#GoUnesco Campus Ambassador Program
#Task 3: Plan a hypothetical 2 week trip from your city to 5 UNESCO world heritage sites
This is the most enthralling task I have ever done. It was really a test of my imaginative skills and my efficiency. To plan out this tour I selected not 5 but 6 heritage sites. Starting from Jammu, my trip covers 4 different states of this country and has been titled ABBD!! Surprised? Read below to know why:
Being a history student, I have always been excited about ancient India and its material remains. And nothing better could have satisfied my quest for ancient Indian history than BHOPAL. So I boarded the Malwa Express from Jammu Tawi Railway at 12 p.m. (It was running 3 hours late due to fog) and reached Bhopal the next day at 1:00 p.m.
Total Distance Travelled: 1287 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 570/- (Train Charges)
Extra hours in a train our always exhausting! I reached the Bhopal Junction at 1 p.m. (though the train was scheduled to reach at 7:30 in the morning!) But with Malwa Express, delayed travel is like a daily routine. After this long journey of 1278 km, I was excited and tired at the same time. I came out of the station and boarded an auto for Zone II MP Nagar (where my hotel was located). The place was just 6 kms away from the station and the auto wallah charged me 50 bucks. To make arrangements for my stay, I had booked a budget hotel in this area of the city. I got down outside Hotel Castle Inn and was happy with my choice. For a total of 2 nights and 2 days, the hotel authorities charged me 2400, i.e. 1200 per day. The rooms were big enough, with proper amenities and perks like Wifi. After all the identity checks, I finally entered room 301 at 1:30 p.m. I was dying of hunger so I called the room service and ordered some lunch for myself. After the lunch I rested for a while and decided to go for some sightseeing in city at 4:00 p.m. I had heard a lot about the Taj-ul-Masjid in Bhopal and was excited to behold its scenic beauty. But the site was 15 km away from my place and thus it was not economical to go by auto. So I took an auto to Bjp Bhawan and from there I boarded the My Bhopal Bus (SR- 1) to Nahar Puliya. At Nahar Puliya, I changed another bus (SR-8) and finally got down at the Royal Market bus stop. The mosque was at a walking distance of 5 minutes from the bus stop. At around 4:40 p.m. I finally entered the great Taj-ul-Masajid! Gosh it is really the ‘Crown of all Mosques’! Its architecture, its grandeur, its beauty; everything was just ‘out of this world’! After spending an hour at the mosque I finally headed towards the famous Upper Lake or Bhojtal in an auto. The place was 8 kms away from the great mosque and I paid another 50 bucks. The scenic beauty of the place was mesmerizing! The cool winter breeze acted like a cherry on the cake. The place is a must visit. After spending some quality time at the lake, I finally decided to return to my hotel. I was not in a mood to go by bus so I decided to loosen up my pocket and take an auto. I bargained a little and the auto wallah agreed to take me back in 130 rupees. I finally reached my hotel at 8:30, had dinner and went off to sleep.
Total Distance Travelled: 52 kms
Total Money Spent: Rs 645/- (approx. cost of lunch and dinner = 400)
There was a reason to sleeping so early last night. Today was a big day for me as I was going to Sanchi today. I got up at 6:30 in the morning and around 7:30 I left for the railway station. It was more feasible to go by train than hiring a taxi. My auto reached the station at 7:45 and I still had 15 minutes in hand. Meanwhile I spent 70 bucks at the station and had my breakfast. The Bilaspur Express left for Sanchi at 8 a.m. sharp and at 8:45 I was at Sanchi. It was a 45 km journey in just 140 bucks. Fortunately the historic Sanchi Stupa was located just 2 kms away from the station. So I took an auto and in just 5 minutes I reached the spot. I gave 30 rupees to the auto guy and rushed inside the complex as I could not control my excitement.
The huge flight of stairs totally exhausted me but my excitement kept me going. Finally when I reached my destination, I was dumbstruck! Dumbstruck at the beauty, Dumbstruck at the tranquility and Dumbstruck at the piousness of the place. Honestly, all my efforts were worth it. I travelled at least 1500 km to reach this place and the place didn’t disappoint me at all! It was Emperor Asoka who laid the foundations of a religious centre at Sanchi fascinated probably by the location of the hill. He erected the Great Stupa (Stupa 1) here after redistribution of mortal remains of Lord Buddha for erecting several stupas all over the country in order to spread Buddhism. This stupa was originally a low structure of brick, half the diameter of the present edifice hemispherical in shape with raised terraces at the base. It was enclosed by a wooden railing and a stone umbrella at the top. This Great Stupa served as a nucleus to the large Buddhist establishment during the later period. During Sunga times, several edifices were raised at Sanchi and its surrounding hills. The Asokan stupa was enlarged and faced with stones and decorated with balustrades, staircases and a harmika on the top. In the first century BC elaborately carved gateways were added to Stupa 1. I spent the entire morning at the Stupa complex, visiting the the main stupa, its subsidiary constructions, Gupta temples, architectural remains in the Greaco- Roman style, Buddhist and Jaina sculptures – all inside one complex. At around 1 p.m., I went down to have lunch at the MP Tourism Cafeteria. I was so thrilled with my Sanchi visit that I didn’t feel like going back to the hotel so early. So I took an auto (Rs 80) and went to see the Udaigiri caves located 10 km from the Stupa complex. The Udayagiri caves were extensively carved and reworked under the command of Chandragupta II, Emperor of the Gupta Empire, in the late 4th and 5th century CE. Thus these caves have numerous inscriptions belonging to the reigns of Chandragupta II and Kumaragupta I. Udayagiri is best known for a series of rock-cut sanctuaries and images excavated into hillside in the early years of the fifth century CE. But the best among them was the Vishnu sculpture in cave 5. In this sculpture, Vishnu is shown in the boar or Varah avatar (head of a boar and body of a human). This sculpture reminded me of my 12th class history book which had the same image in it. When the bookish knowledge becomes a reality, the feeling is just inexplicable! At around 3:45 I left for Sanchi and reached the station at 4:15. My train was at 4:33 and I reached back to Bhopal at 6:15 (Bilaspur Bhopal Passenger Train). This train took 1 and half hours to cover 45 kms and charged me 140 bucks. From the Bhopal station I was fortunate to get an auto wallah who agreed to take me in 30 rupees to my hotel. It was 6:30 p.m. and I was finally back after a day long, hectic yet super exciting trip. Had dinner at the hotel.
Total Distance Travelled: 126 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 900/- (Approx. cost of lunch and dinner 350)
My next destination was Bhimbetka. I got up at 8:30, took a bath and ordered my breakfast. Then I went down and asked at the reception about taxi services to Bhimbetka. They gave me the contact numbers of 4 taxi wallahs and I called all of them one by one. Finally I made a deal with one of them and hired a taxi for the entire day in 1000 bucks. At 10 a.m. sharp, the taxi was outside the hotel and at 10:05 we left for Bhimbetka. Located 50 km away, Bhimbetka caves are one of those world heritage sites I always wanted to visit. Heard a lot about it. Read a lot about it. Now was the time to finally behold the beauty! Within one hour we reached the site. I paid 10 rupees at the ticket counter and finally went inside the complex. The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site of the Paleolithic age, exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent. The name Bhimbetka is associated with Bhima, a hero deity of the epic Mahabharata. The continuity of human evolution is evident from the fact that the site shows signs of inhabitation from the lower Paleolithic period to the Mesolithic period. It is the rock paintings at Bhimbetka that steal the limelight. The Auditorium rock shelter, zoo rock and the boar rock are truly fascinating. At the end of the auditorium rocks shelter I could clearly identity a cluster of paintings depicting a hunter, deer, tiger, cattle and a peacock. The boar rock depicts a mythical boar which is being chased by a no. of human figures. The experience was truly memorable.
Thanks to the MP Tourism Department for another cafeteria at Bhimbetka. I had a hearty lunch at the place and finally left for Bhopal at 3 p.m. Now because I had hired the taxi for the whole day, I decided not go back to the hotel directly. So when we reached Bhopal, I asked the taxi guy to take me to the Bhopal State Museum. The place is truly a paradise for a history buff. Be it textiles, musical instruments or pre historic items, the museum had it all. After spending some quality time at the museum, I finally headed for the hotel at 6 p.m. The day was hectic yet thrilling.
Total Distance Travelled: 100 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 1400/- (incl. of all meals)
Today was last day in Madhya Pradesh. My train was at 6:45 in the evening so I thought of going shopping in the day time. After breakfast, I finally checked out of the hotel at 11:30 a.m. and made all the payments. Then I took an auto and headed towards the famous DB City Mall. Marilyn Monroe has rightly said, “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know were to shop.” DB City Mall is truly worth your time and money. International brands, food court, game zone- all under one roof. It was a joyful ride at the mall. I ate at Kfc, shopped a lot and played some games as well. Finally I headed towards the station at 5 p.m. I boarded the Patna Express at 6:45 and headed towards my next destination- Patna!
Total Distance Travelled: 1096 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 4685/- (incl.of hotel charges + Train charges)
The next day, I reached Patna at 4:40 p.m. My school friend Bhavya lives in Patna, so she had come to receive me at the station. Then we went to her place and I spent the remaining part of the day with her. Night was spent eating delicious homemade food and recalling old memories.
Next day I got up early, bid adieu to my friend and left for Rajgir. Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) runs special and affordable buses on various routes. I boarded one such bus from the Patna Bus Standat 7:00 a.m. sharp and headed for Rajgir. The bus fare was Rs 175 and the travel time was 2 hours. Covering a distance of 100 km, I finally reached Rajgir at 9:05 a.m. I got down at the Bus stand and took an auto to Tathagat Vihar (Special guest house maintained by the BSTDC). Tathagat Vihar was worth the choice. It offered Non –AC rooms at an affordable rate of 500 and provided good food as well. I paid the auto wallah 40 bucks and went inside the guest house. The receptionist allotted me a room and I also talked to her about taxi services available in the region to visit nearby places. Luckily she had the contact details of one of the taxi service providers who agreed to take me around Rajgir in 1000 rupees. I thanked the receptionist for her hospitality and went inside my room to freshen up. The taxi reached the guest house at 11:00 a.m. and then went away for some sightseeing. On the way, the taxi driver stopped at a Dhaba where he made me have the special Rajgir Tea along with a toast. What’s special about this tea is that it is made by putting burnt charcoal in the milk. Doing so adds more flavor and fragrance to the tea. Truly the taste was heavenly! After this light breakfast, we finally headed towards our first spot. First we visited the Ajatshatru Fort. Built by Ajatshatru, the ruler of Magadha, the fort date backs to the 6th c. BCE. The complex also consists of a stupa. Located nearby, The Chariot Route Marks are worth a visit. These are 2 parallel furrows cutting deep into the rock for about 30 feet giving credence to the local belief that they were ‘burnt’ into the rock by the speed of Lord Krishna’s chariot when he entered the city of Rajgir. Next in line was Jarashand ka Akhara. This place is considered to be the battle ground of Bhima and Jarashand during the epic war of Mahabaharata. At around 2:30 p.m. we finally headed towards Nalanda. Located at 10 kms from Rajgir, Nalanda was an ancient centre of learning. I was mesmerized looking at the ruins of the world’s most ancient university. Hieun Tsang stayed here in the 7th cent and left detailed accounts of the excellence of education system and purity of monastic life practiced here. He also wrote that 2000 teachers and 10,000 monk students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied here. The total excavated area of the site is about 14 hectares where all the buildings are made in red brick. A walkway divides the area into 2 halves. The area consists of Viharas to the east and Chaityas to the west. There I also made it a point to visit the Nalanda Archaeological Museum. I had lunch at a nearby eatery there and we finally headed for Rajgir at 5:30 p.m. Truly the day was memorable. At night, I ordered food and then packed bags for my next visit.
Total Distance Travelled: 40 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 1750/- (Incl. of all meals and hotel charges)
Today was a big day. Today I was finally getting the opportunity to visit the world famous and for me the only the Centre of peace in this world- Bodh Gaya! I checked out of the guest house at 10 a.m. and headed towards the bus stand in an auto. I boarded the BSTDC for Bodhgaya at 11:00 a.m. It was a 1 and half hour journey covering 82 km and the bus fare was Rs 125. I finally reached Bodhgaya at 12:35 p.m. and took an auto to reach Hotel Buddha Residency. I was fortunate enough to find a room in just 800 bucks in this hotel which was located at a distance of 3 kms from the Mahabodhi temple. After freshening myself up, I came out of the hotel at 1:30 p.m. and took a cycle rickshaw to reach my destination. Outside the temple complex I had a hearty lunch at one of the eateries and then finally with a fresh mind and heart, I entered the Great Mahabodhi Temple.
The feeling was just AWESOME! Right from the point I stepped into the temple complex, I could feel a sense of peace, serenity and Trans in the air. It was something I had always longed for. I felt that just like Buddha I had also come here in search of truth. And I would definitely find it! In a state of Trans, I kept walking forward; smiling to myself (I don’t know why). I visited the temple which stands tall at a height of 170ft. On top of the temple pyramid are Chatras which symbolize sovereignty of religion. 4 towers on its corners rise gradually giving the holy structure a pious balance. Inside the temple, in the main sanctum, there is a colossal image of Buddha in sitting posture touching the earth with his right hand. This was posture in which Siddhartha gained enlightenment and became Buddha. Apart from the main temple, the complex also consists of various stupas. I also saw the sacred Bodhi tree (fifth succession of the original tree) under which Buddha gained enlightenment. There is also an 80ft statue of Buddha within the complex. I spent the entire day in the temple and went back to my hotel late at night (unwillingly).
Total Distance Travelled: 87 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 505/- (incl of all meals)
The Mahabodhi Temple is truly a magical place. I was totally swayed away by the strange eternal power of the place. Today I had to leave for my next destination but my mind didn’t agree. I wanted to spend one more day in this beautiful ambience. I wanted to stay away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I wanted to meditate. So I decided to stay for another day in Bodhgaya. I got up early and went to the temple to be a part of themorning prayer. The atmosphere had turned magical. After the morning prayer I visited the famous Thai monastery, Royal Bhutan monastery and the Archeological Society of India Museum. Then I had a light breakfast and headed towards the Meditation Park in the temple. I found a secluded place for myself and sat there with closed eyes and a relaxed body. I went into a state of Trans. I enjoyed each and every moment there, admired the natural beauty of the park and tried to fill up my mind, body and heart with loads of positive vibes. After spending 2 hours at the park, at 3 in the afternoon, I decided to go around the temple complex once again and relive all the moments and store them permanently in my mind. This time I also interacted with some of the foreigners and gained some religious knowledge from some monks there. This is day was truly unforgettable.
Total Distance Travelled: 3-4 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 2000 (incl.of all meals and hotel charges)
I checked out of the hotel early in the morning and left for Gaya Railway Junction at 5:30 a.m. It was 17km away from Bodhgaya and the auto wallah charged me 100 bucks. I reached the station at 6:05 a.m., had some breakfast and finally boarded the HWH JU Express at 6:33 a.m. My next destination was Agra. After covering a distance of 803 km, I reached the Agra Fort station at 7:40 in the evening. The train ticket was for Rs 435/- From outside the station, I boarded an auto for Hotel Ajay International. It was just a few kms from the station and had rooms available at 800 bucks. I got into my room, rested for a while and then ordered some food. The day was tiring.
Total Distance Travelled: 823 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 660/- (incl of meals and train charges)
Today I slept for long in the morning and finally got up at 10:30 a.m. Today was the day to discover Agra. When you tell someone that you are going to Agra, they automatically assume that you are going to visit the Taj Mahal. But I had been to the Taj a lot many times. So this time it was not my top most priority. What I had always ignored and I now wanted to explore was the Agra Fort. I ordered my breakfast in the hotel and left at 12 noon to discover the hidden treasure. Agra fort is located just 3 minutes away from the hotel so the auto wallah took me to the place in 25 bucks. I paid 10 rupees at the ticket counter and finally entered in. An era marked by invasions and fortifications, where power was symbolized by grand palaces and grander fort, during such a time was built THE AGRA FORT.
The Agra Fort, also known as the “Lal –Qila”, “Fort Rouge” or “Qila-i-Akbari”, is the highlight of the city of Agra, the then capital of the Mughal Sultanate. Agra Fort is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the most important and robustly built strongholds of the Mughals, embellished with a number of richly decorated buildings encompassing the imposing Mughal style of art and architecture. It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh. After Humayun’s defeat at Bilgram in 1540, Sher Shah of the Sur dynasty occupied Agra fort and garrisoned it. After Akbar arrived in Agra in 1558, he ordered to renovate the fort with red sandstone. The fort, semi-circular on plan, is surrounded by a 21.4 m high fortification wall. There are four gates on its four sides; one of the gates was called “khizri-gate” (the water gate) which opens to the river front, where ghats (quays) were provided .The fort has survived through the onslaught of time, nature and men. The fort spreads over an area of about 94 acres of land. Looking at the grandeur of the fort, I felt as if I have actually entered the Mughal era. The place was grand, beautiful and immensely royal. I spent at least 4 hours at the place admiring its beauty, its massiveness and its aesthetic appeal. I also bought a few books based on the history of the fort and the history of Mughal India in the book shop there. Finally at 5 p.m. I headed towards my hotel.
I was in a dilemma about the next day. Either I could move on to my next destination or spent another day in Agra, going around its famous market and enjoying the delicious “Agra ka Petha”. I was still deciding on what to do when my mother called up and told me that tomorrow was Purnima i.e., the full moon night. Now I had a definite reason to stay on. If you are in Agra, and you miss to behold the beauty of the Taj Mahal on a full moon night, then you are the most unlucky person in this world. But I didn’t want to lose this opportunity. Something which I had only seen in movies, now I was getting a chance to see it live! Unbelievable. At once I decided to stay for another day in Agra and be a part of this beautiful moment. As the tickets for night viewing have to be booked one day in advance, I rushed to the office of the ASI (Taj Mahal Circle) and bought a ticket for myself (Rs 510). I came back to the hotel at 7 p.m. The evening was spent going through the pictures clicked in the day and reading the books. I had my dinner at 10 p.m. and went off to sleep at 11.
Total Distance Travelled: 4km
Total Money Spent: Rs1060 /- (incl of all meals and Taj Mahal ticket charges)
I left my hotel at 11 in the morning and went to the market. Because Agra is famous for its footwear industry, I stopped at some footwear shops and bought some shoes. Then I ate lunch at a dhaba and had “Petha” for dessert. The day was well spent. Now it was time for the night to shine! I went to my hotel at 5 p.m. and took an auto for the Taj Mahal at 8 p.m. Finally we were allowed to get inside at 8:30 and behold the eternal beauty. Truly the sight was INCREDIBLE. The mausoleum looked 100 times more beautiful in moon light. It was just Perfect. It was the best thing I had ever seen. It was Mystical. Because you are only allowed to stay inside the place for half an hour at night, I had to unwillingly come back at 9 p.m.
Total Distance Travelled: 5km
Total Money Spent: Rs 630/- (incl of all meals)
Today was the day to visit one of my favorite places in this country, Delhi. Be it the royal andaaz of Old Delhi or the ‘hep’ culture of New Delhi, I’m in love with it all. My train (Udhyan Abha Toofan Express) was to depart at 4:25 in the evening. So I checked out from the hotel at 3: 30 p.m. and left for the station. I boarded the train and reached Delhi at 7:40. From the New Delhi Railway Station I boarded the metro to Moolchand.In Greater Kailash 1 there is a guest house maintained by Durga Bari Charitable Trust that provides rooms at affordable rates. From the metro station, I took a cycle rickshaw to the place. I was fortunate enough to get a room here in 400 bucks. It was 8:30 in the evening when I entered my room. I had my dinner at a nearby eatery and returned back at 10.
Total Distance Travelled: 240 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 3000 (incl of all meals + train charges + Agra hotel charges)
Today was last day of my trip. I had to make it memorable. There are 3 world heritage sites in Delhi out of which Humayun’s Tomb is my favorite. It is different in itself. I checked out of the guest house at 11 a.m. and took the metro from the Moolchand metro station. I got down at Jangpura and then boarded an auto from there. At 11:30 I was at the Humayun’s Tomb. As heard, I knew that Humayun’s Tomb is the mausoleum of the Mughal emperor Humayun. But when I entered the complex, I was surprised to see that in addition to the main tomb, the complex also consist of graves of Bega Begum, Dara Shukoh, the royal barber and later Mughal emperors like Jahandar Shah. A chamber built in Persian style of Islamic architecture acts an entrance to the tomb. When we cross that chamber, we see in front of us one of the most beautiful buildings in this world.
The Pinkish/Reddish/Orangish tomb stands in the centre of a square garden, divided into 4 parts (Charbagh pattern), in the centre of which runs a shallow water channel. The square red sandstone double storeyed structure of the mausoleum rises from a 7 m high square terrace. The grave proper in the center is reached by a passage on the south. What is unique about this structure is its unmatched beauty and its peculiar colour. The grandeur of the place persuades you to ponder over the fact that how lucky was the dead man (Humayun) whose grave was built so beautifully that it will remain a place of solace for generations to come! I left the place at 5 p.m. and headed towards the metro station. Now I boarded the metro for New Delhi station from where I had to catch my train for jammu at 8:20 p.m. I had some snacks at the station and finally boarded the Jammu mail at 8 p.m.
Total Distance Travelled: 10 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 900/- (incl of all meals and hotel charges)
I finally reached Jammu at 9 in the morning! I couldn’t believe that I was back home. The 15 days came to an end so early. Nevertheless, the travel, the sites, the food, the experience- everything was just Awesome! The Fabulous trip to Agra, Bhopal, Bodhgaya and Delhi makes me proudly say, Incredible India!
Total Distance Travelled: 600 km
Total Money Spent: Rs 810/-
Distance: 4503 km
Expenditure: Rs 19030/-