Located in the faraway land of Ladakh, Lamayuru Monastery is perhaps one of the most intriguing places that you can see. Considered to be one of the largest and oldest monasteries of Ladakh, it's also a place which has numerous stories and legends associated with it. Using a few of those, I built the story after my visit to Lamayuru, and I must confess right in the beginning that it's part legend, part fiction.

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Lamayuru Monastery in winters with grim clouds in the background 

Legend of The Monk who built Lamayuru Monastery

It was a hot day and for miles no one was visible, only dry mountains and a wild river by his side. The Monk had been walking alone for days in search of something, something that he didn't know about. The last time he had met anyone was a about month back when he passed a small cluster of five houses and asked for some food and water. As was customary in those days, he was given both he blessed the family. The youngest in the family, Rigzin, got especially attached and wanted to travel with him, and surprisingly even the family agreed. The Monk had to politely refuse as both his journey as well as his destination were still unknown to him. He left before the break of the dawn and Rigzin was already awake and gave him a teary goodbye. The Monk promised to come back one day and take him along for a epic journey…

That was month ago, and today The Monk could feel something in the air. He knew he was close to something, but his destination was yet to revealed. He drank some cold water from the river, walked till it was dark and then decided to sleep in a small cave he found close by. His sleep was short-lived and soon he could feel himself rising in the sky. It was only when he reached much higher up and he looked down that the secret was revealed to him. He knew instantly that this was the place where he would set up his monastery!

When The Monk got up in the morning, he took a bath in the wild river and started work. He made a small symbolic gompa to mark the spot and then started his walk again in search of helping hands. He went back to Rigzin’s house and the entire village agreed to come along with him and help him build the monastery, and amongst them Rigzin was the most enthusiastic. Soon news spread and the King of the region also heard about it. Moved by the quest of The Monk, he decided to provide the funds for building the monastery. As work started, the river too receded and it was almost like the entire universe was conspiring with The Monk to build this monastery. A few years later the Lamayuru stood like an imposing beauty amidst the moonscape of the region.

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The weather improved and it was all blue :)
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Looking down at the road we took to come from Leh

Lamayuru Monastery: Now

About a thousand years later, today Lamayuru is well known much beyond the Buddhist world, though still only a small number of travellers visit the place. It was originally a collection of five large buildings, out of which only one survives now. Even after losing much of its might, Lamayuru is still one of the oldest and the grandest monasteries of Ladakh and houses about 150 permanent Buddhist monks, though in the past this number used to be more than 400.

Situated at a height of 3,510 metres (11,520 ft), the monastery is located on the extremely scenic Srinagar-Leh highway. I have been to the monastery twice, once during summers and recently during the extreme winter when temperatures plummet to minus twenty degrees in the night and day is considered warm if temperatures are not lower than minus then. Each trip was unique, but the experience of a visit in cold winters is certainly more vivid and easily the one I would recommend. 

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An old local rotating the prayer wheel 
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Another view of the monastery from a distance 

Even though only a small part of the Lamayuru monastery survives, the place is still quite large. The prayer hall is the only part of the main monastery which is accessible to the travellers. When we reached there, the place was actually shut, though the head priest obliged us by opening the doors of the monastery and letting us in. It was quite uncommon to have guests in winters, and they certainly did't want us to go back without spending some time making a personal connection with God. I even managed a short conversation with the priest and he showed us around a little, showing some old wall art and some extremely old Buddhist scriptures. Due to the winter month, the place was extremely quite and I took a small corner and sat by myself.


| Monasteries can truly help you contemplate in peace |

Just outside the prayer hall, I sat on the edge and looked around me at the barren mountains and scenes of life going on in the village below. With no one around, the empty monastery and the Lamayuru village below felt like my own home. They both invited me inside and allowed me to overstay happily. 

What else can you do at Lamayuru Monastery?

While you are in Lamayuru, make sure you take a walk in the village also, apart from the monastery. Use the universal Ladakhi greeting, Juley, and a big smile and people will open up to you easily. Ladakhis are extremely warm and generous people and some might even invite you home for tea.

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Lamayuru town from the monastery - look at those cave on the right!
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Local kids who loved my camera :)
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Another local managing the mountain goats 
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And he smiled :)

You must also try a little bit of hiking on these moon-like formations. They are extremely unique and make for some great pictures as well. Hike is not tough and unlike other mountains in the region, it’s also much less slippery :)

Lamayuru is also famous for a two day cultural festival called Yuru Kabgyat, which takes place in the 2nd month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. This is also known as the mask festival as monks wear masks and dance during the procession. I have not yet attended the festival, but it’s certainly high on my agenda.

How to reach Lamayuru Monastery?

The easiest way to visit Lamayuru is from Leh in a cab, and during winters that’s also the most practical way as buses rarely ply on the highway in those months. In summers you can take a local bus as well though the journey would take much longer and would be much more fun as well (apart from being very affordable).

The drive to Lamayuru is also magnificent. The landscape changes as you leave Leh, yet it remains almost always dry and arid, except a few patches of green farmland. There is food available in small dhabas even in the winters, so there is no need to worry on that front as well. If you are lucky, you can also see some wildlife - we saw some antelopes :)

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The road trip is stunning as well
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Some wild animals on the way

And finally, plan to leave early in the morning so that you can be back safely in Leh before afternoon. The weather turns of the worst at that time almost everyday and getting stranded on the highway in winters is not recommended. Reaching back on time was the single most important concern for our driver and that meant we couldn't stop at many places on the way. Summers are different and weather is not so bad.

If you are visiting Ladakh in the winters, you must certainly do the Chadar Trek as well. It’s an experience of a life time!


Disclaimer: The story of the Monastery is part fiction-part legend. I constructed it based on some of the stories I heard and read, and also on my own vivid imagination. Do let me know what do you think about this kind of storytelling :)
As the light dimmed and I relaxed into my seat, I was ready to start dreaming. However, excitement got the better of me and I could barely sleep; travel does this to me, it often brings out the child in me. This was my first visit to a Nordic country and I was ready to be surprised. My love affair with Geography started only after school, but I did remember Nordic stories of the midnight sun, the gorgeous fjords, the unusual rock formations, the freezing arctic waters and many such natural wonders. I could also faintly remember the folklore from there, especially stories around king Thor.

This was the first time I was flying with KLM, and I didn't quite realize when I slept off after a generous helping of some delicious white wine. For those who do not travel as much, KLM is one of the few airlines which take you to Scandinavian countries (and much of the rest of Europe as well) from India, and in my experience, also offers the best flying experience for travellers. Formed in 1919, KLM is today the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name!

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Here is me on a street in Stavanger

Coming back to the story - as the golden sunlight filtered through the my window, I got up just in time to witness sunrise just before we landed in Stavanger, Norway. This was the closest I had ever come to the Arctic circle and I could feel goose bumps just thinking about it. I had done some preliminary research before coming to Norway, but still was not quite sure about what to expect when I stepped out of plane. Would it be freezing cold? Will I see everyone looking like gold walking round? Would it be freezing cold and white all around even in summers?

It was late July and when I came out I realised that the weather was shockingly good! What happened - I felt a little cheated that things would be much less extreme than I imagined. In my heart I wasn't complaining and nor were the Norwegians, who welcome summers every year with open arms and most even go on a month long vacation across Europe during July. Some stay back in Norway as well and spend time at their mountain cabins or simply go hunting, fishing or sun-bathing!

I spent a little over a month in Norway and kept dreaming more, but also managed to live some of those. Sharing a few of those here. Who knows, maybe these will also help you dream and make you pack your bags and go out to live them :)

Diving into the Fjords

This was perhaps the craziest thing I did in during the entire trip! My friend Paulina was perhaps a fish in her previous life because she has this close affinity to water unlike most other people I know. She can also be held responsible for making this insane plan to swim in the fjords at the break of dawn. We were living in the countryside and the fjord was right next to the house, so all it needed was to get up and jump. The next morning, I was shaken out of bed with groggy eyes and I followed her and jumped into freezing cold water. For the first few seconds I didn't even know what hit me - I was just numb! I quickly came out and jumped right back in. Only cold could fight cold and after a few more dives it actually became fun!

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Diving into frozen water!

Sailing in a real sail boat!

It is not uncommon for Norwegians to own a sailboat. In fact every Thursday there is a boat race and many locals take part in it. Frode is also one of them, and one day when he invited me to join him for a boat ride in the fjords, I readily agreed. It wasn't a race day so water wasn't crowded at all and we had the entire fjord to ourselves. We had carried some food with us and needed that and more soon as the cold arctic air started blowing right into us. We not only survived, I also got to steer the boat for a while. It is not easy, but once you get a hang of it, you can manage. We came back tired and I had a huge dinner that night to regain all the lost calories!

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As we returned back, the sky was awash with golden light

Sitting on the edge of the world at Preikestolen

If you have never been to Scandinavia, chances are that you would not have heard of Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock. It is basically a huge rock which is shaped almost like a square with sharp and deep edges which can take you straight to the rocks and fjord below. A visit to Norway is incomplete with a visit to Preikestolen, and a visit to Preikestolen is incomplete without going to the edge and sitting with your legs dangling. It's scarier than you can imagine and quite full of risks. The first time I went there, it rained constantly and the rock was barely visible due to fog. However, on my second visit, I saw the rock in its full glory and also sat on the edge. So how was the experience then? Exhilarating!

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Sitting on the edge!

A countryside weekend with with my Norwegian friends

TI and his family (his wife, kids and parents) invited me a few more friends to their ancestral village Garvik far from the Stavanger. A boat ride followed by a car drive took us there and the place completely stunned me. It was unlike any other village I had seen before - it was straight out of a fairy tale! Now I can imagine why fairy tales must be so relatable to all the Scandinavian kids - they live in fairyland! Over the next three days, we cooked together (including an Indian meal), trekked together to a Viking village, did boat rides and I ate the best waffles of my entire life!

 
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Our weekend home from the Fjord...
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Girls took the bedroom and the living room became my cozy bedroom :)
  
I fulfilled many of my Norwegian dreams but a few still remain, and one of them is to see the Northern Lights (possible only during the winters). Maybe I will visit the beautiful country again to fulfill that dream, maybe I will dream of something else and chase that down somewhere else. Hmmm...

So #LetsGoDutch with KLM!

When it comes to travel, we all have dreams - some insane and some rather sane. Do you also have some? If your answerer is yes, then there is some cool news for you. KLM has come up with a unique campaign where they will help you fulfill your travel dreams by ‘Going Dutch’

What does it mean? As a part of #LetsGoDutch campaign, KLM will Go Dutch (share expenses) with you on your dream vacation. They have amazing offers of discounts, free stay, vouchers, event passes etc and fun contests based on your travel dreams (read more). Based on your entry, you might be able to win the contest and fulfill your travel dream :) 

Intrigued? 




Follow KLM India on their Facebook and Twitter pages for more contests over the next few days. All the best :)
Here is some feel-good news I would like to share with all - in the last couple of months, two leading Indian newspapers have covered 'Tell Me Your Dreams' for their readers - Times of India and Hindustan Times.

Sharing the two stories here :)

Times of India

It was a personal journey of discovery that led Siddharth Joshi, product designer by profession and traveller by passion, to come up with his photo story series with the hashtag Tell Me Your Dream 2015. His initiative, on the lines of the famous Humans of New York model of using portraits with their personal story, has a fol lowing of more than 11,000 on Instagram.

Though he has a blog and a Facebook page he prefers updating his Instagram account more often as he feels the level of interaction with other users is higher and the space not yet crowded by commercial interests.

"I feel Instagram has managed to re main a personal community platform making way for instant feedback and or ganic collaborations. Their structure is unlike that of Facebook, which has be come commercial with users being asked to pay for getting a particular number of views of their page," says Pune-based Joshi, who's photographs of people from all sections of society reveals exceptional stories of innovation and courage.


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Article in TOI Chennai city edition

Hindustan Times

Late last month, in a narrow bylane in Pune, product designer Siddhartha Joshi met a 15-year-old behrupiya or traditional impressionist named Rajesh. A Class 8 dropout, he was one of the last few in his community still practising his craft, impersonating policemen, politicians and even close relatives at social events, creating chaos as a form of entertainment. If people fall for their tricks, the behrupiya is paid; if they don't, he must leave empty-handed.

Joshi shared Rajesh's photograph and life story on his Instagram account, and got more than 500 Likes and comments in one day. This image is part of Joshi's photo-stories initiative titled Tell Me Your Dream 2015. It is a 365-day project, launched on January 1, that has him asking tailors, vendors, mechanics and others from across the country to share their dreams on the social networking site. "Rajesh's dream is to work in a hotel and not do what he is currently doing," says Joshi, 34, who travels frequently and takes his pictures on his travels.


Read Full story here - Stories in a snap: Artists, writers using Instagram to weave poetry


Tell me your dream instagram story Hindustan Times
'Tell Me Your Dreams' in Hindustan Times
A labyrinth of about a thousand passageways, the Bhool Bhulaiya at Bada Imambara in Lucknow, has intrigued traveler as well as architects for the last two hundred years. The fourth Nawab, Asaf-Ud-Dowhala, commissioned the building during the drought year of 1784 AD to help the poor make a living. However, from the time it was finished, it became a symbol of pride and grandeur of Lucknow.

But what does the word ‘Bhool Bhulaiya’ mean? It’s not an easy word to translate, and it sort of means ‘a place where you can forget directions and paths and get lost’! :)

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A beautiful view inside the Bada Imambara

Who were the Nawabs?

To understand anything about Bhool Bhulaiya better, it's important to know about its builders - Nawabs. Quite surprisingly, it was only during my most recent visit to Lucknow that I understood who Nawabs actually were. I always assumed that they were kings who existed at the same time as Mughals, and somehow managed to live peacefully with them so close by at Delhi.

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Nawab Asif-ud-Daula by Zoffany (ref: Wikipedia)

The term Nawab comes from the Perisan word Naib which basically means Deputy. Nawab was a title conferred by the Mughals to their deputies across North India. It was a title for males only and the female equivalent was begum (the most famous of them being Begum Nazrat Mahal). With the mutiny of 1857, the Nawabs and their domains went into decline, though the title didn’t disappear. It became a family title and even now you can find true blue Nawabs in Lucknow, though with little power or money.

What is an Imambara?

It is neither a mosque nor a dargah. An Imambara is simply a hall where Shia Muslims come together for various ceremonies, especially related to the Remembrance of Muharram. Muharram is basically a period of mourning for all Muslims, especially for Shias, and marks the anniversary of Battle of Karbala where Hussein-ibn-Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, was killed in a  battle. Imambaras are present in many other parts of Asia - in Bahrain and UAE they are called ma’tam and in Central Asia they are known as takyakhana. Some of the biggest and most significant Imambaras in the world are now located in India and Pakistan, which also have sizeable Shia populations. 


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The entrance to the Bada Imambara
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The Bada Imambara
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The complex from top, the mosque on the left

History of Bhool Bhulaiya

The history of the Bhool Bhulaiya is closely linked to the Bada Imambada. In the late 18th century Avadh was reeling under severe drought and to provide employment to his people, Nawab Asaf-Ud-Dowhala decided to build the Bada Imambada. You can think of it as very similar to MGNREGA  (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). There are many other buildings in the country which were built with this purpose, including Aga Khan Palace in Pune.

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Another view of the mosque
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The passageway to the Bhool Bhulaiya

The guide will tell you that it was designed by architects called especially from Persia (modern day Iran) which was a prominent Shia kingdom back then, but the truth is a little different. Once the Nawab decided to build the mammoth building, he invited bids and it was won by Hafiz Kifayat ullah, an architect from Shahjahanabad (present day old Delhi) who was already a famous man then. Work on the building started in the 1784 and finished fourteen years later.

So why was Bhool Bhulaiya built?

Even as the architects spent days, weeks and months designing the Bada Imambada and the other buildings in the complex (including the mosque and the step-wells), the architects were given an interesting challenge to work on. For prayer purposes, it was decided to build the Central Hall (170ft x 55ft) without any columns! Its a very large structure and building it by conventional means would have required columns to bear the load of the ceiling, including the mammoth dome.

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Passageways of Bhool Bhulaiya
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View inside the Bada Imambara

The ingenious architect decided to work on reducing the weight of the ceiling by making it hollow - and that exactly how the Bhool Bhulaiya was born! Unlike the buildings to today, much pain was taken to design even this part of the building as beautifully as any other part of the Imambada. The result is a labyrinth of interconnected passageways and doors. There are about a thousand such passageways and most of them lead you nowhere but another passage. If you get into the labyrinth, it is quite easy to get lost and might take a while before you manage to come out. Many of these passageways open into windows which give you great views outside and some also take you up on the ceiling.

As a kid I was literally sacred of going here by myself, and there were so many stories of people getting lost (and never be found again) that even when I went as an adult for the first time there, I was initially apprehensive to go in by myself. Anyway, I did go though not very deep and managed to come out. I had already hired a guide and want to know all the stories about the place so next visit was with him. Well, he was just as how any guide would be - full of stories, some real, and many fictitious. I also interviewed him and you can read about him here.

Tips


  • Timing: The Imambada opens at 6am, though the Bhool Bhulaiya opens only at 9am. Reach a little before 9 and explore the entire complex as there are many more places to see and photograph. Interestingly each has its own unique story.
  • Guide: I guess its fun to hire a guide, though I would not advice on trusting all that they say. They are not expensive and depend on tourist to make a living, and I guess that’s what pushes them to talk more about the legends than actual history.
  • Photography: It’s one the best places to photograph in the city, especially if you love architecture photography. I took all the pics using just my iPhone but I think they would be way better if you could use a DSLR.
  • What to carry? A small backpack with camera, chocolates and water would be sufficient for the trip. You can be done within 2-3 hours though I recommend spending much more time there.

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And finally a selfie with my guide :)
Located on an island in river Cauvery, Srirangam is a beautiful temple town in Tamil Nadu. It's famous for its phenomenal temple architecture and people from across the world come to the town to see its temples or on pilgrimages.

Dreams stories from Srirangam Trichy Tamil Nadu

When I was there recently, I tried exploring the city in a different way. Of course, I visited many temples there and learnt quite a bit about the architecture and legends associated with these majestic structures. But I went a step further and did more than just admire the buildings.

It was completely new place to me and everyone around me spoke Tamil, but I decided to take it up as a challenge and continue doing my project 'Tell me you Dream' here as well. I met many people, who then introduced me to many more and they all contributed to make it a successful project there as well. Here is my attempt to share the essence of Srirangam though the following seven stories and seven dreams.

Do let me know what you think! :)

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . "My dream is to stay in Srirangam, improve my business further and make it large scale." . Seventy-two years ago Rajasekhar was born in Salem. After his marriage he came to Srirangam to start his own business and has been running 'Mani's Café' for the last thirty years. The café serves not just for but also South Indian meals. The work starts early morning at 7 am and the shop closes at 7.30 pm. The cooks start even earlier at 4 am. The café is named after his father-in-law to honor him. He has two sons and both are currently studying. Most likely they will take up jobs after college and not come and work at the café. ---------- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it 'Tell me your Dream'. One dream, each day. It's an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at connect@siddharthajoshi.com. Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 8th June 2015
A photo posted by #TellMeYourDream2015 (@siddharthajoshi) on

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . "I am so old now. I just dream that I run this business for many more years still." . SV Laxman has been running a small road-side 'lending library' in the temple town of Srirangam for over forty years now. Most of the books are in Tamil but a few are in English as well and he gets them all from Chennai. The most popular genre of books are crime with authors like Rajeshwar and Subba on top. Others favor family novels from Ramachandran, Muthilaxmi, Raghawan and Laxmi. He has two sons and one daughter. The daughter is married and the sons are in real estate business. After him, no one from the family might continue the shop. ---------- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it 'Tell me your Dream'. One dream, each day. It's an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at connect@siddharthajoshi.com. Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 14th June 2015
A photo posted by #TellMeYourDream2015 (@siddharthajoshi) on

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . "I dream of expanding my business from 4-5 employees to about 30-40 more. I already get a lot of orders from my main market in Andhra Pradesh, but I need manpower to be able to accept and execute them." . Sudarshan Elaiyavalli Narayanan was born in Srirangam and has been here for the last forty-two years. He did his MCom and then started his own business. He works as a trader for temple supplies in the town and provides these people to shops here as well as in all the other four South Indian states also. He loves traveling and is happy that his work also allows him to do that. Sudarshan has one daughter and he would make sure that she studies and chooses her own career path. ---------- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it 'Tell me your Dream'. One dream, each day. It's an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at connect@siddharthajoshi.com. Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 17th June 2015
A photo posted by #TellMeYourDream2015 (@siddharthajoshi) on

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . "I don't dream of or want more money. I just want enough needed for low budget family management which can give us good meals." . R Panchapakesan runs a tailoring shop called 'RPN Nice Tailor', which is owned by the temple and run by his family for generations. His grandfather paid a rent of 20 paisa/ month, his father paid Rs 90/ month and he pays Rs 800/ month to the temple. He learnt stitching from his father and has been doing it since he was in fifth grade. After he failed grade eleventh, he has been doing it full-time. His son is doing Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, and his daughter is doing MA. He doesn't think the son will follow in this business. ---------- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it 'Tell me your Dream'. One dream, each day. It's an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at connect@siddharthajoshi.com. Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 15th June 2015
A photo posted by #TellMeYourDream2015 (@siddharthajoshi) on

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . "I have no dreams and no expectations. I am happy just working and getting the food to eat." . Rajeeshwari Nadeshan Venkatesh is a seventy years old seller of flowers and other temple essentials and sits at a shop outside Shri Ranganath Temple in Srirangam. She got married at a young age and twenty years back her husband passed away. Since then she has been living with a family who owns the shop also. She gets no salary, just a place to sleep and food to eat. She has no children and after her landlord's mother also died a few years back, he calls Rajeeshwari his amma (mother). ---------- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it 'Tell me your Dream'. One dream, each day. It's an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at connect@siddharthajoshi.com. Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 6th June 2015
A photo posted by #TellMeYourDream2015 (@siddharthajoshi) on

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . "My dream is to spend my retired life with my wife in this temple town Srirangam." . V Srinivasan comes from a small town called Mannargudi in Thanjavur district. He started working with newspaper, 'The Hindu', in 1971 and retired a few years back. He worked with the printing division of the newspaper and it often required working till late in the night. This was also the MSN drawback of his work. He worked in Chennai, Coimbatore and Trichy, and since both him and his wife liked Trichy a lot they decided to settle down here at Srirangam. Srinivasan has two daughters and both of them are married and settled in Chennai. ---------- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it 'Tell me your Dream'. One dream, each day. It's an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at connect@siddharthajoshi.com. Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 13th June 2015
A photo posted by #TellMeYourDream2015 (@siddharthajoshi) on
I looked out of my room and saw forests, and more forests. It was early afternoon and Madhya Pradesh was hot even after the some initial showers in June. Monsoons had just arrived a few days back though rains were still elusive at Bandhavgarh. Soon the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve would be shut for this season and I was glad to have come here just in time. I lazed around a little bit more near the window, wrote the start of a story from a far away land, and sipped black coffee.

The day at Pugdundee's King's Lodge had been perfect so far, despite sleeping at midnight the previous night after a 30 hours train journey and getting up at 4am for the forest safari. Maybe I was a little tired, but didn't feel tired at all. I was far far away from my city Pune and wanted to use every waking moment to soak up the environment.

King’s Lodge Bandhavgarh tiger reserve pugdandee safari room window
At my makeshift office :)

A few of my friends were in the pristine blue pool, but I wanted to walk around alone, get the feel of the place. There was a hill close by which looked rather tempting, but I was already drained by the sun, so climbed up the highest point at the property to get a bird’s eye view. It was eerily silent at first on top, but as I closed my eyes, my ears opened up and I could hear sounds; lots of it. I am terrible with recognising sounds of birds, but I love them. The breeze was warm, but devoid of all toxicity.

Oh and how did the lodge looked from top? Well, surprisingly I could barely see any lodge, what I saw was a large and dense bamboo forests with a hut of two peeping through.

King’s Lodge Bandhavgarh tiger reserve pugdandee safari review
The view from top...

About Pugdundee’s Kings Lodge

Located in the buffer zone of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Pugdundee’s Kings Lodge has done well with retaining the feel of the forest at their property. My cottage was the last at the resort, and walking back to my room every night, I always half expected to see a leopard getting ready to pounce on me. I never saw a leopard (at the Jungle resort or the forest), but somehow the memory survived. The nights were my favourite at the the lodge.

King’s Lodge Bandhavgarh tiger reserve pugdandee safari review
Walk to my cottage - it was a lot of fun in the night :)
room King’s Lodge Bandhavgarh tiger reserve pugdandee safari review
Easy to fall in love with the luxurious, yet earthy, room

With just 18 cottages located in an area of 32 acres, the resort gives an excellent vibe and makes you feel like you are living in a forest itself. If you plan to stay at the Lodge, you will obviously be going for the safaris. I will write a detailed guide on the the Safaris in a few days, but they are absolutely worth every penny spent.

However, there are a few more things that you do in and around the resort itself which are quite interesting:
  • Spend some time at the library - its full of books on the region, both forest, animals and the people who live here. Whenever I had free time, I spent it reading about the tribals in the region and their arts. If you new to animals or birds, do ask someone for help to recommend you a book. 
  • Visit a local tribal village close by - there is one called Ranchha which is just walking distance from the resort. Request the hotel staff to help you work this out and this could become the highlight of your trip. Do visit homes and do take pictures, but please be respectful. Take off your shoes and show some interest in them and their lives. If all you want to do is click pictures, I would rather request you not to do this. Responsible tourism is essential when you visit homes in a village.

    tribal village King’s Lodge Bandhavgarh tiger reserve pugdandee safari review
    My new friends :)
  • Become friends with one of the ‘naturalists’ at the property and take awl around the property or outside with them (depends on how much time they have). Naturalists are basically experts in both the local flora and fauna as well as on the ways on forests. They can significantly increase your empathy both for the animals as well as the the tribals who live here. Saket, a naturalist, became my friend and it was an absolute pleasure learning from him. Another naturalist-in-the-making, Ankita, was at the property and I also interviewed her for my ‘Tell me your Dream’ project (Read more).

p.s. I loved the pool and the dining room, make sure you spend some good time at these two places :)

swimming pool King’s Lodge Bandhavgarh tiger reserve pugdandee safari review
Ah! The pool :)
dining room King’s Lodge Bandhavgarh tiger reserve pugdandee safari review
The dining room will take your breath away...

Practical details 

To reach: Best way to reach is by train till Katni or Jabalpur and then a drive in a cab to Bandhavgarh. Alternatively, you can fly to Jabalpur or Khajuraho and then come by cab.

Cost of stay: Check out this link for more details on the costs. Currently, Pugdundee is offering special fares for the next season (which opens from October), and if you have made plans for travel already, do avail this special offer - Buy 2N/3Days Package or 2 Nights on Jungle Plan and get the third Night complimentary including meals & taxes. This offer open till 31st July 2015 for bookings between 1st October - 30th April 2016.

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Disclaimer: I was at Pugdundee Safaris’ Jungle Lodge on an invitation. All the views shared here are my own and completely unbiased. 
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