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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Taj Mahal - A historical wonder

The Taj Mahal of Agra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, for reasons more than just looking magnificent. It's the history of Taj Mahal that adds a soul to its magnificence: a soul that is filled with love, loss, remorse, and love again. Because if it was not for love, the world would have been robbed of a fine example upon which people base their relationships. An example of how deeply a man loved his wife, that even after she remained but a memory, he made sure that this memory would never fade away. This man was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was head-over-heels in love with Mumtaz Mahal, his dear wife. She was a Muslim Persian princess (her name Arjumand Banu Begum before marriage) and he was the son of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir and grandson of Akbar the Great. It was at the age of 14 that he met Mumtaz and fell in love with her. Five years later in the year 1612, they got married.

Mumtaz Mahal, an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan, died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child. It was in the memory of his beloved wife that Shah Jahan built a magnificent monument as a tribute to her, which we today know as the "Taj Mahal". The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran, and it took approximately 22 years to build what we see today. An epitome of love, it made use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. The monument was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia. After an expenditure of approximately 32 million rupees, Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653.

It was soon after the completion of Taj Mahal that Shah Jahan was deposed by his own son Aurangzeb and was put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Shah Jahan, himself also, lies entombed in this mausoleum along with his wife. Moving further down the history, it was at the end of the 19th century that British Viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a sweeping restoration project, which was completed in 1908, as a measure to restore what was lost during the Indian rebellion of 1857: Taj being blemished by British soldiers and government officials who also deprived the monument of its immaculate beauty by chiseling out precious stones and lapis lazuli from its walls. Also, the British style lawns that we see today adding on to the beauty of Taj were remodeled around the same time. Despite prevailing controversies, past and present threats from Indo-Pak war and environmental pollution, this epitome of love continuous to shine and attract people from all over the world

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Besant Nagar Beach, Chennai

Sited towards the south of the Marina Beach, Elliot's Beach is among the cleanest beaches in Chennai, in fact, in the whole of south India. Also known as 'Bessei' among the inhabitants, it is a well-known place for relaxing and soaking in the sun. However, an array of exciting water sports for which Chennai is known are not provided here at the beach. That is not to say that it lesser of a beach when compared to others. There's a different kind of fun to be had here, fun which soothes up the mind and restores the soul. Sitting along the beach, you can sync in the surrounding natural beauty and gaze at the endless skies and sea. And if, looking at the sand, the architect in you suddenly awakens, don't curb your natural instinct to play with or build castles out of it.

Elliot Beach is one of the most significant landmarks as it also provides its visitors with a range of multi-cuisines together with an array of restaurants and fast food centres. You can savour the scrumptious and tempting South Indian snacks and coddle your taste buds as only some yards away from the sandy beach, you will find some of the famous restaurants which include Ponnuswamy restaurant, Karaikudi restaurant, Lee's Chinese restaurant and the New Shangri La, a Malaysian restaurant. No wonder, these days, it has become one of the best hangouts for the younger generation, as well as foreigners who are looking for some quietude and tummy fulfilment.

It doesn't end here though, for the beach goes a few steps ahead, surpassing all expectations and surprising yet again, with a unique combination of historical temples, churches and monuments which makes this place even more fascinating and magnificent, adding charm and beauty to your outing with exciting memories. At the southern end of the beach, is the famous Velankanni Church which was built in the honour of the Lady of Health, also famous as Madonna of Velankanni. It is also believed by the followers that the Lady of Health holds miraculous powers.

Another site of attraction is the Ashtalakshmi Temple, located on the southern end of the beach. It is dedicated to the eight manifestations of the Goddess Mahalakshmi, also known as the Deity of Wealth and Peace. Besides this, there are temples of Tumbikai Aazhwar (Ganesha), Guruvaayurappan, Chakrathaazhwar & Narasimhar (on either side of the same idol), Aanjaneyar & Dhanvantri. Apart from this, there is a stone monument sited on the Elliot's Beach constructed as a mark of honour to a Danish sailor, Karl Schmidt who died at the time of saving a man from drowning. Situated just 60 km from Chennai and easily accessible via road with buses, taxis, call cabs, and auto rickshaws at your service.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Kumarakom : Kottayam

Kumarakom,situated 13 Kms away from Kottayam is a sleepy little village on Vembanad Lake in Kerala. It offers wide variety of flora, exotic sightseeing, boating and fishing experience. The beautiful paradise stocked with mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut trees comprises with water ways and canals adorned with white lilies enchants the tourist from world over.

The National Geographic Magazine has listed Kumarakom as one of the must-see places in a lifetime. The land is famous for it's painstakingly hand craft each exquisite piece still made in a traditional way. Vemanad Lake is home to several types of marine life exclusively the Chemeen (Prawns), the Konju (Tiger Prawns) and Karimeen. Kumarakom will be a perfect choice for you to spend your quality time with your family.

Lot of things awaits you at Kumarakom ? make a visit to the bird sanctuary, which spreads across 14 acres. This sanctuary is a safe home for many migratory birds like Siberian stork, wild duck etc. They live with other birds in flocks such as darters, herons, egret, waterfowls and cuckoos are fascinating sight for the visitors. Come and get excited with the sites of migratory birds like Siberian crane, parrot, flycatcher etc and forget all the worries in your life.

Houseboats are one of the unique feature of Kumarakom tourism. Majority of the tourists visiting Kumarakom ask for a trip in these houseboats, enjoying the beautiful backwater and the cool air around. These houseboats are made in the format of traditional 'Kettuvallams', which will make you feel the rich traditions of 'God's Own Country'. You can have a cruise through the Vembanad lake and Alappuzha backwaters. Experience the typical Kerala cuisines while having a calm voyage through the backwaters. Try to have a trip to the beautiful island 'Pathiramanal', 40 minutes away from Kumarakom. There is a waterfall at Kumarakom ? Aruvikuzhi, which is worth visit. The 100 ft tall waterfall is one of the best spot for trekking. 

Other interesting spots around Kumarakom are Aymanam, Kudamaloor, Pallikoodam, Kallara, Nattakom and Panachikadu reservoir, Thazhathangadi, Thanneermukkam bund etc. A day at Kumarakom will always bring freshness in you. You will be getting a very rare chance to get indulge with the greenish environment here. 

Kumarakom will be giving you a romantic experience, one of the best place to spend time with your partner. You will be getting best honeymoon packages here. Explore the Vembanad Lake and have a backwater experience with your lover. The atmosphere at Kumarakom will make you more romantic, give you the most memorable moments in your lifetime. Visit Kumarakom from November to March. Rainy season is also allowed. Enjoy the monsoon, sitting inside the houseboat and having a cup of hot tea....

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Cinque Terre, Rio Maggiore, Italy

The Cinque Terre, are five small villages on the "Costa Ligure of Levante". The villages from north to south are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Since 1926, the Cinque Terre towns have been part of the province of La Spezia.

This territory was long isolated and the characteristic Ligurian culture has been conserved. The five villages were only reached by the outside world about one hundred years ago, when the railway line was built.

The chain of mountains that surrounds these villages runs parallel to the "Appennino Mountains" and creates small insenature, steep valleys where the towns are situated. This makes for a unique landscape, different from the rest of the coast. Right in the center of this landscape during the centuries was placed the man Ligure, always in struggle and always in love with its territory. The result of this geography is the typical houses liguri, the narrow bands and the knoll in terrace built on the rocks.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

santhome Church : Chennai

There are three places in chennai that stand out as monuments of honour, speaking aloud about the presence, activity and the martyrdom of St. Thomas, the Apostle of india. They are 1. Little Mount, 2. St Thomas Mount, 3. San Thome Cathedral Basilica.
St Thomas built a church at San Thome. After his martyrdom, his body was buried in the Church built by him. A pot containing earth, moistened by his blood and the lance with which he was pierced were both buried in his tomb. The foundation for a new Church was laid on 2nd july 1523. The Church was rebuilt and erected as a Parish. Father Penteado from Portugal was the first Parish Priest. In 1893 His Excellency, Dom Henry Joseph Reed Da Silva, Bishop of Mylapore demolished the old Cathedral and laid the foundation for the new Basilica, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee Day of the Episcopal Consecration of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII. In this church the second tower, asmaller one, points to the exact place where the Apostle was buried. The new Basilica was constructed and consecrated on 1st April 1896 AD. The tip of the cross on the spire is 155 feet from the ground level. In this Church, the statue of our Lady of Mylapore is enthroned, before which St Francis Xavier prayed intensely for several days while he stayed in mylapore.
The Bishop of Dacca consecrated a new bell on 9th may 1896, His Excellency, Dom A S Valente, Patriarch of the East Indies consecrated the main altar of the Cathedral. The Bishop of Mylapore consecrated the altar of Saints Peter and Paul on 29th June  1896 AD. Asun-dial from the old Cathedral is placed on the rear side of the Sacristy. This Cathedral Basilica is a matter of pride to the nation and to all of us, because it is built over the tomp of St Thomas. There are three Basilicas, all over the world, that are built over the tomb of the apostles. The first one is St peter’s Basilica in Rome, the second one on the tomb of St james, and the third one is the tomb chapel of St Thomas in San Thome Cathedral Basilica in chennai. The Cathedral Basilica was restored and consecrated on 12th December 2004 by the Apostolic Nuncio His Excellency Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana and Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai. On 8th September 2005 the present Archbishop of Madras Mylapore His Grace, Most Rev Dr A M Chinnappa SDB DD Ph D issued a decree officially elevating this Cathedral parish as a Shrine of the Archdioces

Monday, 2 November 2015


A cocktail of two cultures, this easy-going capital of the union territory of Pondicherry (which spreads out to Mahé, Yanam and Karaikal) has a beautiful French Quarter embraced by a striking Tamil culture. A relevant French cuisine and a heritage of colonial architecture are a boon to locals and travelers alike.

Puducherry Museum: On the ground floor look especially for the Chola, Vijayanagar and Nayak bronzes, and the pieces of ancient Greek and Spanish pottery and amphorae (storage vessels) excavated from Arikamedu, a once-major trading port a few kilometers south of Pondicherry.
Timings: 10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm. Monday holiday.
Fees: Rs.10 per head. Rs.50 per head for foreigners.

Churches: Pondicherry has one of the best collections of over-the-top cathedrals in India. Make sure to grace their beauty with your presence!

Sri Aurobindo Ashram: General visits to the main ashram building on Marine St are cursory - you just see the flower-festooned samadhi of Aurobindo and the Mother, then the bookshop, then you leave. Collective meditation around the samadhi from 7.25pm to 7.50pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday is open to all. The ashram's Bureau Central has interesting exhibitions on the lives and teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Vandalur Zoo

Have you guys seen a white peacock before? This is the first time for me! In the blazing April heat of Chennai, I decided to go to the Vandalur Zoo (Arignar Anna Zoological Park) in Vandalur, Chennai. I was there around 8:30 AM (when the zoo opens) but I spent some time having breakfast at the Sangeetha restaurant opposite to it. Ah, what lovely food! :)The Vandalur zoo is on the GST road and is situated about 15 KM further off from the airport. I took the Chennai bypass on the Ponamalee road, and was able to reach this place faster.

Free ranging deer is ok, I have seen such free ranging deer already in Guindy National park. But free ranging snakes? OMG! It seems, one nine feet python in this zoo escaped from its enclosure last year. It should have been caught by now, but if not maybe we can catch it and hand it over to the authorities, if we spot it around this area ðŸ˜€ At the end of this article, I will show you a lion and a tiger :)