Bail Pola – Festival of the Bullocks

Decorated bull on our way to Varasgaon

Decorated bull on our way to Varasgaon

Till recently, I had not heard of this festival called Bail Pola. When I came to know what the festival is about and why it is celebrated, I realised how ignorant and unaware I was! I was on my way to our farm at Varasgaon about 40kms from Pune. A beautiful, untouched and secluded hamlet in the hills of Sahayadri Mountains where time just flies looking at the serene landscape. Most of the people in this area are famers and celebrate a lot of local festivals. I will write about this place a little later but for now, I want to tell you more about this small celebration amongst farmers called Bail Pola.

Local Farmer with his Bullock

Local Farmer with his Bullock

The naughty one who refused to pose for us!

The naughty one who refused to pose for us!

Now “bail” in Marathi means a bull and this festival is celebrated to thank the animal for all the works it is made to do on the farms. It is celebrated in the month of Shravan on a new moon day, a month that has all its days auspicious according to the Hindu religion. Though farmers use mechanical equipments for farming, in many remote places of India bullocks are still used. This is the very festive occasion for the farmers to pay their respect towards their bullocks. My curiosity sparked when I noticed a lot of farmers walking their bulls so smeared with colours, draped with colourful shawls and so lavishly decorated with frills and flowers, balloons that we waited to ask what was actually going on. A local farmer explained that they were heading towards a nearby village to flaunt his robust bull where many others would participate. The village was also supposed to have a fair and some procession to celebrate this festival. He also said that they spent the entire morning to wash the bull and paint them with turmeric and decorate them. Since I am an animal lover, I was so thrilled to see these people rejoicing over an animal that was such an important part of their lives.

Another local farmer with his decorated Bullock

The one that posed!

The one that posed!

Just the very same day, we, volunteers of Blue Cross Society, Pune (animal welfare organisation) met to discuss our next agenda. My cousin, Kanchan who is also one of the volunteers, narrated a repulsive spectacle that she saw on her way to the meeting. She saw the same thing that I did, the bulls being decorated and painted but along with that, she saw something spiteful done to the bulls on the day that is celebrated for them. She passed through some area in the city where there was a bullock race which is solely entertaining for the people but unquestionably not for the animal. To add to the ordeal of the bulls, people burst fire-crackers almost a foot away from them, causing trauma and panic to the animal. She said that the animals were scared and tetchy which aggravated their masters. After she’s finished, I thought why amuse ourselves with something for an animal when it causes more trauma and suffering to it and to top it all, on its account! The same day that started with so much curiosity, fun and love for the animal, ended up with sympathy and helplessness. We being volunteers of an animal welfare organisation couldn’t do much but we certainly decided amongst ourselves that not only should we spread awareness towards cruelty done to animals but we should also inculcate these values in the younger generation to help us stop these practices.

White Water Rafting – Jay Kundalika!!

Start of our journey with Me, Kanchan, Kshiteej, Nitin, Sayali & Devaki clearly seen

Start of our journey with Me, Kanchan, Kshiteej, Nitin, Sayali & Devaki clearly seen

Its just yesterday…..I, along with 15 other friends, made a trip to the Kundalika river a little farther from Tamhini Ghat about 100 kms from Pune. I just couldn’t resist writing about it today since its all so fresh and clear in my mind. The lush greenery, the waterfalls, the muddy monsoon Kundalika river, and great company of so many friends!

Although Maharashtra has its raging rivers, most of them are seasonal and tend to flow between June and December. River Kundalika is fed by the excess water from Tata Power’s Mulshi Dam Project on hydroelectric projects and dams. Hence rafting is possible at the time of water release, usually between 8am-9am in the morning. I would say it has average rapids…maybe betwen 1and 3 and its fun and exciting for city people like us! We travelled a distance of 10kms and floated and swam for nearly 2kms enjoying in the weather and coolness of the river.

We started our day very early, around 4:30am. We were 16 of us, all friends. The idea of so many friends coming together was very kindling and didn’t make it difficult to rise even earlier than that. We’d booked a 17 seater bus and headed off towards Mulshi. We reached a shanty shack where they organised all rafters, explained the commands and procedures. The fun part started at this point when all the above was done in the flooding rains. Reluctantly, everybody got wet and geared up for some more….

A picture taken through the windshield of the bus

A picture taken through the windshield of the bus

The Crew

The Crew

Our whole team was divided in to two rafts – one with Rhuta, Amit, Maithily, Danish, Kshiteej, Kanchan, Devaki & Prasad and second with Bipin, Harshada, Mahesh, Nitin, Sayali, Shreya, Eshana and myself. We started off as soon as they buzzed the siren from the Tata Power Dam to catch the right water level and current of the Kundalika. The whole crew had stired up several emotions, some thrilled, some scared and some all set! We sailed rapidly, intermittently and smoothly through the river and just when everybody gained confidence, we had a small knock-off with one of our members! One of the guides or instructors from another canoe, pulled Sayali off from the canoe to add some thrill, giving her a shock of her life!!! It was sure some adventure for her. Well amongst us, she had her first good taste of Kundalika!!

Way back to finality

We rafters

A part of the Crew

A part of the Crew

We passed rapids named Pampas, Rajdhani Express, Butterfly, Morning Attack, Jonny Walker, etc among which Jonny Walker and Morning Attack being the one with the most chances of the canoe capsize! Later we got off from our canoes, swam and to be very succinct, hung out with each other in the water since our life jackets did us good. The Kundalika river rushed us through the rapids and what would take 2-2 and a half hours, took us just about 1 hour and 45 mins to reach the finality. We then carried our raft and set off walking towards our bus. Thereafter, changed and set off towards Green Gates Resort to fill our empty tummies!

The lofty valley of the Sahyadris

The lofty valley of the Sahyadris

Since most of us were tired and sleepy, we dozed off for a while. I couldn’t keep my eyes shut for too long since the monsoon made the countryside so enchanting with its magnific mountains covered by dusky clouds and downrushing wafterfalls which covered these mountains so consistently! The whole rhythm of the terrain was soothing and breath-taking! The most amazing sight we saw were the canyon amidst the Sahyadris, so lofty and upright that we got off our bus and gazed into its mystic contour.

A breath-taking view of the steep nameless canyon

A breath-taking view of the steep nameless canyon

After all the gracious views we saw in the Tahmini Ghat, we had some good food at Green Gates Resort and walked up to the a stretch of land that one of my friend Amit owns. It was a very scenic climb to the top of the green hill which gave a splendid view of the Mulshi dam backwaters. By then everybody was very tired and sleepy since our day started at 4am. It was nearly 3:30pm before we started off for Pune all happy, satisfied, exhausted and moreover rejuvenated from our mundane lives.

Mulshi Backwaters

Mulshi Backwaters

The Waters of Hawaii – Snorkel Trip

Hawaii Islands

Hawaii Islands

A collective wonder of volcanoes, forests, ocean and wildlife lay in the islands of Hawai’i’. It is surely one of the remote archipelagos on earth. Hawaii is a cluster of 8 islands called Hawaii – the big Island, Maui – the valley isle, Kahoolawe – the target isle, Lanai – the pineapple isle, Molokai – the friendly isle, Oahu – the gathering place, Kauai – the garden isle & Nihau – the forbidden isle. Each island is known for its specialties and beauty of its kind.

Molokini Island

Molokini Island

Aerial View of Molokini

Aerial View of Molokini

While halting in the isle of Maui, we got a chance to snorkel in the deep seas. We chose to go to the island of Molokini about 2 ½ kms from the mainland. The island of Molokini is an extinct volcano in a shape of a crescent which provides protection from waves and powerful currents, making this area one of the top ten dive sites in the world. It is said to be a home for nearly 250 species of fish which are found nowhere else on earth. Our day begun at 6 am in the morning with a perfect weather taking us through the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean. I had no clue about what we were about to witness, something so magnificent and unimaginable! They were the humpback whales swimming, splashing, playing and enjoying the warm waters of the island. While talking to a local on our boat, he mentioned that these whales come to the Maui waters to protect and teach their calves to survive since the water is warm and safe from the rest of the ocean. It was over-whelming to see 45 foot long whale spouting water through its blow-hole giving us a fantastic view, just what you see on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. Being in that moment and capturing the site is beyond any explanation.

Humpback Whale of Maui

Humpback Whale of Maui

After our experience with the humpbacks we came across the most loving, playful and popular fish of the big seas – yes, I am talking about the dolphins! They frolicked, flaunted and danced in front of our boat. It almost felt as though they were trying to please us or as if they have put up a small act before us. Whatever it was, the spinner dolphins did their best to impress us to the core!

Dolphin frolicking around our boat

Dolphin frolicking around our boat

Finally after an hour and a half, we reached Molokini.The island was so accurately crescent shaped that it looked more carved than a natural one. The backdrop of the island fell 300 feet into the sea. The people of Hawaii believe that many sunsets ago, the powerful fire goddess Pele fell in love with a handsome Prince. Unfortunately, a charming gecko also had eyes for the Prince. An angry Pele Continue reading

Semblance of Feng Shui & Vaastu Shastra

A lot of us believe in Feng Shui or Vaastu Shastra or either. Both the beliefs are a science of construction, architecture and in general help us to improve life. The Indian-derived Vastu Shastra is said to be the basis for Feng Shui and has recently gained Western popularity for its eco-conscious appeal while Feng Shui is based on the idea that everything in your outer surroundings affects the course of your life. 

Although different, Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra share some common core timeless design approaches. A home is where you spend a lot of your time, let it reflect your individuality or the uniqueness. I will mention a few easy and doable tips to enhance your daily lives.

Surround yourself with things you like:

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When you look at your things what do they say to you? Do you look at your furniture and/or art and say “I love that!?” This is where you should keep or get rid of things that don’t make you feel good. If you have negative associations with objects in your home then pass them on.

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De-clutter your home:

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Home can be where you go to rejuvenate. Environmental chaos can clutter your mind too. Remove all the unnecessary things and make your home more spacious and open.

Colors cue moods:

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The palette to embrace is one that satisfies the range of human emotion: pink and orange trigger joy; green and blue create calm; red inspires passion; black and white embody grace. Decorate with colors that please you and positive energy will flow undisrupted. 

Illuminating spaces:

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The choice of lighting sets the tone for a room. Flooding the home with early-morning light refreshes the mind. Lower the lights and it will trigger relaxation. 

Mother nature can come in too:

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Going green at home can help you form a connection to the natural world. It soothes and refreshes the mind and body.

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