Archive for the ‘Art and Culture’ Category

Fairs and Festivals of India Reflect its Rich Cultural Heritage

Posted on April 14th, 2011 by admin  |  Comments Off

The incredible country like India can be best described by the phrase ‘Unity in Diversity’. India is a land of rich cultural heritage which beautifully reflects in its various attractions. The various states of India have their own unique culture. Although there is so much diversity in culture of India but still there is unity among Indians. Fairs and festivals are among the most colorful part of Indian culture. They are also the perfect means of getting acquainted with the culture of India.

It would be no exaggeration to say that India is a land of fairs and festivals as its calender is full of various fairs and festivals commemorating various occasions. Fairs and festivals of India attract tourists from across the globe.

Some of the most famous fairs and festivals of India are:

Diwali
It is the festival of lights which is celebrated with great flavor

DiwaliDiwali

throughout India. Symbolizing the victory of good over evil, this festival commemorates Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom after 14 years of exile. On this festival people illuminate their houses with earthen lamps and lights, distribute sweets, burn crackers and worship Goddess Lakshmi. This festival falls in the month of October or November.

Navratri
This festival is celebrated for nine days in honour of the goddess. The goddess symbolizes power. During these nine days nine forms of the goddess are worshipped and devotees observe fast for nine days. The goddess is known by several names like Durga, Laxmi, Bhavani, Kali, chandika, Maha gauri, Ashtabhuja and Siddhiratri. All the nine forms signify various traits that the goddess influences us with.

Holi

It is a festival of colours which is celebrated with great enthusiasm

HoliHOli

especiallyin North India. During this festival people play with powdered colours and water. Huge bonfires are lit on the evening of Holi. This festival also symbolizes the victory of good over evil. There is an interesting legend associated with it.

Pushkar Fair
It is the largest cattle fair in the world. Held in Pushkar City of Rajasthan it is marked with several cultural activities like dance, music, competitions and many more. It is celebrated in October/November.

Pongal
It is an important festival of South India which is celebrated for four days. It is a harvest festival. During the festival cattle, Sun god and Rain god are worshiped.

Eid-ul-Fittr
It is an important festival of Muslims which marks the end of Ramzan, the Muslim month of fasting. During the festival people exchange greeting and sweets and offer prayer in mosques. Feasting is the main feature of this festival.

Desert Festival
This is a famous festival of Rajasthan which is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the city of Jaisalmer. During the celebration the desert comes alive with cultural activities. Folk dance, puppet shows, turban-tying competition, camel race etc are the main highlights of the festival.

India Forts and Palaces Tour-Part I

Posted on January 25th, 2011 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

 Red Fort, Delhi Red Fort, Delhi

One of my friends from New York had come to India for her cousin sister’s marriage. I was so delighted to see her after almost 20 years. She is an Indian but went to New York when she was only 10. She has always been fascinated by the cultural heritage of India and wanted to explore its attractions, especially its forts and palaces. The day after the wedding ceremony I and my friend set out on the Indian Forts and Palaces tour. Visiting all the forts and palaces of India was not feasible in such a short span of time so we visited the famous forts and palaces of North India and South India.

The forts and palaces of India which we covered in North India are:

Red Fort in Delhi
It is a major attraction of Delhi steeped in glorious history. Built in red sandstone by great Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century, the fort is a marvelous architectural piece. The fort boasts of huge audience halls, stunning marble palace once studded with precious stones, a bustling bazaar where the royal ladies used to shop, a mosque and refreshing gardens with fountains and flowers.

Red Fort in Agra
A wonderful attraction of Agra, this fort houses amazing structures such as Jahangir Palace, Khas Mahal, Diwan-e-aam, Diwan-e-Khas and two beautiful mosques. This magnificent fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar as a stronghold of the Mughal Empire. This majestic red sandstone structure has 2.5 km long enclosure walls. Located at a close distance from this fort is the world famous Taj Mahal. We also visited Taj Mahal which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This stupendous white marble structure is a mausoleum built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal in the 17th century. Representing the perfect combination of different architectural styles, it mesmerizes the onlookers with its architectural beauty.

City Palace in Jaipur
This splendid palace, the landmark of Jaipur, is located in the capital city of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is the most colorful and culturally rich destination of India. One must visit Rajasthan to get the real taste of India. Aptly called the land of raja-maharajas, this destination boasts of the best palaces and forts in the country. The City Palace is a fine blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture built by Maharaja Jai Singh II. Located on a hill it is famous for its architecture, lavish use of marble and mirror work, frescoes, wall paintings, silver doors and crystal gallery.

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
It is the famous landmark of Jaipur known for its unique architectural design. Built in 1799 in red sand stone it is pierced with more than 900 small windows. Representing a honeycomb structure it was especially built to allow the royal ladies to see the street processions through the windows without themselves being seen.

Lake Palace, Udaipur
Udaipur is an enchanting city of Rajasthan and Lake Palace
is the most enchanting attraction of Udaipur. Located amidst the Lake Pichola, this palace is built in white marble boasting of several royal apartments inside it. It is one of the finest heritage hotels of India.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
Once the largest royal residence in the world, Umaid Bhawan Palace is now a famous heritage hotel. Its stunning architectural beauty will surely sweep you off your feet. Sprawling across acres of land, it is a magnificent structure. It has 98 rooms offering royal facilities and services. Once can see period furniture here. There is a museum here which displays a variety of articles belonging to the erstwhile royal families.

Char Dham Yatra-Part I

Posted on January 13th, 2011 by admin  |  Comments Off

 Badrinath Badrinath

This time I and my friends were thinking of planning a tour which could be different from the rest of the tours which we had already taken. I mean we were looking for a destination which can offer natural beauty, adventure, pleasure, peace, knowledge and much more-all rolled into one. I was sharing this with my mom and she suggested the Char Dham Tour. Not taking her suggestion seriously I smilingly said ‘we are too young to go for a tirth yatra’. But then later when I saw the destinations of Char Dham Yatra on internet I was speechless. They are extremely beautiful promising much more than what we wanted. I immediately shared this idea with my friends and finally finalized this tour.

According to Hindu mythologies it is believed that Char Dham Yatra is a journey to moksha. Char Dham consists of four wonderful pilgrimage sites namely Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. It is one of the most holy tours of the Hindus. These four destinations are located in the staggeringly beautiful Himalayas. We booked the Char Dham tour with great excitement.

Starting from Delhi we reached Haridwar in the afternoon. After refreshing ourselves we visited the Mansa Devi temple and participated in the evening aarti at Har ki Pauri. Haridwar is another famous pilgrimage site of India. Its evening aarti was very uplifting. There we had an overnight stay at Hotel Haveli Hari Ganga. This place is a doorway to the Char Dham Yatra.

The next day in the morning we drove to Barkot via Mussoorie. We halted for some time in Mussoorie to see the wonderful Kempty Fall. We continued our drive to Barkot and reached there in the evening and spent the night in a hotel. Barkot is 215 kms from Haridwar.

In the morning we left from Barkot for Janki Chatti via Hanuman Chatti and Fool Chatti. Hanuman Chatti is the confluence of Hanuman Ganga and Yamuna River. After reaching Janki Chatti we started the trek of 6 km for Yamunotri, one of the Char Dhams. Yamnotri is located at an elevation of 3,235 m above sea level. The views of the surroundings were mesmerizing. After reaching Yamunotri we took a holi dip in Garam kund and then headed towards the shrine of Goddess Yamnotri. After darshan and Pooja we trekked back to Janki Chatti and drove back to Barkot.

Our Guide Shankar told us that Yamunotri is the the source of the Yamuna River and the seat of the Goddess Yamuna. Yamunotri Temple was built in the 19th century by Maharani Gularia of Jaipur.

We saw several thermal springs flowing into the pools near the temple. The guide told us that among all Surya Kund is the most famous. We also worshipped at Divya Shila, a rock pillar which is worshipped before entering the Yamunotri Temple.

From Barkot we left for Uttarkashi in the morning. It is 82 km from Barkot. En route we visited Prakateshwar Cave. The journey from Barkot to Uttarkashi was very pleasurable as the road was flanked by pine trees and the path was very picturesque. It is a natural cave found around 10 years back. There are limestone formations inside the cave which resemble Shiv Linga because of which it holds religious importance. Cold water flows inside the cave making their way into a small pool. The water here is considered sacred.

We reached Uttarkashi in the afternoon and after refreshing ourselves we visited Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Later in the evening we participated in the aarti of Goddess Ganga at the Ganga river ghat. Uttarkashi is a gateway to Gangotri. Uttarkashi is located on the bank of river Bhagirathi. There are several temples located here. We also strolled through the town of Uttarkashi and retired to the beds late. The next day we had to drive to Gangotri. Till now our journey had been great, very beautiful, very uplifting.

Agra Tour

Posted on January 3rd, 2011 by admin  |  Comments Off

 Tajmahal Tour TajMahal

Agra has always fascinated tourists from across the world with its extraordinary ‘Taj Mahal’ and I am no exception. In fact, it is one place in India where I can go millions of times. The beauty and aura of Taj Mahal and other places of interest near this Mughal city have something special about them which bring me here time and again. This time I had come to this world famous city with my colleagues. They were visiting Agra for the first time and I for the fifth time.

After an easy train journey of two and a half hours we reached Agra from Delhi in the late evening. Agra is the most visited tourist destination of India and is also a part of the Golden Triangle Tour (the most famous tour of India). The Golden Triangle Tour is very famous among international tourists. We were booked in the Mansingh Palace Hotel which is one of the finest hotels here. This hotel got its name from the Rajput Emperor Sawai Mansingh who was a very close associate of Mughal Emperor Akbar. We visited Taj Mahal in the early morning to catch the glimpses of this incredible monument in the first gleam of morning rays.

Taj Mahal is considered the finest masterpiece of Mughal architecture and is recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is also a World Heritage Site. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is a mausoleum located on the west bank of river Yamuna. This grand edifice was completed in 20 years and around 20,000 workers worked day and night to make it what it is today.

The interiors of this majestic monument were studded with more than 28 types of precious and semi-precious stones. The architecture of Taj Mahal is a fabulous synthesis of Indian and Persian styles. Its lattice work, inlay decorations, calligraphic representations and incised painting deserve special mention. The calligraphy of this monument mainly consists of the verses and passages from the holy book of Kuran.

After admiring the beauty of Taj Mahal we sat in the garden surrounding the monument for some time. It was truly such a refreshing experience to visit Taj Mahal. We enjoyed eating at the local shops in the market. We also bought petha, the famous sweet of this city. And then we shopped for leather ware, marble statues, carpets and artificial jewelry at bargained rates from the bazaar. It was such a delight!

Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple Where One Can Hear the Echoes of Dravidian Culture

Posted on October 8th, 2010 by govind  |  Comments Off

 Meenakshi Temple Meenakshi Temple

The Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historical Hindu temple located in the holy city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva (in the form of Sundareswarar or Beautiful Lord) and his consort, Goddess Parvati (in the form of Meenakshi or Fish-eyed Goddess). The glorious architectural beauty of this Dravidian structure summons scores of tourists to this place from several parts of the globe. But it is said that only the fortunate one’s get an opportunity to visit this Hindu religious destination.

I have heard, read and seen about this temple since my childhood which develops a sense of inclination in me towards this magnificent architecture. Finally this curiosity ended last week when I visited this colossal building during my Chennai Tour. The impressive architectural beauty, striking atmosphere, intricate carving and religious atmosphere absorbed me when I entered the temple premises.

The temple is enclosed within a high-wall and at the center there are two sanctums one is for Meenakshi and another is for Sundareshwara. The whole temple is encircled with number of smaller shrines, grand pillared halls and twelve impressive gopurams. I was impressed by towers in the temple which are adorned with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colors. The chiseled out beauty of these towers showcases the affluence of craftsmanship achieved by artists during the Dravidian era.

Every nook and corner of this magnificent edifice have its own identity and own significance yet the most striking feature is 14 magnificent Gopurams or towers including two golden Gopurams. These towers are elaborately sculptured and painted brightly with several mythological figures which touch the heart of every visitor.
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam located on the eastern entrance of the temple is known for the statute of eight goddesses which are famous for their crafting and elaborate design. Adjoining to this is the Meenakshi Nayak Mandapam, known for its sculptured pillars that portray the story of Lord Shiva’s Thiruvilayadals (miracles) and Meenakshi’s birth. This hall also has a lamp-holder with 1,008 lamps which is lit up during festive occasions.

Orthamarai Kulam (Golden Lotus Tank) is a scared lake situated inside the temple premises. The Oonjal (swing) Mandapam and Killikoontu (parrot cage) Mandapam is located on the western side of the lake. Every Friday the idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are placed on the swing in the Oonjal Mandapam and mantras were chanted. It is because of this Friday is considered as auspicious day to visit this temple. The shrine of Lord Sundareswarar’s is situated to the north of Kilikoontu Mandapam. Here Sundareswarar is worshipped in the form of a linga with his 64 bhootaganas, 32 lions and 8 elephant attendants.

After exploring some of the popular attractions of this temple I sat on the staircase of Potramarai Kulam – The Golden Lotus Pond. I was seating quietly and the continuous chants, prayers and devotional carnatic music accompanied by Mridanga and Nadaswara creates a mystic atmosphere in which I was completely lost. I felt that I was away from the world and my mind was thoughtless. The peace that I felt cannot be expressed in words. Based on my experience I assured that people who want to feel the power of religion and spirituality must visit the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple.

Rameshwaram Tour offers beauty and spirituality in plenty!

Posted on August 26th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

 Rameshwaram Rameshwaram

‘Boss will remain a boss’. Seems it’s their ‘job profile’ to not grant leave to their respective subordinates. I sometimes wonder do they get special incentive for not approving leave! Well after a great deal of efforts I somehow managed to take four days leave for the Rameshwaram Tour which I had planned with my friend Pallavi. It was such a great feat for me. But the sinister forces were lying in wait to attack my happiness. At the crack of the dawn, on the same day when we had to leave for Rameshwaram, Pallavi called to say that her boss canceled her leave as she has to accompany him on an urgent business trip. This dampened my spirits but I still decided to go alone as my heart didn’t allow me to maul my dream of visiting Rameshwaram, a place I always wanted to visit.

I had heard and read a lot about the wonderful Rameshwaram town (an island) in Tamil Nadu and now I was eagerly waiting to experience its charm for real. An inexpressible feeling of joy enveloped my heart as I stepped into the beautiful land of Rameshwaram. This city is steeped in natural beauty and has great religious significance. It is affectionately dubbed as the ‘Varanasi‘ of the South. It is a religious city which draws devotees of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. The Hindus believe that a visit to Varanasi( the most sacred pilgrimage of Hindus) is incomplete without a visit to Rameshwaram. According to the legend it is at this place where Lord Rama performed thanks giving rituals to Lord Shiva after his triumph over the demon king Ravana in the battle at Sri Lanka.

I was booked in the Hotel Royal Park which is a budget luxury hotel offering good services and facilities. One of my friends had suggested this hotel to me. The famous Lord Ramanathaswamy Temple of Rameshwaram is located only 2 km from this hotel.

Post breakfast I along with my guide Ramesh embarked on my journey to explore the mesmerizing Rameshwaram. I first visited Ramanatha Swamy Temple which dominates the land of Rameshwaram. It is the major draw here. Reflecting the brilliance of Dravidian architecture, the temple dates back to the 12th century A.D. It boasts of the largest temple corridor in India. Its other attractions are its 22 big wells, each having different taste of water, elaborately sculpted pillars and carvings on the walls.

Next we drove to Dhanushkodi, a scenic site located 8 km from Rameshwaram. The legend goes that at the request of Vibeeshana, brother of Ravana and ally of Rama, Rama broke the Sethu with one end of his bow and hence the name Dhanushkodi, Dhanush meaning Bow and Kodi meaning end.

We also visited Kothandaraswamy Temple which is located at 12 km from the city center. It is a historic place where Vibhishana( Ravana’s brother) surrendered to lord Rama.

My next halt was Agnitheertham. It is a place which holds immense mythological significance. My guide told me that it is at Agnitheertham where Lord Rama worshipped Lord Shiva. The water at this place is considered holy and hence devotees from far and wide come here to take a dip. With a desire to accumulate some good fortune I also took a bath in the water.

Next was my favorite attraction-the beach. The beach was peaceful and beautiful. The serene beach and shallow water make this place a perfect destination for swimming and sunbathing. The view of the dolphins in the sea was mesmerizing to the hilt. Last but not the least was the enchanting sunset view which was breathtaking. With the wonderful memories of Rameshwaram I went back to the hotel.

Adventure Sports Tour in India

Posted on August 6th, 2010 by admin  |  Comments Off

 Mountaineering Mountaineering

I have seen the beauty, I have seen the divines, I have seen the serenity, I have seen the calmness… Yes, in the picturesque land of incredible India, I have experienced the finest adventures of my life. Since my childhood, it was my dad who encouraged me for thrilling adventure of India. From snow clad peaks to the lush greens and from golden sand dunes to the serene beaches of India – everything here is full of adventure sports.

Being a hardcore adventure freak, I have explored almost all the exciting places to see in India. But this thirst has not come to an end yet. My last exploration was a camel safari in India. Wandering the golden sand dunes on the back of a camel seems like as if you are travelling across the heaven. Though one needs to take care of several things before planning such tour to Rajasthan (the hub of sand dunes) but exploring this magical realm is just incomparable.

I started from Jaipur and my tour itinerary included places like Bikaner, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Osian, Ranakpur, Jaisalmer etc. Through the entire journey, I found this desert state so beautiful that it stole away my heart. Apart from camel safari, I have enjoyed a number of adventure sports in India. Some of these are:

Mountaineering (through snow-covered peaks, crystal glaciers, rolling meadows, jagged rock faces, verdant valleys, and meandering rivers) – highly popular in hilly terrains and hills stations in India

Trekking – popular in areas like the Himalayan & the Karakoram ranges and the surrounding valleys. The Garhwal and Kumaon regions are again frequented for the same.

Camping – leads to activities like hiking, fishing and long nature walks. Highly popular in areas like wildlife sanctuaries, hilly terrains, beaches etc.

Heli-Skiing – one of the most thrilling activities; highly popular in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

River Rafting – lets you enjoy sailing across high currents of water. Can be opted in six different grades depending upon the difficulty levels. Places like Ladakh & Rishikesh are frequently visited for the same.

Skiing – gliding over snow is a fantasy for all adventure sports lovers. Places like Dalhousie, Dharamshala, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam, Manali etc. are highly frequented for this activity.

Jeep Safari – name any of the wildlife sanctuaries in India or any of the national parks, jeep safaris are the best mediums to explore Indian flora & fauna.

Motor Rallying – though this sport is recently introduced to India but is getting high response from everywhere. Various rally circuits are being designed in plains, coastal areas, hilly terrains and even mountains to make it more thrilling.

Hang Gliding – this is one such activity that makes you feels like flying as a bird. This sport is getting popular in cities like Pune, Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Mumbai, Devlali, Bangalore and Kalaheti.

This way, there are ample opportunities of adventure sports in India. Ranging from fishing to wind surfing, snorkelling or even scuba diving – every activity here will leave you mesmerised. The place has so much of thrill in air that it will make you fall in love with adventure sports.

Dharamshala Attractions

Posted on July 15th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

Dharamshala Dharamshala

On Saturday morning we a group of seven friends from Delhi boarded a bus

for Dharamshala. In the afternoon the bus stopped at a dhaba where we had rajma, rice, butter naan and salad. It was really tasty. After lunch we slept for some time and woke up to the views of lush green landscape. We reached Dharamshala after an arduous road journey of around 13 hours. But the moment we stepped into this beautiful land all our tiredness vanished like a dream.

Dharamshala is an enchanting tourist destination of North India located in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It is famous for its sheer natural beauty. It boasts of mesmerizing streams, rivers, majestic mountains, ancient temples, beautiful monasteries and waterfall. We were really excited to explore all these attractions. This destination is also a home to the well known Buddhist priest Dalai Lama. Buddhism is a major religion followed here.

As we set out on our journey we were greeted with overwhelming views of the snow-capped mountains and hills dotted with pine trees. With such an incredible natural beauty, no wonder Dharamshal has been bestowed with the title of ‘Scotland of India’. It is a wonderful town with the backdrop of Dhauladhar Mountains. This town is divided into two regions: Upper Dharamshala (popularly known as McLeod Ganj) and Lower Dharamshala.

We visited the Kangra Art Museum to see the unique arts and crafts of this region. The museum houses beautiful handicrafts such as pots, paintings, sculptures which date back to the 5th century. Then we moved on to the War Memorial which was built in honor of the soldiers of Himachal Pradesh who gave their life for their nation. After praying for them we headed towards the Dal Lake which is one of the famous spots of this region. After covering a distance of 11 km from the town we reached the Dal Lake. At this picturesque lake we sat for some time to get soaked in the natural beauty. Some of the local people had come here for picnic. We interacted with them and found them really friendly.

We also visited Kunal Pathri which is famous for its rock temple dedicated to the local Goddess Kapaleshwari. It is a beautiful temple.

Post lunch, we set out on a trekking tour to Triund which is an amazing place located around 20 km from McLeod Ganj. While trekking to this place we saw some beautiful birds, goats and pigs. Our guide told us that black bear and leopard are also found here. It is the best place for enjoying trekking in Dharamshala. After reaching Triund we treated our senses to breathtaking views, gorgeous greenery and salubrious climate. It was such an overwhelming experience.

Taj Mahal Where Eternal Romance is Etched in White Marble

Posted on June 17th, 2010 by govind  |  Comments Off

 Tajmahal Tajmahal

The brilliance of forts, palaces, tomb and mausoleum are the popular drawcards of Agra which lured scores of tourists since centuries. It is one of the most sought after destinations of India Tourism famous worldwide for the Taj Mahal which is the undying symbol of love. Though I had heard, read and listened about this place since my childhood days but never visited this land of romanticism ever before. Last weekend my friend insisted me to visit this place and on Friday night we left for Agra.

Early morning after taking refreshment at my friend’s house we went to see Taj Mahal, ‘the epitome of love’ and ‘a monument of immeasurable beauty’. The moment we entered in the premises we were stunned by the imposing beauty of this grand structure. The beauty of this magnificent monument is beyond the scope of words. The thoughts that come to my mind while watching the Taj Mahal of Agra are not just about its phenomenal beauty but are also about the immense love of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal which was the reason behind its construction.

When I touched this epitome of love and romance, I felt its charismatic feature and realized that why it is so much famous round the world. The construction pattern of Taj Mahal is a fusion of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architectures which make this monument a stupendous one. The principles of self-replicating geometry, along with symmetry of architectural elements can also be seen in the design and layout of this edifice of love.

Delicate pierce work, Arch of Jali, Inlay detail, Incised painting, Calligraphy and Herringbone are the ornamentations done on the surface of Taj Mahal. Though all these pattern of decorations are metaphor complementing this building of love but the Calligraphy work impressed me the most. The Calligraphy of the Taj Mahal mainly consists of the verses and passages from the holy book of Koran. It was done by inlaying jasper in the white marble panels. Out of 114 verses and passages of the holy Koran one can find 15 verses and passages on the wall of Taj Mahal.

This monument is the culmination of human imagination which took 22 years to be built by 20,000 skilled artisans. It is a monument of enduring love which reveals its mystery and charm when one visits it without being in a hurry. From morning till evening we stayed here seeing, analyzing and discussing its various features. The backdrop of river Yamuna and foreground of beautiful Mughal Garden add extra charm to this tombstone. Though we were physically exhausted but the soul stimulating beauty of Taj always refreshed us and insisted us to explore some more hidden aspects of this flamboyant structure.

The beauty of Taj Mahal fascinated us for hours and finally we adieu this splendid monument with a promise to visit it again. It is not possible to decipher the hidden love, romance and beauty of the Taj Mahal in a single day, though visitors do this but for me it is not the matter of a single day. After coming out from Taj Mahal premises we returned to our friend’s house where we had lip smacking food in our dinner which was cooked by my friend’s mother. The whole night I remained engrossed in the beauty of Taj Mahal which was lingering in my mind.

Day 1: Royal and Mystical Tryst with Jaipur, Rajasthan

Posted on April 8th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

Jaipur City Palace
Jaipur City Palace

For me traveling is tantamount to happiness. When I travel  I feel in rhythm with the universe. ‘Discover India’ is one of my favorite programs on Discovery channel which never fails to capture my travel-obsessed heart. This time after watching a program on Rajasthan attractions the fancy to see the royal and opulent palaces of the raja-maharajas struck me. I, since my childhood days, cherished a grandiloquent piece of whimsy to live like a queen in a palace and to wander like a nomad on the sand dunes.

Assailed by my ardent desire I decided to visit Rajasthan. Monika and Anand, my friends who I affectionately call my travel comrades joined me on this tour. Well all three of us belong to the same breed of human beings, who get transported to the world of rapture upon hearing the word ‘travel’.

Rajasthan, the very word conjures up images of stunning palaces, majestic forts, people dressed in colorful clothes with a bright smile on their faces and last but not the least the unfathomable sand dunes. It is truly a land of contrasts. From lush green gardens to desert, Rajasthan has it all. Our first halt in Rajasthan was Jaipur , the Pink city. We were booked in one of the best heritage hotels of the country, the Samode Palace to taste royalty in plenty. Royal treatment begins at the entrance gate of the palace and it lasts till you slip into deep dreamless slumber and then again you wake up in the lap of luxury. This palace is a celebration of the rich cultural heritage left behind by the raja-maharajas of the bygone era. We reached here in the evening.

Anand had come to Rajasthan for the first time and was enjoying it to the hilt. He said, “I am completely bowled over by the extravagantly royal and traditional ambiance of the Samode palace”. Seeing his delight I said, “Dear, it is only a sort of amuse-bouche before the Rajasthan’s classy attractions are served up – City Palace, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Amber Fort and Lake Palace.

Now it was time for some rest and refreshment by the pool. The poolside pavilions done to perfection and the gorgeous green garden overflowing with scented flowers and a variety of trees were a treat for the senses. We were here for candlelight dinner. Sounds overwhelming! Enjoying the beauty, luxury and royalty of the ambiance I smilingly said, ‘ I am loving being in the lap of luxury’. And Anand, who never gives a miss to an opportunity to pull my leg, immediately replied, well, “Living in the lap of luxury isn’t bad, except that you never know when luxury is going to stand up”. Hearing his witty remark all three of us burst out laughing. No wonder we were enjoying ourselves and every moment of our tour was truly worthwhile.

To pamper our taste buds we ordered traditional Rajasthani dishes and some exciting sweet dishes. I, a fitness freak, for the first time left behind the undesirable thoughts of counting calories and was all set to give in to the temptation as the delicious regional cuisine was irresistible. After eating to our heart’s content we headed towards our respective rooms, rather royal apartments, and slipped into the bed. The next day we explored the fascinating and royal structures of Jaipur:

City Palace
It is one of the most royal attractions of the city. A perfect combination of Rajputana and Mughal architectural styles, the palace has stunning apartments such as Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, Diwan-e-Aam and Diwan-e-Khas.

Hawa Mahal
Reflecting the glory of Rajputana architecture, Hawa Mahal is an architectural marvel. The walls of this wondrous structure are pierced with more that 900 windows. These were especially designed to allow the royal ladies to see the street processions without themselves being seen.

Amber Fort
Majestic, grand and stunning, such is the Amber Fort of Jaipur. Fashioned out of marble and red sandstone, it is charming amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal style of architecture. It was built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh I. Its mesmerizing exterior and stunning interiors, never fail to impress the visitors. The huge courtyards, beautiful carvings, stunning mirror work, mosaic work, secret pathways and wonderful apartments of the fort speak volumes about its glorious past.

Flaunting the quintessential Rajasthani features, Jaisalmer is a mystic city. It was the second destination on our itinerary. With great memories of royal experiences, we bid goodbye to Jaipur and headed towards Jaisalmer.