Friday, August 20, 2010


Hampi was once the glorious capital of mighty Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565), from the Deccan Plateau to the tip of the Peninsula. Founded in the middle of the 14th century by two local princes, Hukka & Bukka, the Vijayanagara Empire came to be celebrated for its might and wealth and as a showpiece of imperial magnificence. The emperors of this dynasty were great patrons of art and architecture, which can still be seen in the vast ruins of Hampi. In an effort to resurrect this abandoned capital, the government has been involved in the restoration, excavation and protection of the ruins, which spread over an area of 26 sq. km. Rocky hills and the mighty Tungabhadra River, which flows through this rugged landscape, dominate the terrain.

Location: Hampi is located in the central part of the state of Karnataka, in the southern part of India. It is 353 km from Bangalore, and 13 km from Hospet. It is located on top of a rugged terrain and is 467 m above sea level. Tungabhadra River flows through Hampi. It has a tropical climate with hot summers (April-June), and cool winters (October-February). It experiences the southwestern monsoon rains from June to August.

Languages Spoken: Kannada and English
Long Distance Code: +91-8394
Importance: Ruins of Vijayanagar capital and its ancient temples.
Area: 26
Best Time To Visit: October To March

Hampi Attractions:

Tungabhadra Dam

This dam is 17 Km from Hampi. The site of the dam built across the Tungabhadra river lies 15 Km from Hospet. The high masonry dam is about 590m Long and 49 m. high. The reservoir has a storage capacity of 132,559 million cubic feet of water spread over an area of 379 sq. km.

The Queen's Bath

The Queen's Bath looks rather block-like from the outside. Inside, however, gallery-verandas, with overhanging Rajasthani balconies, encircle a 15-metre square bath. Once, cool, perfumed water poured in a minor waterfall at one side and flowed out through an underground drain. The bath, though carefully shielded on all sides, was open to the sky. It was a celebration of the good life, which, in many ways, was the leitmotif of Hampi.

Lotus Palace

Near the Hazara Ram Temple, in the walled area of zenana (women's quarters), there is an exquisite pavilion called the Lotus Palace. It is believed that the women of the royal family who lived in the nearby Queens' Palace disported themselves in the water pavilion within their protected enclosure and met in the Lotus Palace. Its inflicted arches are particularly intriguing. This palace is a blend of Indo-Islamic architecture and gets its name from the lotus bud carved on its domed and vaulted ceiling. The Mughal monuments in Agra, built a century later, show modified variations of such features.

House of Victory

It was built when Krishnadeva Raja came back from his victorious expedition against the King of Orissa. The spaces between the rows of the plinth-moldings here are most elaborately and elegantly carved. The kings of Vijayanagar used to sit on a grand throne in the House of Victory and witness the nine-day Dasahara festival. Westwards from the House of Victory, leading through two ruined gates, the path leads to the Hazara Ramaswami temple. This temple is believed to have been the private place of worship of the royal family. The chief attraction of the temple is the series of scenes from the Ramayana carved on two of the inside walls of the mantapa. The genesis of the place known today as Hampi dates back to the age of the Hindu epic Ramayana when it was the site of Kishkinda, a monkey kingdom.
Vithala Temple Complex

The most splendid monument of Hampi is undoubtedly the Vithala Temple Complex with its 56 musical pillars. To the east of the hall is the famous Stone Chariot with stone wheels that actually revolve. In front of the shrine stands the great mantapa. Resting on a richly sculpted basement, huge pillars of granite support its roof, about 15 feet in height, each consisting of a central pillar surrounded by detached shafts, all cut from one single block of stone. Several of the carved pillars were attacked with such fury that they are hardly more than shapeless blocks of stones and a large portion of the central part has been destroyed utterly.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Konark : The Land of the Sun Temple

The small town of Konark is world famous for its exotic temple dedicated to Sun God. Today declared as a world heritage site, the temple is the most beautiful example of the Oriyan temple architecture. Standing virtually on the sea beach of Konark, this temple was earlier known as the Black Pagoda, as it would mislead the boatmen and eventually cause ship wreckage.

Just like each and every temple and place in India has a myth or a legend attached to it, Konark temple is no exception. Why the temple was built on the sea shores is still a mystery that amazes the historians. According to a legend, son of Lord Krishna, Samba is said to have built it. It is said that he was very good looking and once insulted the great sage Narada over his looks. Sage Narada took his revenge by luring him to a pond where Krishna's wives were bathing. When Krishna came to know about this he cursed his own son of leprosy, but repented after learning the mischievous game played by sage Narada. Samba was asked to worship Lord Surya, the Sun God who would cure all the diseases. Samba's penance paid off after 12 years so in reverence to the God he built a temple where he was asked to take a dip in the sea water.

However, historically the temple was built in the 13th century AD by King Narsinhadeva - I of Ganga dynasty, to commemorate his victory over the Mughals. It is said that building of this stupendous architectural piece took nearly 12 years with nearly 1200 artisans. Konark drives its name from the word Konarka which actually is the combination of two words, Kona and Arka. It means the place where the Sun Arka is in Corner, that is Kona, and hence the name Konark. It was also known as Konaditya, where Aditya also means Sun.

This probably might the only temple in the world which does not have a Shikhara, a conical shape on the dome. It is said that the Shikhara which was built was made of magnet which would attract lot of ships to the port eventually crashing them and therefore it was removed. But the legend goes that due to some misdeed that the king did has been punished in this form and how much so ever one may try, the Shikhara can never be built on the temple.

It is a specimen of architectural grandeur and zenith of the local architecture. The intricacy and profusion of sculptural work is amazing. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. The seven horses represent the seven days of the week and the 24 wheels denote the 24 hours in a day.

The Nat Mandir in front of the Jag Mohan is also intricately carved. Around the base of the temple, and up the walls and roof, are various carvings. There are images of animals, foliage, men, warriors on horses and other interesting patterns. Every aspect of life is represented here, and the erotic imagery, depicts the sublimation of human love manifested in countless forms. Scenes from court, civic life and war are also done with great precision. There are three images of the Sun God, positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset.

The temple went into obscurity in the later period, until it was recovered by the British. Many parts of the temple have alas been washed away in to the sea over the period of time.

There is a museum just outside the temple which houses some great artifacts those which have been saved from the ruins of the temple. The nine planets, posed as the nine deities which were located on the door ways have been enshrined in a separate temple nearby. The Astronomy that the temple poses is an amazing fact in itself. Today the sea beach which once most probably washed the stairs of the temple has receded to around 3 kms and indeed is a pristine beach. The clear waters and the soft sand with the cool breeze sure make a good retreat from the hustle bustle of the outside world.

Location: Around 65 kms from the capital of Bhubaneshwar, Konark is just 35 kms from the sacred city of Jagannath Puri.
Languages Spoken: Oriya, Hindi and English
Long Distance Code: +91-6758
Importance: Famous for the world heritage site of the sun temple.
Best Time To Visit: October To February

Friday, August 06, 2010

Ooty : The queen of the hill stations

The Nilgiri Hills or the Blue Mountains is a captivating terrain where the incredibly beautiful abode of Ooty is perched at an altitude of 2286 m. Ooty also known as Udhagamandalam is the "Queen of hill stations" and the capital of Nilgiris district. It is one of the most popular tourist resorts in India. Nilgiris means "Blue Mountains". It is a land of picturesque picnic spots. Used to be popular summer and weekend getaway for the Britishers during the colonial days. It is situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level. An added attraction for the tourists to Udagamandalam is the mountain train journey on a ratchet and pinion track which commences from Kallar, near Mettupalayam and wends its way through many hair-raising curves and fearful tunnels and chugs along beside deep ravines full of verdant vegetation, gurgling streams and tea gardens.

One of the reasons people like to visit hill stations is that, they not only offer a respite from the dust and pollution of the city but also give people a chance to see the undefiled beauty of nature. The green hills, the cascading waterfalls and sparkling brooks, all make the hill stations a delight for the eyes of the urban dweller. Ooty is an ideal hill station since it offers all this and much more. There are many places you can tour, such as the Botanical Gardens, Lamb's rock and Dodabetta Peak, on tours to Ooty India.

Location: Ooty is located in the Western Ghats at a height of 2240 metres, Udhagamandalam is the headquarters of the Nilgiri district. The Toda tribe has been living here since time immemorial, but the credit for 'discovering' Ooty, making it accessible and developing it, surely goes to the British.

Other Name: Udhagamandalam
Languages Spoken: Tamil, Malayalam, Kannadam and English.
Long Distance Code: +91-423
Importance: Hill station
Area: 36
Best Time To Visit: April To November

Ooty Attractions:

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary

In the luxuriantly forested foothills of the Nilgiri, this 321 sq. km sanctuary is part of a much larger reserve (3000 sq km), which includes Bandipur and Wynad in neighbouring Karnataka and Kerala. The larger reserve ranges in vegetarian from semi-evergreen forests to swamps and grasslands. In Mudumalai, the mostly dense forest is home to chital, gaur, tiger, panther, wild boar and sloth bear. The park's wild elephant population, one of the largest in the country, supposedly numbers about 600, however you're more likely to see their domesticated brethren carrying out logging duties. The best time to visit Mudumalai is between February and June. Heavy rain is common in October and November and the park may be closed during the dry season.

Botanical Garden

The garden is acquire an area 22 acres. There is surprisingly a fossil tree trunk of 20 million years. The garden consists of varieties of tree species, variety of ferns, fashioned beds laid out in an Italian style, grass carpet, multi coloured flowering plants, house ferns and orchids and nurseries. This garden is certainly going to take tourist's mind. Annual flower show is held here in May every year. Tamil Nadu Horticulture Dept takes care of this garden.

Ooty Lake

From just behind the Main Bus Stand (also near the Railway station) the famous Ooty Lake stretches, in an irregular 'L' shape, for about two kilometres in length and varrying distances in width. At the far end is the Boat House where all kinds of boats are available for hire from eight in the morning to six in the evening. During summer seasons, in May, boat races and boat pageantry are organised on two days at the lake which draw huge crowds. The boat houses is the place where the people reside and its also a great experience staying in a boat house. There are a few children parks where the tourists can halt and have a wonderful time with kids. The means of conveyance stays to be horses and ponies and horse ride is the favorite sport for anyone visiting the place.

Rose Garden

Centenary Rose park is located at Vijayanagaram – Udhgamandalam ( Ooty ) and is maintained by department of Horticulture of Government of Tamil Nadu. This garden has largest collection of roses among any Indian garden. This garden is located at an elevation of 2200-2400 from Mean sea Level. Average rain fall is 125 cm here. This beautiful rose garden was established in 20th May 1995 to commemorate the centenary of Udhgamandalam ( Ooty ) flower show ( 1896-1895 ). This garden is consist of five terraces in an area of 4.0 Hq and has more than 2800 variety of roses.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Goa : The Pearl of the Orient

Goa..., a tiny emerald land on the west coast of India situated between the borders of Maharastra and Karnataka, is better known to the world at large as the former Portuguese enclave on the Indian soil. With the rule of the Portuguese for over 450 years and the consequential influence of the Latin culture, Goa presents a somewhat different picture to the foreign visitor than any other part of the country. Not only the proportion of Christians (almost all of whom are Catholics) in the total population of Goa much higher than that obtaining in most of the other States; the general way of living is also markedly different. Western influence is evident in the dress and food habits, and the general life of the people is quiet and peaceful. A striking feature of Goa is the harmonious relationship between the two principal religious communities, the Hindus and the Catholics, who have lived together peacefully for generations.

Location: The small state of Goa is in the west coast of the Indian peninsula with a vast coastline of 104 km. An extension to the Konkan coast of Maharashtra, Goa is bounded on the north by Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra state, on the West by the Arabian Sea, on the South by Karwar district of Karnataka state and on the East by Belgaum district of Karnataka state. A place with moderate climate throughout the year, with heavy rainfall in the Monsoon, Goa has gained the name of traveler's paradise with 365 days on a holiday!!

Climate: This is the place in India, where weather does not play an important role! The ambience is the climate! The sultry heat during the months of April and May too do not deter the toursits to flock Goa.

Languages Spoken: Marathi, Konkani, English and Portuguese
Long Distance Code: +91-832
Importance: Beaches and Churches
Area: 3702 sqkm.
Best Time To Visit: October To May & June to September to enjoy the monsoons.

Goa Attractions

Beaches of Goa:

Golden beaches, blue sky and pale hills, silvery sands fringed with palms. The cool breeze, the fishing villages and the beautiful sunset. This is what Goa is, the sea and its sea shores. At every twist and turn of the undulating Goan coast there are alluring little coves or bays each completely different and each with its own special charm. Some of the beaches have all the facilities, right from restaurants to massage parlours to water sports and net surfing cafes, while some do not even have restaurants. You can be with sea and still not leave the materialistic world while on the other hand be with nature in totality. Along the coast are picturesque villages with tall white washed churches and red tiled houses that nestle into the lush green of the Goan country side.

Churches of Goa:

One of Goa's important institutions, the famous and magnificent churches is largely a legacy of Portuguese colonization. Church building was one of the main occupations of the early Portuguese and in fact one of Vasco da Gama's main missions. The most visible legacy of the Portuguese is their churches, not only the imposing monuments, but also more typically white- washed facades nestling among palm trees. Goan Churches have a typical 16th century European architecture with Gothic style influence. The Baroque style architecture also has been heavily used in these churches, with exaggerated interior decorations and intricate details of ornamentation emphasized by gilding and accompanied by sculptured figures.

Temples of Goa:

The Hindu culture of Goa is ancient and the temples dedicated to various deities of Goa date back to the Panadava caves, Shiva temple of 1st century A.D. During the early stages of the Portuguese rule, the Hindu temples of Goa were raised to ground and destructed. There are many temples in the interiors of Goa, as the coastline was the main place of the Portuguese. Many deities had to leave their temples, as the devotees shifted them for the fear of destruction. The architecture of Goan temples is a little different mostly because of historical reasons. The Goan modification lies in the assimilation of local building traditions into this rigid architectural style giving it a special local flavor. One of the special features of Goan temples is the Lamp Tower or Deepmal rising anywhere from two to six storied high. This is said to be a Maratha influence. During festivals these lamp towers burn with innumerous lamps and are a delightful sight. Another distinctive feature is the dome that covers the main shrine instead of the shikhar like in other temples.

The important temples of Goa are:

Anant Narsinha Temple of Veling, Devaki- Krishna Temple of Marcel,Mahalsa Temple in Mardol,
Mahalakshmi Temple of Bandivade and Panaji, Mangesh Temple and the Nagesh Temples, Saptakoteshwar Temple of Narwe and the Mahadev Temple in Tambdi Surla.