Kuldhara - Abandoned Village, near Jaisalmer

Kuldhara village is considered as one of the most haunted and cursed place. Residents of this village abandoned this place one night to never return back.

Varanasi

...is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.....By Mark Twain.

Submarine Museum - Vizag

This is only one of its kind, Submarine now a museum....!

Bhangarh

One of the most haunted place on the planet. Staying after sunset and going before sunrise is STRICTLY prohited by law.

Luxembourg

Enjoy boating in the green waters of Luxembourg and park your boats in the above parking bays.

Mitawali

The Ancient Temple which inspired the design of Indian Parliament House.

July 1, 2015

Hampi - Aura of the Stonecraft...

The city is such that the pupil of eye has never seen a place like it and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world
- wondered by a traveller, Abdur Razzak from Persia who visited the Vijayanagara  in 1443 AD.

"Roses are sold everywhere and are an intricate part of life of people here, as necessary as food....Each strata of society/ class has shops adjacent to one another; the jewellers sell pearls, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. In this agreeable locality, as well as in the king's palace, one sees numerous running streams and canals formed of chiselled stone, polished and smooth." This show cases the heights of equality the society has achieved where each profession was duly respected without any discrimination.
With awesome landscape along the banks of Tungabhadra river, Hampi was the capital of mighty Vijayanagara kingdom. The era of Vijayanagara empire has been often called as the most prosperous region ever to have happened, on this earth. The Vijayanagara kings were great patrons of art and made Hampi flourishing centre of Indian culture.
There were opulent palaces, marvellous temples, massive fortifications, baths, markets, aqua ducts, pavilions, stables for royal elephants and elegant pillars. The word "Grand" seems too small in this region. To begin with, check out one of the important ceremonial structures of royal use: 

Above structure, Mahanavami Dibba or Dasara Dibba was constructed by Krishnadevaraya after his victory on Udaigiri. This platform was used by royals to watch "Mahanavami Festival", "Dussehra Festival", army march past and any procession. This GRAND, three tiered 8 metre high stone platform is located to the northeast of the royal enclosure. Built in granite in 16th century AD, the platform is nearly 35 sq mts and has steps on the East, West, and South. Platform has sculptures depicting the socio-cultural activities of the time in the typical Vijayanagara style of architecture. Get ready to explore Hampi.
45 minutes drive from Toranagallu (35 Km.) took us to Queen’s Palace, a palace where royal ladies used to take bath.This is the first spot in line to Hampi exploration...
From outside it looked like a palace, where once water filled trenches all around the structure with fiery crocodiles used to ward off any unwanted invaders.
Few yards ahead is the Prasanna Virupaksha or Underground Shiva Temple: As the name suggests, this temple was constructed below the ground level.
The roof top of the temple is almost matching the ground level (check the ground level on the other side of this temple), due to which the sanctum and the inner side of the temple is always flooded with water. Reasons for such a construction are still unknown. Prevailing legends say that there is a hidden water source beneath the temple. During monsoon season water level rises in the temple. When the water level recedes below a certain level, a further down cellar room becomes visible, however whom so ever has tried to go inside that room has never been seen again. As per the myth there resides a big snake which is protecting the temple. Guys, enter at your own risk…
The temple was buried for over 400 years before it was discovered in the 1980’s. Looks like this the private temple of the Royal family members for their private ceremonies, as it is very near to noblemen’s quarters.
 
Few steps ahead ahead Hazara Rama Temple:

The Hazara Rama Temple is a significant spot in Hampi. It was once the private temple of the kings and the royal family of the Vijayanagara Empire. The reigning deity of the temple is Lord Rama. The temple is known for its relics and panels that depict the story of Ramayana.  

 
Only a few steps and few minutes in Hampi and I have been completely floored by the unique charm of this place. Next spot in line is Henkuta Hill and the amazing world of temples here. Just below the Hemkuta hill is the Laxmi-Narsimha temple. Carved out of granite stone in 1528 AD during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya, this 6.7 metre statue still retains its original charm. Lord Narsimha is seated on divine snake "Adishesh" which is also forming the hood over the head of Lord Narsimha. Observe this statue, one can see a feminine hand on the left part of the torse. As told by localites it is the hand of Goddess Laxmi.

This beautiful statue was vandalized and broken by the invaders in 1565 AD, broken portions are still visible. But the glow in the eyes of Lord Narsimha is still intact. 
 




Adjacent to Laxmi Narsimha temple is Badavilinga-temple: Legend has it that this was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in local tongue).








Walking a few steps on Hemkuta Hill, it was the time to pray at Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple.
Bouldered temple                                                                                         Lord Ganesha Statue with snake tied around Belly
Lord Ganesha'a love for food is widely admired. As per the legends one fine day, Lord Ganesa ate so much that his tummy was about to explode. In order to save his tummy, he just caught a snake from the ground and tied it around his stomach to prevent his tummy from bursting. Snake tied around his tummy is visible in the statue.
Just in front of Sasivekalu Ganesha shrine you can see a huge site map of Hampi installed by the archeology department. Moving ahead we are on Hemkuta hill, the best place in the region to watch Sunset and the amazing world of temples.

Temples to be continued...

To reach Hampi:
  • Nearest railhead is Hospet, 13 km away and Toranagallu station, 25 Kms. There are about 10 daily trains and about 5 special trains to the station, which run once or twice a week. From Bangalore, Hampi Express is the best option.
  • Nearest Airport is Bangalore, around 350 Km. from Hampi
  • Hampi is well connected by roads to almost every nearby city. Staying options are available at Toranagallu or Hampi.

June 3, 2015

Chand Bawdi

When your destination is the journey itself, you will come across places which are known as "Offbeat". These places are lying hidden in our countryside to which even most of the acclaimed travel planners have no clue.
 
People from all over the world have been fascinated by the colorful state of Rajasthan. However this colorful state of Rajasthan is extremely arid, where people make efforts to preserve each drop of water. To preserve the water exquisite arrangements have been made in state of Rajasthan since ages, most common of which has been Bawdis or step wells.
 
One of such Bawdi, which is also one of the oldest in Rajasthan is Chand Bawdi; situated in Abhanaeri village, Dausa district, around 95 Km. from Jaipur on Jaipur-Agra Road. Chand Bawdi is a massive architecture consisting of 3,500 narrow steps over 13 stories. Approximately 100 feet into the ground it is one of the deepest and largest step wells in India.  
 
Bawdis were not just reservoirs of water but a special architecture constructed to preserve every drop of rain water, to provide precious drinking water and respite from scorching heat. Steps were intricately constructed to guide water till the bottom of the step well for collection and minimized evaporation/ loss in the process. Unique triangular pattern of the steps is really hypnotic, try to count the levels and number of steps...
 
 
As the water used to get collected at the bottom; air towards the bottom used to be much cooler, almost 5-6 degrees cooler at the bottom than at the air at the upper surface. Bawdis also served as a community gathering place for locals during periods of intense heat and also a favorite hangout place. One side of the Bawdi also has a pavilion and resting rooms for the royals.


Looks like a small fort in itself...
Chand Bawdi is one of those spots in India, where you realize that the present one is more beautiful than the last one. This Bawdi has been constructed as a place where people can gather and pray to GOD as many relics are also inscribed in the walls of this Bawdi.
People can go till the bottom of stepwell to escape the scorching heat.  

 
Chand Bawdi was built by King Chanda of Nikumbha Dynasty around 800 AD and is dedicated to Harshat Mata, Goddess of Joy and Happiness upon completion. It is located opposite Harshat Mata Temple and was constructed in 800 AD. Blessings of the Gods were imperative to ensure prosperity of their respective states and these bawdis used to provide an ideal cushion for the seasonal fluctuations of water availability due to uneven or no rainfall. Many of the flourishing civilizations have perished due to scarcity of water.
 
 


Such Bawdis are present in almost every town and city of our country. The water collection mechanism/ structure is still intact. If these bawdis can be connected to the present day water distribution system, it can solve majority of water problems which we are facing in India on a regular basis. Rain water collected in these bawdis can augment the existing water storage/ collection facilities too.
 
Bawdi , also pronounced as Baori, Bawri, Baoli, Bavdi in different parts of the country. Abhaneri was known as Abha Nagari, city of brightness in earlier times, however it has got its present name by mis-pronunciation over the times.
What an amazing day it was, unearthing such a fantastic gem..Keep travelling Guys...
 
If you do not want to go to Jaipur all the way; take a left turn before Shahpura while coming from Delhi drive to Bhangarh fort, the most haunted place in India and Chand Bawdi is only 60 Km. (via Dausa)/ 42 Km (via Bandikui) from Bhangarh Fort.
 
(With contributions by Abhishek Soni)

May 24, 2015

Teej Mahotsav - Jaipur

Teej festival marks the arrival of the Sawan (month of monsoon) and is celebrated for two days in hindu month of Shravan (July-August). Teej is celebrated in many parts of the country; however when it comes to celebrations Jaipur clearly steals the show. The scent of the soil wetted by monsoon rains on the desert region is simply amazing and absorbing.
An extravagant procession scheduled for 2 days in the lanes of the old city brings the whole city out on the roads to mark as welcome of rain gods. Teej Mahotsav (festival) creates an aura of a grand carnival covered in blanket of age old traditions. The grand procession gets a traditional start from City Palace, Tripoliya Gate.
 



Traditional Rajasthani dances enlightens the procession
Teej festival is dedicated to Eternal or divine couple of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. One day before this festival is celebrated ladies put Mehandi on their hands and traditional sweet "Ghevar (घेवर )" is consumed. Ghevar is prepared only during this time of the year. Girls wear new clothes and mothers-in-law gift jewellery to newly married daughters-in-law on her first Teej after marriage.
Goddess Teej Mata in Palki                                                                         The procession
In Rajasthan Camels are part of life and they are beautifully decorated and are intricate part of Teej Festival. Also many artists showcase their skills:


Elephants enjoy a special place in Indian culture as an eternal omen of good luck. Decorated elephants are a real delight to the eyes.


Decorating the elephants is an activity in which you can also be a part. Contact Mr. Dinesh Soni (dineshsoni_70@yahoo.com) for indulging many more such activities.

This festival is attended by tourists from all parts of the world. You have to be a part of the moment to experience the magic moments in the Pink city of Jaipur. Make your plans for upcoming Teej Festival, on 17 - 18 August 2015...




I was totally unaware about this grand magnum opus, but surely this has the potential to be one of the most grand celebrations on this earth. Keep travelling Guys...Keep some time to visit Chand Bawdi, which is 90 Km. from Jaipur on Jaipur-Agra road, you will be surprised by this hidden spot.





May 2, 2015

The Blue City of Jodhpur...

City of Jodhpur, also known as Blue City has been a travellers delight since times. City of Jodhpur has something which is very unique to Jodhpur only. Mighty Mehrangarh Fort and royal grandeur of Umaid Bhawan Palace has made Jodhpur frequently being listed as most extraordinary places to visit and stay, most recently in 2014 by Lonely Plant.
Mehrangarh Fort on top of the hill                                                            Umaid Bhawan Palace
To explore the royality of Jodhpur, we landed up in Jodhpur one fine morning and first destination on the list was "Umaid Bhawan Palace". One can book an auto for Rs. 500 and a taxi (AC) for Rs. 1100-1200 for a complete city tour.

One of the largest private residences in the world, this huge architectural giant has 347 rooms and is still the main residence royal family of Jodhpur. In sync with the name this was built by Maharaja Umaid Singh (1929 – 1942). Built in local sandstone, this is one of the finest examples of fusion of Indo-western architecture. A unique feature of this palace is that the sandstone blocks have been put together in a special system of interlocking without any mortar binding.



A portion of the palace now serves as a luxury hotel, frequented by renowned dignitaries and celebrities from every part of the world. Another portion is now an exquisite museum which houses model aeroplanes, weapons, antique clocks, watches, crockery, hunting trophies and variety of antiques. Check out a wall painting depicting devil Ravana kidnapping goddess Seeta. This palace is full of such antiques...
 
 
 
 
After cherishing the grandeur of Umaid Bhawan it was the time to feel the might of "Mehran Garh".

Situated on a 150 m high hill Mehran Garh Fort is a fort, which is formidable as well as magnificent fort in Rajasthan. Rao Jodha ladi the foundation for this fort on 12th May1459, but the fort has been groomed by subsequent rulers of Jodhpur ever since.
 
 

As with most of the forts this fort too is associated with legends, like:
  • The hill was known as Bhakurcheeriya (Mountain of birds) and Cheeria Nathji, an old hermit used to reside here in the cave which is situated just at the entrance of the fort. Disturbed by the construction of the fort he left his cave and cursed the invaders of his solitariness,” Jodha, May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water” In order to appease the gods, a house for Cheeria Nathji in the new city and a temple in the fort very near the cave the hermit used for meditation was constructed by Rao Jodha.
  • To make the site auspicious, Jodha buried a man, Rajiya Bambi (Meghwal) alive in the foundations in lieu of promise to look after his family forever. The promise has been honoured by Rathores till date.
  • What is not established truly is that along with Rajiya Bambi, three more were buried alive in the foundations.

Lets leave the legends and enjoy the grand fort.
 
With constricted entrance roads paved with boulders/ barriers, narrow staircases and concealed positions for soldiers to attack the incoming enemy, this Fort is a classic example of warfare architecture.
 
Carved panels and porches, elaborately adorned walls and brilliant stained glass windows make for the brilliant splendour of royal residence. Its walls, which are up to 36m high and 21m wide have protected some of the most beautiful and historic palaces in Rajasthan
 
 
 

Jodhpur is also known as “Blue City”, reason is visible apparent. All the houses near the vicinity of Mehrangarh fort have terraces painted in blue.
Breathtaking view of the city from Mehrangarh Fort
 
Coming down from the Mehrangarh fort on left is Jaswant Thada, the royal marble cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. Also known as Taj Mahal of Marwar, it was built by Maharaja Sardar Singh, son of Jaswant Singh - II. The main memorial has been built like a temple with intricately carved marble stone.
 
 Passing through a secluded road, the passage itself presents a mystic aura. Apart from the main cenotaph there are some more cenotaphs adjacent to this, looks like Stonehenge of Jodhpur.
 



Last spot in the itineray was Mandore Gardens. Mandore was the former capital of Maharajas of Marwar and is located about 5 miles north of Jodhpur. Again in this place are the cenotaphs of Jodhpur's former rulers. However unlike other cenotaphs typical of Rajasthan, these are built similar to Hindu temples, four storeys high, fine columns and an elegant top, in red sandstone. These cenotaphs are set in beautiful landscaped gardens.
 
Major attraction here is “hall of heroes”, which is dedicated to various deities and Rajput folk heroes and the statues are carved out of rock and painted in bright colours.

 

In the next door you will find brightly coloured images of the various Hindu Gods. Its extensive gardens with lot of Gray Langurs or Leaf Monkeys make it a very popular local attraction. Take care of your cameras and mobile phones.
 
 
Not only the above mentioned attractions, city of Jodhpur is in itself an experience to cherish. Do not forget to savour the delicacies like Pyaz Kachori, Mirchi vada, Kair Sangri ki subzi, Gulab Jamun ki subzi, Makhaniya Lassi and everything which comes your way. Do try snacks from local shops, they will make your taste buds go ga-ga...
 
Jodhpuri Jutis (shoes), Suitings and do not forget to shop handicrafts and souvenirs from shops, which are too many in Jodhpur...

Keep travelling Guys...

April 16, 2015

Chalets, Naldehra - Mystic Solace in the Himalayas...

Pampers, Grace And Greet Yourself At Chalets Naldehra!
At times you feel like planning a trip to a place which is far off from the city crowd and is quite enough to revive your thoughts. Few days back, while having similar desires, I went to explore ‘The Chalets’ on an invited stay. It surely turned out as to be a real stress buster for me.
 
The Chalets is tucked almost 22 kms away from the famous hill station ‘Shimla’. It took us almost 3.5 hours to reach the destination from the Kalka Railway station, which is supposedly the closest station to the place. On arrival, we were greeted with some hot ‘masala tea’, something that you might crave for when it’s freezing outside. Amish Sud, the Managing Director of the property then gave a broad overview of how precisely the things were planned there.
 
The owners have involved almost every single form of recreational activity at the place. They had it all to make the place feel like a ‘home away from home’ with exclusively designed separate pine log cottages for their guests with high sense of privacy. While based upon their course of needs, guests can choose either a bunglow, or an apartment or family cottages or even double room.
 
 
Our spot for stay was a beautiful cottage, right in the middle of the property which gave us a clear sight of the sunrise/sunset. It was way too mesmerizing. Something I found to be as a major setback for me was the ‘terror of monkeys’, they just happened to appear from anywhere and at anytime. But then of-course when you are there at mountains, you just don’t have a choice of escaping from them, all you can do is, stay alert!
 
Going further, I found that the different in-house arrangements made by the property owners were enough to relax and pamper my self. Well to start on my day I chose to go for the royal sport first and then for the pamper stuff. There is a Naldehra golf course, right next to the property at a mere distance of 5 minutes.
 
Might sound crazy but the longing that I showed for reaching there at the ground was ironic to the knowledge I hold about it. I hardly knew anything about this sport. It was as new and fresh to me as a play school to a three year old kid going there for the first time. It was just the name and action that I knew. The coach there gave me a good insight of it and I even tried hard to make few good shots at least. But then like I said, I was a fresher to it so couldn’t manage to do with it really well. Instead I enjoyed taking pictures at that beautiful landscape.
 
After coming back from there, I decided to relax my cells a bit. The house got it all ranging from a soothing spa, temperature controlled pools, health club facilities of international standards including massages, sauna, Jacuzzi pool, steam room and all those things that you may seek at a leisure trip.
 
The delicately built cottages interestingly owe their design to the Finland– based architecture; also the lodges used to build the cottages are all the way from Finland, the place of their origin. Evening went on to be extremely soothing followed by perfect dinner arrangements at the revolving restaurant. The staff remained on their toes to shape the things well for us. The service was quick and apt. There even had arrangements for the live setup for BBQ in the garden pavilion and a live kitchen as well. During our stay there, we tasted the Chinese, North Indian and Italian cuisine. All those dished served there had a natural tint n’flavor within them.


Chalets, Naldehra happened to be a perfect off-beat destination for me. Such small trips, far off in the mountains can surely play as a complete stress buster.

Keep travelling Guys...

Contributed by Kamya Kandhari
 

March 16, 2015

Hyatt Place, Hampi

Work, relax and enjoy the travel to one of the UNESCO heritage sites...
Though located adjacent to one of the biggest steel plants in India, Hyatt Place offers rather a refreshing staying option in Vijaynagar. For business visitors to JSW Steel, this is one of the most ideal accommodation.

Located inside JSW, Vidyanagar lush green township this is an ideal place to enjoy and walk around in exquiste surroundings. One can enjoy refreshing morning walk and relaxing evening walks in the arms of nature.



 




Rooms are well maintained and decorated in the spirit of hampi or this region. All the rooms are decorated with caricatures of beautiful topography of this region.

On your visit to hampi region you can try searching for this arrangement of stones.


One can also enjoy bare feet walk in the well maintained lawns.









Restaurant on the ground floor serves delicious and to the order prepared food. Be it Chinese, or Italian, the service is quite fast. Breakfast is especially fantastic with huge variety to satiate your taste buds. I loved the Omlettes they serve during the breakfast...



Attractions nearby:
  1. Itagi - 80 Km. : Known for Mahadeva temple, Chalukya Style
Facilities for guests:
Complimentary Breakfast, Parking, Complimentary Wi-Fi

Nearest Airport : Bangalore (350 Km.), Hubli (160 Km.)
Nearest Railway Station: Toranagallu (5 Km.)

February 17, 2015

Managing money while exploring offbeat destinations


Money, like emotions, is something you must control carefully to keep your life on the right track…
 
Exploring Offbeat destinations is a specialised travel activity which is very satisfying for a traveller. Being located in not so visited areas, it is not always possible to have first-hand information about the place. Due to this it is utmost necessary to keep yourself equipped enough financially for any unforeseen event. Unforeseen event is only running out of sufficient cash.
 
 
 
Would like to share some money management experiences to keep handy while exploring Offbeat destinations:



 
1.      Cash Management: Money is the best friend which can rescue you in case of any unforeseen event, so: 
a.      Make sure that you carry ample amount of cash, atleast sufficient for fuel, food and accommodation requirements.
b.     Keep currency notes in smaller denominations too as getting change for bigger notes can be a problem for very small merchants/ shopkeepers in remote places.
                                                  i.      Indulging in shopping for the local delicacies/ special handicrafts is a sheer luxury, as you will not find such stuff in cities. So if you are out of cash at this moment, you are putting at stake the joy of your otherwise happening journey.
 
2.      Usage of Electronic Money (Credit Card/ Debit Card):
a.      ATM’s are not available everywhere and Credit cards are not so widely accepted
b.     Even highway filling stations and hotels/ food outlets  at smaller places/ remote locations at times do not accept credit cards
c.      Take caution in usage of Credit cards/ Debit cards to safeguard yourself from any chances of fraud. I personally prefer to pay by cash for fuel stations which are located outside Tier-1/ Tier-II cities.
 
3.      ATM’s: Always keep a note of last working ATM on your way, so that you can at least have an option of going back to fetch money. Will advise to also carry ATM cards banks like SBI, PNB, ICICI…) as they have better penetration of ATM’s in remote places.


As offbeat destinations travel is gradually catching the fancy of the travellers, some of the prominent hotels/ resorts’ chains are setting up their properties in these locations. Pre-booking these can save a lot of money and also the hassles of paying by cash while checking out. Also you can earn cashback/ privilege points. Always check out with them for their affiliation with rewards program and acceptance of bit coin currency.

Please note some of these chains might not accept payment by Credit Card/ Debit Cards while checking out. However they are accepting payment by electronic means while booking. This I have personally faced, however the resort was co-operating enough to send a person with me till the next available ATM (approx. 35 kms from the resort’ location) to collect the cash.

Above all spend wisely to have non-stop fun during your explorations. Happy travelling friends...