close

Вход

Забыли?

вход по аккаунту

?

2018-06-01 Discover India

код для вставкиСкачать
c e l e b r at i n g t h r e e d e c a d e s o f e x c e l l e n c e
may 2018 `100
hills you never heard about
Untouched Destinations Lost In The Mist Of Mountain States
View To a Thrill
Life In The Hills In A
Stunning Photo Essay
oh KolKaTa!
Spotlight On The Cultural &
Artistic Capital Of India
The waY oF BUDDha
Explore Buddhist History On
The Road To Nirvana
SUrreal PaNGi ValleY
Beyond The Known, Beyond The
Map Lies A Land Of Magic
CONTENTS
MAY 2018
Anchor
32
WINDOWS TO THE HILLS
In this photo essay, peek through
windows and take a look at the land,
landscape, people and their lives in
some of the highest mountain regions
of India.
42
SEVEN SECRETS
OF PARADISE
The valley of Kashmir is said to be
paradise, and then again there are
secret pockets even within jannat.
We unravel some gems.
52
THE KEEPERS OF HISTORY
Delhi has a new address for nature
and heritage lovers! Once neglected,
Sunder Nursery with its Mughal-era
monuments has now been restored
into a beautiful green space.
56
A VALLEY FAR AWAY
Some of the most stunning places
on Earth lie off the map. One such
untouched, surreal location is Pangi
Valley, lying far away from the welltrodden path in Himachal.
64
ZEN—THE LIFE & TIMES OF
THE BUDDHA
Celebrate the auspicious Buddha
Poornima this month by setting off on
the trail of the Enlightened One and
journey through the sites where he
once lived.
Cover Photography Kamya Buch
(@wanderingkamya)
Location Pin Valley National Park,
Himachal Pradesh
2
MAY 2018
SHUTTERSTOCK
74
SPICE & SOMETHING NICE
Listen to the call of the wild, walk
through thick plantations and smell
the aroma of the spices in the blissful
environs of Thekkady in Kerala.
WWW.MANVANTRA.COM (coming soon)
CHINTAMANI DURG | JUNAGARH FORT
BIKANER (built in late 15th century)
OUTOFTHEPAST
COLOSSAL MONUMENTS AND SITES
World Heritage Day
/manvantra
/manvantra2011
goo.gl/HzUhmL
CORRESPONDENCE ADDRESS: P.O. BOX 5231, CHANAKYAPURI, NEW DELHI 110021 | INFO@MANVANTRA.COM
MANVANTRA AND ITS PINK BIRD LOGO, MANVANTRA.COM ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
J O I N T H I S T O R Y & C U L T U R E S
CELEBRATECONSERVEENHANCE
18 April 2018
Best Wishes,
©2018 MANVANTRA
CONTENTS
MAY 2018
Gateway
Manifesto
Spotlight
12
INDIA UPDATES
A quick roundup of what’s happening around the
country as you prepare your itinerary.
26
THE ART FILES
Ashoke Nag narrates the story of eminent
artist Paresh Maity and how his intense love
for water translates into his art and films.
84
THE CITY OF JOY
Aristocratic and grubby, cultured and grimy,
the 330-year-old metropolis of Kolkata is
more than India’s intellectual and cultural
capital. It is a daily celebration of life.
14
WEEKEND BREAK
We acquaint you with a few destinations not too
far from the metros for a short trip.
16
FESTIVAL
First-of-its-kind yachting festival held at the port
city of Visakhapatnam.
18
CHECK-IN
Check into new hotels and resorts and find out
what suits your next vacation.
20
CHECK-OUT
Discover India takes a culinary journey to bring
you the best eateries from around the country.
27
THE META ARCHIVES
Shweta Taneja tells the tale of the spirits
who dwell in the majestic semal trees that
woo you with their crimson flowers.
28
THE NATURALIST
In the jungle, it isn’t always the big animals
that are the most dangerous; most often it’s
the smallest of them, writes Neha Sinha.
96
FRAME WORK
Our photographer of the month, Behzad J.
Larry, captures a stunning photo of a camel
herder leading a two-humped Bactrian
camel down the dunes of Nubra Valley.
30
GUEST COLUMN
Hoihnu Hauzel explores a new, refreshing
side to her hometown of Imphal where the
winds of change are finally blowing.
22
PEOPLE
Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar, of the 1,500-yearold House of Mewar in Udaipur, talks to DI
about how travel educates him.
EXPLORE OUR
SOCIAL SIDE...
4
MAY 2018
Like us on Facebook
Go to facebook.com/
discoverindiamagazine
Follow us on Twitter
Go to twitter.com and follow our
travels at @WeDiscoverIndia
Follow us on Instagram
Follow our visual journeys with
@discoverindia.magazine
01/05/2018
T
hen, some three decades ago, I was struck
with awe. I was a plain boy from the plains
of Punjab, with a life and primary education
that was of simple order (village life, village
school). When the time had (yet not) come,
as an impressionable eight-year-old, I was
sent to study at a famous boarding school in
the Himachal hills. The hills I saw were vast
and green and cool or cold depending on the
seasons, with bamboo forests and pine cones
(which I initially collected) and flowers in
colours like I had never seen. The school itself
was a culture shock, to see all other kids talk,
walk, sit, eat smartly compared to my young
village bumpkin self. That shock I recovered
from over time. I, though, never recovered from
my fondness for the hills.
A few summers later, my father, serving
in the Indian Army, was stationed in pristine
Srinagar, in Jammu and Kashmir. That it was
among the most significant and beautiful hill stations in the country, and had been
compared to paradise by kings and thinkers, I knew. I looked forward to our summer
sojourn in this lovely valley.
But there was trouble in paradise that year. There was violent unrest that sent the
valley and tourism there into a flux for years to come. While I was there for a few months,
staying at the Badami Bagh cantonment, I did not even get to see the signature Dal lake
at close quarters or the Tulip Garden or feast on Wazwan or make friends with Kashmiri
children. For security reasons, we were quite confined within the cantonment area. I,
though, wasn’t the only one who missed out on paradise, most travellers did, as tourism
in one of the most popular hill states in the country came to a halt.
Life, though, moves on. In recent years, travellers have been returning to the
Kashmir valley and recently the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) held its
annual convention in Srinagar after 30 years. The times, I hope, are changing. This is one
of the most beautiful hill states in the country, and deserves the attention of the traveller.
I do hope to return to the mountains of Kashmir soon one day, and this time I will see the
Dal lake and feast on Wazwan.
ASHOKE NAG
Reputed contemporary art critic,
commentator and journalist
SHWETA TANEJA
An author who tells tales of
myths and magic
NEHA SINHA
A wildlife conservationist with
a passion for writing
HOIHNU HAUZEL
An independent journalist and
founder of northeastodyssey.com
AJAY KHULLAR
Editor
6
MAY 2018
I N D I A’ S F I R S T T R AV E L M A G A Z I N E
Editor AJAY KHULLAR
Creative Director BIPIN KUMAR
Deputy Art Director MUKESH KUMAR
Assistant Art Director SACHIN JAIN
Associate Editor SATARUPA PAUL
Senior Digital Editor ANISH ARJUNAN
Sub-Editor SUSHMITA SRIVASTAV
Editorial Consultant YANA BANERJEE-BEY
Contributing Editor RAMA AHUJA
Junior Designer & Editorial Coordinator KANCHAN RANA
Editor At Large-Travel Segment JYOTI VERMA
PRODUCTION
Production Director RITESH ROY
Deputy Manager MANOJ CHAWLA
Graphics Designer MOHD JAVED ALAM
SALES
National Head (Government) RAJESH KUMAR
SUJIT BOSE (Kolkata) 033 40042815
P.P.S. MARWA (Lucknow) 0522 2780754
SWAPNIL CHOUDHARY (North) 0124 3083525
Vice President (International Sales) SANJIV BISARIA
MARKETING & ACTIVATION
Senior Manager SNIGDHA SHARMA
Senior Executive SHREYA BHAGAT
Manager (Scheduling) C.P. SHREEDHARAN
CIRCULATION & VISIBILITY
National Head RISHI KAUL rishi@emmindia.com
Assistant Manager PRAKASH DARGE prakash@emmindia.com
REPRO: MEDIENPARTNER INTERNATIONAL INDIA/BURDA DRUCK INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED.
INTERNATIONAL SALES & ADVERTISING
FRANCE/LUXEMBOURG
MARION BADOLLE-FEICK
Tel: +33 1 72 71 25 24
marion.badolle-feick@burda.com
AUSTRIA
CHRISTINA BRESLER
Tel: +43 1 230 60 30 50
christina.bresler@burda.com
ITALY
MARIOLINA SICLARI
Tel: +39 02 91 32 34 66
mariolina.siclari@burda-vsg.it
SWITZERLAND
GORAN VUKOTA
Tel: +41 44 81 02 146
goran.vukota@burda.com
GERMANY
JULIA MUND
Tel: +49 89 92 50 31 97
julia.mund@burda.com
UK + IRELAND
JEANNINE SOELDNER
Tel: +44 20 3440 5832
jeannine.soeldner@burda.com
MICHAEL NEUWIRTH
Tel: +49 89 9250 3629
michael.neuwirth@burda.com
USA + CANADA + MEXICO
SALVATORE ZAMMUTO
Tel: +1 212 884 48 24
salvatore.zammuto@burda.com
Burda International Holding GmbH
Legal Address: Hubert Burda Platz 1 77652 Offenburg, Germany
Postage Address: Arabellastrasse 23 D-81925 Munich, Germany
CORPORATE OPERATIONS
Publishing Director SIMON CLAYS
Chief Financial Officer PUNEET NANDA
Senior Manager (HR) SONYA CAROLINE SHAH
Manager (Admin) SUSHILA CHOUDHARY
Manager (IT) ARUN SALHOTRA
Exposure Media Marketing Pvt. Ltd.
Director PARINEETA SETHI
EMM IS A COMPANY OF THE BURDA GROUP
Hubert Burda Media India Pvt. Ltd.
CEO BJÖRN RETTIG
India MD MASSIMO MONTI
Hubert Burda Media
Board Member International MARTIN WEISS
DISTRIBUTED BY LIVING MEDIA INDIA LIMITED
Entire contents Copyright © 2014 Exposure Media Marketing Pvt. Ltd., 378-379 Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurugram – 122015, Haryana, India. All
rights reserved throughout the world. Reproduction or translation in any language in whole or in part without the consent of Exposure Media
Marketing Pvt. Ltd. is prohibited. Requests for permission should be directed to Exposure Media Marketing Pvt. Ltd. Published by Xavier Collaco
from Exposure Media Marketing Pvt. Ltd., 378-379 Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurugram – 122015, Haryana, India. Printed at Kala Jyothi Process Pvt
Ltd, S.No.185, Kondapur Village, Serilingampally Municipality, Ranga Reddy District, Hyderabad – 500 133. Editor: Ajay Khullar. Discover India does
not take responsibility for returning unsolicited publication material. All disputes are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of competent courts
and forums in Delhi/New Delhi only. Opinions expressed in the articles are of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors or
publishers. While the editors do their utmost to verify information published they do not accept responsibility for its absolute accuracy. Unsolicited
material is sent at the owner’s risk and the publisher accepts no liability for loss or damage. All correspondence regarding advertising or editorial
should be addressed to Exposure Media Marketing Pvt. Ltd., 378-379 Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurugram – 122015, Haryana, India.
Contributors
JITADITYA NARZARY
WRITER
Jitaditya mostly travels alone and
prefers austere homestays over
luxury resorts. He is generally
seen in the Himalaya but also
likes to dig out obscure history
behind forgotten archaeological
sites. He likes to go where no
one goes, such as the off-themap and utterly serene Pangi
Valley, which he writes about in
this issue.
BINDU GOPAL RAO
WRITER
Bindu is a freelance writer based
in Bengaluru, who believes
that writing provides a unique
opportunity to meet a variety
of people, while exploring new
places. She has a keen eye for
offbeat, unusual and local angles
of any destination she travels to.
Here, she charts the trail of the
Buddha through the sites where
he once lived and those that are
now gaining prominence.
SUGATO MUKHERJEE
WRITER & PHOTOGRAPHER
An award-winning photographer
and writer, Sugato has
contributed to Al Jazeera,
National Geographic Traveller
and the Yale University Journal,
among others. His coffee table
book, An Antique Land—A
Visual Memoir of Ladakh, is a
pleasant read. In this issue, he
unearths secrets of Kashmir and
puts the spotlight on the city of
joy and culture, Kolkata.
GAYATRI MOODLIAR
WRITER
Fresh out of the world of
academia, Gayatri got into
journalism to discover and tell
the stories of others. Her venture
into travel journalism allows her
to harness her love for travel and
appreciation of the many cultures
present. In this issue, she takes
us to Kerala, where the spice
plantations of Thekkady have
stories that go back centuries.
ASHIS GHATAK
WRITER/PHOTOGRAPHER
Ashis is an English teacher by
profession and a wanderer by
heart. Over a cup of tea and the
lilt of country music, he loves
to dwell on his own thoughts.
He archives his memories with
his camera and with his pen
and notebook, his steadfast
companions. Here, he provides
a peek into the high mountains
through the frames of windows.
PRIYA BALA
WRITER
Priya is a food and travel writer
whose work allows her to
indulge her biggest passions—
writing, travelling and seeking
out great food experiences.
Travelling all around the globe,
she is especially excited about
exploring the hidden corners of
India. For this issue, she takes
short weekend breaks not too far
from the metro city.
MAY 2018
9
Knowing Bengaluru
Anchor
cover story
I always love the ‘Spotlight’ section
of your magazine. It is like exploring
and knowing in and out, one city at a
time. I had always seen Bengaluru as
the IT hub of the country and nothing
more. So, when the in-depth article
took me on a tour of the city—making
me see the forts and palaces, admire
the heritage and know about the places
Lights...Camera...
India
Bollywood and Hollywood have ‘discovered’ many little-known
places in India and beyond. Sometimes, some of these locations
stepped beyond the realm of just being a backdrop and became a
part of the narrative, an important character. Here’s a list of some of
those iconic destinations, made unforgettable by movies.
Words azera parveen rahman
32
april 2018
DIC-0418-Anchor_ cover story.indd 32-33
28/03/18 11:47 am
The Filmi Affair
We often see a particular spot or destination in a movie and find
ourselves wanting to go there and see it for ourselves. Being a
movie buff, I have lost count of exactly how many times that has
happened to me. Reading ‘Lights… Camera… India’, I found myself
remembering all the iconic destinations in those films that you have
included in your story. The piece made me realise how true it
is that some places actually become more than mere backdrops…
they turn into characters, narrating their own stories. Thanks
for such an engaging cover story, team DI!
VIJAY CHAUHAN Delhi
Buzz Like Bengaluru
It’s a truism that Bengaluru ensnares the visitor and weaves its unique brand
of magic straddling many spheres—from culture, heritage and great public
parks to modernity, street food and vibrant nightlife.
Words AnitA RAo KAshi
Bengaluru has been
known by many epithets
over the decades—Garden
City, Pensioner’s Paradise,
and India’s Silicon Valley
being the most famous
ApRiL 2018
DIC0418-Anchor-Spotlight-Bengaluru.indd 86-87
87
28/03/18 11:59 am
less-explored, it turned out to be an
eye-opener for me. It is strange how
little we know even about the most
famous cities of our own country.
KRITI MENON Chennai
Keeping It Raw And Real
were captured so beautifully that they
exuded a sense of warmth. A great
collection, I must say. Special kudos for
the apt title, ‘Kutch is Life’!
The photo essay on Kutch in your last
issue was a visual treat. The pictures
Kutch Is Life
India’s largest district, Kutch, is a land
of diversity. Migrated communities from
Iran, Afghanistan, Sindh and Balochistan
have been living here for centuries,
in harmony with the locals. Farmers,
herders and weavers, their lives are a
fascinating kaleidoscope.
Words and photography ritayan Mukherjee
43
april 2018
DIC-0418-Anchor-photo essay april.indd 42-43
28/03/18 11:45 am
seemed so real, so spontaneous. The
landscape and the portraits of the locals
The Music of Calm
The column, ‘Overcoming The Taj
Effect’ was so interesting, timely and
relevant for a budding photographer like
me. Not only did it acknowledge the
most common mistakes that we make
while practising photography, it also
gives pointers on how to grow out of the
same. Certainly, an informative piece.
Varanasi has a quiet charm, a feel of
calm. One could feel it even through
its pictures. And when the picture is of
a percussionist playing the tabla on a
ghat of the city, completely lost in the
soulful music, you can almost imagine
yourself being on the same ghat,
listening to the same enchanting music.
The photo chosen for the ‘Frame Work’
section this time really captivated me.
No wonder the city lures musicians
and artists to visit it for inspiration
time and again.
TARUN BANERJEE Jamshedpur
JAI PRAKASH DIXIT Pune
SUMIT SINGH Noida
Anchor
photo essay
The Meghwal
community is originally
from Marwar in Rajasthan
but now lives all over
Kutch. They live in groups
outside the villages here.
Masters of weaving wool
and cotton, their women
do exquisite embroidery
and appliqué work.
Leather embroidery is
another of their specialties
Spotlight
Learning The Art Of Frames
DI COORDINATES
Postal Address: Discover India, Exposure Media Marketing Pvt. Ltd., 378-379 Udyog Vihar Phase IV, Gurugram—122015
Email: discoverindia@emmindia.com
FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS Call +91-124-3083616, +91-9899414369; Email subscriptionsupport@emmindia.com
FOR OUR DIGITAL EDITION Magzter.com, Readwhere.com, magsonwink.net, www.jio.com, www.magazinos.com
10
MAY 2018
Gateway
BEHZAD J. LARRY
ENTER HERE FOR INDIA
A Wide-Angle Perspective & Overview Of India
INDIA UPDATES
A Calendar Of Festivals &
Events From Across India
CHECK-IN
Alila Diwa Goa And
The Den Corbett
CHECK-OUT
Pra Pra Prank, Gurugram; O
Pedro & Mango Tree, Mumbai
FULLY BOOKED
Jungle Adventures & Exploring
The Garhwal Himalaya
Gateway
INDIA UPDATES
A ROUNDUP OF WHAT’S HAPPENING, WHAT’S TRENDING AND
NORTH SOUTH
With over 150 exhibitors
and 25 speakers coming
together from 20 countries,
The Yogshala Expo 2018 is the
country’s first international
yoga, wellness and Ayurveda
exhibition, featuring an array
of practitioners and display of
organic products. The event
will have workshops, seminars,
interactive sessions and health
consultations with experts.
WELLNESS SHOW
The Yogshala Expo,
New Delhi
May 4–6
Buddha Purnima is celebrated
every year to mark the day when
Gautam Buddha was born during
the month of Vaishakha. It is
considered the most sacred day in
the Buddhist calendar. Devotees
assemble for prayer meets,
sermons, meditation sessions,
processions, recitation of Buddhist
scriptures and other religious
discourses during the celebration.
RELIGIOUS
CELEBRATION
Buddha Purnima,
North India
May 22
RELIGIOUS CELEBRATION
Ramadan, across India
Starts from May 15
Ramadan (also known as Ramazan) is a month-long event of daily fasting,
dedicated praying and introspection for Muslims. It celebrates the first time
the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, according to Islamic
belief. While the days are spent fasting, the evenings witness streets coming
alive with Iftar celebrations. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr
that involves feasting, shopping and merry-making.
SEASONAL
FESTIVAL
Ooty Summer Festival,
Udhagamandalam
May 18–20
COMEDY SHOW
RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL
Ganga Dussehra, Varanasi
May 24
Celebrated to mark the occasion when the holy Ganges descended to Earth in
seven streams, Ganga Dussehra is an auspicious day for many when devotees
flock to the holy cities of Varanasi, Haridwar and Rishikesh to take a dip in the holy
waters and perform aarti.
12
MAY 2018
LOLStars ft.
Mojomaximus: Rohan
Joshi & Ashish
Shakya, Bengaluru
May 27
This festival celebrates
the lovely environs and
salubrious climate of Ooty
during the summer by
hosting a flower show, a
rose festival and a vegetable
and fruit show. A plethora
of other events is held
too, including various food
festivals, dog shows, boat
races and more throughout
the month.
Bengaluru will be hit with some
serious comedy as the two stand-up
sensations of AIB fame,
Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya,
head to Gilly’s Redefined in
Koramangala this May. As a
part of AIB, the two are YouTube
personalities with many hit shows
including AIB Knockout, AIB Diwas,
On Air with AIB and more. (insider.
in/lolstars-ft-mojomaximus-rohanjoshi-ashish-shakya-bangaloremay27-2018/event)
WHAT THE COUNTRY IS CELEBRATING THIS MAY
EAST WEST
FLOWER FESTIVAL
International Flower
Festival, Gangtok
May 1
Held during the peak flowering
season in Sikkim, the annual
International Flower Festival is
held in the state’s capital, Gangtok,
where many species of orchids,
gladioli, cacti, roses, trees, ferns,
alpine plants, creepers, climbers
and more are displayed. Along with
this, one can expect food fairs, river
rafting, informative sessions on
indigenous plants and yak safaris
during the event.
TEMPLE FESTIVAL
Igitun Chalne, Goa
May
THEATRE WORKSHOP
NCPA Summer Fiesta –
Drama Madness with
Shaun, Mumbai
May 14
Specific to the Sirigao
Temple in Bicholim Taluk,
Igitun Chalne is one of Goa’s
most distinctive festivals, in
which devotees of Goddess
Lairaya perform ‘fire-walking’
as they walk over a shallow
pit filled with burning coal to
demonstrate their devotion.
Both visitors and locals crowd
around the temple to watch
the ritual being performed.
Explore the madness of the
world of drama as Shaun
Williams holds a workshop
to develop your acting skills
through various fun theatre
games, skit-making, character
creation and more. The aim
of the workshop is to help
improve skills and build
confidence in expression
and articulation.
BALLET PERFORMANCE
Bolshoi Ballet: The Flame of Paris, Mumbai
May 15–16
See Vasily Vainonen’s choreography to the music of Boris Asafyey come to
life during the ballet performance of The Flame of Paris – one of the most
famous and quintessential ballet pieces, at Dance Theatre Godrej. The ballet
tells the story of a sister-brother duo who, while fighting for their freedom
during the French Revolution era, encounter love.
TRIBAL FESTIVAL
Words SUSHMITA SRIVASTAV
Moatsu Festival, Nagaland
First week of May
Held by the Ao tribe of Nagaland to celebrate their local agrarian tradition,
Moatsu is all about display of culture through singing, dancing, merrymaking and rituals associated with harvesting and planting seeds. The entire
community gathers around the fire, drinks local wine made from rice and
feasts on traditionally-cooked meat.
CELEBRATION
Rabindra Jayanti,
West Bengal
May 9
Marking the birth anniversary
of one of the country’s
greatest littérateurs,
Rabindranath Tagore, this
day is celebrated throughout
the state with performances
of lyrical poetry, prose and
music to commemorate his
life and work. Various cultural
events, discussions, debates,
seminars and renditions of
his work are held in
his remembrance.
MAY 2018
13
Gateway
WEEKEND BREAK
BHOPAL
48 km Time 1 hour
SANCHI
S
ay Sanchi, and the images that
come to mind are of stupas,
temples, monasteries dedicated to
the Buddha, and relics from the time of
Emperor Ashoka. If you are looking for
a break that involves exploring the past
and some quiet reflection, then Sanchi
is a great option.
Located 45 km from the Madhya
Pradesh capital of Bhopal, Sanchi draws
not just pilgrims who want to walk the
path of the Buddha, but also history
buffs and architecture enthusiasts. The
various structures here, including the
hemispherical stupas, are known for the
simplicity and grace of their architecture.
To see the stupas of Sanchi is to step
14
MAY 2018
back in time and to relive some of the
glory of Ashoka’s reign. The emperor
had the stupas and other sacred edifices
constructed to propagate the Buddha’s
teachings and philosophy.
Besides the stupas, the collection
of Buddhist monuments in Sanchi,
located on a hill that overlooks a plain,
includes monolithic pillars, palaces,
temples and monasteries. These
treasured monuments are in different
states of conservation, many of them
dating back to the second and first
centuries BC. It is widely accepted that
Sanchi is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary
in India and was one of the vibrant
hubs of the Buddhist world right up to
the 12th century. The mahastupa here
has been listed as a UNESCO World
Heritage monument.
The serene hill of Sanchi, with its
ancient monuments, and its throng of
Buddhist pilgrims, makes for the perfect
short break to get away from cityinduced stress.
NAVIGATOR
Drive Sanchi is just an hour away from the city of Bhopal
if you decide to take the road.
Stay If you decide to stay in Sanchi rather than Bhopal,
check out Aaram Bagh. It’s a clean, comfortable hotel.
Tip Remember, Sanchi is a sacred site. Dress
appropriately and conduct yourself with the decorum a
place such as this would warrant.
Words PRIYA BALA Photography GETTY IMAGES and SHUTTERSTOCK
SANCHI ON THE SACRED PATH
The mahastupa in Sanchi
reminds one of the glorious reign
of Ashoka, who propagated
Buddha's teachings
Checklist
• Sanchi Stupa Also known
as the mahastupa, this is on top
of the must-see list in Sanchi. A
World Heritage Site, the stupa,
built in the third century BC, stands
testimony to Buddhist aesthetics
and reflects the cultural and
architectural refinement of the time.
The intricately carved stupa draws
attention with its embellished walls
and gateways known as toranas.
• The Great Bowl Another of
Sanchi’s most-viewed structures,
the Great Bowl is also centuries old.
Also known as the Grand Gumbha,
this is a large block of stone which,
it is believed, was used to distribute
alms to Buddhist monks.
• The Ashoka Pillar You cannot
go to Sanchi and not see the Ashoka
pillar, an ancient structure that is
now the symbol of modern India.
Created in a unique Greco Buddhist
style, this column was raised in the
third century BC. It is one of the best
preserved structures in Sanchi.
• The Eastern Gateway
Impressive gateways are one of the
key aspects of ancient structures
in the region. In Sanchi, there were
four gateways built in 35 BC. Each
depicts various phases in the life of
the Buddha. The Eastern Gateway is
known for its carvings that trace the
life of the Buddha from his birth as
a prince to his search for the truth
and eventual enlightenment. The
embellishments display a high level
of skill and craftsmanship.
• Udayagiri Caves Your list of
things to do in Sanchi must include
a trip to the Udayagiri caves,
situated some 15 km from Sanchi.
Here, you’ll find an early Hindu ritual
site. The caves contain carvings
which were commissioned by
Chandragupta II, during the reign
of the Guptas in the late fourth
and fifth centuries. The carving
depicting Vishnu in his varaha or
boar avatar is one of the most
impressive in Udayagiri. Besides
the rock carvings, the caves also
contain inscriptions that hold the
key to the past, rock shelters and
water systems.
MAY 2018
15
Gateway
FESTIVAL
Dancing With The Waves
With the Eastern Ghats on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other, port city Visakhapatnam
served as the perfect destination for the first-of-its-kind yachting festival of India.
Words SATARUPA PAUL
T
he airplane dipped dangerously as it sliced through the
dark grey turbulent clouds and emerged rocking and
shaking on the other side. I could feel my knuckles
turning white as I clutched the armrest tight, while sending a
quick prayer up to whoever was listening. It was only when I
looked out the window, as the landscape below tilted up while
we tilted down, that my thudding heart calmed, one beat at a
time. Spread far below us was the greyish blue expanse of the
Bay of Bengal, its waves forming soft little mounds on the sea’s
surface, dancing back and forth in a neverending waltz, and
hypnotising me with these smooth moves.
Almost 24 hours later and still enamoured by it, I joined in
the sea’s lilting dance—in style and with a dose of posh, courtesy
of the Vizag Yachting Festival. This first-of-its-kind extravaganza
was an effort by Andhra Pradesh Tourism, in association with
E-Factor Adventure Tourism Pvt Ltd, to position Vizag as
a destination for holidays befitting yachting enthusiasts. It
saw a fleet of luxury yachts gather from various parts of India
and abroad at the beautiful port city of Visakhapatnam, more
16
MAY 2018
commonly known as Vizag, in Andhra Pradesh. The four-day
event was flagged off with an entertaining performance by
Goa-based band A26, complemented by a lavish dinner spread
served in a set-up whose lighted-up outline looked like yachts
anchored in the bay.
The actual sea-faring beauties, though, arrived the next
afternoon, allowing us a morning of savouring the delights
of Vizag. For one who has never visited it before, the city
will come as a sweet surprise. The oldest shipyard and only
natural harbour on the east coast of India, Vizag is home to the
headquarters of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Command. The
port here is the fifth busiest cargo port in India and the city is
regarded as the financial capital of Andhra Pradesh. The facts
may be interesting, but it’s Vizag as a whole that astonishes and
enthrals, ever so gently.
To make a blanket statement and say the city is pretty and
clean, would be to do it a big disservice. Vizag is beautiful! The
kind of beauty that is understated and elegant, with the hills
of the Eastern Ghats rolling up on one side and the blue of the
With clean beaches, an
expansive shoreline and
the Bay of Bengal, Vizag
plays the perfect backdrop
for water sports
Bay of Bengal stretching far, far into the horizon on the other.
Comfortably nestled between the two, the city lets you traverse
a landscape that takes you up and down steep hilly roads one
moment, and straight, long drives by the sea the next. Vizag is
also spotless! Not a piece of trash is ever in sight, no matter how
hard and where you look—the edges of the smooth roads that
gleam in the sun, the corners of streets that twist and turn up
the sides of the hills, outside buildings or below street lamps,
or even along the seashore. The beaches are impeccably clean
and pretty, and of the several beaches in and around Vizag,
Rushikonda is the most famous. An easy 20-minute drive from
the city centre, via a road that runs parallel to the sea, brings you
to Rushikonda. Many locals and tourists frequent the beach,
yet its long stretch of sand is pristine, the sea that rolls in here
is sparkling, and one cannot help but spend several hours here
frolicking in the waters.
More fun awaited us back at the venue of the Vizag Yachting
Festival, where the yachts had finally arrived, albeit two days
late, having navigated all the logistical complications that arise
with organising an event such as this for the first time. Following
a formal inauguration by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu
Naidu, the festival was flagged off with a boat race by the
local fishermen. And just as the sun began its descent into the
sea, we finally boarded a yacht and set sail into the stunning
sunset. The waves, which the day before had slow waltzed
for me, were today in the mood for a fast swing! They tossed
me up and caught me back as the yacht bounced fast on the
high tide. Needless to say, the thrill was beyond measure! The
penultimate act for the night was an enthralling performance
by everybody’s favourite band, Indian Ocean. Even as they
belted out their famous numbers into the energetic night, we
set off once again for a slow cruise on a plush yacht, which came
complete with two bedrooms and attached baths, a living room
and a kitchenette. The music wafted in from the shore, the
skyline of Vizag twinkled like fairy lights along the coast, the sea
was up for a slow tango, the wine tasted fine, conversations were
galore, and anchored in the middle of it all, we sat on the deck
of the yacht, under a million stars, wrapped in the embrace of
the cool spring wind.
NAVIGATOR
GETTING THERE
Visakhapatnam Airport is located 12 km from the city centre and is connected to all major
cities by regular flights. The city is also well-connected by a railway station and public buses
are available to all neighbouring locations.
STAY
Vizag has a range of options across budgets. Baypark–A Pema Wellness Resort is an upscale,
holistic healing seaside property located on the outskirts of the city (www.pemawellness.co).
If you wish to stay in the city centre, yet have a view of the sea from your room, then Hotel
Novotel on Varun Beach is a fabulous option in the midrange category (www.novotel.com).
Other options include Four Points by Sheraton and Dolphin Hotel.
DO
• Chill on the many beaches along the shoreline of Vizag, including Rushikonda, Yarada
and Ramakrishna beaches.
• Visit Kailasagiri hilltop park.
• Spend some time at the Visakha Museum of cultural artefacts and maritime exhibits.
• Take a guided tour of the submarine museum of INS Kursura (S20).
• Visit Ross Hill for its church and the panoramic views.
EAT
Try an Andhra thali at Daspallah Hotel and don’t miss out on the Andhra biryani found
across the city’s many eateries.
MAY 2018
17
Gateway
CHECK-IN
ALILA DIWA GOA
LUXURY AMIDST GOAN GREENERY
T
hat’s how we cook
the Goan fish curry,”
said Edia, the
grandma chef at Spice Studio,
an Indian cuisine restaurant
at the Alila Diwa Goa, as we
concluded a master class as
part of the Alila Experience
curated by the hotel for its
guests. The fish that was
cooked was handpicked by
me in the morning from the
Margao fish market during
another experience called
“Fresh from the Catch”.
While these experiences
make the stay at Alila Diwa
Goa a memorable one, the
property itself is a perfect
escape for someone looking
for a relaxed vacation.
Located near Gonsua
beach in Majorda, Alila
Diwa Goa is designed with
an innovative blend of
Balinese, Portuguese and
Kerala architecture, which is
prominently seen in the high-
18
MAY 2018
tiled roofs, wide verandahs,
stout pillars and open
courtyards. The property has
rich green cover with coconut
groves and other trees strewn
across; two banyan trees in
the centre of the property are
more than 200 years old, and
the whole resort was designed
around them.
The Diwa Club Suite, in
the premium category wing,
is large and spacious with
a living room, a bedroom
with modern décor and
all amenities, a luxurious
bath with a tub occupying
centrestage, and a huge
verandah overlooking the
pool. My leisurely swim in
the pool was followed by
dinner at Bistro that serves
Mediterranean and Middle
Eastern delights. The seafood
platter was the best way to
start our meal, while the Goan
dessert of a Bebinca cheese
cake was the perfect end to it.
The property houses
interesting set-ups in various
corners—a tree house where
they serve dinner on request,
best for a romantic date or
an anniversary celebration;
a small organic garden with
a dining set-up and a live
kitchen, where the chef
prepares local delicacies with
the vegetables available in
the garden. The restaurant
called Vivo serves Oriental,
Indian and Continental,
where I dug into my platter
of continental breakfast.
Beside it is the infinity pool
overlooking green paddy
fields beyond and a strip of
coconut groves that lines the
Gonsua beach lying farther
ahead. The Edge Bar serves
as a pool bar by day and a
lounge bar by night. The
property also has a small
movie theatre, kids’ area, a
well-equipped gym and the
Spa Alila offering a wide
range of treatments, as well as
a small outlet of Alila Living,
with its exclusive range of
organic spa products.
South Goa is more relaxed
and laidback compared to
the party frenzy of the North,
with clean, less crowded
beaches and shacks offering
local Goan cuisine. I rented
a bike and rode to a local
shack on the nearby Utorda
beach, where the white sand,
emerald sea and blue sky
made for a stunning scene
in front, as I sipped my
chilled beer and relished the
stuffed crab, in perfect Goan
holiday mode.
—Anish Arjunan
NAVIGATOR
Go there for A relaxed stay and authentic
Goan experiences
Address 48/10 Village Majorda, Adao
Waddo, Salcete, Goa
Reservations 83227 46800
Website www.alilahotels.com/diwagoa
Tariff `9,265 onwards
THE DEN CORBETT
THE MILD YET WILD
F
inding ‘pet-friendly’
properties in India is a
little akin to pricking
your finger on the proverbial
needle in a haystack, only
tougher, with fewer needles.
Thankfully, The Den,
stationed high up in Jungle
Jim’s Corbett National Park,
has a very soft spot for a great
many of our four-legged
friends. In fact, judging from
the abundance of wildlife that
hovers, climbs, crawls and
clambers around this haven,
manager Mansi and her team
seem to have a penchant for
any number of legs, beaks,
talons, claws or paws.
But then The Den is
situated deeper in the depths
of the park than most of the
‘chain’ competition, closer
to the soothing sound of the
bustling Kosi river and not
even an arm’s length from a
brush with nature.
There are tales of
leopards skulking across the
lawns at night, pugmarks in
the tended flowerbeds, but
for our time wedged into this
cliff-side forest resort, a pack
of smart rhesus monkeys
are our diminutive canine’s
main rivals.
When we can pull him
away from chasing primates
across the vast lawn that
separates the cottages from
one another (great for privacy
and keeping dogs out of too
much trouble), there are
some fabulous walks on offer.
Walks that cater for all levels
of adventure and ambition.
We decide to follow the sound
of the river and try to find
the valley floor, so traipse a
winding track that cuts deep
across the hillside. The dog’s
captivated by a Bengal lizard,
I’m in slight trepidation about
leopards, but keep schtum for
the sake of my wife and my
machismo. It passes and a few
strides farther we reach the
serenity of the valley floor and
excited water rushing over
endless moraine and rock.
We wade through the
cleanest water, soak in soft
mountain sunlight and drink
in a geography barely touched
for millennia.
Back in the security of our
cosy cottage and splayed on
the plank verandah, we graze
on the kitchen’s succulent
kebabs, gaze up at the stars,
contemplate tomorrow’s tiger
safari and wonder who can
really lay claim to God’s Own
Country because The Den is
a heaven to behold.
—Simon Clays
NAVIGATOR
Go there for Breathtaking nature, wild
safari and urban escape
Address Kumaria Reserve Forest,
P.O. Mohan, District Almora, Uttarakhand
Reservations bookings@thedencorbett.com
Website www.thedencorbett.com
Tariff `5,000 onwards
MAY 2018
19
Gateway
CHECK-OUT
PRA PRA PRANK
Twice The Fun
Address Shop No. 24, DLF Cyber Hub, DLF Phase 2, Sector 24, Gurugram, Haryana
Reservations 95999 96582
Timings 11 am to 11 pm
Meal for two `2,500-plus (exclusive of alcohol)
Y
ou step in later; first, you
are swept off your feet by
the quirky visual merchandise
windows with witty quotes that
wall off the place. The buzzy
music invites you in and the very
vibrant al fresco seating calls out
to you. The lively bistro inside
seems to be set somewhere in
a fancy European town. Walk
through the trick door (that
appears to be a wall at first) and
you arrive in the dimly-lit bar
space, evincing luxe and class.
Pra Pra Prank—‘the playful
brasserie,’ as they call themselves
—stands out even after being
placed amidst a plethora of cafés
and restaurants in bustling Cyber
Hub in Gurugram.
20
MAY 2018
Think of a uber-cool
ambience, interesting concoctions
and comfort food—and then,
double it all as everything in this
place comes in a pack of two!
Pra Pra Prank is the brainchild
of a brother duo; has two seating
spaces set in two completely
different moods; serves gourmet
spreads of two cuisines—modern
Indian and modern Asian, which
are headed by two expert chefs.
Start with a salad of fruits
and greens in Thai dressing—a
simple, delicious preparation.
The Nepolese Chicken Broth
is slow-cooked for hours and
has a creamy, nutty flavour. The
Veg Rainbow Rolls has crispy
vegetables wrapped in nori sheets
and beetroot juice-infused rice,
draped in smoked bell peppers,
sauces and topped with onion and
tomato salsa… a burst of flavours!
The Indian Ocean Baked Lobster
is cooked with South Indian
spices and falls apart in your
mouth. Up for some fusion? Ask
for appam with ghee-roast chicken
or the pork belly skewers with
kalonji raw mango relish—the
two dishes are as interesting as
their names sound. The Japanese
curry-infused Nihari served with
fresh Asian Bun is juicy, spicy
and a dream for every lamb lover.
The Cannoli stuffed with cream,
chocolate and raspberry coulis is
just the right thing for people who
can’t stand too sweet in desserts.
Apart from serving all your
favourite brands of liquor, Pra
Pra Prank also offers their Gin
Not Gin range of drinks infused
with flavours that taste and smell
like gin but are actually made
of vodka (another little prank!).
Each of their cocktails has a story
to tell. Prohibition Pop Up, a
heady mix of beer, bourbon and
coffee topped with caramelised
popcorns and served wrapped in
an old newspaper, reminds one of
the Prohibition Era when drinks
were secretly served in a similar
manner. Other must-tries are
the tequila-based Shark Tank,
Pronounce It (gin with asafoetida
and lemon), Fatty Pig (bourbon
with a flavour of bacon) and the
aromatic Chanel 9-inspired drink.
Pra Pra Prank doesn’t do basic—
be it the drinks, the food, or the
look and feel. A visit will give you
more than just a few things to
remember. You are bound to come
back happy-hearted.
—Sushmita Srivastav
O PEDRO
Slice Of Goa
Address Unit # 2, Ground Floor, Jet Airways-Godrej BKC Building,
Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra-East, Mumbai
Reservations (022) 2653 4700/01/02 Website www.opedromumbai.com
Timing 12 noon to 1 am
Meal for two `2,500
P
owered by Michelin-starred
chef Floyd Cardoz (of The
Bombay Canteen fame), the
modish Goan inspired menu at
O Pedro comes strapped with
lipsmacking nibbles, comfort
food and post-pub crawl tuckins. With specials by Nana
Cardoz (affectionate reference
to the chef's mum) scribbled
on the blackboard near the
community table.
The cheerful strains and
the cool concoctions at the bar
set the mood for a yummy ditty
in a Goan home ambience. Sip
on the Pina-Baga-Lada, laced
with kaffir lime-infused rum,
Indian spice mix and pineapple
purée, or slurp thirstily on the
tropical rush in rum and falernum
packed Beach Bum served in a
coconut with a colourful, mini
umbrella. Fork in the raw papaya
chilled shrimp salad with kokum
dressing (veggie version with
crispy chickpeas delights equally).
Crispy pork chicharones ambo-tik
in a spicy complexion offer relish
to the tastebuds. Grilled Pumpkin
MANGO TREE
Thai Bites
Address Mango Tree, Horizon Hotel, 3rd floor, 37 Juhu Beach, Mumbai
Reservations 86555 51277
Timing 12 noon to 3:30 pm, 7 pm to midnight
Meal for two `3,500
Foo-gath—he humble vegetable
undergoes a glamorous makeover
with grilled, smoky pumpkin
smeared on toast, with coconut
drizzle, poppy seeds and toasted
pumpkin seeds for an extra
crunch. The deep-fried curry leaf
on top wraps up the flavour of the
dish beautifully.
Depending upon your level
of gluttony, you can choose from
quarter, half and full plates to
sample portions of the best picks
across the menu. At the grills
counter, seafood sashays forth to
T
he showstopper is the
gleaming bar, and the
plush armchair-lined seating area
knitted to it under the chandelier.
Walk into Mango Tree for a
spot of carefully caressed Thai
flavours along the foodie strip
in Juhu in suburban Mumbai.
They serve the best honeydew
woo your tastebuds. Back to the
laze and graze mode: the fiery
Beryl’s fish curry, red snapper
caressed in dried mango and
kokum in a dizzying coconut
curry, coupled with red rice,
wins your vote.
Aunty Li’s Serradura is a
sweet treatise in cream and salted
caramel. Those Portuguese
doughnuts served on sticks,
with three divine dips in salted
caramel, dark chocolate-hazelnut
and vanilla-plum are to kill for.
— Shilpi Madan
melon iced tea, complete with
fresh fruitballs lacing the tall
cooler. Try the beetroot and red
cabbage thirstbuster, the berrylicious sorbet and the coconut
mint concoction. Absolutely
slurp-worthy. The mildly fragrant
chicken satay, skewered and
chunky, served with peanut
dip, and the Thai spice stroked
prawns on stick with cucumber
relish set the mood for a gentle
gourmet sojourn.
The chicken with cashew
nuts hammered into the steaming
hot spicy gravy makes for a
delicious pick in the mains. Go
with the grilled and fried version
of the seabass in the rather
glamorously served two-way fish.
The best part? You don't need
fire extinguishers with the food.
Manna arrives in the Mango
Tree brownie, prettily poised in
its warm gooey goodness with a
smattering of almonds, walnuts,
cashew nut and a secret stab of
banana and salted caramel.
— S.M.
MAY 2018
21
Gateway
PEOPLE
A Home Like Udaipur
Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar is a scion of the 1,500-year-old House of Mewar in
Udaipur. He stresses that travel educates more than it inspires him and talks
about his love for Bengali cuisine.
Udaipur is regarded as the
City of Lakes and it’s also
called Venice of the East.
What is Udaipur to you?
All of this and home. My
initial schooling was here.
And while I am fortunate
to have grown up in what is
called the Venice of the East,
I also wonder why is Venice
not called Udaipur of the
West? It’s both ways. But
as I said, Udaipur is most
importantly home for me.
When a place like Udaipur
is home, where in the world
would you vacation?
I love Europe at large. I’m
a really big fan of Europe.
I haven’t discovered much
of America yet, and I would
love to travel to many cities
in America as I believe that
22
MAY 2018
they have many wonderful
things to offer. In India, I
love South India… Kerala is
indeed God’s own country.
The entire south of the
country is very beautiful, as
is also the Konkan region. Up
north, Ladakh and Kashmir
are fantastic and the city of
Kolkata in the east has a lot
of charm. There are so many
places I would like to go
to in India, such as Andaman
and Nicobar Islands
and Pondicherry.
How does travel
inspire you?
You learn so much while
travelling. I think more
than inspire, travel educates
you. Travel opens you up to
different cultures, people, art
and crafts. There are more
common things like
cuisine, garments, textiles,
but there is so much
intangible benefit which you
imbibe while travelling.
Apart from Rajasthani
food, which is your
favourite cuisine?
I quite enjoy Bengali food.
It’s rich in taste and has
great flavours and is also very
different from Rajasthani
cuisine. So, for me the cuisine
of West Bengal, especially the
sweets and main courses, is
quite a favourite. In Udaipur,
being the city of lakes, we are
used to a lot of fresh water
produce, so we have a palate
for coastal cuisine and that’s
why I like the south Indian
food that has a lot of seafood
to offer.
How do you prefer to
travel—with family, solo or
with friends?
It’s a combination of all these.
When I travel for work, it’s
mostly alone or with family.
What is your message for
travellers to Udaipur?
What is the best showcase
to the city?
All of those things I
mentioned, which I look
for in other cities…our
culture, customs, rituals,
food, heritage…it’s a
combination of a lot of things
and this is an ongoing process
which we, as a family, have
been working on for many
years, and which we will
continue working on for
hopefully many years to come.
—Ajay Khullar
India’s Premier
Travel & Tourism
EXHIBITION
ENSURE YOUR PLACE IN THE MOST HAPPENING DESTINATION OF TRAVEL!
A Spectacular showcase to stimulate the Domestic and
Outbound travel industry. More customers, business improvement strategies,
star status, wide audience and extra mileage.
Everything to lead your business to non-stop activity - only at IITM
Discover a great new potential and reap greater profits
Real excitement, as you've always desired!
IITM 2018-19 EVENTS CALENDAR
BANGALORE: 27, 28, 29, JUL 2018
CHENNAI: 03, 04, 05 AUG 2018
DELHI: 21, 22, 23 SEP 2018
MUMBAI: 28, 29, 30 SEP 2018
HYDERABAD: 23, 24, 25 NOV 2018
PUNE: 30 NOV, 01, 02 DEC 2018
KOCHI: 31 JAN 1, 2 FEB 2019
KOLKATA: 22, 23, 24, FEB 2019
Ensure your place
in the most
happening
destination
of travel!
Supported by
SPHERE TRAVELMEDIA & EXHIBITIONS PVT. LTD.
Partner Associations
Member
# 245, 7th Main, Amar Jyothi Layout, Domlur, Bengaluru - 560 071, India. | P: +91-80-4083 4100 | F: +91-80-4083 4101
E: info@iitmindia.com | www.iitmindia.com | www.spheretravelmedia.com
Media Partnership
THE FUTURE’S NOT AN OPTION
Photography BANDU MANKAR | SANCTUARY PHOTO LIBRARY
IT HAS TO BE GREEN
T
he World Economic Forum’s latest report
recognises that India is ranked 6th for its
number of natural World Heritage sites.
Yet, the attractiveness of its overall natural
assets is a disappointing 113th, a ‘gap’ that
ensures that tourism, a critical conservation
tool is not prioritised by governments or
supported significantly by private enterprises—
even though it’s one of the 5T’s in the
government’s own National Development
Strategy. Worse than this is the fact that
this same report rates India’s environmental
sustainability in Travel and Tourism at 134th
in the world, with only Kuwait and a war-torn
Yemen below it. This is a shocking place for a
major powerhouse to find itself and highlights
the reason why nature tourism charity
TOFTigers campaigns so hard on sustainability
in this sector.
Despite these negative statistics, nature
tourism is winning a fight, even if we haven’t
yet won the war. Nature-based travel is
turning the tide on wildlife conservation and
on the tiger’s survival across South Asia. From
a low of 1,400 wild tigers in a few denuded
24
MAY 2018
reserves at the turn of this century, we
now officially have over 2,400 wild tigers
in India and growing numbers in Nepal too.
But we are, in fact, saving much more than
a single species. WWF calculates that 830
million people depend on the water that tiger
range forests release in Asia. Forests help to
mitigate the very worrying effects of climate
change on the subcontinent. If we save tigers
we save whole ecosystems, millions of species
and a host of other essential nature-based
services for hundreds of millions of both
urban and rural peoples. These services
include important medicines, critical food
sources and the quality of the air we breathe,
besides our very own physical, spiritual and
mental wellbeing.
This new rural green economy is giving new
livelihoods and new economic opportunities for
once poor rural communities bordering these
forests, decreasing rural poverty, enhancing
living standards and raising local educational
standards, as a new research report that
TOFTigers funded highlights. Visitors in parks
deter poachers, woodchoppers and illegal
grazers and brings the spotlight on a host
of magnificent and invaluable wildlife and
wildlands that few people cared about even
a few years ago. Opening up wildlife parks
has also brought exciting nature experiences
to millions of domestic and overseas visitors,
enabling many to become passionate local
advocates for conservation and protection.
You can join in this rising tide of hope and
success, by nominating a great reserve or park
you’ve enjoyed, a phenomenal nature guide or
knowledgeable naturalist you’ve been with, a
sensational ecolodge you stayed at or a groundbreaking community project you’ve seen. We
are looking for the ‘best of the best’—a person,
place or enterprise that represents where we
all need to go, great examples to follow that
ensure wilderness survives and wildlife can
once again flourish across South Asia, for
everyone’s benefit.
—Julian Matthews, Chairman, TOFTigers
You may nominate or vote online on
www.toftigers.org/WildlifeTourismAwards
Manifesto
SHUTTERSTOCK
O P I N I O N S & O B S E R VAT I O N S
Travel Experiences, Narratives & Tips From The Best
THE ART FILES
How Water Inspires Eminent
Artist Paresh Maity
THE META ARCHIVES
The Myth Of The Silk Cotton
Tree & Its Resident Spirits
THE NATURALIST
When The Smallest Creatures
Are The Most Dangerous
GUEST COLUMN
A Local’s Account Of How
Imphal Is Coming Back To Life
A S H OK E NA G
THE ART FILES
FINDING MAGIC
IN WATER
T
op-notch artist Paresh Maity has been painting,
essentially, and sculpting for well over three
decades. But few would probably know about his
long-time interest in films. Maity has produced
and directed short films like The Magic of the Monsoons and
The Mystic Melody.
Maity grew up surrounded by water in Tamluk town in Bengal. There were canals, ponds, rivers and the sea. There was that
water-laden sky in the monsoons. The raindrops inspired him to
create a thousand watercolours. The sight of water anywhere in
the world has led him to turn out many more paintings.
“I wait for the monsoon every year. It is my favourite season,” confesses Maity. So, he finally
decided to translate this intense love
for water into a film. “Yes, The Magic
of the Monsoons—Montage, Moments,
Memories was the outcome of this
deep love for water. Since this element has captivated me for so many
years, I wanted to capture it on film,”
emphasises Maity.
He started shooting the film
during the monsoon in 2009. The
unit started in Kolkata and travelled to Kanyakumari via Mumbai,
shooting throughout the Konkan
coast. In the film, he tried to depict
the pre-monsoon phase, then the
monsoon in full sway and finally the post-monsoon period. This
was done through effect and impression on nature as well as on
life around. “We were shooting entirely outdoors, using natural
sound. The film is a subtle reflection of the beginning of my
journey into the world of art,” underlines Maity.
The Mystic Melody—A Day in the Golden Desert, the other short
film, was shot in Rajasthan during the winter. “When I came to
Delhi in 1990, I travelled to Rajasthan. That changed my paintings dramatically from landscapes to figurative. I started using
absolutely primary colours like red, yellow and blue. These
hues seeped into my palette,” Maity says. The Mystic Melody
fathoms the sound of silence. “The folk music of Rajasthan and
the Shekhawati wall paintings have inspired me to recreate the
joy and celebration of life. After that first visit, I have travelled
almost 100 times to Rajasthan,” Maity exults.
They shot from dawn till dusk. The movie has variegated
elements... the early morning mist, the golden sunlight, waves
of sand, the colours of everyday life, folk music, the twilight
and sunset, evening performances, the moonlight... Maity’s
intent was to embrace all these facets in the film. Both films
stretch over 18 minutes and took around two months to finish.
The illustrious artist had a 14-member crew from Mumbai
to assist him.
“I loved viewing films by Satyajit
Ray and Western films. Observing
cinema for at least three decades has
fired my imagination,” Maity emotes.
Even during his travels abroad, he has
dropped by at movie theatres, especially in England and Switzerland. He
is moved by the sound, movement
and atmospheric elements of films.
“This medium is multi-dimensional.
I still watch good films, but I’m very
choosy,” he says.
Both The Magic of the Monsoons
and The Mystic Melody were fullfledged 70 mm films in digital format.
Maity has not yet negotiated a commercial release, but he does
plan to screen the films overseas. Dwelling on future plans on
the movie front, Maity says he plans to embark on three fulllength feature films. On whether these movie outings would also
revolve around elements related to art, he is still a trifle undecided: “I think it will be a little premature to discuss the themes
at this juncture,” he says.
THERE WERE CANALS,
PONDS, RIVERS AND
THE SEA. THERE WAS
THAT WATER-LADEN
SKY IN THE MONSOONS.
THE RAINDROPS
INSPIRED HIM TO
CREATE A THOUSAND
WATERCOLOURS
26
MAY 2018
Ashoke is a reputed art writer and critic who contributed to Discover India
in 1988, our launch year. He returns to give us insights into Indian art.
SH WETA TA NEJ A
T H E M E TA A R C H I V E S
THE TREE WHERE
SPIRITS DWELL
E
very year, just as spring touches the canopies of
Bengaluru, I have a pilgrimage to make. On no
particular Sunday in March or early April, I pack up
a picnic, WhatsApp a group of friends, and head to
Lalbagh, the botanical garden that’s the oxygen generator for the
south of Bengaluru.
Our aim is to spread a mat under one of the silk cotton trees.
For in spring, the majestically tall deciduous trees, the oldest of
which is 300 years old and counting, are canopied with a heavy
mass of crimson flowers. The trees are alive with the buzz of
bees, the hum of insects, the singing of bulbuls, barbets and
koels, the scuttling of squirrels and the skittering of starlings.
This majestic, wise old being, also
called shalmali (Sanskrit), semal (Hindi), mullilavu (Malayalam), kondaburuga (Telugu) and buruga (Kannada), has
its roots deep in the country’s folklore
and legends.
It’s beautiful, yes, but its beauty is
not for humans to control or keep. For
the tribals call it the tree of Yama, the
god of hell. Inside its many-folded,
thorny trunk dwell spirits and demons
and supernatural beings like yakshis,
female tree spirits who claim this
tree as their own. The legend goes
that if a person visualises the tree in
his dream, he’ll become ill. The Bhil
tribes in Udaipur district believe that if you sleep on a mattress
filled with semal seeds, you’ll become paralysed. Instead, humans
need to worship it and keep away. Like Murias, a forest tribe of
Madhya Pradesh, who plant a semal tree to mark a new village for
the spirits of the tree to protect the village.
The book Brahma’s Hair: The Mythology of Indian Plants mentions another heart-rending folk legend revolving around the
semal. Once upon a time, there was a king from Odisha who had
two queens but no heir. The king loved his two wives and didn’t
want to marry again. So, he wandered from physician to sha-
man to try and find a way, but no help came. Once, on a hunting
expedition, an ascetic came up to him and told him he had a solution. The king sent his queens to this ascetic’s ashram to work
his magic. What no one knew was that that sage was no sage, but
a demon in disguise, by the name of Kaliya Dano. As soon as
the wives reached the demon, he killed the women and gobbled
them whole. Days turned into weeks with no news of his wives.
The king grew restive and headed to the forest to search for the
ashram. He called out to the sage and when no answer came,
he walked in and discovered his wives’ bones and jewellery.
Angered, he cried for Kaliya Dano who ran up a smooth-barked
red silk cotton tree, and as he climbed the tree, he pulled out his
long, sharp teeth and stuck them onto
the tree’s trunk, so no one could climb
it. That’s how the silk cotton tree got
its thorny trunk.
Ruskin Bond, in his book The
World of Trees, retells an urban tale of
two shikaris who rested between beats
one hot May morning in a central
Indian jungle under a tall semal tree
and unwisely lit up a pipe right under
a dozen great combs of the Big Bee
that hung from its branches. Up went
the pipe-smoke and down came the
bees! They were soon buzzing around
the two shikaris, who beat an undignified retreat, running over a mile across
open country and jumping into a river. They were so badly stung
that they had to remain in the river for hours, up to their chins
in water.
The spirits of the semal protect the tree and keep humans
away. But every year, like a pilgrim, I’m back. For if you’ve not
seen its untouchable, other-worldly spread of red across the sky,
while lying on your back, you’ve missed something marvellous.
THE TRIBALS CALL IT
THE TREE OF YAMA,
THE GOD OF HELL.
INSIDE ITS MANYFOLDED, THORNY
TRUNK DWELL
SPIRITS AND DEMONS
AND SUPERNATURAL
BEINGS LIKE YAKSHIS
Shweta is an author who tells stories of myths and magic, bringing them
alive through novels, graphic novels, stories and conversations.
MAY 2018
27
NEH A S INH A
T H E N AT U R A L I S T
WHEN SMALL IS
DANGEROUS
G
nnn, gnnn.
It could be the sound of a tiny one making a huge
effort through clenched teeth, or the metallic twang
of small objects clashing at a distance. Only, it’s not.
It’s the melancholy whine of a female mosquito, as she comes
to get you in the April heat. And mosquitoes seem to get us absolutely effortlessly—reminding us that in Nature, it’s the small
critters who can be the most dangerous.
When walking in the Indian forest, there are many things
to be mindful of. Usually, these aren’t what you’d expect. The
bulkiest of Indian snakes—the Indian rock python—constricts
its prey but is harmless to humans. To
get one to bite you, you have to open
its mouth and put your hand in (which
I’m confident you will not try). King
cobras are big and venomous, large
enough to be eating other snakes, but
are also known to completely avoid
people. The Indian cobra is venomous too, but most people who have
encountered cobras in the wild, yours
truly included, know that the cobra
will usually warn you before biting.
The legendary hood of the Indian
cobra deserves the iconography it
enjoys. The snake will draw itself
up, open its hood wide, and then face you: warning you fair and
square, that you must back off.
A small, inconspicuous snake—no more than 30 inches
long—is what you need to watch out for. This is the saw-scaled
viper. Like all vipers, it is quick to bite without much warning. Like this viper, and like the omnipresent mosquito, I have
much more trouble with smaller creatures than the large, obvious
ones. When walking in the forest, you will be warned of “junglee
janwar” or large wild animals. But if you keep a safe distance, it
is very unlikely that a junglee janwar—like a leopard, a tiger, an
elephant or a wild buffalo—will harm you. What you can’t see,
or can barely see, are the dangerous ones. Leeches will latch on
to you and though they cause no harm, the sight of bloodied toes
and limbs can cause psychological frenzy. There are ticks in the
forests you can’t even see, but they can be on you for months,
causing rashes and suppurations; some ticks can give you deadly
fevers. And of course, there is the malaria-chikungunya-dengue
carrying humble mosquito.
Why are so many tiny things so dangerous? I think its
Nature’s ways of compensating for size. On the flip side, the
smallest of creatures can also be enchanting. The purple sunbird
has an iridescent peacock blue-turquoise green colour; it’s so
minuscule it balances neatly on the
slender stalks of a hibiscus flower.
The oriental white-eye bird—only
about eight cm long, less than the
length of your palm—is a captivating velvety yellow-green colour. We
marvel at these birds because they
reach unreachable places and because
of their deft abilities.
It’s clear that size does not always
mean might. In Nature, small is definitely mighty. It can be dangerous; it
can also be awe-inspiring. This is the
time of the year when the skies in
India are full of murmurations of rosy
starlings. The rosy starling is slightly smaller than the common
myna, and much smaller than the common crow. Yet, this bird
makes a migration that is anything but small—coming to India
each year from Europe and Asia. Finding energy too, to make
synchronised flight formations in the sky, and full of vigour and
interaction when they descend on trees. Watching a flock of rosy
starlings one April morning in Delhi, I thought, rosy is my new
favourite colour, and size definitely has nothing to do with it.
WHEN WALKING IN
THE FOREST, YOU
WILL BE WARNED OF
“JUNGLEE JANWAR” OR
LARGE WILD ANIMALS.
BUT IT’S WHAT YOU
CAN’T SEE, OR CAN
BARELY SEE, THAT ARE
REALLY DANGEROUS
28
MAY 2018
Neha is a wildlife conservationist and divides her time between Delhi,
Nagaland and Madhya Pradesh, where she runs field projects.
celebr
at i n g
three
decade
march 2018
s of ex
cell
ence
`100
VOL. 31,
NO. 3
3292
DELENG/2001/0
MARCH 2018
heritage
Monuments
, Destination
hotlist 10
1
nces Rich
In
s, Experie
DIC0318_Final
from Bean
To Cup
The Story Of
Coffee
Its Home—Chikma And
galur
Cover.ind
d 2-3
DI-Cover
THe SeCre
TS of
Travel & Explore aGra
Beyond
The Monum
ent Of Love
BenGaL’S
BunG
Heritage Homes aLoWS
tays Of
The Old Zamind
ars
History &
Culture
SpoTLIGHT
on
Explore India’s aHmeDaBaD
First UNESC
O
World Heritag
e City
March 26/18.ind
d 1
01/03/18
27/02/18
2:23 pm
11:31
AM
SUBSCRIBE NOW
For Free Digital Issues
WHY SUBSCRIBE?
WHATSAPP
NO. +91 9815215022
TYPE DISCOVER INDIA
AND YOUR EMAIL ID
TICK
✓ RECEIVE YOUR COPY FIRST
✓ DELIVERY AT YOUR DOORSTEP
✓ NEVER MISS AN ISSUE
PHONE
COURIER
ONLINE
DELHI/NCR 9899414369
0124 - 3083590/588
MUMBAI 022 - 26041735/36
EXPOSURE MEDIA MARKETING PVT. LTD.
PLOT NO. 378-379, SECOND FLOOR
UDYOG VIHAR, PHASE IV
GURUGRAM- 122015, HARYANA
WWW.EMMINDIA.COM
circulation@emmindia.com
subscriptionsupport@emmindia.com
TERM
NO. OF ISSUES
COVER PRICE
FREQUENCY
YOU PAY
YOU SAVE
FREE GIFT
1 Year
12-Print +1 Year’s Digital
edition (Free)
`1200
MONTHLY
`900
`300
25% Discount
3 Years
36-Print + 1 Year’s Digital
edition (Free)
`3600
MONTHLY
`2160
`1440
40% Discount
I would like to subscribe to Discover India
Name___________________________________________________ Age_____________________________________________ Sex_________________________________
JobTitle:___________________________________________________________ Company Name:___________________________________________________________
Address Office/Residence:______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
_________________________________________ City:________________________________State:_________________________Pin:_________________________________
Mobile:_________________________________Phone:____________________________________________Email:________________________________________________
Enclosed DD/Cheque No._________________________Dated_____________________Drawn On_____________________For `___________________________
In favour of Exposure Media Marketing Pvt. Limited. (For an outstation cheque please add Rs. 10/-)
TERMS & CONDITIONS This offer is valid only in India. The subscription would start with immediate effect. All disputes subject to competent courts in the jurisdiction of Delhi or Haryana only. Exposure
Media Marketing (P) Ltd. reserves the right to cancel, extend or discontinue the offer or any part thereof without giving any reason or prior notice. Exposure Media Marketing (P) Ltd. is not responsible
for any postal delay. Conditions apply.
HOIH NU H A UZEL
GUEST COLUMN
CLIMATE OF
POSSIBLE CHANGE
O
nce upon a time, not so long ago, Imphal wore a
deserted look post 5 pm. The darkening of the sky
didn’t just mean confinement, it signalled fear and
uncertainty. People rarely ventured out for fear of the
known—a sudden curfew being imposed, encounters between
armed forces and militants, among many other possibilities. As a
native, did I even know there could be life after sunset?
Life had always been simple with early dinners followed
by watching some local TV channels and then we would call
it a day. When it came to food, we had no real concept of dining
out. Perhaps the only places we indulged in were pok phoms,
makeshift shacks for finger-licking good local eats like kanghou
(fried channa), singzu (Manipuri salad
made of lotus stem, raw papaya,
among other items), bora (pakora)
freshly prepared by local women.
Years of being away from home
meant that I stayed connected
through annual trips. My last few
visits have been pertinently interesting on many fronts. The unexpected
yet much needed political change
from decades of Congress-led government to a first-time BJP-led regime
was of course a big change in itself.
This brought many visible changes
that made me reflect and realise how
much we had missed out on in life.
Life was perpetually on hold due to the many bandhs that were
called by any organisation/outfit at their whim and fancy. Sadly,
all that and more held our life to ransom. The first change that’s
immediately impacting life is a lesser frequency of bandhs and
that’s a breather for everybody.
When, late last year, I took home a friend, Radhika Singh,
from Delhi, and we drove out at night, it was my first time ever
setting out after dark. There was an unmistakable verve and
Imphal was decked up, with happy people roaming the streets
fearlessly. That was to us locals the biggest expression of free-
dom, even if for a few hours. It was reassuring, to say the least.
The chief minister had just introduced Night Plaza, a neverbefore-seen night mela where locals shopped, ate and sang long
after sunset. Freedom from curfews and the sight of gun-toting
paramilitary forces meant a great deal to us.
It also meant that I could take off anytime in the day to explore my own backyard. Lun, my cherished friend, took me on
an expedition of sorts, during my recent visit. Who would have
thought there was a hill called Cheirao Ching (Cheirao Hill), just
20 minutes from my home? An hour-long trek took us to the
top of the hill that offered a 360-degree view of Imphal in all its
grandeur. It filled me with hope for my home town.
The youth are cashing in on that
new climate of possible change. Like
Naoba Thangjam, the young promoter of the state’s only deluxe hotel
chain, who is expanding and setting
new targets. He is reviving the state’s
significant tourist spot, Loktak lake,
by opening cottages and inviting visitors from all over. With the political
climate veering towards normalcy,
the people of Manipur will have a lot
more in store for them.
There is a strong revival of the
spirit to live in the people of the
state. Their desire to keep pace with
the rest of the country is obvious. You
can see it all over. Imphal is now teeming with new cafés, stylish eateries dishing out pizzas, burgers and pastas. Every nook
and cranny of our city is dotted with cafés, and the new-found
passion of many home bakers means that we can now order neardesigner cakes for special occasions. And when a leading American travel website lists a feature on “Ten top cafés in Manipur”
you know which way the wind of change is blowing.
THERE WAS AN
UNMISTAKABLE
VERVE AND
IMPHAL WAS DECKED
UP, WITH PEOPLE
ROAMING THE
STREETS FEARLESSLY
—AN EXPRESSION
OF FREEDOM...
30
MAY 2018
Hoihnu is an independent journalist and the founder of
www.northeastodyssey.com
Anchor
SHUTTERSTOCK
G R E AT I D E A S F O R T H E T R AV E L L E R
Beyond The Famous Destinations Of Heaven On Earth
WINDOW VIEWS
A Photo Essay On The Land &
Life Of The High Mountains
UNTOUCHED BEAUTY
Off Himachal’s Beaten Paths
Is Surreal Pangi Valley
IN THE BUDDHA’S STEPS
Important Sites In India To
Trace The Buddha’s Life
SPICE CENTRAL
Smell The Spices Or Hear The
Call Of The Wild In Thekkady
Anchor
PHOTO ESSAY
Windows To
The Hills
It is often said that the eyes are the windows to the soul.
What if we were to reverse it and make the windows the eyes
through which to look at the land, landscape, life and soul of
people in some of the highest mountainous regions of India?
We take a peek through a few such windows.
Photography ASHIS GHATAK
GETTY IMAGES
LOCATION Lamayuru Monastery,
Leh District, Jammu & Kashmir
One of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh,
Lamayuru is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery that
houses around 150 monks. Here, a young monk
looks out of a window of the monastery at the
rugged landscape of the cold desert region
GETTY IMAGES
LOCATION Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
The 'land of high passes,' once at the crossroads of important trade routes, Leh is today one
of the most popular destinations for bike trips. The highest plateau in J&K, it extends from the
Himalayan to the Kunlun ranges, and includes stunning mountain ranges and peaks, one of which
you can see through this open window of a stone house
34
00
JANUARY
MAY
2018 2018
LOCATION Trekkers’ Hut, Lamuney, On the way to Goechala Pass, West Sikkim
In the high mountains, these are true saviours. While trekking at high altitude, you sometimes come across
such tiny shacks where you can rest your tired limbs, and have people like Tshering cook some very basic
but delicious grub for you. With snow falling on the other side of the window, this makeshift kitchen in a
trekkers’ hut exudes warmth, not just from the stove but from these hillmen as well
MAY 2018
35
LOCATION Karsha
Monastery, Zanskar
Valley, Jammu & Kashmir
The Zanskar Valley is one
of the coldest perennially
inhabited places in the
world. Almost the entire
population is Buddhist here.
Several monasteries dot
the landscape, the Karsha
Monastery pictured here is
one of them. A window of the
monastery forms the perfect
frame to the hauntingly
beautiful landscape of
the region
MAY 2018
37
SHUTTERSTOCK
LOCATION Glenary’s,
Darjeeling, West Bengal
A visit to this beloved hill
station remains incomplete
without sipping on a cup
of the famous Darjeeling
tea, while sitting beside the
windows of this centuryold café. The glass of the
window gets hazy as a
cloud passes by; in the next
instance, the sun peeps
through like a silver lining
(Facing page)
LOCATION Thiksey
Monastery, Leh, Ladakh,
Jammu & Kashmir
Located on a hilltop close
to Leh, Thiksey Monastery
is noted for its resemblance
to the Potala Palace in
Lhasa, Tibet. Pictured here
is a Buddhist monk in a red
robe, who sits on a bench in
the kitchen with a bowl of
soup. Behind him is a large
window, partially open,
lighting up the room
MAY 2018
39
GETTY IMAGES
40
MAY 2018
LOCATION St Paul’s Church, Landour, Uttarakhand
This Anglican church, built in 1840, was restored by the students of
Woodstock School of Landour. Now the church is open only when
the school remains open. Sunrays filtering through the casement
light up the oakwood benches and rejuvenate a casual visitor
engrossed in lazy morning browsing through the scriptures
Anchor
COVER STORY
Seven Secrets
Of Paradise
‘If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here…’ While much has been
seen and written of the more popular attractions of Kashmir, there are secrets
the Valley has kept guarded. Now it whispers them to the traveller.
Words & Photography SUGATO MUKHERJEE
Aru Valley, 12 km away from
Pahalgam, has scenic meadows
with horses grazing against a
backdrop of snow-clad peaks
MAY 2018
43
T
hink beyond Pahalgam,”
Mushtaq Ahmed tells
me. I am charting out an
itinerary for my first trip
to Kashmir and ticking off the usual
places—Sonamarg, Gulmarg and
Pahalgam. Mushtaqbhai would be my
driver and guide for all my later visits
to Kashmir. He’d lead me into the
Valley’s pristine backyards, places off
the tourist radar, and introduce me
to the hidden gems that truly make
Kashmir a ‘jannat’.
Aru Valley
So I take the small road that lazily
saunters beyond the bustling little town
of Pahalgam. It runs by a couple of
sleepy hamlets and follows the Lidder
river that dances through a gravelly basin
on our left. A verdant valley looms ahead
and we soon drive into the lush recesses
of a scenic meadow dotted with groves
of pine and deodar, horses ambling and
grazing in the enclosed paddocks and a
motley group of daytrippers basking in
the summer sun that bathes the slightly
undulating valley. We laze around in the
idyllic setting, soaking in the tranquility
around with a couple of cups of steaming
kahwa—the saffron-flavoured Kashmiri
tea—and take a short horse ride to a
nearby lake.
CHECKLIST
12 km from Pahalgam, Aru Valley is best for:
• Horse rides to the nearby lakes and meadows.
• Skiing in the winter months.
• Angling in the Lidder river for trout.
• Trekking to the Kolahai glacier.
• Photographing the diverse flora and fauna.
Yusmarg
“Yusmarg is like Gulmarg—only more
beautiful.” Mushtaq’s one-liner sounds
so impressive that I undertake the
47-km drive to the south of Srinagar
to the beautiful valley, whose name in
Kashmiri literally means ‘the Meadow
of Jesus.’ The drive is mesmerising,
passing through villages and apple
orchards. Then a bridle path leads to a
green valley hemmed by the majestic
Pir Panjal range of mountains. I decide
to stay the night at the lone JKTDC
tourist bungalow. A short horse ride is
followed by a lazy evening, marvelling
at the rolling hills and the towering pine
and fir trees all around the sprawling
meadow. Over endless cups of Kashmiri
kahwa, I listen to the legend about
the name Yusmarg. It comes from a
belief that Jesus Christ spent some
years in Kashmir after his resurrection
and had chosen these meadows for a
brief repose.
CHECKLIST
• Picnic on the banks of the Doodhganga river,
2 km away from Yusmarg.
• Tête-à-tête with nomadic Gujjars dwelling with
their herds in the meadows around Yusmarg.
• A leisurely 4-km hike to the beautiful Nilnag lake.
• Angling in the Doodhganga, with a licence from
the local Fisheries Department office.
• For the adventurous, a trek to the frozen valley of
Sang-e-Safed, 40 km from Yusmarg. One needs to
have all provisions and equipment for this 5-day
out-and-back trek.
Yusmarg, which in Kashmiri literally means 'the Meadow of Jesus,' is a green valley hemmed by the majestic Pir Panjal range of mountains;
(facing page) Kashmir has a lot to offer beyond the famous touristy destinations of Srinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam
44
MAY 2018
MARCH 2018
00
Cherry trees blossom around
Chrar-e-Sharif, which in the 1990s
was under a long seige but today
stands quiet and charming
Chrar-e-Sharif
For those growing up in the 1990s, the
mention of Chrar-e-Sharif would run a
chill down the spine! This was the town
that was under the longest siege by
separatist forces in 1995 and completely
gutted in a fierce exchange of fire
between terrorists and Indian troops.
I find the town quiet and charming,
school kids returning to their mohallahs,
back streets filled with townsmen, clad
in elegant pherans, going about their daily
46
MAY 2018
chores and the small town square abuzz
with people heading to the holy shrine of
Chrar-e-Sharif.
CHECKLIST
• Visit the shrine around prayer time to get a feel of
the vibrancy of this small town.
•
Explore the labyrinthine lanes and the familyowned workshops that have been making kangris
(charcoal-fired baskets) for generations.
•
Walk around the town in the Budgam countryside,
famous for its orchards and mustard fields.
Martand and Avantipura
The oldest example of Kashmiri
medieval architecture survives in
the sun temple of Martand and in
the ruins of Avantipura. On a wintry
morning, I was driving through the
highway in the troubled district of
Anantnag and it was snowing hard.
Through the sleet, standing tall against
a grey sky, the majestic monument of
Avantiswami temple loomed ahead.
This was the Vishnu temple built
by King Avantivarma in the ninth
century. Though partially restored,
the temple has a crumbling, derelict
feel, its former glory summarised on a
simple Archaeological Society of India
(ASI) board. But as I stepped into the
expansive courtyard, hemmed in with
four small shrines at the four corners,
it was not difficult to imagine the
architectural splendour it once was.
The Avantishwar temple in the
Avantipura temple complex was
dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is smaller,
but has an equally grand edifice built
by the king before he was crowned on
the bank of the River Jhelum, or Vatista
as it was known then. The sun temple
(Martand is a Sanskrit name for the sun)
of Anantnag is another architectural
achievement of Kashmir, which now
lies forlorn and abandoned. Built
in the eighth century by King
Lalitaditya, the temple was destroyed
by Islamic ruler Sikandar Butshikan in
the early 15th century, and it has stood
in ruins ever since.
CHECKLIST
• Observe the exquisite carvings on the
Avantiswami temple walls that include a
sculpture of King Avantivarma.
• Take in the Greek-style pillars of the Martand
ruins. They are grand reminders of an architectural
legacy that existed in the Valley.
• If possible, stay till sunset in Martand when the
shrine and the rock-cut sculptures get lit up by the
mellow rays of the setting sun.
MAY 2018
47
ALAMY
Lolab Valley is studded with the natural
beauty of a lake and fruit orchards; (facing
page) Kokernag in autumn is a must-visit,
when the red and gold leaves of chinar
trees carpet the garden grounds
Lolab Valley
The idyllic summer retreat of ‘Wadie-Lolab’ is a green valley with fruit
orchards, a lake, springs and lush rice
fields. Studded with natural beauty
and dotted with wooden houses
with tin roofs, the valley is about
100 km northwest of Srinagar in the
Kupwara sector.
My drive through the verdant
valley with freshly planted paddy had
multiple stopovers just to meet the
curious onlookers—women working in
the rice fields, children playing in the
strips of grassy pastures, old folk sitting
at the wooden entrance of their humble
homes by the wayside. The fragrance
drifting in from the fir and deodar
forest all around merged with the sweet
disposition of the valley people who
were always welcoming me with fresh
apricots and kahwa.
CHECKLIST
• Explore the mysterious, archaeologically
unexplored Kalaroos caves in the northern fringes
of Lolab Valley.
• Hike to Satburn—a rocky structure with seven
doors that lead to nowhere. According to folklore,
it was built by the Pandavas.
• The streams that snake through the valley are
ideal for fishing.
Kokernag
Most tourists pass by this lovely spot
on their way to Sinthan Top but if you
are in Kashmir in late autumn, a day
or two in the tourist lodge inside the
Kokernag garden is an absolute must!
I arrived on a Sunday and it was a
delight to find the local families, with
hefty, layered lunchboxes, enjoying
their family day out amid the chinar
leaves strewn across the garden. In the
soft breeze that was blowing in, the
chinar trees, ablaze in their autumnal
glow, shed their red-and-gold leaves as
I watched wistfully from a side of the
gurgling spring, wondering if I should
have stayed in Kokernag for a few more
days! The biggest botanical garden
of Kashmir, Kokernag is about 70 km
from Srinagar.
CHECKLIST
• The place is a birders’ paradise if you can be up
and ready by sunrise.
• The largest trout fishery in Asia is just beside
the tourist centre, where you can learn trout
breeding techniques.
• A trip to Kokernag is incomplete without tasting
trout delicacies.
• Take an early morning walk through the nooks and
crannies of the garden that has shaped up around
the winding spring, which is believed to have
healing powers.
• Drive to pristine Daksum (14 km) or to Acchabal
(17 km) in the opposite direction, for closer
glimpses of the hidden beauty of Kashmir.
MAY 2018
49
The Gurez Valley is home to the
Dards, who speak the Shina
language, which is as different from
Kashmiri as their culture and lifestyle
Gurez Valley
GETTY IMAGES
For many centuries, when trade had
flourished on the Silk Route, the valley
of Gurez was the gateway to Central
Asia. The valley and its people, in the
farthest northwest corner of Kashmir,
now live a semi-secluded existence in
the middle of nowhere. And that is why
I have found the little dale at its pristine
best, with the beautiful Kishanganga
river threading its way through the
valley floor.
This valley is home to the Dards or
Dard Shins, who belonged to a region
called Dardistan that today straddles
India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The
language is Shina, which is as different
from Kashmiri as the culture and lifestyle
from the southern and central districts
of Kashmir.
The warmth of the people is the
same, though. On my long trek from
Dawar (the headquarters of Gurez) to the
northern villages, I was overwhelmed by
the hospitality of the rural residents, who
flashed warm smiles, taking a break from
collecting firewood for the impending
winter months, and offered namkeen chai
at their homesteads, made of mud and
wood. It was late harvesting season and
the villagers were working in the potato
fields, and on a couple of occasions I was
sent along on my way by little children
with fresh charcoal-grilled potatoes.
CHECKLIST
• Travel to Gurez needs police clearance
and some other formalities at Bandipora, so
plan accordingly.
• Trek from Dawar through the villages of Gurez
and Tulail valleys, located farther north.
• If possible, stay in one of the village homes. Lack
of comfort will be more than compensated for by
warmth and hospitality.
• On a clear day, get a beautiful view of Nanga
Parbat mountain from Razdan Pass on the way to
Gurez Valley.
• Do angling in the Kishanganga river.
MAY 2018
51
Anchor
HERITAGE OASIS
SUNDER NURSERY
The Keepers Of History
Once lost to obscurity and left in ruins, Sunder Nursery with its Mughal-era
monuments has now been beautifully restored to give Delhi a new green
space and yet another must-visit for history buffs.
Words SATARUPA PAUL Photography ANISH ARJUNAN
I
t’s easy to miss the quaint lane to Sunder Nursery. The
busy Mathura Road that brings you to it winds around
a roundabout, in the centre of which stands the bluedomed Nila Gumbad or the Subz Burj tomb, at present
tarped up for restoration. One of Delhi’s most visited sites,
the magnificent Humayun’s Tomb rises imposingly beyond
it. Across the road, devotees make their way through narrow
lanes to the sacred dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. In the
shadow of it all, the petite street lined by trees and veering off
to the left from Humayun’s Tomb lies obscured by the famous
and the glorious around. Barely 300 metres down this lane
from the main road is an unpretentious sign signalling your
arrival at Sunder Nursery.
History places the origins of the area that constitutes
present-day Sunder Nursery to around the 16th century,
during the reign of the Mughals. The Nursery was originally
52
MAY 2018
known as Azim Bagh and built as a Mughal garden beside
the already established sites of the Nizamuddin Basti and
Humayun’s Tomb. Over 100 monuments dot the landscape
of the Nizamuddin-Humayun’s Tomb-Sunder Nursery area,
some dating as far back as the 14th century. The Grand Trunk
Road once ran through the Nursery, between Humayun’s
Tomb and Purana Qila. And the Azimganj Sarai, which now
falls within the premises of the Delhi Zoo at the far end of
the Nursery, was built by this ancient route, possibly to house
travellers, pilgrims, merchants, craftsmen and other wayfarers.
With the end of the Mughal era, many of the monuments
fell into neglect and ruin, as did the gardens of Sunder
Nursery. That is, until the British shifted their capital from
Calcutta to Delhi and established a nursery at this site where
plant specimens could be bred for the new capital’s avenues
and gardens—thus giving the erstwhile garden its present
(Facing page) The newly-restored Sunder
Nursery features Delhi's first arboretum,
a lake and flower gardens; (this page) six
monuments within the Nursery, including
Lakkarwala Burj, have been listed by
UNESCO as World Heritage monuments
nomenclature. Sydney Percy-Lancaster, the second of a dynasty
of three Englishmen who notably dedicated their lives to
horticulture in India, is said to have laid out the nursery at
the time. In the 1940s, the Central Public Works Department
acquired it and continued to use it for field trials of various
plant species. But much of the original gardens and monuments
of Sunder Nursery faded into the rubble of dust and obscurity
over time.
Then, a decade back, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture took
upon itself the mammoth task of restoring, renovating and
conserving Sunder Nursery, in a bid to nurse it back to its
former glory and to develop a city park with distinctive heritage,
ecological and cultural infrastructure. “This site was chosen
for such a major intervention on account of the possibility of
restoring several grand monuments, creating a city park and
improving the quality of life for a large resident population,”
says Ratish Nanda, Chief Executive of the Aga Khan Trust
for Culture, India. “The Sunder Nursery development is in
line with city parks that we at the Aga Khan Trust for Culture
have created worldwide, in cities such as Kabul, Mali, Cairo,
Edmonton, Zanzibar and Aleppo, amongst others.”
These restoration efforts were part of the larger Urban
Renewal Initiative, wherein around 50 monuments in
the Nizamuddin-Humayun’s Tomb-Sunder Nursery area
underwent painstaking conservation work. A dozen of these
were designated as World Heritage monuments by UNESCO
54
MAY 2018
as part of the extended Humayun’s Tomb World Heritage
Site. Six of these monuments—Sunderwala Burj, Sunderwala
Mahal, Lakkarwala Burj, Mirza Muzaffar Hussain’s tomb, Chota
Batashewala Mahal, and an unknown Mughal’s tomb—stand
within the Sunder Nursery. In addition, there are nine other
monuments in its premises, including an 18th century garden
pavilion, taking the tally to a sweet 15 and thus making the
recently opened park a new haunt of history buffs.
A carpet of green, as far as the eye can see, greets us as we
enter the gates of Sunder Nursery. The expanse of green is
punctuated in places by the white of the monuments and the
brown of the raised sandstone pathways that lead you deeper
into the Nursery’s many restored wonders. Prime among these
trails is the grand central vista, which runs the entire course,
from the entrance zone behind Humayun’s Tomb to Azimganj
Sarai located in the Delhi Zoo premises at the other end—thus
following the route of the old Grand Trunk Road. Walking on it
is akin to taking a walk back in time.
The masterplan for the landscape of the 90-acre Sunder
Nursery was developed by the late landscape architect, M.
Shaheer. It comprised distinct heritage, ecology and nursery
zones and ensured that the existing monuments and trees
were sensitively incorporated into the design. Mughal-inspired
gardens along the central vista feature monolithic marble
fountains and water flowing amidst geometric flower beds. The
immediate settings of the monuments have been provided with
(Facing page) The old crumbling monuments were
painstakingly restored and entire sections of lattice
work and inscriptions were carefully reproduced;
(this page) the grand central vista, marked by
sandstone pathways and water features, follows the
path of the old Grand Trunk Road
small formal gardens planted with typical Mughal flora, such as
a beautiful rose garden around the Lakkarwala Burj monument.
About 20 acres of Sunder Nursery have been retained as an
active nursery, while a specially-built facility allows the display
of a rich collection of over 400 bonsai plants. A large maidan
carpeted with grass stands dappled in the late afternoon sun;
its purpose is to serve as a picnic ground in the winter. It is
bound by a sunken, open-air amphitheatre on one side that
has been built to provide a space for cultural evenings. A small
lake stands serene near the fag end of the Nursery, with walks,
seating and pavilions along its edges. Plans are underway to
build cafés by the lakeside. Nanda adds that the building of
a 10,000-sq-metre museum is also underway. He elaborates,
“It’ll be sunken like a baoli. The currently segregated
Humayun’s Tomb and Sunder Nursery will be connected with
an underground tunnel that will allow unrestricted pedestrian
access between the two sites.”
At present, the park appears to be a calm oasis that insulates
you from the din and pace of the city outside. The future plans
sound exciting. But it wasn’t an easy task restoring the past and
arriving at its present glory. A decade of time and effort was
put in to survey, develop a masterplan and implement it in a
phased manner. The crumbling monuments were painstakingly
restored from the inside and out; in certain instances,
where they were missing, entire sections of lattice work and
inscriptions have been carefully reproduced. Hundreds of
truckloads of construction rubble were removed from the site,
irrigation and electrical infrastructure were installed, peripheral
roads were constructed, and 20 acres of nursery beds were
laid out. A whopping 20,000 saplings of 280 native species of
trees were planted, giving rise to the park as we see it today
and leading to the creation of Delhi’s first arboretum. Over 60
species of butterflies and 80 species of birds have already been
spotted here, and now that the water bodies such as the lake are
full, the arrival of more varieties of avifauna is expected.
The heritage enthusiast amongst us will be excited at the
prospect of exploring the newly restored old treasures, while
the nature lover should be dancing with joy already. But there’s
yet one more offering that Sunder Nursery has in store that
will make a day out here just that much more worthwhile—a
20-acre micro habitat zone showcasing plants of the ridge,
riverine and marshy ecosystems that were once found in Delhi
but which have somehow gone missing along the way in the
wave of development and construction. Sunder Nursery truly is
a piece of Delhi that was once lost but now stands elegant and
lovingly restored.
NAVIGATOR
GETTING THERE
Sunder Nursery is located behind the famous landmark of Humayun’s Tomb. The
nearest Metro stations are Jor Bagh on the Yellow Line and JLN Stadium on the
Violet Line. Auto-rickshaws are readily available from both stations.
MAY 2018
55
Anchor
HIMACHAL HIGH
A Valley Far Away
Still unmarked on the map, you arrive at Pangi Valley much after
you have left the well-trodden paths of Himachal behind. And
here in this scenic region awaits something untouched, something
surreal, something more.
Words & Photography JITADITYA NARZARY
The higher slopes of
Hudan Bhatori village in
Pangi Valley are used by
the locals as a grazing
ground for cattle
MAY 2018
57
GETTY IMAGES
M
any years ago, when I first started
visiting Himachal Pradesh, I bought
a tourist map of the state. The northwestern corner of the map ends exactly
where Pangi Valley begins. This is not
an exception. I have seen numerous
travel and trekking guides on Himachal that do not even
fleetingly mention Pangi, the only honourable exception being
Minakshi Chaudhry’s Exploring Pangi Himalaya: A World Beyond
Civilization. Nevertheless, this is what makes Pangi Valley one
of the last remaining corners of the Indian Himalaya yet to be
touched by the tourism boom.
For the uninitiated, this tiny region is sandwiched
between Kishtwar in J&K, and Lahaul and Chamba regions
in Himachal. Technically, it is a part of Chamba district, but
the Pir Panjals guard it from the rest of the district in such a
manner than the very act of reaching the valley feels like an
achievement. The valley is primarily fed by the Chandrabhaga
(Chenab) river and its numerous tributaries that form various
sub-valleys within the valley. The people in Pangi have their
own unique culture and language. Generally, the last village at
the end of every sub-valley is inhabited by Buddhists while the
rest are predominantly Hindus.
Sach Pass
“This is nothing. You must cross the Sach Pass and visit Pangi
someday,” said Prabhdayal, the elderly homestay owner in
Bairagarh, the last major settlement before Sach Pass.
This was the autumn of 2012. I was in Chamba with a
friend and had no clue about the region. We just took a bus to
Bairagarh on a whim. Winter was approaching fast, and it was
already too late to cross over to Pangi. We managed to visit the
pass and come back but the seeds of Pangi had been planted
firmly in my mind by then. Nevertheless, any talk about
Pangi is incomplete without mention of the 4,400-metre-high
pass, which connects it to Chamba. It is one of the most steep
and difficult roads and the topmost parts remain perennially
covered in snow even at the peak of summer. This is what has
made it popular among adventure bikers and drivers in recent
times. Although I am more interested in the fecund valleys
beyond these threatening roads, even I have had my share of
adventures at this pass. For example, once my bus broke down
at the top of the pass and I had to hitchhike in an ambulance to
escape. But that is a long story for another day.
Killar
“Killar? Is it called so because of the killer roads?” asked a
friend sarcastically when I first mentioned the place.
In the summer of 2016, I finally entered Pangi as a part of
my solo trip. I took an HRTC bus from Keylong and reached
Killar, the headquarters of Pangi and the only place in the
valley that resembles a town. There are a couple of hotels and
58
MAY 2018
GETTY IMAGES
The rocky, rustic route
from Sach Pass to Pangi
Valley offers a panoramic
vista of the Himalaya
NAVIGATOR
GETTING THERE
Killar can be reached
by either the ManaliRohtang-Keylong route
or the PathankotChamba-Sach Pass
route. HRTC buses leave
very early in the morning
from Chamba or Keylong
town. You can also
get shared taxis from
Chamba. Due to heavy
snow, the Chamba route
only opens in late June
and remains open till
early November. There
is another route towards
the north, connecting
it with Kishtwar region
of J&K, but this road
is believed to be even
more difficult.
STAY
Chandrabhaga
Homestay (`500-`800
for a double room);
Hotel Chamunda (`500`800 for a double room)
EAT
Killar has a few small
eateries serving
very basic food. The
homestay or the hotel
you choose will also
arrange for food, if
requested. There is a
government resthouse
in Hudan Bhatori but it
has to be booked from
the Chamba office. Do
not expect any other
facilities outside Killar.
60
MAY 2018
GETTY IMAGES
(Facing page) The untouched Hudan Valley brims with fast gorges and lush groves; (above) the bus route from Killar to Hudan Bhatori promises
a thrilling journey; (below) the 4,400-metre-high Sach Pass is becoming popular among mountain bikers
MAY 2018
61
The temple of a local goddess
nestled in misty Hudan Bhatori—
the last village in the Hudan Valley;
(below) a goat grazes lazily in the
pristine valley
00
APRIL 2018
a homestay here along with a few basic eateries, thus making
it the only option for tourists. On the positive side, despite the
remoteness, Pangi does have a functioning bus service. Daily
buses ply between Killar and the remote villages. Located at an
altitude of 2,600-2,700 metres, Killar lies on the edge of a deep
gorge dropping down to the Chadrabhaga; it’s a town scenic
enough to deserve a visit on its own.
Although concrete is fast replacing the old wooden
bungalows, it still tells us what Shimla probably looked like
100 years ago with floating clouds caressing the cedar groves
and sparsely populated slopes. There are many smaller streams
that criss-cross the hills around the town and eventually meet
the river. The most prominent one among them is the Mahalu
Nala that forms a formidable waterfall just on the outskirts of
the town. On a clear day, Killar offers excellent colours during
both sunrise and sunset.
Hudan Bhatori
“Why have you come here? What is there to see?” asked
Kungaramji. He was not being offensive, he was just curious.
As these areas rarely receive tourists, they don’t even realise
their own potential and what we find exhilarating is probably
banal for them. Nevertheless, he invited me inside his house
for tea (and soon upgraded his offer to local liquor as he was
out of milk). I had reached Hudan Bhatori, the last village in
Hudan Valley, after a 12-km tiresome hike, simply because I
had missed the morning bus. I was tired, and I could not even
see a small shop to buy refreshments.
So, his hospitality was a welcome respite. We started
drinking and talking about our lives. His house, though, was
pitch-dark inside with only a couple of small windows for
the light to enter. This may seem awkward in the summer,
but such constructions protect them during the harsh winter,
when the valley gets cut off from the rest of the world for
several months.
He eventually advised me to go higher up to get better
views of the valley and also visit the lake if possible. I thanked
him for his hospitality and moved on to explore the rest of the
village, which seemed to be precariously hanging onto a very
inclined slope. In fact, I struggled to find a horizontal portion
throughout the entire valley. All the houses were on the steep
inclines and they also cultivate a limited variety of crops during
the short summer on the slopes. Eventually, even these steep
inclines nosedive almost perpendicularly to meet the tiny but
powerful glacial stream.
I left the village behind and hiked farther up to reach
what looked like an uncharacteristically well-made house.
It turned out to be the PWD resthouse—another option
to stay in the valley. However, it has to be booked priorly
from Chamba. I left it behind and climbed up to a pretty
well-maintained herb garden—a plot of land that is being
maintained by the agriculture department, representing
another important facet of Pangi Valley that is rarely known.
Many rare and valuable plants grow in these valleys and
although most people don’t realise it, several big pharma
companies source their ingredients from Pangi. The slopes
higher up are used mostly as grazing grounds for cattle.
Himalayan fleece and blue poppies dominated the landscape,
although many other colourful seasonal blossoms could also
be seen. From that height, one also gets excellent views of
the village, which is populated by sundry stupas, as expected
of a Buddhist village. There was also a temple dedicated to a
goddess here. I also visited the Hudan lake, more like a small
pond, just a kilometre away from the village. While it did
not look that epic compared to the rest of the landscape, the
open space around it plays host to the Hudan Fair during the
monsoon. People from the entire valley visit the fair and it can
be a great way to experience the culture of Pangi at one spot.
Finally, I walked back to the point where the famous
“swords” of Hudan could be seen. These are basically longish
rocks, partially buried in the ground. According to local legend,
some saints with supernatural powers put them there. This is
when I saw my bus coming, negotiating the narrow roads where
the margin of error is practically non-existent.
Sural Bhatori
“Keep it. It will bring good fortune,” said the youngster while
handing me a small piece of bhojpatra.
It took me one more year to make it to Sural Valley. Due to
lack of data connectivity in the valley, it is hard to last long out
there. So, I finally returned the next summer, this time with a
couple of friends. We again set up base in Killar and one fine
morning caught the bus to Sural Bhatori. Just like Hudan, the
last village here is called Sural Bhatori.
While the landscape here is similar, this village is known for
the monastery set amidst a grove of bhojpatra (Himalayan birch/
Betula utilis) trees at the end of the village. The bark of this tree
has been used to write sacred texts for centuries and this is one
of the rare places to still witness this tradition. The monastery
itself was going through some renovation when we visited. So
we could not exactly see the famed thangkas inside. However,
the birches were all over the place, and so were the Tibetan
prayer flags overlooking the mountains. We were in a hurry to
return that day because we had taken the last bus and needed
to find a lift to return to Killar. So, we left after spending some
time in the sacred grove.
Hudan and Sural are thus two of the nearest sub-valleys
from Killar. There are other areas in the valley that are even
more remote and will require further trips to explore. I intend
to go back soon to do so but as I write, I also hope that even
when the inevitable tourism boom strikes the valley, they
manage to find a way to do it in a sustainable manner while
keeping their cultural uniqueness intact.
CHECKLIST
• Look out for a series of almost a dozen waterfalls at Satrundi while crossing
Sach Pass.
• Hike up to Mahalu Nala in Killar and witness the sunset.
• Go up to Hudan Bhatori, the last village of Hudan Valley.
• Walk up to the Hudan lake and attend the Hudan Fair if you can time it right
during the monsoon.
• Visit the monastery and collect bhojpatra bark at Sural Bhatori.
MAY 2018
63
Anchor
BUDDHIST CIRCUIT
There are many young monks at
the famous Hemis Monastery in
Ladakh which has the majestic
Himalaya in the backdrop
ZEN
THE LIFE & TIMES OF THE BUDDHA
April and May are important months for Buddhists as this is
when Buddha Poornima and Vesak or Buddha Day are celebrated.
Here is a look at some of the most important sites in India
where the Buddha lived 2,500-plus years ago as well as those that
have come into prominence after his life.
Words BINDU GOPAL RAO
MAY 2018
65
The Life Of The Buddha
Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini, located near the
Nepal-India border, in a royal family in 556 BCE. After a
sheltered upbringing, Siddhartha (as he was then called)
accidentally discovered illness and death, which convinced
him to give up worldly pleasures. After the Buddha began
meditating, the Buddha attained enlightenment when he was
29 under a Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya in Bihar. Said to be one of
the holiest pilgrimage sites, Bodh Gaya is home to the Maha
Bodhi Temple or Vishal Buddha Mandir that has a mammoth
statue of the Buddha in deep meditation.
Emperor Ashoka built the first temple near the Bodhi
tree in the third century BC. In fact, this is the place
where Siddhartha—the restless, became the Buddha—the
enlightened. Located about 100 km away from Bihar’s
capital, Patna, Bodh Gaya has several monasteries built by
foreign Buddhist centres and the Bodhi or peepal tree on a
big platform is believed to be an off-shoot of the actual tree
under which Buddha attained enlightenment. The Bodhi
66
MAY 2018
Sarovar here is believed to be the pond where the Buddha
bathed before he began meditating. It is also said that the
Durgeshwari Cave Temples located about 12 km away is the
place where the Buddha meditated for a long time during
this period. The Chaukramama or the Jewel Walk here is the
place where the Buddha used to walk. The Barabar Caves, a
collection of four caves, Karan Chaupar, Lomas Rishi, Sudama
and Visva Zopri, are the oldest rock-cut caves in India dating
to the third century BC, 24 km from Bodh Gaya and with
inscriptions and elaborate sculptures.
Sarnath, about 12 km from Varanasi, is another important
site in the Buddha’s life as this is the place where he gave
his first sermon to five disciples. Taking centrestage here is
the magnificent stupa built by Emperor Ashoka in the third
century BC. The Chaukhandi Stupa was also constructed
during Ashoka’s reign and there is the Dhamek Stupa, a
conical structure where the Buddha delivered his Four Noble
Truths. Mulagandha Kuti Vihar and Sarnath Museum are
other must-see attractions here. In fact, when you walk along
(Facing page) Shravasti, a revered Buddhist site in Uttar Pradesh, has many ancient stupas and temples, including the Thai Temple;
Ramabhar Stupa at Kushinagar is said to be the place where the Buddha was cremated
the ruins of Sarnath, it will surely take you back to another
era. Nalanda and Rajgir are home to an ancient renowned
monastic university and also believed to be the place where
the Buddha preached. This is the location where the Buddha’s
chief disciples, Sariputra (known for his great intelligence)
and Maudgalyayana (known for his power of miracles) were
converted to Buddhism.
Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh is where the Buddha lived
for the longest period of time and preached for close to
24 years. It has several ancient stupas and temples and the
major Buddhist attraction here is Sahet where the Buddha is
believed to have stayed. Shravasti is a revered site because
it is believed to be the place where the Buddha performed
several miracles. Sankasia, located 47 km from Farrukhabad,
in Uttar Pradesh is the place where the Buddha descended
from Tushita Heaven. It is believed that when the Buddha
was 41, he went to Tushita Heaven to teach dharma to his
mother and to date, this is the only Buddhist pilgrimage site
where there are no temples or monasteries but you can still
see the ruins. The other important site is at Kushinagar, the
place where the Buddha attained parinirvana or the highest
stage of salvation. The Parinirvana Stupa here has a little
over six-metre-long, monolith red sandstone reclining statue
of the Buddha that represents the dying the Buddha and the
Ramabhar Stupa here is said to be the place where Buddha
was cremated.
After The Buddha
After the life and times of the Buddha (he lived till he was
80), Buddhism spread throughout the country. Many of his
relics have been unearthed by the Archaeological Survey of
India (ASI) across the country and monasteries propagating his
teachings have also been built. These sites are spread across
Andhra Pradesh, the Northeast, Maharashtra, Jammu and
Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.
The rock-cut temples that have been carved into the cliff
at Ajanta near Aurangabad in Maharashtra are a UNESCO
World Heritage Site. Said to have been built between the
MAY 2018
67
second and sixth centuries BC, the paintings and sculptures
are an ode to Buddhism. At Ellora, 100 km from Ajanta,
the first 12 caves are Buddhist caves, and have living and
sleeping rooms, kitchens and other rooms, many of which
have statues of the Buddha. Caves 11 and 12 here are the
Mahayana monastery caves belonging to the Vajrayana School
of Buddhism.
Other notable Buddhist sites in Maharashtra are the
Aurangabad Caves, the Bedse Caves near Pune, the Bhaja
Caves near Lonavala, the Pitalkhora Caves near the Satamala
hills of the Western Ghats, the Ghorawadi or Ghorawdeshwar
Caves near Pune, the Jogeshwari Caves off the Western
Express Highway, the Kanheri Caves within the Sanjay
Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, the Karla Caves near
Lonavala, the Mahakali Caves in Andheri, Mumbai, and
the Pandavleni Caves near Nashik, an example of Hinayana
Buddhist architecture.
In Andhra Pradesh, there are several Buddhist monuments
around Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam. Amaravati is home
to the Great Buddhist Stupa, one of the largest in India, and
has Buddhist settlement relics. About 99 low mounds with
remnants of Buddhist stupas can be seen at Gudiwada near
Vijayawada and Chandavaram in Guntur district is also an
ancient Buddhist heritage site. Bhattiprolu in Guntur district
is known for its ancient stupa.
Ghantasala town in Krishna district has Buddhist monastic
establishments and Adurru near Ghantasala is home to a
mahastupa. Near Visakhapatnam, Sankaram has ancient
relics of rock stupas and Bojjannakonda has rock carvings
on the façade of the caves. Another Buddhist heritage site,
Bavikonda Hill, has seen excavations that have unearthed
structures which show that the Hinayana, Mahayana and
Vajrayana branches of Buddhism flourished here.
Bojjannakonda near Visakhapatnam is a 2,000-year-old
Buddhist site that has a rock-cut Buddha statue. Located
on the top of Mangamaripeta Hill, Thotlakonda nearby
has a Hinayana monastery, a mahastupa, votive stupas,
Brahmi inscriptions, sculpted panels and a serene statue
(This page) The bell-shaped mahastupa at Udayagiri in Odisha represents the Vajrayana sect of Buddhism; (facing page) the 2,000-year-old site of
Bojjannakonda in Andhra Pradesh features a rock-cut Buddha statue; Ajanta in Maharashtra, with 12 Buddhist caves, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
68
MAY 2018
of the Buddha in a meditative pose. Buddhist excavations
at Salihundam near Srikakulam have revealed a large
number of Buddhist stupas and a huge monastery complex.
Nagarjunakonda, also known as Sriparvata, is a restored
Buddhist site 145 km from Guntur and is home to a stunning
monolithic statue of the Buddha.
Odisha, which was part of Kalinga when Emperor Ashoka
decided to convert to Buddhism, has the Shanti Stupa at
Dhauli Hills, a testament to this important decision of the
great king. Incidentally, the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya
says that the Buddha’s first disciples, Tapusa and Bhallika,
were from Ukkala, Kalinga.
The Padmasambhava Mahavihara monastery at
Chandragiri is home to the largest Buddhist monastery in
South Asia. Ratnagiri, located 100 km from Bhubaneswar, has
unearthed Buddhist shrines, votive stupas, large monasteries
and a big stupa, and also has an ASI museum. Udayagiri has
a bell-shaped stupa, an indication that the Vajrayana sect of
Buddhism was followed here. About 12 km from Ratnagiri,
Lalitgiri has one of the earliest Buddhist complexes from
the first century and has a huge brick monastery and the
excavated images show various forms of Buddhist art. Odisha
also has a prominent Buddhist seat of learning at Langudi hill
where the ruins of a brick stupa and monastery still exist.
Buddhism in Himachal Pradesh is centred at McLeodganj,
Dharamsala, which has earned the sobriquet ‘Little Lhasa’
due to the large population of Tibetans and the monastery
here is the Dalai Lama's home in India. The Tabo Monastery
in Tabo village of Spiti Valley also has a monastery dating back
to the 10th century. The Key Monastery in Lahaul, the Guru
Ghantal Monastery in Lahaul, the Dhankar Monastery 25 km
from Kaza in Spiti, the Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala
and the Kardang Gompa in Kardang village in Lahaul are
other places of Buddhist significance.
Buddhism's influence is also seen in the Ladakh
region of Jammu & Kashmir and the stunningly beautiful
monasteries here are Shey, Hemis, Spituk, Alchi, Phyang,
Thikse, Diskit, Lamayuru, and Rangdum. Incidentally,
(Facing page) Monks can be seen performing the traditional mask dance at the annual Hemis Festival held every June; (this page) the wheel seen here is
the most common symbol of prayer in Buddhism
Ladakh is influenced by Tibetan Buddhism that follows the
Mahayana and Vajrayana schools and the Central Institute of
Buddhist Studies in Ladakh is the premier institute to study
Buddhism in Ladakh.
The Hemis Monastery in Ladakh is known for the copper
statue of the Buddha and has sacred thangkas, gold and silver
stupas, murals and many artefacts. The annual Hemis Festival
in honour of Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche who was
instrumental in taking Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet in the
eighth century is held here in early June.
In northeast India, the Rumtek Buddhist Monastery is the
largest one in Sikkim and the monks here follow the Karma
Kagyu lineage. Sikkim is a popular Buddhist destination and
has close to 200 monasteries that belong to the Nyingma
and Kagyu order. Among the popular monasteries here are
Pemayangtse, Sanga Chelling Enchey, Labrang, Tashiding,
Phensang, Phodang, Pal Zurmang Kagyud, Tsuk-La-Khang,
Ralong and Dubdi. The Tawang Monastery in Arunachal
Pradesh, the largest monastery in India, built in the 17th
century, is also called Galden Namgey Lhatse which translates
to ‘celestial paradise on a clear night.’ The Buddha Temple
at Polo Ground in Shillong is also among the oldest Buddha
shrines here.
Buddhism Now
In a bid to promote Buddhism and the sites associated with
the Buddha, the tourism ministry is in talks with the Japanese
government as well as the World Bank to develop and promote
the Buddhist Circuit and trails in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat
and Madhya Pradesh. Incidentally, the Buddhist Circuit
is a key pilgrimage destination for 450 million practising
Buddhists and the ministry will also move towards promoting
other Buddhist sites in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra
Pradesh. The Indian Railways also has a special tourist train,
the Mahaparinirvan Express, that takes passengers through
the Buddhist pilgrimage sites of Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda,
Varanasi, Sarnath, Lumbini, Kushinagar and Sravasti in an 8
Nights/9 Days tour that starts at Delhi. So, if you want to heed
the call of the Buddha, simply hop on to the train and trace the
path the Buddha did 2,500 years ago.
MAY 2018
71
72
MAY 2018
An ancient structure, the Sanchi
Stupa in Madhya Pradesh is
a marvel of Buddhist art and
architecture and dates back to
the early Mauryan period
Buddhist Stupas
There are several Buddhist stupas
in India, which are hemispherical
structures that are places of
meditation and house Buddhist relics:
• Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
• Dhamekh Stupa, Sarnath
• Chaukhandi Stupa, Sarnath
• Amaravati Stupa, Andhra Pradesh
• Shanti Stupa, Leh
Photography ALAMY, GETTY IMAGES and SHUTTERSTOCK
The Buddhist Calendar
The Buddhist calendar has many
important dates that mainly mark the
monthly full moon or Poornima.
• The Buddhist New Year is
celebrated from the first full moon
day in April for three days.
• Vesak or Buddha Day celebrates
the birth, enlightenment and death
of the Buddha and is usually on
the full moon day in May.
• Magha Puja Day happens on
the full moon day of March and
commemorates an important event
that occurred early in the Buddha's
teaching life when four of his chief
disciples assembled to meet him.
• The Asalha Puja Day or Dhamma
Day, on the full moon day in July,
marks the Buddha's first teaching.
• Uposatha or Observance Day
happens four times a month on the
new moon, full moon and quarter
moon days.
• Abhidhamma Day marks the day
when the Buddha went to Tushita
Heaven and is celebrated on the
full moon day in October.
Upcoming Buddhist
Holidays
• May 29, 2018–Vesak–Buddha Day
• July 13, 2018–Obon
• July 27, 2018–Asala–Dharma Day
• Dec 8, 2018–Bodhi Day
MAY 2018
73
Anchor
SOUTHERN SPLENDOUR
A guided hike through the
trails or a boat safari on the
Periyar lake—you can choose
your method of sighting the
wilds at Periyar Tiger Reserve
Spice & Something Nice
The name of Thekkady in Kerala is literally derived from nature—from
the word thekku (teak), and it lives up to its reputation. Whether it’s the
call of the wild, the sight of the plantations, or the smell of spices—
expect a sense of pure bliss to be engendered in each of your senses.
Words GAYATRI MOODLIAR
MAY 2018
75
I
t’s funny to think about how a cardamom seed or a
peppercorn has had a deep impact on the course of
world history and that trajectory was flagged off right
here in Kerala, a place where everyone is a veteran of
the spices that seem to grow endlessly and where the
fragrances of the spices battle and beg to be the first
to envelop you as you enter the region.
And nowhere is this fight more fragrant than in Thekkady,
a quiet town that lives and breathes according to the
harvesting schedule, but where cardamom truly earns its
title of ‘Queen of Spices.’ But before these spices began to
struggle against each other, battles between more corporeal
bodies were fought.
A tale of many spices
It started a little more than 500 years ago when a relatively
well-known figure in Indian history, Vasco da Gama, navigated
past the Cape of Good Hope and landed on Kerala’s coastline.
His arrival and success in reaching the Indian subcontinent
led to a sequence of historic events that opened India to the
Western world. But the quest for these spices witnessed a
flavourful history even before the advent of the West, as it
is believed that Kerala had trade contacts with the outside
world as far back as 3000 BCE, starting with the Babylonians.
Today, Kerala’s ‘sugar, spice, and everything nice’ can be
found sitting innocently in cupboards and on windowsills,
understandably oblivious to the role they unwittingly played.
From the moment I entered Thekkady, I knew my first
stop had to be at a plantation. Looking at the way they
completely took over the hills, it almost seemed rude to even
think about starting elsewhere, and so I ended up at the
Green Land Spice Garden Plantation, a convenient fiveminute drive from where I was staying. From picking what’s
ripe, to peeling, to drying—each leaf, bud, bark, and root is
tirelessly cared for by the plantation workers; it’s what justifies
the sometimes exorbitant prices, Anu, my guide at the
plantation, informed me as she gently pushed me towards the
bark of a tree of the Cinnamomum genus in order to smell it.
We moved past the freshly harvested peppercorn and clove
plants, pausing occasionally to smell and sample the spices
that launched a thousand ships, to finally reach the sea of
cardamom. Suddenly, they flanked the lanes we were going
The aroma of fresh peppercorn, cloves, cardamom and many more spices linger in the air throughout Thekkady. Everything, from picking what’s ripe, to
peeling and drying, is tirelessly taken care of by the plantation workers
76
MAY 2018
Kalaripayattu is believed
to be one of the oldest
forms of martial arts in
the world
CHECKLIST
• Stroll through the
plantations and purchase
some spices from their on-site
shops to take back with you.
• Visit a tea factory such as
the Connemara Tea Factory,
which takes its visitors on a
guided tour through the tea
gardens and then walks them
through the various processes
involved in producing the
end result. Learn to brew the
perfect cup of tea while here.
• Go on a bamboo-raft ride
on the Periyar lake.
• Embark on a guided
trek through the Periyar
Wildlife Sanctuary.
• Visit the neighbouring
town of Kumily, known as
the gateway to Thekkady, for
bustling spice markets and
more plantations.
• Indulge in a traditional
Kerala Sadhya meal.
• Watch a breathtaking
Kathakali performance at the
Navarasa Kathakali Centre.
MAY 2018
79
Periyar Tiger Reserve is
known for sightings of
elephants, Indian bison and
a number of bird species
through, rising up high above us and swaying with the wind.
It’s strange to feel so small while next to something used as
a powder. I was told that the plants had been harvested the
previous day, but the smell still lingered from the fresh cuts,
and I left the plantation with a whole new appreciation for
elaichi chai.
Photography ALAMY and SHUTTERSTOCK
Somersaulting into the past
My next tryst with Thekkady came as a welcome shock in
the form of Kalaripayattu. Here’s the scene—one individual is
armed with a sharp knife while the other has a strip of cloth.
You’re not alone in guessing the former will emerge victorious,
but what if there were a way for cloth to pierce metal? After
driving past valleys of neat tea gardens (Munnar gets most of
the hype regarding tea, but Thekkady can stand its ground as
well), I entered the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre. I followed
the massive crowd to a raised gallery that overlooked a
rectangular pit, the walls of which were lined with swords
and sticks of all sizes. Five young men entered the arena and
before I knew it, they were literally somersaulting through the
air, bending their bodies at will. As though we had rehearsed it
before, all of us in the audience moved forward in one breath
in order to literally sit on the edge of our seats. Kalaripayattu
is believed to be one of the oldest forms of martial arts; in fact,
some even claim it is the mother of the form. It takes years
to master the required coordination between one’s mind and
body, making it imperative for training to start at a young age,
but when done right it looks as easy and fluid as walking—
which is exactly how it was here. After seeing various battle
techniques, such as empty hand combat to the usage of
weaponry that included sticks of all sizes and urumi (a flexible
sword), I thought I had seen it all, until the smell of kerosene
filled the air. A mattress had been laid on the ground and two
of the performers were holding a ring that had been set on fire,
while a third began to run towards it. He leaped through the
ring to the beat of thunderous applause, but then, as though
one fiery ring wasn’t enough of a challenge, a second appeared
at a 90-degree angle to the first. Needless to say, he was in
and out of both in a heartbeat, unscathed but wholly aware of
the gasps and cheers of the awestruck spectators. After this
glimpse into the martial art that was banned by the British, I
left the Centre craving a respite—as though I had been the
one putting on a raw display of agility—and completely ready
to be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the wild.
Walk on the wild side
The sounds of the wilderness may have helped me fall asleep,
but the next day the anticipated foray into it made me jump
out of bed before the bright Thekkady sunlight could filter
through the windows. It was the day I’d be fawning over the
fauna at the Periyar Tiger Reserve—one of India’s 27 tiger
reserves and one of the few places where I had a fighting
chance to spot this elusive wild cat. The sanctuary also offers
various ways to try and seek the animals out; you could
embark on a guided hike through the trails, or you could take
a chance on a boat safari like I did, where you cruise along
the Periyar lake and hope that the animals will come out to
quench their thirst. I was told that the usual sightings are
elephants on their way to take a shower and Indian bison
gracefully coming out of their canopied home, but the sights
on my route were mainly of tortoises and boars. We did,
however, go past the Lake Palace, the King of Travancore’s
erstwhile summer palace, which is perched on an island in
the middle of the reserve and is now managed by the Kerala
Tourism Development Corporation. Even though I didn’t see
a tiger, the windy journey of the boat moving lazily through
the sanctuary like a tiger stalking its prey is truly a joy in its
own right.
They say you have to make your own luck and after
my visit to the sanctuary I was adamant on seeing the
elephants that Thekkady is so well known for, which
is what led me to Elephant Junction—a destination for
farm tourism and a 20-minute drive from the resort. An
elephant walking in front of a sign saying ‘SELFIE WITH
ELEPHANTS IS NOT ALLOWED’ assured me that I
had come to the right place, and so I gleefully entered. The
farm has five female elephants, each trained to respond to
Malayalam instructions given by the mahout. Once inside,
there is a range of activities to choose from—elephant rides,
elephant showers (where the elephant bathes you as it bathes
itself), and feeding and bathing the elephant. I chose to share
a meal with Lakshmi (the youngest elephant at the farm)
and ended up drenched due to her antics. I was told that
all the elephants were rescued from various places and it’s
not tough to see the bond between these gentle giants and
their caretakers. Legend has it that elephants never forget;
I guess I’ll come back in a few years and see if Lakshmi still
bullies me.
NAVIGATOR
GETTING THERE
By Air Kochi International Airport (190 kilometres away) and Madurai Airport (136 kilometres
away) are the nearest to Thekkady, which is then a five-hour cab ride away.
By Bus Buses regularly ply to the Kumily bus stand.
By Road Thekkady is a scenic five-hour drive from Kochi.
By Rail The nearest railhead is in Kottayam, 114 kilometres away. It is well-connected to
major cities in India.
MAY 2018
81
BASE YOUR THEKKADY EXPERIENCE AT THE NIRAAMAYA RETREATS
T
he resorts in Thekkady have it
easy; the view from every angle
is something different to marvel at and
there is always a note of spice in the
air. But some of them utilise the canvas
they’ve been given in such a way that
you have to stop and gasp at Thekkady
all over again. The Niraamaya Retreats
Cardamom Club, a private boutique
property spread over eight acres of
sprawling cardamom plantations, is one
such resort that takes your breath away.
It combines a luxury stay experience
with a wholesome selection of wellness
programmes; each designed to
rejuvenate your mind and body.
The attention to detail comes
through from the moment they warmly
greet you with a tikka on your forehead
and offer you a welcome drink, served
from the freshest produce. They apply
the same logic to their dining menu
82
MAY 2018
and have no buffet option in order to
make sure that each guest always gets an
individually handcrafted meal. Their allday restaurant, Café Samsara, specialises
in the traditional cuisine of Kerala that
includes perfectly cooked red rice and
Malabar parantha with a bowl of prawn
curry, all cooked by chefs from the
local area. The restaurant overlooks
the infinity pool, which is conveniently
next to the Niraamaya Spa, where you
can choose between multiple therapies
like the traditional Ayurvedic ones that
Kerala boasts of as well as international
ones. Entire stays can be curated so as to
make the most of the spa.
I was staying in one of their 13 luxury
cottages, each strategically located
so as to provide a vantage point from
where you can take in the scenery. The
resort divides its cottages according to
what view they offer—the splendid
Western ghats view or the view of the
expertly manicured gardens. And don’t
expect these cottages to have room
numbers. Here, the names are drawn
from the obvious inspiration—spices.
A steep lantern-lit climb led me to my
temporary home, offering me regular
practice for the roads of Thekkady; but
the short trek is well worth it because
each cottage has so much surrounding
space that you’ll imagine yours to be
the only one there. Each of the 13
cottages comes with a private deck and
the hammocks allow the breeze to sway
you to sleep.
NAVIGATOR
Address Niraamaya Retreats Cardamom Club–Thekkady,
Spring Valley, Thekkady, Kerala—685509.
Reservations reservations@niraamaya.in; 8045104510
Website www.niraamaya.in/thekkady
Tariff Starts from `8,000 (plus taxes).
Spotlight
SHUTTERSTOCK
K O L K ATA
The Many Shades & Moods Of India’s Cultural Capital
DAYS OF THE RAJ
The Beginning Of The
Former British Capital
CITY OF PALACES
Aristocratic Residences Were
The Pride Of The Metropolis
DURGA PUJA
The City Is Vibrant & Colourful
During The Annual Festival
CULINARY CLASSICS
Eclectic, Rich & Divine,
Kolkata Is A Foodie Paradise
Spotlight
The City of Joy
84
MAY 2018
Kolkata is a daily celebration of life—simultaneously aristocratic and grubby,
cultured and grimy—with the trails of its splendid decay enveloped within
its modernist ambience. The 330-year-old metropolis is considered India’s
intellectual, artistic and cultural capital.
Words SUGATO MUKHERJEE
Relive the Kolkata charm as
you soak in the splendour
of the setting sun while
drifting on the Hooghly river
The Beginning
The birth of Calcutta (as Kolkata was known for eons before
getting rechristened in the late 1990s) was entirely due to the
dogged determination of an administrator of the British East
India Company—Job Charnock. He persuaded the reluctant
council that Sutanuti (one of the three villages that constituted
Calcutta in the last years of the 17th century, along with
Gobindapur and Kalkatta) on the banks of the Hooghly was the
ideal place to establish the headquarters in Bengal, because of
its naturally fortified location protected by the Hooghly river
to the west, a creek to the north and salt lakes to the east. The
river, close to its confluence with the Bay of Bengal, also offered
deep-water anchorage for the British fleet. Thus, on August 24,
1690, a city was born; to steadily flourish over the years; to be
known as the city of cities; and eventually become the capital of
British India in 1772.
A City Of Palaces
Richard Wellesley, the Governor-General over 1797–1805, was
largely responsible for the development of the city
and its public architecture, which led to the description
of Kolkata as the ‘City of Palaces,’ dotted with majestic
architectural monuments and sprawling palatial mansions
belonging to wealthy Englishmen and native merchants.
Kolkata still boasts of a cityscape adorned with an eclectic
architectural fusion of Gothic, Baroque, Roman, Oriental and
Indo-Islamic motifs. Most of these 18th and 19th century
mansions are located in the wonderfully chaotic North Kolkata
86
MAY 2018
neighbourhoods, where hand-drawn rickshaws jostle with
brightly painted yellow taxis to negotiate the labyrinthine
network of narrow lanes. This was the playground of Kolkata’s
urban rajas with their extravagant lifestyles and the grand
mansions bear brilliant testimony of the rivalries between the
families to outsmart one another.
One of the finest examples is the Marble Palace. The
grand white facade, built in European classical style and closely
resembling London’s Burlington House, looms suddenly out
of a dingy lane and the ornate gates, flanked by guards with
long spears, seem incongruous amid the whirlwind of chaos
around. The majestic mansion sports more than 90 varieties
of imported marble (hence the name). The expansive gardens
with ornamental stone seats, marble statuettes and fountains are
Baroque in style. The colonnaded verandahs and the cavernous
rooms house Venetian mirrors, Bohemian goblets, Dresden
figurines and French ormolu clocks. The star of the huge
collection of paintings is a Rubens.
A stone’s throw away is the Jorasanko Thakur Bari—the
home of the Tagores. A fountainhead of artistic inspiration, this
house produced creative thinkers who were leading lights in the
Bengal Renaissance of the 19th century. The most famous scion
of the family was, of course, Rabindranath Tagore, Asia’s first
Nobel laureate. Compared to other grand houses of Kolkata, the
Tagore house is not architecturally unique but the rich cultural
legacy of the family who lived there sets it apart.
There are many more heritage houses tucked deep into the
folds of the crowded bylanes of North Kolkata like the majestic
RITAYAN MUKHERJEE
(Facing page) Kolkata's trams
have been running through the
busy streets of the city since 1902;
Kumaratuli, in north Kolkata, along
the Hooghly river, is home to the
city's famed clay idolmakers
homes of the Laha family, the Duttas of Thanthania and
Hatkhola, or the Shovabazar Rajbari. The ornate archways lead
to huge courtyards hemmed in with latticed balconies and the
plush interiors tell a nuanced tale of a bygone era where Mughal
motifs blended seamlessly with painted English glass, Venetian
crystal chandeliers and French doors.
The Clay District
If you are visiting the city during the months of August and
September, a walk through the maze of alleys that runs off
the Chitpore Road is a must. A legion of clay effigies of
deities and demons is in various stages of completion in the
numerous sculptor workshops in this fascinating district,
notably along Banamali Sarkar Street, the lane running west
from Chitpore Road. This is Kumartuli, where idolmakers for
Kolkata’s legendary Durga Puja live and work. In the small,
dingy studios littered with cardboards, strips of cloth, bottles
of glue and paint boxes, with stacks of straw neatly piled in
the corners, craftsmen are busiest from August to October,
creating straw frameworks, adding multiple coats of clay, and
finally painting godly features on idols for the Durga and Kali
pujas in late autumn. Photography is widely permitted, and it
is even possible to sit in a workshop and observe the craftsmen
engrossed in their work. Apart from gods and vanquished
demons, you will often see statues of Victorian marionettes
and sculptures of eminent historical personalities getting
meticulously fashioned as life-size figures, as these are often
used to embellish the puja pandals.
Hooghly Riverfront
An evening by the Hooghly river is the favourite unwinding
spot for the Calcuttan, especially on weekends. A leisurely
stroll along the leafy promenade offers stunning vistas of the
wide expanse of the river with its landmark bridges and a
myriad country boats and ferries plodding through its grey,
placid waters. Of the string of atmospheric ghats along the river
banks, the majestic Prinsep Ghat with its colonnaded porch,
surrounded by greenery and overlooked by the Vidyasagar Setu
(bridge) remains the favourite recreational spot.
Durga Puja
Come October and the entire city of Kolkata becomes a magical
celebration, an exuberance of spirit. From humble homesteads
to plush condominiums to working class neighbourhoods,
everyone gears up to welcome Ma Durga in their own way.
Durga Puja in Kolkata is a religious festival, and much more.
The metropolis transforms itself into an open-air art gallery
dotted with impossibly artistic pandals (temporary structures
that house Ma Durga and her children during the five days of
the puja) cast with canvas, clothes and bamboo. The interiors
are often decked up in art-deco style and pandal-hopping is the
best way to soak in the artistic spirit during these five days.
At the other end of the spectrum, far removed from the
sheen and vibrance of the neighbourhood festivals, the
aristocratic households (or ‘Bonedi Bari’ as they are called in
Bengali) still preserve the orthodox ways of worship, starting
from iconography to offerings in the expansive ‘thakur dalan’ or
MAY 2018
87
Gala processions are taken through the city of
Kolkata as it gets a grand makeover during Durga
Puja; (facing page) the iconic Indian Coffee House
has been on the must-visit list of many famous
visitors to the city for 70 years
‘Durga dalan’ (corridor of worship). In the 150-odd bonedi baris
of Kolkata, Durga Puja heralds an annual reunion of friends
and family and quite a few of them welcome curious visitors
to have a glimpse of the traditional rituals and festivities of
their centuries-old puja.
The crescendo of the carnival spirit reaches its climax
on the final day of Durga Puja—Bijaya Dashami—with gala
processions heading towards the Ganga for the immersion
of the idols in her holy waters. It is a fervent culmination of
the festive spirit preceded by a beautiful ritual when women
smear red vermilion powder on the face of Ma Durga with a
whispered farewell and a prayer for the return of the goddess
the next year.
It is said that if you cannot find a book title on College
Street, it probably never existed! Rare books are often sold at
throwaway prices but bargaining skills come in handy on this
stretch of noisy street for bibliophiles.
And the iconic Indian Coffee House stands on a dusty
side street brewing a cauldron of creative energy for more
than 70 years, during which it has remained on the itinerary
of every visitor. From a young, beatnik Allen Ginsberg who,
in the summer of 1962, spent most of his afternoons here
hollering with Jack Kerouac and a firebrand group of city
poets to Gunter Grass, who was a regular during his fivemonth sojourn in the 1980s—this place with its unpretentious
high ceilings and mildewed walls has seen it all.
College Street
Victoria Memorial & Maidan
If you take the underground Metro, get off at Mahatma
Gandhi Road station, walk down the busy street for about
five minutes and turn left—you are in historic College
Street—India’s largest books market. It has an endearing
nickname, Boi Para—“The Book Town.”
Along the uninterrupted corridor of used book stalls
lie some of the oldest and finest of Kolkata’s (and India’s)
academic institutions—the University of Calcutta, Sanskrit
College, Presidency College, Calcutta Medical College, to
name a few. Dating from the early years of the 19th century,
these institutions turned the mile-long stretch of road into a
veritable sanctuary for the city’s cognoscenti.
The avenue, bisected by a lazy tramway, is dotted
with hundreds of bookstores, some belonging to reputed
publishing houses and others dealing in used books from tiny
makeshift stalls made from metal sheets or even propped up
with bamboo poles and canvas.
The domed edifice, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s
death in 1901 (though the construction was completed in
1921) is a huge, beautifully proportioned monument of white
marble. Flanking the southern tip of the Maidan, Victoria
Memorial is undoubtedly one of India’s finest structures.
From across the manicured gardens and adjacent water
bodies, in which the reflections of the monument lie clear
in the soft morning light, the grand edifice looks stunning.
The towering central chamber and the galleries inside trace
the city’s colonial past in a vast collection. The 45-minute
son-et-lumiere show is worth the money for history enthusiasts.
In recent years, the Kolkata Lit Meet is an annual winter
feature against the spectacular backdrop of Victoria Memorial.
A sweeping stretch of green in the midst of Kolkata’s
concrete matrix, the Maidan is often referred to as the city’s
lungs, which the residents utilise for morning walks, cricket
and football matches, horse-carriage rides, family day-outs,
MAY 2018
89
and rendezvous with the beloved, not necessarily in that
order! A tram line lazily plods through the grasslands and
the slow ride is best enjoyed on winter mornings with horses
and cattle ambling about in the thin layer of mist hovering
over the verdant tract. The three-km-long park was created
in 1758 so that the cannons of Fort William, the walled army
base, could have a clear line of fire.
BBD Bagh
The city retains the grand relics of Dalhousie Square,
long renamed BBD Bagh after three young Bengal
revolutionaries who, on a wintry December morning in 1930,
committed the daring act of entering Writers’ Building and
murdering the Inspector General of the British Indian Police,
known for his brutal oppression of political prisoners.
Built around the large water body called Lal Dighi (Red
Lake), the area that was the seat of British governance of
their Indian Empire from the brick red Writers’ Building
still has majestic Raj-era edifices like the Currency
Building, the GPO (General Post Office), Royal
Insurance Building and Central Telegraph Office. The
square is best explored on Sunday mornings when the noisy
and chaotic business district takes its weekly off.
South Kolkata
Before the ubiquitous Metro lines were introduced, the
south and north of Kolkata had a deep and sharp social
and cultural divide. The vibe is more urbane in the quiet
neighbourhoods of Bhowanipore and Rashbehari and on
the leafy stretch of Southern Avenue dotted with artsy
90
MAY 2018
teahouses, cultural centres and boutiques. If one of the high
points of the southern zone of Kolkata is Rabindra Sarovar
—the large lake hemmed in with forested parks that house
swimming and rowing clubs, yoga and music sessions and
morning walkers briskly striding down the paved pathway—
the other is the Nandan-Rabindra Sadan-Academy complex
where people congregate for film and theatre shows and art
exhibitions. The celebrated Kolkata Film Festival is held
every November here amid much flourish and fanfare.
The Shrines
In its not-so-long history, Kolkata has always been a
religious melting pot. One of the most sacred shrines
is the Kalighat Temple, one of the 51 shakti peethas. The
Belur Math, on the northern fringes of the city was founded
by Swami Vivekananda and is a wonderful architectural
fusion with Hindu, Islamic and Christian motifs, signifying
religious unity. The Pareswanath Temple, an impressive
structure with its mirror-inlaid pillars and stained glass
windows, is one of the major Jain shrines of India. The
Nakhoda Masjid, the largest mosque in the city, was
inspired by the mausoleum of Emperor Akbar at Sikandra.
Built in 1926 in Chitpore, the interiors of the shrine are
exquisitely ornamented.
There are a few beautiful cathedrals and churches in the
central and northern quarters of the city. Built in 1787, St
John’s Church is near the Governor House (Raj Bhavan)
and the Armenian Church, where Christmas is still
celebrated on January 7 according to Armenian tradition, lies
next to it. St James’ Church, with its twin spires, is a visual
(Top) The Victoria Memorial
is one of Kolkata's most
famous landmarks; (facing
page) BBD Bagh (Binay Badal
Dinesh Bagh) is a reminder of
Kolkata's colonial past
A rickshaw-puller goes about his
day and labour in the backdrop
of the Metro at the Chandni
Chowk station
delight as one passes through APC Road. On the southern
edge of the Maidan stands the majestic edifice of St Paul’s
Cathedral, the first cathedral built in the overseas territory
of the British Empire.
The Culinary Map
The strongest connect a traveller has with a city is through
its cuisine and Kolkata’s legendary culinary circuit is as
variedly mouth-watering as it gets. The lip-smacking street
food tickles the taste buds of the itinerant foodie, be it the
phuchkas (stuffed with mashed potatoes with a burst of
spices, and then generously filled with tamarind chutney,
phuchka is the zest Bengali version of panipuri), or the spicy
and tangy aloo kabli (where boiled potatoes are tossed with
tamarind pulp, onions, tomatoes, chillies, chickpeas, and a
combination of secret spices). The peripatetic traveller must
indulge in the crispy, fried delight of telebhaja (prepared
92
MAY 2018
with besan or cornflour batter covering, deep-fried in mustard
oil with a stuffing of either onion rings or brinjal or potato.
The more imaginative joints whip it up with pumpkin,
coriander leaves or even with raw mangoes). And the
signature street food of the City of Joy is the kathi roll (flaky
flour paratha rolled up with the chosen stuffing of omelettes,
succulent chicken or mutton pieces, minced meat or paneer
chunks and laced with sauces, capsicum and onion with a
dash of pepper, chillies and lime).
At the other end of the spectrum lies the unique
dining experience at the members-only Bengal and Calcutta
Clubs where white-gloved waiters politely serve the age-old
Anglo-Indian cuisine like railway mutton curry, vindaloo
and mulligatawny soup. If you are not a member or a guest
of a member, trying these delicacies at the homely AngloIndian stalls on Park Street during Christmas is a delightful
option. And Park Street is the traditional food hub of Kolkata
RITAYAN MUKHERJEE
Photography SHUTTERSTOCK, GETTY IMAGES and ALAMY
teeming with trendy restaurants, but the star attraction is still
Flury’s, the elegant tearoom since 1927—a patient queue
waiting at the front door to get a breakfast table and take
home a couple of plum cakes.
The mild yet complex flavours of typical Bengal cuisine
can be savoured at a few city restaurants like Kewpies’ in
Bhowanipore, and 6 Ballygunge Place or Oh! Calcutta
in the upmarket neighbourhoods of Ballygunge. For a less
expensive but equally authentic experience, the unassuming
hotels tucked in the folds of the city are great to whet
your palate.
A typical Kolkata food experience is not complete without
its biryani—delighting the palate with its mild spice textures,
tender meat and, curiously, adding a big, slightly browned
potato that sits lightly on the aromatic rice. The old favourites
are Royal in Chitpore, Shiraz in Park Circus and Aminia
in Dharamtala.
Shopping Hubs
The complex that has defined shopping in Kolkata is its
iconic Raj-era market that houses everything from clothing
and jewellery to fish and meat, flowers and savouries—all
under one roof. Operative since 1874 on Lindsay Street in
central Kolkata, the New Market, previously known as Hogg
Market, is a one-stop arena for the city’s shoppers.
A wide range of government emporia selling ethnic
wear, artefacts and handmade jewellery can be found in the
rather drab-looking Dakshinapan complex at Dhakuria.
Winter is a shoppers’ delight in Kolkata with indigenous
artisans and craftsmen flocking from remote villages to the
handicrafts fairs held on the eastern fringes of the metropolis,
adding colour and vibrance to the wintry days. However,
the city malls, burgeoning in all corners of the city, with
their futuristic designs and multinational brands, are slowly
metamorphosing the urban landscape of Kolkata.
MAY 2018
93
Festival
Delight
Wellness, camera, action – WELLFEST 2018
saw this and much more! The two-day event
was curated by Parineeta Sethi and yoga lifestyle
propagator, Nischint Singh, in association with
Andaz Delhi, airline partner Lufthansa, wellness
destination partner Amazing Thailand and
fitness partner Technogym. The first day of the
wellness festival saw a unique awards ceremony
that felicitated 45 fit and fabulous personalities,
including Sunil Sethi, Riddhima Kapoor
Sahni, Sumaya Dalmia, Tanisha Mohan, Rajiv
Makhni, Atul Wassan and Latika Kaneja. And
the second day was filled with panel discussions
on the wellness industry in India, fitness,
nutrition, beauty and spirituality, interspersed
with laughter, dance therapy and healthy food
sessions. All in all, the first episode of Wellfest
inspired and helped people to work towards
achieving their wellness goals.
1
3
2
4
5
6
7
8
Seer Secrets
9
10
11
12
14
13
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
1. (L to R) Parineeta Sethi, Riddhima Kapoor Sahni,
Sheetal Ansal, Nomita Kohli, Nischint Singh and Vikas
Malhotra 2. Ruchitra and Rajiv Makhni 3. Cheena Vig
and Isra Stapanaseth 4. Rakshak and Ravish Kapoor
5. Sumaya Dalmia and Pankaj Arora 6. Shivani Wazir
Pasrich, Payal Sen and Sangeeta Sharma 7. Sunil
Sethi and Bjšrn Rettig 8. Mohit Sahgal and Madhav
Sehgal 9. (L to R) Isra Stapanaseth, Amitabh Kant,
Neha Lidder, Shivani Wazir Pasrich and Parineeta
Sethi 10. (L to R) Deanne Panday, Vesna Jacob,
Gurnit Singh Dua, Sumaya Dalmia and Sangeeta
Sharma 11. The Amazing Thailand pop-up 12. Jamal
Shaikh 13. Krishna Swaroop, Dr. Jai Madaan and
Venerable Maitri Avalokita 14. (L to R) Exec. Chef
Alex Moser, Kavita Devgan, Dr. Alok Chopra and
Dr. Anjali Hooda 15. The laughter yoga session 16.
The healthy cooking session 17. (L to R) Ishi Khosla,
Dr. Kiran Lohia, Sharmi Adhikary, Dr. Chiranjiv
Chhabra, Dr. Blossom Kochhar and Parineeta Sethi
18. Massages galore at the Andaz Spa pop-up 19. A
guest at the Magnifique pop-up 20. A tarot reading
in progress 21. Sangeeta Mehta
Frame Work
A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF INDIA
A DESERT IN THE HIGH MOUNTAINS
A camel herder leads a reluctant two-humped Bactrian camel down the dunes in Ladakh’s Nubra Valley. Located in
the northeast part of Ladakh, the remote Nubra Valley was once on the trading route that connected eastern Tibet
with Turkistan via the Karakoram Pass. It now sees fairly good tourist footfall in the summer months, with the Bactrian
camels being a prime attraction here.
PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE MONTH
BEHZAD J. LARRY
A photographer and social entrepreneur, Behzad has spent the past decade working across North America, Asia and Africa. He
loves photographing remote landscapes and reaching far-flung communities in the Himalaya.
96
MAY 2018
Документ
Категория
Журналы и газеты
Просмотров
5
Размер файла
48 336 Кб
Теги
Discover India, journal
1/--страниц
Пожаловаться на содержимое документа