Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Category: India

Jahangir Mahal: Mughal Architecture in Orchha, India

The most photographed spot, and rightly so, in the city of Orcha, India is the Jahangir Mahal. This is the massive castle like building up on the hillside overlooking it. You can…

The most photographed spot, and rightly so, in the city of Orcha, India is the Jahangir Mahal. This is the massive castle like building up on the hillside overlooking it. You can easily walk to it from the city center and doing so will take you down a stroll into history as you walk these old city streets, past the Raj Mahal and its beautiful paintings, into the amazing Jahangir Mahal.

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A ticket to here includes both the Cenotaphs and the Raj Mahal as well, so you really should go to all three; however, if you only have time for one, this is probably the most impressive.

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From the outside this palace is majestic with its rugged domed buildings, rusted to photographic perfection and the few small blue stones that still cling to the old walls, giving a glimpse of what is was like centuries before.

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After getting the ticket man to unlock the door you will be in the inner courtyard of the palace that took 22 years to build.

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It is stunning when you first walk in, the sheer size of the structure is impressive and the plethora of domes draw your eyes to the top. This is also a place that birds love and when I was there I enjoyed just sitting and listening / watching all of the birds as they flew around the top.

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The big hole middle of the courtyard is the old spa / pool for the king that would have been majestic to see when it is was in its glory I am sure.

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I headed out the main door, which is on the opposite side of the palace from where I came in and the guide who was with me painted a vivid picture of the king riding elephants as he returned from war and arriving at these 3 story tall teekwood gates, bookmarked on either side by symbolic elephant structures.

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Even the area surrounding the castle was a lush green with dotted walls and arches. It made for an amazing vista from the castle entrance.

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After gawking at the gate I headed back to the courtyard and started to climb the steps up to the top of the palace just as the sun was starting to set.

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The views over the city, the courtyard and all of Orchha was something I will never forget and the top of the castle will make you take way more pictures then you planned to. Here are some of my favorites.

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I loved my time here and I loved this city, a beautiful place to explore in India.

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Cenotaphs in Orchha, India

While in Orchha, India, a small town in the Eastern part of the country, I was blessed to stay at a hotel located right next to the amazing cenotaphs that…

While in Orchha, India, a small town in the Eastern part of the country, I was blessed to stay at a hotel located right next to the amazing cenotaphs that the city has. These cenotaphs are a series of 15 different monuments all dedicated to a fallen king from the region. These massive structures are unlike anything you have seen and rise out of the ground right next to the river creating a beautiful old relic in this small Indian town.

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I went to explore them one afternoon with my friend Matt and we paid the fee to enter and started our adventure. The ruins themselves are all open except for one, and what is unique about them is that most have a series of rough steps that will lead you up to the very top of the monument.

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This is no small feat as each of them are 30 to 40 feet high, so climbing up to the top is a great was to get an awe-inspiring vista of both the river and the other Cenotaphs.

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As we walked up the cruel steps to the top of the tallest monument I was overwhelmed by how well maintained and beautiful these were in a town that was pretty far off the tourist path. I was also shocked that no one else was there, it was literally only us two enjoying the monuments.

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At the top of the monument we climbed was a family of vultures that had started to take up residence. They were not the least bit scared of us and even posed for some pictures.

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When I was up there I saw another cenotaph that I knew I needed to climb up right next to the river so I exited the one I was on and headed around to the other cenotaph.

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This one was even more awe-inspiring then the first. The views of the gardens and monuments as well as the town itself were amazing from this point and it quickly became one of my favorite things I did in the city.

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After exploring for a while I recommend heading across the small one lane bridge for sunset. Be careful as traffic can be crazy, but it will provide amazing views of the Cenotaphs from across the river.

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If you are in Orchha you must spend some time here.

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Ganges River by Boat in Varanasi, India: Ghats, Flower Ceremonies and Sunrises

Varanasi India holds the record for oldest continually lived in city in the world and is the holiest of the seven Hindu holy cities. It has been a city since…

Varanasi India holds the record for oldest continually lived in city in the world and is the holiest of the seven Hindu holy cities. It has been a city since 1986 BC and has been a constant source of wonder to Hindus that come to walk its sacred streets and bathe in its sacred river. Many Hindus even believe that death in Varanasi guarantees salvation. It is a beautiful city for all people groups, but the best way to explore it really is via the Ganges River in a boat. When I was there I did both a sunrise and a sunset cruise on the Ganges River and here are my experiences.

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Sunset

Since our trip went sunset first than sunrise after I figured this report should as well. The sunset was the first experience I had on this sacred river and it was an amazing one.

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We hired a boat right down by the Dashashwamedh Ghat (ghat means steps leading to river) after walking along the river and seeing the preparation for the nights prayer ceremony.

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After getting in our boat we took it to the main cremation ghat called Manikarnika Ghat. This place is unlike anything I have seen in Western Culture. The smoke and the smells and the emotions of the people is overwhelming in every sense. There are cremations every hour of the day and I saw them both at sunrise and at sunset. I did not take any pictures there as it is disrespectful but it was an emotional thing to see.

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Right next to the cremation is the half-submerged temple that looks like it is coming right out of the sand after an earthquake.

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After that we slowly cruised back down the river banks. During this time we saw everything from people bathing in the water to people washing their clothes. Hindus take any opportunity they can to interact with the sacred water.

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As we approached the end we also got a chance to participate in the flower ceremony. A small boy and his sister came up to our boat and sold us some that we lit and floated out on the river with a wish. It was something I will not soon forget as I watched the flames dance away on the water.

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After that we took our boat to one of the main ghats where a prayer ceremony happens every night for 20 minutes. The ceremony began with a conch shell blow as we approached the area and we tied up our boat and just sat to watch the ceremony. It was really busy with all of the boats on the water and all of the people on the shore. There were even a few children that jumped between the boats selling snacks and drinks.

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In India, early that day, a new prime minister was announced. To celebrate this they lit off fireworks during the ceremony and that in itself was amazing to see. Sitting under the fireworks with thousands of people watching the prayer ceremony. I didn’t think the sunrise would live up to it.

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Sunrise

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After waking at 4:30 AM, my group and I headed over to get a boat. Since it was set up in advance we had the same boat as the day before and we were given chai in ceramic pots to enjoy during our morning cruise and we set out to see the other side of the river.

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Our group leader also brought along a traditional sitar player and a bango player that treated us to traditional Indian music as the sun was coming up, simply amazing.

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The morning was absolutely stunning with a sunrise you only see in your dreams. I took hundreds of photos as I soaked in the beauty with the culture and the music. It was a humbling experience as we got to see people enjoying the early morning weather and the water itself. Here are some of my favorites.

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We floated along the ghats for about 2 hours before heading back to shore and I enjoyed ever minute of it. I love the way this river brings people together and for how beautiful it is. Even with the cremations that are hard to comprehend as Westerners and the people still swimming and bathing in the water the cremation ashes go into, it still was an experience I will never forget (no I didn’t want to touch the water though). I loved India and its people and you can see them both on stunning display while floating down this river.

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What to do in Orchha, India

During my time in India, I got to visit all of the main tourist places as well as some off the beaten path places, Orchha was one of those. It…

During my time in India, I got to visit all of the main tourist places as well as some off the beaten path places, Orchha was one of those. It was a beautiful rural town, 45 minutes from the closest train station that had many wonders to explore. It was one of my favorite places I visited in India and here are my recommendations if you make it there.

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Attractions

Cenotaphs

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Probably my favorite spot in the city, these old tombs are dedicated to the fallen kings of the region and are beautiful examples of the cultural and architecture of the region. I loved being able to climb to the top of them and just to lose myself in the exploration of something this old, without anyone around,

Raj Mahal

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Part of the massive palace you can see from the city itself, this is a great place to see the famous incarnations of Vishnu painting which is over 500 years old and just explore the palace.

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Jahangir Mahal

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This is the most impressive thing in the city as it is a massive palace set on the hillside that overlooks both the Raj Mahal and the city. It reminds me of Ankor Wat in Cambodia but with much fewer people. It is majestic and beautiful and cannot be missed.

The Palace of Vishnu

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This palace was created simply for the God Vishnu and is situated right in the center of the city. The inside is not as impressive but the exterior is worth the visit.

The Temple of Rama

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One of the most holy temples in India, this place is dedicated to the God Rama and prayers can be attended at either 8 in the morning or 8 at night any day of the week. People come from all over to see the Rama statue from 83 BC and it is an experience you must do in India to get a better understanding of the culture.

The Market

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Right out front of the temple is a fun market to stroll through that sells many touristy things such as the colored paints that are so popular in India. There are also lot of bracelets and metal pieces in the market as well. My favorite is the mangos though, I couldn’t get enough of them.

Real Orchha

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While there I had the opportunity to visit the rural area of the town with a small city tour lead by Master G It was one of the best things I did there are it really helped me to see the true city face, not the one put on for tourists.

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We visited children in their school, watched a clay pot maker working, visited a generation of women that make baskets and even got to see a women preparing for her arranged marriage that next day.

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It was amazing, here are some photos.

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Cooking Class

Another touristy thing that is a lot of fun in the city is visiting a local family for a cooking class.

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There are a few that do this and if you enjoy cooking this is an amazing way to bring a life long souvenir back to your home in the form of recipes. The women that taught us was a great teacher who repeated all of the items many times. She made a total of 8 items for us.

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She even did Henna afterwards for anyone who was interested, a fun way to relax in the city.

So there you have it, my recommendations for Orchha. It is a beautiful town to get lost and relax in and if you have suggestions for me, be sure to leave them in the comments.

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Lotus Temple in Delhi, India

One of the newer attractions in Delhi is the Baha’i House of Worship, also known as the Lotus Temple, and it is a beautiful example of modern architecture and serenity…

One of the newer attractions in Delhi is the Baha’i House of Worship, also known as the Lotus Temple, and it is a beautiful example of modern architecture and serenity in a city where peace is at a premium. With a style that resembles the Sydney Opera House it is a very popular site for the Balhi religion and tourist as well. The building itself is in the shape of a flowering lotus.

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History

Inspired by the flower which its name is taken from, the Lotus Temple in Delhi is made up of 27 free standing marble petals. The one room that it houses is about 120 feet tall in the center and is a large circular room encased in windows. There are 9 ponds that surround the temple and the temple itself can hold about 2,500 people. It was completed in 1986 it has become one of the most visited buildings in the world.

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It is free to enter and you will walk about a quarter-mile along a path to the temple. Once you get close you will be asked to check in your shoes as they are not allowed inside. The shoe check in area is an experience in itself, you look through this small window where a man will grab your shoes and return a ticket, it takes less then 5 seconds and I was interested to see if I would get the same pair back.

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After that you will head up to the temple itself where you can get in line to enter. There is no photography allowed inside but I highly recommend you go in. It is even more beautiful inside then out. When you enter the circular building you will be able to sit down and just take it all in. The pews are arranged in a circular manner around the center point and the top of the temple is awe inspiring when you look up.

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You can stay for a while and relax in the peace it provides then you will exit the opposite side. Below the temple is a series of pools that really create a unique addition to the architecture of this place.

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I took my time and continued to explore before finally making my way back to the shoe area. To my surprise my shoes were easily found and I was on my way as fast as I dropped them off.

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There are more gardens you can explore as well before you leave and be prepared to be bombarded with offers for souvenirs and tuk tucks when you leave, which is part of the charm anyway.

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Palace of the Winds: Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

One of the most famous places in the city of Jaipur is the Wind Palace that is part of the old wall in what is known as the pink city. You can…

One of the most famous places in the city of Jaipur is the Wind Palace that is part of the old wall in what is known as the pink city. You can see why when you first visit this beautiful place and notice the red sandstone that was used to build this palace.

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History

It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh  in the form of the crown of Krishna, the Hindu god. Its unique five story exterior is also likened to the honeycomb of the beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhas that are decorated with intricate latticework. The original intention of the lattice was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen, since they had to observe strict covering of their face.

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Besides this, the lattice also provides cool air caused by the Venturi effect through the intricate pattern and thereby air conditioning the whole area during the high temperatures in summers.

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This place is usually crawling with people as it is one of the most popular in the whole city. This was one of the only places that we saw foreigners at while in Jaipur. The hustle and bustle of the road in front make its even more interesting as you have to be careful when crossing the street to take in the views.

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You can also pay to go inside the palace as well. We were in a rush for time when here though so we were not able to go in. I have been told that it is best from the outside anyway.

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This is also a great place for cheap souvenirs since it is such a tourist area as I bought an entire box of plastic elephants (12 in all) for 100 rupees, $1.75 USA. No trip to Jaipur would be complete without making a stop here, at least to see the outside. It is a well maintained and beautiful example of the history in this area, you can see it from all over the city as well, even at places like the Jantar Mantar.

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