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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. 


Karla Caves

Ray of light peeping out, all of a sudden from behind the dense leaves or drops of rainfall after a long hot spell. Perhaps one of the best experiences, which is delightful to everyone as a change from regular.

Now try to recall, when was the last time you felt elated on getting a surprise day off or just a half day off from your official duties? Most of us prefer to go home and relax or settle for an outing with family. But some out of mind boring people think of driving to some nearby locations. For a long time, I had been hearing about ancient rock cut caves near to Dolvi, which had became a weekly visit affair for me. Subconscious mind was always craving to make a trip, however business routine always used to shackle my spirits/ my legs whenever I dared thinking about to explore this spot.

One fine day, got a surprise when all the business formalities got finalized without much discussions and I realized that I have got a few hours for myself. Around 65 km. from Dolvi would have been slightly difficult on my feet or by public transport to return back by night, so requested a friend for his bike. He obliged and also informed me about the route. What a feeling it was gearing the bike🏍 after a long! My spirits, legs, hands and eyes; seemed everyone was also craving for a break. That was it; the lone ranger has started the drive to Karla Caves, the much cherished spot. 

65 km. separated me from the Karla Caves, a complex of ancient rock-cut caves located at Karli near Lonavala. It took me around 1.5 hours to reach the spot. Not just a spot, it is a grand example of Indian architecture expertise, for which even mighty mountains were just a canvas.

View from outside, for a moment turned me into Indiana Jones and so was ignited the curiosity to explore the interiors and unwind some ancient secrets – 

There is no definite information on the timelines of these caves, but believed to have carved around 2nd century BC and thereafter 5th century AD. A grand hall is the first one you come across on entering inside the caves. Large open space must have been a gathering place. This is probably the biggest temple hall I have come across in such constructions.


Udaygiri - Glory intact in stones

While following the road marks, I was snaking in the foothills of the Jajpur district in Eastern Ghats and completely desolated areas and vacant roads were the onoly company. Finally I reached at the spot, which was precisely located in a picturesque valley.


The Lepakshi Temple - Poetry on Stones

At times when airlines inform you well in advance about your flight getting late, but you might have already started moving towards airport, what will you do in such a situation?
You have 2 options; interesting one is to continue to airport, enjoy food and drinks at airport lounges, have a jolly good time and relax. And boring option will be to start searching for any on the way attraction and wear out yourself. It happened to me when, I was already on way to Bangalore from Vijaynagar. To decide, I opted for the boring option to explore Lepakshi, a small village in Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh which was 15 km from the highway.

After accounting remaining travel time, I had precisely 2.5 hours to spend at Lepakshi. Lepakshi as pronounced locally is the place where king of bird “Jatayu (जटायु)” left this mortal world, in arms of lord Ram. There after Lord Ram requested heaven to accept Jatayu by saying "Le-Pakshi" (take the bird) and that is how, we now know the place as Lepakshi.
This small village is house to one of the most amazing architectural wonder in India, perhaps in the world, the Veerbhadra Temple with hanging pillar. I knew that I was about to step into a wonderland, the moment I took the first step inside the sacred premises. 

Main entrance gate is rather small, but leads to an empire of grand architectural extravaganza. Paragon of excellence in architecture, the present temple was built in 1583 by brothers Viranna and Virupanna, who used to serve Vijaynagar Empire. Temple is dedicated to Lord Veerbhadra, the fearsome avatar of Lord Shiva, which was taken to kill Daksh Prajapati (दक्ष प्रजापति ).
Main temple is surrounded by long walkways and meditation halls with exquisitely carved endless pillars and long lamp in front of temple.

Main temple has other deities of lord Vishnu, Bhadrakali, Hanuman, Ramalinga, Naga Linga and Ganesha. After worshipping it was the time to let loose of ourselves in this beautifully carved temple.
Gods, musicians, dancers, figurines of various forms are carved on every structure; be it pillars, roof and outer walls of the temple. 

And -

Roofs are decorated with mural paintings.

In the main temple premises the major attraction is the hanging pillar. Yes, the pillar is attached from the top and is not touching the ground. If you are not aware about this hanging pillar, in all probability you will miss out noticing.

You will see people coming here with towels, sheets of cloth and passing it from the space between pillar and ground. Check out -

This pillar is a testimony to the engineering expertise of ancient India. During the British era, it is said a moronic British engineer tried to move this pillar in order to find the secret. But the whole structure started shaking and the scared engineer prayed and ran away for this life.
Temple priest was a wonderful person who narrated the history of this temple in one of the most fluently articulated English and an equally eloquent Hindi, when I told about my place.
Priest advised us to next go to Nagalinga. Nagalinga is the 3 coiled, 7 headed Sheshnag (शेषनाग ,the divine snake of Lord Vishnu) shielding Naga Linga (Shiv Linga/ manifestation of Lord Shiva).

This is the first time I came across such a structure, Sheshnag over Lord Shiva. Must be some significant chapter from our heritage, but here it is a treat to the eyes. This blogger forgot how many clicks were taken were, perhaps the most in the entire blogging career.
Just behind the Naga Linga is statue of Lord Ganesha, with snake tied to the belly. Only two statues exist of this type, other one at Sasivekalu Ganesh at Hampi. Click to read.

See the structure closely the supporting pillars are not symmetric/ are different. Perhaps left incomplete or some engineering principles not known to present science.
Rock, on the left of the Lord Ganesha depicts a warrior and an elephant praying to Lord Shiva. Who this warrior is? Do not know, but I will find out and update here.

After praying to Lord Ganesha, adjacent Kalyan Mantap/ Latha Mantap was the next spot, a fairy tale in the temple premises. At this moment recalled an old Hindi song- किस कवि की कल्पना किसने दिया आकार है, ये कौन चित्रकार है? The brothers must have been poets, to have created this masterpiece of poetry in stones. I was feeling like that any moment the statues will overcome the other casing and get live, such is the level of expertise in carving here. 

Locals told that most of the design here inspire design for local sarees and other clothing items. It was then I started checking the structures more closely. Every pillar/ structure is an institution in itself. 

Soon we realized that these pillars do not have a roof. 

Why? Actually roof would have been there, but due to lack of funding/ probably the king stopped funding the construction, abruptly. It was being built to hold wedding ceremony of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Had this structure got completed, what a GRAND STRUCTURE it would have been?
Alas, why this word exist.
After this the outer part of the temple was left for exploring. As soon as we came out of Kalyan Mantap, saw a huge foot step, believed to be of Goddess Seeta. While kidnapping to Lanka Goddess Seeta, demon Ravana rested here for a while. The water on this footmark never dries, you may dry off the water by using a cloth, but it will appear again.

Nearby of this holy footmark is the dancing Lord Hanuman. Too much was coming our way much more than I could have ever dreamt off.

Main Temple structure is surrounded by verandah, tall lamp, long walkway surrounded by pillars, perhaps was meant to accommodate the visitors in Lord Shiva wedding ceremony. Do not know, but definitely work as meditation chambers.

Walking around in the verandah/ walk ways is relaxing as well as divine, and isolating you from worries of routine life. I will be a stupid if I do not believe in the existence of heaven in our temples.

More than 2 hours have passed, when the driver called me up reminding of catching the flight. I checked with airlines hoping some more delay but for the first time got disappointed by the reply - no more delay. All of a sudden, I realized that the temple floor was quite hot, however I never realized it while going around the temple. Why? Because I have been in the company of Gods, heaven for last 2 hours?
So with heavy heart came out from this wonderland and started moving towards the vehicle, just few minutes for local market.
1.5 km ahead from Veerbhadra temple and on way to Bangalore is a huge monolith Nandi, site of Basavann temple, which we have skipped while going. The size is enough to speak about engineering acumen which must have gone to make this. This is another notable example of Vijaynagar style architecture. 

This is considered as biggest Nandi in the World. Finally I was on way to Bangalore and thinking about this memorable day. While thanking the Gods for this lovely break and feeling proud on our heritage. 
Keep exploring guys.
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In the City of 14 Gods, Agartala

In between the journey of life, one has to squeeze moments for life.
I was travelling to Tripura, which is a hilly state in northeast India and Agartala, the capital of Tripura and is the second largest city in North-east India after Guwahati. That’s all I knew about Agartala, when I landed one late evening in Agartala. At the back of mind was the feeling that Tripura is a beautiful state so was expecting some free time to go around the city as well.
As the lady luck got benevolent on this poor fellow, I got half a day for myself and an extra 30 minutes as lunch went for a vacation. Got guided by my new friends to visit Temple of 14 Gods, known as Chaturdasha Temple, around 8 km. from Agartala. 
I hired an Auto quickly and reached the sacred “Temple of 14 Gods”, the deity temple of royal family of Tripura and was built by King Krishna Manikya Debbarma around the year 1760. All 14 presiding deities of this temple have been continually worshipped by the royal family of Tripura since times immemorial. Tradition of worshipping all of the Gods together has been a practice and has been delegated to coming generations.

This temple captures the soul of influence of nature on lifestyle of people of Tripura and no surprise, Tripura is also known as the Country of Fourteen Gods and Goddesses. Only Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Goddess Durga are worshipped all throughout the year, while other 11 Gods are worshipped during weeklong Kharchi Puja festival, around July. No worries, you can pray to the beautifully statues:


Collecting the ancient links at Bithoor

Peaceful ambience of a riverside settlement appeals to everyone; 
Why not? The river ghats have been the sole witness for civilization transitions since times immemorial and have always celebrated the traditions while continuing journey with changing times. As I always say, take life as it comes and try to make the best of whatever comes your way. It was one of those moments, when I got some free time for myself in Kanpur. So managed to reach Bithoor, a small town located 27 km away from Kanpur, on the banks of River Ganga. 
Though I was aware about the name Bithoor and its location alongside river Ganga, however was totally unaware of its ancient roots. What could have been more ancient, the place which is considered as birth place of Lav-Kush, you got it right sons of Lord Ram. Also Bithoor was the centre for Revolt of 1857 as Nana Sahib, then Peshwa of Maratha Empire led the freedom struggle revolt from here.

So got to know that the small town of Bithoor has both historical and religious importance. It is also believed that Lord Brahma selected Bithoor as his abode and performed Ashwmedh Yajna at this place. Because of which Bithoor came to be known as Brahmavart and the place where I was standing is known as Brahmvart Ghat. There is a small temple, “Brahma Khoonti” dedicated to Lord Brahma at the Brahmvart Ghat. It is so small that prayers are done from the outside only. As per Brahmvart Puran, this point is the centre point of the earth. Close your eyes to feel the divine vibes.

Pilgrims from far off places come here to pray at Brahmvart Ghat and see the Valmiki Ashram. My country has been blessed with such a heritage, which makes us proud on our civilization.


VarahNarsimha Simhachalam Temple

Situated near to Vizag (around 18 Km.) on a hill top, Simhachalam temple, known as "Simhachalam Devasthanam" is believed to be as the oldest temples in the world. The word Simhachalam means the hill of the lion and this temple is a true portrait of rich heritage of Vizag.

Bhakt Prahlad needs no introduction and probably is the most told story to every kid in our country. This is the hill where Lord Vishnu had appeared to save Prahlada who was dropped from top of the hill, by the demon Hiranyakshipu into  the sea. Later on after demon Hiranyakashipu was killed by Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Narsimha, Prahlad had built the first temple at this site. Lord Vishnu is worshipped as Lord VarahaNarasimha (वराह नरसिंह ) here.

The present structure of temple was constructed by King Sri Krishna Devaraya. However a few scripts found here dates to 9th century, Chola Empire and 13th century AD as well.


Offbeat delicacy in Pink City Jaipur

What is so special about color "Pink"?
Everyone says it is a symbol of universal love, charm and understanding hospitality. In the year 1876, Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh had painted the city of Jaipur in Terracotta-Pink to welcome, then visiting Prince of Wales, Prince Albert to show him the Brand India hospitality. The tradition of Indian hospitality is unmatched till date.
Thereafter a law was passed by the state of Jaipur in 1877, requesting every new building to be painted in colour of Pink. That is how Jaipur became Pink City and Jaipur is still redefining the standards of royalty and hospitality.

Every step, every lane is worth giving a feel of being a Maharaja to whomsoever visiting this Pink City. Along with other noteworthy tourist attractions like forts, monuments and temples, Jaipur is also one of the preferred spots for destination weddings. If you are also planning to get married in this city and are looking for wedding banquet halls in Jaipur, then WedMeGood would be really helpful for you.

Jaipur is always full of visitors, be it any time of the year. Amidst so many spots, in fact all of them popular with tourists, are there any Offbeat spots in Jaipur? I was thinking the same while enjoying the Nahargarh Fort. While moving around, I saw two monuments lying at the foothills of Nahargarh fort, which were not at all crowded. Well, I was able to locate the rare offbeat spots in Jaipur; Garh Ganesh Temple and Gatore ki Chhatriyan.

So without wasting any time, I reached the entry spot for these spots. As all good things should begin with prayers to God, so Garh Ganesh temple was the preferred choice to start. From here you just need to start climbing these stairs, however the size of stairs, will test your stamina to the extent. 


Brahma Sarovar, Kurukshetra

Where you will find the Gods, where is the heaven? 
Simple answer, please visit Hindu temples. And if you want to enjoy a walk with the Gods alongside, please come to Brahma Sarovar (Pond) at Kurukshetra.
Legend says the Sarovar was created by none other than Lord Brahma. After performing a huge Yagya (ritual) here, Lord Brahma went on to create the universe from the sacred land of Kurukshetra. Cradle of civilization, Brahma Sarovar is breathtakingly picturesque and the most visited site in Kurukshetra. 

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 travellers 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.

Palace is big monument in the heart of the metropolis and consists of numerous parks, where everyone can enjoy a walk or jog in the morning.
Walking around the palace in brisk rains has doubled up the joy. Soon from the nearest subway station boarded a train to Yasukini Jinja Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine in central Tokyo

Shrine was built in 1869 to honour brave soldiers who led their lives in order to build the foundation for a peaceful Japan. In form of written records, details (spirits) of about 2.5 million people, who sacrificed their lives for Japan in the various conflicts, are enshrined here. Details include name, birth place and date and place of death of brave soldiers.

Adjacent to main shrine stands a memorial dedicated to Dr. Radha Binod Pal, who with utmost honesty tried to defend justice of law during International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) was set up by the Allied powers to try Japanese leaders for “war crimes" and was the only judge to have exonerated Japanese leaders.

Subsequently Dr. Pal was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure First Class by the emperor of Japan, one the country’s highest honours in 1966. Read more about RB PalMemorial.

Alongside the shrine there is a small war museum displaying equipments from World War – II. Likewise this Mitsubishi Fighter aircraft:

And this 1936 made, locomotive from Thai-Burma Railroad:

At a walking distance from the Shrine is the “Indian Embassy”. Cannot share how I felt to celebrate “Incredible India”, outside India.

When the Soul is satiated and the mind is thirsty for more, there is no craving for anything else. Neither I felt hungry nor had had any plans to eat that day, but my friend Kento ensured we do not go hungry. He took me to an Indian restaurant. Thanks, Kento for the wonderful moments.

With a subway map, another subway station and we were all set for Meiji Jingu. Surrounded by 175 acre forest, Meiji Jingu is a Shrine built to commemorate virtues of Emperor Meiji in 1920. 

Wall made of barrels of Sake and Wine is another notable feature of thei Shrine. 

This is one of the most beautiful alleys of Tokyo and must visit for first timers to Japan. Read more about MeijiJingu
Evening was looming large by the time were making exit from Meiji Jingu, but I had to catch Askakuza line for Sensoji Temple at Asakusa district. Got confused for a while, seeing this beautiful subway train, if this train is for regular commuting a showcase model? Vow. 

The Sensoji Temple in Asakuza disgtrict is one of the oldest temples in Tokyo, dedicated to Buddhist Goddess of compassion, Kannon. Temple’s history goes back to the year 645, it was destroyed in 2nd world war, but was rebuilt in the original appearance again. 

The temple is noted for the enormous Thunder Gate with hanging lamps at the entrance, 5 storied Pagoda and Nakamise-dōri Street to buy souvenirs, snacks or even have your fortune told. In the temple premises saw lot of incense sticks being burnt and people cupping their hands around the smoke and applying it for healing. Rightly said, science comes so far and then GOD comes along, power of faith should never be underestimated. Read more about Sensoji Temple.
From the temple premises, you can see a rocket ship like a tower. This is 634-meter-tall Tokyo Skytree, country's tallest structure (and the world's tallest freestanding tower). Opened in 2012, it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tokyo for panoramic views of Tokyo from the restaurants.

As all good things have to end, the time and dark had arrived to force me to go back to pack my stuff and leave to India next day. For those who believe life is made of moments, I covered lot of them in a city which is one of most modern and extremely rich in culture heritage.
Forgot to mention, night outing on a Yakatabune boat for Japanese traditional meal while enjoying Tokyo skyline floating around on Sumida River. Yakatabune is a must try experience. Check out the setting inside the boat:

Now have to say, Sayonara Japan with amazing memories. Sayonara was the first Japanese word which Indians have learnt, thanks to famous song of the 1960’s, Sayonara Sayonara from the smash hit movie Love in Tokyo.
Keep travelling, keep on accumulating experiences.



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