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Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Autumn is here and it is time to enjoy fall foliage colors in the US. The trees around your place must be already best in their colors – yellow, brown and red. I am personally enjoying those hues of fall. The fall colors are dependent on the mositure, amount of the rainfall and transition to colder weather. The green leaves gradually turns into yellow and then brown/red and fall away from the trees. The word ‘fall’ resembles the falling on the leaves from the trees.

I have been googling for the fall foliage places in-and-around NJ for quite a few weeks now. Also visited few places and thus writing this post.

1. Plainsboro Preserve – To my surprise this heaven is closest to my place. It is a wonderful place not just to cherish fall colors but ‘nature’ overall. There is a huge water body and forest with loads of varieties of flora and fauna including birds. There are short and long nature trails. I enjoyed the ‘Maggi trail’ as it takes you on the path which is surrounded by water on both sides at dead end. And I feel short of words to express how it feels to be there.

2. Lake Hopatcong State Park – Thanks to my GPS which headed me to US route 206. The route itself is full of fall colors. Lake Hopatcong state park was in shades of green, brown and yellow. Maple trees were awesome. What I liked about the places is – there is a artifical short sand beach around the lake at park side, with some sliders and swings n stuff for kids. The good place for family outing. Get your food packed and eat on the benches under the fall trees.

3. D & R Canal State Park – The Delaware and Ranitan state park path runs along the flowing canal to the deep woods. Good place for biking and nature trail. You can see lot of deers. Very much into the city and easily accessible from Route 27.

Also people say that there are chances of citing good falls colors this year at places like – High Point State Park, Split Rock Reservior in Rockaway, Monksville Reservior too. So guys…enjoy fall colors this season! 🙂

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My wanderer mind doesn’t allow me to sit at home on weekends. Saturday was spent in some household things and evening made me ‘outing-sick’. Yes, ‘no-outing’ syndrome can be as serious as any other syndrome… no kidding friends!!! 🙂

Question was ‘where?’- An immediate answer was “VadhuTulapur”. I am always obsessed by bravery of our great second Chatrapati i.e. Sambhaji Maharaj and so these places mean so much as far as history is concerned.

I made a plan to visit Vadhu, Tulapur and Phulgaon. I got up early and started at sharp 7:00. Rising sun added to the beauty of the morning. I took up Nagar highway.

Wagholi was my first hault. We can see a Shri Wagheshwar (or Wyaghreshwar) temple (श्री व्याघ्रेश्वर) surrounded by small lake on left side of highway. Just near the temple, there is black stone moument which is ‘samadhi’ of maratha sardar called ‘Pilajirao Jadhav’. He fought and won against Nizam and worked closely with Bajirao Peshwa-I. Jadhav belonged to Wagholi and his heirs built this samadhi. ‘Jadhavgad’, now turned into ‘Kamath Resort’ near Saswad belonged to these Jadhavs. Then I headed towards Tulapur.

To reach Tulapur:

1. Take Ahmednagar Highway (SH-60) and travel till ‘Lonikand’ village.
2. Travel some more, you will see board written with Sambhaji Maharaj’s pic and take left turn to go to Tulapur village.
3. Tulapur is exactly 6 kms from here. Once you take turn, you can see MSEB power station towers. Travel on tar road to reach Tulapur. You can ask villagers for ‘Sangameshwar’ temple or simply ‘Sangam’.
4. Tulapur Sangam is on right side. There is ample parking space (yes, even for 4-wheelers).

Tulapur SangamTulapur (तुळापूर) was earlier called as ‘Naagargaon’ (नागरगाव). Adilshahi Vajir ‘Murar Jagdev’ was advised by his guru to rebuild the destructed temple of ‘Sangameshwar’ which he did. Later on, Murar Jagdev wished to donate gold as much as weight of elephant. Shahaji Maharaj gave him solution of weighing the elephant in the boat and marking the depth of boat. The boat was then refilled with stone and they were weighed and same amount of gold was donated. With this sheer intelligence of Shahaji Maharaj, Murar Jagdev could literally weigh the gold as much as an elephant. ‘Naagargaon’ was then renamed as ‘Tulapur’ i.e. ‘Weighing town’.

Tulapur itself must have been unaware then, of what it has to see in 3rd generation of Shahaji Maharaj. Young Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj (age 32) was caught in Sangameshwar, Konkan (Ratnagiri). One of his brother-in-laws, Ganoji Shirke deceived the Marathas and helped Aurangzeb’s commander, Mukarrab Khan to attack Sangameshwar when Sambhaji was in the garden, resolving some issues and was about to leave the town. With strong army of 20,000 people, Julfikarkhan moved towards Karad and then Baramati and finally to Bahadurgad near Bhima river.

Ganoji’s hunger for Maratha land in the form of watan led to his enmity with Sambhaji. Sambhaji like his father- Shivaji Maharaj had abolished the custom of giving away watans, as this led to the people’s suffering, from the hands of the watandar and there were chances of the watandars assuming kingship or taking possession of their watans.

Dharmaveer Chatrapati Sambhaji MaharajSambhaji was tortured and executed in most cruelest way to death. He was asked to surrender his kingdom to Aurangzeb and convert to Islam religion. Sambhaji refused to convert and instead sang praises of Mahadev (Lord Shiva). Aurangzeb ordered his men to torture Sambhaji and his friend Kavi Kalash to death. Each cruel punishment was given to kavi Kalash prior to Sambhaji as if it was a rehearsal.

They both were dressed as clowns, with their body tied in heavy iron chains and huge wooden logs on their neck and shoulders. They were tied on camel and given a ride in village. All men and women from Aurangzeb’s troop came to see this captured Maratha warrior. People threw stones and dung at them. Their eyes were burned off with hot iron bars and tongue was plucked. They were beaten up till their wounds bleed and then were given baths of salt-water. Their skin was peeled off with ‘Wagh nakhe‘. Their legs and hands were cut off and lastly the head. Sambhaji’s body was cut into pieces and was thrown away for crows, vultures and dogs to eat. On 11 March 1689, Sambhaji was finally killed at Sangameshwar at Tulapur, near Pune. He sacrificed his life at age of 32 for ‘Dharma‘ i.e. Religion which is why he is called ‘Dharmaveer Sambhaji’.

It was the worst death anyone could get. It is truly said there was/is no king as great as Sambhaji Maharaj. No matter whether few historian portait him as spoiled brat or non-managed king or characterless or whatever, there is no actual historical proofs or evidences for their statements.

I read “Chhavaa” when i was very young and it moved me. ‘Sambhaji’, son of great Shivaji Maharaj, lost his mother at age of  2, brought up my his grand mother and the lady who made Shivaji i.e. Jijabai, at age of 10 he had mastery in 8 different languages including Sanskrit and Urdu, a soft-hearted prince, a sankrit poet, a passionate writer, a great warrior, most eligible Yuvraj, a heir who suffered from politics at home due to his step-mother Soyrabai, estranged son of Shivaji due to mis-communication and misunderstandings, our second chatrapati, one who fought with Aurangzeb and defended maratha kingdom for 12 years  after Shivaji’s death without losing a single battle and the list can be endless. His multi-facet persona fascinates me like anything. I become very emotional and my eyes turn watery everytime I think of Sambhaji. Soyrabai’s own brother Hambirrao Mohite stood by Sambhaji Maharaj as he knew his sister was wrong and Sambhaji was well-deserved would-be king on Maratha throne.

Shri Ballaleshwar TempleI parked my vehicle outside the small garden at Sangameshwar Temple (संगमेश्वर). There is Sambhaji’s Statue and smarak just outside the Sangameshwar temple. I visited temple and smarak; bowed in front of Lord Shiva(temple) and at Sambhaji’s statue (who I think was indeed a personified form of lord Shiva).

I went to Sangam ghat where 3 rivers Bhima, Bhama and Indrayani unite. There are beautiful Shri Ballaleshwar (श्री बल्लाळेश्वर) and old Ganapati temples just near the ghat. I clicked some snaps. After spending enough time, I continued my journey to Vadhu.

Phulgaon (फुलगाव):

Phulgaon GhatI had planned a new place in the midway i.e. Phulgaon. Phulgaon is on the road back from Tulapur to Nagar Highway. There is ‘Shrutisagar Ashram’ in Phulgaon which I visited last time. This time, I wished to see something different i.e. ‘Phulgaon ghat’. River Bhima takes a semi-circular curve at Phulgaon and a stone built wall at ghat is worth a dekko. Water was serene and it was peaceful. I climbed up the wall and sat for some time watching Pied Kingfishers, White-throated Kingfisher and Swallows. There was Peshwas palace here but now there are only ruins left.

I started for Vadhu from Phulgaon. There is road from Tulapur from Vadhu which is in not good condition. Better is to come back to highway and go to Vadhu via Bhima-Koregaon village.

To reach Vadhu:

1. Take Nagar Highway.
2. Travel to village ‘Lonikand’.
3. Cross the Toll plaza and immediate village is ‘Bhima-Koregaon’. Toll is Rs.31/- for single journey and Rs.57/- for return.
4. Take left turn which goes to Vadhu.

Sambhaji Maharaj's SamadhiVadhu (वढू) is the place where actual last rites (funeral) of Sambhaji Maharaj was carried out.  Few brave maratha sardars from ‘Patil’ family collected the body pieces of Sambhaji and sewed them together and performed final rites at this place. They were given name ‘Shivale Patil’ for an act of this bravery. ‘Shivale’ literally means ‘Sewing’ in Marathi (मराठी: शिवले) .

After few years, Sambhaji’s son Chatrapati Shahu along with his mother Yesubai came to Vadhu and gave donation to conserve this place. The statue reflecting Sambhaji’s personality is simply superb. There are Sambhaji’s and Kavi Kalash’s samadhis. I paid my tribute and started my returned journey.

War monument at Bhima-KoregaonOn the way back, a war monument at Bhima-Koregaon toll plaza caught my attention. I parked my vehicle and went inside. This ‘Ran-sthambh’ or war monument is erected in 1822, in the memory of soldiers who lost their lives in last British-Maratha war. Most of the soldiers where Hindu who fought from the side of British army. The soldiers’ names are carved in marble at bottom of this stone. Every 1st January ‘Mahar Regiment’ pays tribute to this war monument.

I started my return journey and reached home in the afternoon. I had been to Vadhu-Tulapur some 4 odd years ago and still can go there for n-times. Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj definitely deserves our respect in a form of such tribute visits!!!

For more snaps, visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157622293200575/

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18Shivaji Maharaj always fascinated me since my childhood. In fact, I liked the history because of him. I was in 3rd grade and my history teacher went an extra mile and told the class abt Sambhaji maharaj’s bravery and his heroic death and since that very moment I am completely in love with this Yuvraj…of course! Shivaji has his own share of my respect but Sambhaji still remains very close to the heart. Bottom line is – I still can’t get over my fascination for these great Marathas. 🙂

Raja Shivchatrapati‘ series which comes on ‘Star Pravah‘ channel added to the desire and I just wanted to visit fort Raigad. We were discussing about a place for team outing and suddenly we all were like “Raigad! Raigad!”. Finally everything was organised (yes, I and my another colleague were organizers!) and we started for Raigad on saturday early morning. Most of my colleagues had never been to Mulashi-Tamhini before and so all the excitement started from Pune itself.

To reach Raigad:

  1. Start from Chandani Chowk(Pune) and take Paud road.
  2. Cross Pirnagut, Mulashi, Tamhini ghat, Nizampur to reach‘Mangaon’.
  3. Take NH-17 and head towards ‘Mahaad’.
  4. On left hand, you will see road which goes to Raigad fort. There are huge letters ‘Raigad Ropeway’ on the hill by road side.
  5. Travel 25 kms more to reach village ‘Pachaad’ which is at the base of the fort.
  6. Total distance is approx 150 Kms.

Mulashi and Tamhini always gave me the intense feeling of nature’s treasure. Lush green, heavy rains, mist over mountains, eye-catchy view Mulashi backwaters, rain-washed road, lots of waterfalls and birds. I have so many good memories of the place. This time we took 1-2 halts in the midway but rains played the spoiled sport as far as photography was concerned. I didn’t wish to make my camera wet.

Raigad RopewayOur journery was great fun with lots of latest songs, chit-chat and stuff. We reached village ‘Pachaad’ at base of  Raigad at 12. There is palace of Shivaji’s mother Jijabai here. We proceeded to ropeway base centre. We took the tickets and boarded in the cable car. It was a thrilling experience. Raigad ropeway is supposed to be steepest ropeway in Asia. As the cable car proceeded we were literally in the clouds. We were bit scared for a moment but soon the happiness took over and we started enjoying the view. Within few minutes, we were atop of the fort. Ropeway brings you to the backside of the fort. We booked the guide and then had lunch in MTDC hotel which was not so satisfying.

We entered Raigad fort through the ‘Mena Darwaja’. “Mena” means palkhi or palki (i.e. sedan chairs or palanquin). It was entrance to the queens and royal ladies’ palanquins. This leads to the Queens chambers, each Queen had separate chamber. The main palace was made up of wood and in front there were 3 hexagonal minars which were watch towers.

Minars RuinsRuins of these minars stand in front of the palace grounds overlooking an artificial lake called Ganga Sagar Lake. On other side of queens’ chambers is the residences of ‘Astha-pradhan’ means eight ministers of Shivaji. The midway leads to Shivaji Maharaj’s own palace and huge Maratha raj-darbar i.e. King’s court facing the Nagarkhana Darwaja. The newly installed Maharaj’s statue on the throne ‘Meghdambari’ is worth seeing. The unique thing about design of this court was anything spoken from any corner of the court is clearly heard at throne.

Outside the court, there is open ground called ‘Holi cha maal’ which was place for Holi festival. Adjacent to this, there are ruins of huge market place. It was designed such that one can shop even while riding or sitting astride a horse.

Another and famous statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji maharaj is erected in front of the ruins of the main market avenue that eventually leads to the Jagdishwar Mandir. Jagdishwar temple is serene and has Shivaji Maharaj’s Samadhi and also tomb of his dog called ‘Waghya’.

The main entrance to the fort is the imposing Maha Darwaja. The convoy of the king and the king himself used the Palkhi Darwaja. To the right of Palkhi Darwaja, is a row of three dark and deep chambers. Historians believe that these were the granaries for the fort.

We then headed for the execution point called Takmak Tok(point). It is a cliff from which the culprits and sentenced prisoners were thrown to their death. The area is now fenced off. This place is extremely airy and gives scary view from top. In addition to this, there are many lakes like ‘Kushavart’, ‘Kolimb’, ‘Gangasagar’, ‘Hatti Taake’, etc which were built on the fort for water supply and Bhavani temple, Khalbat-khana, Hirkani Buruj, Shirkai devi temple, residences for foreigner guests in Shivaji’s era.

Shivaji Maharaj spent most of his life on this fort i.e. about 25 years. This fort being powerful was converted into capital of Maratha kingdom. Fort evidence most of the major incidents in Maratha dynasty like coronation of Shivaji and his death. Forts like Torna, Rajgad, Kavlya and Lingana can be seen towards the East of Raigad. Towards the South are Vasota, Pratapgad and Makarandgad.

After Shivaji’s death, Raigad did see the worst of the history. Raigad, earlier known as Rairi, is obscure. In the 12th century Rairi was a seat of the Shirke-Palegar family. After changing several hands, it was captured by Shivaji from Chandrarao More in 1656 AD. Shivaji chose Rairi for his capital and renamed it as Raigad. The gigantic construction work was entrusted to Abaji Sondeve and Hiroji Indulkar. In its glory days Raigad had more than 300 houses, and structures. After Shivaji, the fort remained in the hands of Sambhaji till 1689 AD. After Sambhaji Maharaj, Zulfikarkhan a warrior of Aurangzeb won this fort by bribing the chief of the guards. He captured wife and son of Sambhaji maharaj. After Aurangzeb the fort was handed to Siddis of Janjira. They kept it with them till 26 years after the death of Aurangzeb. Bajirao Peshwe won it for Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj i.e. Marathas in 1735 AD. From Peshwas, Raigad was surrendered to the British in 1818 AD and they gave it in the captivity of forest department.

I was so excited by the fact that I was on same land where my favourite icons Shivaji and Sambhaji lived. My mind went back to Shivaji’s period and imagined him in every place I visited – his throne, his raj-darbar, queens’ chambers, Jagdishwar temple. I bowed at his throne and Samadhi. Each stone from the ruins was defending the history and for me it was no less than idol of any god.  Pity! Our government is not much alert about good maintenance of such gifted treasure. 😦

It was raining like cats and dogs. I clicked as much as snaps I can while protecting my camera from rains at same time.

We decided to descend the fort in the afternoon and thought to take the stairs seemed impossible due to heavy rains and fog. We booked the tickets for ropeway and boarded in the cable car. We did miss the main darwajas (fort entrances) because of this but there is always a ‘next time’. 😀

I paid tribute to this great maratha and this great fort in my mind and bade a good-bye. Raigad was indeed an unforgettable experience!

For map of Raigad, click – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/3899680852/in/set-72157622299929624/

For more snaps, visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157622299929624/detail/

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I accompanied my friend to ‘Sinhagad valley’ on Saturday morning. I started from home at 5:30 AM and reached my friend’s place. Two more friends joined in and we all headed for the valley.

Common Iora‘Sinhagad’ or ‘Sinhagad Fort’ valley is an amazing place for bird watching. In monsoon, there is a stream which flows by the fields and on another hand there are dense trees. Local people use this way to climb up the fort. Valley has now become famous among the birders. All you have to do is – search for a suitable place, sit quietly, set your gadgets (camera, bino, etc) and you could have darshan (glances) of all varieties of the feathered beauties.

I have my friends who have spent hours and hours in valley to get desired shot of ‘Asian Paradise flycatcher’ and believe me friends, it is no more less than doing meditation. 😛

I have been there twice and that was among some of the best bird watching activities I have done. We reached the base and had tea at local hotel. We climbed up and entered the valley. We scattered in search of different birds. We saw a Crested Serpent Eagle hovering in the sky.

Here is the list of some of the birds found in Valley:

  1. Ashy Prinia
  2. Jungle Prinia
  3. Pied Crested Cuckoo
  4. Scaly breasted Munia
  5. Red Munia
  6. Red whiskered Bulbul
  7. Red vented Bulbul
  8. Purple Sunbird
  9. Black Drongo
  10. White-breasted Kingfisher
  11. Common Kingfisher
  12. Pied Kingfisher
  13. Crested Serpent Eagle
  14. Blue napped Monarch flycatcher
  15. Asian Paradies Flycatcher
  16. Ticklle’s Blue Flycatcher
  17. Ultra-marine Flycatcher
  18. Fan-tailed Flycatcher
  19. Red-throated Flycatcher
  20. Cattle Egret
  21. Green bee eater
  22. Little Bee eater
  23. Tailor bird
  24. Black-winged Kite
  25. Marsh Harrier
  26. Eurasian Black bird
  27. Magpie Robin
  28. Grey Babbler
  29. Crested Bunting
  30. Indian Robin
  31. Golden fronted Leaf Bird
  32. Red-rumped Swallow
  33. Dove
  34. Oriental White-eye
  35. Orange Headed Thrush
  36. Common Iora
  37. Small Minivet
  38. Jungle Babbler
  39. Jungle Mynah
  40. Tree Pipit
  41. Yellow Sparrow

And the list is never ending… Along with these birds there are different types of lizards like Garden Colates, etc.

This time I used my binocular more than my camera. Bird watching being the first love, I clicked very few snaps and did more of watching. It is intense pleasure to see these birds. 😀

After spending good amount of time in the valley, we decided to take its leave. We went to same hotel and had breakfast before returning.

This was a pre-monsoon visit and I am desperately looking forward for my monsoon visit to Sinhagad valley. Undoubtedly ‘Sinhagad Valley’ is birder’s paradise!!! 🙂

For more snaps visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/sinhagadvalley/

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Ghorwadeshwar Base entrance‘Ghorwadeshwar’ (मराठी: घोरवडेश्वर) was on my mind since quite some time. Last Sunday, I visited this place with one of my friends. We got up early in the morning and drove to Ghorwadeshwar base. We parked our vehicle there and started climbing the mountain.

To reach Ghorwadeshwar:

  1. Start from Pune and take old Pune-Mumbai highway.
  2. Cross Dehu, Shelarwadi to reach village called ‘Somatane’.
  3. On left hand, you will see entrance of ‘Ghorwadeshwar’ and stone steps on the huge mountain.
  4. Total distance is 35-40 Kms.

Note: Carry water bottle. Wear good shoes/floaters with good grip as path is steep and rocky.  Strictly – no chappals, fancy footwear, sandals.

Cave Temple - GhorwadeshwarThere are stone steps till the half way and rest of the steps construction is still in progress. It was good trek and we climbed the mountain to reach the top. Cold breeze refreshed us and we rested for a while below the tree. And then we began to explore…

Total 11 caves and many water tanks date back to 3rd or 4th century. There is a Chaitya gruha which has 3 small rooms dug on left side, 4 on right side and similar 2 on back side. The main stupa is now turned into ‘Ghorwadeshwar’ temple. The sabha mandap is big to accomodate devotees. The Gabhara is extension to it and has no door. I found the shivlinga quite unique in shape from the rest. The base of this shivlinga is squared and not circular in structure. Some of the wall has carved messages in Brahmi lipi.

The panorama of Shelarwadi, Dehu, Talegaon, Somatane was on front side and on back side there were traces of concrete jungle in Hinjewadi. We sat on the rock for some time to figure out these places with our bino.

On the left hand side there is another cave temple dedicated to Saint Tukaram. Three beautiful black stone idols of Vitthal, Rakhumai and Tukaram are installed here. Ghorwadeshwar trust was formed in 1981.

There is huge yatra here on ‘Mahashivratri’. Thousands of devotees climb up to take darshan on this auspicious day.

A new chirping beauty caught my attention. I clicked many snaps of this place as well as of this new bird which got recently added to my bird encyclopedia. I later found its name – “Crested Bunting”. 🙂

Seeing all this was indeed very amazing. We started descending down at 10. It was wonderful trek+outing. 😀

For more snaps visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/ghorwadeshwar/

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“Parting is such sweet sorrow” says William Shakespeare.

Meadow CreekFinally the last day arrived. I got up early in the morning. Baggage was all set to go since last night and had nothing much to do. I got ready and walked down the hotel. I decided to give a try to capture swallows and Blue Jay (if possible). There were light showers and it was a lovely morning. Moreover it was my last morning in Dallas and this thought made it more special. I went to Meadow Creek. This is just 2 mins walk from my hotel place. As the name suggests, there is a flowing creek. I went and sat quietly on the grass. There were few Barn swallows. Slight rains played hide and seek with sunlight. Swallows are hard to capture as they don’t rest in one place for long. I clicked few snaps but was not satisfied with them. At last, I just prayed God that I just wish to get some nice shots of them in next 10 mins or else I will leave.

Barn SwallowThe wait was on…and suddenly this cute colorful swallow rested on the iron rod. I captured it through my lenses. It was so damn cute! I thanked god and left the creek. It was already 9:00 am and I had to check out at 10. I went to breakfast room and got an apple for me. I was about to enter my hotel building and a noisy bird caught my attention again. I knew it was none other than Blue Jay. I kept my apple literally on the ground and went to the tree. I could see it but branches in between made it impossible for me to click its snap. Even then I clicked one to keep as record shot. This bird is supposed to be very intelligent among the birds. It stared at me for while through the branches and became silent. After a while it immediately flew away as if it just came to bade me good-bye!

Funny thing, I came back to pick my apple and guess what – Mocking bird was already enjoying my apple. I waited as I watched it. I left the apple for it and came back to my room.

Aritra came to pick us up from hotel and we went to his apartment. We cooked lunch together and enjoyed it. I came to balcony for a while to see some birds. Last but not the least was Purple finch and Red-winged black bird. Red-winged black bird came to the roof of apartment and disappeared in few moments. I clicked some record shots. The day before that day on similar lines, Northern Cardinal pair gave me a generous visit near my office. I spotted a cardinal pair and just enjoyed their beauty.

Many thanks to all these birds, God and nature for letting me enjoy all the birding moments.

I felt bit sad while leaving Dallas. I made some good friends here and parting from any place or good people is always painful. I really enjoyed my stay in the US. Thanks to all the people like Arita and Sandeep who made my stay memorable.

Texas trip was good work and great fun and I enjoyed both equally. As they say “Don’t mess with Texas”, I preferred not to. 😛

Note: It rained in the last 2 days and this time I could enjoy the rains there to some extent. There was very light fragrance of soil compared to India but ‘something is better than nothing’. It was moreover like “Badla mausam, badle najare aur badala hai najariya!” 😀

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Nashville, Tennessee:

The Music City of US

I went to Nashville last weekend. One of my colleagues (Sandeep) got a BMW and he wished to go to Nashville to do its ‘Pooja’ at Sri Ganesh temple there. He asked whether I would like to join them. I was not sure in the beginning but then I remembered one of my friends (Sachin) stays in Nashville. He was actually my teacher when I was studying. He taught me in my college immediately after doing his masters. He was always proud of me and happy with my progress. Years later the relation turned into more of friendship than teacher-student so he is now “teacher-turned-friend”. We didn’t meet for 4-5 years in Pune. Finally got to meet him here. I confirmed with him and he seemed to be pleased by the news that I was visiting him. I told my colleague that I would be able to make it for Nashville.

Park at Rest AreaWe started on Friday night and it was long journey. We had to cross states of Texas and Arkansas to go to Tennessee State. Total drive one way is around 620 miles, i.e. approx. 10 hrs from Dallas to Nashville. We couldn’t see much outside the car as it was dark in the night. In the morning, we took break at a rest area along the freeway. A rest area is a public facility on the highway or freeway for drivers and passengers to rest, eat, or refuel with minimal facilities like rest rooms, parking space, drinking fountains, telephone, picnic areas (grass lawns with benches), and sometimes more facilities like gas stations, vending machines and restaurants. We got freshen up and had muffins as our breakfast. It was a pleasant morning. American Robin caught my attention and I couldn’t stop myself from clicking snaps of this beautiful singer bird. We started again and reached my friend’s place at 10:30 am.

We took some rest and enjoyed home-made lunch. We decided to go to Nashville Downtown in the afternoon. Since the time I came to US, I had no chance to travel in public transport. I got this opportunity here. We took up bus to downtown. As we walked on the Lower Broadway, and saw many music clubs, bars, musical instrument’s shops, gift shops, live music lounges, etc. We did some window shopping. There was live music going on and people were enjoying it. We could see people playing different musical instruments like Guitar, mandolin, etc  on the roadside. This is why Nashville is called a “Music City” 🙂

Then we stretched our heads up to see some of the remarkable sky scrappers in downtown. Some of them were AT&T building (also known as the Batman Building), Life & Casualty Tower, BOA Plaza, Hotel Hilton, Hotel Renaissance, and The Pinnacle (under construction).

Then we went to riverside of the Cumberland River. We strolled at Riverfront Park and went to ‘Davidson County Public hall and Court house’. There were many beautiful fountains around this building. We crossed Commerce Street and passed by the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville. It is the home of the Tennessee legislature, and the location for the governor’s office. This architectural master piece is classic model of Greek lonic temple. There is War Memorial plaza near to it. We had good time in the downtown.

Ganesh Temple NashvilleFrom downtown we went to Sri Ganesh Temple at Nashville. This is again a very beautiful place (of course much contradictory from what we saw in downtown). We entered and it was really divine atmosphere inside the temple. As in every temple in US, there were all Hindu deities. There was ‘Satyanarayan pooja’ going on by a priest for some family. I bowed to all gods. My colleague performed pooja of his car. We could hear some classical musical concert which was taking place in hall on first floor. I roamed around the temple and found a cute bird couple called “Cassin’s Finch”. I clicked some snaps of temples from outside as camera was not allowed inside.

We returned home and had tea. Savani’s (Sachin sir’s daughter) music teacher had come for dinner with us. Her name is Heather Bond. She is a famous singer and piano player in Nashville. She worked with Vanderbilt University for living and wishes to devote her life to music. It was nice meeting her. After dinner, we spent some time talking about good old college days. Sachin sir asked me where-abouts of my batch mates. He also told about his life, his marriage, his journey till US, etc. By that time, it was already late and we went to sleep.

Next morning we bade a good bye to my friend and his family and thanked them for their time and loving hospitality. We left Nashville at 9 am. We drove slowly as we wanted to enjoy the scenic views outside. On the way, we saw dense forests, trees, green grasses, jersey cows, horses, stables, beautiful farm houses, lakes, and all that which I never imagined to see here. We could relish real countryside of the US. Spring season is gradually painting the trees with different colors – green, yellow, white, pink, purple, red.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas:

We crossed The Mississippi River while entering the Arkansas state. There are many rivers like Buffalo National River crossing this state and it is a land of mountains and valleys, thick forests and fertile plains. This is why Arkansas is called ‘The Natural State’.

We had planned to wait at one of the state parks in our journey. State parks are different from our normal parks. These are protected parks for an area of land preserved on account of its natural beauty, historic interest, recreation, or other reason, and under the administration of the government of a U.S. state. People come here to do all kinds of adventurous activities like hiking, camping, sailing, water sports, nature trail, birding, photography. I found few American Black vultures and Turkey vultures on the way.

Waterfall at Lake Catherine State ParkWe halted at ‘Lake Catherine State Park’ in Arkansas. We went to the park admin office and got map of the park. We located spots of our interests and headed. We enjoyed walking in the woods as part of the nature trail. There was a huge water body along side of the forest. We aimed to go to a waterfall. There was a small hanging bridge on the way. Also a wooden bench for resting. It was THE spot. We could see picturesque panorama from here. After 2 miles of walk, we finally reached a splendid waterfall. We went inside the water and it was freezing cold. I drank the water and it tasted heavenly. Remember free flowing water is always purest. 🙂

We came back from the park and resumed our journey back to Dallas. We returned back late night. It was an amazing weekend. Thanks Sandeep for taking me to Nashville, State park and moreover for considering a nature lover in me. I don’t think anyone would have showed me ‘this’ marvelous side of the US. I have the memories to cherish for whole of my life. And yes, your BMW rocks!!! 😀

P.S. : For more snaps please visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157615867820870/detail/

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