Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Traveler's Guide to "Shopping in Chandni Chowk", Old Delhi

Chandni Chowk's speciality is the variety of its markets and their Indian-ness in everything starting from authentic Indian food, delicacies and sweets of more than 1,000 kinds, to sarees with chikan and zari work. The narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk area has many wholesale markets lined with shops selling sarees sourced from all over the country. However, this part of Delhi is much more congested than the rest of the city, although it is a must visit place to experience the real incredible India. You should well consider the pros and cons of shopping in Chandni Chowk before you indulge in this retail experience that the oldest market of Delhi offers.

Pros (advantages) of Shopping in Chandni Chowk
  • Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest bazaar existing in India today. The attraction here is that you can find almost anything in a small confine. If at one corner you find painting materials at the next turn you'll find kurtas and sarees. Some shops have continued for almost a century, continuously passing down from one generation to another. And people here have tried to maintain the originality.
  • It is quite an experience to shop here. It's worth coming for the spectacle as much as the retail therapy.
  • Chandni Chowk as a matter of fact is a vast area divided into several markets, each specializing in different items. The Kinari Bazaar of Chandni Chowk is where beautiful Indian traditional dresses are found.
Cons of Shopping in Chandni Chowk
  •   Visit this market only if you have lots of time. If you like something, do not buy it at one go. Make sure to compare and bargain with the shopkeepers. Only bargaining can fetch you a very good deal or else they will try to trick you. It is best to be accompanied by a local in this case, since they can communicate better with the shopkeepers in the local language i.e in hindi and that fetch you a good stuff.
  •   Being one of the oldest and busiest markets of Delhi, this part of the city is very congested with traffic and the narrow lanes are all crammed with shops. Though the alleys are too narrow for comfort, there are hardly any blind ends. The whole place is interconnected by interesting webs of small alleys. There are many chances that one might get lost inside the alleys.It is always better if you manage to get yourself accompanied by any of your local friend staying in Delhi, so that you don’t get lost.
  •   Beware of pickpockets, touts and duplicate products.
  •   Be prepared for a bit of cultural shock or surprise once you are in Old Delhi. The whole area there looks like a live show which is incredibly Indian.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Insider Tips !!

Kota Sarees of Bundi, Rajasthan -  Kota saris are well known all over India for their typical designs and most importantly their weightlessness! Light and ephemeral, you can see them being made in Khaithoon, a village of weavers, 22 km from Kota.  They normally cost a few hundred rupees, perhaps a little more if the gold border has used real zari.

 Karni Mata Temple - It is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Karni Mata at Deshnoke, 30km from Bikaner, in Rajasthan. It is also known as the Temple of Rats.
The temple is famous for the approximately 20,000 black rats that live, and are revered in, the temple. These holy rats are called kabbas, and many people travel great distances to pay their respects. The temple draws visitors from across the country for blessings, as well as curious tourists from around the world.

The story behind rats at the temple is different from that of the legend according to some local folklore. According to this version, a 20,000 strong army deserted a nearby battle and came running to Deshnoke. Upon learning of the sin of desertion, punishable by death, Karni Mata spared their lives but turned them into rats, and offered the temple as a future place to stay. The army of soldiers expressed their gratitude and promised to serve Karni Mata evermore.
Eating food that has been nibbled on by the rats is considered to be a "high honor". If one of them is killed, it must be replaced with one made of solid gold.


Badami, Karnataka - Badami was the regal capital of the Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD. It is famous for rock cut and other structural temples. It is located in a ravine at the foot of a rugged, red sandstone outcrop that surrounds Agastya lake. The lake is named after one of the Saptarishis, Agasthya. Legend says that the name Badami has origin in the Vatapi legend of Ramayana relating to Sage Agastya.
There were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala. They used to kill all mendicants by tricking them in a peculiar way. The elder Ilvala would turn Vatapi into a ram and would offer its meat to the guest. As soon as the person ate the meat, Ilvala would call out the name of Vatapi. As he had a boon that whomsoever Ilvala calls would return from even the netherland,[citation needed] Vatapi would emerge ripping through the body of the person, thus killing him. Their trick worked until Sage Agastya countered them by digesting Vatapi before Ilvala could call for him, thus ending the life of Vatapi at the hands of Ilvala. Two of the hills in Badami represent the demons Vatapi and Ilvala.
It is believed that the water of the Agastya Lake has healing powers and has the power to cure leprosy.

 Agra: One of the most interesting things to see in Agra is local artisans doing marble inlay work. Make sure your tour manager sets aside some time for this activity!

Aurangabad: Himroo is a fabric made of silk and cotton, which is grown locally in Aurangabad. Himroo was brought to Aurangabad in the reign of Mohammad Tughlaq, when he had shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, Aurangabad. The word himroo originated from Persian word Hum-ruh which means ‘similar’. Himroo is a replication of Kum-khwab, which was woven with pure golden and silver threads in olden days, and was meant for the royal families. Himroo uses Persian designs, and is very characteristic and distinctive in appearance. Himroo from Aurangabad is in demand for its unique style and design. Some historians believe that Himroo was the innovation was local craftsmen with very little Persian influence.
The Himroo shawls and saris can be found in many showrooms around the market area of Aurangabad. Be sure to get one.


Friday, July 17, 2015

An Introduction to Indian History

"India is the cradle of human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only! "
The Indus valley civilization saw its genesis in the holy land now known as India around 2500 BC. The people inhabiting the Indus River valley were thought to be Dravidians, whose descendants later migrated to the south of India. The deterioration of this civilization that developed a culture based on commerce and sustained by agricultural trade can be attributed to ecological changes. The second millennium BC was witness to the migration of the bucolic Aryan tribes from the North West frontier into the sub continent. These tribes gradually merged with their antecedent cultures to give birth to a new milieu.

The Aryan tribes soon started penetrating the east, flourishing along the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers. By 500 BC, the whole of northern India was a civilized land where people had knowledge of iron implements and worked as labor, voluntarily or otherwise. The early political map of India comprised of copious independent states with fluid boundaries, with increasing population and abundance of wealth fueling disputes over these boundaries.
Unified under the famous Gupta Dynasty, the north of India touched the skies as far as administration and the Hindu religion were concerned. Little wonder then, that it is considered to be India’s golden age. By 600 BC, approximately sixteen dynasties ruled the north Indian plains spanning the modern day Afghanistan to Bangladesh. Some of the most powerful of them were the dynasties ruling the kingdoms of Magadha, Kosla, Kuru and Gandhara.
Known to be the land of epics and legends, two of the world’s greatest epics find their birth in Indian settings - the Ramayana, depicting the exploits of lord Ram, and the Mahabharta detailing the war between Kauravas and Pandavas, both descendants of King Bharat. Ramayana traces lord Ram’s journey from exile to the rescue of his wife Sita from the demonic clutches of Ravana with the help of his simian companions. Singing the virtues of Dharma(duty), the Gita, one of the most priced scriptures in Indian Mythology, is the advice given by Shri Krishna to the grief laden Arjun, who is terrified at the thought of killing his kin, on the battle ground.
Mahatma Gandhi revived these virtues again, breathing new life in them, during India’s freedom struggle against British Colonialism. An ardent believer in communal harmony, he dreamt of a land where all religions would be the threads to form a rich social fabric.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Kerala Backwaters

Life is synonymous to sailing on the labyrinth of backwaters! Not just the ripples of emerald green and mud grey hues, the backwaters in Kerala are life to the locals who earn their living on the water. The unusual ecosystem of nature where the confluence of freshwaters from rivers with sea waters of Arabian Sea creates a stretch of 900 km of backwaters is only seen in coastal regions Kerala — the god’s own country. Kerala’s this coastal region constitutes a natural network of more than forty rivers, estuaries, lake and canals, which also link the quay-side towns by the means of backwaters. Pleasances to the eyes, the backwaters are embedded into the lifestyle of the local dwellers whose sole occupation thrives on the backwater produces of paddy, toddy, coconut, kettuvollam (the local houseboats of Kerala). The Kerala backwaters are naturally interpenetrated with oodles of freshness and a muckle of tiny aquatic species like mudskippers, crabs, frogs, water birds, terns, kingfishers, cormorants, otters and turtles.

Renowned for its palm-fringed shorelines and green charm, the Kerala backwaters have often caught the fancy of poets and writers and have been captured on the celluloid screens countless times. Tall coconut trees silhouetting the banks of waterways against the setting sun is less than described beauty of the backwaters, the same inland waterway that garbs up in mesmerising green hues only to be etched in the minds of travellers. During the past few years, backwaters have seen a raise with honeymooners flocking to these destinations and so has successfully seeped into wayfarer’s travelogues.

Backwater Destinations

>>Kottayam Backwaters

The land of lakes, latex and letters, Kottayam greedily annexes those exotic backwater destinations. Amaranthine memories await you here while you sail along the cruise of lifetime. Take a trip to legendary Punnamada Lake that leaves you enchanted with the most beautiful moments of your life. There are much more opportunities that allow you to indulge in sporting activities like angling or fishing or exchange smiles with the toddy tapers at work.

>>Alleppey backwaters

A coastal township near Arabian Sea is a poetic introduction to Alleppey Backwaters. Spend one night at on the house boat and carry home handful of memories. You can visit the 400 year old Champakkulam church, one of the 7 churches established by St. Thomas. The Chavara Bhavan, located 6 km from Alleppey, is another interesting place to visit.

>>Thottappallu Backwaters

As long as you haven`t visited the Thottappally Backwater you have skipped major beauty piece meal in God`s Own Country. As you sail along you can see the typical wooden houses lined near the bank and visit the "Chavara Bhavan" the ancestral home of the blessed "Kuriakose Elias Chavara". Located 6 km from Alleppey, this house has preserved intact a historically important 250 year old beacon of light, in its original and primitive form.

>>Kumarakom Backwaters

Try creating schism in the clusters of island held together at Kumarakom backwaters. It appears as if Kumarakom is a cluster of islands, but in truth is just one Island formed due to the Backwaters. Embark on the houseboat cruise from Alleppey to Kumarakom and collect many amazing sight of women fishing with their toes for the Karimeen fish and collecting them in the terracotta pots. As you sail through the Astamudi Lake you are distracted by the screech sound of the both resident and migratory birds. And that is the most beautiful experience that you will ever have.

>>Alumkadavu Backwaters

There is no time to breathe in Kerala because if you do that you would be missing some panoramic views. The experience of going on a two nights cruise from Alleppey to Alumkadavu is awaiting you at Alumkadavu Backwaters. The famous Chinese Fishing nets can be seen at Kayamkulam Pozhy as you sail along the Alumkadavu Lake. Enjoy a quiet time trying your hand in Angling, where you will be provided with rods on request.

>>Kindangra Backwaters

As soon as you begin your journey on the house boat to Alleppey, the Kidangara happens to be your first stoppage on the flowing water. Spend the night on the house boats just to wake up in paradise by the sound of sweet twittering of the birds. It`s beautiful in the real sense.


Kasargod, North Kerala, is a beautiful destination of the backwaters. The place offers ample of opportunities for backwater cruises. At Kasargod two important backwater cruises destinations are Chandragiri and Valiyaparamba. Chandragiri, 4 km from Kasargod, sprawls around Chandragiri Fort and the cruise for here begins at Chandragiri Bridge. Valiyaparamba is another scenic stretch of backwater with slice of green ambiance and avian guests.


Settled magnanimously by the side of Kerala’s backwater, Kozhikode is blessed with endless attractions, all which can be toured on the houseboats Kozhikode Beach, Pazhassirajah Museum, Art Gallery, Beypore, Kappad Beach and Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary are some of the Kozhikode’s attractions.


Myriads of, big and small, waterway criss-cross the Kuttanad region, famous for fields of cassava, banana, yam et al, and inundate the low-lying regions near by. Kuttanad can be aptly described as ideal place for backwater freaks, a place where endless water bodies join to make it a haven among its tourers. Along the houseboats one is trailed by flocks of ducks, coir workers processing coir look up from their tasks and wave as you pass by, otters and water birds can be seen on the edges of the waterways, and the sound of rippling water is a soothing lullaby as you sail along on a houseboat through the backwaters of Kuttanad.


Kerala’s ancient port and trade route, Kollam is the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala. This ancient trade city of Kerala spans splendiferousl on the Asthamudi Lake. Backwaters in Kollam extend from Ashthamudi Lake to Alleppey. . The boat ride from Kollam to Alappuzha takes 8 hours and is a delightful ride, with lotuses and water lilies growing in the water, water birds calling from the banks and otters splashing and playing in the water.