Samvaad, The Tribal Conclave – 2023 Edition

The sprawling ground is abuzz with excitement. The circular Gopal maidan is a kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, lights and energy, pulsating right in the heart of the city.

Salutations of ‘Johar’ ring through the air, as the word that means ‘Welcome’, warmly greets visitors from near and far.

The thronging crowds cannot seem to get enough of the action, as they hover around the umpteen stalls, undertaking the overwhelming task of choosing from innumerable options spanning myriad delights that range from art and crafts, regional dishes, traditional herbal medicines and much more.

Taking centre stage is the electrifying beat of tribal music that fills the air and intensifies  the vibrant atmosphere, heightening the overall aura of festivity.

I am thrilled to be a part of Samvaad which is an annual tribal convention held in the city of Jamshedpur which lies in the East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, India.

This is my first ever visit to Jharkhand and obviously to Samvaad too and it is my utmost pleasure to witness the 10th edition of this yearly tribal festival which promises 5 glorious days of immersion into the various facets of tribalism encompassing music, art, cuisine, culture, folklore and the like.

While I am here to focus primarily on the cuisine, I must confess that I am unable to resist the temptation of revelling in all the other aspects of the festival and I marvel at the wonderful tapestry of the various elements of tribal living that have been so skillfully woven into a one stop display by the well curated event.

Come say ‘Johar’ to Jamshedpur as we go stall hopping to explore the delights of our bountiful tribal treasures.

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Kabini Jungle Safari at Nagarahole National Park

Tiger Tiger burning bright 

In the sunny afternoon light

(with due apologies to William Blake, with whose poem I am messing 😉)

She glided out into the glade, from deep within the dense woods. I had come for her but had not expected her to show herself so soon and so easily. Holding my breath, I tried to capture her every movement. She was at quite a distance and I worked hard to make the most of the opportunity, hardly expecting her to grace me with a closer presence.

But that day she was in a very generous mood and mode and as she nonchalantly sauntered nearer and nearer towards me and sashayed right past my safari bus, I thanked my stars (and her stripes) and as the driver cruised skillfully and gently alongside, my hyper active camera  greedily seized her every frame until it had had its fill of her.

But can one really have one’s fill of the tiger in the wild? As she swished her tail and eventually strolled back again into the cover of the forest, I gazed longingly at her retreating rear, wishing that the magic would continue and that she would turn and return to do the cat walk for me once more … at least once more.

Yes, spotting animals in the wild is an insatiable thirst but I had to be satisfied with what was considered a very fortunate 10 minute sighting, on my maiden safari in the Kabini region of the Nagarahole National Park and I thanked the glorious jungle for its magnanimous gesture.

This was my first safari in South India and in addition to the Diva whom I just spoke of, I also encountered many other exciting jungle beings and if you are curious to know about them, then all you have to do is read on!!!

Kabini refers to a section of the Nagarahole National Park and this lies in the Mysore district of Karnataka state in India. Since this is the part that I visited, my narration will cover my experiences here. Hopefully I will have the pleasure of exploring a different safari via the other gates of this forest in future.

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RathnaPrabha Farm

The lone tree stands sentinel, its barren arms dramatically reaching out to the sky, as if frantically beseeching its avian guests to adorn its starkness.

And as if unable to refuse the compelling plea, birds of several species obligingly descend upon it, flitting in and out of the network of dry branches, sometimes pausing to perch and at times hopping or flying away, just to return in moments. Of course it is an added incentive that a wild berry tree has intertwined itself with the base of the dry giant, enveloping its lifeless torso with its living presence, enabling a combined and complete package of boarding and lodging for its feathered friends.

The iconic symbol with its multitude of potential perches, is synonymous with the little farm on whose ground it rises out of. This eye catching specimen looms into view as soon as you enter the place, framing itself against the distant view of the serene blue Kabini backwater and the horizon which it hugs alongside.

This is the vista that greets you at the charming little homestay called the RathnaPrabha Farm, a cozy home which lies in the Heggada Devana Kote taluk of Mysore district in Karnataka, India (and which similarly provides boarding and lodging for its human guests 😎)

One of the popular budget stays for visitors who arrive mainly with the intention of embarking on the Kabini jungle safari, this little farmstay also contributes its mite towards keeping its guests entertained in between jungle jaunts and if you want to know how, then stay by my side as I take you inside to explore this pretty property.

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Hampi’s Feathers Resort

A remote location, a surreal sprawling landscape with boulder studded hillocks rising out of startlingly contrasting lush green fields, innumerable water bodies dotting the region …  and tucked away amidst them all, this enchanting little hideaway called Hampi’s Feathers Resort, in all its circular splendor. What an incredible set of elements to greet me on my maiden visit to Hampi, one of Karnataka’s (and India’s) premier heritage sites, which lies in the district of Vijayanagara in Karnataka, India..

Set against the rugged backdrop of the Yamini Hills of Hampi, Hampi’s Feathers is truly a secluded and magical getaway, with the advantage of being far from the crowds that throng the touristy space at Hampi but yet easily accessible to it, via 30 km of excellent roads (and only 6 km across the river)!

Join me as we enter its charmingly rustic environs and revel in its serene and soothing ambience.

This trip was organised by BlueEarth Hospitality. 

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Channapatna the Toy Land

Channapatna, our very own Toy Land

Hurtling down the highway flanked by rows upon rows of shops sporting colorful wooden toys, briefly halting there to pick up a few of the objects that greatly tempt with their brightly colored presence and then speeding off again to the eventual destination … this used to be my story and also probably that of many others who have frequented the Bangalore Mysore highway.

Not once did I manage to make the time or create the opportunity to check out the actual Toy Story behind these delightful articles which are iconic to the town of Channapatna in the district of Ramanagara, Karnataka, India.

Well there is a right moment for every event and finally I got my chance to delve deep and explore this fascinating and age old craft of wooden toy making, when I was invited on a wonderfully educative tour organised by India Tourism Bengaluru in order to raise awareness and promote these crafts.

And like Alice in Wonderland, Caroline in Toyland traipsed through the little villages and factories of Channapatna, bobbing in and out of artisan’s homes watching their deft fingers shape bobble headed dolls and other such playthings.

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World Folklore Day at Janapada Loka – Ramanagara

Step back into the days of yore,

Enter the world of rural folklore

Throbbing drumbeats, high pitched melodies from quaint instruments and performers in vibrant costumes animatedly prancing around, creating a highly captivating festive atmosphere … this was the scene which greeted us as we arrived at the magnificent gates of the Janapada Loka.

We were here to witness the exhilarating performances and programs being showcased to celebrate World Folklore Day and what better venue than the Janapada Loka, a spectacular museum which houses thousands of artefacts representing the various lifestyles, customs, cuisines, crafts, arts and many other facets of Karnataka’s rich native and ancient folk culture.

This delightful opportunity was organised by India Tourism Bengaluru, with whose collaboration I was able to be a part of this wonderful occasion at Janapada Loka, Ramanagara district, Karnataka, India.

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Veerapuram Bird Sanctuary

Guttural squawks, groans and clattering sounds greet us as we drive into this tiny village. The perpetrators of these noises seem to be perched on the massive tamarind trees that tower over the clusters of little houses. As I look up towards the sky, I am delighted and awed to sight hundreds of large and magnificent birds studded across the branches, perched in various stances. Some of them periodically take off and land with a grace that is admirable for their size, while others merely squat around as if discussing important matters befitting their positions in high places.

Welcome to the Veerapuram Bird Sanctuary in the Sri Sathya Sai district of Andhra Pradesh, India and marvel at the strange connection between the villagers and the innumerable Painted Storks which have inexplicably and repeatedly chosen this place as their home from February to August every year.

My visit to the beautiful homestay called Laila’s Farm has yielded this serendipitous discovery and my camera and I are excited to explore this little sanctuary and capture these gorgeous beings on lens.

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Ayatana Coorg

The air is thick with the high pitched buzz of countless cicadas. The strident chorus dominates the atmosphere and reverberates through the forest. The crescendo is unwavering and it is as if every cicada is contributing its mite and might and striving vociferously to add to the delightful din.

As I stand there thinking that nothing can break into this oxymoronic organised cacophony, I hear a mellifluous whistle valiantly making its way through the clamor, as if flirtatiously beckoning me into the woods.

It is the Malabar Whistling Thrush welcoming me to the paradise where I am eagerly waiting to spend the next 2 days of my life in much needed relaxation. 

The vegetation is lush and sparkling clean, being washed repeatedly by the rains that are now ruling the season. The sprawling green landscape soothes the eyes and the soul and I feel my senses being likewise cleansed even as I enter into the wide gates of Ayatana Coorg, a luxury resort which lies deep within the hilly region of the Coorg district in Karnataka, India.

Come hop onto the buggy with me as we roll along the undulating path, on an exciting ride which is a precursor to the thrill that lies within!

This trip was organised by the Karnataka Tourism Forum, a non profit organization which is committed to promoting tourism in Karnataka.

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Laila’s Farm

The windchimes tinkle incessantly, powered by the equally untiring breeze which blows from across the lake. This is a melody which is going to bestow on me a constant and pleasurable sensation for the next 2 days.

The vast front yard is a riot of colors, right from the fresh green of the lawn to the innumerable multi-hued flowers, fruits and vegetables and to the vivid fish that glide placidly in their koi pond.

2 little doggies pause their gambolling on the lawn and bound towards me in a show of welcome that is as vigorous as the dominating wind.

I have reached the pretty blue and white gates of Laila’s Farm, named after Laila the bigger of the 2 dogs, whose demeanor and swag clearly indicate no ambiguity that she is the boss around here.

This brand new haven with its blue and white themed charming little homestay set amidst verdant environs, is the creation of ex army Major Tejinder Singh Wohra popularly known as Robin Wohra, whose hunt for a getaway from the city, culminated in this little retreat tucked away in a gated layout in the Sri Sathya Sai district of Andhra Pradesh, India.

This is by far the smallest property that I as a travel blogger have written about but the pleasure and delight that it rendered me was inversely proportional to its size. I also thought that this would be a short blog but you will soon realize the fallacy of my thinking 😎 (It is also noteworthy that this is my first foray into Andhra Pradesh as a travel blogger!)

So what was it about this place that endeared itself to me? Well the immediate way to find out is to read on and the other way is to actually make a trip there and see for yourself. For now, let us achieve the former as I tantalize you into planning for the latter!

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Orange Odyssey

Experienced in Feb 2020 and published in July 2023 😎

This blog post was delayed because it was one of the last of the exciting things that I did before covid hit and the pause in between, broke my momentum of travelling and writing.

I had just returned to the city of Nagpur from my maiden tiger safari in Pench National Park and I had a day free here before boarding my flight back to Bangalore.

Nagpur is a very important city located in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state in India. Known especially for its famed oranges and for being the gateway to some of Central India’s national parks, this strategically located city also holds many places of historical and cultural interest.

The seeker within me was curious to learn more about this place but I was not sure how exactly to go about finding someone who could guide me. A bit of random walking initially led me to a very helpful autorickshaw driver who took me around to whatever tourist spots he knew.

However, I was thirsting for more and in desperation I turned to the ‘Master of all information’ and hunted for ‘Nagpur heritage tour guides’. Sir Google instantly obliged and brought forth the existence of Amol and Mandira in the form of a mere phone number.

That was a smart call I made (pun intended) because they happened to be just the people I was looking for and in the limited time that I had, they willingly agreed to show me around and led me to a couple of places which perfectly matched my interests, namely the Cenotaphs (Chhatris) and the Fire pani puri snack, which was the rage in Nagpur at that time. We also had a quick glimpse of several heritage buildings.

Their passion and vast knowledge of the city, made those few hours totally worth my time.

I truly wish I can go back someday to experience the enhanced activities which they have now included in their bouquet of offerings. They have blossomed well and come a long way in these few years and I wish them greater success in future.

But for now, let us relive the interesting evening that I spent with them, with you my reader for virtual company this time.

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