Monday, July 12, 2010

India and Nepal Travel - A Memorable Experience

India, people say, is not a country but a continent. The wide variety you see from North to South and East to West in topography, geology, climate, costumes and dresses, languages, cuisine, religions, socio-economic settings, flora, fauna, architecture, music, dance, arts and crafts, traditions and culture is simply overwhelming. To the northeast corner of this vast rich country is mysterious and mystical Nepal, the tiny mountain nation that was closed to outsiders till as late as 1950s. Our tour to India and Nepal was short but a fulfilling one.

We started our journey at Delhi, the Capital of India and its nucleus too. A quick tour to the famous Mughal mementos such as the Red Fort, the Humayun’s Tomb and the Jama Masjid and the British landmarks such as India Gate and the President’s House was followed by a trip to Qutub Minar, the first Islamic structure in India and one of the tallest stone towers of the world. We had decided to cover the famous Golden Triangle Tour Circuit first; visit the oasis of Rajasthan – Udaipur; stay for a night at Chitvan, the luxury jungle resort near Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh; and then go to Kathmandu, the Capital of Nepal.

Next day, we proceeded to Agra to see the famous Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Taj was exactly what we were anticipating it to be. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan at the time when Mughal Empire was at its height. Laid out on a 42-acre rectangular grid along the banks of River Yamuna, Taj is indeed a poem in stone. Gardens, pools and fountains are its prelude and the main mausoleum is its verses. Sapphires, emeralds, rubies and other precious stones lend color to motifs that grace the walls of this massive marble tomb. Often cited as an Ultimate Gift of Love, Taj Mahal was designed on the basis of descriptions of Paradise found in Quran.

After seeing lavish palaces and heritage monuments of Mughals, it seemed impossible to us to be able to appreciate other forts and palaces we were about to see. But a trip to Rajasthan soon cured us of this prejudice. The lofty Hawa Mahal at Jaipur meant to be the Summer Palace for royal ladies, and the sprawling City Palace preserves the life of the royals well. You can almost visualize the procession of the King, sitting on an elephant, passing through the city and gleeful crowds of their subjects lining the streets.

Romance of the Rajput Royals found ultimate expression in the form of the Lake Palace of Udaipur, a white island palace situated in the middle of Lake Pichola. Each inch of this palace is steeped in history, mystery, and artistic excellence of the region. We were fortunate enough to attend a Royal Rajasthani Wedding there and witness the beauty of innate hospitality and exotic culture of the desert state. We clicked several photographs of rare and endangered species during our wildlife safari to Kanha National Park and spent a lovely cozy night at the luxury wildlife resort Chitvan. Beauty of its surroundings, architecture that blends well with the settings, lush luxury of its rooms, and warm services of the lodge won us over.

Kathmandu, the last leg of our Indo-Nepal tour, is not only the Capital of Nepal and gateway to Nepal tourism but also the nerve centre of its economy. We went straight to Pashupatinath Temple and paid our ablutions at the world’s largest and most sacred temple of Lord Shiva. It is also the oldest Hindu Temple that exists. We did not had much time so we just visited Narayanhiti Palace where Crown Prince Dipendra gunned down his family. We ended our memorable journey of India and Nepal on a somber note and boarded the plane back to home thinking about the mortality of human beings and immortality of their achievements.

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  4. Nepal has a rich geography. The mountainous north has eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali.

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