Jantar Mantar – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

22.10.2017:

11.15 hrs โ€“ The place started to get crowded as more and more tourists are venturing out to have a look at the City Palace. I headed towards yet another important structure in the heart of the city which is in contrast with the intricate carvings and the ornate pols or gates of the City Palace โ€“ The Jantar Mantar. The entry ticket costs Rs. 50/- for Indians! Grabbing my ticket, I walked towards this most impressive and fascinating astrological marvel, which is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of medieval India. In 2010, Jantar Mantar has been granted the UNESCO World Heritage Site Status.

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II who is fond of astronomy and used to study works of celebrated astronomers all over the world constructed a range of astronomical observatories throughout North India in between 1724 and 1730, called the ‘Jantar Mantars’. Out of the five Jantar Mantars in Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura (which no longer exists), the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is the largest one. In fact, it is said that some of the instruments here in Jaipur are constructed by him and he constructed it so near to the City Palace so that he can make all the observations by his own!

The term ‘Jantar Mantar’ is derived from the Sanskrit terms ‘Yantra’ and ‘Mantra’ meaning ‘instruments’ and ‘formula’ respectively. I hired a guide here who knows a lot about the instruments present here. Jantar Mantar is a collection of 19 fixed architectural astronomical instruments that offer precise measurements of time, the azimuth, declination of the sun and the positions of constellations, along with several other astronomical phenomena.

I came across the Nadivalaya (the equatorial instrument), the Krantivritta (the ecliptic circle instrument) used to measure the longitude and latitudes of the celestial bodies, the Laghu Samrat Yantra (Small sundial), Shastana Yantra (sextant instrument) with which the variation in the sun’s diameter can be accurately measured and many more. But the centre of attraction here is the Vrihat Samrat Yantra (the ‘Supreme Instrument’ or Large Sundial), which is 90 ft high and measures time to an accuracy of two seconds is the world’s largest sundial.

My guide explained me about each and every instrument with perfect examples and I was awestruct when he explained me about calculating the time on Laghu Samrat Yantra and asked me to check the time he told on my watch and to my sheer surprise, it’s accurate! So far, I found Jantar Mantar as the most significant, comprehensive, and the best preserved of India’s historic observatories. And people who are interested in astronomy, here is your best bet if you want a scientific holiday ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Fusion of three architectures – Jaipur’s City Palace

22.10.2017:

07.30 hrs – My day started quite early :-p Finishing off my daily chores, I headed for my breakfast which is complimentary ๐Ÿ™‚ The day’s menu was comprised of Puri Sabji, bread and butter – not bad! Having had my breakfast, I headed to perhaps the most cherished attraction of the city – The City Palace. Uber again! Their services are too good in the city ๐Ÿ™‚

09.40 hrs – My cab stopped in front of a huge gateway which is so grand in nature! The gateway is made of lattice work, painted marvelously and two canons were placed on either side of the gateway. Just after passing through this gateway there is a ticket counter to get an entry ticket into the Palace. The ticket costs Rs. 130/- for Indians and Rs. 300/- for foreigners. There are also composite tickets available here, on which we can visit four to five places in the city!

The City Palace was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II when he wanted to shift his capital from Amber to Jaipur during the 18th century. The chief architect of this palace is Vidyadhar Bhattacharya (who also designed the Madhavendra Palace at Nahargarh Fort) along with Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob! The Palace was designed and constructed according to the texts of Vaastushastra, the ancient architectural science of India and was infused with a mix of Rajput, European and Mughal styles of architecture!

The entry into this palace can be through two gates namely the Udai Pol or Atish Pol and Virendra Pol. There is also a third entrance called ‘Tripolia Gate‘ which is only for the royal family! I chose Udai Pol and this leads us to a pink structure called the Diwan-i-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience, where the king used to meet his ministers, official guests and other important people. The main attraction of this Hall is the huge silver jars made by melting 14000 silver coins and were used to store the waters of the river Ganga. It’s said that they are the biggest silver urns in the world as per the Guinness Book of World Records! Also one can find huge crystal chandeliers and a collection of arms here in this hall!

The Sarvato Bhadra or Diwan-i-Khas is almost as if situated in middle of a red sandstone square courtyard! On one side we can the clock tower which can be seen from a distance from many places in the city and on the other far end is a doorway that leads to the seven storied Chandra Mahal or Moon Palace, which is the residence of the royal descendants. A gateway called the Riddhi-Siddhi Pol leads us to the most stunning part of this palace called the Pritam Niwas Chowk or “Courtyard of the Beloved”. A narrow hallway leads us to this courtyard.

This courtyard is used by the royal family for festive occasions and ceremonies and perhaps there is an upcoming event for which the arrangements were being made by the time I entered the courtyard! This is truly a architectural delight and would be every photographer’s choice! The courtyard has four beautiful doorways depicting the four seasons and each one is uniquely named. The Mor Gate or Peacock Gate represents Autumn, the Lotus Gate represents Summer, the Leheriya Gate or the Green Gate represents the Spring and the Rose Gate represents Winter!

It is said that the king used to enter the Chandra Mahal through the specific gate in the specific season. Though the 3D peacocks on the Mor gate attracted me a lot, I started to stare at the Leheriya Gate for a long time trying to recollect where I saw it! After a few minutes I fished out my mobile and checked for the cover page of the book ‘The Palace of Illusions‘ – and there it is! ๐Ÿ™‚ Not a bad memory huh ๐Ÿ˜‰

Walking out of this beautiful place, I moved towards a marble gateway named Rajendra Pol which leads to the Mubarak Mahal or Welcome Palace which is the last addition to the City Palace. Mubarak Mahal is truly a confluence of all the three architectures – Rajput, Mughal and European! This two-storied building has richly carved arches and doorways and hosts a museum displaying the textiles and costumes used by the royal Rajputs in the past. There is also a souvenir shop here ๐Ÿ™‚ Moving out of Mubarak Mahal, I headed to the opposite side where there is an art exhibition being held and one can watch the local artisans at work!

There is also another boutique being run in the same complex and it has got a huge collection of paintings and antiques! My exit is through the Virendra Pol which is just beside the Mubarak Mahal. City Palace is yet another awesome specimen of architectural brilliance in the city of Jaipur ๐Ÿ™‚ Before visiting this palace, I had Nahargarh hangover and now it’s City Palace hangover ๐Ÿ˜€

My Shopping Adventure in Jaipur!

21.10.2017:

14.45 hrs – My auto-wallah dropped me near the Jal Mahal or Water Palace, which is a small palace set in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. This 200 year old palace attracts a lot of tourists throughout the year and interesting fact is that though this is a five storied building, four floors of the building are under the water and only the fifth is visible. Jal Mahal was constructed by Sawai Madho Singh to lodge himself while he was on his duck hunting parties, but later his son converted this into a more beautiful palace by extending its courtyards and having a garden there!

Tourists are not allowed to enter this palace and we could only see it from the main road. Watching it for a few minutes, I moved towards a road-side dhaba to have my lunch. This is not the place to end up for a good Rajasthani meal โ€“ but as I was feeling so hungry, I decided to settle down here! Having had my lunch I reached my hotel to grab some sleep before I set onto my shopping adventure! ๐Ÿ™‚

18.00 hrs โ€“ I overslept! :-0 , but then, itโ€™s ok! I need this much rest after going all around those beautiful forts! ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, my lunch was not upto my expectations โ€“ so I decided to eat something first and then go shopping. Rajasthan is famous for its cuisine โ€“ and especially Jaipur is famous for its mouth-watering pyaaz kachoris, ghewar and jalebis! I took a cab from my hotel to one of the most popular bazaars of Jaipur โ€“ the Johri Bazaar. As the name suggests, Johri Bazaar is famous for gems and jewellery. But I chose a different thing other than gems โ€“ I am here to get some good juthis ๐Ÿ™‚

Jaipur is famous for its block printed textiles, blue pottery, finely-crafted jewelery, miniature paintings, itโ€™s well known Jaipuri shawls, tie-and-dye salwars and last but not the least their traditional jutis. As this day was the auspicious โ€˜Bhai-doojโ€™, most of the shops were closed by the time I reached there, but few were still bustling with customers looking for their best bets! I walked straight to a Mistan Bhandar or a sweet shop to have some pani-puri before exploring this market further! Having had a papdi chat and pani-puri, I returned to my shopping adventure ๐Ÿ˜€

The Johri Bazaar is studded with numerous shops selling gold and silver jewellery, precious gems, stone and other customized jewellery. I walked a little longer and arrived at a shop where I found few Juthis hanging outside. The shop was full of people checking for various varieties of footwear, trying them on and bargaining. I too got settled down on a chair and soon a person was there to help me out on trying those beautiful and elegant juthis. Always remember, that bargaining hard is the mantra here! While the shopkeeper offered the price at Rs. 1100/-, I bargained them for Rs. 300/- and got them! ๐Ÿ™‚ Still my friends told me that I paid more indeed! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I picked up two more pairs for my mom and niece. Though Johri Bazaar is also a good place to look for sarees and lehangas, I couldnโ€™t try my hands at them ๐Ÿ˜‰ Donโ€™t forget to get a glimpse of the iconic Hawa Mahal here! I returned to my hotel after helping myself with few more kachoris ๐Ÿ˜€ . Though it was as hot as in Summer, there was a drastic drop in the temperature during the night. So if you plan to visit Rajasthan these days, do carry a jacket or sweater ๐Ÿ™‚

Nahargarh Fort – The Abode of Tigers

21.10.2017:

Without wasting much time, I headed to the Nahargarh Fort, whose previous name was Sudarshangarh Fort! This fort was also a part of the defense system of the Jaipur city and the Amber fort. There are two ways to reach this fort – either by a cobblestone pathway which is about 2 kms downhill and the other is a straight road from the Amber Fort. Unlike the Jaigarh Fort, vehicles are not allowed into this fort, am a bit lucky – otherwise my driver would have definitely taken me around this also in the auto ๐Ÿ˜€ The first things first – before hitting the main fort itself, we will come across a wax museum and a Sheesh Mahal. Alas, the entry into these is not free and it costs almost around Rs. 500/- to get an entry. Anyways, am not interested in both of these – what am really looking forward is to the architecture of this fort! ๐Ÿ™‚

Nahargarh which translates into ‘Abode of Tigers’ was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734 and was later extended by king Sawai Ram Singh in 1868. Later, in 1883, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh built the beautiful Madhavendra Palace for his nine queens. But why the name has been changed from Sudharshangarh to Nahargarh? The legend says that the edifice of this fort was thwarted by the spirit of a Rathore prince named Nahar Singh Bhomia and hence the name Nahargarh and he even dedicated a small fortress inside the fort to the dead prince!

The entry into the fort is through the ‘Tadigate’ and another massive doorway leads us to the main attraction of the fort – the Madhavendra Bhawan or the Madhavendra Palace. The doorway has stunning floral designs on it and is intricately carved! Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh had this palace designed by the architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, who also designed a Pink City of Jaipur. The two-storied palace has a long courtyard and there are three suites each on the three sides, making a total of nine identical suites. Each of this suite is uniquely named such as Suraj Prakash, Chandra Prakash etc. Each suite is a double storied building which has a lobby, bedroom, toilet, store and a kitchen. Further all these apartments are connected with each other with a narrow passage and the king’s head suite! ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

The palace was built in Indo-European style of architecture with beautiful frescos and rectangular windows. Though the Amber Fort is rich in architecture, somehow I got more attracted to Nahargarh Fort than the mighty Amber Fort! Perhaps its simplicity, less crowd or its comparatively smaller size made me fall for this monument! ๐Ÿ™‚ Moving onto the first floor of the palace, I found some beautiful wall-paintings and richly carved windows. Further onto the terrace, I got a full view of the Jaipur city and the other side of the fort! There is a luxurious restaurant on one side of the fort and if you have your own vehicle, grab a drink and settle down for the magnificent sunset here!

Alas, I don’t have a vehicle, so I have to return early! Might be next time ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ๐Ÿ™‚ Though there is no much grandeur here, I wanted more of this simple yet amazing place ๐Ÿ™‚

The military fort of Jaipur – Jaigarh fort

21.10.2017:

Completing the tour of Amber Fort, I headed to complete this circuit by visiting the other two magnificent forts nearby – the Jaigharh Fort and Nahargarh Fort! It was almost 11.30 hrs, but I felt as if I was burning down under the mid-day summer sun! Climbing down the pathway, I headed to hire a auto-rickshaw to Nahargarh Fort and after a hard bargain, the auto-wallah fixed up the cost at Rs. 450/- to take me to Jaigarh Fort and then to Nahargarh and drop me down at the Jal Mahal. Jaigarh Fort and Nahargarh Fort which are situated in the Aravali hills were built in order to protect the Amber Fort.

It was a straight circuitous road to Jaigarh Fort from the Amber Fort and is situated on a hill called Cheel ka Teela or the Hill of Eagles, which is 400 feet above the Amber Fort. The route offers a spectacular view of the Jaipur city and importantly the Jal Mahal! I was lucky enough as I could see good number of peacocks and peahens running around the shrubs and bushes on the side of the road. My driver showed me few well constructed canals all along the road and explained me that these were used to route the rain water to Jaigarh Fort where it would be harvested for further use! Brilliant!!

The Jaigarh Fort was built by Sawai Jai Singh II and has a length of 3 km and width of 1 km.ย  The fort faces Amber Fort and Maota Lake. There is an option of taking our vehicles straight into the fort through the Doongar Darwaza by paying an extra parking fee for the vehicle or one can simply buy a ticket for oneself and go walking around the fort. There is also an entrance to this fort through the Awani Darwaza in the east. But I opted the Doongar Darwaza ๐Ÿ™‚ It was packed with a lot of vehicles today and it took us almost 20 minutes to reach the parking lot which is just 500 mts from the Doongar Darwaza. On the way I saw those huge underground tanks where the rainwater through the canals used to get stored!

The fort is not as artistic as the Amber Fort, yet it has it’s own charm. The walls of the fort are massive and are made up of red sandstone. Once to the parking lot, I started walking towards the centre of attraction of this fort – that’s the world’s largest cannon on wheels in the world – Jaivan! With Jaivan, I had no doubt why Jaigarh Fort served as the protective wall of Jaipur and Amber Fort! Jaigarh Fort served as the centre of artillery production for the Rajputs and it is here in this very fort the Jaivan was made in 1720! It was here – right infront of me; perhaps the largest cannon I have seen so far!

Jaivan was developed during the reign of Sawai Jai Singh II. It’s a massive cannon with a weight of about 50 tonnes and a barrel of about 6.15 m! It is said that this had been fired only once to test it’s range with ammunition of around 100 kg and it’s impact was such that the person who fired this succumbed to death before jumping into the water tank itself! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Any guesses about the range? ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s around 38 kms! Would any enemy ever dare to attack this strong defence system? I doubt! :-p . From here we can see the Indian flag fluttering on top of the Diva Burj – the highest point in Jaigarh Fort and also the Jal Mahal in middle of the Man Sagar Lake.

Next is another interesting part of this fort called the Vijay Garh – the fort’s armory where there were a lot of cannon balls, small and medium canons, various kinds of guns, arrows and bows were on display for the tourists. There are also pictures of Maharajas and other Generals from Indian Army. Perhaps, Jaigarh Fort is one of the few military structures of medieval India preserved almost intact! Further walking would lead us into the Shubat Niwas (Assembly hall for Warriors). We can also see the royal halls and court rooms which include the Aram Mandir and Vilas Mandir.

Though the fort is relatively a smaller one in comparison to the Amber Fort, it gives us an insight of the military strategies and weapons of the ferocious Rajputs! There are also two temples in the fort complex – the Ram Harihar temple built in the 10th century and the Kal Bhairav temple constructed in the 12th century. Don’t forget to seek their blessings before stepping out of this spectacular fort ๐Ÿ™‚

Food for thought #32

“And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well” ย  ย  – Rabindranath Tagore

 

“Darkness travels towards light, but blindness towards depth” ย  ย  – Rabindranath Tagore

 

“Man has in him the silence of the sea, the noise of the earth, and the music of the air” ย  – Rabindranath Tagore

 

“Like a cut diamond that needs the light of the sky to show itself, the human soul on its own cannot express its essence, and remains dark. Only when it reflects the light from something greater than itself, does it comes into its own” ย  ย  – Rabindranath Tagore.

 

“Often the poor have more nobility in them than the actual nobility.”

Amber Fort – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

21.10.2017:

09.00 hrs โ€“ I was on my way to Amber or Amer Fort. The tuk-tuk ride was not bad at all; in fact, am enjoying it! ๐Ÿ™‚ Whenever we hear the word Rajasthan โ€“ the first thing that comes into our mind would be the courageous Rajputs! It is also simultaneously known for another thing โ€“ its hill forts which bears testimony to the power of the Rajput princely states that flourished in the region from 8th to 18th centuries. Can you just imagine that six of Rajasthanโ€™s hill forts have made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List? I got the first glimpse of the mighty structure while I was still some 2 kms far from the magnificent Amer Fort.

Amer Fort is situated in a town called Amer, the old capital of the Kachhwahas, and is located at around 11 km from Jaipur. The fort is set amidst picturesque and rugged Aravali range hills and was constructed during the 16th century. My tuk-tuk was stopped at the pathway that leads to the fort. Just beside the path is an artificial lake called the Maota Lake, whose original name was โ€œMahatvaโ€ and is spread in an area covering around 80 thousand meters. And the pathway is through a beautiful Mughal style garden known as โ€œKesarkyari Gardenโ€ or โ€œMohan Bariโ€.

There are two options to go upto the fort from the foothill. Either you can comfortably mount onto an elephant, and the beast would do the climbing for you or simply climb up by yourself ๐Ÿ˜‰ I chose to climb by my own! Itโ€™s not a tough climb, but the sultry temperature truly drained my energy out of me ๐Ÿ™‚ Though the temperature dropped due to the onset of winter, it was still hot and humid! Lots of Indian and foreign tourists, vendors selling caps, souvenirs, food stuff, and the mighty beasts cutting through the thronging tourists – it was a hell of activity!

After 15 minutes, I was at the main entrance of the fort called the Suraj Pol or Sun Gate as it faces east. This fort was divided into four divisions and each division is called as a courtyard. The Suraj Pol leads us into the courtyard called Jaleb Chowk, which is a huge open ground and was used by the armies to hold their victory parades. The original palace was built by Raja Man Singh and the additional extensions were built by Maharaja Mirza Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh II who shifted his capital to Amer in 1727. Here we have to buy a ticket in order to enter the other courtyard and for Indians the ticket costs about Rupees Fifty.

I moved towards another gate called the Singh Pol or the Lion Gate leading to the second courtyard called the Diwan-i-Aam or the Hall of Public Audience. This is the place where the Raja gave audience to his subjects and met his officials. This building was constructed on the orders of Mirza Raja Man Singh in red stone and marble. The striking feature of this structure is the pillars. They support the roof by two rows of columns. The outer ones, in coupled pairs which are of red sand stone and the inner ones are of cream marble.

I moved towards the Ganesh Pol or the Ganesh Gate, which provides access to the inner and private chambers of the palace. Ganesh Pol is an architectural marvel with its exquisitely painted and carved walls. Amber Fort is known world over for its artistic Hindu style architecture influenced by the Mughal architecture. Constructed of red sandstone and marble this massive fort is remarkable for majestic grandeur and is a sight to behold! Just above the Ganesh Pol, is the Suhag Mandir used by the royal ladies to witness the functions held in Diwan-i-Aam.

 

Ganesh Pol leads us to one of the main attractions of the Amber Palace called the Diwan-i-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience. It was constructed during the period of Mirza Raja Jai Singh and was also called as Jai Mandir after him. This is also called the Sheesh Mahal or Glass Palace as the ceiling of this structure was filled up with convex-shaped mirrors. The other prominent structures are the Sukh Niwas (Pleasure Palace), where the king used to retire for sleep, the hexagonal shaped Mughal style garden constructed by Raja Jai Singh I.

 

The last or the fourth courtyard is the Zenani Deorhi or Ladiesโ€™ Apartments in which the queen-mothers and the Rajaโ€™s consorts lived and it also housed their female attendants. Jas Mandir is the temple where the royal women worship. Architecture lovers, photo enthusiasts and historians โ€“ here is something which you should not definitely miss! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Before moving onto the next place, I charged myself up with a glass of iced-tea from the Cafe Coffee Day located in the palace itself which also offers a beautiful view of the town behind it! ๐Ÿ™‚

48 hours in Jaipur

My official trip to Delhi in October was fixed and I had to be there by Monday i.e. 23.10.2017. I planned to leave to Delhi from Trivandrum on Friday evening. Well, what would I do in Delhi on the weekend? Shopping in Chandini Chowk? Lazing around Connaught Place?? Or just relax in a cozy book cafรฉ in Khan Market??? Naaah… (-_-) It was then I decided to visit the neighboring city of Delhi โ€“ Jaipur! Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan is about 300 kms from Delhi, the capital city of India :-J

20.10.2017:

19.15 hrs โ€“ I was on board the Air India flight to Delhi from Trivandrum and reached Delhi around 22.30 hrs. I pre-booked my seat on a private bus service which runs daily in between Delhi and Jaipur. As itโ€™s only a matter of 5 to 6 hours, I found this option better than catching a train at that late hour. I boarded my bus at Dhaulakuan around 12.30 in the night and quickly wrapped myself under sheets to have a small nap as I was about to have a long day. I was dropped at the Sindhi Camp Bus stand at 05.30 hrs in the morning ๐Ÿ™‚ Ola and Uber services are good in Jaipur and I chose Uber to reach my hotel โ€˜FabHotel Dior Pink Cityโ€™.

Sindhi camp was full of activity even so early in the morning. While vendors were offering cups of hot tea to those passengers, drivers and conductors who alighted the buses; rickshaw-pullers, auto-wallahs and cab-drivers were going about offering their services to drop their customers at the doorsteps of their destinations. The sun had not risen yet; the street lights were still on; and I am here gazing at this beautiful city through my cabโ€™s windows, while the gentle morning breeze caress my face! I got the first glimpses of the great Ajmeri gate and the Hawa Mahal on my way to the hotel!

06.30 โ€“ The reception at the hotel was warm as my brother had already left some instructions to them ๐Ÿ˜‰ The room was cozy, cool and elegant with a small wardrobe in one corner, a king-size mirror into the other and a foamy bed with white sheets, a study table and a chair neatly tucked under it, a 42 inches TV and an Air-conditioner โ€“ what more could I ask for! =^_^= I have fallen in love with the room almost in an instant and fell fast asleep! 08.00 hrs โ€“ My dad woke me up with his phone call while I answered lazily and when he announced that it was 8 oโ€™ clock in the morning, I thought I could rest no more and I got to go!

By the time I was ready, even my breakfast was ready โ€“ two hot aloo parathas with a cup of fresh curd and pickle! I relished every bit of them as the other day’s dinner on board was pathetic and I didnโ€™t get a chance to eat anything at all during that night ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I quickly got down to the reception to inquire with the chaps about how to go around the places in the city! They gave me an idea about which all places I should visit and from where I should be starting my solo expedition! ๐Ÿ™‚

My first visit for the day would be to the Amber Fort and though I thought of booking an Uber, I found the fare quite high (350 approx) for a distance of 6 kms. So, instead of Uber, I opted for the local tuk-tuk (the battery cars) which costed me only Rs. 50/-. The mantra while choosing a tuk-tuk is check with two or three drivers. The local ones would offer you the best price while the others would simply demand two or three times the normal fare! While the first one I stopped had demanded me a sum of Rs. 250/- to take me up to the Amber Fort, the second one simply told Rs. 50/- as a matter of fact! ๐Ÿ™‚

A visit to Maa Kalijai Temple

25.06.2017:

On completing our visit to Konark, we headed towards Berhampur. We were uncertain about our next destination as my friends started worrying about my condition. I was running a fever along with cough and cold and we set out from Konark only at around 18.00 hrs! Though I wanted to stop at Pipli on our way to Berhampur, I couldn’t, as I was fast asleep in the car and my friends didn’t dare to disturb my sleep ๐Ÿ˜‰ Pipli is a place in Odisha which is famous for its applique work and artecrafts.ย  One can buy colorful umbrellas, bags, wall hangings and other decorative items.

I was woken up my friends only when we stopped at a restaurant for dinner and to my surprise, it was the same restaurant in which we dined the other day! ๐Ÿ™‚ Even the owner and the waiters were able to recognize us quickly and were more happy to extend their services to us! ๐Ÿ˜€ I slept again for the rest of our journey and woke up only after reaching our hotel in Berhampur. Once checked-in, I called it a day!

26.06.2017:

I woke up around 07.00 hrs and was surprised to see my friends who were already up and got ready! They asked me how I were feeling and they relieved a sigh when I told them that I was much better after such a good sleep that night! I quickly freshened up and we checked-out from the hotel. As it was only 08.00 hrs in the morning and none of us felt like eating and didn’t think much about our breakfast and headed towards Chilika Lake. Yes, it’s the Chilika – Asiaโ€™s largest brackish water lake.

Chilika Lake is situated at a distance of about 50 kms from Berhampur and is one of the most visited places in Odisha. Chilika is also one of the famous eco tourist spots of the state. On reaching Chilika Lake, we checked for a ferry service and there are multiple options available here. We can either go on a ferry which would carry around 20 passengers, or a boat which would carry about 10 people or a speed boat which would be sufficient for 6 passengers. The fare depends on the number of places which we choose to visit!

We chose a speed boat visit to the nearby Kalijai island which costed us around Rs. 3,000/-. Chilika is a brackish water lagoon which extends over an area of 1,200 sq km in the monsoon season and shrinks to an area of about 800 sq km in summers! It was declared aย Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance in 1981 and is popular as a spot for both bird watching and finding Irrawady dolphins. As soon as we stepped into our speed boat, it sped off through a narrow channel which leads to the main lagoon! It’s a vast expanse of blue waters surrounded by low undulating hills. It wasn’t a sunny day and temperature was low which is perfect to soak in this magic! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

This lake is dotted with numerous islands and the Nalabana Island which is at the center of the lake has a bird sanctuary and the best time to visit this island is in between October and March when a lot of migratory birds from Afghanisthan, Iran and Serbia comes here. And Satpada which is near to Puri is the place where concentration of Irrawady Dolphins is more and chances of us getting a glimpse of this endangered species are more! We came across the INS Chilika Headquarters on our way to the Kalijai island.

It took us around 30 minutes to reach this island. Our boat driver also acted as our guide through the ride and explained us different things about Chilika. He told us that the Kalijai island is the abode of goddess Kalijai, who is revered as the reigning deity of the lagoon. There is a legend behind this temple too ๐Ÿ™‚ย It is said that Jaai was a girl who was going to get married in Parikud Islan, and the boat on which they are travelling was capsized in the storm and while everyone else survived in this tragedy, the girl died. And in later days, the boatmen and fishermen were to hear her speaking to them and guiding them in troublesome situations and became to be worshiped as Maa Kali. Hence the name Kalijai!

He further added that no boatmen would venture out into the lake without offering prayers to Maa Kalijai. The temple of Maa Kalijai was built by Sri Jagannath Mansingh (king of Bankad) in the year 1717. This is a small rocky island and houses a temple and few shacks selling food, soft drinks and other puja items. We offered our prayers and went around the island which hardly took 15 minutes! Apart from the priest and some staff in the temple, no one else lives there.

Back on the shore, it’s time for us to head to our homes – our loving parents are waiting for us! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Though we didn’t have our breakfast, we didn’t forget to make a stop at our now favorite eating spot – the Urvashi Paradise Restaurant in Palasaย and this time we tried our hand at the lip-smacking Gongura as well as Avakai Biryanis! ๐Ÿ™‚ Our next stop was at one of my favorite hang-out spots in Vizag – the coffee shop ‘Pasty, Coffee & Conversation‘, which is a 10 minute walk from my University in which I pursued my engineering ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Good olden days and good olden memories ๐Ÿ™‚

Having a recap of our trip in our conversation over cups of coffee and some pastries and mud-pies, we headed to Rajahmundry ๐Ÿ™‚

The Black Pagoda – Konark Sun Temple

The Konark Sun Temple, originally built on sea shore is also called as the Black Pagoda due to its dark color. Though the temple is dedicated to the Sun god, the legend also has it that after slaying demon Gyasur, Lord Vishnu left his belongings at several places to commemorate his victory โ€“ conch in Puri, disc in Bhubaneswar, mace in Jaipur and lotus in Konark. The most important part of this temple apart from the legends and myths around it, is its exquisite architecture! The temple was built in the form of the celestial chariot of the Sun God being pulled by seven galloping horses on 12 pairs of wheels towards east; and hence the main entrance of this temple is on the eastern side.

The seven horses pulling the temple eastwards towards dawn is symbolic of the seven days of the week; the dozen pair of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and the eight spokes in each wheel symbolize the eight ideal stages in a womanโ€™s day. ย The entrance of the temple is guarded by two huge lions, each killing a war elephant (represents pride) and beneath the elephant (represent wealth) is a man. This symbolizes the conquest of spiritual power over worldly power and the symbol of ignorance conquered by knowledge. The temple consists of a vimana (main temple) for housing the deity, Jagamohana, which is a praying hall and the natya mandir wherein which the dances are performed.

The most unique feature of this temple is its design which ensures the rays of the Sun fall on the image of the Sun God at equinoxes. Also this temple is known as pancha-ratha-dekha deul with each of its faรงade broken by five small projections, which as a consequence produces the effect of light and shade on the surface and creates an impression of one continuous vertical line called rekha. A guide here told us that there used to be a magnet at the top of the temple and every two stones of the temple are sandwiched by iron plates, and as a result the idol was said to have been floating in the air โ€“ no idea how far this is true!

During the medieval times, this temple was used as a navigational landmark by ancient sailors to Odisha and it is said that the magnet placed on top of the temple have disturbed the compasses of these sailors leading to shipwrecks and hence it was removed on a later stage. There are two raised platforms on the right side and behind the temple which are also in ruins. The walls of the temples are adorned with rampaging elephants, military processions, hunting scenes, as well as a few erotic figurines here and there. We spent about 2.5 hrs sitting here and there in the complex listening to various stories and legends shared by the gatekeepers, some old men who are frequent visitors to this temple and of course an old guide too ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, Eshwar hired one!

It was this guide who told the fascinating story of a 12 year old boy called Dharmapad who had sacrificed himself for the sake of the 12000 craftsmen who worked for 12 years to complete this temple. The legend is that Bisu Maharana, heading the group of craftsmen was unable to finish off the construction even after 12 years and the king Narasimha announces that all would be beheaded if the construction wouldnโ€™t be completed the following day. Dharmapad, son of Bisu Maharana who studied Odiya temple architecture finds out the fault lay and erects the final stone or the Kalash on top of the Konark temple. But, Dharmapad had to end his life by jumping off into the sea as he knew that the king wonโ€™t accept the defeat of his craftsmen at the hands of a 12 year old boy and definitely beheads them.

While sharing this heroic story with us, I could see the old man taking pride in Dharmapad and remembering him so fondly and as a source of inspiration! As truly remarked by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, โ€œHere in Konark, the language of stone surpasses the language of manโ€ ๐Ÿ™‚