What all things to keep in mind for a solo travel in India

‘I love to travel but have to wait for my friends to get free time which would match mine’

‘I love to travel but want to experience a solo trip but am too scared about it’

‘I love to travel and want to travel solo but don’t know where to start from and how to do it’

Sounds familiar?

Most of us want to travel, rather love travelling. But when those friends and family are not available when you are available to go then you keep postponing the dates as per their availability.

Sometimes, you just want to have the experience of ‘solo’ travelling but somehow never started off.

So what are the things that you need to know before stepping out for travelling solo?

Here are some important pointers based on my own experiences which you would find useful while travelling solo in India –

Know your place

A little bit pre-researched information about the place where you are going is always helpful. Example, the kind of weather conditions, culture, dressing sense, food, transport availability, etc.

Transport

All places in India are mostly connected by trains and bus. So after you have selected the place you want to go, see the rental options of four wheeler and two wheeler if you want to avoid public transport.

For trains it is better to book beforehand. For the bus transport check for the State run transport first as it is much faster and budget friendly.

If you are moving from one destination to another then check the connectivity. For example, when I went to Rajasthan, I rented two wheeler at Jaipur and covered all the nearby places with that.

Food

Best way to enjoy the foods and have the hygiene factor covered is by having the local authentic foods. You get the fresh fruits and vegetables and also the processed items intake would be less when you are tasting the local delicacies. And given India is majorly a vegetarian country, you would get all types of food at almost all states.

Take your own reusable bottle with a filter attached (although it’s a bit expensive). This will help you to have pure drinking water. Buying water every time if you are on a long trip would weigh down on the budget.

Clothes

India is a vast country with tropical climate. Whatever destination you travel to, better to check the weather conditions prior to that. Especially the clothes you will require at the Northern India is different from Southern India.

However, it is good to have interchangeable clothes and light multi-purpose jackets which you can mix and match and wear anytime.

Another important thing is to wear clothes which does not attract unnecessary attention (especially for women travelers). Prefer to wear clothes covering more than 70% of the body. Not all places are same but just to be on the safer side you would like to take this into consideration.

Also keep in mind, while visiting most of the religious places, wear a fully covered dress and better to cover the head.

Be a Responsible Traveler

Traveling is not just about fun. It’s also about experiences and learning. Wherever you go ensure that you respect not just the people and culture but also the place. Do NOT litter around even if you find litter lying here and there. It will not only help you have a satisfied journey but also you might inspire and encourage others to follow the same, you never know!

Hacks & Tips

Ladies, it is a good idea to fake a ring on your finger! It works most of the time. This peculiar trick keeps away unwanted men most of the time.

Keep a whistle, key, spray(any deodorant will also do) and torch handy always for safety purpose.

Keep emergency numbers handy. Local police and hospital details should always be with you wherever you are traveling to.

While India is a diverse country with a diverse culture, it is always advisable to respect and be humble and empathetic while traveling towards the locals and the fellow travelers.

If you have some other tips and experience do share it in the comments below. Would love to hear.

Happy traveling 🙂

New Year. New Mindset. New Action.

A surprisingly weird thing happened. Of course positive. Recently I noticed that whenever I open YouTube I search for videos which are useful for my growth. In other words fertilizer for the brain. Example, videos from Dan Lok, Jay Shetty, Dev Gadhvi, Oprah Winfrey and others.

Earlier whenever I opened YouTube, only movies and web series were being searched on priority. Now, I don’t feel like watching things unnecessarily which is not serving any positive purpose in my life. Some other shifts that have happened are there are only positive and like-minded people in my circles. Toxic people have been cut off. Brainstorming, discussion and continuous brewing of fresh ideas small or big are being discussed.

Story telling has been a major experience or learning you may say. It is a way you can express your most complicated thoughts.

In the last couple of days, hundreds of people have taken thousands of resolutions. Many will fulfill while some will forget in the hustle and bustle of life. Few of my friends have taken a new resolution of reading positive books for their mental and overall growth. They asked me to suggest some of the books to start off with.

Here are some of the books which they along with you all who want to nurture their minds and souls can go through.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

80% Mindset 20% Skills by Dev Gadhvi

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Attitude is Everything by Jeff Keller

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Crush It by Gary Vay Ner Chuk

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

And many more…

There are lots of things you can do in this new year to see yourself at a much better position in the upcoming days. However, there is a small price you need to pay. That is, you need to take that first step.

There is a person who comes the gym near my place. He might be some VIP since there is a person who holds his bottle and towel, there is another guard standing beside him always while he works out. But ultimately after so many external help, he has to do the push-ups himself.

So let this new year bring a breath of fresh air and all this time the tasks you have been postponing and avoiding, start taking action for those. Take small steps. See the change in you. Be the better version of yourself.

Right time or right pace?

Have this thought ever crossed your mind at least once in life that you are too late to achieve success or anything that you want in life whereas others are way ahead of you in life? If yes, then congratulations! You are on the right track!

Confused? Let me explain.

Heard about Julia Child? She worked in advertising and media till her golden jubilee age in life. At 50, she launched her own cookbook and started her new desired career as a Celebrity Chef at the age of 51!

Sounds crazy? Here’s another real life example. Laura Ingalls Wilder started writing with the encouragement of her daughter at the age of 43. Her first and remaining several attempts were rejected numerous times. She went on improving herself at that skill for several years until at the age of 65, the famous ‘Little House in the Big Woods’ was published! She wrote the other series of ‘Little House’ of which the last one was published at the age of 76!

So if any thought crossed your mind that you are ‘too late’ in life even though you are struggling too much, just pause for a moment and realize the fact that ‘nothing is too late ever’. It is only a relative term, ‘late’, when you compare yourself with others. BUT our biggest competitor is just ‘us’.

If you feel like putting more effort in whatever you are doing, simply put more effort. If you feel like you need to pace up in whatever you are doing, then simply speed up, but because you want to achieve it and NOT because someone else is ahead of you in that genre.

Everyone is unique. So are the struggles and achievements.

Happy Life 🙂

EatStreet at Brisbane. Food paradise in Australia

When you are in a new country, the first thing you look for is food, be it your native food or the local food. But when you have the option of pampering your taste buds with not just your native food but also local foods and delicacies from all over the world, what do you do? Yes you are in the Food Heaven!

In brief – EatStreet is a place at North Shore Hamilton, Brisbane where there is a food festival on all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of the year. From food, beverages to live performances at more than 2 stages, you can enjoy your time and dine by the Brisbane River watching the mesmerizing sunset.

On the occasion of the 5 years anniversary of the EatStreet, here are some of the moments captured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another of my Moon shot 🙂

If you are at Brisbane, definitely visit EatStreet for some mouth watering experience!! Happy travelling 🙂

 

 

How to travel frequently having a full time job

How many of us wish to travel often but are pulled down due to our full time jobs? We all have at least one friend who fits in the above scenario. Or rather, some of us are the exact ones. Just imagine if you get the trick to travel frequently even with a full time job, how brilliant does that sound? Amazing right!

I have been working in a full time job since few years now, but the urge to go and visit new places, meet new people and most importantly try out amazing delicacies, has always kept a fire burning in my heart since a long time. In simple terms, explore the amazing World given to us by Mother Nature! In most of my travel stories shared with you all in my blog, maximum have been done during weekends, be it with family/friends or solo. You can check out all those with budget and itinerary!

Trips with friends and family are always welcome, but the problem comes when the time adjustment as per their availability does not match with mine and vice-versa.

Hence, I decided to take the plunge and raft with the flow. But the entire planning authority and freedom is mine for these trips and it gives an amazing sense of accomplishment and freedom!

So, most of us have 5 days job. But few even have Saturdays working. So what you can do is –

  1. First, look for long weekends where you can combine 1 or 2 days extra along with Saturday and Sunday for your trip, if not even then it’s fine
  2. List down all the nearby destinations from your location (you can always include the far off destinations with one night journey if you feel like)
  3. Check the train/bus/flight availability

If you are on a budget, then better to take train/bus. Some good websites to book online – IRCTC (I guess foreigners without user id cannot book from here, but there are other options) 

Yatra (some good offers are available round the year, just keep an eye on it)

MakeMyTrip (again look out for offers and discounts from time to time)

Goibibo (good discounts especially during the festive seasons)

Easemytrip (they don’t charge for the convenience fee)

4. Do some research about the place – Now this will be according to your taste and likeness which means if you are an adventure seeker, look out for what you can do in that place or if you are going with your family then what all options are available to explore

5. Set your budget for the entire trip including tickets

6. Calculate your travel time. If you are at a place say for example, Mumbai or Delhi and after office hours if you have to catch the train/bus at Friday night, then how many hours will be taken to reach your destination next day morning. I would suggest not to waste time beyond morning of the next day (Saturday), then you can utilize the max amount of time in the destination

7. If you are more of an explorer like me instead of a tourist, then checkout for hosts/travelers in Couchsurfing . The locals give you the better information about places and activities that tourists don’t get easily

Check out sites like TripAdvisor , LonelyPlanet, Tripoto . There are forums where you can even post your queries and get answers from genuine travelers.

8. If you are fine with not booking in advance for your accommodation, that’s okay but only if that’s a non-peak season. It’s advisable to book accommodation in advance especially if you are traveling in peak season

Booking.com (this is amazing to book good accommodations including homestay, hotel, resorts with excellent deals and you can even book without any advance booking fee and can cancel anytime before a specified timeline!)

My travel is mostly – start friday night, reach Saturday morning, Sunday again start for the return journey and Monday morning back to base. But if there are some mondays or fridays that can be taken as leave or clubbed with any National holidays, it’s more beneficial!

If you need any help or brainstorming regarding any place/trip, do get in touch with me. Always ready to help 🙂

Happy traveling 🙂

 

10 Best Places in India for Solo Female Travelers – Budget Friendly

With a full time job and only few weekends to spend for myself in a year, it’s a little bit of extra work of planning for a solo trip. Although there are lots of places in India to visit solo(for everyone irrespective of men or women), here are the top most as per budget, food and traveler friendly.

Source : Mumbai

Trip Duration (each) : 2-4 days (over the weekend)

Budget : Within INR 7000

Accomodation : Through makemytrip.combooking.com (these offer some really good budget-friendly deals) and Couchsurfing(the worldwide common platform for cultural exchange with travel experiences and hospitality- the best out of all the options!).

Budget : Pocket friendly (All prices might vary from season to season and person to person. These are the ones I completed my trips within).

1. Hampi – Paradise for all backpackers

Approx trip cost – INR 2000

The land of monuments and the Tungabhadra River, Hampi is more than just scenic beauty and an ideal place for backpackers, it is an experience with best of ancient touch and the warm and mordern gestures of the locals. The ancient temples, monuments and the giant rocks and boulders of Hampi will leave you amazed. The locals there speak fluent English so language is not a problem for anyone communicating in English.

Definitely take the Coracle ride once to cross the river. It’s really fun! And it is very well within the pocket-friendly budget. Have delicious foods at Mango Tree cafe with unlimited access to wifi and great ambiance.

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Tip : Take enough cash as there is no facility of card swipe at most of the places. The only ATM is at Hospet, 10 km from Hampi.

For detailed info, check here.

2. Goa – Indian travel hotspot year round for all kinds of travelers

Approx trip cost – INR 4000

The most happening place for solo traveling. Parties, serene beauty, water sports, adventure or just chilling out – Goa offers everything and is most frequented by solo travelers. You can visit Goa at any time of the year except the Summer season(it’s too hot!) During Monsoons only the water activities are closed due to high tides, otherwise every place can be explored and it’s a scenic beauty treat to the eyes during monsoon.

Try out the local cuisines and rent a two-wheeler (rent options available almost everywhere) for an ultimate enjoyable experience.

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Tip : Take good amount of sunscreen whichever month it be. Try out all kinds of booze at cheap rates than any other state.

3. Sikkim : The abode of natural beauty

Approx trip cost – INR 7000

Known as the most disciplined state, Sikkim is the abode of natural beauty and peace. You can never get enough of its serenity. The food, shopping and people are simply amazing. Definitely visit the Monastery, Phelling, Tsangu Lake. Gorge on yummiest momos and soups!

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Tip : Take a light jacket for the night in off winter season and definitely the woolens during winter.

4. Varanasi – Essence of Indian culture

Approx trip cost – INR 4500

As the saying goes ‘Varanasi is not just a place, it’s an experience’ is very true and you can experience this once you visit here. The Ganges, the Ghats, the Ganga Aarti , the innumerous diyas at the bank of the River – India’s culture reflects in every corner of Varanasi. At least once in life you must pay a visit. In the evening take a ride in the boat along the Assi Ghats and watch and immerse in the essence of Ganga Aarti.

Tip : Take proper care of not to get trapped by the ‘pandas’ at the temples.

5. Udaipur – The City of Lakes

Approx trip cost – INR 3000

Rajasthan has always attracted people from all over the world due to its rich history, culture and architecture. One of the safest destination for women travelers. The people are very friendly and helpful. The City of Lakes – Udaipur . The vintage car museum, the City Palace, the stroll near the banks of the lakes and getting immersed in the golden hue of sunset are just some of the many things you should do in Udaipur.

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Tip : Sit by the lakes (especially Lake Pichola) by the evening to enjoy the picturesque beauty and soothing breeze and try out the German Bakery stuffs over there!

6. Jaipur – The Pink City

Approx trip cost – INR 3000

Enjoy the Forts, palaces and vintage museums of the Pink City – Jaipur with delicious traditional foods that the city has to offer. The largest physical sun dial is located here at Jantar Mantar. It’s thrilling how the astronomy and engineering was so perfect at the ancient era in India!

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Tip : If you love walking, then can explore most the city by walking only.

For detailed info check here.

7. Jodhpur – Rajasthan treasures

Approx trip cost – INR 2500

The Blue City – Jodhpur is famous for the Mehrangarh Fort, one of the biggest in India and the Golden City. Along with that the world’s largest Royal residential heritage hotel – Umaid Bhavan Palace is located here.

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Tip : Try walking up the road to the Fort through the narrow backstreet from where the view is breathtaking, especially early in the morning and late evening.

For detailed info, check here.

8. Pondicherry – Touch of French culture

Approx trip cost – INR 5000

The French Colony of India is a place which has something that most of the place has in scarcity – peace and serenity. The delectable French cuisines, the old buildings, the small clean beautiful lanes, the Aurobindo Ashram, the simple people leading their simple lives, the shops for some great shopping experience – you can enjoy all these at Pondicherry. Do spend the evening at the Ocean rocks, it’s a beautiful experience.

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Tip : Take the direct bus from Chennai if you are opting for public transport or better book a cab for more convenience.

9. Khajuraho – Ancient architecture of India

Approx trip cost – 5000

A bit surprised? Yes Khajuraho is one of the best places for female solo travelers to visit and explore. Ofcourse a little cautiousness is needed just like any other place, but once you get the idea you are good to go ahead. The temple is the biggest attraction here and two lakes are also present nearby.

Khajuraho railway station is located in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. Along with that the Khajuraho airport is another option. By roadways, you can take buses which are available from Satna in Madhya Pradesh and Jhansi, Delhi and few other.

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Tip : While buying souvenirs at the shops outside the temple, negotiate as much as you can as they don’t give up easily.

10. Jhansi and Orchha – History of bravery and valour

Approx trip cost – 4000

In Jhansi, the Fort is the only attraction but the Orchha Palace is something not to be missed. An official guide at this place would be helpful to understand the details.

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Tip : Take a shared tempo from Jhansi to Orchha and vice versa for a distance of around 10 kms. It is cheap and convenient too.

So step out and explore and enjoy the beauties of every part of India! This list of course is going to increase as days pass by. If you know any other places which should add up to this list, please do share in the comment section. Happy traveling 🙂

10-Day Vipassana Course, India

“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live”

-Buddha

Before reading about this course, it is advisable to read ‘Vipassana – What? Why? How?‘ in order to understand more easily and clearly.

The 10 day Vipassana course is the beginner’s course taught at Dhamma GiriIgatpuri, Maharashtra, India. The registration can be done online and offline as well. My course was during the Monsoons and the best time in the Western Ghats of India. Picturesque breath taking views of Dhamma Giri and its surrounding areas is no less than a treat for the soul.

I came across it online and to my surprise it has been there for years without many people not even knowing about it! I decided to go for the beginner’s course to learn the actual technique and see for myself what exactly it is and how it works.

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At Dhamma Giri you need to reach one day before the course starts for the registration process. Hundreds of people from all over the World come and queue in for the course. Once the registration process is completed by approx 6:00 pm, everyone is given instructions for the upcoming 10 days.

Overview

You need to carry your own set of clothes and necessary items like medicines, toiletries, bedsheet, blankets etc. Although bedsheet and blankets are also provided for those who could not bring along. However, there are certain strict rules to be followed for the entire duration of the course :

  • No possession of any reading/writing material
  • No sacred/religious stuffs (for chanting, praying etc)
  • No music or any kind of electronic gadgets
  • No communication among fellow students (Noble Silence). However, you are allowed to speak to the Teachers for any query related to the technique and Dhamma workers(Sevak/Sevika) for any problems in accommodation
  • No eye contact with fellow students
  • No telling lies
  • No harming/killing (even insects!)
  • No sexual offence
  • No wasting food
  • No intervening in the opposite gender areas (Female and Male sections are entirely separated)

If you are able to follow these thoroughly only then you are allowed to be a part of the course. Moreover, there is also good reason about why noble silence is observed throughout the course. Will come to that later.

There is a huge gong that rings at the exact timings of the day (punctuality is nailed like anything!). The entire course is FREE of cost! Yes! The accommodation, facilities, food everything. The only fee/investment is that you have to be true to yourself. At the end of the course, if you feel benefited then you may donate something completely at your own will, if at all you feel like. The routine that needs to be followed for the complete course of 10 days –

4:00 am > Wake up Gong

4:30 am  – 6:30 am > Group Meditation

6:30 am – 8:00 am > Breakfast and Bath

8:00 am – 11:00 am > Meditation

11:00 am – 1:00 pm > Lunch and your personal time

1:00 pm – 5:00 pm > Meditation

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm > Tea

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm > Meditation

9:00 pm – 9:30 pm > Q&A with the Teachers

Looks a bit scary isn’t it? But to get the benefits and learn the technique in its pure form, discipline is a must.

Day 1:

The first day was exciting and confusing with all kinds of mixed feelings. The instructions are given in Hindi and English. When settled in the group meditation hall, a sloka in Pali language greets you (by Acharya S.N. Goenka , the founder of the Vipassana Centre).

It is made clear at the beginning itself, that Vipassana is not a religious ritual/practice or dogma or cult or any kind of blind faith. It is a proven science and technique of mind and body. The first thing taught is to just ‘observe’ the breath. The natural free flowing breath, without regulating it or forcing in any way. As mentioned in my previous article, Vipassana is all about seeing things as it is. As Nature has provided. The Universal Law of Nature.

So the first thing is to just observe the breath. Within few minutes you will realize that your mind has already wandered away here and there instead of focusing on the breath. How irritating isn’t it? Your own mind doesn’t listen to you when you tell it to do something, it does its own free will. Your entire body starts to pain for sitting continuously in the same posture.

‘The mind controls us instead of we controlling the mind”

Within few hours you will come across all kinds of thoughts, memories and feelings coming out like a volcano from your inside. These are all the thoughts that have been there buried deep inside from the time you actually have gained sense since childhood.

At this time, some people get annoyed, some become overwhelmed, some cry when not able to take the charge of these thoughts that flow like a river. The solution is simple – you just have to accept and let go!

“Nothing is permanent. Everything arises and passes away – The Universal Law of Nature”

The thoughts, the feelings, the pain everything is impermanent. Towards the end of third day you will be able to focus and observe your breath in a much better way. You feel much relaxed not only at the surface level but from deep within.

Day 2, Day 3 : 

Continuous learning to just observe the breath in its natural free form. The duration increases where you can focus on your respiration without the mind wandering anywhere! That’s the first happy and victorious moment of your inner struggle.

Day 4:

Vipassana – the technique is taught. The focus on your entire body from head to toe. The sensations of all kind whether gross or subtle, slowly and steadily you feel every kinds of sensations in the body.

“The sensations are always present, every second in every cells of our body. We just don’t feel it until any kind of pain”

The focus on the free flow increases and with deeper concentration. The mind becomes calmer and much sharper than it used to be. The entire process is like a deep internal surgery to get all negativity like stress, tension, worry, agitation etc out from oneself. In short, to get out from all miseries.

Day 5 to Day 9:

The extreme pain, discomfort slowly fades away and finally you feel much happier and relaxed. Each day is a test and each reward is much sweeter than the previous day. You realize that you can sit in a single posture continuously for over an hour without even flinching an inch! Mentally and physically you become more aware, alert and calm.

Day 10:

The ultimate day when the vow of silence is finally over! You smile. The people around you smile. And that is the moment you connect and feel only love and compassion towards every being. Hatred, anger all gone! A 10 day retreat to a better version of oneself. To know oneself in a deeper way.

Above I have mentioned that noble silence is a must to learn this technique. This is because –

Firstly, when you communicate verbally new thoughts and actions get created every moment which comes in the way of concentration of the mind.

Secondly, every individual experiences different emotions and feelings. So once you start talking, as per the basic human nature you start comparing automatically – ‘oh, he/she is feeling such gross sensations while am feeling only subtle, that means am missing something‘. No! that is not the case. Everyone experiences certain things differently and so this kind of judgement hampers the process of learning this technique in the correct way.

This day Guruji (Acharya S.N. Goenka) explains how to utilize this technique in our day to day life. How to help and spread this awareness to others who really need this approach for his/her betterment.

There is no criteria or category to share knowledge, show kindness, love and compassion. Personally I feel like every individual whether they feel like they are the luckiest person on Earth or the saddest person, everyone should know and learn this technique for the betterment of oneself. Creating peace and harmony and showing love and compassion is never too much for anyone. There is no limit to it. A little gesture goes a long way.

“However many holy words you read, However many you speak, What good will they do you If you do not act on upon them?”

-Buddha

But just by reading and listening from others never help much. The truth needs to be experience yourself, only then it’s a truth for you at the experiential level.

“Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam”

Be Happy 🙂

 

 

 

Vipassana – What? Why? How?

“You must experience the truth yourself. Only then it becomes a truth for you. Otherwise it is only someone else’s truth” 

 – Acharya S. N. Goenka

When the word Vipassana is uttered, lots of descriptions and myths come to surface due to ignorance. Some are like ‘Isn’t that something by which you can be a Buddhist?’ or ‘That breathing-concentration-exercise, ya I do it everyday along with Yoga’ or ‘you want to become a monk/nun by practicing Vipassana?’ , and the list goes on.

Well, just to remove this dust from the facts – Vipassana is an ancient technique founded in India around more than 2500 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha (the enlightened one). Here I would like to explain in very simple words and try to keep it as brief as possible, since this is a vast topic and one can write a lot about it!

What?

Vipassana is the technique by which one concentrates on the mind and body and the sensations that arise and pass away. It is the way to see things as it is – as Nature has provided. Dhamma or the Universal Law of Nature lets us see and feel things as it is. It is important to realize that nothing is permanent. Everything has to pass – the good and the bad too.

Human beings are the most rational and intelligent beings on the Earth. However, people most of the time remain tensed, stressed, unhappy, worried, depressed, etc. Somewhere or the other they look for happiness and contentment outside. But just hold on here! Are you really looking for the most important feelings outside your mind and body? Think again.

Whatever we feel inside – stressed, agitated, excited, satisfied and all other feelings that we feel inside our mind and body are same that we experience and see outside too. This is purely science which explains that when we are happy and content, the sensations in our body changes and so the breath. The sensations are pleasant at this time while the breath is subtle and relaxed.

On the other hand, when we are angry, stressed and depressed, the sensations are totally different and so is the breath. It becomes faster and restless. This makes us react differently making things worse most of the time. What is inside us, the same we see outside too.

Also, have you ever noticed that instead of you controlling the mind, the mind controls you? Try the simple experiment – focus and concentrate on your breath (the natural free flow of your own breath as it is), without thinking anything else. How long could you concentrate? 2 seconds, 5 seconds or 10 seconds? Your mind stays with you on the breath for hardly few seconds and then it wanders off to its own free will here and there. Your own mind doesn’t listen to you! You become agitated and impatient on this behavior of your restless mind. But calm down and relax! Everything has a solution, a practical proven solution. Vipassana it is.

“Meditation brings wisdom, lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads your forward and what hold you back and choose the path that leads to wisdom”

– Buddha

Why?

From the time of his enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama – Buddha wandered from place to place, year after year overflowing with love and compassion, he taught Dhamma to the people in the villages and most of Northern India. The theme in all his addresses was the same – sila (morality), samadhi (control over one’s own mind) and panna (wisdom, insight, purification of the mind by wisdom). He taught a practical technique to help mankind to come out of all suffering and misery and lead a life of peace and happiness.

For all different kinds of feelings that we feel within us especially the negative ones like depression, anger, agitation etc, we find a quick fix to these in the outside world. Example, when we are stressed, we try different stress busters – eat the food that we love, music, dance, reading books, going for a long walk, talking to the loved ones,etc. Yes! it works. But these solutions are just on the surface and help deal with the situation momentarily. But what happens when the same thing happens over and over again?

What if we get a deeper solution to our negative feelings and thoughts? What if we could control our own mind and thoughts for our betterment everyday? Sounds great isn’t it?

It’s very much possible through this practical technique which has been tried and tested by millions of people over thousands of years! It is not a quick fix but a deeper cleanse.

Vipassana is not merely a concentration technique. It is “observation of truth within from moment to moment. You develop your faculty of awareness, your mindfulness. Things keep changing, but you remain aware – this is Vipassana. But if you concentrate only on one object, which may be an imaginary object, then nothing will change. When you are with this imagination, and your mind remains concentrated on it, you are not observing the truth. When you are observing the truth, it is bound to change. It keeps constantly changing, and yet you are aware of it. This is Vipassana.” – as described by Acharya S. N. Goenka. To know more details about this angel who brought back this technique to us in its purest and original form read here.

How?

To achieve something great and deep in life, one has to abide by some rules. In this case they are discipline, being true to yourself and learn the exact technique as it is as taught by the Vipassana Master himself without customizing it a bit for our ease and comfort.

To learn this technique in its truest form, there are Vipassana centres all over the world by Acharya S. N. Goenka. The first learning is necessary to be learned in the centre because of few reasons – let’s take an example. When we need any surgery, we go to hospital, for learning any new course we go to schools and colleges of that particular subject or interest. Similarly for learning Vipassana, we need to learn from the place where the environment is only for Vipassana and nothing else.

To train and tame our mind, we have to concentrate on something. Buddha chose it to be the ‘breath‘ after trying out different things. We can concentrate on any other object like candle flame or chanting in our minds – but in this case the object is outside and mind would concentrate on that ‘something’ else. But ‘breath’ is the only thing that stays with us from our birth till we die. ‘Breath’ is the only thing that’s present with us in the ‘present’ time without any external factors.

Hence, focusing on breath, the natural breath (as it is) as it is coming in and going out, without regulating it a bit is the first step. Simply observe the breath. Every breath that comes in and goes out is never repeated. Every breath is a new one. This observation points to the very important reality of ‘arising and passing’. Nothing is permanent.

Once the focus is stable and our mind is not wandering here and there, we start observing the sensations in our entire body, from head to toe on the surface level. We feel and observe every kind of sensations that arise and pass away – heat, cold, itchy, gross, subtle, pain, pleasant and tons of other sensations that are continuously happening in our body at any given point of time anywhere. Slowly once we feel this, we go a little deeper and feel and observe the sensations inside our body and not merely on the surface level.

Once you understand and grab the technique you realize how impermanent our sensations are. And how directly these are related to our feelings in the real world. This shows and explains us the nature of ‘craving’ and ‘aversion’. How craving for any pleasant sensation leads to clinging to it. Similarly, how we dislike any unpleasant sensation and avoid getting through it. It gets clear how this actually helps in real life to deal with everything happening with us and within us all the time. Once you start practicing Vipassana, every outlook in the real life changes to a positive one and you start feeling the positive change inside you miraculously!

As mentioned in the beginning, the truth is true when you experience it yourself. Only theory will never help in learning Vipassana or any technique for that matter. Only through disciplined practice one can come out of all miseries and sufferings in life which are buried deep inside us without our knowledge.

How I began learning about this technique and the detailed explanation to its basic 10-day course of Vipassana (Igatpuri, India) is penned down here.

 

 

 

Weekend trip – Alwar and Bhangarh – Listed as most haunted place in India

When we search in Google for the most haunted places in India, Bhangarh in Rajasthan tops the list. It’s been a place I badly wanted to go for a long long time! So then I finally made it. Tickets from Mumbai to Jaipur to and fro for a weekend. Started off in the evening, reached during the noon the next day. Stay was at Moustache Hostel. Whenever I go to Jaipur, prefer staying here, the ambiance is really nice!

Trip duration – 2.5 days

Trip cost – INR 2500

Day 1 (Evening):

On first day after reaching there, only the half day was left so went to Bawri, Jaipur. Had the traditional local dal bati churma for lunch near the Ganesh Chowk. Rented a bike for Rs. 600 a day and headed for Bawri. The deep well was used as a water reservoir that helped during the non-rainy season. This concept of traditional well was quite common in every parts of ancient India. You can see bawri at many other places of Rajasthan too.

DSCN5440
Dal bati churma in lunch @ Ganesh Chowk

 

Day 2 :

Bhangarh is approx 2 hours from Jaipur by road. But if Bhangarh can be explored then why not Alwar? So headed for Alwar first, approx 3 hours from Jaipur. Jaipur-Alwar-Bhangarh-Jaipur. The roads are superb.

Map

Alwar Fort :

A place whose history dates back to 1000 CE. It was a part of Matsya Kingdom as per history. It has evolved under various Rajput rulers since then. Alwar has several forts, lakes which attracts tourists. So also the Bhangarh Fort and the Sariska Tiger Reserve. The scenic beauty, the calmness of the pathway to the Alwar Fort is a beauty. Karni Mata Temple can be visited on the way.

There were hardly any tourists except 5 or 6 and the Security Guards. The Bala Quila or Alwar Fort is not completely accessible as it is restricted by Military. What I loved about the Fort is the originality with its original charm and the absolute silence. Only the chirping of the birds and the swaying of the leaves in the breeze could be heard. The view of Alwar is seen for the viewpoint of the Fort – it’s absolutely mesmerizing!

DSCN5569
A view of Alwar Fort from the viewpoint

There’s direct way to Bhangarh from Alwar via the Sariska National Park. That road is not so smooth hence you might want to start a bit early.

Bhangarh Fort :

It felt fantastic to step on this place which has been rumored as haunted across the globe. To me, it felt simply beautiful! Just when you enter the gate, there’s Lord Hanuman temple (to shoo away the ghosts may be 😛 ). Walk straight through the ruins, it will lead to the garden and the Fort. You can listen to the local guides especially kids explaining about the history of the place and the haunted activities take place every night which is quite interesting and entertaining too.

Reach the Fort and climb to the top most part through the broken stairs. On the right side there are valleys and greenery where numerous peacocks and peahens could be seen enjoying their time and relaxing. Some dancing with their gorgeous and most vibrant feathers open and enjoy the breeze in the setting sun. That’s a beauty to the eyes!

DSCN5643
The ruins of the Bhangarh Fort

On the left side there’s a hill having a temple at the peak of it (photo above).

Something was really irritating – the unnecessary hooting and shouting of the so-called-tourists which disturbed the natural silence over there.

Colorful treats (photos below of our National Bird) amidst the cool breeze and the ruins of the historical Fort.

DSCN5723

 

DSCN5716

The sun goes down and people start to leave from the Bhangarh fort. Some say when you enter the Fort and its areas, you get a different negative feeling. But to me, it was one of the most calm and serene place to have visited. In other words, beautiful!

On the way near Bhangarh, these 2-horned deers were spotted on the road.

Next day breakfast at the Curious Life Coffee Roasters was not just yummy but a huge spread of healthy foods 🙂 You must try the coffee here.

Finally, time to return. But to me Bhangarh offered some beautiful scenic beauties and a soothing ambiance although the history has something else to say! Do visit this place and check yourself. Happy traveling 🙂

Weekend trip – Alwar and Bhangarh – Listed as most haunted place in India

When we search in Google for the most haunted places in India, Bhangarh in Rajasthan tops the list. It’s been a place I badly wanted to go for a long long time! So then I finally made it. Tickets from Mumbai to Jaipur to and fro for a weekend. Started off in the evening, reached during the noon the next day. Stay was at Moustache Hostel. Whenever I go to Jaipur, prefer staying here, the ambiance is really nice!

Trip duration – 2.5 days

Trip cost – INR 2500

Day 1 (Evening):

On first day after reaching there, only the half day was left so went to Bawri, Jaipur. Had the traditional local dal bati churma for lunch near the Ganesh Chowk. Rented a bike for Rs. 600 a day and headed for Bawri. The deep well was used as a water reservoir that helped during the non-rainy season. This concept of traditional well was quite common in every parts of ancient India. You can see bawri at many other places of Rajasthan too.

DSCN5569

DSCN5440
Dal bati churma in lunch @ Ganesh Chowk

Day 2 :

Bhangarh is approx 2 hours from Jaipur by road. But if Bhangarh can be explored then why not Alwar? So headed for Alwar first, approx 3 hours from Jaipur. Jaipur-Alwar-Bhangarh-Jaipur. The roads are superb.

Map

Alwar Fort :

A place whose history dates back to 1000 CE. It was a part of Matsya Kingdom as per history. It has evolved under various Rajput rulers since then. Alwar has several forts, lakes which attracts tourists. So also the Bhangarh Fort and the Sariska Tiger Reserve. The scenic beauty, the calmness of the pathway to the Alwar Fort is a beauty. Karni Mata Temple can be visited on the way.

 

There were hardly any tourists except 5 or 6 and the Security Guards. The Bala Quila or Alwar Fort is not completely accessible as it is restricted by Military. What I loved about the Fort is the originality with its original charm and the absolute silence. Only the chirping of the birds and the swaying of the leaves in the breeze could be heard. The view of Alwar is seen for the viewpoint of the Fort – it’s absolutely mesmerizing!

DSCN5569
A view of Alwar Fort from the viewpoint

 

There’s direct way to Bhangarh from Alwar via the Sariska National Park. That road is not so smooth hence you might want to start a bit early.

Bhangarh Fort :

It felt fantastic to step on this place which has been rumored as haunted across the globe. To me, it felt simply beautiful! Just when you enter the gate, there’s Lord Hanuman temple (to shoo away the ghosts may be 😛 ). Walk straight through the ruins, it will lead to the garden and the Fort. You can listen to the local guides especially kids explaining about the history of the place and the haunted activities take place every night which is quite interesting and entertaining too.

 

 

 

Reach the Fort and climb to the top most part through the broken stairs. On the right side there are valleys and greenery where numerous peacocks and peahens could be seen enjoying their time and relaxing. Some dancing with their gorgeous and most vibrant feathers open and enjoy the breeze in the setting sun. That’s a beauty to the eyes!

DSCN5643
The ruins of the Bhangarh Fort

 

On the left side there’s a hill having a temple at the peak of it (photo above).

Something was really irritating – the unnecessary hooting and shouting of the so-called-tourists which disturbed the natural silence over there.

Colorful treats (photos below of our National Bird) amidst the cool breeze and the ruins of the historical Fort.

DSCN5723

 

 

DSCN5716

The sun goes down and people start to leave from the Bhangarh fort. Some say when you enter the Fort and its areas, you get a different negative feeling. But to me, it was one of the most calm and serene place to have visited. In other words, beautiful!

 

On the way near Bhangarh, these 2-horned deers were spotted on the road.

 

Next day breakfast at the Curious Life Coffee Roasters was not just yummy but a huge spread of healthy foods 🙂 You must try the coffee here.

Finally, time to return. But to me Bhangarh offered some beautiful scenic beauties and a soothing ambiance although the history has something else to say! Do visit this place and check yourself. Happy traveling 🙂