Posts Tagged ‘India’

The Top Five – Monuments in India

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010


Pic : Lakshmi Sharath

There is more to India than just the Taj Mahal. You will probably meet an ancient monument in almost every corner of the country. Temples, churches, monasteries, forts, mosques, palaces, museums,tombs mausoleums, rock cut caves, monolith sculptures jostle for space in every remote town. While it is difficult to choose just five of them,  my recommendations are based largely on the diversity , the uniqueness and the richness of the architecture.

1. The Shore temple at Mahabalipuram – It is believed that there were seven such temples located on the shore of the Coromandel Coast , but only one survives today. A World Heritage site, it was built in the 7th century by the Pallavas , an ancient dynasty who ruled over Southern India. An ancient lighthouse here indicates that this was probably a port of the Pallavas.

As you enter this coastal town, you see several carved rock cut cave temples and monolith sculptures strewn around. Soak in the beach, try some sea food , shop in the markets and take home a sculpture if you like. The closest city is Chennai, one of the four metros and capital of Tamil Nadu.

2. The ruins of Vijaynagar in Hampi – Often compared to Rome, Hampi is one of the destinations that one should not miss .A World Heritage site, the ruins of the 15th century dynasty is still preserved in the many sculptures ,pillars,  step-wells, temple complexes , palaces  and stables that are strewn around the city.

You would need at least a couple of days to explore Hampi and its monuments . Go for a coracle ride in the Tungabhadra river, shop in the local market, do some birding and wildlife at Daroji and watch the sunset from the rocks. There is a magic in Hampi that one cannot explain . Bangalore , the capital of Karnataka is one of the closest hubs to Hampi.

3. Ajanta and Ellora caves – These World Heritage sites are located near Aurangabad in Maharashtra and are some of the most ancient monuments excavated in India. Ajanta , with 31 rock cut caves carved with sculptures and paintings are typical of Buddhist art , built between the 2nd century BC to 7th century AD.

Ellora , with 34 caves built during the 5th-10th century is a representation of Buddhist , Jain and Hindu art and architecture .You would need at least 3-4 days to explore both Ajanta and Ellora caves and the surroundings around Aurangabad.

4. Forts of Rajasthan – It is tough to choose any one fort of Rajasthan. Almost every city here houses one or more forts and several palaces. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Kumbalgarh, Chittorgarh, Jaisalmer, Bundi are just some of the destinations that tourists throng to see the forts. My personal favourites are Kumbalgarh and Chittorgarh which are closer to Udaipur, the city of palaces.

You would need an eternity to see the whole of Rajasthan. Jokes apart, it is difficult to see the state in a few days. Spend as much time as you can when you plan a trip here. There is more to Rajasthan than the forts – visit the palaces, soak in the culture, shop for local artefacts and let the colours dazzle you

5.Agra – Yes, you have to visit Taj Mahal in Agra and the Agra Fort of course, but I would recommend that you dont miss Fatehpur Sikri at any cost. Built by Moghul emperor Akbar in the 15th century, the town was abandoned after serving as his capital for about 15 years. A World Heritage site, it is now a ghost town. Built in red sandstone, do not miss the courts, palaces, the ponds, the door ways and the tombs around here. Keep Delhi as your hub and plan your trip to Agra

And finally, the Taj Mahal ! One of the wonders of the world, this mausoleum is  built  in sheer marble . Built by Moghul emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz, on the banks of the river Yamuna it is the epitome of romance. No one ever leaves India without seeing the Taj !

Lakshmi is a travel writer and blogger from India and she blogs at A Travel Blog of an Indian Backpacker.

Birding in the forests of South India

Friday, August 27th, 2010

I am in the forests of South India , gazing at the banks of the river Kabini . The river wedges the forests , Nagarhole and Bandipur and the banks are known to attract elephants.While Kabini is filled with wildlife enthusiasts and tourists narrating their escapades and encounters with tigers and tuskers , I am happy with my lot of birds .For an amateur birder like me, Kabini is full of surprises. While the elusive leopard or tiger may always be difficult to sight, the feathered species never disappoint. There are raptors, migratory birds, water birds, waders, forest birds and every time , the forests and the river greets me with a new story.


Pic : Lakshmi Sharath

I saw my first peregrine falcon here in Kabini during winter , when it showed me what speed was all about. It was perched for a moment on one of the dry branches sticking out of the waters and the next moment, it shot right across the river. During one boat ride, I was lucky enough to see four different species of the kingfisher, starting from the uncommon common kingfisher, the regular white breasted kingfisher , the stork billed variety and the black and white pied kingfisher looking for their next meal in the waters.

I saw more Malabar pied hornbills than cormorants as they created a racket while flying into the forest.. Keeping the cormorants company was a darter , posing for me with his wings spread out. The painted storks created pretty picture , looking at their reflections in the water. They were surrounded by the w asian openbills, Eurasian spoonbills and the woolly necked stork among several water birds.


Pic : Lakshmi Sharath

The crested serpent eagle is a regular bird in these forests, but the drama that accompanied me during the sighting was not all that regular. A drongo and an Indian roller were together chasing the eagle away until it flew away into the trees. We chanced upon a peacock trying to impress a peahen with his dance, but she just walked away as we saw the spectacle. Meanwhile, a scarlet minivet seemed to enjoy his moment , as the female yellow bird followed him into the foliage of the trees.
Everyday there is drama in these forests and while most of it is lost within the verdant greenery, it is up to us to look a little deeper and enjoy these moments.

This post is written by Indian backpacker for, which offers different long distance calling cards, such as cheap phone cards to India

India is celebrating

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

With all the diversity around, Indians celebrate virtually throughout the year. Every community, state, religion has its own festival .While most of them are steeped in myths and legends to appease deities and demons, some of them celebrate the onset of a new season, while others celebrate relationships ,including that between siblings .And most festivals have just one thing in common – great food .

As I write this post, the entire state of Kerala is celebrating Onam . A festival which is rather exclusive to Malayalis, the community that speaks the language Malayalam, Onam welcomes the legendary king Mahabali who is supposedly visiting his subjects on earth. Although a great ruler, Mahabali had one flaw – his ego, which he finally surrendered to the Lord Vishnu. Mahabali however was allowed to visit his kingdom once a year and all of Kerala are ready for him.

Decorated with flowers and lamps, every Malayali’s house is brightly lit and there are celebrations galore. Onam is usually celebrated for over ten days in a very traditional manner and each day has its own significance . There is a grand parade in the state with elephants accompanied by music and dance. The grand snake boat race is also held during the period.

Its a great time to visit Kerala , when the festivities are at a peak and there is so much of vibrance and colour all around.

This post is written by Indian backpacker for, which offers different long distance calling cards, such as international calling cards for India

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