Happy New Year 2020!
Every year it seems the new year has arrived faster than ever. It was just yesterday that I was looking back at 2018 and today it is 2019. The year just whizzed past and it seems there was so much more to do.
2019 was year low on travel but wherever I traveled I spend at least a week, to soak in the place at my pace.
My Travels in 2019
The year started with a trip to Prayagraj for Kumbh Mela. All these years, I have avoided going to Kumbh Mela assuming it would be too crowded for my comfort. I could not have been more wrong. It turned out to be the most fascinating journey of my life. I am happy I spent a good one week experiencing not just the Kumbh Mela but also the city of Prayagraj.
I explored the Mathura and Braj region with UP Tourism. The best part of the trip was doing Govardhan Parikrama, discovering Chunri Mahotsav, getting into the kitchen of Brijwasi and watch Mathura Peda being made. On the side, I got to visit Firozabad – the city of glass bangles.
On a business trip to Mumbai, I got to visit the old temples in and around the Javeri Bazaar area including the Mumba Devi temple.
In Kerala, I got to see the Snake Boat Race in Alapuzha which was quite an experience. Thank you Kerala Tourism for hosting me. On the side, I got to see the Chottanikkara temple and some other interesting places in Kochi.
My most interesting trip of the year was Rajasthan, where I explored the ancient Pushkar in detail exploring its scared geography. Shekhawati was a joy to discover. The world’s largest open-air gallery with painted opulent Havelis in towns of Shekhawati is a sheer delight. Read more about the Anatomy of a Shekhawati Haveli.
I visited Kolhapur to visit the Mahalakshmi Temple and Kopeshwar Mahadev Temple. With a bit of time on hand, I explored the lesser-known attractions of Kolhapur city including the Panchganga River and its beautiful ghats.
The only international trip this year was to Sri Lanka for a story on the ancient temple of Thiruketeshwara in Mannar. I extended the trip to visit Jaffna and Trincomalee and explore some of the most beautiful lagoons in Sri Lanka and some of its ancient temples in both the cities.
I visited Varanasi twice this year, though both were small trips. On one of the trips, I took a detour to explore Vindhyachal and visited the Vindhyavasini temple there. In the second one, my plan was to visit Mithila, but a health condition made me abandon the trip. Probably the time to visit Mithila has not yet come.
In Goa, I explored some interesting new aspects like festivals of Mussel Khel in Chandor, Shisha Ranni of Mallikarjuna Temple in Canacona and ruins of Divar Island. There is still a lot of Goa to be explored.
I ended the year by visiting Mandu Festival in Mandu. This time I got to explore the Bagh caves, bagh block printing on the side of the festival. Hot air ballooning over Mandu gave me a story for life when we did an emergency landing at a remote field.
The year ended with the darshan of Mahakal and Harsiddhi Devi in Ujjain, though it still remains a city that I am yet to explore to my heart’s content.
Speaking in 2019
I spoke at Divya Prakriti Parv at IGNCA Delhi on Devi Footprint in India. On the side, I visited Kalka Ji temple in Delhi that I had not visited in many years that I lived in NCR.
I Spoke on my experience of visiting the Kumbh Mela at an event organized by the Center for Mythology and Culture in Goa.
I gave a talk on Devi Mahatmay after I finished reading the text during the summers this year.
Spoke on ‘Tourism and Career Opportunities’ at Dempo College of Economics & Commerce.
Book Reviews in 2019
I have reviewed books since 2004. On average I used to read 60-70 books a year and review all of them. This year I started reading Indian scriptures and they are so huge and so engrossing that my numbers of books read have come down drastically. It will further come down this year as I started reading the giant Srimad Devi Bhagwat Puran which is two huge volumes, and I have just about reached 40% of the first volume.
Last year I started reading ‘Ramcharit Manas’ by Goswami Tulsidas. It took me a few months to read it slowly but I totally enjoyed it. It burst a lot of myths and questions that keep popping about the epic in popular media. Here is why you should also read the original Ramcharitmanas?
Then, I picked up Devi Mahatmay to read. I again took 2-3 months to read it slowly along with a few commentaries on it and other related texts that helped me understand this complex text with many layers to be deciphered. However, I am happy that once I finished reading, I was able to deliver a talk on the same.
This year I just hope I am able to finish the Devi Bhagwat Puran, though it would mean that my reading normal books would have to drastically come down for it.
New Initiative of 2019
If you noticed my last few New Year Posts, you may have noticed that every year I try and do something new, something that I have never done before. Like in 2017 I started the Hindi Travel Blog. It has been doing well without any pampering and pushing. It is slowly building up its own audience.
In 2018, I tried conducting a blogging workshop, but due to it being a bad year health wise I could not really take it up as planned.
Indica Yatra Conference
This year I co-curated the first Indica Yatra Conference by Indic Academy in association with Bharat Adhyayan Kendra of BHU, Varanasi.
This was a dream come true. I have always wanted the scholars and storytellers to come on one platform with an intention to create osmosis. The tourism industry needs Indic ideas from the scholars who study this land and experience curators need to create tourism products out of them. The response to the Call for Papers was overwhelming.
A galaxy of noted scholars and storytellers gathered at the BHU campus in November, just after Dev Deepavali. You can enjoy the videos here. Wait for the announcement of the 2020 edition of the conference.
Read here – Synopsis of the Indica Yatra Conference
Temples of India series on Instagram
Instagram is a platform that has always remained beyond my understanding. Many in the blogging community believe it is a platform where you can only have followers if you buy them. Buying options are openly available. I was never convinced about it so I never invested in Instagram. Unfortunately, the PR industry now equates Instagram posts to blog posts and Instagrammers to bloggers.
I did have IndiTales’ Instagram handle that was just lying idle. So, I thought of creating a visual database of temples I have visited over the years. What started just as an experiment (it looks like the most important things in my life start just an experiment) became an exploration.
As I posted the temple story after the temple story, I saw myself revisiting those temples. Most of the times I remembered everything about the temple, but sometimes I researched a bit to write the story. I have reached about 102 temples so far, and my Sankalp or my commitment is to do 108 temples. After that, I may continue the series further or start a new series. I am not too sure at the moment.
My following on Instagram still remains negligible but my engagement levels are inspiring and motivating. On some posts, I have more than 100% engagement rates. What I am enjoying is creating my own visual database of places visited. An interesting journey.
YouTube hits 2 Million Mark
Our YouTube Channel ( https://www.youtube.com/IndiTales) reached close to 2 Million views mark. I just realized it a few days back. Again, the following is small but the engagement is satisfying.
The new initiative for 2020 is also playing my mind. Hopefully, it should come up in the earlier part of the year. Send me your best wishes in advance.
There are a lot of ideas being discussed post the conference and that may mean it changes how the whole IndiTales ecosystem works. Let’s see what the future has in mind.
Wrote the foreword for my friend and fellow blogger Shrinidhi Hande’s book – World Travel in Low Budget. Another book is waiting for the foreword to be written. I am grateful to the authors of these books for making me a part of their journey.
I wrote for a couple of publications, one international and two national. Indian publishing industry disappoints me with its unprofessional attitude, especially the editors of print publications. It is one of the prime reasons you do not see me much in print media.
If you have any ideas of what new we should do and what would you like to see on IndiTales, do share in the comments below.
I hope to travel a little more in 2020. I wish you too, get to travel to your heart’s content.