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.