Category Archives: Sight seeing

Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Park: Green Lung of Lucknow

Now, I will take you from where I had left, Janeshwar Mishra Park, Lucknow. After having some great time in the morning, we moved on to Lucknow’s Lohia Park in Gomti Nagar, which looked to me nearly 20 minutes’ drive. Indeed, Lucknow’s greenery and cleanliness are talking points. Janeshwar Mishra Park is very well-structured, equipped with modern amenities, you name it and have it, overall made by planning and design (by LDA) offering a variety of experiences for one and all.

But, if you are a true nature lover, love your morning walk and jog, yoga and meditation or just love to sit and look around, and if you love to blog and write (like me), Lohia Park is the place to be in. The park is lush green, which made Me Mumbaikar green with envy. We don’t have anything anywhere close to this park. Amidst sky-scrapers, highways, metros, flyovers, commercial offices, schools, hospitals…we have forgotten that what a good park is like.

Me, Ritu & Kamalji, after buying tickets at the park’s entrance started walking on the jogging track which was covered by huge trees. These trees provide dense shade to joggers and walkers like us, I am sure temperature would have been 1-2 degrees less than the city. On both sides, there are green belts, some rare flora and fauna, unique variety of plants, trees, some very old trees, flower beds, water bodies and an imposing statue of Lohia ji. No wonder, Lucknow is known for its statues…more on statues later!

…While we were walking, I spotted a swing and I did not miss the opportunity of being on the swing. I don’t remember how many years ago I sat on a swing, real swing not the ones we have in Essel World, Imagica, Singapore’s Sentosa Island or Hong Kong’s Disney. Who would know the pleasure of swinging on a simple swing except for our generation! Gen Y doesn’t even know what they have missed!!

I was told that park is developed by Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) and I must say there are doing the commendable job by keeping Lucknow Green and Lucknowites Pink. Made in the memory of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia ji, the park is spread in 76 acres. It has four courtyards and all have ticket windows with ample parking space.

Starting from the South-East corner of the park, the Main Navigation Path goes through the centre and ends at the North-East corner, measuring around 1 kilometre in length and 4.50 metres in width. The Main Navigation Path which is made up of Kota stones flooring also has a strip in the middle of the path where seasonal flowers are grown. Special architectural lights on designer polls can be seen all around the navigation path.

Right from the entrance, there are pathways in various directions of the park along with natural mounds, flower nursery and other areas. It looks like a light spreading in various directions. The total length of these light beam path is 2.7 kilometres and it is made up of vitrified tile along with white sandstone strips in the middle.

The semi-circular path situated near the main memorial area is almost 500 metres long, also six memory columns and walls are situated along the semi-circular path.

Just near the main memorial area, a flower garden is located in the area of 2 acres. This garden is always blooming with seasonal flowers, also there is a baradari located in the middle of the garden.

A unique system for Rain Water Harvesting has been installed in the park.

Indeed, I loved being there, more than anywhere else in Lucknow. Can’t thank Ritu and Kamalji enough. They are just wonderful hosts…

 

 

 

UP’s answer to Hyde Park London, Lucknow’s Janeshwar Mishra Park

Indeed, Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow deserves a dedicated blog post, which I visited during my recent trip to Lucknow. Why I am drawing a simile to Hyde Park, because I have visited that too, though some years ago. Janeshwar Mishra Park is truly an answer to iconic Hyde Park, London.

Ritu & Kamal Mathur, my gracious hosts for this morning drive from their residence in Indira Nagar to Janeshwar Mishra Park in Gomti Nagar extension, may be fully credited for taking me there. From outside, I could not figure out what was waiting for me inside. As I had mentioned earlier, I hardly have any penchant for parks and I expected it to be close to NTR garden, Hyderabad. But yes, many surprises unfolded!

Admeasuring whopping 376 acres, the park lies between Lucknow and Faizabad, in the north-eastern side and rich fertile plains of River Gomti on the southern side. The site for the park is bordered by river Gomti and a bund road on the other side. It is one of the most prominent green lungs for Lucknow. The bund road offers a vantage location to enjoy fully developed panoramic view of the park.  The size, structure, length, breadth of the park was beyond my comprehension, it is just not possible to see it in a single visit. You need to make multiple visits to let the feeling sink in!

The park houses a very imposing statue of Janeshwar Mishraji in golden colour (I did not understand the logic behind golden colour) on a huge podium, now I found it difficult to imagine how imposing Sardar Patel’s statue would be in Gujarat.

The park was made in memory of late politician Janeshwar Mishra from Samajwadi Party, during the tenure of Akhilesh Yadav and inaugurated by Mulayam Singhji in August 2014. We can’t thank them enough for this iconic landmark of Lucknow.

So more on the park, the most striking feature was very wide jogging track running several kilometres where Lucknowites were seen jogging, moreover, it was quite spic and span. There is a need to maintain the cleanliness not only by authorities but by the public too.

Developed by Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) it is an eco-friendly park habitating some unique flora and fauna, located in the heart of the city. It has been conceptualised and designed as a multi-functional environmental and recreational green patch which not only provides a sustainable habitat for various species of birds but also double up as a major entertainment and recreation centre for everyone. It has enhanced and improved the ecological balance and help restore sensitive habitat for numerous species of birds, small animals, fishes, amphibians and even insects. How I wish MHADA also builds one such park in Mumbai to provide respite from pollution & over-crowding to Mumbaikars.

I could see two large water bodies which immensely added to the glory of the park and also enabled harnessing migratory birds and provide a haven for them in winters and summers, through the creation of lagoons and marshy lands. The area of this water body is 14 acres.

The second water body consists of a freshwater lake spread over an area of 18 acres on the southern corner of the park. The lakes are interconnected with a meandering tree-lined channel to ensure all-weather perenniallity. Collectively, the two lakes along with the channel covers an area of approximately 20 Ha and account for nearly 15% of the park area.

Another additional feature was a huge tank at the entrance and a replica of big Air Force aircraft inside, which would definitely appeal children. It has something for everyone, age, caste, creed, no bar and it is differently-abled friendly too. If you are unable to walk around, there is a provision for E Carts also. The park has lots of lights all over and I am sure it would have looked wonderful in the evening.  Special lighting is also being done in the lakes which makes mesmerising sight in the evening, told Kamal Mathur.

 

I was very fascinated by a series of jogging, cycling and walkways are built in the park. The total length of these tracks was 5.28 km., 8.85 km. and 10.5 km. respectively. The system of jogging tracks, cycling tracks and pedestrian paths have been identified in the ratio of 2:3:4.

The walkways are designed in a curvaceous manner to maximize the visual potential of the site and provide the inter-linkages to various activities proposed in the park. They run all along and across the park, along with the water bodies, connecting cultural hub and theme gardens, parking and cycle tracks.

With heavy heart, we parted ways from this beautiful destination, as I wanted to spend some more time there. On the way I clicked some more photos of the greenery surrounding the mark. Kamal Mathur clicked some beautiful pictures and you can see for yourself, how camera friendly he is!

Thanks, a tonne, Ritu & Kamal ji, I couldn’t have asked for more!

 

Lucknow: Invoking nostalgia, excitement, anxiety, everything!

हम फिदाये लखनऊ, लखनऊ फिदाये हम!

Lucknow brings back many a nostalgic moment for me…the years spent there, the time spent there is just unforgettable, in fact, they are running like a flash-back in my mind. Since I have planned a trip to Lucknow, there have been many vivid memories of the place, my stay, my office, my home, my friends and my colleagues…all are making a beeline in my head and heart.

I didn’t know I would be going through all this and more…I am overwhelmed. How time rolled, how so many years passed, I never missed Lucknow so much, as I am doing now. Anxiety and Excitement are in equal measure. I am remembering visits to Hazrat Ganj in the evenings where we casually strolled, did “Ganjing” as it was popularly called, on many a pleasant Lucknow evening. Coffee in the coffee houses there, Chaat at the chaat corners, window shopping and some serious shopping too, at various places was my favourite activity. No measure can match up the pleasure of Ganjing in those days.

We stayed near Bhootnath temple in Indira Nagar which had many a shop in its vicinity, while returning from office, I would come via Bhoothnath and pick up whatever I liked to eat. I knew each and every shop by name, as I was quite a regular there. I made many precious friends there.

Soni Bhaiya, was always around till we stayed there, and always. His love and affection for me are unconditional, then there is Kamal Mathur, polite, courteous, creative, friendly always…look forward to meeting him and wife Ritu after say 25 years.

When all of a sudden, I decided to leave Lucknow for a new life in Mumbai, it was a sort of culture shock for me. Lucknow is a place known for its culture and tehzeeb and Mumbai…less said the better. Being a capital of the largest state of India, U.P. it has always been a multi-cultural city. Known for its courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known amongst Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Even after leaving Lucknow, many many years ago, I keenly follow the political and social developments there. I always, how I wish I was in Lucknow now when Yogiji is CM. Such is my love for Lucknow!

Lucknow has many places for sightseeing like Bada Imambara, Chota Imambara, Residency, Rumi Darwaza, Gomti River Front, Lohia Park, Janeshwar Mishra Park and many more. Of course, not to miss Ganjing and chai and chaat in Chowk. I heard that Lucknow has Metro now, so Metro ride to banti hai, Mumbai mein to ban hi rahi hai…

The trip to Lucknow is not complete without shopping for some chikan kari, which is matchless because of its craft, the intricacies, embroideries and love for the dresses, sarees! The place is Ameena Bad for that. It brings back memories of dear Papa who loved visiting Ameenabad always, it was his city after all.

Lucknow is famous for its Awadhi cuisines and if you are a non-vegetarian, don’t miss Tunde – Ke – Kabab’s, most authentic kababs one can think of. Mouth-watering chaats, shakes, kulfis, fruit chaats etc. are other add-ons. Being a foodie, I would love to try all this and more!

I heard that Lucknow has transformed completely and is developed enough to give some serious competition to Metros, but I am going to explore my good, old Lucknow where I spent such precious carefree years, not without doing some serious work as UP Govt’s Class I officer.

In Mumbai, people did not even know what it is to be like UP Government official, this is life you encounter all…it is a roller coaster ride, ultra-highs and ultra-lows!

Special thanks to Dr. Raveesh Shrivastava, who made this happen from Millennial Works.

 

Hussain Sagar Lake & Hyderabad Blues!


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We planned to visit iconic Hussain Sagar Lake of Hyderabad while returning from Chilkur Balaji Temple, it was afternoon time, dark and cloudy, even drizzling. In such a weather, any site could not have been more fascinating than Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad. The lake is situated in the midst of twin cities: Hyderabad & Secunderabad. The lake is so huge that it almost looked like a seashore, in the middle of the lake, there is a huge statue of standing Lord Buddha which has a height of 16 m and weighs almost 350 tonnes. Made up of white granite, the statue is on the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’. The lighting show at the statue is something that is worth watching.

The stroll on the sides of the lake was quite pleasant and soothing. Had I been living in Hyderabad; I would have visited this place quite often. It was a pleasant site to see the cleanliness around the lake. In fact, all places which we visited were quite clean, rather spic and span, which made a rather unusual sight for #MeMumbaikar. Probably this is the impact of Modiji’s Swachchta Abhiyan for which we are paying 2% Cess. At least in some state, it is properly utilised.

Having been bordered by Indira Park in the east, Sanjeevaiah Park in the north and Lumbini Park in the south, the lake presents a setting quite rare to find in the middle of any city. There is also a bund on its banks, which was built to control the flow of water. This artificial lake now beautifies the city gracefully. Not just for beauty, it is also known for its historical connection. On the banks of this Hussain Sagar Lake, the treaty between Mughals and Golconda was signed.

This trip took us around the city which boasts of huge commercial buildings, shopping malls and shopping arcades and general shops. Roads are wide and well maintained, traffic moderate and everything easily accessible. There is an impressive network of Metros which must be helping office goers in a big way. There are many flyovers also, which boasts of vertical gardens beneath. Yea, the striking feature would be that though the city has the tag of tech city with a lot of development taking place all over, lots of residential complexes and commercial complexes coming up all over, the city boasts of its fair share of greenery all over.

My cousin Vandana shared that ladies love to work here that way it is quite safe for them. It is very well lit and some areas are quite impressive with their lighting. If you are in Hyderabad, Hyderabadi Biryani is must, we could see Biryani joints all over along with some attractive pan boutiques. Paradise Biryani, being most famous and biggest, has a junction in its name called Paradise junction. Vandana hosted us most delicious biryani I could think of made by her expert cook Shabana, under the guidance of Vandana. One more memorable experience!

Shopping in Hyderabad is quite a delightful experience for its inimitable pearls, south silk Mangalgiri cotton, Gadhwal silks and Kanjeeverams and other assortment of beautiful and reasonably priced sarees. I freaked out on them…shop keepers and staff are very cordial; they show you any number of pieces without any expectations and are very well – equipped with interiors, lighting, display and staff. They speak very good Hindi besides Telugu and English and understand the consumer’s pulse.

I noticed two Kendriya Vidyalayas and many other schools in the vicinity. Hyderabad is famous Education Centre and boasts of ISB, Administrative Staff College of India, IPS Police academy and ICFAI.

Indeed, we loved being in Hyderabad and spending some very quality time with my cousin Vandana, who I believe equally cherished my company. Hyderabad Blues persist

NTR Gardens: Baby’s oops Babes’ evening out!

Though I am not a park-park person, somehow park reminds me of old Bollywood movies where the hero and heroine romance behind trees and sing love duets, which is not the case with me. So, I don’t relate to an outing in the park…

…But visit to NTR Gardens, Hyderabad turned out to be quite a unique experience. Sisters decided to visit the park and there we were! I was apprehensive that it may be a local park, like any other park, but that was not to be. We became kids amidst kids and we enjoyed every moment of it. I was fascinated by the entrance itself which had unique architecture and Nandi Bull beside a waterfall added to the beauty of the facade. I knew something much more exciting was in the offing…

We started our visit by boarding the toy train which took us around the park, this way we could have the complete view of the park, which somehow reminded me of night safari, Singapore. With child-like excitement, we were relishing every moment of our joy ride.  One of the most striking observations about the park would be its neatness and ticket pricing, just 20 Rupees for so much fun.   

Vandana told me that NTR Garden is built in the memory of late Shri N T Rama Rao, former and one of the most popular chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh. Spread across an area of 36 acres, it presents a soothing atmosphere and refreshing setting to visitors. Built at a cost of Rs. 40 crores, it was in 2002, when the NTR garden was opened to the public.

Breathtakingly beautiful and intricately landscaped, the Garden presented a very fascinating view besides offering various kinds of recreational options as well. Some of these are a boat ride, Japanese garden, Roaring Cascade, a Fountain, etc. We clicked lots of pictures and why not? We were in the most picturesque place of Hyderabad.

One of the striking features of the NTR garden is the Desert Garden, consisting of about 150 plant varieties, mainly of those plans which are commonly referred as desert plants such as cacti, succulents, etc. The plants, which also boast of medicinal importance and are used for various herbal remedies, have been brought to Hyderabad from various parts of the country like Kolkata, Shirdi, etc.

The garden has been created in such a way that it offers breath-taking natural surroundings along with ample entertaining activities. Excellent facilities for food are also provided in the garden. Various eat out joints, car cafe and fruit restaurant which is a 2000-square-metre restaurant circumvented by three petal-shaped ponds offer not just mouth-watering dishes but also a beautiful setting to relish the same. The Car Cafes are primarily cafes with a seating capacity of six and which are mobile.

It is close to the popular Hussain Sagar Lake, which makes a visit to the park even more enjoyable. One can visit the till 9 in the night as the NTR Garden timings are from 12:30 pm- 9:00 pm.

As goes the saying, pictures speak louder than words, enjoy our sojourn to NTR Gardens in pictures. Actually, I am short of words to describe the beauty of NTR garden.

The day concluded by a visit to Hanuman Ji ka Mandir, which was so divine and loved being there the most. I couldn’t have thanked Vandana enough for these divine sojourns.

Must visit while in Hyderabad!

Charminar, Hyderabad: Yeh Dil Maange More!!

June 28: Day 3 in Hyderabad


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After enjoying two-days stay in lush – green Aalankrita Resort, now was the time to move on to my cousin Vandana’s place in Jeedimetla, Hyderabad. They (Vandana & Jijaji) keenly awaited our arrival in their beautiful apartment and loving hearts. This was the first time I was visiting them with husband Mukund. Our meeting was like a house on fire!

After the initial meeting, greeting and eating, sisters set out for the day outing. Though the day was not that well-planned, it turned out to be the most exciting day of the entire trip. We set out for iconic Charminar where her friend Shahla with her daughter Laiba joined us. I had never visited Charminar earlier, so I was quite excited to view it even from a distance.

An identifying feature of the city, Charminar is the most prominent landmark located right in the heart of Hyderabad. The monument was erected by Quli Qutub Shah to signify the founding of Hyderabad. As is evident from the structure, it was so named as it consists of four minarets. Although it lies right in the centre of the city with traffic and crowds milling all about it, Charminar certainly manages to hold the gaze. It is also famous for the market that sprawls around it and is called ‘Laad’ or ‘Chudi’ Bazaar.

The market was not open yet, so we had to make up with the whatever shops were open. If it is a Friday, then visit Charminar market only after 3 PM before that market doesn’t open that much. After scouting for some bedspreads, we moved on for some marriage shopping, which Shahla wanted to do. Initially, I got slightly nervous as I found the market quite strange, with no women present in the market. We were the only bunch of women in the market. But I must admit that shop keepers were really respectful and cordial, who showed us many pieces. She picked up some beautiful suits, dress material for shararas, kurtas and dupattas. Though the market is very big around Charminar, there are no eating joints, so we had to catch whatever was available from a streetside joint. Snacks were really delicious.

It was not just shopping time, but bonding time too! Though I met Shahla and her daughter Laiba for the first time, we bonded well. There were discussions on choices, selections, occasions, children, family, engagement and Shahla shared some fine details about Nikaah ceremony.

I and Vandana clicked a lot of pictures, she was very generous with that. We recollected those good old days when we were studying and strutted around the Rajouri Garden market for the nitty-gritty. For the first time, I saw some beautiful Khada Dupatta outfits worn by Muslim brides. I must admit that the outfits were really creative and reasonably priced.

Now was the time to visit Bangle Bazaar, actual name Laad Bazaar in the vicinity of Charminar, you can’t call them Bangle shops, they are fit to be called Bangle Boutiques which sold some outstanding collections. Shopkeepers stand outside and lovingly address you as Baaji (Sister) for inviting you to their shops. The self-confessed, bangles obsessed that I am, it was a mecca for bangle shoppers like me. I did not know what to pick, what to leave. I had a great time looking at such beautiful, intricately worked bangles, finally, Vandana helped me with picking some. Now some clarity came, and I freaked out on bangles, jhumkas, chokers, sets etc. I have returned several hundred bangles richer.

While in Laad Bazaar, use your bargaining skills to the T.

Shahla did that for me, I had laddoos in both hands, Shahla bargained and Vandana paid…

Couldn’t have asked for more!!

But I was like, “Yeh Dil Maange More!!

Kumbh Mela: To witness the world’s biggest congregation of humanity

After the tumultuous year 2018, people are hoping big for peace, harmony & spirituality for the year 2019, as it is starting with the Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019, going to be held at Allahabad (Prayag) from January 14th – March 4th, 2019. According to estimates, the Kumbh Mela 2019 would have more than 12 crore pilgrims drawing in for the bathing ritual held in Allahabad.

With PM Narendra Modi performing the Maha Aarti on Sangam Ghat and announcing the prarambh of Ardh Kumbh along with UP CM Yogi Adityanath, this year Kumbh is unquestionably the most anticipated event of the Year 2019. Massive preparations are underway to provide bhakts with never before experienced. In the words of Yogi Adityanath, “ With Kumbh (Ardha Kumbh) Mela due in Prayag in January 2019, the preparations are afoot to host an expected 12 crore visitors. Inviting one and all to be a part of the Mela. He informed about the world-class arrangements of the Kumbh Mela, and of cleanliness. He added, “I promise, you will not find any dirt in the venue, which we have expanded to 10,000 acres from 5,000 acres. Also, this time, the Kumbh Mela will have more cultural attractions than ever before.”

Going by the arrangements put in by the Yogi Government this Kumbh, it is going to be a big tourist attraction for Indian & Foreign Nationals besides being Spiritual, Cultural and Religious experience which comprises its core. The major attractions being Shahi Snan, Sangam Walk and Laser Show etc. Not only this, the Centre has plans to start airboat service from Varanasi to Prayagraj for the Kumbh Mela as per the announcement made by Central Road Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari recently. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is arranging for a ferry service near Sangam Ghat as well.

Noted film producer Subhash Ghai upheld the Kumbh Mela as an inspiration for all artists. “As artists, we get inspired by history, our epics, our puranic sanskritis and give this punarjivan in our own ways. We consider the age-old Kumbh tradition that was mentioned as early as in the 7th century by Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang, as a great pride of India. I hope by taking part in the Kumbh Mela, this unique gathering of humans focused on soul and world peace alone, we will give more power to this wonderful tradition.”

The Royal Bath or the Shahi Snan or the Rajyogi Snan is the first holy bath that is taken by Nagas, followed by saints and sages of different Akharas (religious groups) in the Sangam. Millions of pilgrims follow these saints and sages down onto the river; the Nagas take the lead.

The organisers have left no stone unturned to make Kumbh Mela as women-friendly as possible with sensitisation training and the establishment of separate ghat among other measures. The Gobind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute (GBPSSI) at Prayagraj is training about 8500 police personnel and additional 9000 paramilitaries on gender, cultural and linguistic dialect sensitization. In another first at the Kumbh, women – only ghat is being constructed.

The city of Prayagraj will host its first Kumbh in January 2019 after its recent rechristening. Kumbh Mela 2019 promises to be a grand spiritual event in which millions will throng from around the world at the holy confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

It is believed that the Kumbh Mela starts when astrological positions of Sun, Moon and Jupiter are fully occupied. This is considered a holy time in the Hindu religion. Prayagraj is connected by air to several domestic destinations. The airport is at Bamrauli and is 12 km away from the city centre. The city has four major railway stations namely Allahabad Junction, Prayag Station, City Station at Rambagh and Daraganj Station. Prayagraj is well connected by road as well.

Millions of people visit Prayagraj during the Kumbh Mela. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that the city expects 15 crore visitors during Kumbh Mela 2019. Peshwai is one of the attractions of the Kumbh Mela. Peshwai marks the beginning of the Kumbh Mela and is a marvellous procession. Holy men and their entourage arrive at the Kumbh on elephants, horses and in carriages.

Uttar Pradesh government is organising Sangam Walk for the tourists visiting the city for Kumbh Mela. A laser-light show will be one of the attractions this year. The show will be held at Allahabad Fort.

Indian, as well as foreign nationals from abroad, are expected to visit the Kumbh Mela. Heads of foreign missions in India were invited by the government to observe the preparations at the site Kumbh Mela.

This is the first time that about 1500 cameras would capture images and videos across the city. This would enable organisers to understand crowd behaviour and pedestrian’s movement which is very critical handle crowds of this scale.

Plan your visit in advance for that unique spiritual experience!

Inputs: News 18 and ET

 

A date with Costa Cruises’s neoRieviera

December 7, 2018, Mumbai: Europe’s No 1 cruising company, Costa Cruises, is commenced its India season for the 3rd time with the arrival of its ship, Costa neoRiviera at the Mumbai International cruise terminal. The day turned out to be truly special when Costa Cruise hosted a DATE with media and bloggers on the Cruise itself, which provided us with some very interesting insights. For me, this was the first time I had seen the ship with such close quarters as we were taken for the entire tour of the ship. Costa newRievera is nothing short of a sailing five – star hotel in the seas from Mumbai via Kochi to Maldives. Icing on the cake was some breathtakingly beautiful on-board performances!

So why should you choose a Costa Cruise?

  • The Only Italian finest cruise to home port in Asia
  • Exclusive entertainment for children
  • No Visa for Indian nationals
  • Children under 18 cruise free if sharing a cabin with two adults
  • A holiday for everyone, fun-filled activities
  • Maximum value with minimum cost

The Mumbai home port starting on December 7, was celebrated in the presence of Shri Tawde, Hon’ble Minister School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare, Hon’ble Minister of State, Water Resources, Ms Stefania Costanza, Consul General of Italy, Shri. Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman of Mumbai Port Trust, Mr Ashish Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary Transport and Ports, other senior Government officials, Marco Salvatico, Director, MICE & India Business Development, Costa Cruises and Smt. Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations, Representative of Costa Cruises in India.

The event kicked off with an announcement of the sailing of Costa neoRiviera from Mumbai to the Maldives via Cochin for the 3rd season. The sailings are from 08th December 2018 to 16th March 2019. This is the 3rd season that Costa Cruises will be homeporting in Indian waters and is the only international cruise liner in India to offer regular cruises directly from Mumbai to Maldives, confirming its strong interest in proactively developing the Indian cruise market.

This year Costa Cruises has deployed its ship, Costa neoRiviera which will begin its first sailing from Mumbai with an Indian Wedding. The built-in infrastructure on the ship makes it particularly easy for groups to hold large events in one location. This classic cruise ship has a total of 654 cabins, including sea view cabins and suites with private balconies. With around 670 crew attending to approx. 1,700 passengers, the ship maintains its exclusivity and provides dedicated services to guests. Fully-equipped with a Casino, Theatre, Disco, Ballroom, Grand Bar, it aims to provide plenty in entertainment from Magic shows operas and dancers that will captivate even the most well-travelled folks with spectacular performances.

The ship prides itself in serving up a culinary feast, catering to different dietary needs. Italian food is a speciality, with provision made to ensure customisation towards the Indian market by providing Indian & Jain meals. The wellness centre is spread across 1,300 sq. m with a gym, treatment rooms, sauna and steam room. It also has an outdoor jogging track, 4 Jacuzzis and 2 swimming pools. For those who would like to go shopping, the cruise ship has a duty-free shopping centre and also offers a wide selection of books in the library for book lovers.

Sanjay Bhatia Chairman Mumbai Port added “Cruise Tourism is a niche travel segment and its demand is expanding amongst Indians. Observing this trend, we have planned to encourage Cruise Tourism by inviting cruise liners to explore Indian waters. I am thankful to our Minister who acknowledged and supported our efforts to boost Cruise Tourism”. Elaborating the plans, Mr Bhatia said, “This year we are going to have 60 callings overall in Mumbai, and in April two bigger cruises are coming, which will have 100 callings in Mumbai. There is a new SOP in the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Shipping. We are developing this part of the Mumbai a key tourist destination, we are developing an international cruise terminal of the size of the International airport. We are very keen that cruise tourism develops as it would also open many employment avenues. ”

Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations, GSA Costa cruise India, says “This is exciting times to be in the cruising industry in India. I am quite confident, every Indian who experiences cruising with neoRiviera will take away nostalgic memories with them” She added, “I would like to thank Costa Cruise headquarters for showing that kind of confidence on Indian markets and Govt of India who is getting Cruising policy into place. I believe that the cruising industry is here to stay and 2020 belongs to cruising industry of the country.”

This summer head to ND’s Film World, near Mumbai

ND’s Film World, first of its kind Bollywood theme park in Karjat (64 Kms. from Mumbai), offers visitors a platform to fulfil their filmy dreams and much more. Visitors can explore their favourite film characters and sets of super-hit films like Jodha Akbar, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Jail, Indu Sarkar and many more. Everything is larger than life here and India’ first Bollywood theme park very well lives up to the tag line: Jeelo Apni Filmy Khwahishein. Not only that, visitors can also dress like their favourite Bollywood stars and there is a 20 percent discount on the entry fee from Monday to Wednesday.

ND Art World Pvt Limited was started in 2002 by the veteran art director Shri. Nitin Chandrakant Desai to create a foothold in the entertainment industry. Shri. Desai started his career as an art director with Tamas and then moved on to the big screen. He worked on a variety of films winning many national awards for his early works. In 2005, he started ND, a film and television production studio, in Karjat. At ND Studios, he has created a place where there are no restrictions for art to flourish. The studio offers a unique proposition as it provides services for all stages of Film production, from the initial stage of storyboarding to the final stage of VFX.

As Nitin Desai started out as a production designer, he believes in giving attention to every detail of his design, in a similar way he believes that every production-taking place in ND Studios should have minute attention to detail and he wants to guide artists to make the film that they want to make. ND’s Art World has the vision to intersect tourism, media and entertainment industry through India’s first and only entertainment theme park, which is just a few hours’ drive from Mumbai and Pune. This Park is the perfect getaway, which allows visitors to fulfil their filmy wishes and promote Bollywood tourism. You can visit:  http://www.nitindesaiartworld.com

ND’s Film World reservation number – 02192 273354.

When:  Monday to Wednesday (Summer offers), Timings –  10.00 AM to 7.00 PM

Take your children who have a creative streak in them.

Magnificent Mehrangarh Fort, Memorable Trip, Jodhpur, Rajasthan India

We have very fond memories of attending my cousin Aarti’s wedding in Jodhpur some three years ago, which was a typical Rajasthani marriage in Jodhpur. When marriage got over, my phoophaji advised us to visit Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhavan Palace which had already caught my fancy while coming to my dear Suman bua’s home for Aarti’s marriage…

Phoophaji arranged a vehicle (read: luxury car) for us and very next morning we were out to visit Mehrangarh Fort. Though tired because of marriage ceremonies, I was quite excited to visit the fort which looked so imposing to me while driving round the beautiful Rajasthan city of Jodhpur. Moreover, I have a fetish for forts and I may be credited for visiting several forts of India across States. The palaces in Rajasthan are truly royal and magnificent and it is very difficult to rate them on these parameters. Every fort has its own charm and a story to tell, the only common thread being Rajasthani Culture and architecture. Every fort awe-inspiring, leaving you to spell – bound. The story is the same here, when accompanied by my husband Mukund, who was like – Oh another fort, another steep climb, guide telling Raja Rani Kahaniyan…

…but Mehrangarh was different, it has lifted for tourists to go various levels, one need not necessarily climb rather take the steep walk to visit the fort. I must say a visit to the fort was very enlightening and it opened many layers of Rajputana, Raja-Maharajas, their aesthetic sense, their valour and love of their land. No wonder Mehrangarh has a steady stream of Indian and foreign tourists, in every season. We were lucky to have visited in winter, which further added to our experience about Mehrangarh fort. Standing high above the plains on this isolated rock, the Fort covers an area 460 mts in length and 230 mts in width, with walls that vary in height from 6 to 36 mts.  Inside its ways, there are several palaces, which are known for their intricate carvings and sprawling courtyards. The foundation of the fort was laid on May 12, 1459 by Rao Jodha on a rocky hill nine kilometres to the south of Mandore.

The invincible fortifications are six meters thick. Some of the walls still bear cannon marks they had once withstood. The Chamunda Mataji was Rao Jodha’s favourite goddess, he brought her idol from the old capital of Mandore in 1460 and installed her in Mehrangarh. She remains the Maharaja’s and the royal family’s Isht Devi or adopted goddess and is worshipped by most of Jodhpur’s citizens as well. Crowds throng Mehrangarh during the Dussehra celebrations. It contains period rooms like Moti Mahal – The Pearl Palace, Sheesha Mahal – The Hall of Mirrors, Phool Mahal – The Palace of Flowers, Takhat Vilas -Maharaja Takhat Singh’s Chamber.

Burnished red sand stone, imposing, invincible and yet with a strange haunting beauty that beckons. The beauty and the grandeur of numerous palaces in the fort narrates a saga of hard sandstones yielding to the chisels of skilled Jodhpuri sculptures. To enter the Mehrangarh fort, seven gates have to be crossed.

The work of building the fort originally commenced in 1459 on the behest of the founder of Jodhpur – Rao Jodha but much of the fort as it stands today was built in the era of Jaswant Singh. This magnificent fort is spread over 5 kms. and is located on top of a hill which is all of 125 meters high.

The Mehrangarh Fort encloses many palaces, which are known for their intricate carvings and sprawling courtyards. The Moti Mahal which is made of elaborately carved stones is the dwelling place of the royal throne of Jodhpur which is popularly referred to as the Sringar Chowki in local parlance.

There is also the majestic Umaid Villas that showcases some remarkable Rajasthani miniature art work. The Ajit Villa is conspicuous with its rich collection of musical instruments and regal attires while the gorgeous Phool Mahal is where the legendary Jodhpur Coat of Arms is preserved.

The parapets of Phool Mahal are adorned with exquisite art works portraying various melodious scenes. There are seven gates, which include Jayapol (meaning ‘victory’) built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. Fattehpol (also meaning ‘victory’) gate was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to mark the defeat of the Mughals. The palm imprints upon these still attract much attention even today.

The museum in the Mehrangarh fort is one of the most well-stocked museums in Rajasthan. In one section of the fort museum there is a selection of old royal palanquins, including the elaborate domed gilt Mahadol palanquin, which was won in a battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730.

The museum exhibits the heritage of the Rathores in arms, costumes, paintings and decorated period rooms. Mehrangarh fort has never ever been seized. The invincible fortifications are six meters thick.

Some of the walls still bear cannon marks and today this magnificent Jodhpur fort is a living testimony that recounts the chronicles and legends of Jodhpur’s rich past.

It was really a very memorable afternoon like icing on the cake. I wish we had more time to splurge on this Rajasthani marvel.

If Rajasthan visit is on your agenda, don’t give it a miss…Watch video for a great experience!