Pitti Palace -The Florentine Grandeur

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We thanked the museum staff for the courtesy extended to us. We went to admire the lush green Boboli Gardens, the mid sixteenth century garden style which incorporated longer axial developments, wide gravel avenues, a large amphitheater built of stone and the lavish statuary and fountains.

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Canterbury, the Cathedral Town

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As we had a flight to board the next morning, we left Canterbury at four in the evening, passed through the Dover Castle, saw the port through which the majority of cross-channel traffic passes and reached our friend’s house at Norwood Green, right on time to grab some good liquor and a delicious Punjabi meal.

After a long day’s excursion, soaked in the mystic grandeur of Canterbury, floating in the splendid aroma of the fine French wine served by our hosts, what could be more blissful than to slip into a warm bed with one’s adorable wife.

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Vrindavan – Jai Shri Radhe

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Despite the grandeur of ISKON Temple, the Banke Bihari Temple, built in 1864 is still the most revered and vibrant shrine in Vrindavan. The temple was originally established by Swami Haridas, a great Krishna devotee, known for his soulful devotional bhajans (was also the guru of the famous musician Tansen). He discovered the sacred deity of Banke Bihari (also popularly known as Thakur ji) at Nidhivana, where Banke Bihari was originally worshipped.
The deity was moved to Vrindavan on completion of the temple in 1864. The most interesting thing about this temple is that, unlike most of the other temples, the curtain is not left open. The curtain is put shut every few seconds and drawn back with a great chanting of Thakur ji. This is probably done with a view to shroud the icon for a moment. It is believed that the brilliance of eyes of Thakur ji can make a person unconscious, if seen for too long a stretch. Another notable feature is that the lotus feet of the deity can be seen only once a year, on Akshaya Tritiya, which falls sometimes in April / May.

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The Southern Sojourn – Kanyakumari

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It was close to 9.00 p.m. and with hunger cramps, I told Rajah to stop at a good eating place in the next town en-route. We landed at a small time restaurant – Shanti Bhawan (?) at Sayalgudi, a very small Panchayat town. The place looked clean, but the restaurant owner told us that the place was “full”. There were around 40 Ayappa Swami Devotees already seated and they were to be served first and our waiting time could be more than half an hour. While talking to the owner I was surprised to see the pictures of Kabaa, the holiest place for the Muslims along with some of the Hindu Gods. I asked him if it was a Hindu hotel. He said it was a Muslim Hotel. When I pointed to the wall hangings, he said “Sir, we worship all the Gods”. I was touched by his reply to the hilt and almost embraced him. I wish people all over the country had the similar feelings and then this divide between the religions would probably be non-existent. Thankfully the things appeared to be much better in Tamil Nadu as people of all the religions eat the same food, drink same toddy, speak Tamil and wear the same dress – lungi / dhoti and shirt.

Outside the restaurant, a group of Swamis (devotees of Lord Ayappa) were standing. I was told that they were coming from somewhere in North Tamil Nadu (after a couple of drinks, one tends to forget the names sometimes) and were heading for Kanyakumari,

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Visiting The Chattarpur Temple – Seat of Shree Adya Katyayani

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It is not the grandeur of its architecture which makes the Shaktipeeth different from the other temples, but the moving spirit of its founder, Shree Durga-chranan-anuragi Baba Sant Nagpal, who dedicated his entire life for the service of the down trodden and the needy people.
Baba’s mission to reveal to them the Sanaatan Dharma in its true and undistorted form with a view to spread the message of brotherhood, tolerance and patriotism attracted more and more people, who were willing to provide not only the financial support but also the physical labour required for building of the temple.

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The Southern Sojourn – Rameswaram

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It takes around an hour to take bath in all the 22 wells. The modus operandi is simple. There is a person standing by the side of the well ready to pour water on you with a small bucket. Some of the pilgrims make a small donation at each of the wells. We preferred to have holy water sprinkled over us and move to the next well.Despite the fact that thousands of pilgrims are visiting the temple every day and having a bath at these theerthams, it is believed that the tanks around the temple have a perennial source of water.

Having finished the ritual of purifying ourselves at the holy wells, we once again passed through the magnificent corridors, passed by the Nandi and reached the exit gate. I do not know if my sins were washed away, but one thing is certain that the experience of visiting the temple will remain etched in my memory all through my life.

It was around 6.30 in the evening. Still in a trance, I reached the hotel room, ordered a steaming hot cup of tea and thereafter met Rajah, the cabbie whom we had hired for taking us to Kaniyakumari, the southernmost tip of the country, where Swami Vivekanana meditated before proceeding for America and which is the confluence of two great seas – Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea and the great Indian Ocean, about which I would write in my forthcoming post.

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