Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Royal Bikaner

Bikaner was founded in 1488, 29 years after Jodhpur. A younger but more intelligent son, Rao Bika, was given an army and asked to seek his own fortune to avoid a war of succession. Thus Bikaner was founded in the heart of the wilderness called Jangaldesh. Perhaps the very bareness of the landscape was the spur to making it up with beauty created by the human land. The red sand stone carvings at the Lalbagh Palace and those in marble are amongst the finest in delicacy and profusion; the fortress built in the 15th century has palaces and temples of great refinement; Bikaner's art of miniature painting is rated high; the Hall of Audience has breathtaking frescos, gilded stucco moldings, floral patterns, and carpets of incredibly delicate count.

Outside, the countryside is still rugged, dotted here and there with intricately carved Jain temples of the 16th Century. The men of Bikaner are wiry and handsome and the Bikaner Camel Corps is still a showpiece of the Indian Army's display parade in Delhi on Republic Day.

On the outskirts of Bikaner, the camel farm makes an interesting visit, particularly at sunset when herds of camels return from the dunes.

The temple of Karni Mata at Deshnoke (17 miles/ 28 kms from Bikaner) is inhabited by hordes of rats which are revered. They roam around the temple and into its inner shrine with total freedom. It is an unique sight for those who can overcome the queasiness that the sight initially evokes.

Devi Kund (five miles/ eight kms from Bikaner) is where the cenotaphs of the rulers of Bikaner was built and Gajner (20 miles/ 31 kms) has beautiful palaces set around a lake.

Sixty miles (100 kms) from Jaipur, on the road to Ajmer, is Kishangarh, an interesting city of palaces and lakes. The City Palace, the Phool Mahal and the Kalyan Raiji Temple are beautifully located by the side of a lake. From there one can walk the narrow streets of the old walled city. The largest collection of paintings of the renowned Kishangarh School is at the Majhela Palace and can be seen there by prior appointment.

Kishangarh is a convenient starting point for visits to the marble cenotaph at Karkeri, the Krishna Temple of the Nimbarkachari sect at Salemabad, and the fort and palace of Rupangarh. A little further away, the salt lake of Sambhar is an unique sight along with the marble quarries at Makrana from where the marble to build the Taj Mahal was drawn. It continues to be exploited today. Nearby, Kuchaman has one of the most beautiful lived-in fortresses of Rajasthan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shekhawati and Churu

The second northern road (NH11) leads to the painted towns of Shekhawati and Churu and further to Bikaner.

En route, the first recommended stop 20 miles (31 kms) from Jaipur is Samod, a palace hotel set among steep hills. It doubled for Afghanistan in the shooting for The Far Pavilions. Its durbar hall is painted with frescos, among the most delicate in Rajasthan. One can stop at this charming spot or drive on through Sikar to Nawalgarh - the first stop is Shekhawati.

Shekhawati was once subordinate to Jaipur. In 1471, Rao Shekhav asserted his independence, giving Shekhawati his name. His successors maintained their independence for nearly 300 years. Shekhawati was fortunately located on the caravan route from the Gujarat ports and from Central India to Delhi. Trade in opium, cotton and spices flourished. The wealthy merchants built palatial havelis or mansions for themselves, cenotaphs in memory of their ancestors, and water reservoirs, temples and caravanserais for the welfare of the people. Most of these buildings are covered with frescos painted between 1760 and 1920. The havelis were fortified houses which walled in the secluded life of the women who spent most of their days in the zenana (ladies' apartments) built around an inner courtyard. The men conducted their business sitting on the white cotton mattresses of their sitting rooms.

Nawalgarh's streets are lined with the richly painted facades of havelis and the market bustles with activity. A garden palace on the outskirts provides a cool stopover. From Nawalgarh the road leads on to Dundlod and Mandawa, the rugged forts of which are now well-stocked hotels of a rare medieval charm.

Fatehpur too offers a wealth of painted havelis. A road to Bikaner starts from there, but one can make a detour to roam in the fascinating towns of Ramgarh and Churu, where the architecture and the art of the region are at their best, before linking up again with the Bikaner road.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Northwest to Alwar

Five major roads lead out of Jaipur. NH8 leads north to Delhi. One can branch off right, about 35 miles (60 km) from Jaipur, turning north-west to Alwar, picturesque and dotted with historical sites. At Bairath or Viratnagar are ancient Buddhist rock edicts of Emperor Ashoka, a Buddhist chaitya (temple) dating back to the 3rd century BC and a painted garden pavilion built around 1600 AD.

Founded in 1771, Alwar is one of the most recent of the princely states of Rajasthan. Beginning as distant cousins of Jaipur, they maneuvered their way through the chaos of the 18th century, changing sides for quick gains, till the British family acknowledged and rewarded them for their help against the Marathas. But the affairs of Alwar remained troubled, with only a few scattered years of peace, which, however, must have been very prolific, for Alwar has some very fine palaces, built by milking the people dry and using one half of the state exchequer - an extremely high proportion even by feudal standards - for the purpose.

Twenty three miles (37 kms) from Alwar is the Sariska Palace, once a hunting lodge, now a private hotel set on the outskirts of a wildlife sanctuary where tiger, panther, blue bull, wild boar and deer roam the scrubby thicket and bush. Closer by, five miles (8 kms) from Alwar, the charming Siliserh Palace commands a wonderful view of a lake full of water fowl. This is a Rajasthan state hotel of moderate comfort.

The Alwar Museum, housed in the City Palace, has a fine collection of miniature paintings, manuscripts, arms and the famous solid-silver dining table that aroused the curiosity of royal visitors. Adjacent to the museum is a remarkable reservoir with delicate temples, kiosks and symmetrical stairs considered masterpieces of Indo-Islamic architecture.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Forts on rugged hills

On the rugged hills that surround Jaipur stand wondrous forts: Amber, Jaigarh, Nahargarh, each one imposing in its own right. Amber was once the capital of the Mina tribes believed to be the original inhabitants of this area. Now, painted elephants take visitors up the hill to admire the massive gateways, courts, stairways and pillared pavilions and palaces, that recall the glory and wealth of Amber's association with the Mughals. Raja Man Singh was the Commander-in-Chief of Akbar's army and Mirza Raja Jai Singh was a powerful ally of Jehangir. Of special interest is the Sheesh Mahal, the palace of mirrors, where the walls are inlaid with exquisite mirrored motifs that dance to the flame of even a single candle.

Jaigarh Fort was opened to the public after being sealed for seven years, following a rumor that an enormous treasure in gold was buried in vaults under deep reservoirs. The vast purity of its austere spaces is admirable. The highlight of the fort is the Jaya Vana - the largest antique cannon in India.

Nahargarh Fort provides a marvelous view of Jaipur city and, en route, of the Jal Mahal, the lake palace of Jaipur. The cenotaphs of the Jaipur maharajas at Amber and Gaitor as well as teh chhatris (memorials) of the maharanis are well-worth a visit.

Five miles (eight kms) down the Jaipur-Agra road is the charming garden of the Sisodia queen, and a mile (two kms) further are the holy springs of Galta, with temples that have a large daily attendance. The Hanuman Temple, in particular, is worth a visit on Tuesdays.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jaipur - the Pink City

The "pink city" of Jaipur (the city of Jai or victory), the capital of the state of Rajasthan, was built in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. This royal house had ruled from Amber, seven miles (11 kms) away, since the early 10th century. Jaipur was not always pink. The original city was light gray, edged with white borders and motifs. In honor of the visit in 1883 of Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, it was ordered to be painted the traditional color of welcome, which has been retained since.

The city was designed by Vidyadhar Chakravarty, a young Bengali architect, who succeeded in making a marvelous synthesis of many influences - Hindu, Jain, Mughal (with Persian overtones), besides his own ideas from eastern India. Jaipur's nine rectangular sectors symbolize the nine divisions of the universe.

The City Palace, a part of which remains the residence of the Jaipur family, is definitely worth a visit. Several gateways lead from the crowded streets into the palace, but the Museum entrance is recommended, through the courts of justice to the Jantar Mantar, the observatory of Maharaja Jai Singh II. The construction and precision of the observatory were an unique achievement for the year 1716. Jai Singh's Delhi observatory had preceded this and three other followed: in Mathura, Ujjain & Varanasi, when the Maharaja travelled over North India as the Governor of Agra.

The City Palace Museum, named after Raja Man Singh, is a treat, no matter what the interests of the visitors are - textiles, arms, carpets, paintings, manuscripts. It houses two large urns, possibly the largest silver vessels in India, which were used by Maharaja Madho Singh to carry a six month supply of holy Ganga water to the coronation of King Edward VII in London.

One of the best known sights in Jaipur is the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds, which is, in fact, no palace, but an extra-ordinary facade of 953 airy windows used by the ladies of the palace to watch the outside world - without being watched.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pushkar & Ajmer

About 80 miles (135 kms) southwest of Jaipur lies Ajmer, the most sacred of all Muslim places of pilgrimage in India. Supposedly founded by Aijpal in 1100 AD, Ajmer later became a twin Chauhan capital with Delhi. In 1193, its Muslim history began, when Prithviraj Chauhan lost Ajmer to Sultan Mohammed of Ghori. The Persian saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, who had come with Ghori, settled here where he preached and was later buried.

When Akbar captured Ajmer in 1556 he made it his military headquarters and visited the tomb on foot to pray for a son. The boon was granted and the fame of Ajmer was enhanced manifold. Large cauldrons were presented by Akbar that are till today filled with a rice and milk preparation weighing 6,720 kgs, which is distributed to the pilgrims and hangers-on at the shrine. Important monuments here are the large gateway built in the 13th century by Sultan Iltutmish of Delhi, the tomb of the water-carrier who saved Emperor Humayun's life, and the delicate white marble mosque of Shah Jahan.

Ajmer is well-known for a mosque that was hurriedly assembled from building material taken from a Hindu temple and possibly a Sanskrit University dismantled by Muhammad of Ghori. Not far from here is the pleasant sight of Ana Sagar, a lake constructed in the early 12th century. There are cool marble pavilions built by Shah Jahan and a circuit house constructed by the British.

Nine miles (14 kms) from Ajmer is Pushkar, considered high up in the hierarchy of Hindu places of pilgrimage. It is the site of a temple to Brahma, the Creator, of which there are very few. Here, every year, on the full moon of November, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gather to bathe in the sacred lake. This is the occassion for one of the largest cattle markets in Rajasthan where the abundance of color, jewelry, turbans and costumes has no equal.

Rajasthan, Desert State

Conjuring up images of a desert state, it is a place no one would think of palaces shimmering on idyllic lakes; or imagine, in its blazing heat, temples and forts of stunning artistry carved from stone that is honey or rose, marble-white or sandstone-red; nor would anyone fill their mind with painted streets where pageantry and color walk out of life-size frescos, producing crowds of brightly turbaned men with proud moustaches and women whose beauty is lethal, though, alas, veiled. But this is exactly what the desert state of Rajasthan is. The past flavor lingers on, and visitors can still ride painted and caparisoned elephants that recall the regalia of the royal courts or live in fantasy palace hotels built by descendants of the soon and the moon.

More than a half of Rajasthan is desert of semi-arid, a continuation of the sand belt that girdles the world. This desert belt is separated from the Indian peninsula by the Aravali Ranges, geologically the oldest mountains in India.

Both the Thar Desert and the Aravali Ranges lend their distinct personalities to the landscape of Rajasthan. It is interesting that this picture of a rocky, rugged skyline over the soft-staired dunes where camels plod, is only one of the two cliches which represent Rajasthan. The other diametrically opposed, is a refreshing contrast; placid blue lakes with island palaces, gardens with pillared pavilions and kiosks - always with a few dancing peacocks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How to reach Kota, Rajasthan

You can reach Kota, Rajasthan, through any of the air, road or train routes. Kota has a domestic airport and is well connected with Jaipur, the nearest airport, through Air Taxis.

Lying on the Delhi-Mumbai and Jaipur-Mumbai route, Kota is well connected with rest of the nation through passenger, super fast & luxury trains. You would even find Super Luxury Royal Trains in Kota as well. The city of Kota is well networked with state & national highways and being an industrial city of Rajasthan, Kota is well connected through pucca roads. Some of the closest cities to Kota, Rajasthan, are:
  • Ahmedabad 522 kms
  • Ajmer 292 kms
  • Bundi 35 kms
  • Delhi  504 kms
  • Jaipur 335 kms
  • Jhalawar 87 kms
  • Udaipur 270 kms

Monday, October 19, 2009

Places to visit in Kota

Following places are worth visiting when you are on a tourist visit to Kota, Rajasthan:
  • Adinath Jain Temple
  • Alniya
  • Bird watching in Hadoti
  • Buddhist Monasteries of Kolvi and Vinayaka
  • Darrah Sanctuary
  • Gagron Fort
  • Garh Palace (Kota & Bundi)
  • Jawahar Sagar Sanctuary
  • Keshav Rai Temple
  • Mathuradhish Temple
  • Nageshwar Parshwanath Ji Temple
  • Nalhah, Golpur and Garadada
  • National Chambal Alligator Sanctuary
  • Padmanabh Sun Temple
  • Sheetaleshwar Mahadeo Temple
  • Shergarh Fort & Sanctuary
  • Sorsan Great Indian Bustard Hunting Closed Area
  • Swami Suvratnath Temple
  • Taragarh Fort
  • Tiptiya
Tourists to Kota, Rajasthan, also find the following places interesting:
  • Badoli
  • Bhand Deora, Ramgarh
  • Bheem Chauri
  • Charchauma
  • Kakoni
  • Shahbad
  • Vilas, Kanyadah

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Welcome to Kota Rajasthan Tourism blog!!!

Welcome to the Kota Rajasthan Tourism blog!!!

Tourism is one of the major source of revenue both for the Government & people of Rajasthan, for the place is famous for its Antiques, Forts, Havelis, Heritage, Hotels, Museums, Palaces & Temples. More people come to Rajasthan than any other place in India, apart from Goa, from every part of the world. One such place of interest in Rajasthan is Kota which attracts national & international tourists to visit its chambal river, museums, palaces & temples. Located in the Hadoti region of Rajasthan, Kota is the 5th largest city of Rajasthan and was once the capital of Chauhan & Hada Rajputs. The city is also famous for its paintings & coaching institutes and for its home to many chemical & engineering companies in India.

You will find information on this blog about the various tourist places in Kota, their history & significance in the Kota heritage. If you know a place of tourism interest in Kota tha is not included in this blog, please leave a comment and we will include it on this blog.

Happy time!!! :)