Picnics offer a great time to urban folk to breakaway from the monotony of the daily grind, writes B. MADHU GOPAL
The onset of the `Karteeka' month, said to be dear to both Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu, is marked by cool wintry breeze, flowers in full bloom and lush green trees. Apart from temples reverberating with the chant of prayers, the other ubiquitous thing seen during the month, especially on weekends, is scores of people going for picnics.The practice of Vana Bhojanam (having food in a forest) was said to have started in a bid to cool down the frayed tempers of sages and make them overcome their pride. They used to sit below amla trees and have food together. It was also believed to be a means to make people forget their caste differences and mingle with one another. Unfortunately today the practice of caste picnics has defeated the very goal.Vana bhojanam is said to have existed even during the time of Lord Krishna. While the amla tree is believed to be a symbol of Lord Maha Vishnu, the forests in those days had a number of other trees which also had medicinal properties. Cooking in the open under these trees was believed to have several health benefits.Whatever may be the religious significance, picnics offer an excellent opportunity to the city folk who hardly seem to have the time to talk to their neighbours and relatives, to know and understand one another better. These picnics mean different things to different people. While children eagerly look forward to the annual outing as a cool break from the monotony of studies, elders see it as an excellent opportunity for family reunions, meeting relatives and friends.All age groups actively participate leaving behind their worries at home. A beehive of activity is witnessed during the weekends and holidays at the picnic spots. Housewives are spared the drudgery of cooking food as that is taken care of the previous night with family members enthusiastically lending a helping hand in the preparations.The practice of cooking food in the open under trees, which is said to have several benefits, seems to have long been given up. While cooking at home and partying in the open is popular, there are many who do not wish to exert themselves even that much. They prefer to buy food from the fast food joints, which have been opened at most of the picnic spots.In the good old days, people use to bathe in the rivers and natural springs during the month. Having a coldwater bath in winter is good for the skin in winter. The vana bhojanam concept also promotes community living and respecting one another's customs.Bheemunipatnam Beach, Devipuram, Gangavaram, Kambalakonda, Madhavadhara and Mudasorlova are some of the other tourist spots apart from Rishikonda and Kailasagiri that are frequented during the season. One can set out early in the morning and return in the evening after spending the day at these spots.Those planning an overnight stay can visit Araku and Borra Caves. The AP Tourism Development Corporation offers package tours to Araku and some of the important tourist spots. "We will operate special buses to all the important spots in the city and Anakapalle during the picnic season," said RTC Regional Manager N. Venkateswara Rao. The commencement of these services will be announced soon.