A Note from the Founders

It’s been a dream of many years to have our own Travel company. Each time a friend or family had gone to South Asia, we’ve explored how tourism has transformed in the different regions, and discussed how to improve their experience. We’re blessed to finally be able to launch Javian Travels!

We’ve worked tirelessly to make the site an exciting and exploratory journey through India. Right now, the six states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, and Kerala are on the website. In a country of 29 states and 7 union territories, all diverse and unique, we understand that six is just a mere tip of the destinations available. We’ll be sure to collect research and collate the results to add more content to our site in the upcoming year.

The research on our website is only one part of our trio of services. We’re just as excited about assisting travelers with itinerary planning, and booking travel packages! Our itinerary planning and travel packages are already available for all across India.  Since the whole of South Asia is our goal, we look forward to expanding to other countries as well (Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, etc. – all irresistible!). We’ll be sure to update on our blog when the first Javian package is booked!

Thank you for all the great support thus far! So exciting that we’ve crossed the 100 likes mark on Facebook within the first day of launch, and slowly gaining support on Twitter & Tumblr as well! Keep the feedback coming & let your friends know about Javian!!

7 Inspiring places to check out in India this year

With over 20 official languages, 1600 dialects spoken, and thousands of religious beliefs, India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Located in South Asia, this destination has so many hidden gems that will dazzle your eyes, spice up your spirit and calm your heart.

So take a trip down some of these non-mainstream but note-worthy places with Javian –

1. ATHIRAPILLY FALLS

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The wild falls of Athirapilly located in the Thrissur district of the state of Kerala have a calmness to it that will get you meditating. The scenic beauty here will make your heart skip a beat, or two! Let nature enchant its magical spell to take your worries away when you visit – did someone say ‘Aguamenti’? (Harry Potter fans can relate..)

 

2. PANGONG TSO

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Love the Himalayas or high altitudes? Well, what about relaxing by the scenic lake that extends from India all the way to China. Located in Leh & Ladakh in the North of India – this salty but clean lake with the blue sky clearly visible is a sight to behold and quite tranquil. Wanting to bring out your inner ‘love pray eat‘? This place melds land, mountain, air and water, making you believe that even nature can speak and flaunt its beauty. So add this to your little black book, now.

3. CAR NICOBAR

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Located in the Northern portion of Andaman & Nicobar Islands is a flat fertile land with some cliffs at the boundary. Surrounded by the roaring sea, this flat and fertile land and is home to many coconut trees and rich in flora and fauna species. The perfect solution to the quick escape from our stressful lives. This little place in the Andamans steals our heart. So find a nice spot on the beach, pull the straw-hat on and listen to the waves hitting the rocks while your thoughts melt away.

4. BHIMBETKA ROCK SHELTERS

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Nothing like a blast to the past – roughly 30000 years to be precise. The Rock shelters located in Madhya Pradesh depicts the first ever existence of human civilization in India – the South Asian stone age if you will. Gigantic rock like shelters with paintings on the rocks dating back to the Mesolithic period indicated the first humans in the sub-continent. Fittingly, this place has also been declared a world heritage by UNESCO. Special shout out to the history buffs!

5. WAYANAD

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Move aside, Chai Latte. Discover the agriculturally enriched side of India here. The land of Wayanad is fertile enough to grow various spices and brews. Rich Tea, coffee, pepper, ginger are just some of the crops which grow here and makes Indian food and beverage special and unique. Hard working farmers work day and night to ensure the proper growth of these spices and that the hills stay lush green. Oh and leave your Instagram filters behind when you get here – you will not need it.

6. UDAYAGIRI AND KHANDAGIRI CAVES

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Holy smokes Batman! Our next feature takes us to the state of Orissa, to the Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves which symbolize the origin of ‘Jainism’. These historical cave structures built with rock-cut architecture is the perfect blend of handicraft art, religion, beauty, and sacredness.

7. MAJAULI

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Moving further Northeast to Assam – we’ll find the largest river island on earth, named Majauli. Also on UNESCO’s world heritage list, this destination preserves items of cultural significance which date back hundreds of years.

 

There you go, hope we were able to add to your ever burgeoning bucket list. Peace & Happy Travels!

The Story of King Mahabali

Growing up in Kerala, the festival of Onam was not just a harvest festival for me, but an accumulation of everything I loved about my home state. I would avidly watch the “King Mahabali” story whenever it was played on TV. Onam Sandya, the feast with family on Thiruvonam (the main day of the festival), was a meal I anticipated for weeks! Not to mention the thrill of the Pookalam competition (intricate and colourful arrangement of flowers laid on the floor) at school with my classmates.

Before I continue down memory lane, let me provide a basic overview of Onam! The festival is based on the Hindu story of King Mahabali – a just and kind king who ruled a kingdom in the coastal backwaters (modern day Kerala) where everyone lived in prosperity, well being and happiness. There was no class discrimination or thievery, but equality and honesty throughout the land.  The King’s popularity grew to an extent that the Gods became concerned that the King was better liked by his subjects than the deities! It came to Lord Vishnu to act on this concern.

Vishnu is one of the three principal gods (“Trimurti”) of Hinduism. He’s taken different forms or avatars in various ages to walk among humanity. In this story, Vishnu takes the form of Vamana, a short pious brahmin, and goes to King Mahabali to ask for a piece of land. When the generous King says Vamana can have as much land as needed, Vamana responds that he would only need three steps of land. As soon as the King agrees, Vamana grows in cosmic proportions. With his first step, Vamana (or Lord Vishnu) covers the world, and the second step covers the whole of the skies. Vamana then asks King Mahabali space for his third step. With folded hands, Mahabali kneels to Vamana, who he now recognized to be no ordinary man, to place his last step upon his head so that he can keep his promise.

Vishnu, in the form of Vamana, places his foot on the head of the King, and pushes him to Patala, the netherworld. Pleased with the King’s generosity, Lord Vishnu grants him the boon of allowing him to visit Kerala and his people once every year. Onam is the celebration by Malayalees (the people of Kerala) for King Mahabali’s homecoming every year. The land is said to bloom at this time every year as a celebration of his homecoming. The resulting flowers are picked and arranged in front of homes in colorful and intricate patterns called Pookalam. A huge feast is held at every home – with an open invitation for King Mahabali to come and feast with them of course 🙂

Though it started as a Hindu story, the festival of Onam has crossed religious borders and became a time to celebrate for all Keralites/Malayalees. Thus, even growing up in a Christian household in Kerala, Onam was a huge part of my childhood. It is reminiscent of Kerala’s agrarian past and considered to be a harvest festival. The festival falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam, which is between Aug-Sep. There are ten main days in the festival, with the final 10th day being Thiruvonam (roughly translated to “sacred onam day”). The whole home is cleaned for Thiruvonam, alms are distributed to the needy, and a huge vegetarian feast is held on banana leaves with rice and up to 26 side dishes.

The date for Thiruvonam changes each year due to alignment of the Malayalam calendar with our modern Gregorian calendar, but this year it’s on September 7th – today!!

So Happy Onam everyone! Or as we would say in Malayalam – Onam Ashamsakal! Have a huge feast, be kind to the needy, and if you’re in Kerala – keep a lookout for King Mahabali 😉

-Beeni

Top 5 places to celebrate the Diwali Festival in India

Diwali, the most celebrated festival in India, brings out vibrancy all over the country. There’s no way to sleep through Diwali because of the canopy of beautiful colorful lighting crackers all over the country. However, to witness the best of the celebration you need to know the top places to visit.

1. Jaipur

The royal way of celebration is no hidden stuff of Jaipur. The ‘Pink City’ of India, holds ancient stories in the walls of its palaces. I love the way the essence of royalty is portrayed in this city during Diwali.

 Hawa Mahal on Diwali ( Image Source )

Hawa Mahal on Diwali (Image Source)

2. New Delhi

Starting from the food to the nightlife of Haus-Khas village, everything is special in New Delhi. The capital of the country dresses up like a newly-wed bride every year during Diwali. You don’t have a starting point, and you don’t have a stopping point.

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3. Goa

When you are in India, you must be acquainted with the destruction of demons during festivals. Similarly in Goa, you witness the act of destruction of the demon Narakasura by Krishna. The famous act takes place during the time of Diwali. Moreover, the sea and the crackers is a mesmerizing combo all together. Do not forget to try the particular cuisine there during the period. The buffets are filled with exotic dishes.

 Beach in Goa ( Image Source )

Beach in Goa (Image Source)

4. Varanasi

The experience of Varanasi can only be described as royal. The ethnicity flowing beside the river Ganges is purely sensational. The hotels should be booked before reporting for an amazing experience beside the riverside.

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5. Amritsar

When in Amritsar, the Golden Temple stuns you. The deal is the best thing especially when it is Diwali. The lovely Punjabi cuisine with some Bhangra here and there makes your holiday an amazing experience.

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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

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Happy Travels!

2014 – Year in Review

We can’t believe 2014 is almost over! It’s been a crazy journey for our team this past year – from conceptualizing a modern fun travel company to launching Javian Travels to our first handful of bookings!

Here’s our ‘Year In Review’:

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Thank you for joining us on this journey. We look forward to sharing many more updates with all of you in 2015!

-Javian Team

The Family-size Masala Dosa at R. K. Dosa Camp

When I learned about the family dosa at RK Dosa Camp in Bangalore, I knew I had to go eat there on my next visit to India. How can I claim to be a masala dosa lover if I haven’t tried a 6-feet version of it?!

(For those who’re not familiar with dosa – it’s a fermented crepe made from rice batter and black lentils. It is a staple dish in South Indian states – and absolutely fantastic. The masala refers to the stir fried potato mixture served on the side) 

The opportunity to visit came when we traveled to my husband’s parents home in Bangalore last month. Seeing how hyped I was, my husband and his parents agreed to come with me to this dosa spot (a spot neither their friends or they had previously heard of).

The location was only a 15 minutes drive from the famous Lalbagh Gardens in Bangalore city, but if we had not seen the location on Zomato (the Yelp equivalent in India), we would never have guessed that it existed.

Walking up to it, this food canteen looked like the perfect neighborhood spot. There were no frills such as dining rooms, drink menu, or air conditioning – their goal was to make dosas and by the number of locals around – I could tell they did it well!

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I was lucky that my awesome mother-in-law knew how to speak in kannada (the state language of Karnataka). She went up to the manager and expressed our interest in getting a family dosa, and asked if we could take a video of the process. He graciously agreed.

The team quickly wrapped up all the previous orders.

Before we knew it, it was time for the family dosa!

The gentleman making the dosa seemed a bit nervous, most likely due to the gaping family standing in front of him recording his entire process.

Nevertheless, he remained completely focused and we watched as the family dosa slowly took form in front of us.

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Ta-da! It’s done – how awesome does this look?!

Moving it over to the high table nearby was quite a process as well. They laid out up to 6 plates with banana leaves, one of the servers balanced the dosa on two plates, and it was finally slid into the row of plates on the table.

We were given all the potato masala on the side – it would have been impossible to have it on the inside like a regular masala dosa. There was plenty of coconut chutney, mango chutney, and sambar as well.

Finally, the founder of R. K. Dosa Camp came over, thanked us for coming by and took a picture with my husband and mother-in-law!

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There are no pictures of us completely obliterating the dosa, since I was way too occupied eating… but you can believe me when I say it was DELICIOUS!

Here is the video of the entire dosa-making sequence 🙂

Always hungry,

Beeni