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Enigmatic India

This blog captures the life experiences of the Enigmatic India team in the beautiful and enigmatic country of India.We capture our experiences through our writings, photos and products that depict the very essence and fabric of India.Through this platform, we invite you to join us in our journey as we explore.





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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trip to Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

We finally set off in the month of May to the oldest city ever-Varanasi. Umm, Banaras? No, Kashi! What’s in a name anyways!

The scorching heat, which was a little over 42C, didn’t actually seem to dampen our spirit, although a lot of people had cautioned us against it.

Well, the moment arrived, and there we were! Heading towards Ganapati Guest House, where we would be spending our next three memorable days. A little about why we chose this guest house and not any other. Its right on the bank of the river, alongside all the Ghats. There’s a balcony with a view of the Ganges which gives the guest house a breathtaking ambience. It is just a couple of minutes away from the main temple Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, although a little away from the main road. This meant that we would get dropped at a spot that was a15-minute walk away from the place of stay. It was worth it all, because the uniqueness of Banaras is its streets. The Ghats, the steep stairs and of course the legend of our Ganga maiyya and Shivji deciding to stay here for good!!

  At probably seven in the evening, the moment we checked into the hotel and stepped into the balcony, I looked onto my right, only to see the famous Dhashwamedh Ghat with the Ganga Aarti ongoing, and a large fleet of boats on the river, with loads of yellow lamps-dreams floating. An inexplicable visual, one must watch it to feel it!
We quickly hit the road to pay our respects to Shivji before beginning our journey. It was amazing to see the 4 feet narrow roads that led to the temple. Scooters, Gau Mata, people, everything fit so beautifully well into the small streets!

Behold! My dream came true as I stepped into the Kashi Vishwanath temple, that I had been yearning to visit (and I have no reason why) for a long, long time now.

The next morning, we set off for the boat ride, again an experience of a view into the life on the Ghats. If one Ghat had life in abundance, there were two others- “Harishchandra Ghat” and “Manikarnika Ghat”-  that were buzzling with the silence beyond life. While there were some who had just gotten out of the river after a holy dip, there were some others, whose bodies were put on the funeral pyre. There were also 
some bodies that were waiting, for their turn, to receive Moksha in the holiest place on this planet. Once, we saw 16 pyres at a time! They say, this is one place where the cremation happens on all 365 days of a year.
Amidst the sunrise, people, the floating shops for memoirs, the swim of the kids, the intense prayers, and the hustle and bustle, there I was, witnessing it all, with no words to explain how I felt.

Foooooooooood! Kachori, kulhad chai and jalebi. That was in our mind, as we set off towards the main road...yumm…we were already thinking about our next food destination! :’)

After a leisurely freshening up, we set off to the main temple again, and many prayers later, we realized the heat was picking up, and were advised against heading anywhere until evening.So, we decided to hit the main road in the hot sun, to find good food. Not that Ganpati Guest house doesn’t provide food, we were just too ambitious. And yes, we did find a restaurant, but there was nothing banarasi about the food they served. On our way back to the guest house, I couldn’t stop ogling at the stores that had the banarasi sarees on display. At 40C, after a heavy-not so banarasi-meal, there went my foot on a hole-y road, and cracked me up with a bad ligament tear. I quickly wrapped my ankle up with a bandage and set off again! This hole-y incident somehow decided the course of our next two days and how!

When walking is the only choice you have as there are no vehicles (that fit into the 4ft narrow lanes and not hit the Gau Mata at the same time), I never even fancied a thought that I could push myself so much. We kept walking.

A good rest later, we moved towards the evening boat ride, followed by the world-famous Ganga Aarti- a ritual par excellence.  And then we headed to the Kashi Chaat Bhandar, a small shop at the main road, which offers lightning fast service in spite of the great rush they have to handle, and serves great food! Favorite in the menu? Has to be the tangy tamatar chaat! Don’t even try forgetting to order it.

We set off to Sarnath-where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon, the next day, in a vehicle booked by the
guest house, and on our way, visited the Sankat Mochan, and the Durga temples. It’s amazing to see the beauty of Sarnath, the teachings of Buddha, and the museum, all of which were calm and peaceful- offering a sharp contrast to what happened in Varanasi. 

We went to an outlet nearby to check out some Banaras memoirs, and once we were done, we returned back to the hotel and relaxed.

Khaikepaanbanraswala every day ;) you are not supposed to chew the paan. Atleast that’s what the vendor advised us to do.  It just melts in your mouth and gives you a chill feeling!

Day three, we were all set to return, and lo! How could we miss out on the KalBhairav temple!! We rushed to his abode, prayed and then came back for a leisurely lunch at Ganpati Guest house, as we started packing for our trip back home. *sobs*. I know I am going back again. This time in a colder season.
Banaras is in the Ghats. You have to feel it, you have to live it. With friendly people around, who are always willing to help, the ancient city of Varanasi still retains its fervor. Isn’t it surprising to see a city that hasn’t let modernization change its core even a bit? That’s Varanasi for you in a nutshell. A beautiful experience that makes you stretch beyond your limitations.:’)

(Contributed by Gayatri Kuppa, photo/images rights with Gayatri & Nikhil Kuppa)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Trip to Medak Fort(Methuku Durgam), Telangana

We decided to have a short trip to Pocharam Lake and Medak even though Hyderabad was sizzling with temperatures reaching 40+C. After some bird photography at Pocharam lake we headed to Medak district/town to visit the Medak fort. 
However our first stop was at Medak Church, which is close to a century old and also apparently is the largest Diocese in Asia. It was teeming with people and we decided to come back later to this place. 
Medak Church
From the parking lot of the Medak Church we noticed a white structure on a hill, and looking at Google Maps realised it was our next destination the Medak Fort. Well thanks to Google Maps we reached the foot of a small hillock and started our short climb and suddenly the road ended...well no Fort in sight.
However there were a nicely crafted flight of stairs(obviously not friendly for Sr Citizens and Physically challenged citizens. After the short climb we saw our white building , with a few table & chairs
Haritha Restaurant
It was the Haritha hotel and restaurant which has four rooms on the top and a sit-out. The view from this place is spectacular- whole of Medak city and the towering Medak Church.
View from Haritha
Hunger pangs was driving us nuts and ordered Onion Pakodas, aerated drinks and water. The sit-out is quite okay with fans and it provided the much needed respite from heat.
Onion Pakoda
The Pakodas were very tasty with a touch of curry leaf and Ajwain. This place has  restrooms so, please don't hesitate to take the keys from the Manager...monkeys are around to trouble hence they keep the restrooms locked.
After taking directions from the restaurant staff, we climbed our next flight of stairs and came across the following note about the Fort. Please read it ...
Fort Details
We didn't expect any guide as we were already told at the Haritha hotel, and with the above as the only reference point we explored around. The whole place is in derelict condition, however govt had made some concrete steps for ease of climbing.

Not much to see except a few gates(dwarams, elephants sculptures) and some abandoned areas. 
The fort was probably used as a watch post and hence not massive in structure. Such a pity that this place built by our Kakatiya rulers don't find any place of importance in our ecosystem
Paved later by the govt
Many parts of the Fort is also desolate, so if you want to explore please do so in groups, not that we came across and vandalism/trouble mongers. It is a nice place to take some photographs and after spending around 40 minutes here and bearing the heat we decided to call it a day.
desolate section
As we climbed down the steps my thoughts were "why didn't the Govt either the Telangana or Central govt (through ASI) maintain this place?".
Entrance to the Fort
The Mubarak Mahal was restored by the Telangana govt and is being used as the Haritha hotel, probably one way of preserving this place. This is an important part of our history & heritage and deserves some attention from all of us i.e. citizens and the govt.

Well if you have time do visit this place.

(Contributed by Sandip Mishra)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trip to Madikeri ( Mercara Fort), Coorg, Karnataka

Madikeri Fort, One of the entrances
The Madikeri Fort (Mercara Fort) was first built in the 17th century by Mudduraja and subsequently developed by Tipu Sultan, Doddavira Rajendra, The British and finally Linga Rajendra from the Wadiyar(Wodeyer or Odeyer) dynasty. The Fort wall runs all along the fort and there are many view point to track enemy and also shoot at them from many vantage point

The entry to place is free and one can visit it between 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Palace, currently housing the Deputy Commissioner's office
The fort has a palace which was built using European style of architecture and at the entrance there are two horses sculptures holding the balcony. We couldn't enter this building as it is now the office of the Deputy Commissioner's and am sure access is restricted. The complex also has the Ganapathy temple.
Two large elephant structures
In one corner there are two large elephant masonry structures. Not sure the origins of this or the purpose. These are majestic and eye catching.
St Marks' Church
Finally it also has the St Mark's Church which was built in 1834 and now open as a small museum maintained by ASI. There are quite a few artefacts in this museum mostly weapons, idols and one special section dedicated to Field Marshall K M Cariappa.

Overall a short trip and it gave some insights into the history of Kodagu.

(Contributed by Sandip Mishra)

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Trip to Mandu(Mandavgad), Madhya Pradesh...Central group of monuments

Jahaz Mahal
Our friends in MP Tourism had been urging us to visit Mandu since a long time, however the flight timings and a lack of conviction, delayed this for a long time. With Indigo Airlines starting a direct flight between Hyderabad and Indore(at a convenient timing), we decided to explore this place known for the love story of Prince Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. Mandu probably gets its name from the Prakrit word Mandapa Durga(citation Wikipedia)was ruled by the Parmar of Malwa till about 13th Century and from 1305 onwards the Sultans of Malwa ruled this place.

We flew into Indore and after a short drive of approx 100 Kms checked into Malwa Resort of MP Tourism, which is one of the few resorts available here.

The day started with a trip to the central group of monuments which is encompassed within a 45 kms walled city and it has 12 darwazas(Gates) and the main gate is the Delhi Darwaza. We started our journey with

 1. Jahaz Mahal:  as the name suggests it is a boat shaped two storied palace(around 120 mts), built by Ghias-ud-din Khilji for his harem. The Mahal overlooks two artificial water tanks i.e. Kapur Talao(Camphor) and the Munj Talao. One can notice the magnificence of Afghan architecture and the palace is lined with beautiful balconies, pavilions and terraces.
view from Jahaz Mahal of the Kapur Talao

2. Hindola Mahal: Our next stop was Hindola Mahal and the architecture gives it the name of "Swinging Palace".  The place has beautifully moulded column and magnificent trellis work in sandstone.

Hindola Mahal
 Once inside one can see the numerous arches that dot this place and if you wait for the right timing you can capture a nice picture of sunrays through the arches.
Arches within Hindola Mahal
3. Champa Baoli: Close to Hindola Mahal are a series of structures and the notable one is Champa Baoli, which has a network of water channels to supply both hot and cold water.
Champa Baoli
After this we  moved out of this complex and went to explore other structures and the first one being:

1. Hoshang Shah's Tomb: It is the mausoleum of Hoshang Shah and it is is supposed to be the first marble edifice in India. Afghan architecture at its best with intricate marble lattice work, towers and courts. It seems to have provided inspiration for the building of the Taj Mahal. Once inside you will see a few tombs and interestingly for birdwatchers one can be lucky to see a family of spotted owlets.
Hoshang Shah Tomb
2. Jami Masjid: Our next stop was the massive Jami Masjid which seems to have been inspired by the great mosque at Damascus. Huge & tall arches, pillars, domes are the keystone of this structure.

Jami Masjid Mandu

Jami Masjid view from Victory Tower
3. Ashrafi Mahal: As the name suggest "Ashrafi is gold" hence "palace of gold coins" and it was built by Mahmud Shah Khilji, successor of Hohsang Shah, It was conceived as an academic institution for young boys. Today not much of it remains however in the north-eastern corner there is a seven storey tower constructed by Mahmud Khilji to commemorate his victory over Rana of Mewar, hence its also known as Victory Tower.

Tower of Victory
With this our first day of visiting the central group of monuments ended and the whole visit was enthralling.
In our next blog we will take you through our experience on the Rewa Kund group of monuments and other locations in Mandu.

(contributed by Sandip Mishra, photo copyrights with EnigmaticIndia team)

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