October 3, 2021

Jodhpur: Places to Visit in the Blue City

Ashok and I rode through the narrow gully that meandered its way past houses and shrines, which seemed like an endless path, until it came to an abrupt end. Parking our bike, we headed up a staircase to the rooftop of one of the numerous blue structures that cluttered the place. From the rooftop we hopped on to the neighbouring hillock. We were in race to witness the setting sun from the sunset viewpoint with a sea of blue houses in the foreground. Luckily, we were just in the nick of time to see one of the prettiest frames in Jodhpur, and that was a great start to my exploration of the Blue City.

The city get its nickname, ‘Blue City of India’ due to the numerous houses painted with a mix of indigo and limestone, which gives it a sky-blue colour. My local guide, Ashok mentioned that the houses painted in sky blue colour belong to the Brahmin community. It’s probably a way to discern their houses from the rest. Another story reveals that this was done to keep termites away, which had encroached these houses.

However, much before the city got its tagline, Jodhpur was the capital of the Marwar kingdom, which ruled a large part of present day Rajasthan from 13th century A.D. until early 19th century A.D. From the Delhi Sultanate to the Marathas to the Mughals, the Rathore Kings of Marwar fought off multiple attacks, sometimes losing out and becoming a vassal, while at other times, winning and getting back the power. The first capital of the Marwar dynasty was Mandore, and later in the mid 15th century, it was shifted to Jodhpur, by the king, Rao Jodha, after whom the city is named.

While its rich history and stories will leave you captivated, the city has quite a few interesting places to visit, which will take you through some of its bygone glorious days.


Mehrangarh Fort








Standing tall and intimidating over a hillock, Mehrangarh Fort left me gaping at it for long from a distance. This is one of the magnificent forts in Rajasthan known for its spectacular artworks displaying the culture and heritage of Marwar Kingdom. Built in mid 15th century by Rao Jodha, and renovated by the later rulers of Marwar, there are seven entrance gates that you need to pass through to get to the insides of the fort. The canon ball marks on the fort walls talks about the numerous wars the fort had witnessed. The fort houses numerous galleries that display various items that were once used by the royal family, which includes palanquins, armoury, elephant howdahs, paintings, costumes and turbans. The numerous palaces with innumerable windows, extensive artworks, spectacular glassworks and intricate carvings on its exteriors display magnificent craftsmanship. Some of the palaces here are Sheesh Mahal, Phool Mahal, Jhanki Mahal, Moti Mahal and Zenana Mahal. The views of the fort walls and the city of Jodhpur from these palaces are absolutely captivating.


Jaswant Thada


A short walk away from the fort, Jaswant Thada, a gleaming marble structure is a cenotaph built in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh, one of the Rathore Kings, who ruled in the late 19th century. The magnificent structure is adorned with wonderful carvings, pillars, windows and arches, which are absolutely eye-catchy.


Mandore Gardens




Mandore, which was earlier known as Mandavyapura, was the first capital of the Mawar Kings, until they made Jodhpur their capital later in the 15th century. Don’t get beguiled by the sprawling lush greenery, pathways and the name of this place. What these gardens house are spectacular cenotaphs built in red sand stone with stunning architecture and intricate carvings. Rising tall among the greenery around, the cenotaphs dedicated to all the major kings of Marwar can be found here. Historical facts take a backseat here, as the cenotaphs, which almost resemble a temple have spellbinding art works on the pillars and the ceilings. Further ahead, atop a hillock in the backdrop, are the ruins of a fort and remnants of the old capital.


Kaylana Lake

A placid lake flanked by hills on either side, Kaylana lake is an ideal break from the innumerable structures, architecture and sculptures, that Jodhpur is known for. While, there isn’t much one can do here, gazing at this landscape after a long day of exploration, will be an ideal way to end your day.


Toorji Ka Jhalra

A stepped well built in the mid 18th century; Toorji Ka Jhalra was built by the then king, Abhay Singh for his queen, Tanvarji. The well during those days was maintained by women, who also controlled the water management system across this town. There are more than a hundred such step wells across Jodhpur, but the 200-foot deep Toorji Ka Jhalra is the most popular one. Though the carvings on the steps have faded over the years, the well was once adorned with numerous artworks, which included intricate carvings, water spouts and much more.   


Sunset Viewpoint, Pachetiya Hill

An ideal way to end a day in Jodhpur is by enjoying a sunset atop Pachetiya Hill. Narrow gullies that meander its way past the blue houses lead you to the top of this hillock, which also offers a magnificent aerial view of the city of Jodhpur. The setting sun splashing myriad colours across the sky with houses in various shades of blue in the foreground is a spectacular sight. All that you would want to do is gaze in oblivion as the sun slowly goes down the horizon.


Jalandhar Nathji Ka Mandir

This might a tough one to locate as it is tucked away inside a school premises in one of the nondescript lanes of the city, and it remains shut while the school is not functional. Set inside a large courtyard, this temple is adorned with numerous pillars, which are decked with intricate carvings and motifs. The artwork across the base of the platform have partly eroded and dilapidated. 


Masuriya Hill

This hillock has a statue of Durga Das Rathod atop a horse, surrounded by a garden. However, what bring people here are the panoramic views of Jodhpur city and the spectacular sunsets. This is an ideal place to spend a serene evening away from the crowds, and to enjoy a beautiful sunset.


Sadar Bazaar     

Sadar Bazaar might well be a crowded shopping area with numerous shops selling a wide range of things. However, a major point of attraction here is the clock tower that intimidates the surrounding shops, and displays influences of colonial architecture.  


How to reach Jodhpur:

Jodhpur is well connected to other cities in the country by flights and trains. The closest major international airport is in Jaipur, 370 km away.

Food and Accommodation:

Being a popular tourist destination, Jodhpur has a wide range of resorts, hotels and hostels to choose from. I stayed at Hostel Raahi, which is well recommended. The city also has numerous restaurants, which serve authentic Rajasthani cuisine.

 

August 15, 2021

Paniyeli Poru: The Untamed Waters

It was my second visit to Paiyeli Poru, and luckily it was open. The earlier visit was futile as the place was shut, and I had to head to Inchathotty instead. The winding road after Perumbavoor takes you through rubber plantations to this popular spot on the tourist map. The road get shrouded by trees and lush greenery as you get closer to Paniyeli Poru.

While there was no glimpse of waters or the cascade at the entrance, what greeted me were tall trees lined beautifully on either side of the pathway that meandered its way through them. River Periyar showed up after while, with its blue hues blending beautifully with the lush greenery. The undulating hills in the backdrop and the blue skies made the frame a picturesque one. I strolled along the pathway that turned narrower and ran hugging the bank of the river, with intermittent views of the flowing Periyar. Slowly the pathway opened to large open spaces where I sat and enjoyed the scenic views.



It is said that during the old days people who crossed the river here at Paniyeli on bamboo rafts had to fight (Poru) with the turbulent currents and gushing waters of the river. Under currents, whirlpools and dips between the rocks act as a trap that suck you in. Only the really brave ones managed to cross the river and survive the fight with the waters.

I walked further where the trail of about 400 meters ended at an open space with a large rocky surface. The view of water gushing over protruding rocks while flowing down the stream was a beautiful sight. The dips on the rock bed were clearly visible through the clear waters. As I sat on one of the protruding rocks, dipping my feet in the waters, all that I saw were lush greenery and the flowing Periyar. The only sound I heard was of the gurgling of the waters and chirping of a couple for birds in the background. I sat there for long staring in oblivion at the picturesque surroundings.





When the water levels are shallow, one can cross over the protruding rocks and cross over to the other bank. Water cascading over a few rocks to form a small waterfall is a picturesque sight here. However, I had to be content with the view, as the water levels were high and wasn’t allowed to cross over.


How to reach Paniyeli Poru:

The closest major city is Ernakulam town (Cochin), which is about 53 km away from Paniyeli Poru. Ernakulam is well connected to other cities across India by trains and flights. It’s ideal to take your vehicle or a private cab to get to here.

July 12, 2021

12 Years of Tales of a Nomad!


Some journeys are long, would require laborious effort to keep moving, and might even be crammed with perpetual obstacles. However, if it still brings a smile on your face, you are definitely enjoying that voyage.

'Tales of a Nomad' has seen tough times, where I have struggled to publish a single post in a month. There are articles and photographs that I have not really been happy about, but still gone ahead and published, because I had to feed the blog. On the brighter side, there have been numerous instances, when I felt content and loved writing my travel experiences. Like everything else in life, this ride of 'Tales of a Nomad' over the last 12 years has been full of adventure, filled with many highs and a few lows.

The picture above indicates that the sun is setting, but the splash of colours has made the sky beautiful; concrete structures can be spotted along the banks of the river, but it's largely lush green everywhere; the thorns on the bougainvillea might hurt you, but the flowers look gorgeous; there is a lot of weed floating on the waters, but it is still placid and looks beautiful. Despite the incessant changes it has witnessed over the years and the presence of innumerable hindrances, the river still flows nonchalantly! 

With travel taking a huge blow due to the tough times we live in presently, 'Tales of a Nomad' too might face hurdles and struggles in the future, but like the river, it too will continue the journey, bringing its followers many more travel stories.


Thank you for all the love you have showered over the last 12 years!

June 28, 2021

Evening Frames from Munambam Beach

It was an impromptu visit to Munambam beach, and we were right in time to see the sun recline for the day. Periyar river nonchalantly disgorged itself into the Arabian Sea at Munambam beach, and we strolled on the long walkway that runs parallel to it. Chinese fishing nets dotted the beach, fishermen went about their chores, a few visitors tried a fun banana ride, and the gentle sea breeze blew past me, as I gazed at the horizon in oblivion. The tranquil setting and the evening sky with a tinge of orange hue as the sun went down, offered picturesque frames.




Nestled in the northern tip of the island of Vypeen, Munambam is primarily a fishing harbour, which has gained popularity in the recent times. Away from the beach at Cherai, which is a more popular one on this stretch, Munambam beach is about 33 kms from Ernakulam town (Cochin). 

June 21, 2021

Bhoothathankettu Dam: Built by Ghosts

Lush greenery with the relentlessly flowing River Periyar, hovering dark clouds, and half open shutters of the dam awaited us at Bhoothathankettu. As we took a stroll on top of the dam, and later on the narrow road that snaked its way beside the river, endless vistas of the meandering river flanked by undulating hills and dense forests left us captivated. A gentle breeze blew across my face, as I gazed at the breathtaking panoramic view of the surroundings from the watch tower. Except for distant chirping of birds and clinking of bottles hung from a nearby tree, it was just the silence of nature that wrapped us.

While the landscape views at Boothathankettu are picturesque, the interesting stories behind the dam’s name would leave every curious traveller intrigued.  Bhoothathankettu, translates to ‘built by ghosts or demons’ in Malayalam, and the legend says that demons wanted to dam the waters of the river to submerge the Shiva temple at Trikkariyoor down the stream. They had to complete the task of building the fort with boulders before the break of dawn, but Shiva tricked them by sending a rooster that gave out a false cock-a-doodle-do. The demons panicked, stop building the dam midway, and left the job half done. Believed to have been the work of the demons, there are boulders downstream, which act as a hindrance in the flow of the river. However, geologists and historians might have a more reliable story to it. There are records that suggest that it was the flooding of Periyar River in mid 14th century, which resulted in the boulders being where they are presently in the river.



With both a modern dam and a natural one, Bhoothathankettu Dam is definitely one of the most picturesque places to visit in the state of Kerala. Though I restricted my exploration of Bhoothathankettu to the views of the gorgeous landscape, there are trekking trails offered by the authorities, which will take you on some exciting adventure into the nearby forests. There are boating services available as well that would take you further down on the river, and offer a closer view of the lush green forests and hills.

Paniyeli Poru, Inchathotty suspension bridge and Thattekad Bird Sanctuary are some of the other attractions nearby, which you can head to after your exploration of the new dam built by humans and the old one by ghosts.

How to reach Bhoothathankettu:

The closest major city is Ernakulam town (Cochin), which is about 60 km away from Bhoothathankettu. Ernakulam is well connected to other cities across India by trains and flights. It’s ideal to take your vehicle or a private cab to get to the dam.


May 31, 2021

Pit Stop!


Pit stops at tiny tea shops, which sell random short eats in nondescript villages or towns are ideal for a break during long journeys. The pit stops mostly offer a much needed and enjoyable break, but they become a mandate sometimes.

The pandemic, lockdowns and norms that we live amidst at present are like a good break for all travellers. Hopefully, travel will be back in action soon, and we all will be on the road again. Until then, let's enjoy a nice and well needed pit stop.


Wayanad, Kerala. January 2021.

April 30, 2021

Nonchalant!

 

Bharathappuzha River, also referred as Nila is considered to be an integral part of the culture of Kerala. Here she flows nonchalantly under the blue skies while meandering past lush greenery and sandy banks.


Shot from Kuttippuram Bridge, Kerala. January 2021

February 23, 2021

An Evening at Inchathotty

We were racing against time and sped on the road that meandered through endless rubber plantations to Inchathotty. Though we couldn’t make it on time for the sunset, the orange hue that lingered over the horizon along with mist wrapped distant hills and lush green surroundings made a picturesque frame. It drizzled incessantly and the serene Periyar flowed without a gurgle below the popular suspension bridge at Inchathotty. We were awed by the pretty picture that nature painted, and gazed at it in oblivion until it got dark.



The walk on the bridge was an exciting experience, as it shook, and I was lost on whether to give into the allure of the landscape or worry about my next step. The bridge is only for pedestrians and is a great spot to enjoy the panoramic views and the charming countryside. At approximately 181 meters, this is apparently the longest suspension bridge in Kerala.


Inchathotty was like any other nondescript village until it garnered a lot of attention after this suspension bridge was built in 2012 to help commute between the villages on either banks of the river. There are activities such as kayaking that is on offer here. Inchathotty is a small village surrounded by forests along the banks of River Periyar near Kothamangalam in Kerala. Popular tourist attractions such as Paniyeli Poru, Bhoothathankettu Dam and Thattekad Bird Sanctuary are nearby. 


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