INDIA Crossing the River Ganges Uttar Pradesh Gangotri Ganges Yamuna Agra Delhi Allahabad Vanarasi Benares Assi Ghat Harischchandra Rana Lalita Kolkata Vidyasagar Setu Dakshineswar Palamau Mahabodhi Bodhgaya Bihar
The Ganga (????) is a major river of the Indian subcontinent and the world, rising in the Himalaya Mountains and flowing about 2,510 km (1,560 mi) generally eastward through a vast plain to the Bay of Bengal. On its 1,560-mi (2,510-km) course, it flows southeast through the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal. In central Bangladesh it is joined by the Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. Their combined waters (called the Padma River) empty into the Bay of Bengal and form a delta 220 mi (354 km) wide, which is shared by India and Bangladesh. Its plain is one of the most fertile and densely populated regions in the world. The Ganges alone drains an area of over a million square km with a population of over 407 million. Millions depend on water from the holy river for several things: drinking, bathing, agriculture, industry and other household chores.
Ganga river known as Ganga Maata (???? ????) or Mother Ganges is revered as a goddess whose purity cleanses the sins of the faithful and aids the dead on their path toward heaven. In most Hindu families, a vial of water from the Ganga is kept in every house. It is believed that drinking water from the Ganga with one's last breath will take the soul to heaven. Hindus also believe life is incomplete without bathing in the Ganga at least once in their lifetime. Some of the most important Hindu festivals and religious congregations are celebrated on the banks of the river Ganga such as the Kumbh Mela or the Kumbh Fair and the Chhat Puja. Kumbh Mela is the largest religious gathering on Earth for Hindu peoples, where around 70 million Hindus from around the world participated in the last Kumbh Mela at the Hindu Holy city Prayaga (also known as Allahabad).
The upper Ganges supplies water to extensive irrigation works. The river passes the holy bathing sites at Haridwar, Allahabad (where the Yamuna river enters the Ganga), and Varanasi. Below Allahabad the Ganges becomes a slow, meandering stream with shifting channels. Because of its location near major population centers, however, the river is highly polluted. The Ganga collects large amounts of human pollutants as it flows through highly populous areas. These populous areas, and other people down stream, are then exposed to these potentially hazardous accumulations.
The mighty Ganga is not only the river but much more to the millions for whom the Ganga is a symbol of faith, hope, substance and sanity. Therefore the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared on November 4, 2008 that henceforth the Ganga would be known as India's 'national river'.
The Prime minister has also announced the proposal to set up a separate high powered Ganga River Basin Authority to stop its pollution and degradation. Chaired by the Prime minister, the authority would have as the members the chief ministers of states through which the river flows, besides working closely with ministers of water resources, environment and forests, urban development and others as well as agencies working on river conservation and pollution management.
The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his book "The Ganges, above all, is the river of India which has held Indias heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history. The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, from old times to new, is the story of Indias civilisation and culture, of the rise and fall of empires, of great and proud cities, of adventures of man."
The Ganga will be pure and free of pollutants by 2020, the Centre promised before the Supreme Court on October 23, 2010. Without dwelling on the past when nearly 1,000 crore was spent under the failed Ganga Action Plan initiated in the late 1980s, attorney general G E Vahanvati assured a Bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S
Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar that the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) headed by the prime minister would deal with river pollution in a comprehensive manner.
In a significant step on November 1, 2010, the government has given in-principle nod for declaring the 135-km stretch of the Ganga between Gaumukh and Uttarkashi as an eco-sensitive zone seeking specific activities to protect the rich biodiversity of the region.
The National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in its meeting held on November 1, 2010 also approved discontinuation of 3 hydro projects,-Bhaironghati, Pala Maneri and NTPC's Loharinag Pala proposed on the river.
The work has been entrusted to a consortium of seven IITs -- Kanpur, Delhi , Madras, Bombay, Kharagpur, Guwahati and Roorkee. Vahanvati said discussions have been initiated with the World Bank for long-term support for NGRBA's work programme. The National River Conservation Directorate under ministry of environment and forests in its affidavit said, "An assistance of $1 billion has been indicated in the first phase by the World Bank. A project preparation facility advance of $2.96 million has been sanctioned by WB."
In the Uttarakhand Himalayas where glacial water flowing from a cave at Gaumukh, is the origin of the Bhagirathi river. Gaumukh has been described as a desolate place at an altitude of about 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). Twenty-three kilometers from Gaumukh, the river reaches Gangotri, the first town on its path.
Thousands of visitors come to Gangotri each year, from every part of the world. Gangotri is situated at a height of more than 10,000 feet in Uttarkashi district, is one of the four shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath and Yamunotri commonly called Chardham. So far nearly 3.50 lakh tourists have visited the shrine this year 2010. The shrine, dedicated to Goddess Ganga, is closed in October-November every year as the area remains snow-bound during the winters. The idol of Ganga is kept in nearby Mukhba village for worship during the period. The shrine reopens for pilgrims in April-May next year.
The river which joins the Alaknanda river at Devaprayag, also in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, to form the Ganga. The Ganga then flows through the Himalayan valleys and emerges into the north Indian plain at the town of Haridwar.
Recent pictures taken by Google Earth via satellite have confirmed that an eight-km stretch of the Bhagirathi river has dried up. The river is shown snaking through the Himalayan mountains as one long, sandy stretch minus any water. Other rivers emanating from the Gangotri glacier, including the Bhilangana, the Assi Ganga and the Alaknanda, all tributaries of the Ganga river, are also drying up.
Since the river Ganga (Bhagirathi) is still emanating from the ice cave (Gaumukh) of Gangotri Glacier, no steps are required to be taken at present for bringing back the flow of river Ganga. As far as the recession of the glacier is concerned it is a part of natural phenomena and cannot be stopped by using short term artificial measures. This information was given by Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Shri Kapil Sibal, in a written reply to a question by Shri Vijoy Krishna in the Lok Sabha on April 29, 2008.
On its 1,560-mi (2,510-km) course in plains, Ganga flows southeast through the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal. The Ganga passing some of the most populous cities of India, including Kanpur , Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, and Kolkata. The Yamuna, which originates less than a hundred miles east of the Bhagirathi, flows parallel to the Ganga and a little to the south for most of its course before merging with the Ganga at the holy city of Allahabad, also known as Triveni Sangam. New Delhi, capital of India, and Agra, site of the Taj Mahal, are two of the major cities on the Yamuna river
The largest tributary to the Ganga is the Ghaghara, which meets it before Patna,
in Bihar, bearing much of the Himalayan glacier melt from Northern Nepal. The Gandak, which comes from near Katmandu, is another big Himalayan tributary. Other important rivers that merge with the Ganga are the Son, which originates in the hills of Madhya Pradesh, the Gomti which flows past Lucknow, and then meets with the river Chambal.
On its way it passes the towns of Mirzapur, Varanasi, Patna and Bhagalpur. At Bhagalpur, the river meanders past the Rajmahal Hills, and beings to change course southwards. At Pakaur, the river begins its first attrition with the branching away of its first distributary, the River Bhagirathi, which goes on to form the River Hooghly. Close to the border with Bangladesh, the Farakka Barrage, built in 1974 controls the flow of the Ganges, diverting some of the water into a feeder canal linking the Hooghly to keep it relatively silt free.
After entering Bangladesh, the main branch of the Ganges is known as Padma River
till it is joined by the Jamuna River the largest distributaries of the Brahmaputra. Further downstream, the Ganges is fed by the Meghna River, the second largest distributaries of the Brahmaputra and takes on its name. Fanning out into the 350 km (220 mi) wide Ganges Delta, it empties out into the Bay of Bengal. The delta of the Ganga, or rather, that of the Hooghly and the Padma, is a vast ragged swamp forest (42,000 sq km) called the Sundarbans world's largest Ganga delta
Today, over 29 cities, 70 towns, and thousands of villages extend along the Ganga banks. Nearly all of their sewage - over 1.3 billion liters per day - goes directly into the river, along with thousands of animal carcasses, mainly cattle. Another 260 million liters of industrial waste are added to this by hundreds of factories along the rivers banks. Municipal sewage constitutes 80 per cent by volume of the total waste dumped into the Ganga, and industries contribute about 15 percent. The majority of the Ganga pollution is organic waste, sewage, trash, food, and human and animal remains. Over the past century, city populations along the Ganga have grown at a tremendous rate, while waste-control infrastructure has remained relatively unchanged. Recent water samples collected in Varanasi revealed fecal-coliform counts of about 50,000 bacteria per 100 milliliters of water, 10,000% higher than the government standard for safe river bathing. The result of this pollution is an array of water-borne diseases including cholera, hepatitis, typhoid and amoebic dysentery. An estimated 80% of all health problems and one-third of deaths in India are attributable to water-borne diseases.
The sacred practice of depositing human remains in the Ganga also poses health threats because of the unsustainable rate at which partially cremated cadavers are dumped. In Varanasi, some 40,000 cremations are performed each year, most on wood pyres that do not completely consume the body. Along with the remains of these traditional funerals, there are thousands more who cannot afford cremation and whose bodies are simply thrown into the Ganga. In addition, the carcasses of thousands of dead cattle, which are sacred to Hindus, go into the river each year. An inadequate cremation procedures contributes to a large number of partially burnt or unburnt corpses floating down the Ganga.
Hundreds of corpses burn on the line of wooden pyres. Soot-covered men bustle about, raking in the still-glowing ashes, sweeping them into the river. Gray dust from the pyres floats atop the waves, mixing with flower garlands and foam. The dust and debris resurfaces some distance away, this time, intermixed with polythene bags, empty cans and dirty clothes. This is the holy Ganga at its holiest spot Varanasi.
The industrial pollutants also a major source of contamination in the Ganga. A total of 146 industries are reported to be located along the river Ganga between Rishikesh and Prayagraj. 144 of these are in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and 2 in Uttrakhand. The major polluting industries on the Ganga are the leather industries, especially near Kanpur, which use large amounts of Chromium and other toxic chemical waste, and much of it finds its way into the meager flow of the Ganga. From the plains to the sea, pharmaceutical companies, electronics plants, textile and paper industries, tanneries, fertilizer manufacturers and oil refineries discharge effluent into the river. This hazardous waste includes hydrochloric acid, mercury and other heavy metals, bleaches and dyes, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls highly toxic compounds that accumulate in animal and human tissue.
The tannery industry mushrooming in North India has converted the Ganga River into a dumping ground. The tanning industry discharges different types of waste into the environment, primarily in the form of liquid effluents containing organic matters, chromium, sulphide ammonium and other salts. According to the information obtained from the UP State Pollution Control Board, there are 402 tanneries operating in the city Kanpur of which 65 were closed On September 17, 2010 issuing notices to 253 tanneries operating in the city, the State Pollution Control Board has asked them to comply with central norms to curb pollution within 15 days or face consequences.
A division bench of the Allahabad high court on January 19, 2011 asked UP chief secretary, who was present in the court, to file an affidavit about the action taken against those who were found involved in polluting river Ganga. The bench will now hear this case on February 14, next. The bench expressed concerned over the pollution in river Ganga and said that at Sangam in Allahabad river Ganga is dirty and its colour is brown.
Ganga is getting polluted day-by-day. Nearly 170 factories and tanneries located between Kannauj and Varanasi, covering an area of 450 km, were found responsible for polluting the river by discharging wastes into it without treatment," Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh told reporters on August 28, 2010. "The government will issue show cause notices to these industrial units on August 30 and if they fail to take any action within 15 days, steps would be initiated to shut them," he said. In 1996, the Supreme Court had banned the discharge of effluents from various tanneries and factories located on its banks in Kanpur.
However, industry is not the only source of pollution. Sheer volume of waste - estimated at nearly 1 billion litres per day - of mostly untreated raw sewage - is a significant factor. Runoff from farms in the Ganga basin adds chemical fertilizers and pesticides such as DDT, which is banned in the United States because of its toxic and carcinogenic effects on humans and wildlife. Damming the river or diverting its water, mainly for irrigation purposes, also adds to the pollution crisis. Atmospheric deposition of heavy metals emitted from vehicles and presence of industrial units adjoining the Ganges is adding to the pollution load on the river, researchers have found on May 2010.
Decades-long efforts by the government to breathe life into Ganga through massive clean-up programmes have come to naught. Consider this: Over Rs 1,000 crore have been pumped into the Ganga Action Plan I and II between 1985 and 2000, but Indias holiest river is still sullied. Discharge of untreated wastewater from towns along Ganga constitutes the major source of pollution load for the river. Against the estimated wastewater generation of around 3000 million liters per day (mld) from towns along the river Ganga, sewage treatment capacity of 1025 mld has been created so far under the Ganga Action Plan. This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests(Independent Charge) Shri Jairam Ramesh in Rajya Sabha on August 02, 2010.
The incidence of gall bladder disease is high among people living near the Ganga and its tributaries, says the largest-ever study of the local population over six years.A team of doctors from Mumbai conducted the study and found high concentrations of heavy metals in the water and soil of 60 villages along the Indo-Gangetic plains that could be contributing to the disease. The study was published last week of January 2011 in the online edition of HPB, the official journal of the International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association. It has identified eight villages in Bihar's Vaishali district, located near the river Gandak, with an unusually high rate of gall bladder disease.
After two Ganga Action Plans failed to deliver the goods, seven major IITs of the country have joined hands to find ways to clean up the national river. After perusing a report submitted by the seven IITs, namely IIT Kanpur, Mumbai, Guwahati, Delhi, Kharagpur, Chennai and Roorkee, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has asked them June 10, 2010 to prepare a work plan for National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in the next 18 months.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on June 10, 2010 approved a proposal for carrying out the second phase of Ganga Action Plan worth Rs.496.90 crore with Japanese assistance at Varanasi.
The Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was initiated by the late Prime Minster Indira Gandhi, who called for a comprehensive survey of the situation in 1979. In 1985, the government of India launched the Ganga Action Plan, which was devised to clean up the river in selected areas by installing sewage treatment plants and threatening fines and litigation against industries that pollute.
The 2006 official audit of the Ganga Action Plan has revealed that it has met only 39 per cent of its sewage
treatment target. Moreover, the plan is behind schedule by over 13 years. According to the legal counsel, Central Pollution Control Board, Mr Vijay Panjawani, even after spending Rs 24,000 crore, the Ganga remains as dirty as ever.
A total of Rs.740.11 crore has been released to different States so far for implementation of schemes for the river Ganga under Ganga Action Plan (GAP). The GAP Phase – I, the first attempt of the Government of India to undertake pollution abatement works in the river Ganga, was launched in the year 1985 with the objective of treating 882 million litres per day (mld) of sewage and improving its water quality to bathing class standards. This Phase was declared completed in March, 2000 with the creation of sewage treatment capacity of 865 mld. Since GAP Phase – I did not cover the pollution load of Ganga fully, GAP Phase – II which includes plans for its major tributaries namely, Yamuna, Gomti, Damodar and Mahananda, besides Ganga, was approved in stages from 1993 onwards. The above two phases of Ganga Action Plan have continued since their inception with GAP-I having been completed in 2000 and GAP-II is presently under implementation.
A total of 146 industries are reported to be located along the river Ganga between Rishikesh and Prayagraj. 144 of these are in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and 2 in Uttrakhand. Of the grossly polluting industries in U.P., 82 industries have installed Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) and are reported to be complying with the standards, 27 industries, though have installed ETPs are not reported to be complying with the prescribed standards and 35 industries are reported to have been closed. The Central Pollution Control Board has issued directions to the State Pollution Control Boards under Section 18 1(b) of Water Act, 1974 for taking appropriate legal action against the defaulting industries. In the State of Uttrakhand, of the 2 Grossly Polluting Industries, one is reported to have installed the ETP and the other is reported to have been closed. As regards the number of drains falling into the river in the towns covered under the Ganga Action Plan and number of identified Gross Polluting Industries which discharge their effluent in the river between Rishikesh and Prayagraj, the same is given in the Annexure.
GAP Phase-I was declared closed in March, 2000. Since GAP Phase-I did not cover the pollution load of Ganga fully, GAP Phase II which included Plans for Yamuna, Gomti, Damodar and Mahananda besides Ganga was approved in various stages from 1993 onwards. The present sanctioned cost of works for Ganga river (main stem) under GAP Phase-II is Rs.564 crore against which an amount of Rs.373.58 crore has been released to the State Implementing Agencies. Out of a total of 311 schemes sanctioned, 185 schemes have been completed so far and the balance schemes are in different stages of implementation.
A citizen-based Sankat Mochan Foundation, started in Varanasi in 1982, has made great strides toward a lasting clean-up of the Ganges. With a dual identity as Hindu priest and civil engineer, the organizations founder, Veer Bhadra Mishra, has approached the problem from both a scientific and a spiritual perspective.
There would be no water in large stretches of the famed Alaknanda and Bhagirathi riverbeds if the Uttarakhand government goes ahead with its plan to build 53 power projects on these two rivers which join at Dev Prayag to form the Ganga, the Comptroller and Auditor General has said on April 1, 2010.
A CAG inspection report submitted to the Uttarakhand governor says that already the riverbed is completely dry at Shrinagar (Garhwal) and what flows downstream is the water released by a power plant from its tunnel and those diverted from tributaries. If all projects are allowed to go through, the aquatic life and biodiversity of the river basin will be virtually erased. Sources said the report also expresses fear that all villages settled along the river basin will be uprooted once the rivers go dry, leading to mass migration and cultural erosion.
The CAG comes down hard on the state government whose power policy of 2006 allows a private player to divert up to 90% of the river water to power turbines, leaving only 10% to flow in the natural course of the river.
According a news published in INDIA TODAY on February 1, 2010, a plan to produce electricity in the Himalayas to ease the power situation in the plains could make the Ganga disappear in the valley of its origin. The river will remain tunnelled continuously for a distance of 130 km up to Dharasu near Uttarkashi
In all, 12 large and medium hydroelectric projects are either functioning, are under construction or have been proposed between Gangotri and Haridwar. Ecologists and local groups have warned that if all the projects are executed, there will be no free- flowing water for about 250 km of India most holy river.
The construction work has been suspended in three out of eight hydro-electric projects on river Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand, the government told the Rajya Sabha on April 26, 2010. The third big dam on the Bhagirathi river — 600 MW Loharinag Pala can be shut down after taking due care, a technical committee set up by the environment and forests ministry has concluded on June 24, 2010.
Within a month of approving the 600 MW Loharinag Pala dam on Uttarakhand, a group of ministers on August 20, 2010 scrapped the National Thermal Power Corporation project following intervention by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The GoM headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had approved the project in July on the ground that NTPC had already spent Rs 600 crore and ordered equipment worth Rs 2,000 for the project. A large number of religious organisations and former IIT professor G.D. Aggarwal asked Singh to review the decision. Aggarwal was on his third fast unto death against the decision in Dehradun. Uttarakhand State has planned to build 300 small and large dams on various tributaries of the Ganga to tap the hydro power potential of the State.
The Ganga is mentioned in the Rig-Veda, the earliest of the Hindu scriptures. The Ganga is mentioned in the nadistuti (Rig Veda 10.75), which lists the rivers from east to west. In RV 6.45.31, the word Ganga is also mentioned, but it is not clear if the reference is to the river. RV 3.58.6 says that "your ancient home, your auspicious friendship, O Heroes, your wealth is on the banks of the Jahnavi (JahnAvyAm)". This verse could possibly refer to the Ganga. In RV 1.116.18-19, the Jahnavi and the Gangetic dolphin occur in two adjacent verses.
During the early Indo-Aryan Ages, the Indus and the Saraswati were the major rivers, not the Ganga. But the later three Vedas seem to give much more importance to the Ganga, as shown by its numerous references. According to the Hindu Purans, Goddess Ganga used to exist only in Heaven. Then prince Bhagirath worshipped Ganga to descend on earth.This is why Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi. In the Mahabharath this story is also mentioned. In fact, Ganga is a major character in the Mahabharath, where she is the mother of Bhisma.
Another version of the myth tells us that Ganga descended to earth to purify the souls of the 60,000 sons of an ancient ruler, King Sagara, who had been burnt to ashes by an enraged ascetic.
Ganga in Hindu religion
According to Hindus the river Ganga is sacred. It is worshipped by Hindus and personified as a goddess, who holds an important place in the Hindu religion. Hindu belief holds that bathing in the river on certain occasions causes the forgiveness of sins and helps attain salvation. Many people believe that this will come from bathing in Ganga at any time. People travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga; this immersion also is believed to send the ashes to heaven. Several places sacred to Hindus lie along the banks of the river Ganga, including Haridwar and Kashi. People carry sacred water from the Ganges that is sealed in copper pots after making the pilgrimage to Kashi. It is believed that drinking water from the Ganga with ones last breath will take the soul to heaven. Hindus also believe life is incomplete without bathing in the Ganga at least once in their lifetime.
In most Hindu families, a vial of water from the Ganga is kept in every house. This is done because it is auspicious to have water of the Holy Ganga in the house, and also if someone is dying, that person will be able to drink its water. Many Hindus believe that the water from the Ganga can cleanse a persons soul of all past sins, and that it can also cure the ill. The ancient scriptures mention that the water of Ganga carries the blessings of the Lords feet. Hence mother Ganga is also known as Visnupadi (Emanating from the Lotus feet of Supreme Lord Sri Visnu). Some of the most important Hindu festivals and religious congregations are celebrated on the banks of the river Ganga such as the Kumbh Mela or the Kumbh Fair and the Chhat Puja.
Around 70 million Hindus from around the world participated in Kumbh Mela at the Hindu Holy city Prayaga (also known as Allahabad). The most important city sacred to Hinduism on the banks of the River Ganga is Varanasi or Banaras. It has hundreds of temples along the banks of the Ganga which often get flooded during the rains. This city, especially along the banks of the Ganga, is an important place of worship for the Hindus as well as a cremation ground.
Chhath an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to the worship of the Lord Sun (?????) is mainly celebrated in northeast region of India in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, some parts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand on the banks of Ganga This year on November 12, 2010 Chath Puja the urban populace prefer to visit other water bodies like ponds or lakes or remain confined to their homes for performing the Chhath rituals as river Ganga has shifted away at different ghats and its water stands highly contaminated..
The most controversial Tehri dam is the main dam of the Tehri Hydro Project on the rivers Bhagirathi (one of the major tributary of the river Ganga) located near Tehri in Uttarakhand. It is a multi purpose river valley project, towering 855 feet (261 m). The main dam at Tehri is the 8th tallest dam in the world. The dams projected capabilities include a power generation capacity of 2400 MW, irrigation stabilization to an area of 6,000 km², an additional area of 2,700 km² of irrigation stabilization and a supply of 270 million gallons (1.23 million cubic metres) of drinking water to industrialized cities in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The dam project was approved in 1972 and construction was started in 1978. The dam is operational since July 2006. Until March 2008, a sum of Rs 8,298 crore had been spent on the dam, far outweighing the initial planned costs. Its projected power generating capacity was 2,400 MW. Currently, it is generating only 1,000 MW, less than half its capacity.
According to Hindu mythology, river Bhagirathi is the actual Ganga, though the name of Ganga is assumed only after the river Bhagirathi meets river Alaknanda at Devprayag. Cutting off the water supply of Bhagirathi to such low quantity means that after travelling more than 80 km from this point, water of Bhagirathi will be hardly reaching Ganga. It is predicted that after 20 years the mighty Ganga will be reduced to a trickle and cease to exist for the 150 million people in this region. The Tehri dam is located in the Central Himalayan Seismic Gap, a major geologic fault zone. This region was the site of a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in October 1991, epicenter 50 km from the location of the dam.
The Kumbh Mela (????? ????), the largest religious gathering on earth, is held every 12 years on the banks of the Triveni Sangam - the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. The Mela alternates between Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years. The one celebrated at the Holy Sangam in Allahabad is the largest and holiest of them. The Mela is attended by millions of devotees, including Sadhus. A holy dip in the sacred waters is believed to cleanse the soul. Some Hollywood celebrities participated in the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, termed as the biggest spiritual gathering on earth, in India during January- April in 2010. This year Kumbh Mela begins from January 14, 2010 to April 28, 2010 includes 11 bathing dates in between, at Haridwar, where fast-flowing Ganga enters the plains from Himalayan.
Nearly 80 million people bathed along the 15-kilometre (nine-mile) stretch of the river Ganges in Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela festival that lasted 104 days, organisers said on April 29, 2010 as the event drew to a close. Nearly 1.45-crore pilgrims took a dip in the Ganga on April 14, 2010, the day of Baisakhi only.The Ardh or 'half Kumbh' Mela, is held every six years on the banks of Sangam.
The flora and fauna found along Ganga banks are vital to nutrient and water conservation, and control of soil erosion. 451 million people living in its basin are directly and indirectly dependent upon the Ganga. Watered by the monsoons, this silt-enriched land produces a significant portion of the rice, wheat, millet, sugar, and barley needed to feed the world's second most populous nation. The rain feds the land, dilutes the river's muddy stream, flushes out excess sediment and suspended matter, and revitalizes the river where its flow was sluggish. The Ganges and its tributaries provide a perennial source of irrigation to a large area. The Ganges can swell a thousand-fold during the monsoons.
Haridwar, Allahabad, and Varanasi are the the source of tourism and attract thousands of pilgrims to its waters. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims arrive at these three towns to take a dip in the Ganges, which is believed to cleanse oneself of sins and help attain salvation.
The Ganga has been described by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the world's top ten rivers at risk. It has over 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species, and five areas which support birds found nowhere else in the world. According to studies reported by environmental engineer D.S. Bhargava of the University of Roorkee, the Ganges decomposes organic waste 15 to 25 times faster than other rivers. The Ganges has an extraordinarily high rate of reaeration, the process by which it absorbs atmospheric oxygen. When organic waste is dropped into it, as much as 60 per cent of the BOD is processed within an hour. The water quality samples also suggest that the Ganges retains DO much longer than does water from other rivers.
In a recent finding, the scientists have observed that various species of fishes which helped in keeping the river water clean are facing extinction. In its place, numerous marine species are thriving in the river. Marine species like Sea Bass, Rostellascaris, Xenentodon Cancilla, Clarius Gariepinus or Thai Magur have been found in the fresh water of Ganga in Allahabad and its surrounding districts.
Gangetic dolphins were once found in abundance in the river Ganges. But over the years a steady increase in pollution in the river has dwindled the population of Dolphins. River Dolphin declared as National Aquatic Animal and on January 19, 2010, Ministry of Environment and Forests included in the Schedule I for the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Gangetic dolphins are in grave danger with their population declining at a rate of 10 percent annually. Industrial discharges, sewage, pesticides and the rotting remains of dead bodies have increased pollution levels in the River Ganges over the years despite government promises to clean-up the holy river.
M Omair from the University of Michigan in the US has collected zooplankton samples from Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, and Kolkata. He found that many of the zooplanktons that are eaten by the small fish have tumours. The small fish are in turn eaten by the bigger fish and so on, so the ill zooplanktons are getting into the entire food chain, including humans who eat fish from the river. "It is a bad sign for the environmental health of the Ganga," Omair said.
Ganga river is rapidly shrinking
The Ganga is one of the world's most rapidly shrinking rivers, a recent study of 900 rivers in the world has found. One of India's most culturally and economically important rivers is among 45 in the study that showed a statistically significant reduction in discharge to the ocean. In 2004, the Ganga had 20 per cent less water than it did 56 years earlier, the study, conducted by the National Centre for Atmosphere Research in Colorado in the US, concluded. This centre belongs to the University Corporation of Atmospheric Research.
The Allahabad high court on January 12, 2011 asked the state government to ensure maintaining 50 per cent of water level in the river Ganga in the interest of general public. The court in its order also clarified that water level not be reduced by more than 50 per cent by refraining from drawing excess amount from the Ganga. Passing this order, a division bench of the high court, consisting of Justice Askok Bhushan and Justice Arun Tandon, on a PIL filed to make
the river Ganga pollution-free, said that though water is necessary for agricultural purposes, but it is also the duty of the government to provide potable water to the people and for that a balance has to be maintained.
Idol immersion in Ganga
The annual ritual of immersing idols of Goddess Durga and other Hindu deities in the Ganga river has threaten the survival of the endangered river dolphin and other aquatic creatures but also increases pollution in the already polluted river. Thousands of idols were immersed in the Ganga in Kolkata, Patna and other cites situated on the banks of river last year to mark the end of the Durga Puja festival.
Concerned over alarming pollution level in the Ganges river, the Allahabad High Court on October 20, 2010 asked Uttar Pradesh government to issue a notification banning the use of polythene in the vicinity of the river. Passing the order, a Division Bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Arun Tandon asked the government to file an affidavit, apprising the court of the compliance of the order, on October 25 next.
The Calcutta High Court on October 5, 2010 directed that the guideline framed by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) will have to be followed for cleaning up the river Ganga after immersion of idols. The court also said that it was the duty of Kolkata Port Trust (KPT) and concerned municipalities to clean the river after idols immersion.
Ganga delta and Ganga in sea
The delta of the Ganga, or rather, that of the Hooghly and the Padma, is a vast ragged swamp forest (42,000 sq km) called the Sundarbans the world's largest delta , home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. The river courses in the delta are broad and active, carrying a vast amount of water. On the seaward side of the delta are swamplands and tidal forests called Sunderbans which are protected conservation areas in both Indian and Bangladeshi law. The peat found in the delta is used for fertilizer and fuel. The water supply to the river depends on the rains brought by the monsoon winds from July to October and the melting snow from the Himalayas during the period from April to June. The delta also experiences strong cyclonic storms before and after the monsoon season which can be devastating.
The delta used to be densely forested and inhabited by many wild animals. Today, however, it has become intensely cultivated to meet the needs of the growing population and many of the wild animals have disappeared. The Royal Bengal Tiger still lives in the Sunderbans and kills about 30 villagers every year. There remains high fish populations in the rivers which provides an important part of the inhabitants' diet. Bird life in the Ganges basin is also prolific.
Ganga in Kolkata
The main branch of the Ganga, the Padma, passes through the Farraka Barrage, a gigantic barrier designed to divert the Ganga waters into the Hooghly branch, and away from the Padma. Completed by the Indian government in the early 1970s, it was intended to help flush out the increasing silt deposits in the Hooghly, to improve navigation, and to provide Kolkata with irrigation and drinking water.
About 150 large industrial plants are lined up on the banks of the Hooghly River around Kolkata. Together, these plants contribute 30 percent of the total industrial effluent reaching the mouths of the Ganga. Of this, half comes from pulp and paper industries, which discharge a dark brown, oxygen-craving slurry of bark and wood fiber, mercury and other heavy metals which accumulate in fish tissues, and chemical toxins like bleaches and dyes, which produce dioxin and other persistent compounds.
CNN-IBN-Outlook State of the Environment Poll has found that 77 per cent people have voted cleaning of rivers by government as the top priority. The findings are especially significant in Kolkata as its main river Hooghly is congested with solid waste and effluents. It is said that the character of a city is best judged by how well it maintains its sea or river front.
Kosi River - The Sorrow of Bihar
The River Kosi ( ???? ???) also called the sorrow of Bihar is one of the largest tributaries of river Ganga. After flowing 58 km in Nepal, it enters the north Bihar plains near Bhimnagar and after another 260 km , flows into the Ganges near Kursela. The river travels a distance of 729 km from its source to the confluence with the Ganga. Due the current floods in Kosi river, the situation in Bihar is the worst witnessed for hundreds of years.
Now Ganga threatened by Expressway
The UP state government selected a developer for the ambitious Rs 30,000- crore Ganga Expressway project. Financial bids from five companies for developing the 1,047-km project, linking Noida and Ballia, have been allotted by state Industrial Development Commissioner. The expressway promises to reduce travel time from Ballia to Noida to about 10 hours.
Ganga Expressway is anti-Hindu, says BJP and other opposition parties including the Congress and the Samajwadi Party . They are also planning to protest against the expressway. The CPI leaders said that thousands of acres of fertile land in UP was being acquired for the Ganga Expressway project that was bound to render thousands of farmers homeless and jobless.
On May 29, 2009: the Allahabad High Court stayed the Ganga Express Highway Project. The ambitious project is aimed at linking Noida to Ballia in Uttar Pradesh by constructing eight lane 1047 kilometer long road, which would pass through 19 districts along the bank of river Ganga.Jaiprakash Associates were allotted contract for the prestigious Rs 30,000-crore Ganga Expressway project.
Ganga and groundwater contamination
While pollution level in the holy Ganga is becoming a grave concern for scientists of the country, threat of groundwater contamination is also looming even larger than anticipated and calling for urgent measures for its mitigation. The two-day workshop on 'Ganga and groundwater contamination and its mitigation', organised by the the state unit office of the Central
The presence of arsenic has been detected in and around groundwa-ter sources in the state s five towns based along the banks of the Ganga as well as around 1,590 villages spread over 13 districts in the Gangetic basin of the state on February 11, 2011.
The towns where the sources of drinking water have yielded arsenic con-tamination are Buxar, Sultanganj, Nathnagar and Kahalgaon on the south-ern bank of the Ganga and Begusarai located on the river s northern bank. The 13 Bihar districts where villages in the Gangetic basin or close to it have yielded arsenic content in drinking water include Buxar, Bhojpur, Patna, Lakhisarai, Munger, Bhagalpur, Katihar, Begusarai, Samastipur, Vaishali and Saran. The arsenic content has also been found in some vil-lages lying in the basin of Burhi Gandak in Darbhanga district.
The Ganga is also one of the rivers most threatened by climate change. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (The UN Climate Change Conference in Bali) looking at the threat from climate change to human development and the environment, "only the polar icecaps hold more fresh water than the Himalayan glaciers": "If the current trends of climate change continue, by 2030 the size of the glaciers could be reduced by as much as 80 per cent," warns the report, titled "Up in Smoke -- Asia and the Pacific", released here in November 2007.
Some of India's most important rivers are fed by the Himalayan glaciers. But rising temperatures means that many of the Himalayan glaciers are melting fast due to Global Warming and could diminish significantly over the coming decades with catastrophic results. In the long run, the water flow in the Ganges could drop by two-thirds, affecting more than 400 million people who depend on it for drinking water. The report warns that in the short term the rapid melting of ice high up in the Himalayas might cause river swelling and floods. The formation of glacial lakes of melt-water creates the threat of outburst floods leading to devastation in lowland valleys.
Himalayan glaciers are already in retreat. Their dependence on glacier runoff makes downstream populations particularly vulnerable to the consequences, says Koko Warner of the UN Universitys Institute for Environment and Human Security. The Ganga irrigates 17.9 million hectares in northern India. "The potential for migration out of irrigated areas could be significant," Ms. Warner added.
Ganga a national heritage
On September 22, 2008 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured giving river Ganga a national heritage status, a statement by the Hardwar-based Ganga Raksha Manch said. The prime minister pledged to revive the glory of the river and look into the issue of pollution in the river along its stretch from upper reaches in Hardwar to Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal. In a boost to the Ganga cleaning programme, the government has cleared projects worth Rs 1,394.11 crore for the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttarakhand on March 6, 2010..
The first PM of India Pandit Jawaharla Nehru said: "The Ganga especially is the river of India age-long culture and civilization, ever changing., ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga." Ganga is both goddess and river. The name of Ganga appears twice in the Rig Veda, references in Puranas, Valmiki Ramayana, Devi Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Hindu religious Granthas as mother Ganga. .
In other parts of the world great rivers have been referred to as mothers. Volga is Mat Rodanya that is Mother of land. Irelands river Boyne is worshiped as a goddess, The Thai river is Mae-nau taht is Water Mother. In ancient Egypt the Nile was considered as the tears of Goddess Isis. Varanasi (???????) also known as Benares or Kashi (????) situated on the banks of the River Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, regarded as most holy place by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. It is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, believed to be about 3,000 years old..Varanasi is referred as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", and "the city of learning." The importance of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganga.and has many temples along its banks. Hindus believe that bathing in Ganga remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a persons soul from the cycle of its transmigrations. Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Buddhism too, being one of the four pilgrimage sites said to have been designated by Gautama Buddha himself.
More than 1,000,000 pilgrims visit the city each year. It has the holy shrine of Kashi Vishwanath (a manifestation of Lord Shiva), and also one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva (???). Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats, most of them are bathing ghats, while others are used as cremation sites. Varanasi is famous by its Jantar Mantar , Archaeological museum, Bharat Kala Bhavan, The New Vishwanath Temple, Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat, Banaras Hindu University and Banarasi Silk.
. A recent study by the Ganga Lab and River Ecosystem Environment Management and Training Centre at the Benaras Hindu University (BHU) has found that "the quantity of (original) Ganga jal could in fact be less than 1 per cent in Varanasi" . The reason. First, there are dams and barrages on the way. These trap the river and divert the waters. The next assault comes in the form of toxic substances dumped in the river as it flows through Uttar Pradesh. The end result is that the Ganga, as it enters Varanasi, flows more in faith than in reality. The government has spent Rs 36,448 crore on cleaning the Ganga, yet at Varanasi the river is little more than a deadly cocktail of groundwater, sewage discharge and spillage from tributaries like the Yamuna and the Betwa — hardly the sacred Ganga jal that, many believe, has the powers to wash away the sins of mankind, 50 lakh of whom visit this town every year for the holy dip.
The Ganga at Allahabad
Sangam at Allahabad the holy confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati revered by millions and the site for historic Mahakumbh held once every 12 years- seems to be under threat.
With the ongoing Magh Mela, thousands are taking a dip into the Ganga to rid themselves of sins. But, the fact is that the river water has become toxic and unfit for bathing. The untreated water from various nullahs in the city is flowing into the Ganga, thus polluting the river water. Besides, the ever-increasing human settlements in Kachar (catchment area of river) area have added to the burden of the river.
Mission Clean Ganga
On February 8, 2011: Ganga-Yamuna Jal Pradushan Nivaran Pradarshini helps in creating awareness among the public for saving the rivers. Ganga Pradarshini is a confluence of dedication, innovation and resolution, said Harichaitnya Brahmchariji Maharaj while speaking at `Sant Samagam', a programme held on the campus of Ganga Yamuna Jal Pradushan Nivaran Pradarshini in Magh Mela area.Prem Das Mauniji Maharaj, Dudhadhari Ashram, Ranikhet said the potential of saints in this regard should not be underestimated. Everbody needs to take the initiative for saving the Ganga.
Sant Ram Balak Das Ji Maharaj said that science and technology alone cannot alone save the river. For this public cooperation too is needed, he said. Swami Parmanand Ji Mahraj, Shivagarh Ashram, said every Indian should take efforts to save the Ganga.
On January 16, 2011: Shankaracharya Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati asked the common man to come forward to safeguard the sanatan dharma. Lauding the efforts of Maa Ganga Pradooshan Mukti Abhiyan Samiti, he said that the holy Ganga is life generating stream with which sentiments of millions across the globe are attached. Apart from providing means of livelihood to crores of people, it also provides water for irrigating the fields. However it is very unfortunate that water of the holy river is being stopped at several places during the last two decades with the construction of dams. On the other hand effluents discharged by tanneries and other related factories are making the water unfit for drinking as well as bathing.
On October 23, 2010: The World Bank has agreed to provide $1 billion for the Mission Clean Ganga being implemented by the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for restoring the "wholesomeness" of the river system by minimising its pollution level, the Centre has informed the Supreme Court.
On October 2, 2010: Magsaysay award winner and environmentalist Rajendra Singh began a three- month tour on Friday to constitute 'Ganga Panchayats' in towns and villages along the river Ganga.
On September 2, 2010: A campaign in Kanpur from Gandhi Jayanti on October 2, 2010 to make the banks of the Ganga, and the areas falling within 500 m radius of the river, free from polythene, would be initiated. A division bench of the Allahabad High Court had directed the Ganga Basin Authority and the state government to take appropriate action to ban use of polythenes in the vicinity of Ganga in the entire state.
On July 26, 2010 :Under his 'Swachha Ganga, Samridh Bharat Abhiyan'-- a foot march from Gomukh to Ganga Sagar organised by Acharya Neeraj a lawyer of the Supreme Court. He said the main objective of the 3000-km foot march was to create awareness among people to keep the Ganga clean and maintain its purity.
On July 20, 2010: Prof G.D.Agarwal has been on fast-unto-death in Haridwar since July 20, 2010 in protest against the hydropower project on Bhagirathi.
On July 6, 2010 seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have plunged into a government effort to clean the Ganga, promising to recommend a slew of river management and technology strategies to improve its ecological health. An IIT consortium will develop a Ganga River Basin Management Plan within 18 months under an agreement signed today by the Union environment ministry and the IITs at Mumbai, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Chennai and Roorkee.
On June 17, 2010 the environment ministry has rejected a major hydro project planned on river Gori Ganga in Uttarakhand, saying it would destroy the valley's fragile ecosystem.
On May 20, 2010: the central government has invited global consultants to formulate an action plan to clean river Ganga, a senior environment ministry official said. The official said about $3 million has already been received from the World Bank for preparing a management plan for cleaning river Ganga.
Ganga was designated national river in February last year. Nearly Rs.900 crore have been spent on the Ganga action plan so far. A parliamentary panel recently observed that the action plan has shown no considerable results in improving the quality.
On April 4, 2010 BJP leader L K Advani launched the Uttarakhand governments clean Ganga campaign and asked people all over the country to play an active role in the conservation of the holy river. Speaking after the launch of the campaign christened "Ganga Sparsh Abhiyan", Advani said
On March 22, 2010, World Water Day thousands of people held each others hand and reaffirmed their pledge to save the national river, Ganga due to its alarming pollution level at Varanasi. Students, men and women formed a 7-km long human chain this morning at the world-famous ghats on World Water Day .
On February 23, 2010, VARANASI is all set to witness establishment of National Ganga River Basin Research Institute for sustainable development of the Ganga river basin in the region. The Centre has expressed confidence that by 2020 the polluted River Ganga would be cleaned and Rs 15,000 crore will be spent on it.
1 Rishikesh also spelled Hrishikesh; Rushikesh; or Hrushikesh; is a city and a municipal board in Dehradun district in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.It is surrounded by two other districts namely Tehri Garhwal and Pauri Garhwal. It is located in the foothills of the Himalaya in northern India and attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year; from within India; as well as from other countries. Rishikesh is a vegetarian city by law; as well as an alcohol-free city. Rishikesh has also banned use of plastics bags by shopkeepers and vendors. Rishikesh; sometimes nicknamed "the world capital of Yoga"; has numerous yoga centres that also attract tourists. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha; as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it. Rishikesh is world famous for Rafting and Adventure. Rafting season starts from the month of March and ends in July. Rishikesh is also home to the 120-year old Kailas Ashram Brahmavidyapeetham; an institution dedicated to preserve and promote the traditional Vedantic Studies. Prominent personalities such as Swami Vivekananda; Swami Rama Tirtha and Swami Shivananda have studied in this institution. In February 1968; The Beatles visited the now-closed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh. John Lennon recorded a song titled; 'The Happy Rishikesh Song'. The Beatles composed nearly 48 songs during their time at the Maharishi's ashram; many of which appear on the White Album. Several other artists visited the site to contemplate and meditate.
2 Ram Jhula is an elegant suspension bridge which was built in the 1980s. Like it's brother bridge upstream; it's a pedestrian bridge. But this being India; the definition of 'pedestrian' is flexible. You'll find bicycles; mopeds; motorbikes; goats; cows and the odd handcart all fighting for space on the bridge. I've seen videos of the rush-hour chaos and I'm glad to not have experienced that. I have a bad history of monkey attacks so I was expecting trouble on the bridge. It seems that monkeys take one look at me and can't resist the temptation to mug me for all I'm worth. But this time I was forewarned and forearmed. I'd very carefully emptied my pockets of anything that could possibly be of interest to a furry fiend in search of a snack. My camera was held tight to my body and there was nothing in my bag to tempt. As we approached the bridge you could see the would-be muggers lined up on the bridge just waiting for me to appear.The bridge monkeys are entirely shameless. They swing between the wires confident in the knowledge that they are smarter and faster than you. The little babies are quite capable of distrcting you with their cuteness whilst their uncles and grandpas sneak up behind and grab bags of food from unwary passers-by. I should hate them; I should probably be scared of them; but I just can't resist hanging about with monkeys. Rishikesh is a town that splits itself across the river Ganges with most of the 'action' on the left bank (assuming you're looking downstream) but still plenty of hotels; ashrams and temples on the right bank too. To get from one side to the other there are boats but most people use the two suspension bridges – the Lakshman Jhula and the Ram Jhula (or Shivandra Jhula). Jhula just means bridge. Our hotel was sandwiched between the two bridges; although I didn't realise there were two until it was almost time to leave. We only used the Ram Jhula; it being closer to the place where the nightly Ganga Aarti takes place.
3 Trayanbakshwar TempleShri Trayanbakshwar temple was built by the organisation of the Guru Kailashanand. Rishikesh is a holy city for Hindus located in the foothills of the Himalaya in northern India in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Rishikesh is also known as 'land of the Rishi'.
4 The Ujali colony; located 1 kilometre outside Uttarkashi; houses over 500 sadhus and sanyasins. Some scholars and theists of great repute live here. Uttarakhand’s best-known ashrams such as the Kailash Ashram; the Shivananda Ashram; the Baba Kali Kamli Ashram and the Punjab Sindh Dandi Kshetra all have a presence in Ujali. Lord Vishnu and Parsuram; the 24th reincarnation of Lord Vishnu; are worshipped here. The idol of Parsuram in this temple is said to date back to the 8th century AD. It is said that Parsuram beheaded his mother; Renuka; on the orders of his father Sage Jamdagni. The latter; pleased with his son’s obedience; granted him a boon. Parsuram asked for his mother’s life to be restored; which was done. Nevertheless; he was guilty of matri hatya (mother’s murder) and was told by his father to go to Uttarkashi to repent. Uttarkashi is then his tapsthali (place of meditation). There are very few temples dedicated to Parsuram in India and this is possibly one of two in the entire country.
5 1.5 kilometres from Uttarkashi. Situated on Hari Parvat on the opposite bank of the Bhagirathi from the centre of town; Kuteti Devi is the main deity of Kot Gram Khai in Uttarkashi. Legend says that Kuteti Devi is an avtar (reincarnation) of Durga. This temple was built by the daughter of the Maharaja of Kota and her husband (Raja Banswala) on the spot where they discovered three stones with a heavenly aroma; as guided by the Devi in their dreams. The Maneri-Bhali project; which supplies 93 MW of power to Uttarakhand; is located on the left bank of Bhagirathi; close to Uttarkashi. Roughly 13 km upstream of Uttarkashi is the village of Maneri. Here; a lake – of an unbelievably beautiful and clear colour reflecting the surrounding conifers-- has been formed by damming the Bhagirathi; which is fast becoming a popular tourist attraction. There is camping site here on the banks of the river. hairon Chowk is considered one of the oldest sites in Uttarkashi. It was referred to by ancient texts as ‘Chamala ki Chowri’ in connection with Barahat –Uttarkashi’s ancient name. Chamala ki Chowri was named after a Champa tree that used to grow here and the chowk was used to hold village councils; and for pilgrims to gather and pray here before undertaking the difficult journey on foot to Gangotri.
6 Uttaranchal is a state of natural beauty and some of the untouched and un spoilt natural places such nainital; valley of flowers; dehradun; himalaya; kausani etc. Also famous for it's lakes; mountains; forests; national parks; santuries and is also a favorite destination of wildlife lovers. The State is carved out of Uttar Pradesh was formed on November 9th; 2000 as the 27th state of the Indian Union. International borders touched by the border of state are Tibet; Nepal Neighbour states are Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh
7 Gangotri is a very nice town and is fairly popular with foreigners; many who have come to make the trek to Gaumukh; or further. Unlike most of the other towns on the Char Dham route; it is a nice place to stay for a while. The Bhagirathi River rushes by and is extremely loud; giving the place a peaceful atmosphere. Gangotri is located about 250km from Rishikesh and 230km from Yamunotri. The bus trip via Tehri and Uttarkashi from Rishikesh takes 10 to 12 hours. At Gangotri the Kedar Ganga River merges with the Bhagirathi River at Dev Ghat; which is next to the main bridge; on the other side of the river from the temple. There is a falls called Sahasradhara about 100m below this confluence. Just before the falls the river squeezes itself into a narrow gorge about one metre wide. The actual source of the Ganges is Gaumukh; a hard 19km climb from Gangotri. Bhagiratha is said to have prayed at Gangotri to save his relatives. The Pandavas are said to have visited this place to atone for the sin of killing their relatives during the Kurukshetra war. At this point the Ganges River flows north; giving this village its name; Gangotri; which means “Ganga turned north.” Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita; Of flowing rivers I am the Ganges.
8 Gangotri is the origin of River Ganga and one of the four sites in the Chardham Yatra. Here; Ganga is known as Bhagirathi; named after the ancient king Bhagirath; who performed penance to bring her down from the heavens. It is believed that bathing in her waters brings deliverance from sins committed in the present and past births. Onwards Devprayag It acquires the name GANGA where Bhagirathi meets the Alaknanda. This temple was made with white stone by Amar Singh Thapa; Gorkha captain in the early 18th century . After Diwali the door of the temple are closed & reopened in May. During winters when Temple is closed due to the heavy snow fall; the idol of the Goddess is kept at Village Mukhab village near Harsil. The actual source of Holy river Ganga is at Gaumukh; set in the Gangotri Glaciers and is a 19 Kms trek from Gangotri. According to Hindu mythology; Goddess Ganga – the daughter of heaven; took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath’s predecessors; following his severe penance of several centuries. Lord Shiva received Ganga into his matted locks to minimize the impact of her fall. According to legend; a Suryavanshi king Sagar decided to perform the Ashwamedh Yagna (horse sacrifice). His 60; 000 sons conquered the territories that the horse crossed. Indra felt threatened by their success. He stole the horse and tied it in Kapil Muni’s ashram. Sagar’s sons followed the horse into the ashram and were disrespectful to the seer; who cursed them. All 60; 000 of them were turned into ashes. The king beseeched the seer for forgiveness; but the curse could not be reversed. However; Kapil Muni suggested that if the holy Ganga; the river of heaven; were to come down to the earth; the touch of her waters would ensure the deliverance of the princes. Many descendants of Sagar failed in their efforts to bring the holy Ganga to earth; until Bhagirath was born. He persevered in his prayers until Ganga agreed to come down to the earth from the heavens. But such was her power that her descent was sure to cause havoc. Thus Bha¬gi¬rath prayed to Lord Shiva; who agreed to contain Ganga in his locks; from where he released a few drops of her celes¬tial waters. The river thus flowed on earth; cleansing all that was impure in her path and delivering the sons of Sagar from their curse.
9 Gangotri; the source of the Ganga (Ganges) River and seat of the goddess Ganga; is one of the four sites in India's Char Dham pilgrimage. Gangotri can be reached in one day's travel from Rishikesh; Haridwar or Dehra Duhn; or in two days from Yamunotri. More popular and important than its sister site to the east; Gangotri is also accessible directly by car and bus; meaning that it sees many more pilgrims. A small village of guesthouses and restaurants serves the pilgrim community. Ritual duties are supervised by the Semwal family of pujaris. The aarti ceremony at the Gangotri is especially impressive; as is the temple; a stately affair that sits on the banks of the rushing Ganga (Ganges River). Adventurous pilgrims can make an overnight 17 km trek to Gaumukh; the actual source of the Ganga.
10 Gangotri; the origin of the River Ganges and seat of the goddess Ganga; is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga (Ganges) from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda. The origin of the holy river is at Gaumukh; set in the Gangotri Glacier; and is a 19 km trek from Gangotri. Gangotri can be reached in one day's travel from Rishikesh; Haridwar or Dehradun; or in two days from Yamunotri; the first site in the Char Dham circuit. More popular and important than its sister site to the east; Gangotri is also accessible directly by car and bus; meaning that it sees many more pilgrims than Yamunotri.
11 The hill stations of Uttaranchal are famous for their scenic ambiance and temple attractions. Among the most important cities of Uttrakhand; one must visit the famous holy cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar. For some peace and solace go the the capital city; Dehradun. The popular honeymoon destinations include Mussorie and Nainital. Take up popular hill station tours of Uttaranchal and enjoy a placid stay among the snow clad mountains; Ganges ghats and plethora of wildlife attractions. The capricious beauty of these hill destinations attract the tourists to spent their holidays on these fabled hill stations; is equally ideal for several day's retreat or for a day's excursion. Uttaranchal is as famous for its adventure sports all over the world. Adventure lie skiing; trekking and river rafting are the major attraction of the state. There are snow mountains in Auli; where one can enjoy great skiing. All the water sport lovers can go to Rishikesh to try their hands at rafting in the turbulent water of the Ganges. Other important adventure sports in Uttaranchal includes trekking as well as camping. Among the mountain sports; the options include mountaineering and rock climbing. One should take up adventure tours of Uttaranchal during the time when many international competitions are held. The adventure world of Uttaranchal is inviting all the tourists to sojourn in the state and enjoy the best of holiday attractions.
12 Uttaranchal is an important adventure and pilgrimage destination in India; that was crafted out of Uttar Pradesh in the year 2000. With its layers of green and snow mountains; Uttaranchal is ideally located at the foothills of the Shivalik. Being a perfect combination of nature; wildlife; adventure and pilgrimage; the state tourism board promotes all these facets. All the tourists are recommended to take up tours of Uttaranchal to enjoy the most exotic hill stations of India.
13 Gangotri is the highest and the most important temple of Goddess Ganga. Gangotri is a small town centered around the Gangotri Temple of Goddess Ganga. The present temple of Gangotri was built by Amar Singh Thapa; Gorkha General in the early 18th century. The origin of Bhagirathi River; Gaumukh glacier is 18kms from Gangotri and one must cover the distance on foot. Gangotri offers scenic vistas of rugged terrains; gushing water of Bhagirathi River and snow clad peaks. The place holds great importance amongst Hindus. Gangotri remains opened from May and get closed on the day of Diwali festival. Gangotri temple remains closed during winters as the region is prone to heavy snowfall. Gangotri is situated at an altitude of 3; 048mts above sea level in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand state. Located on the banks of the holy Bhagirathi River; Gangotri is one of the Char Dham of Uttarakhand. Submerged Shivling: There is a natural rock Shivling in Gangotri submerged under water which can be easily seen when winters are on their way as the water level decreases during that time. According to myths and legends this was the place where Lord Shiva sitting when he received Ganga in his matted locks.
14 Seller at Mansa Devi Temple. To visit the temple; pilgrims have to follow a queue for the 'darshan' of the Goddess. Mansadevi is said have born from the mind of Saint Kashyap. She is regarded as the wife of Nag Raja Vasuki. This temple is one of the most prominent temples of North India. Mansa Devi is one of the famous Siddh Peethas (Holy Places where one's wishes are fulfilled) along with Chandi Devi and Maya Devi in Haridwar. People usually tie threads on a holy tree that is located in the vicinity of the temple asking the Goddess to fulfill their wishes. On the fulfillment of the wishes; people come to untie the thread from the same tree once again. The temple is of great importance to the followers of Hinduism. One can have a panoramic view of Haridwar from the top of Bilwa Hill.
15 Seller at Mansa Devi Temple. Mansa Devi is one of the most popular and most visited temples of Haridwar; Uttaranchal. The temple is dedicated to Mansa Devi; a form of Shakti (Power). Located at the top of Bilwa Parvat (Hill); Mansa Devi Temple can be reached by taking local buses; rickshaws or by hiring from Haridwar. In order to reach the hill-top; one can either go for trekking or for cable-car. Mansa Devi Temple is an ancient temple that attracts people from both far and near due to its significance. It is believed that the Goddess fulfills all the wishes of a sincere devotee. Actually; the term 'Mansa' is the altered form of word 'Mansha'; which means 'wish'. On the top of the hill; there are many shops where coconuts; fruits; marigold garlands and incense sticks are available. These things are offered to the Goddess.
16 One of the most famous and most visited sites of Haridwar; Har ki Pauri is considered as one of its five main holy sites. Ganga Aarti takes place on the ghat in the evening; after sunset. A group of Brahmans hold huge fire bowls in their hands and offer their holy mantras to river Ganges; Shiva - the Hindu God of destruction; Surya - the Sun God and the entire Universe. The devotees then offer flowers and earthen lamps - diyas - to river Ganges; in order to pay due regards to their ancestors in heaven. The scenario at Har ki pauri at the time of Ganga-Aarti is mesmerizing. Har Ki Pauri is the place where the divine nectar fell from celestial Kumbh. The Kumbh mela is held here (last held in 1998; next in 2010). The holy river Ganga; enters Brahmakund from one side and exits from the other. Though the water here is around waist-high; one has to be very cautious while bathing on the Ghats since the flow is swift and speedy. Chains and rails have been provided to enable devotees to catch on safely while they take a holy dip. Famous temples - Ganga Mandir and Haricharan mandir are also located here. Har Ki Pauri gets its name from the feet (Pauri) of lord (Hari). Vishnucharanpaduka; the footprints of the Lord; are believed to be imprinted on the wall beneath the waters of Ganga here and with the guidance of a priest; it is also possible to touch it.
17 One of the most famous and most visited sites of Haridwar; Har ki Pauri is considered as one of its five main holy sites. Har ki pauri is always crowded with devotees and priests; offering prayers to the Sun God and the holy Ganges. This place is the perfect destination for people deeply in love with religion; philosophy and spiritualism. The auspicious fair of Hindus; the Kumbh mela; is held at Har ki Pauri; after every 3 years. This sacred ghat was built on the bank of Ganges; by King Vikramaditya; in the memory of his brother Bhartrihari. Har ki pauri is famous for Ganga Aarti; a holy ritual of offering prayers to the Ganges. Ganga Aarti takes place on the ghat in the evening; after sunset. A group of Brahmans hold huge fire bowls in their hands and offer their holy mantras to river Ganges; Shiva - the Hindu God of destruction; Surya - the Sun God and the entire Universe. The devotees then offer flowers and earthen lamps - diyas - to river Ganges; in order to pay due regards to their ancestors in heaven. The scenario at Har ki pauri at the time of Ganga-Aarti is mesmerizing.
18 One of the most famous and most visited sites of Haridwar; Har ki Pauri is considered as one of its five main holy sites. Har ki pauri is believed to be the exit point of the river Ganges from the mountains and its entry into the plains. A dip in the holy water of the ghat is said to relieve a person of all his sins. The place is surrounded by some ancient and some newly build temples. Throughout the year; religious rituals like 'upanayan' or the initiation ritual; 'mundan' or the head tonsuring ritual; 'asthi visarjan' or immersion of the ashes of the dead and 'shraddha' or prayers appeasing one's ancestors take place here.
19 One of the most famous and most visited sites of Haridwar; Har ki Pauri is considered as one of its five main holy sites. It is believed to be the sacred place where Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu; two great Hindu Gods; appeared in the Vedic era. This place is considered equivalent to the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Banaras; in religious terms. It is also said that Brahma; the Hindu God of Creation; performed a yagna at the Har ki Pauri. The ghat is also said to have the holy footprints of Lord Vishnu.
20 Har ki Pauri This sacred Ghat was constructed by the king Vikramaditya in the memory of his brother Bhratrihari. It is believed that Bhratrihari eventually came to Hardwar to meditate on the banks of holy Ganga. When he died; his brother constructed a Ghat in his name which later came to be known as Har-Ki-Pauri. This sacred bathing ghat is also known as Brahamakund. The reflection of golden hues of floral diyas in the river Ganga is the most enchanting sight in the evening during the Ganga Aarti (Worship). The ghat is regarded as the most sacred in Haridwar and this is the most auspicious point to bathe in the Ganga. A clock tower was also constructed here by Seth Birla which is worth watching.
21 Haridwar is famous for its Ganga Arati; worship of Ganga Maiya; held nightly at Har-ki-pari Ghat. Every night; (except for a short period during the summer when the ghat is cleaned & repaired; ) thousands of devotees & pilgrims gather about an hour before sunset. As the sky begins to darken; devotees bathe & offer diyas (leaf-boats with camphor flames) to the River. Chants are played over loudspeakers; such as Sri Hanuman Chalisa & others; as the spiritual energy continues to grow. Then; just as darkness descends; numerous priests; (I have counted as many as 16); come out from the ancient Ganga Mandir carrying huge flaming ghee lamps. It appears as though they are carrying campfires in their hands! The Ganga arati song is then played over the loudspeakers while all the thousands of pilgrims join in the singing & the priests wave their flaming lamps to Ma Ganga; swooping down to just skim the surface of the water: "Om Jai Ganga Mata / Maiya Jai Gange Mata!" The spiritual vibration & upliftment of consciousness one feels simply is beyond description. You will just have to go there & feel it for yourself! In just a few minutes the Arati is over & everyone dispersses -- until the next night.
22 This old guy will then row you out over the river behind the Taj; and you’ll get a magical view; across the back of the water; all to yourself. If you want to disembark on the far bank; just ask him. It’s muddy; but sometimes there are interesting things on the bank; which would look great in the foreground of a photo – kids playing; buffalo; flocks of birds etc. Agra's Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world; the mausoleum of Shah Jahan's favorite wife; Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world; and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra. Completed in 1653; the T?j Mahal was built by the Mughal king Sh?h Jah?n as the final resting place for his beloved wife; Mumt?z Mahal. Finished in marble; it is perhaps India's most fascinating and beautiful monument. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630–1652) of labour and 20; 000 workers; masons and jewellers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect; Ust?d '?s?; the T?j Mahal is on the bank of the Yamuna River. It can be observed from Agra Fort from where Emperor Sh?h Jah?n gazed at it; for the last eight years of his life; a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. It is an acknowledged masterpiece of symmetry. Verses of the Koran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate are twenty-two small domes; signifying the number of years the monument took to build. The T?j Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the T?j Mahal has a diameter of 60 feet (18 m); and rises to a height of 80 feet (24 m); directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumt?z Mahal. Shah Jah?n's tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. The interiors are decorated by fine inlay work; incorporating semi-precious stones.
23 Taj Mahal in River Yamuna; Agra; India The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra; India; built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife; Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture; a style that combines elements from Persian; Ottoman; Indian; and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983; the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."
24 Camel and Indian boy beside the river at the Taj Mahal in Agra. An Indian boy with his camel rides on the banks of the Yamuna River with the Taj Mahal in the background. Visiting India's most famous destination; the Taj Mahal in Agra; Uttar Pradesh. The Taj was comissioned by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his third wife who died in 1631. Begun in 1632 and completed in 1653; the Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of the eight wonders of the world.
25 The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum complex built by Shah Jahan (reg. 1628 - 1658) in memory of his favorite wife; Arjumand Banu Begam (d.1631); better known by her title "Mumtaz Mahal; or ; the exalted one of the palace." The construction of the complex began shortly after Mumtaz's death; and accounts of this process were popularized by foreign travelers who visited Mughal courts. The tomb's fame increased tremendously following the British occupation of India in the late 18th century. The Taj Mahal complex is organized in a rectangle; measuring approximately 310 x 550 meters. It comprises a number of buildings and structures; all functioning together as the funerary monument for Mumtaz Mahal. From the south; the first part of the complex consists of a (former) bazaar; the forecourt and entry gates; the second part consists of a large garden and garden pavilions; axially arranged along a riverfront terrace with the three main structures: the mosque; the mausoleum and the mihmankhana (literally; "guest house,"; probably used as an assembly hall).
26 The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum complex built by Shah Jahan (reg. 1628 - 1658) in memory of his favorite wife; Arjumand Banu Begam (d.1631); better known by her title "Mumtaz Mahal; or ; the exalted one of the palace." The complex was planned on the basis of a unit called a gaz; approximately 32 inches (81.28 cm). Multiples of this "gaz" unit were used throughout the Taj Mahal complex. Overall; the complex is organized in 3 linearly arranged modular squares; each measuring 374 gaz per side; or 374 gaz wide by 1; 122 gaz long. The caravanserai (Taj Ganj) and entry forecourt (jilaukhana) areas are organized on a module of 17 gaz; whereas in the area from the entry gate (darwaza-i rauza) to the riverfront terrace; the complex follows a 23-gaz module. This 17-gaz jilaukhana module multiplied by 22= 74 gaz (the width of the complex). The caravanserai measures 416.5 gaz in length; or 17 x 24.5 gaz; and the jilaukhana measures 153 gaz; or 17 x 9 gaz. The garden is further divided into 23 x 16 gaz; and the riverfront terrace measures 138 by 23 x 6 gaz. These gaz modules lend themselves to an axial arrangement; with a cascading hierarchy: each building in the complex is further organized on a smaller grid based on the gaz module. For example; the mosque; mausoleum and mihmankhana are based on a 7-gaz grid; while the great gate (darwaza-i rauza) is based on a 3-gaz grid. This grid functions not only in plan; but also in elevation.
27 The Taj Mahal complex was planned on the basis of a unit called a gaz; approximately 32 inches (81.28 cm). The Taj Ganj market aligned on axis with the southern entrance gate of the Taj complex once served as a vital part of the entire complex. From present images it is difficult to see that this market; irregular in appearance; was once a busy marketplace and caravanserai. A small-scale bazaar; it was incorrectly referred to as 'Tage Gunge' or 'Tadgundy' by foreign travelers. This bazaar was a shopping district in the 1640s; but due to a decline in trade; it lost its prominence by the 1650s; nevertheless; it was still functioning when the first colonial travelers arrived in the region. In contrast to the formal organization of the Taj complex; this bazaar is now a mix of residences and commercial establishments; including small hotels and restaurants. The Taj Ganj area leads to the southern gate (Sidhi or Sirhi Darwaza) into the forecourt (jilaukhana) of the Taj Mahal complex; although the eastern (Fatehabadi Darwaza) and western (Fatehpuri Darwaza) gates of the jilaukhana are more frequently used by tourists. The latter two gates are identical; with central pointed-arch pishtaqs flanked by octagonal pilasters crowned with guldastas (ornamental flower pinnacles). The red sandstone parapet of the gateways contains multi-cusped crenellations carved in relief that contrast with the buff sandstone of the spandrels. True to the overall hierarchy of detail within the Taj Mahal complex; the inner walls of these gates; being closer to the mausoleum of Mumtaz Mahal; are more lavishly decorated than their outer faces. The southern gate is similar to the east and west ones in its verticality. Due to the natural gradient of the site; which slopes toward the riverbank; this gate lies 2.4 m above the ground elevation of the jilaukhana itself. Two bazaar streets begin at the east and west gates and lead to the jilaukhana. Formerly an integrated part of the complex; these bazaars contributed financially to the maintenance of the mausoleum. The bazaars consist of individual rooms (hujra) along an arcaded verandah of multi-cusped arches that are supported on slender columns. The stone overhangs (chajjas) projecting from this arcade are supported by voluted brackets.
28 Ourside Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is a wonderful piece of art. The beauty of the Taj Mahal is not limited to just the outside view but the art works and carvings inside the Taj Mahal are even more beautiful and fascinating. If one says that the works in Taj Mahal interiors are no less than jewellery; it is not exaggeration! The works and decorations inside the Taj Mahal are so exquisite that there is hardly any space for criticism. They epitomize perfection and beauty. As soon as one enters the monument; one can see an elevated central chamber below which is the burial chamber. Four octagonal rooms in each corner surround the crypt. There are two levels in the Taj Mahal that consist of eight rooms each. These rooms were to be used to bury other members of the royal family. The crypts of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal lie side by side with the heads facing in the direction of the holy city of Mecca. They are decorated beautifully with inscriptions from the holy book of Muslims; The Quran and once were studded with semi-precious stones and gems. A masterpiece inside the Taj Mahal is the marble screen or "Jali" that surrounds the graves. It has been intricately carved by artisans and is a delight to look at. It is carved so finely that it seems as though the screen is made up of fine cloth. The walls are intricately decorated with drawings like vines; creepers with flowers and other beautiful designs. At one point of time; these decorations had semi-precious stones and gems studded in them.
29 The real Taj Mahal consists of the mausoleum that is situated approximately 900 feet (275 m) away from the main entrance. Standing at the opposite end of the magnificent Taj gardens; it rises to a height of almost 200 feet (76m). At the lowest level of the Taj is a red sandstone platform that was built to level the land. Above that is the marble podium that serves as the base of the mausoleum. On the corners of the marble platform are four minarets that are almost 138 ft high and capped with eight windowed cupolas. As far as the view inside the Taj Mahal is concerned; it is as magnificent as its exterior. All the porticos of the tomb consist of huge iwans (a sort of arched gateways) that are adorned with exquisite calligraphy. The angles of the tomb consist of semi-octagonal arched alcoves of equal size. Attached pilasters rising from the base of the tomb demark each of the porticos; on both the sides. These pilasters rise above the fresco and are topped with beautiful pinnacles with lotus buds and finials. As we move further to get Taj Mahal inside look; we will come across an elevated central chamber; a crypt immediately below this and four octagonal corner rooms. These rooms were initially meant to house the graves of the other members of the royal family. In the central chamber is placed the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal and that of Shah Jahan; to the left and a little higher than hers. Both the cenotaphs are inscribed in Persian and that of Mumtaz Mahal even has texts from the Koran. Interiors of the Taj Mahal of Agra also boast of a Cairene lamp above the tombs. The flame that burns in that lamp is supposed to never burn out. The; there are perforated marble screens surrounding the tombs that are inlaid with semiprecious stones. One thing is for sure that if you visit Taj Mahal once; its memories will remain etched in your memory forever.
30 Taj mahal front view. Built in the early 1630s by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his second wife; Mumtaz Mahal; the Taj Mahal stands as one of India’s most iconic beauties. Its precise symmetry and impeccable detail— it’s decorated with calligraphy from the Koran and with carvings of flowers inlaid with precious stones— make this white marble structure one of the world’s most breathtaking pieces of architecture. Located by the Yamuna River; the Taj took 22 years and 20; 000 workers to complete. It contains a tomb (for Mumtaz) and a mosque; as well as gardens; gateways; and fountains. The main structure is surrounded by four minarets; which were built to lean out slightly so that an earthquake wouldn’t cause them to fall on the palace.
31 Taj mahal front view. The Taj Mahal represents the finest and most sophisticated example of Mughal architecture. Its origins lie in the moving circumstances of its commission and the culture and history of an Islamic Mughal empire's rule of large parts of India.The distraught Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the mausoleum upon the death of his favourite wife; Mumtaz Mahal. Today it is one of the most famous and recognisable buildings in the world and while the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar part of the monument; the Taj Mahal is an extensive complex of buildings and gardens that extends over 22.44 Hectares and includes subsidiary tombs; waterworks infrastructure; the small town of 'Taj Ganji' and a 'moonlight garden' to the north of the river. Construction began in 1632 AD; (1041 AH); on the south bank of the River Yamuna in Agra; and was substantially complete by 1648 AD (1058 AH). The design was conceived as both an earthly replica of the house of Mumtaz in paradise and an instrument of propaganda for the emperor.
32 The Taj Mahal complex is bounded on three sides by crenellated red sandstone walls; with the river-facing side left open. Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world; and some Western historians have noted that its architectural beauty has never been surpassed. The Taj is the most beautiful monument built by the Mughals; the Muslim rulers of India. Taj Mahal is built entirely of white marble. Its stunning architectural beauty is beyond adequate description; particularly at dawn and sunset. The Taj seems to glow in the light of the full moon. On a foggy morning; the visitors experience the Taj as if suspended when viewed from across the Jamuna river. Taj Mahal was built by a Muslim; Emperor Shah Jahan (died 1666 C.E.) in the memory of his dear wife and queen Mumtaz Mahal at Agra; India. It is an "elegy in marble" or some say an expression of a "dream." Taj Mahal (meaning Crown Palace) is a Mausoleum that houses the grave of queen Mumtaz Mahal at the lower chamber. The grave of Shah Jahan was added to it later. The queen’s real name was Arjumand Banu. In the tradition of the Mughals; important ladies of the royal family were given another name at their marriage or at some other significant event in their lives; and that new name was commonly used by the public. Shah Jahan's real name was Shahab-ud-din; and he was known as Prince Khurram before ascending to the throne in 1628. Taj Mahal was constructed over a period of twenty-two years; employing twenty thousand workers. It was completed in 1648 C.E. at a cost of 32 Million Rupees. The construction documents show that its master architect was Ustad ‘Isa; the renowned Islamic architect of his time. The documents contain names of those employed and the inventory of construction materials and their origin. Expert craftsmen from Delhi; Qannauj; Lahore; and Multan were employed. In addition; many renowned Muslim craftsmen from Baghdad; Shiraz and Bukhara worked on many specialized tasks.
33 The Taj Mahal complex is bounded on three sides by crenellated red sandstone walls; with the river-facing side left open. Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums; including those of Shah Jahan's other wives; and a larger tomb for Mumtaz's favorite servant. These structures; composed primarily of red sandstone; are typical of the smaller Mughal tombs of the era. The garden-facing inner sides of the wall are fronted by columned arcades; a feature typical of Hindu temples which was later incorporated into Mughal mosques. The wall is interspersed with domed chattris; and small buildings that may have been viewing areas or watch towers like the Music House; which is now used as a museum.
34 The Red Fort and the Taj Mahal bear an exceptional and complementary testimony to a civilization which has disappeared; that of the Mogul Emperors. Agra's history goes back more than 2; 500 years; but it was not until the reign of the Mughals that Agra became more than a provincial city. Humayun; son of the founder of the Mogul Empire; was offered jewellery and precious stones by the family of the Raja of Gwalior; one of them the famous Koh-i-Noor. The heyday of Agra came with the reign of Humayun's son; Akbar the Great. During his reign; the main part of the Agra Fort was built. The Red Fort of Agra is a powerful fortress founded in 1565 by the Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) on the right bank of the Yamuna; it is placed today on the north-west extremity of the Shah Jahan Gardens which surround the Taj Mahal and clearly form; with them; a monumental unity. This bastioned fortress; with walls of red sandstone rising above a moat and interrupted by graceful curves and lofty bastions; encompasses within its enclosure walls of 2.5 km; the imperial city of the Mogul rulers. Like the Delhi Fort; that of Agra is one of the most obvious symbols of the Mogul grandeur which asserted itself under Akbar; Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The wall has two gates; the Delhi Gate and the Amar Singh Gate. The original and grandest entrance was through the Delhi Gate; which leads to the inner portal called the Hathi Pol or Elephant Gate. But now the entrance to the fort is only through the Amar Singh Gate.
35 Taj Mahal- As Seen from Agra Fort Window. Near the gardens of the Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses; within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls; the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairy-tale palaces; such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal; built by Shah Jahan; audience halls; such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques. The Red Fort and the Taj Mahal bear an exceptional and complementary testimony to a civilization which has disappeared; that of the Mogul Emperors. Agra's history goes back more than 2; 500 years; but it was not until the reign of the Mughals that Agra became more than a provincial city. Humayun; son of the founder of the Mogul Empire; was offered jewellery and precious stones by the family of the Raja of Gwalior; one of them the famous Koh-i-Noor. The heyday of Agra came with the reign of Humayun's son; Akbar the Great. During his reign; the main part of the Agra Fort was built.
36 Varanasi sadhu. In Hinduism; sadhu; or shadhu is a common term for a mystic; an ascetic; practitioner of yoga (yogi) and/or wandering monks. The sadhu is solely dedicated to achieving the fourth and final Hindu goal of life; moksha (liberation); through meditation and contemplation of Brahman. Sadhus often wear ochre-colored clothing; symbolizing renunciation. Sadhus are sanyasi; or renunciates; who have left behind all material and sexual attachments and live in caves; forests and temples all over India and Nepal. A Sadhu is usually referred to as Baba by common people. The word 'baba' also means father; grandfather; or uncle in many Indian languages. Sometimes the respectful suffix 'ji' may also be added after baba; to give greater respect to the renunciate. There are 4 or 5 million sadhus in India today and they are widely respected: revered for their holiness; 4; sometimes feared for their curses. It is also thought that the austere practices of the sadhus help to burn off their karma and that of the community at large. Thus seen as benefiting society; sadhus are supported by donations from many people. However; reverence of sadhus is by no means universal in India. Historically and contemporarily; sadhus have often been viewed with a certain degree of suspicion; particularly amongst the urban populations of India. Today; especially in popular pilgrimage cities; posing as a 'sadhu' can be a means of acquiring income for non-devout beggars.
37 Varanasi sadhu. In addition to hosting religious festivals; Varanasi is home to a large concentration of sadhus. Sadhus are Hindu monks who renounce most sensual pleasures. Traditionally they live solitary lives; always on the move. They own only what they carry and subsist on alms. They are easily identified by their long beards and dreadlocks which are knotted into huge buns. Some wear robes; while others wear only a loincloth or go completely naked. Shiva sadhus bear the emblems of Shiva: the trident; the two-sided drum; and the necklace of seeds. Some smear their bodies with ash to symbolize Shiva’s role as the Destroyer who reduces everything to dust. On their foreheads; most sadhus paint a tika – a symbol that represents their sect affiliation. In imitation of Shiva; many sadhus use Bhang to boost meditation and achieve transcendental states.Bhang is sold in shops throughout the old city of Varanasi; most are; in fact; nothing more than wooden shacks; though many claim to be official “government bhang shops”. They can be difficult to find as there are no street signs and no cars in the old city- the windingpassages are far too narrow. Furthermore; these passages are sprinkled with staircases; sharp turns; sudden drops; and a tangle of wooden shacks. By day the city is less than charming. Filth is on full display. Cow shit; dog shit; goat pellets; and human excrement lie in piles on the footpaths. Urine collects in pools. Garbage; including rotten food; plastic; paper; and table scraps are piled in the alleys as well. Cows and goats feed on the garbage. Rats feed on the garbage. Dogs and cats feed on the rats. The city has a pungent smell. A combination of shit; urine; decomposing waste; flower garlands; inscence; and smoke from the funeral pyres. The odors have knockdown strength. The city is far more alluring at night. Filth is hidden in darkness as shadows creep to fill every corner; every alley; every turn. It; "s a deep den of darkness punctuated by pools of light. Gangly men in silk shirts huddle on the shadows’ edges, smoking cigarettes – murmuring in low voices. Dogs shriek suddenly in the distance, then trail off to lost passageways. Now and then a splash of bells or the drone of chanting whiffs by on the air…. then silence once again. Bhang-drenched sadhus sit crosslegged by the riverside."
38 The Red Fort and the Taj Mahal bear an exceptional and complementary testimony to a civilization which has disappeared; that of the Mogul Emperors. Agra's history goes back more than 2; 500 years; but it was not until the reign of the Mughals that Agra became more than a provincial city. Humayun; son of the founder of the Mogul Empire; was offered jewellery and precious stones by the family of the Raja of Gwalior; one of them the famous Koh-i-Noor. The heyday of Agra came with the reign of Humayun's son; Akbar the Great. During his reign; the main part of the Agra Fort was built. The citadel comprises a large number of fairy-like palaces: the Khas Mahal; the Shish Mahal; the octagonal tower of Muhammam Burj; as well as reception rooms: Diwan-i-Khas; built in 1637 and the many pillared Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience); constructed in 1628; under the reign of the luxury-loving Shah Jahan (1630-55). Within the palatial complex; there are two very beautiful mosques of white marble; the Moti Masjid or the Pearl Mosque; constructed in 1646-53 by Shah Jahan and the Nagina Masjid built under the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707). Several of the buildings are made from pure marble with beautiful carvings; all of these monuments mark the apogee of an Indo-Muslim art strongly marked by influences from Persia which already manifested itself in Timurid art. Emperor Shah Jahan; who built the Taj Mahal; was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in Agra Fort; from which he had a view of the building erected for his deceased wife. Shah Jahan is said to have died in the Musamman Burj; a tower with a beautiful marble balcony.
39 Varanasi sadhus. While sadhus can be divided into a zillion different sects; most follow either the god Vishnu (the preserver) or Shiva (the destroyer; and thus; the rejuvenator). While many followers of Vishnu manage to find reasons to smoke charrus (hash) for enlightenment; it's the latter group that really has a ready excuse. Shiva is generally pictured meditating alone in the Himalayas; his eyes half closed from the effects of his hash habit. As Dolf Hartsuiker puts it in his authoritative book Sadhus; the Holy Men of India; "Mythologically, charas is intimately connected with Shiva: he smokes it, he is perpetually intoxicated by it, he is The Lord of Charas."; Or as one young sadhu less eloquently put it; Shiva is a cooool god!; This perception goes a long way in explaining the Indian government's lax attitude toward marijuana and hash. Thousands of backpackers descend on India each year; some of them lured by easily available cannabis and hash. While the police have cracked down in Goa; where only foreign tourists are partaking; they stay out of the way elsewhere; especially in pilgrimage areas. Dry up the supply of hash and they'll have some very unhappy sadhus to deal with. And since the sadhus are thought to be representatives of the gods… well; no Hindu cop wants to be on the God of Destruction's. So by becoming social outcasts and smoking ganja or charas; the sadhus can claim that they are only trying to emulate Shiva. If even the most devout Hindu man were to sit down to talk with a group of sadhus; he would have no choice but to join in if the chillum came his way. To refuse the pipe would be to pass up the chance; the obligation really; to share a holy experience with the ascetics.
40 For most of the year you can walk freely along the whole length of the ghats; although during and immediately after the monsoon the water level is too high for this. It's a unique; world-class 'people-watching' walk as you mingle with the fascinating mixture of people who come to the Ganges not only for a ritual bath but also to wash clothes; do yoga; offer blessings; buy paan (a mixture of betel nut and leaves for chewing); sell flowers; get a massage; play cricket; wash their buffaloes; improve their karma by giving to beggars; or simply hang around. This is traditional India at its most colourful and picturesque and photo opportunities abound. Assi Ghat; furthest south of the main ghats; is particularly important as the River Asi meets the Ganges near here and pilgrims come to worship a Shiva lingam beneath a pipal tree. The ghats themselves were undergoing much-needed renovation at the time of writing and there are some interesting shops; cafés and excellent hotels here. Boat owners wait to take pilgrims and tourists upstream to Dasaswamedh Ghat. Nearby Tulsi Ghat; named after a 16th century Hindu poet; has fallen down towards the river but in the month of Kartika (Oct/Nov) a festival devoted to Krishna is celebrated here. The NGO campaigning for a cleaner Ganges also has its research laboratory here. Next along; the Bachraj Ghat has three Jain temples. Many of the ghats are owned by maharajas or other princely rulers; such as Shivala Ghat; built by the local maharaja of Benares. The Dandi Ghat is used by ascetics known as Dandi Panths; and nearby is the very popular Hanuman Ghat. Harishchandra Ghat is a cremation ghat - smaller and secondary in importance to Manikarnika - and one of the oldest ghats in Varanasi. Above it; Kedar Ghat has a shrine popular with Bengalis and South Indians. Mansarowar Ghat was built by Raja Man Singh of Amber and named after the Tibetan lake at the foot of Mt Kailash; Shiva's Himalayan home. Someswar Ghat (Lord of the Moon Ghat) is said to be able to heal diseases. The Munshi Ghat is very photogenic; while Ahalya Bai's Ghat is named after the female Maratha ruler of Indore. Varanasi's liveliest and most colourful ghat is Dasaswamedh Ghat; easily reached at the end of the main road from Godaulia Crossing. The name indicates that Brahma sacrificed (medh) 10 (das) horses (aswa) here. In spite of the oppressive boat-owners; flower-sellers and touts trying to drag you off to a silk shop; it's a wonderful place to linger and people-watch while soaking up the atmosphere. Note its statues and the shrine of Sitala; goddess of smallpox. Every evening at 19:00 an elaborate ganga aarti ceremony with puja; fire and dance) is staged here. A little further north; Raja Man Singh's Man Mandir Ghat was built in 1600 but was poorly restored in the 19th century. The northern corner of the ghat has a fine stone balcony and Raja Jai Singh II of Jaipur erected one of his unusual observatories on this ghat in 1710. Meer Ghat leads to a Nepali temple; which has erotic sculptures. Manikarnika Ghat is the main burning ghat and the most auspicious place for a Hindu to be cremated. Dead bodies are handled by outcasts known as doms; and they are carried through the alleyways of the old city to the holy Ganges on a bamboo stretcher swathed in cloth. The corpse is doused in the Ganges prior to cremation. Huge piles of firewood are stacked along the top of the ghat; each log carefully weighed on giant scales so that the price of cremation can be calculated. Each type of wood has its own price with sandalwood being the most expensive. There is an art to using just enough wood to completely incinerate a corpse. You can watch cremations but photography is strictly prohibited; and always show reverence by behaving respectfully. You're guaranteed to be led by a priest or guide to an upper floor from where you can watch cremations taking place; then asked for a donation towards the cost of wood (in dollars) - make a donation but don't be pressured into giving the outrageous sums demanded. Above the steps here is a tank known as the Manikarnika Well. Parvati is said to have dropped her earring here and Shiva dug the tank to recover it; filling the depression with his sweat. The Charanpaduka; a slab of stone between the well and the ghat; bears footprints made by Vishnu. Privileged VIPs are cremated at the Charanpaduka; which also has a temple dedicated to Ganesh.Dattatreya Ghat bears the footprint of the Brahmin saint of that name in a small temple nearby. Scindhia Ghat was originally built in 1830 but was so huge and magnificent that it collapsed into the river and had to be rebuilt. Ram Ghat was built by a maharaja of Jaipur. Panchganga Ghat; as its name indicates; is where five rivers are supposed to meet. Dominating the ghat is Aurangzeb's smaller mosque; also known as the Alamgir Mosque; which he built on the site of a large Vishnu temple erected by the Maratha chieftain Beni Madhur Rao Scindia. Gai Ghat has a figure of a cow made of stone upon it. Trilochan Ghat has two turrets emerging from the river; and the water between them is especially holy. Raj Ghat was the ferry pier until the road and rail bridge was completed here.
41 Dasaswamedh Ghat; Famous Among ALL Ghats of Varanasi. Among all ghats of Varanasi; the most important and pious one is Dasaswamedh. This ghat is of paramount importance. Here; bathing and performing various rituals is supposed to cleanse all sins of a person. The early morning sun was emerging above the river Ganga like a big crimson ball. The misty atmosphere was adding glamour to the scene. The reflection of the rising sun was simmering on the water surface and the colour of light was gradually shifting from light pink; pink; crimson red to orange and deep orange. Gradually; as the time progress the colour of the solar ball also changed and so was the temperature of the atmosphere and activities on the ghats. It was the winter morning on one of the famous ghats of Varanasi - a city said to be the oldest and eternal; situated on the trident of Lord Shiva.; The ghats of Varanasi (India) are the most eye-catching ones and people from all walks of life; from different parts of the globe come here to take solace and enjoy the beauty of the place. From Rajghat to Assi the ghats in all eighty in numbers and they are built along the river Ganga. It seems as if they have embraced the holy river. Ganga at Varanasi flows in a crescent shaped curve. The crescent has very important and pious role in Hindu mythology; and this is probably the cause why river Ganga has got so much importance here.
42 Flowers seller for blessing - Varanasi - India. Dasaswamedh Ghat falls second in line of the Panch-Tirtha Yatra. When you start moving from Assi towards North then falls past the plain; flat-roofed building that houses the shrine of Shitala. The name of Dasaswamedh Ghat indicates that Brahma sacrificed (medh) 10 horses here. Conveniently central; it's one of the most important and busiest ghats and therefore is a good place to linger and soak up the atmosphere. Dasaswamedh is an extremely popular pilgrimage. Even in the rainy season when Ganges is on spate; people can be seen visiting the temple on boats. It is interesting to know that Shitala represents both benign and malevolent aspects of life; ease and succor as well as disease. Dasaswamedh can be safely adjudged as the most popular and easily accessible Ghat of Varanasi. It is very easy to locate this Ghat because of its typical environment that consists of rows of pandas sitting on wooden platforms under bamboo umbrellas. This is the most featured scene of Varanasi all over the world. This place is featured in every possible paintings and stills of Banaras. The place looks like a mini India in itself. Masseurs share space with sometimes irritating boatmen who jostle for customers all along.
43 One of the other major boat cruise specialties at Varanasi is the grand Ganga Aarti ceremony at the Dasaswamedh Ghat of Varanasi; which is quite close to the venerated Kashi Vishwanath Temple - a prime attraction at Varanasi. Performed at 7 pm every evening; just after sunset; the Aarti ceremony at River Ganges casts a magical spell on all viewers as thousands of young men donning saffron robes and ceremonial attires swinging huge lamp holders; each holding a number of lit lamps at once; in choreographed rhythmic movements and everybody present join their chanting to offer homage to the river deity. The flowers and lit lamps floating in the river present a pretty picture; especially when you are cruising along side them too.
44 The continuum slideshow like visuals of men; women; children; and sadhus bathing in the river; people doing exercise and Yoga in the fresh cool air of the Ghats; and priests worshipping River Ganges and various deities in the temples that rise above Ghats in several tiers seem to have an unearthly quality. The magical spell of pilgrims standing waist deep in the molten gold of River Ganges with folded hands to seek blessings from Sun God seem astounding. A shutter bug’s delight; our innovative luxury boat ride allows you to capture some of the most memorable and magical moments during the cruise that speak volumes about city’s culture; traditions; and lifestyle. A little known fact about Varanasi is that it is the center of Indian arts and music. Several internationally renowned classical music maestros have been born and resided in Varanasi; including the famed Pandit Ravi Shankar. TNS thoughtfully added the trademark soft melodious Benarasi music to accompany you during your boat ride on River Ganga. The yearning tones of the sarangi and rhythmic beats of the tabla along with chanting of Mantras on the Ghats and tinkling of bells in Temples really add to the quality of experience and make it indescribably divine. Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities of the world. Over 3000 years old; it resonates with the old-world charm of a deeply religious town. You will be surprised to known that there are over 25; 000 temples in this city. As the world brightens up; vendors selling wares on boats can be seen cruising along side the tourist boats. Some of the Ghats that you will cover during your Varanasi boat cruise are hundreds of years old. Manikarnika Ghat is the main Ghat to cremate the death that is believed to have a portal that can transport souls directly to Heaven.
45 Dasaswamedh Ghat is one of the most important Ghats of Varanasi. Dasaswamedh literally means the Ghat (river front) of ten sacrificed horses. According to legends ten horses were sacrificed by Lord Brahma to allow Lord Shiva to return from a period of banishment. In spite of the fact that Dasaswamedh is one of the oldest Ghats of Varanasi; dating back to many thousand years; the Ghat has remained unspoilt and clean. Dasaswamedh provides a beautiful and colorful riverfront view. A large number of Sadhus can be seen performing religious rites on this Ghat. Devotees must not miss the opportunity of visiting the Dasaswamedh Ghat in the evening when after Aarti; thousands of earthen lamps are immersed in the waters of the holy Ganges and the floating lamps give a divine look to the river at dusk.
46 Manikarnika Ghat has a great significance not only in Hindu mythology and way of life but also in the philosophies of life and death. Manikarnika is basically a cremation Ghat. It is interesting to know that cremation Ghats are usually placed outside the main town; as they are considered inauspicious. Nevertheless this doesn't stand true in the case of Varanasi where Manikarnika is situated quite in the middle of town itself. This is precisely because the entire city of Varanasi is considered a "Maha-Shmashan" or the Great Cremation Ground. Manikarnika Ghat is perpetually crowded with funeral parties. You will find shops lined up with things used during the cremation such as Ghee; wood; offerings and clothes. These cremations are felicitated by Doms who are considered the guardian of dead. Seeing bodies being cremated so publicly has always exerted a great fascination for foreign visitors to the city who find it utterly amusing and deviated from the one practiced in Semitic religions. It is worthy to note that photography is strictly considered a taboo. So please avoid doing that as this might be seen as a provocation and act of hostility and might lead to unwanted troubles.
47 The philosophical aspect of Manikarnika lies in the fact that this Ghat is an optimal amalgamation of both life as well as death. Manikarnika that lies at the center of the Panch-Tirtha symbolizes both creation and destruction; epitomized by the juxtaposition of the sacred well of Manikarnika Kund and Manikarnika Ghat. While Vishnu has dug the former at the time of creation of earth Shiva; the destructor; inhabits the hot and sandy ash-infused soil of the later. Manikarnika Kund is considered to be even older than Ganges and as legend has it; Vishnu cared the kund with his discus; and filled it with perspiration from his exertions in creating the world; at the behest of Shiva. When Shiva quivered with delighted; his earning fell into this pool; which as Manikarnika - "Jeweled Earring" - became the very First Tirtha in the world. Manikarnika Devi who is worshipped by millions every year inhabits the place. There is also a small Vishnu Shrine that is marked by the paduka (footprint) of his. This too along with the Tarakeshvara Lingam remains flooded with people yearlong. Strictly speaking; Manikarnika is the name given to the kund and to the Ghat; while the constantly busy cremation ground is actually called Jalasi Ghat. The place can be easily identified because of a dark; smoke-stained temple that stands there.
48 The children; sadhus (holy men); and pregnant women are considered pure so they don't need to be burned in order to purify them. The lepers are not burned because superstition has it that the leprosy will go into the air. So all of these folks have large rocks tied to them and they are dumped in the middle of the river. The great holy Gange river; full of sewage; waste; and carcasses; also houses an untold number of dead bodies tied to stones; and the ashes of all of those who are burned on her shores. Varanasi apparently also has a bad element. In the hostels they strongly suggest; they close and lock their doors; that you are in by 10 or 11. This makes a lot of sense because the city has constant black outs and it is really a huge city with an incredible tangle of back alleyways. It is so easy to get lost in this city it's frightening. There are no straight streets. And when people try to help you find your way it usually ends up worse than if you had just tried to figure it out yourself. Oh; and then there''s all the drug dealers and crooks. But that's just a side note. Varanasi is one hell of a city. I really quite enjoyed it. A very holy and spiritual place. A good place to stay a while and learn. If I had more time I might have stayed longer.
49 Manikarnika Ghat is the main cremation Ghat of Varanasi. Manikarnika Ghat is one of the oldest and most sacred Ghats in Benaras. According to the Hindu mythology; being burned here provides an instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of births and rebirths. Lying at the center of the five tirthas; Manikarnika Ghat symbolizes both creation and destruction. At Manikarnika Ghat; the mortal remains are consigned to flames with the prayers that the souls rest in eternal peace. There is a sacred well at the Manikarnika Ghat; called the Manikarnika Kund. Manikarnika Kund is said to be dug by Lord Vishnu at the time of creation while the hot ashes of the burnt bodies makes one remember the inevitable destruction of everything in the world.
50 Gangotri; a sacred hindu pilgrimage is the source of sacred river Ganga which is called at that point as Bhagirathi.Gangotri is a beautiful place which becomes highly crowded during the months of May-June. If you are interested in real wonders of nature then it is better you leave this place for Goumukh and Tapovan as early as possible. Pay your obeisance at Gangotri temple and head towards Goumukh.It means Cow's mouth and is 18 kms trek from Gangotri having a steady but gradual climb. Next place is Chirbasa meaning place of pines; about 8 kms from Gangotri and then 7 kms from Chirbasa lies Bhojbasa meaning place of birches though no such tree exist there. Bhojbasa trees produce Bhojpatra having religious value as this was used by saints to write religious texts.These places have tea shops and dhabas.Then came the splendid heaven of Gaumukh.The place is so named as Ganga originates here from a glacier having the shape of cow's mouth. Surprisingly; the color of Bhagirathi here is viscous gray and resembles milk.Gaumukh has no temple but temporary shrines are built near the mouth of glacier.The river is about 30 meters wide at its mouth and is swift river stream of milky water.It is believed by hindus that Ganga was a goddess who was compelled to come to earth by the king Bhagirath who meditated here so that the sins of his ancestors can be washed by pious waters of goddess Ganga and since the power of Ganga was so ferocious that mighty lord Shiva was requested to take Ganga in his hairs when it fell on earth.Lord Shiva took Ganga in his hairs and saved the earth from certain destruction.This place has immense beauty.Then came next destination for real adventurers about 5 kms from Gaumukh.It is wonderful heaven-Tapovan.From Gaumukh one can see splendid peaks of Bhagirath-I; II and III and grand shivling peak.The path to Tapovan is pretty tough and climb is very steep but the reward is also amazing.Tapovan is a broad plateau having meadows and sources of water.It falls in the protected area and is a wildlife sanctuary.Shivling; the phallic manifestation of mighty lord Shiva seemingly arise out of the meadow and has dominated the whole landscape.Tapovan meadows resembling arctic tundras are used as base camp by many expeditions and has great meditative significance.Tapovan is full of exotic wild flowers during the months of monsoons which have great ecological value. A fundamental question arises when one tries to find the source of river Ganga. When one visits; tapovan; it became clear that Ganga has its source somewhere else and Gaumukh may not the real source –it may arise from near tapovan or may originate from rocks of shivling.It is also said that Ganga has its source in Kailash mansarovar in Tibet; China. Gangotri is a must visit journey for all religious devotees and nature lovers. Come and explore the ultimate destination of Indian Himalayas.
51 Vanarasi pilgrim. "Benaras is older than history; older than tradition; older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together"- this is how Mark Twain has described Varanasi; which is one of the ancient cities in the country and has had been the holiest spot for the Hindus for hundreds of years. The epitome of Hindu renaissance; the city has been the abode of knowledge; wisdom; culture; philosophy and worship since ages. People go the city to attain salvation by serving the mythological Gods. The pilgrims take bath in the water of the River Ganga flowing through the city believing that it will wash off their sins.The city is believed to have been the adode of the Hindu mythological gods Lord Shiva and Parvati. The civilization of the city dates back to thousands of years and is even believed to have been the dwelling place of Buddha for quite sometime. Being the birthplace of Parsvanath; the city has also been one of the major spots of attraction for the Jains. Precisely Varanasi is a land of spiritualism; language; literature; medical science; mysticism and Yoga. It has never failed to provide solace to the minds of the believers.
52 Varanasi is the most chaotic city I have ever seen. Cows; bicycle rickshaws; autorickshaws; a bull; overflowing street markets and the occasional monkey all fight for their bit of space as they go about their day. In hindsight I'm really glad that I waited until the end of the trip to see Varanasi because I don't think I could have handled it when I first arrived. Dealing with the sheer mass of humanity and insanity in Varanasi without some prior experience in India would have been too much. Even with the chaos and confusion; I did enjoy exploring the buzzing streets and taking some portraits of the many interesting characters I came across. This photo gallery covers the highlights from several crazy days and nights in one of India's (and the world's) oldest and most sacred cities.
53 Varanasi or Benares - cycle-rickshaws dominate the streets in the city center. Varanasi is a city situated on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh; 320 kilometres (199 mi) southeast of state capital Lucknow. It is regarded as a holy city by Buddhists and Jains; and is the holiest place in the world in Hinduism (and center of the Earth in Hindu cosmology). It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and probably the oldest in India.
54 Varanasi Ghats are perhaps the most holiest place in the world; where one is relieved from all the worldly responsibilities and one enters into a domain that is dominated by the other worldly pleasures. Varanasi is often referred to as the "City of Ghats". The city can boast of more than 100 ghats; out of which some are known all over the world. As Varanasi is situated on the banks of the Ganges; so most of the mundane day to day activities take place on the ghats.; Some of the important Ghats of Varanasi are: Assi Ghat is situated in the south of Varanasi; which symbolizes the convergence of Ganga and Assi river. Dasaswamedh Ghat is one of the most important and lively ghats of Varanasi where one can see the Sadhus offering prayers to the holy Ganga. Harish Chandra Ghat is one of the oldest ghats; which serves as one of the cremation grounds of Varanasi. Manikarnika Ghat is another cremation ground of Varanasi. It is believed that one who is cremated here is released from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Tulsi Ghat is dedicated to poet Tulsi Das. All the cultural activities takes place in this ghat. The Ghats of Varanasi serve multiple purpose. While on one hand; pilgrims and tourists can offer prayers; on the other hand they serve as important commercial centers.; Many people go to the ghats to relieve themselves of the strains and tensions of daily life. The Ghats are an indispensable part of Varanasi that adds to the grandeur and grace of the city.
55 The Ghats of Varanasi. The 'Ghats' are undoubtedly the most valuable assets of Varanasi. None can imagine this holy city sans its numerous Ghats that dot the nearly 7 km arc line of the Ganges riverfront between the confluence of the River Asi in the south and the Varuna in the north. hese are a very special type of embankments that are actually long flights of wide stone steps leading down to the river where people can take a holy dip. But there are more to these Ghats than just bathing and cremating. Each of the eighty-four Ghats of Varanasi holds some special significance. Viewing the Ghats from a boat on the Ganges; especially at sunrise; is an unforgettable experience! They offer a panoramic view of the various early morning activities - from ablution to workout - of a multitude of people; for whom the river is the be all and end all of life. It's also a pleasure to walk down the entire stretch of the Ghats along the Ganges. Here people consult the astrologers under their palm leaf parasols; buy offerings for rituals; sell silk apparels and brassware; or just gaze at the faraway horizon where the mighty river meets the heavens. The Tulsi Ghat is famous for its association with the poet Tulsidas (C.E 1547-1623). The Asi Ghat; situated in the south at the union of the rivers Ganga and Asi is significant for the Surya Shashthhi festival. The Ganga Mahal Ghat is an extension of the Asi Ghat; and includes a palace built by the Maharaja of Benaras in 1830. The King of Rivan's palace stands at the Rivan Ghat; another extension of the Asi Ghat.The Bhadaini Ghat is one of the most ancient sacred sites in Varanasi that got its name from the famous sun shrine. Janki Ghat is named after the Queen of Sursund State; and the Anandmayi Ghat after Mother Anandmayi. Vaccharaja Ghat is a holy place for the Jain community; for it is close to the birthplace of the seventh Jain Tirthankara. Beside it is the Jain Ghat; which has two Jain temples on it. Nishadraj Ghat; named after Nisad; a mythical and heroic fisherman in Ramayana; is a place for boatmen and fishermen.The Panchkoat Ghat was built by the king of Madhya Pradesh in 1915; and the Chet Singh Ghat was built by King Chet Singh; who fought a fierce battle against the British troops of Warren Hastings at this place. Niranjani Ghat has a historical connection with king Kumaragupta; and is famous for its Kartikeya temple.The Dasaswamedh Ghat is where Lord Brahma is said to have sacrificed ten horses in order to celebrate the return of Shiva on earth. Manikarnika Ghat is a sacred place for cremation.The Man Mandir Ghat was built in 1770 by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur; and is known for its 'lingam' of Someshwar; the Lord of the Moon.Some of the other Ghats in Varanasi are the Maha Nirvani Ghat; Shivala Ghat; Gulariya Ghat; Dandi Ghat; Hanuman Ghat; Karnataka Ghat; Mansarover Ghat; Bachraj Ghat; Kedar Ghat; and the Lalita Ghat.
56 Sadhus in saffron colored loins can be seen performing their rituals on the steps of the Dasaswamedha Ghat; which is believed to be the place where Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses at this Ghat so that Lord Shiva would return from his self-imposed banishment after the death of his beloved wife – Sati. Other Ghats covered in the morning boat ride include Man Mandir Ghat that was built by Maharaja of Jaipur in the 18th century and sports the Moon God Shrine; and the Assi Ghat; where a holy dip is believed to purify one’s mind; body and soul to perform true worship. The pleasure boat on River Ganges also takes you on an unforgettable trip to Barnasangam; Panchganga; Dattatreya; Kedar; Scindia and Harishchandra Ghats that all look almost alike with the colorful pictures and holy bells of temples tinkling in the background.
57 The Very Special Varanasi Boat Cruise on Holy Ganga. Express so eloquently by Scott; sunrise on River Ganges is indeed magical and has a mystical quality about it. The vivid images of sun rising over the horizon and rising of the sleeping city of Varanasi with the first ray of the sun transfix international and domestic tourists alike. Rituals and ceremonies of Life and Death; considered to be two phases of the journey of soul in Hinduism; take place along side each other. There are pilgrims and devotees who enter the chilly waters of the river to bathe and wash away their sins with a holy dip in the river; and there are near and dear ones of the departed; who come to flow away the ashes after the cremation ceremony in the hope to seek salvation for the souls of their dead.The early morning boat ride along the banks of River Ganges has become a modern-age ritual introduced to the city by Varanasi tourism industry. You will find a number of boatmen at the Ghats of Varanasi quite early in the morning. It is here that you will find TNS Travel Pvt. Ltd. quite useful to help you experience the best without having to spoil the good mood. TNS Travels features one-hour hassle-free and pleasurable luxury sun rise boat cruise on River Ganges that will transport you to a different world altogether.
58 Varanasi or Benares - cycle-rickshaws dominate the streets in the city center. Varanasi; the holy city of India; is also known by the name of Kashi and Benaras. Kashi; the city of Moksha for Hindus since centuries; is known for its fine-quality silks; 'paan' and Benares Hindu University and Avimukta of the ancient days; Varanasi is the most popular pilgrimage point for the Hindus. One of the seven holiest cities; Varanasi city is also one the Shakti Peethas and one of the twelve Jyotir Linga sites in India. In Hinduism it is believed that those who die and are cremated here get an instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of births and re-births. Considered as the abode of Lord Shiva; Varanasi is situated on the banks of River Ganges; which is believed to have the power of washing away all of one's sins. As pundits here will tell you; whatever is sacrificed and chanted here or given in charity reaps its fruits thousand times more than those good deeds performed at other places because of the power of that place. It is believed that three nights of fasting in Varanasi city can reap you rewards of many thousands of lifetimes of asceticism! Varanasi is the oldest city of the world. Varanasi is more than 3000 years old and is famous as the city of temples. In Varanasi; there are temples at every few paces. Looking at the number of temples in Varanasi; it is hard to believe that a large number of them were demolished during the medieval times. Jyotirlinga Visvanatha Temple or Golden Temple; rebuilt in 1776; is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Jnana Vapi well (meaning 'Well of Wisdom) is believed to have been dug by Lord Shiva himself. It is believed that the majestic Alamgir mosque has replaced one of the most ancient shrines known as the temple of Bindu Madhava. The thirty-three hundred million shrines fill one with awe and wonder with sheer numbers. The Ganga Ghats (river front) are the most popular pilgrimage spot of Varanasi and are centers of music and learning. There is a great tradition of Yatras in the holy city of Kashi and the most sacred path is that of Panchkoshi Parikrama; the fifty-mile path with a radius of five miles that cover 108 shrines along the way; with Panchakoshi Temple as its main shrine. Other popular pilgrimage route is Nagara Pradakshina; which covers seventy-two shrines along the way. Since time immemorial Varanasi is a great center of learning. The holy city has been a symbol of spiritualism; philosophy and mysticism for thousands of years and has produced great saints and personalities like Guatama Buddha; Mahavira; Kabir; Tulsi Das; Shankaracharaya; Ramanuja and Patanjali.
59 Mahabodhi Temple In Bodhgaya. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha; and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment. The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C.; and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick; still standing in India; from the late Gupta period. The Mahabodhi Temple; one of the few surviving examples of early brick structures in India; has had significant influence in the development of architecture over the centuries. balustrades; and the memorial column. The present temple is one of the earliest and most imposing structures built entirely from brick in the late Gupta period. The sculpted stone balustrades are an outstanding early example of sculptural reliefs in stone. The Temple Complex has direct associations with the life of the Lord Buddha (566-486 BC) as the place where in 531 BC he attained the supreme and perfect insight while seated under the Bodhi Tree. It provides exceptional records for the events associated with his life and for subsequent worship; particularly since Emperor Asoka made a pilgrimage to this spot around 260 BC and built the first temple at the site of the Bodhi Tree. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is located in the very heart of the city of Bodh Gaya. The site consists of the main temple and six sacred places within an enclosed area; and a seventh one; the Lotus Pond; just outside the enclosure to the south. The most important of the sacred places is the giant Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa ). This tree is to the west of the main temple and is supposed to be a direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha spent his First Week and where he had his enlightenment. To the north of the central path; on a raised area; is the Animeshlochan Chaitya (prayer hall) where the Buddha is believed to have spent the Second Week. The Buddha spent the Third Week walking 18 paces back and forth in an area called Ratnachakrama (Jewelled Ambulatory); which lies near the north wall of the main temple. The spot where he spent the Fourth Week is Ratnaghar Chaitya; located to the north-east near the enclosure wall. Immediately after the steps of the east entrance on the central path there is a pillar which marks the site of the Ajapala Nigrodh Tree; under which Buddha meditated during his Fifth Week; answering the queries of Brahmins. He spent the Sixth Week next to the Lotus Pond to the south of the enclosure; and the Seventh Week under the Rajyatana Tree currently marked by a tree. The Main Temple is built in the classical style of Indian temple architecture. It has a low basement with mouldings decorated with honeysuckle and geese design. Above this is a series of niches containing images of the Buddha. Further above there are mouldings and chaitya niches; and then the curvilinear shikhara or tower of the temple surmounted by amalaka and kalasha (architectural features in the tradition of Indian temples). At the four corners of the parapet of the temple are four statues of the Buddha in small shrine chambers. A small tower is built above each of these shrines. The temple faces east and consists of a small forecourt in the east with niches on either side containing statues of the Buddha. Next to the Bodhi Tree there is a place with a Buddha statue that stands on part of the polished sandstone Vajrasana (Diamond Throne); originally installed by Emperor Asoka to mark the spot where the Buddha sat and meditated. Granite pillars were added to enlarge the area in the 5th-6th centuries BC. Further up the central path towards the main temple to the south is a small shrine with a standing Buddha in the back and with the footprints (Padas ) of the Buddha carved on black stone; dating from the 3rd century BC; when Emperor Asoka declared Buddhism to be the official religion of the state. Further on the path towards the main temple is a building housing several statues of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. Opposite is a memorial to a Hindu Mahant who had lived on this site during the 15th and 16th centuries. To the south of the pathway is a cluster of votive stupas built by kings; princes; noblemen and lay people.
60 Bronze BuddaThis Budda was donated to Bodhgaya by the Vietnamese Buddists. Bodh Gaya is the birthplace of Buddhism. Buddhists from all over the world are drawn to Bodh Gaya in the state of Bihar. This is the place where Lord Buddha gained enlightenment over 2; 500 years ago and founded the religion based on compassion; reason and universal truths; shorn of ritual and superstition. The Bodhi tree; under which he is said to have found the answers he was seeking after a long and hard meditation; is the core of the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Temple Complex; now a World Heritage site. The Mahabodhi temple has Jataka stories engraved on its walls. Surrounding the complex are monasteries built by various Buddhist countries; in their own architectural styles. Several Buddhists temples and monasteries have been built by the people from China; Nepal; Sri Lanka; Myanmar; Bhutan; Vietnam; Tibet; Japan and Thailand around the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Temple complex. The Chinese temple has a 200 year old statue of Buddha. The Japanese and Burmese temple is shaped like a pagoda and the Thai Temple has a fantastic bronze state of the Buddha.; About 80 km from Bodh Gaya is Rajgir; there are remains of places associated with the Buddha such as the Gridhrakuta Hill; where he delivered sermons; or Venuvan; the tranquil bamboo grove near the hot springs he used to frequent.
61 Mahabodhi Temple In Bodhgaya. Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya; India Bodh Gaya; India is where Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment. There are few places on earth that match the peacefulness of its Mahabodhi Temple; which was built at the Bodhi tree where the Buddha sat under around 530 BCE. Visitors to hectic India will be particularly relaxed sitting among countless Buddhist monks who make journeys to India to pay respect to the Buddha and to collect falling leaves from the famous Bodhi tree. If you’re lucky; you may be meditating next to the singing Thai monk who visits the temple regularly. He happens to have an affinity for tying Western music to Buddhist philosophy. You will likely hear: “keep smilin’; keep shinin’.” Knowin’ you can always count of me; for sure” or “let it be; let it be. Whisper words of wisdom; let it be.” The great philosopher will also help you deal with India’s stifling heat with his little bottle of Thai Ang Ki; which cools your skin when added to a sprinkling of water.
62 Mahabodhi Temple In Bodhgaya. Buddhist monks and devotees from across the globe Monday offered prayers for world peace at the revered Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya; considered the birthplace of Buddhism. It was here that the Buddha attained enlightenment over 2; 550 years ago. The special prayers for world peace were organised to mark the beginning of an 11-day long chanting prayer ceremony at the Mahabodhi temple; holiest shrine at Bodh Gaya. “Buddhist monks and devotees prayed for a terror free and peaceful world for all living creatures; an official of the Mahabodhi temple management committee said.
63 Last Days of the Rickshaw. Kolkata is bent on burnishing its modern image—and banning a potent symbol of India’s colonial past. The strategy of drivers in Kolkata—drivers of private cars and taxis and buses and the enclosed three-wheel scooters used as jitneys and even pedicabs—is simple: Forge ahead while honking. There are no stop signs to speak of. To a visitor; the signs that say; in large block letters; OBEY TRAFFIC RULES come across as a bit of black humor. During a recent stay in Kolkata; the method I devised for crossing major thoroughfares was to wait until I could attach myself to more pedestrians than I figured a taxi was willing to knock down. In the narrow side streets known as the lanes; loud honking is the signal that a taxi or even a small truck is about to round the corner and come barreling down a space not meant for anything wider than a bicycle. But occasionally; during a brief lull in the honking; I’d hear the tinkling of a bell behind me. An American who has watched too many Hallmark Christmas specials might turn around half expecting to see a pair of draft horses pulling a sleigh through snowy woods. But what came into view was a rickshaw. Instead of being pulled by a horse; it was being pulled by a man—usually a skinny; bedraggled; barefoot man who didn’t look quite up to the task. Hooked around his finger was a single bell that he shook continuously; producing what is surely the most benign sound to emanate from any vehicle in Kolkata.
64 Five years after ban; Kolkata rickshaw pullers yet to be rehabilitated. KOLKATA: Five years after the West Bengal Government announced its decision to phase out hand-pulled rickshaws from the streets of the city; the rickshaw pullers still await the rehabilitation that had been promised to them even as they continue to face harassment at the hands of the authorities. On August 15; 2005 Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had announced his government's decision to take the rickshaws off the streets as it was an “inhuman” practice. Subsequently a Bill was introduced in the State Assembly seeking amendments to the Calcutta Hackney-Carriage Act of 1919 with the purpose of phasing out rickshaws. “Although there are less than 6; 000 registered rickshaws on the streets of Kolkata; the decision affects the livelihood of over 20; 000 persons as the same rickshaws are used in shifts. Additionally; there are owners and supervisors who depend on them; " Avijit Mukherjee, an activist of Calcutta Samaritans, an organisation that has been fighting for their cause. After the Act was amended, the Kolkata Police and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) stopped renewing licenses that used to be given to the owners and the rickshaw pullers, rendering their services illegal, he added. Officials of the KMC and Kolkata Police confirmed that the issuing of licenses to hand-pulled rickshaws had been suspended after the Calcutta Hackney-Carriage Act was amended. The rickshaws, often represented as an iconic symbol of the city, continue to ply on the streets, but rickshaw pullers complain about harassment by the city police, when they are unable to produce the licenses. Bishavnath Sau, a resident of Motihari district in Bihar is a rickshaw puller for the last 35 years and makes an average of Rs.150 a day of which Rs.30 is paid as the rent for the rickshaw. “I have been pulled up by the policemen several times over the last few years for my license. Later they let me go, but I lose a day's wages,” Mr. Sau said. “If we catch a rickshaw without a valid license, it is immediately seized,” claimed Gautam Banerjee, an official of the Kolkata Police. “We had been promised rehabilitation at the time when the law was passed, but nothing has been done about it,” said Mukhtar Ali, the secretary of the All Bengal Rickshaw Union that has filed an appeal in the Calcutta High Court. “No one cares about the rickshaw pullers as they are not a vote bank for any political party,” said Mr. Ali adding that since most of them belong to villages in Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh."
65 Public TransportBuses are chaotic and can get terribly crowded. A better choice is the slow; trundling trams which circle the city and include stops at Park Circus; Sealdah Railway Station and Howrah. The Metro underground system has thankfully taken something of the congestion from the streets. The one track runs the length of the city; from Dum Dum train station (north) to Tollygunge (south) with stops including Kalighat; Park Street; Esplanade and Maidan. It is well run although often crowded (mainly during morning and evening rush hours); with segregated seats for men and women. There are still some hand-pulled rickshaws mainly in market areas and some around Sudder Street; although there is talk of eventually banning them altogether. Cycle-rickshaws operate in a few areas outside the city center. Auto-rickshaws (motorized three-wheelers) operate short (often fixed) journeys in city areas (not in the center) and are cheaper than taxis; agree the fare before you zoom away and seek advice from locals as to what you should be paying before you get in. Taxis. Taxis run 24 hours; Kolkata taxi drivers are amongst the easiest to deal with in India and will almost always put on the meter (if not; ask). The driver should produce a chart at the end of the trip to convert the showing on older meters to current charges - older meters are four times the amount; newer ones are twice. Simply flag a taxi on the street or ask for one at your hotel.Car Hire Hiring a car with driver can easily be arranged through hotels or travel agents; it is insane to attempt to drive yourself unless you’ve got solid experience here. As the reliability of car hire companies tends to change in Kolkata; it’s best to seek up-to-the-minute advice from your hotel; the tourist office; or a reputable travel agency.
66 Kolkata bus. Buses are chaotic and can get terribly crowded. A better choice is the slow; trundling trams which circle the city and include stops at Park Circus; Sealdah Railway Station and Howrah. The Metro underground system has thankfully taken something of the congestion from the streets. The one track runs the length of the city; from Dum Dum train station (north) to Tollygunge (south) with stops including Kalighat; Park Street; Esplanade and Maidan. It is well run although often crowded (mainly during morning and evening rush hours); with segregated seats for men and women. There are still some hand-pulled rickshaws mainly in market areas and some around Sudder Street; although there is talk of eventually banning them altogether. Cycle-rickshaws operate in a few areas outside the city centre. Auto-rickshaws (motorised three-wheelers) operate short (often fixed) journeys in city areas (not in the centre) and are cheaper than taxis; agree the fare before you zoom away and seek advice from locals as to what you should be paying before you get in.
67 The taxi is one of the few nostalgic icons that represent Kolkata. Countless love-tours; many a sight-seeing around the city of joy has been in these taxis. After surviving many rounds of makeover; like the trams and the rickshaws; threat-bell has rung for the taxis too. Some 35; 000 taxis ply on these streets everyday; ferrying at least three lakh passengers. Yet owners say their business is at an all time low. Thanks to the alleged onslaught of private shuttle cars and auto rickshaws. “Earlier there are examples where owners expanded their fleet from a single taxi to 20 taxis. These days it's just the opposite. Those who owned 20 taxis are barely managing to retain two; " said SK Guha, President, Bengal Taxi Association. Taxi service in Kolkata began a hundred years ago. They've been immortalized in many a movie by directors like Satyajit Ray and Aparna Sen. Over the years taxis evolved through various models to finally rest with the good old Ambassador. But now, like the Amby, these yellow cabs are fast losing out to new kids on the block."
68 Kolkata: One of the most favored means of public transport in Kolkata; the taxis; have completed a hundred years in the city today. But there's not too much to celebrate for Kolkata's yellow cabs. Seventy-six-year old Hansa Singh has driven his cab on the streets of Kolkata for over six decades. From behind the wheel; he's seen the world change; from the days of the British Raj to the days of Communist rule. And that’s what makes him proud that he chose this profession. “I am driving taxis since the days of the Raj. I've seen the British and our own government as well. I am into full fledged public service; says the driver.
69 Clock tower of Magen David Synagogue; Calcutta Located on Jewish Synagogue Street; this is the oldest synagogue of Calcutta. Funded by Elias David Joseph Ezra; the place was made open for the public in 1884. Now serves as the place of worship for about 30 Baghdadi Jews in the city. Kolkata is a wonderful city; especially in terms of religious amalgamation. People of different religions co-exist here with immense harmony and peace. There are several religious places in the city; meant for people of different religions and faiths. It houses numerous temples; mosques; churches as well as rarely-found worship places in India; like a synagogue. There are five synagogues in the city. The oldest of them is Magen David Synagogue; located on Jewish Synagogue Street; Calcutta. It is the most visited synagogues in the city; by the handful of Jews which have been left here. The Magen David Synagogue of Kolkata was built by Elias Joseph Ezra; a renowned real estate agent of the city. The Ezra family was perhaps the most influential Jewish family in Kolkata at that time. Joseph got this synagogue built in the memory of his loving father David Joseph Ezra. Said to be one of the oldest and finest synagogue of India; it was opened for public viewing in September 1884. Even today; Magen David Synagogue; lighted by gas; provides an excellent view of this city. Magen David Synagogue is thought to be the one of biggest synagogues in the Asia Pacific. The building is about 140 ft in length and 82 ft in width. The tower of the synagogue has a clock fitted to it; in the typical post-Renaissance period pattern. There is a separate place in the synagogue for women to sit and worship peacefully. The synagogue can be visited any day in the week; between 9:00 am and 8:00 pm; though people prefer to visit it between either 9:00 am and 11:00 am or 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
Best indians web sites:
Best site www.whatyouwant.in
Ganges, where life is born
A journey through the heart of its culture and its people, a trip through the northern plains of India to the Himalayas, from the origin of the river Ganges, to the Golden Temple of the Sikhs, to many other corners spectacular and surprising addition to live with the culture that makes this country so great.
What you can not miss
Strolling through Rishikesh
Trekking in the Himalayas
The route will take us from New Delhi to the global birthplace of yoga, Rishikesh. This beautiful town on the banks of the Ganges is famous for being the main meditation center in India, in the 70s the Beatles were popular this destination you approached your own guided meditation master yogi, and here we can practice the principles a yoga class with a yogi at dawn. Also visit (if we bribe the guard) Ashram where the Beatles retired to meditate, a place full of mystery and charm, abandoned for over 30 years and where the vegetation has grown over the temples.
Rishikesh is the world center of Yoga, famous from the 70's when the Beatles were coming up here to meditate.
From Rishikesh we go into the Himalayas, making a stop at the village of Bawa to enjoy its hot springs. We visit some of the villages in the area, which are closer to the Nepali culture to India and where we will enjoy the hospitality of its people away from tourism and western person. Continue to Gangotri, a place of pilgrimage for Hindus forced to be the town that is closest to the source of the Ganges.
This beautiful corner, located in the heart of the Himalayas to 3048mts. and after altitude acclimatization for a time at the height, we will trekking 16 kms, to the true origin of the Ganges, Gaumuk glacier. The glacier is located at 4400 mts. height, where the river that gives life to this vast country and where we overnight in a Ashram (monastery where pilgrims are welcomed). From the base camp, near the glacier, we will make another short trek to Tapovan Temple, the Hindu temple near the border China.
On our descent from the Himalayas, stop in the city that opens the door to the plains and to give his name, Haridwar, where the Bids or celebrations every evening by the river Ganges we will know a bit better the meaning of Hindu culture . The Ganges is a sacred river, and here we see the beneración of his people to himself, enjoying the ritual of fire and water to thousands of people held every evening in India.
The Indian Tibet
We will visit the town where the Dalai Lama lives in exile with a large Buddhist community, is the Tibet of India
Continuing our journey, we enter another valley of the Himalayas to reach the town of McLeod Ganj, a small village located more than 2000 meters. tall. In this small town, lives in exile the Dalai Lama along with a large Buddhist community, we will feel for a moment as in Tibet and that will be our base camp for trekking in Trivandrum.
We will continue to Amritsar and visit the Golden Temple, the Mecca of the Sikh religion, one of the seven major religions coexist in India. In our last days take the opportunity to visit the majestic Taj Mahal, to see the grandeur of the palace and could relax for an intense trip before returning to Delhi and wander round corner.
Adventure Travel: In addition to these major destinations pass through many villages, enjoy the varied Indian, Chinese and Tibetan, and we will live to know its people and we will make a good idea of ??what the Ganges and the importance to Indian culture
The Ganges, the great mirror of India, makes life possible wherever he goes. That translates into rice in water and water liturgical mouth. Not anyone can be a water having fallen from the hair of Shiva.
Sometimes the Ganges its way like a sacred cow tongue green. A language that encourages meandering crops and causes people to wash their clothes and their sins. Some believe that the Ganges clean to the point that produces the mokhsa, liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. To which should die well on the banks of the Ganges and then pull someone pious ashes that holy river. If that happens in Benares, the process is even more warranted.
Apart from the Ganges and its tributary, the Yamuna, there are five other sacred rivers in India: Cauvery, Narmada, Godaveri, Indus and Saraswati, the latter an invisible river. Shiva is the Ganges river in one of the great Hindu myths. One day Shiva creates the river and flowed across the sky. Earth to suffer a tremendous drought, Shiva hears the prayers of King Bhagiratha and sends rain to the Ganges. The river fell so hard the sky, that the world was in danger of being flooded. Shiva had to catch the waters of the Ganges and put them in her hair. The first thousand years of the river discoursed on his head, in an ebb and fabulous. Then Shiva hair sprouted seven springs Himalayan land that gave birth to the river of rivers.
The path of the Ganges, 2507 kilometers from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, marks a country, a culture, a religion. The Ganges rises in the Gangotri glacier, in a spring called Gaumukha, Boca de Vaca, about 4,000 meters. There's nothing warm and motherly in that mouth but a vaccine that cuts the ice water breath, although some holy men come to this place to meditate and transcend. If they survive the cold and lack of food, anything else in the world will seem comfortable and luxurious.
Arriscado and frigid as an ice stream, the river toward lower Himalayas Rishikesh and Haridwar, the first major cities, about 200 kilometers from its source. They are massive pilgrimage centers of Upper Ganges. In Rishikesh more santones per square meter than anywhere else in India. Since the 60s it has become a sort of capital of yoga. In 1968 the Beatles spent a season in the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh when his transcendental yoga was at the top. On the banks of the Ganges River as it passes through Rishikesh still looks young Westerners who play guitar and sing Beatles songs as the sun goes gold staining of the river. Because of nightfall, thousands of pilgrims go to Triveni Ghat to make their offerings, or aartis, casting plant nacelles river carrying flowers and a candle. For a few seconds they can navigate downstream without going under. Another illusion.
Haridwar, 13 miles below, is a city known as the gateway of the gods. More modestly, Haridwar stands out as the place chosen by Vishnu (Hari) to pose her feet. These plants reproduce divine in all sorts of sizes and materials in a place by the river called Hariki Pairi, the foot of Hari (or Vishnu). But in Haridwar, one of the seven sacred cities of India, the god Brahma also claims his share. It has a pool, called Brahmakunda, where it is believed that the creator god prayed to see the fall of the Ganges from heaven. And of course, Haridwar abounds in temples and evocations of Shiva, father of the river, and Ganga Ma, the Mother Ganges. it has its Gangadwara temple, the door of the Ganges, in the center of the spring's most visited city. Day and night the pilgrims go there to pray and take some money, so maybe that deprives them of eating. It is a faith strong and fluid as the river itself, and not for any station in Haridwar, dry or wet. The Ganges lower Himalayas at high speed and current is very treacherous. They put iron chains in the channel for people to grasp and not dragged. A certain lads that do not care. All they do is diving for coins that worshipers thrown into the river. Divers take some paise (cents rupee), and incidentally badly burned bone fragments from cremations. And so the river Ganges to serve the living and the dead, in a continuous chain.
From Haridwar, Ganga enters the plains and his journey is somewhat quiet and agricultural. In this way part of the Ganges is diverted by a canal to its tributary Yamuna. Meanwhile flowing between majestic and artisan for 500 kilometers to Kanpur, a city of Uttar Pradesh plagued industries and businesses. Shortly after entering Kanpur victorious in the great city of Allahabad, refounded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1583, although like most Hindus call it by its old name of Prayag. Some see this as the holiest site for coalesce around the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati, the invisible river that may have existed or not, or keep flowing underground as the faithful are deluded. The fact is that this confluence, called Triveni, mark the exact spot where bathing and for many is the best site that causes the release of continuous rebirth.
Ganga Aarti ceremony at Ghat Dasaswamedh
In all there in Varanasi ghats, Manikarnika Dasaswamedh is coupled with (the most important in cremations) attracts the most spectators. This ghat, Brahma whose name means "sacrificed 10 horses", becomes every day of the year at 19.00 h, in a ceremony with bargain aarti puja (offering), fire and dance. The smell of incense and the color is the first thing you find out anything else down the stairs and you stand along with the crowd enjoying the event with solemn respect. Local People is joined by tourists like us and some other armed military that "ensures the safety of all." It's best to sit in one of the holes and watch the show. For us Westerners as a spectacle usually only exotic, but for Hindus has much more meaning. Proof of this are the boats that crowd in front of Dasaswamedh gahat Ganges where more people have the view from the river. In the end it together a few hundred people watching the aarti bargain. In this area of ??the stairs near the Ganges you find vendors of flowers and candles that are deposited in the river as an offering contrasting details for its beauty with its murky waters. These vendors are often children and some tourists are tempted to buy them. There is nothing wrong with it, but usually apply a price increase as in almost all kinds of items. Meanwhile the ceremony continues, and the sadhus continue their range of movement and dance. The percussion accentuates the mystique of the moment, and incense rises makes a veritable cloud of smoke. And while the incense gives the mystical atmosphere, the spectacular comes with fire, when the dance is performed with a candelabra full of candles. Well worth stopping and seeing everything, and if one day you forget do not worry, come the next that the show starts again.
Ganges River Puja
One experience I remember most about my first trip to India is the Aarti ceremony on the banks of river Ganges.
This ceremony is carried out every afternoon, and can only be performed by young members of the Brahmin caste (the religious caste and upper is in India).
Many people gather to enjoy the moment, the truth is that it is a unique spectacle. You start being a spectator, but as the minutes pass, and locals encourages you to participate in the auction, you get involved and you can get to enjoy a special moment. The atmosphere that is created is unique.
I recommend him and just let go. It is an image of India that you get to home.
What to see in Varanasi
For many, including myself included, Varanasi is "the" City of reference when talking or remember a trip to India. She only meets the worst (and, in its way, so best) of a country that, as input, is a slap to the senses and the soul.
Strolling Varanasi ghat one can lose track of time just watching and sobrecogiéndose more stark in the face of life. That's why so many of them, having come for two or three days, when you want to realize and take one week, among them including me too.
But what can be done in Varanasi, besides feeling? Many things, some more essential than others, but all worthy of appearing in the following list (completely random order). Other than by ideas.
Take a boat ride on the Ganges at dawn
Get up long before the sun and attending the slow awakening of the city from a boat on the waters of the Ganges, a walk of about an hour (to negotiate) offered a unique position to witness the morning ablutions as well as cremations. Needless to say, the latter photograph is prohibited, although some of the ghat can be removed altogether, by far, and always with the greatest respect.
Visit Vishwanath Temple
This is the most important temple in Varanasi, since it is one of the twelve jyotirlingas (lingam natural, built by humans) that are distributed in the Indian Territory. Known to tourists as Golden Temple because of its domes covered with 750 kilos of pure gold, it is said to have more than a thousand years old, but has been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout its history. Fearing attacks, policing is quite hard (must bring passport) and the pictures are absolutely prohibited, but worth it access to your yard to witness the Hindu religious fervor in all its intensity.
Stroll through the ghat
Now, this does not require it on a list, right? Yes, I include it to give it the importance it deserves. Not talking about walking without more, but to do well in conditions, being aware of everything around us, and if possible in solitude, so that nothing (besides the inevitable boatmen, massage therapists, etc.) distract us. The ghat of Varanasi have to live them too many words.
Visit the Monkey Temple
Dedicated to Goddess Durga, this temple is named after the number of monkeys that roam freely through him original, right? In theory non-Hindus can not enter, but the standard is met "that way". The photographs, these other, are prohibited.
Attend puja ceremony at dusk
The puja in honor of Mother Ganga is held every day at sunset in several ghat along the Ganges. The busiest place in the Dasaswamedh ghat, where the number of Indian tourists who witness in boats from the river almost exceeds that of spectators on shore. A ritual of just over an hour long, perfectly choreographed (which gives it an air of show) and absolutely unforgettable.
Visit Ramnagar Fort
Located on the opposite bank of the Ganges, the view of the walls of the Ramnagar fort from the west bank of the Ganges is great, but inside I personally do not find it as impressive and the museum so interesting. Admission costs 250 rupees, so I recommend only if you have lots of free time. The best: the fact cross over the river and live a little village atmosphere more relaxed, away from the, at times, overwhelming Varanasi.
So this may seem like an "activity" macabre and even somewhat distasteful, but in Varanasi must approach to one of the two main cremation ghat of Varanasi (the Manikarnika is the most important, but also more crowded) to witness the cremations, or at least try for a few minutes. It is part of the energy of the place, is part of the reality of India, and must be seen to try to understand. Always with respect, of course. On the dirty business that hides behind this city cremations talk soon.
Buy a sari
Besides the purely spiritual and religious, if anything Varanasi is reputed for the quality of its silk, making it the ideal place to buy a sari or, much more convenient for our daily life, some handkerchiefs, sheets, etc.. But: be careful with the scammers if you will not receive the wool.
Walking around the campus of Banaras Hindu University
On February 4, 1916, during the inauguration of the Banaras Hindu University, Mahatma Gandhi gave a celebrated speech in which he called for a specific language for India. Recognized as a highly prestigious university, Varanasi The campus also has a five square kilometers, slightly oxygenated ideal for walking among trees, sports and dozens of schools and departments covering almost all branches of universal knowledge.
Attend a concert of Indian classical music or take lessons on an instrument
In Varanasi abounds offer concerts and restaurants offering a pleasant musical accompaniment. If you want to go a step further and have a few days to do so, can aventuraros to teaching bansuri, sitar, tabla or any other traditional instrument, who have tried often left very happy.
In line with the previous point, offering yoga classes in Varanasi is overwhelming, although this time we women have to be careful when choosing who receive them, since it is precisely the breadth of the offer are also much scammer and continuously harassment complaints are heard by some "masters". Nor is it a matter of emparanoiarse: asking and following the recommendations of other travelers will reach everywhere. As I said before, Varanasi is a city with a strong power, and therefore also the favorite place for many to practice this discipline. To check this you only need to leave a sunrise ghat and look at the amount of people sitting on the banks of the Ganges in the lotus position.
Excursion to Sarnath
At 10 kilometers from Varanasi, very easy to get public transport is Sarnath where Buddha gave his first sermon in 528 BC after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya. Thus considered one of the four holy cities of Buddhism, Sarnath is a place full of temples, monasteries and stupas, the most important, the Dhamekh, reputedly built on the exact spot where Buddha delivered the famous sermon. A highly recommended excursion to escape a day of Varanasi.
The Holy cremations boom in India
The emerging Indian economy offers many advantages to the population. One of them is the access to a special funeral rite in the holy city of Varanasi.
A man shakes his heavy bamboo staff on medium and cremated body, multiply by two incandescent ash cloud.
The second blow shatters the skull. Then use the stick to, with skill, place the trunk on the sparkling fiery knot of bones and flesh.
He moves away the sweat from his face with his arm and steps back to admire his work.
Seems happy when he sits down to watch the fire.
There are nine other pyres on the beach of sun-baked mud interspersed with candy-colored waters of the river Ganges.
Each supervised by someone similar, extremely thin man dressed in the traditional white dhoti and a long bamboo stick.
Each fire with his own body in full incineration.
The bonfires disorganized patchwork full of people seized in tears of mourning in the West seem the picture of hell, but in India is one of the most sacred prints.
Manikarnika Ghat is the holy city of Varanasi. Ghat is a series of steps that are introduced into the water. There are 80 along the Ganges in Varanasi, many with elaborate temples or palaces presiding over.
Most are used for bathing. Steps allow the pilgrims in the holy waters wash.
Specifically, Manikarnika Ghat is one of two that are used for human cremation.
The ghats certainly serve as a reminder of how fragile human life.
Burial practices in the West seek to isolate death. In India, on the contrary. What they do is to show that we are more than flesh and bone.
The fire seems coughing black smoke pieces. The smell, the taste of fat-burning is unmistakable.
Half an hour from the pyres was more than enough. Then stepped back to the temple to escape the smoke and heat.
There was Gajanand Chowdhary, in charge of Manikarnika Ghat. In the shadow of the temple, he explained that the locals have their dead up there because the place is the most auspicious of the land where a Hindu can be cremated.
As he speaks, comes another corpse in a bamboo stretcher shoulders of six men. The body appears shrouded decorated golden rich. They take him to the river to wash before cremation.
"If you Manikarnika Ghat creams, reach moksha. Reincarnation cycle will be broken and your soul ascend directly to heaven," says Chowdhary.
In his mouth looks like an invitation, although one that does not want to have to accept in a while.
The reason that is so sacred ghat, explains the manager, is because the cremation fire is ignited with a flame emanating from Shiva himself believes.
Shiva is the Hindu deity of destruction or transformation, one of the most powerful.
"You see the flame?" Chowdhary said. I nodded enthusiastically and led me up some stairs to a crowded balcony. From there pointed a bow where there was a small fire with logs.
The first impression was not great, especially since someone was using it to cook rice, which took away some mystique.
While we were talking, a man came to the fire, and put the pot away from the coals into a bucket of mud.
"Another fire. Now we have 25 on at the same time," said Chowdhary.
In fact, the manager of the ghat never been so busy. Fire burns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the reason is the economic times in the country.
As the economy grows, the road network is more extensive and reliable, and more and more come to be cremated bodies and achieve moksha.
A decade ago, only the Varanasi area families could afford to bring their dead.
At present, it is not uncommon that even poor families travel great distances to bring the bodies to the crematoria.
Modern times are often synonymous with a world increasingly homogenous. Not so in India, where modernity can also be equivalent to the revival of the old traditions.
In fact, the problem is now that the Varanasi ghats funeral operate at full capacity and, according Chowdhary, there are times when the dead have to wait turn by row.
A small price if the issue is to go straight to heaven.
The business of cremations in Varanasi
Speaking for his swank nonstop phone and wearing a safari suit synthetic fabric, Satnayaran Chowdhary looks like a very busy businessman overseeing the family business. His work is nothing short of handling the world famous Manikarnika Ghat crematorium in Varanasi.
The murmurs of protest over extortion practiced in the crematorium ghat runs Chowdhary leave quite indifferent:
"It's a tax that people have paid from the time Puranic (Vedic). Tara, the wife of King Harishchandra, had to rompers her sari to pay for services rendered. So why complain now? "Argued.
But Chowdhary, as a trader, is offended by accusations of extortion on a ghat where families pay for the funeral depending on their economic status, between 1,000 and 100,000 rupees (between 16 euros and 1,700 euros, approximately).
A complex network starts when a corpse comes to the ghat. In a few minutes preparing a dossier on the deceased and the family. It provides managers from the tree to the bank account. We explore the possibilities to establish a price and establishes the first negotiations.
The rich pay gladly. In fact, even families who formerly had bequeathed property. "Even today, businessmen are good payers and donate more than 25,000 rupees (about 430 €)" says Sanjay Verma, a shopkeeper who accompanied the processions today. "It's all voluntary," insists Chowdhary, who practically grew from the funeral pyres.
"Monitoring the hard work in this ghat, which receives between 60 and 100 dead in one day, has a cost and requires a lot of management skill," he says. Only firewood daily consumption is between 3,000 and 5,000 Kilos.
"During the heat wave of 1995 the daily arrival of dead reached 250 corpses. It was a difficult situation and needed both tact and firmness to ensure that everything went well, "he recalls while watching the ghat workers and a group of foreigners who have paid to visit this place. It is the morning rush hour and there are at least six and five pyres burning off point.
"There is a very fascinating life," says Chowdhary bleak. He says smear campaign face is part of your profession, and also he is not the only one who instructs, there are at least 500, all descendants of Domraj (his ancestor and governor of the city).
But the allegations are serious. "Even the poorest forgive," says Kamal Patel, a businessman from Varanasi that says you have to pay a high price for any detail in the crematorium, from the wood to the rituals. The most expensive is to use the Eternal Flame to ignite the pyre, since at Manikarnika not used matches. It is said that the Eternal Flame was lit by Lord Shiva himself.
The huge and life becomes very bleak crematorium once a year, in May, when the prostitutes bejeweled and bedecked Manikarnika come to dance until dawn, keeping alive a tradition of 500 years of angüedad. "For somebody like me, more used to hearing cries and protests lately, music can impress times," trust us Chowdhary. "It is not easy to do what I do," he laments, looking skyward. It is not hard to believe.
The Taj Mahal Passion Sultans
The Taj Mahal, the mausoleum of love, was built by Emperor Shah Jahan (Emperor of the World) to his wife, Empress Aryumand Banu Begam, better known as Mumtaz Mahal-i.
Agra is in the state of Uttar Pradesh (Northern Region) on the banks of the Yamuna River, a tributary of the Ganges. The city was founded in 1505 by the Sultan of Delhi, Sikander Lodi, on an ancient city of Indian origin. In 1565, when Akbarabad bore the name of the Mughal Emperor Akbar became the imperial capital and continued to be intermittently until Shah Jahan went back to move the capital to Delhi in 1648 not much left of the old city of Agra, and nearly half of the present city was built during the British rule, but contains some Mughal monuments of great quality, like the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, the tombs of Akbar and Itimad-ud-daulah and, a few kilometers the remains of the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri. But undoubtedly, if anything is known Agra city is one of the seven wonders of the modern world: the Taj Mahal. The Yamuna River in Agra comes to North-South direction, but in the city describes a curve heading east; and it is in this stretch, and when is going to leave the city, where its waters reflect the beauty of the monument that stands on the right bank: the Taj Mahal. Synonyms Palace According to a local guide Mahal Mumtaz-i means "Pearl Palace" as some books "Chosen of the Palace". The name of the mausoleum, Taj Mahal, it is sometimes regarded as an abbreviation of the proper name of the Empress, but according to the guide means "Crown Palace" because although it is a tomb Emperor wanted to give his wife a palace and a crown. Mahal Mumtaz-i Shah Jahan married in 1612; granddaughter was Itimad-ud-daulah, Chief Minister of Emperor Jahangir, and niece of wife, Nur Jahan. It was the first wife of Prince Shah Jahan, but it was his favorite; in 1631, a few years after the ascension of the king, and when accompanied him on his campaign in the Deccan, died giving birth to their fourteenth child. The construction of the Taj Mahal began after the death of the Empress and lasted twenty years: involved some twenty thousand workers. The marble, the main building material was transported on elephants from Rajasthan; other materials came from other parts of India and even from other countries. It is not a single building but an entire large complex; surrounding the complex is a high wall of red sandstone, in turn guarded by gardens, with a monumental gateway to the south; it is accessed by a huge courtyard 300 m wide with a marble basin in the center and numerous gardens and fountains; the mausoleum itself, build commonly referred to under the name of Taj Mahal, flanked by two symmetrical buildings, lies just across the courtyard on the north, being the river the backdrop of the whole . The marble stands at the door of the entrance is a large bow; on both sides and inside, there are other smaller arches arranged on two floors; red stone combined with white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones that draw floral motifs and inscriptions in Arabic script. On both sides of the lateral arches and both the exterior facade and the interior, which has the same structure, no towers culminating in chattris (domed kiosks); and the great central arch is a kind of gallery on the eleven small domes are arranged, both on the outside as on the inside; total of 22 small domes symbolizing the 22 years of the construction of the Taj Mahal. There are colossal heavy security in accessing the interior of the enclosure; bags are thoroughly searched; this is done to prevent a heartless blow one of the most beautiful buildings could devise the human mind; also not allowed to enter with cigarettes or food, which can be left at the entrance to some icons are locked. Finally, you reach the huge courtyard crisscrossed by gardens and fountains surrounding the Taj Mahal; from the darkness of the arched entrance is right in front of the great white monument. The Taj Mahal is a marvel of forms and proportions; It is situated on a marble platform which is accessed with bare or covered by a shoe slippers provided there. It is square with truncated corners building, which acquires irregular octagonal shape. In each of the four sides, arranged in two arcs flanking story high arc whose center is raised rim higher than the rest of the facade; corresponding to each corner chamfer has the same width and the lateral structure of the main facades parts so between each large arch and the next three equal sides that go around the corner smoothly. On the building there is a large dome in the center (which is perhaps the crown of the palace, Taj Mahal), surrounding it are four smaller domes chattris of, and at the ends of the platform four minarets domes rise culminated in more still small, built at an angle outward so that in case of collapse, do not fall on the main building. Pinnacles topped all metal domes. On both sides of this set two identical buildings are on the west a mosque three domes built in red sandstone and white marble, this so-called "eco mosque" is not used for worship by being oriented in the wrong direction and whose purpose is to maintain symmetry. Inside the mausoleum dim light; there is a central octagonal room with four smaller octagonal halls around; cenotaphs are in the center of the main chamber and surrounded by an octagonal marble lattice carved inlaid in their solid parts; the emperor on one side of his wife in the middle, so immense building, in principle, was built just for her; but this is not where his remains, coffins are true, it is said, in an underground chamber immediately below. The interior walls are also decorated with inlays. The scale of the grounds is very variable, and these are arranged, both outside and inside with exquisite taste and restraint, and that no part of the building is recharged by the sets, and there are many versions and theories that speak of the possibility that the emperor Shah Jahan wanted to build his own mausoleum in black marble, the image and likeness of his wife, across the river Yamuna, and then both joined by a bridge of gold. Today, across the river from the Taj Mahal, a remainder, in red stone, which is said to be the start of construction of the twin building of the Taj Mahal. It was not built as Aurangzeb, the third son of Shah Jahan, after beating his brothers and seize power, imprisoned his own father in the Red Fort of Agra. Shah Jahan died in prison, after long years of illness, gazing at the Taj Mahal, his great work,
monument to his beloved and shelter for the repose of both. The Taj Mahal has some magical property which gives the marble which is formed; changes color depending on the light it receives: when the sun shines bright, highlighting the immense blue sky turns gray when it is cloudy and confused about the sky. Although it is well known, when you look there, right, is new, original, unique, perfect; always surprises visitors who never tires of looking at it. If the only thing that could be done in India to see the Taj Mahal was be worth the trip to that country so far.
Where to stay The Oberoi Amarvilas. Possibly the most luxurious hotel in Agra. Built in a style inspired by the fusion of Arabic and Mughal culture, the resort is a splendid display of gardens, fountains and ponds that take us back to a golden era of emperors and princesses. For foodies. The Grand Imperial. It offers enough history to keep guests engrossed for days. There are special rooms, old mementos, photographs and stories that make us understand a little better the Taj Mahal. A hotel for lovers of luxury. Where to eat Zorba The Buddha Restaurant. Very close to the Taj Mahal, this restaurant serves the best vegetarian dishes in the area. In a warm and close ambiete, very hygienic and above all, we can enjoy the magic of Indian food. The Silk Route Restaurant. . One of the best restaurants in Agra, where it joins an excellent traditional cuisine and a good price. Near the great Taj Mahal, has a friendly and hospitable atmosphere. Highly recommended. For more information visit www.incredibleindia.org