Saturday, September 24, 2016

Trip to Divar Island, Goa

In the book The Artist's way, Julia Cameron asks the readers to do the task of writing down what constitutes an Ideal Ideal day in their lives, without any restrictions, whatever the heart desires, ideal environment, relationships, job, etc.
Hubby and I went on a day long trip to Divar Island last Sunday. I was happy; I was satiated; I was proud of myself; I was replete with joy!!! It struck me that it was the ideal ideal day for me. first time ever everything happened exactly how I would have liked and desired!
Thank you Julia, I know now experimentally what you mean by ideal ideal day. I no longer have to imagine or plan for it. 
Divar is an Island in the Mondovi river near old Goa. In fact the tops of the old Goa churches can be seen from Divar. It has a quaint old world charm. It felt as if time stood still. If Goa is laid back, Divar is tranquil and leisurely. There is well populated, with proper residential buildings, beautiful churches, temples, school, and civic buildings... 
1. There is no Road to Divar island, only ferries. We got in at the old Goa ferry point. Two and four wheelers along with pedestrians travel by ferry. It was a novel experience for me. takes about 5 - 7 min to cross the river. It being september and monsoons still active, the river was flowing to the capacity and it was fun going on the ferry.
2. One has to wait patiently until the ride starts...
3. Excited anticipation reaching the island on other side of the river.
4. During high tide, water gushing through the sluice. Along with water, fish are also getting swept away with the force of the water, perhaps.
As we kept going, we saw fishermen with their lines in the back waters of Mondovi, patiently waiting for their lunch / dinner, to bite?
5. What lovely views of the surroundings! It was green everywhere; and water everywhere, exactly how I like...
7. The beautiful Church of Our Lady of compassion was a landmark. It was closed by the time we reached. The interiors are for another trip.
8. St. Mathias Church was another great monument constructed in 16th century.

9. Our Lady of Candelaria Chapel is an interesting edifice. It has a semi circular dome and window opening through which sunlight lights up the interior.
10. The Holy Spirit Church is smaller than the others, looks different from the others but equally enchanting... There is no ornamentation or ostentation to the structure. The bell tower is an interesting feature.
11. There is aboard indicating Saptakoteswara temple site. We did not find a temple, but what we found was -
 A beautiful tank filled with rain water. It is till under excavation by the archaeology dept. The temple must have been somewhere close by. The walls of the tank have very pretty niches.
12. Some of the residential buildings bear the style of traditional Goan Architecture; sloped roofs, verandahs, porches etc.
13. The island was green, a soothing sight for the sore eyes!
14. Different birds and butterflies everywhere. Not to miss the amazing sounds of the birds. I spotted a huge kingfisher bird.
15. There was also Aqua farms, farming prawns I was told. It being a Sunday, we did not see much activity.
If you a nature enthusiast, lover of birds, love to stay by the water, dig old monuments, Divar Island is for you. It is beautiful through out the year but more so in monsoons. We spent a whole day jsut driving around, or gazing into the distance, photographing and sketching, basically whatever we felt like. 
Spent a leisurely Sunday on a tranquil island with a perfect partner, Can you ask for more? Not me, I am content to just be..

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mhamai Kamat Residence in Panjim, Goa

Mhamay Kamat Residence is right in the centre of Panjim City. Behind Old Secretariat, across from Abbey Faria statue and the building next to Clube Nationale, is the 400 year old Double storied  in white and yellow ochre is the ancestral home the Mhamay Kamat family. 
If you are a passerby, you cannot make out that it is a residential building, as there are a couple of garment and textile shops on the left end of the building and an office on the first floor. The windows are shut and I havenot seen the main door being open.   
It is a well maintained traditional looking Goan building. On this day of Anant Chaturdashi, 11th. day after Ganesh chaturthy, the building comes to life with lights, garlands and mango leaves adorning the front door. The doors are thrown open to the public on this day. 
A corridor runs along the front wall around a large courtyard. This is easily the widest corridor I have seen in a residential building. It circles the central courtyard. There are rooms and hall opening out of this corridor.
Mhamai Kamat residence is a large sprawling building.
When I went visiting in the evening, it was raining hard. The rain water from the sloping roof was emptying into the central courtyard. It is more like a garden than a courtyard, with trees and plants, soaking up the rain / storm water.
The plinth is raised by a couple of feet. The foresight of the architects of those days is to be appreciated. The raised floor level keeps the monsoon rain water out of the house. 
The coloums are thick giving the impression that they will take any amount of weight from top and they are here to stay for many more centuries.
For the first time ever, I saw double corridors ie. two rows of corridors. If you look closely at these photos, the inner corridor becomes the corridor on the first floor. They get adequate light and ventilation through a gallery like ambience. it will also connect the ground and first floors.
The staircases and railing are of solid wood. One cannot see any sagging or cracking in any of the wooden rafters or beams.
Series of photographs in black and white adorn the walls of the corridor. Most of people in them are the family's ancestors. One can see their attire, for both men and women.
There is another courtyard adjacent to the kitchen. There is a Tulsi plant in a planter in the middle of the courtyard. There are some more corridors running outside the kitchen and living quarters.
Today being the festive occasion, the house was abuzz with activity. Food was being prepared for the 1000 odd people who come for Harati, Puja and Prasad (Dinner). This tradition of opening the house to guest and providing dinner for such large numbers, has been in the family for a long time.
Cooking in the large kitchen, on fire wood over temporary stoves, we saw several large pots.The place was filled with smoke and smells!
The hosts were very polite, answered all our queries, showed us the house and requested us to stay for dinner after the offering to the deity. They had already laid out wooden seats for the guests. Dinner is served on plantain leaves, for the first few batches. Later on, buffet will be arranged for the rest.
The large puja room was like a temple, full of flowers, lights and priests. The puja will be concluded the next morning, with harati and offering of prasad. 
Else where in the corridor, Statue of lord Dattatreya was installed and every thursday, puja is performed. 
It was heart warming to be present on such an auspicious day, among such humble and friendly people, in such a grand old house reverberating with positive vibrations .....
Long live such traditions ....

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Gangotri Dham yatra

The next Dham on our tour program after Yamunotri was Gangotri. The distance between the two is 225 kms.

The Tourist Rest House at Harsil is low rise, quaint and surrounded by mountains. You can see the snow on the mountain tops. It was cold in the night, altitude here is 2591m. After a well deserved night’s rest, we set off from Harsil for Gangotri Dham on 21st. may 2016.
We started from Harsil at around 6.30 am and reached Gangotri only at 9.30 am. Covering a distance of  29 kms. You can imagine how difficult the ghat roads must have been...
Gangotri dham is at an altitude of 3140 m. River Bhagirathi twisting and winding its way and the road following it until we reach Gangotri...

The Himalayas have to seen and experienced. Words cannot justify the beauty and grandeur. 
The ghat road is tricky and too much traffic on either side. What I noticed here in the Himalayas is that the majority of the drivers are patient and drive safely. The road hugs Bhagirathi river all the way to Gangotri.
The motorable road reaches the temple precincts. There is ample parking for the tourist buses and 4 wheelers.
A short walk to the temple from the parking
The puja items, and cans of various materials and sizes are sold here in the shops flanking on either side of the pedestrian path. Almost every pilgrim buys a can to collect the holy Ganga waters to take back with them to their homes and / or to do abhishek (holy bath) to lord Shiva at Kedarnath. A few small eateries are also here.
Ganga is worshipped both as a benevolent river and as a goddess. Pujas are performed both on the banks of Ganga, ie. at Ganga ghats and inside the temple.The pilgrims take bath / holy dip in the icy cold waters. I did not brave it though.
From Gaumusk to Dev Prayag the river is called Bhagirathi. But at Gangotri, it is called Ganga. The glacier from where river Ganga originates is called Gaumukh, which is 24 kms from Gangotri dham. Originally, the glacier reached the present location of Gangotri. It is observed that because of global warming, the glacier is moving back steadily.
The temple is built of white marble; is open for pilgrims from Akshatratiya to Deepavali. 
Between the temple and the river, a small shrine is built around a slab of stone, called Bhagirathi Shila, in honour of King Bhagirath, who is supposed to have sat here and meditated.

Here river Ganga is called Ganga Mayya, meaning, Mother Ganga. In those surroundings, the pristine purity of Ganga, somehow I felt a deep gratitude towards my mother. Sitting on the ghats of Ganga at Gangotri, tears rolled down in memory of my mother ...  It was a cleansing experience! 
Out of the Chardham, Gangotri dham is the best organised. There is order, cleanliness, and a sense of peace. It was less crowded and no pushing and shoving. 

Salvadordo Mundo Church - Goa

  It was Easter and we have a ritual of going to a natural spring before sunrise and drinking the holy water from it. Since both Jo and ...