(Photographs of Sykes Nightjar, Tiger, Sura Sundari, Mosale and Theyyam are at the bottom. Others have individual links to earlier posts!)
1) We began 2019 amidst the transcendental expanse of the surreal landscape of the Rann of Kutch. It was a trip in the making for a long time! A diligent search took us to the CEDO (Centre for Desert and Ocean) home stay. CEDO is the brain child of one of the most amazing conservationists we have ever met, Sri Jugal Tiwari. With an amazing commitment to the cause of environment and an impressive array of research publications, Sri Tiwari is truly an inspiration. We were privileged to have his company during our forays into the vast expanse of the Great Rann of Kutch and learnt so much from him about the fauna and flora of the land. We saw an incredible range of bird life about which I will be posting a longer account later. On the last day of our stay, after witnessing a glorious sunset which draped the landscape in golden hues, as we were slowly making our way back to the home stay, we had a glimpse of the ever elusive Sykes Nightjar in fading light.
2) A month later, we ventured onto Panna. The landscape of Panna is mesmerizing with the pristine river Ken flowing through it. We stayed at the Sarai at Torria which is the brain child of the well known conservation biologist Dr Raghu and his wife Joanna, wild life photographer. It is like a slice of heaven with beautifully designed cottages and fantastic food. We enjoyed a boat ride in the river Ken, safaris in Panna and village walks. On our first safari, this majestic tiger crossed our path, just a few feet away!
3) Onto Khajuraho! We explored the various groups of temples over three days at a very leisurely pace with a wonderful guide who was well versed in the history and aesthetics of the temples. Each one was so distinctive from the other. We gazed with awe at the spectacular sculptures adorning the walls of these temples, which come alive with the play of light through the day. Khajuraho isn’t just about erotic sculptures which constitute just 10% of all the carvings. There is a profusion of other sculptures depicting gods and goddesses, scenes from common life and beautifully etched Sura Sundaris. Sura Sundaris are graceful nymphs attired in choicest of garments and bedecked with the finest jewellery. They are shown in various poses: looking at the mirror, washing their hair, applying collyrium to their eyes or plucking out a thorn from the foot. Here’s one image of them writing a letter. I will be posting a very detailed account with images later in this blog!
4) Hoysala architecture beckons us again and again. I had written detailed accounts of these temples in previous posts. www.profraguram.com/musings--reflections/alluring-amrutheshwara-temple This time around, we visited Mosale. It is a lesser-known temple complex in a small village. Two temples stand side by side in the complex a few feet apart. Surrounded by a wall, the twin temples exhibit many similarities except for the deities. The temple on the south is dedicated to Shiva and the one on the north to Vishnu named Nageshvara and Chennakeshava respectively. This particular feature makes this temple complex unique among the Hoysala temples. The only other place where we find a similar arrangement is at Marale in Chikkamagaluru district. Both the temples have graceful towers, with a figure of the Hoysala crest atop each of them and the walls embellished with beautiful carvings.
5) Mahabalipuram, though awash with tourists all through the year, is still a gem. The most majestic sculpture among them is that of Mahishasuramardhini. I had written in detail about it in: https://www.profraguram.com/musings--reflections/mahisasuramardiniin-sculpture-mythology
6) Can birds be far behind this year? Our longish sojourn in US provided opportunities to watch some of them closely. Among them the mocking bird caught my attention as it kept me company on most evenings! A detailed narrative of the bird is at: https://www.profraguram.com/musings--reflections/mockingbird-days
7) Observing the cabbage white butterfly fluttering from one plant to another was a fascinating experience. This diminutive butterfly has succeeded in surviving in different environments in spite of efforts to annihilate it and has inspired scientist to develop more efficient solar panels! More at: https://www.profraguram.com/musings--reflections/on-the-wings-of-a-butterfly
8) The California Scrub Jay makes up for its raucous, unmelodious call with its resplendent colors. It is an extremely social bird with an extraordinary memory which has engaged the attention of many a researcher! More at: https://www.profraguram.com/musings--reflections/a-perspicacious-bird
9) Both Ahalya and myself are unabashed Orchid lovers and it was a captivating experience to see a wide range of exotic orchids at the Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Orchid Society. The profusion of colorful orchids of tantalizing hues kept us engaged for several hours. More at: https://www.profraguram.com/musings--reflections/among-the-orchidsagain
10) The last sojourn of the year was at Kannur. We had a long cherished dream to witness Theyyam, the ritual dance form of North Kerala. It was a fortuitous augury that we were able to get in touch with Mr Santhosh, one of the most well informed persons who has spent his lifetime passionately collating and documenting the various forms of Theyyam and their origins. We watched several performances and I will be writing in detail about them soon.
11) It was time after all these travels to head to the alluring beaches of Kannur. Ensconced in a remote house just a few feet away from the sea with the sound of the waves like a symphony reaching a crescendo, I was reminded of the words of Virginia Wolf, “The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.” Some glimpses at: photos.app.goo.gl/YFr38XMM41tyakqCA
12) The year ended on a note of discomfort with slew of changes that I personally feel will undermine the fabric of this nation. As an unabashed fan of the Beatles, let me end this narrative in the words of John Lennon, “You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one.”
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