Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ancient Temples to Visit in Jaipur: Moti Dungri Ganesh Temple.

Ganeshji ka naam mann me leke nikalna: Unse prarthana karna sab achcha ho.
(Sing glories to Lord Ganesha, pray that He always grace you with happiness)

This is one phrase I have grown up hearing. And, believing - wholeheartedly. After all, Lord Ganesha is by far the most adorable ambassador of auspiciousness and goodwill in Hinduism.

So, have I always been granted the things I wished for, in the same way I wanted them?
Did my communion with Ganeshji remove all the obstacles from my life -
granting me access to a life of everlasting happiness and joy?

Not at all. Far from it, actually. Yet, I have loved Him and cherished Him for all the times I have been with Him - close in my heart. Perhaps my firm-rooted faith in Him stemmed from my values, seated in deep spiritual upbringing, telling me that Ganeshji, this cute charming angelic personality, was someone who was inherently, innately GOOD. I felt it too. But, not without my own doubts and questions:

Then, why wouldn't he always remove all obstacles out of my life-situations?
Did I not pray enough?

... answers to which I have figured in my own course in time ...

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Recently in Jaipur in the Indian princely state of Rajasthan, I met Him, in one of the best places to meet Lord Ganesha - the ancient Moti Dungri GaneshTemple. Situated on a small hill in the heart of the city, Moti Dungri temple is an immensely popular religious place housing the charming deity of Lord Ganesha that attracts scores of pilgrims from far and wide. 

The temple sits ensconced in the shadowy cushion of the Moti Dungri fort that stands guard perched on the ridge of the rolling hills overlooking the widespread carpet of Jaipur city beneath. Designed exquisitely to mirror a Scottish castle, the fort is a royal house, once home to Maharaja Madho Singh’s son and later to queen Gayatri Devi and her son Jagat Singh. And yet, the main attraction for most locals here remains the much celebrated Moti Dungri Ganesh Temple.

Built in pristine white marble and dating back to the 18th century, the temple bears a subtle exterior - a fleet of stairs leading you to the arched roomy precincts of the main temple.

Entrance to the Moti Dungri Temple, Ganesh Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan

The interiors of the temple, in contrast to the exteriors, are aesthetically impressive and grandiose, reflecting the rich architectural splendor of the city. Shining with a touch of gilded silver, the walls are adorned with impressive lattice work engraved with beautiful paintings and intricate murals that add charisma to the lively aura of the temple.

It is morning time, and the hall is crowded with a swarm of loyal devotees kickstarting their day with a Ganesh darshan. I - one among them. My feet don’t move by themselves as there is no space. Instead, they are happy moving with the push of the crowd, every moment getting an inch closer to the Divine darshan.

The main hall of Moti Dungri Temple, Ganesh Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan

At the heart of the temple room, in the sanctum sanctorum, sits Lord Ganesha occupying the royal throne. His stance is like that of a Maharaja, life-like, almost 7 feet tall, seated comfortably on the throne, bathed in bright color vermilion, trunk curled to the left, a golden halo shimmering forth His divine angelic light from behind His cherubic face. In front of him, sits His favorite disciple (His vehicle, also His partner-in-mischief’s), the mouse or the mooshak raj, lavishly decorated in fresh flower garlands and a shiny ensemble.

I am directly across His podium now: my body pressed on the marble railings which are wrapped up in several red-colored wish bands tied by the devotees; I close my eyes and for those few moments, it’s easy to slip into another time and place. A place where I drop all my inhibitions and open my heart trusting that He is patiently hearing me out.

The deity of Lord Ganesh at Moti Dungri Temple, Ganesh Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Vakra-Tunndda Maha-Kaaya Suurya-Kotti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryessu Sarvadaa
( O Lord Ganesha, of Curved Trunk, Large Body, and with the Brilliance of a Million Suns,
Please Make all my Works Free of Obstacles, Always.)

It is the last few seconds in His presence before I am on my way to the exit. I bow my head humbly offering the only thing that I got to offer and looking up back again, I fix my gaze onto His; His eyes are tiny but I can feel them oozing happiness for all the moments I stare in them... filling the empty bowl of my dear heart with His sweet, soft and calming assurance, one that as always, whispers... Do not fear, I am always with you.

--------------------------

This is how I pray. Offering myself, trusting fully that He shall do the same in return. And, I know for a fact that IT is enough. Ganesha is a great friend, someone I trust. Friend -  A good, genuine, sincere friend who does not say YES to all that I say or discuss or ask or plead for. He likes people (re: Ganesh Chaturthi Festival) but is not a people pleaser. He knows what is good and what is bad for me and waves His magic wand likewise. Any well wisher would do the same, no?

Naturally then, I understand that many events will not always work out in the way I want them to be. There will be failures, disappointments, rejections, the so-called hard knocks of life. But it is in those moments, through those instances, that I have found my greatest blessings. My own loyalty and His gentle assurance, a soulful whisper:

Keep going. This is for your own good.
Don't worry. I am here.
Things will be alright very soon.

Moti Dungri literally means, A hill of pearls. There are no expensively-priced costly pearls to be found in this old little town. Only, as I see it, a beautiful perspective instead. Way more valuable. And absolutely, priceless.

That from any relationship, that is pure and sincere, be it between the seen or the unseen, if based on trust, faith and surrender - pearls of love, positive affirmation and healing transformation are born. These pearls have the power to manifest to a life-long wisdom seeping deep into the heart, lighting even the darkest corners of your soul, banishing away all negativity and evil.

Travel gives us a perspective; perspective gives us a meaning; the search for meaning leads us to spirituality - all wonderful pearls, brightening this journey called life.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Budget Heritage Hotel in Jaipur, Hotel Kalyan – A Review.

Rajasthani artisan craft at Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan

If someone were to ask me for my favorite go-to hotel
in the royal city of Jaipur right now,
I would instantly say, Hotel Kalyan, without blinking an eye.
(it’s that good, seriously!)

The first time someone stayed in there was my mother, a couple of months back, and once she was back from her trip, she would never stop raving about it. Among all the things she raved about, she particularly emphasized on how value-for-money their budget room was, how friendly and safe the environment, how good the vibe, how clean and convenient the location, how cheerful and chirpy the lady owner was - making her stay in the city comfortable and memorable in more ways than one.


Front view, Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Hotel Kalyan - The front facade.

Finally, a couple of months back, when I sat down planning a trip to Jaipur along with my family, Hotel Kalyan instantly jumped to be my impromptu choice for stay – actually, Mom had left me with no other options!

Located centrally on the Hathroi fort, Ajmer road, the cream colored heritage building of the Kalyan hotel resonated peace right from the word go. A slight deviation off the main road tucked the hotel into a narrow lane devoid of honking horns or polluted traffic thus ensuring a neat job of keeping the chaos of a touristy city like Jaipur at an arm’s length.

TRADITIONAL RAJASTHANI STYLE ARCHITECTURE:

Stepping in; the regionally flavored traditional interiors of the hotel quickly charmed their way in – the mustachioed darwan statuettes made me smile. The artistic hand crafted Rajasthani paintings decorating the walls and the curvaceous arches further added to the aesthetic mood – all of them tastefully done and spread all over the property area so as to celebrate the rich cultural splendor of Rajasthan in its entire regal glory.

Wandering around Hotel Kalyan... let's see what all caught my eye!

A local arts and craft at the budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
A picture of beautiful Radha Krishna in the rooftop restaurant area.
A puppet hanging at the budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Rajasthani art at Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Rajasthani arts and craft at Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
The well styled  'Rajasthani' interiors at budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Hand-crafted statuettes, antique crafts, traditional puppets and other artistic pieces, etc.
making up for the interiors.


MY 4 BEDDED FAMILY ROOM:

The rooms are elegant, super clean and artfully done honoring the cultural character of the city. Standing since 3+ decades, the hotel boasts of 35 rooms spread across 2 storeys + rooftop ranging from different budgets catering to the needs of every traveler.

Room with a lantern, Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan


We checked into their 4 bedded family room on the rooftop area which, in terms of space, was way too impressive than any of the family rooms that I have been in, in Jaipur at least.

For me, the room was a case of love at first sight - a sort of a duplex, the family room was essentially a combination of two double-bedded bedrooms connected by a common entrance, each unit furnished with individual amenities like TV and AC to its credit.

Section 1 of 4 bedded family room in budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Entering in: Section 1 of the family room.

Section 2 of family room in budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Section 1 opens into Section 2: The inner double-bedded room of the family room.


AMENITIES AND SERVICES - FREE WIFI, FREE PICK-UP, etc.:

Like every other hotel, this 2 star budget hotel came with its own set of services. Ranging from a 24 hours front-desk to free pick up from railway stand or bus stand, with the list of services offered, the hotel did seem to be trying its best to provide great value for money.

As for me, I was very happy with their free Wifi - it gave me a pretty good speed on the premises as well as in my room.

FOOD IN THE LEAFY-MISTY CAFETERIA:

The icing on the cake definitely was the rooftop cafeteria which was a stone’s throw from our room, quite literally!

Rooftop restaurant at budget  Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
The rooftop cafeteria at a glance.

The ambiance here was soothingly lively at most of the times in the day and I absolutely loved hanging around in its green leafy space chatting with fellow guests, or with my brother or even my own self. No matter what time of the day, the rooftop made for a great place to be.

Flowers blooming in rooftop cafetria in budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Blooming flowers like this imparted a certain freshness to the ambiance of the cafe.

The crowds especially swelled up during the evening hours when in the cool mist of the humidifiers - several guests poured in for their meals and a quick evening bite.

Great food at the rooftop cafeteria at a budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan
My personalized cheese vegetable sandwich - yum!

I had a vegetable cheese sandwich (personally customized with added veggies, priced Rs. 80) in the company of the owner of the hotel, Mrs. Gupta, who was all smiles chatting with us freely about her experiences and challenges while running the hotel. From the rooftop, went a flight of stairs spiraling towards two decks above, each of which afforded 360 degree panoramic views of the city.

360 degree panoramic view of the city from the budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan

I stood at the deck in solitude, still,
watching the city drape in a myriad hues.

Good food, happy smiles, interesting stories, changing colors – there could be fewer better ways to end a day in this royal city of Jaipur!

CONCLUSION:

Kalyan hotel has everything in place that any traveler looks for – the rooms are budget friendly, the hospitality warm and inviting, the location is central yet affords a cocoon of quiet, the service is good, the food is great – basically, it is more of a warm friendly guest house than a hotel, per se. I was really impressed with the hotel.

Summing it up, let me just repeat what I said in the first line of this post – 

A colorful puppet at a budget Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan

If someone were to ask me for my favorite go-to hotel in the royal city of Jaipur right now, I would instantly say, Hotel Kalyan, without blinking an eye - yeah! it’s that good, seriously.

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS:

- The spacious 4 bedded family room.
- Free Wi-fi.
- Rooftop Caferia with humidifiers in the evening.
- The traditional touch of Rajasthani art and architecture.
- Friendly, warm and peaceful environment.

Room bookings, Contact and other traveler information, etc.:

Address: Hathroi Fort, Ajmer Road, Near Police Station, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001.
For room tariff and rates, contact: +91-9314501591.
Or shoot them an e-mail: hotelkalyan@yahoo.co.in/ info@hotelkalyan.com

Have you stayed in Hotel Kalyan?
How was your experience?


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Stunning Photo Collage Art: Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Mumbai.

A lil sunshine - Art at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A
A rainbow of colors!

Location: Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Mumbai.
Terminal: 1A.
On-bound: Sanganer Airport, Jaipur.
Flight: Air India.
Check-in status: Self check-in completed.

Now what? Grab one of those benches. And, sleep?
Or, stare at your fellow passengers? Read a book?
Surf your smartphone?

All these things are okay and honestly, I have been all over them at some point in my yatras but this time, I decided to indulge in something better (and artistic and creative and fascinating) while eagerly waiting for hopping onto my flight.

A collage in Art at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A
A captivating art collage @ Mumbai Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A
Across the self check-in kiosk, walking past scurrying people, is a small patch of wall that infuses life in the city it calls home. Riot of colors splashed across in a creative chaos of exuberance and vivacity – the patch celebrates the city of Mumbai by putting together an artistic picture collage illuminating its dynamic forms in several different ways. Filmi posters, everyday scenes, vintage photos, pretty sketches and prominent landscapes – it’s all there for you to figure, each piece reminding you of that something that is very intrinsically woven in the character of the city and its people.

IN PHOTOS: Incredible piece of Artwork @ Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Mumbai:


Been past the wall several times, but today - I paused to look closer. I heard the wall inviting me in. Inviting me to stop, admire, contemplate, and be alive and present at that very moment, in a rather original way.

How could I resist?

How could I resist meeting the hardworking people, admiring the iconic landscape and revisiting some of the older memories that have made and continue to make this city so mesmerizingly amazing that it is – and then NOT sharing it here? Speaking  no more, let's scroll right away!

A woman, despite being busy in the midst of washing clothes, warmly calling out to us?

A cheerful tai - Art at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

An anxious flower-seller, perhaps just starting his day -

Art collage at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

The roadside shoe-cobbler -

Art collage at Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A, Mumbai

Dreamy eyes; a flight to freedom -

Birds - Art collage painting at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

A proud salute to the ‘Janta hawaldar’ of the street -

A Mumbai hawaldar - Art at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

The alluring beauty of that which was once 'old' - now, gold!

Filmi poster - Painting at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

Different moods of the Mumbai's lifeline, the local train - in hues of sepia -

Local train - A vintage photo at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

Mumbai floods - Art collage at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

Gazing at the city landmarks and admiring their rich history, brilliant architecture -

Rajabhai Tower - Art at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

An amazing sketch of a rainy day -

A rainy day - Sketch at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

This kaleidoscope of colors splashed all across, in art abstract -

Art at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

Art abstract at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A

The Bindaas banner ad of the popular and high-spirited, RJ Malishka -

Art at the Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A


...How could I resist…

Saying hello to our beautiful 'Tai' in her caught-unawares posture?!!

An image in art collage at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport, Terminal 1A


Many more such scenes abound in the mural which I have left for you to explore the next time you get a chance. So, the next time, you are waiting to board your flight, you know what to do! ;)

Also watch out for paintings and other artistic works as you move ahead from the self check-in area towards the security check area and beyond - there are more art works and paintings spread all across the different floors of the terminal done by various eminent artists like Brinda Miller - they are all very beautiful.

TRAVELER TIPS / FAQWhat are the services can I find at the domestic terminal, Mumbai?

- ATM outside arrivals & departure.
- Airtel -net surfing unit post security.
- Reserved lounge in departure and arrivals.
- Lost and found/left luggage facility in arrival.
- Information desk in arrival and departure.
- Inter - terminal coach service at arrivals for international transfer.
- Fids-international and domestic flights.


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Which picture from the above collection best describes the city of Mumbai for you? Why?

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