Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

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The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the “Toy Train”, is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal, India. It is the first, and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger Railway. Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 86 kilometres (53 mi) long. Its elevation level varies from about 100 metres (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. When the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999, started running in the 1880’s, it was the beginning of a new economic and social life for the surrounding communities. 

Darjeeling_Toy_Train_at_Batasia_Loop Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services: however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India’s highest railway station) are handled by the vintage British-built B Class steam locomotive, DHR 778. The railway, along with the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway, is listed as a Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site. The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of hill railways.

The headquarters of the railway is in the town of Kurseong. It is still fully operational and retains most of its original features intact. While Darjeeling was growing, Rowland Macdonald Stephenson was crusading his battle for railway extension in India.   Operating on narrow gauge tracks since 1880s and providing an important transport link to various parts of Darjeeling hills and lower plains, the Toy Train is still unmatched when it comes to absorbing magnificent beauty of the mountains. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway System is the spectacular example of the technical and cultural traits of the colonial era. These trains illustrate different phases of technical developments in the hill areas of the country.

Toy_Train The trains became known as toy trains as the loco engines and the coaches were far smaller than normal broad gauge trains. But there was no such thing as toy railway construction. It was like any other proper railway project, but much more complex because of the terrain. The narrow gauge line did restrict the weight and size of the engines.

DHR was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, only the second railway to have this honor bestowed upon it,the first one being Semmering Railway of Austria in 1998. The site must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations. 

How To Reach:

By Air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport (96 m), which is well connected to all major city of India.

By Rail: The nearest railway station is Jalpaiguri (62 m), which is well connected to all major city of India. 

By Road: The road network in Darjeeling is quite good, There are regular buses including Rocket and Volvo services between Kolkata (Calcutta) and Siliguri Main Bus Terminal (known as Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus located on Hill Cart Road).

 

 

 

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a historic railway station in the city of Mumbai, India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a spitting image of Victorian-Gothic style of architecture in India. Its name used to be Victoria Terminus. The station is also called VT (as short-form of Victoria Terminus) or CST (as short-form of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus). Built in 1888, the station is a grand reminder of the British Raj in India and still one of the most historical landmarks within the Central Business District of Mumbai.

Chatrapati_Shivaji_Terminus_(Victoria_Terminus_Station) The building, designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay as the ‘Gothic City’ and the major international mercantile port of India. The station stands as an example of 19th century railway architectural marvels for its advanced structural and technical solutions. Whatever its stature on the world stage, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is for most Mumbaikars essentially a transit point—people get on or off the suburban or long-distance trains and make their way towards their destinations. They might stop and glance at CST momentarily, click a selfie with it perhaps, but their engagement with it mostly ends there. It is the busiest railway station in India. There are always a lot of people at the station. Short-distance trains and long-distance trains come to this station.

History:

Victoria_Terminus,_Bombay_(c._1900) The Chhatrapati Shivaji station, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, was built in 1888. Designed by the British architect F.W. Stevens, the structure became a symbol of Bombay (Mumbai) and the city was labeled the ‘Gothic City’ due to this magnificent building’s architectural styles. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Bombay. Bori Bandar’ station, located in Eastern Mumbai, was the main station for all commercial and trade activities in the city, starting its first rail service covering a total distance of 34 kilometer to Thane. 

It was during the British Rule that it was re-designed by F. W. Stevens, who named it Victoria Terminus (VT), after the then-reigning Queen Victoria. At the time, the building was the most expensive structure in Mumbai costing 260,000 Sterling Pounds.  In 1996, the Minister of Railways, Suresh Kalmadi, changed the name of the station to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a famed Maratha king.

Architecture:

Gare Chhatrapati Shivaji (anciennement gare Victoria) Chhatrapati_Shivaji_Terminus_(formerly_Victoria_Terminus)_-_Central_dome_over_grand_staircase_-_5 This building, designed by F. W. Stevens, is spread across a 2.85 hectare area. The terminal was built over a period of 10 years starting in 1878. This is one of the finest functional Railway Station buildings of the world and is used by more than three million commuters daily. The style and the ornamentation of the edifice were acceptable to both Indian and European culture.  Complete with turrets, pointed arches and an eccentric ground plan, the CST was a novel achievement during that period. The entrance of the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus is flanked by figures of a lion and a tiger representing the two countries-great Britain and India. From the outside, it looks far more imposing that its three storeys for its profusion of spires, turrets, domes and gables. Close up, the building is heavily ornamented with floral and animal patterns. The grand, modern identity the British sought for their colonial cities must have been evident in this cathedral that enshrined the power of steam locomotion. and the interiors of the station are lined with high-quality Italian marble.

It is among the top ten railway stations in the world. It is perhaps the second most photographed monument in India after the Taj. It has stood for 129 years. Unless a major natural calamity strikes, it could stand for another 500 or 1,000 years.

How To Reach:

Mumbai is well connected to all Big city of India by Flight, Train and Road way. Its also have International Airport which is connected to domestic as well as International flights.

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Sundarbans National Park

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Sunderbans national park is located at the South Eastern tip of the 24 Paraganas district in the state of West Bengal, India. It is a National Park, tiger reserve, and a Biosphere Reserve in the Sundarbans delta. It got its name from one of the mangrove plants known as Sundari (Heritiera Minor). The mangrove forests are a part of the greater Sundarbans and lies in close proximity to the Sundarbans reserve forests in the neighboring republic of Bangladesh.  It contains the world’s largest area of mangrove forests. They are constituted by the crisscrossing of 54 small islands along with numerous River Ganges tributaries. Sundarbans National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southeast Bengal in India, which is formed by three rivers named Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. It is considered as a World Network of Biosphere Reserve (Man and Biosphere Reserve) in 2001.

Sundarbans Sundarbans National Park, the land where entire wildlife  embroidered to the perfection, is situated in South 24 Parganas at the  most charismatic location of Sundarban delta which is largest delta of the world. The total area of the Indian part of the Sundarban forest, lying within the latitude between 21°13′-22°40′ North and longitude 88°05′-89°06′ East, is about 4,262 sq km, of which 2,125 sq km is occupied by mangrove forest across 56 islands and the balance is under water. 

Today this tiger conservation effort in the Sunderban area is really rocking the dense masses with the exemplified glaring of royal tigers in Bengal. It is estimated that there are now 400 Royal Bengal tigers and about 30,000 spotted deer in the area. The forest is called ‘Sunderban’due to the rich growth of Sundari trees.

Flora:

Tiger_Sundarbans_Tiger_Reserve_22.07.2015 Sundarbans-national-park The mangrove vegetation of Sundarbans has 64 plant species with the capacity to withstand estuarine conditions and saline showering on account of tidal effects. There is mangrove scrub forest, salt water mixed forest, brackish water mixed forest and alluvial grasslands. Due to the dense and huge forest reserve, Sundarbans has also been classified as a World Biosphere Reserve. The crab-like red flowers of the kankra and the yellow flowers of khalsi can be seen. Some of the other commonly found plants and trees in the park are dhundal , passur, garjan,  sundari and goran. The forest in the Sunderbans mainly consists of Saline Water Type Mixed Forest, Tidal Swamp Forest, Brackish Water and Palm Forests. In general 64 various species of Flora has been discovered in the deltaic Sunderbans. 

Fauna:

SUNDARBANS_3 Sundarbans (Sundari Trees) The Sundarbans forest is home to more than 400 tigers. This area has a silent charm that manages to amaze one with the simplicity and naturalness of its ecological balance in spite of offering habitat to some of the most dynamic and awe inspiring fauna. it was discovered that the Bangladeshi part of the Sunderbans supports diverse biological resources that includes 150 species of commercially important fishes, 270 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 35 reptiles and 8 amphibian species. The royal Bengal tigers have developed a unique characteristic of swimming in the saline waters, and are famous for their man-eating tendencies. Tigers can be seen on the river banks sunbathing between November and February. Apart from the Bengal tiger, Fishing cats, Leopard cats, Macaques, Wild boar, Indian grey mongoose, Fox, Jungle cat, Flying fox, Pangolin, Chital, are also found in abundance in the Sundarbans. Some of the aquatic animals found in the park are sawfish, butter fish, electric rays, silver carp, starfish, common carp, horseshoe crabs, prawn, shrimps, Gangetic dolphins, skipping frogs, common toads and tree frogs.

Summers could be quite hot and send the temperature shooting up, but are an ideal time to visit the wildlife sanctuary. The monsoons with full generosity in showers may make travelling a little difficult but the lush green surroundings might just make up for it. The best time to visit Sunderbans is during winters between December and February.although the park is open for longer from September to March. This is the period when the maximum migratory birds are also present here.

How To Reach:

By Air: The nearest airport is Dum Dum Airport Kolkata (166 km), which is well connected to all major city of India.

By Rail: The nearest railway station is Canning (48 km), regular local trains running between Canning and Kolkata.

By Road: Sundarban National Park is well connected with Kolkata – Basanti High way.

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Mehrangarh Fort

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Mehrangarh Fort, located in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is one of the largest forts in India. It is also the most magnificent fort in Jodhpur, intact, in the whole Rajasthan. The fort was built by Rao Jodha in 1459 when he transferred his capital from Mandore, the fort is situated 410 feet (125 m) above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls.  Its immense size makes it one of the largest forts in India and it has been designated as “the work of giants” by Rudyard Kipling. The Fort houses a number of palaces inside its premises; these palaces display some of the fine Rajputana art works and carvings on their walls.  

Jodhpur_mehrangarh_fort The fort has seven gates of which the noted ones are the Jayapol meaning victory, built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806; Fatehpol or the Victory Gate built by Maharaja Ajit Singh; and the Lohapol or the Iron Gate. The fort has seven gates of which the noted ones are the Jayapol, built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806; Fatehpol or the Victory Gate built by Maharaja Ajit Singh; and the Lohapol or the Iron Gate. Other attractions of Mehrangarh Fort, Rajasthan include several palaces inside the fort, with their sprawling and huge courtyards. The museum in the Mehrangarh fort is one of the most well-stocked museums in Rajasthan. In one section of the fort museum there is a selection of old royal palanquins, including the elaborate domed gilt Mahadol palanquin which was won in a battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730. The museum exhibits the heritage of the Rathores in arms, costumes, paintings and decorated period rooms.

History:

Mehrangarh_Fort,_Jodhpur,_India Rao Jodha, the chief of the Rathore clan, is credited with the origin of Jodhpur in India. He founded Jodhpur in 1459  which is previously know as marwar. Jodhpur Mehrangarh Fort History is related to Rao Jodha. He became the fifteenth Rathore ruler in 1459.  One year after his accession to the throne, Jodha decided to move his capital to the safer location of Jodhpur, as the one thousand years old Mandore fort was no longer considered to provide sufficient security. The one thousand years old Mandore fort was slowly and gradually deteriorating. This led to the foundation of Mehrangarh Fort. Mehrangarh – a word for ‘fort of the sun’ – was chosen as the name of this massive structure that is 500 yards long and features 120-feet high and 70-feet thick walls. The eventful history, well-preserved heritage and impressive architecture of this fort make it the face of Jodhpur on national as well as global platform. 

Architecture:

Carved_balcony,_Mehrangarh_Fort Decorated_room,_Mehrangarh_Fort,_Jodhpur,_Rajasthan,_India Mehrangarh Fort is the crowning glory of Jodhpur, a majestic fortress perched proudly on a rocky hillock. It’s a historic monument blessed with jaw-dropping architecture, fine art and exquisite ornamentation. The fort has 68-ft wide and 117-ft elevated walls which overlook the surrounding plain.  the first of the fort’s seven defensive gates. The sixth of the seven gates, Loha Pol, has a sharp right-angle turn and sharper iron spikes to hinder the ascent of charging enemy elephants. the most famous among them is the Jayapol (meaning victory). This gate was constructed by Maharaja Man Singh to celebrate his triumph over the armies of Jaipur and Bikaner. The second one, Fattepol, was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to commemorate the defeat of the Mughals. The palm imprints on these gates are the centre of attraction of tourists even today. 

Within the fort are several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces. These include, Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana and Daulat Khana. The museum houses a collection of palanquins, howdahs, royal cradles, miniatures, musical instruments, costumes and furniture. The ramparts of the fort house preserved old cannon (including the famous Kilkila), and provided a breath-taking view of the city. A large part of the Mehrangarh Fort has been converted into a heritage museum, which is one of the finest museums across the country.

Ticket is not need to enter the fort. A ticket is needed only to enter the museum section and the Chokelao Bagh. And every year on May 12, the foundation day of the fort, entry remains free. Fees for Indian are 60 rupees and for Foreigners 300 rupees.

How To Reach:

By Air: Jodhpur has domestic airport which is around 5km away from the city. Flights to Jaipur, Delhi, Udaipur, and Mumbai can be taken from here.  The nearest International airport is Jaipur. 

By Rail: Jodhpur railway station is well connected to all major city of India. 

By Road: Jodhpur is well-connected with national and state highways that connect cities like Delhi, Ahmedabad, Udaipur and Jaipur.

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Mansar

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A town in the Ramtek tehsil of Nagpur district, Mansar is one of the prime archaeological sites in the country, known for many interesting excavations that have resulted in the discovery of various shrines, a palace complex identified as Pravarapura which was the capital of the Vakataka king Pravarasena II and an extensive temple complex. It’s a place that beckons historians, the curious and the tourists in equally large numbers.

Located 45 kilometers northeast of Nagpur city, Mansar shot into prominence when in 1972 an image of a deity, later identified as Shiva Vamana, was found from a hillock in this area, locally known as Hidimba Tekri. Important excavations were carried out at the ancient sites of Mansar since 1997-98 and so far five sites have been excavated that have yielded significant 5th century sculptures of Hindu deities, artefacts and some coins. The water reservoir around the site and findings of ancient tools and other objects point to the fact that a large population inhabited the area 1,600 years ago.

The site of Mansar has been excavated by Nagpur University, thereafter the Archaeological Survey of India and the Bodhisatva Nagarjuna Smarak Sansthava Anusandhan Kendra, Nagpur. The excavation revealed four cultural periods: Period I – Maurya-Sunga (300 BC to 200 BCE), Period II – Satvahana (200 BCE to 250 CE), Period III – Gupta-Vakataka (275 to 550 CE) and Period IV designated as the rule of Vishnukundin. The main dominating feature of the remains at Mansar is a huge palace complex built on a high raised solid brick platform with entrance from the west. It consists of many large and small rooms, surrounded by a lobby (corridor) between the inner and outer main walls of the palace.

The outer walls of the palace and the ‘adhistana’ (moulded platform) are embellished with pilaster mouldings which were lime-plastered with red and white colour alternately. The ‘kapota’ level was decorated with brick ‘makara’ figures at regular intervals. The palace was fortified by a massive brick wall on all four sides. The fortification wall in the east and south had a moat whereas the north and west were surrounded by a huge tank. The most striking feature of the structures here is its intriguing terraced arrangement with a number of straight and curving steps, arrays of round brick projections of various heights and sizes. Frequently, brick surfaces have been reshaped through patterns of incuse lozenges devised by means of moulded bricks.

The excavations have further revealed evidence of symbolic human sacrifice. Sites on the hill within the same complex called Hadimba Tekdi have revealed a Buddhist ‘stupa’ built on solid bedrock with rammed earth and 38 raised courses. The staircases were provided on the eastern side to approach the stupa. Another box pattern brick stupa was built over the original one and has rectangular boxes filled up with small boulders, bricks and earth. The base and knob of a limestone relic casket was found in the stupa. The stupa and ‘chaityagriha’ belong to the Maurya-Sunga period of about 300 BC to 200 BC.

A Shiva temple was found built in bricks on one of the hillocks that consists of an octagonal sanctum provided with black granite ‘linga’, ‘antarala’ and ‘mandapa’ with approach steps. The Shiva temple belongs to the Vakataka period. On the western and southern side of the main complex a row of 16 brick-built Shiva shrines were found placed on three terraces approached by a flight of steps. Out of these, six have ‘shivalingas’. The excavations here have revealed a number of beautiful sculptures like Vaman-Shiva (now in the National Museum), ‘trinetra’ Parvati, a turbaned male head, Shiva-Parvati with bull, a Narshimha riding on Garuda and Kartikeya riding a peacock, etc.

Things to Do

Visit the Fort

The fort of Ramtek, the temples within and a sculpture of Trivikrama are within 10 kilometers from the site of Mansar. The condition of the road is good, offers a pleasant drive for an hour or so one can stay at Nagpur and plan a one-day return trip of Mansar-Ramtek. A MTDC resort and PWD guesthouse at Ramtek offer accommodation by the side of the spectacular Khindasi Lake.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Nagpur. Mansar is 40 kms away from Nagpur.

By Rail:

Nagpur Railway Station is major railway station 36 km from to Mansar. Ramtek Railway Station (near to Ramtek) , Amdi Halt Railway Station (near to Ramtek) are the Railway stations reachable from nearby towns.

By Road:

Ramtek is the nearby town to Mansar having road connectivity to Mansar. From Mumbai, take the NH6 and continue. It will take around 11 hours to reach Mansar from Mumbai.

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Kaas Pathar

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If ever you have wished to be surrounded by a bounty of colourful flowers and nothing else for quite a distance, the Kaas Plateau is where you should be. Just 25 kilometers from the bustling city lies this pristine and wonderfully unique ecosystem nestled in the Sahyadri Mountains. The metamorphosis that takes place here during the monsoon season is like witnessing Mother Nature unfolding a miracle for the world to be astounded with.

Known as the ‘Plateau of a Million Flowers’, Kaas has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the reason is quite clear – it is acknowledged as home to endemic life forms that are found nowhere else in the world! But what truly amazes, and presents a breathtakingly colourful picture, is the blossoming of thousands of flowers during the monsoon season when the plateau becomes covered with sheets and drapes of innumerable tiny flowering plants in a riot of yellows, pinks, blues, purples, and so on. The show that starts sometime late in July continues, changing dramatically, throughout August and into September.

The making of this very special place can be traced to the time when it was part of the Deccan Plateau which had 29 volcanic lava flows across 20 crore years. With every eruption, a new layer of lava flowed from the land’s fissures and spread horizontally over the already weathered older strata. When the flow of magma finally stopped, the action of many water streams and huge rivers began, eroding the flat land mass and forming deep valleys and gorges, thereby giving it its present form. With the arrival of the southwest monsoon clouds, the region receives up to 2,500 mm of rainfall in just about three months. The water that accumulates from this catchment finds its way into the Kaas Lake, which is the source of the river Urmodi. It is due to this life-giving rain that the thin layer of red soil suddenly erupts in a profusion of flowers.

Soon enough, the land is covered with the golden-hued Smithias and Sonkis. Not to be left behind are the carpets of pink, lavender and purple of the Balsams. Then there is the dazzling white from the blooms of Gend – Eriocaulon with their head-like flowers. In contrast is the peach of Murdania, which has spectacular sheen of gold dust on its petals. Adding to the colour purple is Seeta’s Tears or Utricularia, which have small bladders around their roots. Tiny insects, attracted to these bladders, get trapped, thus providing the plant with nitrogen and phosphorus. Taking this glamorous show forward is the universe of the ground orchids, including Habeneria digitata with its greenish-yellow flowers. Some of the other unique species found here include the Ceropegia, whose lantern-like appearance gives it its appropriate vernacular name of ‘Kandil Kharchudi’.

However, the story of Kaas would remain incomplete without a mention of the ubiquitous Pleocaulus ritchei, known in vernacular terms as ‘Topli Karvi (basket kept upside down). This plant flowers only once in its lifetime of eight years. And yet when it blossoms, it is a sight to behold with baskets of purple flowers swaying in the breeze. And with so many plants coming to life, the landscape also buzzes with bees, butterflies, insects and frogs for whom the plants provide yet another cycle of life.

Things to Do

Satara

A small district in western Maharashtra, Satara has an incredible historical background. Places like Karad, Pateshwar, Mahuli, Rajpuri Caves, Bavdhan and Yeradwadi reveal its antiquity. Forts like Pandavgad, Sadashivgad, Vasantgad, Vasota and Ajinkyatara are very popular tourist sites. It is home to places like Adalatwada, Rajawada, Bansapuri-Math, and Char-Bhinti. Furthermore, 97 temples and seven lakes add to the beauty of this region. The other attraction in the city is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum. This museum holds artefacts like weapons, clothes and glass paintings from the 17th and 18th century. The descendants of the royal Bhosale family still live in Satara. Satara is also nicknamed the ‘district of power’ because of the giant Koyna hydroelectric plant along with smaller dams like Dhom, Kanher and Urmudi. Not to be missed is the district’s famous sweet delicacy known as ‘Kandi Pedhe’.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Pune.

By Rail:

Satara station is 30 kms away from Kaas. Satara is connected to most of the cities.

By Road:

From Mumbai, take the Mumbai-Pune Express way to Pune and then take the highway 47 to Satara and turn on to the Kaas road. Several private buses and State transport buses ply to Satara from many big cities in Maharashtra and Goa.

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Markandi Temple

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If unique art motifs in temples are what attract you, the group of temples of Markandi or Markanda Deva in Gadchiroli district of Vidarbha would be worth a visit for they certainly stand as an embodiment of the finest traditions of sculptural and architectural art of the Vidarbha region. Also, the surrounding landscape of small hillocks and the river flowing below have made Markandi a pleasing tourist attraction.

Located about 216 kilometers southeast of Nagpur, the village Markandi is believed to have acquired the name probably after the main temple of Shiva at the site, known as Markanda Deva or Markandi. The group of temples here is situated on the eastern periphery of the village and has acquired sanctity over the years as it stands on the bank of the perennial and holy river Wainaganga. The main temple in the group is assigned to Markanda Rishi. The ‘Puranas’ also refer to Markandeya, the son of Mrikanda, to whom another temple in the complex is dedicated. Markandeya is referred to in several of the Puranas and it is stated that he was very famous and long-lived. He is believed to have practiced severe penance to get the favours of Shiva.

Four of the 20 temples viz Markanda Rishi, Yamadharma, Mrikanda Rishi and Shankara Temple are still well preserved. Of these, the main temple draws the maximum number of devotees as well as tourists and connoisseurs of art. Unlike any of the temples not only in Vidarbha but also in Maharashtra, the exterior of this temple is full of lavishly carved sculptures. It has human sculptures modeled with rhythm and grace, and the images of gods and goddesses represent interesting aspects in iconography.

In fact, some of the imagery found here has unique characteristics. As for example, the image depicting Lord Ganesha engaged in dance. It occupies a prominent place on the south face of the temple and is one of the most enchanting icons in the entire range. Here, Ganesha is shown holding a battle axe, tooth, serpent, flower, etc. Equally fascinating is the image of Saraswati who is shown with six arms with a lotus flower in her upper right; rosary in her lower right; the third right playing upon a musical instrument; the middle left with a manuscript; and the lower left having a fruit. She is seen wearing all her usual ornaments of which the armlets are noteworthy. The peacock, her mount, is shown in a shallow niche below her.

It is said that when Bibhishan, the brother of Ravan, the prince of the Rakshasas, was sick, Hemadpant, the minister of the Yadavas, cured him and the grateful patient told him to ask for a wish. Hemadpant asked for the aid of Rakshasas to build temples wherever he might require them. The boon was granted but on condition that the Rakshasas were not to work for more than one night at a time. Hemadpant accordingly built all the temples at Markanda, Bhandak, Neri, etc., in one night. This is a legend told about the temples of Hemadpanti origin in this district as also the rest of Maharashtra.

How to reach:

By Air:

Nearest airport is at Nagpur.

By Rail:

The nearest railway station is at Chandrapur, 80 km from Gadchiroli. The distance between Markandi and Gadchiroli is about 30 kms.

By Road:

From Mumbai, it’s a long drive via Nashik, Aurangabad, Jalna, Yavatmal and Chandrapur before finally reaching the town of Markanda.
From Nagpur, Markanda is a pleasant three and a half hour drive via the Nagbhir-Nagpur highway.

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Sher Shah Suri Tomb, Sasaram

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The tomb of Sher Shah Suri is in the Sasaram town of Bihar state, India. Sher Shah Suri is truly regarded as one of the brilliant national heroes of India.  Sher Shah Suri is truly regarded as one of the brilliant national heroes of India.  The tomb was built in memory of Emperor Sher Shah Suri, a Pathan from Bihar who defeated the Mughal Empire and founded the Suri Empire in northern India. the enterprising Pashtun who forced emperor Humayun out of India, took charge of his empire, and established a dynasty that kept the Mughals at bay for 15 long years. Hailed as one of the most magnificent tombs of the ‘octagonal style’ in India, the monument continues to draw a steady stream of visitors throughout the year.

Tomb_of_Hasan_Khan_Suri Sher Shah Suri is truly regarded as one of the brilliant national heroes of India. Apart from a brave, intelligent and tactful military genius with shrewd political foresight, Sher Shah (original name Farid Khan) was a person of extra ordinary skill and ability in civil administration also.  The construction work of this tomb was started by Sher Shah himself and completed by his son and successor Islam Shah some 3 months after the death of Sher Shah in 1545 A.D. The chief architect of this structure was Alawal Khan. UNESCO give the following account ‘The tomb of Sher Shah Suri at Sasaram is an imposing structure of stone standing in the middle of a fine tank and rising from a large stone terrace.It is currently protected and maintained by the Archeological Survey of India. 

Architecture :

Entry_gate_of_Hasan_Khan_Suri's_tomb His tomb is an example of Indo-Islamic architecture, it was designed by the architect Aliwal Khan and built between 1540 and 1545, this red sandstone mausoleum (122 ft high), which stands in the middle of an artificial lake, which is nearly square, is known as the second Taj Mahal of India. The imposing structure is surrounded by all sides with large stone stairways leading to water of the excavated lake. It is an imposing brick structure partly veneered with stone standing in the middle of a fine square tank measuring about 305 mts and rising above a large stone terrace. The 9.15 mts high terrace is enclosed by a parapet wall with octagonal domed pavilions at four corners. The eastern side there is a grand doorway which is the only way to the Tomb. These verandahs further include 24 smaller domes supported by four arches. Its roof is also a pillared cupola which used to have white glazed tiles that are much faded now. 

Balcony_at_Sher_Shah_Suri_Tomb The 3-storied mausoleum is located on a low octagonal pedestal right at the middle of the terrace. The mausoleum was originally planned to be a typical island tomb with no access to the mainland. These arches stand 22 ft tall to support the lofty dome, which is one of the largest domes in India. The main mausoleum building has large octagonal chamber surrounded by a wide verandah on all of its sides. The chamber that houses the main tomb is supported by beautiful arches.  Half-a-kilometer from Sher Shah’s tomb lays the tomb of his son Aslam Shah. It is grand but incomplete. Nearby this location also lies Alawal Khan’s tomb, the superintendent of these constructions on the outskirts of the town.

How To Reach:

By Air: The nearest airport is Gaya (108 km), which is well connected to all major city of India.

By Rail: The Sasaram railway station is well connected to all major city of India.

By Road: Sasaram is well connected to other major cities of the country via regular buses.

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Khajuraho Group of Monuments

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The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh, India, They are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Khajuraho, through its architectural magnificence, displays the height of artistic excellence reached by the architects of a particular time in ancient India. The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures. Originally a group of 85, they are the largest group of Hindu and Jain temples in the world, although only about 25 of them remain today.

History : 

The Khajuraho group of monuments was built during the rule of the Rajput Chandela dynasty, which reached its apogee between 950 and 1050. It was the principal seat of authority of the Chandella rulers who adorned it with numerous tanks, scores of lofty temples of sculptural grace and architectural splendor. The local tradition lists eighty-five temples but now only twenty-five are standing examples in various stages of preservation. Most temples were built during the reigns of the Hindu kings Yashovarman and Dhanga. Yashovarman’s legacy is best exhibited by The Lakshmana Temple. Vishvanatha temple best highlights King Dhanga’s reign. 

There are three geographical divisions of temples at Khajuraho i.e. western, eastern and southern. Largest among these is the western group. This group consists of famous temples – Jagdambi Temple, Kandariya Mahadeva and Chitragupta Temples. The largest and currently most famous surviving temple is Kandariya Mahadeva built in the reign of King Vidyadhara. The temple inscriptions suggest many of the currently surviving temples were complete between 970 and 1030 CE, with further temples completed during the following decades. Central Indian region, where Khajuraho temples are, remained in the control of many different Muslim dynasties from 13th century through the 18th century. In this period, some temples were desecrated, followed by a long period when they were left in neglect. 

The vegetation and forest took over but in secret yogis and devotees visited the temples. In the 1830s, T.S. Burt, a British surveyor rediscovered the monuments. Apart from these temples, Khajuraho is also popular for its cultural festival of dance and music that is organized by Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad. Classical dancers from all across India come there to perform.

Description:

3=Devi_Jagdambi_Temple_Khajuraho_-_Outer_Wall_01 These temples, featured with erotic sculptures, have made the name of the town get mentioned in the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of the World Heritage Sites in the nation. Khajuraho Temples are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country. The layout, architecture, and construction are unrivaled. They are built of sandstone with unique mortise and tenon joints. Because of the sculptures, the temples are also referred as Kamasutra temples.  A few of the temples are dedicated to the Jain pantheon and the rest to Hindu deities — to God’s Trio, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and various Devi forms, such as the Devi Jagadambi. 

681px-Varaha_Sculpture_-_Khajuraho A few of the temples are dedicated to the Jain pantheon and the rest to Hindu deities — to God’s Trio, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and various Devi forms, such as the Devi Jagadambi. The artwork symbolically highlights the four goals of life considered necessary and proper in Hinduism – dharma, kama, artha and moksha. Of the surviving temples, 6 are dedicated to Shiva and his consorts, 8 to Vishnu and his affinities, 1 to Ganesha, 1 to Sun god, 3 to Jain Tirthankars. The temples have a rich display of intricately carved statues. While they are famous for their erotic sculpture, sexual themes cover less than 10% of the temple sculpture. The arts cover numerous aspects of human life and values considered important in Hindu pantheon. Further, the images are arranged in a configuration to express central ideas of Hinduism.

The Jain temples are located on east-southeast region of Khajuraho monuments.[37] Chausath jogini temple features 64 jogini, while Ghantai temple features bells sculptured on its pillars.

The temple complex hosts a very good sound-and-light show every evening and an annual dance festival in February. Some of the famous temples in the complex are the Lakshmana Temple, the Vishwanath Temple and the Kandariya Mahadev Temple.

Lakshmana Temple:

Lakshmana_temple Built by Chandela kings, Lakshmana Temple is one of the first magnificent structures established in Khajuraho. Known to be an architectural marvel, this beautiful shrine is amongst the largest temples set in the Western Wing of the Khajuraho complex. Constructed in 930-950 AD, the temple is one of the well-preserved temple having a full five-part floor plan and four subsidiary shrines. The temple is beautifully decorated with patterns of elephants and horsemen carrying out parade and there is a small idol in every corner. It also contains sculptures carved with the life of Lord Krishna like subjugation of the serpent Kaliya and the killing of demon Putana. The shrines also have a three-headed and four-armed image of Lord Vishnu known as Vaikuntha-Vishnu. 

Vishwanath Temple:

Visvanatha_Temple_-_Flickr_-_archer10_(Dennis) Vishwanath Temple is located on the north-eastern corner of the western group complex. Vishwanath temple in Khajuraho is famous for the beautifully carved sculptures of Shivlinga and idol of Lord Brahma. This temple is considered to be a UNESCO world heritage site constructed in the 11th century. The word Vishvanatha means “Lord of the Universe“. The wall of the temples contains carvings of couples making love and various mythical creatures. Adding beauty to the shrine, images of lions and elephants can be seen on the southern as well as northern steps of the temple. The beautifully carved exteriors of the temple are decorated with images of Apsaras to enhance the charm and beauty of this huge temple.

Kandariya Mahadev Temple: 

Kandariya_Mahadeva_Temple,_Khajuraho_(side) Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is the largest, tallest and most beautiful Hindu Temple of the Khajuraho Group of Temples. This is one of the most imposing structures in the Western group of Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Depicting the Chandela art, the huge shrine was constructed in 1025–1050. The mesmerizing looks of the temple and 900 awesomely carved sculptures imply the rich culture of Madhya Pradesh to the visitors. This temple is dedicated to Hindu Lord Shiva, and has a Shiva Linga made of marble, as its sanctum. About 646 statues are installed in its boundary that looks even more appealing. The façade of this temple is east facing.  The beautifully sculpted ceilings and the outer walls with three horizontal panels featuring deities of the Hindu pantheon illustrate the eternal glory of Khajuraho. 

Best Time To Visit:

The beautifully sculpted ceilings and the outer walls with three horizontal panels featuring deities of the Hindu pantheon illustrate the eternal glory of Khajuraho. The ideal time to visit Khajuraho is between the months of October and March. The average temperature remains close to 20°C (68 °F) during the month of October till February making it ideal for outdoor activities like temple visit.

How To Reach:

By Air: Khajuraho has its own Domestic Airport, which is well-connected to most of the Indian cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Allahabad, and Bhopal.

By Rail: Khajuraho has a railway station, but only a few trains halt there. Mahoba is the nearest major railhead, 63 km away. Trains from Mumbai, Mathura,Allahabad, Varanasi, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Kolkata, etc. run regularly to Mahoba.

By Road: Khajuraho is well connected with a good bus network. The highways connect Khajuraho with every city in Madhya Pradesh.

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Bodh Gaya

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Bodh Gaya is a religious site and place of pilgrimage associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar. As the site of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s enlightenment, Bodh Gaya is the most revered of all Buddhist sacred sites. Bodh Gaya is the most revered of all Buddhist sacred sites. Bodhgaya (also written Bodh Gaya) is the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment and the holiest of four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. Known as Uruvela in the Buddha’s time, the city of Bodhgaya is now a town of about 30,000 permanent residents. For Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath. In 2002, Mahabodhi Temple, located in Bodh Gaya, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The history of this town can be traced back to 500 BC. History mentions Bodhgaya as Bodhimanda and the main monastery as the Bodhimanda-vihara. 

History :

Bodh Gaya is the holiest place for the followers of the Buddhist faith all over the world. Situated by the bank of river Neranjana the place was then known as Uruwela.  In the 6th century B.C. Prince Siddhartha Gautama attained Supreme Enlightenment at this Holy place and became the Buddha. As Siddhartha, he renounced his family at the age of 29 in 534 BC  and traveled and meditated in search of truth. The disciples of Gautama Siddhartha began to visit the place during the full moon in the month of Vaisakh (April–May), as per the Hindu calendar. Over time, the place became known as Bodh Gaya, the day of enlightenment as Buddha Purnima, and the tree as the Bodhi Tree. 

After gaining Enlightenment, Gautam became Buddha (The Enlightened One) and spread his message of love and peace. To mark the spot where Gautam Buddha had attained Enlightenment, the great Mauryan ruler King Ashoka built a small shrine here in the 3rd century BC. Subsequent rulers left their mark on this shrine, which finally took the shape of the Mahabodhi temple that still stands.

Tourist Attraction:

Mahabodhi Temple:

Mahabodhi_temple._The_Mahabodhi_temple,_Bodh_Gaya,_India One of India’s prime spiritual places, Mahabodhi Temple is not just a temple but Buddha’s actual enlightenment place, which is declared as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. It contains the Mahabodhi Temple with the diamond throne (called the Vajrasana) and the holy Bodhi tree. This tree was originally a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka, itself grew from a sapling of the original Bodhi tree. Inside the Mahabodhi templecomplex, you can also enjoy the Lotus Pond or the meditation garden. Though the temple was constructed in 7th century AD, it has been repeatedly repaired and renovated, the last being in late 19th century by the Burmese King and Archeological Survey of India. It has a very calm and serene ambiance, which people from all walks of life can appreciate.

Bodhi Tree:

Bodhgaya_3639641913_f4c5f73689_t It is believed that this tree is a direct descendant of the one under which the Buddha Sakyamuni attained enlightenment, inside the Mahabodhi complex. Buddha meditated below this tree for the first seven days of enlightenment. The original tree was burned down and destroyed by many Kings. Emperor Ashoka was in fact so depressed that he ordered a branch of the tree in Sri Lanka and planted it and took so much care that the jealous queen ordered its destruction. The current tree is the descendant of the original. Devotees circle around the tree and gather fallen tree leaves and seeds as blessings from the lord.

80_feet_buddha_statue Great Buddha Statue:

The gorgeous idol stands tall at a height of 80 ft and is made of sandstone blocks and red granite and was instated by the XIV Dalai Lama in 1989. This huge figurine depicts Lord Buddha meditating (dhyana mudra) while he is seated on a giant lotus in open air. Bordered by 10 smaller sculptures of Buddha’s disciples in the passageway leading to the Great Buddha Statue, the entire visual is a breathtaking sight.

Best time to visit:

October to March is ideal for a visit according to the weather conditions, but tourists flock here throughout the year. 

How  To Reach:

By Air: The nearest Airport is Gaya (17 km), It is connected to Kolkata by flights; however, the frequency is less. Kolkata is the nearest international airport, around 485 km away.

By Rail: The nearest Railway station is Gaya (14 km), It is well-connected to major Indian cities. 

By Road: Bodhgaya is well connected to many cities of India through roads. The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation provides deluxe buses for tourists twice a day.

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Thousand Pillar Temple

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The Thousand Pillar Temple or Rudreshwara Swamy Temple is a historic Hindu temple located in the town of Hanamakonda, Telangana State, India. It is dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. Thousand Pillar Temple is a popular pilgrimage center, where thousands of devotees of all faith come here to pay their homage. The temple has an old and long history and dates back to the Chalukyan era. Thousand Pillar Temple, along with “Warangal Fort” and “Ramappa Temple” are added to the tentative list of World Heritage sites recognized by UNESCO.

An outstanding example of architectural brilliance during the reign of Kakatiya rule, Thousand Pillar temple is a place not only for devotees but for every history enthusiast and architecture lover. As the name suggests, the temple has a thousand pillars and is designed in the Kakatiya style of architecture. 

History : 

The Thousand Pillar Temple was believed to be constructed during the period between 1175–1324 CE by order of the king, Rudra Deva. The temple depicts the typical Chalukyan style of architecture. Constructed for almost 72 years, the Thousand pillar temple also finds mention in the accounts of Marco Polo. The Kakatiyas dedicated the Thousand pillar temple to Lord Vishnu and Lord Surya as well. Its rock-cut elephant sculpture, massive monolith of Nandi (Lord Shiva’s divine vehicle), intricate carvings will leave you mesmerized. The spiritual aura of Thousand Pillar Temple makes the experience even more enriching. It stands out to be a masterpiece and achieved major heights in terms of architectural skills by the ancient Kakatiyavishwakarma sthapathis.  The temple was destroyed by the Mughal Empire after the invasion of southern India. Massive renovation works have been undertaken to conserve and preserve the heritage of the temple.

Architecture : 

The temple is star-shaped with several shrines and lingams. Though Shaivisam (devotion to lord Shiva) continued to be the religion of masses of kakatiya dynasty still intellectuals preferred the revival of Vedic rituals. They sought to reconcile the Vaishnavites (followers of lord Vishnu) and the Shaivites (followers of lord Shiva) through the worship of Harihara (combination of lord Vishnu and lord Shiva). There are 1,000 pillars in the structure, but no pillar obstructs a person in any point of the temple to see the God. The temple is supported by the richly carved out pillars. The screens and the beautiful sculptures which adorn the walls of the temple add to the magnificence of the structure. This temple is constructed by using an unique technique called sandbox technique for strengthening the foundation. The temple is surrounded by a big garden in which many small lingam shrines can be seen. There is a carving of a Nandi bull in the form of a highly polished black basalt monolith. 

Thousand_pillar_temple_arch_sculpture Roof-Thousand_pillar_temple Middle_View_of_Thousand_Pillar_Temple

The Thousand Pillar Temple is constructed on a platform that is raised to a height of 1metre (3.3 ft) from ground level. Rock-cut elephants and perforated screens in the temple are characteristic of the then prevailing dynasty. This discovery has led some archaeologists to believe that the foundations of the temple might have been built upon water.

The best time to visit the Thousand Pillar Temple is during the winter months of October to March when the weather is pleasant in Warangal. Thousand pillar temple timings are from 6 AM to 8 PM.

How To Reach: 

By Air: The nearest Airport is Rajiv Gandhi International Airport Hyderabad (150 km), Which is well connected to all major city of India. 

By Rail: Warangal has well-established railway station, which connects all India and lies on South Central Railway zone. 

By Road: Regular buses ply on the roads from Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Karimnagar, Khammam and other districts of Andhra Pradesh.

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Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary

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Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most scenic places in the Western Ghats and a biodiversity hotspot is a 391 square kilometers (151.0 sq mi) protected area in Chittur taluk in Palakkad district of Kerala state, South India. It is one of the biodiversity hotspots in the world supports diverse habitat types and endemism. The wildlife sanctuary, which had an area of 285 square kilometers (110 sq mi) was established in 1973. Previously it was known as Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary and it became the 38th Tiger Reserve and second of Kerala in 2010 February 19. This sanctuary is under the consideration of UNESCO to be declared as the World Heritage Site.

Tented_Niche_Accommodation_at_Parambikulam_Tiger_Reserve Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is in the Sungam range of hills between the Anaimalai Hills and Nelliampathy Hills, is the home of four different tribes of indigenous peoples including the Kadar, Malasar, Muduvar and Mala Malasar settled in six colonies. The thick, opulent habitat of the sanctuary with ample water supplies make it an abode for wildlife and thereby for tourist who can have treasured memories of animal sightings and that of being in the lap of mother nature. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is the most protected ecological piece of Annamalai subunit of Western Ghats, surrounded on all sides by protected areas and sanctuaries of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the sanctuary is endowed with a peninsular flora and fauna which are excellently conserved due to a total protection and minimal human interferences. 

Geography :

The sanctuary is located between Longitude:76° 35’- 76° 50’ E, and Latitude:10° 20’ – 10° 26’ N. It is 135 kilometers (84 mi) from Palakkad town and adjacent to the Annamalai Wildlife Sanctuary to the east in Tamil Nadu. Much of the sanctuary is part of Anamalai hills with peaks up to 1,438m (Karimala Gopuram) in the southern boundary of the sanctuary, 1,120m (Vengoli malai) in the eastern boundary, 1,010m (Puliyarapadam) in the west and 1,290m (Pandaravarai peak) in the north.  The sanctuary has three man-made reservoirs; Parambikulam, Thunacadavu (Thunakkadavu) and Peruvaripallam, with a combined area of 20.66 km. The Thuvaiar water falls empty into one of the reservoirs. There are 7 major valleys and 3 major rivers, the Parambikulam, the Sholayar and the Thekkedy. The Karappara river and Kuriarkutty river also drain the area.

Flora and Fauna: 

images Morning_at_Parambikulam_Tiger_Reserve ctuaries are home to 32-36 tigers. About 39 species of mammals, 16 species of amphibians, 61 species of reptiles, 47 species of fish, over 1000 species of insects and 124 species of butterflies have been reported from the region. The presence of 250 species of birds offers fantastic bird watching opportunities. It is also home to 39 species of mammals, 16 species of amphibians, 268 species of birds, 61 species of reptiles, 47 species of fishes, 1049 species of insects and 124 species of butterflies making it the perfect destination for wildlife and nature enthusiasts.

The sanctuary has a variety of trees mainly teak, neem, sandalwood, and rosewood. Even the oldest ever teak tree, Kannimara Teak exists here. It is about 450 years old and has a girth of 6.8 meters (22 ft) and a height of 49.5 meters (162 ft). It won the Mahavriksha Puraskar given by the Indian Government.

Climate : 

The challenging hill ranges here are placed at an altitude of 300 to 1438 m above sea level and the place offers a good climate with temperatures ranging from 15 degree Celsius to 32 degree Celsius. The Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary gets the monsoon rains.  The average annual rainfall is 1600 mm. The place receives rainfall in the months of January, February, March and April. From November to April is a most preferred time for visiting this place.

How To Reach:

By Air: The nearest Airport is Coimbatore international airport (110km), which is well connected to all major city of India.

By Rail: The nearest railway station is Coimbatore railway station (96 km),  which is well connected to all major city of India.

By Road: The nearest town is Pollachi (47 km), Two daily buses connect the tiger reserve to Pollachi.

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Ellora

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One of the most fascinating archaeological sites in Maharashtra, Ellora dates back to about 1,500 years ago, and is the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 caves are actually Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious monuments carved in the rock. They were given the status of World heritage Site in 1983.

Created between the 6th and 10th century, the 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves carved in proximity at Ellora are proof of the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.

Buddhist Caves

All the Buddhist caves were carved in the period 6th – 7th centuries CE. These structures consist mostly of ‘viharas’ or monasteries. Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Gautama Buddha and ‘bodhisattvas’.

Of these, Cave 5 is one of the most important and unique caves in India and can be dated to mid-6th century CE. It consists of a long hall with two benches running for over 18 meters in the centre. This cave was most probably used for group recitation of various Buddhist sutras. Further, Cave 10 is popularly known as Vishvakarma’s (the architect of gods) cave because of its intricate carvings. There is a huge Buddha image placed in front of the ‘stupa’ covering the base and the drum part of the stupa.One of the unique features of this cave is its rock-cut balcony.

The other two important caves are 11 and 12, known as Don Taal and Teen Taal respectively. Both are three-storied and serve as prime examples of esoteric monastic Buddhist architecture.

Hindu Caves

These caves were excavated during the rule of the Kalachuri, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta rulers. Of these, Caves 14, 15, 16, 21 and 29 are not to be missed caves. Cave 14 consists of the sculptural panels of numerous Hindu deities. Cave 15 can be reached after climbing a few steps. This cave has numerous noteworthy sculptures carved on the interior walls which still have some traces of plaster left suggesting the paintings on the sculptures. Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa is the unrivalled centre piece of Ellora. It looks like a multi-storied temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock. The courtyard has two life size statues of elephants and two tall victory pillars. There are columned galleries decorated with huge sculpted panels of a variety of deities in the side walls. There are a few beautiful traces of paintings in the porch of the hall on the upper storey.

The Rameshwar cave i.e. Cave 21 is famous for some of the most beautiful sculptures at Ellora. On either side of the cave are images of Ganga and Yamuna. Locally known as Sita ki Nahani the Cave 29 is also unique in plan and elevation. Resembling the great cave at Elephanta in plan this cave also has some of the impressive sculptures at the site.

Jaina Caves

These caves are clustered in five excavations and numbered 30 to 34. Apart from these, there are six more Jaina caves on the opposite face of this hill. All of these caves belong to the Digambara sect of Jainism. One caves worth a visit includes Cave 32 or Indra Sabha. The lower storey of this cave lies unfinished, while the upper storey is one of the largest and most elaborate caves with beautiful pillars, large sculptural panels and paintings on its ceiling.

Of all the caves at Ellora, the Jaina caves have the largest number of paintings still extant on ceilings and side walls.

Things to Do

Stay in Aurangabad

While you may visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves, it is always good to stay at Aurangabad, known as the City of Gates. Named after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the city has now been declared as the ‘Tourism Capital of Maharashtra’. The fifth largest city in Maharashtra, it has several entertaining options for tourists including caves in the city itself as also the Daulatabad Fort.

Study Mughal Architecture

To get an understanding of how and why Mughal architecture was so very different, plan a visit to Bibi Ka Maqbara, situated about 3 kilometers from the city. This is the burial place of Emperor Aurangzeb’s wife, Dilras Banu Begum, also known as Rabia-ud-Daurani. It is an imitation of the Taj Mahal at Agra and due to its similar design, it is popularly known as the ‘Taj of the Deccan’. The ‘maqbara’ stands in the middle of a spacious and formally planned Mughal garden with axial ponds, fountains, water channels, broad pathways and pavilions. Behind the mausoleum is located a small archaeological museum.

See the Water Dance

Panchakki, meaning a water mill, is located about 1 kilometer from the city, and is a 17th century creation that intrigues for its underground water channel, which traverses more than 8 kilometers to its source in the mountains. The channel culminates in a mesmerising artificial waterfall that powers the mill. The beauty of the mosque housed in the inner enclosure is enhanced by a series of dancing water fountains.

Be With the Birds

If you like nature at its best, and particularly birds, go to the Salim Ali Sarovar, popularly known as Salim Ali Talab, which is located near Delhi Gate, opposite Himayat Bagh in Aurangabad. During the Mughal period it was known as Khiziri Talab. It has been renamed after the great ornithologist and naturalist Salim Ali and has a bird sanctuary and a garden.

Savour Local Cuisine

When in Aurangabad, don’t forget to taste the local delicacy called the ‘Naan Qalia’ a meat dish cooked in special herbs and spices.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is Aurangabad which has daily flights to major Indian cities.

By Rail:

Aurangabad railway station is well connected to most cities.The Aurangabad Jan Shatabdi Express is a daily fast train to Mumbai.

By Road:

Ellora is about 30 km from Aurangabad. Buses, rickshaws and taxis ply regularly between the two.

Image & Information copyright by maharashtratourism.gov.in

Elephanta

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As you stand at Mumbai’s most well-known spot of tourist interest – the Gateway of India – the most overwhelming desire you will experience is to step into a boat and explore the Arabian Sea. But this need not just be a whim. It can serve a purpose too if you take the ride to visit the Elephanta Island which is just 10 kilometers from Mumbai. Not only is the island host to a bounty of nature in the form of lush plantations of palm, mango and tamarind trees but is also home to ancient cave temples that have been carved out of rock and which have been declared a World Heritage Site.

The Elephanta Island has a tiny population of just about 1,200 residents who are mainly engaged in growing rice, fishing, and repairing boats. But the historical legacy of the place is another story altogether. This island was once the capital of a powerful local kingdom and now has three small villages occupied by the ‘kolis’ (fishermen) and the farmers who have, despite the close proximity to the commercial capital of India, carried on with their traditional way of living. Interestingly, the island was so named after a more or less life-size sculpture of an elephant along with a sculpture of a horse was unearthed from here.

Of particular interest are two hills on the island, known as the Gun Hill and the Stupa Hill. The former derives its name from the presence of two canons of the British period placed on its top. These canons must have played a vital role in the defense of the Mumbai Fort. This is also the main hill on the island where a total of five Shaiva caves were excavated in mid-6th century CE. The Stupa Hill has the remains of a Buddhiststupa. It is completely covered with earth and referred to as the archeological mound of a brick stupa. These caves along with the unspoiled beauty of the place make for a perfect one-day excursion out of Mumbai. This site was included in the list of World Heritage Sites of India in 1987.

Exploring the Caves

At the Gun Hill, the main cave is a masterpiece of art and architecture. This is the largest and most impressive cave and reflects an affiliation to the esoteric Pashupata sect of the Shaiva system, the revival of which was supposed to have been done by Lakulisha, the great preacher. He is considered as an incarnation of Lord Shiva by the Pashupatas. They believed in Shiva as the supreme god and in the philosophy of ‘being one with him’ and implying ‘end of the sorrows’ as the ultimate goal of the life of any ascetic. The panels in the caves indicate five stages in the life of an ascetic i.e. the importance of a teacher, his grace, illusory existence of the world, oneness of ‘shiva-shakti’ and the ultimate form of Shiva.

For those interested in studying cave architecture, Cave 1 will come across as the most complex of three caves referred to as the east and west wings of the main cave. The main cave is the temple, probably for lay followers. There are two rooms at both the ends of the verandah in front of the Sadaashiva image, most probably for meditation and to perform esoteric practices. The side wings were probably the residential complexes and the private shrines for the ascetics. The east wing has a panel of seven mother goddesses, which is again a common feature of the Pashupata temples.

How to reach:

Small motor boats from the Gateway of India are available to reach Elephanta Island. The journey takes 40-45 minutes. The ferry service is closed during the monsoon season from June to August.

Image & Information copyright by maharashtratourism.gov.in

National Rail Museum, New Delhi

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The National Rail Museum lies adjacent to the Bhutan Embassy within the diplomatic area of Chanakyapuri in Shanti Path in New Delhi and is easily accessible by local transport, which focuses on the rail heritage of India it opened on the 1 February 1977. The National Railway Museum is one of most popular tourist attractions in Delhi. It describes the Railway history of India. The museum boasts of a huge collection of romance, nostalgia, fun, history, heritage, leisure and entertainment, all in the 11 acres of land that the museum occupies. The indoor gallery of the National Rail Museum displays photographs, coat of arms, exhibits, models, records and documents. The exhibit section in the museum includes over 100 real size exhibits that depict the glory of the bygone era.

SONY DSC It is located in over 10 acres (40,000 m2) of land with both indoor and outdoor exhibits. A toy train offers rides around that site on regular days.Museum remains open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (Last entry 4.30 pm) Tuesday to Sunday. Museum remains closed on every Monday and National Holidays. The most amazing feature of the rail museum that attracts the children as well as train buffs is the toy train that provides a joyful ride.  On some days, the old steam monorail is also run across the grounds of the museum. Besides the exciting ride of a train, one can also enjoy boating here.

M2-162_Indian_Railway_Museum The concept to establish a center to display the Heritage of Railways in India began in 1932 after the Government had proposed to set up a Rail Museum in Dehradun. Museum took a concrete shape in 1970 under the advise of Mr.Michael Graham Satow a rail enthusiast. Shri V.V Giri, the then President of India, laid the foundation stone for the Rail Transport Museum (R.T.M) at its present site in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, on October 7, 1971. The Rail Transport Museum was planned as a part of a larger complex covering the history of Railways, Roadways, Airways and Water-ways in India, which later on developed into a full-fledged National Rail Museum in the year 1995. This museum became an instant success with people and children especially and is known as one of its kind in Asia. 

Indoor_Exhibit_at_National_Rail_Museum National Rail Museum of Delhi has a unique collection of more than 100 real size trains and engines from the beginning of the Indian railways.   the nearly 30 museums in Delhi – including Crafts Museums, Gandhi Memorial, Sangeet Natak Academy Gallery, etc – the ‘National Rail Museum’ is one of the most well maintained and loved by children. Spread across lush green 11 acres of prime land in Chanakyapuri, it comprises an elegantly-designed octagonal building. A major attraction of the museum is the Toy Train that runs along the perimeter of the museum and affords the riders a glance at the various live locomotives on display. Vintage carriages like the Fairy Queen (the oldest surviving steam locomotive in the world), the Saloons of various Maharajas and the historic Patiala State Monorail, among several others, are some of the most prized locomotives of India that lay preserved at the museum. Riding through the museum on the toy train is great fun. Since this place isn’t quite as popular as a tourist spot, the absence of a big rush of crowd makes it a much peaceful experience. Don’t forget to take back a souvenir of the train models from the Indian souvenir shop! 

National Rail Museum, New Delhi has found its name in the Guinness Book of World Records. It has also been awarded the National Tourism Award.

Location : Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri,

Ticket : 20 RUPEES

Toy train ride: Rs. 20

Photography : Allow

Timings : 9.30 to 5.30 am except Mondays

How to reach : 

By Air : Nearest Airport is New Delhi, New Delhi is well connected to all major city of India.

By Rail : The New Delhi Railway Station is at a distance of 7 km from the museum

By Road : DTC buses that stop at the Chanakyapuri bus stop can be availed to reach the museum.

ImageCopyright by commons.wikimedia.org

India’s First Heritage Transport Museum

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Curiosity, the passion to collect homogeneous objects, the search for the rare, unique and often elusive is what impassions all collectors. This is where it all started for the Heritage Transportation Trust. Registered under the Indian Trust Act (1882) as a non-profit organisation it was conceived to document, exhibit, educate and disseminate information about transportation. In collaboration with five other trustees, we have brought together a passion for collecting all forms of objects related to transportation in India. After over two decades of research about the evolution of the modes of transportation that formed the plinth of the collection in possession of the Trust, the Heritage Transport Museum was initiated as India’s first comprehensive transport museum. The museum showcases the evolution of transportation in India and sets a benchmark in interpretation, exhibition and in communication. As the first private museum of its scale in India, it is conceived as a didactive space that engages visitor participation in learning while remaining a family experience. 

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Vehicles that have become a part of the history and heritage of India are beautifully displayed here at Heritage Transport Museum, the one of its kind museum in country. The exhibition gallery displays about 100 historically significant and artistically inspired modes of transport used in India, mostly one-of-a-kind models dating from the turn of the 20th century. With its dramatic displays, in-depth interpretation, extensive collection and exciting opportunities for visitor participation, the museum is sure to take you back in time. The museum aims to be an evolving space that would seasonally change and adapt its spaces to ensure that repeat visitors would always have something new to view.

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The Heritage Transport Museum is situated on a three acre plot, off National Highway 8 at Tauru-Gurgaon. A built up area of over 90,000 square feet of air conditioned space spread over four floors houses the exhibition galleries, library and reference centre, conference rooms, mini auditorium, the museum shop, and a restaurant facility. 

The Ministry of Culture, Government of India has accorded a grant of Six Crores to offset the cost of construction of the museum building. The remaining investment is the fruit of corporate and individual donations and sponsorships.India may now boast of the anti-museum, a space for fun and learning, experiential and yet experimental.

Image copyright by dailymail.co.uk, gqindia.com