The nine day Navratri Festival just ended for us in India and for Indians abroad. The grace and colors of Garba in Gujarat, the beauty of dolls display (Golu) in Tamil Nadu and the divinity of the Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal are the hallmark of the festivities.
Out here in Pennsylvania in the USA, while we organized and celebrated Navratri with a Golu (display of Dolls), we didn’t miss the grace, colors, beauty and divinity at all. Nature was present in its full glory.
In fact, there is a fashion parade going on right now to celebrate Navratri and welcome Diwali soon in our neighborhood. Surprised! Yes!
Navyata 2022 is happening in our neighbourhood.
Welcome to Navyata 2022 – the fashion parade of Nature.
Note: Keyboard support was provided by my little grandson Dhruv.
Bet Dwarka, also known as Shankhodhar, is said to have been the residence of Lord Krishna during his ruling years at Dwarka. It derived its name from the word ‘bet’ which translates to ‘gift’ and is believed that Lord Krishna received it from his friend Sudama. In the ancient epic, Mahabharata, Bet Dwarka is known by the name of ‘Antardvipa’ to which people of the Yadava clan needed to travel by boat.
In this modern era of technology and science, we were taken back to ancient times by the authorities responsible for the ferry.
This is nothing but a DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN ANYTIME. (Of course, it is based on the assumption that anything that cut shorts a human life is a disaster).
Here is a video of my ferry ride.
AMD – Ahmedabad Airport – Thriving on Chaos
The Domestic Terminal in Ahmedabad Airport, from where I commenced my return journey home, left me wondering with a few questions.
The Airport at the Capital of the State from where the Prime Minister of the fastest growing economy comes (Varanasi may be his adopted home) presented a feeling of a modern day chaotic mofussil bus stand.
Over crowded waiting area, jam packed lounges with huge queue to gain access to, noisy and vociferous crowd eager to form queues and rush even as the incoming aircraft is sighted, anxious and worried Senior Citizens on wheel chairs….. Ahmedabad Airport gives Chennai Airport a run for its money when it comes to chaos. No doubts about this.
This concludes the Tour Diary – Gujarat. Barring these two, the travel and tour was extremely comfortable and an amazing experience. Will see you soon from the other side of Atlantic .
This is the penultimate blog on our recent tour to Gujarat. I don’t intend to present the notes and photographs covering the traditional tourist spots like the Step Wells, the Sun Temple, Somnath, Dwaraka, Masjids etc etc.
I will rather present a few photographs that I took at three important places viz., Porbandar, Diu and Ekta Nagar.
These photographs bring out a clear message for me.
“ Freedom, Valor and Unity “.
No doubt in my mind that Gujarat stands tall when it comes to Nation building.
Porbandar & Sabarmati – Freedom through non-violence.
When we say “wild and wonderful” where does our mind jump to immediately?
“Hakuna Matata. kusafiri” is the answer.
Confused with the answer? In the East African language of Swahili, it simply means “no worries”, “take it easy”. The answer is “Safari”.
Safari -An introduction
In Swahili, the word safari means “journey”, originally from the Arabic noun سفر, safar, meaning “journey”, “travel”, “trip”, or “tour”; the verb for “to travel” in Swahili is kusafiri. These words are used for any type of journey.
Safari entered the English language at the end of the 1850s thanks to the British explorer Richard Francis Burton. In 1836, British Army Engineer,
William Cornwall Harris led an expedition purely to observe and record wildlife and landscapes. Harris established the safari style of journey, starting with a not too strenuous rising at first light, an energetic day walking, an afternoon rest then concluding with a formal dinner and telling stories in the evening over drinks and tobacco.
The hunting aspect traditionally associated with the safari is said to have its origins where villagers got together to hunt wild boars and reclaim land for farming. However it was the British who used Safaris for hunting for personal pleasure and popularized it.
Gujarat – The wild and wonderful
Our trip to Gujarat contained two segments where we stuck to the spirit of William Cornwall Harris style of Safari as a means to understand the wild and wonderful Gujarat.
Segment 1 – Gir – The kingdom of the “Wild and Wonderful”.
Part A – Jungle Safari
The Gir National Park was established in 1965 in the erstwhile Nawab of Junagarh’s private hunting area, with a total area of 1,412 km2(545 sq mi), of which 258 km2 (100 sq mi) is fully protected as a national park and 1,153 km2 (445 sq mi) as wildlife sanctuary.
Kicking off the day at 0530 Hrs we started our Safari in the jungles of Gir. A four hour drive in an open Gypsy (A jeep) took us the nook and corner of the sprawling Gir Forest. We were lucky to spot a lioness marking her territory right at the start of the Safari. The rest of the Safari covered other animals and birds. Here is an overview.
This was followed by an exquisite lunch and siesta at the FERN GIR FOREST RESORT.
Part 2 – Devalia Safari
Evening Safari was a bit different; we wanted to present ourselves as “strange moving creatures with two legs” to the wild and wonderful. So we locked ourselves in a cage mounted on a Gypsy and paraded ourselves to the wild animals in the Gir Forest. Needless to say that the Wild and Wonderful didn’t bother about us at all and were busy at their routines.
Gujarat Tourism calls this place as “ Devalia Safari Park ” also known as “Gir Interpretation Zone- Devalia”. Here is our Safari with a dufference:
Experience in this segment summed up – “High” on expectations (with increased Lions population and previous day sightings expectations built up) and “Moderate” on success in sighting.
Segment 2 – The Little Rann of Kutch – A saline sublime
In this segment, we moved away from the Jungle to the vast, dry and extremely hot saline desert.
Covering an area of 4954 Km2, Little Rann of Kutch is one of the most remarkable and unique landscapes of its kind. Wild Ass Sanctuary is located in this Rann which harbours the last population of Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur).
It is a vast desiccated, unbroken bare surface of dark silt, encrusted with salts which transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland after the rains. The present saline desert of the Little Rann (saline desert-cum-seasonal wetland) of Kutch is believed to have been shallow sea.
We checked into the Royal Safari Camp at Bajana and relaxed after a sumptuous meal.
Part A – The Wild Ass Safari
We were ready for the Evening Safari. Temperature soared to 43 deg C (in the last week of March itself) and here we are driving in an open Gypsy towards the saline desert from the village center.
Part B – Nature’s Aviary at the Saline Desert
We even got down from the Gypsy and walked around the waterbodies to have an exclusive “darshan” of the birds around there. Wow. What a sight.
Experience in this segment summed up – “Low” on expectations (what do you expect, except a few Wild Asses and that too in a hot desert) and “High” on success in sighting (not only Wild Asses but also an impressive show by the Birds and Aditya, the Sun while setting).
Lessons learnt – Safari and Vedanta
This is our second Jungle Safari after the one at Kanha Tiger Reserve at Madhya Pradesh in 2018.
Safaris like these drive home several lessons, many of them straight from our Vedanta.
Here are some of my learnings:
1. If you are keeping your expectations (desires) high, you are bound to get disappointed (frustrated). After all you are looking for a few hundred wild animals (which are mostly territory oriented) in an area spanning thousands of square kilometers.
2. What you get to see (or otherwise) need not necessarily be seen (or otherwise) by someone who are either ahead of you or behind you. Your experience is unique to yourselves.
3. Time and Space can decide what you get or loose. In other words your experience is time and space limited.
4. Enjoy what you see, your experience. That moment is precious. The idea of being present and savoring the moment is not a novel idea, but it’s often a forgotten one. David Attenborough’s extraordinary documentaries on Animal Kingdom are awesome; no doubt about that. But nothing will ever have as big an effect as seeing the real beauty of the world and its inhabitants on safari by yourselves.
5. Silence is golden. Feel it and enjoy it. Through the day enjoy that moment where a bird or a monkey or a deer provides an alarm for an approaching animal. In the night at the Camp, listen to the insects’ hum and chirp; the stars in the sky and the sounds of nature.
6. See the positives. Even dirty roads and bushy terrain offers great views.
7. The Sun always provides spectacular views both in the morning and evening. Enjoy it and pray Aditya for keeping us alive.
8. Be patient. You have no choice. Sometimes what you want and expect doesn’t happen right away; sometimes what you want takes much longer than you thought it would.
9. Ears are better than mouth. Listening is Often Better Than Talking. Listen to the safari guide or just listen to the sounds of the bush. The point is that when we listen, our bodies are much more attuned to everything that’s happening around us. You also learn what you may not have known.
10. Life is not a rat race. Reconnect with the beauty of little things and enjoy.
Post retirement we had a wonderful plan of exploring every year, one of the States and Union Territories in our country. That was working out nicely till 2019, when the dreaded CoVid 19 stuck. The years 2020 and 2021 saw us getting trapped in the residence.
At last, the opening came in March 2022. We decided that we will visit Gujarat (despite the fear of an oppressive heat). A detailed plan was drawn out (10 night & 11 days) covering nearly 2500 Kms of road journey. The tour was well coordinated and organized by Akshar Travels, Gujarat.
Here is a pictorial summary of our tour plan.
Great experience it was. From the time we landed in Rajkot till the time we boarded our return flight at Ahmedabad, it was non stop learning about animals, places, heritage, culture, food and of course people.
From the non stop “Thambakoo” chewing Rajasthani driver (thanks to Film Stars who are responsible for this addiction in many people) to the tribal people selling their wares in Little Rann of Kutch, evidences of our Sanatana Dharma, everyone in search of pure happiness kept cropping up by the minute again and again.
My iPhone X literally cried for help. Help came only through places where photography was not allowed. Consolidating the photos and preserving them is a mammoth task. That process has just started and the first focus is on my favorite, the Sun – Aditya. The reason is “After all Gujarat is shining. Isn’t it?
Here is Shining Gujarat, a video of Sun Shine across our entire route in Gujarat
The Year 2021 is coming to an end shortly. The threat of Covid-19 and its variants continues and as we find ways and means to mitigate the consequences of this pandemic, we should continue our vigil and care.
On a personal note, God has been extremely kind. With His Grace and blessings from elders, I could continue my journey of learning. Whatever I could assimilate, I could bring them out through my blogs and books and they have been well received.
From a modest beginning in 2019, prabhusponder.com now has over 250 followers, 18000 visitors from around the world (over 35 countries) and 36000 views. This only reinforces that I need to learn more and share more.
So, here is a big THANK YOU and a sincere prayer for the New Year 2022.