MANDU & ORCHHA
The erstwhile capital of the Malwa rulers, the fortress town of Mandu (or Mandavgarh) was an important military outpost. Scarred by battles and natural forces, Mandu stands majestic even in ruins. The fortress town is replete with monuments which depict architectural excellence. Visit the Jahaz Mahal, which is built between two artificial lakes on a narrow strip of land. See the huge dome of Jami Masjid, which was inspired by the great mosque of Damascus.
Hoshang Shah’s tomb is styled on Afghan architecture and was the inspiration for the Taj. Around 10 hours’ drive from Mandu lies Orchha on the banks of the Betwa river. Orchha served as the capital of Rudra Pratap, a Bundela ruler, in the early 16th century. The Jehangir Mahal and the Lakshmi Narayan Temple were built by Bir Singh, a compulsive builder who commissioned the construction of these landmarks. Visit the Ram Raja Temple, which is open for worship in the evening and is the only temple where Lord Rama is worshipped as a king and not as an incarnation of Vishnu.
A small seaside town 160 km from Chennai, Puducherry (generally known as Pondy) is quaint, quirky and exudes an air of Frenchness. The roads were laid in a formal grid pattern by the French, who had their colonial settlement till 1954. People in the town still speak French and the older French part of the town is quiet, clean and draped with bougainvillea. The French part of the town is called the La Ville Blanche and the Tamil quarters are called La Viile Noire.
The internationally renowned Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville are visited by hordes of tourists; Auroville has great spaces for meditation, a library and is a haven for travellers seeking spirituality. Visit the Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges church, which still celebrates mass in French. Stroll on the promenade which remains vehicle-free from 5.30 pm until 11 pm. Also, the Pondicherry Museum and the French War Memorial are good places to soak in the history of the town.
An erstwhile Portuguese settlement, Fort Kochi served as a refuge for Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. The most famous architectural marvel in this ex-Portuguese colony is the Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace. In 1557, the Portuguese offered this palace as a gift to the king of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma. In 1663, the Dutch renovated the palace. Also visit the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth, the Paradesi Synagogue, which was built in 1567.
Jew Town was built around it Synonymous with the backwaters of Kerala and captured by a lot of photographers, the Chinese fishing nets have been used in the area since 1400. The Dutch Cemetery near Kochi beach has the graves of Dutch traders and soldiers. The gate is usually locked but you can enquire at the St. Francis Church for permission to enter.