ABC… All about Belgian Chocolates

Spain and Italy have their Olive Oil while France is known for its Wine. Belgium is all about its Chocolates and Beers.  Although not an ardent chocoholic, just spent some good time exploring the Belgian chocolate shops in Brussels and Bruges. With beautiful decorations these shop display these products in the best possible way so as to attract even a non enthusiast buyer not to talk about the photographers. I started with a small but nicely decorated chocoleterie just behind the bourse in Brussels named ‘Le Comptoir De Mathilde’ and here as the photographs which explain everything…

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Chocolaterie ‘La Comptoir De Mathilde’… an attractive little store near the grand place in Brussels. Sells traditional chocolates. You can have a instant hot chocolate even. Very humble staff to explain you all about the Belgian chocolates… Impressive and must visit

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Lots of varieties and flavours in the loose chocolates to select from. You have a choice of multiple selection as all these varieties have same price.

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Pamper yourself…..A chocolate with hammer to break it….

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Varieties of offerings… With different nuts and different chocolates…

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Ideal differential focusing object… ?

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Chocolate coated with puffed rice

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Truck laden with the sinful delights

While walking around the Bruges town, I selected a store named ‘La Belgique Gourmande’ to explore the confectioneries and chocolates. The shop is located near the central market and the beautiful arrangement of the ever vibrantly colored sweets naturally attracts the visitors attention. Mainly sells Cuberdons, Macaroons, Pearl Chocolates, Cookies etc. The staff was courteous enough to increase my confectionery knowledge to some extent. Following pictures are from this shop….

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A chocolate shop in central Bruges, Belgium

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They call these as ‘Macaroons’. Sugary treats and heavenly feelings. Could not taste all the flavours…

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The displays of Macaroons in the shops resemble something like high end jewelry shops…

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Vibrantly colored Macaroon

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Conically shapes, Sweet, slightly hard outside but soft inside these delicacies are called ‘Cuberdons’

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This one is the orignal Cuberdon…. Red Raspberry. When inquired about the recipe, I was told that its a secret however it takes around a week to take out a perfect Cuberdon due to slow ageing process.

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Pineapple flavor. Inexpensive. Handmade. Available in splash of colors and favors. These sweets sure stand tall in popularity among the tourists…

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Chocolate coated orange slices in Bruges shop

A paradise for the sweet lovers. ‘La Cure Gourmande’ are one of the renowned french confectioners with branches at Dubai,  Abu Dhabi, Brussels etc. The shop looks like a fairy tale location. Dont hesitate to taste the sample free cookies offered with a smile.

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La Cure Gourmande, Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

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Near to the grand place is this famous candy and biscuits shop named ‘La Cure Gourmande’. The shop naturally attracts the tourists and ardent photographers thanks to the wonderful lighting and products arrangement in the shop… Photo No 1

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Olive chocolates…. No these are just Olive shaped and nothing to do with the real olives

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Olive chocolates beautifully packed and displayed @ La Cure Gourmande, Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

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This aesthetic packaging is really appealing. I bought few variety of boxes as souvenirs.

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Their logo… This cute pigtailed french child… inviting you to buy these biscuits, chocolates, candies, fudges, caramels etc

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The very humble candies

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Prices are quite high. These tins filled with the cookies will cost you around 20 euros or 25 USD. The elaborate displays will sure compel you to buy.

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Lollypops… With very friendly staff you will have a special feeling at this place. I recommend a must visit whenever you get a chance….

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Visit http://www.curegourmande.com/ for more details about these confectioners…

Please feel free to leave your comments on this blog. I can be reached at agrawalsh@hotmail.com

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On a religious trail…

Divine monuments always inspired me. Ancient temples particularly built with the black stones with spectacular arches and interiors are really a treat for any any enthusiast photographer. Sharing herewith some of the photos and brief information on these holy structures (where I have visited and shot these photos in last seven years). Temples, where faith still unites the mankind…

The Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab

Golden Temple at Dawn Hours

Golden Temple at Dawn Hours

Golden temple or The Harminder Sahib…. An epitome of belief and sikh pilgrimage across the globe also invites people irrespective of caste or religions. For me, it was like a life time wish coming true when I entered the temple premises in December 2012 and witnessing the main temple bathing in the golden rays of dawn hours amid chants of the sacred Gurbani being broadcast live…

The Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab

The Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab

Built in the 16th century by 5th guru ‘Guru Arjan Dev’ it is learnt that most of the golden artwork was completed in 19th century. The shrine is built on a level lower to the ground and has four entrances. Everyday the temple also serves ‘Langar’  which is nothing but sacred food prepared by the volunteer devotees.

Golden Temple Amritsar

Golden Temple Amritsar

The main temple is constructed with white marble and overlaid with golden leaves stands in the centre of the ‘Sarovar’ or a giant pool of holy water which is refreshing, transparent and reflective. As understood, this water is fetched from the river Ganges. The water is believed to have healing properties.

Ganapati Pule, Maharastra

Maha Ganapati of Ganapati Pule

Lord Ganesha temple at Ganapati Pule (on Mumbai Goa NH9) is one of the oldest temple in the region. Built on the beautiful beach this temple is believed to be famous for fulfulling wishes. You can see people conveying their wishes to Lord Ganesha through a huge Bronze Mouse in front of the temple. Pictursque, Serene, Simple and Clean atomosphere abodes this holy place…

Chamundeshwari Temple, Mysore

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Located on Chamundi Hills near Mysore city of Karnataka, this temple offers a picturesque view. Built around 11th century, the temple has excellent carvings. The temple is dedicated to goddess ‘Chamundeshwari’ also know as ‘Mahishasur Mardini’ as is believed to be an incarnation of goddess Durga. It is also believed that the goddess Chamundeshwari resided at this hill after killing the demon ‘Mahishasur’. You may also like to visit a huge rather collosal statue of  ‘Nandi’ or bull while descending from the hill.

Shri Swami Narayan Temple, Tithal, Valsad, Gujarat

Swami Narayan Temple at Tithal

Temple of Lord Swami Narayan at Tithal in Valsad district. One good about all Lord Swami Narayan temples is that they do not prohibit photography and most of their temples are a treat for any photography enthusiast. This temple, built from red granite is simple but architectually a marvel. Must visit when u r on Mumbai Ahmedabad circuit.

Akshar Dham Temple, Bhuj, Kutch, Gujarat

Lord Swami Narayan Temple of Bhuj

Lord Swami Narayan temple in Bhuj. Made from white Marble the temple has large number of pillar on which epics of Ramanyana and Mahabharata have been carved.

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There is saying…’Kutch nahi dekha to kuch nahi dekha’ and this temple really makes this saying meaningful. Temple has got ample parking space, Very neat and tidy environment, No nonsense behaaviour of the priests. Feels like visiting again and again…

Narayan Sarovar Temple, Kutch

Narayan Sarovar Temple, Kutch

Narayan Sarovar Temple, Kutch

Narayan Sarovar is located on the western boundary of Kutch district of Gujarat and is extremely close to the Pakistan border. Awesone architecture and ancient. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu (also called as ‘Narayan’) this temple can be reached from Bhuj which is almost 150 km from here. Narayan Sarovar Lake is one of the 5 holy lakes of Hinduism (others being Mansarovar in Tibet, Pampa in Karnataka, Bhuvaneshwar in Orissa and Pushkar in Rajasthan). The lake is associated with a time of drought in the Puranic area, when Narayan (a form of Lord Vishnu) appeared in response to the prayers and touched the land with his toe, creating the lake.

Chhatri’s of Indore

Holkars Chhatri @ Indore in MP

Holkars Chhatri @ Indore in MP

In the heartand of Indore, the beautiful city of Madhya Pradesh, stands some superbly carved temples also known as ‘Chhatri’s’ built by the Holkar dynasty. These represent the glorious reigns of the erstwhile architectural marvels. Pyramidal in shape, these structures have survived the wrath of time and are still a great tourist attractions.

Shri Mahalaxmi Temple, Kolhapur, Maharastra

Goddess Mahalaxmi Temple @ Kolhapur

Goddess Mahalaxmi Temple @ Kolhapur

Although photography is prohibited in the Mahalaxmi temple of the Kolhapur, beauty of the architecturally built temple compells any enthusiastic photographer to shoot and preserve the memories. Sanctum sanctorum of the entire temple is mounted on a square platform of black stone and from inside the entire temple looks like a monolithis structure. I wish they allowed me to shoot the interiors too….

Lord Hanuman Temple, JSW Ispat plant, Dolvi, Raigad, Maharastra

Lord Hanuman Temple @ Ispat Dolvi Plant

Lord Hanuman Temple @ Ispat Dolvi Plant

JSW Ispat’s (earlier known as ‘Ispat Industries Ltd’) 3 mtpa steel plant is located at Dolvi on Mumbai – Goa highway. I am one of the proud ex-employee of this one of the largest integrated steel plant in India. In 2008, this beautiful temple was inaugurated with much fan fare and became a favorite stop over for many people due to its unique gothic look alike acrchitecture.  Surrounded by four water bodies and amazing painting on the ceiling, this temple is a must see whenever you are cruising on the Mumbai Goa highway…

View from Lord Hanuman Temple @ Ispat Dolvi Plant

Another view from Lord Hanuman Temple @ Ispat Dolvi Plant

Birla Mandir, Hyderabad, AP

Lord Venkateshwara @ Birla Mandir in Hyderabad

Lord Venkateshwara @ Birla Mandir in Hyderabad

Ganapati Bappa Morya

Pune Ganesh Festival

Pune, the harbinger of the Lord Ganesha festival started by Lokmanya Tilak, is still continuing the legacy laid by the great freedom fighter. I have been visiting Pune during Ganesh Chaturthi time every year since last 15 years without fail. Sharing herewith some of the photographs taken during these visits. Pune has its unique system of honouring or raking its Ganesha’s.  Given below is the list of ranks and some photographs of these mandals :

1)  Kasba Peth Ganapati

2) Tambadi Jogeshwari Ganapati

3) Guruji Talim Ganapati

4) Tulsibag Ganapati and

5) Kesariwada Ganapati

Ganapati of Shrimant Dagadu Seth Halawai

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Makeshift Pandal (say temple rather) of Lord Ganesha of Seth Dagadu Seth Halawai… The permanant temple is located near Shaniwar vada and the idol is shifted to a makeshift pandal every year during Ganesh chaturthi. This is amongst most popular and visited by millions during this 10 day festival.

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Founded in the year 1893. The main idol is around 8 feet in height and adorned with gold ornaments of several kilograms. Truck loads of coconuts in the form of garlands are offered to the diety to get please him and getting the wishes fulfilled.

Makeshift Ganesh Pandal of Shrimant Dagadu Seth Halwai at Pune in year 2011

Makeshift Ganesh Pandal of Shrimant Dagadu Seth Halwai at Pune in year 2011

Lighting and decoration of the make shift temple is an attraction every year. The make shift temple incorporates new themes of historical importance, monuments, personalities etc every year. I have been witnessing themes of different categories ranging from Hawa Mahal of Jaipur to Meenakshi Temple…

Lord Ganesha of Shrimant Dagadu Seth Halawai of Pune

Lord Ganesha of Shrimant Dagadu Seth Halawai of Pune

Most of my visits, I had been lucky enough to get some very candid close ups of the lord. The above photo was taken in last year (2012).

Lord Ganesha @ Mandai in Pune

Lord Ganesha @ Mandai in Pune

Sharada – Ganapati idol of Mandai :  This is the permanand idol of this mandal where in goddess Sharda (wife of lord Ganesha) is sitting besides the lord. Perhaps the only kind of idol in the entire country. A symbolic idol is immersed on the 10th day of the festival. Started a century ago by the vegetable vendors of the adjacent Phule market, this mandal has got its own followers.

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Ranked fourth in the honours, Tulsibag ganapati (as the name suggests) is located in the narrow by lane of Tulsi bag (a market mainly known for sell of utensils and other domestic useful items). Huge idol with lots of silver ornaments.

Lord Ganesha @ Babu Genu Mandal in Pune

Lord Ganesha @ Babu Genu Mandal in Pune

Ganesha @ Babu Genu Mandal – Located extactly between the Dagadu Seth and Mandai Gapanapti, this mandal draws many devotees due to its pandal decoration. 

A superb lighting decoration depicting lord Balaji at one of the Ganesha Pandal in Pune

A superb lighting decoration depicting lord Balaji at one of the Ganesha Pandal in Pune

The entire Pune city goes frenzied during this 10 day long festival. Flocks of people are seen walking on the street for witnessing the best of the decorations and Ganesha idols. The photo was taken by me at a lesser known mandal while wandering along with the crowd…

Pen – A town in Maharashtra where trunk of the Elephant god takes the twist

Pen is a small town in the Raigad district of Maharashtra renowned for the beautiful lord Ganesha idols it makes. This small town is divided into several small by lanes (called ‘Ali’) where the craftsmen are busy throughout the year in crafting the idols of god.

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There may be some errors in the information gathered / provided and I earnestly request all of you to give honest feedback on this post.

Magnificient Architecture of Ancient India – Stupas of Sanchi

Always wondered about the great engineering skills our Indian ancient civilisation possessed. You are taken aback thousands of years whenever you visit these rich Indian heritage sites be it the religious structures like Stupas of Sanchi or Monuments of Hampi or temples of Khajuraho & Meenakshi etc. Most of these ancient monuments are unique in architecture and need to be preserved from natural and other calamities looking to their importance in Indian history and heritage. In year 2011 I had several visits to MP and during one of those visits, I had an opportunity to visit the Sanchi (a world heritage site) to witness the amazing craftmanship of the then civilisation had put in to erect these fantastic structures. The stupas along with few temples and monasteries were built on a hillock by Emperor Ashoka and dates upto 300 BC.

Places must see : Stupa No 1 or Great Stupa and its 4 gateways, Archaeological museum, Monastery and temple. Brief information about the site is given on the ASI plaque near the great stupa and the same is shown below.

1. Great stupa

The stupa no 1 is also known as ‘great stupa’. This hemispheral dome shaped structure is around 100 ft in dia and 50 ft in height. Apparently it seems to be made of bricks and mortar. There is a raised terrace with fenced circumference around the dome shaped stupa. The stupa is accessible from 4 sides through magnificiently carved gateways (called as ‘toran Dwar’ in hindi) depicting the epics of lord budha’s life and morale stories called ‘Jataka’s.  It is learn that each of these gateways have been made from carving out a single stones weighing more than 400 tons.

Great Stupa

Great Stupa

Lord Buddha Statue on the periphery of Main Sanchi Stupa

Lord Buddha Statue on the periphery of Main Sanchi Stupa

a) Northern Gateway

This is one of the best preserved gateways amongst the four however with the wheel in the uppermost area is in broken condition. The carvings on the gateway depicts scenes from Lord Buddha’s life. Both the pillars are supported by four elephants facing different directions. The gateway is crowned with a wheel of law which is in broken condition.

Northern Gateway

Northern Gateway

b) Southern Gateway

As learnt, this is the oldest amongst the four gates depicting scenes from Lord Buddha’s birth and some events from the life of Emperor Ashoka after his adopting the Buddhism.

Southern Gateway@Sanchi

Southern Gateway@Sanchi

Four back to back lions are sitting pretty on both the square shaped pillars of this gate. These back to back four lions are not knew to any Indian as they form our state emblem (I feel, saying this, you guys must be comparing the emblem on the Indian coin with the above image). The gateway is carved with the stories of Buddha’s birth and also life of Ashoka the Great after he took over Buddhism.

The four lions

The four lions

c) Western Gateway

Four pot bellied dwarfs are carved on each of the supporting pillar and this gateway mainly depicts the scenes from seven incarnations of lord Buddha.

Western Gateway of Sanchi

Western Gateway of Sanchi

d) Eastern Gateway

This is the most interesting of the four gateways. This eastern gateway depicts scenes of Lord Buddha’s entry into Nirvana. The ‘Yakshi’ or the statue of a goddess hangs beautifully on one of the pillars while it is learnt that the gateway originally contained two statues.

Yakshi hanging on the Eastern Gateway

Yakshi hanging on the Eastern Gateway

2. Pillars

Pillars near the Great Stupa

Pillars near the Great Stupa

3. Ruins of the Temple from the Gupta Era

Remains of temple from Gupta era

Remains of temple from Gupta era

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Remains near the Buddhist Vihara

Remains near the Buddhist Vihara

How to reach & where to stay

Sanchi is around 45 km eastwards from Bhopal and is easily accessible by road. One way is through the district of Raisen whereas there is another direct road from Bhopal bypass near Karond flyover. The nearby town is Vidisha (Loksabha constituency of Shri AB Bajpai). At Sanchi, there is an excellence restaurant run by MPTDC in case you want to stay or have food.

A trip I will always relish in my life and would like to come here again for the serene, calm and holy atomosphere. The dedication with which this architecture might have been built, makes you feel dwarf. Guys, I tried my best to collect the information about this site through the local guide, plaques and some information from internet but still if I have missed some things or any facts, my sincere apologies.

Your comments for improvements / suggestions would help me a lot in improving the contents my blogs.