'Jewel of India'
on a huge cake of land along the Ganges is the great city of
Calcutta, the metropolis of India's culture, politics and industry.
A city of great variety, it satisfies so many tastes. Her great
academies of culture, priceless galleries of art and architecture,
archives of rich literature, theatre and music, lively festivals and
colorful customs and last but not least her giant industry and
commerce have earned for her the proud term the 'Jewel of India' to
whom the entire country turns in homage.
Calcutta is a city
of immensities. Wharves fitted with modern contrivances of
facilitate the loading and unloading of vessels with activity. Its
friendly and hospitable people, varied charms and starling contrasts
fabulous luxury and abominable misery, high intellect and ignorance
abounding, magnificent palaces and sticking slums - all these are
objects of mystery and permanent interest to all.
of Interest in and around Calcutta
Calcutta is like London
in that it is a great port and that it can provide such a wealth of
interest, so many beautiful, impressive and curious sights, so many
diversions, occupations, entertainments and pursuits, that to be in
Calcutta might be considered not only a privilege, but almost a
majestically on the south end of the Maidan is the Victoria
Memorial, the marble monument erected to the memory of the great
sovereign whose name it bears. Built by Lord Curzon in 1921 at a
cost of Rs. 76 lakh as a replica of the famous Taj Mahal at Agra,
the Memorial is regarded as one of the great buildings of the modern
world and is the repository of a priceless collection of pictures,
statues and historical documents and other object of art and
interest illustrative of Indian history in general and the Victorian
art in particular, The spacious grounds around the building are well
laid out with exquisite flower beds, wide lawns and gleaming
stretches of water, which all make it one of Calcutta's preeminent
building with a frontage of over 300 ft. along the Chowringhee Road
is the Indian Museum, one of the largest museum of the world. A
veritable treasure-house of knowledge, the Museum contains rare
collections, illustrative of Indian art and archaeology, natural
history, coins and manuscripts, jewels, busts, engraving and other
objects of absorbing interest.
the west bank of the river Hooghly, across the Bridge, stands the
magnificent Hindu monastery- the Belur Math- which was built by the
donation of an American lady in honor of Sri Ramkrishna and his
notable disciple Swami Vivekananda, who earned immortal fame at the
Parliament of Religions held at Chicago. The temple at once
represents a church a mosque and a temple when viewed from different
angles. This is the headquarters of the Ramkrishna Mission, India's
greatest philanthropic organization.
island of Omkareshwar is shaped like an 'Om', the holiest of holy
symbols, the mystical repository and talisman of faith, wisdom and
divine power. It is here that the handiwork of nature and man
compliment each other to create a serene setting and bear testimony
of descriptions made in the Puranas (ancient scriptures) that this
was a habitation of Aryans from where cultural vibrations issued
forth to the rest of the country.
The five storeyed
Omkareshwar temple containing the self-emerging jyotirlinga is the
main center of attraction. Its origin is shrouded in mystery. The
inner sanctum sanctorum, which appears an independent temple itself
is very old. The extension of the temple with its imposing sabha
mandap (hall) containing huge stone columns with carved figures
appear to belong to the Brahmanical times or Gupta period (4th or
5th century AD). As the sanctum is close of the precipitous bank of
the Narmada river, the extension made is sideways. That explains why
the main door is not in front of the deity.
arrangement here is that the lingam cell is not placed as usual in
line with the front door of the temple but to one side. It cannot be
seen except from the remote inner end of the hall. The cell around
the lingam is filled with water, which is said to maintain a
constant level even during the busiest periods of Mahashivrati and
kartika when thousands of liters of water are poured over the
shivalinga as part of the abhishek ceremony. Facing the Shivalinga
is a statue of the Goddess Narmada.
Mandhata hill contains
a number of other interesting temples too. These are generally in
the medieval Brahmanic style and are built without the use of
arches, the dome being made by tiers of bricks shelving inwards.
Their architecture dates back to the 10th-13th century AD in the age
of the Parmars. There may have been some 50 temples, which were part
of a sprawling township and fortress on top of Mandhata hill
commanding an excellent view of the valley with its own lakes and
On the southern bank of the Narmada river is the
temple of Amreshwar containing inscriptions on the walls of the
portico dating back to 1063 AD. Ahilya Bai, the queen of the Holkar
dynasty initiated the custom of lingarchana puja or the creation of
earthen Shivalingas on wooden boards containing some one thousand
holes. In each of these a mound of earth to represent a lingam is
placed and each is then bedlocked with a single grain of rice.
Thirty thousand such lingams when ready are offered to the Narmada.
The Trust created in the Queen's name still maintains this custom
On the island the most magnificent and fascinating
temple is that of Siddhnath standing on a plateau towards the
eastern edge of the hill. It is supported by a high plinth, whose
sides are festooned with stately elephants in various positions.
These are four or five feet high and made of yellow sandstone. The
pillars supporting the entrances are elaborately carved with friezes
of satyr-like figures. Even in its present state of decay the temple
is imposing and attractive.
Lhasa: A home away from home
overnight bus journey from Delhi takes one to Dharamshala, a popular
hill station in Himachal Pradesh. Since 1960, when it became the
seal of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamshala attained
international repute as the 'Little Lhasa' in India with more than
3000 Tibetans settled there.
is a veritable paradise of peace. Naddi, situated five kilometres
from the McLeodGanj market in Upper Dharamshala, is a small village
that enjoys the vantage point of offering a panoramic view of the
Dhauladhar Range to those fortunate who have discovered the place.
The Udechee-huts provide a haven for nature lovers and is a home
away form home. It is run by a couple who appreciate the value of
nature and have thus maintained the resort in an environment
friendly manner-as natural as possible-yet providing all the
comforts of a home. There are eight circular huts on split levels,
independent of each other with all modern amenities such as hot/cold
water, heater, intercom service, etc. The rooms are airy, bright and
tastefully furnished. There is a dining hall and a sitting room in
the main lodge where all the guests can join the hosts for a meal
and mingle with each other. A choice of Indian, Chinese and
Continental food is offered. A personal touch is added to the
holiday as you interact with your hosts and learn about the region,
people and culture.
From the udechee Huts one gets a
spectacular view of the sunrise and sunset since the view is
unhindered by buildings or trees- a spectacular play of colors on
the snow-clad peaks. The sky sheds its orange hue to don a rosy pink
one in a matter of minutes before finally settling down to a pale
mist veiling the mountains. You can see shepherds drive their flocks
home in the evenings or sometimes just feel their presence when you
hear the soft notes of a flute.
There are several trekking
routes that start from Naddi which are quite popular with people on
an adventure holiday. Dharamshala's altitude varies between 1250
meters and 2250 meters. The snow line here is comparatively more
easily accessible than at any other hill station. The trek to
Triund, is a very frequented one, only 18 kilometers from
Dharamshala. It is possible to make a return trip on the same day.
Triund lies at the foot of the perpetually snow clad Dhauladhar
Range, at a height of 2828 meters. The Forest Lodge at Triund rests
atop a hill. One can see the clouds settle below in the evenings.
The landscape is pastoral-lush green grass spread endlessly on the
slope with boulders scattered around. Those who wish to stay to
pitch their tents, lights bonfires and await the star-filled sky.
Gaddis or shepherds, hurry back to their homes. There is a tiny
shack where one can get biscuits and tea made on a charcoal fire.
The sun making an exit behind the mountains is a memory worth
The snow line starts at Ilaqa, five kilometers
from Triund and commands a breathtaking view of the snow covered
mountains as well as the emerald green valley below. A less
strenuous option is a stroll to the river, an hour's walk from the
Udechee Huts. The journey is a picturesque one with lush terraced
farms, pines, picture-postcard scenery. The river, actually a wide
stream, makes a wonderful picnic spot. There are huge boulders
everywhere, the water is sparkling and the warm sun entices you to
take a nap. A packed lunch from the Udechee Huts makes the trip
If not rushed for time, make a trip down to
Dharamshala. The hill station is divided into an upper and lower
part with a difference of 457 meters between them. Starting down
from Naddi, the first stop is the Dal Lake after a 11 kilometer
walk. Not as large as its famed namesake in Kashmir, it has a charm
of its own with a dense forest of pines providing the backdrop to
the lake. There are beautiful and colorful fish visible in the
crystal clear waters. Not far from the lake is the shrine of
Bhasunath near a small waterfall, which is famous for its ancient
temple. The temple is considered sacred by Hindus.
13 kilometers from Dal Lake brings you down to McLeodGanj in Uppar
Dharamshala. Reminiscent of the British Raj, it is also an important
Buddhist mecca dominated by Tibetan residents. The gompa or the
Buddhist temple lies opposite the Dalai Lama's abode half an hour's
walk from the market. The place is washed with tranquility. There
are monks in their maroon and saffron attires of all age groups. The
Institute for Buddhist Dialectic Studies is situated here.
the gompa there are beautiful paintings, even the walls and the
ceiling are painted with bright colors. Tankhas or silk wall
hangings are hung along the walls. There is an enormous statue of
Lord Buddha in the center, numerous oil lamps and bowls of water as
customary are placed before the statue. Outside, all around the
gompa, are cylindrical prayer wheels painted bright red. It is said
that if one turns the wheels, the sins of one's ancestors are washed
away. A number of residential buildings, restaurants, Tibetan
handicrafts, curio shops together with the people create a feeling
of a very different and mystical land.
Mid-way to Lower
Dharamshala, hidden in the pine trees is the graceful Gothic Church
of St. John known for its beautiful and priceless stained galls
windows. There is a memorial to Sir Elgin, the 18th Viceroy of India
who made a dying request that he be buried here in this church
dedicated to the patron saint of Scotland since the area reminded
him of his home in Scotland-rugged, wild and expansive.
the busy market of Lower Dharamshala, one can go on to visit the War
Memorial built near the entry point to Dharamshala, in memory of the
hundreds of jawans (soldiers) and officers belonging to the Kangra
Valley who died fighting in the Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan wars.
Situated in a beautiful garden on a gentle slope, the place has been
well maintained with flowerbeds, stone walks, wooden benches,
decorative shelters, etc. It is an ideal place for spending
peaceful, relaxed afternoons.
A famous temple dedicated to
the Goddess Chamundi Devi rests in the village of Dadh, which is 15
kilometers from Dharamshala. On reaching the temple, an
awe-inspiring view of the Dhauladhar Range awaits you. You can also
view the Khud, Pathiar and Lahla forests from here. There are hot
springs at Tatwani, 25 kilometers from Dharamshala.
comes for a prolonged stay, there are a host of places around
Dharamshala that can be reached by road. This area is dotted with
breathtakingly beautiful picnic spots. Souvenirs can be bought
aplenty in the mall where flea markets are held regularly on
Sundays. The Tibetan shops display interesting wares-trinkets,
woolens, traditional costumes, curios etc. Be adventurous and try
the Himachal apple wine.
A City of Myths and Legends
outline and bold silhouettes of Orchha depict to this day the
grandeur and power of the Bundela rulers; every detail, curve and
contour of its cluster of monuments flouting the luxury and the
legacy of the erstwhile rajas.
Upon a visit to Orchha, one
can see busloads of pilgrims bathing on the Kanchana Ghat along the
roaring Betwa river. Makeshift kitchens spread an aroma of freshly
baked rotis' (bread) on wood fires. These pious people come from all
over Madhya Pradesh to pay homage to Raja Rama, the mythological
king of Ayodhya. (According to Hindus, Lord Rama was the incarnation
of the God Vishnu, who descended on earth to fight evil)
all the legends that make this erstwhile Bundela kingdom in Madhya
Pradesh a storehouse of fables, both of mortal love and immortal
faith, the Raja Rama story is the most unique. It is claimed that
the image of Rama installed in the temple is the only one depicting
the lord in the padmasana that is, the sitting state. He is carved
in black stone, beside him sits Sita. Rama is in rajshi bhesh'-
attired like a king with one hand on a shield. The toes of his right
foot are visible beneath the shield.
The sculpture is
credited to Sage Vashist. He is said to have carved it when Rama
took fourteen years 'banvas' or exile as described in Ramayana. It
is said that the pious Raja of Bundela, King Madhukar I, had a
dream-visitation of Rama. He was called to Ayodhya in 1575. There he
found this statue and brought it to Orchha. While a suitable temple
was being constructed in which to install the deity, Madhukar felt
the safest place for it would be in the Rani Mahal, where it would
be safe from foreign raiders.
The Chhaturbhuj temple, on a
raised rocky platform, close to the palace, was built for Raja Rama.
But when it was ready, the deity refused to budge from the palace.
So there it resides, surrounded by devoted brother Lakshamana, and
the faithful retinue that helped Raja Rama (Lord Rama) defeat
apart, today's reality is also somewhat fabulous. Madhukar Shah II,
the present eighth descendant of Madhukar Shah I, has given the Raja
Rama Mandir to the government on certain conditions regarding its
upkeep. (Incidentally one Rama temple in Ayodhya is still maintained
by Mandhukar II.)
When the temple is opened to the public
for 'darshan', bodies are literally packed like sardines most of the
time as there is not too much space directly in front of the shrine.
As the bells and gongs strike the hour, the pandits or priests
starts blowing the conchs. This is the signal for the policeman,
standing barefoot in front of the shut door with a gun on his
shoulder, to present arms. As the reigning head priest emerges from
behind the shrine and deferentially opens the ornate wooden doors,
the shouts hailing Raja Rama reach a crescendo. This is followed by
devotional songs and distribution of parshad.
Chaturbhuj Temple is a desolate structure. There is a desolate
structure. There is a tinsel copy of the original Raja Rama placed
in the space created for it. But the architecture is marvelous.
Whosoever designed it took ideas from several places of worship. The
white monument has cathedral like arches and pillars, the domes are
modeled on ancient mosques, the alcoves recall 'mazaars', churches
and temples. Madhukar Shah envisaged a secular abode for Raja Rama.
other fascinating story linked with this tiny tourist spot-it is
usually a lunch stopover for tourists on their way from Jhansi to
Khajuraho-is the story of the beautiful courtesan Rai Praveen. A
poetess and musician, Rai Praveen was the beloved of, and loved Raja
Indra Mani. Emperor Akbar (b. 1542-d. 1605 AD) was fascinated by her
and ordered the Bundela Raja to send her to Delhi. The clever lady
so captivated the emperor with her charming display of total loyalty
to her lover that Akbar was forced to return her to Orchha.
Rai Praveen Mahal, a lovely aerial view of which can be had from the
Jehangir Mahal, is a simple airy stone structure surrounded by trees
of the same height. Yet there is provision for light in almost every
niche. Surrounding it are the gardens of the Anand Mahal where
echoes of mehfils still resound.
The Hotel Sheesh Mahal,
run by Madhya Pradesh Tourism, has some wondrous living spaces,
large bathrooms, anterooms and bedrooms. This structure forms the
center of a quadrangle. The Jehangir Palace is on one side, a view
of Orchha on another, and a flagstone path links the space to the
The Laxminarayan Temple is a cross
between a fort and a religious sanctum, and has the most exquisite
wall paintings seen in this part of the country. Those on lower
levels have been somewhat defaced, but the ones on the ceiling and
upper walls are brilliant descriptions of narrative episodes from
mythology, particularly the Ramayana. The best murals are in three
halls, which the caretakers in their rare wisdom keep locked.
the banks of the Kanchana river are fourteen chhatris or cenotaphs.
These memorials to the rulers of Orchha are a sight to behold from a
distance. Unforntunately they are not in very good conditions. The
cenotaph to the great Madhukar-I, with a beautiful marble bas-relief
within, and the other chhatris require immediate attention.
contemporary attraction though not of great beauty, but of immense
historical importance is the Shaheed Smarak. It marks the house
where the revolutionary freedom fighter, Chandrashekhar Azad spent
his days of exile or 'agyatvaas' in 1926 and 27.
Mahal is exotic, but for those who want to spend peaceful days, the
M.P. Tourism Betwa Cottages along the riverbank are absolutely
wonderful. Orchha is 19 km by road from Jhansi rail junction, and
119 km from Gwalior airport. Khajuraho is 170 km away.
holiest Place of the Sikh Religion
city founded in 1577 by Ram Das, the fourth Guru of the Sikhs,
Amritsar is both the center of the Sikh religion and the major city
of the Punjab state, where the majority of Sikhs live. The name
Amritsar translates as 'pool of nectar', the name of the sacred pool
by which the Sikh's golden temple is built.
site for the city was granted by the Moghul emperor Akbar, but in
1761 Ahmad Shah Durani sacked the town and destroyed the temple. The
temple was rebuilt in 1764 and in 1802 it was roofed over with
copper gilded plates by Ranjit Singh and became known as the golden
temple. During the turmoil of the partition of India in 1948,
Amritsar was a flashpoint for the terrible events that shook the
Punjab. The region's recovery has been remarkable and today Amritsar
even looks better off than other parts of India. You see few beggars
in the streets.
The old city is south of the main railway
station and is surrounded by a circular road, which used to contain
the massive city walls. There are 18 gates still in existence but
only the gate to the north, facing the Ram Bagh gardens, is
original. The Golden Temple and the narrow alleys of the bazaar area
are in the interior of the old city. The more modern part of
Amritsar is northeast of the railway station where you will also
find the beautiful gardens known as Ram Bagh.
The holiest shrine of the Sikh religion is in
the center of the old part of town. The temple itself is surrounded
by the lake, which gave the town its name. A causeway connects the
temple in the middle of the pool and a loudspeaker broadcasts a
continuous reading of the Granth Sahib in Punjabi. The high priest
who reads from the Sikh's holy book sits on the east side of the
temple. The original copy of the Granth Sahib is kept in the Golden
Temple and is occasionally taken out on procession. There is also a
temple garden to the south side of the temple enclosure and the Baba
Atal Tower stands in this garden. The tall Ramgarhia Minars stand
outside the temple enclosure.
Pilgrims and visitors to the
Golden Temple must remove their shoes and cover their heads before
entering the temple precincts. An English-speaking guide is
available at the clock tower, which marks the temple entrance. The
Central Sikh Museum is upstairs in the clock tower.
A 15-minute walk from the Golden Temple, through
the narrow alleys of the old city, brings you to the Hindu temple
known as Durgiana. This small temple, dedicated to the goddess
Durga, dates back to the 16th century. A larger temple, built like
the Golden Temple in the center of a lake, is dedicated to the Hindu
deities Laxmi and Narayan. There are a number of mosques in the old
city including the mosque of Muhammad Jan with three white domes and
slender minarets. To the southwest of the city stands the Fort of
Govindgarh, which was built in 1805-09 by Ranjit Singh, who was also
responsible for the city walls.
park is just five minutes' walk from the Golden Temple and
commemorates the death of 2000 Indians at this site, who were shot
indiscriminately by the British in 1919. This was one of the major
events in India's struggles for independence and was movingly
recreated in the film 'Gandhi'. Bullet marks and the well into which
some people jumped to escape can still be seen.
This beautiful garden is in the new part of town and
also has a museum in the small palace built there by the Sikh
Maharajah Ranjit Singh. The museum contains weapons dating back to
the Moghul times and some portraits of the ruling houses of the
The Govindgarh Fort, built by Rajit Singh in 1809,
is a little southwest of the city center. Tarn Taran is an important
Sikh tank, about 25 km south of Amritsar. There's a temple and tower
on the east side of the tank, which was also constructed by Ranjit
Singh. The temple predates Amritsar. It's said that any leper who
can swim across the tank will be miraculously cured
is spectacular. The drive from Jodhpur is very pleasant. Approaching
from the desert seems suddenly to rise out of the desert haze, a
magnificent edifice of massive yellow sandstone ramparts and
bastions bathed golden in the afternoon sun.
laid the foundation of this city in 1156. Trikuta hill was chosen
for the site of the new city and Jaisal abandoned his old fort and
established this new capital. The bhati Rajputs of Jaisalmer were
feudal chiefs who lived off the forced levy on the caravans that
crossed their territory enroute Delhi or Sind. These caravans, laden
with precious cargoes of spices and silk brought great wealth to
this town. Because of its remote location, Jaisalmer for years
remained untouched by outside influences and during the British Raj
the Rulers of Jaisalmer were the last to sign the instrument of
Agreement with the British.
The glory of Jaisalmer faded
when sea trade replaced old land routs. But there is still 'Arabian
Nights' quality about the town. The narrow streets in the walled
city preserve a traditional way of life; the craftsmen still work at
the ancient crafts of weaving and stone carving, the making of
silver jewelry and embroidery. And the stately, nonchalant camel is
everywhere. Just a walk through JAISALMER, savoring the medieval
glory of old Rajasthan, is a marvelously rewarding travel
experience. Winter is the perfect time for Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer's
desert Festival, celebrated in January/February is a must on any
itinerary. The desert seems to bloom in the thousand colors. There
are camel races and folk dances. Craft bazaars and traditional
ballad singing, and a sound and light spectacle on the sand dunes of
Sam on the full moon night.
WHAT TO SEE
fort: The golden-hued Jaisalmer Fort'Sonar Kella' can be seen miles
away before reaching the town. The fort stands almost 30 meters over
the city and houses an entire living area within its huge ramparts.
Walking through the narrow lanes is an experience worth savouring.
is approached through Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, Bhoota Pol and Java
Pol. Also within it are many beautiful havelies and a group of Jain
temples dating from the 12th to the 15 centuries.
CHOWK AND HAVELIES
Outside the fort is the main market
place called Manak Chowk the center of local activities. From Manak
Chowk one can walk into the lanes where the famous carved havelies
are to be found. Each haveli' facade differs from other.
A rain water lake, now a picnic spot ideal for boating.
All round the lake are many small shrines and a spectacular variety
of birds can be seen here.
pagoda like Tazia Tower rises from Badal Mahal. Tazias are ornately
decorated bamboo, paper and finest replicas of a bier carried in
procession during Mohurram by the Muslims.
is famous for its intricately latticed havelies with conspicuous
Carved by two
brothers in the 19th century, the intricate architecture in stone is
the epitome of skill and beauty. Painting in the miniature style
adorn the interior walls.
PATWON KI HEVELI
storeys high with extensive corridors and chambers all supported by
exquisitely carved , it is one of the largest and most elaborate
havelis in Jaisalmer.
SALIM SINGH KI HAVELI
for its blue cupola root, this extraordinary mansion in yellow stone
is covered entirely with intricate carving and has an elaborate
projecting balcony adorning the top storey.
Within the fort complex are many beautiful Jain
temples, dedicated to Rishabdev, Sambhavnath and Parswanath the Jain
GYAN BHANDAR OR KIBRARY
as a part of Jain temples, the library contains some of the oldest
manuscripts found in India.
Dances of Rajasthan
people of Rajasthan live life to the hilt. After hard work in the
harsh desert, sun and the rocky terrain wherever they take time off
they let themselves go in gay abandon. There is dancing, singing,
drama, devotional music and puppet shows and other community
festivities, which transform the hardworking Rajasthani into a
fun-loving and carefree individual. Each region has its own folk
entertainment; the dance styles differ, as do the songs.
Interestingly even the musical instruments are different.
considerable significance are the devotional songs and the
communities who render these songs. Professional performers like the
Bhaats, Dholis, Mirasis, Nats, Bhopas and Bhands are omnipresent
across the state. They are patronized by the villagers, who
participate actively in the shows put up by these traveling
Some of the betterknown forms of
Dance: This is basically a community dance for women and
performed on auspicious occasions. Derived from the word ghoomma,
piroutte, this is a very simple dance where the ladies move gently,
gracefully in circles.
Gair Ghoomer: This is one of the
many dance-forms of the Bhils tribals. Performed during Holi
festival, this is among a few performances where both men and women
Gair: Another Holi dance but
performed only by men. This becomes Dandia Gair in Jodhpur and
Geendad in Shekhawati.
Chari Dance: This is popular
in the Kishengarh region and involves dancing with a chari, or pot,
on one's head. A lighted lamp is then placed on the pot.
Ghodi: This is a dance performed on dummy horses. Men in
elaborate costumes ride the equally well-decorated dummy horses.
Holding naked swords, these dancers move rhythmically to the beating
of drums and fifes. A singer narrates the exploits of the Bavaria
bandits of Shekhawati.
Fire Dance: The Jasnathis of
Bikaner and Churu are renowned for their tantric powers and this
dance is in keeping with their lifestyles.
Jain temples are Mt Abu's main attraction and amongst the finest
examples of Jain architecture in India. These include two temples
where the art of carving marble has been carried to unsurpassed
heights. The older of these temples in the Vimal Vasahi, which is
dedicated to the first Tirthankar, Adinath, was built in 1031. The
central shrine has an image of Adinath, while around the courtyard
are 52 identical cells, each with a Buddha-like cross-legged image.
The entrance to the courtyard is formed by 48 elegantly carved
pillars, In front of the temple stands the House of Elephants with
figures of elephants marching in procession to the temple entrance.
later Tejpal temple is dedicated to Neminath, the 22nd Tirthankar,
and was built in 1230 by the brothers Tejpal and Vastupal. Like
Vimal they were ministers in the government of the ruler of Gujarat.
Although the Tejpal temple is important as an extremely old and
complete example of a Jain temple, its most notable feature is the
fantastic intricacy and delicacy of the marble carving. In places
the carving is so fine that the marble becomes almost transparent.
In particular, the lotus flower, which hangs from the center of the
dome, is an incredible piece of work. It's difficult to believe that
this huge lace-like filigree actually started as a solid block of
marble. The temple employs several full-time stone-carvers to
maintain and restore the work.
There are three other
temples in the enclosure. The complex is open from 12 noon to 6 pm.
Note that no leather at all is permitted in the complex- apart from
removing shoes or sandals you must take off belts and even camera
cases if they are leather. You can stroll out to Dilwara in less
than an hour from the town.
The Shiva temple of Achaleshwar Mahandeva has a
number of interesting features including a toe of Shiva, a brass
Nandi, and where the Shiva lingam would normally be a deep hole said
to extend all the way to the underworld. Out side, by car park, is a
tank beside which are three stone buffaloes and the figure of a king
shooting them with a bow and arrows. A legend states that the tank
was once filled with ghee but demons in the form of buffaloes, came
down and drank it each night- until the king shot them. A path leads
up the hillside to a group of colorful Jain temples with fine views
out over the plains.
Guru Shikhar (15km)
the end of the plateau is 1721 meter Guru Shikhar the highest point
in Rajasthan. There is now a road almost up to the summit. On the
top there is the Atri Rishi Temple and there are good views all
Gaumuckh Temple (8km)
Down on the Abu
Road side of Mount Abu a small stream flows from the mouth of a
marble cow giving the shrine its name. There is also a marble Geiger
of the bull Nandi, Shiva's vehicle. The tank here, Agni Kund is said
to be the site for the sacrificial fire made by the sage Vasishta
from which four of the great Rajpur clans were born. An image of
Vasishta is flanked by figures of Rama and Krishna.
is celebrated almost all over the country and everywhere it cements
relationships. Gifts and sweets are exchanged. Friends and relatives
visit each other and in many places, chiefly in the north, nightlong
card sessions are in vogue. For businessmen, Diwali is the festival
of the year. They celebrate it with gusto. Even hi-fi business
houses that deal in computer software and their representatives
hop-hopping around the globe must hold a traditional Lakshmi puja.
For the people of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh
and for Marwaris anywhere, the day after Diwali is the first day of
the new financial year when they start new account books with the
blessings of the goddess.
In Bengal, Diwali coincides with
kali Puja, Lakshmi being worshipped on a different day. Though much
of the fervor of the devotees is already spent over Durga Puja, even
so the images of the fearsome goddess are ensconced in pandals all
over. Lamps are lighted and devotional music rings loud and clear
till the following day when the images are ceremonially consigned to
In Tamil Nadu, Diwali is more a daytime
festival, beginning with an early morning ritual oil bath and brand
new cloths, followed by a visit to the temple. The day meander
through hours of meeting friends and relatives, giving and receiving
gifts and feasting, particularly if there be a newly wed daughter in
the family. It concludes with a lively session of crackers and
fireworks. Lamps are lighted but selectively, not all over the
house, as in north India.
Diwali candles have, to a large
extent, taken over the twinkling from earthen diyas. Who has the
time nowadays to twist wicks out of raw cotton and to fill each
individual diya with oil? But crackers and fireworks have come into
their own, vying with each other for range, variety and eye appeal,
also sadly, noise and smoke. It's perfectly possible to drape the
night in stars without an almighty bang that also releases a pall of
smoke. Most of the money spent on a Diwali celebration only seeks
to project an image. But, in spite of the element of consumerism
that has recently crept in, Diwali remains one of the loveliest of
The sweets and lights and crackers and
jostling crowds are only the final flowering of the Diwali spirit.
The resurgence starts much earlier. In north India, Diwali is part
of a grand procession of autumn festivals and families spend much of
the year saving up for it. Company bonuses are suitably timed and
Diwali shopping is the standard occupation of householders for
weeks. Consumer goods flood the market and there are sales galore,
to say nothing of Diwali melas (fairs) packed with fun and color and
People find ingenious ways of generating a
little extra cash to spend around Diwali. Most people who get car
parts replaced at his garage simply dumb the defective parts and
drive off. The mechanic carefully tucks these away in his loft. Come
Diwali and he has a solid pile of metal scrap to sell to the kabadi
and rustle up a few thousand rupees.
Till distemper and
plastic emulsion appeared on the scene, every single urban home was
lime washed for Diwali every year for cosmetic reasons and to lay on
a befitting welcome to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, who likes
homes to be clean. Diwali is also an occasion for throwing away old,
Lakshmi and Ganesh are duly worshipped on
the night of Diwali with all the traditional offering of sweets,
flowers, fruit and money, even a brand new gold ornament or two,
brought especially for the occasion. The diya lighted in homage to
Lakshmi is shaped to hold four wicks and is filled with clarified
butter instead of oil. Being able to keep the Diya alight till the
wee hours of the morning means that Lakshmi will be pleased to grace
your home with her presence for the twelve months to come.
DUSSHERA FESTIVAL OF KULLU
like any other country of the orient, abounds in colorful and
spectacular festivals and observances of the secular and religious
character. If the Republic Day spectacle of January 26 each year is
one of the most glittering combined show of a rich cultural heritage
and modest muscle power of the nation, the Dussehra celebrations in
the country provide an example of festivity which brings out the
best in the creative endeavors of our people in fields as diverse as
effigy-making and music, fireworks and dance; and, theatre both of
the folk and sophisticated kind.
The most magnificent of
all Dussehra celebrations in terms of pomp, pretensions and
pageantry is that of Mysore. Equally famous, nationally and
internationally, is that of Kulu in the hill state of Himachal
attracting people from such distant states as West Bengal and
Gujarat and an ever-increasing number of tourists from Europe and
North American continent.
The Kulu Dussehra, though a
simple observance compared to that of pretentious Mysore, is studded
with some very unique features and aspects that deserve to be
highlighted for the benefit of those who may be interested in minor
events of some major significance.
It needs to be
highlighted that Kulu Dussehra is the oldest recorded festivity
anywhere in the country connected with Raghunathji, popularly
recognized as Lord Rama. It is not my contention though that
Dussehra, or a festival connected with Ram Chanraji was not observed
else where in the country before this date. What is being stressed
here is the fact that the date marking the beginning of this
observance in Kulu, July 1651, is historically recorded and that any
such celebration elsewhere makes no such claims of proven historic
The festivities began in Kulu in the late
afternoon of the tenth day of the waxing moon of the month of Ashwin
(Asadh) which otherwise is known as Vijay Dashmi. It may be noted
that the Dussehra festivities elsewhere in the country conclude,
almost around the same time when the Kulu Dussehra opens. Unlike the
festival elsewhere which runs over full ten days, Kulu Dussehra
lasts only seven days.
But the most striking feature of
this edition of Dussehra is total absence of staging or retelling
the story of Ramayana. Nor are there effigies of Ravana, the learned
Brahmin gone astray, and his warrior colleagues, to be set afire,
after a mock battle, to bring the festivities to a grand finale.
was the second capital and seaport of the Pallava kings of
Kanchipuram, the first Tamil dynasty of any real consequence to
emerge after the fall of the Gupta Empire, and is world famous for
its shore temple. Though their origins are lost in the mists of
legend they were at the height of the political power and artistic
creativity between the 5th and 8th centuries AD, during which time
they established themselves as the arbiters and patrons of early
Tamil culture. Most of the temple and rock carvings here were
completed during the reigns of Narasimha Varman I (630-668 AD) and
Narasimha Verman II (700-728 AD) and are notable for the delightful
freshness and simplicity of their folk art origins in contrast to
the more grandiose monuments left by the larger empires, such as the
Cholas which succeeded them. The shore temples in particular strike
a very romantic theme and are some of the most photographed
monuments in India.
The wealth of the Pallava kingdom was
based on the encouragement of agriculture as against pastoralism and
thus the increased taxes and surplus produce which could be raised
from this lifestyle. Their early kings were followers of the Jain
religion but this came to an end when Mahendra Varman I (600-630 AD)
was converted to Shaivism by the saint, Appar. This conversion was
to have disastrous effects on the future of Jainism in Tamil Nadu
and explains why the majority of the temples at Mahabalipuram (and
Kanchipuram) are dedicated either to Shiva or Vishnu.
Mahabalipuram is just a small, but very pleasant and easy-going
village consisting of essentially two streets standing at the foot
of low-lying boulder-strewn hill where most of the temples and rock
carvings are located. It's gradually becoming a travelers haunt,
though still in the formative stages as people rent houses and stay
here for some time and cafes are set up catering to western tastes -
usually seafood. After the noise fumes bustle and severely limited
personal space of Madras and other large cities, Mahabalipuram is
like coming to another planet. It's very relaxing and there is of
course a long stretch of superb beach. Nowhere else in southern
India will you find this combination of an excellent, cheap
accommodation, good seafood and the fascinating remains of an
ancient Indian kingdom.
The sculpture here is particularly
interesting because it shows scenes of day to day life- women
milking buffaloes, portentous city dignitaries, young girls singing
at street corners swinging their hips in artful ways. By contrast
other carvings throughout the state represent gods and goddesses,
and images of ordinary folk are conspicuous by their absence. Soften
carving is still very much a living craft in Mahabalipuram as a
visit to the School of Sculpture will show.
Meenakshi Temple attracts pilgrims from all over India in thousands
every day. Its enormous gopurams, profusely covered with gaily
colored statues, dominate the landscape for far around, and are
visible from many of the rooftops in Madurai. It is named after the
daughter of a Pandyan king who, legend has it, was born with three
breasts. The king was told at the time of her birth that the extra
breast would disappear when she met the man she was to marry, and
this duly happened when she met Lord Shiva on Mt. Kailas. Shiva told
her to return to Madurai and eight days later arrived there himself
in the form of Lord Sundareshwara to marry her.
temple was designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayak and substantially
built during the reign of Rigumalai Nayak (1623-55 AD), but it has a
history going back 2000 years to the times when Madurai was the
capital of the Pandya kings.
Depending on the time of day,
you can bargain for bangles, spices or saris in the bazaar between
the outer and inner walls of the temple, watch pilgrims bathing in
the tanks, listen to temple music in front of the Meenakshi Amman
shrine (which is relayed through the whole complex on a PA system)
wander through the interesting museum climb to the top of a gopuram.
It's a city within a city and many travelers spend days exploring
its labyrintine corridors and halls. There's even a railway
timetable posted on the wall near the Meenakshi shrine.
of the temple complex has been converted into a museum - the Temple
Art Gallery, which is well worth a visit, even though it's decidedly
dilapidated these days and many labels are missing. It contains some
beautiful stone and brass images, examples of ancient North Indian
scripts, friezes and various attempts to explain the Hindu pantheon
and the many legends associated with it.
You can climb to
the top of the south facing gopuram between 6 am and 5.30 pm. Buy a
ticket from the office on the left as you enter the temple. A guide
takes you up there via the many winding, grimy and gradually
narrower and narrower stairways. If you suffer from vertigo this
climb is not for you since you emerge on the very top of the gopuram
and there are no restraining rails and very little else to hold on
to, but the views are excellent! On the way down the guide will
hassle you for a 'tip'.
On most evenings between 6 and 6.30
pm and between 9 and 10 pm temple music is played outside the
Meenakshi Amman shrine- mantras fiddle, squeeze box, tables and
bells. It's well worth making a point of going there to hear this,
as there are some excellent musicians among those who play.
temple in general is open between 5 am and 12.30 pm and again
between 4 and 10 pm. Photography is allowed inside only between
12.30 and 4 pm. You can leave your shoes at any one of the four
entrances where they will be looked after. Many of the priests
inside are very friendly and will take the trouble to show you
around and explain what's happening if you'd prefer that.
miles to the North-east of Puri, along the seacoast, and 54 miles by
motorable road via Pipli, lie the stupendous remains of the
wonderful temple of Konarak dominating the lonely grandeur of a fine
sandy stretch on the Bay of Bengal. Built by Narasingha Deva I, the
Ruler of Orissa, in the 13th century in honor of the Sun God, the
temple has no parallel in India for its profusion of sculptural
wealth. It powerfully conveys the idea of the Sun-god speeding
through the heavens in a chariot drawn by horses driven by Arjuna.
are sufficient remains to show that the Hindu builders possessed not
only the poetic fancy to conceive great artistic creations, but also
the technical skill to reproduce their dreams in stone on a
gigantic, and yet highly imaginative scale. Scrolls scenes of battle
and the chase, all are carved with amazing skill and with an
The main entrance from the
Tourist bungalow side is guarded by two stone lions, crushing
elephants steps ascend to the main entrance, flanked by the
straining horses. The three images of Surya the Sun God still stand
and are designed to catch the sun at dawn at noon and at sunset.
Between the main steps up to the Jagamohan and the enclosure
entrance is an intricately carved dancing hall or nata mandir. To
the north is a group of elephants and to the south a group of
rearing horses, trampling down men.
All around the base of
the temple and up the walls and roof is a continuous procession of
carvings. Many are in the erotic style for which Konarak like
Khajuraho is so famous. These erotic images of entwined couples,
solitary exhibitionists, can be minute images on the spoke of a
temple wheel or life-size figures higher up the walls.
the temple enclosure there is a museum (open 9 am to 5 pm)
containing many sculptures and carvings found during the temple
excavation. The sea is a couple of km from the temple you can walk
there or hire a bicycle rickshaw. The temple by sailors in contrast
to the whitewashed temples of Puri is said to have contained a great
mass of iron, which would draw unwary ships into the shore.
every inch of the outside surface is covered with carvings
portraying with a daring fidelity the vast panorama of life. All the
variety of human experience, from its lowest to its highest
expression is here depicted with a liveliness and exuberance of
vitality which takes one's breath away. It is as though the master
artist who designed this temple of the sun had realized that since
the Sun warms all life, every form and expression of it is sacred,
from the most carnal to the most refined. Sir John Marshall says: "There
is no monument of Hinduism, I think that is at once so stupendous
and so perfectly proportioned."
From the ruins that
now remains the sculptural splendor of the original temple can only
be imagined, for the main shrine collapsed many years ago all that
now remains of the main temple is its adjunct, the audience hall
which too be closed from all sides and filled up with rubble and
sand to prevent collapse. But what still remains is breathtaking.
is a living testimony to the speculative daring and artistic
sensibility of an ancient people who knew how to live, love worship
and create in heroic proportions". A trip to Konarak is a
veritable pilgrimage to India's glorious past. Visitors to Puri must
not miss it whatever the inconvenience.
miles from Kathgodam, linked by a spectacular mountain road, and on
the shore of a fairy like lake in a cup between pine-clad hills, is
Nainital (6,500 ft.), a Himalayan hill station of great beauty.
up from Kathgodam by car or motor bus the eye can hardly believe
what it sees; for, as the vehicle rises 6,500 feet, there lies this
shining water, still and majestic, more than a mile long and
surrounded by green slopes of idyllic beauty. A fine road (the Mall)
passes along the eastern shore which is the showplace of the town,
and on its side are situated most of the hotels, residences and
shops. The lake lies north to south, and horse-ride or walk from
Talli Tal (Southern end) to Malli Tal (Northern end) through the
romantic setting of the eastern shore is the chief vocation of the
visitors to Nainital.
The highest peaks, Cheena 8,568 ft.
and Deapatta, 7,587 ft. are to the north and can be ascended to by
the more hardy. A pretty ride on the west side of the Lake is a
favorite pastime, the road as leading to a considerable height
through wooded slopes. But the finest view is obtained from the east
side, from sher ka danda and its top Laria Kanta, whence the snowy
ranges of Almora and Ranikhet may be seen.
There is seldom
an hour of dullness at Nainital. Added to the invigorating climate
there is a large choice of sports and mountaineering. Besides these,
there is excellent yachting and boating on the lake and plenty of
swimming and fishing in it.
Excursions from Nainital
is the ideal base for excursions. The hill stations and the beauty
spots of the Kumayun hills which, besides fishing, hiking and
shooting afford wonderful view of the snowy Himalayan peaks.
7 miles east of Nainital, through a romantic
mountain road, is Bhowali, a quiet sanatorium hidden by tall trees
and thickly wooded forests, Leaving Nainital, the bus to Bhimtal (14
miles) by bus via Bhowali and 10 miles by pony by short cut) halts
for a few minutes at the Bhowali bazar and then proceeds another 7
miles south east for Bhimtal which contains one of the largest lakes
in the Kumayun hills. This triangular lake was once an ideal spot
for fishing but fishing is not allowed at present. A detached
pavilion rising from the waters of the lake provides a charming
picnic spot. At the southeast shore of the lake stands the palace of
the Maharaja of Jind, who was a great connoisseur of dogs; the
south-west which is fringed by picturesque wooded hills. From this
point Kathgoadm is only 7 miles by a bridle path.
and a half miles east of Bhimtal is Naukuchia Tal, the nine-cornered
lake, reached by a newly built, fine metalled road. The Tal, the
largest in the Kumayun is fenced by oak forests on three sides and
is said to be 180 feet deep. There is a dreamy beauty about the
spot, which is also an ideal place for fishing. In the neighboring
village called shilloh was born Pandit Gobinda Ballabh Pant.
Nainital was also the haunting ground of Jim Corbett, the famous
There is a spacious District Board Dak Bungalow at
Bhimtal where one can stay for a few days while holidaying in
Bhimtal, Naukauchia Tal and Sat Tal are another lovely spots on the
way to Bhimtal. The Sat Tal group of lakes lie 1.5 m. south of the
motor road, midway between Bhowali and Bhimtal.
miles from Bhowali and 15 miles from Nainital by bus is Ramgarh, one
of the prettiest spots and the home of orchards. Beautifully set
amidst luxuriant vegetation, it has an excellent climate and
presents a good view of the distant snow. The State Government has
established a Fruit Preservation Factory at Ramgarh. There is a
P.W.D. Dak Bungalow. Cottages are available on monthly hire. There
is a direct bus service from Kathgodam via Bhowali and Ramgarh.
Wonder Called Taj Mahal"Every
visitor must pay homage to the Taj Mahal, the most glorious tomb
that grief ever raised in memory of love, and one of the wonders of
the world. According to the Badshahanama, Mumtaz Mahal was married
to the Emperor Shah Jahan in 1612 when she was only twenty-one years
old. Although his second wife, Mumtaz enjoyed the undivided love of
the Emperor. She bore him fourteen children and died in child-bed in
a camp at Burhanpur during a campaign against Lodi Khan in 1631. The
bereavement, too great for the Emperor to bear,turned his hair grey.
The beloved body was temporarily buried at Burhanpur; six months
later, a vast funeral cortege accompanied it to Agra, where it was
laid in the garden of the Taj, which belonged to Raja Jai Singh at
the time. The Taj was begun in 1631 and together with its
appurtenances - a mosque on the west, a congregational hall (Jamat
Khana) on the east and the main gateway on the south- was completed
by 1653. In his determination to raise to her memory a monument,
which should keep her name immortal, the emperor employed 20,000 men
daily upon it. The most famous artists and workmen of India were
gathered to this task, which entailed an expenditure of 400 lakhs of
The Taj Mahal, the glory of Agra and the most
beautiful building in the world is set in a garden with a marble
platform at the center and is surrounded by dark cypress trees,
green turf, flowers and fountains, the song of birds meets the ear,
and the odor of roses and lemon flows sweet in the air". Seen
by day-light the reflection of its detail and its most wonderful
beauty and magnificence delight the connoisseur, but seen by
moonlight it is a radiant vision of beauty, and the charm of its
lovely form is felt to the full. The great domes seem to swim in the
silver light, and the stately minarets shoot up towards the dark
blue of the sky, and the scene is one of unearthly beauty, which no
language can express. The beauty of the Taj, says Havell, as in all
great art, lies in its simplicity. One wonders that so much beauty
can come from so little effort. Yet nothing is wanting in excess.
One could not alter this and that and say that it is better".
as is this mighty building in the mass, it is just as full of beauty
when examined closely and in detail. Every part is covered with the
most graceful and exquisite designs inlaid in marbles of different
colors. Every wall, every arch, every portal is ornamented and
finished as if the craftsmen had been engaged upon a precious casket
instead of a corner of an immense palace tomb". Around the
arches run inlaid verses of the Koran beautifully shaped in black
marble, and it is said the whole of the Koran is thus inlaid in the
The heart of the building is the central chamber where
Shah Jahan and his wife sleep together, for he was laid beside her.
The tombs are of the purest white marble inlaid most beautifully
with designs formed of agate, cornelian, lapis-lazuli, jasper, and
other precious stones. The tombs are surrounded by a pierced
marble-screen. Fergusson says that no words can express the
chastened beauty of the hall seen in the soft gloom of the subdued
light coming from the distant and small openings. The cenotaph was
originally enclosed by a screen of gold and studded with gems. This
was removed by Aurangzeb and replaced by the present exquisite
screen of pierced marble.
The real graves however lie
elsewhere- in a vault immediately under the central, chamber. A
steep passage leads down to the vault, where the bodies rest level
with the surface of the ground, beneath plainer tombstones. Although
they are now plain to bareness, the encircling walls and ceilings
were once covered with sheets of purest gold.
Mumtaz Mahal was to him, Shah Jahan never intended to lie beside her
in the Taj. His idea was to construct a still more majestic
mausoleum for himself on the opposite bank of the Jamuna and to
connect the two by a white marble bridge. The project was
interrupted shortly after the foundations were laid and was never
completed. The idea did not appeal to Aurangzeb. That austere Muslim
ultimately laid his father beside his mother in the Taj Mahal.
two mosques on either side of the Taj greatly add to the beauty of
the cemetery. The one on the west was used for prayers and the other
on the east for congregational discourse. The Taj also formerly
possessed two wonderful silver doors. These were looted and melted
by the Jats in 1764