Shantiniketan – An Art Lover’s Paradise

Shantiniketan – An Art Lover’s Paradise

‘Shantiniketan’ meaning ‘Adobe of Shanti or peace’ is a place true to its name and a true art, nature and peace lover’s paradise.

Shantiniketan is home to the world famous Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Having stayed at a distance of 160 kms from Shantiniketan in Kolkata for the last 4 years and yet not having visited the place was something that was always at the back of my mind. So recently I finally ended up spending a weekend in this stunning abode of art, culture and literature.  Here I have shared some photos from my weekend stay in Shantiniketan.

The moment you set foot in Bolpur, where Shantiniketan is situated, the first thing one would notice is the vibrant red color of the soil, the reason why it is also called the land of ‘Lal Matti’ meaning land of red soil.

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‘Lal Matti’ – Red soil

In the evening I wandered over the nearby ‘Haat’ meaning flee market. The one is called the Biswa Bangla Haat with proper stalls selling handmade and painted things made by the locals put up for sale. Trust me shopping here is a dream, such reasonable prices and such beautiful work of art on sale, such as hand painted umbrellas and painted wall hangings.

Hand painted umbrella
Local hand painted wall hangings
The permanent shops at the ‘Haat’

After spending some time at the Haat buying local handcrafted things, while wandering around we came across this beautiful park cum boating area called ‘Shyor Bithi’. Not a usual tourist spot, trust me it  a lovely secluded park and a great way to spend sometime in nature. It also have a restaurant, and to my surprise it was serving all cuisines like indian, chinese, even Italian.

Entrance to the park
The beautiful park over looking the boating area

Next morning we left early to visit the very holy ‘KanKalitala’ temple, a hindu temple of great significance for the local people here. It is at a few kms from Bolpur and one can easily hire an auto to take you there. The trip to Kankalitala is worth even if you are not too keen about religious things, the ride to the temple is through untouched villages and fields and such a great way to enjoy the country and village side scene. The streets around the temple is usually buzzing with shops selling offering for Godess Kali, such as colorful hibiscus garlands and incence sticks.

Hibiscus garlands on sale
The village side scene

Finally in the afternoon I ended up in the Visva-Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore who called it Visva-Bharati,  meaning the communion of the world with India. First thing you notice once you enter the campus is huge trees and open spaces with study areas under the trees, one of the most unique things about the university is the concept of teaching under trees, which is still practiced today. There is the museum inside the campus with things Tagore used to use, his writings and other things related to his life on display. It takes well over a good 5-6 hrs to explore the entire campus along with the museum.

Open study areas under the trees
Museum comprising of a permanent display section and the five homes lived in by Tagore,
Art installations in the gardens inside the campus

Inside ‘Kala Bhavana’ a well-known and distinguished centre for Visual Art practice and research in India.

 

Further into the campus there is a section on display showcasing the huts and lifestyle of villagers from all regions in India like how the people in the villages in Orrisa live, how their huts are, etc. Other huts on display are from Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram,etc..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a tiring day spent exploring the University and museum, I headed off the the most interesting part of the trip, to the weekend ‘haat’ which gathers every weekend by the bank of the river there. Trust me you wouldn’t want to miss this for the world. As the evening commences so does the electrifying and infectious atmosphere by the banks of the river. The air is filled with local musicians playing baul music and it is such a festive and joyous feeling all around, almost as if you would want to tap your foot and dance and sing along.Don’t forget to grab an out of the world bengali lunch served in Lotus leaves in the hut style ‘Shakuntala’ restaurant right on the banks of the river beside the haat. Be sure to reach there early fr lunch else expect a long queue or worst id food gets over. I had the best mutton curry and shukto here. Such a great way to have lunch on the banks of the river amidst baul music and hands down delicious home style cooked food served on lotus leaves and terracota vessels.

Some  of the things for sale in the weekend haat. It is common for college kids and others with interest in art to come and sell their art work here. Its is a kingdom of art work, especially for me I did not want the evening to end. Home decor, fabric, bags, sarees what was not there to buy.  Rest assured I am definitely coming back here just to admire the sheer talent and art work display.

Local handircraft on saleAlas! after a soul satisfying trip of Shantniketan, I was off back home but not without visiting the newly opened museum ‘Gitanjali’ very close to Railway station that tells the story of ‘Gitanjali’ (the collection of poems for which Tagore received the Nobel prize) and Tagore.

 

 

 

13 Haunted Vacation Spots to Visit in the United States Before You Die

13 Haunted Vacation Spots to Visit in the United States Before You Die

Some of the best haunted places in US for the thrill seekers! You would not want to miss these places!

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13 Haunted Vacations in the United States to Visit Before You Die

Guest post attribution: ExecutiveGiftShoppe.com

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Varanasi – Photo Journal

Varanasi – Photo Journal

Varanasi is the soul of spiritual India and one of the oldest living cities in the world. It embodies the brilliance of human existence and co-existence. Where else can one witness contrasting religions co-existing, Varanasi – the capital of Hinduism is home to an equally large population of Muslim weavers producing the highly coveted Indian fabric called Banarasi fabric or Banarasi sarees. Where else could one possibly witness the burning of dead bodies by the ghats of Ganges. A Hindu saint, a Muslim weaver and a stray dog can be seen sitting beside each other on the ghats with silent harmony, such is the spirit of Varanasi where each human being is equal just as nature would wish for it to be!

((Just a quick note to my readers, the articles have links integrated into the blogs, you can help me gain some extra bucks by clicking on these links. It is just a way for bloggers to earn some extra bucks that could help fund my further travels. Sorry for interrupting, Read on..))

One would either absolutely love the complex organised chaos of Varanasi or totally hate it. The essence of this city will rip your soul, the raw scenes of the bodies burning on the ghats will churn your brains inside out and compel you to re think about life and your existence. I have shared a few random photos from my time in Varanasi, it is better seen than spoken about!

Preparation for the Evening Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The famous evening aarti takes place on this ghat only starting at around 6:45pm every evening, essentially it is a form of worshiping the Ganges.

Many vendors can be seen selling flowers and diyas on the ghats, a diya along with flowers is usually sold for Rs 10, it is holy to light the diya and set the leaf bowls afloat on the Ganges hoping it will fulfill whatever one has wished for which lighting the diya.

The evening aarti in progress, its a magical and soulful experience t witness 7 pandits performing the evening aarti, all in sync with each other. The atmosphere is electrying with holy chants and the harmony of all the people there clapping together in tune with the chants.

Watch the Aarti:

Varanasi illuminates the moment the sun goes down, starting with the evening aarti and hundreds of diyas afloat, Ganges turns into a dancing beauty shimmering through out. The best way to indulge in this time is by a boat ride which will take you along the ghats. The boat men are usually well versed with the history of the ghats and double hat as a guide as well. For foreigners, my tip is do not settle for anything more than Rs 300 for a boat ride on the Ganges.

Manikarnika Ghat is one of the most famous Ghats is Varanasi, it is believed and it is true as well that the fire of this ghat never goes down, there is some human dead body being burnt here throughout the year. It is a unique, life changing and a  raw experience to witness performance of Hindu burial rituals in such close proximity.

At Manikarnika Ghat, clicked from the boat.

Varanasi is equally calming in the morning, the air is fresh and it is beautiful to watch the locals offering prayers in the Ganges and taking a holy dip. At Dashashwamedh Ghat in the morning, the boats are parked by the ghats awaiting to take tourists on boat rides.

From the boat:

The famous Indian local barbers, one can be seen below in the photo, sitting like a king while he waits for his next customer.

The one most popular visual from the ghats of Varanasi is that of a ‘sadhu’ drapped in saffron, I clicked the sadhu with the perfect pose! 

This below is the backside of Brijrama Palace, said to one of the oldest landmarks of the city perched on Darbhanga Ghat, the palace which is now one of the most expensive hotels in Varanasi at approx. Rs 25,000 per night dates back to 1812. It also has one of the oldest elevators installed in India in 1915.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most important and oldest temples in India with a dome still made of gold. Although photography is not allowed in the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple. There is now a newly built Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the sprawling Benaras University. 

Chaotic street traffic of Varanasi  – Nothing can get more thrilling than this, not even a good roller coaster ride :

Any trip to Varanasi is incomplete without indulging on the super delicious food on offer. Below is a drooling Maharaja thali, although this one is vegetarian, still it is one of the best thalis I have ever had at Kaiser Palace – Hotel Surya.

Do not, I repeat do not miss out on having the utterly rich and yummy milk based desserts and drinks, such Kulfi, Lassi, Rabri, Dahi and many more.

The best way to end a delicious meal is by buying yourself a what they popularly call in India ‘masala’ a form of digestive that can be found in several forms such a tiny bullets or flavoured or softened betelnuts, etc. Buying some as a souvenir is always a great idea.

Last but not the least, interested in shopping or  not, it is still worth visiting the local shops in dingy alleys selling stunning intricately woven Banarasi fabric and sarees.

Subtle and pain staking process of weaving a Banarasi saree:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My experience of visiting Varanasi was like a roller coaster ride – thrilling, sometimes a bit scary, mentally and emotionally consuming and definitely one that I will never miss for anything else.