Tuesday, January 28, 2014


First part of this article written by Sailaja, my sister. It consisted of their trip to Nepal and Himachal Pradesh of Northern India. In this second part of the article I am going to give the details of our trip to Kerala.  I and Murthy from Vizag and Sailaja and Babu from Hyderabad reached Cochin on 10th almost at the same time. That evening we went to see Chinese nets on the beach and also some temples and old forts and a museum, collected, organized and managed by one person.  Chinese nets, arranged around jetties are amazing. They catch lot of fish just sitting on the shore.  The museum consisted of ancient wooden, and metal statues, old photographs, models of old homes, household articles and temple architecture. All arranged in three floors. That day we stayed in Hotel Abad and went to our friend Menon’s house for dinner. 

Next morning, in a car arranged by the travel company, we proceeded to Kumarakom, around 65 to 70 k.m. from Cochin. We checked into Abad Whispering Palms resort which seems to have been built almost in the waters. There were fountains, duck ponds, hammocks for the pleasure of the guests.  Kerala is rich, with huge modern bungalows everywhere with big yards where lot of trees and spices are grown.  Due to consistent rain fall, all round it is lush green.  That afternoon, we went for a boat ride in the backwaters.  It was a great experience.  The Kerala backwaters, as you all know are very famous.  They are spread along the whole coast but only parts of it is populated and used for transportation and living around the water front.  Actually, the boat ride in Kumarakom is in a vast fresh water lake called, Vembanadu Lake which is connected to backwaters and sea.  Hence, when it is high tide, the waters become slightly salty but otherwise they are sweet. Backwaters have long narrow as well as wide canals, which are more like streets on land.  Houses and buildings are built along the banks.  These canals are used for transportation of goods as well as people.  These waters attract many migratory birds as well.  When we went it was still not the time but we could still see some early birds.  Sunset over the sea was golden, the setting sun lighting up the waters, which shone like molten gold.  We were brought back by 6 p.m.     

Next morning very early we went for a walk in a bird sanctuary over marshy lands.  But unfortunately could not see anything. After breakfast, we started off for Thekkadi forest resort.  Throughout the way it was lush green, vibrating with life from animals and birds.  On the way we stopped by to view “Valanzanganam” water fall but it was not very impressive.  Reached the resort by lunch time.   On the way we also visited elephant yards but did not bother to take a ride since we all had the experience earlier.  After lunch rested for a while and proceed to a theatre where Kathakali dance was being performed.  There was a demonstration of the makeup and costume. Before the actual performance of the story, there was also a demo of their eye movements, mudras etc.  Though some of the artists were from “Kalamandalam”, the actual dance was not very impressive. 

That night it rained heavily and it was still raining next morning too. But since the program was fixed, we started early in the morning (5.30) for the forest to see the wild life in a jeep.  Drive was very nice though it was quite cold and wet.  When the sky started lighting up, we were looking for wild life.  Driver of the jeep was very alert and had a keen eye. He could spot a deer on the top of a hill, a monitor lizard on a rock surface, languor monkeys  on the high branches and of course a wild buffalo in a deep pond. We heard elephants breaking bamboos but could not see them.  We could see their fresh droppings though!!

Reached the Thekkadi forest office by about 8.30, had breakfast there and went for a boat ride in the lake.  Wanted to go for trekking also but due to rain, it was all very slippery, fell a couple of times and gave up and returned to the office.  Started on our return journey after lunch.  That evening was complete rest.  In the hotel lobby we saw one gentleman painting some thing and exhibiting some paintings.  We went to explore.  He was from Orissa and was stenciling and painting on palm leaves. They were very intricate and beautiful.  We bought some. 

  Next morning after breakfast – in all these hotels and resorts, breakfast is included in the tariff. Hence we were forced to take breakfast before we started – we started off for Allappy, which was around 65 km.  and we reached there by 11.30 a.m. and proceeded straight to waterfront and jetties.  After registration we got into a two bedroom houseboat which was comfortable though simple with sitting space, dining area and a divan on the front of the boat, on the floor.  There are houseboats with 10 bedrooms as well for large groups.  We stayed in Kashmir houseboats also earlier. They are luxurious, with carpets, curios, nice cutlery and crockery but they are stationary, moored in the Dal lake but Kerala houseboats plying in the backwaters are on the move.  They take you round the canals, show you interesting sites and allow you to do some shopping as well.  I am again coming back to the backwaters.  They are full of life, large and small boats are always on the move, aquatic birds are fishing, roosting, waters are full of vegetation – sometimes you are afraid that the boat may get entangled in the weed – and all round on the banks you see luxurious homes, resorts and clubs.  And churches as well. Kerala tourism is flourishing very well.  Even small wayside restaurants have comfortable rest rooms.  The attendants in the boat gave us lunch while the boat was on the move, which was a great experience.  Food was tasty though simple.  They took us to a wayside village where there was a huge church, and a workshop where wooden curios were being made.  They moored at around 6 p.m. at a place belonging to the company where they could get power to run the AC for bedrooms. Generator in the boat can give enough power to run the lights and fans and a fridj only.  Next morning he started off again at about 8 a.m., touring the canals and brought us back to the jetty by 11 a.m.        

After finishing the formalities, we proceeded by road to Cochin again – where we started and checked into a hotel very close to the airport since our flight was very early in the morning and the city is a clear 30 k.m.  After spending an uneventful evening we boarded the flight early in the morning of 16th and reached Vizag. 

On the whole it was a very pleasant trip. We have to learn a lot from Kerala State.  After seeing the backwaters and the tourism which developed around them, bringing a major amount or revenue to the State, we felt our Govt. also has to learn a lot from them.  We also have resources like ancient temples, good climatic regions and best of all, our Kolleru  lake near Eluru.  A lot of tourism can be developed around it. During winter it is a roosting place for many migrating aquatic birds.  A lot can be done there. Right now there are no proper places to stay, no transportation to or in the lake.  If govt. can’t do it, itshould at least encourage private parties to develop facilities so that the govt. itself can be benefited.   

A. Vijaya Murthy (Jijji)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Part Two of Sailaja's -                     

                                                            Our 2013 India Trip

Dharamshala is a city in Kangra district. It is the district headquarters. It was formerly known as Bhagsu. The Dalai Lama’s residence in McLeod Ganj and the headquarters of Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile) are in Dharamshala. We visited Dalai Lama’s residence, the Tibetan museum, Bhagsu waterfalls, and from there we visited Sidhabari a 16 km distance from Dharmasala where Chinmaya Ashram was built and where His Holiness Swami Chinmayananda was laid to rest.  It was a beautiful building, they installed Swamiji’s statue in sitting pose on the samadhi , it feels as if he is looking directly at the Himalayan Mountain range.  We also visited Kangra museum and the Kangra Fort along with International Cricket stadium.

Next day, we started towards Dalhousie.  It is a hill station which was a summer retreat in the times of British Raj. Located on the western edge of the Dhauladhar mountain range of the Himalayas, it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Dalhousie is situated between 6,000 and 9,000 feet (2,700 m) above sea level.  It is the place for defense cantonment and quite a few international residential schools.  24 km from Dalhousie is a place called Khajjiar popularly known as “mini Swiss”. The hill station is surrounded by green meadows and dense forests. It is about 6,500 feet (2,000 m) above sea level in the foothills of the Dhauladhar ranges of the Western Himalayas and snowy peaks can be seen in the distance. It has a rare combination of three ecosystems: lake, pasture and forest, all in one place.  Many Hindi movies were shot in this beautiful location.

The next day we started early to reach Amritsar.  The important places to visit in Amritsar are the famous Golden Temple, Wagha Border and Jalianwala Bagh.  It takes at least half a day to completely see the Golden Temple.  One must stay, the volunteers are well organized, the people are well behaved and everybody stood in line while Bhajan music is going on, and the lines moved quite quickly and efficiently.  Even during afternoon, non rush hour, the crowd is huge.

From there, we went to see Jalianwala bagh, which is quite nearby.  We took a rickshaw.  It is a very nice place, maintained like a park and picnic spot.  I was quite disappointed about it, since the spirit of sacrifice of the lost souls in the massacre, the cruelty of the British-Brigadier general Dyer in that area was not represented well.  People visiting would not be able to imagine the incident that took place there.  The well where in the people jumped into, was well protected and covered, so people cannot really stand there pay homage.

The next stop was the Wagha border where daily military security forces of India and Pakistan jointly change guards and at sunset, both national flags are lowered jointly.  The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again. The ceremony is very patriotic. Huge crowds on each side cheer and sing patriotic songs and dance, before the actual ceremony starts.  The bugles, the crisp steps of the Jawans are worth to watch. 

The next day we started to pay a quick stop at Chandigarh.  It was the first planned city in India post independence in 1947 and is known internationally for its architecture and urban design. It serves as the capital of both Punjab and Haryana.  The three important places we could visit are the Zakir Hussein Rose garden, Sukhna lake and the Rock garden, which covers 18 acres of rock sculptures, designed by just one person named Nek Chand Saini.  In his spare time, Chand began collecting materials from demolition sites around the city. He recycled these materials into his own vision of the divine kingdom of Sukrani, choosing a gorge in a forest near Sukhna Lake for his work. The garden is very imaginative, creative and very artistic.  Worth seeing!! Wish we could spend more time.  

In general, Himachal Pradesh is not very clean and with the recent rains, the roads and structures were quite damaged.  We felt that Shimla is the place to visit and enjoy, but people live there has a very hard life, since the climate is very harsh and conditions are very hard.  One thing we noticed in HP is most of the houses on the hill side are facing towards east and all the windows are facing east to get maximum sunlight and warmth.

Another interesting feature we found in Dalhousie was that there are no attached restrooms to any restaurants or public places.  The restrooms are built at the end of the street and they are used by everyone.  In a way, that is a good feature, but since it is used by all kinds of people, we were very hesitant to use them.  The good part is the wonderful scenery, the pine and deodar forests and the snow capped Himalayas! You can never get enough of it!
Sailaja Somayajula

Monday, January 20, 2014

Our 2013 India Trip


Describing the geographical structure of India; we always say “Aaa sethu modalu seethachalam varaku”.  I cannot say our trip is so accurate to these words, but close enough!  We travelled from Northeast Himachal mountain ranges to south western mountain range. Basically, we covered New Delhi, Nepal, Himachal Pradesh and touched base in Punjab and extended our travel to Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

We landed in New Delhi in the early hours of the day and managed to refresh at the airport lounge and headed to Kathmandu by morning 8am flight. 

Kathmandu stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 meters (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. It is surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Kathmandu Valley is part of three districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur).  The important landmark in Kathmandu is the Durbar square where most of the site seeing happens. It includesJagannath temple,  Taleju temple, Hanuman Durbar, Kastha mandap, Basantpur palace, Kalabhairav temple, House of Kumari, Big bell etc along with shopping area, bazaars and more.  We also visited Swayambunath temple, Pasupathinath temple.   

One evening at about sunset time we reached Nagarkot, which is 32 km NE of Kathmandu.  Nagarkot is famous for its Himalayan views- the Himalayan peaks at sunrise or sunset are a magnificent sight to behold.  No words can describe the view from top of the mountain.  We could see the whole Himalaya mountain range on one side and the other side peaking between the clouds there appeared Mt. Everest.   

About 20 km from Kathmandu, in a place called Sanga, on a mountain range we saw the world’s tallest statue of Lord Shiva which is made of copper, cement, zinc and steel which stands at 143 ft. The construction started in 2004 and completed in 2011.

The best part of the trip is the one hour mountain flight that is conducted by local airline companies.  The first day after sitting in the airport for hours together hoping to take the flight, at the last minute, it was cancelled because of the bad weather.  We tried the next day early morning again waiting in the airport for hours, but luck was on our side that after a trial flight, they decided to fly.  That is the experience one can never describe in words only to be experienced!  The flight took close to the peaks and the pilot invited each of us into the cockpit and pointed each peak and allowed us to take pictures, particularly of Mt. Everest and Gowrie Shankar at close range from the cockpit.   

We have seen so many mountain ranges Rocky Mountains Blue Ridge Mountain in  States, Alps and others in Europe, but none of them come close to Himalayas as they sore high with dignity and majesty.  The valleys are breathtaking with beauty as well as fear.  You feel devotional at the spiritual level, respect and fear and modesty at the intellectual level and at physical level, you feel very humble and realize how small a man is before or in front of the Nature!

Kathmandu being a major tourist attraction to the international visitors, it could have been better if the city is more clean and especially the domestic airport. We missed the opportunity to visit Phokara, a wonderful scenic city which is close to the base camp of Annapurna Mountain.  The city consists of 8 lakes with lots of related activities.  

After returning to New Delhi, we took one day break and then headed towards our next tour to Himachal Pradesh.  Our first stop was Shimla.  We opted to take train from Delhi.

Early morning we boarded the train which took us to Kalka, a city at the foothills of Himalayas and an entry point to Himachal Pradesh.  There we changed to a narrow gauge train which is commonly called as “Toy Train”.  The distance between Kalka and Shimla is only 96 km but it takes more than 3 hours. In this short distance, the train goes through 103 tunnels. This route is famous for its breathtaking views of the mountains and the surrounding villages.  This route is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 Shimla is one of the top ten tourist attractions of India.  The streets of the city are all
snake shaped and goes uphill and down slopes with one side the valley and the other side the mountains.  You can never guess between the mountains, where the offices or the shops or the schools are! You only see people suddenly appearing on the road side walking. You wonder where they are going!  The main attraction of Shimla is the “Mall” Street which is the hub for all the shopping, municipal offices, Famous Christ church and restaurants.  The best part of this is that no automobiles are allowed on this street, and

People have to leave their cars and stroll along the streets of this “Mall”.  They have small pony rides for the children.  You all can relate to this street from many Hindi movies of 70s and 80s.like “Love in Shimla” and also The Kalka-Shimla train is pictured in the movie “Aradhana”(Hindi).  

Near Shimla at the height of 2455 meters from sea level, on the famous Jakhu hill is located the ancient Jakhu Temple. The scenic view that surrounds this beautiful temple is absolutely breathtaking and splendid. It is hardly 2 kilometers from the Ridge and is an uphill climb through the beautiful deodar (Devadar) trees. The Jakhu Temple of Simla is dedicated to the monkey God, Hanuman.  The legend says that Hanuman took rest on this

Mountain when he is bringing back the “Sanjivani Mountain” to its original place.  The original temple is very small, and naturally the whole place is occupied by monkeys.  Recently they built a 350 ft statue of Lord Hanuman, and the orange colored Hanuman can be seen from anywhere in Shimla.  

The next place we visited is “Kufri”, a small hill station, the main attraction of it is the winter sports and its Himalayan Zoo.  On the way, we took a ride on horses to top of a mountain for its breathtaking views.  Learned how to steer the horse and how to position our body when going up the hill or coming down the hill. It was an experience! We took ride on horse and elephants, the only thing remained is camel! May be one of these days!!

The next day off, we go on an 8 hr drive about 270 km to Manali. It is at an altitude of 2,050 m (6,726 ft) in the Beas River Valley is a hill station nestled in the mountains near the northern end of the Kullu Valley.  The drive was very pleasant and views are memorable.  We took break at every scenic place and enjoyed the snow peaks and the lush valleys along with Sutlej river. On the way, we visited a shawl factory.  Manali is a beautiful city which also has a Mall road.  The main temples we visited are Vashista temple and in the same complex there is a Shiva temple and Rama temple.  Vashista temple is also famous for its nearby hot springs.  We also visited Dhoongri temple dedicated to goddess Hidimba, wife of  Bhima of Mahabharat fame. It has four-tiered Pagoda shaped roof and the doorway is carved with legendary figures and symbols. This temple located amidst wooden forest of deodar. It was built in 1533 AD and it is one of a kind.   There is a nearby Ghatothkacha temple too.   

The next day we booked a local taxi (only HP drivers are allowed, not our Delhi driver) to go to Rhotang pass. The weather was clear and no clouds and we were so excited to go.  Rohtang Pass (3979 m) which is 51kms.from Manali on highway to Keylong/Leh. It offers a panorama and spectacular Mountain View.  The road is very narrow and rugged with high risk of falling rocks and very steep at places.  It is quite cold and along the way up to 12 km, there are hundreds of shops with winter gear that you can rent.  Unfortunately, there was a dispute between the taxi people and the local police, and they stopped all the vehicles at about 15 km from Manali.  They didn’t allow any vehicle on that road until the dispute was cleared and it didn’t till the next day afternoon.  But, we had to leave for Dharmasala and missed the life’s experience.  But the good thing is, we instead visited Solang Valley. 13 kms. From Manali is a splendid valley between Solang village and Beas Kund. Solang valley offers the view of glaciers and snow capped mountains and peaks. It has fine ski slopes.  Manali is a beautiful place for winter sports like skiing, trekking, Para gliding etc.  Anybody who watched “Ice Road Truckers” on history channel must have watched them driving on this Rhotang pass!!

Sailaja Somayajula.



Sunday, January 5, 2014

Felicitation of Mrs. and Mr. DVR Rao (Nani) by Andhra Association, Pune.


     On the occasion of its 72nd ‘Foundation Day’ which is 22nd December, Andhra Association, Pune, organised a function to celebrate its glory with its members. As part of the celebrations, Mrs. And Mr. DVR Rao of Pune, more familiar to us as Nani and Sesh, have been felicitated.


      Both Nani and Sesh have been active in Andhra Association, Pune for the last 31years. Sesh has been the member of its School Committee and Nani has been  an active member and office bearer and continues to be the Electoral Officer for each election every year since the past two years. Both are very active in their participation in all activities of the Association.


     The Andhra Association, Pune has been established by late Mr. Achanta Kanakraj (father of Sesh) in the year 1941.  It is presently in its 73rd year and going strong. This was very much evident from the active and enthusiastic participation of its members, young and old, at the Foundation Day function.


    Kuchipudi dance performances and a short play which had the audience in splits, were part of the event.  The function was rounded off with heavy snacks.

This write up is sent by Sandilya Digumarthy ( son of Devi and Lakshmana Rao) who attended the function.
22nd Dec, 2013