March 2022 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Saturday, March 19, 2022

Festival of Shivaratri from a Traditional Tamil Nadu Village

Shiva Utsava murti all decked up for temple pradakshinam on Shivaratri night

There is so much more to India’s rich festivals than wearing new clothes, eating good food and catching up with family and friends. While all of these are feel good factors of our festivals, there is so much richness and culture in our festivals. And unfortunately, this culture is not easily seen in our cities. To see this, we have to head to rural India where the people still keep this richness alive. 

Lighting the traditional lamp at the Kallidaikurichi Shiva temple on Shivaratri night

Luckily for me, I was at a traditional village called Kallidaikurichi in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu a few weeks back during the festival of Shivaratri. Unlike the festival of Pongal which is very vibrant in the villages of Tamil Nadu, the festival of Shivaratri is more subtle or at least that is the case during the day time. The day starts as usual with a bath in the Thamarabharani river, offering prayers at the nearby temple and then heading home. Most people either opt to keep a full fast or at least stay on a liquid diet. The whole day is spent chanting hymns of Lord Shiva, chanting Om Namah Shivaya, writing Om Namah Shiva or just reading his stories of Lord Shiva. The idea is to celebrate Lord Shiva in any way they deem appropriate.



Shivaratri celebrations that are muted during the day, pick up speed post 8 pm. The people take their evening shower, dress up in traditional attire and head to their nearest Shiva temple. Between 9 and 10 pm, the main festivities begin. The gods, shrines and the temple is well decorated. The devotees light up the temple lamps for the night long festival.

Shiva lingam all decked up for Shiva ratri night at Kallidaikurichi Shiva temple

The festivities begin with the alankaram and mangalarti during which the priest and devotees sing hymns and the temple bells keep gonging. Then, the utsava moorthy is loaded on to a chariot for a procession around the temple for 3 pradakshinams (circumambulation). Devotees follow the chariot of the utsava moorthy and sing praises to Lord Shiva. This process repeats every 2 hours till sunrise the next day, when the last mangalarti signifies the end of the Shivaratri festivities.

Ambal statue at Shiva temple, Kallidaikurichi

The whole night, the villagers stay inside the temple, reading holy verses or singing hymns dedicated to Lord Shiva. In spite of the lack of food and sleep, people are buoyant and feel joyous. There is a sense of elation after spending the entire night awake and most people who stay awake on Shivaratri at the Shiva temple have been doing it for many years.

To experience the Shivaratri festive fervour, you should spend at least a couple of hours inside the night, if not the entire night.

Utsava murthy Shiva all decked up

In addition to understanding the culture and traditions behind the festival of Mahashivaratri, you can also get to feel the energy of praising Lord Shiva, even if it is for a short while. Such is the charm of celebrating the festival of Maha Shivaratri at a traditional Tamil Nadu village. The rustic ambience, the rich culture on display and the energetic local people are just an icing on the cake.



How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Tuticorin international airport, about 75 kms away. You would need to hire a taxi in advance to pick you up at the airport and drop you at Kallidaikurichi.

The nearest long distance railway station would be Tirunelveli, about 35 kms away. One can either take a connecting passenger train to Kallidaikurichi or travel by road (car or bus) to Kallidaikurichi. Tirunelveli is well connected with other large Indian cities like Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.

Kallidaikurichi is well connected by road. The 4 lane Bangalore – Salem – Kanyakumari highway is just 30 kms away. About 50 kms towards West is the Kerala state border. Volvo sleepers, AC buses and state government buses ply these highways every day connecting major cities.



Where to stay:

It would be ideal to stay with a local family in their traditional home. If you do not have that option, try staying at Hotel Bhaskar Lodge, just a kilometer away from the Shiva temple, at the hotels in Ambasumudram a few kilometers away or at the much nicer hotels at Tirunelveli, about 35 kms away.

Preparing the temple lamp on Shivaratri night for Mangalarti 

Where to eat:

If you stay with a local family, you will definitely get treated to delicious local food. If you don’t have that option, there are a few small restaurants in Kallidaikurichi that dish out local tiffin items in the morning and evening. For a much better local dining experience, head to Hotel Ramanas at Ambasamudram a few kilometers away. They offer delicious traditional lunch and a wide variety of local snacks that change every day of the week.



Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) 1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple: Where you can wash all your sins away

2) Karaiyar Dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s deep south

3) The hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

4) Nellaiappar Temple: A 7th century cosmic dance wonder

5) Thamirabharani river delta: A motorcycle route full of rustic gorgeousness

6) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple: Sea Shore Magic

7) Courtallam: The herbal bath holiday destination of Tamil Nadu

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Saturday, March 05, 2022

The Most Scenic Places in the US Southwest

Inside the lower antelope canyon, Arizona, USA

If you’re gearing up to travel and you haven’t visited the southwestern region of the U.S., it might be a good time to consider it.

Whether you’re picking one spot, or you’d like to take a long-distance motorcycle trip or road trip, the southwestern part of the country has amazing scenery unlike anything else in the world.

The following are some scenic places in the southwest you might think about adding to your itinerary.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is in Arizona. You can walk through the sandstone walls of the canyon, which were formed by erosion from flash flooding primarily.

The slot canyon includes five sections that are on the Navajo Reservation. These include Upper Antelope Canyon, Rattle Snake Canyon, Owl Canyon, Lower Antelope Canyon, and Mountain Sheep Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is one of the most popular spots in the country for photographers, thanks to the stunning orange and red tones. There are unlimited lighting changes and angles, so you can get images that no one will have ever captured before.

Since Antelope Canyon is inside sacred Native American land, the only way to see it is on a guided tour.

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon covered in snow, Arizona, USA

It’s impossible to talk about the scenery of the southwest without mentioning the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon attracts visitors from all over the world. This natural wonder has ribbons of colorful stones, and it shows some of the oldest geological history on earth. Plus, the sunrises and sunsets are amazing here.

Most people visit the South Rim, or you can go to the west entrance to try out the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a glass walkway that’s 2,000 feet above the floor of the canyon.

There are lodging options inside the park at hotels and campgrounds that give rim views and easy access, although they do fill up quickly, so book ahead.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, USA

Horseshoe Bend is outside of Page, Arizona. There’s a river that tightly curves with a cliff that’s 800 feet above the canyon floor.

Visitors can reach the bend by taking a short hike on a sandy trail, bringing them to the edge of the canyon.

Zion National Park

Zion Canyon, Utah, USA

Many people say Zion National Park is their favorite of all the national parks and is the most scenic place in the southwest, if not the entire country. There are a ton of hiking options and colorful rock formations.

The Narrows lets you hike along a winding river through the narrow walls of the canyon.

You can also go to Angel’s Landing for a complete view of Zion.

Sedona

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona, USA

A lot of the scenic places in the southwestern area of the country are pretty remote, but Sedona uniquely gives you access to shopping and dining, along with one-of-a-kind scenery. Located in the middle of the desert of Arizona, Sedona is known for its spas and resorts and for its red rock formations.

Some of the places most popular with visitors include Oak Creek Canyon, Cathedral Rock, and Bell Rock. The Red Rock Scenic Byway and Broken Arrow Trail are similarly popular.

Devil’s Bridge Trail is the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona, and you can walk across it if you’re feeling daring.

The spiritual vortex sites and stargazing opportunities are other reasons people often visit Sedona.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

Bryce Canyon has the most spired rock formations in the world. They’re called hoodoos, and you can hike in and around the canyon to see them all.

Bryce Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the country, and it’s not actually one canyon. It’s a set of natural bowls that are filled with hoodoos. Hoodoos are essentially tall rock columns.

You will have a long drive to Bryce Canyon. It’s around four hours from both Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls at Night, Arizona, USA

Finally, Havasu Falls is located on the Havasupai Reservation. The water that flows from the falls and into the canyon below is a stunning shade of blue because of the mineral presence and the Havasu Creek that washes silt away. The contrast of the baby blue water against the orange canyon is incredible.

The only option to visit the falls is to get a three-day permit. You can’t do a day hike or anything shorter or longer. The permits tend to sell out immediately when they become available online.

The hike to the falls from the trailhead is 10 miles and easy to navigate. It’s mostly flat, but hiking out is pretty difficult.

Note: The photographs in this article are courtesy of wikipedia.org and have been borrowed under the creative commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.org.

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Friday, March 04, 2022

Want to become a digital nomad? Five essential tips for Indians!

Tips to become a digital nomad

Your dream is to become a digital nomad, but you don’t know how to make this dream come true? If so, we have the best tips and tricks for you in this article.

What is a digital nomad?

Before we can even start with our tips and tricks, we need to determine what a digital nomad is. Maybe you are already familiar with the word “nomad”, this is usually a person with no home who travels around the world. A digital nomad is a similar person, but rather than just traveling around, this person works online. This way, a digital nomad can finance their travels while traveling! Let it be a remote job or a freelancer job, whatever it is, traveling and working simultaneously sounds like a dream come true. Rather than only having two weeks of vacation each year, this person can travel the world without a limit. But what are the options for Indians? How can you make this dream come true? In this article, we want to give you all the information you need!

Five tips on becoming a digital nomad!

You want to become a digital nomad, but you don’t know how? If so, we have all the necessary information for you so that you can start your journey!

1) Find the right job

The first and most important aspect is to find the right job. If you already have a job, you can ask your employer if you can switch to a remote position. This is by far the easiest option. If not, you can look for other opportunities. Many people start trading because it is so easy to implement into our daily lives. All you need is a broker, some money to begin with, and a smartphone or laptop. Binary options trading is incredibly lucrative and can help you earn money on the road. But be careful when choosing a broker. Unfortunately, there are a lot of black sheep out there that want to scam you out of your money. That’s why I recommend doing your research. Have a look at the best Binary Options apps in India. Read the review and decide on an option that works for you.

2) Decide on the perfect first country

Not every country is suitable for a digital nomad. You need to have a good working space with fewer distractions and good Wi-Fi. Also, keep your budget in mind; some places are cheaper than others. We recommend starting with just one country to determine if the digital nomad lifestyle is the right choice for you.

3) Check the Wi-Fi situation

Do you want to work on an island in the Philippines? Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen! You have to keep a close eye on the Wi-Fi situation in the countries we are traveling to. Usually, the more remote a place is, the harder it is to find good Wi-Fi, and without good Wi-Fi, you can’t work.

4) Be disciplined

You met some people who invited you to a party, but do you have a 6 am meeting tomorrow morning? It can be challenging to be disciplined! You want to swim in the ocean, but you have a bunch of work to do? In these moments, you can see the negative side of being a digital nomad because, with this lifestyle, it is difficult to have boundaries between work and pleasure.

5) Have a plan!

Want to make this dream come true? Then have a plan! Create a checklist of all the to-dos, let it be finding a remote job or even applying for a visa. To fulfil this dream, you need to work for it!

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