Friday 22 November 2019

Travelogue of Jaisalmer: An Oasis in Thar Desert

The finely sculptured monuments in Jaiselmer city have successfully retained all its glory, cultural diversity, vibrant glory and the richness of a bygone era. Be it the camel safaris, the ascetic beauty of the surrounding, the city reflects the timeless beauty of a legacy left behind by the rulers.At the end of your tour of Jaiselmer,you will realize that;Jaiselmer is an Osis in Thar Desert.
Railway Station of Jaisalmer
At about 11.15 P.M, train entered in station of Jaisalmer. It was a desolate station of Jaisalmer .no porter to lift and carry our luggage.Retiring room of Jaiselmer was on first floor. Any how we lifted luggage and kept in our rooms.We were were hungry.

Jaiselmer Fort-(Sonar Quila)

Again surprised to see that Jaiselmer station has only a small tea stall without food items, only tea biscuits and bread. This tea stall opens only at arrival and departure time of a train.No option so we took tea and bread as dinner.

Retiring room was well maintained, after a shower I laid down upon my bed to sleep.Next morning after refreshing we came down stairs to tea stall for breakfast.It was about 9A.M. There were few local groups of men and women ,searing colorful costumes ,were sitting on floor of platform.They seemed  me as banjara tribes.
History of Jaisalmer
The name of Jaisalmer evokes a vivid picture of sheer magic and brilliance of the desert Jaisalmer is a beautiful city near the Thar Desert. The border to Pakistan is 100 kilometers away:

The city was established in the 12th century (year 1156 AD) and gets its name from its founder Maha Rawal Jaisal who founded it.

An Aerial View of city Jaisalmer from Sonar Fort

According to the local legend, Rawal Jaisal, the eldest son of the Rawal of Deoraj, was passed over for the throne of Ludharva (15 kms from Jaisalmer) by his younger half-brother after which he went on a search for a safe location to establish his capital.

He came across the massive rock that rose almost 250 feet from the surrounding desert sands. Rawal Jai singh constructed here a mud fort around the rock and named it Jaisalmer after himself.
Over the year the remote location of Jaisalmer kept it almost untouched by outside influence and even during the days of the Raj, Jaisalmer was the last to sign the Instrument of Agreement with the British.
Gadesar Lake of Jaisalmer, in deep Thar desert. 
This Lake in the city of Jaisalmer is one of the primary tourist attractions of the region. A view of this beautiful lake freshens up the mind and soul of the travelers.  In the bone melting heat of Jaisalmer desert it is hard to imagine a peaceful pond with temples, shrines, ghats, trees such as Gadisar Lake.

Gadesar Lake-Jaiselmer

A number of birds belonging to rare species that make a stop over this place to have a few drinks out of these sparkling clean waters of the lake. Here I spent most memorable few hours of my life and clicked few most beautiful clicks from camera.

This lake was built in 1400 A D by Maharwal Gadsi Singh in the middle of desert, the lone water resource for the city of Jaisalmer before modern water pipelines arrived.

Gadesar Lake-Jaiselmer

Bada Bagh
After visiting Gadesar Lake, We hired a taxi for Bada Bagh, situated atop a hill, 6K.m away from the desert city of Jaisalmer; travelers will find a romancing calm setting of this place.  I find it difficult to narrate the quiet isolation beauty mixed with a romancing experience of Bada Bagh

Bada Bagh-Jaiselmer

The chhatris appear to sprout from the very rocks they are built on and since they are the same color as the landscape around them, also appear like a mirage.
The towering windmills in the distance only add to the fantastic photo-ops the area has to offer and I find it rather tough to put my camera away. Giant wind turbines hum in unison interspersed around the domed roofs shading the sandstone and marble markers.
After a beautiful mesmerizing trip to Bada Bagh, we decided to back in city market for lunch. There were dozen hotels around Gandhi Chowk area of Jaisalmer.We entered in a hotel, ordered thali meals, Gatte ki sabzi, kadhi, curd and desi ghee soaked chapattis with pickles and sweet. It was a delicious but heavy meal for us due to Desi ghee.

Around market, I clicked some local and road side views. I found people of Jaisalmer a friendly to camera, they liked to be clicked.
Jaisalmer Fort (Sonar Fort)
The first view of the Jaisalmer Fort(it is popular by name of Sonar fort or Sonar Quila) was a sight I will remember till my last days; a massive fort built in yellow sand-stone rising out of the flatland “like a mirage in the desert”, its ramparts glowing in shades of gold in the rays of the morning sun, Sonar Fort is a spectacle in every sense.
The houses are built in the same architectural style that merges with the old structure of the fort. Even the houses outside the fort are built mostly with sand stones with the same distinctive Rajasthani architecture that transported us to an altogether different period of time. 
 There are temples where conch still blows every morning as it did 500 hundred year ago, homes and havelis where people go on with their lives as they have been doing for centuries.It is this liveliness apart from its ethereal beauty, which makes the Golden Fort.
 We were walking on roads, lanes and by lanes inside fort .It is Interesting that local families were living inside houses on both side .They were doing their domestic works as we passed through. 
Ladies were cooking food, children were playing. Some of them have converted their one living room or verandas as handicraft shops.
At one place inside fort, we saw marketing area, selling sweets, fruits, antique items.Some local were maintaining live painting studio in their houses.
 I was amused to see bhang shops (a mild preparation of marijuana) inside fort area. On that bhang shops many foreigners were sitting in opane of bhang .This area was a gift for photography. 
Kothari’s Patwa Haveli
Out of Jaisalmer Fort, we found my self in market court having restaurants full of sweets and rajasthani food stuffs.Tired hungry and thirsty; entered in a one of them. Treated us with hot kachauries, sweets and malai qulfi .After recharging full with fresh energy,we moved towards Kothari’s Patwa Haveli.

Kothari's Patwa Haweli-Jaiselmer

Guide told us a story of this place as:--when the Patwas were struggling to set up their trade and business. On the advice of a priest at the Jain Temple, the patwa brothers left Jaisalmer with the intention of never returning (they were advised by the priest that their business could not flourish in Jaisalmer).
The legend has it that the patwas were immensely successful thereafter and their business spanned across banking & finance, silver, brocade and opium trade.

Eventually, patwas rose to such heights that they were called upon to finance the state deficit. This brought the clan back to their old habitat. The then head of the family, Ghuman Chand Patwa, decided to gift each of his five sons a separate and elaborate mansion, ignoring the advice of the priest. Thus came up the five grandiose havelis facing the Jailsamer Fort.
Unfortunately, the lives of the patwas took a ‘u’ turn after their return to Jaisalmer and their fortunes started dwindling. Consequently, they had to abandon the city-state again, leaving the havelis at the mercy of care takers. The care takers became the owners in the course of time and decided to put the havelis up for sale.
You will notice individual depictions and theme on each and every arch. Although the whole building is made yellow sandstone, the main gateway of the Patwon Ji ki Haveli is in brown color.

I came out of the haveli complex completely mesmerized, with memories in my canon camera, my best companion. Returned back in retiring room for rest.
The End

Sunday 17 November 2019

A Desert Safari of Sam Sand Duens in Jaiselmer.

Journey of Jaisalmer is incomplete without a Sam Sand Duens. A rare desert area which lies just in the edge of Jaisalmer Desert National Park and is also rated as top 10 must see tourist destinations in Rajasthan
We planned to spend an evening and night for a desert safari.Hired Taxi was in wait out side station.We had already decided to reach in desert before Sun sets.
The roads stretched wide open across the barren landscape with very little traffic and the tarmac was smooth as butter. It seemed like we were merely cruising at 80 kms/hr

The whirling wind mills on both side of road were presenting a unique scene. I was sitting on front seat by the side of driver, clicking the moments going in the past memories.
It was the best ride of my life.After going for around 50 km.Perhaps it was one of the same evening for which lyric is:

Ye Shaam mastani madhosh kiye jaye
 After 45 mts. ride taxi stopped on a camping site along road side.On other side of road there was a stretch of un-ending desert. We entered in camping area. Bablu Bhai, the Manager of “Camel Safari Dunes Camp Sam Resort”, opposite Sam Sand Dunes, welcomed us. 
There were available dozens Swiss tents and cottages of varying cost.For smart travellors ,it is very special to bargain over cost at every stage.We too bargained , got A/C cottages @1600/= per person.
It included, welcome cold drinks-snacks, desert safari on jeep, camel ride, cultural programs, dinner, night satay and break fast. It is important to hire a taxi to stay in night and return you back; otherwise it will be difficult to get any vehicle for return from Sam Sand Dunes.
A  Jeep Safari in Sam Sand Dunes of Jaisalmer

After completing necessary formalities, we kept luggage in allotted cottages, A Commander Jeep was ready to take us in side deep of Thar Desert.It was an exciting and adventurous ride for me.

The jeep was running fast, some it times it appeared as riding up on hill suddenly riding down hill, we gripped tight seats.
At one point in desert driver make the jeep in a circular dancing motion, experience to be remembered for ever.

After few mts of ride jeep stopped and we left down.OMG-before me was an ocean of desert. I was standing on sand.Till then I had seen deserts in films only. For miles in front of us, all we could see were sand dunes of various shapes and heights, some as high as a skyscraper.
There were many other groups of travelers enjoying at that point of desert.A local female dancer was singing and dancing in a typical Rajasthani style.She gave my camera some amazing clicks in dancing. In return I paid her Rs 100/=

A Camel Cart Ride in Sam Sand Dunes of Jaisalmer

After a brief stay of about 20 mts, jeep driver called us to return back.On our return, Bablu Bhai, arranged a camel cart for a Sam Sand Dunes ride on other side of road.Now it was around 6.15PM. To be on the sand dunes of a desert is an experience to be remembered.  

The sun was nearing the horizon now and we were to witness the famed sunset of the desert. As the skies started taking the different hues of orange and red, the spectacle were every bit worthy of their fame.
The strangest phenomenon was the silence of the desert. There was no man-made noise, no birds chirping, no animals in sigh, not even a breeze rustling through leaves, for there were no trees. If one stood still, one could feel silence in its absolute magnitude.

When you are in the middle of so much peace, it feels criminal to disturb the tranquility; and so even we came down to whispers among ourselves.
Camel cart boys told us that name of camel driving cart is Slaman Khan.In that quite isolated moments in desert; my camera was fully loaded with those moments to refresh my memory lane. 

A Cultural evening in Resort

At entrance resort management welcomed us by putting a colored teeka on our forehead, a bouquet of flowers.We took our seats, at place of cultural programme .The programme started with traditional welcome lyric of:

Kesariya balam aaoni
Padharoni mare des rey, padharoni mare des
Kesariya balam aaoni, padharoni mare des
After this song, other Rajasthani folk songs and dances were performed by artists. During this programme, all guests were offered tea with spicy fresh hot snacks.This programme continued about 1.30 hours.
Dinner was ready at the end of show. After dinner I went out the resort campus to have a look of desert in silence of night. The night was relatively calmer a pin drop silence.
I lay down on sand quietly gazing at the stars. In my entire life, I have never seen a sky so brightly lit with countless stars.I craned my head backwards and could not see a single area which wasn’t covered with twinkling white dots.Amidst the star dotted sky I saw two shooting stars.
Second Day

After break fast, we found that our hired taxi driver was standing on the gate of resort.WE took our luggage and back to jaisalmer. He dropped us at railway station of Jaisalmer, where we were staying in retiring room.
The End

Sunday 10 November 2019

Gadisar Lake of Jaiselmer, in Deep Desert of Thar

In the bone melting heat of Jaisalmer desert it is hard to imagine a peaceful pond with temples, shrines, ghats, trees such as Gadisar Lake. This lake was built in 1400 A D by Maharwal Gadsi Singh in the middle of desert, the lone water resource for the city of Jaisalmer before modern water pipelines arrived.
All the photos are taken on one single evening in the duration of 1-2 hours. Let me know your feedback 
 A number of birds belonging to rare species that make a stop over this place to have a few drinks out of these sparkling clean waters of the lake.
 On the bank of Gadisar Lake one can see a gateway made of yellow sand stones known by the name of Tilon Ki Pol. A Krishna Temple is located by the side of the archway.
 The gaseous sun of the afternoon transforms in to soft golden light the gadisar lake fills with full of life. Exhausted due to heat, I see a heaven here! 
 The day gets ready for a gorgeous end as the powerful sun rays turn in to warm cover for the cold breeze.
Written, Photographed and Posted By Engr Maqbool Akram

Friday 8 November 2019

Itinerary of Lucknow: The City of Nawabs, Tunday Kababi (First Day)

Lucknow mujh par fida main fida-e-Lucknow
Allah Jane kitni kashish Lucknow men hai

This is narration of first day, walk on roads of Lucknow.

After a decade, I an itinerant was in Lucknow the city of Nawabs famous for its tahzeeb, culture, mannerism, traditions and the most famous cuisine Tunday Kababi. After a decade, I was in Lucknow.

Till now million and million tons of water had flown away in Gomti, and Lucknow had witnessed the hurling crowns of various Political parties. Recently: The city was crowned with Metro Rail Project.

Char Baagh-Railway Station of Lucknow

My first impression was not good. Garbage and rubbish waste items were boiling on Road and in drains too. It may be due to recently constructed Metro Ril project and its over bridge. Aalam Baagh Bus stand was converted into Metro Rail station.
From Charbagh bus stand, hired a rickshaw for Charbagh Railway station, where a retiring room was already reseved for me. After a shower I was ready to move to look the bygone era of Nawabi daur of Lucknow.

I was shocked, while on road just at a distance of few yards from beautiful Charbagh Railway station.There was Metro Rail station and metro over bridge passing over main road. This was a heavily crowded, noisy and full of uncontrolled traffic even difficult to breathe fresh air.

Vidhan Sabha

First destination was Grand building of Vidhan Sabha. Here I clicked some beautiful pictures. The beauty of this building was under shadow of Metro works.

Its foundation stone was laid by the then Governor Sir Spencer Harcourt Butler in 1922 and completed in 1928.It is said that at that time it costed Rs 21 Lac.
From here I decided to walk on foot up to Hazratganj. As moved further, encountered the same disciplined traffic, the grand beautiful buildings along road side were looking me haunted,the same garbage and dust.

Heavy earth moving machines and technical staff were busy in Metro work.I found the same position on roads of Hazrat Ganj too.
Destruction and destruction.My mind whispered to my heart: “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction. The way to create an art is to burn and destroy”.
New Lucknow was in womb of time. Definitely “When completed, it would bloom its glory on getting back its older look”.

GPO Complex of Lucknow

I was near GPO Complex of Lucknow, where I looked statue of Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi. An arch surrounds this statue with a stairway on each of its four sides. 
To my surprise, I found this park was crowded with heavy Police force, which broke down my pleasure to enjoy the peaceful greenery in a chaotic road crossing at Hzarat Ganj.

I was in a mood to sit on bench lying under cool shadow of trees.Left soon this place after some photography.

Shaahi Masjid in Hazrat Ganj

Hay-ya alas Salah--- Hay-ya alal Falah (حي على الصلاة حي على الفلاح)  (Rush to prayer - Rush to success).

Suddenly my ears were poured with Azzan .It was call for zohar ki Namaz.I raised my head to locate the masjid.Vision stopped at a board written in Urdu: GPO Complex of Luknow.
Shaahi Masjid was shining in thick white wash coats, behind Mahila Hospital.The beauty of intricate carving was under cover of commercial shops inside a narrow lane.It is said to have been constructed during the era of first King of Awadh Ghaziuddin Haider during 1819-20.
Hazrat Ganj

After few steps, I was walking in corridor of Hazrat Ganj, which may be called Conn aught Palace of Lucknow. Hazratganj, got its name in 1842, and is popularly known as ‘Ganj’. After the First War of Independence in 1857, the British took over the city of Lucknow and Hazratganj was modeled after Queen Way in London
Shops in Hazrat Ganj are not like shops and show rooms as of grand malls of Delhi and other metro cities. They were a blend of old and new. Most building housing shops, restaurants, and cinemas were almost 100 years old.
Hazrat Ganj cateres to all ages, interests, tastes suited to all pockets, with a variety of shops, cinema halls, and restaurants, some of them could be recounted Most historic “The Indian Coffee house” and”Chaudhary sweet house”.
That was a time when the name Chaudhary sweet house, its sweets and other platers were a symbol of status.
I was feeling some food stuff for Pet Pooja (Lunch).Strolled upto “Moti Mahal Restaurant”, a big name for mouth watering chaats. Here I relished with chaat basket and Famous kulfi falooda.


From Hazrat ganj I hired a riksha for Aminabad at a distance of about 3.50 Km.Aminabad is a cluster markets in narrow lanes and bylanes, which look quite similar to Chandni Chowk  of Old Delhi.

Historians tell about Aminabad that: Fourth Nawab of Avadh Asaf-ud-Daula gifted this area to Shah Aalam the the 16th Mughal Emperor during reign during 1759 -1806.
After his death, his Begum sold out the entire properties to one of the officers in Nawab Amjad Ali Shah court, Imdad Hussain Khan Aminaddaula (1842-47). He also further constructed here gardens, Mosque, Big houses, market and named it as Aminabad.
Apart from being a major shopping hub, Aminabad is also food lover’s paradise as it is home to several iconic eating joints in the city. The famous Prakash Kulfi and Tunday Kababi Wahid Biryani and famous Burma Biscuits shop are also located here.
The evening of Aminabad was at its full youth, the road and shops were full of customers.I was feeling laziness and tired.It was signal to add some energy by feasting myself.

Aminabad Market

Prakash Kulfi
In that craziness, I was at a Chaat shop in Aminabad. A plate of Aloo Tikki, Dahi Paapdi, Dahi Bade and Gol Gappe; these were the beginning of my evening tasting! Followed by Prakash kulfi topped with faluda noodles.

Staff of Prakash Kulfi was v gentle.They allowed me to click   full view of Aminabad market from roof of the shop.
Tunday Kababi

Lucknow and Tunday Kababi are synomys to each other. Yes; there is a Tunday Kababi’s outlet in Aminabad, but I choiced to eat Tunday kabas at Chowk’s outlet.This outlet is on road connecting Chowk Gol darwaza and Akbari gate.
Undoubtedly true the kababs at the Chowk shop taste was very different than that at Aminabad restaurant with the same name.

The Chowk outlet serves only two items– Only Tunday kabab and parathe (ulte tawa ke parathe). The other restaurants with the same name serve Tunday Kabas and many Mughlai dishes too.

The Chowk outlet serves only two items– Only Tunday kabab and parathe (ulte tawa ke parathe). The other restaurants with the same name serve Tunday Kabas and many Mughlai dishes too. 

Lassi of Chowk
This ends First day”s Itinerary of Lucknow with a dinner at Tunday Kababi. Travelling of Lucknow is Incomplete without chewing of Paan. I purchased two glauries of Paan from a shop in chowk.

The culture of Lucknow is still very much alive and retains its old world charm even today. Popularly known as the City of Nawabs, Lucknow is famous for its traditional cuisine, fine arts and the most courteous people you will ever find in India.

Written, photographed and posted by Engr Maqbool Akram