29 July 2015

Premiere of "Conversations at The Kumbh Mela"

Did you know Allahabad got its name from Akbar? Its said Akbar always drank the holy water of ganga and he named the Sangam of the three holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvathi, Allahabad. River ganga was always considered holy in Hindu religion and Allahabad was called Prayag before it got its name Allahabad. The Kumbh Mela was held in Allahabad in 2013 and when I got an invite for the premiere of a documentary movie "Conversations at The Kumbh Mela", on the Kumbh Mela 2013 at Allahabad, I happily accepted the invitation.
All that comes to our mind when we hear about Kumbh Mela are the Naga babas(Saints) and its them whom most of the photographers or film-makers shoot. This documentary was different from those regular ones in the sense, they take you through the journey of the Kumbha Mela right from a saint narrating the story behind Kumbh Mela to the Melaadhikari speaking about the organization of the event. A conversation with the Security head who takes care of the security arrangements to the Medical head who speaks about the medical arrangements including the cleanliness and sanitation. 
Kumbh Mela an event, as said by one of the saints, which requires no advertisement or invitation and there are lots and lots of people flooding into the Mela from around the globe, whether to take a dip in the holy waters or for doing charity or shoot the people or just experience the positivity at the Mela. At an interaction with the makers of the movie after the Premiere, all they said was the experience has to be felt personally. There is lot to take home from the holy event, the event could rather be treated as an University, teaching you so much about the life and influencing you in one or the other way. Do check out the trailer of the movie. This year Kumbh Mela is held in Nasik from 14th July to 25th September, do plan your visit to Nasik during this time to soak yourself in the holiness and the positiveness of the event.
The team has even come with a set of books which sums up the whole event.
Vol 1 – Place, Time, Astronomy
This book speaks about why you must attend the Kumbh Mela and significance of being there for it.
Vol 2 – History, Mythology, Belief
The content of this book revolves entirely around historical facts about the Mela. It speaks widely about how everything started and how is it perceived in the form of beliefs.
Vol 3 – Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati
The three most important rivers associated with history of Hindu mythology has been given elaborate attention in this book. The snans of Kumbh Mela take place in their Sangam, therefore, they are the centre of the festival.
Vol 4 – Seva, Sadhana, Satsang
Philosophical side of Kumbh is explained descriptively over here. More importantly the question, “What is the essence of Kumbh?” is answered.
Vol 5 – Guru, Disciple, University
There is a lot to learn at Kumbh Mela, it is all about lessons of life and gain a humanistic view of the world. This book has focused upon this valuable aspect of the festival.
Vol 6 – Abstinence, Penance, Charity
A To-Do List for Kumbh Mela, this is precisely what the book comprises of. Yes, Penance and Abstinence are a part ‘things to do’ at the festival.
Vol 7 – Faith, Fate, Worship
Kumbh Mela is a festival to enrich your soul, you need to let your soul be completely engrossed in the festival for it to work on you. You need this book to know how to give yourself to Kumbh and let it’s wonders take over you!
Vol 8 – Services, Sellers, Spectacle
Last but not the least, the visual aspect of Kumbh Mela is the most sought after. Do you know they are the event managers of this festivals? This book will give you some fantastic tips from them to manage a festival as huge as this!

I am unraveling the mysteries of Kumbh Mela by participating in the #TheKumbhMelaExperience activity at BlogAdda in association with Anugraha

28 July 2015

An awesome drive in the wild, through Ranthambore Tiger Reserve!!!

Previous post on Golden Triangle Tour Nahargarh Fort

It was in 2013 Aircel "Tiger as Metaphor of all Life" blogger's meet, that I received the book "The Illustrated Tigers of India", by Valmik Thapar. The book is on Bengal Tigers and mostly from Ranthambore National Park. Since then, I wanted of visit Ranthambore and when we were planning our Golden Triangle tour, we decided to include Ranthambore. The park's official website said it was open from Monday to Friday and we planned our trip accordingly. But only after taking the first safari did we get to know they were on weekends as well, and we had three Safaris in two days. 
Sawai Madhopur is just 3hours drive from Jaipur and all we thought was we could easily get buses to Sawai Madhopur and didn't make any prior booking. But when we checked with the hotel staff at Jaipur, they advised us to take train to Sawai Madhopur, as bus rout was more time consuming. At nth moment we booked our tatkal tickets, and reached Sawai Madhopur by 9 in the night. We had booked next day afternoon safari. I was really not confident about the open gypsy or canter tour with my daughter, as it was my first trip in an open vehicle into the wild. But we had no option to leave kiddo anywhere and we got her along. We reached the booking counter to collect our gate pass and take our tour(if you book with resorts, they take care of the booking and they pick you and drop at the resort). 
Sawai Madhopur is around 130km from Jaipur and once was the hunting hunting ground for the kings of Jaipur, and hence gets the name Sawai, relating it to the Royal family of Jaipur. Ranthambore which was declared a National Park in 1981 is known for the large number of Bengal Tigers in the arena. Besides the national park, this place also has Ranthambore Fort and Jogi Mahal(a forest guest house). 

Welcomed inside the park by this beautiful Peacock
The vehicle takes another hour to collect all the visitors and reaches the park entrance by time. At the entrance, they complete the documentation with the park authority and start the tour. Every vehicle is accompanied by a guide. The sighting of the big cats depends mostly on your driver and guides experience, and your luck. But a safari through national park is just not about big cats. As soon as you enter the woods, you can feel the serenity and calmness. Our first safari was to a core zone, as we had prior booking, other two were to the buffers, which had very rare chance of spotting the big cats. The first tour made us fall in love with the woods so much that, we just wanted to take two more tours, even if we didn't get to spot one. The core zone was the territory of the female T-19 and our driver and guide had enough stories to narrate, these stories from the wild are so fascinating to hear to(if you love such stories do visit RTR website here on tiger stories). We so wanted to see Machli, The Tigress Queen of Ranthambore, but couldn't get to the zone where she was previously found.
A baby croc, soaking in the sun
We clicked almost everything on our way, peacocks, monkeys, antelopes, birds, crocodile, wild boars. Tree pies are everywhere in the park, few follow your vehicle throughout your safari and leave you only when you come out of the park. Water bodies are the best place for spotting the tigers, and the drivers and guides are so familiar with the park that they take you to the best place possible for spotting and still you might be unlucky in spotting one. They trace the tigers with the antelope's warning calls and tiger's pug marks. We could spot pug marks of a tiger, and the drive assumed it was not a fresh but a day or two old mark. During our second day afternoon tour, everyone at the park was speaking about the spotting of one of tiger at the main road, outside the park, still we were not lucky enough in sighting one.
A day or two old pug mark of tiger
Here are few clicks that I clicked during our safari.
Drongo, Heron, Egrets, deers all in one frame
Waiting to spot a tiger, somewhere in those tall grasses
A tree pie

Many of them, as they follow our canter through out our safari

Wild Boars

Three in a row

Attracting the hen
The best part of our third safari was, we got to meet the man himself Mr. Valmik Thapar, who on his way to the wild, as we were heading back.
This was the last leg of our week long Golden Triangle tour, when we spent the last two days at Sawai Madhopur enjoying the wilds. Second day night we took our Rajdhani train from Sawai Madhopur and reached back Mumbai next afternoon.

Travel Info:
By Road: Sawai Madhopur is 180km from Jaipur
By Rail: Its on the Delhi - Mumbai railway line and also very connected to other parts of the region by train.
By Air: Nearest airport Jaipur and Kota.

Safari Timings: Do check their page here for Safari timings and bookings. The park is closed during monsoon, from July to September.

24 July 2015

Skywatch Friday - Sky shots from Nahargarh Fort!!!

As I had mentioned in my previous posts, our guide was so eager to share about all the Bollywood hot spots of Amber and Jaigarh forts, Nahargarh was no different. Remember that scene from the Bollywood movie Rang ke Basanthi when Aamir Khan and Kunal Kapoor on high fall back into the step well, this is where the scene was shot. 
The fort wall on one side of the well, gives great view of Jaipur city, 
Over looking the city of Jaipur and the the beautiful sky
More sky pictures from Nahargarh fort..

 Happy skywatching!!!

20 July 2015

Hotel Review - The Golden Hotel, Jaipur

As I mentioned earlier, we were about to reach Jaipur early morning, and we wanted confirmed booking to land at an unfamiliar place that early. We googled for hotels near Sindhi Camp, the main bus stand of Jaipur and came across The Golden Hotel. We called them up and they also arranged for pick up from Sindhi Camp. Golden Hotel is around a km from the bus stand, and in a small road inside the market, if you search for yourself directly am sure you would never end up there. Though the approach road was small, the hotel was very good with quite big rooms. We had booked a standard A/C room for 2, there was some renovation going on in their ground floor(where they had most of their standard bedrooms) and others were occupied, they gave us Family room for 4 at the same rate. 
That was quite a huge room, with marble flooring and basics like TV and wardrobe. The bathroom was very neat with shower space, separated by shower curtains. There is no much ventilation as there is single window, which opens towards hotel's inside passage(not sure about other rooms). The passage though is well lite with big windows, you don't feel like keeping the room window open, as there are people using the passage. They have their restaurant as well, which serves most of the Indian food.

Indian Thali, which they served at our room itself
Overall it was a good experience, at a budget rate(I came across their website, where few have mentioned its under priced). Like all other hotels they too have fixed check in, check out times, and we ended up paying for 3 days, while we stayed for around 36hours(how I wish, most of the hotels had 24hours stay options). You can check out their website here for price and booking.

14 July 2015

Charming Nahargarh Fort, over looking the city of Jaipur!!!

Previous post on Golden Triangle Tour Jaigarh Fort

Off the three palaces of Amber, the one which attracted me more was Nahargarh. Its simplicity, the charm, less in crowd, everything just added for me to love the place. By the time we reached Nahargarh, kiddo was very much tired and we thought of leaving her with our driver in the jeep and she happily agreed and we went on the tour of the palace. I still can't believe we left her alone with an unknown person.
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Madhavendra Palace
When I heard Nahargarh, I thought Nahar was something related to 9 or Nau in Hindi(for its nine apartments of the palace), but our guide had a completely different story to tell. Nahargarh meant 'abode of tigers' and the other folklore was about Nahar Singh Bhomia, whose spirit haunted the palace and obstructed the construction. I curiously asked my guide was it the reason, there were less people even till day visiting Nahargarh. He said, most of the tourists were interested just in Amber Fort, while Jaigarh and Nahargarh were left out. And this fort was more famous with residents of Jaipur as a picnic spot than a visit by tourists.
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Entrance door of one of the nine apartments of Madhavendra palace
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Colourful walls and stained glass windows of Madhavendra Palace

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A door with in the apartment
While most of the fort was built in 1734, by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II as a retreat on the summit of the hill, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh extended the fort during 1883 to 92. During this time was Madhavendra Palace, the main attraction of the fort was built. Madhavendra Palace, built in Indo-European style of architecture is said to be built by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh for this nine queens, which were named after their nick names. A two storeyed palace divided into nine similar apartments known as Suraj Prakash, Chandra Prakash, Khushal Prakash, Anand Prakash, Jawahar Prakash, Laxmi Prakash, Ratna Prakash, Lalit Prakash and Basant Prakash. Each apartment is a double storeyed building which had a lobby, bedroom, toilet, store, kitchen designed for the royal family. All the apartments are connected with each other with a narrow passage and the king's head suit.
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The rich coloured walls

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The passage connecting the nine apartments and the head suit

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The city of Jaipur, as seen from Madhavendra palace
While very few visit this fort, of them most visit to get the beautiful aerial view of Jaipur city. 
By the time we were done with Nahargarh Fort it was 4PM, our driver dropped us till Jal Mahal, from where we took a rickshaw back to hotel and left for railway station for our last leg of the Golden Triangle tour to Sawai Madhopur(Ranthambore Tiger Reserve).

Travel Info:
Nahargarh Fort is around 11km from Amber Fort and 20km from Jaipur. We had a combined jeep tour of Amber, Jaigarh and Nahargarh fort.

Timings: 10AM - 5:30PM, open daily(closed on public holidays)
Entry Fee:
Indian Tourists: INR 25/adult
Foreign Tourists: INR 75/adult
(We had bought the composite entry ticket for Rs. 70/adult(Indian, valid for two days), which covered Amber Palace, Albert Hall, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal and Nahargarh.

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10 July 2015

Beach, Sunshine, Home Food and a Maharashtrian Wedding at Alibag!!!

Few weeks back, just before the start of monsoon, we had a short weekend trip to Alibag. For it was hubby's colleague's wedding at Alibag and he planned to take me and kiddo along.
Summer Shower tree on the way to Alibag
The wedding was Sunday morning and we booked our hotel Aarhaah with Goibibo with discount coupon. We started off by 9 in the morning on Saturday, picked burgers from Karghar Mc'D and took the old Mumbai - Pune road. On the way, we thought of visiting Karnala bird sanctuary, but it was already 11 by then and the weather was too humid to get along, so we thought of heading straight to Alibag. We checked in at Aarhaah and ordered for lunch, its more of a home stay than a hotel, the home made food comes from manager's house. They got us thali in those big tiffin boxes(similar to dabbawalas). There are few tables spread out in the garden as well in the balconies of the room, we preferred going down to the garden. After lunch, we thought of visiting Kolaba Fort, but we were told it was high tide and the fort was closed. The weather got really worse and we thought of having a nap instead of going out in the hot weather. We woke up by 5, and headed to the Khihim beach. Khihim beach is just 5mins walk from Aarhaah, we joined hubby's colleagues and had some fun time on the beach. After dinner, me and kiddo called off for the day, while hubby joined his colleagues for a night out.
Aarhaah holiday home

Sunset at Khihim beach

Next day was just for the wedding we had been for. It was around 5km drive from our hotel to the wedding venue, after our breakfast of kandhe pohe and chai we drove to the wedding. The wedding was in an open ground just in front of bride's house, the weather just tired all of us so much, that kiddo spent most of the time sitting in the car. We enjoyed the dance along with the baarath and I enjoyed the wedding thoroughly, as I hardly get to be part of any weddings here in Mumbai.
After lunch, we started to Mumbai, the weather by then got better and it started pouring. We were stuck in very bad traffic just few minutes from Alibag, the traffic stood still for more than an hour. We reached back Mumbai by 6PM. It was a much needed getaway from the busy routine and quite a relaxing and refreshing one, as we didn't do much of hopping during the trip.

Travel Info:
Alibag is around 90km from Mumbai by road via old Mumbai - Pune road. Best way to reach Alibag is by ferry, from Gate Way of India to Mandwa and then road transport from Mandva jetty to Alibag. There are both A/C and non A/C ferry services and they don't operate during monsoon. You can check for the ferry timings and tickets here

5 July 2015

Jaigarh Fort or Victory Fort, a Defensive Structure of Amber!!!

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While Amber Palace represents the architectural beauty of Amber, Jaigarh reflects the military power of Rajputana rulers. After our tour of Amber Fort, and shopping and lunch at Rajasthan Small Scale Cottage industries complex, we drove to Jaigarh. The road is very lone and hardly had any other vehicles driving that way.
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Jaigarh Fort which is also known as Victory Fort, served as the defensive structure rather a palace and housed a canon foundry too. The fort also has a subterranean passage to Amber fort, which helped the royal family to move here during enemy attack on Amber Palace. Located on one of the peaks of Aravalli hills, the fort is a red stone structure and presently houses an armory chamber and museum.
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The most fascinating here is the walk from the main palace complex to Jaivana, the world's largest cannon on wheels, of its time. On the way there is a small water body(a pond) and as per our guide a scene from the Bollywood movie Shahanshah was shoot there, and he was so proud in sharing that Jaipur had always been Bollywood's favourite shooting place, for its touristy places. There is another water tank well within the palace complex, which as per him was excavated during the rule of Ex-PM Indira Gandhi, for there were rumors of previous things buried under, the excavation ended up with nothing as per government.
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Jaivana, the canon, was manufactured in 1720 during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II at a foundry in Jaigarh itself. Its said, it was never used in any battle, as Rajputs were in good relation with Mughals(which can be related to the story of Jodhaa and Akbar). The canon was just fired once with 100kg of gunpowder, which covered a distance of 35km.
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Travel info:
Jaigarh is around 10kms from Jaipur city and around 500mtrs from Amber( more by road). You can take a combined tour of Amber, Jaigarh and Nahargarh forts with a jeep or there are auto rickshaws which take you to Jaigarh fort alone. There is bit of walking from the main palace complex to the Jaivana.
Timings: 9AM to 4:30PM
Entry Fee:
Indian tourists: INR 35
Foreign tourists: INR 85
Still camera INR 50

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1 July 2015

Sri Jagat Siromaniji Temple, Amber!!!

Previous post on Golden Triangle Tour Jal Mahal

"Apko Bhul Bhulaiya film ka mandir dekhna hai(do you want to see the temple featured in the Bollywood movie Bhul Bhulaiya)??", this is what our guide asked us as we were driving to Amber fort. We happily accepted and asked him to take us. Its through the narrow streets of Amber, stoned pathways, and all that rides here are the jeeps which take you up, to Amber fort. 
Sri Jagat Siromaniji Temple, Amber, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Just at the first glimpse of the temple I could recall the scene from the movie, when Vidhya Balan and Akshay Kumar argue on the Anklet. 
Sri Jagat Siromaniji Temple, Amber, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Sri Jagat Siromaniji Temple, Amber, Jaipur, Rajasthan
You enter the temple complex through a big gate, which looks more like a fort entrance. After few steps climb there is a beautifully carved marble Toran with figures of elephants on either side. You walk under the toran to reach the temple premises. There is Garuda-Manpada just at the entrance of the temple. The three storeyed Garbhagriha has intricate carvings on the outer walls, and paintings on inner walls and ceiling. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Radha-Krishna, the temple was built between 1599-1608AD by Rani Kankawati, the wife of Raja Man Singh I, in memory of her son Jagat Singh. Presently the temple is under ASI and very well maintained. There were hardly any other tourists during our visit.
Sri Jagat Siromaniji Temple, Amber, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Sri Jagat Siromaniji Temple, Amber, Jaipur, Rajasthan

The temple as seen from Amber Fort, and the Amber village
There is also a Jain temple next to this. We visited that as well and headed to Amber Fort.
Travel Info:
Its on the way to Amber fort, you can spare 15mins from your visit to Amber Fort here.
Timings: 6AM to 1PM and 4PM to 8PM
Entry Free

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