Tuesday, September 24, 2013

History of Leh and Ladakh

History of Leh and Ladakh

India is blessed with places of tremendous cultural importance and aesthetic value.  Ladakh has received unprecedented fame and attention of the tourists over the last decade or so. Ladakh is a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is really good to see that Ladakh is getting the attention that it actually deserves. We often hear youngsters visiting Ladakh on bikes in groups.
The major cities of Ladakh are Leh and Kargil. Kargil has received a lot of attention due to the “Kargil War” between India and Pakistan. Thus, Kargil became the “talk of the town” in most places in India due to the war. Ostensibly, Leh has higher aesthetic value. The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Albeit, most people know and understand Hindi, Urdu and English as well! Though, Ladakh is situated in the State of Jammu and Kashmir it has a unique culture of its own! So, if you are visiting India you just can’t eschew visiting Ladakh.
The culture in Ladakh is highly influenced by the Tibetan culture. The Tibetan culture is overt in the region. Apparently, a reason for this is because Ladakh borders Tibet to the east. So, the geographical proximity can be a reason. The majority of Ladakhis are Tibetan Buddhists and the rest are mostly Shia Muslims. You get to see traditional Tibetan dresses, ornaments and other stuff in Ladakh.
They are not just beautiful but carry tremendous historical and cultural importance as well! Another great thing about the place is that women here are highly respected and have a high status in the society. The sex ratio is also almost equal, which itself is a testimonial of the equality in the society. Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food. The special tea of Ladakh isworth trying for sure. It has better as one of the ingredients. The tea which is locally called “gurgur cha” contains green tea, butter, and salt.
 Another amazing thing about the place is the simplicity of the people. Most of them are ardent peace lovers and full of hospitality. The quintessential Tibetan culture is all about simplicity and benevolence. They keep things simple and don’t complicate them. There is a saying in Tibet: "If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can't be solved, worrying will do no good”. The religion of the place is predominantly Buddhism. The main city Leh is highly analogous to Lhasa in terms of culture and tradition.
It is good to see that Ladakh is getting the tourist attention it deserves. The bollywood has also contributed to bring fame to the place. We saw the place in big budget movies like “Jab Tak Hain Jaan”, “Waqt”, “Dil Se” and “3 Idiots”. The “Pangong Tso” Lake that has featured in most of the movies is really an eye capturing place. It is really nice to see the bollywood fraternity coming forward to help boost tourism in the place.
Yes, special thanks to “Mr. Perfectionist- Aamir Khan” for coming forward to help the people in Leh when they really needed it! There is still scope of improvement; better facilities can be arranged in the place. Tourism can be boosted more; a few more attempts can be made to advertise the place. The place deserves it all; after all it’s a part and parcel of the Great Himalayas! 
Written by: Rohan Kalia

Half Baked Voices: Travel Guides in India

Thank you "Half baked beans" and Rohan Kalia for mentioning "You and India" on your blog.

Here is the blog on HBB written by Rohan Kalia:

Travel Guides in India

Travelling is fun but when you travel  in an alien land, you need a guide. No matter how much you read or hear about a place, you can’t become connoisseur without knowing the ground realities of a place. This is precisely where the role of a travel guide becomes of cardinal importance. In a country like India with a wide spectrum of cultures, the importance of travel guides is huge. Even in this era of digital technology, social networking and technological navigation; we cannot eschew the importance of travel guides. 
Specially, if you want to explore and feel the essence of a place, the guides play a crucial role. As they say, travelling is not about merely covering distances. To travel is to live!

In India you will find different sort of travel guides. You will find some really vocal and eloquent guides at places like “Lal Qila (Red Fort)” and “Taj Mahal”. At the same time, there are mild and soft-spoken guides near the great Himalayas. The essence of travelling becomes a lot more intense when you travel without any pre-planning. That is exactly when the role of a travel guide becomes all important; as you don’t have even an iota of idea and you almost completely hinge upon the guide! 
A guide who is local to the place is indeed a bliss and of immense utility. A local guide is well versed in the lingo of that particular place and this helps a lot. The guide has in-depth knowledge about the local trends and cultures. Furthermore, a guide who is local is a known figure in that particular place which just adds as an asset.

Well, credits must be given to the movie “Guide” for bringing the guide culture in trend in India. The movie starred the legendary actor Dev Anand who did full justice to the role of a travel guide. The plot of the movie is full of twists and turns and the concept is super classy! Raju (Dev Anand) was a freelance guide, who earned his living by taking tourists to places of cultural and historical importance. Whenever people hear the word “guide”, especially the ones who connect with bollywood- They think about the movie “Guide”. Truly, the movie deserves credit for bringing and promoting the guide trend in India.

People visiting India from foreign countries find these travel guides really useful source of information and convenience. India is a country with immense cultural heritage and there is a lot to be seen and explored! The food, the fashion, the local cultures, religions, wildlife; there are ample things to experience and explore. It is really great and refreshing to know that new models have been created to prepare a platform for travelers in India. These models not only provide fantastic hospitality but also help the foreigners to explore the “Real India”.

 A quintessential example of such a model is “You and India”, a model that strives to offer real Indian taste to the visitors. “You and India” strictly believes in the famous jargon- “Atithi Devo Bhavah (The guest is God)”. You and India has come up with innovative ideas like- food walks, village trips etc. to ensure real Indian experience to the core! We hope ideas like these keep coming, so that we can take our tourism to the highest level.  

Rohan Kalia

Monday, September 2, 2013

What Crazy things you can do in India?

When we hear crazy we think of Bungee Jumping, Sky Diving, deep sea dive, crossing Amazon river, climbing tough mountain or as my friend from Germany recently introduce me to bobsleigh (you should search the crazy videos of bobsleigh) and last but not the least skiing and paragliding at the Eiger.

Check this video. It is considered to be one of the most extreme adventure sports of paragliding and skiing at same time.

The list can go with a person walking on a rope and crossing a river or lake.

So what is crazy? We can say something that develops fear among us and overcoming that can be crazy.
As a ordinary person I am too afraid to try these and I recommend fellow travellers to avoid them if they want to discover each inch of Earth.

But still common man in India do some crazy stuffs every day. I have narrowed down 5 most crazy thing that most of Indians do.

Here is my list:

5. Holi festival. It doesn't sounds crazy but if you are in a huge group of people drinking Bhaang "It is extract of flowers and leaves of Cannbis"  it can get a lot crazy and YES it is legal to drink it and even there are Govt. Shops selling it.

4. Driving car in the jam packed city roads. The best thing in India is that you can make your own rules while driving. Honking, taking wrong turns, do anything to reach your destination.

3. Driving bike on the Indian Road. Yes, if you want to see 6 or 8 or 10 people on a bike for 2, you should book your ticket to India.

Even a dog gets a ride here.

2. Adjusting in local trains. Yes there is always room for more people in Great Indian Railways. They are never full.

1. Getting married in India. I watched Friends and remember Monica getting furious over Joey Inviting his parents into wedding without her consultation. She is upset as she has to rearrange sitting area and re-order food. Well If she would have wedded in India, I am sure she would have died from heart-attack watching guest brining whole family, friends neighbours into the wedding. A simple wedding in India has around 1000+ guest. No one is Invited with RSVP like this:
" Mr. XYZ" you are invited

but like this
"Mr. XYZ" you are invited with your whole family.

It is indeed a treat to attend weddings with music, dance, groom on elephant or Horse, lot of food and colourful and beautiful ladies and the wedding lasting over 5 days.

See what Raj Koothrappali (from The big bang theory) has to say :

So what do you think? We expect to get some more crazy ideas from you from your city or country. We really expect some crazy ideas. Keep pouring  :) and visit India.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bagor ki haveli A trip to the kings land

 On an amazing day in Udaipur, taking a casual stroll across town, we decided to go to the ‘Bagor ki Haveli’.  It is a magnificent haveli (palace) built by Amir Chand Badwa, the then president of mewar, in the 18th century and is located right of the waterfront Lake Pichola.
For any of you with even a slightest interest in history, it is a must go. After the death of Amir Chand, the edifice came under the control of the royal family of mewar and was later restored and made into a museum by the joint efforts the government and the west zone cultural centre in Udaipur. It now acts as a brilliant doorway to the time of the Maharanas, portraying every aspect of the royal household from the personal chambers of the royalty to the big public events. It also very eloquently displays the royal wedding with every major ceremony, from fixing the date to vidai and graha-pravesh (departure of the bride from her home, and her welcome to her husband’s).
This museum also houses a great collection of Pagadis (turbans), and this was for me the most fascinating part of the tour. What was really fascinating to me was that the design of the Pagadi changed with the state, class and even caste and profession of men.  Apart from these colorful Pagadis, it also houses the royal weaponry, displaying the actual weapons used by the Maharanas in wars. This collection of arms is so enthralling that for a second I found myself transported to that world of war and chivalry. With every blade having a different story to tell, it was an unforgettable experience.

The meueum is however not all that this place has to offer, and you would not want to miss out on another major attraction within the haveli, so wait here a bit longer for Dharohar, which is a cultural event held here within the haveli, every evening 7pm to 8pm, in collaboration with  WZCC (West Zone Cultural Centre). This musical evening combines the 7 traditional Rajasthani folk dances, performed every day, from last 10 years. This musical evening is actually too good to be missed and what can be better than a majestic end to such a magnificent day. 
The Pagadi Collection
The Royal Wedding

Part of the Weaponry

Yashaswini Sauda

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Date with the Past- The Elephanta Caves


On our short trip to Mumbai, we decided to visit the elephant cave, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions in India.
Situated on the Elephanta islands, just 10kms from the east Mumbai in the Arabian Sea, this place Is just as good as you have heard and believe me, you will not be disappointed. To get there, we took a ferry from the Gateway of India and it took us almost an hour to get there. The calmness of the sea and the light breeze made that journey a magical one, and ones ashore, we were quite mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the island.
The caves are at the distance of almost 2 km from the coast, and there is a facility of a toy train, however we preferred walking. The whole route is bustling with venders selling different food items, mostly fruits and corn. I specially loved the ‘kairi’ or raw mango, which I really recommend to anyone who visits the place. Don’t finish the tour without trying it. Then there are quite a number stairs to the caves and on the both sides of these stairs are small street shops with various traditional items and souvenirs, which is in fact a treat for those who love to shop.
The caves too are just as beautiful and amazing the rest of the place. These are the group of 7 caves, of which 5 are Hindu caves and 2 are dedicated to Buddhism. although it is still unknown, when and by whom these caves were built, the local belief credit these to the Mahabharata era, and say that these were not manmade. The main cave which is the first cave you see is a pillared hall with mesmerizing stone sculptures dedicated to various Hindu gods, especially Shiva and his incarnations. Most of these sculptures were however destroyed with the Portuguese invasion, but one can still see the brilliance of these medieval sculptures. Though one statue, a Trimurti (faces of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh sculpted together), stands out as completely untouched. Apparently this was the main statue of the caves and in order to protect it from the invaders, a wooden wall was constructed right in front of it, so that it is not directly visible to anyone who didn’t know about it. It was much later after the discovery of these caves that this Trimurti was discovered. Fascinating isn't it.
There are 6 more caves which are equally mesmerizing and one can see on them, the imprints of the rich culture and heritage of India. Even outside the surroundings are equally amazing with lush greenery and the vast ocean surrounding and keeping alive the medieval magic.
This journey from the bustling traffic, rush and noise of the city, to this calmness of the wilderness, is almost like a leap through time itself, and this touch with the past is a must do, if you are in India.

                                                                     The Trimurti

Yashaswini Sauda

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Baoli-Unexplored stories

Among other things, Delhi has always held an important place in the world heritage. The city’s transition from ancient to medieval and medieval to modern period is evident from its magnificent architecture and amazing monuments. To explore the medieval brilliance of this city I recently visited a place called ‘Agrasen ki Baori’, located in the city’s heart near Connaught Place. 

Though there are no known historical records about who built it, it is assumed that it was built by the legendary king Agrasen during the Mahabharta era and rebuilt by the agarwal community later. Though the word baoli confused me, it is well known among the local people of Delhi who have spent their childhoods in this monument, and I was soon told what this monument was.
Baoli’ is a Hindi word meaning a step well. When I was told that, the first picture I had of this ancient step well conserved overtime, was from the movie ‘the ring’. I got Goosebumps and this left me with this unbelievable curiosity to explore the place. Though I soon realize that building step wells is an ancient tradition of Indian societies, specially in Rajasthan and Gujarat to store water, from the time of Indus valley itself.
As soon as you enter, you are surrounded by the gurgling sound of hundreds of pigeons, and on one side of the structure is a mosque, which is a monument in itself. The more you climb down the steps, the gurgling goes soft, the silence deepens and gradually the city skyline disappears. This 60meter long and 15 meter wide historical step well is a craze amongst the people, especially youth as a place for fun and gossip. The beauty of this place forces every visitor to pick up a camera and become an amateur photographer. The place is also very easy to locate and visit as it is on walking distance from Barakhamba metro station, near KG Marg, Hailey Road, Connaught Place and has a ticketless entry, open all days from 9am to 5pm. After visiting this ‘baoli’ you can also explore the inner and outer circles of Connaught Place to treat your taste buds and relax at various lounges and cafes and if you love to shop, then there is Janpath, a fabulous flee market to stuff your bags with jewellery, electronics clothes etc.

Want to discover more....

One of the most Famous Baoli "Abhaneri"  in India is in Abhaneri Village on Jaipur-Agra route. We would write about Abaneri in our next blog. One more famous Baori in Delhi is in Mehrauli, near Qutab Minar.

-Nalini Prasad


Friday, May 24, 2013

An odyssey to the mystical Nizam

For those who were charmed by the magical setting and music of "Kun Faya Kun" from the movie Rockstarr, would find an evening at 'Hazrat Nizamuddin' quite spell binding.

While India prides itself of the rich heritage and culture, Delhi, the capital city, alone can take you on an odyssey within the bounds of Islamic architecture. Hazrat has been a pilgrim to the Muslims and a home to many a "Qawaali" connoisseurs from Hinduism and Christianity alike.  
My short trip to the  Hazrat Nizzamuddin dargah this Thrusday left me thinking and yearning for more. The Nizami brothers, traditional qawaals of the dargah have dedicated many a decades to this music form. Interestingly, the Dargah has had a sweet relationship with Bollywood having featured in Delhi 6, Rockstarr and many.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah is the mausoleum of one of the world's most renowned Sufi saints of his time, Nizamuddin Auliya. Situated in the heart of West Delhi, the dargah is flocked by hundreds of Muslims every day, and a fair bit of people from the different religions of India. The tombs of Sufi poet Amir Khusro and Mughal princess Jehan Ara Begum are also located within the Nizamuddin Dargah walls.  The tomb of Inayat Khan sits just around the corner.

Touched by the Islamic grace of praying an offering, just as I step out of the tomb, I am caught by the aroma of biryani and shorba. A foodie would not fail to notice the cuisine that spells nothing less than "lajawab". With the camera as my pal, I am caught between multiple frames of sight, smell and emotions.

Just as the moonlight takes over the might tomb of Nizam, with a mouthful of biryani and distant qawaalis in my ear, I dwell over the sanctity of the religion and uniqueness of my experience.