INDIA TRAVEL - SEE 3 DIFFERENT SHADES OF INDIA - VARKALA, MAJULI ISLAND AND ORCHHA

Hi friends! India has so many stunningly beautiful and enchanting places that you are never short of inspiration and excitement to visit them or write about them. Let us today, know about three entirely different but equally magnificent travel destinations of India. These three places are located in three separate regions of the country with strong cultural difference. And this is what makes the diversity of India so unique. The places I am talking about are Varkala, a coastal city in Kerala in Southern India, Orchha, a very beautiful and historical city in central India and Majuli Island in north east India.

1. VARKALA - Located in the southern most Indian state of Kerala, it is a coastal city in Thiruvananthpuram district. The unique feature of this city is the cliffs found adjacent to Arabian sea, the only place in Kerala to have this feature. In fact, Varkala cliff has been declared a Geo heritage site by Geological Society of India. The city is known for it's beach, the very beautiful Varkala beach and the 2000 years old Janardanaswami Temple apart from other things and places. This temple is an important Vaishvaite shrine of India. Varkala also has a mineral water spring, which is known to cure many diseases.

PLACES TO SEE IN VARKALA
1. Varkala Beach - One of the most popular places in Varkala, it is considered a paradise for sun bathers and swimmers. The cliffs at the beach house many resorts, restaurants and spas. It also has a long stretch of small shops which go upto 1 km. The evening view and the sunset are truly mesmerizing at Varkala beach. It is also known as Papanasham beach. Pap is sin and nasham is washing away. People believe that Varkala beach has holy water and they can wash or destroy their sins. Varkala beach offers stunning landscapes. It is an ideal location for peaceful and leisure time. It is also known for Ayurvedic treatment.



Varkala Beach, Kerala
VIEW OF VARKALA BEACH
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Cliffs at Varkala Beach
VIEW OF CLIFFS AT VARKALA BEACH
Source - google images
2. Janardhana Swami Temple - It is also known as Kashi(Benaras) of south or Dakshin Kashi. It is located close to Varkala beach and is 2000 years old. It is Lord Vishnu temple. It's attraction is not only it's history but it's architecture also. Their are broad staires to enter the temple and you can see the arched tiled roof on the way. Idols of different Gods and Godesses, painted in bright colors are there at the entrance of sanctorum.
 The captain of a ship, which sank near Varkala was so overwhelmed by the fact that there was no casualty eventhough the ship sank, that he donated a bell from the shipwreck to Janardanaswami temple. This ancient bell still hangs at the entrance of the temple.


Janardhana Swami Temple at Varkala, Kerala
JANARDHANA SWAMI TEMPLE
Source - google images

Timings to visit Janardhana Swami Temple - 4 am to 12 noon and 5 pm to 8 pm

3. Anjengo Fort - Located 12 km(7.5 mi) away from Varkala, in picturesque natural surroundings, this fort has a great historical value. It is believed that this fort was built in 16th or 17th century.  This is supposed to be the place given to the Britishers for their first trade agreement in Kerala. Currently it is protected as national heritage monument. It is an architectural marvel and will certainly interest those of you, who don't mind walking around to explore places of historical value. Though this fort was attacked many tomes by foreign powers, it still retains it's architectural beauty. The backwater stretch on one side of the fort and the coconut groves dotting it's vicinity, add to the charm of the fort. Anjengo fort is an ideal  spot for a relaxed picnic.



Anjengo fort at Varkala, Kerala
ANJENGO FORT
Source-google images

Beautiful view of Anjengo fort, Varkala, Kerala
BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF ANJENGO FORT
Source-google images

4. Kappil Lake - This is an estuary located at 6 km(3.75 mi) from Varkala. It flows serenely and merges with Arabian sea. A bridge built on Kappil lake is an ideal spot to see backwaters and a stunning view of the lake meandering through into the blue horizon. The surroundings are dotted with coconut groves and trees. You can enjoy boating in the lake. And if you are a shutterbug, this is heaven for you.



Kappil lake, Varkala
KAPPIL LAKE
Source-google images

Another view of Kappil lake, Kerala
ANOTHER VIEW OF KAPPIL LAKE
Source-google images

5. Paravur - Located 13 km (8.1 mi) from Varkala this is also called land of backwaters and estuaries. This naturally beautiful place has all, see, rivers and lakes. Situated in Kollam district, this is a must see place for nature lovers because of it's green landscapes. A houseboat ride in backwaters at Paravur is absolutely thrilling. The largest natural backwater lakes in southeast Asia are located in Paravur. You can enjoy swimming and surfing here and with prior permission from authorities, you can indulge in fishing too.



Paravur, Kerala
PARAVUR
Source-google images


REACHING VARKALA 

Air - Nearest airport is Thiruvananthpuram airport located 51 km(32 mi) away. It is well connected to all the major Indian cities with regular flights. From here, you can get pre paid taxis to reach Varkala.

Rail - Varkala is located on Thiruvananthpuram - Ernakulam line. It has it's own railway station but since it is a small station, all trains do not stop here. Again, Thiruvananthpuram is the nearest major railway station and is well connected to all other major cities. You can hire taxis from here to reach Varkala.

Road - Varkala is well connected by road and you can get state road transport buses from Thiruvananthpuram to reach Varkala. However, this journey may prove to be tiresome.

WHERE TO STAY - There are hotels in Varkala which suit all budgets. You can get a budget hotel as well as a luxury hotel.

2. MAJULI ISLAND - Another great wonder of nature, Majuli Island is the largest river island. It is located in river Brahmaputra in the north eastern state of Assam. It is also called Majoli Island and had an area of 880 sq. km(340 sq. mi) earlier but due to erosion, it's area has shrunk to 352 sq km(136 sq. mi). It is the first island in India to be become a district.



Majuli island, Assam
MAJULI ISLAND
Source-google images

It's chief attraction lies in it's crystal clear waters and breathtaking landscapes. It is called the cultural capital of Assam as all the Assamese traditions and festivals are celebrated prominently here with great pomp and show. Different forms of local dances are performed during these celebrations. The main population here is tribal and their colorful culture is something to watch.




Majuli island, Assam picture
BLUE WATER AT MAJULI ISLAND
Source-google images
Majuli island is a center for Vaishnavite studies and there are many Satras(or Monasteries) of Vaishnav religious sect here. Sankardeva, considered to be the father of Assamese culture, found these Satras and presently there are 22 of these in Majuli island. These Satras preserve various antiques like jewelery, utensils and weapons. They also house treasure contributed by Sankardeva like Matiakhara, Sutradhar, Borgeet, Satria Krishna dance etc.

 Dakhinpat Satra in Majuli island is the most popular Satra. This place is so serene that it attracts devotees from all over the world. Established in 1584 by Vamshigopal, apart from being a religious institution, it also plays a historical role. Besides that, the architectural beauty of Dakhinpat Satra is also a treat in itself. You can see many animal forms, religious motifs and flower forms engraved at the entrance. The inner walls are adorned with beautiful paintings and sculptures.



Dakshinpat Satra, Majuli island
DAKSHINPAT SATRA
Source-google images

The monks, called Bhaktas stay here and devote all their life in the service of the Lord. The festival of Rasotsava is celebrated prominently and with full fervor in Dakhinpat Satra. This is one of the most important festivals in the culture of Assam.



Dakshinpat satra, Majuli island picture
INSIDE VIEW OF DAKSHINPAT SATRA
Source-google images

For five days, starting the second Wednesday of February every year, all locals are involved in the celebration of Ali aye Ligang festival, which is a treat of colors, dances and local dishes. Traditional dances like Gumrag Somah are performed in all the villages of Majuli island and local dishes made of rice, chicken, pork and fish are served. For five days, villagers worship the almighty Donyl Polo (mother sun and father moon).



Festival of Majuli Island
TRADITIONAL DANCE AT ALI AYE LIGANG
Source-google images

Dance in Majuli Island, Assam
ANOTHER DANCE FORM DURING ALI AYE LIGANG
Source-google images

Majuli island is a paradise for bird watchers too. The southern end of the island is the spot for bird watching. Particularly between the period of November and March, the view is absolutely fabulous. Sakuli beel and Vereki beel are two other stunning bird watching points.

You must visit Majuli island for the following reasons:


  • Colorful culture of tribal people
  • Visit Vaishnavite Satras
  • The natural beauty of the place
  • Migratory birds watching
  • The traditional festivals 
  • To see pottery making and mask making
  • To enjoy ferry rides
  • The best part is that since Majuli is surrounded by water bodies from all sides, you have to use boats and ferries to go from one place to another.


REACHING MAJULI - Reaching Majuli island is an adventure in itself as this is one of the few places which heavily depend on waterways.

Air - There is no airport at Majuli. The nearest airport is Jorhat, which is 20 km(12.5 mi) away but has limited flights from Kolkata and Shillong. The nearest major airport is Guwahati, which is about 347 km(216 mi) away and is well connected with all the other major cities. From Guwahati, you again have to reach Jorhat. You can hire a taxi or get on a state run bus to reach Jorhat.

Rail - Majuli again has no direct rail connection. Jorhat is the nearest station apart from Guwahati.

Road - There is no direct road connection to Majuli Island.

Ferries - Once you reach Jorhat, get on a bus or a taxi. From here there is a 14 km(9 mi) ride to Neemati Ghat. From here, there are two ferry services daily to Majuli island. One starts at 10 am and the other at 3 pm. This lasts for around one hour and then again a 10 minutes bus ride takes you to Major Sapori, another island en route to Majuli. After this there is another short ferry and bus ride that will take you to Kalambari, the main town of Majuli island. 
If you want, you can hire a taxi from Jorhat. Taxis are allowed to cross river on ferries.

WHERE TO STAY - There are a number of budget and luxury hotels in Majuli. Accommodation is not a major problem in Majuli.

WHEN TO VISIT - Although November to March is the recommended period of visiting Majuli island but it can be visited all year around as it's natural beauty remains intact all the time.

3. ORCHHA - It is a beautiful town in Tikamgarh district of  Madhya Pradesh state of central India. Orchha is a town full of historical monuments such as forts, palaces, temples and other buildings that showcase the royal lifestyle and will have you travel back in time. The monuments made in different eras will give you an insight into how the art of construction of buildings evolved over a period of time. The different architectural styles of different eras have their own uniqueness. Each historical building has it's own tale to tell. So you will come across a different story for each building.

Also known as Urcha, the town was established by Rudra Pratap Singh as the seat of erstwhile princely state in Bundelkhand region of central India. Though not exactly known but it is believed that Orchha was established somewhere around 1501. Situated on the bank of Betwa river it is at a distance of 80 km(50 mi) from Tikamgarh and 15 km(9.3 mi) from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. Rudra Pratap Singh, who was the king from 1501 to 1531, also built the Orchha fort.

PLACES TO SEE IN ORCHHA

1. Orchha Fort - The biggest attraction in Orchha is it's largest monument, Orchha fort which houses many palaces and forts. Situated on a seasonal island on Betwa river in a very scenic location, it is a huge palace fort which consists of several inter connected buildings. The interesting part is that these buildings, including forts and palaces were built in different times and under the reign of different kings. The three most prominent and attractive among these are Raja Mahal, Jahangir Mahal and Rai Parveen Mahal.



Orchha fort, Madhya Pradesh
ORCHHA FORT
Source-google images

Orchha fort , Madhya Pradesh picture
INSIDE ORCHHA FORT
Source-google images


Raja Mahal, built in 17th century by Madhukar Shah, depicts his deep religious beliefs in it's design. It is the oldest monument in the fort. It's bold and colorful murals revolving around religion are quite stunning.



Raja Mahal at Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
RAJA MAHAL
Source-google images

Jahangir Mahal was build by Madhukar Shah's successor Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in honor of his friend , the Mughal emperor Jahangir. It is considered to be a great example of Mughal architecture and their grandeur.



Jahangir Mahal, Orchha
JAHANGIR MAHAL
Source-google images

Rai Parveen Mahal - Rai Parveen was a dancer and a poetess in the court of king Indramani, who was deeply in love with her and built this beautiful palace for her. The palace was at it's beautiful best with lush green gardens and magnificent balconies, but now it is in ruins but still worth a visit.



Rai Parveen Mahal, Orchha
RAI PARVEEN MAHAL
Source-google images


2. Ram Raja Temple - This is the center of attraction in Orchha. The presiding deity in the temple is Lord Rama. It is believed that the idol of Lord Rama was supposed to be shifted to Chaturbhuj Temple but idol refused to move from here, so a temple was built around the idol. The temple has a plain exterior with projecting windows and delicate domes. It is built on a square base. Ram Raja Temple is a highly respected and revered place for the locals.




Ram Raja Temple, Orchha
RAM RAJA TEMPLE
Source-google images


Picture of Ram Raja Temple, Orchha
BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF RAM RAJA TEMPLE
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3. Chaturbhuj Temple - This is another beautiful temple with marvelous architecture. Again, it was built in 17th century by the Bundela king and he is said to have chosen the site of the temple himself to enable him to have a view of Lord Krishna, directly from his palace. The sheer beauty of the architecture is so mesmerizing that it may inspire many architectural minds. You can get a stunning view of the city surroundings from the top of the temple.



Chaturbhuj Temple, Orchha
CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE
Source-google images

View of Chaturbhuj Tenple, Orchha
ANOTHER VIEW OF CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE
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4. Laxminarayan Temple - Constructed in a design which is the blend of temple and fort, this temple has it's own uniqueness. It was built in 1662 and shows the innovative minds even at that time. Beautiful and exquisite wall paintings of that time adorn the walls of the temple and their color and grandeur is still intact.



Laxminarayan Temple, Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
LAXMINARAYAN TEMPLE
Source-google images


5. Dinman Hardaul's Palace - This palace was named after prince Hardaul and built in his honor. The story goes that prince Hardaul's elder brother Jhujhar suspected him to be involved with his companion. Prince Hardaul took the decision to end his life to prove his innocence and uphold his value. Dinman Hardaul palace was built to honor his sacrifice. The palace was built in 17th century but it's architecture stands proof of the skill of the artisans of that time.



Dinman Hardaul Palace, Madhya Pradesh
DINMAN HARDAUL PALACE
Source-google images


6. Jhansi Fort - The fort is located right in the center of the city in an area of 49 acres and is said to be one of the best fortified areas in India. It was built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo on a hill in the 17th century and is also known as 'Rani Jhansi ka Quila'. There is a museum inside the form that has stored sculptures of that time and depict the history of that area.

7. Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary - Spread over an area of 46 sq. km, it is a prime attraction of Orchha. It was established in the year 1994 and it's beauty is enhanced by the river Betwa, which flows through the area. It houses a wide variety of wild animals including tigers, leopards, langurs, jackals and sloth bear. It is a paradise for bird watchers as it has over 200 species of birds and many migratory birds like woodpecker, jungle bush quail, black swan and geese visit this sanctuary.



Wildlife sanctuary at Orchha
WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Source-google images


8. Chattris - Chattris meaning canotaphs are an integral part of Orchha and glorify the cultural heritage of the era goneby. There are 14 chattris built on the sides of Betwa river apart from many other dotting the Orchha landscape. These chattris reflect the mighty Bundelkhand dynasty and are testament of their contribution in the region. Their amazing architecture has to be seen to be believed.



Chattris of Orchha
CHATTRIS
Source-google images

9. Uth Khana - Or the house/shelter of camels. This is where camels used to rest. It is located next to Orchha fort. You can go to the roof of uth khana and have a splendid view of the entire Orchha town.

Besides this, if you want to explore further, go behind the Orchha fort and you will find ruins of houses of various ministers and officials of that time apart from a gunpowder factory. Walking through these ruins gives a strong feeling of walking back in time and is quite exhilarating. Orchha has a beautiful landscape.

REACHING ORCHHA 

Air - The nearest airport is Gwalior at about 120 km(75 mi) distance. Gwalior is well connected to other major cities by regular flights. From here you can take a taxi and reach Orchha.

Rail - The nearest railway station is Jhansi, which is about 16 km(10 mi) away. From Jhansi, you have option of hiring a taxi or getting on to a bus or even an autorickshaw.

Road - Orchha is well connected by road and is easily accessible from major cities like Gwalior and Jhansi. You can hire a taxi from these places to reach Orchha. Many private and government buses are also available from Jhansi. And you can even hire an auto rickshaw from Jhansi to reach there.

WHERE TO STAY IN ORCHHA - There are hotels in Orchha suiting all budgets. You can get budget hotels to luxury hotels as per your requirement and budget.

SO HAPPY TRAVELING!!













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