As 2015 is bidding adieu, reminding us our first road trip of the year in January. Its going to be an year since we visited Junagarh Fort Bikaner, an unplanned detour while we were on our way back to Delhi from Chandigarh after New year celebration with family. We did all bookings on the go and fortunately got a good deal via Makemytrip.
Junagarh Fort means the old fort, so called after the Royal family moved their residence to Lalgarh Palace. The fort standing since 1594, is a significance of Royal culture and marvelous architecture. This fort was originally build by Raja Rai Singh Ji and at that point it was called Chintamani, build between 1589 to 1593. There have been lots of additions over centuries under reign of many kings, which has resulted in many palaces, museums, temples and gardens.
At entrance Sati Handprints can be seen which are of the women who offered themselves to fire after their husbands died saving the fort.
The beautiful doors in the fort are build out of walnut wood from Kashmir with astonishing carvings. Also can be seen the big silver door weighing 65Kg, while entering towards courtyard after Karan Mahal.
PHOOL MAHAL This is the oldest part of the fort constructed under Raja Rai Singhji. The decorations and artwork in this part is mostly inspired by the Jahangirian period.
ANUP MAHAL (Private Council) Build by Maharaja Anup Singh this hall has a throne in the middle, which was used by Maharaja to meet high officials and foreign visitors. When we look around the throne it has golden work all over with mirrors beautifully engraved, elevated by splendid use of colors like green, violet purple. One look at this place keeps you spellbound for a while. This hall played the same role as Diwan-I-Khas in Mughal Forts.
BADAL MAHAL As per its name this hall explains importance of rain in this dried arid land. On roof there are blue and white clouds depicting rainy time.
GAJ MANDIR Build by Maharaja Gaj Singhji along with his two favorite queens, this hall has all lavishness, architectural and decorative arts of its time. Looking at the detailing of floral artwork and use of marble, this is more of a fairy world in itself.
DUNGAR NIWAS Maharaja Dungar Singhji, who is better known as modernizer of Bikaner built this hall. This hall as others has many architectural exquisite and artwork details, but what put this on a different level is the Lift…Yes! In 1886 he imparted electricity to Bikaner city.
DURBAR HALL also known as Ganga Durbar Hall was build by Maharaja Ganga Singh. It has beautiful pink walls and on side displays are weapons and protective clothes of war times. The heirloom (sandalwood throne) seen in Darbar hall is said to be one which was brought to Bikaner by Rao Bikaji, being elder son from Jodhpur (Mehrangarh fort) after his father Rao Jodha ji died.
Vikram Villas The only one not after any dynastical ruler, this is named after King Vikramaditya, known for his justice. This one house mainly war souvenirs, palkis, awards, throne and a plane in middle: WWI De Havilland DH-9 biplane bomber.
We consider this our best trip till date, as we didn’t had a lot in our list, but what we got was the best scenic drives between Chandigarh to Bikaner and then Bikaner to Delhi.
- Junagarh Fort Timings: 10: 00 AM to 4:30 PM .
- Free public guide to get more familiar with the fort and its history.
- Must visit Kote Gate, it’s over crowded whole day but very popular for shopping Rajasthani art and craft material.
- Prefer local transport in main Bikaner city, driving is not advisable for outsiders due to heavy rush.
- Must try Kachoris and Ghewar at “Chotu Motu Joshi Sweet Shop”, Station Rd.
- Bhujia from “Bhikaram Chandmal Bhujiamal”, Kote Gate, Bikaner, Rajasthan.
We have been fond of Rajasthan and for some reason the magic has never ended, so last year we took a vacation trip to the most famous hill station in Aravalli Range, Mount Abu to take a break from scorching heat of Delhi.
Mount Abu,highly admired by the tourists as the only hill station in Rajasthan, shares the border with Gujarat. Not only as a tourist spot Mount Abu is also recognized for its religious values. It’s almost 800 kms from Delhi, so driving down in a go with traffic in summers was too tough. We needed a stopover, as we had already paid couple of visits to Jaipur, we opted for Pushkar which is nearly 500 kms and famous for having the only temple of Lord Brahma.
We are not really morning people but we prefer to start our journey early in the morning. Also as we gathered information about route we came to know that the Delhi-Ajmer highway (NH 8) was broken in middle near Kotputli and we have to take the detour to State highway 25 . As we crossed Alwar and then through Sariska National Park via route 248A we joined back on NH 8. But well strech of 85 km(SH 248A) from Alwar to Shahpura was one of the worst driving experience on patch roads, abrupt speed breakers on a road where you cannot drive at more than 30 km/hour. Finally when we joined back on NH the rest 200 kms went by as an easy go.
Pushkar is a valley surrounded by hills on Ratnagiri in the south, Nilgiri in the north, Sanchoora in the west and Suryagiri in the east. As per the legend, Pushkar is the only pilgrimage of Lord Brahma which is result of curse of Savitri/Sarasvati, wife of Brahma. It so happened while Brahma was slewing demon Vajranabha, who was trying to kill Brahmas children and harrasing humans, 3 petals from his Lotus fell and created 3 ponds namely Jyeshta, Madhya and Kanishta(first, middle and youngest) Pushkar. Even the name of city is derived from this Pushpa(meaning Flower)+ Kar(meaning Hand)=PushKar.
Next morning we planned our journey further starting with Ajmer Shariff Dargah,the shrine of Sufi Saint Moinuddin Chishti. This dargah is very popular and mostly crowded to get enter inside, we made visit early in the morning around 6:30 am. If you are going there by your own vehicle or taxi then you have to pay Rs 100 parking per hour. Even at that early in the morning, there was too much of the rush. It took us an hour for the visit.
After taking blessing from Khawaja Gharib Nawaz , we continued our journey on NH-8.
So, finally you can feel the zing of Rajasthan when you see people will bright and colorful turbans with herds of sheeps and camels passing by you every now and then.
Till few kms ahead of Beawar we were having the good time enjoying the beautiful landscape unaware of the coming wrong turn !! We took a diversion from Sojat towards State Highway-62.
3.5 hours on a single road constructed in such a way that you will get shaken every now and then. Well, as been very optimistic we only concentrated on the brighter side that we will reach Pindwara very soon as it connects at NH 14. I started screaming like a kid as we merged onto NH-14.. What a relief !!!! We were 65KM far from our destination, while heading towards the hills, we found our solace. Cool and fresh breeze welcomed us in Mount Abu..!!! We reached our hotel around 2:30pm, the bookings were already done so without any delays we took the keys and went for a nap.
Around 5 pm, we headed towards Nakki lake which was a five minutes drive from our Hotel on Mt Abu Rd. We parked our car and joined people walking towards the Nakki Lake.The first thing you will notice that Gujaratis outnumber everyone else. The way to the lake is through a lively market where you can find people enjoying shopping, local foods, crafts and ice creams.
Nakki Lake is the most famous attraction of Mt Abu offering boat rides and some spectacular view points,one of which is Toad Rock. It is a formation made of igneous rock placed on top of a hill overlooking the lake gives an impression of a toad about to jump into it.
It was time to tighten our shoes to climb up for the sunset point. After a ten minute tiring uphill walk, I can see the crowd climbing on rocks and waiting for the finale. We almost finished our popcorn but there was no sign of sunset as the clouds were ready to shield it. Fortunately, after the wait of an hour we got a glimpse of sun from blanket of clouds. I must say this place is worth a visit for its breathtaking view.
Next morning in Mount Abu was quite chilling, I wasn’t expecting it in the month of June. We got ready and left to cover up our day-2 itinerary. In market you can find number of stalls offering bread omlette, poha, dhokla for breakfast which are light on pocket.
After having poha for breakfast we geared up for Guru Shikhar. Do not forget to buy some fresh fruits like berries and mangoes on your way to the top.
Guru Shikhar is the highest peak on the mountain at 1,722 m (5,650 ft) above sea level & is 15 km far from the main city with a steep uphill drive. It was the home of Guru Dattatreya, an incarnation of the three Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Dattatreya is composed of two words Datta which means given and Atreya referring the sage Atri,his father. There is also a cave shrine of Guru Dattatreya and that’s how it got the name Guru Shikhar. It offers spectacular panoramic view of Aravalli hills and the town.
After spending a good 30-40 minutes enjoying the views from top of the hill we dropped downwards to move on to our next stop Dilwara temples.
Dilwara temples, most acknowledged for their amazing artwork were built between 11th to 13th century AD. These are example of exquisite craftsmanship and stunning marble carvings. One can see minutely carved details over corridors, pillars and arches of the temple, which are simply amazing. A collection of 5 temples, Dilwara is a place to capture in memories only as no photography is allowed here.
As we left Dilwara we drove towards Nakki Lake and enjoyed the beautiful sunset sitting at lake shore.
When it was dark we had our meal at Arbuda Restaurant,offering traditional Rajasthani & Gujarati food and ended the day with some shopping in the market..
Early next morning around 5:00 am we started our descend to the plains and saw the wonderful view of rising sun while we were still rowing around the hills.
We had learnt our lesson and so we decided to keep our tracks on National Highway. It was our longest one day drive covering nearly 800 kms in a go and well it sure was tiring. But we found that its pretty much doable, what you need is NH, couple of stopovers, good song collections, great navigator.
Our first long driving experience was wonderful ,share your story in the comments.