Incredible India, India Travel, Tourism, Travel

The Blue Mountains

Mountains have a different story to tell. They stand tall, firm, high up touching the clouds and also support livestock. People are also dependent on these mountains, at least the mountains in Northern States of Indi and Nepal protect the subcontinent from the dry winds of the Gobi Desert and traps the monsoon clouds. Well, Himalayas, the mighty Himalayas have helped us Indians in many ways and we pay our tribute to it by exploring the mountains. But there is one particular hill station that has an amazing charm to it. It was the summer retreat for the Britishers during the British Raj. Even today old buildings speak of the grand way the Britishers stayed there. The place is Mussoorie, some 500 kilometers from New Delhi and one of the many places where I would love to go countless times.

Mussoorie has a charm of its own. From dense thick forest cover to the clouds covering up the mighty Himalayas, the small hill town has appealed to me in countless ways. It is just a 7-hour drive from New Delhi and I have been there almost 5 to 6 times, but always with a gaze in my eyes and wondering to discover something new this time. If the weather conditions are perfect, Mussoorie is the ideal place for spotting the various mountain ranges and in turn giving it a blue hue. Whenever I feel an urge to go, this place pops up in my mind out of nowhere.

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A silent walk by the Mall Road leads to the heart of the town. This part of the town is prone to good bistros and cafe. However it is very difficult to spot a good quality premium bar here, although most of the restaurants serve liquor. There is not many plces to view here, but circling Mussoorie one can plan a trip to countless places like Kanatal camping grounds, Dhanaulti, Chakhrota, Yamunotri, etc. to name a few. Some waterfalls are here and fetch large number of tourists. Increased tourism although has almost finished their natural beauty; all thanks to littering and plastics. The major one is Kempty Falls located 13km away from the city.

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Kempty Falls, Mussoorie is a major tourist attraction.

But if one has a keen eye to observe nature, the blue hills can be spotted if traveled around the city. They are a pure delight and mesmerizes the human mind in many ways.

 

One just has to look for these. I somehow feel associated with this place and the mountains. Here’s a glimpse of the small town and the blue mountains. When I am depressed or when my travel bug kept biting, Mussoorie never failed to astonish me.

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** Disclaimer: It is to be duly noted that I have not edited any one of the photos to give it a blue look and also didn’t shoot any of these photos in the Incandescent mode of my camera.

 

Incredible India, India Travel, IndiaTravel, Tourism, Tours&Travel, Travel

A Roadtrip Through the Heart of India

Madhya Pradesh, which is made up with two, words i.e. ‘Madhya’ which means Central and ‘Pradesh’ which means state. So Madhya Pradesh is located in the central part of India or you can say in the heart of India. Whenever the TV commercial for Madhya Pradesh Tourism used to get aired which said “Hindustan ka Dil dekho” which means in Hindi “See the heart of India”, made me curious to see and learn about this state.

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India map displaying Madhya Pradesh which is the central part of the country. Image Credit : http://www.sehore.nic.in

I decided to go on a road trip through the heart of India. The route undertaken was Mumbai – Sanchi – Khajuraho – Orchha – Indore – Mumbai. A total trip of 2600 Kms in 6 Days. I left my home at early morning 6:00 AM so I can avoid traffic and can reach the highway by sunrise. One thing, which I prefer not to miss during my road trips are the sunrise. It’s always so mesmerizing to see the sun rise through the cloud and slowly the orange ball turns up int a huge ball as the clock ticks the right time, around 6-30AM in the morning.

My first stop was Bhopal, which was 772km away from Mumbai. It was a 17 hours’ drive from Mumbai. As it was 8:30 in the night when I reached Bhopal, I stayed in a small ‘dhaba’ or a motel. The stay along with the meal was charged just Rs.280. Sleeping under a sky on a highway with your luggage tied up on your motorcycle is totally a different feeling. As the morning sunrise hit me, I woke up to a fresh feeling and moved towards my next destination Khajuraho that was 332 kms away, but on the way i need to visit Sanchi Stupa also.

Sanchi Stupa situated near to Bhopal is just a 40 Kms drive. Sanchi is a Buddhist Complex, famous for its Great Stupas. The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the Oldest Stone structure in India and was originally commissioned by the great ruler King Asoka in 3rd Century BC. The original Construction of the stupa was overseen by Asoka. The Stupa has mostly Brahmi Inscription on it and mostly all of them talk about donations in small or big term. They all are of a great historical significance. It is to be remembered that it was King Asoka who solely is responsible for the spread of Buddhism from India to South East Asia.

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Sanchi Stupa. Image credits : sanchi.org

After visiting Sanchi i went ahead towards my next destination Khajuraho. The distance of Khajuraho from Sanchi was approx. 350 Kms which I thought to get covered in 6-7 Hours. I reached the destination in the estimated time. I reached Khajuraho and decided to stay in a Hostel in Khajuraho. They charged me Rs.350 for a night, which was an air-conditioned dormitory. Someone truly said, “While you are on a journey, you will meet few people who will be a part of your travel story.” I meet three people from South Africa, Taiwan and China and we connected instantly. Therefore, we decided to watch the light and sound show which was an amazing experience followed by dinner in a nice restaurant.

The perception what people still have for India is still old and highly preconceived. They believe that in India they have Parda system still prevailing. They still believe that whenever we hear a song we start dancing on the street and many other things. As we talked and talked, I cleared their doubts with a few places to visit for their future trip to India. The next day i visited the temples, which I wanted to, visited from a long time ago. I was mesmerized by the architectural marvel of the temples. I think that I have never seen such magnificent and graceful temples ever. The architecture of the temples had Nagra style architectural symbolism. The main features of the temples are the erotic sculptures, which are on the walls of the temples. History states that at one point of time, the population was not increasing and the ruler felt that the dynasty and his kingdom can never flourish if such continued and hence decided to inscribe eroticism on the walls of the temples. Kamasutra theory and it is a world known fact that it originated from India.

 

Most of the temples in Khajuraho were built between 950 and 1050 BC. by the Chandela Dynasty. There were historical notes, which said that there were 85 temples by the 12th Century spread across 20 square kilometers, but now only 25 temples have survived. The Khajuraho group of temples were built together but were dedicated to two religion Hinduism and Jainism. The Khajuraho Temples represent one expression of many forms of art and are dedicated to Vishnu, which includes Vyalas, which are hybrid imaginary animals with Lion’s Body. Some 10% of these iconic sculptures and carvings are sexually themed and shows various sex positions. A common misconception is that the old carvings and structures depict sex between deities, However, the kama arts represents the diverse expression of different human beings. The vast majority of arts depict various aspects of everyday life.

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After visiting and seeing Khajuraho I moved to my next destination, Orchha, which is 178 kilometers from Khajuraho. It’s Orchha where Lord Ram is still worshipped as a king and not as lord. The journey from Khajuraho to Orchha was a 4 hours’ drive. With no expectations in mind, I rode towards Orchha. I managed to find a guest room which charged me Rs.250 for a day.

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Age old cenotaphs of Orchha. In view is the Betwa river.

Orchha is a historic town situated on the banks of the river Betwa. Bundel Rajput Chief Rudra Pratap Singh established it in 16th Century. The main attractions to see in Orchha are Raja Mahal, Jahangir Mahal, Ram Raja Mandir, Royal Chattirya and Chattarbhuj Mandir. The Mahals in the Main Orchha Fort has influences from Bundel style and Mughal style of architecture. As the great Mughal emperor Jahangir was close to Raja Rudra Pratap he built an entire palace for the stay of Jahangir as he was coming to Orchha for a visit. The ancient town of Orchha seems frozen in time, with its many monuments continuing to retain their original grandeur even to this day.

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Jahangir Mahal of the great Orchha Fort

After Orchha it was time to return back to home so I decided to break the journey into two parts. First part Orchha – Indore and second Indore – Mumbai. As both the distance were almost equal. It took me 10 hours to reach to Indore from Orchha. Also while coming back, I crossed the Tropic of Cancer which was for me the best moment in this road trip. I reached Indore by 5:30 PM so in the evening I decided to go to the famous Sarafa Bazaar, which is famous for its street food. I was more excited for Sarafa Bazaar because it was covered in many food shows. After reaching Sarafa bazaar my mind was blown seeing the different varieties of unique street food. The taste of every item was unique and it was something, which I had never tried out before. It has a mix of all the flavors.

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My companion and passion, Abira.

Now it was time to return home. Exhausted, drained yet replenished with a lot of experiences and meeting some amazing people on the entire course of the journey, it was a trip worth remembering. Traveling has always opened my eyes and mindset to brand new levels and it will continue to do so. It doesn’t matter where you go but what matters is how easily one can get used to the feeling that it is time to get lost and there’s no chain that can hold yourself back. Traveled through the heart of India and truly it’s incredible India.

Incredible India, India Travel, Tourism, Tours&Travel, Travel

Agra Fort – 11 Interesting Facts

Agra is a small city in northern India and situated at 225 kilometers from India’s capital city, New Delhi. The city is famous for the Taj Mahal, built by the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan when the love of his life i.e. his wife, Mumtaz died during childbirth. His love was so intense that he entirely made a mausoleum constructed over the grave of Mumtaz. Till date, the Taj Mahal or simply the Taj doesn’t fail to wonder the visitors and is a wonder of the world. A lot has been spoken about the Taj but what seems another important historical place, mostly remains in the shadows which is the Agra Fort. The Mughal dynasty ruled most of the vast plains of northern India from this very fort. It was in 1638 AD that the capital city of the empire was shifted to Delhi. The foundation stone of the empire started right from the Agra Fort which in its initial days was simply known as ‘Badalgarh’ which means the city of the clouds.

 

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The entry gate to the fort also known as Amar Singh Gate.

 

Here are some interesting facts about the fort, which I recently visited with my parents and our guide was highly helpful in making us go through the history of the fort and its facts and figures.

  • The strategic location of the fort was of vital importance to every dynasty that decided to take control of Agra. It was Babur, who first captured the city and built the fort. After he lost his battle with Sher Shah Suri, the fort was taken over by the Suri dynasty who ruled till 1555 AD and finally was taken back by Akbar and he made it redesigned using red sandstone. So in a period reigning from 1526 to 1556, three dynasties took control of the fort.
  • Most part of the fort is made of red sandstone. It was Akbar who had a fantasy for red walls and architectures made of sandstone. He brought some 4000 plus premium sandstone from the quarries spread across northern India to build the fort as he wanted.
  • Upon entering the fort from the southern gate, visitors can see a 60-degree inclined walkway to move up to the main complex of the fort. However, it was made 60 degrees inclined so that during the siege the enemy elephants and horses can’t climb with great efficiency. Moreover, super heated oil used to be poured down so that the entrance gets jammed. This indicated brilliant usage of science and architecture of those times.

 

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This is the area of 60 degree inclination. Hot oil used to get poured along the walls. The marks are easilly spotted in the picture.

 

  • Agra Fort was the symbol of power, strength, and resilience of those times. The fort runs parallel to the Yamuna river and the moat, till date, remains connected to the river. Mighty gates around the fort in its four directions, made it highly impregnable of those times.
  • The fort shows us a classic example of the lavish lifestyle of the Mughal kings. The Sheesh Mahal, made of Belgian glass, was of vital importance to the recreational activity of the Mughal kings. Although it is now closed for the visitors, but legends say that lighting a candle in one corner of the room would light up the room in numerous ways and the light rays criss-cross each other in a magnificent way, credits to the angular positioning of the glass.
  • Although it shows and is a classic example of Islamic architecture, but the fort has a separate section for Hindu temples and places where Hindu people would worship their gods. It was since Akbar’s wife, Jodha Bai, was a Hindu, so Akbar out of love and loyalty and faith in his kingdom had made Hindus equally accessible to the benefits of the fort. This certainly strikes a classic symbol of humanity, devoid of religion and its conflicts.

 

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Hindu domed temple, much like the princely states of Rajasthan, inside the Agra Fort.

 

  • Today, much of the fort is covered in white marbles. It was Akbar’s son, Shah Jahan, who had an ever longing desire for palaces in pure white color, brought the white marbles from the various region in India and Iran and made the vital section of the fort reconstructed.
  • During the reign of Shah Jahan and Akbar, vital dignitaries from far-flung areas of the world used to visit the fort. A special section for such meetings of importance was made and it was called the Diwan-E-Khas. The fort was also the center of Islamic learning and literacy and was flocked by preachers and teachers from the Middle East and Central Asia.
  • The location of the fort is of such strategic importance that 80% of the fort, as of now, is under the control of the Indian Military and is closed to the public. So from this, we can clearly imagine on what basis the fort was built at that time.

 

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The Taj Mahal, as seen from the Agra Fort

 

  • Agra Fort was plundered and looted by various dynasties once the Mughal power started to weaken. It was Shah Jahan’s famous peacock throne that had the world famous Koh-i-Noor diamond. It was Nadir Shah, a great Persian ruler who had an eye for the diamond. He attacked the fort and plundered and looted the throne and along goes the diamond from India to Persia and finally in the hands of the British.
  • Agra Fort is much devastated till date. The gold and ruby plated walls, gems embedded on them and all the luxurious and lavish Mughal decorations was dismantled and looted by the Britishers. Selling these items to traders the British started to gain money and supremacy over the region. Had those not been looted and plundered, the fort would have been a striking marvel, far more beautiful than the Taj Mahal.

 

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All these walls were enalid with precious stones and gems. Some were even brought from the mines of the Middle East and Africa.

 

Located 3kms upstream from the Taj Mahal, the fort can be reached by rickshaws at a very nominal fare. It took us 40 rupees to reach to the fort and the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort can be covered in a single day. So we hired a cab and it costed somewhere around 5000 rupees for the entire trip. If anyone is in New Delhi and doesn’t make a trip to Agra then certainly the traveler is missing a vital piece of Indian architecture. Nothing is complete if the Taj Mahal is not visited. So here it is.

 

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Maintenance work is going on, on one of the pillars.

 

 

Incredible India, India Travel, Tourism, Tours&Travel, Travel

I Don’t Love Delhi At All (Part 1)

Delhi commonly called as “Dil walo ka shahar hai ye” (the city for the people with a good heart and the romantics), is the capital of India. With an estimated population of 25 million people, New Delhi is the second most populous city in the world and the most populated in India. I moved to this city in 2012 and quickly adapted myself to the people, aura, and charisma of what New Delhi offers to its new inhabitants. But to be honest, I don’t love Delhi at all. I was born and brought up in Kolkata, another metropolitan city of India and the largest in the eastern part of the country is 1646km away from New Delhi. For the first time in my life, I ventured away from my hometown for my post-graduation and the only question that was running at the back of my mind was, where have I come? I just hate Delhi.

There is this highly prevalent English proverb i.e. Like Father Like Son. For me it’s somehow different, the thought process and looking at life, I am more of my mother. She is one woman who is always ready to explore and find love in discovering new avenues to monuments. She has that keen interest in seeing historical monuments that sometimes makes me stare at her with amazed eyes. History, rich architecture and New Delhi goes hand in hand, and hence her love for Delhi was never lost. Like mother like son, my mother sent me to Delhi for higher studies and I just don’t like this place.

#IndiavsDelhi

After the horrific Nirbhaya rape case incident that sent a shockwave across the nation, the rest of India has presumed that people here are too much rowdy and have no mannerism at all. Girls’ safety in Delhi is a big concern and eve teasing is rampant, this is the notion that people have. Well, to be frank, after the rape incident happened, even I was thinking that where have I come? So one day I was stuck at Rajiv Chowk metro station. My debit card was not working at all and I was left cashless and to my sheer surprise, I had no balance in my prepaid SIM card. I had no other option than queuing in front of the ticket counter and ask the people for their cellphone so that I can at least call my banker dad and he can look into the matter. Out of nowhere, a young Punjabi guy just handed me 50rs and told me to stand in the queue. I never asked for money, but his subtle gesture spoke more than words can ever speak. Another thanks I will owe is to our honorable prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi. One sudden night I get to hear about banning of the currency notes. However, I cannot ban my passion for photography. So with a mere 250 bucks in my wallet, I ventured out to explore the lanes and by-lanes of Chandni Chowk. I didn’t realize when I ran out of cash that I had to keep walking and asking people for random directions to the nearest Metro Station. I reached out to a shopkeeper, a mid-age Muslim man, complexion was fairly fair and white beard, and asked him for the nearest metro station and the road to get there. Listening to my turmoil he again handed me a 100rs note and that too upon a lot of rejection requests that I had to accept it from him and the conversation ended with sweet words, “insaan hume banaya gaya hai insaaniyat dikhane ke liye” (we have been created a humans just for the sake of humanity) I can never forget the man and the help he did to me. See, I told you, the people who live in Delhi are very bad, they are rowdy, all sorts of miscreants and bad, terribly bad people live here, but hey, I have never faced such issues here. One thing is for sure, the people here know how to treat people. The people of Delhi never fail to amaze me. Thugs, people who pick pockets reside in every city. Then its bitter injustice for the Indian media to single out Delhi in every situation when an incident of rowdiness or rape is reported.

#RichInHistory

Delhi has been the pivotal point of India since ages. The sultans who tried to conquer India from time to time always had the priority to capture Delhi first, and then focus on the rest of the country. Delhi has seen change of thrones for generations. However, most of the time, Delhi and the surrounding region has stayed under Islamic rulers and their dominance. Five dynasties ruled over Delhi Sultanate sequentially, the first four of which were of Turkic origin: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90); the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320); the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414); the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51); and the Afghan Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). Much of Delhi’s architecture is a mix of every dynasty’s artisans. People from every dynasty contributed to shaping Delhi in a way that a blend of Indo-Persian to Indo-Afghan or Indi-Turkish architecture can be observed in the historical monuments of the city, most of which are in ruins, except the ones which have been recognized under UNESCO World Heritage Site program.

 

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The picture shown above is the view of the great Safdarjung’s Tomb.

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The above picture is of the Qutab Minar along with the tomb of a famous architect of that era.

From the stupendous beauty of Safdarjung’s tomb to the greatest and the tallest tower of that generation i.e. the Qutab Minar, rich heritage can be observed everywhere. The burial place of Humayun, the second Mughal emperor to rule India and undoubtedly Delhi, is today known as Humayun’s Tomb. It is managed by the Archeological Survey of India and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was built in 1572, by Bega Begum, the first wife of Humayun and the manufacturing cost was stumbling 1.5 million rupees of that time. It’s a site of wonders.

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Humayun’s tomb is rich in its design and architectural wonders.

In the second part of the story, I will continue stating why I don’t love Delhi at all where different sorts of foods have killed my taste buds totally. Feeling excited? Stay tuned for more!

India Travel, Tours&Travel, Travel

The land of Mists and Unknown Wonders

Hills and mountains have the definitive charm of their own. The hop ill station flocked by many tourists yet many fail to discover the true hidden secrets of the place. For that you don’t have to travel but there must be an urge to explore the place and which I did effectively on my visit to Matheran. It is a hill station located 80kms away from Mumbai and is always crowded. Yet the place holds many hidden places which is unknown to the people because you need to walk long distances for that.

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Matheran is accessible both by railways and roads. From Mumbai it is merely a 3 hour drive through Panvel highway. Daily trains to Neral (the nearest station) are available from CST on the CST Karjat rail route and also trains to Pune stop at this station. Cabs ply from the station premises to the hill station gate and charges Rs.70/- per person. The route cutting down the Western Ghats and crossing the narrow gauge line is fantabulous and since I visited during monsoons it was lush greenery all around. It felt that the mountains have evolved into a new form and the mountains resembled those green one which we find in fairy tale books.

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Its peak monsoon season in the western part of India and the sky is overcast and sometimes it was drizzling. One thing worth noting down is that the government doesn’t allow any vehicle to reach atop the hill. So the cabs left us some 5kms away from the station where a big gate welcomed us saying WELCOME TO MATHERAN. It a 2hour walk from that place till you reach the top of the hill where you will find plenty of hotels for your accommodation. The trail is easily spotted with numerous people following the same route. The best one is to reach the nearest station on the narrow gauge line through the gravelled path and then follow the railway line. It led us to our final destination. But what we discovered was a mere spectacle that only monsoon season can provide.Such marvels and wonderful sightseeing only the Western Ghats can provide and it happens only during the monsoon season. Imagine following the uphill trail while the clouds cover your entire view and no wander you get to see only a few meters ahead of you and every step to be taken very carefully. No matter it was an adventure but with a lot of precautions and on top of that incessant rainfall and water gushing from here and there obstructing swift movement trekking to uphill. The eroding red mountain soil adds more to the difficulty but the continuous movement of people uphill adds more to the excitement and thrill. Finally it was managed in a 3 hour span of time. Matheran has its own environment and weather up the mountain where sunshine and rainfall goes hand in hand during the monsoons. If you’re lucky you can spot rainbows arching over the hilltops and yes of course the flat top mountains. If clouds have mercy on you then countless waterfalls will make your stay enjoyable. Prefer to stay in the cottages rather than the hotels on the mall road. The cottages are located further inland and covered by the jungle of the place. So this adds more to the beauty of the stay. No doubt the place is rather safe apart from the drunken behaviour of some of the tourists but nothing that much harmful enough. Its safe for women but since during monsoon the place is too misty its advisable to enjoy inside the rooms rather than lurking out in the streets post 9 PM.

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The places of interest in the place are plenty and worth exploring every place namely Charlotte Lake, One Tree Hill, Beverly Point, etc. But you must have that explorer spirit to truly enjoy Matheran. Just by visiting the places you’d google perhaps, Matheran isn’t you destination then. Walk, get wet in the rains, let your body get tired, let the thorns of the jungles prick you and horses come running in your way, that’s Matheran for me. Worth a visit specially during the monsoon season.

India Travel, Tours&Travel, Travel

Daman – Where Liquor Speaks

Daman, located on the west coast of India is an Union Territory. The main source of income for the locals of the area is tourism, followed by the emerging coconut industry and fishing. Tourists from all over the country go to Daman mainly to lay off for some weeks. It is a good place for resting as there is nothing much to explore except some old colonization Portuguese forts and some churches. The beaches however is one vital attraction but that too on the ground of leisure, where you lay under the umbrellas placed alongside the beach and beer and other drinks and fried fish will be served to you.
I started my trip for Daman at 630AM from Mumbai and by 10AM we were in Daman. The highway drive through the hills and lush greenery was truly amazing and one must take that drive in case someone is fond of long drives. Its the Surat Mumbai Express Highway and not a single complain about the experience. Pretty smooth and sexy driving experience I had. As soon as you enter the state of Gujarat the first town that comes along the highway is Vapi. The immediate left from the main controlling circle of the town leads to Daman.
The city is terribly small with few thousands people living and mostly filled with tourists. Daman is pretty much disappointing in the early hours of morning. I already said that I reached at 10AM when the low tides were at its peak and the water in the seas retreated almost two kilometers back. I was travelling with my parents and even they were disappointed.
The water started coming close to the shoreline by 2PM and the crowd by the beach withstood heavy footfall. All kinds of fish delicacy shops were setup and liquor was served alongside the beach. Even I could not resist myself and had a beer or two with my dad and mom. All kinds of fish items are served there from deep fried fishes to fish fillets dipped in sauce to make it more spicy.
However to experience you must visit this place. One must visit Ciudad De Daman for the ultimate lunch all kinds of food experience because the restaurant is open air and located by the sea. One advice is to stay away from Devka Beach during the high tides as the underlying ground is really rocky and hazardous to try to swim in those waters. Jampore Beach is pretty much smooth and cool and is the prime tourist attraction.


Cottage, India Travel, Mountains, Reviews, uttaranchal

Himalaica – Your Second Abode

Nested in the greenery of the Kumaon Mountains is the incredibly majestic cottage of Mr. and Mrs. Dave. It is named Himalaica. During my stay in the cottage, well it is one of the exquisite of the cottages in the Kumaon region is all I can say undoubtedly, I have endured supreme luxury and peace of mind and soul. What is important is what impression Himalaica will give you in your first visit. To me it is nothing more than a mini castle of a Kumaon prince who wants to escape the royalties of the kingdom and wants to enjoy the luxury somewhere in the lap of the mountains. Right from the entrance gate to the interior decorations, the showpiece arrangements in the room, wood and glass based architectural design of the guest lobby and just everything, my impression was thoroughly justified. The arched pathway from the main gate to the so said ‘mini castle’ is decorated with various flowers where you will find various species of birds chirping. The chirp-chirps and the colour bloom of the flowers is a delight to the eyes and ears. It gives you the feeling of bliss and once you step inside the cottage it’s the bliss for eternity.

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For the bookworms like me who wants to idle away the time, feel lucky, Himalaica has a dedicated library for you. The collection and the way the reading room is decorated with a fireplace at one side, at least gave me ample reasons to spend time mostly in the reading room. The books are of various genres from trekking expedition stories to hunting in the jungles of the Kumaon, the collection is worth exploring. For movie buffs, there are a large set of movie DVDs which you can enjoy in the theatre room and BOSE Music System will surely make your stay more thrilling and fun. For the people with a different mindset, either you can sleep all day long in the cosy and comfy beds or just take a hike along the mountain roads where you’ll come across villages and can also enjoy bird watching.

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I would recommend that the best time to visit is in November and December when you can enjoy the sudden nip in the temperatures. This time period is perfect to enjoy the chill on a midway scale between too harsh or too mild. Even if the weather turns bad you don’t need to worry. Grab a book, a drink and sit by the fireplace. Time spent worth cherishing for. As in my case I was locked inside by the heavy downpours and trust me, I was not at all bored. The books, the TV and the three dogs ( Raja, Lama and Cyber) made my stay amazing, plus the hospitality of Basant ji and Madhavi ji. They took care of me throughout my stay and left me no option to raise an eye. If you have a hobby or a passion for something, then Himalaica is a perfect place for you, it worked out well for me. Had I not stayed there for a short stint, I could have relaxed a lot enjoying the list of my hobbies. There is scope for you to do that. For photographing the region, there is no better place to stay than Himalaica. Even in the cottage perimeter you can roam around with you camera snapping the serenity of the mountains.

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One point to be specially considered worth describing is the lamps and lights of Himalaica. In every room you go there is something special about the lights. From the kitchen, bedroom, dining space or the guest lobby, lamp collection will surely astound you. Lights do tell the story in a very different way. People don’t generally prefer rooms where in-spite of good decorations and stuff, illuminations doesn’t fit well. Here that is the thing which you are bound to notice. The various owl and Lord Ganesha showpieces are also there to blow away your mind. I was just wondering what the makers had in their mind while decorating the interiors of the cottage. Everything is so well perfectly fitted. There is nothing where you can express your grievance. I could not find any. But the thing is if someone becomes too much sceptical, then also there is problem for the visitor, being sceptical about Himalaica would not land him anywhere.

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This is the note for the people tired of their lives in the cacophony of the city and wants a desperate escape. Reach Himalaica is what I should recommend. A weekend stay in the cottage is bound to replenish your mind with lots of positive vibe and joy for life. Rejuvenate yourself with a minimum of 3-4 days stay and if stay is beyond that then there is complete possibility that you return back to work all boosted and charged up. Himalaica serves this great purpose for busy city people like me and others. After my affluent luxurious stay in Himalaica this is what I can say. Head on and relax your perplexed and troubled mind with some positivity and reap the benefits. Live well and stay healthy. After all “Health is Wealth”.

India Travel, Kolkata, Tourism, Travel

5 Things that People from Kolkata can only Understand

Kolkata, old name Calcutta has a definitive charm on its own. One of the metropolitan cities of India and the largest city in eastern India was the old capital of India during the British Raaj. Home to the Bengali speaking people of the nation Kolkata has its own story to tell. Birthplace of all the honorary laureates of the country like Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, etc. this city has its old glory, nostalgia and kindness which unless visited cannot be realized.

Image courtsey : sporcle.com
   Kolkata city aerial view Image courtesy : sporcle.com
The second hooghly bridge has its own glamour.  Image courtsey  : espncricinfo
The second hooghly bridge has its own glamour.
Image courtesy : espncricinfo
  • The Aura of College Street

College Street is the place where you find books and plenty of books. Books both modern and grand old can be found here. Numerous stalls line down the road. But its not only a place for books. Love, romance, coffee and all intellectual and friendly gossips hone College Street. Thanks to epic old Coffee House. The pond of College Square has numerous stories to tell.

Image courtsey : flickr.com
Coffee House ground floor. It always remains crowded and filled with spirits of joy. Image courtesy : flickr.com
Image courtsey : ghumakkar.com
Makeshift book stores along the pavement. Although makeshift the collection of these stores are ready to astound you. Image courtesy : ghumakkar.com
  • Dusk and Prinsep Ghat

Princep Ghat has always been the place of lovebirds and the painters and photographers. An evening stroll down the road by the River Hooghly replenishes the mind with much positivity. Added benefit to visiting the place is the boatmen who ferries the customers at a nominal cost across the Hooghly River. Watching the sunset from the lazy boat on the river is one thing the Kolkata people cannot ignore. This place mostly flocked by the youths with all guitars and cameras adds a definitive charm.

The Hooghly Bridge
The Hooghly Bridge
  • Victoria Memorial Garden

This is one of the prominent landmarks of the city. The Victoria Memorial hall, built on memorandum of the death of Queen Victoria is a museum and a public visiting spot. The entire boundary complex comprises of five lakes. Kolkata people just cannot forget the time they spent sitting by the lakes and chit chatting old school gossips. This place also marks the prominent destination for the newly formed couples. This has always been their chosen place. Its really hard to erase the memory one acquires sitting by one of those lakes of Victoria Memorial Hall.

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  • Winter and Visit to the Zoo

Kolkata people are very much fond of visiting the zoo which by far is the oldest in the country. On a wintry Sunday morning families visit the zoo. This zoo has made many childhood memories worth memorizing. Families spending quality time on the big lawns of the zoo, who can forget that. Not only Kolkata but people from the outskirts make a proper plan to visit the zoo. Such is its power to attract visitors. Simply a place that children of the 90s cannot forget.

  • Trams

There has been countless debates on whether these old trams plying the roads should be removed. But all the time they have won over the debate. Trams adds a nostalgic British era feel to the city. A tram ride along the big Maidan on any day of the 365 is remarkable. Trams, subjected to countless documentaries and nostalgia still runs through the heart of the city making the ride joyous and worthwhile.

Tram in front of Fort William
Tram in front of Fort William
Trams in College Square
Trams in College Square

** Being myself a photographer from Kolkata I have used images which I found in my collection. Kindly refer to image courtesy for the images I have used from the web.

Himalayas, India Travel, Tourism

The White Cottage – The Place to Rejuvenate Your Soul

It is early November and that winter is coming. This season certainly is the best time to relax and chill. The sheer chill of the north Indian winds straight from the Himalayas and a warm cup of coffee or tea, based upon your preference, what more do you need. Oh yes story books and for the writers their laptop or just a diary. But I wish you could have done that in everyday life during the winter months. Just sit down with your tea or coffee and relax. Your work and tension exactly is the sole reason that you remain deprived of doing these which crave for. So sad!

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But worry not. While you plan your winter vacation you can have all these, a perfect seclude away from the cacophony of the city and the high tourist frenzied local hill stations. The White Peaks cottage located close to the proximity of Nainital, Uttarakhand is one such place which offers you that perfect escape to rejuvenate your body, mind and soul. Imagine yourself sitting on a balcony and golden early morning sunlight dripping on face. If you are a fitness guy you can also do Yoga on the cottage’s own lush green ground. Surrounding you will be the mighty Himalayas with all kinds of wild colourful flowers and chirping birds, a delight to your ears n eyes. When its winter the two rooms f the cottage got its own fireplace. So sit by the burning logs and enjoy your time. Welcome to The White Peaks cottage. It will be the perfect endeavour for your troubled soul demanding some place else some peace of mind. You can ebb all your problems from here. Imagine opening your windows from the cottage and watching the snow-capped Himalayan peaks drawing your attention from other worldly pleasures. Nature at its best. If you’re a bird watcher please don’t forget to bring your binoculars here. It will be fruitful.

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Spring is the best season to visit this cottage followed by winter. In spring  the mountains are filled with all kinds of colours specially the red and pink burst of rhododendron and in winter you enjoy the black and white beauty of the mountains. You know what I mean by black and white. So corporate people just keep your work aside for a while and head to this place. A perfect escapade into the wilderness and serenity of the Himalayas. It won’t disappoint you. So just plan and splurge into making a trip to The White Peaks cottage. Happy time and fun time for the relaxation of your minds awaits there.

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For Bookings- mail us at contactwhitepeaks@gmail.com
Call us at 9810050514 or 9810053380

Address : The White Peaks, Mukta Niwas, Post Office Gagar, Village Gagar,

Dist. Nainital, Uttrakhand, Pin-263132

DurgaPuja, Festival, India Travel, Kolkata

Durga Puja Festival – Kolkata comes to Life

Women power have been celebrated throughout Indian history. India needs women empowerment. This created a lot of controversy when Arnab Goswami interviewed Rahul Gandhi. Trolled everywhere in Facebook and Twitter. But when it comes to celebrating the true power of women what clicks first is Calcutta. Bengalis celebrate the Durga Puja to worship Devi Durga for her victory over the devil i.e. the Mahishasura. The main motto of the celebration is to celebrate the triumph of Devi Durga, the true triumph of the women spirit.From the fighting skills of Rani Laxmibai to the spirit of Jodhabai in the Mughal era, women spirit takes it eternal place. When it comes to the mythological part Devi Durga or commonly regarded as Durga mata takes the place. In Hinduism, Mother Durga represents the embodiment of shakti, the divine feminine force which is the power of all creation.  It is known that Durga emerged from the collective energies of all of the gods mainly Shiva (her husband), Vishnu and Brahma to slay the demon whose atrocities were beyond toleration in the God’s kingdom and hence was slain. Devi Durga emerges holding 10 different weapons in her 10 hands. She is thus the compassionate savior of all of the gods and the universe. Durga Puja is celebrated for a span of 10 days the first day being called Mahalaya and Navratra (meaning in sanksrit ‘the ninth day’) being the penultimate and Dashera being the last day of the festival. Dushera is pretty famous in northern parts of India.

  

The sixth to the tenth day is celebrated with charm and piousness in West Bengal. Kolkata, Asansol, Burdwan, Durgapur and Siliguri, these cities being the centre of attraction. On the tenth day the clay idol is immersed in the rivers or ponds, mainly a water body whichever is nearby.

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The preparation for this festival starts 5 to 6 months prior the festival begins. The clay idol is prepared in scattered places across Kolkata the prime being the Kumortuli area alongside the River Hooghly. It is the residing place for the best idol makers in the city, the Pauls being the recognized persons. Durga idols are made out of clay 5-6 feet in height and some even higher depending upon the order they get. Not only Durga but all the idols worshipped in Kolkata are made there including Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Maa Kali. The idol makers of Kumortuli are handsomely paid for their work. The prepared clay idols are then painted with sprays to make it look attractive. Jewellery is embodied upon them and sarees prepared out of jute or simple silk is clad onto the idols. This wholesome appearance of the idol with a saree and proper jewellery gives the appearance of Ma or simply Mother which people can easily relate to. All these are done in Kumortuli itself. The major credit to the charm of the festival, which attracts lots of visitors goes to these idol makers and the craftsmen out there who stays most of the year away from the limelight.

    

The Dhaak is played in most of the local puja pandals. The Dhaak players commonly called the ‘Dhakees’ in Bengal come to Kolkata from all around the state and neighboring states of Bihar and Odisha to get employed for these 5-6 days and earn some living out of the ordinary. Again hard luck for them, some do not get a contract at all. They in turn return back to their homes helplessly.

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In Calcutta (now Kolkata) and whole of West Bengal this festival is celebrated with much glory and oomph. The City of Joy comes to life during this time of the year. The particular trend is that the localities and puja committee members choose a theme and decorate the pandal accordingly. There are numerous sponsors and the committee members do their best marketing possible to grab a sponsorship for their puja and hence bag some awards and brag about it. Different organizations like Asian Paints, Dulux Paints, The Telegraph, times of India, State Bank of India, Berger Paints, etc. go for awarding the best puja according to their judgments. So its basically a festival with a massive scale competition, the competition worth diving for.

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Kolkata mostly regarded as a slow city being a metropolitan city of India comes to life at this point of the year. The festival particularly makes the people go out to the streets to enjoy the charm and the delightfulness of the festival. Banks, government institutions, schools and colleges remain closed for these days. Pandal hopping is very common. Youths to old people and even the middle aged, every age group is found right on the streets or the community center where the idol is being worshipped. The streets comes back to life with lights and creative LED displays. Dining out is very common and mostly for all these 6 days and lunch becomes the mandatory part. College goers and school children chalk out their special plans to make these days more happening. Like the Beach festival in Rio, the Mardi Grass of New Orleans and the Durga Puja of Kolkata, these can be easily compared on the same scale. If you’re missing out this event of the year then you’re missing a big chunk of it. Priority goes to the reunion of old friends, family members getting together and social gatherings, even if you have no contact in the city, you’ll never feel alone or get bored. That’s the charm of the festival. The special and most essential part of the festival is that it is thoroughly enjoyed by all the religions and no bar on any particular region.

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Well its time I talk about the foods available. Typical Bengali people indulge in all the sweets and savories of which Kolkata is famous in India. A proper Bengali dish includes rice, a starter, some veg curry, a fish curry (undoubtedly), chicken items, mutton curry, some curd and rasgullas. Yeah that’s what you have to eat during this time of the year when there is a family get together thing and you’ve come back to your home after a long time since you are away from the city because of your job. I had to go through this torture but worth fully. Restaurants and pubs are open till late real late night. The special attraction of the city has always been rolls, like all types of rolls. Egg roll, chicken roll, paneer roll, chcicken egg paneer roll and the list continues. Finding large chunk of consumers alongside the street roll stalls is a very common view. Restaurants are always crowded and prior reservation to get into the renowned ones is mandatory. The stereotype thing of no alcohol and no smoking during godly festivals is considered hilarious here during this time. Lounges and bars and local smoker pubs are always crowded. People fly in from distant parts just to enjoy and get the thrill.

Bengali people not staying in India or in other metro cities of India form their communities just to organize this Durga Puja. It has an overwhelming fame among the Bengali speaking community. Considering the Indian cities Delhi, Mumbai, Pune has some notably good Durga Puja committees. Their idols and pandal decoration is worth a visit. Internationally London, San Francisco, New York, Adelaide, Melbourne and Bristol has organized Durga Puja. It has reached international level in the last decade. So being a Bengali and proud of my ethnicity I truly admire the efforts we put in just for this festival and it would be great to have its fame spread globally. I better keep my fingers crossed for that. Bengali people are soft hearted and keep themselves out of trouble and dirty politics most of the time. Citing this as an example visit Kolkata during Durga Puja and enjoy the awesomeness of the festival and the city. I say again that you will never feel alone and the trip during this festival will be in your memory book for a long time.