Kashmir – Leh – Ladakh
It was a sudden decision, let’s go to Ladakh – the finest part of this great country. Before that, all of us watched 3 idiots and to me, it was just dreams come true as a photographer. We, five families, booked our tickets to Delhi and from there by car to Manali and the last destination would Leh Ladakh. Started reading about all the touchpoints through our journey path and was so happy to think that we will get lovely images at those paradise points.
June 21st was our date of journey. But on the 6th of June, we came to know that the Manali road will open after a few days not on 21st since there is a huge rainfall going on. We didn’t take chances and canceled our tickets to Delhi and instead we landed in Srinagar airport on 21st June. It was an amazing experience in the paradise of the world – Kashmir. The first day we all stayed in a boathouse. The next day we went to Pahalgam. A beautiful valley where many Indian movies were shot. The common transport modes were small local horses. It was very difficult to climb the mountains by waking. But while coming back I took a call of coming down by walking so I can get some good shots.
The next day we went to Gulmarg. The place has the second-highest cable car in the world. You have to cross two stations to reach the top. From there you can see the entire Karakoram range of mountains. The roads were amazingly beautiful and every moment we felt like it’s our own country by the inhabitants and their warmth.
Then on the next day early morning, we started for Ladakh. It took two days to reach and on our way we halted the night at Kargil. Before reaching there we experienced the great war museum of Kargil and listened to those all stories of brave hearts and our heroes. Indian national army made us proud by their small address to the group of people who were present.
After reaching Ladakh, we had to stay back at the hotel – The Druk Ladakh for the acclimatization process. At 9800ft from sea level, a lot of process needs to be maintained before you start your actual tour. On the first day, we only went up to Shanti stupa which was just a few KM ahead of our hotel. The dark blue sky and beautiful weather were helping to create every image a great one. The city has loads of rich history and heritage. Great Buddhist monasteries were our destination to find peace and photographs. Leh palace keeps evidence of great architectural value which were made out of clay, stones, and woods.
Pangong Tso (Pangong Lake) was a different experience. The journey was terrific through the barren valleys and deep sides of those mountains. Sometimes you get to see some cars are lying down with deformed skeletons and you start feeling that how fast you can reach your destination. A beautiful lake and few tents around that is the famous place of 3 idiots, where Rancho was kissed by Pia. We stayed in a tent where Sharukh Kahn stayed while shooting for the film Jab Tak hai Jaan, his photographs were everywhere in those pack of tents.
We had to cross Khardungla pass to reach Nubra Valley. High altitude mountain cold dessert and you get here double hump Bactrian camels. We again stayed here in tents. These tents operate here six months of the year and during winters they close down these makeshift hotels as tourists stop coming. Again amazing drive and beautiful roads we covered to reach here.
While coming back home, our minds were not ready to board the flight. We were thinking several time to cancel the tickets and stay back for few more days but the trip was already for 14 days and after that again extending holidays became a problem for all of us. So we had to come back from the paradise of earth.
Ajanta – Ellora – Daulatabad Fort , Maharashtra, India
Aurangabad, one of the most important town of modern India is too prominent in Indian history of art and sculptures. Ajanta Caves, Ellora and Daulatabad for are situated in Aurangabad. We travelled from Mumbai to experience the amazing part of indian art history. We stayed in Aurangabad for a day to visit Bibi ka Maqbarra and the lovely city. Ajanta is situated 100km towards north east to Aurangabar city and Ellora is on north west part. So one day we visited Ajanta caves and were stunned by seeing those cave paintings. Next day we travelled to Ellora and the Daulatabad fort. Kailasha temple is an example of sculptural excellence. The temple was cut out of a single stone. The Goddess Laxmi sculpture at the entrance of the temple is a brilliant example of 3d sculpture on a single plane. Daulatabad fort has a strong history and heritage. If water was not the problem at that time, then Daulatabad would have been our capital as it was shifted by Mohd Bin Tughlaq. The fort was never won by anyone. There were seven camouflages which were never possible for any warrior to concur the fort.
The Ajanta Caves are approximately 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India. The caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotions through gesture, pose and form.
Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Aurangabad, India. It is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world, featuring Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monuments, and artwork, dating from the 600–1000 CE period. Cave 16, in particular, features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailasha temple, a chariot shaped monument dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Kailasha temple excavation also features sculptures depicting the gods, goddesses and mythologies found in Vaishnavism, Shaktism as well as relief panels summarizing the two major Hindu Epics.
Daulatabad Fort, also known as Devagiri or Deogiri, is a historical fortified citadel located in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. It was the capital of the Yadava dynasty (9th century–14th century CE), for a brief time the capital of the Delhi Sultanate (1327–1334), and later a secondary capital of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate (1499–1636). Around the sixth century CE, Devagiri emerged as an important uplands town near present-day Aurangabad, along caravan routes going towards western and southern India. The historical triangular fortress in the city was initially built around 1187 by the first Yadava king, Bhillama V.
According to UNESCO, these are masterpieces of Buddhist religious art that influenced the Indian art that followed. The caves were built in two phases, the first phase starting around the 2nd century BCE, while the second phase was built around 400–650 CE, according to older accounts, or in a brief period of 460–480 CE according to later scholarship. The site is a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, and since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Ajanta Caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship-halls of different Buddhist traditions carved into a 75-metre (246 ft) wall of rock. The caves also present paintings depicting the past lives and rebirths of the Buddha, pictorial tales from Aryasura’s Jatakamala, and rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities. Textual records suggest that these caves served as a monsoon retreat for monks, as well as a resting site for merchants and pilgrims in ancient India. While vivid colours and mural wall-painting were abundant in Indian history as evidenced by historical records, Caves 16, 17, 1 and 2 of Ajanta form the largest corpus of surviving ancient Indian wall-painting.
Panoramic view of Ajanta Caves from the nearby hill
The Ajanta Caves are mentioned in the memoirs of several medieval-era Chinese Buddhist travellers to India and by a Mughal-era official of Akbar era in the early 17th century. They were covered by jungle until accidentally “discovered” and brought to Western attention in 1819 by a colonial British officer Captain John Smith on a tiger-hunting party. The caves are in the rocky northern wall of the U-shaped gorge of the river Waghur, in the Deccan plateau. Within the gorge are a number of waterfalls, audible from outside the caves when the river is high.
With the Ellora Caves, Ajanta is one of the major tourist attractions of Maharashtra. It is about 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from Fardapur, 59 kilometres (37 miles) from the city of Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India, 104 kilometres (65 miles) from the city of Aurangabad, and 350 kilometres (220 miles) east-northeast of Mumbai. Ajanta is 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Ellora Caves, which contain Hindu, Jain and Buddhist caves, the last dating from a period similar to Ajanta. The Ajanta style is also found in the Ellora Caves and other sites such as the Elephanta Caves, Aurangabad Caves, Shivleni Caves and the cave temples of Karnataka.
Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India. It is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world, featuring Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monuments, and artwork, dating from the 600–1000 CE period. Cave 16, in particular, features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailasha temple, a chariot shaped monument dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Kailasha temple excavation also features sculptures depicting the gods, goddesses and mythologies found in Vaishnavism, Shaktism as well as relief panels summarizing the two major Hindu Epics.
There are over 100 caves at the site, all excavated from the basalt cliffs in the Charanandri Hills, 34 of which are open to public. These consist of 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, each group representing deities and mythologies prevalent in the 1st millennium CE, as well as monasteries of each respective religion. They were built close to one another and illustrate the religious harmony that existed in ancient India. All of the Ellora monuments were built during Hindu dynasties such as the Rashtrakuta dynasty, which constructed part of the Hindu and Buddhist caves, and the Yadava dynasty, which constructed a number of the Jain caves. Funding for the construction of the monuments was provided by royals, traders and the wealthy of the region.
Although the caves served as monasteries, temples and a rest stop for pilgrims, the site’s location on an ancient South Asian trade route also made it an important commercial centre in the Deccan region. It is 29 kilometres (18 miles) north-west of Aurangabad, and about 300 kilometres (190 miles) east-northeast of Mumbai. Today, the Ellora Caves, along with the nearby Ajanta Caves, are a major tourist attraction in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra and a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.
Daulatabad Fort, also known as Devagiri or Deogiri, is a historical fortified citadel located in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. It was the capital of the Yadava dynasty (9th century–14th century CE), for a brief time the capital of the Delhi Sultanate (1327–1334), and later a secondary capital of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate (1499–1636). Around the sixth century CE, Devagiri emerged as an important uplands town near present-day Aurangabad, along caravan routes going towards western and southern India. The historical triangular fortress in the city was initially built around 1187 by the first Yadava king, Bhillama V. In 1308, the city was annexed by Sultan Alauddin Khalji of the Delhi Sultanate, which ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent. In 1327, Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq of the Delhi Sultanate renamed the city as “Daulatabad” and shifted his imperial capital to the city from Delhi, ordering a mass migration of Delhi’s population to Daulatabad. However, Muhammad bin Tughluq reversed his decision in 1334 and the capital of the Delhi Sultanate was shifted back from Daulatabad to Delhi. In 1499, Daulatabad became a part of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate, who used it as their secondary capital. In 1610, near Daulatabad Fort, the new city of Aurangabad, then named Khadki, was established to serve as the capital of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate by the Ethiopian military leader Malik Ambar, who was brought to India as a slave but rose to become a popular Prime Minister of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate. Most of the present-day fortification at Daulatabad Fort was constructed under the Ahmadnagar Sultanate.
Hampi , Karnataka, India
I first met Bidyunmala when I was in 12th standard by the novel Tungabhadrar Tire (By Tungabhadra) by the great writer Sharadindu Bandopadhyay. And I was introduced to Vijayanagara Empire – Hampi too, was a prosperous, wealthy, and grand city on the bank of Tungabhadra River.
ASI manages the place now with numerous temples, farms, and trading markets. By 1500 CE, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world’s second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing, and probably India’s richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. The stories of those traders are still alive on the walls of the temples. Every road in Hampi acts as a live history book of Vijayanagara. The Empire was defeated by a coalition of Muslim sultanates; its capital was conquered, pillaged, and destroyed by sultanate armies in 1565, after which Hampi remained in ruins.
Located in Karnataka near the modern-era city of Hosapete, Hampi’s ruins are spread over 4,100 hectares (16 sq mi) and it has been described by UNESCO as an “austere, grandiose site” of more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India that includes “forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, water structures and others”. Hampi predates the Vijayanagara Empire; there is evidence of Ashokan epigraphy, and it is mentioned in the Ramayana and the Puranas of Hinduism as Pampaa Devi Tirtha Kshetra. Hampi continues to be an important religious centre, housing the Virupaksha Temple, an active Adi Shankara-linked monastery and various monuments belonging to the old city.
However, Hampi reached its zenith of glory under Krishandeva Raya.
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