Category Archives: India

Trivandrum, Kerala, India

Overview of Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram):
God’s own country with its psychedelic sunsets complete with palm trees swaying to whatever music the wind chooses to play, the wafting aromas of the land of coffee, spices and coconuts, the bastion of communism, a literate people whose friendliness is only surpassed by their curiosity for more. Kovalam Beach A place that fiercely retains and respects the ancient traditions while viewing the modern with tolerance and invitation – Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum is Kerala incarnate.

There is beauty and intelligence, the exotic and the mundane; there are Ayurvedic massages that elicit equal amounts of pain and pleasure, beaches and lagoons with the best part being the preservation of it all the way Nature meant it to be.

Trivandrum is also a bustling city, where the business of life is carried out like it is around the world, interspersed with everyday visits to the nearby temple or mosque. Myth has it that the place derives its name from it being the city of Anantha, the sacred serpent of Vishnu. History has it that Thiruvananthapuram had once been the port of call for Romans and Jews, Arabs and Christians. Believable, considering that it remains one of the biggest centers for sea-bound labors.

Trivandrum AttractionsPlaces To Visit:

Government Art Museum
This museum has much to impress the visitor with. Trivandrum MuseumBuilt in an exquisite blend of Kerala, Mughal, Chinese and Italian styles of architecture, the museum is also known as the Napier Museum after the erstwhile Governor General of Madras John Napier. This 19th century building boasts of a unique natural air-conditioning system and the displays include exquisite bronzes, ancient ornaments and costumes, ivory carvings and musical instruments, and a whole temple chariot.

Puttan Malika Palace Museum
Built by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Balrama Verma of Travancore, an accomplished poet and musician, the traditional Travancore style museum is made better with its exquisite woodcarvings. There is a priceless art collection among other exhibits and the palace also hosts an annual classical music festival between 27th January and 3rd February.

Sree Chitra Art Gallery
Located in the museum compound is this Art Gallery featuring an eclectic collection of works by Roerich and Raja Ravi Verma. This of course is only among the many other paintings from the Mughal, Rajput, Bengal and Tanjore schools of art. There is also a fabulous collection of oriental art from the Far East and Bali.

The Zoological Gardens
With a setting that includes woodlands and beautiful lakes, this is arguably one of Asia’s best laid-out zoos. Whether it is love for the animals or just a need for a good day out, this is an excellent place to visit.

Indian School of Martial Arts (ISMA)
Kalaripayattu, KeralaA definite must see is the ISMA, which continues to preserve and impart training in the 5,000-year-old martial art of Kerala – Kalarippayattu. Established in 1983 it is in Vazhuthacaud in the heart of the city. A three-storied building, the main attraction is the traditional kalari – the arena for practising the art, built 10 ft below ground level. ISMA is also a renowned healing centre where the traditional kalarichikitsa – an exclusive branch of medicine – has been practised for years. The rare collection of olagranthas – palm leaf manuscripts also makes it a place with historical value.

Kovalam Beach
This building, designed in the English Gothic Style, was built in 1878. The main structure rises 54.2 m in height and is surmounted by statues representing Justice and Mercy. Beautiful Kovalam, endowed with a sheltered bay making it safe and pleasant to swim in during the off-monsoon months is no doubt, one of the best places to be. Food, rest, Ayurvedic massages and long walks with the inevitable shopping will make your visit here memorable and a true vacation.

Shanghumugham Beach
Trivandrum Mermaid Statue The Shanghumugham Beach is close to Trivandrum international airport. This is a favorite place for locals to spend their evenings. However do not expect to enjoy bathing in sea here since the water is not really clean and it is pretty crowded.

Veli: The Veli Tourist village, is around 11km away from Trivandrum city where the lake merges with the sea. Veli is a popular tourist destination for Keralites.

Trivandrum ClimateClimate: Pleasantly tropical throughout the year, Trivandrum’s proximity to the sea makes for weather that has its variations. Other than the monsoons between May and October, which are long and heavy, summer temperature goes up to 32°C while winters are a pleasant 29°C.
Best Time To Visit: If you love the rains, anytime and if you don’t, September to May.

Trivandrum FactsThiruvananthapuram Facts:

  • Population: About 3,234,707
  • Main Language(s): Malayalam, Tamil and English
  • Time Zone: GMT + 05:30
  • Phone Area Code: 0471
  • Airport Distance from City Center: 8 kms
  • Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Pre-paid taxi service available

Agartala, Tripura, India

Agartala Overview:
Agartala, the capital town of the eastern state of Tripura, India is a storehouse of rich cultural diversity. Surrounded by hills on three sides, Agartala is a picturesque city in northeastern India. The city has many remarkable buildings in the Indo-Saracenic style (a mix of Hindu and Muslim architecture), the most prominent of which is the Ujayanta Palace, built in 1901 by Maharaja Radha Krishna Kishore Manikya Bahadur.

Agartala gained prominence when Maharaja Krishna Kishore Manikya shifted his capital from old Agartala to the present site, in 19th century.
Ujjainti Palace Agartala
Agartala can serve as a comfortable base for seeing the rest of scenic Tripura, which has wildlife sanctuaries, rock-cut religious sculptures and fabulous ancient temples, including the Temple of Fourteen Deities in Old Agartala, the former capital 5 km to the east, which draws thousands of devotees for the Karchi Puja in the month of July.

A number of lakes in different parts of the city add to the charm of Agartala.

Agartala ClimateAgarthala Climate: The climate is characterized by moderate temperatures and a highly humid atmosphere.
Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit Agartala is between October and April. Towards the beginning and end of this period, one might experience a few showers, but they are quite refreshing.

Agartala AttractionsPlaces To Visit: Following are the popular tourist attractions in Agartala, India.

Ujjayanta Palace :
Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya built this royal house over a one Sq. km property in Agartala between 1899 and 1901. Agartala Tripura, India It is a two storied mansion, having a mixed type of architecture with three high domes, the central one being 86m high. The magnificent tile floor, curved wooden ceiling and beautifully crafted doors are particularly notable. The palace is set with huge Mughal style gardens, beautified by pools and gardens and tiled floors.

Ujjayanta Palace, now is the state Legislature Assembly office

Kunjaban Palace:
Built by Maharaja Birendra Kishore Manikya in 1917, it was called Pushbanta Palace then. Now it is the governor’s residence. It is located on the northern side of Agartala. This place was frequented and cherished by poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Malancha Niwas :
The Bungalow adjacent to Kunjaban palace situated on a hillock was originally a house where Tagore stayed during his visit in 1919. The construction was subsequently built and given the name of Malancha Niwas

State Museum:
It has on display some of the rarest stone images, old coins, Bengal Kanthans and archaeological findings from Tripura and adjoining areas.

Sepahijala Agartala. Sepahijala
The Sepahijala Wild life sanctuary is just 15 Km from Agartala.

Old Agartala :
8 kms from the main city and the former capital of the state, Old Agratala is famous for the ritual worship of the fourteen presiding deities of the Royal House in Chaturdasa devta temple.

Tripurasundari Temple :
Temple of goddess Kali (locally known as matabari). Located at Udaipur South Tripura approx. 80Km from Agartala

Agartala FactsAgartala Facts & Figures:

  • Population: 175,500
  • Main Language(s): Bengali, Kokbarak, English
  • Time Zone: +5.30hrs GMT
  • Phone Area Code: 0381

Amritsar, India

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Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Port Blair, The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
Overview:
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are not everyone’s choice for a holiday. They are so far away from the mainland that they tend to be ignored by most visitors. However, those who find themselves on the Islands are rewarded with spectacular beaches, pristine coral reefs and the lovely blue sea.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands are part of a string of about 500 tropical islands, which lie scattered halfway between Calcutta and the equator. The existence of these islands was first reported in the 9th century by Arab merchants, who sailed past them on their way to the straits of Sumatra.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Andaman Tourism InfoAndaman Facts: The first western visitor was Marco Polo. The Marathas took over the islands in the late 17th century. In the early, 18th century, the islands were the base of Maratha admiral Kanhoji Angre, whose navy frequently captured British, Dutch and Portuguese merchant ships. Angre remained undefeated by the combined British / Portuguese naval task force, right up to his death in 1729.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands were finally annexed by the British in the 19th century and used as a penal colony for Indian freedom fighters. The colony was set up by Captain Archibald Blair of the Bombay Marine, who gave his name to the capital of the islands, Port Blair. During World War II the Japanese occupied the islands. After India gained independence in 1947, the islands were incorporated into the Indian Union.

  • Main Language(s): English
  • Time Zone: GMT + 05:30
  • Phone Area Code: 03192
  • Population: About 3,50,000
  • Airport Distance from City Center: 4 kms
  • Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Taxi service available at Rs. 50 per pax to city

Port Blair, is today, the pulse of the islands. Most tourists who visit begin their exploration from here. Port Blair extends around a harbour on the east coast of South Andaman, and is the most heavily populated of all the islands.

The one major landmark in Port Blair is the Cellular Jail. This seven-winged national monument tells tales of the torture of India’s freedom fighters who were imprisoned within its walls. The islands were called Kalapani (islands with black water), because of the blood that tainted its waters.

The Andamans are a paradise for ecologists and ornithologists, with 242 species of birds, 46 species of mammals and 78 species of reptiles some of them rare and almost extinct. These birds and animals live in dense rain forests surrounded by mangroves that seem to become part of the sea.

The islands are also home to some of the oldest tribal communities in the world. Six recognized tribes inhabit the several islands. While members of some of the tribes venture into the city, others keep to their forests, and can be quite hostile.

Andaman ClimateClimate: The daily temperature in the Andamans does not vary much throughout the year. It usually averages between 23°C to 30°C.
There are two seasons – the wet, or monsoon season, from mid-May to mid-November, and the dry season, from mid-November to mid-May. Rainfall is heavy and, depending on the location, averages 264 to 437 cm annually.
Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit is between November and mid-April.

Andaman AttractionsAndaman Attractions – Places To Visit: The stunning beaches are the major attractions of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. But there are many other tourist attractions waiting for you in this island paradise.

Andaman Cellular JailThe Cellular Jail
This museum is a reminder of the torture that India’s freedom fighters suffered at the hands of the British. It had more than 600 cells, so prisoners would have absolutely no contact with one another.
Today the Port Blair Cellular Jail is an important tourist spot at Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The Beaches
For a day of swimming, and fun in the sun, Corbyn’s Cove and Jolly Buoy are popular beaches. One can also snorkel and visit the underwater world as long as one wants.

Havelock Island
A visit to the Havelock Island is a memorable experience. Its unspoilt and beautiful charm can take you back a hundred years.

Ross IslandRoss Island
Ross Island was once an exclusive preserve of the British who ruled from there for over 50 years. The ruins of bungalows, churches, ballrooms, bakeries, clubs and dungeons, are an interesting and intriguing experience. They relive the glory of early 20th-century colonial life.
Early morning, Ross island is a bird-watcher’s paradise.

Viper Island
The Viper Island contains the dungeons and a natural amphitheater. Another picnic spot, it still has ruins of gallows as reminders of a grim past.

Museum and Zoo
At the Anthropological Museum, Marine Museum, and the Mini Zoo, one can see a panorama of the life of the Paleolithic islanders, a display of marine life with sea crocodiles, dolphins, barracuda, and pearl oysters.

Andaman CruiseHarbour Cruises
A harbour cruise takes visitors around the South Andaman Island and offers a beautiful view of mangroves, rain forests and other delights of this living museum. There are also cruise trips from mainland to Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Volcanoes
The Andamans even have their very own dormant volcano and those who have the courage and stamina to climb to its mouth on Barren Island never forget the sight of the lava inside or the hard lava-like rocks that make the climb a near impossibility.

Agra, India

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Goa, India

Goa Overview:
Silver sands, sparkling blue waters, the sky mirroring the sea below, white churches resting against green paddy fields and coconut trees lining the coastal streets. Goa is a place you can fall in love with at first glance.

There’s much more to Goa than sun, sand and sea. The allure of Goa is that it remains quite distinct from the rest of India and is small enough to be grasped and explored in a way that other Indian states are not.

Goa India
Goa became one of the youngest Indian states after 451 years of colonial rule and 26 years as Union territory. Its history dates back to the 3rd century when it belonged to the Mauryas, followed by the rule of the Satvahanas, Chalukyas, the Shilharas and Kadambas. In 1312, Goa fell into the hands of the Muslims. The Portuguese took over in 1510, ending the Muslim rule. Apart from a brief spell during the Napoleonic wars, when the British briefly occupied Goa, the Portuguese were the masters of Goa till 1961, when they were finally driven out.

450 years under Portuguese domination produced a unique blend of East and West that is both exotic and strangely familiar. Christmas and Carnival are celebrated as enthusiastically as Diwali and Durga Puja. The state’s separate identity is also visible in its Latinate architecture and preference for a fish- and meat-rich cuisine. Another marked difference is the prevalence of alcohol, which is cheap in the state and is widely available.

Panaji, Goa’s capital since 1843, is among the most pleasant Indian capitals. Most people use it as a link to old Goa or to the beaches, but it’s worth a visit. The atmosphere is easygoing and the people are friendly. In the oldest part of the town, the Portuguese heritage is evident: broad avenues spilling into cobbled squares, grand public buildings, old houses with overhanging balconies and numerous bars and cafes.

On the coast itself, coconut cultivation and fishing are the major sources of income. But, tourism is the main money-spinner and the majority of the population is engaged in related business.

Places To Visit in Goa:

Mapusa – 13kms from Panaji, Mapusa is a small town in north Goa. People from all over Goa come here to buy and sell their wares in the famous Friday market.

Margao (Madgaon) – is the second largest city in Goa and a commercial metropolis. Margao an 18 km stretch of silvery sand: Palolean, Betul and Colva. Other interesting places around Margao are Chandreshwar Bhutnath temple and the Rachol Seminary.

Vasco-Da-Gama – This coastal town popularly known as Vasco was originally called Sambhaji. This well planned city is also the railway terminus for passenger service. Goa’s only airport, Dabolim is also 4km from Vasco, at the other end.

Ponda – is also called Antruz Mahal because of the concentration of culture, music, drama and poetry. This town also has many temples – Shri Gopal Ganapati Temple, Mahalakshmi temple, Shri Nagesh temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Shri Mangesh temple and the Safe Shahouri Masjid.

Old Goa – is the state’s showpiece and the only remnant of the Portuguese. In the 1500s, it was the largest and most flourishing of the great Asian cities. The monuments and cathedrals today represent just a fraction of the urban development that was Old Goa.

Se Cathedral at Old Goa: The largest church in Asia, the cathedral in Old Goa, is a mighty 16th century monument to the Roman Catholic rule of Goa under the Portuguese. Its huge Golden Bell is the biggest in the world. It has 14 side chapels; the last chapel, in Mauresque style, preserves a cross upon which a vision of Christ is said to have appeared in 1919.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi at Old Goa – Built in pure Manueline style, the interior is adorned with a profusion of carvings and exquisite paintings. The convent at the back of this church is now the Archaeological Museum. It houses many portraits of the Portuguese Viceroys and fragments of sculpture from Hindu temple sites in Goa.

Bom Jesus Basilica – Partially in ruins but awesome still, it is a fine example of Jesuit architecture. The church’s most precious relic is the embalmed body of St. Francis Xavier entombed in a marble mausoleum presented by the Duke of Tuscany, who received the Saint’s pillow in exchange. Once every 10 years, the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are exposed for public veneration. It was last exposed in 1994.

Aguada Fort: This Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1609-1612 to control the entry into the river Mandovi and to protect Old Goa from potential enemy attacks. A spring within the fort provided water supply to the ships that called there. The fort presently houses the Central Jail.

Cabo Fort (Raj Bhavan) – 9 km from Panaji, the Cabo Fort lies on the peninsula at Dona Paula, which juts into the Arabian Sea. Initially during the Portuguese era, a Franciscan Convent, was attached to the fort. This later became Coba Palace and is now the Governor’s residence.

Chapora Fort – Located 10 km outside Mapusa, this fort has a splendid view of nearby Anjuna and Vagator beaches. The fort, which belonged to Muslim rulers before the Portuguese wrested it, has some interesting ruins.

Terekhol (Tiracol) Fort – 42 km. away from Panaji, at the northernmost tip of Goa’s shoreline, at the mouth of the river Terekhol, stands the Terekhol Fort. In its courtyard is the century-old church of St. Anthony. It is now a tourist resort.

Rachol Museum of Christian Art – About 7 km east of Margao, is the Rachol seminary. Its main attraction, the Christian art museum is the only one of its kind in South Asia. It was set up by the Indian National Trust for Architecture and Cultural Heritage and the Gulbenkian Foundation of Portugal. The Museum has an amazing collection of artefacts from Goa’s churches and chapels, private collections and donations.

Kerkar Art Complex – in Calangute is the only art gallery of its kind on this beach strip. The gallery stocks a wide variety of art, as well as arts and crafts done by local artistes. Concerts of Indian classical music and dance are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Goa Facts:

Population: Approximately 12,00,000

Climate: Summers are particularly hot and the monsoons heavy. Winters are pleasant during the days and cool during the nights.

Main Language(s): Konkani, Hindi and English

Time Zone: GMT + 05:30

Phone Area Code: 0832

Best Time To Visit: Goa is best experienced during the winter months between October and the end of February. The famous Mardi Gras Carnival happens in February and is a fabulous experience. The tourist season starts in November and goes on till March. January, February and March are the best months for Hindu festivals and celebrations. January has the colourful festival of Shantadurga Prasann, February the three day zatra of Shri Mangesh, and in March is the festival of Holi, called Shigmo.

Airport Distance from City Center: 30 kms

Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Most 5 star hotels have complimentary services. Taxi ervices available Rs. 350 flat rate to Panaji city centre

Map of Goa, India

Bagdogra: West Bengal, India

Bagdogra in West Bengal is well connected by rail and air to the rest of India. There are no airports or railway stations in Sikkim. The primary means of transport within Sikkim/Bagdogra is by road. To get to Sikkim you must first reach Siliguri.

Darjeeling is the hill station of West Bengal. This has been called the queen of hill-stations. 663 kms. from Kolkata Altitude is 2134 m. or 7000 ft. It is a famous hill resort offering a breath taking sight of the numerous peaks of the majestic Himalayas. The clouds seem to whisper to one another here and from horizon to horizon stretches the Kanchanjunga, covered with snow from the head to foot all round the year. The views of Kanchanjunga and Mount Everest are particularly inspiring. And viewing Sun rise is wonderful from the famous Tiger hill. The Himalayan physiography of lofty mountainous terrain and cascading rivers, offers adventure sports trekking, mountaineering and river rafting.

Places To Visit near Bagdogra:
There are several small townships and scenic spots to visit when you are in Bagdogra.

Mirik Bagdogra
Mirik
A recently developed hill-station, Mirik has grown around a lovely lake with boating facilities and a milder climate. It is 55 kms from Siliguri. The town is centered around the Sumendu Lake. Landscaped gardens, the tourism department cottages and boating facilities have made Mirik an attractive resort town. Mirik is 1767 m above sea level.
On the western bank of the lake is the Debisthan with its Singha Devi mandir.
Mirik has several view points like Ramitey Dara and Deosi Dara which offer spectacular views of the eastern Himalayan ranges. Mirik also has tea gardens, orange orchards and cardamom groves.

Kurseong
A quiet township between Siliguri and Darjeeling at an altitude of 1458 M (4860 ft.) noted for its secluded charm and Eagle’s Crag, offering a commanding view of the undulating plains below
Eagle’s Crag- 1 km
Deer Park- 4 kms
Forest Museum
Giddhapahar Mandir- 2 km
Ambotika Shiv Mandir- 5 kms
Makaibari Tea Estate-4 kms
St.Mary’s Hill- 4 km; Downhill
Baggaura
Chimney
Kettle Valley Picnic Spot
Namsu
Netaji Kothi.

Walks & Treks in Kurseong
1. Kurseong Town-Forest School-Dow Hill School-Kurseong (8 kms).
2. Kurseong Town-St.Mary’s-(Rangers College) Deorali-Chimney-Kurseong (8 kms).
3. Kurseong-Singell Tea Estate-Cafebari-Rinchngton Power Station-Namshu Picnic Spot-Kurseong (16 kms).

Kalimpong
Another beautiful hill town in North Bengal that can be reached from either Siliguri or Darjeeling. The trip from Darjeeling being memorable for its lovely road through forests and a place called the Viewpoint, offering excellent view of the confluence of the Rangeet and the Teesta rivers, as also of the Himalayan mountain range from Durbindara summit. Kalimpong’s attractions include three Buddhist monasteries, orchid nurseries, a sericulture centre and Dr Graham’s Home, a large sprawling school set up in 1900 for educating the children of tea workers.
Dr. Graham’s Homes
Durbin Dara
Kalimpong Arts & Crafts
Flower Nurseries
Kalimpong Market
Tibetan Monastery and Curio Shops
Dela point

Lava & Lolaygaon
Short drives through dense forests from Kalimpong are tourist spots with unspoiled idyllic surroundings. Lava is the gateway to the Neora National Park. Lolaygaon offers a fascinating view of sunrise from Jhandidara.

Dooars Valley
Imagine a stretch of land 130 km. long by 458 km. wide where nature has lavished all her bounties and you know it’s doors. The gateway to the Himalayas.
Here an unending stretch of virgin forests is crisscrossed by the river Teesta and her innumerable tributaries. Beautiful motorable roads cut trough deep forests, rich with wild life. Mauve hills stand at the end of Birds. In between, there are fabulous wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, tribal settlements and valleys carpeted with tea gardens.
Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks of interest in Dooars and adjoining areas are Mahananda wildlife sanctuary, Sevoke, Kalijhpora, Purbakhoila, Mongpong, Malbazar, Gorumara National Park, Jaldhaka, Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Rasikbill and much more.

Batasia Loop
Five kilometers from Darjeeling and three kilometers from Ghoom, the meter-gauge, toy train winds its way over this brilliant piece of engineering delight. It is a pleasant and delightful descent from Ghoom – the highest railway station in the world.
Dhirdham Temple

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute – A Training Centre for aspiring mountain climbers situated about 2 Kms from Chowrasta, on Jawahar Parbat. It also boasts of an unique museum displaying an array of items used by famous mountaineers.

Padmaja Naidu Himalaya Zoological Park
Natural History Museum
Lloyds Botanical Garden
Tibetan Self-help Centre
Darjeeling-Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway
Lebong Race Course
Rope way
Ghoom Buddhist Monastery
Observatory Hill

Badogra Facts:
Climate: Temperature (deg C): Summer- Max 32, Min 19; Winter- Max 15, Min 6.

Rainfall : 160 inches annually (mid June to August).

Main Language(s): English, Bengali and Hindi

Time Zone: GMT + 0530

Phone Area Code: 0353

Best Time To Visit: For mountain views the best time to visit is from mid September to mid, and then from mid March to mid June, when it starts becoming hazy, because of cloud cover. The average temperature ranges from 8.5 – 15 degrees Celsius in summers and 1.5-6 degrees Celsius in winters.

Getting Around: The nearest airport is Bagdogra military airport (which is now opened for civilian flights) near Siliguri in West Bengal. It is connected by daily flights from New Delhi and 6 flights from Calcutta (excluding Thursdays) every week. It is 115 kms from Gangtok and takes about 4 1/2 hrs. Recently a 4-seater helicopter service from Bagdogra to Gangtok has started and takes about 20min. (Please check flight schedules as they are apt to change)

Airport Distance from City Center: 16 KMS from Siliguri City

Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Pre – Paid taxi Rs. 225 to city centre

Bagdogra Location Map

Mumbai (Bombay)

Travel Guide to Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra, India

Overview:
Mumbai is the commercial capital of India, a city of entrepreneurs, concrete towers, clubs and discos, cricket, Bollywood and more.

The city, a cluster of seven islands, was named by its native Koli fisherfolk after the goddess Mumbadevi. After the Portuguese gained possession of the islands in 1534, they renamed it Bom Bahia, for the natural harbour, which served as a safe haven for its ships.

In 1661, Charles II of England received the islands of Bombay as dowry when he married Princess Catherine of Braganza. The British Government leased the islands to the East India Company, who developed it into a thriving trading port.

The promise of business opportunities and religious freedom drew people to Bombay from all over the country. As the migrant population burgeoned, land was reclaimed, and the city began its haphazard metamorphosis from a trading post into a metropolis and industrial hub.

The city also became a hotbed of political activity during the struggle for independence, hosting the First Indian National Congress in 1885. Nearly fifty years later, the Quit India movement was launched in Bombay.

In the mid-’90s, the city was rechristened Mumbai. Today, Mumbai is the country’s financial and cultural centre. It is also home to a thriving film industry. It is seen, to the teeming masses that flock there to live and work, as a place where opportunities abound. Its inhabitants, an amalgam of great wealth and abject poverty, are swept into the endless maelstrom of activity that characterizes this city of dreams.

Places To Visit when you are in Mumbai:

Gate way of India, Mumbai
Gateway of India
The Gateway of India was built in 1924 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India. Built in the 16th century Gujarati style, the monument stood testament to British supremacy. Ironically, it was from here that the last British troops left the country after independence.

Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus
Formerly known as Victoria Terminus (VT), this is one of the most imposing buildings in Mumbai. It was from Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus that the country’s first train rolled out. At the entrance to the terminus is a large statue of Queen Victoria. The clock on tower is 3.19m in diameter. Stone gargoyles, peacocks, monkeys, elephants and British lions are placed among the buttresses, domes, turrets, spires and stained glass windows. The Terminus looks more like a cathedral than a railway station.

Chowpatty Beach
Chowpatty beach is located in the heart of Mumbai. Every evening, the beach is transformed into a hub of activity. Historically, during the freedom struggle, public meetings and rallies were organised here.

Haji Ali Mosque
This mosque is located at the end of a long causeway protruding into the Arabian Sea. The white mosque is the tomb of Saint Haji Ali, a wealthy Muslim who renounced the world and proceeded to Mecca. It is said that he died in Mecca and the casket miraculously drifted to the spot at which the mosque is built toady. The mosque can only be approached during low tide.

Hanging Gardens
The Hanging Gardens or Ferozshah Mehta Gardens were laid in 1881 on top of a reservoir on Malabar Hill. The garden provides a spectacular view of the city.

Mumbai High Court
This building, designed in the English Gothic Style, was built in 1878. The main structure rises 54.2 m in height and is surmounted by statues representing Justice and Mercy.

Hutatma Chowk
Better known as Flora Fountain after the beautiful stone fountain at its centre, Hutatma Chowk is the established business centre of Mumbai. The Fountain was erected in 1869 in honour of Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of Bombay, who was responsible for shaping much of Bombay.

Jain Temple
The Jain Temple, built in white marble, is dedicated to Adinath, the first apostle of the Jains. The temple is decorated with paintings depicting incidents from the life of the Tirthankaras. The first floor of the temple is particularly dedicated to Parasnath. His image has been carved out in black marble and images of planets as seen in Hindu mythology, adorn the ceiling.

Kala Ghoda
Kala Ghoda (Black Horse) got its name from the imposing statue of King Edward VII, seated astride a black horse, which rested there. Although the statue has long since been removed, the name stubbornly lingers. The Kala Ghoda area is home to some of the city’s most beautiful buildings – The Elphinstone College, the David Sassoon Library, the Army Navy Building and the once-celebrated Watson Hotel. In an attempt to turn the area into an art district, city conservationists organised the Kalaghoda Fair, an open air craft bazaar, and cultural arena. This festival has become an eagerly awaited annual event.

Kalbadevi
North of the Crawford market is a predominantly Muslim area, dotted with Chawls (dwelling clusters), and home to some of the busiest and most colourful bazaars in Mumbai. Near Kalbadevi is the Jama Masjid and the Mumbadevi temple, dedicated to the patron Goddess of Mumbai’s original inhabitants. It is one of the best places to wander aimlessly.

Mani Bhavan (Gandhi Memorial)
Mahatma Gandhi’s residence in Bombay between 1917-34 has been converted into a museum, which displays pictures and books related to his life.

Marine Drive
Also known as Netaji Subhas Chandra Marg, Marine Drive features a bustling waterfront promenade. Marine Drive is built on land reclaimed along the Arabian coast, and runs from Nariman point to the foot of Malabar Hill. Sunsets here are particularly beautiful.

National Gallery of Modern Art
The National Gallery of Modern art in Mumbai exhibits the work of prominent contemporary Indian artists. The National Gallery is housed in the building that was formerly Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall.

Nehru Planetarium
Eight kilometres from the centre of the city is the Nehru Planetarium. Its shows provide glimpses into the mysteries and wonders of outer space, and are particularly entertaining for children.

Prince of Wales Museum
Like the Gateway of India, this structure commemorates the visit of King George V. The building is built in Indo Sarcenic style and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. The central hall features a huge dome which is believed to have been inspired by the Golgumbaz. The museum, which opened in 1923, has an impressive collection of artefacts from places such as Elephanta Island, Jogeshwari Caves, and the Indus valley. There is a large collection of terracotta figurines, ivory carvings, statues, and miniatures.

Taraporewala Aquarium
The aquarium was opened in 1951 and has an interesting collection of marine and fresh water specimens. Shells, shell craft and fishery by-products are also on display.

Walkeshwar Temple
This Hindu temple, bordering the Banganga Tank at Walkeshwar, dates back to approximately 1715. Rama is said to have stopped here to rest on his way to Lanka to rescue Sita. Legend has it that the Banganga Tank was created when Rama shot an arrow into the ground, and water sprang forth. Despite its proximity to the sea, the Tank holds fresh water.

EXCURSIONS:

Matheran
This quaint hillside retreat was discovered in 1850 and is the nearest hill station from Mumbai, and provides a welcome respite from the heat and crowds of the city.

Lonavla
Lonavla and Khandala are twin resorts just over 100 kms from the rat race of Mumbai. The towns are perched high on the Western Ghats, and popular tourist destinations. Both towns are famous for their delicious chikki (molasses candy) and chocolate fudge.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Previously known as the Borivali National Park, this protected forest area is on the northern outskirts of Mumbai. The Lion Safari is popular attraction. However, the small population of animals, which includes a few tigers and panthers, faces extinction due to urban encroachment.

Bassein
This fortified city, built by the Portuguese, separates greater Mumbai from the Indian mainland. The city of Bassein was at its architectural best in 1534, with one cathedral, five convents and 13 churches. In 1739, the city was lost to the Marathas. The ruins of the fort are the only evidence of a glorious past.

Elephanta Island
The Elephanta Caves are said to date back to the third century. The island was the capital of powerful coastal kingdom and the excavation of the caves from the 6th century hints at the glory of the kingdom. Centuries later, when the Portuguese took possession of the island, they named it after a monolith of an elephant, which they had found there.

Mumbai Facts:

Population: About 15 million

Climate: Being on the coast of the Arabian Sea, Mumbai’s climate is largely influenced by the sea. The climate is moderate, with summers hot and winters pleasant. The monsoon lasts from June to September, and rainfalls heavy.

Main Language(s): Hindi, Marathi and English

Time Zone: GMT + 05:30

Phone Area Code: 022

Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit Mumbai is between November and February. It is advisable to avoid Mumbai during the monsoon months.

Airport Distance from City Center: 26 kms

Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Pre-paid taxi service available

Location Map of Mumbai, India

Bangalore (Bengaluru), India

Bangalore, Karnatka, India:
Bangalore which is now renamed as Bengaluru is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities. Situated at an altitude of 920 metres above sea level, Bangalore is the principal administrative, cultural, commercial and industrial centre of the state of Karnataka. Spread over an area of 2190 square kilometres, Bangalore enjoys a pleasant and equable climate throughout the year. Tree-lined streets and abundant greenery made it the ‘Garden City’ of India.

However, since local entrepreneurs and technology giant Texas Instruments discovered its potential as a high-tech city in the early 1980s, Bangalore has seen a major technology boom and is now home to more than 250 high-tech companies, including homegrown giants like Wipro and Infosys. The erstwhile garden city has now been pegged the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India.

Recommended Bangalore Hotels

Chancery Pavillion Roerich Bangalore bangalore-vivanta-taj

Bangalore Attractions

Where to go and what to do in Bangalore? Here are some of the important places to visit in Bengaluru, India.

Vidhana Soudha
Located at the northern boundary of Cubbon Park, this majestic building, with a total plinth area of over 5,00,000 sq. ft is built in a neo-Dravidian style. It houses the Secretariat, the State legislature and several other Government offices. The gleaming white domes, pillars and archways resemble the architectural pattern of Mysore’s old palaces. The huge, carved doors of the cabinet room are made of pure sandalwood. The entire building, when floodlit on Sunday evenings, presents a truly breathtaking picture.

Lal Bagh
These 240-acre gardens were laid out during the Muslim era (18 century) by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, 200 years ago. They contain the largest collection of rare tropical and sub-tropical plants with many awesome century-old trees. Fountains, terraces, lotus pools, rose gardens and a deer park surround the magnificent glass house built in 1840, on the lines of London’s Crystal Palace. The Annual flower, fruit and vegetable shows are regularly held here. Lal Bagh also houses the offices of the Karnataka Horticultural Society that renders free advice to those interested in flowers and gardens. A giant Electronic Quartz Flower clock is also in the garden.

Cubbon Park
Planned and laid out in 1864, this beautiful 300-acre park contains the public library and the museum. The illuminated “fairy fountain” and the elegant graeco – colonial style buildings add to the beauty of this park. The imposing red Gothic structure within this park is Seshadri Iyer Memorial Hall, which houses the public library. Also situated here are the High Court, the Government Museum, the Technology Museum, the Govt. Aquarium and the Jawaharlal Bal Bhavan.

The Fort
Situated opposite the City Market, the Fort is noted for its beautifully carved Islamic-style arches on the gate walls, and for the well-preserved Ganesha Temple within its precincts. One of the temple’s outer walls carries an exquisite carving of Sri Krishna playing his flute, and within, there is a fine statue of Lord Ganesha. Originally built in mud by Kempe Gowda in 1537, the Fort was extended and fortified by Tipu Sultan. He preserved the Ganesha Temple as a testament to his religious tolerance. It is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tipu’s Palace
Situated near the fort, construction of this palace was begun by Tipu Sultan’s father Haider Ali, and completed by Tippu himself in 1791. It resembles the Daria Daulat Palace at Srirangapatna, Tipu’s capital. It was known as `Rashk-e-jannat’ – the Envy of Heaven. Constructed largely of wood, it is known for its five elaborately decorated arches surmounted by exquisite minarets, and paintings on the walls and ceilings. It is open to the Public from 6a.m. to 6 p.m.

Venkataramanaswamy Temple
Bangalore has some beautiful temples. Adjoining Tipu’s summer palace is the Venkataramanaswamy Temple, a 300-year old temple built by the Wodeyars and still in very good condition.

Bull Temple
South of Bangalore in Basavangudi, is the Bull Temple built by Kempe Gowda. The deity is a massive 15-foot Basava or bull, which was believed to have been the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The cause for wonder about this Nandi is that it has been carved from a single boulder.

Gavi Gangadhareswara temple
Another impressive temple is the Gavi Gangadhareswara temple, an unusual cave temple. It has been designed in such a manner that, on the festival of Sankranti, a local festival, the rays of the sun pass between the horns of the Nandi placed outside the temple, illuminating the image of Lord Shiva.

Someshwara Temple
Another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is the Someshwara Temple built by Kempe Gowda in Ulsoor.

Around Banglore

Nrityagram
35 kms from Bangalore at Hesaraghatta is the famous Nritya Gram, a centre for dance that imparts extensive training in seven dance disciplines and two martial art forms to residential students. The Nrityagram celebrates the Vasantha Habba (the spring) every year. Renowned artists are invited to come and perform in a night-long gala, open to the public.

The Hesaraghatta Lake
This a man-made lake, near the village is also a popular tourist spot. Bannnerghatta National Park
Just 21 kms from the city and easily accessible by road is the Bannerghatta National Park. A part of the Bannerghatta forest, the park houses a mini zoo, a crocodile farm, lion and tiger safari parks. Situated 60 kms from Bangalore, at a height of 1478m above sea level, is the Nandi Hills resort. What used to be the favourite summer getaway of Tipu Sultan, is now a popular picnic spot with its awesome fort, sprawling lawns and two ancient temples.

Whitefield
The Shri Satya Sai Baba ashram is the chief attraction at Whitefield. It is now more or less a suburb of Bangalore, with increased access lines and more people moving into the neighborhood. The ashram is called Brindavan and any public transportation will take you there, though auto rickshaws may make a bit of noise about the extra charge you ought to pay. It is an interesting place, and the sage has quite a few interesting aspects to his personalities. He is very revered and many people believe him to be an incarnation of the earlier Sai Baba of Shirdi, a Hindu saint of older days.

Nandi Hills
This is a hill resort near Bangalore whose solitude has not been tampered by commercialization. The weather is very pleasant and though a far cry from the misty Himalayan hill-stations, Nandi Hills has a very pleasant ambience about it – a nice place to chill out in if you are in the vicinity. For one, it has been a popular hill retreat right from the days of Tipu Sultan who is said to have visited here occasionally. Tipu’s drop, a 600-metre high cliff offers a fantastic view of the plains down below. Ideal picnic spot.

Ramohalli
A little away from the city is Ramohalli, a picturesque picnic spot, that boasts of a 400-year old sprawling banyan tree, spread over 4 acres. The region around Bangalore is dotted with gigantic rock formations, the two notable ones being Shivaganga (4599 ft.high) and Savandurga. The latter used to be a fortress and the hideout of Kempe Gowda.

Mysore
Mysore is just 139 kms by road from Bangalore. It was the capital city of Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and the entire Wodeyar clan. Mysore’s prime attractions are the Mysore Palace, the Chamundi Hills, the famous Brindavan Gardens, the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery located in the Jaganmohan Palace, the Mysore Zoo and St.Philomena’s Church.

Srirangapatna
15 kms from Mysore is the old capital of Tipu Sultan, Srirangapatna. Its fort bears witness to the Tiger of Mysore’s last battle against the British. His mausoleum, the Gumbaz, which sports ivory inlaid doors and the famous tiger-striped emblem is also nearby. Near Srirangapatna is the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.

Somnathpur
40 kms away from Mysore is the Somnathpur Temple, a star-shaped structure built in 1260 A.D, an outstanding example of Hoysala architecture.

Ramanagaram
49 kms from Bangalore city, Ramanagaram is famous for its rock formations, a great attraction for rock climbers. Ramanagaram is also an important silk cocoon market.

Shivaganga
50 kms from the city center is a hill which provides a breath-taking view of the the nearby areas. There are two famous shrines dedicated to Lord Gangadeshwara and Goddess Honnadevi.

Hassan
194 kms from Bangalore is Hassan, from where one can go to Belur, Halebid and Shravanabelagola. Shravanabelagola is a famous Jain pilgrimage with a 17m high monolith of lord Bahubali standing tall.

International Technology Park (ITPL)
For those that have business and more business on their minds, the International Tech Park in Bangalore offers a superb business advantage to corporations seeking a foothold in India, one of the world’s biggest emerging markets. The futuristic Park is built to exacting international standards, supported by state-of-the-art infrastructure. Amidst a refreshing and aesthetically appealing environment, the Park offers a one-stop solution integrating office, production, commercial, residential and recreational needs in a single location. The International Tech Park is meticulously designed and built to suit the requirements of international hi-tech companies in the field of information technology, software development, electronics, telecommunication, research and development, financial services and other non-polluting hi-tech industries.

Electronics City
Electronics City is an industrial park spread over 330 acres exclusively meant for electronics industries. It houses more than a hundred industries, including IT industry leaders like Motorola, Infosys, Siemens, ITI, and Wipro. The area is maintained by Keonics, which provides the necessary infrastructure.

Bangalore Facts

To give you a little background, Bangalore was founded by Kempe Gowda in the early 16th century. Two centuries later, it became an important fortress city under rulers Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. The ruins of those periods can still be seen on the Bellary Road, at Lal Bagh, Ulsoor and Gavi Gangadhareswar Temple.

The people in the city are warm, hospitable and friendly. Bangalore is generally regarded as a place that most visitors like to chill out in. Not to say that it has nothing for the people interested in history. Along with the modern day pubs, discos and hangouts, one can still see remnants of the older Bangalore. All in all, a lovely city to visit.

Population: About 65 lakhs (6.5 million)

Climate: One of Bangalore’s most attractive features continues to be its pleasant weather. Like we said earlier, Bangalore is not inclined to extremes. It meets the season’s expectations, which means, it is warm in the summer, chilly in winter and the monsoons visit regularly.

Main Language(s): Kannada, English

Time Zone: GMT+ 05:30

Phone Area Code: 080

Best Time To Visit: March to May (warmest months)
December to January (coldest months)
June to September (rainy – southwest monsoon)
November to December (rainy – northeast monsoon)

Airport Distance from City Center: 12 kms

Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Available for a flat rate of Rs. 150 to city centre.

Bangalore (Bengaluru) Map

Udaipur, Rajasthan

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India:
A royal past makes itself evident in every nook and corner in Udaipur. Whether it is the ornate doors that are entrances to people’s homes or the palaces, gardens and monuments, Udaipur gives one a glimpse of what the place would have looked like in its time of glory. Founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1568, and considered the jewel of Mewar, Udaipur’s air is filled with a strong sense of romance, adventure and the best of Rajputana.

Udaipur is also a centre of historic arts and crafts of Mewar, like the Mewar School of Miniature Painting. There is of course the modern face of Udaipur that one can look at if interested, but given the other sights from a glorious past, modernity is no real distraction. This is a place that will hold you in its thrall no matter who you are or where you come from.

Places To Visit near Udaipur, Rajasthan:

Udaipur City Palace
Udaipur City Palace
Built in 1725, the grand City Palace is actually a conglomerate of eleven palaces overlooking the sprawling Lake Pichola. One of the largest, most beautiful palaces in the state of Rajasthan, it is now a museum, royal residence and a luxury hotel. This intricately designed monument is an architectural wonder in granite and marble.

Jagdish Temple
Built in 1651 by Maharaja Jagat Singh, this temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is located in the centre of the old city. The temple has a black marble image of Lord Vishnu, which is unusual for the northern part of the country, where statues of Gods are normally in marble.

Fateh Sagar
Originally built in 1678 by Maharana Jai Singh, Fateh Sagar was rebuilt by Maharana Fateh Singh after the rains destroyed the dam. The garden island in the middle of the lake is Nehru Park, which also has a café. You can also hire pedal boats to tour the lake.

Lake Pichola
With its main attractions being the two palaces on the islands in the lake, Jagniwas and Jagmandir Lake Pichola is about 4 km in length and 3 km wide. Jagniwas was earlier the summer retreat of the prince of Mewar and now a five-star hotel. The city palace extends along the eastern shore of the lake and you can go for a boat ride from Bansi Ghat.

Shilpgram
Udaipur has some fabulous handicrafts, which is why Shilpagram or the art village is a great place to go to. A craft bazaar, it is on the outskirts of Udaipur, about 3 km from Fateh Sagar. The place showcases crafts from Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and Rajasthan, and you can pick up quite a lot of wonderful pieces from here.

Bharatiya Lok Kala – Udaipur Folk Museum
Conserving local folk arts like paintings, dolls, masks and musical instruments, this museum can be quite an eye opener on everything from the society that exists here to the talent and creativity of its people.

Udaipur, Rajasthan Tourist Information:
Vital Udaipur facts and information for Rajasthan tourists.

Population: About 2,632,210

Climate: With scanty rainfall and summer temperatures reaching 40ºC only every once in a few years, Udaipur has pleasant winters, making it a year rounhd destination.

Main Language(s): Hindi and English

Time Zone: GMT + 05:30

Phone Area Code: 0294

Best Time To Visit: While Udaipur is visitable all year round, festival time in Rajasthan is between October and February.

Airport Distance from City Center: 28 kms

Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Private taxi service available at Rs. 200 to city

Udaipur Map