanks to world heritage sites, Ajanta & Ellora caves. A dream destination of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the 1600s, it is known today as one of the four important cities in Maharashtra.
This quaint city wears a rustic charm and still holds to its roots. Silk fabrics were once Aurangabad’s leading revenue generator, and the town is still known across the world for its hand-woven Himroo and Paithani saris.

The places to visit are Ajanta Caves, Bibi Ka Maqbara, Daulatabad Fort, Ellora Caves, Grishneshwari temple, Jayakwadi Dam and the others.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 3 days.

 Ellora Caves ( Image Source )

Ellora Caves (Image Source)

 Aurangabad Caves ( Image Source )

Aurangabad Caves (Image Source)

6. Lonavla

It is far from attractive, as it is almost exclusively filled with garishly lit shops flogging Nikki, the rock-hard, brittle sweet made in the area. However, this place is the best getaway during the monsoon season!
The main reason you’d want to come here is to visit the nearby Karla and Bhaja caves (best-known caves after Ellora and Ajanta). It is close to both Pune and Mumbai and is the leading weekend destination of Maharashtrians.

The places to visit are Dukes’s nose, Durshet, Gangad Tailbhaila, Koraigad, Rajmachi and others.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 2 days.

 Tiger's Leap, Lonavla ( Image Source )

Tiger’s Leap, Lonavla (Image Source)

7. Solapur

Solapur is mainly known for its handloom, cotton, power loom, and beedi industries. It is an amalgamation of historical, religious and industrial interests. It has the world’s second largest spinning mill.
The places to visit are Shri Siddeshwar temple, Rukmini temple, Bhuikot Fort, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary and the others.
The best time to visit Solapur is between October and March!

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 2 days.

8. Shirdi

The main attraction of this place is Shirdi Sai Baba temple. This is one of the few temples which is held in high regards by both Hindus and Muslims in the country.

The temple witnesses at least 20,000 devotees every day. Sai Bba’s disciples spread the movement across the other countries.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 2 days.

9. Nasik

Located on the banks of the holy Godavari River, Nasik (or Nashik) gets its name from the episode in the Ramayana where Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, hacked off the nastika (nose) of Ravana’s sister.

It is called as the ‘Wine Capital of India’ or the ‘Grape City.’ Today this large provincial city’s old quarter has some intriguing temples that reference the Hindu epic and some massive bathing ghats.  Every 12 years, Nasik plays host to the grand Kumbh Mela, the largest religious gathering on Earth.

The places to visit are Sapthashrungi, Coin Museum, Sita Gumpha, Trimbakeshwar temple and the others.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 2 days

 Drive to Nasik ( Image Source )

Drive to Nasik (Image Source)

10. Matheran

‘Matheran’ means ‘Jungle Above.’ It is a tiny patch of peace and quiet capping a craggy Sahyadri summit within spitting distance of Mumbai’s heat and grime.
Endowed with shady forests crisscrossed with foot trails and breathtaking lookouts, it still retains an elegance and colonial-era ambiance, though creeping commercialism and illegal construction are marring its appeal. Since vehicles are banned, the air is fresh and clean.
Getting to Matheran is half the fun. The exotic destination stands at a height of about 2156 feet above the sea level.

The places to visit are Chanderi hills, Louisa Point, Echo Point, Charlotte Lake, Porcupine Point(sunset point) and the others.

Minimum Recommended Duration for Visit: 2 days

 ( Image Source )

Happy Travels!