A weekend pilgrimage to Rayagada

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While transiting through southern Odisha on our way to Chhattisgarh last year, my wife expressed a desire to visit the famous Maa Majhighariani Mandir in Rayagada. I told her that it meant a detour of over 200 kms over bad roads and promised to take her there some other time. She wasn’t happy but had no choice in the matter. A few days later, there was a minor collision with a truck which my wife viewed as a divine warning. Recently, I changed my car and my wife was insistent that we go and seek the forgiveness and blessings of the Goddess.

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Ghumakkar Insights – Responsible Tourism

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While strolling in the sprawling gardens of the Thai Buddhist Temple in Sarnath, I saw what seemed to be a rather amusing sign which read “धर्मचक्र पर चढ़ना बैठना मना है ” (Climbing or sitting on the Dharma Chakra is forbidden) and it made me involuntarily grin. A monk, who was keenly observing me, asked me what was so funny about it. I told him that I could not believe that anyone would climb onto the dharma chakra, let alone sit on it. He told me that he had to get it repaired on several occasions because of vandals climbing onto the chakra,  which is why he had this sign posted and instructed the watchmen to keep a close eye on visitors.

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The Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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While driving along the airport highway, a massive, magnificent, multi-domed edifice springs up, seemingly out of nowhere from the stark desert environs . We are on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and gazing in wondrous disbelief at what is arguably the most beautiful building this side of the Arabian Sea, the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayyan Grand Mosque. It is purportedly the third largest mosque in the world, after the great mosques at Makkah and Madina.

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Ghumakkar Insights – Maya, Chitrachor, and Plagiarism

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Permit me to narrate an anecdote about a fictitious schoolgirl called Maya. Her class is given an assignment to write an essay titled “My most memorable trip”. She had just returned from a visit to the famous Vaishno Devi shrine and decided to write about it. However, when she started writing, she did not know what to write about other than it was an enjoyable visit and the atmosphere in the temple was very spiritual. Maya decided to use the internet to get more facts about the place. She used bits and pieces from everywhere, stitches together an essay and proudly submits her essay to her teacher.

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Araku valley

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Araku is a picturesque tribal settlement in the Eastern Ghats, about 120 km to the north of the port city of Visakhapatnam a.k.a. Vizag, which also happens to be my hometown. For me, the drive is an end in itself, a mind-blowing experience as one navigates through umpteen hair-pin bends on a steep mountain road which snakes its way up the Eastern Ghats to an altitude of some 1200 metres above sea level. This is one of those road trips on which one does not feel like driving fast but prefer to gently cruise along the serpentine path, inhaling the pristine air and feasting on the visual candy being proffered so generously by Mother Nature.

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An Egyptian Diary: Post script

An Egyptian Diary: Post script

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India and Egypt shave a lot in common. Both are ancient civilisations and have emerged from centuries of foreign rule. Though the population is only 80 million, there is a lot of ethnic diversity with some who can pass off for Europeans, some who look like Africans and the rest of them look North African or Arab. Not surprising, if one takes into account its history and its geographic location, which is at the intersection of Asia, Africa and Europe…

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Alexandria, the pearl of the Mediterranean

Alexandria, the pearl of the Mediterranean

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Alexandria was home to Egypt’s second wonder of the Ancient World: the famous Lighthouse built by the Ptolemies in the 3rd Century AD. Soaring to a height of 140 metres, its beacon was visible to seamen over 50 km away. It was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world for centuries till a powerful earthquake destroyed it in the 14th century.

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Pyramids: sepulchres of the Pharaohs

Pyramids: sepulchres of the Pharaohs

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The sides of the Pyramids were originally clad with highly polished white limestone slabs and were topped by gold-plated capstones called pyramidions which picked up the first rays of the sun and these rays reflected off the cladding to make the entire pyramid glow with solar luminescence.

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Cairo, the city of a thousand minarets

Cairo, the city of a thousand minarets

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ghumakkar loves serendipitous moments, when one comes across something remarkable but totally unexpected. I had such an experience a few minutes after landing in Cairo. The drive to the hotel from the airport was rather uninteresting as the architecture was pretty drab, just row after boring row of grey, rectangular concrete blocks . All of a sudden, I saw a building which looked like a Hindu temple…

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The ghats of Benaras – a place like no other

The ghats of Benaras – a place like no other

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Numerous invaders came, ruled and left. All of them tried, in their own way, to superimpose their own ideas, their beliefs on the land they had conquered. Yet, in the end, they had to retreat, vanquished by a spiritual force that was beyond their comprehension. The all-knowing Ganga, unperturbed by such delusions of grandeur,  gently flows along these blessed ghats as she has been doing since the beginning of time.

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Sarnath, the birthplace of Buddhism

Sarnath, the birthplace of Buddhism

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Sarnath, probably a corruption of Saranganath, is the birthplace of Buddhism. It is here, 26 centuries ago, that Gautama Buddha delivered his first ever sermon after attaining enlightenment. A massive monument, the Dhameka Stupa, was erected at this spot by the Magadhan Emperor Asoka.

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