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27 December 2014

And they ran! Kambala.

Kambala is a traditional rural buffalo race held in a slushy mud field. Buffalo owners from all over undivided South Canara participate with their well groomed and fed buffaloes, specially looked after the entire year for just this season. This year I took time out to attend one such Kambala held near my village in Mulki on Christmas Day.

[The previous post was regarding the protest march that took place in Mangalore against the Honorable SC order. You can read about it here. Well, things began to look hopeful after that, with lots of petitions etc., and finally the ban was revoked. However certain riders were released so as to ensure the buffaloes are not subjected to cruelty, and I did observe ample care and steps taken to follow the same.]

Mulki Seeme Arasu Kambala (Arasa = King) has been held since a very long time (no one exactly knows when; the history spans hundreds of years according to an old man there), in a field just off the highway, NH-17. I reach quite early. The atmosphere is infectiously festive. People are just arriving with their buffaloes, who look quite handsome. There are various headgears which they wear, along with Kumkum smeared on their foreheads.

As I approach the actual venue, people around are setting up tents for the event that runs till early morning next day, people have already begun cooking for the day. Lots of stalls are being set up. When Dad was a kid, he says most stalls sold mithai (= sugar sweets). Now you can have the ubiquitous Gobi Manchurian, that too Mysore style or Bombay style!

People arrive with their buffaloes

03 December 2014

Buffaloes in the city!

Kambala is a traditional annual rural event of undivided Tulunadu. It is generally conducted in the months of December-January. On this day, well-groomed, well-fed and well-nourished he-buffaloes run a race in a slushy field, along with a keeper. Around 50 Kambalas are held every year across South Canara, and the preparations for the same last almost throughout the year.

The Kambala buffaloes are carefully looked after by the farmers who own them, almost like their own children. It is rumoured some of them even have air-conditioned sheds for the star buffaloes. On the Kambala day, the buffaloes are decorated colorfully, and the entire village assembles to watch the show. Some of them also have religious affiliations; a famous Kambala held every year in Mangalore is Kadri Kambala (also referred to as Devara Kambala, Devaru=God), affilitaed to the Sri Manjunatha Temple, Kadri.

Of late though, animal rights activists have raised their voices regarding the supposed animal cruelty that happens during the event. Well, no one would support animal cruelty in any form. But then, if there are real concerns regarding the same, a logical approach would first be to ban slaughter houses, not only of cows and buffaloes, but of all animals! It is often mistaken to be identical to Jallikattu (another event with buffaloes held in TN), but it is not.

A protest regarding the ban was held by the farmers and Kambala supporters in Mangalore, and I happened to be there at the venue. It was a colorful procession, wherein over 180 pairs of buffaloes took part, and a petition to revoke the ban was submitted to the District Commisioner. It was quite a sight to behold; to see buffaloes walking on the main streets of Mangalore, with their owners continuously sprinkling water and feeding them to ensure their comfort, and posing for the cameras too!

Sharing here are a few pictures from the procession...

19 November 2014

Fountainhas, the Jewel of Panaji!

Fountainhas is a quaint little part of the capital city of Goa, Panaji. When you cross the Old Patto Bridge over the Ourem Creek and enter this part of town, you suddenly feel as though you've time-travelled into Goa's Portuguese past. 

06 November 2014

Magical Mysore

The city of Mysore (Mysuru will still take some time to sink in, or it probably never will, just like Mumbai never did), is a heritage city, perfect for a weekend getaway. It has places to visit/things to do that will cater to different tastes. It can be a fantastic base point for daytrips to various points of interest around such as Shivanasamudra waterfalls, Somnathpur, Talakadu, Melkote, Bylakuppe to name a few. 

22 October 2014

A Day at the Zoo!

Mysore zoo, to be precise, Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, is one spot almost everyone in Karnataka would have visited as a kid. However, to some of us, this place continues to beckon well past childhood. It is one of the oldest zoos in the country, established in 1892 by His Highness, Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar.

12 October 2014

Chauti (Ganesh Chaturti)

Chauti time is always a lot of fun. It's been one of my favorite festivals celebrated. 
Come Chauti, the whole city wears a festive look. This year, I took time out to visit the Central Market, to catch the early morning rush.

The famous Mangaluru Mallige variety of jasmine; that sells anywhere between Rs. 800-1200 on such occasions.

04 October 2014

Rishikesh - A Spiritual Haven

Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh is a charming place that will surely make you go back again. Considered the birthplace of Yoga, there are numerous ashrams here to get away from the daily routine and unwind, and one such beautifully located ashram is Parmarth Niketan. Apart from teaching yoga, the ashram activities include cleaning the Ganga, spreading awareness about the Ganga, education of the poor, and more recently, the wonderful rehabilitation activities being undertaken after last year's tragedy.

I had the opportunity to attend the evening Ganga Aarti here, which is a stark contrast from the noisy chaotic one at Har-ki-Pauri at Hardwar. (No, I'm not trying to compare the two, 'cos each one has it's own flavor) Nevertheless, the discipline, the civic sense etc. among the residents of the ashram did leave me astounded.

The water (of the Ganges) here is quite clean, against the general notion on how polluted the river is. 

21 September 2014

A Walk through Mussoorie

A spare day in Dehradun last year was the perfect chance to visit Mussoorie, one of the places I'd always wanted to go to. Though this was an extremely rushed visit (we had just about 6 hours to spend in this pretty place that deserved many more days), tried to make most of the time.

The drive from Dehradun uphill was a very pleasant one, through the valley. Our cabbie was an old man, with an experience of driving through the length and breadth of the country. Listening to his various tales was wonderful, as was driving up those beautiful winding roads typical of any hill station.

01 August 2014

Chinar Tales.

اگر بهشت ​​بر روی زمین وجود دارد و

این است که این است آن این است

[ Agar Firdaus bar rooe zamin ast
hameen ast-o, hameen ast-o, hameen ast ]
Any write-up on Kashmir would rightly begin with the above couplet that the Persian poet Amir Khusrau said (alternative version says the Mughal emperor Jehangir said this) when he set his eyes on this beautiful land, meaning ‘If there is paradise on earth, it is this it is this it is this’.
At the risk of sounding clichéd and repetitive if not superfluous, here are 13 things you cannot miss on your first visit to Kashmir.

1. Fresh Air! The crisp mountain air can be so strong at times; it can be quite overwhelming for our lungs accustomed to various degrees of pollution.
Mist laden air
Drive through steep valleys with breathtaking views.
Tiny white flowers spread across
2. Drift through the clouds! Take a Gondola ride about 14000 feet high! Watch the hills disappear into the clouds.
Steep climb up on a Gondola.
A momentary glimpse of the blue skies..
3. Shikara ride : Spend a few hours in a Shikara. Watch people from the village across the Dal Lake go about their routine life in their boats, oblivious to the meandering tourists – be it buying meat or selling groceries or going to school. 
The vast expanse of the Dal Lake dotted with colorful Shikaras
Shikaras lined up along the ghats.

Fruit vendor passing by..

Sun peering in through the clouds
The hill atop which is located the Shankaracharya temple.
4. Go to a dry fruit store; simply soak in the aroma of various spices. 
Zaffran, anyone?

5. Horse around! Make sure you hire a horse at least at one of the places you visit! It can be quite adventurous at times, when you’ll see little rocks slipping from underneath the hooves. 

A horsekeeper, wearing the traditional Pheran

   6. Maggi ! Appreciate the importance of Maggi, which might be the only thing you get in the hills.

7. Talk to the local people- they are always ready to help; especially the kids – watch them giggle as you try to talk in Kashmiri; but don’t be surprised when the kids demand their ‘bakshis’ from you, and yeah, one or two might even ask you “India se aaye ho?”. That did leave me a little shaken.
The li'l girl who wanted her picture clicked..

"Aap India se aaye ho?"

     8. Go for random walks in Srinagar city; the days are pretty long in the summers. I missed the hub of Lal Chowk, thanks to a Bandh call given on the very same day that I’d planned to go. 
A beautiful evening by the Jhelum.
Chinar trees; you'll find them everywhere.
Srinagar city..

Could never get enough of this particular view..
Sharika Bhawani temple, Hari Parbat, on the outskirts of Srinagar city; considered one of the holiest places by the displaced Kashmiri Pandit community

     9. Taste the crystal ice cold water from the mountain springs.

     10. Local cuisine: Make sure you taste the Kashmiri Wazwan, the Kahwa, and of course the wide variety of cookies and confectionery! However, to each his own, and it varies from person to person on how you’ll enjoy the food. (Click here to read more on Wazwan)
Kashmiri Wazwan: Rista, Gushtaba, Sheek kabab, Tabak Maz, Dhania Qurma, Mirchi Qurma etc served with piping hot steamed rice. Many of these are cooked for hours together for that special flavor.
Kahwa, with saffron, almonds and elaichi
Yummy walnut cookies..
     11. Shop till you drop! Including from the floating markets on the lake. 

Earrings with Jali work and Papier mache work

   12. Drive past the rolling hills and valleys and streams and glaciers! And don't forget to stop at such picturesque locations.
Paddy fields along the roads

    13. Finally, try recalling all the colors you know, but that may not be enough, as there are simply too many! 

     (Note: Close-up pictures of the locals/individuals have been clicked with their permission. This is purely from a traveler's point of view; any errors-politically incorrect or not are purely unintended!)

     Edit: 30 Sept 2014.
    It is heart-rending to read about how badly the entire city has been affected by the recent floods.
    The area where we stayed, Rajbagh has been one of the worst affected. The calm waters of the
   Jhelum which I adored so much, were capable of causing such destruction, I never even imagined!
   A sincere request to all, to make a contribution, big or small, towards rebuilding this beautiful city.

   (This is an option: PM Relief Fund )