"Love is an endless mystery, for it has nothing else to explain it" ~ Rabindranath Tagore


Honeymoon in North India

Girisha B S takes his wife Mamatha for an unplanned honeymoon travelling extensively through North India. Returning, he shares his travel experiences.

I got married to Mamatha on 11th February. Our honeymoon lacked sufficient planning. In fact, we had not decided where to go till the last minute, our heads reeling with the possible options of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

Since we had taken a month's leave from office, I would have cursed myself, if I had failed to utilise that leave! Finally, we opted for Himachal Pradesh and in particular, Kullu and Manali. However, I was a bit apprehensive about those places being cold, but was reassured by friends that this was a great time to go there.

We started from Bangalore on 22nd Feb by Rajdhani Express. No prior bookings were done for accommodation since we felt bookings would restrict our freewheeling journey. At Hazrath Nizamuddin station we took a rickshaw to New Delhi Railway station and boarded the Shaan-E-Punjab destined for Amritsar. and left for Ambala.

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The 2.5 hour journey to Ambala, where we disembarked, was uneventful. In Ambala, true to promise, scores of buses were available to take us to Chandigarh, which is just an hour's ride away. Chandigarh is a remarkably well planned city. There may be sveral recommended places to visit here, but the must-see ones are : Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake and the Rose Garden.


No prior bookings were done for accommodation since we felt bookings would restrict our freewheeling journey.

We were eager to enter Himachal Pradesh and enjoy its scenic beauty. The train from Kalka to Shimla is reputed to be a ride of visual delight. Though we could not take the train, the bus takes more or less the same route and we didn't regret it much.

In Shimla, the first thing we did was to go to the local tourist office, which was the policy we followed throughout our trip with excellent results. The HPTDC office is very helpful and they offer information about different tourist spots. Also H.P. government has fixed charges for hotels all around H.P. for both peak and off-season times. Hence, there is no question of getting cheated there. One can request the officials there for a list of hotels.

For those of us who are used to the busy hustle-bustle of the city with lots of vehicles, dust and smoke, Shimla is a peaceful retreat despite being the capital of H.P.
H.P. seems out of this world. For those of us who are used to the busy hustle-bustle of the city with lots of vehicles, dust and smoke, Shimla is a peaceful retreat despite being the capital of H.P. It is very clean, green and dust-free. At every corner there are stupendous views of the valleys around Shimla. We went walking around Shimla, and also visited the temple of Kali-Bari.

We made a trip to Kufri, and witnessed a heavy snowfall there. In Kufri, there is a mini-zoo maintained by the H.P. forest department. More than the animals in the zoo, it is worth a visit for the glorious natural path, ideal for a short hike. Just imagine this: sky rocketing pines on either side; heavy snow fall blanketing the earth below in a span of few minutes; a small winding path through this 'forest'; occasional lightning followed by a thunder-blast; and animals such as the musk deer and snow wolf to see.

The Shimla trip will also remain etched in my memory for another reason. We got cheated in broad daylight! Mostly because of our own stupidity. Lured by the prospect of being photographed in traditional garb, we were told it would cost Rs. 55. We gladly agreed. The con-man took 12 snaps and then asked us to cough up Rs. 660, each snap being Rs. 55!

Having had enough of the cold of HP we decided to move towards warmer climes. By now we wanted to include Jaipur in our itinerary. We took a night bus from Shimla to New Delhi. We did not want to waste this opportunity of sight-seeing at New Delhi : Janthar Manthar, India gate to pay homage to the unknown soldier (Amar Jawan), Raj Ghat which houses the mortal remains of the father of the nation, the Lotus temple and the nearby Kalkaji Mandir.

The next day we took a bus to Ajmer, reaching in the late afternoon. Ajmer is an old city, surrounded by hills. It is famous for the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. The dargah is very crowded. We did not know the customs or rituals there, but soon learnt some ground rules to be followed.
- Don't sit with your legs pointing towards the Dargah. It is preferable to sit with folded legs.
- Do not stand with your back to the Dargah either.
- Always cover your heads with a cap or a kerchief. Even ladies are expected to cover their heads.
Don't sit with your legs pointing towards the Dargah. It is preferable to sit with folded legs.
Do not stand with your back to the Dargah either.
Always cover your heads with a cap or a kerchief. Even ladies are expected to cover their heads.

The Anasagar Lake nearby is surrounded by hills and has great views. There is an island in the lake with a small restaurant. On the way back we visited an old Shiva temple. We were told a 'funda' regarding Shiva temples, that was completely new to us. It seems, one is not supposed to do a complete pradakshina around a Shiva temple. One should not cross the point where the Theertha Jala after Abhisheka goes out. One should go half-way around the temple and return back. Never having been counter-clockwise around a temple, it was a new concept.

We rested that night in Ajmer with a great dinner at the RTDC hotel. Next day we had decided to go to Pushkar, a small town 10 kms from Ajmer. It is famous for housing the only Brahma temple in the world. It also has a South Indian styled Venkateswara temple.

We were caught by a panda in Pushkar, who insisted that we should perform puja in the Pushkar lake. With great difficulty we got rid of him and proceeded towards the unique Brahma temple. Also in the same complex are temples for Lord Kubera and Lord Indra. I am not sure whether these are also unique to this place, but I have not come across temples in thir honour anywhere else.

The Lord Venkateshwara temple is a typical South Indian temple, with the same architecture of gopuram etc. I was saddened to see a board forbidding entry into the temple to foreigners. It reminded me of Chennai's Parthasarathy's temple, and other temples which do not permit non-Hindus.


After coming back from Pushkar, we visited a Jain temple in Ajmer, called Soni Mandir. Here there are two distinct areas - one of which hosts the actual temple, which only Jains can access, and the other portion for the general public, which is a museum. The museum has a depiction of the universe as described in Jain puraanas.

We left for Jaipur immediately thereafter. The journey from Ajmer to Jaipur spanning 131 kms takes two and a half hours. The bus hurtled through the roads at dangerous speeds, reaching us in just 1 hr 50 minutes. The next day was Holi. We could see that at every corner gulal - colours, were being sold. In fact, Jaipur's Holi is famous from the days of it's royal past. But we decided against venturing out during a festival that can become quite rowdy.

However this meant that we had only the evening to see around Jaipur. Most of the tourist spots of Jaipur are located in the old city. When we went there, we knew the answer to why Jaipur is called Pink City - every building there was painted in a pinkish orange colour!


The first thing we saw was the famous Hawa Mahal. This structure is located in the main street of Jaipur, with its windows facing the street. In the days of yore, the ladies of the royal family used to sit secluded here while watching the activities on the street.

Our next stop was the royal palace, which to our misfortune was closed. We went to see the Jantar Mantar of Jaipur. This is another observatory like the one in Delhi. There is a beautiful garden nearby, which was once a royal garden. There is an ISKCON temple nearby, a magnificent structure indeed. Jaipur also has a Birla temple. Constructed totally in marble, it looked fabulous in the moonlit night. Inside, the idols of Laxmi-Narayana are also cast in marble. The pooja style resembles the typical south Indian pooja with aarathi, conducted amidst the recital of Jai Jagadeesha hare

We proceed to Agra the next day. The Taj Mahal was thronged by scores of foreigners. We reached in time to pay the Rs 15 entrance applicable between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., after which it increases to Rs. 100. When we went in, I was simply dumb founded to gaze at this amazing structure which stood in front of us. It is simply indescribable. Seeing is believing.


From there, we went to the Agra Fort only to find that it was closed. The next day we were in a dilemma whether to go to Fathepur-sikri or to Mathura. My intention was to club both of them on the same day. However, we were told that it would be impossible given the transport facilities. We finally decided to go to Mathura.

Mathura is on the Agra-New Delhi highway. It takes just one hour from Agra to Mathura, notorious for its refineries, which have significantly damaged the marble of Taj Mahal. More importantly, it is known for it's Krishna temple. This is supposed to be the birth place of Krishna. There is a new temple that has been constructed there. The temple trust maintains a hotel nearby, where they offer vegetarian lunch. After our meal, we continued towards Vrindavan.

Vrindavan, just 12 kms from Mathura is a tiny town, criss-crossed by narrow lanes. It has around 3,000 Krishna temples. We decided to visit the Brij Bihari temple. The temple is quite large and crowded. It is difficult to imagine that a structure like this can exist in the narrow lanes of Vrindavan. Just outside the temple, we tasted Vrindavan's Lassi! It was served in a mud vessel, containing fresh curd, mewa etc. This was perhaps the best lassi that I have ever drunk.


From Vrindavan we returned to Agra via Mathura. Instead of visiting the Agra Fort and other tourist spots, we decided to go to the Taj Mahal again. We stayed there till 7 p.m., when the gates shut. The previous day being a full moon day, we would have enjoyed the vision of Taj by moonlight, but with the late sunsets of approaching summer, that was not to be. We left the TajMahal, frequently turning back to see the glorious structure again and again.

We went to the Railway station awaiting the arrival of Karnataka Express to take us back to Bangalore. Our journey back was relaxed and enjoyable. We met a group of people from Bangalore, returning from Shirdi, who were kind enough to share their eatables with us. After a hectic 12 day tour of North India we were back home. Believe me, as always, coming home has it's own charm!

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