Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Visiting the Historic town of Aurangabad

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Overview: One of the major tourist hubs in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra is the region of Aurangabad. Founded in 1610 by Malik Ambar and later developed by Aurangzeb in 1653, the city has developed into a major heritage hub. The region has seen several kingdoms with Ajanta caves and Ellora caves located around 100 kms and 30kms from Aurangabad respectively.
Coming to the city of Aurangabad, the main tourist attractions in and around are:
1. Bibi-ka-Maqbara: Built in 1660 by Aurangzeb in the memory of his first wife, this structure resembles the Taj Mahal in Agra. Even the outer courtyard and the gardens are designed to match the Taj.
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2. Panchakki: Located in the heart of the old city of Aurangabad is Panchakki, a mill which is run by the energy generated by water. The water mill was used to grind grains for the pilgrims during the Nizam's rule in the late 17th century.
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3. City gates: These gates can be seen all across the city, which were built during the times of Aurangzeb to mark the boundary of their capital.
4. Himroo and Paithani textiles: The popular embroidery done on shawls and sarees/dresses in Aurangabad are the Himroo and Paithani wear. These textiles are hand woven and one can get the first hand experience on how it is designed by visiting one of their workshops.
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5. Grishneshwar: One of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India is the Gishneshwar shrine, located around 30kms from Aurangabad. The shrine dates back to several thousands of years ago, but the present temple structure was rebuilt in the 18th century after being destroyed several times due to wars and invasions.
6. Aurangzeb's tomb: Around 25kms from Aurangabad is the tomb of Aurangzeb. Along with his tomb are his son's tomb and the dargah of a Sufi Saint.
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7. Daulatabad fort: One of the most secure forts as termed by the British is the Daulatabad fort, which was built in the 12th century by the Yadavas. This fort was used by many dynasties including the Deccan Sultanate and the British. Massive passageways and cannons can be seen as one climbs towards the top of the hill fort.
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Along with the above places, few other places of interest which we could not visit are Aurangabad caves and Paithan.
How to reach: Aurangabad is connected by road with major cities like Hyderabad, Pune, Nagpur and Mumbai. The city is also connected by rail with major towns like Nanded, Nagpur, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Shirdi. Aurangabad also has an airport connecting to major cities in India.
Accommodation: Many hotels and restaurants are available in Aurangabad for all budgets. One recommendation is Hotel Panchavati which also houses Ashoka Travels within its premises for all sightseeing needs.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Tyakal & Markandeya Betta: Nice drive on a lazy Sunday


Overview: On a balmy partly sunny Sunday. we decided to head towards Malur. We had heard of the pretty countryside and some old temples. First we went to Tyakal, also spelled as Tekal.
Tyakal is known for the huge boulders and the twin hillocks, which were once forts during the Vijayanagara dynasty. A wonderful place for trekkers, the hills offer odd shaped rocks and some beautiful views of the Shatashringa range of hills. The village Tyakal, historically was popular for Varadaraja temple, which dates back to the Cholas, and is believed to have similar features as that of the temple at Kanchi. The place is referred to as Tekanchi as well.
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Around 15kms from Tyakal is the Markandeya Betta, reached via winding curves, offering breathtaking views of the villages below. However, the place can get crowded during festivals and holidays. One can enjoy the serenity of the place early in the morning. The hill gets its name from Markandeshwara temple, also built during the 11th century.
Both Tyakal and Markandeya Betta are within 100kms from Bengaluru, making it an ideal weekend getaway.
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How to reach: Tyakal can be reached via Kolar on NH4 or via Hosakote-Malur Road. From South Bengaluru, one can also take Sarjapura-Malur road. Tyakal is around 17kms from Malur and 20kms from Kolar.
Markandeya Betta is around 15kms north of Tyakal.
Direct trains run from Bengaluru to Tyakal on Bengaluru-Chennai line. Daily KSRTC Buses also ply from Bengaluru to Tyakal and Malur.
Food/Accommodation: Nearest place with good restaurants is Kolar. Accommodation can be availed at Kolar and Malur.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Cheese & Clogs: Holland’s signature


Overview: I was amazed to see tens of different varieties of cheese during my visit to the Netherlands. Each tastes distinctly unique from the other. I had the opportunity to explore the cheese making industry in the Netherlands. The staff explained in brief about the connection of cheese with Dutch culture, then showed us the cow barn from where they get the milk for preparing cheese, followed by the actual manufacturing unit.
Another unique Dutch practice is to wear traditional clogs footwear while inside the cheese factory. These clogs are also manufactured in-house, and, they are really uncomfortable, as I found out, maybe because it was made entirely made out of wood. We managed to take one of the pieces as souvenir.
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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Theerthamalai, TN: Rock Formations and Heritage temples


Overview: March-April are the months which are the driest in India, and water levels in dams and rivers are at the lowest. But a few places are there where perennial water pours out all through the year. One of those places is Theerthamalai. Blessed with multiple sources of water which flows down through the rocks, these sources of water are named as Ram Teertham, Agasthya Theertham and Hanuman Theertham (this one is located around 20kms from Theerthamalai.
Legend says that the water has been pouring down since ages when Lord Rama shot at the rock to get water to perform puja. Hanumanteertham was created when Hanuman threw a pot of water from Theerthamalai. Theerthamalai hilltop can be reached through a flight of steps, which are quite steep ate places, but very safe for climbing. The top of the hill has some unique rock formations, and water pouring out at a few places. At the top is the 7th century Theerthagirishwarar temple, built by the Cholas. Inscriptions in Tamil and Kannada can be found at the temple, indicating the use of Kannada language in these parts around the 14th century. Another temple built around the same period is found at the foothills, also dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Around 70 kms from Theerthamalai is the town of Dharmapuri, which also has a few ancient temples. We visited the Chennaraya Perumal temple at Adhiyaman Kottai, which was built by the Hoysalas and later was decorated with ceiling paintings by the Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya.
Next attraction in Dharmapuri is the Mallikarjunaswamy temple, also called as Kottai Kovil. This temple was built by the Cholas and contains typical pillar carvings with stories from the Indian epics.
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How to reach: Theerthamalai is around 150km from Bengaluru and can be reached via Hosur and Krishnagiri. Take the Thiruvannamalai road from Krishnagiri to reach Hanumantheertham and turn right and continue for 20kms to reach Theerthamalai. From Theerthamalai, take the Harur road and continue on to Harur-Dharmapuri road to reach Adhiyamankottai. Kottai Kovil is in Dharmapuri town towards north of the town centre.
Food: Need to plan the pit stop very carefully as post Krishnagiri there are very few places for food. Best option is to stop at Krishnagiri for breakfast and be at Dharmapuri for lunch..