Posts Tagged With: tourism

Coorg Chronicle – Part I

Coorg or Kodagu, also known as Scotland of India, was on my to-visit list since I saw it is rated as no.1 destination in India on HolidayIQ. So on Republic Day weekend of 2014 we decided to visit Coorg. As it happened, the road trip to Coorg was going to be our last trip before we set out to be parents!! There are three road options to go to Coorg from Bangalore and we decided to go via Channapatna and Mysore because of known road conditions and eateries.

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Coorg and it’s surrounding tourist places like Wayanad are famous for homestays. So we decided to stay at a homestay this time instead of a hotel. After going through different travel websites I (the trip planner) zeroed in to Naladi Holidays homestay at Kakkabe, Coorg. Now there are two routes to reach Kakkabe…first Mysore-Hunsur-Virajpet-Kakkabe and second Mysore-Hunsur-Kushalnagar-Madikeri-Kakkabe. The first one is shorter by 25 km but we decided to go by the second one because as per the itinerary planned, we wanted to visit the famous Golden Temple on first day itself. Also homestays don’t serve lunch because they expect you to spend the afternoon sightseeing. We were hoping to reach Coorg by 12 noon so it made sense to visit a place, have lunch and then go to the homestay.

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We started out at around 6 am. As it was winter season and we were headed for hilly area, we had packed lots of woolen wear which we were going to regret later!! It was cold only like from 3 am to 8 am! It was quite hot during daytime. We stopped only for breakfast at Vaishali restaurant on Mysore road and by 12 noon reached Bylakuppe near Kushalnagar.

 

Bylakuppe is a Tibetan refugee resettlement, provided by GoI for Tibetans who fled from Tibet following the 1959 Chinese invasion. The magnificent Namdroling Monastery and the Golden Temple are located there. The Namdroling Monastery is the largest teaching centre of Nyingmapa, a lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, in the world, and the Golden temple is a very popular tourist attraction. PAP (Protected Area Permit) is mandatory for foreigners to stay at Bylakuppe overnight.

When we enter the gates of the monastery, we feel transported to another realm of peace, solitude and mysticism. We feel we have entered Tibet or Bhutan or similar area and forget we are in South India. Inside the grounds there are two temples – the Zangdogpalri Temple, and the Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara, commonly known as the Golden Temple.

The Zangdogpalri Temple is the one with the huge portrait of the Dalai Lama in front. The building is decorated with Buddhist murals, painted flowers and a rainbow on top. Then on the left side there is a beautiful garden and a small fountain and beyond that the Golden temple.

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The monks move about doing their business according to the time of the day, unaffected by the crowd, its noise and its curiosity. We felt as if we are intruding into their peaceful world with our cameras and talk. This feeling gets heightened when we enter the Golden Temple.

The exterior walls of the Golden temple are decorated with Tibetan murals and Tibetan lion sculptures. We would have loved to have a guide who could explain all the folklore behind the paintings and translate the writings on the walls. One has to leave the shoes outside. Once we stepped inside, we were overcome by awe at the three majestic, beautiful golden statues of Guru Padmasambhava, Lord Buddha at the center and Buddha Amitayus; looking down at visitors above the altar.

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The statue of Lord Buddha is 60 ft in height whereas the height of other two statues is 58 ft. The statues are made of copper plated with gold. I guess hence the name Golden Temple. The insides of the statues are filled with scriptures, relics of great beings, small clay mould stupas and statues which the body, speech and mind of the Buddhas. The altar is decorated with flowers, candles and incense and photos of the Dalai Lama and some other person whom I didn’t recognize.

The big hall is also decorated with murals depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology and lots of people just sit down on the floor to meditate or contemplate looking at the benevolent eyes of Lord Buddha. It was enchanting to hear a Tibetan lady offer prayers by singing a mystical chanting song while rotating a prayer wheel. People were generally following the signboard “Keep Silence” but soon a huge group of school students came and it destroyed the calmness of the place. I feel the teachers should instill the urge to follow regulations by practicing ..for example they could have split the kids into small batches and shown one after another.

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In the monastery campus few other buildings are there.Visitors were not allowed to go inside the Zangdogpalri Temple but we could see inside from the open doors on the side.

Suddenly from somewhere a big bell/drum started to sound and the monks started gathering in one of the building for some activity. It was lovely to witness the prayers in session, the ringing of gongs, drums and the drone of chanting by the monks.

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There is a model of the entire settlement area in which you can see the various buildings of the entire area. The information board was only in Kannada so couldn’t gather any information regarding the model.

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Outside the monastery, there is a small market with 1-2 restaurants and several stores that sell Tibetan jewellery, handicrafts, incense and souvenirs.We bought few souvenirs like a Tibetan doll, a replica of the bell in front of the golden temple etc. Then we freshened up and had lunch at a small restaurant there and started on our way for Kakkabe.

Visiting hours of Monastery – 8.00 am to 7.00 pm All days. Photography allowed. Free entry.

The owner of our homestay had contacted us on email after our booking (through Stayzilla) and given good directions to his home and helpful tips like only Airtel works at his place. Thankfully D has Airtel connection so we didn’t have to rush to buy Airtel sim. Another tourist place, Nisargadham was there on our way to Kakkabe via Madikeri, but since it was getting late and the homestay owner  had advised us to reach before dusk, we did not stop for it. We decided to check it out on our way back to Bangalore.

The mountainous road to Kakkabe was in good condition and quite enjoyable to drive. It had almost got dark by the time we reached Kakkabe. Kakkabe looked like a sparsely populated area midst of dense forest and hills. The road leading to our homestay was quite narrow and scary in the dark. We were almost going to miss the homestay since there were no streetlights but we decided to stop and ask around. Google maps also doesn’t work well in such interior area.

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The road leading to our homestay

The owner’s family welcomed us warmly and showed us our room which was upstairs; the family lived downstairs. It was a big enough room for a couple. There was an attached bathroom which was quite clean. There was hot water facility too. There was no mobile network inside the room. The owner’s wife gave oranges to welcome us which were quite delicious.  The view from the balcony was awesome with mountains at a distance, coffee buds drying outside, tiled rooftops. The quaintness of the small town and the isolation of the area inspired a feeling of peacefulness, away from the hustle bustle of city life, away from the tangled web of electronic devices and internet…but it also gave a feeling of eeriness, all ghost stories (and there are only few I know) coming back in my mind, always expecting a howl to be heard in the distant forest, a worry that if something happens in this godforsaken place then??

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Road in front of our homestay

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View of dusk from our balcony

The food was served on the dining table in the common area without any intrusion on our privacy. We went outside at dinner time and saw food was ready. After a delicious South Indian meal, we turned in for the night, eagerly waiting to explore more of Coorg the next day.

Categories: Hills, Karnataka, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Shivasamudram Chronicle

Bangalore is a great place in terms of one day and weekends trips. There are so many places one can go to take a mini break from routine and city life. One of such places is the Shivasamudram Falls. Shivasamudram Falls are located at around 136 km from Bangalore by car if you take the Bangalore-Kanakapura-Malavalli-Shivasamudram route. One can go via Bangalore-Maddur-Malavalli-Shivanasamudra route too. The Kanakapura road is a state highway road. It is not in that great condition but it gets better after you cross Kanakapura. Also unlike Mysore road, there are no good restaurants or stopovers on Kanakpura road. So carry your snacks etc.

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DSC06870Shivasamudram Falls  are situated on the banks of the river Cauvery. One of the first hydro-electric power stations in Asia was set up in the year 1902 at this location. The plant is still functional. Shivasamudram falls are of the segmented steep cascade waterfalls type. Segmented waterfalls occur where the water flow is broken into two or more channels before dropping over a cliff, resulting in multiple side by side waterfalls.

DSC07365According to World Waterfall Database, Shivasamudram falls has an average width of 305 meters, a height of 98 m, and an average volume of 934 cubic meters / sec. The maximum recorded volume is 18,887 cubic meters / sec.  Apparently it is a perennial waterfall but the water flow varies a lot. The first and second time we visited the place was in November and March. The water flow was very low. The third time we visited was in August after the onset of monsoon and the falls were just spectacular!! So I guess the time of visit is the monsoon season of July to October. The surrounding greenery is also season dependent so for lush scenic views, the best time to visit is during monsoon season.

Waterfall in lean season
Waterfall in lean season

Shivasamudram Falls consists of two falls – the Gaganachukki and the Bharachukki. Cauvery river divides around the island type land formation of Shivasamudram and two separate waterfalls are formed. While Gaganachukki is a large horsetail type waterfall, Bharachukki  is a jagged crashing cascade. Barchukki is wider but Gaganachukki is taller, deeper and faster.

After taking a left turn at Malavalli, one should continue on the road till a left turn comes which leads to Gaganchukki. If you don’t take that turn and continue straight, cross a bridge on the mighty Cauvery; you can go to Bharachukki. Bharachukki is better developed than Gaganchukki from tourism point of view. But there is a Karnataka tourism hotel at Gaganchukki where you can have good and tasty lunch. Otherwise there are no restaurants at the place. One can find tender coconut sellers and other such vendors selling small food items.

There is a parking fee collection point on the road leading to Gaganchukki falls which appears to be totally illegal. The ticket they give is in local language. During one of our visit, they gave ticket and we paid money but while returning they stopped our car and started arguing that we left without paying. We also argued and shouted back and they let us go reluctantly. Since then we have started photos whenever we pay the money.

DSC09116There are lots of steps leading down to the view point at Gaganchukki falls. But the view point is very small compared to the crowd that throngs the place during full flow of river. When the waterfalls are in full volume, the water spray comes to the steps and the view point. The roar of the falls is deafening in a pleasant way and the force of nature expressed through the rushing water is amazing and humbling.

Steps leading down to the view point

Steps leading down to the view point

Waterfall in the "mean" season!

Waterfall in the “mean” season!

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Lilliputian humans in front of Giant waterfall

Hotel Mayura,owned by Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, has a good restaurant and children play area. It has 1 Suite Room, 5 A/C double rooms and 5 double bed rooms in case one wishes to stay the night. It is only place where you can freshen up after the drive to Shivasamudram. During one of our visits, there were lots of ducks in the lawn area. Didn’t find them the next time.

DSC06903DSC07371After a decent lunch (the hotel serves both vegetarian and non vegetarian food), we went to Bharachukki. As we crossed the bridge over Cauvery, the sight of the river in full spate was breathtaking and scary. As it was monsoon season, dark clouds made the atmosphere ominous. Such weather is nice otherwise it gets very hot at Shivasamudram in non monsoon seasons.

DSC09141DSC09150There are lot of steps leading down to the Bharachukki waterfall too like in Gaganchukki. One can go boating in the famous round coracles till the point just beneath the waterfall. But the steps are closed off during the full flow of the waterfall to prevent any accidents. One can sit in nice seating area around the place and enjoy the view. Beware of the monkeys!!! Too many of them around and they literally chase you if you have any eatable or even beverage in your hand. DSC09166

DSC09183The gates close at around 6 pm so one must plan the itinerary accordingly. One can also include Talakad in the itinerary since it is just 35 kms from Shivasamudram.

Categories: Karnataka, Nature, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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.

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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.

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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

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.

Categories: Gujarat, Historical, Religious, Road Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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…

Categories: Cities, Gujarat, Historical | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Digha Chronicle Part 1

As mentioned in my earlier post, we went on a 3 day trip to Digha beach. Digha is the most popular sea beach and tourist spot in West Bengal. It is known as “Brighton of the East”.

9th Dec 2010: It had got dark by the time we reached Digha station; all because we had missed the first train, took the next train to Digha and got delayed by three hours. Digha station looked quite new and clean. I guess to promote tourism, WBTDC has spruced up the place. Also there are 4-5 trains from Kolkata to Digha!

Nice carriage like rickshaws are available outside; something which I haven’t seen anywhere in Kolkata. Digha is divided into two areas – Old Digha and New Digha. We decided to stay at New Digha. There are many hotels,lodges and restaurants in Digha. We stayed at Hotel Sea Bird. Rates in Digha vary seasonally. Hotel Sea Bird is a good hotel located near the beach, with okay rates and an in-house restaurant on the ground floor with good service and tasty food.

After freshening up, all of us went for a stroll on the beach. The beaches of Digha are flat and wide. The sea looked ominous in the dark. The tide gets high at night so there are stone embankments to prevent the water from flooding the town. Due to high tide and chances of theft, it is advisable to not go to beach side after 9-9.30 pm. New Digha has a lively market which we planned to explore the next day as most of the shops had closed down by that time. We came back to our hotel, had tasty dinner and retired to our rooms.

10th Dec 2010: Woke up to overcast skies and lovely cool weather. Had breakfast and went out to beach with our cameras. Had fun roaming and photographing around the beach and the sea.


One strange thing about Digha is, unlike any coastal area, the vegetation doesn’t consist of coconut trees. There are sort of pine trees along the beach! There are hardly any coconut trees in the area!

Beaches of Digha are interconnected and if you can walk, you can explore from Old Digha to Talsari Beach on foot. But we just explored till the end of New Digha Beach. (Screenshot from wikimapia)

Due to weekend, the beach was crowded as lots of people had come over from Kolkata. There were pony and horse rides available. Also there were several green coconuts i.e. daab stalls on the beach with long benches for people to sit. The daabs were very tasty!!

Roamed around till late afternoon. Was feeling ravenous by then. Headed for the hotel restaurant for lunch. At Digha, there are several cheap eateries too which serve good quality Bengali food and all sorts of fish delicacies. It is difficult to find a pure veg restaurant at Digha. I don’t remember seeing any. After lunch we retired to our rooms.

To Be Continued.

 

Categories: Beaches, West Bengal | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
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