Tag Archive | India

The Pink City – Jaipur – Hawa Mahal

After having our lunch we went to see the legendry Hawa Mahal also known as the ‘palace of winds’. I had seen the picture of this place on various travel guides but this place was much more impressive in reality. Initially we stood across the road taking its pictures with so much traffic whizzing by. The market was buzzing with routine activities and there amidst this entire hum drum was standing this palace with five storied exterior a fascinating landmark of Rajasthan. This palace was built with the purpose to provide a place from where the ladies of the royal family could see the royal processions going down the market area through the small windows decorated with intricate latticework. In all there are 953 small windows. Our guide told us that this palace was designed in the form of Lord Krishna’s crown. Come to think of it the exterior does looks like a crown. The palace is built of red and pink sandstone. Its architecture is good and apart from crown it also looked like a beehive.

There is a big courtyard with a fountain in the middle just as you enter the palace. It was probably a place where the royal people used to celebrate the festivals. We had to climb through a narrow passage to reach the upper floors. There were no stairs, just a ramp to reach there. The view from the top was fantastic. The royal ladies must have had a great time watching from there. There was some nice stain glass window work inside the palace as well.

We had a good time here. Again the shopkeepers were kind of trying to lure us to buy things but we were now smart enough to evade them. We rushed back to the hotel to relax and pack our things as we were to leave for Agra the day after.

I am so glad that I came to this part of India. There are so many memories for me to visit whenever I am low or alone. Who so ever is reading this blog must make a genuine attempt to have a tour of Rajasthan.

So long………

The Pink City – Jaipur – Elefantastic

“Have you ever been in close proximity with elephants?” Was what our guide asked us when we met him after having  the breakfast. Well with close proximity if you mean riding them then of course we have done that,”no..no that’s not what I am asking said our guide”. ”We shall be going to a place called Elefantastic where we will be staying with the elephants for full day and also shall spend the night there”. Now that was really cool! And we were also to visit a fort called Amer fort which was near to the place of elephants. We had a small back pack for the night and in a very excited mode left the hotel.

As we were about to enter the elephant village, to our surprise we saw two elephants greeting us and then they started walking along our car. The staff gave us a warm welcome and the manager of the place Rahul made us feel very comfortable. After the greetings and tea we were taken to get acquainted with the area and the giants who lived there. IT WAS FUN. The trainers with the elephants were very gentle with them and made us also feel like a part of the team; well that was the role we have to perform now. First of all they asked us to bond and familiarize with the elephants. When meeting the animal for the first time they need to catch your smell. Then we were told to stroke them and try to communicate with them looking into their eyes. We got busy feeding them after the introduction and there was so much to learn about their feeding habits. We had a wonderful session of painting the elephants as well. The skin of the elephants is so thick but painting them is a traditional art and I must say quite an interesting one.

We had lunch in the village house itself with so many local delicacies. The family that provided us with the lunch was quite affectionate and all of us enjoyed their company. The house was simple with simple wooden furniture, but despite them being simple people they had rich hearts. After having had our lunch it was time to take the royal elephants for bath. We were told that in the morning the elephants take shower in the farm itself but in the afternoon they go to the lake. It was fun riding bare back on the elephant and then getting into the lake and getting all wet. We scrubbed the elephants and also had a swimming session there. After the thorough washing in the evening we took a pleasant ride on the most amazing elephant through the amazing jungle. That was an experience in itself. The funniest part was that we were asked to bake breads for the elephant. Cooking bread the Indian way was just a wonderful experience. I wonder if the elephant liked what I made for them….but one thing I am sure of is that they understand the language of love.

And just to watch the elephant go to sleep is a unique and peaceful experience. Around 12 they go to sleep and after they were asleep we came back to our camp to rest for the night. We were told that next morning we were to get up at 5 o clock to go back and wake the elephants.

It was such a different day for us. I enjoyed it. To be with the nature and elephants…it was a perfect combination. Tomorrow we shall be going to the Amer fort again on elephant back so I am looking forward to that.

See you guys in the fort now…..

City of Lakes – Udaipur -Day2

After having had a wonderful sleep I was all fresh and ready to face the day. The group had an excellent breakfast and after that we headed for Pichhola Lake. Located in the heart of the city, must say it’s one of the most beautiful and picturesque lake I have ever seen. We were told that it was one of the oldest lakes in the city and the way it is surrounded by palaces, temples and hills…the view is amazing! The water in the lake looked so blue; pretty tempting to go in for a swim. I could see people enjoying the boat rides. There were all kinds of boats out there…some people were going around on motor boats and those with adventurous streak were getting into the hand rowing boats. We also had a fair share of boating, although I have been on many water events back home but as a tourist the experience was altogether different. There were many expensive hotels on this lake. One of the biggest and most enchanting hotel Lake palace is in the heart of the Lake.

On the east bank of the lake Pichhola we could see massive series of palaces that we were told was the City Palace of Udaipur. The palace is built on a hill top and gives a panoramic view of the city and its surrounding including several historic monuments. Incidentally the James Bond movie Octupussy was shot in the lake palace and the Monsoon Palace that’s why Udaipur is also called the Venice of the east! Quite interesting!

The main entrance of the palace was through the triple arched gate and it leads to series of courtyards, terraces, corridors and gardens. From the balconies of the palace we could have wonderful view of a famous temple on one side and Udaipur city on the other. There was also a place in the palace where the kings of Mewar presented themselves in the times of trouble to the people to restore confidence. There were very pretty peacock mosaics on the wall. There were so many palaces that I just lost the track of their names. What I remember is the antique articles, paintings, decorative furniture and utensils that attract so many visitors. I particularly liked the temple of Lord Vishnu with beautiful carvings on the wall.

In the evening we were to see some cultural program depicting the lifestyle of Rajasthan so we made our way to the hotel to relax and ease a bit.

Before seven in the evening we were ushered into a place called Bagore Ki Haveli. It was a big old traditional kind of a sprawling home on the lake shore. We got to see a cultural show in which the beautifully dressed men and women depicted the Rajasthan culture in various dance forms. There were folk dances, Puppet show and the whole place was livened up with their classic performance.  A real pleasure and a perfect way to end a day!

Shall see you tomorrow in Kumbhalgarh Fort…….

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!

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!

Trip of Madness- Summer of 2012

To save ourselves from the scorching heat of the North, me and my friends planned a trip to Manali which they say is “heaven on earth”. I had heard about that place from my friends and was quiet frenzied about the whole plan as I have never been to any place beyond my own state.

Everything was planned up and finally the day came when we were to leave. I rushed to the bus stand and saw my friends standing there, waiting for me. We reached the ticket counter and there was a throng of people fighting to get the tickets, somehow we got the tickets and sat at our respective seats, chit chat for a while and we all slept. I was awake by the cold breeze blowing outside and was amazed to find myself surrounded by the mountains. The roar of the river flowing in the valley was an icing on the cake. Perfect!

Day 1: Finally we reached Manali, I was completely mesmerized by the epic beauty of the nature. It was raining and was damn cold, and we were forced to take out our jackets. We looked for a room but didn’t find one as all the hotels were jam packed. Finally we got a room in a cottage and we got fresh and went out to have food. While having food, we couldn’t take our eyes off the majestic view of the glaciers which were thoroughly covered with snow. It was a grand view – a treat to the eyes! We took some pictures of it and got to know from the staff that there is some party down the valley and we were excited to go there. We saw people going to the party and we followed them. I was busy clicking pictures of the river flowing on my left and my friends too were enjoying the beauty of the nature. We reached the party place, and saw there were so many people from Israel, we joined them and it was a great fun.

Day 2: It was Sunday Morning and this wasn’t the same old morning when my mom use to yell and I was forced to get up. This morning was somewhat different. From the cozy cocoon of sleep when I opened my eyes and looked outside the window i saw the clouds too near to touch and the beauty was as its best. Suddenly I heard a voice “dude get up we are getting late its already 11” this Sunday it was my friend’s yell I responded to and I got up hurriedly and got ready. We carried a guitar along with us and sat by the river side and played the guitar and sang songs. It was all fun. The day passed like this and the next day we were to leave back for home. I was feeling bad but there was no other option, we packed our bags and went off to sleep.

Day 3: The day for us to leave for home came and we boarded the bus. On our way back we were all were recollecting the memories by checking out our pictures and all of us decided to visit Manali again the next summer.