Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pinnawala Sri Lanka - Elephant Orphanage And Their Poop To Paper Affair

Tea Estates En route Colombo-Nuwar Eliya
An unfathomable saga of my Sri Lanka vacation gala is still fresh in my mind and I can throb even  four years after it. Probably the encounter with the loving pachyderms, icon of Sri Lankan tourism, the elephant family was quite an experience. Or playing with the pythons made it different, or greens and sun forming myriad colours in the wide ocean. Or that, this was holiday where we did not make serious agenda. Holidays should be flexible. This one was. Especially after an affair with these elephants and knowing even that their dung was used to make paper, we got hooked onto the place.

Ocean View from balcony of Hotel Mount Lavinia
Here is the link to the old brief travelogue I had written. - A Week At Ravan's Place. Exploring Sri Lanka.

Pinnawala -Elephant Orphanage

A Place that was originally was found in 1975 for holding best disposition of ex-situ animal care. In 25 acre coconut plantation jungle, adjacent to "Maha Oya " river, elephants are bred and well taken care of. Just as name holds, the set up was founded to care for abandoned elephants. Those that strayed away, or fell in mining pits or who ended up spoiling farmers crops . A splendid encounter it is in such close quarters with these jumbos and little jumbos.

Elephant was a friend always. For me from Udupi the temple town. There was always this mammoth friend with it's fascinating trunk  in the Sri Krishna Temple premises whom I talked to as child. This brief interaction in SriLanka was a delight. Kissing another being felt like being human.

Bottle milk feeding activity to keep tourists engaged! Pinnawala mahouts feed the baby elephants less than 3 yr of age with bottle milk. Also encourage the friendly visitors too to indulge in feeding activity. As for my experience this little jumbo gulped up the bottle before we could have our camera shutter buzz. Timing maintained are for thirty minutes twice a day. 9.15A.M and 1.30 noon.

Baby elephants are left in their play pen for few hours, especially as exhibit for visitors too! With the their favorite veggies hanging on the rails the babies stay there for few hours of the morning after their bath. The lactating mothers are generally very very compassionate toward their calves and nurture them lovingly in their presence.

While most elephants march in herds to the river for their daily bathing ritual, a few are isolated. Either the wounded ones or the aggressive ones and trained with hose of water to bathe themselves. Spectators are welcomed too to view and accompany them. A few naughty ones would splash some water on you too.

Every morning bathing sessions are regimen essential. So, the jumbos stay hale and hearty. They are guided by security personnel and the mahouts and march towards river at 10 AM only to return by 12 noon. A pleasurable scene, the brown pachyderm march to the river. Alongside the street are laid those small vendors who sell souvenirs. All the types that we can expect. Clothes, caps, mugs with the jumbo picture on it.

Poop to paper -

Have you ever had any idea seeing the elephant's rear end, that it's dung could be a raw material while paper the finished product?
I was drowned in poop heap thoughts.

While millions of trees are chopped down in the world, few environmental enthusiasts have found eco-friendly solutions. The elephant dung to make paper indeed! "Fibre" is the keyword, as their diet and dung both are rich in it.
  • Collecting the dung - is collected from various elephant stables. 
  • The cleaning of the dung - Dung is washed thoroughly with water in large tanks. At the end, all what is left is the fibre. 
  • Cooking the poo - To get the fibre ready for the next stage of pulping, it is cooked in water for over 4-5 hours with salt and then washed with hydrogen peroxide to complete the first stage of making the paper bacteria free.
  • Sorting - The water is drained out and the dung is left to dry out in the sun. Once its dry, it is sorted and any non-usable fibre is removed.
  • Pulping- After the fibre has been softened and sorted, it goes into the Hollander Beater, to be beaten to pulp. This process takes about 4 hours. The fibre goes through the process of being beaten into very fine pulp and also being washed again.
  • Lifting UpThe pulp is then taken to cement/ wooden vats filled with water. Depending on the weight of the paper to be made, the required amount of pulp is mixed with the water. A flat sieve-like mould is used to lift a layer of pulp out of water. A sheet of paper is made.
  • Moulding -The sheet is then placed on a muslin cloth by applying gentle pressure onto the mould. This process continues till there is a heap of about 100 sheets.
  • Drying - The heap of interleaved sheets is then placed in a hydraulic press and compressed to drain out as much water as possible. The paper is then dried on lines, in a shady area. Direct sunlight is not good for drying the sheets unless they’re white as the colour fades under the sun.
  • Rolling -Paper sheets are then rolled in d to make them smoother and writable. 
    The sheets are then cut to the specified size, packed and sent to their required destinations.
Products range includes books, flip-flops, hand bags, picture albums, tags, gift bags, photo frames, and whole lot of funky stuff. 

You have a big range of products available on various sellers, most popular being -One of the seller on Amazon

Few called me daring, then a few called the python daring!!

At the exterior gate of the Orphanage we encountered these slithering friends. First time ever, I held this spineless yet creepy python in my hands. Bit squeamish, but overtaken by confidence of excitement.

Few Key Notes: -

  1. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is open to public on all days between 8Am to 6 PM
  2. A huge place to explore, so remember to tie your shoes tight.
  3. About 2 hours drive from Colombo city.  
  4. Other places of interest around colombo are -Nuwar Eliya, Kandy ,The Seetha Temple, The Ramboda, Few national parks, tea estates and much more.
  5. A suggested place to stay  would be Hotel Mount Lavinia in Colombo. See their website for information -
  6. The Auto Rickshaws there are called "tuk tuk" and are a pleasurable rides like the ones in India!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Kodial Teru, The Mangalore Car Festival As I Saw

PS- Memegenerator.
Translation: Look kids- exams happen all round the year, the teru comes only once in an year
I came, I saw, I loved it!
The wooden chariot with tiny flags, flowers and lights; Priests and their chants; The floating mass of people in high reverence, older generation with folded hands; Complete spirits of  Lord Venkataramana; The gongs, cymbals, drums, conch, the lamps,  flowers of variety; Aroma of authentic temple prasad food; Folks in their ostentatious finery; The visitors with their cameras; Such divinity in a ironical melody of a cacophonous crowd and I was witnessing the Kodial Teru for first time in my life.

The princess city of Western Ghats, Sahyadri Range of Karnataka, popular for beaches, betel nuts, port, hometown of Bollywood shetty's is our own Mangalore. Kudla for the Tulu speaking folks and Kodial for the Konkani speaking folks

"Car festival/Rathothsav/Kodial Teru in konkani" the popular festival of the GSB (Gowda Saraswath Brahmins) community of Mangalore is about a week's festival, falling in mid or end January. Celebrated in the Car street premises of Shri Venkatesha Temple. 

Mangalore is a multicultural potpourri of folks from all parts of India. Though not originally a GSB by origin I have been adopted by my husband and the community so well, I belong there now. A divine affair at the car festival has been my very first experience recently. Only to realize how the community folks flock from other side of hills for this festival.

I call this Mangalore's Times Square. PC - Here

I've coined the term Times Square of our Mangalore. I could even call it Times Now square. The loud noises of drums and the sea of people there automatically makes every body an Arnab there!

Car festival, is that time of the year when we ladies wait to show case the best of our finest yellow ornaments. How heavy are our ears, wrist and neck is how pretty we want to be. Fortunately the January weather cooperates with us as we drape ourselves in our 5 foot best silk saris and huff and puff in front of the mirror till we can faint.  The men dressed in their best will be found walking around in the car street showcasing their fully charged battery performance.

It's an absolute feast time for the sense organs. The genuine perfume of the jasmine flowers the women wear, can outdo the axe deodorant commercial made for men. The entire car street fills up your nostril till your lung with the exotic smell of chats, the sugar cane juice, the green mango pachadi (authentic mangalore salad), the churmuri and much more. The food stalls are the main attraction in the evening hours. Small vendors calling out to buy those lovely coloured balloons or colourful plastic toys make big dashing camouflage of a street. Chants, hymns and bhajans played in the stereophonic background makes the air more spiritual. 

A satisfaction of being my charitable element happened when a little girl came tugging my attire. Not only money but when I offered her food and few balloons, she soon returned with a big gang of hers. Serving each of them at the temple premises left me smiling thoroughly. 

The evening food in temple premises called Samradhana Jevan (Samradhana Food - Is the konkani term for the meal offered as Prasad) is where you get our statistics. And we hate our Prime minister for making us stand in queue in banks today. Trust me, we south Indians take pride in our finger licking etiquette, be it sambar or the sweet dish. I am completely convinced that eating with hands is integral to good eating. It heightens connection of sensory to food and has been scientifically proven too.

Well, to know about the serious affair of this festival, on the first day the religious rituals marks a start with   Morning Prarthana. The priests get busy with formalities and the people lend their hands in all possible arrangements. A flag is hoisted at the "Dhwaj Sthambh" marking the beginning of the festival.
PC -Here 
The next two morning proceedings conclude with the Utsav deity being worshiped in the palanquin. A series of Arti accompanied by vedic recitals, bhajan and Bhojan form the important part. "Hagalutsav" or the "morning utsav" signifies the fourth day proceeding. With the deity in the small chariot, a graceful procession is taken round the surrounding areas.

"BrahmaRathotsav" the big car is completely set for the fifth day. Lord Venkatesha is decorated with jewels and fresh flowers, worshiped in the golden palanquin and later on moved on to the giant car which is rolled round by thousands of people shouting chants and praises of their beloved Lord. A scene much worth pausing and replaying if one could.

"Splash of colours"! Yes, the concluding day holds a unique bust of energy from people of all ages who gather in the temple square premises for the much awaited "Okkuli". The Lord himself is first adorned with pink colour followed by sea of people in spirits of the same holi of colours. People play with colours and water the entire morning. Most local schools are announced closed for the festival on this day.

Last day of the festival is again concluded by the flag hoisting as indication. The week's eat, pray, love and live marks an end. For most houses the kitchen officially opens full time from part time. The  parking areas in surroundings suddenly seem wider and bigger. Roads will heave sigh off the beeline traffic. And one accumulates nostalgic memories as they wistfully await the next January.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Grave Of Life

Rendezvous between the,
soul and the earth.
Devour me in full,
As I today fail life's story,
Edged the soul.

Earth laughed,
times  shall fail not.
Your  spirits shall live up till the sky,
Dust covered layer and ashes,
Resting in the grave of life.

Friday, December 02, 2016

A Peek Into Enormous Ellora Caves

Every travel has it's tale. Every place has it's place in our memory. My visit to the Ellora Caves left me astonished. An enormous stone carved mansion with rich heritage and carvings all around. One would be left exhausted yet the place keeps you hooked on. Someone enthusiastic about archaeology would love to spend a few hours of hiking here. As for a scheduled traveler like me, it was a day well spent in the largest rock cut cave with my family, which also happens to be the UNESCO heritage site.


A quick introduction to the cave, located about 25km away on the outskirts of Aurangabad city of Maharashtra State. The very entrance welcomed me with a warmth reclining me into the ancient times of kings and queens, gods and goddesses. Spread over an area of 2 km and more the monasteries and temples include scriptures belonging to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. About 34 caves altogether and some water bodies including a water fall is the grandeur of the place. 

Maharashtra tourism should be lauded for the arrangement of the tour buses that take you to all the spots with scheduled time frames.

Entrance to cave #16

My visit was limited to two caves in the three hours that exhausted my energy. The first being cave number 16, centrally located and popular for the Lord Shiva Temple. It has been carved from top to bottom so beautifully and has taken several decades and generations of hard work. I was left amazed at the intricacy of the architecture.

The Kailashnath Temple in cave 16 is an epitome of architecture. Designated to recall Mount kailash which is the abode of Lord Shiva the Hindu God. This temple holds the distinction of being the largest monolith structure in the world. It has been carved out of a single stupendous rock mountain. I never knew about it! All my school history lessons seemed to vanish in thin air.


Lord Shiva in his form of "Gajanthaka" where he kills the elephant headed demon. On his side sits Goddess Parvathi.  

The serene interiors of the stone mansion did add some spiritual energy in me. As for the rainy weather that day, I was left with the camera in bag and had to rely on my phone camera. I have some random pictures herewith that depict the rich heritage of ancient India.

Ellora was earlier called Elluru and is a master piece. 1000 plus years ago, when no modern engineering technology existed, these enormous rocks were cut and carved. Hand made beautiful stone paintings leaves me with no words to express. Just glad that these were not during the regime of Shah Jahan!

Notice the cave being numbered.
The second cave I gave a quick visit was cave no 32. This belongs to the Jainism culture. This cave presents the temple of Lord Indra. It is believed that Jain community followers worshiped Lord Indra just like the Hindus and the Buddhists did.

Though famished, we left the caves thrilled. It was not the end of the journey for the day. But we started with spiritual energy again. Touring around the city of Aurangabad itself can consume minimum of 4 days. However, in the scheduled one day tour, after the caves we could only visit following places (mentioned in key notes, but hardly have pictures to share) on our way towards Nagpur by road.

Ever heard of the duplicate of the wonder monument wah "Taj Mahal"? Well, I had not heard of too, till I was doing my homework on the "places to visit" around the Aurangabad City. My Aurangabad visit itself was enroute Shirdi from Nagpur and I ended up grinning seated at the Bibi Ka Maqbara.

This Taj of the Deccan as it known as, is the tomb of Dilras Banu Begum wife of Aurangzeb. And it is built by their son Azam Shah.

This is a short random video taken at the Ellora caves. Don't miss the last for a glimpse of the tour bus inside the caves.

Few Key Notes:-
  • Ensure your backpacks have ample water bottles all along the touring.
  • Please do not carry any snacks in your bags that can attract monkeys. Yes, there are plenty of them!
  • A summer travel avoided is best.
  • Tuesday is the weekly HOLIDAY. Cave entrance is open on all Sundays and national holidays.
  • Other tourist spots around Aurangabad city that are worth seeing are Ajantha Caves, Daulathabad Fort, Grishaneshwar Joyotirling Temple.
 Note:- All pictures are iphone clicks and hence the clarity accordingly.