After a long flight from New York via Dubai I finally arrived in Chennai at the painful 3am arrival hour. With a day to spend in Chennai before our afternoon flight to Madurai we decided to explore a few places, one of which was Marina Beach. Having never been to a beach in Chennai I was curious to see what it was like. It’s wide and long at about 13kms (8.1 miles) making it the world’s second longest beach…something I did not know. Here are a few photos taken at the beach on a not too hot summer’s day in South India.

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This lady seems to be decorating a mound of food that seems to be made out of checkpeas or something similar.

The Tower of Samosas. This is the kind of architecture that I am into.

 

2013 kumbh-mela-itinerary in Allahabad and across India

A 13-day epic journey to the Kumbha Mela and across North India

The map above does not shy away in reminding us that our spiritual adventure will take us almost all the way across north India. A massive distance to cover with a great many things to see in between. It also tells us that most of our travel will be by train. 4 train rides in total including an overnight ride which is always fun. I love traveling by train in India and have always felt it is one of the best ways to see the country and to interact with the locals.

Click here to see details of our Kumbha Mela itinerary.

Dates: 4th to 16th Feb, 2013
Duration: 12 nights, 13 days

 

So, I’m off to India again to conduct my 3rd spiritual adventure for the year. First stop is Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and it is a brief stay here before heading further south to Madurai. I came across this Tamil movie poster that I had photographed a few years back. I love the posters that are pasted all over the city. So much color and so much drama…

More from south India coming very soon.

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8 year old Rohan from the Caribbean asked his mother if God Siva is male or female? She replied that she thought Siva was genderless. Rohan then asked his mother if Siva is genderless then why is he married? Mom at this point said to Rohan “let’s email Dandapani and ask him”.

I replied to Rohan’s mother and said “…

Tell Rohan he asked a very wise question that most adults don’t even ask. That means he is a mature and insightful soul in a young body.

Siva is genderless. There is no male or female energy in the higher inner worlds. Just pure energy. When manifested in this world it is divided into two….male and female.

Siva is not married. God, Mahadevas and Devas do not get married.

The core scriptures of Hinduism are the Vedas and Agamas. Much later came the puranas which are folk narratives. Fable stories. It is in these puranas did the concept of God marrying come about. The puranas form the basis of most of Hindu beliefs in today’s world but a lot of it does not align with core Hindu scripture.

Hope this simplified answer helps clarify things Rohan.”

 

Since I posted a few days ago about Mana, the last Indian village before Tibet, I thought I’d share a little about the journey to Badrinath.

Badrinath is the little town just prior to Mana village. It is famed for the Badrinath temple, one of four holy sites in the Hindu Char Dham pilgrimage. All four sites are located deep in the Himalayas and accessible only in the summer months, and of these four Badrinath is considered to be the most important one. Badrinath is at an elevation of about 3,415 meters (11,204 feet) and is located on the banks of the Alaknanda river. The beautiful Neelkanth peak is right next to the town towering at 6,560 meters.

The temple is dedicated to Vishnu and is sacred to the followers of the Vaishnavite sect of Hindus.

Badrinath is located about 233kms north of Rishikesh and it is a good two day drive from Delhi if you are driving about 8 to 10 hours a day depending on road conditions. As you get closer to Badrinath the road gets worse to the point it is just a gravel road with no railing carved out of a side of mountain with frequent falling rocks. Yup, it is as scary as it sounds. Despite this thousands make the trek up here each year in the summer to worship at this sacred temple.

Lower in the mountains the roads are better but they wind endlessly to Badrinath

Lower in the mountains the roads are better but they wind endlessly to Badrinath

Local villages using a paved section of the road. Most parts aren't paved and many vehicles have been swept of the road by falling boulders as well.

A Sadhu (monk) making his way to Badrinath.

Vehicles snake their way around the Himalayas...

The scenary is simply breathtaking the higher you get

Badrinath Temple, one of the four Char Dham pilgrimage sites

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View of the Himalayas at sunset from Mana village, north of Badrinath

Stars shower over Neelakant, towering at 6596m (21,640 feet), as strong winds blow snow of the top in this long-exposure photo.

Neelkanth in the morning, hidden behind clouds.

 

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Another wonder in Central Java is the small but beautiful Mendut temple. It’s on the itinerary for one of the places for us to visit during our upcoming meditation and wellness retreat in Indonesia in September.

Located a little over 3 kms from Borobudur this temple may appear insignificant to the mighty Borobudur but is home to an exquisitely carved 3 meter high statue of Buddha. Unlike most statues of Buddha that are usually carved in the lotus position or in a laying down position, this Buddha is seated, western-style, majestically in a throne with both feet firmly placed on the ground.

A massive, beautiful, sprawling ficus tree stands next to the temple, a quiet symbol of endurance and patience, two essential qualities on the spiritual path.

Next to the Mendut temple is the Mendut Buddhist Monastery which has beautifully kept grounds and small ponds of lotuses and lilies.

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Buddha statue in Mendut Temple in Central Java

 
the road to badrinath in Uttarakhand, Himalayas, india

The road to the Badrinath temple deep in the Himalayas, north India.

As I prepare for my 3rd visit to India this year I came across some photos I took three years ago when I visited the village of Mana in north India. Mana is often known as the last Indian village before the Tibetan border and it is the furthest north I’ve been in the Indian subcontinent. Inhabitants of the Mana village are the last generation of the Bhotia community of Mongolian tribes.

It’s at an altitude of about 3118 meters (10229 feet) and is located in the state of Uttarakhand. It’s also located a short distance away from Badrinath which is a famous pilgrimage place that sees vast number of Hindu pilgrims visiting each year during the summer months when the path to this mountain shrine is open. During the winter months the village is vacated and the Bhotia community move to a location that is about a 100kms away that has less extreme weather conditions.

It was definitely challenging getting up here and scary as well as the “road” conditions were not good at all. It took two days of long hours of driving (I didn’t drive) before I got to Badrinath and then made the short journey to Mana village. The village is crammed with small houses separated by narrow alley ways and is simply special to work around.


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The Alakananda river flows past the Mana village in the Himalayas

The Alakananda river flows past the Mana village in the Himalayas

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Spectacular views from Mana village of the Himalayan range all around

a boy living in Mana village in the Himalayas and part of the Bhotia community

A young resident of the Mana village