India

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in India.

madhya-pradesh

Be Part of Madhya Pradesh’s Strong Culture – India

REWA

When history and nature intertwine, it is one of the most beautiful things of all. Such is a place called Rewa, in the north-eastern part of Madhya Pradesh. Its forts tell a tale as old as time, and its waterfalls gush through the landscape.

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The Keoti Falls (37km) here are a major attraction; their height and beauty are well worth the travel. Visitors from all across the land come to look upon this force of nature. The water sprays into the air, creating a mist through which the surrounding precipice is shrouded, and it gushes with such a force that one is taken aback The Chachai Falls (37km) nearby should not be underestimated either; the surrounding flora and fauna adorn it like adoring fans.

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The Chachai Falls

Further, the city’s princely rulers have left their mark upon this land; their legacy stands strong in their forts and palaces, in their temples and their monuments. There is much to see here, starting with the  Govindgarh Palace (13km).

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The Spectacular Ruins of Govindgarh Palace

This is where the Maharaja of Rewa made his cosy nest (and, by nest, we mean palatial haven), and where his possessions still lay, including the skull of the famous white tiger caught and housed by His Highness, the first time anyone had ever done so. To view more priceless antiques, one may visit the museum at the Rewa Fort (3km), which stands as a testimony to Rewa’s rich history.

Venkat Bhavan is also a show-stopping example of beautiful architecture, and for a religious experience one can visit the massive supine statue of Lord Shiva named Bhairav Baba, carved out of a single obsidian stone. With so much to see, Rewa will definitely keep you occupied and leave you with many beautiful memories.

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KHAJURAHO

Once home to about 85 temples, Khajuraho is spread across three sections, several centuries and various architectural styles. It is a buffet of culture for any historian or history-lover, and its fine carvings are noteworthy for their beauty and attention to detail.

This UNESCO World Heritage site now cocoons 20 preserved temples, the most notable being in the western section, containing the magnificent Shaivite temple Kandariya Mahadev (2km; sunrise ¬sunset) with high porches and regal spires.

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Kandariya Mahadev temple

These temples are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country and were built during the golden period of the Chandela rulers. They are wonderful expressions of human imagination, creativity, hard work and spirituality. The carvings often feature erotic images, in an expression of faith through sexuality. While these may be startling, they depict an ancient human ritual that straddles both the past and the present and becomes symbolic on a universal level.

You can sign up for a bicycle tour, which will take you around the sights in the most hassle-free manner possible. Visit in the last week of February for the Khajuraho Dance Festival, which features classical Indian dances like Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi and Manipuri by talented dancers. This festival is internationally recognised, and draws crowds from across the world.

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Khajuraho Dance Festival 2016

CHITRAKOOT

India is a land of demons and Gods, of myths and legends, of stories that sound incredulous and yet many fervently believe in. In modern India, the true origin of such stories lie shrouded in mystery, and yet, they are endlessly enthralling.

Chitrakoot is allegedly the place in which Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Laxman took refuge during their exile. The borders between myth and reality are blurred in its densely-populated forests, as these sites are where the deities apparently lived and breathed. Janki Kund (34km) is where Sita used to take a bath during her stay in Chitrakoot, where the waters once flowed pure and crystal clear.

janki-kund

Janki Kund

The place where Lord Ram would bathe, Ramghat, is one of the most popular attractions in Chitrakoot and it is a place of peaceful meditation, punctuated by  evening aartis that light up the scene.

The Kamadgiri Mountain (32km) is also one of immense religious significance; it is the place where Lord Ram and his companions are said to have stayed.

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The Kamadgiri Mountain

The name of the maintain means ‘one who fulfils wishes’. And for someone with an interest in Indian history, his or her wish will certainly be fulfilled with a visit here. The landscape is replete with ancient sites, such as the Bharat Milap Temple, where Bharat and Lord Ram had an argument in logic. The Gupt Godavari (44km) is a hidden cave with natural running water in which Lord Ram and Laxman supposedly held court, as the rocks form a curious throne-shaped formation.

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Bharat Milap Temple

For beautiful panoramic views of the lush landscape visit the Hanuman Dhara (31km), a spring on a steep rocky face, located on the rolling hillside. They say it was created by Lord Ram himself!

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Hanuman Dhara

The stories of the Ramayana you heard from your grandparents come alive in this beautiful, natural setting, and they make you start to question the difference between myth and reality.

CHANDERI

The name rings a bell. “Hey, isn’t that a hand-woven silk sari?” you wonder. Yes, these exquisitely-crafted fabrics originate from the town of Chanderi, but it should be famous for a lot more. The town has a simple elegance that has been lost in many tourist hot-spots; its radiant sunsets and regal monuments lend  it an air of old-world charm. Be swept away into a world of Rajput kings and magnificent palaces, of festivities and times of war.

This town is well founded in folklore, but it is unique because it is considered sacred. Legend has it that King Kirtipal of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty witnessed “The Miracle of Water” on a hunting expedition here, when he was supposedly cured of leprosy by its rivers. Since then, it became his capital, and has been revered for generations.

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Koshak Mahal

Today, this town serves as a major center of Jain culture. Interesting sites here include the Koshak Mahal (4km), built by the Sultan of Malwa with three majestic arches, the Shehzadi Ka Rauza (3km) with unusual serpentine brackets and the Purana Madarsa (4km), a tomb with intricately carved jails and exquisite geometric carvings.

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Purana Madarsa

The Ramnagar Palace and Museum here is also a window into a fascinating and colorful history. This settlement is also known to have had 1,200 baolis or stepwells, and they are worth a visit for their intricate structure.

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The Ramnagar Palace and Museum

One thing is for sure, if the walls in this town could talk, one could listen forever ¬history has seeped into the very bricks of this religious haven.

narendra-bhawan

A Royal Vacay in Narendra Bhawan – Bikaner, Rajasthan, India

Walking around Narendra Bhawan is like taking a quick refresher course in the history of design. There’s a delightful confluence of elements from around the world – a hat tip to its former inhabitant’s eclectic tastes. Banarasi weaves framed and mounted on the walls play up a contrast with Art Deco’s chevron patterns, Ming vases share space with European porcelain figurines, the intricate designs of usta art, a Bikaneri specialty, fight with the delicate beauty of Portuguese tiles for your attention. Almost every corner of the hotel, once the residence of the last king of Bikaner, Narendra Singh, transports you to a different time.

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The Royal Exploration takes you to Devikund Sagar, where members of the royal family of Bikaner were cremated

Geared mostly towards a young, urban crowd, this 82-room property officially opened its doors to visitors in October 2016. Narendra Bhawan offers traditional hospitality with a cool, hip vibe. Rooms are furnished with modern conveniences, the terrace houses an infinity swimming pool, Edith, the red piano, tempts you to unleash your inner Beethoven, and a well-equipped gym calls out to fitness enthusiasts. If your idea of a perfect holiday is curling up with a book and endless cups of chai (that you don’t have to brew yourself), you will be spoilt for choice here. Sit cross-legged on the asana chairs in the lounge area or sink into the comfort of large cushions placed in designed seating areas in the corridors with sunlight streaming in through the jaali work. And don’t fret if you’ve forgotten your Kindle at home, you’ll find well-stocked bookshelves here. While deciding what to read, get acquainted with the maharaja’s family, and his dogs, through the picture frames on the shelves.

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The Prince Room comes with details like pearl-studded bottle holders

Narendra Singh’s love for animals is legendary – he once owned 500 cows and 90 dogs! In the evening, head to the terrace, done up in a pleasing combination of white and beige, with pops of blue. It’s the perfect place at which to mull over existentialism, or to think of an alternate ending for How I Met Your Mother with your toes dipped in the pool, as you take in views of the city. For those who want to explore what Bikaner has to offer (besides excellent bhujia), the hotel offers thoughtfully-curated experiences. For first-timers, the Royal Exploration is a great way to learn about the city’s 500-year history. Architecture buffs will love the Merchant Exploration trail through the winding lanes where traders lived in their grand havelis, the oldest dating back to the 17th century.

The elaborate facades of these havelis, with British, Mughal and Rajput influences, make for a visual treat. The trail ends with a Marwari lunch at one of these palaces. There are other fun outdoor options too. Grab a pair of binoculars and head to Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary, 35km away, for a chance to spot blackbuck, spotted deer, cranes and peacocks. It’s enjoyable as long as you keep your expectations real. What is very memorable though is Sundowner at the Pastures – a truly spectacular set-up designed to please all the senses.

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The Sundowner at the Pastures offers an opportunity to take in the raw beauty of the desert from a fancy set-up

Marvel at a fiery orange sun sinking into the sand dunes, as you swirl the wine around in your glass and nibble on ker sangri tikkis while listening to the soothing notes of the flute – it’s a pretty good way to wind up the day.

GREAT FROM: New Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur

GREAT FOR: A lazy, relaxed, fun vacation

WHERE TO STAY

Narendra Bhawan: Currently only two categories of rooms – the Residence and Prince – are available at the hotel. By March 2017, three more room categories in different themes and sizes are expected to be functional. The hotel is located in the midst of a residential area, so don’t expect stunning views from your balcony.

WHERE TO EAT

Meals are served at Pearls and Chiffon. Chefs Sachit Jha, Ram and Bhanwar Singh whip up dishes to suit every palate and the menu has excellent Marwari cuisine options. The bajra poori with methi ki sabzi is a great choice for breakfast and the pyaaz kachori hits the spot. The tangy tikkis made with ker sangri – a berry-bean combination unique to Rajasthan – will make your tastebuds tingle. Satiate your sweet tooth with a slice of the apricot-brandy cake or dig into the ever-popular and equally sinful chocolate lava cake with ice cream ). If you want something a little more exclusive and a lot more royal, dine in the private dining area, which can accommodate up to 10 people. Don’t bother carrying theplas or other snacks if you’re prone to late night cravings. The kitchen is open and in-room dining from a separate midnight menu is available 24 hours (from 11.30pm).

SHOPPING

The local markets are just 10 minutes away from the hotel. You can shop for mojdis at Mahendra Jooti Corner. Pick up bhujia from Chotu Motu Joshi, one of the oldest shops in the area. Help the dying usta art by picking up souvenirs like jewellery boxes, perfume bottles, photo frames, table lamps and paintings from Azmal Hussain Usta’s shop.

CLEAN LOO GUIDE

There aren’t many clean public loos in Bikaner so it’s best to use the hotel facilities before stepping out. The drive to and from Jaipur Airport is at least five hours long, and the dhabas en route have very basic toilets. It’s best to use the loo before embarking on the long drive. Carry hand sanitiser.

MEDICAL AID

For any medical emergencies, head to MN Hospital and Research Centre.

SAFETY

Bikaner is relatively safe, but it’s best not to wander around by yourself. Take the usual precautions.

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

The hotel has board games and organises movie screenings to keep kids busy and entertained, but it’s best to carry along games they enjoy. They will enjoy splashing about in the pool, too.

GOOD TO KNOW

* The property is pet friendly, but keep in mind the presence of at least one golden retriever on the premises.

* A spa, which will offer flower-based therapies, is slated to open by July 2017.

* If forts fascinate you, pencil in a visit to Junagarh Fort, which enjoys the distinction of never having been invaded.

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Junagarh Fort is a delight for history and architecture buffs

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The Music of Kayal Island Retreat – Alleppey, Kerala, India

There are some sounds you must like before coming to Kayal Island Retreat. Rustling palms, chirping birds, and the song of the cicadas. But, most of all, you must like the sound of your thoughts, because that will be the loudest of all. Perched on the banks of Vembanad Lake, Kayal Island Retreat is a meditative space.

It’s located on Kakkathuruthu – the island of crows – named after its former inhabitants, just a half-hour drive (22km) from Fort Kochi and a 10-minute ride on a powdery blue canoe from the Kudapuram Jetty. Though the island is now home to 300 families, many of them farmers and fisherfolk leading the simple life (though most of their offspring now hold day jobs in the city), this bite-sized boutique resort feels completely isolated. This is the sort of place where the cell phone signal is iffy at best, where cloudy skies create dramatic reflections on the lake, the green verges on fluorescent, and staying in means ticking off all the books on your reading list. In short, it’s where you go when you want to disconnect and recharge for a bit.

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Enjoy guided walks around the lush island

Two years ago, founder Maneesha Panicker turned this abandoned former artist’s residency on the backwaters into a luxury retreat. Rooms are decorated with cute curiosities and black-and-white photographs of the locals, and have outdoor bathrooms that are roomy enough to rain-dance in. But don’t hole up inside – the lush village deserves exploration. Head out for winding strolls and you’ll observe locals going about their day. If you’re lucky, you might spot the toddy tapper high up in the tree, or the fishermen building dykes around natural fish farms. Follow the path behind the retreat to the island’s singular grocery shop and stop off for a jeera soda – possibly the only purchase you’ll make while you’re here.

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A patio at Kayal Island Retreat

Instead, you’ll spend days on the woven chairs overlooking the lake, taking in the sublime view and marvelling at the odd neighbour floating past in a sari blouse and skirt, catching fish with her bare hands. Each day a local makes pit stops to every home to pick up each family’s catch and pays them for their efforts. Wake early one morning for a canoe ride (included with your stay) along the lake, through winding canals swathed in green and wider expanses, and past paddy fields and brightly-painted local homes with boats in matching colours. If you’re adept at recognising birds, there are a quite a few to observe in addition to the ubiquitous crow.

Look out for elegant cranes and brilliant blue kingfishers. Follow your boat ride up with an hour-long morning yoga session and, once you’re limber and ravenous, make your way to the waterfront dining area for a hearty breakfast of something local – spicy kadala (chickpea) curry and swirly idiyappam (rice hoppers), or boiled kappa (tapioca) smeared with crushed chilli and shallots in coconut oil. The resort prides itself on its simple, home-style cuisine and the produce it uses is fresh and largely organic. Lunches and dinner, more often than not, include the day’s catch and are usually communal, so you can have conversations with other guests if that’s your thing and, indeed, if there are any others.

GREAT FROM: Bangalore, Ernakulam, Trivandrum

GREAT FOR: Pulling a disappearing act

WHERE TO STAY

Kayal Island Retreat: Accessible only by boat, this is a small property, offering four cute rooms, two large and two cosy and two communal areas to relax in. The amenities are few but the staff is warm and accommodating.

WHERE TO EAT

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You can pick where you want to eat your next meal

Meals at Kayal Island Retreat are bountiful, homestyle and a necessity, as there aren’t any options on the island itself. Expect Kerala specialties such as avial, pachadi and thoran, plus fabulous fresh seafood caught by local fisherfolk. Inform them in advance that you’ll be joining them for meals. Kudapuram Toddy Shop by the pier on the mainland sells karimeen (pearl spot) fried to perfection and fluffy appams to go with glasses of toddy – a heady fermented brew. It’s best visited  for lunch on arrival or departure.

fried-karimeen

Don’t miss the fried karimeen at the toddy shop by the jetty

SHOPPING

There’s not much by way of shopping here unless you count the tiny stall selling veggies, toothbrushes and locally-bottled jeera soda. Follow the path behind the resort.

WHAT TO PACK

Clothing in light fabrics, plenty of mosquito repellant, a light pullover for the night

CLEAN LOO GUIDE

It’s not a terribly long journey, so use the airport facilities.

SAFETY

The island is peaceful and safe, but be cautious around the water.

MEDICAL AID

First-aid is provided at the resort. The closest medical facility, Moham Hospital in Eramalloor, is a 10-minute boat ride and a five-minute drive from the mainland jetty (00-91-478-2564376). For major medical emergencies, it’s best to make your way to Ernakulam.

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

Kids will love the boat rides and the open play space. Don’t forget to pack their favourite books or games to keep them occupied.

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Going Wild in Madhya Pradesh – India

The heart of India offers the best wildlife-watching opportunities in national parks that are accessible from Maharashtra

PENCH NATIONAL PARK

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The dense jungles of our favourite childhood story still tremble with Shere Khan’s roar and ring with the tunes of the Bare necessities. Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh embodies the green paradise that Mowgli and his friends capered in – it was, after all, the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. And certainly, the tigers here are not any less fierce, the foliage any less dense and the species of jungle cats any less abundant than in that classic book. Enter the famous Baghin Nala – if you dare – and try to spot Collarwali, Pench National Park’s resident celebrity tiger, who headlined in the popular documentary series Spy in the Jungle.

If you don’t see Her Majesty, don’t fret; there are many other majestic predators to watch out for from among the park’s population of leopards, wolves, wild dogs, hyenas and jackals. This spacious park also has the highest density of herbivores in India, with Indian bison, cheetal, sambar, nilgai, wild pigs, sloth bears, chousinghas, chinkaras, barking deer, porcupines and more. Other points of interest include Pench Reservoir, whose still waters are graced by the Brahminy duck, pochards, barheaded geese and coots, and over 285 resident and migratory birds that spend time here; and Sitaghat, where exotic birds glide over the tranquil Pench River. Squint into the leafy curtains of the Piyorthadi outcrop; be still as a mouse as you seek out the elusive leopard and quiver in anticipation as you hear the distant vultures scream as they swoop down over their prey.

There is also a variety of options for accommodation that allows you to luxuriate in the lap of nature while still affording a true jungle experience. Enjoy a pleasant stay in the cooler months and make sure to check out the Wildlife Tour Packages for the best deals.
Season: Oct 16 – Jun 30
Closest airport: Nagpur Airport (117km)

SATPURA & PANCHMARHI

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SATPURA Range

Panchmarhi, the queen of Satpura, sits atop her throne in the upper reaches of the Hoshangabad District in Madhya Pradesh. Perched 1,000m above sea level, she won’t take any less than awe-inspired wonderment from all those who look upon her beauty. And for those who make the extra effort, she pours forth crystal-clear waterfalls, scenic forests and unique wildlife. Panchmarhi is known as ‘Satpura-ki-rani’, and is considered to be the highest point in Central India. It forms a part of the larger Satpura National Park, which is home to a delightful variety of bird species, as well as the majestic tiger. Wildlife-lovers will revel in exploring this beautiful UNESCO-listed Biosphere Reserve, which is also home to a wonderful range of fauna.

Panchmarhi reveals her wealth of history in cave paintings and legends – the Pandavas are believed to have stayed here during their exile. Ancient paintings can be found at the famous Pandav Caves. Lush gardens welcome visitors as they enter these Buddhist caves, some supposedly hewn as early as the 1st century ADE. Priyadarshini or Forsyth Point has stunning views of rolling hills and misty mountains, and the waterfalls in Panchmarhi are another beautiful sight to behold. Jamuna Prapat might cause you to lose the ability to speak, while an exhilarating 10-minute trek will lead you to a steep drop and Rajat Prapat.

An impressive ravine with dramatically steep sides and a 300m precipice, Handi Koh is also an exciting place to visit. A great spot to picnic at with family is Apsara Vihar, which has a shallow pool that makes the perfect backdrop to a visit. This beautiful landscape further abounds in exciting trekking trails and sunset points; it bewitches all kinds of travellers.

KANHA NATIONAL PARK

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Watching tigers at Kanha National Park

They say the bagh, or tiger, can strike its victims dead with just one swipe of a paw. This majestic animal is as deadly as it is beautiful. With its population of the regal tiger, Kanha National Park offers the chance for a glorious sighting on a jeep safari. The adrenaline filled euphoria at being on the lookout for the wild ferocious beast is very different. On safari, you might also catch a glimpse of bison, gaur, sambar, chital, black buck, jackal fox, black deer and many others.

A faint rustle, the slightest snapping of a twig will have you whipping around trying to spot the elusive animal. In the open grassy meadows you are likely to see the park’s herds of barasingha (or swamp deer) in all their horned beauty. Their grace and agility as they lope across the landscape may surprise you. In the cold winter months, you may hear their husky alarm calls as they run from the mighty tiger and her cubs. It is possible to see leopard as well, if you get lucky, although the park’s tour guides make no promises. The rare few who do behold this sight however, get a special view of the animal in all its spotted splendour. Also look out for the panther, sleek and deadly like Bagheera in The Jungle Book. And, no matter what, do not forget your binoculars, as these will be your eyes into a hidden world of feathered fowl. Home to more than 300 bird species, the park offers views of storks, teals, pintails, egrets, pond herons, peacocks, cuckoos and more.
Season: Oct 16 – Jun 30
Closest airport: While Jabalpur Airport is closer (165km), Nagpur’s airport (280km) has more frequent (and cheaper) flights.

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Tamil Nadu: Where The Spirit Blesses The Place – India

On the coast of Coromandel
Where the early pumpkins blow,
In the middle of the woods
Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo…

As a child I assumed that these lines by Edward Lear, England’s 19th-century master of nonsense poetry, described a magical home for the Yonghy, his fantastical protagonist. So it was with a shiver of thrill, as at a spell taking effect, that I landed in Chennai, on India’s southeastern shore—the actual Coast of Coromandel. Lear himself visited the city in the 1870s, when it was called Madras.

Lear’s primary modes of transportation then were bullock carts and sedan chairs. I was grateful to be riding in a Toyota minivan steered by my driver, S. Jayapaul Sreenevasan, a gentleman of courtly manners dressed entirely in immaculate white, who navigated the roaring capital of the state of Tamil Nadu with a mixture of nerve and verve. The morning rush hour was thick with traffic, crow calls, and the salty air of the Bay of Bengal.

Tamil Nadu might best be thought of today as a country within a country. Under its charismatic leader, Jayalalithaa Jayaram (who died suddenly last December, plunging the region into political uncertainty), it became one of the stablest and most developed parts of India. Its more than 70 million residents power the third-largest state economy in India, with a gross domestic product of about $130 billion. Yet even as Tamil Nadu has embraced the present, traditional Tamil culture and language, which date back thousands of years, remain vigorously alive. The state’s temples and treasures have long drawn travelers and pilgrims from other parts of India, but they are less familiar to foreign visitors. Because Tamil Nadu has not been as economically reliant on developing a tourism infrastructure as other parts of India, like neighboring Kerala, only now are a number of sleek hotels coming to the state. They provide an ideal way to experience Tamil Nadu’s diverse living history, which includes the monuments of long-ago dynastic rulers, hermetic spiritual practices, and eccentric breakaway communities. From the inscriptions at the burial site of Adichanallur carved in 500 B.C. to the great Meenakshi temple at Madurai where mystic rituals are enacted nightly, there is much to discover, even for frequent travelers to India.

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Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai

As we reached the outskirts of Chennai, Sreenevasan pointed out the shining headquarters of several international tech companies. The buildings looked strangely incongruous beside lagoons and marshes where egrets stalked and bent-backed farmers tended rice paddies, just as they had during Lear’s time.

Sreenevasan and I drove for several hours through a repeating landscape of rice paddies, palm trees, and little villages until we reached the first treasure of the coast, the beguiling town of Pondicherry. Officially Puducherry since 2006 (though I never heard the new name used), it is a languid and floral place, busy with birds and dragonflies, that still reflects centuries of French rule. This is another of Tamil Nadu’s oddities; while Britain colonized nearly all of India, France maintained a few small enclaves on the Coromandel Coast, including Pondicherry, which it controlled from 1674 until 1954. After independence, some Pondicherrians chose to become French citizens. Today, French is less an influence than a mode de vie.

“I think in French most of the time,” said Christian Aroumougam at the Café des Arts, on Rue Suffren. He was born in Pondicherry and educated there and in France, where he ran a yoga school until returning to India to help his parents settle into retirement. “French rule in Pondicherry was not as harsh as British rule in the rest of India,” Aroumougam explained. “They were more tolerant and permissive of local traditions and arts. You have seen the statue of Joseph Dupleix?”

A bronze tribute to Pondicherry’s 18th century governor, grandly dressed in a long coat and riding boots, stands on a plinth by the sea. Like the French street signs, the cuisine of the French Quarter, and the tricolor flying over the consulate of France, it is a symbol of pride in Pondicherry’s unusual heritage.

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La Villa – Pondicherry, India

My base was La Villa, a delightful hotel in a colonial mansion that has been updated with imaginative architectural flourishes, like a spiral staircase leading up to a pool overlooked by elegant rooms. Each evening, I sallied out to join the crowd of flaneurs who stroll Pondicherry’s seafront. We relished the milky-green violence of the Bay of Bengal bursting on the breakwater and the cool of the sea wind. At Le Café, a beach restaurant, students and families drank café au lait and ate dosas while across the road men played boules. They posed with the same meditative hunch, hands behind their backs, that gentlemen throughout France adopt when they fling the steel balls. Between rounds, one spoke briefly to me.

“I worked for the police in Paris for twenty years,” he said. “Of course we care for France. Soldiers from Pondicherry fought for France in Vietnam.”

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Holistic Approach – Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort

Head to the Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort, Palakkad, Kerala, for complete rejuvenation this season.

It’s time you take charge of your health and well-being by balancing your body, mind and spirit. Based on Ayurvedic traditions, the Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort is a pioneer in this age-old science. Offering various treatment programmes like holistic panchakarma, weight loss, stress and strain elevation, pain management, and rejuvenation and detoxifi cation, Kairali has set a new benchmark in the industry.

Relaxation techniques practiced at

Relaxation techniques practiced at Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort

The resort also off ers custom-made treatments for people who are looking to treat specific ailments. Its in-house Ayurveda doctors, trained masseuses, yoga experts and chefs ensure you are completely taken care of. Plus, its 30 villas (spread over 60 acres) give you a feel of being on a holiday as you recuperate.

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Indulge Your Senses – Gateway Resort Damdama Lake

Treat yourself to a weekend getaway at the Gateway Resort Damdama Lake.

Nestled in the lap of the Aravallis, the Gateway Resort Damdama Lake is an ideal destination for those looking to unwind not far away from Delhi-NCR. Spread over 20 acres, the resort will supercharge you thanks to its surreal surroundings and fun activities. You can have a picnic during your stay or participate in adventure sports like wall climbing, rappelling, zip lining, zorbing, air rifle shooting and archery, among others.

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The pool area at ateway Resort Damdama Lake – India

Guests can also experience a perfect mix of international cuisines and authentic home-style delicacies at Buzz, the resort’s all-day diner. Alternatively, you can also treat yourself to signature therapies at its spa. A weekend at the Gateway Resort Damdama Lake will leave you relaxed and rejuvenated.

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Chef Floyd Cardoz Guides You Through Mumbai’s Best Places to Eat

Celebrated Indian–American chef, winner of Top Chef Masters in 2012, and co–founder of The Bombay Canteen in Mumbai, Floyd Cardoz is currently making news globally for his Paowalla restaurant in New York City. But a part of his heart will always beat for Mumbai…

I love food. I travel for food; every trip I take has to be food-centric. My trips to Mumbai are always based on good food. I look forward to old favourites and I always look to discover what’s new. Mumbai has a special place in my heart because it’s where my love for food was born. From the time I was in school to the time I was in college, finding the most amazing bite was always a goal. And, with its melting pot of ingredients, Mumbai is a fun place for me to cook in. I am able to play with the ingredients that I remember as a kid. Going to markets brings these memories flooding back and always inspires me to cook new dishes as well as reinvent the old for The Bombay Canteen menu. Eating at the places on this list also brings back good memories. The best part about these places is that they have been good for years and continue to be consistent in the quality of food they offer.

Sassoon Docks, Colaba

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I love the Sassoon Docks because my father used to take me here when I was a child. It brings back old memories, but I also have new memories being made constantly with every trip I make back here. It is inspiring to see all the wonderful seafood available, which ties in nicely with my philosophy of how important it is to eat different types of fish and how we need to keep it sustainable. Be warned, the smell and crowds can be a bit of a pain, but it’s all part of the experience.

Colaba vegetable market

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I really enjoy visiting this market for its bright, vibrant colours and the fact that it always offers great photo opportunities. I’m quite active on social media, and I enjoy sharing photos of what’s local, and the produce available here lets you capture exactly that. Seasonal vegetables are at the forefront, whether jamuns, love apples, the many varieties of mango, or ponkh (tender jowar or white millet). Ponkh is well known in Gujarat, but most people in Mumbai don’t know what it is or how to eat it. During a very brief period in the winter months come the jowar grains, juicy and tender to be harvested and roasted. At The Bombay Canteen, we highlight and make Indian vegetables the stars of the dish.

Tharu Sweets Mukhi Bhandar, Khar

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This place is extra special for my wife Barkha, because her father used to take her to Tharu and buy her the mawa cake and boondi laddoo. No matter how short our trip is, we have to visit this place, and I always buy her these two sweets even when she is not visiting with me. I come here on the last day of my trip so the mithai is as fresh as can be when I get home.

The Table, Colaba

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Everything about The Table is great: the food, the ambiance and the service, and its location in Colaba around beautiful architecture. The cuisine is new American, and the chef endorses ‘clean’ cooking. Whether it is the dinner or the decor, everything is fresh; lots of lovely natural light to reiterate the fresh appeal to its customer. What I like most is that, if there is no ingredient for a dish, that dish is taken off the menu for that day or week. One of my favourites here is the Yellowfin Tuna Tataki: the perfect example of good, clean cooking with avocados, tomato gelee and sesame vinaigrette. It’s a great place to catch up with friends or for a date night with your wife or girlfriend.

shillong-food

Eating in Shillong – Meghalaya, India

Thanks to its colonial past, Continental cuisine is a given in Shillong, but sample local food and you’ll find that it has retained its original flavours, resisting the temptation to be modified for the tourists’ palate. Here’s a round-up of some great places at which to sample a bit of both:

MUNCHIES

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Unless you think trousers that sit below your bum are cool, you might feel a bit out of place at this college hangout. Grab a table upstairs, and relive your college days with delicious, hygienic and affordable fast food. Try the perfectly-seasoned Munchies Special Burger, which comes with caramelised onions, bacon, mayo and lots of cheese. For something light, the Gourmet Maggi, which is loaded with veggies and a generous topping of cheese, is a great pick (00-918974087724; Don Bosco Square, Rani Villa Compound; 10am – 9pm).

CAFÉ SHILLONG

CAFÉ-SHILLONG

Café Shillong, which is part sports bar- part café, takes its music as seriously as its food. Try the khao suey, which is the right consistency of soupy.

The beef momos, which come with fiery chilli chutney and a comforting broth, warm you right up. It also offers a range of coffees, said to be the best in town (00-91-364-2505759; LP Bldg, Laitumkhrah Main Rd, Nongkynrih; 12pm – 10pm).

LEENA’S KHASI DUKAN JADOH STALL

Leena and her daughter have been dishing out delicious local specialties for 30 years at their tiny stall, which offers pork-based tribal delicacies, and buzzes with the hum of gossiping aunties. Although not veggie-friendly at all, its various offerings, such as pig’s head, intestine and liver, are worth a try if you’re open to experimenting. Language might be a barrier here, but friendly customers will help you translate if required.

Try the dohnud – beef liver prepared with loads of onions, garlic, pepper and turmeric. The sharp and stinky chutney, tungrymbai, is made from soybeans fermented for over two weeks – an acquired taste but worth a try! Usually eaten on special occasions, dohkhleh is prepared from the meat around the neck, including the brain, and cooked with a delicate seasoning of ginger, onion, chilli and salt. Next, try dohjem – pig intestines cooked with black sesame seeds, which lends an interesting flavour and aroma to the dish. While the spices used in every dish are similar, each has its own distinct flavor.

TRATTORIA

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The Khasi Special Pork Combo at Trattoria lets you taste various local specialties

This small family-run eatery is another place at which to try local food. With its classroom-style seating, dim lighting and framed poster of The Last Supper, it feels like a cross between a church and a dive bar. Try the Khasi Special Pork Combo, which comes with a variety of specialties, like the famous jadoh, rice stewed with chunks of the pigs innards, or dohsniang-nei-iong, a smoky pork curry cooked with local spices. This place also has something for vegetarians, like the yummy dai-nei-iong, a dal fry with black sesame seeds, or phansdieh, a simple, but delicious deep-fried potato dish lightly seasoned with turmeric (00-919612852889; Police Bazaar Rd; 10.30am – 8pm).

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The Great Stupa – Sanchi, India

Dominating the Hill of Sanchi, India’s best-preserved and most extensive Buddhist site, is the Great Stupa.

Its hemispherical shape is believed to symbolize the upturned alms bowl of a Buddhist monk, or an umbrella of protection for followers of the Buddhist dharma (doctrine). The stupa’s main glory lies in its four stone toranas (gateways), added in the 1st century BC. Their superb sculptures replicate the techniques of wood and ivory carving, and cover a rich variety of Buddhist themes.

BUDDHISM’S ORIGINS AND PHILOSOPHY

The Buddha was born in 566 BC as Siddhartha Gautama, prince of Kapilavastu. Renouncing his princely life, he left his palace at the age of 30 to search for answers to the meaning of human existence and suffering. He spent six years living with hermits, undertaking severe penances and fasts, but found these gave him no answers. Enlightenment finally came at Bodh Gaya, where, after meditating for 49 days under the Bodhi Tree, he discovered that the cause of suffering is desire; and that desire can be conquered by following the Eightfold Path of Righteousness: Right Thought, Understanding, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Concentration and Contemplation. The essence of the Buddha’s teachings is non-violence and peace.

BUDDHIST STYLE

India’s earliest Buddhist monuments were stupas, large reliquaries in which the ashes of the Buddha and other great teachers were interred. Solid throughout, the stupa itself is undecorated and designed to stimulate prayer and represent the path to divine understanding. As Indian traditions spread throughout South­east Asia, the Buddhist stupa reached new heights of complex Buddhist symbolism. Borobodur Temple in Java, with its design and sculpture of the highest order, is probably the greatest monument of this architectural style.

EMPEROR ASHOKA

One of India’s greatest rulers, Ashoka (r. 269— 232 BC) was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the country’s first empire. The carnage and misery brought about by Ashoka’s bloody conquest of Kalinga (now Orissa) in 260 BC filled him with remorse.

He gave up digvijaya (military conquest)for dharmavijaya (spiritual conquest), and became a great patron of Buddhism, building many stupas, including the original brick stupa at Sanchi. Ashoka was a humane ruler whose edicts on rocks and pillars all over his vast empire record his ethical code of righteousness and nonviolence (ahimsa). He asked his officials to be impartial, just, and compassionate, and his subjects to respect others’ religions, give to charity, and avoid the killing of animals.

Buddha

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Statues of the Buddha meditating, added in the 5th century AD, face each of the gateways.

Four Gateways

These show scenes from the Buddha’s life, and episodes from the Jataka Tales. The Buddha is not depicted in human form, but only through symbols, such as a Bodhi Tree, footprints, or a wheel.

Circumambulatory Paths

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The paths have balustrades carved with medallions of flowers, birds, and animals, and the names of the donors who funded them.

Vedika (Railings)

These are an impressive recreation in stone of a typical wooden railing design. They were the inspiration for the stone railings around Sansad Bhavan, or the Parliament House, in New Delhi.

The Great Stupa and its West Gateway

Enclosing a smaller brick stupa built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC, the Great Swpa is capped by a three-tiered stone umbrella symbolizing the layers of heaven .

West Gateway

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This animated scene from the Jataka Tales shows monkeys scrambling across a bridge to escape from soldiers.

Chattra (Parasol)

The Great Stupa is crowned by a squared-off platform (harmika), which encloses a triple “parasol” (chattra) atop a mast (yastl).

North Gateway

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Here, Sujta, the village chief’s daughter, offers the Buddha (represented by the Bodhi Tree) kheer (rice pudding) , as the demon Mara sends the temptress to seduce him.

South Gateway

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The Wheel of Law, seen here being worshiped by devotees, symbolizes the Buddha.

Detail of Architrave

The intricate carving on the architraves is the work of wood and ivory craftsmen hired to carve the stone.

East Gateway

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A scene here shows a royal retinue at the palace of Kapilavastu, the Buddha’s home before he renounced his princely life.

Salabhanjika

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Supporting the lowest architrave of the East Gateway is a sensuous, voluptuous tree nymph, gracefully positioned under a mango tree.

THE JATAKA TALES

Th e Buddha’s past lives are retold in this large collection of fables, in which an animal or bird often takes the part of the Buddha. The fables had great religious, moral, social, and cultural significance.

KEY DATES

2nd century BC: The Great Stupa is built at Sari chi by Emperor Ashoka.
1300s: With the decline of Buddhism in India, the Great Stupa falls into disrepair.
1818: The Great Stupa, is “rediscovered” by General Taylor of the Bengal Cavalry.
1912-19: The Director General of Archeology in India excavates and then restores the site.
1989: The Great Stupa is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.