Thursday, April 28, 2011

Discover India With Classic India Tours

India, the name at once conjures up the image of a vast country which boasts of so many attractions that tourists sometimes find it tough to chalk-out their itineraries to the country. From the majestic Himalayas in the north to the mesmerizing sand dunes of Rajasthan in the west, from the exotic hilly states of the Eastern India to the beautiful, idyllic beaches of the Southern India, India boasts of several tourist attractions.

But India is much more. It's also the land of an ancient civilization, of myriad cultures and history, rich places and forts of the era gone by that remind us of its greatness and antiquity. Agra, Varanasi, Jhansi, Orcha, Khajuraho, Gwalior and Panchavati are the seven leading tourist hubs of the country that beckon the travelers for a glimpse into India, its culture, its religion and its history.


Agra in Uttar Pradesh, India is a famous tourist destination. It finds mention in Mahabharata in which it's mentioned as Agrabana or Paradise. The world famous Taj Mahal is in Agra and so are the majestic Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. While Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shahjehan, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri were built by Akbar--the greatest of the Mughal emperors.

The pearly white Taj Mahal, a romance in stone, which is the pride of not only Agra but India, was built in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, Shahjehan's beloved wife. The most beautiful monument ever built for love Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It took 18 long years (1631-48) and more than 20,000 craftsmen to build this amazing structure that has not only stood the test of time but continued to be an epitome of love even after so many years.

The Taj looks breathking and graceful from almost any angle. Whether you see it from front or from back, from a distance or from an arm's distance, it looks wonderful and mesmerizing though its close up detail is more amazing. Semi-precious stones are inlaid into the marble in beautiful pattern and with superb craftsmanship in a process known as pietra dura.

The 16th century built Agra Fort is another attraction of Agra. Like the Taj, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the seat of the Mughal dynasty in the 16th century. Pearl Mosque, Diwan-e-Am and Diwan-e-Khas, and Khaas Mahal are the chief attractions of the imposing Fort that's built in red sandstone. Akbar built the Agra Fort in the finest architectural style. The fort has magnificent gates and walls and a moat.

Fatehpur Sikri, the last of the three chief attractions in Agra, is located 35 km away from Agra. It was here that the first Mughal Emperor Babur defeated Rana Sanga, the great Rajput warrior. The best part of Fatehpur Sikri is the imposing Buland Darwaza. Built by Akbar to celebrate his victory over Gujarat, Buland Darwaza is not only the highest gateway in the world but shows the Mughal architecture at its best and also the most robust.

Agra is located at a distance of 250 kms from Delhi and is well connected by road, rail and air.


The City of Learning, Varanasi, is situated on the banks of the river Ganga in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Legend has it that the city is one of the many favourite abodes of the Lord Shiva and is situated on his trident.

Famous for its beautiful Ghats (over 100) and temples (over 1,000), Varanasi--also called Benaras and Kasi--is to the Hindus what Mecca is to the Muslims and Vatican to the Christians. Varanasi presents all that is beautiful and divine in Hinduism. No wonder, Hindus from all over the world make it a point to visit the holy city, at least once in their life.

Varanasi finds mention in the Rigveda, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. Founded over 5,000 years ago, Varanasi is probably the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. To quote Mark Twain, Varanasi is, "Older than history, older than legend, and looks as old as all of them put together". In the ancient India, Varanasi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kashi.

The beauty of the ancient city is that despite being destroyed and ravaged many times over by some of the Muslim invaders such as Mahmud Ghazni and Mohammad Ghori, it not only managed to survive but continued to show the right path to the millions of Hindus from all over the world.

Besides being the religious capital of the Hindus, Varanasi is also the cultural capital of India. Interestingly, it occupies a high place in the hearts of not only the Hindus but the Buddhists and Jains. Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon, is located near Varanasi.

The city's claim to world fame and glory hinges on some other facts also. Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitmanas here. Ayurveda, the ancient art of alternate healing, has its origin in Varanasi. The Varanasi brassware and silk works are much loved for their finesse and beauty and have few parallels elsewhere.

The cuisine also of the city is well-known and much loved. And so is the Benarasi Paan (a sweetmeat made of areca nut and other fragmented substances wrapped in a betel leaf) which finds much favour with the lovers of paan who simply love the unique taste and aroma of the Benarasi paans.

Varanasi is 780 kms away from New Delhi and is well connected by road, rail and air.


Jhansi, originally known as Shankargarh, is one of the many destinations in India that attracts tourists from all over the world. Its proximity to other tourist attractions such as the world renowned Khajuraho, Agra, Orcha and Delhi make it a much sought after destination. Located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, Jhansi's claim to fame rests on several factors.

It was Jhansi that gave the freedom fighters during 1857 one of the most inspirational leaders in the brave and the legendary Rani Laxmi Bai who fought the most fierce battle against the British inspiring all freedom fighters of India by her unmatched chivalry and love for the country.

Among the famous landmarks and tourist attractions of the place, the name of the Jhansi Fort comes first. Built in 1610 Jhansi Fort is famous as the Gateway to Bundelkhand. The fort has a good collection of sculptures that throw much light on the history of Bundelkhand. Rani Mahal, Ram Temple and Maharaja Ganga Rao ki Chatri are some of the other major tourist spots of Jhansi.

Jhansi is situated 415 km away from Delhi and 292 km away from the state capital, Lucknow and is well connected by road, rail and air.


Orcha is a village town located in the Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh, India. The place's splendor has been beautifully captured in stone and frozen in time. Orcha boasts of the massive Orcha Fort-Palace-Temple Complex which is a major tourist attraction.

Situated on the banks of the Betwa River, the Orcha Fort was built by the Bundela Chief Rudra Pratap Singh in the 16th century. It houses many 'architectural wonders' such as Raja Ram Mandir, Laxmi Narayana Mandir, Jehangir Palace, Raj Palace and Rani Praveen Palace.

The Orcha Fort has glorious past and mythological attachments. It's the only place where Lord Rama is worshipped as a king and not as a god. Rama's statue inside the Rama Raja Temple--a famous tourist attraction of Orcha--was brought from Ayodhya by Madhukar Shah, one of the Bundela rulers.

Jehangir Palace, another pride of the Orcha Fort complex, is a tiered palace crowned by graceful chatris. The Palace was built to honour the Mughal emperor Jehangir when he had visited Orcha.

In its heydays, the massive and strong Orcha Fort stored enough ration and ammunitions that could last for a few years in case it was besieged by the enemies. No wonder, the fort remained unconquered and proudly defied the mighty Marathas who could not conquer it despite doing everything in their power.

Orcha's 15 km away from Jhansi and 110 km away from Gwalior and is well connected.


Khajuraho--also called the Temples of Love--is a UNESCO heritage site and is situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. The Khajuraho temples were built by the valiant Chandella Rajputs, over a period of 100 years, between 950 and 1050 AD. Chandella Rajputs claimed to be the proud descendants of the Moon God.

Though originally there were 80-odd temples at Khajuraho, only 22 of them have survived the vagaries of time and the destruction brought about by some of the Muslim rulers. Khajuraho temples were discovered by T S Burt, an Englishman. But it was General Alexander Cunnigham, another Englishman, who really made the place famous all over the world.

The Khajuraho temples are unique. Many of them boast of erotic sculptures of full breasted, voluptuous women with wide hips. Interestingly, such sculptors constitute only about 10 percent of the total sculptures.

When Khajuraho was first discovered partly hidden behind over grown shrubs and bushes, many people had found the erotic sculptures adorning some of the temples rather repulsive and vulgar. Perhaps, they had failed to realize that such sculptures were carved with a purpose. The purpose was to entice people back to married life to enjoy the many pleasures of the married life.

During those days, Buddhism was flourishing in India. It had almost destroyed the concept of marriage and family life as encouraged by Hinduism inspiring many people to shun society and family life to meditate in seclusion. Apart from regaining the lost ground for Hinduism, through such sculptures, the importance of sex, considered essential for the attainment of absolute and human development, was highlighted.

Whatever may have been the purpose behind adorning the walls of the temples at Khajuraho with erotic sculptures the fact remains that it's these very sculptures which have really made Khajuraho what it is today-a world renowned tourist attraction.

Khajuraho is located about 620 km away from Delhi and is well connected.


Gwalior is one of the well-known cities of India and is in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The city was founded by the Kachwaha chieftain Suraj Sen in the honour of a saint called Gwalapa who had cured him of a deadly disease. Much known as the seat of the mighty Scindhiyas, Gwalior boasts of many tourist attractions.

The 15th century Gwalior Fort is the pride and the most striking landmark of Gwalior. A major part of the fort was built during the reign of the greatest of the Tomar rulers, Man Singh, for his queen Mrignayani. Situated atop a hill the fort offers a good view of the city. Strong and well built, the massive fort is called 'the Gibraltar of India' due to its size and strength. Even Babur, the mighty Mughal, emperor was much impressed by the fort and called it 'the pearl in the necklace of the forts of Hind'.

It was at the Gwalior Fort where the fiercest battle was fought between the freedom fighters and the British. It was here that Rani Laxmi Bai displayed exemplary chivalry and love for the country when she took on the British soldiers with a handful of fighters and died fighting for the cause of freedom but not before she had driven a chill down the spine of the enemies and inspired all Indians to throw out the British from India.

Gujari Mahal and Man Mandir located inside the fort are important tourist attractions that have added much to the appeal of the fort.

Jai Vilas Palace, Mia Tansen Tomb and Mohammad Ghaus Tomb add to the magic of the city making it a much sought after tourist hub. Jai Vilas Palace and Mia Tansen Tomb need special mention. While Tansen was a famous singer-musician of India with whose lineage almost all gharanas of classical Hindustani music claim some connection; the Jai Vilas Palace is a beautiful palace. This palace is the Scindhia family's present residence. It was built on the pattern of Palais de Vieillesse, France.

Gwalior is well connected by rail, road and air. It is just 122 km from Agra which is world renowned for the majestic Taj Mahal which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.


Panchavati is a small place situated on the banks of the holy river Godavari in Nashik in Maharashtra, India. Panchavati constitute of five Banayan (Vats) trees said to be part of the legendary Dandakaranya Forest.

Panchavati occupies a rather high place in the hearts of millions of Hindus all over the world as it is here that Lord Rama--along with Laxmana and Sita--spent much of his time when he had been exiled for 14 years from Ayodhya by his father Dasharatha.

Though the entire Panchavati is holy and revered, there are some spots including Rama Kund, Sita Gumpha, Laxmana Rekha, Kalaram Mandir (built in black stone by the Peshwas), Naroshankar Temple, Sundar Narayan Temple and Godavari Temple which attract tourists and others with a religious bent of mind in good numbers.

Perhaps, the most famous attraction is the Rama Kund. As the name suggests, Rama Kund is the name of the Kund (Pond) where Lord Rama used to take bath when he was in Panchavati. A dip in this holy pond cleanses one of all the worldly sins. Besides being associated with Lord Rama, Panchavati is also related with Mahatama Gandhi. It was here that the ash of the Father of the Nation was immersed.

Sita Gumpha is another prominent attraction at Panchavati. It's a small cave under a Banayan tree. One can enter the cave with the help of a narrow staircase. It was from Sita Gumpha that Ravana, the demon king, abducted Sita. Presently, the Gumpha has the idols of Sita, Rama and Laxmana.

Nashik is 180 Kilometres away from Mumbai and 220 Kilometres away from Pune. Being well connected by road and train it can be reached easily.

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