It’s a big bittersweet day for me here at Cheryl Rambles. Travelling is about exploring new places, making memories, turning the world around for yourself and what not. But today, I miss this one soul quenching place that I went to some time back. I miss the spiritually wealthy and aghast state of our country; Uttar Pradesh.
It was the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers Conclave 2016 that took me to the ecstatic state of colours, charms, prayers, poise and vine love stories.
As excited as I am for my next adventure to unfold, there is this state that is surely calling me back, and I am heartsick.
Um… How I miss thee? Let me count the ways.
1.) Discovering my soul at the Taj Mahal
A global tourist attraction and the gleamy architecture, it is known for millions of tourists pouring in. I bet they are all just like me, in love with the idea of romance. And who wouldn’t turn to this marvel, holding the most famous love story of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife, the queen, Mumtaz Mahal?
With the crowd thrusting into the big Darwaza, I saw the precious white marble marvel in the twilight. It was a delight to my eyes, a sweet surprise. I am in love, and I am still finding it hard to pen down those feelings here.
2.) The feeling of home at Holipura village
A peaceful little village with rustic castles and ruins from the past with buildings as old as 400 years. A swift walk in the quite village was a feeling as warm as I like my coffee to be.
Beautiful rustic architecture, warm smiles, fantastic tales and beautiful women wearing sarees and sitting on charpais in the afternoon. It took me back to the feeling of travelling with my cousins to Rampuriya village. The feeling was nostalgic.
3.) Meeting the heroes at Sheroes
Sheroes- She + heroes, one of a kind cafe situated right next to the wonder of the world Taj Mahal. The initiative by the Stop Acid Attacks campaign gave tourists and residents of the culturally vibrant city of India a perfect place to feel at home. Apart from being a beautiful cafe to chill it gives you a plethora of options to read, talk, eat, think and feel strong. And what could be better than a cafe that gives you a lot more than just food? The cafe founded by Chaanv Foundation is an initiative and a chance to put a full stop to the stigma surrounding girls being acid attack victims. This has given them another chance to live, become a fighter and fly high.
Being a woman in this country is difficult. You have to go through a lot. Sheroes Hangout is the first ever initiative drafting a change as significant as influencing lives of thousand such girls who have gone through a similar journey of life. The conversation with the girls turned out to be life-changing for me. Now I know the real meaning of beauty.
4.) My rendezvous in the wild: Chambal Safari Lodge
A short drive away from Agra lies a small village, known for dacoits as fierce as Malkhan Singh and Phoolan Devi. The lodge was right where the history of the dacoits could be traced; in the jungle. This peaceful sanctuary was one of a kind, surrounded by the forest and the hush- ness of the countryside. I was at peace.
Dotting back to the history of the property, the lodge had been a home to the Jarar family since the 1470’s. It, however, was crushed down to ruins with years but later was restored by the fueling optimism of Ram Pratap Singh and his wife, Anu. The couple did not just restore the history, but they turned the 35-acre land into a sanctuary for rare exotic plants. Not to forget the birds that come tweeting there.
You can check them out here: Chambal Safari Lodge
5.) Bateshwar: the land of sanctity
A village in the Agra District, on the banks of the river Yamuna, is a spiritual and cultural centre for Hindus. The Bateshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has a Banyan tree (Bat in Sanskrit,) where Lord Shiva took rest for some time. Often described as mini Varanasi, this place is divine. I felt the serenity in the air and a feeling of deep emotion especially when I entered the underground temple.
06.) Meeting the rescued sloth bears at Wildlife SOS
Wildlife SOS is home to Raju, the elephant who was rescued and is an internet celebrity now. I am a fan too, and I knew about him through Facebook. Going to the sanctuary was life changing for me. What made this sanctuary different from others was that the caretakers were looking after the animals not as a job but as a part of their families. Some of the inmates were limped and invalid.
07.) Praising the river goddess at the Ganga Arti, Varanasi
The spectacular ceremony on the paved steps of Dashaswamedh Ghat near the very famous temple, Kashi Vishwanath was overwhelming. It being my maiden visit to the Ganga ghats for the arti, the feeling was exhilarating. Radiant lamps, spiritual chants and devotion of the bhakt mandli made the entire experience memorable for me.
08.) Dinner on the ghats with live classical music
The ruins of the BrijRama Palace have been beautifully reconstructed and refurbated into a fabulous 5-star property. A dinner in the moonlight and satiating classical music was the best way to bid adieu to the cultural capital of India.
My further adventures will, however, bring in new memories to pen down but these that were made in Uttar Pradesh can never be forgotten.
Until my next post,
Lots of love.