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Taste of India and Nepal Destinations

It can be a case of mistaken identity if you go by your first impressions of the capital city of India- Delhi. Behind all the frantic and frenzy of a modern city there lies a serene peace which is an integral part of Delhi. A city of dynamic contrasts and colors, Delhi is deep with history and rich with culture. A travel to Delhi will cast an irresistible spell of charm to the tourist. Both 'Old' and New Delhi exert a beguiling charm on visitors. Explore Old City and get immersed in the Mughal past. Stroll down the labyrinthine streets of Old Delhi before coming out in the lush boulevards of imperial New Delhi, with its planned governmental offices and tree-lined avenues. The commercial hub of Delhi is Connaught Place, where you'll find most of the offices of travel agents, tours operators, banks and airlines. 'Old' Delhi is two kilometers north of Connaught Place, and its main thoroughfare is Chandni Chowk.

Jaipur, known as the Pink City because of its pink washed buildings, has fine forts, bazaars, havelis and museums. It lies four hours' drive from Delhi over the smooth National Highway 8. Founded by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1727, Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state. The mathematics loving Maharaja had the streets laid out in a geometrically patterned lattice. The Royal Palace of Jaipur occupies the center of this lattice, covering almost 1/7th of Jaipur's area. It includes the Mubarak Mahal with a white marble fa'ade, the Diwan-I-Khas, Diwan-I-Am and the Chandra Mahal. The Hawa Mahal, to the East of the palace complex, has an elaborate fa'ade of pink sandstone. It once housed the king's zenana (palace of the ladies). The Jantar mantar observatory, built by Jai Singh, gives accurate readings of planetary positions in the sky.

The site of the famed "monument of love", the Taj Mahal, Agra stands on the banks of the river Yamuna. Agra also houses the Red Fort and I'timad-ud-Daulah. The Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jehan in the memory of his deceased wife, is a monument of surpassing beauty. The luminescent white marble of the Taj Mahal seems to change hues depending on the position of the sun in the sky. The arched entrances have domed pavilions on its sides. The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal has Persian calligraphy on the outer walls and is inlaid with precious stones. Shah Jehan's tomb, similarly inlaid, lies nearby.

This historical city of Madhya Pradesh is well connected to all the major cities of India. Gwalior was ruled by the Tomars, Marwahs and the Marathas at different points of time. Home to the legendary 15th century singer Tansen, Gwalior was a theatre of the important battles fought during the 1857 Uprising against the British. Gwalior Fort, on a steep hill, has walls 35 feet high. The invincibility of this fort against enemies wrung praise from Babur, founder of the Mughal dynasty in India, who called it "a jewel among forts". Gurjari Mahal, built by Maharaja Tomar Singh for his queen Mrignayani, has now been converted into a museum that holds ancient objects, some dating back to the 1st century AD. Man Mandir Palace was built by Raja Man Singh in 1517. The massive stone halls are the only remaining testimony to the grandeur of the Rajput days. Don't miss the Sound and Light Show held in the evenings, depicting the life of the Rajput rulers. The Afghan Prince Ghause Mohammed's Tomb, with exquisite jaali screens, lies close to Gwalior Fort. The Jai Vilas Palace, housing the current Scindia family, was built in the style of Italian villas. This Palace houses the largest chandeliers in the world, each reportedly weighing 2 tonnes.

Founded by the Bundela Rajput king Rudra Pratap, this town of Madhya Pradesh lies on the banks of the river Betwa. The Jehangir Mahal, built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo, is a multi-storied palace topped by chhatris (parasol) in Rajput style. The interiors of the Palace are gracefully painted with murals in Bundela style. The Laxminarayan Temple is richly decorated with religious themed murals, while the paintings of Raj Mahal depict the life of the Bundela rulers. The murals of the palces at Orchha are well preserved, and vivdly depict the life at the Bundela courts as it was centuries ago.

The Khajuraho Temple complex in Madhya Pradesh, built by the Chandelas during the period of 950- 1050 AD, is a fascinating example of the complexity and diversity India's temple architecture. Of the original 85 temples, only 22 remain, the rest having fallen prey to human destruction or the ravages of the weather. The erotic sculptures at the temples are a celebration of life, as well as depicting the longing of Man to be one with God. The Kandariya Mahadev Temple, with an arched entrance, has beautiful wall carvings depicting deities, divinities and lovers. The Chitragupta Temple has a stone image of the Sun God Surya in the inner sanctum. The Matageshwara Temple to the north of the complex is the only temple in the complex where ritual prayers are still offered. The eastern side of the complex has a group of Jain temples, Parswanath Temple being the largest. 

Varanasi is also known as Benaras or Kashi, the City of Light. A visit to Kashi, the oldest city in the world, is like taking in the entire Hindu religion, spread over thousands of years, in one stroke. The sacred Ganges flows through this city where hundreds offers prayers each dawn for salvation, and have been doing so for thousands of years. Time seems to have frozen here, with the bells of the old temples near the ghats (banks) of the Ganga ringing every evening as they have done for years. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, revered by millions of Hindus, is believed to wash away the sins of those who get just one glimpse at the Vishwanath Jyotirlinga in the sanctum sanctorum. Varanasi is also one of the important cultural centers of India, with a rich heritage of dance and music. The silk weavers of the city produce Benarasi silk sarees that are prized for their fine craftsmanship and elaborate brocades of gold or silver wires.

Capital of the world's only Hindu kingdom, Kathmandu is a city of contrasts where you can find western style casinos as well as Hindu and Buddhist temples. Hanuman Dhoka is the old royal palace where the Monarch of Nepal resided till before 1934, when an earthquake partially destroyed it. It is a captivating place and worth a visit. The Buddhist Stupa, Bodhnath, is the largest stupa in the world. It is a towering golden pinnacle from which the painted eyes of the all-seeing Buddha gaze across the valley in every direction. The Pashupatinath temple, situated on the banks of Bagmati river, is among the holiest temples of the Hindu world. As entrance into the temple precinct is permitted to Hindus only, visitors can see the temple and the activities performed in the temple premises from the eastern bank of the Bagmati river.

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