Chandni Chowk, Delhi

Chandni Chowk of Delhi, India

Going through chandni chowk and it’s various little gulley’s is a favourite pastime for me and my husband.  We would hop on a Delhi metro and shoot off, the moment we find we have a day to ourselves  and are not needed to do some errand for the family or go the kids school or run to some other event.

We prefer taking the Delhi metro to this place because one we cannot dream of getting our car into the unmanageable little roads and get stuck in traffic for endless hours.  It also gives a breather to my husband who is the only one in our family who can drive right now.

So, on a nice  sunny winter day, we set off to be part of the busy streets, hawkers,  vendors, chai wallahs, the street food guys.   It is an interesting mix of people and buildings, old and new, all intermingled with each other that they still maintain an individuality yet look so distinct.

A person probably visiting for the first time might not find this place interesting at all.  I used to be like that.  I hated going there amongst the dirt and the chaos, amidst people jostling with each other to get ahead, people screaming at the top of their voices, a mayhem of cycle rikshaws, auto-rickshaws, car, scooter and hoards of people all getting into each others way and nerves.

I only had to make 2 or 3 visits with my husband to really understand the depth of these places.  Once you get into a gulley or a lane, the varieties of a single aspect displayed was simply mind boggling.  Now, I sometimes simply go there to open up my horizon, of my understanding of what all things are available there.

 

There is a lane dedicated to only gems and stones.  Another lane would be selling only buttons and embellishments.  On one lane, you will simply find laces, rows of shops selling different coloured, different styles of laces.  There is a lane for bicycle parts, one lane for clothes, one for sarees, one for dry fruits and nuts, spices…..  The list just goes on..  Everytime we go, we choose a different lane to explore.

 

This old Delhi used to be the only Delhi people knew some 30 to 40 years back.  By now though the boundaries of Delhi has expanded to beyond Gurgaon on the south and Noida on the west, Rohini on the north, etc.  But when you visit old Delhi, you would not imagine that Delhi has expanded so much.  Life goes on as it used to couple of decades before.  It is as if time stood still somewhere in those periods for Chandni Chowk while the others moved on!

Munnar, Kerala

The Hill Station of Kerala – Munnar

A visit to Kerala is incomplete without visiting the famous hill station of Kerala called Munnar.  It is part of the Western Ghats falls in the Idukki district.  The name Munnar actually means three rivers.   This is a place where 3 rivers (Mudhirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly river) come and join together.

During one of our annual vacations to Kerala, we made this journey to Munnar by renting a car.  It takes about 3.5 hours from Kochi via Adimali.   It is an uphill drive through a natural forest with a view of the most picturesque valleys and waterfalls.

 

 

 As you climb up, you can see the clouds on top of the mountains enveloping the peak and then slowly as you keep going up, you can feel the clouds kind of settling in on you as well.  It is a wonderful feeling when you realize that you now are part of the clouds that you saw when you were down.   As you come closer to Munnar, you can see the landscape has changed into smooth slopey mountains, trimmed and parted in columns and squares.  The tea gardens are spread wide across mountains and as you inch closer to Munnar, the temperature dips and you start feeling a little cold.

Munnar is a very small town with houses scattered across the mountains.   You can have a good look at the entire town from one of these mountains.   We stayed at the Mar Thoma Retreat Centre on the Mattupetty Road.   It was a very comfortable cozy place and once we had freshened up, we were on our way to see the Mattupetty Dam, or as some call it, the Madupetty Dam. The dam is nearly 13 Kms from Munnar town. Further ahead is a beautiful tourist spot called the Echo Point. The river enveloped by mountains all around was a beautiful sight to behold.

 

Munnar on Google Maps

If you are making the trip from Kerala, the nearest airport is Nedumbassery at Kochi.  The nearest railway station would be Ernakulam or Aluva.  And then take a taxi or cab.  It is about 110 Kms from airport.

Interesting tidbits on Munnar

  • The blooming of Neelakurinji. This tiny blue flower (Strobilanthes kunthianum) blooms every 12 years and spreads the entire mountainscape of Munnar and is a phenomenon worth clapping ones eyes on. The flower with 40 odd varieties bloom mostly in shades of blue, and thus the name. Neela in the local language stands for the colour blue and Kurinji the local name for the flower. The blooming of Neelakurinji usually starts from August and would last up to October. After 2006, we can expect another blooming in 2018. Book your tickets!
Jama Masjid, New Delhi

The Royal Jama Masjid of Delhi

Jama Masjid is the biggest mosque in Delhi.  It is important as a heritage property as it was built by Shah Jahan and the coronation ceremony of later Mughal emperors were performed by the imams of this mosque.  It is walking distance from Red Fort and consequently catered to the needs of the royalty of those times.

The mosque is situated in the middle of the most crowded and congested streets of old Delhi and therefore, getting to the place itself is a bit of adventure.

We took the Delhi metro and got down at the Chawri Bazaar Metro Station and walked the entire length of Chawri Bazaar to reach the West side of Jama Masjid. Crossing Gate No. 5 from where we could see the three domes from behind the structure. we walked around the border to reach Gate No. 3.   The entrance gate to the mosque was on top of a flight of stairs.  The wide structure looked majestic on top from where we were standing.

  

There is a wide worship area inside – it is supposed to be able to accommodate 25000 people to worship at the same time.   There are 3 entrance gates to the inner porch and entire courtyard is lined with arched verandahs leading to the towers at the four corners.


 From the verandah on the opposite side of the mosque, one could see parts of Red Fort.   If you come out of the gate on the east side, you will step into the old and famous colourful Meena Bazaar of Delhi.

 

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

The long Lodi road from Safdarjung Tomb ends rather tamely at the Sabz Burj right inside the roundabout, or what is now popularly known as the Neeli Chhatri for its spectacular blue dome. Take the second exit and you are already inside the Humayun Tomb premises. A short walk and an entrance ticket later, we entered the chirpy grounds. I was accompanying my cousin from Kerala on a tour of Delhi and were now at the famed Humayun’s Tomb.

The Humayun’s tomb is preceded by tombs of lesser known personalities, but the fun fact is that they are far better preserved. We were told that the Aga Khan Foundation along with the TATA trust had been engaged to restore the monument to its pristine past. And it was pretty evident.

The squeaky clean pathway that leads to the Humayun’s Tomb

Past the domed gate lay the Humayun Tomb.

The tomb stands on a terraced platform. You can climb up to the platform to enter the tomb. We went in October and the pleasant climate was perfect for viewing.

The tomb has two stories. But the entrance to the upper floors are closed. I am sure there was a time when these were open to the general public, but that day it was closed. 🙁

Humayun’s Tomb, apart from Humayun’s grave, also contains graves of other royal members of the Mughal family of the time.

There are gates on all four sides of the tomb, which gives it a unique quadrilateral look, something of a uniqueness with subsequent Mughal architecture, especially that contains tombs.

 

We enjoyed our visit and after packing our memories in an electronic plastic card, we made our way to the next destination. More on that later.

 

 

 

Lotus Temple, Bahai Temple, Delhi

Lotus Temple

As we exit Nehru Place under the Nehru Place Metro Station towards the Lotus temple, the roads begin to slightly deteriorate. This road definitely needs layering. As we bank left into the road that leads to the Lotus temple, the temple perimeter becomes visible with a lovely fencing that is both aesthetic and useful. The morning sun reflected the temple in all its splendour.

I was taking my cousin, who had come from Kerala, to see a wonderful architectural wonder in modern Delhi – the Lotus Temlpe, the worship abode of the Baha’i community in Delhi. Created in the shape of a flowering lotus, it is an architectural wonder and was opened to public in 1986. It is situated east of Nehru Place, south of East of Kailash and north of Kalkaji. While technically, the place where it stands is called Baharpur, everybody calls it Lotus Temple!! The regular flow of visitors, including a vociferous group of schoolchildren, was picking up as we made our way into the premises. The entry is designed in such a way as to let the visitors view the exterior for an extended period of time before they can enter the sanctorum. Verdant gardens envelop the surroundings and this autumn morning, they were in a colourful riot.
  
A flight of tastefully crafted steps lead up to the entrance. The structure itself is surrounded by pools of clear water. We came to know that these help keep the sanctorum cool. Footwear is not allowed inside the sanctorum. However, we were provided bags to keep the footwear.
There are nine gates that open into the sanctorum and we entered through one into the coolness of the great hall. Silent and majestic, it was a beautiful experience. We sat in one of the many benches that are provided inside the hall. After a few moments of meditation we explored a bit and then made our way out. The bags were returned and after the many customary photo sessions, we made our way back to our car.

Some facts about the Lotus Temple to help you make your visits more enjoyable

1. Visit towards the evening. The light show is a must-see!
2. More than 20% of the total electricity requirement of 500KW is generated through solar panels.
3. There is an elaborate arrangement for water conservation throughout the premises.
4. The pools cool the sanctorum even in the most fiercest of summers.
5. Photography inside the sanctorum is disallowed.
5. Entrance is free.

Nehru Place shops, Delhi

Nehru Place – The IT Hub of Delhi

If you are a computer geek, then you definitely can’t miss being in the middle of all the cacophony of Nehru Place.   From a high end computer and laptop to any computer or mobile accessory, you can find solutions from company owned retail outlet to distributors to shady underhand pirated and cheap illegal stuff.  In short, there is a solution to everyone.
As we approach Nehru Place from the South side of Delhi,  we start seeing the high-rises of Nehru Place from the overbridge that starts from Sarovar Portico in Pamposh Enclave.
Nehru Place is a cluster of old buildings with outdated lifts and outdated structures which houses some corporates and business houses.
In the middle of these huge structures is one of the most happening  central plaza where you can find shops selling computers and mobiles, stationery items, computer accessories, printouts and photocopies, banks punctuated by some food joints and other facilities for people working around this place.
In the central arcade, we can find all sorts of small vendors with their different kinds of wares from belts, purses, bags, computer and mobile accessories, clothes and fabric items.
It was a pleasant surprise to find a section of the market dedicated now to garments and fabrics. There are more varied set of consumers who would be flocking to Nehru Place. As a woman, I used to find Nehru Place quite boring with only computer stuffs, but now there is more to look forward to during a trip to Nehru Place!
Nehru Place is now beginning to be more than just an IT hub.  It has multiple other options like Cafe Coffe Day, Epicuria food court and Fitness First gym giving multiple options and products for consumers to experience and shop.

There are big buildings of Microsoft with multiple hotels around Nehru Place.

A metro station with a full fledged food court has also come up at the other end which has made commuting to this hub quite an easy task for people working and shopping here.

sarojini nagar market, Delhi

Sarojini Nagar Market of Delhi

Sarojini Nagar Market is the all-weather all-season market that caters to the needs of the entire South Delhi.   If there is one market that can satisfy Delhiwala’s appetite for shopping, it is this market.

Sometimes I have a feeling that people come here with the sole intention of testing out their negotiation and bargaining skills.   I used to hate bargaining and would simply feel quite magnanimous in handing over the price the vendors asked for.   But some of my visits with my husband, a hardcore bargainer have made me realize that the vendors kind of look down upon people who do not negotiate because as the norm goes, they hike up the price by atleast twice or thrice the original price so that they would still be left with some margin when the deal is finally done.

However, there are fixed price outlets and wares where you can select garments in the same range starting from Rs. 100, 150, 200, 250, etc..

I have been visiting this market from the time I got married about 20 years ago and came to settle down in the south side of Delhi.   From then onwards, if I have anything to buy from children’s clothes to shoes, bags, undergarments, hosiery items, bed sheets, covers or even curtains, etc., I head to this haven.   There are even shops for buying vegetables, grocery items, household items and kitchen utensils in case you need such items.

Babu Market is another complex that lies in the same vicinity and has approximately 4 rows of shops that again caters to mostly garments with some jewellery shops and accessories and all women’s stores thrown in.
All said and done, this market offers decent products at affordable rates.   You can find things you would not find anywhere else – children’s fancy dresses for their school competition, from paalak to a fairy, these shops can change their personality.  They can even loan you these dresses for a day or two!  What else would you need.
A word of caution though – On Sundays, only those who have some really good patience, focus and crowd management skills should attempt to attack this market.   On Saturdays and Sundays, this market can be so crowded that you just need to stand at one place, the crowd will pull you to all directions.
Recently there has been an addition of a multi-storied parking plaza which has turned out to be semi-modern building in the vicinity with Haldiram’s and other food joints like McD and Subway catering to the hungry public!
Connaught Place Rajiv Chowk, Delhi

Connaught Place – The shopping paradise

With all the big brands showrooms occupying the prime space in connaught place, the market is designed for those who are looking for premium products and ambience.   Set in the old buildings built during the British era, refurbished and renovated to suit modern tastes and choices, this place is busy as well as quiet with an old world charm around it.
This place is still called by its old name inspite of being renamed as Rajiv Chowk and Indira Chowk.  It has been one of my favourite haunts and I could roam around alone along the corridors and collonades of this beautiful shopping paradise for hours without getting bored.   There is always a passive humdrum of people around.   When I don’t want to buy anything, it gives me the simple pleasure of looking around and do a bit of window shopping.   There are a variety of things that one could buy outisde of these showrooms too.  Small shops with Indian handicraft items, books, posters with beautiful quotes, little trinkets are all sold along the paths.
Most of these buildings have been built by the Britishers but there are some little buildings from the Mughal and the Indian Rajas also around.   The big roundabout of the Connaught Place covers a circle of multiple layers of buildings.  There is an outer circle, middle circle and inner circle of buildings.  Apart from the showrooms, these buildings houses offices and corporate houses of different organizations.  There are banks, restaurants, panwalla’s, coffee shops, travel agents, etc.

The offices and business houses around this place ensures a regular flow of people into this area from all around Delhi.

It is also the central part of Delhi and all roads from every direction in Delhi come and converge at this point.  In the centre of these circles is a huge round park which has recently undergone a huge makeshift from the park I knew of some 10-15 years ago.   The Rajiv Chowk Metro Station and Palika Bazaar lie below this park.

This park now has a huge big Indian Flag with a small amphitheatre built-in the centre.  People from all around come to take a little break and relax in the sun during winter days.

On Sundays too, when the market is closed there are people in huge numbers occupying this place.
This has turned out to be more than a shopping place – a tourist attraction, picnic spot and a place where one can just spend sometime with the loved ones!!
jantar mantar, delhi

The enigma called Jantar Mantar

Surrounded by huge and towering buildings, this set of architectural structures stand for some long forgotten magical spell as the name suggests!!

Jantar Mantar is the oldest of a set of unique observatories built by Jai Singh II around 1724. There are mantras and yantras that Jai Singh created amidst these structures that give accurate tables for study of time and space to give astronomical insights.

The Misra Yantra is believed to be constructed by Maharaj Madho Singh designed to be accurately measuring the longitude of celestial objects like moon and can measure close to the minute of an arc.

One of the main structures is the Samrat Yantra which is also called as ‘King of Instruments’ that measures solar time or local time of a place and the sun’s declination.

 

The Jaiprakash Yantra (means Light of Jai) is named after the Maharaja Jai Singh who invented and constructed this hemispherical sundial system used both in day and night observations. The position of the sun was indicated by the shadow of the cross wires inside this hemisphere.

It has always been an enigma to me. I have tried to understand the way these things work, but haven’t got a clue looking at the structures though!!

A video on how the sun moves across different time spheres is given at http://www.jantarmantar.org/

Bekal Fort, Kerala

Bekal Fort in Kerala

Bekal Fort is one of the lesser known forts located in the northern part of Kerala.  It is one of the oldest and largest forts of Kerala.  It is part of the Kasargod district of Kerala.

We made a day trip to Bekal Fort from our home in Pathanamthitta District by taking an overnight train that left us at the Bekal Fort Station early morning.  The station was right beside the Beach.  It was very convenient for us to get to the beach and to the fort walking down from the station.  However, since we were on an overnight train, we did not have anything to eat in the morning and therefore went out in search of Breakfast.   This, being a very small town did not have too many options.   There were roadside restaurants that served all Kerala dishes but it was off season.  We went during the monsoon season and therefore the place was less crowded.  We were told that this place is usually flocked till May end when the school kids in Kerala are on vacation!

 
Bekal fort is a protected monument.   It is a key like structure.  The fort was the citadel of the Kolathiri Raja’s of Kerala which finally fell into the hands of Vijayanagiri empire.  It was then taken over by Tipu Sultan and the security features around the fort gives us the impression that it was built to keep an eye on the enemies coming in from the sea side as well as land.
After our Breakfast in the town, we took an auto to the main entrance of the fort.  Inside the fort, there was an observation tower in the center of the fort with a ramp going up and down.   The walls  that surround the fort went on and on across the length and breadth of the fort.
  
The walls were approx 12 ft in height and were very strong built.  We could see the holes that would have been used to keep guns and ammunition by the fort guards.   There was a wider opening that was used to keep tanks.  As we peeked in through these holes and the gaps, we could see the entire stretch of the sea around.
  
  
The fort is surrounded by sea on the west side.  There was a lane that would take you down to the sea and beaches.  The beach on the fort side was rocky. The waves lashed on them with so much fury that it was exhilaratig to look at the lather foaming up as they hit the big rocks.

 

  
The beach near the fort was beautiful and crescent shaped.   It could be accessed by just walking down the fort.  The view of the beach from the fort was also very nice.  We had the whole beach to ourselves and we enjoyed the afternoon sun in the waters.  There were coconut trees lined and a garden adjacent to the beach which also had interesting things for kids.