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India Off The Beaten Track

Can we really experience the beauty, benevolence and uniqueness of India in one lifetime?

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Can we really experience the beauty, benevolence and uniqueness of India in one lifetime? Perhaps not, but we can surely try to experience its essence. We bring you 10 ways of doing so:

 Trekking to Edakkal Caves in Wayanad District

This trek provides not just a good work out for the body, but also the opportunity to see pre historic markings, the only one of their kind in South India. Edakkal literally means the “stone in between” and the cave was formed when a big stone fell on two big rocks. The drawings include human and animal figures, wheels, carts, symbols, letters and numeric signs.

Ahmednagar’s Cavalry Tank Museum, which houses World War I and II tanks, armored cars and self propelled guns

This open air museum is the only one of its kind in Asia. All the vehicles still carry distinguishing insignia and formation signs, preserving their character. The oldest exhibit here is the Rolls Royce T-43, which was the most widely used armored car in World War I. Each of the 48 exhibits has its own story.  Don’t miss the Mk II tank, which was universally known as Matilda, because it resembled the way Matilda, the comical duck waddled, while moving. Or the Landing Vehicle Tracked, which was intended primarily for use in flood relief operations and the rescue of crashed air crew. There’s also the Valentine Bridge Layer, the first British bridge layer tank of World War II.

Deciphering Bhimbetka’s rock paintings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

These rock paintings are among the earliest manifestations of human creative expression recorded in India. They are also historically significant as they depict life and human occupations since Mesolithic times. Most of these paintings have been done in red and white, although some are in green and yellow as well. The scenes show hunting, dancing, animals and everyday life. Among the animals painted are tigers, wild boar, bison, elephants, deer and dogs. 

Reflecting at Sanchi stupas and the Ashoka Pillar

Sanchi is internationally renowned for its Buddhist art and architecture. Stupa 1 is the oldest stone structure in India and is also known as the Great Stupa. It was built by Emperor Asoka of the Maurya dynasty. Its elaborately carved gateways are seen to be believed. The stupa has a triple umbrella, balustrades and staircases. Stupa 2 and 3, temples, monasteries, a stone bowl and the Ashoka Pillar are other highlights of Sanchi.

Commemorating Jallianwala Bagh

On April 13, 1919, which was the day of Baisakhi, a public celebration was announced in Jallianwala Bagh in the evening. General R.E.H. Dyer came with 150 troops and without warning opened fire on the crowd, numbering almost 20,000. This brutal, barbaric and cruel massacre, in which nearly 1,000 civilians were killed, has gone down in the annals of history. The freedom fighters gallery contains portraits of Dr Saifuddin Kitchlu, Dr Satya Pal, Udham Singh, Madan Lal Dhingra, Mahasha Rattan Chand, Ratan Devi and Chowdhri Bugga Mal. Visitors can see the spot from where the shots were fired, the well where innocent people jumped during the stampede to protect themselves from the bullets, the bullet marks on the walls and the memorial erected in their memory.

Sipping at an opium ceremony near Jodhpur

Overlander India, as part of their desert experience offers visitors the chance to interact with local communities of Rajasthan. An opium ceremony is a way to welcome guests. The introduction of opium dates back to ancient times. Before battle, this ceremony was conducted not to get high or stoned, but because it worked as medicine, pain killer and blood clotter all rolled in one. Today no wars are fought, but the tradition endures. Auspicious occasions include this ceremony. Consumed in a liquid form, the ceremony has rules and regulations and opium is not abused. Mixed with water, it is first offered to Lord Shiva and then filtered through a cloth funnel. After it is collected, it is drunk from the palm of the person welcoming the visitors.

Feasting on an Indo-Pak meal at Sarhad, which is the last restaurant on the Indo-Pak border and then proceeding to the Indo-Pak retreat ceremony

Sarhad serves Indian and Pakistani food. You are welcomed by attractive truck art by a Pakistani artist with an underlying message of peace. Tandoori Amritsari fish compliments Lahori chapli kebab. Or you can choose between our own sarson da saag or Lahori nazakat kofta accompanied by bakarkhani roti. Tummy full, the retreat ceremony at Attari is a spectacle of patriotism where “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Allah ho Akbar” are shouted in sync on the Indian and Pakistani side. 

Enjoying an open air gypsy safari at Satpura Tiger Reserve

The Satpura Tiger Reserve provides an option of arriving at the reserve in a cruise instead of driving. Take a pleasant cruise from Tawa, where you are served breakfast on board, to gear up for the safari in an open air gypsy. The safari itself is an interesting way to learn about flora and fauna. If you get to spot an elusive tiger, your day is made. More likely, you may spot a leopard or two and see their pugmarks. Sloth bears, deer, spiders, wild boar are also frequently sighted.

Shop for phulkari dupattas and juttis

Phulkari literally translates to flower workmanship as phul means flower and kari means craft. This embroidery is colorfully done on dupattas that are traditionally 2½ meters in length. It takes almost six months to heavily embroider one handmade dupatta. The most expensive and tedious phulkari is known as bagh, in which the base cloth is not visible; just the heavy embroidery is. Only ladies create phulkari and the preferred fabric is chiffon. The popular threads are pink, blue, yellow, orange and green. The designs are traced and include square and flower shaped motifs. Juttis are the leather handmade stitched footwear from Punjab and Rajasthan. They compliment the colorful attire of women and make for visually appealing souvenirs. Buffalo leather forms the sole of a traditional juti. Pointed shaped jutis are popular among royal families, while round shaped ones are preferred by women. 

Getting a whiff of alcohol at Mohan Meakin’s Kasauli Distillery, Asia’s oldest extant distillery

The distillery was initially opened in 1855 and was known as Dyer and Co. It was owned by Edward Dyer, father of General Dyer, responsible for Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Edward Dyer also owned a brewery at Solan, which was acquired by HG Meakin in 1873. The distillation unit at Solan was transferred to Kasauli in 1946 and post independence its ownership was transferred to Mohan’s. The popular brands distilled here are Old Monk rum and Solan No 1. The distillery makes for a heady high with its century old techniques of brewing alcohol.    

 

 

 

 

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Travel | Life | June2015

Image gallery

Ahmednagar’s open air Cavalry Tank Museum in Maharashtra. Jallianwala Bagh monument in Amritsar, Punjab. Handmade leather shoes from Punjab and Rajasthan, called juttis, come with decorative embroidery. Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh. Mohan Meakin Distillery in Kasauli is Asia’s oldest distillery. Bhimbetka rock paintings, near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, are a UNESCO world heritage site. Sarhad is the last restaurant on the Indo Pak border. Indo Pak border ceremony. Edakkal Caves in Kerala. Open air gypsy safari at Satpura Tiger Reserve

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