Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Charm of Agra


Just when the sun god decided to give north India some respite from his onslaught, I decided to visit the mecca of romance and see the Taj for myself. I guess somewhere I was hoping that maybe the late Shah Jahan’s romantic act would inspire my husband into building a small home for me but alas! Agra, located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, is about 200 km from Delhi and offers a plethora of travel options. While it takes less than an hour to reach Agra by air (from Delhi), travelling on the popular Shatabdi train is perhaps the most convenient, inexpensive and fascinating way to reach the destination. And thus my journey aboard the comfy Shatabdi, with hot tea and a sumptuous breakfast kickstarted my sojourn. As we reached Agra, we proceeded to see the marvel of love and the epitome of beauty. And as the Taj unfolded in front of our eyes, its sheer beauty and grandeur took our breath away. Let’s just say, the feeling cannot be truly described and is best left for you to experience. All I can say is that the Taj Mahal, the 17th century mausoleum, resting on the banks of the river Yamuna, which stands as a reminder of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s intense love for his beauteous wife Mumtaz Mahal, is a must see. Having feasted our eyes on the Taj, we headed to our next destination — the Agra Fort. Built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1565 A.D., this huge fort narrates tales of bravery, of its triumphs and victories over its rivals and its reigning years during the Mughal era. Having visited history, it was now time to satiate the hunger pangs growling in our stomachs. Since Agra plays host to a large number of foreign tourists, the destination has a horde of eating options ranging from plush five-star joints to ordinary dhabas. We ate our fill of traditional Mughlai gosht at a decent outlet and went on with our Agra tour. Since we had a return ticket that very evening, we could not go to see Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra or visit the city of victory Fatehpur Sikri, which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site. Nevertheless, we did have time to shop at the bazaar and pick the popular peetha to take with us back home. If your partner is indulgent, you can also try on the famous jutties (shoes), buy some bags, look at the bamboo saris and miniature marble Taj Mahals to carry back as souvenirs. On our way back to Delhi, the yearning for a longer visit to this marvellous city kept me occupied and I have to admit that another trip is on my agenda sometime soon.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monuments and Memorials of Delhi

Humayun’s Tomb: This World Heritage Monument built by Haji Begum, the widow of emperor Humayun and designed by Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, served as a model for the world renowned Taj Mahal. It was completed in 1565, eight years after the death of Humayun and is the first great example of the Mughaltomb in garden complex. Several other members of Mughal royal family lie buried here and many tombstones can be seen on the terrace.

Purana Qila(Old Fort): The Grand old fort, one of the most spectacular monuments of Delhi, is believed to have been built by the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri(1538 – 1545). As one enters from the Zoo side, one sees at the far end a small octagonal red sandstone tower, the Sher Manzil. Alittle ahead is the Qila-i-Kunha mosque. A Field Museum nearby exhibits artifacts discovered in the area.

Parliament House(Sansad Bhawan): The colonnaded circular building is 171 meters in diameter with 8.3 meters high 144 pillars surrounding it, Magnificent wood paneled halls and one of the finest Parliament libraries in Asia are part of this stately building.

Rastrapati Bhavan: The Spectacular official residence of President of India set on the eminence of the Raisina hill,spawls over an area of 330 acres. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and is one of the largest residential buildings in the world with 340 rooms,37 salons, 74 lobbies and loggias, one km long corridor, 18 stair cases and 37 fountains. In the front is a large court and a Mughal style gardens in the back, which is open for public viewing in February. The Most magnificent room in the Rastrapati Bhavan is the Durbar Hall, which lies directly under the main dome.

Safdarjung’s Tomb: The graceful monument standingon a high terrace amidst an extensive gardenwas built in 1753-54 Nawab Shia-ud-Daulab,son of Safdarjung, the second Nawab of Avadh and Prime Minister to Mughal emporer Muhammed Shah

India Gate: India’s ‘Arc d’ Triomphe’s stands majestically at the eastern end of Rajpath, the great avenue with wide lawns on either side of it, that leadsto rastrapati bhavan. Formarly known as the All India war Memorial, the 42 metre high arch was designed by Lutyens and built in 1931, in the memory of soldiers of the Indian Army who died in world War-1. Names of 13516 soldiers are inscribed on its walls. In 1971 an eternal flame was lit here to honour the ‘Amar Jawan’,the immortal soldier.At night the view of floodlit India gate is spectacular.

Jantar Mantar: This unique observatory was designed and built by Mirza Raja Jai Singh II of jaipur in 1719, it is surrounded by stately palm trees and has a number of masonry instruments which were used to study the movement of constellations and star in the sky. The Samrat Yantra, a huge sun-dial shaped like a right angled triange is the largest instrument here
Qutub Minar: The most famous landmark of Delhi towering above the Lal Kot monuments, is the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO. it is 72.5 meters tall and tapers from a base diameter of 14.4 metersto a peak diameter of 2.4 meters.The five storeyed minar has three storeys built of red sandstone and two of marble and sand stone.Each storey is clearly distinguished from thr outside because of its projecting balconies. Its Foundation was laid by Qutb-ud-din Aibak(1193) and was completed by his son-in-law and successor Shamsuddin iltumish. The Devangiriinscriptions on the minar mentions that it was damaged in 1326 and repaired by Muhammad-bin Tughlak and in 1368, Firoz Shah replaced the upper storey and added two floors,making liberal use of marble stone.

A Unique 7 meter Iron pillar in the couryard of Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was perhaps a flagpole of a 4th-5th century Vishnu temple. It has remained completely rust free for over 1500 years and is a tribute to the ancient indian metallurgy. Other attractions nearby are- Tombs of Sultan Iltumish(1235), Allauddin, Balban and of Adham Khan.

Red Fort( Lal Qila): It was built in 17th century by Shah Jahan, when the Mughal capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi.Shaped like an irregular octagon, he fort is about 2 kns in circumference. The river Yamuna once flowed besides its battlements. Its handsome gates – Lahore, Delhi and Elephant are masterpieces of builders art. within the ramparts are spledid ornamented buildings, pavilions, gardens, tank, the moti Masjid a marvel in marble and two museams,the archeological and war memorial.The bildings worth visiting are Naubat Khana, Diwan -i-Am, Diwan-i-Khas, Rang Mahal and Khas Mahal. A sound and light show recreates the history of Delhi and this fort.The red fort was the last fort of delhi. It has witnessed the glory and fall of the Mughals, The British rule and then the dawn of Indian Independence.
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Reaching Delhi

Airport: The Indira Gandhi Airport has two terminals, which are 7kms away from each other. Terminal 1, for Domestic flights is 12 kms from Connaught Place. Terminal 2, is for international flights.

Railhead: Delhi is connected by rail with most parts of the country.

Road: Well connected by good road network. The main bus stand is at Kashmiri Gate near Old Delhi Railway Station, known as Inter State Bus Terminal(ISBT)
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Shopping Areas of Delhi

Baba Kharak Singh Marg – A row of various state Emporia’s offer the best of its crafts under one roof.

Central Cottage Industries Emporium and Janpath – Housed in Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan at Janpath. The row of shops on Janpath offer a range of novelties,gifts and handicrafts items at bargain price

Chandni Chowk – Some important shopping streets are Daribar Kalan for gold and silver jewellery, Kinari Bazar for rich silk sarees of the bridal trousseau, Khari Baoli aromatic spices.

Connaught Place – One of the most popular place to shop. it has many restaurants and fast food joints.

Dilli Haat – It lies at the Aurobindo Marg near INA market and is a joint project of Delhi Tourism and NMDC, DC(Handicrafts) and DC (Handlooms), Ministry of Textile. It is more modern and sophisticated version of village haat with a combination of crafts,food and cultural activities.Authentic crafts at reasonable price can be purchased here, open on all days of week.

Hauz Khas Village – Shopping is an experience in this Urban Village.

Khadi Gramodyog Bhawan – Located in Regal Buildingat Connaught place.It is a good center for purchasing Khadi Cotton and silk yardage.

Palika Bazaar – The Underground market set in the heart of Connaught Place.Some other important shopping areas are Ambawatta Complex(Mehrauli), Central Mkt(Lajpat Ngr.), Ajmal Khan Road(Karol Bagh), Khan Mkt, South Extn.,Sarojini Nagar Mkt etc.
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Delhi Introduction

The Capital city of India has traditionally been the seat of administrative power of India. Here several dynasties rose and fell, leaving monumental gifts to posterity.
  • The Qila Rai Pithora, bequeathed by a Rajput King
  • Qutb Minar, great gesture of an Afghan King.
  • Red Fort that Shah Jahan, the great Mughal built.
  • The Ruined Old Fort where once the wise king Sher Shah lived
  • Glorious Jama Masjid, eloquet reminder of Mughal religious fervour
The Old ‘Dilli’ is not one but the seven cities Hindu and Moghul emperors gave India.The New Delhi, the eighth Delhi, Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker gave India. Delhi Still has a majestic beauty and an old world charm.

Great monuments old and not so old lie side by side besides crisp new office and residential buildings, harmonizing the past with the vibrant present.
Thus the city is a real delight for the tourist who wish to learn about the past and present of India and Indian people.
Mirza Ghalib the world renowned poet and son of Delhi, has rightly described this amazing city as “the soul in the body of the world“
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