global travel shot: lonar crater, a meteorite’s shot at earth

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“That’s where the meteorite came hurtling from,” my guide Mahesh points towards the Gomukh Temple perched on a slight dent in the rim.

“When was this?” I ask, breathless, as I slip over rubble and step gingerly down boulders, trying hard to look where he is pointing to and not go tumbling down in the process.

“Some say 52,000 years ago, some say 570,000 years ago.”

An hour later, we are standing inside the crater, 137 metres below ground level. Basalt cliffs rise around us at an angle of 75 degrees in an oval rim. The 1.2-kilometre-wide cavity is filled with a lake, both saline and alkaline at the same time, with a unique ecosystem that has been the subject of much scientific study. I need to walk carefully by the edges of the green water—every now and then I catch my feet getting sucked in by the salt and soda-packed earth.

It is hot. Very hot, and still. The rim acts as a barrier to any form of a breeze from entering the enclosed area. Add to it the fact that the ground here is closer to the earth’s volcanic centre.

According to science, Lonar Crater, also known as Lonar Lake in the Indian state of Maharashtra, is the only known hyper-velocity impact crater in basaltic rock created by a meteor on our earth. As per Hindu legend, Lonar is a sacred site with mentions in the ancient scriptures. An evil giant by the name of Lonasur once lived inside this crater. He was destroyed by the god, Vishnu, and the 1,000-year-old Daitya Sudan Temple in Lonar Town celebrates this victory. Temples dedicated to various other deities, meanwhile, pepper the rim, slopes, and basin.

Going up turns out to be much tougher than coming down. The only respite is the charming ruins of these ancient temples en-route, snuggled deep in the thick forest cover. And lazy conversations with the local caretakers, filled with narratives where the lines dividing scientific fact and mythical legend are deliciously blurred. 🙂

global travel shot: nalanda, the world’s first residential international university

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When writing the title of this post, I found myself in a bit of a quandary. Should I call it a global travel shot or an Indian travel shot? The former won.

The above image is of the red brick ruins of the world’s first residential international university—Nalanda Mahavihara—built in the Indian state of Bihar in the 5th Century AD. To be more specific, it is an image of the stupa marking the nirvana of Sariputra, Buddha’s famed disciple, within the university. A Sanskrit name, Nalanda means giver of lotus stalks; mahavihara translates to great monastery.

For 800 years, Nalanda, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracted the brightest brains from all over the ancient world, from as far afield as Central Asia, China, and Korea. Hungry for knowledge, these scholars flocked to Nalanda’s doors to be met by a rigorous oral examination by its gatekeepers. Only those who passed were allowed to study inside the coveted walls. Many were turned away. Continue reading

global travel shot: uninterrupted storytelling in djemaa el-fna

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Welcome to my blog post series on Morocco. 🙂

I was travelling through Morocco these past three weeks. Exploring its four Imperial cities, camping under the stars in the Sahara Desert, hiking through the Todra Gorge, soaking in the sun, sand and sea in Essaouira, and falling in love with pearl-blue Chefchaouen.

What better way could there be to kick-start my series than by writing a post on Morocco’s most popular city’s most famous site: Djemaa el-Fna. Continue reading

india travel shot: hari ki dwar – doorway to god – haridwar

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How and why does one small patch of river and land spanning a mere few hundred metres become the holiest site in all of the country? The answer—faith. What else can explain the millions of Hindus from across the country who make the coveted pilgrimage to the brown placid waters of the River Ganges washing 2,100-year-old steps in a pilgrimage town nestled in the plains of Uttarakhand. Day and night. Hail or rain. Year after year. For thousands of years. Continue reading

india travel shot: pithora painting, the art of ritual in tribal madhya pradesh

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I came across this fantastical painting in the Tribal Museum at Bhopal. It would be easy to mistake it for art. But it is not. It is instead a ritual practiced by the Rathva Adivasis in Madhya Pradesh. Continue reading

india travel shot: breakfast in agra be like this

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I just had to do a separate post for the above picture. This was one of the highlights of my recent Agra trip.

Clear blue skies. The Taj Mahal a stone’s throw away [100 metres]. A full breakfast spread at Rs. 200. Can travel get any better?

There are lots of viewing points for the majestic Taj Mahal in Agra, with the most common and popular being the view from Mehtab Bagh across the Yamuna river. But the one that takes the cake, or should I say breakfast in this case, is that from the rooftop restaurant of Hotel Saniya Palace. I’d read about Saniya on the net. The reviews which rave about the view, I assure you, are spot on! Tucking into a cheese omelette was never more delectable in my life. Thought I’d share the place with you. 🙂

How to get there: Exit the Taj Mahal complex from the south gate. Walk straight. Turn left at the T-point, and again left into a small, narrow lane. The hotel is seedy. But the restaurant on its rooftop … an absolute gem.