“This is the right place for our activities to carry on the search for truth and develop fearlessness, for on one side are the iron bolts of the foreigners, and on the other the thunderbolts of Mother Nature,” said Gandhi about Sabarmati Ashram (situated between a prison and a cemetery). The headquarters of his movements for Indian Independence and the origin of his exodus, Dandi March, provides a peek into India’s intrepid past.
No man’s struggle to find balance is as obvious as that of Jim Corbett’s. The hunter-turned-conservationist never gave up hunting, though he eventually only hunted man-eating wild cats. At Gurney House, you can see his collection of hunting memorabilia alongside prudent efforts to maintain balance in the ecosystem of the valley. You would also be remiss to disregard the expansive gardens filled with indigenous herbs, planted in intriguing manner. Don’t forget to ask your naturalist the significance of the Bichu Bhooti and Hara Patta plants!
At the ruins of the Church of St. Augustine, the towering belfry façade reaches towards the sky like the hand of a man grasping at the final vestiges of life, while all around it, the remains are overgrown with weed and moss. Walking through such Portuguese monuments, in Old Goa, it is clear to see the origins of Goa’s solemn temperament, a quiet resilience in the face of destruction.
Those who came thousands of years before us toiled, scavenged, gathered and hunted since the dawn of the Paleolithic period to outrun the big, bad dog-eat-dog world. Through cave paintings and smoothed out floors, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a surprising documentation of man’s own evolution. Paintings of men dancing and riding elephants slowly morph into ones of him riding a chariot, and the invention of the wheel lies somewhere along the way.
Like Casey Junior coming down the tracks, the Toy Train of Darjeeling huffs and puffs till it makes it into Ghum. The spunky little steam engine snakes past mountains and lakes, through tunnels and across bridges making for awesome views, while all along pristine air gently caresses your face. It’s quite the adventure with the danger of slipping constantly looming over the locomotive, but the seasoned drivers are well prepared!
With all its temples, you might be surprised by the rich Buddhist heritage of Odisha. It’s easy to see how many Buddhist preaching routes might have passed through this essential centre from the 6th Century onwards. Over the past decade, archaeologists have excavated many sites at Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitagiri – the diamond triangle where you can the past of Buddhism.
Through sheer will and determination, the historical towns of Pragpur and Garli in the Kangra Valley remain untouched by the tide of modernization. A unique portal through time, it is hailed by locals as the home they will always come back to. You can walk as the locals did a few centuries ago, through cobbled streets and past huts filled with the work of artisans. The craftsmen of Pragpur earn their daily bread by selling their wares at the marketplace where you can stop for a trinket or two.
The world-famous symbol of love, appears quite lonely in all its splendour. But on a full moon night, it almost seems as if the Taj Mahal serenades to the moon in a tale of the unending love of whites… After a night of starry-eyed romance, you can practice some yoga and allow the calmness to wash over you as the solitary Taj looks on.
Tranquebar is a land locked in time. The old-world charm of the town reminds you of a 17th century Danish East India establishment. You can visit the first printing press of India, housed in a fort that has withstood the test of time and a tsunami! As you weave through colourful fishing boats, while walking along the shore to ‘Bungalow by the Beach’, you might hear the famed singing waves of Tharangambadi.
The land of Sikhs, is a holy site for many followers of this faith. Here, in the heart of the motherland, you can experience the profundity of Sikh teachings as they are captured in a series of sensory stimulants at the heritage museum. The museum of sorts at Anandpur, is shaped like a flower with five petals – a number with great significance to the Sikhs – and filled with murals, artefacts and other exhibits that take you through the history of Sikhism and bring you up to speed, so to speak.