Destinations

Incredible India

India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. India’s history and culture is dynamic, spanning back to the beginning of human civilization. It begins with a mysterious culture along the Indus River and in farming communities in the southern lands of India. The history of India is punctuated by constant integration of migrating people with the diverse cultures that surround India.

Incredible India has been imprinted with the heritage, culture right from the Pre-historic Indus Valley Civilization through the ancient Vedic ages followed through with the formation of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, which again was trailed by Sultans, Mughal, & European colonies.

All the above major influences on the Indian soil combined with the various local princely kingdoms had given Vibrant dimensions to the Incredible India. India takes pride in maintaining the harmony among diversities of 22 recognized languages and about 10 major religions.

The meticulously designed Luxury Train Vacations of Maharajas’ Express takes to these vibrant demography’s of Incredible India. Each one of the five Luxury Train Trips of the Maharajas’ Express would be the apt choice for the Tourists yearning for a Luxury Indian Holidays.

The Luxury Tour Circuits India of Maharajas’ Express covers the majestic TAJ MAHAL,Monument of Love, One among the Seven Wonders of the World and which is testimony to the rich Mughal Architecture, VARANASI, One of the world’s ancient cities. As Mark Twain wrote about Varanasi “Older than history, older than tradition, older even that legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”,JODHPUR, the Blue City which happened to be the capital of the former princely state of Marwar, UDAIPUR, the capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Mewar, founded by Maharana Udai Singh and is one of the oldest surviving dynasties in the world, JAIPUR, the Pink City and the Capital of Rajasthan, LUCKNOW, the land of Nawabs and region famous for its rich cuisines and art forms, RANTHAMBORE, home to the Royal Bengal Tiger and other natural habitats, BIKANER, popularly called the Camel Country and famous for its Sand-Dunes, KHAJURAHO, the city of exotic temple architecture which are superb examples of Indo-Aryan architecture, BALASINOR, home to the 2nd largest Dinosaur fossil park, popularly called Incredible India’s own Jurassic Park, GWALIOR, the seat of Scindia dynasty- a living heritage of heroism steeped in the splendor of its past, AJANTA, a UNESCO heritage site, Osiyan, referred to as “Khajuraho of Rajasthan” due to the multitude of beautiful Hindu and Jain temples it houses.

These Itineraries of Maharajas’ Express across Incredible India is incorporated with the hand-picked off-board Luxury Excursions of Incredible India. Be it the sundowner Cocktails & barbeque at the Sand-dunes at Bikaner, Elephant Polo Match at City Palace, Jaipur, Champagne breakfast at Taj Khema, Agra will be moments to cherish at the Luxury Vacations India.

Join aboard the Maharajas’ Express for an Experience Unsurpassed of Incredible India.

DELHI  – THE NATIONAL CAPITAL OF INDIA

Delhi, India’s capital territory, is a massive metropolitan area in the country’s north. In Old Delhi, a neighborhood dating to the 1600s, stands the imposing Mughal-era Red Fort, a symbol of India, and the sprawling Jama Masjid mosque, whose courtyard accommodates 25,000 people. Nearby is Chandni Chowk, a vibrant bazaar filled with food carts, sweets shops and spice stalls.

Area : 1,484 Sq Kms

Population : 18.98 million

Delhi – The Capital City – is a city that connects two different worlds. Old Delhi is a maze of narrow lanes with old havelis and mosques. Setting a contrast, the colonial city of New Delhi is composed of imposing government buildings and spacious, tree-lined avenues. Delhi has witnessed the supremacy of many rulers and kingdoms. The city was built, destroyed and then rebuilt many a times. Fascinatingly, various rulers Delhi, played a dual role, first as demolishers and then as makers.

The importance of Delhi is not constrained to the majestic history and magnificent structures, but also in the rich cultural diversity of the city. Chroniclers of Delhi Culture, right from Amir Khusro and Chand Bardai to present day writers, have never witnessed a shortage of topics. The city is dotted with dazzling gems, which include captivating ancient monuments, art galleries & museums, architectural wonders, fabulous eating places and vibrant markets.

Delhi has served as a India’s political hub, thus, roots of every political activity could easily be traced here. This legacy has been followed since the mythological era. Indraprastha, which geographically is believed to be the present Delhi, was the capital of the Pandavas of the Mahabharata.

As the history of Delhi is as ancient as the epic Mahabharata, earlier known as Indraprastha, eight more cities, adjacent to Indraprastha, came into light such as Lal Kot, Dinpanah, Ferozabad, Tughlakabad, Siri, Quila Rai Pithora, Jahanpanah, and Shahjahanabad. Over 5 centuries, Delhi has been a spectator to the political turmoil. In succession to Tughlaqs and Khiljis, Delhi was ruled by the Mughals.

The traditional & present capital of India is not only recognized as the largest commercial center in Northern India, but has also marked its prominence as the largest center of small industries. The economy of Delhi is contributed by the IT sector, fashion, electronic, handloom, and textile industry. From October to March are the months to visit Delhi as the climatic condition is favorable. Along with this, the visitors also get the opportunity to witness the vibrant colors of festivals in Incredible Delhi.

JAIPUR – THE PINK CITY

 

Jaipur, popular as “Pink City”, is known for housing some of the best architectural structures and heritage sights of the country. Everything in and around the city appears like the watermark of the rich heritage of the city in the erstwhile days. The local handicrafts, the ancient monuments, the Royal Palaces and the colorful saris, everything around Jaipur give a glimpse into the glorious lives of monarchy.

Area:111.8 sq. km

Established on: November 18, 1727

Founded by: Jai Singh II

 

History

Planned by Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, Jaipur holds the distinction of being the first planned city of India. He designed the city according to strong scientific principles of Shilpa Shastra, the traditional architectural manual and helped in forming Jaipur as India’s best planned city till date.

Renowned globally for its coloured gems, the capital city of Rajasthan combines the allure of its ancient history with all the advantages of a metropolis. The bustling modern city is one of the three corners of the golden triangle that includes Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

The story goes that in 1876, the Prince of Wales visited India on a tour. Since the colour pink was symbolic of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the entire city pink. The pink that colours the city makes for a marvellous spectacle to behold. Jaipur rises up majestically against the backdrop of the forts Nahargarh, Jaigarh and Garh Ganesh Temple.

Jaipur traces back its origins to 1727 when it was established by Jai Singh II, the Raja of Amber. He shifted his capital from Amber to the new city because of the rapidly-growing population and an increasing water scarcity. His rivalry with rulers of Mewar, Sisodia Rajputs formed his alliance with Mughals and gave him importance in Rajasthan.

He ruled from Amber Fort and took over Mewar (Udaipur) and Marwar (Jodhpur) kingdoms. He tried to support Aurangzeb’s son Azam Shah to get the throne after Aurangzeb’s death, but it went to Bahadur Shah, who asked for his banishment from courts.

Jai Singh then formed alliance with other Rajput clans and defeated Mughals and reinstated his position.Jai Singh ordered construction of a city around Amber fort and named it as Jaipur.

Jaipur – The Modern City

There is no doubt in one’s mind why the Pink city is included in almost every itinerary when one plans a tour to India. Jaipur is a city like no other in the world.

The city of Jaipur definitely makes it to the top of the list if one talks about India’s most beautiful destination. The city which acted as the stronghold of varied erstwhile rulers of Rajasthan, the city is flushed with numerous heritage buildings all around itself. The city boasts about treating tourists from all over the world with traditional Royal hospitality.

The city of Jaipur is located right in the center of Thar Desert, and it is this strategic location that has provided her with a unique sense of lifestyle, architecture, culture and history.

Jaipur is ideal when it comes to shopping activities. Tourists travel from faraway lands to this exotic destination and use the opportunity smartly to shop for authentic Rajasthani ornaments, artifacts, embroidered shoes and clothes, pottery items and other exotic items.

Apart from shopping, Jaipur has other things to offer to tourists as well. The Jaipur fairs, pageants and festivals flushed with exceptional people in colorful clothes are as much a spectacle as the shops, houses and Havelis in the city that are all painted in Pink.

Walking around the old city, seeing the magnificent architecture of the town, feeding on the authentically cooked Jaipur cuisines, is just a magical experience. Truly this city is marked for some of the best sightseeing ventures.

The traditional outfit of Jaipur people is very appealing and one definitely would love to try them on himself/herself. For men, the outfit is white colored shirts and dhotis along with spectacularly colored turbans. For women, the colorful swaying saris are perfect.

Right in this magical demonstration of colors, Jaipur houses some of the best tourist attractions. These attractions showcase the significance of the rich cultural aspects of Jaipur.  A tour to some of these attractions is an experience of a lifetime.

SAWAI MADHOPUR

Area: 5042.99 sq km

Founded by: Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I of Jaipur

Founded in: 1756

Location: Around 146 km north-east of Jaipur

GATEWAY TO RANTHAMBORE

Cuddled up in the eastern zone of Rajasthan, Sawai Madhopur is one of the prominent conurbations of Rajasthan. Popularly known as the ‘Gateway to Ranthambore’, the town has seen many historic episodes and reigns. Sawai Madhopur has partly plain and partly undulating hilly terrain. The South and south east part of the district has hills and broken ground which form a part of a vast track of rugged region enclosing the narrow valley of the Chambal river. Surrounded by Vindhyas & Aravalis, this place is a treat for adventure enthusiasts as well as the ones with a fascination for history, with the Ranthambore National park- the most renowned national park in northern India and the Ranthambore Fort which was recently included in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, being the main attractions.

Passed on from the Chauhan Rajput king, Govinda to Vagabhatta, from RanaKumbha to Akbar and Aurangzeb, the city has been patronized by almost all the rulers. Beautification and renovation of the city has been regularly undertaken in almost all the regimes. Under the rule of Rao Hammir, the last Chauhan ruler the Ranthambore region prospered magnificently. In ancient India the region was more popularly known as Ranthambore. It was much later that it received the name, Sawai Madhopurfrom Maharaja SawaiMadhoSinghji I who is believed to have given the city its current plan in 1765 AD. During the British Rule Sawai Man Singh built a railway line between Jaipur and Sawai Madhopur. As a result it became accessible from a central spot in the state of Rajasthan. Today it has grown as one of the popular tourist destination in India.

Former state of Karauli, Ranthambore was amongst the strongest forts of medieval India and is linked to Prithviraj, the ruler of Shakambhari who has golden cupolas put on the Jain temple of Ranthambore. To check the increasing incurious of the Marathas, Madho Singh, the ruler of Jaipur State requested for the grant of the fort of Ranthambore but did not succeed.

 

UDAIPUR

One of the most popular cities in Rajasthan, Udaipur is quite famous for its lakes and palaces. Known as ‘Jewel of Mewar’, this city was founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1553, on the banks of Lake Pichola. Claimed as the most romantic city of the royal state of Rajasthan, it is one of the prime destinations of the week-long journey of the Palace on Wheels. Udaipur boasts of picturesque locations and scenic surroundings offering an amazing vacation option for discerning travellers. Today, it is a perfect mix of old-world charm and contemporary attractions.

Area : 64 sq. km

Established On : In year 1553

Founded by : Maharana Udai Singh

Location : On the Southern End of the Aravalli ranges

THE CITY OF LAKES AND PALACES

Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’, the city of lakes Udaipur is located around azure water lakes and is hemmed in by lush green hills of Aravallis. The famous Lake Palace, located in the middle of Lake Pichola is one of the most beautiful sights of Udaipur. It is also home to Jaisamand Lake, claimed to be the second largest man-made sweet water lake in Asia. The beautiful City Palace and Sajjangarh (Monsoon Palace) add to the architectural beauty and grandeur of the city. The city is also known for its profusion of zinc and marble. Solar observatory in Lake Fateh Sagar is the only observatory in India located on an island and has been made on the pattern of  Big Bear Lake in Southern California. The ten-day Shilpgram Festival which starts from 21 Dec to 30 Dec pulls in a large number of people interested in arts and crafts.

Udaipur was founded in 1553 by Maharana Udai Singh II as the new capital of Mewar Kingdom. It is located in the fertile, circular Girwa Valley to the southwest of Nagda, which was the first capital of Mewar.

 

JODHPUR

Jodhpur is the second largest city of Rajasthan and a major tourist attraction in the country. Situated at the edge of the Thar Desert, it was founded by Rajput chief Rao Jodha in the year 1459. The erstwhile capital of the kingdom of Marwar, Jodhpur is dotted with a number of tourist attractions including forts, palaces, museums, and much more. Also known as the ‘Blue City’ or the ‘Sun City’, it is strategically placed on the road that links Delhi to the western Indian state of Gujarat.

Area : 112.40 square km

Established On :1459

Founded By : Rao Jodha, chief of the Rathore clan

Location :  Located towards the west of Jaipur (Distance: 338 km)

 A DELIGHTFUL BLEND OF THE MODERN AND THE TRADITIONAL

Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan is popularly known as the Blue City. The name is clearly befitting as most of the architecture – forts, palaces, temples, havelis and even houses are built in vivid shades of blue. The strapping forts that tower this magnificent city sum up to a spectacle you would not want to miss. The mammoth, imposing fortress of Mehrangarh has a landscape dominating a rocky ridge with the eight gates leading out of the fortress. The new city is located outside the structure. Jodhpur is also known for the rare breed of horses known as Marwari or Malani, which are only found here.

Jodhpur marks its origin back to the year of 1459 AD. The history of this prosperous city revolves around the Rathore clan. Rao Jodha, the chief of Rathore Clan is credited with the origin of Jodhpur in India. The city is known to be built in place of the ancient capital, Mandore of the state of Manwar. Hence, the people of Jodhpur and surrounding areas are commonly known as Marwaris. Also, it is believed that the relics of Mandore can still be witnessed in the Mandore Gardens.

 

AGRA – The CITY OF TAJ MAHAL

The Mughal City of Agra, fondly referred to as the city of the Taj, is one of the most well-known tourist destinations, all around the globe. Agra is placed on the western banks of the Yamuna also called the city of  Taj Mahal is the perfect finale to your royal sojourn. Agra, the medieval city, is home to a number of tourist attractions including UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Area : 1, 880.40 km2

Established On : 1475

Founded By : Raja Badal Singh, a Sikarwar Rajput king

Location : On the banks River Yamuna towards the southwest corner of Uttar Pradesh state
History

The great Hindu epic Mahabharata mentions Agra, as Agraban, a forest near Mathura. However, Agra was founded by 1475 by Raja Badal Singh, a Sikarwar Rajput king. Sultan Sikander Lodi made Agra his capital in 1501 but he was defeated in battle of Panipat in 1526 by Emperor Babur. Between the mid of 16th and the 17th century, Agra’s popularity was at its zenith when it was under the rule of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan.  This period was the time of construction of Taj Mahal also.

In the year 1761, Agra came into the hands of Jat rulers who also looted some of the most beautiful temples of the city. While in 1770, it was under the reign of the Marathas, the British took over in 1803. After the revolt of 1857, Allahabad became the administrative province of the British and Agra was left on its own. This is when; it developed as a hub of heavy industry. Today Agra is a must-visit destination for all.

Culture

The Agra city is inhabited by people of all religions and cultures and so one can witness a mix of various cultures here. Agra is an amalgamation of traditional and modern way of living. Being close to Lord Krishna’s land Mathura, a touch of Brij culture can be seen here on the language of the locals. However, the influence of Mughal culture can be seen in everything, mannerisms, food, language and buildings.

The people of Agra celebrate all the major festivals such as Diwali, Holi, Taj Mahoysav, Muharrum, Id-ul-Fitr, Id-ul-Adha with great zeal Taj Mahotsav, an annual extravaganza, is a great show of classical dance and music, folk performances, poetry, camel and elephant rides, a food festival, a Craft Mela and more.

Shopping

Agra has a lot to offer if you are one of those who love to indulge in shopping. You can get your hands on mini Taj replicas, as keepsakes and souvenirs. Another item which is a must-buy in Agra is its leather goods such as decorative stuff, bags, purses, sandals and much more. Be careful that you buy only original goods. The handicraft emporiums of Agra sell an array of rosewood and sandalwood items, stone-carved images and decorative pieces, made in brass.
One of the most sought-after items, which you can buy in Agra markets, is beautiful pieces of exquisite Zari work. You also get good-quality carpets and durries here as well. However, the most popular amidst the tourists are the local renditions of Dal Moth (salty) and Peetha (sweet). Some of the famous markets in Agra are Sadar Bazaar, The Taj Complex, Loha Mandi, Raja Mandi, Kinari Bazaar, and Fuhaara.

AJANTA CAVES

Ajanta is the pride of Maharashtra. The rock-cut caves of the site illustrate the degree of skill and artistry that Indian craftsmen had achieved several hundred years ago.

The village of Ajanta is in the Sahyadri hills, about 99 kms, from Aurangabad; a few miles away in a mammoth horseshoe rock, are 30 caves overlooking a gorge, `each forming a room in the hill and some with inner rooms. All these have been carved out of solid rock with little more than a hammer and chisel and the faith and inspiration of Buddhism. Here, for the Buddhist monks, the artisans excavated Chaityas (chapels) for prayer and Viharas (monasteries) where they lived and taught. Many of the caves have the most exquisite detailed carvings on the walls, pillars and entrances as well as magnificent wall paintings.
The 30 caves of Ajanta were created over a span of some 600 years.

These caves were discovered by an Army Officer in the Madras Regiment of the British Army in 1819 during one of his hunting expeditions. Instantly the discovery became very famous and Ajanta attained a very important tourist destination in the world. The caves, famous for its murals, are the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting. ”

These caves are excavated in horse-shoe shaped bend of rock surface nearly 76 m in height overlooking a narrow stream known as Waghora. The location of this valley provided a calm and serene environment for the Buddhist monks who retreated at these secluded places during the rainy seasons. This retreat also provided them with enough time for furthering their religious pursuits through intellectual discourses for a considerably longer period.

Listing Of Caves

Phase I

Caves 9 & 10 : Chaitya Halls or shrines
Caves 12 & 13 : Viharas or monasteries

Phase II: 5 th century AD to 6 th century AD

Caves 19,26 & 29 : Chaitya Halls or shrines
Caves 1-7, 11, 14-18, 20-25, 27 & 28 : Viharas or monasteries

Unfinished Caves:

3, 5, 8, 23-25, 28 & 2

In all, total 30 excavations were hewn out of rock which also include an unfinished one. Out of these, five (cave no. 9, 10, 19, 26, and 29) are chaityagrihas and the rest are viharas. In date and style also, these caves can be divided into two broad groups. The earliest excavations belong to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism . These caves are datable to the pre-Christian era, the earliest among them being Cave 10 dating from the second century B.C. The object of worship is a stupa here and these caves exhibit the imitation of wooden construction to the extent that the rafters and beams are also sculpted even though they are non-functional.

The world famous paintings at Ajanta also fall into two broad phases. The earliest is noticed in the form of fragmentary specimens in cave nos. 9 & 10, which are datable to second century B.C.

The 30 caves of Ajanta were created over a span of some 600 years.

The second phase of paintings started around 5th – 6th centuries A.D. and continued for the next two centuries. The specimen of these exemplary paintings of Vakataka period could be noticed in cave nos. 1, 2, 16 and 17. The variation in style and execution in these paintings also are noticed, mainly due to different authors of different time periods.

It is worth walking away from the caves in order to look back on to the horseshoe gorge. The ingenuous water cistern system can be seen which must have provided water for the monks and their visitors. Ajanta was on the ancient trade route leading to the coast so there must have been considerable activity and many visitors. Nobody really knows what life was like in those times and visitors can interpret the past as they wish, which is perhaps yet another secret charm of Ajanta.

VARANASI also called BENARES

Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Many names have been given to Varanasi, though its recently revived official appellation is mentioned in the Mahabharata and in the Jataka tales of Buddhism.

It probably derives its name from the two rivers that flank the city, the Varuna to the north and the Asi to the south. Many still use the anglicized forms of Banaras or Benares, while pilgrims refer to Kashi, first used three thousand years ago to describe the kingdom and the city outside which the Buddha preached his first sermon; the “City of Light” is also called Kashika, “the shining one”, referring to the light of Shiva. Another epithet, Avimukta, meaning “Never Forsaken”, refers to the city that Shiva never deserted, or that one should never leave.

Varanasi’s associations with Shiva extend to the beginning of time: legends relate how, after his marriage to Parvati, Shiva left his Himalyan abode and came to reside in Kashi with all the gods in attendance.

A city which, since it is both an exalted place of pilgrimage and centre of faith, has been likened to Jerusalem and Mecca.According to the historians, the city was founded some ten centuries before the birth of Christ. The city is mentioned in Holy Scriptures like ‘Vamana Purana’, Buddhist texts and in the epic ‘Mahabharata’.Mark Twain,the English author and litterateur,who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Banaras,once wrote:”Banaras is older than history,older than tradition,older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

Varanasi’s prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrivalled. For the devout Hindu the city has always had a special place, besides being a pilgrimage centre,it is considered especially auspicious to die here, ensuring an instant route to heaven.The revered and ancient city Varanasi is the religious centre of the world of Hindus. A city where the past and present, eternity and continuity co-exist.

The city of Banaras is situated on the west bank of the holiest of all Indian rivers, the Ganga or Ganges. The relationship between the sacred river and the city is the essence of Varanasi – ‘the land of sacred light’. The Ganga is believed to have flown from heaven to wash away the worldly sins of the human race.Life on the banks of the Ganga begins before dawn when thousands of pilgrims – men, women and children – come down to the river to wait for the rising sun when immersion in the sacred river will cleanse them of their sufferings and wash their sins away.

Along the water’s edge, there are the burning ghats. The most sacred one is Manikarnika, associated with Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva’s wife. The major shrine is the Vishwanath Temple the abode of Lord Shiva, the most important of the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, the Lords of this universe. Around this temple evolved the spiritual identity of Varanasi .

It is beside the holy waters of the Ganga that the activities for which Banaras is held sacred are performed. Everyday thousands of residents and pilgrims bathe, offer prayers to the elements, to the rising sun, and to their dead ancestors who have been carried away by these waters. What draws people to the river is an ingrained belief that these waters can absolve the sins of many generations.

Everyone has their own way of celebrating the ritual contact with the holy Ganga: some bathe; other dip themselves entirely into the water once, thrice or any number of times; some drink the water; other make water offerings to the sun; while others fill their pots with holy water to take back to their homes to perform rituals and purification.The offerings to the sacred waters vary. Pilgrims give flowers, fruits, lamps and their respectful prayers.

The appearance of the pillar of light is said to have occurred at the site of Vishvanatha Temple. The holy city within Banaras is thus called Kashi “The Luminous One’ or the ‘City of Light’. Light in Hindu philosophy has great meaning for it exemplifies the wisdom that destroys the darkness of ignorance. Sin and evil are understood to be the acts of ignorance. When wisdom is acquired, evil will disappear. Sin cannot be washed away by water or prayer but only by wisdom. Immorality is also reached through wisdom and understanding. So the City of Light is the City of Eternal Wisdom as well. To die in the city beside the river of life is to die with a promise of redemption, a promise to be liberated from the endless cycle of life and death and reincarnation, and to gain moksha or eternal absolution. So for centuries thousands of people have come to Banaras to die and thousands have brought the ashes of the dead here to immerse them in the holy waters.

Banaras has always been associated with philosophy and wisdom. A place of learning for many years, the Banaras Hindu University carries on this tradition. The University campus, to the south of the city, was built at the beginning of this century. Pundit Madan Mohan Malviya was instrumental in founding it.

PLACES

 

DASHASHWAMEDHA GHAT

Dashashwamedha is Varanasi’s most popular and accessible bathing ghat, with rows of pandas sitting on wooden platforms under bamboo umbrellas, masseurs plying their trade and boatmen jostling for custom. Its name, “ten horse sacrifices”, derives from a complex series of sacrifices performed by Brahma to test King Divodasa: Shiva and Parvati were sure the king’s resolve would fail, and he would be compelled to leave Kashi, thereby allowing them to return to their city. However, the sacrifices were so perfect that Brahma established the Brahmeshvara lingam here. Since that time, Dashashwamedha has become one of the most celebrated tirthas on earth, where pilgrims can reap the benefits of the huge sacrifice merely by bathing.

MANIKARNIKA GHAT

Varanasi’s pre-eminent cremation ground, Manikarnika Ghat. Such grounds are usually held to be inauspicious, and located on the fringes of cities, but the entire city of Shiva is regarded as Mahashmashana, the Great Cremation Ground for the corpse of the entire universe. The ghat is perpetually crowded with funeral parties, as well as the Doms, its Untouchable guardians, busy and pre-occupied with facilitating final release for those lucky enough to pass away here. Seeing bodies being cremated so publicly has always exerted a great fascination for visitors to the city, but photography is strictly taboo; even having a camera visible may be constructed as intent, and provoke hostility.

Lying at the centre of the five tirthas, manikarnika Ghat symbolizes both creation and destruction, epitomized by the juxtaposition of the sacred well of Manikarnika Kund, said to have been dug by Vishnu at the time of creation, and the hot, sandy ash-infused soil of cremation grounds where time comes to an end. In Hindu mythology, Manikarnika Kund predates the arrival of the Ganga and has its source deep in the Himalayas. Vishnu created the kund with his discus, and filled it with perspiration from his exertions in creating the world, at the behest of Shiva. When Shiva quivered with delight, his earning fell into this pool, which as manikarnika “Jewelled Earring” became the first tirthas in the world. Every yea, after the floodwaters of the river have receded to leave the pool caked in alluvial deposits, the kund is re-dug. Its surroundings are cleaned and painted with brightly coloured folk art, which depicts the presiding goddess, Manikarnika Devi, inviting pilgrims to bathe and worship at its small Vishnu shrine, and at the paduka (footprint) of Vishnu set in marble on the embankment of the ghat.

Strictly speaking, Manikarnika is the name given to the kund and to the ghat, while the constantly busy cremation ground is Jalasi Ghat, dominated by a dark smoke-stained temple built by Queen Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore in the eighteenth century.

RIVER FRONT (GHATS)

The great river banks at Varanasi, built high with eighteenth and nineteenth-century pavilions and palaces, temples and terraces, are lined with an endless chain of stone steps ” the ghats ” progressing along the whole of the waterfront, altering in appearance with the dramatic seasonal fluctuations of the river level. Each of the hundred ghats, big and small, is marked by a lingam, and occupies its own special place in the religious geography of the city. Some have crumbled over the years, others continue to thrive, with early-morning bathers, brahmin priests offering puja, and people practicing meditation and yoga. Hindus puja, and people practicing meditation and yoga. Hindus regard the Ganges as amrita, the elixir of life, which brings purity to the living and salvation to the dead; sceptical outsiders tend to focus on all-persuasive and extreme lack of hygiene. Ashes to the dead, emissions from open drains and the left-overs from religious rites float by the devout as they go about their bathing and ceremonial cleansing.

THE KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE

Also known as the Golden Temple, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Varanasi is said to be the point at which the first jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which Shiva manifested his supremacy over other gods, broke through the earth’s crust and flared towards the heavens. More than the Ghats and even the Ganga, the Shivalinga installed in the temple remains the devotional focus of Varanasi.

SARNATH

Sarnath is 10 km from the holy city of Varanasi, and is an exceedingly tranquil place. Buddhists worldwide look upon India as the land of the Buddha and a visit to this country means a pilgrimage to those places sacred to the memory of the Enlightened One.

After Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya he came to Sarnath. Here in the Deer Park, he delivered his first sermon, or in religious language, set in motion the Wheel of Law (Maha-Dharmachakra Pravartan).

Sarnath yielded a rich collection of Buddhist sculptures comprising numerous Buddha and Bodhisattva images. Considered amongst the finest specimens of Buddhist art, these have been housed at the museum, adjacent to the site. The antiquities in the museum are datable from 3rd century BC to 12th century AD. Amongst the prized collections of the museum are the Lion Capital of the Mauryan Pillar which has become the National Emblem of India, various images of Lord Buddha in different posture and Tara, octagonal shaft and umbrella are also exhibited.

LUCKNOW

Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, extends along the banks of the River Gomti. The creator of Lucknow as it is today was Nawab Asaf ud Daula. The city became known as a centre for Urdu poetry and courtly diction, and reached its acme during the reign of Wajid Ali Shah who was a connoisseur of music and poetry.

Lucknow is a city synonymous with the Nawabi Culture. The imperialistic splendour and magnificence of the Nawabi Era has been glorified and eulogized down the ages by writers, poets and historians alike. At the same time its mystical elegance and amorous ethos has caught the fascination of many world famous romantics. Known for its Adab and Tehzeeb (cultural refinement), Lucknow is also associated with its legendary hospitality, leisurely moods of life, fabled edifices steeped in history, world renowned cuisine and exquisite Sham-e-Avadh. Tremors of time have not effaced Lucknow of its cultural heritage and traditions, which once contributed in creating the city incomparable in its times.

As the 18th century seat of the Nawabs of Avadh, Lucknow flourished becoming an important political and cultural centre, rivalling Delhi in its patronage to art and literature. It was during this time that culture and architecture synthesized emerging in a distinct form now so typical to the Lucknow culture. The peace and prosperity under the governance of the nawabs brought about a cultural renaissance in Avadh. Musicians and dancers flocked to Lucknow giving birth to new musical forms and instruments under the patronage of the royalty. Art forms like Kathak, Thumri, Khayal, Dadra, Qawalis, Ghazals and Shero Shairi saw their finest hour. In this era major stress was laid on even minor details like the art of dressing, apparels (libaas) and jewellery all symbolic of a genteel lifestyle. The legacy of the exquisite embroidery still lives on with equal zest in today’s modern era. Culinary skills, too, reached heights of excellence as the nawabs were not only gracious hosts but also extremely fond of good nutritious food. Thus emerged the skillful art of slow cooking. The royalty of Avadh was also famous for indulging in extravagant pastimes like elephant and rooster fights and kite flying, a game that still evokes passionate involvement among the flyers and the bystander alike. The field of architecture saw re-interpretation of the existing styles and experimentation in the fusion of the occidental and the oriental style of architecture. The magnificent edifices standing proudly among the architectural skyline of the city are living examples of the nawab’s architectural ingenuity.

Modern Lucknow, spread evenly on both sides of river Gomti, is a perfect blend of the ancient with the modern, as many glitzy shopping arcades coexist with the old monuments. The greatest attraction of Lucknow, where the past jostles with the present is its unique ability to achieve harmony amidst disorder and to assimilate the new into the old.

PLACES

 

JAMA MASJID

The construction of Jama Masjid, to the north-west of Hussainabad Imambara, was started in 1832 AD during the reign of Mohammad Ali Shah but was completed after his death by his begum, Nawab Malika Janah. It is entirely free from the pseudo-Italian art then in vogue in Lucknow and reflects the Mughal style of architecture.

KAISERBAGH PALACE COMPLEX

The construction of the Kaiserbagh palace complex was started in 1848 by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and was completed in 1850. The buildings on three sides of the Kaiserbagh quadrangle, once provided quarters for the ladies of Wajid Ali Shah’s harem. In the centre stands the white Baradari, a grand white stone edifice which was earlier paved with silver.

RESIDENCY

Built for the British Resident during 1780-1800, it was originally a large complex of many buildings. It was the scene of dramatic events during the first war of independence in 1857. The main building overlooks the river Gomti and is surrounded by terraced lawns and gardens. Today, only the scarred ruins bear witness to the turmoil of 1857.

RUMI DARWAZA

The 60 feet high Rumi Gate was constructed under Nawab Asafl-us-Daula in 1786. It is said to be identical in design to an ancient portal at Constantinople. Its uppermost part consists of an eight faceted chhatri, approachable by a staircase.

SHAHNAJAF IMAMBARA

This white domed mausoleum owes its existence to Ghazi-ud-din Haider, who on the bank of the Gomti near Sikanderbagh reproduced a copy of Hazrat Ali’s burial at Najaf in Iraq. Ghazi-ud-din Haider, and later his three wives, were buried here. The silver tomb of Ghazi-ud-din Haider lies in the centre of this building and is flanked by the more imposing silver and gold tomb of Mubarak Mahal on one side.

VIDHAN SABHA BHAWAN (THE COUNCIL HOUSE)

Its foundation was laid in 1922 by Sir Harcourt Butler and the construction was completed in six years. Its octagonal shaped chamber has a domed roof decorated with peacocks in fully plumed splendor.

 

KHAJURAHO

One thousand years ago, under the generous and artistic patronage of the Chandela Rajput kings of Central India, 85 temples, magnificent in form and richly carved, came up on one site, near the village of Khajuraho. The amazingly short span of 100 years, from 950 AD – 1050 AD, saw the completion of all the temples, in an inspired burst of creativity. Today, of the original 85, only 22 have survived the ravages of time; these remain as a collective paean to life, to joy and to creativity; to the ultimate fusion of man with his creator. Why did the Chandelas choose Khajuraho or Khajirvahila – garden of dates, as it was known then – as the site for their stupendous creations? Even in those days it was no more than a small village. It is possible given the eclectic patronage of the Chandelas and the wide variety of beliefs represented in the temples, that they had the concept of forming a seat of religion and learning at Khajuraho. It is possible that the Chandelas were also believers in the powers of Tantrism; the cult which believes that the gratification of earthly desires is a step closer to the attainment of the infinite. It is certain however, that the temples represent the expression of a highly matured civilization. Yet another theory is that the erotica of Khajuraho, and indeed of other temples, had a specific purpose. In those days when boys lived in hermitages, following the Hindu law of being “brahmacharis” until they attained manhood, the only way they could prepare themselves for the worldly role of ‘householder’ was through the study of these sculptures and the earthly passions they depicted.

Khajuraho continued its religious importance until the 14th century but was afterward largely forgotten; its remoteness probably saved it from the desecration that the Muslim, or Mughal, conquerors generally inflicted on Hindu monuments. In 1838 a British army captain, T.S. Burt, came upon information that led him to the rediscovery of the complex of temples in the jungle in Khajuraho.

The monuments at Khajuraho were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. Modern Khajuraho is a small village. Tourism is the leading economic factor. An airport connects Khajuraho with several cities in India. The town’s name derives from the prevalence of khajur, or date palms, in the area.

MYTHOLOGY

The creators of Khajuraho claimed descent from the moon. The legend that describes the origin of this great dynasty is a fascinating one: Hemavati, the beautiful young daughter of a Brahmin priest was seduced by the moon god while bathing in the Rati river one evening. The child born of this union between a mortal and a god was a son, Chandravarman. Harassed by society, the unwed mother sought refuge in the dense forest of Central India where she was both mother and guru to her young son. The boy grew up to found the great Chandela dynasty. When he was established as a ruler, he had a dream-visitation from his mother, who implored him to build temples that would reveal human passions, and in doing so bring about a realization of the emptiness of human desire. Chandravarman began the construction of the first of the temples, successive rulers added to the fast growing complex.

 

PLACES

 

 THE TEMPLES

The architectural style of the Khajuraho temples is very different from the temple prototype of that period. Each stands, instead of within the customary enclosure, on a high masonry platform. Combined with the upward direction of the structure, which is further accentuated by vertical projections, the total effect is one of grace and lightness, reminiscent of the Himalayan peaks. Each of the chief compartments has its own roof, grouped in such a way that the highest is in the centre, the lowest over the portico, a triumph of skill and imagination in recreating the rising peaks of a range. The temples of Khajuraho are divided into three geographical groups: Western, Eastern and Southern.

THE WESTERN GROUP

The local tradition lists eighty-five temples but now only twenty-five are standing examples in various stages of preservation. But for Chausath-Yogini, Brahma and Mahadeva which are of granite, all the other temples are of fine grained sandstone, buff, pink or pale yellow in colour.

Yasovarman (AD 954) built the temple of Vishnu, now famous as Lakshmana temple is an ornate and evolved example of its time proclaiming the prestige of the Chandellas.

The Visvanatha, Parsvanatha and Vaidyanatha temples belong to the time of king Dhanga, the successor of Yasovarman. The Jagadambi, Chitragupta, are noteworthy among the western group of royal temples of Khajuraho. The largest and grandest temple of Khajuraho is the immortal Kandariya Mahadeva which is attributed to king Ganda (AD 1017-29). The other examples that followed viz., Vamana, Adinatha, Javari, Chaturbhuj and Duladeo, are smaller but elaborately designed. The Khajuraho groups of temples are noted for lofty terraces (jagati) and functionally effective plans comprising of an ardhamandapa, acting as entrance generally adorned with makara torana and kakshasana, the mandapa, as the hall with antarala leading to garbha griha or sanctum. The larger temples have mahamandapas in front of the ardhamandapa. They also have minor shrines at four corners and thus categorized as pancayatana. The exterior of the temples are richly decorated. In contrast, Javari and Brahma temples are simpler creations.

The sculptural embellishments include, besides the cult images; parivara, parsva, avarana devatas, dikpalas, the apsarases and sura-sundaris which win universal admiration for their delicate, youthful female forms of ravishing beauty. The attire and ornamentation embrace the winsome grace and charm.

The recent excavation at Bija Mandal in Jatkara near Khajuraho has revealed the remains of a huge temple base datable to 11th century A.D. which extends over 4 m than the largest known temple (Kandariya Mahadeo Temple). An exquisite image of Sarasvati was also found from here.

THE EASTERN GROUP

Hindu and Jain temples make up the Eastern Group, which lies close to the Khajuraho village. The largest Jain temple, Parswanath, is in this group. Exquisite in detail, the sculptures on the northern outer wall make this temple perhaps the finest in the group. The themes of these carvings are the timeless ones of every day, mortal activity. A woman sits bent pensively on a letter; a lovely young girl removes a thorn from her foot, the master craftsmen of Khajuraho display here their deep understanding of the trifles that make up a human life. Within, the sanctum has a throne, which faces a bull : emblem of the first tirthankara, Adinath. The actual image of Parswanath from which the temple derives its name was installed as recently as 1860. The other Jain temple in this group is the Ghantai Temple. Though almost in ruins now, it still bears evidence of its original splendour. Particularly, arresting is the frieze which depicts, in graphic detail, the 16 dreams of Mahavira’s mother and a multi-armed Jain goddess riding on a winged Garuda. North of Parswanatha is the more modestly sized Adinatha Temple. The three Hindu temples in the Eastern Group are the Brahma, Vamana and Javari Temples. A double row of apsaras, celestial nymphs, adorn the outer walls of the Vamana temple. A variety of sensuous attitudes: languid, provocative, mischievously inviting, give credibility to the theory that Khajuraho’s erotica were meant to test the devotees who came to worship their gods at the temples.

THE SOUTHERN GROUP

5 km from the Khajuraho village, lies the Southern Group of temples. The fine Chaturbhuj Temple in this group has a massive intricately carved image of Vishnu in the sanctum. Duladeo Temple, another of the southern group, is a little away from the road to the Jain group of temples. Though remains of temples belonging to the Khajuraho group have been discovered at Jatkari, 3 km away and even at Maribag in Rewa, it is at the 3 main groups that the imperishable glory of Khajuraho, the sensuous celebration of life, the aspiration towards the infinite, remains.

THE LIGHT AND SOUND SHOW:

This fascinating Son-et-Lumiere spectacle evokes the life and times of the great Chandela Kings and traces the story of the unique temples from the 10th Century to the present day.Mounted in the complex of the Western Group of temples, the 50-minute show runs in Hindi and in English every evening. Amitabh Bachchan, the Indian super star, narrates the story of Khajuraho in his mesmerising voice.

KANDARIYA DANCE SHOW –

Indian folk dance can be enjoyed at the comfortable indoor theatre at Kandariya Art & Cultural Centre. The show lasts for 45 mins and is a medley of various dances from different states of India. It gives you a wonderful glimpse of rich culture and dance forms of India.

 

BIKANER

Lying in the north of the desert State, the city is dotted with scores of sand dunes. Bikaner retains the medieval grandeur that permeates the city’s lifestyle. More readily called the camel country, the city is distinguished for the best riding camels in the world and hence boasts of having one of the largest Camel Research and Breeding farms in the world. The ship of the desert is an inseparable part of life here.

The history of Bikaner dates back to 1486 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji founded his kingdom. Bikaji was one the five sons of Rao Jodhaji the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. But Rao Bikaji was the most adventurous of them. It is said that an insensitive remark from his father about his whispering in the Durbar provoked Bikaji to set up his own kingdom towards the north of Jodhpur. The barren wilderness called Jangladesh became his focul point and he transformed it into an impressive city. He accomplished this task with 100 cavalry horses and 500 soldiers, and established his kingdom on 84 villages . When Bikaji died in 1504 his rule had extended to over 3000 villages.

The strategic location of Bikaner on the ancient caravan routes that came from West/Central Asia made it a prime trade centre in those times. Bikaner stands on a slightly raised ground and is circumscribed by a seven km long embattledwall with five gates. The magnificent forts and palaces, created with delicacy in reddish-pink sandstone, bear testimony to its rich historical and architectural legacy. Surging lanes, colourful bazaars with bright and cheerful folks make Bikaner an interesting experience.

Modern Bikaner is the result of the foresight of its most eminent ruler Maharaja Ganga Singh (1887-1943) whose reformative zeal set the pace for Bikaner transformation from a principality to a premier princely state.

PLACES

BHANDESWAR JAIN TEMPLE

Bhandeswar Jain Temple is a fifteenth century temple and is the oldest monument of Bikaner. The temple is decorated with rich mirror work, frescoes and gold leaf paintings.

DESHNOK

Deshnok is a small village situated 32 km south of Bikaner city along the Jodhpur Road. It is connected by national highway and rail. It is a pilgrim centre of Karni Mata said to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga-who lived here in the fourteenth century and performed many miracles. Originally, the village was called ‘dus-nok’ meaning ten corners as it was formed by taking ten corners of ten villages.

In front of the temple is a beautiful marble facade, which has solid silver doors built by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Across the doorway are more silver doors with panels depicting the various legends of the Goddess. The image of the Goddess is enshrined in the inner sanctum.

GAJNER

Gajner is an incomparable jewel in the Thar. It was built by the great Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner on the embankment of a lake with a generous dose of flora and fauna. Basically a hunting and relaxing lodge, the maharaja and the family shared their passion with their exclusive guests and hosted exotic holidays for them. Around the palace is a thick forestation that encourages the guests to go for a simple walk admiring the migratory birds in winter like imperial sand grouse, antelopes, black bucks and the animal species that wander around in the form of Nilgais, chinkaras, deers etc. The hotel is spread over a large area, and the ambience around is as raw and authentic as it was before.

JUNAGARH

It is an unassailable fortress, which had never been conquered. Built in 1593 A.D. by Raja Rai Singh, one of the most distinguished generals in the army of Emperor Akbar, the fort is a formidable structure encircled by a moat.

The main entrance to the fort is Karan Pol [gate] that is facing east. Next to it is the Suraj Pol meaning the sun gate. In the fort complex are some magnificent palaces like Anup Mahal, Ganga Niwas and Rang Mahal or palace of pleasure. The Har Mandir is the majestic chapel for the royal family for worshipping their gods and goddesses. These palaces, constructed in red sandstone and marble, make a picturesque ensemble of courtyards, balconies, kiosks and windows dotted all over the structure. The premises also house a museum, which has an array of rich collection.
LALLGARH PALACE

This grand palace is an architectural masterpiece in red sandstone, and was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the memory of his father Maharaja Lall Singh in 1902. Sir Swinton Jacob designed this oriental fantasy. This architecture is a fusion of Rajput, Mughal and European architecture. The exterior contrasts dramatically with the oriental interiors and amenities. The palace has beautiful latticework and filigree work, which are the hallmarks of great craftsmanship.The Palace has an amazing collection of well maintained paintings and hunting trophies. Sprawling lawns with blooming bougainvillaea and dancing peacocks make for a visual extravaganza.

NATIONAL RESEARCH CENTER ON CAMEL

Spend a day with the indispensable ship of the desert at the camel research and breeding centres which is only one of its kinds in Asia. The farm extends over 2000 acres of semi arid land and is managed by the Government of India.

 

BALASINOR

Balasinor (also referred to as Vadasinor) is a town located in Gujarat, India. Formerly a princely state of the Babi (Yusufzai Pathan) dynasty, it was created in 28 Sep 1758, out of the Junagadh Babis.

Founded in the 18th century, a Second class State in the Rewa Kantha agency. The family of this State had descended from Sardar Mohammad Khan, fourth in descent from Sher Khan Babi I, who was made “BABI” (Door Keeper) of the Imperial Court.

 

PLACES

 Balasinor is a unique travel destination in Gujarat famously known as Jurassic Park of India. The site is in the village of Raiyoli and also called Raiyoli Dinosaur Fossil Excavation Site. It was in 1981 when geological survey of India searching for mineral rich area accidentally discovered dinosaur fossils in Balasinor. Since then Dinosaur tourism became very popular in Balasinor as thousands of tourists interested in seeing the fossils of dinosaurs started to travel Balasinor.

So far Paleontologists have uncovered about 10,000 fossils of dinosaur eggs, bones and skeleton in Raiyoli near Balasinor. In total over 13 species of dinosaur existed in the Balasinor for more than 100 million years before their extinction around 65 million years ago. This discovery has made Balasinor third largest dinosaur eggs hatchery in the world.

The discovery of dinosaur fossils and being dubbed as the Jurassic Park has increased Dinosaur tourism in Balasinor. The soft soil of Balasinor has actually preserved the fossils pretty well.

At the site in Balasinor, tourists can see the skin and other bones of the dinasaurs. Tourists can also see real dinosaur eggs at the site in Balasinor. But what makes Balasinor must travel destination is the fact that it is the only place in world where tourists can actually hold a fossilized dinosaur egg in their hand.

 

Gwalior

Gwalior’s tradition as a royal capital continued until the formation of present day India, with the Scindias having their dynastic seat here. The magnificent mementoes of a glorious past have been preserved with care, giving Gwalior an appeal unique and timeless. Gwalior’s history is traced back to a legend. In 8 A.D, a chieftain called Suraj Sen was stricken by a deadly disease. He was cured by a hermit saint, Gwalior, and in gratitude founded a city which he named after the saint who had given him the gift of new life. The new city of Gwalior became, over the centuries, the cradle of great dynasties and with each, the city gained new dimensions from warrior kings, poets, musicians and saints, contributing to making it a capital renowned throughout the country.Since then, Gwalior is considered to be a city where a rich cultural tradition has been interwoven into the fabric of modern life. Also where a princely past lives on in great palaces and their museums. And where a multitude of images merge and mix to present to the visitor a city of enduring greatness.

PLACES

ART GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS

The Gujari Mahal Archaeological Museum houses rare antiquities, some of them dating back to the 1st century AD. Even though many of these have been defaced by the iconoclastic Mughals, their perfection of form has survived the ravages of time. Particularly worth seeing is the statue of Shalbhanjika from Gyraspur, the tree goddess, epitome of perfection in miniature. The statue is kept in the custody of the museum’s curator, and can be seen on request. The museum is open every day except Monday, from 10 am to 5 pm. The Kala Vithika is another treasure house of the arts. It remains closed on Sunday and public holidays. The Municipal Corporation Museum, which is open all days except Mondays, has a very fine natural history section.

The old ancestral house of the legendry Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan has recently been converted into’Sarod Ghar’- Museum of Music by the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Memorial Trust under the patronage and guidance of his great son and sarod maestro Ustad Amzad Ali Khan. The museum has been rebuilt keeping in mind the old traditional architecture of Gwalior and houses in it ancient instruments of the great Indian Masters of yesteryears.

JAI VILAS PALACE

A splendour of a different kind exists in the Jai Vilas Palace, current residence of the Scindia family. Some 35 rooms have been made into the Scindia Museum, and in these rooms, so evocative of a regal lifestyle, the past comes alive. Jai Vilas is an Italianate structure which combines the Tuscan and Corinthian architectural modes. The imposing Darbar Hall has two central chandeliers, weighing a couple of tonnes, and hung only after ten elephants had tested the strength of the roof. Ceilings picked out in gilt, heavy draperies and tapestries, fine Persian carpets, and antique furniture from France and Italy are features of these spacious rooms. Eye-catching treasures include: a silver train with cut-glass placed over wagons which served guests as it chugged around on miniature rails on the tables; a glass cradle from Italy used for the baby Krishna each Janamashtami; silver dinner services and swords that were once worn by Aurangzeb and Shah Jehan.

There are, besides, personal mementoes of the past members of the Scindia family: the jewelled slippers that belonged to Chinkoo Rani, four-poster beds, gifts from practically every country in the world, hunting trophies and portraits. The Scindia Museum offers an unparalleled glimpse into the rich culture and lifestyle of princely India. Open everyday except Wednesday from 10 am to 5.30 pm.

MONUMENTS

The father of Hindustani classical music’ the great Tansen, one of the ‘nine Jewels’ of Akbar’s court’ lies buried in Gwalior. The memorial to this great musician has a pristine simplicity about it, and is built in the early Mughal architectural style. More than a monument, the Tansen’s Tomb is part of Gwalior’s living cultural heritage; it is the venue of a music festival on a national scale held annually in November-December. Leading musicians of the country gather here to give performances during the festival. More opulent than Tansen’s Tomb, is the sandstone mausoleum of the Afghan prince, Ghous Mohammed, also designed on early Mughal lines. Particularly, exquisite are the screens which use the pierced stone technique, as delicate as lace. The earliest freedom fighters, Tatya Tope and the indomitable Rani of Jhansi, are commemorated in memorials in Gwalior. There are cenotaphs at major public crossings, memorials to Scindia kings and queens. Throughout the city, there are these reminders of a proud past, of the great men and women of Gwalior who have their place in the nation’s roll of honour. Located near the Residency at Morar, the newly constructed Sun Temple takes its inspiration from the famous Konark Sun Temple in Orissa.

TELI KA MANDIR & SAS-BAHU-KA-MANDIR

The Teli ka Mandir is a 9th century edifice, towering at 100 ft high. This is a Pratihara Vishnu temple of a unique blending of architectural styles. The shape of the roof is distinctively Dravidian, while the decorative embellishments have the typically Indo-Aryan characteristics of Northern India. Also dedicated to Vishnu is the graceful little Sas-Bahu-ka-Mandir, built in 11th century. This temple is one of the greatest architectural marvels situated by Gwalior Fort. The entire temple is covered with carvings, notably 4 idols of Bramha, Vishnu and Saraswati above its entrance door. However, limestone erodes over time, and soon portions of the limestone fell, later spurring conflict as to whether it was a Jain temple or a Hindu temple.

THE GWALIOR FORT

Standing on a steep mass of sandstone, Gwalior Fort dominates the city and is its most magnificent monument. It has been a scene of momentous events : imprisonments, battles and jauhars. A steep road winds upwards to the Fort, flanked by statues of Jain tirthankaras, carved into the rock face. The magnificent outer walls of the Fort still stand, two miles in length and 35 feet high, bearing witness to its reputation for being one of the most invincible forts of India. This imposing structure inspired Emperor Babar to describe it “the pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind.” Within the fort are some marvels of medieval architecture. The 15th century Gujari Mahal is a monument to the love of Raja Mansingh Tomar for his Gujar queen, Mrignayani. After he had wooed and won her, so the story goes, Mrignayani demanded that he build her a separate palace with a constant water supply from the River Rai, via an aqueduct. The outer structure of the Gujari Mahal has survived in an almost total state of preservation; the interior has been converted into an Archaeological Museum.

Also built by Raja Mansingh is the Man Mandir Palace, built between 1486 and 1517. The tiles that once adorned its exterior have not survived, but at the entrance, traces of these still remain. There is a charming frieze here of ducks paddling in turquoise waters. Within, the palace rooms stand bare, stripped of their former glory, mute testimony to the passing of the centuries. Vast chambers with fine stone screens were once the music halls, and behind these screens, the royal ladies would learn music from the great masters of the day. Below, circular dungeons once housed the state prisoners of the Mughals. The Emperor Aurangzeb had his brother, Murad, imprisoned, and later executed, here. Close by is Jauhar Pond, where in the Rajput tradition, the ‘ranis’ committed mass ‘sati’ after their consorts had been defeated in battle. Though the major portions of the Fort were built in the 15th century, references to this gigantic complex can be traced back to 425 AD. Older than the city is the Suraj Kund within the Fort walls, the original pond where Suraj Sen, or Suraj Pal as he was later known, was cured by the Saint Gwalipa.

THE GWALIOR FORT SOUND AND LIGHTS SHOW

For many decades now, the Fort of Gwalior has slumbered in silence, broken now and then by the patter of curious feet and awed tones.

Come sundown, the deserted Fort is once again left with only memories for company. But now it comes alive every night. Well remembered incidents, and well-loved voices once more echo through its lonely corridors and its dark and sad facade now glows with the colours of life. Red-gold, blue-green lights illuminate every nook and cranny of the superbly tiled ‘Man Mandir’. The Gwalior Son-et-Lumiere has begun. The Sound and Light show at the Man Mandir Palace of Gwalior Fort gives you a glimpse into its glorious past. The story of this ‘pearl’ begins with the sonorous and eloquent narration by Amitabh Bachchan as Gopachal, the sutradhar (narrator).

MUMBAI

Mumbai, the city that never sleeps! Pulsating, Alive, On the Move, Vibrant, Fun – this is Mumbai or as it is still frequently referred to – Bombay. The most modern city in India, it captures the spirit of the changing pace set by liberalization and modernisation. Once a cluster of seven islands, Mumbai was presented to King Charles II in 1661 as part of the dowry when he married Princess Catherine de Braganza of Portugal.

History – A Glorious Heritage

The Hindu Rule

Originally, the seven islands were a part of the kingdom of Ashoka. After Ashoka’s demise, countless rulers of the Silahara dynasty took over until the Kingdom of Gujarat annexed the islands in 1343 AD and remained such till 1543 AD.

Portuguese Colonization

In 1543 AD, the Portuguese seized the isles from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat and they remained in their control until 1661. Following this period, the isles were ceded as dowry to Catherine de Braganza when she married Charles II of England. He, in turn, leased the isles to the East India Company during their colonization in 1668 and that’s when the city was named Bombay. In a matter of seven years, the population of the city rose from a mere 10,000 to 60,000 in 1675. After the population in the city began to grow, the East India Company officially transferred their headquarters from Surat to the new city called Bombay.

Post-Independence

Mumbai is the business capital of India and is also one on the largest cities in the country. The present population of Mumbai is estimated to be millions and is still growing. Not many know however, how the population grew or how the city got its status as the commercial capital of India. The insight into the history of this glorious city is the answer to its inspiriting beginnings and eminence around the world.

PLACES

 CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI TERMINUS (VICTORIA TERMINUS)

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus in Mumbai, is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is the westernmost end point of the Central Railways of India. It is also the southern end point of the central and harbour lines of Mumbai’s metropolitan rail transport system. A large section of the building is given over to administrative functions of the Central Railways, including commercial operations such as railway reservations. A magnificent building, completed in 1888, the Victoria Terminus was named after the then Queen Empress (Queen Victoria) on Jubilee Day, 1887. Construction started in 1878 based on a design by F. W. Stevens, and took 10 years to complete. The cost of construction was Rs. 16.14 lakhs (Rs. 1.614 million). The railway station was opened to the public on New Year’s Day, 1882. It is now the starting point of the Central Railways.

The south-western part of the building is topped by a dome holding up a statue of Progress. It is an early example of a uniquely Bombay style of architecture which emerged when British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms.

When the building was first used it held not only railway functionaries such as the accounts, chief engineer and traffic manager but also other municipal offices such as the superintendent of the police. Curiously, railway tickets were also printed in the same building.

The Victoria Terminus was renamed Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus on March 4, 1996. It was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 2, 2004. It is the first functional administrative building to be put on this list. Unfortunately, some of the lovely carvings are at such an awkward height that you can only get a close view from the top deck of a passing double-decker bus.

FLORA FOUNTAIN AND THE GOTHIC/VICTORIAN BUILDINGS OF THE FORT AREA

The Flora Fountain stands on the site of the old church gate of the Bombay Fort, now a major crossroad named Hutatma Chowk. It was erected to honour Sir Bartle Frere, a former governor of Bombay and named after the Greek goddess Flora. Other buildings to see in the Fountain or Fort area are the University of Mumbai buildings including the imposing Rajabhai Tower, the Mumbai High Court, the Old Secretariat, and the Institute of Science on one end. Close by are situated St Thomas Cathedral, the Asiatic Society of Bombay or Town Hall, the Office of the Director General of Police, the General Post Office and the Thomas Cook building.

The Western Railway Headquarters is also quite near, across the street from the Churchgate Station. These buildings are fine examples of the Gothic and Indo-Saracenic style. Many are illuminated by night. An exotic way of seeing these sights would be by the MTDC open-air bus or by the few surviving Victorias or buggy rides.

GATEWAY OF INDIA

Mumbai’s most striking monument, this too was designed by George Wittet. It has an imposing gateway arch in the Indo-Saracenic style with Gujarati and Islamic elements such as wooden carvings. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India in 1911. This area is also the departing point for ferries plying to Elephanta Island and other beaches across the port. Behind it is the beautiful heritage structure of the Taj Mahal Hotel.

GLOBAL VIPASSANA PAGODA

Global Vipassana Pagoda is the World’s Largest Pillar-less dome with a capacity to seat 8,000 meditators. In it are also enshrined Buddha’s genuine relics, thus becoming the first such pagoda in India after King Ashoka’s era. In a beautiful and natural setting, surrounded by sea on three sides and atop a hillock, this architectural marvel announces the renewed possibility of learning Vipassana meditation once again, in the same pure and effective form as Buddha taught it 2,600 years ago.The Pagoda radiates peace and harmony and encourages one and all to learn Vipassana to transform oneself into a peaceful,powerful and pure person , based on the experience of millions around the world. It is decorated with Burmese facade to show gratitude to the Burmese Master Ven Sayagyi U Ba Khin who inspired Vipassana revival in the world. Only a world that has peaceful individuals can be a peaceful place, is the Vipassana Pagoda’s message to the world.

HAJI ALI SHRINE

Further along the seashore, at the end of a long pathway surrounded by seawater is the shrine dedicated to Haji Ali, a Muslim saint. Access is only at low tide via the pathway.

MALABAR HILL

This is essentially an up-market residential area with some spectacular views of the city surroundings. On the road climbing up, is a Jain temple dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain tirthankara. At one end, on the top are the Hanging Gardens (Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens) and the Kamala Nehru Park. Both provide relaxing atmospheres of greenery. Beside the Hanging Gardens are the Parsi Towers of Silence. But these are off-limits to all except those who have come to dispose and pay respect to the dead.

MANI BHAVAN

This simple and charming museum was where Mahatma Gandhi lived on his visits to Mumbai between 1917 and 1934. Gandhi’s room and belongings including his books are on display. Mani Bhavan is situated on Laburnam Road, near the August Kranti Maidan, where the ‘Quit India’ movement was launched in 1942. Open daily from 9.30 am to 6 pm.

MARINE DRIVE AND CHOWPATTY BEACH

Chowpatty Beach is a teeming mass of people, vendors, masseurs and roadside restaurants with its specialties being bhelpuri and kulfi. Across the Chowpatty Beach area is the Taraporewala Aquarium. Marine Drive is also referred to as the Queen’s Necklace because of the dramatic line of street lamps lit up at night. For the most part, a pleasant promenade continues along the beach.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF MODERN ART (NGMA)

This is the former Cowasji Jehangir Hall, of the Institute of Science. It has been renovated to serve as a four-storey exhibition hall, displaying the best of Indian contemporary art. Open daily except Monday, from 10 am to 5 pm.

PRINCE OF WALES MUSEUM

This is one of Mumbai’s finest example of Victorian architecture. Built to commemorate King George V’s visit to Mumbai (while still Prince of Wales), it was designed by George Wittet and completed in 1923. It is undoubtedly one of India’s finest museums and houses treasures, artefacts, paintings and sculpture from the many periods covering India’s history, including the Indus Valley Civilization. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10.30 am to 6 pm.

 

 

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