Top Tourist Destinations in India

Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

Blessed with some of the most spectacular and beautiful landscapes anywhere, it is a travellers paradise -lofty snow peaks, deep gorges, lush green valleys, fast flowing rivers, enchanting mountain lakes, flower bedecked meadows, beautiful temples and monasteries steeped in time. May it be for relaxing, sightseeing, trekking, mountaineering, fishing, para-gliding, skiing, ice skating and golf, Himachal has it all...Come Explore Himachal with himachaltourist...

A quaint little hill train chugs up into the Shivalik foothills, over dramatic loops and high arched bridges to the hill resort of Shimla (2130 m) - the capital of the mountain state of Himachal.

Shimla was one a string of hill stations that the British established to escape from the scorching heat of the plains. The 12 km, crescentshaped ridge on which it is located was first occupied by the British troops, in the early part of the 19th century, during the Anglo-Gurkha War.

The little village of Shymala, a retreat for British officers, soon grew to become the glamorous summer capital of the British, in India.

Shimla's salubrious climate, easy accessibility and numerous attractions have made it one of the most popular hill stations in northern India. The splendid views of the show-clad ranges of the Himalayas, fine walks through oak and flowering rhododendron, enchanting resorts within easy reach, golf Naldehra and skiing at Kufri and Narkanda make Shimala an attractive destination throughout the year.

Munnar, Kerala

Munnar is the best known of Kerala's hill stations. You can see the scenic attractions of Munnar on Kerala tours with Kerala Backwater. The British Government of South India used this incredibly beautiful hill station in Kerala, as their summer resort, during colonial times. The tea plantations in Munnar are a result of the British government discovering that is was possible to grow tea in the pleasant climate of Munnar. Munnar is situated at an altitude ranging from 1500 to 2695 m and has some of the highest tea estates in India.

There are many colonial bungalows and buildings in Munnar. Munnar is also near several wildlife sanctuaries including the Erivakulam National Park, which is home to the rare Nilgiri Tahr. This mountain goat is extremely endangered and is only found on the heights of the Nilgiri Hills and some nearby parts of the Western Ghats. Anaimudi Hill, the tallest peak in South India can be seen in the Erivakulam Wildlife Sanctuary on tours of Kerala with Kerala Backwater.

There are many waterfalls, lakes and streams among the green hill slopes and valleys of the Western Ghats in Munnar, Kerala, India. Three mountain rivers the Kundala, Nallathanni and Mudrapuzha come together at Munnar. The green hills of Munnar are covered by extensive tea plantations and spice plantations. You can enjoy nature walks, treks and bird watching tours along the winding roads of Munnar and within the green environs of the plantations in Munnar.There are many varieties of plants grown in the forests and plantations of Munnar, which have medicinal properties. These plants are collected by practitioners of Ayurveda, the traditional system of Medicine in Kerala and their extracts are added to the oils used in Ayurvedic massage therapy.

Goa

The evergreen destination of Goa is a holidaymaker's paradise. Breathtakingly beautiful blue beaches, sensuous silvery sands, fabulous flora and fauna, rich cultural heritage, captivating churches, and terrific temples, Goa has it all. The feasts and festivals of Goa are the other things not to be missed. The Indian state of Goa beckons you for the time of your life. Experience a wonderful journey while enjoying a pleasant stay at Goa Hotels, Goa Beaches and Goa Resort So, get going to Goa that is on a holiday - twelve months in a year!

Gorgeous Goa travels is one of the most idyllic holiday destinations in India. A diverse tourist locale, Gorgeous Goa is celebrated the world over for its laidback culture, sun kissed beaches, gothic churches and rocking nightlife. What’s more, Gorgeous Goa’s exotic seafood will have you licking your fingers and asking for more. So come and sip a beer, enjoy bird watching, relax with a massage or indulge in water sports. At Gorgeous Goa travles, everyday is a Holidays in Goa.

Goa Carnival - Carnival in Goa is now what it was meant to be: a people feast and not a spectacle to lure tourists and consumers. The Carnival in Goa is essentially a spring festival celebrated with joy and revelry on the beautiful beaches of Goa. The erstwhile Portuguese settlement of Goa sings, dances and makes merry through the days and nights of the Carnival. The most famous celebration of Goa appeals to a wide range of tourists from around the world. Get going to the Goa Carnival and make merry.

Periyar, Kerala

Periyar tiger Reserve, Thekkady, is an example of nature’s bounty, with great scenic charm, rich bio diversity and providing veritable visitor satisfaction. Sprawled over an area of 777 Sq .km., Periyar is one of the 27 tiger reserves in India.

Zealously guarded and efficiently managed reserve is a repository of rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna and forms the major watershed of two important rivers of Kerala, the Periyar and Pamba

People oriented and park centered community based ecotourism is the hallmark of Periyar Tiger Reserve. These programmes are conducted by local people responsible for the surveillance of the vulnerable parts of the reserve. By taking tourists along, they are involved in the conservation of the forests of Periyar and some valuable revenue is generated for community welfare. People who once made a living by illegal operations in the forests have since become forest protectors and earn their livelihood through these programmes. Hence, as a visitor, when you join them in any of these programmes, you are directly contributing towards forest conservation and community welfare.

You are supporting a noble cause of forest conservation and community welfare by participating in these ecotourism programmes. The interest and participation shown by you is higly appreciated. Let’s make Periyar a heitage for all time to come.

Dehradun, Uttarakhand

Nestled in the mountain ranges of the Himalaya, Dehradun is one of the oldest cities of India and is recently declared as the Provisional Capital of newly created Uttaranchal (Now Uttarakhand) State in the month of Nov’2000. Also known as the ‘Adobe of Drona’, Dehradun has always been an important center for Garhwal rulers which was captured by the British. The headquarters of many National Institutes and Organizations like ONGC, Survey Of India, Forest Research Institute, Indian Institute of Petroleum etc are located in the city. Some of the premier educational and Training Institutes like Indian Miltary Academy, RIMC(Rashtriya Indian Military College), Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy(IGNFA), Lal Bahadur Shahstri National Academy of Administration(LBSNAA)etc are also there in Dehradun. It is a favoured tourist destination as it attracts tourists, pilgrims and enthusiasts from various walks of life to its serene environs. Add to this the abundance of special Basmati rice, tea and leechi gardens which contribute in turning the city into a paradise.

The district is named after its chief city Dehra Dun. Dehra appears to be a corruption of dera signifying a temporary abode or camp. During the reign of Aurangzeb, Ram Rai, Guru of the Udasi Sikhs on being ordered by the Mughal king to retire to the wilderness of the Dun, had pitched his tents here in what is now the Khurbura locality of the town and has also built a temple near Dhanawala. Around these two sites, grew up the town popularly known as Dehra. The term dun or doon means the low lands at the foot of a mountain range, and as the bulk of the district lies in such a terrain, it justified the dun part of the name.

Another derivation of the term dun is stated to be from Dronashram, hermitage of Guru Dronacharya of Mahabharata fame, who sojourned for a season in the village of Devara, situated near to Dehra to perform his devotions at a lonely spot.

Pelling, Sikkim

The pleasant little town of Pelling is famous for magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains of Kanchenjunga. Pelling is about 133 km away from Siliguri and 125km from Gangtok and well connected by bus and jeep services.

Placid Pelling pulls most of the visitors for its representative status in history, nature and culture of the state.

Situated at an altitude of 6,800 ft, it offers good view of entire mountain ranges including the Koktang, Kumbhakarna, Rathong, Kabru, Dom, Kanchenjunga, Pandim, Zopuno, Shimbho, Narsing, Siniyalchu and others. Pelling is as close as you can get to Kanchenjunga without leaving the material comfort of good hotels and due to its advantageous location, many hotels and lodges have come up in and around Pelling offering various categories of accommodation.

Pemayangtse Monastery: Pemayangtse literally means 'Perfect Sublime Lotus'. This is one of the oldest and most important monasteries of Sikkim. Founded in 1705, this monastery belongs to the Nyingma-pa sect. The three-storied building of the monastery houses a good collection of wall paintings and sculptures. On the third floor of the monastery, there is a seven-tiered painted wooden model of the abode of Guru Rimpoche, complete with rainbows, angels and the whole panoply of Buddha and bodhisattva. In January/ February every year, a religious dance called 'Cham' is performed in Pemayangtse.

Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

Kodaikanal referred to as 'The Princess of Hill Stations', is situated amidst the folds of the verdant Palani hills in the Western Ghats at an altitude of about 2133 m. The beautiful hill station covering an area of 21.45 sq.km. is located 120 Km away from Madurai, in Dindigul district, Tamil Nadu.

Kodai hills was occupied by the primitive tribes of Paliyans and Pulyans in the 14th century and later by the villagers of Palani foothills who fled from the plains to escape the oppressive rule. The Europeans started exploring the place after Lt. B.S. Ward, who visited Kodai hills in 1821, submitted a report about the beauty and the climate of the place. Developed in the 18th century, the hill station was gradually established by American Madura Mission and British Missionaries who built dwellings, churches, schools and introduced and planted new trees to make Kodai what it is today. Several dignitaries who visited the place also contributed to the all around improvement of the place. Now Kodai is surrounded by thickly wooded slopes, waterfalls and a beautiful man made lake in the centre around which the town is located. The hill town is renowned for its educational institutions of international repute. The Kodaikkanal Observatory, surmounting the hill is one of the most important and the only one of its kind institutions in India for the study of meteorology, solar physics and allied subjects.

Kodaikanal has a bracing climate where temperature do not vary much from summer to winter. Fruits like plums and plantains grow abundantly on the wooded slopes apart from a wide variety of flowers, among which is the famous Kurinji flower which blooms once in twelve years. Kodaikanal is a relaxing place with ample beauty for those who want to get away from the heat and haze of the dusty plains during the summer months and for those seeking adventure with its numerous treks ranging from 8km to 27km hikes in forest paths. Contact District Forest office (DFO) (Phone: 91- 04542 -240287) near Hotel Tamil Nadu, for trek details and necessary permissions. Beri- Jam (23 km), a beautiful reservoir amid dense forests is a lovely trek.

Ranthambore, Rajasthan

Ranthambore National Park is one of the biggest and most renowned national park in Northern India. The park is located in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, which is about 130 km from Jaipur. Being considered as one of the famous and former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, today the Ranthambore National Park terrain is major wildlife tourist attraction spot that has pulled the attention of many wildlife photographers and lovers in this destination.

Ranthambore National park is spread over an area of 1,334 sq km along with its nearby sanctuaries like - the Mansingh Sanctuary and the Kaila Devi Sanctuary.The park is majorly famous for its tigers and is one of the best locations in India to see the majestic predators in its natural habitat. The tigers can be easily spotted even during the day time busy at their ordinary quest- hunting and taking proper care of their young ones.

Ranthambore National park contains a huge variety of animals, birds and reptiles within it. Primarlily the population consists of...

Animals: Tigers, Leopards, Striped Hyenas, Sambar deer, Chital, Nilgai, Common or Hanuman langurs, Macaques, Jackals, Jungle cats, Caracals, Sloth bears, Black bucks, Rufoustailed Hare, Indian Wild Boar, Chinkara, Common Palm Civets or Toddy cat, Coomon Yellow Bats, Desert Cats, Fivestriped Palm Squirels, Indian False Vampires, Indian Flying Foxes, Indian Foxes, Indian Gerbilles, Indian Mole Rats, Indian Porcupines, Longeared Hedgehogs, Ratels, Small Indian Mongoose, Small Indian Civets and Common mongoose.

Mount Abu

Organized in the only hill station of Rajasthan, this is the coldest place at this time of the year. Folk dances and a general atmosphere of gaiety prevails in this tiny hill resort and the tourist has ample time to relax and enjoy himself.

The history of Mount Abu is as diverse as the city itself. It was once a part of the Chauhan kingdom of Rajasthan and served as a summer resort for the Rajput kings of the region. After that, it was leased by the British government from the then Maharaja of Sirohi for use as the headquarter of the resident to Rajputana (another name for Rajasthan).

During the British rule in India, it was the favorite summer destination of the British, who came here to escape the dusty, dry heat of the plains particularly Rajasthan. It also served as a sanatorium for the troops. The small huts and cottages here tell stories of those times even today.

Mount Abu was the home of many saints and sages in the old days. Legend has it that all the 330 million gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon used to visit this holy mountain. It is also the place where the great saint Vashishth lived and performed a yagna (sacrificial worship on a fire pit) to create four Agnikula (four clans of fire) to protect the earth from demons. The yagna was supposed to have been performed near a natural spring, which emerged from a rock shaped like a cow's head.

Lava & Lolegaon

While you plan a trip to the Queen of the Himalay, Darjeeling, be sure to visit the surrounding area of Darjeeling a well. Excursions around Darjeeling definitely include the well known and famous hill stations like Kurseong and Kalimpong . But, few know the name of the serene and quite little hill stations of Lava and Lolegaon near Darjeeling . This hill station is one of the most picturesque and scenic spots of the foothills of the eastern Himalayas.

Lava and Lolegaon is one of those places where nature has not been a miser in pouring her wealth. The wonders of wilderness increase with height in these regions. Lava is located at a height of 7200 feet above the sea-level, while Lolegaon is situated at an altitude of 5500 feet. So up above the plains, Lava and Lolegaon in Darjeeling district seems closer to nature. Covered with thick mist and floating clouds, Lava and Lolegaon is a place that will have you enthralled and mesmerized. Jeeps are available in Darjeeling that will take to Lava and Lolegaon . The roads that you will take are also enchanting which generally consist of winding mountain roads, deep valleys, towering mountains and trickling mountain streams.

The hill station of Lava and Lolegaon is lined by the tall pine trees. The Lolegaon Forest is a must-see at this place. Tall oaks and pines dominate the forest. Once inside this enchanting wilderness, you will be engulfed by a strange silence that will take you far from the worries that infest your daily city life. The Lava Monastery is also a place that you must visit. A bit colorful building from outside, it has a charming mystic feeling once you are inside the big door. The Lava Bazaar is also a quaint yet vibrant place. It sells some of the local vegetables and different types of noodles that are typical of this place.

A few kilometers uphill from Lava and Lolegaon , you will arrive at a place called Tiffin Dara. You can drive to this place, but trekking up the pine covered wild roads has a much more enchanting effect. This little queer spot in Lava and Lolegaon is the window to a number of major peaks of the Himalayas. You should definitely wait to catch a glimpse of the glorious sunrise behind the beautiful Kanchenjunga ranges. The golden sun piercing through the cold darkness of the silent nights is a thing to see. This delightful sight is a feast to the eyes and will remain in your memory for all the days to come.

Andaman and Nicobar islands

The Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a veritable Garden of Eden and a naturalist's heaven. The clean environment, roads, greenery as well as unpolluted fresh air attract all nature lovers. The tropical rain forests and waters of Bay of Bengal are the home of a vast collection of plant, animal and marine life. Topographically the islands are hilly in places fringed with coconut palm, covered with tropical jungle and interspersed with flat stretches of crescent shaped beaches. Adventure tourism like trekking, Island camping, snorkeling, SCUBA diving etc. and other water sports are the real attractions. A marvelous mix of nature's most precious delights, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a once in a lifetime holiday experience.

An island in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, it offers a breath taking underwater view of coral and marine life. It is an ideal place for snorkeling , sea bathing and basking on the sun kissed beach.

Sandy beaches of these islands are famous for turtle nesting. Important species of turtles include: Leather Back Turtle, Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle and Olive Ridley Turtle. Water Monitor Lizard, Salt Water Crocodiles, Reticulate Python etc. are also seen here.

National Memorial : This three-storeyed prison, constructed by Britishers in 1906, is a pilgrimage destination for freedom fighters. This colossal edifice has mutely witnessed the most treacherous of inhumane atrocities borne by the convicts, who were mostly freedom fighters. Now dedicated to the nation as a National Memorial.

Comprising of 28 Islands, with an area of 1,841 sq.Kms. the Nicobar Islands are separated from Andamans by the Ten Degree Channel.. The Nicobars abound in coconut-palm, casuarina and pandanus. Great and Little Nicobar have the Giant Robber Crab, Monkeys with long tail, Nicobarese Pigeons in plenty. Megapode, a rare bird is found in Great Nicobar. The southernmost tip of India is not Kanyakumari as has till recently been considered, it is INDIRA POINT in Great Nicobar Island. Nicobar group is out of bounds for foreigners at present. Indians may be given permission in exceptional cases on application.

Coorg

Coorg (Kodagu) is a mountaineous district located in the south of india, know for its beautiful scenery and hospitable people. Those travelers who love nature, the unspoiled charm of villages should get off the beaten track and visit Coorg, a wild and rugged region located in the state of Karnataka.

The wooded slopes, quaint villages, colorful scenery and undulating landscape has fascinated tourists until today. Endless mountain ranges, ridge after ridge of grassy and forest clad slopes raising to the sky, give Coorg its unique & irreplaceable character.

Coorg is extremely rugged across most of its land area. There are many summits to conquer and many jungles to trek. But preparation and precaution is always advised before you plan any trekking trip in Coorg. Below mentioned are information & precautions that everyone must take into consideration if they plan to hike across Coorg's mountains and forests.

Madikeri is the headquarters for the district of Coorg and where you will find many interesting tourist attractions. Some of the more notorious attractions are the former Palace, the Raja Seat, the Omkareshwara Temple, the Fort and the Gaddige or Rajas' tombs.

The town can be found 1525 meters above sea level on the plateau of the Western Ghats. A prince from the Haleri dynasty, Muddu Raja founded Madikeri in 1681 under the original name Muddu Rajakeri, which became Madikeri. Madikeri is officially know as Mercara.

Manali

A popular tourist destination at 570km from New Delhi and 280km from Shimla, Manali is the northern-most town of Himachal Pradesh's Kullu Valley. Situated on the national highway that leads to Leh, Manali is also the gateway to the remote and desolate valleys of Lahaul and Spiti. According to Hindu legend, it was named after the sage Manu after he steered a boat of survivors to safety here during a great flood. In present times, the town was first 'discovered' by the hippies of the 70s and 80s. Later, in the 90s, domestic tourism to Manali got a fillip owing to insurgency in Kashmir. It caught the public's imagination and was soon a legitimate boomtown, eventually growing far beyond its original village size. Today, much of the main town centre, which is based around its bus terminal, is a hotchpotch of thoughtless construction, an overcrowded bazaar and copious amounts of litter, much like any other popular destination. However, pack a rucksack, venture out a little into the countryside and you see all of its natural charm in abundance - the beautiful Beas river, ancient temples, hot water springs.

It is an excellent place for a holiday, a favorite resort for trekkers to Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur, Leh and Zanskar regions in Kashmir valley. It is known as the SWITZERLAND OF INDIA.

Manali is Situated at the northen end of the Kullu Valley, Manali has spectacular views of snowcapped peaks and wooded slopes. The Beas rushes along its rocky course amid grassy meadows carpeted with wild flowers and wagtails hop along from stone to stone along the stream's edge. There are marvellous walks too, through dappled orchards and fairy-tale forests of deodar.

The Manali market is crowded with myriads of interesting shops selling Tibetan carpets and crafts and the appetizing aroma of steaming noodles hangs about the little restaurants. Manali, with its Mountaineering Institute, is a popular base for trekking and mountaineering in summer and skiing in winter. Interesting routes into the surrounding valleys, over the high passes, are provided with tourist huts and rest houses for trekking enthusiasts.

Jodhpur & Jaisalmer

In the middle of the desert, Jaisalmer in western Rajasthan is not an oasis in the true sense of the term, but provides succour to all by its beauty and charm. Jaisalmer remains a mystery for all those who haven't visited the desert town as to how a place in the midst of the desert could attract tourists in such great numbers. Called the golden city, the romantic sand dunes of the desert are enthralling. The sands of Jaisalmer come alive when the rays of the setting sun caress the sand and draw a heavenly picture. Equally beautiful are the wood- and stone-carved mansions and buildings that the Rajput rulers built and gave an altogether new character to this place in the midst of desert. Jaisalmer has also become a popular destination for desert safaris in present times.

Jaisalmer was founded way back in the year 1156 by Bhatti Rajput Rawal Jaisal. During the medieval period, Jaisalmer had emerged as a major trade route centre between India and the western countries. To the west of Jaisalmer is Pakistan and to its south is Bikaner, another beautiful Rajput heritage city. The isolated location of Jaisalmer also bestows to the city a very serene ambience. Jaisalmer is thinly populated compared to other cities of Rajasthan.

Jaisalmer Fort : The fort of Jaisalmer is the second oldest fort of Rajasthan. The fort is located on Trikuta Hills and has a 250 feet high pedestal. There are five beautiful palaces inside the fort- Sarvottam Vilas, Akhai Vilas, Gaj Mahal, Rang Mahal and Moti Mahal. Very strong but beautiful looking jali or latticework screens have been put up to protect the interiors from the fierce heat and desert winds. Rang Mahal, the most popular of the palaces has some exquisite mural paintings.

Jain Temples : Another attraction of Jaisalmer is the Jain temples of the place. Three exquisitely sculptured Jain temples are dedicated to Rishabhdevji, Sambhavanathji and Ashthapadi. The ornamentation of the temples have been done in the style of the Dilwara temple at Mt. Abu and look fabulous. There is also an emerald icon of Mahavira inside the temple premises.

The Havelis of Jaisalmer : The Havelis of Jaisalmer, examples of the architectural brilliance of the Rajputs, are places worth taking a look. Some of the popular Havelis are Patwon-Ki-Haveli, Salim Sing ki-Haveli and Nathmalji-ki-Haveli. The elaborate designs in the walls and luxurious interiors give a splendid look to the Havelis.

Desert Culture Centre and Museum : The Desert Culture Centre and Museum has an impressive collection of traditional items of the state. These include old coins, different kinds of textiles and traditional Rajasthani instruments. Some fossils found in the desert have also been kept for display. A visit to the museum would give tourists a good idea of the history and culture of Rajasthan.

Corbett National Park

Jim Corbett National Park, the first wildlife reserve of India, extending over an area of more than 500 sq km in the Himalayan foothills. Corbett national park was established in 1936, as the Hailey National Park. In 1955-56 it has changed to Ramganga National Park and finally Jim Corbett National Park in the honor of legendary hunter-turned- conservationist, best known for hunting man-eating tigers and leopards in the Kumaon and lower Garhwal in the 1920s.

Corbett National park is known for its varied wildlife, and as the site for the launching of Project Tiger. Corbett National Park was one of the nine tiger reserves created at the launch of the Project Tiger in 1973. The original area of the Corbett National Park was 323.75 sq. km. to which 197.07 sq. km. was added later. In 1991, an area of 797.72 sq km was added as buffer area of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. It area includes kalagarh forest division and Ramnagar forest division.

The Main animals found in the national park wildlife found in the Corbett National Park include the tiger, elephant, chital, sambar, nilgai, gharial, King Cobra, muntjac, wild boar, hedgehog, common musk shrew, flying fox, Indian Pangolin, and nearly 600 species of birds. Corbett National Park receives thousands of visitors every year. A variety of facilities are available to house tourists within and outside the park.

Ladakh & Leh

The trans-Himalayan district of Ladakh is simply a storehouse of adventure. Travellers from all across the globe keep flocking to Ladakh almost all the year round. When it’s about adventure in India, Ladakh happens to be second to none. Adventure in Ladakh has its own taste and meaning. You have a good number of adventure sports in Ladakh to choose from. Most famous adventure sports in Ladakh include mountaineering, jeep safari, trekking, cycling and river rafting. Ladakh adventure holidays have everything to offer an adrenaline junkie might be looking for. There are high mountain ranges, scenic trails, expansive lakes, deep valleys and high passes that add to the joy of your adventure in Ladakh.

Before you actually arrive in the adventurous land of Ladakh, we would like you to enrich your knowledge about various adventure options available in Leh-Ladakh. Give below is a list of some of the most famous adventure sports in Ladakh. Start planning your adventure holidays in Ladakh right away!

Monasteries in Ladakh may be either of the Mahayana or the Hinayana sect of Buddhism. The head lama is called a 'kushak', meaning reincarnation. The monasteries of Ladakh are what give the region its unique flavor and beauty. Typically, most gompas are built so that they perch precariously on lone rocks or craggy mountain-faces.

Hemis Gompa : Hemis, the largest monastery in Ladakh,was built in 1630. It belongs to the red sect, Brokpa. It lies at a distance of 45 km south of Leh. Impressive and intriguing, Hemis is different from the other important monasteries of Ladakh. The annual festival, commemorating the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, is held for two days in June-July, enlivening the courtyard of the monastery. The festival of dances, where good triumphs over evil in a colourful pageant, is also the annual 'bazaar' where Ladakhis from remote areas buy and sell wares.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa : The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, built in 1430, contains a three-story high Buddha image and ancient manuscripts and frescoes. The fort above this gompa is ruined, but the views of Leh from here are breathtakingly beautiful.

Festivals in Ladakh are celebrated as the occasions for merry-making. These festivals provide people with ample opportunities to interact with each other, form new ties and renew the old ones.

Many of the annual festivals of the Gompas take place in winter, which is a relatively idle time for majority of the people. These take the form of dance-dramas in the gompa courtyards. Lamas, attired in colourful robes and wearing masks, perform mimes symbolising various aspects of the religion such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the triumph of good over evil. Local people flock from near and far to these events and the spiritual benefits they get are no doubt heightened by their enjoyment of the party atmosphere .

Ajanta

AJANTA is world's greatest historical monument recognised by UNESCO located just 40kms from Jalgaon city of Maharashtra, India. There are 30 caves in Ajanta of which 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are chaitya-grihas and the rest are monasteries. These caves were discovered in AD 1819 and were built up in the earlier 2nd century BC-AD. Most of the paintings in Ajanta are right from 2nd century BC-AD and some of them about the fifth century AD and continued for the next two centuries. All paintings shows heavy religious influence and centre around Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Buddha and the Jatakas. The paintings are executed on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique.

Conjures before one's vision, a dream of beauty- of caves, hidden in the midst of a lonely glen with a streamlet flowing down below, caves that were scooped out into the heart of the rock so that the pious Buddhist monk, out on mission to spread the tenets of Buddhism could dwell and pray, caves that the followers of Lord Buddha, embellished with architectural details with a skilful command of the hammer over the chisel, with sculpture of highest craftsmanship and above all, with the paintings of infinite charm.

At Ajanta, the paintings on the walls, illustrate the events in the life of prince Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and in the more popular Jatakas stories pertaining to Buddha's previous incarnation. According to the older conceptions, the Buddha wrought many deeds of kindness and mercy in a long series of transmigration as a Bodhisattva, before achieving his final birth as the sage of sakyas.

Incidentally they contain the scenes of semi-mythological history, the royal court and popular life of the ancient times, as told in romances and plays. Some pictures recall the Greek and Roman compositions and proportions, few late resemble to Chinese manners to some extent. But majority belongs to a phase, which is purely Indian, as they are found nowhere else. These monuments were constructed during two different periods of time separated by a long interval of four centuries. The older ones were the product of last to centuries before Christ and belong to Hinayana period of Buddhism in later part of 2nd century AD when Buddhism was divided into two sections, after the conduct of the fourth general council under another great king, Kanishka.

Ellora Caves, Aurangabad

The Ellora caves, locally known as ‘Verul Leni’ is located on the Aurangabad-Chalisgaon road at a distance of 30 km north-northwest of Aurangabad, the district headquarters. The name Ellora itself inspires everyone as it represents one of the largest rock-hewn monastic-temple complexes in the entire world. Ellora is also world famous for the largest single monolithic excavation in the world, the great Kailasa (Cave 16). The visit to these caves is enjoyed maximum during monsoon, when every stream is filled with rainwater, and the entire environ is lush green. The monsoon is not only a season of rains in this part, the local visitors are attracted to visit these ideal locations to have a glimpse of the mother nature in full bloom.

The caves are hewn out of the volcanic basaltic formation of Maharasthra, known as ‘Deccan Trap’, the term trap being of Scandinavian origin representing the step like formation of the volcanic deposits. The rock formation, on weathering has given rise to the appearance of terraces with flat summits. At Ellora, one can also have a glimpse of the channels (near Cave 32) through which the volcanic lava once flowed. These channels, due to overheating, have a characteristic brownish red colour. Similar rock was used in the construction of the Grishneshwar Temple nearby and also utilised for the flooring of the pathways at Bibi-ka-Maqbara.

The hills in which the caves are hewn, forms part of the Sahyadri ranges of the Deccan and dated to the Cretaceous era of the Geological time scale (about 65 million years ago). The hills rise abruptly from the surrounding plains on the south and west, the western surface being extensively utilised for hewing the cave complexes. The hill also supports several streams, the prominent among them being the Elaganga, which drains into the Shiv, a stream of the Godavari river system. The Elaganga is in its full vigour during the monsoon, when the overflowing waters of a barrage in the upstream near Mahismati allows the gushing waters to land at “Sita-ki-nahani” near Cave 29 as a crashing waterfall.

A tourist can plan the visit of these caves according to the time available and depending upon the interest in ancient art. If a visitor has at his disposal three to four hours, then the Cave nos. 10 (Visvakarma Cave), 16 (Kailasa), 21 (Ramesvara) and 32 & 34 (Jaina group of caves) should not be missed. Thus, by visiting these caves, one can have a glimpse of the representative art of Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism. If a visitor has an entire day at his disposal, the Cave nos. 2, 5, 10 & 12 of the Buddhist group; Cave nos. 14, 15, 16, 21 & 29 of the Brahmanical group and Caves 32 to 34 of the Jaina group should be visited.

Aurangabad, Maharashtra

The Mauryans ushered Buddhism in this region of India, which is evident from the profusion of numerous Buddhist cave temples in and around Aurangabad. Temples built by Satvahanna and Rashtrakuta rulers are located here. The famous caves of Ajanta are a part of this Buddhist tradition. The heritage of Aurangabad is linked with different Muslim rulers and dynasties of India. The city was founded in 1610, on the site of a village named Khirki, by a local Muslim noble Malik Ambar. His son Fateh Khan ruled it and named the city as Fatehpur in 1626. Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal ruler, took over this city in 1653 and renamed it as Aurangabad. Due to its strategic location in peninsular India, Aurangzeb made Aurangabad his capital. He used this city as a base to quell the rising power of the Marathas.

Bibi-ka-Makbara, the mausoleum of Aurangzeb's queen, is the main tourist attraction of Aurangabad. This mausoleum is also termed as 'poor man's Taj Mahal' owing to it being a poor replica of the Taj. A small archeological museum is located behind the mausoleum. Panchakki (water wheel) is another tourist spot and it has the Tomb of Baba Shah Muzaffar, a Sufi Saint, near by. Himroo (traditional cotton-silk blend fabric) factory, Purwar Museum, and Aurangabad Caves are other prominent tourist attractions within the city.

There are a number of important tourist spots beyond the city limits of Aurangabad. The cave temples of Ellora, listed among the World Heritage sites, are 30 km northwest of the city. The world famous Buddhist caves at Ajanta, also a World Heritage site, lies 166 km northeast of Aurangabad. The Buddhist caves of Ajanta are world famous for their well-preserved frescoes (wall paintings), which vividly depict the lifestyle of that period. The fortress of Daulatabad is 13 km from Aurangabad and is situated en route Ellora. Khuldabad, the last resting place of Aurangzeb, is 3 km from Ellora. Grishneshwar temple, an important Hindu pilgrim place, is located in the village of Verul, near Ellora caves. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of India, where Lord Shiva is worshipped. Paithan, 56 km south of Aurangabad, is famous for its traditional Paithani silk saris. Twenty-four kilometers from Aurangabad lie the Bani Begum Gardens, which surround the tomb of one of Aurangzeb's queens. Pithalkora caves are 78 km from Aurangabad. Mhaismal, 25 km from Aurangabad, is another tourist spot.

The Hampi, Karnataka

Hampi is famous for its ruins belonging to the erstwhile medieval Hindu kingdom of Vijaynagar and it is declared a World Heritage site. The temples of Hampi, its monolithic sculptures and monuments, attract the traveler because of their excellent workmanship. The Hindu style of architecture found at Hampi reflects the splendor of the Vijaynagar Empire. The rugged landscape adds to the historic ambience of this site.

Hampi is located in the central part of the state of Karnataka, in the southern part of India. It is 353 km from Bangalore, and 13 km from Hospet. It is located on top of a rugged terrain and is 467 m above sea level. Tungabhadra River flows through Hampi. It has a tropical climate with hot summers (April-June), and cool winters (October-February). It experiences the southwestern monsoon rains from June to August.

The first settlement in Hampi dates back to 1st century AD and a number of Buddhist sites belonging to that time have been found nearby. Hampi was the capital of the mighty Vijaynagar Empire. Vijaynagar was one of the largest Hindu empires in India. Two brothers, Harihar and Bukka founded it in 1336. Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529) was the greatest ruler and controlled almost all of peninsular India south of Tungabhadra River. The town of Hampi in 14th century had a population of half a million people. Seven concentric lines of fortifications protected the city. It maintained a huge army to protects it from other kingdoms. Vijaynagar Empire flourished, as it controlled both cotton and spice trade routes of southern India. Medieval historians refer to Hampi as an important center of trade. However, the glory of Vijaynagar was short lived. With the death of Krishnadevaraya, the combined armies of the five Muslim kingdoms-Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar and Berar-destroyed this mighty empire in 1565.

The main tourist spots in Hampi can be divided into two broad areas: the Hampi Bazaar area and the Royal center near Kamalapuram. The 15th-century Virupaksha Temple is located in the Hampi Bazaar area. It is one of the oldest monuments of the town. The top of the temple rises about 50 m from the ground and the main shrine is dedicated to Virupaksha, a form of Lord Shiva. Hemakuta Hill, south of the Virupaksha temple, contains early ruins, Jain temples and a monolithic sculpture of Lord Narasimha, a form of Lord Vishnu. Hemakuta Hill offers excellent view of Hampi Bazaar. Two kilometers east of Hampi Bazaar, the traveler can see the World Heritage Vittal temple, built in the 16th century. The carvings on this temple give an insight into the architectural splendor achieved by the artisans of Vijaynagar Empire. The outer pillars of this temple are said to produce music when tapped. They are also known as the musical pillars. Between Hampi Bazaar and Vittal temple, one can see the deserted Sule Bazaar and the Achutraya temple. Monolithic statue of Lord Ganesh, Nandi, the Kodandarama temple and the Krishna temple are other places to visit in the Hampi Bazaar area.

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