Showing posts with label India travels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India travels. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Jodhpur~India Travels


Jodhpur is a state in Rajasthan, it was founded by Rao Jodha  in 1459. It is commonly known as the blue city as it has many blue buildings. There is no real evidence to support why the buildings in Jodhpur are blue, but rumour says that the Brahmins who lived in the outskirts of Jodhpur painted their houses blue to differentiate them from the rest of the population.



There are many places to visit in Jodhpur and on our recent visit we stayed over for two nights during which we had the opportunity to visit Mehrangarh Fort, which is situated on the hill tops outside Jodhpur city and overlooks the city of Jodhpur. 



The fort was constructed in 1459 by Rao Jodha.  It is surrounded by a thick, 10 km long wall with seven gates. The fort has beautiful architecture and intricate sculpting and carvings. 


The pink stone architecture is constantly being renovated and repaired to keep it in good condition. Every effort is made to keep the authenticity of the building and the detailing  and repairs are all done by master craftsman.






The detailing work on the structure is stunning created all by hand, it indeed was a labour of love and the craftsman must have had astounding skills to create such a magnificent piece of work.



The rooms and courtyards have narrow staircases leading to the royal residence with beautiful porches and carved doorways. The rooms have adorned walls and mosaic floors with intricate patterns and eye catching stained glass windows.




The rooms most famous in Mehrangarh Fort are Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana, and Daulat Khana. 



The rooms make up part of the museum where the age old treasures are exhibited together with paintings, exquisite collection of palanquins, howdahs, royal cradles, miniatures, musical instruments, costumes, furniture as well as cannons on the fort's ramparts.



Not far from Mehrangarh Fort is Jaswant Thada, a white marble memorial built in remembrance of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. Jaswant Thada is popularly known as the ‘Taj Mahal of Marwar’.  Marwar being another name for Jodhpur. The Jaswant Thada is completely built with marble stones. It has a unique feature that the marble stones sets off a warm glow when the rays from the sun catch it.



The Memorial is built like a temple with domes and pillars and there is a natural calming aura and ambience with in the rooms. Inside the walls are adorned with portraits of past rulers and Maharajas of Rajasthan.




There are also beautiful gardens surrounding Jaswant Thada which have  gazebos doted around where you can sit and enjoy the tranquility of the place and its surroundings.



There are many other nearby places to visit in Jodhpur if time permits such as such as Mandore Gardens, Kailana Lake, Umaid Bhawan Palace museum,  Masuria Hills Garden and Balsamand Lake.

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is next to Jaswant Thada. It was created in 2006 to try and restore the natural ecology of a large, rocky wasteland next to Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.




Shopping in Jodhpur is a must, the most popular place to visit is the Sardar Market near the Clock Tower. Here you you find local as well as tourists walking through the local market where you can buy anything from fruits and vegetables to spices, homeware and also clotings. Jodhpur is famous for its handicrafts, pottery, costume jewellery and dyeing materials. Most popular buys are embroidered leather mojaris (shoes), painted woodwork, dye fabric, jewellery, miniature painting, and Bandhini sarees a very unique design and print that Rajasthan is famous for.


Our trip to Jodhpur was indeed very pleasurable, the weather in February was comfortable and not too hot. Ideally an extra day would have given us more time to do more sightseeing and catch a Rajasthani folk dance show too.


Whilst in Jodhpur, I also had the opportunity to meet Neelam and Nikki from Verhomal spices you can read all about their story in my previous post here.


To read about my other posts in the India Travels series see the links below.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Choki Dhani ~ Jaipur


On my recent blog post in my India travels series, I wrote about my trip to Jaipur, one of the highlights of the trip was to Choki Dhani, a rural village setting decorated with traditional artefacts and furnishings and serving Rajasthani cuisine in a very authentic and homely way.




 We enjoyed the village atmosphere and the Rajasthani ambience which was created by performances of traditional Rajasthani dance.


The dancers balanced stacks of pots on their heads whilst standing on steel tumblers. the sheer balancing and dancing to rhythm was mesmerising.


The Melody and tunes orchestrated by Rajastani musical instruments was very authentic and folklore musicians were really good as they performed folk songs .


There were many stalls selling ethnic wear, hand crafted bags, shoes and regional mirror work clothing. We particularly liked the fact that many old trades of carving, weaving,  printing etc were showcased at Choki Dhani, not only did it give tourists like our selves an insight to these fascinated trades but it also kept the livelihood of these tradesmen alive.

 At Choki Dhani we were able to see the art of carving printing blocks by local artisans and later saw the blocks being used to print fabric with fabric dyes. The designs were intricate and beautiful.



We were able to participate in making our own pot using a hand turned pottery wheel. It was wonderful to see that the age old art of pottery was being promoted and kept alive.



Lakh (glass) bangle making  and handmade glass jewellery was also on show at this place. The glass beads were hand made as were the Lac (glass )bangles bangles.


Jaipur is well known for its thread work embroidery, mirror work on bags and clothing and also for hand weaved rugs. The beautiful and colorful rugs were each hand weaved as the weaver laboriously weaved thread after thread to make intricate designs on the hand loom.



There were many stalls where you could sample Rajastani snacks and cuisine, and participate in magic shows, and join in some Rajasthani games also.


Finally to complete our experience we enjoyed a wonderful Rasthani Thali (platter of food) at the Choki Dhani restaurant which again was an experience in itself. After being grandly escorted like VIP guests to the courtyard restaurant we were invited to sit on the floor cross legged on plush cushions.

The waiters served a large selection of traditional Rajasthani cuisine on banana leaf plates and bowls set on low tables. We adorned Rajasthani turbans as we enjoyed our food.



The food was delicious and plentiful and it just kept coming, It was indeed a rich gastronomical experience and one I WILL NEVER FORGET!!!



Guests can also check in and stay at the Choki Dhani resort, which I believe is magnificent , however we already had our rooms booked at the Hilton and so did not have the opportunity to stay there. If you want to see and experience an authentic Rajasthani cultural experience, I would highly recommend a visit to Choki Dhani.


To read about my other posts in the India Travels series see the links below.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Jaipur ~ India

My India travels continues as we head to the magnificent state of Rajasthan and the city of Jaipur often known as the pink city. Jaipur was established in 1727 by Jai Singh II, and it is one of the largest city of Rajasthan. Jaipur is magnificent with beautiful architecture, it has the most eye catching and majestic fortresses, palaces, temples and beautiful havelis. The best time to visit this place is between October and March. The weather although is hot is still bearable.
On our recent visit to Jaipur we visited a few of the key sightseeing places:

Amber Fort



Amber Fort is situated next to the Maota lake on the rocky hill of Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) that overlooks the Jaipur. It was built by Raja Shri Maan Singh JI Saheb’ (Maan Singh I) and It dates back from the 16th century. The fort can be reached by car, on foot or by elephant rides which take you to the grand entrance of the fort. 



Inside the palace there are many state rooms, lots of beautifully carved architecture, courtyards and chambers. The most intricate and beautiful room in the fort is the Sheesh Mahal the Mirror Palace. The walls and ceilings are carved with floral patterns that are inlayed with glass mirrors. It is thought that if a candle is lit in the Mahal, it will replicate a starry night. The Maharaja built this room for his queen who wanted to sleep under the stars but since Royal women were not allowed to do this this was to replicate the experience of sleeping under the stars.


To make the most of the fort I would highly recommend getting an English speaking guide who will be able to give a detailed history and tour of the fort.

Hawa Mahal- Palace of Winds


Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 and it was an extension of the city palace. The palace spans out over five floors and the inside boasts beautiful and intricate Rajput and Islamic architecture. It has a very iconic honeycomb structure created by pink sandstone. These structures are actually the palace windows made from detailed  lattice work made in a typical Marwari design. It was thought that the queens and the royal women in palace used to sit behind the windows, out of sight so they could watch royal processions or religious ceremonies. The windows also provided air to travel through the lattice to keep the palace cool hence it was given the name Hawa Mahal meaning palace of winds.

Jal Mahal- Water Palace


The Jal Mahal the water palace set in the middle of Lake Sagar. It appears to have only one story which is visible from the banks of the lake, however the palace has an extra 4 floors submerged under water. It is not possible to visit the palace but you can view it from the banks. Along the banks of the lake there are a few stalls selling tourist souvenirs, photographers offering to take photos in Rajasthani attire and also camel rides. A typical visit to the Jal Mahal will be less than 30 minutes, just enough time to take some photos

Nahargarh Fort- Abode of tigers




Whilst in Jaipur we also visited Nahargarh Fort, Nahargarh which means 'abode of tigers'. It is located in one of the oldest mountain ranges of the world, the Aravalli Hills. The fort can be reached by car along a long winding mountain road, there are many places to stop to admire the beautiful and spectacular views of Jaipur. 



It is known that Nahargarh Fort, Amer Fort and Jaigarh Fort are all connected and were used as defence for each other. The fort is a two storey building with many rooms and beautiful Indian and European style of architecture.


Apart from sightseeing, shopping in Jaipur is plentiful, there are many shops on MG Road and lots of bazaars leading off the main road too. You can buy clothing and ethnic attire, hand-dyed and embroidered textiles, pretty jewellery and delicious food. The city is a rainbow of bright colours and it is very visually appealing.



Since we only spent two nights in Jaipur we wanted to make the most of the city, together with sightseeing and shopping we were looking for a Rajasthani cultural experience whilst dining. This we found when we visited Choki Dhani, which captures this perfectly in a rural village setting decorated with traditional artefacts and furnishings and serving  Rajasthani cuisine in a very authentic and homely way. Our experience of Choki Dhani was very enjoyable and it is worthy of a separate blog post which is next on the agenda.

Time permitting there are many other places to visit in Jaipur such as the Jaigarth Fort, Jantar Mantar stone observatory and  Birla Temple. Since we only had two nights to spend in this beautiful city. I think we managed to pack in all the key things we wanted to experience.  

To follow my India travel series do check out my previous post:


Jaipur- Choki Dhani
Jodhpur

Friday, 5 May 2017

Rishikesh ~ India


 Rishikesh was the next destination on our India itinerary after visiting Haridwar. Rishikesh is in state of Uttarakand. It is set in  Himalayan foot hills where the ganges flows. The history behind Rishikesh is that has been a part of the legendary 'Kedarkhand'  now known as Garhwal; a princely state that was ruled by the Garhwali Rajput Dynasty. It is thought that Lord Rama did his penance at this place after he killed the demon  King Ravana.

There are many temples and ashrams to visit in Rishikesh, together with places like the Ram Jhula and the Laxman Jhula. These are foot bridges spanning over the Ganges where Laxman  and Lord Ram had used to cross the Ganges. The bridges which were originally made from rope were reconstructed from steel to make them more durable. We walked across these to cross the river from one side to the other, the crossing can be made by boat also.



Rishikesh is also well known for Ayurveda treatments and there are many centers that offer coaching and training in ayurvedic medicine. It is a home for travellers seeking solace, spirituality and yoga. Pilgrims flock to Rishikesh to offer prayers to the Ganges and it is also the starting point for travelling to the four Chota Char Dham pilgrimage places - Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.


 Like Haridwar Rishikesh also offers Ganga Aarti, it is conducted at the Triveni Ghat and is also at the Parmarth Niketan but because both aartis are performed at sunset we had to make the choice to attend one of them only. The aartis are beautifully conducted using fire lamps and synchronised to spiritual music.


The visitors are invited to partake in the aarti too, volunteers passed around the divine lighted lamps for everyone to participate. The dramatics of the aarti are little staged for the tourists but never the less it is beautiful, more serene and calmer than our experience of the Ganga aarti at Haridwar.


The highlight of our trip to Rishikesh was the visit to the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Nilkanth, an aspect of Shiva. It was thought the temple is marking the place where Lord Shiva saved the world by drinking the poison churned from the ocean. The temple is situated 32 km from Rishikesh, high up in the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot and Vishnukoot and is located at the meeting of the rivers Pankaja and Madhumati.



The ride up to the temple which is situated 1330km high is through steep and narrow winding mountain roads. The scenery is spectacular and you will catch glimpse of many wild life residing in the mountains especially monkeys. Along the route, dotted on the river banks of the Ganges there are many campsites where travelers can stay and enjoy white water rafting. You can also find many Ashrams in the woodlands offering travelers a retreat to practice yoga and meditate.


The temple itself is pretty small, the walk up to the temple from the car park is lined with vendors selling religious artifacts and flowers and offerings. There are many food and tea vendors dotted around too.


We did find that we had to queue up to visit the inside of the temple to offer our prayers to the Lord Shiva shrine inside. The queue did not seem too bad and worshipers were creating a beautiful spiritual atmosphere as they chanted the name of lord Shiva whilst queuing. Once we reached the darshan point, we were able to offer our prayers but we did feel it was a little rushed and personally, I would have like to have had a little more time to soak up the atmosphere. Sadly because of the volume of people there this was not possible. Ideally it would be better to visit the temple at off peak times but due to its reach it’s difficult to make the journey too early or too late in the day as the roads are very tricky leading up to the temple.I would highly recommend visit to this temple both for the Darshan (prayers) and for the views which are spectacular.




On day two of our stay at Rishikesh we spent the day wondering around the shopping area, there are three tourist markets, one near Laxman Jhula, one near Ram Jhula and the third near the Triveni Ghat. In the markets you can buy many handicrafts, a range of religious paraphernalia, costume jewellery, kurta tops, cotton trousers and beautiful and colourful cloth bags and scarves.


For the more adventurous people there are many other things to do in Rishikesh such as bungee Jumping, Trekking, white water rafting, camping, kayaking and rock climbing too.


In all our experience of Rishikesh was serene calm and beautiful and I would love to return for a longer stay and to perhaps attend a yoga retreat.

To follow my India travel series do check out my previous post:
10 Essentials to carry in your hand luggage.
Top 15 India travel Tips


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