A Little Bit of Jamnagar

When I was planning my Gujarat itinerary last year, the most important consideration was my parents as this trip was for them. I had to plan an itinerary with enough and more breaks so that it would be comfortable for them. This was crucial as my father has acute motion sickness, something that developed as he aged and it’s so bad that he cannot travel at a stretch even when moving from one place to another within the city. That’s why Jamnagar ended up being part of the itinerary as a break between Ahmedabad and Dwarika. The travel of 7-8 hours by car from Ahmedabad to Dwarika wouldn’t work for my father. So, we took a train to Jamnagar, stayed back one night, and then proceeded to Dwarika.

Jamnagar, the city of Jaamsahebs, was known as Nawanagar when it was established centuries ago at the banks of Rangmati and Nagmati rivers.

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Pic 1: Ranmal Lake, at the center of which is Lakhota Fort

The feeling of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) would have made me sick if I was to leave the city without experiencing anything of it. So, before leaving for Dwarika, we decided to go to Jamnagar’s signature tourist spot – Lakhota Fort located in the middle of Ranmal Lake. The fort was not quite like the fort we expected but was not bad either.

Ranmal Lake, also known as Lakhota Talav was constructed by the Maharaja of Jamnagar, Jam Ranmalji-II, between 1820 to 1852 and spreads around 5 lakh sq. meters. A sprawling garden surrounds the lake with pavilions for resting and pathways for walking around. The pathways were very spacious and I would not be exaggerating if I say they were larger than many a road in my city of Bangalore.

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Pic 2: Walkways inside the garden

It was morning time and we found elderly people walking around or seated at different places gobbling up the morning newspaper while youngsters were jogging through the morning air. On the back ground was playing old Kishore Kumar melodies throughout the garden making the morning refreshingly soothing and beautiful.

My parents and I walked around leisurely and the garden was turning out to be a good place to start the day. The lake and the garden was very well maintained. There were several entrance gates and a nominal entry fee was charged.

We learnt that the well-maintained lake was used for pearl culture during the times of the Maharaja.

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Pic 3: Lakhota Fort or Lakhota Palace
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Pic 4: Lakhota Fort or Lakhota Palace as you enter from the connecting bridge.

At the center of the lake is the Lakhota Fort or Lakhota Palace, the latter being a better description of the place. A short causeway that runs over the lake like a bridge connects the garden to the palace. The palace houses a museum that stores artifacts and pottery dating from 9th to 18th century. Photography is not allowed inside.

The palace was built in the mid-19th-century by Maharaja Jam Ranmalji-II, at the same time when he built the lake. I am not much of an architecture person but the fine woodcarvings at the palace did catch my attention.

At the south east side of the lake, is Bala Hanuman temple. The specialty of this temple is that it is in Guinness Book of Records for non-stop chants of “Shri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram” that have been going on continuously since 1st August, 1964.

With my FOMO put to rest, we happily exited Jamnagar and proceeded to Dwarika.

[Click Here to read my Dwarika experience.]

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Pic 5: The Bala Hanuman Temple

 

Bekal Fort – A Glimpse into the Past

And a Birthday Gift to Self…

 “Tu hi re……tere bina……”  [“Uyire”]

I could almost see the scintillating Monisha Koirala sauntering around with her long flowing gown behind her and Arvind Swamy yearning for her as he sings the famous soul stirring romantic melody of the late nineties. Composed by A.R Rahman, this masterpiece was sung to perfection by Hariharan.

We were at Bekal Fort, located in a quaint little place called Pallikara in North Kerala. This remarkably well preserved fort gained popularity after the legendary lyrical song from the critically acclaimed Bollywood Movie ‘Bombay’ was filmed here.

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Pic 1: The fort as seen from the outside.

It was that time of the year – the month of April – the time to keep a promise to myself. Time for my birthday and I had to gift a travel to myself. It’s the mountains I prefer above everything else, precisely Himalayas. I have a few treks in mind that I want to do but there was a clash here. None of those were happening in April. So, I booked one for May and decided to do a small 1-2 day trip somewhere nearby just for my birthday. That’s how the trip to Bekal Fort happened.

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Pic 2: Somewhere inside the fort.

I was all set to go alone when my sister decided to come along. Both of us are going through some financial constraints and this trip fitted well into our pockets. Google told us that Bekal Fort is about 65 Km away from Mangalore and can be reached in about an hour and a half from there. This was the best route for us from Bangalore. We took an overnight train to Mangalore. With our current financial situation, we opted to take a bus rather than a cab from Mangalore. However, we had to change two buses to reach Pallikara – Mangalore to Kasargod to Pallikara.

We had booked a homestay at Pallikara at a very reasonable rate. The room was quite small but the people were wonderful and the food they served was stupendous, at a price that is unthinkable. It’s pretty good for just a night. (http://www.bekalforthomestay.com/)

An auto from the bus stand took us to the homestay and everyone seemed to know the ‘retired Headmaster’s house’. It was late morning when we arrived and the sun was blazing. At this time of the year, Kerala is sweltering and the humidity only makes the weather even more miserable. Notwithstanding, we stepped out after a quick shower.

The lady of the house warned us against venturing to the fort at this time. She advised early evening and recommended the beach for now. We had a quick lunch at a roadside shop trying to ignore the gazing curious onlookers who are probably not used to seeing many tourists and especially women on their own. The shop owner, unable to control his curiosity, asked us a couple of questions and every answer seemed to flabbergast him.

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Pic 3: Roasting in the sweltering heat of Malabar Coast
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Pic 4: Sis finds a cooler place to chill for a while.

After lunch, we went to Bekal Beach and thereafter took an auto and went to the fort. It was around 3.00 PM and the Sun was shining mercilessly. April is definitely not the best time to visit this place. The roasting heat of Malabar Coast was exhausting as the lady of the homestay had rightly warned us. The aura of the age-old fort managed to keep us engaged though we were drenched in sweat from head to toe. A pleasant surprise awaited us at the fort though. It was ‘World Heritage Day’ and entry was free. I took that as an unexpected birthday gift!

 

Perched on a steep rocky shore overlooking the Arabian Sea, Bekal Fort intrigues and fascinates with its architectural marvel and picture perfect location. The rusty red fort owes its colouration to the *laterite slabs that have been used to build it. The polygonal fort, shaped in the form of a giant keyhole surely houses a million tales of bygone ages.

[*Laterite is a soil and rock type rich in iron and aluminium, considered to have formed in hot and wet tropical areas. Nearly all laterites are of rusty-red coloration, because of high iron oxide content. Source: Wikipedia]

In the 13th Century AD, Bekal was an important port town in Kerala. The fort has changed hands a couple of times from Shivappa Nayaka to Tipu Sultan to East India Company. This is the biggest and best preserved fort in Kerala that is now maintained by Archeological Survey of India (ASI).

The Fort has several unique features, such as, the water tank with its flight of steps, a tunnel that opens towards the south, a magazine to store ammunition, an Observation Tower with stunning view of the surrounding landscape.

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Pic 8: Note the rusty-red laterite slabs

The majestic fort in its entirety against the backdrop of the mighty Arabian Sea on one side and the sea of greenery on all other sides was as picturesque as one can imagine. The vast expanse of tall coconut trees that spread out as far as the eyes can see adds charm to the already scenic location. And it’s the scenic beauty of the place that appealed to me the most.

The weather was taking its toll and we were drained after having loitered around for about 90 minutes at the fort. With no shade around, we decided to go back to the beach.

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Pic 9: The sea of coconut trees, just so typical of God’s Own Country – Kerala
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Pic 10: The winding pathway just outside the fort by the side of the Arabian Sea reminded us of ‘King’s Landing’ from Game of Thrones!)

We got to know that monsoon is the best time to visit this place. Besides the pleasant weather, the fort walls are covered with a layer of green owing to the growth of mosses, lichens, and tiny plants that apparently makes it look even more gorgeous. Our April adventure was nonetheless a good one.

With another promise kept and another birthday well spent, armed with a bagful of wonderful memories we retraced our path towards the beach.

When I said Wah Taj!

On a very special trip with my parents

The other day I came by an article that listed out quotes of famous people who have visited the Taj Mahal. Amongst the great names of Rabindranath Tagore, Lord Curzon, etc, the one that caught my attention was Bill Clinton, the former President of USA, who said:

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who have seen the Taj Mahal and love it, and those who have not seen the Taj Mahal and love it. I would like people to watch the Taj Mahal and fall in love with it.

I could instantaneously relate it to my own experience of the historical monument. Memories of my visit to the Taj Mahal came flooding by and I thought I should write about it.

And so, here it goes…

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Pic 1: A very special moment with my parents

“I’m very satisfied with your service. Thank you so much!” I heard my father say to the guide who we had hired for a tour of the Taj Mahal and who had painstakingly explained every little detail taking care to answer all the questions asked by us, especially my father.

We let the guide leave while we sat on the marble floor just outside the main dome to rest for a while. It was late morning on a sunny October day and the monument was teeming with tourists from all over the world. I sat there feeling gratified looking at my parents who seemed quite delighted with their tour of the iconic monument. This trip was for them and I couldn’t be happier.

This was my second visit to the ivory-white marble mausoleum that grandly stands on the banks of River Yamuna in the city of Agra. My first visit had been seven years back. Needless to say, I was floored when I saw this exquisite piece of marble for the first time. I was with a friend and her husband. As we entered the West Gate or Fatehpuri Darwaza and I laid my eyes on the monument for the first time, I was awestruck. Dazzling in the afternoon sun, its splendor was beyond words and somehow appeared unreal to me.

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Pic 2: Throwback to my first visit to the iconic monument 7 years back and that’s my friend

I had read and heard about its grandeur several times since childhood – from history books to Bollywood movies, from photographs and paintings to travel stories of friends and relatives, from news feeds about the effects of pollution on the white marble to the surreal experiences on a moonlight night, and so on and so forth.

All of these had imprinted the Taj’s form into my mind’s imagery and I thought I was going to visit just another historical monument knowing exactly what to expect. But, when I saw the real structure with my naked eyes for the first time, its sparkling magnificence was something else altogether. Its prettiness was overwhelming. I had never imagined the Taj Mahal to be this beautiful.

The experience was way different from my visit to other historical monuments. Being an ardent nature lover, architectures and museums do not enthuse me much. So, I never quite get it when people stare at an Eiffel tower with those admiration-filled eyes for hours on end. With this existing state of mind, my expectations of Taj Mahal were pretty limited. Not until I actually saw it…

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Pic 3: Just outside the West Gate

The stunningly magical Taj Mahal had left me literally speechless. It was only after I experienced the Taj in person that I truly understood the genius of its craftsmanship. And, I thought to myself — no wonder this iconic monument gets millions of visitors every year from across the globe; no wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; no wonder it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The first thing that came to my mind at that moment was – I got to get my parents to see this. This is one of the seven wonders and it’s in my own country. This is an opportunity. It will be a pity if they were to miss this.  So, here I was experiencing the magic for a second time and this time with my parents.

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Pic 4: While we admired the superb craftsmanship

Built by 22,000 workers in 22 years, the Taj Mahal is famous as the ultimate symbol of love. That’s what I knew during my childhood and as I grew up. Later, I read some speculative counter arguments, which I think cannot be ignored (Read Here). Keeping that aside, it is the finest and most sophisticated model of Mughal architecture in India, which also incorporates elements of Persian, Turkish, and Hindu influences.

We walked our way around the tomb, my mother and I silently appreciating, the unique marble carvings, the incised paintings, the incredible Urdu calligraphic inscriptions, etc. and my father earnestly discussing all big and small historical detail with our guide. All along I was feeling deeply satisfied that I could have my parents experience Taj Mahal’s incredible wonder.

This was the Agra leg of our Golden Triangle trip (Delhi – Agra – Jaipur). The same evening, we visited the Agra Fort.

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Pic 5: While they share a special moment at the Agra Fort

My parents love travelling and my father has taken us on many a trip across India during our childhood despite all the limitations he had at that time. It’s my turn now to take them around and it gives me immense joy whenever I am able to take them on a trip with me. However, with old age and their current state of health, they cannot travel a lot and that’s a limitation I now have.