Jatashankar Temple caves pachmarhi

It was kind of early morning when we had planned to go to jatashankar after all the previous day exciting trek that we had to the Chauragarh Peak which is around 1.5km from Pachmarhi bus station. Jatashankar or Jata Shankar is a cave temple located in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh. Also called Jatashankar Cave Temple, it is one of the popular places to visit in Pachmarhi.

Situated in a deep ravine with enormous boulders perched above, the Jata Shankar Caves in Pachmarhi are considered sacred as it is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva concealed himself from the wrath of Bhasmasur. This is a beautiful limestone cave comprising stalactites and stalagmites that look like the matted hair of Lord Shiva, hence named Jata Shankar Cave. Besides, the ceiling of this famous shrine has a formation that closely resembles the mythological hundred-headed snake Seshnag.

The cave contains stalagmites which are revered as naturally formed lingams. In fact, there are 108 such natural lingams present in this cave. There are two different types of ponds fed by springs, found in the locality, one of cold water and the other one of hot water. Water in the cave flows from an unknown point as no one has ever seen or reached that starting point and hence this stream of water is popularly known as ‘Gupt Ganga’. It is believed that the Jambu Dwip stream originates from this cave. There are idols of Lord Shankar and Goddess Parvati enshrined at a platform on the upper section of the cave.

Tourists need to walk about 1km and then climb down 150 steps leading to the cave temple. Also this walk to reach the cave is full surrounding view of beautifully cut mountains that are created naturally over the centuries because of the water and the weather changes. Besides, one can buy the local ayurvedic oils and shilajit that are being sold by vendors all along the route.

Chauragarh peak amidst Satpura ranges

Since the Covid restrictions in Maharashtra was relaxed a bit, we 4 families together planned to take up a trip together to some place where we are safe from Covid and will get a change from the regular work from home routine. I did my little research and suggested to go to Pachmarhi which everyone agreed without a blink and that’s where it all began. We 4 families with 13 members went to Pachmarhi in second week of August which is not much preferred season to visit this hill station amidst the Satpura range in the state of madhya Pradesh. But still if you think is there any particular season that is not good to visit a hillstation…I cannot believe if there is any and we never thought this place would be so much special and beautiful than the way its mentioned in all the travel blogs that I have read on it till date. So I could not resist giving a standalone mention to one of Pachmarhi’s most daunting attractions – the Chauragarh Temple through this blog.

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This is the base from where the trek starts

Located on top of the Chauragarh Peak,at an altitude of 1,330 m, the temple can be accessed after a 3.6 km ling trek. Just when you are thinking that the three-and-a-half odd kms is not really a big deal, let me just tell you that the last kilometer is basically 1,380 steps cut on the sheer rock face. So by this you can guess what we all had signed up for. We heard from people we know who had been there before about the difficulty level of the trek but these warning or stories I don’t know why gives you a solid reason to go ahead, explore and check it out for yourself if it’s really that hard to reach the Chauragarh Peak or its kind of an excuse of people who were not fit enough to reach the top. So we took this up as a challenge and all of us were ready and determined to reach the top and see for ourselves how the trek actually is. Another amazing thing I would like to mention here is that many of the members of our group were senior citizens and by God looking at them bubbling with energy determined to reach the Chauragarh Peak motivated us youngsters to not give up at all and ofcourse never to underestimate the stamina and strength of these senior citizens. Looking at them it really seemed like for them age is just a number and so it cannot define their boundaries.

You can take your car upto the Mahadeo Temple, 9 kms from Pachmarhi town. From there begins the trek to Chauragarh. For the first kilometre, you climb up and down a number of small hills till you come to the base of the main hill. See, the thing is, I daily walk around 4 km as exercise routine and I used to consider myself be a fit person as whenever given a chance to sit home and rest or go for an exhausting trek I’llalways choose the later one. We carried our own bags having the mask, sanitizer and cameras while we had asked our gypsy driver to help us carry the eatables and water for everyone since everyone of us were observing shravan somavaar ka upvas which is a kind of fast that we strictly follow to present our devotion to lord Shiva and again coincidentally Chauragarh Peak is said to be Shiva’s peak and people usually climb these four mountains and reach Chauragarh Peak to go visit the Shiva temple situated at the peak. So it was kind of amazing how the plan fell in to place such that we were able to visit the Shiva temple while we were observing the fast for lord Shiva itself. For people planning to go there, please carry your own water as there are no vendors on the way. A few tribals set up shop here and there selling gutkhas, cigarettes, chaas(buttermilk) and nimboo paani (these tribal people do stay in the valley that we can see while trekking. I am still amazed and appreciate how they climb and descend these mountains daily just to earn a livelihood).

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Caves on the way while trekking

Mid way of the trek is quite easy and not so steep and makes you believe easily that whatever mention that you’ve heard of this trek is breathtaking and difficult must be from people who are not so fit to even endure such a normal trek path but soon you’ll realize that you’ve said this all too soon…

This is when the track finally starts winding upwards. On one side of the road was an unrestricted view of the Satpura valley, most of which was covered in clouds and fog which definitely made it less scary while peeping in the valley by at the same time it was feeling as if we were there walking amidst the clouds…As you trudge on higher and higher, the scenenery begins to unfold under you. At this point of time, you begin to wonder if this view looks stunning, what would the view from top be like.

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Walking amidst the clouds…no valley can be seen on the left side of the railing

After two third of the climb was completed we came to a point where the steps had become narrow and steep making it more difficult to hold a grip and walk properly due to sudden rain and wind. As also due to the height it was becoming difficult to breath and to make it even more difficult during this COVID pandemic times we were trekking with the masks on as there were many country people crowd out there who were going to visit the chauragadh mahadev temple on the first shravan somavar of the year which is an auspicious day to worship Shiva according to Hindu mythology and coincidentally we choose the same day to go for this trek(well that was not a good idea since it made us keep the mask on and eventually made our breathing difficult as we were ascending towards the Chauragarh peak).

View on the way

Due to the difficulty of the climb, not many people attempt the trek. Also since we went there on 9th August which is a peak monsoon time in India we were blessed to witness all the season in the trek duration of 4hrs as we were ascending the chauragadh peak. We were able to see a pleasant cloudy weather when we were at the base, then midway down the trek it started raining heavily which made us all drenched and the wind gushing through the ranges made us experience the winter chills and ofcourse it was followed by fog which made it difficult to see the base of the valley. As it stopped raining suddenly we could feel the warmth of the sun helping us get dried up but again due to the cloudy weather we were drenched in our own sweat( which is definitely gross but who would care about the sweat and the rain when you are enjoying the challenging trek and trying to climb 4 mountains to reach the peak of Chauragadh).

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Natives welcoming us warmly…

We were told that it’s quiet up there and we would only be able to hear birds chirping and panting of our own breath in the mountains as not many people visiting Pachmarhi choose to trek at this spot, taking into consideration the difficulty of the trek. But to our surprise and due to the day we choose the trek route was literally crowded with villagers and tribal people around Pachmarhi who worship Shiva and yes I could only find greedy red faced monkeys around who try to snatch your bags if you are not attentive while trekking and yes there I couldn’t hear or see any bird chirping around.

After what seemed like an endless climb, we finally reached a terrace kind of stairs which is at the neck of the hill, with one final flight of moderately high stairs (for a change) to the top. I ringing of bells were like music to our eyes making us realize that we are almost there amidst the panting and breathlessness.

The temple courtyard is stacked with thousands of trishuls, some weighing over three tons and standing nearly 5 m tall. On the occasion of Nagpanchmi and Mahashivaratri, devotees come here in droves, lugging up these heavy tridents or trishuls as offerings. These are then stuck in the ground around the temple creating a forest of trishuls. It is generally believed that the wishes of anyone who offers a trident here will be fulflled. It’s difficult by itself to motivate ourselves to complete the trek and I can’t even imagine how much dedication do these people put in to trust and believe that taking these heavy trishul up the Chauragadh peak on their feet will fulfill their wishes as blessings from lord Shiva as reward for their perseverance, dedication and worship.

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Chauragad peak…mannat ke trishul

There is a Shiva temple located near the tree where all the trishuls are placed as token of the people’s mannat for fulfillment of which they bring the trishul up to this peak as a token of their devotion.

It nearly took us around 2 hrs to descend back to the base where there is a cave having a Shiva linga which is kind of hidden in the cave so it is named as ‘Gupt mahadev’ (Gupt in Hindi means hidden and Mahadev is the title that has been bestowed to lord Shiva).

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Group photo at Chauragarh Peak…amidst the clouds ⛅. As you can see nothing around the group due to the foggy weather

The overall trek took us around 5-6 hrs to complete which I think would have been even faster if it wasn’t raining so heavily at the top out there and if it had not been so crowded. It was indeed an exhaustive trek altogether but it was an amazing and overwhelming and memorable experience trekking those four mountains and reach the peak of Chauragarh… No matter how much our legs were paining due to this trek the next day given a chance to go climb this peak again for sure I’ll never hesitate to say YES… Also what I learnt while coming down that how important it is for you to keep yourself physically fit amidst the mental stress caused due to this pandemic and 24/7 kind of work from home culture.

PS: Please do let me know how you liked this blog so that it will help me to write about other wonderful place I had been to in Pachmarhi…

Pachmarhi travel diaries

Never did I ever thought I would be able to go to this lovely place and witness how beautiful rainy season can be so far away from the crowdy city amidst the clouds in this beautiful town of Pachmarhi…

Please stay tuned to my blogs while I share few of my amazing experiences through my blogs in the coming few days…

You may check out the below reel to start with…😇

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CSbUBI0DbR_/?utm_medium=copy_link

Porridge with stir fried vegetables

This week I had got my first dose of Covid-19 vaccine and consequently high fever, headache and weakness kicked in. It is said that it helps if we have more liquid intake after the vaccine to lower the level of sideeffects that it may have otherwise on the body. And thanks to the paracetamol tablets that was helping with the fever I had no appetite at all!

The only thing I could think of having for meals with all the liquids and nutrients at this time was porridge and as I am not a fan of milk so it was not what I was preferring to have for 2 days straight to help rejuvenate myself from the weakness.

Being an Indian and not being able to have spicy food was not so good idea so here is what I experimented with least ‘masala’ and spices which had turned out to be amazing:

Ingredients: ( for serving 2 persons)

1) 1 whole cup of coarse oats

2) 1 cup of all finely chopped vegetables which includes carrot, mushroom, capsicum, sweet corn, beans and green peas

3) 1+1/2 tablespoon of butter

4) 1/2 teaspoon of pepper powder or coarsly crushed black pepper and mixed herbs like oregano and rosemary

5) Salt to taste

6) 1+1/2 tablespoon grated cheese

7) 1 teaspoon apple cidar vinegar

8) 1 finely chopped green chili

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Method:

1) Heat a pan on low flame and add butter/ olive oil. Once melted/heated add crushed pepper and green chili and stir.

2) Add the vegetables that we had cut finely and kept and sauté it till it doesn’t smell raw. Then add mixed herbs to the pan.

3) Add oats and stir till it absorbs all the flavors of the vegetables in the pan and become moist.

4) Add 1+1/2 cup of water in the pan along with the salt and let the oats boil till the consistency becomes like porridge. Add more water if you would like it soupy.

5) Add cheese and let it boil for a minute.

6) Turn of the flame and serve the porridge in a bowl all hot and steamy. Garnish with green coriander leaves if you like.

This porridge is more nutritional than other usual porridge as it has vegetables to take care of your body vitamin supplements. Oats is always a healthy choice whether or not you are sick. Butter, cheese will give you the energy you need to fight the weakness and chili and pepper will help you with your tastebuds.

So I would suggest you to try this once and let me know how you like it.

Kala ghoda art festival- 2020

Since the time I’ve shifted to Mumbai, I’ve found myself finding out and going to various art festival and fleas that this city is well known to organize to have a change from the daily 9 to 6 routine. Little did I know that it would become a thing that I cherrish and like to explore. Well one and our every year legacy is to never miss the KGAF organized in CST the very heart of the city.

To introduce it I would say Kala Ghoda festival has been organised for the past 21 years. Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, known as India’s oldest street festival for arts, theatre and cinema, which gives some extraordinary talents a platform to showcase what they create as their passion and pursue this as a profession to earn a living by promoting and selling what they create. Well it’s quite overwhelming to see how people think out of the box, and create such a wonderful models to exhibit which has a social message associated with it .

The festival has an international reputation and has witnessed an increase in people’s participation manifold over the years from not only India but all accross the globe. Yes, while you walk down the street you’ll find many people from different countries trying to explore what the exhibitors have to showcase as a specimen of their arts in their own stalls. The initiative is a call for support to carry forward the festival’s legacy in preserving Mumbai’s cultural heritage.

The models and the art exhibits that have been exhibited in the art festival is indeed a visual treat for those who would like to spend time or their weekend understanding, appreciating and encouraging various artforms that are hard to find in this city’s busy and hustle and bustle life…

Date: February 1st – February 9th, 2020

If you are an admirer of art or a regular CST visitor I would definitely recommend you to spare some time to come here and visit this wonderful art and cultural legacy festival of Mumbai for this edition

Festivals of India- Durga puja

As per the Hindu mythology, the festival of Durgotsav which is currently being celebrated in India, marks the victory of goddess Durga in her battle against the shape-shifting asura named Mahisasura. Thus, the festival epitomises the victory of good over evil, though it is also in part a harvest festival celebrating the goddess as the motherly power behind all of life and creation.This festival also marks the celebration of womanhood whose epitome form called Shakti (meaning supreme power and energy) in India is worshipped for nine days.Though the primary goddess revered during Durga puja is Durga, the celebrations also include other major deities of Hinduism such as Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth, prosperity), Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge and music), Ganesha (the god of good beginnings), and Kartikeya (the god of war).In Bengali traditions, these deities are considered to be Durga’s children and Durga puja is believed to commemorate Durga’s visit to her natal home with her children.Primary celebrations begin on the sixth day (Shasthi), on which the goddess is welcomed with rituals.The festival ends on the tenth day (Vijaya dashami), when devotees embark on a procession carrying the worshipped clay sculpture-idols to a river, or other water body, and immerse them, symbolic of her return to the divine cosmos and her marital home with Shiva in Kailash.

Little bakery in the heart of BKC- Elementaria bakery cafe

Today me and my friend planned to go out for a little snacks to do some catch up. To create few beautiful memories together what can be more apt than a bakery cafe! So we just went there in the evening when the weather was bit clear (of course we prefer not going out during rain since we stay here in Mumbai which has a very bad track record for monsoon in the past)

We checked out few cafes in the internet before choosing Elementaria.

It’s a lovely little place in the heart of BKC- which is one of the best cafe hub in the city nowadays.

It is really fascinating as to how tastefully this cafe is decorated in cream color which itself makes it look pretty.

Elementaria is a pretty little bakery cafe having a wide range varieties of pastries, cakes, cupcakes and few variants of snacks for the snacks munching.

Food is good and ambience is perfect for the cafe hoppers, I would recommend this cafe in case you have soft corner of sweets and coffee !!

Hearing the voice your own silence

When you are not able to go to a place is when I think you ponder as how being in that place made you feel when you were there.

Well so today it’s a rainy day in Mumbai meaning no chance of me going out this weekend. As I sit back sipping some filter coffee, I remember the time I had been to Kashid beach sometimes back and would like to share how that place made me feel that day…

Beach may mean differently to different people, as everyone has their own prospective to people and place but if you would ask me I would define beach as (trying to be a little poetic please bear with me for this)-

Kashid beach

The neverending golden sand stretching out as far as your eyes can see, waiting patiently for you to leave your footstep marks which would be buried there beneath the sand forever marking your presence for it to remember always and forever. The rhythmic melodies of the waves touching the shore to make its presence felt. The voice of the cold breeze complimenting the one of the waves and playing with your hair. The calmness of the mind and being able to listen to the voice of your own heart loud and clear which was suppressed and kept unheard for so long in the hustle bustle and cacophony of the city of dreams…

Isn’t it what you mean by absolute bliss!
Beach for me is not just a place but a feeling of being close to myself away from this world in my own little place listening to something (my heart ofcourse) that is always left unheard in the canopy of the voice of the brain.

Kashid

This is the magic of the beach which cleanses your mind from unnecessary thoughts, rejuvenates you and fills your heart with immense pleasure, happiness and positivity, on the other hand takes away all of your worries and negative thoughts…

This is my little memory of Kashid beach which is indeed my blissful souvenir! 💜