Category: Destination Tips

News – Heritage Rail Museum Makes a Comeback in Ooty

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The ‘Heritage Rail Museum’ is a landmark attraction in the world-famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) that houses several old articles belonging to the 119-year-old NMR. The museum, which has been open to public view at the railway station, gives incisive information about the history of the mountain railway.

The inauguration of the ‘Heritage Rail Museum’, coincidentally, fell on the 230th birth centenary of John Sullivan, the founder of present-day Ooty (Nilgiris).

The museum, obviously, offers a great opportunity to see heritage railway objects they include ticket dating press machine, token pouch, gate signal lamp, hand signal lamp, lamp post, water container drum, iron water flask, water filter, typewriter, petromax light, well’s paraffin gas lamp, leather cash bag, point indicator lamp, lamp burner, ticket tube, wall clock, pinion wheel, station master’s room lamp, among other things.

The x-generation gets an opportunity to learn the evolution of NMR that commenced operation in 1899, and transformed itself, with time, to a ‘World Heritage Site’ in 2005.

The ticket dating pressing machine can wow the present day generation as the machine, to this day, stands testimony to the effectiveness of railway technocrats’ well-executed process of ticketing in the bygone era. The pinion wheel offers live-demo on how the NMR laboured along the distinct rack and pinion track in NMR Also, old photographs on NMR leaves one stumped and intrigued.

The ‘Heritage Rail Museum’ was inaugurated by Jayaraj, a senior staff at NMR. The chief guest at the inaugural event, Sateesh Saravanan, station director at Coimbatore, said that the museum would attract many a tourist interested to know a thing or two about NM R and the historical significance of the heritage train journey starting from the ‘charming’ Ooty station. Sateesh hinted that many of the exhibits in the museum are far from use and a couple of items including token pouch are still functional. He added that the museum will witness possible expansion in future to develop into a special heritage tourism destination tagged within the ‘heritage NMR’ to give a fillip to heritage tourism.


All you need to know about the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad – Part 2

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The Salar Jung Museum is the pride of Hyderabad city. While we got to learn the history of the globally acclaimed museum in the first part of the blog, let us explore further the exciting experience the museum would offer one. In 1958, the State Government decided it would manage the museum, which hitherto was maintained by the Salar Jung Estate Committee.

Salar Jung MuseumIn 1961, it was settled that Salar Jung Museum and its library be made as an Institution of National Importance by an Act of Parliament. The administration then was handed over to an Autonomous Board with the Governor of Andhra Pradesh as its Chairman. In 1968, the museum was shifted to its present site of Afzalgunj from Dewan Devdi, Andhra Pradesh. This, however, resulted in a lot of valuable collections and artefacts – either stolen or lost.

The Salar Jung Museum, notwithstanding the loss, was able to preserve a huge and impressive collection of the founder. Salar Jung III is believed to have collected some 50,000 books and manuscripts and 43,000 artefacts during his entire lifetime. Not many of the collections, unfortunately, stand today at the museum. However, important works by Raja Ravi Varma, famed Indian artist from Kerala, are, no doubt, cynosures of attraction. Several of his art works depict scenes from the great epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana (often compared to the Quran, Bible, and works of Shakespeare and Greek poet Homer in terms of cultural significance) by integrating Indian artistic styles with European and Western academic art.

While the Salar Jung has exclusive paintings collections, the artefacts that you get to see in the museum represents the rich craftsmanship and traditions from all across the world for centuries. Be it the finely woven textiles from the Middle East, the brightly carved jade carvings from Indian rulers, furniture and glass from Europe and ceramics from Sino-Japan, the Salar Jung Museum is a masterly effort from one of the country’s greatest art lovers ever. A visit to the museum is worth every cent for a penetrating insight into art and history.

All you need to know about the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad – Part 1

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The Salar Jung Museum in the historic South Indian city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, houses the largest single-man collection of unique and exquisite antiques in the world, making it a must visit place when you are in the city. This splendid display of artefacts belonging to different civilizations, which goes back as far as the first century, is a museum person’s delight.

salar jung museumThe Salar Jung Museum, established in 1951, is located on the southern bank of River Musi in Hyderabad. Comparing the Salar Jung to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is like comparing apples and oranges, as it is quite vast and really unique in all respects. From paintings to sculptures, manuscripts, carvings, carpets, textiles, ceramics, clocks, metal work, and furniture from all parts of the world, the Salar Jung houses several other important treasures of the country.

The Salar Jung, the third biggest of India’s museums, was founded by Mir Yousuf Ali Khan or Salar Jung III, who comes from the elite Salar Jung family that had given five prime ministers to the erstwhile state of Hyderabad from 1720 to 1948, ruled by the famous Nizams.

Mir Turab Ali Khan, grandfather of Salar Jung III, was given title of Salar Jung I at the age of 13 and later went on to become the Prime Minister of Hyderabad state at the age of 24. Salar Jung I, while known for his astute reforms and administration acumen, was a great aesthete. Salar Jung III, whom his grandfather never met, influenced him to become one of India’s greatest art collectors. It was when he had decided to dedicate his entire life towards art collection that Salar Jung III relinquished the title and post of the Prime Minister in 1914.

After the death of Salar Jung III in 1949, a committee was set up by the Government of India to oversee the Salar Jung Estate, as he had no heir to pass it onto. The museum was officially opened to the general public in1951 in Diwan Devdi; the Salar Jung family’s residential palace comprises 78 rooms and lot many different buildings on the grounds.  The Salar Jung, which was initially a private museum, lost half of its prized artefacts all owned by Salar Jung III, the whereabouts of which remains a mystery to this day. Right, what does the Salar Jung Museum has in store for you? The collections would just wow you and transport you to another plane of thought. We will follow this up in the concluding part of this blog.


A short note on the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari

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If you are in Kanyakumari or Cape Comorin, the lovely scenic coastal town in TamilNadu on India’s southernmost tip, you got to visit the world famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial, considered to be one of the country’s most sacred rock monuments.  The Vivekananda Rock Memorial or the Vivekananda Mandapam has a grand structure and an impressive entrance that would remind one of Sri Ramakrishna Temple of Belur.  The only way to reach the Vivekananda Mandapam is to use the ferry service operated by the TamilNadu Department of Tourism which provides leisure cruise into the sea at affordable charges.

The Vivekananda Rock Memorial is built on the top of two rocks that are about 500 metres off the island.  It was constructed in 1970 by the Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee to honour the visit of the great spiritual sage and philosopher Swami Vivekananda to Shripada Parai on December 24 1892, prior to his taking part in the  1893 ‘World Religious Conference’ in Chicago.  It is said that he did intense spiritual meditation on the rock for two days to attain enlightenment.  The infinite love for the motherland made Vivekananda, the greatest patriot monk ever, tour all over the country. His three-day meditation on the mid-sea rock or Vivekananda Paarai proved a turning point in his life, for it is here he contemplated on the past, present and future of the country, and put forth the idea of the glorious Bharatvarsha. Later, Vivekananda became the country’s most illustrious Hindu spiritual reformer and philosopher.

The Vivekananda Rock Memorial houses two main structures namely Vivekananda Mandapam and Shripada Mandapam, turning out to be small coastal town’s main attraction. It was the late Eknath Ramkrishna Ranade, the social activist and leader, who mobilized support in the construction of the rock memorial that today is an embodiment of India’s rich cultural ethos and values.  The Vivekananda rock is generally open to public on all days and draws tourists in large numbers every day.

A note on Yelagiri Hills in TamilNadu

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When we talk of hill stations in TamilNadu, natural choices that pop up are Ooty (Nilgiris), Coonoor, Kodaikanal, Yercaud, among others.  But one hill station that has remained oblivious from tourist and public attraction is Yelagri Hills, located at a distance of 230km from the capital city of Tamilnadu, Chennai; 94km from Vellore and 178km from the capital city of Karnataka, Bengaluru. This picturesque and enchanting hill station is in the Vellore district of Tamilnadu, located in between the small towns of Vaniyambadi and Jolarpettai. It is also considered by many tourists, particularly those who have been there before, to be one of the best hill stations near Chennai and Bengaluru.


Yelagiri is a group of 14 hamlets that lies between four mountain ranges covering a total area of, located at an altitude of 3500ft above sea level. The locals, mostly indigenous tribal people, engage in horticulture, agriculture, forestry, etc. The hills are surrounded by gorgeous rose gardens, quiet green valleys and fine orchards.

Athanavur, the main town of the hill station, has a breathtaking winding road that takes one all through the hills with several isolated villages. The hill station of Yelagiri was originally a privately-held property of the Yelagiri Zamindar family. It was brought under the Government of India in the 1950s. One can still witness the ancestral house of the Zamindars in the small village of Reddiyur in the Yelagiri hills.

If you love trekking, Swamimalai Hill, located at an altitude of 4338ft, is just the place for you. Considered the highest point in the hill station, the Swamimalai Hill lends a panoramic view of the hills. The hills are no short of long and incessant trekking trails through dense reserved forests. Other trekking spots that add to the attraction include Palamathi hills and Javadi Hills, though not as high as the Swamimalai. The Punganur Lake, like the famous Ooty Lake, is an artificially constructed lake with boating and spectacular view of the valleys. Paragliding is another adventure sport that is slowly catching up with the tourists in this region. Once you’re in Yelagiri make sure you don’t miss out on the Jalagamparai Waterfalls, the Velavan Temple and Nature Park —you, for sure, will never be disappointed.

The popular Yelagiri Summer festival is an annual event organized with great fanfare by the Tamilnadu Tourism Development during the month of May. The flower show here is a dazzling exhibit of pretty intricate gardening and design.  The dog show is a visual treat for dog lovers. The various cultural programs highlight the indigenous culture and age-long tradition of the hill station and its people. Tourists from every nook and corner of the state and other parts of India flock to see the fascinating Summer festival.  The recommended time to visit this hill station, endowed with absolute beauty, is between November and February.

Facts you need to know about the Buddha Statue at Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad

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Do you know that the Hussain sagar Buddha statue is the tallest monolithic state of Sidddharta, also known as Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.  The statue situated at the famous Lumbini Park in the Hussain Sagar Island can only be reached by boat. The Buddha Statue at Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad is an engineering marvel in that it is raised on a concrete platform, 15 feet tall, right in the middle of the lake. Dubbed as the “Rock of Gibraltar”, the statue was erected in the middle of Lake Hussain Sagar with tremendous efforts.  The city roads were widened for the construction of the statue.

The statue was raised by N.T.Rama Rao, who was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh between 1983 and 1989 at that time. He was inspired by the idea of ‘Statue of Liberty’ and wanted to accomplish a similar feet back home. What motivated him further is that it would stand the test of times as true representation of Indian culture, heritage and unity. Lord Buddha became the ideal candidate for the mission.

Right from the beginning it was decided that the state would be made out of stone. After strenuous efforts, a solid white granite stone unearthed near Nalgonda on a mountainside that is 40 miles outside the city of Hyderabad. It took a year for the project completion and the statue was finally unveiled in October 1985 by N.T.Rama Rao.

Temple architect and builder Ganapathi Sthapati with hundreds of workers worked on the statue. After five years of work, with a spend of about US$3 million, the stand stands tall at 58 feet (18m) and weighs 350 tons. This makes it the tallest monolithic Buddha. statue in the world.

Unfortunately, the N. T. Rama Rao led Andhra Pradesh Government was expelled in 1989 and the stone statue was kept waiting to be erected on the concrete platform until 1990. The statue was to be moved to the shore of Hussain Sagar by a trailer vehicle, the responsibility of which was given to a local company. But tragedy befell when the statue tipped suddenly due to a mishap and killed 10 engineers involved in the construction.

Efforts to move the statue out of Hussain Sagar lake persisted. The statue finally was erected on the platform successfully on 1 December 1992. The plan earlier was to enable the statue stand in the middle of the lake, but engineering hurdles stood in the way, as the statue today stands slightly closer to the NTR Memorial Gardens. In 2006, the Dalai Lama paid visit to the statue and consecrated it following a ritual which lent the place the status of a holy pilgrimage site.







All about the famous Thaipusam procession in Singapore

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Singapore is a land of high secular values; while you are in the “Lion City”, watching the famous Hindu “Thaipusam” procession is a truly spectacular mind-boggling, jaw dropping experience. As many as 40,000 people attend this annual colourful procession that comes along with compelling rituals, and normally falls during the full moon in the tenth month of the Tamil calendar – Thai (mid-January to mid-February in the English calendar).

travel agency packagesThe procession that begins in the morning on Thaipusam day has devotees walking all the way from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, located in Serangoon Road to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple located in Tank Road, which is about 3km away. Some lanes are cordoned to manage traffic during the procession.

This year saw some 10,000 devotees holding milk pots, symbolising fertility and abundance in Hinduism, and 250 “Kavadi” (“Burden Dance” for Tamil) bearers. The devotees spend the entire month before Thaipusam in religious spiritual preparation with a rigid vegetarian diet.

In the annual festival, organised by the two temples and the Hindu Endowments Board, Lord Subramanian, also known as Lord Murugan, the powerful Tamil God, is worshipped with utmost reverence, piety and devotion by devotees. Lord Murugan, according to mythological sources, represents youth, virtue and power, and is the annihilator of evil and dark forces. Devotees fulfil their vows and seek blessings of Lord Murugan by carrying pots as kavadis or offerings in the two-day long festival. Hundreds of volunteers join in to help manage the huge procession.

It is a heart-warming sight to see thousands of people cutting religious, cultural and communal barriers come together to witness this important celebration. It helps people remain intact and rooted both in a religious as well cultural context. The Thaipusam procession, over the years, has been a great way to establish multi-racial and religious interface that helps close gaps and deepen mutual understanding.

Quick facts & figures of Burj Khalifa in Dubai

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The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is an engineering marvel—an unparalleled combination of solid science and visionary ideals. The breathtaking structure stands really tall in terms of facts, numbers, figures and stats. Here are a few of them that will make your head spin even without your having to stand on top of Burj Dubai:

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The Burj Khalifa stands as high as 828 metres (2,716.5 feet) with more than 160 stories that puts it straight into the record books:

  • World’s tallest building
  • World’s tallest free-standing structure
  • Structure with the most occupied floor in the world
  • Structure having the world’s highest outdoor observation
  • Elevator having the longest travel distance in the world
  • World’s tallest service elevator

Tallest of the super-tall structures in the world:

The Burj Khalifa not only holds the unassailable record as the world’s tallest building, but it has also broken two other long-standing records: tallest free-standing structure, formerly held by Toronto’s CN Towers and tallest structure formerly held by KVLY-TV mast in Blanchard, Blanchard, Traill County, North Dakota, United States.

The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has formed 3 criteria (discussed below) that decide what makes a tall structure really tall. Burj Khalifa has clearly come out on top in all three categories:

Height to architectural top:

Measurement of height is carried out from the level of “the lowest, significant open-air pedestrian entrance” to a building’s architectural top. This incorporates spires, but does not take in flagpole, signage, antennae or other functional-technical tools or equipment. This measurement is the most common method and is deployed to define the CTBUH’s rankings of the tallest buildings in the world.

Highest occupied floor:

Measurement of height is carried out from the level of the lowest, significant, open-air pedestrian entrance to the highest occupied floor inside the building structure, leaving out the maintenance areas.

Height to tip

Measurement of height is carried out from the level of the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance to the building’s highest point, regardless of function of the highest element or material. This takes in signage, flagpoles, antennae and other functional-technical tools or equipment.


All about the Dambulla cave temple in Srilanka

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If you are in Srilanka (formerly Ceylon), the Land of Buddha as it is known, Dambulla Cave Temple is one place you shouldn’t miss no matter what. This ancient temple contains a series of five pre-historic caves and 157 statues of Lord Buddha in total. The several exquisite paintings on the walls and ceilings of the temple are a reflection of the popular Buddhist religious art of the olden era.

travel agency packagesThe history of the awe-inspiring caves, temple and rock dates right back to the 1st century BC. It’s not just the statues in the caves that could fascinate one, but also the several delicate and sinuous paintings on the ceiling and walls, produced with indigenous traditional paints.

The rich ancient history, archaeological significance and culturally artistic values of the temple were recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1991. The temple has stood the test of times for over twenty two centuries and never fallen shy of reverence, adoration and spirituality. Visitors may need to use the steps leading to the top of the rock for a panoramic view of the temple which is as awe-inspiring as its stunning interior.

It is thought to have been the home to pre-historic Srilankans as several burial sites were excavated in the past that are believed to be at least 2700 years old. However, it gained significance only after the rise of Buddhism in the Island nation. It is traditionally believed that the caves were converted into a permanent temple by Valagamba of Anuradhapura who went into exile from there at the time; he was then accepted as a refugee by South Indian usurpers. He spent the next fifteen years into hiding within the caves before successfully reclaiming his kingdom: he wanted to thank the gods and built the temple where he had sought refuge for years.

The numerable artefacts and statues that one can find inside the Dambulla is a true reflection of the artistic talents of the Buddhist era in Srilanka. A visit to the cave and a walk through it is worth every cent and an awesome day out.


All you wanted to know about the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondichery

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The Sri Aurobindo Ashram was formed in 1926 under Mirra Alfassa, popularly called by her followers as ‘The Mother’. The Ashram has progressed fast and steady under her inspired guidance from a small circle to two dozen followers into a widely followed diversified spiritual community with about 1200 members that includes about 400 pupils of the Centre of Education and the hundreds of devotees who reside nearby the Ashram, though the larger ashram community boasts of more than 2000 members.

Tour operators in coimbatoreNestled in a buzzing and bustling city of over 7, 00,000 people, the Ashram has never been a place known for tranquillity or relaxation, but a throbbing and pulsating centre of life set on the backdrop of a modern urban scene. This aspect is a reflection of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy as his steadfast obeisance to the divine forms the core of the Yoga and all Ashramites are required to contribute positively by working productively everyday for the welfare of the community.

The best part about the Ashram is the sadhana or the spiritual discipline at the mind level as there are no needless rituals, no obligatory practises, no mandatory meditations or ‘by the book’ practises in Yoga. Sadhaks are left free to choose whatever that suits their pace and taste of learning. But the general principle of the Sadhana remains intact: one must surrender to the Divine and an opening to the Divine Force at work so that it may turn one into a spiritually and emotionally strong being.

Travel to the eastern part of Pondicherry to visit the Ashram, where the community members live and work in harmony in beautiful old and new buildings side by side in a sprawling area. The community life is focussed on the main building of the Ashram, usually known as “the Ashram”, with block after block of houses in which the Sri Aurobindo and the Mother spend major part of their lives.

At its centre, you can find a white-marble Samadhi (shrine) in a tree-shaded courtyard where the bodies rest in total peace. The members of the Ashram are provided with a healthy and decent life with excellent food, comfortable shelter, necessary clothing and essential medical care. The Ashram, managed by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, also houses a fine library for study and various other facilities for a variety of cultural pursuits.