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From The CMD’s Desk- December 2019

Dear Readers, Welcome aboard SpiceJet! Last month, India played its first-ever day-night Test match — against Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens — with a pink ball. It was the ninth…

Dear Readers,

Welcome aboard SpiceJet!

Last month, India played its first-ever day-night Test match — against Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens — with a pink ball. It was the ninth cricket-playing nation to do so. Commenting on the historic match, the newly-elected BCCI President Sourav Ganguly said, “India is the biggest country in terms of cricket and the five-day cricket format needed rejuvenation.” Being an ardent fan of cricket myself, I couldn’t agree more with Dada.

Since I am also an aviation enthusiast, I believe, we need a rejuvenation of brand ‘Aviation India’ to fast emerge as a global aviation power.

We, at SpiceJet, have been working relentlessly to realise that goal year after year. Daring to dream big and leaping forward to make those dreams come true led to an eventful 2019 — a year of unprecedented growth for SpiceJet.

As part of our global expansion, we introduced 22 non-stop flights on international routes to Dubai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dhaka, Riyadh and Jeddah, among others. We have partnered with Emirates for interline and codeshare agreement and have signed a MoU with Gulf Air. We also signed a distribution agreement with Amadeus.

The pact with Emirates offers wider connectivity to our customers on the latter’s network across the US, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Our agreement with Gulf Air will create growth opportunities beyond network expansion, such as leveraging each other’s strengths in pilot training, and enhancing cargo and engineering services.

Back home, we relentlessly scaled up domestic connectivity. In the wake of the crisis in the aviation sector, which resulted in a severe capacity crunch across busy airports, SpiceJet made every effort to restore normalcy and minimise passenger inconvenience. We launched close to 164 flights connecting Mumbai and Delhi, besides multiple other domestic and international destinations.

The year also witnessed an important milestone in SpiceJet’s history — the induction of our 100th aircraft, a Boeing 737 — into the fleet. In November 2019, our fleet size stood at 118, operating 630 average daily flights to 64 destinations — 54 domestic and 10 international.

We launched 24 new flights under UDAN or the regional connectivity scheme, connecting smaller towns and cities with the rest of the country. We also consolidated our operations by switching from T1 to T2 at Mumbai Airport and from T2 to T3 at Delhi Airport, thus offering a smooth and hassle-free travel experience for our passengers.

The year was also eventful for SpiceJet in other ways

I had the opportunity to draw global attention to Indian aviation at the World Economic Forum at Davos and the UN’s Climate Action Summit in New York. I also had the privilege of chairing WEF’s Aviation, Travel and Tourism Governor’s Meeting and was appointed to the Board of Governors of the International Air Transport Association. This was an honour for SpiceJet and Indian aviation, as it came less than three months after we joined the global group. I was also honoured to receive, on behalf of SpiceJet, the ‘Airline Executive of the Year’ at CAPA’s 16th annual ‘Asia Pacific Aviation Awards for Excellence’.

I take this opportunity to reiterate that all these accolades and recognitions belong to every SpiceJetter, who has been working tirelessly to rebuild an airline that is admired across the world.

Year 2019 has been truly special and 2020 will be no less. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your unflinching support on our exciting journey.

On behalf of the entire SpiceJet family, I wish you happy holidays and a joyous Christmas and New Year!

Tailwinds and Happy Landings! Jai Hind!

9,891 Comments on From The CMD’s Desk- December 2019


JAIPUR AND ITS SURROUNDINGS are well-known for their cultural heritage and history, thanks to their innumerable palaces, forts and museums. But there are many wildlife parks and sanctuaries too in…

JAIPUR AND ITS SURROUNDINGS are well-known for their cultural heritage and history, thanks to their innumerable palaces, forts and museums. But there are many wildlife parks and sanctuaries too in close proximity to Jaipur. A visit to these rich bio-diverse regions is a great way to plan an escape from the hustle of the city. The winter months are ideal for the excursions.


The probability of spotting a tiger at Ranthambore National Park is very high.

The most sought-after national park in north India, Ranthambore National Park lies 150 km from Jaipur, in Sawai Madhopur district. Lakes, forest, grasslands and ancient ruins — the park’s diverse topography is a treat for all. Spread across 1,300 sq km, the park is divided into six zones. The park caters to the needs of all kinds of travellers with its variety of accommodations spanning luxury tents, heritage resorts, budget hotels and hostels. The best way to explore it is in an open gypsy or a 20-seat Canter which should be pre-booked on the park’s website. Many wild animals such as leopards, bears, antelopes, and the Royal Bengal tiger wander around in the park. The probability of sighting a tiger is fairly large in Ranthambore. Besides wild animals, a variety of birds, fishes and reptiles are also found in the park. For conservation buffs, the park is a UNESCO declared heritage site. The 11th century Ranthambore Fort perched on a hilltop lies inside the park. While the fort has sights of historical and architectural significance, the walk up to the fort is a great opportunity for a panoramic view of the surroundings.


Sariska lies in Alwar district, about 100 km away from Jaipur. Having lost a large part of its tiger population in 2004 due to poaching, with great effort and initiative, the park has now successfully brought back its tiger population into reckoning. Enveloped by the Aravalli hills, the park is spread over an area of 800 sq km and divided into three zones. Apart from the tiger, the park is home to other wild animals such as hyena, chital and sambhar. It houses the country’s largest population of peafowls and harbor quails. Rare birds like grey partridge and white kingfisher are also spotted nesting here. Visit the ancient ruins of the temple of Garh Rajor, the Kankwari fort and the picturesque Pandupol waterfall. Last but not least the Siliserh and Jaisamand lakes in the park’s proximity are great places to watch aquatic wildlife like crocodiles, fishes and water snakes.


Flamingos at the Sambhar Salt Lake.

Barely 65 km away Jaipur lies the largest inland salt lake of Sambhar. It occupies an area of 200 sq km and is a UNESCO RAMSAR site. The salt marshes of Sambhar are often referred to as a native alternative to Rann of Kutch for its white lands stretching to as far as the eye can see. The lake transforms into a breeding ground for migratory birds in the winter season. Numerous birds can be seen feeding and flocking in the salt pools of the lake. Birds such as pied avocets, Kentish plovers, storks, sandpipers, black-winged stilts and flamingos build their colonies in the centre of the salt reservoir. The best way to explore the lake and its vicinity is through a self-drive car or a hired jeep from the nearby bus stand. Once they are done with birding, many tourists also visit the salt museum in the vicinity.


Jhalana Park was a hunting ground for royals in the past. It has come into the limelight in recent years for its frequent leopard sightings. Situated in the Malviya Nagar area in the heart of the city, the park is small in size but has a healthy population of leopards. Besides the big elusive cat many other wild animals like Blue Bull, Deer, Monkey, Mongoose, Fox and Porcupine can also be spotted here. Numerous species of native birds can also be seen here including Indian Pitta, Dusky Eagle, and Spotted Owlet. Open gypsies ply in the morning and afternoon for a 5-hour exploration tour of the park. The bookings of the safari should be made in advance on the park’s website.


This is one of the finest wetland bird habitats of the country. It is located near Bharatpur town and recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. With more than 350 species of migratory and native birds in a small area of 29 sq km the place is a heaven for birdwatchers and nature photographers.With the onset of winter, birds from all across the globe flock to the park for mating and nesting. Some of the fascinating avians in the park are wagtails, pelicans, wheatears and the rare Siberian crane. Quite a few wild animals can also be sighted in the park such as jackal, sambar and wild boar. Motorized vehicles are not permitted and the park can be explored on a rickshaw, a cycle or while on a fun ride on a horse carriage. A visit to the nearby place of Deeg is recommended for its beautiful fountain, lush gardens and magnificent history


Destination Guide-Pune

Overview Pune has come a long way from being a place that has been host and home to so much history. It is now where that heritage co-exists with a…


Pune has come a long way from being a place that has been host and home to so much history. It is now where that heritage co-exists with a blossoming modern city that is young at heart and young in its opportunities. A hub of education and technology, the pleasant Pune is also home to so much culture that is hidden in its unassuming exteriors.


  • Joshi’s Museum of Miniature Railway: One man’s passion is another’s amazement. Model train enthusiast Bhau Joshi has built a functional, elaborate mini-township layout complete with railway stations, roads, flyovers, buildings, traffic signals and more. A truly curious engaging sight by a man who materialized his vision into a technological marvel.
  • Osho Teerth Gardens: What was, till a few years ago, a wasteland with a dirty canal making its way through it, is now a fantastically green Japanese-style park bordering the Osho Ashram. The park spread over 12 acres, is a fine marriage of conservational ethos with the needs of a modern city. What you’ll enjoy is diverse greenery, a clear stream bisecting the park, and ample photo opportunities.
  • Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum: A fascinating, prosperous collection of antique objects from Indian daily life collected by the eponymous collector, it is one of Pune’s finest places to visit. Observe members of the 20,000-strong collection, including jewellery, music instruments, household equipment, toys, entire doors & windows, and a lot more, most of them still in pristine condition.
  • Gliding: 

    Take a few gliding lessons or fulfil your dreams of flying on a joy ride in a glider, at the Hadapsar Gliding Centre in Pune. If you don’t have the time or inclination for lessons, you should definitely partake in a bit of guided gliding in the company of a trained pilot, given that it’s for an ultra-cheap price here.

  • The Sawai Gandharv Bhimsen Music Festival: Bharat Ratna Bhimsen Joshi founded the Sawai Gandharv Music Festival, India’s leading classical music festival in 1953 in memory of his guru Sawai Gandharv. The festival, which had the revered founder’s name appended to its name recently, has been the breeding grounds of prodigies and the showcase for established names in Indian classical music. Attend and have your mind blown.
  • Shanivar Wada: 

    An 18th-century Peshwa fortress only the mammoth gate to which remains, owing to a fire, Shanivar Wada is now the verdant hangout of choice for the average Pune person. Evenings see a couple of light shows being hosted, in Marathi and English that recapitulate the vivid history of this former Peshwa stronghold.

  • Book Shopping: Being a genuine education hub, with numerous colleges and universities and research institutions, it is only natural that Pune loves to read. That love is aided by so many great bookshops around the city, many of them centred on the Appa Balwant Chowk. Shop for the latest fiction, no-fiction and educational titles, or second hand books, or books by the kilo; you’d most probably find it all.


  • Independence Brewing Company: One of Pune’s best dining experiences; the Independence Brewing Company is a world-class going out experience- impeccable décor, a delicious much-loved menu, and the seven brewed beers on tap, the best part about the place. The seven brews on tap keep rotating, but some crowd-pullers, but do try the Four Grain Saison and the Method to Madness IPA. The fine aesthetics and the great service will get you hooked.
  • High Spirits Café: The centre of all action, the High Spirits Café is where everybody flocks to for some live entertainment or a nice meal throughout the week. From comedy nights to live music and DJs spinning the latest in dance music, the place has everything to keep the young occupied and make the elderly young.
  • Kayani Bakery: A part of history, Kayani Bakery has delighted people of the city with its cakes and breads and biscuits since the days of the British Raj. As in demand as ever, its Shrewsbury biscuits, bread and sponge cakes exemplify what ‘selling like hot cakes’ means.
  • Malaka Spice: As much a warm family-run establishment as it is a stalwart culinary institution, Cheenu and Praful Chandawarkar’s Malaka Spice is a mouth-watering barrage of one great Oriental dish after another. Putting the local in stay local firmly in bold, the chefs firmly scrutinize everything that goes into their preparations; one bit and you’ll know why it is so well-loved.
  • Dario’s: An elegant, intimate Italian joint serving up heavenly pastas, pizzas and salads in its indoor and al-fresco dining settings, Dario’s is a vegetarian foodie’s delight. And their desserts are the cherry on the cake.


To book from the widest range of hotels, visit

First Class

  • Conrad Pune: Be inundated with luxury at the Conrad Pune from the Hilton chain of hotels. Plush, well-equipped rooms ensure superior comfort. Elsewhere, the hotel pampers your senses with 6 dining options and a bar, a 24-hour fitness centre, a 24-hour business centre, a salon and spa, and an enrapturing temperature-controlled outdoor pool. Can’t ask for more, if you’re willing to pay a premium.
    Distance from airport: 6 km
  • Atmantan Wellness Retreat: A rejuvenating wellness retreat, Atmantan is located on the outskirts of the city, in a revelatory lakeside part of the country. Facilities are indulgent, but the real strength are the infinite opportunities to disconnect, unwind and go for many wellness services like massages, therapy sessions, fitness sessions, hammam baths and a whole lot more.
    Distance from airport: 60 km

Premium Economy

  • Four Points by Sheraton: World-class hotel and serviced apartments, with gym, 24-hour spa and more, minutes from the Pune Airport.
    Distance from airport: 4 km
  • Vivanta by Taj: Blue Diamond: 5-star luxury hotel, with extensive amenities, fitness centre, spa and more.
    Distance from airport: 6 km


  • Hotel Sagar Plaza: A comfortable stay in the heart of the city that is as friendly in service as it is on your pocket.
    Distance from airport: 9 km
  • Laxmi Happy Homes: A no-frills homestay, with tastefully done rooms for rent at surprisingly cheap costs. Guests can enjoy common areas, free Wi-Fi, a well-equipped shared kitchen, and warm hosts, among other privileges like the excellent location.
    Distance from airport: 6 km

Weekend Getaways

  • Matheran: Just under three hours away, Matheran can feel worlds apart from Pune, thankfully so, for the absence of all motor vehicles. All vehicles are banned here, and by default the hill station gentles ambles along, absorbing so many visitors in its quiet retreat. Walk around green vistas, take in gorgeous views, ride on horseback or cross a valley on a rope, you’ll love the serene nature of this place.
  • Khandala:Khandala, Maharashtra 

    Conveniently located about an hour and a half away from Pune right on the Mumbai-Pune highway, Khandala is a verdant hill station preferred by lovers of nature, great views and hiking. Not really known for vigorous action, you can certainly enjoy many scenic view-points and the slightly-challenging hiking trails that lead there, along with the Bhushi Lake.

  • Khadakwasla: A small hamlet centred around the eponymous dam on the river Mutha, Khadakwasla is, unbeknownst to most, central to India’s defence acumen. Short distances from the dam are the acclaimed National Defence Academy, the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology, the College of Military Engineering and some other defence establishments. A few kilometres to the south is the Sinhagad Fort of lesser-known origins, believed to be about 2000 years old.

General Information

Languages: Hindi, English, Marathi

Public Transport: The major means of public transport are the public buses operated within the city by the PMPML, the city’s transport authority, and auto-rickshaws. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Ola Cabs have also established a robust network of cabs across the city.

Weather: Pune experiences a combination of semi-arid hot and tropical pleasant climate. The summer months from mid-March to June see hot, dry spells, with the temperature sometimes soaring past 40.

Monsoon and winters are quite pleasant, with the Monsoon season seeing pleasant temperatures and moderate rainfall. The daytime temperatures can be pleasant during winters while the night can get chilly, with mercury often dropping to 5-6 degrees Celsius.

20,258 Comments on Destination Guide-Pune




One State Many Worlds”, the tagline of Karnataka’s tourism department, cannot be more apt. The state has something for every kind of tourist. The best part of touring the state is that you will stumble upon several gems that are relatively undiscovered which makes it an attractive tourist destination.

The state has declared 2017 as the Year of the Wild and the Tourism Department has identified nine eco-trekking routes along the scenic Western Ghats for both tourists and trekkers. According to Deepika Kapoor, Project Director, The Golden Chariot & Hospitality and Consultant, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC), “While we do not have a defined policy, we do something almost every day to attract tourists to the state. In fact, we would like to let people know that there is so much more to explore beyond the surface. So we are promoting Dasara as a festival across the state and not necessarily restricted to Mysore. We are also focusing our attention on eco friendly holidays and medical tourism as well and we recently also had a conference around this too. Likewise, we want to promote our other forests as well that goes beyond Kabini and Bandipur as the abundance of wildlife here is something that people must know about.”

We take you through four well known tourist getaways in Karnataka – Bengaluru, Mysore, Mangalore and Belgaum, before guiding you to some other fascinating and yet relatively unexplored places.

An infrared version of Lalbagh

The capital city, Bengaluru is a cosmopolitan metropolis that blends tradition and new age technological advances seamlessly to make it one of the most preferred cities to live in India. Arguably the city with the best weather in the country, Bengaluru also has several interesting sights. Living up to its tag of ‘Garden City’, are the two large lung spaces – Cubbon Park and Lalbagh – that are home to various botanical species of plants. Lalbagh also hosts a much awaited flower show twice a year – during Republic Day and Independence Day.

The simple summer palace of Tipu Sultan, used by him as a summer retreat, is a two storey teak wood structure with exquisitely carved wooden pillars, arches and balconies in Indo-Islamic architecture. The fort nearby is said to have been built by the founder Kempe Gowda (after whom the international airport is named) and has five sculpted arches and a Ganesha temple in its precincts.

A major landmark the city is the Dodda Ganesha temple that has an 18 feet high and 16 feet wide idol of Ganesha. Adjacent is the Basavana Gudi (or the Nandi Temple), that has a massive bull and this is where the annual ground fair called Kadlekai Parishe is held in the last week of November. The adjoining Bugle Rock garden has several rocks dating back to many centuries. The State legislature building Vidhan Soudha and High Court Attara Kacheri are buildings that are must be seen for their amazing Indo Neo-Dravidian, Indo-Saracenic and Dravidian styles of architecture. Shopping, eating out and having a good time is second nature here and this is a city that will never disappoint the traveller.


Mysore Palace

The cultural capital of the state is Mysore being home to the stunning palaces courtesy the Wodeyar royals who once ruled the state from here. Located just 130 km from the capital Bengaluru, the ride is a breeze courtesy the beautiful four lane road that connects the two cities. Taking centre stage is the Mysore Palace or the Amba Vilas Palace that sees more footfalls than many other monuments in India. This palace has a Public Durbar Hall with imported French lamp representing Egyptian figurines and a Private Durbar Hall that was used by the king for private audience. Carved rosewood doors inlaid with ivory, opulent gilded columns, stained glass ceilings, ornamental steel grills and chandeliers with delicate floral motifs, the royal throne and the wooden elephant howdah decorated with 84 kg of gold reflect the grandeur of days of the past.

Shrichamundeshwari Temple in Mysore

While in Mysore a visit to the 12th century Chamundeshwari temple atop the Chamundi hill houses the presiding deity of the Wodeyar kings is a must. The Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, St. Philomena’s Cathedral, Jaganmohan Palace and Brindavan Gardens are other important places here. This apart check out the Regional Museum of Natural History, Rail Museum, Indira Gandhi Central Museum and the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan while you are here. However if you are here during the annual Dasara festival, you can witness the grand 10 days that culminate in a grand procession called Jumboo Savari, a parade with decorated elephants, colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands and other floats that originate from the palace grounds to Banni Mantap (a locality in Mysore). Set amidst the sparkling waters of the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, the coastal town of Mangalore is the main port city of the state. Surrounded by verdant hills, ancient temples and Jain basadis, this is the chief maritime city of Karnataka.


Kadri Manjunatha Temple in Mangalore

While you are here start your trip at the ancient Mangaladevi temple dedicated to the Goddess after whom the city has been named. The oldest Shiva temple in Mangalore perched on the Kadri hills is the Kadri Manjunatha temple that has an elaborate entrance arch and multiple carved pillars and a spire covered in brass. Also pay obeisance at the St. Aloysius Chapel whose walls are covered with the paintings of artist Antony Moshaini of Italy and dates back to 1899. The Thannirbavi Beach, part of the Mangalore Port Trust, is one of best beaches of the city and a great place to watch the sunset.

The Panambur beach with stunning views of the light house and sailing ships, the Surathkal beach and the nearby temple of Lord Sadashiva and the Ullal beach close to the ruined fort of Abbakka Devi are some other beaches that you must see while you are here. One of the best things about Mangalore however lies in its delectable cuisine from Mangalore Buns to Goli Bajji to Mangalorean Fish Curry that you must sample. Also try the Gadbad, an ice cream sundae that is a speciality of the region and is a mix of different flavours with nuts, fruits, jelly and cream that will leave you asking for more.

Officially called Belgavi, Belgaum is a city that is akin to the second capital of the state and is home to the administrative building Suvarna Vidhana Soudha. The Belgaum Fort at the centre of the town dates back to 1519 and has been rebuilt over time and is one of the oldest in the state. The entrance has shrines of Goddess Durga and Lord Ganapati and this area also has two old mosques – Jamia Masjid and Safa Masjid. The structures inside are a blend of Deccan and Indo – Sarcenic styles of architecture. The Neminatha idol made from black stone is located inside the Kamala Basti here is a must visit.

Ramakrishna Mission Ashram mandir at Belgaum

Also check out the Mukhamantapa, a lotus carved on the ceiling. A visit to the building where Swami Vivekananda stayed for 12 days in 1892 is today the Ramakrishna Mission in Belgaum. The Kapileshwara Temple is referred to as Dakshina Kashi and it is widely believed that visiting the 12 Jyotirlingas is incomplete without paying a visit here. The one place that you must not miss seeing however is the Kittur Fort and Palace located about 50 km away and is associated with the heroic Rani Chennammawho ruled and protected this place. This is the place from which the queen carried out an armed rebellion against the British rulers and today you can visit the ruins of this place. The local handloom and cottage industry is well known and the silk weavers located in Vadgaon and Angol are known for the designing exquisite saris.

Beyond the big four just described above, there are some other hidden gems as well. If you want to get a good understanding of the state of Karnataka, you can start from the North. Bidar for instance has several monuments and mausoleums that attract historians, offbeat travellers and those who love architecture. This place offers a pleasant stroll down a land of medieval memories that glimmer like the silver etchings of bidriware, a craft unique to this city.

The world famous Gol Gumbaz that adorns the skyline of Bijapur is a splendid architecture visible from any part of the city. Built in IndoSarcenic style, the symmetry and grandeur make it possible for the monument to be seen in its entirety. Bijapur has other fine examples of architectural prowess. Likewise in Bagalkot there is a Jain basadi of Parshwanatha, a Virakta matha and several mosques of which Panka Masjid is a sterling structure in stone.

Hampi ruins on the banks of the Tungabhadra

The twin cities of Hubli and Dharwad also in the northern part of thestate are home to rich musical heritage and also some ancient temples that are stunning examples of Hoysala architecture. And how can you not visit the UNESCO site Hampi which is in close proximity. Located on the banks of the Tungabhadra, the Hampi ruins cover about nine square miles; but the fortifications and the outposts of the city include a larger area. The Virupaksha Temple, Vittala Raya temple and Hampi Bazaar are amongst the several important monuments here. An Archaeological museum maintained by the Central Government at Kamalapura near Hampi is a good place to understand the art patronised by the royalty here.

If architecture is your calling, you must stop at the Aihole which was once the commercial capital of the Chalukyas. There are several massive stone tombs on the expanses of the spread over two acres of land. About 30 temples here are within the fort and the abundance of red sand stone is seen here. The Hindu and Jain rock-cut temples of Aihole are an architectural delight. Close by along the river Malaprabha, is an isolated cluster of rust-tinged, golden sandstone temples of Pattadakalal that have an array of ancient temples that are a perfect ode to the artistic legacy of the Chalukyas.

The 10 major temples display interesting architectural features and are also an important site for the study of the development of temple architecture in South India. Go further ahead and you will reach the rocky ridges of Badami. Located strategically at the mouth of a ravine between two red sandstone cliffs and overlooking the aquamarine toned waters of the Agastya Lake, Badami was the mythological land where saint Agastya killed the demons Vatapi and Ilvala.

Badami has four cave temples carved out of rocks dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and also Jain Gods. The Banashankari Amma Temple is a Hindu shrine located at Cholachagudd near Badami and is also a popular stop. The Central Archaeological Department has maintained a museum here and has preserved many valuable relics.

Detailed carvings on statues at the Chennakeshava temple

As you travel to the centre of the state, you arrive at Davangere, that is home to some ancient temples like the Aanekonda Nandi, Eshwara Temple, Bethuru Kalleshwar Temple and the Neerthadi Ranganath Temple, among others. While you are here, you must sample the famed Davangere Benne Dosa, a culinary delight as well as the Nargis Mandakki which is a spiced puffed rice that is best enjoyed with chilli fritters!

Close by is Chitradurga known for its fort that has 18 ancient temples inside including the Hidimbeshwara temple. The fort has several gateways and entrances, granaries, oil pits, four secret entrances, a palace, a mosque and water tanks. Stop at the Chandravalli Caves located close by when you are here. Further away is the town of Hassan which has several fine examples of Hoysala architecture and sculpture. India’s second largest earth dam is here — at Gorur formed across the Hemavathi reservoir and was built in 1979.

The Golden Temple also known as Padmasambhava Buddhist Buddha Vihara

The twin temples of Nageshwara and Channakeshava in Mosale have intricately designed architecture and scriptures and are widely believed to be prototypes of the famed temples of Belur and Halebid that are also located here. The Shettyhalli church built on the banks of the River Hemavathi in the 18th century submerged in water during the monsoons is another place that you must see.

And if you are looking for cool vistas, green coffee shrubs, pepper plantations and nature at its best head to the Scotland of India, Coorg. While you are here visit Virajpet known for its Ayyappa temple and Shiva temple atop the Malethirike hill. The 220 years old St. Anne’s church built in Gothic architecture has two massive bells and its blue spire is hard to miss.

Bylakuppe is home to one of the largest Tibetan settlements in India. Bylakuppe is the Tibetan Refugee resettlement in the west of Mysore district. The Golden Temple in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, is a home for thousands of Tibetans who are living in exile and is also a centre for Tibetan Buddhism in south India. The district headquarters at Madikeri has the Raja Seat from where you can see stunning views of the entire valley awash in hues of green. The famed Abbey Falls are a sight to behold in the monsoons as the water is in full stream as is Talacauvery the birth place of the much revered Cauvery River.

As you head further South, you reach the district of Chamrajnagar that is home to the Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta is a scenic spot that has religious significance and is also part of a reserve forest. The temple is on the slopes of a hillock with grassland all around. The hill is mostly shrouded in thick fog and the morning mist is famed here. You will also find the Male Mahadeshwara Hills is a celebrated pilgrimage centre which attracts thousands of devotees from all over South India in South Chamaraja Nagar District.

Nanjangud Temple in Mysore

In the South is also Shivanasamudra in Mandya district, an enchanting island created by the branching out of the Cauvery into two streams and has two beautiful temples – Someshwara and Ranganatha. The Shivanasamudra Falls is the second biggest waterfall in India and the lush green valley forms a perfect setting for the Cauvery River, as it hurtles down from a height of 75 m into a deep, rocky gorge to form two picturesque falls, Barachukki and Gaganachukki. Close to Mysore is Nanjangud home to the Nanjundeshwara or temple that goes back several centuries and also has an idol installed by Tipu Sultan.Further down are the forests of Bandipur, Nagarhole and Kabini that have the highest density of tigers in the country.



On The Heritage Trail

INDIA HAS A RICH TREASURE OF UNESCO HERITAGE SITES. WE PROFILE SOME OF THE BEST. BY RHUCHA KULKARNI The declaration from the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) sums…


The declaration from the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) sums it up best: “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to the future generations.” India has been long since regarded as the epitome of cultural and natural wealth, for its diverse history has fuelled many distinct ways of life.

Be it architectural marvels, or natural havens, religious relics, or political landmarks, these heritage sites continue to awe and inspire us even today. Very recently Ahmedabad was declared as the first UNESCO World Heritage City of India, an impeccable feat owing to the medley of experiences that the Gujarat capital offers.

In fact there are 36 (28 cultural, 7 natural and one mixed) World Heritage Sites in India that are recognized by UNESCO as of August 2017. These are the treasure troves of the country, carefully preserved and propagated as traveller destinations. Indians and foreigners alike are choosing to experience their glory by taking in large numbers to these destinations during their holidays.

Here is a closer look at some of these enchanters that are sure to ignite the wanderlust in you.


Some 30 km from Aurangabad lies an ancient architectural marvel in the form of manmade rock-cut temples of Jain, Buddhist and Hindu origin. Dating reveals that these 34 caves, called the Ellora caves, were created over a period from the 6th to 11th centuries A.D. Of these, 12 caves are Mahayana Buddhist caves that date back to 550-750 A.D., 17 are Hindu caves of the 600-875 A.D. era and five caves are Jain caves belonging to 800-1000 A.D. This was the time when Buddhism was declining in India and Hinduism was resurging. Much of the work at Ellora was overseen by the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta kings who
were great proponents of the Brahmanical movement. The most recent works took place somewhere near the 10th century, when these rulers started embracing the Digambara sect of Jainism. Shrouded in secrecy since ages, it was only in 1819 that these caves were discovered by a British Army Officer, John Smith.

Its awe-inspiring aura is accredited to the fact that these rock-cut structures were created by artisans with their hands, using just chisel and hammer. A must-visit is the Kailasa Temple (cave 16) dating back to the 700s and illustrating Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. It is the largest monolith rock excavation in the world. Other highlights are the 15-foot long preaching statue of Buddha, the sitting Buddha in the 10th cave, the Naga Queen (outside cave 10), the Shiva Lingam along with his Nandi bull (Nandi Mandap), the Jain Indra Sabha (cave 32), and the seven incarnations of Buddha (cave 12).


The vibrant Red Fort looms over Delhi, its bulky bastions and red sandstone walls reminiscent of the majestic Mughal era. Built in 1638 by Shah Jahan, the “Lal Qila” or Red Fort has been an iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. Its detailed architecture is inspired from Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions, as seen in its majestic Lahore Gate. One can imagine the royal celebrations in the “Naubat-Khana” (Drum house), once an important courtyard of ceremonial music. The “Diwan-i-Am” (‘Hall of Public Audience’) welcomes one and all with its nine-arched facade and marble tapestry. There is a taste of real Mughal opulence at the “Diwan-i-Khas” (‘Hall of Private Audience’), believed to have once housed the beautiful Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan before it was usurped. Other mustsees are the “Tasbih-Khana” (prayer chambers), “Rang Mahal” (painted palace), and “Nahr-i-Bihisht” (‘Stream of Paradise’), “Mumtaz Mahal” which now harbours a museum and the “Hammam” (‘Bath’). Each of these comes to life with intricate motifs in marble and jeweled stones. All these architectural specimens are woven together through the Mughal style lovely gardens, the Hayat-Bakhsh-Bagh (‘Life-giving garden’) being a nature-lover’s delight.

Today the Red Fort is synonymous with strategic and political milestones; after all it was from this vaulted structure that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had given the booming Independence speech of India. Every Independence Day sees the Indian tricolour fluttering tall and proud on this iconic landmark.


This busy railway station of India’s financial capital was first declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Its Victorian-Gothic architecture welcomes and bids goodbye to one and all, and has been doing so since its establishment in 1888, during the British era. The British architect F.W. Stevens, rebuilt and renamed the erstwhile “Bori Bunder” railway station as Victoria Terminus, after Queen Victoria. It was only in 1996, that it was rechristened to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, in honour of the great Maratha warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji. More recently, it was renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus . The humongous structure of sandstone and limestone is a stark yet pleasant antithesis to the bustling surroundings of the Mumbai Central Business District. Its Italian-styled architecture is interspersed with Mughal-era detailing, with some of the best materials imported from Europe, for example the Italian marble interiors. The central high dome is an iconic landmark of the maximum city. Its entrance gates are adorned with the statues of a lion and a tiger, representing Great Britain and India, respectively. Much of its work is attributed to the late 19th century, but enthrals everyone who visits the maximum city.

Whether passing through the railhead, or just peeping in for a historic immersion, this is one landmark that is not to be missed.


Jantar Mantar Jaipur

Jantar Mantar bestows an opportunity to travel into space, in thought and mind. An ancient astronomical observatory par excellence, Jantar Mantar literally translates to “instruments for measuring the harmony of the heavens”, and rightly it does. Built by the extremely skilled Rajput ruler, Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh in 1738, the observatory was restored in 1901. The ruler built a total of five observatories across India, of which the Jaipur one is considered the largest and was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. A walk amidst the bizarre yet beautiful structures is enough to put one in awe of India’s rich ancestral knowledge and expertise. The grounds consist of huge astronomical instruments  of stone and masonry meant to accurately capture and predict celestial movements. A case in point is the Samrat Yantra, the world’s largest sun dial, which can measure time intervals as small as two seconds based merely on the motions of its shadows. Other mind-blowing devices include the “Hindu Chhattri” and the “Jaiprakash Yantra”. What makes the site interesting, is that it converges expertise from the areas of art, science and religion to measure, time-track and report constellation movement. Even today Jantar Mantar attracts tourists from all over the world, thanks to its unique architecture and purpose.


The rippling reflections of white marble and motifs stir the soul, as the sun’s first rays stir the waters of the Yamuna River to life. Think India and what comes first to mind is Shah Jahan’s tribute to his lady love Mumtaz — the Taj Mahal of Agra. Regarded in high honour as the zenith of Mughal art and architecture in India, this majestic mausoleum was built between 1631 and 1648. Ustad-Ahmad Lahori was the key architect, but the Mughal emperor commissioned artists such as masons, dome-builders, painters, carvers, etc. from as far as Iran. There was literally no stone left unturned to make this stone structure the undisputed ruler of relics. In line with typical Mughal architecture, it was housed in a beautiful Mughal garden with a quadripartite layout and a central waterway, which till today presents the typical Taj Mahal photo opportunity with a grand reflection. But its true splendour lies in its Indo-Islamic architecture with high geometrical accuracy. The large central domed chamber is octagonal shaped and its lower-level crypt contains the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz. These are surrounded by the portal halls and four corner rooms from which the archetypical four minarets rise up into the air. A closer look reveals the unparalleled craftsmanship that went into making this epitome of architectural beauty. The marble lattice screen that encircles the cenotaphs has exquisite jewelled flowers and leaves that appear highly realistic. Superb balance of composition and exceptional symmetry accrued this jewel of India the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site way back in 1983.


The origins of this beautiful stepwell lay in the Solanki dynasty, when Rani Udayamati commissioned this “vav” or stepwell, in 1063, in memory of her husband King Bhimdev I. Residing on the banks of the then Saraswati River, it was silted in a great flooding. The Archaeological Survey of India then excavated it in the 1980s, unleashing one of the most famous landmarks of the city of Patan. It was a site for water collection, but also held spiritual significance as a protector of the sanctity of water and medicinal uses in helping cure diseases.

Depicting the neat proportions and symmetrical construction of the “Maru- Gurjara” architectural style, “Rani ki Vav” is replete with carvings and sculptures that depict the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the “Dasavataras”. The pillared pavilions lead one from groundlevel through seven storeys some 30 metres down to the water level, where stands a statue of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, the reclining pose of the Protector on the thousand-hooded serpent Sheshanaga. Mythological lore comes to life in this heritage site, with more than 800 sculptures in its seven galleries. A visit to this unusual architectural monument is a tryst with timelessness. Rani Ki Vav was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.


Recently, on July 8, 2017, Ahmedabad was declared the first Indian city under the UNESCO World Heritage City tag. As the thriving Gujarati city on the banks of the Sabarmati River, Ahmedabad upholds the architectural style of the Sultanate period, for it was founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century. An eclectic old charm oozes from the boundary walls of this walled city, consisting of traditional housing areas called “pols” in gated traditional streets called “puras”. Being home to more than 2,600 heritage sites and more than 20 protected monuments made it an ideal choice to become the first UNESCO World Heritage City of India. Some of these sites like the Bhadra citadel, Hathee Singh Jain temple, Dada Bhagwan temple, Akshardham temple, and the Sabarmati Ashram are worth visiting.

It holds great significance in India’s freedom struggle too, being the hot spot of non-violence, thanks to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Religious equanimity too is strongly associatedwith the walled city, which has seen the peaceful co-existence of Hindus, Muslims and Jains over several generations. In fact, a number of architecturally brilliant mausoleums and tombs stand alongside Hindu and Jain temples, creating a kaleidoscope of architectural distinction.


The UNESCO World Heritage list does not restrict itself to architectural and cultural sites, but also acknowledges the important role of natural history elements in the overall milieu of a nation. Rightfully, the abode of the one-horned rhinoceros, Kaziranga National Park came under the UNESCO radar. This national park and tiger reserve in Assam extends over an area of about 430 square kilometres and is home to more than 2,000 of these unique species. It also takes pride in having a sizable population of the national animal of India, the Royal Bengal Tiger. A Gypsy ride through the wonderful wilderness can afford one glimpses of the Asiatic elephant, wild water buffalo, swamp deer, leopard, and a number of colourful birds. Its rich biodiversity stems from the fact that it lies in the biodiversity hot spot of the North Eastern Himalayas, with a variety of flora— semi-evergreen forests, swamps, elephant-grass meadows and deciduous woodlands. But the true value of the park lies in it being a successful conservation epicentre, since a long time. From a dismal population of about 75 in 1905, today more than 2000 one-horned rhinoceros roam free in its nurturing habitat. This makes it one of the most sought after wildlife holiday destinations in India. One can observe and enjoy wild animals in their natural homes by going on a morning or evening safari in its four zones. Kaziranga was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985.


Known primarily as the site of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment, the Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four religious sites associated with Buddhism. It boasts of an ancient elegance that goes back in time to the 3rd century B.C., when Emperor Asoka built the first temple. Since its construction the temple has been subjected to the test of time; it has seen various rulers and dynasties come and go, and yet stands  tall and strong as a symbol of unwavering faith in the Buddha. The present-day temple is believed to date back to the 6th century B.C. after much renovation. Every year believers and nonbelievers flock to this revered site to get a glimpse of the famed Bodhi tree and the 160-foot tall Mahabodhi temple. A peep inside the temple reveals a gold painted statue of Buddha, made of black stone and seated in the Bhumisparsa Mudra, touching the Earth. This statue was originally built by the Pala kings of Bengal.

The temple’s distinct design is a delight to watch, with its pyramidal design and the “pancharatha sikhara” on top which is seven storeys tall. Intricate carvings of the bhumi-amalakas adorn this top part. To the west of the temple stands the holy Bodhi tree, a pipal tree which is believed to be a direct descendant of the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha sought enlightenment. It was natural that this religious and spiritual landmark was declared as a World Heritage Site way back in 2002.


Amongst the most revered churches and cathedrals of Portuguese rule in India, the Basilica of Bom Jesus has an unassuming air about it, at first glance. However this Roman Catholic Church is a must-see when in Goa, primarily because it contains the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier.

The church itself was constructed over a period of 11 years, from 1594 to 1605, inspired by the late Renaissance period. The Church introduces one to various art forms and styles, the Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art can be seen in the intricate carvings and paintings that adorn the Church walls altar and columns. A walk along the aisle brings one to the central quadrangular pediment, embellished with the Jesuit emblem ‘IHS’ or “Iesus Hominum Salvator”— Latin for “Jesus, Saviour of Men”. The church exteriors are made of laterite stone lending it a rustic feel; it isthe only church in Goa without plastering. In fact much of its external face combines five styles i.e. the Roman, Ionic, Doric, Corinthian and Composite.The main highlight is the preserved body of St Francis Xavier himself. It was moved here in 1622, and renowned artists from the world over were commissioned to create the three-tiered structure and the casket that contain it. Scenes from the life of the saint himself embellish the mausoleum and precious stones line the casket itself. A great time to visit is during the devotional “Feast of St Francis Xavier”, held every December. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

It is clear that these UNESCO World Heritage sites have much to offer — art, architecture, nature immersion, historic hiatus, religious absorption, spiritual seeping and so much more. Many of these are just a flight away or a couple of hours of drive away. So the next time you plan a vacation or even a city staycation, consider decrypting the conundrums of our rich lineage by visiting these sites.


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