Home Blog Page 415

The Andaman & Nicobar Emerald Islands

Andaman & Nicobar islands

Located in the Bay of Bengal about 900km from India, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are one of the few undiscovered gems that have escaped the clutches of mass tourism. There are no concrete-and-glass resorts offering all-inclusive deals, no nightclubs / discotheques, no shopping malls and no fancy restaurants.

While the eastern fringes of the Andaman Sea have now become the playground of the rich and famous in Phuket and Langkawi, the Andaman Islands still retain the original wild and untamed character of this pocket of South East Asia.

The Emerald Islands

Measuring over 700 kms from north to south, including the inaccessible Nicobar Island chain, these 572 islands of the archipelago are swathed in over 86% primary rainforest. Only 36 islands are inhabited to the day, comprising a mix of colourful mainland Indian settlers, residual refugee communities from Myanmar, and the mysterious and endangered Paleolithic tribes of the Andamans.

The Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a veritable Garden of Eden and a naturalist’s heaven. The clean environment, roads, greenery as well as unpolluted fresh air attract all nature lovers.

The tropical rain forests and waters of Bay of Bengal are the home of a vast collection of plant, animal and marine life. Topographically the islands are hilly in places fringed with coconut palm, covered with tropical jungle and interspersed with flat stretches of crescent shaped beaches.

How to get to the Andamans

Permits and Visas

Foreigners
All foreign visitors to India need a visa. This must be obtained prior to your departure, as India does NOT issue visas on arrival.

In addition, foreign visitors to the Andamans also need a special Restricted Area Permit, which can be obtained upon arrival (flight or ship). You can also apply for the permit through your embassy while getting the Indian visa; however, we recommend getting it on arrival as it is a lot faster this way. This Restricted Area Permit, which is issued free of charge, is valid for 30 days and can be extended to 45 days.

The places covered by this permit for night halt are: South Andaman Island, Middle Andaman Island and Little Andaman Island (except tribal reserve), Neil Island, Havelock Island, Long Island, Diglipur, Baratang, North Passage and islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (excluding islands – Boat Hobday, Twin, Tarmugli, Malay and Pluto) Night halt in the Park is with permission only.

For Day Halt: South Cinque Island, Ross Island, Narcondum Island, Interview Island, Brother Island, Sister Island and Barren Island ( Barren Island can be visited on board vessels only).

Indians
Indian nationals need no permit to visit Andamans. However, permits are required to visit Nicobar Islands and other tribal areas, which are given in exceptional cases. Application on a prescribed form may be addressed to the Deputy Commissioner, Andaman District, Port Blair.

BY AIR: The quickest and most convenient way to get to the Andamans is to fly. Air Deccan, Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Jet Lite (formerly Air Sahara), Spice Jet and Kingfisher all have daily regular flights to Port Blair from Calcutta & Chennai.

BY SEA: You can choose to travel by ship – which takes 60-72 hours and is only for the tough. There are three to four sailings every month from Calcutta and Chennai to Port Blair and vice-versa. Bookings are through the Shipping Corporation of India, and can be made in Calcutta (phone +91-22- 2234 5678) or Chennai (phone +91-22-2223 4675), and typically open a few days before the scheduled departure date.

Distance by Sea (kms)
Between Port Blair & Chennai- 1190
Between Port Blair & Calcutta- 1255
Between Port Blair & Vishakapatnam- 1200

Distance by Air (Kms.)
Between Calcutta & Port Blair- 1303
Between Chennai & Port Blair- 1330

Islands in the Andaman

Port Blair

Port Blair is the capital of the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is a small but picturesque place spread over a number of hills from Haddo across Secretariat Hill to Aberdeen Bazaar and South point. There are neat villages like Pahargaon, Shadipur and Garacharme.

The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Wandoor is at a distance of 29 Kms. from Port Blair covering an area of 281.5 Sq.Kms. This Marine Park made-up of open sea, creeks and 15 small and large islands, is one of the best found anywhere in the world. Viewing of rare corals and underwater marine life through glass bottom boats,SCUBA diving and Snorkelling are a lifetime experience for anyone.

Cellular Jail

Cellular Jail located at Port Blair, stood mute witness to the tortures meted out to the freedom fighters, who were incarcerated in this Jail. The Jail, completed in the year 1906 acquired the name, ‘cellular’ because it is entirely made up of individual cells for the solitary confinement of the prisoners. It originally was a seven pronged, puce-coloured building with central tower acting as its fulcrum and a massive structure comprising honeycomb like corridors. The building was subsequently damaged and presently three out of the seven prongs are intact. The Jail, now a place of pilgrimage for all freedom loving people, has been declared a National Memorial.

Cinque Island

The lure of underwater coral gardens and unspoiled beaches specially a sand bar joining two islands are irresistible. Super place for SCUBA diving, swimming, fishing and Camping.

Jolly Buoy

An island in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, it offers a breath taking underwater view of coral and marine life. It is an ideal place for snorkeling , sea bathing and basking on the sun kissed beach.

Red Skin Island

Another island in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park has a nice beach and offers spectacular view of corals and marine life.

Barren Island

At a distance of about 135 Kms. from Port Blair is the land of volcano, Barren Island, the only active volcano in India. The Island, about 3 Kms. has a big crater of the volcano, rising abruptly from the sea, about 1/2 Km. from the shore and is about 150 fathoms deep. Can be visited on board vessels.

Havelock Island

About 38 Kms. from Port Blair, this island is the most visited of the islands, with the most (although still minimal) infrastructure. Beautiful beaches, great snorkeling and scuba diving.

Havelock is a magical place. Life moves more slowly here, untouched by commercialism and modern intrusions. Unwind after a day’s diving by relaxing on a hammock or sunning yourself on the beach.

Neil Island (36 kms. from Port Blair)

This beautiful island with lush green forest and sandy beaches is the vegetable bowl of Andamans. Connected by boat from Port Blair four days a week, it provides an ideal holiday for eco-friendly tourists.

Long Island (82 kms. from Port Blair)

Connected by boat four times a week from Phoenix Bay Jetty, this island offers an excellent sandy beach at Lalaji Bay, unpolluted environment and evergreen forests. The sea around the island is frequented by dolphin convoys. Lalaji bay, 6 kms. away from the boat jetty, is accessible by 15 minutes journey in dinghies or trekking through the forest.

Rangat (170 kms. by road and 90 kms. by sea)

One can enjoy the quiet village life and solitude of virgin nature here. You can also breathe unpolluted air, a rare commodity for the city dweller. Cutbert Bay beach (20 kms. away from Rangat bazar/jetty) is a turtle nesting ground. One can view the nesting of turtles during December – February season.

Mayabunder (242 kms. by road/136 kms. by sea)

Situated in the northern part of Middle Andaman, Mayabunder offers excellent scenic beauty and beautiful beaches. Inhabited by the settlers from Burma, East Pakistan and ex-convicts, Mayabunder has a distinct culture. Beach at Avis Island (30 minutes boat journey from Mayabunder), Karmatang beach (13 kms.) and mangrove lined creeks are the attractions. Karmatang beach is also a turtle nesting ground. One can view nesting of turtles during December-February season.

Diglipur (290 kms by road/180 kms. by sea)

Situated in North Andaman Island, Diglipur provides a rare experience for eco-friendly tourists. It is famous for its oranges, rice and marine life. Saddle Peak, 732 metres, the highest point in the islands is nearby. Kalpong, the only river of Andaman flows from here. One who comes by road from Port Blair has to take a boat from Mayabunder to Kalighat and from there journey by road to Diglipur (25 kms.), and from there to Kalipur (18 kms.) for viewing, Kalipur and Lamiya bay beaches.

Little Andaman Island (120 kms. by sea)

This island has a beautiful beach at Butler Bay, a waterfall and plantation of oil palms. Apart from this there are several sandy beaches all along the coastline of the island. The break water at Hut Bay offers an excellent view to the tourists. Little Andaman is the vegetable bowl for the Nicobar group of islands. The Onge tribals live in this island, so do Nicobarese apart from settlers from erstwhile East Pakistan and other places. However entry to tribal areas is restricted. Journey 8 hrs. by sea from Port Blair towards south.

The Nicobar Islands

Comprising of 28 Islands, with an area of 1,841 sq.Kms. the Nicobar Islands are separated from Andamans by the Ten Degree Channel.. The Nicobars abound in coconut-palm, casuarina and pandanus. Great and Little Nicobar have the Giant Robber Crab, Monkeys with long tail, Nicobarese Pigeons in plenty. Megapode, a rare bird is found in Great Nicobar. The southernmost tip of India is not Kanyakumari as has till recently been considered, it is INDIRA POINT in Great Nicobar Island. Nicobar group is out of bounds for foreigners at present. Indians may be given permission in exceptional cases on application.

Car Nicobar  (Area 126.9 sq. km., Distance 270 kms. by sea)

A rustling fan, Car Nicobar is the headquarters of Nicobar District. It is a flat fertile island covered with cluster of coconut palms and enchanting beaches with a roaring sea all around. The Nicobari huts, built on stilts having entrance through floor with a wooden, ladder, are unique to this island. 16 hrs. journey by sea from Port Blair.

Katchal   (425 kms. by sea)

Katchal is a tiny island in the Nicobar group. It was this island, which heralded the new millennium with the first sunrise on 1st January 2000. This island has beautiful beaches at East bay, Jhula and West bay.

Great Nicobar (540 kms. by sea)

The southern end of the Nicobars, this island has Indira Point (formerly Pygmallion Point) the southern most tip of India. The beach near Galathia is the nesting ground for Gaint Leather Back Turtles. This island also has biosphere reserve area. 50-60 hrs. journey by sea from Port Blair.

Activities

Being a Beach destination the water activities dominate here, but there are a host of other activities like trekking, Bird-watching, cultural tours that non-divers can indulge in. Here’s a complete list of activities you can participate in while on the Islands.

SCUBA Diving

There is no greater adventure than diving. Whether you are a novice or an experienced proficient diver, there is always something new, fascinating or challenging about venturing into the underwater world. Diving in Andamans is a unique lifetime experience. The coastal water surrounding these islands is the abode of one of the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world. The specialty is that, here the coral reefs and underwater formations are undamaged by human activity and miraculously even the tsunami of 26th December 2004 could not damage them fully. The best season for diving is from December to April.

Havelock Island is the main dive destination in the Andamans and is home to the main Dive Centers- DIVEIndia and Barefoot. Cinque Island and the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National park also offer some diving where the deep dive offers a terrific variety of marine life, including black coral, sightings of sharks and is ideal for the experienced diver.

Snorkeling

One can enjoy the under-water marine life and view the rarest varieties of corals by snorkeling in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Carbyn’s Cove Tourism Complex, Havelock and other islands on all days from dawn to dusk depending on the weather.

Island Camping

Camps are just the right choice for the nature-lovers who wish to enjoy the sun, sea and the pristine beauty of nature by spending quiet holidays right on the beach. Tents are available on hire at all the Guest Houses at moderate rates.

Trekking

One can go trekking through the nature trail from Mt. Harriet to Madhuban and enjoy the rare forest life, flora and fauna. There are other trekking routes also, Trekking equipment and the tents are available on hire from Andaman Teal House.

The outdoor enthusiast will find a variety of half-day hiking trails in Havelock, some leading to hilltops and others to secluded beaches. Combine that with a picnic hamper and have a wonderful day of solitude.

Fishing trips

Interested in trawling for pelagics the old-fashioned way (i.e, without electronics, sonar and such)? Try a trip on a traditional island-style canoe (modified slightly to improve comfort) with a local fisherman who has spent decades fishing in the local waters. Fishing trips are strictly catch and release – absolutely no exceptions.

Bird-watching

Explore the variety of bird life in the Andamans, including a chance to spot some of the many endemic species. You can see species ranging from the white-browed mynah & magpie robin to white-rumped munias, brown shrikes, white-bellied sea eagles, whimbrels, black-naped orioles, long-tailed parakeets, chestnut-headed bee-eaters and Andaman specialties like vernal parrots.

Mangrove cruises and Glass Bottom Boat Rides

Take a trip back into time. Board one of the island-style canoes and go exploring the narrow mangrove waterways. With luck, you may even spot one of the rare salt-water crocodiles that are known to inhabit the area.

Scan corals reefs in glass bottom boats off Jolly Buoy Island, at the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Wandoor, 29 km from Port Blair.

Bandhani – Indian Tie and Dye

The tying of cloth with thread and then dying it is the simplest and perhaps the oldest form of creating patterns on a plain piece of cloth. It is also the oldest forms of decorated textiles. Bandhani is a popular type of tie and dye method in India. The word “Bandhani” comes from the Hindi word “Bandhan” which means tying. Bandhani work is mostly done in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

What is Bandhani?

Bandhani is a technique of tie and dye. As the name suggests, the technique of Tie and Dye involves two stages: tying sections of a length of cloth (silk or cotton) and then dunking it into vats of colour. The rainbow-tinged turbans of the Rajputs and the odhnis of their women are shaded by this method of resist dyeing.

The term “bandhani” derives its name from the Hindi word Bandhan which means tying up. Bandhani is an ancient art practised by people mainly of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Ajmer and Jamnagar are among the important centres producing odhnis, saris and turbans in bandhani. The wide variety was evolved over the centuries because of its close links with the religious and social customs of different people. Bandhani work involves tying and dyeing of pieces of cotton or silk cloth. The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, red, green and black. Bandhani work, after the processing is over, results into a variety of symbols including, dots, squares, waves and strips. The main colours used in Bandhani are natural. In fact all colours in bandhani are dark, Rajasthan is one of the most important centers of the tie and dye textile. Each area, each caste and each tribe has its special designs.

Tying of the border is a special process known as sevo bandhavo. The border is tied according to the desired pattern by passing the thread from one end to the other in loose stitch so as to bring the entire portion together by pulling the thread from one end. The border portion is then covered up. Some sarees have broad matching and contrasting borders. The same applies also to the pallus.

The Making of a Bandhani Saree


Dyeing is accomplished by the tie-resist method where the patterns are made up of innumerable dots and weaves respectively. Usually men do the dyeing while women do the tying, which is most painstaking with each dot being as tiny as a pin-head. The cloth is first washed and bleached to prepare it for absorbing the dyes. After this, it is then sent to the bandhani, the women who do the tying, lift small portions of the fabric and tightly tie a thread around it. The more minuscule the raised Bandhani – tied textile fabric, the finer the bandhana. The tied textile is then dipped in a light colour first while the tied areas retain the original ground colour. If a second dye is required, the areas to be retained in the first dye are tied for resist and the cloth dipped in a darker dye. This process is repeated, if several colours are to be combined.

Laheria refers to the wavy pattern of a fabric processed in the tie dye technique. The material is rolled diagonally and certain portions resisted by lightly binding threads at a short distance from one another before the cloth is dyed. If the distance is shorter, the skill required in preventing one colour from spilling into the other. The process of dyeing is repeated until the requisite number of colour is obtained.

For a checkered pattern the fabric is opened and diagonally rolled again from the opposite corners, the rest of the process remaining the same. When oil of sunflower, castor or linseed is heated over fire for more than 12 hours and cast into water, a thick residue known as roghan is produced. The printing of residue on cloth with coloured powder, gold or silver dust is known as khari or tinsel work.

Colors Used and Care


The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, green, red, pink, and black. The colors commonly used signify different things like – red, a symbol of marriage, saffron, a color worn by yogi who has renounced the world, yellow, which stands for spring and black and maroon, used for mourning.

Bandhni material is sold folded and with the knots tied. One has to pull the folds apart for the knots to open. The payment is made according to the number of dots in the pattern. An intricate design in a sari would have approximately 75000 dots. What is essential in bandhni is the minute and skillful manipulation of the fingers for tying, extensive knowledge of color schemes and skill in dyeing materials. It takes several years for a craftsman to perfect his skill. Bandhni saris and dupattas are available at most shops all over India but to get the authentic material, it is advisable to buy it from Rajasthan or Gujarat or their emporiums outlets in major cities around India.

Tie and dye cloth is never too expensive but be warned that the colours always run. So if you’ve bought silk, it’s safer to get it dry-cleaned.

Major Centers Of Tie And Dye in India

The centers of tie and dye fabrics, especially in Gujarat are Jamnagar in Saurashtra (the water in this area brings out the brightest red while dying), and Ahmedabad. The finest bandhni work of Rajasthan comes from Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer, Pali, Udaipur and Nathdwara. Rajasthan is well known for its leheriya pattern – literally meaning waves. These are harmoniously arranged diagonal stripes, which were originally, dyed in the auspicious colors of yellow and red. Pochampalli is also one of the three main traditional yarn-dyeing centers in the country. The process of making bandhni (tie and dye) varies in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Even the patterns, designs and craftsmanship vary in both the regions. The craftsmen from Rajasthan are easily recognized because they grow a nail on their little finger to facilitate the lifting of cloth for tying or wear a small metal ring with a point. The Gujarati craftsmen prefer to work without these aids. The flow is much better when one works with one’s bare hands as it assures no damage to the cloth. The dyeing and printing of textiles has become a highly developed craft in Gujarat. Bandhni, a form of tie-resist dyeing and patola are two outstanding examples of the Indian dyer’s art.

Discover Coorg-The Scotland of India

Discover Coorg

Also known as Kodagu, Coorg is a place said to haunt you forever with its timeless beauty. Described as the Scotland of India, Coorg lies at an altitude of 1,525 m on the Western Ghats about 252 kms from Bangalore in Karnataka. Misty hills, lush forest, acres and acres of tea and coffee plantations, orange groves, undulating streets and breathtaking views are what make Coorg an unforgettable holiday destination.

The Coorg Effect

A friendly warning to all concerned: One trip to Coorg (Kodagu) and it’ll haunt you for the rest of your life. You might leave Coorg, but Coorg will never leave you.

That’s Coorg for you, incomparable scenic beauty, lush green valleys, coffee plantations, teak wood forests & majestic mountain ranges. Add to that- a strong, brave martial race of Coorgs (Kodavas) that reveres tradition, has a distinct culture and lives life to its fullest.

The predominant entity here is nature at its best. Coorg is like the dreamland of the philosopher. If you’re the type who likes to mingle with nature, romance in the mountains, feel the tingle of the cool and gentle breeze, watch leaves flutter in dance-like movements and hear sounds of birds fill the air, then Coorg is just the place for you.

General Information

Area : 1595 square miles/ 4102.3 sq. km
Altitude :Uneven surface- average height around 1170 meters
Climate : Pleasant Winters, warm summers, heavy monsoons
Warmest Months : March To May
Average Temperature :13° C To 26° C
Coolest Months : December To February
Languages :Kodava-Thak, Kannada, Maliyalam, Tamil, Hindi, English
Telephone Access Code : ++91 8272 (Madikeri), ++91 8274 (Virajpet), ++91 8276 (Somwarpet)

How to Get There

Air : The nearest airports are Mangalore (135 kms) and Bangalore (260 kms).

Train : The nearest railheads are at Mysore, Mangalore and Hassan (146 kilometers).

Road: From Bangalore, there are two routes to Coorg. Both routes are almost the same distance (around 250-260 kilometers). The route via Mysore is the oft-frequented route. The stretch after Hunsur is scenic and the drive through the coffee plantations is absorbing. The other route is via Neelamangal, Kunigal, Channarayapatna, all of which are located on the National highway. After Chanrayanapatna, the state highway route takes you to your destination The bus service in Madikeri has connections to almost every place in Coorg, except Kushalnagar, for which you have to hop onto a bus to Bangalore. Alternatively, there are regular buses to Mysore, Mangalore, Hassan, Chikmagalur and Shimoga.

Distance from important cities

Mangalore: 136 kms
Mysore: 120 kms
Bangalore: 256 kms
Hassan: 115 kms
Dharmasthala: 133 kms
Subramanya: 87 kms
Tellechery: 110 kms
Kasargod: 106 kms
Calicut: 170 kms
Cannanore: 110 kms

Local Sights

The capital of Coorg formerly called Mercara, Madikeri is often known as the Scotland of India. It has enchanted millions of travelers with its misty hills, lush forests, coffee plantations and breath taking views. Also known for its lovely climate, Madikeri is a world record holder for the cardamom crop.

Madikeri Fort

This 19th century fort, in the center of Madikeri, houses a temple, a chapel, prison and a small museum. The fort offers a beautiful view of Madikeri.

Raja’s Seat

According to legend, the kings of Kodagu spent their evenings here. But what’s unforgettable about Raja’s seat is the spectacular sunset that one can enjoy from here.

Omkareshwara Temple

1 km from Madikeri town. Built in the early 18th century by the King Lingarajendra, it is a beautiful piece of architecture.With a dome in the middle of a square lake and minarets at each corner, this is a catholic mix of Keralite, Gothic and Islamic influences.

Nagarahole National Park

The most visited tourist spot in Coorg is the Nagarahole National Park (96km) named after the river that flows through it (meaning Snake River), is a wildlife resort where you can feast your eyes on a variety of wildlife. Though the name literally means Snake River in Kannada, there aren’t too many snakes around. Created from a former Raja’s hunting grounds, Nagarahole is one of the best game sanctuaries in South India, providing a natural living conditions to several wild animals like elephants, tigers, panthers, rhinos and wild elephants, but one is more likely to see smaller game like gaur, deer, wild dogs and langur. Pleasantly cool round the year, it is a little difficult to reach, which makes it quieter than other parks. This in turn makes it a great place to relax. There are facilities for over-night stay inside the Nagarhole park next to water-holes. Jungle safaris are available as elephant rides.

Bhagamandala & Talakaveri/ Talacauvery

At the convergence of the rivers Cauvery, the underground Sujyothi and the Kanike, the Bhangandeshwara temple here has a distinct Kerala touch. Because of the three rivers, it is also called Triveni Sangama. The serene temple has intricate carvings and a copper roof. A dip at the Triveni Sangam nearby is supposed to revive sagging spirits, but take prior permission at the temple. Telecauvery (meaning Head of the Cauvery)is the origin of one of the seven sacred rivers. The source of this long river, which passes through two states, is on the top of the hill called Brahmagiri. It is 1535 metres above sea level. Steps lead up to the Brahmagiri peak, from where a panoramic view of Kodagu meets the visitor.

Iruppu Falls

Fall that mesmerizes you with its beauty is the sacred Iruppu Falls in Kodagu’s southern side. It is believed that Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana passed through these hills in search of Sita. The river Lakshmana-tirtha, flowing through here, is said to have originated when Lakshmana was asked to fetch water by Ram and he shot an arrow into the Brahmagiri hills, thus bringing the river into being. Also said to be blessed with powers of cleansing one’s soul, it is an important pilgrim point for many devotees and a temple dedicated to Lord Ram is a few km below.

Abbi(Abbey) Falls

Located in the midst of coffee plantations, this is one of the most scenic spots in the area. Only 7 km away from Madikeri, the road leading to it is an adventure in itself with ups and downs and sudden curves and bends. This waterfall flows to unite with the River Kaveri. Even during the summer there is plenty of water in these falls. The roar of the falls can be heard from the main road, from where a path goes through lovely coffee and cardamom plantations right up to them.

Dubare

This is mainly an elephant capturing and training camp of the Forest Department, at the edge of Dubare forest, on the bank of river Kaveri, on the Kushalnagar – Siddapur road. The largest land animal is captured here with the help of tamed elephants and local tribals – the Kurbas – and is held captive for upto 6 months in large teak wood cages. The tamed elephants attend to various jobs during the day and in the evenings they come down to the river to bathe and to be scrubbed clean by their mahouts. Afterwards the mahout obliges eager tourists for free elephant rides within the camp. In the evenings, all the elephants are offered a special treat of ladoos made of ragi and jaggery, each no smaller than a cannon ball!

Somwarpet

If you can get off to an early start and if the sky is beautiful with the clouds, take the road to Somwarpet. This 42-kilometer, one-and-half hour drive will surely perk you up. This is the coffee heartland of Coorg. You will pass through some of the finest coffee estates you will ever see. Magnificent trees reaching up to the skies, casting much wanted masses of shade to the coffee plants. It’s one great spread of continuous foliage very gloriously prepared in an extraordinary operation by Nature. Mingled with cardamom and pepper as well.

Little Tibet

Housing mostly refugees from Tibet, it is located near the hills of Madikeri. The famous site to visit here is the Namdroling Monastery, and 2 km from there two more monasteries of Sera Jhe and Sera Mey at the Sera village.

Activities

Trekking

Coorg has many verdant trekking routes in the midst of forests and hills, and it’s best to go in the months from October to February. Some of the known trails are in the hills of Brahmagiri, where you could trek your way to the Iruppa Falls. Or you could trek to Pushpagiri, the second highest peak of Kodagu, or even Tadiandamol, the highest peak.

Angling

Valanoor is the backwater of the River Kaveri, which draws fishing lovers from all over the country. You can try and catch the famous mahaseer and the best season is from October to May.

White Water Rafting

For white water rafting check out the camps around Madikeri, which offer rafting down the Cauvery. Some fast paced action visit the Upper Barapole River to the south of Coorg in Brahmagiri. The best time for rafting is from mid-June to mid-September.

Golf

Golfers can tee off at the 9-hole course of Virajpet.

Food

Coorgi cuisine is famous and unique, especially for non-vegetarians as it is based on game meats, pork and other delicious ingredients. Popular dishes are pandhi (pork), koli (chicken) and yarchi (lamb) spiced with pepper, kokum, bamboo shoot, red chilly, bembla curry, kadumbuttu, noolputu, voti and excellent coffee.

Shopping

Some of the popular items to buy are coffee, honey, spices, cardamom, pepper, pineapple papads and oranges ( season). Coorgi silk saree are also very famous and they have a different style of wearing them.

Fairs & Festivals

Schedule your visit to coincide with one of the colorful festivals of the region. The festivals of the Kodava community are largely around agriculture military activities.

  • The ‘Festival of Arms – Keilpoldu’ is held in the months of June to September. During this festival the weapons are polished and worshiped before reuse.
  • Cauvery Shankaramana is based around the river Cauver is held in October.
  • The harvest festival ‘Puthar’ is celebrated in November or December. The festival is accompanied by folks songs and dances, performed by the different villagers at their temples.

Accommodation

Pompei Valley Resorts
Thalathamane,
via-Madikeri-571201
Ph:08272-222909
Mobile: 94483 52909
Email: apex_farms@yahoo.com

Hotel Coorg International
Ph No 08272-229142,228071,225191.
E-mail: hcicoorg@blr.vsnl.net.in

Hotel Rajdarshan
Near Raja seat, M.G.Road,
Madikeri – 571201
Ph: 0827-229142
E-mail: hrdvij@vsnl.net

Hotel Crystal Court
Phone: +91 8272 – 221543, +91 8272 – 221870
Email: hilldalecrystal@sancharnet.in

Hotel Hilltown
Behind JEDI Hospital
Daswal Road
Madikeri – 571201
Ph No -08272-223801.223805.

Hotel Amritha
Jr. College Road
Madikeri – 571201
Ph: 0827-222906

Tourism Info

Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation
49, Khanija Bhavan, 2nd Floor, West Entrance
Race Course Road
Bangalore – 560 001
Phone: (080) 2352901, 2352902, 2352903

Nainital – The Glittering Jewel in the Himalyan Necklace

nainital

Tucked away in the Kumaon foothills of the Himalayas at an altitude of 1,938 meters, Nainital is one of the most charismatic hill stations that India harbors. Its enchanting panorama, sprinkled with natural resplendence in the form of varicolored coppices and dazzling almond-shaped lakes has earned it the well-merited moniker of “Lake Paradise”. The garlanded beauty of the place beckons day-trippers, nature-seekers, and travel enthusiasts all across India. Especially, for North Indian denizens, Nainital holds an inimitable charm and forms the perfect retreat from cacophony and city blues.

Nainital is a glittering jewel in the Himalyan necklace, blessed with scenic natural spledour and varied natural resources. Nainital popularly known as the, “lake district of India” and is situated in Uttranchal. The word Nainital means, “Naini” meaning “the eye” and “Tal” meaning “the Lake”. The word Naini is derived from the Goddess Naina, the temple was built on the upper edge of the lake however it got destroyed by the landside which took place in the year 1880. Nainital was earlier the summer headquarters of the British. The natural beauty and the Naini Lake makes it the famous tourist destination.

Best time to visit Nainital

Nainital is located in the Kumaon hills and the weather is very pleasant throughout the year except during winter months. The temperature is not very high at any time but in winters it becomes very cold. The climate of Nainital is regulated by the lake here which showers rain almost every afternoon. The best time visit the place is between April to June and then again in September October. The months of January to March are marked by the snowfall which is for a very short time. It is advisable that contact any local person before going to Nainital to watch snowfall.

How to Get There?

The nearest railway station is that of Kathgodam which is connected by trains from Delhi and Howrah. The narrow gauge trains come from Lalkuan which is 55 kms from Nainital. From Lalkuan and Kathgodam regular taxi and bus services are available for Nainital. Nainital is well connected by buses with other parts of the state. Inter state services are also available. The state transport corporation as well as the private operators have their buses on this route.

By Air – The nearest airport is at Pantnagar, located 70 km from Nainital. However, airports in Delhi and Lucknow are more convenient, owing to their easy accessibility from the rest of India.

By Rail – An excellent network of broad gauge railways easily connects Nainital to places like Delhi, Kolkata and Dehradun. The nearest railhead is Kathgodam, 35 , which is connected by metre guage to Agra, Bareilly and Lucknow. Some of the important train connections from Kathgodam are: Shatabadi Express, Howrah Express (3019/3020), Ranikhet Express (5013/5014), Rampur Passenger (1/2 R.K. Passenger and 3/4 R.K. Passenger), Nainital Express (5308/5307).

By Road – Nainital is easily linked to adjoining areas in Uttaranchal and other important north Indian cities such as Delhi (310 km), Haldwani (40 km) and Dehradun (300 km) by a good network of roads.

Some of the major road distances are:
Almora – 62 km.
Agra – 379 km.
Kausani – 117 km
Ranikhet – 60 km.
Corbett (Dhikala) – 128 km.
Bareilly – 141 km.

Nainital Tourist Attractions

Naini Lake

The nucleus of Nainital’s exquisite beauty is beautiful lake. In the day, mirrored in its waters stand seven proud hills, dotted with pretty cottages and villas. This reflection alone holds one spell bound. More beautiful than this however is the lake at night when the myriads of bulbs from the hill sides and quite a large number hanging near the lake’s edge stab their magic light into its waters.

The lake offers the holiday makers ample opportunity for yachting, boating or paddling the boat. Boating rates in conventional rowing boats ranges from Rs. 30/- to Rs. 50/- in peak season days from one end of lake to another end. Paddling boats are available on hourly rate from Rs. 50/- to Rs. 90/- depending on type of paddle boat and tourist rush. Rowing as well as paddling boats are available at both ends of lake.

The north end of lake is called Mallital while the southern one is called Tallital which have a bridge (Danth popularly named) having Gandhiji’s statue and post office on its sides .It is the only Post Office on the lake bridge in whole of the world.There is Bus Station , Taxi stand and Railway reservation counter on the same lake bridge , both ends have well laid out shopping centres,with beautifully laid of marts ,stores and luxury shops.

Bhim Tal

Bhimtal, situated at a distance of 22kms from Nainital, is named after one of the Pandav brothers called Bhim. It is a beautiful island at the middle of the lake which is one of the main tourist attractions in Nainital. The vast lake below the hill offers boating and fishing facilities to the tourists. The largest lake in the district of Nainital, Bhim Tal is 1701 metres by 265 metres, 265 metres longer than Naini Lake. The lake known for its magnificent majesty is situated at an altitude of 1371.6 metres above sea level.

Bhim Tal has an island, to the north-east side, which is an exquisite gem in the middle of the lake. It is situated within the range of temple bells, which have been chiming for the last 300 years in the 17th century edifice, beneath the shadow of the towering mountain rushing precipitously down to the emerald green lake. The island is only 91.4 metres from the shore.

Naina Peak

Naina Peak is also known as the China peak. This peak is the highest point in Nainital at an altitude of 2611 mts. and at a distance of 6 Kms from the town. It commands an entrancing view of sparkling snow laden Himalayas from Bandar Punch in west to Api and Nari peaks of Nepal in the east , a full Himalayan range in one side and a birds eye view of the lake city of Nainital in its full grandeur on the other. With a pair of binoculars a good panorama of the tract surrounding Nainital is obtained . Pony or Horses can be hired to visit this peak either from Snow view or from Mallital. From here Nainital appears as a bowl. You can walk or take ponies to the peak. From this peak you can capture the exciting views of Nainital. Naina peak also gives a good view of the Camelback peak. There are no hotels or restaurants on the top so carry food and water along with you.

Snow View

It is the most easily accessible hill top, height 2270 mts. and at a distance of 2.5 Km from the town. The spot is accessible through ropeway. This peak is also connected by motor able road. Snow view as the name suggests offers an indescribably beautiful and breath taking picture of the glittering snows of Himalyas.It has a temple. Tea, snacks, Photographers are available at this place.

Hanuman Garhi

Though popular for its spectacular sunset views, another highlight of the spot is the Hanuman temple located atop a nearby hill. It is around 3.5 Kms away from the bus stop at an altitude of 1951 Mts. Hanuman Garhi is a religious centre and famous for its sun set view. One can go to Hanuman Garhi by taxi, bus or even on foot from Nainital. It has a temple complex presiding deity being Lord Hanuman besides Ram and Shiva. At the instance of Neem Karoli Baba around 1950 these temples were built. On the other side of the hill there is Shitala Devi temple and Ashram of Lila Sah Bapu.

Astronomical Observatory

Situated on Manora peak it is about 1 Km from Hanumangarhi if some one prefers to visit it on foot . By road it is about 9 Kms from Nainital . It is a centre of astronomical studies and optical tracking of artificial satellites. For night viewing of stars and planets some days are fixed on moon lit nights and permission is necessary.

Observatory was established at Nainital in 1955 and shifted to present location of Manora Peak in 1961. The primary objective of the observatory has been to develop facilities for modern astrophysical research in stellar, solar & theoretical branches of astrophysics.On some selected clear nights the visitors are also shown some celestial objects through the telescopes.

St. John Church

The church of St. John in the Wilderness was established in 1844 and is located on the north end of town (Mallital), about half a mile north-west of the Naina Devi temple. The church was so named by Daniel Wilson, the Bishop of Calcutta, who, after falling ill during a visit to Nainital in 1844 to lay the foundation of the church, was obliged to sleep in an unfinished house on the edge of the forest. (See excerpt from Josiah Bateman on the Literary references to Nainital page.) A brass plaque on the altar is inscribed with names of the victims of the Landslip of 1880.

Naina Devi Temple

The Naina Devi Temple was destroyed by the landslip of 1880 and later rebuilt. It is located on the northern shore of Naini Lake. The presiding deity of the temple is Maa Naina Devi represented by two Netras or eyes. Flanking Naina Devi are the deities of Mata Kali and Lord Ganesha.

Corbett National Park

Set up in 1936, the Corbett National Park is India’s first and the finest national park. Situated in the foothills of the western Himalayas in the districts of Nainital and Pauri Garhwal, the park spans across some 920.9 square kilometres at an altitude of 600 to 1,100 metres. Today the park has grown considerably in size and now includes the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of its 1,319 sq. km of reserved forest area.

Zoo Gardens

Naini Tal has a small but a very beautiful Zoological garden. There are many animals kept here which includes Deers, Bears, Tigers and many more. The hygiene and cleanness of the zoo is a point which attracts the mind even if one ignores it. Not surprising this zoo is one of the most clean zoos in the country. The zoo can be reached on foot or taxi can be hired.

Tiffin top/Dorothy’s Seat

Located at a distance of 4 Kms from the town this peak is 2292 mts. above the sea level in Ayarpatta region is Dorothy’s Seat. As the name suggests, pack a picnic hamper and head to this rugged hillside for a lazy afternoon. The road to this picnic spot crawls along the rugged hill side swaying this way & that, and than all in one breadth in hushed silence suddenly unfolds a canvas on which nature has painted this beautiful spot. Tiffin Top commands an excellent view of the Himalayas as well as the neighboring country side. Dorothy Kellet was an English painter who used to sit here and paint Himalyas. Dorothy seat is a memorial build by her husband and admirers after her death in an air crash. This pleasant spot offers a partial view of Nainital.

Raj Bhawan

Also known as Governor’s House and formerly, Government House was built in 1899 and designed in the Victorian Gothic domestic style (also called “domestic Gothic”) by the architect F.W. Stevens. Originally built as the summer residence of the governor of the North West Province, it later became the summer residence for the Lieutenant Governor of the United Provinces. Currently, Raj Bhavan is the official guest house for the governor of Uttarakhand and for visiting state guests. The complex consists of a two-storied mansion with 113 rooms, a large garden, a swimming pool, and golf links. Obtaining prior permission is must for visiting.

Land’s End

Its altitude is 2118 mts. & it is located at about 4 Kms from the town. The best feature of this spot is that one does not have to climb much and as the name suggests one feels on reaching the area that the end of the land has really come. Needless to say the view of the neighboring hills and valley and the Khurpatal lake is exquisite from this point. One can go to Barapathar on a vehicle and then walk about one Km. up to the spot.

Shopping in Nainital

Shopping in Nainital is a delightful experience. For a discerning shopper, it is impossible to return from a tour without shopping in Nainital.

Fabrics and woolen garments are the most popular items for shopping in Nainital. Most of such woolens are woven by the women of Almora. A variety of sweaters, cardigans, caps and shawls in exquisite designs and brilliant colors would arrest your eyes.

You can also pick up intricately carved cane sticks and multicolored candles in unique designs while shopping in Nainital. Like all hill stations, beautiful wood-carved utilities and objets d’art are also huge hits for shopping in Nainital.

In the fruit market in Nainital, you can buy fresh-from-the-orchard apples, peaches and cherries.

Hang out at the teeming shops at The mall for shopping in Nainital. The shops are replete with artifacts and souvenirs from various parts of Uttaranchal. Never mind if you need to bargain a little bit with the shopkeepers to get the reasonable prices.

The Mall is the main shopping center in Nainital which has some of the good shops where one can do some shopping.
In Nainital the main items to be bought are

  • The woollen garments
  • Decorative pieces made from wood.
  • Decorative colorful candles

For the woolen garments the Bohtia Bazaar is the best place whereas “The Mall road” and the Mallital are places for good bargain of candles and wooden stuff.

Nainital Excursions

Ranikhet – The hill station, idyllic in its charm, Ranikhet with its majestic pine trees, is 59.5 kilometres from Nainital.

Bhimtal – The myth goes that the lake was built during the Mahabharata era. You can get taxis and buses at regular interval from Nainital. On the Nainital-Bhimtal road is Mahra Village. Here through the efforts of Dr. Yashodhra Mathpal a rich collection of the cultural and archeological items have been made. These artifacts from the Uttrakhand region gives you an insight into the cultural heritage of this area. At Bhimtal you can enjoy boating and have food at the restaurant on the island in middle of the lake. Bhimtal is 23 kms from Nainital and there are good accommodation facilities at the place.

Naukuchia Lake – Just four kms from Bhimtal is lake with nine corners hence it is known as the Naukutchia lake. This is an ideal place to spend your holidays and relax. The lake is full of lotus and is surrounded by forest with a backdrop of the mountains, all this creates an ideal condition to enjoy boating in here or sit on the banks and feel the breeze coming from the lake. There are regular bus and taxi services to this place and the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam has got its rest house where you can stay.

Sat Tal ( Seven Lakes ) – On the way from Nainital to Bhimtal is a group of seven lakes called the Sattal. Nature has really provided this place beauty in abundance. There is government Bunglow where you can spend the night. Taxis and buses are available to Sattal from Nainital. It is 22 Km from Nainital.

Nanda Devi Fair – Nanda Devi Mela is a fair of great religious and cultural significance. It is held at Nanda Devi Temple in September to commemorate the memory of Goddesses, Nanda and Sunanda.

Mukteshwar – Once this place was the cantonment for the British troops. Today this place has been converted into a Vetenary Research Institute. Mukteshwar is full of natural beauty and from here the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas are clearly visible. The greenery of this place attracts visitors attention. Mukteshwar is only 52 kms Nainital but very few bus services are available for the place.

Ram Nagar – Ramnagar is 49 kms from the Jim Corbett National Park but this place is famous for wild life trekking. One can watch the animals from close quarters. Nearby is the famous Gargia temples. During the seasons when the Corbett park is open for visitors, the local travel agents and operators conduct one day sight seeing tours from this place. Ram Nagar is 65 kms from Nainital.

Ramgarh – From Nainital this place is the 26 kms. The environment is very good for health. The whole place is surrounded by Apple groves and trees of many other fruits. Rest houses are available to spend night.

Trekking options in Nainital

1. Nainital Betalghat Trek
2. Nainital Binayak Trek
3. Nainital Kainchi Trek
4. Nainital Kilbury Trek
5. Nainital Kunjkharak Trek
6. Snow View Trek

Jimmy Choo Opens in India it’s First Exclusive Store in Mumbai

Jimmy Choo

Known for its stylish and suave shoes and bags, Jimmy Choo has opened its first ever stand alone store in Mumbai in India. Tamara Mellon, the Founder and President of Jimmy Choo has signed an agreement with the Murjani Group of India. This is the same company that distributes Tommy Hilfiger brand here. There is a plan to open around seven stores in India in the next five years. Now you know where the elite society women are going to be seen!

Jimmy Choo Stores in India

India was selected as the hottest Asian market by Jimmy Choo and that is why the first stand alone store has been launched here. The Indian woman is seen as more sophisticated and fashion conscious. She is perceived as an empowered figure who has a say in the society and possesses the power to earn and spend. The Indian woman has update knowledge about what’s hot and what’s not and knows much about style. Though the Indian market is not really ready for luxury clothing, it is very much ready for splurging on fashion accessories.

By the year 2011, India will have atleast five operational stores. The Asian market will fetch revenue as much as what is being earned in UK and US. The company also has plans to diversify into manufacturing perfumes as well as eye gear and has apparently signed a 10-year agreement with the French beauty manufacturer Selective Beauty to produce as well as distribute the perfumes. Jimmy Choo has an elite list of customers, most of whom are international celebrities. Hoping to see Indian celebrities soon on the list soon!

Address and Contact Info
The Galleria
The Trident
Nariman Point
Mumbai – 400 021
Tel +91 22 3027 7070

Update : Jimmy Choo has now opened four other exclusive stores in India

Address and Contact Info
Shop No. G-8A
Palladium, Phoenix Mills, 462
Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel
Mumbai – 400013
Tel +91 22 6615 2293\94

Address and Contact Info
Shop 144, Emporio Mall
Nelson Mandela Marg
New Delhi – 110070
Tel +91 11 4660 9069

Address and Contact Info
No-17 Ground Floor
The Collection UB City
24, Vittal Mallya Road
Bangalore – 560 001
Tel +91 80 4173 8404

Address and Contact Info
Shop No.2, Oberoi Retail Arcade
Oberoi Hotel
Udyog Vihar Phase-5
Gurgaon – 122002
Tel +91 12 4486 1766

Religious Places and Temples of Gujarat

Temples of Gujarat

Since time immemorial Gujarat has been noted for its temples. These houses of gods and goddesses have been attracting millions of devotees. They range from the holy of holies like Somnath and Dwarka to wayside shrines. Whatever be their size and wealth all of them share one thing in common the intense faith of the devotees who can be seen trekking to places like Ambaji and Dakor for some favour received.

When we talk of Somnath and Dwarka we deal with a period when the concept of time was not yet born. The temple of Somnath dedicated to Shiva is the first among the 12 Jyotirlings. It is the seventh temple in living memory. Known for its fabulous wealth it attracted the attention of iconoclasts in the course of its chequered history. The present temple is the result of strenuous efforts made by devotees like Sardar Patel, Jam Saheb of Navanagar, K.M. Munshi and a host of others.

Dwarka has been sanctified by Vishnu himself in the form of Lord Sri Krishna. He led his Yadavas to the safety of Dwarka from Mathura to escape from the depredations of Jarasandha. Legend has it that Lord Krishna ordered Vishvakarma, the divine architect, to build the place. The Dwarka of Krishna’s period lies under the Arabian Sea. Prabhas Kshetra in which Somnath lies was the place where Krishna and his elder brother Balaram ended their earthly lilas.

Hill-top shrines like Ambaji, Palitana, Girnar and Pavagadh are similarly steeped in legend and celebrated in history. Some of them like Palitana are known fortheir architectural splendour.

In addition to the divinities distinguished seers like Vishwamitra, Kapila and Dadhichi have sanctified Gujarat. In historical times Acharyas like Shankara, Ramanuja, Vallabha and devotees like Narsinh Mehta, Mirabai, Nanakand Kabir offered worship atthese shrines.

So Gujarat, where history and legend lie cheek by jowl, offers a rich spiritual fare to the pilgrim.

Akshardham : A Tribute to Lord Swaminarayan

Akshardham is a homage to the Sarafan DAa/ma in stone. The monument which is set in a 23-acre plot at Gandhinagar (Gandhinagar district) is built in pink sandstone. It is 108 feet tall and 6000 tonnes of stone has gone into its making. A point worth noting is that this modern monument to Hinduism was built as per the injunctions of Vastu Shastra. Not a bit of steel has been used.

The monument stands on 93 sculpted pillars, 210 single-piece stone beams, 57 window grills, M domes, eight ornate zarokhas, etc. The sanctum sanctorum contains a 1.2 tonne gold-plated idol of Lord Swaminarayan, the founder of the sect that bears his name. The 7-foot idol is shown in a sitting posture with his right hand raised in abhay mudra. He is flanked by Swami Gunatitanand on his right and Swami Gopalanand Swami on his left. Both of them were his disciples. Swami Gunatitanand is called Swaminarayan’s Akshardham the eternal abode. According to the Swaminarayan philosophy whenever Lord Swaminarayan incarnates on this planet he brings with him his Akshardham.

Gunatitanand Swami is also called Aksharbrahma and ranks second in the hierarchy of the Bochasanvasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha which built the Akshardham monument.

Inspiring episodes and incidents from the glorious history of Sanatan Dharma are presented in sound and light form for the benefit of the visitors. The show takes the visitors through various facets of Hinduism. So far millions of people have visited the monument since its inception on November 2,1992. They have been able to savour the story of Hinduism and to imbibe the message of universal peace and brotherhood.

The wisdom of the Vedas, the epics, the Puranas is depicted on a crowded canvas by the exhibition. The visitor comes face to face with personages who have made this land what it is.

It is a perfect mix of modernity and ancient values. Apart from Lord Ram going in search of his kidnapped wife, the visitor can see Shravan, the dutiful son, the Pandavas losing the game of dice in the Hastinapur palace, etc. Besides the visitors can see Sabari’s long wait for Ram and Draupadi’s humiliation in the Kauravasabha.

The Hall of Harmony projects world religious side by side. The monument is ringed by aparikrama containing 365 stone pillars.

• Tallest structural stone pillars in India – four delicately sculpted pillars rise to 33 ft.
• Longest stone support beams in stone architecture – 22 ft. long single-piece beams each weighing 5 tons.
• No iron or steel – from foundation to pinnacle – only stone has been used.
• 73 richly patterned and 63 partially carved pillars.
• 16 pillars with profuse roopkam – sculptures and figures.
• 64 large traditional sculptures with spiritual meanings and 192 small figures of gods and goddesses adorn the pillars.
• 5 types of stones used in the Monument : 1. Pink sandstone from Bansipahadpur. 2. Yellow stone from Jesalmer. 3. White marble from Makrana. 4. Maroon granite from Jhansi. 5. White marble from Ambaji.
• 25 domes of varying sizes and depths.
• Grandly ornate porch and 3 exclusively decorated porticos.
• Intricately carved from both sides – 30 large windows and 24 small grills.
• 220 stone beams for structural support.
• 57 stone screens for controlling light and enhancing beauty.
• 160,000 cubic feet of pink sandstone has been carved and assembled.

Ambaji : Devi’s Abode

Ambaji (Banaskantha district) is the seat of Ambe Mata, the mother goddess. Hers is a household name in the state. People pay homage to her during Navratri in song and dance. She is an aspect of goddess Parvati Shiv’s consort. Amba or Ambe Mata is shown riding a tiger during the Navratri celebrations. Navratri in Gujarat is comparable to the worship of Saraswati in Bengal.

Hindus do not believe in gender bias where divinities are concerned. Krishna says in the Gita, “I am the father of this universe and even the source of the father. I am the mother of the universe and the creator of all.” The logic is simple. If god is our father why can’t he be our mother? Ambe Mata is the Adya Shakti- the primordial female power the mother goddess.

The Ambaji temple which is situated on the Arasur hill in the Aravali Range does not contain any idol. It has only a yantra engraved in a niche. The shrine is made of marble. Large number of devotees visit the shrine during the Purnima fAirs held on the full moon day oiKartik, Chaitra, Bhadrapad and also Navratri is celebrated on a grand scale here.

Ambaji is one of the 64 Shakti Piths. The Shakti Piths have been established at those places where the pieces of Sati’s body fell. It came about this way. Shiv’s father-in-law Daksha Prajapati felt
insulted when the son-in-law did not stand up to receive him. In order to slight him he organized ayagna and did not invite Shiv. Sati went to the yagna uninvited. She too felt slighted when people failed to take note of her presence. According to Puranas she fell into the sacrificial fire. Shiv picked up her body and rushed about in great grief. Vishnu had to intervene. He cut up the body with his discus, so that Shiv may regain his composure. According to tradition one of the pieces fell at Ambaji.

A short distance from Ambaji is the Gabbar Hill. It is said that the goddess revealed herself on the Hill and left her footprints.

Dakor

An interesting legend relates how Lord Krishna came to reveal himself at Dakor (KAira District) leaving his Dwarka abode. In olden times a Krishna devotee named Bholanath used to walk all the way to Dwarka from Dakor on every full moon night to worship his beloved Krishna. The all-knowing God noticed the difficulties which his devotee was undergoing. The god told Bholanath when he was visiting Dwarka that he need not walk all the way to distant Dwarka as he had decided to stay at Dakor (Dhankpuri of olden times). So God accompanied him to Dakor.

The priests at Dwarka temple were naturally upset at the turn of events. They somehow or other wanted to get backthe stone-idol of Ranchhodrai (Krishna). Both at Dwarka and Dakor Krishna is known Ranchhodrai. It is said that he ran away from battle when Kalyavan attacked him as an ally of Jarasandh. So Krishna is called Ranchhodrai – one who ran away from the battle. The priest of Dwarka knew that Bholanath was a poor man. So they told him that he should either pay for the stone idol in gold or return it. The only golden ornament the poor devotee had was his wife’s nose ring. When the idol and the nose ring were placed in the scales they were found to be equal in weight. That is how Krishna changed his residence from Dwarka to Dakor for the convenience of a devotee. The belief is the Krishna idol of Dakor was originally from Dwarka.

On every Sharad Purnlma a big fAir Is held at Dakor. Gujaratis venerate Krishna and Dakor provides an important link in this.

Dwarka : Lord Krishna’s Temporal Kingdom

Dwarka (Jamnagar district) in ancient Anarta (Saurashtra) was the capital of Lord Krishna’s terrestrial kingdom. He shifted to Kusasthali which was the old name of the region to escape the harassing raids of Kamsa’s father-in-law Jarasandha on Mathura after Krishna had killed Kamsa. Kusasthali was Krishna’s ancestral place on his mother’s side. It was founded by Raivata, his Yadava ancestor after he had lost his kingdom to Punyajanas and migrated to Mathura for safety; then he came back to found Kusasthali. So Krishna’s migration to the Dwarka was in the reverse order.

Dwarka which was known as Suvarna Dwarka (the golden Dwarka) had been very prosperous and hence got the name. The Dwarkadhish temple honours Krishna Bhagwan and attracts thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the country. The Dwarka of Krishna’s time lies submerged under the Arabian Sea. Tradition has itthat Krishna’s residence was at Bet Dwarka, a few kms from the mainland Dwarka.

The Dwarkadhish temple (also known as Jagat temple) and its Sikhar rises to 170 feet. The pataka or flag of the temple is changed three times a day. Pilgrims and devotees vie with one another to pay for the flag. There are special tailors to stitch it. Before hoisting the flag it is taken round the temple by the donor. The five-storeyed temple stands on 60 pillars. The pilgrims enter the temple by Swarg Dwar (the gateway of heaven) and leave by Moksh Dwar (the gateway of salvation).

The temple has rich carvings. The ancient shrine has been supported by kings and commoners alike from its inception. It is one of the important moksh dhams. The Gomti River flows nearby.

The other temples in Dwarka are the Trikamji temple, Kalyanrai temple, the Patrani temple, Durvas temple, etc. Sharda Pith set up by Adi Shankaracharya imparts instruction in Sanskrit. Darukvan in the region is one of the Jyotirlingas.

Girnar : Pinnacle of Faith

Mt.Girnar (Junagadh district) is a sacred hill both to the Hindus and Jains. The Jains call it Mt. Neminath. According to traditional history, Siddhas have used it as a retreat to undertake tapasya since ancient times. The 3660 feet hill is connected with Lord Krishna. When Kalayavan, apparently a warrior of foreign origin, was chasing him, the Lord got the better of the powerful adversary in a curious way. Raja Muchkund was sleeping in one of the caves of Raivatachal mountain (the ancient name for Girnar.) He was taking rest after fighting on behalf of the gods. After his exertions Muchkund had only one desire rest and repose. He got a boon that whoever disturbed his sleep would be reduced to ashes when he opened his eyes. This boon Krishna knew. What better way to get rid of Kalyavan. So he pretended as if he was running away from Kalyavan and led him to the cave where the king was sleeping. Krishna covered Muchkund with his upper cloth. Kalyavan after the long chase mistook the sleeping figure for Krishna and woke him up and was reduced to ashes.

Girnar was known by different names at different periods-Ujjayant, Manipur, Chandraketupur, Raivat Nagar, Puratanpur, Girivar and Girnar. Of the sever peaks five are important Amba Mata, Gorakhnath, Augadh, Guru Datatreya and Kalika.

The pilgrims have to climb 4000 steps to reach the top. There are five important Jain temples, besides several Hindu shrines.

The most prominent Jain shrine is the rectangular Neminath temple which was completed between 1128 CE and 1159 CE. Neminath (the 22th Tirthankar) is carved in black marble with jewelled eyes. The courtyard is filled with sculptures. Further up is the Amba temple. Newlyweds who seek Mataji’s blessings for a happy married life frequent it.

The Mallinath temple dedicated to the 19th Tirthankar was built in 1231 CE by Vastupal and Tejpal. Neminath is shown in blue colour. The Rishabhadev temple in golden colour has 24 Tirthankars. The Parshwanath temple was built in the 15th century. It is known as Meravasi. The Dattatreya hill is half way down the temple cluster.

It is best to start the climb in the morning. Bhavnath Shiv temple is the first shrine on the upward path. Bhartruhari cave, Sorath Mahal, Bhim Kund and Suryakund are the other important places. Gomukkhi Kund has pellucid water fed by a mountain stream.

Palitana : Gallery of Temples

Imagine two peaks covered with shrines you have the Jain pilgrimage centre of Palitana (Bhavnagar district) atop the Shatrunjay Hill. There are 900 temples big and small on the two summits. The sculptures that adorn the marble temples present a feast to the eyes. You need not be a Jain to admire the spectacle. Generations of Jams all over the country have contributed their mite to make Shatrunjay Hill what it is today.

It is said all the Jain Tirthankars, excepting Neminath, had attained nirvan on Shatrunjay Hill. This fact adds to the veneration the devout have for the place. The place is therefore called Siddhakshetra where one attains moksh.

The mountain is associated with Rishabhdev, the first Tirthankar who is also known as Adinath. The main temple at the top contains his idol in padmasan. He belonged to the Ikshvaku Dynasty of Ayodhya. So Rama was his ancestor. Adinath visited the Shatrunjay Hill 93 times.

The temple chain starts with the shrine constructed by Babu Dhanpatsinh of Murshidabad at the foot of the hill. The pilgrims have to ascend 3745 steps to reach the 1800 feet hill. It takes between one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours to reach the summit. Those who cannot climb can use sling chAirs. The steps were hewn out of the rock in the 13th century CE during the time of Jain minister Vastupal. The visitors cannot take any eatable on way to it. They can, however, drink water and water posts are provided all along the route. They have the footprints of Tirthankars. They can eat only after coming down the hill. Every shrine has idols of Tirthankars adorned with jeweled eyes.

Pilgrims make their offerings at the main temple containing the Adinath idol. The temple has been renovated and rebuilt several times since its inception. A Jain merchant Javad Shah renovated the shrine in Vikram Samvat 1018 forthe 13th time.

Originally the temple was built of wood and Siddhraj Jaisimha’s minister Udaymehta got it built in marble at the fabulous cost of Rs. 2.97 crores. Siddhraj’s descendant Kumarpal extended the temple.

The present temple was constructed in 1618 CE. The Adinath temple is situated on DadaniTuk. There are nine tuks all along the route containing shrines.

The most famous temples are those of Adinath, Kumarpal, Vimalshah, Samprati Raja and the Chomukh which is the highest. Besides there are temples dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses like Saraswati, Shivji, Hanumanji, etc. The Saraswati temple is nearthefootof the hill. Angar Pir’s shrine is situated at the top of the hill. Barren women pray for children at the Muslim saint’s shrine.

Somnath : The Shrine Eternal

The Someshwar Mahadev temple stands tall among the temples of India. The construction of the present temple in Junagadh district began in 1950. It is the seventh temple built to commemorate the glory of Lord Somnath who was known as Bhairaveshwar in the Sa(ya Yug, Shravanikeshwar in Treta Yug and Shrigaleshwar in DwaparYug.

According to legend, Soma, the moon God built the temple in gold, Ravan in silver, Krishna in wood and king Bhimdev of Anhilwad in stone. Soma constructed the temple as a gesture after Lord Shiva cured him of his illness. This illness was caused by his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati’s curse. Daksha cursed him to wane as he was infatuated with Rohini and was neglecting the other 26 wives, all 26 of whom were the daughters of Prajapati. It is said that Brahma advised him to build the temple in honour of Shiva.

In the first phase of construction the shikhar portion, the sanctum sanctorum and the sabha mandap (assembly hall) were built. The nritya mandap (the dancing hall) was built later. The temple has been constructed in the Solanki style.

The pinnacle rides to a height of 155 feet. The kalash atop the shikhar weighs 10 tonnes. The flag- mast is 37 feet long. These details give an idea of the size of the temple. In historical times the temple, the third to be precise, was raged to the ground by Sultan Mohmad of Ghazni. Then Sultans Allauddin and Mohmad Begda too desecrated it.

After the Maraths took over Gujarat Rani Ahalyabai of Indore constructed a temple near the old temple and worship is offered there ever since.

The temple is so situated that there is no land from here to the South Pole. An arrow indicates the direction.

Dehotsarga also called Balkh Tirth where Krishna shuffled off his mortal coil is nearby which the pilgrims should visit. The tirtha stands at the confluence of Hiranya, Saraswati and Kapila rivers. Vallabhacharya’s Baithak is also there at Prabhas Patan.

Modhera : Sun Temple

Constructed in 1026-27 A.D. during the reign of King Bhimdev I of Patan, the temple is dedicated to Surya or the Sun God. Although it bears a dilapidated look, it is still a magnificent specimen of superb artistry of Gujarat’s architects of the bygone days. Modhera’s sun temple is positioned in such a manner that at the equinoxes the rising sun strikes the images in the sanctuary.

It also incorporates an amusement park, a museum, a cafeteria, picture gallery and library.

The canvas on the walls and pillars depict the incidents from the Ramayan and the Mahabharat, and forms of gods and goddesses and the way of life of the people of that time. An interesting iconograph is one with three heads, three arms and three legs.

The temple was ruined by Mahmud of Gazni.

Adjoining the Sun Temple is the huge ‘Sun Kund’ (Rama Kund) surrounded by step-terraces with numerous smaller temples numbering about 108.

Jaipur – The Pink City

jaipur the pink city

Founded in AD 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II, Jaipur the capital of Rajasthan is popularly known as the Pink City with broad avenues and spacious gardens. The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is steeped in history and culture. Here the past comes alive in magnificent forts and palaces, blushed pink, where once lived the maharajas. The bustling bazaars of Jaipur, famous for Rajasthani jewellery, fabric and shoes, possess a timeless quality and are surely a treasure-trove for the shoppers. This fascinating city with its romantic charm takes you to an epoch of royalty and tradition.

Once the capital city of the Marwar state, it was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodhaji – chief of the Rathore Clan of Rajputs who claimed descent from Lord Rama. A major trade centre of 16th century, the city, today, has grown to become the second largest city of Rajasthan, retaining the medieval splendour.

General Information About Jaipur

State: Rajasthan
STD Code: 0141
Area : 64.75 sq. km. Jaipur City
Altitude : 431 metres
Population : 1.9 million
Climate : Summer 45°C (MAX)-25.8°C (MIN)
Winter 22°C (MAX)- 8.3°C (MIN)
Rainfall : 64 centimeters
Best Season : September – March
Clothing : Summer – Light tropical
Winter – Light Woollen
Language : Rajasthani, Hindi, English

Getting There

  • By Air: Jaipur’s Sanganer Airport is 15 km from downtown, a drive to 30 minutes from most hotels. Jaipur is well connected by Indian Airlines and Jet Airways with Ahmedabad, Delhi, Goa, Jodhpur, Kolkata, Mumbai and Udaipur.
  • By Rail: An excellent connection from Delhi is Shatabdi Express which provides a fast, air-conditioned rail service. Other connection to Jaipur are from Delhi, Agra, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Udaipur, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Secunderabad.
  • By Road: Good motorable roads connect Jaipur with Delhi, Agra, Bikaner, Udaipur, Ajmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Jaisalmer and Mumbai.

Jaipur Sight Seeing

Historic Places

  • Hawa Mahal (The Palace of Winds):
  • The Pyramid shaped palace in pink sandstone is naturally airconditioned through the numerous perforated stone screens (jali) dotting its facade. The purpose of the palace was to provide the royal ladies from where they could watch royal processions in the bazaar below, hidden from the public eye.
  • City Palace & Museum : Centrally located in Jaipur, the city palace complex almost a seventh of the citie’s area. The principal enterance is the Sirh Deorhi Aatish gate being the auxillary one.
  • Jantar Mantar : This is the largest observatory among those built by the astronomer king Sawai Jai Singh II in various parts of the country. Also called as the “Yantralaya”. Its various instruments (yantras) were used to observe the movements of heavenly bodies as also to measure the local time and predict eclipses.
  • Amer Fort : Encircled by the pristine Maota lake & enveloped by lush green hillocks stands the majestic Amer Fort. 11 km from Jaipur, overlooking the Delhi-Jaipur highway, the fort used to be abode of the Kachchwala rulers, 7 centuries before Jaipur was built.
  • It is approached by a step path which may be traversed on elephant back. The main attraction inside the breathtaking Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors), a fascinating view of the Kesar Kyari in the Maota lake can be had from the ramparts of the fort.
  • Jai Mahal : 8 Kms. from Jaipur is the lovely picture perfect Man Sarobar lake, which houses the wonderful Water Palace (built in 1735) Jai Mahal.
  • Maharani Ki Chattar & Gaitore : The Chattari is a complex dedicated to the memory of the queens of Jaipur. Also, enroute is Gaitore, where cenotaphs of the various rulers of Jaipur have been built. Intricately carved designs and elegant bas relief depicting the tastes of the person whom the cenotaph commemorates impart an aura of grandeur to the place.

Nature Sites

  • Sisodia Rani ka Bagh : Located along the road of Agra 8 kms from Jaipur, this magnificient garden was built by Maharaja Sawai Singh II for his Sisodiya queen. It also has a palace flanked by galleries on three sides. The beautiful multilevel gardens are dotted by bubbling waterways, fountains, pools and enchanting pieces of scultpture.
  • Ram Niwas Bagh : Originally built as a famine relief project the Bagh comprises a zoological garden, a museum and numerous sports grounds. The landscaped zoo, apart from being the home of a large variety of flora and fauna is also the breeding ground of crocodiles and pythons. The Albert Hall museum inside the Bagh has a vast collection of brass ware sculptures, paintings, crafts. Et al, reflecting the rich heritage of the city. The celebrated Persian carpet and Egyptian Mummy are principal attractions here.
  • Ramgarh Lake : 35 Kms. from Jaipur on NH 8, the sprawling artificial lake enveloped by emerald green hills is an excellent picnic spot. Boating and fishing are allowed and tourist accommodation is available at the Jheel Tourist Village.

Religious Places

  • Galtaji: This ancient pilgrim centre lies amidst the low hills which flank the city. A small sun temple located at the highest peak provides a fascinating view of the city below. Numerous temples, pavillions and holy pools (kunds) occupy the sprawling green premises. The natural springs here are said to possess curative properties. The legend is that Galtaji was the place where the sage Galava performed penance 15 centuries ago.
  • Jain Temple : This serene palace of worship of Jains has graceful 19th century paintings lining its interior walls. It is situated on the Agra road.
  • Moti Doongri : Located on a hill top, south of Jaipur Doongri, closely resembles a scottish castle.
  • Lakshmi Narayan Mandir : Near to Moti Doongri, is the Laxmi Narayan Temple dedicated to lord Vishnu. This white Marble wonder was built only recently.

Jaipur Fairs & Festivals

  • Teej (July-August) is probably the best known, and marks the onset of the monsoon. Women in full festive dresses symbolically play on flower-decorated swings.
  • Gangaur Festival (March-April) is another festival concentrating on women when they pray of Goddess Parvati, and a procession in full regalia is taken out through the city.
  • Elephant Festival (March) Playing holi on these majestic mammals is a unique sight during the festival.

Jaipur  Heritage Hotels

The Raj Palace – Raj Palace is a Grand heritage hotel and the member of Small Luxury Hotels of the world. They were voted as the “World’s Leading heritage hotel” by The World Travel awards 2007.

Address & Contact Info:
Jorawer Singh Gate
Amer Road
Jaipur 302002
Tel : + 91-141-2634077 / +91-141-2634078
Fax : +91-141-2630489 / +91-141-2373119
Email : rajpalac@sancharnet.in,
gkvhotel@sancharnet.in

RamBagh Palace – The ‘Jewel of Jaipur’ as it is fondly called, remained the home of the Jaipur royal family until 1957, when it was first converted into a luxury hotel by Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II. But it wasn’t until 1972 that Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces took over the reins. It is now the ‘jewel in the crown’ among the authentic palaces of the Taj in India.

Address & Contact Info:
Bhawani Singh Road
Jaipur – 302 005
Rajasthan
India
Tel: (91-141) 2211 919
Fax: (91-141) 2385 098
Email: rambagh.jaipur@tajhotels.com

Bissau Palace – Bissau Palace is an elegant traditional hotel built in 1919 and recently renovated. Close to the walled city and overlooking the Tiger fort the Bissau offers an oasis of calm, care, comfort and respite from the ‘heat and dust’ of the city.
The guest rooms are spacious and comfortable.

Address & Contact Info:
The Bissau Palace
(A Part of Bissau Palace Heritage Project)
Outside Chandpole, Jaipur – 302016.
Tel: (91-141) 230-4371 , 230-4391
Fax: (91-141) 230-4628
E-mail: bissau@sancharnet.in, bissaujp@datainfosys.net

Narain Niwas Palace – The Hotel Narain Niwas Palace, a Heritage Hotel is the perfect place for you to experience history and the royal heritage of Rajasthan. Centrally located in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan and the Pink City of India, the palace was built in the 19th century by General Amar Singh Ji, the then Thakur of Kanota.

Address & Contact Info:
Kanota Bagh, Narain Singh Road,
Jaipur 302004
(Rajasthan) India
Tel: (91-141) 2561291, 2563448
Fax: (91-141) 2561045
E-Mail: info@hotelnarainniwas.com | kanota@sancharnet.in

Jaipur Luxury Hotels

Oberoi Raj Vilas – The Oberoi Rajvilās is a unique way to experience Jaipur, one of India’s most vibrant and exotic destinations. A luxury resort with its own distinctive character, it revives the gracious lifestyles of India’s legendary Rajput princes.

Address & Contact Info:
The Oberoi Rajvilas
Jaipur,
Rajasthan – 303012
INDIA
Telephone: +91 141 268 0101
Facsimile: +91 141 268 0202
E-mail : gm@oberoi-rajvilas.com

Hotel Clarks Amer – The Pink City beckons you with its colorful traditions. When you check into Clarks Amer Jaipur the tranquility, the ambience, the culinary delights add to a wonderful experience.

Address & Contact Info:
U.P. Hotels Limited,
Jawaharlal Nehru Marg,
Jaipur 302 018. India.
Tel. : (+91-141) 2550616-19, 2550702 – 06.
Fax :(+91-141) 2550013, 2550319
Mobile: 93515 55617, 93515 55610
E-Mail: email@clarksamer.com, resv@clarksamer.com

Sheraton Rajputana Palace Hotel – Experience the finest Jaipur has to offer at the Sheraton Rajputana Palace Hotel, Jaipur. We’re proud to offer the best accommodations in the city with a host of comforts and services in settings that reflect the spirit of Rajasthan and its royalty.

Address & Contact Info:
Palace Road
Jaipur, Rajasthan 302006
India
Phone: (91)(141) 5100100
Fax: (91)(141) 5102102

Jaipur Budget Hotels

Hotel Arya Niwas – Situated in Jaipur, Rajasthan,Hotel Arya Niwas offers quality, budget hotel and travel options. A family managed hotel with open spaces, gardens and emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene.

Address & Contact Info:
Behind Amber Towers
Sansar Chandra Road,
JAIPUR – 302001 (INDIA)
Phone : +91 (141) 2372456, +91 (141) 2371773,+91 (141) 5106010
Fax : +91 (141) 2361871
E-mail : info@aryaniwas.com, aryahotel@sancharnet.in

Maurya Palace – Standing tall in the heart of the Jaipur, 56 rooms hotel. Located at M.I. Road, Jaipur, the Hotel offers spacious deluxe rooms, luxurious suites, the Law Club for the traveling legal fraternity along with Business Rooms.

Address & Contact Info:
S-35A, Arvind Marg
M.I. Road, Jaipur
Phone : 0141-5101414, 0141-3231414
Fax : 0141-5104455
Helpline Mobile Number :– 9314959277
Email: reservation@hotelmauryapalace.com

The Majestic Taj Mahal

Majestic Taj Mahal

For centuries, the Taj Mahal has inspired poets, painters and musicians to try and capture its elusive magic in word, color and son. Since the 17th century, travelers have crossed continents to come and see this ultimate memorial to love, and few have been unmoved by its incomparable beauty.

A flawless architectural creation

Taj Mahal stands in the city of Agra, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on the banks of the Yamuna river. It was built in the memory of the beautiful Arjumand Bano Begum, who won the heart of a Mughal prince. She was married at 21 to Emperor Jahangir’s third son Prince Khurram and stayed loyally by his side through good times and bad: in the luxurious royal palaces of Agra as well as the transient tents of war camps.

A memorial to his beloved

In AD 1628, Khurram became king after a bloody battle of succession; he took the name Shahjahan or King of the World and showered his beloved begum with the highest titles. She became Mumtaz Mahal, the Exalted of the Palace and Mumtaz-ul-Zamani, the Exalted of the Age. But Mumtaz Mahal was not destined to be queen for long.

In 1631, Shahjahan went on an expedition to the South and, as always, Mumtaz Mahal accompanied him. But she died in childbirth at Burhanpur. She had borne Shahjahan fourteen children, of whom four sons and three daughters survived. When Mumtaz Mahal died, she was just 39 years old. Shahjahan was inconsolable and contemporary chronicles tell of the royal court mourning for two years. There was no music, no feasting, and no celebration of any kind.

Shahjahan, who was a passionate builder, now decided to erect a memorial marble that the world would never forget. The site selected for the tomb was a garden by the Yamuna river, unshadowed by any other structure. The garden had been laid by Raja Man Singh of Amber and now belonged to his grandson, Raja Jai Singh. By a royal firman, Shahjahan gave Jai Singh four havelis in exchange for the garden. The site was also chosen because it was located on a bend in the river, and so could be seen from Shahjahan’s personal palace in Agra Fort, further upstream.

A Labor of love

Work on the mausoleum began in 1633 and 20,000 workers laboured for 17 years to build it. The most skilled architects, inlay craftsmen, calligraphers, stone-carvers and masons came from all across India and lands as distant as Persia and Turkey. The master mason was from Baghdad, an expert in building the double dome from Persia, and an inlay specialist from Delhi.

The tomb was completed in AD 1650. But, Shahjahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb in 1658 and imprisioned in the Agra Fort. He spent his last years in the Mussalman Burj looking downstream at the Taj where his beloved Mumtaz Mahal lay. Sixteen years later he, too, was laid to rest beside her.

The Bejeweled Palace

Shahjahan’s two biggest passions were architecture and jewellery and both are reflected in the Taj Mahal. He visualised a building in marble and then had it decorated with semi-precious stones inlaid with the delicacy of handcrafted jewellery. Marble in purest white was brought from Makrana in Rajasthan, yellow marble and rockspar from the banks of the Narmada river, lack marble from Charkoh and red sandstone from Sikri. For the intricate pietra dura the finest gems were collected – crystal and jade from China, lapis lazuli and sapphires from Sri Lanka, jasper from Punja, carnelian from Baghdad and turquoise from Tibet.

Yemen sent agates, the corals came from Arabia, the garnets from Bundelkhand, onyx and amethyst from Persia. Mumtaz Mahal’s final resting-place was ornamented like a queen’s jewel-box.

The Complex

You enter the Taj complex through an arcaded forecourt where some of Shahjahan’s other queens lie buried. The forecourt also has the Jilau Kana, a bazaar with cloisters leading to the main entrance of the tomb. The imposing gateway is made of red sandstone highlighted with marble and has octagonal kiosks on top. The gateway is an imposing 30 metres high and a fitting entrance to the Taj Mahal. The soaring arch is inscribed with a beautiful design of inlaid flowers and calligraphy.

As you enter the dark octagonal chamber under the gateway, the light streaming in from the opposite doorway draws you towards it. Here, framed by the arch of the doorway, the Taj Mahal reveals itself to the viewer with dramatic power. It stands at the end of a long walkway, framed by landscaped gardens and an ever-changing sky, its snowy marble glittering in the sunlight.

Taj Mahal stands at one side of a garden laid in the tradition charbagh style, with its square lawns bisected by pathways, water channels and rows of fountains. Halfway down the path there is a square pool, its limpid waters reflecting the marble tomb. Unlike other tombs, Taj Mahal stands at one end of the garden instead the centre. This was done deliberately, to leave its vista uncluttered by any other building.

The Main Building

The tomb stands on a marble plinth six-metres high. The four minarets at each corner beautifully frame the tomb. The plinth stands on a high standstone platform and at the far ends of this base are two identical sandstone structures, a mosque to the west and its jawab, or echo, to the east. This was the mehman khana or guesthouse. Thus, the main building is not just of great size but beautifully proportioned and balanced in design.

The octagonal central hall has four smaller octagonal halls round it and is decorated with magnificent inlay and dado panels done in high relief. The bulbous, perfectly-balanced double dome rises to a height of 45 metres and the four chhattris flanking and balancing the high drum give it added height. Taj Mahal rises 75 metres high and is, in fact, taller than the Qutb Minar.

An ornate marble screen, carved so fine that it almost has the texture of lace surrounds the cenotaphs in the central hall. However, as was the tradition during Mughal times, the actual graves lie in an underground crypt directly below the cenotaphs.

Intricacy in design

What is most amazing about the Taj Mahal is the fine detailing. The coloured inlay is never allowed to overwhelm the design, as carvings done in relief sensitively balance it. The ornate pietra dura and relief carvings are of floral, calligraphic and geometric designs. However, flowers remain the main decorative element as the tomb depicts a paradise garden. The skill of the inlay worker is so fine that it is impossible to find the joints, even when as many as 40 tiny pieces of semi-precious stones have been used in the petals of a single flower. Some of the best calligraphy of Koranic verses can be seen around the entrance arches and on the two headstones.

The colors of the Taj

Taj Mahal changes its moods with the seasons and the different times of the day. At dawn, the marble has a delicate bloom in shell pink, by noon it glitters majestically white, turning to a soft pearly grey at dusk. On full-moon away against the star-spangled sky. Monsoon clouds give it a moody blue tint and it appears and disappears like a mirage in the drifting mists of winter.

It can be solid and earthbound, fragile and ethereal, white, amber, grey and gold. The many faces of Taj Mahal display the seductive power of architecture at its best.

The Best Secret Beaches in India

secret beaches of India

If asked about the Best Beaches of India you’ll hear of the most popular beaches in Goa like Anjuna Beach, Calangute Beach, Colva Beach or even the Marina Beach, Chennai or Kovalam Beach in Kerala but are these really the Best Beaches in India??….I think not! They certainly are good beaches with a lot of people, excitement and things to do….but if you see some of the lesser known beaches that India has to offer you’d agree that they are not the Best of them.

To me the Best Beaches would be secluded palm-fringed beaches with pristine golden sand, clear blue waters, beautiful sunset, no crowd, no rubbish thrown around, without a hoard of vendors following you around…..just you the sand and the mighty ocean. That’s exactly the type of Beaches I’ve listed here….I like to call them ‘The Secret Beaches of India’

Radha Nagar Beach, Havelock

The Located in the Bay of Bengal about 900km from India, The Andaman & Nicobar Islands have some of the Best and picturesque Beaches. The coastal areas of these islands are still untouched and unspoilt, making it an ideal beach holiday destination.

Radha Nagar Beach also known as Beach No.7 on Havelock in the Andamans has been described as one of the Best Beaches you can get to in the World by Time Magazine. This Beach is one of the few undiscovered gems that have escaped the clutches of mass tourism and untouched by commercialism and modern intrusions.

Getting there

The quickest and most convenient way to get to the Andamans is to fly. Air Deccan, Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Jet Lite (formerly Air Sahara), Spice Jet and Kingfisher all have daily regular flights to Port Blair from Calcutta & Chennai. Alternatively, you can choose to travel by ship – which takes 60-72 hours and is only for the tough.
To get to Havelock from Port Blair, you have to take the ferry departing from the Phoenix Bay jetty. There are 2 departures daily – a daily boat at 0630 hrs, and a second boat at 1400 hrs.

Malpe beach & St. Mary’s Island, Udupi, Karnataka

At the mouth of the Malpe river, about 6 kms. from Udupi in Karnataka is the natural harbour of Malpe, an important fishing centre that enriches Karnataka’s coastline with its fabulous beach. The endless stretch of golden sand, graciously swaying palm trees, clear blue sky and the gentle murmur of the sea set the perfect mood for an idyllic holiday.

St Mary’s island is a little slip of land about 30 minutes out into the sea from Malpe Beach in Udupi. The island is full of crystallised basalt rock, a unique rock formation found in very few places in the world, the most notable being the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. And, the sea between the island and the long curve of the beach at Malpe is placid and gentle.

Getting there

  • The nearest railhead is Udupi, which is about 4 km from Malpe
  • The nearest airport is Bajpe, Mangalore which is about 60 km from Malpe

The only way of getting to St. Mary’s islands is by boat. Regular boats ply from the Malpe Harbour to these islands. The frequency of these boats may vary depending on the amount of tourists. available.

Agatti Island, Lakshadweep

Approximately 450 kilometers off the Western coast of Kerala, the Lakshadweep islands are a set of 36 coral islands – part of the Maldivian Archipelago. Shimmering like glittering emeralds in splendid aquamarine shaded lagoons, the Lakshadweep islands are reminiscent of a time bygone. A vibe that is both ancient and mellow prevails over these islands… a vibe that begs visitors from outside to slow down and soak in the marvelous beauty that the islands offer.

Agatti has one of the most beautiful lagoons in Lakshadweep. The Agatti Beaches are breath-taking with pristine white sands and an aquamarine blue lagoon. The airport is built on this island. From the aircraft, as you approach for a landing, you get a breath-taking view of the airstrip on the island.

Getting There

Agatti Aerodrome on Agatti Island is currently the only airport in Lakshadweep. Indian Airlines, the state owned carrier, serves Agatti and flies to Kochi on the mainland. Kingfisher Airlines has also started flight to Agatti recently. Kingfisher connects Kochi and Bangalore to Agatti. The other islands are linked by a helicopter or boat service.

Tarkarli, Maharashtra

Tarkarli is situated 6-km south of Malvan and 546-km from Mumbai on the west coast of India, at the confluence of the Karli River and the Arabian Sea. This place has a secluded golden beach with aquamarine waters unusual for a beach on the mainland coast.

Tarkarli has gained prominence because of its long and narrow stretch of beach with pristine waters. On a fairly clear day, one can see the bed unto a depth of 20 ft. It presents a panoramic view with tall ‘Shuru’ trees in the background. The wide river, the beautiful sailboats and the tiny wonderful islands hamlets situated on the riverbank, add to the picturesque beauty of Tarkarli.

Getting There

Rail: The nearest railway station is Kudal on the Konkan Railway.
Road:Tarkarli is easily accessible from Malvan by bus and rickshaw, which is 514-km away from Mumbai.

Benaulim Beach, Goa

The beaches of Goa are the highlights of travel in this state, making Goa the premier beach vacation destination. Goa’s 100-km long coastline gives an enthusiastic beach lover an opportunity to discover new secluded beach sites every day. One of which is Benaulim.

Named as Benaulim by the Portuguese, lies in the centre of Colva Beach, 7-km west of Margao in South Goa. Benaulim is a quiet and pleasant beach lying at the end of Colva beach. The Benaulim beach is still undiscovered by the domestic tourists which further adds to its charm. Being a fishing beach, it gets fairly crowded in the evenings and on weekends.Moreover, the sea is safe for swimming and being generally jellyfish-free. Further South of benaulim you can find the soft white sands, the black lava rocks of the Cavelossim Beach which is equally secluded and stunning.

Getting there

7-km west of Margao (South Goa). Just 2km away from the famous Colva Beach.

Rishikonda, Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh has approximately 1000 km. of coastline with eight of its 23 districts having direct access to the sea with water caressing golden sands. Rishikonda near Vishakhapatnam is one of them.

Just 8-km from Vishakhapatnam is the Rishikonda Beach, a golden, unspoilt beach, washed by the sun-warmed sea.It is ideal for swimmers, water skiers, and wind surfers.

Getting There

Vishakhapatnam is easily accessible by air as it has an airport as well as by Rail or road. Rishikonda is 8 kms away from Vishakhapatnum can be reached by car or bus.

Varkala Beach, Kerala

Kerala beaches may be take a backseat because of the backwaters, but entire 900-km length of the Kerala coast is lined with sandy beaches, rocky promontories and coconut palms that definitely merit a visit. Kerala’s beaches are renowned for the gentle surf and blue waters….and that’s exactly how Varkala Beach is.

Varkala beach is among the most popular beach resorts in Kerala , mainly because of the mineral water springs with medicinal properties that gush out of the high cliffs bordering the beach. It’s not a very secluded beach It is the best spot along Kerala coast for watching sunset. The sight of the sun melting into the sea would blossom your poetic sense.

Getting There

Varkala is 51 kms (approx. 32 miles) north of Thiruvananthapuram. It’s an important hub and is easily accessible by road or Rail.

Samosas: Fried Indian Vegetable Pastries

samosa

In India, street pushcarts and roadside vendors sell their delicious samosas to passersby who enjoy immediate gratification from these satisfying snacks. Samosas are fried, triangular pastries that may be filled with vegetables or meat or a combination of both. In the United States, these delicious packages are most often served as appetizers in East Indian restaurants.

Are you a samosa lover?
Have you ever wondered about the origins of this triangular piece of magic?
Would you like to know if the samosa is as ubiquitous in countries outside India?
Does it go by a different name in different parts of the world?
What does a samosa taste like in Korea or say in Peru?

If you are interested in learning more about the three cornered piece of magic known as the SAMOSA then read on ………..

The Origin

The SAMOSA probably traveled to India along ancient trade routes from Central Asia. Small, crisp mince-filled triangles that were easy to make around the campfire during night halts, then conveniently packed into saddlebags as snacks for the next day’s journey. According to the “The Oxford Companion to Food” the Indian samosa is merely the best known of an entire family of stuffed pastries or dumplings popular from Egypt and Zanzibar to Central Asia and West China. Arab cookery books of the 10th and 13th Centuries refer to the pastries as sanbusak (the pronunciation still current in Egypt, Syria, & Lebanon), sanbusaq or sanbusaj, all reflecting the early medieval form of the Persian word: sanbosag. Claudia Roden (1968) quotes a poem by Ishaq ibn Ibrahim-al-Mausili (9th Century) praising the sanbusaj.

By the early 14th Century, it was not only a part of Indian cuisine but also food fit for a king. Amir Khusrao, prolific poet of Delhi royalty, observed in 1300 that the royal set seemed partial to the “samosa prepared from meat, ghee, onion and so on”. In 1334, the renowned traveler Ibn Battuta wrote about the sambusak: “minced meat cooked with almonds, pistachios, onions and spices placed inside a thin envelop of wheat and deep-fried in ghee”. And the samosa obtained a royal stamp with its inclusion in the Ain-i-Akbari which declared that among dishes cooked with wheat there is the qutab, “which the people of Hind called the sanbusa”.

The current day samosas are small, crispy, flaky pastries that are usually deep-fried. They are stuffed with an assortment of fillings ranging from minced meat with herbs and spices to vegetables such as cauliflower and potatoes. In Bengal one finds samosas filled with sweetened reduced milk that go straight from the frying pan to a syrup wash. But whatever the filling, Samosas are a treasured snack—the perfect companion to a cup of chai (Tea).

The Avatars

According to Webster’s, a samosa is, “a small pastry turnover of Indian origin filled with a spicy meat or vegetable mixture as of potatoes and peas.” Originating in Central Asia it is found in numerous shapes and variations all over the world. The major samosa avatars that weave their magic over taste buds the world over are……

Samsa

In the Turkish-speaking nations where it is called samsa (& variants) it is made both in half-moon shapes and triangles. Sedentary Turkish people such as the Uzbeks and in Turkey itself, people usually bake their samsas, but nomads such as the Kazakhs fry them. Occasionally, samsas will be steamed, particularly in Turkmenistan.

In Central Asia the versions made with rough puff pastry (waraqi samsa, sambusai varaqi) are filled with meat. Those made with plain dough (leavened or unleavened) maybe filled either with meat or fillings such as diced pumpkin, chickpeas, herbs, wild greens, fried onions, mushrooms or dried tomatoes.

Sanbusak / Sambusa

Extolled in poems recited in the courts of Abassid Caliphs in 16th century Baghdad, these savory pastries are particularly popular in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan & Syria. Traditional sanbusak are shaped like half moons and sprinkled with sesame seeds, usually with edges crimped or marked with fingernails.

The usual Arab sanbusak is filled with meat, onions, & perhaps nuts or raisins, but Sanbusak bil Loz is stuffed with a mixture of ground almonds, sugar and rose or orange blossom water. In Iraq and Arabia dates are also a common filling. These pastries were still made in Iran as late as the 16th Century, but they have disappeared from most of the country today, surviving only in certain provinces: e.g. the triangular walnut-filled sambusas made in Larestan. However the Iranians of Central Asia, the Tajiks, still make a wide-variety of sambusas including round, rectangular and small almond shaped ones. In Afghanistan, where the name is sambosa, it is made both in half-moon shapes and triangles. The filling is traditionally ground meat with herbs and spices although halva and raisins are often used as well.

Samosa

The samosa is arguably the most enduring of Indian snacks. Traditionally samosas in India have triangular or conical shapes. Savory samosas are usually served with a chutney of some sorts. It is inevitably encountered in chaat shops across the land and there are some halwais who take greater pride in their samosa than anything else.

In fact, it is in the lanes and by-lanes of cities and towns, village and highway chai-shops along the length and breadth of India, that one can truly appreciate the versatility of the samosa. There are the large, somewhat plump North Indian variety stuffed with potatoes, pomegranate and raisins, the sweetness of the latter off-set by the characterful pungency of cumin. In the narrow allies of Ahmedabad’s Karanj area, shops like “Bera Samosa” do a brisk business from the spicy mince-filled miniature triangles being fried in enormous woks. The Bihari mithaiwala has his own version with a thick-cased variety filled with ginger-seasoned potatoes livened up by chopped green chilli. The Bengali shingara is made with a light puff-pastry that melts away to release the flavors of subtly seasoned potatoes or cauliflower.

Samosa Recipe No. 1

Ingredients:

For pastry:
• 2 cups flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 4 tablespoon oil
• 6 tablespoon water

For potato stuffing:
• 5 medium potatoes
• 4 tablespoon oil
• 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 cup green peas
• 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
• 1 hot green chili (finely chopped)
• 3 tablespoon green coriander (cilantro), chopped
• 1.5 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon garam masala
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

Method

• Mix flour and salt in a bowl.
• Add 4 tablespoons oil and rub until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add about 6 tablespoons water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth.
• Rub dough with oil. Cover it and set aside for 30 minutes or longer.

Potato stuffing for Samosa
• Boil, cool and peel the potatoes. Dice it into 1/4 inch size.
• Heat 4 tablespoons oil in karahi or wok in medium flame.
• Lower the heat and carefully put the onion. Stir fry until golden brown in medium heat.
• Add peas, ginger, green chili, and fresh coriander (cilantro). Add diced potatoes, salt and all spices.
• Mix and cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Do not forget to stir while cooking.

Making Samosa
• Knead the dough again. Divide it into about 10 balls.
• Roll it into flat round shape with about 5 inch diameter.
• Cut it into half. Make the half into a cone by sticking seam together with a little water.
• Fill the cone with about 2.5 tablespoons of the potato mixture.
• Stick the top of the cone together with a little water. The seam should be about 1/4 inch (5 mm) wide.
• Repeat this again.

Cooking Samosa
• Heat about 2 inches of oil for deep frying over a medium-low flame. (You may use a wok, Indian karhai or any other utensil you seem fit)
• When the oil is hot, carefully put in as many samosas as it fits. Fry slowly, turning the samosas until they are golden brown and crisp.
• Drain excess oil and serve hot.

Samosa Recipe No. 2

Ingredients:

• 4 large white potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
• 1/2 cup boiled and drained green peas
• 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
• 1 tsp amchoor(mango powder)
• 1 tsp red chilli powder
• 1/2 tsp saunf(fennel)powder
• 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
• 1 tablespoon chopped cashew nuts
• Salt to taste
• 3 cups maida(all purpose flour)
• 1/2 cup maida, for rolling out
• 1 tablespoon heated ghee or oil
• Oil for deep frying the samosas
• 1 tablespoon ghee(clarified butter) for the stuffing
• 1 small bowl of cold water

Method

• Heat the ghee for the stuffing and add the cumin seeds and
cashew nuts.
• When the seeds splutter add the dry powders and fry for 10
seconds.
• Add the mashed potatoes and green peas and mix well.
Mix in salt to taste.
• Fry on a low flame for about 10 minutes.
Set aside.
• Prepare the cover for the samosa by combining
the maida, hot ghee or oil and salt to taste.
• Add enough water and knead the dough.
• Set aside for about 10 minutes.
• Divide the dough into round portions.
• Take each portion and coat it with some maida so that
it does not stick to your hands.
• Roll it into a not too thin perfect round.
• With a pizza cutter, make 2 semi circles with the round.
• Take one half circle. Dip your index finger into the cold water
and apply it to the straight edge of the semi circle.
• Now hold the semicircle in your hand.
• Fold the straight edge, bringing together the watered edges.
• Seal the watered edges.
• You should now have a small triangular maida pocket.
• Stuff it with the potato mixture and now water-seal the
upper edges.
• Repeat for the rest of the dough.
• Deep fry in oil till golden brown and serve
with mint chutney.
• Do not overheat the oil, since this will cook only the
outer maida covering and the inner layer will remain
uncooked even if the samosa has turned dark brown
on the outside.

Coriander Chutney Recipe

Ingredients:

• Coriander leaves 1 bunch
• Coconut 3 cups
• Green chillies 10-12 (as per your taste)
• Asafoetida (hing) 1/4 tsp.
• Lemon 1 medium size
• Salt as per the taste.

Method:

• Clean the coriander leaves and chop them and keep it aside.
• In a blender grind these coriander leaves, coconut, chillies, asafoetida and salt with limited amount of water so that the paste remains in the thick consistency.
• Check the taste of chutney and add chillies and salt as you want.
• Squeeze lemon juice in the chutney and refrigerate it.

Note: Lemon juice is added instead of tamarind because the lemon will leave the chutney stay longer time leaving it fresh. You can refrigerate this chutney and when you want to have it you can take out from the refrigerator before half-an-hour or an hour. The other method is that you can put in the microwave for 50 sec. or a min. This goes very well with Sandwiches, Dosa, Idli, Chapatti and also with Curd-rice or as a side dish.

Tamarind and Date Chutney Recipe

Ingredients:

• 14 ounces tamarind pulp
• 1 pound pitted dates
• 2 cups sugar, divided
• 6 cups water, plus 4 cups

Method:
In a large saucepan, combine the tamarind pulp, dates, 1 cup sugar, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer. Cook mixture until tamarind paste has dissolved into the water, about 1 hour, stirring every now and then.

Pass mixture through a food mill. Discard the pulp. Pass the puree through a chinois or fine strainer. Return the puree to the saucepan. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Reduce until thickened. Transfer to a non-reactive container and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until needed.