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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Must visit Heritage House in Ahmedabad

Mr. Jagdip Mehta
Address : 1871, Moto Suthar Wado, Khadia, Ahmedabad 380 001, Gujarat State, India
Contact (R)079-22166747,(M)+91-9825310315

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This 100 sqm. ground cover and 260 sqm. built-up area ground and two storey house in Khadia III ward lay vacant for more than 18 years. Mr. Jagdip Mehta, who lived in the adjoining house and had bought this structure to accommodate the growing needs of his family, availed the loan facilitated by HUDCO and AHC subsidy to initiate its restoration in January 2004. The restoration work of the house was done with the collaboration of Heritage Department (AMC) and French Government.

The building represents a typical Ahmedabad house with a central courtyard and an elegant facade, which has a colonial influence in contrast to its internal veranacular layers.

The old structure was critically unstable with the entire woodwork - whether in the roof, floors, walls or posts - severely infested by termites, demanding immidiate treatment and repair, or replacement. Damaged elements and dead loads were removed and vulnearble wooden members structurally stregthened with steel.

The building had only bathroom khadki, and a toilet covering the otla next to the entrace on the ground floor. These were removed and the toilet and each of the three floors introduced to cater to contemporary lifestyle. A small shaft was chiseled out from the rooms to enhance the natural light and ventelation in the building and a part of a sloping roof was reconfigured into a terrace.
Most of the retrievable finishes flooring and dado tiles and tinited glass in fills - were re-installed. The existing deteriorated plaster-of-paris false ceiling was used to create moulds to recast a fresh ornamental soffit.

The traditional water harvesting system too was restored with cleaning up and minor repairs to the 15 000 litre tanka.

The significance of this building lies in the programmatic shift it accommodates. Connected to the adjoining old dwelling this building primarily performs as an extended living for the Mehta family. Besides the storage of his musical instruments and Mr. Mehta's rehearsals, the house is an active venue for frequent cultural events. It also hosts vistors and artists to the city having deep interest in heritage and culture.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Polo Monuments and Vijaynagar Forest

I had been planning to go to Polo and Vijaynagar Forests for a very long time. Images of long lost civilizations, ancient temples playing hide and seek in the mist and the lush green forests played on my mind as i tried to figure out the best way to get there...

Finally D-day arrived and on 22nd August at 08:00 we (my parents, wife, 2 kids and 2 dogs, thanks to the Safari) set off in search of the mysterious ruins of the Polo kingdom. We managed to cover the 160 odd Kms. in a little over 2 hours. I could not find details about where exactly the ruins were located and so it took a little time to find the place.

Actually the ruins of the temple are spread across 4-5 sites all within 10 kilometres of each other. The archeologically important Shiv Temple at Sarneshwar, Sadevant Savlings Deras, Surya Mandir, Lakhena Temple, Jain derasar and the ancient Polo Jain Nagri are worth visitng.

After the town of Idar, one needs to take the road towards Khedbhrama and then keep a look out for a turn on the right which says Vijaynagar 45 Kms. The 1st of the sites is around 30 Kms. down the road and there are some signboards put up by the archaeological department, but you need to keep a look out for them. You can also ask the locals for the "Dam site" or Vanaj and they will point you in the right direction.
Carvings on Shiv Temple
The ancient Polo city was built around the river Harnav, an ancient water body spoken of in the Puranas. It is believed to have been established in the 10th century by the Parihar kings of Idar, and was then conquered in the 15th century by the Rathod Rajputs of Marwar. The name is derived from pol, the Marwari word for "gate," signifying its status as a gateway between Gujarat and Rajasthan. It was built between Kalaliyo in the east, the highest peak in the area, and Mamrehchi in the west, considered sacred by the local adivasis. Together they block sunlight for most of the day, which might provide an explanation for the otherwise mysterious abandonment of the ancient city.

Walking across the bridge with water flowing over it
Now for some clarifications, the dam is actually a small check-dam built across the Harnav River, which is actually a small perennial stream. There is a small bridge which takes you from the main road to the other side where there is a nice forest. This bridge was actually the highlight of the trip for the kids. They had a great time walking through the water that was flowing over the bridge towards the check dam. A few hundred meters and quite suddenly the ruins of the ancient temple come into the view.

Lord Krishna
More intricate work
Lord Ganesh in the centre
Door carving
The 2 Jain temples and a Shiva temple are said to have been built sometime in the 15th century. There is not much left of them and honestly there does not seem as if much of an effort has been made to conserve the little that remains of these temples. It was quite interesting the see carvings of Lord Ganesh, Lord Krishna, Hanuman and other Hindu Gods on these temples. I bet the carvings of dragons on the temple walls also had an interesting story to tell. It was a pity that there was no one there to explain all this to the visitors / tourists who came there.

Jain temple
Jain Temple
After spending around an hour and half at the site, we visited another temple which was supposed to be restored (found the reference on the web). This was a much smaller Shiva temple and though not restored (at least it did not look much better than the others) there was a idol inside the temple and it was obvious that prayers were being offered regularly there.This one was built sometime in the 10 century and was supposed to be the oldest temple in the area.

Shiv Temple

Shiv-ling and the snake God
The extremely humid climate made us call it a day and we started our journey back to Ahmedabad, stopping on the way for some lovely tea and some really juicy boiled maize (makai).
I actually fell in love with the place and promised to return once again to take more pics, only this time I would make sure to go there in December when the weather was much more conducive to trekking.

Best time to visit: November to January
Note: Don’t forget to carry some water and eatables ‘cause there is not much available after Idar.

Don't forget to check out all the pics from Polo and Vijaynagar here
Polo Monuments and Vijaynagar Forest

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Holiday to Shimla | Sangla | Narkhanda | Mussorrie - June 2011

Had been planning a holiday for sometime and finally after a lot of mis-adventures finally managed to freeze on Shimla, Sangla, Narkhanda and Mussorrie. Bookings at Shimla and Mussorrie were done at the Club Mahindra Resorts and so the search started to a place to stay at Sangla and Narkhanda.

A quick search on the net revealed 2 places, Banjara Camps and Kinner Camps both of which looked really interesting. Though Banjara seemed more popular it was frightfully expensive compared to Kinner Camps where Mr. Pradeep Negi and Gauri really gave us a good deal. Gauri also helped us with booking for Narkhanda, at a place called Agyat Vas. This was a real "Agyat Vasa" (unknown / hidden place), but more of that later. So finally we were all set for our annual vacation.

We took the early morning flight to Delhi and an Innova (again booked through Gauri at Kinner Camps) was ready to pick us up. The drive to Shimla was a rather long one and we reached Whispering Pines the Club Mahindra resort at Mashorba, on the outskirts of Shimla, late in the afternoon.
Whispering Pines
Whispering Pines

We spent the next 2 days exploring Shimla and visiting the "must see" places there.

To be honest Shimla did not really catch my fancy. Its crowded and teaming with people.
This is a common site in Shimla city
Queen of the hills ?? Where are the hills ??
 The highlight of our visit was a trip to the Vice Regal Lodge of Shimla. The Viceregal Lodge of Shimla is a heritage building that is situated on the Observatory Hill of Shimla. This building originally used to be the dwelling hub of the then Viceroy of India Lord Dufferin. The building is also termed as the 'Rashtrapati Niwas'. It has a really beautiful garden and one can spend hours there just looking at the flower and butterflies.

Vice Regal Lodge
Flower in the garden of the Vice Regal Lodge

The other place I really loved with Annadale. Developed as the playground of Shimla, Annandale is 2–4 km from the Ridge at a height of 6,117 ft. It is a favourite spot for cricket, picnics and polo. There is a wonderful military museum there which is located in such picturesque surroundings that it is a must visit for tourist who go to Shimla.
Central Hall / Conference Room at Annadale
Military Museum
There is a beautiful golf course at Annadale, though I am not sure if it is open to the general public.
Golf Course at Annadale

Over the 2 days in Shimla, we witnessed some spectacular skies, especially in the evening.

For more images from Shimla visit my Picasa web album Pics from Shimla .

Our next stop was Sangla around 215 Kms from Shimla.  This leg of the trip really put the time required to travel in perspective. Normally 215Kms would take around 4-5 hours, but with the narrow curvy roads it took us more than 7 hours to reach Kinner Camps. So inspite of leaving Shimla at 9:00, it was nearly 16:00 hours when we reached Kinner Camps.

Kinner Camps Sangla is the only camp in the valley to be run by local professionals it is nestled amidst apple orchards on the banks of the Baspa river.  It provides 20 Swiss style luxury tents furnished with attached bath and all amenities, multi cuisine restaurant serving Indian,  Chinese and Continental food.

The location is really amazing ... the camp is situated a little more than half way down a hill with the flowing Baspa River a few yards below. The location was just perfect with a huge mountain at the back which protected us from the direct sun and snow clad mountains and the river in front. In hindsight I liked the location more than that of Banjara camps, which was situated on the rocky bank of the river.

Mere pictures can not do justice to the beauty of the place and one has to be there to really soak in the beauty and atmosphere of the place.
Tents at Kinner Camps
Snow Clad mountains - view from tent
River Baspa - Kinner Camps

Snow clad mountains above Kinner Camps
Mountains from Kinner Camps
Snow clad mountains from Kinner Camps

Another view of Kinner Camps

There are quite a few places to visit and a must visit place is Chitkul. Chittkul is the last inhabited village near the Indo-Tibet border; the Indian road ends here. During winters the place remains covered with the snow mostly & these people move to the lower areas of Himachal. Chittkulis the first village of the Baspa Valley and the last village on the old Hindustan-Tibet trade route. It is also the last point in India one can travel to without a permit. Of particular interest at Chitkul are its houses with either slate or wooden plank roofs, a Buddhist temple and a small tower. However, there has been an increased use of tin-roofs, especially the high school and the army/ITBP barracks.

Chikul - last village in India
Typical House in Chitkul
Chitkul Village

For those who wish to have a leisurely treck, there is a quaint little village across the river from Kinner Camps. Its a beautiful village having nice roads, apple orchards and a wonderful temple. The village is a 45 minute walk from the camp and is really worth visiting.
Walking into the village
This dog adopted us and followed us all around

Carving on temple

 Even now when I look at the pictures from Kinner, I just wish I could have spent more time there
Baspa River
Baspa River from Kinner Camps
Under the pines
Snow clad mountains from Kinner

We really had a wonderful time at Kinner and desperately wanted to spend some more time there. Mr Vijay Negi and his team really made us feel at home. The tents were nice and clean, the home cooked food amazing and the service impeccable.  I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who goes to Sangla.

For more images from Kinner Camps visit my album Awesome Kinner.

From Kinner we were off to Narkhanda to a place called Agyaat Vas. ....

More from my trip in the next post .....