Jantar Mantar – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

22.10.2017:

11.15 hrs – 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 – 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 😉

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 café in Khan Market??? Naaah… (-_-) It was then I decided to visit the neighboring city of Delhi – 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 – 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 it’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 🙂 Ola and Uber services are good in Jaipur and I chose Uber to reach my hotel ‘FabHotel Dior Pink City’.

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 cab’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 – The reception at the hotel was warm as my brother had already left some instructions to them 😉 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 – 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 – My dad woke me up with his phone call while I answered lazily and when he announced that it was 8 o’ 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 – 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 didn’t get a chance to eat anything at all during that night 😦 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! 🙂

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! 🙂

Excitement continues…

Day 3:

Neetha’s flight is at 7.00PM the same day where as mine was at 12.30 AM the following day. We have still lot of time for our respective flights. We quickly calculated the possibilities and decided that we will finish off our Delhi trip with a visit to Qutub Minar. We took a cab from CP to Qutub Minar, which is at a distance of some 15 kms from CP and as it was early in the morning and a Sunday, there wasn’t much traffic and we reached there in 45 mins.

There are two complexes situated opposite to each other; while one complex hosts the Qutub Minar, the other hosts the ticket counter and a baggage counter. It was too crowded and there were long queues in front of the counters. Neetha stood in one while I was in the other. Luckily I got our tickets in 10 mins and Neetha deposited her bag in the cloak room. We crossed the road and walked towards the Qutub Minar.

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I got the first glimpse of the monument just after we entered the complex and I could imagine how huge it could be when I near it. But we didn’t go to it first; instead we walked towards the many broken and ruined tombs and monuments in the complex. Though they were broken they carry lot of charisma and speak the rich history of India. Something caught our sight; it’s the Delhi Iron Pillar, which is a testimony to the high level of skill achieved by ancient Indian iron smiths in the extraction and processing of iron. Traditionally people believed that if anyone standing infront of the pillar with his/her back towards the column can encircle it with their arms, all his wishes will be fulfilled. But we don’t have a chance to do that as there is a fence around the pillar now 😦

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We walked around the ruins of the adjacent buildings and other monuments in the complex. There is a beautiful lush green lawn in the complex and we moved towards the famous Qutub Minar. I was fascinated at its sight. The tall minaret which is almost some 238 feet tall, having 379 steps is truly magnificent. It is perhaps a great masterpiece of the Mughal architecture. The monument is made up of sandstone and the verses from the holy Quran are carved on its walls. The calligraphy is so fine and every detail on the monument is so vivid. There are also few other tombs and mosques around the minaret.

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We headed back to our room and packed our bags. We headed to the Dwarka Metro station and the ride was yet another exciting experience. It is an electronic motor vehicle which we took for our ride to the station. The ride in the electronic gaadi and the pleasant weather on the near empty roads was a good experience 🙂 😉 , which we enjoyed thoroughly. While Neetha headed to the airport to catch her flight, I rushed to yet another amazing construction of the modern era, the “AksharDham”.

By the time I reached the temple complex, there were long queues in which people were waiting to deposit their luggage and electronic goods which they are carrying along with them. It took me around an hour to deposit my own luggage and get cleared by the security. The temple which is also known as the Swaminarayan Akshardham is a Hindu temple and a spiritual cultural complex. The temple complex is truly a feast for the eyes watching it. The walls are intricately carved with flora, fauna, dancers, musicians and deities.

The construction is of sandstone and marble and has many carved pillars, domes and idols of various sages, devotees and spiritual leaders. Under the temple’s central dome lies the idol of Swaminarayana to whom the temple is dedicated. Also there are the idols of Sita Rama, Radha Krishna, Shiv Parvati and Lakshmi Narayana. Photography is strictly prohibited in the temple complex, however they themselves provide a photographer if you want to take some photographs. The complex also has a store which sells souvenirs, books and other articles and also has a food court.

There happens a musical fountain show every evening, but as I don’t have that much of time, I couldn’t watch it this time. It took me more than two hours to see the entire complex and didn’t wait for a long time to collect my baggage 🙂 🙂 ; took a cab to the airport and waited long enough to board.

On board…. 😉 Trivandrum, here I come 🙂 😛

 

An Exciting Sunday.. :) :)

Day 3:

I woke up at 7.30 AM only to see Neetha sleeping sound wrapped in her blanket. I opened the door to see whether it was still raining as it was raining heavy last night. It wasn’t raining, but the weather was cloudy and pleasant. By the time I entered back the room, Neetha was awake. I told her to get ready and we would be going to the place which no Delhiite would miss in such a pleasant weather.

We quickly freshened and were out on the roads. I told the cab-driver to leave us at the North Block of the Secretariat building. Neetha didn’t ask where we were heading to and that’s the best part of her, she love surprises. The driver left us at the North Block and I explained her about the various departments and all. By this time Neetha could see where we have come to or the place we headed to. We started walking along the road leading to the India Gate which is like a km walk from the North Block. As the weather was pleasant, many families were out there with their children, some having their breakfast sitting on the lawns, while some were playing, cycling, and some youngsters running, playing cricket and football etc.

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India gate, designed by Edwin Lutyens, located at the heart of Delhi is a 42 m high, and “Arc-de-Triomphe” like archway. It commemorates the 70000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the World War I. It also bears the names of more than 13516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan war of 1919. The eternal flame Amar Jawan Jyoti burns day and night under the arch to remind the nation of soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pak War of Dec 1971.

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We walked around the memorial and passed through the lawns to reach the road leading to the Andhra Bhavan to have our breakfast. Andhra Bhavan which is one among the many other buildings dedicated to the respective states in Delhi, offers the visitors the taste of Andhra cuisine. We ordered our breakfast which comprised of a Masala Dosa, a Idli and a vada with two different chutneys and sambar along with a choice of tea and coffee. After finishing off the breakfast we headed to Connaught Place (CP), one of the Delhi’s most popular shopping places.

We decided to go to Palika Bazaar first. This is a underground, air-conditioned market located below the inner circle of CP, and is famous for cheap electronic goods and clothes. After a hard bargain, Neetha struck a deal with a shop-keeper selling hand-bags and bought two for her mom and my mom. We roamed a little around the complex and walked towards the inner circle of CP.

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Connaught Place, named after the Duke of Connaught, this market was designed by Robert Tor Russell in collaboration with WH Nicholls. Built in 1931, this still continues to be Delhi’s premier shopping destination. A horseshoe-shaped market has two circles each circle divided into blocks and has several brand houses and eating-houses.  We hit the Costa Coffee outlet and sipped a hot cappuccino before we chalked out our next plan. The clock ticked 10 AM 🙂 🙂

Where next? 😉 😀

The Journey…

Day 2:

The alarm buzzed around 5 AM in the morning and both of us missed it. It was only at 5.30, we woke up and Neetha was kind enough to let me sleep for few more minutes before she got ready. It was only by 6.30 we were out of our room and it was drizzling out. We got into the car which was waiting for us from 5.30. Our driver Harvinder is from Pathankot, Punjab and a staunch supporter of Hinduism :-p , I will tell you why I specifically mentioned this 🙂

The drizzle turned into a heavy rain and it was only around 8.15AM we were able to hit the Yamuna Express Way. The drive was smooth and the weather was pleasant. The greenery along the highway and ripened agri fields in the rain was so scenic. And we were thoroughly enjoying the drive. It’s time for breakfast! We asked our driver to take us to a good dhaba, as we were so sure that the food in the highway Dhabas will always tastes good 🙂 🙂

Our stop is at Shiv Truck Dhaba which is not so big nor so small. Few chairs were placed outside and few tables and chairs inside. As there was no space outside and was raining so badly, we chose to sit inside. While Neetha and I ordered Gobi paratha, our driver chose Aloo paratha. Something is missing, isn’t it? A pleasant rainy morning would be more pleasant with hot Pakoras, isn’t it? 🙂 🙂 We ordered for some pakoras too.

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After a heavy breakfast of Gobi paratha with butter and dahi and few pakoras with mint chutney, it’s time to resume our journey. It was around 11.30, we reached Agra, which looked like a higher grade village and a lower grade town. Thanks to the chaotic traffic and the wide range of transport modes like mule-drawn carriages, tuk-tuks (named after the sound these carts make I guess), auto-rickshaws and trucks. It took us almost 30 minutes to reach our destination. Our driver explained us about the various parking lots and instructed us to come back to the same parking lot where he left us.

Though we asked our driver to join us, he simply denied our offer and told us that he is not going to visit a muslim shrine ever :(. Perhaps, you might understand now why I told earlier that he is a staunch supporter of Hinduism 😉 . Soon, we were into the office to get our entry tickets and was followed by a group of guides asking us to hire one. But we simply denied. We bought shoe covers and stuffed them into our pockets and made a move towards the Battery car which carried us to the western gate from where we would be able to enter the Taj.

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It stopped raining for a while and we went through the security check soon after we entered the western gate. Our bags were thoroughly checked and we were let in. We started walking towards the inner gate and once we stepped into it, there stood the mighty “Taj – The Crown of Palaces” in front of us.

Stay tuned! 🙂 🙂

A Day in Delhi..

Day 1:

One fine morning, Neetha called me to say that she is leaving to Netherlands to join Ruthwik. As usual, and like a tradition being followed for years, before she leave, we have to meet each other for a day or two 😀 . I thought of going to Bangalore, but then, why all time Bangalore, why not some other place? I don’t wanna go to Bangalore; neither Neetha wanted to come to Trivandrum, as we both have been to these places.

It was at this time, she told me that she had to go to Mumbai or Delhi for her visa stamping, and the idea stuck my mind. I told her that we will catch up either in Mumbai or Delhi for a change. Neetha opted Delhi as she never been there and I was ready for any of those two places. Neetha flew two days before me to finish off the formalities while I left a day later to join her. I reached Delhi on a hot Friday morning in July.

The drive from Delhi’s airport to Hotel Justa, Panchasheel Park was a hectic one, as it was too hot, humid and the traffic of Delhi sucks. It took about an hour and a half to reach the hotel where Neetha waited for me. After pleasantries, I refreshed and the first plan was to go and meet some of my seniors and then visit my aunt who stays in Safdarjung.

As I couldn’t meet my seniors in the afternoon for some reasons, we decided to meet my aunt at a place near to our accommodation rather than travelling all the way to Safdarjung, so that we can save some time and roam around the city. The place has been decided as Sarojini Nagar market, as Neetha wanted to buy some stuff and see the real Delhi (though I didn’t understand what exactly she wanted to see :-p). It was noon when we reached Sarojini Nagar and stepped into the famous Haldiram’s outlet where our aunt joined us over lunch and some sweets 😉

It’s shopping time! The time which I always try to avoid. But this time, I couldn’t :-p . Sarojini Nagar market is quite a happening place with lots of shops selling clothes, accessories and other stuff and buzzes with people all time. The shop-keepers do their business not only in the shops, but also on the roads 🙂 . Neetha and aunty were quite busy in choosing their outfits while I kept myself busy watching the happenings around us. And it was at this time, I heard a whistle from a distance and soon the shop-keepers started clearing their stuff off the roads.

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Within minutes, the roads were clear with lot of space and we saw a truck with people sitting on the back and dumping all the stuff they come across on the roads. Aunty explained us that they are the Kamety log (the Municipality people) who raid the streets every now and then to keep a check on such kind of illegal encroachments by the shop-keepers. It was fun watching the funda of clearing the roads in a few minutes and restoring all of them again when once the truck is gone 🙂 🙂

Aunt asked about our next day plan and we told her that we were thinking to visit Agra and didn’t decide yet whether we have to hire a car or go by a train. But we decided to hire a car later and aunt helped us with this. Once done with the shopping, we rushed back to Dwaraka to catch up my seniors and after a brief chit-chat we left to Janpath market area. This is yet another hot-spot for shopaholics and an ideal place to hang out with friends. Soon after the shopping, we checked into a Marathi restaurant in Connaught Place, where the food is ok-ok.

It was around 9.30 pm when we reached our accommodation and retired to our beds as we have to wake up early the next day!