Archive | August 2012

Oasis in the Vast Desert – Jodhpur Day-3

Next day aftMand-Jodhpurer having had a hearty breakfast we headed for Mandore town located approximately 9 km north of Jodhpur. It’s an ancient town with remnants of a ruined fort, which once must have been a fine piece of architecture. We could see a ruined temple in the fort. It must be pretty huge sometime down the history and on the outer walls of the temple we could still see the finely carved images of birds, animals and planets. We had a good walk in the Mandore gardens. There are some old and beautiful temples in this garden, but I wish the place was maintained better. Though looking at the cenotaphs was very interesting and the museum was also good but with so many monkeys around we couldn’t hang there for much time.

Later we were taken to the Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum. This palace is huge, elegant and well preserved. The major portion of the palace is used by the Maharaj Gajsingh and is not open to the public and a significant part of the palace is a luxury hotel. A part of the palace houses a museum with a fairly good collection on display. The Maharaj’s vintage car collection was awesome. After having spent around two hours in the palace we had tea and snacks and left for Osian another ancient town. Though it was around one and half hour drive away but as we had heard a lot about it from the locals we decided to go and have a quick look. Umaid Bhawan JodhpurAnybody who is interested in archaeology would love to come here. The place is surrounded by golden sand dunes and small hamlets. There were in all sixteen brilliantly carved and planned temples. I liked Sun Temple the most. The guide told us that it was constructed somewhere in the 10th century. There were many sculptures inside the temple and a statue of sun God.  Such old heritage must be preserved well, but one could see the damages due to sheer neglect. We also had a fun camel ride.

Instead of having dinner in the hotel we had a stop at a local restaurant and there we enjoyed the Jodhpur cuisine. We had ‘kachori’, ‘ladoos’ and ‘buttermilk’. It’s like a tradition out here to have something sweet first followed by the main course. Must say it was great fun. We had a long day, as we were to go to Udaipur next day; we headed back to the hotel. Whichever place I visit, it just gets under my skin and leaving it makes me sad. But anyways, Udaipur wait for me….HERE I COME!

Oasis in the Vast Desert – Jodhpur Day-2

Once the lunch was over our guide asked us “how about some zips around the walls of the fort and some extra fun?” When asked what he was talking about, he told us that there is a zip line tour ‘Flying Fox Jodhpur’ inside the property of Mehrangarh fort. The tour comprises of 6 separate ziplines which fly you around the fort providing extraordinary and unique views. Along with the expert guides one can zip over battlements, lakes and valleys.

It was a most amazing, spectacular and thrilling experience for us. It was windy and I could feel myself soaring over the ‘blue city’. All the zips were fantastic but the last zip was the longest and the best. The zip line is not exactly in the fort premises but is outside the fort walls and the fort gives an excellent backdrop to the zipping experience. The thrill of zipping over water bodies was great. We had so much fun, something I shall always remember.

On our way back we had a stop in Jaswant Thada, the final resting place of Maharaja Jaswant Singh. Next to a lake in a picturesque location this white marble memorial is built out of intricately carved sheets of marble. The lake was full of birds and with the setting sun we got some excellent pictures. Though our stop in this place was brief, but I must say that the serenity and calmness of the place had a peaceful effect on me.

En route to the hotel we went to Clock Tower. It’s in the old city of Jodhpur with a big shopping area. The place was swarming with vendors and buyers. While walking down the street and checking the local stuff the strap of my sandel  broke. It was difficult to walk with a broken strap and I asked the first likely looking vendor, if he could fix it. He nodded in several affirmatives and asked me to follow him little bit down the street where he handed over my sandal to another man, who within few minutes took out a new strap from his bag and fixed it. Also gave a good brushing to my sandals and here they were as good as new. In twenty five rupees everything was done. Back home I could not imagine such quick service.

After buying few gifts for friends and families and having a good time roaming we made our way back to the hotel.

Oasis in the Vast Desert – Jodhpur

After having a wonderful time in Ahmedabad, I and my friends headed for the city of Jodhpur. We were told that this city is one of the favorite tourist destinations in Rajasthan.  And rightly so located on the foothill of a sandstone hillock, the city of Jodhpur looks like an oasis in the vast desert.

The flight from Ahmedabad to Jodhpur was quite comfortable and as we had already booked our tour there was staff from the hotel waiting for us on the airport to assist and guide us to their hotel Ajit Bhawan Palace which apparently is India’s first heritage hotel as told to us by the staff. Set in a peaceful and calm environment this palace turned hotel was once a home to the members of the Jodhpur royal family. The ambience was so good that the moment we stepped in there we felt like a guest of Maharaj’s family. Our rooms had a beautiful garden view. After keeping our luggage in the respective rooms we just sat in the balcony to unwind and relax. Most of the staff in the hotel was dressed in the traditional attire. I was mighty pleased to see the tall turbaned man who brought us tea and sandwich. The excitement had started to seep in, this I could feel and I was eager to take what Jodhpur has to offer to us.

Our first destination was Mehrangarh Fort. Perched high on a cliff and four hundred feet above the skyline of Jodhpur, it’s a magnificent fort. The view of it imposing over the city is simply incredible. Here I must say that the audio guided tour was very helpful. I found it very interesting that seven gates have to be crossed to reach the fort and just to be a witness to the marks of the cannon balls by the attacking armies on the gates was like getting transported to the bygone era! The gates had different names and most of them were constructed to commemorate victories over enemies. Inside the fort there were many palaces and each had their own sprawling courtyards. One of the palaces still has the royal throne of Jodhpur. Apart from the palaces it has many galleries and temples. The museum is fantastic; it is one of the well-stocked museums in Rajasthan they say.  Many movies have been filmed in this fort. One could easily spend a day here. The landscape, the architecture, the artistry, the scale, the details…everything is magnificent. There is a lift which takes you to the roof of the fort from where you can enjoy bird’s eye view of the entire city and can also have a look at the cannons on display.

It was crowded with so many locals holidaying and having fun with the families. One little boy wanted to get photographed with me but was little shy to approach. And when I said “how about a photograph with me”, he was all smiles. It was good to see women in beautiful saries walking around the old courtyards looking at their old heritage.

We spent the whole afternoon walking and appreciating the interiors and were famished now. The lunch was already organized by the hotel for us so we decided to have it before getting further on.

Ahmedabad Beckons!- Continue Day 4

Day 4

We were told by our guide the next day on the breakfast table that he has booked a tour for us in the Calico Museum of Textiles. One can only visit as part of the guided tour here. Set in an old house with lovely wooden floor it is a private collection of the Sarabhai family (a renowned name in Ahmedabad). Calico museum is a stunning and outstanding collection of Indian Fabric Textiles. One get to see the most fabulous fabrics in various colours and styles. There are dazzling sarees, silk work, beads, tie- dye work, embroidery work and block work in unimaginable styles. Shah Jahan a renowned Mogul ruler’s tent can also be seen there! The sitting area at the end of the tour with the sound of flowing water and roaming peacocks adds to the tranquility of the ambience.

It was altogether a wonderful experience. Some of my friends wanted to do some shopping. Our guide cum friend assured us that he shall take us to the shops which not only sell good stuff but also have reasonable rates. My experience in Manali was little different in this respect. But I had full faith in my guide. Oh! By the way did I tell you his name? He had a very sweet name – Bharat. For shopaholics the city is truly a paradise. It is famous for the woven fabrics in wide variety. The markets have an enormous collection of fabrics that are painted using traditional methods of tie and dye, also the zari work that makes use of gold and silver thread is another attraction. Handcrafts of Gujarat are very fascinating so I purchased some of them for my friends and family at home.

After our shopping spree we had a hefty lunch as walking in the streets had really sapped our energy. Bharat told us about Akshardham , a temple we were to visit in the evening. One thing I have noticed about the Indians is that they are very religious people and whatever phases of life they are going through they never lose faith in their idol. Akshardham is one of the largest temples in Gujarat. The monument enshrining the 7 foot high, gold leafed statue of Lord Swami Narayan is the focal point of the complex. It aims to promote Indian art, culture, and values. Its tagline is, “This is a place where art is ageless, culture is borderless, and values are timeless.” The laser show and the musical fountains made the visit worthwhile. The laser show is one of its kinds in the world. The architecture, designing and the animated statues are very interesting. We learnt a lot and had a total spiritual experience.

It was kind of sad to bid adieu to Bharat. But for him our visit to Ahmedabad could not have been so interesting. I exchanged my postal address with him and promised to remain in touch.

Coming to This part of India was a great experience. Let’s see where I go next, but wherever it is I surely plan to share all my experience with you. Cheers!!

Ahmedabad Beckons!- Continue Day 3

Day 3

‘THE MOUND OF THE DEAD’ this was the meaning of the place ‘Lothal’ we were to visit in Gujarati (a regional language). It is an epitome of well-known Indus valley civilization. It is 85 km away from the Ahmedabad city. Not long back its remains have been excavated as the whole town was destroyed by the natural catastrophes. I was amazed to see the old ruins and when our guide told us about how well planned the lay out of the city was and about their work culture; believe me I had all the regards for them and their knowledge. The town was planned with houses in a row and proper drainage system. Householders possessed a collection chamber to deposit solid waste in order to prevent the clogging of city drains. They had a dockyard and a warehouse and were busy traders. During its hay days Lothal was a major trade centre, importing en mass raw material like copper, semi -precious stones etc. and distributing to inner villages and towns. Lothal exported its beads, gemstones, ivory and shells. There are still the remains of the factory where the ornaments from gems, beads, ivory and precious stones were made. Before visiting the actual site one must visit the museum first to get the full feel of the place. A man out there was selling ornaments and key rings made of stones. All of us purchased something or the other just as souvenirs. Walking through the once busy lanes but now ruined I could almost visualize the kind of life people must be living here. I and my friends were glad that we came here.

On way back to Ahmedabad we got to see Adalaj Vav. It’s a five storied step well located in a small sleepy village named Adalaj, about 18 km from Ahmedabad. It was built in 1499 by queen Rudabai and is counted amongst the finest architectural structures of Gujarat. Our guide had an interesting story to tell us regarding the step well. He told us how a Muslim ruler of a neighboring state killed the king and was so besotted by the beauty of the queen Rudabai that proposed her to become his queen. The queen agreed with one condition that he should complete a five story step well for her. In record time this step well was made, but so pure was the queen Rudabai’s love for the slain king Rana Veer Singh that instead of marrying the Muslim ruler she said her final prayers and jumped into the well and died.

The Vav is a classic example of Indo Islamic style of architecture. The designs on its walls and pillars include leaves, flowers, birds, fish and other breath taking ornamental designs. Sunlight cannot directly reach the well, but opening in the ceiling enable light and air to enter inside. This keeps the water inside the well cool even in summer. We were mesmerized by the beauty of the place. Though my friends wanted to spend more time there but as we were to get back to the hotel we reluctantly made our way back.

After having a good wash and wonderful dinner we all made to our rooms to have a much deserved nap. I couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful places till the sleep engulfed me.

Ahmedabad Beckons!- Continue

Day 2

After having sandwiches and coffee we were all set for our next destination. Our guide told us that who so ever visits Ahmedabad must visit the Sabarmati Ashram, also known as Gandhi Ashram.  Gandhiji spent almost 12 years of his life here. This Ashram is located on the banks of river Sabarmati and at present the Ashram has a museum and Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalya where one can track Gandhiji’s life and historic events that took place in his life through paintings, photos, quotations, letters, manuscripts of Gandhiji’s articles in various magazines and newspapers etc. And when I saw the old charkha with which Gandhiji used to weave I was too fascinated. Even after so many years one could feel the simplicity with which he lived here. We had some good photo session and the river in the backdrop looked just great.

As Hathee Singh Jain temple is not far away from the Gandhi Ashram we clubbed it together in our visit. Oh! I was surprised to see the architecture of the temple. The place is so old that you could feel the peace and serenity inside. Hatheesingh Temple was built in 1850 AD by Seth Hatheesingh who was a rich jain merchant. Built in white marble it is much famous for its intricate carvings and profuse architectural design.

We decided to have our lunch, though it was more of a tea time but all of us were hungry and the appetizing aromas from the eating joints was too much for us. I settled for vegetarian food and was pleased with the culinary tricks the Indian cooks had up their sleeves. It was a fun filled meal hour with discussions overflowing and our guide also kept on filling us with information which we had otherwise overlooked.

In the evening we decided to go to Kankaria Lake. There was some cultural program going on and the whole place was lit with fancy lights. We had to park our tourist coach at quite a distance as the entire surrounding area of Kankaria is made vehicle free. That is a good way to manage the crowd and also to keep the sanctity of the lake. Throngs and throngs of people could be seen everywhere. The walls adjoining the entrance of the lake were painted beautifully by local painters and artists depicting the culture and heritage of Gujarat. The lake was big and one could spend entire day out there. Train ride for children is a big attraction for the families and then there were so many eating joints. My friends specially enjoyed the view of the lake and as light and sound program was going on, the view looked even more dramatic. All of us were holding hands lest we get separated in the heavy rush. We sat by the lake and had fun looking at the happy faces and listening to the nice music that was flowing throughout the lake premises. I would say a good place to unwind.

It was time to get back to the hotel; after all we had to recoup our energies for the next day travels.

Ahmedabad Beckons!

While on my long holiday in India I had the opportunity to visit most of the places and much as I was surprised by the diversity of the land, the rich culture and heritage also left an indelible imprint on my mind. After my visit to Goa and Manali both the places had different topography and were just amazing, I along with my friends got the chance to visit Ahmedabad and the historic places around the city. I happen to make friends with a local guy on a train journey and he was kind enough to become our guide in this new adventure.

Ahmedabad is the largest city in the state of Gujarat. It is located in western India on the banks of the River Sabarmati. The city has been under different rulers since its creation and thus had a rich history. The city has been a former capital of Gujarat and has been the home to most important leaders of India like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel during the Indian independence movement. Ahmedabad is also the cultural and economic centre of Gujarat and the seventh largest city of India.

Our guide told us an interesting legend behind how the city got this name. He said, at the beginning of the 15th century, Sultan Ahmed Shah, while camping on the banks of the Sabarmati River, saw a hare chasing a dog. The sultan was intrigued by this view and asked his spiritual adviser for explanation. The sage pointed out unique characteristics in the land which nurtured such rare qualities which turned a timid hare to chase a ferocious dog. Impressed by this, the sultan, who was looking for a place to build his new capital, decided to make a capital here and named it Ahmedavad “the city of Ahmed”.

When I hear such old legends I am sort of transported to that era and just to be part of the old time makes me enchanted. After having settled into a reasonably good hotel our guide gave us a brief about the whole city and the places around and decided to take us on tour early next morning as we were pretty tired with the journey and needed some time to get acclimatized with the weather as well as the people!

Next morning we were all fresh, ready and geared up with our cameras and traveling pack. We were quite conscious about the food and drinks we were having as we had some problem earlier by going bit easy on that front. I did not want to get sick, and miss the chance of visiting beautiful places so I was carrying pack of mineral water with me.

“Welcome to the walled city”, our guide enlightened us with the fact that the old Ahmedabad was walled from all the sides and the architecture of the city was so strong that in the recent earthquakes which Ahmedabad faced in 2001, not a single house was damaged in the old city, whereas lot damage and loss could be witnessed in the newly constructed areas. The glorious past of the city bearing various political and cultural facets could be glimpsed in the ancient buildings. The old Ahmedabad city was divided into many ‘pols’. ‘POLS’ are the small neighborhoods that are both the backbone and the heartbeat of the old city of Ahmedabad. I found one thing very interesting in these pols and that was the tall pillar kind structure called ‘chabutro’ built every 200 metres or so, which worked as an abode for the birds to rest and pick their food and drink water. How very thoughtful. As the streets were narrow in the old city the whole group just walked through the lanes. Another thing that stuck to my mind and I liked was that people from different religion lived together as good neighbors and there were many secret passages about which only the insiders knew to be used in emergency to go from one  pol to another. We could see people sitting on the steps of their homes hand-sewing books or crimping silver chains together for traditional jewelry, and making kites, working for their livelihood without leaving the homes, thus creating a vibrant community. Every pol had a temple of their own or small shrines for whatever faiths are present. The tour of the old city ended with our visit to Jama Masjid mosque. All in all it was a wonderful, informative and a unique experience.

After having visited the old Ahmedabad we got a bit tired and thought of having a little break before embarking on the next phase of our tour.

Tomorrow I shall get back to you again…so be there!