The Taj Mahal in twilight.
On a pleasant December afternoon (Yes, December!) take a break from hectic metro life and wander onto the famed Juhu Beach in Mumbai, India. And there, enjoy the sight of the locals drinking Kala Khatta (Indian blackberry juice, spiced with black salt, lemon juice and pepper and eat spicy Bhel (puffed rice, vegges spiced with tangy tamarind juice) or if you are brave enough sample it yourself. 🙂
The Imposing 55m tall BULAND DARWAZA (victory arch) stands at the entrance of the palatial complex.
The Horseshoe Gate, where horseshoes were nailed for good luck.
Jali, the exquisite stone screens that are a feature of the tomb of Salim Chisti in the center of the complex.
The Jama Masjid (Mosque)
Panch Mahal by Bruno Girin
Located a stone’s throw away from Agra (the home of the TajMahal), in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is Fatehpur Sikri (Fateh Arabic word meaning victorious). It served as the capital of the emperor Akbar (of the famed Jodha Akbar) from 1571-1585.
Designated a world Heritage sight, it is a prime example of India’s Mughal Architecture and is not to be missed particularly if you make the effort to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Built in the honor of the Sufi Saint Salim Chisti, it is a walled city with a series of palaces, courts, harem, a mosque, private quarters and so on.
Constructed almost entirely from red sandstone, this essentially Islamic edifice has many Hindu and Jain embellishments. Spend about an hour or two and wander around the complex and sink your teeth into some juicy history by availing the services of some readily available local guides.
Accommodations to suit all pockets are available in Agra or if you want to make it a day trip, you can choose to stay in New Delhi which is only a 6 hr commute away. But be sure to start early so to avoid the hellish traffic.
Whenever I see these pictures, I’m reminded of the beautiful Qawwali ( a style of muslim devotional music) from the movie Garam Hava (Scorching Winds) which was shot at this place. The movie is perhaps the most poignant depiction of India’s partition which occurred in 1947 when it gained its independence from the British Raj (rule) and is a must watch.
Whenever I travel back to my homeland, I prepare for a culture shock. The crowds, the noise, the pollution have all increased several fold as the country races forward at breakneck speed to catch up with the rest of the world. But I’ve come here to relive some beautiful memories, to catch up from where I left off–I’ve come to reconnect with the past. How do I do that and where?
There are some places left in the country where it seems that life still goes on as it did a few decades ago, where people are laid back, where nature is not at war with mankind–
COONOOR– is one such place. It is located in the Nilgiri Hills, about 56 kms from the Coimbatore Airport, in the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu. It is part way from its more well known cousin Ooty which I will advice you to avoid if you can.
Known for its tea plantations, Coonoor is a lovely, rustic little town, which with its abundance of greenery and quaint architecture, is a throw back to India as it used to be. The temperate climate and serene environment helps the restless soul to relax and take a few breaths of peace.
There are several wonderful places to stay in this place. I recommend the Gateway Hotel on Church Road, — a historic hotel which is a wonderful blend of colonial charm and modern amenities and yes, the food is great! 🙂
When you are there, don’t forget to take a ride on the Nilgiris meter gauge train, as well as a personalized tour of the tea estates.