By Ravi Valluri
“My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind.” These are the iconic words of the talismanic statesman, Nelson Mandela who was incarcerated for waging a popular struggle against practice of apartheid inflicted on a certain section of subjects by an oppressive South African regime.
A country's heritage and culture are all the qualities, traditions, characteristics and singular features of life. These are treasured, nourished and passed on through generations. They become so superabundant that they become intrinsic to the denizens of the place and become raison d’être of their existence.
Reams have been written on the triangular tour of the capital city of India that is New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Millions throng to these cities, yet trippers remain unsatiated as their peregrination and exploration never ceases.
New Delhi, India’s capital is a massive metropolitan area in the country’s north. In Old Delhi, a neighbourhood dating to the 1600s, stands the imposing Mughal-era Red Fort, a symbol of India, and the sprawling Jama Masjid mosque, whose courtyard accommodates 25,000 people. In the vicinity is Chandni Chowk, a vibrant bazaar filled choc-a-bloc with food carts, sweets shops, spice stalls and clothes and jewellery markets.
Jaipur is the capital of India’s Rajasthan state. It evokes royalty and reminds one of the suzerainty of the families of the region; one time potentates. In 1727, what is now called the Old City, or “Pink City” was founded, known for its trademark building colour. At the centre of its stately street grid (notable in India) stands the lofty and opulent, colonnaded City Palace complex. With gardens, courtyards and museums, part of it is still a royal residence.
And finally, the romantic city of Agra, situated on the banks of the Yamuna River in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is 378 kilometres west of the state capital, Lucknow, and 206 kilometres south of the national capital New Delhi. The prodigious city is fabled for the Agra Fort, the Fatehpur Sikri and the enchantress called “Taj Mahal”, the mausoleum which the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan constructed for his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal.
In order to explore and delve deep into Indian culture and psyche and to witness its myriad shades which encompasses the political capital and two other popular tourist destinations in the north-west and the north-central, the majestic Palace on Wheels has unleashed the Golden Triangle tour.
This peregrination commences from Delhi, the city which is known for being a melting pot of ancient, medieval and modern heritages and first drops anchor at the valorous and resplendent land of Rajasthan at the Pink City of Jaipur.
Globetrotters not only witness historical monuments of the Pink City but also taste lip-smacking flavours and indulge in shopping for variegated souvenirs.
The 3N/4D Heritage Palace on Wheels itinerary embarks on the next destination to the robust Ranthambore Fort wherein trippers see the majesty of history alongside glimpses of the wild.
Eventually the voyage makes its way to Agra, the land of grandiose Mughal architecture. Backpackers spend quality time embracing portentous tourist attractions of India.
Arrival of the Guests at Delhi
No sooner do the sightseers step into the Safdarjung Station they are escorted by the officials of the Palace on Wheels and are simultaneously honoured by a traditional garland ceremony as mellifluous notes of the shehnai waft through the background. Upon settling down in the estimable and upmarket train they get introduced to the exotic and coveted facilities provided on the luxurious train which heads towards the first destination of the Golden Triangle journey, Jaipur.
Jaipur- The Pink City
The ritzy train scorches the track between Safdarjung Station and Jaipur and drops anchorage at the royal city of Jaipur. The tippers gorge on a bud tickling Rajasthani breakfast consisting,of Pyaaz Kachori, Bajra Roti and Lahsun Chutney, Kahuni Vade, Moong dal Pakora, Mattar Bajra Puri and Aloo Sabzi.
The tourists thereafter depart for morning sightseeing tour to Albert Hall Museum, City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, and the lofty Amer Fort. Post lunch, guests head for their choice of shopping when the sun sinks into the Thar Desert and the weather becomes salubrious.
After dinner the train leaves for Sawai Madhopur, the land fabled for the Ranthambore National Park.
Ranthambore National Park
As the sun rises in Rajasthan in all its splendour and glory, the swanky train comes to a halt at Sawai Madhopur and provides the tourists a chance to feel the freshness of another prepossessing tourist place.
At the crack of dawn guests gear up for a thrilling safari experience at Ranthambore National Park where they encounter the Royal Bengal Tiger. The thrilling experience of encounter with the wild is still to sink in when the travellers move on to experience the beauty of Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna River at Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. This is also the tomb of Shah Jahan. The next pit stop is the fabled historical Agra Fort. This was the principal residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi.
The final destination in Agra is Fatehpur Sikri, a bijou town which was established in the 16th-century by Emperor Akbar. Red sandstone buildings cluster at its centre. The lofty Buland Darwaza gate is at the entrance to Jama Masjid mosque. In the vicinity is the marble tomb of Salim Chishti and the Diwan-e-Khas hall where Emperor Akbar confabulated with his Navaratnas. Not too far away is Jodha Bai’s Palace which is an amalgam of Hindu and Mughal styles. The five-storey Panch Mahal also overlooks the site.
Upon savouring these enthralling sights, this special package of “Palace on Wheels” which explores the heritage and culture of three historical places of Jaipur, Ranthambore and Agra, the voyage terminates back at Safdarjung Station at Delhi, leaving tourists wanting more. This neat package attracts several overseas tourists and NRIs.
“You don't stumble upon your heritage. It's there, just waiting to be explored and shared,” writes the celebrated Canadian musician Robbie Robertson.
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