Archive for July 2017

Why every biker should go to Pali...

Om Banna's Royal Enfield being worshipped
Om Banna's Royal Enfield

Pali is home to the Om Banna shrine where a Royal Enfield is worshipped by its followers daily

Bikers love their bikes and I'm no different. We love our motorcycles as much as anything else in the world and if you're also one such creature, you definitely must visit the village of Pali in Rajasthan.

Pali is a place where a motorcycle is worshipped literally. But there's a good reason behind it.
This image you see here is that of Om Banna's motorcycle. 

Who is Om Banna? And why are they worshipping his motorcycle?

During the December of 1991, on a cold winter night, Om Banna, a drunk villager of Pali village (Rajasthan) crashed his motorcycle on the highway and died. Police impounded the motorcycle while the case was being investigated; however, next day, the bike reached at the accident location once again. Police thought the some village kids are playing a prank and so this time they chained the motorcycle, the bike still reached the same place next morning. This kept on happening and there were stories of Om Banna's spirit roaming the highway helping distressed travellers. Eventually the villagers realized the powers of Om Banna's spirit and as a tribute to him, the motorcycle was given a permanent place next to the accident site by the highway and the place is now known as the Shri Om Banna shrine - perhaps, the only one of its kind in the world. 

Om Banna temple at Pali, Rajasthan
One-of-its-kind shrine

So, what offering (prashad) do you make at such a place?

The same stuff that consumed - Om Banna - alcohol. Yes, you will see bottles of whiskey, beer and vodka been offered as "prashad" (religious offering) at the shrine.

Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and unlike any other temple here there are strict guidelines prohibiting the consumption of the same "prashad", in this case alcohol, in and around shrine's premises.

Om Banna Temple on Pali-Jodhpur highway in Rajasthan
You can offer liquor to Om Banna's photo but can't consume it
And it doesn't end there. In fact, the tree which Om Banna hit and lost his life to is also worshipped by the followers. It's few meters from the above shrine at the side of the highway. You can see Indian as well as foreign tourists stop by to check out this one-of-its-kind place. Whenever you're travelling to Jodhpur, make sure you take out time to visit this place.

Om Banna Temple on Pali-Jodhpur Highway
The tree which cost Om Banna his life

The place is located about 20 km from the village of Pali on the Pali-Jodhpur highway. It's definitely one of the most amusing places in India.

Jai Om Banna!

Why riding solo to Ladakh makes sense

Leh-Ladakh road trip on bike
(Image Credit: Binoy Parikh)

So, you’re bitten by the travel bug and you want to go on the mother of all bike trips – The Ladakh Expedition? Super! But, should you be going there alone or with your mates? Logic says that when you’re planning a ride to long distances, especially to a place like Ladakh, you should do it in a group. But then again, logic and adventure have never really been best of friends. So, which one should you choose? I’d say, go solo!

Here’s why:

1. Custom made trip

Choose your own itinerary. Make your own travel plan. You don’t have to worry about whether others are unwilling to go to a particular place or not. If the destination exists on the map and if you wish to go, just march on ahead. You’ll be free to head off onto the unbeaten path and take the road less traveled.

2. Freedom

Ride your own trip, not somebody else’s calendar. Motorcycling trip is supposed to be fun and not something you’re forced to do because you’re with the group and they’re running out of time. It’s not a rally where you pass checkpoints and stamp your visit; it’s about taking your sweet time to enjoy the ride, the sight and the destination.

While riding solo, you’re not obliged to ride down to the next destination because others have decided to do so, when all you want to do is relax for a couple of more days and breathe in the beauty of the town you’re present in. Just because someone else has put up a tourist destination in the travel plan, doesn’t mean you have to go there. If you wish to stay longer at a particular village OR if you don’t want to go the next town but take a scenic week long detour, you’ll have all the liberty to do it. Spend more time at a location or skip on altogether, it’s totally your choice. Beauty of riding solo lies in this independence.

3. Manage your pace

You’re the best judge of your own pace. When alone, you don’t need to slow down for somebody else nor are you required to ride like a maniac to make sure you keep up with the others. Instances where the entire group slowed down because a photogeek wanted to spend 2 hours clicking pictures are pretty common. There have also been scenarios where the faster rider paid no heed to the slower ones and the entire group split in a 50 km range.

4. Make new friends

Though traveling in a group makes sure you have company at all times, it also keeps you closed, and you never really feel the need to interact with other people. At the same time, while riding alone, you invariably start mingling with others. Irrespective of how introverted you are, you will always make an effort to talk to the strangers. New friendships will prosper and you will get to meet a lot many new and interesting people. You’ll know their stories and you’ll share some of your own too.

5. Make your adventure even more…erm…adventurous!!

It’s said that safety is in numbers. But, do you really want to be safe? In that case, you’re probably better off warming your couch, drinking hot chocolate and clicking through pictures of your friends on Facebook. If you want to take the adventure quotient of your ride a notch above everybody else’s, go solo. Yes, “Brotherhood” and all that is fun; but solo riding is where the serious stuff comes to the surface.

With no support vehicle or fellow riders to fall back onto, failing is strictly not an option. When you don’t have the expertise of a mechanic at hand, or the luxury to have someone else ride your machine when you get fatigued; you’re left with just one choice – to soldier on no matter what! And at the end of the day, when you finally get the sight of the civilization; the ground reality of your adventure sinks in and you realize what you did was not standard layman stuff.

6. Life-altering experience

Riding on high mountain passes with your buddies is like a rock concert. The sound of the engines reverberating off the cliffs as you gallop mile after mile is a memorable experience.

But, when you do the same feat all alone, it’s like a poetry in motion. Riding in the vast spread of nothingness - just you and your machine - listening to the music of the wind and the whisper of the stream; it’s truly breathtaking! Stop your bike, turn off the engine and listen to the nature – it’ll be so quiet that you’d hear your own thoughts, out loud. Enchanting!

Jispa to Leh route - Moore Plains

7. Master of all

For everything that can and will go wrong, you’ll only have yourself to fall back on to. You’ll be required to learn all the trades. As a solo rider, you’re the navigator as well as the sailor. You’re the paramedic team as well as the support crew. It’s all you. Irrespective of who you are, for this solo trip, you got to be Mr. Know-It-All. And when this reality strikes you, that’s when you’ll invariably start learning things, mastering them.

8. You owe it to yourself

You’re better than you give yourself credit for. You’re stronger than you think you are. To confide in your ability and to tell your distractors how wrong they are, just do it.

9. It’s addictive

This is one addiction you’d never want to cure yourself of. Do it once and you’ll want to do it over and over again for the rest of your life. A bad experience with a group might put you off but there’s no chance of that happening when the only company you have is your own self. You may fall, bleed, breakdown and get in trouble in middle of nowhere, but honestly speaking, you wouldn’t want it to happen any other way.

10. Respect

There’s no trophy or medal. The only thing you’re slated to gain from the outside world is Respect. Riding to the Top of the World – Khardung La is no mean feat even when you do it in a group, but when you do it all alone, the respect quotient raises 10 fold.

Solo riding to the gorgeous wilderness of Ladakh is all this and much more; stuff that words fail to describe. So just get out there and get going. You’ll come back with an experience that you’ll tell your grandkids about. I promise.
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