India – The Land of Celebrations

Introduction:

Whether it be through folk songs, traditions, costumes or simple colourful decoration; if there is one country that knows how to be joyful, it is India. What’s most special is that each month of the year, there is a celebration going on in some or the other part of the country!

Travelling all around the year indulging in joyous, loving and happy funfair of the country, is all that you need to realise that ‘Life may not be a part we all hoped for but while we are here, we must dance!’ (Jeanne C.Stein).

Take the year off and get going to ‘Incredible India’. Here’s guide to travelling in India, all 12 months of the year celebrating its myriad of festivals and understanding just what keeps this country of more than 300 languages and a myriad of religions dance together in harmony!

January: The Kite Festival In Gujarat

Leave it to us to celebrate the natural movement of sun that signifies the end of the long dry months of winter and coming of spring which is the harvest season for the majorly agrarian community of the country. It falls on the same day every year i.e. January 14. Although, it is important to people all over the country, the festival is most spectacularly celebrated in Gujarat with Kites! Yes! Colourful kites dominate the blue skies, children scream from rooftops and mothers prepare yummy delicacies with sesame seeds, jaggery and clarified butter. The manjha (thread attached to the kites), flying the first kite and claiming other’s kites in the sky, are all a part of the tradition.

When: 14th January

Where: Ahmedabad, Gujarat

February: Mahashivratri in Varanasi

Considered to be the place where Lord Shiva hold immense religious importance, Varanasi is a place that truly decks up in all its finery on the joyous occasion of Mahashivratri. All the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva are tastefully decorated with marigolds, lights and different hymns can be heard filling up the atmosphere. Say ‘Om Namah Shivay’ (I offer to Siva, a respectful invocation of His Name) and partake in the celebration with a tasty bhang milk at the celebrations. However, make sure you ask the locals where to obtain this from as the concoction is a heady mix of milk, sugar, cannabis leaves and buds, spices, ginger and rosewater which can cause quite a few adverse effects if not consumed correctly.

When: February

Where: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

March: Holi in Vrindavan

If there is one festival that is celebrated with equal fervor irrespective of caste, colour, creed, language or tradition it’s Holi. What better place to see the revelry of this occasion than the birthplace of the God in whose honor, the day is celebrated! It is believed that Lord Krishna, the blue God of India was born in the land of Vrindavan – an ancient city on the banks of the Yamuna River. Everybody engages in merry making and tales of the love between Krishna and the village belles are told, danced, sung and extolled!

When: March

Where: Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

April: Bihu in Assam

The traditional beginning of the New Year for the Assamese, Bihu is a dual celebration of new beginnings and the coming of Spring, signifying the beginning of the fertile Spring season for the farmers. The month long celebrations consist of the traditional dancing, music and foodstuffs being prepared by the locals. It is indeed a stunning spectacle to watch young boys and girls dancing in fields on countrysides and local farms. Research further and you are sure to find pretty homestays to stay at and travel to Assam.

When: Usually on 14th or 15th April

Where: All over Assam

May: Maharashtra Day in Maharashtra

On May 1, 1960, an agreement was reached which led to the formation of state of Maharashtra and Gujarat. To commemorate the historic occasion, the entire state observes a mandatory holiday and a joyous parade is held in the grounds of Shivaji Park in Dadar, Mumbai. The governor of the state officiates the parade chair and members of Central Reserve Police Force, Mumbai Commando Force, Home Guards, Civil Defence, the Fire Marshals and city police take part in the parade. The procession is often decked out in various colours and traditional dance performances.

When: 1st May

Where: Dadar, Mumbai

June: Hemis Festival in Ladakh

The largest Gompa (Monastery) in Ladakh, the Hemis Gompa plays host to this festival called the Hemis Festival, which is celebrated on a yearly basis. It marks the birth of Padmasambhava, who is highly regarded as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Over the two days of the festival, the celebrations are in the form of dancing, socialising and frolicking. Particularly a spectacular dance performed by the Lamas, which is called as Chaam is worth witnessing. The mystical dance is accompanied by drums, traditional horn instruments and cymbals and is a part of the Tantric traditions of Buddhism.

When: 3-4th July

Where: Hemis Monastery, Ladakh

July: Rath Yatra in Odisha

The Rath Yatra or the Chariot Festival is a celebration that is associated with the Lord Jagannatha and is majorly celebrated in the state of Odisha in the Eastern part of India. One of the oldest Ratha Yatras in India, it dates back to 10-11th century and finds mention in the Skanda Purana. As a part of the Ratha Yatra, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and the youngest sister Subhadra are taken out in a decked up chariot to the temple of Gundicha and the procession is accompanied by a tremendous fanfare. The chariots play traditional hymns, songs, drums and other instruments and the chariots themselves measure over 45 FEET!

When: 25th June

Where: Puri, Odisha

August: Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra

The beloved Elephant God of India ‘Ganesh’ is revered as the God of Dance as well as knowledge. It is no surprise then that this festival is brought in with a lot of revelry and fervor in the state of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It is particularly spectacular sight in the cities of Mumbai and Pune where the procession of the installation as well as the 10th day of immersion, called Ganesh Chaturthi and Chaturdashi respectively, is accompanied by ‘Dhol Pathaks’. The beats struck by young boys and girls on cymbals, large drums and smaller rhythm percussions called ‘tasha’. There are also spectacular traditional dances, women and men dressed in traditional attire, amazing sweets to be eaten and of course, melodious invocations to be heard. It is a sight that you must travel to see!

When: 25th August

Where: Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra

September: Tarnetar Fair in Gujarat

Take time off the mundane black, white and grey of your daily life and travel to Gujarat where a riot of colours explodes every year in the month of September as the state plays host to the Tarnetar Fair! The fair is essentially a celebration of love that commemorates the legend of the ‘Swayamvara’ i.e. groom picking ceremony of a mythological Indian princess- Draupadi. The celebrations revolve around young tribal women seeking marriageable partners for themselves. Even without all the matchmaking; the swirling Ghagras, dances, tribal dances called rahado, traditional local entertainment, joyrides and much more are sure to keep you on your toes at all times.

When: September

Where: Thangadh in Gujarat

October: Durga Puja in West Bengal

If you truly want to see the celebration of life, love, devotion and happiness, then all you have to do is head to Kolkata in West Bengal in the month of October as the city decks up for the arrival of the Goddess Durga. It is a larger than life spectacle that simply cannot be described in words. The glamour, glitz, grandeur is all centered around the beautiful idol of Durga in installations called ‘Pandals’. More than 5000 Pandals are erected in Kolkata during these 10 days and each day holds the promise of a different spectacle. Travelling here during these days is stressful but truly worth it.

When: October

Where: Kolkata, West Bengal

November: Pushkar Camel Fair and Diwali in Pushkar

Come November and at the time of Kartik Purnima, Pushkar gears up for a very special event- the Pushkar Camel Fair. It is one of the festivals for which many Indians as well as foreigners travel all the way to Pushkar in Rajasthan. The sand swirls around the vast open grounds as more than 11000 camels, horses and other livestock are traded amongst much fanfare. The eccentric competitions, colorful attires, rolled turbans, long mustaches and women dressed in bridal attire are just some of the highlights of this fair. Accommodations for travellers can be found in form of tents, guesthouses as well as big hotels. It is indeed a spectacle worth visiting and writing home about.

When: Beginning of November

Where: Pushkar, Rajasthan

December: Christmas in Goa

You may have seen the traditional ‘White Christmas’ in the western part of the civilization, but how about bringing in this joyous festival, sitting by the beach and partaking in the traditional carnival that has become a part of the popular culture all over? There is simply no escaping from the merrymaking during this time as all the houses in the tiny beach state are decked up in Christmas colours, lighting, decorated trees and other finery. Attend the midnight mass with the locals and participate in the revelry of the carnival. Indulge in the local cashew liquor called Feni and other goodies like Bebinca and the famous Christmas cake.

Titanium Time Travels

Ready to escape to nature? Outdoor activities are a favorite outlet for many of us to decompress from the day-to-day routine. A popular outdoor activity is to hit the trial on a great hike and overnight camping adventure. Of course, if we are camping, we are usually cooking. There’s nothing like some fresh air with a healthy dose of nature to build up a good appetite! In this article, I will highlight a brief history of titanium, an important element now found in some light-weight camping cookware.

First, let’s start by understanding titanium is a chemical element you may have learned about in chemistry class, with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It is the ninth-most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and the seventh-most abundant metal. It is a lustrous transition metal with a lovely silver color, low density and highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metallic element. In its unalloyed condition, titanium is as strong as some steels, but less dense. Impressive! It is highly resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua Regia and chlorine. So, what does this have to do with camping cookware? We love titanium because it is light weight in our packs, exceptionally strong and a good investment, as it holds up well over time.

Speaking of time, did you know titanium was first discovered in Cornwall, Great Britain by William Gregor, the vicar of the Creed parish and amateur geologist in 1791? Gregor recognized the presence of a new element in ilmenite when he found black sand by a stream in the nearby parish of Manaccan. It seemed the sand was attracted by a magnet, so Gregor analyzed the sand and determined the presence of two metal oxides: iron oxide and a whitish metallic oxide he could not identify. Realizing the unidentified oxide contained a metal that did not match any known elements, Gregor reported his findings to the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and in the German science journal Crell’s Annalen. Interestingly a few years later the oxide was independently discovered in 1795 by Prussian chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth, in what we now call Slovakia. Klaproth named the new element for the strong Titans in Greek mythology.

Fast forward to the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Soviet Union pioneered the use of titanium in military and submarine applications as part of their Cold War programs. Beginning in the early 1950’s, titanium was frequently used in military aviation, particularly in high-performance jets, such as the F-100 Super Sabre, Lockheed A-12 and SR-71.

Recognizing the strategic value of titanium, the U.S. Department of Defense supported early commercialization throughout the Cold War. So much so, that a large stockpile of titanium was maintained by the Defense National Stockpile Center, until it was finally depleted in the 2000’s. As of 2015, titanium sponge metal was produced in six countries: China, Japan, Russia, Kazakhstan, United States, Ukraine and India (in order of output). So, there you have it – who knew titanium is found and valued worldwide? Today we know that it is a wonderful cooking companion on our many travels across the great outdoors.

4 Tips to Planning an Enjoyable Holiday

A very important part of planning a holiday trip is knowing how to manage personal stuff while remembering to actually enjoy the trip. It so happens, that a lot of times we forget that we are supposed to relax and enjoy the holiday, instead of stressing about packing, checking in and out of hotels and counting heads. Here we bring you some common problems and tips to simplify them, so that you get to let your hair down during this holiday without any worries.

1. Plan your drives beforehand.

Calling a cab at the last moment is always a big hassle. There might be traffic, a long line near the airport entrance, even low availability of cabs. Instead of leaving this detail to the last moment, order a cab one day in advance. This will give you the upper hand on traffic as well as the other common problems when it comes to leaving for vacation.

2. Pack Light.

We all have a tendency to carry tons of luggage, even when it is just going to be a two-day trip. Instead of packing in seven different towels for everybody, count in the towels provided by the hotels you will be staying at and cut down on the number of clothes you pack. You can buy snacks at the various stops you will be taking along the way, instead of packing in a host of Tupperware that you will inevitably have to wash out during the travelling.

3. Delegate duties.

Instead of taking the burden of planning each step of the holiday and stressing yourself out even before it has started, delegate duties to everybody in the group and trust that they will carry them out to the best of their abilities. A single person worrying about which hotels to stay at, how much money to spend on drivers and how many bags to pack will never be conducive to an enjoyable trip, rather an exhausting one. Instead, let one person worry about the hotels, someone else the snacks and a third the car rentals. This way everybody gets to be a part of the planning as well as enjoy the trip.

4. Go with the flow.

The most important tip of all is to learn to let go. Even after you have carefully followed all of the above tips, if you continue to worry about the little things that went wrong, you will never be able to enjoy the trip. The trick is in letting the little things go, and remembering that you are supposed to have fun when you are on holiday.