Lola’s Visit!

Next month will mark the second anniversary of my move to India! I’ve changed so much over the last two years, I’ve adapted to many parts of Indian life, but I know I still have a long way to go. I know that no matter how long I live here, I will still get homesick from time to time. I have missed England quite a bit lately, especially family and friends.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when my wonderful friend, Lola, came to visit! It was so surreal to see her here in Nagpur! It took so long to sink in and even longer to get my head around how lucky I am to have a friend who will travel halfway around the Earth to come and visit us! Such a breath of fresh air and a boost to my morale!

Lola ramtek Feeding monkey

Argh, it’s hard to find the words to express how wonderful it was to have Lola here!

Lola was really keen to try the unique tastes of India and is a huge fan of pani puri but wasn’t so keen on dhokla. Dhokla is pretty unique, and although I adore it now, I was really surprised how weird it was when I first tried it too. Lola was also surprised at the amount of staring we had to try to ignore, seeing a foreigner in Nagpur is one thing, seeing two foreigners belonging to two different races seemed to blow people’s minds. College kids wanted selfies with us and families wanted to have their photograph taken standing next to us.

baby langur adorable

dog rangoli Nagpur street stall

It was so refreshing to see India again through fresh eyes, this was Lola’s first time in India so I wanted to show her the best Nagpur had to offer. We went to Ramtek temple and on a tigerless tiger safari. My homesickness, like a pair of sad sunglasses, had stopped me seeing the incredible and colourful side to India. Lola’s visit removed the shades.

I really hope Lola had as much fun as we did, friends are such a gift and I feel so blessed! Thank you, gorgeous Lola!!

Friends together Ramtek Lake

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Ramtek: An Ancient Temple of Monkeys & Myth

On top of a mountain near Nagpur, sits an ancient Lord Rama temple.  According to legend, Lord Rama resided on this mountain for a while whilst he was in exile. Lord Rama (the seventh avatar of Vishnu) was a beloved king, husband to beautiful Sita, and the hero of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. 

Here is my own short and sweet retelling of the Ramayana:

Thousands of years ago, the king of Ayodhya had four sons and three wives. Lord Rama was the eldest of these sons and next in line to the throne. Lord Rama’s step mother tricked the elderly king into sending Lord Rama into exile for fourteen years so her son, Bharata, would be the heir to the kingdom. Lord Rama’s wife and his brother, Lakshmana, followed Lord Rama into exile to keep him company, they lived a happy and simple life together.

Their tranquil life didn’t last for long. The evil ten headed demon, Ravana, kidnaps Sita wanting to make her his own wife. Lord Rama and Lakshmana, with the help of the mighty monkey Lord Hanuman, assemble an army of monkeys to rescue her.  The bloodthirsty battle goes on for many days, finally Lord Rama’s army is victorious. Ravana is defeated and Sita is free.

Once the fourteen years of exile were over, Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya as a King and Sita returned to Ayodhya as a mother to twin boys. Sadly, the citizens of Lord Rama’s kingdom were suspicious of Sita, they assumed she must have had an affair with Ravana whilst in his clutches. The kingdom demand that she prove her purity by walking through fire, if she was pure, she would remain unharmed. Sita walked through the flames and emerged untouched, she was indeed pure. Unfortunately, the people were still not satisfied and refused to accept her as their queen. She looked at the people as they protested, unconvinced of her purity. Sita called out to Mother Earth, ‘if I am pure, let the Earth consume me’. The Earth opened and Sita was never seen again. The people of Ayodhya got their proof but Lord Rama lost his wife and his son’s lost their mother.

View from Ramtek

Lord Rama is our family deity. My husband’s grandparents found gold statues of Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman on their land and worshiped them ever since. I have looked forward to visiting Ramtek temple since I moved to Nagpur, and according to the guidebooks, Ramtek is the only place worth visiting around these parts (a little bit harsh). My family coming to Nagpur was the perfect excuse and Ramtek was definitely worth the visit!

There is a vertical drive up the mountain and a steep walk after that but the scary drive and sore calves are worth it, the view you get from the top of the mountain is breathtaking. You can see for miles across lakes, villages and trees. It seems that Lord Rama’s monkey army never left Ramtek, the monkeys are the personality of this holy site.

Welcome to Ramtek, please leave any edible items you have with us. Thank you, enjoy your trip. (Check out the baby, reclining)

Welcome to Ramtek, please leave any edible items you have with us. Thank you, enjoy your trip. (Check out the baby, reclining)

The monkeys of Ramtek welcome you by kindly taking any edible items from you, by force. They are not aggressive but they sure are determined to relive you of your food. You can buy bags of chickpeas to hand feed the monkeys from the stalls outside the temple. These stalls display food in monkey grabbing distance but the monkeys do not touch the food until you have bought it. As soon as money has changed hands it is fair game. Either the monkeys have learnt not to touch the shopkeepers food the hard way or they are just that respectful (I am guessing a stick may have been involved).

These monkeys are really intelligent, a large monkey opened my Dad’s clenched fist, when he finally pulled open his hand and found it was empty he looked up at him and with a look of annoyance he slapped himself on the head, as if to say ‘are you serious, man!?’.

My Dad @ Ramtek

My Dad

Sleep dog

On the ancient stone temple walls there are ornate figures, beautiful patterns and of course, monkeys. It was a hot day and when we took off our shoes to enter the temple, those ancient stones burnt our feet!  There is a beautiful atmosphere inside the temple, well, if you can ignore people taking photographs of the foreigners. One guy begged my husband to let him take a photo of me posing with his family, didn’t have the heart to say ‘no’ to the group of girls waiting expectantly.

Ramtek carving stone

Monkeys at Ramtek

Monkey helping with the washing up

Very helpful, doing the washing up

Beautiful little girl and a cheeky monkey

Monkey Twins

Monkey business

My little sister

I find it quite interesting that Lord Rama’s monkey army has never left Ramtek. They live in harmony with the visitors and shopkeepers, keeping close to the memory of their beloved Lord Rama. It makes Ramtek a very special place.  I loved it and my family loved it!

The deity of the temple is known to grant wishes, so if you ever visit Ramtek, don’t forget to make a wish!

Ramtek, Nagpur

My mum and youngest sister walking up to the temple