Saturday, 25 November 2017

Terracotta Calling !!!

I remember from my childhood memories, my father bringing in a pair of huge terracotta horses, which was placed in one corner of our living room as a show piece (a very common scene in maximum of the Bengali Households). I remember asking him – “where did u get them from?”….to which he replied with great enthusiasm about a local fair and the origin of these terracotta horses, which is Bishnupur….
Bishnupur – “City of Vishnu”, which it means literally, is almost 152km away from Kolkata. It was in its ancient times known as Mallabhum and was ruled by Malla Kings, who were great devotees of Lord Krishna and patrons of music – hence the name Bishnupur or Vishnupur.
It is best known for its Terracotta Temples, Malla Shree Krishna Rashlila, Baluchari Sarees & Bishnupur Gharana of Music (follows Dhrupad tradition).
It’s a very small town and can be explored easily in a day and that’s what I actually wanted. This August, I visited Kolkata to meet my father and was wondering for a day trip somewhere with him, when over a cup of tea we remembered Bishnupur, and got it set for the next day.
[caption id="attachment_430" align="alignnone" width="3024"]IMG_6392 Bricked Corridor of Rasamancha[/caption]Bishnupur is well connected via road and train from Kolkata, you can simply hire a car for the day and get life sorted or else if you would like to be more adventurous then board an ac bus from esplanade or you need to book a ticket for train.
Well we reached their via train and booked an auto to show us around. I must say I found a good guide in him. So we started our tour first having a good breakfast followed by tea and then off to the famous Rasmancha – it is the oldest brick temple and the only temple of its kind….you find all these bricked walled corridors from every angle you see, epicentre to a garbagrigha.
[caption id="attachment_422" align="alignnone" width="3024"]IMG_6293 Shyamrai Temple[/caption]Next was Shyamrai Temple which was built by the Malla Kings and is well known for its elaborate terracotta ornamentation. It has very interesting decorative panels which narrates contemporary socio-religious themes and the then political and economic life of the people. It also includes scenes and tales from Ramayana, Mahabharata and other puranic stories. The famous decorative panel which needs to be mentioned is the ‘Rasamandala’…you just can’t take your eyes off it for its superb appeal.
[caption id="attachment_431" align="alignnone" width="3024"]IMG_6393 Rich Ornamentation as seen on the Temple pillars[/caption][caption id="attachment_432" align="alignnone" width="2919"]IMG_6394 Rasamandala Ornamentation[/caption]Then the Jor Bangla Temple, which is known for its ‘Pair of Hut’ shaped structure with sloping roof joined together. The terracotta ornamentation depicts scenes from epics like krishnalila, hunting scene. This temple is also known as Kestaray Temple.
[caption id="attachment_425" align="alignnone" width="4032"]IMG_6320 Jor Bangla Temple[/caption]There are various other temples like Nandalal temple, kalachand temple, Lalaji temple, Madanmohan temple which are not to be missed and depicts tales from purans and tales of Mahabharata & Ramayana. No worship happens now though but the feeling of devotion still remains.
[caption id="attachment_426" align="alignnone" width="3024"]IMG_6367 Nandalal Temple[/caption]As you come out from each temple you find all terracotta stuffs….that pair of horse, jewellery, miniature ektaras and also ‘gamchas’ of good quality. I guarantee you best buy.
[caption id="attachment_424" align="alignnone" width="768"]IMG_6315 Miniature Terracotta Horses[/caption][caption id="attachment_423" align="alignnone" width="3024"]IMG_6314 Miniature Ektara[/caption]Dalmandal canon one of the largest canon during the Malla kings is also very eye catchy.
Our tour ends up with visit to ‘Tati’ or the weaver’s house which was such a feel good moment, when you get to see all the silk threads getting weaved into colourful 6 yards of Baluchari or Sharnachari sarees. And what do a Bong women want more….me and my love for saree went to a different level…I felt I am almost behaving like a psyco to choose which one to buy.
[caption id="attachment_428" align="alignnone" width="3024"]IMG_6379 Making of a Sarnachuri Saree[/caption]IMG_6383
For food you don’t get much options or restaurants but yes I remember that Monalisa Hotel which which was a savior from hunger. Posto bora is also recommended.
Happy me went back home with all the Terracotta memories captured some in lenses some which stays in eyes some pieces of Terracotta jewellery, miniature ektara and a sarnachuri saree.

Friday, 18 August 2017

NICE & the Best of French Riviera

Mediterranean coastline of South Eastern Corner of France is what we call ‘Cote d Azure’ in French and in English as “French Riviera”.
Gare de Nice
Some of the most beautiful places of Rivera are Menton, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Frejus, Saint Tropez. And Nice is considered to be the Capital (unofficial) of Cote d Azure. Nice (pronounced as ‘niece ‘in English) is one of the most popular destinations among travelers whether young or old. The city is very quiet and tranquil, so it’s believed that lot of people invest buying property in Nice to spend their retired life. People speak mostly French and sign language always come to your rescue if you don’t know.
Colline du Chateau or Castle Hill
Nice has the most famous pebbled beaches across its curve of Promenade des Anglais. It’s well connected via all set of transport. You can reach Nice by Plane, Train, Bus or a Boat. Nice has its most famous airport which is adjacent to the sea and you may be lucky enough to catch a view from the window of your aircraft of its spectacular curved bay of Promenade des Anglais.
Promenade des Anglais
Nice has an advantage of mild climate, bright sun, beautiful landscapes and obviously the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. The city has vivid history, culture, leisure and beauty to offer to its visitors.
One needs to spend minimum of 3-4 days to capture what Nice has to offer along with other Riviera locations.

Must do things in Nice:-
1.    The colline du Chateau
2.    Vieux Nice (old Town)
3.    Promenade des Anglais
4.    Musse Massena
5.    Chagall’s Museum
6.    Russian Orthodox Cathedral
7.    Notre Dam de Cimize
Place Massena
8.    Matisse Museum

Though I had only 2 nights planned for NICE, where one day was dedicated for the Full Day Riviera trip and the other day exploring the Beautiful Nice….
Nice and its nearby Rivera parts are very easy to explore and can be explored without doing prior booking of any tours and in a very cost effective way…..but….if and only if you would like to stay there for more than 2 days, as it would be time consuming. If you have restricted time, like I had. 

Old Town
I would always advice to book for half day or full day trips. So that you can explore all the must visit sights without any hassle of understanding the local transports, routes etc. and get the best of the time you have. All the hotels are very tourist friendly and have proper arrangements to guide which places to be explored, they might also arrange you the half day or full day trips as per your wish. You may also try out some adventure sports by the sea.

Try to stay to hotels near the sea, so that you can always have the advantage to walk down to beautiful Promenade des Anglais anytime you want. Go to the beaches, walk, jog, Skate along the concrete pavements along the Promenade des Anglias, or simply sit with a drink and admire the scenic Beauty.
The two drawbacks I faced was language and food. I didn’t get much to explore on the food as the city sleeps very fast. By 7 to 8pm everything is shut. My advice carry some cuppa noodles or keep some dry food. To Indians, I can always advice to carry some Thepla’s or dry Puri’s for rescue.
Best way to start your Nice trip is by Visiting the Chateau first, when you walk up to the Castle Hill, you get to see the best Skyline of Nice facing the sea. I was unlucky as I could not manage to get good picture...because of my using one of my favorite picture as the cover pic.... then walk the Promenade Des Anglais, get into the Old town, experience its narrow maze like corridor roads. Its Flower and Fruit Market, and then walk down to Place Massena, you can explore the musical fountains, Beautiful Park and the branded shops on that road. You would get good cafes too.

Book for a half day sightseeing trip of Nice and get your desired destinations added on to it.

If you are at Nice, you have to take its geographical advantage and go for a day trip to Cannes, Antibes, Saint Paul de Vence, Villefranche Sur Mer, Eze, & Montecarlo.
Picasso Museum at Antibes
It would be a 9 hours trip, which can be arranged by your hotel itself or you can do a prior booking via well-known travel portals. The offerings are almost the same. Go for small group tours, its comfortable and hassle free. You get a Driver cum Travel guide, who helps you to totally with the history and the required details while you are traveling.

My full day trip of the Riviera started with Cannes, where you get to see The Red Carpet if you are lucky. You get to see all the premium yachts and the beautiful sea.

Antibes as you see from the beach
From Cannes we moved to Antibes, where you get to see the famous Picasso Museum….it’s a must do thing. If it’s not included in your package, make a special request. Walk down the old town market, you get a very different vibe and feel. Walk up to the Picasso Museum, and then walk down by the sea. The entire look of the sea is so exotic and special, you would like to spend your entire day there. If you can manage time get a tour of the Old castle which in modern days is famously known for the James Bond movie shot “Never Say Never Again”.
Medieval look of St. Paul de Vence

Next Destination Saint Paul de Vence, which is one of the oldest medieval towns on French Riviera and is known for its contemporary and modern art. This place is built like a fort and full of art galleries. Walk around the castle and get that medieval feel soak into you. Beautiful scenic beauty to look for…from the fort.

Then we move to Eze Village via Villefranche Sur Mer. One needs to spend a day to this amazing place called Villefranche Sur Mer(The picture on the cover). It is considered to be the most charming part of the French Riviera, with Cap of Nice on the right and Cap Ferrat on the left. This place has the most beautiful boutique hotels to stay. Our guide cum driver was kind enough to halt for some time to get us the view of this place. Moving onto Eze. Its too a medieval village known for its perfume factory and you may get a tour to the factory even to see how the most beautiful fragrance that we wear are made.You can walk up to the top to a beautiful chapel and mind blowing views. one can shop here for beautiful souvenirs, spices and handmade bags. 

The Famous Casino Royal
Finally we visit Monte Carlo. Its situated on French Riviera between Cap dÁil and Monaco. It always has a very pleasant climate because of its advantageous position in the Riviera with mountain on one side and the Mediterranean sea on the other side. Now hang-on…before you get into it, please be aware it’s a micro state or sovereign state which do not fall under jurisdiction of France and has its own government headed by Prince Albert. Why I am making an effort to say this as I have faced problem with my mobile phone service provider post my visit to Monte Carlo. Your service provider may charge you more…so keep a check or get this place included in your plan.
What to say more about this place… know it all if you are a “007”fan. The famous casino, the look of the sea, the Museum, the palace, the gardens…please explore all. I was not carrying my passport so couldn’t get into the casino.You cant stop taking pictures of everything that you see there. I term it as the best part of the Riviera.

Then you get dropped to Nice with all the Best thing of Riviera captured in your memory and the Camera J. With a wish to come back soon to experience the unexplored…..
@ Monte Carlo

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Historical Khajuraho & Orchha

Holidays can be seriously planned well, if planned in advance. Me and my friend was getting this travel cravings for long, when we thought of visiting Khajuraho & Orcha on the Independence Day weekend of 2016. So when we planned to travel, we took some time to zero down to Khajuraho. But once decided things were pretty fast and sorted. I need to give credit to MP Tourism ad for our fast decision.

Lush Green Khajuraho, Mahuya Trees
Khajuraho is a very small village in Madhya Pradesh of Chattarpur District. It is only known for its UNESCO World Heritage Group of temples which was built during the Chandela dynasty. It is learnt that after the fall of Chandela Dynasty, the temples were covered with dense date plum trees for years hence the place derived its name from “Khajur”.
We traveled to Khajuraho via train as we call it in India – “Sastha, Subista aur Tikau” – Value for money. More than the price factor the timing of the train was just perfect for us. We took Sampark Kranti(obviously booked in advance) which left Delhi (Nizzamuddin) at 20.35 hrs and reached Khajuraho at 7 am next morning(25 min late from scheduled time of arrival). But still was convenient.
As we were only two girls travelling, we made it a point that the hotel we choose has to be good, firstly from the point of safety and secondly it should have good communication. We stayed in Hotel Chandela(one of the Taj property) and it was really good.
We informed our hotel in advance regarding our arrival and train so that we can get a pick
Beside the pool @ Hotel Chandela
up an so was it….we receive a call before our train arrives Khajuraho that our AUTO has arrived at the station.
Travelling from Khajuraho station to the hotel gave us a very pleasant feeling. It’s a beautiful small town away from the hustle bustle of a city. Clean roads, Greenery, pure thin air…..and this good feeling sinks in you while you reach your hotel.
Dulhadev Temple Sculptures
Idol of Chaturbhuj Temple
There are various temples surrounding but the main group of Temple is the Western Group of Temple. The other temples also do have almost same sculptures as it is there in Western Group of Temples. The other temples are Chaturbhuj temple, Dulhadev Temple(Southern Group of Temples), Vamna temple, Javari Temple(Eastern Group of Temple). All the temples has some history and the common one is these temples have been destroyed during Aurangzeb’s rule. All the idols are damaged. Out of all the above temples Chaturbhuj temple has a distinctive idol. The idol is sculpted out of a single rock, half of the idol looks like Shiva and half of it like Vishnu. Dulhadev Temple is again quite big as compared to the other temples but nothing as compared to Western group of temples.
Vamana Temple
Once we were done with the above temples, we were set to visit Western Group of temples. Before that we stood by for lunch in a Marwari hotel which was purely veg and again “Value for Money”. Though I don’t remember the name of the food joint, its on approaching road to the Western Group of Temple and the food is really really good. Specially the chutney that they serve with the food. One should not miss out.
Entrance to Western Group of Temples
Kandariya Mahadev Temple
The Western Group of temple has various Temples and is advisable to do a guide. You need to take an entry fee of Rs.10/- and visit the temple and wonder about the sculptures and just go with the stories that your guide tell you. You shall be visiting the gigantic Laxman Temple, Kandariya Mahadeo Temple, Devi Jagdamba Temple, Chausant Yogini Temple, Chitra Gupta Temple, Matangeshwara Temple, Varaha Temple, Vishwanath Temple.
Baraha Temple
The only feeling I had once we were done with the temples that it’s not only kamasutra. The Sculptures depict the living style of that age. I take it on Women Empowerment, as it depicts women performing all sorts of work & their involvement in culture. Whether its painting, song & dance, taking care of children or working out of home. Women at that point of time were really outgoing and took control of their requirements of life. They were more advance in all respect than present India is still fighting its Women to be.
Road to Orchha
After enjoying the temples we went back with good amount of “Sun Tan” to be worried about. We had to skip out the light & sound show because of the rain. Hence enjoyed the evening in a nearby café facing the Western Group of Temples…chose the place after going through a good review but was an mere disappointment in terms of view as the entire view was blocked because of trees. Next day we planned for Orchha.

Few things you cannot miss if you are in Khajuraho. Cows blocking the road, Visiting Orchha, Visiting Panna National Park, Visiting Ranne waterfalls. 

Well we had to strike off Panna National Park, as it was an off season and the park remains close during this season of the year.
Jahangir Mahal, Orchha
We started off in the morning after breakfast from Khajuraho by 9.30 and reached Orchha by 12.45. Almost a 3 hours journey via road to cover approximately 180 kms of distance one way.
Orchha is beautiful small town in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh and is located at the banks of Betwa river. And what you need to see here are Orchha Fort, Jahangir Mahal, Chaturbhuj Temple, Ram Raja Temple, Chattris (Cenotaphs) and of course beautiful Betwa river flowing through the rocks.
View of Chaturbhuj Temple from Jahangir Mahal
River Betwa Beside Jahangir Mahal
Raja Ram Temple
At the entry of the Fort you need to take Entry ticket for yourself and also for your camera. Keep it safe as it works for the entry for other monuments too.

Jahangir Mahal has mix Indo – Mughal structure. It has 100 rooms, hanging balcony and courtyards. We heard it from a guide that Jahangir gifted this to Vir Singh Deo, as he was pleased with his loyalty and friendship. The beauty of the Mahal is magnified by
Chattris (Cenatopes)
the Betwa River just flowing by its side.

Chaturbhuj Temple is huge but girls traveling alone, I suggest to avoid….as it’s dark inside the steps, and is very confusing to come out. Better to go in groups.

Chattris are basically magnificent Royal tombs of Maharajas just beside Betwa River. It’s beautiful to look at.
As it was rainy season….we did not take chance to do boat rides on Betwa. We moved back to Kajuraho.

Ranne Falls

Ken River
On the third day we definitely cannot miss out Ranne Falls. It’s almost about 22kms away from Khajuraho and is situated on Ken River. Monsoon makes this waterfall more wonderful and gorgeous. As guided by our guide, the waterfall is made by volcanic eruption in ancient times. It has a canyon the fall passes through. The Volcanic eruption made all the stone layers of the waterfall of different color. Some pink, green and black. It’s a wonderful sight, never to miss scenario. Done with it, it was already time to travel back to Delhi.
The journey was really amazing and memorable with special thanks to our auto driver, who also acted as a guide to maximum locations.