Gajlaxmi Palace in Dhenkanal, Odisha

Experience an old world charm of royalty in nature is what you can expect at Gajlaxmi Palace, only an hour-and-a-half drive from Cuttack. It is a royal palace built way up on Megha hill that overlooks vast stretches of forests, dotted occasionally by small villages. So thick is the forest that to a casual eye it is impossible to locate the palace from the highway. The view from the palace is incredible. And it is teeming with wildlife – birds, elephants, deers, civets, monkeys and wild boars are in plenty, while an occasional leopard may make a casual appearance.

The Palace has been converted into homestay and is owned by Kumar Saheb’s son Jitendra Singh Deo and daughter in law Navneeta and turned their age old home / Palace into a holiday destination to share their experience of mysticism of royalty set in the heart of nature. The food that comes from the kitchen is local and comes from the organic farm along the house. It has also a blend of Rajasthan’s royalty courtesy due to Navneeta’s connect to Chittorgarh and Maharana Pratap.

The thrill of being in the wild begins from within the dwelling. The Palace has a verandah that is shrouded in an eerie quietness. But to a keen ear the endless rustle of leaves and animal calls come from far.

Stepping out is not allowed unless accompanied with a trained forest guard. There are a few jungle trails that one can walk down in the morning and they offer splendid opportunities for small game and bird watching. Much of the wildlife viewing is at the only water hole in the region and strategically placed a few minutes from the palace.

If you are a Nature lover or wildlife enthusiast, keen on birding in India, a nature photographer, enjoy trekking & Jeep Safari or simply love the outdoor greens, the Gajlaxmi Palace, Dhenkanal is the perfect holiday destination for you. The foothills of Megha have something for everyone. You may get a chance of sightseeing animals like elephants, wild boars, barking deer, rabbits, jungle fowls, pea fowls, civet cats etc. in their natural habitat if you are lucky.

Experience a unique vacation with your personal hosts, being treated as royalty, enjoying all the comforts of home at Gajlaxmi Palace.

Homestays provides the travelers – A home away from home, with all the comforts & facilities for whatever duration it takes, to discover the highs & Lows, at incredible affordable prices. As the Homestay at Gajlaxmi Palace, experience the hospitality of the Royal Family & the unique feeling imparted while staying in a home & interacting with people of a different culture. The cross section represented here is carefully chosen by recognized homestays that will not hesitate to go the extra yard or make the additional effort to make your trip a pleasant & more memorable one.

 

Things to see: Temples, Wildlife & Bird watching, Trekking, Tribal Life & Culture, Tribal Handicrafts, Rich & diversified Flora.

 

Activities:

Nature Trekking, Wildlife Photography, Picnics, Angling, Jeep Safari, Tribal Tours, Star Gazing etc.

Please visit website of Gajlaxmi Palace in Dhenkanal for more details – http://www.gajlaxmipalace.com/index.htm

Barmer, Rajasthan

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Barmer is a desert town in the western part of Rajasthan and located 153 km from Jaisalmer. The town has many historical sites and is a tourist destination which is still secluded and unexplored. It forms a major part of the Thar Desert. Jaisalmer is to the north of this district while Jalore to its south, Pali and Jodhpur form its eastern border and shares a border with Pakistan on the west. Barmer is known for its rich crafts, dance and music. Small villages with mud-houses decorated with folk motifs, and colorfully attired people dot the landscape.

Barmer was formerly called Mallani after Rawal Mallinath, the son of Rao Salkha, the first Maharaja of Barmer. Barmer gets its name from its ruler Bahada Rao Parmar popularly known as Bar Rao Parmar who is said to have founded the town in the 13th century AD. He built a small town which is presently known as “Juna” which is 25 kms from the present city of Barmer.

After the Parmar’s, Rawat Luka – Grand Son of Rawal Mallinath established their kingdom in Juna Barmer with help of his brother Rawal Mandalak. They defeated the Parmars of Juna & made it their capital. Thereafter, his descendant, Rawat Bhima, who was a great warrior, established the present city of Barmer in 1552 AD and shifted his capital to Barmer from Juna. He built a fort on a hill situated in the city centre named Barmer Garh or Barmer Fort.

Once a camel trade route, this area is rich in craft that include wood carving, pottery, embroidery work and ajrak prints.

Sightseeings and Experiences
– Barmer Fort
– Jogmaya Devi Temple
– Mahabar Dunes (Thar Desert)
– Redanna Rann (Salt Desert)
– Kiradu Group of Temples
– Ajrakh Block Printing Centre
– Mangniyaar – Folk Singers

View of Mahabar dunes from Sanchal FortView from Sanchal fortSunset3Sunset2SunsetSunset zoom viewSunset viewSunset natureredanna-rann-sunset-movie_std.original.jpgRedanna Rann1Redanna RannRedanna Rann SunsetRedanna Rann Sunset view

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Kiradu Temples20Kiradu Temples18Kiradu Temples17Kiradu Temples16Kiradu Temples15Kiradu Temples14Kiradu Temples13Kiradu Temples12Kiradu Temples11Kiradu Temples10Kiradu Temples9Excursions
– Temple and Fort of Juna (Approx. 25 kms)
– Shri Nakoda Jain Temple (Approx. 100 kms)
– Devka Sun Temple (Approx. 60 kms)

There is only one property in the area for stay which is Sanchal Fort, please visit website for more details – https://www.sanchalfort.com/index.html

Majuli Festival in Jorhat, Assam

Majuli festival is celebrated on the banks of the River Luit (Brahmaputra), which is the biggest river island in the world. The festival is held in a region located at a distance of 1.5 kms from Garamur. The festivities start from the 21st November and continue for 4 days and ending on the 24th November each year. 

Majuli is the centre of Assamese civilization and is home to the Neo-Vaishnavite culture for which the state is very renowned. The region is also the melting pot of a number of tribes and races, each of them has its own distinct customs and traditions. However despite the difference in their ethnicity, all of them live in perfect peace and harmony – a unique trait seen only in this part of this world. The island has a large number of monasteries or Satras which represents its Neo-Vaishnavite culture. 

During the festival, cultural programs takes place with the participation of various traditional and classical cultural troupes of Assam and troupes from the rest of the country. In addition to rich cultural heritage of Majuli, the beauty of the surrounding and the splendorous landscape lure tourists to visit the Majuli festival from all corners of the country and the globe. 

The native Assamese and tribal cuisine are a part of the celebrated food festival which is organized during the Majuli Festival. Exhibitions are also organized with the presentation of various Assamese items, specifically designed and prepared by expert artists captured in the single festival of Majuli. The festival displays the rich, art and culture of the state of Assam, the beauty of the region and the richness of the culture are captured in the Majuli Festival. 

Nearest Airport: Jorhat

Nearest Railhead: Jorhat Town

Places to stay: Jorhat (limited hotels available)

Sawai Madhopur – Ranthambore National Park

Visiting Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur fascinates everyone with wonderful sighting of the elusive Tiger. Currently Tiger sightings have been very good to excellent in all the safari zones from 1 to 10. The zone no. 9 is currently closed for tourists due to the highway broadening and construction work going on as it might take approximate an hour to reach the zone from Sawai Madhopur city centre and other areas.

My recent trip to Ranthambore in December 2018 was full of excitement as I had planned to visit to the zones which I have never been to and lot many people do not wish to travel on these zones as they feel that they will not be able to sight any wildlife including the elusive Tiger i.e. zone no. 8, 9 and 10. Fortunately I got the opportunity this time to explore the zone no. 10 which was equally good compared to the other zones. Definitely this zone is little far away from the prominent ones as it took us approx. 45 minutes to reach there and zone no. 9 is the farthest as it is still far away from zone 10.

The Tiger sightings during my recent visit was just fabulous as I sighted a female Tiger named Noor during my first morning safari in zone no. 6. We sighted the animal very close and seemed she was very hungry and moving towards the remains of a Sambhar Deer which was fascinating to see her walk through our Jeeps and the track. She was in front of us for many minutes as we then moved on towards the exit as we were getting late and the park closing hours were nearly approaching.

The afternoon game drive was booked for the zone no. 10 wherein I got the opportunity to sight a male Tiger named Fateh for the first time in the life, the sighting was for a shorter duration but still the encounter for just superb, no words to describe.

The Forest department have made all the Safari bookings online including the current reservation and now the safaris can be booked atleast 365 days in advance which is sad as it will be difficult for the last minute travellers to get a confirmed safari seat particularly in Jeeps. It is definitely an earning mode for the Forest department of Government of India as they receive the safari payments well in advance irrespective of the date of travel and they remain non-refundable or non-adjustable.

The most unfortunate element of this system will be that the guests who have actually booked and the guests who are travelling remains unknown and the vacant seats of the non-travelling guests remain vacant.

Apart from the jungle safaris, my stay with the Ranthambore Regency was just amazing and a truly memorable experience as the staffs and their hospitality is incomparable to the hotels I have ever stayed in India. They deserve 7 stars for their great service and going out of the way to make your stay a memorable one. In fact all my safaris also were booked by them and I got to experience their best of services.

Without any doubt I would greatly recommend Ranthambore Regency as the best hotel in Ranthambore for hospitality and service as I have stayed with many of the other hotels in the past.

For a small family of 10-12 people with kids, their home stay sort of accommodation would suit the best called the Ranthambore Aangan wherein the guests staying their will have a private butler, personalised services with amazing location and amid guava plantations. This is certainly an idea place for family get togethers and people who expect something unique than staying in other modern hotels.

Interestingly the owners of Ranthambore Regency Mr. Ravindra Jain and Mr. Arvind Jain will soon be launching their brand new Luxury property called Sawai Vilas and I can guarantee that this would definitely be a very unique one compared to the other properties in the area. Experience and services would be absolute Top Class.

Ardh Kumbla Mela 2019 in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh

Bathing Area at the GhatBathing AreaBathing Area1Changing Rooms at the GhatsCrowd at the Kumbha MelaCrowd for the holy bathEvening Aarti at PrayagrajEvening Aarti at Prayagraj1Evening Aarti at Triveni SangamEvening Aarti1Evening Aarti2Ghats at PrayagrajKinner AkharaKinner Akhara1Kinner Akhara2Kinner Akhara3Kinner Akhara4Kumbha Mela crowdKumbha Mela in PrayagrajMobile TentsNaga Baba'sNaga Sadhu 1Naga Sadhu 3Naga SadhuNaga Sadhu2Naga Sadhu3Naga Sadhu4Naga Sadhu6Naga Sadhu7Naga Sadhu8Naga Sadhu9Naga Sadhus5Naga Sadhus10Naga Sadhus11Other SadhusOther Sadhus2Otherside viewPano view of Triveni SangamPanoview of pilgrimsPanoview of Triveni Sangam Ghat

Prayagraj Ghat ViewPrayagraj Tented CityReception TentReception-check-in areaRestaurant TentSadhu's going for a holy dip (2)Sadhu's going for a holy dipSadhus in chariotsSadhus in chariots1Sadhus on the way to ghat1Sadhus on the way to the ghatSadhus walking to the ghatsSadhu's walking towards ghatsSadhusSadhus1Sadhus2Sangam hoyi dip areaTent-bath areaTent-interior1Tent-interior2Tents-passage between tentsTents-passageTents-passage2Tent-washroomTent-water closetTriveni Sangam - Yamuna & GangaView of Triveni Sangam from Yamuna River SideView of Triveni SangamView of Triveni Sangam2Way to AkharasWay towards AkharasWay towards Triveni SangamThe origin of Kumbh Mela was transcribed by the 8th-century philosopher Shankara. The founding myth of the Kumbh Mela points out to the Puranas (compilation of ancient legends). It recounts how Gods and demons fought over the sacred pitcher (Kumbh) of Amrit (nectar of immortality) called the Ratna of Samudra Manthan. It is widely believed that Lord Vishnu (disguised as the enchantress ‘Mohini’) whisked the Kumbh out of the grasp of the covetous demons who had tried to claim it. As he took it heavenwards, a few drops of the precious nectar fell on the four sacred sited we know as Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayag. The flight and the following pursuit is said to have lasted twelve divine days which is equivalent to twelve human years and therefore, the Mela is celebrated every twelve years, staggered at each of the four sacred sites in this cycle. The corresponding rivers are believed to have turned into Amrit at the cosmic moment, giving pilgrims the chance to bathe in the essence of purity, auspiciousness, and immortality.

The Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred pitcher) is anchored in Hindu mythology. It is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith, anywhere in the world. The Mela draws millions of pilgrims from all over the country as well as across the globe over the course of approximately 55 auspicious days to bathe at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mystical Saraswati. 

Kumbh Mela, in Hinduism, is a religious pilgrimage that is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years. The geographical location of Kumbh Mela spans over four locations in India and the Mela site keeps rotating between one of the four pilgrimage sites on four sacred rivers which are listed below:

  • Haridwar on the Ganges in Uttarakhand
  • Ujjain on the Shipra in Madhya Pradesh
  • Nashik on the Godavari in Maharashtra and
  • Prayagraj at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati in Uttar Pradesh

Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the Jupiter. The celebrations occur at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied, as it is considered to be the holiest time in Hinduism. 

The Kumbh Mela is an event that essentially summarizes the science of astronomy, astrology, spirituality, rituals, traditions, and socio-cultural customs and practices, making it extremely rich in knowledge.

Pilgrims to the Kumbh Mela come from all sections of the religion ranging from Sadhus (saints) and Naga Sadhus who practice ‘sadhana’ and keenly follow a strict path of spiritual discipline, to Hermits who leave their seclusion and come to visit the civilization only during the Kumbh Mela, to seekers of spirituality, and to common people practicing Hinduism.

The term ‘Kumbh’ comes from the root ‘kumbhak’ (the sacred pitcher of elixir of immortality). There is a mention of ‘Kumbh’ and the bathing ritual associated with it in the Rig Veda (verse 10.89.7). It speaks of the benefits of bathing at sangam during this period, elimination of negative influences and rejuvenation of mind and soul. Prayers for the ‘Kumbh’ are also expressed in Atharva Veda and Yajur Veda.

Moreover, the historical texts also point towards evidence that Adi Shankaracharya established 10 Akharas, Ardha Kumbh and Kumbh Mela.

 

Place of stay – Tented accommodation with modern facilities