Delhi is a city that bridges two different worlds. Old Delhi, once the capital of Islamic India, is a labyrinth of narrow lanes lined with crumbling havelis and formidable mosques. In contrast, the imperial city of New Delhi created by the British Raj is composed of spacious, tree-lined avenues and imposing government buildings. Delhi has been the seat of power for several rulers and many empires for about a millennium. Many a times the city was built, destroyed and then rebuilt here. Interestingly, a number of Delhi’s rulers played a dual role, first as destroyers and then as creators.
The city’s importance lies not just in its past glory as the seat of empires and magnificent monuments, but also in the rich and diverse cultures. No wonder chroniclers of Delhi culture – from Chand Bardai and Amir Khusro to present days writers – have never been at a loss for topics. In Delhi, you will discover that the city is sprinkled with dazzling gems: captivating ancient monuments, fascinating museums and art galleries, architectural wonders, a vivacious performing-arts scene, fabulous eating places and bustling markets. Delhi has been the political hub of India. Every political activity in the country traces its roots here. This was true even of the mythological era. The Pandavas of the Mahabharata had their capital at Indraprastha, which is believed to have been geographically located in today’s Delhi.
~ Agra ~
the city of Taj Mahal
Agra has been immortalized as the City of the Taj. Yet, it doesnt take much for the roving eye to discover that theres more to Agra than just the fabled Taj Mahal. The city is a virtual gateway to a world of discoveryâ€¦.. a freeze-frame from a resplendent era thats long since gone by. In the great epic â€˜Mahabharat the region of Agra is described as â€˜Agraban (an integral part of the Braj Bhumi or the land of Lord Krishna). The latter part of Indian history outlines the origins of Agra to 1475 A.D., the reign of Raja Badal Singh. Agra came into limelight during the rule of Afghan King Sikandar Lodhi who had made it the capital of his empire. Later in 1526 A.D., the Mughal Emperor Babar took upon himself the task for rendering Agra, a unique character and beauty of its own. The visionary that he was and great patron of the arts, Emperor Babar brought in a change in the culture and life-style among the people of Agra, which then brought forth some of the finest craftsmen, artists, statesmen, warriors and nobility, this part of India had ever withnessed, The golden age of Agras history, thus began to set in. The next few hundred years of Agra witnessed the rise of the pomp and pageantry of three great Mughal monarchs Emperor Akbar, Jehangir and ShahJahan all of whom lavished on this fabled city, their love and riches immeasurable to transform the land into one of the great centers of art, culture, learning and commerce. Much of the citys impressive past lives in evidence even today, in the hunting presence inside the monuments, the majesty of the buildings, the exquisite arts and crafts and not to forget, the lure of an exceptional cuisineâ€¦. All, cherished as priceless legacies of a nostalgic past. The older city of Agra has impressively retained much of its resplendent historyâ€¦â€¦ captivating every visitor with found memories to take back home. Today, luxury and modern convenience also exist adjacent to tradition luxury hotels, shopping malls and plazas, wide avenues and a superb choice of venues for recreation, business, sports, pleasure, education and the arts. The Taj Mahal is a shining monument in marble, a tribute to the imagination of a great emperor who gave to the world a symbol of eternal love. The Taj Mahal gives untold opportunities to the visitor to explore the architecture, stone work, inlay work, marble embroidery, woodwork and other examples of mans artistic ingenuity that has gone into its making.
~ Jaipur ~
the Pink City
Planned by Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, Jaipur holds the distinction of being the first planned city of India. Renowned globally for its coloured gems, the capital city of Rajasthan combines the allure of its ancient history with all the advantages of a metropolis. The bustling modern city is one of the three corners of the golden triangle that includes Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
The story goes that in 1876, the Prince of Wales visited India on a tour. Since the colour pink was symbolic of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the entire city pink. The pink that colours the city makes for a marvellous spectacle to behold. Jaipur rises up majestically against the backdrop of the forts Nahargarh, Jaigarh and Moti Doongri.
Jaipur traces back its origins to 1727 when it was established by Jai Singh II, the Raja of Amber. He shifted his capital from Amber to the new city because of the rapidly-growing population and an increasing water scarcity. Noted architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya used the established principles of Vastu Shastra to build the city.
~ Udaipur ~
City of lakes, and lake palaces
Often referred to as the â€˜Venice of the East, the lake city of Udaipur is known as the centre for performing arts and crafts. The famous Lake Palace, located bang in the middle of Lake Pichola is easily one of the most beautiful sights of Udaipur. Udaipur is also home to Jaisamand Lake, the largest artificial lake in Asia. The beautiful City Palace and Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace) add to the architectural beauty and grandeur of the city. The city is also known for its profusion of zinc and copper mines. The solar observatory in Udaipur is known as one of the best in Asia and has been modelled after the Solar Observatory at Big Bear Lake in Southern California. Udaipur is also renowned for is miniature paintings. The Shilpgram festival, held sometime around the New Year manages to pull in great crowds of people interested in arts and crafts.
Udaipur was founded in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II as a new capital of the Mewar kingdom. It is located in the fertile, circular Girwa Valley to the southwest of Nagda, which was the first capital of Mewar. Until Udaipur was built, the capital of Mewar was Ahar, a flourishing trade town.
~ Jaisalmer ~
where the forts are still alive
If geology interests you, then Jaisalmer is where you need to journey. The Wood Fossil Park or Aakal is located about 15 kilometres away from the city. Here, one can discover and trace geologic tragedies that occurred in the Thar Desert 180 million years ago. The city of Jaisalmer also acts as the guard to western Rajasthan (and Indias) frontier. This ‘Golden City is located close to the Pakistan border and in close proximity to the Thar Desert. The citys most prominent landmark is the Jaisalmer Fort, also called Sonar Qila (Golden Fort). Unlike most other forts in India, Jaisalmer Fort is not just a tourist attraction. It houses shops, hotels and ancient havelis (homes) where generations continue to live.
Jaisalmer traces its inception to the 12th century. History tells us of Rawal Jaisal, the eldest heir of the Rawal of Deoraj, was passed over for the throne of Lodurva and a younger half-brother was crowned king. Rawal Jaisal went looking for a new location to set up his capital when he came across sage Eesul. The sage told him about Krishnas prophecy which said that a descendant of his Yaduvanshi clan would found a new kingdom at this same spot. It was in 1156 that Rawal Jaisal constructed a mud fort, named it Jaisalmer after himself and declared it his capital.
~ Bikaner ~
welcome to camel country
Bikaner is home to one of the only two models of the biplane used by the British during World War I. They were presented by the British to Maharaja Ganga Singh, then ruler of the city. Another unique aspect about Bikaner are the sand dunes that are scattered throughout the district, especially from the north-east down to the southern area. Bikaner is situated in the northern region of Rajasthan. One of the earlier established cities, Bikaner still displays its ancient opulence through palaces and forts, built of red sandstone, that have withstood the passage of time. The city boasts of some of the worlds best riding camels and is aptly nicknamed â€˜camel country. It is also home to one of the worlds largest camel research and breeding farms; as well as being known for having its own unique temple dedicated to Karni Mata at Deshnok, called the Rats Temple.
The origins of Bikaner can be traced back to 1488 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji, founded the kingdom. Legend has it that Bikaji, one of Rao Jodhajis five sons, left his fathers Durbar in annoyance after an insensitive remark from his father, the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. Bikaji travelled far and when he came upon the wilderness called Jangladesh, he decided to set up his own kingdom and transformed it into an impressive city.
~ Jodhpur ~
a delightful blend of the modern and the traditional
Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan is popularly known as the Blue City. The name is clearly befitting as most of the architecture forts, palaces, temples, havelis and even houses are built in vivid shades of blue. The strapping forts that tower this magnificent city sum up to a spectacle you would not want to miss. The mammoth, imposing fortress of Mehrangarh has a landscape dominating a rocky ridge with the eight gates leading out of the fortress. The new city is located outside the structure. Jodhpur is also known for the rare breed of horses known as Marwari or Malani, which are only found here.
Jodhpur marks its origin back to the year of 1459 AD. The history of this prosperous city revolves around the Rathore clan. Rao Jodha, the chief of Rathore Clan is credited with the origin of Jodhpur in India. The city is known to be built in place of the ancient capital, Mandore of the state of Manwar. Hence, the people of Jodhpur and surrounding areas are commonly known as Marwaris. Also, it is believed that the relics of Mandore can still be witnessed in the Mandore Gardens.
~ Pushkar ~
the Town of Fairs and Festivities
Pushkar is one of the oldest cities in India. Located to the northwest of Ajmer, the tranquil city of Pushkar is a favoured destination for thousands of tourists and devotees flocking to Rajasthan. Situated at a height of 510 metres, Pushkar is surrounded by hillocks on three sides. The â€˜Nag Pahar, literally meaning Snake Mountain forms a natural border between Ajmer and Pushkar. Known as â€˜the rose garden of Rajasthan, the essence of the famous Pushkar rose is exported all over the world. Along with an interesting mythological history, a legacy of timeless architectural heritage makes Pushkar a fascinating city.
According to legends, Lord Brahma, believed to be the creator of the Universe dropped a lotus to the ground leading to the immediate creation of a lake. He then decided to name the place after the flower, and thus the name, Pushkar. The city of Pushkar is home to the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in the whole world. Hindus consider a journey to Pushkar to be the ultimate pilgrimage that must be undertaken to attain salvation.