Travel to Vrindavan and Mathura during Krishna Janmashtami

After going through the chaotic Calcutta, the incredible Manipur that broke our principles and the obligatory Mumbai, we decide to leave a bit of the normal route to get lost in a couple of towns. The elect, on the way to Delhi, are Mathura and Vrindavan. During Krishna Janmashtami Vrindavan, Gokul, Mathura, Nandgaon, Mayapur are decorated with lights, flag, and lamps as a bride in a wedding dress.

In each temple comes hundreds of devotees who fast all day long and wait until the midnight to worship Krishna in the form of Bal Gopal placed in the jhoola covered with flowers. Krishna was said to be born in Mathura and spent his adolescence in Vrindavan. In Mumbai in Maharashtra the Janmashtami is popularly known as Dahi Handi.

The day of flight finally arrived. It seemed so far away and was now there, with all the nerves above. We arrive at the New Delhi Airport at 12 noon. There our car driver was waiting for us to take us to Vrindavan, our first destination, four hours from New Delhi. The car ride was a little worse than what they told us.

I decided to close my eyes as it was too much for the beginning. On the way we munch on almonds, cereal bars, fruits and water. At 5.30 pm we reach our guest house in Vrindavan. It is a nice, comfortable place, with security, with a zone of silence, but expensive in relation to what we had read that we could pay.

The prices are higher as tonight begins the Krishna Janmashtami, a festival held to commemorate the birth of Krishna. When it is a festival like today, which is Janmashtami, a night vigil is held in the temples and then they offer consecrated sweets. We really wanted to live that experience up close, so we decided to sleep early. For dinner we have rice with dal, shahi paneer and papad and a bit of mango juice. Within half an hour of arriving, we were already sleeping as the trip had been exhausting.

Radha Krishna Janmashtami wallpapers images decoration

Janmashtami Night

We put the alarm clock at 1.45 am and we set out to live the experience at a well-known temple that we had already seen on the internet. We went down to the ISKCON temple (still half asleep) and we saw the moon and all the people prepared for their usual spiritual task.

Everything was amazing from the low lights, and different sounds with horns. There were women who throw water drops on our heads. We hear super catchy chants and mantras, and see people jumping. There was happiness and devotion all around.

In a moment of the ritual men and women separated to water a small tulsi tree with a small spoon. This tree was on top of a table on the side of the temple, and around it, we all walked, praying with flowers that some women give us in our hands. We lit candles that we touched above the fire and then we passed our hands over the head.

Although we did not know the exact meaning of each ritual at the time we did it, we submerged ourselves and let ourselves go. The ceremony ends when everyone finds their place to pray. At that time some women came and gave each of us a rosary, which they call japa and which has 108 beads. With each of the beads is said the maha-mantra of Hare Krishna Hare Rama. We prayed from 6 am until the sun began to appear.

At 8.30 am we went out for breakfast at a restaurant. Coincidentally, it was inside the ISKCON temple. The breakfast was comforting. There was coffee, pineapple juice, and toasted bread with butter and sugar. There was also a kind of rice prepared with tomatoes, peanuts, raisins, and red peppers. It was delicious but a little spicy to start the day.

I walked practically all day. For hours I get lost in Gokul and the streets that smelled of a thousand and more varieties of incense and food that I had never seen before. Those places are wonderful with the old houses, the monkeys that take care of the place, and the particular rituals. We found a place to eat and we went for a walk around the ghats of Vrindavan towards the kali ghat.

Allegorical floats filled the streets and loud music was present everywhere. A group of devotees sing along the streets dancing with their drums and small handheld cymbals. They seemed always happy and very devoted. From the houses come the smells of spicy dishes and freshly cooked chapati.

The women light the candles in the cavities of the walls where there are statuettes of Radha and Krishna covered with turmeric and silver. The reality was that before coming we had no idea of ​​anything. We did not even have expectations about the place. In Vrindavan, we immediately feel part of that collective and powerful energy that in fact, mobilized us a lot.

We met young men and women, people from the temple community, devotees, and also foreigners. They told us about Krishna with a love that overflowed from their eyes and their body. When I heard it, I confess that a smile was outlined on my face. Anyway, we surely know that this experience for us will be hard to forget. We met a girl from Italy who was a devotee of Krishna and she was telling us myths and legends of Krishna's life there. It is moments like these that happen by chance we remember more intensely.

It is a very spiritual experience. And it's worth more when you think from a distance. In Vrindavan, Krishna is in the air. After touring the temples like the Banke Bihari Temple and the Rangji Mandir and the old city we went to look for our car but before entering the car we were crossed on the way a baba or a kind of semi-god. The devotees crouched and kissed the ground where the man passed.

Radha Krishna Janmashtami wallpapers images decoration

After surprising ourselves with the religious scene we continue on our way to Mathura where Krishna was said to be born. To enter the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi, where the god was born, all belongings must be left in the hands of the police. Three security checks are carried out and everything is reviewed.

We left the temple and went to the Vishram Ghat. We meet some nice children and not so friendly monkeys. In the evening when the wind rises, there is a serenade of the bells on the spiers. After the long day, we return to the hotel to see if we had dinner, since they had told us they would prepare dinner. We have a plate of mixed vegetables of carrot, green beans, peas, paneer and roti with butter. It was delicious!

Radha Krishna Janmashtami wallpapers images decoration

To get back to the car we took a rickshaw. We took the car again and went directly to the train station. We had to wait until 10:20 for our train to leave. When the train arrived with backpack in the back we picked up speed and jumped to the train. Finally we went in. The 12-hour trip to Varanasi had just begun.

Essence of the Shiuli Flower on a Train Trip in Bengal

At a very early hour, before dawn, in the Kanchanjunga Express that runs through Bengal from Calcutta there is a screaming like in a market. In fact, the whole train has become one. The vendors offer breakfasts of all kinds while shouting and pounding their pots in search of customers in a continuous and incessant procession. Outside, the misty plains of the beautiful West Bengal awaken with flights of white herons and the smell of the shiuli flower. Durga Puja got over just a few days back.

The still drowsy inhabitants walk towards a background of brown fields dotted with islands of palm trees. The rural landscape look serene, beautiful and languid for the traveler who observes while drinking tea with milk and cardamom from the window of an express running through the plains. I can see an apparently sweet landscape. The trees and houses are in perfect symbiosis surrounded by orchards and crops distributed in harmonious anarchy. I notice the absence of modern machinery in its geometric imperfection.

While in other parts of the world the great machines label the landscape leaving it like the plans of a draftsman, like a computer that plays at being God. In this part of India the hoes, the ox carts, and the callused and brown hands of the Bengalis leave them as if they were an artist's painting. The first show their greed to earn more at all costs, and a certain contempt for the land. The land is an instrument, and, if it does not go well insurers will take care of everything. While the second show their misfortune, their survival, love and patience, also their sweat and tears.

Here people are still bowed to the ground and not the other way around. And they are literally when they have to bend their loins to work it, and lose weight in the long droughts while they clench their teeth looking at the sky, hesitating between continuing to pray or migrate to the city.

With a thousand shades of green, the fields remain untouched, as also the towns. The dirt is left for the cities. The children make kites with papers and glue using rice paste, and fly them with a very fine thread. Winter is coming and in the countryside it is colder.

In the coach a few play music to the fullest in several phones. The result is a horrible mixture of noise almost unbearable in its volume. In India things exist because they have sound. If you do not make noise, you do not exist. I myself get angry if they do not use horn when I'm going to cross a street.

They, the sadhus, show us, in their itinerant nudity, that in reality everything is superfluous, not only our backpacks but even our clothes. The kids of the train are still playing with their mobiles.

In sections, I miss Japan and its sound fundamentalism in public transport. In India, if a conversation or a monologue is to begin at 3 o'clock in the morning with a loud voice and euphoric laughter, it begins. It does not matter that hundred people are sleeping by your side.

I still do not know if in the subcontinent the live and let live is practiced or it is pure selfishness whose slogan could be first me. I think rather the latter, although I always tended to see the glass half empty. It's an attitude that seems more coherent and less foolish than seeing it half full, which sounds like a conformist, an opiate and a cheap perfume.

Also, every push of Calcutta at rush hour reaffirms me as much as each of the Indian soap operas that my wagon neighbors look ecstatic. I have to swallow their high volume while I try to close my eyes.

But then, I see a man who fed rats on the banks of the Hooghly and he passes me by. It happens to me because this man fed street rats in a slope of the sacred river with a deep dedication and affection. It was not a rat temple or anything. This gentleman was not a priest, nor the guardian of rodents, nor a keeper of the garden, or anything like that.

He was a nondescript guy who had paused in his work on a normal street in Kolkata. And the rats were pure mangy street rats, whose mere presence would make us pale with disgust and fear. It happens to me because maybe what happens is that here the margins are more distant than ours in some things. Or at least they narrow and widen in different places.

Perhaps that amplitude, or rather difference of margins is what makes noise not bother. That only bothers me, that I'm the one with the wrong margin, and to the right. In this journey nobody has spoken to me except to ask me yesterday the number of our bunks or to smile timidly. Let's break another topic on whether the Indians are heavy and intrusive.

Not always. Not everywhere. In addition now they are almost all bogged down in front of their electronic devices. Two hijras pass asking for money from the whole coach. The hijras are the transgenders of India. They are not homosexuals, nor eunuchs, nor transvestites, nor hermaphrodites. They are the third sex. There are millions and their origin as a social group dates back thousands of years.

They were respected and appreciated for centuries until the arrival of the British Empire and its radical puritanism, which condemned them to ostracism and marginalization. Since then they have lived largely dedicated to begging and prostitution.

Almost everyone gives them money for what I see. I give them twenty and they give me back ten. They put their hands on my head for a few seconds. The brown eyes also put their hands on the head for the same fee. Apparently they are feared for being able to remove the fertility, but this I find out later.

Then passes the seller of combs and toothbrushes, another that sells something similar to lemons sprinkled with masala. It occurred to me to try them and it was one of the most painful gastronomic experiences of the whole trip. It was a descent into the gustatory infernos with a frightful mixture of sour and spicy.

Also the seller of zippers passes, and another one that I say are potatoes and the one with brown eyes says that it is bamboo crafts. There pass the lemon tea vendor, and then the milk tea one, three or four with mineral water, and the pantry staff to pick up the orders of whoever wants to eat, and then the peanuts and unidentifiable nuts.

Then there are seller of gods statuettes, incense, several sellers of wallets and cards, the popcorn, the hot pepper, the cucumber. They peel and cut them into slices before putting them in a cone made with newspaper. There was the one with citi gold necklaces, shorts, and another one that sells dhotis or lungis.

We crossed the river Ganges across the Farakka Bridge. It seems to me like a sea of ​​strong currents and almost waves. It will flirt in the border between India and Bangladesh by West Bengal before finally entering the neighboring country. There it will join the Brahmaputra to empty into the Bay of Bengal.

And I try to retain these images in my memory for life because I know that it is going over them. Every time it accelerates more, like a train whose brakes failed downhill, in a futile attempt to retain the present. I pass by the sacred rivers filled with Kash flowers, as the white herons fly in slow motion, and the smell of shiuli flowers fills the senses.

The brown eyes witness all this, with the promise of a Calcutta that is no longer so distant, with the dreams fulfilled. All that remains is to escape. I do not have time to lose, because I want to go to the top. I skid in every curve, stick my tongue up to my throat, smoke with a puff, and throw the smoke laughing out loud while I traverse the map on my thighs.

Breaking any kind of margins, my life lead through hidden and sacred paths where for a moment I will know happiness, which will slap me like a linnet.

Gradually I reach Siliguri while in the background, as suddenly, as in a switch, the Himalayas appear. Siliguri is just a stop at the road junction for Darjeeling and Sikkim. I still try to discover on foot wandering in the middle of a market of vegetables and fish. There are smells, colors and even a flock of geese waiting for food in front of the shops in the middle of scooters, bicycles and other motor vehicles.

At the end of the village, I visit a beautiful Nepali temple inhabited by about twenty monks. I love the atmosphere that emanates from it, the mantras at the entrance and the prayer wheels. I make a small donation and a monk offers refreshing fruits taken from the offerings of the day.

In the evening O book a jeep for the next morning to continue the route to Darjeeling. I'm tired of the noise of the city and horns. Even the locomotives are near. I must say that we are 500 meters from the station. I hope the night will be peaceful.

Shiuli Flower

Travel on Valentine's Day to Prague

And one more year, Valentine's Day arrives. What better than to share a memory of travel with my partner on Valentine's Day. The truth is that for years I have rejected the idea of ​​celebrating Valentine's Day. Just a few years ago, trying to convince my girlfriend that this was not a day for celebrations, I took a good bath of humility. I discovered that the origin of Valentine's Day goes back to Europe, specifically to the Roman Empire.

Since then, the truth is that I look at this day with different eyes. Far from sending gifs with hundreds of pulsating hearts, or filling the house with roses, I try to make this a special day. My ideal plan, if the dates coincide, is to make a getaway trip. The last time I had the chance, the place chosen was Prague in the Czech Republic.

Surely as soon as you hear 'the city of love' you think of Paris. But what if I tell you that the city of love is called Prague? There is hardly a more romantic city than Prague to spend a cold night, lit by its endless baroque street lamps and the smell of the Danube in the air. If you do not believe me, I recommend you to check it during this Valentine's Day. Take the opportunity to make an express getaway with your partner and let yourself be enveloped by a romantic fairytale city.

And I am not exaggerating. The expectations were high because all the people around me who had visited the Czech capital had told me wonders about it. I can only say that the trip was very worthwhile. It is a city with a special charm. It is magical and totally different to what we are used to seeing when we move around Europe. The truth is that Prague is much more than its monumental buildings, which are the first treasure we found when landing in the city.

Once we are there, we have a crazy desire to change the ticket and stay for at least a week to enjoy its gastronomy, its famous beer, and it's concerts of classical music. So with this post, I will recommend some of the things that, in my opinion, you should not miss. At least this is all I could see of Prague and everything that made my partner and me fell madly in love with the city.

On that occasion, the lightning break consisted of a full day in Prague ensuring the main thing besides the obvious. We cross the entire center on foot, with our suitcases dragged, until we reach the river, right in the area of ​​the Dancing House. It is a beautiful building that represents a dancing couple, where he takes her by the waist. Just below us was our hotel. What a surprise, we will sleep on a boat!

The truth is that it is a very common option in Prague. There are many hotel-boats, and in general, for all budgets. The check-in could not be done until two in the afternoon. But we left the suitcases at the reception and we went walking to the Basilica of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Valentines Day in Prague

The area, an old castle, is a bit far from most routes, which makes it a very quiet area. The Basilica is beautiful, and the cemetery that hides behind is a beautiful and wild place, full of art in all its corners. The views from the wall are also impressive. Well, the ride is worth it. We spent a couple of hours touring the cemetery and the wall, and when the hunger began to appear, we decided to go down the steep streets to the city.

Seeing the royal quarters of Prague is also highly recommended. The old Soviet-style buildings, the huge churches, abandoned stations. Everything makes you see more the reality of the Czech Republic, which is still another country in Eastern Europe. Strolling along we arrived at the place where we had chosen to eat Czech cuisine in our farewell to Prague.

We had breakfast in an absolutely fantastic bakery, and full of delicious sweets. In this cafe located in a very classic and "retro" building, you have to enter and sit down. We found our space on a large table, shared with a girl who worked with her laptop and took espresso as if it were water.

Although there is also a lot of variety of salty pasta we have a full breakfast of fried eggs, omelet, and quiche. The place is very large, although most are occupied by the counter and lots of pasta and cakes. To sit, you usually have to have a little patience, but you have to have it because it's really worth it. Or take something to take.

We have a breakfast that is not only the best in the city but the same with the best croissants I have ever taken (surpassing those in Paris). It was a success, without a doubt. The food was delicious, accompanied by the famous Czech beer, but we knew little, due to the change of menu. For dessert, we ate an assortment.

We dedicated the morning to wander through the old town of Prague with its wonderful cobbled floors. We also saw the City Hall with a medieval astronomical clock that is unique in the world. We crossed the bridge of Charles V that was always very lively. With beautiful views of the river, the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle, we stopped to take pictures of the Jiraskuv bridge. The day was still rising, but not a cloud was in the sky. Only the typical fog of the wet and cold winter mornings.

Finally, we climb to the Cathedral of San Vito with beautiful views of the city. It was not before making a stop for coffee at midmorning in a famous café. The cafe still shines with all the splendor of the Belle Époque through its profusely decorated ceiling with crystal chandeliers, with the waiters strictly uniformed in vests and red ties.

Then to eat, we happened, by chance, to a fantastic typical brewery. Beer is the national drink, blond and light, which is usually served very cold and in large half-liter jars unless you ask for something smaller. In Prague, there are more than 1,500 breweries in which the social and cultural life of the city is made, and which in few occasions are empty.

In February, at 4 it is already night, and it is almost the best time in the city. The masses of people retire in a flock to dine at that incomprehensible schedule for us. The streets are deserted. So we enjoy the jewel that is Prague. There is a succession of Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic, and Romanesque images. There are beautiful palaces, imposing churches, and next to the classic marvels are the trace of the Jews. There are also the modernist buildings and the memories of a period of artistic and bohemian splendor.

It was when Prague shared prominence in the European cultural scene with Vienna. The day had been really spectacular. We enjoyed the town hall square immersed in a shower of soap bubbles accompanying a beautiful sunset full of lights, shadows, and colors. The perfect farewell!

For me, without a doubt, the icing on the cake for this romantic getaway was the walk along the Danube. Here we were accompanied all the way by a halo of mystery and the nostalgia that define the city. It was unforgettable.

At 8 o'clock we get out for dinner quietly in a very special place to go and enjoy Valentine's dinner. The one that, in the end, would turn out to be the most delicious of the trip to Prague. We went up the stairs, and now. We had arrived at the restaurant, the same as the Botel. It is an Italian restaurant. I did not know if it would be as special.

We sat on a beautiful wooden table and ordered a dry martini to go leafing through the letter. We decide a lot. If we wait for pizza we will not find there. Pasta, fish, and meat are the main themes of the menu. For starters, we opted for a tartare of salmon and carpaccio. It did not fail. It was exquisite, both fresh and with a mild flavor, perfectly seasoned and accompanied with homemade bread toast. A ten without any doubt. And that made us think that if the entree had been that high, the main courses would be superb. And they were.

The homemade gnocchi with cream and ricotta were delicious, but the Ossobuco was from another world. The meat melted, the taste of the sauce was intense, with many nuances, and the sensation when eating it was pure magic. In addition, some juicily roasted potatoes were the ideal accompaniment for the Ossobuco. All that in harmony with a bottle of Italian wine, dry and strong. The attention of our waiter was exquisite. Always with a smile and without letting us miss anything at any time.

As icing on the dinner, as it could not be otherwise in an Italian restaurant of such quality, we ordered dessert. And everything makes sense when the pannacotta and the tiramisu arrives. They seem like pieces of heaven made dessert. Creamy and delicious.

The next day, we had breakfast in the same restaurant. There was the free buffet, with sweets, snacks, fruit, and freshly made eggs to taste. The views of the Vltava river were impressive. In the background was the impressive Prague Castle. It was a unique farewell. What we like most is to eat (and well), to travel and the love of our lives at our side! A luxury of life! It's not like going every day, but not every day the Valentine's Day is celebrated!

Celebrating Maha Shivaratri - The Night of Shiva in Varanasi

The largest number of people travel to Benares or Varanasi to take the unforgettable boat ride through the sacred Ganges at dawn. It is when the old town bathes with the golden rays of the rising sun. Although the bad weather played against us, we had the fortune to arrive in Varanasi just for the celebration of the multitudinous festival of Shivaratri.

Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and it rained with impunity for three whole days. However, Varanasi remains happily oblivious to the passage of time and remains intact even being one of the most important tourist destinations in India. Benares is still moving and its sky is still rarefied by the ashes resulting from the outdoor cremations on the banks of the Ganges.

Thousands of people bathe and drink from its holy water. Today I look at religious faith in a different way, with more humility, but without falling into ignorance. In this way, I can understand the refuge (and the need) that people find by believing with devotion in something to overcome the difficulties of our ephemeral passage through this world.

I decided to continue respecting the will of the locals and my principles of not taking photographs of them. These are principles that do not seem to be shared by many photographers today. Benares is not limited to seeing bodies being charred on a pile of firewood. It also offers a vision to everyday life, in this city that is stubborn not to be overcome by the passage of time.

Shivaratri is a spectacular religious event that brings pilgrims from all over India to celebrate the great night of Shiva. For two full days, the processions fill the streets of the city. The day has dawned cloudy and people are nervous. This night begins Shivaratri, the night of the new moon. It is the most important night of the year for the followers of Shiva. The 300 families of Brahmins who live in the village offer Pujas (prayers) these days.

The others, those who were not born in India, prepare for an intense and long night. My roommate has also made a bid with incense, oil, bananas, pineapple, flowers, fire to ask for a good day. The streets are not stopping. The floats are ready to be thrown uphill. There are police, sadhus, tourists, and many priests. The ghats are full of people taking sacred baths. And some say it's going to rain.

During the night, the long pilgrimage of 75 km walking begins in the ghats. People of all ages start the long march in a state of euphoria. Dancing, screaming, celebrating. During the next day, they continue to block all the central arteries. People sing incessantly, raise their hands, stop to dance, and queue to visit the sacred temples.

Today is the last day of Shivaratri, and I look silly because I cannot stop laughing. And this is not for a minute! Under the people and next to the sacred source, in the temple, the music is at its best. Sadhu blesses the source and surroundings with water and tika while I wait. The music goes on. Later six or seven Sadhus meditate looking towards the sun. The heat increases and we search for a shadow in the narrow streets. The people are nervous. Cows roam as always. There is a sea of people.

The floats, especially the large ones, are ready to be thrown uphill. They are full of flowers. The drums are heard. We order a chai in the shade to take some rest. There are many people, and many types of people. The priests give blessings. They throw leaves on the ground. A guy with ripe bananas comes to sell them to us.

We see a barefoot German, an Indian woman with her daughters dressed in colors, a Turk with white dreadlocks in his beard. We see the police with the truncheon, the priest with shaved hair, shirtless and without shoes. Then there is the blonde with the exposed neckline and the guys that stare at her.

There are more drums and trumpets! The float starts to move. The bombing of bananas begins. Everyone throws them against the chariot. The hippies look from the balconies. There is sweat, screams, effort, drums, and jumps. The float approaches and the people shake. The giant wheels move and the bananas bounce off the heads. There is an avalanche of people, stomping one another. And there are the drums and the sweat. There are the tika and the screams and the bananas. There are the colored dresses and the hair on end and the sun on the face.

After the euphoria of Shivaratri, the city returns to normal. It is time to get lost in the alleys of the old town, far from the popular ghats, where one meets the Benares of everyday life. The shops open again. The street barbers mount their posts on the sides of the streets and work without stopping.

And no matter what time of the year we are, the monkeys continue to reign on the terraces of Benares. A gang of them surrounded me to steal the bananas that I was eating so happily while watching the moon come out on the Ganges.

Trip to Varanasi during Kojagari Lakshmi Puja

For a day we can sleep more because we would leave at 9 am. We get up and eat a buffet breakfast. At 9 we were on our way to the temples of the east, which are another group of temples more scattered and about 2 km away from the center of Khajuraho.

Luckily, they are together in a walled enclosure. We arrived at 9:15. In one of them we had to remove our shoes completely, without problem. It was the first hour and the stone did not burn. We caught a priest doing the Lakshmi Puja. We were enthralled for a while with the songs. We take no photo out of respect, and something else.

One of the workers was sweeping the hall. We reach a hall that was closed. The center was black, and the room was painted, contrasting with the rest of the temple painted all white. Then we saw the largest temple, which had been rebuilt as they could. Many original stones are missing, replaced by smooth stones, without reliefs.

Then we come to another. Inside there was a very large statue of Shiva, Vishnu and Parvati. During these movements through the temples, we used to stop at every fifth house, because we saw kids and we gave them candy and balloons. Suddenly 20 or 30 came out of all the nooks and crannies to see that we were distributing things.

They were nice and cheerful. We had to catch them at bath time, because they were usually in the wells where they drew water, bathing and playing. We arrived at the town, and go to the place we were yesterday at the last minute taking a few beers. I ordered a Masala Chai. It must be 11 or so when we started the walk. The same kid greeted us who was a little while with us yesterday during the blackout

Halfway back we sat for a little while in the shade to rest . We took the opportunity to take a photo. At 11:30 we go to the airport. Around 11:45 we were at the airport. We arrived at the airport, and we had to be the first tourists, because there were only 2 or 3 other people.

Soon they told us that we could check in. So we took the bags, put them through a scanner and sealed them. Then they made us the boarding pass. Then they looked at the carry-on luggage and put a tag on each bag. We read that we could not pass with more than one carry-on bag per person, and that we could not take medicines or bottles of water. We asked, since we had some medicines.

After a while, the couple arrived who we met in Orchha and we stayed for a while talking about what they had seen. At about 13:00, I got some chocolate cookies, and tea and the man offered me fried Moong Dal. We leave the bags on the belt to go through the scanner, along with the typical, camera, mobile, purse, watch, ring, and we pass a manual metal detector.

The security puts 2 stamps in the boarding pass, and inside, we pick up the bags of hand luggage. We wait to board the plane that had just arrived. At 14:00 we boarded. The flight went without problems. We had snacks and arrived at the scheduled time, at 14:45. We said goodbye to the couple, who were going to another hotel different from ours.

We are picked up by the driver and the representative. Already in the hotel, the representative asks me for the tour program and I leave it to him. He takes note of the flight departure from Varanasi to Delhi, and he tells us what we are going to do those days. This evening at 6 pm, we will go to catch the boat to see at 7 pm the Aarti ceremony.

After a short rest at 6:00 pm we went down to see the Aarti. We arrived at the parking lot and our driver tells us that we have arrived and he introduces us to our boat man. We started to walk around all the way and reached the Dasaswamedh Ghat where the boats are there, which we can consider as the most important, given the influx of people. There are masseurs, hairdressers, people doing yoga, meditating. It is where the Aarti ceremony takes place.

The boatman say, together with the Manikarnika Ghat, it is the most important. We caught a raft and went upstairs to see different Ghats before the ceremony began. It seems that we are going up but in reality we are in favor of the current. We reach Manikarnika, the Ghat of Cremations.Then we return to the Ghat of the ceremony.

On the way, our boat man took the opportunity to splash us with water from the Ganges, a symbolic baptism in the sacred river. In one of the Ghats we went through, there was a temple with erotic sculptures similar to those of Khajuraho. I asked him if the Puja is the same as the Aarti. He told us that basically yes, but that the bid is for prayers in general, and the Aarti is when those prayers and requests are for something more concrete.

In a Ghat the priests make chants, rhythmic movements, ring bells and move a snake-shaped candle. In the middle of the ceremony it started to rain, and when the ceremony ended, it started to fall with desire. Near the end of the ceremony, we got off the boat. So we saw the last part of the ceremony from the mainland and we could see the ceremonial movements more closely.

Because of the abundant rain that was falling, the return to the car became more fun. Before going to the hotel, our guide took us to see the Lakshmi Narayan Temple in the Assi Ghat. We entered but the floor was wet. Inside there are stained glass windows with scenes of mythology and several sculptures among which stands out a carved piece of marble with the figures of Vishnu and Laxmi.

It has frescoes on all the ceilings, domes and a tower. It is not very well maintained, but it is worth visiting. The truth is that they are all very similar inside but today the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja is being celebrated, so there are a lot of people inside.

On the way through the alleys of Varanasi, they tell us that these stalls of different shops in the morning are shops and at night becomes the bed of the people. We returned to the hotel completely soaked, and we changed and had dinner at the terrace of the hotel under the glowing full moon of purnima with white rice, dal and curry. I also ordered some Malai Kofta stuffed with raisins and dried fruits that were a delight. As dessert they give the coconut ladoo from the Lakshmi Puja that happened before. We went up to the room and go to sleep.

lakshmi images photos

Taste of Bengali Food Recipes

Before we talk about heritage, temples covered with terracotta plates, the countryside of West Bengal and the lively streets of Calcutta, here is the is the approach you need to have Bengali cuisine in West Bengal. In India itself, it enjoys a unique reputation of being one of the least spicy and varied cuisines in the country, with astonishing delicacy and variety with the omnipresence of mustard seed, fish and sugar.

The region was a commercial and administrative bastion of South Asia at the time of the first Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms and later to the Muslim sultanates. The Mughal cooking developed in Bengal in 1576, partly included in the Mughal Empire.

And first of all, the five main elements are cane sugar, mustard seed, rice, coconut and fish. For if you believe that the giant shrimp or chingri and the fish like ilish/hilsa, bhetki and rui come from the sea, you are wrong. All Bengali cuisine is based on a delta that encloses and infiltrates the region, mixing the waters of the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Padma and all their tributaries, as many streams, as many dishes that arrive directly on the stalls, along the roads, in the villages and towns, and in the plates.

I give you the unfolding of a Bengali meal, and in any other gastronomy, the order and succession of dishes is of importance in terms of flavors, and we do not mix them. Typical of southern and eastern India, a banana leaf serves as a dish, It is extremely convenient, just fold it and hop, to the trash.

Rice is the continuous bass of your meal, you take one spoon from each dish, which will help you to form balls with fingers and gulp! For the first bitter dish to put in mouth, we have set our sights on the traditional shukto, a dish with very light sauce based on vegetables, whatever you have at hand, bitter gourd and neem leaf or gourde snake, also called potol. The bitterness of the dish is tempered by the addition of milk, sometimes coconut milk and raising of ginger and poppy seed paste. The whole is surprisingly soft, refreshing and light.

A second dish is made with vegetables, such as a mochar ghonto, banana flowers mixed with potatoes, presented in the form of a puree made creamy by the coconut milk.

A third dish is made with fish and shrimp, steamed in banana leaves or in sauce, including a gigantic shrimp in a spicy sauce made with a paste made of onions, garlic, cardamom, clove and coconut milk, and you can feel very clearly that the Bengali cuisine is close to the Thai cuisine on the other side of the Bay of Bengal. The bhetki paturi is simply divine, a small portion of a white fish covered with a paste of mustard seeds and turmeric, steamed in a banana leaf and finally a must is the barishali ilish.

Finally, because it is stronger in taste and more spicy, is a dish of meat such as a mutton dakbunglow with its creamy sauce based on onions, garlic, ginger, tamarind and cinnamon, all made creamy by mustard oil. It is unctuous and strong in taste, ideal to close a Bengali meal where the flavors grow gradually in intensity.

To accompany them is white rice or sometimes luchi, swollen and fried breads made from flour and covered with a little ghee or clarified butter. The flour called atta, a kind of complete durum wheat flour goes into the preparation of Luchi, Porota, Pitha, etc. Chickpea or chhola, bean black gram or biuli dal are used almost exclusively in the preparation of dal, which is often cooked whole at breakfast and shaped into flour or besan.

You can accompany a chutney like khejur-amsatto, made from cashew nuts and dried mango and drizzle a surprising aam pora sharbat, a creamy juice cooked with green mangoes, softened with a good sage of cane sugar juice, a pinch of salt and lemon juice.

To finish, the cream of the cream of the Bengali cuisine is the mishti doi! The sweet is based on chhanna, a kind of very fresh cheese, then cooked in the sugar and butter. It's better to buy them in the sweet shops, which are more specialized in this matter than the restaurants. Here are some specimens as no sandesh or rasgulla can be same. The rosogolla, sandesh, sweet yogurt, payesh (rice pudding) and pitha are Bengal's specialties. Shon papdi, a flaky sweet, jalebi, pantua, sitabhog and mihidana are other popular sweets. The paan ends the whole buffet.

Bengali food is carefully prepared according to the recipes handed down from generation to generations requiring hours of labour and ingenuity. The Bengali culinary tradition is mainly based on the ingredients available locally. The vast river network, its climate and its fertile soil help to grow rice, mustard and other crops.

Though modern Bengali cooking is being influenced globally, still our tongue will always yearn for the taste of muri ghonto, an exotic dish prepared with fish heads and rice; aloo posto, with potatoes cooked in poppy seed paste; chingri malaikari, tiger shrimp in a paste of coconut milk; and sorshe ilish, hilsa Fish cooked with mustard seed paste.

The staple food of the Bengalis is rice and fish. The fish, especially of fresh water plays an important role like ilish, pabda, rui or rohu, chitol, magur, bhetki and tilapia. Meat is also very popular among the Bengalis. The cooking medium is mustard oil which adds to the aroma and flavour of the Bengali food. A small piece of carpet is placed on the floor for the person to sit on it (aasan). The plate is often surrounded by an array of bell metal bowls (batis), containing various items.

During lunch you can taste the typical dishes of bengal, most of which are very spicy, so if you do not like strong flavors stored the word Jhal means spicy and can come in handy if you answer yes it is, if you say na is not, but as much for them is never spicy.

As in all of Asia you eat a lot of rice, and are delicious samosas and puri, fried dumplings filled with meat, potatoes and peas or sweets, the most famous of which is the jalebi that is fried in a spiral shape. Cakes is also dedicated to a party, pitha-apple the feast of cakes, in which women will compete in the cook the best cake.

Then comes the sweet and sour dishes chutney or ambal. Lastly the dessert which could be sweet yogurt (mishti doi), sondesh, or the famous rasgulla. And finally, a betel leaf as the mouth-freshener (paan). This is a common menu for a Bengali lunch or dinner.

A leisurely breakfast on the holidays or special days will be usually luchi or parathas flour rotis seasoned in oil or ghee and curried potatoes (aloo dum). Snacks like singara, kachori , nimki, mochar chop, alur chop are also very popular.

Rainy days mean khichuri a mixture of rice, lentils and vegetables, fried brinjal slices (begun bhaja) and fried eggs (dim bhaja). The typical spices the Bengalis use to cook their dishes are hard to find in any other part of India. The Bengali's use a special type of spice called kalo jeere which is black in colour.

Another authentic Bengali spice is panchforan (five spices) which is a proportionate mixture of fennel (mouri), fenugreek (methi), black onion seeds (kalo jeera), cumin (jeera) and black mustard seeds (kalo shorse). The panch phoran is usually tossed in mustard oil or ghee and then added either at the start or at the end of cooking.

The aroma that distinguishes the cuisine of Bengal is mostly attributable to the spice mixture Panch phoron. Panch means five and phoron spice. We could also call it five spices of Bengal, an aromatic blend and full of color, the green of fennel seeds, black mustard seeds and nigella, the golden fenugreek, the buff of cumin seeds.

In some cases, instead of using fennel seeds anise, wild mustard in place of cumin, mustard and cumin instead of black instead of nigella. The ingredients are added in equal amounts and should not be crushed.

This blend of spices is a traditional recipe of Bengal, a region divided between eastern India and Bangladesh. The culinary tradition of Bangladesh is very old and is characterized because of the presence of the aroma given by this mix of spices. The word panch means five, while phoron indicates flavors, so it is also known as the mixture of five spices of Bengal just like the Chinese one that combines the five elements through which the world is represented.

The Panch Phoron is a colorful combination of scents and sensations created by the combination of different seeds characterized by distinct aromas and defined. It gives the food a typical aroma, the taste is medium spicy, characterized by originality and oriental atmosphere.

The Paanch Phoron mixture, also called 5 spices by Bengalis, is the mix of spices that smells excellence for the vegetarian cuisine of northern India. Lentils, chickpeas, rice and vegetables are accompanied by perfectly well balanced with aromas of cumin, mustard, nigella, fenugreek and fennel.

ilish bhapa hilsa steamed

Bengalis also use mustard paste (shorshe bata) and poppy paste (posto bata) in some of their dishes. They use ginger, garlic and onion paste in most of their meat and fish preparations. They love to garnish their food with Coriander Leaves (dhoney pata).

Some of their vegetable dishes like shak chorchori recipe of seasonal leaves are often garnished with bori bhaja made from the batter of Urad lentils. It is sun dried and then fried and sprinkled over the food. The bengalis even use their own type of cooking vessels.

The kadhai is a round bottomed vessel that is used for most of cooking and frying. Rotis and parathas are cooked on a griddle or Tawa. Rice is cooked in a hadi or a special large pot. The handle less, rimmed, deep flat-bottomed dekchi is the hallmark of Bengali kitchens.

Also found are the ladle (hatha), the metal or wooden spatula (khunti), the perforated spoon (jharni), the sarashi pincers used to remove pots from fire, the old wooden chali balun for pureeing lentils round pastry board and the rolling pin, the shil-nora grinding stone to grind the spices on and the bonthi a unique cutting tool.

Bengali food has come a long way. Now Bengali food is prepared and eaten with much enthusiasm all over the world.

bengali food cuisine

An Auspicious Monsoon Wedding Experience in Kerala

I arrive at the premier address for bridal fashion in Ernakulam district of the South Indian city of Kochi. There is a reason for this. I have been invited to a wedding in Kerala. It is monsoon season. The rainy season after tormenting dry-hot months is sometimes violent and at times less violent. The showers alternate for days, and everything is submerged in a penetrating moisture. Monsoon wedding during the rainy season in India is considered especially auspicious.

Kerala is considered the flagship state with the highest literacy rate and the highest life expectancy in the country. My friend has found a good match for his daughter via an advertisement, and now, after the bridal couple had the opportunity to meet for a few months, they will be celebrating for several days.

From the floor to ceiling shelves are crammed with colorful dreams of fine fabrics. There are Kurtas and Pyjamas shining around me with imaginative combinations. In another section is the saris, floor-length skirt and meter-long scarf in exuberant pattern and embroidery. It glitters and shines.

In front of the shelves are several employees in a uniform. They spread out according to my rough color and price specification various gems, which I examine and feel, discard or select for a fitting. I'm the only one in the luxurious and pleasantly air-conditioned clothing store who has to make his own buying decision.

The ladies have come in groups to shop together for upcoming weddings. Without a certain amount of imagination and focus I am hopelessly lost. The ladies have experience with this special shopping experience and also know when it's better to continue looking elsewhere. But after a while I find it and the purchase is sealed with milk with a glass of sweet spice tea.

The landlady in my small homestay by the sea, curiously awaits me back. I had told her about my plans to equip myself appropriately for the local wedding. Then she had given me a list of addresses that I could, if necessary, one after the other with the auto rickshaw. My selection finds her favor and she takes the time to correct something here and there with needle and thread.

She artfully gather and fix the scarf so that it naturally flows elegantly from the shoulders. The groom and the bride will of course wear real gold. For the dream wedding, the guests also wear fancy jewelry. The first part of the wedding ceremony is borrowed from a North Indian tradition and begins in the early evening in a hotel in the hometown of the bride.

With few guests, this is just a relatively small function" a casual happy evening. The bride had wished such a sangeet, in which relatives and friends enjoy in music together. My friend's family is very musical, as some members have even completed a classical vocal education.

And so I enjoy some beautiful Karaoke style vocal performances with cheerful movie tunes with lots of dil and pyar from the Bollywood to classic bhajans, alternately in Hindi and Malayalam. A nice custom is for the bride to place herself on the floor with betel leaves in her hands. So I make a first little contact with the bride, who I did not know until now.

Since I am not related to or known to the bride, I am exempt from the most complicated traditional gift transfers. In the course of the evening, the other guys in the car quartet find their pleasure in painting the hands of the women present with delicate henna patterns. In no time at all an individual floral pattern is created on each hand.

The design takes a while to dry. The bride smiles merrily mischievously. She giggles occasionally, and regrets a little that she will be away from the people she loves so well, but luckily there's WhatsApp! And then cut. The light is dimmed, cracking from the speakers techno music as the DJ from Kochi hangs up. The bride in the green-red-gold sari becomes a disco-queen.

We dance hilariously and with Latin rhythms, as one or the other guy turns out to be a salsa king. The petite elderly ladies with long gray hair also seem to enjoy these performances and acknowledge some dance with appreciative words.

There are refreshments at the buffet, today with fish and meat. And since there are still many programs to come, the sangeet ceremony around midnight from one moment to the other is declared finished by the father of the bride.

Day 2

The entire wedding party in chartered minibuses breaks up to Guruvayur. The alleged thousand-year-old Krishna Temple is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage cities in Kerala. Numerous hotels are grouped around the sprawling complex of temples and are tailored to the needs of pilgrims as well as wedding parties.

Many locals visit the city once a year for a few days of retreat. This is also possible for very few rupees, and daily free feeding takes place in the sacred area of ​​the temple.

Some of the wedding guests use the arrival in Guruvayur for a visit to the temple after they have set themselves in the rooms. The hotel mainly offers shared rooms. The bride will have to change clothes for the main part of the wedding party for each function in a new sari with all necessary accessories.

I suspect that this absolute absorption of rituals and involvement has the advantage that there is no time for emotions. The young woman has to be aware that she turns her back from the day of her wedding at home to join her married life. The young couple will soon move to Dubai together.

In the Emirates, many Keralites, including the bridegroom have found a well-paid job and bring about this detour also a certain material wealth in their homeland. The emotions come later, when it's all over. The groom's family has arrived as well. My friend and his wife are a little tense. The big day they have been preparing for months is coming. The exact schedule is not clear.

And it does not seem to exist either, but there is always someone close by who pokes me carefully when something is supposed to start somewhere. At all times I experience a great unruffled cordiality, which makes me feel very well on these exceptional days.

Monsoon Wedding Experience in Kerala wallpaper

Day 3

We set off in the morning together to the temple, where already several bridal couples queue with their wedding in a kind of arcade. On a small pedestal, a priest and the couple perform the thalikettu, a ritual of lacing the wedding band. There is a symbolic movement of the fire, a ceremony that takes much more time in northern India and here takes only a few minutes to complete.,

The couple looks very serious and strained, almost a bit scared. I radiate proudly and gracefully in all directions and follow the rituals with devotion. This is followed by a series of other customs, this time in the large wedding hall, in which rows of seats are set up with seats for several hundred people.

The action is now taking place on a stage that is surrounded by thousands of flower garlands and decorated with magnificent images of gods and statues. Very much present is Ganesha. Everything is recorded in the spotlight of several cameras and film cameras. A video drone rushes through the hall to capture the perspective from above.

Gradually, with breaks, different groups of people appear on the stage, as well as the parents and the closer relatives. They show themselves with colorful fans, pouring rice out of sacks. The bride and groom are hanged up with heavy flower garlands and each time looks even more magnificent.

The groom symbolically hands over a sari, and gold chains are exchanged. Everything has symbolic value. The guests enjoy the view in silence or meet for a chat. The whole thing is accompanied by a six-piece orchestra, which playfully plays classical ragas on traditional instruments such as bamboo flute, mridangam, tabla and violin. Every scene that captures the cameras becomes the perfect staging.

My friend inform me that around 500 guests are expected for the main ritual. Suddenly I get the announcement that it is now lunchtime and I am asked to go to a room where several long tables are covered on one side only with fresh banana leaves instead of plates.

On the other hand, waiters with aluminum containers pass by and distribute various dishes on the leaves. There is chutneys with fresh grated coconut, spicy pickles, various tasty vegetable curries, and crunchy pappadums. They are all prepared in coconut oil and with spices such as cardamom, pepper, cinnamon and chili. There is of course, the local rice, which is thicker and rounder than the ever popular and more expensive basmati rice.

There is also the desserts with even sweeter pancakes. Do I enjoy the food? I had imagined a wedding dinner to be a little more comfortable, but the next group of guests is already in front of the door. As soon as we are done with the food, the remains in the banana leaves are rolled up with the paper towels and disposed of.

There is still time to step on the stage and I walk past the tirelessly proud bride and groom and give them good wishes. A new change of clothes is on. This time, the groom will wear a western suit instead of the traditional dhoti and the long silk kurta.

So he will present himself at the evening reception in his parents' house for a smaller family circle and other glossy photos. After a few days, the couple will leave for Dubai for their future together. Just over a week after, the memory of colors, smells, sounds and other sensory impressions of the South Indian wedding remains very lively even after my return.

Journey to New Delhi under the Monsoon

Our first morning in New Delhi! We start with a breakfast on the terrace of the hotel, and we choose the local specialties like the gobi paratha with raita. In short, we had a paratha stuffed with vegetables and tea, while deciding how to organize our day as the monsoon rain continues unabated, which with its rains and breeze was outlined as a kind of liberation! But I was also worried about the consequences of this phenomenon. Indeed, the monsoon at this time is not over yet, and we must face heavy rains and damaged roads.

I hurried down the hotel stairs to the entrance, where the stinking water had collapsed everything, including the reception desk. On the streets, I was surprised, as life went on. We want to start by going to the tourist office and we fall in the first rickshaw scam of the stay. The guy takes us to a fake tourist office. In fact, a travel agency pose as the tourist office to attract more people. There are apparently many like that in town.

After being almost sold out at the Taj Mahal we get rid of our salesman to go to the real tourist office. The guy explain what is really closed and what is really not recommended for tourists.

We begin with a visit to the Qutub Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the tallest Indian minaret (72.5m), whose construction began in the early 12th century. The reason for its construction remains unclear. It was created may be for the celebration of the beginning of the Islamic power or as a simple minaret of the adjoining mosque, the first in India.

Built in red sandstone, the top two floors are of white marble. It is notably decorated with calligraphy verses from the Koran. The site itself has many other monuments of interest. The mosque precisely is surrounded by a magnificent cloister, and a courtyard but also an older mosque, which is in ruins.

The pillar bears, in Sanskrit, the exploits of a king of the 4th century. It resisted 1600 years of atmospheric corrosion despite the Indian monsoon! This is also one of the mysteries of the site. How this pillar, made of very pure iron alloy, has not rusted in 16 centuries. There are many tombs scattered in the park, beautifully carved, from top to bottom, inside and out and also other buildings much more damaged.

Finally we pass in front of one last building. It is, in fact, the base of another minaret that was 2 times larger than the existing one already on the site, that is 140 m! Unfortunately, the king having undertaken this pharaonic project died while the minaret was very far from being finished. His successor later abandoned this too expensive project. So there remains only the remains of this site, a base that measures a few dozen meters high.

We were very pleasantly surprised by this visit. The monuments are of great beauty and beautifully carved, all with finesse. This visit was also an opportunity for us to marvel at all the colors of the feminine outfits. We continued our afternoon to the Lotus Temple. We find a certain resemblance to the Sydney Opera House but this one represents a lotus instead of representing hulls of returned boats. It is one of the main Bahai worship houses, but it is open to people of all faiths.

This religion, hitherto unknown to us, was founded in the 19th century by a Persian dissident of Shiism. They believe in a unique and eternal God, creator of all things. Otherwise, this temple has also received many architectural awards. In the faces of the people, in those first hours of the end of the heat, I noticed a certain satisfaction, a certain well-being, although the monsoon would become harder and harder each day.

This time, Humayun's tomb is on the agenda. Its construction was ordered by the widow of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in 1570, and lasted 8 years. This tomb is inspired by the Persian mausoleums and probably served as a model for the Taj Mahal.

Since its World Heritage status, the site has undergone major restorations. The canals and fountains have been restored and the main monument is magnificent. This visit is not limited to the building itself but was also the occasion of a very pleasant walk in a perfectly maintained garden. Once again, this atmosphere makes us completely forget that we are in the bustling city of northern India!

From the terrace of the monument we admire how carefully these gardens are cared for by gardeners! The design is of Persian style, and was the first of its type, as large, in South Asia. The tomb is surrounded by four square gardens, each again divided into squares.

What is quite magical also with the system of canals and fountains that serve the garden is that it passes in a straight line under the tomb itself! In some places the water comes out through small holes dug about 1 meter high in the facade. As the water comes out through a lot of small holes, it feels like a waterfall! If in addition the small niches dug in the wall, behind the waterfall are adorned with flowers the effect is even more beautiful!

The interior of this mausoleum is much more sober. The centerpiece encloses the Emperor's Tomb, and from there, radiate other, smaller rooms containing tombs of other members of the royal family. Each room opens on the outside by a window in stone laces. The park is also dotted with other smaller tombs, like the one of the Emperor's favorite barber!

After this walk, we decide to visit the neighborhood adjoining the tomb. We engulf ourselves in a labyrinth of streets located not far from the tomb. And here we are in India as we imagine full of smells and colors, narrow streets, a lot of noise and we are dragged to a mosque in the back of a bazaar.

We had to take off our shoes on the way to be able to mingle with the crowd. This visit was interesting but very strange. There are at the same time, people who pray in silence, those who beg, people who look sick, and still others who seem to sing incantations.

We do not linger too much and we come out towards the other more classic lanes where the everyday life of the inhabitants mingle.

Finally, we go to see another Arc de Triomphe but this one is called India Gate. It is also a monument to the dead, in tribute to the Indian soldiers who died during the World War I and the Afghan war of the early 20th century. There is also a flame in honor of the unknown soldier. And then, with the setting sun, we went back to rest before going out to dinner.

Our first dinner is excellent. We have butter naan with vegetables that are served in sauces full of herbs, spices and other condiments. We also have lassi before returning to the hotel. In the evening, heavy showers remind us that the monsoon is not over yet! It seemed to sink the world.

rain wedding pictures pics photo

An Autumn Weekend in Kashmir

Kashmir has been neglected from the major routes of travelers. I planned to visit Srinagar and see the Shalimar Garden in the autumn foliage. The climate of Srinagar at 1700 m is very pleasant at this time. It is one of the main tourist attractions of India, thanks to the floating houses of Dal Lake, the famous Mughal gardens, the historic wooden mosques and the curious tomb of Jesus Christ.

Kashmir autumn wallpaper fall leaves colors

Day 1

A flight takes us to reach the starting point of our journey in Srinagar, the Venice of the East. I wake up slowly when our plane begins its descent on Srinagar, less than an hour after leaving Delhi. The Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas is revealed by the porthole as I open my eyes. The peaks of snow and ice scroll gently.

Everything is calm in the cabin and we hear only the thud of the aircraft. At the same time that I let myself be rocked by this enchantment. I think back to all the difficulties that went with the beauty of these mountains when I was down by bike, on foot or rollerblading in Ladakh, Karakoram or Himachal Pradesh.

I imagine real mountaineers may be at this very moment struggling with these peaks and seeing our plane go so peacefully. The plane lands and this other facet of the decor is revealed. The airport is good for civil flights, but there are mostly military aircraft. A regiment seems to embark on a troop carrier, and a helicopter rolls on the track.

Once out of the airport, it is clear that the army and the police are ubiquitous. Armored vehicles are positioned at many intersections. The military wear helmets and bullet-proof vests. Here there are as many inhabitants as soldiers and for good reason as we are near the border with Pakistan. The line separating the Indian-controlled and Pakistan-controlled areas is not a true border but an old ceasefire line that separates the two parts of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The surprise is the climate, as it is only mid-October but it is 10 degrees during the day. Delhi seems very far away. Women are few and veiled. Some are fully covered by the niqab and we even see a woman wearing the burqa who only had her eyes uncovered. We noticed that men dye their hair and have orange beard, but we do not know why. Many inscriptions are written in Urdu. There are no temples but only mosques.

After a quick taxi ride we are now in Dal Lake at the landing stage of the Sikharas. This type of flat-bottomed boat is essential to any trip in the lakeside part of this city. The British were fond of Kashmir. Thus, they decided to build huge boats called Houseboat and they served as floating palaces. The best and most luxurious are palatial with chandeliers, carved walnut panels and salons typical of the Raj.

After the departure of the English, the local inhabitants converted them into floating hotels. We will spend a night on these boats before we start our trip to Enfield. After sailing 5 minutes by the lake we arrive at the houseboat of the man, who actually has 3, one in which he lives and the others that he rents. One of the peculiarities of the lake are the heart-shaped oars with which the rowers move the shikaras.

We are a few minutes later comfortably settled in our house-boat, sipping tea with cardamom. After lunch, we take a tour in Sikhara and discover the tranquility of the lake. We walk tirelessly through the beautiful Srinagar. Away from Indian cities where disorder and accumulation of garbage prevails in the streets, the city is considerably cleaner.

Moving along the banks of the Jhelum River, which crosses the city in several directions, filling it with bridges and canals, like veins that feed the city, and dye red and orange at sunset, was our favorite pastime. We see a pair of kingfishers diving into the water in search of some fish.

Even though the locals could not believe that we were going to walk up, we went down the steep path that led to a Shiva temple located on top of a hill, from where we got a beautiful 360 degree view of Srinagar.

It is a view so surprising that it made it worth the ascent even though the temple itself did not call attention at all. At 4 we go to the pier and soon a shikara arrives that takes us back to the house boat. Back in the houseboat, we chatted and dined with the mother and daughter. The first one did not stop offering us her works in fabrics and carpets with silk and cashmere wool and cashmere pashminas for us to buy. The style is that of the Persian carpets and the touch was very good.

The second was only interested in our lives. She was lucky, as her parents let her choose what she was going to study, and maybe even her husband. When the mother understood that we are not going to buy anything, her interest for us almost disappeared. One of the greatest truths of travel is that everyone chooses the people around them. There are no impositions of society. There is no university class with people who cannot stand it. There is no work in an office surrounded by unbearable people.

When we travel, if we do not like the people that we have nearby, we simply follow our path. The owner takes us back to the land for dinner. We had dinner at a typical Kashmiri restaurant with rice, vegetables and lamb rogan josh. The owner picks us up in half an hour. After a while, the owner came with a hookah as he had promised and we smoke.

Our lodging, always surrounded by water, moved away from the noise of the main street of the city and gave a silence and a peace to the place that always makes us feel well.

Kashmir autumn wallpaper fall leaves colors

Day 2

In the morning we get up early to see the floating market. The first night in our house boat has been good. The only thing that the rooster of our neighbors has given us good morning too soon for our taste. Apart from that the truth is that we have not got up early. Our breakfast consisted of boiled eggs and Kashmiri bread which is very thin bread toasted and with butter on top.

It has not yet dawned and the tranquility in the lake is total. It is necessary to arrive there early to be able to benefit from the atmosphere without other tourists! Flat boats, loaded with vegetables move in a curious carousel, each selling or exchanging other products.

Our Sikhara pilot explains that all the merchants here, then resell what they buy here in various shops in the city. We then plan to visit a national park located about twenty kms away. We see a beautiful preserved nature and some black bears from the Himalayas but not much else! After a stroll in the national park we get back on the Dal Lake.

During the tour in Sikhara in the canals, we discover the life of these people who live on the water. It is only in the afternoon that we finally take possession of our Enfield 500. We take a little ride in the saddle, to get used to the local driving. We reach the Pir Dastgeer Sahib, an extravagant Sufi sanctuary in green and white, with a tower topped by a needle and the outside covered by wooden filigree.

Inside, the floor was full of carpets and there were men on their knees praying. From here we continue walking along a narrow street until we reach the Rozabal, a place we were very curious to see. Our curiosity about this place is because there is a very controversial theory according to which the crypt of the sanctuary houses the tomb of Jesus Christ.

Supposedly, there is a sarcophagus in which some feet with the half-moon marks of the crucifixion were engraved. The sepulchral chamber is hidden under a black canopy with sequins. There is a sign that says it is strictly prohibited to take photos. We can only look through a small window to see the sarcophagus.

When we arrived there was a Muslim woman looking out the window and praying because for the Muslims, Jesus was a prophet and they present him in the Qur'an. We have read in some places that the Catholic Church is totally against this theory and does not want it to be disseminated. We have looked out and seen the sarcophagus. If you are more interested in this topic there are several books that talk about it.

We went through a site that was placing a lot of Christmas ribbons and of course, we asked and guess what, they were preparing a wedding. The guy who organized it told us that it started around 5 in the afternoon and that we could see it. We say goodbye to him with an almost sure see you this afternoon. We follow our path to the next mosque and we see a very old building, and think that it was the mosque for inside.

A man told us to enter without problems, but while we were watching we realized that it was not a mosque but a private house. The family was great, as the daughter insisted that we stay to eat, but since it was early we thank them and apologized for entering their house. They were very happy to receive a visit. We went our way and we reached the Khanqah Mosque of Shah-i-Hamadan.

It is the most beautiful historic building in Srinagar built in the 1730s. It is characterized by the needle that crowns it. The facade and the interior are covered by carved and colorful wood, very elaborate, and reliefs on mache paper. Visitors who are not Muslim can take a look through the door but not enter.

The interior was quite cool and outside there was also an enclosure for Muslim women to pray, since women are prohibited from entering inside. I take pictures for a while and a very nice guy explain to us that it is the largest Sufi Mosque and the only one in Kashmir. It was founded by Muslims from Persia.

We have gone for a walk with the guide to get lost in the center and we have walked without control, moving away more and more. This has allowed us to walk through streets with super nice buildings. At the entrance to the center there was a lot of police and military presence but in the rest almost nothing.

We have been observing different aspects of daily life, of butchers with the pieces of meat hanging in the sun and many Asian wasps. We have finally seen them. We see a store of wedding dresses,and many shoe stores. In this area there are almost no places to eat, but only street stalls.

After a while we took the guide and wandered to our next destination, the Shalimar Bagh. Mughal Gardens, or Nishat Bagh is a magnificent Park built in the sixteenth century by a Mughal emperor. We continue through the beautiful expanse of grass, flowers and gigantic chinar trees with orange leaves, all in a stepped succession overlooking the lake, and crossed by an impressive water structure.

While sitting on the grass, an old man approached us and sat down to chat with us. He turned out to be the gardener and told us the story of the gardens, which was almost 400 years old, that was the age of the trees that gave such a generous shade. He had been working there for 40 years, taking care of the plants.

The pride that the man felt for his work gave us an instant affection for the place to which he put so much effort to maintain. We go to see another garden, the botanical garden at Cheshmashahi.

The last place we visited was the most important mosque in Srinagar. The Jama Masjid is built of wood, carpeted, the columns ascend until they are lost in the impressive height of the ceiling. The several hundred years of its construction have not taken away its beauty.

The columns that support the roof say they were made from a single cedar from the Himalayas. The mosque is as closed in a square surrounded by houses and with arches, all around is a market and several shops. A square water fountain is located in the center of the courtyard. Three quarters of the complex is dedicated to men and women pray in the remaining part. The mosque is full of faithful. Some read the sacred books, others engage in debates, while many sleep and many more sit in contemplative silence.

After touring the market, clothes and utensils we find the main door. It has 4 huge doors, one in each cardinal point, it is free and we have to pay 10 rupees for the camera. Giant wooden columns hold a ceiling with some reliefs. All full of equal carpets that gives the feeling of being one. It is huge, and in the center a large patio with a fountain in the middle. We walked through it without problems.

I advance as usual in this kind of places, in an almost exaggerated reverential state, walking without making a noise, trying not to disturb the peace of any of the faithful, trying to pass unnoticed. Of course the latter is not always easy for me being the only outsider in the entire mosque. A group of men invited us to sit with them and there we went, because we have not stopped for more than 4 hours.

They told us about Islam, and they told us about Kashmir. Srinagar was a look at a complicated reality, a people that in adversity is united by their traditions and their hospitality. The sun set over Dal Lake dyeing everything in orange, bringing beauty to a city that lives its days always in tension, waiting to be interrupted again the fragile peace that they enjoy and they so long to keep.

It was 4 in the afternoon, and we look for a place to eat something. As we do not find any restaurant, we stand in front of a food stall to eat street food. We asked for a kind of dumplings and the gentleman from the very friendly booth invited us to enter and that behind the curtain was a couple of tables with chairs.

So we eat a couple of samosas. After this we asked for pakoda, which was stuffed with onion. From here with a new bottle of water we went to a Sikh temple marked in the guide, passing to reach the city walls, to the sanctuary of Makhdoom Sahib and the ruins of a mosque. A little further up the mountain is the Hari Parbat.

We go through a door in the wall and in front of us we have the Sikh temple. Strolling we arrived after 20 minutes to the place of the wedding. Upon arriving at once we see the guy we had talked with in the morning and tells us to go inside. We get through the door of a very old house and climb a wooden staircase to the top floor.

We see many women sitting on the floor and at the back of the room are women and a boy with a video camera. We take off our shoes and when we enter we are the center of attention. Many women were singing and do not stop doing it. Going down the stairs followed the greetings and questions of where we were from.

The next place they take us is where they are making food. Several containers are placed on the fire with biryani, pulao, rice, kabab, ribs of lamb and a kind of meatballs. An older man explains everything we are seeing. From here we go to the place where they are eating. There are only men and the funny thing is that they eat on the floor in groups of 4 and put a tray with everything said above and eat everything with their hands.

When one group ends, another one sits down and so on until the whole male world eats. Women eat but at different times. It is a Muslim wedding typical of Kashmir. Everyone insists that we sit down to eat but we tell them that we have just done it and that we are not hungry. In the end they give a little dum aloo for us to taste, which we do with pleasure.

Once satisfied our curiosity and a thousand thanks to everyone for the moment we left there and we slowly return to the shikara and went to the house boat. After the shower we get inside the lounge. In short, it was an intense and interesting day after everything we have seen and experienced. And as we could not miss on a trip of ours, we have witnessed a wedding.

Kashmir autumn wallpaper fall leaves colors

Day 3

The alarm clock sounds at 6:00 am, with sleep in the eyes and the already blunted sun. Yesterday we slept with the chants from all the mosques through the speakers. We closed the backpacks, taking care not to leave anything. Downstairs the door was closed and we have to wake up some guys who were sleeping at the reception.

After an excellent breakfast finally around 8 am we set course to the parking of motorcycles in a small shikara with everything. It will take half an hour to prepare for this first stage of 210 km that will lead us to Kargil. While we were waiting to leave, a shikara came with tourists who had just landed in Srinagar from Amritsar.

We first go along Dal Lake for a little while then we arrive in a large valley that we will go back to Sonamarg. Leaving Srinagar, the traffic is sometimes chaotic. We then follow beautiful, and completely fluid sections. In fact, the road from Srinagar to Leh is a kind of highway between the Chinese border and western Kashmir. It is precisely on this road to Leh through the National Highway 1, that we are heading towards Gagangir.

I was looking forward to this moment because I read a lot of stories about bikers. The famous road goes up the river Indus. Our first destination is 80 km away, but it takes three hours to drive to Gagangir. This is where the road ends between 6 and 8 months a year because of the snow.

At 9 o'clock we stopped for breakfast in Sonamarg. In Sonamarg, the atmosphere becomes frankly alpine with high glacial peaks in sight, and pine forests. In this city is where the most famous ski resort in India is located. After taking some photos, I see the people here have other different features. While we were coming, we had the feeling of being in Afghanistan, and the traits of the shepherds are the same.

Portraits of Khomeini are everywhere, attesting that the place is inhabited by a fairly fanatical slice of population. After 10 minutes of stop we continue on our way. The valleys that start to open huge and beautiful. We ascend a port that is scary. We started to see some mountains with small glaciers. Suddenly, in a curve where there is a large esplanade, the military stops us and stops the vehicles that come behind us.

After asking, the driver tells us that a military convoy is going to pass, and that the military always has priority. We got off and take some photos. In total more than 120 would pass. The views of the surroundings are beautiful. There is a man who looks like a total Afghan.

Once the convoy passed we continue the ascent through a narrow road, without protections of any kind and with a lot of earth. The best thing about the stop was that we are the first ones so we do not have to go ahead. The views are very nice, and it's worth it.

We finished the ascent and arrived at Zoji La at 3,529 meters. We begin the descent towards spectacular valleys with high vertical walls. The landscape changes and it becomes a little more arid. We see tents of shepherds, and many of them with their flocks of goats on the road.

We crossed Dras, which has become famous because meteorologists here recorded an unusual temperature of 60 degrees below zero, and since then it has been touted as the second coldest place in the world after Oymyakon in Russia. At 1:00 pm we cross Kargil. We do not like much of what little we see. We count this because there is the option to spend the night here for starting the trip to Leh. It's not worth it.

From here, the landscape becomes increasingly arid. We have to go slowly behind a military convoy. From time to time we still see some snow at the top of some peak. At 3:00 pm we stop to eat at Chamba. As we had bought bread the day before, we made ourselves a ​​sandwich. We bought something to drink.

Here is a Buddhist temple and we went to see it. It is a small shrine wrapped in a rock tooth in which there is carved an immense relief of 8 meters of the Maitreya Buddha that is 1000 years old. It costs 10 rupees to enter. While we are eating, the military convoy passes by near Mulbekh.

We continue our way through an increasingly arid landscape. We started to climb a port, this time almost all the time there is asphalt. We climbed and climbed curve after curve until reaching 3,760 meters from Namika La. Here we stop a second to take some pictures and without problems.

We again descend into the valley. Every time there is less asphalt and more land. The landscape is of sandstone mountains and little by little the road is being eaten, because the landslides are very easy to produce because they are such a soft material.

Virtually no town we pass through is asphalted. The bridges are all made of iron from the British period and then they have continued to build in that style. There is so much dust in the environment that we eat everything. From Kargil the style of the towns is more Tibetan, with the houses, the monasteries, the people.

We started to climb another port, the Fotu La 4,147 meters. We have to stop a couple of times as a machine is cleaning landslides. Already in the descent we arrive at a new traffic jam and it is that a convoy is coming and as always they have them the priority. This time the site is quite dangerous because they are curved and with a tremendous vacuum.

At 6:00 p.m. we make a brief stop. I take some pictures of the people in the market. Soon after we arrived at Lamayuru, important town for its monastery. The road is cut and we are diverted by another alternative route and with a port of infarction, I think the worst of all day. The dust that we swallow is infinite. The descent has some infarct curves but at the same time exciting.

In one of them a bus goes up. In fact we have to stop a few seconds because we see nothing. Soon after the asphalt starts and the road becomes easier. In one of them there is a tube with a large jet of water and we clean ourselves a bit.

We started to go to the side of the Indus River, the one that we have all studied in the books. Here it is still not too big although we can tell it is a great river. At about 7:30 pm we take the road that comes from Lamayuru and in half an hour we arrive at Leh, after 13 hours.

Leh is 3,520 meters above sea level in the Indus River valley. According to the Lonely Planet, there are few places in India so pleasant for travelers and, at the same time, so little boisterous. It is surrounded by mountains.

At the entrance we leave the strip and the couple asks us if we have a guest house. It's on Changspa Road. It's completely dark. It is a narrow street and we are seeing different guest houses. We also see a lot of tourists. When we arrive we ask for the price of the rooms and they tell us that they have few and they do not have internet. We decided not to stay.

After going down the street we do not see any. Wou get to the center. There are shops, restaurants, exchange offices, cyber cafes and travel agencies. In the end we stayed at a guest house that has wifi. The room is very shabby. Without knowing very well where to go, it is time to take a shower and have something as we are very hungry.

We are going to have dinner. It is full of foreigners and is a patio with flowers and outdoors full of tables. There is a large group that has a small party, who light a fire in the middle. We want something different and ask for a couple of fried eggs and a cream of mushrooms, and a fried rice with vegetables. After dinner we take a small tour but it seems that this city at 22:30 hours goes to sleep. It seems a cool place with a good atmosphere. Tomorrow we will start enjoying the place.

Kashmir autumn wallpaper fall leaves colors

Impressions and Flavors of Calcutta during Mahalaya and Durga Puja

I have rented a cheap apartment in a popular neighborhood for a few days that gives a false but very pleasant feeling of permanence and belonging. At dawn the sky of Calcutta turns lilac, and the hymns of Mahishasura Mardini by Birendra Krishna Bhadra echoes through its streets as today is Mahalaya. I move by the pandals under construction as Durga Puja is nearing.

The streets of the capital of West Bengal are empty in the midst of the blue darkness of Park Circus. I look at them while I smoke a bidi, the cheap and aromatic Indian cigarette wrapped in a dry leaf with a bow. For the outsider, two sobriquets hang over Calcutta as the City of Joy and the second is the definition of Calcutta as the most European city in India. Neither of them seem right to me, and they are only half-truths. I'm not sure if that book has hurt our city's imaginary, but for years it has acted as a filter for those who wanted to travel here.

It's a shame for me, because Calcutta has a thousand faces, dozens of neighborhoods and millions of nuances. Without them, with only a partial vision of the city, we all lose. The second wisdom is that almost everyone says it is the most westernized city in India. So many travelers, in search of essence and exoticism choose to skip it, which is a mistake and an unfortunate loss. Probably whoever pronounces the city like that has not left its center.

It is true that Park Street and the tourist precinct of Sudder Street can give that impression. But it is enough to get lost elsewhere to realize on many occasions that Calcutta is India raised to the nth degree. I follow the metro network and moved to Chandni Chowk market.

Walking through randomly chosen neighborhoods I went near the babughat and all the streets that surround around the Hooghly River. The Bengalis performed a religious ritual on the waters of the Hooghly river to invoke the spirits of the ancestors.

I move across and see the train stations, or even the big and old buildings that are between Fairly Ghat and Chowringhee, do not deceive anyone. The subcontinent has bathed them, taken them and made them their own. So much so that a traveler not accustomed to a crazy and accelerated rhythm, will need to know where they are and find, certain oases of peace.

It also do not correspond to the preconceived idea of the city where you can rest the five senses before submerging again in the most absolute and crazy frenzy. Calcutta has something that overwhelms even the most experienced travelers. Calcutta is a wonderful tsunami because it manages to astonish even the fool who thinks that he saw everything and that something very special is needed to be amazed.

Calcutta has that something, capable of throwing you in a championship pulse. It is a megacity in no case homogeneous. Just cross a street and everything changes and the new neighborhood does not look anything like the previous one. Calcutta concentrates the most modern and oldest India. I move through giant trees with climbing vines shade corners of classic colonial buildings eaten by mold and the passage of monsoons.

An amalgam of them gives Calcutta the charm of the great but forgotten, the magnificence and the lordship of those cities that still maintains its cafes of the 50s as in the 50s, without having sought it on purpose but through the mere survival.

Chipped facades serve as a background to cycle rickshaw with upholstery. The urban squirrels are fed by the inhabitants that every day put in them some food for the lucky rodent. The streets are taken by squads of yellow taxis and crowded blue buses that shout their fate while continuing to blow their horn. Thousands of horn blow at the same time, while the pedestrians survive as they can to an even more ruthless driving than in the rest of the country.

It is possible to be shipwrecked in the most indescribable and variegated market of what the mind never dared to dream. Here a gigantic jam of hand-pulled rickshaws awaits while the ones behind me want to get ahead. The dangers come from any side, especially from the porters who want to overtake me and who shout for it. Some lambs are tied to the wooden leg of the table in which someone makes tea next to their sleeping partner.

It is when things lose their perspective, and there is no longer the before and the after, but the whole is mixed. I always want to return to Calcutta. I want the city to take me from the front and with my free hand I would slap me as only she would know how to do it. I think all travelers have some masochists. Nothing else. Another dream fulfilled. Another reality even better than a dream. Another place to return to, with the fear of not being so happy.

I go to the artists' neighborhood of Kumartuli where the artists work in small workshops and with all kinds of materials. At Mahalaya I observe the large Durga statues. On this day, sculptors draw the eyes on the figures, in an important ritual called Chokkhu Daan.

A maze of alleys teem with sculpture workshops. Dozens of families of craftsmen work tirelessly as they give life to thousands of statues of Durga, Lakshmi, Ganesh and Kartik as they receive more and more orders from other countries like England, Australia, Canada.

Walking around Calcutta, even getting around helped by the metro or the tram, requires good physical condition. Each day the traveler will end up exhausted, and it is not due only to the distances of this colossal city, but rather to its impetus.

The hustle added to the overpopulation and the tremendous sound of its streets make every day a marathon gymkhana difficult to imagine for all those who do not know it. The traveler will gasp, like a fish out of water, being almost necessary to take breaks and breaks so that body and spirit can digest such amount of stimuli.

Calcutta is a centrifuge. If I was carried away by my enthusiasm I would say that one of the places that impressed me most was BBD Bagh, the center of all this amalgam. It is a neighborhood without equal on the whole planet and one of the few remaining large colonial city centers in South Asia. It is unique in India because much of its peripheral environment remains intact. I pass through old buildings, exuberant markets, and business houses. It is one of those sites that makes the writer exaggerated and above leaves with the feeling of falling short.

What I want to make clear is that BBD Bagh is an absolutely spectacular district. Passing poetic licenses, I would know very badly to go to the other neighborhood without having seen this one. The Writers Building is still the seat of the government of Bengal and is battered and covered by police vans. I tried to enter but it was in vain. So I asked a policeman if I could take pictures of the building and he answered that only one.

As my stomach starts signalling I order tandoori roti and aloo dum in a dark and languid restaurant that remains the same as in the 50s. The contrast between Sunday and the rest of the days of the week in central neighborhoods like BBD Ghat is incredible. A neutron bomb effect that makes the air clearer and I can see better the Calcutta of a century ago by which it is noticeable that time passed. How to return to an abandoned and crystallized city in a single moment. All the character of British colonialism rejuvenated after a hundred monsoons. The elegant decadence of an old world.

The red sandstone buildings of the days of the British Raj look like old fossils but are still alive today. Of all the buildings, chance leads me to choose my favorite, the Chartered Bank Building, which fascinates me from the moment I see it. It is a building built in 1908. Today it is still open with some of its plants in operation although with an air of pure decline. Outside, the plants have taken root in the cracks of the upper floors. The interiors covered in dust can be seen through the cracked glass on the ground floor.

I pass by the doorman and climb the stairs until I meet some employees who tell me that I can visit wherever I want. They do not stop repeating the same word, the name of the most famous actor and presenter of India. At some point in the 1960s, the British firm hired a tall young man named Amitabh Bachchan to work at his NS Road office. No one knew then that he would become a superstar of Bollywood

So, with his name as a flag, I go through the different plants and I manage to strain in the offices of Bird and Co. They even show us the abandoned part of the building. Anachronistic offices, like a setting from the past, but with some quiet workers, make it easy to imagine how things would be fifty years ago.

I get tired of walking through the mullickbazar flower market, the market with the most visual impact in my life. I managed to survive the Lalbazar and the markets, where I never had so much risk of being run over in a pedestrian area by other people. Now I need to rest and in Calcutta does not exist too many oases of tranquility.

In BBD Bagh I find the Lal Dighi, a pond of emerald waters just opposite the Writers building, a place where I relax and unwind from total madness. Lal Dighi is a body of water in the middle of BBD Bagh, formerly known as Tank Square or Dalhousie Square. It was there before the British and before Calcutta itself. In medieval times the jungles surrounded it, right where it is now the busiest area of ​​Calcutta.

At that time no one drank water from this tank, but sometimes released fishing lines in the afternoons or swimming competitions. Then it was cleaned and for a long time it was the main drinking water source of the city, at least for the foreign community. The water in the tank was protected for possible use in the event of a sudden fire somewhere. The natives were forbidden to go there.

I also want to throw the rod, but I want to fish something else. I also await the sunset, which in this corner of Calcutta is almost sweet and peaceful. I say almost because at the back the city keeps bellowing, in its fury of almost eternal beeps. I also say almost because in the light of that dying day, the brown eyes still look more beautiful in its whiteness, like a kashmiri princess. So I am looking for a bench in a park that is more or less hidden from prying eyes where we can seal our phlegmatic love. We are young Indians of uncontrollable impulse.

It was still raining, but since our arrival, the rain has stopped. Would the monsoon be lenient to us? Let's hope so, because the Navratri festivities begin tonight. This is the time of the Durga Pooja and not the monsoon. We were able to go to discover the preparations on a place of festivities. It has been more than a month since the craftsmen should have worked on the installation of the site, but heavy rains prevented them and everything is done in a hurry.

The red polystyrene pandal in which the goddess resides is almost ready. All that remains is the doors to be painted and set up, and the offerings are prepared in front of the altar. It would be an exaggeration to pretend that the activity is frenetic. I extinguish my ardor in a huge jug of beer, without success. Unique, beautiful, unusual, warm, fascinating, intriguing, scary, strange. Here are some examples of qualifiers that travelers use to describe Calcutta. It is impossible to put everyone in agreement so much the megalopolis of Bengal causes different emotions.