A Must Visit “Mela” – Pushkar Mela

The famous Pushkar camel fair-2017

The famous Pushkar camel fair describes the rich culture of Rajasthan. The enchantment of Pushkar fair cannot be compared with any other festivals in India. The drowsy tiny parish, Pushkar in Rajasthan becomes alive with a fusion of colors and energetic burst of activity at the time of the fair.

Pushkar, a small town in Rajasthan is a great place to visit for spiritually inclined people to have a glimpse of colorful mythology of the Hindu religion. It is surrounded by hills on three sides and sand dunes on the other; this sacred town of the Hindus is blessed with over 400 temples and 52 bathing ghats.

The Pushkar Camel Fair is celebrated for five days from Kartik Ekadasi to Kartik Poornima (usually between late October and November). In 2017, the official dates for the Pushkar Fair are October 23 to November 04. It is the time when Rajasthani farmers gather to buy and sell their camels, cattle and horses.

According to the hindu mythology, it is the time when the Hindu god Brahma sprung up the Pushkar Lake, On this day devotees take a bath in the Pushkar lake.

It is a majestic occurrence in which more than 400,000 people and 50,000 animals such as camels, horses, cows, goats, and sheep participate and millions of exhibitors come to enjoy in delight from all over the world. Pushkar Fair is the largest cattle fair in the country; especially meant for enjoyment and merry-making.

This annual Pushkar Camel fair brings together farmers, livestock, traders and villagers from all over Rajasthan. This huge gathering contains a Technicolor parade of dancers, musicians, magicians, dancers, acrobats, snake charmers and carousel rides to entertain the crowd. Men in huge dazzling turbans, women in pleated Ghagaras and colorful bangles give the fair an utmost charm of a festival.

Here you can take part in some fun activities, such as a game of tug of war, a cricket match, a competition for the longest moustache, a camel beauty-pageant and a turban-tying contest purely for foreign visitors.

The main highlight of the Fair is the beauty completion of decorated Camels. The camels are dressed up like a groom, they washed spanky clean, shaved and decorated with the jewelry like Silver bells and bangles, after that they entered into beauty contests. Best camel wins the Prize.

Beautifully decorated camels perform parade, race and dance to attract the buyers. In another completion the camel accommodate the maximum number of peoples on his back.

This fair would be incomplete without different stalls and arts, crafts bazaar. The stalls and sellers exhibited the picture of colorful Rajasthan in front of the curious tourists. You can also get a taste of Rajasthani food at stalls. Tourists can enjoy some delicious vegetarian food like daal baati choorama, Mirchi ke pakode, Dal Ki Kachori, Malpue etc.

Another highlight of this fair is the International Hot Air Balloon Festival. This is also held during the fair. You can witness this huge Camel fair from the sky in a Hot Air Balloon.

Body painting is also an attraction of the fair. The experts offer various designed tattoos to the peoples. The bright colored tents, traditional costumes and the sand dunes are a complete treat.

So come and enjoy this grand Camel Mela in Rajasthan.

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Going Goa this Monsoon!

Hello Travellers!

Many of you know that for the past few months, I have been travelling in Odisha. When I arrived here in the first week of April, summer was at its peak already and most Odia acquaintances had advised against visiting the state at this time, citing the unbearable heat and humidity as the reason.

But I came here anyway, and NOW, after spending almost three summer months travelling around the state, I have turned expert enough to advise curious friends and fellow travellers to avoid coming here in the summer months, particularly April and May.

So after months of scorching myself exploring one of the hottest parts of the country, surviving the extreme pre-monsoon heat and getting myself tanned 5 different shades of brown, I am ready to reward myself with a little rainy break and what better place to soak in the rain, than Goa! Cliché, you would say, but trust me, when it comes to experiencing Indian monsoons in all its splendour, few places can match Goa’s magnetism. If I were to put pointers on the best reasons to visit Goa in Monsoons, the following three reasons would cover it all.

1. Green Paradise

With its exotic natural vistas and seductive charm, Goa keeps mesmerizing the visitors all the year round. However, during the monsoons, its seductive charm becomes tough to resist. Rain washes everything up, turning the land into a quintessential tropical paradise – with lush greenery reining all corners, swaying palm trees, shiny paddy fields, sparkling colourful houses, and so many shades of green all around.

2. Less Touristy

The icing on Goa’s ‘tropical paradise’ cake is the fact that it is less crowded this time of the year, thanks to the burgeoning seas and rolled up shacks. So for people like me, who are not too fond of the crowds, are not into water sports and wish to enjoy Goa at a leisurely pace, monsoons is the best time to be here. So lush landscape, choppy seas and a fewer people around…sounds just about right!

3. Seasonal Discounts

Given the fact the most tourists stay away during the monsoons, it’s the best time to make the most of the seasonal discounts available at most of the hotels in Goa. While Goa has no dearth of accommodations catering to all kinds of budget, many top rated hotel properties offer a stay that defines luxury and indulgence. And monsoons are just the right season to check out their special packages.

While these are my top reasons to pick Goa for a monsoon holiday, I can go on and on about its heritage treasures and cultural delights. May be in some another post. For now, I will leave you with this alluring photo from Goa monsoons last year. Ah, the lush tropical vibes. Enjoy!

Khajjar – Mini Switzerland of India

A rendezvous with India’s Mini-Switzerland, Khajjiar, in Himachal is simply breathtaking.

“Often called India’s Switzerland, the exquisite glade of Khajjiar, 1960 m has a circumference of about 5 km. Along its fringes, thick forests of deodar climb the slopes, the snow-line rests above these woods…,” says the government run website, which intrigued and hooked me to this quaint and resplendent valley.

If you still don’t believe about the place being known as the ‘Switzerland of India’, read this: “Khajjiar was bestowed with the title of Mini Switzerland in 1992 by Wiily Blazer, Vice Chancellor and Head of Chancery of Switzerland. Khajjiar is one of the 160 places in the world that bear tropical resemblance to Switzerland.”

Still not heard of Khajjiar?

Khajjiar is tucked away in one of Himachal’s most northern fringes of Dhauladhar circuit, away from the squalor of cities and untamed urbanization. Not many tourists are aware of this valley. Usual crowd heading to Himachal would go to the done-to-death ‘Shimla—Kullu-Manali’ route. But if you want something different and quiet, you should head to the Dhauladhar circuit. The nearest commercial town to Khajjiar is Pathankot, but that’s more than 100 kms away. Pathankot is also the nearest railway head if one wants to reach Khajjiar from New Delhi.

Hence, I decided to plan our journey to Khajjiar through a combination of railway and road trips. We took the Dhauladhar express from Old Delhi railway station. The train departs at 7.30 pm and arrives at Pathankot railway station next day at 8.20 am. Quite interestingly, we had to struggle our way through Delhi’s maddening traffic to catch this train. We caught hold of the train by a whisker.  The moment we reached Old Delhi railway station, it was already 7.15 pm and we had to just rush our way through the crowd to the platform.

However, after we stepped onto the train, we actually thought, our trip to Khajjiar is still on. The train was surprisingly on time and we arrived at Pathankot for our onward journey to Khajjiar. We had arranged for a pick up through our hotel (Mini Swiss, Khajjiar); and as we stepped out of Pathankot station, we occupied the cab. Some friendly conversations ensued with the driver and in a moment, we could see the beginning of the hills.

After an hour’s drive, we stopped at a Dhaba (restaurant) for our refreshments and breakfast. We didn’t have much though – just a hot piping Aloo Parantha, dipped generously with butter – and a cup of tea. Zarak, our two year old had to have his mouthful as well and his mother generously helped him have his baby food. The uphill journey began to unveil gradually, as we curved our way through pine and deodar covered forests and ridges in the Himalayas.

After a drive of over 90 kms we realized, we have reached Dalhouise. We knew that this hill station was on our itinerary and hence we didn’t quite get down to hover around a bit. Our excitement was obviously palpable and we managed to hold on to it tightly. At 1.30 pm we arrived at our hotel in Khajjiar. Hotel Mini Swiss is not one of those three or four star hotels that packs in all amenities and facilities, but nonetheless provides a comfortable accommodation, with friendly staffs. It is one of the very few resorts in this area – Hotel Royal Residency and the government owned resort – being the other ones. A quick shower in the mildly cold waters, a cup of tea and we were ready to head to the majestic meadows of Khajjiar valley. The meadows were in fact a stone’s throw from our hotel and comes across as a pristine undulating landscape with a lake at the centre.

The meadows were surrounded by a sheath of deodar trees throughout and buzzing with activities (I was told this ground looks completely different and covered by snow in the winters). It was a bright sunny noon and quite expectedly, tourists have thronged this place from nearby state of Punjab, Delhi and far off places such as Kolkata and Tamil Nadu. One could stroll around this verdant landscape for hours, have food or snacks from hordes of roadside stalls or take a slow pony rides. We bargained for it and got a deal of Rs 200 for a roundabout trip of the meadows.

The lake at the centre of this landscape looked quite dry and could have been managed well by the tourism department. It appeared bit scruffy. Tourism plays a vital role in Himachal’s economy. It is one of the three major mainstays for the state’s gross domestic product, the first two being hydro-power and horticulture. 

Nonetheless, we spent a good two – three hours here and enjoyed the sun, breathed in the fresh air and experienced the mist and the clouds. We gave another activity – zorbing – a miss though.

Next day, we headed to the heart of Chamba valley. The town, at a distance of 26 km from Khajjiar, has a brisk population and we could see exciting people in the festive mood. It was Dusherra and locals were seen gathering in large numbers in the main market ground.

However, we parked our cab, got down, and went around the town. Our first disappointment – the Museum was closed as it was Dusherra; dejected we went around strolling to see the Lakshmi Narayan temple. It looked quite resplendent, and we did manage to click few images capturing its architectural magnificence. There were few steady tourists around and they chatted blithely, taking selfies.

We began our day next, early with a quick breakfast and headed for the trekking point in Khajjiar. The trek was marked distinctly and by the time we reached, we could see a bevy of tourists already lined up for the trek. The trek was a sharp 4 km up hill and we joined in our excitement to reach the peak. All the hard work and efforts paid off when we got to see the view of the nearby hills and forest cover from atop the misty and cloudy peak.

 Done with our adventure and achievement, we headed straight to the historical town of Dalhousie. The town had an insane old world charm to it – the post office, church, schools and the ambience was magical. The weather was brilliant to say the least.  It seemed, we are walking on the clouds. We got down at the chowk and took a stroll sampling a dish of locally made Momos.

 A walk down little further and we spotted Sunil. He is the town’s most popular ‘two wheeler restaurant’. If you have been to Dalhousie, chances are you may have come across Sunil. He can be easily seen selling fast food items at a brisk pace to tourists near the Dalhousie chowk. He usually sells omlette, french toast and hot piping noodles in his humble mobile scooter. He doesn’t have a printed menu, unlike a physical restaurant. All his food items are named in the body of his yellow scooter. He proudly flaunts a framed article of his interview given to a popular Hindi newspaper.

Sunil was surrounded by customers, when we caught hold of him. How long have you been selling here, I asked, curiously?
“20 years,” pat comes his reply. In Dalhousie, you can also spend time and shop at the local Tibetian market and visit the Church.