Amazing Story of India;Land of White Tiger

As the King rounded a curve of the road, his headlights captured a white tiger cub!The amazing story of the first wild tiger

Dear travellers to India, how about a hauntingly beautiful story of a part of India that has romance, adventure and a little bit of history rolled into one!

Welcome to Rewa, the land of the world’s first white tiger!

Tiger Yawning
A yawning tiger at Bandhavgarh

Nearly 75 years ago, when India was freshly independent of the British rule, we had kings who had the liberty to hunt around animals .There was no law that prohibited them from doing so.Today, yes, in India , we can not just hunt around and kill wild animals like the tiger and the deer but 75 years ago, we were still trying to find our feet.

There was a king, Raja Martand Singh of Rewa who had  already shot 131 tigers and was looking for more!I am talking of the year, 1951.He was on the look out for more game when he saw a white coloured tiger cub ! Overcome by curiosity, he asked his driver to pick it up and take it to his palace.The cub was later named as Mohan and the little animal has since brought fame and name to this small town of Central India.

The Legend of Tansen

But, Rewa is not just white tiger country. What I am going to share with you now is the story of a world class classical singer  being exchanged with a Mughal Emperor.. for peace !

Nearly 500 years ago, Rewa wasn’t the capital of its kings. That honour was reserved for Gohara, a town that even I have not been able  to discover so far.

One of the ancestors of Raja Martand Singh, was Raja Ramchandra. This Raja Ramchandra was the contemporary of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar.It so happened that the Mughal wanted to punish one of his enemies, Ghazi Khan.The Khan took shelter with the Raja. You see, us Indians are quick to shelter poor and unfortunate people.

When Akbar came to know of it, he sent his general , Asaf Khan to Ramchandra to demand that the Raja either give away Ghazi Khan or be prepared for war.The proud Raja replied he would much rather give away his life than turn out the Khan! Now, the situation became very serious as the Mughal Emperor’s forces surrounded the capital of the Raja.

To resolve this crisis, Asaf Khan came to the King and suggested that in order to avoid destruction of his kingdom, the Raja give over Tansen, a world renowned classical singer to Akbar. Tansen and the Raja were great friends and it was difficult for the Raja to accept this suggestion.Finally, Tansen had to leave his friend, the Raja, and go over to Akbar.And thus,the  siege of Akbar ended!

Who was Tansen?

Tansen is to Indian classical music as Shakespeare is to classical English.

He was a god gifted classical musician as well as instrumentalist and has had several legends woven around him.It is said that that when he used to sing Raag Deepak, the candles and lamps would light themselves up on their own!So intense was his singing!

His exact year of birth is not known, some say it is 1506 AD, while according to others, it is 1496. Similarly, his year of death is also uncertain-either it is 1585 or 1589 AD.

He lies buried in Gwalior, Central India.

Back to Rewa

It is only recently that the local authorities have started taking interest in developing Rewa as a major tourist destination.Much of the initiative has been taken by the royal family of Rewa. Maharaja Pushpendra Singh has converted the palace into an attractive tourist resort .You can see several ancient objects, weapons etc in the palace turned hotel.You can also see the stuffed white tiger, Mohan inside the resort!

And Bandhavgarh- a stone’s throw from Rewa

With the largest density of tigers , Bandhavgarh National Park is a must on the itinerary of the India traveller.The Park boasts of more than 32 kinds of mammals, 250 species of birds and a very big range of butterflies.

Cheetal Deer (1)
Caught on the camera- a cautious Cheetal

It also houses a 2000 year old fort and some really ancient rock art in the Brahmi script.You are more likely to spot a tiger here than anywhere else in the world!

Sirmaur, the backyard of Rewa

While at Rewa, don’t forget to head to the picturesque valley of Sirmaur, which is nearly 40 kilometres away.

Lush jungles and ancient caves housing thousands of years old rock art make the place romantic and leave your nerves tingling!

I was not aware of this place  till my friend, Sarvesh Soni started drawing the world’s attention to this beautiful place  through his Facebook page.I would say he is the white tiger of Sirmaur as he and his team have been painstakingly promoting this remote area non stop.

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Nature at its best!

 

Hats off to him!Incredible India has lots of breathtaking destinations to offer and this one is one of them.

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Ancient Rock Art in Sirmaur- pic credit;Sarvesh Soni

And for the nature buffs, Sirmaur offers the Aha! moments, free of cost!

All these pictures have been shared by my young friend, Sarvesh Soni.

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Alha Ghat-Sirmaur

How to reach Rewa?

Rewa can only be reached through rail and road.

It is quite close to the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, so a road trip to Rewa is quite convenient. And it is also quite close to Khajuraho. So, Khajuraho, Rewa, Bandhavgarh and Varanasi make a great travel circuit!

Else, if you plan to take a train trip to the city, you can refer to this site;

This is a Government of India Railways website and is really helpful.
Places to stay in Rewa 
Now, that we have a string of holidays in the third week of January, Rewa is a good weekend getaway for us.
I would strongly suggest  http://www.maharajrewa.com/default.asp?id=rewa_rajvilas as your number 1 preference as this hotel is the official property of the Maharaja of Rewa.So, you would get to know much more about Rewa and its surrounding places, history , forests etc while staying here.
Else, you can also check www.tripadvisor.com for its recommendations.
 If you have trouble finding the right place to stay in, please contact me.I have strong family links in Rewa so I will be able to help you.
Thank you, my friends for dropping by and reading this post.
Do let me know, if I have been able to help you out with answers to your questions ?

Top Amazing Destinations in India-Udaipur

Hello ,my friend!

I have written a lot in the past about the hauntingly beautiful stories of India and her people but, today, I shall guide you about the top 10 travel destinations that you must visit- and enjoy- in India. You must bear in mind that India is a subcontinent of sorts.You will find snow capped Himalayas, scorchingly hot deserts of Rajasthan, dense wet forests of North Eastern India as well as the glorious beaches of Peninsular India. Each of these places has a charm of its own and has a “best time to visit ”  recommendation. So, here goes;My first post is about the Lake City, Udaipur

Entrance

Nestled in the valleys of Aravalli hills of Rajasthan, Udaipur is my all time favourite.I stayed there for two years while studying and am never satisfied writing about it and travelling around the city.

For a first time traveller like you, the city holds out many charms like its colourful people and history, lip smacking food and great places to travel and stay in.Founded by Maharana Udai Singh more than 400 years back, the city and its surrounding areas turn into a paradise during and after August till March.The surrounding hills assume a brilliant green colour owing to the vegetation and rain bearing clouds hover down enough to give a surreal sight to the city.

If you are a budget traveller , you will find several budget and inexpensive hotels and resorts for you to stay in.One of my friends, Karni Singh Parihar runs a nice hotel in Udaipur. He is a Rajput and a loveable guy.

Do you know, Udaipur is also called as Lake City?It has no less than 5 lakes in and around the city.These lakes served the purpose of providing employment to its citizens during drought.

Want to see how the Maharajas lived?Then, you must visit the City Palace located in the heart of the city.Converted into a museum, the City Palace houses antiquities, artefacts and other pieces of the history of Udaipur.Though, the city is a few hundred years old, the settlement around the city is more than 2000 years old!Yes, in India, anything that is not older than 2000 years is not considered ancient!! The City Palace houses  a chain armour worn by one of heroes of Indian history, Maharana Pratap. You will have a great idea of how the ancient kings in India lived their lives when you visit the City Palace.

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Do you know, the royal dynasty of Udaipur is the oldest dynasty of the world?It is more than 1400 years old!

If you are a shopping buff, then Surajpol is the right place for you .Handicrafts and other marvellously crafted items are available in markets in and around Surajpol.

Saheliyon ki Bari is one place which you will never want to miss. The word Saheliyon means lady friends and Bari stands for garden.So, this place is a garden constructed by one of the earlier Maharajas for his lady folk. You will find water fountains formed in the shape of elephants, elephants made of marble , beautifully landscaped gardens and much more.I haven’t seen gardens more beautiful than Saheliyon Ki Bari.It is said that a Queen was feeling forlorn after her marriage to the king as she was missing her friends .Her friends totalled 48. When the king sensed he unhappiness, he decided to get this garden made for his queen and her 48 friends!

This garden draws its water from a lake located upstream called Fateh Sagar.The water is distributed through several hidden channels and when water gushes out from the mountains, it emits a hissing sound.

Best time to visit Saheliyon ki Bari is in the evenings.

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While in Udaipur, do not forget to visit Shilpgram, a place where the art and craft of India is put together in one central place.So, you will see and interact with the artisans of the various states and parts of India.You will also find people from various tribes of India here.Though, personally, I do not accept the word “tribe” as all people and humans are equal, I have to use this term here to put my point across.

Do you know that the royal dynasty of Udaipur has the image of a tribal in its coat of arms?It is perhaps the only royal family in the world that gives equal status to tribals and non tribals alike.Would you not like to know why?

Jagdish Temple has a haunting history and you must visit it surely. Made in honour of Lord Vishnu around 400 years back, the temple was the centre of a vicious attack by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It is said that this temple was defended by just one Rajput when the Mughal armies entered the city! This temple was made by Maharana Raj Singh.

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While on the subject of Udaipur, you must know about the history of its royal family.Called the Guhilots or Sisodiyas, the family has an illustrious ancestor, Bappa Rawal. Bappa was the son of a king who died fighting his enemies.Bappa and his mother had to leave their kingdom and live in the jungles to survive and escape their enemies.This happened more than 1300 years back.

When Bappa grew up , he was sent to study under a sadhu, Harit Rishi. Bappa proved to be a brilliant student and full of promise.When the sadhu grew old, he called Bappa and prophesied that his pupil would regain his kingdom .The prophesy came true and till 1947, when our country became independent, Udaipur remained an independent kingdom.

The family deity of the dynasty is Lord Eklingji and his temple is situated a few kilometres north of Udaipur.This temple is more than a thousand year old. It is said that when Aurangzeb attacked the temple on way to Udaipur, his army was attacked by a swarm of poisonous bees !

While in Udaipur, you must enjoy the fantastic and famous lakes of Udaipur- Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Bhupal Sagar, Jai Samand and Raj Samand. Each of these lakes has some interesting history behind it.

Pichola

The Pichola Lake, featured above has four islands within it and you would surprised to know some of the best hotels in the world are located on these islands.

So, that is it my friends. I have written very little about this wonderful place but, did you enjoy it?

How to reach Udaipur; Udaipur is accessible by road, train and air.It is well connected by air with prominent cities of India like Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur.

If you want to make a road trip to Udaipur then, you will be spoilt with choice.The best way would be to book a seat with the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, a State Government enterprise.It has offices in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai and Delhi  Website; www.rtdc.in

This site also helps you in reserving rooms in Government owned guest houses and hotels.I find these hotels to be inexpensive, comfortable and very much connected to the local culture and traditions.

Should you know more about this amazing and hauntingly beautiful city, you may write me a mail at swayamt@gmail.com

I have lived in the city for 2 years and have excellent connections so I can make your travel and stay comfortable.

Chandni Chowk- A town square colored by blood

Delhi, the capital of India , has had a gory past but quite a lively present. But, today as the world mourns #ParisAttacks , I would like to share some grisly attacks on Delhi in the past.

When you visit India, the first place that you land up in India is Delhi but your India travel plans are incomplete without Chandni Chowk.

The bustling malls, the Metro shuttle service, the young that throng the public places of Delhi and the wide, open avenues that house the various foreign embassies don’t give a clue at all if the murder and mayhem that the city has witnessed.

The famous town square of the Old Delhi also called as Chandni Chowk is one of the most bustling places in the city. Cloth merchants jostle for space with shops selling sweets and old gramophones.

When the weather is more favorable, one can see European and American travellers exploring this place.

But do you know, this place is witness to some of the most horrific massacres of the world?

The Gurudwara Sisganj (picture below) was the site where one of the Gurus of Sikhs and Hindus was tortured to death by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb

Close by, there is a fountain, that supposedly was the site where three of his followers were also tortured to death for refusing to accept Islam.

And, sitting cheek by jowl, with the Gurudwara is a mosque, Sunehari Masjid. Way back in the 1700s, an Iranian invader Nadir Shah  had ransacked Delhi and sitting inside this mosque had given orders for a general massacre of its citizens.

Reportedly, more than 30,000 people had been murdered!

Sometimes I wonder, what makes people murder each other? I get no answers.

Meanwhile, life goes on.

Top Picture; Sunehri Masjid

Bottom Picture; Gurudwara Sisganj

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Sunehri Masjid, Chandni Chowk

The Sunehri Masjid (Golden Mosque) was constructed by Roshan-ud-Dawla Zafar Khan in the year 1721.It is so named because of its golden coloured domes.History tells us that the invader, Nader Shah had camped himself in this mosque and given orders for the general massacre of the people of Delhi.The killings lasted the entire day.Not many visitors are aware of the grisly past of this mosque.

This mosque was constructed during the reign of the Mughal Emperor, Mohammad Shah “Rangila”. The epithet “Rangila” refers to the colourful life of the lecherous king.

In his book on Nader Shah, noted British author Michael Axworthy describes the murderous event as such;  “On the morning of 22 March, Nader mounted his horse and rode from the palace to the Roshan-od-Dowala mosque (the former name of Sunehri Masjid). As he arrived there with his men about him, some people threw stones from balconies and windows around the mosque, and a shot was fired, killing an officer beside him. He had already made up his mind, but this final insult may have added fury to Nader’s frustration. He went to the roof of the mosque and stood by the golden domes, looking out over the houses, shops and roof of the Chandni Chowk district. He ordered that no one should be left alive in any part where any of his soldiers had been killed, and then drew his sword as a signal that the massacre should begin.”

This mosque was repaired by the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar.By the way, celebrated British author cum historian William Dalrymple has written an interesting book on the Last Mughal.

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Gurudwara Sisganj

Now we come to Gurudwara Sisganj.

Guru Tegh Bahadur, was one of the last Gurus of the Sikhs. He resisted the cruel acts of the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb , who had him imprisoned and brought before the Emperor in Red Fort, Delhi.

The Emperor demanded that the Guru embrace Islam but, the Guru flatly refused.For this refusal, he along with his three disciples was sentenced to death.One of his followers, Bhai Mati Das was sawn alive, the second and the third ones were boiled in hot oil and set on fire, respectively.The Guru was beheaded on the orders of the Emperor.

Three centuries later, as you soak in the exuberance and the energy of Chandni Chowk, it would be impossible for you to accept the savage history of this place.

You may also like to read;  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhai_Mati_Das

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunehri_Masjid_(Red_Fort)

Narak Chaudas-India’s Guy Falkes Day

As the moon wanes further today on its way to Amavasya -or the moonless night- I am struck with the thought of sharing the hauntingly beautiful story of Narakasur, a gentle man who turned to evil and had later to be killed by Lord Krishna.This is also the story of the emancipation of women.This post is for people interested in travelling to India or knowing about India’s culture, history and beliefs.Your India travel will be incomplete if I did not share with you this hauntingly beautiful story about India.

Read on, fellow traveller to India and let me know how you find this post.

Varaah and Bhudevi

Thousands of years ago, rather millions of years ago, the Earth was submerged under a huge mass of water and its denizens were crying for deliverance.Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Varaah and rescued Bhudevi or Mother Earth from her distress. Varaah is another name of shookar or wild boar.

Lord Vishnu lifts up Bhudevi
Lord Vishnu lifts up Bhudevi

You see, Indians believe in the concept of avataar wherein Lord Vishnu comes down to Earth from his celestial resting place, in various forms, to deliver  humanity from the mess it gets into.It is entirely possible that several millions of years ago, men and women had caused severe environmental degradation that led to huge floods.

A gentle son turns into a demon!

The couple, Varaah and Bhudevi later had a son whom they loved and was known the world over as Naraka. He was a virtuous young man, ever eager to help the needy. He had been granted a boon by Lord Vishnu that till the time Naraka did not wield any weapon, he would not die.So, the worried parents always ensured that Naraka stayed away from weapons and missiles of any form.

But, that was not to be! There lived a demon called Banasura and he was determined that Naraka be turned into another one! So, he plotted! And succeeded too!

It so happened that Banasura asked two of his men to disguise themselves as a cow and a Brahmin. The “cow” was to be stolen by another thug and the “Brahmin” was to approach the young Naraka for help.The plan succeeded and the young man was convinced to take up arms, which he did! In ancient as well as modern India, stealing a cow is considered an unpardonable crime.

There was no going back for the young Naraka from there..he frequently started taking interest in quarrels and later ,wars.Since, he was borne of a mighty avataar of Vishnu, Naraka had immense strength and power.

As he grew in strength, he could not resist himself from carrying off the daughter and sisters of the kings.Soon , he had a harem of more than 18000 young women. Naraka quickly earned the appendage. “asura” or demon. Now, Naraka was Narakasura.

One day, Narakasura spotted Aditi, the mother of the Devas. She was wearing a pair of glorious ear rings which the demon longed for. She was assaulted by the demon and relieved of her precious jewels.

Indra, the Lord of Devas , was justly enraged but, he could do little as Narakasura was supremely strong! Indra, then decided to approach Lord Krishna who was living at that time in Dwarka.

The Lord was resting with Satyabhama when Indra visited them and upon hearing the complaint, decided to attack and slay Narakasura. Satyabhama, his wife, was irritated on hearing of her husband’s plans. So, Lord Krishna decided to placate her by taking her along in his campaign.

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Courtesy Metropolitan Museum; the two armies meet!

They alighted Garuda, the celestial carrier of the Lord and proceeded to Pragjyotishpur, the present day State of Assam, North East India.

Now, the fort of Naraka was no ordinary fort- it was heavily guarded by another demon , Mura with his ten sons. Sons and their father used to live in a river that encircled the fort! But, he was no match for Lord Krishna who quickly slew them .

Now, it was a straight forward fight between the Lord and the wayward Naraka.

However, Naraka had been given a boon that only his mother could kill him and Satyabhama was the avatar of Bhudevi, his mother! Lord Krishna knew this so he nudged forward his wife, Satyabhama to fight Narakasura.

In the fight that ensued, Narakasura was killed and Pragjyotishpur was freed from the clutches of the tyrant As Naraka lay dying, he prayed to his mother to grant him a boon-his death should be celebrated  with colourful lights and crackers!The boon was granted.So, on this day, Indians celebrate with gusto this event by lighting up their houses and bursting crackers.

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All the prisoners were freed and so were the unfortunate 18,000 women who had been put into the harem of the rapacious Narakasura.

The misery of the ladies

The ladies had a common problem- where will all they go now that even their dear and near ones had forsaken them?Kidnap and imprisonment by Narakasura had led to their abandonment by their separated husbands, brothers and parents! This problem exists even now in India- women who have been wronged my molesters and rapists are quickly disowned by their society.

Lord Krishna quickly understood this problem and had no answer to this except this; he decided to marry all the 18, 000 ladies and give respectability to the unfortunate ladies! This was a revolutionary step in those times as very few people have the courage to follow their heart. We all talk about the bad things in the society but do we have the courage to change the existing situation?That is why, Krishna is celebrated the world over as the saviour.

Ladies rescued from the prisons of the demon by Lord Krishna
Ladies rescued from the prisons of the demon by Lord Krishna

Today, the day of Naraka Chaudas celebrates that extreme event of delivering the world from the vices of evil. Effigies of the demon are put on fire in parts of India amid festivities. If you are in Goa  today, join in the celebrations. Goa is not just sun, surf or sand; it is much more. It is like the Guy Falkes day celebrated in some West European and North American countries like the United States, Canada, Britain  etc.

The ear rings being to Aditi
The ear rings being handed over  to Aditi

Tomorrow is Diwali but that is another story waiting to be told to my blogger friends!

Great places to hangout in Delhi

Wondering which place to hangout in Delhi?Welcome to this post that takes you through some of the amazing events of Delhi.

Your India travel itinerary would be incomplete without touching base in Delhi and heading off to a marvellous place called Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts on the Janpath.

Janpath is a short distance away from Rajiv Chowk or Connaught Place, the heart of Delhi and you will have to take a cab to reach that place.Else, put up your backpack and simply walk down to this amazing place.

As part of my India Travel Blogs, this post is dedicated to the art and craft of India.

Fun, all the way

Have you heard about  Swang? Well, it is a dance cum drama form that tells a short story and the participants or characters are dressed in disguise. Often, the stories are mythological in nature or are legends. However, of late, the stories have become more social oriented.

This dance   is about a young married woman who is unhappy because her husband is away. She is not interested in her worldly possessions. Notice the riot of colours in this dance performance.However, I must admit, the dance is so full of vigour that the lady does not look disappointed!

A Canadian woman joins in the fun!

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A young visitor from Canada cannot hold herself from having some fun!

 By the way all the characters are all men! Enjoy the dance by clicking on the link below;

I had my own share of fun when I decided to have a selfie with a participant.Click on the link below this image to enjoy some thrilling dance moves!

Hello, world!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXWdd5HNOxk&feature=youtu.be

Swang as a dance form is immensely popular in North India.

From Nagaland with love!

From North India let us swing to the North Eastern part of the country.Featured below is a Naga dancer in his  attire.Click this link to enjoy the performance.In fact, some of our people like the Nagas resemble the Native American people !

Nagaland is famous for its own Hornbill festival, so if you plan to stay on in India for a very long time, Nagaland is the place to go to!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hBSED-nE5c&feature=youtu.be

#HauntinglyBeautifulIndia
A Naga dancer in his costume

Colours of Rajasthan

Northwest India, though a tough place to live in , has some very colourful people and one of the states that I am taloking about is Rajasthan.I wandered into an artiste dressed up as Ravana, one of the central figures of Ramayana, one of the greatest epics of the world. This Ravana is sporting some really cool shades.

You also run into a serene  but smiling Krishna, the central figure from Mahabharata, the other great epic of India and the world. Mr. Akram, from Jaipur plays the role of Lord Krishna and is waiting for his performance to begin.Even as I speak, he doesn’t abandon his beatfic smile, probably that is why, he has landed up this plum role.

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The Indian Classic

If I did not share with you the breathtaking performance of of our South Indian people, I would be doing injustice to this post.An image  of the popular dance form of Bharatnatyam!Bharatnatyam

Bharatnatyam is one of the ancient dance forms of the world.

Enjoy this dance by clicking on this link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-jJp-TGEp8&feature=youtu.be

And speaking of Rajasthan, how can we miss out talking about its puppets and their stories.Meet Mr. Raj Kr. Bhat who runs Shahil Dance Group and is a traditional folk artist.He is available at 8860747834.His youtube link is 49281welcomedance_anilbhatt .Here is him. I wanted to photograph his entire family but, traditions got the better of them and they refused to get photographed!

#HauntinglyBeautifulIndia

He is a kind soul and I wish him all the good luck in this world.040

Also, savour this; a group of young children trying to recycle used paper and stationery into something useful!

#HauntinglyBeautifulIndia

Top 4 Haunted Travel Destinations in Delhi

The City of Delhi has a lot of  hidden secrets but, some of them are spine chilling!

  1. Nicholson’s Cemetery

They say in hushed tones about a headless corpse often wandering on his horse back in the dead of the night in the eerie graveyard of Nicholson’s Cemetery.

Nicholson was a British officer serving the British Army in the 19th century in Delhi when Indians erupted in a mutiny against the East India Company.

Delhi was under the control of the British but after the initial few days of the start of the revolt, the British Army had to abandon the city till reinforcements came.

When the British gained their strength, they attacked the city once again and besieged it.It was during one of those days of heavy fighting that a young British officer, Captain Nicholson was hit with a shell and he died.Death was instantaneous.

Local residents say , his ghost still roams the graveyard on a horseback in the dead of the night.

Nicholson’s Cemetery

The graveyard lies in the old section of Delhi and if you want to see this intriguing place, do let me know.

2.Khooni Darwaza

Do you know what Khooni Darwaza means? It stands for a Gate colored in Blood.

This beauty stands bang in front of a cricket stadium in Delhi. Close by is the office of the world’s largest English newspaper-The Times of India.

Do you know why it is so called? In the 19th century, the British troops had murdered three sons of the Mughal Emperor , Bahadur Shah Zafar.The three sons were first imprisoned, stripped down and later shot dead by the British.

Why?

Apparently, because these chaps had encouraged their Mughal soldiers to massacre the British citizens during the Great War of Independence in 1857 in Delhi.It was a pure case of revenge.

Khooni Darwaza was one of the gates to have been constructed by Sher Shah Suri more than 500 years ago. He was then the King of Delhi.

  1. Firoz Shah Kotla

Right next to the infamous Khooni Darwaza is an ancient citadel, Firoz Shah Kotla.

Built by Firoz Shah in the mid 14 th century in Delhi, this citadel is considered by many to be haunted by ghosts or djinns.

People from nearby houses and colonies, primarily Muslims , come to this place to make these ghosts happy by giving them sweet meats, biryani and other delicacies.They also light up candles to make the atmosphere even more weird.

No body has seen the ghosts, but many die hard believers says that the djinns often manifest themselves in forms of dogs, cats etc.

The citadel is closed to the public after dusk.There is an ancient water reservoir inside the citadel where several people have committed suicides.

Hair raising experience!

Know what? The adjoining cricket stadium has been lucky for the Indian cricket team!

4.Sanjay Van

This artificially created forest in the south of Delhi never ceases to amaze me.It is truly a haunted place.

Located close to the famous Qutub Minar, this forest also houses the ancient walls of Qila Rai Pithora, or the Fort of Rai Pithora.

Within the forest are several graves of Muslim sufis and the popular legend says that the sould of these saints wander in these forests.

I was once attempting to cross this forest when a local resident stopped me saying that, there would be some weird things happening to me if I went further.A long dead sufi saint had gone for his ablutions and till the time he came back, nobody would be allowed any further!

Unbelievable!

Does it give you the shivers?

I sure do get when I pass these places.Delhi, after all is more than 3000 years old.

Hauntingly beautiful, this city is, isn’t it?

Top 5 Places You Must Visit in Delhi

Planning your India Trip and wondering which places to visit?For a lot of you,India Travel would be an Adventure Travel of sorts..You would be checking up on a lot of travel guides for help.Some of you would also be checking up on the packages India stores in terms of stories and offerings.

There are places and places in Delhi for a traveller to visit and it is hard for her to choose the best 5 places to visit in a tightly packed schedule.

Oh, by the way, this is the” Visit India” Year being celebrated in China!

Delhi has a vast size and is a state, much like New York in the United States.So, planning in advance about your travel itinerary in Delhi is desirable.

So, here goes my bucket list.I am assuming you are a young couple, with no kids and generally wanting to soak in the good times of Delhi.

1.Chandni Chowk 

This is the central avenue of the old section of the city and was built by the Mughal Emperor, Shahjehan, more than 400 years ago. The name , Chandni Chowk means , Moonlit Square.Why it was so named is a mystery.However, the place retains its old world charm, housing shops selling sarees, sweets, old gramophone players, perfumes and spices. If you are a fan of Indian spices, head over to Khari Baoli, a just a mile away from the Gouri Shankar Mandir. The Baoli has umpteen stalls selling various kinds of spices that India was known about nearly 100 years ago.

Some of the friendliest people in the world can be found here and you can make friends here.Till a few years back, horse drawn carriages used to ply here but, they have given way to battery powered rickshaws.

It is said that Jahanara, the elder daughter of the Mughal Emperor, Shahjehan designed the square.

Chandni Chowk is steeped in history. Almost every alley, nook and corner has some story to tell.For example, one of the holiest gurudwaras or temples of Sikhs, Gurudwara Sisganj is located here. The bloodthirsty dictator that Aurangzeb was, he had a Sikh Guru decapitated here.The site of the Guru’s martyrdom was converted into a temple.

Another interesting place is Ghantawaley ki Dukan or the shop with a bell. It is said that this shop was visited upon frequently by one of the Mughal emperors and as his elephant made way to the shop, the bell hung around the neck of the animal used to alert the shop owner who would quickly get on to preparing the choicest delicacies for the Emperor!

Then, you can also visit the Gaurishankar temple built by a captain of the Maratha army .the captain had vowed to himself that upon the destruction of the Mughal dynasty, he would build a grand temple devoted to Lord Shiva.

How to reach; Take the Delhi Metro from the New Delhi Railway Station for a hassle free , air conditioned ride.Chandni Chowk is just 3 stops away from New Delhi Railway Station.027

2. Red Fort

Once you are done with Chandni Chowk, head over to the imposing fort of Delhi called Red Fort.Built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjehan 400 years ago, it is considered an imposing piece of Indian architecture.Most of the Fort premises was taken over by the British army after the 1857 Struggle for Independence and a large number of Mughal palaces was  demolished.There still remain a few Mughal palaces that will give you goose bumps when you read about the events associated with them in my other blog posts.

The Archaeological Survey of India has recently uncovered a buried garden that used to be the favourite place of the various princesses of the Mughal empire.

There is also an ancient stepwell or a baoli within the fort that housed the freedom fighters of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, after their imprisonment by the Britishers.

North of the Red Fort is an ancient castle of Salimgarh that was the royal prison for rebellious princes and princesses.It is said that the fort is haunted by a long dead Mughal princess!

The Prime Minister of India hosts the Indian Flag each year on the Independence Day which falls on August 15.

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How to reach Red Fort You can either walk to this place or of you are tired, hop on to any cycle rickshaw.It is quite close to Chandni Chowk.

You can get audio guides for detailed description of the Fort at the ticket counter.

3. India Gate

Built by the British government after the  First World War, India Gate commemorates the British Indian soldiers who perished defending their Imperial masters.The names of all those soldiers are inscribed on the stones forming the majestic India Gate.

Today, it serves as a War Memorial of the Indian defence forces.A wide and huge lawn adds to its grandeur.

If you are lucky and visiting Delhi in September, you might see an Army band belting out some great battle tunes.

How to reach; India Gate is very near to Rajiv Chowk or Connaught Place. You can take an auto rickshaw or a cab.Ensure that the auto rickshaw driver agrees to charge you by the meter.

A better way is to take a Ho Ho bus ride.

4.Purana Qila

Purana Qila is interesting for two reasons-one , it is the site of ancient Delhi.Legends say that this Old Fort or Purana Qila stands at the site of Indraprastha-the capital of the Pandavas.

Have you heard about the Mahabharata, Bhagwad Gita and Lord Krishna?Well, the Pandavas are from that period- more than 5000 years old.As time passed over the centuries, newer kingdoms and dynasties occupied the place and finally the Mughals made the site as their stronghold in Delhi.If you want to soak in the ancientness of Delhi, this is the place to be in.

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Featured above is the image of the library of a Mughal Emperor, Humayun.

How to reach; You can get off at the Pragati Maidan Metro station and the place is just 200 metres away.If you have kids, you may also like to visit the Delhi Zoo which is located alongside the Purana Qila.

5. Humayun’s Tomb

A few miles away from the Old Fort or Purana Qila lies the Humayun’s Tomb- which is considered to be the precursor of Taj Mahal in design and layout.It is a beautiful monument and is a world heritage monument.Within this tomb lie the remains of the Mughal Emperor, Humayun and his descendants.

Who was Humayun? He was one of the earlier Mughal Emperors and a descendant of the infamous Ghenghis Khan of Mongolia.His grandson, Shahjehan is credited with the building of Taj Mahal in Agra and the old city of Delhi, also known as Shahjehanabad.

There is a sad story behind Humayun’s Tomb.During the 1857 Struggle for Independence, three sons of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar had taken refuge here. They were found out by the British Army Captain,captured them and later executed the princes in cold blood!

How to reach; Humayun’s Tomb is located a couple of miles from the Purana Qila. You may have to take a cab to reach here.Cycle rickshaws are not available in this part of Delhi.

Where to stay in Delhi?

While there are several lodges, hotels and resorts in Delhi, for the solitary traveller to Delhi, there is no other better option than the two sites of airbnb.com and couchsurfing.com where you can find friends who can offer bed and breakfast.

Then there are several government owned hotels like ITDC or the private hotels like Taj Hotels or Maurya Sheraton where you can simply plonk .

Best way to commute in Delhi;

Take the HOHO bus service of the Delhi government.It is available near Rajiv Chowk , earlier known as Connaught Place.

www.hohodelhi.com  It is fun, safe and reliable.

Did you find this post interesting? Do you want me to help you in planning your Delhi or India trip?

You may write to me at swayamt@gmail.com and I will be happy to help you.

Thanks

Amazing Destination in India- Chhattisgarh

Ever wondered which is the most beautiful travel destination in the world?Welcome to Chhattisgarh!

More than a billion years ago, Earth shivered and stretched herself as if waking up from a deep slumber.

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                    Yoga at Chitrakote Falls…The River Indrawati in her glory..

Her bosom heaved up and down and from within her womb, a massive volume of lava erupted upwards.Her convulsions left deep scars upon her body, the lava gradually cooled off and thus, the area that we know as Chhattisgarh, was born.Geologists call her a part of Gondwanaland.But, what is in a name, you might wonder.And I agree with you .The ancient events unleashed upon the body of Mother Earth led to an unprecedented vista of beauty and wildlife.And, thus, was born the hauntingly beautiful Indian state of Chhattisgarh!

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A much calmer Indrawati, downstream

Which way you look at it, the defining colour of Chhattisgarh is GREEN and the myriad shades that go with this colour.It is an offbeat destination for most of us, nevertheless.

Jungles standing for more than a million years

So, while you lusted after the snow washed landscapes of Alaska and the Rockies, or pined for a vacation in the South of France or planned your itineraries of the velds of South Africa and Botswana, Chhattisgarh revelled in her own beauty but, readying herself with out of the world hospitality that India is known about.

Bewitching-Teerathrajgarh Falls, South Chhatttisgarh

Thanks for taking time off to read my two pence on the Playground of Gods-Chhattisgarh!

The Story of Rama and the Pandavas

One of the greatest humans that the world has seen is Lord Rama. Incarnate of Lord Vishnu-he the preserver in the Trinity- Lord Rama inherited the kingdom of Kosal from his father, Dashrath after vanquishing Ravan.Lord Rama upon his retirement divided his kingdom between his two brothers, Luv and Kush.The latter got South (Dakshin) Kosal as his inheritance and established his capital at Kushasthale , somewhere near Malhar in the Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh.So, you see, Chhattisgarh as a political unit has been there for more than 5000 years .Eventually, the Dakshin Kosal kingdom dissipated -as all kingdoms do- because of the rising power of Magadh in Bihar.

Aha, I just remembered the story of Jarasandha.This fellow was blessed by a goddess that his death would come only when another man would tear him apart.So, as fate would have it, he was torn asunder by Bhimsena, the Pandava who possessed the powers of 18,000 elephants.When Jarasandha died, 36 or Chhattis of his clanmen left the kingdom and settled in the dense forests of Chhattisgarh.Garh was the corrupt form of Griha or House, hence, Chhattisgarh.

Well, Lord Rama had a younger brother, Lakshman, who was the incarnation of Sheshnag, or the celestial snake who bears the burden of Earth.Roughly, 1500 years ago, Queen Vasata decided to construct a temple in memory of her husband, Harshagupta at Sirpur, near the Mahanadi river.The temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu earlier but, later , it came to be known as Lakshman temple by the local folks.

O Lord, spare us from your upheaval!

Could it be that, the locals thought pleasing Lord Sheshnag would be better to deliver them from frequent earthquakes in this region?Remember, Sheshnag and Lakshman are one and the same!

 Though, this temple is made of brick, one can not but admire the craftsmanship which is normally associated with stone.Have a look..
 Most of the ancient temples in India composed of brick are no more.They have either decayed or have been destroyed by the Muslim invading armies.So, this temple is special.

At Sirpur, Chhattisgarh
The windows seem to be made of wood

I love you, Devadasi Sutunuka, I love you!

He was a sculptor, she a court dancer. Intoxicated in love, they used to find solace in a secluded cave in the Ramgiri hills.

Smitten by love, he wrote on the walls; “Roopdaksh Devdin is enamoured by Devdasi Sutunuka.”

Who is a Devadasi?

Devadasi , meaning, maid of God, is a concept that now belongs to the past.Devadasis were young, unmarried girls who devoted their lives to the Lord and lived in the temple premises.They never married but, some of them wanted to break away from their lives. Sutanaka was probably onse such devadasi.

Haunting, is.nt it? The graffiti has survived and has inspired countless budding poets write prose in the adjoining caves. This happened more than 2000 years ago.The language used was Prakrit as it was the dialect among the common folk.

 Many centuries later, a weary poet arrives in one of those caves and his muse takes over.Inspired by the swirling clouds that hover above the hills nearby, he pens down Meghadootam, an epic that tells us about the pining that a lover feels for his beloved and begs the clouds to convey his message to her! The poet- Kalidasa, one of the greatest poets that the world has seen. Kalidasa was among the nine eminent men in the court of one of the greatest Indian Emperors, Chandragupta Vikramaditya.His tale is no less interesting!
It is said that Kalidasa was an illiterate man in his youth.His parents married him off to an unsuspecting wise and learned lady.One day, the lady discovered her husband’s deficiencies and scolded him.Insulted, Kalidasa vowed to himself to more than match up to his vastly educated wife.
He made himself into a world famous poet, ultimately!

This happened nearly 2000 years back !!!

 Ramgiri is in the Surguja district of Chhattisgarh.

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Could these clouds have inspired Kalidasa?
Folks, our journey to Chhattisgarh has just started and there is more stuff to come, so be patient.In times to come, I shall reveal more stories to you about this land and its people.

Reaching Chhattisgarh is easy, just log on to www.tourism.cg.gov.in or write an email to visitcg@gmail.com 

If you are a Twitter nerd, drop a tweet @misra_ias or @GoChhattisgarh or to me @swayamt

You may write directly to me at swayamt@gmail.com and I will be happy to connect you with the right people.

How to reach ;. Just book a flight from Delhi or Mumbai to Raipur and you are there.However, I would advise the compulsive traveller to take a train ride.The train takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes of the world, I assure you.

So, folks, how do you find the first instalment of my Chhattisgarh series? Do let me know, please.

Thank you.

Top Amazing Destinations of India- The Village of a Headless Deity;Khatu Shyamji

For my traveller friends , I have been doing some travelling and research on some offbeat destinations in India and, here is a fresh post.Another hauntingly beautiful story from India! Another post on one of the tp amazing destinations of India!

How many of you know about Khatu Shyamji?Very few, I believe.A lot of Indian travellers too are unaware of this quaint sounding village in the Indian State of Rajasthan.

So, what is so special about Khatu Shyamji?

Thousands of years ago, in ancient India, lived a warrior who wanted to witness the Great War or Mahabharata.He had noble intentions of helping the weaker side win the war, but, Lord Krishna could see it that this warrior would unwittingly finish both the two competing armies and no won would win  the war! So, this warrior was persuaded to part away with his head as sacrifice .He accepted the suggestion willingly and thus, the legend of Khatu Shyamji was born.The name of the warrior was Barbareek.

Who was Barbareek?

Barbareek was the grandson of Bhim, the second Pandava. Bhim possessed the power of 12, 000 elephants and had a son, called Ghatotkach.The latter gave birth to a son who rivalled his grandfather in strength and bravery and was named Barbareek.

Barbareek sets out to watch the War!

One day, the young man, after hearing numerous stories and accounts of the preparations of War, decided to go and watch it.The War was being fought between his grandfather and his 4 brothers (Pandavas) and their cousins, the Kauravas.While, the Pandavas were 5, the Kauravas were 100 in number. The latter had an army of 11 akshauhinis while the Pandavas had just 7!Clearly, the Pandavas were outnumbered but, they had Lord Krishna with their side, who was a great diplomat and military strategist.Akshauhinis are military units.

All these days, the young man had accumulated a great strength by propitiating the Lord of Fire, Agni and had been blessed by the deity with some terrific weapons.

Barbareek visited his mother and took her leave promising her that he would support the weaker side in the War.The mother was satisfied as her in laws were militarily the weaker side.

Barbareek and Krishna

Lord Krishna was the supreme strategist on the side of the Pandavas and he was always alert to real and potential threats to his friends.

One day, he saw Barbareek, resplendent in his armour and astride his chariot, whizz by.”Halt, O, young man! What is your name?” Barbareek gave his introduction , not knowing that his interlocutor was Krishna.

But, then what will you do in that War, Krishna persisted. Well, Sir, I would fight for the weaker side  and definitely side with the Pandavas, Barbareek replied.

Krishna pondered over the warrior’s reply and be came acutely aware of the consequences of Barbareek’s role.The Kauravas would first expose a part of their army to their rivals and after that part was annihilated by Bhim and his mighty brother, Arjun, would become weaker! Barbareek would then side with this weakened side.The Pandavas would then expose a part of their army to their enemies and the remainder would become weaker .Barbareek would then side with the Pandavas.The see saw would continure endlessly, resulting in the annihilation of both the Kauravas and the Pandavas! Krishna had a real crisis on his hands!

Barbareek beheaded!

What if I gave you the power and ability of watching the War long distance, from here, Krishna asked the young restless warrior?

How, is it possible, Sir, Barbareek asked Krishna? I am Krishna, my son , so don’t worry about it, Krishna replied.

Barbareek had heard about Lord Krishna and was all at attention now. Please let me know, Sir, he asked.

Well, I will take away your head and place it here and you will see the entire War with your eyes, do not worry about it.But, you won’t be able to walk or hold  your arms.And, my son, thousands of years from now, people of this land will venerate you as my other form, you shall have the same name as I have!

Barbareek did not think for once and acceded to Lord Krishna’s offer. The lord took out his discus and after beheading the young Barbareek, placed his head on that very spot  where the warrior was standing. That spot is now marked as the temple of Khatu Shyamji.

Who was the bravest of them all?

When, the war ended,and the Pandavas emerged victorious, there was a bitter debate among them- who was the bravest of them all?Each Pandava thought of himself as being the bravest!

The debate was settled when Lord Krishna asked the beheaded Barbareek- My son, you have been watching the entire War for 18 consecutive days.Who, in your opinion was the bravest warrior?

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My Lord, Barbareek answered, I could only see you in the whole of the battle field..you were the strategist, you were the weapons deployed and you were the warriors fighting each other. It was you, you and only you in the battle field!

How to reach Khatu Shyamji temple?

The temple is located some 260 kms from Delhi on the National Highway-8.Continue driving from Delhi till Shahpura. There is an exit towards the temple town at Shahpura.

If you are coming from Jaipur towards Delhi , the distance would be approx. 100 kms.

Khatu Shyamji is considered an important pilgrimage centre by Indians and it is estimated that annually 50 million pilgrims reach this temple town.

Barbareek or Khatu Shyamji is revered in his child form and is offered gifts of a small cot (khat or bed) along with pillows and bedsheets ! The deity is perennially resting on his cot.!!

Note; Images have been sourced from the internet