Chasing Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) Toy Train
Kurseong – Mahanadi
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) Toy Train is a narrow gauge railway running between New Jalpaiguri (100 mts) and Darjeeling (2200 mts). The train attends the highest altitude at Ghum Railway Station (2258 mts).
The Land of White Orchid
Kurseong, has always lived in the shadows of his more illustrious sister Darjeeling, considered as the queen of the hills. Kurseong, literally meaning the land of the white orchid, has always been a quick stop for a bite of momo and a gulp of tea, for tourists heading for Darjeeling.
From the rolling tea gardens to the towering Kanchanjunga and from the magnificent churches to the quiet little monasteries, Kurseong is a interesting mix of nature and heritage and can be an ideal weekend destination for tourists from Kolkata.
Dal Lake ~ Sikhara Ride
~ Floating through Paradise ~
The city of Srinagar is centered round the beautiful Dal Lake, no wonder Dal Lake is Srinagar’s prime attraction. The lake has a circumference of 15.5 km and covers an area of 21 sq. km. along with a 3 sq. km. are of wetland.
The Dal Lake actually consists of four lakes namely Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nagin. Nagin the smallest and the most beautiful of the four is often considered as an independent lake.
The major attraction of Srinagar are also located around the Dal Lake. Hazarat Bal Mosque, Shamkaracharya Temple and the Mughal Gardens (Shalimar, Chashmashahi and Nishat) are alll located around the Dal Lake.
The best way to explore the Dal is the sikhara, the beautifully decorated boat, the once iconic symbol of many Bollywood hits and also the logo of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Tourism Department.
Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples.
Terracotta literally means baked earth in Italian but West Bengal has the distinction of housing some of the finest terracotta art in the world. The terracotta art reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Malla Kings of Bishnupur during the seventeenth century.
Gokulchand Temple, Gokulnagar
~ Fortified Stone Temple ~
Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples giving Bengal a place in the world tourist map.
Although numerous brick terracotta temples dot the entire Gangatic West Bengal but they are not the only form of temple architecture. Stone temples do exists in West Bengal and are mainly concentrated in the western region of the state and adds a new dimension to Bengal Temple Architecture.
Vizag – Araku Train
~ Broad Gauge Mountain Railway ~
As our Kirandul Fast Passenger made its way through the numerous tunnels and bridges I made a desperate attempt to capture the train meandering train on my camera. Sadly my SLR camera (Vivitar v3600s) was too big to pass through the grilled window of the train.
Suddenly I noticed my wife clicking photos with her newly purchased point and shoot digital camera (Olympus Fe310). I grabbed the camera and it easily passed out of the window grill and captured the Kirandul Fast Passenger making a huge loop with the lush green Eastern Ghats in the background.
Bhubaneswar ~ A Temple Town
~ A Compilation of Temples of Bhubaneswar ~
According to legend the city once housed a thousand temples, sadly many of these have crumbled to dust and many more have been reconstructed into modern structures, but the few have survived the test time and still stands to this day are worth a visit and can offer an interesting mix of pilgrimage and history.
The temples of Bhubaneswar are located on the Southern part, which is known as the old city and are majority of them are clustered around the Bindu Sarabor (Lake).
Brick and Stone Temples
Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples. The terracotta art reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Malla Kings of Bishnupur during the seventeenth century. The temples are still there turning Bishnupur into one of the most favored tourist spot in West Bengal.
But the tourist attraction of Bishnupur are not restricted to Bishnupur alone. Several non – descriptive towns and villages, located within 50 km radius of Bishnupur, have the distinction of housing some of the spectacular terracotta and stone temples of the state.
So next time in Bishnupur don’t give this places a miss.
Qutub Minar and Smith’s Folly
An Architectural Disaster
It is said that lightning never strikes a place twice, but tall structure like the Qutub Minar have always been exceptions. There are several records of the tower being struck by lightning and other natural calamities have taken its toll on the highest stone tower in the world. But the string of disaster has left the minar unscathed except for a slight tilt, some two feet of the perpendicular.
The first recorded lightning strike on the Qutub Minar happened in 1368, when a lightning strike severely damaged the top storey of the Qutub Minar. Sultan Firoz Shah Tughluq replaced the fallen storey with with two floors and crowned it with a cupola. The restoration also introduced white marble into the otherwise red and buff sandstone.
Sikandar Lodi also carried out some repairs on the Qutub Minar in 1503 but the nature and extent of damage is not recorded.
The next major damage happed during the earthquake of 1803. Although much lesser in magnitude than the 1368 lightning the damage was significant enough to destroy Firoz Shah’s cupola permanently.
“The concept of paradise as a garden is one of mankind’s oldest ideas.The paradise promoised in the Quran consists of several terraces of gardens, each more splendid than the other.”
World Heritage Series, Humayun’s Tomb
“Inheriting the Greek love of order and logic, Islamic gardens – like their buildings – are regimented into lines of perfect symmetry; balance and design is all; nothing is left to impulse or chance.”
William Dalrymple, City of Djinns
Babar, the first of the great Mughals, introduced into India the Timurid – Persian scheme of a walled – in – garden, subdivided into four quaters by raised walkways and canals. As the Mughal empire spreads its wings into India the Mughal gardens started coming up in different parts of the country.
Obviously Kashmir, the paradise on earth, was the ideal place to built the mughal gardens, the paradise promised by the holy Quran. It was fourth Mughal ruler Jehangir, who took up the initiative of building of first Mughal Gardens of Kashmir.
Sirnagar, the present capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), houses three spectacular Mughal Gardens, complete with raised walkways water channels lined with fountains. Mughal Gardens of Srinagar are a prime attraction for tourist and locals alike.
Cheshma Shahi, the smallest but most elegantof the Mughal Gardens of Srinagar, was built by the governor Ali Mardan Khan, under the patronage of Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 – 33. Cheshma Shahi (or Royal Spring) derives its name from a water source, a spring located at the uper most terrace of the Cheshma Sahi Garden. The water of the spring is said to posses some curative properties, especially for stomach ailments.
The triple terraced Cheshma Shahi garden is strategically located and offers great view of the Dal Lake and the adjacent Jhelum Valley of Srinagar.
Abode of Love
The most spectacular of the Srinagar’s Mughal gardens, the Shalimar Bagh was constructed by emperor Jehangir for his beloved wife Nur Jahan. Shailmar (abode of love) Bagh follows the three terraced Mughal Garden layout with a dimension of 587m by 251m.The first terrace housed the public garden, the second the emperor’s garden and the third and final terrace housed the zenana (harem). The Shalimar Bagh also served as a royal court, during the summer months, and houses the Diwani Amm (public audience hall) and the Diwani Khass (private audience hall).
The Shalimar Bagh is built on a flat land with four radiating arms from a central water source. The water channels are lined with fountains and are marked on both sides by chinar trees.
Garden of Bliss
Nishat Bagh (Garden of the Bliss) is the largest of the Srinagar’s Mughal Gardens. Built in 1633 by Asaf Khan, the brother of Nur Jahan the garden is not a royal garden. As Nishat Bagh is not a royal garden, its hierarchical than the other Mughal Gardens of Srinagar. Nishat Bagh has twelve terraces, each representing a zodiac. The terrace begins from the public street level, which connects the garden’s water to Dal Lake. The twelfth terrace is located in the zenana gardens.
A central water stream, nearly 4 meters wide and 20 centimeters deep, flows down from the top of the garden through a channel decorated with fountains and occasionally divided into fountain pools. Chadars, stone ramps engraved with wave patterns to render the flowing water more beautiful, transfer water between the various terraces. In several places, stone benches cross the axial water stream near a chadar, and serve as seating platforms for the visitor’s enjoyment.
Nishat Bagh creats a striking contrast with the Dal Lake in the foreground and the towering Zabarwan Hills in the background.
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