Tag Archives: Karnataka

Extreme Devotion: Does baby tossing ritual cross the line?

What is the most “extreme” thing you’ve done for your faith?

If, for example, you alter your body in some way or fast for days on end, that’s one thing. Once you involve someone else in your devotion, though, things start to get fuzzy. In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra explores some of more extreme spiritual practices around the world, including a particularly alarming festival involving babies.

In this 700 year old tradition, practiced every year in Karnataka, India by Hindus and Muslims alike, parents hand their infants over to priests, who swing the youngsters back and forth before dropping them 30 feet off of a balcony. Men standing below hold a blanket taut in which to catch the screaming babies before returning them to their mothers. Devotees believe the ritual to bring the babies prosperity and good health, though children’s rights organizations around the world decry the practice as “barbaric.” And it seems a rather life-threatening thing to do for the sake of “health.”

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 11.37.36 AMApart from the perhaps obvious problem with dropping babies off of balconies, there’s also the issue of forcing one’s devotion on another person. Is it okay for one person to engage another in their extreme and dangerous act of devotion, particularly if that other person is an innocent baby with no autonomy and no way of consenting? Maybe parents know what’s best for their children, physically and spiritually, but it would be interesting to get the baby’s perspective, especially when his or her life depends on a bunch of men with a blanket 30 feet below.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Valentines Day Vacation Spots

One can never outgrow the charm of Valentine’s Day. No matter what people say, it is a occasion to celebrate love. Add to it the fact that this year, it happens to fall on a long weekend with Friday, February 12 being Shivratri and a holiday for many. So pack your bags this Valentine’s Day and take a weekend break to one of these magical places in India, perfect for a romantic getaway.Valentine’s Day (February 14) is a great excuse to take a break from the daily grind and spend some quality time with that special someone. And with V-Day falling on a Sunday this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to skip town and head out. So we asked readers to send in their most romantic vacation spots that would make great V-Day getaways.

The Misty Hills of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
How much ever people try to dissuade you, do not listen. Shimla, about 370 km from Delhi, is the eternal favourite honeymoon spot in North India and for good reason too. The nip in the air, the misty skies, the breathtaking views and evening walks on the Mall road make it the perfect romantic location.Must-do: Walk hand in hand with your beloved while devouring a softy ice cream from the famous stall near the church. The toy train from Kalka to Shimla is also a must do.

Where to stay: Unless you want to go the luxury way and stay at the Oberoi, be adventurous and walk down the mall towards a campsite called Potters Hill. The Swiss Tents are comfortable and the location in the middle of the pine forest perfect.

 
Marvelous Matheran, Maharashtra
Leave the hustle bustle of city life behind and lose yourself in this tiny hillock called Matheran, about 108 km away from Mumbai.The only hill station where there is no vehicular traffic allowed, spend leisurely afternoons taking pony rides or treks along the unused railway track.Matheran is delightfully accessible from Mumbai and Pune by local trains that don’t need prior booking.

Must-do: Take a walk along the lanes that wind their way through the forests, buy a guava from the stall on the way and hear the birds twitter.

Where to stay: Maharashtra Tourism has excellent cottages at throwaway prices.

Gopalpur-on-Sea, Orissa
It may sound like a description but Gopalpur-on-Sea is actually the name of this sleepy town located about 180 km from Bhubaneshwar in Orissa.Once a busy sea port, it is now a quaint and quiet beach side town. There is a lighthouse for some sightseeing but besides that, there is just the sand, the sea and you. Perfect for a quiet romantic weekend vacation packages .The waters of the sea here are a pleasurable deep blue which is rare to find in the ever crowded Goa.

Must-do: Walk barefoot in the sand and watch the sun go down on the sea.

Where to stay: Swosti Palm Resort is a nice and clean but affordable stay option here.

The Spice Route through Kerala
One would never think of Kerala as a weekend vacation. But if you happen to be in that part of the country, this is the perfect answer to your Valentine’s Day plans.What could be more romantic than a cruise in a houseboat down the backwaters at Alleppey and fresh prawns for dinner!Plan a 2-day trip to Cochin and go down to Alleppey (2 hours away) for a day’s cruise.Must-do: Visit the Mattancherry Antique market in Cochin and pick up a 200 year old souvenir to remember your trip.

Where to stay: Book the houseboat for the night and return to Cochin the next day.

The epitome of Love – Taj Mahal, Agra
It would be sacrilege to talk of romance and not mention the monument of Eternal Love, the Taj Mahal in Agra, about 203 km away from Delhi.As hyped that the monument may be, a visit to the Taj will convince you that it still remains magical in its power to amaze.Club a visit to the Taj with a tour of the magnificent Agra fort and you are in for a treat. Immerse yourself in the romance of years gone by and rediscover each other.

Must-do: When you visit the monuments, do make sure you hire a guide. They may charge an extra Rs.50 but they will help you appreciate the beauty much more than you otherwise would.

Where to stay: There are plenty of 5 star options in Agra, the best of which is the Jaypee Palace.

Seeped in history – Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
This may not be an obvious choice but it is merely a lack of marketing and not of potential. Madhya Pradesh remains one of our most unexplored jewels and Orchha may just be the crowning gem.A town seeped in history and culture, Orchha, about 170 km away from Khajuraho, is a historian’s dream.You don’t necessarily need to appreciate architecture to pay this town a visit though. The quiet little town on the banks of the Betwa river is as romantic as it gets. Orchha is best reached by taking a train to Jhansi (16 km away).

Must-do: Watch the sunset over the river.

Where to stay: Book the Orchha Resort and stay in the Swiss Tents instead of the rooms. You will have your morning tea literally in the lap of the ruins.

Coorg (Kodagu), Karnataka
Referred to as the Scotland of India, nestled between teakwood and sandalwood forests, Coorg is beauty that must be experienced.A popular destination yet so abundant in natural beauty that it seems untouched. The region is known for its stunning scenic beauty and undulating coffee plantations.A comfortable drive from Bangalore (252 km)/ Mangalore (135 km), Coorg is the perfect Valentine’s Day weekend if you live in these cities.

Must-do: The Abbey Falls, near the main town of Madikeri can be reached by hiking through the cardamom and coffee plantations.

Where to stay: The best part about Coorg is to stay in the midst of the plantations. For a luxury option, the best recommended is Orange County. But if you want to save the dough, experience Coorg by staying in one of the homestays like Ashraya Homestay or the Palace Estate Homestay.

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Though Udaipur is rumoured to be the romantic capital of India, take a cue, bypass the city and plan a trip to Jaisalmer instead.There are few things more romantic than endless sand dunes till the eye can see, villagers dressed in the colours of the rainbow and a camel ride watching the sun go down.All this and more, only at Jaisalmer the desert capital of India Tours.

Must-do: Take a guided tour through the ancient fort of Jaisalmer, once an important stop on the trade route between India and Persia and Egypt.

Where to stay: Fort Pokaran has fabulous location and completes the Rajasthani experience. For a more budget option, stay at the lovely Hotl Fifu. Despite the strange sounding name, the hotel is well located and has tasteful rooms.

Getaway: Lansdowne, Uttarakhand
If there is heaven on Earth, it is here. Lansdowne offers majestic beauty, serene surroundings and lovely atmosphere, perfect for a couple to share their best moments with each other. It truly is one of the most romantic getaways for special occasions.

Sights: St Mary’s Church and Tip-n-Top are two of the most reknowned tourist attractions. Though Lansdowne also boasts of a quiet lake where you can find swans and ducks swimming around.

Eats: There isn’t much to offer as regards Lansdowne in terms of eateries. Almost all the hotels provide good food included in the package of your stay there. Though the ultimate fun is cooking your own food on a fireplace.

Shopping: Lansdowne has shops operated by the Garhwal Rifles from where you can buy cheap leather goods and other winter accessories like bags and boots.

How to get there: Lansdowne is about 250 km from Delhi. It is roughly a six-hour drive. The highway till Kotdwar is good. After that, for the last 40 km, the hilly terrain is really enjoyable with pines and cedars on both sides of the road.

 

Amid mountain mists
Getaway: Amboli, Maharastra

A great weekend destination worth visting.

Sights: If you like silence, if you like nature, Amboli is for you. The best thing about this place is that unlike other hill stations, this one is not yet commercialised, hence Amboli offers you natural beauty. Amboli is highly recommended if you like to spend some time in peace and would like to relax in nature. Amboli has not much to offer in terms of entertainment, but it’s a real paradise for nature lovers. Some facts about Amboli: receives the highest rainfall in Maharastra; has the largest green cover; is home to around 30 species of animals, around 129 species of birds and over 350 species of medicinal plants; is a great location for adventure tourism; has cool and pleasant pollutuion-free climate round the year.

Eats: Vegetarian food at Vithal Kamat. We were there for lunch and the only option available was Veg Thali. We asked for some other options but they had none so we had to go for the thali. They charge around Rs 35 per thali. The food was simple and good with great dessert. It is on the main road, near Sunset Point.

Green Valley Resort: This resort has an in-house restaurant. The menu offers a wide choice of veg and non-veg food(including Chinese). This restaurant has no bar. Though I tried only the veg food here, I am sure they serve good non-veg food also. Prices seemed to be on the higher side. Service was good.

Shopping: The small Amboli market has nothing much to offer except for some local masalas at Narvekar (opposite Sailee Hotel).

Sights: If you are not travelling by your own vehicle, you can hire an auto (Rs 400) or a taxi (Rs 700). It takes around 4- 41/2 hours to cover the 5-6 spots. The siteseeing locations are Hiranyakeshi Temple (a small temple where the river Hiranyakeshi originates, a beautiful location but the approach road to the location is pathetic, it is around 4 km from the Green Valley Resort); Kavalesaad Point (beautiful location with awesome views; if fogs allow, you can see the beauty of the Sahyadri range from this location; it is around 9 km form the Green Valley Resort on the highway towards Belgaum; here too the approach road is quite bad); other locations to be covered are Madhav Ghad, Raghaweshwar (Maruti Mandir) and Nagarthas Falls. The last one is the waterfall ahead of Sunset Point. Make sure you are ready to get yourself totally drenched in this beautiful waterfall. It is located 3 km away, at the Sawantwadi-Belgaum road. Thirty minutes in this fall will make you feel awesome. Have a cutting chai with some hot pakoras while you are wet, I bet you will love it.From Belgaum, Amboli is about 68 km which is covered in two hours. You can either take the NWKRTC or the MSRTC bus heading towards Sawantwadi at the main bus station. Fare is about Rs 45.Please make sure to make advance reservations if going on a weekend.

Tucked away in peaceful hills

Getaway: Writers Hill, Himachal Pradesh

Description: Romantic and peaceful

Sights: Renuka lake, zoo, campfire

Shopping: Local antiques, small carvings

Activities: Visit to Renuka Lake and Zoo, picnic by the river, fishing, trek to Churdhar.

How to get there: Writers Hill is 220 km from Delhi. Take a right turn from Ambala flyover and go upto Nahan. Writers Hill is 20 km drive from Nahan.

Accommodation:

There are three cottages with a central kitchen. Two of the cottages have a study attached and each of the cottage looks into the Jalal river valley. The mountain in front gives you a breathtaking view. With all the cottages having bay windows, it’s an unrestricted view.The cottages are large, airy and offer a simple yet very comfortable stay.Each study has a collection of books both fiction and non-fiction and in the days to come the collection will only increase and improve.

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