Beyond the Taj

Bike your way to the 14th-century ruins of Hampi… Climb 350 steps to the 30 magnificent rock-cut caves of Ajanta … Rejuvenate in the ‘Shikara’ on the Alleppey Backwaters … There are a plethora of things to do and experience during your next vacation in India, beyond your Taj Mahal visit, and believe me, these ‘other’ sites are as breathtaking as the ‘Taj’. In this article, I will briefly introduce you to some of my favorite holiday destinations in India. Architectural and scenic beauty, combined with state-of-the-art tourism infrastructures, these destinations will revivify your five senses. So, pack your bags and let’s go!

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Remember the Jackie Chan movie “The Myth”? Shot in Hampi, even the veteran cinematographer could not do justice to the beauty of Hampi that you will perceive when you are on-site. The historical ruins of the Vijaynagar Empire, in the state of Karnataka, is unparalleled in charm and eminence. An overnight train from Bangalore city will take you to your destination which is studded with affordable and luxury lodging facilities. Echoing the quote by Edith Wharton, “One of the great things about travel is you find out how many good, kind people there are”, at Hampi, the local inhabitants will further amplify your delights. One of the safest places in the country for tourists, Hampi keeps mesmerizing me more and more with every visit. Alongside the ruins, you will find the towering Virupaksha Temple. My personal favorite monument is the Vittala Temple with its ‘musical pillars’. Yes, you heard it right! The 56 musical pillars, also known as the SaReGaMa pillars, produce musical tones when struck by hand. The Divine mysteries of this UNESCO World Heritage Site continue to enthrall me. It is said that the black scorpions of the Vittala Temple never sting the devotees. While you unravel such enigma, don’t forget the trek to the Hemakuta Hill for that picturesque sunset.

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Carved out in the mountains of Western India, the Ajanta Caves will revitalize your mind, body, and soul. Built between 200 B.C and 500 A.D., the Ajanta Caves are a repertoire of the artistic brilliance of the humankind. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a collection of Buddhist paintings, murals, sculptures, and rock-cut Temples. It is believed that several Buddhist Monks spent their time at the Ajanta caves, during the monsoons, when were forbidden from traveling. During this time, the Monks concocted an abundance of creative masterpieces within the realms of the Ajanta Caves. Located 105 km from Aurangabad, tourists can expect comfortable commuting to and from the site. Aurangabad is a sprawling city with almost all tourist amenities. 

The Ellora caves are located about 30 km towards the west of Aurangabad. Unlike Ajanta caves, these caves date between 5th and 11th century A.D. In addition to Buddhist monasteries, Ellora caves are home to Hindu and Jain temples. I still remember my Grandmother talking about her fond memories of the pillars that rendered sounds of “Tabla”, an Indian musical instrument, when struct by hand. The Kailasa Temple is regarded as the greatest monolithic structure in the world. The virtuosity, elegance, and scale exemplify the zenith of skills of those ancient times. Be prepared to be spell-bound.

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I will let only the photographs do the talking for the splendid Alleppey Backwaters.

So, want to experience it all firsthand? I shall be happy to lead a trek to these sites during the Winter Break 2020. Let’s embark on a journey like no other!

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