Monuments of Delhi

Exploring Delhi- The tombs come to Life!

Travelling to Delhi?Don’t miss spending your Sunday in these two monuments of Delhi that come to life this month. My blogpost mixes history with beauty today.Read on…

Places to see in Delhi
                                      

The Mughals ruled Delhi for nearly  200 years and have left behind some of the most beautiful buildings that we can ever hope to see.Prominent among them are Taj Mahal and the Humayun Tomb. I will not do injustice to you by writing yet another story on them.Today, I am going to take you through the lovely gardens of Safdarjung’s tomb and later, those of Lodhi.

Safdarjung was one of the last powerful ministers of the Mughals. He was ambitious had sensed that his masters were weaklings and were not going to last for long.For the benefit of my readers living outside India, Safdarjang lived during the tumultous 1700s, well over 250 years from now.The British were just setting up their factories in India then.

The last powerful Emperor of the Mughals, Aurangzeb had recently died in 1707 and for a long time, his descendants were  lecherous, cowardly and greedy kings.Some of their ministers thrived in such an environment and Safdarjung was one of them.

Places to see in DelhiHe had accumulated vast amounts of money and also harboured the dream of founding a new kingdom.Safdarjung founded the kingdom of Awadh, the capital of  which was Lucknow,But, before he died, he made a marvellous building for his tomb.

Aren’t you surprised by such ostentation?Well, I am!

The ambitious minister lies buried in a medium sized room within this building.

Places to see in Delhi

Here is the chamber where he lies buried-alone!

Places to see in Delhi

While you are still planning to visit this monument in Delhi,let me add to your sense of wonder by posting a few more photos.I hope, you will like them.

Monuments of Delhi

Amazingly, the minister stole a lot of marble and other construction material from another tomb to build his own.What a man he was?Bloody thief!

The tomb, though a bleak structure in itself , acquires a sense of dignity when you see it placed neatly within the large, well maintained lawns.

Monuments of Delhi

This being spring season in Delhi, a lot of young people flock to these gardens to spend a quiet time to think, to romance and to appreciate beauty.Yours truly was among a set of young friends who wanted to explore this place.

Monuments of DelhiSome trees are shedding their leaves and in a few weeks will sport an altogether new sets of them.Death follows life follows death.It is a continuous cycle.

Monuments of Felhi

As you can see, we were a happy bunch of people sharing our stories and points of view on history and environment.

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Coming back to this tomb,let me share with you some more pictures of the its architecture.

Monuments of Delhi

These windows or pavilions are called jharokhas. Kings or nobles used to sit here and listen to the problems of their subjects.But, why would such a pavilion exist here?Do you have any answer?

Slightly below this window is a marble tablet that has something written in Arabic or Persian.I could not make out what is written in that script.

Monuments of DelhiSome of the geometrical patterns have survived these 200 years.You can find such patterns in the tombs and mosques of Iran as well.

And you can even find some exquisite pieces of inlaid art in the marble here.

Monuments of Delhi

But, my post isn’t over yet! Now, I will take you over to one of the finest gardens in Delhi-the Lodhi Garden which houses some more ancient buildings.

The Lodhi Gardens are known more because some of the most powerful people of India come to it. The gardens are adjacent to the seat of power of India!In the mornings, you can see ministers, senior officials, diplomats and politicians taking a brisk walk inside the garden.

The gardens in this season take on an amazing look.

Monuments of Delhi

 

They are abloom with flowers  and color is the defining emotion here.

Monuments of Delhi

Monuments of Delhi

Lodhi gardens mean different things to different people.

Monuments of DelhiFor heritage lovers, the tombs of the mighty Sultans of Delhi are a huge draw.There are three of them and they are older than the Safdarjung tomb by at least 200 years.

Monuments of Delhi

For lovers, the tombs provide a perfect cover for courtship while for book lovers, there cannot be a better place than these gardens.

Monuments of Delhi

I have a fixation for these tall palm trees.They provide a sense of proportion to the recklessness of our lives.Don’t you think so?

You may also run into a drama theatre in these grounds, as I did.

But, it is the tombs that provide a wonderful opportunity for great snaps.

Monuments of Delhi

The young lady in orange melts into her surroundings.Is she alone?Or there is someone by her side? Or do you think she is waiting for someone?

Meanwhile, somewhere, the ducks enjoy themselves in the still waters of the pond.It seems that there is a silent conversation between the crow and the ducks.

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Oh, you should meet lovely Zahra,It was a pleasure taking her snap.I wasn’t sure her Afghan relatives would be ok with this.Delhi has a large number of Afghans as students and government officials.

Monuments of Delhi

The Lodhi gardens are so named because they house the tombs of the Lodhi kings. They were the rulers of Delhi before the Mughals came.The Mughals defeated the Lodhis in a fierce battle in 1526 AD in a place 100 kilometers from Delhi.

Apart from the tombs, there is an old bridge inside the garden.This bridge, made of stone is at least 400 years old.

Monuments of Delhi

But, as I said earlier, you still can not escape the riot of colours that pervades the environment.It seems happiness has descended upon humans , animals and plants in equal measure.Spring, in India , evokes emotions of romance, luxury and happiness.

Monuments of Delhi

Monuments of Delhi

Monuments of Delhi

Such is happiness!This is what mother nature does to its children, at times.

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So, that is it guys!

But, hey, how does one reach these places?No problem, take the Delhi Metro, get down at the Jorbagh station.From there it is just a 5 minute walk to the Safdarjung tomb.

Entry to the Lodhi Garden is free while the ticket price to Safdarjang is just 5 rupees for Indians.it is costlier for my overseas friends but, affordable, still.

Thanks for reading all this and dropping by.Have a nice day.

 

Around Delhi;LittleTibet-Island of Hope

This week, my blog takes you around Delhi and settles you inside Little Tibet by the banks of Yamuna.My photoblog on the Children of Dalai Lama

Tibet 035It has been more than 50 years since, China invaded and annexed Tibet. The invasion led to an influx of the Tibetans to India and a significant number of them live in an enclave in Delhi.This place is located in the northern part of Delhi and can be reached by bus or the Delhi Metro.The closest Delhi Metro station is  Vidhan Sabha.

You can not miss this place as the enclave is festooned with flags of all colors and shaped in the form of a triangle.

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I was a part of a merry group of friends out for a trek to this Little Tibet so, this photo captures them all.All of them seem so happy, isn’t it?

You have to take a bridge to cross the highway and reach Little Tibet.The traffic is fast and furious and it would be better not to cross the road  on foot.

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And, you cannot escape from  astrologers in India?Huddled in a group, these anxious people wanted to know their future from a jyotishi or an astrologer.

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I hope, he had nice things to say about his clients’future.I was amused to see these people from Tibet consult an Indian astrologer.Tibetans have such a strong tradition of astrology of their own!

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So, here it is,  the Tibetan Refugee Colony that holds the feisty group of tibetans together.The approach to the colony, as you can see, is a bit narrow.

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This signboard in Hindi promises to make your teeth strong and wholesome to look at.Silver filings available too, at a price!Thank goodness, my teeth are intact.

The numerous shops that line the narrow alleys in the colony sell everything under the Sun to the residents here.

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More often, you will see shops selling woollen clothing, spices and articles of food.

There is a temple in the middle of the settlement and the devotees were preparing for the afternoon rituals for the presiding deity.

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Close by, a group of residents lounged , sipping what could be tea.By the way, the sight of people having tea drives me crazy-I am that crazy for Chai!

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A sadhu gazes at the temple spires and wonders about something. The dog, as you can see is least bothered about what is going on.It sits comfortably within the white square in the courtyard. But, it gets ruffled with the tricks of a stuffed dragon shaped toy.

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Isn’t the view amazing?

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The community elders observe the goings on with interest.Can you imagine them to be refugees leading a wretched life in an alien country?These people would have spent all their lives in India, waiting for independence of Tibet from the Chinese.The young and the restless now live in other cities like Bangalore and Mumbai.Little Tibet has now grown old.

 

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The omnipresent bells of prayers; it is said, rolling these cylinders releases positive energy into the environment.I felt peaceful doing that exercise.

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Some of us sat in the courtyard and enjoyed ourselves.Cameras are important for the bloggers among us, they help capture vital moments for posterity.Cameras are the universal medium of language.

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This little girl in blue tried to earn a few extra rupees showing her skills in hoolahoop.It was a good photo opportunity for some of my friends.

Do you know how to make the hoop rotate around your hip?It is good for exercise of the abdomen but, I have so far been unable to master this skill.

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It was time for a cup of coffee and we trudged to a neighbourhood coffee shop.It stocked almost everything that you wanted (except liquor).The staff was from Arunachal Pradesh and it spoke excellent Hindi.

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I always wonder why most of the cafes around the world are dark inside.Do you have an answer?

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The grounds behind the Tibetan Colony were festooned with multi coloured flags.The colours indicate the 5 elements of nature- fire, earth, wind, water and sky.It is believed that after death, all that is left are these five elements.Walking in these grounds gave you a feeling of taking part in some festival.

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And, quite flows the Yamuna behind this settlement.The river is a pale shallow of its glory, now.It has witnessed the rise and fall of great empires ,cities and dynasties.But, now the river -considered as Mother by a lot of Indians- is a tired soul.Mother Yamuna is now unable to cope up with the truculence and frailties of her children.

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A crane tries to reach out to the astronomical heights of the moon, fails in its endeavour and gives it up.

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How do you like this post, my friends?

Thank you for dropping by and reading it.

 

 

 

 

India Travel-Amazing Stories;The dog who manned the guns

The amazing story of a dog who manned the artillery in this fort.What is the story?Read on…Another story from my India travel blog for my traveller friends.
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Alwar is just a few hundred kilometers from Delhi.It is one of the places to see around Delhi and Jaipur.When you drive from Delhi toward Jaipur,just ahead of the small town of Bhiwadi, there is a detour.A narrow road takes you down to Alwar.The route is stunning for, you drive through tiger country.

Bala Qila

Alwar is know for four things; a delicacy called Alwar ka Mawa, the tiger reserve of Sariska, the haunted fort of Bhangarh and another fort-where a dog manned the artillery!The name of the dog was Victor.

This fort, where the artillery guy was the dog , is called Bala Quila.It is more than 500 years old and has had a chequered past.The fort was owned by an Afghan artillery man, Hasan Khan Mewati.Hasan was well known for his skill in manning artillery and played a major role in the Battle of Khanwa.After, he lost his kingdom to the Mughal Babar,the fort of Bala Quila frequently changed hands and was last occupied by the Kachhwaha Rajputs of Jaipur.

Bala Qila1

As you drive towards Bala Quila, a narrow road winds up towards an old dilapidated building.This building used to function as the factory of guns and canons.

By the way, dear traveler to India, the fort of Jaigarh near Jaipur was also one such factory of guns!

So, let us go back to the story of Victor, our artillery captain.In the early days of artillery, guns used to be loaded from the front and lighted from that end.It was a risky thing to do and many people lost their lives and limbs this way.The human cost was too much.

So, a dog was identified to do this job of firing the guns and was of course, trained by his masters.This dog, Victor, was trained to jump into an adjacent pod as soon as the gun was fired.And, sure enough, he rose to the occasion! Day after day, he checked the big guns, fired their fuses and jumped into the pool for his dear life.

Until one day, when his luck ran out….

It so happened one day, that the soldiers were trying out a new gun.This gun was designed as the second biggest one in the whole of Asia.Victor was watching the proceedings from the sidelines, keenly absorbing the activities of the soldiers.

“Hey Victor, are you ready?”, someone asked the canine.Oh yes, his handler replied.Victor was brought up to the gun and he sure got down to the task.He took the light to the fuse , let it and straight away jumped into the pond.But, today, he was a tad slow.His reflexes had slowed down the years that he ahd been on the dangerous job.Boooooom, the canon roared , but , Victor was gone.

Gone into the sands of time, Victor had etched his name in history.

 

Today, the dutiful dog, Victor, has a memorial after him in the Bala Quila Fort.

Isn’t this story amazing? I will give credit to my friend, Mr. Dayal Singh Silari for sharing this story with me.

Thanks for dropping by and reading this post.

Also read this amazing post;http://www.ahauntedtravel.com/travel-stories-that-haunt-us-the-immortal-warrior/

 

India Travel;5 places in Delhi to have great tea or coffee

Hmm, the week is done and dusted. Some of you have met your sales targets and even exceeded them and there are others who have to play catch up.The mind is exhausted and all you yearn  for is a great cup of coffee ..and some conversations.

As a caffeine and tea devotee, ladies and gentleman, I present to you the 5 best places to have great conversations.

1.Cha Bar, M Block, Connaught Place-

Adjacent to the Adidas showroom and located on the Outer Circle of CP, this place rocks among the young and middle aged , equally. Cha Bar specialises in all forms of tea and my personal favourite is the Masala Chai that is served in a glass tumbler.

image courtesy-Burrp.com
image courtesy-Burrp.com

I think the concept of having tea parlours in Delhi started from this place and since then, there have been many copy cats of Cha Bar in Delhi.

Easy on your pocket, this place resonates with energy and laughter all times.You can just amble into the nearby Oxford Book Store, take a book of your liking off the shelves and come back to the Cha Bar for another session of tea.

The starting price of any tea variant here is Rs. 70 which is approximately USD 1.

Word of advice– If you plan to use your laptop here and do stuff on it, ensure that it is fully charged; the plug points do not carry electricity here.

2.Starbucks at Connaught Place

Another of my favourites, this place is quite popular among the visiting travelers to India from foreign countries.

The coffee here is expensive but it more than compensates for the lively atmosphere here.The staff is friendly and so too are the other visitors here.You can exchange notes and visiting cards with people who are sitting next to you.WiFi is available and its price is included in the tab.

Starbucks

You will , more often, run into entrepreneurs discussing business ideas among themselves.

Also read; http://www.ahauntedtravel.com/india-travel-chai-affairs/

Located just a 100 steps from the Cha Bar on Connaught Place.

3.Chaayos at Hauz Khas Village

This one is an absolutely joyful place to work and socialize.Hve you been to Hauz Khas Village in Delhi before?No? Then, you are definitely missing a pulsating piece of the young Delhi.

Chaayos

The staff here is definitely friendly but what is more interesting is the super fabulous price of the Chai. Starting in double digits, the price is what sets the chain apart from the rest of the gang.

The ambience is all green , in keeping with the colour of tea leaves. Like the Chai Bar, you will get mostly tea here.Off late , the chain has introduced samosas as accompaniment to tea.

Also read ;http://www.ahauntedtravel.com/india-travel-romancing-the-ridge/

Great crowd, the presence of a heritage site nearby and music -all of them add to its charm.

4. Jain Tea Stall, Chandni Chowk

Now, this one is not a typical tea parlor.In fact it is a small roadside tea vend.Run, by the elderly Mr. Jain, this tea vend is more than 90 years old and sits right in the middle of the most famous travel destination of Delhi-Chandni Chowk.

Jain

You do not have chairs to sit upon or tables to put your laptops or books upon, but, you sure get great conversations here.

Jain Sahab

The tea is freshly made and its aroma lends a surreal effect to this stall.And yes, Mr. Jain also dispenses medicines to people who are mildly ill.

5.Barista,Safdarjang Development Area, Delhi

I have been coming to this place for the last 4 years at least.Over this period, Barista has remained the same, retaining its same sets of customers and the general layout of the outlet.

What is interesting about this place is that you often meet young students of IIT here, discussing startup ideas.IIT is one of the best engineering colleges in the world.

barista_2053119g
Image courtesy;Hindu Business Line

The coffee here is expensive, definitely, but the visitors here are a friendly lot.

Word of advice; Parking is expensive near this outlet so, visitors will have to budget their time.In the evenings, the road in front of Barista is clogged with traffic so, keep that in mind also, dear coffee lovers.

Thanks for dropping by and taking time to read this post.

India Travel-Romancing the Ridge

A bloodied lake, a hunting lodge, a victory memorial and many more such buildings mark the Kamla Nehru Ridge of Delhi.What is the story behind the Ridge?Read on..

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When I quit my first job twelve years ago, I headed straight to the Rajiv Chowk Metro station .I wanted to enjoy the Metro ride and took the only route available.This route took me to Delhi University . Also known as Vishwavidyalaya route, this was the first Metro line in Delhi.

Little had changed when last Sunday, I again boarded the Metro to take the same route to the Delhi University terminus.I had planned to come to a heritage walk in an area that is popularly known as Kamla Nehru Ridge.

The Ridge is some distance off from the Delhi University area and is dotted with monuments and memorials .Some of them are at least 600 years old, while the latter ones are not more than 150 years old.This area is called Ridge because the Aravalli mountains, one of the oldest mountains in India gradually disappear here and can be be seen as just a ridge.

The Viceroy Lodge- Romancing with history

The Ridge area was once the seat of the British power in India.But, it took the British a lot of effort in the summer of 1857 to  re-establish control in Delhi. There is an imposing building here called , the Viceregal Lodge.Beautifully maintained by the Delhi University authorities, the Lodge houses the Vice Chancellor’s office.The Lodge was witness to several historical events.It is said that at this very place, British India’s last Governor General Lord Mountbatten had gone down on his knees to declare his love to Edwina, his future wife.

The Viceregal Lodge
The Viceregal Lodge

Though it does not look like a dungeon,many say that one of the best known freedom fighters of India, Bhagat Singh was imprisoned here .And, this magnificent building was witness to one of the landmark pacts in Indian history, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact.

The Lodge is surrounded by well appointed gardens that serve as a refuge of sorts for the numerous students of the University who come here to escape the sweltering heat.

Kamla Nehru Ridge
Verdant grounds

The Events of 1857

The year 1857 marked a watershed in the pages of Indian history. For a few months, Delhi slipped out from the control of the British and became the center point of the Indian freedom fighters.The latter had to sacrifice a lot of their officers and men to re establish their authority in Delhi and the Ridge became one of the battle grounds.

It is said that the British army lost more than 5000 men and officers in a 2 month war with the Indians.

Count of the dead and wounded
Count of the dead and wounded

When you visit the Ridge, you come face to face with a few guard posts and memorials to that bitter war.

Kamla Nehru Ridge
Flagstaff Tower-A relic from the past

Upon winning Delhi, the occupiers erected a victory column to commemorate their achievement.

Fatehgarh-The Victory Memorial
                                Fatehgarh-The Victory Memorial

So bitter was the war in the Ridge area that it is said that blood flowed freely to a small pond and turned its water crimson red.I would say that this story is a bit of exaggeration.

Kamla Nehru Ridge
The say its water turned crimson in the War of 1857

Close to the victory tower of the British is another tower and this one was erected by one of the greatest Emperors of the entire world-Ashoka.

It is said that upon embracing the principles of Buddha, Ashoka ensured that his thoughts  were spread far and wide through inscriptions on towers such as these.But,travllers to India, please note that this tower was transported to this place by another king, Firoz Shah.Firoz did not know about its history but wanted it to be erected in his own palace in Delhi.He was unsuccessful in his mission as the tower was to massive and heavy to be transported to his palace.Much of this tower was blown away by shells during the famous War of 1857.

Ashoka's Tower
Ashoka’s Tower

Our king Firoz was not just enamoured of towers. He took a keen interest in putting up hunting lodges in several parts of the city.One such lodge exists closeby, though much of it is broken and dilapidated.

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The place , nevertheless attracts neighbours who come to light a candle or two to please the resident spirits.Do you believe in spirits?

A hunting lodge
                                                    A hunting lodge

Close by is an ancient baoli or water well that is more than 800 years old.The water has turned green and nobody seems to be interested in it.I wish the authorities take proper care of this abandoned baoli and at least repair its steps and clean the water.

Kamla Nehru Ridge
A forgotten baoli

The Ridge area is heavily wooded and you can see a lot of simians here.No, they do bite the traveller though, it is advisable to be wary of them.Some of the monkeys gave me great shots!Hope, you like them too!

 

 

Kamla Nehru Ridge
                                                                      Monkey Business

 

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Thanks for dropping by and reading this post.

Please drop me a mail at swayamt@gmail.com if you want to know more of Delhi and its surroundings.I conduct heritage walks every week in Delhi and beyond and would love to take you around.

 

 

 

Metro Tales

India Travel- Metro Tales

Gliding over the burnished rails, the Delhi Metro, much like a trained ballerina made a graceful entry to the station.Ten seconds later, the doors opened noiselessly to welcome the traveller to its cosy environs.

Apart from providing a comfortable riding experience , the Delhi Metro also affords an unmatched opportunity to me to observe human behavior.

February 14 was not just Valentine Day. A vast majority of Indians also observed the Saraswati Pooja this day. Saraswati is the goddess of learning and she grants her blessings to all the people who care for them.This day also marked the onset of Vasant or spring season. Normally, people turn up in yellow this day but here, in the train coach, there was just one person in that color. I remember, when I was young, yellow was the dominant color.But, times,they are a changing.

Metro Diaries
                                                             Man in Yellow

To point a camera at a stranger and click pictures is downright rude so, it required a bit of tact to take this picture.The gentleman seemed unaware when I clicked him!

Meanwhile, in another coach of the Metro, a group of enthusiastic youngsters were happily singing away their blues. They had come to Delhi from all over of India to take part in a music competition but, had failed to make the cut. You think ther were sad? Disappointed yes, but, no way were they despondent.I take inspiration from such highly charged kids.

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Metro Tales
                                                                          Cheers to Life!

This picture was clicked on the station platform, actually. I am always amazed at the spontaneity and the never say die attitude of the young ones.

Mobiles, mobiles and mobiles!

You thought that travellers in the Metro would be a sociable lot! You would not be more mistaken if I told you that more than 90 percent of the commuters are always glued to their cellphones. I am sure they listen to music but, is it pre recorded stuff do they hear or is it live music? Would you know?

Meanwhile, some one fished out a water bottle from his backpack to take a sip.Summers, I noted , had finally made their entry.

The Pink Paper

I have been riding the Metro for more than 14 years now and newspaper reading among the commuters is a rare sight. Us Delhiites stay away from the morning papers.But, here was one unique soul in the entire 8 coach Delhi Metro who was intently pouring over The Economic Times. No comments here on possibly the first instance of changing reading habits in Delhi.

Here’s my seat!

Our Delhi Metro lays a great emphasis on safety and comfort of the woman commuters. Apart from an entire coach being reserved for women, a few seats in other coaches are also marked for them.Men folk stay away from these seats.But, the situation becomes tight for women when all the seats reserved for them get  occupied by other women commuters. Traveling while standing is not difficult for a lot of them but quite a few of the women folk aren’t made of sturdier stuff.A lot of men are considerate in such cases and offer their seats to the ladies but, not everyone is that considerate.

So, I wasn’t surprised when our man in yellow got up and offered his seat to a middle aged mom.She quickly grabbed the offer and without as much as saying a  “Thank You” plonked herself on one of the steel seats. Come on lady, a little bit of decency won’t cost you one bit, I thought to myself.

The billboards tell something

That is right.The ads on the billboards are a commentary on our society.As the Metro whizzed past the numerous stations, I noted that infertility among the Delhi women is a great business opportunity for some.

Is it stress or bad lifestyle of our women that is leading to increasing cases of infertility?Curiously, such ads are found more on the West Delhi line.

But, an even more curious thing caught my attention.It being Valentine’s Day, one could see several ads of chocolates- chocolates giving the touch and feel of silk.Nothing surprising in that given love and chocolates make great company.As the Metro screeched to a halt at the Rajiv Chowk station, a billboard ad beseeched the youngsters to dedicate February 14 to their parents. Personally, I like this idea of not just remembering our parents but taking care of them on Valentine’s. Love should not be construed as just a boy girl lovey dovey thing.It is a deeper concept, one that embraces the entire humanity.Isn’t it?

So, are we witnessing a gradual change of our sensibilities?I think we are.Our society is eternally, constantly changing and this nudge towards associating February 14 with something deeper signals that only.

Perhaps this constant change in the human dynamics is also called by another name-travel.

 

India Travel Stories

India Travel-Bazaar of love and lust

The princes met their love here and the lech, his concubines.Princesses and begums haggled with the lady traders here and the Emperor, occasionally smuggled himself in here.

India Travel Stories
 Meena Bazaar, Delhi

Meena Bazaar is an amazing place to behold in the famed Red Fort at Delhi. A medieval market, it is now called Chhatta Bazaar.The word “Chhatta” means honeycomb and the stalls and their ceilings in this market do give a feeling to the visitor that he is indeed in a honeycomb. For people traveling to India, here is my blogpost on this amazing destination.

Meena Bazaar- its arches
Meena Bazaar- its arches

Today, when you enter this market, you are greeted with hordes of shopkeepers and nearly all of them are men.You can hardly spot a female in this small community.But, nearly 400 years ago, this was not the case.

When the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan built this fort on the banks of the Yamuna, he thought of having a ‘ladies only” bazaar inside the fort premises.This wasn’t a novel idea as a similar bazaar existed inside the Agra Fort.For long, Shahjahan had toyed with the idea of shifting the Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi for a variety of reasons.So, when he finally crystallized his plan of having a new capital, he thought of bringing the Meena Bazaar along to the newly constructed Fort in Delhi.

While he borrowed the concept of this bazaar and executed it in Delhi, the design seems to have been inspired by the bazaars of Isfahan in West Asia.

But, let us try to understand the need for this Meena Bazaar.Why was it constructed in the first place?

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While the first Meena Bazaar was set up by the Mughal Emperor, Humayun, it was his son, Akbar who took it to the next level.Under Akbar’s rule,the bazaar served as a marketplace where the women folk of the royal household , of the Emirs and the high ranking Rajput nobles used to converge and trade in expensive articles. The Emperor used to come and check on the expensive items on sale here and sure, he had a glad eye for the fair maidens too.

The rules were strict; only the rich and the powerful were allowed to enter these hallowed premises.For the ordinary citizen, this bazaar was simply out of bounds. In Agra, this bazaar was supposedly located in an open field and had no roof.It was enclosed on all sides by temporary walls made of bamboo and thick cloth that goes into the making of tents.

It was in this Meena Bazaar of Agra that the young Shahjahan first saw the lovely image of Mumtaz, his beloved and inspiration for the world famous Taj Mahal.Mumtaz was all of 14 years then and was the niece of his step mother, Nur Jehan.

Perhaps, it was this sweet memory  that guided Shahjehan to build his own Meena Bazaar in Delhi, a bazaar that would have a character of his own , a bazaar that would be remembered for posterity. But, I also think that this bazaar served another purpose.This marketplace that was the high street  of all things luxury, is located right at the entrance of the imposing Red Fort. Ambassadors and other high ranking visitors from foreign countries could not miss the opulence that lay in front of them as they passed through the narrow confines of this bazaar!Shahjahan wanted to impress them from the word go!

The opulence of yore has gone and it has been replaced by souvenirs and trinkets for the average traveller to the Red Fort.How times have changed!

Four hundred years ago or even earlier, this market came to life during the Nauroz or the Parsi New Year. And as I said earlier, the Emperor used to come here incognito and had had his pick from the damsels present for his bedroom antics. The most notorious among all the Mughal Emperors was Mohammad Shah “Rangila”. The word “Rangila” connotes “colorful”. For him , this market was has favorite hunting ground for his numerous concubines!

The lech Emperor Rangila
The lech Emperor Rangila(image courtesy;internet)

As the Mughals declined in power and prestige, the allure of the Meena Bazaar faded, The royal princes and Emperors had to throw open the gates of the market for the ordinary trader so that he could come and sell them inferior quality stuff! And, when the Iranian Nadir Shah invaded Delhi in the middle of the 18th century, the bazaar was reduced to a graveyard, figuratively.

The British, on their occupation of the Red Fort in 1857, did all that was possible for them to disfigure and damage this graceful bazaar.In fact, their depredations led to  the demolition of large parts of the Red Fort in Delhi. Very few  of the Mughal era buildings have survived over the past 200 years, sadly.

Today,the government has restored much of the medieval bazaar to its original form. But, one can still transport oneself to the colorful times of the Mughal days when this bazaar was an exotic place ,a place exclusively reserved for the fair maidens of the imperial household.

Thanks for dropping by and reading this post.

 

India Holidays-Fun on the road!

Travelling within India  by road just became more enjoyable.It takes just 6.5 hours to reach Kanpur from Delhi! Holidays in India do not require detailed planning anymore.

I had been wanting to drive down to Lucknow for a much needed reunion with my parents.For me, travel should be an unplanned activity.But, my friends, I too have a small family so, a little advance planning is required.

So, after stacking  medicines, snacks and water bottles, we hit the road at the crack of the dawn.Left to myself, I would have simply picked up some clothes and simply headed down the highway.

Here is a travel tip for foreigners traveling in India; If you are headed to Agra, take the Yamuna Expressway that starts from Noida near Delhi. You just take a little more than 3 hours to reach a place called Tundla that is 25 kilometres from Agra.You can take a U turn from Tundla and reach Agra in no time.So, that saves a lot of time , you see, in comparison to taking the normal Agra highway from Faridabad.And, in case you are planning to visit Mathura and Vrindavan, you can find the right exits.

We hit the Yamuna Expressway after a couple of hours’ drive from our abode in Dwarka.

Another travel tip for travellers; Make sure that your car tires are filled with Nitrogen.The concrete of the highway can make your air inside your tires real hot.You would not like to be stranded on a highway with a burst tire, would you?Nitrogen helps you avoid these incidents.

By the way, the wayside facilities on the Expressway have adequate stock of the gas. so do not worry.

The best speed to cover the Expressway is 80 kilometers per hour though the temptation to hit the pedal and see your speedo go to 100 is always there.Don.t do it.You would not like to burn your petrol unnecessarily, right.

So, after an uneventful cruise of around 3 hours, we descended to Tundla, a non descript town, some 25 kilometers from Agra.Ok, ok, it was not that uneventful at all.Just to the right side of the motorway you could not stop gawking at the uber cool F1 formula tracks.

From Tundla onward to Kanpur, the road is well laid out except for a couple of small bottlenecks at Firozabad and Shikohabad.Firozabad is known the world over for its glass bangles.Hindu women consider glass bangles as integral to their boudoir.These circular rings signify happiness, contentment and satisfaction in the life of an an average Hindu woman.

And then , from Shikohabad, it is a smooth ride all the way to Kanpur.The present government of India is ensuring that road travel becomes hassle and bottleneck free , so, a lot of effort is underway to widen the roads. The road quality is being improved.

Tip number 3;If you have time on your side, head to the Lion Safari near the town of Etawah.I could not make it because of time constraints.In India, the only place where you can watch lions in the wild is Gir in Gujarat.Probably, the idea behind the Lion Safari is to replicate the Gir experience in Uttar Pradesh.Let me know how you find the Safari experience, wouldn’t you?

Kanpur is an ancient town on the banks of Ganga and was a prominent center of the anti British battles by Indian freedom fighters in the middle of the 19th century.Earlier a manufacturing and trading hub, Kanpur is trying to reinvent itself.

Do you know, dear traveller, that Hindus consider a place in Kanpur as the center point of our Universe?This place is called Bramhavrta.

After driving non stop for 6.5 hours, I decided to take a night halt at Kanpur.I had hoped to visit some ancient places in the city and around and share some pictures with you, but remember, I had kids in tow!

Kanpur does not attract many travellers and one reason is its maddening people.The city is frozen in time, it seems.I used to work with The Times of India in Kanpur more than 16 years back and the city has remained so all these years.

A large number of Britishers had died here in the Battle of Independence and their graves attract their descendants in small numbers.That graveyard is somewhere in Civil Lines , the area where the top government officials live.

From Kanpur to Lucknow, the highway is still under renovation. I just read today in the papers that travelling time to Lucknow from Kanpur will be just 30 minutes!Currently, the distance of 80 kilometres takes 2 hours. Well,I am waiting for the D day.Aren’t you?

Lucknow is another great city of India.Founded by the younger brother of Lord Rama, this city became the hub of the anti British forces during the War of Independence.Today, Lucknow is the capital of the most populous state of the Indian Union.

And, if you are a  glutton, there is no better place than Lucknow to satisfy your taste buds.

Oh, did I forget to mention the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary on the Kanpur Lucknow highway? Do drop in and let me know what you think of this upcoming travel destination, will you?

Thanks for reading this.

 

Kids in tow; Travel Travails

Dear traveller with kids in tow,

Your passion for travel may not be shared with your kids;or even your spouse.

It is alright to try to delight your family with a last minute planned travel to some “exotic destination”, but bear in mind this- your kids are probably more comfortable with gizmos than with maps and camping gear.

I have been taking my kids out for trips, for more than 10 years, and believe you me, they are not exactly relishing this experience.In my youth, I had this passion for taking off on just a bike to places as far as 40 kilometres.There was this fort in Jaipur that was perched up high on a hill.One day, when my parents were away, I took out my bike and pedalled all the way to top of the hill.This fort was more than 40 kilometres away.The after effect of this adventure was painful-I had a sore back and hunch.But, my ego was intact.

Another time, I just pedalled to another place 50 kilometres-one way!Same after effect!

While your enthusiasm for that trip that you have so zealously planned , is sky high, it is time to be grounded.The robustness of our youth is no longer evidenced in today’s kids.They are much more into mobile phones and laptops than bikes and jogging.While, they embrace technology as a duck takes to water, but , when it comes to sitting 9 hours in a car, watch their reactions!So, you have to take the familiar routes and avoid those enticing but rugged tracks.You simply cannot stop your car at some random place to take a snap of the “most glorious sunset” with your iPhone! The wife will always be muttering about the stares of the passers by and how uncomfortable she is feeling in that “godforsaken place”, as she will put it.

By now, one of the kids would be on the verge of throwing up, so you have to worry about a decent resting place !And, yes, while you reach out for that favourite radio station on your car stereo, some one will always deny you that simple pleasure.Remember, you are supposed to  just drive your folks to that destination.

If all this seems to be a plaintive appeal for justice for us poor passionate travellers, I wonder who is going to be the judge.

But, let me hasten to add-any trip that does not include your kids and wife or brothers or any soul mate- is just a trip.It does not have any soul.Trips are supposed to be happy events that have a lingering taste of fun and longingness.My best trips have always been in groups.Travelling solo is something that kind of scares me.I go further in that shell of loneliness that grows upon me.

Travel is an experience of discovering not just oneself but also the ones who accompany you.And, you do not need to actually travel in a literal sense for that discovery.Interactions mean discovery and travel is but interactions! No!

Bye!

My Travel Blog;What is at all about!

What’s your blog? someone asked me at a meetup. Well, it is www.ahauntedtravel.com, I answered. Oh, so you write about ghosts and all, the questioner persisted

 

Quite a number of times I have been asked this question and I quite like them.And, when I spell out my blog’s url, there is a faint smile on the questioner’s face.No problems with those smirks.Better to be ridiculed or smirked at than not having any reaction at all, I remind myself.

So, what is my blog about? It is stories around destinations. I am here to entertain and not to pontificate.I can’t help it if there are stories swirling around an ancient place, fort, jungle, bedroom, hamam or even a toilet.So long as there are stories about that place, I would continue blogging.You have any problem, go switch off your computer .But, I am not going to change my URL simply because you find it weird.

Me and my readers are trying to make this blog a brand that will be the first place to go to read stories and so far the journey has been a happy one.

 

Yes, this blog has its own share of warts and blemishes and I would welcome the positive criticism, one that helps yours truly to improve the content further.But, no negativity please.

In fact, I am keenly waiting for my readers to come up to me with new story ideas that can dramatically improve and enhance the blog content.Hope, my wishes come true.

I had never planned to write a blog, actually.My first post  was an accident that happened one day while I was in a coffee shop.I had never imagined that this post would generate nearly 50 percent of my page views.That post was about a haunted place in Delhi.I tried to balance that piece with posts about literature, craft and art but amazingly, the audience keeps on gravitating to the haunted  post! What can I say to this?

By the way, my friends, yours truly posted his 100th blogpost on February 1st.Cheers and thanks to every one of you for encouraging me all the while.But, the road is long and winding and I will have to travel this path and travel I will with your prayers and good wishes.

Thanks again for sticking with me all this while.

Best.

 

Top Stories;Festival of India

All these years, the walls of the Red Fort had witnessed murder and mayhem.But, suddenly, they were witnessing a festival of joy.What happened?What is the story?

For long, the tall, imposing walls of the Red Fort in Delhi had hidden countless stories of love, tragedy, conspiracies and murder.The Red Fort, you see, has always been a haunted place for most of us travellers.The Nadir Shah massacre of Delhi, the surrender of the Koh-i-noor diamond  by the Mughals to the Persians, the sack of Delhi by the Britishers and many other episodes have made Red Fort a tantalizing destination in India.For my friends planning to visit India, here is another interesting blogpost.

But, this post is NOT ABOUT RED FORT.It is about the Festival of India or Bharat Parva that was recently celebrated under the ramparts of the Red Fort.If you are keen to read more about this Fort, you may like to read it here;

Hauntingly Beautiful India Red Fort in Delhi-Part 2:Murder, he ordered! 

It was an incredible sight for most of us Delhiites when we came face to face with the colourful tableaux of some Indian states.You see, the Parva was an extension of the Republic Day Parade that we witness each year on January 26..Until last year, the Republic Day Celebrations began and ended the same day. This year it was different.The celebrations continued till January 31st and that is what made this Republic Day so special.The common citizens were participants in this year’s festivities unlike last year when we were just onlookers!

You could just enter the grounds without paying for any tickets!How cool is that? And, the food was awesomely priced, too. I could count at least 90 different food stalls that were catering to the myriad taste buds.Let me take you through some of the images  of this amazing festival.

Festivals of India
Tableaus represent shades of India

 

As you can see, it is so difficult for most of us to resist getting photographed with great looking tableaus.

Festivals of India
Hawa Mahal

This one represents the famous landmark of Jaipur, the Hawa Mahal.The tableau is mounted on a large trailer and is mobile.As you can see, it is being guarded by unarmed soldiers.Festivals of India

The weather was perfect yesterday as the Sun decided to break through the clouds and enjoy the festivities.

Festivals of India
The Festival Grounds

It sure was a surreal feeling being part of the festival under the ‘watchful ‘eyes of the Red Fort walls!

Meanwhile, in another part of the grounds, the India Army band was playing some peppy and catchy numbers. The pipes and drums added a lot of machismo to the music.

Indian Festivals
Pipes and Drums-The Indian Army Band

Have you ever  listened to bagpipes?They are an amazing part of the military band.Though, bagpipes are a Scottish legacy, most of the military bands, the world over, have adopted them as part of their music repertoire.

 

This kid was caught peeping at the band from behind his mummy.

Bharat Parva-Jan 31 096
                                                  Hello, what’s going on?

Not, to be outdone, the masters of the sea, The Indian Navy was regaling the audience , elsewhere, with its foot tapping numbers.

Festivals of India
Masters of the sea-The Indian Navy

Do you want to groove to this music?Here goes;

 

 

Can you spot the turrets of the Red Fort in the background?

So, how do you find this post, my friends?Would you care to give me your feedback?

Thanks for dropping by and reading this post.