Sunday, December 31, 2017

At The Promenade Beach, Pondicherry.

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Promenade Beach, known as Pondicherry Beach and also as the Rocky Beach by the locals is a popular stretch of Beachfront in the city of Pondicherry along the Bay of Bengal. The Promenade is a 1.5 Km long Beach Road. On one side of this road lies the Sea and on the other side there are many important French time buildings and landmarks.
The Promenade is the focal point of Pondicherry and the most important tourist attraction in the Union Territory of Pondicherry. This road is closed for vehicular traffic from 6pm to 6am in the morning; when you can see many walkers and in the evening the eateries are a big attraction among locals and tourists.
Some of the most prominent landmarks along the Promenade are the French War Memorial for the French soldiers who laid down their lives in World Wars, the 4-metre tall Mahatma Gandhi Statue which is surrounded by eight granite pillars, the 2.88-metre tall statue of Dupleix in the Dupleix park, the marble statue of the heroic French damsel Joan of Arc, Church of Our Lady of the Angels, the adjacent White Town – which is like a typical French Town, the old Lighthouse, the old Customs office  and Le Café the old Port office and now a popular waterfront café. And there are a number other heritage properties, Hotels and Restaurants along this Beach Road.  You can see attached; our photographs at these landmarks.
The Sunrise and Moonrise are extremely beautiful here and our walks along the beach which you can see in the attached video will always be remembered by us.  Several years ago when I visited Pondicherry a number of times the sandy beach along the Beach Road was accessible but now due to coastal erosion it has become a man made rocky beach; to avoid further erosion of the beach. Yet the entire stretch looks extremely beautiful even now, perhaps much more awesome than before. 
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Friday, December 29, 2017

Today is the festival of Vaikunta Ekadashi / Mukkoti Ekadashi.

Today, 29th December 2017 is the festival of Vaikunta Ekadashi also known as Mukkoti Ekadashi. Vaikunta Ekadashi or Mukkoti Ekadashi is considered to be the most important Ekadashi in the Sri Vaishnava tradition. Ekadashi means ‘the eleventh’ in Sanskrit and refers to the eleventh day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) belonging to a lunar month. Vaikunta Ekadashi is the 11th day in the lunar calendar after the new moon in Dhanurmasa (16th December to 14th January). It is considered to be the day on which the doors of Vaikunta (Heaven) will be kept open for all the saintly souls.
One will be absolved of all sins and will attain Moksha (the transcendent state attained as a result of being released from the cycle of rebirth) and the doors of Vaikunta will be kept open for the soul after it leaves this physical body.
According to the Vishnu Purana, observing the Ekadashi Vrata (or fast) on Vaikunta Ekadashi day confers the benefit equivalent to observing all the other eleven Ekadashis during the year. Fasting (according to one’s capacity), chanting the names of the Lord, visiting Vishnu temples are some of the ways this festival is observed.
In some temples, this festival is celebrated over five days with special Pujas on all days. Devotees also get a chance to go through a sanctified entrance called “Vaikunta Dwaaram” (doorway to “heaven”) on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day and participate in the continuous chanting of the Vishnu Sahasranamam (one thousand names of Lord Vishnu).
Lord  Venkateshwara opened the gate of Vaikunta (his abode) for two demons in spite of they being against the Lord. They asked for the boon that whoever listens to their story and sees the image of Lord coming out of the door called Vaikunta Dwara, will reach Vaikunta.  For the same reason, temples all over India make a door kind of structure on this day for devotees to pass through.
The day is observed as a very sacred day by all the Vishnu Bhakthas and many people fast today. It is believed that by observing a fast today and spending the day in poojas and prayers to Lord Vishnu, one will be absolved of all sins and will attain Moksha and the doors of Vaikunta will be kept open for the soul after it leaves this physical body. The soul does not have a rebirth anymore and attains the feet of the Supreme Lord.
According to the Padma Purana, during the Krita Yuga (also termed the golden age), an Asura or demon called Muran harassed both the Devas (Gods) and mortals. Unable to bear his tyranny, the Devas sought refuge in Shiva. He directed them to approach Vishnu. Vishnu agreed to help the Devas and went out to battle with Muran. During the long battle, which lasted one thousand celestial years, Vishnu needed to rest for a while. He entered a beautiful cave called Himavati in Badarikashrama to sleep. Muran wanted to strike Vishnu while he was sleeping. However, Shakti – Vishnu’s female energy – emerged out of his body and assumed the form of a beautiful damsel who fought Muran and vanquished him.
When Vishnu awoke he was very pleased and named this maiden as Ekadashi and granted her a boon. The maiden said, “O Lord, if you are pleased with me and wish to give me a boon, then give me the power to deliver people from the greatest sins if they fast on this day”. Vishnu granted her the boon and declared that people worshipping her would reach Vaikunta. Thus, it is said, was born the first Ekadashi, which was a Dhanurmasa Shukla Paksha Ekadashi.
Sages and devout people have been since, observing the Ekadashi Vrata regularly. Here, the demon Muran represents the Tamasic and Rajasic qualities in us. The import of the Ekadashi Vrata is that one can conquer Rajasic and Tamasic tendencies in us through fasting. This helps us reach our ultimate destination, Vaikunta, which is the place or stage of no ‘Kuntitha’ or dullness, stupidity and misery. It is also said that on this day the Ksheerasagara manthana (churning of the ocean) took place and the nectar of immortality (Amritha) was distributed to the Gods.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

At The Ashok Beach Resort.

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The beaches of Pondicherry/Puducherry are very beautiful. Unfortunately the coastline erosion along this coast is gradually affecting the beaches, I hope this would stop or be a very gradual and prolonged process.
During our recent five day visit to Pondicherry we stayed at The Ashok Beach Resort for four days and at The French Villa for one day. The stay at The Ashok Beach Resort was to our entire satisfaction. The resort has a private beach and we stayed at a seaside cottage with 180 degrees view of the great ocean – the Bay of Bengal.  We enjoyed our walks on the beach and the view and sound of the sea round the clock from our accommodation. And the food was great. The attached video and photographs would introduce you to this lovely beach resort.
The Ashok Beach Resort is huge. It is an absolutely environment friendly location spread over 65 acres and most of the area is overlooking the sea. The hotel is a joint venture project of ITDC – India Tourism Development Corporation (Government of India undertaking) and PIPDIC (Government of Pondicherry undertaking). It is located along the East Coast Road a little away from the city close to Pondicherry University in Kalapet area. So the beach here is called as Kalapet beach.
The weather was fine during our stay, rather very cold in the evenings. We were to return to Hyderabad on the fourth day but due to overcast sky and resulting poor visibility at Pondicherry airport our plane that was to take us to Hyderabad could not land there and was diverted to Chennai. So we postponed our departure to the next day and stayed at The French Villa, a heritage property in White Town, very close to Promenade beach. As a result we got more time to enjoy watching the sea and the Promenade area and the food available there.
We have been to other beaches in Pondicherry that is Auro beach, Paradise beach and the Promenade beach. I shall write later about these beautiful beaches along with more pictures capturing the beauty of these places.  
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Incredible Coincidence!

784533 - This is a number known to our family since 1980. It is a number we all had to remember then and even today, with of cou...