India

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

Indian Wildlife: Diversity, Beauty And Wilderness

SANCTUARIES AND NATIONAL PARKS

Karnataka has a vast and enviable forest cover, endowed with thick vegetation, wildlife and birds. The state is known to have some of the best and largest jungle tracts in South India. So much so that it is home to a staggering 13 national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and bird sanctuaries. The most famous and popular among them is the Nagarhole National Park, among the best-managed in the country. It is a 575-sq-km stretch of reserve forest with dense vegetation and teeming with wildlife.

Nagarhole National Park

Nagarhole National Park

The forest is very picturesque and is home to tigers, leopards, elephants, gaur, sambar and other mammals, birds and reptiles. Also popular is Bandipur National Park, one of India’s best tiger reserves. It is separated from Nagarhole by the Kabini reservoir, but is otherwise contiguous with it as well as with the Mudumalai and Wayanad sanctuaries. It possesses spectacular biodiversity and with the beautiful mist-covered Nilgiris in the background, this park is known for its scenic beauty as well. In addition, there are also the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary and the Kokkrebellur Pelicanry.

COASTAL BELT & BEACHES

Karnataka’s coastal stretch from Mangaluru to Karwar, about 320 km, is possibly one of the state’s best-kept secrets—with hills and forests, rivers and streams, paddy fields and groves of coconut and areca nut. It curves around them, rising steeply and then dipping over hillocks. The road is mostly busy, considering the area is home to the temple towns of Udupi, Gokarnaand Murudeshwar, all of which draw pilgrims by the thousands. Predictably, a substantial number of these spill over happily onto the beaches. So it’s not the most ideal area for nature communions or lotus-eating. The journey starts in Mangaluru with lovely beaches, especially at Ullal, and delicious food.

Udupi

Udupi Beach

About an hour north is Udupi with the adorable 800-year-old Krishna Temple, temple town quirks and lip-smacking food such as dosa and. idli at Mitra Samaj. West of Udupi is Malpe, which has a beach, a bustling fishing port and the entry way to St. Mary’s Island, full of dramatic pillar-like rock formations rising out of the sea. Farther up the road is Maravanthe, a surreal stretch with the Arabian Sea on one side and the gently flowing Souparnika river on the other. At Murudeshwar, with its gigantic Shiva idol and the temple, as well as at Gokarna, with its iconic temple, it is spirituality that rules but the beaches offer a fabulous counterpoint. And if it is more beaches that you are looking for, then stop at Honnavar for a tranquil getaway or head to Karwar where there is a decent beach enhanced by the Naval Ship Museum or to Devbagh which is ideal for solitude.

Karnataka: History, Culture And Impressive Views

It’s a potent and diverse combination that has made Karnataka an irresistible and popular state even as it maintains an understated aspect that is extremely attractive. Ancient heritage sites, ethereal temples, scenic mountain ranges and ill stations, dense jungles teeming with wildlife, pristine beaches—all of these and much more have contributed to its consistent ranking among the top five most-visited states in India. And frequent visitors will tell you it’s the sheer variety that keeps drawing them back and keeping them enthralled.

HERITAGE

HAMPI – Nothing in the world can compare with Hampi, the magnificent ruins of South India’s greatest kingdom, the 15th-century Vijayanagara empire. Situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra river, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Krishnadevaraya is held to be the most important and progressive king of the dynasty to have ruled the region. Spread over an estimated 40 sq km, this is considered the world’s largest outdoor museum.

HAMPI Temple

HAMPI Temple

It comprises royal buildings, temples, fortifications, baths, stables, public places, markets, pavilions and thousands of elegantly carved pillars, each of which tells a story of its own. Even a week in Hampi is considered inadequate to see the ruins properly, but the most breathtaking landmarks are the king’s palace, Mahanavami Dibba, Lotus Mahal, the elegant Queen’s Bath, elephant stables, Virupaksha Temple, Vithala Temple, Hazara Rama Temple, and the images of Narasimha and Ganesha. Also worth a visit is Anegundi, which predates the Vijayanagara kingdom and is believed to be the mythical Kishkindapuri, the abode of Sugriva in the Ramayana.

BELUR-HALEBID – Often clubbed together, the two 12th-century temples at Belur and Halebidu, separated by about 15 km, are classic examples of the exquisite temple architecture of the Hoysalas. Especially noteworthy are certain pathbreaking advances in temple architecture such as use of lathes to create beautifully carved pillars and the use of the dynamic square to obtain the star structure. The Channakeshava Temple at Belur is a living temple and is characterised by its star shape, magnificent friezes on the outside, bearing stories from the Puranas, mythology and folklore. The most famous of the sculptures are the shilabalikes or celestial nymphs. The Hoysaleshwara and Kedareshwara Temples at Halebidu are in ruins and the central deity is missing, but the structures are still beautiful.

GOL GUMBAZ – The influence of the Adil Shahi kings is a strong presence in Bijapur. But amidst the many palaces, forts and mausoleums, the massive Gol Gumbaz, the mausoleum of Mohammad Adil Shah, dominates the town’s urbanscape. The structure is awe-inspiring for its sheer size and symmetrical beauty. Built in the mid-17th century, the Gol Gumbaz is considered the second largest dome in the world and is renowned not just for its architectural brilliance but acoustics as well. A mere whisper or a soft clap resonates 11 times all over the inside of the dome. The octagonal spires on four sides and cornices are also worthy of note.

Gol-Gumbaz

GOL GUMBAZ

SRIRANGAPATNA This 18th-century island fortress was the stronghold of Tipu Sultan. The ruined fortress stands in mute testimony to passing time, but there are remnants that speak of the era of the Tiger of Mysore. These include the Dariya Daulat, the Gumbaz where Tipu, his father, Hyder Ali, and other royalty are buried, the Jama Masjid, the Ranganathaswamy Temple, the obelisk, and the Wellesley Bridge.

TAJ LAKE PALACE, UDAIPUR

A matchless way to experience Udaipur, the Taj Lake Palace is one of India’s most romantic destinations. With its distinguishing character, it reincarnates the elegant lifestyles of India’s fabled Rajput royalty.

USP – The exquisite Lake Palace is like a sparkling jewel on Lake Pichola. A palace, floating in the centre of the tranquil waters, is the chief attraction. This fantasy in white marble has a supreme location, unique ambience, majestic infrastructure and exquisite architecture. It was built by Maharana Jagat Singhji II as a pleasure palace. In 1971 the Taj stepped in, giving guests a peek into the class and indulgence that had thus far been reserved for royalty. The Jiva Spa Boat is a first of its kind, evoking the majestic ambience of the traditional barges and the beautiful island-palaces of the royal family of Udaipur, this elegant floating spa is an experience unique to Taj Lake Palace.

TAJ-LAKE-PALACE

TAJ LAKE PALACE

HERITAGE PICK – The foundation stone of the palace was laid in 1743 and it was inaugurated in 1746 as Jag Niwas. It was turned into one of the most idealistic hotels in the world by Maharana Bhagwat Singhji in 1963.

BLENDING HISTORY WITH LUXURY – The lifestyle of the Mewar royals was truly luxurious. The unique glass mosaic work across the palace and some of the luxurious suites have always attracted attention to the bygone era. This is coupled with the best in traditional Indian hospitality offered by Taj.

PRIZED ARTEFACT – These are the only palace domes to be adorned with Belgian crystals—a result of the infatuation of a Maharana with the novelty of the then times.

THE OBEROI AMARVILAS, AGRA

The hotel enjoys an unrivalled position amongst luxury hotels in Agra, located just 600 metres from the iconic Taj Mahal. Accommodation comes with uninterrupted views of the Taj Mahal.

USP – As befits a brand whose name is tantamount with homespun extravagance in India, Amarvilas is a carnival of Indian craftsmanship and Mughal architecture. Guests can avail of first-class admission to the Taj Mahal and buy tickets and handpick guides at the hotel, take gratis golf cart transfers to the entrance, or go by horse-drawn carriage for a small fee, and of course simply walk as it’s so close by.

HERITAGE PICK – Throughout the Amarvilas one can find traditional crafts and materials like gold-leaf frescoes and wood carvings that are a hallmark of the royal Mughal style. The pattern on the dome pays tribute to the great Mughal era and is similar to that of the Taj Mahal.

THE-OBEROI-AMARVILAS

THE OBEROI AMARVILAS

BLENDING HISTORY WITH LUXURY – The hotel is bursting with elaborate filigree and marble inset work, jali, gold leaf work, wood carving and hand-woven tapestries. Creamy sandstone walls are frescoed or finished with lime plaster, teak panelling, hand-knotted silk throws and block-printed drapes embellish the spaces, and the swimming pool is sunk into a garden.

PRIZED ARTEFACT – The gold-leaf painting, an ancient art form from Persia, is found in the lobby dome, lobby lounge and the colonnade area of the hotel.

ITC MARATHA, MUMBAI

Symbolising ITC Hotels’ philosophy of responsible luxury, the ITC Maratha, Mumbai also pays homage to the Maratha dynasty of the region, which reflects in its architecture and design, service rituals and cuisine. A LEED Platinum-certified building, the entire electrical energy needs of the hotel are met through wind energy.

USP – The interiors are adorned with Maratha-inspired art, the local tribal art form of Warli, Paithani silks and artefacts, coins and jewellery—all evocative of the region’s rich heritage. The local culinary favourites are presented at Peshwa Pavilion, the hotel’s restaurant, in an exclusive menu called Local Love. Complementing these are Food Sherpa trails enabled by the hotels’ chefs, which trace the city’s most iconic dishes and the influence of the locale’s history and culture on its cuisine.

HERITAGE PICK – The hotel’s exterior is in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, seen in prominent landmarks such as the General Post Office, Ballard Estate, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Railway Station, Prince of Wales Museum and Gateway of India. The dome roof outside has been inspired by Bombay University and Victoria Terminus (now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Railway Station).

ITC-MARATHA

ITC MARATHA

BLENDING HISTORY WITH LUXURY – The hotel’s Presidential Suite, the Shivaji Suite, draws inspiration from Chhatrapati Shivaji. The rooms have been beautified with Paithani silk bolsters, silk curtains and photographs of Mumbai’s landmark buildings. The architecture and design of the hotel has been inspired by the region and includes indigenous art forms and artefacts. Guests can experience authentic Maharashtrian cuisine in the luxurious environs of the Peshwa Pavilion.

PRIZED ARTEFACT – The Warli paintings that adorn the wall of the hotel’s Executive Club wing on the 11th floor This tribal form of art originates from the North Sahyadris in Maharashtra and dates back to the mythical Mahabharata and Ramayana eras.

RANJIT’S SVAASA, AMRITSAR

A heritage boutique spa ksveli, Ranjit’s SVAASA is a tribute by a wife to her late husband. The over 200-year-old ancestral haveli has been restored, offering boutique rooms and suites and an award-winning holistic spa in the holy city of Amritsar. The warm, personalised service with ancient architecture sciences and the fact that it is the first property in Amritsar with rainwater harvesting and solar heating, and also its usage of vaastu and age-old healthy cooking practices add up to a holistic experience.

USP – It was the erstwhile guesthouse of the late Rai Bahadur Rattan Chand Mehra, O.B.E., who played a key role in establishing the international dry port of green tea and wholesale market within the walled city of Amritsar that exists and runs till date. He also played a pivotal role in the management of the Harmandir Sahib (before the formation of the SGPC) and the local town planning outside the walled city.

RANJIT'S-SVAASA

RANJIT’S SVAASA

HERITAGE PICK – There is a story that after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Rattan Chand Mehra was called upon by the British government to come to the Town Hall and change the statement in favour of General Dyer as his word held more weight than the entire city of Amritsar. In return, he would be knighted and the family would gain immense wealth and much more. He refused. On the day he died, the entire city downed its shutters in tribute. He was proud of his ancestry and said that when he saluted the British it was with a cat’s-eye ring turned inwards so that he was saluting his own lineage. His portrait with the ring on his little finger still hangs in the corridor of Ranjit’s SVAASA.

BLENDING HISTORY WITH LUXURY – You enter into the Time Corridor, lined with photographs going back eight generations. The suites at Ranjit’s SVAASA are named after ancestors with the Rattan Chand Suite being the most lavish. Where once stood the cowshed and the horse stables is the renowned SVAASA Spa—Hibiscus Pavilion. The young staff is personally selected by Abhimanyu Rattan Mehra. The concept of Ranjit’s SVAASA, created by Rama Ranjit Mehra, is of a home away from home.

PRIZED ARTEFACT – The beautiful silk hand-woven Persian carpet It was made by a craftsman who only made four of a kind. He presented it to the late Ranjit Rattan Mehra for help extended in his hour of need.

TAJ FALAKNUMA PALACE, HYDERABAD

Perched 2,000 feet above the city of pearls is the Taj Falaknuma Palace. Built in 1894, it is the former palace of the fabled Nizam, and encapsulates befitting splendour.

USP – Guests arrive in the restored chariot of the Nizam and are welcomed by the Butler and Palace Team. Escorted by the Royal Guard bearing the royal coat of arms and showered with rose petals, one experiences the welcome accorded to the Nizam. Falaknuma means ‘like the sky’ in Urdu and the palace does have a celestial appearance.

HERITAGE PICK – The brainchild of Nawab Mohammad Fazal-ud-din Khan Bahadur, also known as Sir Viqar-ul-Umra, who served as Prime Minister of Hyderabad from 1893 to 1901. The construction of the Falaknuma began in 1884 when its first owner, Sir Viqar-ul-Umra, laid the foundation stone, and ended in 1893. Spread across 93,971 sq m, the Falaknuma was later used as the residence of the sixth Nizam, Nawab Mehboob Ali Khan, who was known to be the richest man alive. It is unfortunate that the palace was kept closed after 1950.

TAJ-FALAKNUMA-PALACE

TAJ FALAKNUMA PALACE

BLENDING HISTORY WITH LUXURY – Spread over 32 acres, it allows you to journey to the golden ages, when opulence and excess were celebrated and savoured in equal measure. The 60 beautifully refurbished and lovingly restored rooms and suites each provide marvellous views of the palace courtyard and the 400-year-old city of Hyderabad.

PRIZED ARTEFACT – The 101 Dining Room houses the globe’s longest dining table which seats 101 people. The dining hall has an exquisite acoustic system where one can hear a conversation at either end of the table. The focus of this room is the Nizam’s chair as the armrest of this specific chair is bigger than other chairs, indicating the social standing of the person sitting there.

KUMARAKOM LAKE RESORT, Kerala

The property was created with the intent of giving guests the actual feel and ambience of authentic Kerala while providing modern luxury. Over a hundred homesteads, each over 100 years old, were bought and used in the making of the resort. Hence, much of what you see in the resort is truly historical.

USP – Kerala’s architecture is highlighted throughout the resort. The ancient rules of the traditional architecture have been adhered to while simultaneously imbuing it with flawless luxury, a rare and difficult to create feature.

HERITAGE PICK – The visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to celebrate the Prince of Wales’ 65th birthday is proudly recalled as an honour at the resort.

KUMARAKOM-LAKE-RESORT

KUMARAKOM LAKE RESORT

BLENDING HISTORY WITH LUXURY – The resort combines authentic heritage with every comfort. Rooms are plush and have wood-embellished interiors. Private pools, meandering pools and sprawling gardens preserve the past amid the contemporary.

PRIZED ARTEFACT – The architecture of the Ettukettu multi-cuisine restaurant is breathtaking. Once a palatial mansion located several kilometres away, the structure was dismantled and reconstructed at the resort over four years. The 120-year-old octagonal mansion was the home of the martial arts instructor of the royal family.

NARENDRA BHAWAN, BIKANER

The eyecatching Narendra Bhawan reflects the eclectic life of Maharaja Narendra Singhji. Designed as an aristocratic residence, the interiors are a kaleidoscope of scenes and artefacts that evoke nostalgia.

USP – Narendra Bhawan houses Maharaja Narendra Singhji’s memories of his travels and presents a rich and diverse panorama.

HERITAGE PICK – Bikaner’s history dates back to 1488 when a young princeling from the Jodhpur dynasty broke away from his family’s ancient legacy and sought to establish his own lineage. The site he chose happened to be called ‘Jungladesh,’ a barren outcrop of land. Rao Bika was the second son of the Jodhpur clan leader. It is said that he had a fractious relationship with his father and brothers and in exchange for giving up his claim to the throne of Jodhpur was allowed to take the family heirlooms with him. Naturally, he didn’t keep his word and skirmishes would occur.

The Narendra Bhawan

The Narendra Bhawan

BLENDING HISTORY WITH LUXURY – This property celebrates a lifetime—from a royal birth to the fashioning of a global bon vivant and culminating in a socialist enamoured of the new India. From the spa to the cuisine, the man who once lived here is recalled through a collection of memorable experiences—some fascinatingly epicurean, others extremely novel and all forever enchanting.

PRIZED ARTEFACT – The Balam (‘My Beloved’) Table is placed in the rooms. It has a carved white marble base in the shape of a bottle and a spun brass centrepiece and tabletop The brass of the table top and its centre beam are akin to the beams and joints of a roof The simplicity of the design and the blending of traditional materials add romance to a utilitarian object.

THE IMPERIAL, NEW DELHI

The Imperial remains one of Asia’s finest luxury hotels and is the most luxe address in the heart of India’s capital, reminiscent of the grandeur of the Raj. With awe-inspiring heritage interwoven with colonial elegance, it delivers modernity with old-style class and magnificence.

USP – Stroll through its art-laden corridors and you will feel history come alive. The collection of prints, engravings, lithographs, aquatints, mezzotints and painted photographs in the hotel began 80 years ago and is a unique blend of Victorian, colonial and informal art deco.

the-imperial

The Imperial

HERITAGE PICK – The hotel was part of living history with Jawaharlal Nehru’s suite and the embassies of 13 countries. When the British made Delhi their capital in 1911 and Edward Lutyens was assigned to design New Delhi, he chose to build the hotel at the crossing of the Kings way and Queensway ceremonial boulevards. Lady Willingdon gave the place its name and its lion insignia. She also laid the foundation of the royal palms leading to the main porch which have witnessed the very creation of Delhi.

BLENDING HISTORY WITH LUXURY – The doorways and the massive bronze lions at the entrance are Victorian. Inside the high-domed atrium, art deco wall panels and wrought iron balconies recall the early 20th century. A masterpiece of 900 pieces of marble can be seen across the hotel, including in its opulent 24-carat gold leaf form on the pavilion in the lobby. Abounding in London tableware, Italian marble floors, Burma teak and rosewood furniture, Florentian fountains, original Daniells and Frasers on the walls and the finest of Indian furniture, The Imperial with its distinctive low-rise profile recreates the aura of an early 19th century English manor.