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

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Reblog:So You Want To Start A Travel Blog

A guide to starting a travel blog by Shivya

The Shooting Star

The Shooting Star has recently made it to the top 30 travel blogs in India (based on global Alexa rankings). While I still have a long way to go to reach the level of the world’s top travel bloggers, this post is an attempt to share my experiences and experiments so far.

 Many of you have asked me on Twitter and via email, as to how you can go about starting your own travel blog and what it entails, and this post is something of an apology to those unanswered questions! I started my travel blogging journey in May 2011, before which my blog was a platform to rant about life and share the occasional travel tales. I must also confess that I started (and dropped) 5 blogs before The Shooting Star, each after a few posts, when I faced the writer’s block. That is perhaps the greatest challenge…

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2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 9,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 16 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Delhi Chronicle Part 1

After spending a wonderful week at Ahmedabad, we went to New Delhi to meet my sister and my niece whom I had not met since her birth. It was my first trip to the capital city. The train journey was uneventful and we reached New Delhi in morning after an overnight journey. The weather was bad with the summer sun showing its ugly face. After getting freshened up at the hotel near relatives’ house, we went to see my precious niece. Poor thing! She was surrounded by so many strangers all of a sudden and such weather and water at that! As for the first impression of people of Delhi, I think every family of every status and income owns a car whether they use it or not and whether there is place for parking or not. Moreover all these cars are dented!! In the evening D and I decided to visit the famous Lotus Temple. Though we were interested to go via Delhi Metro, we hired a cab because one has to change trains three times to go to Nehru Place from Patel Nagar. The cab driver was an affable Punjabi person and just as we were about to leave another car backed into our cab. We understood why all the cars in New Delhi have dents! We had an amusing experience on our way to Lotus temple while the cab driver pointed out the landmarks of Delhi on our request.



An example

Cab driver – And that is AIIMS….the biggest hospital in Asia, all people come here for treatment blah blah

D – Ahh yes we know.

Cab Driver – Humph! I am telling only because you asked me to show the  landmarks as you are visiting for first time. If you already know then why did you ask me? Blah blah

I – Okay okay calm down. My sister is a doctor so we know about AIIMS. Please continue.

( D and I were smiling to each other)

Finally we reached the place.

# Lotus Temple – Located at Kalkaji, this lotus shaped temple is the house of worship of Baha’i faith. It was  completed in 1986 and is the seventh of all the Baha’i Houses of Worship all around the world. It was designed by Iranian-Canadian architect Fariburz Sahba and is made of marble entirely. The architecture of the building is exquisite with 27 white-marble petals, lush green landscaped gardens and nine reflecting pools surrounding the temple from outside. There is a central hall which can be accessed through nine doors. Silence is mandatory inside the hall and visitors are encouraged to sit peacefully and meditate for some time. The serenity and calmness of the place really brings peace to one’s mind and thoughts from the noisy world outside. Though it is a Baha’i house of worship, it is open to all people of any faith to come and meditate in the beautiful environment. At the entrance there is a slab which describes the Baha’i philosophy and after reading that we were truly impressed and inspired by the principles of the Oneness of God, the Oneness of Religions, and the Oneness of Mankind. Entry is free and photography is prohibited inside.






After we reached our cab, the driver took us to some emporiums right behind the temple complex for shopping. I guess that is the usual practice the cab drivers follow for tourists. We went inside and roamed around the shop and came back without buying anything. 🙂 Then he dropped us back to our hotel. D left the next day to come back to Bangalore while I stayed back to spend some more days with my family as my parents were due to arrive in Delhi two days later.

To be continued…..

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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.


# 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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Ahmedabad Chronicle Part 1

In April – May 2012, we made plan to visit Delhi to meet my sister and my cutest niece who were visiting India for the first time since her birth last year. We decided to include Ahmedabad, my SIL’s place, too in the itinerary. Visiting both the places in the months of April and May was going to be a real challenge due to the hot weather. Sight seeing and sun do not go together at all! But who knew the trip was going to be one of a kind experience for me!

So we went via flight to Ahmedabad….my first flight experience ever! The field of clouds, the farm lands, the miniature buildings, the streams, the lakes and the sun from high above in the sky…breathtaking experience!

Next day we visited these places :-

# Adalaj Ni Vav – It is located at Adalaj village, around 19 kms away from Ahmedabad on Gandhinagar road. A Vav in Gujarati, means a stepwell – a well that is accessed through many levels of steps. The step well was built in A.D. 1498 by Ruda, wife of Vaghela Chief Virasimha. The oblong step well runs from south to north. The entry to the step well is from south through stairs on three sides which descend into a spacious landing with octagonal opening supported on eight pillars. All the walls are covered with intricately carved and beautiful sculptures and frescos. The grand architecture of the step well really takes one back into that century and you can imagine women bearing water pots, sitting, resting and chatting at specially designed places at the step well. There are openings in the many ceilings which provide good ventilation for the octagonal well. Thankfully direct sunlight does not touch the flight of steps or landings and it is quite cool inside. The well is covered with a netted enclosure. After admiring the structure and the skill of the workers of yore, we went to inspect the roof. There were five tombs on the roof but there was no description of these tombs anywhere.

After visiting Adalaj we came back home for lunch and afternoon siesta 🙂 In the evening, we decided to visit Kankaria Lake at Ahmedabad.

# Kankaria Lake – It is a polygonal (though appears to be circular) lake situated on the south-eastern side of the Ahmedabad city. Apparently it was constructed in 1451 by Sultan Qutb-ud-Din. The lake and the surrounding area have five entrances/gates. Gate 6 leads one straight to an island-garden with a summer palace and musical fountain show known as Nagina Wadi, right in the center of the lake. The lake is a very popular recreational centre and it is difficult to find parking!! It is surrounded by trees, plants, benches along with nice pathway for those who like walking. There are facilities like ‘Bal Vatika'( children’s garden), boating, aquarium, balloon safari, dirt track racing, natural history museum, a zoo, joyrides on toy train (Atal Express and Swarnim Jayanti Express)and a colorful bus. It was quite late and most of the facilities were closing for the day. But it was enjoyable seeing the place at the evening time because of special lighting of the lake in evening. We decided to go for the “Balloon Safari”. The tickets were priced at Rs 100 per person!! Since it was weekend, there was a long queue. It had got dark by the time our turn came. The balloon safari is a ride up on a securely tethered hot air balloon upto a height of around 50 m and then it comes down. But the view of the Ahmedabad city from above was wonderful! There is an entrance fee to the lake and for various rides and shows. Closed on Mondays.

The next day plans were made to visit the Science City at Ahmedabad post lunch.

# Science City – This is situated at Thaltej off the Sarkhej – Gandhinagar Highway. After having visited Science City at Kolkata and Digha, we were keen to see the one at Ahmedabad. The mission of the Science City, in their words, from their website is

Gujarat Science City is envisioned to be an impact-making science appreciation and entertainment experience for the common citizen while providing special offerings to the educated and the gifted. the Government of Gujarat is keen to create such Gujarat Science City as will be become a role model for the developing world.

Science City covers around 107 hectares and has attractions like Hall of Space (where you can also take your photo wearing a spacesuit!), Hall of Science, Thrill Ride/Simulator (where people can enjoy simulations of riding a roller coaster, flying in an aerobatic aircraft, a journey into space etc inside a closed capsule), Energy Park (where people can see solar panels, solar water heating system, solar lantern, wind turbine, water mobile, working models of Nuclear Power Plant etc), IMAX 3D theater, an LED screen having dimension of 20′ x 12′ size as an outdoor exhibit, a musical fountain ( which is spread over an area of 9000 sq.m in hexagonal grid pattern and is claimed to be the Asia’s largest one) and an Electrodome to explore various realms of electricity which we didn’t get time to visit sadly. Moreover we found Bangalore’s musical fountain to be far better than the one at Ahmedabad. But still, it was a great place to visit and we enjoyed a lot. There is a small curios shop where one can buy some science and other hobby related stuff. The Musical Fountain shows timings are Monday-Sunday – 7.00 pm, 7.30 pm, 8.00 pm and 8.30 pm. The center is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. Other show timings are available at their website.

After the musical fountain show, we came back home. The next day being Monday I and D decided to explore the city further on our own…..To be continued…….

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Mysore Chronicle

Continued from the Srirangapatna Chronicle

So after lunch, we proceeded on our Mysore sight-seeing trip. Mysore is the Karnataka’s second biggest city. It was the erstwhile capital of the Wodeyar dynasty and is considered the cultural capital of the state. It is also known as the City of Palaces. From what we saw, Mysore appeared to be a clean and well planned city with a heritage feel and quaint charm to it. The places we visited are

# St.Philomena’s Church – This church is dedicated to Saint Philomena, a 3rd century saint from Greece. The twin spires of the Cathedral, 175 feet in height, are visible from a distance making them a distinctive city landmark. Apparently there was a smaller church in the same place dated back to 1800 A.D. This larger church was built in its place in 1956 and is one of the largest churches in the country. I found the statues of Mother Mary and others dressed in sarees little strange. But the interior of the church is so serene and beautiful. There are steps leading down to a beautiful catacomb right below the main altar which houses the relic of Saint Philomena. The exit is through a tunnel way which opens at the back of the church. Entry Timings 05.00 am – 06.00 pm. Free Entrance.

# Chamundi Hills – Chamundi Hills is the prime landmark of Mysore city, visible from anywhere in the city center. There is a temple dedicated to goddess Chamundeshwari, situated on the top of Chamundi hill which is about 3,489 ft. above sea level. Goddess Chamundeshwari is the guardian deity of the Mysore royal family of Wodeyars. The goddess is just another incarnation/name used to describe Goddess Shakti or Durga or ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ who killed the buffalo headed demon Mahishasura (the ruler of this region and from whom the name Mysore is derived). There are two other temples dedicated to Lakshmi Narayana Swamy and Mahabaleswara (Lord Shiva) which is the oldest temple on the hill dating back to 9th century A.D.

Near the parking lot there is a brightly painted statue of Mahishasura, built in 1659 by Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar. A popular spot for tourists to pose and take photos. 🙂 There is a spot marked “View Point” from where a panoramic view of the city is visible from the top of the Chamundi hills. One can see the Race Course, the Lalitha Mahal palace, Mysore Palace, Karanji and Kukkarahalli lakes. After visiting the temple, on our way back, we took a detour to visit the huge monolithic statue of Nandi, the bull (vehicle of Lord Shiva). This statue of Nandi is one of the largest in India, 16 ft. tall at the front and 25 ft. in length with exquisite pendant bells carved around the neck.

Chamundeshwari Temple Pooja Timings: 07.30 am – 02.00 pm, 03.30 pm – 06.00 pm, 07.30 pm – 09.00 pm

No Entry Charges 

# Mysore Zoo – Mysore Zoo or Shri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens is one of the oldest zoo in India. The zoo is spread over 250 acres providing large enclosures for animals and abundant natural vegetation. There are battery operated tour vehicles available till 5 pm. We were late and the last vehicle was full. So we covered the entire zoo on foot which was no problem as the weather was very nice. It was great seeing toucans, tropical parakeets, macaws, pink flamingos, giraffes, gorilla, two-horned rhinoceros, hippos, tigers, tapir, gaur, jaguar and many other exotic species. Also we came to know that Mysore zoo has a lot of programs for conservation of endangered species, rehabilitation and captive breeding. One such program is the Animal Adoption to inspire the visitors to the Zoo and generate empathy for wild animals and for maintaining ecological balance, in a way to involve people in Wildlife Conservation. It was wonderful seeing so many animals already adopted in the zoo. There are restaurants, tender coconut outlets and toy/souvenir shop too inside the zoo.

To learn more about the Animal Adoption Program click here. Mysore Zoo Entry Timings: 08.30 am – 05.30 pm, Tuesday Holiday. Entry Charges: Adults Rs. 40/- Children (5-12yrs) Rs.20/- Camera charges: Rs 20 for still camera and Rs 150 for video camera. Tour vehicle charges Rs 100 for adults. Children (5-12 yrs) and Senior Citizens Rs 50.

# Mysore Palace – Mysore is called the City of Palaces and among all the palaces, the most famous is the Mysore Palace or Amba Vilas Palace in the heart of the city, the home of the Wodeyars who ruled Mysore for more than 500 years. If your itinerary allows just 1 or 2 hours in Mysore, this is the only place to visit. The original palace was built of wood and was got burnt down in 1897. The present one, designed by the English architect Henry Irwin, was rebuilt in 1912 at the cost of Rs. 41 lakhs. The present building is a three-storied structure in the Indo-Saracenic style built with fine gray granite and square towers at cardinal points,with rich pink marble domes. There is a five-storied 145 ft tower which has gold-gilded domes. The palace is surrounded by a large and well-kept garden. The Palace has four entrances – Varaha Gate in the south, Jayarama and Balarama in the north, Jaya Maarthaanda (main entrance) in the east and Karikal thotti and Brahmapuri in the west. One has to give cameras at the entrance and get their bags scanned. There is a supposedly free stand for footwear but the workers ask for Rs 10 tip.

One can opt for an audio tour guide kit which is good unlike Bangalore Palace where it is compulsory and pricey. However the price of the kit is included in the ticket charge for foreigners. Starting from the pavilion of traditional dolls, ceremonial objects, ornate mahogany ceilings with exquisite frescoes, sculpted pillars, intricately carved wooden and ivory doors, costumes, musical instruments, weapons, solid silver doors, white marble floors, stained glasses, glazed tiles, oil paintings, gorgeous chandeliers of Czechoslovakian make to the golden howdah (elephant seat) and the fabulous jewel encrusted golden throne, Mysore Palace is a feast for the eyes. Apparently the erstwhile Royal family continues to live in a portion of the Palace.

The palace complex also has twelve Hindu temples, the oldest being of 14th century and the recent one built in 1953. A silhouette of the Mysore Palace illuminated with ninety-seven thousand bulbs with the night as the background is one of the most famous images of the Mysore city and one which you will come across in any travelogue on Mysore except mine. Sadly during our two visits to Mysore, once we were in a hurry to reach Brindavan Gardens on time and on the second time, it was not Sunday. So we missed seeing the wonderful spectacle of the illuminated Mysore Palace and capturing it in our minds and cameras.

Palace Timings:10am to 5.30 pm daily Illumination 07.00 pm – 08.00 pm Only on Sundays, National Holidays and State Festivals. Entrance Fee: Adults : Rs. 20 Children below 10 years : Free

# Brindavan Garden – The Brindavan Garden is laid out behind the Krishnaraja Sagar dam site at a distance of 24 km from Mysore and is a very popular tourist destination made famous by several Bollywood songs being filmed here in 1960s. One has to leave Mysore by 5.45 – 6 pm if this place is to be covered on the same day. It is a visual delight in the evening only. We were running late and the place was almost closing down when we reached. So we missed seeing the musical fountain show. The garden is laid out in the three terraces, which ends in a horseshoe shape with seating arrangement for the audience. The three terraces contain water fountains (which are illuminated with colored lighting in evening) and various ornamental and flowering plants. The pathway across the boating pond, leading to the garden is very long and may be exhausting especially at the end of the day when all are tired from walking. It is advisable to take the boat instead and save time and energy. But beware! The boat driver will offer to take the boat close to fountains in the pond which kids enjoy a lot but if you are the one to consent, then he will ask you for a tip while dropping off on the other side.

Brindavan Garden Timings All Week Days 06.00 am – 08.00 pm, Saturdays & Sunday 06.00 pm – 09.00 pm
Musical Fountain Show Timings All Week Days 06.30 pm – 07.30 pm, Saturdays & Sunday 06.30 pm – 08.30 pm
Entry Charges -Adult  Rs.15/- Children (5-12yrs) Rs. 5/-

After visiting Brindavan Garden, we started our journey back home and it was 11.30 pm when we reached Bangalore. The places we left out of our itinerary are Railway Musuem, Jaganmohan Palace,  Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion, Lalitha Mahal Palace, Melody World and National Museum on Natural History at Karanji Lake. You can also include the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary which is 4 kms from Srirangapatna and 19 kms from Mysore.

Categories: Cities, Karnataka, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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.

Categories: Historical, Karnataka, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Visakhapatnam Chronicle Part 1

In 2008 I’d gone to Visakhapatnam during Diwali vacation for four days. But only one post will not do justice to my experience so it is going to be three posts series. As Visakhapatnam or Vizag is only 12 hours from my hometown by train, we decided to go there on a short trip.

26th Oct 2008 – Train was at an unholy time of 6.00 am! And day journey in sleeper class (AC had no seats left for reservation) was bad due to heat. But the scenery was beautiful.


We reached in late evening and went to the hotel where we had booked room. We had been told on phone that they will give an extra bed. We were given an extra mattress without cot! But as it was late, we decide to stay there only. Service was average but food was bad. Dad and I went to the nearby APTDC office and booked ourselves for tour of Araku Valley and Borra Caves on 28th. We also hired a car for local sightseeing on 27th.

27th Oct 2008 – The breakfast was better as it consisted of idli and dosa. After breakfast, we left for local tour. The roads and the cleanliness of the city impressed us. Our driver was polite, pleasant and experienced but understood only English. First we went to Ramakrishna Beach. Unlike Puri, the beach was quite clean. I felt so elated seeing the Bay of Bengal and beach, even in the scorching sun. On the horizon we could see ships and the Dolphin’s Nose which is the most prominent landmark of Vizag. This huge rock, 174 m in height and 358 m above sea level, is shaped like a dolphin’s snout;hence the name. The area around RK Beach is highly developed from tourism point of view. The statues and unique pillars really beautify the road along RK Beach.


Then we went to Simachalam to visit the famous temple of Lord Varaha Lakshminarasimha. The deity is such an angry personality that he is always covered with sandalwood paste. The real form of the idol is viewed only once in a year, during the Chandana Yatra. The view from the top of the hill temple was awesome. Camera was not allowed inside.



From there we came back to Rushikonda Beach. It was less developed or rather less commercialized than RK Beach but still equally beautiful. Our driver knowing that we were Bengalis, took us to Hotel Sandhya (located beside the Beach road) which was a shack serving very tasty, homely and typical Bengali lunch at low price. I was so happy to have a good lunch.



Then we went to Fishing Harbour for boating. The smell of diesel fumes of the boat caused more nausea than the turbulence of ocean waves. But the view was wonderful. Artificial embankments have been built to stop waves from crashing on to the harbour and nearby coast.


After a tiring day, we returned to hotel. In the evening, we went to RK Beach in auto-rickshaw. Auto rickshaws are quite cheap in Vizag. One just needs to bargain a little. The area around RK Beach has a Ramakrishna Mission Ashram and a KaliMatha Temple along with other attractions. After enjoying the setting sun and jhaal muri on beach, we went to Kalimatha Temple which was decorated for Kali Puja on 28th i.e. Diwali for non-Bengalis. Then we went to the famous CMR shopping mall as my parents have never been to a shopping mall before. But it was a disappointment compared to the real shopping malls like those in Pune or Bangalore. Before the trip, I had searched the location of Pizza Hut in Vizag on Google. 😀 In the morning I had asked the driver to show the place too. So after shopping, we went to Pizza Hut. And that ended the day blissfully.

Categories: Andhra Pradesh, Beaches, Cities | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
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