Taj Mahal Agra

The famous Taj Mahal of India

 

It was time to make a visit to this famous structure of India.  I spent almost 25 years in Delhi before I made the effort to finally visit this beautiful place.  Once decided we set off from Delhi one early morning (we started around 6.30am) to reach this destination by about 11.30 am.  The roads were really bad and congested to get there at that time but now I’ve heard there is a highway that’s built to make it possible to reach Agra in just about 2 hours from Delhi.
It was about 10-15 mins walk from the place where the bus dropped us.  There were options of carts being driven by camels or to stretch our legs after the long hours spent in the car.  We definitely chose the second.
Well, getting inside the place was a struggle with long queues and endless wait at the south gate.  There were however, multiple things on that little gully which kept us quite intrigued and fascinated.  craftsmen working on the roadside and small shops selling those craft items that we spent most of the time window shopping.
Once inside, the place was huge and marvellous.   The expanse of green gardens was well maintained.
  

This was just the outer court.  We were still not able to see the Taj Mahal from this entrance.  There was another gate we had to cross before we could behold the structure we had come to see from so far.

 

 

The walls were quite impressive.  They had chambers built in the walls with domes at each corner.  we spent sometime reading the inscriptions and information given by the tourism department.  The history behind the Taj Mahal and the construction was elaborate.

 

 By this time, we were dying to get into the inner courts to actually behold the structure with our very own eyes.   There is an excitement in seeing something and feeling something in real rather than pictures and images.  It was the same feeling and exhilaration that was sweeping us.  I guess whoever planned this structure had simply that in mind.. to create an intrigue in the minds of the people coming to visit and there was just that gradual and most beautiful reveal awaiting us.
Once inside, the complete picture was before us to view for as long as we could afford.  It was truly magnificent, the white marbles glistening in the bright sunshine and standing tall and majestic before the world. It was truly worth the wait.
Walking around the structure, we went back couple of decades back.   There was exquisite work done on each of these marbles and the views from each side of the structure was breathtaking.

 

 

We could also see the yamuna from parapet.   I have never seen such a serene flow of the river from anywhere else.

 

 

 

Kovalam Beach, Kerala

Kovalam Beach, Kerala

 

Kovalam is one of the famous beaches of Kerala and almost everyone in the country has heard or know about this famous beach.  A lot of people hold it as a cherished dream to atleast once visit this famous spot.   Even though we reside in Delhi for the most part of the year, because we are keralites, we get to travel to Kerala couple of times in a year and have been able to make it possible to visit this beach more than once.

We have visited many beaches in Kerala but this beach is different.   It is a small and compact one and one of the most important things that stand out in my mind is that it has black sand.

Kovalam is a beach town in Trivandrum.  It is a crescent like beach lined with coconut palm trees.

Beaches are always fun.   Looking at the waves coming with such force and might gives a little thrill going down the spine.   The foam and the froth that hits us as we stand on the beach waiting for these waves is exhilarating.
The sands from beneath our foot gets washed away and we feel like floating without actually floating. It is scary and yet very exciting.  Children have fun but the gaurds at this beach are very strict and vigilant and don’t let people go far away from the beach.
There is a red and white striped lighthouse to the left of the beach that keeps a watch over the sea .
Padmanabhapuram Palace, Kerala

Padmanabhapuram Palace, Kanyakumari

It was while we were coming back from Kanyakumari we got a chance to visit the Padmanabhapuram palace in Thuckalay.
The Padmanabhapuram Kottaram as it is called, though currently falls under the jurisdiction of Kanyakumari and therefore under the state of Tamil Nadu, was once the capital city of Travancore which was majorly formed of the Kerala Hindus.   The palace got shifted from here to Trivandrum and therefore, this place lost its former glory and pride of place.  However, the palace has been maintained well and has been preserved as a heritage site.  There are people to assist you at each corner and care has been taken to ensure that nobody touches or destroys anything that belongs to this site.
The entrance is through a traditional ‘Padipura’ entrance gate.  This is a very common feature in all the traditional Hindu family’s ‘illams’ as they were called earlier.

The first chamber we got into was the performance hall –  the hall was lined with solid granite pillars and wooden tiled roofs.

The stairs used to go up to the first floor is old and one has to be very careful of not hitting the roof. These stairs lead up to the council chambers where the king used to have meetings with all his council members and take important decisions.  The kings throne and the seating arrangement as well as the furnitures used for the council members are still preserved as it is.

 

The Dining Room is a large one that can seat approx 1000 people at the same time.  it is said that the kings were very generous and they used to serve lunches to 2000 people everyday in these dining halls.  The hall definitely was huge with a line of pillars on both sides.  The roof was supported with horizontal columns of wood structures.
The Thai kottaram or the mother’s chamber had an inner courtyard with sloping roofs.  These kind of structures are still seen in many houses across Kerala.   Kerala is a place where there is continuous downpour of rain throughout the year and therefore the sloping roofs are preferred for most houses as it helps in getting all the rain water flow down fast and not get collected anywhere.
The exquisite wood carvings and the furnitures show the opulence that was maintained at that time by these kings.   There were balconies where kings could view the place around the palace and balconies in ladies chambers were covered with wooden columns.  These were used by the ladies to sit and watch the temple procession or the elephant procession going from below.
There was a hall with all the pictures of all the kings and the dates, their bedrooms, worship rooms and many other buildings adjacent to the council chamber, mother’s palace and the central mansion.   A pond that was used by the ladies was visible with steps going down.
A clock tower also could be seen that is supposed to be built around 300 years back.
Lodhi Gardens, Delhi

Lodhi Gardens, Delhi

Lodhi Gardens, Delhi

 

We visited the famous Lodhi Gardens of  Delhi in the first week of November with a group of friends.  The weather was just right!   Around this time Delhi is neither cold nor hot and therefore, becomes an ideal time for picnics.   We were out to enjoy the lazy Sunday afternoon and Lodhi Gardens gave us the perfect sanctuary to be away from the busy and crowded Delhi.

Located in the heart of the city, it is near the India habitat Centre on Lodhi Road.  Delhiwalas frequent this place every morning for a jog or a walk and on weekends come back with their families to spend time away from the cacophony of the urban setup.   On weekdays, however, you can only find run-away students and young couples who want to have a little time to hide themselves away from the prying public eye.

This garden was called the “The Lady Willingdon Park”  during the British Raj which was subsequently changed to the “Lodhi Gardens” after Independence. Multiple tombs from the Sayyid and Lodhi dynasty (last of the Delhi Sultans before Mughals) are spread across this well maintained and manicured garden.  The Bada Gumbad and Sheesh Gumbad are the ones located in the centre. Mohammed Shah’s tomb and Sikander Lodi’s tomb are crumbling edifices.

The Bada Gumbad is a three-domed mosque with a very unique architecture.  The jharokha’s are quite enchanting with an old world charm.

The walk around the garden was refreshing and at the same time rejuvenating.  It took us some couple of decades back.  We visualised ourselves in that era when there were people dwelling in and around these mosques and the structures.   How would these have been decorated and how were people living in those times.   The structures were imposing and yet had a very warm and magnificent feel to it.   I imagined children playing in the front yards of the mosque.

The mosque is decorated with red, grey and  black stones with Quranic inscriptions.   The black quranic inscriptions on the walls and ceilings were decorative and imposing.

 

 

There was another tomb near the bada gumbad called the sheesh gumbad which has tombs of an unknown family.

The garden is dotted with Ashok trees and palm trees with a variety of plant species.   There is a lake too in one of the corners.

Overall, it was a time spent relaxing and unwinding in the company of friends in a serene and tranquil atmosphere!

Lodhi Gardens on Google Maps