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Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts

Krishnapura Chhatris, Indore

Rise of Marathas during 17th century lead to emergence of one of the most significant power in India which is mostly credited with ending misrule which was prevailing in those times. Brilliant commander like Tanhaji, supported by courageous chiefs like Holkars, Bhonsale, Scindia, Gorkwads, established a kingdom based on Indian traditions and culture.

Brilliance of Indian soul is that gallantry comes along with patronage of arts and culture. Be it Rajputs or Marathas, their swords crushed invaders time and again and their chisels crafted architectural wonders.

The way Rajasthan is full of exquisite masterpieces, a testimony to the artistic flavors of the Rajputs; similarly the Maratha Rulers also had exquisite taste for architecture which is immortalized in the form of the Krishnapura Chhatris, a spectacular combination of visually appealing stones, visible at the first glance.

Heart of Indore is the address and I was fortunate to be at Krishnapura Chhatris, the resting place of the Holkars. Development of Indore and nearby areas like Maheshwar is solely credited to the Holkar kings, who kept the soul intact till 1948. 

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The Guy with a Map in Tokyo

Nations need armies to win, but explorers need only a Map to conquer the World.

 

Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is one of the world's most modern cities in terms of its infrastructure and design. However, it is also considered as world's most expensive city, but for travelers like me thanks to its superb rail and subway networks, it is also one of the easiest to get around. That’s all which is required to explore this beautiful city.

With one full day to explore as much as I can, I started as early as I could have from my hotel. Just around the corner from my hotel there was a small temple, so took the blessings of the Gods to make most of this day. I started from Shinagawa Station and got down at Tokyo station to walk my way towards Imperial Palace. The palace is still in use by the Imperial family. During cherry blossom season the palace is one of the most sought out spots in the city for photography. The Palace has been also known as Edo Castle in the past, home to samurai warriors.

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Mohan Shakti Heritage Park, Solan

If you think that mountains are all about valleys, flowing water streams and precisely located temples, well your thoughts may be going for some serious reconsideration. 

Coming from Jatoli Shiv Temple in Solan and after travelling 8 kms towards Shimla, turn right on a narrow downhill road. You have to be a very confident driver for this 7 km. of road, if driving yourself, in order to find this Khul Ja Sim Sim like Treasure of our Heritage.

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Simhastha Kumbh, Hangover that refuses to end...

Yes this is one hangover we will never try to get rid of, in fact will treasure in a corner of our beings, forever. We are talking about our adventure/pilgrimage/ educational tour to Ujjain during Simhasth Kumbh Mela, whatever one would like to call it. Yes the grand carnival or Mahaparv (Grand Festival), celebrated by largest human gathering on Earth in every 12 years, this time from 22nd April – 21st May 2016. Excitement and nostalgia of being the blessed one for getting a chance to take dip in the holy waters and experience the Day 1 Shahi Snan was overwhelming and uncontrollable.
Day 1: Shahi Snan at Ujjain Kumbh
We five ladies having introduced to the sanctity of the dip in the river during the Kumbh set out to have our own trip to Ujjain. The plans begun, tickets booked, all happened as though someone was over looking us and we landed in Indore on our way to Omkareshwar.

The drive to Omkareshwar from Indore was comfortable and we were welcomed by the hottest blow of air as we got down visiting the temple at Omkareshwar. After the darshan at Omkareshwar and a relaxed visit to the temple, we settled down to a comfortable stay at the MP tourism hotel. Next morning we set out for a dip in Narmada, and we were pleasantly surprised by the group of Bengali ladies who joined us. All were much older than us, but their pure joy as they took the dip unabashed was inspiring. Some hung on to our arms as they wished to swing for a while in the water, as we city bred cautious ladies, were looking at the rocks with moss on them cautiously.  Narmada with her quite, magnanimous way had lessons to teach us, in that little while. Mother after all, she is. We were wondering which other culture in the world has so much reverence to the life giving rivers: Calling them rivers, bowing to them, energizing oneself with a dip in them, praying and lighting the lovely lamps that shine as the stars which came down to earth for a walk.

Very soon we left for Ujjain and a brief stopover for a hearty lunch in Indore. The ride was smooth and we reached the hotel after an eventful journey in the last leg resulting from security and logistics issues set out by the MP govt. Those of us who visited Ujjain during the last year could not help but notice how elaborate the arrangements were and the efforts that have gone in to make the visitors comfortable.
The presence of the police and local administration at every corner overlooking each detail is wonderful. Even the hot summers were thought of and sprinklers in the temple made our visit to the temple comfortable and memorable. Water in the river is cleaned regularly, boats with personnel on watch make your dip worry free. Did we ladies go there for a dip in the river Shipra, yes we did, for a darshan of Mahakaal yes we did, for an experience of the ancient holy city of Ujjain which has the liquor drowning Kaal Bhairav, Lord Krishna's school Sandeepani ashram with a beautifully sculptured well in its compound  which would put any swimming pool of the modern schools to shame and the ancient caves (giving us the glimpses of the conditions people set themselves out for to find the limits of human possibilities, etc.). But we were also asking for more as we wanted to visit the “Akhaadaas”.
What are these akhaadaas? Knowing not much more than that these are places where Aghoras, Naga Babas might be present, we were keen to have a glimpse of them after reading and sharing a few books on them not too long ago. We set out to visit the Akhaadaas finally, the ones where the Naga-Babas will be there. The walk through these lanes was nothing that can be remotely termed as serene, spiritual or calming. Each of these tents were as bright and loud as any exhibition a middle class Indian visited at any time in his life. Each of them were open and inviting. We chose to sit with one and found him smoking continuously, we were informed he has an ashram in Gujarat which is frequented by many and his complexion is so spotless and clear would give any fancy facial and makeover a run, that, in spite of smoking uninterruptedly.





To our wonderment, some yogis and sadhus were walking or simply sitting in Digambar Avastha.......a clothless state. The Nagas…! For some, smoking seemed their only interest. Even when they smoked it was not casual, careless. It looked like there was some purpose behind their smoking. Some looked fierce, some were compassionate. They had given up families, worldly life even the clothing...Actually, after a while when we saw many who were smoking and smoking various stuff, were thinking that these babas are actually poster boys for tobacco industry. They all looked fit, energetic and that in spite of chain smoking. What are these people doing that we are missing, our experience from the urban world is - you go to any specialist and if you ask him to cure you, he tells you to stop smoking, and we know how much that is possible.
Another experience worth mentioning is from a baba we named the “Joyful One”. In all my life of five decades and more, I have not met any who is so joyful for so long for no reason. Watching him is being a life lesson; he stands on one leg, and takes support on a swing that has been put up temporarily. Was he told he got 99.9% in SSC today, did his child get into IIT today or did he win a lottery today, none of these or any of the many things which most of us are slogging away all the time for this reason, but HE IS JUST PLAIN JOYFUL ALL THE TIME...!
We were amazed and anxious that how can someone consistently be so joyful for sooo long? We were with him for over 45minutes. He made us chant Om Namah Shivaaya and was open to questions, answering joyfully whatever one throws at him. When asked how he remains so joyful he said what is the reason not to be, all have the same soul, we come and go why not to be joyful. Even I know those answers but WHY AM I NOT SO JOYFUL? When he heard I am from Andhra he quickly dialled a number and wished I talk to the lady on the other end. Even as my group was leaving I could not say no and waited to talk expecting a bigwig from the other end looking at his enthusiasm. After a couple of minutes I heard a lady who was on her way to gulf for a petty job and encountered this Swami in Srisailam. Did someone say “Do not judge people by what they do but how they are?” 
After a couple of hours of this round we were feeling tired so decided to relax on the beautiful ghat, bank of river Shipra under the full moon. It was a beautiful sight and ambience par excellence.

We found a baba with nothing on him but a sack wrapped around his waist. We had been warned before that these people do not like us dwindling into our purses so we ladies took out some money and kept some handy as our budget for the day. Having come to the tail end of both our energies and our budget for the day our last tens were all we were left with. We went down and gave that to him and he graciously accepted without a thought and started talking to us. In no time we knew he was educated and very well travelled. When he found where we each came from he listed out all the holy places around and encouraged each of us to show them to the others in our group. Srisailam to Dwaraka to Girnar nothing he missed. All throughout during the conversation he was with quick wit and understanding and surprised us totally. When we look back today we feel sorry for ourselves and the assumptions we had as we set out on our encounter with him. In our culture, we hear that we should be grateful to those who accept anything from us; this experience indeed taught us that to core.
Also there were Naga Babas around, with ash on their bodies and in all different ways possible, long hired ones, high hired ones, etc, etc. how can one human being with nothing on their body, terrorize everyone around. No one can stand in the way of Naga Babas. We could not but help thinking of them as “Emperors with No Clothes”.
Having more than possible assumptions and expectations cultivated from the urban world getting destroyed in one evening, we could not but wonder which university in the world could have taught us more in one evening. These are people who stretch the physical limits to teach us what is possible with ourselves physically. Having achieved the heights of so called success and material well being, when the junta is lost for happiness and look grim, they show us how to be absolutely joyful with nothing much round you. They are in our world hidden, quietly stretching the human possibilities. Where around us we calculate the value of gifts and return gifts they offer us an opportunity to offer them unconditionally.

Next time you visit Kumbh, just do not go for Snan (Dip in the waters) it has much more to offer.
My Guru said Mahakaal dissolves you – How True.
By Lata Francis, Feruzan Khambatta, Mona Patel, Pooja Mehta and Usha Boppana – Isha Meditators.
Thanks to the blessed ones who got this sacred opportunity to experience this sacred conclave of humanity and one of the greatest festival for the mankind…Waiting for my turn to be at Kumbh, may be this one or the next one... 

To reach Ujjain:
By Train: Ujjian is well connected by railway with most of the major cities in India
By Road: Well connected with major cities
Nearest Airport : Indore approx. 60 km., regular flights ply from all the major cities.
Accommodation: Dharamshalas near Mahakal temple, MP tourism guest house and there are number of hotels in Ujjain to suit every budget
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Golden City of Jaisalmer

This is a place whose skyline is crafted in Gold, has been a travellers’ delight since long. Located in the heart of scorching and arid Thar Desert the Golden Yellow colour becomes a delight to eyes much before the majestic “Jaisalmer” begins.

 

Boarding an early morning train (Delhi-Jaisalmer Express) from Blue City of Jodhpur, we comfortably arrived in “Golden City” at 11:15 AM with second half still with us to explore. The mighty and impregnable fortification of “SONAR Qila” rising like a mirage from the ground, which is also the largest living fort on this earth is the landmark and defines the skyline of this city.

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Hampi...Land of Grand Temples

Continued from where we left at Hampi, Hemkuta Hill:


As further described by Abdur Razzek: Vijaynagar is built in such a manner that seven citadels and the same number of walls enclose each other. Around the first citadel are stones of the height of a man, one half of which is sunk in the ground while the other half rises above it. These are fixed one beside the other in such a manner that no horse or foot soldier could boldly or with ease approach the citadel." 


Razzaq describes the outer citadel as a "fortress of round shape, built on the summit of a mountain, and constructed of stones and lime. It has very solid gates, the guards of which are constantly at their post, and examine everything with severe inspection." Seventh fortress is the innermost of all and most protected as it used to serve as King’s residence."


"The space which separates the first fortress from the second, and up to the third fortress, is filled with cultivated fields and with houses and gardens. In the space from the third to the seventh one meets a numberless crowd of people, many shops, and a bazaar. By the king's palace are four bazaars, placed opposite each other. Above each bazaar is a lofty arcade with a magnificent gallery, but the audience-hall of the king's palace is elevated above all the rest. The bazaars are extremely long and broad." 

Thinking and deliberating on the magnificence of this place, we were now on the legendary Hemkuta Hill, it was the time to see and experience the large number of temples, archways and pavilions. The whole hill was fortified with tall wide stonewalls, the ruined remains of which can be seen till today. Hemkuta hill with reasonably flat expanse is one of the ideal places in Hampi to cherish the sunrise and sunset. 


According to the prevailing myth, once Lord Shiva was so impressed by the dedication of a local girl "Pampa" for him that he agreed to marry her. The occasion was celebrated by the Gods and it rained gold on this hill, which gave the present name to this hill (Hema in Sanskrit language means Gold). Hence majority of temples here are dedicated to Lord Shiva, the major one being the "Virupaksha temple", located at north of this hill. This hilltop and its slopes offer a splendid view of the sprawling ruins site.

Virupaksha temple surrounded by small temples.

Virupaksha temple is the principal temple in Hampi and an important pilgrimage centre for the worshipers of lord Shiva. The annual festivals attract huge crowds, Virupaksha temple is equally sought after by the tourists and pilgrims. It believed that this is the oldest functioning temple in India, as this temple has been functioning continuously ever since its inception in the 7th century AD. Virupaksha temple has been beautifully carved with numerous images of Gods and Goddesses.


One can reach the main entrance of temple through the chariot street in front of the Hampi Bazaar, just next to where the local bus stand. From the ticket counter close to the main entrance buy the entry ticket (Rs. 5), camera ticket (Rs. 50) and video camera fee (Rs 500). What an amazing piece of architecture? 

Virupaksha temple from inside: 

From the inner sanctum:
There is a long market outside Virupaksha temple and a number of bouldered structures, all in stones. Looks like once it has been a double story market.

This huge structure of monuments is located opposite to Virupaksha temple. I do not know what it was, but the sheer colossal size is amazing:

Next destination is the temple which even Lord Vishnu found too grand to his use and returned to live in his own home. yes we are talking of the most grand monument in Hampi, Vittala temple. the present look of the temple is attributed of Krishna Devaraya, the most acclaimed ruler of Vijayanagara dynasty. Temple complex is so big that it has shrines, pavilions and many halls located inside it. The famous "Stone Chariot", face of Karnataka tourism belongs to this temple.
Intricately carved Pillars                                                                                        Musical Pillars

The major attraction of this temple are the 56 musical pillars of Ranga Mantapa, one main pillar surrounded by a set of minor pillars. Pillars are called as "SAREGAMA" pillars courtesy to the musical notes emitted by them. Every main pillar is surrounded by 7 minor pillars. These 7 pillars emit 7 different musical notes of representative musical instruments. Sound quality depends on the type of instrument, whether wind, string or percussion type of musical instrument. These musical notes coming from the pillars has been a mystery to the people around the world. Even the 2 pillars were cut by then british rulers of India to solve this musical mystery. However, nothing was found inside the pillars and the secret is still unknown. The 2 cut pillars can still be seen in the temple. These pillars are a true testimony to the technological acumen of those times.

 

Rightly said the brilliance of this era will never be seen again ever. The aura of this place cannot be described in words, let’s hear the story from the stunning structures: 






Not only the huge structures, even the roofs are also delicately carved. Now the floodlights illuminate the Vittala temple complex and offers a majestic view of the complex. Purandaradasa Festival held annually in the month of February Attracts visitors from far off places. Hampi is a place where you can wander tirelessly for days, you will surely fall in love with the rocks. I was left spell bound.

Though in ruins now, but the aura is still intact for these monuments.

The Lotus Palace:

All of these were gradually reduced to ruins as the Empire fell to the foreign invaders in 1565 after the Battle of Talikota and this beautiful region was mercilessly plundered. Indeed one of the biggest losses to the civilizations, “Lost was a city, a region the brilliance of which will never be seen again in future”. Hampi has been declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Ruins still held their esteem and provide glimpses into the prosperity this place has seen.


57 Km. from Hampi is an another architectural marvel, Kumar Swamy Temple dedicated to Lord Karthikeya. This temple was built by Chalukya dynasty and later rebuilt by Rashtrakutas. 

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 ply 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.

Keep travelling Guys...
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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. You can indulge in many 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, 2nd half of August.



I was totally unaware about this grand magnum opus, but surely this has the potential to be one of the grandest celebrations on this earth. With its unmatched heritage, no doubt Jaipur is one of the most visit spots on the earth. Popular attractions are well known, but Jaipur has a couple of rare offbeat attracations, worth visiting. 


And if you keep an extra day, you may visit Chand Bawdi, which is 90 Km. from Jaipur on Jaipur-Agra road, you will be surprised by this hidden spot. 
Keep travelling Guys...

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Varanasi - Divine blessings in the land of temples

........................ 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

This is a city renowned for its religious and artistic activities since times immemorial. This city has been a cultural centre of India since several thousands of years and as per the available historical details this city is older than most of the religions in the World.


Its none other than one of the most colourful, spiritual, and charismatic places in India, welcome to "VARANASI", also known as KASHI or BENARAS. Place where temples outdo the number of people, Varanasi is one of the most spectacular and visited cities on this earth. Considered to be auspicious by the presence of "Lord Shiva" this sacred place is believed to have the power of washing away all the sins; those who die and gets cremated here is liberated from the cycle of life and death and attains " मोक्ष (Moksha)".   


Varanasi is one place where you can venture out without any schedule or fixed program and take my words you will not be disappointed while coming back. There is a glorious history associated with every part of this city. No surprise you can also find people from many nationalities getting familiar with diverse Indian traditions in the city.   

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Udaipur: Isn't Venice - Udaipur of the West..

It was all excitement and counting of days as soon as we planned a trip to Udaipur, one of the most romantic places in India and also popular as “city of lakes”. Every lane of the city is worth falling in love and network of Seven (7) lakes provide an ideal setting for romantic evenings. Established by Maharana Udai Singh in 1553, when he shifted the capital of Mewar from Chittorgarh. Udaipur City is one of best examples of Royality defined from India is one of most visited tourist destinations across the world. 

 

Along with Chittorgarh, Udaipur is a proud constituent of Mewar region. Mewar is the region which has weathered most of the attacks coming from the West to protect India. The folk tales of brave Rajputs and Maharana Pratap can be heard at every street and corner of this city. After history hunting at Chittorgarh, it was the time to discover the Grand Udaipur City.


As all good things shall start by prayers; one auto rickshaw driver advised us to first visit the Manshapurna Karni Mata Temple on the Machla Hills and enjoy the ropeway ride to reach the temple on top of hill. While enjoying the ropeway, one can click some breath-taking views of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Park adjacent to Doodh Talai Lake.



From the ropeway, the distant emerald Lake Pichola was visible and calling us to cherish the legendary boat rides on its blue waters. As soon as we returned from the temple, within no time we were at the boat ride station entry.

In the front of us were visible the noted monuments of Udaipur. The Boat ride will take you closer to Udaivilas and Lake Palace hotels which are situated in the middle of waters. Lake Palace used to serve as royal residence during summers.


All the lakes are interconnected. While enjoying our ride, a beautiful channel of connection of Lake Pichola with Fatehsagar lake.

No doubts all the boats gather at this point to click, this beautiful spot. Now I fully understood, why foreigners prefer to call Udaipur as “Venice of the East”. Venice must be feeling proud on this comparison with Udaipur. Check out Udaipur City from the water side...
Ride turned a full circle and the majestic City Palace, the royal residence of royal family of Udaipur was standing in front of us.

City Palace is complex of 11 palaces, courtyards and gardens and acclaimed globally for its intricate peacock mosaics, something heard only in mythological stories. A good part of City Palace is now turned into a museum. Camera is allowed inside after paying the prescribed entry fees. Take your camera to capture the grandeur from inside...
Also can have a royal meal inside the premises:

Around 200m. from City Palce is the major attraction and much visited Jagannath temple or Jagdish Temple.

It is believed that Lord Jagannath ordered the Maharana to build a temple in Udaipur where the God himself will come to bless this place. This 100 ft. high temple is also an architectural marvel and various mythological stories have been carved on the walls of this temple.

One has to take 32 marble steps to reach the temple. And to welcome the visitors, there stands two huge elephants with its trunk uplifted on either side of the stairs.
These elephants were built 11 stones’ blocks with such a craft that the joints are never visible. Lord Vishnu is called as Lord Jagdish here and is the worshipped deity here.







Located at the north of Lake Pichola is the Fatehsagar lake, which is an artificial lake and one of the most popular tourist hangout destinations in Udaipur.

Surrounded by Aravalli Ranges, the panoramic lake looks like an artists sketch. It is an ideal place to enjoy some quite moments with yourself or some romantic moments with your beloved.
Near to Fatehsagar Lake is the Maharana Pratap Memorial, the life of Maharana has been depicted by paintings. The most prominent being a caricature of Maharana Pratap slicing the Mughal officer along with his horse into 2 pieces with a single blow of his sword. During the battle of Haldighati Mughal officer had challenged Maharana Pratap for a duel fight.

A model of Chittorgarh Fort is also on display, as we were coming from Chittorgarh, we started identifying all the land mark features of the fort once more...



Next in the line was beautiful aura of lush green lawns, gardens, marble art and fountains, the place known as Saheliyon Ki Badi.







Built by Rana Sangram Singh, the place used to serve as the recreation spot for the royal maids. Notable feature here is the white marble umbrella/ chhatri type of fountain at the centre.

Water dripping down in the form of thin sprays from the terrace of the cenotaphs shaped like birds, create a wonderful sight like singing rains. The Saheliyon-ki-Bari opens from 8 AM to 5 PM.

We may have clicked numerous pictures and enjoyed some great food here, but what which can not be expressed fully in the words is the experience and remarkable hospitality of the people. Something is there in the Udaipur weather. For food lovers, Sukhadia Circle is the epitome of satiating the taste buds. Come early and secure a place, else enjoy the fountains while waiting for your turn at the food stalls.

 

Every moment in Udaipur is exploration of amazing history of our motherland and some memorable romantic moments with the soil of this region. Not only Udaipur city history is spread outside of Udaipur too, take some time to follow the trail of Maharana Pratap and the battle of Haldighati


Keep Travelling Guys…

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