Lucknow: The countdown for Maha Kumbh 2013, beginning on Jan 14, has started, as hundreds of religious seers and followers of the Juna Akahada, Agni and Avahan Akahadas entered the Mela premises near the Sangam in Allahabad on Tuesday. The Sangam, the spot near where the Maha Kumbh occurs, is the intersection of rivers Yamuna and Ganga; the mythical Saraswati is also believed to meet these two rivers here.
The Juna Akhada did the 'peshwai' (leading from the front) in the afternoon, signalling the beginning of the Kumbh. Led by Shivanand Giri Maharaj and Avdheshanand Giri, seated on silver thrones atop horse chariots, the members of the Juna Akhada, said to be the oldest of the 13 akhada's (sects) in the world of saints, danced to religious songs and to the beating of drums and blowing of conches, as they made way into the sprawling mela area. The Juna Akahada was formed by Adi Guru Shankracharya and is considered to be the oldest of the akhadas, thus given the honour of leading the saints.
Shimla: Tourists are drawn by snow in Shimla on Christmas. Will the Queen of the Hills see a blanket of white this Christmas? The capital of Himachal Pradesh is known for the grandeur of many of its buildings that once housed institutions of imperial power when Shimla served as the summer capital of British India. This year, after a gap of over two decades, there are hopes of a white Christmas here.
Met officials, however, are wary. They say it is still too early to predict whether Shimla will have snow cover this Christmas. Christmas snows have been eluding Shimla since 1991 when heavy snowfall occurred on Christmas Eve. And except in 2010, there has been no white New Year's Eve either in the past nine years.
Panaji: It is as if some evil eye has been cast on Goa's golden goose - its beaches - which year after year harvest tourists by the hundreds of thousands. If natural threats like erosion weren't serious enough, the latest threat for Goa's golden beaches comes from greedy land-hoggers who, the Goa government believes, are steadily encroaching on the beaches, all of which are state-owned. Alarmed by this, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) is now in the process of commissioning a survey which will identify the encroached beach land before a legal move is calibrated to wrest it back.
"It has come to our attention. We have come across several instances where the beach land is being encroached upon. Since the commercial value of the land along the coast is high, we want to exactly know what the position is," GTDC managing director Nikhil Desai told IANS. Desai's concern stems from the fact that most of the encroachments have occurred in Goa's two prized coastal sub-districts - Bardez in north Goa which is home to some of the most popular beaches like Calangute, Baga, Candolim, Anjuna and Vagator and Miramar and Salcete in South Goa with beaches like Colva, Betalbatim and Benaulim.
Panaji: The famed Goa carnival is opening up to neighbours and others. In a major break from tradition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has opened the carnival to participation by neighbouring states like Maharashtra and Karnataka as also Gujarat. According to Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar, the opening up of the carnival, being held in February 2013, to other states would help expose Goa's unique culture to the rest of India.
The Goa carnival is similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro and not unlike the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. Citizens pour out into the streets to watch the colourful marchers prancing around in abandon led by 'King Momo', a gregarious personality chosen annually, who is given the key to the celebrations in town. Goa's colourful carnival processions, which are normally held in February before the holy season of Lent, are symbolic of Goa's unique colonial Portuguese legacy. The three invitee states, of course, were governed by the British.
Shimla: A red balloon was on Tuesday tethered to the roof of the British-era municipal corporation building for the first time this season, signalling as it has for decades that Asia's oldest ice skating rink in this hill town was open. The temperature dipped early on Tuesday to 8.8 degrees Celsius, and Shimla woke up to a thick sheet of ice on the rink's clay surface. The skaters, mainly youngsters, lost no time in trying it out.
"This morning we had a trial session and it was successful. We are hoping to have regular sessions, initially in the morning, from Wednesday," Bhuvnesh Banga, secretary of the skating club set up in 1920, told IANS. "What a timely start?" remarked octogenarian Subhash Negi, who came along with his grandchildren, with skating gear. But there's no real hurry, say the organisers -- the rink will remain covered with the ice till the end of February.
Kochi: The three-month-long Kochi-Muziris Biennale that opens on Dec 12 with an art and music gala will be playing to packed houses in this ancient Kerala city's tourism industry that is currently stagnating. Kochi (formerly Cochin), dating back to Biblical times, is booked for 12/12/12 -- a day that many god-fearing residents await with bated breath. The biennale will exhibit artwork and create site-specific installations in Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Kochi city and Muziris town, the site of an early secular port that was washed away by a deluge around 13 AD.
The non-profit event will use heritage buildings and disused structures in the old quarters of Kochi and Muziris as exhibition venues to regenerate the region's history and open its culture to the world. The tourism industry is thus pinning its hopes on the biennale to breathe new blood in the city's stagnating tourism economy. The inflow of domestic and foreign visitors here has not seen any increase despite investment and growth in the shipping trade. The bulk of tourists here are business travellers who come for short stays.
Shimla: Hills near the popular tourist destinations of Shimla and Manali Thursday saw light snowfall - the season's first spell, a weather official said here, triggering a rush of tourists. Tourist spots near Shimla, like honeymooners' paradise Kufri, Fagu and Narkanda experienced snowfall but the flakes melted within few hours. The hills near Manali like Kothi and Marhi also have experienced snowfall, an official of the Met Office said.
The majestic Rohtang Pass, located 52 km from Manali at an altitude of 13,050 feet that lies on the Manali-Leh National Highway-21, saw more than one foot of snow. The official said the higher reaches in Lahaul and Spiti, Chamba, Kinnaur and Kullu districts experienced moderate snowfall. "There are chances of snowfall in high hills till Friday as western disturbances are active the region," he said. Western disturbance is an atmospheric system that causes rains and snowfall.
London: London, described as world's most visited city has become a favourite tourist attraction for the Indians as visitors from the country grew by nearly 28 per cent from last year, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said. According to figures from the Mayor's official tourism and investment agency, London & Partners, the number of Indian tourists is now at a five year high, with 145,000 visitors in the first half of 2012 - up 28 per cent from 113,000 in the same period last year. Over the last three years, visitor numbers from India and the wider Asia region have risen dramatically, with spend from Asia now accounting for almost 10 per cent of total tourism expenditure. The Mayor outlined what makes London the best big city in Europe both to invest in and visit, a statement from his office here said.
"London's boundless opportunities, both as a vibrant international destination and a phenomenally well-connected business and investment hub, are ripe and plentiful - especially for surging emerging economies like India's," Johnson said. "As well as wooing record numbers of tourists from India, London is also attracting leading Indian firms in the leisure and hospitality sector, creating jobs and growth for the capital," he said.
London: People spend more than two hours a week dwelling on regrets, with not having travelled enough as the most common cause of remorse, a new UK study has found. More than half of those surveyed admitted wishing they had made a different life choice at some point, such as having a different career, living somewhere else or marrying someone different, according to research by the British Heart Foundation. A fifth of women out of 2,000 participants regretted wasting time with the wrong partner, compared to 10 per cent of men, the 'Daily Mail' reported.
A quarter of those surveyed said they did not believe it was possible to live a life without regrets, perhaps explaining why, on average, people spend 19 minutes per day - or more than two hours a week - thinking about things we could have done differently. More than a third of people blame a lack of cash for preventing us from fulfilling our dreams, while 25 per cent think loved ones held us back. However, 32 per cent admitted that the blame lay with their own lack of courage, the study found.
Agartala: India and Bangladesh would soon sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to set up a railway link between Tripura capital Agartala and Bangladesh's southeastern city of Akhaurah, officials here said on Friday. At a cost of Rs 271 crore, India will build a 15-km railway track linking Agartala with Akhaurah which is an important railway junction connected to the Chittagong international port, resource-rich Sylhet and Dhaka. Of the 15-km rail line, five km of track falls in the Indian territory and the remaining in Bangladesh.
A six-member inter-ministerial team, led by Radhika L. Lokesh, joint secretary in the external affairs ministry, is now on an on-the-spot final study in Tripura. "The inter-ministerial team after visiting Tripura would submit a report to the government of India. Then, the Indian government would approach the Bangladesh government to sign the MoU," a Tripura government official told reporters. "After signing the MoU, the actual works of the railway project would start," the official said.