Friday, August 4, 2017

Monsoon Palace, Udaipur


Sajjangarh zoo and palace entry gates are adjacent to each other. Since the zoo excursion had been tiring, we were contemplating whether or not to visit Monsoon Palace. At last, we agreed as there was no point in missing a location after going that far!  



Sajjangarh Palace is located atop Bansdara Mountain of the Aravalli range at a height of 3100 feet. It was built by Maharana Sajjan Singh in 1884 to watch the monsoon clouds, hence it is also known as Monsoon Palace. It was a summer retreat for the kings in those times. As the legend goes, the Maharana built it at the top of the hill to get a view of his ancestral home Chittaurgarh. The palace is now under the control of the Forest Department of the Government of Rajasthan and has been recently opened to the public. The palace offers panoramic view of the city and beautiful surroundings. 

O did I mention, Monsoon palace featured in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy as the residence of Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince?  





 The access road to the palace is curvy, steep and prone to accident. Be careful while driving and brace yourself if in car.
Advisable to take a ride in the jeep or hire a local driver for the risky road.

As you hop out of the vehicle in the parking area, you might see the place swarming with Langurs. Harmless most of the times, they only attack if they find you threatening them.


Walk through this beautiful park to reach the palace
The walk way towards the palace



City's bird eye view prior to the Palace entrance
The main entrance to palace premises
          


A flight of stairs takes you to the vacant palace’s ground floor, now full of hoardings, indicating the flora and fauna around. Half the palace was under renovation. 


The exit door of the ground floor leads you to a vast space from where the surrounding forests, mountains and civilization is viewed. The canvas is mesmerizing indeed. Green and serene, anybody would love the view. 





Due to its location on hill top, the palace is windy and remains cool even in the scorching heat. 




This is how the palace looks like from the other side of ground floor

After touring the ground floor premises, we ascended to the first floor of the palace. Sun shines generously, filling in the balcony with bright warm light. Couple sneak in the quiet corners to steal some private moments. In our presence a langur appeared from one window and disappeared through the other. Oh I forgot to tell you, the palace is their home now. 



                                



Balcony of first floor

                     
The second floor was relatively vacant as it was under renovation. Still the place gave us good photo opportunity. 

Fateh Sagar Lake - View from second floor of the palace
More the height, better the bird's eye view




If maintained properly, Sajjangarh palace is indeed exquisite. After paying Rs 140 each (Ticket cost Rs 50 and Jeep fare Rs 90), Monsoon Palace turned out to be a bit disappointing. Blame it on the location or the ruined aesthetics, the palace needs lot of renovation and restoration.

 Advisable- Wear shoes or comfy flats. You gotta walk a lot here.

Entry ticket to palace- Rs 50 each
You can drive to the palace in your own vehicle. 
Parking chargesRs 100 for cars, Rs 30 for two wheelers
Or else hop onto the jeeps ferrying to the palace at Rs 90 for each seat.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jagdish Temple, Udaipur



Jagdish Temple may not be in a traveler's must see list of Udaipur, but you would love this place for sure. The architecture and marvelous carvings would leave you awestruck.  My v
isit to this temple was a part of my first day itinerary, post the tour of City Palace. 

The temple’s beauty speaks volume of medieval period’s magnificent construction. 
Made on a raised platform, you have to mount a staircase of 30 steps to enter the temple.

The main shrine

The first flight of stairs to the temple

Constructed in the Indo-Aryan style, the three storied Jagdish temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651.  The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu also known as Laxmi Narayan, the preserver of the Universe. It holds a record of being the largest temple in the city of Udaipur


Garuda statue

Across the main shrine, stand the brass image of Garuda, a figure of half-man and half-eagle. The symbol of strength and loyalty, this idol stands guarding the doorway of Lord Vishnu.
 Another flight of 32 marble steps leads to the main shrine that houses the beautiful four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu. This idol is carved out of a single piece of black stone. The main shrine of Lord Jagdish/ Vishnu is centrally located encircled by four smaller shrines which are dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Sun God, Goddess Shakti and Lord Shiva respectively.

     

   

The temple has a double -storey mandap  tucked within its pyramidal bell-roof. The hollow clustered 79 feet spire over the sanctum contains two more, nonfunctional stories.


The gods on walls

The exquisite carvings on the walls leaves you in awe. Every corner or wall of the temple boats of art prodigy. It is said that 1.5 million rupees were spent to raise this temple.  


The intricate carvings





The temple was a visual treat for us. Serenity and charming appeal oozed out from each stone.  
I am the sure evening arti would have been a sheer delight as well. However we could not watch since it was still an hour and a half to start. 

Location- City Palace Complex, Udaipur
Distance from City Palace- 210 meters
Distance from Bagore ki Haveli- 220 meters   


The next tourist attraction was Bagore ki Haveli, at a short walking distance from Jagdish Temple.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Coding to Fitness Athlete: Shweta Mehta breaking the stereotype


Meet Haryana girl Shweta Mehta, known as a fitness athlete as well as the recent winner of the popular reality show Roadies Rising. Breaking the stereotype, Shweta took the risk of quitting her cushy job as software engineer to pursue her interest in body building.


 

Born in a small town Fatehabad, in Haryana, Shweta is the only girl among her four siblings. Her mother, headmistress of school and father a property landlord, had defined her priorities of education. Hanging around with her brothers, she didn’t have girl-friends in her childhood. Perhaps it was them who made her strong and tough.

Being a geek, she pursued B.Tech and moved to Bangalore as a software engineer where she worked for 5 years. Switching career to body building was not on her mind until she joined a gym for general fitness.


 

The push


Soon Shweta learnt about fitness competitions and researched on the fitness categories. She continued working out and prepared her body along with her job. Taking the step towards becoming a professional body builder and figure athlete was no small task. The tag of “small town” undoubtedly creates immense pressure in case of such career choices. When Mehta summed up courage to speak to her mom about her change in career and her willingness to compete internationally, her mom’s response was disheartening. Shweta was asked to delete her Facebook page showcasing pictures from her gym and stage practice. Scared of what her father’s response would be, she openly spoke to him about her career choice. He supported her, appreciated her photos and encouraged her move.


 

The struggle

 


Focussed on being a figure athlete, she did not look back. The rigorous training and exercise came with not just massive hard work but also a lot of risks. Shweta realised she had a lot financial crunches to squeeze out of in order to compete. With no sponsors aiding her, and the bills for clothing, gym, food, competition preparation piling up, Shweta decided to take the big risk and spend her savings for her passion.

The silver lining

 


In March 2015, she appeared in her first competition as a Figure Athlete. In a span of a year this dimpled girl managed to secure a Gold in Jerai Women’s Fitness Model Championship 2016. Later she signed four brands in two years including Adidas, Neulife and Procel. In 2017, Shweta added another feather in her cap by winning MTV Roadies Rising, a popular TV show. She had instantly grabbed eyeballs during Roadies auditions when she did full squats with Harbhajan Singh on her shoulders and did pull ups better than anybody. The show demonstrated her strength and ultimately she emerged as the winner, crossing all hurdles and beating stronger male contestants.

 

Inspiring women

Shweta proudly says if she being from a small town could do it, so can anybody. Owing her success to her father’s support, Shweta asks people to believe in their dreams and never lose focus.



Talking about her future plans, Shweta wants to be a successful athlete first and later start a Fitness Food Truck that would serve only healthy food. Her long term plan includes setting up a gym.


Kudos to the fearless girl for following her dreams and inspiring women to never give up on their passion.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mandore Garden, Jodhpur


Away from the main city of Jodhpur, lies the neglected beauty of an era; the Mandore Gardens, often known as the in-laws place of Ravan.

Cluster of cenotaphs


From the History

Rao Jodha, the Rajput chief of Rathore clan founded Jodhpur in 1459. As he hailed from the nearby town of Mandore, it served as the capital for rulers of  Jodhpur. Later due to security concerns for the majestic Mehrangarh Fort, the town was abandoned.  The history of Mandore dates back to the 6th century. It is also the native place of Mandodari, Ravan’s wife. Our auto driver thus introduced us to Mandore as Ravan’s sasural.

The small town has cluster of temples and cenotaphs of former rulers. (A cenotaph is an “empty tomb” or a monument erected in honor of a person/ people whose remains are elsewhere). Most of the architecture is inspired from the Hindu or Rajput era. Instead of the traditional Rajasthani umbrella shape roof (chattar), these structures have been built with temple shape roofs. Each structure has beautiful carvings on walls inside and outside, decorated entrance, exquisite statues and many of them are up to 4 storeye high. You ought to get smitten with the place’s beauty and cant stop from exclaiming how fantastic it is!

The fact that the place is ruined now, is the reason Mandore does not get much tourist attention. An easily missed place in Jodhpur, the bygone magnificence needs immediate restoration and protection to hold its head high as the pride of Jodhpur.


Photo journey of the yesteryear’s royal Mandore Garden

Ek Thamba Mahal – 

This is a beautiful three storey pillar built in red stone. It was constructed in the reign of Maharaja Ajit Singh (1707-1724). It was believed to be a watch tower to keep an eye on the areas around. The construction with bird’s eyes view window prove the same.



The entry to the mahal is closed to public for security reasons. Bordering along the corners of the garden, Ek Thamba Mahal instantly got my attention. (Photo credit: Mithun Malakar)

The Temple of 33 Crore Gods-

33 crore gods' temple
The structure has statues of 33 crore Hindu gods and goddesses. Obviously you lose count after few. However this temple holds its prominence as the only place to house all 33 crore deities under a single roof. Somebody deeply involved with religious thoughts can take a spiritual plunge while taking a round of the place. We witnessed a marriage ritual there. What better place than this temple to seek blessings from all gods in one go!

Things that are delightful- 

-Free entry to the park.

-Numerous eating joints/ eatery stalls around the garden.

Grand entrance of Maharaja Ajit Singh's cenotaph
                                     
-Rich religious and cultural heritage you want to peak into. After all it was the capital of the kings of Jodhpur. Fantastically, extravagantly ravishing it is!

Other royal cenotaph
                                                                          
-Great place for photography and history enthusiasts. Remember it was connected to Ravan? Intricate art and designs of the clustered structures are serenely enticing. And that’s how its very relevant to exclaim #Fantastico!

  Photographer's paradise
                                                        
Natural Beauty
                                                    
-Lot of natural beauty with botanical plants and colorful bloom of flowers soothes your senses. A good place to spend time with your own self.

You may find few turn offs here:





-Herds of Langur flock the whole garden. Though harmless most of the times, your senses are on full alert with so many primates around. Advised – be calm and quiet to avoid disturbing or upsetting them. Careful, it’s a large large herd!

-Untidy and littered. People (usually locals) come to walk or picnic and litter the place. Several people feed langur, in-spite of the warning signs within the premises and hence the place is full of garbage.

-No maintenance of the premises or monuments by the authorities. The architectural master pieces lie in ruins; dust and cobwebs with walls withering away. The park is half encroached by locals, bordering along the perimeter of the whole area.

The temples/cenotaphs of the medieval age are the only saving grace which make a beautiful platform for photography.


How to reach- Mandore Garden is fourteen kilometers from the north of Jodhpur city. It is easy to commute if you have your own vehicle, else very difficult to reach. Auto drivers charge exorbitantly high. Local buses are available otherwise.


Monsoon Palace, Udaipur