Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Visit to Kolhapur's little known Museum - Town Hall

Town Hall with famous Shivaji  statute 
I often pass by Town Hall enroute to famous Ambabai / Mahalaxmi Temple; during my yearly visits to Kolhapur. Every year; my plans of visiting Town Hall did not fructify due to multiple reasons.This year; I was determined to visit Town Hall - come what may !!

I was vaguely aware that there is a small Museum on the premises; but was totally unprepared for this magnificent Neo - Gothic building with a lovely lush green garden !! The entire place looks quite majestic and island of peace - far away from maddening traffic and blaring ambulances from CPR Hospital across the main road ! 

Then : Old pic of Town Hall.. Credit : British Library
Now: Present day Town Hall June 2019.
Compare both pics. nothing seems to have changed except for minor modifications
The Town Hall was built in 1876 by Charles Mant & was converted in to a museum to house Satavahana-period items discovered in excavation at a nearby Bramhapuri Hill.  This establishes Kolhapur's connection with ancient Greece and other global trading hubs. Notable items are figurines of the Greek god Poseidon, riders on an elephant, pottery fragments, coins and beads. Kolhapur being a cultural hub of #Maharashtra; there are different dedicated galleries to display various relics, artifacts , sculpture, weapons and old photos of Kolhapur. There is also a art gallery displaying paintings by notable Kolhapur artists.  The most striking artefact is the Portuguese giant bell captured by Peshwas  and donated to famous Ambabai [Mahalaxmi] temple in Kolhapur. How did it land in the Town Hall is not known ! 

Unfortunately; I couldn't find any history of Town Hall prior its conversion to a Museum. I guess; it must have been used for local administrative purposes.

Backside of TownHall. Note the boarded up columns & imagine the place apx 100+ yrs ago !! 
There is also a war memorial dedicated to brave soldiers from Kolhapur who fought during World War I. 
War Memorial 
The Town Hall is located in a lush green campus which shields it from incessant traffic noises outside. Once can come & sit peacefully amidst without getting disturbed by amorous couples, children and vendors. 

A house on the campus 
On the whole; Town Hall is a must visit atleast once when you are in Kolhapur. It barely takes about 30-45 minutes [depending on your interest level] to do the Museum tour.

While majority of Kolhapur residents are aware of Town Hall; unfortunately; very few locals and tourists visit the place. One attendant told me that the Museum barely gets footfalls of less than 100-150 even during the peak tourist season. This is rather sad; considering the entrance fees cost INR 3. Never saw a different fee structure for foreigners. Photography is prohibited inside the Museum.

Make a visit to Town Hall - the next time you are in Kolhapur ; especially if you are a History & Nature buff. If not; still visit the place to get a feel of local history !!! 

Connect with me to get more details on this place. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Visiting Ajanta & Ellora caves and Daulatabad Fort

One of the major issues I had during my recent visit to Ajanta & Ellora caves and Daulatabad Fort was transportation
Typical private cab [4 seater] from Aurangabad to Ajanta Caves [apx 102 KM / 64 miles] cost INR 3500 and to Ellora and Daulatabad Fort [ apx  30 KM / 19 miles] cost INR 1800. Unfortunately; there are no cab sharing options and is cost effective; only if you are traveling in a group.

This becomes prohibitively expensive for a solo traveler like me. So i decided to search the internet for alternative options. It is quite strange that State Tourism board [MTDC] or  Indian Tourism board [ITDC] do not have any conducted guide tours to either Ajanta or Ellora or Daulatabad !! So much for tourism promotion ! 

Thankfully; got to know that Maharashtra State Transport [MSRTC] has bus trip to these places. Unfortunately; there are no guide on these buses. They just pick you from Aurangabad city & bring you back. Still; its better than paying expensive  cab fares ! 

The next challenge was to get information about the bus service. MSRTC website is pathetic and totally user unfriendly. Calling up MSRTC  helpline was a wrong idea - it was perpetually either ringing or engaged !! I had a Aurangabad based friend to go to local MSRTC bus stand to get information; but then even he got sketchy information in a typical Indian bureaucratic fashion !! 

Thus with total lack of information about commute option to Ajanta & Ellora; I landed in Aurangabad. Mentally; i was prepared to hire a cab as a last option; cringing at paying exorbitant cab fares !! 

So that evening; while i was casually exploring the area where i was staying [Station Road, Aurangabad]; I come across MTDC office / hotel . Was quite happy to see a hoarding advertising air conditioned Volvo bus services to Ajanta & Ellora and Daulatabad starting from MTDC office itself.

The guys at MTDC office were quite friendly and answered all queries. There is no guide on the bus and personal guide will have to be hired. 

Happy at the viable option of traveling to these World Heritage sites; i come back next day to travel to Ajanta caves. 

I shall just mention about the journey in this blog and will write a separate blog on Ajanta,Ellora & Daulatabad

Ajanta Caves: 

So next day [Sunday]; i reach MTDC hotel / Office at 07.45 AM. Even tourists going to Ellora board the same bus. They are later separated and put on to a different Volvo at MSRTC bus stand.

Only return tickets are issued costing INR 695 . So; if you plan  a one way trip and hang around in Ajanta; you still have to pay the amount. Only remember - you are not allowed single return journey and will have to arrange for own transport back to Aurangabad. 

The prices mentioned on the hoarding are old and quite typically not updated !

Later; i got to know that you can also book ticket  in advance at the MSRTC bus stand . This is advised during the tourist season. One can also directly buy the ticket in the bus itself. 

The bus typically starts at 8.00 AM from MTDC hotel / office [recommend that you reach the place at least 15-20 minutes in advance] and reaches MSRTC bus stand. in apx 10 minutes

Again; there is no separate bus bay or any signage advertising bus services to these two World Heritage sites.

Here; tourists going to Ellora are shifted to a separate bus. 

The air conditioned bus is very comfortable and great relief;since the road to Ajanta is under repairs and the 2.5 hrs journey can get quite bumpy ! 

Another advantage is that traveling by this bus; you get off at the main entrance to caves. Other visitors have to get off at a point apx 4 km [15 min journey] from main entrance and have to take a shuttle bus for apx INR 30.

Another advantage [if you are staying in station road area]  is that you dont have to shell  INR 30-50 to commute to MSRTC bus stand; since you shall be directly boarding at MTDC point and same bus goes to bus stand. 

The driver mentions the departure time which is typically 14.30 / 15.00 hrs . Ensure that you reach the departure point well in advance. 

As mentioned earlier; there is no guide on the bus. One has to hire a approved guide at the information counter or better still purchase a guide book from archaeological Survey of India [ASI] counter located after the security check point. 

Please note that Ajanta Caves are closed every Monday

Ellora Caves:
The tickets cost INR 350.

Repeated the same process of boarding the bus at MTDC point at apx 8.00 hrs and was put on to a separate bus at bus stand. The driver/ conductor informs the passengers to shift to adjacent bus. 

This tour starts with Gireneshwar Temple [45 min halt] moves to Ellora Caves [apx 3 hr halt] I personally found Ellora more beautiful than Ajanta caves. There is a shuttle bus to visit the the Jain caves - the fare is covered in the ticket prices.. Post Ellora; the bus stops at a Paithani Saree weaving centre [30 min] and then moves to Daulatabad fort  and Bibi Ka Maqbara and then back to base. 

These buses are a great help to solo travelers and save the pain of paying exorbitant cab fares. The only drawback is that there is no guide on the bus and one has to hire a guide. A audio book would also have been a great help. 

Please note that Ellora Caves are closed every Tuesday.

MTDC contact details:
Address: Railway Station Road, Aurangabad, Maharashtra 415510

Phone: 0240 234 3169

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bodhisattva way of Life

For past few months; thanks to a friend; I have been attending meditation sessions conducted by a group of passionate practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.

I came across a term known as "Bodhisattvas". Quite intrigued ; i was keen on knowing who are these people. Post discussions with senior teacher; i realised that the above words of Songyal Rinpoche holds value. The world seriously requires Bodhisattvas to heal the pain & suffering that is prevalent due to civil wars, racism, terrorism, economic disparity among others.   

I shall try & explain who Bodhisattvas are & why we must practice Bodhisattva way of life.

What is a Bodhisattva way of life?
The human heart is capable of both great compassion & empathy and also violent brutality. The ability to direct the orientation of our heart distinguishes us from other animals.

One often hears examples of how parents sacrifice personal comfort for the sake of a child’s well being, or act of kindness between strangers. Yet the same heart can harbor rage, bigotry, resentment and self-deprecation; which is on a rise like terrorism, wars in Middle East, hate crimes which have affected millions globally.

It is the simple orientation of our hearts that ultimately determines whether we create societies characterized by joy and dignity or crippled by conflict, fear and despair.  This orientation can be brought about by following Bodhisattva way of life.

A bodhisattva is literally a living being (sativa) who aspires to enlightenment (bodhi) and gives ray of hope to those who are suffering by reaching out and removing pain through compassion and actions. By doing so; Bodhisattvas’ renounce their own salvation and immediate entrance into nirvana.

President Ikeda mentions that to be a good human being; one must practice Bodhisattva way of life by relentless giving light of hope & compassions by actions to people who are suffering. A Bodhisattva realizes that any happiness we alone enjoy is incomplete and we must devote ourselves to removing others' suffering. Those in this state find their greatest satisfaction in altruistic behavior. The predominant characteristic of a bodhisattva is therefore compassion.

For the followers of Nichiren Buddhism, Bodhisattva practice is based on concept of "practice for oneself and others." The core of practicing for oneself is the recitation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo along with key passages from the sutra. The purpose of this practice is to revolutionize one's inner life, to develop the qualities of the Buddha: courage, wisdom, compassion.

Many people initially practice Buddhism by the desire for personal happiness, to overcome illness or other difficulties. As their life-state expands, they develop a deeper compassion & empathy for other people’s happiness.

Bodhisattvas are thus naturally engaged in society, actively struggling both to change themselves and make the world a better, more humane place for all people. This chanting of chapters from Lotus sutra along with prayers helps us to be valuable participants in society, and to contribute as much as possible to their family, workplace and community.

Image: Google

Friday, July 24, 2015

Golden Temple & Wagah Border, Amritsar, India

Visiting Amritsar & famed Golden Temple has been on my wish list for a real long time. There were 2 missed opportunities in past which made me wonder whether it was in my destiny to visit the place !! Guess; I got third time lucky & finally in February 2015; visited Amritsar & Golden Temple.

Visiting the temple was a great feeling. One gets overwhelmed by the feeling of peace and tranquility. Despite the large number of devotees; the noise is very minimal . The entire complex is very clean and well managed. Also a must visit is the langar at the temple; which feeds thousands of devouts daily without any discrimination of caste & creed. 

 Another added attraction was famous Wagah Border - the border crossing between India & Pakistan. There is a daily ceremony  in which Border Security Force & Pakistan Rangers have a Beating Retreat march with crowds cheering on both the side. 
If  you are in Amritsar & haven't tried out various famous eating joints ; your trip has been wasted.  Right from the famous Golden Temple langar to famous "dhabas" - some more than century old; the city has various eating options for veg & non veg  and definitely for sweet lovers !

The famous Golden Temple glistening in the morning sun

Nihang - Sikh warrior 

Akal Thakt

People queuing up to enter the holy place

Golden fishes in the holy sarovar [pond]

Minarets built as watchtowers to prevent Mughal attacks 

Harmandir Sahib in its fully glory during night

Akal Takht at night 

Outside the temple at night

Outside the temple at night
Tempted to visit Lahore :) !! 

BSF jawans at the border

The famous Indo Pak border crossing. Indian side is on the foreground with Pakistani side in the background

Indian audience eagerly awaiting for the ceremony to start

BSF jawans practising for the flag lowering ceremony

Friday, June 19, 2015


There's something magical about clouds ' especially during monsoons.. The Sun trying to break thru dark monsoon clouds & the golden hue it spreads on the environment is a delight !

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Road Trip - A drive thru the countryside !!

Monsoon always makes travel a pleasant experience

Road to no where

Green bounty

Rain clouds

sneak peek by Sun

rails + countryside = a winning combination

Jog Falls 

Jog Falls 

Backwaters of sharavati river..

Other side of the river

River bank

safedi ka secret ??

Face in the crowd..

As in life .. intertwined ..

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A peek in to Seven Bungalows history !!!

Came across a blog on history of good ol' 7 Bungalows and a superb aerial shot. Read on to get an insight in to history of 7 Bungalows and compare it with its present day avatar of the trendy upmarket area !!

The round seven bungalows garden-named 'DN garden' in memory of Dadabhoy Nawroji's bungalow which was near, can be seen as a round lake - the present day 'nana nani' park(which was built later in 1990's) was a long line of coconut trees (seen as 3 lines of coconut trees) in front of the bungalows.

The huts near the lake (now garden) were occupied by East Indian Christians. Salt pans (to the right) and tidal area were covered by high tide up to 4 bungalows.
The two isolated huts seen in front of the lake near the salt pan were later in 1980 bought by Raheja builders and made into Spring Leaf society where the present day Costa Coffee restaurant is now.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Munchin' thru Indore's Sarafa Bazar

An unplanned trip to Indore was a total delight !! The highlight was a walk thru Sarafa Bazar's famous eating places with inflationaryproof prices is a foodie's dream come true :) These vibrant "khau gallis"come alive post 830 pm; once the main wholesale market shuts down for the day.

     Rabdi, Gajar ka halwa & the lucky shopkeeper with unlimited access to them :)
    Another of my fave - Gulab jamun along with Malpua..
            Ever tried Gulab Jamun on a butterscotch ice cream?? A sinful combo..

Butte ka khees - grated corn toppped with chopped onions, sev etc..                        Another local fave..

Dahi Bada - not vada ; as it is pronounced in Mumbai.. Preferably had at Joshi Dahi Bada shop in Sarafa; where he tosses Dahi bada in the air ; without a single drop spilling out..

Gajar Halwa .. missing it :( 

A indicative price list of sinful delights !!!

Crowded street scene in Sarafa Bazar..

Khajrana Ganesh Temple
Khajrana Ganesh Temple - Built in 1875, by Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar, this is supposed to be the tallest Ganapati statue in the world measuring 8 meters.

Rajwada during the night..

flying out of Indore :(