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As we entered the Harishchandra Ghat in Varanasi, India, we noticed the heat and we were 20-25 feet away. Then, we saw a group of people watching from a step high above the sacred Ganges River.dsc_0124 And all along the river for several Ghats, thousands and thousands people were everywhere. It was then that we learned everything that was happening.india-jan-2008-1-886-2

What were we’re seeing, Ajay Pandey with Bestway Tours and Safaris told us, were Hindu ceremonies at the most sacred place in India that take place 24/7 each and every day. “No other place on Earth, Ajay said, “holds daily cremations at Varanasi like this right by the sacred Ganges River for the devout Hindu.” Over 80 cremations are performed daily on bodies brought by family members from everywhere any way they can to reach the cremation site because this Ghat and the Manikarnika Ghat are the main places where Hindu can reach Moksha. Cremation must occur within 24 hours of death.

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Ladies observing  Chhath Puja.

In addition, on this particular day, several Ghats( concrete steps on the bank down to the Ganges River) were packed with people observing Chhath Puja, a yearly 4-day observation where the faithful Hindu pay obedience to the Sun God. And this event was separate from the daily cremations. It just so happened that the 2 events shared the same area of the Ganges River. Married men and women observing the 36-hour fast prayed for the well being and prosperity of their families.dsc_0248

This age-old observance on the Ghats by the Ganges River was one of the many sites in eastern India where the festival was observed. The puja starts with the ritual of ‘Nahai-Khai’, in which devotees prepare traditional food after bathing. The second day is ‘Kharna’, during which devotees observe a 36-hour-long fast which starts from the second day evening onwards and continues till the fourth day sunrise.The third day, the devotees stand in water and offer ‘Arghya’ to the setting sun God.dsc_0255

On the fourth and final day of puja, devotees and their friends and relatives assembled at the Ghats on the river bank before sunrise and offer ‘Arghya’ to the rising sun God.dsc_0240

These devotees and others all watched the cremations and final day of the Chhath Puja, a once a year happening at Varanasi and all of East India. Several of the 87 Ghats along the Ganges River in Varanasi were full of people, and the river close to the cremation ceremonies was full of boats full of people observing it all.india-jan-2008-1-984

As cremations were on going 24/7, we saw only males watching their loved one being cremated on a pyre. Hindu accepts death as a positive event on the way to Moksha and peace. Hindus believe the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives -samsara- and its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was lived -karma. Hinduism is not only a religion, it is a cultural way of life.

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This Rangoli is an Indian art form on the floor using petals, rice, flour, colored sand, and other materials. It is thought to bring good luck and reflect traditional folklore and practices unique to an area. A Rangoli can be done in flower shapes, deity impressions, or flower or petal shapes.

Before each cremation began, the male survivors took the body wrapped in a gold or white cloth topped with ribbons,  marigolds and other flowers to the sacred river for washing to relieve the body of its sins.india-jan-2008-1-861

Then the body was placed on a wooden pyre and the #1 male survivor, dressed in white, set the wood on fire. Prayers are said to Yarma, the god of death. The body is now an offering to Agni, the god of fire. Cremation takes 3-4 hours. When the skull explodes, it signifies that the soul had been released to heaven. The Dom keeps the fire going during the entire cremation and cows strolled around some of the pyres eating the marigolds and other flowers on the ground.dsc_0123-2

Many of these family members saved money for years to be able to buy the wood for their cremation. The most expensive wood is sandalwood and teak. Mango is the cheapest. The untouchables of society, called Dom, oversee each cremation and charge a fee to do so. They also charge for wood and weigh each log. Many of these Dom make a lot of money from the cremations.dsc_0121

The Dom stacks the wood into a pyre. Then the body is unwrapped and placed on the pyre. To keep it flat during cremation, more wood is placed on top of the body. The attending Dom then gives the #1 male survivor the flame with which he sets the pyre afire. Dry wood ignites immediately with flames leaping into the air and covering the body.dsc_0118

Should a person not have enough money to buy all the needed wood, the body is partially cremated with the amount of wood they can afford. Then the ashes and remaining body parts are put into the Ganges River where the soul is transported to heaven to escape the cycle of rebirth. The holier the place the better the chance the soul will achieve “Moksha” or cycle of rebirth and avoid returning to earth as an animal or insect.

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The red line into a woman’s hair indicates she is married.

Women are not allowed at the cremation because it is believed that their cries will interrupt the cremation and cause the soul to not make it to moksha. The transfer must be pure, and not sad or painful. We were allowed to pass through Harishchandra Ghat by keeping a respectable distance. And photographs are allowed only from a respectable distance.dsc_0288

Because of pollution concern, some cremations are performed in other locations and then the ashes are put into the Ganges River. But most Hindu choose the traditional cremation that has been carried out for thousands of years. After cremation, the ashes are searched for gold, and if any is found, it is given to the poor for purchasing wood.dsc_0206-2

After observing cremations from afar, we reached the Ganges River where a small wooden boat was waiting to take us to observe the “Prayer of the Ganges” to make the Ganges River happy to receive bodies into Moksha. This was at the Dashashwamegh Ghat. My first tour of India with Tauck.com included this Prayer of the Ganges ceremony and I was so impressed I decided to visit again on my private Bestway tour.

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dsc_0241Lasting for 1 hour each night, the Prayers are watched by scores of boats full of observers floating on the Ganges River. And we were one of them. The 9 Hindu priests perform the worship arti of the river Ganges to fire where a dedication is made to the Ganges River, Lord Shiva, the Sun, Fire and the whole universe.india-jan-2008-1-888

Under powerful lights that illuminate the Ghat, rhythmic chants and offerings are made by the nine priests to the river to accept the soul of the deceased on their journey to Moksha. We floated oil lamp candles in the river meaning light, happiness and knowledge. It was a most reverend ceremony.india-jan-2008-1-862

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One of the neon umbrellas under which a guru will celebrate the Prayer of the Ganges, which makes the River happy to receive the body into Moksha.

dsc_0210-2This one particular evening once a year, 2 events occurred at the same time, the daily cremation ceremony and Chhath Puja, the last day of the 36-hour fast that pays obedience to the Sun God. Hundreds of Hindu devotees packed the Ghats with baskets of food and flowers and family and friends to break that fast.dsc_0259

Watching the deceased take the journey to Moksha and the Hindu break the Chhath Puja fast was a total experience like no other in the world. Being able to observe both ceremonies in Varanasi, India, the holiest city in India, at the same time was a total honor.

Photo Copy ©  2016 carolyntravels.com 

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The sacred Ganges River the morning after a night of cremations.

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Every morning the Hindu bath in the sacred Ganges River to wash away their sins.

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A man and his Cobra.

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At the ceremony was a Sadhus (Religious man) or Guru.

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This young man was selling marigolds and candles to put into the river to honor the dead.

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Cattle are everywhere all the time eating anything they can find, such as the flowers left over from the bodies while they were being cremated. All animals are sacred.

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All of their offices are on sidewalks. As we watched at one of them on Churchgate Street, each one arrived on foot or bicycle carrying priceless bags of spicy treats and specialties for their many clients.

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The Dhabbawallahs lift a tray full of heavy tiffins full of delicious food for their clients. And time is of the essence in delivering at a specific time.

 One after the other they arrived at about the same time and exchanged scores of tiffins with each other using a delivery system that is one-of-a-kind.

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A metal Tiffin. Photo by June Landrum

In those bags were tiffins full of fresh cooked hot food that family members prepared at home for their loved one to eat at work a few hours later. Each tiffin contained 3 or 4 bowls that connect together to make one container. How the tiffins get to the family member’s place of work in downtown Mumbai/Bombay, India, is a system and method only the Dhabawallah delivery men understand. The Dhabbawallahs put certain marks on the tiffins, such as a different color or group of symbols indicating the correct train or office.

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The coding system the Dhabbawallahs use to know where to deliver and pick up the tiffins. Photo by June Landrum

“Dhabba” in the Hindu language means food and “wallah” means person. So, the delivery men are called Dhabbawallahs and they have been delivering the home cooked meals since 1890 for clients who want only their home cooked specialties to eat because they think their food is best because of their religions or diets. As more and more clients requested delivered meals,  a delivery system had to be developed that worked for them because they have minimal education.

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A stack of tiffins to be delivered to a certain office building in Mumbai.

The delivery system was started in 1890 by Mahadeo Havai Bachche, a Parsi banker, who wanted his family’s home-cooked food. More and more friends and employees also wanted home cooked food so he hired 100 Dhabawallahs at first to deliver the food. Today, more than 5,000 Dhabbawallahs do it, delivering 60-70 tiffins each day to clients in downtown office buildings in Mumbai/Bombay, India.

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The Dhabbawallahs hang so many tiffins on their bicycles that they have little room left for themselves.

The Dhabbawallahs are men who pick up the tiffins each morning at 7:15 a.m. at client’s houses located about 60-70 kilometers from the office area and deliver them by train, bicycle and foot by 12:45 p.m. to the family member’s place of work using their unique coding system. Very few mistakes are made in deliveries considering that a tiffin can pass through up to 12 different Dhabbawallahs’ hands from the home to the office and back.

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Checking the delivery list to make sure all is correct before delivery.

Dressed in all white and wearing a Gandhi hat, the Dhabbawallahs meet every day Monday-Saturday at the same places in Mumbai and exchange bags containing tiffins. And they deliver the tiffins though all kinds of weather, conditions and holidays. They place the appropriate bag on the sidewalk to start a group of other tiffins that are to be delivered to that same building or street. As each Dhabbawallah arrived between 11:40 a.m.-12noon, they placed the tiffins in the appropriate office group on the sidewalk.DSC_0141

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And now all is in order to deliver, so the Dhabbawallahs take off as fast as they can through all the traffic and watching tourists to the correct offices. Our guide with this Bestway.com tour, took us to the Churchgate Street corner so we could watch the Dhabbawallahs do their work.

When all the bags had arrived from the clients, each Dhabbawallah took off with all of new bags attached to a bicycle or in a large wooden tray and delivered each one to the appropriate person’s place of work. In the tiffins, some family members placed notes, flowers, tickets, an all sorts of communications. Now, the clients enjoy their delicious lunch until 1:45 p.m. And the Dhabawallahs enjoy their lunch when all the tiffins are delivered.

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Now for a final check and lunch for the Dhabbawallahs. Photo by June Landrum

This custom service provided by the Dhabbawallahs cost $14 USD or 900 Rupees per person per month. Each Dhabbawallah earns 10,000 Rupees per month ($155 USD) and they all work for the common good as a team for the trust that oversees them.

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A tray full of tiffins ready for delivery, each one with a special code on the top directing the Dhabbawallah where to deliver them.

But this service did not end after all lunches were delivered because each Dhabbawallah then returned to all of his client’s offices and picked up the empty tiffins at 2:15 pm. With the empty tiffins in his hands, each Dhabbawallah then met back at the Churchgate corner where they reversed the process and exchanged empty tiffins.

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These Dhabbawallahs wait for a few more tiffins to arrive before they can take off for their destination.

By 2:45 pm the Dhabbawallahs were back on one of the three train routes where their clients live with all of their empty tiffins to deliver to the homes around 5pm. Family members then cleaned and washed the tiffins and had them ready for the next day’s spicy Indian food specialties such as lentils, rice, vegetables and chapattis, all home-style and delivered to the customer’s delight. And the Dhabbawallahs will be there at 7:15 a.m. the next morning to pick up the fresh cooked specialties.

And this has been going on for more than 125 years, by Dhabbawallahs using a delivery system that is one-of-a-kind, where they deliver home cooked lunches appreciated and enjoyed by all the customers.         Photo Copy ©  2016 carolyntravels.com

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Photo by June Landrum

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They come by the thousands every day dressed in turbans, scarves, saris, kurtas and western clothing not only to pray but to sit in a row on the floor cross-legged and barefooted in a huge hall next to anyone regardless of race, color, sex, caste, religion, creed, age or social status. And they all get along and follow the procedures established by the kitchen.DSC_0626

 

This is every day at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, India where the Temple’s kitchen (called langar in Punjabi) serves up to 40,000 hungry people a vegetarian meal 24 hours a day every day of the year. And on Holy Days, weekends and holidays the crowd can reach 100,000+ at the Golden Gurudwara (Temple) for a free meal. And this has been going on since the Sikh religion began in 1469.

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Although all Sikh temples have a langar and serve free meals to pilgrims, the langar at the Golden Temple in Amritsar is like no other because it has the largest free kitchen in the world. “It has so many visitors it rivals the Taj Mahal as the most visited place in India, “our guide on this Bestway.com tour told us.DSC_0631

The Golden Temple is the home of the Sikh religion which has 3 aspects: sing and chant the name of God, sing religious hymns and volunteer. Plus, it considers all people equal in every way. And all Sikhs wear a turban to be equal with each other, to show respect to the Guru, and to protect the hair.DSC_0638

Serving the hungry pilgrims everyday is their volunteer mission all over the world. It was the founder, Guru Nanak, who began the concept of the langar. Volunteers do almost all of the work and show up every day to prepare the food. Ten percent of the volunteers, however, are paid staff to manage and coordinate the program but the other 90% is all done by volunteers and donations from the local community and the world. All of the food is donated or purchased with donations.DSC_0605DSC_0578DSC_0576

Thousands of volunteers chop, cut, boil, and mix organic onions, garlic, chilies, carrots, radishes, cabbage, spinach, fruit, rice kheer (pudding) rice, lentils for soup called dal, ghee (clarified butter) and roti (Indian flat bread). The food is cooked with wood and gas in huge cauldrons, and roti making machines, yielding a simple vegetarian meal for all to eat.DSC_0596DSC_0692

And the pilgrims do eat. But before they can eat, however, when they arrive at the Golden Temple, they must immediately put a provided triangular orange scarf on their head, then must check their shoes at one of the many windows where they are kept until claimed. Entering the Temple with head covered and barefooted shows respect to the Guru. DSC_0609Then, they get in line and receive their stainless steel food plate, spoon and water/tea/dessert/soup bowl before going to the big marble hall where new arrivals are being seated. Many times, a person takes a seat on a cloth in a row on the just cleaned floor next to someone s/he doesn’t even know. Receiving the food with both hands signifies blessed food.DSC_0606DSC_0602

And then volunteer servers arrive carrying buckets or tubs containing food to give to each person, one after the other. Rice, lentil soup (dal), roti, tea/water, ghee pudding or fruit awaits them.

DSC_0623 And each day’s meal is determined by the availability of foods in season, purchased or provided. And they never run out of food even when 100,000+ come to eat. After the people finish their meal and leave, the process begins all over again. But before new people arrive, each section is mopped clean and it is done many times a day.DSC_0570DSC_0565

Then it is time to wash the dishes for the new arrivals so each dish is washed several times. Volunteers stand and wash dishes in large vats full of soapy water and then pass them to another group of vats and finally to clean water vats. DSC_0671The stainless steel dishes even go through a cleaning that polishes and shines them. Then they are stacked in large steel trailer-like bins with large wheels and pulley so they can be positioned near the awaiting new arrivals. And huge steel boxes of clean utensils are also moved nearby.DSC_0584DSC_0634

It impressed us how orderly and clean everything was and how, with all the people, it was relatively quiet and respectful. And it impressed us how all pilgrims sit in a row on the floor cross-legged and barefooted in a huge hall with anyone and everyone regardless of race, color, sex, caste, religion, creed, social status, or age to eat. And they all get along and follow the rules of the langar and Temple. The Golden Temple langar is like no other.

Photo Copy ©  2016 carolyntravels.com

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The Golden Temple complex is magnificent, huge and very clean. June and I covered our heads and removed our shoes to enter the complex.

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The Golden Temple model box receives many rupee donations for the Kitchen and Temple.

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  It followed us from the ancient temple city of Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks, as part of our multi-vehicle convoy. And it was ready for our every need on the multi-hour rides into Central India which everyone enjoyed and appreciated.

Our custom Luxury Loo followed our convoy everywhere we went.

Our custom Luxury Loo followed our convoy everywhere we went.

It was the Luxury Loo that was invented by Tauck World Discovery because the need arose for their tour members traveling to their tiger safaris.  There are no toilets available along the vast expanse of open land and small villages to the parks.  So Tauck solved the challenge by providing a toilet in their convoy for their tiger adventures to operate smoothly, comfortably and conveniently. Necessity is the Mother of invention and the Luxury Loo was the answer.

The line up to use the Happy Van.

The line up to use the Happy Van.

Every two hours, next to rice fields, pastures or farms in the northern Central India area, the convoy would stop for a Luxury Loo break. Alongside the road in an unknown location, tour members exited their white SUVs headed straight for the “Happy Van.”DSC_0488 Two mini-motor home vans were modified to fit Tauck’s need for complete clean restroom facilities plus a comfortable waiting area from the weather.DSC_0493 And the Luxury Loo would be everywhere the Tauck tour was going because it always joined the convoy full of tour members ready for the next potty break.DSC_0496 Inside the big white van was a 3×3-foot room with toilet, sink, and amenities, just perfect for all Tauck tour members to use.DSC_0478 Plus, two comfortable couches with table were available where tour members could wait for their turn with the single unisex toilet.               DSC_0546 As guests used the Luxury Loo facilities one at a time, refreshments of snacks, fruits and soft drinks were available, making the tour even more consumer-friendly.  DSC_0545Some exercised, practiced Yoga and Tai Chi positions or walked around the convoy of cars to stretch their legs and bodies during each “Shangra Loo” break.DSC_0623 When it was time for lunch, the convoy stopped on the side of the road under a huge tree, set up a buffet table with white table cloth and all the trimmings. Rocks served as seats as all enjoyed the delicious food, scenery and Indian rural people going about their daily duties.DSC_0604 Two vans had to be modified to create 2 Luxury Loos so Tauck would have one available for their Northern India and Nepal tour which includes 7 total tiger safaris in Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks. When one tour has a Luxury Loo in use, another tour begins and uses the second Luxury Loo, and this rotation continued throughout Tauck’s Northern India and Nepal tour season.DSC_0739 The Luxury Loo comes complete with attendants who help open the door for the tour members, help them into and out of the van and provide needed supplies from hand sanitizer to towelettes for each one. Then the attendants clean the Luxury Loo and drive it at the end of the Tiger safari convoy, ready for the next Luxury Loo stop along the way to the national parks. DSC_0542 Along the way, the tour members enjoyed the everyday lives for the rural people, seeing how they are making it, ladies collecting water every morning for their home, men working their animals to thrash rice grain from the stalk, a Tuk Tuk stuffed with people for a ride into a village, children happy to see us and smiling and waving, people on the road stopping to speak with us and welcoming us to India, learning that cattle are sacred and have the right-of-way on every road not vehicles,  cattle pulling wagons full of hay, and ladies walking in their beautiful colorful saris carrying different products on their head.   DSC_0861                               DSC_0803DSC_0771DSC_0764DSC_0766DSC_0714DSC_0636DSC_0712DSC_0801DSC_0284 DSC_0816DSC_0592DSC_0544

The rural people in Central India paint their houses blue because dust does not stick to blue paint.

The rural people in Central India paint their houses blue because dust does not stick to blue paint.

All Tauck tour members were back on the road for their third and final convoy ride with the Luxury Loo and were happy and appreciative for Tauck’s relieving invention, and even happier because they saw their first Royal Bengal Tiger in the wild in India. It truly was Incredible India!

A Kanha National Park Photo

A Kanha National Park Photo

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Ashish spotted something moving 98 feet away (30 meters) on his left side as he was driving us on the paved main road to the entrance of Kanha National Park in Central India. Instantly, he hollered and pointed left, “TIGER”!

Kanha National Park Royal Bengal Tiger Photo

Kanha National Park Royal Bengal Tiger Photo

With that, Denise, May, Ed and I, went into immediate action riding in the safari vehicle to see our dream realized after 3 tiger safari treks through the Sal Forest of Kanha National Park. Since we were going 25 mph (40 KPH), we were completely covered in blankets including head and face to stop the freezing wind chill. And when the TIGER word was said, we grabbed our cameras and uncovered as fast as possible for our wish come true to see a tiger in the wild.DSC_0418

Ashish knew our third attempt at seeing a tiger in Kanha National Park would be good when he picked us up at 6:10 am Dec. 1.  As he was driving to our Banjaar Tola Safari Tented Lodge, a jungle cat crossed right in front of his vehicle. “In my area, people believe if a cat crosses the road while driving or walking, it’s not a good sign but I believe it is a good sign,” Ashish Bais, our 35-year-old driver expert  naturalist on tigers at the Lodge, explained  “And I usually see one tiger out of every 3-4 safari drives so the luck was with me again by average.”

Ashish Bais, Naturalist

Ashish Bais, Naturalist

Luck did come his and our way at 6:17 AM on our third safari ride in Kanha just a few minutes after the jungle cat incident. Only 1.2 miles or 2 kilometers from the lodge, a huge male tiger was walking along a fence about 60 feet (20 meters) from us near the Banjaar River. And we were driving on the paved road to the Mukki entrance for our morning safari drive. DSC_0346The tiger was near the edge of the forest and we had about 60 seconds to clearly view his swaggering, strolling walk. “This early in the morning,” Ashish said, “he was also looking for his girlfriend. I knew it was a male because of his size.”

We finally managed to grab our cameras and start photographing as fast as we could having been given an instant’s notice and we managed to succeed with still photos and video. I was shaking, hyperventilating and saying OMG, OMG as Ashish drove the safari vehicle backwards following the tiger that was walking towards us to the creek.DSC_0363

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We all tried to keep a positive attitude after seeing no tigers on 3 safari drives at Bandhavgarh National Park and 2 times at Kanha, but the sixth safari drive was a charm at Kanha. We didn’t think we would ever see a Royal Bengal Tiger on this Tauck World Discovery tour of Northern India and Nepal after spending 27.5 hours looking for one.DSC_0165  We had seen tiger paw prints in the dirt, tiger poop and tiger scratches in the tree trunks, but never a tiger. DSC_0211DSC_0408

As we toured and toured the parks, we learned that Indian tiger safaris are not like African safaris where you see many animals. In these Indian parks, we saw all kinds of deer, birds, wild boar and gaur cattle that were food for the tigers. And we learned that the deer, langur monkeys, and birds sound alarm noises to alert everyone a tiger is near or in the area.

Kanha National Park Royal Bengal Tiger Photo

Kanha National Park Royal Bengal Tiger Photo

When we continued on our safari in Kanha after spotting our dream tiger, we learned that several other tour members also saw a tiger cross the road and walk around them about an hour after our tiger spotting and they were as ecstatic as we were. Then we learned from a lodge worker that several more tour members saw a tiger at the river as they were sitting and enjoying coffee. Almost all of us saw a tiger on the same day and it was a very happy day for us.DSC_0413

It was on this tiger spotting that we learned how expert our safari naturalist guide is. As we were looking for tigers, Ashish educated us about them. “They are solitary, elusive and live in the thicket in a big area of 4,942 acres (20 square kilometers) by themselves, Ashish, who has a master’s degree in botany and worked for the All India Tiger Monitoring Project, explained.  “So this is why it is so difficult to see one.” To make it more difficult, Bandhavgarh has 65 tigers in the 110,209 acre (1598.10 SqM) park and Kanha has 96 in the 232,279 acre (2051.79 SqM) park, making our tiger one chance in 96, almost a 1% chance of seeing a tiger.DSC_0388

Having studied botany with specialization in plant pathology and tiger behavior and Swamp Deer(The hard Ground Barasingha) food behavior, Ashish learned to constantly look for tigers while driving or walking. He came to Kanha to work as a naturalist in a lodge and then moved to the All India Tiger Monitoring Project for 3 years where he studied and collared tigers. He used to go on elephant back for research work and follow tigers with the help of his team and to know tiger behavior, he set up cameras to count the number of them. And he studied tigers in each of the 4 seasons and followed one tigress. Ashish has been a naturalist at Banjaar Tolar Tented Safari Camp since 2008.

Tigers on Kanha National Park T-Shirt

Tigers on Kanha National Park T-Shirt

So Ashish was happy to make our day by noticing that male tiger sauntering along the edge of the park, and wanted to know if he could be of further help. “Yes” we all said. “Show us another tiger.”

Kanha National Park Royal Bengal Tiger Photo

Kanha National Park Royal Bengal Tiger Photo

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It really is Incredible India as the sign says when you enter customs. 

India is ancient temples;

sacred cattle in the streets;

new temples;

women in saris;

traffic jams everywhere yet every driver inviting others to pull in front of them;

caparisoned (decorated) elephants giving rides on the side of the road;

men wearing turbans, 

bodies wrapped in colorful paper and ribbon being brought on the top of 

vehicles  for their sacred cremation in the Ganges River in Varanasi;

 the magnificent Taj Mahal at 6 a.m. in the morning;

and the curry-spiced Indian food.

It’s the top hotel palaces in the world;

a houseboat ride on canals around Kerala;

 Kathakali dancers and Kalaripayattu ancient martial arts

 demonstration at Kumarakom;

Three huge caparisoned elephants in a Hindu temple ceremony in Kerala,

yoga lessons in spiritual Kerala/Cochin;

and climbing the 225 steps to Elephanta Island near Bombay/Mumbai to see the ancient carving.

 In Bombay/Mumbai, it’s the Dabbawallahs

on their daily deliveries of fresh-cooked food from each customer’s home delivered for lunch

in their Bombay offices in Tiffins without a mistake; 

the largest democracy in the world;

the Dhobi Ghats where residents have their laundry washed in many concrete vats outside

 and pounded and pounded until clean, then dried and delivered to the Bombay/Mumbai home;

where everyone has a job no matter his/her status;

where trains stuffed with people arrive continuously into Bombay/Mumbai;

where new modern buildings are built next door to a slum of tents.

It’s a special Maharajah dinner evening in Jaipur with

caparisoned elephants, camels, horses and people dancing to the beat of the music, and pashminas for warming shoulders.

India is a country that is not to be missed for a life-changing experience and a trip of a lifetime on Tauck World Discovery’s all inclusive tour because it is truly incredible India.

 

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As I toured India, I saw caparisoned elephants (decorated)everywhere giving rides. In Udaipur, we stayed in the #1 ranked world hotel at that time, Oberoi Udavillas. and I ordered lunch and never received it. My friends arrived after I did, ordered, ate and said, “If you want to go shopping with us, we are leaving now.”

I left the table with my friends and the hostess said “Ma’am, please come back and eat your lunch.” I told her I had to go shopping now with my friends.. She begged me to come back and eat my lunch as we walked all the way to the car.  I assured her that I wasn’t upset. That night before I ate dinner at the same restaurant,  the manager offered me complimentary food and drink as a make good for not delivering my lunch, but my tour was all-inclusive with Tauck World Discovery. He said the waiter did not understand my order and that they had a meeting and it will never happen again. When my friends arrived for dinner with me, they said, “You should have requested a caparisoned elephant” as we had been discussing renting one so all the people on the tour could enjoy it, So I told the same waiter that I would like to have a caparisoned elephant as a makegood.        The next morning, while I was eating breakfast, the same waiter tapped my shoulder and said, “Ma’am, Ma’am, I have your elephant.” I looked at him in total disbelief and screamed “NO WAY.” He said, “Yes, Come now. But I am eating my breakfast, I said. “Come Now,” he begged and pulled/escorted me by the arm for one block to the hotel entrance. And, there was the caparisoned elephant, camels, horses and people, all of which were part of a special 25-member festival celebration for guests at the hotel that day. What a wish come true and a wonderful surprise from the #1 hotel.. After learning her name was Mary,  I went to the camel and told her she was the most beautiful camel I had ever seen all dressed up and blew her kisses. She responded by raising her head, opening her mouth and honking sounds of approval. And she kissed my cheek and her master’s cheek.  Then I went to the elephant, learned her name was Janie and told her she was the most beautiful decorated elephant I had ever seen and blew her kisses. And she raised her trunk high in the air and trumpted loud sounds of agreement. As I looked around, all the members of my Tauck tour had arrived at the festival celebration to enjoy the caparisoned  elephant, horses and camels with me. So remember, always ask for the caparisoned elephant as your wish just may come true.

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