Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hyderabad - IV

I was sad that we had only 4 more days left in the trip and the last day was left to meet relatives, leaving us 3 days for 3 destinations. Hyderabad had been a great destination. There were so many things to see but we had narrowed down things to fit our list and now the most exciting destinations were awaiting us!!

Golkonda Fort
After Nehru Park, we wanted to go to HITEC City, but since it started raining in the morning, we decided to skip it and proceed to Golconda Fort, which our friend told, had some spectacular light show in evening. So we went to Golconda Fort. Golconda, long time ago (and I mean very long time ago, say 13th or 14th century) was ruled by Kakatiya Kings (very famous kingdom in AP) and followed by Qutub Kings who went ahead and built the fort to fight with others. It is one of the most famous archeological and historical sites in India. The Kakatiya kings first made it with mud and Qutub Kings later structured it with stone. It is a huge massive landscape offering amazing scenes to capture. What we see today is a conglomeration of walls (some of them broken too) in a closed curve format (I cannot define what shape it is actually..)

Golconda Fort, HyderabadWe entered through a gate called "Fatheh Darwaza". It turned out to be a pleasant evening after rain and I was expecting to smell a lot of rain soaked mud on hill top but to my dismay, I could not even stand near some of the walls, they stinked of bats, and that too so many of them.. (huh!!!). I remember distinctly, I held my breath for at least 2 minutes but still there was some sense left in receptors and that killed me (not literally!! it's just an expression to say it was terrible, but I was so damn angry - yesterday it was raw meat in the zoo and today bats..uhuh!!). Rain and the elevated terrain made the place really cool. 
Our guide was a young man who was seemingly uninterested in what he was doing. I gathered more information about the history in various inscriptions on the walls than what he told us.  I am not an architect and cannot describe the technicalities of the walls, but they were beautiful. 

Golcunda FortThe whole construction has science of sound in it because it was like, from the far corner, if someone claps, you can hear the claps in all the directions and notify the people of the dangers or warnings or anything else (you see there were no cell phones in those times and people had to rely on manual ideas of communications). The ammunition used in those times were put on display at short distances. I never liked the concept of using a cannon, they have these huge balls which, if hits someone, can break that person to 1000 pieces (talk about human rights violations!!).
Other than them, there were arrows, spears, swords, darts etc. all displayed with each one having a history of its own. Although it was a rainy day, there were many people who turned up to see the fort. There were a lot of gateways and bridges to connect various entrances of the fort. The fort also held religious places like mosques and temples. 
Taramati Mosque / Мечеть Taramati (01/11/2009)
And now we were entering a small museum sort of room which told the untold stories of diamond mining in Indian history. World's three most famous diamonds came from Golconda mines - the Koh-i-noor, Darya-e-noor and the Hope diamond. I could not believe it was already 90 minutes from the time we entered here. The whole place is actually just a historical site where you can walk and wander in to the walls, losing yourself to the older historical times, absorbing in their culture (at least for as long as you are there..). Then there are some selected corners of the fort, from where you can hear the echo of your voice (which enthralls everyone alike) and some corners which present you an excellent bird's eye view of Hyderabad. 

light and sound show GOLCONDA FORT by sabu mampallil kottayamThe final part was that of a light and sound show, waiting for dusk to scoop in and people were seated in red plastic chairs. The show was about the history of fort, the places where kings and queens lived. The narration was well synchronized with shades of  red, yellow, green and blue spot lights focusing on relevant sections of fort in all the directions.  
It was a good show and I am sure there would have been a lot of changes now and making the show more exciting. And finally, we exited the history and went home.
Cyber TowersOur next destination was the HITEC city and the adjoining Shilparamam. Sun was on and so were we. This is one of a very rare tourist spots of Hyderabad (or anywhere in India I suppose) where two such contrasting spots are next to each other. HITEC City is the IT center of Hyderabad and highly advanced part of city, with all glitz and glamor of IT world. The world class facilities of Microsoft, IBM, Infosys, Satyam, CTS, Motorola and many many more such companies have made Hyderabad, one of the biggest IT Hubs of India (as well as that of world).  Lying next to such a center is the village which preserves the ancient culture of the state, storing oldest artifacts, mannequins which show what the workers looked like in older times, preserving the very ethnicity of Hyderabad. While in early 2000s HITEC City was still in infancy, we did not have much to see around, other than brick colored buildings which were separated by the glass structure in between. The reflections of moving clouds on buildings were absolutely new to my eyes and was a delight to see. Moreover, this part of the city received special attention in the past few weeks, because president Bill Clinton was going to see this. The roads were immaculate, traffic was very well controlled and there were no street people (I mean vendors, beggars etc.) in the farthest sight. It did not take long there and we went ahead to Shilparamam.

This place is a nice little village, which is rich in culture and diversity. Arts, Crafts and related festivals make the place a feast to the art and culture lovers. One of the very unique gardens of city is the rock garden, where they have a collection of rocks that are shaped naturally like various structures of birds, boxes, clouds etc. It is indeed unique and one must go there, you might take a little while to decipher the subjects, but you do have descriptions engraved underneath. 
There is also a lake in the middle of the place (an artificial one I suppose) which has some boating and stuff.. I am never excited with the beauty of artificial lakes and so I did not care about that.. my sister definitely wanted to go for boating, but in the end we did not go (ha ha ha ha!!). Moving along we reached to another venue called as Rural village. This is a definite must place for the international people who carve to see the "villages of India", but cannot stand the dirt and pollution of actual villages. The life size models and their near-real expressions are a worth dekko.

 A good part about all these locations is that the administrators also provide you opportunities to host any events in these mutually exclusive places (for a fee of course). The near by-es of rural village was getting decorated for some event for that night and the whole of the "rural village" section was getting dressed in lights and other accessories. Shilparamam has something or the other to offer to everyone of varied ages and interests. Whether recreation, shopping, exclusive Andhra cuisine or simply an opportunity to sit peacefully sans the loudness of the exterior world - this place just hits the right notes. A must every time I will go to Hyderabad. 

Today wasn't too tiresome and we ended the tour with some great moments and an even more heavier heart than yesterday, the trip was coming to an end with just the old city left to see. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hyderabad - III

It is taking me forever to get motivated to write the final part of my Hyderabad trip (its the laziness of typing on keyboard that I am fighting and not the trip!) and I really wonder how do the film writers write the script?? They have to cover at least a couple of years in 2 hours, without breaking the flow (I am talking about the good scripts!).
We had about a week in hands and loads of things to cover. The most important places like Golconda Fort and Charminar were still left (like some one said, leave the best things for end..) Since we had just one temple left in our list, we decided to cover that up first and also it was in the outskirts of the city, which meant long drive away from the traffic on the streets.

The morning was bright and sunny and the ladies were even brighter in their silk sarees (if you are reading this article and you know about it, please tell me what is the fancy in wearing silk saree on a hot day, where you are visiting a temple, so obviously people will not notice you and on the top of all, you know you will be sweating like pig!!). Yadagiri Gutta hosts a beautiful, well spread, off-white temple building which is the abode of Lord Narasimha (remember him from Hiranyakashyapa - Prahlad - Holika story?) 
Yadagirigutta view from Raigir Station
yadagiri gutta
The temple sits on a small hilltop and presents a nice picturesque of the low lying village. We entered the temple, the queues were arranged by the temple people and they were still building the roof tops for the people standing. Sun and sand were making their point clearly, in contrast to how we enjoy them in beaches. Long queues are nothing for the people of Andhra Pradesh, who are accustomed to stand in queues for so long in Tirupati.. As we were nearing the temple, we could very well smell ghee and sugar (Yummmmmm....)!! I could not help but notice that it was not my mom and aunt only who wanted to sweat themselves off... almost all the ladies were like that... bright and flashy oranges, greens, yellows, reds, blues, pinks..(phew)!!! My uncle was telling us the stories related to the lord as in how he had so many avatars and in each different form, he would accomplish a different task, (you cannot simply ignore mythological stories, they are so fascinating..). It took us about 30 minutes to reach the main room in which lord resides. People kept chanting (and shouting) the various names of Lord (which unfortunately, I do not remember now, but the next time I go there, I am going to update this!!). The good part about that is you just get immersed in the devotional aura which the devotees makes there. After we came out of the main room, it was time for laddus (If u are visiting an Indian temple, there is no better prasadam than that..) The sun was right on the head, shining (read scorching) and we were walking on naked feet. That was the hardest part of the whole Hyderabad trip. The laddu and (sweet) coconut water did help us a bit, but still we were hungry. The driver suggested a small, restaurant in the town, which was surprisingly very filling and tasty (Surprising because we totally despised the look of it... but we were so hungry!!). This ended yet another destination but me and my sister were all the more exited, because, now everything that we have been looking forward for was in the queue. 

Nehru Zoological park, the only zoo park in the city
We relaxed that evening at home because the next day was going to be the longest journey of my life (till then) by walk - It was the Nehru Zoological Park (NZP) time. NZP is one of the biggest zoos in India (which I realized after walking in it) which hosts a wide variety of flora and fauna like fierce lions, white tigers, bears to milder hippos, rhinos to the exotic butterfly parks and multi colored parrots and other birds. If you are going to the zoo in summer, expect a lot of shade and humidity.
The zoo is covered with a lot of tall trees and walking therefore doesn't seem all that bad. There are train tours from the exteriors to the interiors of the zoo (which will be a good option if you have kids, so that you don't have to carry them in your shoulders while walking..), but we chose to walk. NZP is definitely a "must" for people who like animal photography. I have always loved the sight of tigers, jaguars and leopards (they look so beautiful..),  and we had a plenty to see here.
White Lions
PEACOCK IS GOING TO DANCEWe took the jeep safari and it was one of the best that we had ever been to. The zoo also hosts an effortless place for bears and deers from all over the world. My favorite place was the cage of peacocks. Peacocks are simply the most beautiful bird on earth. I mean there is no better combinations of blue-green-purple than the one that exists in its feathers and no better sight than watching it dance (Never miss a chance if you get to see it..). Even white peacocks look so elegant! The air was filled with the sound of birds, sometimes musical and sometimes not so much..And I definitely hated the smell of raw meat near the animal section (arrgghhh.. the reason why I stopped going to zoos - may be..)Going further, we reached the giraffe section. The OZ native was at home here... having his own sweet time with the tall trees around.. We then reached the monkey kingdom filled with all kinds of monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees. I was not particularly excited about this section, since a lot of them were Indian natives and wasn't a new sight to me. My mom and aunt were bored to death, it was only me, sis and uncle who were enjoying the trip. But with the  monkey section approaching, even I was not in a mood to go further. I have never been an animal lover, I like seeing the colorful plants and flowers, they soothe my eyes and the only thing that kept me going here was greenery that is not so visible in the rest of the city.
zoo park,hyderabad We then came to the section which I absolutely hate - the reptile section. No animal from the reptile family has ever fascinated me. They had all sorts of reptiles here, water crocodiles, all kinds of snakes, cobras, chameleons and others. I was totally uninterested but my uncle and sister wanted to go ahead and the ladies were wearing the same expression of boredom, with no change. We took a lot of breaks in between and were not particularly tired, but it was enough for us. We wanted to go back.. go to house.. change in to something better and sit somewhere with some aromatic scents filling in air. It was a good day, I enjoyed walking for such a long distance for the first time and was more like a jungle walk and if I remember correctly, I never went to a zoo again...(till Singapore happened, and that will come up later!!)
The day ended and we were back to home.. I never realized that night how I just slipped in to sleep until I woke up the next day only to find out it was raining and that too heavily..But worth a watch in Hyderabad because the smell of bajjis, pakodas, samosas and garama garam (hot) irani chai can simply take the creases off your face any day...