Yugadi Habbada Shubhashayagalu! (Kannada for “Greetings for the festival of Ugadi”)
What is Ugadi?
Ugadi is New Years Day and falls on 18th March (in 2018) and is a public holiday. Ugadi literally means “the beginning of a new age”. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar so signifies a change in the moon’s orbit.
How is it celebrated?
It is celebrated with gatherings of the extended family with lots of food and feasting. The day begins with a ritual shower or ‘oil bath’ followed by prayers. Mantras are chanted and predictions are made for the new year.
What are the preparations for the festival?
Preparations begin a week before the festival with houses given a thorough wash, shopping for new clothes and buying other festival items. On the morning of Ugadi people wake up before dawn and take a head bath after which their house door / entrance is decorated with fresh mango leaves (to signify good crops and general well being). People also splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house (can you imagine the smell!) as well as drawing colourful floral designs.
On the day of Ugadi
People perform the ritual worship to god invoking his blessings before they start off the new year. They pray for health, wealth and prosperity and success in business -it’s a good time to start new businesses.
There is a symbolic eating of a dish with six tastes called ‘Bevu-Bella’. It symbolises that life is a different mix of different experiences: sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. These experiences should all be accepted equally throughout the new year. The six tastes are: sour (tamarind juice), sweet (jaggery), salt, bitter (Neem buds), astringent (unripened mango) and spicy hot (green chilli) or pungent and are called Ugadi Pachhadi. It is only served during this festival.
In Karnataka (the state in which Bangalore is) there is a special dish called Obbattu (or Holige) which is a filling of jaggery and boiled sugar to make a paste which is stuffed inside a roti. It is eaten with ghee, milk or coconut milk and can be eaten hot or cold.
I am so busy with college work these days that I am struggling to squeeze in blogposts. We recently holidayed in Sri Lanka for the Diwali holidays (which coincide with the UK half term holidays). Our Travel Period was From 16th – 23rd Oct 2017. Rez has helped me compile this blog with his review of places from his Trip Advisor posts. We can all highly recommend Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful country with lovely people, weather, food and infrastructure.
We were met on arrival at Columbo airport by our wonderful guide and driver Charmalla. It was around 9pm when we arrived (the only direct flight with out an overnight flight) so we transferred directly from the Airport to our hotel in Katunayake.
There were a few things we noticed immediately; the roads were smooth, there was no rubbish on the roads and the autos were Red, green, blue, black and cream.
Rez’s ReviewTamarind Tree Hotel, Katunayake
Pleasant hotel with large colonial style rooms grouped in lodges. The hotel has a pool and has ponies wandering the grounds. Breakfast was split into veg first then non veg next. Self service tea and coffee.
. Day 02: Transfer from Katunayake to Habarana
Dambulla is a large town in the Matale district in the central province of Sri Lanka. It is the centre of vegetable distribution in the country.
It is also the location of the largest and best preserved temple complex in Sri Lanka.
Sungreen Resort and Spa, Habarana
Lovely hotel with rooms arranged around a central pool. Food was delicious and the hotel was ideally placed for such attractions as the Dambulla Golden Cave Temple complex, the Sigiriya Lion Rock and the elephant safari in Minneriya National Park. The staff are very friendly and welcoming.
Dambulla Golden Cave Temple, Dambulla
Set into the overhang of what can only be described as a ridiculously large boulder, the Dambulla Golden Cave Temples are accessed up a steep set of stairs – elderly and unfit beware.
The temple comprises of 4 individual temples created at different times. Inside are ornate paintings on the cave ceilings as well as a large variety of state representations of Buddha in various poses including sleeping and deceased.
The guides are knowledgeable help you get through quickly and then allow you to return to each cave temple to get the photos. Be warned though flash photography is not permitted.
Back to the hotel for a 7 course Dinner was amazing and delicious. Comfortable and tranquil overnight stay at the hotel.
Transfer from Habarana to Sigiriya. Climb Sigiriya Rock & Visit The Fortress.
Sigiriya (Lion Rock)
Described locally as the eighth wonder of the world and recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site, it certainly is a very imposing granite rock which has had a royal palace and a monastery on top. Your entry fee gives you access to the full Sigiriya complex… be warned entry fee is pricey.
Be advised, this is a bit of a hard climb. My phone tells me I climbed the equivalent of 69 floors! The steps can be a bit hit and miss at times so watch your footing.
There are spiral staircases that take you up to visit some murals painted high on a seemingly inaccessible face of the Sigiriya monument… yes it’s amazing they managed to paint the murals in this location but was it worth the climb? Not in my opinion.
Also be aware there are wasps nesting around Sigiriya and if agitated they will swarm. This happened when we visited when a group of typically loud Chinese tourists decided to disregard the advice to keep quiet and proceed to go directly to one of the wasp nests and ended up causing them to swarm.
Let me tell you, seeing people running around frantically trying to swat away dozens of wasps on their face and arms is not a pleasant sight, not least because there is nothing you can really do to help them as you yourself are huddling down to avoid the attentions of the wasps.
The staff at Sigiriya are very well trained for such incidents and even have a large first aid tent at the midpoint plateau where wasp stings can be administered to. When such events take place they climb the rock to the top armed with large nets and take the victims down under cover of the net to safety and if required first aid treatment.
Another thing to watch out for are the numerous “guides” dotted all over the place. As you make your way up the steps if you look even remotely tired / old / unfit then suddenly you will get a “helpful’ push in the back to “help” you up the stairs. They tried it on with us on several occasions (I’m the first to admit I need to lose a few pounds!). Initially we were able to reject their help with a firm but friendly No but the last one just wouldn’t take no for an answer. To be honest I was curious to find out what help he was going to offer as he looked to be about 70 but to be fair to him he was also as thin as a racing snake. His “help’ comprised a very gentle push in my lower back… so not really much help at all if I’m honest!
Overall I’m very glad that we visited… the views from the top are stunning and it was good to get some exercise in on the holiday… Could have done without the trauma of the wasp swarm though.
. Evening Jeep Safari at Minneriya National Park.
Our elephant safari was booked at one of the many roadside vendors but ours came recommended by our trusty driver. The Mahindra Bolero 4×4 picked us up from our hotel and took us to the Minneriya National Park where our guide was very quickly pointing out exotic wildlife to us… kingfishers, Peacocks, Crocodiles, water buffalo, monkeys and of course the Elephants.
The Elephants were the highlight of the tour, initially seeing a solitary bull elephant and then shortly thereafter seeing a herd of around 70 elephants of all ages travelling down to the waters edge of the Minneriya reservoir. After taking hundreds of photos of this magnificent herd in brilliant light conditions we moved to find a smaller family group of 5 elephants and then later a mother large herd of around 60+ elephants.
It was an absolutely awe inspiring sight seeing these magnificent creatures up close in the wild like this. Be aware though that yours is not the only jeep on the safari… at one point the number of 4x4s exceeded the number of elephants! The drivers are all aware of the issues this poses and do their best to avoid driving into one another shots.
Day 04: Transfer from Habarana to Kandy.
Nalandia Gedige (Centre point of Sri Lanka)
This was described as the absolute centre point of the island of Sri Lanka though when you go there very little suggests this to be the case. What you do find is a Buddhist temple which was rescued from the rising waters of the Nalandia Gedige reservoir by building a platform onto which the temple was moved stone by stone.
The highlight was what the guide described as “Giant Squirrels” and he wasn’t kidding, these things were the size of terriers!
Spice Garden, Matale
We stopped here on our way south to Kandy. A very friendly guide shows you around the spice garden where you can revel in the exotic plants and herbs. For some (my wife and daughter) this is really interesting and a real joy to learn about. For an engineer like me… not so much.
The guide describes in great detail the medicinal, cosmetic and healing properties of each of the plants and herbs and even gives a demonstration of the natural hair removal cream which after 7 minutes saw a 1/2 inch square of hair from my arm removed… effective then!
Following the tour of the gardens we offered a massage demonstration which was very relaxing and only required a tip to pay for. Following this we had an opportunity to purchase some of their produce. Be careful it is very easy to get carried away with the purchases. (Deb’s note: we did – and it was great,if expensive!)
Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden,Kandy
I’m not really a fan of the green stuff but even I have to admit this was a pleasant walk around the botanical gardens. The gardens are very well maintained, and separated into distinct sections.
One shame was how many mindless vandals feel it is appropriate to carve a name or a word into a tree or a cactus, scarring for ever.
Cultural Dance, Kandy Red Cross Hall
This was pleasant enough but with no real explanation other than faded photocopied sheets handed out ahead of the performance it was a little difficult to follow.
The drumming… well it really felt like just a loud banging noise with no sense of rhythm about it and seemingly no agreed timing between the four drummers.
The dance itself was well done by the ladies and there were some visually stunning costume changes along the way. The male dancers… well more acrobats really as their dancing wasn’t really up to much… at one point I thought they were doing the early 90’s “big Box, Little Box” dance.
One interesting discovery was that this sort of dance recital appears to be a key ingredient in the search for immortality… time certainly seems to pass a lot slower when watching this sort of thing!
Swiss Residence, Kandy
Avery friendly and pleasant hotel set on a very steep hillside overlooking stunning views of the valley in which Kandy is nestled.
Our room had been recently renovated and looked very good for it. Spacious bathroom with shower and bath, large bedroom with the wardrobes and bed forming an island in the middle of the room. Our room had large bay windows giving us a stunning view of the scenery.
The buffet dinner and breakfast offered a good selection thoughtthey could have done with having some soya milk in to help with a dairy allergy.
Day 05: Transfer from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.
Store Field Tea Factory
This was a short stop on the road up to Nuwara Eliya where we found out all about the process for taking freshly picked leaves through various rolling, fermentation drying and sieving processes to arrive at the various grades of Orange Pekoe tea. Turns out the strong tea favoured by the British aka ‘builder’s tea’ is nothing more than the dust residue left at the end of the process! The obligatory factory shop yielded some fresh Ceylon tea for the larder.
Araliya Green Hills Hotel, Nuwara Eliya
A very pleasant hotel set in what is colloquially described as ‘Little England’. Nuwara Eliya is at an altitude of 6000ft which means the climate is one the British can relate to very easily and goes a long way to explaining why the locals are all dressed in jumpers, fleeces, jackets, hats and earmuffs!
The hotel is modern and well appointed. We were greeted on arrival with a hot chocolate and shown to our room. The hotel has a small indoor heated pool which is needed as an outdoor pool would be a bit nippy.
Day 6: Transfer from Nuwara Eliya to Bentota.
Centara Ceysands Hotel, Bentota
We stayed the last two nights of our holiday here and were very glad for it. The hotel is reached via boat across the Bentota Ganga river where you are greeted by friendly courteous staff for a very smooth check in process. The rooms are of a high standard, ours was on the first floor and had a view overlooking the pool and the sea. The pool was a good size and pool toys (inflatables) were available. There was maintenance ongoing to the outside of the pool. My daughter and I had fun finding loose tiles and leaving them for the maintenance crew.
The food at the Café Bem buffet was excellent with a wide choice of foods available to suit most palates. Our arrival coincided with Oktoberfest so the array of German foods was greatly appreciated.
The poolside changing rooms are a little cramped and offer only toilet and shower cubicles with private / dry area available for changing in.
To get to the beach you will cross a sand track and there it is, a long flat sandy beach, great for playing on, and exercising on. You need to go a long way out to get to any real depth so good for paddling around in. Be aware of the beach flags, and take their advice.
Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Centre, Kosgoda
This was an excellent visit with informative staff guiding us around the work they are doing to ensure the turtles have the best opportunity for getting to the sea.
Sadly a bus load of Chinese tourists arrived right after us and began to barge around talking very loudly and frankly abusing the turtles with their rough handling and flash photography despite signs everywhere telling us in pictograms not to. We elected to let them blow through before continuing with our tour.
I’ve read a lot about people being upset at the rescue turtles swimming around small concrete tanks. Yes, they’re not too big but these are blind or deformed turtles since birth. The alternative really is release and then becoming dinner for another sea creature… is this a better alternative?
Zahra loved this place and listened intently to the volunteer guide. She asked questions and got to handle the baby turtles. She was so gentle with them. We stayed for quite some time and saw a few tour groups going through whilst Zahra took it all in. It was a small place but a great project. They buy turtle eggs from scavengers and pay higher than the black market rate for them, ensuring the species thrive. Releasing them on the beach(at night) will hopefully also ensure that they return to the same beach in 30 years time and lay eggs again. Zahra declared she wanted a job there. We then spent a fortune in the gift shop (all proceeds go to support the conservation effort). They gave us their business card and told her to return soon!
Maduganga Boat Captains, Maduganga
This was a guided boat ride around the Maduganga Lake, exploring the flora and the fauna this wetland has to offer.
We made several stops along the way including a refreshment stand on stilts in the middle of the lake, Cinnamon island to see the locals preparing cinnamon sticks and a Buddhist temple.
The trip culminated in 20minutes with our feet being nibbled by fish which was an interesting and ticklish experience!
Lunch at a fabulous fish restaurant suggested and recommended by our guide.
We ended the day with a short boat trip out to sea to see the coral reef and fish swimming over it. It was a bit turbulant to say the least and after a substantial lunch it didn’t take long for me to feel sea sick. whilst Rez and Zahra fed the fish with ice cream cones I tried not to feed the fish with my lunch!
We were supposed to have a day in Colombo touring and shopping in the city but as we had bought gifts and souvenirs whilst we were touring there was nothing left we wanted to buy. Also, Zahra was keen to have some more beach and pool time. She was up at 6am dragging me to the beach for an early morning paddle before breakfast. Straight after breakfast was a dash to the pool.Thankfully as the morning progressed she made friends with some other children and the hotel events person organised a water polo match which went on for some time. we finally left the hotel at 2.30pm to get to the airport on time for our check in and departure.
As is traditional in Sri Lanka we gave our guide / driver a tip in an envelope as we departed ways at the airport. Once inside we met another expat family from Bangalore and we knew at least another two families wete holidaying in Sri Lanka at the same time. it is a popular destination for good reason and I for one cant wait to return.
Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated with much gusto here in India. Fireworks (or firecrackers as they are known here) are set off everywhere by everyone. I imagine it’s what a battlefield would sound like. The booms and bangs are loud and relentless as people celebrate. Businesses are also booming at this time of year.
When is it?
Deepavali falls on the darkest moonless night of Amavasya on the fifteenth day of the month of Kartik. In 2017 this is 19th October. Deepavali begins from the the thirteenth day of Kartik, known as Dhanteras. In south India the fourteenth day is celebrated as Narka Chaturdashi. It’s called Choti Diwali by children.
What is it?
In Hindi Deepavali means ‘row of lamps’ and it is for this reason that the festival is known as the festival of light. It is celebrated by Hindus the world over and markets the beginning of the new year in North India.
. How is it celebrated?
There are a LOT of fireworks! There are also oil lamps, candles and tea lights placed at the entrance of houses and also inside. Coloured lights decorate homes and streets. There are lots of sweets and chocolates, big feasts and much celebrating. Gifts and cards are exchanged and more money is supposed to come to people. (It is traditional for every worker to receive a months salary as a bonus at Deepavali). In fact the celebrations are very similar to Christian Christmas celebrations but here people also buy new utensils, metal objects and ‘holy’ items during this period. The belief is that these things will wards off ill health and evil for a whole year.
Bonalu is a folk festival celebrated in the Telangana region, Andhra Pradesh. This century-old tradition is observed with gaiety and devotional fervour.
When is it?
It is during the month of Asadh. This is Sunday 25th June to Sunday 16th July in 2017.
How is it celebrated?
This month long festival is marked by devotional singing and ritualistic worship of the village deities. The ‘Ghatams’ or decorated pots, filled with flowers, are the main attraction of the festival. The flower pots are carried on the heads of women in a procession. Similarly cooked rice is also carried by women on their heads to the local goddess accompanied by male drummers. Every Sunday from the end of June throughout July there are colourful celebrations ongoing.
Bonalu is celebrated chiefly in the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad ( where we happen to be on holiday at the moment). Saree Jagadambika Temple located on the top of the Golconda Fort attracts the most devotees from the region. The state government also performs puja officially on behalf of the people. Temples are decorated.
In Hyderabad the newspapers reported low attendance at work from female employees who were celebrating Bonalu. Some employers are allowing female staff to leave early to visit temples for puja. Office are reported to be in a festive atmosphere as ladies distribute sweets to colleagues dressed for the occasion.
It is an unusual festival in the memory of an eighty plus year old event and takes place in the month of Ashada (rainy season in Odisha usually falling in June or July) this celebration takes place in the state of Orissa.
The three dieties of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra can be seen for the first time after a gap of a fortnight over which they remain secluded in the ‘anasara ghaa’ or retiring room of the 12th century temple.
Rath Yatra means ‘chariot ride’ which is preserved as the gateway to the heavens by devotees.The ritual is observed in the Jagannath temple in the city of Puri in Orissa. The Jagannath temple is a trinity abode or dham dedicated to lord Krishna, his elder brother Balarama and their sister Subhadra. The images are made of new wood and adorned in splendour.
Ratha -Yatra (Puri) in the state of Odisha, India is still the oldest, biggest and most visited Rath Yatra in the world. It attracts a “large crowd” (thousands of people!).
How is it celebrated?
On the full mooon day of ashada, the images are taken out with the accompaniment of huge chariots to the streets. They are brought out onto the Bada Danda (Main Street of Puri) and travel 3km to the Shri Gundicha Temple. This allows the public to have darsana – a Holy view. Once the chariots come on the road, the continuous movement of the participants do not allow the procession to come to a halt. This ride is usually covered uphill and downhill track. The procession takes almost ten hours to reach its destination.
The English word juggernaut was originated from Jagannath that is replayed to the massive and unstoppable “Ratha” carrying Jaggannath.
The chariots, which are built new every year, are pulled by devotees. The chariots are 45 feet high, 35 feet square and take about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood carved charioteer and horses and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne.
The three chariots are being draped in multi coloured cloth for two days before Rath Yatra this year.
It is an Hindu festival celebrated during the Hindu month of Phalgun which marks the end of the winter season on the first full moon day of the lunar month, which usually falls in the later part of February or March. It is on Friday 24th February in 2017.
What is it?
It is an Hindu festival celebrating the Hindu god, lord Shiva, known as the great destroyer of the universe. On this day he and his wife Parvati are worshipped by young girls and some men in the hope of getting a perfect mate for themselves; because this is the day Shiva and Parvati were married.The Maha Shrivarti festival marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti (which means ‘power’ or ’empowerment’ and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe).
. How is it celebrated?
The festival is mainly celebrated by offering Bael leaves to Shiva together will all day fasting and an all night vigil called jagaran. All through the day devotees will change “Om Namah Shiva” being the mantra of Shiva. Penances are performed in order to gain ‘boons’ in the practice of yoga or meditation in order to reach life’s highest good steadily and swiftly. The positioning of the planets is also supposed to raise ones spiritual energy more easily and the ‘powerful’ ancient Sanskrit mantras are supposed to increase greatly on this night. The ideal time to observe Shiva Pooja (prayers) is at Nishita Kala which a complicated calculation of time but is usually within an hour each side of midnight. Nishita kala is the time Shiva appeared on earth in the form of a linga. On this day all Shiva temples the most auspicious lingodbhava puja is performed.
Mahashrivaratri in Southern India.
It is celebrated widely in the temples all over Karnataka. Shiva is considered to be the Adi ( first) Guru from which the yogic tradition originates. According to tradition, the planetary positions on this night create a powerful natural upsurge in energy in the body. It is believed to be beneficial for spiritual and physical well being to stay awake throughout the night.
The Dwadasha Jyothirlinga Temple will be kept open from 6am on Friday 24th February till 6am on Saturday 25th February. During that time several rituals related to the festival will be performed on the temple premises.
The Impu Sangeetha Samsthe, a non profit organisation which promotes music, has organised a musical marathon in Bugle Rock Park in Basavanagudi. Professional singers will will perform Kannada film devotional songs continuously from 9am on Friday 24th to 1am on Saturday 25th (16 hours) without any breaks. They are hoping to raise funds for Aparna Seva Samsthe which provides free dialysis for the poor.
In Bangalore hundreds of extra buses are being laid on for the festival… ensuring more traffic jams here. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (‘BBMP’) issued a notice on 21st February banning the sale of any kind of meat in the city on 24th February. The civic body has also banned the slaughtering of any animals on the day of the festival in the city.
A hunter having failed to find any prey in the forest climbed a bel tree towards the evening to spend the night there. Whilst drinking some water he dropped some on the shiva lingam hidden beneath some bushes at the bottom of the tree. A doe came to the spring to drink water and the hunter too his aim but seeing the mutual love for each other in the doe’s family he let them all go unharmed. In the morning lord Shiva appeared before the hunter and blessed him, saying that when he had sprinkled water on the shiva linga and thrown bel leaves on it he had unwittingly worshipped lord Shiva. As a consequence lord Shiva bestowed wealth and prosperity on him. From that day the shiva lingam is worshipped on the day which has become known as Maha Shrivrati.
This is the favourite day of lord Shiva as he married Shakti, and his greatness and supremacy over all other Hindu gods is highlighted. It also celebrates the night when he performed the cosmic dance named ‘Tandava’. The Tandava is a vigorous dance believed to be the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution.
On this day Shiva also saved the world from the disasterous effects of poison from the tumultuous sea by consuming it all. Shiva stopped the poison in his throat using his yogic powers but his neck turned blue due to the effects and is known as the ‘blue throated’ as a consequence.
The Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of ash , and sometimes a dot, applied to the forehead of Shiva worshippers. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity (or will) and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga) (or action). They also represent the three eyes of Shiva. It is a reminder of the spiritual aims of life, the truth that the body and material things shall become ash at some point and that self realisation and knowledge is a worthy goal.
It’s a holiday weekend in Bangalore and lots of folks have left Bangalore for the long weekend. As Rez had to work Saturday morning we decided to do a tour of Bangalore – seeing the sights we hadn’t yet seen.
Tippu Sultan’s Palace
This palace structure is built of teak wood, stone, mortar and plaster in the 18th century. It was started by Nawab Hyder Ali Khan in 1781 and completed by Tipu Sultan in 1791. It is situated within the fort walls of Bangalore next to the Sri Venkataramana temple. It is a double storied building of symmetrical pattern. It is built on a stone plinth and the facade has huge fluted pillars in typical Indo Islamic style. There are two balconies which were the seats of state where the sultan conducted affairs of state. It also served as a guest house for Tippu Sultan during the summer.
The entrance fee was INR 15 for locals (or those with an FRRO form with them) and INR 200 for foreigners. It is a fair entrance fee as it doesn’t take long to view it all (maybe 15-30 mins). Interestingly the palace has accessible toilets – the only ones I have seen in Bangalore.
The bull temple or Dodda Basavana Gudi (the Nandhi Temple) houses one of the largest monolithic sculptures of the sacred bull Nandi. It was built in the 16th century (1537) by Kempe Gowda and is believed to be the biggest temple to Nandi in the world. The bull is carved from one piece of granite and is more than 4 metres tall and 6 metres long. It is continually covered with new layers of butter.
Like most temples, shoes have to be left outside and are looked after for a tiny charge of INR 2 per pair. There are also local stall holders selling a variety of tourist items but also some pretty handmade jewellery. Along the long flight of steps to the temple are the unfortunate people who are begging; a few rupees to each helps their hardship.
The Iskcon Temple
Built by the Hare Krishnas (the International Society of Krishna Consciousness) the Sri Radha Krishna Mandir has a golden shrine to Krishna and Radha. It is one of the largest ISKCON temples in the world and was inaugurated in 1997 by Shankal Dayal Sharma. It is has 6 shrines – the main shrine is of Radha-Krishna, Krishna Balrama, Nitai Gauranga, Srinivasa Govinda, Prahlada Narasimha and Srila Prabhupada.
The visit starts with being told to remove our shoes at the car and leave them there. Then we approached a kiosk selling what I think we’re special prayers for INR500 or 1000. We by passed this and walked through the theme park style barriers and lines to the airport style security. Bags and bodies checked we had to rent cloths for the men as their shorts were not suitable for the temple. Cameras were not allowed, but phones were. Once through we then joined a queue for the first shrine and then followed the designated route around the temple and shrines (theme park style). Once the visit was completed we were funnelled through various and numerous gift shops, stalls and eateries selling their wares. We then exited via a foot bridge where we were offered a small bowl of curry (which we all politely declined). More stalls selling wares followed until we were back were we started and could return the rented cloths.
It is very well set up for visitors and tourists and they certainly know how to sell to a captive audience!