Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Taj Mahal (Agra)

Finally trip to see poetry in stone materialised...

Visited in : October 2014
Best Time to Visit : March, October, November
Distance from Delhi : 208.6 km

Best way to reach there :
1) By road : the highway Taj Express Highway/ Yamuna Expressway is a well laid highway and offers a smooth drive at 100 kmph. 
2) By train : Bhopal Shatabdi Express is a good option and the travel time is just two hours.

Good place to stay at :
1) Raddison Blu is a safe option (that's where we stayed). The food is a good spread of all varieties.  It was 1.5 km from the Taj.
2) The Oberoi Amarvilas is 600 m from the Taj.
Other than these, ITC Mughal, Wyndham Grand, JayPee palace are some other reliable options.

Paeans and paeans have been written trying to put beauty of the Taj in words but words fall short miserably in front of this  epitome of love which graces Indian skies resplendently. The experience of actually soaking in the exquisiteness of the white monument is beyond what one could ever imagine. One is awed by the sheer brilliance of architecture, the finesse, the thought, the planning and the perfection of executing an emperor's tribute to his beloved wife.

Do not rush, spend time admiring the one of its kind monument.

Entrance to the Taj Mahal

Agra Fort is around 4-5 km from the Taj Mahal. A tour of this fort should be a part of the visit to Agra.

The official website of Taj Mahal is a wonderful great place to get inspired to visit Taj Mahal, once more!

Important Tips :

  1. The Taj Express Highway does not have any good eating joints, so be prepared to take eating halt only after reaching the destination.
  2. Must take a knowledgeable guide while taking the tour of Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. With the detailed information, the tour becomes much more enjoyable and educational.
  3. Do not miss the Light and Sound show in the Agra fort at night. Delhi Red Fort has similar kind of show, nonetheless, the one at the Agra fort gives a wonderful brief of the importance of Agra in the Mughal reign.
  4. If you do plan to go for the Light and Sound show, do take mosquito repellant along with you. Why should pesky pests spoil the fun of getting transported to the Mughal period?
  5. Make sure to see live demonstration of the inlay (pacchikaari) work that has been done on the walls of the Taj. Raddisson hotel has a small show with a replica of Taj Mahal highlighting the various details that must not be missed when one goes to see the monument. As a part of this show, a demo of inlay work was also shown by a craftsman. I am sure other hotels would be having something on these lines too.
  6. How can one leave without buying the authentic Panchchi petha from one of the authentic outlets? Make sure to check the originality of the Panchchi petha outlets by asking a trusted person. Must try saffron, paan and chocolate flavours in the petha. They are 'to die for'.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Trivandrum-Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram-Madurai Post 3 of 4

The third stop on our pilgrimage journey was Rameshwaram.

Visited in : Dec 2011
Distance from Kanyakumari : 307 km
Best way to reach there : By road (it takes around 5 hrs to reach Rameshwaram from Kanyakumari)
However, there is a train from Kannyakumari to Rameshwaram too - Cape Rmm Express
Good place to stay at : We stayed at Royal Park. There are not many well known hotels in Rameshwaram and the ones which are there offer standard facilities, nothing fancy.

Places to see here:

  1. Ramanathaswamy Temple

Image Courtesy : Kumbakonamtemples

Shiva (Ramanathaswamy) is the main deity here and is present in the form of signature lingam. Two lingams are the main attraction of the temple. One is believed to be built by Sita and the other was brought by Hanumana from Kailash (which is worshipped prior to the Sita's lingam).

Image Courtesy : vettriparavaigal

In line with other South Indian temples, Ramanathaswamy temple has long corridors lined with tall pillars. It is noticeable that these temples are usually very dark inside, not letting sunlight light up the interiors.

  1. Pamban bridge

It is a cantilever bridge on the Palk Strait connecting the town of Rameswaram to mainland India. It was opened in 1914 and is India's first sea bridge. The name Pamban bridge is used for both road bridge as well as the railway bridge. The rail bridge can be raised in order to let ships and barges pass through this strip of ocean.

  1. Dhanushkodi

It is a small town or village at the southern tip of Rameswaram island. It had a railway line which got destroyed in 1964 cyclone. It is believed that Lord Rama built a bridge between mainland India and Sri Lanka in order to take his army to Lanka. After Rama won the war and Vibhishana was crowned the new king of Lanka, he requested Rama to destroy the bridge. Rama did so with one end of his bow and hence the name Dhanushkodi (end of a bow).

Dhanushkodi town now wears a completely destroyed and deserted look. There are ruins of some old temples, some idols of Gods and railway station.

Fun of seeing the ground water up so close...

You can actually see Sri Lankan land from the edge of Dhanushkodi. 

The dancing waves bathed in the early morning rays of sun looked spectacular, so a visit to this place must not be missed.

Note :

  1. It will take 2-4 hours inside the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Since one needs to take bath (a bucket/pot full water is poured on you) at all of the 22 tirthas within the temple, it takes time, so plan accordingly.
  2. The Pamban railway bridge looks beautiful so must watch out for it while driving.
  3. Visit Dhanushkodi during the day time preferably because the place is very lonely and may appear spooky at night.