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Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh: A Travel Guide

Tirupati Balaji is India's most visited religious shrine. Every year millions of devotees pay visit to this revered shrine in the Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is renowned for the Sri Venkateshwara Temple dedicated to lord Vishnu, who is also called by several names like Balaji in the North and Govinda in South India. The Lord Sri Venkehwara is the all pervading Lord of the universe.

Tirumala Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andra Pradesh
Tirumala Tirupati Balaji Temple in  Chittoor, Andra Pradesh

One of the top 10 temples of India, Tirupati Balaji is placed at the top of the Tirumala hills, while the town lies at the foothills. The Tirumala Hill has seven peaks, which is said to represent the seven hoods of a serpent underneath where Vishnu resides. The area has the peaceful and religious air about it; the pilgrims come to the temple with lofty faiths. 

Location: Tirupati is located in the Chittoor  District  of Andra Pradesh at the foothills of the Eastern Ghats, and the temple of Sri Venkateshwarya is placed on the seventh peak Venkatachala.The temple lies on the Southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini.

Who built it: Unfortunately, there are no records of the origin of the Temple, but was maintained and upgraded by various dynasties in the past. The temple is patronized by the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas and later kings of Mysore.

How to reach:  Tirupati Airport is 15 km from the city center and offers several domestic flights. The closest International flight is in Chennai (130 km) from Tirupati.

The major railway station is the Tirupati Main; the trains take you to major cities like Chennai. Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi and more.

One of the largest bus station (Sri Hari) is one of the largest in the state, which has direct bus service to the nearby towns and big cities. There are many government operating services too.

Best time to visit: Almost all the seasons are favourable for you to visit Tirupati. However, if you want to experience the place in its full swing, the best time would be to go during the festival time. Especially the festival of Brahmotsavam, celebrated around Diwali (October) is a good option. Also, when you are there, it is better you go early for your services to God because of the crowd.

Interesting Facts:
  • One of the legends behind the worshiping of Lord Vishnu is that the temple houses a deity of Lord Venkateshwarya (Vishnu) which is believed to remain there until the end of the present era or Kali Yuga. It is further believed that by worshipping him we will attain mukti or salvation.
  • Tripura has several temples and is a major economical and educational hub in south. It is one of the richest pilgrimage centers.
  • The Tirumala Hill is 853m above sea level and is about 10.33 square miles. 
  • It is believed that About 50,000 pilgrims’ visit the temple every day and during the festivals like, yearly Brahmotsavam the number of pilgrims is almost 500,000. 
  • The celebrated festivals are Vaishnava festivals, Rama Navami, Janmasthtami . while the most important festival celebrated each year is Brahmotsavam.
  • Tirupati is regarded as one of the oldest temples which were mentioned in Puranas and the Shastras.              
  • Tirumala, the name is derived from the terms, Tiru means Holy and mala means hills, therefore the holy mountains.
  • There are several deities in the temple like Dhruva Beram, Bhoga Srinivasa, Ugra Srinavasa and many more.
  • The temple bares several inscriptions that are of historical, linguistic and cultural importance.
  • In the temple, the devotees shave their head as an offering to the God, the daily collection of the hair amounts to almost a ton. These hairs are later sold in auctions to international buyers who turn them into extensions.
  • The thuylabharam offering is done in the temple, where a devotee sits on a weighing balance scale and has to offer materials heavier than his weight.
Places of Interest: 
  • An archeological museum, Chandragiri Fort.
  • SV Zoological park (the second largest zoo in Asia).
  • Jungle book Biological Park.
  • Regional Science center and Planitarium.
  • There are many other temples that you can visit in Tirupati and Tirumala apart from the famous  Sri Venkateshwarya Temple.
  • Alamelu Mangapuram Temple.
  • Padmavathi Ammavari Temple.
  • Kapila Theertham (dedicated to lord Shiva ans Parvati).
  • Govindaraja swamy Temple and more.
Tirupati and Tirumala is a pilgrimage spot, offering you a visitation for a different experience altogether. The faith of the devotees and the chanting of the priests echoes around the hills of Tirumala. There is a feeling of utmost peace and serenity in the place.

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Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh: A Travel Guide

One of the best places to visit in Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior Fort is one of the oldest and resplendent fortresses in India. The fort came into prominence around 8th century under the rule of Rajput Tomar kings. This sprawling hill fort houses several structures of note that include 2 palaces, several temples and water tanks.

The fort's rule changed several hands that include Rajputs, Mamluks, Suris, Mughals, Marathas and British. To get a peek into the turbulent history and legends associated with Gwalior Fort, do attend the Son et Lumiere which is held every night at the open air amphitheater inside the fort complex.

Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh, India
Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh, India
Gwalior Fort, Travel Facts:

Location: Seated at the hilltop, around 100 meters above the city level, the fort  is around 7 km from the Gwalior railway station.

Built by: The fort is believed to have been built by Raja Man Singh Tomar, however, in the course of five hundred years the fort went from one ruler to another.

Built in: Gwalior Fort was built in the 8th-century.

Highlights: The fort consists of three temples, six palaces and numerous water tanks. It is 35 feet high and is about 2 miles in length.

How to reach: One can easily get to the fort from the city by bus, taxi, auto, rickshaw or even by walking if there is time.

Best time to visit: November- January.

Entry fee: INR 75 per head (adult); INR 40 per head (children); INR 250 per head (foreign tourist)

Standing on a steep mass of sandstone, Gwalior fort gives a clear view of the east of Gwalior. The fort comprises of two main palaces: Man Mandir and Gujari Mahal. Besides the main two palaces there are other recommended places like the Man Singh Palace, Jauhar Kund, Jahangir Mahal, Sahahjahan Mahal and more. The temples and the monuments are of different religion mostly Hindu and Jain.

Gwalior Fort is included in our list of top 10 forts in India. Check out the other top forts in India.

The fort’s dramatic entrance named the Hathi pul (elephant gate) is on the eastern side. A steep road winds upwards to the Fort, and along the way there are Jain sculptures cut into the rock which is well worth the climb.

History and Anecdotes: 

Gwalior's history is traced back to a legend. In 8 A.D, a chieftain called Suraj Sen was stricken by leprosy. Hermit saint, Gwalipa, cured him and in gratitude the chieftain founded the city which he named after the saint who had given him the gift of new life.

Gwalior Fort - History and Anecdotes
Over the centuries the city has been captured by many dynasties when slowly it became popular. The different rulers in the city brought about diversity and a new taste each time, which is evident in the architecture and designs till today.

The earliest record of the fort is  525 AD where it is mentioned in an inscription in the temple of the Hun. The fort was made to serve as a prison by the Mughals.  

It is believed that the Gujari Mahal is a momento of Raja Mansingh Tomar’s love for his Gujar Queen, Mrignayani. The palace is made beautifully and so is the other palace, Man Mandir with its outer walls are distinctively decorated with blue mosaic tiles and rows of yellow ducks.

The fort is a prominent landmark of the city as it stands upright and broad, it has served the purpose well during the times of battles, imprisonments and jauhars.

Some Interesting Facts about the Gwalior Fort:
  • The Fort is one of the biggest forts in India.
  • It covers an area of 3 square kilometers and is 35 feet high. 
  • There are eleven temples of Gautama Buddha and Tirthankars of Jainism.There are also a number of palaces (mahal).
  • There are two gates, one on the northeast side with a long access ramp and other on the southwest. The main entrance is the Elephant gate and the other is the Badalgarh Gate.
  • The water tanks or the reservoirs of the Fort could provide water to a 15000 strong garrison, they were required to secure the fort.
  • One of the palaces of the fort, Gujari Mahal has been converted into an archeological museum.
  • Every evening a light and sound show is presented in the Fort’s open amphitheater.
  • On the same hill is the famous boarding school, which is exclusive for the sons of princes and nobles, Scindia School. It was founded by Madho Rao Scindia in 1897.
  • There are many festivals and fairs that take place in Gwalior during the winter seasons: Gwalior Annual Trade Fair is famous to experience the native culture and for shopping.
  • Tansen Music Festival, is held in honor of Tansen who was from the city.This festival ensures you a journey of Indian classical music.
  • Gwalior Carnival, which started recently by the tourism department of the city is an event that includes various activities like dance, music, food, spiritual camps and sports.
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Best Places to Visit in August in India

There is certainly no doubt that India is a land of diversity. Diversity is often depicted through culture, language and much more. During monsoons, people prefer staying indoors fearing mud smeared clothes, slippers and continuous sneezing during rains. August is considered to be the busiest holiday month of the year. Airports, railway stations are crowded, resorts are hot and prices tend to be high.  

Speaking about destinations, there are multiple places to visit, according to the season, purpose, budget and mood. What you need is a reason for a break to explore the versatility of the land known as India. From the snow desert of Ladakh to golden sand dunes of Rajasthan and from the laidback ambience to Kovalam beach to history telling ruins of Nalanda University. The beautiful ambience that monsoon creates is highly attractive for travelers from India and abroad. Here’s the list of top places to visit in India during August for your kind perusal.

1. Mount Abu- A Scenic Place amidst Desert  

 Mount Abu- A Scenic Place amidst Desert
Mount Abu - the Scenic hill station in the deserts of Rajasthan
Being a popular hill station in Rajasthan, Mount Abu, although round the year visiting place, however, it is eye catching to watch this charming destination when clouds cover up the sky and water drops come down to the earth.  There are innumerable temples scattered all around the place. Naturalists just can’t afford to miss the astonishing views of sunset point and a mind-boggling water boat ride on Nakki Lake. 

                                       [ Also check out 5 best hill stations in India ]

2. Periyar National Park – Wildlife Treasure of South India

Periyar National Park – Wildlife Treasure of South India
Elephants in Periyar National Park
One of the finest national parks in southern India, Periyar National Park extends around the banks of a huge artificial lake. The park is known for its magnificent elephants and you can take a 30 minute elephant rides through the jungle. The best time to visit this park is the cooler and drier months of October to February. However, the aroma of the moist vegetation during the monsoon gives it a special appeal. 

[Read more about Periyar National Park]

3. Lonavala- Monsoon Magic for Mumbaikars 

 Lonavala- Monsoon Magic for Mumbaikars
Lonavala - A very popular place for hill station and curvy roads
Situated in the Pune district of Maharashtra, Lonavala is a great destination for holidaying during Monsoons. It is quite famous across India for the Chikki they produce. Those who are based in Mumbai can easily get local trains to Kajrat and then further go to Lonavala. 

 [Don't miss-out to plan for monsoon holidays in India]

It is the most sought after weekend destination for the Mumbaikars. During monsoons, especially August, this place is thronged by the tourists. There are extraordinary attractions in Lonavala and the sceneries in the hill station are breathtaking. Lonavala has been a hotspot for the shooting of Bollywood movies. 

[ Plan your holiday and customized Hill Station Tour Packages at Indian Holiday]

4. Mandu- Honeymoon and Adventure at Once 

Mandu- Honeymoon and Adventure at Once
Jahaz Mahal, Mandu
The perfect destination for honeymoon as well as a place for adventure loving people, Mandu is famously known for the great love story of Baaz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati, which even today fills the air of Mandu. It turns all green in monsoons and is thus called the ‘City of Joy’. Mandu is a sublime amalgam of Hindu, Jain and Islamic architecture. During August (monsoon), Mandu is one of the best places to visit. The natural surroundings are in full bloom during this time. 
[ You may also like to read more about Mandu ]               
5. Pondicherry- Touch of French Culture 

Pondicherry- Touch of French Culture
Pondicherry - “A little piece of Medieval France in India"
When you move down towards the beautiful and picturesque East Coast Road, you come across Pondicherry approximately 160 kilometers south of Chennai. The tourism in this state offers a great opportunity to explore the glorious charms of this Union territory. It comprises of diverse attractions such as churches, mosques, historical monuments and palm-fringed beaches. Taste some good food, cooked in traditional style, and drink some fine variety of wine. 

[ Also check out the Top 10 Beaches in India ]

6. Kumarakom- Enjoy the Natural Beautie

Kumarakom- Enjoy the Natural Beautie
House boat on Vembanad lake in Kerala
One of the most important tourist destinations in Kerala, Kumarakom is equally fascinating during monsoons except for cruising. Cruising is prohibited during those times. Also, the Vembanad Lake surrounding the town has many natural beauties in store for you. It is quite famous all over the world for its wide variety of houseboats. There are various other types of boats available for cruising such as rice boat, snake boat, Odi Vallam, Iruttukutthi Vallam and Churulan Vallam.

7. Jog Falls- Gushes in Color White 

Jog Falls- Gushes in Color White
Jog Falls - the second-highest plunge waterfall in India
Situated in Shimoga district, on the Sharavathi River, Jog Falls tumbles down from a height of 253 meters. This waterfall is also known as Geruoppe Falls, Gersoppa Falls and Jogada Gundi. The importance of this waterfall is that the water does not tumble down the rocks in a tiered fashion. The beauty of the waterfalls is enhanced by the lush green surroundings, which provides a scenic backdrop to the falls.

8. Malshej Ghat- Hit with Adventure Enthusiasts 

 Malshej Ghat- Hit with Adventure Enthusiasts
Nestled beautifully in the Western Ghats, Malshej Ghat is quite a big hit among the tourists seeking tranquility and natural beauty. It is one of the most famous places in Pune district. The lush greenery and the breezy weather alongside the meandering waterfalls look like a natural phenomena in the month of August. The Flamingoes are the main attraction in the region and undeniably a haven for tourists, trekkers and hikers. It offers excellent opportunities for rock climbers and trekkers. 

[Also check out some of the popular weekend getaways from Mumbai]

9. Vasota Fort,  Satara- Mishmash of History and Nature  

Vasota Fort,  Satara- Mishmash of History and Nature
Vasota Fort,  Satara
Located in the state of Maharashtra, Satara is lined with amazing temples and forts. Located around 3,000 feet high, this fort provides a defense from the advancing enemy. Visiting Satara during monsoons offers you a much-needed respite from the heat. If you love the rains, monsoons (August) are the best time to be in Satara and enjoy the scenic locales in the region. It brims with a rich heritage that dates back to the glorious past. The quintessential tourist will get to explore the forts and wildlife sanctuaries. 

[Book your hotel during monsoon holiday at IndianHoliday.com]

10. Shirdi - Abode of Sai Baba 

Shirdi - Abode of Sai Baba

A prominent pilgrimage center, Shirdi is best known as the home to the popular Guru Shirdi Sai Baba. The town is merely 296 kilometers away from Mumbai and thus is an ideal holiday destination for Mumbaikars. The region has a temple built at the famous spot related to the sage’s life and thus remains flanked by hordes of devotees throughout the year. 

[ You may also be interested in finding out the most visited temple in India ]

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Udhampur to Katra Train Flagged off by PM Narendra Modi

Udhampur to Katra Train
PM Narendra Modi flagged off new train from Udhampur to Katra
The inauguration of the Katra-Udhampur railway line will bring an even higher devotees’ turnout to the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi. The train, that was flagged off by the honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, will take pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi base camp at Katra.

"I congratulate the crores of devotees of Mata Vaishno Devi, who want to come here for pilgrimage from all across the country," Modi said while dedicating the train to the nation.

The prime minister said the new rail link will speed up the process of development in the state.

"The journey started by Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be continued... our priority is to win the hearts of every citizen of this state through development," Modi said.

Modi said the train is a gift not just for people of Jammu and Kashmir but for the whole of India.

At the function at the Katra station where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was among others present, the prime minister refrained from touching upon any political issue facing the state.

The prime minister also allayed the fears of the people of Jammu, who feel that the direct rail link to Katra will have negative impact on the development of their city, saying the "development of Jammu will not be stalled."

A set of local trains from Jammu to Katra and Pathankot to Katra is also likely to be introduced to cater to the rush of Vaishno Devi pilgrims. An estimated 10 million devotees visit the shrine every year.

Railway Protection Force (RPF) has been stationed at vulnerable locations all along the track in protected bunkers to maintain round-the-clock vigil.

[ Don’t Miss-out & have a look at Maa Vaishno Devi Tour Packages ] 

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Places to Visit in India in November

The onset of the winter season makes the month of November an ideal time to plan a holiday to some of the most popular as well as off-beat destinations in India. The already over monsoon season adds to the beauty of the nature, a real treat to the eyes.

The days get shorter, calmer and the nights considerably cooler. November is also the month when a number of festivals are being celebrated all around the country. During your holidays in India in November, you can admire the scenery, enjoy the weather or just laze around in your hotel room. In a nutshell, this is a good time to explore some of India’s most interesting places.

The blog enlists 10 best places to visit in India during November:

Bundi for havelis, miniature paintings and calm environment

Taragarh Fort, Bundi - The undiscovered splendour
Taragarh Fort, Bundi - The undiscovered splendour
 A tiny less-explored town, Bundi boasts of rich historical assets. Once the ruling tribe of the region, the Meena tribe hds given a name to this place. Bundi has been named after the tribe’s chieftain Bunda Meena. Placed at a distance of around 200 km from the state’s capital Jaipur, this quaint yet enchanting town is encircled by the Aravalis from three sides. 

This calm town has narrow alleys, hills, blue-colored houses, temples, havelis and the most popular Taragarh Fort. It is one of those places in Rajasthan that still carries its old magical regal charm. The place is also popular for the Bundi School of painting, known for its Rajasthan-inspired miniature paintings.

[Also check out Shekhawati Festival in Rajasthan]

Varanasi for boat ride, evening Ganga Aarti and the religious feel

The Holy City Varanasi

Also known as Kashi and Benaras, the busy city of Varanasi is popular for being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Brace yourself and set your foot in one of the 7 holy cities of the Hindu religion. The western banks of the river Ganga extend themselves to a web of narrow Galis, another charm of the city. 

Enjoy a boat ride on the placid waters of Ganga and observe the morning rituals taking place on the ghats. Known as the abode of Lord Shiva, this city is also famed for its special ‘paan’ and ancient Benares Hindu University. Do not miss the evening Ganga aarti, a major tourist attraction. Along with the temples of Varanasi, do explore the Buddhist sites of Sanchi.

[Also check out top 10 temples in India]

Bhuj for historical sites
Bhuj, Gujarat

The former capital of the Kutch, the quaint town of Bhuj has an amazing feel about it that somewhere connects you to its old rulers and their charm still hanging in the air. Though after the massive earthquake of 2001 Bhuj was almost destroyed but it has been resurrected again and looks great. After the Jadeja Rajputs made Bhuj their capital in 1510, it became one of the most important towns in the region. 

During your visit, you can visit Prag mahal, Rama Kund, Hamirsar lake, Kutch Museum and Aina Mahal and get your hands on some amazing handicraft items and local textiles, famous all around the world. Do not miss a walk around the royal Cenotaphs in the evening.

[Also check out out post on wildlife in Gujarat]

Jaisalmer for camel safari in the Thar

Jaisalmer for camel safari in the Thar

Lovingly called the Golden City, Jaisalmer is quite close to the border of Pakistan, the westernmost boundary of Rajasthan. Jaisalmer is also quite popular for a camel safari in vast sand dunes of the Thar Desert. One of the most striking monuments here is the Jaisalmer Fort or the Sonar Quila, a must-visit. Explore the old havelis (mansions), shop at the local markets and binge on the lip-smacking food. 

[Also check out a guide to holidays in Rajasthan]

This city is also popular for being one of the main ancient trading centres. Another attraction which should not be missed is the beautifully-carved Jain temples. In November, the weather especially during the evening becomes amazing.

[Read more about Jaisalmer]

Goa for beaches, churches, seafood and more

Adventure Sports in Goa

The tiny state of Goa is probably one of the most visited destinations in India, which is famed for its beaches, churches, nightlife, shopping and more. It is visited by local and foreign tourists every, alike, in crazy numbers. Blessed with a coastline that is over 101 km, Goa is one of India’s smallest countries that is located on the western coast in the Konkan region. 

Goa does not only has beautiful churches and beaches, but it also attracts visitors through its water sports activities, night parties, flea markets, wildlife, casinos, lush spice plantations and seafood and drinks, mainly a special Cashew nut drink made here, Fenni.

[Also check out 6 best beaches in Goa]

Hampi for Temple Ruins

Hampi Group of Monuments

Hampi is one of the best places to visit for its major tourist attractions, its superb weather and an exotic charm. The last capital of one of the greatest Hindu dynasties in the history of the country, Vijayanagar Empire, Hampi is laidback town, attracting visitors who have an interest in history. This place is quite popular for its temple ruins, which were built way back during the 14th century. 

The temple ruins of Hampi have divided into two main areas: the Royal Centre, towards Kamalapuram and the Sacred Centre, around the Bazaar. A group of around 500 monuments in this World Heritage Site, it stretches itself in around 25 km. Out of these, Vittala Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is very popular. The huge hall of the temple has beautifully carved pillars, 56 in number, whichwhen struck make interesting musical sounds.

[Read more about Hampi Group of Monuments]

Sasan Gir for the Asiatic Lion

A pair of Asiatic lions at Sasan Gir National Park
A pair of Asiatic lions at Sasan Gir National Park
Spread in an area of 1414 sq km, Sasan Gir Sancturay is as the only home of the Asiatic lion. Lying amidst Junagarh and Veraval, this wildlife sanctuary was established in the year 1965 and became a national park in 1975. Gir National Park is home to around 300 bird species and 37 mammal species. Some of the animals that can be spotted during the wildlife safari include Sambar deer, spotted deer, chinkara, Nilgai, four-horned antelope, crocodiles and so on. Gir is placed 43 km towards the north-east of Somnath.

[Also check out more ideas on holidays in Gujarat]

Orchha for Royal Chatrris

Chhatris at Orchha

Established by Rudra Pratap, the Bundela Rajput chieftain way back during the 16th century Orchha stands on the banks of River Betwa. This quaint town is home to some very beautiful architectural marvels including the Jehangir Mahal, Raj Mahal and the Laxminarayan temple. 

The royal cenotaphs or the Chatrris, on the banks of the river, are the major crowd pullers. This historic small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh is a nice place to visit during November if you have an interest in medieval history.

[Read more about Orchha]

Bharatpur for Bird Watching

Sarus Crane, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

The ‘Eastern Gateway to Rajasthan’, Bharatpur was established in 1733 by Maharaja Suraj Mal. This place has been named after Bharat, one of the brothers of Lord Ramayana. Laxmana, the other brother of Lord Rama is worshipped here as the main deity. One of the major attractions here is the forest and its wildlife. 

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Keoladeo Ghana National Park, formerly known as Bharatpur National Bark and Bird Sanctuary, is primarily a wetland.  Over 300 bird species is the major highlight of this park. This national park is placed 3 km southwards of the center of Bharatpur. Along with the national park, there are other historical sites as well including Lohagarh Fort and Deeg Palace, close by, which are worth visiting.

[Read more about Bharatpur or get some for ideas for wildlife holidays in India]

Tiruchirapalli for its ancient temples

Tiruchirapalli ancient temples
Tiruchirapalli Temples
Tiruchirappalli, also known as Trichy, is quite popular for its temples as well as busy streets and bazaars as well. This place boasts of a long history. It had been under the rule of several dynasties including the early and medieval Cholas, Pallavas, Delhi Sultanante, Pandyas and Vijayanagar. 

Geographically located in the center of the Tamil Nadu state, Tiruchirapalli, became prominent during the 17th century when it was under the rule of the Nayaks. The most important attraction here, Rock Fort Temple, was erected during this time only.

[Also check out our post on South India Temple Tours or ideas for holiday in South India]

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