Historical

Talakadu Chronicle

Some of my colleagues proposed the idea of going on a picnic trip to any nearby place. Rest of us agreed. The places chosen were Talakad or Talakadu which is around 130 kms from Bangalore and 24 kms further to Somnathpur. Bus was hired and food arrangements were made which consisted primarily of South Indian dishes. Permission to go on a picnic on a working Saturday was taken from the management. Bus started at 6 am from the first pick up point. At around 8 am we reached Kanakpura to pick up our supplies. At around 10.30 we stopped for breakfast somewhere beside the road. After breakfast, on our way to Talakadu, all of us started playing Antakshari. It was fun!!

On Way

Breakfast break

As soon as we reached the outskirts of the small rural settlement, there was a barrier on road and some kids ran up to us to collect “vehicle entrance fee”. The signboard was extremely dubious. But that is the way it is at many places around Bangalore.

Rate Charge

Kids collecting entrance fee

Talakadu is a small town, with lot of ancient history and mythology related to it, located on the banks of the famous river Cauvery. Remains of pre-historic settlements have been unearthed at Talakdu. The town is peculiarly covered with sand dunes several meters deep and has a folklore behind its appearance. Talakadu is also a centre of pilgrimage. It is also known as Kasi of the South. It is mentioned as Gajaranya meaning Elephant forest in ancient lore of India. Tourists come here mainly for the “darshan” or to offer their prayers to the five sacred Shiv-lingas (representation of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva) and especially in the month of Kartika of Hindu calendar. Talakad has been ruled by several dynasties over the ages (Gangas, Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas,Vijayanagar Kings) and recently by the Wodeyars of Mysore.

At the parking area, one can find vendors selling guide books of Talakadu. Those are really helpful in knowing the history of the place and for guiding the religiously inclined to the correct procedure of visiting all the temples in the area. The book has a Kannada section and an English section. If you bargain well, you can get it in Rs 10.

The tale of The Curse of Talakadu goes like this:-

Vijayanagara king had appointed one Srirangaraya as the viceroy of Vijayanagar Empire to Wodeyar kingdom, in 1610. The viceroy’s wife was Alamelamma who used to send her ornaments every Friday to decorate Sri Ranga Nayaki, the consort of Sri Ranganatha of the Srirangapatnam temple. After the death of her husband, the Wodeyar king and his soldiers started to harass the woman for her jewels. The Mysore king sent his force to seize the jewels. Out of helplessness and anger, Alamelamma jumped into the river Cauvery at a place called Malangi with the jewels tied up in a cloth. When she was drowning, she uttered a curse in Kannada saying

“Talakadu managali, Malangi madwagali, Mysooru arasarige makkalu aagadirali”

which translates to ‘Let Talakadu be covered by sand, let Malangi become a whirlpool and may the kings of Mysore not have any heirs’

Now the strange thing is Talakdu is really covered with sand (which scientists attribute to either building of a dam in the 14th century or a fault line  running through the river), the river really has whirlpools at Malangi and the Mysore royal family have faced problem in having a rightful heir to the throne since that time. Apparently the present scion of Mysore Royal Family, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, has made amends for the same. I am not advocating any supernatural hocus pocus or superstitions, but one has to admit there is a certain romanticism, charm and curiosity in knowing such folklore. 🙂

Talakadu has derived its name from two hunters called TALA and KADA. They also have a mythological story which goes like this :-

A sage Somadatta with his 16000 disciples was on his way to Siddhashrama situated on Mount Somarka to worship Lord Shiva. Enroute wild elephants killed him. He was reincarnated as an elephant and continued worshiping the god with his disciples at a place where a ‘salmali’ tree stood. In due time the Lord appeared and blessed them all with mukti or emancipation of the soul in human form from the cycle of births and deaths. Now, later in the course of time, two hunters called Tala and Kada, were travelling in the region. They struck the ‘salmali’ tree with an axe and blood gushed out. They fainted. When they regained consciousness, they heard a voice telling them how to dress the wound and heal the tree. The hunters did as instructed and became ‘pramathagana’ (whatever that means). Lord Shiva who suggested medicine to his own illness came to be known as “Vaidyanatheswara” (The Lord of Physicians). The place became famous as Talakadu and the blood which had oozed out got mixed with earth and got the name “moolamrithika”. The sacred mix is supposed to cure all diseases including those caused by misdeeds of previous births.

After reaching bank of the river, we chose a spot under the shade of a tree and settled down. Most of my colleagues went for a ride on the special round boats or “parisals” across the river. Parisals or Indian coracles are primitive, light, bowl-shaped boats with a frame of woven bamboo, grasses, reeds or saplings covered with hides. They are used commonly in South India and are a major tourist attraction. After the boat ride, all of them went for a swim or to just play in the water. There are changing rooms available near the river. There are various food items and refreshments vendors also. I and my friends ate watermelon pieces to cool off. It was so hot in February!

On way to beach

Cauvery Riverside

Changing rooms

Parisal Boats

Boat Ride Across Cauvery

Birds on Cauvery

Expanse of River Cauvery

Frolicking in water

Buried in hot sand, drunk perhaps? (not my colleagues)

After everybody returned reluctantly from the water, we had lunch. After lunch all of us went for the tour of temples around the area on foot. And my appreciation for the “Ship of Desert” i.e. the camel increased manifolds. It is really so difficult to walk on sand. After visiting the first temple (where I bumped my head due to low height of the entrance) and walking some more distance to the next one, some of us gave up. We were sweating profusely and were so thirsty. Thankfully a watermelon seller rescued us. We reached the end point of the tour by a shortcut and relaxed in the bus while the more energetic and religious colleagues completed the tour in that hot weather.

There are about 30 temples at Talakadu, some of which have been excavated and some of which are still buried under sand. Among the temples, the Pataleshwara or Vasukishwara, Maruleshwara or Saikateshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheshwara and Mallikarjuna temples form the famous “Panchalinga Darshana” which is held once every 12 years. The Panchalinga Darshana is held on a Monday falling on a new moon day in the month of Karthika (November/December) when the sun is in the Scorpius constellation. Apparently the last Panchalinga Darshana was held in the year 2006. The Pataleshwara Shivalingam is said to change colors during the day (red in the morning, black in afternoon and white in the evening).  Apart from these, there is also the Keertinarayana temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is built in Hoysala style of architecture. The sanctum has an eight foot tall idol of Keertinarayana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Roadsign

Pataleshwara Swamy Temple

Half Buried Temple

On way to second temple

Restoration work in progress

Keertinarayana Temple

All the visible temples have exquisite carvings and sculptures. The ancient structures always manage to fill one’s mind with awe at the workmanship, isn’t it? The town has an atmosphere rich in history, mythology, religion, belief and faith with the river Cauvery quietly flowing agelessly, a witness to the rise and fall of several kingdoms, to the fervent prayers and resonant chants of devotees, to the happiness and sadness in their hearts and to the progress of human civilization over time.

Religion in every heart

Faith in every grain of sand

We left Talakdu at around 4.30 pm for Somnathpur but by the time we reached there, the place had closed for the day. Maybe I will visit that place on my own someday. There was an excellent shop of antiques and artifacts at Somnathpur. After tea and refreshments, we started for Bangalore and returned by 10 pm.

Talakadu Temple Timings:- 08.00 am – 06.30 pm. Entrance is free.

Categories: Historical, Karnataka, Nature, Religious, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Delhi Chronicle Part 2

Continued from here

My parents arrived in New Delhi on 1st May 2012. They were very happy to see their grand-daughter  in person for the first time. Sadly she had fallen sick due to the bad water and weather of Delhi. 😦 On 2nd May 2012 my parents and I decided to go sightseeing around New Delhi. So we talked to our hotel manager and booked a cab for the day. We left right after breakfast but even in such early morning the sun was mercilessly bright and hot. The places we visited were

Continue reading

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Ahmedabad Chronicle Part 3

Continued from here. This last post in the Ahmedabad Chronicle Series is all about the excursions we went on from Ahmedabad and shopping in Ahemdabad which is one of the important aspects of my trips 🙂 Actually Adalaj Vav should have been included in this post.

# Akshardham Temple : It is located in Gandhinagar around 30 kms from Ahmedabad. Akshardham temple is a spiritual and cultural complex built over an area of 23 acres. The central monument which enshrines the 7 feet high golden idol of Lord Swaminarayan, the founder of the Swaminarayan Faith, is an imposing 10 storeys high building made entirely of intricately carved, 6000 tons of pink sand-stone and is an architectural marvel which exudes excellent craftsmanship. The monument has three floors – Hari Mandapam (the main floor), Vibhuti Mandapam (the upper floor), Prasadi Mandapam (the ground floor). There are several exhibitions of both walk-throughs and video/audio animatronics type. The exhibitions are about the life of Lord Swaminarayan, the mysticism of India, messages of Upanishads, Ramayan and Mahabharat etc. The garden (Sahajanand Vun) around the monument is beautiful and well maintained. There is a water show too called the Sat-Chit-Anand Water Show which depicts the Upanishadic story of Nachiketa. Since photography is prohibited and mobiles are also taken at the entrance I have no photos of this marvellous strtucture. Outside food is also not allowed. There are eateries in the garden so after an exhausting walk around the complex we had some refreshments. Timings : From Tuesday to Sunday (Closed every Monday) Mandir: Daily 9:30a.m. to 7:30p.m. Night Lighting : On Saturdays, Sundays. Exhibitions : Daily 10:00a.m. to 6:00p.m. Rides & Games : 12:00 noon to 8:00p.m. Restaurant : 10:00a.m. to 8:00p.m.

# Sarkhej Roza : Located off the Sarkhej – Gandhinagar highway, it is (apparently) one of the most elegant and famous architectural complexes of Ahmedabad. But what we saw were dilapidated buildings surrounded by grazing cattle, rubbish and wild grass and plants; tucked away inside a ghetto area with an entrance gate which one can miss easily!! The complex instead of showing off its excellent architecture and craftsmanship was radiating the neglect being meted out by the concerned agencies. The complex consists of several buildings grouped around a large stepped tank. The buildings consist of a mosque and a mausoleum built by the monarch Mohammad Shah in the honour of Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh, a Sufi saint in 1451 A.D.; the tombs of Mehmud Shah Begada and his queen, and the palace and pavilions. The dry tank added to the misery of the place’s condition in the eyes of a tourist but one can imagine what the place would have been in the olden days.

Entrance to Sarkhej Roza

# Ambaji Temple : Located in the Danta Taluka of Banaskantha district, near the Gujarat-Rajasthan border, around 183 km from Ahmedabad, this holy place is famous for the Hindu temple of Arasuri Amba (since the temple is located in Arasur hills of Aravali mountain range) and is considered to be one of the 51 ancient Shakti Peeths of the Indian subcontinent. There are actually two temples, this one and the other one atop the Gabbar hill right opposite the first one. The hilltop one is considered to be the original abode of the Mata Ambaji and had been built on the site where the piece of the heart of the dead body of Devi Sati fell according to the mythological legend.

The rustic town was clean and serene where a strange feeling of devotion and faith fills one’s heart after entering this place of the greatest power inherent in all Creation. Also irony strikes the mind that in a country where the female supremacy is revered and forms the base of the main religion, crimes against women are so high. 😦 Needless to say photography was prohibited so no photos of temple from inside. Though paid parking facility is there. The Mataji temple is built of white marble with gold cones and has one main entrance and one side door. Devotees have to keep shoes outside, before the Shakti Dwar and then join the long queue for the “darshan” but thankfully the trust people have made good arrangement for public by providing shade and carpet the entire way. There are lots of shops both inside and outside the complex where you can buy offerings for the deity. Speaking of deity, there is no idol of the goddess in the inner sanctum, perhaps because the temple is so ancient that it predates idol-worship. Instead there is a niche in the wall on which a gold plated marble inscription of the Viso Yantra (a Vedic text on sacred geometry) is fixed and worshipped. The priests decorate the upper part of the niche in such a way that it looks like an idol of a goddess from a distance. But as happens in all famous temples, the time one gets to see and observe is one minute hardly, after which one is asked to move ahead or shoved ahead. 😦 Anyway so after the darshan and collecting prasad, we headed for lunch at one of the eateries on the outside road. The menu aka Guajrati thali was fixed and I was looking forward to taste one! And I was so hungry that the photo got unfocussed 😀

After a satisfying lunch, we went to the temple on the hill top. Parking facility is not there. Apparently there are 1000 steps leading to the temple but again thankfully the trust has installed a rope way to help the pilgrims. It was my first time on a ropeway and the experience was both scary and enjoyable. The view from the hilltop was amazing. After the visit, we left for Ahmedabad and reached the city by evening. The entire drive was quite smooth and road conditions were good. Timings: Ambaji temple is open all days of the week, 7:15-11:30am, 12-4:15pm, 6:30-9pm.

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# Shopping in Ahmedabad :

Law Garden Road – Whenever I asked my friends or acquaintances from Ahmedabad for shopping places, two answers were common – Law Garden Road Market and National Handloom shop. The road has derived its name from the nearby Law college and the adjoining garden called the Law Garden which is a recreational spot for both children and adults.  The road is lined with shops of local vendors selling ethnic oxidised jewellery, beautifully embroidered and mirror worked kurtis, ghagra cholis, handbags, table cloths, bed sheets, bed covers, cushion covers, wall hangings and other home decor stuff.  It is truly a shopper’s and bargainer’s paradise!! These shops open after 6 pm usually (don’t know if they are open during the day) and the rule of thumb to shop there from my experience is to quote less than half of the selling price when you start the bargain. The first lady vendor I tried ignored my quote and was rude and almost shooed me off. But I was undeterred! 😀 I continued along the road and purchased lots of stuff at good rates. The places also has shops selling Gujarati meals, fast food, ice creams and other delicacies. All this makes the entire area a popular place to hang out. In the evening the area glitters due to all the mirror work stuff and all the wares add to the vibrancy and colorfulness of Gujarati culture.

National Handloom – It is a three storeyed family super market sort of place right next to the Law Garden. You can shop clothes and handicrafts there. But I found it less impressive than Law garden in terms of handicrafts. But dress material and sarees were good.

Iscon Mega Mall – It is located in the newly developed shopping hub off S. G. Highway in Ahemdabad, just after the ISKCON temple. Apparently it is the largest mall in Gujarat so we visited the mall for some shopping. But we found it to be small as compared to Bangalore Malls and the food court was pathetic and over priced for such a mall.

So the one week trip to Ahmedabad was an enjoyable experience with fun, sight seeing, food and shopping. It would have been more pleasant if it wasn’t the summer. If you have one week time and intend to visit Ahmedabad 2-3 days then you can make plans to visit Somnath and Dwarka too, which we intend to include in our itinerary next time. On 27th April we boarded the train to New Delhi for the next part of our trip.

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Ahmedabad Chronicle Part 2

Continued from here

The next day and the day after that, D and I decided to go sight seeing on our own using my SIL’s two wheeler. The weather was as hot as the inside of a furnace! Still we being the ghumakkars that we are, we decided to go exploring the city anyway. I had shortlisted the must see places of the Heritage city. But April 24 being a holiday on the occasion of Bhagvan Shree Parshuram Jayanti, all the government places such as museums, art galleries etc were closed and we missed out on visiting many places. Driving in Ahmedabad city was a spine chilling, adrenalin rushing, heart palpitating act because it seems to be the city where traffic rules go to die and traffic police are non existent. Yet it was interesting to see rural people in ethnic dresses, camel carts and even elephant on the roads! But the color of the city is only in the clothes…the white or grey buildings and the white cars give the city a dull appearance unlike other cities of India.

# Darwazas of Ahmedabad: Founded in 1411 AD and fortified in 1487, the old Amdavad had a wall 10 km in circumference encircling the city to protect it from invasion. This wall originally had 21 gates or darwazas. But after 500 years most of the walls are gone and today only the gates still stand, as well as a short section of wall also stands along the riverfront. The area within the boundary of the old wall is known today as the “old city”, and is easily identifiable by narrow streets, old houses and clustered buildings, crowded markets and traffic congestion. We spotted 2-3 gates while driving around the city. Each appears to be a remnant of a golden era gone by in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the modern age…a mismatch with the surroundings, but they do lend an antique historical feel to the city. We got scolded by passersby and other drivers while trying to take photographs 😀

# Bridges of Ahmedabad : Ahmedabad is a city sprawling on the both sides of the Sabarmati River with 9 bridges built across it to connect the eastern (old city) and western (new city) regions. While roaming we crossed the Ellis Bridge, Sardar Bridge, Nehru Bridge etc. Ellis Bridge was built in 1870 and had a wooden structure, which was replaced by steel in 1882. Extensions have been constructed on either side of the original bridge to support heavy traffic, and the original bridge is preserved as a landmark.

# Sabarmati Ashram : I think every Indian knows the name of this place 🙂 It is located on Ashram road near Vadaj on the bank of Sabarmati River. Sabarmati Ashram or Satyagraha Ashram had played an instrumental role in the non-violence movement and India’s struggle for independence. Mahatma Gandhi’s famous “Dandi March” started from here in 1930. At present the site functions as a museum and an institution whose aim is to preserve and propagate the legacy of the Mahatma. At the entrance, a map of the area acts a guide for tourists. The site covers a large area and the Ashram premises a museum (Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya) which has five units – office, library, two photo galleries and an auditorium. The museum has eight life-size colour oil paintings and an exhibition on Gandhi’s life “My life is my message” and “Gandhiji in Ahmedabad”. An archive is also set up, which stores  letters written by Gandhiji, manuscripts, photographs etc. The library has large number of books, coins, postal stamps and letters of felicitation received by Gandhiji. The grounds of the Ashram include the Hridaykunj, Gandhiji’s humble living quarters, Vinoba-Mira Kutir, Prarthana Bhoomi, statues of the three wise monkeys etc. The tranquility of the place is impressive and the memorabilia of Gandhiji and Independence Struggle reminds us of what we owe to our forefathers. Timing: 8.30 am to 6.00 pm throughout the year and admission is free.

# Sanskar Kendra : It is located near Sardar bridge in the vicinity of  Tagore Hall, opposite to the National Institute of Design. The place is a  museum depicting history, art, culture and architecture of Ahmedabad, designed by the famous architect Le Corbusier in 1954. We were keen to see the famous Kite Museum at Sanskar Kendra which has a fascinating and striking collection of kites but due to holiday the place was closed. 😦

# Ahmed Shah Mosque : Located near Ellis Bridge, in the vicinity of Bhadra Fort,  this mosque dates back to 1414 A.D. and was constructed by Sultan Ahmed Shah, the founder of Ahmedabad city. It is one of the oldest mosques of Ahmedabad. It is famous for the intricate carvings, beautiful pillars and ornamental jalis (perforated stone or latticed screen). We wanted to visit the famous Bhadra fort located nearby but after roaming about we just could not find the entrance to the Fort!! 🙄

# Jhulta Minar : Ahmedabad’s architectural history is famous for the Shaking Minarets or Jhulta Minar. Quoting from the official tourism website of Gujrat

They have left the best of architects and pioneering design engineers intrigued and in unresolvable wonder. What they cannot unravel is when one minaret is shaken the other begins to vibrate, though the connecting passage between the two remains vibration-free; what causes this vibration is unknown. There are two well-known pairs of Shaking Minarets in Ahmedabad, one located opposite the Sarangpur Darwaja and the other near the Kalupur Railway Station Area. The one near Sarangpur Darwaja is within the vicinity of the Sidi Bashir Mosque built in 1452 AD by Sidi Bashir, a slave of Sultan Ahmed Shah. They are three storeys talls with carved balconies where visitors were once allowed to climb all the way up. The other set of minarets near the Railway Station is taller in height. However, these are not in a very good condition as it is believed that the British had dismantled them to understand the cause of vibrations. They could not resolve the engineering and it was not possible to put them back in their original condition. Demonstrations of the minarets shaking or vibrating are not carried out anymore.

We visited the one at Kalupur railway station. It was a pity that it was a closed monument and entry was restricted.

# ISKCON Temple : Shri  Shri Radha Govind Dham or ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Temple is located on Satellite road, near Big Bazaar. Quoting from the official website

Three 50-ft diameter stone shikhars (domes) hand-carved with depictions of Krishna’s pastimes, rise more than 100 ft. above the 25,000-sq-ft temple. The building, blending Gujarat Sompura, and Rajasthani Khamira architectural styles, sits on four acres and features one of the largest temple rooms in India. The 12,000-sq-ft hall can accommodate 4,000 people and is home to the Deities of Radha-Govinda, Gaura-Nitai, Sita-Rama-Laksman-Hamuman, and Sri Nathji, as well as murti forms of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Decorations include ornate stone-clad pillars, marble flooring engraved with colored granite designs, windows intricately carved in Rajastani Mewas style, and Khemira and Araish decorated ceilings.

Timings :  Sun, Sat  Closed  Mon-Fri   4:30am-1pm, 4-9pm. Photography is prohibited.

Apart from these places, we went to three places outside of Ahmedabad. So in my next post I’ll write about the excursions from Ahmedabad and shopping Ahmedabad!! 🙂 To be continued…

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Srirangapatna Chronicle

Mysore, known as the cultural capital of Karnataka, is a must-visit if you come up-to Bangalore for even a week.  As for Srirangapatna, made famous by Tippu Sultan and more so by the TV series “the Sword of Tipu Sultan” aired on Doordarshan :), it lies on the way to Mysore from Bangalore. So, visits from in-laws and my parents resulted in two trips to Srirangapatna and Mysore. Here is my travelogue based on the two visits – first part about Srirangapatna and second part on Mysore.

Getting there – We had hired a cab on the km rate basis and left as early as 7 am which is advisable if you want to cover many places in one day. There are trains to Mysore from Bangalore and Srirangapatna is just 15 kms away from Mysore. So you can chart up a trip that way too. Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation also provides a one day tour of Srirangapatna and Mysore so you can check that out too.

The road to Srirangapatna, State Highway 17, passes through the Ramanagara and Channapatna towns of Karnataka. Ramanagara is famous for its silk market and is known as Silktown. Also it is famous for being the site for shooting of the famous Hindi movie, Sholay. Channapatna is famous for its wooden toys.  We didn’t have time to stop at these places. Maybe next time we will make an exclusive trip to these places only.

Srirangapatna – A historically rich town made famous by Hyder Ali and his son, Sher-e-Mysur (The Tiger of Mysore), Tipu Sultan. The entire town is enclosed by the river Cauvery to form a river island. The places we visited are

# Place of Martyrdom or The Obelisk – It is the spot where Tippu Sultan breathed his last in the legendary battle of Srirangapatna against the British in 1799. He was killed due to the betrayal of his own men. His body lay there for two days before it was noticed by the locals. The commemorative Obelisk is located in a small envelopment into which one is not allowed to enter.

# Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple – The town derives its name from this very famous temple. This ancient temple enshrines Lord Vishnu as Lord Ranganatha in his reclining posture on the bed laid out by the serpent Aadi Sesha. This temple is a very important Vaishnavite shrine of South India. There are many other shrines like Ranganayaki, Narasimha, Sudarshana, Gopalakrishna, Srinivasa, Rama and Panchamukha Anjaneya in the beautiful and exquisite temple complex. There are a lot of shops outside the temple where one can shop for some souvenirs. Do bargain. There is a nice park too where one can sit on benches and eat. Also there is a paid bathroom facility few metres away from the temple. Darshan Timings: 07.30 am to 01.00 pm and 04.00 pm to 08.00 pm

# Dariya Daulat Bagh– The whole place comprises of a huge garden and a palace constructed by Tippu Sultan in 1784. Dariya-Daulat meaning “the wealth of the sea” was the summer palace of Tipu Sultan. It is built out of teakwood entirely, in the Indo-Sarcenic style standing on a square platform. There are excellent mural paintings depicting the war scenes, the British and the French officers, the Sultan, the Kings and others. The palace has been converted into a museum where war weapons, dresses, furniture, paintings and coins of Tipu’s period are displayed. One of the main feature of this museum is the famous oil painting “Storming of Srirangapattanam” by Sir Robert Ker Porter made in 1800. This historical painting depicts the last fall of Srirangapatana on 4th May 1799. Timings: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Entry Charges: Rs. 5/-

Other attractions of Srirangapatna which we didn’t visit but hope to next time are – Gumbaz, Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon, Fort, Ghosai Ghat, Jama Masjid, Sangam and Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.

By the time one covers these 3 places it is usually 1 – 1.30 pm. After that we proceeded to Mysore. Once we reached Mysore, we headed straight for lunch. Mysore struck us as a clean and well-managed city with very less traffic as compared to Bangalore. We had lunch at the Spices and Sauces restaurant at Hotel United-21 on B.N. road in Mysore. Service was quite slow and they failed to bring our masala papad till the end of our lunch inspite of several reminders. The food was okay. The restaurant has buffet too. After lunch, we continued on our sightseeing tour.

Next post – Mysore.

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Aurangabad and Ellora Caves Chronicle

A long 12 day trip was planned during the 2009 summer vacation. The places on itinerary were Aurangabad, Ellora Caves, Pune, Khandala, Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. This post is about the visit to Aurangabad and Ellora caves. Rest of the places will follow soon. 🙂

1st Day :- Hometown to Manmad. Had to get off at 3.30 am! Train to Aurangabad (2 hrs journey) was at 5 am. Though it started from Manmad itself, it came and left at 7.30 am. It was a passenger train and that meant seat for the quickest :) Thankfully we got seats. Both Manmad and Aurangabad stations are lacking in coolies (porters). Checked in a hotel at Aurangabad and went sightseeing in evening. Hotel experience was not good due to power cuts and bad food. But the evening was well spent at Bibi ka Maqbara and Panchakki (water mill). I realized that photography is very difficult in India as people don’t move out of frame even on request!!

The Bibi-Ka-Maqbara is a beautiful mausoleum of Dilras Banu Begum, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb, constructed by her son Prince Azam Shah. The mausoleum was intended to rival the Taj Mahal, but, the decline in architecture and proportions of the structure had resulted in a poor copy of the latter.

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2nd Day :- Checked out of hotel at Aurangabad and left for Ellora Caves (30 kms from Aurangabad) in a hired car. We stopped at Daulatabad fort on way to Ellora but didn’t have the energy to climb it.

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There I found guava sellers coloring their guavas to decorate their baskets. They too had a sense of color and style!! :) I took a snap with a seller’s permission.

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Then we went to see Aurangzeb’s Tomb. It was a simple building and the tomb was nothing special. Apparently Aurangzeb lead a very modest lifestyle.

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Then we reached Ellora. We were awestruck to see the monumental caves and sculptures made by cutting the rocks and faces of the hills. Ellora, a World Heritage Site, is something that needs to be seen to be believed. The most famous cave of Ellora was the Kailash Temple. Such intricate and difficult work after cutting stones and faces of the hills is unthinkable.

Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 “caves” – actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – being Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain caves (caves 30–34), built in proximity, show the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.

Ellora has a lot of shops and restaurants nearby. After a nice lunch we visited the Ghrishneshwar Temple that enshrines one of the 12 jyotirlingas dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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From there we left for Manmad where we had to catch the night train to Pune.

To be continued….

Categories: Historical, Maharashtra, Religious | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Lucknow Chronicle

In 2007 I and my parents spent the Diwali vacation at a relatives place in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. The scenery of rural Uttar Pradesh is beautiful. One can see lush green and yellow fields, mango orchards, wells, cattle, eucalyptus tress and even peacocks roaming freely! But one can also see the lack of electric transmission towers, the darkness at most of the areas, the lack of any traffic rule and the density of population.

I didn’t get a chance to go out much in that town. We made plans of  a one day trip to Lucknow (the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India) to do some sightseeing, shopping and eating – my favorite combination 😀 So here is an account of that one day trip.

Located in what was historically known as the Awadh region, Lucknow has always been a multicultural city. Courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known among Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Lucknow is popularly known as the The City of Nawabs. It is also known as the Golden City of the East, Shiraz-i-Hind and The Constantinople of India.

We left for Lucknow early morning in a hired car. Because of the Golden Quadrilateral project, the highways of U.P. have become quite good. As we entered Lucknow from the west side, the first place we visited was the Hussainabad Imambara or the Chota Imambara.

The Hussainabad Imambara is a major tourist attraction of Lucknow. The monument was built by Muhammed Ali Shah in the year 1837 under ‘Food for Work’ program initiated by him to bring respite for the city populace when the region was hit by a famine.  The walls of the monument are decorated with Arabic verses that have been carved beautifully by efficient craftsmen. The structure has an imposing white colored dome and many pillars or minarets.  There are small miniatures of the Taj Mahal on either side of the monument.

This is the Chota Imambara

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And these are the two Taj Replicas on either side of the Imambara

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The tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah and his mother are inside the Imambara. Also a number of tazias ,mirrors with gold frames and beautiful chandeliers are kept in the hall. From there we went to see the Rumi Darwaza.

The Rumi Darwaza of Lucknow is one of the most impressive architectural structures in India. It was constructed in the year 1784 by Nawab Asaf-ud-daula. The Rumi Darwaza goes upto a height of 60 feet. The uppermost part of Rumi Darwaza comprises of an octagonal Chatri (Umbrella) carved beautifully that can be accessed by a staircase. On top of the Rumi Darwaza was kept a huge lantern that would light up the structure at night making it look absolutely fabulous. Little jets of water would rush out of the sides of the arch from beautifully carved flower buds thus making it look like a gateway to Paradise. The beautifully carved flowers and designs speak volumes about the unique architectural style and eye for detail.

This is the back side of Rumi Darwaza

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Next to Rumi Darwaza is the Asafi Imambara or the Bada Imambara.

Bada Imambara complex was commissioned by the then Nawab of Awadh, Asaf -ud-Daula in the year 1784. The complex also includes the large Asfi mosque, the Bhul-Bhulayah (the labyrinth) and a summer palace with running water. Bada Imambara was also built under the ‘Food For Work’ program. The Bada Imambara is built at the end of a spectacular courtyard approached through two magnificent triple-arched gateways. The central hall of the Imambara is almost 50 metres long and 16 metres wide. The ceiling of this column-less hall is more than 15 metres high. The hall is one of the largest of its kind in the world without any external support of wood, iron, or stone beams. The roof has been put together with interlocking bricks without using a beam or a girder.

This is one of the gateways

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And this is the Bada Imambara and the next image is the central hall.

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But the monument is not well maintained. The elaborate chandeliers were dusty. Lighting was tacky. There were cobwebs, paint peeling off walls, names scratched on wall by people and above all the mark of U.P. – red paan stains.  In fact it was the only tourist place  of all the places I have ever visited where I saw a large steel dustbin totally red with paan stains!!Here is a sample of the wall. 😦

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Outside in the courtyard, there is a man who sits under an umbrella and sells tiny versions of  shoes worn by the Nawab and some Begum. There is no bargaining. But the shoes were so cute that I bought many of them. Thats what I call entrepreneurship. 🙂

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From there we went to Aminabad, a quaint bazaar like Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, is situated in the heart of the city. It is a large shopping centre area that has all kinds of shops for all kinds of customers. Due to Diwali, there was too much congestion. Its better to leave the car in the parking area and shop while walking. First we had lunch in one of the restaurants. The service was slow but the food was tasty and reasonable priced. This is the non veg thali I had ordered.

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After lunch we went for shopping. Take care of your purses, mobiles, sunglasses,jewelery and pockets while roaming in Lucknow markets!! A very suspicious looking and shabbily dressed man tried to sell a single Ray Ban goggles to me…evidently a stolen item. Shopping in Lucknow is incomplete without buying Lucknow Chikankari clothes.

Chikankari is actually a very complex and delicate form of embroidery that primarily uses muslin clothes. This kind of embroidery is only confined to the city of Lucknow. The design motifs in Chikankari are predominantly influenced by Mughal art. There are various stitches used in Chikankari. The most often used stitch is the satin stitch. Apart from that there are others like stem stitch and chain stitch etc. Chikan has very light, gossamer like quality that makes it fit for the extreme climate.

Needless to say Chikan material is costly too depending on the quality and measure of embroidery done on the cloth. These are the two dress materials I bought.How could I resist? 😀

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After 3 hours of shopping, we went to eat Tunday’s Kebabs – a must-eat advised by many people on Twitter. Not a place for vegetarians of course. And if there are women in your group then its better to get them parceled and eat outside. The mutton kebabs were as delicious as I had been told. 🙂

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After spending such a wonderful day at the city of Nawabs and Kebabs, we headed back home. Hopefully, I will get a chance to go there again someday to visit the rest of the tourist places and to explore the markets and restaurants fully 😀 😀

Categories: Cities, Historical, Religious, Uttar Pradesh | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments
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