Ranthambore National Park

We all love national parks. I feel animals are better off in the open than in a confined environment. So, a zoo is not a place I particularly enjoy. National parks, oh yes!

In January, 2014, me and my wife had been to the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, India. Since we had opted for the morning shift, we had to be up very early. We were expected to be all set by 6am and wait in Hotel main lobby. An open SUV would then take us into the National Park. It was freezing cold. In spite of putting on jackets over our usual clothes, we also had to be wrapped around in blankets, which were provided by our guide. We also had an Australian family accompanying us in the car. They were quiet, equipped with nice professional DSLR cameras, and very much interested in spotting some animals rather than doing some unnecessary chit-chat.

Image

Foggy forest.

The interior of this sanctuary is just unbelievable. We felt we were at the perfect place to enjoy the early hours of the morning. The fog that lay low on the yellow grass, the rays of light seeping through the gaps of the leaves, and the grey mountains in the background made the setting breathtaking. It was something that has etched in our memories and will probably stay there forever.

To be really honest, we couldn’t see many animals. In winter, animals prefer to stay in their respective abodes. Summer is when they become more thirsty, and that forces them to leave their homes and come near streams to quench their thirst. So, the chances of spotting a tiger were indeed very slim. But, there is a dense family of deer that you can easily spot any time of the year in Rnathambore National Park.

Image

Spotted Deer

In the above click, the early morning sun rays are falling directly on a spotted deer’s face. It was an absolute joy to watch, and the chill in the air made the experience even more exciting. We did see other animals, some vultures atop some trees, and fresh footprints of a tiger, which the guide said, “Sorry guys, you probably missed the tiger by 10 minutes or so.” Yes, it sounded disappointing, but that’s how it is in a national park. You just need to be lucky.

We were lucky to have seen such a wonderful morning we never get to living in a city. Ranthambore National Park made our day, and since it was the first part of Rajasthan me and my wife were visiting, it made the next 10 days of our tour even more curious and exciting.

I recommend this national park, even though we couldn’t see much wildlife. One needs to spot the perfect time of the year to spot more and more animals. A tiger sighting would perhaps be the icing on the cake. Rajasthan is beautiful, and so is this sanctuary.

The Majestic KARLA CAVES (Chaityagriha)

The three pictures below illustrate the interior of ‘Chaityagrigha’, where Chaitya is a Buddhist shrine including a stupa (semi-hemispherical structure containing Buddhist relics) and Griha means a prayer hall that houses a stupa. It was a humbling experience to visit these caves. History tells us they were excavated way back in the early 1st Millennium AD, and they have stood the test of time.

Image

Wooden Ribs and Longitudinal Rafters

The interior of the main cave measures 45 metres in length and 14 metres in height. The curved wooden ribs and longitudinal rafters above look quite magnificent. Their dominant presence and the grandiose architecture takes you back in history as soon as you enter.

Image

Sculptures of men, women and animals

The sculptures of men and women, and even that of animals such as lions and elephants feature on the tall pillars. The work is so intricate, it immediately makes you calculate the amount of time it must have taken for the sculptors to carve all of this from a single rock. It’s just unbelievable.

Image

Stupa

The stupa is the icing on the cake, really. This semi-hemispherical structure is so striking, one would want to sit in front of it and gaze at its wonderful curves and cuts for a while. One can actually go behind it and come out from the other side. Being an object of worship, locals and even tourists go behind it to pray. And when a baby shouts, its voice echoes in the cave, bouncing off the sculptures of those men and women, giving us the impression they have gotten into some vague conversation with each other.

Karla Caves are now protected as a National Monument. It’s a great example of Buddhist style of architecture, and one of the most famous centres of early rock-cut architecture. Do not miss to visit these jaw-dropping ancient caves if you are in Lonavala/Khandala in Maharashtra, India.

Colaba Street Market

Double-Decker bus on the streets of Colaba in South Bombay.

I love South Bombay! Its spacious, and comfortably escapes the clutter the rest of the city is glued to. What strikes us the most is the enduring buildings built by the British way back then, which even today look better and stronger than the ones built less than a decade ago. The southern part of the city is indeed an area flocked with lot of tourists, and for good reason, too.

There is another reason, though, why tourists and even the locals love to visit South Bombay – the Colaba Street Market. This place exudes Indian art and the city’s culture. Being a street market, you can bargain as much as you like, but at times you don’t feel like slashing the price for the piece you’re buying looks absolutely stunning.

Antique lamps

ANTIQUES:

If you keep your eyes wide open, there is a shop that sells antiques. Do take a halt here even if you aren’t planning to buy anything at all. Roll your eyes over beautiful lamps, old revolving-dial telephones, Beatles-print compass, old binoculars, and even gramophones. So, if you’ve got a liking for historic artifacts and want to brag about its exclusivity, this is where you should hop in.

Accessories for Women

ACCESSORIES:

This is another shop where bargaining can go to the limits, and what you end up buying is something which is not just exclusive, but extremely beautiful.

You maybe a college girl, a newly married wife or an experienced working woman in her forties. This is your stress-buster. You will find these shops in plenty in this part of the world, simply because of the endless demand for these wonderful accessories. From delicate earrings to heavy bracelets, from long traditional necklaces to modern toe-rings. You name it and they have it. If you are into ethnic collection, the dazzle these shops profoundly emanate will not miss your attention.

You can try as many accessories you want and hang around for as much time you want. You can compare prices in different shops, all at a stone throwaway and even keep a tab on upcoming products the shopkeepers keep introducing every now and then.

This is every woman’s paradise. Surely. Every time I visit the Colaba Street Market, I find people thronging outside these shops that sell accessories at dirt cheap prices. So, if you haven’t planned a movie on a weekend, and before you fly back to your own country, visit these shops that will definitely bring a wide smile on your face.

P.S.: They have accessories for men, too, though not as much as the ones for women, but you won’t be disappointed. Men and boys in their teens can get some funky leather wristbands, rings and some cool Bob Marley stuff.

Hand-painted traditional artworks.

TRADITIONAL PAINTINGS:

If you are a tourist, and love Indian art, this shop is tailor-made for you. Paintings of Buddha, Lord Ganesha and various other traditional art forms are on display here. The price is neither too high or too low. Moderation triumphs in this place. Yes, the painting won’t be as exclusive as a M.F. Hussain or a S.H. Raza, but it certainly looks creative enough if you are planning to gift someone or frame it for on that vacant wall in your bedroom.

Most of the paintings are done on cloth, and are done with acrylic or poster colours. You won’t get to meet the artists, but you can surely browse each and every painting at leisure. It’s an open art gallery, so to speak, where paintings are stacked on one another. The beauty of each painting lies in the effort and the colour schemes put in use by the respective artist. They don’t sell frames, so if you happen to buy one, the shopkeeper would probably roll the painting, wrap it in a newspaper and give it, guaranteeing its safety verbally. But, if you are getting a hand-painted traditional Indian artwork at a cheap price, I doubt anyone would complain. So, select one and you can take home a bit of India, and a large amount of satisfaction.

The Colaba Street Market is a hot-spot for buyers who are looking to buy something exclusive and interesting without being spendthrifts. Cheap wristwatches, footwear, handbags, bag-packs, clothing, sunglasses, it’s a plethora of shopping items you can choose from while your bank account gets hardly disturbed.