Friday, December 24, 2010

Our trip to Amritsar, Punjab, India

In this post, I continue with my earlier post on Tonk. Here is where we went to after Tonk.We reached New Delhi in the morning, rested through the day and got ready for another trip. We set off the same day. An overnight train from New Delhi and we reach Amritsar (Punjab) in the morning.

In the train we found out that there a bandh was declared in Amritsar the next day. We were very disappointed but we kept hoping that it will turn out to be a normal day. It did not begin very normally though :( The train stopped at "Beas", which is one stop before Amritsar. We were told that the train would not go any further before 12 PM; agitators had blocked the railway lines. We quickly contacted our car driver who was supposed to pick us up from Amritsar station, and arranged for him to pick us up from Beas instead. We quite enjoyed the drive from Beas to Amritsar. It was nice and cool and the roads were good. We reached Amritsar within 45 mins. Thankfully, Amritsar did not look completely closed, we were told that the shops will remain closed , there could be a chance of the shops opening in the evening...but the chances were very slim. We found out that the Golden temple, Jallianwalla bagh, other monuments, museum etc would remain open.

We decided to begin the day by treating ourselves to a hearty breakfast. I am very fond of punjabi food and was looking forward to a breakfast of chole bathure and lassi. We went to a place called "kanaiya" which was thankfully open. The food was excellent! I have never ever had such delicious chole bature before and the lassi was out of the world! My recommendation, if you are traveling to Amritsar, you must try the lassi there.

After a satisfying breakfast, we set off for Rambagh, Rambagh houses the summer place of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the summer place is now transformed into a well maintained museum. We were very impressed with the museum. It has some lovely paintings and sculptures.

Rambagh Amritsar
Rambagh Amritsar India

Golden temple - Golden temple is truly beautiful. The divine temple looks beautiful at any time of the day. At night it glows and the reflection on the water body around it is out of the world. It is a wonderful experience. The Harmandir Sahib (or Hari Mandir) in Amritsar, Punjab, is the holiest shrine in Sikhism. The project was overseen by the fourth and fifth Sikh Gurus and was completed in 1601. The most sacred part of the Golden Temple complex is the Hari Mandir (Divine Temple) or Darbar Sahib. It is a beautiful golden structure at the center of a body of water. The building is gold plated with white marble walls encrusted with precious stones arranged in decorative floral patterns. The temple is very-very well maintained. To enter the temple one needs to cover their heads, if you don't have a head cover, they provide head covers at the entrance. The water that surrounds the temple is a sacred and known as the Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Nectar). The pathway that connects to the Hari Mandir is known as the Guru's Bridge. It symbolizes the journey of the soul after death. The gateway to the bridge has beautiful silver doors.
Golden temple Amritsar India

Golden temple entrance Amritsar
Golden temple complex and the entrance to Golden temple

Golden temple complex

Golden temple at night
Golden temple complex & The Golden temple at night

Jallianwala bagh

We visited Jallianwala bagh, it was an emotional experience. Sharing some pictures.

Jallianwala bagh

Well at Jallianwala bagh

Jallianwala bagh - The well

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Video of Tiger at Ranthambore, Rajasthan, India

I am sharing the tiger video taken at Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, India.

You can check out Ranthambore trip details in my earlier blog entry.

I have uploaded this tiger video at YouTube too. I am embedding the link here. For some reason I could not upload the video directly from my blog.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tonk, Rajasthan, India

Our next destination was Tonk. Visiting Tonk was an impromptu decision, 'cause we had some time in hand after the day two's morning safari, our train was at 9.30 that night, we had the whole day at our disposal. Tonk is around 86 kms from Ranthambore and 96 kms from Jaipur.We figured that it would take us around 1and a half to 2 hrs to reach Tonk, we could tour the town form 3-4 hours and still be able to catch our train at night.

We hired a car, packed up and checked out from the hotel. Tonk may not be the most popular tourist destination. It is dusty, crowded, but it is culturally and architecturally very rich. The magnificent mansions date back to the Mughal era. I had heard of Tonk before, but only in the passing I never guessed that this little town could house such beautiful gems. No wonder its is known as the "Lucknow of Rajasthan".

Tonk was an absolute delight. Some of the monuments we saw were Jama Masjid, Sunheri Kothi,
Tonk library, Arabic and Persian Institute and Hathi Bhata.

Tonk's Jama Masjid is which is one of the biggest mosques in India. It is massive, the construction of the Mosque was started in 1246 AD by the first Nawab of Tonk. The Jama Masjid as it stands today was completed in 1298 AD during the rule of Nawab Wzirudhoula.The doors of the Masjid represent the architecture of the Mughal era.

Intricate work Jama Masjid Tonk, Rajasthan, India
Jama Masjid Tonk, Rajasthan, India

Jama Masjid, Tonk, Rajasthan

We could not go inside Sunheri Kothi, I believe it has been closed for renovation. It has been declared as a historical monument by the Government. I wish we could have gone in. We got a few shots of the mansion from outside only. We later saw pictures of the inside in the Arabian and Persian Research Institute, We were told that the walls of the hall are decorated with glass work, flower paintings, and 'Meenakari' 'Pachhikari' work.

Sunheri Kothi, Tonk, Rajasthan

Right opposite to the Sunheri Kothi, is the Shariat Office, earlier it used to be the Arabic Persian Research Institute which has now shifted to another building. This is another gem of a building.

Shariat office Tonk Rajasthan

Shariat office Tonk Rajasthan

Shariat office Tonk Rajasthan
Shariat Office which was earlier the Arabic and Persian Research Institute

On our way to the APRI library, we came across quite a few old buildings.

Clock Tower Tonk, Rajasthan, India
Old building, Tonk, Rajasthan
Clock Tower and another beautiful old building in Tonk
We could tour so much of Tonk and see so many buildings because of the help we got from a person (Kalu bhai) who we met at the Jama Masjid. He was one of the key people working in the restoration of the mosque. Seeing our interest in old monuments, he offered to show us around the city. Tonk does require at least a couple of days. Kalu bhai told us that we had seen only a few gems, there were more such wonderful monuments in Tonk.

He asked us to not miss "Hathi Bhata" which would fall after around 10-15 kms from Tonk On our way back to Sawai Madhopur. This is a very unique monument. Believed to have been carved out of a single rock is the sculpture of an elephant. It is absolutely magnificent!

Hathi Bhata
Hathi Bhata

Our Tonk trip left us thirsting for more. What a wonderful day it had been! We plan to revisit this part of Rahjasthan, who knows what other gems we might uncover.

Ranthambore National Park Rajasthan, India

Tiger image india
I just got back from a rather hectic but wonderful trip!
We had a very packed schedule; we wanted to pack in as much as possible in a week. We were traveling almost every night!

Our first stop was Delhi. North India is much more easily accessible from Delhi, in the sense that the distances are less, overnight journeys by train can get you to Rajasthan and Punjab easily. We saved a lot of time that way.

Our first destination was Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. Ranthambore National Park is in Sawai Madhopur District of Rajasthan state. By road One can get to Jaipur within less than 4 hours, the usual route is from Jaipur to Tonk and then Sawai Madhopur. The distance by rail from Delhi is around 362 kms. We boarded an overnight train to Sawai Madhopur. The park is at the junction of the Aravalli and Vindhya hill range. It covers an area of Approximately 400 sq Km. Rantambore was a wildlife sanctuary in 1957 and 1974. It earned the status of a National park in 1981.

We had organised for a car to pick us up from the station, We checked into to our hotel (Vinyak) very early. Vinayak is very conveniently located just around 4 kms from the railway station. After quickly freshening up, we decided to hurry up 'cause there was no time to waste; the morning safari starts at around 6.30am. I have always loved the jungles and Ranthambore does not disappoint. The Park is beautiful. Rathambore is a wonderful mix of nature and history. The park gets its name from the Fort that is situated amidst the Park, overlooking the jungle. The Fort is well strengthened by massive fortification provided by seven gateways. The water bodies, jungle, hills and ruins leaves you feeling intoxicated.

The safari ride is really lovely. Sighting a tiger was of course what we were hoping for...we were into around 40 mins of the jungle safari when one of the safari jeep drivers informed us that a tiger had been sighted! Our pulses started racing in anticipation, with fingers ready on the camera shutter button, we were almost holding our breath!

And soon enough, there it was. We caught our first glimpse of this absolutely magnificent animal. Can't quite describe the feeling...every time i see a tiger, it is a wonderful experience. I believe one can see tigers in Rathambore are not afraid of human presence in vehicles. This was great for us as we got to see the tiger from very close quarters. I am sharing some of the pictures I captured of the tiger, I will upload the tiger video in my next post.

Tiger Ranthambore India

Tiger Ranthambore India

Tiger India
Tiger Ranthambore India

Ranthambore Fort was equally impressive. It is believed to be one of the strongest Forts of Inida which formed a significant part of the Chahamana Kingdom of Shakanbhari. It was constructed by Maharaja Jayanta in the Fifth century AD. Hammir Deo (1282-1301 A.D) was the most powerful riler of Ranthambore who patronized Art and Literature and fought bravely against All-Ud-Din Khilji during a seize in 1301 A.D. Subsequently, it was occupied by Sultans of Delhi and later on, it came under the contol of Rana Sanga (1509-1527 A.D) and the Mughals.

Ranthambore Fort

Inside the Ranthambore FOrt
On the way to the Rantambore Fort, the inside of the Fort

Talab in the Fort

Battees Khamba Ranthambore Fort
A Talab in the Fort and Battis Khamba

We did take two more trips to the jungle but the cat decided to keep away from us:( I believe we were very lucky to have sighted it on out very first visit.

saw some beautiful birds too...Ranthambore is home to around 320 species of birds. I was accompanied by two of my cousins (who are serious bird watchers) and my husband (who enjoys bird watching too!) .Over time I have got interested too, but I am not into serious bird watching. I love seeing new birds and learning to identify them but perhaps I will not go out of my way just to do bird watching.

And we fitted in some shopping as well.. I brought a nice warm jacket from the shop in the hotel.The food in Rajasthan is delicious. Each time we had a meal, we overate. I just love the Rajasthani food.

Our day two at Ranthambore ended without another sighting of the tiger. But we were not complaining, the bird watchers were happy and so was I. We had a wonderful time at Ranthambore. If nature and history interests you, then Ranthambore is a must see place for you. Even if you do not sight a tiger, the place leaves you feeling wonderfully enriched.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Durga Puja 2010 Kolkata

In Bhowanipur we met up with our friend and after a refreshing cup of tea, off we went visiting a few more banedi baris

Our first stop was Girish Mukherjee bari. It was aroung 7.30pm when we reached Girish bari. My friend who is a resident of Bhowanipur knows the family. Thanks to him, I got to see another Durga idol in a beautiful old house. When we reached there, there was a family gathering in the coutyard and a game was in progress, the whole family had got together and they were playing group games, mainly quizzing etc. The whole ambience exuded warmth and a happy feeling.

Girish Mukherjee bari

Mallik Bari
Next stop and the last banedi bari that I visited this durga puja was Mallik bari. Last Durga pujas I barely could find my way in, it was so crowned. Mainly because Tollywood actor Koel Mallik is a daughter of this family and she was visiting. This time when we reached, she was not there, so there wasn't much crowd. I could take a lots of photographs of the house and Goddess Durga. We had a chat with some members of the family. I was very impressed with their hospitality. I still remember the taste of the home made nariyal laddu that they offered us. Delicious!

Mallik Bari Durga Puja
The thing about Durga pujas is the happiness and cheer that it brings with it. It is infectious!
And I love it!

I am sharing some more images of Durga puja pandals that i visited in Bhowanipur -

Bhowanipur Sanatan Dharmatsahini Sabha

Harish Park Sarbojanin Durgotsab

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kolkata Durga Puja (tour) parikrama 2010

We went on a tour in one of the West Bengal tourist buses on Saptami(Saptami is the first day of Durga puja) on October 14th. This trip is the "Sanatani trip". If you are interested in visiting some beautiful old houses of Kolkata, I would recommend this trip. We had a very good guide for our trip, he had a lot of information on the history of all of these barir puja that we were going to.

Kolkata's creativity reaches its peak during Durga pujas. I am very enthusiastic about taking a tour and checking out the wonderfully artisitic pandals. It feels so sad that pujas are over:(

This puja parikrama was however not for the pandals, I wanted to visit and get the essence of Durga puja celebrations at the Banedi baris of Kolkata. West bengal tourism was organising such a tour. I booked my ticket almost a month and a half before and still could not get tickets for the morning trip:( I did manage to get tickets for the aftrenoon bus.

On Satami, we set off around 2.30pm from Netaji Indoor Stadium. Each of us was handed a brochure with information on the Pujas that we were going to. ( Some of the information that I have given here is from the brochure provided by WB tourism) Along with the brochures came a sumptuous box of snacks!
Munching on our snacks and feeling happy about the trip ahead, we set off.

Our first destination was Chandra Bari Durga puja. Bharat Chandra started this Puja. The Thakurdalan where the puja is held has been designed by a renouned architect , Srish Chandra Chattapadhyay. This premise has been declared as heritage property.

Chandra bari KolkataChandra bari Durga Puja

Chandra Bari Durga Puja

Next stop was Thanthania Dutta bari durga puja.This puja is over a century and a half old. The thakurdalan where the puja takes place is well maintained and very well illuminated. This deity is a bit different from the other deities. Here, Ma Durga is sitting on the lap of Lord Shiva.

Thanthania Dutta BariThanthania Dutta Bari Durga

Thanthania Dutta Bari Durga Puja
Our next stop was Chhatubabu-Latubabur pujo, which was yet another impessive house. This puja was started by Ramdulal Deb in 1780, the ancestor of two famous Benali aristocrats Chhatubabu and Latubabu. The durga puja here is held behind a thin veil of purda. We were very impressed with the exuberance and grandeur of this place.Very impressive.We captured pictures of some more building owned by them. Each very well maintained and beautiful. There are two temples which belong to the family.

Considering the kind of traffic jam that Kolkata encounters during Durga puja, we were having a smooth ride. Hardly any traffic jams...i guess because it was aftrenoon, most people want to rest in the afternoons and visit the pujas in the evening!

Chhatubabu - Latubabur Durga Puja

By the time our next destination arrived, it started getting dark and it was really overcast. It was just 4.30 pm when we got down from the bus to see the Shovabazar Raj barir durga pujo. It looked like it was 7 pm! And then it started to rain very heavily. The rain did slow us down, we were doing the tour very smoothly so far...

Shovabazar Raj bari was very impressive too! This puja started way back in 1757. Goddess Durga's image has not changed since it started.Durga's vahana is more like a horse than a lion.
Because it started raining so heavily we had to duck under umbrellas or any shade we could get. It was nice, quite a respite from the hot and humid day. But we could not spend as much time there as we would have wanted to:(
Shovabazar Rajbari Durga Puja
Even though it was raining, the crowd was getting thicker, with people and festivity all around, the mood was effervescent! Inspite of the rains, the crowd; it was wonderful experience.
Our last stop was Rani Rashmoni bari. This puja started in 1780 in Janbazar, Kolkata.This Durga puja has the privilege of sanctification by the great Sri Ramkrishna Parmhansadeb in 1864.The "Bhog" that is cooked here is very special. It is cooked with ganges water.
Rani Rashmoni Durga PujaRani+Rashmoni+Bari
Rani Rashmoni Durga Puja

We spent a wonderful evening visiting these beautiful old Banedi baris of Kolkata.I wish we could see some more today. As alawys all good things come to end too soon...I thought to myself, but Durga puja had just started and this was just day one of durga puj!

My spirits lifted and I quickly called a friend of mine who lives in Bhowanipur. He organises a small puja with four of his friends, and I remembered that there are some banedi baris there as well. My next plan of action was decided. We thanked our guide for the wonderful day and got down at Dharmatala. We got a cab easily and off we went to ur!

I have some more beautiful pictures of Goddess Durga and beautiful pandals to share. Will continue this post with much much more.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Will we ever see a black James Bond?

Was watching a Bond film today...Star movie has been playing a lot of Bond films recently and I quite enjoy watching them...

Today while watching one of many Bond films, a thought struck about a black James Bond?

Will there be a day when we see a dashing tall, dark, and handsome James Bond such as Denzel Washington...perhaps?

Just hoping that it happens some day soon.

Will be great.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This and That -Things that made my day!

Here are some pics that I captured on my mobile... none of these are great pics (the quality is not so good) but I they came as a very pleasant surprise! Could not resist sharing these pictures.
These are a few of my favourite things....

A beautiful butterfly...

My Mango bonsai plant is now full of mangoes (this time of the year!)

One of my cactus plants gifted me a beautiful flower on my birthday

And a rainbow set my spirits high last week...