Vailankanni – Lourdes of the East

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The journey to the coastal town of Karaikal, via Nagapattinam was pretty scenic, with the sea giving us the company. The authentic South Indian breakfast served by the small but neat restaurant of Hotel Krishna was perhaps one of the best meals I ever had.

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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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