Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Birds and birds....Dandeli & Ganeshgudi

Day 1 - Safari to Kali Tiger Reserve - this place is supposed to have the maximum density of black panthers and leopards are also supposed to be quite a few in number. Tigers have been spotted too....well none of the above during our safari.
The Jungle Lodges & Resorts (JLR) property - Kali River Resort on the banks of the river Kali was our place of stay for 2 nights.
I was clear...irrespective of animal sighting, I needed to shoot birds and the same was communicated to our guide - Arjun.

A 2 hour safari over a 20km area yielded the following beauties -

Leaf Bird - Perfect camouflage

White Rumped Shama - a song bird with one of the sweetest voices. Its quite rare. This is a male.

A juvenile Serpent Eagle - Difficult to spot unless keenly observed

Kingfishers - the second one is a white breasted kingfisher

A group of Ashy swallows - very aggressive birds...observe the beaks!

A bronze winged Jacana - hope you can spot it!

Day 1 - Coracle ride - on the river Kali - some finds...

Red wattled Lapwing

Wooly necked Stork

The same evening, instead of another safari, we decided to go to Ganeshgudi - considered to be a bird watcher's paradise. It indeed was!
Old Magazine House at Ganeshgudi is a small JLR property. The land around the property has been cordoned off at a certain point with a screen, behind which people can set up their cameras and shoot the wild birds that fly in and out. 
A set up has been created with bird baths, artificial stumps and some orchids etc made to grow on these stumps....the birds enjoy the baths, play around, keep flitting from one post to another. 
It's a visual treat with all the yellows, blues, reds, browns, blacks and whites. 
Even if you are not an avid bird watcher or photographer, just watching nature's play is a soothing sight. It definitely will bring a smile onto your face:)

Robin after a bath

Frolicking in the bath

Oriental White Eye (OWE)

Tickell's blue flycatcher

Red backed sunbird

White bellied blue flycatcher

Blue Naped Monarch (BNM)

Yellow Warbler

Paradise Flycatcher

Artificial banana flower


Yellow cheeked Tit

Emerald winged dove

Orange headed thrush

Black bird

Puff throated warbler

There are too many pictures and while I've tried to keep limited ones in this blog, to show case each bird, I have had to ensure that at least 1 picture is put up.
There is another whole story that unfolded the next day, but those birds are completely different from the ones here and so would like to keep them separate.

Images are a copyright of Supraja & TJ Shankaran

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Ajanta Caves - An adventurous adventure

Woke up at around 3am in the morning and opened the curtains. All I could her was extremely heavy rain pounding on every possible object in between the sky and the earth.
Lightning was fierce and I went back to bed with a sense of foreboding-a gut feeling saying things are not going to improve but hoping that the sky clears up.
Sleeping fitfully, finally got off the bed at 7:00 am as the plan was to leave for Ajanta caves around 9:00 am. It would take us around 2 hrs to reach the caves.
There seemed to be no respite from the rains and while we were advised against driving in the sudden downpour, we decided to take a chance in the hope that the rain would let up eventually.
Following Google maps, we drove towards Ajanta caves with the rain in full earnest. As we turned into the narrower roads, the visibility decreased significantly and we were barely able to see beyond 50 metres.
With canals on either side of the narrow roads overflowing, the rush of water in some places was scary, to say the least. Two wheelers and smaller cars had stopped. We drove ahead with caution and after a while the rain slowed down to a heavy drizzle.

By the time we reached the caves, it had started raining once more and we had to rent umbrellas at INR50/- each. There were two options to go up - take the stairs or use the ramp. We decided to go with the ramp and started walking uphill. Protecting our cameras was the prime concern throughout.

The caves were built during a period between 2nd century BC-AD and 7th century AD. The caves are split into Chaitya - grihas (meant as a place of worship of The Buddha) and Monastries (meant to house the monks during their stay).
The paintings are done in Tempera* style on a mud plaster surface.

As you enter the cave you see The Buddha in a lotus seated preaching pose - 

This cave is the most famous one with paintings of Padmapani (The Lotus holder) and Vajrapani (The Thunderbolt holder) - "The compassionate one" and "The fierce one" respectively.

In another part of the cave, there were some paintings related to The Jataka tales. Could not capture many of them due to lighting and stability issues (tripods are not allowed)

One such painting is indicated below - 

Cave 2 - A smaller one in size this cave also has a statue of the Buddha in a teaching posture

The beautiful painting on the ceiling visible above and shown below another painting on the ceiling - 

The 2nd cave also has a brilliant painting of a discourse being given by Vidhurapandita - wise minister of King of Indraprastha

It's astounding that colours dating centuries ago are still visible and we can still get a semblance of the grandeur of these caves.

A frontal view of the entire cave 2, depicting massive paintings on either sides of The Buddha.

The rains were continuously battering and getting wet partially, (remember the cameras required more protection), we moved from one cave to another. 

Cave 4 - it is said, is the largest one amongst the Ajanta caves (I wouldn't know since I could not see all of them due to the rains and the bridge being cut off!)

Cave 6 - The Buddha seated in a squatting pose surrounded by flying couples above him. 

This cave is interesting because instead of Bodhisatvas in attendance, we have similarly seated Buddhas.

Cave 7 - Buddha flaked by Bodhisatvas

Cave 9 - One of the more elaborate caves with the Stupa and columned pillars (not shown here)

Some of the paintings adorning the sides of the Stupa -

Cave 10 - There were supposed to be almost 300 paintings in this particular cave but very few of them remain. A glimpse of a few below - 

 Buddha and the one eyed monk

We could not go beyond Cave 10 because the connecting bridge was damaged due to the gushing waterfalls as a result of heavy rains.

We had to end our Ajanta journey incomplete hoping for another time to complete this tour.

Tempera (Italian: [ˈtɛmpera]), also known as egg tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk or some other binder) - Source of information - Wikipedia

Disclaimer - 
There could be some errors in the narration w.r.t the cave details as it's been a year since we made this trip and its only now that I have been able to update it. 
* All photos in this blog are the copyright of Supraja & TJ Shankaran

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A son's love for his mother....

I have this habit of planning quick road trips at every opportunity that I get and the 17th Sept weekend was one such opportunity. We took a day's leave on 18th Sep'15.
We left Kandivali Lokhandwala at 6:30 hrs and quickly headed towards the Nashik - Aurangabad route.
I had booked Oyo rooms for the 1st time at Aurangabad.
The plan, am sure is evident...just to clarify, we had decided to cover Ajanta & Ellora apart from Aurangabad.

So off we headed and made a quick stop just before Igatpuri to grab a quick breakfast that we were carrying and have a brew of Davidoff...the first time we were carrying a Thermos flask with hot water and coffee separately. Boy! Was it fun!

It being the end of Monsoon, the weather was foggy in these parts and light streaming through the clouds made it dreamy...

Off we headed, driving through the Nashik - Sinnar route to reach Aurangabad around 3:00 pm.
It was the day of Ganesh Chaturthi and the roads at Nashik were crowded...but after a little effort we managed to snake out stopping for a quick lunch just before Aurangabad.

We checked into the Hotel at Aurangabad into an Oyo room and after a little lazing around and a cup of coffee, decided to complete the places within Aurangabad.

We headed towards the most important monument at Aurangabad - Bibi ka Maqbara (Bibi's tomb). Although we knew it was a replica of the Taj Mahal, the similarity still amazed us. We reached around 5:30 in the evening and it was still day light.

We stared at the monument for a while and then walked towards it, clicking shots from different angles. One of my favourites is down below -

As we kept meandering around the monument, I kept looking at the people around me and their expressions. People talking about it being the "Poor man's Taj Mahal", some talking about it as a tribute by Aurangzeb to his wife trying to imitate Shah Jahan.

The actual fact is that it was built by Azam Shah - Aurangazeb's son in memory of his mother - Dilras Banu Begum.

It is said that Aurangzeb was an extremely austere king. He believed in using the people's money for the welfare of the state, rather than for his own personal desires or that of his kin.

His austerity led him to carry out many atrocities on the people and he abhorred the fact that his father spent lavishly on building monuments and epithets for personal pleasure.
Aurangzeb is also known to have earned his own bread and butter by writing miniatures of the Quran in calligraphic Arabic and making skull caps and selling them.

It is due to this austerity, that the Bibi ka Maqbara turned out to be a poor replica of The Taj as the budget sanctioned was only 7 lakhs during that period and they had to cut down the use of marble and use limestone instead on the minarets.

There was something very tranquil about this place and as dusk settled in, we decided to just sit it out for a while at this place. There was a slight drizzle and while we took shelter to protect our equipment, we kept looking at the monument to see it in the changing evening colours. It wasn't very fruitful, because coloured lighting from the entrance of the monument was not helpful in any way - neither was it lighting up the monument nor was it giving enough light to capture a good picture.
After a lot of trial and error, this was the best we could come up with.

A couple of images of the work visible on the monument- 

The view of the front of the monument

After spending about 3 hrs at this place, we headed back to the Hotel, eagerly awaiting the next day as we had planned The Ajanta caves.
Little did we know.....a new unimaginable adventure awaited us!