Can KASHI transform on the lines of KYOTO? Why & Why Not?

Possibilities are tremendous but task is daunting…this is what I feel…but not our PM. I visited Varanasi some 20 years ago but memories have come alive while watching PM in Japan. As I know Varanasi, the city of Kashi Vishwanath temple, Dhashdhmedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, BHU, IIT, Sarnath, Five – Star Hotels, Tourists, Gangaji ki Aarti…it has tremendous potential as a tourist destination but for its infrastructure. Now that it has caught attention of our PM, it cannot escape transformation. PM’s main agenda of this visit to Japan. So what are the similarities, what are the differences, what are the opportunities and what are the threats? For this, it is important to know how splendid is Japanese city Kyoto.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Osaka on August 30 and, within hours, oversaw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to turn Varanasi into a ‘smart city’ with help from Kyoto. The pact is in line with Modi’s vision of building 100 ‘smart cities’ across India. Under the smart heritage cities programme, Kyoto will provide cooperation in the fields of conservation and modernisation of cities, as well as art, culture and academics.

While Kyoto and Kashi share many similarities historically, there is a wide gap in where they stand today. First, the similarities: Kyoto is called the city of ten thousand shrines, while Varanasi boasts of numerous temples and ghats. Kyoto has been the imperial capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years, while Varanasi is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Both cities also have rivers flowing alongside them.

Now, the differences: Kyoto has modernised while keeping its old city, temples and monuments alive, while Varanasi has languished in its past glory. Kyoto’s streets are wide and clean, with magnificent tree-lined boulevards — something Modi witnessed on his way to the luxurious Westin hotel. Varanasi’s squalor and narrow roads have prompted the PM to resolve to clean up the city. Varanasi’s Ganga river is polluted and the ghats need repair, while Kyoto has a number of rivers, canals and other navigable waterways. While Yodo, Kamogawa and Katsura rivers flow through Kyoto, its Late Biwa canal is a major infrastructure milestone.

These differences are likely to be highlighted by Kyoto’s mayor Daisaku Kadokawa in his a presentation to Modi on the subject. Modi’s plan of 100 ‘smart cities’ is one of the major focus areas during the visit. The Prime Minister is keen on rejuvenating Indian cities as urban centres, and Kyoto is a magnificent example of how a city preserves its cultural heritage while modernising itself. It, therefore, dovetails into PM’s own emphasis on rejuvenation of cities in India while preserving their cultural heritage as also his focus on what is widely known as ‘smart cities’. Kyoto, in the Japanese lexicon, is known as a smart city which is environmentally friendly, which preserves its heritage and which is at the cutting-edge of technology.

Could you see some parallels between Kyoto and Varanasi? Yes we can ancient history, culture, heritage, holiness, temples, art & craft, rivers, Ghats, Education and IT Hub, food and cuisine. No wonder Modiji has chosen Japan to do the job of transforming on the lines of Kyoto.

I thought of sharing history and present of Kyoto city of Japan on which Varanasi’s transformation has been modelled, traditional, cultural yet modern. Indeed the task is humongous, but worth trying. Probably it will be the most challenging task for Japan…but Japanese love challenges!

Let me share with you, what is the challenge is all about. How did this elaborate transformation happened? What it will take to transform Varanasi?

In Japanese, the city has been called Kyō , Miyako or Kyō no Miyako (京の都). In the 11th century, the city was renamed Kyoto (“capital city”), after the Chinese word for capital city, jingdu (京都). After Edo was renamed Tokyo (meaning “Eastern Capital”) in 1868, Kyoto was known for a short time as Saikyō (西京, (meaning “Western Capital”). During the 8th century, when powerful Buddhist clergy became involved in the affairs of the Imperial government, the Emperor chose to relocate the capital to a region far from the Buddhist influence. Emperor Kammu selected the village of Uda, at the time in the Kadono district of Yamashiro Province, for this honour.
The new city, Heian-kyō (平安京, “tranquility and peace capital”), a scaled replica of the then Tang capital Chang’an, became the seat of Japan’s imperial court in 794, beginning the Heian period of Japanese history. Although military rulers established their governments either in Kyoto (Muromachi shogunate) or in other cities such as Kamakura (Kamakura shogunate) and Edo (Tokugawa shogunate), Kyoto remained Japan’s capital until the transfer of the imperial court to Tokyo in 1869 at the time of the Imperial Restoration.

The city suffered extensive destruction in the Ōnin War of 1467-1477, and did not really recover until the mid-16th century. Battles between samurai factions spilled into the streets, and came to involve the court nobility (kuge) and religious factions as well. Nobles’ mansions were transformed into fortresses, deep trenches dug throughout the city for defense and as firebreaks, and numerous buildings burned. The city has not seen such widespread destruction since.

There was some consideration by the United States of targeting Kyoto with an atomic bomb at the end of World War II because, as an intellectual center of Japan, it had a population “better able to appreciate the significance of the weapon.” In the end, at the insistence of Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, the city was removed from the list of targets and replaced by Nagasaki. As a result, the Imperial City (Emeritus), of Kyoto is one of the few Japanese cities that still have an abundance of prewar buildings, such as the traditional townhouses known as machiya. However, modernization is continually breaking down the traditional Kyoto in favor of newer architecture, such as the Kyōto Station complex.

Kyoto became a city designated by government ordinance on September 1, 1956. Kyoto is located in a valley, part of the Yamashiro (or Kyoto) Basin, in the eastern part of the mountainous region known as the Tamba highlands. The Yamashiro Basin is surrounded on three sides by mountains known as Higashiyama, Kitayama and Nishiyama, with a height just above 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) above sea level. This interior positioning results in hot summers and cold winters. There are three rivers in the basin, the Ujigawa to the south, the Katsuragawa to the west, and the Kamogawa to the east. Kyoto City takes up 17.9% of the land in the prefecture with an area of 827.9 square kilometres (319.7 sq mi).

The original city was arranged in accordance with traditional Chinese feng shui following the model of the ancient Chinese capital of Chang’an (present-day Xi’an). The Imperial Palace faced south, resulting in Ukyō (the right sector of the capital) being on the west while Sakyō (the left sector) is on the east. The streets in the modern-day wards of Nakagyō, Shimogyō, and Kamigyō-ku still follow a grid pattern.

Today, the main business district is located to the south of the old Imperial Palace, with the less-populated northern area retaining a far greener feel. Surrounding areas do not follow the same grid pattern as the center of the city, though streets throughout Kyoto share the distinction of having names. Kyoto sits atop a large natural water table that provides the city with ample freshwater wells. Due to large-scale urbanization, the amount of rain draining into the table is dwindling and wells across the area are drying at an increasing rate.

With its 2000 religious places- 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrinesas well as palaces, gardens and architecture intact, it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan.

Among the most famous temples in Japan are:

• Kiyomizu-dera, a magnificent wooden temple supported by pillars off the slope of a mountain;
• Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion;
• Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion;
• Ryōan-ji, famous for its rock garden.
• The Heian Jingū is a Shinto shrine, built in 1895, celebrating the Imperial family and commemorating the first and last emperors to reside in Kyoto.

Three special sites have connections to the imperial family: The Kyoto Gyoen area including the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Sento Imperial Palace, homes of the Emperors of Japan for many centuries; Katsura Imperial Villa, one of the nation’s finest architectural treasures; and Shugaku-in Imperial Villa, one of its best Japanese gardens. In addition, the temple of Sennyu-ji houses the tombs of the emperors from Shijō to Kōmei. Other sites in Kyoto include Arashiyama, the Gion and Pontochō geisha quarters, the Philosopher’s Walk, and the canals which line some of the older streets.

The “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto” are listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Kyoto is renowned for its abundance of delicious Japanese foods and cuisine. The special circumstances of Kyoto as a city away from the sea and home to many Buddhist temples resulted in the development of a variety of vegetables peculiar to the Kyoto area (kyōyasai, 京野菜).
The key industry of Kyoto is information technology and electronics: the city is home to the headquarters of Nintendo, Intelligent Systems, Dainippon Screen, TOSE, OMRON, Kyocera, Shimadzu Corp., Rohm, Horiba, Nidec Corporation, Nichicon and GS Yuasa.
Tourism also forms a large base of Kyoto’s economy. The city’s cultural heritages are constantly visited by school groups from across Japan, and many foreign tourists also stop in Kyoto. In 2014, the city government announced that a record number of tourists had visited Kyoto, and it was chosen as the world’s best city by U.S. travel magazine.

Traditional Japanese crafts are also major industry of Kyoto, most of which are run by artisans in small plants. Kyoto’s kimono weavers are particularly renowned, and the city remains the premier center of kimono manufacturing. Such businesses, vibrant in past centuries, have declined in recent years as sales of traditional goods stagnate.

Kyoto Station is the center for transportation in the city. The second-largest in Japan, it houses a shopping mall, hotel, movie theater, Isetan department store, and several local government facilities all under one fifteen-story roof.

More on Varanasi in my next post…wait & watch!

Kyoto history courtesy: Wikipedia

Compare, before you take a plunge! Grand Europe to other counterparts!

We don’t give little old Europe enough credit. Packed into a comparably small space to that of the rest of the world, it has pretty much got everything covered. From beaches to glaciers, our little continent has plenty to offer those unable to trot across the globe. So for every iconic picture you see of some Caribbean coastline or Himalayan mountain range, just remember that there might be an equally bucket list worthy alternative right on your doorstep (or indeed a budget airline flight away).  Plan your trip on but not before comparing two identicals so that you get the levy towards finanlising your budget and make headway towards your journey. 

Mexico’s beaches vs. Greece’s beaches

Many people dream of visiting one of Mexico’s beaches, to drink Mojitos and soak up the sun, but if you’re not able to make the 10 hour flight then a great alternative has to be Greece – one of the best countries for a full-proof beach holiday. Some of the most spectacular have to be in Zante, their white sands and clear waters make them a popular sunbathing spot.

1 close_up_of_beach_club_at_tropical_beach_in_mexico_shutterstock_848675531row_of_straw_umbrellas_and_lounges_at_sandy_beach_of_zakynthos_greece._shutterstock_142721089


Australia’s coastline vs. Portugal’s Algarve

Australia’s Twelve Apostles limestone stacks in Victoria are incredible, but Portugal’s Praia da Marinha also packs a punch. The famous Algarve beach is surrounded by crooked rocks and cliffs and has many coves and caves to explore.

2 dramatic_beautiful_12_apostles_in_australia_shutterstock_115540252

2 idyllic_beach_landscape_at_lagos_algarve_portugal_shutterstock_172674725


Mongolian Desert vs. Gran Canaria

The Gobi desert is a fascinating place – there really is something romantic about the idea of setting forth into the wilderness to experience the isolation of this inhospitable environment, with only a camel as your companion. However, you can still experience a desert adventure while on your holidays in the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. Lying on the same latitude as the Sahara, it’s no surprise that the south of the island has some impressive sand dunes… and yes, you can still visit them by camel.

3 desert_landscape_gobi_desert_mongolia_shutterstock_97528265



Chile’s glaciers vs. Iceland’s glaciers

If this is something on your bucket list, maybe think about saving up for it sooner rather than later. Patagonia’s San Rafael Glacier is melting fast and experts estimate that it will have completely disappeared by 2030. BUT, if you don’t make it across the world in time, Iceland has some of the world’s most incredible ice structures – it’s in the name I guess. Glacier walks are a popular day trip for many tourists (Icelandic Mountain Guides offer a variety of tours) and chances are you might get to tick ‘seeing the northern lights’ off your list too.

4 blue_icebergs_and_snowy_mountains_at_grey_glacier_in_torres_del_paine_national_park_patagonia_chile_shutterstock_71031655

4 iceland_jokulsarlon_shutterstock_149601179


Thai islands vs, Italian islands

Many head to Thailand to island hop around some of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful islands. However, in Europe there are plenty of opportunities to do the same. If you don’t fancy going so far away, Italy has many islands from large, popular ones such as Sardinia and Sicily to many more remote ones such as the Pelagi islands, two of which are completely unpopulated. You will still be able to enjoy fantastic weather and gorgeous scenery – without the long-haul flight.

5 la_paolina_beach_procchio_elba_island._italy_shutterstock_77660251

5 tropical_islands_trat_archipelago_thailand_shutterstock_59555962


Thai lakes vs. Croatian lakes

The likes of Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park are enough to make anyone hop on a plane to Thailand but Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes’ rushing waterfalls and lush surrounding forests make it an equally popular place to visit – and justifiably so.

6 beautiful_landscape_in_the_plitvice_lakes_national_park_in_croatia_shutterstock_107631170

6 tropical_sea_phi_phi_island._thailand_shutterstock_164240123_0


New Zealand’s mountain ranges vs. Italian mountain ranges

New Zealand is the ultimate adventure destination. It’s sprawling mountain ranges make it top of many avid hiker’s travel wish-list, wishing to tackle one of the nine ‘Great Hikes’ and witness some spectacular scenery at the same time. If your budget doesn’t allow you an around the world ticket, Italy’s Alps, Dolomites and Appennino mountain ranges still allow the trepid explorer to lace up their hiking boots and explore the rocky terrain.

7 mount_cook_new_zealand_shutterstock_151203263

7 panorama_from_man-made_caves_dolomites_italy_shutterstock_111502910


Nepal’s Mountains vs. Swiss Alps

Nepal has Everest. And seven other mountains that are among the top ten in the world. Fair enough. Keep them on your to do list. Europe’s mountains may not be able to compete in height, but they certainly can in scenery. The snow covered Swiss Alps for example, are unbelievably beautiful and are a rewarding hike for anyone willing and able to tackle them.

8 matterhorn_mountain_of_zermatt_switzerland_shutterstock_66673123

8 mt._ama_dablam_in_the_everest_region_of_the_himalayas_nepal._shutterstock_106617647


Indonesia’s volcanoes vs. Canary Islands’ volcanoes

Many travel to Indonesia to stand face to face with some of the earth’s most violent and active volcanos. There are over 120 here that frequently erupt, making Indonesia the most geographically unstable country in the world. If you fancy your tumultuous volcanic activity in a slightly smaller, and closer to home scale, the Canary Islands have a chain of seven across the islands. Mount Teide in Tenerife boasts the title of being the highest peek in Spain and the third biggest volcano on earth. Surely that’s worth a visit?

9 mt_teide_a_volcano_in_the_canary_islands_with_a_blue_sky_background_shutterstock_96132746 9 mount_bromo_volcanoes_taken_in_tengger_caldera_east_java_indonesia_shutterstock_42342610


Honeymoon in Bali, that was not to be…Now on 20th Anniversary of Marriage!

Bali has been a dream destination for me, I have always yearned to visit Bali for some reason since 1995 (since my marriage) but that was not to be. The history, the culture, the beaches, the temples, the wild-life, the waterfalls and the shopping has always fascinated me in Bali. It is a complete package for the wanderer, adventurer, worshipper and shopper in me. I am planning my second honeymoon to Bali with the help of


If exclusivity is synonymous with Bali, Simplicity is the key to Skyscanner…

Selecting a destination is easy, but planning for one on our own is quite a task. It is like testing your patience…all through! Right from selecting cheap flights to selecting good hotel is quite a daunting task, sometimes I have to drop the idea of travel in want of time required to plan for the trip. Somehow I am not being fan of package tours where you are tied down by the time and fixed itenery and limited choice of sight-seeing places. I have always planned my own travels be it in India and abroad… & quite a successful ones!
So while thinking of complete package trip in 20th year of marriage, nothing could have been better than planning my trip with Skyscanner. The journey of searching cheap and best flights, wonderful budget hotels and sight-seeing with Skyscanner was just so easy, I felt as if I had a Gini with me, who was at my command. I would like to use this platform to thank skyscanner team and CEO Gareth Williams for putting up such wonderful search engine for travellers and busy professionals like me, who loves to travel but hard on time to plan for it.

I started my search for the cheap flight as I am based out of Mumbai and need to fly to Bali, Indonesia. After filling the dates of travel and destination details, I had a host of options before me of flights offering very competitive rates. I zeroed in for Malaysian Air flight to fly on October 24th and return on October 30th, 2014. The price of ticket is unbelievable…at just Rs. 34,000 approx. considering the fact that I have only Rs. One Lakh for my entire trip. The price of ticket was indeed a big motivation for moving ahead with my travel plans…

…Now I instructed my Gini ( to get me a good hotel which is in my budget and provide me some exquisite experience at the same time. Giving my fetish for good hotels and that too at a good price, I thought it will be difficult for Gini, but Lo & behold! I had host of hotels, resorts and places of stay at my disposal. I started looking at them one by one, now it was my turn to be confused. So I began the daunting task of screening the hotels, but on Skyscanner this journey was smooth beyond my imagination. The hotels listed had all the details including price details. In no time, I zeroed in to a hotel which looked quite impressive and was in my budget too…& that was Garden View Cottage, in Ubud which is located in the cool lush Central Highlands of Bali famed for its arts and crafts. Just south of Ubud, buffered by the Monkey Forest Sanctuary in the enchanting village of Nyuh Kuning Garden View looks like a haven of peace and harmony. Surrounded by shimmering fields edged by greenful gardens and home of refreshing “Mango Blue” Swimming pool looks like ‘the’ place for my stay in Bali. The package cost was unbelievable, Rs. 26,000 for entire six days, what a deal – incredible! I am delighted to the core.


Though a true-blue Mumbaikar, and a regular user of public transport, I don’t use public transport ever for any of my trips, as venture out for the much needed break from using public transport. Now it was time for me to check on Car rentals which I find most expensive part in any trip be it in India or abroad. This will cost me around Rs. 6000 maximum, this way it accommodates my husband’s flight ticket too and big budget for shopping for my home and my darling daughter Tanyaa and her host of sisters & friends.

So I am off to Bali, are you?

Langkawi hosts Ironman Malaysia 2014

A truly Malaysian cultural journey through a tropical, hilly and demanding terrain…read complete account here before setting out for this adventure in Langkawi, Malaysia.

It is a sporty and adventurous year for Malaysia. The country hosted the Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya version in April this year and will be holding the Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi on September 27, 2014. The event is presented by a collaboration of World Triathlon Council. Ironman Malaysia is one of 32 qualifying races on the global Ironman circuit that culminates with the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii each October. Professional athletes will be competing for a total prize of US$40,000 (RM127, 000) for Ironman Malaysia.


“Ironman Malaysia is a great platform for athletes to showcase their talent and energy. Malaysia, especially Langkawi, being an ideal location for adventure sports as well as scenic beauty is an idyllic venue for Ironman Malaysia,” says, Mr. Manoharan Periasamy, Director, Tourism Malaysia, India.

The name “Ironman Triathlon” is also associated with the original Ironman triathlon which is now the Ironman World Championship. Held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, the world championship has been held annually in Hawaii since 1978 and is preceded by a series of qualifying Ironman events. Ironman World Championships has become known for its gruelling length, harsh race conditions, and Emmy Award winning television coverage.

Langkawi image004
The Ironman Langkawi Malaysia is an annual triathlon and one of the Worlds’ most recognized endurance events. It is a gruelling race that starts out with a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run. The Langkawi leg of the event starts out at Eagle Square (Dataran Lang) with a two-loop swim in Kuah Bay. Once out of the water, participants run up a short jetty to grab bikes and head to the other side of the island before heading back. Lastly, it is a four-loop run that ends back at the Eagle Square.
While the triathlon surely attracts athletes and spectators from around the world, Langkawi, also known as the ‘Jewel of Kedah’is an archipelago of about hundred islands in the Andaman Sea which offers a perfect family holiday spot with its beautiful beaches, world class infrastructure, mangroves rich in flora and fauna, and ultra-cheap duty free shopping.
Hence for sports and adventure enthusiasts, this year, Malaysia is the place to be!

About Tourism Malaysia India


Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, popularly known as Tourism Malaysia, was established to promote Malaysia as a top-of-mind tourist destination showcasing Malaysia’s unique wonders, attractions and cultures; develop domestic tourism and enhance Malaysia’s share of the market for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE). Tourism Malaysia’s objective is to promote Malaysia as an outstanding tourist destination and make the tourism industry a major contributor to the socio-economic development of the nation. In India, Tourism Malaysia offices are conveniently located in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai.

visit Mal image010

In 2014, Malaysia celebrates its fourth VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR (VMY) with the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia”. The VMY 2014 promotional campaign has started this year with a series of year-long special events and activities leading to VMY 2014. It will contribute to the Government’s target to receive 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion in receipts by 2020, as outlined in the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP) 2020.

Give Peace a Chance by travelling to the destinations dedicated to PEACE

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. – The Lincoln Memorial not only celebrates the life of the 16th president through a striking structure and interactive museum, but also carries his message of peace following the devastation of the Civil War. The words of his second inaugural address, carved into marble on the walls of the monument, would be a worthwhile plea to any of today’s war zones: “With malice toward none; with charity for all … let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nation”

Lincoln Memorial, Washington  DC

USS Missouri, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – A battleship seems like an odd place to celebrate peace, but it was on the deck of the USS Missouri where the Japanese and Allies signed the peace treaty to end World War II on Sept. 2, 1945. Now docked in Pearl Harbor, where the war began for the U.S., the massive USS Missouri is open for guided tours of the inner workings of the ship, its history, and the very spot where the war formally ended. As Gen. Douglas MacArthur said at the time, “Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed!”

USS Missouri, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Amsterdam Hilton, Netherlands – On a lighter note, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ” bed-in for peace ” took place in a suite at the Amsterdam Hilton in 1969. Part of their year was immortalized in the song ” Ballad of John and Yoko .” Their protest/performance art project certainly didn’t end the war in Vietnam or anyplace else, but it was a noteworthy effort. You can actually stay in the same suite they used, now updated and full of Beatles memorabilia and a nice sound system, where you can put John’s “Give Peace a Chance” on auto-play. If you can’t make it to Amsterdam, you can also stay in the suite in Montreal’s Fairmont. The Queen Elizabeth where John and Yoko staged a second “bed-in” and wrote and recorded peace anthem.

Amsterdam Hilton, Netherlands

The Wall for Peace, Paris – This relatively unknown monument to peace sits in Champs des Mars within view of the Eiffel Tower. The 50-foot long, 30-foot high wall of steel and etched glass contains the word “peace” inscribed in 32 languages in its translucent surface. Inspired by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Wall for Peace also has a series of nooks where visitors can place their own messages of peace. Originally meant to be installed for just a three-month exhibit, the wall has stood in the park since 2000, showing that even here in a park dedicated to the god of war, peace has some staying power.

The Wall of Peace, Paris

Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan – Suffering the devastation of an atomic attack tends to make one focused on peace, and this moving memorial near ground zero of the August 1945 bombing is a scenic and thought-provoking spot. The stark steel-and-concrete skeleton of the Genbaku Dome was one of the few structures left standing after the bombing, and it has been preserved and converted into a museum surrounded by cherry tree-filled Peace Memorial Park . The museum’s exhibits displaying the horrors of war finish with a wall of messages for peace from the humble, the famous, and the famously humble Mother Theresa, who wrote, “Let us love one another … so that the terrible evil that had brought so much suffering to Hiroshima may never happen again.”

Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan

The Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands – Funded by American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and constructed in 1912, the Peace Palace was inspired by The Hague peace conferences of 1899 and 1907. The conferences were meant to promote world peace and reduce the savagery of war. It didn’t work, as World War I began in Belgium a year after the palace was dedicated. But the war ended, and the palace still remains, now housing the International Court of Justice (which tries war criminals), the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the Peace Palace Library. They’re trying. The scenic grounds of the palace host temporary and permanent peace exhibits, and The Hague (“International City of Peace and Justice”) has citywide celebrations to commemorate the United Nations Peace Day on September 21.

The Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands

National Peacekeeping Monument, Ottawa, Canada – Only in polite Canada could you have a national monument dedicated to “reconciliation.” The Peacekeeping Monument, across from the Peace Tower in the capital complex in Ottawa, commemorates the service of more than 110,000 Canadians who have been part of United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world. It includes a quote by former Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester Pearson (whose government also introduced universal health care and abolished the death penalty): “We need action not only to end the fighting, but to make the peace.”

National Peacekeeping Monument, Ottawa, Canada

Palace of Versailles, France -The 1919 Treaty of Versailles has been blamed as a root cause for World War II as well as for the current mess in the Middle East, but it at least did formally mark the end of World War I, granting at least a temporary peace to a weary continent. Visitors to Versailles can now walk through the Hall of Mirrors , where politicians from around the world gathered for the ceremony, and see the Louis XV desk where the document was signed. Even amid heavy summer crowds of visitors to Versailles, you can still find some peace and quiet walking through the palace’s extensive gardens.

Palace of Versailles, France

Courtesy: Bill Fink on Yahoo! Travel

Picture gallery of Eleven Spectacular Scottish views

The beautiful thing about Scotland (other than the scenery of course) is that it is so small that most things are within driving (or boating) distance. So, whether you are planning a road trip around the country, or just fancy a break from the city, there are plenty of opportunities to see some gorgeous views. Skyscanner reveal 11 of the most beautiful places in Scotland. Travelknots highly recommend Road trips by














Red Fort, Delhi, India – An epitome of historical & political significance

Red Fort is witness to the dawn of August 15, 1947 when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, First PM of Independent India made the historical speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Delhi and since then it has been the permanent venue for the big speech i.e. Independence day address to citizens of free India. The Red Fort stood for the sovereign authority of the Mughal badshah, even when actual control of the territories had passed to others. For independent India, the Red Fort came to epitomise the sovereignty of Delhi and, by extension, the unity of India. The Red Fort is an iconic symbol of India. On Independence Day, the prime minister hoists the national flag at the main gate of the fort and delivers a nationally-broadcast speech from its ramparts.

This year’s Independence Day evoked the keen interest not only amongst Indian citizens but Indians all over the world, head of states, diplomats…alike! After all it was first address of newly elected Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi from ramparts of Red Fort on August 15, 2014. Excitement was palpable amidst people who had gathered at Red Fort to get the glimpse of Tri Colour unfurled by Mr Modi and his eagerly awaited speech. Not just India but the whole world was keen to know the mind of the first Indian PM born after Indian independence. This was reflected by the fact that the MEA was pleasantly surprised as it was inundated by requests for passes from an unprecedented large number of Heads of Foreign Missions posted in Delhi. Normally, out of the 153 Foreign Missions in New Delhi, just about 50-60 Missions approach the MEA for passes to attend the Independence Day ceremony at Red Fort. But this time the MEA received requests for passes from a record number 150 diplomatic missions. Given the enormous interest shown by foreign diplomatic missions, the MEA had to stretch itself further and made arrangements for simultaneous English translation for the benefit of the foreign diplomatic corps, yet another first.

Yet, there was one facet of national life that has defied the intrusions of the new Republic: Popular memory. Despite many attempts to impose some order into India’s myriad past, there remains a fundamental gulf between ‘history’ and memory. The sanitised version sees Independence as a seamless journey from darkness to light. But that’s not how most Indians recall narrations of the past by grandparents and elders. & thus making the Red Fort even more significant. Anybody who has been to Delhi or has lived in Delhi has not missed an opportunity to visit Red Fort and I am sure has great memories attached to his visit.

Besides political significance which Red Fort enjoys, it has special significance as historical monument, UNESCO heritage site and tourist destination. It has been a mute witness to various political and historical event which unfurled in Delhi. The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperors of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857. It is located in the centre of Delhi and houses a number of museums. In addition to accommodating the emperors and their households, it was the ceremonial and political centre of Mughal government and the setting for events critically impacting the region.

Undoubtedly it has great significance for tourists visiting Delhi not just from India but across the globe to visit Red Fort which stands on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road, close to Jama Masjid and extends upto Chandani Chowk. It is famous for its light and sound show which is being held at 7:30 3every evening and is a big draw amidst tourists. The long and short of story is that we all love visiting Red Fort – Old generations, New generations. It is a must visit on our itinery. I have some very special memories attached to it when I used to go there for Independence Day celebration with my father to watch Mrs. Indira Gandhi, PM of India who exuded great power then, what a delight it was to watch her speech from ramparts of Red Fort. Not only this, after this we would move to Nai Sarak to pick up some lovely second hand books which I loved to read. Cherish memories of my father who is no more…and his frequent visits to Red Fort on some pretext or the other.

For my tourist friends who would not like to give a miss to Red Fort while in Delhi, I present here an historical account of Red Fort.
The Red Fort was built as the fortified palace of Shahjahanabad, capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, in 1648. Named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone, it is adjacent to the older Salimgarh Fort, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546. The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions, connected by a water channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Behisht). The Red Fort is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity under Shah Jahan. Although the palace was planned according to Islamic prototypes, each pavilion contains architectural elements typical of Mughal buildings, reflecting a fusion of Timurid, Persian and Hindu traditions. The Red Fort’s innovative architectural style, including its garden design, influenced later buildings and gardens in Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir, Braj, Rohilkhand and elsewhere.

Shah Jahan commissioned construction of the Red Fort in 1638, when he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Its design is credited to architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats surrounding most of the walls. Construction began in the sacred month of Muharram, on 13 May 1638. Supervised by Shah Jahan, it was completed in 1648. Unlike other Mughal forts, the Red Fort’s boundary walls are asymmetrical to contain the older Salimgarh Fort. The fortress-palace was a focal point of the medieval city of Shahjahanabad, which is present-day Old Delhi. It’s planning and aesthetics represent the zenith of Mughal creativity prevailing during Shah Jahan’s reign. His successor Aurangzeb added the Pearl Mosque to the emperor’s private quarters, constructing barbicans in front of the two main gates to make the entrance to the palace more circuitous.

After witnessing rise and fall of many Mughal emperors, 1911 saw the visit of the British king and queen for the Delhi Durbar. In preparation of the visit, some buildings were restored. The Red Fort Archaeological Museum was also moved from the drum house to the Mumtaz Mahal. With the Salimgarh Fort, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 as part of the Red Fort Complex.

World’s Best Palace Hotels

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in Nepal’s Pashupatinath temple

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered puja at the famous 5th century Pashupatinath temple in Nepal on last Monday of Shravan. Modi was at the temple of Lord Shiva for about 45 minutes on a day which is considered pious as it was a Monday that falls in the month of ‘Shravan’.

Pash 1

pash 2

Though I have always been curious about this temple since the time I had seen Devanand’s movie dum maro dum as a child which was extensively shot in Kathmandu and particularly in the temple. Since then it has been on my travel wish list. Now there is a revived interest in the Hindu shrine owing to Modiji’s visit to Nepal and Pashupati Nath temple.

Pashupatinath Temple, with its astonishing architectural beauty, stands as a symbol of faith, religion, culture and tradition. Regarded as the most sacred temple of Hindu Lord Shiva in the world, Pashupatinath Temple’s existence dates back to 400 A.D. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple, that is also known as ‘The Temple of Living Beings’. The temple is UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and its unique Features include only four priests, appointed by the King, can touch the idol of Lord Shiva. The priests are always from south India and it is believed that this tradition have been started by Sage Shankaracharaya in 6th century.

Its architecture is worth talking home about, the two level roofs of the temple are embellished with gold and the four main doors are adorned with silver. The temple is famous for its awe-inspiring and astounding pagoda architecture. The western door has a statue of a large Bull, Nandi, is ornamented in gold. This black stone idol, about 6 ft in height and circumference, adds to the beauty and charisma of the temple. The present architectural nature of Pashupatinath temple came into existence as a result of renovation by Queen Gangadevi during the reign of Shivasimha Malla (1578-1620 AD).

The Hindu temple is located on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan, a village 3 km northwest of Kathmandu. It is dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals). It attracts thousands of pilgrims each year, mostly from India. There are a lot of Indian pujaris at the temple. There is a tradition of keeping four priests and one chief priest at the temple from among the Bramhins of south India for centuries. According to legend, the temple was constructed by Pashupreksha of the Somadeva Dynasty in the 3rd century BC, but the first historical records date from the 13th century.



Pashupati was a tutelary deity of the ancient rulers of the Kathmandu Valley; in 605 AD, Amshuvarman considered himself favored by his touching of the god’s feet. By the later Middle Ages, many imitations of the temple had been built, such as in Bhaktapur (1480), Lalitpur (1566) and Benares (early 19th century). The original temple was destroyed several times until it was given its present form under King Bhupalendra Malla in 1697.

According to a legend, especially the Nepalamahatmya and the Himavatkhanda, the Hindu god Shiva once fled from the other gods in Varanasi to Mrigasthali, the forest on the opposite bank of the Bagmati River from the temple. There, in the form of a gazelle, he slept. When the gods discovered him there and tried to bring him back to Varanasi, he leapt across the river to the opposite bank, where one of his horns broke into four pieces. After this, Shiva became manifest as Pashupati (Lord of Animals) in a four-face (chaturmukha) linga.

You should not miss on visiting the following:

Gold-painted images of guardian deities
Chaturmukha (four-faced statue)
Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century
Brahma Temple
Dharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken
Arya Ghat
Gauri Ghat (holy bath)
Pandra Shivalaya (15 shrines)
Gorakhnath and Vishwarup Temples
Guhyeshwari (Guhjeshwari) Temple
Kirateshwar Mahadeva Mandir and Surya Ghat

The Cow Legend
Legend says that Lord Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unkown in the forest on Bagmati river’s east bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshipped as a linga but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine linga of Pashupatinath.

Pashupati area is regarded as one of the most important places of pilgrimages for the followers of Hinduism. Thousands of devotees from within and outside the country come to pay homage to Pashupatinath every day. And on special occasions like Ekadasi, Sankranti, Mahashivratri, Teej Akshaya, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse), Poornima (Full moon day) the whole atmosphere turns festive and mirthful as people congregate here in a far greater number.

During the Shivaratri (also spelled Shivratri) festival Pashupatinath temple is lit with ghee lamps throughout the night and the temple remains open all night. Thousands of devotees take ritual baths in the Bagmati river on the day of the festival and observe a fast for the whole day. Hundreds of sadhus (sages) from different parts of Nepal and India come here on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri.

In August, during the Teej festival, thousands of women visit the temple to bathe in the holy waters of the Bagmati River. Because this ritual is meant to bring a long and happy marriage, many women dress in red saris, which are traditionally worn for wedding ceremonies. Full moon and New moon days are also considered auspicious to visit the temple.

You should also include this on your travel wish list.

In the meantime watch this beautiful rendition from Dum maro Dum shot on Devanand and Mumtaaz and beautifully sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar.

Source: saarctourism