Pilgrimage to Bhubaneswar, Konark & Puri

 

800px-Konark_sun_temple_06On 13 Apr 2017  we boarded Duranto train to Bhubaneswar, which was late by two hours. Lunch served at 3 pm and  we had a lively talk with co-passengers. On 14th we could not make any programme due to extraordinary delay of our train for more than five hours.

On 15 Apr 2017 morning at 5am we went to Konark to see sun rise at chandrabagha beach. Exactly at 6 pm the sun in red colour appeared in slow motion. It was an awesome  sight. After the sun rise we took bath in the sea and proceeded to Konark sun temple. We immediately engaged a guide to know  the history of the temple.  When we know that the entire structure was built in a scientific way,  feel proud over  intelligent Indians in ancient times. The temple structure was made as a Chariot is  a unique phenomenon. Stone carvings depicting the human life and its applicability to the present time is unbelievable.

After the visit we proceeded to Puri. Our first stop was Gundicha mandir.It is significant for being the destination of the celebrated annual Rath Yatra of Puri. While it remains vacant most of the year, the temple is occupied by images of the deities of Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra for seven complete days (total 9 days including the start and concluding day of Ratha Yatra) every year during the annual Rath Yatra festival.

After that we proceeded to puri beach for a dip before going to Jagganath temple. The beach was crowded with plenty of devotees. Waves here was so ferocious. First we were little bit nervous to face  the  oncoming waves that pushed us towards the shore with a force. After few minutes we withstood the waves attack and started enjoying our dip in the sea. After spending half an hour in the beach we proceeded to see the famous Jaggnath temple. This temple is a sacred Vaishnava temple dedicated to Lord Jagnnath. It is an important pilgrimage destination and is particularly visited by devotees of Supreme lord Sri Krishna and is one of the Char Dham pilgrimages that anyone is expected to make in one’s lifetime. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra or Chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are kept on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. Even though the icons of most Hindu deities that are worshiped are made out of stone or metal, the image of Jagnnath is wooden. Every twelve or nineteen years these wooden figures are ceremoniously replaced by using sacred trees, that have to be carved as an exact replica.

The very sight of   the temple excited us. There were lot of devotees rushing towards the temple and we also joined them. We could not take our eyes off the beautiful temple structure for a long time. The  marvelous architecture of the main temple is really superb. Our dharshan of Lord Jaggnath was so satisfying that touched our soul. The chanting of ‘jagganath ki jay’ reverberated the entire temple that bound  all the devotees who gathered there. The mega distribution of prasad in earthen pots was something new which we have never seen in any temples. With this trip we completed two places out of the Golden triangle and looking forward our trip to Bhubaneswar.

After reaching Bhuneswar in the afternoon we immediately proceeded to Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves. The caves are  partly natural and partly artificial caves of archaeological, historical and religious importance. The caves are situated on two adjacent hills, Udayagiri and Khandagiri. They have a number of finely and beautifully carved caves. It is believed that most of these caves were carved out as residential blocks for Jain monks. Udayagiri means “Sunrise Hill” and has 18 caves while Khandagiri has 15 caves.

Our next stop was famous Lingaraj temple. This temple is a  Hindu Temple dedicated to Harihara, a form of Shiva and Vishnu  and is one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar. This is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. The central tower of the temple is 180 ft  tall. The temple represents the Kalinga Architecture.

Following day we made a full day programme. First we went to Dhauli. It is a hill with vast open space adjoining it, and has major Edicts of Ashoka engraved on a mass of rock, by the side of the road leading to the summit of the hill. Dhauli hill is presumed to be the area where the Kalinga War was fought. Ashoka had a special weakness for Dhauli, where the battle was fought. The Daya river is said to have turned red with the blood of the many deceased after the battle, and enabled Ashoka to realize the magnitude of horror associated with war. He saw to it that Dhauli became an important centre of Buddhist activities. He built several stupas and Pillars there. On the top of the hill, a dazzling white peace pagoda has been built.

Bhuneswar is land of temples. We have seen few important temples. They are Sai temple, parashurama temple, Mukhesvara temple and Raja Rani temple. We also visited Orissa State Museum  one of the biggest museum we have seen so far.  The museum is divided into eleven sections, viz, Archaeology, Epigraphy, Numismatics, Armoury, Mining & Geology, Natural History. After lunch we straightaway proceeded to Nandankannan Zoo. We spent more than three hours and first time went for a safari and thrilled to see some rare  animals in the natural surroundings and roaming freely .  At the end of the day we visited Ram temple and with that  we successfully concluded our memorable trip to Orissa.

PURI_JAGANATHA_TEMPLE,_PURI,_ORISSA,_INDIA,_ASIA

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MESMERIZING GOA

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On 24 Feb 2017, we reached Goa at around 2.30 pm.   After taking  a brief rest  we decided to go to the nearby beach called Bogmala beach. For that we took a local bus upto Airport and from there took another bus and reached Bogmala beach. When we deboarded from the bus a cool breeze touched us gently and we  got excited to see the beautiful beach.

Next day, we proceeded to North Goa. Our first stop was at Panjim Church.  Milky white building located at the centre of the city.   After that, we went to Miramar beach.  Miramar is the beach area of the Goan capital of Panjim, also known as Panaji and is one of the most visited beaches of Goa.  Many people, mostly tourists, come to this beach. One hour boat ride was really thrilling .  We are  excited to see Dolphines here.  Passengers dance to the popular hindi songs played on the boat was  entertaining.

Next we visited Aguda fort. The fort was constructed in 1612 to guard against the Dutch and the Marathas . It was a landmark for the vessels coming from Europe at that time. This old Portuguese fort stands on the beach south of Candolim , at the shore of the Mandovi River . A freshwater spring within the fort provided water supply to the ships that used to stop by. This is how the fort got its name: Aguada, meaning Water.

We also visited the most popular beach in Goa Calangute beach.  Calangute is a town in North Goa, famous for its beach. The beach is the largest in North Goa and visited by thousands of domestic and international tourists alike. The peak tourist season is during Christmas and New Year, and during the summer in May. During the monsoon season, from June through September, the sea can be rough and swimming is prohibited. The beach offers water sport activities like parasailing and water skiing, among others.

We proceeded for South Goa next day. Our first stop was Archalogical Museum.  The museum was established in 1964 and reorganized in 1981–82. It displays the objects from the prehistoric and early historic period to the late mediaeval period. The importance of this museum lies in the display of the portrait paintings of governors and viceroys, wooden sculptures, pillars, capitals, postal stamps likewise many other objects which belong to the Portuguese period in Goa.  Just opposite fifteenth century old church .This is one of the oldest churches in Goa and in India. The floor is of marble laid with precious stones.  The church also holds paintings of scenes taken from the life of St. Francis Xavier.

Next we went to  Mangeshi temple .    The Shri Mangeshi Temple is a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is considered to be the most important temple in Goa, it belongs to the typical Goan Hindu temple style of architecture. It is very distinctive with its white towers, welcoming at the entrance even though it is small and exquisite. After this we visited Santosh Durga mandir.  The temple is dedicated to Shantadurga , the goddess who mediates between Vishnu and Shiva . The deity is also called ‘Santeri’ colloquially. Purana talks of a battle between Shiva and Vishnu The battle was so fierce that the God Brahma prayed to Goddess Parvati to intervene, which she did in the form of Shantadurga. Shantadurga placed Vishnu on her right hand and Shiva on her left hand and settled the fight.

After that we visited Colva beach.  It is one of the largest and striking beaches of South Goa that has fine powdered white sand and bounded by coconut palms alongside the coastline of south Goa. The Colva beach is very beautiful and has a stream flowing through it. Speckled with colonial style villas and broken-down fishing huts, the beach looks more stunning with a wide collection of concrete hotels, souvenir stalls and snack bars all around it. During day time, many tourists in colorful attires throng at this place and some are also seen sunbathing in the bright sun.  There are lots of shacks available for lunch and a cold beer or two. For adventure seekers,  various kinds of water activities are also available on the beach.

Once we ventured out our sightseeing, by using  Goa’s public transport. State run transport corporation named Kadamba runs mini buses throughout Goa. We took a mini bus from Airport to Margo. From margo we took another mini bus to  Colva beach. After spending about two hrs we went to Vasco to see the Goa Viva Carnival 2017.  It was  so colourful and entertaining.

On the penultimate day of departure,  we decided to go to Paloleum beach after we came to know that it is the number one beach in Goa. We took the Kadamba bus from Margo. It took almost two hours to reach the beach.  In the evening we went to Vasco da Gama just to see the city. Excited to see  Vasco Railway Station.  We also visited the muncipal market adjustant to the Railway station.  With this our trip to Goa has come to an end and we really enjoyed every moment we spent here.

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My date with the Beating Retreat 2016

Being in Delhi for more than three decades, I did not get an opportunity to see the Beating Retreat ceremony live. Since every news paper while reporting about the forthcoming event in 2016 stated that this year it is going to be colourful and more musical and the ceremony during 2016 will be at its best. After seeing that report both me and my wife    got excited and don’t want to miss the event this time.

After getting pass  for the programme I was eagerly waiting for the event to be held on 29 Jan 2016.  The scheduled programme was to start exactly at 5.30 PM. All the Central Government offices located around Vijay Chowk were closed and Security Staff occupied the area and the venue was looked like a war zone.  We started from our residence at around 3 AM and reached Patel Chowk Metro Station at 3.30. By that time lot of people started pouring in and were going towards the venue. Security was so tight and it seemed that all security staff watching the public with a suspicion to avoid any untoward incidents. After reaching the venue we found that there were three tier security. This was the first time we went through three tier security and we both felt little nervous.

The sun was about to set in. The reflection of red colour brighten the sky. Entire audience were waiting eagerly for the ceremony to begin.  The atmosphere was completely silent. All eyes were turned towards Rastrabathi Bhawan. A white jeep started coming towards the dais. Yeah it was the Chief of the Naval Staff who came first followed by Air Force and Army Chief. Entire audience clapped their hands when the three Chiefs waved their hands towards the crowd.

After few minutes, the crowd stood at their feet to see Prime Minister’s car reaching the venue. It’s difficult to ignore Narendra Modi’s signature half-sleeve kurtas (and churidaars). His crisp formals and that pop of colour make him distinct from other guests. When he waved his hand the entire audience responded with a roar!

When President’s cavalcade entered the venu everybody got excited and the entire crowd waved their hands  and the President reciprocated them by waving his hand to the audience.

The Republic Day parade is a wonderful experience and a very proud tradition of our nation. Unlike previous year the much awaited Beating Retreat, that signals the end of the Republic Day festivities, undergone a slight change.The ceremony in Delhi is observed keeping in mind the age old tradition, according to which, soldiers called a close down to the war at sunset.The ceremony officially marks the finale of the Republic day celebrations.

This year the the ceremony show caused  new blend of music instead of the long tradition of only military music. Sitar, santoor and tabla, will be heard for the first time along with military bands.These newly introduced percussion instruments has changed the usual bugles, pipes and drums usually featured in the show by the colonial military band.

For the better view of the programme for the crowd LED screens, spider-cams and surround sound systems were installed.

And at exactly 6 pm, the buglers sound the retreat and the National Flag is lowered to the National Anthem and soon after Rashtrabathi Bhawan, South Block, North Block and all the surrounding Government buildings illuminated  that brought the Republic Day celebrations to a bright and formal end.

The ceremony just like every year  created a nostalgia for the times gone by.

Mumbai Musings

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Our dream to visit the commercial capital of India was realised on Oct 2015. Landed at Mumbai early morning. The first appearance of the city looked like the mixture of both Delhi and Chennai.

Our cab driver so obsessed with ‘bollywood stars’ never missed an opportunity to show us the celebrity apartments. He started with Amitab’s new house ‘Jalsa’ and ended with King of Bollywood Sharukh Khan’s ‘Mannat’.

We visited the beautiful Bandra beach which is just opposite to Sharukh’s apartment. Mumbai’s Sea-link is very amazing. We were excited to see such a lengthy bridge in the middle of the sea connecting Western Mumbai to South Mumbai.It is really an engineering marvel. I am surprised to know that the sea-link reduces travel time between Bandra and Worli during peak hours from 60–90 minutes to 20–30 minutes.

Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminal transported us to the colonial era and also reminded us the painful events of 26/11. The passengers were running for cover when terrorists started firing, is still lingering in my memory.  Visited Siddhi Vinayak temple, city’s oldest and richest temple.  This temple being visited frequently  by politicians and bollywood stars.

The Gate way of India, is historic structure  facing the sea, is the reminder of British Raj. It has become Mumbai’s favourite tourist destination. Plenty of photographers are roaming around here.  The Elephanta Caves are located very close to the Gateway of India, and tourists can travel on motor boats to reach the Elephanta Islands. Statues of the Maratha leader Shivaji and Swami Vivekananda are installed at the entrance of the Elephanta Caves. The view of Taj hotel and Gate of of India from the boat while travelling to Elephanta caves was stunning.

The Taj Mahal Hotel is India’s most prestigious and luxurious hotel and is situated close to the Gateway of India. Taj hotel is photographers delight. Tourists never move away from here without taking few snaps having Taj on the background. Large crowds of people come to this place to stride along the beautiful walkway and to view the stunning sight of the setting sun at dusk. The scenic beauty of the perfectly lined palm trees offers its visitors an enthralling experience.

Marine Drive is also referred to as ‘Queen’s necklace’, because the street lights make the road look like a string of pearls and create an illusion of a necklace, when viewed at night from any elevated point along the pathway of the drive.In the evening lot of people come here and enjoy the see breeze and also for relaxation.

We visited Chowpatty Beach, which is famous for its bazaars and meals. Hundreds of salesmen walk across the beach to sell different varieties of items. Fast food and snacks such as Bhel Puri, Paav Bhaji, etc are available here. People just come here in the evening and spend their time by roaming in the beach and enjoy street food.

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STRANDED AT CHENNAI AIRPORT

It was on 30 Nov 2015, we were at Port Blair.   Our flight to Chennai was on 01 Dec 2015 morning. Previous night there was a heavy rain. The way it was pouring cats and dogs with thunder storm, I feared that it could upset our programme the next day morning. Fortunately, the rain stopped at 4 A.M and we started packing for the morning flight. Earlier at around 2.30 A.M I got an SMS from Air India intimating that our morning flight scheduled at 8 am has been delayed and will depart at 9.30 am. After seeing that SMS I felt happy over the ‘delay’ instead of cancellation considering the heavy rain on previous day. Breakfast was served immediately after take off and the journey was smooth and comfortable. At around 11 AM there was an announcement on board, the pilot informed that the flight reached Chennai and he is not getting clearance from ATC,Chennai  due to heavy rain. All passengers so far engaged in routine activities, suddenly become conscious of the situation and remain silent with anxiety.

After  15 minutes or so, there was an announcement informing that he got the clearance from ATC and we will be landing in few minutes. On hearing the announcement, everybody got a sigh of relief without knowing the harsh ground realities. When we landed at Airport, there was a heavy rain.  We immediately proceeded to pick up our baggage. At the time , I was getting lot of calls from relatives and everybody inquired about our arrival. Without knowing the seriousness of the situation, I was telling them that we landed safe and waiting for our baggage. After picking up our baggage we immediately proceeded to pre-paid taxi service counter. There were a long queue in almost all the  counters and  I observed that the queue was not moving.  When I looked at the counter I was puzzled to see that all the counters were empty. When I asked the fellow passengers nobody offered  any explanation for the missing men in the counters.

After  few minutes, I approached a airport staff and asked him the reason for the empty counters, he looked at me as if I have come from a different planet. He informed me that whole city is under water due to heavy rain. Now I understood the enormity of the situation and got really worried. In the mean time there was an announcement for the closure of the airport due to bad weather. The flight we landed perhaps the last flight for the day before closure of the airport. Again I was getting plenty of calls from my relatives and everybody tried to offer some solution,  even though  they knew that it was an uphill task to rescue us from the Airport.

It appeared to us that the passengers who were at the airport disappeared suddenly leaving us alone. We were completely puzzled and felt helpless. We could not find any solution even after two hours.  We thought that it would be advisable for us to go to the nearest place from the Airport. So we decided to go to our nephew’s residence at Chromepet.  It was still raining when we came out. Outside we spotted  few taxis,  we approached them but nobody prepared to take us due to water logging. We decided to take our chances on suburban train. But unfortunately the station was the other side of the airport and to go there we have to cross the big divider, may not be the much problem if you have no luggage, but with heavy luggage it appeared to be big task for us. Since no other option was left, with much difficulty carried our luggage and crossed the divider. After crossing we thought that all our hurdles are over as we are going to reach the suburban railway station. Unfortunately it was not as it was turned out to be only the first hurdle ! When we approached the subway to go to the railway station, we could not believe our eyes as the whole subway was turned into a mini swimming pool. If you dare to get down, you will be submerged fully and you will have to swim your way to the station provided if you are a good swimmer. Since we don’t know how to swim, our option to reaching the railway station also been closed.

Now no other option was left to us than going by road. We started looking for the three wheeler. But nobody interested to pick up us due to their apprehension of heavy water-logging enveloped the whole city. We approached a three wheeler driver who stopped after feeling sympathy over us as we were standing on the middle of the road, completely wet, with all our luggage while it was raining. When we told him where to go, he immediately retorted that he can not come there as he feared that once he comes there he may not able to return. I told him that my nephew is there in that area and he is saying that there is no water logging and vehicles are moving smoothly. But the driver still had suspicion and it appeared to me that he is not willing to believe my words. So to  satisfy him I told him to speak to my nephew to know himself about the situation. So I rang up my nephew and gave the mobile to the driver and he started speaking to him. After a long conversation he  seemed to be convinced and decided to take us and we were very happy over his decision and thanked my nephew  for  effectively convinced the driver.While driving, the driver started saying that you people are saying that no water logging, but no road is visible here! We kept a stony face in front of him and also pretended that we were not heard him what he said.  Finally we reached our destination after three hours of struggle at the airport and thanked the driver for getting us to our destination safe and paid the exorbitant fare charged by the auto driver without any murmur. Later through TV channels we came to know that not only the airport but the whole city was cut off from the rest of State !

 

Kolkata Memories

 

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On our way to Port Blair, we had a short trip to Kolkata. Howrah Rajdhhani reached Kolkata at 10AM from Delhi. Howrah station is so big and neat and clean. I was surprised to see cars are parked at the other side of the platform. Passengers after getting down from the train and boarding their car from the  platform, which is really an unique phenomenon and I have never seen it before.

When I come out of the station there was a long queue. The queue was for prepaid taxi service. The lengthy queue has proved the popularity of prepaid taxi service in kolkata. Ambassador cars painted with yellow colour lined up for the customers. All cars bear the slogan ‘no refusal’. Kolkata is also auto less city. You cannot spot a single auto.

Howrah bridge was awesome. Evening we visited the famous Victoria memorial built by British. The beautiful white marble memorial enchanted us. We can certainly say that it is a Taj mahal of Kolkata. Inside memorial hall the huge museum with beautiful paintings enthralled us. The large garden surrounded the memorial adds feather to its beauty.

There was a folk programme going on in front of memorial. The troops performed beautifully with their colourful attire that delighted the entire audience for more than two hours.

We went to the majestic Dakshineshwar temple dedicated to mother Kali. Apart from main deity there are 15 shiv lingas give darshan to the devotees. Hoogly river is in the back side and Howrah bridge is clearly visible from this spot. We also visited Ramakrishna math planned and conceived by Vivekananda. It is a huge complex and a lake in one side. We could not visit Indian museum as it turned to be monday weekly holiday. Also visited Kali Ghat, the 53rd Sakthi Pedam.

Next day, being a working day, we visited the Indian Museum, the biggest in the country. It took four hours to see this. It was really a rare opportunity to see collection of animal fossils that also million years old from Shivalik hills areas. Evaluation of human beings, minting of coins in each dynasty, fisheries archive, rare breed of birds from different regions and countries are some of the highlight of this museum. In Egypt section we were thrilled to see the actual mummy which you can not see in any museum in this country. Finally we thought that our trip to Kolkata will never complete without travelling in its tram. So we took a joy ride and enjoyed every bit of that.

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A Trip to Andaman

cellularIt was an early morning flight from Kolkata. After reaching Port Blair Airport, which has been named after Vir Sarvarkar, the great freedom fighter, we went to Dollygunj, where our accommodation was booked.Climate was pleasant. After freshen up we were ready to go for a local sightseeing. Unfortunately it was a Govt holiday we could not see few important museums. Only museum that opened on that day  was Chatham Saw Mill and Forest museum. We were amazed to see such a huge Saw mill museum. First time we could see the Japanese bunkers here. It was interesting to know that this island was occupied by Japanese from 1945 to 1947. Carbyn Cove beach was awesome with lot of coconut trees lined up in the beach. Evening we went to Wandoor beach. What a beauty! we have never seen such a wonderful beach anywhere. Its serene and clean environment and calmness just touched our heart and soul. At 6 pm we visited Cellular jail for light and sound show. It was very nice and we really felt sad over the brutal torture of our freedom fighters by the British. The one hour programme was worth to watch.

Next day our programme scheduled for Ross Island and North bay. We went to the Aberdeen jetty to board our boat named Maka Marina. We have been told that the boat will arrive at 9.30 am. But no boat was seen and the officials announced that due to bad weather all boat services have been cancelled for the day. We disappointed. But what to do? Climate was not in our control. To utilise the time for the day we visited anthropological museum and marine museums and spent considerable time there. Both museums are informative and throw lot of lights on life style of the tribes of Andaman and marine lives. We also came to know lot about Andaman and its historical events.

Another day we proceeded for Ross Island and North bay which we missed earlier due to poor sea condition. We had an anxious moment as our boat to Ross Island, Mac Marina did not turn up due to rough sea condition. Fortunately the administration decided to carry all passengers in a big boat called MV Saroj. The boat started at 11 am and during a 10 minutes travel we experienced lot of roller coaster moments and finally the boat reached Ross Island safe. Ross island is maintained well by Indian Navy with lot of flora and fauna. They also displayed brief history of Ross Island, the Japanese invasion, the earth quake and handing over the Island to Indian Navy. We were amused to see plenty of deer roaming freely and also too friendly with tourists.  From there we went the North bay, the coral island. Here all adventure activities like under sea-walking, scuba diving, snorkeling are conducted. We went to this island in a glass boat and able to see the under water coral reefs, which were visible through the glass.

Also visited Havelock Island the beautiful Island in Andaman Nicobar. We reached the harbor at 7.15 a.m and the journey began at 8 am with Boat Makruzz. The moment we entered the boat we felt as if we are entering a big theater. It has capacity of 280 passengers. When the boat started there was lot of pitching due to sea condition. For the first 20 minutes we felt as if we were sitting on an epicenter of earthquake prone zone. But after twenty minutes it was a smooth ride as the sea condition was improved. Around 90 minutes it was a memorable journey. After reaching Havelock we immediately proceeded to Radha Nagar Beach, the paradise on earth (Asia’s beautiful beach as reported by Time Magazine in 2004). The blue waters, clean environment and lagoons mesmerized us and it transported us to some other world. We left this place by leaving our heart and soul there itself.

Next day we visited Cellular Jail. Before entering the main cell, we could see a lot of information about the jail, how it has been conceived, planned and built by the British. They also displayed the photographs of Indian freedom fighters who have been incarcerated in the jail. After seeing the cell my heart goes to those freedom fighters who suffered the inhuman treatment meted out by the British. The work station, the gallows depict the grim reminders of brutality of the British. I penned my tribute in the visitors diary kept at the entrance. After coming out of this jail I realized that how many people shed their blood to get freedom to India which we are enjoying now. It is our duty to cherish this freedom and always salute our freedom fighters and also make our future generation to realize the value of freedom.

We also visited Samundrika Marine Museum and Science Center today. In fisheries museum we could able to see rare breed of fishes and lot of corals. Science museum we could see lot of information about wave formation, space and few fun activities involving science.

Evening we went to Chidiatappu where Munda Pahar beach is located. This beach was so serene and we could not find any waves here.

On the whole our trip to Andaman was so memorable and would never forget the experience rest of our life.

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