Archive for the ‘Art and Culture’ Category

Keoladeo National Park- The Birds Paradise

Posted on February 11th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

 Bharatpur National Park Bharatpur National Park

Beautiful, colorful and vibrant! Birds teach us a lot about life! My torrid affair with birds bring me to Keoladeo National Park time and again. It was indeed a time stopping experience to witness the drama of birds in one of the world’s famous sanctuaries. The other day I was reading a nature based book “Srishti” in which I came across some information on birds by S. Baker. Dr Salim Ali, the father of ornithology in India. It read the bird is known to pair for life. ‘The cranes are most affectionate birds, pairing for life’. Isn’t it interesting!

Keoladeo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the incredible state of Rajasthan. Sprawling over an area of 232 sq km, the Park is also known as Bharatpur National Park. With its picturesque landscape, beautiful scenery, impressive wildlife, Keoladeo National Park is a great place to visit. It is a home to around 370 species of birds. The endangered Siberian cranes are also spotted here during winters.

It was a dream tour for me as I treated my senses to a variety of enchanting birds. I rented a bicycle to explore the Park. One of the interesting scenes I saw was a pair of cranes playing or fighting for twigs. Till the end I could not make out whether they were playing or fighting. Anyway it was interesting to watch. As I moved further I saw spider webs at a distance. I immediately stopped the bicycle and went close to it to observed it from close quarters. The web was hanging between two small plants with some dew drops shining brightly. At the corner of the web I spotted two spiders with yellow and white dots. I had no clue about its species but anyway they looked awesome.

As I was scouting for birds at a water body my gaze suddenly hit a python who, I guess, was sleeping or may be sunbathing. I immediately took a few steps back for safety reasons but at the same time it was a moment to behold. Without disturbing it I moved further in search of other wildlife. Then a few meters ahead I sighted Rosy Pelican, Spanish Sparrow, Red Crested Porhard and Flamingo. I wondered how wonderful these creatures of nature are!

As we moved on, I and my guide Sher Singh were greeted with the sights of cormorants, kingfishers, geese, herons, woodpeckers, parrots and egrets. I was seeing parrots after a long time. I remember when I was a kid parrots were quite common but today we rarely see them in our environment. Today sighting a parrot is no less exciting than the sighting of a tiger.

I was ecstatic at the sight of all the birds and other wildlife I saw in the Park. With cherished memories I came back to the Bharatpur Forest Lodge which is located within the Park and is run by the government. The next morning I woke up to the melodious chirping of birds. It was such a heart warming experience. This ended my Keoladeo National Park tour but my affair with wildlife continues.

Varanasi Tour- The Path To Enlightenment

Posted on January 14th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

 Aarti at Dashashwamedh_ghat Aarti at Dashashwamedh_ghat

Assailed by the profound urge to take a step forward on the path of ‘learning’ I with one of my close friends Shivani landed in Varanasi. I went there with a seeking mind and deep inside my heart I was sure that I will experience something great here. This was my first visit to this most famous spiritual center of India. I had heard a lot about this ‘city of life’ and was here to learn something about life.

Varanasi, also known as Banaras and Kashi, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Beautifully located on the banks of the sacred river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, this city is the ultimate pilgrimage site for the Hindus. The legend goes that this city was founded by Lord Shiva and it also finds mention in several Hindu scriptures such as Rigveda, Skanda Purana, Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. The history of this city dates back to around 5,000 years. Symbolizing Hindu renaissance,Varanasi is the center of knowledge, culture, spirituality, philosophy, arts and crafts.

We arrived at Varanasi in the early morning. We were booked in the ‘Palace on Ganges’, a heritage hotel which is ideally located on the banks of one of the ghats of holy river Ganga at Varanasi. Post breakfast we headed towards the ghats of Varanasi, which are around 80 in number. The sight of countless temples, pilgrims bathing in the holy water and sadhus engrossed in their bhagti was truly overwhelming.

It is believed that by taking a bath in the holy river Ganga at Varanasi frees one from the cycle of birth and death. With that faith I and Shivani took a dip in the waters of holy Ganga and it was such a great feeling which can’t be described in words. After that we went for a boat ride and passed through various ghats. The cool air and an ambiance steeped in peace and spirituality was a great thing to experience. We also came across the ghats where cremation is done. Well all I can say is that Ganga ghats are the places where we can actually see life and death together.

The evening aarti was something I was eagerly waiting for. We came to the famous Dasaswamedh ghat which is famous for evening aarti. After participating in the aarti we sat at the ghat for sometime. The view of the thousands of earthen lamps immersed in the waters of the sacred Ganga was simply uplifting. The ghat was shining brightly like a jewel. What a wonderful feeling it was to sit at such an amazing place, completely steeped in beauty and peace.

Jaipur- The City Of Surprises and Delights

Posted on December 5th, 2009 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

Rajasthan Rocks! Well, this is the first phrase that races through my travel-obsessed-mind when someone talks about this royal destination of India. I get attracted to this destination just like iron filings towards a magnet. For experiencing the age old royal charm of culture and hospitality I and my friends hit the most princely city Jaipur

Amber Fort, Japiur Amber Fort, Japiur

. As most of the buildings here are painted in pink(the royal color) Jaipur is popularly known as the ‘Pink City’. It occupies a prized place on the itinerary of the most famous tour of India, the Golden Triangle Tour.

We were booked in the heritage hotel, Alsisar Haveli. More than five centuries old, this hotel really gives a royal touch to your stay. It is located in the heart of Jaipur . As we entered the hotel I felt as if we have been transported to the era of raja-maharajas. Its interiors reflected the grandeur of the old days very beautifully. The fort overlooks the Maotha Lake.

The first attraction we explored was the majestic Amber Fort. This fort palace is a classic architectural masterpiece. Its foundation was laid by Man Singh I in the year 1592 and it was completed by his descendant Jai Singh I. It is a perfect amalgamation of Mughal and Rajpur styles of architecture. Its an interesting 20 minutes climb uphill. Tourists can go for an Elephant ride or a Jeep ride to reach the fort. One can also go on foot.

We opted for an elephant ride as what can be more interesting and royal than visiting the fort on an elephant’s back like a king. The fort offers a bird’s eye view of the city, which is a sight to behold. The huge doors of the fort were decorated with locks of interesting designs.

Some of the attractions of the fort, which I personally liked very much were:

Diwan-e-aam or Hall of Public audience:

This structure was the place where the king would listen to the problems and issues of the general public. It is made of marble and red sandstone. The forty pillars inside this apartment are exquisitely carved.

Shila Mata Temple:

Built in honor of Goddess Kali, the goddess of victory, the temple has a beautiful black marble idol of the goddess. The silver gates of the temple are adorned with the nine forms of Goddess Durga.

Ganesh Pol :

The Ganesh Pol is amazingly painted with vegetable colors using rajasthani motifs. And the striking feature of the gate is the beautifully carved statue of Lord Ganesha.

Diwan-e-khas:

It is an arresting apartment with stunning mirror work and exquisite carvings. The fabulous colored glass murals of depicting Lord Krishna and Radha is truly uplifting.

Zenana or Women’s apartment:

It is the private chamber made to facilitate the royal ladies to watch the proceedings of the royal court without themselves been seen. It is decorated with mesmerizing paintings of Krishna Leela scenes.

Day 1: Shimla- One Can never Get Enough Of It!

Posted on November 12th, 2009 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

At an unearthly hour my phone rang. I reluctantly dragged myself

Shimla City Shimla City

out of the deep dreamless slumber to receive the call. It was Monika, a friend of mine who I affectionately call ‘my travel comrade’. She is one person in my entire social network who inhabits my world ( a world overflowing with the passion of traveling). Before I could even finish saying ‘what happened, everything alright’ she interrupted in between and said “I and some of my friends are going to Shimla next week. I am sure you are coming”. Her ‘am sure’ clearly reflects how well she knows me. Of course, my answer was ‘yes’.

The next thought that crossed my mind was ‘what about the boss’? Well here I am not talking about taking my boss along (the only thing I like about him is  the presence of his absence). The question was how to ask for 5 days leave. Anyway I was sure I will somehow manage to open up my boss’s Buddhahood, as these five days were the steps for me to Nirvana. For me traveling is tantamount to Nirvana.

After a not-so-bad journey by car, we a group of 7 people ( Monika, Tahir, Shakeel, Sanjog, Abhishek, Deepika and me) reached Shimla, the Queen of Hill Stations at around 8:30 pm. We were booked in the Clark’s hotel, which is one of the finest hotels in Shimla.

Post breakfast, we set out walking towards mall road and enjoyed the healthy and soothing environment of Shimla to the hilt. How much we crave for such a pollution free environment in Delhi. It is a perfect place to unwind.

Our first halt was Mall Road, the main shopping street of Shimla.

Shimla Night Life Shimla Night Life

The interesting thing about it is that no vehicles are allowed on this road, which allows tourists and locals to move about easily and freely. It was constructed during the British rule. It is lined with many showrooms, departmental stores, restaurants, stalls and emporiums. This is the best place to shop for the colorful handicrafts of Himachal Pradesh. From beautiful shawls to pottery items, all are available here.

Post lunch we headed for our next destination, the Ridge Road, which runs east to west alongside the Mall Road. On its east side it leads to Lakkar Bazaar, a wooden craft market. The Ridge Road offers mesmerizing views of the majestic mountains. Other attractions here are the neo-Gothic structure of Church dating back to 1844 and a tudorbethan styled library built in 1910.

In case you wish to get photographed in a typical Himachali dress, colorful traditional dresses are available here on rent. After a lot of struggle to choose the best one for myself, I found an attractive fiery red dress. Deepika chose maroon. The experience was overwhelming.

Kanyakumari Attractions- Laced With Extraordinary Beauty!

Posted on November 5th, 2009 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

Sunrise in Kanyakumari Sunrise in Kanyakumari

Determined not to miss the famous sunrise of Kanyakumari, I and my friend Pallavi woke up early and after relishing a cup of tea walked to the beach for the breathtaking sunrise. Pallavi had ditched me on the trip to Ranthambhore National Park as she had missed the train. But this time she had promised to abide by her words, “I will surely reach on time”. Gosh! This time her entry into the train was quite dramatic, very much like the one made by Kajol in the movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejayege. But at last she managed not to push me into a state of despair this time. My heartfelt thanks to her.

The cool breeze, peaceful ambiance, romantic aura, swaying palms, limitless sky and bewitching waves of the beach hypnotized us completely. It was a world-out-of-this-world. The wind was chilly as it was the month of October. But we were enjoying every bit of the experience. Finally the much-awaited moment arrived. The first rays of the morning light fell on the unfathomable waves making the sea glowing like a jewel. The sight was simply overwhelming and the feeling was heavenly. I captured the blissful sight in my heart and in the camera as well. Pallavi said, “How much we crave for such sights in Delhi,’ where we are surrounded by a ‘sea of buildings’”. She also said, “thank God I could made it to Kanyakumari and I think this time I have overcome my karma of missing trains”. I looked her in the eye and we burst out laughing.

Post breakfast, we were slated to visit the renowned Kanyakumari Temple. Standing at the confluence of the three wonderful oceans, it is 3000 year old temple. Its extraordinary location and architectural beauty are its striking features. It is also laced with a legend, which is quite interesting. Our guide Sarvanan told us that the rock on which the temple is built has the footprints of the virgin goddess Kanyakumari (an incarnation of Goddess Parvati).

The legend goes that Kanya Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati was to marry Lord Shiva but because of some reason the Lord didn’t come on the wedding day, so the marriage could not be solemnized. After this incident the Goddess decided to remain virgin for the rest of her life. It is believed that the rice shaped stones on the beach today are the uncooked grains of the wedding. The wedding feast consisting of rice and other grains were left uncooked and were not used thereafter. According to the legend those grains transformed into stones with time. After hearing this legend we were constantly on a look out for such rocks at the beach.

After visiting the temple I found myself completely soaked in some new found energy. The statue of the goddess was very beautiful and the sparkling nose ring was shining brightly as if endowed with some spiritual power.

Our trip ended with shopping. We bought beautiful souvenirs made of bamboo and wood. Our trip to Kanyakumari rewarded us with great memories which will always remain etched in my heart.

Agra- The Brightest Jewel Of India

Posted on September 24th, 2009 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

TajmahalTajmahal

Dip your pen in the ink of love

before writing about Taj Mahal

With every word, a pearl cocooned in love will fall…

Agra, the greatest pride of India Tourism, is a place that can be visited time and again. The monotony of my daily life was taking a toll on my sanity and I really needed, at least, a short break . So I and one of my friends, Shivani, decided to go to Agra. I had been to this wonderland once, when I was in school. Memories of my past visit filled my heart with joy.

Agra is a historic city with treasure-like attractions in its sleeves. Once the capital of the Mughals, Agra is an important destination of the Golden Triangle Tour circuit. Synonymous with Taj Mahal, this city attracts tourists from across the globe.

We reached Agra early morning and were booked in the Mansingh Palace Hotel. The hotel is named after Rajput Emperor Sawai Mansingh, a very close associate of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Post breakfast, we set out to see Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. The breathtaking sight of Taj Mahal surrounded by beautiful lush green gardens festooned with fountains was such a rejuvenation to my sore eyes.

The interesting facts about this incredible monument are: the interiors were studded with precious and semi-precious stones, the architectural style is based on interlocking arabesque concept and uses the principles of self-replicating geometry. Its inlay work of floral designs and calligraphy are mesmerizing. The arresting structure is a perfect amalgamation of Mughal, Persian, Central Asian, and Islamic architecture. In fact, everything about this ‘wonder’ is fascinating and intriguing. This most sparkling jewel of India is soaked in glorious history.

After visiting Taj Mahal, we decided to go for lunch and then shopping. From here we head to Clark Shiraz, the five star hotel, to have lunch in its wonderful restaurant. We dined at its roof-top restaurant, the Mughal Rooms, and enjoyed the bewitching views of Taj Mahal along with the lip-smacking dishes.

Post lunch, we invested a few hours in shopping. Agra is famous for its inlay work, marble articles, leatherware, brassware, carpets and jewellery. We explored the Sadar Bazar and Kinari Bazar and bought some wonderful handicrafts. After shopping we traced our steps back to the hotel. We chatted till late night and finally forced ourselves to retired to bed as we had to leave the next day to cover the rest of the attractions of Agra.

Keoladeo National Park- Teeming With Colourful Birds

Posted on September 10th, 2009 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

Kingfisher BirdKingfisher Bird

When an irresistible desire to reconnect with nature captured my heart, I decided to head into the wilderness. A different world with its different hues, smell and sound, Keoladeo National Park is a perfect place for people inclined towards wildlife, I thought to myself.

Keoladeo National Park is a jewel of Rajasthan, which has been recognized as a World Heritage Site. Located in Bharatpur, this Park is one of the most popular bird-breeding sites on this planet. Sprawling over 29 sq km, the Park consists of kadam forests, grasslands and shallow lakes. Attracting throngs of tourists from across the world, the Park boasts of around 400 species of birds and 50 types of butterflies. Besides this, the Park also houses other wildlife species including reptiles and mammals. The wonderful Siberian crane visits here every winter. The Park was established 250 years ago and got its name from a Keoladeo (Shiva) temple located within its boundaries.

There are different options available to explore the Park such as government approved cycle rickshaws, tongas and bicycle. I opted for cycle rickshaw. I and my guide Rahul stopped many a time to treat our eyes to a variety of wildlife- herons, cormorants, owls, kingfishers, storks, wild geese, Golden Jackal, Jungle Cat, Striped Hyaena, Sambar, Fishing Cat, Nilgai and wild Boar.

We also saw the 18th century Lohagarh Fort, which may not be a stunning structure but still worth a visit. In its museum we saw a rare collection of animal trophies and old paintings.

Congratulating myself on my choice of destination, I came back from Keoladeo National Park with a ‘contented heart’.

Khajuraho – A Classy World Heritage Site

Posted on July 30th, 2009 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

For a travel enthusiast like me travelling is like a ‘celebration’.

khajurahoKhajuraho Temple

Snatching a few days from my busy schedule, I planned to explore some of the World Heritage Sites in India. No wonder, for me, travelling was the perfect antidote to the drudgery of fast-paced urban life. India’s mind-bending diversity has always fascinated me and for me exploring this wondrous land is like experiencing the joy of heaven on earth.

My first destination was Khajuraho village, one of the most famed tourist destinations in India. I had done my homework of browsing various travel sites on Khajuraho before stepping into this World Heritage Site. It is located in Chhatarpur district in Madhya Pradesh. And fortunately my trip coincided with the Khajuraho Dance Festival.

Known across the world, Khajuraho is famed for its largest group of medieval, Hindu and Jain temples, famous for their erotic sculptures. The history of the heritage monuments of this glorious village spans over centuries.

Finally I along with my guide Ramesh reached the temples of Khajuraho to capture their enigmatic, enchanting and erotic beauty. Built in the period between 9th to 12th centuries, still retaining their old-world charm, these temples boasts of overwhelming sculptures. Their architectural beauty is unmatched, in fact, extraordinary. Each sculpture was carved meticulously.

Ramesh told me about the legends associated with the Khajuraho temples, which were quite interesting. He even told me about the various facts about their architecture. I was completely bowled over by the beauty of the temples. I captured the incredible beauty of the temples in my camera to make my own record of golden memories. I also go an opportunity to interact with some Japanese tourists who had come to see the heritage of India. Mitoshi, a young Japanese chap said “I am completely mesmerized by the rich cultural heritage of India”. His words were a delightful treat to my ears.

After soaking myself in the enchanting beauty of Khauraho Temples, I was eagerly waiting to see the charm of the Khajuraho Dance Festival. I reached the Chitragupta Temple, which serves as the venue for the festival. Dancers clad in their best of attires set the state on fire with their breathtaking dance performances, both classical and modern. I bought some wonderful handicrafts from the stalls set at the venue. A visit to Khajuraho was a celebration in the true sense of the word!