Baliyatra – commemorating ancient maritime traditions


By Somali K Chakrabarti


Festivals to commemorate ancient maritime traditions in South East Asia


  • Baliyatra, meaning a ‘Voyage to Bali‘, is a festival celebrated every year in coastal Orissa on Karthika purnima, the Full moon day of October-November to commemorate Orissa’s glorious maritime history.

  • Masakapan Ke Tukad, is a Balinese festival where toy boats are floated in memory of maritime ancestors.

  • Loy Brah Prahdip or LoyKrathong, meaning ‘the floating of lamps at night’, is a festival of Thailand that is celebrated in December (twelfth month of Kartika). During this festival, little rafts, made of plantain stems and decorated with flags, paper umbrellas, incense sticks, and lighted candles, with offerings of food and flowers, are set adrift on the river by people living near its banks.

Three festivals, with similar celebrations consisting of ritualistic floating of toy boats, are celebrated in three different countries, in memory of ancient mariners, who undertook trans-oceanic voyages from Orissa to South East Asian countries including Indonesia and Thailand.


Image Source :

Past cultural and commercial connections between Orissa and South East Asia

Boita-bandana  Image Source : eOdishaOrg

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Why Mobile Concierge Services are the future of digital strategy for hotels


By Somali K Chakrabarti


‘Sell the destination, not the plane’ 

has been a long standing adage for airlines marketers.

People do not fly the plane just for the sake of it, they take a plane to reach a destination. The adage holds true for hotels as much as for airlines.

So far, digital marketing by hotels in India has been all about their properties and services; destination finds little mention in digital marketing strategy as of now.

This, however, is likely to change !  Mobile Conceirge iTravelApps

As tourism industry matures in India, destination should become the centerpiece of the strategy for hotels that want to push up their direct sales. In future, mobile concierge services may emerge as an essential component of the destination centric digital strategy for hotels.

The Gateway Hotels (a brand of the Taj group of hotels), for instance, has taken a lead over other hotel chains by adopting a mobile concierge for their hotel in Agra.


Smart devices are now powerful machines that can be harnessed to deliver traveller experience that is not possible on the web. An interactive mobile concierge with engaging destination information can be a dynamic customer engagement tool having the longest interface with the customer. Using a mobile concierge, a hotel can engage the customer right from the time of booking to much after their stay.


Mobile Conceirge


If you are a wired traveller with a mobile concierge, here’s how hassle- free, travel will be you.

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The Economic Impact of Taj Mahal


By Somali K Chakrabarti

A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time.’  is how Rabindranath Tagore described the Taj Mahal. The beautiful mausoleum on the bank of river Yamuna in Agra, made by emperor Shah Jahan, in 1631, in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal has a dreamlike quality, and showcases the art and culture of the Mughal times.

Though much has been written about the splendor of Taj Mahal on moonlit nights, tourists no longer have the privilege to visit the Taj Mahal at night.

Even so, early in the morning, the Taj Mahal, with its shadow on water, almost appears like a floating pearl and presents an intriguing picture.

Taj Mahal - Early in the morning
Taj Mahal – Early in the morning

The opulence and grandeur of the marble wonder is so mesmerizing that it is difficult to take your eyes off it. The finesse of the carvings on marble is captivating, as are the symmetrical arches.

Taj Mahal
View of Taj Mahal from the gate

Due to the timelessness of its beauty and its ethereal quality, nearly four centuries after it was constructed, Taj Mahal still attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world, thus bringing up a relevant question:

What is the Economic Value of Taj Mahal?


It is said that it took 22 years and more than 20000 workmen to build the Taj Mahal at a cost of Rs 3.2 cr approxiately. The cost of gold, in that period, was Rs 1.25 /gm approx (derived from Rs 15/tola, where 1 tola = 12 gms), as compared to Rs 2700/ gm today. That amounts to an increase in the price of gold by 2160 times from the mid 17th century upto the present times.

Using the rise in the price of gold as a yardstick, the bare cost of construction of the monument would be minimum of 2160 times the original cost of construction.

However, it is not really meaningful to calculate the value of Taj Mahal only in terms of its cost of construction or cost of building materials, using an inflation scale of 2160, as one must take into account the massive heritage value associated with the monument.

A more pertinent means of valuing the monument would be to answer the question –

  • What is the revenue generated due to the existence of the monument, or
  • What would be the loss of national revenue if the monument not existed in first place?

Though measuring the economic value of cultural monuments such as Taj Mahal is a complex exercise (involving mathematical modelling and econometric techniques), yet it is easy to say that the key driver for economic value of the monument is the revenue generated from cultural tourism attributable to the monument.

Earnings of local inhabitants at Agra are driven by the tourists – both local as well as foreign. More than 58 lakh visitors came to see Taj Mahal in 2013. This year, 42.5 lakh visitors came to see the Taj Mahal till September. On the Diwali weekend around 1.5 lakh tourists visited the Taj Mahal, causing a chaotic situation. As per a Press Information Bureau report of Ministry of Culture of Govt of India, the tourist revenue generated through the entry ticket fees amounts to Rs 21.84 cr for 2013-2014.

Hotels, rest and recreation areas  in the vicinity of the monument benefit from tourism. Guides, who speak multiple languages take you around the monument, and are willing to double up as photographers whenever you need them to click snaps with your cell. Photographers click you on the coveted seat in front of Taj. Horse carts ferry you to Meena Bazar and other short distances.

Tourism also gives a boost to the sale of local handicrafts including clothes, leather goods, curios made of marble, stone carving and inlay work. Handicrafts made by prisoners are sold in emporiums.

Though Taj Mahal is the main nodal point for tourist travel, some of the other monuments such as Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-daula’s tomb, Sikandara, Fatehpur Sikri etc play a crucial role in contributing towards the economic activities of Agra.

Agra Fort
Exquisite marble carvings at Agra Fort

State patronage made possible the creation of such monuments that showcase the countries art and culture and have been a source of value for years or centuries together.

In the present times too, state and corporate patronage can be used to promote India’s art and culture in a way that has a long bearing effect on the country’s economy. Investments in cultural development would also include construction of access highways, hotels and recreation facilities. The financial viability of investments in cultural development can be evaluated by quantitative techniques to determine the revenue generation capacity and debt service capacity of the projects.

Whether Shahjahan would have envisaged the long lasting economic impact of Taj Mahal when he ordered for building the monument, is hard to tell.


Lei: A wreath for your soul  is a string of short poems reflecting on nature, life, illusion and inspiration.Lei





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References :

A Proposed Methodology for. Measuring the Economic Value or Cultural Monuments, by Thilan Wijesjnghe, Engineerfng Consultant

Why the World is more Indian than you think


By Somali K Chakrabarti

China targeting Indian wedding market                                                                                                                                                               –  The Economic Times on 18th Oct, 2014

This catchy headline in ‘The Economic Times’ was hard to miss. On reading the article, I found that the glamour of Indian weddings has allured the Chinese, and they see a lucrative market and viable business opportunity in the lavish wedding celebrations.

Here’s an excerpt from the article.

Impressed by the lavish Indian weddings, Chinese Consul General Wang Xuefeng said his country was aggressively marketing several of its cities like Kunming, Lijiang and Dali as attractive wedding destinations.

Many Indian families are now going to Thailand, Dubai and Mauritius for weddings, but now they are also looking towards China which has several beautiful cities like Kunming which is called the city of spring for its beautiful weather, Lijiang as the city of romance and Dali famous for its pagodas,” Wang said on the sidelines of a programme.

Wang said talks were on with Indian companies and tour operators for collaborations with their Chinese counterparts for organising the weddings in China.

So, as some Indian couples plan for a grand wedding in China, China is setting up several restaurants to dish out Indian delicacies.

Indian Wedding
Big fat Indian wedding

‘Apt time to write this post!’, I thought.

With the Indianness quotient increasing by the day, it is apparent that:

The world is getting more ‘Indianized’ than we think

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Kolkata in the 19th century – Vintage Pictures


By Somali K Chakrabarti

Kolkata, the ‘City of Joy’, is a city with a glorious past!

For those who live there, Kolkata is also about its alluring spirit, emotions, heightened sensibilities and creative energy. It is a city with fabulous heritage architecture where the old merges with the new.

Going back a bit into the history of Kolkata (previously Calcutta), we find that Calcutta was developed by the British by merging three villages – Kalikata, Sutanati and Gobindapur. Calcutta became the headquarters of the East India Company by 1772 and was the capital of British India, from 1858 to 1911, before the British relocated their capital to Delhi.

The 19th century saw a socio-cultural resurgence and intellectual awakening in Kolkata, known as the Bengal Renaissance, which continued up to the early 20th century. During this time prominent literati of the city contributed immensely to the art, architecture, literature, science and philosophy.

Charles D’Oyly, (1781–1845), a public official of the British East India Company, and painter from Dhaka produced numerous images on India. In 1848, Dickinson & Co., London published his drawings of Calcutta in a large folio-size book titled Views of Calcutta and its Environs.

Here are some vintage pictures depicting the landscape of Kolkata from the 19th century.


ON THE RIVER – INDIA , by Sir Charles D’Oyly ca 1815


From ‘Views of Calcutta and its Environs’


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Devi -Manifestations of the Divine Mother


By Somali K Chakrabarti

Autumn (Sharad) or Fall is the season when you feel the first crispness in air, the summer is gone, monsoon has infused new life into trees and fall is in the air. As nature turns the world into its big canvas, people in most parts of India prepare to worship the Divine Mother.

An exhibition ‘Devi – Manifestations of the Divine Mother‘, organized at the beautiful Chatrapati Shivaji Musuem in Mumbai gives a historical perspective on the worship of Mother Goddess, and reveals the spiritual significance of the festival. Presenting here some excerpts:

Manifestations of the Divine Mother, Mumbai Museum
Devi – Manifestations of the Divine Mother


Worship of the Divine Mother is one of the oldest forms of worship known to humanity. In prehistoric times, God was worshipped as the Divine Mother all over the world.  Evidences for Mother Worship have been recovered in different places in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

~ Durga Puja, Belur


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Mumbai in the 19th century – Vintage Pictures


By Somali K Chakrabarti

History has its own charm!

Vintage pictures of Mumbai, from the 19th century evoke a sense of nostalgia. These pictures, with their old world charm and enticing simplicity tell the story of how life would have been in those times.

The images, though may not be of practical significance, have an expressive value and a cultural significance. These broaden our horizons beyond what we have seen since our childhood, as we get transported back in time, away from the hustle and bustle of the day to day life, to a quaint world that is hard to imagine today.


Panoramic view of Thana Creek painted by James 1791

Mumbai- Thana Creek 1791


Paintings by James Wales, a Scottish artist who arrived in Bombay in July 1791.  Back then, Bombay was a smaller and less affluent market than Calcutta or Madras for a British painter. James Wales made portraits and captured the glimpses of old Bombay in his drawings and paintings.

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Unique Expressions of Art


Warli Wall Art Festival, 2014.

When the walls of a school were used as canvas, it resulted in some amazing paintings!

The Wall Art Festival was organized for promoting sustainable international cooperation through the Power of Art. The walls of a primary school in Warli, Gujarat were used as a canvas on which two artists, one from India, the other from Japan, made paintings on the majority of the wall in two separate classrooms.

Wall Art Festival in Warli
Wall Art Festival in Warli

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