Sunday, December 31, 2017

Calendar Recap 2017... And Welcoming 2018 With A Giveaway!

So, I close my eyes to old ends
and open my heart to new beginnings.
~ Nick Frederickson.

The last day of 2017 is upon us... As the sun sets down on yet another year, the time has come to draw the curtains on the year that was and close my eyes to everything old but not before turning a few pages of my dear diary, not before taking some time to pause and reflect on the moments that made the year, the year that was… Be it through an encounter with a not-so-perfect flower or a village girl with deep soulful eyes or a simple door rich in character or some contemplative moments by the Marine drive - these were moments that I remember where the more intensely I was able to pour of myself, the more I was able to draw from them enriching my gift of experiences in its wake.

Most of these posts were infused with my reflections from my yatras that justify the fact that travel indeed opens the heart in a myriad of ways that are sometimes difficult to fathom for the restricted confines of our mind thus making us more optimistic and aware of our own self in relation to the surroundings around us. In addition, let's not forget the innumerable heath benefits of travelling, all science-backed, that we are exposed to when we shake off our lethargy and get out of our beds to explore the wondrous beauty of the world around us.

Spiraled below is the calendar recap for My Yatra Diary… 2017 with one of my favorite posts picked up from each month along with an accompanying snippet and a picture. Looking back at all these posts today warmed my heart and reminded me to keep it open to new beginnings as I prepared to close my eyes on old ends. As you'll read them, I hope they’d do the same for you.

Also, to commemorate the New Year full of promise for a beautiful, healthy, happy and successful life – I have a giveaway organized at the end as my token of gratitude for all your love that you have continued to share generously on me and my diary, so make sure to scroll through the end and gift yourself a chance to win goodies worth Rs. 4000 in cash (or an equivalent $60 Amazon voucher). Happy New Year Everyone!




It's eloquent, powerful, beautiful, even dangerous.

To slow down, reflect and ponder
on how connected you are with life,
your own self, is priority here.



As I roll my hands onto the engraved walls, I feel a strange sense of kinship with the people in these stories. Be it the epic war from the Mahabharata or the deceptive Sita haran (kidnapping of Sita by Ravana) – it seems like every stone here has an anecdote to share. There are sculptures of Hindu Gods seated in meditative pose and dancing apsaras with dhols making music – all in the richly pillared House of Lord Shiva. Sitting in the center, diagonally opposite the sanctum sanctorum is the majestic Nandi Bull closely guarding His Master.



... Love ...
as childlike, playful and pure as Radha and Krishna
Shaded in a feeling rich and wholesome,
A flight as gentle as a dove



It is not the camera then that I believe but this attitude, this nonstop chattering in our mind, which says - I am going there with my camera; I want to capture this, I want to bring that back – which is the real barrier.

And therein lies the handicap, the real barrier that is asking to be crossed.

This leads me to a whole new perspective to the debate and one which resonates with me (the reason why I have still not ditched my camera) - How if we were to carry the camera without the greed, the urge to capture or hunt but just to see, to simply see?



As the sun’s light dimmed with each passing moment and the intensity of the night increased, I was overwhelmed with a profusion of balming serenity and a comforting guidance never experienced before. Even the setting sun became the veil, the aanchal,which she was drawing over all of her children present there, including me, to shield us from the noisy and frightening world outside.

In her arms, I felt safe.

I felt one with Mother, my own nature.



O, traveller:
Here time ticks as a blessing
The earth joins in the caressing.
All the wounds open and heal
The Noor glows ---
beyond all the lurking shadows
the essence of His presence flows.
Our truth, this joy ---
no one can steal



I inhale a slice of the stillness as my vision is arrested by a 360 degree panoramic view of the endless amounts of space stretching seamlessly across my field of vision. A space where dreams are rooted in the waking world… where lines between the real and the surreal blur, where all the great worries wash away, where life acquires a new meaning, the magic of living in the moment comes alive, also the space every breath becomes a connect to the vibrant energy flowing through the Source from where we come and whence we will be gone.



... Bend down to whisper …
some words unspoken,
a few dreams cherished,
a prayer, conversations of the heart
In His eyes,
love is never absent
In His court,
no one is ever alone or forgotten ~



Not one, not two but the light of a thousand souls jumped out from her gaze, adding another layer of beauty to her slightly demure character. We spoke nothing and yet, I felt everything...

What kind of world lay beneath her veil of precious lovely eyes?
What dreams did they harbour?
Had they been dyed in the sweet play of innocence
or had they been shrouded in the silent shoulder of responsibility?
Were those depths inked in wells of laughter
or were they resonant in pain and sorrow?



I folded my hands in prayer and closed my eyes, breathing in the spectacular gift of light that was drenching every inch of my being in new hopes and vibrant possibilities wiping away any and all the clutter of darkness. Silence glided into my soul while the chatter of the world died down in the ethereal glow of the rising sun. Time came to a staggering halt in the rhythmic melody of the ripples, breaking on the river bank, whispering a murmuring song as a mellifluous and joyful Gomti kept building, going somewhere, sanctifying the shores of the holy land… also the confines of my heart within.



It is only by some divine design that my blog sprang to life 8 years ago despite my incompetence in the arena and that I continue to feel empowered to fill the pages of my dear diary despite the rapidfire changes in the industry. Looking back at all these fragments today, I cannot help but wonder at the richness of life that has come to me by the grace of God. The confidence to embrace my vulnerability, to be sincere and authentic in my words that bind our hearts together, the joy of learning and to share my perspective and voice without apprehension has undoubtedly been some of my biggest achievements of my blogging journey.



December being a month synonymous with gifts and goodies (yes, I am the one enchanted by the idea of Santa!), I decided to skip picking up a post for this month and instead continue the spirit of giving and joy by organizing a little giveaway for all my readers, friends and well wishers. The giveaway is a small token of my gratitude for all the love, support and blessings received throughout the year and to help aid people in their upcoming yatras.


1. Read the posts in the calendar recap of My Yatra Diary above and leave a relevant comment* on any one (or more if you like) of your favorite posts.

2. Come back to this post and leave a comment here so that I know you are in. Even a simple comment like 'Count me in' will do.

* In case you have already commented on the post before, just let me know the name of the post in the comment section below and you're done.

For additional brownie points, follow me and share the post on Twitter / FaceBook / Instagram or any other social media and let me know you did.


TWO lucky winners will receive cash of Rs. 2000 each and in case the winner is not residing in India, the winner will receive $30 Amazon voucher.

The giveaway is open internationally and ends on the 20th of January 2018 midnight IST. Winners will be announced here itself, on the 22nd of January by the end of this month, in this post.

That’s all you got to do to enter, FOLLOW the rules and put your name in the virtual hat besides keeping your fingers crossed, who knows you could just be stepping in 2018 with some extra cash in your pockets to help you towards your upcoming yatras!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. All the best!

[30/01/2018: UPDATE]


I know you might have been waiting for me to declare the winners, so here I am. I hosted this giveaway on the last day of the last year to give something back, to the community as a token of my humble appreciation but I now know that I have received a lot more from it in the form of your love and support. There were 132 comments on this post out of which around 80 eligible ones went into the virtual hat. It kind of breaks my heart to pick just two winners from so many of you but there's only this much I can do. In the end, we can have only 2 lucky winners and...





Congratulations to both the winners, I hope you enjoy putting this cash to some good (read travel) use and pay it forward by sharing your fascinating stories with all of us through your blog posts.

I'm highly grateful to everyone who has walked with me on my journeys throughout the year in the form of likes, shares and wonderfully inspiring comments and to all of you who came here to share their love to My Yatra Diary's... New Year Giveaway and helped me in promoting it through their social media channels - A very BIG Thank You! I wish all of you well in all your future yatras and I hope they transform you in ways you may have never imagined before. Happy 2018!!

*Winners, please leave your email-id in the comment section or shoot me an email at so that I can connect with you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Step by Step Guide: How to Book Shirdi Darshan and Arti Online?

Owing to the massive crowds in Shirdi Sai Baba Mandir, especially during weekends or festivals, the time it can take for the darshan or to get a glimpse of Sai Baba’s Samadhi after reaching the temple can be long (as long as upto 3 to 5 hours). Keeping in mind this fact, we decided to go for online Shirdi Darshan booking this time as we were visiting the temple on the following days of Diwali and were keen to avoid any associated rush that could come with it.

The entire process of darshan booking online, I must say, is a breeze thanks to the brilliant efforts of the managing committee of the Sai Baba Trust to facilitate the same via a simple process for all the devotees through their official website. All you need to do is register on the website, fill a form and pay for the services requested. Initially for the uninitiated though, the registration form might come across as a bit daunting – but be rest assured, it is NOT. It’s one of the easiest online bookings I’ve ever done for all its worth and with this step by step guide at your disposal now, I am sure you will also feel the same. So without wasting any more time, let’s get down to booking your darshan.

STEP 1: Log onto and click on ‘Register Here’ right beside ‘Don’t have an account’ since you are a new user.

Please note here that you can access the contents of the website even without registering but without registration, you can ONLY find out availability of Darshan and accommodation. You will NOT be able to make any payments or bookings.

Sai Baba Online darshan - Registration

After clicking on the registration link, you will be directed to a form where you will need to fill in a few personal details. You will see a question prompt as ‘Do you have a devotee number?’ where you can choose the relevant option. Since we didn’t have any such number, we chose the option ‘No’. As soon as you click on No, the registration form will appear on the same page below.

Registration details in the form - Sai Baba Online darshan

  • Type in your email id and password that you will be using henceforth to log in into your account.
  • Fill in your name, address and contact number.
  • Upload a recent photo (not more than 250 KB in size). Most of the image file formats are accepted.Type the number of any one of your Photo IDs – Adhar card, Pan Card, Ration Card, Passport, Driving License, Voter ID. Please note here that you DO NOT have to upload any image of the ID’s but just have to provide the number. It is advisable to provide your Pan card number here so that all donations you make are eligible for the IT exemptions.
  • Filling the second Identification number is optional and not really required. So I left it blank.
  • Choose a security question in case you lose your password, the question will be helpful for recovery of your account.
After completing the form, click on the Proceed button. You will be sent a link to your registered email id, click on that link to finally complete your registration process and log into the website.

STEP 2: After logging in, click on Darshan.

Sai Baba Online Trust - Click Darshan on Home Page

STEP 3: From the drop down box, select the type of Darshan that you want – Normal Darshan or Arti.

Select the date of your visit to the temple. Please note that the dates are colored in blue, red or yellow. The red and the yellow ones are not clickable as they are already booked or not applicable. The only ones that are of our interest here are the blue ones as these are available for booking.

One suggestion here is to make your booking as soon as possible to increase your chances of getting your desired date and time slot without any unnecessary anxieties. Especially true for ‘Arti’ as it is the more sought after type of Darshan by the devotees.

Sai Baba Online darshan - Fill the Details.png

There are 4 types of Arti starting from the morning Kakad Arti to the Night Shej Arti while there are 11 regular darshan timings that you can choose from starting from the earliest at 6.45 AM to the latest at night 9 PM.

We went for Normal darshan for the morning time slot of 6.45 AM.

Once you choose the darshan Type, you will be allotted a time slot for the darshan which you will be required to adhere to on the day of your visit.

Fill in the number of people who will be accompanying you; male, female and children.

Please note that with this one account, you can book the darshan for ONLY 10 people including you. Should you require booking the darshan for more than 10, you will need to register another account. Since we were four, registering with one account was enough to get all our darshan passes.

After filling in all the details, check the total amount of the passes (Rs. 200 per person) and click on ‘Confirm Service’.

Sai Baba Online darshan - Fill the Details.png

You will not be able to make any changes in the timings after this step, so check everything once again and click OK on the popped question prompt.

STEP 4: Once you click OK, the darshan page will open once again. Leave everything blank this time and click on ‘Proceed Payment’.

Here, an overview of all your selected facilities will be provided, verify everything once again and if you do not wish to avail any other facilities click on ‘Proceed to Payment’.

STEP 5: Here, you will be given various payment options to make your payment. I made my payment through Net Banking but you can also make it with credit / debit cards of VISA, Master card, Maestro card (issued by any bank).

Verify the details once again and click the box ‘I accept the terms and Conditions for payment’. Then click the ‘Proceed’ button.

STEP 6: Fill in the relevant details of the payment method selected. While doing so, do not press the back / refresh buttons anywhere in the process to prevent any errors.

Sai Baba Online darshan - Confirm the details.png

The first time I tried my payment with SBI debit card but received an error on the final step. The amount was deducted but our darshan passes were not confirmed. I called at the helpline number that was flashing at the bottom of the page and spoke to a person who spoke kindly and informed that the amount will be refunded back (which was as informed duly refunded later). He further suggested to try Internet Explorer browser instead of Chrome. When even that did not help out, I eventually decided to pay it via Net Banking and got through with my passes. 

STEP 7: The issued pass will be sent to your email id and will also be available in your account on the website. Take a print out of the pass before reaching the temple on the selected date and time. Take the Photo-ID of the account holder along. Entry won’t be allowed without either the print out or the photo  ID.

STEP 8: Reach the temple with the print out of the pass and the photo id of the account holder at the selected date and time. We reached 15 minutes early of the allotted time slot and went through the gate meant for online booking darshan line (it's different from the gate meant for the regular line) and reached Sai Baba’s Samadhi within 10 minutes of joining the line.

NOTE: For any queries with the booking at any time, you can write to Sai Baba Trust at their Customer Support: or contact them at 02423-258956, 02423-258963, 7720077203.


You can also leave a comment here. If I can, I will help!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Shirdi Yatra: Where to Stay in Shirdi? (MTDC's The Pilgrims' Inn)

Shirdi is a major pilgrim place, hugely significant in Maharashtra and known throughout the world. Once a forest shrouded in plantation and trees, thanks to the burst in travel and tourism, today the place seems to be bustling with hotels and rental homes gawking at you from every nook and corner. Though I am not sure if that makes for a very pretty sight, but almost at every step of your way, you will find a hotel inviting you in.

Shirdi town is spread in a small area, the Samadhi temple being the center of the hub. When it comes to choosing a hotel, go for the ones that are closer to the temple and at a walking distance. If you are planning to book the hotel through the internet, be aware to double check the prices on the deals page and the booking page just before making a payment.

MTDC Shirdi The Pilgrim's Inn

Dad suggested MTDC’s Pilgrim’s Inn Resort, a suggestion I seconded as it is good place we have stayed earlier as well. Pilgrim’s Inn can be booked online from their official site but when we checked, the rooms were full. So we decided to take a chance and try it on the spot. But it is wise to book a hotel in Shirdi beforehand to avoid rush and crowds.

What this disappointment meant is that we reached Shirdi without any prior reservations, hoping to get a room at MTDC’s Resort in Shirdi on the spot and we did! What a relief!


MTDC Shirdi The Pilgrim's Inn Hotel

  • Spacious and a stone’s throw from Baba’s Samadhi Mandir, Hotel Pilgrim’s Inn is run by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). We payed Rs. 2500/- for one family suite and stayed there for a day.
  • We have stayed there earlier and personally, I can vouch for it being one of the best hotels that you can get in Shirdi. Not only does it provide good value for money, the location being just a few steps from the temple, is very good.

MTDC Shirdi The Pilgrim's Inn Family room

  • The room was big and wide enough for all 4 of us to accommodate and was clean and well maintained. The staff was polite and courteous as well.
  • Another plus point for the hotel is their in house restaurant, Neem which serves delicious and fresh local vegetarian food options that you can try.

MTDC Shirdi The Pilgrim's Inn Neem Maharashtrian Thali
My Maharashtrian Thali - Well worth an order!

  • The parking space is ample and the hotel tariffs are reasonable so you can be sure that you will not return burning a hole in your pocket! Overall, an excellent place to stay.

Address: Pimpalwadi Road, Opposite Neetha Hotel,, Shirdi, Maharashtra 423109
Phone number: 02423 255 194


Shirdi is well connected to most major cities by railway and roads. From Mumbai, the distance is around 240 KM and it takes around 5 hours to reach the place via Ghoti. The drive takes you through the Western Ghats mountain range while the Sahyadri mountains in the distance with the rolling meadows doubling up as nature’s blanket keep you engaged.

Sunset on the Mumbai to Nashik-Shirdi highway
Sunset somewhere on the way from Mumbai to Nashik.

A major good news is that Shirdi now has its own airport so that reaching the town has now become a bit easier. Located 15 km from the main Sai Baba Samadhi temple in the Kakadi village, the airport is operating flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad in its initial stages. Located 15 km from the main Sai Baba Samadhi temple in the Kakadi village, the airport is operating flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad in its initial stages. With so many deals by the aeroplane carriers these days, do some search for cheap air tickets before booking your trip, who knows you might just be end up flying to Shirdi. Plans to ply dedicated buses and taxis from the airport to Shirdi town are also in the pipeline.