Uttar Pradesh is the fourth biggest state in India. With the presence of vast range of hills, valleys, rivers and plains speckled with numerous significant ancient and historical sites, Uttar Pradesh magnetizes largest number of tourists from within India and abroad. With the latest split of the state and creation of Uttaranchal out of it, the noteworthy number of heritage sites is still within the realm. Besides the Vindhya ranges, Gangetic plains inhabit most of Uttar Pradesh. The seeds of Vedic Literature are believed to have been sown here, along with those of the great Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Gautam Buddha spent good part of his life here preaching his sermons.
The empires that ruled Utter Pradesh included Chandra Gupta Maurya with reigns extending to Allahabad, Varanasi, and Dehradun. It is during this period that their architecture reached its peak. Then the Huns came from central Asia only to be succeeded by Harshavardhan. Thereafter Mughal dynasty established the supremacy through Babur, followed by Humayun, Sher Shah Suri, Akbar, Jehangir, Shahjahan, and Aurangzeb.
Uttar Pradesh has rich cultural and historical heritage in forts, palaces, temples of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, mosques, etc. The prime appeal for everyone is classical wonder, the Taj Mahal. This was built during the sovereignty of Shahjahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. This era is measured as the golden age of India in art, culture, and architecture. Shahjahan also constructed the famous Red Fort in Delhi as well as the Jama Masjid and Moti Mahal.
Climate of Uttar Pradesh
The climate of the state is tropical monsoon, but variations exist due to the differences in altitude. Summer season is from March-June. The summers are hot & dry. The temperatures rise to 45ºC even on sometimes up to 47-48ºC. There is low relative humidity and dust loaded winds gush all through the season. Monsoon season is from June-September. The state receives 85% of average annual rainfall of 990 mm. The temperature is around 40-45°C on rainy days. Winter season starts from October-February. The temperature is around 3-4ºC and sometimes below -1ºC.
Art & Culture of Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh, the land where the Hindu civilization and culture reached its pinnacle, is bequeathed with affluent cultural ethnicity. There is a belief that the Hindu text ‘Rig Veda’ was composed in the Gangetic valley of Uttar Pradesh region, in the mean time some others find links with the great epics, ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’. From the epic period, the state of Uttar Pradesh has been influenced by numerous cultures; the most noteworthy among those are the Buddhism and Jainism.
One can find the sign of those cultures in the literature and in numerous remnants of art and architecture that form essential element of the cultural legacy of the state. Music, Dance and Stage plays are significant art forms of the state, which is popular among Hindus as well as Muslims. Besides, Uttar Pradesh is also renowned for its exquisite crafts like Zardozi of Agra, Chikankari Embroidery, Metalware of Moradabad, Zari Work of Banaras, Carpets and Floor Coverings, Hand Printings of Farrukhabad, Shawl-making, Inlay work, Brocade, Muslin, Paper-making etc.
Cuisine of Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh, the most densely inhabited state of India, is a place where people have developed relatively diverse eating habits over the years. In the state capital, Lucknow, the people find irresistible the Nawabi cuisine, while in Mathura and nearby areas people love to have milk-based preparations. Besides Nawabi cuisine, the world famous Awadhi cuisine is very well-liked in Lucknow. Apart from these most of people in Uttar Pradesh like to have simple and temperate vegetarian meal which includes Rice, Dal, Roti, Sabzi, Pooris and Kachoris. Amongst the numerous specialties unique to Uttar Pradesh don’t forget to relish KundanKaliya, Shami Kabab, KakoriKabab,Gulnar Kababs, NehariKhaas, NargisiKofta, Patili Kabab, MurgMussallam, LazeezLauki, Dum Bhindi, Warqui Paratha, GobhiMussallam, Sultani Dal, Rizala, ShirSewain and Chicken Reshmi Kabab.
Fairs & Festivals of Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh is a land of diverse religions since a long time. As land of affluent culture and ethnicity, Uttar Pradesh rejoices numerous religious as well as regional festivals all through the year. Amongst the numerous fairs and festival, the KumbhMela and ArthaKumbhMela are the important ones, which are celebrated in Allahabad. Bateshwar Fair is a vital event for the Hindus. For Muslims Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha and Moharram are the chief festivals. Other essential fairs and festivals are Taj Mahotsav, Avadh Festival, KumbhMela, Jhansi Festival, Buddha Mahotsav, Ganga Festival, Lucknow Festival, Holi, Barsana Holi, Janmashtami, VrindavanSharadotsav, HariyaliTeej, RathKaMela, Guru Purnima, Devi PatanMela, Kailash Fair, DadriMela, Kampil Fair, Mata MurtiMela, KunjapuriMela and Rambarat.
Places to Visit
Agra- The City of Eternal Love
The ideal tourist destination Agra was established by SikandarLodhi of Lodhi dynasty in the 16th century. Agar acquired its great position by building a few splendid architectural masterpieces during the Mughal era. Agra is located on the banks of the river Yamuna in western Uttar Pradesh in between Mathura and FatehpurSikri. The city is situated at a distance of 203 km from national capital Delhi.
Agra has become tantamount with the Taj Mahal renowned as “the epitome of love” and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This miracle of white marbles and the pride of India attract tourists from all over the world to Agra. The glorious monuments of Agra reflect the architectural splendor of this great city during the Mughal reign.
Air:The airport of Agra is located on the outskirts of the city. Regular flights are available from major destinations of India.Rail:Agra has very good rail connectivity. Regular train services are there from Delhi and other destinations to Agra cantonment-the main railway station of the city. Tourists can also opt for the luxury trains like Palace on Wheels for coming to Agra.Road:Agra is well connected to Delhi and the rest of Uttar Pradesh through an excellent road network. Regular buses are available to Agra from most destinations of North India.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
The Taj Mahal is measured to be the icon of eternal love. It is believed to be a timeless beauty that illustrates the majesty of a woman who truly loved her husband. The Taj Mahal persists to beguile not only visitors but also artists, painters, sculptors, poets and photographers. Not any other monument is so renowned that it appears in each and every aspect of art. This exquisite memorial in white marble situates on the banks of the River Yamuna in Agra and looks flawless. This beautiful monument epitomizes love of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
An estimated 20,000 people toiled for around 20 years to complete this captivating mausoleum. The colossal Palace has intricate geometrical outlines imbibed into its designs. The creation of Taj Mahal comprises some complicated and difficult ideology like that of self-replicating geometry. The main central dome is an enormous one and there are four additional domes enclosing the main one. One can find four tall minarets on the four sides. The entire edifice has fragile designs made on it, which are stuffed with expensive stones and gems. The Taj overlooks a well bedecked garden and with the river Jamuna flowing by it, the Taj Mahal is certainly the ultimate grandeur of India. Its amazing architectural splendor is beyond any depiction. It is alleged to shine in the light of the full moon because of that Taj experiences the huge crowd on a full moon day to have that serene look.
The water walkway and fountains had been constructed in perfect proportion with the tomb and gateway. The stone figurines comprise inscriptions from the holy Q’uran, many geometrical figures and a range of plant and flower forms. Margins have also been inscribed to split the carvings into blocks. Such is the exactness of marble and precious stone inlays that the ridge can barely be distinguished. From the ground, all the letters of the inscriptions from the holy Quran seem entirely consistent but in certainty some letters are bigger than others. The entire memorial is in fact a sum of various parts but all the parts fit absolutely to give the Taj the look of a unified construction with variety.
FatehpurSikri is in fact the capital city of Emperor Akbar situated at 45 odd kilometers from the city of Agra. The city is located amidst desolate edge. Emperor Akbar established this city, to serve up jointly with Agra, as the imperial capital of Mogul realm. There are many stories connected with the formation of this city. The most prominent one is that Emperor Akbar not had an heir for his kingdom and somebody advised him to ask for a consultation with the eminent Sufi saint, Khwaza Salim Chisti who lived at Sikri village. He walked the distance along with the royal followers. It is believed that it is with Salim Chisti’s blessings Emperor Akbar got a son who was named Salim in respect to the saint. Prince Salim when sat on the throne changed his name as Jahangir Jahandar. Akbar ordered to construct the city of Sikri to memorialize the arrival of the prince.
The most fascinating monument in the city is the potent BulandDarwaza that safeguards the entrance of the Gate. As you come into the gate, Jama Masjid falls to your left. The magnificently carved tomb of Khwaza Salim Chisti is located in the middle of the big square quad. As you take the right gate, Sikri fort falls on your left and so are Panch Mahal and Jodha Bai Palace. Architecture of all these buildings has a subtle blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural designs. FatehpurSikri has all these and much more.
A striking set of monuments that are what the real Agra Fort or the Agra Red Fort which makes it a World Heritage Site. This imposing fort is located in the city of Agra. Agra Fort is popularly known as Red Fort of Agra or Fort Rouge owing to the abundant use of red sandstone. This fort comprises several sites and constructions, which exhibits imperial Mughal architectural legacy and grandeur. After the triumph over Ibrahim Lodi at Paniput in 1526, Agra became the most important place in the Mughal Empire. Emperor Akbar had chosen Agra located on the banks of the beautiful river Yamuna as his capital city and proceeded to build a strong citadel for the purpose. It is said that he smashed the broken old fort of Agra with the intention and constructed this imposing group of monuments instead in red sandstone. Started in 1565, it cost eight years and thirty-five lakh rupees to finish its construction and is often placed on the second position after Taj in Agra. Qasim Khan Mir Barr-u-Bahr is the man behind is magnificent structure.
The fort, semi-circular on plan, is enclosed by a 21.4 m high strengthening wall. Double fortifications have been provided here with broad colossal circular bastions at usual intervals. One can find four gates on its four sides. One of these gates was called “khizri-gate” (the water gate) which opens to the river front, where ghats (quays) were provided .The fort has endured all the way through the onslaught of time, nature and men. The fort extends over an area of about 94 acres of land. Right now, there survive more than two dozens of monuments in the Fort. According to the records of AbulFazl, a court historian of Akbar, 5000 buildings were built here skillfully in Bengali and Gujarati style. Most of these edifices have now destroyed. Shah Jahan himself demolished some of these to facilitate space for his white marble palaces.
Later, the British demolished most of the structures for raising barracks. Barely 30 Mughal buildings have survived on the southeastern side. Of these, the Delhi-Gate, Akbari-Gate and ‘Bengali-Mahal’, represents the buildings constructed during the reign of Akbar. Shah Jahan, a great builder, constructed white marble palaces here. One can also find three white marble mosques Moti-Masjid, Nagina-Masjid and Mina-Masjid built by Shah Jahan inside the Fort.
Located at a distance of just around 1 Km from ItimadudDaulah’s Tomb, ChinikaRauza is the tomb of Allama Afzal Khan Mullah of Shiraz, a scholar and poet who was the Prime Minister of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. A notable feature amongst the many attractions that Agra offers, ChinikaRauza is the only example of Persian architecture in the city. The structural design of the ChinikaRauza is like the rest of the architectural masterpieces constructed by the Mughals a work of excellence. Built during the reign of Shah Jahan, at a time when the architectural prowess of the Mughals was at its peak, ChinikaRauza is a must see for tourists to Agra. The most distinctive feature of the tomb is the colorful tiles or chini, from which the mausoleum gets its name. Rectangular in shape, the tomb is constructed mainly of brown stone, which today is sadly falling prey to negligence and crumbling away. The walls of the tomb are adorned with inscriptions and colored tiles that give a distinctive look to the structure.
However, perhaps the most significant feature of the tomb is the Afghan-style rounded dome that is adorned with inscriptions from Islamic texts. The central chamber which actually houses the tomb is an octagonal chamber that consists of eight arched corners. This chamber is connected to the side halls and outer porches through four square chambers. The central arch, which is one of the most prominent architectural features of the tomb, is adorned with inscriptions marked with blue colored tiles
The Agra Mangleshwar Temple is a very noted tourist attractions. Like other holy places, this temple also enjoys religious and architectural significance. Every year a surge of thousands of devotees can be noticed. It is located towards west of the Agra city center in GokalPura region. Its popularity is huge in the suburbs of the city and native people. The best time to visit this temple is festive season. The Mangleshwar Temple in Agra is reckoned among the most celebrated religious sites of Agra. It is situated towards the western part of the Agra city center in the GokalPura area. This temple is very lavishly bedecked during festivities and exemplifies the religious diversity in Agra. Truly speaking, a visit during Hindu festivities will bring in spotlight the Hindu style of worship. The entire ambience of the temple acquires a gorgeous, animated and colorful look.
Akbar’s Tomb at Sikandra
One of the most vital bases of Mughal power, Agra displays some of the supreme examples of Mughal architecture. One of these is Akbar’s Tomb at Sikandra, where one of the supreme emperors in the world lies buried. Maybe the utmost monarch India has ever seen and undeniably the most powerful and able ruler of the Mughal dynasty, Akbar administered the erection of the tomb himself during his lifetime. The rest of the tomb was accomplished by his son Jahangir after Akbar’s death.
The architectural style of the tomb displays the perfect blend of Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Buddist and Jainstyles. The vital aspect of the construction is that it shows the increasing style of Mughal architecture. The tomb comprises of three-storey minarets on four corners which is perhaps the most characteristic feature of Islamic architecture. Another important feature of early Mughal architecture is also evident in its construction which is the combination of red sandstone and marble, a feature that was to be replaced completely by marble in the later period. A five storey building the tomb also houses the remains of Akbar’s daughters, ShakrulNisha Begum and Aram Bano.
Varanasi- The Eternal City
Varanasi is considered to be an eternal city which is situated on the Trident of Lord Shiva. The origin of this city is unknown. The city got her name from the two tributaries of Ganges that flows through the city named Varuna and Assi rivers. Varanasi is considered as the cultural capital of India. This holy pilgrimage center of India is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Also popular by the names of Benaras and Kashi, Varanasi is of tremendous religious importance to the Hindus. It is believed that one who graces death in this holy land of Varanasi would attain the ultimate salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. The land which is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, land of ‘Ganga Mayya’ which is believed to have the powers to wash away the sins of the mortals- Varansi is really majestic.
The city has been the seat of education since time immemorial. Various scholarly books have been written on the tranquil milieu of this place. A temple named TulsiManasMandir marks the place where Tulsi Das composed Ram CharitManas. Even at present, the city brags off as many as 6 different universities within its fold, an achievement almost incomparable in India. Banaras Hindu University, usually called BHU, is the biggest residential University in Asia. The city is also renowned for its various temples. Kashi VishwanathMandiris measured as the most important Jyotirlinga in India. This temple has been erected and demolished to ground numerous times in the course of History. Equally important are SankatMochan and Durga temple. While the former is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, a Bengali Maharani built the later in the 18th century in order to appease goddess Durga.
One of major attractions in Varanasi is the Ghats. There are over 80 different ghats in Varanasi but the most prominent among them are Dasaswamedh, Assi and Manikarnikaghats. The last one is distinguished all over the world for cremation. The city is also celebrated for its silk embroidery work and has a specialty in Sarees. The city is also well-known for its musical instruments such as Sitar, Tabla and Shehnai. And yes, last but not the least any discussion on Banaras can be sealed without mentioning the mouth-watering Paan.
Air:Nearest airport is at Babatpurairport which is 22 km. from Varanasi. Varanasi is well connected by air to several cities in India. Daily domestic flights fly between Varanasi and several other cities in India. Besides the state-owned Indian Airlines, there are many private operators that operate regular air services from Varanasi to various cities in the rest of India.Rail:Varanasi is an important and major rail junction. The city is served by trains from all metros and major cities across the country. New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Gwalior, Meerut, Indore, Guwahati, Allahbad, Lucknow, Dehradun etc have direct rail connections with Varanasi.Road:Situated in the flat Ganga plains, Varanasi has a good network of roads. Frequent public and private buses and road transport to all the major towns of Uttar Pradesh and nearby areas.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
The major attraction of Varanasi is the long stretch of Ghats which outline the west bank of the River Ganga. The steps that lead down to the river are called the Ghats. The divine elegance of this city lies in the exceptional amalgamation of physical, metaphysical and supernatural elements. Ghats of Varanasi are innate supplement to the notion of divinity. It is a city which unshackles soul from human body to ultimate. According to the renowned Sanskrit Sloka “Kasyammaranammukti” which means death in Kashi is Liberation of souls. Death in Kashi or Varansi is a blessing for a devout. The Ghats in Varanasi symbolizes the five diverse elements or PanchaTattva that composes the human body. Thus the Ghats in Varanasi are considered as the doorsteps of heaven. Representing the divine cosmic roads, the Ghats in Varanasi India have been constructed in transcendental dimension measuring 12th Zodiacs x 7chakras of body thus 98. Some of the important Ghats of Varanasi include Assi, Dasaswamedh, Manikarnika, Tulsi and Panch Ganga among others.
ManikarnikaGhat is one of the prominent Ghats in Varanasi which is renowned for cremation. ManikarnikaGhat is one of the oldest and most sacred Ghats in Benaras. According to the Hindu mythology it is believed that being burned here offers an instant access to liberation from the cycle of births and rebirths. Located at the center of the five tirthas, ManikarnikaGhat symbolically represents both creation and destruction. At ManikarnikaGhat, the mortal remains are consigned to flames with the prayers that the souls rest in eternal serenity. One can also find a sacred well at the ManikarnikaGhat, called the ManikarnikaKund. ManikarnikaKund is believed to be dug by Lord Vishnu at the time of creation while the hot ashes of the burnt bodies’ makes one memorize the certain devastation of everything in the world.
Dasaswamedh is another important Ghat in 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 rituals on this Ghat. Devotees must not miss the opportunity of visiting the DasaswamedhGhat 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.
Harish Chandra Ghat
Harish Chandra Ghat is one of the oldest Ghats of Varanasi. Harish Chandra Ghat is name after a mythological King Harish Chandra, who once worked at the cremation ground here for the perseverance of truth and charity. It is believed that the Gods rewarded him for his resolve, charity and truthfulness and restored his lost throne and his dead son to him. Harish Chandra Ghat is one of the two cremation Ghats (the other being ManikarnikaGhat) and is some timesreferred as AdiManikarnika (the original creation ground). Hindus from distant places bring the dead bodies of their near and dear ones to the Harish Chandra Ghat for cremation. In Hindu mythology it is believed that if a person is cremated at the Harish Chandra Ghat, that person gets salvation or “moksha”. The Harish Chandra Ghat was somewhat modernized in late 1980’s, when an electric crematorium was opened here.
TulsiGhat is another important Ghat of Varanasi. TulsiGhatis named after the great Hindu poet of the 16th century, Tulsidas. TulsiGhat is an important window into the Hindu mythology. Tulsi Das composed the great Indian epic, Ramcharitmanas at Varanasi. According to mythology, when Tulsi’s manuscript fell into the River Ganga it did not sink and kept floating instead. It is also believed that the Ramlila (story of Lord Rama’s life) was staged here for the first time. Perhaps, to commemorate this a temple of Lord Ram was built on the TulsiGhat. Many of the relics of Tulsi Das are preserved at the TulsiGhat. The house in which Tulsidas died has been preserved and his samadhi, wooden clogs, pillow and the idol of Hanuman, which Tulsi worshipped, are all still intact here.
Earlier, TulsiGhatwas known as LolarkGhat (mentioned in GaharwaDanpatra and Girvanapadamanjari). It was in the year 1941 when TulsiGhatwas madepucca (cemented) by the famous industrialist, Baldeo Das Birla. TulsiGhat is associated with a number of important activities such as bath of Lolarkkunda (to be blessed with sons and their long life) and the sacred bath to get rid of leprosy. TulsiGhat is also a center of cultural activities. During Hindu lunar month of Kartika (Oct/Nov), Krishna Lila is staged here with great fanfare and devotion.
Situated at the confluence of Ganga and Asi rivers, AssiGhat is the southernmost Ghat in Varanasi, where pilgrims bathe before paying their homage to Lord Shiva in the form of huge lingam situated under a peepal tree. AssiGhat also constitutes the southern end of conventional city. Another lingam worshipped here is the Asisangameshwar lingam representing the lord of confluence of the Asi, enshrined in a small marble temple near the AssiGhat. It was at the AssiGhat where the famous Indian poet saint, Tulsi Das had written the much-celebrated Ramcharitmanas.
There are numerous references of AssiGhat in early literature of the Hindus. We find the mention of AssiGhat in matsyapurana, Agni purana, kurmapurana, padmapurana and kashikhanda. According legends, Goddess Durga had thrown her sword after slaying the demon, Shumbha- Nishumbha. The place, where the sword had fallen resulted in a big stream, known as Assi River. AssiGhat is located at the confluence of River Ganga and Assi River. In Kashi Khand, AssiGhat is referred as Assi “SaimbedaTirtha” and according to it one gets punya of all the Tirthas (religious places) by taking a dip here. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims take holy dip here in the months of Chaitya (March/ April) and Magh (Jan/Feb) and other important occasions like solar/ lunar eclipse, Ganga Dussehra, Probodhoni Ekadashi, Makar Shankranti etc.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The Vishwanath temple is synonymous to Varanasi. Vishwanath Temple is the most sacred and the most famous temple in Varanasi. In fact, Vishwanath Temple is extremely popular in other parts of India too. A considerable chunk of foreign visitors in India come to Varanasi every year to get a glimpse of the Vishwanath Temple even though the followers of Semitic religions are not allowed to enter the sanctum of the temple.
The history of Vishwanath Temple that is also called Golden Temple at times is full of ups and downs. The temple and city has always been on the receiving end of the invaders be it Afghans, Turks, Rohila or Marathas. The temple has been built and razed to the ground several times in the history. It was first destroyed by BakhtiyarKhilji in the 13th century and was later rebuild.
Emperor Akbar donated several acres of villages to the trust that was later cut down substantially by Aurangzeb. Rani AhilyabaiHolkar of Indore built the present temple that stands in Varanasi, in the year 1776. Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore donated the 800-kilogram Gold-plating of the towers that gives the temple its colloquial name.
Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the destroyer of worlds and the presiding deity of the city. It is said and believed that Varanasi is the spot at which the first ‘Jyotirlinga’ broke through the earth’s crust and flared towards the heaven. Lord Shiva did this in order to take the final call in the war of supremacy among the Hindu Gods. Next to the temple is the Well of Knowledge where, as legend goes, the original Shiva lingam lies hidden. More than the Ghats and even the Ganges, the Shiva lingam installed in the temple remains the devotional focus of Varanasi.
Saranath is located at a distance of 10 km from Varanasi. After enlightenment Lord Buddha preached his first sermon “Maha- Dharma-Chakra Pravartan” (in Buddhist terminology, ‘turned the wheel of the law’) at Saranath. Saranath displays one of the richest in Buddhist antiquities dating from the times of Ashoka down to the 12th century A.D. Ashoka built here the Dharmarajika Stupa and near it erected a pillar surmounted by the magnificent capital of four adored Lions, which today forms the national emblem of India.
Among other compositions at Saranath are the ruins of the brick temple representing the Mula- gandhakuti. One can also find ruins of stupas and monasteries etc here. Amongst the more imposing ones is the Dhamekh Stupa, adorned with delicate floral carvings in the lower part, the Chaukhandi Stupa and Mahabodhi Society’s MulgandhaKutiVihar Temple. Saranath has also yielded an extremely rich collection of Buddhist sculptures comprising of numerous Buddha and Bodhisatvaimages which can be seen at Archaeological Museum, Saranath.
Located at a distance of 185 km from Varanasi this ancient city is ascribed to the Pandav brother of Mahabharat. The ruins of an old gigantic fort are the evidence to the city’s antiquity. Lord Buddha paid visit to Kaushambi in the 6th and 9th year after his enlightenment, giving several sermons and discourses and uplifting it to a great centre of Buddhism.
Lucknow- Pride of Awad
Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh is one of the finest cities of India. This city still retains the heritage of Indo-Persian culture that thrived in this part of the world centuries back. This is the city where Urdu literature accomplished its ultimate refinement and grace of Kathakdance flourished. Be it the melody of Hindustani classical music or the recital of Urdu poetry or the foot tapping of Kathak dancer, the atmosphere of Lucknow is always packed with the touch of class and art. The city was a favorite of the nawabs and many splendid buildings and monuments have been built by them. Situated on the banks of River Gomti, the city of Nawabs is renowned all over the world for its etiquettes or the graceful and polite behavior. Famous for its lovely monuments, architecture, dance and handicrafts, this city is today one of the growing metropolitan cities of India. Recognized for its Urdu poetry or Shayari, the city proposes its travelers an ideal merge of its glorious past and the modern present.
The history of the city is as vibrant as itself. It is believed that the city has been named after Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Rama. The city was earlier called Lakshman Pore that later turned in to Lucknow. The city rose to the eminence during the reigns of Nawabs. The most illustrious and equally mocked upon Nawab of Lucknow is indisputably NawabWajid Ali Shah. The city remained the capital of Awadh or Oudh province of the British and later on became the capital Central Province and in turn Uttar Pradesh.
Air:The nearest airport is the Amausiaiport located at a distance of 14 km from the city. Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Air Sahara flights connect Lucknow with many cities all over the country.Rail:Those who can not afford an expensive trip to Lucknow can take the rail route. Reaching Lucknow by train is also a viable alternative. Charbagh and Lucknow are the two major railway junctions. Lucknow boasts of a good network of railways that links the major Indian cities to Lucknow.Road:Lucknow is well connected by a network of roads and road transport to all major towns of Uttar Pradesh and surrounding areas.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
Built in 1784 by the fourth Nawab of Lucknow, Asaf-ud-Daula, the Bara Imambara is one of most attracted monument of Lucknow. An Imambara is where Muslims initiate celebrations for the festival of Muharram. The Bara Imambara or AsfiImambara, is an enormous structure. The main hall of the Imambara is 50m long and 15m high, without any pillars to support its ceiling. A balcony runs alongside of the hall which is built in such a way that even the faintest whisper anywhere in it can be heard across the hall. A labyrinth called BhoolBhullaiyya adjoins the main hall on the first floor. Towards the left of the main structure is a baoli (step-well) linked by tunnels to the river, Gomti. It is believed that a great treasure lies undiscovered in these tunnels. Within the Bara Imambara compound are mausoleums of Asaf-ud-Daula and his family.
The smaller Imambara, as the name literally translates to, was built in 1837, and is said to be the brainchild of Mohammed Ali Shah. The compound contains many tombs, said to be those of Mohammad Ali Shah and his family members. The main construction of this Imambara is topped by a golden dome, which when illuminated during celebrations, presents an incredible view. This is also known by the name of HusainabadImambara.
The Residency is a cluster of British structures that used to serve as the headquarters of the British Resident in the state of Oudh, or Awadh as the region around Lucknow was known back in early 19th century. The complex was attacked by the mutineers during the 1857 revolt, and taken over by the Indian soldiers. The Residency is located at the heart of the city, in the Hazratgunj area.
This stunning construction is also said to be part of the famine relief plans (Food for Work plan) for which the bara imambara was commissioned. Built in 1783, this colossal gate soars top 60 feet, and is one of the renowned landmarks of the city. The gateway is situated to the Northwest of the Bara Imambara.
This garden was laid in 1800 by NawabSaadat Ali Khan and was later used by the last Nawab of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah. This baghis named after his favorite queen, Sikandara Mahal Begum. The garden which houses a small pavilion in the middle, used to serve as the venue for cultural events and dance performances. During the 1857 revolt, the mutineers took refuge here, and about 2000 of them were allegedly slaughtered by the British. Some other tourist spots make up the overall tourism in Lucknow and should be visited as part of the Lucknow tours.
Allahabad- The Holy Land of Prayag
Located on the banks of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, Allahabad is one of the most renowned pilgrim sites in Uttar Pradesh. It is believed that the ancient Saraswati River once flowed underground, and united the Yamuna and the Ganga in Prayag, the ancient name for Allahabad. The union of these holy rivers is known as Sangam, which is measured as very sacred place for Hindus. They determinedly believe that after they die and are cremated, they would attain moksha (the complete salvation), or liberty from the cycle of birth-death-rebirth, if their ashes are immersed in the holy water at Sangam. Considering Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma had chosen this holy spot to proffer his first forfeit after the creation of the world. According to the Archaeological excavations this ancient town is dated all the way back to 1100 BC.
The greatest of the tourist attractions in Allahabad is the KumbhMela. The four venues of this grand event are Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar. The Sangam in Allahabad sees the KumbhMela in every 12 years. The ancient origin of the city has brought it a rich heritage that has enriched the culture of the city immensely. The divinity and sacred culture of the city has given the country a number of national leaders and thinkers to lead the common people of the country.
Air:Allahabad has a domestic airport which offers connection to some of the selected cities of the countries. The nearest airports are at Varanasi (140 km) and Lucknow (210 km) which offers regular flight service to almost all the major cities of India including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad and Bangalore.Rail:Allahabad is one of the major railway hubs in India with four railway stations – Prayag station, City station, Daraganj station and Allahabad junction.Road:Allahabad is on the national highways 2 and 27. Regular bus services connect Allahabad with rest of the country. Both Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation as well as Private players operates these buses.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
KumbhMela is the biggest religious congregation in the world performed by the Hindus and is the supreme Indian pilgrimage. It is the biggest bathing event in the world which is celebrated four times in every twelve years, once at each of the four holy destinations – Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Each twelve-year cycle includes the MahaKumbhMela at Prayag and others ArdhKumbhMela, attended by millions of people. The fair is also prominent for the active participation of the sadhus, Rishis and mahants coming out from remote hideaways of forests, mountains and caves.
The word ‘Kumbh’ literally means ‘Pot’ and Mela stands for ‘Fair’. According to the legend, once Gods and Demons approved to work jointly in order to acquire Amrita (the nectar of immortality) by the churning of the milk ocean and share it equally. After much toil when Amrita Kumbha appeared, the Demons ran away with it, Gods following them later. It is said that for twelve days and nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the God and Demons fought in the sky and that during the battle, drops of Amrita fell on the ground at four places- Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik, where KumbhMela is celebrated after a gap of three years.
MahaKumbhMelais celebrated once in 12 years at Prayag near Allahabad and is incredibly participated by the devotees and tourists to mark the auspicious instance. Government has taken up a number of procedures to make the gathering hospitable and enjoyable .
The TriveniSangam is the site of meeting of river Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati. The site is very sacred for Hindus as these three rivers are considered as the most sacred rivers according to Hindu mythology. It is the site for MahaKumbhMela also. Of these three, river Saraswati is invisible and is said to be flowing underneath the earth. It meets the other two rivers from the base. The point of union is a sacred place for the Hindus, as it is of high religious importance to the Hindus. A bath here is said to wash all the sins and helps to attain the ultimate salvation. The site of Sangam is a delight to the eyes. One can find the muddy and pale yellow water of Ganges assimilating with green water of Yamuna. The Ganges is only 4 ft deep, while Yamuna is 40 ft deep near the point of nexus. The river Yamuna ends here and Ganges continues after this till it joins the sea at Bay of Bengal.
Akshaya Vat is another place of interest. One can see an immortal tree as per the Hindu mythology here. It is a banyan tree located in the Patalpuri Temple – the underground temple located inside the Fort of Allahabad. In earlier times, the devotees used to threw themselves upon the tree in order to attain salvation. One has to obtain prior permission to visit the tree from the Commandant of the Ordinance Depot of Allahabad Fort.
The Alepidevi temple is among the eminent and renowned SidhPeethas of the deity- Lalita Devi also known as the Red Goddess. It is located in AlopeBagh and is prominent for its distinctive jhoola, a small sized wooden swing. The swing is positioned above a platform which is square in shape and on top of the swing is a small ‘kund’ which is measured as the deity and worshipped as such. The Ashram belonging to Shankracharya of Jyothishpeeth is just in front of this temple.
Alfred Park is the biggest park in Allahabad which holds much historical significance. At the time of the British, many official meetings were used to take place here, which were usually followed by musical performances. During the freedom struggle, it was at Alfred Park Chandra Shekhar Azad got trapped in when the police closed all the routes of escape. And finding only one bullet left in his revolver he decided to shot himself rather than falling in the hands of the British.
Another historical landmark is the Minto Park, also known as Madan Mohan Malviya Park. It lies on the banks of Yamuna River to the western side of the Fort of Allahabad. The sculpture of four lions right on top of a white memorial stone is a must to see thing. The historical declaration of the Queen’s rule in India was officially made by Lord Canning via “Queen Victoria’s Proclamation” was taken place at this park in 1858 thus ending the rule of the East India Company in India. The park’s foundation was laid by Lord Minto in 1910.
Another renowned attraction of Allahabad is the famous historical landmark of 10.6 meter tall sandstone pillar- the Ashoka Pillar which is located within the Allahabad Fort. It was built by Emperor Akbar in 232 BC and has many edicts inscribed on it. This pillar was later on grounded under the orders of Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire. Besides the edicts one can also find several other inscriptions of many other kings of those times. Some of them depict the glorious victories of King Samudragupta, a great Mauryan king while another Persian one is that of the Jahangir, the Mughal Emperor. Prior permission has to be obtained from the Commandant of the Ordinance Depot situated at the Fort before paying a visit to this place.
As the name suggests, KhusroBagh is a walled garden created by the Mughal king, Jahangir, in memory of his beloved son Khusro. The tomb of Khusro, who was first imprisoned within the garden, after he rebelled against Jahangir, in 1606, and later killed in 1622 at the order of his brother Shah Jahan, is a sandstone mausoleum. Prince Khusro’s mother, Shah Begum, was also buried next to him. Folklore has it that she poisoned herself because of the despair over her son’s opposition to Jahangir. It also houses the tomb of Princess Sultan NitharBegam, Khusro’s sister. The three sandstone mausoleums within this walled garden, present an exquisite example of Mughal architecture. The design of its main entrance, the surrounding gardens and the three-tier tomb of Sultan Begum, who died in 1604, has been attributed to Aqa Reza, Jahangir’s principal court artist.