Category Archives: Tourism

Shri Thal, Jaipur: A great place of everything Rajasthani, fun, food, peace, ambiance, music, hospitality!

Amidst all these stressful times when there are talks of Covid19 all over, round the clock, it is difficult to keep yourself aloof from the surroundings. We are confined at home 24×7 for many days, which for people like me who like to talk, host tea, lunches, dinners and most importantly taking morning and evening walks are feeling the heat beyond measure. Travel is out of the question, don’t know till when.

Hence, I decided to share with you the wonderful evening with my cousin Aarti and her husband Mohit in Jaipur. When I expressed the desire of eating daal, baati, choorma, she planned this outing for me. I fully trusted them for their choice and voila! What a choice it turned out to be!! It became a memorable evening!!!

Around 8 PM on 25th January we reached Shri Thal which looked to me mini chowki dhaani. Incidentally, the place belongs to Aarti’s good friend Ms Nidhi Upadhyay, a first-generation women entrepreneur with many prestigious awards in her thaali. We were accorded a very warm and traditional welcome at Shri Thal with their service staff. The seating arrangement was informal – Moodhas and Manjis and we were served raab as a welcome drink.

Shri Thal Village Restaurant, Jaipur is a Rajasthani Village in the City. This concept & idea of Village Theme Restaurant in the City came to Mrs. Nidhi Upadhyay’s (Managing Director – Shri Thal Village) mind looking at the busy lifestyle of Jaipurites, where it is practically not possible to get out of the city to experience the village ambience. For them, Shri Thal Village is an ideal place to enjoy ethnic Rajasthani Food, Village games & fun etc. The Restaurant is located on Queens Road in Vaishali Nagar, which is in the heart of Jaipur accessible from anywhere within 15-20 minutes of drive.

So, something about the ambience, it has a mini fort-like façade and a huge entrance door with a mud wall village structure with traditional mandana painted all over the walls, dry grass clad huts, water bodies & fountains. It is lit up in the night lit up with traditional lamps & village statues.  It has Entrance Munim (Cashier) Counter Hut, Gaming Zone Huts for Shooting the Baloon, Ring Game, Chai Ki Thadi etc. There are 3 dining halls named after Rajasthani Folk Dances as Ghumar, Ghorbandh and Panihari.

What to say of Rajasthani cuisine meticulously designed by Nidhi herself who is a culinary expert and a passionate food presenter which included Jaipuri Aloo Pyaz ki Subzi & Dal Panchmel, Bikaneri Papad Mangdi, Jodhpuri Gatte, Traditional Dal Bati Churma, Bajri ka Khichda, Rajasthani Kadhi, 2 Types of Chutneys (Coriander & Garlic), Snacks like Moong Dal Kachori, Kofta, Mini Samosa, Jalebi, Rabdi Malpua etc. Wow! I was confused to the core, what to eat, what not to eat. Aarti helped me with that, I had a great time relishing food and hospitality of the people there.

I and Aarti danced to the beats of Dhol and some other traditional instruments, watched Kathputli dance sitting on Manji with childlike enthusiasm. It was an evening, where my mind was empty and heart full…there is so much to be enjoyed, which we waste in unnecessary complications of life.

No wonder, Nidhi Upadhyay has been awarded “Corporate Diva Award” by FM Tadka – Rajasthan Patrika Group for Shri Thal Village Concept in an award ceremony at the Hotel Marriott, Jaipur.

idhi came to Jaipur after 14 years of marriage from Jodhpur, originally belonging to Kota. During these years she received many job offers from hotels & schools, as word had spread about her talent for cooking, but she could not take it up due to home priorities. But as kids had grown up, thus her husband Ajay, who had been admiring her talent all through, thought of opening a restaurant for Nidhi in Jaipur by the name of Shri Thaal Village. It was gifted to her on her 14th wedding anniversary i.e. 9th May 2011.

What a tribute from a loving husband for her talented wife!

Way to go Nidhi!!

If you are in Jaipur, mark it in your itinerary.

 

TEERTHRAJ PUSHKAR – The place of Fairs & Festivities!

Historic district of the town of Pushkar on the sacred Pushkar Lake, Rajasthan, India, Asia

As goes the saying: Paying obeisance at Teerth Raj Pushkar in Rajasthan, India is equivalent to paying obeisance at chaar dham!

I was lucky to accomplish my chaar dham yatra by visiting Pushkar in January 2020, when I visited Jaipur for Literature Fest.

After finishing our Jaipur Lit Fest activities, Aarti, my cousin planned a trip to Ajmer, where our bade chacha lives. I was quite excited to meet him and my younger Chachi who live in Ajmer and I had not met them for years. En route Ajmer was the holy town of Pushkar, and I expressed my desire to visit Pushkar. My wish was granted and Mohit drove us ladies to Pushkar. I was very happy to be in Pushkar, which I had visited with my father some decades ago. Reliving those memories!

Pushkar is one of the oldest cities in India. Located to the northwest of Ajmer, the tranquil city of Pushkar is a favoured destination for thousands of tourists and devotees flocking to Rajasthan. Situated at a height of 510 metres, Pushkar is surrounded by hillocks on three sides. The ‘Nag Pahar’, literally meaning Snake Mountain forms a natural border between Ajmer and Pushkar. Known as ‘the rose garden of Rajasthan’, the essence of the famous Pushkar rose is exported all over the world. Along with an interesting mythological history, a legacy of timeless architectural heritage makes Pushkar a fascinating city.

According to legends, Lord Brahma, believed to be the creator of the Universe dropped a lotus to the ground leading to the immediate creation of a lake. He then decided to name the place after the flower, and thus the name, Pushkar. The city of Pushkar is home to the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in the whole world. Hindus consider a journey to Pushkar to be the ultimate pilgrimage that must be undertaken to attain salvation.

I didn’t have vivid memories of Pushkar so it was like being there for the first time. The experience was simply divine to Brahma Ji temple (only temple in India). I must admit that the market leading to the temple is to die for. You can shop so many curious, traditional dresses, handicrafts, pooja samagri and what to say of eating joints there servicing hot crunchy maal puas and rasgoolas!

The pilgrimage is loved and respected equally by foreigners and Indians, which was quite evident there. A number of steps lead to Brahmaji temple which is engraved in silver with gold stambh in the centre of its verandah.

Built with marble and decorated with silver coins, this temple can be identified by its red spire and the image of a swan (considered sacred to Lord Brahma). The chaturmukhi (four-faced) idol of Lord Brahma is housed in the inner sanctum. A marble statue of the sun god stands sentinel at the temple. Interestingly, while all the gods are shown barefooted, Surya is shown wearing ancient warrior’s boots. The feeling was simply divine.

After Brahma temple, we moved towards Pushkar Lake where people were performing religious rites but I was surprised to note that there was no concept of hygiene or cleanliness. It was quite an unpleasant sight, otherwise, it is so scenic which can’t be described in words, surrounded by mountains from all sides. Rajasthan Tourism needs to take up the initiative of cleaning the place on the lines of Namami Gange Program of Government of India. It is truly the need of an hour!

I also visited Pracheentum Hanuman Mandir there, followed by a sumptuous meal of Poori, Aloo Sabzi and Maal Puas at a typical bhojnalaya. I must admit that Pushkar visit is quite a walk and if your legs are strong enough then only you can see it in totality. Mine are of course not, still, they behaved.

Pushkar is well connected to the national highways of Rajasthan. Regular buses ply from Pushkar to the major Sanganer Airport in Jaipur is the nearest at a distance of 146 kilometres.cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer from the Ajmer bus stand.

Pushkar Terminus Railway station which is operational since 2012, is connected to Ajmer railway station located at a distance of 14 kilometres.

If you are planning a trip to Rajasthan, Pushkar visit should top your itinerary! 

Pink Hawa Mahal of Pink City in Pink winter…

…Couldn’t have asked for more!

After completing the first exciting day at Jaipur Literature Festival at Diggi Palace, Aarti and Mohit decided to take me to the old city of Jaipur which is home to many shops painted in Pink (Probably they knew shopaholic in me was restless). It was a breezy wintery evening, and I had some cool time there!

I found Hawa Mahal to be quite imposing, artistic, having an extraordinary architecture which is delicately honeycombed and rises a dizzying five stories. Certainly, it is much grander than it looks in the picture, you can’t escape its grandeur while in Jaipur. My child-like excitement in the vicinity of Hawa Mahal was palpable. We clicked many pictures there and gathered some beautiful memories of this beautiful monument.

For the uninitiated, Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city. The top offers stunning views over Jantar Mantar and the City Palace in one direction and over Sireh Deori Bazaar in the other.

Popularly known as “The Palace of Winds” or “The Palace of Breeze” is in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Made with the red and pink sandstone, the palace sits on the edge of the City Palace, Jaipur, and extends to the Zenana, or women’s chambers. Made for ladies, it holds special importance for me as a lady.

There’s a small museum (open Saturday to Thursday), with miniature paintings and some rich relics, such as ceremonial armour, which help evoke the royal past. Entrance is from the back of the complex. To get here, return to the intersection on your left as you face the Hawa Mahal, turn right and then take the first right again through an archway. Shopkeepers can show you another way – past their shops!

Its 953 small windows called Jharokhas are decorated with intricate latticework.  The original intent of the lattice design was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below without being seen since they had to obey the strict rules of “purdah”, which forbade them from appearing in public without face coverings.

This architectural feature also allowed cool air from the Venturi effect to pass through, thus making the whole area more pleasant during the high temperatures in summer. Many people see the Hawa Mahal from the street view and think it is the front of the palace, but in reality, it is the back of that structure.

In 2006, renovation works on the Mahal were undertaken, after a gap of 50 years, to give a facelift to the monument at an estimated cost of Rs 4.568 million.

The palace is an extended part of a huge complex. The stone-carved screens, small casements, and arched roofs are some of the features of this popular tourist spot. The monument also has delicately modelled hanging cornices.

The corporate sector lent a hand to preserve the historical monuments of Jaipur and the Unit Trust of India has adopted Hawa Mahal to maintain it.

ZEE Jaipur Literary Fest 2020 – & I was part of Grandest Literary Show on Earth!

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 took place from 23rd – 27th January 2020 at the Diggi Palace Hotel, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

No words are enough to describe the magic of JLF, as it is popularly known, which is a sort of mecca for literary buffs. I was surprised to find such a huge congregation of literature lovers from all over the world, yes world, not India alone! The colours, the vibrancy, the aura, the aroma and enigmatic atmosphere of the place – Heritage structure – Diggi Palace were truly splendid.

Inaugural Ceremony JLF

No wonder, JLF is hailed as one of grandest literary worldwide, the ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020, which is held at iconic abode, the Diggi Palace lawns and aptly lives up to its tradition of providing access to a gamut of ‘stories’ – fearless, funny, tender, fantastical, true-to-life, fiery, equivocal, atypical and every day – to all.

The magnitude of programming remained as astonishing as every year with over 500 speakers and performers representing around 15 Indian and 35 international languages and over 30 nationalities as well as major literary awards ranging from the Nobel, the Man Booker, the Pulitzer, the Sahitya Akademi, DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and Commonwealth Book Prize.

After a lot of deliberations, discussions and apprehensions, I boarded the flight to Jaipur and believe me I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. Aarti and Mohit were there to receive me at the airport for the early morning flight and there was not a single dull moment in their company. They were my constant companion for the next five days, which I will always cherish!

After reaching Jaipur and gorging on hot breakfast and tea made by Aarti and her loving mother-in-law, we set out for Diggi Palace, Jaipur and my brush with real intellectuals on this planet began. My first session was with humble and unassuming Mr Prasoon Joshi who was in a very vibrant conversation with Ms Vani Tripathi Tikkoo. After that what all followed, you will get to read in the following posts.

The venue was brimming with activities of culturally inclined people who were dressed in their traditional best, giving a different vibe to the whole place. Indigo Kurtas, Ikat Sarees, Bandhnis, Bandhej, Pashmina Shawls, Jaipuri Stoles, Handloom sarees, Kalamkari dresses, jackets…whatnot. Their sense of dressing was really impressive and I must say that they had put a lot of thought to their dressing by teaming up with traditional silver and metal jewellery like chandelier earrings, multi-layered neckpieces, bangles, anklets and what to say of nose rings.

One notable thing amidst all this was that not even in a single panel discussion it was announced that “Please keep your mobile phone in silent mode” as it was given and to my utter surprise, not even a single mobile rang. This is the discipline followed by the intelligentsia in Jaipur.

The venue boasted Art Zone where artists were painting and most loved (by me at least) was Pool Bazaar which displayed stalls of jewellery, bags, shawls, mojris, handmade notebooks, handicrafts, sarees, dupatta, kurta, Kurtis…where I shopped to my heart’s content…but it was like Yeh Dil Maange More! Then there was book bazar selling books by authors whose launch was happening at the fest along with many others. I wish I could buy some more…

Only thing which was restrictive that many sessions were happening simultaneously at different venues so we had to skip one in favour of others. I wanted to be at both the sessions sometimes but that was not the possibility. Listening to speakers of the stature of Shashi Tharoor, Prasoon Joshi, Lisa Ray, Shobha De, Margaret Alwa, William Dalrymple, Sanjay K Roy, Ashwin Sanghi, Namita Gokhale and many more, nonstop amidst pin-drop silence followed by crowds swelling to over thousand, was an experience in itself.

Mikes, Venue, Press-gallery, volunteers help and overall management was top notch. There was no disturbance from any side, you were guided well all through by an over-enthusiastic team of Team Works, ample food stalls and hot tea was available round the clock. Yes, you could shop only through your debit/ credit cards as dealing in cash was not permitted. Please make a note of it.

Such huge crowds were managed so well, kudos!

Few highlights:

  • Inauguration by CM of Rajasthan, Mr Ashok Gehlot
  • Jaipur Music Stage runs parallel to the Festival from 23rd – 25th January at Clarke’s Amer featuring headliners including Gavin James, Ricky Kej, Lisa Marie Simmons, Aabha Hanjura, Parvaaz, amongst others.
  • 7th edition of the B2B arm of the Festival, Jaipur BookMark (JBM), began on 22nd January with a keynote address from writer and publisher Jo Lendle as he went through the first 20 pages of the publishing manual for the new decade
  • The Festival’s ongoing Youth Outreach programme with Yuva Ekta Foundation and School Outreach programme with Pratham Books continues to engage a large number of children and young people.

The Festival began on Thursday, January 23rd with the inaugural keynote address by renowned author Marcus du Sautoy and acclaimed Hindustani vocalist Shubha Mudgal on ‘The Art, Sciences and Creativity’.

Inaugural Address by CM Ashok Gehlot.

Present were some of the world’s best thinkers and writers: Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Man-Booker-winner Howard Jacobson, author of over sixteen novels including his most recent, Live a Little, that has been described by The Guardian as ‘wonderful’ and by The Sunday Times as ‘joyous’; Forrest Gander, eminent translator and author of the Pulitzer-winning collection of poems Be With; Paul Muldoon, author of Moy Sand and Gravel, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize; Pulitzer winner Stephen Greenblatt, author of 14 books including Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Ravish Kumar, India’s well-known and intrepid TV anchor, journalist and writer; Ruchira Gupta, Emmy-winning journalist and activist.

Can any festival be grander than that?

  • Special thanks to Aarti & Mohit Mathur

  • First-hand account of the fest by Bienu Verma Vaghela 

GUJJU CARNIVAL – GUJARATI FOOD FESTIVAL

मैं सोचती हूँ इस विषय पर ज़्यादा कुछ लिखना बनता नहीं है
गुजराती फ़ूड फेस्टिवल – गुजरातियों के जमन प्रेम का आइना है
खाना ही खाना सब तरफ – चाय, मुख वास, फरसाण, कथिआ वाड़ी थाली, १११ प्रकार की खिचड़ी दाल ढोकली, खीचियो, खामनी, हंडवा, ढोकला, थेपला, खकरा … और भी बहुत कुछ!

गुजराती अपने जमन (खाना) प्रेम के लिए मशहूर हैं…और ऐसे ही मशहूर नहीं हैं.
गुजराती लोक गीत संगीत गरबा डांडिया DJ आदि से सुसज्जित यह फेस्टिवल इन गुजराती लोगो बल्कि सब लोगो के लिए खूब रंग जमाया. मैं विशेष उल्लेख श्री गोपाल शेट्टी जी का करना चाहूंगी जिनका अपने एरिया में ऐसा उत्सव करने में विशेष योगदान है. क्या फर्राटे दार गुजराती बोलते हैं.

श्री प्रशांत रओ जिन्होंने बहुत ही खूबसूरत एंकरिंग से सबका मन मोह लिया.
मैंने GFF के पासेज जीते थे और अपनी मित्रों और परिवार के साथ यहाँ खूब आनंद उठाया. मसाले, मुखवास, खाखरा, चाय, फरसाण, ज्वेलरी आदि बहुत कुछ ख़रीदा. अब मैं जयपुर फेस्टिवल में राजस्थान का लुत्फ़ उठाउंगी. EK महीने में मेरे दो प्रिये राज्यों के उत्सव का आनंद.

और क्या चाहिए!

#JLT Jaipur BookMark – Where Books Mean Business inaugurates today

Every January, while the world comes to the Jaipur Literature Festival to celebrate the written word, the publishing fraternity gets together to celebrate and discuss upcoming trends and achievements at the Jaipur Bookmark, where books mean business. Jaipur BookMark harnesses the collective energy of authors, literary agents, translators, publishers, designers, marketers, publicists, booksellers and festival organizers to discuss new ideas and how to take them to the market. Jaipur BookMark is a rich platform for all those who may be interested in the practical aspect of books and publishing, including translation and rights exchange across geographies, which have always been a focus at JBM.

The 7th edition of Jaipur BookMark 2020 will be held from 22nd January to 25th January. Jaipur BookMark (JBM) brings together stakeholders of the book industry from across the world. It provides the right atmosphere to inspire dialogue and a space for one-on-one meetings and networking, as well as provides an opportunity to “talk business” through relevant sessions and focused roundtables.

Namita Gokhale

The inaugural address, introduced by Neeta Gupta features H. E. Hans Jakob Frydenlund, Namita Gokhale and Sanjoy K. Roy. This is followed by the much-anticipated keynote by acclaimed writer and publisher Jo Lendle, editor of the Hanser publishing group, introduced by Naveen Kishore. Titled The Roaring Twenties, the address focuses on key issues of publishing for a new decade. There have been many publishers of world renown who have made a keynote address at previous editions of Jaipur BookMark, including iconic author and publisher, Roberto Calasso; the CEO of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Juergen Boos; the creative force behind Seagull Books, Naveen Kishore; and others. In this edition, we look forward to interacting with publishers like Jo Lendle, Naveen Kishore, Urvashi Butalia, Vera Michalsky, Michael Dwyer, Niko Pfund, Atiya Zaidi, Richa Jha and booksellers like Arsen Kashkashian, Jeff Deutsch, Priyanka Malhotra, Maina Bhagat and Rick Simonson, among others.

Sanjoy K Roy

According to Namita Gokhale, Co-Director of Jaipur BookMark, “Jaipur Bookmark celebrates the core values of publishing. We nurture creativity through our iWrite programme, support and showcase translations, and explore the changing books and narratives. I am very excited about what promises to be a brilliant 7th edition.”

At Jaipur BookMark 2020 there are many publishing-related sessions, such as The Heart of a Bookstore in which iconic booksellers from around the world speak of their profession and the joy and learnings they derive from it; The Big Book Box for Kids where authors, publishers and booksellers discuss challenges in making children’s books visible and accessible to young readers, as well as marketing strategies for overcoming them; Food for thought: gastronomy and literature, a session in which some of the most talented food writers in the world gather to share their recipes for food and literature; and Consumer Intelligence: Who’s Reading What, a session in which publishers and authors will discuss how big data can be used to analyse book-buying behaviour.

Neeta Gupta, Co-Director of Jaipur BookMark says, “Translations remain our top priority at the 7th edition of Jaipur BookMark, with sessions focused on Borderless Literatures, Translating National Narratives and Translation as Intimacy, along with launching Norwegian playwright Ibsen’s plays in Hindi. We also announce two coveted translation awards, the Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator award and the Romain Rolland prize for Translations.”

With its finger on the pulse of the publishing business, Jaipur BookMark has always featured crucial sessions discussing the most contemporary and critical issues facing the literary world. Towards a Borderless Literature promises to be an inspirational session on the need for translations and words without borders; The Changing Face of Digital Narratives will focus on the fascinating array of possibilities opened through new genres of digital narratives; Libraries as Communities discusses the role of libraries as crucial community hubs and centres of learning, communication, professional development and collaborative projects; Why Publishing Poetry is Important brings together dedicated and engaged publishers who will discuss their commitment to publishing poetry; and A Textbook Case for Diversity brings together acclaimed publishers who discuss the importance of striking a balance between mere tokenism and embracing true multiculturalism.

Aditi Maheshwari Goyal says, “The 7th Edition of Jaipur BookMark will witness important stakeholders in the global and local publishing industry – authors, publishers, editors, designers and literary agents. The only platform in South Asia that shines the spotlight on those who work behind the scenes, creating books. JBM is all set to celebrate books in 360°- print, digital and audio editions.”

In 2020 the Norwegian Embassy is once again partnering with Jaipur BookMark. This will mark the 7th year of their association. Naveen Kishore of the Seagull School of Publishing is on board both as an advisor and supporter of the festival. Seagull Books Kolkata has single handedly put India on the International translation map with its international list of authors, that include Nobel Prize winners and others shortlisted in major international literary awards categories. The French Institute in India is bringing representatives of the French publishing industry to JBM 2020. India will be the Guest of Honour nation at the Salon du Livre in Paris in 2020.

“The Indian publishing industry has grown rapidly and the world’s attention is converging on it,” remarks Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts and Producer of Jaipur BookMark.

Apart from being a B2B platform that brings together the who’s who of the publishing industry from across the world, JBM also provides aspiring writers with an exciting platform called iWrite: Creative Mentorship Programme. This Mentorship Programme invites poets, literary enthusiasts and novelists to share their stories and get an opportunity to be mentored by experts in the field. No longer limited to first-time writers, this initiative not only gives writers a chance to express themselves, but also lets them mingle and interact with publishers, literary agents, translators and other industry experts in a pitching session, and perhaps even get a chance to sign a book deal!

Three major awards will be announced at Jaipur BookMark 2020 – The Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award. The Romain Rolland Prize and The Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize.

Jaipur BookMark was conceived to run parallel to the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2014. In the 7 years since its inception, JBM has emerged as a nodal point for the South Asian publishing industry and is indeed a focus for the book trade.

 

 

Indeed, WAAH TAAJ!

Probably my last post of the years would do the honours for monumental beauty of India – The Taj Mahal as suggested by our traveller friend Kamal Mathur, who recently visited Taj Mahal and clicked some exclusive pictures for my blog. A trip to India is not complete without visiting this monumental marvel carved in marble located in Agra, UP, India. Kamal Mathur’s recent visit to Agra refreshed my memories of my visit to the place while in school, years ago. I am sure, Kamalji would have been mesmerised by his visit to magnificent Taj Mahal, which is beyond words, thus making his task even more difficult as he is “man of few words” and “thousand pictures”.

In an interview given to Sprangled magazine from the US, I have mentioned, “ I have a very vivid memory of visiting Taj Mahal in Agra, UP, India which I visited while I was in grade VIII, with my parents on a full moon night. Till then I had seen Taj Mahal only in my history textbook. And when I was there at the Taj Mahal, I found a vast difference between Taj Mahal in my history book and the one before my eyes. The real Taj Mahal was quite a revelation, as it’s much bigger and magnanimous than the one in my textbook.

By all means, it was splendid and looked absolutely out of this world on a blue moon night, though I could not think it to be the most romantic spot in the world. The ‘marvel’ created in ‘marble’ by Mughal Emperor Shahjehan was stunning and this is when I was inspired to travel to different places. It was a true revelation to me how places are so different in reality than the one which I had seen in photographs or movies. This way the adventure streak was in me since childhood and when I grew up the passion to travel stayed with me.”

Please click the link to read the full interview: http://sprangled.com/index.php/2015/12/30/734/

Pictures clicked by Kamal Mathur:

Coming back to the beauty, The Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal is a white tomb built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The building is in the city of Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Widely thought as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, it is one of India’s biggest tourist attractions.

It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Constructed entirely out of white marble in the 17th century, it is among the finest edifices of Mughal architecture. Recognised by the UNESCO as a world heritage site, this monument is also considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Every year visitors numbering more than the entire population of Agra pass through the magnificent gates to catch a glimpse of this breath-taking monument, and only a few leave disappointed. Shah Jahan said about the Taj that it made “the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes“.

Rabindranath Tagore described it as “a teardrop in the cheek of eternity” while Rudyard Kipling said it is “the embodiment of all things pure“. The construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631 and took 17 years before it was completed in 1648. The tomb is laid out in a rectangular shape and can be approached through a massive gateway which has an arch and alcoves on either side of it. The Taj, so majestic from the exterior, has equally splendid artistic work done in the interiors.

There are water channels and fountains in the entrance which makes the monument even more spectacular. The reflection of this majestic spectacle in the Yamuna is almost poetic in its perfection!

The Taj Mahal can be accessed through east, west and south gates. Inside the grounds, the ornamental gardens are set on the classic Mughal Charbagh lines (formal Persian garden). The monument stands on a raised marble platform at the northern end of the garden, facing its back to the Yamuna River. Its raised position is a masterstroke design as it leaves only the sky as its backdrop. Each corner of the platform is graced with 40m high white minarets. Taj itself is made of semi-translucent white marble, inlaid with thousands of semi-precious stones and carved with flowers. The four indistinguishable faces of the Taj are in perfect symmetry, featuring impressive vaulted arches containing pietra dura scrollwork and the quotations from the Quran. The whole structure is topped off by four small domes.

The cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal lies directly below the main dome. It is an elaborate false tomb which is surrounded by an elegant marble screen inlaid with various types of semi-precious stones, offsetting the symmetry of the Taj. The light enters the central chamber through finely cut marble screens. These tombs are false tombs as the real tombs of Mumtaz Mahal, and Shah Jahan lies in a locked room below the main chamber.

Indeed, Waah Taaj!

Not to be MISSED! Jaipur Literature Festival 2020

 

The Jaipur Literature Festival, famously known as ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, is all set to return for its thirteenth edition from 23rd to 27th January 2020. The five-day literary extravaganza promises to bring together a line-up of exemplary speakers from India and across the world at the historic Diggi Palace.

Jaipur Literature Festival is a sumptuous feast of ideas and the past decade has seen it transform into a global literary phenomenon having hosted nearly 2000 speakers and welcoming over a million book-lovers from across India and the globe. For five days, the Pink City is infused with enthusiasm, a riot of colour and infectious energy as literature and art-enthusiasts flock to Jaipur for the Festival. During the festival days, there are endless places to see, and things to do, some of which include insightful sessions and an exciting and buzzing carnival encapsulating a bookstore, food stalls, a bazaar along with artists at work, and multiple parties hosted on the Festival’s fringes.

Here are some reasons why you would not want to miss out on the thirteenth edition of the festival.

Listen to some of the greatest minds of the world

Jaipur Literature Festival hosts some of the world’s best literary minds and brings them together for several panel discussions and interactions. Experts from diverse fields such as literature, economy, environment, food and science take the stage for stimulating and thought-provoking conversations. Eminent speakers such as recipient of the 2010 Man Booker Prize Howard Jacobson, Pulitzer-winning authors Stephen Greenblatt and Dexter Filkins, celebrated culinary expert Madhur Jaffrey, acclaimed author Elizabeth Gilbert, and leading Indian film director Vishal Bhardwaj, are amongst the first few announced speakers at the Festival for the 2020 edition – so be there to be a part of some life-changing and inspirational sessions!

Book-signings and an opportunity to meet your favourite authors

For all those literature enthusiasts who have spent days glued to books, turning one page after another captivated by the magic of a well-written novel – the Jaipur Literature Festival offers the perfect opportunity to meet your favourite authors in person. Besides attending noteworthy sessions and witnessing book launches, the Festival also has book-signing kiosks at all venues where you can grab that rare signed copy and earn bragging rights!

Art, Culture – Memories Galore!

In addition to being a platform for conversations related to literature and books, the Festival also gives the opportunity to its visitors to experience various forms of art and music. From fascinating art installations to beautiful backdrops for the perfect Instagram shot – there is something for everyone. Dance and music performances make the Festival even livelier. For shopping enthusiasts, the annual Festival Bazaar is a must-visit as several craftsmen, designers and entrepreneurs display and sell a vast array of hard-to-resist collectable items. Amongst the many things to be bought are embroidered shawls, exquisite minakari jewellery, funky stationery, edgy accessories, spiffy footwear, and exciting home décor.

Morning Music

For those passionate about music, the Festival begins each day with the calming strains of Morning Music.  The stage will be graced by acclaimed artists such as BC Manjunath, an exponent of Konnakol and the mrindangam; sitar maestro and recipient of the President’s Award for best instrumentalist, Purbayan Chatterjee; leading Carnatic veena-player Saraswati Rajagopalan, and Supriya Nagarajan, a renowned Carnatic vocalist and founder of ‘Manasamitra’.

Heritage Evenings

The Festival will also host a power-packed Heritage Evening at an iconic and historic venue in Jaipur. Supported by Rajasthan Tourism, this majestic evening at Amer Fort will feature a mesmerising performance by Pandit Rajendra Gangani, one of the leading practitioners of the Jaipur Gharana of Kathak. He will pay tribute to the age-old classical dance form, along with an ensemble of Kathak dancers. Les Souffleurs or The Whisperers, an artistic group created by Olivier Comte, will enthrall audiences with a unique production where they whisper poetic secrets into each other’s ears, using a hollow cane.

To end the evening on a musical note, world-renowned sitarist Shubhendra Rao will present ‘East Marries West — A Legacy’ as a celebration of his Guru, the sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar’s 100th birth anniversary.  He will be joined by his wife, Saskia Rao-de Haas, who is hailed as a pioneer for introducing the ‘Indian cello’ to classical Indian music.

iWrite at Jaipur BookMark

For all aspiring authors and poets with multiple drafts scribbled behind every notebook and diaries filled with words that you hope will one day be read by the world – ‘iWrite’ by Jaipur BookMark is the perfect platform. After a very successful first edition last year, iWrite is back to inspire literary aspirants. Shortlisted participants get a platform to share their work and receive constructive guidance from international publishers, literary agents, translators and other industry experts in a pitching session at Jaipur during JBM.

Blogging Competition

If you can write compelling copy and want to get close to where the action is, the Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 Blogging Competition is your chance to make that leap. Highlighting the Festival’s core aim to support and promote artistic expression through writing, the Blogging competition will give ten chosen writers a chance to inspire audiences through their words on the Festival’s official blog site. The winners will also be invited to the Festival and cover various sessions from the 23rd-27th of January 2020.

The Delegate Experience

While the Festival is open to all, specially-curated Delegate packages guarantee an experience to remember. Delegate-only lunches serve as an opportunity to meet and mingle with like-minded literary enthusiasts and make new connections. The well-stocked Delegate Lounge provides a luxurious reprieve and priority seating on special occasions ensures a close-up view of the Festival.  The Delegate package also includes an invitation to attend the beautiful Heritage Evening at Amer Fort, and a tote to take home. These Delegate Packages range from INR 6,300 per day to INR 23,800 for five days.

Information on Registration for the Jaipur Literature Festival can be found here: https://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/registration/

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!