Jaisalmer Fort – The Golden Fortress

Panorama of the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer, RajasthanJaisalmer Fort – The Golden Fortress

The glorious Jaisalmer Fort is located in Rajasthan. It is believed to be one of the largest forts of the world. Rao Jaisal, a Bhati Rajput ruler built it in the year 1156 AD and thats how it is named after him. The fort is located on the Trikuta Hill, surrounded by the great Thar Desert, which has witnessed many a battles. The Fort is also referred to as ‘Sonar Qila’ or ‘Golden Fort’ due to the immense use of yellow sandstone. It is one of the most stunning monuments located right at the heart of City in Rajasthan. The beauty of the fort takes you by surprize and leaves lasting footprints on your mind. It deserves a special mention. The best time to visit Jaisalmer is from October to March.

Climatic conditions – Jaisalmer is typically a desert and has an arid climate. It gets really hot during the summers from April – August. In the winters, it feels pretty cool during the day and pleasant at night. At times, it might also get chilly. Being a desert, the rainfall is negligible.

 How To Reach Jaisalmer -:

  • By Road – Many deluxe and semi-deluxe buses are available from Jaipur, Ajmer & Bikaner to Jaisalmer. The inter-state buses connect Jaisalmer to other cities.
  • By Air – The nearest airport is in Jodhpur and one can take a taxi from here. Jaisalmer is 285 Kms from Jodhpur. Jodhpur is also connected to Jaipur and Delhi by air.
  • By Rail – Railway station is one of the significant stations of Western Railways. It is well-connected to all cities of India.

 The Story Behind Jaisalmer Fort

The city played a key role in trade with countries like Arabia, Persia, Africa and Egypt during the medieval period. There are three layers of walls in the fort. The lower layer or the outer-most layer is made of solid blocks of stone and it strengthens the unconsolidated fragments of the Trikuta Hill. The middle or second wall serves as a boundary all around the fort. This is how the fort is protected by three walls. It is believed that the Rajput warriors had once thrown boiling hot water and oil along with solid blocks of rock at the enemies, who became entrapped between the middle and outer most walls.

In the 13th century, Alaudin Khilji captured the fort and held it for nine years. Many Rajput women committed Jauhar during this period. In 1541, the second battle took place in this fort when it was attacked by Humayun, the mughal emperor.

 Important Places To Visit-:

  1. Raj Mahal (The Royal palace) – Constructed in 1500 AD, it is one of the most spectacular structures, in terms of architecture. It is surrounded by beautiful green lawns and graceful gardens. It has seven storeys. It is best known for its lattice work. Members of the royal family used to live here.
  2. Jain temples – These were built between the 12th and 15th century. They are devoted to the Jain hermits (Tirthankars)- Shambhavdev ji and Rikhabdev ji. They have been built in the Delwara style and have human and animal figures carved on the walls.  These temples are also made from yellow sandstone.
  3. The Laxminath Temple- The Laxminath Temple is devoted to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi. Tourists and devotees flock to this temple in large numbers to view this marvelous temple which has a spartan look. It has a beautiful entrance which has been decorated with silver framework. This temple was built in 1494 during the reign of Rao Lunkaran. Maharaja Ganga Singhji later renovated it but the deity of Vishnu and Lakshmi were installed by a Brahmin – Sen Pal Shakdvipi.
  4.  4 Massive Gateways – These gates have been named Hava Pol, Ganesh Pol, Akshaye Pol and Suraj Pol. The Akshaye Pol which is situated on the eastern side of the fort is the main entrance. Suraj Pol which is across the road was built by Maharawal Bhim. It is surrounded by 99 heavy bastions, out of which 92 were built between 1633-47. The Suraj Pol adorned with an image of the Sun and Lord Ganesha. The Hawa Pol or wind Gate is a huge gateway which was built in the 17th century. It is connected to the palace and a courtyard which is called Dussedra Chowk. Another massive gateway which is also embellished with a figure of Lord Ganesha is the Ganesha Pol.
  5. Merchant Havelis  – The wealthy merchants of North India used to build large houses often called Havelis and decorated them with carvings of sandstone. There are many havelis which are more than one hundred years old. Some havelis have been converted into museums, while there are others where the original families still live. One such haveli is the Vyas Haveli of the 15th century and another is Shree Nath Palace. Many of these havelis have innumerable rooms and many floors. These havelis were designed by Muslim and Hindu craftsmen.


The Jaisalmer Fort is the only fort in the world, where people still live. It is also believed that at one point of time, the entire population of  Jaisalmer had stayed in this fort. Due to the increasing population, some people shifted outside and found space at the tip of Trikuta Hill. This magnificent fort is a must visit since it gives a glimpse of Rajasthan’s rich cultural heritage

Darbar Sahib – The Golden Temple ,Amritsar

Darbar Sahib – The Golden Temple Complex

The Golden Temple, also known as Darbar Sahib or Harmandir Sahib is a spectacular Sikh Gurudwara. It is situated in the city of Amritsar in Punjab. The Darbar Sahib was constructed as a central place of worship for the Sikhs and it is open to all people, irrespective of any caste, creed or religion. More than one lakh people come to pay homage in this holy gurudwara every day. The holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib is kept in the temple at all times.

History of the temple

The fifth Sikh guru. Guru Arjan Dev, constructed it in the 16th century. In 1604, he also compiled and placed the Adi Granth, the holy book of Sikhs, in the Gurdwara  People of all religions are welcome to visit and pay homage at Harmandir sahib. This is represented by its four entry points. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, with the help of other Sikhs, rebuilt the gurudwara in the year  1764 and gave it the look it has today. The upper floors of the gurudwara were covered with gold by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, when he captured Punjab in the nineteenth century.

Sri Harmandir Sahib derives its name from Hari (God) and it means the temple of hari or house of god. Guru Ram Das Ji, the fourth sikh guru, dug up a tank in the year 1577, and called it Amrut Sarovar, which later got the name – ‘Amritsar’ which means Pool of Nectar. The Darbar Sahib is built in the centre of this tank.

Construction of The Darbar

In 1574, when the gurudwara was first built, there was a small lake around it in a thin forest. The Great Mughal Emperor Akbar once visited the third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Das in a town called Goindval and he was impressed by the guru’s simplicity. He gifted a piece of land as a marriage gift to Guru Amar Das’s Daughter Bhani during her marriage to Bhai Jetha, who subsequently became the fourth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Ram Das. Guru Ram Das ji expanded the lake and built a township there. This town was called Ramdas Pur after the name of the Guru.

The complete Gurudwara was built under the guidance of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev. In 1588, Guru Arjan Dev laid down the foundation stone. Many people believe that a Sufi Saint of Lahore, Mian Mir laid the foundation stone.

The construction was finished in 1604 and Guru Arjan Dev placed the Adi Granth inside it. However it had to be rebuilt in the 1760s after it was attacked by Jahan Khan, who was a general of Ahmed Shah Abdali from Afghan. A sikh army also went to fight Jahan Khan’s army five miles outside Amritsar and defeated Jahan Khan’s troops.

The Beauty of the Temple

The entire structure is decorated with verses from the Adi Granth. The magnificent golden structure is also studied with beautiful precious stones which are arranged in floral patterns of Islamic style.It has white marble walls and copper cupolas. It is a wonder to look at the Darbar Sahib, a splendid construction surrounded by water.

This pool of sacred water – the Amrut Sarovar is believed to have lots of powers. One must take a walk around the pool – Parikrama in clockwise direction. The pathway which leads from the sarovar to the temple is called Guru’s bridge and is made of marble. It depicts the journey of one’s soul after death. The Darshani Deorhi, which is the path to the bridge has spectacular silver doors.

In the year 1984, the then Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi passed orders to mutilate some  militants, who were believed to be hiding in Darbar Sahib. More than 500 people got killed and the temple suffered a lot of damage. Sikhs all over the world were enraged at this attack the holiest shrine. Mrs Gandhi was killed by her Sikh bodyguards, which lead to a massacre and many Sikhs were killed. The central government was debarred from repairing the temple, and the Sikhs took to the task on their own.

Rules of the Temple

There are some rules which one must follow in the gurudwara:

  • Consuming alcohol, cigarette smoking and eating non-vegetarian food is prohibited.
  • Footwear should be removed while entering the temple.
  • Devotess must keep their head covered. (Scarves are also provided).
  • Devotees must wash their feet before entering the temple.

The Famous Guru Ka Langar

The Guru-Ka-Langar is another highlight of the temple, where more than 35000 people are fed by volunteers free of charge. This is called sewa. Rich or poor, all devotees serve the food to the visitors. All devotees sit on the floor and enjoy the holy food.

The Palki Sahib

Palki Sahib is a ceremony that is carried out every night. The Adi Granth is carried in a procession along the bridge to the temple in the Akal Takht, the seat of Sikh Parliament. All male devotees participate in this procession actively.

A visit to the temple complex and a dip in Amrut Sarovar makes one blessed!

Ram Raja Temple – Orchha

raja-ram-palace-temple-at-orchhaHow Ram Raja is Served.

This is the only temple where Lord Ram is worshipped as a king and that also in a palace. A Guard of Honour is held everyday, police personnel have been designated as Guards at the temple, much in the manner of a king. Armed salutation is provided to Lord Ram everyday three times.. Even today the very first invitation card of any Hindu wedding in the region is sent to Raja Ram.

Story Behind Temple.

The King of Orchha King Madhukar Shah Ju Dev (1554 to 1592) (मधुकर शाह जू देव) was a devotee of Banke Bhihari (Lord Krishna) of  Vrindavan while his wife Ganesh Kunwari (गणेश कुंवरि), also called Kamla Devi, was a devotee of Lord Ram.

Due to some misunderstanding King asked his wife to bring Lord Ram in child form then only he believe that she is ture devotee of Lord Ram. At the end she prove it that she is.Ram raja temple

Vrindavan – Abode of God

Vrindavan – Abode of God

Vrindavan is considered to be a holy place.

Vrindavan is considered to be a holy place by all traditions of Hinduism. The major tradition followed in the area is Vaisnavism, and it is a center of learning with many Vrindavan Ashrams operating. Its a center of Krishna worship and the area includes places like Govardhana and Gokul that are associated with Krishna. Many millions of bhaktas or devotees of Radha Krishna visit these places of pilgrimage every year and participate in a number of festivals that relate to the scenes from Krishna’s life on Earth.

Parwanoo Timber Trail – An enthralling experience

Parwanoo Timber Trail – An enthralling experience

Parwanoo is a small industrial town in the Solan District of Himachal Pradesh. Located 35 Kms away from Chandigarh and 20 Kms from Panchkula, it is one of the most sought-after places to visit on the Chandigarh-Simla highway. It is spread over a radius of 4 Kms across the Shivalik Range. The historic Kalka – Simla railway line also passes through this town and the station is called Taksal. Just a few miles to the north of the town on the Simla highway is the famous resort with a cable car – The Timber Trail. The summers are pleasant while it gets very cold in the winters, although it does not experience any snow fall. It is an ideal place for nature walks and for trekking. Nature lovers find it apt for a pleasant and relaxed walk around the pine and fir trees. This picturesque landscape offers many trekking trails around beautiful hills and forests.

Earlier it was just a small village, which was transformed into a busy industrial town over the years. Many factories operate from here, manufacturing plastics to fruit based products, watch parts and motor parts also. HPMC, home to the largest fruit processing unit is located here. The fruit orchards add more charm to the place. Fruit products like jams, jellies, juices and preserves are produced from these fruits and the contribution they make to the economy is substantial.

Accessibility -:

One can reach Parwanoo from Chandigarh as well as Kalka through buses and cabs. The nearest airport is Chandigarh. The best time to visit is from July to September.

Timber Trail

Many tourists are flocking to The Parwanoo timber trail now days. The valley lies between two adjoining hills of the Shivalik Range are connected by a Cable Car. It is a very popular tourist spot. The main attraction is a ride in the cable car. It has a capacity of 10-12 people and it ferries tourists from the Timber Trail Resort to the Timber Trail Heights. A spellbinding of view of the Kaushalya River can be seen below the cable car. In just a few minutes, one is able to cover a distance of 1.8 Kms. It is an enchanting view 5000 ft above the sea level. It is a ride you will never forget.

Places around Parwanoo-:

  1. Renuka – Renuka Lake is situated 132 Kms from Parwanoo. This dazzling lake with underground springs is believed to be the largest in Himachal Pradesh.
  2. Subathu – The Gorkha fort, which was built in the 19th century is the main highlight of Subathu. It is 16 Kms away from Parwanoo.
  3. Dagshai – Located 28 Kms from Parwanoo, It is not very popular, but Dagshai has a fresh beauty of its own. It is a favourite spot for nature-lovers. There are beautiful pine and deodar trees leading to an ancient church.
  4. Pinjore – Just 10 Kms from Parwanoo, it is also known as Yadavindra Gardens portrays a magnificent garden which reminds us of the Mughal Gardens.
  5. Kasauli – Located at a height of 5900 Ft, it is a calm and serene hill station developed by the Britishers. Manki Point in Kasauli is a must-visit.

Kasauli – A Paradise on Earth

Kasauli – A Paradise on Earth!

Located at a height of 5900 ft, Kasauli is 77km away from Shimla, in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. This small town was developed by the British in the year 1842. It is a beautiful and quiet colonial hill station. Its charming beauty keeps one captivated. It is a beauteous place to visit, especially when one wants some peace. It enjoys a moderate climate. Hikers can experience the scenic beauty on the outdoor trails of Kasauli. The best time to visit Kasauli is from April to September.

How to reach Kasauli:

  • Air Travel – Shimla Airport is only 35 kms from Kasauli and if you are coming from Chandigarh airport, it is 65 kms away.
  • Rail Transport – One can catch a train from Kalka, which is 40 kms from Kasauli.
  • Road Transport – There are frequent buses from Chandigarh to Kasauli and vice versa and from Kasauli to Delhi. One may also hire a private taxi. Many people like to enjoy the drive in their private vehicles. While coming from Delhi, one can take NH1 to Ambala via Karnal and then divert to NH 22 to reach Kasauli.

Important Tourist Attractions:

  1. Manki Point – This is the highest point in Kasauli and it is 4kms away from the Kasauli Bus Stand. One can get a splendid view of Chandigarh from this point. There is a small temple, dedicated to Lord Hanumanji, which is situated on the top of this hill. It is believed that Lord Hanuman’s foot touched this hill upon his return from the Himalayas after he had obtained the Sanjeevani Booti and therefore the top of this hill is foot-shaped. There is a steep flight of stairs that leads to the temple and it can be very tiring but it is worth going because the view from the top is mesmerizing. The enticing snow-covered peaks of Dhauladhar Range and the dazzling waters of the Sutlej river add more glamour to the hill.
  2. Dharampur – On NH 22, it is loacted 15 kms away from Kasauli. Dharampur is famous for the best hospitals to cure tuberculosis in the country. One can also reach Dharampur through the Kalka-Shimla rail.
  3. Gurudwara Shri Guru Nanak Ji – This historic gurudwara is situated in the famous Gharkhal Bazaar on the main road leading to Kasauli.
  4. Christ Church – The British Family which is believed to develop Kasauli, also constructed this enthralling church. This spectacular building has been built in the shape of the holy cross. More than 30 families in Kasauli, many tourists also visit this church.
  5. Sunset Point & Gilbert Trail – Located 1 km away from Kasauli bus stand, the sunset point is famous for its magnificent view. A trail going up the hill from sunset point leads you to the Gilbert Hill and offers a charming view.
  6. Kasauli Brewery – Founded in the 1820s, the Kasauli brewery, also called Mohan Meakins, is the oldest distillery of ‘scotch whisky’ in the Asian subcontinent.
  7. Places around Kasauli-:
  8. Jagjit Nagar – It is a calm and serene place, 8 kms away from Kasauli. It is easily accessible from Chandigarh. Many politicians, beaurocrats and boolywood stars own private bungalows here. One can get gaping views of river Sutlej and Nalagarh Baddi on the south, while the Subathu, Dhauladhar range, Shimla and The Great Himalayan Range on the northern side.
  9. Dagshai – Not very popular, located 19 Kms from Kasauli, but Dagshai has a fresh beauty of its own. It is a favourite spot for nature-lovers.
  10. Subathu – The Gorkha fort, which was built in the 19th century is the main highlight of Subathu.
  11. Sanawar –Located at an altitude of 1750m, it is just 6 Kms from Kasauli, Sanawar is famous for the Lawrence School, which was founded by Sir Henry M. Lawrence.

Qutub Minar a World Heritage Site

Qutub Minar, a World Heritage Site

Qutub Minar, the pride of Delhi, is the tallest minaret in the world. It is 234 feet high and has 378 steps. It has been dclared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is better known as the Qutub Complex and consists of many other architectural constructions. It attracts tourists from all over the world.

The Qutub – Creation of a masterpiece

Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first Afghan emperor of Delhi from the Mamluk Dynasty initiated the construction of Qutub Minar towards the end of the twelfth century in the year 1193, after getting inspired by Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam. The minar was built to celebrate Muhammad Ghori’s victory over the Rajputs. Aibak built the first storey and next three storeys were added by his successor, Iltutmish (who was also his son-in-law) between 1210 and 1235.
Qutub Minar is one of the greatest masterpieces of the architecture of Mughal period. It reflects the Indo-Islamic architectural style, made out of red sandstone. The tower is cylindrical in shape and encircled by stone bracketed balconies, which are designed as honeycombs. The minaret is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the religious book of Muslims – The Holy Quran. A number of Nagari and Arabic inscriptions depicting the history of the minar can be found in the different parts of the tower. It is said that it took 20 years to build the minar and attracted a large number of devotees to offer prayers.

Damage suffered by the Minar

The minar has been bit by lightning and earthquakes from time to time. The top two floors were damaged by lightning during Firoz Shah’s rule and he restored it between the period 1351 and 1388. Inscriptions engraved on the surface indicate that Sikander Lodi repaired the minaret from 1489 to 1517. After the earthquake of 1794, Major R.Smith, who worked in the British Indian Army, also repaired and restored the minar.

Delhi’s first mosque

The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which is situated to the north-east of the minar, is the earliest mosque built by the Delhi Sultans, was also built by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak in AD 1198. The mosque was later enlarged by Alauddin Khilji (a famous conqueror and sultan of the Khilji Dynasty) and Iltutmish. It consists of a rectangle -shaped courtyard which is enclosed by open galleris, erected with columns and carved with and architectural designs of many Hindu and Jain temples which were destroyed by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak, as stated by him in the inscriptions. Ala’i-Darwaza, which is the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was constructed by Alau’d-Din Khalji in AD 1311.

Ala’i Minar

Ala’i Minar which stands to the north of Qutub-Minar, was started by Alau’d-Din Khalji, and he wanted to make it twice the size of the earlier minar. However, he could complete only one storey with a height of 25 m.
The tomb of Iltutmish was built in AD 1235. It is loacted to the west of the mosque. It is a plain square chamber made out of red sandstone and is carved with inscriptions.

Iron pillar at Qutub Minar, Delhi, IndiaFamous Iron Pillar

One can also see an iron pillar located near the minar which dates back to the Gupta Dynasty. It is an amazing piece of architecture made out of durable iron. The pillar bears an inscription in Sanskrit in the Brahmi script of the fourth century AD, which depicts that the pillar was set up as Vishnudhvaja alias Vishnu Stambh, which is raised on a hillock named Vishnupad Giri, in memory of a king named Chandra.

Current Status of the Qutub

Before 1981, the minaret was open to the public and one could climb to the top of the seven-storey narrow staircase. On 4th December 1981, during an accident, the tower’s staircase went into darkness and many people got killed in the stampede that followed the electricity failure. Most of the victims were school children. After this incident, public access has been forbidden. Due to wear and tear, the minar is not that erect as it used to be. It seems to be tilted to one side.

Amber Fort – The Jewel of Rajasthan

Amber or amer fort jaipurAmer Fort – The Jewel of Rajasthan

An excursion to Rajasthan would be worthless without visiting the beautiful Amber Fort. It derives its name from the mother goddess – Amba. Located 11 kms from Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan, the Amber Fort is a magnificent fort built by Raja Man Singh in 1592. It is also called Amer Fort. It is a very old fort, built of red sandstone and marble. This fort consists of various structures such as ‘Sheesh Mahal’ – The mirror palace, Diwan- e-aam – Hall for public audience, Diwan-e-khas – Hall for private audience and Sukh Mahal – The hall for pleasure. Influences of muslim as well as hindu architecture can be seen in this fort. The Rajput kings used to live in this fort with their families.

The Story of Amber

During the medieval period, Amer used to be called Dhundar and the Kachwahas ruled it from 1037 – 1727 AD. After this, the capital was moved from Dhundar to Jaipur. Raja Man Singh, who was a commander in Akbar’s Army built it and it was later expanded by Raja Jai Singh I. Many of the old structures have been demolished but this splendid creation remained intact against all odds.

Amer Fort Entrance Layout of the Fort

There are four parts of the Fort and each of them has a separate entrance to it. The ‘Suraj Pol’ is the main entry and it leads to the main courtyard – The Jaleb Chowk. This entrance is in the east, hence the name ‘ Suraj Pol’ wherein Suraj means Sun and Pol means Gate. The armies used to hold victory parades in this courtyard. The Royal women used to watch them through latticed screens. This gate was open only to the Royal blood. Being the main entry, it was always guarded.

The Sila Devi Temple

The Sila Devi Temple is located to the right of the Jaleb Chowk. This impressive temple has a carving of Lord Ganesha, made out of one single piece of coral stone.The small temple has a diety flanked by two lions. The Rajput Maharajas used to worship and perform their rites and rituals here. During the Navratras (Nine day festival), sacrifices were performed in this temple. However, in 1975 the practice of animal sacrifice(Bali – cutting of a buffalo), was abolished.

iskcon devotees in amberDiwan-e-aam & Diwan-e-khas

The Diwan-e-aam, the second courtyard, which is the hall for public audience is a huge hall which is open from three sides. In this hall, the king used to address the needs of the public. The Diwan-e-khas or hall for private audience is a hall decorated with fine mosaic work. This was reserved for the king’s special guests and dignitaries.

The Sukh Niwas

The Sukh Niwas is located opposite the Diwan-e-khas has a sandalwood door. A water pipe is running through a channel in this hall, which helps to keep it cool. The Sukh Niwas or the hall for pleasure derives its name from the fact that kings used to spend time with their queens and mistresses in this hall.

The Sheesh Mahal

The Sheesh Mahal or the Palace of Mirrors is the most popular and beautiful part of Amber Fort. It is a breath-taking view. This hall is entirely made-up of glass and has some beautiful pieces of art on the walls, which are also madeup of glass. In those times the queens were stopped from sleeping under the open sky, so the king asked the architects to design a hall in such a way that one could see stars all around.

The Kesar Kyari

The Kesar Kyaari or Mughal Gardens , which was built by Mirza Raja Jai Singh adds more scenic beauty to the fort. Kesar is the hindi word for saffron. The kings used to plant saffron in star-shaped sunken flower beds.

Amber Fort – A pleasure to the eyes

The Amber Fort is a ravishing structure with exquisite architectural designs and majestic gardens. One can also enjoy an elephant ride at this fort.

All the images on this page are property of Ananta Vrindavan.