Organised tours often bypass the Shekhawati region in northwest Rajasthan, yet in the 18th and 19th centuries it was one of Rajasthan’s richest regions. Wealthy Marwari merchants built huge mansions there, decorated inside and out with sumptuous frescoes in which Hindu mythology mingles with scenes from daily life. These masterpieces have earned the region, Read More
Holi is one of India’s best-known festivals, providing great material for photographers from all over the world. Its marks the beginning of spring and takes place at full moon in the lunar month of Phalgun (February-March). It is known as the festival of colours and also the festival of love, commemorating the divine love, Read More
Chennai (formerly Madras) lies on the Coromandel coast in southwest India. It is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu and one of India’s major economic centres. Chennai also boasts a considerable cultural and artistic heritage, of which Carnatic classical music and the Bharata Natyam dance are prime examples. Chennai is there to, Read More
Meghalaya, literally ‘the abobe of clouds’, is one of the seven states of Northeast India also known as the ‘seven sisters’. This state, the wettest in India, is slowly opening up to tourism and an increasing number of nature lovers get mesmerised by its unspoiled landscapes. Whether during the monsoon, when the mist hangs over the highlands,, Read More
The little spray-swept village of Mahabalipuram, 60km south of Chennai, is a delight, although very touristy. The Pallava kings left architectural masterpieces, Unesco World Heritage, whose distinctive style spread as far as the Far East.
Gwalior, the fourth largest town in the State of Madhya Pradesh, owes its fame to the fort, perched atop a 300ft hill, which the Mughal emperor Babur called “the pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind”. Gwalior is also known as a cultural centre and home of both the famous poet and musician Tansen and, Read More
Pongal is the harvest festival, held in mid-January each year in thanksgiving to nature, the sun, the rain and working animals. Agriculture is of immense importance in India, so the harvest is a major event. It is believed that this celebration brings wealth and prosperity.
Uttarayan, the time of year when the sun starts its northward journey, is celebrated in Gujarat state with a kite festival that’s totally poetic. All day long thousands of multi-coloured kites drift endlessly across the sky, and when night falls the sky is lit by a myriad paper lanterns.
Rajasthan state is in northwest India, on the Pakistan border. This is the India of picture postcards, very popular with tourists and wonderfully colourful, from the pink of Jaipur to the blue of Jodhpur and the gold of Jaisalmer. Bounded by the Thar Desert in the northwest and crossed by the Aravalli hills, this “land, Read More
The city of the supreme god Brahma, spread out around its sacred lake, exudes the heady scent of spirituality that emanates from all leading pilgrimage centres. In October the peaceful town comes alive as pilgrims and camel drivers gather in their thousands for the Pushkar Fair.
At the new moon in the month of Karthik (October-November) Hindus celebrate Diwali, one of their major festivals, also called the “festival of lights”. It symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness and of knowledge over ignorance.The name Diwali derives from the Sanskrit dipavali. Dipa means ‘lamp’ or ‘light’ and avali means ‘series’, Read More
In West Bengal and its capital Kolkata, the great festival of Navaratri celebrating the Divine Mother is called Durga-Puja or Durgotsava (Durga Festival). It marks the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. During the festival the city is up all night, decked in lights and embellished with temporary temples vying to, Read More
Navaratri, along with Mahashivaratri, is one of the leading Hindu festivals, celebrated with great fervour throughout India. In Sanskrit, Nava means ‘nine’ and ratri means ‘nights’; the Navaratri festival lasts for nine nights and ten days. Its purpose is to celebrate the Universal Mother, or Shakti: the primordial and creative force.
Shakti means ‘power’ or ‘energy’. It is a fundamental concept in Hinduism, which is often associated with the feminine principal and personified by Devi, Hinduism’s primordial goddess. The Shakti is venerated all over India and devotion culminates during the 9-day festival of Navaratri.
If there is one imperishable memory to be brought back from a trip to Kerala it is the fascinating Aranmula regatta. The snake-boats glide gracefully and majestically along the River Pampa and the hypnotic chanting of the oarsmen will echo in your mind like a happy refrain long after the race is over.
Onam is Kerala’s biggest festival. It falls in the Hindu month of Chingam (August-September) and marks the return to Earth of the legendary king Mahabali. It is the occasion for colourful festivities that spotlight all that’s best in Kerala culture. Although the origin of the festival lies in Hindu mythology, Onam is celebrated with, Read More
Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, is not the most popular city of the state. Travelers usually prefer the mystic Varanasi or Agra and its famous Taj Mahal. Yet, what a wonderful surprise! Lucknow amazes us with the splendor and refinement of its historic buildings. From the 18th to the 19th century, it was, Read More
Buddhism has more than 300 million followers around the world, which makes it the 4th religion (or philosophy) after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The history of Buddhism begins around the 5th century BC, when Siddharta Gautama, prince of the Shakya kingdom, got enlightened under a ficus tree. Siddharta Gautama then became the ‘Buddha Samyaksam’ or, Read More
At the age of 29, Siddharta Gautama, Prince of Kapilavastu, abandoned his material and worldly life to find the truth of existence. He went as a wandering hermit and in Bodhgaya, under a ficus tree, Siddharta Gautama became the ‘Buddha’, ‘the one who is awake’. Buddhism, or the philosophy of the middle way, thus, Read More
The ‘lingam’ or ‘Shiva-lingam’ is one of India’s most emblematic hindu representation, and one of the most powerful. Some theories trace the lingam back to the ancient fertility cults probably due to its phallic form. But though it is easy to jump to conclusions, it is a mistake to think of the Shiva lingam in purely sexual, Read More