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.  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 🙂 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! 😦 Any guesses about the range? 😉 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 🙂

Padmanabhapuram Palace – The Travancore heritage in Tamil Land

Off to Mathur Hanging Bridge – We reached Kanyakumari Bus Station and inquired about the route which we need to take to reach Mathur village. Some of them suggested us to go to Nagercoil as we could get more number of buses from there and we followed the same. After reaching Nagercoil, they suggested us to catch a bus to Thuckalay and catch another bus to Mathur Village from there. Thuckalay is about 25 kms from Nagercoil and it took us around 30 minutes to reach this place. We sought the help of few people to guide us to reach Mathur bridge but could see people being confused either because of the language or the place about which we are asking. No idea what’s going in their minds!

After a long wait of about 45 minutes, we started feeling frustrated as we were not able to get even a single bus which could drop us off at our destination. In the mean while, my friend got busy surfing the internet when I was about to tell her that we would go back to Trivandrum as it’s getting late. It was at this point of time that she showed me her mobile pointing out the Padmanabhapuram Palace, which is like just 5 minutes from the bus station. That’s how we ended up at this place instead of the Mathur Aqueduct! 😀 😀

What will be one’s expectation will be like when heard of a palace? The Mysore Palace, The Falalknuma?? Here is a different one from the routine. The Padmanabhapuram Palace located in Padmanabhapuram Fort against the backdrop of the Veli Hills that form a part of the Western Ghats in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. A magnificent wooden palace of the 16th century, this is a fine specimen of Kerala’s indigenous style of architecture. Though this palace is located in Tamil Nadu, the palace and its surroundings are owned and governed by the Kerala state.

The palace was built by Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal, the ruler of Travancore in 1601 AD and was also called Kalkulam Palace. At a later point of time, the King Marthandavarma rebuilt this palace to its current state. Spread across some 6.5 acres of area, the palace enthrall its visitors with intricate wooden work. Lavish use of wood can be seen in this palace; thanks to the rich forest cover of Kerala! 🙂 Also one can witness the defining aspects of Kerala structure in this palace, like the high steep sloping roofs, often covered with tiles, copper plates or thatched palm leaves supported on a roof frame made of hard wood or timber.

 

The first structure we encountered after entering the palace complex, is Poomukkham with images of horse riders on both sides of the entrance, showing exquisite wood carvings. There are few people who guide us inside the palace and explaining the history. The main attraction of this structure is the wooden ceiling which is ornamented with almost 90 lotus medallions and each one is different from the other. It was here that the erstwhile king used to entertain his special guests. Yet another attraction is a chair presented to the former king by Chinese merchants and Onavillu presented as a tribute by landlords and chieftains.

On the first floor of this structure are the Mantrasala, the King’s Council Chamber and the main attraction of this part of the palace is the bed used by the erstwhile king. It is said that the bed is made of sandalwood and is layered with a mix of 400 different kinds of medicinal herbs which are available abundantly in the state of Kerala. One can also see the Dining Hall which can accommodate 400 persons at a time!

Next structure is Thaikkottaram (Mother’s Palace), built of finely decorated and carved wooden pillars. The other structures include the Navarathri Mandapam, built by King Marthandavarma in 1744 AD which is breathtakingly beautiful and mesmerizing with it’s exquisite architecture. We came across a temple inside the palace which is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, but it was closed at the time we visited!

There is a long corridor in the first floor of the building bordered with small balconies on the sides called Ambari Mukhappu (bay window). It is said that the kings and queens used to view chariot races during festivals and make public appearances from this very place.  A significant feature of this structure is the lattice work on the sides of the pathway. Once out of the palace, we walked towards the southern side of the palace called Thekkekottaram. It has a heritage museum now which shows the younger generations the old palace articles, belongings of the royal family like kitchen utensils, easy chair, swing etc.

Another antique piece of this palace is the Manimalika (Clock Tower), which is believed to be some 200 years old. This tower contains a rather unique clock as its movement is regulated by two weights made up of disc-shaped blocks, that is raised every week by a 1.5 meter pendulum. This can be see from the entrance of the palace.

There is no spectacle of pomp and show about the palace and looks understated when compared to other royal palaces of India.

But what truly makes this palace outstanding is it’s rich architectural grandeur, indigenous craftsmen ship of Travancore artisans and royal splendor of erstwhile Travancore!

Gangtok – Land of Monasteries

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The last part of my Gangtok trip and also the most beautiful part which am gonna cherish through out my life 🙂

Sikkim is justly famous for monasteries. Red-clan Lamas, flickering butter lamps, colorful prayer flags (worth mentioning that these represent the five elements of nature – earth, sky, water, air and fire) and the melodious chanting are the part of the ambiance which this state offers us. Gangtok is also an important Buddhist place and is land of some 200 odd monasteries. Here are some important ones which I covered as a part of my trip.

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Enchey Monastery:

This is the oldest monastery (approx 200 years old) of Gangtok and is located 3 kms northeast of the city. This is the seat of learning for the Nyingma order (Vajrayana Buddhism), the 4th oldest belief of Tibet. It was established by Lama Druptob Karpo, a renowned exponent of tantric art. And the legend is that he came here flying from Maenam hill in south Sikkim. The Buddha, Loketeswara and Guru Padmasambhava are the important deities worshipped in the monastery.

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Rumtek Monastery:

The biggest monastery in Gangtok and is located on the outskirts of the city (around 23 kms) is on a hill, the seat of The Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. This monastery demonstrates the best of the Tibetan architecture and is an almost replica of the original monastery in Tsurpu in Tibet. The main building is three storied and the complex also has the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist studies, the Dharma Chakra and the Golden Stupa. The monastery houses the Black Hat and some of the rarest Buddhist religious art objects found in the world. Perhaps, this is the only monastery which has got a high range of security on its’ premises.

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Ranka Monastery:

Also known as Lingdum monastery, is located about 20 kms from Gangtok. A relatively new monastery located in a vast area. This is the seat of Zurmang Kagyud lineage of Buddhism and follows the direction of the 12th successor of the lineage Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche. This turned out to be my favorite of all the earlier monasteries which I saw as this one was extremely peaceful and the view is just breathtaking. And there are many young lamas undergoing training here. This monastery is full of wall paintings, murals and scriptures which are placed orderly inside the main sanctum.Desktop3

The last monastery which I visited was the Tsuklakhang Palace or Tsuklakhang Royal Chapel and monastery is a Buddhist palatial monastery in Gangtok, and it has a lot of young lamas who studies there. This has a large depository of Buddhist scriptures and literature.

There is also a center for Tibetology in Gangtok where in which we can see their scriptures, statures of Buddha and many more. In all, Gangtok is not just a place to enjoy nature but also a place to learn, to know about one of the oldest religions in the world. Importantly, we can find all the different sects of Buddhists and their traditions here.

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In all, these monasteries took me to an altogether different world. A world of faith, belief and peace!! Thank you Gangtok. C u soon again!

I take this opportunity to dedicate this post to one of my new friends “AHEN”, who is eagerly waiting to visit monasteries and meet some Bikkhus!!

NANDI HILLS – HILL OF HAPPINESS

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Nandi Hills or Nandidurg or Nandi Betta is an ancient hill fortress situated at a distance of about 65 kms from Bangalore, Karnataka. These lie at an average elevation of about 4850 ft above the sea level. A popular weekend destination and it can be easily reached as it is well connected by roads with Bangalore as well as Chikkaballapur. The route from Bangalore to Nandi hills is so scenic and interesting, as it gives us a chance of seeing some good temples, old forts, grape vineyards and mustard fields.

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And the curvy roads leading to the top of hills are best to trek or cycle. One can go for a road trek or a wild trek on the backside of the hill. Plenty of opportunities 🙂  If you own a bicycle, well fine and good otherwise there are lots of bicycling clubs which organizes weekend cycling trips. Can try one!

 The main attraction is the statue of the Nandi Bull which is located on top of the hill. And the belief is that the hills resemble a sleeping Nandi Bull, and hence the name Nandi Hills. There is also an ancient temple of Yoga Nandeeswara atop the hill. There are also temples dedicated to Sri Ugra Narasimha and Yoga Narasimha.

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The hill is the Sultan Tipu’s Summer Residence and there is a palace which is not open for public 😦 . Interesting place is the Tipu’s Drop, a 600 metre high cliff face, where prisoners and convicts during Tipu’s reign used to be pushed off this cliff. There is also a children’s park, for a while we too can be children swinging on the cradles. Lol!

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Nandi hills is a haven for nature lovers with magnificent views and enticing scenic spots, if we are lucky enough we can spot some wildlife too. One should not miss the sunrise here. The wind, fog and the clouds that blow towards us when we are in the midst of the tall trees on top of the hill before the sunrise is just amazing and a life-time experience. One won’t regret waking up at 4 in the morning after enjoying the sunrise here!

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Why can’t be this weekend itself? 🙂