Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to Create Your Digital Travel Diary Using TraveLibro

One of my major motivations behind the humble inception of my dear blog, My Yatra Diary… was to share my travel experiences through thorough descriptions that entailed useful information like how to get there, what to do and more. With no major ambitions, I just wanted to show places as the way I was seeing them, raw and unfiltered, with the core idea being to help people plan their travels in a more efficient way or to give a virtual armchair tour to the rest.

So when the kind folks at TraveLibro invited me to learn more about their website and share my itineraries, I felt it was a wonderful opportunity to simply extend my love for sharing and serving with a wider travel audience.

Next, I created a profile and it’s already been around two months into interacting with it even as I am typing this review post now and I must admit - I am hooked.

My Travel Profile at TraveLibro

Which is a bit weird actually considering that I am a person who feels terribly lost in the world of apps and such tech-savvy things and still prefer the charming old world ways of planning via maps and guidebooks; you know those that smell of real print in paper. That says something right?

Allow me to explain.

WHAT IS TRAVELIBRO?

TraveLibro is a website portal and app, conceptualised and developed for anyone and everyone who loves to travel. Stemming from the sole love for travel, TraveLibro aspires to be the space where one can plan, save, share and cherish their travel memories. Just about everything that an aspiring traveller seeks to do; you can find it in TraveLibro – from the scratch to the finish. It’s focus on creating a community of passionate travelers who love to share their travel sojourns and guidance is evident. This shows up well in the tab dedicated to ‘Destinations and Itineraries’ where you can search any destination and filter it by type to treat yourself to a plethora of well researched itineraries (on over 1200 destinations) uploaded and updated by travellers all over the world and organized neatly through filters like adventure, backpacking, family, budget trips, etc.

Showcasing your love for travel now became easier with TraveLibro!

This information is then taken on a further level with their section of  holiday planner where users are spoilt between handpicked itineraries and hotel recommendations, enabling them to create their perfect holiday with a perfect plan. And then there are travel agents you can contact in case you need some more help with your bookings, on the go app feature where you can record your memories on the go, travel blogs to stoke your travel inspiration and much more!

But guess which feature hooks me the most to this amazingly loaded travel portal?

MY FAVORITE FEATURE IN TRAVELIBRO - 'MY TRAVEL DIARY':

This is where you share what you discover about our world. Your way. Just like I do in this little space of mine, My Yatra Diary.

In most cases, while chalking out itineraries for a trip, we rely on guidebooks or the information relayed on the internet for things to do and places to see at the destination that we are headed to. By providing a personal space to record your journeys in a step by step detailed manner, TraveLibro clearly aims to cut through all of the crap and time wasted wading through irrelevant content often encountered on other sites.

And that, my dear friends, makes all the difference. After all, it is a community. It is a community for the travellers, by the travellers and of the travellers.

'My Travel Diary' Video.

And that I think is what I love the most about the website. Everyone who posts, shares something keeping in mind that it ought to help someone planning a trip. The focus is less on the empty selfies, pretty picture postcards or personal travelogues and more on the importance and purpose behind each posted itinerary.

So if, for example, tomorrow I sat down planning a royal trip to the desert state of Rajasthan, all such details like where to go in Udaipur, what to see in Jodhpur and where to eat in Jaisalmer will be available to me at the snap of my fingertips.

What more do I really need?

The consistently valid advice pouring from travel enthusiasts serves to help prospective travellers plan and manage their own trip in a better manner. Which I what I think makes TraveLibro an excellent travel planning tool. If I had to sum this up, I’d rather do this in their own words – It’s a space that every traveller belongs to, and one that belongs to them!

WHAT ELSE DO I LOVE ABOUT TRAVELIBRO?

One of the coolest features that makes this social travel network highly intuitive and fun to use is the feed section. This is where the social networking aspect kicks in so you get to read the various travel tales of the people whom you follow and star it if you like it. I’ve already found a number of wonderful fellow bloggers whose travel recommendations I trust, so of course I followed them on TraveLibro, and now I get to see their latest exquisite content every time I log into my account (or open the app on my phone) – these amazing people never fail to get me inspired.

Who wouldn't be inspired with such mouth-watering feeds?
Another highlight is their On-The-Go feature available exclusively with on the app. This is where you can capture heart-warming moments; share travel memories LIVE with your loved ones and cherish them for a lifetime. The On-The-Go app feature auto-creates a beautiful timeline of your journey and displays it on a shared timeline. This spikes the user experience allowing them to track their travel experience with simple check-ins, picture uploads and status messages so that they can capture and share their journeys together. I have yet to personally try this feature but from this snippet I saw created by co-founders, Monish Shah and Malhar Gala, it looked really neat, like a little scrapbook for keeps.

Besides these features, I simply love the entire layout of TraveLibro – it is pretty visually appealing which helps retrieve vital information in a jiffy without having to beat your head round the bush. The elegant and aesthetic user interface ensures that a user like me, a visual person, wants to stay in it for long.  Not just to explore its various features on the surface but to dive deeper and tap into a whole new and growing community of travel geeks like you and me; just common people, who love to both travel, inspire and share what we discover about our world.


CONCLUSION:

The website is still in the developmental stage but I would like to see where it goes from here. The interesting mix of crowd sourced information along with experienced authentic voices of the bloggers makes it an eclectic platform - open and freely accessible to all.

TraveLibro has been a great opportunity for me since all I have always wished to do, ever since I got introduced to this wonderful world of internet and travel blogging, has been to share my journeys. With TraveLibro, I am doing just that. If at all such a sharing of mine can reach out to even one person out there and help him in some way, I would feel the ultimate satisfaction and joy of doing a good job in my heart.

If that sounds like a feeling familiar to you too, join TraveLibro today or download it free from the Android app store or iTunes here.

Once you do, find me at http://travelibro.com/users/arti-shah and create a few itineraries. I will add you right back.

And if you’re already using TraveLibro, please share your experience in the comments section below.

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This post is written in partnership with TraveLibro. As always, all opinions are my own.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Places to visit / Teerthas of Rameshwaram: Lakshmana Teertham.


Lakhsmana Teertham, Rameshwaram

There is no sin that God cannot pardon. All we need to do is ask for forgiveness.
~ Pope Francis.


DAY 3: EXPLORING THE TEERTHAMS OF RAMESHWARAM. (FIFTH STOP)  -

LAKSHMANA TEERTHAM!

Among the 64 teerthams (holy water bodies) situated in and around the island of Rameshwaram, let’s visit Lakshmana Teertham today… a place awash with the reminiscences of a sinful Lakshmana asking for forgiveness from Lord Shiva.

Right across this board (picture above) in green is the entrance to a modest temple built in honour of Lakshmana's prayers to resolve his sins. Looking at the ornate colourful ceilings and walls of the temple, you can’t help but get transported to the era of the Ramayana... the great epic which literally comes alive not only in the teerthams of Rameshwaram today but more importantly in the nooks and corners of all believing hearts stitched in the threads of faith and reverence interwoven on the fabric of time.
Lakshmana Temple, Lakhsmana Teertham, Rameshwaram
The backside of the Lakshmana Temple.
View of the insides of the Lakhsmana Temple, Rameshwaram.
Take a sneak peak inside the bright and vibrant Lakshmana Temple.


A few steps down the temple is a holy pond, the highlight of the teertham, with the mandapam (elevated platform) rising from the center. A dip in this pond followed by penance to Lord Shiva is said to have resolved Lakshmana’s sin which he had apparently committed during the Ramayana war.

Beautiful Pond at Lakhsmana Teertham, Rameshwaram
The sacred pond at Lakshmana Teertham.

Today, a dip at the same place soaks all the devouts and believers with the good energy left behind by Lakshmana’s prayers.

The entire pond area was cordoned off by a wooden fence, I realised, while strolling around exploring the area. I wanted to sprinkle a few drops of water onto myself but found them out of my reach. Nevertheless, I still dunk myself in the silences of the environs soaking the tranquillity of the few moments that I was there...

Calm Pond at Lakhsmana Teertham, Rameshwaram
Gently rippling Lakshmana pond bordered by a wooden fence.

Like Rama Teertham, Like Lakshmana Teertham:

As I stood there, still, watching the gently waving ripples, my thoughts began wandering through the corridors of my mind taking me back to the era of the two brothers who were literally inseparable during their time. Lakshmana was not only a brother but also a close confidante, associate and ally of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita, (who were the protagonists of the epic) always following them in their trail no matter where they went, in the jungles to stay as a hermit or to wage a war. All he cared for was to keep serving Rama and Sita with all his heart for his entire life. Rama and Sita in turn held deep gratitude and respect for his younger brother.

How pure the relationship, how tender the bond
and how inspiring the union it must have been!

A complete contrast to this era and age where relationships have become increasingly fragile and are crumbling every single second due to increasing avarice, selfishness and a host of other alarming reasons.

My wandering thoughts were soon arrested by a wall of realization and I exclaimed in excitement -

... hey, isn't there an eerie semblance to the two teerthams of the two brothers?
Lakshmana Teertham and Rama Teertham!

Rama Teertham and Lakshmana Teertham ponds in Rameshwaram.
Rare is the union of beauty and purity ~ Juvenal.
(Pic: Rama Teertham to the left and Lakshmana Teertham to the right)

The two holy ponds...
two separate entities that alone are quite beautiful
but together make an astoundingly rich duet -
each complementing what the other lacks
while compensating for the others shortcomings.
Don't the teerthams reflect a beautiful relationship?
The tapestry of love,
in all its purity,
two offshoots of a single soul.

These were moments of simple reflection... but through the ponds in the two teerthams for the two brothers, I felt Rameshwaram trying to pay a powerful homage to a beautiful relationship that stood the test of time: a relationship reflecting eternal virtues like service, care, respect, gratitude and purity... the soul of which was rooted in the spirit of God.

It was in those moments that I also felt Rameshwaram was trying to speak, through an incognizable language perhaps, inspiring and urging all his devotees to be just the same.


Tips / Information for devotees:

- Morning 6:00 am to noon 12:00 pm, Evening 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
- There is a Naganathar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva just alongside the Lakshmana temple, as pictured below:

Naganathar Temple near Lakhsmana Teertham, Rameshwaram Rameshwaram


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Places to visit in Rameshwaram: Floating Stones Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple.

DAY 1: How to reach, where to stay in Rameshwaram | DAY 2: Ramnathaswamy Temple DarshanAgni TeerthamSunset boat ride | DAY 3: Places to see / Teerthas of Rameshwaram: Gandhamadana Parvatham (Rama Padam)Ghost Town: Dhanushkodi, Rama Teertham Extras: Rameshwaram Food GuideSweeping Healers of Rameshwaram Sea.

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What if I told you to imagine Lord Hanuman from the legends of Ramayana?

Yes, that ardent monkey follower of Lord Shri Ram who followed Him in all His numerous trails.
That powerful monkey God who brought an entire mountain when unable to locate a tiny medicinal sapling.
That faithful servant who single handedly courageously took on an entire demonous unit led by monster king Ravana so that He could pass on a message to Mother Sita.
That Hanuman who selflessly dedicated His whole life in the service of His beloved Master Lord Ram.

How do you think that Monkey God Hanuman must have looked like?
... for real?

Lord Panchmukhi Bade Hanumanji Temple, Rameshwaram.
Deity of Five Faced Lord PanchMukhi Hanuman in Rameshwaram

Let's get out from wherever we are for a few moments and step into the land of Ramayana, Rameshwaram to help our imagination!


DAY 3: EXPLORING THE TEERTHAMS OF RAMESHWARAM. (FOURTH STOP)  -


FLOATING STONES TEMPLE / PANCHMUKHI HANUMAN TEMPLE:

In Rameshwaram, a BIG deity of Lord Hanuman welcomes you right across the road, approximately 3 kms. from the Ramanathaswamy temple. Revered as the Panchmukhi Hanuman, here you meet Hanumanji in a slightly different avatar than across the other temples in India. Gigantic in height with 5 faces and 10 arms, He looks every bit of a "superhero" though as I imagine Him to be in the wonderful tales of  The Ramayana.

WHY PANCHMUKHI HANUMAN?

The story behind Lord Hanuman's manisfestation as Panchmukhi (five faces in English) is an interesting one...

When Rama declared war on Lanka, the monster king Ravana took the aid of his demon brother Ahiravan, the king of Patal lok or the realm of the Asuras. Ahiravan misled Rama and Lakshmana into His kingdom with the wicked intent of killing them. Hanumanji soon sensed something amiss and set out to kill Ahirvan and free His Masters from the clutches of the demon. There was a catch here: Killing Ahiravan was possible only when someone extinguished 5 lamps lit in 5 different directions simultaneously. The great Hero that Hanumanji was, He manifested Himself as the five headed Panchmukhi Hanuman (Lord Hanuman, Lord Narasimha, Lord Adivaraha, Lord Hayagriva and Lord Garuda) and eventually succeeded in His endeavour.

WHAT IS THE HIGHLIGHT OF PANCHMUKHI HANUMAN?

A stone’s throw from the deity is a small temple dedicated to the Monkey God, also housing deities of Lord Rama, His brother Lakshmana and His wife Goddess Sita. One of the major highlights of this holy place is the exhibit presence of floating stones inside the premises. They were around 4 to 5 of them differing in their sizes, all of them floating on the surface of the water. These floating stones are believed to be the same stones that were used by Lord Rama to build the Rama Setu (Bridge) as He crossed over from Rameshwaram to Lanka. A must see architectural marvel if you are in Rameshwaram!

Photography is prohibited inside the temple.

Address: Ramanathapuram District, Rameswaram, India.
Darshan or prayer timings: 06:00 am – 07:00 pm.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Places to see / Teerthas of Rameshwaram: Rama Teertham.


A small tranquil lake and a significant teertham of Rameshwaram, Rama Teertham is a clean pond situated on the Gandamadhana hill.


When in Rameshwaram,
Do spend a few quiet moments here,
That place where Lord Rama is said to have spent some time
while on His way to Sri Lanka...


Rama Pond at Rama Teertham, Rameshwaram



Descending a few steps off the road takes you to the base of the pond, where sitting peacefully, right in the centre, is the mandapam. Painted in bright yellow color with red stripes in between, the holy monument reflects beautifully on the translucent surface of the waters below.

On the steps leading to the pond sit a few lingams, neatly lined, like kids seated for an assembly in school,

Shivlingams at Rama Pond, Rama Teertham, Rameshwaram


... I see a few flowers are offered to one of them, a testimony to the devotion of  the people who grace this place with their faith and prayers.

Climb back up again. As you move towards the Rama Temple located on the other end of the pond, there is a sacred peepal tree, trunk of which is wrapped in shreds of colorful saree knotted with ribbons of raw sacred cotton threads (kucha suta) by women. Wrapped within them are sincere prayers rooted in love and loyalty, asking for the well-being and good fortune of the entire family...

A sacred tree at Rama Teertham, Rameshwaram


Shift the gaze from the tree towards the left, beyond the auto rickshaws, you can see the Rama Temple, a very modest structure in built. Photography is prohibited inside the temple premises but you can catch a glimpse of Lord Rama and family at the temple fa├žade.

Rama Teertham as seen from Rama Pond, Rameshwaram
Rama Temple at Rama Teertham, Rameshwaram
Rama Teertham, Rameshwaram
Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Goddess Sita at the facade of the temple.

WHAT IS THE HIGHLIGHT OF RAMA TEERTHAM?

The Fishes! Yes, the water is pretty clear and you can see the fishes swimming in and out of it. Such a delight to see them wriggle in and out of it and create ripples on the surface of the otherwise unruffled placid pond!


This for me, was the highlight of the Rama Teertham!

Rama Pond, Rama Teertham, Rameshwaram


You can find vendors on the steps of the teertham selling fish food like puffed rice and wheat flour. The fish love this, so make some time to get yourself a packet and offer some compassion to these mute creatures...


This little girl down here inspired me.
She didn't mind me clicking her picture.
In fact, did I even matter?

A girl feeds fish at Rama Pond, Rama Teertham, Rameshwaram

She was totally immersed,
how happy and joyful... in her own little world.
That world, where she sprinkled a handful of puffed rice in the water
And they would all be gone, less than a minute!


Address:

Rama Teertham Address: Near Dhanushkodi
| 2 Km From Mandapan Station, Rameswaram, India.



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