There are certain places that have the ability to capture the romance and magnificence of an era that once was. Hampi (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 -1565 is one of them. A walk through the ruins in the area is more than just a sightseeing expedition as the monuments and ruins present contrasting imagery. On one hand, they portray the skill and artistry that existed in the ancient period. On the other hand, they are a reminder of the mass destruction that was brought forth by attacking armies. With a complex of palaces, temple and other monuments, Hampi is a large open-air museum that allows travelers to get a glimpse into the past. Next witness the cradle of Indian temple architecture at Aihole, Badami & Pattadakal that are steeped in history. Begin tour with the Old City of Hyderabad, one of India’s most evocative ancient quarters. Looming over the old city are some of Islamic India’s most impressive architecture.
The late-19th-century Falaknuma Palace stands high atop a hill overlooking Hyderabad’s old city, but it might well be from another world altogether. The architecture and interiors are an unexpected mix of English, Venetian, Japanese, French, Chinese and Mughal influences. The opulent estate once served as a guesthouse for royal visitors of the Nizam, Hyderabad’s fabulously wealthy erstwhile ruler. Arabs, Chinese, Dutch, British and Portuguese seafarers followed the sea route to Kochi and left their impressions on the town. The Chinese fishing nets swaying in the breeze over the backwaters, the Jewish Synagogue, the Dutch Palace, the Bolghatty Palace and Portuguese architecture in Kochi enrich the heritage of Kerala.
Mysore, or Mahishur as it was called in the past, traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hill, killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. This event that marked the victory of Good over Evil is the inspiration behind the Dasara festivities. Mysore’s most famous festival is the 10 day Dasara, when the entire city gets itself up to celebrations that include a majestic procession, dance, music, varieties of cultural activities and a torch light parade.
Festivities were first started by the Wodeyar King, Raja Wodeyar I (1578-1617 CE) in the year 1610. The Mysore Palace is lit up on all the 10 days of Dasara. It was during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in the year 1805, when the king started the tradition of having a special durbar in the
Mysore Palace during Dasara, which was attended by members of the royal family, special invitees, officials and the masses.
Procession: On Vijayadashami, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jamboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysore city. The main attraction of this procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed in a golden howdah on the top of a decorated elephant. This idol is worshipped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, armed forces, folklores, the royal identities, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession which starts from the Mysore Palace and culminates at a place called Bannimantap, where the Banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) is worshipped. Before undertaking any warfare, the kings traditionally worshipped this tree to help them emerge victorious in the war. The Dasara festivities would culminate on the night of Vijayadashami with an event held in the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayithu (torch-light parade).
Navratri, meaning ‘nine nights’, is the world’s longest dancing festival. Entire country erupts into a circle of ecstasy that throbs nonstop nine day and night celebration. In villages and cities alike, people gather in open spaces to celebrate and perform ras garba (Dance form from state of Gujarat)
Durga Puja: Bengali’s have a long tradition of lavishly celebrating the Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival that reveres the goddess Durga. Elaborate stage decorations, known as “pandals,” are created all over by Bengali’s that draw huge crowds.