Looking back on 2016

City Palace, Jaipur (DND)

2016 was an excellent year for me both personally and professionally. After a disastrous 2015 which perhaps was the worst year in personal terms, 2016 was full of excitement, love and happiness. I visited 5 states in 2016 and ticked off some major destinations in my ever extending bucket list.

2016 started with a trip to Hyderabad in January. I went to Hyderabad with friends and on reaching had the company of many other friends who work in Hyderabad. Hyderabad is a sprawling economic center serving as the hub for corporate agglomerations concurrently maintaining its quaint charm in the core areas. Hyderabad boasts of an excellent cultural derived from the Qutub Shahis and other successive Nizams. The Charminar of Hyderabad is one of the most iconic places in the country. I visited Charminar, the Chowmahala Palace and the Golconda Fort, a strategic architectural. The other thing that resonates with Hyderabad is its scrumptious Biriyani which has earned worldwide acclamation for its spicy delight. The next thing I visited was the Ramoji Film City. Spread over 1666 acres, it is the largest film studio complex in the world. The excellent locations, themes, facilities and sets provide an ideal low cost studio for the movie industry and many Indian movies and TV daily soaps have been shot here. Ramoji Film City was a one of its kind experience, a peek into the world of cinema and movie making.

Hyderabad: The city of Nizams and delectable Biriyani

Ramoji Film City: World’s largest film studio complex

After the Hyderabad trip, I went to Mysore. Although I had been to Mysore twice in 2015, I never got the opportunity to witness the illuminated Amba Vilas Palace which is lightened up with thousands of bulbs on weekends and holidays. The Chamundeswari temple was missing as well. So I went to Mysore on a Saturday and this time I got to see the illuminated palace.

A day in Mysore & visit to the Amba Vilas Palace

 

Soon after the Mysore trip, I shifted to Bhubaneswar from Bangalore. Almost half of my family lives in Bhubaneswar and I had been visiting it from my childhood. I also studied here for 4 years before joining Wipro in Kolkata. There aren’t many popular tourist places in and around Bhubaneswar with the Jagannath temple of Puri being an exception; I had already visited all of them earlier. Now it was time to revisit them and compile the experiences on this website for my viewers. I have written about the Lingaraj temple of Bhubaneswar and the Jagannath temple of Puri. Unfortunately, due to the busy schedule, I couldn’t write more. Hopefully, 2017 will give me that opportunity.

Lingaraj temple in the city of Temples

Mystic dham of Lord Jagannath at Puri

The first major trip from Bhubaneswar came in August after the excruciating summer. It was a long trip to Rajasthan with friends. Being the erstwhile home of some regal Rajput kingdoms, Rajasthan is arguably the most royal state in India. Unlike other parts of India, most of the palaces and forts in Rajasthan are very well preserved and still bears its royal charm. It started with Jaipur. In Jaipur, I visited the Amer Fort, the Jaigarh Fort, the City Palace and the Hawa Mahal. The Amer fort and the City palace easily stood out among the rest.

Jaipur # 1 : Amer Fort and Jaigarh Fort

Jaipur #2 : The City Palace & Hawa Mahal

 

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
Hawa Mahal

From Jaipur, the pink city, I went to Jodhpur, the blue city. At Jodhpur, I visited the majestic Mehrangarh fort which is my current favourite royal monument. Ostensibly standing 400 feet above the Jodhpur city, Mehrangarh fort is a magnificent and humongous fort built in the 15th century. It has an exquisite collection of royal artifacts including an excellent gallery of elephant howdahs and royal palanquins. The post written about this fort is one of my personal favourites as well. However, due to improper planning, I missed out on the Umaid Bhawan Palace which is the world`s largest private residence. It will always remain a regret. Hopefully, I will get an opportunity to visit it someday.

The Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur

 

Next we I traveled to Udaipur. Udaipur is one of the most royal and romantic places in India. Currently, the city palace of Udaipur is perhaps the most regal place in India after the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The palace exterior looks rugged but inside there are many enclosures with opulent chambers sparkling silver filigreed balconies and windows, ornate arches and bulbous domes atop attractive towers. Then there is the royal Jagmandir palace which is located on an island in Lake Pichola.

Photostory : The City Palace of Udaipur

The Rajasthan trip culminated with a trip to Dargah Sharif at Ajmer. Dargah Sharif is the mausoleum of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (RA); perhaps the most prominent Sufi saint who resided here in the 12th century. People from all religions flock to this shrine throughout the year to pay homage and seek blessings of Garib Nawaz.

Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer

From Rajasthan, I went to Agra in Uttar Pradesh. In Agra, I visited the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. While Taj Mahal being one of the seven wonders of the World needs no introduction, Agra Fort is an equally important monument in the shadow of the Taj. Babur, the founder of the mighty Mughal dynasty stayed in this fort. Subsequently, all Mughal emperors have resided in this fort and have added to its development. Agra Fort tragically served as prison and deathbed of Shah Jahan after being imprisoned there by his son Aurangzeb. Being a history lover Agra fort excited me more than the Taj Mahal and I insist everyone visiting Taj Mahal to visit Agra Fort as well.

Agra Fort: A historical marvel in the shadow of Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal : An elegy in white marble

Agra Fort
Agra Fort

The trip finally ended in Delhi. However, after the long trip, I was completely enervated but still managed to visit the India Gate during my sojourn in Delhi.

The final trip of 2016 was the Sikkim trip in December. Sikkim is a small state in the lap of the mighty Himalayas. Its favourable weather, cultural uniqueness and pristine natural beauty makes it a top tourist destination in the country. I went on a 3D 2N trip of Gangtok during which I got to see the Indian border for the first time at Nathula. I also visited the Rumtek Monastery in Gangtok which is an excellent monastery.

Rumtek Monastery of Gangtok

Of all places visited in 2016, there are two places which particularly fascinated me a lot. There are certain practices and traditions in our country that defy rationality and fall in the category of “It happens only in India”. Near Jodhpur, along the NH 65 I saw a temple dedicated to a 350 cc Royal Enfield Bullet. The other place is the Baba Mandir along the Sino-Indian border where a soldier who died in 1965 is believed to be patrolling the border even today. There is a temple dedicated to him which is maintained by none other than the Indian army.

Bullet Baba temple: Legend of Om Banna and the bike deity

Baba Mandir: A saga of duty beyond death

Thanks for reading.. While 2016 was excellent, 2017 looks even more promising. I hope to have many exciting trips in 2017 and wish to produce better articles for my viewers. Thanks a lot for staying connected and inspiring me in 2016. Looking forward to a continued support in 2017 as well. Enjoy your holidays and draw your travel plans for the next year. I wish you all a very prosperous 2017. Let peace prevail..

Keep Travelling and Spread Love <3

 Sangram Keshari Rout

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