Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gwalior - a historic city!

Drove into Gwalior in the afternoon. Was stunned to see guys driving or riding with rifles slung across their shoulders! Felt as if had gone back to the wild West, only difference being horses replaced by cars and bikes.

Checked into India hotel which is in front of the Gwalior railway station. Parking for the hotel guests is in the parking lot of the railway station. Pay and Park. The hotel rooms are on the first floor and on the ground 

floor there is the famous India Coffee House. This was where I had the best coffee ever since entering Madhya Pradesh! You can also have all the South Indian delicacies like idli vada and dosas here.

In the evening we went for the Son et Lumiere show at Gwalior fort which houses the Man Singh palace built by Man Singh Tomar in 1508A.D. It was very impressive and left a lasting impression of the fort’s history. 

Gwalior city looked very pretty all lit up when seen from the fort.
Next morning we went on a guided tour of the fort and palace. 

The palace is decorated with beautiful paintings, glazed tiles of varied colours displaying humans, ducks, elephants and peacocks. 

The palace is built on the outer wall of the fort raised over the cliff at about 300ft from ground level.
After an interesting tour of the palace we went to see the famous Saas(mother-in-law) Bahu(daughter-in-law) mandirs(temples) which are close to the fort. 

This has a very interesting history. Initially it was just one temple. It was named SahastraBahu, depicting a man with a thousand hands or Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu was worshiped by the wife of the Kachchhapaghata's king, but when his son's wife came, she became a devotee of Lord Shiva. 

Thus, another temple beside Vishnu temple was built, where Lord Shiva was worshiped by the wife of the king's son. Collectively, these two temples were named 'Sas-Bahu temple'. 

The carvings in the temples are marvelous!
We also visited a beautiful Gurudwara which had a ‘langar’ (free lunch for devotees) going on but we did not

 partake as we were in a hurry to go and check out the Jai Vilas Palace museum before the end of the day.

The Jai Vilas Mahal (or The Jai Vilas Palace) is one of India's most grandiose nineteenth-century palaces. It was built in 1875 by H. H. Maharaja Jayaji Rao Scindia (Shinde), the Maharaja of Gwalior and to this day remains the residence of the former royal Maratha family – The Scindias (Shindes). A part of the palace has 

been converted into a museum and the eye catching treasures include a silver toy train used by His Highness 

Jayaji Rao Scindia to dispense brandy and cigars after dinner.

Jai Vilas Palace is open on six days of week from 10.00 AM to 5.00 PM. It is closed on Wednesday. Contact number is +91-751-2372390. It is a must visit when in Gwalior.
And with that our Gwalior tour ended and we got ready to drive to Jhansi and then to Orchha the next day.

How to reach Gwalior:

By train:
Gwalior railway station is a major rail junction on Delhi-Chennai and Delhi-Mumbai rail line. It is connected to almost all cities like Delhi (Ndls Shatabdi E), Mumbai (Mngla Lksdp Exp), Kolkata (Chambal Express), Chennai (Chennai Rajdhni) and Bangalore (Karnataka Exp). The railway station is located at the heart of the city.

By air:
Delhi International airport, which is nearly 319 km from Gwalior, is the main connecting airport for international travelers. Gwalior airport is well connected to all major cities in India and is just 8kms from the heart of the city.

By road:
Overnight A/C tourist buses are available from Delhi (319 km), Indore (486 km), Agra (118 km) and Jaipur (348 km).

Monday, November 12, 2012

What is Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh famous for?

As we drove into Chanderi, we encountered the Chanderi Museum of the Archaelogical Survey of India and

 it merited a visit. So in we went and spent close to an hour admiring all the artefacts on display. The 

collection in there was amazing! We spent close to an hour there taking a walk through history. No photography allowed in the museum.
We checked into the lovely MPTDC cottage called Tana Bana. Lovely, clean, luxurious accommodation at affordable prices!

Post lunch we set out on a tour of the Chanderi fort which is being restored by ASI.
Then we drove to see the fascinating Kati Ghati Gate. The story of the gate is both interesting and tragic. In 

1495 A.D. when Sher Khan was the Governor of Chanderi, he received notice that King Gyasuddin Khilji the Sultan of Malwa wished to visit Chanderi and Jimman Khan was advised that the Sultan wished to be welcomed to Chanderi by the sight of a grand gateway at the top of the hill range. But this information was received very late and there was just a day left for his arrival hence a huge reward was announced for the person who could create such a gate in a day. One stonemason agreed to the challenge and with his crew started to work on it. The next morning Jimman Khan got the news that the work was completed and he reached the site to inspect it. He was amazed to see that the gateway had indeed been cut out the rock. On further inspection Jimman Khan saw that the craftsman had not made arrangements to fit the door to close the gateway. He told the craftsman that since this gateway formed the first line of security of the fort it should have a door. To fit the door they would need to put in extra stone, and then the uniqueness of the gateway would be lost. Jimman Khan refused to pay for the work and the craftsman in shame walked away empty handed. Later the craftsman committed suicide and his tomb can be found to the side of the gate.
Now it was time to visit the ruins of Koshak Mahal. This simple yet imposing building was built in 1445 as a 

victory monument by the Sultan of Malwa, Mehmood Shah Khilji, to commemorate his victory over Sultan Mehmood Sharki in the battle at Kalpi.
One legend has it that the real reason the Sultan ordered the monument’s construction was to provide employment to the people of Chanderi. At that time, the people of the town were facing a severe shortage of work and using the pretext of the victory at Kalpi, the project was initiated to provide the people with work and pay.
It is believed that once the first storey was completed, the builders were faced with the problem of raising the heavy stone blocks to the second level. This was resolved by burying the first storey under dirt to create a slope on which the blocks could be carried uphill. Each storey was similarly constructed and finally the dirt was cleared away to uncover the entire structure.

It was evening by the time we visited the Jama masjid and Badal Mahal. Of Badal Mahal the palace is almost 

non existent and only the Darwaza(door) remains inside the fort. The importance of this Darwaza can be guaged by the fact that it is the stamp which Madhya Pradesh Handloom Department puts on the hand-woven sarees which Chanderi is famous for and also as a seal which is put on the letters which are posted in Chanderi.
Our last stop in Chanderi was the Parameshwar talab and the Laxman temple. The legend of the Laxman 

Temple is that once there was a group of devotees who reached the pond and stayed overnight there to rest. 

They were carrying an idol of Lord Laxman which they placed under a peepal tree. In the morning the devotees tried to pick up the idol but it would not budge. They then believed that the reason for this was that Lord Laxman wanted to stay at that spot, and so they performed the rituals to erect a temple there.

And you thought Chanderi was famous only for its sarees!

How to get there :
By Air: The nearest airports are at Bhopal (258 km) and Gwalior (259 km).

By Rail: Lalitpur (36 km) and Jhansi (124 km) on the Delhi-Chennai and Delhi-Mumbai main line are the closest railheads. Ashok Nagar (46 km) and Mungaoli (38 km) also serve Chanderi.

By Road: Chanderi is connected by regular bus services with Gwalior, Indore, Guna, Shivpuri, Ashok Nagar, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Tikamgarh, Vidisha, Sanchi and Bhopal

Monday, November 5, 2012

Shower in Jaisalmer

A trip to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is like taking a walk down history.

The forts, the palaces and the havelis absorb you in their excellence.

The art does not end here. It continues after death too as is evident in the Royal cenotaphs.

The colour and the art against the golden desert are astounding to say the least. Yes Jaisalmer is thriving in the Thar desert. A trip to the Sam sand dunes and if you have the time an overnight stay there will be worth your while. Unfortunately we did not have so much of time hence we just spent an evening in the desert.

The sunset in the desert is to die for. After a camel ride to the sunset point as it is now called, we were taken to an arena where Rajasthani folk musicians performed their traditional dances and music.

So lively!
I was reminded of all these when I saw the Alive is awesome advertisement created for Cinthol soaps which also had this wonderful clip about Bathing in the desert. It showed how one can have a shower in the desert! Do take a look and maybe next when you are in the Thar desert you will be able to have it!  So do not forget to pack your Cinthol soap when you visit Jaisalmer!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bylakuppe and Elephant bathing?!

Would never have thought that I could see a part of Tibet in Karnataka! But it does exist! Bylakuppe is home to two of the many Tibetan settlements in India, established by Lugsum Samdupling (in 1961) and Dickyi Larsoe (in 1969).  It is located to the west of the Mysore district in the Indian state of Karnataka. The twin town Kushalanagara is about 6 kilometers from Bylakuppe.

Bylakuppe is the 3000 acres of land that was leased out by the Indian Government to the fleeing Tibetans in 1961 and they are here to stay! It is the largest Tibetan community in exile with about 40,000 people in five settlements containing monasteries, kindergarten to higher level secondary schools, health care clinics, a hospital and a traditional Tibetan medical facility.

The most visited temple here is Namdroling (The Golden Temple)

Three beautiful larger than life gold plated statues look down at visitors above the altar.

The walls are adorned with colourful paintings depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology.

The one thing that one must witness is the prayer of the monks. The harmony of their chants is enchanting.

The exterior of the new Zangdokpalri temple looks majestic with a majestic rainbow arch.
We are so used to being told not to photograph the idols in temples, that the ready willingness of the monks to let the idols in their temples being photographed is such a pleasant and welcome surprise.
If you wish to taste Tibetan food you can do that too! There are restaurants in there where you can indulge your adventuorous tastebuds.
All this was amazing alright but then due to shortage of time we missed going to Dubare Elephant camp that was just 40kms away. However this wonderful video by Godrej Cinthol has given a glimpse of what we 

missed. An elephant bath! So if you are ever going anywhere near Madikeri, do not forget to go to Dubare and bathe and be bathed by an elephant! Sure feels to be Alive is Awesome! Once you get back to your room use the real cool Cinthol soap to feel refreshed after the bathing with the elephants experience!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cliff Jumping in Hampi?

Whenever the word Hampi is uttered I travel back to my trip to Hampi and the ruins of the Vijayanagara Kingdom appear before my eyes.

The impressive VijayaVitthala temple complex with its numerous halls for various functions like marriage, 

religious rituals and the massive kitchen therein. The carvings on those walls, pillars and ceilings are awe 

Reference Wikipedia The name is derived from Pampa, which is the old name of the Tungabhadra River on whose banks the city is built. . The name "Hampi" is an anglicized version of the Kannada Hampe (derived from Pampa). Over the years, it has also been referred to as Vijayanagara and Virupakshapura (from Virupaksha, the patron deity of the Vijayanagara rulers).
Be as it may, after witnessing the Alive is awesome ad of Cinthol soaps, where they talk about adventure bathing, I started doing some earnest research on the topic with special reference to Hampi as I plan to visit there again next month. And voila! I discovered that I could possibly indulge in Cliff jumping into the chilly waters of the lake. What I intend to do is do a minimum of 2 jumps. The first one to acclimatize and then soap myself with the aromatic Cinthol soap and jump in again and rid of the soap by the time I surface!
It will be something like the Deep Cave Bath in the Cinthol video.

Sure sounds awesome! Do try it too and let us know what you felt about it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bathing with dolphins in Karde

Had heard a lot about dolphin spotting and watching on the coast of Maharashtra so when I heard of this beautiful small beach at Karde near Dapoli where they organise this activity, we went for it. Karde is around 300kms from Mumbai and we drove there in around 5hrs from Mumbai. A leisurely drive, taking in all the sights on the way. Being winter the ambient temperature was also very pleasant.
Checked into a hotel on the beach and after a sumptuous lunch, enquired at the reception about going dolphin spotting. We were told that it is an early morning activity hence would be undertaken next morning. We would have to assemble on the beach at 6am where the boat would arrive which would take us for spotting dolphins. On a lucky day, apparently one could spot them in large numbers and so we hoped to be lucky.
We spent the evening strolling around on the beach which was very clean. The walk was invigorating. The 

sunset was beautiful as always.
Along came a jeep, to our surprise, for those who were interested in parasailing I think it is called. You are 

harnessed to a parachute and the jeep pulls you along the beach as you sail up into the sky where you hover for a few seconds and then brought down to earth feeling good.
Had some delicious prawn biryani for dinner and this was followed by a briefing for the dolphin safari. We were told specifically to wear rubber footwear and carry along a plastic bag to store your valuables in as the sea water would definitely splash in while in motion at sea. In short we would be in for a cold icy ocean bath!
As we waited on the beach, for the boat to come in at dawn, soaking in the beauty I visualised the Cinthol ad ‘Alive is Awesome’! We felt so alive and in tune with nature as the waves gently lapped in at our feet, with a gentle breeze blowing to dry off the beads of sweat that formed above my lips and eyebrows due humidity.

And then the boat came in, the crew jumped out and helped us put on the life jackets after a briefing on the dos and donts while at sea.
We hopped into the boat and set sail at last for dolphin spotting. The sun started his journey too as it rose to paint the skies in fascinating colours.

After about 15 minutes of sailing into the sea the boatman signalled the faint shapes frolicking in the sea in the 

distance. Yes they were dolphins. We asked for a closer look and were told that he would take us closer provided we were ready for a bath in the sea water that would splash in as the sea was slightly turblulent there. We agreed in unison and off we went. And soon the boat that seemed big now suddenly seemed so tiny as it bobbed up and down in the rather rough waters that started splashing us with icy cold water! But the sight of the dolphins playing up close was a treat! On hindsight, it was an awesome bathing experience while watching dolphins. No photographs as we did not have water proof cameras.
However here is a video by Cinthol on Awesome Ocean bathing.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Polar Plunge Bath

The October heat in Mumbai is sizzling. The heat is on and the time to hallucinate about colder climes is here.
To assist me is the Cinthol ‘Alive is Awesome bathing experience’ ad that is the catalyst to transport me to a place where I can chill the summer heat in a pool that is -10*C. Yes you read it right!

The rush hour has begun as I rush to the railway station to catch the crowded local train to work. After having elbowed in successfully, I manage to get hold of one of the straps to hang onto for the rest of my 

twenty minute journey in the hot can. To overcome the heat and the boredom I have devised a plan to forget the heat and the commute and go to a place in my mind where chill rules! Yes you got it right! The Polar Plunge Bath! This bath is in a pit in the snow with an average temp of -10*C. This bathing adventure can be experienced in Canada, Iceland, Antarctica and Greenland and cannot be done alone. You need people to help you get out in time of the Chilly Pool.
It is one of my dream destinations and use it to cool my mind in the sweltering October heat of Mumbai. Believe me; just thinking about it is awesome. Hope I can do it someday!
On my wishlist – The Polar Plunge Bath! Watch a video prepared by Cinthol.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Amazingly awesome Amboli!

In the southern range of Sahyadri hills, there is a quaint hill station at an altitude of 690m., called Amboli. Being on record as the wettest place in Maharashtra, with an average of nearly 750 centimetres (269 inches) of rainfall a year, mainly falling between June and October, it is shrouded in thick fog most of the time.
When I saw Cinthol’s latest ad on TV ‘Alive is Awesome bathing experience’, I was transported to the most popular waterfall in Amboli, which is around 550kms from Mumbai. Had been there last year, just at the end of the monsoon and got a glimpse of heaven! The drive upto Sankeshwar on the Golden Quadrilateral was smooth but beyond that right upto Amboli it was a slightly bumpy ride on a two laned pockmarked road. The weather right through was beautiful, cloudy and cool. The last 5kms we drove through clouds – heavenly!
Spent the evening having hot chai and hot bhajjias! Then went for a walk in the evening to have a look at the much spoken about waterfall. It did not dissapoint! Was huge and roaring down and there were people at various levels. I decided that my next morning’s bath would be right here under this lovely waterfall!
In Amboli, due to fog and cloudy weather the sun is not sighted till about 11 in the morning! Suited me fine! Woke up leisurely and had a lazy morning lazing around at the MTDC resort and then around half past eleven, drove down for my bath to the heavenly waterfall!

It was a literal mela out there! Families with children in tow and young couples and elderly tourists all had gathered there for a dip in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Got into my swimming trunks and marched resolutely towards the chilly water. Adjacent to the waterfall there are steps that take you right to the top of the waterfall. These steps were covered with water flowing down and I sat there on the steps to get a hydro massage and also to get used to the water temperature. Was incredible! The water pounding down on my 

back and shoulders was so so relaxing!  
Next on the agenda was getting into the pool and standing under the water for the ultimate shower! I did. The feeling is indescribable! It was just awesome! As Cinthol rightly puts it – an ‘Alive is awesome bathing experience’! the roar of the water drowns out every other sound. All that I could hear was the roar of the water falling and then nothing else mattered! Nirvana!
This is something which I feel every human has to experience to get an idea of what an awesome experience can bathing be! Not just the staid standing under the shower in a bathroom or lying comatose in a bath tub. Get out there, commune with nature and get that amazing waterfall bath!
Here is a video of a waterfall bath made by Cinthol.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bath at the village well!

The Cinthol ad being aired on Television these days brings to fore the ‘Alive Is Awesome Bathing experience’. It has fired the desire in me to undertake some of those amazing bathing adventures. Am sure you too will be enthused to do so after watching the ad or maybe after reading this post! For me, it will be the fun of travel combined with new bathing experiences.
There is one which seems quite doable in terms of not having to spend a lot of money and that is a bath at the village well. For us city dwellers, this will be an adventure, travelling to a village nearby and getting refreshed using this method to bathe. Especially now that rural tourism is picking up in India, this should not be difficult at all! All it would need is your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and live it up to the fullest. As they say, life happens outside the comfort zone!
So my next trip is going to be in Morachi Chincholi, a village near Pune in Maharashtra that tends to peacocks! Every morning and evening you will have peacocks strutting around doing their thing in the village

and you can hear them calling their mates and watch them dancing too! The villagers have woken up tothe tourist potential of this event and offer day and overnight packages. You can experience the village life to the fullest. Go for a bullock cart and/or tractor rides. Give the buffaloes a bath in the village pond. After all that go to the village well and get set for the Alive Is Awesome Bathing experience! Get hold of a few young boys
to help you experience it. Sit or stand next to the well and ensure that the boys have enough of buckets of water ready. And then at the count of three, as advised, the boys will splash bucketfuls of water at you. Ooooooh the chilling shivers that will pass through your body will be awesome! You will come alive to a bathing experience that has been waiting to be had!!
After that refreshing experience, eat what the villagers eat – bhakri with spicy chutney and veggies! Aah life is awesome!
So go for it guys! Do the ‘Alive Is Awesome Bathing experience

Watch a video of a village bath

Monday, October 8, 2012

Alive is awesome - in Kolad!

The ferocious October heat of Mumbai wants me to go back to Kolad and jump in the Kundalika river as to be Alive is Awesome Bathing experience.
River rafting is a round the year activity in Kolad and is just a couple of hours away from Mumbai. At specific times the water is released from the Bhira dam and the flow of the water is to be seen to be believed.
You can book a river rafting ride with any of the many adventure outfits that operate out there. Once done, you will be picked up at the appointed time and taken to the point from where your rafting begins. A briefing is given on the dos and don’ts while river rafting. All are given an oar and told how to use it.
Having woken up late, had not taken a bath that morning and all the way to the rafting launch point I was reminded of it. The instructor however told all my tormentors that I had done the right thing as he would show us what an Alive is Awesome Bathing experience!
Hahaha, I sure was happy to hear that as that shut the mouths of all the smart alecks who had their boring baths in the Hotel showers. I mean, come on standing under the shower daily can get to be so repetitive and boring. Especially when you are on the verge of going river rafting, a jump into the river would be so much more invigorating and refreshing. It would actually bring you alive! The weather was hot and humid and we were sweating just standing there listening to the instructions. I was just waiting for the action to begin.
By the time the instructions were over we could hear a siren that went off signalling the opening of the 

floodgates! It was the birds that led the charge of the water brigade! And soon the water came gushing and had our adrenaline rushing. I rushed to the edge to check the temperature of the flowing water and phew... it was cold!

Now I looked forward to the refreshing experience of bathing in the chilly Kundalika river!
We were alloted places in the raft and we boarded accordingly and off we went with the fast and furious Kundalika river! Soon we saw other rafts joining in the fun and games. I was eagerly waiting to jump into the river for my bath but had to wait for the instructor’s signal to do so. We all had the mandatory life jackets; hence there were no worries of drowning.  

The raft was sailing smooth in the fast flowing water and suddenly there came a dip and whoosh... the raft dipped and came up again with the wave. We had a couple of more dips and then the raft steadied and then the moment I was waiting for arrived! The instructor shouted Jump! And i jumped, oar and all. Brrrrrr..... was the water chilly..
I threw the oar back into the raft and swam, floated around for a while, dipped my head under the cold river water and man was it refreshing! Wow!
‘Come on up, come on up’ shouted the instructor and had to get back into the raft.

It was surely the most refreshingly awesome bath i ever had. As the Cinthol ad says it was ‘Alive is Awesome Bathing experience’!

You can watch the awesome bathing experience on video too!