Tag Archives: Uttar Pradesh

Sthan Parivartan: Lucknow to Agra

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Well, my Lucknow trip was soon to get more interesting as we had planned to visit Kanpur, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Sikandra.

Friday early morning about 6.30 am we left from Lucknow to Kanpur via road in car. It took us about 2 hours to reach Kanpur – the biggest city and commercial capital of Uttar Pradesh. The roads are good. From Lucknow to Kanpur, there is only one toll plaza on the way (I think INR 60 for one way and INR 120 return is what it costs for a sedan.)

The best part on the route was Trans Ganga City project. It is huge and once completed will be one well planned accomplishment. And you get a view from the bridge of the largest river of India –  Ganga – the holy river is a beauty in itself.

We stayed in Kanpur for two days. In the city you will see several manufacturing units right from Guns to Leather, and many academic institutions spread over acres of land. Kanpur market is very famous as a wholesale market for male-female garments as well as for leather products, shoes, bags and bangles. It is one the best markets I have visited so far in India. Naveen Market, Chowk, and Shivala are massive bazaars, while Gumti Market (prices are slightly higher here but again much lesser than that in Mumbai) is a condensed version of the entire Kanpur Market.

If you plan to go for shopping, then it is advisable park your car at a distance and then walk down or use the Battery Rickshaw. Yes, you read it right. They are solar paneled rickshaws and fun to travel in, although the speed isn’t great. But as the market is extremely crowded, you can’t drive in those narrow lanes.

A Must Visit: ISKCON temple where you get delicious pure ghee sweets and do not forget to try the masala chai (flavoured tea). And Pandit Restaurant – amazing food and excellent ambience set by Rajasthani Folk music in the voice of traditional singers.

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From Kanpur, our journey was towards Agra and I was all excited to admire the Taj Mahal for the second time in my life!

We left at 7 am and reached Agra by 12.30 pm – around 5 to 6 hours depending on the traffic. The roads are overall OK, but at some places they give you a very bumpy ride. It is advisable to drive safe and with care as you will find too many heavy vehicles on this route.

Post lunch and a little rest session, we were all geared up to visit Fatehpur Sikri. In summers, marble flooring at Taj gets very heated making it impossible to walk without getting foot burns and blisters. So we decided to visit Fatehpur Sikri the first day and the Taj Mahal early morning next day in our two day stay tour.

It takes about one-and-a-half-hour maximum to reach Fatehpur Sikri from Agra city. Fatehpur Sikri is known for Salim Chisti Dargah (Tomb of a Sufi Saint) – a major tourist attraction as well as a shrine were believers,from across the globe with varied faith, visit and keep visiting for the fulfillment of their prayers. For years now, numerous threads are tied by believers every day on the designed windows of the Dargah with a strong faith that what asked for will be granted by God.

Buland Darwaza (Victory Gate) – the red sandstone gate leads to the Jama Masjid (mosque)on the west, Badashahi Darwaza (Emperor’s Gate) to the east and Dargah sculpted in marble in the centre—overall it is a beautiful glimpse of Mughal Architecture.

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Some pointers:

  • Opening hours – from sunrise to sunset.
  • There is entry fee INR 20 as you move towards the city.
  • There is no entry fee on the site.
  • INR 2 per pair of shoes as you cannot wear shoes inside.
  • If you decide to offer, then the chaddar (cloth piece), sweet (sugar balls) and rose petals packet will cost you anywhere between INR 150 to 500. The thread is for INR 10.
  • You can donate in the shrine and in the donation boxes, and to the Sufi singers, if you wish to.
  • There are many sellers with variety of souvenir, you can choose if you want memories.
  • You cannot click pictures inside the Dargah, but outside and in the premises you can. It is advisable to wear covered clothing in any religious site.
  • The steps to the BulandDaraza are very high and steep.
  • For anyone with any joint problem, it is advisable to wear appropriate joint support or have a friend or someone next to you. Take steps slowly, do not rush towards the entrance.
  • Flat shoes/sneakers, scarf/cap, glares and camera – you will miss them if you don’t get them along.

We spent good two hours or more here, and as the sun sets for the day, we decided to go back to the guest house.

After a King’s Breakfast the next morning, we were all set to visit the Taj. It took us about 40 minutes to reach the destination. From the car parking at the Western Gate, we took Battery Rickshaw towards the ticket counter. (There are different entry points – western, eastern, southern and octagonal hall). You can walk, it is a long elevated walk. Post ticket there is men and women queues which guides you towards the entrance where bags are checked alongside identity proof. This entire process took about 40 minutes at about 9 am when the place was not very crowded. As the tourist crowd increases, so will the queue and the time.

From the red sandstone gates as you enter the white marble floors – you feel a transition of emotions, and of time. In 21st century you are back staring at the 17th century. Taj Mahal – built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal (houses their graves and a mosque) has all reasons to be one of the wonders of the world. No words can express what you feel when you witness this marvellous structure of art. Despite the scaffolding installed for the restoration work, Taj Mahal still stands beautiful. The minarets, the dome, the flower motif, the marble jalli (lattice), the calligraphy – I can stand admiring each for hours as it makes you wonder how it must have been done about 500 years back with limited technology available. Glimpse of Yamuna river against the red sandstone bordered walls is another mesmerizing view.

Recently there has been erosion of the Taj marbles due to some insects flying from the stagnant river direction. The green corrosion on the side of Taj facing the river is pretty much visible. Government is working to resolve this issue.

It took us over two hours; by 11 am the temperature was rising, and it was getting difficult to tolerate the heat and direct hitting sun rays. Agra Fort was on our-to-visit-list, but in such extreme temperatures it was not possible to cover Agra Fort. I had the energy just to click the picture of Agra Fort from the main road.

After some chowmein with awesomely delicious and filling lassi(sweet curd), we took some flavoured pethas– the very famous sweet delicacy from Agra – on our way back to the guest house. Lunch, followed by some much needed rest re-energized us for our next visit to the Akbar Makbara – Tomb of Akbar the Great, situated in Sikandara.

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Some pointers:

  • Timing is from sunrise to sunset.
  • From car parking to the entrance you can either walk or opt for a horse cart ride or battery rickshaw. A six-seat battery rickshaw will cost you about INR 100 one route.
  • Entry fee is INR 40 per person.
  • Shoe/Foot covers will cost INR 10 per pair.
  • Please carry an ID proof.
  • Ensure your bags/purses do not have metallic decorations because it takes time at the security counter when they are rechecked if there is any blink in the counter.
  • In summer, for a foot relaxing walk, visit as early as possible because heated marbles are not foot friendly. And the heat is killing, you will not be able to enjoy or even click good pictures.
  • It is a long walk inside, so be prepared to walk. If any joint complaints, please carry the necessary orthotics.
  • Flat shoes, glares, scarf/cap and camera – should be on your checklist.
  • Pictures are not allowed near the sacrophagi. Otherwise you can click pictures as desired.
  • Photographers offer clicking pictures INR 40 each. It is a good decision to opt for these pictures as they know the right places to click from, and guide you with right poses in front of the Taj Mahal – these pictures are a great souvenir. Of the ten clicks, I selected eight clicks and those eight pictures I love looking at again and again.
  • Miniatures of Taj Mahal in forms of key chains to show pieces are available at a prince between INR 10 to 700.
  • There are shops near the gate were water bottles, light snacks, souvenirs and handicrafts are available.

Around 3 pm, we reached Sikandra – at a distance of 30 minutes from Agra City. One again we were admiring yet another red building with multi coloured decorated roof and pillars adorned with calligraphy of verses from the holy Qu’ran.

As you enter there is Kanch Mahal on the right side – the structure once beautiful is now looks haunted. It needs restoration if it has to survive to see the future.

As you walk towards the gate leading to the tomb, you will spend time clicking pictures from various angles or staring at the beauty of the red massive structure – similar with minarets yet different. There is a long walk from the gate towards the tomb, which is flanked by gardens on both sides. Deers, peacocks, parrots, squirrels, many species of birds – all look peaceful in their natural environment. It is surprising to see wildlife living quietly uncaged, free, enjoying their own surrounding in midst of a city—a man jungle.

As you walk further ahead, you will look at the Tomb building. There are many tombs, of the emperor and his daughters. However, the actual tomb of Akbar is at the basement—huge, plain grey, high roofed hall with a grave in centre. There is no ornamentation here but peace. Despite the burning heat outside, I felt cool breeze here. And the echo of the Azan (call to prayer) verses by the caretaker/guide present there, takes you to a different world.

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Some Pointers:

  • Opening hours – from sunrise to sunset.
  • Entry fee is INR 20 per person.
  • INR 2 per pair of shoes as you cannot wear shoes near the tomb.
  • Do not forget – flat shoes, glares, scarf/cap and camera.
  • Anklets, postcard books, etc. are available as souvenirs.

Well, our Agra journey ended here with a yummilicious dinner at a dhaba on the highway, on our way back to Lucknow to board a flight to Mumbai. This nine-day trip was one of my best trips, refreshing trip, that has filled my memory bank which I revisit almost everyday in form of Display Images or Cover Images on Social Media pages.

Hope the article helps. All the tariff mentioned in the articles are for Indian citizens. For Foreign Tourists, the tariff differs.

Till I pack my bags once again for another Sthan Parivartan session, to discover yet another beautiful city of India…happy reading…

…AshuBolar

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Sthan Parivartan: Lucknow

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Sthan in Hindi means ‘Place’ and Parivatan means ‘Change’. Sthan Parivartan– a phrase used generally in astrology but I have decided to use it for my vacations because I keep planning vacations in various destinations, make excellent plans, but they never see the light of the day – locked in my head.

However, post my leaving my last job, I had decided that the next two months I will not join any new organization but focus on the upcoming management exams, give interviews, meet people, watch TV and travel. Now, again travel was last on the list but it still made to the fifth ranking. 🙂

14th March 2016, once I had completed my notice period, the next day – my official birthday, I called my best friend (BFF) in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India). She has been inviting me for the last three years now, but I as mentioned by travel plans are major flops. But this time, I applied bottom-up approach to my to-do list as I have not been to a proper vacation in the last eight years. Yes, eight years when I just kept admiring FB posts and pictures of my friends travelling across the globe, while working at least 10 hours a day, 6 days a week in the corporate circus.

After three conversations, I finalized, booked the tickets for Mom and myself a month in advance, and prayed hard that all should go well as I was to reach Lucknow a day before my BFF’s birthday and celebrate it together after a very long time, about five years back when her family had shifted to Lucknow from Mumbai.

Things went as planned (for a change! I guess prayers helped 🙂 ) and gathered some great memories during this trip. Accept for Air India Domestic flight now to be boarded from International Airport, rest all was ok. We were not aware of this change and landed at domestic airport where it was informed that Air India and Jet Wings are now to be boarded from International Airport. So that was a news.

Situated in Uttar Pradesh, UP (you-pee) as all address in India, there is cynicism in many minds that UP is not safe, especially for girls, religious indifference issues, etc. etc. The list is a long one. I too had my own reservations but I did not know that my perceptions were about to take a 360 degree turn.

From the flight and throughout the entire trip, I met people – so helpful, so kind, so full of humility – that I realized staying in the financial capital of India, being a part of the constant cat-mouse race in the corporate world, I have barely met people who are so courteous with 10 on 10 to the hospitality. There was a lot to learn from Lucknow—I am glad I chose this great city for vacation.

 

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I won’t bore you with all the details but some which I feel will help you planning your trip to the City of Nawabs (and City of Kebabs), Lucknow is stated below in an extremely condensed version. You must visit the city for the elaborate version.

Lucknow, anything and everything here is massive, vast – from houses to gardens to roads – everything is considerably large. I was staying at Gomti Nagar, said to be the largest planned residential colony of India, about 35 minutes from the Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport, Amausi, Lucknow. For the first time in India I saw roads with Cycle track. I mean this is impossible to dream in Mumbai. Places visited in Lucknow were…

Ambedkar Memorial Park, Gomti Nagar–the best time to visit this park is around 4 pm in summer. The park is built near Gomti River, using red sandstone that gives it a majestic yet modern look, and its vastness covers quite a portion of Gomti Nagar. To cover the entire garden will take about 5 to 6 hours. The architecture is strikingly beautiful. You will not get enough of clicks as every angle is a beauty in itself. In evening the lights are very dim – therefore, you may not be able to appreciate, and get good pics and selfies. The sculptures, gates, statues, pillars, fountains, bonsai – all are work of art, truly admirable.Some clicks that we could take in about 2 hours…

Entry Fee: INR 10 per person

 

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Dewa Sharif, Barabanki – It takes about an hour from Gomti Nagar to visit Dewa Sharif – shrine of Haji Waris Ali Shah, a Sufi saint from Dewa (1819-1905), and in respect of the saint and shrine, the town is known as Dewa Sharif. A serene place, full of peace. The sufi songs and light music creates a mystical atmosphere. Religion and gender is no bar, here. All are welcomed to pray to the Almighty here.

Entry Fee: NONE

To Purchase (if desired): Offering Basket – a chaddar (piece of fabric), flowers (flower petals usually), sweets (white sugar balls) and thread (red-yellow thread) for about INR 100 to 150. If the chaddar is an ornate piece of fabric then the price will be higher – maximum INR 500.

Chaddar and Flowers will be offered in the shrine, thread one can tie inside on the metal grill, and few flower petals and sugar balls you carry with you (for consuming, distributing among friends, etc.).

You can donate in the donation boxes and to the musicians. There is no compulsion, it is solely your wish.

Shoes are to be removed and kept before entering the shrine. It is something like INR 2 per pair, but you can pay more I you desire.

Advisable to wear clothing that cover your body (no shorts, sleeveless, etc.), taking head scarf is appropriate.

Pictures are not allowed near the shrine. But you can click outside in the premises.

 

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Lucknow City – Once you cross the Gomti river, you enter the way to the old Lucknow city – one of the most beautiful cities of India. Places to visit here include Bada Imamabada courtyard which contains Shahi Bawli, and Asifi Masjid, Chota Imamabada, Hussainabad Clock Tower, Satkhanda, Hussainabad Picture Gallery, Rumi Darwaza, Lucknow Residency, Hazartganj Lane…some of the many places one must not miss.

Bada Imamabada: I have not witnessed an architectural monument with innate detailing considering convenience for the soldiers’ way back in 1784. There is an idiom – Walls have ears. You must visit this architectural maze – the famous Bhool Bhulaiya (Labyrinth) – to know what this idiom actually means because here Walls Really Have Ears! Whatever you speak near the walls can be heard by a person standing miles away. That is the way soldiers positioned across use to communicate or warn on the upcoming danger. Wow!

As the history goes, it is said that the Imam Bada was built with a moral cause – to generate employment in the famine hit Awadh in the 18th century by Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh. Two set of workers were hired – one built the monument in the morning, one broke it at night – sounds crazy but was done by the Nawab so that his people do not turn into the lazy-kinds and are paid for their days’ hard work till the wrath of famine disappears.

For the generous Nawab, People said, “Jisko na de Moula, usko de Asaf-ud-Doula.”

(To those whom God doesn’t Bless, Are Blessed By Asaf-ud-Doula.)

To which the humble, strong faith, religious Nawab replied, “Jisko de Moula, usko kya de Asaf-ud-Doula.”

(To whom God blesses, who is Asaf-ud-Daula to bless.)

As you enter the hall you will see the Tazia and the grave of Asaf-ud-Daula. The ceiling so high, is buit with no pillars, no iron, with excellent acoustic properties. Thought the guide described, I still could not understand how. The bricks then were tiled using a paste made of food ingredients – Black Gram (Urad Dal), Rice (Chawl), Jaggery (Gur), Acacia Gum (Goond), Wheat (Ghehun), Limestone (Choona), and Brick Dust (Surkhi). Absolutely stunning!

The narrow stairs and path takes you to the roof from where you can see the Teeliwali Masjid. Ventilation, light, visibility of the main gate from every window – everything is mesmerizing – which made me wonder how much of thinking had gone in designing and building this marvellous structure.

The courtyard has Asifi Masjid and way to the hidden Bawli, besides beautiful garden. It also has stalls that sell water, souvenir, etc. Water is a must especially in summer. The heat is killing. Your feet will burn if you do not walk on the carpets. It took us over 2 hours – will take more time for the photo frenzies. Daylight visit is advisable as you can capture the beauty of the place.

Entry Fee: INR 20 for Bada Imamabada which contains Shahi Bawli, and Asifi Masjid, Chota Imamabada, Hussainabad Clock Tower, Satkhanda and Hussainabad Picture Gallery

INR 5 for camera

INR 2 per shoe pair

INR 120 on wards for guides each at Bada Imambada, Chota Imam Bada and Hussainabad Picture Gallery

Please carry a scarf and sunglasses without fail.

Beware: Please hire a government recognized guide. You will find them near the fee counter. Avoid interacting with the so called Tanga Wala Guide (horse ride + guides) who share some common talks and take you to expensive Lucknowi Cloth Shops with whom they have commission settlements per purchase you make.

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Chota Imambada – Another Imambada smaller but with beautiful monument and tazias.

 

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Hussainabad Clock Tower, Satkhanda, Hussainabad Picture Gallery – all of these monuments are situated adjacent to each other. Hussainabad Clock Tower and Satkhanda are currently under restoration work. Hussainabad Picture Gallery is one must visit place. Please hire the guide. No pictures inside are allowed. And the paintings inside made from flower colours, fruit extracts, jewels and precious stone dust have this 3D effect – you can actually see the portraits looking at you from any angle in the Picture Hall. Once again I am wowed.

 

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Rumi Darwaza – it is like the entrance gate to the city. I like all the Darwazas and Gates all over India!

Lucknow Residency – Also known as British Residence Museum is again located on massive grounds with many smaller and larger monuments inside. In the museum inside, you will have to keep your cameras and cell phones etc. in the locker. No pictures allowed inside the museum. The museum has a replica of the old city preserved in a glass covered table, many old portraits, pictures, the cannon explosion mark, etc. entire history is captured in these artifacts.

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Hazartganj Lane – It is the old look city lane displaying the modern fashion brands. It has its own charm. You must taste Chaat at Royal Café here. In Lucknow and not having chat means you have missed something. We visited Sahara Ganj Mall Food Court which has Royal Café counter (basket chaat is worthit), Lucknowi Kebab Corner (I think that is the name. Check the mini meal here.), the lassi (I cannot recollect the name of the outlet), and all fast food outlets.

 

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Aminabad Market – Ok now I thought Mumbai Market was the biggest. Again I was wrong. Aminabad I guess is one of the oldest and biggest (trust me it is HUGE) textile bazaar in India. Lucknowi Chikan fabrics (stitched – unstitched) are a must purchase here. Bedsheets, pillow covers, cushion covers, stitched sari blouses, zardosi Indian wear, embroidered sari…all in varieties and colours. You will get tired, but the shops and the market continues. You cannot cover the market in one day – one week is what you need. Prakash Kufi, Mohan Market and there is a bakery I do not remember the name – are two must visit places. You will love the kulfi!

Pratrakar Puram, Gomti Nagar – If you do not have time to vist Aminabad, then Patrakar Market is a like an assorted version of Aminabad. It is expensive than Aminabad but extremely economical in comparison to Mumbai.

For touring the city, it is advisable to book a car. For Aminabad you will have to rely on rickshaws and cycle rickshaws. While packing for the trip you must have three things – Sunglasses, Flat/Sports Shoes and Scarf/Cap/Hat. Ensure you are wearing minimal gold jewellery. Chain and bangle snatching is not uncommon. Advisable to wear artificial jewellery. Credit cards are accepted in big stores at Aminabad and Patrakar Market. So carry cash only as much as you require.

Sans Aminabad, it will take at least four days if you really want to connect with the city. Impeccable Hindi and Urdu is music to ears as in Mumbai you speak either Mumbaiyya Hindi or Hindlish.

There are many more parks in Lucknow, which we could not visit due to time constraint. But our trip was fun as Lucknow was followed by Kanpur, Agra, Sikandra and Fatehpur Sikri…to be continued 🙂

Hope the article helps. All the tariff mentioned in the article are for Indian citizens. For Foreign Tourists, the tariff differs.

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…Ashu Bolar