India - Tombs and Temples and wonderful sights to see
Of course, what you really want to see on this tour of the real India is the tombs and temples, the splendour of the architecture and carvings celebrating kings and gods. And we certainly weren’t disappointed.
You can see Golconda Fort from Hyderabad, so a tour is a must. It is an impressive structure, and I loved the notion of great wooden gates with huge rounded metal spikes at around 12-15 foot height “to repel elephants”. Oh yes, and the moat where crocodiles would repel foot soldiers – naturally.
Nearby are the Qutb Shahi tombs, an excellent example of the basic structure of tombs and mausoleums and superb craftsmanship. Many of the mausoleums were built up to 100 years before the Taj Mahal. The Tombs of the Bahamani Kings were beautiful with exceptional carvings that tell a story of gods and the trials they endured – art lovers could spend days just studying the tombs in this region of India!
Bidar Fort is another splendid fortified structure, this time with a winding path up to the top plus 168 shallow steps, each marked with orange and yellow stripe at the edge to show you are being led to a Hindu Temple. At the Ibrahim Rosa mausoleum, Bijapur, there is a great example of the “walking tree” – a banyan tree that puts down aerial roots so that it appears to travel long distances over time.
A highlight of the trip has to be Gol Gumbaz and the whispering dome. A beautifully proportioned building, it has an impressive unsupported dome and as you enter, there is a particular spot to stand on and clap your hands - a brilliant echo! Climb a steep, uneven set of stone steps within a very narrow spiral in the tall corner tower to reach the dome gallery, elbows rubbing against the walls sometimes.
“Just whisper then listen” the guide told us. Wow is appropriate at this point – the quietest whisper echoed clearly around the dome. He then went to the other side of the gallery, rustling a piece of paper against the wall of the dome. Pure magic – we could hear it loud and clear. What an incredible feat of engineering.
Cave temples at Badami are carved out of the rock face, decorative carvings on the walls and pillars depicting stories of Vishnu, Krishna and the Hindu gods. The beautifully-carved temple above the main one was, apparently, a practice run! Many people wanted photographs with us, including two giggly little girls who thought our names were extremely funny for some reason.
A well-known visitor site to witness the sunset is at Hampi. It does involve a bit of a climb to the temple, then a scramble over smooth boulders to find the best spot to see the land below lit by the golden-red rays of the setting sun. An extra attraction was the monkey gods – two men in exotic brightly-coloured costumes, clearly attracted to Andy in particular!
The final leg of the journey is to Goa by local (6.15am) train, in this case an hour late but a surprisingly comfortable journey, wide seats with sleeper bunks above if you want them. Our packed breakfast from the hotel was “interesting” with cold chips, a boiled egg, 2 small bananas and juice. The chai wallers come along the train regularly offering sweetened milky tea or coffee. We had clear views from the windows, and even better view by hanging out of the doorway to capture a photo of the front of the train as we rounded a bend!
The old town is an interesting mix of Indian and Portuguese style, architecture and food. Our visit to one of the main beaches of Goa was a bit disappointing, very busy and touristy so not the wide expanses of beach we were all expecting.
As the Explore India outline states, this is an opportunity to experience the real India outside the usual Golden Triangle. It inevitably covers a lot of ground, and every day brings you to a new sight and experience. It is tiring sometimes but never boring, and always lives up to its promise of being memorable, whether you want to explore the food, art and architecture, history and/or culture of this incredibly diverse region.
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