Temples Of The Lonar Crater

Lonar Temples

Almost slipping down the steep path to the lake, we saw the first of the 10 temples inside the Lonar Crater. The dense monsoon vegetation gave way to glimpses of a gorgeous temple made of stone. We reached closer to take pictures. It’s a Shiva Temple, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is working on its restoration. These temples were built during the Chalukya Dynasty’s rule, around the 8th/9th Century AD. What did the people think of the brackish lake waters? What did they do with it? Some say it has healing powers.

I tried to keep a track of the temples with the photographs, but failed, as time erased some memories. Too much information to keep track of! But here are my text notes:

1st temple in the forest trek : Shiv Temple : 9th Century by Chalukya Dynasty
2nd temple : Rama Temple : Chalukya Dynasty in the 9th Century AD
3rd Temple was full of bats. It was a Shiva Temple also 9th Century additions by the Yadavkalin Dynasty.
4th Temple : Shiv Temple 16 positions are shown carved in rock here.
5th : Padmavati Temple : It has regular Puja happening here. The goddess inside is Swambhu.
6th Temple : Shiv temple again.
7th Temple : Shiv Temple without the Shiv Lingam
8th : Shiv Temple
9th : Daitya Guru Shukra Acharya : He found Sanjeevini in Lonar Crater and would treat Daityas. This temple was his vaidyashala.
10th : Kumareshwar Temple also by Chalukya Dynasty. This is also a Shiv Temple.

The last temple on top is Gaumukh Temple made by Hoysala Kings. Later additions were made by Nana Saheb Peshwa and Ahilyabai Holkar.

Our visit to Lonar is posted here in an earlier article.

Shiva Temple at Lonar
Shiva Temple at Lonar

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Nashik, Holy City : What To See

Nashik Hanuman Temple

Nashik is often called Dakshin Kashi, and is one of the holiest cities for Hindus. It has plenty of such attractions, so a visit to this beautiful city must include the following:

Trimbakeshwar Temple : Situated 30km west of Nashik, it contains one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, making it one of the holiest temples in India. The nearby Brahmagiri Hill is from where the holy river Godavari starts.

Sundanarayan Temple : On the elevated west bank of Godavari, this ancient temple has ancient carvings of Hanuman, Narayana and Indra.

Kumbh Mela : The largest religious gathering of humans in the world, Kumbh Mela comes to Nashik once every 12 years.

Kalaram Mandir : Built in 1782 by Sardar Odhekar of Peshwa, this temple has a black carving of Lord Ram, hence the name. There are plenty of gatherings and festivities during Ramanavami, Dussehra and Chaitra Padwa.

Pandavlene Caves : Around 8km away from Nashik, on the Mumbai – Nashik Highway is a group of 24 rock cut Hinayana Buddhist caves dating from around 1st Century BC. Elaborately carved out of rock, these are a must see. Around the caves is a small nature reserve and worth a walk.

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Kumbhalgarh : A World Heritage Fort

The Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan hold many a treasure, and Kumbhalgarh Fort is one such prominent gem. Built during the 15th Century by Rana Kumbha, it is the birthplace of Maharana Pratap Singh. It is now a World Heritage Site. It also has an over 32 km long wall, making it perhaps the world’s second longest wall (after the Great Wall Of China).

During one of our Rajasthan road trips we had stopped by Kumbhalgarh to have a quick look and meet a friend. We wanted to try the Walk The Wall Challenge but couldn’t because of lack of time. The fort is surrounded by the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. With wild life including wolfs, leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, jackals, jungle cats, sambhars, nilgais, chausinghas (the four horned antelope), chinkaras and hares, we really wanted to spend more time here, but perhaps on the next trip.

Built at an altitute of 1100 metres above sea level, Kumbhalgarh Fort is very pleasant and breezy at the top. It’s some 82 km from Udaipur. Like most of Rajasthan, the best time to visit is winters, staring around late October till about March. The Rajasthan Tourism Department runs an Annual Kumbhalgarh Festival in the month of March. A search will reveal plenty of stay options.

 

Kumbhalgarh Fort
There is centuries of history at this place and one can only sit and wonder what all must have transpired here.

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Walking Through London

London! Perhaps our favourite city. We had the opportunity to be in this immensely inspiring city sometime last year, and these are just some photos from the trip. We didn’t have the time to travel around though.

We stayed at Cartwright Gardens, in a studio apartment booked by Studios2let. It was close to our place of work, plus in the middle of everything, and we had a great time. The room was tiny, but thats normal in an expensive city like London. The only unfortunate thing was their check-in time being 2pm. Flights from India land early morning London time, and you just have to figure out something to do until you get your room.

 

The lovely Cartwright Gardens in London
The lovely Cartwright Gardens in London
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It was a cold grey January, but we loved walking the streets around Cartwright Gardens.

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Vishrambaug Wada : The Magnificent Heritage of Pune

It’s always so inspiring to walk through the lanes of old cities and discover countless heritage structures and tonnes of history. Pune is one such city and having been the seat of the Maratha empire, was the political centre of the Indian subcontinent in the 18th Century. It thus has plenty of history and heritage to offer. Pune is  considered the cultural capital of Maharashtra. And in one congested lane of old Pune, Morale Bajirao Road, lies the magnificent Vishrambaug Wada.

Vishrambaug Wada was built in 1807 AD and took some six years to complete construction. Bajirao II preferred this Wada to the Shaniwar Wada and stayed here for over 11 years after which he was arrested by the British and detained at Bithur near Kanpur. (Subsequently the Brits took over Pune).

In 1821 a Sanskrit school was started at Vishrambaug Wada. Government Engineering College, Deccan College and Pune University and Agricultural College all started out in these premises. In 1930 the Pune Municipal Corporation bought the property from the British Government for a sum of about a lakh of rupees and the PMC operated out of this building till about 2003. Now the PMC has undertaken a restoration of the Wada under the Heritage Corridor Plan.

Since we had reached in the evening in thinning light, and much of the Vishrambaug Wada is under renovation, we couldn’t shoot more pictures.

Pune Market
The lanes around the market comprise Old Pune, and have bustling markets in them.
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Stepping inside Vishrambaug Wada one sees the wonderful architecture and woodwork.

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Nashala : A Tiny Village In The Mountains of Himachal Pradesh

There are many, many quaint villages in the Himalayas, and how we wish we could visit as many of them as possible before they get commercially exploited and lose their charm and innocence.

Nashala is one such quaint Himalayan village. Towards the right of Naggar Haveli, a winding 5km road around the hills, and through pine forests lies this gorgeous village, where most of the homes are still traditional in architecture. This sleepy agrarian village was the perfect spot for us to spend a day hanging around, photographing. Stay was in Manali, and all meals at Naggar Castle. Katrain could also be a good place to stay with delicious home cooked meals in your own tree house!

dhaba
Dhaba on the way to Manali on the Chandigarh – Manali Highway.
Manali Highway Road Construction
The road to Manali is terrible, with construction everywhere. So bad, that I now fear driving to Manali. It was like this earlier last year, and so about 4 years ago.

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Neemrana Hotels in Tranquibar : The Bungalow On The Beach

During road trips, one looks for great places to stay, which have a magical way of relieving one of the journey’s fatigues and rejuvenating the whole travel experience.  So in our long Mumbai – Puducherry Roadtrip, we found such a place in Tranquebar (Tharangambadi) tucked right into the beach, and aptly named The Bungalow On … Read more

Kolkata : A Charming City Full Of Heritage

It’s difficult to cover Kolkata’s rich heritage in a blog post, but in a series of posts we shall try and cover what’s possible. Kolkata, spelt as Calcutta till recently, was the Capital of India for over 200 years, till 1911. As such, the city is steeped in history, architecture, culture, museums, libraries, universities, theatre … Read more

Ranthambhore Fort

One of the things that make Ranthambhore National Park so mesmerising is the backdrop of the majestic Ranthambhore Fort. So a visit to the fort is a must. As we entered the fort one evening, the sun was already down on the horizon, and we weren’t too sure of spending too much time inside. It looked just too ‘touristy’. Soon a local guide started following us, while we didn’t want him. After much negotiation, we agreed to let him ‘guide’ us through a tour of the fort. It turned out, as usual in such places, to be a good idea.

The Ranthambhore Fort has seen many ups and downs and our guide Lal Singh narrated them all, some fact, some legend. As we walked through the stone corridors, the large Pols (or doors), the narrow winding steps, the Badal Mahal, Hameer Palace etc, his stories enacted the scenes in our minds. We felt our blood boil at the back stabbing of Rana Hameer Singh, the heart saddened at the mass Jauhar of the fort women, we heard the footsteps of infantry, and the horses running up the stone steps.

From the Badal Mahal and the higher regions of the fort, we sat and soaked a commanding view of the Ranthambhore National Park and the Padam Talao. We imagined the tigers basking by the lake amidst the tall grass. We heard the Bulbuls sing, the Indian Robins chase flies in the bush. We wished we had come with more time.

Built around 944 AD at an altitude of 700 metres above the surrounding plains by the Nagil Jats, the fort was also known as Ranasthambha or Ranasthambhapura. There is a Buddhist Bharhut Stupa inside the fort. established around 3rd Century BC, by the Maurya King Ashoka. One of the pillars bears an inscription which reads:

Moragirihma Nāgilāyā bhikhuniya dānam thabho.

Meaning: ” Pillar-gift of the Nun Nagila of Moragiri.”

Moragiri mentioned here is a town in Satara district, Maharashtra. Thus Nagil clan was in existence during Ashoka’s period as followers of Buddhism. (From Wikipedia).

Over centuries the fort passed through the hands of many ruling dynasties. The majestic architecture and its history of the Ranthambhore Fort make it a must see in the small dusty town of Sawai Madhopur.

Guide Map of Ranthambhore Fort.
Guide Map of Ranthambhore Fort.
Ranthambhore Fort Steps and Chatri
The winding steps up the fort are designed very well to slow down an enemy assault.

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Jodhpur : The Blue City

Few cities evoke a colour in mind, like Blue for Jodhpur (the other one which does is Pink for Jaipur, or this awesome pink village in Maharashtra). Jodhpur, a walled city, was the capital of the kingdom of Marwar. The city was built circling the majestic Mehrangarh Fort, built by the King Rao Jodha in around 1460 AD. For some reason, a whole lot of houses in this walled city have been painted blue. Some say it’s because the colour keeps the homes cool in the long hot summers. Some say the founder King Rao Jodha had asked for the houses to be painted blue. Perhaps we will never know.

Nevertheless, it’s a gorgeous city full of architectural joy in its narrow lanes.

When to visit: Summers are killing in their heat, so a good time to visit is the winters. If you are a music buff, tie your visit around end October when the summers are just receding and Fort Mehrangarh becomes host to one of India’s best folk music festivals, the Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival).

Where to stay: When in Jodhpur do try and stay close to the Mehrangarh Fort, inside the Jodhpur Blue City. That’s when you can really soak in the city and all it has to offer. There are plenty of stay options at various price points, and we chose Shahi Guest House.

Where to shop: Sadar Bazaar near Ghanta Ghar or Clock Tower is the market area. You can get your textiles, souvenirs, arty stuff, veggies… just about anything.

How to reach: Jodhpur has an airport so you can fly in. It’s also well connected by train and chair cars leave from Jaipur every morning (apart from many other trains). You can also reach Jodhpur by road.

What to eat: Do try the Rajasthani Thali (meal) at Gypsy restaurant, Sardarpura. For a fine dining experience, do have a meal at the Hanwant Mahal Restaurant in the Umaid Bhavan Palace hills. Also try the local Pyaaz Ki Kachauri, Chaach, Lassi, Gatte Ki Subzi, Kadi, Ker Sangri etc. Jodhpur, like most of Rajasthan, is great for food.

Jodhpur Station 2
The Jodhpur Station has a beautiful old world charm.
Jodhpur Station
A clock tower and red sandstone structures at Jodhpur Station prepare you for a town steeped in heritage.

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Pondicherry : The Streets

During our walks around Puducherry, also known as Pondicherry, we collected a few pictures which give a fair sense of what the city looks like. I was particulary fascinated with the lovely doors, and the walls that supported them.

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Gorgeous deep burgundy red door with aged walls. Pondicherry 2015. I love that distressed red door to the left.

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Pondicherry : A Gorgeous Town Full Of Heritage Beauty

After a beautiful road trip from Mumbai, we reached our destination, Pondicherry, also known as Puducherry. Although we were here for work, we always wanted to visit this beautiful old town, full of heritage buildings, spirituality, art, food and culture. And Pondicherry didn’t let us down even one bit. Here’s a bit of what to see in Pondicherry.

Pondicherry, officially known as Puducherry, is a city in the Union Territory of Puducherry. It’s a coastal town in the state of Tamil Nadu. Since Pondicherry was once a French colony, the city has a strong French influence over architecture, art, culture, food and also language. The streets still have French names like Rue Damas etc.

We stayed at the Hotel De Pondicherry, an old colonial era building, which has a great restaurant as well as promixity to the beach.

There’s plenty to do in this lovely city, after you have had your ample naps and relaxations! You could go for walks in its streets, hang around in lovely cafes, go for art galleries, shop around, visit one of the many museums or monuments, there are some old and beautiful temples and churches, or try the wonderful food. You could also visit one of the many Aurobindo centres, some for meditation, some have excellent libraries and they also make a wide range of hand-made paper.

Puducherry is distinctively divided into White Town and, well, the rest of it. White Town is where all the colonial heritage beauty is. If you want to stay in Pondicherry, do ensure you stay inside White Town (unless you want otherwise). The other part of town is like any other congested Indian city.

What to do in Pondicherry: Go for walks, visit musuems, libraries, read books, take long naps in the hot afternoons, hang out at cafes and art galleries, shop, and eat wonderful food.

Also go visit Aurobindo Ashram. They have libraries, hand made paper stores, meditation centres etc.
Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple
is an ancient temple, built before 1666AD.
Visit the Basilica of Sacred Heart Of Jesus, a fine example of Oriental Gothic Architecture.
The Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of Angels), in Rue Dumas, is notable for its masonry – which uses the finest of limestone mixed with white of the egg – making for a texture identical to that of white marble. Visit this Church at around 5:30pm to catch some awesome light coming in through its ceiling dome stained glass.
The Cathedral Of Our Lady Of Immaculate Conception was built around 1692 AD. Do visit.
Meeran Mosque is the oldest Mosque in Puducherry, built over 350 years ago. We couldn’t see it, but try and do.

Do visit the Pondicherry Museum. They have a fantastic collection of the history around this region.

Do go for evening walks on the Beach Road Promenade.

Nearby: You can visit Auroville, hardly 10km from Pondicherry. If you want to see their meditation theatre, you must book in advance. Auroville has wonderful landscape, libraries, cafes, meditation centres, places to stay etc. You could also book a place to stay in lieu of voluntary service. Check for these at Auroville.

Tranquebar, about 4hours’ drive from Puducherry / Pondicherry to Tranquebar is a wonderful 17th Centure Danish fort town.

Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary is roughly 4.5 hours from Puducherry and has blackbucks, wolves, many species of resident and migratory birds. There is also the Ousteri Wetland and National Park, which is essentially a bird sanctuary but also has many marine species. It’s some 10km from Puducherry.

Arikamedu is an ancient archaeological site with remains of a Roman settlement. It’s about 7 km from Puducherry.

Where to stay and what to eat? : There’s plenty. We are writing another post for that!

We stayed at the lovely Hotel De Pondicherry
We stayed at the lovely Hotel De Pondicherry
Pondicherry street.
The beautiful streets of Pondicherry are worth many a walk.

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