Delhi


About Belur



Belur channakeshava temple outside Belur is well known for Chennakeshava temple which was a capital during Hoysala kingdom for a short duration. This placed is situated in Hassan district of Karnataka in India. The Channakeshava temple is one of the finest built using soft soapstone during Hoysala period. The temple was constructed during 1116 AD to mark the victory done by the king Vishnuvardhana of Talkad against Cholas. Belur is on the banks of river Yegachi. This place is one of the famous tourist destination in Karnataka - India. As per saying, the beauty of this temple is inside as there are 48 pillars carved in different designs. Belur was also called as Velapuri during Hoysala period. The empire during Hoysala period is called Yadava kings which was under Chalukyas and became separated later.

How to reach
Belur temple carvings near front door Belur is 40Kms from the district head quarters, Hassan in North direction. The transportation is only by road. This place is just on the way to Chikmagalur and frequent buses available. Other than this main road, there are few more ways to reach Belur. People planning to visit Halebid and Belur, can proceed to Halebid taking right turn at Hagare (25Kms from Hassan on Chikmagalur road). From Hagare, Halebid is 12 Kms. Travellers having private vehicles can only plan this route as public transport is very less.

After visiting Halebid, tourists can reach Belur which is 15Kms. There is frequent private and Government transportation available between Belur and Halebid. One more way to reach Belur is to travel upto Halebid from Hassan taking Master Control Facility (also called space city) road. Halebid is 30Kms by this road from Hassan. Very frequent bus service available between Hassan and Halebid in this route. Nearest airport is Mangalore or Bangalore (both of same distance).

Importance of Belur
Belur temple Lady with bow There are somany art and sculptures to see in Channakeshava temple. The star shaped Garbhagruha, Navaranga and Sukanasi Pillars, the image of Vijaya narayana (Keshava), more than 80 sculptures of Madanika in the temple, 38 bracket figures outside and 4 inside, Lady with her pet parrot, Kesha Shrungara, Gandharva Dance, Shantaladevi, Fortune teller, Songstress, Arch dancer, Lady with make-up, Kite dancer, Pony-tale haired lady, Drum dance, Nagaveena Dance, Gypsy girl, Bhasma Mohini dance, Huntress, Divine Dancer, Masculine woman, Violinist, Bewitching beauty, Musician, Flutist, Darpana Sundari, Thribhangi Nritya, Dwarapalakas flanking the Sukanasi doorway, Narasimha pillar, Kadle basava, Mohini pillar.
Gravity pillar is about 42 feet high of single stone, standing on its self weight. Kappe Channigaraya temple is located south of Sri Keshava Temple. Inside people can see Venugopala, Saraswathi, Lakshminarayana, Ganapathi and Chamundeswari statues. Few more temples of Anjaneya, Krishna, Narasimha, Soumyanayaki, Veeranarayana can also be seen. Statues of Vishnuvardhana and Krishnaraja Wodeyar can be seen in a courtyard near the pond. Garudangambha and Garuda statue are outside the main temple facing towards Sri Channakeshava.


Belur channakeshava temple inside pillars Guides have been appointed by Archaeological department for a nominal fee of INR 125 (reciept will be issued). Photography allowed inside the temple premesis, no additional fee for cameras. A nominal fee of INR 10 is to be paid for flood light inside the temple if tourists want to see the carvings.
Standard tourist package available by Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporations (KSTDC) to visit Belur, Halebeedu and Shravanabelagola. Halebid and Belur are situated to the North of Hassan (district head quarters) and Shravanabelagola is situated almost to the South of Hassan. So, people travelling from Bangalore can visit Shravanabelagola first as it is on the way to Hassan (on National Highway 48 linking Bangalore and Mangalore). After visiting Belur and Halebidu, people can proceed towards Chikmagalur if they have planned to visit Western ghats and other tourist places in Shimoga and other districts. People travelling from North part of India, they can visit Belur and Halebid and proceed towards Hassan and see Shravanabelagola later.

About Tirupathi


Tirupati is situated at 67-km from Chittoor in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. Tirupati is one of the important pilgrim centres in India. The ancient and sacred temple of Sri Venkateswara is located on the seventh peak, Venkatachala (Venkata Hill) of the Tirupati Hill. This historic shrine of Sri Venkateswara is famous all over the country and attracts pilgrims from all over the country who stand in line for hours together to obtain a glimpse of the presiding deity for a few fleeting seconds.

The shrine is located on a hill at Tirumala, a cluster of seven hills known as Seshachalam or Venkatachalam with an elevation of 853m (2, 800ft.) above the sea level. It is said to be the richesttemple in the world. This temple is a vibrant cultural and philanthropic institution with a grand history spanning several centuries.

All the great dynasties of rulers of the southern peninsula paid homage to Lord Sri Venkateswara in this ancient shrine. The Pallavas of Kancheepuram (9th century AD), the Cholas of Thanjavur (a century later), the Pandyas of Madurai, and the kings and chieftains of Vijayanagar (14th - 15th century AD) were devotees of the Lord.

Tirupathi is a fine example of dravidian temple architecture. The 'gopuram' or tower of the Tirupati Temple shows a characteristic feature of Dravidian architecture. The 'Vimana' or Cupola over the sanctum sanctorum is covered entirely with gold plate and is known as "the Ananda Nilayam". TheShrine consists of three 'Prakarams' or enclosures. The outermost enclosure contains the 'Dhvajastambha' or the banner post and, among others, the statues of Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya and his consorts, and of Todarmal, the minister of Akbar.

The idol of the deity, the full figure of Lord Venkateswara or 'Venkataramana' or 'Srinivasa' or 'Balaji' has the attributes of both Vishnu and Shiva, preserving and destroying aspects of the Hindu Trinity.


Tirupathi Balaji Temple

Padi Kavali Maha Dwara :

The Padi Kavali Maha Dwara or Outer Gopuram stands on a quadrangular base. Its architecture is that of the later Chola period. The inscriptions on the gopuram belong to 13thcentury. There are a number of stucco figures of Vaishnava gods like Hanuman, Kevale Narasimha and Lakshmi Narasimha on the gopuram.

Sampangi Pradakshinam :

The path for circumnavigating the temple is called a pradakshinam. The main temple has three prakarams. Between the outermost and middle prakarams is the second pathway for circumambulation known as the Sampangi Pradakshinam. Currently, this pathway is closed topilgrims . The Sampangi Pradakshinam contains several interesting mandapams like the Pratima Mandapam, Ranga Mandapam, Tirumala Raya Mandapam, Saluva Narasimha Mandapam, Aina Mahal and Dhvajasthambha Mandapam.

Ranga Mandapam :

Ranga Mandapam, also called the Ranganayakula Mandapam, is located in the south-eastern corner of the Sampangi Pradakshinam. Theshrine within it is believed to be the place where the utsava murti of Lord Ranganadha of Srirangam was kept during the 14th century , when Srirangam was occupied by Muslim rulers. It is said to have been constructed between 1320 and 1360 AD by the Yadava ruler Sri Ranganadha Yadava Raya. It is constructed according to the Vijayanagara style of architecture.

Tirumala Raya Mandapam :

Adjoining the Ranga Mandapam on the western side, and facing the Dhvajasthambha Mandapam is a spacious complex of pavilions known as the Tirumala Raya Mandapam or Anna Unjal Mandapam.

It consists of two different levels, the front at a lower level and the rear at a higher. The southern or inner portion of this Mandapam was constructed by Saluva Narasimha in 1473 AD to celebrate a festival for Sri Venkateswara called Anna Unjal Tirunal. This structure was extended to its present size by Araviti Bukkaraya Ramaraja, Sriranga Raja and Tirumala Raja.

It is in this Mandapam, that the utsava murthi Malayappan, holds His annual darbar or Asthanam during the hoisting of the Garudadhwaja on Dhwajastambham to mark the commencement of Brahmotsavam. Incidentally, the prasadam distributed on this occasion is still called Tirumalarayan Pongal.

Tirumala Raya Mandapam :

The Mandapam has a typical complex of pillars in the Vijayanagara style, with a central pillar surrounded by smaller pillars, some of which emit musical notes when struck with a stone. The main pillars have rearing horses with warriors mounted on them. Some of the best sculptures of thetemple are found in bold relief in the Mandapam. The bronze statues of Todermallu, his mother Matha Mohana Devi and wife Pitha Bibi, are kept in a corner of the Mandapam.

The Aina Mahal :

The Aina Mahal is on the northern side of the Tirumala Raya Mandapam. It consists of two parts - an open mandapam in the front consisting of six rows comprising six pillars each, and ashrine behind it consisting of an Antarala and Garbhagriha. It has large mirrors which reflect images in an infinite series. There is an unjal in the middle of the room in which the Lord is seated and festivals conducted.

Saint Ramanujacharya prescribed all the elaborate rituals and mode of worship in the temple that are still followed by the priests and devotees. Anointing the idol with camphor, and the offering by pilgrims of the hair on their heads by getting themselves shaved by licensed barbers are the important customs in vogue at Tirupati Temple.


The most famous is the annual festival called 'Brahmotsavam', which is celebrated on grand scale for nine days in September, attractingpilgrims and tourists from all parts of the country. The fifth and ninth days of the festival are especially significant in as much as Garudostavam and Rathotavam takes place on those days.

About Agra

Agra - the first impression is of a chaotic, overcrowded, polluted mess that can offer nothing of interest.But wait, hold your breath, for hiding behind the heat and the chaos is the stunning monument of cool white marble, the wonder that is called the Taj Mahal.
  
In Agra layers of history are peeled away to reveal an amazing tapestry of life - of wars waged, of great architectural magnificence and above all a testimony of the undying love of a king for his queen.

That Agra is unparalleled as a travel destination is an established fact. Even Bill Clinton testified to as much when he declared the world was divided into two: those who have seen the Taj and those who have not! Besides the Taj Mahal though, there are a lot of other important sights in and around Agra. The Agra Fort, Moti Masjid and innumerable other attractions make the city feature on every travellers must-do-sightseeing list.

Travel a little outside Agra and you'll come to Fatehpur Sikri, a site for monuments that are historically as important as the Taj Mahal. Every tour guide who does Agra ensures that Fatehpur Sikri is also visited. There development in architectural style from Akbar's Sikri to Shah Jahan's Agra is important, and only if you see the monuments at both will you have begun to explore Mughal architecture. Fatehpur Sikri's sights include monuments from the times of Akbar: the Buland Darwaza and the Dargah of Salim Chishti.

The first time you travel to Agra, the city can be a bit overwhelming with its noise and big crowds. There are government run and private tourist information centres galore and you should take advantage of them. Most of them offer tour guide services, which is useful if you're stuck in a chaotic Indian city, particularly if you're low on knowledge about its premier attraction.  There are also nearly as many touts as tourists! Beware of them and stay with registered guides. However, no matter how many times you've done Agra and the Taj Mahal, their attraction never fades. If you're an old Agra hand of course, you'll be quite at home in this crazy bustling town.


The Taj Mahal
Emperor Shah Jahan built this white marble mausoleum for his queen Arjumand Bano Begum or Mumtaz Mahal. The building aside, the Taj Mahal is one of the most glorious symbols of love. Great builder that he was, the Emperor commissioned a building that has lasted centuries  to remain a thing of rare breathtaking beauty. The building was commissioned in 1631 and decorated with the landmark technique of intricate marble inlay work.

Situated on the banks of the River Yamuna, the Taj Mahal stands at the northern end of formal gardens. The white marble came from Makrana in Rajasthan and the red sandstone from Fatehpur Sikri.    

Precious stones like jade, crystal, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sapphire, jade, coral and diamonds were brought from far-flung places in Tibet, China, Sri Lanka, Persia and Afghanistan. It is believed that a fleet of 1000 elephants was used to transport the material.


Gateway to the Taj Mahal    

The main entrance to the monument is of red sandstone, with domed pavilions in the Hindu style. The gateway is inscribed with verses from the Koran, the lettering of which appear the same size through an illusion created by the craftsmen who enlarged and lengthened the letters at different positions.

The gardens enclosed by high walls are divided into four parts or the charbagh, which symbolises the Gardens of Paradise in Islam. There are fountains and water channels flowing through the garden, representing the rivers of water, milk, wine and honey. The monument itself stands on a raised platform with four minarets in the corners. The minarets have a slightly outward incline, to prevent them from falling on the monument during an earthquake. You have to remove your shoes before getting on to the platform. Socks, or cloth shoes available at the base, should be kept on since the marble gets very hot during the day.

A huge dome, rising 44 feet high with a brass spire on top crowns the Taj Mahal. Inside is a central chamber with high ceilings that houses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. A delicately carved trelliswork marble screen encloses them. The empress’ tomb, which is directly under the dome, has the 99 names of Allah inscribed on it. Shah Jahan’s cenotaph is higher and to the left. It has a pen box inscribed on it, which symbolises a male ruler. Just below these cenotaphs are the real graves, in a dark and humid crypt filled with incense. If you donate a few coins to the attendant, he will lay them as offerings on the graves.
Surrounding the central chamber are four octagonal rooms where the other members of the royal family were to have been laid to rest. The base is carved with floral motifs, of roses, tulips, and narcissi. Some of the designs have upto 60 pieces.    

On both sides of the Taj are two identical red sandstone mosques. The one to the left holds Friday prayers even today. The one to the right, the jawab (answer) was built only for symmetry and holds no prayers since it faces away from the Mecca.

In front of the main entrance is a platform, which is popular for use as a spot for taking photographs. You will find many couples sitting on it with the Taj Mahal as the backdrop to pose for the most precious memento of their visit. On the western wall of the compound is the museum there is a good collection of Mughal miniature paintings - portraits of the Mughal rulers, ancient coins and porcelain. The museum also has a gallery with the original drawings of the Taj Mahal on display. They show how meticulously the building was planned, including an accurate estimate of the time to be taken for its construction.

Open: Tuesday to Sunday.


Agra Fort


Akbar, the greatest empire-builder of the Mughals, commissioned the Agra Fort in 1565. Shah Jahan made alterations by pulling down many of the original buildings and replacing them with marble ones.

His son Aurangzeb, who was in constant conflict with local chieftains and neighbouring principalities, added the outer ramparts.The tourist entry is through the Amar Singh Gate, which was used by General Lake and his army to capture the fort. The main entrance, the Delhi Gate, is now closed. Much of the fort is occupied by the army and is out of bounds for visitors. However, the buildings open to the public have some superb architectural sights.

The Diwan-I-Am or the Hall of audience is a pillared hall whose centrepiece is the throne alcove. This marble structure was inlaid with precious stones in floral motifs, and was built to house the Peacock Throne. The exquisitely crafted throne was taken to Delhi by Shah Jahan and was looted by Nadir Shah and carried away to Persia.
The Diwan-I-Khas, where the emperor held audience with visiting dignitaries, was built in 1635. It had two thrones on the terrace, one in white marble and one in black slate. Emperor Shah Jahan is believed to have used the marble throne for repose, and the slate throne to watch elephant fights in the courtyard.    

Khas Mahal    

The Khas Mahal, where the emperor slept, had cavities in its flat roof to insulate it from the hot winds of summer. The Macchi Bhawan, or fish chamber, had fountains, tanks and water channels stocked with fish. The emperor and his courtiers amused themselves by angling here.

The Nagina Masjid was built in marble by Shah Jahan to be used exclusively by the women of the zenana or harem. Below it is the Zenana Meena Bazaar where the ladies could look at goods without being seen. The Sheesh Mahal or Palace of Mirrors, whose mirrored walls reflected and enhanced the lamplights, was used by the women for bathing. A two-storied octagonal tower, the Musamman Burj, is said to be the place from where Shah Jahan last saw the Taj Mahal before dying.

Open : Sunrise to sunset.

Itmad-ud-daulah

Popularly known as ‘baby Taj’, this is the tomb of Mirza Ghiyath Begh, who was wazir or Chief Minister in Emperor Jahangir’s court.
He became a very powerful person, more so when the Emperor Jahangir married his daughter Noor Jahan. The tomb was designed by Noor Jahan and was the first Mughal building using marble inlay work.    

The Jama Masjid was built by Shah Jahan and dedicated to his favourite daughter Jahanara Begum. It is surrounded by the crowded bazaar, which is interesting to wander through on foot. A kilometre away from Itmad-ud-daulah is Chini ka rauza, the mausoleum of Afzal Khan, and the son of Mirza Ghiyath Begh. The tomb derives its name from the glazed tiles (chini) on its fa├žade. The Ram Bagh, laid out by Babur in 1528 is said to have been the resting-place of his body before it was taken away for a final burial in Kabul.
Sikandra, Akbar's mausoleum     Akbar’s mausoleum at Sikandra, 10 kms from Agra, can be visited by hiring an autorickshaw for the day. The construction of the mausoleum was begun by Akbar himself, and completed in 1613 by his son Jahangir. In a way, it is a synthesis of the bold masculine red sandstone structures built by Akbar and the delicately crafted white marble buildings of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The entrance is through a huge gateway that blocks view of the tomb from outside.

The tomb is in the centre of the char bagh, gardens laid out in four quadrants. The mausoleum is four storeyed, the first three in red sandstone, and the one on the top in white marble. Inside, the original ceilings had frescoes in blue and gold. Some of it has recently been restored. Around the tomb you will find some interesting wildlife in the form of monkeys, deer and black buck.

Open: Sunrise to sunset

Agra