Gastronomics…1/2

Someone rightly said, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. India offers vast variety of cuisines to satisfy the taste buds of everyone. Costliest is not necessarily the Best and Best may not be the Costliest one…

Presenting herewith some of my own eating experiences in different parts of India.

Sukhdev Da Dhaba (Delhi-Amritsar Highway)

Beginning with one of my most pleasant experience on the Grand Trunk Road (Connecting Delhi with Amritsar and 50 KM from Delhi) at the Sukhdev da Dhaba… Pure Vegetarian, Multi Cuisine (with Indian particularly Punjabi cuisine being the best), Affordable (Rs 500 good two), Hygienic and Excellent Service are some of the mentions.

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Sukhdev Da Dhaba on NH1 (near Sonepath)

Aloo Da Paratha @ Sukhdev Da Dhaba

Aloo Da Paratha @ Sukhdev Da Dhaba

Rajwada @ Indore

The other wise Jewelry market (Sarafa bazaar) of Indore during day time, converts into a heaven for street food lovers after 7 pm with hundreds of stalls popping up from no where. With more than 200 eateries, the place offers some of the best tongue teasing delicacies. Whether you have a sweet tooth or fond of hot and spicy snacks, this is the place for you.

A Sweet Shop @ Rajwada, Indore

Agrawal Sweets @ Rajwada, Indore offers savory deserts

Gulab Jamuns at a Sweet Shop @ Rajwada, Indore

Hot and Juicy Gulabjamuns @ Agrawal Sweets, Rajwada, Indore

Bhutte Ka Kis @ Rajwada, Indore

Bhutte Ka Kis (Sweet corn crush) @ Rajwada, Indore

Sabudana Khichadi @ Sanwaria @ Rajwada, Indore

Sabudana Khichri @ Sanwaria @ Rajwada, Indore. ‘Sabudana’ a Hindi name for the small granules made from the ‘Sagu’ powdery starch extracted from a kind of tree. Dishes made out of ‘Sagu’ granules are exempt from the banned food list during indian fasting… The Indori Sabudana Khichri is fore sure one of reasons you will fall love in with this city.

The Best from Rajwada Indore…. Joshiji Badewale

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Strictly a not to be missed experience in case you are visiting Indore and a die hard Dahi bada foodie…

Pakodewala @ Sitabuldi, Nagpur

Nagpur is popular for its oranges. However the Orange city also offers some great hot spots or hide outs for the die hard food lovers. A very unique for Nagpur, there is a spicy cuisine named ‘Saoji’ is served in some of the restaurants mainly popular among students and non veggies. During my last visit to the city, I revisited one of my favorite snack stall ‘Pakodewala’ on the Sitabuldi main road. From a roadside vendor to now a renowned snack bar in the city, the owner Guptas have come a long way. Savory ‘Imartis’ were being rolled in the hot ghee and soaked in the sugar syrup. Have a look….

Thats how they are swirled and juiced in the sugary syrup

That’s how they are swirled and juiced in the sugary syrup

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Imartis@Pakodewala@Nagpur

Imartis@Pakodewala@Nagpur

Imartis@Pakodewala@Nagpur

Some very typical of Konkan and Mumbai cuisine…

When we think of Maharastrian cuisine, the obvious names comes to our mind are Puran Poli, Thalipeeth etc… However, being a spicy food lover, my votes goes to the very humble but satisfying Maharastrian dish (particularly in Mumbai region) is Misal Pav.

Misal Pav in a Pen resturant

Dahi Misal Pav in a Pen resturant

Misal @ Union Special in Old Panvel, Navi Mumbai

Misal @ Union Special in Old Panvel, Navi Mumbai. Typically a Misal is a spicy curry made from sprouted bean (Moong, Matki, Peas etc)

A complete meal to begin your day

My favorite Misal Pav @ Union Special in Panvel is served with hot ‘Pooris’ or ‘Pav’ in early hours of the day…

Hotel ‘Union special’ in old Panvel is serving this very typical Misal Pav since last 60 years. The hotel opens at 6am is closes for the day by 11am after satisfying taste buds of limited loyal customers. The masala used in the dish is a secret recipe being passed on to generations. Try once ! You wont be disappointed !!

Haji Lassi Centre, Itwara, Bhopal

I found this location by chance. While I was in Bhopal last summer, I inquired the locals about the best ‘Lassi’ being offered in the city of lakes. The obvious answer was ‘Haji Lassi Center’ in Itwara area. Although located almost 15 km from the hotel I have put up, me and my colleague decided to give it a try. The place was unique as I have been told that there are no servants in the shop. The entire family takes care of the customers and the service is awesome looking at the crowd.

Haji Lassi Centre @ Bhopal

Haji Lassi Centre @ Bhopal

Lassi @ Haji Lassi Centre Bhopal

Lassi @ Haji Lassi Centre Bhopal

Lassi @ Haji Lassi Centre Bhopal

Lassi @ Haji Lassi Centre Bhopal

Much more to share in the next post… Bon Appetite !

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Story of a dying lotus lake

Located to the western side of the Mumbai Pune Old Highway in Panvel town, lies an ancient lake called ‘Wadale or Ballaleshwar lake’. Originally spread over several hectares, this lake is now reduced to just few acres, thanks to rampant construction and land grabbing. The pond is renowned for the bloom of lotus flowers.

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A solitary Lotus

Panvel although blessed with such natural lakes which could otherwise be a major recreational spots for relaxation and enjoying natures beauty, most of these lakes are now surrounded by housing societies and commercial activities.

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The Bloom

The lotus in the lake blooms twice in a year around Diwali and June month which is onset of the monsoon. Although being neglected by civic authorities and local residents, the lake is being maintained by a private owner who is struggling hard to save it from ruined. The owner is often seen riding his small boat in the lake to clean the filth and collect some flowers which he sells in the local market.

1DSC_0714 This lake could have been a beautiful recreational spot to the residents however garbage dumping by the citizens and apathy of the civic authorities making it filthier and the birds are also vanishing. I have been there on a summer morning some years back to witness and capture this lake through my lens.

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ABC… All about Belgian Chocolates

Spain and Italy have their Olive Oil while France is known for its Wine. Belgium is all about its Chocolates and Beers.  Although not an ardent chocoholic, just spent some good time exploring the Belgian chocolate shops in Brussels and Bruges. With beautiful decorations these shop display these products in the best possible way so as to attract even a non enthusiast buyer not to talk about the photographers. I started with a small but nicely decorated chocoleterie just behind the bourse in Brussels named ‘Le Comptoir De Mathilde’ and here as the photographs which explain everything…

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Chocolaterie ‘La Comptoir De Mathilde’… an attractive little store near the grand place in Brussels. Sells traditional chocolates. You can have a instant hot chocolate even. Very humble staff to explain you all about the Belgian chocolates… Impressive and must visit

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Lots of varieties and flavours in the loose chocolates to select from. You have a choice of multiple selection as all these varieties have same price.

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Pamper yourself…..A chocolate with hammer to break it….

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Varieties of offerings… With different nuts and different chocolates…

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Ideal differential focusing object… ?

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Chocolate coated with puffed rice

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Truck laden with the sinful delights

While walking around the Bruges town, I selected a store named ‘La Belgique Gourmande’ to explore the confectioneries and chocolates. The shop is located near the central market and the beautiful arrangement of the ever vibrantly colored sweets naturally attracts the visitors attention. Mainly sells Cuberdons, Macaroons, Pearl Chocolates, Cookies etc. The staff was courteous enough to increase my confectionery knowledge to some extent. Following pictures are from this shop….

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A chocolate shop in central Bruges, Belgium

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They call these as ‘Macaroons’. Sugary treats and heavenly feelings. Could not taste all the flavours…

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The displays of Macaroons in the shops resemble something like high end jewelry shops…

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Vibrantly colored Macaroon

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Conically shapes, Sweet, slightly hard outside but soft inside these delicacies are called ‘Cuberdons’

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This one is the orignal Cuberdon…. Red Raspberry. When inquired about the recipe, I was told that its a secret however it takes around a week to take out a perfect Cuberdon due to slow ageing process.

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Pineapple flavor. Inexpensive. Handmade. Available in splash of colors and favors. These sweets sure stand tall in popularity among the tourists…

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Chocolate coated orange slices in Bruges shop

A paradise for the sweet lovers. ‘La Cure Gourmande’ are one of the renowned french confectioners with branches at Dubai,  Abu Dhabi, Brussels etc. The shop looks like a fairy tale location. Dont hesitate to taste the sample free cookies offered with a smile.

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La Cure Gourmande, Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

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Near to the grand place is this famous candy and biscuits shop named ‘La Cure Gourmande’. The shop naturally attracts the tourists and ardent photographers thanks to the wonderful lighting and products arrangement in the shop… Photo No 1

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Olive chocolates…. No these are just Olive shaped and nothing to do with the real olives

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Olive chocolates beautifully packed and displayed @ La Cure Gourmande, Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

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This aesthetic packaging is really appealing. I bought few variety of boxes as souvenirs.

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Their logo… This cute pigtailed french child… inviting you to buy these biscuits, chocolates, candies, fudges, caramels etc

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The very humble candies

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Prices are quite high. These tins filled with the cookies will cost you around 20 euros or 25 USD. The elaborate displays will sure compel you to buy.

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Lollypops… With very friendly staff you will have a special feeling at this place. I recommend a must visit whenever you get a chance….

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Visit http://www.curegourmande.com/ for more details about these confectioners…

Please feel free to leave your comments on this blog. I can be reached at agrawalsh@hotmail.com

Beers Bruges Belgium

Had a chance to visit beautiful Belgium in February 2015. After lot of research, decided to visit the wonderful city of Bruges famous for its unique architectural houses, chocolates and of course, varieties of beers it brews and offers. You can reach Bruges from Brussels by trains (every 30 minute there is one) and it takes just 14 Euros and an hour for a one way trip. Sharing herewith my experience through these photos…

The town hall of Bruges

The town hall of Bruges located in the center of the city now turned in a museum..

Bruges town hall

Built in 1376 this building is a master piece of Gothic architecture

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Town hall Bruges

Bruges town hall

Some early scenes of Indian movie ‘Peekay’ was shot here and the curiosity lead me to this place

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Beautiful lamp posts near the town hall

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Restaurants @ Market in Brugges

Restaurants @ Market in Bruges

The restaurants at

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Restaurants @ Market in Brugges – 2

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Restaurants @ Market in Brugges – 3

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Evening time at Restaurants @ Market in Bruges – 4

Bruges town hall in the evening hours

Bruges town hall in the evening hours

A typical Brugges house

A typical Brugges house. The city architecture is a photographer’s dream destination.

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Bruges Steets

A typical medieval city with narrow but beautiful streets. Just have a city map along with and these cobblestone streets can take you around all those interesting places without being lost…

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Medieval building structures with no touch of modernisation. Very well preserved all across the city.

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Canals in Bruges

These canals are integral part of this beautiful city and an easy way to have a look around the architecture riding in the small powered boats..

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There more than 40 arch bridges all over these canals and some are very narrow where the tourists are asked to bend downwards to save their heads…

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Clicked some beautiful formations by these royal swans across one canal passage…1

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Clicked some beautiful formations by these royal swans across one canal passage…2

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The great wall of beer… On display are more than 600 varieties and brands of beer.. A must visit place while you are in Bruges

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Inexpensive and lots of combinations of beer available at 2-be pub which is most popular and populous. The staff is courteous enough to suggest you in case you are a novice in beer tasting….

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Beer lovers @ 2-be…. Pic 1

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Beer lovers @ 2-be…. Pic 2

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Beer lovers @ 2-be…. Pic 3

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Belgian beer at display and sale at shop of 2-be

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Another photo of Belgian beer at display and sale at shop of 2-be

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From cheery to coconut… You will find everything what can be prepared as beer. Unfortunately missed to visit the Brewery.

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The beer vending machine at 2-be

Many more things to do in next visit to the heaven on earth…

Beautiful flowers of amazing ‘cannonball tree’

Nature is full of surprises. You just need to look around yourself for the wonders it has created. Last week, when I was shooting the lotus flowers at a pond in Navi Mumbai, one of the curious onlooker took to me this wonderful tree popularly called as ‘Cannonball tree’ or ‘Nag Chafa’ in Marathi. I could not shoot the flowers that day as it was fading but decided to come next day.

Next day, I visited the tree to witness a sweet and strong scent oozing out of those lovely flowers. Sharing here with the pictorial journey of this wonderful tree…

The Tree

These trees are rare to find but the usual locations are near Shiva temples in India. Flowers bloom on the small extrusions coming out on the main trunk

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This cannonball shaped fruit of the tree is the real weapon. When ripe, this fruit falls on the earth with a loud bang thereby dispersing the seeds for its propagation… The falling fruit could also pose threat to the people standing below…

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Flowers mostly grow above a few feet height on the main truck though a extruded twig

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Some times the flowers grown in bunches. Have a very strong sweetish scent and very bright colored petals for attracting the bees and other insects for cross pollination

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Speechless to describe the mother natures creation…

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My curiosity drove me to find more and more about this tree. Thanks to google, it has medicinal properties as well

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The curved stamen gives it a look of snake hence the marathi name ‘Nag Chafa’ meaning flower resembling a snake.

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Don’t neglect the wonders of nature if ever you get an opportunity to be close with it… This shot taken from my 40mm prime lens

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While you enjoy beauty of these flowers, be aware of the falling fruits which could lead to serious injuries as they weigh several kilos in weight and have hard cover outside..

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These fragrant flowers open up early in the morning generally after 7am but do not last long and the petals keep on falling through out day.

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Scientific name ‘Couroupita Guianensis’. Belongs to the Brazi Nuts family. More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couroupita_guianensis

Indian Naval Day Celebrations @ Gateway of India, Mumbai

Navy of the India plays a great role in securing the marine borders of the country.  To commemorate attack of Indian Navy on the Karachi harbor during 1972 Indo-Pak war, Indian Navy celebrates 4th December as Navy Day.  In order to celebrate this occasion, the Western Naval Command of the Indian navy (headquarter is Mumbai) bring their ships and sailors for making the celebration excellent. Been there to witness the celebrations and was awestruck. Tunes of the Indian Navy band, Rhythmic dance by the Sea Cadet Corps, Rescue demonstration by the choppers and finally the beautiful parade by Navy soldiers made the evening an unforgettable experience. Sharing herewith some shots of the proceedings….

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Indian Tricolor and Flags of Indian Navy during Beating Retreat Parade off Gateway of India on 4th December 2013

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A member of Sea Cadet Corp performing on the tunes of Navy Band during Beating Retreat Parade off Gateway of India on 4th December 2013

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A member of Indian Navy Band performing during Beating Retreat Parade off Gateway of India on 4th December 2013

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A Navy Sailor descending from the Chetak Helicopter for a mock rescue demonstration off Gateway of India on 4th December 2013

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Indian Navy chopper ‘Chetak’ doing some maneuvers before a rescue demonstration off Gateway of India on Indian Navy Day

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Another angle – Indian Navy chopper ‘Chetak’ doing some maneuvers before a rescue demonstration off Gateway of India on Indian Navy Day

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Indian Navy work horse ‘Westland Seaking’ chopper doing maneuver during a rescue demonstration off Gateway of India on Indian Navy Day

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Seaking readies and steadies it for the rescue demonstration off Gateway of India on Indian Navy Day

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The daredevils at work… Commandos of Indian Navy demonstrating the rescue operation off Seaking chopper on Indian Navy Day on December 4th, 2013

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Pic 2 : The daredevils at work… Commandos of Indian Navy demonstrating the rescue operation off Seaking chopper on Indian Navy Day on December 4th, 2013

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Pic 3 : The daredevils at work… Commandos of Indian Navy demonstrating the rescue operation off Seaking chopper on Indian Navy Day on December 4th, 2013

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Westland Seaking…. Pride of Indian Navy

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Indian Navy Band during Beating Retreat Ceremony

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Indian Tricolor furling through Chetak….

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Salutes to the Indian Navy

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They Came, They Won and there they disappear in the blue skies…

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Pic 1 : Indian Sailors performing during the Beating retreat ceremony

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Pic 2 : Indian Sailors performing during the Beating retreat ceremony

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Pic 3 : Indian Sailors performing during the Beating retreat ceremony

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Pic 4 : Indian Sailors performing during the Beating retreat ceremony

 | JAI HO |

Magical Monuments of MP – Mandu, the city of joy

I have been waiting for this opportunity ever since I have started visiting MP, thanks to my corporate necessities. Finally, this month, I was lucky enough to take out some time to visit “Mandu”, one of the most acclaimed monuments of Madhya Pradesh. Situated in Vindhya range of Dhar district, this fantastic city of stones is just 150 km away from Indore.  Sharing herewith all the photographs and information which I could gather about though ASI infostones and discussions with my local colleagues. 

The entire region is fortified with a 45 km long fort wall and there are number of Gateways to enter into the region. The region boasts more than 40 structures but due to paucity of time, I decided to cover only the famous ones. You will get a feeling of being transported back into the history once you are there.

Mandu, famous for its story over romance, poetry and beauty, the region of Malwa was ruled by the then poet prince Baz Bahadur who fell in love a shepherdess Roopmati who was also fond of music. The couple used to have music Mehefils at their palaces and the structures suggest their musical taste.

Rani Roopmati Pavillion

We started our day long tour with visiting the “Roopmati Pavillion” which is about 6 km from the main town. Located on a small hill, this place offers picturesque scene of the adjoining plains and a distantly flowing river Narmada. As understood, Rani Roopmati used to view river Narmada from this location before having food everyday. Bollywood inspired to make Bharat Bhushan starer “Rani Rupmati’ in 1957  with “Aa laut ke aaja mere meet”  song. To know more about the movie and legendary Malwa queen please visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368196/.

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Roopmati Pavillion as seen from the Baz Bahadur Palace

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Stone stairs embeded into the wall for climing Roopmati Pavillion

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Pavillions of the Roopmati Palace

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Baz Bahadur Palace

Built by the poet prince Baz Bahadur in the early 16th century, the palace’s unique features are its spacious courtyards surrounded by halls and high terraces which offers a superb view of the surrounding including pavillion of his lady love Roopmati. The perfectly designed parapets of the structure will make the modern civil engineers feel short.

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Tomb of Hoshang Shah

The tomb of Hoshang Shah located just behind the Jami Masjid is based on a square area with four artistic side domes and the main marble dome mounted  in the center. The entire structure stands on a square marble platform. Also known as India’s first marble edifice, this tomb has served as an inspiration in building the legendary Taj Mahal as Shahjehan sent four of his architects to study and draw the master plan for building Taj Mahal.

Hoshang Shah's Tomb

Hoshang Shah’s Tomb

Hoshang Shah's Tomb

Hoshang Shah’s Tomb

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Jami Masjid

Built by Hushang Shah in 14th century, this is considered to be the largest mosque in India. Built above a plinth level of more than 15 feet, the mosque

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Jahaj Mahal

This more than 100 mtr long ship resembling palace is perhaps the biggest attraction of the place. Built amid 2 lake reservoirs (Munj lake and Kapur lake), this 2 storied structure gives an impression of a royal ship with a deck. As the water levels were receded during my visit, I could not get the images I thought about it.

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Picturesque Jahaj Mahal @ Mandu

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Stairs to the Upper deck of Jahaj Mahal @ Mandu

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Kapur Talao @ Jahaj Mahal @ Mandu

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Artistic water harvesting channels @ Jahaj Mahal @ Mandu

Hindola Mahal

As the name suggests, this palace resembles a swing. In T shape, the palace has upper floor with several balconies (Jharoka’s) from where the women can watch the proceedings in the main hall.

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Neelkanth Mahal

A shrine of Lord Shiva is located in a steep ravine. Surrounded by lush green trees, this place attracts lot of devotees. Some inscriptions in Urdu were visible on the walls of the shrine which are supposed to be of Akbar’s era. Just below the worship place, there is a pond from where the water goes into the ravine below through some beautiful circular canals (pic below).

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A lady curiously onlooks the water passing through the circular water channels @ Nilkanth shrine

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Circular Water channels @ Nilkanth

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Shivling and the bulls @ Nilkanth

Other attractions

Mandu’s tamarind or Mandu ki Imli is a unique sort of fruit found only in this region of India. There are few local dishes made of this tamarind. The giant trees have a huge trunk and were first cultivated several hundred years ago by the local rulers. Interesting…

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