Monday, September 21, 2015

Pandal hopping during Ganesh Chaturthi!

The festival season has set in!

Last week, on September 17, we celebrated the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in honor of Lord Ganesh, the dispeller of all obstacles. This famous festival is celebrated with great fervor, especially in the states of Goa and Maharashtra.
Lord Ganesha's puja at my place

At many places, ‘Sarvajanik Ganesh murtis (idols) are placed, which are beautifully decorated by highly artistic and creative enthusiasts!
Every year during this festival I love to visit these places, ‘pandal’ hopping. Pandal is the place where the Sarvajanik Ganesh idol is placed and the premises (sometimes temple premises) are decorated beautifully too. 
Ganesh puja at my parents place

Lord Ganesha is worshipped in many households and pandals, either for 1.5 days or 3 days or 5 days or 21 days. During this festival season, it inevitably rains in Goa. Once the Lord is immersed in the waters (Visarjan) it marks the end of the rainy season in Goa.

Here is a glimpse of the famous Ganesh pandals in Margao, in the state of Goa.
The majestic Lord Ganesh at Pipalkatta temple, Margao
Lord Vinayaka being worshipped at the Municipal Garden, Margoa
Bhagwan Vakratunda's abode at Police station premises in Margao
Aarti for the Lord, at Vidyanagar

I especially love visiting the pandal at Aquem, as they always have a theme based animated display of a legendary story. This time they have depicted Sant Gorakumbhar, a potter by trade who was a devotee of  Lord Vithal. As per the legend whilst, Sant Gorakumbhar was making clay pots, Lord Vithoba appeared before him and helped him by making many clay pots. In this setting, upon dropping a coin in the box, the door to the temple of Lord Vithal opens and the many clay pots surface up….
The radiant 'Lord Vakratund' at Aquem
Sant Gorakumbhar making clay pots

The doors of the temple open...
The 'Lord Vithal' appears before the devotee...
May the Lord Ganesha shower his blessings on all!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Charming Bruges!

Part 1
As soon as I entered the peaceful city of Bruges, I felt, I was transported into a medieval era with old world charm!

Yes, indeed, Bruges is one of the most beautiful and best preserved medieval cities in Europe.  No wonder this city has been listed as a World UNESCO Heritage site. And the criteria has been: interchange of values, significance in human history, heritage associated with events of universal significance.
Picture perfect scenery!

Beautiful houses.

Houses along the canal

I happened to visit Amsterdam in June, this year. From there I took a tour via Lindbergh Excursions. The tour duration was 11 hours (it started at 9.30 am in the morning) and though the price was a bit steep (80 Euros/person) it was worthy to visit this heritage city. Most of the tour group members comprised of couple and families. I was was the only person travelling solo.. Well, it is good sometimes to be on your own. However, it is always better to have company...
Many 'cool' cafes dot the surroundings.

The serene canals

Perched along the canals are beautiful abodes

Fairytale settings...

We travelled in a comfortable coach, which took us to Bruges, and parked us at a place called Minne Water (the parking space for most of the tourist buses) From the guide took us around and showed us the main parts of this charming town. Later, we had around 3 hours to explore the beautiful locales. There were many tourist around as the weather was perfect, sunny and around 25 degrees centigrade.  

The city of Bruges continues to retain it medieval look with flowing canals, edged with pretty gabled houses and cobbled streets! The town seems to be very quiet with very few cars around. Most of the locals including the tourists walk around. As the town can be easily navigated on foot and one can best admire its beauty by walking around. An occasional charming horse driven carriage passes by which takes  the tourists around the major sightseeing places around the town.
A place of beauty
The name 'Bruges' is pronounced as 'Brucchhe'.
Walking past beautiful flowers

The old time charm of a horse drawn carriage

Bicycles are in vogue, and so are horse carriages for a quick tour around the town.

For the young lady!

Cycle friendly!

Gables houses..

It is indeed a splendid town, with ancient architecture. It is also an unparalleled artistic centre where lacemaking flourished in the olden days. This medieval town has retained its historic fabric, evolving over the centuries! There are many original medieval Gothic structures around this town.
The houses where the bells chime....

Parked myself!

The clock tower and the belfry.

Charming locales...

Peaceful lanes

Serene and charming alleys...

Here are 10 quick facts about the charming city of Brugges:

1)    Bruges is the capital city of West Flanders area of the Flemish speaking Belgium.

2)    The first inhabitants who settled on the shores of the Zwin, between the 7th and the 9th century, called it Bruggia.

3)    The town developed around the fortress called Burg (Borough)

4)    It was built by the Counts of Flanders and became a world port in the 13th century.

5)    The Belfry was built around 1240, and houses a municipal Carillon comprising of 47 bells.

6)    From 1815 to 1830, Bruges was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Since 1830, it has been a part of Belgium.

7)    In the 13th century, it was the main link of the Mediterranean trade.

8)    The church of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk) has the highest brick tower in Europe.

9)    Moules frites (dish of mussels and fries) and chocolate are Belgian specialties.

10) The population of this charming town is around 117000.

Wheels on the go..

Some from our tour group...

Pristine gothic buildings....

The market square!

Summer is fun!
Note: This is first post about my travels around the world (other than India), watch out for many more to come…

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Festive Creativity!

Last Friday, on August 28, I performed, Varalakshmi puja at my home. Every year, I look forward towards decorating the Varalakshmi devi (The Goddess of Boons) and try to be creative. For more information about this wonderful tradition check my blog post at:;postID=5754354575422591668;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=1;src=postname
Varalakshmi puja at my home

Puja at my mother's (Mrs. Ramani) place

Puja at my sister's (Parimala) home

Puja performed at Meenakshi and Manasa's place. Special credit to my cousin, Ramji bava

Puja at Anuradha Suri's home

And every year, I am amazed and inspired by the creativity of many of the South Indian women who perform this pooja too, by decorating their Varalakshmi devi with great enthusiasm and zest.
Here is a glimpse at some of the beautifully decorated Varalakshmi idols. I was visited some of their houses, last Friday and witnessed their creativity! And some more which I happened to come across via their posts on Facebook…
Puja at Prasad aunty's place
Puja at Kasturi aunty and Poornima's home.

The magnificent devi!

Puja at Kirshnamoorthy aunty's place

Decorated with flowers...

The Goddess of boons!

Puja at Bhanu Peri's home

Beautifully decorated rangoli!

In rich splendour...

In grandiose splendour!
Jai Varalakshmi Devi !!

Note: Sorry for not being able to list the names of few of the creative women!