Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hyderabad - I

 3:45 PM on the clock, waiting for it to click 5:00 PM so that I can go home and eat something. Forgetting to get your lunch is the worst thing to do in office (especially when all they have is the stupid decaf coffee pouring in the coffee makers in your cafeteria!). I open these beautiful blogspots on amazing Indian recipes to plan my dinner and the only thing I want to eat of all the hundreds of scans is the Hyderabadi (Vegetarian) Biryani. 

For all my non vegetarian friends - this is definitely a phrase to laugh about -

Hyderabadi "Vegetarian" Biryani, but I too love it as much as my counterparts - just in my confinements. Whenever I think of Hyderabadi Biryani, the first thing I picture is the narrow streets near bangle Bazaar around Charminar where the smell of biryani mesmerizes you more than anything else as you pass the place and slowly when the smell starts fading, the other thing that starts catching up it is the strong smell of the attars (the concentrated extracts of natural scents). And I decided to go back in time and roam in Hyderabad - the city of Nizams - through my words!!

The capital of Andhra Pradesh (as on 28th Jan 2010, don't know if it will still remain in the future - though I do want to..) is also called the city of Pearls. Modern yet ethnic in its own ways! It's as chic as traditional it is. People are up-to-the-minute fashionistas here. I have been to Hyderabad only once in my life span (I mean till date) and that has been a great memory all by itself. 

Charminar in Hyderabad IndiaLike I said, my only visit to Hyderabad had been 10 years ago (sigh!) and I still have the memories fresh. When I had been there, Chandrababu Naidu was the CM and it was the time the city and its residents were eagerly looking forward for - President Bill Clinton's visit to the city. He was about to come in a month and the roads were getting embellished in the fine pieces of artistic lamp posts and beautiful fences. The buildings were repainted and the tiny night lights looked like some regal wedding decorations of the local Nizam king.

My trip to Hyderabad was a particular tourist trip and therefore, I saw most of the famous tourist places. My grandfather arranged a beautiful guest house in Yousufguda and although we were surrounded by 3 or 4 storeyed buildings all around us and there was no fresh air  to breathe (I mean without the smell of either Hyderabadi or Andhraite or Gujarati or the North Indian food), still I was all excited and geared up to go around and fill in my memories with everything that my eyes could see. I do distinctly remember the songs of Telugu movie - Badri (particularly - 'yah chikita' and 'banagala khatam lo') and Hindi movie - Kaho Naa Pyar Hai..(nothing could beat 'ek pal ka jeena' those days) going on and on and on all day long. FM wasn't so popular those days and CDs were catching up instead of then popular (now extinct) cassettes and so we had no choice but to listen to them every time people wanted to listen. I finally gave in and my first purchase in Hyderabad was a Badri cassette. 

The first place our driver (who, by the way, was a proud assistant to the personal assistant of Lakshmi Parvathi - I don't know how my grandfather got to hire him)  took us was the famous Salarjung museum.  
Salarjung Museum
This place was a more exciting destination to my mom and my aunt (my mom's sister) and me and my sister were only trying to play the memory game - which room had which famous stone. My uncle was doing a great job with explaining the ladies the technicalities of the precious gems and stones kept in those big marble white palatial rooms. Some times I reckon - what pleasure does it bring to wear heavy duty gold with heavier stones embedded in it? I never understood!! (Of course all the quarter-of-a-billion South Indian ladies know it, but when you ask them about it, they get immersed in their thoughts - when was the last time they wore it, more importantly how many people noticed it and most importantly how many were jealous of it). This museum is a large white palace where the collections of not only generations of Nawabs have been displayed but also some of swords and daggers of Mughal emperors like Aurangazeb, Shah Jahan and Jehangir. There is a very beautiful display of wide variety of clocks from Nawabi era to the modern times and one must see them. The museum had more things to bring ladies in - elegant silk exhibits in one wing. The driver had warned us that we will not be able to finish the museum tour in a day and therefore we rushed our ways through. It was 5 PM after the noon and the echoes of pendulum of one of clocks started filling the emptiness in palace as we walked out. 

It was a warm evening and we had an invitation from a distant relative for dinner and so it was decided to spend time with them rather than on streets (much against the wishes of me and my sister). The roads were  covered in heavy traffic and the pollution levels were annoying where ever we stopped. Driving in India is not a child's play and certainly not in Hyderabad. (How would it matter to me when I was not driving? Still I could not stop noticing). On way to the destination I could catch a glimpse of much advertised Hussain Sagar and the tall Buddha statue. The street lights were turned on but the evening had not yet sunk in and therefore, their effect on the lake was not like I imagined and I just waited for our turn to come and see these places sooner. 

The next day morning was a beautiful sunny morning and since we wanted to take rest we chose to just go around Birla Temple and my uncle agreed to come with us children to the Birla Planetarium and the ladies chose to sit in the temple. Now when I look back, I too feel that sitting in that temple is one of the most peaceful things one can do Hyderabad. Just the ambiance of it and the surrounding buildings of Andhra Pradesh Assembly and Secretariat and the near by Hussain Sagar offer complete tranquility to onlookers mind. Being Sunday, the place wasn't so crowded as we expected. This temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara and other gods also have a place in it. I remembered seeing this temple in many movies and therefore it added more excitement for me. The planetarium in itself was a great experience. I distinctly remember how thrilled we were to learn about the UFOs. It was not that there was no planetarium in Baroda (where I was living those days) but this one was way bigger and anyways space and spatial topics always are exiting to learn about. This was the end of the day and I was even more excited since the next day was the trip to very famous Ramoji Film City

(PS - The rest of the trip is covered in other parts - this was getting too long and I myself wouldn't have read such a long blog. Also, the source of the pics can be reached by clicking on them, if they don't open a new web page then they are my pics!!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tirupati - Heavenly abode of Sri Venkateswara Swamy

More than 90% of Indian homes have a habit of thinking of god before starting any sort of event. I am just following the troupe here. When I think of god, He is the first one I can think of - Lord Venkateswara. People know him through other names also - Balaji, Srinivasa, Govinda, Narayana etc. I am not a subject expert and therefore, I would not write a lot on him. His devotees just love him and if you want to quantify the love - just visit Tirupati. (A word of caution though - please do not go to Tirupati if you have Enochlophobia - fear of crowds). I believe something happens to people as they enter Tirupati - they become crazy! Nothing comes in between them and their beloved god. Words definitely fail to express the enthusiasm you see in these devotees.

Tirupati is a major pilgrimage for Hindu people at the foothills of Eastern Ghats in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is a peaceful place surrounded by hills on all the sides and one look in to the landscape tells you why god chose this place for his home. You will love it because of its serenity, quietness, greenery and lushness. Botanical people claim that the flora and fauna found here are very healthy.

Major chunk of devotees who visit this temple often go by a stairway to the main temple. This stairway is spread across 7 hills, starting at Alipiri, and consists of a walk of 11 KMs. People usually take around 3 hours to 6 hours to finish the trail but the experience is worth  every step.  The pathway to Tirupati has some interesting points in between like the deer park, a few photographic valley points and also there is a mid section of the route where people pile up the stones on the road to make a 3-4 storey structure which conveys to god that they need a house to build and it's a request to grant their prayers.
The rocks in this mountainous region are very old and the Sila Thoranam - Natural Arch formation is a rare sight not only in India but also in the world. 

File:Tirumala natural stone arch.jpg

Walk way for devotees
The gardens of Tirupati, statues of MahaBharat scenes, crafty pillars on roads also deserve a special mention.
Tirupati Chariot

Whenever I think of Tirupati, I can see the vivid pictures of green mountains, the golden temple shrine,  big laddus and awesome prasadam in the leaf bowl, numerous yellow lights covering night-enveloped-streets,  the big Vaishnava tilakam on the foreheads of almost all the men and those tonsured heads. I hear the mixed sounds of chantings, devotional songs and devotees shouting "yedukondalavada venkataramana govinda govinda!!!" I can smell ghee pongal, sweet laddus, flavored rice items and distinctly the sandalwood from tonsured heads.


One has to just visit the place once in their lifetime to experience the innate tranquility which it covers itself in...

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara
I heard a new version of this classic is coming up and other than the fact that Rahman is starring in it, I don't see it anymore exciting than this classic. I put this video here because since I am about to write a lot about Indian places, I would definitely want to remind myself and people of this beautiful song on national integration.

About Raji-the-traveller..

I have often witnessed some unexplanable - vivid and horrifying - expressions on the faces of my friends. The reason being I cannot stand the fact that I have not seen any new place for more than 2 months now. (By that math, I should have definitely seen more places around the world by now than my actual number, but I still believe I travel a lot and enjoy every minute of mine on the wheels!!) Anyways.. I often drive people crazy to take me around or to join me when I am roaming, which I why all those looks!

I also believe that I have been blessed by amazing parents who themselves love travellign and seeing around new places (Oh! Common, who doesn't like it? But the fact that you are more compulsive than others is what distinguishing!!) I have traveled a lot of places in India and some places around the world and now I thought I should definitely pen it so that as I grow old, I do have some memories to check back.

So, this blog is all about the places I have seen, some places which I find so beautiful that whenever I visit this blog, I will be motivated to visit them soon.

P.S. : This blog, since it involves a lot of travel stuff, it will have a bunch of pictures and cartoons. Some of the pictures I would have taken and some from the internet. I will certainly put the source of pictures from where I have taken it. In case, I have not put and it's yours, do remind me. If it's in my travelog, it does deserve special mention :)