Fatehpur Sikri

Every visitor to Agra is advised to also visit Fatehpur Sikri- which could have been its twin city. Fatehpur Sikri is best known for the Buland Darwaza- Considered to be the highest door in Asia at that point of time, it was built by Akbar to commemorate victory over a battle in Rajasthan. There was a time when a daredevil used to jump off the Buland Darwaza into a small pool at the steps….I couldn’t see that on my trip.

Fatehpur Sikri

This city was once supposed to be the capital of Mughal Empire.But mother nature had some other plans- the city had no water resource & was soon declared the “doomed” city. Its ironical that all visitors to this “doomed city” are now offered holy water from Sailm Chisti’s well.Strange are the ways of nature !

Salim Chisti was the famous Sufi saint whose blessings gave Akbar his son- whom he named after the saint- Prince Salim.

Places to see are the Jodha Bai’s Mahal,Diwan-e-Aam (the lower court), Salim-chisti’s dargah, Jama Masjid.
TO see other snaps of Fatehpur Sikri- click here

Jim Corbett National Park

JCNP is the most celebrated of the Tiger Reserves in India but we failed to see the celebrity cat… all we managed were a few pugmarks and the warning calls of the barking deer- rubbing it in, that we missed yet another close encounter.

Jim Corbett National Park

But the beauty of the jungle & the numerous other species (birds,deers,elephants,reptiles etc) more than makes up for the elusive Tiger. If you ever go there make sure to have your reservation at Dhikala camp. Dhikala is situated on the banks of RamGanga river. The other side is an open ground about 1 km wide which provides good view of the animals coming to quench their thirst.

The park is really well maintained & the camps have good facilities, but what I was unimpressed with was the lack of knowledge about how the tiger census is done. I asked quite a few officials as to how do they get to the exact count of tigers- & i was told it was done through pugmarks. Apparently their pugmarks are as unique as our fingerprints !- I personally dont buy that 🙂

But anyways my doubt was- that howd the officials know that a tiger has died- coz they wouldnt see the pugmarks or the tiger & would assume that the cat is in hiding. I fear its this logic through which they claim that there are 400 tigers @ Corbett! If there were even half as many- we would have surely seen one.

Once inside the park you are not allowed to venture out of the camp between 11am & 4pm- coz thats the time the jungle gets back to normal after all the jeep & elephant safaris.If you have the interest you can get yourself parked at the machan for these 5 hrs- but make sure you take enough water & food with you.

I only wish there was a way to volunteer as a Forest guard for a month…

Jallianwala bagh

Situated right next to the holy Sikh shrine of Darbar Sahib – Golden Temple is the Jallianwala bagh.The board within the complex says it all….
But what was really depressing was that the insensitive visitors to this place- have left graffiti on the walls which are still riddled with the bulltes that were fired by Gen Dyer’s troops ! At least show some respect to the martyrs!

The last sunset of 2006

Witnessed one of the most beautiful & peaceful sunsets that nature can pamper us with…. The view was so spectacular coz theres nothing to obstruct ur view – for miles its just the desert sands on your west & somewhere beyond, the land of Pakistan !

Was lucky to be in Jaisalmer on that day ….I was on the last leg of my road-trip through Rajasthan and wanted to start the new year at a truly pictureque place.

For anyone who can stay/travel budget in India, I recommend that you stay inside the fort when visiting Jaisalmer. There are a lot of budget guest houses run by families showing care and warmth that is just typical of Rajasthan.

The Victory Tower


Finally !!! got to see the tower @ Chittorgarh… this was one of the few images etched in my mind about Rajasthan.
This 8 storeyed construction is as amazing from inside as from outside. My apologies for not having any snap of inside as I gave my camera to a frnd who stayed down, while I climbed up…hoping that I would step into one of the balconies & wave to her to get a pic that would say “I was there !”… but no such luck…. all balconies and wannabe-balconies (windows etc etc) are completely offlimits 🙁

Thrice the residents of this fort committed “jauhar” in face of imminent defeat, hence its said that for a Rajput its either victory or death !! Its hard to believe the kind of intense emotions those times would have seen…

Udaipur- Venice of the East

 

udaipur1 udaipur2

Having a good breakfast on a roof-top restaurant with a lake view….. one of the finest way to start ur winter mornings in Udaipur…

Make sure to
– catch the sun-set at Sajjangarh….just picture perfect !
– see the introduction to Rajasthani dances at Bagore ki Haveli @1900 hrs
– Walk around the various ghats… will get a glimpse of real India..

The Konkan Drive

Konkan road trip

Finally got to do ph1 of my much planned (& always shelved) drive along the west coast of India. The excuse was that needed to shift my car from Chennai to Mumbai. And thanks to VJ, the road trip became a reality. We travelled a distance of over 1700Kms covering Blore, Mlore, Udipi,Bellur,Karwar, Goa etc etc…. and got to tick off almost all the places mentioned in Lonely Planet.

konkan

My top favs are the stretch where the highway kisses the beach for a good 3-4 kms and the small winding ghat road thru plantation country….

Aiye mere watan ke logon..

…Zara aank mein bhar lo paani…
You will surely be reminded of Lata singing these lines once you are in Kargil or Drass.

Drass - India
Drass Valley

 

Its an avalanche of emotions that hits you- absolute patriotism gives way to questions about how can someone think about fighting in such a beautiful place. and then the realities of war surround you- Tiger Hill, Tololing and the Dras War Memorial- all remind of the young men who sacrificed their lives to see the tricolor flying high.

One must go there to pay homage to these brave souls and to see what is it that we have been trying to keep safe.

Tiger Hill
Tiger Hill – Yeh Dil Maange More

 

The snap above is Tiger Hill and the other shot is of the Drass Valley- this is the beauty we have refused to let our neighbors take away from us.

Kargil is almost completely a military town these days & u can find a few hotels/guest houses to stay there. But one does not get a sense of security when being in the town. Drass- which is also the 2nd coldest inhabited place- is around 45 kms from Kargil on the picturesque highway !
What hits you – is the ocassional board on the road that says-“Caution ! The enemy is watching you”. I say this again- you have to go there to feel what patriotism is, to feel what sense-of-security is!

Ladakh- How green was my Valley?

Leh
The Leh valley as seen from inside a monastery.

Nothing prepares you for Ladakh- its barren yet so beautiful. Something in ur head will tell you this can’t be correct- beautiful places need to have liberal use of the green hue in their color pallete.

My decision to go to Leh/Ladakh was quite a rushed one. I had come to Delhi on a 15 day break & got really bored sitting home, twiddling thumbs… Called up a buddy to check how things were with him & he told me about a common friend who had just come back from Leh & i just decided that even I had to go there.

I spent the whole of next day convincing family that I am headed to the mountains but as luck would have it- there were blasts in Srinagar & Mumbai the same day…
I was told that the trip to any part of J&K is out of question…but being the rebel that i am- went to a net cafe & got the tickets done for the next day’s flight to Leh 🙂
But the rebel in me is mostly careless too- in my haste I didnt realise that I had booked myself in the business class !

By the time the whole $ impact of my stupidity sanked in- I had told myself that I shall make the rest of my trip a budget one & see Kashmir for the 1st time.

My first view of the Himalayas was something I would never forget- it was a great morning & the sun was shining brightly over the snow covered peaks- we were so close to the might Himalayas that I could see some of the small glaciers !

The Leh airport is a v small one & i was told by a pilot friend that the landing in this airport is called a “committed landing” (since its surrounded by mountains on 3 sides- if a plane starts descending there is no way the pilot can change his mind at the last moment)


There are numerous monastries in Ladakh & you would find prayer wheels everywhere- these come in various sizes- from handheld ones to giant 1-storeyed ones.In the local language they are called “Maanes”…. another word that would come handy is “Juley”- which is used for hi,bye,namaste & any other form of greeting !

If you havent been to Ladakh yet- get there this year or mebbe the next !