Travel Category

Divulge into the secrets of the Walled City of Jaipur

by

The royal capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, globally known as the ‘Pink City’ has recently joined the elite UNESCO World Heritage list. One of the most popular places to visit in India, the regal city of Jaipur has for decades lured visitors from all over the globe with its opulence. Magnificent architecture, rich traditions, royal hospitality, Jaipur has so much to offer. Indulge in sightseeing, royal stay, a superlative shopping experience and more. Definitely a delight for those interested in Indian heritage, Jaipur has been one of the most popular places to visit in India. In fact, it is a part of the most-sought travel itinerary of India, the Golden Triangle Tour.

Besides a display of royal palaces, mighty forts, culture and heritage, there is fabulous food, fairs, and festivals, arts and crafts, music and dance and many treasures to explore. The city remains in welcoming spirit mode for the better part of the year except for a few summer months. Here is a Jaipur Travel Guide that will certainly assist you in planning a wonderful holiday in Jaipur.

Jaipur Walled City

The secrets of the Walled City

The 18th century walled city of Jaipur is one of the most glamorous testament of the era of Rajputs and the unique elegance of Rajasthan. Jaipur was conceptualised after studying the urban planning of several European cities. For the first time in Indian history, a blueprint was made, which brought to life India’s first aesthetic well-planned city. However, it was the vision of the Maharaja Jai Singh II and his business acumen and scientific temperament. Giving fruition to his vision was the architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya. The city was designed on the concepts of Shilpa Shashtra and Vastu Shashtra to ensure a lot of natural sunshine and breeze in residential and commercial establishments.

Jaipur city architecture

Spectacular arched pols (gates), located at seven entry points lead to a well-laid city in a geometric grid of streets cutting each other at right angles. The layout is such that every corner of the city gets adequate air and light. The water conservation and management system, drainage system, and the organisation of town space as different functional units was well thought of.

The three chaupars (squares) with temples of Hindu goddesses were established as settlements of priests, warriors, and a business hub. The entire city was divided into nine squares or chaukri, dedicated to nine planets. The jharokhas, and lattice work decorate the buildings. The city was painted in pink by Maharaja Ram Singh in 1876 to honour the visit of the Prince of Wales. The cultural significance of the city is the major reason for Jaipur’s entry to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Wonders of the ‘Pink City’

Jaipur comes with an extensive list of places to see, things to do and the most of all many cherished experiences.

City Palace Jaipur

The first among the places to visit in Jaipur is the City Palace, home to the rulers of Jaipur from the first half of the 18th century is an amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal architecture. It has a museum housing royal artefacts. The extravagantly decorated Chandra Mahal is closed for public but even the entrance to this palace is as gorgeous as the rest of the sprawling palace complex.

The UNESCO heritage site of Jantar Mantar (Observatory), built during 1728-1734, shows the founder-Jai Singh II's keen interest in astronomy. It is well-preserved and has 19 astronomical instruments that resemble large sculptures used to calculate time, the position of stars and the Sun, and to predict natural phenomena.

Hawa Mahal

The iconic Hawa Mahal or the palace of winds, erected by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 is another iconic landmark in Jaipur. The projected windows, balconies and perforated screen with ornate pink façade makes it the most photographed places among tourists. The palace was built for royal ladies to observe the lively street scenes below unnoticed.

One outstanding feature of the walled city is that numerous temples co-exist with mosques. Even the shops in the markets in the walled city have been numbered and marked according to the city planning.

Beyond the Walled City

The seven-storied Jal Mahal that remains partly submerged, giving an illusion of a floating palace. Built in mid-18th century, it hosted duck-shooting events by the royalty. Nowadays, birdwatchers throng the lakeside as they present sighting of 84 species, including 72 species of migratory birds.

Drive a little further to visit the three elegant forts of Jaipur- Amber, Jaigarh and Nahargarh. The UNESCO heritage site of Amber Fort was built by Man Singh I in 1592 on a high hillock. Ride up on an elephant to the yellow-sandstone fortress or hike while enjoying the views. Sheesh Mahal here is a must-visit. Another highlight is the Light and Sound show in the evening. The nearby Jaigarh Fort is said to be connected to Amber through a secret passage. The fortress is home to the world’s largest cannon on wheels- a 50-tonne Jaivana, only fired once. Armouries, museums and photo-session opportunities make it worth visiting.

The rich legacy of royal Rajasthan is treasured in Jaipur’s museums. The majestic Indo-Saracenic architecture of Albert Hall Museum (1876), The Gems and Jewellery Museum, and the Doll Museum are worth visiting. The Jawahar Kala Kendra and Birla Auditorium host art and craft exhibitions and performing arts.

Other tourist attractions in Jaipur are the 18th century terraced-garden of Sisodiya Rani Ka Bagh, the Vidyadhar Garden set in the foothills of Moti Doongri Palace, Galta ji Ka Temple with its hot spring, Samode Garden and Sanganer- famous for block printed cotton, handmade paper, and blue pottery.

Shop till you drop

Shopping in Jaipur

It was the foresight of Sawai Jai Singh II that Jaipur city was developed as a commercial hub. Traders and investments were invited from far and wide, from Bengal to Iran, and were granted housing facilities. A thriving trade in jewellery, gemstones, handicrafts, artillery, and marble flourished in due course of time. Shopping in the Pink City is one of the most amazing things to do in Jaipur.

Each lane being dedicated to one business or crafts and named after the economic activity. The colourful markets are a treasure trove of traditional textiles and crafts. An array of traditional embroidery, tie and dye fabric, gems and jewellery, blankets, camel skin bags and belts, blue pottery, Rajasthani puppets, eatables are among the things to buy in Jaipur.

Festivals

Celebrated with great fervour are the grand processions of Teej and Gangaur. Diwali when the entire walled city is lit up, and Holi with a touch of royal traditions are the popular festivals in Jaipur.

Apart from religious festivals, Jaipur is popular for its art and culture, dance, music, theatre, food and literary festivals. The Jaipur Literature Festival is the most popular event that attracts renowned litterateurs from around the world. Other popular festivals and events include Jaipur Diwas, International Film Festival, and the Kite Festival.

Gastronomic delights

Rajasthani thali

Jaipur city has earned a reputation for its mouth-watering food. Chokhi Dhani offers a taste of rural cuisine while hip cafés offer farm-to-table experience of global food. Trendy cafes, bars with hookah, live music, and rooftop restaurants spoil you for choice.

Splurge on traditional royal recipes with a visit to the heritage Suvarna Mahal Restaurant at Taj Rambagh Palace or 1135 AD in Amber Fort.

The street food offers savouries and sweets in the maze of lanes. The hot mirch ka pakoda (chilli fritters), delicious pyaz ki kachori, spicy samosas, etc. are must-haves. Those with a sweet tooth have savory options of delectable paneer ghevar, rabdi and laddoos. The quintessential Rajasthani favourite dal-bati-choorma could be had at most traditional eating places.

Where to Stay?

Jaipur offer accommodation options in all categories and to suit all budgets. Heritage hotels in Jaipur steal the show when you think of where to stay. The Taj Rambagh Palace, Jaipur, Oberoi Rajvilas, Jai Mahal Palace, Samode Haveli, Alsisar Haveli and Shahpura House are among the most popular options to stay in Jaipur.

Taj Rambagh Palace

The happening Pink City of Jaipur is among those places that every traveller to India must definitely visit !


ARE E-TOURIST VISAS / VISA-ON-ARRIVAL ATTRACTING MORE TOURISTS TO INDIA?

by

Over 1000% growth! Whoa! Sounds unbelievable! But it's true that the number of foreign tourists coming to India on e-tourist visas has jumped by over 1000% in 2015.

These numbers are evidence to the success story of e-Tourist Visas in India.  Ever since the launch of the e-visa facility by the Indian government, there has been no looking back and the Ministry of Tourism has been continuously recording a sharp increase in tourists' number visiting India. Are e-tourist visas/visa-on-arrival attracting more tourists to India? See, the numbers bespeak its bemusing success story!

Tourist visa on arrival

With the launch of the e-tourist visas, the dynamics of tourism in India have changed drastically. It has emerged as a game-changer by bringing up new growth equations in the tourism arena.

According to a Press Information Bureau (PIB) report, a total of 445,300 tourists visited India on e-tourist visas during January-December 2015 as compared to 39,046 during January-December 2014. This was a phenomenal growth of 1040.4% in tourists' number entering India on e-visas.

The month of December 2015 had 1,03,617 tourists visiting India on e-tourist visas as compared to 14,083 during December 2014, recording a growth of 635.8%.
In January 2016, 88,162 tourists arrived in India on e-tourist visa as compared to 25,023 during the same month last year, registering a growth of 252.3%.

Visa on arrival in India

Similarly, in February 2016, a total of 1,17, 210 tourists arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 24,985 during February 2015, registering a growth of 369.1 per cent.

UK stood on top to avail the e-tourist visa facility to visit India, followed by the USA, Russia, Australia and Germany. The New Delhi Airport grabbed the maximum share of tourists arriving and leaving the country on e-tourist visas in 2015, followed by the Mumbai Airport and the Goa Airport.

Family holiday in UK

It was on November 27, 2014 when the Indian Government had introduced the TVoA, enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), presently known as e-Tourist Visa scheme.

At initial stage, the ETA enabled TVoA scheme was limited to 43 countries, however, later, it was extended to 113 countries, enabling a large number of international tourists to take advantage of the facility. Recently, 37 more countries were added to the list to take the final number to 150.

Presently, the tourist travelling to India with an e-visa is allowed to enter and depart from 16 international airports in the country. However, at the time of launch of the facility, it was limited to 9 international airports in 9 cities of the country.

The e-tourist visa fee structure has also been revised with effect from 3rd November, 2015. The 113 countries that can avail the e-tourist visa facilities have been divided into four groups where each group has to pay a different rate. Even the bank charges are reduced now for the e-tourist visa fees.

These initiatives have helped to increase the number of tourists travelling to India.

The new system has really made things easier for tourists! While they can apply for a visa online without having to visit the Indian embassy, they will can also receive an email authorising them to travel to India when their visa application gets approved. This notification can then be presented to immigration authorities at one of 16 Indian airports, allowing the visitor to obtain a visa-on-arrival. The ETA remains valid for 30 days from the date of approval.

It will be valid for entry at the following 16 airports: Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum, and Varanasi.

Looking at the spectacular rise in tourist numbers, it seems that eTourist Visa would help tourism in India attain newer heights.

As more people become net-savvy, there is a high possibility that the number of tourists visiting India with e-visas will grow many times in the coming years. Also the government has permitted to issue an E-Tourist Visa twice in a calendar year increasing the possibility of attaining higher foreign tourists’ number.

So let’s keep the fingers crossed and wait and watch to see the ETA scheme smashing old records by registering higher growth in the number of foreign travellers visiting India!

The countries eligible for an E-Tourist Visa!

Countries eligible for visa on arrival

Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Island, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Russia, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Turks and Caicos Island, Tuvalu, UAE, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Author Bio: Archana Sharma is freelance writer who is passionate about her profession. Travelling is something which excites her. She has been in the creative field for over 15 years and has been writing for print media and digital media.


90% FOREIGN TRAVELLERS VISIT INDIA JUST TO EXPLORE THE INDIAN CULTURE – WHY SO?

by

Indian culture and its cultural sites have been on travellers' mind since time immemorial! Tourists from across the globe have been flocking to India to see and feel the mysterious cultural element in this holy land. Around 90% of foreign travellers visit India to explore the melting pot of its cultural diversity. This diversity exists in different forms such as history, archaeology, music, festivals, dance, etc!

The vibrancy of cultural diversity is at its epitome in states like Kerala, Rajasthan, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. While Uttarakhand basks in the light of culture and spiritual tourism, Tamil Nadu sheds light on Dravid tradition and culture. Cities like Varanasi, Allahabad, Vrindavan, and Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh encapsulates beautiful vignettes of India, attracting a large number of foreign tourists. Taj Mahal in Agra, one among seven wonders of the world, mesmerizes tourists with its majestic beauty.

Rajasthan is yet another state on top of foreign tourists’ minds. This state has been exhibiting its rich culture via its royal and majestic monuments and traditional festivals. Different fairs and festivals have also been singing the cultural saga of India. Pushkar Fair, Taj Mahotsav, and Suraj Kund Mela are a few to be named here which have marked their presence on international charts for exhibiting Indian culture.

Hence, it won’t be wrong to say that cultural tourism is the predominant factor behind India’s meteoric rise in the tourism segment. Let’s look at the important parameters of Indian culture that have been wooing tourists to this country…

1. Archaeology: The historical and archaeological monuments in India are the assets which have been attracting the biggest chunk of international tourists. These monuments reflect the influence of different rulers, and take the tourists back to an era of kings and queens.

Hampi-UNESCO World Heritage Site

2. Music: The synchronisation of rhythm with musical instruments has been mesmerising all since ages. From a variety of folk music to classical notes, Indian music comes with a wide range of traditions and regional styles. North Indian Hindustani, South Indian Carnatic traditions and their various forms of regional folk music are always soothing to ears and eventually foreign travellers have also fallen in love with these melodies.

Traditional & folk music in India

3. Festivals: Festivals form the heart and soul of India. While most of them have a religious origin, there are many others that are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. Some of the most popular festivals in India are Diwali, Ugadi, Pongal, Holi, Onam, Vijayadashami, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Christmas, Buddha Jayanti, and Vaisakhi.

Holi Festival in India

4. Dance: Dances in India have come a long way from the ancient classical or temple dance to folk and modern styles. Indian folk dances such as Bhangra, Bihu, Ghumura Dance, Sambalpuri, Chhau, Garba and special dances in regional festivals have a high-speed rhythm and vibrancy Foreign travellers could also be seen shaking their legs on foot-tapping beats of folk songs in different states.

Classical dance in India

5. Art and Craft: Indian art and craft is yet another area where foreign tourists have a keen interest! Art and culture in India are classified into specific periods where each period is reflected in the form of a particular religious, political and cultural development. From ancient period (3500 BCE-1200 CE) to Islamic ascendancy (1192-1757), colonial period (1757–1947) to Independent and the postcolonial period (Post-1947), the Indian art and craft reflect the rich culture which evolved and progressed under different eras.

Arts & Crafts in India

6. Pilgrimage: India has been thronged by travellers from across the world to explore spirituality. Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Mathura, Vrindavan etc are places where tourists visit in high number seeking spiritual solace.

Pilgrimage in India

7. Cuisines: The Indian cuisine also symbolises the rich cultural diversity. While Lucknow and Hyderabad are known for the relishing Nawabi dishes, the cities in Rajasthan have also earned fame by serving the royal Daal baatis and choorma. Similarly, North India cities have its own delicious variety of cuisine and Kolkata in the East has made a mark with its yummy delicious sweets. South Indian food too has made its own distinguished identity with wada sambhar, idli sambhar and masala dosa!

Indian Cuisines

8. Clothing: The traditional attire in India changes as one travels from one state to another. Clothing is influenced immensely by local culture, geography and climate. While katha work has made a mark in Gujarat, the colorful bandhej sarees and dupattas have won a million hearts of tourists here. Phulkari work in Punjab and Haryana has also garnered the interest of foreign travellers.

9. Multiple religions: Many religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism were founded in India. This, yet again, brought diversity in culture and the different religious influences have made India a very popular destination!

10. History: The rich history of India has also made it culturally rich! The country was ruled by different rulers such as Rajputs, Mughals, English and Portuguese. And, it is due to the influence of different dynasties that the heritage and culture of India have become exhaustive and vibrant. 

 

Author Bio: Archana Sharma is freelance writer who is passionate about her profession. Travelling is something that excites her. She has been in the creative field for over 15 years and has been writing for print media and digital media.


A MEMORABLE WALK THROUGH THE STREETS OF OLD DELHI

by

I love the streets of Old Delhi as the colorful markets, mouthwatering food and monuments just transport me into another world, where everything is so captivating and beautiful. I know I may sound foolish when I say that because many people get apprehensive over the thought of visiting there, saying it’s too crowded and noisy, but for me, it holds a charm that remains engraved in my heart. Searching through the pictures of Old Delhi for some project work ignited emotions and memories of my childhood days. I immediately decided to relive the magic of Old Delhi with my family members.

It was a foggy Sunday, around 7 AM in the morning and nearly all the roads leading to the famous Chandni Chowk market wore a deserted look. I was quite surprised and began to wonder where have all the people gone? The cows sitting in the middle of a road and blocking your path and no near-deafening traffic noise? It was so quiet. Before I could figure out the reasons, the Red Fort was to my right, magnificent and enveloped by a thick blanket of fog.

Red Fort, Delhi

The gates of the Fort were not open yet so I decided to wait for some time and shared fun-filled moments with my family members sitting on the steps leading to the Fort. After a few hours, the sun touched the sky and I could feel the rays giving the much-needed warmth to the body. I could see the Chandni Chowk coming back to life with the shopkeepers beginning to set up their shops along the road and people moving fast here and there through the narrow lanes.

After spending an unforgettable time in the Red Fort and clicking lots of pictures, we all began to feel tired and hungry. We had skipped breakfast and were famished. So, without wasting any time, we marched towards the popular ‘Paranthe Wali Gali’ to satiate our hunger. 

Parathe Wali Gali, Old Delhi-foodie trail

After meandering like a snake through the narrow lanes, we reached through the Pt. Kanhaiyalal Durga Prasad Paranthe Wale's shop. Different kinds of lip-smacking Parantha, Indian bread made of wheat flour and can be stuffed with several different things ) options listed on the menu only increased our hunger. I was quite amazed by the photographs on the wall that showed famous personalities like Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Shrimati Indira Gandhi or Amitabh Bachchan dining at the shop.

My short trip to Old Delhi was completely magical that just can’t be expressed in words but only felt and experienced. Hey! WAIT! More coming up in Part 2 about the architectural charms of Old Delhi. Stay tuned… you thought that the magnetizing charm of the place could be penned down in just one post?


Manish Pandey is filled with passion for travelling different places and sharing experiences through his blogs. A blogger for the past four years, he dreams to explore length and breadth of the country and publish his own travel stories book someday. When he is not traveling, Manish likes to fulfill his love of photography and read lifestyle blogs.


EXPLORING HYDERABAD- THE CITY OF PEARLS

by

A couple of weekends ago, a family function made me travel to Hyderabad. Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh (and soon to be the joint capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana ) is one of the largest, and most populous cities of Southern India, with a population of over 7 million. Hyderabad, is also known as the “City of Pearls”, as also the “City of Nizams”.  

Charminar, Hyderabad

After a couple of days of exploring the sights and sounds of Hyderabad, the first thing that struck me, and actually a question I asked myself was “ Why is Hyderabad not a more prominent city on the world tourism map? “ In my view, less than 1 % of the total international tourists who travel to India travel to Hyderabad --- which is actually appalling, given that the city has a lot to offer tourists. From monuments like the Charminar and the Golconda Fort (which even has a Sound and Light show in the evenings), museums like the Salarjung Museum (which has a great collection of the Nizam’s jewellery, artifacts etc), to excellent shopping opportunities, to great food, good bars, great Hotels, Hyderabad seems to have it all.  Talking of Hotels, I would actually say that the Faluknuma Palace in itself is enough reason to visit Hyderabad. Towering above the city’s skyline, the Faluknuma Palace, the erstwhile home of the Nawab of Hyderabad, is now a luxury hotel managed by the Taj Group.

Golconda Fort, Hyderabad

Of course, in addition to the Faluknuma Palace, Hyderabad does have a good variety of other deluxe hotels too, from the Taj Krishna to the ITC Kakatiya. For the travelling Golfer in me, Hyderabad was good too, and both, the HGA Golf Course as well as the Boulders Hills Golf club offering challenging layouts and excellent facilities.  At the end of actually spending 3 days experiencing Hyderabad, doing a fair bit of sightseeing, playing a bit of Golf, doing a bit of shopping and dining out, I was actually convinced, that we as in the Tourism Industry and as in the Govt of India Tourism authorities, need to do a whole lot more and the city definitely needs to be showcased more prominently of the International tourism stage.  

The author, Kapil Goswamy is the Managing Director of Trans India Holidays, New Delhi.