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  • Jul 07 2010

    “Atithi Devo Bhavah”: The Incredible India Initiative

    Taittiriya Upanishad is a part of the Yajur Veda. A verse says “Matru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Acharya devo bhava, Atithi devo bhava”. Means – Be one to whom your mother is a god; be one to whom your father is a god; be one to whom your teacher is a god; be one to whom your guest is a god – this Upanisad teaches the importance of following the path of charity, duty and dharma.

    ‘Tithi’ in Sanskrit means date ‘Atithi’ is one who arrives at your doorstep – unannounced. Emphasis in the Upanishad was on the good treatment of even the unexpected guest – who knows it well may have been god – testing the munificence of the host :). This is the tagline of the initiative of Ministry of Tourism, Government Of India to tap the full potential of tourism in India.

    The campaign aims to sensitising key stakeholders towards tourists, through training. Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and China far outstrip us in foreign tourist arrivals. There is no reason why India cannot compete. However we need to change our attitude towards those who visit us. Often tourists are mistreated, cheated and rudely dealt with. It’s simple, if someone in a house is rude to you, you don’t refer it to friends and relations. This is why in spite of an incredible wealth of tourist spots, cultural diversity and destinations for the soul, India still not amongst the top 20 tourist destinations Of the world. We hover around the 40s.

    The Charter of “Atithi Devo Bhavah” Program includes Hygiene & Cleanliness issues for transportation, hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, etc., personal hygiene & cleanliness of the service provider and cleanliness of the places of tourist interest.

    • Conduct and Behavior: The service provider shall be courteous and polite.
    • Integrity and Honesty: The service provider should display honesty and integrity.

    • Safety and Security: safety and security of the tourists shall be ensured.

    Training of key stakeholders in terms of changing their attitude and behaviour towards foreign tourists. The key stakeholders listed were taxi drivers, tourist guides, operators, immigration officers, tourist police and others who have direct interaction with inbound tourists. Any initiative aimed at changing attitudes and perceptions poses challenges, and designing a training program for the often Semi-literate tourist sector workers and convincing them was tough.

    FTAs had increased by 45 percent during 2005-06 and 2006-07. In 2005 and 2006, tourist arrivals in India grew annually at a steady 13 percent. The global economic crisis saw a drop in FTA arrivals in 2008 and 2009 but in the opening months of 2010 India has seen a jump of 17 per cent in FTAs. Government has roped in Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador for Atithi Devo Bhavah. The commercials as well as the print advertisements and posters have gone live from January 21, 2009.

    Attitudes need to change drastically. Since time immemorial guests has been well treated in India. Legend and history said that even if a sworn enemy came to a Rajput household as a guest – he need not have feared for his life – such was the standard of hospitality. Terminology reflects social mores – in Germany expat labours are called guest workers. Just last week, I read the news of molestation of 2 tourists – its utterly shocking. Crime against foreign tourists at major tourist destinations will remain – the state is expected to act swiftly to ensure punishment for perpetrators and allay fears about India being an unsafe destination. It has done so in a few cases – it must continue to follow up other cases similarly. Fleecing remains another area of concern – how many times have you seen foreigners being ripped off in flea markets, by auto, taxi and rickshaw drivers. This doesnot happens in popular tourist destinations.

    You cannot think about such things in say China or Japan, even Malaysia, Singapore etc. States like Goa and Kerala have succeeded because they have sensitised the local population. Things are good in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal, Orissa and most areas of the North Eastern states. But to make India a most favored destination this change must be all pervasive.

    Actually I have seen that tourists going for alternative packages – like say tour of tribal villages etc go back content – because in all their primitive simplicity they have demonstrated values that we have forgotten.

    Toshali Resorts, welcomes you to discover Incredible India…..  “Atithi Devo Bhavah” – “Guest Is God”

  • Jul 05 2010

    Rural and Tribal Tourism is the New Trend in Incredible India

    Rural tourism is a showcase of rural life, art, culture and heritage-on location benefiting the local community and enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for an enriching experience.

    • Mandawa Village in semi-desert Rajasthan is an “Open-Air Gallery of Rajasthan”. In Udaipur tribal villages like Devhat, Kol, Timla and Kharakwada are nice destinations.
    • In Himachal Pradesh Kinnaur, Spiti & Lahaul were till recently inaccessible.  Now you can discover the riotous green of the Sangla Valley and the magnificent desolation of the Hangrang Valley.

    • In Hodka, in Rann of Kutch, Gujarat is Sham e Sarhad resort owned  and operated by the villagers. Accommodations are in tents or traditional huts – bhungas. You can attend workshops in embroidery or leather work, interact with communities, go out and see flamingos, pelicans, foxes and leopards. In Gujarat, you can visit Vaso known for its wooden buildings. With special permit you can also visit some of the restricted villages of Zainabad in Bhuj. Rabari, Tunda Vanda and the Banny tribal village.
    • Amraee resort Pranpur is in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh. Villagers will look after tourists and mud huts in mango grove is refreshing.
    • In Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong a community effort has made it the poster boy of rural tourism in India. Similarly tours in Chattisgarh with villages of the Gond, Bhil, Bhilala, Kol, Patelia, Kanwar, etc are unique. The Santhals of Jharkhand are one of the oldest tribes of India, known for their music, dance and colorful attire.

    Dongria Kondhs

    Dongira Kondhs

    • One of the most famous tribal villages in Orissa is the Kutia tribal village located at the Baliguda area. The Dongariya Kondh Haat also attracts tourists. Other tribal villages of Orissa include Bonda, Didayee and Gadhaba. All the tribes of Orissa excel in producing wonderful fabric and textile work. Do not forget to watch the graceful dance of the Gadaba Tribe while on tribal tour of Orissa. Bissam Cuttack is home to the Desia Kondh tribes and their weekly market, Chatikona is home to Dunguria Kondh tribe – they follow the barter system exchanging papaya, jackfruit, pineapple with kerosene, salt chicken etc. In Balliguda you will meet the Kutia Kondhs and in Belghar the Malia Kondhs.

    Orissa - Jeypore Bonda Women

    Orissa – Jeypore Bonda Women

    • In Orissa, Onkdeli is home to the backward but colorful Bonda tribe and their village Gadaba. In Kundli visit the biggest tribal market to meet the Paraja & Rana tribes and Baligaon to meet the Dhuruva tribes. You can plan a day’s hike with porters in villages of Gadaba and Malli. Jeypore or Rayagada can be your base. As these places are fairly close to Taptapani and the world famous Chilka lake a visit would be convenient.
    • In Northeastern India also known as the Seven Sisters states, some of the notable places include Pasighat where the Adi village is located. The Nishi village, village of the Apatani tribe and the Hillmiri village and the Tagin village in Daporijo.

    Paraja Tribes

    These are, but a tiny proportion of interesting rural tourist sites in India, just a beginning…..

    Toshali Resorts International continuous effort and pursuit in promoting Rural and Tribal tourism has been a driven success on its own for Incredible India. To know more and book an exclusive India Rural and Tribal Tourism package, contact me – your own travel consultant “Metu”. Its simple just post a message at the blog or send a mail with details at metu@toshali.in. I will get back to you……

  • Jul 01 2010

    India Sea Beach Holiday: Best Beaches in India

    Sun, Sand, the Wind and 3000 people around – is that your idea of a lazy beach holiday? Neither is it mine. So a look at some quaint gems of beaches India has on offer, where you can hear the sand blowing,  see the waters turn molten gold and the guy from the fishing village trudging back home.

    • Andamans got some beautiful beaches – Corbyn’s cove, Radhanagar and Vijaynagar in Havelock Island are some of the best tropical beaches. Harminder bay beach at Hutbay Island, Karmatang beach is a turtle nesting ground, Ramnagar beach in Diglipur Island is another serene, sparsely populated beach.
    • Lakshwadeep boasts of the Kavaratti Beach, Kalpeni Beach has the small islets Tilakkam & Pitti and an uninhabited island on the north – Cheriyam. A huge shallow lagoon encloses them. Bangaram Beach in an uninhabited island, Bangaram is the only one open to foreign tourists. The island has superb beaches and beautiful lagoons.
    • Konkan coast has some of India’s most serene and quiet beaches Gokarna (Karnataka), besides being a religious destination is also famous for its beautiful beaches. The main beaches are the Gokarna beach, Kudle Beach, Om Beach, Half moon Beach and Paradise Beach. Kudle and Om are around 6 km from Gokarna, accessible by rickshaw or foot. Half moon and Paradise are beyond Om beach and are accessible only by foot or boat. Om beach is named so because its shape. Paradise and Half Moon – are smaller and remote beaches. The beaches in Uttar Kannada district have a peculiar landscape, near the Western Ghats, they are bound by hills. The Beach Trekking Route from Bellikere to Murudeshwar is exciting. Among the main rivers Kali and Sitanadi are also famous for river rafting. This list does not even includes beaches like Ullal, Kaupe, Baindur, Bhatkal, Honnavar, Kirki and Kumta.
    • Goa beaches. Here’s a few along the path lesser trod. 20 km from Margao, Netrolim village is a serene and bountiful worldDSCF4286untouched by modernity. The facilities are rustic but ok. So is Candolim, the birth place of Abbe Faria, the Father of Hypnotism who counseled Napoleon Bonaparte and finds immortality as the mad monk in Alexander Dumas’s ‘The Count of Monte Christo’. Sinquerim near fort Aguada of white sands has a hiking route to Candolim beach and all the way to Baga. Bambolim beach is largely undiscovered, just before the mouth of the river Zuari. The entrance lies along the hill between Medical College and the University. Benaulim beach is more peaceful and isolated than Colva. Palolem beach, in Canacona distrct, also called “Paradise Beach” is popular for dolphin cruises and fishing trips. At the northern end of the beach is a tiny, island in the middle of a fresh water stream that can be reached by swimming at low tide. Agonda is a virgin stretch of beach off Palolem. Cavelossim is south of Colva. South of it is the Mobor beach that boasts five star resorts and a small lagoon and fishing village.Manaltheeram Ayurveda Beach Village, near Kovalam, Cherrai beach off Cochin on Yvpeen island, Kappil and Pallikere close to Bekal fort are quite beaches. Near from Fort St. Angelo, the Payyambalam beach is ideal for a romantic walk. Varkala is a quiet beach embroidered with rocky cliffs. Somatheeram – 15 acres of greenery sloping down soft, white sands that lazily stretch into an azure calm sea. A virgin and untouched beach, Poovar is surrounded by tranquil backwaters melting into the sea.
    • Puri and Konark – no paeans remain unsung but the stretch between them still has undiscovered jewels of sandy stretches. IfBalighai Beach you have visited Puri you would know there is a sonorous quality to the coastline. The Bay of Bengal, unlike the gentler Arabian Sea crashes around teh beaches with a deep rumbling sound. Just down the road from Puri is Toshali’s private beach – “Balighai” – The Casurina fringed beach is a treat – in solitude and expansiveness. Just laze around and see your worries melt away – the sunset is particularly attractive near the confluence of Nuanai River.

    Come and discover them. Of course I was simply name dropping :) what can I do? India has a coastline over 7500 kms long. There are hundreds of places which I haven’t even heard of. So next time you are cycling past some unknown seashore here and come across a sleepy beach village you know where to come and tell me all about it.

  • Jun 25 2010

    Potential of Online Travel Industry in India: An Overview

    Online travel booking in India is no longer a nightmare. It is quite safe to book tickets and hotels and package tours online. Firstly I don’t think many of the ‘travel’ portals that mainly sell tickets can be considered as ‘travel’ portals. They are ticketing portals. The real ‘traveling’ starts only when you reach your destination. Some of them are relatively dynamic portals but options in a one stop shop catering to all travel needs remains few. The online space is mainly driven by domestic air ticketing but the railways need to play a more crucial role to make them successful. Studies suggest that more than 2,000 towns and cities are accessing the Net for booking travel. Secondary cities account for 74 per cent of business and rising. In 2009-10 more than 25 per cent of all airline tickets are booked online.

    Despite myths India’s online market Tourist bookings in most sectors (accommodation, airlines, car rental etc.) are still made over the phone, email or in the provider’s office, rather than on-line. So the share of internet bookings remained small but growing. I think consumers in India are still not comfortable booking on-line due to concerns over payment security. But these concerns of the traveler are being addressed and many government and non government travel sites are today considered ‘safe’ bets.

    Many service providers and intermediaries are still not offering the full range of travel products (accommodation, flight tickets, car rentals etc.) on their portals and it is sometimes cheaper not to book on-line. However with advancement in on-line payment security, the presence of more developed portals of direct providers as well as intermediary travel portals, and with greater internet penetration, internet booking is expected to gain significance during coming days.

    A recent report in Economic Times said the slowdown has been good for the online travel industry. It has actually seen a lot of people moving from offline to online booking. A survey found that traffic to these sites grew to more than 14 million visitors in April 2010, an increase of 50% over April 2009 as a growing number of Indians turned to the web in search of travel deals and accommodation. This is one opportunity online travel industry should really grasp. This could be the beginning of a new phase in the industry.

    Today there are more payment options available online. Last August (2009), the RBI issued guidelines making it mandatory for all online transactions to have an extra level of authentication. People feel more secure transacting online. Travel sites now attract more than one-third of India’s total Internet population. Today’s smart consumers are being cost-conscious while making travel arrangements. They are diligently comparing prices before choosing. Actually the recession was good for the travel industry as it forced them to think out of the box – increase efficiency, innovate and design customized packages to retain clients. So we are looking forward to a market that is mature, growing and more users oriented.

    To summarise – “Metu” – your own friendly, neighborhood online travel consultant feels that online travel booking is safer than ever before in India. But dear traveler do check, compare – be aware and Happy Journey……

    All invited to contribute by sharing your thoughts, views on this blog post, through the comments / blog. Hereby, looking forward to conversing with you!

  • Jun 21 2010

    Chandragiri – The Little Tibet: An offbeat destination..

    Phuntsokling or the ‘land of happiness and plenty’ is just 80 kms from Brahmapur, in the Gajapati district, little Tibet in the Western Orissa, now called Odisha. This was one of the earliest resettlement villages. The Tibetan guests arrived on May 1, 1963 and gave their own name to a remote corner of a land that welcomes all.

    Besides, Chandragiri Tankilipadar, Lobarsingi, Jiranga, and Mahendragada were the other resettlement villages. With temperatures between 40-80 degree Farenheit, this is hardly Tibet but sheer zeal and hard work has transformed this jungle into fertile fields and orchards. After a project to increase agricultural yield this is now the official “Maize bowl of Orissa”. Colorful prayer flags – carrying the message of peace and tranquility will welcome you. The Tibetan cooperative society of  Chandragiri now runs a handicraft centre, dairy centre, poultry centre, horticulture centre, health centre, mechanical workshop, an elderly person’s home, crèche, schools and Buddhist monastery.

    The bus journey is uniquely Indian – people, chickens and the occasional goat share space. An hired vehicle is much more comfortable and convenient. At Lobersing, another resettlement village and bus stop you’ll find exquisite Tibetan wall mats, carpets, handicrafts and leather goods in the co-operative society factory. The superior will show you around. Just across the road is the village monastery. Young lamas jostle around – like everywhere in India cricket is popular while the elders rotate the “chakra” humming prayers, like gentle apostles of non-violence.

    You can stay at the Society’s Guest House. Just two words of caution – protect yourself against mosquitoes and order your lunch or dinner early. His holiness the 14th Dalai Lama inaugurated South Asia’s biggest monastery – the Rigon Thupten Mindoling monastery called the Padmasambhava Maha Vihara at Jiranga. Chandragiri on January 2010.  A huge 21 feet high golden statue of the Buddha presides with statues of Lord Padmasambhaba and Lord Avalokiteswara on either side.

    Incidentally Acharya Padmasambhava was the founder of the Vajrayana sect of the Mahayana path of Buddhism who lived during the seventh century in Orissa (place of birth was Oddiyana – some say its in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, some believe it to be Orissa) who is said to have transmitted Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan and Tibet.

    In charge of the monastery Khenpo Pema expects an influx of foreign tourist and there is already a spanking new 10 suite guest house to welcome them all. Jaampa the chief architect ensured that the monastery has all the flavours of Tibetan architecture.

    Nearby the perennial hot spring of Medicinal Sulfuric Waters of “Taptapani” is nestled at about 1800 feet above Sea Level. The guest house overlook a pristine valley. The Dining Hall is between two crests of mountain fold. You get an eerie feeling amid buzzing crickets in the evening. In the nearby Kandimata Mandir locals take a bath in the spring before offering prayers. There is also a deer park nearby maintained by Orissa wildlife conservationist.

    All are invited to explore the offbeat destination of Chandragiri Tibetan Settlement and Taptapani Sulphur Spring Shrine. Have you contacted your travel manager yet, for more information contact metu@toshali.in

  • Jun 17 2010

    Eco Tourism in India: A New Approach

    Eco-tourism means making as little environmental impact as possible and helping to sustain the indigenous populace, thereby encouraging the preservation of wildlife and habitats when visiting a place. This is a responsible form of tourism and tourism development. It is also the key to sustainable ecological development. The International Eco-tourism Society defines eco-tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” You must – Minimize impact, Build environmental and cultural awareness, Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts, financial benefits for conservation and local people.

    Today the “Green Laws” of conservation are making people aware of how man and the environment can live symbiotically it is the only way to maximize the economic, environmental and social benefits of tourism.  In India too the movement is gathering momentum. Eco-Tourism in India is still at a very nascent stage, but there are for sure conscious efforts to save the fragile Himalayan Eco System and culture and heritage of the indigenous people. Holiday Camping vis a vis Hotel accommodation are gathering momentum in the Himalayan belt. Resorts tucked deep inside jungles of Karnataka, House-boats of Kerala, Tree Houses at Vythiri combine to make India one of the most diverse eco-tourism destinations on the planet.

    These points taken care of will aid organisations involved in eco-tourism:

    • Education -Three levels of education; how well the staff is educated, level of education the organization provides to local communities, and how well it informs guests about sustainable tourism practices and how to successfully practice themselves.
    • Conservation and Preservation – This pertains to the level of conservation/ preservation activity in the environmental and cultural sectors. This category will determine the flow of visitors  – ultimately..
    • Sustainable Use of Resources - This category involves how well the resort utilizes, preserves and recycles resources, and the effective techniques they practice. This category will focus on water, waste and energy resources.
    • Innovative/Creative Practices – Many are developing new approaches to conservation, education, marketing, and creative ways to sustainably use resources. This category focuses on these new approaches because they are direct factors contributing to successful ecotourism.
    • Influence on Local Communities Economies – This category determines if the involvement of the organization with the surrounding communities brings new economic growth to the local community.
    • Involving local human resources in the projects – This would ensure local support for the organisation and the activity both.
    • Local and Global Recognition – This category determines to what extent the local and global familiarity the ecotourism organization.
    • Marketing Practices – The way an organization market’s itself, will ultimately determine its survival/sustainability.
    • Involvement of Local People – This is about community participation. Say a stay in a village to experience ethnic life and functions first hand – lets say a stay at the lantern lit hut of a former Naga headhunter or a trip to Jatinga bird sanctuary to witness the eerie phenomenon of hundreds of birds flying to their death on foggy, windy, moonless nights during August to October. For there cord the only similar phenomena exists in the Phillipines.

    We look forward to your conversation and comments on it, to make Eco Tourism a success in Incredible India

  • Jun 14 2010

    Product launch at holy place: A New Concept of ‘business with leisure’

    Product launches and dealer meets are basically working vacations. The ambience needs to be sufficiently relaxing but boardroom facilities are a must as launches and meets entails some serious business work. A relaxing ambience of the seaside resort is an added advantage. It houses one of the largest conference centres in the state. Without going into the mundane details let us say that technical and secretarial services available here are efficient and competent – without the seven star price tag. There is something for every budget and a smaller budget does not mean ‘diminished’ returns. Even menus are customised to suit the corporate need and individual tastes. But why Puri – let us say that the resort is trying to mould itself to modern needs.

    Nature trails, sustainable eco tourism, continuing campaign to keep the beach clean – all these have added another dimension to a timeless destination – the seat of the Lord of the universe. Organizers and trainers know the potential of time outside the seminar room.

    At Toshali Sands you can have range of activities to complement any conference programme. The senior honchos can have a chat over a game of golf – not quite in the vicinity but neither too far away, then you can sweat it away at the gym, relax in the sauna, cycle around the reserve forest area, trek a bit or simply watch time and river Nuanai flow by lazily. Well if you have team-building activities in your schedule with combat or adventure games the Toshali Sands Team even help you arrange that too. There is another activity – unique to the resort – India’s best sand sculptor

    World acclaimed Sand Artist Sudarshan Patnaik can arrange a workshop in sand sculpting specially tailormade for you. The stretch from Toshali Sands to Konark offers a few pristine and virgin beaches. It is unspoilt nature and an idea is floating around that a cycle track could throw up an entirely new possibilty of extended beach hiking and cycling. This is an entirely new concept but we are seriously considering this. To keep your product launch hassle free

    Toshali sands will assign you a dedicated conference coordinator to make all the arrangements. Toshali Sands provides a conducive environment for product launch, seminars & conferences, dealer meets etc.

    The conference halls are – Indraprastha with a capacity of 350 (theatre style seating) offers double option with a collapsible partition for small meetings (over 200 people) and Boardroom parleys. Panchayat Conference hall can accommodate 200 in theater style and Mantrana Conference hall is relatively smaller but equally well appointed. Different from the more conventional type but you have an usually high level of service right from organizational to technical facilities, secretarial services etc.

    All corporates try to host Conference programmes for their executives in a relaxed and stress-less environment, where there will be better clarity of thought and vision. The concept of ‘business with leisure’ is here to stay and the key word in today’s corporate world where resorts pronounce themselves as superior to commercial hotels. Toshali Sands is not exactly competing with 5 star luxury hotels but as far as the settings and ambience goes. This is one of the best Eastern India has to offer, a four star classified resort.

    The Puri Kshetra is considered a holy place since millenniums. Toshali sands is aware that most people do pay a visit to the temple of Lord Jagannath – a guide, priest and transport is all for yours to ask. It is still early days for Toshali sands to start off as an attractive destination for national product launches but it is a fantastic destination for regional and zonal launches. We will be working our way up to making this a national destination.

    Recently, “The Blue Eyed Boy”- the new Maruti Suzuki Wagon R was launch at Toshali Sands by Maruti Udyog Limited in the holy “Sankha khyetra” of Shree Lord Jagannath, it was a huge success among Maruti dealers and distributors. the event drew wide corporate participation and national press coverage.

    For more details on Product launch, Convention and Conference Facility at  Toshali Royal View Resort, Shimla –  and Toshali Sands , Puri

    I would love to hear, your product launch at Toshali Resorts, we would be glad to have you as our guest. If you enjoyed this post, I would appreciate, if you share it on Twitter, Facebook, Orkut and other social networking sites.

  • Jun 09 2010

    “Shankha Khyetram”: The Holy Conch Shell Province of Lord Jagannath, Puri

    The holy land of Orissa is divided into four kshetras. These kshetras are named after the four names of weapons of Lord Vishnu such as Shankha (conch shell), chakra (disc), gada (mace) and padma (lotus). Puri Dham is known as Shankha Kshetra. Bhubaneswar is Chakra Kshetra, Jajpura is Gada Kshetra, and Konark is Padma Kshetra (sometimes Ark Kshetra after the sun god)

    The geographical size of Puri resembles a right oriented conch shell, the ‘Dakshinavarta Shankha’, which is why the name. The sacred section of puri looks like a conch shell and it is in this section that all the sacred centres like temples, mathas (English word for this), sacred tanks, trees and various other sacred sites are located. The Shankha Kshetra covers an area of roughly 10 square miles, out of which nearly 40% is submerged under the sea.

    Tantric layout of Shankha Kshetra

    Shankha Kshetra of Puri includes the Temple of Lord Jagannath and its huge compound circumscribed by a wall called Meghanada Pacheri. The temple complex is surrounded by streets or sahi, running in all directions from the temple. The sebakas (English word) live in the streets, which are close to the temple and monasteries, temples of several gods and goddesses, sacred tanks and trees, recreational and gymnastic centres (Jegaghar and Akhada (english word)) are located in different places scattered throughout the town.

    The shape of the sacred section of Puri resembles a conch shell (Shankha) and, therefore, it is also known as the Shankha Kshetra. Like the other names, that is, Shri Khetra and Purusottam Khetra, which have bearing on the Lord Jagannath, the paramount deity of Puri, Shankha Kshetra has equal ritual and symbolic significance.  The name Shankha Kshetra is the most significant because Shankha is one of the Aiyudhas or weapons of Lord Vishnu who resides in the navel or the central part of the shell in the form of Lord Jagannath. Shankha Kshetra is about 10 miles in extent, of which nearly two koshas are submerged in the sea and the remaining three koshas are above water.

    In the centre of the Kshetra lies the hillock called Nilagiri where the famous temple of the Lord Jagannath stands. The broad end of the Shankha Kshetra lies to the west where the temple of Lokanath, one of the eight noted Shiva Temples of Puri is located and on the apical end or the cone in the east, is located another Shiva Temple called the Nilakantha. The area between the two temples is two miles and is the most sacred.

    Tantric layout of Shankha Khyetram

    Tantric layout of Shankha Khyetram

    According to the Tantric philosophy, the Shankha Kshetra is made up of seven concentric folds.

    • The innermost or first fold, which forms the navel, or the Kshetra, is the seat of the divine platform on which the Lord Jagannath with his elder brother Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra are presiding.
    • The second fold, which is the outer layer of the first or the innermost fold, is hexagonal in shape and in this are located four goddesses of power, two tirthas, two sacred trees, Garuda (vehicle of Lord Vishnu) and the top of the Nilgiri hill which is convex like the back of a tortoise. The goddesses are Bimala, Kamala, Sarbamangala and Uttaral. The sacred trees are Kalpapadapa and Salmalitaru. The tirthas are Rohinikunda and Pranitodakakunda.
    • The third fold, is the central part of the lotus-like structure having eight petals, each inlaid with an idol of Lord Shiva and a goddess. The eight Shivas are Agneswar, Bateswar, Khetrapaleswar, Chakreswar, Baikuntheswar, Pataleswar, Isaneswar, and Lokeswar. The eight goddesses are Dwarabasini, Mahabajreswari, Swanabhairabi, Bhadrakali, Bhubaneswari, Mahakaliaghorea, Sitala, and Jagnyeswari. These deities are responsible for watching and guarding the firstfold having the Supreme Lord at the centre of the sacred complex.
    • The fourth fold, forms the convex surface of the temple precinct (Mahakurma) and the inner compound wall.
    • The fifth fold, which is the outer layer of the fourth fold, is again the seat of another eight Shivas and eight goddesses. The Shivas are Bisweswar, Markandeswar, Mahakaleswar, Karnameswar, Mukteswar, Ugreswar, Kapilalochana and Agreswer. The goddesses are Bisweswari, Saptamatrika, Dakshinkali, Charchika, Alameswari, Barahi, Banadurgeswari and Basulikeswari. These deities are also in charge of watch and ward functions of the sacred complex.
    • In the sixth fold of the sacred space there are four ashrams. They are Angirs in the east, Pandu in the west, Markandeya in the north, and Bhrigu in the south.
    • The seventh fold which is the outermost zone consists of the sentries of the Shankha Kshetra and two pilgrim centres. That’s all or is it? Theres another legend. This place is named after demon Shankhasura who was killed by Lord Vishnu. Shankhasura was born from the sweat of demon Madhu. Vishnu killed Madhu when he was on the verge of killing Brahma. Shankhasura wanted to avenge Madhu’s death. He pleased Shiva by his penance and learned Tantra from him. While he was learning Tantra he could hear the recitation of veda. Rishi Yagnavalkya was learning Yajur veda from Brahma at the moment. Shankhasura wanted to learn the recitation and he asked Shiva for the source. Shiva instructed him to go to Brahma to learn the Vedamantra. But Brahma had already distributed the four Vedas among his disciples, so Brahma refused to teach him Vedamantra. Shankhasura was enraged and he took away the four Vedas from the disciples forcibly and hid them in the sea. Lord Vishnu took on the incarnation of “Meen” to search for the demon. The demon hid in the Kalpa Vriksha inside the present temple. Lord Vishnu tried to kill the demon. The demon hid in a conch. Vishnu used teh Sudarshan chakra but the hard conch diverted the chakra.
    • Finally Vishnu killed the demon with his Brahmastra. Shiva was furious at the death of his disciple. The assembled gods pleased Shiva by singing “Vedasara Staba” (glories of Shiva). He requested Vishnu to name the place as Shankha kshetra after the name of Shankhasura. The proposal was accepted and the place was named as “Shankha kshetra”.
    Places of Interest around Shankha Khyetram

    Places of Interest around Shankha Khyetram

    Toshali Sands has exclusive arrangement to take you to places of your interest in the “SHANKHA KHYETRAM” and “RATH YATRA” – THE CAR FESTIVAL. To Know more, contact Toshali Sands, Puri travel desk or leave your comment, we wil get back to you.

    I would be glad to hear more about Shankha Khetram, please post if you feel any informations in the blog is missing. And would be gald to have you as their guest at Toshali Sands.

    If you enjoyed this post, I would appreciate, if you share it on Twitter, Facebook, Orkut and other Social Networking sites.

  • Jun 05 2010

    World Environment Day “Clean and Green, Protect and Save the Planet”

    “Save Earth”. We have nowhere else to go. Its not my slogan and I dont know whose it is. The stark word of Carl Sagan – an astronomer drills in the need for a clean environment – a clean earth.  One excerpt from his – “Pale Blue Dot”. Dont read it, just feel it.

    “Look at that dot. That’s home. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. Every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer, every king and peasant, every mother and father, every “supreme leader” in the history of our species lived there – on a spec of dust suspended in sunbeam…….. Our planet is a lonely speck in all this vastness, no help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves……… this is our last stand.”

    Frightening? Perhaps. Truth? Absolutely. In Toshali Resorts, long before eco tourism became fashionable and government started to support initiatives we have been travelling the green path. The idea was to be in harmony with the surroundings. Toshali Sands had a great advantage. It was next door to a pristine beach, with 30 acres to spare. The area has been forested since 1989. Some 40 thousand trees and shrubs have been planted. Coconut, betel nut, bottle palm, ashoka, mango, casurina- mostly local fauna. They survive better and gel seamlessly. The idea was to compliment the Balukhanda reserve. The ‘view’ is definitely greener now. Solar energy use is in. It will continue to be a priority and the windy beaches may see a few windmills too- nothing definitive yet, just a thought. From the sea to the hills – Toshali Royal View Resort in Shilon Bagh, Shimla, is nestled on the pine slopes of the Kinnor Hills overlooking the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas. It is just half an hour from Shimla down the Kufri-Chail road. The building has a quaint old world feel. Frankly a gaudy building block on a dense pine slope would be an eye sore so the architects got us a design that blends with the surroundings. Planting trees is a not a special ‘drive’ here it is part of the ‘job’ – the overall attempt to blend in – environmentally, culturally and visually. Deodar, Himalayan fir and spruce are some of the species we have planted.

    Toshali Jungle Lodge, Simlipal, is a unique resort. It is situated in one of the original 14 biosphere reserves of India and near a tiger reserve. It offers the visitors a unique ‘wild’ environment. A resort in a biosphere has to adhere to the strict guidelines – no littering, no trash, no activity disturbing the wildlife – just blending in – unobtrusively. We are bystanders watching life in the forest go by. We are lucky to have the privilege of watching ‘nature at work’. Without trying to sound too pompous Toshali is the only quality accomodation in the ‘neighbourhood’. And the quality does not come at the cost to the nature. The idea is – to leave things as you found them when you came.

    Eco tourism is not fashionable, it’s a necessity. In Africa the Masais were educated on the need to preserve the big cats – tourism and conservation efforts succeeded. Eco friendly tourism is here to stay. Local inclusiveness is a must and today we would like to renew our pledges of being one with the nature on the World Environment Day, 5th June

     

    We appeal : Plant one sapling a day, lets every day be the World Environment Day to “Save Our Planet”

    If you like the Blog and want to save the environment, do email and  share with your friends at Facebook, Twitter, Orkut and other Social Networking  Site. We will be glad to recieve your comments and conversations.

  • May 31 2010

    Corporate Golfing: The New Mantra of Business Vacation

    The Toshali Sands Resort is located on Konark Marine Drive. The Puri railway station is just 7 km away form the hotel. Toshali Sands Resort the first 4 star category resort in Orissa approved by Dept. of Tourism sprawled across acres of lush green lawns and gardens and has views overlooking the Balukhanda Reserve Forest on the Konark Marine Drive in Puri. The resort offers some 100 plus AC rooms divided into Deluxe rooms, Cottages and Villas. All the rooms are well furnished with satellite television, telephone, internet accessibility etc.

    The hotel offers three conference halls and an on request pick up or drop from the airport in Bhubneshwar (some 68 kms away). The resort abounds in greenery and last time around saw a flock of 20 ducks on the campus – they are still there. More than 30 acres of lush green is soothing to say the least. A 9 hole golf course is around 60 kms away and transport is easily arranged. Toshali Sands is a popular destination for corporates who plan conferences, seminars and events near Puri. Toshali was the name of the village where emperor Ashoka found peace – the resort derives its name from that village – and if tranquility is one criterion high on the list of corporate clients – they won’t be missing it. The Conference Coordinator at Toshali Sands takes care of all aspects of the event and customisations are in accordance with the wishes of the client.

    Facilities for hosting corporate events are – adequate and robust rather than being exceptional. The cuisine is predominantly Indian and do not expect very exotic dishes on the menu. Late private dinners are not a problem and can be arranged on a short notice. There is more than enough scope for group activities and the scenes at the almost adjacent Balighai beach is soothing with sunrise and sunset offering stunning sceneries at the nearby confluence of river Nuanai and the sea. Pick up and drop are arranged on request – on a world war II Willys jeep. Though the reception asks for an hour’s notice for to and fro beach transportation it always took about 10 mins to arrive. It is a nice place for pleasure cum business trips – probably arranging a conference in a holy city makes the idea a bit of a novelty.

    Our aim is to make organising corporate golf as easy as possible for our clients, whilst providing excellent service and competitive price. To cater the need of business meetings, international conventions, conferences, exhibitions and events you will find Toshali chains of exclusive business hotels and resorts that provide conference halls, board meeting rooms, and modern business centers. Organizations like MMTC, Maruti Udyog Limited, PSU’s other blue chip companies are the few big name, who come back regularly to avail the Convention and conference facility at Toshali Resorts.

    For more detail Toshali Sands – http://bit.ly/c1shIY and Toshali Royal View Resort – http://bit.ly/dlcRfb .

    I would love to hear, your forthcoming Corporate event, Toshali would be gald to have you as their guest. If you enjoyed this post, I would appreciate, if you share it on Twitter, Facebook, Orkut and other social networking.

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