Posted in Reflections

The holy dip -Godavari pushkaralu

  
Thanks to mom, we were able to witness the amazing Godavari Pushkaralu and be a part of it. The pushkaralu this time is said to be occuring once in 144 years, hence called ‘maha puskaralu’ and hence said to be very auspicious. Based on mythology, pushkar is a brahmin who gained this boon from Lord Shiva through penance, that he can live in water and purify any holy river. On request from Bruhaspati, he enters into each of the 12 rivers, every year when bruhaspati enters into new Rashi. Each river is associated with a zodiac sign and puskaralu comes for each river for once in 12 years. Though the effect stays throughout the year, the first 12 days are supposed to be very auspicious (aadi pushkaralu).

I had only heard of pushakaralu, but never thought of witnessing it. I must attribute it to TV to most extent. Godavari river flows all the way from maharashtra, through Basara, bhadrachalam in Telangana, through Rajahmundry, Kotipalli and ends in Antharvedi in Andhra. After the formation of the new states, both telangana and andhra governments have made grand arrangements to celebrate the first 12 days of pushkaralu. The TV channels made sure to cover the arrangements even a month before the start. Watching it daily on TV did create some awareness and also the enthusiasm to be a part of it.

The internet (godavaripushkaralu.co.in) was so helpful too.When I was clueless as to how to plan the trip, the contact numbers provided on the website did help a lot. After a couple of calls, we managed to find an accomodation (by Uma travels) and all set for the trip. Once the pushkaralu started, the unfortunate accidents at the pushkar ghat on the first day did cause some confusion in me.there was a part of me thinking, is it really necessary to go in the crowd .

But then mom was so enthued to go, we dint want to disappoint her. From the news on tv, the arrangements seemed fine and extra care was taken by the government from the second day onwards.

  
As we reached vizag and were waiting for our bus to rajahmundry, we could see the effect of this massive event. The bus got delayed by 2 hours and it reached almost late in the night. The accomodation was kind of a dormitary with some individual rooms. The whole town was illuminated by colorful lights, police patrolling all over the place and a beautiful festive environment everywhere. The river ghat was very close to our accomodation and the lights reflection in the godavari river was a sight to see.

  
Next day morning we woke up early to take the dip in the river. The ghat was at a walkable distance and not as crowded. We had enough space and time to have our time with the water. The environment there was very nice, everyone taking dip in the holy river with their friends and family, people making offerings to their ancestors. There was announcements all the time directing people whichever ghats were free. Contrary to the stampede and rush, the place was well maintained and peaceful inspite of the crowd. There was water packets distributed and free prasadams given by some temples. 

After the dip we went around and visited some temples around. We also performed Go-puja(worship of cow)  and danalu (offerings).. Also there was a boat ride organized by andra tourism which was also beautiful experience.  There were many other attractions, like the replica of Lord Venkateswara swamy by TTD, the Godavari harathi in the evening and many more.

  
On the way back, the bus stand was highly crowded and there were long queues to enter the bus stand. We came to know that it was taking almost 5-6 hours just to enter the bus stand. One police suggested to take a bus to kakinada and go to vizag from there. The buses to kakinada were stopping at a different bus stand, but they were also hugely crowded. With great difficulty we got into a bus and somehow reached samarlakota as the bus broke down there. We checked-in a hotel for the night and had a peaceful sleep after the tiring bus journey. Next day we hired a cab, reached vizag after visiting kukkuteswara swamy and simhachalam narasimha swamy on the way.

Inspite of minor hiccups with travel,the overall experience was beautiful, spiritual and awesome. Visting Godavari dist for the first time, the route was beautiful with greenery all around,coconut trees, mango groves and the people there were also very hospitable.

    

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Posted in Reflections

Journey to the heart of nature


Soon after the trek to himalayas, Ive got the awesome opportunity to take another trip to the heart of nature..one of our friends had come up with the idea of this trip and many of us tagged along..The trip was planned to Honnemaradu, near shimoga in karnataka. it was a two day trip and most of us were clueless as to what to expect. We had to get permission from the forest department prior to reaching there. After the himalayan trek, I felt it might be something small, nothing much to expect..But little did I know this trip would be full of surprises..we started with our train journey to talaguppe..after my college days, this was the first time travelling with friends in train and it was soo much fun and memorable experience..we were awake till late night chit chatting, taking photos, and disturbing others :p ..


finally after a good night’s sleep, we woke up at 4:30 as our station arrived. We were all set for the surprise that was awaiting. We took cab to reach honnemaradu from talaguppa station..it is almost 30 mins journey on almost mud roads..the journey was fun with us loudly singing along with the songs playing in the cab…one song i just cant forget is himesh’s “icecream khaungi..la la la…” :p Once we reached the place, we saw a small house and ,Nomito Maam waiting outside..she warmly welcomed us in.


The place was beautiful -a small house in the midst of forest. We could hear the chirping of birds and all kinds of wierd sounds of insects. The best surprise we got was that there were proper toilets at the place.. Since we were supposed to do some camping at that place, and after camping experience in himalayan trek, we were expecting that there will not be any toilets at all here..We were preparing ourselves not to eat much during the two day stay, I know it sounds funny :P..so this seemed like luxury to us and we were all beyond happy 🙂

Day 1:

We collected around in a circle for the briefing of the plan for the day. We introduced ourselves and Nomito Ma’am (will call her akka from now on) clarified one thing to us, that this is definitely not a “laid back, relaxing vacation”, there will be lot of energy intensive activities and we should be prepared for that. As we were talking, it started raining. She was mentioning that there were heavy rains two days before, lot of bamboos falling down. Meanwhile, I was contemplating whether to open my poncho and wondering while no one else was getting their rain coats. Only a bit later I realized, how we got used to getting drenched in rain, as if it was very natural. The plan was a campus tour and then we would go to the river for activities in water.


We had nicee hot pongal for breakfast and then started out walking on the muddy terrains, drenching in rain..the nature around was beautiful with thick forests all around us. Honnemaradu is actually a village submerged in water due to the dam that was constructed for hydro electricity. Now all we can see is beautiful back waters of river sharavati.  It was heart wrenching to hear how many villagers lost their homes for the sake of development. Not to forget the flora and fauna that slowly vanished due to this.

Hearing this story raises the debate in our minds, whether development is soo important to even allow the nature to be depleted..then we reached the bank of the back waters..we were clueless what we were supposed to do. We had our life jackets on,so we knew it was related to water. Akka announced that we will be learning to swim to another nearby island. Frankly it did not register in my mind. I felt she was joking. Only a bit later I realized it was reality. She guided me how to relax and we will just float in water..slowly i learnt to relax, trust my life jacket and was able to swim (back stroke) and managed to reach the island taking breaks whenever I saw any tree in between. this was actually unbelievable for me that I could stay in water for more than an hour. Realization about myself that I could do more than I knew about myself.


Next all of us returned to the base camp with a feeling of achievement..after a sumptous meal (sambar and curry) , we were all set for our next activity -coracle ride. We divided ourselves into groups of four and we were supposed to reach another farther island by rowing the coracle all by ourselves.. Ours was the only group with all girls and our first task was to carry the coracle to water..thankfully one of our friend came to help us and we were able to drag the heavy coracle to water. We then set out paddling and in the beginning we had difficulty in syncing and the boat was going round and round. Slowly we got a grip of the flow and started moving ahead. After reaching mid way, the water current got strong and in the opposite direction. We halted for a minute and our boat went back by a large distance. We four of us were a bit scared as we were in the middle of water and there was no way out..but then we realized, even if we fell down, we could swim to the island..we realized why the swimming activity in the morning was planned. thats when we gained courage and told ourselves “its just us and water now..we have to do it”..we devised strategies of when to slow down, when to speed up, the direction and before we knew we were moving ahead..many a times, the boat was rocking due to the currents, but we girls were all determined..we started shouting “zor laga ke…”, praying to water God to go soft on us and all sorts of silly motivational stuff and finally reached the shores ahead of all..the sense of achievement was hugee …

Once everyone else reached, we took few pics and set back on return journey which was relatively easy. By the time we reached back we were all excited and exhausted a bit. We had some nice chai and nomito akka suggested we can go for night walk before dinner if we are interested.. all were excited, with few of us sceptical if it was a good idea..the roads are muddy and slippery due to rains and it is pitch dark and there could be snakes or animals too..but then anyways we set out walking in the dark adjusting our vision to the moon light, holding each other’s hands..then we saw the most beautiful sight ever, thousands of fire-flies flying around among the trees..they looked like beautiful christmas fairy lights..it was beautiful!!! We then started singing songs and later formed a circle and played a game similar to truth and dare also..we almost forgot we were in the midst of a forest in the dark.

(image taken from google images. None of us had phones to capture, but it more or less looked like this 🙂 )

Night fireflies lights forest Trees Nature HD Wallpaper

After we came back, our dinner was waiting for us..also, due to the heavy rains, camping in tents was ruled out and we were to sleep in rooms they provided. The idea of changing into dry clothes and sleeping in a warm, cosy room was so comforting..we had a hearty goood night’s sleep inspite of the lizards and tadpoles stuck to the walls in the room..

Day 2:

We woke up at 6am to quickly get ready for the tea and our trek…the day was beautiful and clear sky without any signs of rain..we set out to trek to bhimana hejje, a nearby hill..the trek was different as we literally walked through forest, pushing aside the branches, sometimes bending and going under the overgrown plantation..hunting leeches was another major task..once we reached the top, it was a beautiful plain land with greenery all around..there was an impression of foot at one place, which was supposed to be of bheema, the reason for the place to gain that name.


After we reached back, we decided to plant some saplings, to leave something of us behind. All of us grabbed some saplings and set out to plant them.we found spots for them,starting digging ourselves with shovel and finally planted the tiny saplings..we even named them and hoped to see them grown up next time we visit honemaradu.. Next on the agenda was to reach another farther island through rafting..first challenge was to carry the rafting boat till the island..it needed huge team effort, coordination to carry the huge raft through the narrow route..as all of us set out paddling in the raft, there was a point we were going no where due to the wind and the currents.. We were a bit disapointed and almost at the verge of giving up. Then our guide gave a good motivation lecture which boosted our will power and we started paddling with double the energy. Finally we reached the island, trekked till the island top and relaxed there on the beautiful green grass..we lied down on the grass,sang songs and had fun..by the time we reached the base, we were already running late. We had to hurry to catch our train at talaguppe at 7:30. We had our food, a quick round of sharing our view of the trip, quick photo session with ma’am and Swamy sir and set off in the cabs..on the way back, we couldn’t help but wonder how different this trip was. Some of us were thinking, this helped us get out of our comfort zone and realize we can stretch more. Some of us were wondering “what am i doing before the computer when so much can be done in nature”..some were thinking ” how can i use technology to help save this nature”..some were just plain happy that we faced our fears and overcome them…

Overall it was an awesome experience with lot of surprises, lot of new things we learnt and lot of thoughts churning in mind.