Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rail Museum Chennai, India.

A couple of weeks back I visited the Rail Museum in Chennai. There are both in house and outdoor exhibits in the Museum complex. The complex is spread around a small area, around which a toy train runs. I wanted to write a very detailed report of the models and exhibits but for now I will just post the pictures of the exhibits I liked the best.

I enjoyed the walk around the complex. This is a must for every rail enthusiast. 
Major plus point is you can actually climb into some of the engines and bogies displayed here.
To reach there just type 'Integrated Coach Factory' or simply 'Rail Musuem' into Gmaps. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Penchalakona Waterfalls, Andhra Pradesh

Tucked away in the Eastern Ghats,70 km west of Nellore, is the quaint waterfalls of Penchalakona. A nearby temple draws huge crowds and the adventurous among them trickle down to the waterfalls.

As one passes by the temple the huge face of the hill comes into view and one can only gasp at the beauty of the falls. Far into the distance one can see the thin outline of the water as it falls from the top on the hill and disappears into the vegetation surrounding the base.

The path to the waterfalls is through a rocky terrain. It is the downstream path of the water and in some sections one can see the crystal clear waters flowing. The distance from the temple to the falls is around 3kms. I was there with a friend and we had jolly good time as we walked over the rocks and strolled through the cool water. When we reached the base of the falls the sight meeting us was mesmerizing. The falls, though the water was less, looked imposing. There was a neat little pool at the base and there were some people already in the water and we too couldn't wait to get in the water too. So without wasting much time we got into our water wear and got in.

We spent close to an hour frolicking in the water. I had bought my Panasonic action cam and took some really nice videos. By the time we got out of the water the whole area was packed with people. Whole families came and hijacked the place. We left soon. It was a weekend well spent.


Here is a video I made of the trip.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Guide to the Historic town of Pulicat, Tamil Nadu.

Apart from the British, the other Europeans to have had a presence in India were the French, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the Danes. Out of these the Dutch had a major presence in the South of India. At various points of time they held the towns of Cochin, Nagapattinam, Pulicat and Masulipatnam. Out of these the town of Pulicat in present day Tamil Nadu was one of the most significant. The Dutch occupied Pulicat in 1609 after defeating the Portuguese who set up base there in 1502. Till 1690 Pulicat served as the Capital of the Dutch presence in Southern India.Later the British defeated the Dutch and took over Pulicat.

Today only the ruins of the Dutch presence remain in the town. Pulicat is located 60 Km north of Chennai and at the southern tip of Pulicat lake in Tamil Nadu.  

A couple of weekends back I was on an official trip to Chennai when I happened to be in the vicinity and decided to check out Pulicat. I took a Tamil Nadu State transport bus from the town of Ponneri to reach Pulicat. The bus drops you right at the end of the main market street of the town. From here all the landmarks are at a walk-able distance.Though having a vehicle certainly helps. 

The first point of stop was the famed Dutch Cemetery. This is on the left side of the Bharatiyar Street. Very easy to locate. I made my way to the cemetery but was disappointed to find that it was locked. From the outside I could see the graves. There were around 20 graves with 5 of them having big tombs over them. Two of the five had obelisks. These tombs reminded me of the Victorian era tombs I often read in Gothic Horror stories. I had never seen tombs of this style before and I was excited to take a closer look. I went back and asked a couple of persons standing nearby about the it. They said it usually is opened in the evening around 1630 Hrs.This info lifted my spirits as at least I had a chance to take a closer look at the graves. I still had a couple of hours with me so I proceeded ahead to check out a Museum which was showing on Gmaps on my phone. 

This Museum I found out is housed in a couple of shop areas. This was set up by Art and Architecture Research Development and Education Foundation (AARDE). Though small in size it is a must visit for anyone coming to Pulicat. It houses a number of infographics about the early history of Dutch, of Pulicat and has maps of its layout. It also has an excellent summary of the things to see in the town. In addition to the above it has an exhibit of a large pot which was used by the people of Pulicat for water storage. 

On the opposite side of the road is a large swamp. This was the area where the Dutch had built their Fort known as Fort Geldria. It was built in 1613 but was later destroyed by Hyder Ali in the second Anglo Mysore War.  Nothing remains now. I moved on into the village to look at the second cemetery, that of the Portuguese. Using Gmaps for guidance I reached the place after strolling through the narrow streets. When I finally reached I was greeted by a solitary signboard and lots of garbage. The place was overtaken by bushes and rubbish and there was no way for me to look at the graves. 

It was already 1630 Hrs and I hurried back to the Dutch Cemetery. Here I again asked a couple of people standing nearby and one of them said he will go and get the keys. I was delighted now. After a couple of minutes he got the keys and opened the gate and asked me to come inside. I stopped at the gate for a couple of minutes. The gate has an arch on which something is inscribed in a language which I assume is Dutch. On each sides there is a sculpture of a skeleton. The one on the left has a gaping mouth and has on its head what looks like an hour glass maybe signifying the limited time we have on earth. But the more hideous of the two was the one on the right. It has a tilted head and one of its hands is resting on the skull of a smaller skeleton which one can only assume belongs to a child. I have no idea what this means. There was a third skull right in the middle of the arch. The whole picture looked a bit grim.  

I walked inside. There were around 20 graves inside. Most of them were pretty plain like the one pictured here. Rectangular in shape with an engraving on the top. I especially like the badge designs on the top. The ones which really stood out were the five I mentioned before. Out of these two had obelisks and no sculptures on them. Two others had no sculptures. Only one had sculptures of two angels flying. I took a few pics here and strolled around to look at the engravings to find anything interesting. But most of the writing was in Dutch so there was no such luck. I found one in English. It was the tombstone of a certain Henry Fortan, who died in Pulicat in 1864.I assume this man was British.All the while the man patiently waited for me finish my walk. After I was done we walked back together to the gate. I found out that he was the designated caretaker of the Cemetery and it was maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. His name was Mohammed Hussain. He informed me that there was no particular time of opening of the cemetery and if one wishes to go inside one only has to ask him. He can be contacted by asking for him at the dwelling located to the left of the gate. I wanted to thank him by giving him a tip but he refused stubbornly.  

Following the map I found in the museum I decided my next stop would be an Old Dutch Building. This was located on the way to the light house on the left side just before the bridge starts. The old dutch building was nothing much to look at. It was being used as a store house by a hospital nearby. 
Heritage buildings falling prey to Government apathy always brings out the lament that we Indians as a whole simply don't care about our past. 

I walked out the place and continued on to the bridge to take a look at the light house and the beach. This bridge runs over a lagoon formed here.The walk on the bridge presented wonderful views of the sea and the number of fishing boats plying. Pulicat is a fishing town and this is where you can look at the evidence. On the right side of the bridge a huge number of fishing boats were parked. The walk was soothing and relaxing.It was getting dark and the evening breeze from the sea only made the walk more refreshing. I walked to the lighthouse but found out that it was closed for the day for tourists. Its timings were from 1500 Hrs to 1700 Hrs. I next made my way to the beach. There were not  many people were around. A game of cricket was in progress and I stopped for a couple of minutes to look at the action. After enjoying the cool breeze for a while I started my walk back to the town. I returned to the area where the bus had dropped me earlier to catch a bus back to ponneri. Soon a bus arrived and I was on my way back after enjoying a wonderful day at the charming little town of Pulicat. 

A guide map displayed in the AARDE Foundation Museum 

The one on the right side of the red gate is the museum

Things to know
- Lighthouse timings 1500 Hrs to 1700 Hrs
- If the cemetery is locked just ask for Mohammed Hussain at the dwelling just to the left of the gate. 
- Nothing much to eat in Pulicat. Better to bring in your own food. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Pulicat Bird Sanctuary, Near Sullurupeta.Andhra Pradesh.

Last week my father was in town for a couple of days. We decided to check out the nearby Pulicat Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary starts from a place called Sullurpeta and is a pleasant 2 hour drive from Nellore. We booked an Ola Outstation from Nellore. On the way we spent time alternating between talking and napping.As it was November it was a cool,pleasant day. Quite different from the usual hot days that Nellore experiences for the majority of the year.

Pulicat lake is a brackish water lake that is spread over a huge area in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The sanctuary is situated in the Andhra area near the town of Sullurupeta, which lies on the Nellore Chennai Highway.The lake starts just outside the town. I was following Gmaps for assistance and I could see there was an island in the lake which was showing as the sanctuary. We decided to halt there. As we were going we could spot a huge flock of birds. There were maybe thousands of them and they were very near to the road. But we thought this was just the beginning and maybe there were still more birds to come ahead. At that time we did not realize how wrong we were. We moved on ahead to the island and stopped near a building complex. I went inside and inquired about the sanctuary.There was a caretaker there and he said there is a small Museum there but it was closed as it was a sunday. We spent some time there and had some snacks.

Meanwhile our driver did some asking around of his own and told there was a Dargah nearby. I looked it up on Gmaps and this Dargah was in the middle of the lake on another island nearby. So I thought why not give it a shot. I wasn't really interested in the Dargah.I just wanted to check out the location. This route starts just beside the complex cutting perpendicular to the Main road. The road was bad and the location of the Dargah even worse. It was a waste of 2 hours of our time. By the time we returned to the complex area it was beginning to get dark. So we went over to the area where we saw the birds earlier in the day and thankfully the birds were still there but they were a bit afar. Nevertheless we stopped and walked over to the edge of the lake and observed the birds.My dad had bought with him his much loved Russian binoculars. We spent an hour there looking at the birds with the binoculars. It was as if I was watching a documentary on the National Geographic or Discovery Channel.

Soon the orange skies slowly turned dark and it was time to go. We left the way we came. It was a good day I spent with my dad, the one who imbibed in me the love of travelling.

Note- The main stretch where you can spot the birds during the season is the road which runs from Sullurpeta to the main gate of ISRO. No turns anywhere. Just the main straight road.