Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Harihareshwar

Harihareshwar is located on the western coast in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. It is known for the Shiva temple known as Hareshwar. That's why the name: Harihareshwar.

Harihareshwar lies about 220 kms from Pune. There are multiple ways to reach Harihareshwar. The one we took was probably the longest route.

Routes to Harihareshwar

1. Via Tamhini ghat
Map
This is the commonest and probably shortest route to go to the Kokan area from Pune. From Chandani Chowk, take the road towards Paud, Mulshi, and follow it up to the Tamhini ghat. After crossing the ghat, you have to join the National Highway 17, the Mumbai-Goa Road at Kolad.

2. Via Khopoli-Pali Road
From Pune, you take the Mumbai Expressway. Take the Khopoli exit. From Khopoli, take the Khopoli-Pali road. I don't know much about this route. We did not take this route. With this route, you get out on the NH 17 somewhere near Kolad.

3. Via Khopoli-Pen Road
From Pune, you take the Mumbai Expressway. Take the Khalapur exit (go past the Khopoli exit), and take the Khalapur-Pen road. This is a beautiful drive, though a bit lonely. It's a stretch of 25 kms and takes approximately half an hour. There aren't any shops or garages on this road. So, make sure you have an extra tyre with you, and also get to know how to change a punctured tyre, just in case. This route goes directly in the Pen city right through the market. Cross the town and join the Pen-Alibaug road at the other end of the town. After around 5 kms, take a left at the Wadkhal naka. That's where you join NH 17.

Eventually, all roads lead to NH 17. :)

On NH 17, you will pass all small and large villages and towns. The important towns on the way are Nagothane, Kolad, Indapur, and Mangaon.

To go to Harihareshwar, you must take a right at Mangaon. Just after crossing the ST stand on the right hand, a small road is seen on the right. It can easily be missed, so keep a watch on it. Interestingly, the road points to only Morba, the next village on that route. But that really is the turn that you need to take to go to Diveagar, Harihareshwar, and further down south.

From the Morba road, you must cross the Morba-Sai ghat. After Sai (a village), comes Mhasla. At Mhasla, there are two ways to reach Harihareshwar. One is a direct route to Harihareshwar through several ghats. The other route is via Diveagar and Srivardhan.

We took the direct route to Harihareshwar. This route is a bit lonely. I would recommend taking the other route via Diveagar and Srivardhan. Not only is it scenic, but also easier to drive and not very lonely. The distance is also lesser. Or may be the scenic road makes it seem lesser.

Staying at Harihareshwar

Tents at Harihareshwar MTDC Resort
We stayed at the MTDC beach resort. It is good, clean, and peaceful. In fact, it has it's own beach, though small. You can go for boating at the MTDC resort. The rates are around 1500-2500 per night based on the type of room you choose.

We stayed in the special room and then upgraded to a tent for a day. If you plan to stay at the MTDC resort, go for the tent. The experience is amazing. All the tents are situated amidst tall trees and have a view of the open sea. It's beautiful to get up in the morning to the view of the vast sea in front of you. Also, at night, it becomes a bit creepy to feel all alone in the tent and the quietness around. You might hear a bird perching on the roof top of the tent and get the jitters. It's great fun.

Other than MTDC, there is also a good resort very near the Harihareshwar temple called the Hari-Hareshwar Beach Resort. This too is priced at around the same price. The tents are bigger here and it's very close to the beach.

Where to eat at Harihareshwar?

There are several places where you can get decent food in Harihareshwar. One such place is Prachiti Bhojanalay. It is very close to the temple and you get only vegetarian food there. Priced at Rs. 50/- per thali, you get unlimited food here. Just opposite Prachiti is the Hari-Hareshwar Beach Resort that also offers veg and non-veg thalis. Priced at Rs. 120/- and above for non-veg thalis, it's bit costly. However the food is good.

The MTDC resort has its own restaurant called The Grasshopper Inn. Don't know why it has such a weird name. We thought it was exorbitantly priced and the food was also only just okay, average.

On the way to MTDC is another small khanaval (forgot the name) that serves vegetarian food for Rs. 70/- per thali. Even this is affordable and pretty good food.

A few meters ahead, there is a turning at which are several tapris that serve wada-paav, bhaji, bhurji. At that junction, there's a nice joint aptly called Turning Point that serves batate wade, anda bhurji, kanda bhaji, chai. It's really nice and a good breakfast stop.

Apart from these, there are many places where you can tell in advance if you want to have food there. These are mostly arranged at the homes of the locals there, who serve home-made food.

Harihareshwar Beach

MTDC beach at low tide
This is one thing that you need to be damn careful about. The beach at Harihareshwar is not good for swimming and fun and frolicking. It is full of rocks that go under water when it is high tide. If your first look at the Harihareshwar beach is at the time of high tide, you might be misled thinking that the beach is pretty good and safe. But it really is not. The sand at the beach is quicksand and pulls you inside. The rocks are dangerous, jutting out in the open. In fact, at the beach near the temple, there is a low-lying area which is covered by 5-8 feet of water during high tide. Boats are anchored there when high tide. So, you can imagine how deep it becomes.

MTDC beach at high tide
Even at the MTDC beach, at the boating area, there is small stretch of beach that is covered with water at high tide. If you are at this beach at the time of high tide, you can experience for yourself how the water rises slowly and covers all the rocks. Be really careful with the rocks. They have sharp edges that easily cut your feet if you step on them by mistake.

So in all, I would advice that the Harihareshwar beach is best to be seen from far and enjoyed. Don't venture too much in the waters. If you want to enjoy the beach, Diveagar is the place for you.

Harihareshwar Temple

Going down to the sea on the Pradakshina Marg
The Shiva temple is famous for its Pradakshina. It takes around 30 mins to complete the Pradakshina. The temple itself is also beautiful just like other Shiva temples. What makes it unique is that it is situated right at the sea, and has a Pradakshina that actually is a complete one unlike the one we usually take in a Shiva temple. Inside the temple, you can take the half Pradakshina. Outside, the Pradakshina is a full one involving climbing up the mountain and then climbing down and walking along the sea-cut rocks. It's actually spooky.

When you reach the top, you get to see a notice that warns that the sea near the Pradakshina Marg is dangerous, you should take care not to venture near the lashing waves during high tide, and that you should first get information about the high and low tide timings. You might feel like overlooking the notice (feeling you are at the top of the mountain, and there's no sea there.) But you are mistaken. As soon as you turn left, you will see the deep gorge that you need to climb down that goes directly to the sea. And you certainly are frightened.
Pradakshina Marg

As you climb down, you can see yourself literally climbing down into the sea. There is a small pathway carved in the rocks that's the Pradakshina Marg. On the rocks you can feel the power of the sea. You are at the mercy of the Elements and know in your heart that you are a mere midget in the vastness of this universe. The wet rocks are a proof of how far the waves come in. And you thank yourself that it's low tide at the moment.

So, if you want to do the Pradakshina, make sure it is low tide. Don't leave the hands of your kids as you complete the Pradakshina.

Tips for Visiting Harihareshwar
  • If you are visiting Harihareshwar directly, take the route that comes via Diveagar. It's more enjoyable.
  • Keep a watch on the high and low tide timings. If you have internet on your smartphones, all the better. We used this site to check the timings: http://wap.swellwatch.com/tideStation.php?dataPoint=5890&region=1456&regionName=Arabian+Sea&trace=region:1092:The%20World%7Cregion:1647:Indian%20Ocean%7Cregion:1456:Arabian%20Sea. After the high tide time shown on this site, we observed that bigger and more powerful waves kept on coming to the shore for the next hour or so. So, to start with, this is a good site. But you would want to consult other resources too as well as consult the locals about the tide timings (In Marathi, high tide is called bharti and low tide is called ohoti.) Moreover, the site shows the timings of the Arabian Sea. The timings at individual beaches may differ based on the water level and coastline. So, do consult other resources for accurate information.
  • Keep first aid, sunscreen lotion, caps, old newspapers handy. All these are useful at times.
  • Keep a torch handy as night falls. The electricity at Harihareshwar cannot be relied on.
  • One and a half day is more than enough for Harihareshwar. To enjoy the beach, proceed to Diveagar.
Have fun!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Start

It's really the distance. It's always told merely 200 kms. But it turns out to be really 250 kms. And you just keep on driving and driving. Mile after mile you cover hoping that the next turn will be the last turn, but it turns out to be just another turn.

Perhaps, it happens only with me. But it never turns out that I leave for a journey at a pre-decided time. More often than not, I tend travelling for a longer period of time than required.

As I traverse the known roads, the destination seems to be close by. I travel those roads with a feeling that four-five hours is nothing and I'll reach the destination soon. Every turn is familiar and I am happy that the journey has finally started.

As miles pass after miles, lunch hour approaches. I get down to stretch myself and to have lunch. If it's a pre-decided lunch stop, you the taste and food. It it's not, I am in anticipation of what I'll finally get before me. After the sumptuous, or not-so-good food, you are back on road.

As the journey progresses, I start losing patience. The journey seems to be never-ending. Turn after turn and mile after mile is crossed. I keep looking at the odometer counting the kilometers that I have covered.

At last after being completely tired and woebegone, huts and small houses are visible. The town that we have decided to stay finally arrives. My fears that the town may not actually exist are thankfully not realised. I get down and stretch myself.

Finally, one part of the journey is over. In fact, the Start has finally ended.

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Year Is Already Gone...

... I can't believe it.

What started as a casual acquaintance has turned into a deeper relation.

It's been a whole year of learning to understand each other, adjust for and with each other, learn and discover newer things about the other, caring for and fighting for each other, and of course fighting with each other.

And in spite of the whole year gone by, it seems just yesterday that we had met.

There are so many things that I have learnt...whether be it new roads, new avenues, new places. I have learnt to share things, be there for someone, keep away selfishness, be caring, supportive, helpful, useful.

But I have also at times expected a lot, fought a lot, misbehaved, mistook things, demanded unnecessary things. I have also been fidgety, unhappy, unreasonable, stern, moody, abrupt, unclear of things, angry, adamant, and lots of nasty things. But in all this, Sanjeev has been by my side, supportive, and helpful. Thanks for everything.

Today, after one year, I wish for a wonderful, beautiful life together. Hoping that all our dreams and wishes are fulfilled. Hoping that I help you realise your goals just as you would help me realise mine. I know that in years to come, we will have a good life together, supporting each other through thick and thin. Hope you have a great First Anniversary! Take care!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Desperately Needing A Break

Working harder than ever for the release on December 15...Getting tired of closed environments...Sick of unhealthy surroundings...Frustrated at the inertia...Wishing to create my own space...Bugged up with unasked for scenes...Desperately needing a break!

At times, life really sucks!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Slap Rules

Really! What repercussions a slap can make! What sound! And yet another way for the media to make an issue of something. Anyway, the media always needs some or the other thing to talk about and to make a big deal about!

But, seriously...one slap Mr. Sharad Pawar got (which I think he certainly deserved!) and the whole country is in a uproar. Panic is everywhere as it is rumoured of riots in Pune and outskirts. I mean, c'mon people! Is it worth it? And in reality, nothing had really happened. No riots, no fights, nothing. It was pretty calm and quiet. Only a sudden rush of people to reach back home.

Ever wondered how much of time might have been wasted? How many man hours wasted because people had to leave their jobs midway? How many more hours were lost because of the traffic jams that occurred because all people had left work at the same time, creating a chaos? How many more hours wasted in front of the idiot box listening to all the crap and hue and cry of the overblown issue?

And what was the media talking about...breach of security, how Mr. Pawar was indeed wronged, how the man who slapped must have been a mad man, how he was taken into custody. Is that all? Ever wondered why he took such a step? In fact, I would like to shake the young man's hand for the daring he has shown. He has done a most worthy job that no one else could have done. He most certainly deserves a Bharat Ratna as someone mentioned!

If people did not as much blink an eye at the incidence, shouldn't we say that most felt that Mr. Pawar got what he deserved? Perhaps people really are happy about what has happened! No wonder its video became such a big hit on You Tube!

What I would like to say in all this is that let not such minor incidences ruin our routines. Such incidences will happen (more I hope so!) We can't stop living as much as we can't when our brethren are killed in bomb blasts. And certainly, this issue does not deserve the magnitude of a bomb blast. It is not at all that serious. After all, it's just a slap! And to make it such a big issue itself is more embarrassing for the receiver.

The least we can do is forget about the whole incidence and not respond to any "Bandh." Moreover, we can  only pray for more such brave men, who dare to act!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Responsible

When things do not work, I realise I am responsible for them. When I screw up things, I know I am responsible.

But when people don't behave well with me for no apparent reason, but just that I exist...even then am I responsible?

My one action can bring about so many changes. It has changed so many people, it has perhaps broken so many hearts...severed so many relations. Is it after all worth it? More than that...I shall always have this constant gnawing at my heart that it's all my doing.

But what really is the issue? I don't know. I cannot fathom. I cannot understand why it is so difficult to make the other person feel comfortable and loved in a group. I cannot understand why some have not bothered to include me in. Why do some people still prefer a ghetto? What's so disgusting, so bad about me that I get alienated?

Why do I not get enough power, recognition, freedom to do things? Why is everything so unhealthy? What have I done after all? I cannot understand. I cannot make head or tail of some situations.

But in all this, I do feel responsible for making a mess. Or perhaps starting a mess. It's going to be one scar, one guilty feeling that won't be ridden off.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Two Days Full Of Surprises

November 7-8, 2011

What memorable days!!

Yesterday, I had a double surprise of getting two awards in office: Pat-on-the-Back and Team-of-the-Quarter.  It was awesome. Though, I really didn't do a lot of work in this. But it was good to be recognised and appreciated.

And today, what can I say!! The day started at 00.00 hours with Sanjeev wishing me. The wishes just kept coming. It's such a great feeling to feel loved and remembered!

My BMC gals turned up at the office and surprised me with a cake and flowers and showered me with love and affection! It was just too good. I was so touched to see them all by my side, celebrating with me, and being there with me. Love you all gals for your support! Thank you Zainab, Revathi, Aparna, Pallavi, Deepa, and Pooja!! Thanks for making my day memorable. I won't ever forget your love and support!

And there's still some more...heading for a quiet dinner with Sanjeev. I am looking forward to the evening!! Thanks for the wonderful evening, Sanjeev. This day is not complete without you!

Thanks everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bird In The Car

Today, there were feathers all over in my car. There was fluttering of feathers and frantic attempts to escape. And how it all started, we have absolutely no idea.

It was actually a bird that got into the car as we drove. We were on the highway, going to office. Suddenly, I heard some noise in the rear just like a plastic bag makes when it flutters in the wind. And then, there were feathers all over. My first thought was that some chicken feathers had got in from the tempo that carries chickens and hens.

But then I saw in the rear mirror and and was amazed to see a red-vented bulbul trying to escape through the closed windows. I stopped the car. Sanjeev got down and opened the boot and the left rear door. The poor birdie had panicked and was sitting near the left rear door. Sanjeev shooed it off and it took flight out of the door, glad to be ridden of the closed cage.

We were laughing for so long at the amazing and rare incident. The only way the little bird could have got in was through my open window. It probably wanted to fly across the road before my car passed. But with its mistaken timing and the speed of my car, it zoomed into my car instead of across. Poor soul! What fearful moments it must have had before it could escape! But, it could escape and be free! 

I can only say this: पक्ष्यांचे पण अंदाज चुकू शकतात!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Crappy Day With A Wet End

Started my day today with a fight. Went to office in a rage. Got late. Was stuck in traffic. Got late. Attended a stupid presentation. Did some work. Was irritated the whole day for unnecessary reasons. Got irritated with a colleague and did not even apologise. Started back from work. Found car was not working. Took rickshaw. Reached destination. Heavy downpour had started. Travelled back to office in the rains. Car still not working. Waited at office for some time for rains to stop. They didn't (of course!) Took a rickshaw till the bus stop. No bus was stopping at the right place. Had to walk to get a bus. Finally got the bus. Got down and walked back home.

End result: Dead tired and feeling all the more crappy!

That's life!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bygone Words

Here's a nice article on words that are no longer used, words that were in vogue before, but now forgotten...

http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/08/29/robert-fulford-when-words-die/

Do read it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm Changing

I know I'm changing.

Earlier, things affected me in a different way. Now too they affect me. But my reactions are different.

Earlier, I used to get very, very angry. Now too, I do get angry. But I do not explode as much as I did before.

Earlier, I used to feel each and every small thing was wrong. Now too I feel that. But I have stopped worrying too much about it.

Earlier, I used to be sad about people's wrong behaviour towards me. Now, I know people behave wrongly towards me. But I have stopped caring. I just say...whatever, shrug my shoulders and move on. Now I say, whatever you want, you can do. I don't care. I know what I am doing is right.

Earlier, it was difficult for me to keep quiet when people behaved wrongly, took disadvantage of me, spoke wrong things about me, never cared for me. Now I know people do all those things. But now I have stopped caring. I ignore them. I just don't say out all things. I keep quiet to avoid controversies.

It's been difficult. Damn difficult. I still get those bouts of extreme anger, unhappiness, frustration, loneliness. But I have started learning to handle it.

I guess, I am really growing up.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Things Won't Change

How much ever I try, how much ever I myself change, things won't change.

People won't change. They'll expect the same things over and over from me. They'll expect that I do whatever they feel is correct. Yet, they won't see my point of view. Moreover, in spite of me doing things that are supposed to be done, I am blamed for not doing them. Forgive the ambiguity, but I cannot be clearer than this in this post.

When it's time to work, time for efforts, I am remembered. But when it is time for fun, for exchanging information, I am conveniently forgotten. I am accused of not interacting well with others. I am accused of not consulting others when taking decisions! Ohh thank you very much! It's as if I do not have an existence of my own and that I should be asking permissions forever about each and every small thing. Am I a kid?

I am never consulted when things are decided directly! Then why now? Ohhh...of course! I don't do my duty towards them. When you expect me to do something, do you realise that I do not get the opportunity to do that? I won't be able to do anything if people don't want me to. What's the point in blaming me then?

Self-centered, hypocrites all are. Double-standard folks. They'll behave in one way when it's convenient, and another way when that's convenient. Then of course, blame me for every thing wrong in the world.

It's so easy to just dishonour me before everyone. Really good for their image. It helps to show how good they are, and how useless and inconsiderate I am.

I am really tired of exerting myself to make things better. Things will never be better because others will never take the efforts, nor will they appreciate my efforts.

What's the solution to this? Nothing that I have found. Just keep on saying Fine! Life is absolutely fine!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Typing An Ode

Here's a wonderful article that I read about typewriters: Typewriter lives on in India.

As I read it, I was transported back to my days, not too long ago, when I was learning typing. I was just out of school and my mom wanted me to learn typing. Even then it was considered one of the things that girls ought to know. I had readily signed up for the typing class, not because it was a girl's thing. But because it was something exciting, something new, something that connected me to the outside "office" world.

For so long, typewriters, typewriting, and the typewritten word have been associated with the "official" world. A world that included so many memos, proposals, calculation sheets, orders, accounts, receipts, and bills. It also included legal notices, affidavits, lawyers, laws, and bureaucratic work. It was a representation of governmental procedures, and rules and regulations.

I remember going to the class early morning to start hammering away on the typewriter. It was only then did I realise the importance of the little finger on my left hand that's used to type the "A." And it pained so much! I started with the middle line on the keyboard. A, S, D, E, F, G had to be typed with the left hand using the little finger, ring finger, middle finger, index finger, and index finger again respectively. And then, ',  ;, L, K, J, H had to be typed with the right hand using the little finger, ring finger, middle finger, index finger, and index finger again respectively. It was so damn hard.

Once I had fairly grasped typing the much-harder-than-computer keys, I proceeded to learn the upper and lower lines. Till then all my fingers had gained the power and strength to type all those keys. As I continued individual letters, I was waiting to move on to the next level of typing words, then sentences, paragraphs, followed by those letters, memos, notices, and what not.

I progressed on to type smaller 3-letter, 4-letter words. In between, there were those dreaded how-many-words-can-you-do-per-minute exams. I never fared well in those exams. Perhaps it was the teacher. She looked so sinister, and so old-worldly. So much like those typewriters whose prime time was gone. Or I think it was the machine, it was so old, it took time to print the word on the paper after I had typed it.

Whatever it was, once I had grasped the complete keyboard, I didn't take too many efforts to attend the class regularly. I ended up using my typing knowledge to type less harder keys: the computer keys.

Today we talk about the QWERTY keyboard for mobile phones. But we must remember that it was the typewriter that gave us that keyboard and made life easier for us.

In its own time, the typewriter had its glory. It was a status symbol to have a typewriter. A status symbol to let your neighbours hear you hammering it on those keys, and showing off the immense important work that you were doing. And rightly so. It was one of those machines that made life easier, creating multiple copies of your writing using a carbon paper, providing a standard of fonts, types, and stationery that made your work look so very "official."

Typerwriters have had their claim to fame in Bollywood movies too. Movies of the 1960s and 1970s showed the film heroines as typists for a multi-millionaire, whose spoilt sons would ultimately win the heroines. Or it would be an office romance, where the girl is a typist and the boy working on some post in the office.

One such movie of office romance is Choti Si Baat. It is a wonderful light, heart-warming comedy. The opening credentials are actually shown as being typewritten. The story talks about large financial firms in Mumbai in which the girl and boy work. And as the narrator talks, we can hear the background of hundreds of typists typing away gaily on their machines.

But not all the times were typewriters used for love (letters). There were incidences when typewriters were used to obscure the identity of the perpetrators of crimes. Notes of abductions, ransom, murders, unnamed posts, all were typed rather than hand-written. Of course, people from the investigative departments also were specialised to recognise the make of the typewriter, and find out the individual characteristics of each typewriter. The method of obscuring the identity is in fact now easier. You just need to create a fake e-mail address and send out terror e-mails out to the world. Power in the wrong hammering hands!

Typewriters are now replaced with computers. Life moves on. But in between, things do remind us of our glorious past, making us nostalgic, happy, and content.

Salaam to the typerwriters!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Letting Go Is Difficult

Of many things that I find difficult, letting go contends for the top three positions. For me, it has always been hard to forget and even harder to forgive. I have always been proud of taking care of others' feelings, not hurting them. I always think, how would I feel if I behave in a certain (incorrect) way with others. That guides me to not do something that might be hurtful for the other.

I haven't always been successful in this. But whenever I have gone wrong, I have been quick to accept my mistakes and learn from them. Learn, not to repeat them. And accept my mistakes before the person against whom I committed it. That's probably when a catharsis occurs. Helps me purge myself of the guilt. Helps me become a better person.

But when such mistakes, such callous behaviour occurs from the other side towards me, I cannot vouch for my scorpionic anger. It flares up and starts lashing out in whatever way possible, be it through speech or action. When I am hurt because of no fault of mine, I cannot comprehend the fact that I need to be balanced in my reaction. It's more because most of the times, I wouldn't have done such a thing myself. I would have taken care to behave appropriately in that situation.

I don't have double standards of behaviour. I hardly ever behave in one way with a person and in another with a person of the same level. But when I get such an imbalanced treatment, when I am considered a mere midget even when I have taken all efforts, I get doubly angry.

I hardly forget such episodes and they get etched in my memory. I perhaps give them air by revisiting them and chaffing them.

That's where I am changing. I have slowly started ignoring such things. I have started letting go of the feeling of misuse, abuse, or whatever you call it, the feeling of being left out, the feeling of no importance. It has been hard, very hard indeed. It has required tremendous self-restrain and patience. But I am learning it surely.

It's helped me overcome some of the anger in me. It has helped me calm down. It has helped me realise the futility of it all. And most important of all, it has helped me regain my righteousness. Others may behave in whatever way they want. I won't stoop to that low. But yes, don't expect me to come back to you and be friends with you.

I won't forget, I won't forgive. But I won't let such things disturb me too.

Lessons from Life!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Information Mapping

This is the new mantra in my workplace. We all are currently moving towards creating documentation that is not only easy to understand, up-to-date, and useful, but also that is info-mapped.

What is Information Mapping?

Information Mapping is a research-based approach for creating structured documents that are clear, concise, and user-specific.

Complex information is broken down into information blocks. These blocks put forth a single idea or point, making it easy to understand.

Each block is an information chunk that is labeled. Labeling and chunking are the two main aspects of information mapping.

Who Started it All?

It was a technique developed by Robert E. Horn.

Information Types

In this method, Robert Horn uses six information types: Procedure, Process, Principle, Concept, Fact, and Structure. These types are used to segregate your content to make it easier for users to use, reuse, and understand the content.

How Have We Implemented it?

We are overhauling our existing documents to adhere to the Information Mapping principles.

Following are the tasks we are doing to implement Information Mapping:

  • Remove information that is no longer required or redundant.
  • Remove information from one chunk and place it into another chunk making it more relevant and useful.
  • Give labels to each chunk.
    Labels help in understanding the crux of the chunk. Labels allow for a quick glance through the document to understand the main points.
  • Segregate information into the different information types.
    So, conceptual information is documented as Concepts. Actual procedures that list steps to perform tasks are documented as Procedures.

How Has it Helped Me?

Information Mapping has given me a new perspective to writing. It has given me an opening and understanding to write concisely. As I write new features, new procedures, create new graphics, I have started thinking from the user's perspective. I try to understand how the user would like to know about the new feature. What labels should be given to the chunks to make them useful for the end users. I am taking efforts to sort out information into the different info types so that while reading, one single point is dealt with in a chunk of information. It has helped me ask the how, why, what questions that are essential to creating information that is relevant, complete, accurate, and to-the-point.

I am glad that we have started using Information Mapping for documentation. I know I can improve my writing using this technique.

Recommended?
Definitely.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Know...

That's what I learnt from The Everywhereist.

And that's what I want to say to all those things that bother me at times, to those people that irritate me, but who still love me the way I am, seeing the good in me, helping me, loving me, being with me, supporting me, and most importantly, overlooking my flaws.

Those things and those people might have their flaws. I know. But I still love them! Thanks Almighty for each of them!

Cheers!

Has This Happened To You...


...that at a wedding lunch, you looked up from your food and saw a man sitting opposite you drop food on his shirt, and the man realises it and looks up to see if anyone noticed it only to look at you watching him, making him feel totally embarrassed?

...that you are in a meeting room waiting for someone, and you withdraw the curtain of the glass window to look at what the man sitting just outside the room is doing, only to look straight in his eyes as he too looks up at you at the same time?

...that you mistakenly spoke an incorrect word during a conversation, hoping that no one would have heard it, and hear someone silently telling you in your ear that they heard what you actually said?

...that you are riding on you are pillion riding a bike and see another biker's cap go flying away, and just as you start laughing at the funny episode, you feel your cap too blown away by the wind?

...that when you are out in your best clothes, or hurrying to an important appointment, that's when birds from above are at their most giving attitude and target you for their charity?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hardships

A few incidents I came across that showed the hardships faced by people around us and how they survive. In fact, it's these hardships that make us stronger. We learn so much and grow so much.

The first one was a month back when we visited a restaurant. The boy who took our order could speak English. But you could tell that he had just learnt it. But I liked his confidence. He was speaking grammatically correct English. The best part was that he was not throwing any accent, nor was he stammering while talking. I can imagine what efforts he must have taken to learn English and communicate in proper English. It was his determination that helped him overcome his shortcomings. I liked his attitude and salute his will to succeed despite hardships.

The next incident that I vividly remember is of two boys carrying a cooking gas cylinder on a bicycle. That scene is representative of so many things: it shows how the middle class survives, how children are willingly (or perhaps, unwillingly) ready to help and do household chores for a better life, how children have to manage these chores with parents busy earning the daily bread, how ably children can handle these tasks. Moreover, it's a lesson in life for those two boys. Those two boys are already learning to be independent, and understanding, that life is after all sharing and helping. After growing up, I am sure they will reminisce how they used to get the cooking gas cylinder home on a bicycle, and will narrate this incidence to their kids, who will be in awe of the extraordinary life their parents led as kids.

Two other incidences are of two ladies who are on the brink of changes in life. The similarities are uncanny. Both are looking for a better job, both are trying to pursue higher education, and both are new candidates for matrimony. As I hear each one's experience, I realise that both are going through similar experiences, frustrations, heartaches, disappointments, and rekindled hopes. These are hardships that most girls go through. And each one learns numerous lessons. Each one grows up and matures through these trying times and emerges a better person.

The worst and probably the best part about hardships is that no one, absolutely no one can bypass this journey. If you feel that you did not have to face certain kinds of hardships, think before you feel or decide that way. Because just as you are taking the next turn in your Life, the Hardships Family has already boarded your Life train. And unless you drop the Family at the next stop, you can't shake them off. You must bear with them and emerge winners.

That's what life is about...hardships cultivate winners.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Saturday Is Here...

...and I am downright sad. I am no longer looking forward to it. I really wish I had an Invisibility Cloak, or perhaps a spell to befuddle people. I am tired of obligations!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pre- And Post-20.12.2010

Just like six months back. Feels like I am in a different world now. In fact, it seems the world is divided into two parts. Pre-20.12.2010 and Post-20.12.2010.

I have come over to stay for a few days at my parents's home which included a weekend too. It was absolutely just like the frenzy that was going on before 20.12.2010. Weekend shopping sprees, evening meetings with SP after office, and then coming home, spending time at home, doing all kinds of tasks like cleaning up every nook and corner, completing pending bank work, getting things ready for moving out, filling up bags...the list is endless.

And in the morning on weekdays, just like old times...get up, go for a walk or a bicycle ride, come back all sweaty, plunge into the bath, have a quick breakfast, fill mom's and my tiffins, and then go off to office for the day's work. Just like pre-20.12.2010. It's strange how a few days bring in a complete different perspective to life.

Seemingly, nothing has changed here at my parents' place. Baba gets up at the same time for the milkman. He does his share of chores. Aai gets up and does the cooking, cleaning. Baba goes on doing rest of the tasks and then steps out of the house to complete other outdoor tasks. He will manage to teach a student or two in the meanwhile. Aai will step out to go to office and be back in the evening. The routine is not changed.

But there is a big change. I am not there now. They have learnt to live without me. They have accepted that I won't be there with them forever. And I am crying as I write this...not because I am not included in their lives, but because I cannot be there to support them as they live alone without their children. It's sad that they made me and my sister all independent and capable to lead our own lives so that ultimately we lived happily and they alone.

And come Saturday and I will go back to my post-20.12.2010 life. Leaving back the pre-20.12.2010 life again, but taking with me all memories of the time I spent with Aai-Baba and at Shaniwar Peth. I will miss them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

(Wo)Man Is (Wo)Man's Own Enemy

Today, I am thoroughly ashamed of this woman called Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. She has been convicted of genocide, war crimes, and crime against humanity, including rape. And to top it all, she was Rwanda's former Minister for Family Welfare and the Advancement of Women! Disgusting!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/rwanda/8597001/Genocide-court-jails-female-Rwandan-former-minister-for-life.html

She has been sentenced to a term of life imprisonment and is not eligible to apply for parole for the next 25 years. Pauline, who is 65, was also found guilty of inciting rape at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is prosecuting those accused of orchestrating the killings of more than 8,00,000 people in Rwanda in 1994. Her son, Arsene Ntahobali, a former militia leader, is also found to be guilty. He has been sentenced to a term of life imprisonment, with no possibility of parole.

I am shocked that a woman was involved in the genocide and extermination of the Tutsi minority in Rwanda, and of rape. What had got into her? She has behaved like a modern Hitler.

I am not sure if the punishment meted out to her is justified, enough, or even less. But I would like to go from this world without seeing any more such Paulines!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pottermore

For all Harry Potter fans, here's something that J.K. Rowling is coming up...Pottermore. Apparently, it's going to have a lot of reader interaction, and she herself will be sharing a lot of trivia that she has not added in the books. Available on the Pottermore website will be e-books and audio books.

Here's what J.K. Rowling has to say about Pottermore:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYs1d3jAdG0&feature=player_embedded

Don't know if I am excited enough, but it is definitely something worth looking forward to. Till then we have to be satisfied with the HP books and look forward to the second movie part of the 7th book that will be released soon.

Cheerio!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ajanta

Ajanta Caves
Ajanta, another World Heritage site, is something that cannot be missed. Situated at around 100 kms away from Aurangabad, you need the whole day to travel to Ajanta, visit the caves, and return to base camp.

The village near the caves is called Ajintha (अजिंठा) and in Marathi the caves are called अजिंठा लेणी. Ajanta caves are 30 rock-cut cave monuments dating from 2nd century BCE.

Ajanta caves include paintings depicting the Jataka tales. The paintings and a few sculptures are considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art.

History

The Ajanta caves were carved out of a horseshoe-shaped cliff along the Waghora river. They were used by Buddhist monks as chaityagrihas (prayer halls) and viharas (monasteries) for about nine centuries, and then were abruptly abandoned. The walls of the caves are covered with beautiful paintings and sculptures of Buddhist origin. They fell into oblivion until they were rediscovered in 1819.

(Re)Discovery

Ajanta caves were discovered by John Smith, an army officer in the Madras Regiment of the British Army in 1819 during one of his hunting expeditions.

Number of Caves


There are 30 caves, with mostly been completed. A few caves are unfinished. A pathway is scooped out from stone and runs as a crescent by the caves. From this, one can have a glorious view of the ravine below.

What can you see in the caves?

The wall paintings illustrate the events in the life of Gautam Buddha. Stories and scenes from the Jataka Tales are brought to life on the walls.

Waghora River Valley
Why Ajanta?

Ajanta lies on the ancient trade route from the Arabian sea to the Deccan plateau. The Buddhist monks found the peace and seclusion they were looking for in the cool ravine of the Waghora river. With trade centers of Jalgaon and Aurangabad close by, the monks could go to these places to collect alms and return to the quiet of the caves.

Moreover, the texture of the granite rock in layers made it easy for the sculptors to cut the rocks with their instruments and for painters to paint.

How were the Paintings done in such Dark Caves?

Painters used stick torches to light up the caves. Mirrors were used to reflect sunlight into the dark caves. Skills were passed down from father to son. New techniques, tools, and new ways of handling paint and chisel were also invented.

Colours Used

Local colors available from mountain rocks and soil were used. The main colours used were yellow ochre, brown ochre, lamp black, white, and lapis lazuli (blue). Lapis lazuli was imported from Northern India, Central Asia, and Persia. Green was created from lapis lazuli using Indian yellow ochre.

Techniques of Painting

The paintings were executed after elaborate preparation of the rock surface. The rock surface was chiselled and grooves were made so that the layer applied over it could be held in an effective manner. The ground layer consisted of a rough layer of clay, cow dung, mixed with rock-grit or sand, vegetable fibers, paddy husk, grass, and other fibrous material of organic origin on the rough surface of walls and ceilings, thoroughly pressed into the rock.

A second coat of mud and ferruginous earth mixed with fine rock-powder or sand and fine fibrous vegetable material was applied over the ground surface. Finally, the surface was finished with a thin coat of lime wash. Over this surface, outlines are drawn boldly. The spaces were filled with requisite colours in different shades and tones to achieve the effect of rounded and plastic volumes.

The colours and shades utilised also varied from red and yellow ochre, terra verte, to lime, kaolin, gypsum, lamp black and lapis lazuli. The chief binding material used here was glue. The paintings at Ajanta are not frescoes, because they are painted with the aid of a binding agent. In frescoes, the paintings are executed while the lime wash is still wet which, thereby acts as an intrinsic binding agent.

Not-to-be-Missed-Caves

Caves 1, 2, 10, 16, 17, and 26 should not be missed.

We visited the caves starting from cave number 1. But I read it recently, which I found really sensible, that you should start with the last cave first. Thereby, you end at cave 1, which is also the exit point.

But let me caution you for this route. Make sure that you leave enough time in hand for the caves 1 and 2. Usually, as we start, we spend more time in the beginning. As time flies by, we tend to skip caves, or hurry across the numerous paintings and sculptures. That would mean that you have very little time for caves 1 and 2. Make sure you avoid that mistake.

I am still going to describe the caves as we visited them.

Cave 1

Padmapani
This is the most important cave of Ajanta and has elaborate carvings on its facade. There are scenes carved from Buddha's life and also decorative motifs. There are three doors, central, and two side-doors. Two square windows are carved between the doors.

The walls of the hall are nearly 40 feet (12 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high. Twelve pillars make a square colonnade inside supporting the ceiling, and creating spacious aisles along the walls. A shrine is carved at the rear end of an impressive, seated image of the Buddha, his hands being in the dharmachakrapravartana mudra. A group of the master's first five disciples is also shown.

The walls are covered with scenes that are mostly didactic, devotional, and ornamental. The themes are from the Jataka stories (the stories of the Buddha's former existences as Bodhisattva), the life of the Gautama Buddha, and those of his veneration. One pillar in the central right row has a remarkable carving of four deer in different positions sharing the same head that seems to belong to each one of them.

Vajrapani
The doorway of the antechamber of the shrine is flanked by two Bodhisatvas: Vajrapani, holding the thunderbolt on the right, and Padmapani, holding the lotus on the left. Vajrapani is richly bejewelled and leans gracefully against an attendant. Padmapani's eyes are lowered in meditation, his face showing depths of spiritual calm born of compassion for all living forms.

The sidewalls of the antechamber show two scenes from Buddha's life: his temptation by Mara just before his enlightenment, and the miracle of Sravasti, where the Buddha multiplied himself into thousand images.

Above the left porch is the scene of Three Signs (a sick man, an old man, and a corpse) that Buddha saw outside the palace that led him to become a monk. Other tales of the life of Buddha from the Jataka Tales are depicted on the walls.

Cave 2

Paintings in Cave 2
Cave 2, very similar to cave 1 has robust pillars, supported by ornamental designs. The facade of this Mahayana monastery cave shows the kings of Naga and their entourage.

The hall is supported by four pillars making colonnades parallel to the walls. A glorious mandala dominates the ceiling and is decorated with humans, animals, birds, flowers, fruits, semi-divine forms, and abstract designs. The ceiling gives the effect of a cloth canopy, right down to the sag in the middle.

Jataka tales are abundant in the wall paintings. These tales inform us of of Buddha's teachings and life through successive births. The narrative episodes are not depicted in a linear order on the walls.

One of the paintings dramatizes the legend of the Buddha's birth in vivid details. It depicts how Queen Maya dreams about an elephant with six tusks. It also describes how Buddha is born and how he takes six steps as Lord Indra holds an umbrella over him.

Cave 10

Cave 10 is a chaityagriha-prayer hall of the monks. It is 28.5 X 12.3 m with a height of 11 m. It has a stupa at the end of the cave. The cave boasts of an imitation of wooden construction to the extent that the rafters and beams are also sculpted even though they are non-functional.

The paintings in this cave resemble the relief carvings at Sanchi in the 2nd century B.C. The painting on the left wall shows a King with his Retinue, worshiping the Buddha tree. The royal party stops at the stupa and then passes through a gateway. On the right wall are a series of large wall paintings. One painting shows the Shada-danta jataka-the Buddha in his elephant incarnation. The whole crowd is in movement.

One scene shows a six-tusked elephant that was the Buddha in one of his earlier birth. The animals are beautifully drawn and the large space of the forests is shown with its thick foliage and trees. In the second scene, the princess, seated on a stool, is shown fainting, because the six tusks of the elephant are brought to the king. The queen has wished that the elephant be killed. Now that his tusks are brought before the court, she faints at their sight.

On one of the pillars, a gracious figure in a pink and buff cloak surrounded by green aureole is emerging to cast blessings on mankind. Two monks kneel by his feet and the flying angels above his black head indicate that they are going to lift him to heaven. The umbrella on the top is symbolic of the protection he offers to all.

The painting of Buddha and the one-eyed-monk show the devotion of the followers of the Enlightened one. The face and figure of the Buddha and the monk seem to be echoes of the heavy physical types of Gandhara art of northwest India. Only the flowing draperies have softened their contours. The aureole on the Buddha's head and the closed eyes show a dreamy calm. The Shyama-Jataka on a wall in this cave relates the story of where the Bodhisatava was born as son of two blind parents, a hunter and his wife.

Cave 16

Cave 16 has a seated, more than life size Buddha shrine. Lions and other active animals support the throne. Bodhisattvas stand behind him.

Sundari fainting, with an attendant and nurse (in spot light) in Cave 16
It has a beautiful painting of the princess Sundari fainting after learning that her husband (the Buddha's half-brother, Nanda) was going to become a monk. The sad drama is depicted by the bent head of the the princess and the tense female attendants.

Another painting shows Buddha with the begging bowl.

In yet another painting, Prince Siddhartha is shown stretching the bow. Another master painting is the descent of Buddha from the Tushita heaven.

The Dying Princess is one of the famous paintings from Ajanta in this cave. There is agony in the drooping, sightless eyes, the helpless abandon of fingers, and the farewell gestures. The emotions of the attendants are also expressed beautifully.

Prince Gautam practising archery
The Sutasama Jataka painting narrates the story of the previous incarnation of the Bodhisattva and the son of the king of Indraprastha named Sutasama. The prince is trained in all the arts and sciences by a guru at Taxilla. One day, Sutasama was seized by a man-eating dacoit. The prince promised him he would come back and be eaten after he had offered flowers to the Enlightened one. And he did as he promised. The cannibal was surprised to see Sutasama. He, who had once been a fellow student of the Bodhisattva at Taxilla and then king of Benares was converted, and he became the king of Benares again.

Cave 17

The Wheel of Life
Cave 17 is covered with maidens, celestial musicians, celestial guardians, goddesses, and lotus petals. One mural shows Prince Simhala's encounter with the man-eating ogresses of Sri Lanka, where he'd been shipwrecked. Another shows the king of gods flying amidst clouds with his entourage of celestial nymphs (apsaras) and musicians.

On the portico's left wall, the Wheel of Life shows life in its different phases.
The love of happiness radiates through the pictures in Cave 17. The earth has become heaven. The Apsaras and the Flying Spirits float across the sky. Lovers sit in the air houses. All paintings seem to illustrate the beauty of nature and human love and happiness. There is a magnificent painting showing a king and queen with their attendants going in a royal procession. There are colorful umbrellas over their heads and trees in the background. Some women are looking at them through the window.

The Sleeping Buddha
Cave 26

Cave 26 is a chaityagriha. It houses the famous Sleeping Buddha statue. It's Buddha in the Parinirvana state in a horizontal position with all his followers mourning his death. The wall also depicts the scene of the Temptation of Buddha.

So Much to See and So Little Time

That's what you feel when you are in the caves, looking at the paintings, and taking in their beauty and art. I have been able to describe almost only a few of the important paintings and sculptures in the caves. But what each wall and each painting shows, is something that needs to be experienced by oneself.

Lifetime Experience

I shall recommend that we all should see these caves and paintings at least once in our lifetime. We take time out to visit places of natural beauty, fun and frolic, and even religious places. But we should really visit these caves to acknowledge and appreciate our glorious, rich heritage.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eagerly Awaited

The eagerly-awaited, ever-soothing, greenery-giving, splashy, beautiful, life-giving, romantic rains are here. Out with your raincoats, umbrellas and all your wet gear.

I can't wait for the weekend!

I love rains!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ellora

Known as Velur (वेरूळ) in Marathi, Ellora caves are listed in the World Heritage Site list. Ellora is situated around 30 kms from the city of Aurangabad. There are 34 caves that are divided into Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain rock-cut temples and monasteries.

Understanding the Caves

Ellora Caves
Caves 1-12 are Buddhist caves, which include monasteries and chaityagrihas. Caves 13-29 are Hindu caves, with the famous cave 16, which is the largest single monolithic excavation in the world. Caves 30-34 are Jain caves, depicting Jain philosophy and tradition.

The caves are dated back to the time period of around 6th-7th century A.D. to 11th-12th century A.D. These caves are a classic example of the coexistence of multiple religions. These religious establishments could have had royal patronage, though not enough and complete information is available.

Inscriptional Evidence

Sculpture in cave 29
The only definite inscriptional evidence is that of Rashtrakuta Dantidurga (c. 753-57 A.D.) on the back wall of the front mandapa of Cave 15. The Great Kailasa (Cave 16) is attributed to Krishna I (c. 757-83 A.D.), the successor and uncle of Dantidurga. A copper plate grant from Baroda of the period of Karka II (c. 812-13 A.D.) speaks about the greatness of this edifice (cave 16). The inscription tells us that this great edifice was built on a hill by Krishnaraja at Elapura (Ellora). Apart from these two inscriptions, the cave complexes lack any other inscriptions.

The entrance to the caves from the car parking opens at cave 16. Also known as the Kailasa cave, it is a remarkable example of rock-cut temples. Its striking proportion, elaborate workmanship, architectural content, and sculptural ornamentation is marvelous. This cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva and named after His mountain home in the Himalayas, the snow-peak Kailasa.

Not-to-be-Missed Caves

Although it's right at the entrance, I am going to start from the beginning to describe the caves. We visited caves 6, 10, 12, 15, 16, 21, 25, and 29. We did not have enough time to visit the Jain caves. Caves 10, 12, 15, 16, 21, 25, 29, and 32 are not to be missed.

Chaityagriha-Cave 10
Cave 6

Cave 6 is a Buddhist cave with two fine sculptures. On the left is goddess Tara, and on the right is Mahamayuri, the Buddhist goddess of learning. A diligent student sits at his desk below.

Row of seated Buddhas in Cave 12
Cave 10

Cave 10 is a magnificent chaityagriha, a place of worship and meditation for the Buddhists. It has a beautiful, ornamental facade. Also known as Visvakarma, it is a typical chaityagriha with stone beams across the ceiling. A seated Buddha is enthroned in front of a large stone stupa in the cave.

Cave 12

Buddha giving his first sermon
Cave 12 is known as Teen Tal, literally meaning three floors. It is three storied, each with a hall with pillars. The walls of the shrine room are lined with five large bodhisattvas, and is flanked by seven Buddhas, representing each of his previous incarnations. It also has a sculpture of Buddha, giving his first sermon depicted by a pair of deer at his feet. The historical value of this cave lies in the fact that human hands built a three-storeyed building from rock with such painstaking efforts and skills that even the floors and ceiling are smooth and levelled. Teen Tala is a monastry-cum-chapel with cells.

Cave 15

Narasimha Avataar coming out of the pillar
Cave 15 is called the Cave of Ten Avatars or Dashavatar. It is a two-storeyed temple having large sculptural panels between the wall columns on the upper floor illustrating a wide range of themes, which include the ten avatars of Vishnu. A panel to the right of the antechamber also depicts the superiority of Shaivism in the region at the time - Shiva emerges from a lingam while his rivals Brahma and Vishnu stand in humility and supplication. One of the sculptures is Shiva as Nataraja.

Cave 15 is the only cave for which you  have to ascend a great many steps, because it is situated at a height. And that's the reason that it is not as frequently visited as other caves. So, if you want to visit cave 15, make sure that there are a few more people with you when you climb in. Going in there all alone is quite spooky. Unlike other caves, it smells of disuse. It's a strange feeling to be all alone with those sculptures all staring at you. And yet, the carvings in this cave are as beautiful as in others. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, some of the sculptures are really magnificent.

Cave 16

Cave 16, Kailasa cave, is the best of the 34 caves. It is a temple worshiping Lord Shiva and depicts various poses, scenes, and stories of Shiva.

Dhwajastambha
Kailasa has been carved out of a single rock. Kailasa is believed to have been started by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I. The construction was a feat of human genius – it entailed removal of 250,000 tons of rock, took 100 years to complete and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens.

A two-storeyed gateway resembling a South Indian gopuram opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. The courtyard is edged by columned galleries three storeys high. The galleries contain enormous sculptures of various deities.

Gajalakshmi
The first huge sculpture is the Gajalakshmi that you see as soon as you enter the cave. Two life-size elephants cut in rock on each side in the courtyard magnificently guard the cave. The pillars, Dhwajastambhas in the courtyard are intricately carved.

The whole temple consists of a shrine with lingam at the rear of the hall with Dravidian sikhara, a flat-roofed mandapa supported by 16 pillars, and a separate porch for Nandi surrounded by an open court entered through a low gopura. The Nandi Mandap stands on 16 pillars and is 29.3 m high. The base of the Nandi Mandap has been carved to suggest that life-sized elephants are holding the structure aloft.

Mahabharat and Krishna Leela scenes
The temple is a tall pyramidal structure reminiscent of a South Indian temple. The shrine is complete with pillars, windows, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, and an enormous lingam at its heart – carved from living stone. The temple is carved with niches, pilasters, windows as well as images of deities, mithunas (erotic male and female figures) and other figures. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Shiva) while on the right hand side the deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Vishnu).

Narasimha Avataar
One of the most remarkable sculptures is the grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva, with his full might. Some other sculptures include Ravana offering his nine heads to Shiva, Shiva as Nataraj, scene of Shiva-Parvati wedding, Mahishasur Mardini, Mahabharat, Krishna Leela, and Ramayana carvings, Narsimha avataar, Vishnu resting, Tripurantak Shiva, and some other splendid carvings.

Ravana shaking Kailasa
You need at least two hours to see Kailasa. And it definitely is awe-inspiring.

Cave 21

Ramayana scenes
Cave 21 is also known as Ramesvara. It has figurines of goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance. Cave 21 is thought to be the oldest Hindu cave.

Cave 25

Cave 25 features Surya driving his chariot towards the dawn.

Cave 29

Nataraj in Cave 16
Cave 29 has sculptures of Ravana shaking Kailasa and the wedding scene of Shiva-Parvati. Pairs of lions guard its three staircases. Inside, the walls are covered in large friezes. To the left of the entrance, Shiva slays the Andhaka demon, then defeats the many-armed Ravana's attempt to shake him and Parvati off the top of Mount Kailash. There's also a dwarf baring his bottom to taunt the demon! On the south side, Shiva teases Parvati by holding her arm back as she prepares to throw dice in a game.

Cave 32

Shiva-Parvati wedding
Cave 32 from the Jain caves is known as Indra Sabha. The upper floor has elaborate carvings, including a fine lotus flower on the ceiling. Two tirthankaras guard the entrance to the central shrine. On the right is the naked Gomatesvara, who is meditating deeply in the forest - so much so that vines have grown up his legs and animals, snakes and scorpions crawl around his feet. On the upper level is also seen an imposing image of Ambika, the Yakshi (dedicated attendant deity) of Neminatha found seated on her lion under a mango tree, laden with fruits. We did not have enough time to visit this cave.

Overall, it is a great experience to behold the confluence and spiritual tolerance of three religions. The magnificent structures stand proof to the glorious culture, architecture, art, and painstaking efforts taken by the sculptors in those bygone days.

Grhishneshwar Temple

It is with a heart full of admiration, and the head full of the different sculptures that we come out of the Ellora caves site. It is easy to then visit Grhishneshwar and pay respects to Lord Shiva at one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India.

Grhisheshwar is still a small temple, yet well-known, and very jagrut. The temple was constructed by Ahilyabai Holkar. It is believed that an ardent devotee named Kusuma offered prayers to Lord Shiva at Grhishneshwar by dipping the Shivalinga in a water tank. Eventually Lord Shiva appeared in front of her and her prayers for the restoration of her son's life were answered.

Back to Aurangabad

With a heart full of devotion to Lord Shiva, you return to Aurangabad for relaxation. Another big day awaits you: a visit to Ajanta.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ennui

It happens once a while. Extreme boredom. Nothing helps. Rather, nothing you do seems to drive away your boredom. Visiting friends does not help. Visiting relatives is doubly taxing. Routine tasks and jobs are tedious and shackling.

It's an overall feeling of dullness and low esteem. And obviously, the reason is unknown.

I am trying to think of some remedies: shopping, movies, pizza party, (re)newed exercise regime, two-days trip, or best, going underground. Let me see if any (or all) might work.

Visiting Daulatabad

The first stop that you can take when you visit Aurangabad is the Daulatabad fort. This fort is around 15 kms from Aurangabad on the Ellora road.

Courtyard of the Daulatabad Fort
A massive land fort, it served as the capital of the Yadav dynasty. Daulatabad is also known as Deogiri and was once considered as invincible. Devgiri is a 12th century fort that was built by the Yadava king Bhillama V. He established the Yadava stronghold in Deccan by making Deogiri as his capital.

Deogiri is a strong land fort and has seven lines of defence. The fort has never seen battles and has seen a change of power only once, and that too through treachery.




High fortified walls with watch towers

On the road to Ellora, when you see the massive Daulatabad fort on your left, you can immediately feel the strength and power of the fort. As you enter the first darwaza, you come across a courtyard

 You cross the courtyard and the second darwaza, and you are met with high fortified walls.


Victory Pillar
As you start walking in towards the fort, you can see the Victory Pillar on your right, also known as Chand Minar. This pillar was raised in 1445 by Ala-ud-din Bahamani to mark his capture of the fort. Chand Minar is 210 ft. (64 m.) high and 70 ft. (21 m.) in circumference at the base, and was originally covered with beautiful Persian glazed tiles.

Opposite the Minar is the Jumma masjid, whose pillars originally belonged to a temple.  Now it has a Devi's mandir. Close by is a large masonry tank, the common bath.  The Chini Mahal lies in ruins and was the place where Abdul Hasan Tana Shah, the last king of Golconda, was confined by Aurangzeb in 1687 AD.

Beyond the main entrance, lie the wet and dry moats, a narrow bridge to cross the wet moat, and the famous Andheri.

The wet moat has small openings from the Andheri, the dark passages. Enemies were thrown directly into the water 30 feet below from the Andheri. It was sheer impossible to cross the wet moat from the narrow bridge and then cross the Andheri.

Andheri

After you cross the narrow bridge, you are led to the dark, dangerous passages that are designed to befuddle, entrap, and finally kill the enemy. The Andheri is a series of secret, quizzical, subterranean passages coiled like a python amidst the fort. In these passages, flaring torches were thrust upon an unwary enemy. Or hot oil poured down his path, as he deliberated in the labyrinth. Heat from a brazier was blown into the passage by a process of suction suffocating the entire garrison within.

Once you are successful in crossing the Andheri with the help of a local guide, you reach the first level of the fort. I suggest that you take the help of the local to cross the Andheri. Not only is it really dark and scary, and you might get lost, but it is also worth listening to the story he tells you as you cross the Andheri. It's chilling and exciting to listen and see the places in the Andheri where the soldiers would be hiding, waiting for the enemy, and the means they would use to destroy the enemy.

In the Andheri, at some places, stone hedges are built so that the enemy walks in the darkness and gets hurt on the knees. The enemy would logically turn to a side with hurt knees only to be banged upon solid stone wall and breaking their heads.

View after coming out of the Andheri
Even with these injuries, if some brave ones are able to move ahead in the labrynth, the hidden soldiers do their work of pouring hot oil on the enemy, or shooting arrows from hidden crevices.

At one point, you can feel the blast of cool air coming and are automatically attracted to it, thinking it's an opening out of the Andheri. But you are mistaken, because that outlet opens directly to the wet moat outside. One step through the opening and you are down the drain, in the water. Fortunately, it is all closed and barricaded now. Can you imagine how many men must have lost their lives in hope of cool, fresh air?



Victory Pillar and the way out seen after coming out of Andheri

After the Andheri, you can keep climbing right up till the top of the fort. We skipped that and returned to the base, because we wanted to cover Ellora too. But the fort was absolutely mesmerizing. It is a standing example of the power, cunning, intelligence, architechtural elegance and excellence that the great Yadav rulers had.


If you plan to visit Aurangabad, do keep time to visit this formidable fort.