Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pune: Exploring the heritage side of the city


Overview: Pune is one of the most modern cities in India, which also has a rich cultural heritage. I decided to explore a few sites in Pune city which defined the city before modernity.
We first went to Pataleshwar Caves, carved out of basalt rock in the 9th century during the Rashtrakutas. The caves can be termed as architectural wonder, as the entire temple has been carved out of a boulder, a miniature version of Kanheri caves in Mumbai. Though this place does not widely feature in the tourist list of many people, the caves are a favourite hangout for students and youngsters.
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Our next site was Shaniwarwada, which was the state mansion of the Peshwas, and was the residence of Bajirao I in the 18th century. Though much of the residential structure no more exists, the fort walls can still be seen intact, which is a major attraction for the city visitors. One trip around the old areas of Pune takes one through several of Peshwa Palaces and residential complexes.
Another popular landmark of Pune is the Dagaduseth Ganapati temple, which was constructed in the late 1800s by businessman Dagaduseth. The beautiful temple is visited by scores of people during Ganesh Chaturthi and the main idol of Ganapati can be seen from outside the temple on the main road as well.
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The Ram Mandir of Tulshibaug dates back to the Peshwas in the mid 1700s, and was later renovated in 1884. The area around the main temple also has a Peshwa residence where descendents of Naro Appaji Khire lived for several years.
Agakhan Palace, a beautiful palace built by Sultan Mohammad Shah Agakhan in 1892, was also the residence of Mahatma Gandhi for some time during the Quit India Movement, and also home to the memorial of Kasturba Gandhi. A small amount of Mahatma Gandhi's ashes are also kept near the Samadhi of Kasturba Gandhi.
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Saswad: Around 30 kms from Pune City is the town of Saswad, which has the 10th century ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, known as Sangameshwar temple. As the name goes, the temple stands at the confluence of two rivers - Chameli and Karha. The temple opens up to a huge hall and is greeted by a big Nandi with the eyes on Lord Shiva. The complex is huge and one can imagine it in full glory during its heydays.
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Saras Baug: A huge park in the middle of the city, was once a lake, and on its banks was the Ganapati temple, originally constructed in 1750, but later underwent several renovations. Just outside the Saras Baug is eat street, where one can relish local street food.
Shinde Chatri: This is a memorial dediacted to the 18th century warrior Mahadji Shinde, who served for the Maratha army. The memorial stands adjacent to the older Shiva temple, and was last renovated by Madhavrao Scindia.
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How to reach: Pune is connected by rail/road from all over major Indian cities.
Food/Accommodation: Being a cosmopolitan city, Pune has several options for food and accommodation catering to all.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Hyderabad Revisited


Overview: Hyderabad, popular for its Nizam influence, has always attracted heritage lovers across the world. I set forward to visit some of the oldest sites in the city. My last visit took me to the ever enchanting Charminar, surrounded by the bangle stores and pearl shops, a treat for shopaholics. One can soak in the beauty and culture of the old city sipping a cup of hot Irani chai near Charminar. Next to Charminar is the Makkah Masjid, where thousands of people offer prayers on Fridays. Few other places visited in my last visit are Taramati Baradari, Adil Shahi tombs, Necklace road and the massive Golconda Fort.
This visit for my friend's wedding took me to some more places which I had missed the last time. We reached Kacheguda Railway station early morning. The railway station is one of the oldest in the country, constructed by the Nizams in 1916.
Post breakfast at my friend’s home, we started off with the beautiful St Joseph's Cathedral, established in 1820 AD, with huge bells imported from Italy.
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Next point on my list was Salar Jung Museum, which houses the antiques with collections from the Salar Jung family. The collection includes ivory, wooden crafts, European furniture and idols of Hindu Gods, making it one of the largest museums in India.
Chowmahalla Palace, our next point, was built by Salabat Jung of Asaf Jahi dynasty in 1750. The premises has a set of different mini palaces, with souvenirs from the Nizams.
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Next place on our list was the Chennakesava swamy temple at Kesavagiri near Chandrayangutta, built in the 10th century by the Kakatiya kings.
Paigah Palace was next in our list, which was the home of the Paigah family. Built in the late 19th century, the palace is a two storey structure built in Mughal architecture.

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Our last destination of the day before heading towards the wedding reception was the Spanish mosque. The mosque was also the artwork of the Paigah family, built in the early 20th century and was inspired by Cathedral–Mosque of C√≥rdoba in Spain. The structure looks unique, with its pointed minarets.
We spent the 2nd day in Hyderabad at my friend's wedding, relishing the best of Andhra cuisine.
Day 3 was reserved for Ramoji film city. The film city is quite far from the main city, which makes it a full day event. Its a nice way to spend an entire day with family, with vintage bus rides taking one through the entire film city. We especially liked the Ramayana/Mahabharata set, the bird park and the Hawa Mahal.
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This concluded our trip to Hyderabad. But there is still a lot to explore, maybe in my next visit.
How to reach: Hyderabad is connected by rail/road from all over major Indian cities.
Food/Accommodation: A heaven for foodies. Don't forget to munch in the famous Hyderabadi Biriyani sipping in the local Irani chai while in city.