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December 2009 - January 2010


Travel

Destination India: 2010

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur


‘India is the cradle of the human race,
the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history,
the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition’

Words of Mark Twain, an American writer

Wonderful places of India: Visitors from abroad, and pilgrims and visitors from India itself are attracted to various tourist destinations. Besides bustling major cities and towns there are many of areas of rich and spectacular natural beauty. India is home to many of the wonders of the ancient and modern architectural eras. I have selected below a few of the outstanding places.

Himalayas and Ganges: The lofty ranges of Himalayas stand proud and cover the top of northern India. This is a region of sublime atmosphere and natural untamed beauty. From times immemorial this land has been the home of saints and yogis, and now tourists are also coming to explore and enjoy its serene ambience.
* Nestled in the middle of ranges of mountains is the divine journey through Yamunotri (source of the River Yamuna), Gangotri and Gumukh (source of River Ganges), Kedarnath and Badrinath. A trip to these places starts from either Haridwar or Rishikesh. Most known and visited place in Haridwar is Har ki Pauri which is a prominent ghat (bathing place). Bathing here is considered to wash away all the sins. The daily grand Arti of Mother Ganges in the evening is a spectacular ceremony, which is attended by thousands of devotees and holy men – Sadhus.
* In the north of the city of Jammu there is another remote place which is the heavenly abode of Vaishno Devi situated in a cave at the top of a mountain at 5,200 feet. These mountains are part of the lower Himalayas.
* There are many other popular Himalayas destinations e.g. Srinagar, Leh, Kulu and Manali, Shimla, Dharamsala, Mussoorie, Darjeeling etc.


Glimpse of mighty Himalayas


Har ki pauri, a famous Ghat in Haridwar


Badrinath on the banks of Alknanda which becomes Ganges down stream

Delhi: It is said that Delhi was the site of the fabled city of Indraprastha, which featured in the epic episode of Mahabharta some 3000 years ago. Present day Delhi consists of two parts. The first part is Old Delhi which includes charming bustling bazaars in narrow streets, the most famous being Chandni Chowk, the Great Mosque, the Red Fort, etc. The other part is New Delhi which has tall modern residential and commercial buildings. However, the majestic area of Delhi includes India Gate, Secretariat, Parliament and Presidential Palace etc. with broad and beautifully landscaped Avenues. These are examples of good planning and architecture of the British period.
* Another famous historic place is Qutab Minar, a tall victory tower, built in 1193. The complex originally contained many Jain Temples which were destroyed. One of the ancient structures is an Iron Pillar of the Chandragupta’s period – 4th century.
* The two other buildings worth mentioning are the recently constructed temple complex of Swaminarayan Akshardham in sixty acres of lush green lawns and beautifully landscaped gardens, and the Bhai Temple popularly known as Lotus Temple, as the building is shaped like a half opened lotus flower.


Qutub Minar



Akshardham

Agra: was the formal capital of the Moghul Empire and situated on the banks of River Yamuna. Besides the Taj and Fort, another interesting historical sight to visit is the royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, located some 30 miles west of Agra. The city was planned as a new capital walled city on top of a hill. It contained palaces, courts, assembly halls, religious buildings, leisure building etc. The Panch (five storey) Mahal, Salim Chisti’s Mausoleum and Buland Darwaza (high gate) in particular are the best examples of Moghul architecture. One of the interesting features is a massive chess board where human figures were used as chess pieces and moved when ordered by the royal players.
Taj Mahal- symbol of love: This edifice is one of the prime sights and is at the heart and mind of tourists who wish to visit India. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Taj was built in 1648 by Emperor Shah Jehan in the memory of his beautiful and beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to her 14th child. The beauty of Taj is due to various design elements, in particular its absolute symmetrical shape and form. The beautiful and tranquil gardens were designed in traditional Mughal style with fountains, canals, plants and trees and give Taj a picturesque setting. Irrespective of weather or time of the day, Taj always provides to every visitor a perfect picture.

Khajuraho: is in Madhya Pradesh and famous for a group of Hindu temples which were built over a period of 100 years in 10th and 11th centuries during the dynasty of the Chandelas. The temples are well known for their erotic carvings of males and females in intimate positions. The intricate stone sculptures also illustrate the life and legends of the inhabitants and their rulers.


Temple at Khajuraho

Cave Architecture of Ajanta and Ellora: Both of the sights are in Maharashtra and are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Buddhist monastery at Ajanta has magnificent murals and wall paintings which date back to 300BC. The frescos depict the life of Buddha and his disciples. At Ellora there are 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain Caves in close proximity of each other, and thus show religious tolerance. The Kailash Temple at Ellora was hewn from a vast single block of granite. It is a unique monument and its carvings depict themes of Hindu and Buddhist religions.

Mumbai: It is the booming capital of the State of Maharashtra; great centre of trade, commerce and industry; and moreover the financial capital of India. It is a home to some 19 million people, and also to Bollywood, where the largest numbers of movies are produced. Most of the tourist attractions are located in the down town areas of Fort, Colaba, Malabar Hill, Nariman Point and Marine Lines. Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel are synonymous with Mumbai and are its landmarks. Victoria Terminus, now named Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is the headquarters of the Central Railways. The building is a remarkable example of Victorian Gothic Architecture


Taj Hotel and Gateway of India, Mumbai

Three J’s and Udaipur: The three J’s are Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, and together with Udiapur and Mount Abu etc provide a glimpse of the colourful life and style of Rajputs. The Hawa Mahal – Palace of Wind in Jaipur, Jain Temples at Ranakpur and Havelis (large houses) in Jaisalmer are outstanding and unique examples of the architecture of the Rajputs. However, no visit to Rajasthan will be complete without venturing out into the ‘Great Indian Desert’, known as Thar Desert. It is the 7th largest desert in the World. It is possible to go on a desert safari from the city of Jaisalmer.


Hawa Mahal, Jaipur


Haveli in Jaisalmer


Camel safari in Thar Desert

Back Waters of Kerala: Kochi & Kovalam Beach
Most of the tourists who visit South India, have plan to take a boat trip on the Backwaters. The name ‘Back Waters sounds a bit peculiar, but in fact these are a series of lakes, lagoons, rivers and ocean inlets, connected by a complex network of canals. Narrow strips of land with lush vegetation separate these waterways. Coconuts, papaya, mango, jackfruit etc. are intensively cultivated on the land. People live in small thatched roof houses. A boat ride between the cities of Quilon and Allepy through the idyllic backwaters is a fascinating and unparalleled experience not only for observing flora and fauna, but also to see rural life go by.

Kochi was formerly known as Cochin and still retains its 16th century Portuguese flavour, with late influences of Dutch and British. It has many attractions including the oldest church of India, the most important synagogue, and winding streets with old houses. The city is still famous for the spice trade and fishing, although both are currently in decline. However, the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets along the water front still present tourists with its picturesque image, and force them to click their cameras from one angle and then the other.
Kovalam Beach: Kovalam is situated some 10 miles south of Trivendrum, the capital of the state of Kerala. It is a very attractive beach resort with small palm fringed bays and coves separated by rocky headlands. One of the attractions of this and other resorts is to have a gentle Ayurvedic massage with herbal oils, which refreshes and rejuvenates body, mind and soul.


Back Waters of Kerala

Lion: The photograph of lion should excite those tourists who would also like to see the wildlife of India. There are hundreds of National Parks and Wildlife Sancturies all over the country; and each of them is proud to have a different combination of species of animals and birds in their natural habitat. National Parks at Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore, Kaziranga, Kana, Sudarbans, Bandipur, Chitwan are a few of the names which come to mind together with some of the popular Sanctuaries at Bharatpur, Sariska, Gir and Periyar.

Madurai - Meenakshi Temple: The State of Tamil Nadu with its capital Chennai, boasts to be the home of Dravidian architecture, art and culture. There are numerous temples all over the state with their soaring gopurams (gateways) taking onlookers’ eye towards heaven. The pyramidal towers are the most notable element of Dravidian design. Near Chennai there are ancient places e.g. Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram which have a wealth of beautiful temples and monuments, but architecturally the most interesting and impressive building is the temple complex dedicated to the fish – eyed goddess, Shree Meenakshi. The bazaar surrounding the temple is full of shops and kiosks selling flowers, sweets, and other items of offerings. The tall gopuram is decorated with sculptures of gods and devotees either performing ceremonies or in a dance pose. The main feature of the temple is a large water tank in the centre which is surrounded by a simple, yet impressive colonnade.

These days one of the joys of life is to see the finest places and sights of the world.
Fascinating India is at the forefront to be a very good host to those who choose to visit her.
It has romance, culture, glory of the bygone era
and with the recent growing prosperity it welcomes you with open heart.


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