Tuesday 24 September 2019

Travelogue of Bikaner: Laughing City in Desert.Famous for Bhujyas.

Mera naam hai chameli
Main hu Malan albeli
Chali aayi main akeli Bikaner se
Mera naam hai chameli
Do you remember this song of film Raja aur Rank (1968).

This song was haunting me since my student life. That caused Bikaner in my dream for a long time, but never had a chance to plan a visit.

Bikaner was our 4th destination in Rajasthan. We board for Bikaner from Jaisalmer at 11.00P.M and reached Bikaner early morning at 5.00.A.M. Railway station of Bilkaner was well managed with a grand Rajasthani architectured building. Platforms were calm peacefull and clean.Retiring room was on first floor. Portor lifted our luggage and kept in our reserved rooms.

Lal garh Fort-Bikaner

Bikaner brings to life everything you want from a desert town; the dust-swirled vibrancy, the grand forts, the narrow lanes of a walled city, the red stone houses and the strange, familiar feeling of an outpost town with mixed threads of history lingering in the air.

History of Bikaner

Bikaner is said to have been founded in 1488, on a barren desert area called Jungaldesh by a Rajput Prince Rao Bika Ji, son of Rao Jodha Ji who founded Jodhpur.

Lal Garh Fort-Bikaner

Provoked by his father, Prince Bika Ji went on a campaign with a small military contingent of 500 soldiers and 100 cavalry men to establish his own Kingdom. 

After subduing the Chieftains of Rajputs clans and Jats in the vicinity, Bikaji established his kingdom in the middle of the Thar Desert which came to be known as Bikaner. It evolved into a beautiful city and an independent kingdom.

After subduing the Chieftains of Rajputs clans and Jats in the vicinity, Bikaji established his kingdom in the middle of the Thar Desert which came to be known as Bikaner. It evolved into a beautiful city and an independent kingdom.

Other version for establishing a new kingdom is narrated: -- As the second son of Jodha he had no chance of inheriting his father’s territory of Jodhpur or to the title of Maharaja. He, therefore, reconciled and decided to build his own kingdom at Bikaner.

Juna garh Fort
Our first place of visit in Bikaner was Junagarh Fort.Hired a three wheler auto rikshaw from rly station which charged Rs.50/=.Entry fees costed Rs.50/=each.

There was a waiting line for the visitors. Visitors can sit there on the benches. A guide was calling people in groups. The palace tickets include services of a guide. That guide will roam you around the palace and will tell all about the history of this palace.
Junagarh Fort was constructed by Raja Rai Singh, a general in army of  emperor Akbar in 1593.This grand fort is not on a hill top ,as many other forts of Rajasthan.

It has picturesque courtyards, and designed as a perfect mix blend of Moghal, Rajput and Gujrati style of architecture.  The main attractions inside this fort are Dungar Mahal, Anup Mahal, Ganga Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Hawa Mahal and Diwan-e- Khas.The Palace is well maintained and an eye feast for tourists.Junagarh Palace proved a heaven for my camera.

Lal Garh Palace.
About one hour visit of Junagrh Fort, we came out of this awesome palace,and reached Lal Garh Palce,which is about 3.00 Km  from here. This palace was built in 1902 by the Maharaja Sanga Singh in the memory of his father the Maharaja Lal Singh Ji.

Lal Garh Palace.was designed by an European architect, Sir Swinton Jacob. Thus, the overall architecture of this palace presents a superb blend of the Rajput and Victorian art influences.

Now, this property has been converted into an awe-inspiring heritage hotel known as the Luxmi Niwas Palace. The royal family still lives in a special suite in the Lalgarh palace, which they have converted into a heritage hotel.

After a beautiful mesmerizing trip to Junagarh fort and Lal garh Palace. We were hungry and exhausted. Decided to back in market around railway station for lunch. There were dozen hotels around.

The Rampuria Group of Havelies
"If dreams are cast in stones or if stones can sing they would be like the exteriors and interiors of Bikaner havelies".

The fine detailed carvings on the wall of the Havelis suddenly put you in to vintage mood .They make you think how Bikaner used to be when once the wealthy merchants who built these buildings lived here.

Rampuria group of Havelies are known for their more than 400 years old architecture splendor.

Originally, the havelies were the residence of wealthy merchants who had a fancy for beauty and art. For a major part of the year, they used to live in far-off lands where they went to earn money. They mostly came back to the city to rest, and enjoy and thus went on to build these havelis for leisure and relaxation.

Karni Mata Temple of Deshnokh

Besides its palaces Bikaner is highly popular for its temples.The most popular among them is Mata Krni Temple at a distance of about 26 Km in Deshnokh.

The Karni Mata Rat Temple of Bikaner was the most unique and freaky attraction.It was in my dream, since I saw a Tv. programme on Discovery Channel, over this temple.

This is only temple of world, where rats are pious and are worshiped. It is believed that around 20,000 rats live in remplex and are free to roam anywhere in temple complex.Devotees feed them milk and sweets to seek blessing of Devi Karni The Goddess.

An interesting fact that everyone told us was that these rats never leave the temple even though they are free to do so. I say, why leave when you are given a steady stream of tasty milk and treats. Worshipers make pilgrimages to the Karni Mata Temple not only to worship the rats, but to also heal their ailments.
Bhujya’s of Bikaner
Many people remember Bikaner only for its amazing, Forts, Palaces, Haveli’s, Camels, Sand Duens etc. But this desert city Bikaner is known international for it salted and spicy Bhujyas. Haldi Ram and Bikano are famous Brand names.
In 1877, during the reign of Maharaja Shri Dungar Singh, the first batch of bhujia was produced in the princely state of Bikaner.
The credit of packaging this savory delight in packets and taking it to the world goes to Haldiram, and over 20,000 kgs of Bhujia are produced in Haldiram’s Bikaner factory every day. The local halwais of the bazaar themselves produce over 30,000 kg of bhujia daily.

This ends two days visit of the Laughing City ‘The Bikaner”.My camera is full of with sweet memories of colorful desert city.Next destination was Jaipur. It was interesting to hear people still refer to royalty as “Hamare Maharaj” (our king).

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Moazzam Jah: The junior Prince of Hyderabad.A Dreamy“thousand and one nights” nocturnal court

The "Nizams" (monarchs) of Hyderabad, were known for their luxurious lifestyle and all the princes of the royal family lived in the midst of great splendor, surrounded by courtiers who crawled in their presence, friends and flatterers.

One of those extravagant princes was Moazzam Jah (1907-1982), the second son of Mir Osman Ali Khan, last Nizam of Hyderabad, who was considered in 1937 as the richest man on the planet.

 But what Moazzam Jah liked most was poetry. With a pseudonym of "Shahji," he wrote "ghazals" and Urdu poetry, and established his own court composed of about 30 Urdu poets from various regions of India. The uniqueness of this court was that it met only at night.

Every time the sun set on the Indian Empire, a group of luxury cars sent by the prince took the members of the court, all with their best traditional attire, to gather in the palace. Moazzam occupied a central seat overlooking all the courtiers. 

The distinguishing feature of the Prince’s court was that it was held, as a rule, only during nights. Around 7.30 pm, the courtiers were brought from their homes in a posy of cars sent by the prince. They came with the aroma of attar renting the air.
 Prince Moazzam Jah with his  children
One after another, they greeted the Prince with ‘Seven Salaams’. Glasses of choicest drinks were served over exchange of pleasantries.

Then the Prince formally escorted all the courtiers to the adjacent dining hall where a multi-course meal awaited.The best biryani, exquisite dry-fruits from Arabia, custard and the finest pastry soaked in ghee were served in dazzling china and silver wares. Dinner ended at midnight when “paan” was served wrapped in gold paper.

Prince Moazzam's courtiers were then transferred to Durbar Hall, where comfortable padded sofas were waiting for them.

This happened even when at the court of the Nizam no courtier could sit in the presence of royalty. (Only the 'diwan' of Bahadur had the privilege of sitting in the presence of the Nizam).

The prince prepared the atmosphere by reciting a poem he had written and then invited the other poets to present their compositions to the entire audience. Moazzam's poets competed with each other to excel in their poetic abilities.

The court would go on thus till the first call for prayer, early in the morning, which would be heard from the nearby masjid.

The proceedings of the court would then wind up and the Prince would announce its adjournment. He would then take his dose of sleeping pills and withdraw to his private chamber.
The entire day time was meant for sleep and he woke up only for breakfast the next day, by 11, and for lunch at 3.00. And then, he woke up in the evening for the “day’s court”.

On every Idd he used to buy a new suit of clothes consisting of a sherwani and a pyjama which was presented to all his courtiers. For himself when he made a purchase, Burton’s Shop in Secunderabad was closed to all other customers except the wives of European military officers.
The Prince never purchased a piece. He would buy a whole roll. The idea was that nobody else should wear a sherwani made of a cloth similar to the one that he had purchased.

For Idd, agents were sent to different parts of the country to select and invite singers and dancers. Amongst them was also Begum Akhtar who at that time was known as Akhtari Bai Faizabadi.

Mir Osman Ali Khan -(VII) Nizam of Hyderabad

The beautiful Hill Fort palace, perched on the eastern slope of Naubat Pahad, in front of the Assembly Hall, was the residence of Moazzam Jah, where the young prince had his night court.

Hill Fort Palace was built in 1915 by Nawab Sir Nizamat Jung, who served as chief justice in the government of Nizam. His stay in the palace was for 15 years. The architecture is in style of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Hill Fort Palace (1930)
In 1929, after he went on Haj he wanted to live a simpler life so it was purchased by last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII for his son Prince Moazzam Jah, and it was then designated as the official residence of the chairman of the City Improvement Board.
Interior of Hill Fort Palace (19300
In 1931, Moazzam married Princess Niloufer, nephew of Abdul Majjid II, the last Turkish sultan. The Sultan, after being deposed by Mustafa Kemal Pasha in March 1924, lived in exile in France. Abdul Majjid's own daughter, Princess Durrushehvar, on the same occasion, married Azam Jah, Moazzam's elder brother.

Princess Nilofer

Proud Nizam Osman Ali Khan used to accompany them to public events. Princess Niloufer, known as ' the Kohinoor of Hyderabad’, was the only person who addressed Nizam as ‘Dad’, while her own daughters always addressed him as 'Sarkar'.

Prince Moazzam's love for poetry and his devotion to the court's nightlife unfortunately affected his married life. Niloufer complained about him to his father-in-law, but it was in vain, and he finally left Hyderabad court in 1952 to never return.

Princess Niloufer

After the merger of Hyderabad with India, in 1948, Moazzam faced serious financial problems. Nizam's allowances were drastically reduced and the family, accustomed to living in luxury, had to get used to living from the family fortune (which was not scarce).

Last Ottoman caliph -Abdul Majid 2nd
In 1949, the Prince left the Hill Fort Palace and went to Mumbai, where he lived for five years. Returning to Hyderabad in 1954, he moved to a modest house in the Red Hills. The nocturnal court virtually came to end with his leaving the Hill Fort Palace.

On September 15, 1989, the Junior Prince passed away. He was 82. There were very few who turned up at his funeral. The Prince, who entertained thousands in his life, and never ate a meal without the company of at least a score of ten, went almost alomost alone to his grave.

Oh, Allah. Kul and world mortal.
World mortal Allah Baki
Praise is to Allah.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Haziq and Mohi of Hyderabad:The search of old story lovers by scholars and historians end.The heaven of rare antique books.

Haziq and Mohi of Hyderabad; haven for historians, scholars and students from around the world. “A store like this…gives us glimpses into our past and holds immense historical value”

Books are my weakness, so when ever I go to any city I use to visit book shops of that city. Because:---Books have given me access to the world’s best wisdom, and have stretched my mind past any conceivable horizon.

Books are the ultimate form of self-education, and the ultimate tool for personal empowerment.Many people have dreamed bigger because of the books they have read.

Recently I was in Hyderabad. To quench my thirst for wisdom by books.I googled and zeroed at Haziq and Mohi’s Book shop of Hyderabad.So one fine day, with my Canon Camera,I reached  at Haziq and Mohi’s book store.
Ibrahim Bin Khalid Bafana

On reaching at Haziq and Mohi of Hyderabad, I realized that it is heaven of rare antique books.A right place, where search of old stories by scholars and historians end. Situated in Murghi chowk a small lane after Chowk Masjid near Laad Bazar area.

“Haziq and Mohi” is one place where anyone looking for something different or a particular book from a certain period would never be disappointed. Author William Dalrymple reportedly researched his historical novel “White Mughals.”
On reaching there “Ibrahim bin Khalid Bafana” of 4th    Bafana’s generation attended me.He maintains the shop.400-sq-feet store was stacked with books from floor to ceiling. There was very little grandeur to suggest that this 50-year-old bookstore is a haven for historians, scholars and students from around the world.
Mohammad bin Salim Ali Bafna, migrated from Yemen, and used to work for the then Nizam government,” Ibrahim bin Khalid Bafana told me. With the passing away of Mr. Salim Bin Ali Bafana, his siblings have vowed to run the shop with the same passion.

Haziq and Mohi book shop was started more than half a century ago by Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bafanna, after inheriting a huge collection of precious books from his grandfather Salim Bin Ali Bafanna.

Most of them are decades, if not centuries, old, and cover an eclectic variety of subjects: from history and philosophy to mysticism, religion, medicine, Islamic art and architecture, art, poetry, architecture, mysticism, religion, music, and medicine. One can find Urdu, Persian, and Arabic literature and dictionaries, old census reports of Hyderabad, and out-of-print historical records. 

The books at Haziq and Mohi are priced according to their age. If the book is only half a century old, you can buy it for somewhere between Rs 3,000- Rs 5,000.

If the book has seen centuries of wear and tear, the price can shoot up to Rs 20,000-Rs 50,000. Certain books are only sold in photocopies as they are the only pieces available.

After independence. The grand old libraries of the city’s aristocrats were of no use to the younger generations, who were downsizing their living quarters by moving into smaller houses.
Hence these books found a home in Haziq and Mohi as its proprietor was always on the lookout for new additions to his collection.
Haziq and Mohi is only one among the many stores that Bafanna owned. His collection was so huge that he set up a couple of others around the city.

Saturday 27 July 2019

Travel Story “Trip To Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary: Paradise For Bird Lovers.

Family kids were enjoying winter vacation as per their interest, playing cricket, football, reading fairy tales.” To make their winter vacation from funny to spicy and knowledgeable, I decided a trip to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.

Where thousands of migratory birds come to the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur each year from Siberia, Central Asia, Mongolia, and Egypt to be in the relative warmth of northern India“.

Bharatpur is at 110 Km distance away from Aligarh, a three hours’ journey.

Kids were ready with their fully charged mobiles for clicks and binoculars. I too picked up my camera bag. Journy started 6.00A.M. It was a freezing cold January. Never imagined such thick fog. Low visibility caused the vehicle to run slow.

We reached Mathura at about 8.30. Here we stopped at a hotel cum dhaba for breakfast. The hotel boy was frying hot jalebi. We refreshed us with Kachaudi, Bedai, hot and sweet jalebis, and garam adrak wali tea.

It was about 9.00A.M. Sky was not clear, still some fog. Thanks to Almighty Allah. We reached safely on gate of santury at about 1o.A.M. Purchased Entrance ticked @75/-per adult, student’s entry was free. From main gate no vehicle is allowed.

The options are to go by walking or hire a pedal rickshaw, bicycle or horse-cart available at the main gate. Rickshaw (Two Seater) charge Rs.100/=per hour, and bicycles charge Rs. 40/=. 

The length of the straight road upto which rickshaws/horse-carts are allowed is around 3.5 kms one side. If not in a hurry, it takes around four odd hours to and fro.

We hired a rickshaw guide and started on the journey into the wildlife, a journey which I am never going to forget. Thankfully the rickshaw guide was very well versed with a vast variety of birds and mammals present in the sanctuary.
“You may not see a tiger at Ranthambore, but you will always see Painted Storks in Bharatpur.”  The proud rikshaw puller cum guide told us.

History of Bharatpur bird santury

It is better to tell about this Bird santury, before entering in a mesmerizing world of flaura and fanna. The 29 km, reserve is locally known as Ghana, and is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps, and wetlands.

These diverse habitats are home to 366 bird species, 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, 5 species of lizards, 7 amphibian species,7 turtle species, and and a variety of other invertebrates. 

Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is a famous sanctuary that plays host to thousands of birds especially during the summer season. 

Over 230 species of birds are known to have made the National Park their home. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.

The sanctuary was created 250 years ago and is named after a Keoladeo (Shiva) temple within its boundaries. Initially, it was a natural depression.

The park was a hunting ground for the maharajas of Bharatpur, a tradition dating back to 1850, and duck shoots were organised yearly in honor of the British viceroys. In one shoot alone in 1938, over 4,273 birds such as mallards and teals were killed by Lord Linlithgow, the then Governor-General of India.

The journy insiside sanctury, in the silence and mystic beauty.

I preferred to walk with my camera, Bilal on bicyle and others on rickshaw. Rickshaw puller was a well trained guide having knowledge of the various species of birds both inland and migratory. 

He guided me to points of clicking the birds, by their names and habits. It was a treat for my photography.
I still remember the hues and the colors which the sanctuary was bestowed with; a drop of sunshine and the whole place was lit with morning soft sun light mixed with thin frost glory.
Into the tranquility and serenity of the sanctuary which still engulf my mind and soul and takes me in a completely different world with melodies of birds chirping, whistling, flipping and all other sounds that I feel lost in a world of dreams.

This place is a perfect set-up for nature lovers, poets, philosophers and authors, a setup for thoughts, emotions and words.
We moved in a magical world of dream, the world which is ruled by birds, about 2 hours. I confess 2 hours are none for this place. It requires at least one and half full days to witness and inhale the magic of birds.

All were tired and in a mood to return back. My camera was fully loaded with memories of this unforgotten journey.

So vivid was this travelling that even after a long time since our visit, it is still part of the poetry of my imagination.

“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!”