Monday, June 30, 2014

World's longest train journeys!

Every train journey brings back nostalgic childhood memories! I remember vividly, how much we used to love the experience of the two day-train journey (Goa to Vizag) to our native place along with my sisters, during the summers. 

And here is a peek into some of the world's longest train journeys! 

Are you ready to embark of one of these journeys?

Margoa’s Glorious Steps!

Margoa can now boast of beautiful murals.....

The century old Victorian design steps leading to Monte Hill adjacent to Hospicio Hospital (one of the oldest hospital in Goa) have been  renovated and the walls have been beautiful painted. These steps lead to the Monte chapel, located atop the Monte hill.

The facilitators....
This 'state of the art project' was inaugurated in November 2013. One of my acquaintances, Ethel Lobo, a dedicated social activist, has been instrumental (along with other liked minded people) in making this aesthetic dream a reality!

Enter the artistic world...

The painted window

As you enter...

Anti-skid steps
The steps have been redone to provide, the public easy access to the areas, leading to Monte hill. 

The silhouette

Surrounded by greenery - view from the top of the steps

Planted steps....


Creative outbursts...

The Goan!

Sea creatures - from the beaches??
 The paintings along the steps are indeed a refreshing treat to the eyes!
Daily life

A la Mario Miranda style...

Let me explore, alone, peacefully!

Recently, this summer, this venue provided a creative platform for many young artists, during the two day, art festival organised by Canopy Azure. And these beautiful artistic surroundings can be utilized to host many more creative festivals in future.....

It seems these are the only artistic steps in Goa, that I am aware of. Thus these may be called Goa's Glorious Steps!
The setting for a muse...

The real muse!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sao Jao in Goa!

Ushering and celebrating the monsoon!

The monsoon season has set in Goa - though at a very slow pace... The onset of the rainy season in Goa is marked by the Sao Jao (means St. John in Portuguese) festival. This festival known for men jumping into the wells. In recent times, the people, celebrate this festival by jumping into lakes, streams, rain showers and swimming pools.
Villagers revelling in the festivities.
An interesting tradition of this festival is that many of the revellers wear elaborate headgears, known as kopel (in Konkani) It is mainly made of flowers, fruits, leaves, creepers and palms . Indeed an ecofriendly crown!
One of them wearing the kopel - the crown

This festival symbolizes, the unborn St. John the Baptist’s leap in his mother’s (Elizabeth) womb, when Mother Mary came to visit him.
It marks the feast of St. John on June 24th.
And is the first festival celebrated during the monsoons, in Goa.
Rain dance
Celebrations galore...
Yesterday, we happened to witness the Sao Jao festivities at Agalli, near Fatorda in Goa. Take a peek into the simple carefree festivities!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Exploring Ooty!

Here is an informative pictograph, about Ooty, which set me thinking to plan a trip to this beautiful hill-station, by myself and opt for a package tour.
The first time I visited Ooty, it was a part of the Karnataka Tourism package tour, which covered only some of the attractions. I would recommend to visit Ooty at a relaxed pace, taking into consideration the below information too. The thread garden is not to be missed!

Gross Happiness Index

As put forward by David Ferris, the notion of Gross National Happiness came about in the 1970s as the insular Himalayan nation was beginning to open itself to the outside world. The king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, examined the global economy’s yardstick of Gross National Product and found it wanting. Many in the West are intrigued by a new lens that looks past manufacturing and productivity data and asks deeper questions about the pursuit of happiness.

A study from Britain's University of Leicester examined a range of statistical data to devise a ranking of the world's happiest nations. And the Top 12 happy nations are listed below.

World’s Happiest Countries:
                  1.     Denmark
2.     Switzerland
3.     Austria
4.     Iceland
5.     Bahamas
6.     Finland
7.     Sweden
8.     Bhutan
9.     Brunei

To showcase Bhutan, Ben Henretig, has initiated a Kickstarter campaign to turn his footage into a full-length documentary called “The Happiest Place.”  He wants the film to go to Sundance, expose us to landscapes, few have seen, and show us what a nation of happy people actually looks like!

Take a look at it….. and Be Happy!

Bharat for Bhutan

The recent first official overseas visit of our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi was to Bhutan, one of our neighboring nations. And he emphasized B or B synergy - Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat. This definitely puts Bhutan in the limelight.
Besides the fact, that Bhutan has been ranked 8th amongst the top 12 happiest nations in the world!
The national animal of Bhutan - Takin      Courtesy:

I came across a beautiful article, written by Margaret Geen* about Bhutan and thought of sharing it with all of you. Some of its excerpts are listed below:

ü Bhutan is the first and only country in the world to have a government edict that Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
ü The principle of Selfless service and the search for enlightenment - is a core value of this unique Buddhist kingdom.
ü Bhutan is the only country in the world to have banned cigarette smoking.
ü Bhutan was the first country to ban plastic bags in 1999.

The lansdscape of this small country is dotted with buildings decorated with flowers, Buddisht art called dzongs, chortens and innumerable monasteries. The most famous of these is the stunning Tiger’s Nest or Taktshang Monastery, which clings to the steep hillsides in the upper Paro Valley surrounded by blue pine and spruce forests.

Ultimately, it is the Bhutanese themselves who are so engaging, and they really do seem to love the way of loving kindness and compassion – the major tenets of Mahayana Buddhism to which they subscribe. 
They seem to live in the moment and their highest priorities are community, family and faith.
Perhaps it will be the wisdom of one of the smallest and happiest nations on earth, Bhutan which will ultimately provide the necessary guidance for stability and peace so longed for throughout the world, when so may nations appear to be afflicted and deeply disturbed by war, poverty and palpable misery.

Like every great journey, the first step begins with us! Tashi Delek!

*From an introduction by Margaret Geen to the book, The Bhutanese Guide to Happiness, by Gyonpo Tsering.

There is a lot to learn from this tiny jewel with a population of only 2.3 million.

Bhutan seems to have discovered the way to happiness, have we

World’s First Novel

Did you know # 5

In the year 1007, a Japanese noblewoman, Murasaki Shikibu, wrote the world’s first novel. Called, ‘The tale of Genji’, it tells the story of a prince looking for love and wisdom. The English translation of this novel covers over 54 chapters and over 1000 pages of text*.

As the last ten chapters of ‘The Tale of Genji’ are set in Uji, there is also 'The Tale of Genji Museum' in Uji, Kyoto, Japan, which was opened in 1998.
Murasaki Shikibu at her writing desk  Source:

It displays the world of the Japanese classic novel, The Tale of Genji with projected images, models, and exhibitions. The story of these chapters is reproduced with great realism using a scrim and life-sized set. Visitors are introduced to the story line and main characters. The culture of the Imperial Court of the Heian Period, the aristocrats' costumes and the furnishings of their residences are shown here.
A short film based on the Ten Uji Chapters and created solely for the museum is presented in the movie room.
There is also a library with a collection of books about The Tale of Genji #

*Reference: Excerpts from Rashtra Deepika Children’s Digest
# Source:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Largest Fortress in Goa – Aguada Fort

Strategically built in 1612 at the estuary of the river Mandovi, the Aguada fort, is the largest and the best preserved fortress in Goa! It was built to guard against the Dutch and the Maratha invasions.
Entering the fort....

Fort Aguada was the most prized and crucial fort of the Portuguese. It is so large that it envelops the entire peninsula at the south western tip of Bardez! And is located 18 kilometres away from Panaji.
Inside the fort!
History of the fort

The walls of the fort are 5 metres high and 1.3 metres wide. And it was protected by two hundred cannons and a deep dry moat, which we had to cross to reach the inside of the fort. No wonder it was the only fort which was not conquered by any invaders during the 450 year regime of the Portuguese in Goa.
The moat and the high ramparts 
Dangerous terrain
There is freshwater spring within the fort which provided water supply to the ships that used to stop by to replenish their fresh water stores!
At the center of the courtyard, lies a huge underground reservoir with a capacity of nearly 2.25 million gallons of water. It was one of the biggest freshwater vaulted cistern of that time in Asia. "Agua" in Portuguese means water. Thus "Aguada" denotes a place where water is accumulated and the fort was aptly named ‘Aguada fort’
The massive water reservoir!

This fort is divided in two sections: the upper part comprised of a moat, underground water storage chamber, gunpowder room, light house and bastions. It also has a secret escape passage to use during time of war and emergency. The lower part served as a safe harbor for the Portuguese ships.

On the ramparts, behind the fort, is the famous Fort Aguada Beach Resort, a five star hotel, owned by the Tata group.  It is part of an 88 acre (360,000 m2) complex, situated on Sinquerim beach, overlooking the Arabian sea.
View of the Arabian sea
Picturesque view from the fort

A part of the Aguada fort has been transformed into the Central jail too, which happens to be the largest jail in Goa.
The exit...

A view of the St. Lawrence church (Saint of the sailors) from this fort is very picturesque!
The distant view of the church

Oldest lighthouse in Asia!

Last December, we accompanied, Vanaja, my cousin from Hyderabad and her family on a tour to some of the famous places in North Goa. And we visited the oldest lighthouse in Asia!
The gigantic lighthouse!
This 13 metre high, lighthouse, is located inside the mammoth Aguada fort* and has guided many ships, from the European shores to Goa. Built by the Portuguese in 1864, the four-storey lighthouse, is the first of its kind in Asia! Initially an oil lamp was used (must have been an enormous one!) in this lighthouse which was later renovated.
At close quarters...

It overlooks the Arabian sea and is located 18 kilometres from Panaji, the capital city of Goa.
The Arabian sea view
At the initial stage, the lighthouse used to emit light once in 7 minutes. In 1834, it was changed to emit light creating eclipse every 30 seconds, however it was abandoned in 1976. In 1890, a smaller lighthouse named, ‘The Aguada Beacon' was built on the Mandovi river banks.
Picturesque setting: Sun, Sea and The Church of St. Lawrence at a distance
Witnessing the magnificence......
A gigantic bell retrieved from the ruins of the St. Augustine Church at Old Goa was placed in this lighthouse. However, later, the bell was moved to the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception church at Panaji.

Reaching this lighthouse is a light trek. The sheer height of this lighthouse is amazing. The view of the Arabian sea from the fort is refreshing!
Reaching the summit!

* To be continued.....